excerpt from SIR THRUSTAM’S JOURNAL
12 April. Old West Road, Transylvania – It has been two weeks of road, sail, and steam since our departure from Le Havre. With Bohemia behind us the locals seem more and more superstitious and dependable help becomes scarcer. This last point was most grievously-proven upon our awakening this morning. Ms. Poundwood awoke to the sound of galloping hooves, only to find Master Rendst and his associates riding westward, and although our supplies were left more or less intact upon the damp earth behind the tents, we find ourselves without guides, mounts, or even a single beast of burden. After selecting the most necessary of our provisions, we divided the load (with a lesser portion to the slightly-built Ms. Poundwood) and continued eastward. The old Dertfinghan man’s letter was all urgency in spite of his kind manner and I feel that we may not find him well. – TM
13 April. Old West Road, Transylvania – Tonight we take well-deserved rest in a rustic hut whose occupants have either fled or more likely been slain by the hellish beasts who foul this cursed land… but I get ahead of myself.
As evening grew close we spotted a vulgar collection of buildings at a junction. Dick commented that we might hire a new and more courageous guide, or at the very least, might purchase a mule or some other means of transport. As we drew near the first hut a warning call in a foreign accent rang out from the trees and we found ourselves facing three hard-looking men with their rifles trained. However, the Mannleigh name seemed to make an impression (as it has done numerous times before in farther flung places), and I soon learned that the apparent leader of the two others was none other than Johann Von Dertflinghan, the nephew of the old fellow who had written the letter. Since the letter’s dispatch, it seems the uncle has gone missing, and Johann seemed genuinely surprised that our party had not encountered him on our journey eastward. Our conversation was interrupted by Rutter, who’s incessant and uncharacteristic barking drew all of our attention to the surrounding environment.
In the first, we realized that the place was completely abandoned of people and livestock alike. Neither man, ass, nor hen patrolled the road nor the enclosures as one would surely expect in such a rural setting at this time of day. Secondly, Ms. Poundwood noticed that all of the animal pens were ajar but undamaged, as if some friendly custodian had set them free from their captivity. Dick began exploring the back of the nearest hut, and with some effort, gained access through the window. And then the horrible silence was broken by a sound even more horrible, nay hellish, in it’s timbre. A mighty howl penetrated the darkening twilight and the party (minus the absent Alcock) drew weapons and prepared for the worst.
At first I spotted an unfortunate looking fellow near a kitchen garden at the end of the lane. Surely he could not be the perpetrator of the dark call.
Then, Rutter crept around the the small hut, sniffing and growling as he went.
Without warning, a screaming form came rushing from the edge of the small stream towards one of Johann’s companions (whom I was later properly introduced to as Egon Fisching). As it drew near we realized that it was no beast (in the occult sense, at least), but some lunatic woman garbed in a nightgown, Although she wielded a mere children’s toy she portrayed murderous intent and the steady man prepared his blunderbuss.
Then came a moment that I shall never forget. I am a Mannleigh, and take some pride in a family reputation that I have helped in no small part to maintain and advance. Although I have seen and bested immortal adversaries in combat before, I have yet to see such a massive and foul countenance as what came striding out of the darkness towards the unfortunate hunter.
Von Dertflinghan and Ms. Poundwood were being tussled in a most unfortunate fashion by what appeared to be a subordinate beast and a pack of giant wolves. However, the sword thrust to the dominant beast’s chest seemed to make him think better of testing my skill and patience further, and with another mighty howl, he and his companions fled into the night.
At present, we six and Rutter have barricaded the doors and windows and have stoked the fire to a scorching intensity. I realized after the brute fled that I had suffered a gash across my upper leg. Johann (who has turned out to be a most excellent and resourceful fellow) has bound the wound, but not before washing it thoroughly with a concoction consisting of some unknown herb boiled in a small pot of what I’m sure the fellow identified as holy water. Of course, it may only be the fellow’s humble English causing misunderstanding on my part.
All we know is that this tiny settlement is abandoned, and yet, all of the former occupants’ belongings seem to have been left behind. It seems that my travelling companions and these hard hunters of the Carpathians are rather thrown in together. As for tomorrow’s undertaking, we shall stall our decision until morning when, with any luck, our fortitude shall rise with the sun. – TM
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