Castle Dark

London to Romania, April 3 - April 10, 1926

I find it difficult to remain enthused about our current project, and if it were not for this dreadful sense of foreboding - of impending doom, as it were - I would suggest we all return home and forget we ever heard of Doctor Cornwallis, Baron Hauptman, and little Master Edward. Ignorance is bliss, they say. Oh, how I long to be ignorant of the evil that lurks in the shadows around us. But there is no going back to gentle unawareness, save by the misstep into sweet insanity. Don't I feel it tugging at the corners of my mind even now?

Ah, but things could have gone worse. Still, there's no denying that our last trip was a complete fiasco. I think the term "completely botched" describes our latest attempt at fact finding to a tee.

It all began well enough, which I suppose should have served as a warning, instead of lulling us into a false sense of security. The dirigible trip aboard the R35 from London to Budapest was uneventful, and the in height of luxury. Likewise the train trip from Budapest to Klausenburg was short and straight forward. We spent the day visiting tourist agencies, and talking with the residents about local castles, in an attempt to find the exact where abouts of Castle Hauptman, the target of our search. The castle was half a day to the south, near the small village of Drovsnia. Unfortunately, the only was to reach Drovsnia was by a small road that was subject to washouts, and dusk found us just arriving at our destination.

We checked into the village inn (doubling up in rooms), and over dinner the innkeeper, Drobne, introduced us to the only other guest, John Kopeche, a Hungarian student researching a paper. We asked Drobne about Castle Hauptman, and were told that it was near the top of the pass, over which the road through town ran. Shortly after dinner three loud and obnoxious men stormed into the inn and demanded drink. Drobne deferentially served them, and after they left, he told us that they were "Hauptman's men."

The next morning (Wednesday) we visited the village church, a large, crumbling Romanian Orthodox Church that spoke of a time when the path through the village had been a major thoroughfare, and the village itself had been much larger and more prosperous. An old priest, Father Guido Sarduchi, invited us in and allowed us to look through the records in the catacombs. We were looking for any clues relating to Baron Hauptman's past, and any links he may have had to occult activities. We also knew that Hauptman had taken "Young Master Edward" from the Cornwallis' home back in Boston to raise and instruct in Europe, and were curious if he too was at the castle. Father Sarduchi was able to confirm that Edward had in fact been at the castle until recently, but was now gone.

Down in the damp and musty catacombs, we found a jumble of records, many of which were moldering, and few of which were organized more than roughly by date. It took the bulk of the day to find much of interest, but what we did find certainly led us to believe that something unwholesome had been at work in Castle Hauptman for quite a long time.

In 1545, the local church requested a formal investigation of the Baron on charges of unjust imprisonment and torture.

In 1546, Baron Hauptman VII is excommunicated by the Eastern Church.

1546 - 1552: Reports of an outbreak of vampirism in the area. Investigations are inconclusive.

1628: A report claims that the Baron Hauptman abducted a peasant girl from the village and held her captive in the castle. Several days later, her mangled body was thrown from the castle walls.

1632: Manuscript of Jan Savechik, sealed with a waxed symbol: and Elder Sign. In this manuscript, Father Savechik described his encounter with Hauptman, and how he used pagan rituals to drive Hauptman out of Romania.

1886: A report on the mysterious disappearance of Count Spanglais of Hungary, while returning from a visit to the Baron. Searchers found no sign of the Count or his party, although the Baron sent a written deposition to officials, stating that the Count had left a week before he vanished. The Count was described as short, dark-haired, and very muscular, with a mole on the left side of his neck.

We retired for the evening, feeling somewhat confident that we were on the right track, and making good progress. The local priest had assured us that the current Hauptman was only a distant relation to the original Hauptman's who built the castle.

In the morning, we explored around the village, looking for additional clues and information, and then decided to head up to the castle itself. Patricia Cartier remained behind, claiming she was tired with all of the walking around, and bored with the entire investigation. An hour later we were at the castle, which followed the traditional 13th century design of tall walls surrounding an outer courtyard, with two towers guarding the main gate, and a square palace like structure situated within. One of the towers had been toppled centuries ago (apparently as part of Jan Savechik's ousting of the Hauptman's), and some of the walls laid in ruins, but the inner palace was still standing, and in reasonably good shape. We boldly walked through the broken gate and knocked on the palace doors.

The door was opened by one of the men who had barged into the inn two nights before. Baron Hauptman himself arrived a few minutes later (it took some doing, but we managed to convince his servant that we meant no harm and only wanted to greet the Baron) and invited us in. We invented some tale about exploring castles in the area, and the Baron was delighted to show us about the common rooms of his castle. For some reason, one of us mentioned Master Edward, which puzzled the Hauptman somewhat, but we let the subject drop, and Hauptman proceeded with an engaging personal tour of the castle. After the tour, Hauptman asked if we would stay for dinner, and since the fellow seemed the complete gentleman, and delightfully good company, we agreed. Perhaps he could shed some light on his ancestors and other goings on in the area that would help us out. Who knows, but he certainly was the most capital of fellows.

As dinner was served and we all sat around the table, with Hauptman seated at one end of the table and a fire roaring in an enormous fireplace at the other end, something began to pull at my memory. I couldn't for the life of me pinpoint what it was, but something about the dining scene was reminding me of... of something... something what? Why was Mac standing up and yelling? Darkness.

When I came to there was still darkness. It was damp, and my hands and feet were securely bound. Of course I could then recall what it was I was trying to remember at dinner: the scene from the brazier in Fudda's cabin aboard the Mauritania! Hadn't Fudda warned us that the images could reveal prescient images of the future? And so it had: the image in the castle, amidst a dark mountain range, with the diners seated about the large table, and some great darkness sweeping about the room and overtaking the diners. Why hadn't we been more careful? And now we were trapped. Hours passed as we tried in vein to free ourselves. We tried calling out, crawling about in the darkness, and just sitting still, given over to despair and hopelessness. We were trapped in a large, square room (the best we could tell from groping about) with what felt like skeletons for company.

And then a miracle occurred. We heard a noise from one corner of the room, so we called out. A few moments later, the sound of cracking planks was followed by a stream of dim light. We could see! The room was indeed square, and scattered about were skeletons, still garbed in some sort of rotting uniforms, all with tied hands and feet. We then looked to our rescuer. It was John Kopeche. What the hell was John doing here, and where the hell was "here" anyway? John untied our bonds, and told us that we were beneath Castle Hauptman, and very lucky to be alive. The Baron had apparently left the castle (for good) that evening, with the intent, no doubt, that we would all die slow deaths (like our boney companions had obviously done) sometime afterwards. John then grinned and said we should call him "Sergei".

Sergie refused to say more about his own activities, other than he was not a student, and was here on some official business to find out something about Hauptman. Sergie searched the skeletons, finding a few odds and ends that he kept, and then lead us out from the chamber, and into a long tunnel. The tunnel, Sergie said, opened up on the hillside below the castle, and he had discovered it only a few days before. He had been waiting for a relatively safe time to enter and explore and had seen us enter the castle earlier in the day, but never leave. He waited, and saw Hauptman leave the castle, along with one of his goons, aboard a large wagon filled with personal belongings. Another wagon, Sergei said, was also filled, but the other two goons hadn't left yet. Seizing on this opportunity, Sergei entered the cave and followed the tunnel to where he could hear us calling.

The tunnel continued on into the hill, and we followed Sergei as he proceeded inwards. We entered a workshop of some sort, from which we obtained a few more lanterns for light, and continued on. Sergei appeared to be searching for something as well, but whatever it was, he would not tell. We found a set of stairs, and followed them up into the castle. Once inside, we ran upstairs to the private rooms and offices of the Baron, hoping to find our possessions that the Baron had removed from us after we had been drugged (and Mac, on whom the drug had not taken affect, had been clubbed senseless). We found our items in a small room, obviously used for storage. We continued to explore the upper level of the castle, in hopes of finding something pertaining to our case. In one room, apparently the baron's bedroom, we found a recently mutilated corpse of a young woman lying on the bed. It was in the next room, however that we found something truly worthwhile.

The library had also served Hauptman as an office, judging by the large desk, and after perusing the remaining books (the Baron must have taken many with him) we explored the desk itself. On top of the desk was a large leather bound book, with Latin writing proclaiming it to be "The Brotherhood of the Beast". I quickly scanned its pages, and found that it dealt with a fantastic cult, over which the Hauptman's ruled. Near the end of the book, which appeared to be a journal, were references to "young Master Edward." I kept the book for future study, when I had time to do a complete and thorough translation. In the desk drawer we found four keys on an iron ring, and an odd box, with Oriental designs. Professor Vaughan identified it as a Chinese Puzzle box, and proceeded to open it. Within was a sheet of vellum, upon which was written the following.

And it was dreamed again of the priest Nophru-Ka and the words he spoke at his death, how the son would rise to claim the title, and the son would rule the world in the father's name, and the son would revenge the father's murder, and the son would call the Beast that is worshipped, and the sands would drink the blood of the children of the Pharaoh, and this Nophru-Ka spoke.
from the Kitab al-Azif

More riddles, and more research to be done. Sergie had been investigating the fireplace where he found a hastily built fire had burned itself out. Many documents had been burned to ashes, but a few survived. Sergie took several of these himself, and of those that remained, two seemed of particular interest to us. Part of the letters were burned beyond recognition, but the contents linked Hauptman and the cult to activities around the world, and provided us with a clue to our next locale to investigate!

Sergei then suggested that we explore the one castle tower that remained standing (what would we have done without Sergei?). A grate blocked access to the tower, but one of the four keys unlocked it, and we were able to proceed and follow the spiral stairs that led up into the tower. Through a trapdoor in the floor at the top, we discovered a strange observing area. A large telescope perched in one section of the round room, beneath another trapdoor in the ceiling. Iron rungs ascended up to the roof, and a podium stood at the opposite side of the room. On top of the podium lay a scroll of parchment with Chinese writing. We later had the scroll translated, which revealed the following phrase.

The Great Hall is guarded by his servants, and man must bear with him the sign of the Elder ones. A wise man would not look above to these servants or they may steal a man's mind. A man should also not bear with him knowledge when he leaves, or the Sleeper will awake to take that knowledge from the man, and the man.

Writings of the Beast are found in the second gallery right, unguarded by the servants, but the wary traveler would do well to avoid others he might meet.

Translated from the original R'lyeh Text
by Baron Hauptman, 1238 AD

The R'lyeh Text sounds familiar, although I cannot precisely place it just now. Likewise, the Great Hall rings a bell, and I'm sure I've read some ancient tome before that referenced it. Within the podium were two vials of a clear, golden fluid. There are a number of occult potions with which I am familiar, and if I can make more clear the passage of the Great Hall, perhaps I can also identify the contents of these vials with some certainty. Wherever our next journey takes us, I think it will lead through Arkham, and good Professor Armitage's collection of forbidden books.

As we were rummaging about the tower room, we heard voices from below. We were trapped! Sergei pulled out a gun, and suggested we climb up to the roof, and see if our visitors would leave without discovering us. Unfortunately, once we were on the roof it became obvious that the two men who came up the tower already knew we were there. Sergei took it upon himself to rid the world of two of Hauptman's servants, and then descended the tower stairs and wished us farewell. His parting comments hit home: "You should leave this place before the authorities find these bodies. You're luck hasn't been holding up very well lately, and next time there may not be someone wandering by to save you."

At the inn, we found that Patricia Cartier had already left for Klausenburg, and we quickly followed her. Apparently, she was more bored with us than we thought, for she had run off to Budapest earlier that day, and planned to spend the rest of the spring in Greece. We quickly bought tickets for a train into Budapest (to get out of Romania), and found someone to translate the Chinese scroll. Several days later, we caught the east bound Orient Express bound for Paris.

And so I find myself late on the evening of April 10th, sitting in the lounge car of the Orient Express, sipping a brandy, and updating my journal of our affairs. It seems obvious that Peru is our next destination, but I must first return home and uncover the meaning of what we discovered in Romania. We simply can't afford to stumble around in the dark, like we just did back in Romania. I can't help but think of all the clues we must have left behind in the unexplored catacombs of Castle Hauptman, but it's too late to go back now - I'm sure the local authorities have found the bodies in and about the castle, and will want to hold us for extended questioning, and time is in such short supply now!

Tomorrow is Sunday, and we arrive in Paris.

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