Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl
The Dungeon of Despair
Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl and the Dungeon of Despair
Copyright © 2013 Becket
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the creators’ imagination or are used fictitiously.
Under copyright law, if you are not the copyright owner of this work, you are forbidden to reproduce, create derivative works based on this work, download, distribute copies of the work, decompile this work without Becket’s express written permission.
For Christina who loves magical stories
And for Anne who loves them too
— CHAPTER ONE —
Key was a very beautiful girl with bright blue eyes and a mess of curly red hair that tangled out in all directions.
You might say she lived in the middle of nowhere because she did not have anything like the Internet or cable television or smart phones. But Key would say she lived in a large, beautiful valley with her mom and dad in a small house, with no one else around for miles and miles. Key’s mom was a shepherdess while her dad was a wheat farmer, so she spent many happy days running with sheep through tall fields of wheat, where the only apples she heard about only ever fell from trees and the only tablets she knew about were the two that Moses had.
Her dad taught her how to grow wheat, grind it into flour, and bake it into bread. She spent her summers helping him sell wheat and bread in the nearest village, where she quickly grew popular as a wonderful bread baker. Her reputation spread like wildfire, and many lords and senators would travel from all over the land just to taste a slice with butter.
At the same time, Key’s mom taught her how to shear sheep, dye wool, and weave it on a loom into blankets. She spent her winters helping her mom sell wool and blankets in that same village where, like her bread baking, her popularity also grew and soon everyone knew her not only as a baker, but also as a magnificent weaver of the thickest, warmest, snuggest blankets around. Many queens and presidents would travel from far away countries just to buy one – especially the ones with the red dots.
Key’s mom and dad were very proud of her.
Yet some days in the valley were very hard. One summer was so hot that the sun burned the wheat fields and one winter was so cold that a few sheep froze into blocks of ice. But Key did not mind the difficult times because her mom and dad taught her the meaning of the word
. Although neither of them could tell her how to define the word according to a dictionary (because neither could afford to go to school), they showed her instead every day that perseverance means:
Achieving your goal without surrendering to despair
Key remembered this lesson, and all her parents’ lessons, every day of her life – until she turned nine years old.
Yes, Key’s ninth birthday was the worst day she’d ever had because it was the day on which she lost so much. How much? Well, she lost as much as any person can lose. And every night afterward, Key struggled to remember her parents’ lessons along with the meaning of the word
Actually, the daytime of Key’s ninth birthday had been very lovely. The weather had been beautiful. The sky had been cloudless and blue, and the warm sun had shone brightly. Key had helped her mom sell all their wool blankets in the village right before she helped her dad sell all their loaves of bread. They had worked hard all day until sunset, and then they returned home, knowing that they had done good work.
They had a wonderful home. During the day it looked snug and comfortable. At night it looked warm and inviting. They never locked their doors or windows, but kept their house always open, welcoming anyone to freely come inside for a good, simple meal near a small, warm fire.
Oh, if only they had locked at least their front door when they got home that evening, then the awful thing that happened to Key might never have happened at all. But, alas, they didn’t lock the door – and double alas, the terrible thing did happen, which sent Key to a very horrible place called
The bad thing happened shortly after dinner.
Dinner had been delicious, by the way. Key told her mom and dad so, even though all they had to eat was bread and vegetable soup. That was all they could afford and they would never eat her mom’s sheep. Yes, she told them it was the best meal she’d ever had in nine years, and they laughed together, because they were a happy, joyous family.
Together they cleared the dinner plates from the table and set out dessert plates. Then her mom brought out a small cake; but no one would dare mention how the cake looked just a little too small for three people – no bigger than a cupcake really – with nine birthday candles clumped together on top.
Key loved her birthday cake. She made a wish and blew out her candles, although she didn’t wish for anything for herself. She didn’t want anything else. She felt she had everything she could ever want. Her only wish was for her mom and dad to be happy.
Then she received three presents – one from her mom, another from her dad, and one from them both. That was it. It was all she wanted. It was all she needed. She loved the meaning inside the gifts from her parents because they never bought gifts, and neither did Key. They couldn’t afford to. Instead they made all their gifts for one another by hand, which made the gifts richer than any apple and smarter than all the smart phones in the world.
The gift from her mom was a new crook for shepherding sheep, which she’d carved by hand from an old willow tree, yet she confessed that she had her doubts about the durability of willow wood. Key assured her mom that it was the gift she truly wanted, and she promised her that there was no finer gift in the world for a nine-year-old daughter – equal only to the gift that came next from her dad.
His gift was a saddle stone for grinding wheat grains into flour, which he’d carved out of gray-green marble. Key loved it also, telling him how marvelous it was by planting plenty of kisses all over his face.
Yes, indeed, this was quickly becoming the most amazing birthday she’d ever had.
But then she got the present from both her mom and dad. She was speechless when she saw that it was a beautiful white dress.
Her mom and dad had woven it together out of the softest linen. It was sleeveless and went down to her knees. She hugged the dress to her face and pressed it to her nose to smell its wonderful scent. She wished she could find the words to tell them how much she loved this gift, because to her it truly was the dress to end all other dresses in the whole world.
Both her mom and dad said she looked like a beautiful princess in it when she tried it on and stood before them, barefooted with yellow daisies woven through her hair, which she’d picked from a field earlier that day because she loved the way the daisies’ bright yellow petals looked like sunshine, and also because her mom and dad made her feel like the sunshine of their lives. They clapped for joy when she twirled around for them, with tears of gratitude filling her eyes and the hem of her dress flaring out like a budding flower.
Yes, most definitely, this had become the best birthday she’d ever had.
Key was just about to cut the cake for the three of them and hand it around, but right before that happy moment happened, the worst thing that could have happened finally did.
The unlocked front door swung open.
Standing in the doorway was a very big, very mean, and very angry vampire.
This vampire was called by many names. Some called him “Margrave the Gruesome.” Others called him “Margrave the Ghastly.” A few called him “Margrave the Grisly.” And one time someone called him “Margrave the Not-Too-Gabby,” but that someone met a gruesome, grisly, and ghastly end.
The legal name in the Society of Mystical Creatures for this nasty vampire was Margrave Bodkin Snick. He was popular like Key, but unlike her, his popularity had not come about because of anything good, but rather because of all the bad things he did. How bad were they? Well, I can’t go into the gory details, but they were the most horrible things you can think of. Treachery was child’s play to him. Burglary was kid’s stuff. He was mean, cruel, thoughtless, greedy, grumpy; and a bully, a snitch, a thief; and he was even a ruthless killer.
Yes, Margrave Snick hurt many people and many Mystical Creatures – and Key was the last person he hurt for a long time.
Now in her doorway, this menacing vampire stood panting with his black hair completely mussed, looking as though he had been running away from something quite painful and fearful. While he had somewhat handsome features such as a strong chin beneath two large cheekbones, along with skin as white as pure milk, his eyes were shifty and yellow – and they were now glaring venomously at Key.
So tall he had to stoop down beneath the doorframe, Margrave Snick strode into her home without so much as a
How do you do
Key’s dad stood up to greet him, but the vampire pushed him aside just as, following him through the front door, in came two zombies. They were Margrave Snick’s henchmen, and the only two survivors of his most recent zombicidal attack on the Society of Mystical Creatures. These two zombies were so thin and boney that, if their rotting skin hadn’t been black and blue, they might have easily been mistaken for skeletons.
“I’m starving!” one zombie henchman moaned.
“I haven’t eaten in weeks!” the other zombie henchman added, except his mouth was decaying so badly he spoke in unintelligible mumbles. What he said sounded more like,
“Gurgle snurgle flursh shnuffles!”
Despite the absolute horror of this unexpected visit, Key’s mom and dad were very polite. They would not let anyone go away hungry. So they invited inside their home Margrave Snick and his two zombie henchmen because they always taught Key by example. And in this way she learned from them how to care for others, even for those who might hurt you.
Now, once the three guests were all inside, one of the zombie henchmen closed the front door behind him, and was the first one who ever locked it. The
that the door made when it locked sounded strange to Key, and she was not sure what it meant at first, not until she looked at Margrave Snick and saw the tall vampire flashing his long fangs and leering at her the way hungry wolves leer at helpless sheep.
— CHAPTER TWO —
Witch, Ghost, & Mist Map
A ghost and a witch appeared on a hilltop not too far from Key’s house.
In life, the ghost had been an elderly man with a thick mustache and goatee. In death, he looked roughly the same, except now he was as transparent as a green bottle and glowed with a pale green light. As the elderly ghost floated beside his witch companion, the tips of his wingtip shoes dangled just above the grass while he grasped an umbrella like a cane. He seemed very natural wearing a three-piece pinstriped suit, dark rectangular spectacles, a bright bowtie, a dandelion pinned to his lapel, and a bowler hat atop his head with dark goggles around its rim.
The witch was a young woman, very tall, with smooth brown skin. She had curly black hair and was wearing a purple-black velvet dress, tall black boots, and a top hat with goggles around its rim, too. Perhaps more fantastic than this were the whirring, buzzing, zapping, and blinking gadgets strapped all over her clothing, from hat to boot. Down her forearm was a long spyglass. Her thick belt was leather and brass covered all over in steam gauges, wiring, and lights blinking blue and red. Around her left shoulder was a copper plate of armor mechanized by wires, cogwheels, and copper pipes gushing out steam. She looked, perhaps, more like an android than a witch.