Title: "Wolves of Brennenburg" - Chapter 1
Author: Lady Scale
Summary: The Baron of Brennenburg is the owner of several wolf-like dogs.
Just one of the many oddities Daniel finds during his stay at the castle, his curiosity revealing mysteries and intrigues. Savory descriptions, intimidating hounds, peculiar servants, and a plethora of delicious references Amnesia fans are sure to love.
Fandom(s): 'Amnesia - The Dark Descent'
2nd August 1839
I have arrived at the village of Altstadt. It's a haven in the midst of a vast forest and it's the last stop before my final destination, Castle Brennenburg. It's late in the evening and the outrider, who has been with the coach since Bremen, advised me to wait until morning before I venture further.
I have arranged for a bed at Der Mühle, the village's only inn, and am now waiting for the sun to rise. I try to sleep, but as I close my eyes I see the men who fell victim in London. My fear and shame forces me to witness the same scenes over and over.
They are dead because of me.
~~~= (@) =~~~
Upon finishing the paragraph, Daniel sets the ink pen down and closes his journal. The candle on the nightstand at his side had melted almost to a stub since he had let it burn through a significant portion of the night.
Nearly the dead of night he noticed upon checking his pocket watch. He had tried to rest as soon as he arrived to the inn at dusk almost three hours ago, laying his travel-weary body under the white sheets, but his restless mind and the uncertainty of what may lay beyond in his dreams made him toss and turn until those sheets were haphazardly tangled around him.
And so he remains awake, covers up to his waist and leaning against the headboard, busying himself with whatever's at his disposal. Depositing his thoughts in writing onto paper and staring at the soothing balm of candle-light, he hoped for slumber to overcome him.
Daniel finally puts his journal back in the traveling case at the side of the bed, and easing out of the covers, he carefully treads bare feet over the wooden floor towards the window. The inn had an unobstructed view of the castle which loomed in the far distance.
The dark towers of Brennenburg rose above the forest and were silhouetted against the snow white moon. He couldn't help feeling sad for some reason.
He had heard hushed whispers about the castle from a few of the local villagers. That it was haunted, that it was unholy, that it housed sect worshipers, that the servants were former convicts, that the owner was supposedly not human
all manner of deviant thoughts and possibilities bordering on ridiculous. Not one to take to heart the insecurities of unschooled peasants, much less those superstitious enough to forfeit handling their livestock if the onions on the dinner table are the wrong color, he reckoned whatever was supposedly unwell with the grounds was nowhere near as ghastly as what was plaguing his every step.
Dragging his feet back towards the bed, he attempts once again to go to sleep, blowing out the candle before hurriedly digging himself further into the sheets. Making sure his legs were securely wrapped and that no part of him lay exposed to the open air, tucking the covers up high over his back and head into a comfortable cocoon, Daniel looked at the moon through the glass of the wide window pane, its glow filtering in and caressing his face.
And there, in the absence of any other light, in the presence of hidden leviathans coiled around bedposts and unseen horrors lurking in the shadows of coat hangers, all which only existed in the back of his mind, the moon never looked so beautiful.
An indiscernible amount of time passes where his limited range of view is focused on the alluring rays of the sublime pale moon. A faded wail is heard. Then another followed by more, overlapping eachother. His mind resonated with memories of lakes echoing with the call of loons under the orange mist of sunset.
Then it dawns on him, under scrutiny of the moonlight moonlight which called to mystic connotations, poetic allusions, and countless associated symbols of the moon in his mind discarded the enigma of loons singing so late and in tandem.
He realizes, now with almost certain clarity, that what he hears is not the call of water fowl, but the howling of wolves.
And yet, strangely, it doesn't strike fear in him like he thought it would, but more with a sense of almost curiosity. He's uncertain whether it's an isolated occurrence or if it should be a cause for worry.
Nonetheless, the haunting chant, fading and then coming back to hound the odd times of the clock, is enough to keep him from the very edge of dormancy for another good portion of the night.
~~~= (@) =~~~
In the eve of the next day, Daniel was quick to board the carriage, and as it made its way towards Brennenburg Castle up the hill, he listened to the trot of horse hooves over the pebbles and gravel of the forest path.
A haze of greenery passed by him as he leaned his head against the wood paneling, and the twists and turns of the path leading ever deeper into the forest made him feel like he was entering grounds forgotten to the world.
The morning sun flickered between the pine trees as the carriage approached the castle. A faint memory of reflections in the window pane repeated itself over and over.
In brief glimpses through the canopy, he saw how its large silhouette loomed ever closer, and Daniel didn't know how much time had passed until he inattentively felt the carriage grind to a halt at the front of the massive gates.
The edifice was even more of an imposing marvel up close, its visage made almost entirely of colossal flagstones, and his eyes darted around trying to take it all in, the implications of such grandeur sinking in. He was in the presence of prestige which has spanned for generations. A royal legacy.
Hearing the outrider handling his suitcases in the back, Daniel idly watched the servants of the estate bustling around the courtyard.
Until he saw a pair of eyes watching him.
He suddenly raises his head off the perch of his palm and sits up straighter in his seat.
Frozen, in his thoughts and on the spot, he noticed that, from behind the massive wrought iron gates, this gray-pelted creature looked back with unsettling yellow eyes.
He didn't dare tare his view away thinking it would disappear, that gaze thrumming against deeply-rooted instincts. The same self-preservation impulse that is used to the butterfly's advantage when it put eyespots on its wings, or how some amphibians developed symmetrical circles on their backs.
Daniel is fixated at the sight of this large dog wolf, his intellectual side corrected - sitting on the other side of the dark iron gates, and some part of his mind suspended in its relative eternity wondered why the people wandering through the courtyard did not take notice of it.
The puzzling grey-colored wolf, seemingly disinterested in him now, sat up and walked out of his view behind the high stone wall.
Before he could rationalize what he'd just seen, the outrider opened the door of the carriage. Promptly he disembarked and walking through the gates which have been opened to them, he quickly glanced around to where that animal might have gone to. Strange. Was it a ghostly apparition or a trick of the mind from lack of sleep?
Daniel is greeted by the estate's staff, all clad in working uniforms and aprons. And there at the top of the stairs on the veranda stood who he undoubtedly could recognize as the lord of the manor.
The baron of Brennenburg himself.
~~~= (@) =~~~
His welcoming was gracious and the baron, who introduced himself as Alexander, and his servants were all dignified. And straight away, he noted, he was congratulated for arriving on such short notice.
Daniel did not expect for the nobleman to be so
advanced in his years, but even so, he still retained a very distinguished air about him. The foremost thing that grabbed his attention about the baron however was his eyes. A very light brown- no, a positively amber-like color. And then there was his voice. A deep powerful baritone that enchanted every word.
On his way to eastern Prussia, the few foreigners he tried to converse with in English either had very limited knowledge of it or had a very heavy german accent, but the baron's grasp of the English language was unparalleled. Why even an ounce of an accent was all but gone.
He was escorted through the castle's vast halls, and he was left in awe at the sight of it all. Upholstered furniture polished to a fine sheen, grand paintings, wide arched windows, and lavish carpeting greeted him. As he was led to his dorm however, he had to stop and ponder the very peculiar fountain in the back hall.
Unpacking his belongings in that superb guest room with a maid's help, and while he let his mind wander, his interest piqued on something which didn't occur to him at first. The more he thought about it, the more the darker tanned skin looked unusual for the nobleman. Normally such complexion was reserved for travelers and even field workers. And from what little bits he heard here and there about the baron, he's well-known to be quite a recluse, so what did he do that hindered his skin from growing pale, something Daniel guessed would be customary for aristocrats? What kind of occupations yielded the nobleman that sun-kissed look?
Later, when he had settled in to his new surroundings, Daniel discussed with Alexander about his coming here to Prussian lands. The baron simply stated like before, that he can help him, and that he can tell him anything because he will believe it.
Alexander then declared not only his pageant for the supernatural but also his profound study and extended research on the matter. He assured that he's the person in the best position to help the Englishman after all, who else would even believe Daniel's situation, much less take it seriously? And as for what the baron stood to gain out of this, it would sate his own burning pursuit for knowledge. But the Englishman reminded him about the men who fell victim to the curse, and urged caution: "
Is the pursuit for knowledge so important at such great a risk? Those men before
I fear for your life, sir."
"Naturally there would be dire consequences for those who approach the matter without any familiarity of the topic. Like in the art of medicine, if the wrong cure or dose is prescribed, the patient will fall even further into illness. And precisely why my studies will help you combat this condition."
Then the baron said something which sent inquisitive delight to Daniel's inner explorer. "They may seem conflicting at first, Daniel, but when one seeks to delve further into both science and magic," Alexander stressed the word "-and search for their hidden grains of truth, to understand their basic principles, the boundaries between them become ever more blurred." The last word sounded like it was uttered by thunder incarnate, and that entire rhetoric was ennobled in the baron's rich voice.
They then proceeded to stroll through the corridors discussing about other topics. Before, when they had first started the conversation and the nobleman talked about his focus on the supernatural, the cautious part of Daniel's conscience had to wonder how much of the half-conceived stories he heard from villagers and the like were based on some sort of truth. But then of course the unknowledgeable would fear the unknown, and any oddity that was shown to them would be viewed with suspicion.
However, now that the more Alexander spoke, and Daniel in turn took the time to listen, to get to know the man, he steadily revealed his vast wisdom. And with its delivery streaked with loving metaphors and clever turns of phrases, soon that oddness seemed so unimportant.
Particularly in his current dreadful predicament, with Alexander seemingly more than willing to protect him, and with that very same unnatural lore, he simply didn't have the argument or the heart to disdain the man. He felt increasingly certain he could trust his life in the baron's hands.
While they both talked, Daniel would notice in the corner of his eye how the servants, who look plain in all regards, would pay them no mind while they went about their business, giving them ample space, almost to the point of actively avoiding them. Perhaps out of simple politeness for the lord's privacy? Possibly. He'd heard examples of quirkiness back home in England. For example, some members of higher-society asking their staff to leave them be when they're at the table because they didn't like being watched when they ate or had their tea. And while on a culinary-inspired topic, he also found it odd that wherever the servants went, they would leave a subtle smell of spiced wine with a hint of clove and sage in their wake. Daniel is still not sure what to make of that.
Continuing, Alexander listed the preparations which were made for his arrival, such as readying the guest room with various deterring wards and diverting charms, the servants fortifying weaker areas in the castle and making room in the courtyard today for the hounds- Daniel did a double-take.
"Oh, you have dogs?" he asked when the baron off-handedly mentioned about them.
"Indeed I do. Come and have a look." Alexander spoke as he led him towards the terrace doors at the periphery of the foyer. Over the stone balustrade, Daniel looked at the grass-covered courtyard below and saw them.
"Wolves?" he uttered, wholly perplexed.
"Not quite. Wolf-dogs, to be precise. And they are unique to Brennenburg's dominion." The baron stated, gesturing to the beings below.
From up the terrace Daniel counted nearly a dozen of them, all with various coat colors: from grey to brown to black and even white, and by what he could tell, all the dogs had pointed ears and wore collars. They were roaming around the castle grounds, either playfighting, chasing or grooming eachother, and some others were relaxing in the shade or chewing on cattle bones. All the while he heard barking and growling and sometimes a short howl. Daniel tried to see if he could spot the one he thought he saw earlier.
"Are they not beautiful?" Alexander murmured, interrupting his thoughts.
"How are they not feral?" and Daniel mentally scolded himself. "Uh, I mean, how do you manage to train them?" He quickly asked, ashamed of the lapse in his manners. His supposed cultured manners demanded of respectable British men such as himself from the high-classed and well-bred society of the United Kingdom.
"Time, dedication, and calculated selective breeding." The baron said matter-of-factly but not at all in irritation. In fact, his chest swelled as he conveyed it with a sense of pride. "Generations worth of effort to combine the best traits from both lineages, resulting in this very distinct breed you see here. They are of noble blood and as such, have free reign over much of the castle." Now turning to face him more fully, he continued. "Even so, it would have been undermining for my role as your guardian if I let you encounter them on the first day of your stay here. I eagerly await for tomorrow when you will greet on more suitable terms."
At that, Daniel felt uneasy. Once again he looked down at the hounds, hearing the continued chorus of barks and snarling, catching glimpses of eye shine and flashes of ivory teeth.
As if sensing his insecurity, Alexander explained further. "I can't be around all the time to aid you. By tomorrow you must learn how to cohabitate with them so in turn they would be accustomed to your presence, and maybe even accept you into the pack. After all, it would not do you any good if you're mistaken for some skulking stranger."
"Is it really that necessary?" he voiced his doubt. Alexander placed a hand on his shoulder. "I am not asking you to brave the curse alone because I know you cannot. But can you be brave enough to face some dogs?"
And Daniel had to admit, that yes. Compared to his 'curse', a pack of dogs doesn't seem as intimidating. "I'll try." He uttered, eyes downcast. Another hand was placed on his other shoulder, making him raise his head to meet the baron's gaze.
"Are you feeling confident enough? Can you trust me to guide you in approaching the family?" he reiterated. Piercing amber eyes jolted him to attention, and squaring his shoulders, "Yes." he firmly said, the baron's voice giving him confidence.
With a smile on his lips, Alexander nodded. "It's settled then."
~~~= (@) =~~~
The following meals that day consisted of a lot of meat. A mouthwatering dish of veal basted in red wine with a side of diced giblets in a dressing of what Daniel could taste was made of boiled egg yolk and onions.
And for dinner, the first course was something the baron called 'Goulaschsuppe', which was tomato and beef soup spiced with paprika and garlic. And then an even more exotic fare for the Englishman, rolls of tender deer meat wrapped in strips of pheasant with a sour cream sauce garnish full of slices of various types of mushroom. Finally, a plate of caramelized bits of fowl meat all drizzled in honey for dessert. The notion that meat could be sweetened boggled his mind, but the result was exquisite.
Daniel savored every bite, the feast of lavish foreign flavors filling him with earthly pleasures and helped take his mind off his worries.
He's told there will be meat for tomorrow's breakfast as well, since it will help if he smelled more like a predator rather than a prey item, or as Alexander put it: "not be a lamb in the wolves' den".
Even among the day's delights, Daniel felt somehow inadequate. All he was capable of doing lately was thinking and receiving, speaking less almost up to the point where he presumed that his mouth felt numb. He felt like he should be more active and receptive, but he was just so tired, entire weeks worth of potential rest drained from him. Already he had some 'senior moments' and gaffes in conversation, although the baron seemed unaffected by it. Along with restful slumber, he hoped it wouldn't get any worse.
That evening Daniel wrote in his journal:
3rd August 1839
I feel like I have fled the world and all its worries. Brennenburg is a majestic creation perched upon a forest-clad hill with towers reaching well above even the highest pine trees. Following the winding road leading to the gates gives the impression of discovering something forgotten, as if journeying with Marco Polo to the hidden Xanadu.
Alexander, the baron, is a peculiar but gracious man. He seems well versed in worldly matters and is not at all-
He thought at first for the sentence to be "not at all eccentric", but pondering further about what he currently knew about the man, decided to add the 'as', the word seemingly highlighted in his head -
-not at all as eccentric as I assumed. My room is exquisite and I am confident that no hotel for miles could even hope to match it.
As the sun sets on Brennenburg its fairy-tale varnish turns to an eerie gloom. Alexander's strange servants are never far away. They are a quiet lot and their behavior could only be described as skulking. Alexander seems pleased by my presence. As he puts it, it seems like I got here just in time.
To my surprise, I learnt that the baron is the owner of several half-wolf hybrids, and he seems to hold great pride in them. Tomorrow however, I will have to come in contact with these potentially dangerous hounds.
Alexander promises no harm would befall me provided I follow his lead precisely as instructed. Though I've only known him for a day, I can already tell the baron is sensible man and I know it's ultimately for my protection.
Even so, I pray that my faith won't be misplaced.
~~~= (@) =~~~