As appropriate for the greatest hunters of the night, the von Carsteins, das Fest der Hexennacht is made up of different hunts.
Nights 1-3, the Grand Hunt
Night 4, the Hunt for Courtly Love
Night 5, the Hunt for New Blood
Night 6, the Hunt for Courtly Lust
Night 7, the Hunt for the Knight & the Mage
Night 8, the Hunt for the Witch
Night 9, an Opera, the Eternal Hunt
Night 10, the Masquerade of Hexennacht
Befitting such a grand occasion, numerous special guests were invited to attend.
The Hand Maidens of Beautiful Death, from the Lahmian Sisterhood:
The Blood Dragons of the Red Abbey:
Varison the Blade, Knight Commander of the Blood Dragons of the Red Abbey,
Baron Malvolio, and
Franz von Diehl, Knight of Eschen and
Drutmund von Diehl, Knight of Eschen.
Markos von Carstein, Steward of Waldenhof.
Markus von Sinckler, Baron of Swartzhafen and
Kiefer von Sinckler, Knight of Swartzhafen.
Fremont Stahlberg, Grand Marshall of Castle Templehof and
Ulmer Stahlberg, Knight of Castle Templehof.
The Grand Hunt was concluded successfully, thanks in no small part to the Darkstalkers. With their valor and killing blow in the hunt, their place in das Fest going forward was one of honor. With its conclusion, it was time to move onto the Hunt for Courtly Love.
The decor was planned by many, though it was obvious Glaedwine had significant influence. The centerpiece for the grand hall was the troll blood fountain, so named as it was fed constantly by the blood of a troll suspended from above it by great chains. The troll was drugged, for had it not been, it would have attempted to bite any who drew near.
In addition, there were three more blood fountains of grand design, featuring beautiful women from many realms, also suspended from chains going to the darkened rafters above. These women were positioned over blood fountains in places of honor for Count Mannfred von Carstein, Seneschal Glaedwine von Carstein, and one in honor of Grand Marshall Godric von Carstein, even though he was absent, still marching in the war against the Greenskins. To see to their continued use throughout das Fest, the women were tattooed with magic runes, granting them regeneration as well. The rituals and cost in so doing must have been extravagant, and likely even necessitated the attention of one of Castle Drakenhof’s Master Necromancers.
For the occasion, many humans were brought into court so as to provide blood and entertainment for the court. Glaedwine’s bards were present, but concealed in magical darkness obscuring them from prying eyes, and the bards themselves from the horrors they might otherwise see.
The fourth Night of das Fest der Hexennacht was styled as the Hunt for Courtly Love. There was music and festivities long into the night with three great dances performed: the Basse Dance, the Black Alman, and the Waltz of Flowers. During the first dance, the Darkstalkers each danced with the most attractive human female they could find. By and large, they danced adequately. During the next dance, the Black Alman, the differences in courtly education began to emerge.
Oliver sought out a dance with one of the Handmaidens of Beautiful Death, Sigmara Zurzen, but was intercepted by her servant, Ostelle. He had previously sought out one of the Lahmian Sisters hoping to learn of what magics she may know, but, then, as now, Oliver was intercepted by Ostelle. He was shocked when she asked him the last time he saw his sire, Greghor the Surgeon, but was able to mask this from her. In this way, he quickly learned that the servants of the Handmaidens of Beautiful Death are far more than simply servants. Oliver was unable to master the dance of Black Alman, and, at the critical pairing near the end, actually misstepped so badly as to knock Ostelle to the floor! In a huff, she arose, and stalked off.
Rollo sought out the hand of Melisande von Carstein for a dance, and got more than he bargained for. She accepted his invitation to dance, and suggested that he enjoy some Leaves of the Red Tea to further enjoy the evening. Rollo accepted, and found that his agility was enhanced, at least in his own mind. He did well in the dance, until at the final pairing he too nearly fell, but with Melisande’s quick aid and his newfound agility, Rollo managed to recover.
Dagomar went looking for Yvonne von Carstein, who he had managed to entertain with his earlier appearances in court. Having allowed enough time to elapse for Yvonne to drink herself into a more fluid state, and having properly covered himself from head to toe, Dagomar found that Yvonne granted his request to dance. No doubt having been the one to land the finishing blow on the Varghulf helped aid him. Furthermore, Dagomar danced with grace, and did very well in the Black Alman. Calling it a stroke of luck, he decided not to push it further with the next dance, and so he and Yvonne set out to converse.
Ziegfried, the consummate showman, sought out Theudalinda von Carstein, and showed himself to be graceful on and off the battlefield. His steps showed that he was nearly masterful in the dance, and he wowed many in attendance.
To close out the evening, the most difficult, and engaging, dance of the night began, the Waltz of Flowers. Oliver, having already been escorted off the floor, along with many others who showed themselves to be unworthy of the dance floor, sought out other activities, or simply gaped at the elegance and beauty of the remaining dancers.
In this dance, Rollo sought to test his dance instruction, and asked Mitzi von Carstein’s hand in dance, which she was thrilled by. Now, all he had to do was not fall apart in the battle of steps. Rollo danced well in the Waltz, and his tutelage paid off. He did very well, and made his mistress proud.
Ziegfried, however, sought out Sigmara Zurzen. There he engaged in a battle of romance, as there were other suitors seeking a turn with the gorgeous Handmaiden: Baron Markus von Sinckler of Swartzhafen and Baron Malvolio of the Blood Dragons of the Red Abbey. While the others sought to lay compliment upon compliment upon the beautiful vampire, Ziegfried chose instead to insult his rivals for their weak performance during the Grant Hunt, reminding them of how they were each unhorsed in a most spectacular fashion. Markus, in a fit, was unable to stammer out a response, and so Sigmara turned from him to the Baron and Ziegfried. The Baron turned to face Ziegfried, while extending his hand to Sigmara, but Ziegfried simply walked through his hand, taking Sigmara by the elbow, and walked her onto the dance floor without even looking back! The Baron’s hand darted to his blade, but as she passed, Sigmara traced her finger over his lips, and with a wink, left him bewitched, and hesitant. With that Ziegfried had earned himself a dance with Beautiful Death, but now, he had to show himself worthy of the attention. In the Waltz of Flowers, Ziegfried proved not only to be capable, but nearly masterful of the Waltz. Indeed, Sigmara had to put forth effort to keep up with him, though she proved to be the superior dancer. For his very entertaining dance, Sigmara extended to Ziegfried a grand prize: an invitation to the Lahmian Sisterhood’s private party taking place during the Hunt for the Witch. She enclosed a golden necklace of a special rune into his hand, and with a sultry look over her fan, took her leave.
The fifth night of das Fest is the Hunt for Fresh Blood. The central event here is the grand melee of human petitioners who seek the Blood Kiss. Over fifty humans were brought deep within Castle Drakenhof to compete. Armed with their choice of weapon from the armory, they entered the great sand arena, and Glaedwine gave the commencement. Vampires were allowed, and even encouraged, to step into the arena and help weed out the weak. However, this competition, while attended by Glaedwine and the many special guest, was not of his choosing. It is an ancient rite dating back to the time of the first vampire wars, and was reinstituted by Count Mannfred himself. Such a waste of human life and stewardship never sat well with Glaedwine. Although the demonstration of wealth, excess, and entertainment, the cornerstones of any von Castein festival were apparent, Glaedwine sought to remind the others in attendance of the importance of getting the humans as allies, and not sending them running to the arms of the Empire. Thus, with permission, he brought in a surprise for his fellow vampires, a fully armed captive Witch Hunter from the empire.
The Darkstalkers were in attendance, and several joined in the fray. Fortunately, they noticed the Witch Hunter before diving in, or they might never have left. As it were, when the battle began, it took some time before the combatants assailed each other in earnest. To harry them into groups to force conflict, Alderic the Unyielding, Baron Malvolio, and Dagomar jumped down onto the sands along with Theudalinda, Liliana, Ziegfried, and Rollo von Carstein. The battle became a frenzy when the vampires jumped in. Blood sprayed into the air and covered the formerly white sands. Some of the humans, trained for war, rose to the occasion. Others, pathetic wastes, fell to fear and pissed themselves. The von Carsteins of Konrad’s line quickly began to slay the weak and pathetic, but in this way, Liliana drew close to the Witch Hunter, whom she had yet to recognize. In a blur of motion, the Witch Hunter drew his hand crossbows and lodged 4 quarrels into Liliana, which then exploded with Radiant magic. Liliana, bloodied in an instant, was left stunned and weakened. A collective gasp was let out by the vampires in attendance, save for a knowing few.
Ziegfried, having been battling with a human ‘warrior’, laughed when another human, clearly not trained for war, but for survival, used the opportunity to backstab the distracted combatant. Now with that the Witch Hunter had revealed himself though, vanity demanded he venture forth to that battle. He charged the Witch Hunter and landed a devastating blow. The crack of ribs could be heard as the Witch Hunter was slammed 15 feet through the air! Amazingly, he landed on his feet, and though bloodied, was ready for more combat. Rollo had launched himself into the fray at this time, and, calling all of his power into focus, sought to end the Witch Hunter. As he approached, other humans, rallying to the Vampire Hunter sought to stop him, and then, though it seemed he would be checked to the ground by a solid shield bash, at the last moment, he turned aside the blows. The Blood Dragon, Baron Malvolio, slashed his way closer, and warned Rollo that this Witch Hunter was his prey, and that the other vampires were to withdraw. The Witch Hunter, unphased, uttered a powerful prayer to Sigmar, and radiant magic blasted out of him, slamming into the vampires nearby. Liliana, still stunned, was tossed further afield, along with Theudalinda, Ziegfried, and Baron Malvolio. Only Rollo withstood the potent magics of the Empire of Men.
Calling on the power of Bane, Rollo von Carstein struck, and the Witch Hunter, though uncannily quick, was unable to dodge the mighty blow. All of the death in the arena empowered Rollo’s strike, and the runes on his bastard sword glowed ominously as his sword arced through the air, slashing through the neck and collarbone of the Witch Hunter, ending his life. Drunk on victory, Rollo turned, pointed his blade at the Blood Dragon, and told him off. Baron Malvolio rose, and then challenged Rollo to a duel immediately. Rollo accepted, and after they each saluted, the battle began. Though the Baron wielded a bastard sword as well, his speed with it was as though it were a rapier. His whistling strikes left many gashes in Rollo, but Rollo would not be stopped. He swung back, leaving great rents in the Baron’s armor, and, after many exchanges, stabbed over the Baron’s guard, sinking his blade through his chest, and out his back. The Baron slid off of his blade, and died.
Upon his death, a hush fell on the assembled crowd, even among the four remaining human combatants, and, hearing him rise, all eyes turned to Varison the Blade, Knight Commander of the Blood Dragons of the Red Abbey. He and Baron Delano simply stood, and exited. With that, much of the tension left the room, and applause erupted from the assembled vampire spectators. Glaedwine took this opportunity to call a formal end to the Hunt for New Blood, and the vampires discussed who would sponsor the surviving humans.