The second day of April, the year of our lord 1198
I am certain we have just passed into Transylvania proper. The place exhumes a gloomy backwardness that is unmistakable. It feels as if some of the candles lighting the world have inexplicably petered out. It has been this way every time I have traveled into the region. I cannot help but wonder about the city of Bistria and the northern, most secluded regions, of this land. What will they be like? My mind wonders at the summons of Lord Radu and the promised opportunities. Whatever they may be, to travel these heathen lands and bring to them the voice of god is reason enough. To speak with arguably the most prominent leader of these lands and bring to his attention my humble self for the furtherance of the blessed Alexius Angelos is a blessing beyond hope. It can only be because god favors it, so much is sure.
The thirteenth day of April, the year of our Lord 1198
The peasant told us we will arrive in Bistria tomorrow and I am all the gladder for it. We have traveled for days and nights through this country and its backwardness begins to oppress me and the men. It feels so old and gloomy, like god has hardly touched these lands. I am glad to arrive in the regions capitol for I am beginning to have doubts about my abilities to do anything of worth here. The few men that I have been able to approach on the road were backword. They know next to nothing about the world outside there puny village, are fervent pagans and tend to run whenever our blessed lord is mentioned. Their leaders are unwilling to send men to the blessed city, even for good many, so in both my missions I have been fruitless. Let us pray things change when we reach Bistra. The blessed lord will provide.
The fifteenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198
Although I did not expect much, this assortment of cowsheds and mud that these pagans call a city, is even worse than I imagined. I seems even worse than the rest of this blasted land for it’s lack of vainly coveted comforts. And it’s fortress, although defensible, is just that, a fortress. It lacks any comfort and offers only the simplest of hospitality. If I did not know of the power that this man wields over these lands, I would not believe this the home of a ruler, a lord. I must not forget this power and the promise and opportunities it holds for the Emperor, me and the furtherance of the cause of our god almighty. Let us see what this night offers us.
I have been long at prayer to contemplate the night’s events. I am to erect a fortification, or at least the first part of it, before this winter, in the extreme north of this country. In a pass, near the Polish lands to be exact. The fortress must be built there to slow any would be invaders, most notably the Mongol hordes and levy much needed taxes on the passing trader caravans. In return for my part in this enterprise I will be awarded a major fiefdom, one of the grandest, in Transylvania. I fear a trap of some sorts for so costly a fief would never be awarded for a job such as this. I even doubt that this count Radu, powerful as he might be, is powerful enough to offer such a reward without throwing this country in turmoil. There must be hidden dangers or agendas I am not aware of. Even so, the chance is too good to pass up.
The control of such a fief would put me in a position to supply the true Roman Empire of Byzantium with a small but steady supply of troops and mercenaries. And It would enable me to set up places of worship within this godforsaken land and so convert these pagans before the blasted Latin’s do so by force.
I am not to do this thing alone. I am to be accompanied by Zedenek Tervezget, a local Tzimisce and a seneschal. He does not seem or speak much, but at least his local knowledge will be useful, if nothing else. The offer was also made to a Norseman. A Gangrel named Hródgar Godsmote with titles such as Baersark and eater of fire. This last would be amusing to see at least. He does look a formidable warrior. He has not agreed to the bargain but sleeps on it this day. Both, not surprisingly, are pagans and I wager to guess, rotten company. Both have been offered the same reward, which means of the seven main fiefdoms, we will control three. How could the count defend this choice to his underlings, two men being outsiders? But there is still more.
During the evening the pet of the Norsemen was possessed. The Norseman calls him a man who speaks to the wyrrd, I would call him insane or possessed and blessed by visions. Be they of the antichrist or of the lord himself I still know not. He spoke
“He rises, and all must be ready!
Soon you shall meet the one whose plans will lead you into the heart of terror and exultation.
Ah, the sweet blood of the Soil, let it wash away the sins.
Eight signs of the coming nights shine within my visions. I see you within each.
Though nothing is ever prevented, it may be transformed by the actions of a few.
Zolot lies, flee his visions!
Go now my children, and remember my words when the patterning is asked of you.”
It is clearly a warning and a reference to Saulot. Although it’s meaning escapes me. And the last lie, claiming that Saulot lies, does not sit easy with me. His road to enlightenment, Golconda, I would not have a lie.
Enough. I will return to my prayers to see if I can find some morsel of knowledge here. We will see what happens on the morrow.
The sixteenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198
The Norseman joins. And so we are ready to go. Let us prepare.
And travel begins anew. Apart from my own loyal men and carts, Zedenek has several soldiers with him as well as an enclosed cart. Handy that, I must remember to acquire one. The Norseman surprisingly enough, has no men of his own and travels alone after leaving the possessed one with Count Radu. The count has gifted us several of his horseman warriors as well as ten workman and carts full of supplies. Travel is slow and before long we need to prepare for the day. The caravan will continue its journey while we rest.
The seventeenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198
And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:42
If I did not think that cursing would actually be dangerous in this godforsaken land, I would hold a litany, not in the least against myself. Would I have the prowess of a warrior so that I could have stopped this madness! Surely on my day of reckoning this will wear heavily on my hart and my burden. Finding a peasant in this wilderness who can quote scripture in Latin which is appropriate is nothing short of a miracle.
But, let us begin at the beginning so as to remember all vividly in the years to come.
Upon awakening at nightfall there is much commotion and the smell of fire hangs heavy in the air…FIRE… As I leave the cart appropriated from the count all around is carnage. Bodies are everywhere. As there is no immediate danger of fire I equip my armor before I leave the cart in earnest. Rather quickly it is certain we are no longer in real danger. Many bodies of what seem to be humble villagers lie amongst and around the wagons. Their wounds are hideous and I am troubled by the overkill that seems to be everywhere. Why on earth shoot an elderly woman in the chest with 3 arrows. It seems we got off quiet well. Only a few dead, Kemal among them. The cart with the workers however was burned with all within. The enemy, seemingly all humble villagers, where killed to a man. Over forty in all, including children. What madness happened here?
Our men have captured two of the attackers and me and my companions proceed to question them. Although I am hardened to question my companions are without qualms or regret. The Norseman kills the younger one, hacks him to pieces in front of the other in a disgusting barbaric ritual. Zedenek goes for the older one. I plead for both their lives to no avail. Then the older one starts quoting thrashes from the holy book and I protest more vehemently. However Zedenek will have none of it, and I fear a violent confrontation if I persist. I am not ready to show these pagans my true powers and I think I cannot withstand them in combat, certainly not both. So the miracle dies, and I have a further scar for judgment day. I have buried the man and did all I can to assure his passage to our lord in heaven. The questioning did bring us some information. They were driven to this by men on horseback carrying shields with three eyes on them. Three eyes again, as has saulot. I must look into this, but I assume the mages are to blame. Knowing our enemy is valuble information. I fear however, that this night, these acts will have its repercussions and I must hasten to find my peace with god.
I flew into the Darkness, I saw no source of light and I was afraid. And alone!
Not long after we stop questioning something happens. Darkness descends on the land and Zedenek gets anxious. He says the land comes to claim the bodies. I do not believe him, I should have known better. My second mistake of the night. One man, who has been missing since the battle calls out from the forest and claims he needs help. Zedenek warns us not to go into the forest and confronts the sound. He yells at us that he is wounded in the legs, and in need of assistance, but he moves very fast. Then Zedenek turns, I have no other word for it, and spikes appear on his neck and arms. He seems to challenge the creature whom is now certainly not human. The Norseman starts a chant which I fear means I might have to fight against this unknown ..”thing”… Thankfully we flee at the urge of Zedenek and we leave the scene. As we leave with the caravan at our best speed, horrible sounds of feeding emit from the battlefield. Evil walks this land and I will need all my faith and protection from our lord god to battle it. But not tonight.
Almost as soon as we leave, the caravan holds up again. I am at the rear of the caravan and fearful of the beasts possible pursuit. The others are presumably in the vanguard. The blessed Lord be praised, all stays quiet. Slowly I make my way to the others. Stupidly, with all that happened I had forgot that the reason we stopped in the first place was that the bridge was destroyed. Now that I see it with my own eyes, no doubt remains of the deliberate nature of it’s destruction. It has been hammered to pieces.
As I approach it seems that both Zedenek and Hródgar are not sure of what to do. Finally there is a chance to exhort some authority over the group. Although I have never built a bridge I am sure that my assessment is sound. I quickly sketch my plans in the earth and both Zedenek and Hródgar agree. Good! I will work on this myself to speed things up. I do not want to meet this manifestation of evil again if I can help it. I must find out if my brothers in the holy city know of this thing, and what might kill it. The angst on the faces of Zedenek and Hródgar, and the knowledge that we might not be able to harm it has troubled me greatly.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
As I worked on the bridge with the help of Hródgar the Norseman who fells the trees and some of our flock, Zedenek once again grows restless. Several times he does this thing again, where he stands still and one gets the strange sensation that he is pulling all things towards him, becoming more than before. I tingles the spine and does not sit well with me. Luckily my plan works well and progress, after a seemingly slow start, is good. The bridge will be finished somewhere this night if we work ourselves and the men hard. Then Zedenek whispers sharply. Something is out there. I quickly get the Norseman and we both hide in the ravine as Zedenek stands in the road, seemingly oblivious. There are horseman in the tree line, as well as a small girl all in ghostly white. We try to get the Norseman to investigate, but he will have none of it. As we talk the girl comes closer. We do not need Zedenek to tell us that this is no girl. We quickly get the camp ready for defense, telling the men not to forget to watch their backs.
Zedenek stalks out unto the road to challenge the thing, and the Norseman and I back him up, now plainly visible in the road. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. I chant his name to ask for his divine favor in the confrontation that is surely imminent. As I chant Zedenek bellows challenges to the beast. At first it is unclear, but there seems to be something else approaching from up the road. I tell the others, and soon it is self evident, at least to me. Carts and horses approach. The Childthing knows it to and has fled into the trees, facing the newcomer. Zedenek is loath to let the creature go, but it climbs down a tree like a cat or daemon and vanishes. We quickly turn towards these newcomers and Zedenek, venting his obvious anger, stalks towards them. I feel this is rash and unwise, but follow him as we have great need of his knowledge of all these unheavenly things that dwell in this land.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever Psalm 23
It is Myca, Myca Vykos, my stalwart friend and countryman. His coming to us in our hour of need is certainly a blessing. As we set his and our own men to guarding the camp, looking to the wounded and building the bridge, I offer hospitality. As we introduce the Norseman shames me by being rude to my guest, but luckily Myca solves this without me losing face. After we partake In sustenance we talk about many things. Why Myca is here (gathering taxes for Count Radu), about the mages, Tremere and their consummation of saulot and Mycas link to them (I cannot for the life of me fathom why he shares this with the others) and Saulot blood in the veins of Zedenek. This once again almost triggers an argument. Do these people know nothing. To offer no sustenance, insult, threaten or harm a guest is anathema. We also talk about our blessed lord and the holy scripture. Thankfully, during the busy night that follows I get the time to talk with Myca alone, exchanging vital information about local politics and Byzantium.
With the help of Mycas men, the bridge is finished sooner then expected, and Myca leaves for Bistria. He will be back in several weeks and promises to take our message to Radu as well as bring some supplies. He leaves me one of his all enclosed carriages with team, and I manidge to exchange one Solidus for small coins, much easier to exchange. As Myca leaves we ready our caravan as well for departure as soon as our faithful men can see enough.
The seventeenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. matthew 5:9
Thankfully this day and night pass quietly. We take guard ourselves with as few men as possible to give them time to rest and recover. They need to be fit and healthy as they are all that stands between us and eternal death during the hours of daylight. Thankfully the others agree.
The eighteenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198
Blessed is he who prays with fervor, for the devil never approaches him. St. Ephrem of Syria (ca. 306-373)
Day three of our journey. It feels like we have been on the road much longer. The men are rested and my travelling companions seem content to waste their nights waiting for day. Bah! I cannot sit watch and pray and the cart, humidity and light do not allow me to paint, write or do anything remotely significant. I refuse to waste another night and so retire to my coach for prayer and planning. I shall once again start sketching the chapel and assessing its costs. Thankfully, the others leave me alone this night.
The nineteenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198
Rightly do we , who have been saved through you, pure Virgin, confess that you are the Mother of God, extolling you with the angelic choirs. For God, whom men cannot see, on whom the ranks of angels do not dare to look, has through you become visible to men as the Logos made flesh. Glorifying Him with the heavenly hosts we proclaim you blessed. St. Peter of Damaskos
I wake frightfully early but luckily the sun has just set. The men are concerned, we are in a valley and at the far end there are lights visible, either a great fire or multiple torches. I wake the others to ask their opinion. It is probably a village but they cannot say for sure. We leave the men to guard camp and leave for this village. I take some trade goods in the hope that I can work on our relations with the villagers and see if we can persuade any to come with us as labourers or tenants on the village to be built near our fortification. As we near the fires we can safely conclude it is a village, we can hear them chanting some strange song. The Norseman goes on ahead to scout the village while Zedenek and I stay with the horses. After some time we can hear shouting, Hródgar has been discovered. We leave the horses and run toward the village. Zedenek is first to arrive at some sort of makeshift bridge, but I soon follow.
We halt as the Norseman comes hurtling towards us yelling at us to get back. Something about werewolves. We stand our ground for a few seconds but the Norseman almost drags us along, so I run to the horses. Zedenek walks slowly back across the bridge. As I reach the horses the Father of All Wolves looks me in the eye. He stands on a small hillock not far away and looks straight at me. To protect the horses I place myself in its path. I fear it will surely overpower me so I intend not to show fear and make it doubt its ability to harm me.
The Norseman yells at me. I should not provoke the Alfa male. I waver for a few heartbeats and then try to lead my horse out. Zedenek is also ahorse and we slowly move away from the village. Just then an awful howling starts up all around us. Suddenly wolves, thankfully much smaller than the one on the hill, beset our mounts and chase us away from the village. As we depart at speed we hear howling near our caravan. They are attacking the men! They stand no chance against these creatures, we must ride to their aid.
The going is bad and Zedenek’s horse loses its footing. Both horse and rider go down. I halt but the horse is fine, good, we can not waste a horse in this wilderness. The Norseman approaches. Horses are too slow and cumbersome. I leave my charge with Zedenek who will need to walk his, and start for the caravan. No time now to be squeamish and unwilling to show my powers. I set out for the camp much faster than the horse could ever take me at night and leave the others behind. As soon as I arrive I see that all has been for naught. The wolfthings have not touched the camp and although the men are startled, they are fine. Bah! I hate this ongodly place with all my heart and soul. How I wish to be back home, to pray and find solace at the Hegia Sophia with hos holyness or lay eyes on our saviour on earth, Alexios Angelos.
My mood has soured and as both my companions return to the camp I retire the last few hours of the night for some much needed contemplation. Blessed be the meek, phah… I would have that creature’s heart before the year is out, ungodly filth!