Arcanum

Arcanum Romanticism Special: The Wake

From Sinéad’s journal:

The tale began in a joyful manner. We had travelled far into Welsh countryside. Why, you ask? We didn’t really know. Sometimes you just set your feet loose and they carry you. Our feet carried us to a mansion, where a noble family dwelled. They were in the middle of the Samhain festival! The common folk were having their own celebration for the end of autumn – there was a joy, singing, and dancing around bonfires. End of season meant end of work for them. Owners of the land watched the celebrations from a porch, drinking whisky and having cultured conversations. The ones that wanted more privacy walked around the mansion gardens, enjoying one of the last warm nights of the years. Some would gladly join the simpler folk in their merry ways, but it was improper. Here we were…

While Sinéad revelled among the commoners, Riina and Marcus celebrated with the gentry, each arriving into the area separately and not knowing about the others. When a scream tore the night, Sinéad and Marcus rushed towards its source. They ran into forest. What they saw at a clearing was a pair of commonfolk, a man and a woman, now fainted and a corpse. The body was cut, with a gaping hole in its chest where the heart should. Its forehead was carved with writing in none of human alphabets. Yet, there was no sign of murderer. Truly, a bloodcurdling sight.

Then, the crowd appeard. Sinéad screeched and fell down. Village folk appeared and recognised the corpse: it was a son of lord’s cousin, who was visiting his family. In face of the tragedy all merriness has died. The festival was over. The commoners flocked for safety. Some were led alongside the noblemen back into mansion to stay there until the investigation was over.

Marcus – who pretended to be a poet suffering from consumption – found a moment to copy mysterious marks inscribed on the deadman’s face. As he did that, the letters turned blood red just for a second… he has decided against sharing it with anyone. Sinéad, who decided to pretend to be a girl from one of local villages used his help to slip into mansion as a witness. She was given a bed in servants’ quarter – a rather inconvenient lodging for a kindred – while Marcus was placed in a room together with other guest who was – as it turned out – Riina.

Everyone gathered in a living room to keep each other company. It was a terrible event. The lord’s daughter, Lucy, was especially shellshocked. The tragically departed was one of her few friends. There weren’t many opportunities to look into the matter, so everyone waited until locals went to sleep. That’s when Sinéad decided to sneak into chapel in which corpse was waiting for a priest to arrive and perform final rites.

So she went through dark corridors into candlelit chamber, where the desacrated body of a victim was left to rest. She approached, saw signs on his forehead and the hole in its chest. The Ravnos checked if it didn’t have anything of importance nearby… and heard “It’s not nice to steal from the dead”. The corpse grabbed her by a hand. The murdered one raised from the cataphalque and walked towards the thief (who, admitedly, denied that she has been a member of that dishonorable profession). Unable to reason with the one that should belong in the afterlife, who apparently was either in love with Sinéad or in dire need of new blood pump, the girl has bolted out of the chapel and blocked the door with a heavy candle holder… only to run into Riina, who as well has snooped around the house. Their sudden meeting almost made her drop a thing she took from the victim’s pocket.

The Nosferatu didn’t appear on the scene by accident. After short and salty conversation with Marcus she left their room and went to investigate herself.
Sinéad told her what happened just a minute ago. Riina wanted to see the deadman for herself, so they unbarred the doors and entered the chapel again. The Nosferatu decided to take the candle holder with her, just in case. As they entered, they noticed body politely went back to the bier and was having a rest, as if nothing happened. Hearing the guests returning he rose almost instantly. Sinéad decided to call it a day. Riina smashed the floor with candle holder on her way back. The zombie was unphased at that, but didn’t chase them out of the chapel. It wasn’t enough to convince Sinéad to leave the doors unbarred.

They had to leave in a hurry, as the sound made when iron crushed stone floor of a chapel alarmed all the house. The women escaped. Sinéad used a moment to hide the thing she snitched from the chapel under a loose floor board – it turned to be a signet, with a clear, black, round stone. Commotion created by Riina prevented from any other scooping. Before the lord was awakened, servants checked the house for any possible suspects. Sinéad, being of rather frail build wasn’t considered one, as the feat performed by Riina required almost a supernatural strength. One of servants noticed somebody really did desacrate the body – it was laying on the chapel’s floor instead of bier, where it was left. The heinous act caused one of elderly to die of heart attack, which weighted heavily on Riina’s heart.

In a meantime Marcus went to check on the place where the corpse was found, to no effect. He has found absolute lack of evidence on the scene of crime unsettling. Upon returning to mansion he met servants, who were more suspicious of him than of Sinéad, who looked haunted and terrified out of her mind. Nobody charged him with trespassing or desacrating the body, but they decided to keep Marcus for further questioning in the morning, when the Lord wakes up. He couldn’t allow that to happen… as the dawn approached he jumped out of the window of his room and earth meld. Sinéad had similiar problem, as her, sleeping all day long in bright room full of servants would be unwise to say the least. She has decided to take a stroll into cellar and find a place to stay in there.

While Marcus idea proved to be moderately reasonable. Everyone was worried about his disappearance, but he managed to explain he decided to take a stroll in the woods and suddenly felt week because of his illness. Sinéad on the other side woke up in the chapel, on a bier, next to the deadman… Indeed, nobody paid as much attention to his absence when third person died within a night, and a witness to the crime at that.

I really can’t tell whose shock was bigger, her, or all the people who entered the chapel hearing her scream, seeing her hiding in a corner, mumbling incoherently. The mood was too grim to question her, or anybody, about what happened. To cater to her supposedly broken state, she was given a room for herself to rest in peace… which conviniently was the room which belonged to the lord’s dead relative.

She used the opportunity to learn more about him from his things. Books, letters… all of that helped her uncover deep relationship with the lord’s daughter, Lucy. Her family was more affluent, but it couldn’t and didn’t want to fulfill her dream of university education and not really womanly career. She has bonded with poor but scholarly cousin, who helped her any way he could, including sending books he barely could afford.

That turned her attention to Lucy, who was vey calm and quiet all the time. Shock might have been a cause to that, but certainly, something wasn’t right. She wanted to know her part of the story. She was ready to leave the room to sneak into her room, when she spoted the very same ring she has hidden before going to sleep. The very ring that should not by any chance be here and had no chance of finding its way into Sinéad’s room.

Startled she run out of the room and stumbled into Riina, who lingered with mortals and made sure nobody suspected kindred of foul play. She was as shocked by the ring as the Ravnos. They decided to keep a closer look at the mortals… but nothing seemed out of ordinary, for now. The trio spent some time with mortals and discussed the matters at hand. Marcus was very skeptic of the investigation, as he thought it was a matter which belonged to expertise of clan Tremere, yet Sinéad didn’t want to stop. She went back to her room to look for more clues… and suddenly, she felt acrid smell. The room was on fire!

She screamed on the top of her lungs. Terrified, she fell to the floor. The servants run into the room. They have managed to contain the fire. This event, a one that denied all logic, made everyone too tired to care. Sinéad had no trouble sneaking into Lucy’s room. What she found there filled the picture she already had with more details, but didn’t explain the situation in any way, except for wild guess that the dead man was in fact a Tremere protegé. She slipped out and found Marcus in the living room. Once more they exchanged information and opinions on the case. He was even more disheartened by her suspicion that the Tremere might have a finger in the case.

In a meantime, Riina wasn’t wasting time. While Sinéad was talking with Marcus, she went to the mansion’s library. What she found there was much more concerning. The lord’s son was not himself. He lost a fight fighting against something invisible, malicious. Something that forced him to set the place on fire and now was forcing him to end his life. The struggle was as obvious as him being overpowered. After that, he tried to end his life, which was stopped by superior force of Riina. Before anything seemed to pass, Lucy entered the chamber and asked Riina to follow her. There was something about her that made “no” not an option… so Riina followed, stoping her only for a short snack. Lucy didn’t seem to mind at all…

She stopped in the living room to ask Marcus and Sinéad to joined them and led her to her room, where they could talk in private. Then, Sinéad felt an urge she couldn’t resist… She produced the signet she had hidden earlier and put it on her finger. Seeing that Riina immidiately grew claws and cut off the finger and the ring all together. Lucy smiled and thanked her for delivering blood of the last of the only one that managed to not give it to her for free. She has said what she truly was – a demon inhabiting body of a poor girl… and then she used her position of power to force a deal on each of the kindred. But how the negotiations went, nobody knows, as there were no witnesses…

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