Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.
- * *
And so a long journey is in front of you. It starts innocently enough, just at the monastery gate, leading you through ceremonies of death, life and a road that seems to go on and on. Shall you ever arrive at the destination foretold? Who knows…
Having succeeded in the first of the tests the elders of Vienna set in front of them, the Team was asked to perform a second service — this time specifically for the Prince. They were to give testimony of what they have discovered to Vienna’s Tzimisce neighbour and Elemer’s master – so little and so much. Taking an opportunity to ask the locals about the road on a social gathering of the local kindred in Werner’s tavern, the protagonists felt more or less prepared for what was to come. Or so they thought.
The road to Soprom was rather uneventful, except for one chance meeting on the road; a Lasombra lady, Roxanne, whom they would later see staying in Vienna, was spotted by them on the road near the castle. Otherwise, the visit was interesting and eventful, but not fatal. The team had a chance to see more than a little bit of Tzimisce magic, get acquainted with a local pitchfork-wielding mob after brother Joachim’s flawless attempts at diplomacy and see Marcus get cursed by an unknown perpetrator.
On their way back, however, they were not so lucky and had the misfortune of coming across a site of a small skirmish in the Tzimisce-Tremere war. Taking under their wings a mortal survivor of the battle, a girl who introduced herself as Angela, they went on their way warily, dodging patrols and making unlikely acquaintances: a Gangrel warrior named Anna and her merry band of mercenary misfits, with whom Caspar partied at the inn on the way — all night long and into the next evening. Showing a surprising affinity for the wild, a newfound trait some connected to his unfortunate Amaranth experience, Caspar adopted a small female bear further on the way, after the team slaughtered it’s parents — the risks of lying to sleep in bear caves being that the bears may return before the dawn and you will find them sitting on your face the very next night, you see. In this particular instance the team preferred not to cuddle with the creatures and, after some difficulties, slayed the mama bear, papa bear and the bear boy, leaving only the bear girl, whom Caspar took, giving her his new favourite female name: Anna.
The envoy was dead, and the blame rested with the inhuman creature who had dwelt in the woods and who had died for its transgressions. One would suspect, there was nothing more to be done. However, the proof had to be delivered to the injured party, and who would be better suited for the task than a group of curious neonates?
Thus,sir Caspar, accompanied by Marcus and brother Joachim, set off to Hungary to meet with Count Kalman Apafi a Soprom, and show him that his dear servant died as a result of an unfortunate accident and nothing more. Whether that explanation was true, or merely factual was none of the group’s concern.
Equipped with new clothes, horses, a cart, and funds for the journey, the adventures left towards the wilderness. The journey was long and difficult, especially in inclement weather, thankfully, however, the younglings had managed to gather a handful useful hints from more experienced travelers, and thus may have avoided a few common mistakes.
During the trip, they revised the guidelines they had received from Abbot Marius and Prince Valerianus: do not lie, do not make assumptions, do not ask unnecessary questions, show respect and if possible, stay no longer than three nights. They also arduously studied a book of etiquette generously lent them by the Abbot.
However, once in the Count’s castle, the neonates could not help but be in awe. Corridors that seemed to lead to where one wished to go, talking bookcases – one of them mean and one friendly, a fire that did not burn, maids that offered them blood? Who would have imagined!
The Count himself was also a man to behold. From his scalp rose small branches that looked like a crown of a tree. Having introduced themselves, the adventurers met the Count’s wife, Anika, his son, Lorinc, and the priestess, Brennan – everybody most courteous and polite.
The most unpleasant moment happened when the Count sat down to examine the team’s testimony, seeking proof of it in Caspar’s memories. He did not seem completely satisfied, but if there indeed was a reason for that, it remained unspoken.
To make the night more pleasant, Lorinc then took the group to a nearby village where a festival was taking place. Caspar, well versed in the art of seduction, helped the princeling find himself an appropriate company, and then followed suit. Meanwhile, brother Joachim, who not only dressed like a friar, but also spoke German, outraged the villagers who began to chant and light up torches. Lorinc’s assistance was needed, and having convinced the crowd to disperse, he took the guests back to the castle. There, a friendly sparring match took place between Lorinc and Caspar, during which the men earned each other’s respect.
Later that night, the visitors were invited to see the gobelins created by the Lady of the castle. As she explained, they depicted visions she had, but seldom understood. In her kindness, the Lady offered each of the adventurers a gobelin of their choosing, and thus, Caspar received an image of the man who became the monster from the woods, Marcus asked for an image of Prince Valerianus, and brother Joachim decided to rely on his intuition and chose a random image that pleased him.
Towards the end of the night, the count and his priestess recalled the group and offered them to see a feat of magic. Thrilled by the prospect, Caspar and Marcus agreed to go, and were rewarded with a view of a ritual that took place in the castle’s shrine and then, a visit to a cave that first filled with blood, and then showed them visions of burning cities they did not and would not know for centuries to come.
On the last night, an unfortunate event happened. Following a day of strange dreams, the team members awoke thirsty, and none of them was as thirsty as Marcus, whose bleeding wounds gave him no relief. Invited back to the meeting hall of the castle, he could not resist the temptation of the fountain filled with blood. Urged by his thirst, the Malkavian lurched forward and kept drinking until the beastly hunger let go of him, to his utmost embarrassment.
Thankfully, it appeared the Count had a greater problem at hand. It would seem something damaged the magic protection of the castle, and it was high time for the team to depart…