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Post  Admin on Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:58 pm

On return to the village Wolfram rests. At daybreak the following morning he receives summons to Crosstenmarch Manor.

He is escorted to the manor by Claudia Gerhardt (one of the baker's daughters) and on arrival is met by Otto (a 7' tall pale-faced well-dressed man servant) who shows Wulfram through to the main dining hall. The Crosstenmarch manor is lavishly decorated and its rich woven tapestries and thick piled carpets reflect a predominant symbology of roses, crosses and wolves.

Lord Viktor Crosstenmarch engages in conversation with Wulfram over breakfast and then, after sharing more of his heritage and learning additional facts about the fallen champion of Tyr, he invites Wulfram to retire to the private library and study.

On entering the small room Wulfram feels a burning sensation and quickly identifies that the effect comes from a magnificent silver that features roses and wolves entwined around the hilt with an impressive ruby cut and shaped like a rose set within its pommel. Viktor observes Wulfram's discomfort and then says "I know it calls to you and I know you are uneasy in its presence. That blade slew many werewolves and belongs to my family bloodline. It is made of the purest inherited silver and it aware of your kind. Do not fear for I trust you but needed to be sure you have been taking the wolvenwort. Had you not then the blade would have forced you to change and that may have had an unfortunate consequence."

Wulfram nods.

It is there that Lord Crosstenmarch outlines more about his discoveries in the world that they find themselves in with a startling revelation being that he believes the gods reset their "game" on average between every 15-20 years. Viktor impresses upon Wulfram that he is the oldest current resident of Haastenmoord and that he and his wife have only been here for 15 years themselves.

The general conversation turns to how Viktor (Lord Crosstenmarch) makes his discoveries and assembles his vast collection of books and manuscripts. Were they always here or must they always be found each time the "game" is renewed? Viktor is not certain but tells Wulfram he has made it his personal ambition to learn as much as he can about the world that surrounds them.

He talks to Wulfram about the concept of "dualist theology" and relates to him his belief in the faith of "christianity." This is where the symbology of the cross comes from. It was an emblem he wore proudly when he was a "germanic knight, sworn to slay the murderous wolves that plagued his people."

In further conversation about the "dualist theology" Viktor impresses upon Wulfram that the world is evil and not only in the metaphorical sense. "This world was created by a god known only as Rex Mundi. It is he who bargained with all other gods and permitted the game to be played here. The world itself is chaos and corruption. All who find themseleves here face a choice between power and love. It is a world infested by monsters and the gods send their champions here to best them to stop evil over-running Haastenmoord which I believe remains the only single point of hope and light in a very dark land."

He laments the illness of his wife and asks if Wulfram will assist him in retrieving an item that his research tells him may aid in providing a cure for "her condition." When Wulfram asks of what ails her Lord Crosstenmarch is not entirely evasive. "Vampirism," he says. "She has been afflicted by a cursed ritual that could only have been conducted by the Madenstadts. They are a family of vampires who live beyond our village in the deeper region of the forest we know only as the Darkenwilde."

Wulfram is both suspicious yet curious and asks of how Lady Viktoria Crosstenmarch may have fallen to such a cursed condition. Viktor simply remarks that she went into the forest, during the day in the company of Heiner and Jurgen Arranbergh (rangers), to gather wild eidelweiss flowers for her herbal studies. They all returned that same day and it was one week later that she exhibited the signs of withdrawal, lethargy and paleness and a growing desire to drink the blood of small animals. Viktor felt is best to keep her confined from the village for her well-being while he sought out a possible cure to reverse the affliction.

As to how Viktoria could have been made a vampire by the Madenstadts, Lord Crossenmarch only knows of one method. A dark ritual named the "Dark Gift of the Undying" that is only supposed to be conducted between the hours of sunset and sunrise. It requires that the vampire and subject each drink a portion of each others' blood with the subject then being buried in unhallowed ground. That is where confusion creeps in for, as Wulfram points out, if Viktoria and the Arranbergh brothers were only gone during daylight hours and returned that same day then how could the completion of the ritual be possible? "It does remain something of a mystery to me," Viktor tells him.

And who are the Madenstadts, Wulfram wonders.

"They are an old family who have always lived in this world. They reside in their own manor within the Darkenwilde and that is located at least one day's travel from the Darkbrier Fen. There are three of them that I know of; the father, mother and one son," Viktor confides. "They keep to themselves and we keep it that way. This is an unusual circumstance."

Viktor asks Wulfram if he would be willing to help him retrieve an item from the Darkenwilde that might heal Viktoria.

"I thought you'd never ask," Wulfram says.

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