October 30, 1495, 6:14am
The Entrance Hall
The coming dawn weighed heavily upon Sanchez as the scout kneeled before Dracula. Like Kyrillos, who stood at the Voivode’s side, he’d chosen to stay up to see why the messenger was in such a hurry. He regretted not following Teresa and her manic disciple into the daysleep.
The messenger wore the Voivode’s insignia and it was clear that he was one of the Prince’s men.
“My Liege!” – The Agent, falling to his knees before his master.
“What news?” – Dracula
“A band of demons and witches has entered Wallachia, my lord. They are headed for the castle even now!” – The Agent.
“Were they close on your heels, Bogomil?” – Dracula
“No, milord, by God’s grace they travel only by night but they’re fast, my lord, my men and I travelled day and night and yet they close on us each day by dawn, we saw their red eyes even as the sun rose to banish them. They nearly caught me tonight… they killed the others with their bare hands! My lord, they tore out their throats with their teeth! They drank their blood while their hearts still beat in their chests! My lord, I think they let me live, I think they wanted you to know they were coming! They called out to me as the sun rose, my lord, they said to tell you that the Sabbat was coming, that they bowed to no one…” – the agent.
“Get this man water and food, and then get him to a bed to rest. Get him a woman too, if it eases his mind!” – Dracula
Two guards moved instantly to do as their master bid.
“Do you remember anything else, Stanislaus, anything at all?” – Dracula
The Agent shook his head violently before looking up with a start.
“Yes, yes, yes! A mother heard names, specific names, in the night that they first came. They were chanting them, over and over again, Lambach, yes, yes, Lambach and Tabak!”
Lambach. Sanchez knew the name well and from the look on Kyrillos’ face the Mad Count recognized it as well. The Fiend had become a figurehead for those Anarchs who had survived the Massacre at Silchester after the Convention of Thorns.
Sanchez must have delved deeper into thought than he’d realized because when he looked up he saw his Host standing before him with Kyrillos at his side.
“I must insist that you and your allies remain here within the safety of these walls until this violence passes, master Mason.” – Dracula
Sanchez only nodded, his strength was gone and he couldn’t tell if it was due to the sun or the thought of yet another bloody incursion.
October 30, 1495, 4:54pm
Sanchez awoke face down on the floor of his haven, his feet pressed uncomfortably against the heavy wooden door. It seemed that he’d collapsed just after he slipped the bolt into place.
Somewhere in the distance the Mason could hear the sounds of hellish bellowing and rending metal. It seemed that the Lambach and his Sabbat had reached the summit and were having a go at the gate.
Sanchez leapt to his feet and rushed out onto the castle’s roof where he found Kyrillos, Teresa and her disciple watching what sounded less like a siege and more like a battle.
“What’s happening?” – Sanchez
“A Sabbat arrived at dusk and began to tear at the gate. Somehow the Camarilla was waiting for them though.” – Lupe.
Sanchez looked below and found the assessment sound. The Camarilla was better equipped and better trained than the Sabbat and had the blood-mad monsters pinned against the cliff.
He recognized Milov and Fanchon as the leaders of the Camarilla’s detachment.
“The Justicars came to fight alongside their Archons.” – Kyrillos
“They’re outnumbered.” – Lupe.
“Yes, but they’re more potent and better prepared to face a sortie of the damned.” – Sanchez.
“Smug.” – Lupe
“Observant.” – Teresa
She’d caught sight of her niece among the Archons.
“Foolish girl.” – Teresa
“Ha! They made the idiot Alexander an Archon? They’re bigger fools than I’d supposed” – Lupe
Kyrillos couldn’t argue, though it seemed that the haughty Ventrue was skilled on the field of battle.
“Where’s Dracula?” – Lupe
It was clear that, in spite of their smaller numbers, the Camarilla was already overpowering the Sabbat, having cut their number in half.
“Enough of this!” – Sanchez, leaping into the fray.
Though the Camarilla was already winning the night, Sanchez’s entrance into the battle was welcome as the elder flitted through the mass of furious corpses, brutalizing the Sabbat before they could even register that he was there. Kyrillos leapt in after his ally, though he lacked the Toreador’s speed he made up for it in surprisingly skilled swordplay and ferocity, handling his own against two frenzied Antitribu .
Just as it seemed the Camarilla had taken the upper hand, pressing the Sabbat closer and closer to the cliff-face, and would stand victorious over the Sabbat the gates swung wide as Dracula led his personal guard, his so-called Axes, into battle.
The mortals were a force of nature as they moved across the mountain top, showing a skill with fighting the dead that was unheard of and tearing into the now surrounded Justicars and their followers.
Amidst the fighting Dracula turned toward the two ladies, his blood-spattered face twisted into a rictus of violence-fueled ecstasy.
“Wallachia will not suffer trespassers upon its borders! Join battle, my beauties and bring honor and glory to your names!” – Dracula
“No!” – Lupe.
Teresa looked at her disciple and saw the stress of holding back her beast twisting her beautiful face.
“Calm yourself!” – Teresa
“Calm? Calm? They’re being butchered down there! We should be doing something!” – Lupe
The Balustrade crumbled in the Brujah’s grasp as she roared.
The vampire leapt from the parapet and joined the skirmish, landing heavily upon the shoulder of Alexander with a sickening crunch. Before the Ventrue could even register that his arms were broken she’d dug her fingers into his flesh and grabbed hold of his ribcage and heaved.
The Ventrue’s flailing body flailed through the air, disappearing over the mountainside. After that, the Rage overwhelmed her entirely, and Lupe was lost to the red.
Despite having not signed their precious treaty, Teresa had never felt animosity for the Founders, rather she pitied their wretched view on the history of their kind and saw their stance, that the Book of Nod was only a parable, to be laughable at best and more than likely suicidal. Nor did she find the damned Sabbat of Fiends and Antitribu to be worth saving, in spite of the fact that they had, in the last couple of years become her nominal allies. So when Teresa decided to act, she did so in the name of her host, for whom she awoke a handful of shadows to act as guards, sending them to disarm any that would do harm to the Voivode, literally. More than one member of the Sabbat found himself flailing upon the ground, completely dismembered, most notable among them was the ancient Tzimisce Tabak and the Gangrel Justicar.
With the tide turned, the Camarilla made its escape, taking their torpid leader with them and, knowing that the Voivode would take his actions as treasonous, Sanchez went with them.
The Sabbat too attempted to flee, though thanks to the actions of Sanchez, Teresa and Kyrillos their numbers were greatly diminished. The Fiends even left their leaders, the dismembered Tabak and staked Lambach, for Dracula to do with as he pleased.
Dracula himself staked Tabak and left it to Kyrillos to oversee their removal to the castle. When they were finished the frozen ground was still littered with the corpses of Sabbat.
Teresa was pleased to see that none of them belonged to Sister Lupe.
November 4, 1495, 5:31am
Teresa’s Private Chambers
The Domain of the Black Queen
Archbishop of Alba Iulia
Sanchez had been surprised to find that Teresa had met him in Arefu before the next dawn but together they returned to Brasov to meet with Zelios, quietly enjoying each other’s company but when they arrived they found the old crypt abandoned, without even the few pieces of furniture that had been there before.
“Archbishop?” – Sanchez, falling onto the sofa.
“Yes, I thought it was amusing Title myself, but it helps to add an air of respectability and separate ourselves from the throng of “Pacts” within the Sabbat. We can’t have anyone thinking that, just because we did not join your precious little court that we are completely lost.” – Teresa
“And Archbishop is much more scholarly than “Black Queen”, right?” – Sanchez
The Black Queen Laughed.
“Oh, I am still the Black Queen, in fact, I have been in correspondence with a number of Noddists from across Christendom who have never heard of Teresa Balgrad but wish to learn at my feet nonetheless.” – Teresa
“Ah, so mysterious.” – Sanchez
Teresa went to her desk to show her guest the most recent letters to find an ancient wooden chest sitting upon it. How she hadn’t seen it before was beyond her.
“What is that?” – Sanchez, running his hands over the weathered wood.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, it belongs to Zelios, and I think ah yes…” – Sanchez, sliding his deft hands along the seemingly seamless panels only to hear the faintest of clicks.
The box’s right panel fell open revealing an oilcloth parcel and a letter.
Within the enclosed oilcloth satchel you will find the amber brooch and tome as promised. I am sorry that I could not meet you myself but I was forced to make a small jaunt to Egypt on very short notice. I am sure that you remember how to use the brooch so I will not bore you with the instructions.
I look forward to meeting with you again.
Zelios of Clan Nosferatu, Master Mason
As promised, within the oilcloth satchel was the amber inset in gold along with a large rounded tome crafted from what appeared to be two round sheets of amber that, and bound by a seamless heavy band of dark metal marked only by a single oval impression.
“It’s beautiful.” – Sanchez sliding his fingers over the amber’s weathered façade before pulling his hand away.
“What is it?” – Teresa
“Death. So many lives were lost over this thing. It’s impossibly old.” – Sanchez
“Let’s find out what it’s all about.” – Teresa.
Teresa grabbed the metal and twisted only to feel her limbs go numb.
She looked at her hands to see that they’d paled and withered before she dropped the amber codex.
“It’s ensorcelled.” – Sanchez
“Thank you, Sanchez, I don’t know what I would do without your wise council.” – Teresa, as she felt her strength rush back into her limbs.
“Maybe we should try the brooch first.” – Teresa
“Way ahead of you.” – Sanchez, splitting the bauble and sliding it apart with a single hand.
Teresa looked through the amber glass at the inscription that Zelios had shown them and chortled to herself as she red
I am the key. Within the heart of my twin shall I reveal the truth. No more shall our father’s lies entrap us. All shall now know the black rot that lies behind his fair face. Read of his betrayal and weep for us all.
“The Brooch itself is the key.” – Teresa, sliding the brooch’s base into the oval impression in the metal band.
The gold held fast against the metal band, and Teresa received a small static shock before the metal band loosened beneath the brooch-cum-buckle, unraveling as though it were nothing more than a black leather strap.
“Am I the only one sick of magic?” – Sanchez.
The amber plates came apart revealing a series of beaten gold pages marked with an incredibly small but deeply etched script.
Teresa began to read:
My Brothers and Sister,
I write this warning to you knowing it may be that I shall never see any of you again. If it must be that my words reach you from beyond the Final Death, then I accept that it is so. I do not fear death itself; only what my dreams tell me may await my soul beyond that portal. Yet my heart retains its hope; I can imagine nothing more hideous than that which has already befallen me, and so I pray for true death, for a peace that admits no torments, no nightmares.
They will come for me soon, I think. I have but little time to finish, and so, must make a start. Think kindly of me in the nights to come if this should preserve you from the horrors that have stripped my existence from me. May you see the truth in my words and flee that which would destroy your souls…
…Shu made us welcome with great feasting, summoning forth slaves whom his attendants tortured and slew in such hideous fashion that we, who had seen many terrible things inflicted on the helpless who displeased our own kind, shuddered with revulsion and their savagery. In the following nights they tempted us with riches and the most succulent of babies’ flesh and blood. They offered us powers beyond and dreamed of by Caine himself. Again and again, they enticed us to partake of their rituals, to swear oaths with demons, and to inflict the cruelest of tortures on innocents.
And then Karesh fell to their seduction. He denounced the rest of us and the wicked fell upon us like the very hordes of Hell. Vekis, Madiel and I were made captive and by the most agonizing of torments, forced to Embrace the mortal leaders of the Ba’al. Then Madiel was slain, his blood drunk and his essence taken by his own newly made childe. Vekis and I were left alive so the Ba’al could question us.
I shall not tell you of all the terrors and degradations visited upon us in our captivity. Vekis died in torment, vainly trying to hold back information the Shu desired. I was questioned over and over, each time with new and more horrible tortures. My flesh was laced with worms and maggots set to eating their way out of my body, my thirst was like a red shroud that enwrapped me in unbreakable torment. But the worst times were those when my former brother came to me, whispering seductively and offering me my freedom and peace if I would but join him. He told me terrible secrets that broke my mind and shattered my sanity. I feared I should be kept thus forevermore, a pitiful remnant, a broken toy the evil Shu refused to put down.
Then in the midst of a moment of clarity, I found a way to escape. All I could recall was that my brother had betrayed us to the Ba’al and that they now possessed the gift of immortality. Somehow, I found my way back to the City. Kneeling before our Father and Grandsire, I told them what I had learned and begged for protection and the blood. Our Father seemed crazed by the news I brought. He urged Caine to make immediate and total war upon the Ba’al. With our Grandsire’s approval, he called forth our clan’s warriors. I was too weak to go with them.
Each day I slept uneasily, dreaming of Karesh’s whispers and the horrors that he told me. Each evening I awoke, covered in blood sweat, unable to recall what he told me, but knowing it portended disaster for us all. I went to our Father, begging him to help me unlock the secrets held within my dreams. He seemed distracted by the war and promised to assist me later. Our messengers returned night after night with news that another of my warrior brethren was dead, slain by jade devils. Though Shu suffered devastating losses, it seemed the war was not going well. Our Father became ever more determined, sending out his warrior childer until none existed any longer. Then he turned to our healers, asking that they pick up the slayer’s sword as well.
That day as I slept, I dreamed again – and I remembered what had twisted my mind to madness. I saw again Karesh coming to me, searing my flesh with heated metals while he whispered to me these words:
“Ah, my foolish brother, I take such delight in watching you writhe at my touch! And yet, this torment is as nothing before the knowledge I tell you now. You were betrayed, but not by me. I but followed the wishes of my sire. He sent us here, not to learn the plans of the Ba’ali, but to see if they would make worthy children of our line. For many years now our sire has been disappointed with our Clan. He has grown weary of waiting for us to awaken to his true teachings, to throw off the pitiful constraints we have placed upon ourselves, to reach beyond the idea of Shu’s guidance to the font of true power. Peace and inner harmony are for weaklings, and that is what our line has become – a clan of puling fools who have forgotten that we are the accursed of God. Our Father remembers and revels in it. Let the weak believe the lies he spins; when our time comes, they shall fall before us like wheat to the scythe.
“Do not believe that our Father’s first line will survive. Most of us have proven too peaceful, too willing to enter the search for Golconda rather than to rip out the hearts of any who deny us our rightful heritage as the overlords of the Earth. They shall be swept away in the red tide of battle, slain by his new children, the Ba’ali of Sai. Those among the new who survive will be the strongest and the cruelest. None shall know of our ascension until it is too late to turn aside our wrath. And on the night that the last of our sire’s first children bleeds his life into the mouths of his newborns, I shall rise to sit by our Father’s right hand and command all who dwell upon the earth.”
I have remembered. I am afraid. This have I written to warn those of you who are left. Heed not the words of our Father, for he is a liar. He seeks only our deaths. The Ba’ali are not his enemy, but his tool for our destruction. Flee if you can. I shall bury this beneath the floor of my room and hope our Father does not find it. The key to reading it, and my warning not to give the key to our Father or his minions, flies even now to one of our sisters who rests far from here and is, thus, safe for the moment.
It is almost dawn. Though awake, I am once again tormented by the nightmares that give me no peace night or day. My warning is finished. I hear our Father’s footsteps as he comes toward my room. Unknowing, I asked him to unlock my dreams and he has done so. Now he knows that I know the truth and he cannot allow me to exist with such knowledge. He knocks upon the door and gently tells me to ready myself. It is calm. I do not know if I am more afraid to greet the sun or to look upon his fair face, knowing him for the first time as what he truly is. I shall bury this now and hope he does not find it when the sun’s kiss scars my flesh and brings me, at last, to peace.
Javaniel, Second Bone Dragon
Childe of Yavok,
Childe of Zao-Lat
November 7, 1495, 1:21am
Beneath Poenari Castle
The Domain of Dracula
Prince in Exile
Kyrillos stole down the twisted staircase into the dungeons below the fortress. He had promised his host that he would leave him to his prisoners without interruption but tonight, as he was returning from hunting in Arefu, Kyrillos had seen the Fiend Lambach fleeing the castle in all haste, his clothes little more than rags and his eyes wild with hunger.
The Malkavian made all haste to the castle as fast as his undead flesh would allow and was now standing before the secret door into the dungeons kept specifically for the dead.
The old count could hear no heartbeat, and the smell of blood coming from within the chamber beyond was overwhelming leading him to fear the worst.
“Come in, Lord Kyrillos.” – Dracula
Kyrillos was taken aback by the Prince’s tone but did as he’d been bade.
Dracula stood in the center of the chamber, his naked body covered in a thick layer of dried blood that shone brightly even in the dark of the lightless room. Before the prince were the remains of the limbless Tabak slowly melting under the weight of his obvious distruction.
Dracula’s emerald eyes shone impossibly bright in the darkness as he grinned maniacally at his old advisor.
“It is glorious, Kyrillos, to see through these eyes!” – Dracula, the blood fading from his now unblemished white skin as he spoke.
“What happened here?” – Kyrillos
“Count Lambach graciously accepted an offer made to him by a victorious rival.”
The film of blood had now completely faded leaving Dracula’s skin perfectly clean and practically aglow in the dark chamber. The newly reborn monster seem flushed with power and appeared to be a full twenty years younger.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, my dear friend, I must return to the land of the living for I have plans to make, I believe that it is time that I reveal myself to the night, and take my rightful place in it.”
Kyrillos watched Dracula leave the dungeon and knew that his time at Poenari Castle had, at last, come to an end.