by Jason Ronin
When Vlad Tepes tomb is opened an ancient evil is unleashed on the world.
|The cruciform Mausoleum rested deep within the forest, two miles away from Poenari castle. The trees that surrounded this ancient place prevented any sunlight from striking its encrusted surface. The elements had served to turn it into a natural part of the surroundings. It was one hilly area, amongst many, in this part of the mist enshrouded forest, deep within the Romanian countryside. Except for the mournful cry of the wind, no other sounds tinged the air in this place of death Professor James Ambler and his team arrived at this place over a month ago, although it had taken a year to gain the requisite permissions from the Romanian government.
The whole affair had begun with the arrival of a package on his desk at Meredith Park University where he taught Archaeology. He specialised in eastern European Castles but for years he had studied, some would say he was obsessed with the Wallachian Prince Vlad Tepes. He was the foremost authority on this ignominious ruler in the Western world. The postmark on the package was Brasov which was no surprise as he often received documents from Romania on various subjects. On opening the package a large sheaf of documents fell out sealed with a blob of wax, the symbol was a dragon with wings spread perched on a cross; the Order of the Dragon. A covering letter accompanied the package, this is what it said.
To revered Professor Ambler
My name is Martin Corvine; I am the last Master of the Order Draconis and am in the final breaths of my life. Time has come to reveal the final secret of Draconis, the final resting place of Vlad Tepes. He was not interred at the Monastery at Snagov as history has dictated, but in a tomb on unhallowed ground near Poenari. I have included a map to its location. Also I have included the true history of this monstrous Voevod, not the fairy tale written in history. Stay your hand from entering the tomb for the sun source of all the worlds evil resides within. I implore you to destroy the tomb with fire. Tepes was in thrall to another and its monstrous influence still extends into the world from its confines. Destroy everything I implore you for nothing good will come from it.
Over the next couple of days he read through the documents which were written in the ancient language as spoken back in Vlads time. The dust encrusted tome appeared to be a kind of diary with no name appended to it but spoke of horrors far greater than that which has been written and a history of Vlad Tepes which if true had been wiped from the minds of mortal men. Mention was made of a Rasputin type figure who accompanied Vlad and it was said was the real power behind the horrors perpetrated by him. No one knew whence this figure hailed or indeed when he came to Vlads side His end came when the other Voevods and Boyars grew fearful of this man’s power. A meeting was called and it was agreed for the good of all Vlad and the figure that held him in thrall had to go. Several attempts were made but the perpetrators all died deaths too horrible to mention. One day a peasant arrived at the court of John Hunyadi, he was granted audience and promised to rid the land of the darkness emanating from Poenari. His stipulation, no one was to follow him and on the night of the second full moon a contingent of Monks, who were affiliated to the Order of Draconis, were to travel to the castle armed with chains of silver and oak stakes smeared with Garlic. They would find two bodies which should be buried in unhallowed ground, secured with the chains and stakes. Time came to pass and indeed the Monks found the body of Vlad and the mysterious thing by his side.
The bodies were buried as prescribed by the peasant who was never seen again. Rumour had it that as the bodies were buried they writhed and seethed with unearthly agonies. The word wimpier was bandied about. All but one of the Monks killed themselves to prevent the location of the burial ground being revealed, the last of the party retreated to an unknown monastery where he spent the rest of his days. He passed on the location of the unholy site to the master of Draconis who subsequently passed it down through the generation of masters. History was rewritten by the Order and a fake funeral was held at Snagov so the people would know he was dead.
At first Ambler dismissed the document as fake, even so he had it carbon dated and it came back as a contemporary of Vlad, possible written a year after his death. His professional curiosity got the better of him and he took a flight out to Romania, taking the map of the tombs location with him. He took a room at the Pensiunea La Cetate, an Alpine style hotel near Poenari castle, on the Transfagarasan Highway. Poenari is situated in Arges County and in its time Poenari castle was one of the last bastions against the Ottoman incursion. Most people associate Bran Castle near Brasov as Vlads castle and Romania’s tourism industry do little to dispel this myth, there is no actual evidence that he stayed here except for maybe one night. Poenari was the center of his power, perched high on its mountain fastness; it gave a commanding view down the valley.
With an air of excitement he set off following the directions on the map. They took him deep into the forest across from the castle, he feared he would have to do some climbing as the forest clung to the sides of the Carpathians. That was not the case, he was taken along a heavily disguised trail that twisted and winded through the forest for some two and a half miles till he reached a shaded glade, a large depression with a huge hillock in the center.
The first thing that struck the Professor was the absence of bird song and an eerie feeling of loneliness and emptiness that pervaded the glade. An air of death and decay clung to the area like a velvet cloak. Ambler was not superstitious and put it down to the location being so far away from any habitation.
It was growing dark so he set up the one man tent and decided to investigate the area the next day. During the erection of his tent Ambler cut his thumb, cursing to himself as he took out his first aid kit and tended to the wound. After supper of bread and cheese and a cup of local vodka he climbed into his sleeping bag and was soon fast asleep.
While Ambler was sinking into the land of Morpheus, his cut thumb forgotten, the drop of blood from the cut was being soaked into the loamy soil. Something else moved in the soil, something ectoplasmic, a greeny grey cytoplasmic pseudopod extended out from the foundations of the tomb. A hoary intelligence reaching out with a hunger and a need as old as the ground it travelled through. It found the blood and absorbed it with a need as ancient as time itself. Now it wanted more, in the building blocks of the blood it had seen things, things which would make it stronger than it had ever been.
Ambler slept on and so did not see the ectoplasmic tube thing enter his tent. It reared up and formed what looked like a nose, sniffing the air. An ear formed on the side of the nose and it could hear the life flowing through the humans veins. How long had it been? Too long. It shivered as it slithered like a malevolent snake towards the sleeping body. The hoary thing could feel life within. A life denied it for so long.
With a faint whisper that sounded like a sigh, it attached itself to Amblers thumb and drank. While the thing slaked its ancient thirst it made a connection, things were passed as well as received.
Ambler slept, unaware of his ethereal visitor. He was descending to the land of dreams. Oh and what dreams awaited him, not the dreams of a normal night for Ambler. He was shown things far beyond his comprehension. The Professor found himself standing under a red sky. Two bulbous moons hung low in the sky, he felt the wind rustle his hair and smelt a sulphurous odour. He was moving down a hill, towards a circle of tall stones. Ambler got the impression he was being forced towards them. Shadowy figures waited quietly. In the distance he saw what appeared to be two huge tree trunks topped by what looked like two cities joined by some kind of bridge. Part of him knew the trunks were over a thousand feet high and made of stone and at the top the cities were cities. In fact the left one was his home. Now Ambler knew he was in someone or something’s mind. Even though he knew he was dreaming, it all felt real. The tiny pebbles shifting underfoot, the wind; and the murderous thoughts that were not his own. Aimed at the people awaiting his and the others arrival. His vision shifted to his left. He gave a gasp at the sight that swam into his vision.
There was five others walking by his side, they looked human but out of some nightmarish, Lovecraftian, dream. Human monsters, matted dreadlocks covered large heads. Powerful jaws, with oversized incisors and eyes that glowed a feral red. All of them were dressed in some kind of fur, cloaks trousers and jackets. In his head he laughed, I’m in Romania having some weird Vampire dream; it must have been the cheese.
As they approached the circle of stones the sound of some kind of horns filled the air, the crowd around the stones parted, and his symbiotic self and the others were pushed into the centre. He/it looked around, he could see more monstrous images in the faces of the crowd, but these were dressed in different clothes to the rough ware he/it and his compatriots were wearing. It seemed they were prisoners of some kind.
A hush fell over the crowd; a large hulking figure in a golden cloak stepped forward. He was holding a large staff in his right hand; it was topped with a ruby red orb. When he spoke, his voice was deep but with a sibilant edge to it.
“Ho! Gathered throng of the Ashtar Strigoi.” he drummed his staff against the ground twice. He was answered by a resounding ‘Ha’ from the crowd.
“It is the confirmed opinion of the high council of elders that Yanoi Ferec, Demetre Doroc, Femecha Gavotre, Timre Bozka, Pietro Hunz and Dobruj Drakesh are guilty of high crimes against the Strigoi in the fact they did conspire to immolate the companions of the House of Danesh.” He paused and looked around at the gathered throng. “The final say rests with you good Ashtar Strigoi, what say you all?”
Silence descended, nobody moved then a resounding ‘Ha’ rang out and as one the assembled throng turned their backs on the six of them/us.
“The verdict is given,” he said the names again, “You are hereby punished by eternal banishment to live or never die by means fair or foul on a world other than our fair Zalmoxis, sentence to be carried out forthwith.” He again slammed his staff into the ground. A red beam of light jumped from the staff to a nearby stone before jumping to the next and the next until all were connected. Ambler could feel ozone crackles in the air. Once the red beam connected all the stones it enveloped them in its red fire and as one we/us rode the beam into the sky and across the vast reaches of space. Ambler felt the pain of its symbiotic attachments transition. He also felt loss and sadness that it would never see the beautiful red skies of Zalmoxis again. When the pain ended they fell into a world full of monsters that were no match for the monsters that had arrived in their midst. As the image faded he saw a Tyranosaurus Rex come charging out of the nearby woods and Yanoi Ferec launching itself at the creature. “Let the hunt begin!” The sibilant growl scream echoed in his mind as the dream/vision faded.
Ever since that night in the glade, Professor Ambler had felt stronger and fitter than any other time in his fifty six years. On arrival he had tried to hire a local team to do the clearing of the site but once they knew the location all had refused. In the end he contacted some of his students who were only too happy to come out and help