The Vampire of Schwarzbrunn Part 1 - Sent by the Church
CoC 1-6e Dark Ages
Sunday, June 11, 2017
(After playing the Cthulhu Dark Ages scenario “The Vampire of Schwarzbrunn” by Stefan Franck from Worlds of Cthulhu Magazine Issue 1 Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with Ashton Leblanc and Collin Townsend.)
Two travelers topped the path that led through the Alps and wound down into a small valley. A small village in a clearing in the woods stood below. It must have been Schwarzbrunn, the travelers’ destination. Somewhat behind the village, deeper in the basin formed by the mountains sat several buildings surrounded by a wall - likely the monastery of Schwarzbrunn. Everything was still. A strange, oppressive feeling hung in the air.
The inhabitants of Schwarzbrunn had sought help from the authorities in the form of a letter to the Catholic bishop of the district. The villagers alleged a blood-drinking monster was murdering their children. That was in June of anno Domini 998, six months before. Now December 10 of that year, charcoal-gray clouds were already crossing the heavens. The snows would come soon and the days were dark and bleak. Whose fault it was their cry for help remained unanswered into December? That question would become pressing if the population of the village had been exterminated in the meantime.
The village was still. Snow stood on the ground. It was just after noon and the place should have been alive with goings-on, but down below, no one was to be seen. A strange oppression gripped the hearts of the two men who had been sent to help. Perhaps a half year was too late.
Father Weißwald (Weisswald), had dark hair and a bushy beard. He stood a little over five feet tall and wore the robes of a Catholic priest over his narrow frame, a small wooden cross hanging around his neck. He was 29 years old, well into his years. A hooded cloak protected him from the cold and he led a mule he had named Gertrude.
The guard sent with the priest was a large, burley man who stood a foot taller than the other man. Adalbert had blonde hair and a scraggly beard. He had what many described as an “unfortunate face” and was missing a few teeth. He was 26 years old and wore boiled leather armor and carried a great axe. A short sword hung from his belt.
They had been sent by the bishop of the local bistum to investigate the strange letter from the village in the southern Holy Roman Empire.
Father Weißwald pointed to the monastery and they headed that direction, passing by the village where they noticed no people at all. They climbed the mound upon which the monastery stood.
The monastery was encompassed by a wall of about a man’s height, an enclosure rather than a defense. The gate was wrought iron, and the brick buildings behind it were gray and forbidding on the bleak winter afternoon. To the right was a small stable from which the breathing of a horse could be heard. To the left, a small church reached up into the slate-colored sky; it was the tallest building to be found. Across from the gate was the main house of the monastery, a long, two-story building with sickly ivy climbing its walls. Towering over the courtyard were several ancient elms whose leafless boughs reached for the sky like skeletal fingers.
As they approached the gate, a monk came out of the stable and hurried over. The man stood a little taller than Father Weißwald and was relatively thin. He wore a cuculla: a black, sack-like hooded cowl that covered his whole body, leaving only his feet free. His hair was tonsured and he was clean-shaven. His face appeared quite bony and, in combination with his slightly protruding eyes, it gave the impression of a skull. Even his teeth, thanks to their size, fit the image.
Much to Father Weißwald’s surprise, the monk spoke, welcoming them and inviting them in. The priest knew that the monastery at Schwarzbrunn belonged to the Benedictine Order, a very strict order not only mandating silence but forbidding personal property. He guessed the abbot no long strictly observed the Rule of Benedict, allowing the monks to speak outside of the Parlatorium.
The monk opened the gate for the two and then sank to his knees on the spot to pray with them. Afterwards, he exchanged the kiss of peace with each of them in accordance with tradition. He looked at the two suspiciously.
“What are you doing in Schwarzbrunn?” he asked. “Who are you?”
“Hello Brother …” Father Weißwald said.
“I am Brother Benjamin.”
“Benjamin. I am Father Weißwald and I was sent by the bishop to investigate some children disappearing.”
“Yes! Yes! Oh! Thank God! Thank God! Come! Let’s go to the house.”
He gestured towards the two-story building but then took the priest’s mule to the stable and housed it in one of the five stalls, only one of the others occupied by a riding horse. As he put the mule away, Brother Benjamin noted there were a series of murders the summer before that ended shortly after they sent for help after the death of the third child. However, three days before, four children went missing.
“They just disappeared,” the monk said. “The entire village is searching the woods for them, all the men who can. Anyone not able to help has retreated here to the monastery to seek the protection of our Lord Jesus Christ. How was your journey?”
“So, all the villagers are here?” Father Weißwald asked.
“The men are searching the woods. The women and children are here for now.”
“How many men were sent out?”
“When did they disappear?”
“It was the 7th. We’ve been searching ever since. Every day, the men go out and the women come up here so they won’t be unprotected. Come! Come!”
He led them to the main house and into the refectorium, the monastery’s dining hall, where many of the village and some of the monks were gathered.
They were presented with the very image of despair. Besides the women, only very old men resigned to tragedy and very young boys trying to look brave were there. In the corner, a baby cried, but the others were silent and stared into nothingness. The monks were trying to make their guests as comfortable as possible, but gloom had gripped them as well, and they went about their tasks in silence. All eyes turned towards the two strangers as they entered, showing only distrust. That turned to joy when Brother Benjamin declared the gentlemen were there to clear up the children’s murders. He told them the two had been sent by the bishop.
The monks offered the two men a meal, which was very rich, considering the season, with relatively fresh fruit and a hearty stew. While eating, they were able to pursue their inquiries.
Father Weißwald asked Benjamin about the mothers of the missing children. The monk pointed out they were all from different families and all went missing at the same time. He told the priest the missing children’s names were Maria, Elsbeth, Friedrich, and Eberhard.
The priest started to talk to the women there. He learned Maria had gone out in the day and, when she didn’t return by dark, the family set out to find her. The other disappearances were much the same. The mothers were all inconsolable and the men were out, as they had been every day since, searching for the children. They were terrified they were going to find the missing children dead as they had found the children the summer before.
Further questioning proved that most of those present believed it was a werewolf or a wolf-man who that had done the killing. All of the children were found drained of blood but there was no blood in the vicinity of the body. Some said there was a claw mark on the child, others said it was a single bite mark. They agreed that otherwise the children’s flesh was undamaged, at least when the body hadn’t been lying in the woods for too long and animals hadn’t gotten to it. No other wounds were on the bodies.
They learned Benjamin was the healer in the monastery and had prepared the children’s bodies once they were found. He reiterated the same thing, noting there were no additional wounds on the first victims. The third child had some bruises and contusions. The wound on the throat was very precise under the right ear. The bodies were all completely drained of blood but there was no blood found with the body.
They also learned last summer the first child, Hiltraud, was found on June 3, lying bloodless in a bush not far from the Bearded Giant. The villagers were happy to explain that was a large boulder in the shape of a stooped, bearded giant that lay about a mile south of the monastery. The boulders in the surrounding area were said to have been the remains of a whole army of giants who plagued the area long ago. The founder of the monastery defeated the giants by the grace of God, turning them to stone. Thereupon, the monastery was founded to the glory of God, “praise be His name.”
The second child, Christian, was found four days later, on the seventh of June, once again not far from the Bearded Giant. The circumstances were almost identical. At that point, parents had forbidden their children to go out after dark and admonished them not to wander far from the village. Nevertheless, on June 11, another child was found murdered, little Jeremias. His body was found further south, about another mile behind the boulders around the Bearded Giant.
After the third murder, children weren’t even permitted out of their houses and, even then, none of them were left unwatched. No further deaths occurred and, after a few months, everything had quieted down and returned to normal. Then, three days ago, four children disappeared all at once. They went into the woods together and hadn’t been seen since. Since them, most of the villagers had been combing the woods while those who couldn’t stayed in the safety of the monastery.
Brother Benjamin confessed to them that he found most disturbing the lack of blood near any of the bodies.
Darkness had fallen when a loud clamor arose outside. A group of men came into to the room. They had found the body of Elsbeth. She was dead. Their faces were stone. People in the refectorium burst into tears as the men started to consume large quantities of beer. Benjamin had the body taken into the washroom to prepare it for burial. Father Weißwald and Adalbert followed him.
“It’ll have to be quick,” Brother Benjamin said about preparing the body. “The ground will be frozen soon.”
He seemed rather dispassionate about the whole situation as he laid the little girl of nine on the small table. He washed her and a woman brought in a shroud that was far too big for the little body. Father Weißwald examined the body and Brother Benjamin pointed out the cut under her right ear. The child was pale and apparently completely drained of blood and had apparently been out for some time as the body had been chewed on by animals. Adalbert went white watching them examine it. Father Weißwald noticed visible abrasions about the girl’s wrists. Adalbert also saw some imprints on the child’s ankles and Father Weißwald realized the child had been bound.
The priest also realized Benjamin’s dispassionate demeanor was probably simply the monk’s way of dealing with the tragedy. He focused on the work at hand rather than the child’s death.
Preparing the body took some time and they eventually heard movement in the hall as the villagers left the monastery. A bearded monk entered the room and said he’d keep the deathwatch. Benjamin took the two travelers to a cell upstairs. It was very cold in the Spartan chamber that merely had two cots and blankets along with a small chest. A single candle was left with them. A shuttered window looked out into the courtyard of the monastery.
Brother Benjamin invited the priest to prayers and masses the following day.
It was very late and they were very tired. They quickly fell asleep.
* * *
The morning of Sunday, December 11 was very cold, once again. They were awoken at 4 a.m. by Brother Benjamin for Lauds: the half hour Morning Office prayers at sunrise offered in the church. Thereafter, they were able, like the monks, to go back to sleep. Father Weißwald also learned of the Benedictine masses and prayers.
At 6 a.m. every morning, the monks rose and met for Prime: the prayer of the first hour of the day. At 6:30 a.m., they met in the Parlatorium, continued praying, and divided up the daily work at a meeting called Chapter. From 7:30 to 8:15, the morning Mass was celebrated. The monks worked or prayed meditatively after that. At 9:00, the Terce or prayer of the third hour of the day began and another Mass lasted from 9:00 until 10:30. The monks went back to work after that until 11:30 when Sext, or a prayer for the sixth hour of the day was held. The monks typically ate at noon and rested. At 2:00 p.m., the Nones or prayer of the ninth hour of the day was held. The monks worked until Vespers or evensong and at 5:30 p.m. held a light evening meal called a Collation followed by prayer. At 6:00 p.m. the monks met for Compline: prayer before retiring and at 7:00 p.m., they retired to their cells to study, pray, or sleep.
Only Matins or Vigils, the Night Office from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m., was not observed by the monastery.
It made for a very busy day and one that didn’t allow a lot of time for investigation.
That morning Father Weißwald asked Benjamin about the abbot and learned Abbot Winfried was usually in the library. The priest looked around the monastery building and found the kitchen and pantry, other monks’ cells, and a large cloister on one end. The latter consisted of a neatly tended inner courtyard with narrow spiral staircases leading up on all four corners. Some windows looked outside with rows of vaulted Romanesque windows overlooking the inner courtyard. Behind the building were herb gardens.
A staircase near the monks’ cells led up to more cells above and administrative rooms, including the abbot’s study, a washroom, and the scriptorium. The library took up a large corner of the building and was two stories high.
Father Weißwald had also been inside of the church for Lauds. The building had a cruciform foundation and an interior with no ostentatious decoration but merely a few pictures and statues. The left-hand transept had an altar dedicated to St. Benedict while the right-hand transcript had one dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
They found Abbot Winfried in the library. He had gray eyes and a raspy voice. His nose was sharp and his lips were very thin. He was older, probably in his 50s, and his head was completely bald and showed a few brown age spots. They had learned he was also the chief librarian in the monastery.
“I am very grateful that you have come,” he said to them. “These missing children are a great concern to us.”
“I was hoping … what can you tell me about your library?” Father Weißwald asked.
“We have many books, many scrolls. As you can see, we are not the greatest library in the district, but the monks copy certain texts.”
He told them they were welcome to peruse the library if they thought it would help with their investigation.
“The whole monastery is at your disposal,” the abbot said.
“I’ll get to work,” Father Weißwald replied.
He and Adalbert began to look through the library’s resources, the latter reading much more slowly and focusing only on the very few books in Allemaric. He didn’t speak or understand Latin at all and could only barely read.
That first day, Father Weißwald found, in the books of legends and the like, the ancient Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter. It read:
When I was still a slave, we lived in a narrow street, the house is Gavilla’s now. There,
as the gods would have it, I fell in love with Terentius, the tavern keeper’s wife. You all
knew Melissa from Tarentum, the prettiest of the pretty wenches! Not that I courted her
carnally or for venery, but more because she was such a good sort. Nothing I asked did she
ever refuse; if she made a penny, I got a halfpenny; whatever I saved, I put in her purse,
and she never choused me. Well! Her husband died when they were at a country house,
so I moved heaven and earth to get to her; true friends, you know, are proved in adversity.
It so happened my master had gone to Capua, to attend to various trifles of business. So
seizing the opportunity, I persuade our lodger to accompany me as far as the fifth milestone.
He was a soldier, as bold as hell. We got under way about first cockcrow, with the moon
shining as bright as day. We arrive at the tombs; my man lingers behind among the gravestones,
whilst I sit down singing and start counting the gravestones. Presently I looked back for my
comrade; he had stripped off all his clothes and laid them down by the wayside. My heart
was in my mouth and there I stood feeling like a dead man. Then he made water all round
the clothes, and in an instant changed into a wolf. Don’t imagine I’m joking; I would not
tell a lie for the finest fortune ever man had.
However, as I was telling you, directly he was turned into a wolf, he set up a howl and away
to the woods. At first I didn’t know where I was, but presently I went forward to gather up
his clothes; but lo and behold! They were turned into stone. If ever a man was like to die of
terror, I was that man! Still I drew my sword and let out at every shadow on the road til I
arrived at my sweetheart’s house. I rushed in looking like a ghost, soul and body barely
sticking together. The sweat was pouring down between my legs, my eyes were set, my
wits gone almost past recovery. Melissa was astounded at my plight, wondering why ever
I was abroad so late. ‘Had you come a little sooner,’ she said, ‘you might have given us a
hand; a wolf broke into the farm and has slaughtered all the cattle, just as if a butcher had
bled them. Still, he didn’t altogether have the laugh on us, though he did escape, for one
of the laborers ram him through the neck with a pike.’
After hearing this, I would not close an eye, but directly it was broad daylight, I started
off for our good Gaius’s house, like a peddler whose pack’s been stolen; and coming to the
spot where the clothes had been turned into stone, I found nothing whatever but a pool of
blood. When eventually I got home, there lay my soldier a-bed like a great ox, while a
surgeon was dressing his neck. I saw at once he was a werewolf and I could never afterwards
eat bread with him, no! Not if you’d killed me. Other people may think what they please;
but as for me, if I’m telling you a lie, may your guardian spirits confound me!
Unfortunately, their partial search of the library records took the entirety of the day.
* * *
On Monday, December 12, they returned to the library to further their search for information. That day Father Weißwald found a scroll with another interesting and seemingly pertinent story upon it. It read:
A soldier recalled the following story which was said to have befallen his grandfather.
This man, his grandfather, supposedly went into the woods to cut wood with one of his
kin and a third man, of whom the grandfather always held the suspicion that something was
not quite right with him, but he couldn’t say exactly what that was. Now the three of them
had finished their work and were tired, whereupon this third man suggested maybe they
should take a nap.
And so all three of them lay down on the ground. But he, the grandfather, only feigned
sleep and opened his eyes a little. The third man looked around to see if the other two were
asleep, and when he thought so, he put on a belt and became a werewolf. Such a werewolf
does not look exactly like a natural wolf, but somewhat different. Then he ran away to a
nearby meadow where a young colt was grazing. He fell upon the colt and ate him, skin,
hair, and all. He came back, took the belt off again, and then lay down again in human
form. After a little while, when they all got up, they went home to the city, and when they
came to the city gate, the third man complained of stomach ache. The grandfather secretly
whispered in his ear. “I believe that, since you’ve got a horse, skin, hair, and all in your
belly.” The other man answered him. “If you’d said that to me in the woods, you’d not
be here to say anything now.”
That took up most of the day and they were exhausted when they went to bed that night.
* * *
Adalbert awoke from an unsettled sleep. He thought he heard a noise outside the window. He crept to the wall and cracked open the shutter, peeking out. He saw a form in a red monk’s cowl with a hood pulled over his head. The man was slim and crept towards the church.
He turned and woke Father Weißwald, telling him what he’d seen. Both the time of night and the color of the hood seemed strange to the priest. He bid Adalbert to don weapons and armor and waited until the man had readied himself, the latter with his short sword.
They crept downstairs and out the front door.
The elms swayed in the night wind. It was cold. In the distance, the plaintive howl of a wolf sounded and they both involuntarily looked in the direction of the sound, unsettled after what they had read in the library. As they turned back, the trees seemed to have grown larger while the church seemed shrunken. The whole courtyard seemed strangely distorted, its dimensions shifting further and the trees shooting up into the sky, their branches and twigs as thick as towers, pushing walls and stones aside and wriggling through the air with an eerie life of their own, as if seeking blood to drink. They kept coming closer. They seemed to want the two.
Then everything went black.
Both of them awoke some time later. They were unsure how long they had laid in the cold snow but they were both chilled to the core. It was still dark.
Adalbert walked to the church while Father Weißwald said a prayer. The guard crept into the building but didn’t see anyone. All was dark and quiet. He took one of the candles near the door and struck a light as Father Weißwald entered the building. Once the candle was lit, shadows seemed to move throughout the church. Father Weißwald found another candle and lit it.
They found nothing in the church and nothing looked out of place. They quickly made a sweep of the building without finding anything. They returned to their cell to get what sleep they could.
* * *
They continued their research in the library on Tuesday, December 13. That day, Adalbert found a strange illustration in a book with a Livonian Legend. The picture showed what appeared to be the transformation of a man into a wolf. The text read:
When Yuletide is past, a boy with only one leg limps around and address all who have
given over to evil, of whom there is a great number, and bids them follow. Some of them
waver and lag behind, so another, large, tall man is there who drives them on by beating
them with a scourge made of iron wire and little chains braided together. He scourges the
people so horribly that even long after one can see spots and scars on their bodies, which
they find very painful.
As soon as they raise themselves up to follow him, it appears that they lay aside their
former shapes and are transformed into wolves. A couple thousand of them come together,
the leader with the iron scourge in his hand at the fore. When they are led onto a field, they
fall upon the livestock horribly and tear to pieces whatever they can grasp, whereby they do
But to harm men is forbidden to them. If they arrive at a river, the leader plunges in his
rod or scourge, parting it, so that they may cross on dry feet. When twelve days pass, they
lay aside their werewolf forms and become men again.
They both realized that the stories were not really confirming what was happening in Schwarzbrunn. Adalbert pointed out that, according to the text he’d found, they were not to harm men.
With the discovery, that same day, of the next dead child, Eberhard, the atmosphere of the village exploded. He was found in a completely different location than the others, about a mile north of the monastery. Mistrust reigned, sometimes giving way to nasty accusations and brutal confrontations. The villagers felt it was someone who lived in the village. The monks did what they could to settle the differences but were having little luck.
That night, both Father Weißwald and Adalbert had a terrible nightmare.
Each of them saw mighty elms and, in their shadows, the lost and lonely shape of a little child. As the dark-haired little girl reached out her hands imploringly, the surroundings slowly tinted red, and a stentorian chant resounded out of the void. The little girl fell to her knees and covered her ears while the chanting voices slid more and more out of time until each sang on his own, creating a dreadful cacophony, welling to a deafening roar, as a gloating laughter rose above the din.
Each of them woke bathed in sweat despite the cold of their cell. Neither of them had ever seen the child before.
At first Father Weißwald thought it a mere imbalance of the humors. Then he learned Adalbert had the same dream. It was quite disquieting.
* * *
On Wednesday, December 14, Adalbert noted he wanted to go look at the Bearded Giant while Father Weißwald researched in the library.
“Take Gertrude,” Father Weißwald said.
“What?” Adalbert said. “Take Gertrude … the mule?”
“Why take … but … fine. Why take Gertrude?”
“She can sense things that you cannot. Make sure you brush her well.”
Adalbert shook his head and left the cell. He was a man of his word however, and dutifully put a bridle onto Gertrude, taking the mule with him. He went south of the monastery, following the road for about a mile. He soon found the boulder with the shape of a stooped, bearded giant. It was as big as a house and he noticed several other boulders with suggestive shapes as well.
Gertrude shied away and was skittish when Adalbert lead her over to more closely examine the gigantic stone. She pulled hard on the bridle and obviously didn’t want to come near. He eventually went back to Schwarzbrunn and found only the women and old men and children were in the village, the adults keeping a close eye on all of the children.
He took Gertrude back to the stable and then found a group of villagers searching for the missing children in the woods. He met with Hagen, the middle-aged farmer who was with the group that had found Elsbeth’s body the first day they had been there. He was a powerfully built but not particularly large man, his skin weathered and a scar running across his right cheek. He hobbled a bit as well and had short, dark hair, being clean-shaven.
All of the villagers seemed glad to have the armed man’s company and there was some talk that someone from the village must have been responsible for the disappearing children. Some thought that one of the villagers was a werewolf. No names were mentioned but vague allegations that someone did it were prevalent and he figured the villagers were angry, confused, and frustrated. They wanted to find a scapegoat: someone to place the blame upon.
He also learned that Hagen’s group had found Elsbeth near the Bearded Giant, hidden in the bushes. They had probably passed her by on previous days searching. He was not in the group who had found Eberhard, however.
Hagen had his own ideas of who had done it, giving the name of Bernhard, another of the townsfolk. He had nothing to say about the man but Adalbert thought there was signs of a personal grudge there as well, however.
Another man in the group, Beben, thought the devil was certainly behind what was going on. He told the guard that on December 5, the earth itself had shook. He thought God wanted to punish them like the Egyptians of old.
“Weren’t the punishments the death of children, earthquakes, and insects?” he said.
“Think about the worms!” another man said. “They were in all the pantries in the spring.”
“Terrible things are coming,” another said. “Terrible things. Terrible things.”
They searched the rest of the day, not returning until dark, but finding nothing. It was terribly vexing.
* * *
Father Weißwald, meanwhile, spent the day between masses and prayer in the library, searching the books and especially checking the few books Adalbert had looked through. He didn’t find anything else that seemed pertinent to the case at hand, however. He thought sure he had found everything he might find in the occult section of the library. There were other books, of course, including the monastery’s chronicle, which he knew was a multi-volume, constantly growing work primarily recording births and deaths as well as listing the monastery’s activities including what books were copied, which buildings were renovated or expanded, how many tithes were received, as well as recording commerce, visitors, and so forth. They also contained descriptions of singular events and natural phenomena. He figured he’d look through it the next day.
* * *
They met before going to sleep that night and discussed what they had learned. When Father Weißwald asked if Gertrude sensed anything, Adalbert told him the mule had acted strange around the Bearded Giant. That seemed of interest to the priest.
“See?” he said. “I told you she’d be of use.”
“She kept pulling me in the other direction,” Adalbert said.
He also told the priest about the trembling earth some days before and the worm-infested pantries of the Spring before. Father Weißwald knew the list of plagues in their correct order: water turning to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, pestilence among the cattle, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and only the last being the death of the first-born children in Egypt in a single night. He also didn’t think all of the children were first-born.
They had nightmares about the little girl that night again.
* * *
On Thursday, December 15, Father Weißwald went to the library to delve into the monastery’s chronicles.
The first page of the first book was about the foundation of the monastery. It read:
Given the year of our Lord 771, the fifth day of September this I write of the founding
of the monastery at Schwarzbrunn that the belief in our almighty Lord may become strong
in our hearts and not weaken.
For only belief in Him can deliver us from evil, as He has delivered us from evil. In memory
of this is laid today the foundation stone of the monastery.
Think upon the struggles which we have endured and know that only He has delivered us and
can deliver us. He how is Lord over man and beast. Who may know how great His power is
over the unbelievers and the pagans who everywhere attempt to propitiate their idols and reap
only sorrow and affliction.
In memory of the lost souls the dead and the unfortunates who could not live to see the founding
of this holy place may the Lord have mercy upon their souls.
To the monastery shall belong ten acres of land to be purchased from the men and women of
the precinct of the Niederwald who in addition shall bring the usual payments in the service of
the Lord and who will have henceforth have a haven in the monastery for the redemption of their
This document of foundation shall be entered in the chronicle of the monastery as well as sealed
in the foundation stone so that it will last until the last judgment when He shall divide men by good
Bernhard von Wilhelm
Written at Schwarzbrunn
In the Precinct of Niederwald
He spent the rest of the day perusing the extensive chronicles that had been kept for the past 200 years. It was long, tedious work and there was very little of actual interest in the books. There was note of the missing children the summer before and a note about the ground trembling on December 5.
* * *
Adalbert joined the search parties again that day. At one point as they searched the woods, one of the villagers made some comment to another and the second man attacked him! Adalbert broke the two men up, who were now screaming at each other. He realized the constant strain and pressure of the lost children was putting all the villagers on edge. It would only get worse if they couldn’t find them.
As they returned to the village late that day, they ran into a family of travelers on the road, coming from the north. The small Jewish family of five had a horse cart and were almost at the village of Schwarzbrunn by the time the search party met with them. The villagers glared at the family with the typical hatred of Jews felt by all good Catholics.
The man in the family waved and slowed the horse cart to allow the search party to catch up. Adalbert told the villagers he could talk to the family and they could return to the village. He could not help but overhear several of the man noting the family were Jews. They didn’t seem happy about that.
Adalbert went to the family and the man greeted him and introduced himself as Samuel. He introduced his wife, Esther, and his three children: Samuel, David, and Ruth. He told the man they were traveling to visit relatives to the south to celebrate Hanukkah together. They had seen the village ahead and planned to find shelter there for the night.
Adalbert looked up into the sky. It was late afternoon, about an hour until dark.
“Find shelter?” he said.
“Yes,” Samuel said.
“It’s probably not the best place to stay.”
“Well, we’re Jews. We’re used to not being welcome anywhere where there are Christians. We’ll make do. We always do. We certainly can’t continue traveling after dark. That would be foolish.”
Samuel had started to walk as they talked. Adalbert related to him the disappearances of the children in the area.
“Really?” Samuel said. “Well, there was a dead child found in the next village to the north. I believe it was on the 3rd of December, after he’d gone missing for a day.”
He shook his head.
“The world has gone mad,” he said.
Adalbert walked into town with the Jews and was surprised when one of the villagers agreed to share his house with the people. Other villagers prepared to share food with the travelers but Adalbert noticed many of them were sharpening knives or fussing with their farming implements - especially the sharp ones. The Jews seemed obvious to it.
Adalbert suggested to Samuel he keep his distance from the villagers.
“How?” the other man asked him. “We can’t travel in the night. Something will get us.”
Adalbert noticed several small groups of villagers gathering and muttering among themselves, glaring at the house where the Jews were settling in. He ended up suggesting he stay the night with them that night. Samuel was glad for the company though seemed confused by the offer.
Adalbert went back to the monastery around suppertime. He went to his cell for his great axe and then found Father Weißwald eating a simple meal with the monks.
“Have you found anything?” Father Weißwald asked, noticing the man was heavily armed. “What have you found?”
“Just … found some … traveling … Jews,” Adalbert said. “The villagers are displeased. I’m going to stay the night with them to make sure the villagers don’t … take out any of their anger on them. And then send them on their way in the morning.”
Father Weißwald did not seem to mind so Adalbert went back to the village and found the small family in the tiny house with the villagers who lived there. The Jews were praying, which also seemed to put the villagers off. The people started to disperse, going back to their homes, as Adalbert sat outside the front door, sharpening his axe with a whetstone.
Not long after dark, he saw movement in the village and soon after, over a score of villagers gathered together. They had torches, scythes, sickles, carving knives, and threshing flails and approached the house in a mob. Adalbert sighed and stood up. Hagen, among them, came forward holding a torch.
“Hagen,” Adalbert said.
“Adalbert, step aside,” Hagen said. “These people need to learn their place. They’re probably responsible for this somehow … or their kind is.”
“They’re just simple travelers, I would think.”
“They’re … they’re Jews! You’ve been kind. You’ve been helping us search. We appreciate that. We don’t want to have to hurt you.”
The crowd grumbled and mumbled angrily amongst themselves.
“Give us the Jews!” someone called.
“They killed our Savior!” another said.
“God knew they were coming!” yet another said. “So he smote this village. We cannot … we have to appease him.”
Adalbert realized the villagers were looking for a scapegoat.
“Hagen, go home,” he said.
“You’re not going to be able to stop us all, Adalbert,” Hagen said. “Just step aside. We’ll take care of it. Take care of it.”
Adalbert stood his ground.
* * *
Father Weißwald happened to look out the window of his cell after he blew out the candle and noticed numerous lights in the village.
“Adalbert, what have you done this time?” he muttered.
He pulled on his boots and his cloak and headed down to the village at a brisk walk.
* * *
The villagers were restless. Adalbert had seen such things before. He was certain they were about to rush him.
“This isn’t going to solve anything,” he said. “These are just travelers. If they had been the cause of this, you would have seen them or some trace of them during the searches for the children.”
The villagers surged forward as a group and Adalbert used the handle and blunt end of his axe to try to hold them off. The villagers were trying to grapple the man to pull him away from the door but he stood his ground, knocking villagers aside and down in an effort to keep them out of the house and push them back. The scuffle lasted for what felt like a long time.
* * *
Father Weißwald was halfway to the village when he saw what appeared to be a fight. He hiked up his robes and began running, tripping and falling in the dark. He leapt back up and kept running down the road to the village.
* * *
Adalbert was still trying to fight off the villagers by the time Father Weißwald ran up to the back of the crowd. The guard had bloodied quite a few noses and knocked down several of the villagers as they tried to drag him away from the door unsuccessfully.
“Hey!” Father Weißwald yelled. “What’s going on!?!”
A few people let out startled shouts when he yelled but the shout was not loud enough for those in the front. Adalbert continued fighting off several of the villagers though he saw the priest.
“Weißwald!” Adalbert yelled.
“This doesn’t concern you, father,” one of the villagers near the priest said to him. “We’ve got something to deal with! Some Jews!”
“You need to stop assaulting my guard!” Father Weißwald said. “He is a man of God! Back away!”
The villagers all stopped and stared at the man, some muttering among themselves that it was the priest sent by the bishop. A few of them started calling for Hagen to tell the priest what they were doing but the entire mob was slowly losing its momentum.
They pushed Hagen to the back of the group and the man suddenly looked sheepish.
“With all due respect, sir,” he said. “Those are Jews. They must be part of this. They must be the cause.”
He turned to the mob.
“Right?” he called. “They must be the cause, right?”
A few of the villagers muttered in agreement.
“They’ve barely been here a couple hours, sir,” Father Weißwald said.
“They sent their minions ahead of them!” someone else cried out.
“You say that Jews control werewolves?” Father Weißwald said unbelievingly.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” another man said.
Every person who spoke looked away, embarrassed, under the priest’s withering glare.
“Go back to your homes!” Father Weißwald said. “You’re supposed to be protecting your women and children!”
The villagers looked at each other and after only a short while, the mob dispersed. Father Weißwald noticed several of them were bleeding or injured. Adalbert had a few superficial cuts and bruises as well. Eventually the mob broke up and the villagers went home.
The door opened and Samuel thanked the two profusely, noting again what he had told Adalbert about the child missing from the village to the north.
“The world’s gone mad,” he muttered again. “Gone completely mad. Although we don’t believe the same thing, I appreciate you saving my family and myself.”
Adalbert decided to guard the Jews for the rest of the night but determined to stay inside the house. He suggested to Samuel that he and his family leave at first light and was gratified to hear Samuel heartily agree.
“As soon as we can get away,” the man said.
Father Weißwald decided to spend the night at the house as well. Both of them spent the night awake, guarding the Jews. At least they didn’t have any nightmares.
* * *
At the break of dawn on Friday, December 16, Samuel and his family packed up their cart and were away from the village, thanking both of them profusely and shaking their hands in gratitude, bidding Jehovah bless them both.
Father Weißwald was up early to return to the monastery for Lauds. He only got a little sleep that morning. Adalbert had gotten no sleep and was exhausted that day.
Despite their exhaustion, Father Weißwald decided to visit the village to the north with the missing child. He consulted with Adalbert, who said he would go with him and was somewhat flattered that the man asked him what he thought.
They took the exhaustive journey, leading the mule Gertrude.
They never learned the name of the other village, so exhausted were they. However, they did learn a child had disappeared on the third of December and the villagers had found the body that same day. The circumstances were very strange: the body had been drained of blood. The villagers there were certain it was a vampire that had sucked the child dry. The child was buried soon after and the village healer, who tended to the body, did not examine it carefully. A stake had been nailed into the body and its head had been cut off and garlic shoved into its mouth to keep it from rising again. There had been no disappearances since.
The villagers confronted the priest, wanting to know what he knew. He told them he was pretty well-read on werewolves and it didn’t sound like a werewolf. He also learned they had not experienced any kind of shaking of the earth, nor had they had anything else out of the ordinary happen in the village. The villagers noted they would be grateful if the priest blessed the grave, which he did, and they asked the man to say a mass for them, which he did. They put him and Adalbert up in one of the homes.
They continued to have the strange dreams that night.
* * *
They left the little village on Saturday, December 17, returning to Schwarzbrunn by the late afternoon. Both realized December 3 was important. If someone from the village or the monastery was responsible, their absence on that date would be a clue to their guilt.
They decided to go talk to Abbot Winfried about it privately.
He was happy to help them, consulting his own records. During the time in question, there were two monks missing from Schwarzbrunn: Fabian and Waldemar. Both were absent. Waldemar was sent to collect an outstanding tithe. Fabian was supposed to transfer some completed books to the bistum.
They recognized Waldemar as the monk who had taken the death watch for the first slain child, Elsbeth, the first night they had arrived. However, they remembered the monk was also portly. The monk in the red robes had been too slim to be Waldemar. He was simply too large and heavyset.
When they asked, they learned Abbot Winfried knew of no one who used a red hood.
“Why do you ask?” he asked them.
Adalbert explained he had seen someone sneaking out to the church a few nights before in a red hood. That perplexed the abbot greatly.
* * *
They had nightmares again that night, of the same child they had seen in their dreams before.
They were awoken early the morning of Sunday, December 18, by Brother Hildulf who seemed in great distress. He told them he needed them to come at once to witness what he had seen.
“You need to see the abominable blasphemy!” he said, nearly in tears.
Adalbert donned his leather armor and grabbed his short sword. The monk waited impatiently and finally led them both down into the courtyard where a child’s body was suspended from the steeple of the church with a rope around his neck. It appeared, in the dim light, to be a boy. Brother Hildulf told them he had seen the body when he had gone to the church to prepare it for Lauds.
“It looks like the child Friedrich!” Brother Hildulf said.
He grabbed Adalbert’s arm in terror, pulling upon it.
“Should we inform the abbot?” Adalbert said.
“Take down the body,” Father Weißwald said to the man.
“Go get the abbot,” Adalbert said to Brother Hildulf.
The poor monk fled.
Adalbert entered the church and climbed up to the body, pulling it down and bringing it back to the ground. He took the dead child into the Parlatorium. Father Weißwald looked over the child and both he and Adalbert saw the marks on the ankles and wrists. The child was also very pale. He was not bloated or his face blackened and his eyes bulging out. A quick examination proved there was a cut on his neck on the right side, like all the others. Father Weißwald realized the child had been drained of blood, killing him, and then hung on the steeple for some reason. He told Adalbert of his conclusion.
The monks and the abbot were all roused and came to the Parlatorium. Brother Benjamin took the body to the washroom to prepare it without a word, stoic in the face of such terror as he had been before. Brother Fabian had tears in his eyes. Waldemar and the rest of the monks looked terrified. They all muttered about such blasphemy. Abbot Winfried ordered Brother Hildulf down to the village to inform the villagers they had found the body of Friedrich. He instructed the monk not to disclose the circumstances of finding the body but to merely state the body was found near the church. Hildulf left, terrified.
Abbot Winfried dismissed the monks from Lauds.
* * *