And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
With sunrise fast approaching, the final preparations before the coming day were made by Andronicus and Zedenek. The guards were instructed, armor repaired and prayers whispered. Six Rus and two Romanians left for the village of Rudne.
Hrothar headed out to the tower site where he retrieved the decaying head of the giant serpent and carried it down to the campfire near the caravans. As the Vampyr established that the flesh and skin on the snake’s head burned like it should and all guards were well instructed, the Vampyr retired for the day.
Andronicus was the first to rise the next evening. When leaving his wagon he noticed a gathering of four men down the road, on the edge of the guard parameter. As soon as the Byzantine approached, Borislav informed him that one of his men had been attacked just before sundown.
The guard in question recalled that an arrow had first been loosed from the woods but had failed to wound him. As he had turned to face the archer, he had been jumped from behind by a short male wielding a crude knife. As the assailant had tried to stab the guard in his throat, he had loudly yelled “Morta! Morta!”, subsequently alerting the rest of the caravan guards. The guard had overpowered the frenzied attacker and plunged a knife in his forehead. As the other guards had arrived, they had seen the archer flee into the forest. A few arrows had been fired in his direction, but had missed.
Hrothar and Zedenek woke and joined the conversation and a connection between these attackers and the ambushers earlier was deliberated. The Norseman headed up to the site of the tower. Without the others knowing it, he took on the aspect of a raven and went airborne to search for the fleeing attacker.
Meanwhile, troubled by the absurdness of this underpowered attack on the caravan of seasoned soldiers, Zedenek touched the earth to attune to the land and its spirits and felt a veritable shockwave pass through his undead body. He announced to the others that the power of Kupula was rising at the site of the campfire. The Tzimisce called out to the malevolent spirit, challenging it to show itself, when the campfire was abruptly extinguished. Amidst the remains of the burned wood lay the inanimate skull of the serpent… and then it twitched.
The energy Zedenek had felt now rushed passed the head and up to the old tower. Andronicus and Zedenek moved towards the quickly cooling fire pit as they ordered the guards to stand back. Zedenek had taken up the serpent’s head and tossed it in the direction of the palisade. The sound of tumbling rock and grinding, leathery skin echoed down the tower path. The two Vampyr stood as they watched the 25 feet long, headless body of the serpent move down the road. It touched its skull and, as if it was reattaching itself to the body, dragged it along.
Zedenek called to the giant undead serpent as its head found its former place. As the beast moved down the cliff, heading towards the river that lay below, the Tzimisce slashed his sword into its body while Andronicus tested the power of the Lord by touching the snake’s skin with a holy cross.
Zedenek eventually succeeded in severing the serpent’s tail. The creature, still moving, had found its way into the river and was leaving the campsite. Zedenek issued yet another challenge in his native tongue. The serpent hissed and turned around.
Meanwhile, the Raven had spotted a small fire amidst the darkness of the Transylvanian woods and descended to have a closer look. A naked male, matching the description of the archer that had attacked one of Borislav’s men, was chanting and running through the fire repeatedly, while continuously stabbing himself in the chest with a knife.
As Hrothar watched, the man collapsed and lay motionless in the fire. Hrothar landed a few feet away and scouted the woods surrounding the fire. The Northman felt an ominous presence looming from the darkness but decided he must remain to investigate. Gingerly pulling the body away from the fire, he quickly asserted the man to be dying and beyond repair. Wasting no time and drinking the last drops of the man’s lifeblood, the Norseman decided to leave, taking the knife of the now dead man with him.
Back at the camp site, Zedenek followed the river alongside the road, paralleling the movements of the Serpent that was finding a way towards the Vampyr. They met halfway. Zedenek had taken on his monstrous shape once more as the serpent charged. A ferocious fight erupted and Andronicus soon joined in. The guards, nervously awaiting orders, were commanded to stay back.
The snake’s tactics where predictable but extremely harmful nonetheless and Zedenek’s unlife almost ended right ten and there, when he misjudged an incoming bite and the serpent’s fangs pierced his undead body. As the Tzimisce lay motionless on the ground, Andronicus was all that stood between the Serpent and the incapacitated Zulo shape.
Unable to truly harm this Satanic creature, all Andronicus could do was brace his shield and ready for impact. Surviving the first attack, the Toreador could only watch as the creature turned and came back for a second launch. This time the shield could not fully protect the priest from harm, and the creature plunged its fangs in the neck of the Byzantine.
As the creature tried to drag Andronicus away, Zedenek, who had healed himself during the time his body was unresponsive, rose up and took the opportunity to cut the creature in half.
Hrothar the raven – who had returned to the campsite – spotted the turmoil among the trees and quickly decended, adopting his human form before he hit the ground. Zedenek transformed his body back to the shape of human proportions and blood was fed to the Byzantine. The Vampyr informed each other of the troubles they had witnessed and returned to the caravan. Zedenek established that the power of the entity he called Kupala had subsided.
As the Vampyr returned to the caravans, Drago called out to them: “Varos has returned, my lords!”. The three went to talk to this lost soldier, who explained that he could remember only to have been lured into the forest at the site of the ambush several days ago and waking up here and now. All the time in between was filled with nothing but nightmares and darkness.
Hrothar, unconvinced of Varos’ innocence, ordered him to place his hand in the flames of the campfire. Zedenek argued it was pointless and that it would prove nothing, but the Norseman insisted and the human burned his hand severely.
Varos was allowed to head for the nearby river to cool his burned hand. Andronicus later approached him for a private conversation.