October 20, 1495, 1:00am
The Black Ox Inn
The Domain of Master Sanchez
Prince of Sebeș
The Prince of Sebeș sat upon his stool behind his writing desk and waited to hear his next constituent’s plea.
Though he was a notoriously busy man he always made sure to keep at least one evening a week for these face to face exchanges with those Kindred who deigned to accept the Toreador as their Prince. Unfortunately for him, the number seemed to grow every week. So many Kindred, especially those of his Clan, wanted to bend the ear of the “Father of the Masquerade”.
There was a time, not so long ago when his city was filled with Iconoclastic Agitators and Zealots, now it was a commune for Artisans and Epicureans who wanted to ply their trades and hone their crafts, specifically their ability to blend in with the “Herd”. His insistence that they not refer to the Living as chattel often fell on deaf ears as those self-same vampires were convinced of their own superiority.
Luckily for him, Sanchez was adaptive.
The man who shuffled into the room was not one that Sanchez knew and as far as he could tell he was not among the Damned. He stepped forward nervously, his right hand buried in a large heavy leather satchel.
By his dress he was a craftsman, and from the satchel he removed a rolled vellum scroll sealed with black wax. The skin of his hand and outstretched arm was sallow and pitted with black scabrous sores, obviously the mark of a ghoul in the service of a member of Clan Nosferatu.
The missive was sealed with a seven pointed star. Before the Journeyman could even offer an explanation for his presence or the missive, Sanchez had already taken the scroll and opened it.
“Thank you, Bertram, you’re dismissed.” – Sanchez
The ghoul’s eyes widened. He had not introduced himself, nor had he ever met the Toreador Prince before.
You have helped me in the past and now I find that I must beg your indulgence again. You well know the ritual that I have sought to complete to keep the demon Kupala from rising. In recent months I have discovered that a key to completing the ritual lies elsewhere. I would ask the favor of your assistance in bringing this site into alignment with those already marked.
For your trouble, I offer the following: Two items of exceptional beauty and value that also contain information related to the golden translation key you found so many years ago in Tihuta Pass. I give them to you freely in hopes that you may find them useful.
Please come in secret to Bran Castle above the city of Kronstadt, where I await you. Come to the east facing of the castle where you will find the gallows that grows over a forgotten barrow. Remove the stone that covers the earthen tomb – as you may remember, this passage leads to a stairway that descends into the rock below the castle itself. Follow the stairway until you reach the bottom and you shall find me there, where I have constructed a temporary haven.
I look forward to meeting with you again.
Zelios of Clan Nosferatu, Master Mason
Sanchez read the note twice over. He’d sworn never to return to Brasov, which the old leper had referred to as Kronstadt, after the destruction of Josephus a half century prior but he did remember the passage described in the letter, in fact it had been constructed by Zelios after Erasmus had fallen into his unending Torpor. The fact that Zelios had taken up a haven there could only mean that Erasmus had finally risen, but if that were true than the question remained: What happened to the crusader?
October 24, 1495, 8:23pm
Before the Gallows Tree
The Domain of Rosenkrantz the Younger
Prince of Brasov
The night air was damp with fog which made Sanchez’s passage through the grounds of Bran Castle all the easier. Though it would have been appropriate for him to announce himself to the prince as he and Rosenkrantz weren’t exactly allied. Indeed, the Prince of Brasov had been heard on more than one occasion wishing for his fellow’s destruction after he was rousted from his seat in Sebeș, even though he was granted regency over the much more impressive Brasov for his trouble.
It was a matter of pride and Sanchez could respect that, even if he couldn’t respect the Royalist toady himself.
The castle grounds were relatively well groomed but the gallows tree rested in a forgotten and overgrown bit of garden and was nearly dead. At nearly three hundred years old Sanchez assumed that it had a good run.
His thoughts grew quiet as he approached the old stone that had long ago been marked by Sanchez’s own maker’s mark, a tower crowned by a circle. Instead of being moored and forgotten it had been torn free from the earth and roots and set aside. There were no drag marks which meant that it had been moved by someone of immense strength.
Sanchez hoped that Zelios had not become so careless as to leave the capstone to his haven so far from the doorway.
From within Sanchez could hear the sound of movement but no heartbeats, no breathing. Sanchez wrapped himself in a cloak of obscurity as he slipped soundlessly into the burrow.
The burrow was pitch-black without any sign of a torch having been lit. Even for most of the Dead the black was oppressive, but to Sanchez it was only dim.
He’d hoped that it would be Kyrillos. He’d heard of the Mad Count’s destruction at the hands of the roving Sabbat of psychotic Anarchs in England, but he’d been counted amongst the dead before and Sanchez didn’t buy it. He’d sent word to the old Byzantine to meet him here on this night to all of the places he was known to rest.
But it wasn’t Kyrillos standing nervously in the darkness; to the Mason’s surprise it was Teresa dressed as a man in riding breeches along with a narrowly framed and beautiful woman with a dark complexion who wore a simple cotton dress. Sanchez recognized her as the Spanish Anarch Lupe, the vampire who’d witnessed Kyrillos’ death.
Sanchez’s surprise quickly melted into puckish glee as he reached out and pinched the Black Queen on the ass.
The old Lasombra reacted with shocking speed and Sanchez saw her slamming her fist into the side of his skull with enough force to shatter through the back of his skull. He felt the flesh of his face liquefy under the weight of her ancient blood, his eyes burst, and as he felt his soul being pulled into oblivion he stepped back out of the path of her furious retribution.
He watched as the Lasombra’s fist slammed into her Antitribu ally, shattering her skull and sending her body into the stone wall.
“Sanchez?” – Teresa
“Heh. Maybe I should have announced myself.”
The Agitator lay motionless against the stone wall.
“I think I broke her.” – Sanchez
Teresa helped the girl to her feet as her brutalized face began to rebuild itself, her blood seeping back into the broken flesh as the bones reset themselves.
The woman’s face was ashen and sunken, her fangs prominent and her eyes were practically lambent with hunger.
“When was the last time you fed?” – Sanchez
“It has been some time, but I would have been fine had my face not been crushed!” – Lupe
Her voice was little more than a bestial growl.
“Fair point. Did Zelios invite you as well?” – Sanchez
“Yes, it seems that he’s discovered an artifact that may be useful to my studies.” – Teresa
“Well than we’d better be on our way. Remember though, that these stairs were treacherous in the thirteenth century, God only knows what they’re like now.” – Sanchez
He was referring to the massive pit that the staircase had been built into using stone slabs set in place through inhuman strength alone.
As if to prove his point the Brujah slipped, though Sanchez was there to catch her before she could fall.
“Let that be a lesson to you, L–“ – Teresa, but she never finished the sentence, as the stone beneath her gave way, causing her to slip off and into the abyss beyond the staircase.
Sanchez didn’t move so much as vanish from where he stood next to Lupe, leaving her to navigate the deadly staircase alone.
When he reached the bottom of the pit he found nothing but dust and dirt.
There was no response and in his panic Sanchez did not notice that he’d developed a second shadow nor did he notice that a soft light was illuminating the area from the small crypt built into the wall opposite the staircase.
When something slapped his ass Sanchez was near panic, spinning around with his fangs bared and his fists up only to see the Black Queen rising out of his own shadow as she might step out of a deep bath or spring.
Sanchez lashed out before she could react and, taking her in his arms, dipped low enough that she was nearly upside down, the look in the Mason’s eyes was almost romantic as he drew dangerously close to her.
“Just kidding.” – Sanchez, dropping her onto the stone floor.
“I should kill you!” – Teresa lifting herself to her feet.
“Have you dined?” – a new voice, stony and rasping.
The two vampires turned, only now realizing that they were not alone.
If they could have, they would have blushed. Sitting at a drawing table amid a writhing carpet of rats sat the stone-faced Nosferatu Mason. If he was amused by their antics his face did not betray his jocularity.
“Zelios!” – Sanchez, grasping his once-mentor’s arm
“My little friends are full of vitae should you require it and they are more than willing to share.” – Zelios
Teresa’s nose wrinkled in disgust.
“No, thank you, Zelios.” – Sanchez
They turned as Zelios’ eyes turned back toward the pit, as Lupe landed before them, having leapt to the ground.
“Lupe, our host has offered us this bounty on which to feed.” – Teresa
Without a word the Brujah stepped forward woodenly and reached down to pick up one of the rats. As she bit into the limp little beast her stilted control over her hunger finally collapsed and she tore into the thing, draining it completely before falling on another and another.
The others turned away to let her feed in privacy.
“Who is she?” – Zelios
“She is called Lupe and she is my disciple.” – Teresa
“I hadn’t expected you to bring acolytes.”
Lupe dropped another rat.
“I insisted, Master Zelios, Lupe has studied the lore of Nod all over Europe but has met so few of the most Revered thinkers who walk the Night.” – Teresa
“It is of no matter, if you have let her into their confidences than I have no reason to keep this from her. As to why you are here: I have recently discovered another key point in my grand design to bind the demon Kupala. I had not found it before because it does not lie in Transylvania at all, but in Wallachia. There is a castle there, overlooking the Argeș River, that was once occupied by the infamous Vlad Tepes, who once ruled these lands. Though he is long dead it is said that the so-called “Son of the Devil” might have practiced infernal rites within the walls of Poenari Castle and it would be very dangerous to place these runes blindly without understanding what diabolical spells have already infected its walls.” – Zelios.
“So you want me to make sure there are no infernal runes to interfere with your web?” – Sanchez
“Precisely and, as I have it on good authority that there is a new master of Poenari Castle that you must gain permission from them before placing them upon the walls if our working is to be successful.” – Zelios
“And what of the treasures we were promised?” – Teresa
Zelios reached into a leather satchel at his side and removed a small square silk pouch. Within the pouch was a largish piece of golden jewelry; a brooch to be specific, within which was set a large amber stone which had been polished into a dome.
Teresa recognized the bauble immediately, despite the century and a half since she’d handed it over to the puerile Nova Arpad.
“Curiously, my informants tell me that this brooch was once owned by the former prince of Mediaș. When Nova Arpad found it necessary to sell some of her jewelry due to a sudden reversal of fortune that left her fleeing her own domain, the brooch became the property of Lady Ana Golescu.” – Zelios
“She’s here in Brasov?” – Lupe
“Indeed, and she granted the brooch, along with a small treasure, for services rendered. Understand that, in my travels, I have become acquainted with many worthy scholars, both living and dead and have learned much lore regarding this little bauble. Specifically, I wish to draw your eyes to this seam along the side of the brooch, hidden by the webbing and intricate gold work.”
He turned the brooch on its side but Teresa saw no seam. Sanchez simply nodded. With a touch the gold slid, releasing the amber from it.
“How did I miss that?” – Sanchez to himself
“You’ll note the faint inscription upon either piece of the bauble. These cannot be read except by sliding the amber over the markings once it is released from the setting like so. Once done, the inscription is enlarged enough to make out the writing clearly. Sadly I’ve not been able to find a translation for the odd characters that make it up. I believe that, from what Sanchez has told me, the key you discovered in Bârgău Pass, might assist you.” – Zelios
Teresa sneered at Sanchez and his loose lips but was painfully curious about the writing.
“Once the Runes are inscribed upon Poenari Castle I shall know. When you return I shall give you the brooch and its companion volume, a tome that contains a much larger piece of writing that I believe possesses a great deal of lore tied to Kupala and our goal of binding the demon.” – Zelios.
Lupe dropped one last rat into the small pile that had formed at her feet.
“When do we leave?”
October 26, 1495, 4:36pm
The Shadows of Poenari Castle,
The Transylvanian Alps
The road to Poenari Castle was a smooth one, allowing them to make good time, especially with Lupe, who had history in Poenari Castle, at their side. Though they reached Arefu quickly, the road to the Castle itself was blocked to the point of being nonexistent and they had been forced to leave their entourage behind in the city to climb the 1400 steps that were cut into the mountain, leading up to the menacing castle that loomed over the city as if ready to strike, alone. Much like in Brasov, to fall from the narrow staircase would be deadly even to the dead, leaving their torpid body to wash away in the Argeș River.
The Castle itself had been little more than a ruin until Vlad Tepes took power and had it rebuilt and re-fortified, a project Sanchez did not work on directly but had kept his eye on. He saw now that the workmanship and design were beautiful examples of the Romanian style, with its five gothic towers rising elegantly from the mountain stone itself.When the three vampires finally reached the top of the narrow stairs they found a small cordon of armored soldiers were waiting for them beyond the great Iron Gate.
“So much for the castle being unoccupied.” – Sanchez, gesturing for the Captain of the Guard to approach
“What business do you have with Poenari Castle.” – the Captain of the Guard.
“We wish to have words with your master.” – Sanchez
“Of course, my Lord, I did not mean to detain you, come with me.”
Sanchez smiled at Teresa who returned the smile with a roll of her eyes.
The Captain of the Guard bade another guard to unlock the gate and then escorted them through the craggy courtyard.
“What is your master’s name, Captain?”
“Our Lord wishes to remain anonymous as he has been in exile for some time now and his presence would create a small uproar if discovered.” – the captain
“So you don’t know?” – Sanchez prodded.
The Captain laughed before looking back at the two ladies conspiratorially.
“Truth be told, though the world has believed him dead these last twenty years, our master is in fact the supposed murdered prince of Wallachia, Vlad Tepes.” – the Captain.
Sanchez couldn’t hide his surprise as they approached the Castle.
Ahead the ironbound doors of the castle opened, illuminating the Courtyard and revealing a shadowy figure backlit by the great hearth within.
The figure that approached was small but imperious in his posture. As he drew closer Sanchez couldn’t help but notice that he wore great purple flowing robes, not unlike the Arabic viziers he worked with in Iberia and a great toothy grin nestled within his great iron-gray beard.
“Welcome to Poenari Castle!”
“Kyrillos!” – Sanchez and Teresa together.
“Why haven’t you answered any of my letters you curr!” – Sanchez, embracing his old friend
“You fooled me again old friend” – Teresa, joining in the hug.
“Wait! You’re “Dracula”?” – Sanchez
The Mad Count laughed hysterically.
“We are here to draw runes upon the walls of the castle.” – Sanchez
“They’re not my walls.” – Kyrillos
“Then who does the castle belong to?”
“So you know the Prince’s majordomo?” – the Captain.
Sanchez’s face fell. He was going to have to convince Dracula to let them deface his castle.
“Why are you here?” – Kyrillos
“Zelios believes that this castle is a pylon in his binding of Kupala.” – Teresa
The look on his face was enough for the others to realize that he didn’t know the name.
“The storm demon.” – Sanchez
“The Demon that infests these mountains.” – Teresa
“We’re sorry but we don’t remember” – Kyrillos
“How can you forget the horrific weather that used to wreck Transylvania? Do you remember meeting Dragomir?” – Teresa
“Sorry, no.” – Kyrillos
“I’ve got this. Do you remember when I was nearly struck by lightning while climbing the walls of Vintila’s castle?” – Sanchez
The Malkavian barked a laugh.
“That was brilliantly funny. Yes, it’s coming back to me now.” – Kyrillos.
“Well, we have been dispatched by Zelios to apply another such sigil. You do remember Zelios?” – Teresa
“Of course we do!” – Kyrillos
“Well he believes that we must gain permission before placing the mark so we must speak with the Prince.” – Teresa
Kyrillos and the others turned to look at Lupe who had, up until now, gone completely unnoticed.
“Excuse me?” – Kyrillos
“How do you live? I watched the Larvae descend upon you! How is Vykos dead but you remain?” – Lupe
The Brujah’s eyes flashed with fury.
“It was through my research that the Anarchs were able to perform their ghastly deed, my girl, I had long ago learned how to bring any such beast to heel.” – Kyrillos
“You Destroyed Him!”
Sanchez reached out with his mind to cloud the frenzied vampire’s ability to perceive the Mad Count even as she lunged for him and, for just a moment it seemed to work, the Brujah spun and pivoted furiously searching for her quarry.
And then Kyrillos appeared before her, imperiously demanding that she stand down.
Unfortunately, her beast was more powerful than he’d expected and she responded to his command with a string of expletives even as she charged.
Teresa reacted swiftly, sending the shadows to intercept her disciple and to hold her down while she regained her footing, great inky black tethers to hold the young Brujah in place even as she strained against them, but Lupe proved too strong for them, tearing through them as if they were not but spider webs and leaving them tattered as she charged the Mad Count.
She hit him with enough force to echo through the mountaintops like thunder, leaving him shattered upon the ground like so much debris, leaving nothing but dirt and stone.
Teresa’s jaw fell as she watched the last bits of Kyrillos Dimities roll across the ground. Sanchez merely smirked.
Lupe stood stalk still, her eyes darting from place to place looking for her prey, her hands clenched into fists but the feral light in her eyes was already fading even as she bellowed victoriously.
Sanchez turned away from the Brujah in disgust, cursing her in every language he knew.
Teresa closed the gap between her and her disciple in the blink of an eye and cuffed her across the face hard enough to break a mortal’s jaw.
“You earned that one!” – Teresa
“He killed Vykos! Are you really taking the side of a “Kindred” over him?” – Lupe
“Vykos was a vile piece of shit that devoured his sire for power and called it “revolution”. He betrayed Kyrillos when he destroyed that village while hiding behind the horrific results of Kyrillos’ work!” – Sanchez
“And I killed him! I slew the whelp who martyred Vykos!” – Lupe
Even as she cackled Sanchez saw the ground behind her begin to move: loose stones and dirt and other debris began to roll and twitch before being pulled together almost silently coalescing into the shape of the Mad Count.
The Brujah quit speaking and lowered her head.
“If we’re finished, the master awaits.” – Kyrillos, picking at his teeth with a long nail.
Teresa took the Brujah by the hand and pulled her toward the castle as a mother would a misbehaving child.
“You have completely embarrassed me!” – Teresa
The castle had changed much since the last time that Lupe had seen it but the layout was much the same. The walls were now covered with beautiful tapestries marked by the Draculesti coat of arms, with depictions of great battles and even portraits of the Prince of Wallachia. Even the furniture was elegant if a bit old.
When they reached the Throne Room the doors were opened by a pair of footmen revealing the chamber that Lupe had lost her life in so many decades ago. But the grand banquet table was gone, replaced by a long carpet that led directly to the large throne upon which a handsome older gentleman sat.
The Voivode looked much the same as he had when Teresa and Sanchez had last seen him. Too much like it in fact. His hair was a lighter shade of gray and his beard was shaven, replaced by a long thick mustache, but his face was almost the same, with maybe a few more lines at the eyes.
He was dressed as a noble should be and despite his exile it was obvious that the Prince was both wealthy and well fed.
Dracula leapt from his throne to approach them, his arms splayed wide in greeting.
“Welcome to my home! If we had known you were coming we would have been better prepared. Have you supped?” – Dracula
“We have not, milord.” – Teresa
“Gregor! Bring at least five men at arms! Bring them here for my friends!” – Dracula
The five men at arms willingly offer their arms and necks to Teresa and Lupe. Sanchez, who was not hungry, turned to conversation.
“You look good, Vlad, especially for a man who died more than twenty years ago.” – Sanchez
“Thank you. It seemed that I began to age more slowly after the events near Deva in ’72.” – Dracula
Sanchez couldn’t help but notice that the Voivode was more interested in watching the others feed than talking to him. The Toreador was put off with the intensity of his gaze as he watched until they finished.
“Now that you have had your fill come, we shall retire to my parlor and speak of your travels.” – Dracula
The parlor was indeed very comfortable.
“So how did you know I was here?” – Dracula
“We didn’t.” – Teresa
“An old and learned friend of ours sent us here to Poenari under the assumption that it had been abandoned to assay it for him. Had we known that you were here we would not have come as we did.” – Sanchez
Kyrillos looked disappointed in the response.
“And what, exactly, were you to look for?” – Dracula
“Well, this will no doubt sound ridiculous, but we were to inspect it for signs of Infernalism and, should we find it, remove its mark from the premises.” – Sanchez
“To what purpose?” – Dracula
Teresa shook her head subtly but Sanchez continued.
“Well, by marking a specific wall with a series of sigils we can turn the occult energy that is building here towards more fully binding an ancient and insidious demon that has haunted these mountains since time out of mind.”
“And now?” – Dracula
“Now that we know that someone calls it their home we will ask your permission first, the magic is fragile and, as I learned the hard way nearly two centuries ago, marking these runes without permission is extraordinarily dangerous.”
Dracula thought on his words.
“How exactly do you wish to mark my castle?” – Dracula
Sanchez removed the bit of stone that had been given to him.
“I might grant this request to you.” – Dracula
“Might?” – Sanchez
“Though, through the Legacy of my Basarab forbearers, I have had a particularly long and hale life, it is not an immortal one. I wish to be as unaging as you all are. More importantly, I want to forgo the usual bond forged by the embrace between sire and childe. I do not care to be burdened by the vagaries of your traditions.”
“While I will not curse you with this life myself, we know of one, called Sabela, who would grant you Immortality and whom, should you choose to destroy her, would not be missed.” – Sanchez
The others nodded.
“Ah but there are stipulations; while I would ask Kyrillos, who has stood by my side these twenty years, he has warned me against being Embraced into his Clan or by the Worms of Clan Nosferatu. Nor do I wish to join your Camarilla nor the Anarchs who rove the night butchering my people.” – Dracula
“You want autonomy.” – Sanchez
The vampires all looked from one to another. Lupe was disgusted by the idea of pulling another into this existence and Sanchez had already turned him down leaving only Teresa whose feelings on the subject were, by the looks of her, inscrutable.
“I do not wish for you to answer now, I understand that I ask a grave favor indeed and the truth is I grow weary of these walls and lonely in seclusion. So please, stay here with us for a few nights and grant Kyrillos a chance to entertain you.”
October 29, 1495, 5:33pm
The Transylvanian Alps
It had been a very long three nights. It seemed that Dracula needed very little sleep to his uncanny nature and spent all of his days preparing their nightly entertainment.
The first night they’d been treated to a demonstration put on by his very best warriors, only for Lupe to enter the fray and leave them broken upon the floor, this was followed by a reading from the Feast of Fools, which the Prince and Sanchez both found very entertaining.
The next night Teresa learned that the Mad Count had convinced Teresa that she was a powerful sorceress and had volunteered her to perform for him after which Sanchez was volunteered to exhibit his masonry work. It was then that the Mason also revealed a number of secret passages in the castle that even Vlad was unaware of. Finally a troupe of dancers entertained them with their prowess.
The worst part was not part of these little shows, in between and even during them the Prince had taken to spending as much time in her company as he could and even seducing her. He was good at it to be sure, but sex was always a tool for the Black Queen, even in life, and after three and a half centuries if anyone were to seduce her, it wouldn’t be a mortal, no matter how talented he might be.
That was not to say she didn’t return his advances. She’d lain with him three times over the last three nights and he had proven himself to be an imaginative and exuberant lover. It was hard to imagine that he was seventy years old.
But she didn’t get much out of it.
Now he was here in her windowless bedroom, playfully removing her gown and she just didn’t have the patience for it again.
“you were amazing, my prince, it was the best sex I’ve had in three centuries, now please, rest your head for a little while before joining us downstairs.” – Teresa
The count smiled as his eyes dulled. She removed his clothing as he lay upon the bed and ensured that he would find evidence of their act as he slept and then fled the room.
At least he quit asking her for the Embrace.
October 29, 1495, 11:47pm
Beneath Poenari Castle
The Transylvanian Alps
For the first time since they’d come to this place Sanchez was given time to actually examine the castle, which he’d been doing since the sun dipped below the horizon. As far as the others knew he still hadn’t risen from his daily repose, and in a way they were right. If they were to enter his sleeping chamber they would indeed find him still asleep under the bed, but he’d risen none the less, slipping from his room to wander the myriad corridors and rooms unhampered by walls and doors and prying eyes.
He’d already investigated the outer walls, roof and upper floors of the castle and it was a truly beautiful example of Romanian Gothic design, and the Toreador couldn’t help but feel pride at the thought that his designs had not only survived but thrived over the centuries.
Now he was combing the lower levels. He’d already investigated the ground level in his excursion with the prince, so he saw no reason not to go deeper into the depths of the fortress. The first level below the castle was for living out a siege, with storerooms and cells for survivors and refugees, it was obvious that they had not been used in quite some time. Beneath that was the dungeon. With a number of large cells for holding prisoners, soldiers and even a room for torture. Sanchez noted the large wooden chair in the Torture chamber and the window that led all the way out and, by ten in the morning would allow a single sliver of light to run across whoever was chained in one of the lower ceilinged cells.
It was then that he noticed someone else was in the room. It was Lupe, in the lonely quiet he noted her haughty bluster was gone, her features were passive and would be serene if it weren’t for the fear in her eyes.
The girl passed right through him as she touched a set of manacles, running her fingers over the stone floor.
The young Brujah stood and made her way toward the Torture Chamber but stopped before entering, she turned to look at a small wooden closet door but when she opened it he saw that it was in fact another low room.
The girl gasped at what she saw within.
There, in the center of the chamber, chained to the ceiling and floor in irons were the remains of a man, he was impossibly thin, though that might have been due to the extreme desiccation, his long wispy hair doing little to hide the scars across his withered face.
The boy’s eyes and nose had long withered away, but his incredibly long and sharp fangs jutted visibly from his drawn lips and gums.
A long pike had been thrust through his chest.
“Ignatius?” – Lupe
Sanchez didn’t know the name, but he was sure that his was the Impaler’s work.
He suddenly became aware of someone saying his name and touching his hand.
Sanchez opened his eyes.
“I’m sorry to bother you, my friend, but I am here to tell you that the Prince has granted you permission to place your mark on the castle wall.” – Kyrillos
Sanchez slipped from beneath his bed and flexed.
“I didn’t know that there was a secret dungeon.” – Sanchez
“What secret dungeon?” – Kyrillos
Lupe looked upon her fellow victim with abject horror. How long had he been here? Had the Impaler done this and how?
Without thinking Lupe reached up and tore the chains from the wall and then from the floor, laying the Torpid vampire down at her feet as gently as she could. It was only after she pulled the stake from his chest that she realized the error.
The corpses withered eyes regenerated almost instantaneously into slit lambent red orbs filled with only hate and hunger.
Before the thing could even move though, Lupe was gone, lending her cursed flesh some of the speed granted by her ever-raging beast she was able to clear the room and bar the door without before he even realized that she was there.
Within the chamber a low, deep rasping growl reverberated through the dungeon. To her surprise she saw the man whom she’d attempted to murder three nights prior, with a soldier at his side.
“Open the door, girl!”
Lupe did so without thinking, if only because he told her to and then with a heave, he tossed the dazed mortal into the room and slammed the door shut once more.
Lupe looked at the Count with horror.
Without a word he turned and walked out of the dungeon leaving Lupe to the sounds of the beast feasting messily.
October 30, 1495, 6:09am
The Northern wall
Poenari Castle, Overlooking Arefu
The sigil was a simple one, but the work was exacting and performing it upon a wall while clinging to it made it particularly slow work.
Kyrillos approached Dracula as he sat contemplatively upon his throne.
“What’s on your mind, my mad friend?” – Dracula
“Did you leave a vampire to rot in the dungeon below, milord?” – Kyrillos
“Why? Why do that without warning me?” – Kyrillos
“I was curious. The Cainite below is a cousin of mine, a member of the Danesti line of House Basarab and I used him to gain a better understanding of the nature of your kind. He held an estate close to Alba Iulia and had not interacted with humanity since the time of my father. I believed the world would not miss him, and it hasn’t for a quarter of a century. “
“Fair enough.” – Kyrillos
Sanchez had finally finished the last of the symbols and was crawling across the wall when he caught sight of a thin looking man wearing peasants’ garb moving as frantically as he could up the mountain stairs.
Teresa was just joining Kyrillos and Dracula in the throne room when the Captain of the Guard appeared.
“Milord, you’re going to want to come to the gate.”