The realm was beauteous and plentiful, its people more so. No plague touched its borders, no famine its lands. War was seldom seen in this kingdom, whose peaceful lords ran their fortified estates in harmony with one another. The only problem was that peasants were treated harshly, scraping to live on the scraps of land provided to them by their lords. Besides this, the nobles were amiable and open with their dealings with one another, with one exception.
In the southernmost castle of this bountiful landscape lived an estranged baron and his wife. Though seldom seen, they were both said to be startlingly beautiful youths, albeit rather sallow. Despite this, the Baron Kruv and his young wife Adelaida were a reclusive couple, only leaving their citadel in the utmost emergency. They never attended holiday feasts or tourneys held by the noblemen. The knights of their court were seldom seen in the festive jousts.
It was therefore a shock when it was said that the baron was to throw a jousting tournament in honor of his wife’s naming day. There was to be a feast following the events of the day, which would continue late into the night and into the early hours of the next morning. The noble men and women were ecstatic for the event. Knights trained, ladies gossiped, and nobles prepared their families for the festivities.
All the while the smallfolk would notice caravans of food, decor, lavish cloths, and other such things passing through their towns, bound south to the domain of the baron. This change was very sudden and new for the people of the land, who fantasized about the celebration to come. The day of the feast approached quickly. Those of higher birth donned their best attire, knights bore their armor, and everyone from the northern domains all the way to the south packed and left for the journey to Castle Kruv.
As the numerous families traversed through foggy wetlands and dense woods, a startling sight met their eyes: the dark and grasping spires of Castle Kruv. Each dark stone tower clawed its way into the sky, casting a gloomy and dismal aura about the battlements. While none could deny the macabre aspects of the castle, it also had an air of beauty, with its lush birch forest and surrounding grounds. And although the castle was undeniably unsettling, it too had aspects of beauty in its cold stone walls. It was these sights that greeted the ecstatic nobles and knights, as they completed the final stretch to the festivities.
Upon entering Castel Kruv, the revelers were led to various wings of the estate, in which they could clean themselves and rest from their travels for the evening to come. An hour after the last guests arrived, a servant of the house announced that the first of the jousts were to begin promptly. Lords and ladies greeted each other exuberantly in the decorated halls of the mighty, elegant fortress as the knights and squires proceeded to the field where the joust was to be held.
The pageantry of the Kruv family hung proudly from the halls and streamed from the tops of walls and towers. The heraldry of knights flew from tents, horses, and tabards, and the excited chitterings of near a hundred high-borns could be heard through the entirety of the arena.
Finally, another herald in the service of the Kruv’s announced that his lord and lady would not be attending the jousts. He apologized hastily on behalf of his benefactors, and swiftly departed. A small cry of dissent sounded from the amassed guests, but was swiftly silenced as the castle’s master of arms entered the field to commence the first match.
Horses charged, lances broke, knights rolled in the dirt. The crowd cheered their favorites and booed their rivals, all the while gossiping and chatting away. By the time of the final match, everyone’s voice was hoarse from over-use, yet their enthusiasm did not wane. After the sun had started to set and the winner of the day’s events had been announced, the noble families retreated to their temporary chambers to prepare themselves for the evening’s feast.
Lords and ladies clothed themselves in their finest raiments, planning to outdo each other in beauty and wealth. Long embroidered gowns of the finest silks and velvets were strewn about the shoulders of well-off women. Men in doublets of lavish textiles, decorated by the rarest gems, led their families through the torch lit halls of Castle Kruv, making their way to the heart of the fortified manor, the banquet hall. Rows of delicately carved tables lined with cushioned benches filled the room, save for a large central area serving for a dance floor.
Once everyone was seated, a loud musical flourish was played by the heralds of the castle to announce the entrance of the baron and his wife. The room became immediately hushed, all attention drawn to the ornately engraved door on the farthest wall of the room. The doors were pushed open, and in came a small stream of household servants, a few dressed in varying arrays of finery, handmaidens to the young baroness. A small escort of the castle’s resident knights followed behind, each sporting their colors on elaborately embroidered tunics. Finally came Kruv and Adelaida.
Lords and ladies alike gasped in stupor at the young nobles. Both were dressed in the colors of the Kruv family, red and grey. Both were also infinitely more stunningly beautiful in person than any of the stories had told.
Adelaida was a charming and spritely girl seemingly of around twenty years of age. Her hair fell in ebony ringlets around her shoulders and down her back. A circlet of silver inlaid with garnets rested lightly on the brow of her ivory flesh. Her dark lush ruby lips curved in a slight smile as she gazed over the crowd with stunningly pale green eyes. The long sleeves of her red gown almost brushed the ground, embroidered with intricate braided silver along the edges.
The other youth, Lord Kruv, was also pleasing to the eyes, causing the hearts of the younger maidens to skip a beat. His dark hair was worn short, though it still fell about his eyes. His strikingly pale skin mimicked his bride’s, unnatural for the location of their southern home. Kruv stood at an average height amongst his peers, yet he seemed to have dominating, almost feral air to him. His fine-boned, lupine face scanned the crowd of nobles assembled. He had no smile playing upon his lips, and bore a look of what seemed to be disinterest.
“My lords and ladies of the realm, I thank thee kindly for coming upon such short notice. My lady wife is very dear to me, and it greatly pleases both I and her that thou hast all arrived. It has been ages since we have had such a feast” rang out the voice of the baron, who proceeded to laugh deeply and unnervingly. Too late, the noblemen realized the knights of Kruv’s court had blocked off any means of escape from door or window. Lady Adelaida grinned fully now, revealing unnaturally sharp canine teeth. The handmaidens and servants of the baroness and baron began rushing through the crowds, snatching lords and ladies from their seats and dragging them to the corners of the hall to be fed upon. Surviving nobles fled to the exits futilely, blocked by the armed guards of the castle.
Many guests attempted to plead with the Baron and baroness, offering land, wealth, loyalty, and servitude. These attempts were made in vain however, and many of these whimpering lords and ladies became the blood-feast for the fair Lady Adelaida or her lover Kruv. Blood bedecked the banquet hall, and the court of Castle Kruv had a feast as none had ever seen before, nor ever had wished to see again. The peoples of the land reviled the southern realm of Kruv, yet no commoner complained to the liberation of the realm from their pompous liege lords.
It is still said amongst the peasants that any who wander past Castle Kruv on the darkest autumn night, shall hear the screams of those damned to a bloody fate amongst the vampires of Kruv’s court.
Credit To – Nefertam