|GM Umbral Ultimatum|
In the mountains to the distant east, something stirs. Beyond the bitter cold of the barren lands, something wakes. A gasp, a scream, and an inhuman sound, as whatever slumbered forgotten in solemn Siberia comes forth from its prison once again, leaving the snow and stone red in its wake.
As such things often do, word of the supernatural spreads along an unseen highway below the normal flow of information througout Europe and the lands beyond. Unbeknownst to the masses, secrets of ancient evils - the things barely spoken aloud for fear that even the thought of such could summon their wrath - are passed from hand to hand, mouth to mouth, ear to ear. From the shadows of the darkness beyond the boundaries of this known reality, on the leap day of this fateful year, CastleVania has returned.
As with all its previous resurrections, the Demon Castle's location has shifted once again. Those brave or foolish enough to seek its mysteries find themselves directed to the village of Băile Tușnad, little more than a stop on a well-used trade road passing through central Transylvania that received the occasional passersby but few permanent dwellers... until now. In the wake of CastleVania's appearance the village has become a gateway to the ancient keep and its haunted grounds, one by which nearly all travelers bound for the Palace of the King of Darkness - regardless of their purpose - will pass. The village, once nothing more than the site of a spring where traveling shepherds would pause to water their livestock and bathe, has opened arms to the trade and development, and the welcome growth of trained warriors, mercenaries, and opportunists to protect it against the growing threat of CastleVania's expanding influence.
And expand it has. In the mere three months since its reappearance, night has not been benevolent to the people of Băile Tușnad. The beasts of the wilderness about have become rabid and feral, driven into the city where before they would never venture, destroying life and livestock. The dead have become restless, and wander the lands aimlessly, assaulting any living beings they encounter. And within the past few weeks, nature itself seems to have turned against Băile Tușnad: weather has become erratic, storms and other maladies seemingly conjuring into existence from nowhere, and the coming of spring seems to be delayed by an onset of an extended winter.
As the capstone of this devastating malevolence, within only the past week the moon itself has inexplicably vanished from the sky on what should have been the week of the full. With each passing day the darkness grows, as if the stars themselves are following the moon's example, winking out of existence one by one.
♫♪ Serenade of the Hearth ~ Michiru Yamane (Order of Ecclesia) ♫♪
Date: March 23, 1816 CE
Place: Village of Băile Tușnad - five kilometers north of CastleVania's gates
By foot, by horse, or by caravan, you have made your way to the village of Băile Tușnad, following whatever contacts or informants have passed on the information of CastleVania's return and the location of its reappearance. Even during the day the blight of its presence is obvious: the air is frigid despite the strained glow of the sun, as if its warmth provides no lasting heat, and what should be fields of green sprinkled intermittently with color from the awakening of spring instead provides shades of brown and red not unlike a fall following a poor harvest. The village consists of no more than fifteen small homes as well as a few buildings that appear to be shops of some sort, a town hall that is easily the biggest building in Băile Tușnad, and an inn that claims second and strongly rivals for first.
The villagers seen on the streets are few, preferring the safety of their homes even during the day, but those you see are pleasant and welcoming despite their timidity. All requests for lodging, food, work, or information are directed to the massive inn at the village's center. Already present are several people who do not look to be natives of Băile Tușnad, and nearly all are in one way or another garbed as adventurers and travelers, not unlike yourselves.
Here, the next chapter begins.....
The unseasonably cold weather is nothing to Alexei. Dressed in a drab overcoat and snug hat, he rides on horseback into the tiny village. He takes in the scene all at once. He mutters quietly in his native Russian, ”Yes, Mily, I feel it, too. Evil is afoot. I can smell it.”
He dismounts and ties his horse to a post in front of the inn. Furtively, he checks on his tiny traveling companion. Mily, a beady-eyed black rat tucked within a deep pocket of Alexei’s coat, squeaks happily as Alexei gives him a crumb of cheese.
Alexei ventures into the inn to see what news he can glean of the ill-omened castle.
Lucien stirs from the wagon. It's neither the bumps of the road nor the trouble of the region that awakens him, but the driver of the horses letting him know he has reached his destination.
"Thank you, my son," he comments, refusing the driver's offer to assist with his bags, hoisting his backpack and stepping to the cold packed earth. "but the burden is mine to bear. Blessings on you for your kindness, and your safe journey will be in my prayers."
Taking a moment to assess the suddenly 'elevated' village at a glance, he notes the furtive glances of those very few villagers on the streets. It's as they say he thinks I can almost taste the blackness in the air. Well, we aren't called to be a candle in the sunlight, but a light in the darkness. Such is the lot of the children of the Lord.
His hand moves instinctively to the crucifix at his chest, a small prayer whispered near sublingually. I should probably acquaint myself with the local church before anything. Ah, but to find that will require directions, and that will require interacting with people, and THAT will require the inn.
A small smile appears on his youthful face, and he walks towards the nearest tavern. "And it would be rude to not patronize such a facility of at least a sandwich," he mutters to himself, feeling the rumble in his stomach from a long trip with few provisions.
Yes, this is certainly the right place Montague replies to the coachmens query
He gathers his belongings, adjusts his spectacles and takes in the sights, sounds and smells of the town.
Take 20 on Perception
Chapter One He murmurs to himself and heads over to the inn
|GM Umbral Ultimatum|
The inn is fairly active at midday, mostly occupied by traders and travelers, adventurer-seekers and would-be heroes not unlike yourselves, and the occasional shepherd or farmer seeking to drink with friends or glean a meal from somewhere other than their own herds or fields. The scent of baking bread, cooking meat, and spilled alcohol fills the room along with the general scents of crowded humanity.
Children scurry about, moving from table to table delivering food and drinks. They are all clearly related to one another and to the large man standing guard at the entrance of the building, a woodcutter's axe leaning against the wall just to his side, and the just-as-large woman filling mugs behind the stacked crates and wooden slats that serves as a bar, when she isn't bustling back into the kitchen beyond.
A few of the travelers look up at the arrival of the newcomers, first the dark-haired young Russian, then the young traveler priest, and lastly the more local Transylvanian with his bow. The man at the door grunts slightly at their presence but does not yet move to intercept nor communicate otherwise, so long as no one draws weapons or calls upon occult powers upon their arrival.
There are no seats at the bar, forcing newcomers to select from the random, mismatched assortment of tables and chairs for a place to rest weary feet. Upon being seated, it's only a matter of moments before the newcomer or three is approached by one of the children, all ranging between ages eight and fifteen, and asked if they wish anything to drink or eat.
|GM Umbral Ultimatum|
Alexei takes a seat and loosens his overcoat from where it as tight about his throat. When a child approaches for his order, his dour expression brightens and he looks kindly upon the child. "A soup or stew for a weary traveler. What is on offer? Oh, and perhaps a spirit to warm these bones. Vodka, if you have it." Where he came from, these provisions were ubiquitous, but he is in a strange land and knows to take nothing for granted.
Montague looks for a seat and orders a glass of wine and a plate of Varză a la Cluj..
Thank you, Child. May I inquire as to how much a room is for the evening
Lucien looks around the crowded room, finding few places to sit. He sidles up near the other two newcomers, smiling gently. "Forgive me, gentlemen, but I trust this seat is not taken? I hope you don't mind my intrusion, but I could eat half of a horse right now."
He pulls a chair and sits down, ordering the largest sandwich on the menu. "I don't suppose you know where the church in town is? I just arrived and don't know the area well, yet, unfortunately, but I should probably check in with the locals. "
A man sitting the next table over hears the question and turns to butt in on the conversation. "You've come all the way here to visit the church??" He is wearing a tall fur hat and coat which sits oddly over his left shoulder as if covering some deformity. "I would have figured all visitors were here for you know..." he drops his voice and finishes "The Castle"
The young priest sits down and smiles. It seems genuine, far more than most of the other residents of the area. "Indeed, it is the castle that is my goal, but it's the love of my fellow man that brings me. When one wishes to banish darkness, you have to bring light, and so I felt I'd come. It's my line of work, after all."
You can see the priest's collar, upon further examination, peeking from under the winter clothes that Lucien has over his vestments. While he's not exactly advertising his role as a holy man, neither is he hiding it.
"Lucien Moore is my name. And you all?"
Alexei moves closer to the others. "This place seems to have quickly adapted to travelers," the pale young man says with his heavy Russian accent. "It would almost remind me of a festival town, if not for the dark shadow looming over all."
Looming...an excellent description of the situation,Please good sir, sit Montague says to Alexei as he jots down notes