While it was supposed to have taken place on the fourth night as part of the Hunt for Fresh Blood, the…unexpected…events led to the delay of the Necromancer auditions. Thus, they were moved to take place as a precursor to the Hunt for the Knight & the Mage.
Six humans, all ‘trained’ in the dark arts, were accepted to compete. The nature of the competition itself is simple, each of the six humans are placed in an area corralled off, in part, with zombies. The zombies are let loose to devour the humans, and the true necromancers among them will master the dead while those who were merely pretenders will be devoured. Afterwards, if more than one survives, they are to send their zombies forth to devour the other until only one remains. Beautiful in its simplicity. One simply is a necromancer, or one’s brain will be devoured.
At the start of the competition, Oliver Darkh began to size up the competitors, as he had an ulterior motive in the event: the recruitment of a pupil of his own. Quite bold to endeavor to steal a necromancer away from the Count, but perhaps with his standing in court, he might just be able to get away with it…
The event was lightly attended, as humans being devoured by zombies did little to rouse the attention of many of the vampires present; however, Count Mannfred von Carstein and Roderic, the Dread Master of Liches, spectated from a private balcony above. In addition, Rollo found Drutmund in attendance, and they wagered on who would be the victor. Rollo, relying on Oliver’s witchsight, chose the human Wigalf, whereas Drutmund chose Harcmot. When the barriers were dropped, and the zombies began to shuffle forth, each of the humans began their incantations to control the trio of zombies approaching them. After a few moments, it was clear who was and who was not worthy of being considered. Two of the “necromancers” were unable to sway the zombies in the least, and were soon devoured. Two others cracked under the pressure, and as the zombies began to tear at their robes, faltered in their rituals, and were also torn apart.
The final two contenders were Wigalf and Harcmot. Thus it seems that our wagerers had at least some measure of skill in determining who had potential. Now, forming the zombies they could control into warbands, the two necromancer applicants sent forth their minions against each other! The battle was short and brutal, as zombie conflicts often are. Heads were ripped off. Limbs were ripped away and used as makeshift clubs. Zombie remains were hoisted bodily and used to crush others of their kind. In the end, each necromancer had but two minions left, when Harcmot, mustering his will, compelled his minions to crush what remained of Wigalf’s forces. Harcmot then shouted for his remaining two minions to tear Wigalf’s head off, while Wigalf began working his magic to slay Harcmot and his zombies, but they were both interrupted by Roderic. The Count had whispered to him and then began to depart, while Roderic spoke, “Well done, necromancers. The Count is feeling generous this night, for he sees need for both of your services. Each of you are to be allowed to train with the Master Necromancers of Castle Drakenhof, and, perhaps, you may even prove worthy of the title. For now, each of you is to follow your escort to your new chambers. Rest lightly, and be ever on your guard.”
As Wigalf began to make his way out, following a contingent of Grave Guard, Oliver made his way near and spoke to Wigalf quietly, “Stay this path and become another trophy of these ignorant nobles if you wish…or come with me and I will show you the true power of necromancy with the Necrarchs. The worthy are given the Blood Kiss, and learn the true nature of the winds of Dhar.” As he continued on, Wigalf looked over his shoulder, and nodded.
Soon after, the main event for the night began. The Hunt for the Knight & the Mage is a bracketed tournament among vampires and only vampires to compete for dominion and prominence in the Masquerade. Each house was allowed to enter one team. While it was expected thusly that there would be eight teams, due to Fort Oberstyre’s non-attendance, it resulted in only seven. Additionally, due to recent events during the Hunt for Fresh Blood, additional rules and stipulations were added to this melee to ensure that it did not result in further loss of unlife and potential diplomatic calamity. The foremost being that as soon as any vampire in the competition was bloodied, they were forced, on their honor, to yield and exit the arena forthwith. As they say, one vampiric death at a masquerade means it’s worth attending, but more than three and it stops being a party.
This presented a challenge though, as the event, while a battle for honor and prominence, is also meant to entertain. To this end, the Sisterhood of Lamia offered their aid. They offered to perform a ritual unknown even to the von Carsteins that would offer a substantial shield to all combatants, dramatically extending the amount of damage each combatant could withstand so as to give time to excite the crowd. Count Mannfred von Carstein agreed, even though it would require the assistance of two of the Master Necromancers to aid in the ritual.
Seeing as combat is not something a Handmaiden would ever be caught doing though, the Sisterhood of Lamia instead sought to enlist others to represent and entertain them on the battlefield during the event. Due to his striking nature during the Hunt for Courtly Love and martial prowess during the Hunt for Fresh Blood, Sigmara Zarzen called Ziegfried in for a private meeting, and among other things, asked if he would represent the Sisterhood in the Hunt for the Knight & the Mage. Ziegfried accepted, and sought out Rollo von Carstein and Oliver Darkh join him in the trials.
Finally given that there were only seven teams competing and that Blood Dragons had lost a member during the Hunt for Fresh Blood, and thus, only had two members to compete, they were given the first round by accordingly. The competitors were as follows.
The von Carsteins of Castle Drakenhof:
Theudalinda von Carstein,
Waldedruis von Carstein, and
Brunhilda von Carstein.
The Blood Dragons of the Red Abbey:
Varison the Blade, Knight Commander of the Blood Dragons of the Red Abbey and
The Handmaidens of Beautiful Death, represented by the Darkstalkers:
Ziegfried von Carstein,
Rollo von Carstein, and
The von Diehls of Eschen:
Franz von Diehl, Knight of Eschen,
Drutmund von Diehl, Knight of Eschen, and
A Knight Retainer.
The von Carsteins of Waldenhof:
Markos von Carstein, Steward of Waldenhof and
Two Knight Retainers
The von Sincklers of Swartzhafen:
Markus von Sinckler, Baron of Swartzhafen,
Kiefer von Sinckler, Knight of Swartzhafen, and
Wilda von Sinckler, Knight of Swartzhafen.
The Stahlbergs of Castle Templehof:
Fremont Stahlberg, Grand Marshall of Castle Templehof,
Rosalinda Stahlberg, Knight of Castle Templehof, and
Ulmer Stahlberg, Knight of Castle Templehof.
Thus, the first set of competitors were the Darkstalkers, representing the Handmaidens of Beautiful Death, and Swartzhafen. In the competition, Baron Markus von Sinckler confidently, but foolishly, marched ahead of compatriots, and was soon battered down by the concerted efforts of the Darkstalkers. Soon after, Rosalinda fell, leaving only Ulmer and his mastery over the winds of Aqshy to fuel his power of fire. While he took strategic position across the waters in the arena, he was soon surrounded, and battered into surrender.
In the other pairings, the Stahlbergs of Castle Templehof triumphed over the von Carsteins of Waldenhof, to the surprise of many. The von Carsteins of Castle Drakenhof trounced the von Diehls of Eschen.
Thus, the Darkstalkers faced off with the Blood Dragons of the Red Abbey! Whispered voices and bets showed they were heavily favored to lose! When the battle began, the Blood Dragons surged forth on Spectral Steeds, crashing into the Darkstalkers with great impact! Rollo was set upon by Varison the Blade, and in an instant, Rollo’s ritual shielding was shattered! Meanwhile, Baron Malvolio charged into Ziegfried and Oliver, seeking to trample them under hoof! Ziegfried was slammed almost to the ground by the Baron’s lance. The Darkstalkers were hard pressed, and nearly gave into despair, but in that moment, Rollo landed the decisive strike, and, unleashing the latent magic of his runeblade, banished Varison the Blade from this world! While the power of the sword was limited, and the banishment temporary, it stunned the vampiric onlookers, and a great roar erupted from the crowd! Turning their collective might onto the remaining Blood Dragon, the Darkstalkers unleashed everything they had on Baron Malvolio. Oliver’s necromantic magics had unhorsed him, and so they slammed into him with ferocity. Soon, his ritual shielding was shattered, and moments later, he was bloodied, forcing him to surrender on his honor. As this happened, Rollo felt the magic of his runeblade’s banishment weakening, and, realizing it meant they would have to contend with Varison the Blade, the Darkstalkers did the most cunning thing they could. They declared themselves victorious! Rollo let loose a triumphant roar! Ziegfried bowed deeply to those assembled and began his victory speech. Oliver let loose magics to dazzle and entertain those watching, and, upon Oliver’s clever advice, Rollo dramatically waved his hand to “dismiss” the banishment of Varison the Blade. At that moment, Varison the Blade returned, and moved to attack, but the maddening cheering of the crowd brought him up short. He saw Count Mannfred von Carstein standing, raising his hand to the Darkstalkers, as though they were victorious! Varison’s roar was nearly deafening, and stopped the crowd cold. His eyes narrowing as he looked over the Darkstalkers, he spoke to the assembled vampires, declaring the results of this contest fraudulent, and stalked out of the arena.
In the other competition, the crowd was again stunned when the Stahlbergs of Castle Templehof defeated the von Carsteins of Castle Drakenhof! While there was much cheering, there was silence from many. After the match, whispers began to circulate that this would never happen under normal circumstances. Suspicions were aroused.
In this way, the final match of the Hunt for the Knight & the Mage came down to the Stahlbergs of Castle Templehof and the Darkstalkers representing the Handmaidens of Beautiful Death. The Darkstalkers were given time to rest themselves and heal their wounds, but they were still depleted. As they were told of the Stahlberg’s victories, they learned that they had not only won, but won handily in their matches. None of their combatants had been defeated in either match! Thus, the Darkstalkers settled in for what they knew would be a difficult battle.
Much like the previous two battles, the terrain dictated the course of combat, and so they fell upon each other on banks of the waterway that split the arena in two. As the teams came together, the circled each other at first, before crashing together in formation. Rosalinda Stahlberg was the first to take advantage of the positioning, and unleashed a large area attack that covered the Darkstalkers in roiling necrotic magic, hemming them in. Fremont and Ulmer Stahlberg took advantage of this, and attacked Ziegfried in concert. In this way, Rollo and Ziegfried were able to determine how the Stahlbergs had progressed so far in the tournament. As the battle raged on, the blades of the Stahlbergs began to glow faintly with the etchings of warpstone. These weapons bypassed the ritual shielding of the Handmaidens of Beautiful Death, and when it seemed as though the Darkstalkers would fall, they again performed the most cunning of attacks, and cried foul! They pointed out the dishonorable nature of the Stahlbergs weapons and how it ran afoul of the tournament. The crowd agreed, and began to shout down the Stahlbergs. Some of those in attendance threatened to leap out of the stands onto the sands below, and so Count Mannfred von Carstein called a halt to the tournament, declaring the Stahlbergs to have forfeited the round, leaving the Darkstalkers victorious!