Hagan Grimmbrow is seated at his desk studying the black tome from Rainbow Falls. He looks carefully at the cover, then looks back at the language samples he borrowed from Azbot. Frustrated, he sits back in his chair and stares out the window into the cemetary behind the Raven Queen Temple.
A knock on the door wakes him from his reverie.
A woman and her young son walk in and look around. The woman looks back through the door and then carefully shuts the door and walks further into Hagan’s sanctuary.
“Please, sit down. Can I help you?”
The woman looks down at her son, and then back at Hagan. The son is staring up at Hagan with wide eyes and jaw slightly dropped.
“I am sorry, he doesn’t mean to stare, its just- well, we haven’t seen anyone with your, um, gray skin before. And your tattoos are…. interesting.”
Her smile wavers and she clears her throat.
“I have a favor to ask you. My husband, rest his soul, lost his life last week. We have been sitting for the required week, but I have a special request before we bury him in the Raven Queen’s traditional manner.”
Hagan lifts a brow, and nods his head to encourage her to go on.
“We traveled here from Bury St. Edmunds in order to speak with you and have you perform the rituals for his burial. Before we do that, I would like you to take a look at his body.”
Hagan inhaled deeply and glanced down briefly at the child who was still staring at either his piercing, tattoos, or his jet black eyes, but Hagan didn’t care.
“Of course. Let me gather my things. You may wait here if you like.”
Hagan turned and opened the heavy door that lead to the back of the shop. He closed it and went to his room. He grabbed his ceremonial bag from the footlocker near his bed. He checked it for all the components he may need: candles, silver nails, his ceremonial hammer, prayer book, holy water, and silver blanks. He adjusted the contents and donned his jacket. He scanned the room once more before closing the door to his room. He climbed the ladder in the back of the store that lead to the crawl-space. Hagan had to hunch over to move to small round door at the end of the platform. He pounded three times on the small round door.
“Lotho! Are you in there? We have work to do!”
Hagan listened to the scurrying sounds coming from the room before the small round door creaked open and Lotho Grubb peeked his pointed face out and sniffled as he adjusted his spectacles. Hagan swore that he could have hired a large rat to do Lotho’s job. And the rat would have worked for less.
“Ready to earn your keep, Halfling?”
Lotho jittered a little and pushed his glasses higher up his pointed nose.
“Yes sir, Mister Hagan. Right away.”
Hagan turned around and shuffled back to the ladder. He slid down the ladder and leaned against a chest and waited for Lotho. the little Halfling actually climbed down the ladder head first; just like a rat. Hagan handed Lotho the bag and the walked out into the front room. Hagan was somewhat amused to see the child look down at Lotho and giggle slightly. Hagan allowed himself a brief smile before he cleared his throat to speak.
“Very well, Miss. Now, i believe you wanted to show us something?”
“We brought him with us in the cart. He has been properly wrapped with Eucalyptus. Look here, ths is what I wanted to ask you about before we bury him.”
She pulls back the wrapping from the head of the dead man. She points to two puncture wounds in his neck, then looks at Hagan.
“When we found him he was so pale, it looked like he had been dead for days, but I know it was only a matter of hours. I saw him while we breaked fast together. Is it a snake bite? I know we have snakes in the region, but I can’t imagine how they got him up there. I guess he fell and they got him. Maybe the poison made him so pale? I didn’t know who else to ask. No one in the region would touch him. They said he was cursed! I knew you would help, people said to take him to you for burial, that you would know what to do so that he may cross over with the Raven Queen’s blessing.”
Lotho hopped up on the wagon weel to inspect the body. He leaned in close to the neck to inspect the wound.
“Awfully big snakebite Miss…”
Hagan latched his hand on the back of Lotho’s neck and hauled him off the wagon bed, dropping him on his feet on the cobble street.
“Do not touch him!”
Lotho looked up at Hagan with a look of confusion and slight panic. He peered over the edge of the wagon to look again.
“What’s the fuss, Mister Hagan? it’s just a snakebite…i think.”
Hagan knelt in front of Lotho, still taller than the halfling. He pulled Lotho a bit closer and wispered to him.
“Halfling, what do you know of snakebites?”
Lotho pondered the question for a moment before responding.
“Not much, Mister Hagan. Why do you ask?”
Hagan leaned in a bit closer and whispered a bit softer, as not to panic the woman and her child.
“And what of more…unnatural things that would leave a mark like that?”
Lotho knew enough to remain silent when Hagan spoke in this manner. He peered at the ground and held his tongue. Hagan rose and dusted his clothes off as he spoke.
“Play not the Doctor, Halfling. Stick to what you know; digging and…questionable maritime commerce.”
Lotho kicked the ground as his teacher spoke, acting like a dejected child as Hagan spoke to the woman.
“Miss, I have seen this before, though not in almost a decade, and not in this world.”
Hagan leaned in close to the woman, ignoring her fright as he whispered a single word: Vampire. He watched the woman’s expression change from shock to confusion and panic. He decided to speak before she began to create a scene.
“Fortunatley Miss, I know how to deal with the situation. I will discuss the process with you in a moment. Now I must gather some special items. I’m afraid I must ask you to remain with the cart. Your son may come inside if you wish, but make no mistake about it, the corpse cannot leave your sight for a moment. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
He turned on his heel and walked briskly back to the shop with Lotho on tow. he spoke to the Halfling, though he did not look at him, so focused he was on the task at hand.
“Halfling, this may be the most important thing you do in your life. You must follow my instructions exactly if this is to work.”
Hagan lead Lotho into his room and began opening chests and drawers, searching for something that Lotho could not fathom. Finally he seemed to find what he was looking for and tucked it into his pocket.
“This is what you must do: go into the cemetery, the far end of the cemetery. Take this holy water and consecrate a new grave. Take this ladder too, we may need it. Then start digging and don’t stop until I get there with the body, and you mustn’t dig into the water table. I’ll bring the casket with me. There’s a handsome bonus for you if you do this well. But if you fail me, I’ll see to it that you’re the first meal this creature has. Do you understand what must be done?”
Lotho was gathering supplies while Hagan was talking. he nodded to Hagan and exited to the cemetery, dragging the ladder behind him. Hagan reached into his pocket and drew out the stake and turned it over in his hand. The solid oak steak was almost a foot long and had silver inlayed script spiraling around it. Hagan recognized the binding words imediatley and quickley read them over to see that they were correct. He fitted the stake back into his coat and walked outside to meet with the woman. He only hoped that his plan would work. He saw that her son had come inside to wait. He looked down at the child with a look of urgency in his black eyes.
“Come, child. There’s work to be done.”
It is so very difficult to tell what stage the human was in, but Hagan was sure that the human was dead not undead. If the human had been tainted with the viper’s blood, he would have awoken on the way to Stony Cross. The woman and her child were safe, but there were no guarantees, and the only way to be sure was to complete the ritual.
Hagan moved the shrouded meal to its gravesite, and placed it in the casket. After completing the traditional prayers and dousing the body with more holy water, he looked to the woman and child and explained what he would have to do next.
“So the rumors were true? No, it just can’t be, my poor husband.”
“Please, you may want to turn away now.”
The mother and son turned away holding hands. Hagan placed the wooden stake on the chest of the dead man, aiming for his heart. He rose his arms, and slammed the stake into the chest of the body. The woman cringed but did not turn back. Hagan completed the ritual, speaking the words of the Raven Queen’s Blessing, Lotho watching his every move, memorizing his every word. Hagan removed the stake, and closed the casket. He then bound the casket with chains and locks. He covered the casket with some dirt, then passed the shovel to Lotho who continued to shovel dirt onto the casket until the chains could no longer be seen.
“Please, mam, you may turn around again.”
The woman and son turned and looked from Hagan down to the partially covered casket. Tears were in the eyes of the woman.
“Rest easy, mam, your husband is safe in death. And perhaps more importantly, he will remain that way.”
Hagan brought the mother and son back to his office to discuss the circumstances and determine what to do next. One thing was for sure, at least one vampire was in the nearby region, and that was too close for comfort.
Hagan led Lotho into the back room where he started to unpack his sachel. Lotho started to climb up the ladder to his room wheh Hagan started to speak to him.
“Lotho, i need a fovor of you. Go down to the docks and speak with your family. Find out if they’ve heard anything of this vampire from their contacts. speak of this only with those you believe you can trust. When this is done, take the rest of the day off. I’ll handle things around here”
Lotho beamed his ratty little slime as he scampered down the ladder.
“thank you, Mister Hagan. I’ll tell you what i know tomorrow….er, Mister Hagan? what about that reward you spoke of earlier?”
Normall, Hagan would not have tollerated such insolent behavior from his apprentice, but today he had his mind in too many places
“you’ll get your bonus when i collect the fee, now run allong and come back with some usefull information”
Lotho walked brislky out of the room and out into the street. Hagan stopped and sat down on a trunk to think for moment. A Vampire. of all the things to happen, a vampire got sloppy and left a victim to be found. this one was either young, weak and stupid, or strong enough not to care if he got caught. In Hagan’s experiance, both were dangerous. he decided to put the matter out of mind until he had more information on the subject.
Hagan stode into the room again, sweating a bit from the undue panic he had from thinking of the creaure that had just provided him with his newest corpse.
“Forgive me, miss. Vampires have a tendancy to make me…uncomfortable. Now, i’m afraid that graves aren’t free. Normaly i’d charge extra for the rush and for the aditional binding rite, but under the circumstances, i’ll stick to the normal cost for a burrial; 15 gold pieces.”