"Darkness Visible"
by Michelle Erica Green

Hercules the Vampire Slayer

"Darkness Visible" Plot Summary:

While a man in a faraway land is trapped on a balcony by a vampire, Hercules teaches children basketball, something he picked up while he was trotting the globe that teaches teamwork, eye coordination...and good reflexes. He demonstrates this by beaning a passing thief. Just then a man in foreign armor approaches the hero bearing an urgent message from his friend Prince Vlad. Since they fought together in the Battle of Antioch, Vlad has been losing control of his kingdom to vampires.

As they depart the boat which took them to Eastern Europe, Hercules and Iolaus are accosted by an armed man who shoots wooden arrows from a device on his sleeve. He is Galen, whose sister disappeared when she went to Vlad's castle seeking refuge. His traveling companion is Darius, who is determined to get rich stopping the vampires. The four set out for a hike in the mountains to the prince's isolated fortress. On the trek, Hercules explains to Iolaus that vampires look just like everyone else, except they don't have reflections and they have an unfortunate habit of sinking their teeth into people's necks. Only a wooden stake through the heart can kill a vampire. But if the leader is killed, his followers will all become human again.

At the castle, the four enter a courtyard filled with dead bodies on spikes, leading to speculation on why Vlad is known as "Vlad the Impaler." Iolaus wonders whether their old friend might have changed for the worse, but Hercules insists that they should spend the night in the courtyard since no thug in his right mind would disturb them there. As the others sleep, Darius steals a medallion from one of the bodies. "There's always one who can't resist the glitter," says the dead man, lifting his head to reveal that he is...a vampire! Galen shoots the bloodsucker with a wooden stake, but not before Darius becomes one of the undead, giving him the ability to fly. "Hungry? Have a stake!" exclaims Hercules as he slays Darius. The vampire vanishes in a pyrotechnic display.

Vlad greets Hercules and his companions warmly, expressing regret that the evil which has overrun his kingdom has taken one of their group. While thunder booms outside, the prince explains that his father tried to kill him, and Vlad had no choice but to take over, putting the invading Turks on spikes to send a warning message to others who would threaten his kingdom. "When I look in the mirror, I still see something of my father," claims the prince, but looking over his shoulder, it's obvious that Vlad has no reflection.

Iolaus stuffs his face at dinner but Hercules claims exhaustion and goes to bed early. When they're alone, he tells his friend that Vlad isn't the man they used to know. They plan to free the refugees and escape, along with Galen who sneaks into their room because the seemingly deserted castle disturbs him. After Hercules discovers a secret passage to the dungeon, the group discover dozens of half-dead people tied up with puncture marks in their skin. Since Galen's sister is not among them, Hercules tells Iolaus and Galen to free the refugees while he looks for the woman elsewhere. Galen offers Hercules a vial of hemlock, figuring the hero would rather end up dead than undead.

Regrettably if unsurprisingly, Nadia - the sister in question - is Vlad's vampire lover. She wants to spare Galen, but Vlad convinces her to share their power with her family. Hercules barges in, accusing Vlad of murdering his own family members and demanding to know why his former friend invited him to his realm. "You are the only man with the fortitude to kill me," exlains the price, saying that when he first became a vampire at his father's hands, he wanted to die. Then he realized he could protect his kingdom by creating an army of the undead. The people in the dungeon were chosen to feed the rest - a small price, rationalizes Vlad. Hercules attacks, but Vlad vanishes before his eyes.

Galen and Iolaus free the "food," but the former is lured away by his sister's voice. He is horrified to discover what she has become, trying to evade her flirtatious demands for him to join her and screaming when she comes too close. Hearing the noise, Iolaus tries to find his new comrade but is attacked by bats. He finds Galen unconscious, with an arm torn off...but the man grows a new one before his eyes! Meanwhile Hercules finds Galen's missing arm and deduces that the others are in trouble. He walks in to find Nadia biting Iolaus' neck. "That's my friend you're sucking on!" he warns.

Galen wakes to discover that he has become a vampire. He offers Hercules a wooden stake, asking the hero to kill him, but Hercules insists that there must be a better way. Iolaus meanwhile is slowly becoming a vampire as well. Hercules makes Vlad an offer: let his friend go, and he will stay in his place, since Vlad wants Hercules' powerful blood to make his followers truly immortal. "Don't give Vlad your blood...give it to me!" implores Iolaus, trying to bite his friend.

Hercules goes to Vlad's throne room and agrees to trade his blood for Iolaus' freedom. "Make yourself comfortable," suggests the prince, showing Hercules a spiked coffin in which the Impaler plans to lock the Son of Zeus. "One cannot deny one's nature," rationalizes Vlad, to which Hercules responds, "You have no idea how right you are." When Hercules is locked in, blood begins to pour from the fingers of the effigy on the coffin. Vlad catches the blood in a goblet and releases a very weak Hercules, who falls to the floor as the prince drinks and offers blood from his own fingers to his greedily suckling followers.

"We will truly be immortal with the union of our bloodlines," predicts Vlad, but his minions fall into a swoon. Hercules confesses that he drank hemlock, which won't kill him because Vlad drained it from his system. The poison won't kill the vampires either, but it will slow them down. "Now it's a fair fight." While Iolaus trounces the woozy minions, the Impaler asks Hercules to join him in immortal life, but Hercules says his friend Vlad died a long time ago. After a struggle, Herc tosses a wooden stake at the teleporting Vlad, who vanishes. Galen, Nadia and the others all become human again. "I could use a drink," sighs Iolaus. The hero deadpans, "I'm feeling a bit drained myself."

On the way to the boat, Hercules and Iolaus debate who has a better sense of humor. Hercules asks his friend whether he's been feeling a bit long in the tooth, adding that he didn't like it when Iolaus was looking at him like a six-pack. "I was just window-shopping!" objects Iolaus. The two sail for home.


From the fall of the House of Thebes, we leap forward a few hundred years to the era of Vlad the Impaler. "Darkness Visible" was a blatant attempt to cash in both on Halloween fun and the current vampire craze, with a silly neo-Gothic, gargoyle-infested set and a vague location which could have been Transylvania or a Swiss resort for all the cheesy fake snow in the background.

Iolaus spends an awful lot of time dead (or Undead), though fortunately he didn't get overly hysterical about being bitten by the lovely Nadia. After Dahok, none of these other meanies seem that scary, though it would be a pity if he were reincarnated only to become a bloodsucking fiend. Vlad couldn't have known either of these guys very well if he thought Herc could be swayed by offers of fiendly immortality. He gets those from his folks all the time. The guy did resemble Ares at moments, but the physique wasn't quite up there and neither was the charm. And Galen was more interesting as a vampire.

The vampires were comical, old movie caricatures rather than friends of Spike and Drusilla, a pre-Anne Rice variety of vamp with no subtlety to their sexiness. Hercules did look a little dorky and out of place wearing a sleeveless vest in the snow-covered hills, but he was still the most attractive hunk of flesh around.

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