Krasvetelia. The sun sets on this cold and desolate place. Once a beautiful land of craggy mountains, fertile valleys, and deep bottomless chasms, it has now wilted like a rose in winter.
The small kingdom, tucked away from the rest of the world, has had few rulers in its time. None certainly as evil as their current. It is rumored that Mirza Noctis came to power some two hundred years ago. Eternally youthful, the man is rumored to have controlled the bloodlines of this place, carefully arranging unions between noble families and culling those of weaker bloodlines.
Now, the peoples of Krasvetelia live a harsh life, starved of happiness. Writing is outlawed and the caste system in place prevents all but a handful of nobles from holding titles and land in Noctis’s name. Up until recently, starving was the greatest of Krasvetelian’s worries. But more and more, people are going missing in this land. Devoured by darkness, some say...
The scholars, left to themselves in their remote monasteries, have recently unearthed a terrible secret: Mirza Noctis is siphoning blood from the local populous at an astonishing rate. Years of unattachment to this land have left the people unaware of his actions. But the terrifying fact is now clear: Noctis is harvesting blood for a massive ritual. He has all but locked away any tools that could be used to defeat him, and the scholars worry a greater threat is about to befall the land...
Part I: Lord Edmin
Pushing aside his fear, his chest heaves from overexertion. He is a human youth with dark black hair matted down by sweat and blood. His once white shirt, now torn and bloodstained, is that of a nobleman's. His trousers are lacerated and muddy, and his bare feet sink deeply into the muck.
Wiping the sweat and grime from his face, he gulps in the air as if it were a stolen thing, nearly choking on it. A cry of desperation escapes, unbidden, from his lips. The sound of it spills through the dark forest, threatening to wake the shadowed things that creep within.
Dizzy from the lack of breath, the young man leans against a knotty oak tree, half-rotten away from the inside. He draws air too quickly, and the sound of his own heartbeat is like thunder in his ears, threatening to deafen him.
Peering into the shadows of the forest, he attempts to stop his body from shaking but finds it wholly unwilling. Superficial cuts run the length of his arms, many of which still bleed openly. Attempting to steady his breath, he hears a guttural rumbling in the dense brush nearby. The sound of it sends him over the edge once more as paranoia and terror consume his mind. The nightmare is still out there, stalking him. Unwanted memories of the night’s events slowly consume the youth, the weight of them sapping what little will he has remaining.
Closing his eyes and curling into a ball under the base of the gnarled tree, the young man soon whimpers in the cold darkness. Whispering, begging, “just end it… just make it.. stop.” These words he repeats, over and again for several moments until unconsciousness takes him.
Sometime later, his eyes slowly open and adjust to the dense early morning fog. How long has it been? Pushing himself up, his back aches in protest. Finding it difficult to feel his arms and legs, he looks down to see the bleeding has stopped, but a dozen black leaches now cover his arms. He reacts with disgust and anguish, pulling the parasites away, reopening some of the wounds. As he stands too quickly, a crow caws loudly in the tree above him, then takes to flight. It is the only sound, other than the steady rush he hears in his own head, not unlike a flood of water. Unconsciousness threatens to put him aground once more, but then the dizziness fades.
As his thoughts come into focus, he looks about, attempting to align himself. The village of Rothlin is close, maybe an hour to the south? Surely the laborers will understand his family’s plight. They owe his family much, Erude Lorgrin, his father, has protected their little home for years. Still, the fact that some of the villagers have forsaken his family, openly rebelling against them, does cause a seed of doubt to fester.
An hour passes as he moves through the water-logged section of the forest. This entire land is sick, its very presence seems to drain his will. His family avoids this area for good reason, it is known to be cursed. He grows angrier with each step.
He sneers in disgust, thinking of their rebellion. It is their foolish acts that have caused this darkness to fall upon his family. If he didn’t need their help he would have half a mind to make them pay for their treachery. A voice, calm, but brooding enters his mind, “It is true, they’ve betrayed your family Edmin. You have every right to be angry with them. They’re the reason last night happened, young lord.”
The sudden voice causes the youth to stop dead in his tracks. He’s heard it before, but only in his dreams. Then, it was faceless. It was abstract and without form. Now, out here in the open air, with vengeance on his mind, the voice demands his attention, its form insidious and compelling. A sickening feeling overwhelms the young man, and he begins to retch. Spilling the contents of his stomach into the open marsh, he pushes the voice away.
Somehow, his fragile mind believes he’s forced it out as if retching could actually purge him of it. “It’s just nerves,” the youth says into the open air.
The villagers must help him, they owe him that. Looking up, he finally spots a dilapidated building, its roof fully caved in. He’s arrived. They must know what happened last night. They must mobilize for the Lorgrin family.