Castle Schwarzwald in better days

Where shall I begin… First allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amadeus Himmelstein, and I am lord of castle Schwarzwald, which has been in my family for many generations. Not that it means much, considering the villagers despise my cursed estate for the sins of my forefathers. After many attempts to make peace with them, and being shunned at every gesture of good faith, I became reclusive to my crumbling stone abode. Once the fairest castle in all of Germany, now reduced to rubble in many sections of the once magnificent stronghold, I live out the rest of my days in solitude. My only human contact, long since deceased, was the family servant, last of his line, who had raised me after my father’s suicide in the very room where I had lain my head to sleep.

My servant, Wilhelm, had seen many generations of my family, and every member had met an untimely end. My great-grandfather, whom Wilhelm had tended to in his youth, was crushed by a falling stone during one of his morning routines, which is quite ironic considering how our family name means “heaven stone.” Then my grandfather met his end when he was conducting an experiment in the alchemy lab and sudden combustion and the subsequent explosion had left nothing but ashes. And, for my father, well, you already know his end: death by hanging from his own hand, attempting to escape the gruesome fate of his kin. One day I know fate too will come for me, but for now I look over my dusty ancestral tomes in the library.

Through these ancient texts, I discovered what my family had done to deserve the fear and hatred from the common folk. We were the richest and most powerful family in the entire province, and the peasants below were our serfs, who thought very highly of us. As far as they knew, they were treated very justly and provided for as long as they tilled the fields and reaped the harvest. But there was a dark side. My family was strongly into the occult as well as other practices generally frowned upon. There would be an occasional disappearance among the village people. It would not go unnoticed, but sooner or later a body would appear in the forest nearby, and the corpse would be discovered in a bad state of decomposition, so the villagers chalked it up to an animal attack.

The truth, however, was far more sinister. Under the cloak of night, a member of my family would steal away some unfortunate soul to the dark underbelly of castle Schwarzwald and they would be subjected to a variety of things, whether it would be an inhumane medical experiment, become a part of a ritual to appease a long forgotten dark deity, perhaps be turned into a stew to be served for dinner the next day. The possibilities of the pain they could inflict upon these innocent people was almost limitless. This would be their downfall, however, for after an especially brutal experiment, one of their captives made their way through the woods and into the village, where he informed the village of the sick and twisted nature of castle Schwarzwald and the Himmelstein family.

Through further research, I found that after that day a curse had befallen my family, and many hardships followed. There were unexplained deaths, outbreaks of disease, various disfiguring accidents, depletion of the family wealth, and last but not least, the overgrowth of the grounds around the castle with trees which bore no leaves, no matter the season, but were not truly dead. Every day I gazed upon these hideous deformities, a reminder of my impending doom, so I attempted to advert my gaze from them as often as possible. Through the many books I read, I learned a variety of magic spells, incantations to conjure beasts from places less pleasant than Earth, as well as alchemic experiments to change the state of matter as I saw fit, but none of these things brought me solace.

Each day, my loneliness took its toll on my mental and physical health. If only I could not suffer alone! So I pooled together my vast well of knowledge and attempted to conjure a companion to keep me company for the rest of my days. After scouring many magic tomes about necromancy, alchemy, and witchcraft, searching for a way to bring life to that which is lifeless, I stumbled upon something which had great promise. It would require all of my skill and magical talent, as well as the life of another human being, but I would be able to craft myself a companion.

Oh the joy, as my pennant suffering alone should come to an end! I had everything I needed except, of course, another human life. As I was not about to give mine up, I knew that I must follow in the footsteps of my ancestors and once again steal into the night for some unfortunate soul to become a part in one of my experiments. Under the cover of darkness, I went into the village and happened upon a child with his dog. There were not any restrictions on who the poor soul could to be, so this child was as good a target as any, vulnerable, and easily manipulated. Using a few magic words, the boy and his dog were under my control. I marched them back to the castle and begun preparations. I placed the boy in a cell, separate from the dog. Perhaps the dog would be useful in my future endeavors.

Throughout all of this they were both in a trance, so I did not have to cope with any sort of resistance from either party. I drew some blood from the boy and drew an alchemic circle on the floor, accurate to the very last detail. It was the utmost importance that it was perfect, otherwise there could be catastrophic consequences. After all of the requirements were met, I prepared the boy for sacrifice. I almost felt sorry for the lad, who was no older than eight; however, I needed to remain steadfast in my goal, and not allow morality to interfere. I placed him on the makeshift altar and mentally steeled myself for the ritual decapitation. After my nerve was steeled, I raised the ancestral sword over my head, and then the most horrible thing happened! The hound had freed himself of the trance and jumped onto the altar, between me and the boy; however the sword was already swung, striking both the dog and the boy. It was not a fatal wound on either of them, but they bled, and as they bled together, they screamed screams which sounded neither human nor animal.

The room began to shake, as the two fused together into one being of such monstrous aspects I could not help but shudder. The beast looked nothing like either of the beings used in the fusing but it appeared as an awful chimera. The beast unleashed an unearthly roar, and I believe that it was at this point that I had gone mad. I ran to the stairs, as fast as I could muster and locked the door with a special incantation; however it certainly would not hold a beast that size for long. I ran up the staircase, spiraling, twisting, winding, turning, climbing, it felt as if the beast was breathing down my neck for what seemed to be an impossibly long ascension into the ground floor of the castle.

Everything blurred together in one fevered vision, and the only sound that I had heard was the breathing of my hideous creation down my neck. Suddenly I reached the top and saw only darkness, the absolute absence of any light or color in front of me, beckoning me to step inside. The darkness was almost tangible, feeling subtly like a thousand small hands pushing me forward into the unknown. I stepped forward, and to my surprise, I stepped onto nothing, and lost my footing and took a dark plunge into nothingness. I attempted to scream, but the darkness stole the voice from my throat, leaving only silence, the maddening silence!

I fell for an indeterminate amount of time until I slammed into a surface with such force, I surely should have perished, however I was merely rendered unconscious. Upon regaining consciousness I found myself in a place that was familiar to me. The lighting was dim, being cast from small torches lining both sides of the room. As my eyes adjusted to these conditions, I discovered that I was in the doorway to a room that looked similar to my study, but everything had horrifying aspects that made it seem that I had fallen straight into the pits of hell. The chair behind my desk was turned away from me but as I approached the room, the chair slowly turned to face me.

In it sat the beast, thumbing through my tomes with its grotesque talons. It motioned for me to take a seat opposite of it, to which I turned tail and attempted to run but, to my horror, I discovered that the door through which I had entered had ceased to exist. With no other alternative, I reluctantly sat across from my beastly host. After a long period of silence, only occasionally broken by the turning of a page, the beast returned the tome to its home on the shelf and looked at me with deep, dark, soulless eyes that faintly glowed with the fires of hell. I could feel my soul ripped to shreds when it opened its mouth and a cacophony of noises vaguely resembling words came streaming out.

The hideous chimera told me that while attempting to conjure a companion, I had accidentally broken the seal between this plane of reality and what we humans refer to as hell, and that I am now an unwilling guest within his domain. He said that he had been watching me and my family for some time and was glad that he could finally meet such a tainted soul as mine. He told me that for punishment of my deeds, I would not only bear the eternal suffering weighted against my soul, but for the soul of the little boy who I was so selfishly willing to sacrifice tenfold. So here I am, doomed to wander hell for all eternity, enduring endless torture at the hand of my captor. Let my tale be a lesson to you, that should you ever stumble upon a castle in the middle of the black forest of Germany, you should steer clear of it, for it has become a portal to the plane of eternal suffering and damnation.