The Faces of Dubhaim Castle
By Finn Clancy in Dark Ages
I shudder to think that someone who reads this script will dare to repeat my mistake. But when, against the wishes of my mentor, Brother Mosaren, I ventured to the docks of Abel and felt the call of the sea, I boarded the ship which would eventually lead to my present condition. I implore you, do not repeat my journey or risk your very soul. But if you do, please, do not seek understanding of the faces of Dubhaim Castle.
Rather than travel the shore town of Undine, I booked passage eastward. I remember the sky that day as we sailed for Rucesion, the pale white clouds turned to thunderheads as we completed the third day of our journey. A terrible gale wind nearly toppled our mighty ship, but strangely, an eerie fog settled over us. Magical forces must be at work, I thought, when I realized that the fog did not move despite the violent wind. I could not doubt the magic when I could make out a forest to the south and I rushed to the captain of the ship.
"Captain, I must warn you, we are atop the shore."
"My son, we are leagues from the shore."
"But Sir, do you not doubt your instincts with this blanket of fog and the mighty wind that nearly rips the sails?"
"Young one, where is the fog that you speak of? I can see for miles. And the wind, I wish the wind would pick up, it would make our journey to Rucesion shorter…."
I stopped listening to him -- why could he not see this fog -- this choking fog that surrounded us? And the maddening wind -- why could he not feel the gale? I staggered off of the bridge of the ship, nearly blown down the wooden stairs by a sudden gust. I almost fell onto a mate who was talking to another passenger about our journey. In my delirium, I only remember the words I would hear again soon "Isle of Dawn."
I threw myself against the starboard rail of the vessel, and stared into the fog, again seeing the tall pine forest to the south. A feeling of dread washed over me as the fog further cleared to reveal great stone towers rising above the trees. The stones were hard to see at first, but very soon I could make out the distinct spires of a great castle in the woods. The more I focused on the castle, the more my soul unsettled. The tall spires pierced my eyes. The sound of the wind over the battlements screeched in my ears. My inner eye sensed the unsettled spirits that called to me over the miles of forest and ocean. I don’t recall when I became so overwhelmed, but, indeed, I did swoon.
I finally awoke on a cold street. My fingers were bloodied from unconsciously grating into the stone cobbles of this foreign town. My face was still filled with the horrors that stirred my dreams.
In my dreams I had wandered the narrow corridors of an ancient castle. Torchlight lit the way in strange pedestals along the hall. I saw many doorways but when my disembodied dream-self tried to enter, an overwhelming sense of dread -- or was it common sense -- kept me outside the doorways. But when I focused on the source of the force keeping from the portals, I heard the familiar call of the patron of all monks, Cail. His voice urged me that I was not ready for the horrors that lay within. It was then that I felt the cold stone of the streets that roused me from my nightmare.
I gathered my wits, but I admit, fair reader, that those wits were much diminished since I left the familiar ground of Mileth. I found the name of the town, Rucesion. The town was similar in character to Abel, but much smaller in size, and the streets were nearly deserted. I wanted to speak to the storeowners, but a calling -- the calling of my dreams, and my vision from my sea voyage -- carried me outside of the gates of town and led me down the path north. I barely noticed the sign that pointed in my direction. The sign was half-rotted and looked partially burnt, but clearly read "Dubhaim Castle".
Soon I was engulfed in a dark wood. I wish I could recount the duration of my journey through the wood, but I crossed a nondescript bridge with a sign that read Isle of Dawn. But the dawn would not come for me. I now know that I was possessed, or rather, consumed by the pull of the Castle. A most unholy pull that would not release its grip until my very life hung in the balance.
I regained some control of my senses from the fright of first seeing Dubhaim Castle. The Castle could almost be described as a small town. The great towers and walls rose many times my height. The walls themselves were certainly ancient, but there was no trace of moss or ivy along the walls. From the arrow slits, I could swear I saw living blood dripping from the murderous sights. When I peered further, dark eyes peered into my soul from behind the vertical crevasse.
Fearing for my life, I ran inside the walls to find a manicured courtyard, but no caretaker. Several tall buildings, were arranged in the yard. Each structure was formed of the same stones as the outer walls. Again the stones radiated with a sense of great age, but did not show that age. I examined where the buildings were placed. There was no symmetry, no rational sense behind the arrangement of the buildings in the courtyard. It was as if the structures either rose from the earth like a wild and vile weed or were dropped from the skies above. There was no sign of life, but a great sense of some presence in the castle -- an evil presence.
Against the warnings of Cail and my sanity, I entered one of the buildings. I was greeted by the same vision from my dream. But, unlike my dream, the hallway was much higher, I could not make out the ceiling. I could make out six doors arranged along the hallway. As I passed by each doorway, I felt a stronger and stronger power emanating from the each doorway as I traveled further down the hallway. My hand recoiled at knob of every door except the first one.
Gathering all my courage, I decided to open the door. Immediately the sight of the great vault paralyzed me. I was puzzled at how such a large room could fit in a modestly sized building. The walls stretched to form a great plaza, which was almost the size of the courtyard outside.
Nothing of this realm exists inside this chamber. Spaced around the room pedestals with bright flame lit the chamber. Each pedestal stood spaced about the room, separated by pillars. Hung above each of the pedestals, and licked by the light of the flame, great statues stared down into my soul. The statutes were of great winged beasts and greater devils. Strange runes were carved throughout the room.
I had no time to study the runes, because, as I cast my visage down from the walls, I saw stone-gray figures that looked identical to those on the walls, but these figures were standing on the stone floor. To my horror, unlike the statues on the walls, the figures were moving, and moving toward me.
At that moment, I had realized the foolishness of venture in to this Castle as such a young Aisling. Further, I realized the absurdity of venturing into this vault alone. But I had -- in my daze -- stepped into the center of the room, and several creatures were now behind me, blocking my path to the exit.
There were three distinct species of creatures. I call them creatures, because I do not have any other way to describe them. They were not human, they were not beasts. There was a powerful sensation of heat emanating from the bodies. But strangely, there was no noise. No growl. No sound of footfalls. The creatures approached in silence, bearing their teeth to reveal their deep red, fiery mouths.
Some were four legged fiends with faces not unlike dogs. More terrifying creatures stood on two legs, with long claws and faces of pure evil. The tallest of the lot stood with long horns protruding above a face with the most evil eyes I had ever seen.
The training of Brother Mosaren took over. I knew that only my own hands, feet and strength would save my soul from being consumed by these creatures.
I took the defensive stance my mentor taught me. I raised my fists ready to punch. My legs tensed ready to unleash the kicks I had practiced in the wastelands near the East Woods.
I allowed my sanity to slip into a blind rage. I prepared to strike. The vile faces closed in on me….
"Rest easy, my son." These words filled my head as I awoke. I found myself in a long hallway, leaning against the stone next to the door to the horrors I had just faced. I looked up and saw my master, Brother Mosaren. He smiled. "You have seen the faces of Dubhaim Castle, have you not."
In my delirium I could only nod my head slowly. Images of the battle filled my head, the frightening fury of the attacks. The searing heat of teeth gnawing at my flesh. The rigidity of the beasts finding off my assault. But the faces, the evil faces penetrated my soul. The smiling, horned devil inside that room looked into me even in the safety of the hallway.
Mosaren stood, and briefly stepped into the room from whence I came. He returned and reported, "You have taken a bold step, young one. But know this, the horrors you see here are real. They are part of nature. With this knowledge, you must find its place in your nature, or risk your sanity or worse yet your soul."
"Rest now," he said, turning his back to leave. We will continue your lessons in Mileth when you are ready to return.
So, fair reader, I end my tale of initiation into the vile world I experienced far too soon in life. Take caution that your soul is fully prepared to receive the knowledge of the horrors that await you across the sea. Prepare yourself, and do not tread lightly into the Faces of Dubhaim Castle.