Report to the Thaneson, Turen, ___?
I would that this finds you well, for that would mean that one of us at least is in good health. I hope in addition that as you read this you are not fleeing from the ancestral seat of the Saines family, those most charming and respected of vampires, being tossed to and fro in a carriage driven by an insane Deagh who is prone to channeling the form of his counterpart Hayden, the latter apparently hell-bent on the total and utter annihilation of the Known Universe. I suppose, given the nature of things these days, that such an unhappy coincidence is more likely than not. But if you are by some chance not in such dire straits, then let me tell you how I and my companions came to be.
Having descended from Medius Park into the Undercity and wandered lost in the dark for a time through the old dwarven ruins – funny place for a town if you ask me – we crossed paths with some feeble zombies and other denizens of death before locating Avram Easterbrooke unhappily ensconced in a tower and proceeding to rescue him. You will be glad to hear that all went reasonably well with our escape, by our standards at least. Catching an old dwarven mining cart out of the city, we were harassed by a snarly vampire who seemed to think we were trespassing. The creature chased us down and clung on to the back of our cart, biting and scratching like a big girlie. Then we saw the light, at the end of the tunnel no less – and so we clung on to our attacker. This is the first time I have seen one of the Undead – and by now I have seen a few – trying to escape from us. Usually they are intent on sinking their fangs into ours necks – and often they succeed. As it was, we held on to the fiend long enough to hit daylight and fresh air, and as our little wagon plummeted towards the ocean below, the thing expired in an explosive kind of way, showering us with a fine dust which was all too soon washed off in the waves below.
We swam, not sank, but the wretched creature had left its marks. Roggen the Dwarf, Ballantine and myself were afflicted to varying degrees with that vile disease which turns even the most ardent vegetarian into a lover of rare and bloody meat. For myself, my carefully cultivated system of immunities had been protection enough against the complaint, but my companions were in a bad state. So we left Easterbrooke, left Turen, traveling with Cshca and her friends to the nearby village of Bowstone, where the wise old gypsy crones administered their herbal brews to quell our fevered hungers.
Recovery was a matter of weeks, not days, and there was a fourth among us who had resurfaced from the bowels of the earth, where he had been lost for some time. Whatever hazy dream had taken him, Sanguine had emerged into daylight – and found it not to his liking. Unfortunately the mage had been subjected longer to the fang than ourselves, and his vampiric condition was not wholly curable. He eats his meat raw now, and most likely drinks the blood of pigs and dogs, but it is good to have him back in the fold, even if his spellcraft is somewhat tainted by his new outlook on life and death. Darkness, anyone?
Word had come from Easterbrooke that the vampire we had inadvertently returned to base matter was one of the Saines, an ancient family of upper Turen which didn’t necessarily condone our actions. They wanted to speak to us, and accordingly had sent an ambassador of sorts to seek us out. Trapper Hag was the creature’s name, a werewolf as old as Easterbrooke himself, built like a chimney stack and never bested in a fair fight.
Not that we have ever been fair if there was another way around the problem. We found him sitting in the garden of the local inn, smoking a pipe as though out for a Sunday picnic. Determined as we were to run away as quickly as possible, Roggen had other ideas. Enlisting the help of the publican, she spiked Hag’s drink with hallucinogens, and the game was on. While the great hulk was under the influence, I hid his weapons in the undergrowth, and when the fight was joined, all he had to attack us with was the garden furniture. Not that garden furniture doesn’t smart when it hits you. It looked like us versus the tables and chairs, but Ballantine chose that moment to take aim and shoot the giant in the head. Down like a demolition he fell, and before he could begin his transformation from man to wolf, I sprang forward and lopped his head from his neck. “Wait!” he said as the Drow blade crashed down, but too often have we waited in the past, listening as our enemies charmed us into a corner. That was the end of Trapper Hag. Apparently, he had been one hard son of a bitch in his day, but we took him out no trouble, what was all the fuss? Later, we warmed our hands on the fire we made from his head. Rest in pieces, Hag dude, rest in pieces.
However strong our desire to run anyway, and just keep running, we had unfinished business now in Turen, with Avram Easterbrooke and Preston Elliott’s notebooks, but also with family Saines. Returning to the city, Easterbrooke told us that if we did not agree to meet with the vampire clan, they would come for us anyway, offering terms far less favourable than the unfavourable ones already on the table. In other words, it would be us on the table, and they would eat us before hearing us out, not after. But we had a letter from Preston Elliott to deal with. This missive, from beyond the grave, or perhaps from beyond time, or even from a time beyond the grave, pointed us in the direction of the Turen Museum of Antiquities and Iconography.
In this dusty, deserted building, in the far reaches of the Preston Elliott Wing, an astonishing collection of weird crap from the master thereof, there hangs a painting called the Herring Hall Marvin, a magical picture of an antique safe in a shadowy study. How did we know it was magic? Maybe it was because the artist was Elliott’s friend Zelazny, or maybe it was because of the way I was sucked through time and space into the painting itself. I found a world there much changed from that depicted in the painting itself – that plane, whichever it was, had moved on a hundred years, but the Herring Hall Marlin still sat in the corner of the room, awaiting its key. Inside the safe was an ancient bottle, which I retrieved and took with me back to Turen even as the door portal was closing.
Easterbrooke told us that the bottle held a fine vintage of Death Wine, much coveted by vampires, who apparently like Death Cheese and Death Nibbles as well. We took the bottle with us when the carriage called – who knew, maybe it would help us in the negotiations – and Elliott had insisted in his letter that we needed it for any vampire parlay. It was a dark journey to the fiefdom of the Saines, far above our usual station, up a broken, winding road which skirted the city, then down into a deep and shadowed vale. Tall black trees rose all around. Out from the grim cliff face the House of Saines jutted, the tip of the iceberg, and Cruor Saines was there to meet us as we stepped down from the carriage. Though a bit on the pale and skinny side, no doubt from lack of proper food, she was a pretty little thing, and we all would have tried to nail her if she hadn’t been dead. Sanguine still entertained the notion, I’m sure.
She led us through into a great smoky hall filled with a motley bunch of vampire types, it was a proper party except with no music, and husband of Cruor, Caedes Saines emerged from an office in the corner of the room. With him was the head of the family, an undead mage named Incruentes who had placed some kind of spell on the house so that magic didn’t work inside. There was a lot of politeness going on – it seems that educated vampires at least are always mannerly towards their dinner – but little more than indifference towards us as reasoning individuals with a valuable contribution to make towards the salvation of the known universe. That was our argument, you see, as to why we should be spared – we had killed their bloodsucking cousin by accident, his death an unfortunate byproduct of our quest to rid the cosmos of Hayden Deagh before he could finish Project Oblivion. Under any other circumstances (we said) we would have left the poor vampire in the Dwarven City unmolested, heck, he didn’t really know who he was tangling with anyway, after all we were the guys who wasted Trapper Hag, and some people reckon he was supposed to be tough.
We tried to sweeten the deal with the Death Wine, but not even that seemed to work, and at the mention of Hayden’s name, Caedes clicked his fingers and a struggling hooded figure was brought forward, flailing wildly though chained to his chair. The hood was removed, and we saw it was Aston Deagh, looking a bit mad to be honest, and who can blame him? The last time we had seen him he’d been smashing a crystal sceptre into the reality of Swarkstone, and that had really done his head in, especially since that whole episode no longer even existed. No wonder his brain was fried like an egg. But even as we listened to his blatherings about the end of the world and such like, his face changed, becoming calm and reasonable. It was Hayden, invading Aston’s body. And then we saw the resemblance – Caedes Saines was a Deagh as well, caught in eternal youth by the vampire’s bite.
I’ve always found it difficult talking to Hayden Deagh. I’m pretty sure he has intimacy issues, which makes it hard for him to empathise with the countless millions of people he is consigning to non-existence. On top of that, he just doesn’t listen, even when you talk very loudly. He seems to think he’s right the whole time, in a serious and dismissive kind of way, as though everyone else is a child who doesn’t understand the nature of things, and what can you do about that? I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing to do with Hayden is to kill him as soon as you him, but this wasn’t the best time to do that. For one thing, he wasn’t really there. For another, there were the vampires, suddenly wanting to kill us.
Caedes of course was in league with Hayden, and wouldn’t listen to reason. He just liked being a stinking Deagh, with all that went with it. We had walked into a trap, and it must have been, oh, a few days since the last time we’d done that. It looked like there was no way out. We had been relieved of our weapons at the front step, and Sanguine couldn’t use his magic while Incruentes Saines was alive. All that was left to us, it seemed, was to drink our health. Ballantine it was who broke open the bottle of Death Wine, but no wine came out as he went to pour me a glass. Instead, a small sealed bag fell into my hands. I ripped it open as fast as I could, and found inside the most remarkable artifact – a set of knuckledusters inscribed all over with holy runes and symbols. Suddenly, we had a weapon, and as Incruentes Saines closed in for the kill, I punched him the face. Throbbing with a holy energy, the knuckledusters went right through him, so I punched him again, roundabouts where his faced used to be. He went down, dead properly this time, dead for good. And now that he was killed, the spell was lifted from the house. It was no longer protected from magic, and Sanguine leapt into action.
The fight raged across the hall, the four of us against the scummy vamps. Caedes Saines, the young Deagh, proved harder to kill than Incruentes, but as Sanguine’s fires raged around, as Roggen and Ballantine held the sharp-fanged horde at bay, at last the boy vampire went down, and the rest of the pack fled in fear. We cut the head of Caedes from his body –always safest – and threw it in the fire, in truth where all Deagh heads belong.
We fled then from the hall, reclaiming our weapons, running out into the night...where the bug-fuck crazy Aston sat at the reins of our carriage, ready to ride…
Your humble servant,