|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.
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.....