Friday, November 25, 2011

Wolding Twilight

This is going to make some folks unhappy, but I'm finding it difficult not to include the Twilight novels into the WNU.  It belongs due to a solid link noted right here by James Bojaciuk.  Honestly, that some mythologists so dislike anything aimed at a primary audience of teenage girls (or whatever) to my mind simply cannot count as a factor in this.

Instead, let us examine precisely what the genuine problems of including the Twilight Saga might be.

First, the bloodline of vampires involved.  Actually, this one proves pretty easy to narrow down.  The Cullens (who are the vampires with whom we must deal at the moment) nearly always kill any human being they bite, but can (out of habit and rigid discipline) avoid human blood by feasting on animals.  More, they suffer little or no ill effects from sunlight.  In the books sunlight doesn't bother them at all, but they avoid it anyway--because they sparkle.  Leave the sparkling aside, all this pretty much matches up to the Dacian bloodline to which the Karnsteins belong. Yet there remain disparities. 
A Karnstein vampire in sunlight
The Cullens are much stronger and faster and more durable than any Karnstein.  More, we are told they never sleep whereas Karnsteins evidently most certainly do.  And as far as we know, no other Dacian vampire sparkles.  Unless we consider the question of fictionalization.

Storytellers tend to exaggerate for effect.  In fact the extreme degree of personal strength and power demonstrated in Stephanie Meyer's book would seem exactly the kind of thing an author might bump up.  Just as Superman went from being able to leap tall buildings to easily capable of picking up and throwing a white dwarf star, so the vampires in Forks could easily be a lot less Kryptonian.  When you think on it, that detail makes zero difference to the story. Neither does the sparkling.

If we then identify the Cullens as a group of Dacian vampires who're trying to be "good" a la Nicholas Knight, the vampires of Sundown, etc. what of the other undead in the series?  Who are the Volturi?  Most likely some upper level members of the Myskatos Sect (as identified by Marvel Comics in The Death of Dracula) aka the Corvini Coven (so-called in the Underworld films and novels), rumor of which may have suggested the Camarilla to White Wolf Publishers, creators of the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade and later Vampire: The Requiem.  It seems clear from these and other sources that some kind of social order exists among the undead, rather loose in structure but iron-clad when it comes to certain matters--especially allowing the bulk of humanity to realize vampires exist.  Within this social structure Dracula would appear to be a monarch--preferably an absolute one but (as ever) having to contend with efforts by other undead to get away with what they can.  My theory, then, is that the Volturi (named for the town where
Death Dealer
they make a base, Volturra Italy) are the equivalent of upper level aristocrats under the vampire 'king' Dracula.  Most likely their concern about Edward and Bella successfully bringing for a child stemmed (officially) from fears over the creation of yet another dhampir.  These beings, such as Blade, have often proven extremely dangerous vampire hunters.  Of course we also know that the leader of the Volturi hoped to "collect" some members of the Cullens for his court.  In which case the Volturi 'guard' are essentially what in another context we would know as Death Dealers.

As for the other vampires in the tale, they are simply other undead of various bloodlines, pursuing their own agendas.  Much is made of Forks' cloud cover, which might account for why various undead were willing to act during daylight (if indeed they did any such thing).  The Wolf Tribe of shape-shifters offer no real impediment to the story's inclusion.  Actually, given the Corvini centuries-long war with werewolves they justify the Volturi's reaction even further.

Having read the Rip Haywire strip used as a crossover, I must also point out the lack of anything I could call sparkling.  At least I didn't spot it.  But then, I can also pretty easily explain why one specific vampire might sparkle--namely his presence at an explosion near some diamond dust.  The dust became embedded in his skin and there's just too much of it to feasibly remove.  Voila!


And there's also a comic book called Female Force that explains how Stephanie Meyer is under the control of one of Dracula's soul-clones, in an effort to diffuse fear of the undead (Many thanks to the aforesaid Mr. James Bojaciuk for uncovering this tidbit as well as the Rip Haywire comic)!  One the basis of the above, here therefore is a scenario to explain the true history behind Twilight:

Carlisle Cullen
We know a movement exists among some of the undead to live in harmony with human-kind.  At least two of Dracula's soul-clones actually adhere to this idea (Grimpod as well as Latos).  The Sutekhim Nicholas Knight as well as Turokians Angel and Spike plus the Varnean undead Barnabas Collins do as well.  An entire colony of vampires in Arizona have dedicated themselves to exactly such a lifestyle (as chronicled in Sundown The Vampire In Retreat).  Evidently two other covens do as well--one of rather sirenesque women who make their home in Alaska, and the wandering Cullen family, who sometimes make their haven in Forks.  The Cullens are quite clearly Dacians and their sire Carlisle an elder.  He personally turned four others--Edward, Esmee (who became Carlisle's mate), Rosalie and Emmett (who became a couple).  In time their coven was joined by two others, Alice and her mate Jasper--evidently both Dacians and the former (like Edward) possessing extraordinary psychic gifts.

Sometime after his turning during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, Edward left Carlisle's side seeking to hunt murderous humans.  We can guess it was at this time he suffered an accident involving an explosion and diamond dust.  Quite probably he returned home after this humiliation, when he became The Vampire Who Sparkles (mind you, how diamond dust might have interacted with his vampire physiology remains an intriguing question).

At one point, the Cullens encountered and made a treaty with the wolf-based shape-shifting protectors of a Native American tribe in the vicinity of Forks, Washington.  Many decades later, one of this tribe fell in love with the local sheriff's daughter, Bella Swan (one suspects her father was in his youth a dirt bike racer who accidentally became his own great great grandfather due to a time travel experiment).  What caused a problem was when Bella met and fell in love with Edward Cullen, and he likewise fell for her (part of the initial attraction may have been his inability to read her mind--a side effect of her father's time travel--Edward even
The start of the Swann Clan
notes in Midnight Sun how difficult it is to "read" Bella's father).

One should note this means the fictional retelling of Charles Lyle Swann in the film Timerider (with took place five years before Bella's birth) made him seem almost twice his age at the time.  Likewise, he must have been a few years older than his wife Renee rather than high school sweethearts (probably this was a projection by Stephanie Meyer, echoing her own marriage at age 21).

Leaving the details of the love triangle aside, Edward ended up marrying Bella and making her pregnant.  Vampires generally are not fertile, although this might be a little less rare than it seems.  Circumstances being what they are, the opportunity for non-Corvini or non-Wamphyri vampires to impregnate human women doesn't seem to happen that often.  Also, just because an opportunity exists doesn't mean the woman will conceive.  Yet it does happen.  Sometimes.  Whether Bella's status as the offspring of a time traveler (see River Song for one example) had anything to do with it remains to be seen.

Their child would be a dhampir, like the notorious vampire-hunters Blade and Eve as well as Lilith "Lilly" Munster and a few others.  Coupled with the Cullens' alliance with a race of beings not unlike werewolves, this combination of events brought the attention of the Volturri, almost certainly high-level elders within the Myskatos Sect, one or more of whom might be a Corvini vampire (who have a long-standing feud/war with werewolves, their former slaves).

We don't know what precisely happened next.  But Dracula Prime or one of his soul-clones saw a potential in this story to influence the mainstream of humanity.  Most likely the example of Lestat's increasingly fictionalized versions (eventually becoming entirely imaginary) of his biography as written by Anne Rice served as inspiration.  A Mormon housewife with some undeveloped writing talent became the focus of the Impaler's will.  She even admitted in interviews to the dreams which led her to write the books.  Her world-view became the lens through which she saw and related this story.  Edward sparkled, so in her mind all vampires did.  She herself almost certainly waited until marriage to consummate her relationship, so naturally her Bella and Edward followed suit (which may have happened in the real world as well--it remains perfectly possible).  Likewise she gave to "her" characters the happy ever after ending she so ardently desired for them.  Eternal happiness together, an immortal child who would mature into a young woman, reconciliation with Jacob, the Volturri in effect giving up with none of their friends having to die, etc.

But what really happened?  Well, in Rip Haywire Edward seems to have a human girlfriend.  But she's blonde.  Poetic license?  Or a hint that Bella may be no more?  Where are the rest of the Cullens?  It isn't as if Edward needs to spend every day with his family.  On the other hand... the ending in the book really does seem too good to be true.  The Myskatos as a group react very badly to disobedience or what they see as challenges to authority.  Corvini elder Viktor killed his own daughter for mating with a werewolf.

We.  Don't.  Know.  Bella and her Edward might well be raising their half-vampire child somewhere right now, along side the Cullens and a protective pack of semi-werewolves.  Or the whole group may have been decimated.   Or something in between.  The truth, as some have said, is out there--but that doesn't mean it is always easy to find.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Elegant Warlords: The Corvini

I am grateful to the Underworld Wiki as well as MONSTAAH and The Crossovers Forum without which research on this article would have proven far more difficult, perhaps impossible.

Motion pictures, novels and comic books under the general heading of Underworld tell the story of a specific bloodline of the undead.
Selene & Selene
I maintain that within the (very) ficitonalized tales from Marvel Comics lie numerous hints of the Corvini, their activities and members.  One obvious such, mentioned in the Curse of the Mutants storyline, must be the Myskatos Sect--a faction of vampires who embrace technology and modern business techniques, preferring to function "behind the scenes" rather than seek overt political power.  Among other things they maintain a large public hospital whose high security allows members a haven as well as a source of blood.  This easily corresponds with what we know of the Corvini Coven (as it is called in the motion pictures).  Another bit of circumstantial evidence is the Marvel villain named Selene, a supposed mutant "energy vampire" whose lifespan extends centuries (eventually becoming the Hellfire Club's Black Queen).  Although on the surface the two appear quite dissimilar, in other ways they are remarkably alike.  Given Marvel's tendency to make up lurid details (see Legion of the Strange) for the purposes of story, this at least seems a possible point wherein the Corvini vampires and their faction interacted with characters established as part of the WNU.

Lady Holmwood & Erika
Another example is in the character of Lady Holmwood whose fate was chronicled in the BBC 2006 production of Dracula, telling one part of the multi-pronged effort in 1909 for Dracula Prime to have his revenge against the families who thwarted him in 1887.  While it is by no means conclusive, some evidence suggests that Lady Holmwood, after becoming a vampire, ended up as the concubine to Lord Kraven of the Myskatos Sect in Budapest nearly a century later (the novelization contradicts this, claiming Erica had been a vampire less than a human lifetime, but doesn't really specify what that means--making it possible that detail is a mistake)..

Far more suggestive, however, are events involving the so-called Vladislas soul-clone and the enigmatic being known as the Right Hand of God, i.e. Gabriel Van Helsing in the film Van Helsing.  Elements of that story contain numerous parallels with the Corvini.  Among the most obvious is that the Dracula-Vladislas (and his
Hybrid vampire form
three brides) showed the same startling hybrid form as Marcus Corvini--a huge humanoid bat.  This, we are told, stems from the unique genetic heritage of the descendants of Hungarian warlord Alexander Corvinus.  One of his sons was bitten by a vampire, another by a werewolf while a third remained human.  Most humans could not become either vampire or werewolf from the bite of a Corvini, but descendants of Alexander's third child could.  Dracula-Vladislas counted among his (human) relatives a young man of the Valerius family who became a werewolf of the same type of the Corvini lycanthropes (i.e. Lycans).  The sister of this young man also bore a startling resemblance to the Death Dealer Selene.  One is left with the strong suspicion that House Valerius descended from the immortal Alexander Corvinus (much as virtually all members of the Karnstein family have the potential to become vampires of a specific bloodline).
Then there is the television show Castle in which the title character--a successful author who has done lots of research into conspiracy theories and fringe movements as well as obscure lore--casually mentions his knowledge of the Vampire-Lycan War.  Another mythologist, James Bojaniuk, also pointed out:
Underworld uses the exact same wolf howl from An American Werewolf in London; Underworld: Evolution uses the werewolf transformation from An American Werewolf in London. These two bits of evidence seem to say that the already-included American Werewolf in London takes place in the same universe as the Underworld series.

Another detail that bears mentioning--Alexander Corvinus was the sole survivor of a plague in 5th century Hungary.  He emerged immortal from the experience, or so the story goes.   Methinks this might be something of an (understandable) assumption by observers.  We don't in fact know if his survival made him immortal,
Corwin of Amber
only that he did in fact survive.  I posit he was already immortal, or at least extremely long-lived by human standards, due to his paternal heritage.  Alexander Corvinus may have been the son of the Amberite Prince Corwin,  whose natural lifespan is certainly measured in centuries if not millennia.  Corwin visited Earth on many occasions, once during the Black Death (which he survived, although it left him with amnesia so he wandered the world for centuries, an unaging warrior with no idea who he might be--which brings up another wild possibility, that of he or one of his Shadows being the Left Hand of God, aka Gabriel Van Helsing!).   Although not particularly promiscuous, Corwin hardly could be called ascetic and we know he ended up with at least one offspring of whom he initially knew nothing.  Might he have impregnated a Hungarian woman sometime in the fifth century?  If so, it would help explain much of how Alexander Corvinus (note the name) came to survive that plague.

Still another--and not at all mutually exclusive possibility--remains.  Corvini vampires as well as the Vladislas clone possess one extremely unusual trait--fertility.  Male and female vampires of this bloodline can have children, with each other or with others.  Now and then other vampires (such as the Lejos and Mordante
Dracula-Vladislas & Brides
soul-clones) have shown the abiity to impregnate mortal women.  Others have managed to do it with mystical aid (the method used by Dracula Prime).  But for a vampire female to become pregnant, much less bring the child to term, hardly ever happens.  Among Corvini the evidence suggests this is very nearly the norm.  Indeed, since so few humans can even become Corvini vampires this might well be the primary method by which they increase their numbers!  Dracula-Vladislas encountered some difficulty, but one wonders if that is not because of his unique situation.  If indeed the Vladislas family are descended from Alexander Corvinus, as seems likely, it does not follow that the man eventually known as Dracula-Vladislas became a vampire of the Corvini line.  He might well have been bitten by some other type of vampire and his latent genetic heritage manifested in a way that was not seen again until the early 21st century with the mutation of Marcus Corvinus (as seen in Underworld Evolution).  We have no reason to suppose his 'brides' were related to the Corvinus family, so their ability to reproduce was seriously flawed, requiring help from Dr. Frankenstein to make their offspring viable (see the Van Helsing motion picture).

One more thought--also not at all exclusive to what is mentioned above.  One other breed of vampires demonstrated fertility, extreme damage from exposure to sunlight (several types of vampire find sunlight harmful and/or uncomfortable only) and radical shape-shifting.  I speak of the alien Wamphyri, from the alternate Earth called Starside, a handful of whom were banished to this world over the past few thousand years.  One of them, perhaps not coincidentally, vanished and was presumed destroyed by pirates in the 5th century near the Black Sea.  Nearly the same time and location as the plague from which Alexander Corvinus alone survived.  One must wonder if there is some connection?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Dragon and the Griffin

Possible Dracula-Karnstein arms

The late 20th century proved a time of great tumult for the world, both natural and supernatural.  One particularly vexing problem faced by the dread entity known as Dracula Prime was the increasingly renegade nature of his soul clones.  Denrom, Mordante, Grimpod, Latos, Lejos and others at one time or another broke free of their master's control.  At the same time, vampire hunters increased in numbers, in sophistication and in organization.

One intriguing solution to much of the above involved an experiment that in many ways was the dark mirror of the League of Anti-Diabolists' success story with the soul-clone Grimpod, his daughter Lilith (or "Lilly), her husband Herman (the creature created by Dr. Frederick Frankenstein) and their adopted son, a boy tainted with lycanthropy they named Eddy.

As chronicled in the motion picture Nadja, the last child of the Italian branch of the Karnsteins--a melancholy young lady named Irina--fell into the company of Lejos, a soul-clone of Dracula.  He had (presumably still has) with the rare ability among vampires of being able to father children.  Recovering at this point from a battle with a werewolf soon after WW2, Lejos had fallen in love with a gypsy girl and by her had a son, Edgar.  Irina ended up virtually adopted by Lejos (whose idea this was remains a valid but unanswered
Irina/Eness/Nadja/Magda
question) and she developed a strong emotional bond to Edgar her dhampir "brother."  In the end, sometime circa 1990 she enacted the same process as her mother when possessing Georgia, Leopold Karnstein's fiancee.  Irina/Enessa/Nadja took over the body of Edgar's lady love, and so married him.

Dracula Prime saw this rare, probably unique set of circumstances as an opportunity.  Two dhampirs had wed, and in the process one had created in effect a living soul-clone.  Neither Edgar nor his "sister" ever realized Lejos wasn't the real Dracula.  So neither expected to be kidnapped by agents of that entity, soon after confirming her pregnancy.  Brought to Transylvania, the son of Lejos found himself transformed into a full vampire, a soul-clone we might as well designate Dracula-Edgar.  His bride underwent a similar fate, but one with a twist.  In 1909 Lejos had met and vampirized Lucy Weston (as told in the 1931 motion picture Dracula) who somehow escaped the men focused on hunting down her sire.  She had found this dashing aristocrat very attractive and soon after became a willing servant of Dracula Prime deep in the heart of London.  Now, he had another use for her--as the template from which to create a
Dracula-Edgar & family
new soul-clone out of Edgar's pregnant wife!  A new being emerged, taking the name Magda Westenra, a vampire female fully capable of not only becoming pregnant but bringing that child to term!  She and Dracula-Edgar were to be the Adam and Eve of a new vampire species!

Next, the two were given a castle of their own, well as a Renfield to serve as their slave/servant.  Other controls were put into place, including (most importantly) a talisman of great power called the Blood Mirror.  This enchanted item is a mystical portal to some aspect of the Vampire Dimension, a means by which the vampiric aspects of this new family would be reinforced.  As the couple's first child, a girl named Ingrid, was born its need became apparent.  Ingrid seemed human in most ways, but close examination revealed the taint of vampirism dormant within every cell of her body.  In time, the Blood Mirror would activate that taint, transforming the eager girl into a fully-fledged nosferatu (proudly proclaiming herself The Princess of Darkness).  Soon after, a son named Vladimir ("Vlad" or "Vlady"for short) joined her, showing the identical
Magda's paramour as a child
signs.  He, however, showed little or no desire to be a vampire.  Quite the opposite!  Likewise the marriage (or union, since neither could recall a formal marriage ceremony) of Magda and Dracula-Edgar began to fall apart, not least given the latter's flagrantly sexist attitudes towards all females (including Ingrid).  Eventually, Magda ran off with a werewolf (there is some evidence this particular werewolf was none other than the very boy-child once adopted by the so-called Munsters).  In time, she even had a child by him, who showed his true heritage almost immediately by shifting into a wolf at the first full moon after his birth.
By then, Dracula-Edgar had fled Romania (in theory, ahead of a rampaging mob) and had taken up an abode in an old English castle.  Fortunately, one side-effect of Dracula's experiment was that this new kind of vampire could subsist on animal blood and even solid food (preferably raw meat).  Thus he was able to maintain a relatively low profile, at the same time demonstrating nearly the full range of Dracula Prime's powers.  Young Vlad began to show his own extra-human abilities by age thirteen, impressively being able to hypnotize even his own father!  Yet he continued to struggle with his own birthright, capable of genuine
Vladimir Dracula
friendship with the human beings he met (whom his father contemptuously called "Breathers") and with an honest streak that sometimes made him a target at school for being too nice!  More interestingly, he began to have prophetic dreams which attracted the attention of a vampiric cult called the Moksha Sect (as seen in The Death of Dracula #1 from Marvel Comics).  They have since dubbed him The Chosen One, destined to usher in a new age of the undead.

Moksah Sect Member
Sects, cults and factions within the covert society of the undead remain pretty much the norm.  Evidence suggests the Moksha, ascetics who starve themselves for the save of prophetic visions, enjoy relatively high regard--enough to get at least lip service from many.  Much of their reaction to Vlad stems from his ability to wear an ancient crown whose owner is held in much prestige--not least because the crown literally destroys anyone unworthy who dares to don it.  That a Dracula now wears it--even a teenager only indirectly related the Dark Prince--probably puts Vlad under Dracula Prime's protection.  For now.  Arguably the most powerful such sect is the Mystikos Sect,  in effect a cadre of vampires who function as businessmen and powers-behind-the-scenes in the human world.  Rumors of the existence may have led White Wolf Publishing into their using such as a template for the fictional  Camarilla (just as they may have turned the Moksha into the Inconnu).  Circumstantial evidence points to the Mystikos having been founded and led by the so-called Corvini vampire bloodline (as portrayed in Underworld).  Tentative evidence suggests Dracula-Edgar has relations with both Mytikos and Moksha Sects.

Erik van Helsing & son
Much of the story of Dracula-Edgar and his family, especially Vlad and Ingrid, continues to be fictionalized in a children's t.v. program called Young Dracula.  Keep in mind Marvel Comics also heavily fictionalizes events as well (some of these details came to light in the wake of an attempted coup against Dracula Prime, followed by an attempt to transform recent members of the Legion of the Strange  and probably others into vampires).  Thus the situation of one Erik van Helsing--whose marriage suffered from his dedication to hunting vampires and trying to train his son for the same--ended up played for laughs.

Ingrid Dracula
In at least one sense Dracula Prime's experiment would seem a resounding success.  Dracula-Edgar and his offspring have proven unusually powerful vampires, especially Vlad.   Yet more problematical, at least from the Dark Lord's viewpoint, is their relative humanity.  Dracula-Edgar for the most part seems as ruthless and cruel as might be desired, yet consistently shows real affection for his son as well as for some mere humans (albeit sometimes in very subtle ways) and even the child of his ex-partner, Magda (with whom he seems to 'enjoy' a love/hate/lust relationship).  His almost childish arrogance is probably no more than an annoyance in Dracula Prime's scheme of things.  Ingrid Dracula, who repeatedly vows to be the most evil vampire in history, fell in love with an ordinary human boy (and turned him--resulting in a blinding, vengeful rage after his destruction at the hands of professional hunters).  Likewise she showed gratitude to humans who were kind towards her, and even helped out her supposedly-despised brother on several occasions.  Vlad's open identification with humanity and desire for vampires to live with peace no doubt disturbs Dracula Prime very much, even as it offers hope for others--ironically enough, given that he is the offspring of the two of the most notorious family names in the long history of the undead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dracula's Revenge and the Great God Pan

When the fearsome being called Count Dracula launched his plan to relocate in London during the year 1887, he had hoped to ultimately take over the heart of what was then the greatest Empire on Earth.  Some notion of what his goal can be glimpsed in the novel Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.  Imagine the Impaler as Prince Regent, a bodyguard of Eastern European vampires enforcing his will, civil liberties slowly but surely restricted until only the living become less than second class citizens, more like serfs, while the undead under Dracula's command fan out to invade and conquer.

This horrific vision never came to pass because of many factors, not least the expertise and readiness of Abraham van Helsing (whose bride Elizabeth had slaked Dracula's thirst in 1876 as recorded in Dracula Lives! #3).  But he did not act alone.  Without the aid of Arthur Holmwood (later Lord Godalming), Dr. John Seward, Quincy Morris, Jonathan Harker and his bride Mina the dread Lord of the Vampires might yet have carried out his plan.  Instead, forced to retreat to his stronghold in Transylvania, the Impaler was put down by a band of seemingly ordinary human beings.

He did not, alas, stay that way.  Nor was he likely to forgive such an affront.  His vengeance against those individuals and their families proved complex and ruthless--mostly involving soul clones.

Dr. Chuck Loridans posited years ago that Dracula developed a method of creating a vampire like himself, but then infusing himself into that being, creating a soul clone--a puppet who believed himself to be Dracula but exhibited individual characteristics and variations like any vampire.  Few such soul clones ever exhibited the raw power of Dracula Prime, for which the world can be grateful.  The actual process of creating such was dramatised in the film The Seven Golden Vampires.  The full history of these creatures, which sometimes created soul clones of themselves, makes for complex reading.  For now we are concerned with Dracula Prime's revenge against the Van Helsing, Holmwood, Seward and Harker families.  Four different soul clones--dubbed Balderston, Saville, Matheson and Dragoti--were created in 1907 and dispatched to England in 1909, targeting those very families.

But the Dragoti clone proved a failure (as happens now and then in the process) so a new clone was created in 1908 to take up where the fourth left off--Dracula Pan.  However, this individual was a little different, a would-be occult scholar fascinated by primal passions who had succeeded once in an experiment which allowed the physical manifestation of a demon into this world via a girl whose mind was destroyed in the process and whose child then wrecked havok upon all who encountered her for decades (her career was chronicled by Arthur Machen in his novella The Great God Pan).  In other words, this elderly Englishman, named Raymond, already displayed a propensity for evil, as well as antipathy for the Holmwood family (Lord Godalming's cousin, Lord Holmwood had been a rival of Raymond's years earlier).  Raymond's associates, a secret society known as The Brotherhood, had been contacted by Lord Holmwood's son George.  The young man had learned only days after proposing to the girl he loved that he had been born with syphilis, and indeed such was the reason for his mother's suicide.  Within days Lord Holmwood died, body and mind destroyed by the disease, leaving his son with a vivid image of what future awaited both him and Erica, his fiancee.  Desperate, he had agreed to pay the Brotherhood's leader Singleton (very likely Adrian Singleton, former friend of the strange, seemingly ageless dilletante known as Dorian Gray) any amount of funds to wash his blood clean.

At this point the stage was set.  Raymond only too willingly agreed to become a vampire--the prospect of youth and vigor and immortality overcame any meager scruples he may have had, while revenge against his old rival Holmwood he saw as an extra treat.  The eclipse of his own identity was never mentioned.

Young George Holmwood paid for his own destruction, hiring the vessel that would bring Count Dracula (i.e. Dracula-Pan) to England.  Vampires of the Dacian bloodline are weakened by water, requiring more and greater feeding--hence sailing ships that carried vampires for any length of time tended to lose most if not all of their crews before arriving at port.  This eerie, tragic pattern occurs many times in those who study such matters.  Dracula-Pan, an old man seeking to regain and keep his youth, certainly proved no exception!  But instead of London, where the ship was supposed to arrive, it ended up further up the coast where Holmwood Castle stood (the seat of the Lords Holmwood, as opposed to Rings, the inland estate of their cousins, the Lords Godalming).  Here, George dwelt with his increasingly frustrated bride, Erica.  Her friend (and former suitor) Dr. Thomas Seward (a nephew of the man who helped defeat Dracula Prime) noticed something wrong in the marriage and in George himself.  Erica was far more open to her best friend, Nina Murray (Mina Murray's distant cousin), telling her details--that George refused to consummate their union, nor explain the reason why.  Nina sympathized, despite her own grief at the mysterious disappearance of her fiancee (in fact as a solicitor he'd been secretly hired by George as a legal agent to Transylvania--where his blood fed the vampire's lust).  Worse, her fiancee's partner had been murdered and his papers destroyed (by agents of the Brotherhood).

Into this brew entered Dracula-Pan, a suave but sinister figure radiating dark power and longing for eager young flesh.  Although Erica remained his primary target, he felt great interest in the delicate and genuinely religious Nina.  First, though, he crept into the new Lady Holmwood's bed to ravish her--flesh, blood and soul.  She nearly died that very day, saved only by a blood transfusion her husband forced a very suspicious Dr. Seward to perform using himself rather than George as a donor.  It did little good.  The vampire simply returned, mocking his "host" in word and deed.

Here Thomas Seward had a bit of luck.  Tracing George's movements to the Brotherhood's London headquarters, he discovered the Brotherhood's prisoner--David van Helsing (brother to Fritz) who had up until recently scoffed at the families tales of the walking dead and bloodthirsty ghosts.  Lured as an expert on folklore by the Brotherhood, Van Helsing ended up in their basement, filthy, half-starved and terrified.  More to the point, he filled in all the details for George and Thomas, including the terrible fact of what they had to do with Erica, i.e. drive a wooden stake through her heart.  (Although she was staked, it remains uncertain if she remained that way--reports indicate her presence a century later among a formal Coven of mostly-Corvini vampires in Hungary, as per the motion picture Underworld ).

Nina did not at first believe the bizarre tale from these three men, one of whom she did not even know.  Ultimately, though, they went back to the headquarters of the Brotherhood in London where Dracula-Pan had used his mental powers to make Singleton kill himself.  The vampire easily killed George Holmwood, but in the end saw defeat as Seward drove a wooden stake into his heart.  Or so they believed.  Some evidence suggests this particular creature survived, perhaps because the stake missed or only grazed his heart.  If so, it would seem he then lost the youth and vigor stolen via the blood of others.  Exactly what became of him remains to be seen.  Dr. Seward meanwhile married Nina Murray.  It seems more than likely their offspring continued to play parts in the secret history of the world.

When dramatized, the filmmakers (as per usual) included elements from the novelization by Bram Stoker in telling the tale of this specific soul clone--such as changing people's first names, the name of the ship that bore the vampire to England, the location of Holmwood Castle, etc.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Strange History of Mordante

First, a bit of background.  Years ago, scholarship revealed the ability of the dreaded Count Dracula to create "soul clones."  These are vampires under the control of Dracula Prime, even to the point of believing they are the Dark Prince themselves.  Dracula Prime uses them as his agents, since his powers are weakened whenever he leaves his homeland and its native soil.  Most usually, these pawns were vampires created (or "turned") by the Impaler himself.  I believe sometimes he turned an already-existing vampire into a soul clone.

More I believe one such creature has been identified under the name Mordante (or Dracula-Mordante).

Apostle of Chaos
The bulk of accounts regarding this particular soul clone comes from chronicles in which he interacted with the mysterious female known as Vampirella.  Others have already done much to identify this lady, so my focus is upon the individual with whom she vied (and sometimes helped) who called himself Dracula, but also "Mordante."  In these accounts several details emerge.  One is that for a time Count Mordante was a faithful worshiper of a demon called Chaos, generally taken to mean none other than Azathoth.  Another is his attitude towards women, which remained exploitive yet also showed some gallantry, coupled with a melancholy desire for genuine love.  Indeed, he also showed at times remorse for his evil deeds, a longing for redemption, followed by a fierce acceptance of his role as a lord of darkness.  In other words, he exhibited symptoms of what we would call bipolar personality disorder (or manic depression).  Dracula Prime showed none of this.  He proved an implacable enemy of the Old Ones, whom he evidently viewed as rivals for control of the world.  More, while Vlad III of Transylvania (to use his mortal name) demonstrated passion, he generally treated women as inferior creatures.  Certainly he never seems to feel guilt for his crimes, which achieved legendary status while he yet breathed!

Mordante would appear to be a soul clone somewhat out of control, at least in the 1970s.  Keep in mind that according to some accounts Dracula Prime for a crucial part of this period was in torpor until revived by his descendant Frank Drake in late 1972.  His (Mordante's) plans to bring Azathoth into this world failed before then, and his castle in the Carnic Alps destroyed.  Legally, this 'Count Dracula' was dead, his last will and testament leaving his vast fortune to one Nadine Okusdar, a Turkish girl turned by Mordante after he saved her from rape in Istanbul many years earlier (again, a gallant action out of character for Dracula Prime).  Mordante, however, resurrected himself and soon (to his surprise) encountered a mysterious woman called The Conjuress, who claimed to have known him from a previous existence on the planet Drakulon.

Many theories have been put forth about Drakulon, supposed homeworld of Vampirella.  My own is that no such world actually exists.  Rather, it is a garbled memory of two places blended together in the minds of the two individuals who claim to have been there.  One is the now-lost planet Krypton, from whence came the costumed adventurer Superman (whose powers have been exaggerated to absurd lengths in subsequent stories).  The other is a place I have dubbed the Vampire Dimension--a kind of mini-hell where the race of Turok Han either originated and/or to which they were exiled in the ancient past (the location, I suspect, of the frozen castle in the motion picture Van Helsing as well a the place to which the amulet opened a door in the motion picture The Monster Squad).  My theory is that both Mordante and Vampirella lived on Krypton in a past life, and some of their memories of a world under a red sun fed delusions created by stress. But this is something of a tangent.

Back to the Past(s)
The Conjuress' avowed purpose was to lead Mordante down the path of redemption, which he himself seemed to great with equal parts enthusiasm and despair.  Part of this involved time travel.  She brought Mordante back to the year 1892 where the Abraham and Boris Van Helsing sought to revive Lucy Westenra and cure her vampirism. Mordante himself masqueraded as one of Dracula's descendants, a man eager to atone for his ancestor's terrible acts.  Those associated with Dracula Prime's London mission in 1887 remarked upon the resemblance between the two.  Remember this.  Likewise, during this period Mordante suffered no ill effects from the sun (exactly like his get Countess Nadine).  In theory this was due to the Conjuress' powers, but Dracula Prime also suffers no harm from sunlight.

Ultimately, Mordante failed his test--to refrain from feeding--and again voyaged in time to San Francisco in the year 1906.  At this point the Conjuress appeared to be slain, triggering the Great Earthquake.  I say "appeared" because a being of her powers seems unlikely so easily dispatched.  More probably she wished Mordante to think himself without her.  Subsequent events showed Mordante targeted by a prostitute named Josephine and a witch named Elizabeth--both of whom wound up Mordante's vampire slaves.  They boarded a ship to take Mordante back to Europe.

Here some of the perils of time travel begin to make themselves known.  Back in 1849, Mordante had been in England (the chronicler of these events for Eerie #48 set them in Transylvania, which makes little sense given that land is landlocked) and wounded.  Nursed back to health by a deaf mute girl named Gwethalyn Christen (her name is a pretty clear clue as to the tale's true location), the vampire fell in love with her and managed to conceal his nature.  Eventually she became pregnant and bore a son.

Now, in 1906, that (middle-aged) son awaited Mordante with a shotgun, loaded with silver buckshot!

What happens next is conjecture, it matches the facts.  Mordante had not in fact fled to THE Castle Dracula, stronghold of the fearsome Prince of Darkness.  This was one of many castles held in fiefdom to that terrible figure.  In this case, the castle belonged to Marya Zaleska, biological daughter of the gypsy woman Maleva and the soul-clone Lejos (aka Armand Tesla).  It was she who rescued Mordante from his "son" Sandor with whom she felt a kind of kinship--indeed, she so entranced him he served her loyally for many years upon the promise that one day she would make him immortal like herself.  Until then, he merely demonstrated the long life and slow aging of his mixed heritage (in time, the Countess betrayed his trust and he fired an arrow into her heart as recorded in the motion picture Dracula's Daughter).

For Mordante, the experience proved surreal in the extreme.  Already emotionally unstable, disoriented from time travel, severely wounded by a half-forgotten son and now saved by a never-suspected daughter...!  No doubt his resemblance to Dracula Prime likewise confused Zaleska.  Once recovered, he found himself told to leave her castle and his unstable mind wove all this into a new delusion.

The motion picture Dracula's Great Love chronicled in part what happened next.  Mordante took over an abandoned sanitorium near the Borgo Pass and began trying to make sense of his experiences (he likely had used this location before in the midst of various errands for Dracula Prime).   Pouring over notes by Professor Abraham Van Helsing, he presumed some of the man's theories must be true--especially the idea that Dracula (i.e. Mordante) needed his "daughter" to be fully restored.  In a flurry of activity, he arranged for his minions to find the remains of the woman he assumed to be his daughter--the powerful vampire witch Sascha Karnstein.  In 1909 her body was smuggled into the old sanitorium.  Mordante planned on an occult ritual which would restore them both!  Then, Mordante fell in love with the young virgin who was to be central sacrifice of the ritual.  He tossed the coffin of his "daughter" into a river and drove a wooden stake into his own heart!
 
Exactly what happened after this is not at all clear, although at one point it would appear Dracula Prime may have been "re-imprinting" his personality upon Mordante via re-enacting events from Bram Stoker's novelization of events--with an airplane's passengers and crew substituting for the Demeter, for example.  All this might have proven necessary due to the loss of an enchanted coffin (see below).


Before Chaos
What had Mordante been doing before this?  Prior to the chronological loop that led to his own self-sacrifice?  That makes for quite a tale in and of itself.
The earliest record we have of Mordante remains 1849, when he loved Gwethalyn Christen.  He seems anything but a weak vampire at this time, but demonstrates the same personality traits which perhaps allow us to identify him.  As it happens another extremely similar vampire existed just prior to this date, but his story was told in such a jumbled mess details prove elusive.  In Varney The Vampyre or The Feast of Blood by James Malcolm Rhymer we read of the title character's haunting of the Bannerworth Family (whom I believe to be a fictionalized version of the Durwards--one of whom married into the Karnsteins as told in Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter).  Sir Francis Varney showed all the signs of a Karnstein-type vampire.  He hungered especially for certain types of blood (that of Flora Bannerworth), while exposing himself to the sun with ease (Mordante evidently only believed he could be harmed by daylight).  Likewise he was moody, seemed to long for understanding even love from his victims, sought to "cure" his affliction through marriage (one wonders if he planted such a notion in the mind of Countess Zaleska?).  Much is made of the notion his original grave lay among the vaults of the family he stalked.  His rambling and badly-written story comes to an abrupt end circa 1847 after Sir Francis fled England for the Continent.

Two years later, Mordante made his first known appearance as Dracula.  Evidence suggests he in fact was the vampire once known as Sir Francis Varney (or Durward), perhaps even physically transformed into the likeness of the dread Impaler (or perhaps, like Frank Drake, his parentage included the Dracula family).  Given an enchanted coffin that helped enforce his identity as Dracula, Mordante then went ahead to England, to act as an advance scout.  Perhaps it was even in the original Count's mind to use Mordante as his viceroy at the heart of the world's newest and most powerful empire.  If so, small wonder he changed his mind.  A clever and ruthless warrior, Mordante also proved emotionally unstable.

But here events took another surprising turn.  When in 1887 Dracula Prime arrived in the British Isles, he had a perfect role for Mordante, who by chance or design resembled him so closely.  Quite simply, he functioned as a decoy!  On a superficial level, the two vampires seemed identical!  Van Helsing and others believed themselves battling one vampire when in fact they struggled against two--but were aided that the junior vampire was equally unaware of that fact!  Indeed, the ever-romantic Mordante muddied waters further by falling in love with the wife of Jonathan Harker, Mina (nee Murray).  To some extent she also fell for him (one of several reasons that marriage ultimately ended).
We should note Dracula Prime was himself quite busy in London, having to deal with (among others) Professor James Moriarty who wanted the vampire's blood to save his daughter Agatha.   Likewise, under mental control, Mordante shadowed his unknown master all the way back to Transylvania where he turned Quincy Morris (as chronicled in the novel Quincy Morris, Vampire by P.N.Elrod)

Dracula Prime meanwhile was successfully staked, but within a year was revived by faithful minions.  By 1891 however he'd thought of another use for his clone, Mordante.  Staked and beheaded, Mordante's coffin was shipped to Sir Francis Varney's last living relative, Lord Adrian Varney (as told in Creepy #8 and #9).  Said coffin became a method for Mordante to take possess and take complete control of Lord Adrian, then seek vengeance on those who had dared thwart Dracula.  But Van Helsing and company managed to defeat him, the coffin itself ending up at the bottom of the sea, probably the English Channel.  So it might have remained, save that magical items very rarely stay "lost."  Sure enough, someone did indeed find the coffin and under the influence of its magic, lay inside to be possessed and transformed into Mordante!

But by now, Dracula Prime was again staked, dormant until 1973.  Mordante found himself confused and in Mississippi in 1908, visiting the weird and mysterious King Carnival (which in retrospect seems to have had some connection to cults devoted to the Old Ones or perhaps Chaos/Azathoth).  He turned a young woman named Cassandra Kiley whose diary eventually came into the possession of the editors of Vampirella #39 and #40.  Together they traveled the American South while Denrom and even a later version of Mordante himself were active in Europe.  But it seems pretty clear from the bizarre creatures at the King Carnival that here the powerful vampire fell under the sway of Chaos, began to lead an increasingly powerful and dangerous cult devoted to that mad entity, eventually leading to the disaster at the Carnic Alps.
Yet one other thing happened in the wake of his legal "death" following that disaster.  The ever-delusional Mordante's more emotional, gallant, romantic side reworked the events surrounding Dracula's foray into London.  He even wrote an account of events as he grew to remember them--a version in which Van Helsing was an incompetent religious fanatic, Mina the vampire's one true love who chose to ultimately join him in undeath, where rather than conquest his motive for going to London was adventure, excitement, a surcease to loneliness.

As per his will, this account ended up in the hands of a writer willing to tell the "true" story of Dracula, and in 1975 it was published as The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen.


I must thank this wonderful breakdown of Dracula in EERIE magazine and Charles Loridans for his initial research in discovery of Dracula's soul clones.  Also the members of the Wold Newton Family Yahoo Group have been invaluable in providing hints, clues and theories.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The House of Karnstein (pt. 5)

The Patriarch
A big part of the history of the Karnsteins relies upon understanding who nurtured this family, and why.  It all goes back to the most ancient history of the undead, probably as far back as Atlantis.  According to various accounts (including Marvel Comics), at this time several sorcerors created the vampire race while attempting to fashion a new kind of weapon against their enemies.  Their plan went horribly wrong.  Vampires proved far too difficult to control.


In time, the oceans drank Atlantis, but some of the undead survived.  These few may as well be called Antediluvians, for they pre-date the Flood which ended that continent's history and civilization. Among these were Varnae, Rasolom, Qu'ra, and the entity that in time came to be known (by some) as the Patriarch (according to legend, a much earlier female entity, usually called Lilith was also a primal vampire, perhaps THE primal vampire--it isn't clear, although the name "Lilith" came to be used much as European monarchs like calling themselves Caesar--Czar, Kaiser, etc.).


He had many names.  Which even vaguely resembles his original no one probably knows.  Even he may have forgotten it.  But certain patterns allow us to trace a little bit of his story as he wandered across the pages of history, dripping blood as he went.
  • We know he was male.
  • We know him as an ancient vampire (he even claimed to have brought about the fall of the Roman Empire).
  • We know his thirst could rise to extreme levels, wiping out towns and laying waste to regions.
  • We know him deeply interested in the breeding of humans, not least because he evidently had trouble turning others into vampires.  Hence his ages-long efforts to foster those families (such as the Karnsteins) who could in turn become his progeny and minions.
  • We know also he seemed actively Satanic or Demonic.  Not merely evil in terms of selfishness and ruthless disregard of others.  Worse even that cruelty.  He seems something of a philosopher, an active worshiper of darkness and/or chaos.
  • We also know that, unlike some (Dracula for instance) he seems content to remain totally behind the scenes, demanding abject obedience in those around him, but otherwise preferring the wielding of power over anyone's knowledge of it.  This reflects in his attitude towards his (many) names.
One of his most famous aliases arose from a killing spree in Central Europe during the year 1710.  At this time a supposed plague spread through the region, prompting one Prospero Karnstein to seek refuge from the disease in an abbey, amidst friends and luxury.  His plan came to naught.  Inevitable, since the "plague" was in fact the desperate hunger of a very old nosferatu, on that had in fact been nurturing Prospero's family for centuries.  In fact, it seems more than likely this being, known during this era simply as Red Death, fostered the dark tendencies in those infamous vampire witches--Wandessa, Donia and Sascha.  Prospero fell prey to the fangs of this creature and rose as a vampire, eventually being destroyed over one hundred years later when Castle Karnstein was attacked and looted the final time.

Keep in mind there's no reason to believe the Karnsteins his only breeding experiment.  Quite the opposite!  Evidence strongly suggests he was behind the infamous Mitterhaus family (although they may well have interbred with the Karnsteins--so many records were lost).  More, central Europe in the Renaissance and early Enlightenment fairly seethed with terrible stories of decadence, blood-lust and supernatural horror.  Evidence of the Patriarch's undead hand?

At any rate, by 1863 a secret castle stronghold existed for the Patriarch (now using that name/title) and a court of followers, few of whom ever set eyes upon him.  What we know of this location and events there come from notes by a young vampire named Mihel Beheim, who revealed that the vampires there reveled in the fostering of certain tasteful bouquets of bloodline, among humans/peasants servicing the castle.  In that year a shocking crime took place among the assembled undead (some of whom almost certainly were Karnsteins).

By 1876, the Patriarch had decided to move to America.  Perhaps the number of undead in Europe made his thirst more difficult to safely manage.  Or it could be this formed part of a plan to expand his supernatural power.  The town of Hangman's Corners, Texas, was his target.  With him came an array of demonic minions as well as an occult ring somehow connected to the Old Ones (possibly Hastur).  But in the face of unexpectedly powerful magical opposition, the Patriarch (referred to by others as simply The Stranger) fled.

This was hardly his only or even first foray into the New World.  A Vermont town called Jerusalem's Lot, inhabited by an offshoot of the Shakers, vanished without a trace in the 1820s--victims to a wave of unquenchable thirst by this ancient evil.  In 1850 a descendant of a leader of that group uncovered evidence of vampirism and demon worship (very much resembling that of the Old Ones) among his ancestors in the nearby town of Preacher's Corners.  Rather than further what he calls a "polluted bloodline" he commited suicide, but an illegitimate son moved to the town to seek to redeem the family name--Boone.

At least for a time, the Patriarch seemed to have decided at this point to foster a more direct plan to acquire power in Europe.  He began to sire a group of dhampirs, human-vampire offspring (from rape in this case) then killing all the human families so as to leave his offspring nowhere else to turn.  Likewise he began encouraging a variety of dark occult movements, especially in and around Germany.  Such was the work of generations but he had long grown accustomed to thinking in those terms.  For this aspect of his plans he took on a new name:  Kagan.

The Nazi regime which Kagan (among others) helped establish furthered his long term goals admirably.  Worship of death and chaos was the least of it.  The SS breeding programs might well have given rise to vast numbers of potential recruits.  Yet his efforts also brought forth their own failure.  Hitler's Third Reich attracted the negative attentions of many groups and whole nations (including, interestingly, Dracula Prime himself).  Meanwhile, Kagan's attempt to create an army of dhampirs from his loins spawned an implacable enemy--his daughter Bloodrayne.  An ally of hers detonated a powerful bomb in the same room as Kagan--not killing him but wounding him severely.  While his powers slowly healed him, World War Two was fought and (from his perspective) lost.

At this point, the Patriarch needed to rest and when he woke his ravaging thirst very nearly ruled him.  He ended up with a loyal servant named Richard Straker.  In 1973 Straker transported his master (under the alias Barlow) to the small Maine town of Salem's Lot.  It seems almost certain the town was founded by servants of the Patriarch long before, with a variety of families whose bloodline allowed them to become vampires from his bite.  But perhaps due to his own weakened state, or corruption from too-close interaction with Old Ones, the vampires Barlow created as he devoured the town proved nearly mindless.  An erzatz band of amateur vampire hunters managed to drive a stake through Barlow's heart, then leave him in the sun.  Later, they burned the town to ashes (it had gained a hideous reputation in surrounding communities).  Straker, the loyal servant to the Antediluvian, had already died at his master's fangs. As far as anyone knows, that was the end of the Patriarch.

More speculative is the Patriarch's role in creation of the Corvini line of vampires, most probably by blending his own vampiric line with that of the alien Wamphyri.

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
The Vampire Virgins (unproduced sequel motion picture to Twins of Evil)
Vampire Circus (motion picture)
Metzengerstein by Edgar Allan Poe
The Golden by Lucius Shepherd
Tex Arcana (graphic novel)
The Garbage Truck by Stephen King
Jerusalem's Lot by Stephen King
Bloodrayne (video game)
Salem's Lot by Stephen King
Underworld motion pictures
Necroscope novels by Brian Lumley

Addendum
I was one of the judges in the third Vampire Film Festival, and one of the films submitted for such was a short in which Rayne met Captain America This is my (somewhat tenuous) basis for including Rayne and Kagan in the WNU.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The House of Karnstein (pt. 4)

The Last Scions
If the 20th century saw a fall to so many other noble houses, it should come as no surprise to learn the Karnsteins also faltered.  While individuals of that family's bloodline--alive and undead--almost certainly walk the earth, the bitter truth remains that by the 1970s two young women would seem to be the last of that name

Countess Irina
When the head of the Italian branch, Count Leopold, died in the late 1960s, his bride soon followed.  It remains unknown whether he himself ever discovered his bride was in fact possessed by Millarca Karnstein, the vampire of centuries past.  However, it remains certain their daughter, Irina, ultimately inherited some aspect of the Karnstein darkness. Whether she was in some sense a dhampir (i.e. the offspring of a human and vampire) or perhaps one of the last Karnsteins to suffer the kiss of the Patriarch, or something else must remain a matter of speculation.  Yet are facts have come to light.  Born in the late 1950s, she was young when coming into her title and wealth.  A strange, melancholy person, she in fact chose for a considerable amount of time to remain mute.  Even when interviewed by a journalist in the Riviera, she refused to actually speak.  That journalist later turned up dead, as did numerous others in the vicinity of Irina.  Reading their autopsies makes for a strange experience.  Most seem to have died of shock, not only to blood loss but also from what one coroner called "sexual excess."  At any rate, the Karnstein reputation by now had grown much too intense.

In the early 1970s Irina vanished from Europe.  Evidence suggests she changed her name and enrolled in a Canadian private girl's school under the name "Enessa."  She stayed but one year, during which time a teacher and two students died--and at least one dog was found on campus more or less ripped to shreds.  One student fatality had lived across the hall from Enessa's room.  The two had grown close. This girl, Lucy (a very unlucky name for women who encounter the undead), was said to have perished of severe anemia.  The point should be made that Lucy's best friend had a nervous breakdown at the end of year -- she also noted in a personal diary how Enessa hardly ever ate anything while avoiding the sun.  Meanwhile, the teacher who died suddenly (her autopsy report remained confidential) had evidently disliked "Enessa" intensely and punished her. 

What happened next remains speculative, but she seems to have fallen into the company of one of Dracula's soul clones, quite possibly none other than a melancholy and despairing Lejos.  Once a Hungarian nobleman, then transformed into a puppet by the Prince of Darkness, he had seen his children brought low and his own efforts thwarted far too many times.  After taking severe wounds from the werewolf Lawrence Talbot, sightings of this once-mighty vampire lord described him as withered, tired--still wielding great power and dignity, yet a shadow of his former self.

He had fallen in love with a gypsy woman, engendering a male child named Edgar.  Lejos was one of the few of Dracula's clones who had this ability.  Knowing he also had had a daughter (one he had in retrospect mistreated) he mistook Irina/Enessa for her and--perhaps longing for the family now gone--she went along with this pretense, even taking a new name for herself, Nadja.  Lejos even gave her a Renfield as her personal slave.  When one of the Van Helsings (probably an aged Adam van Helsing) managed to kill Lejos, Nadja (aka Irina/Enessa) sought out her "brother" Edgar, the only person with whom she now felt any kind of emotional bond.  Repeating her mother's experiment, she managed to use her own blood to possess Edgar's fiancee, while allowing Van Helsing to find then destroy her body.

At the present the ensuing events in this couple's lives remains unrecorded.

Luisa,  Heiress in Iberia
Relatively little is known about the Spanish branch of the Karnsteins save that they were known as Karlsteins, had the title Conde (or Count), and were viewed with extreme distrust by locals in the coastal area where their castle had been reared.

Circa 1971, the heiress the estate returned there as her aged grandmother lay dying.  The heiress, Luisa Karlstein, found the sick old woman insisting on telling her the family secret--that they were the guardians of none of that Count Dracula!  In fact, it seems much more likely the vampire in the Karlstein vault was a past Conde of that family.  The old woman was very sick, after all.  Luisa, visiting that very crypt, discovered there was indeed a nosferatu there.  Under his influence, she even began to demonstrate vampiric traits herself!  She even drank the blood of a girl with whom she'd fallen in love.  Mysterious murders led a small band of amateur slayers to that very crypt where they destroyed the coffins and their inhabitants with fire.

Nothing more has been heard from the Spanish branch of the Karnsteins.

Erotikill (motion picture)
The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (motion picture)
Nadja (motion picture)
La Fille de Dracula (motion picture)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The House of Karnstein (pt. 3)

Many Ladies, Few Names
In the annals of Karnstein, the curious tradition of naming females with an anagram of Millarca arose.  Precisely why remains a mystery.  Most common ended up being Millarca, Marcilla and Carmilla.  Given that it seems each and every holder of these names became a vampire, one wonders if this was some kind of sign?  Perhaps the family assigned such to the children destined to be the brides of their undead patron?  If so,  how was such chosen?  A lottery?  We may never know.
  
Millarca I journeyed from Paris to Rome in the year 1460 CE.  She sought a dispensation from Pope Pius II to wed her cousin Leopold.  This dispensation was only won upon Leopold agreeing to take part in a Crusade.  However, this Crusade ultimately never took place.  Leopold served His Holiness faithfully and received lands as well as permission to marry Millarca.  They settled there, founding an Abbey as well as the Italian branch of the Karnstein family, which interbred with the Austrian branches several times over the centuries.  But Millarca I seemed destined to reincarnate again and again, ever seeking to marry Leopold once more.  Her tomb was almost desecrated by a peasant's revolt in 1765, led by a local priest.  Her beloved's namesake Leopold of that era hid her grave.  He later became engaged no less than three times, each of his fiancees dying at Millarca's fangs before they could actually wed.  Soon after the second world war, a Carmilla Karnstein became possessed by Millarca (see below). 

Little is known about Mircalla I (1522-45) save that she met her final death at the blade of General Spielsdorf in 1819.  Apparently, she was one of those undead who disliked her state, felt some measure of guilt over her actions, especially the hunting down and draining of young women she first befriended.  She even tried to take her last victim, an expatriate English girl named Emma, with her.  Certainly this Mircalla's tomb was in Castle Karnstein, one of those few missed by Baron Hartog on his vengeful spree in the year 1794.  Curiously, she apparently was under the control of an older male vampire, at least during her last active period.  When finally destroyed, the portrait of her in Castle Karnstein suddenly aged and withered, becoming that of a fanged crone, then a skeleton.  One must wonder if perhaps that portrait provided some means of controlling her?  As to the identity of the male vampire watching over and controlling her, the most likely candidate would be the ancient undead known as the Patriarch.
 Mircalla II died just two  years after her namesake, which meant they must have been contemporaries.  This lady showed little or no hesitation as far as feasting on human blood was concerned.  Sometime prior to 1780 she entered into hibernation, waking only when Count Damien Karnstein dared to commit human sacrifice in an effort to raise her.  She rose and lay with him, then slaked her thirst on his blood, transforming him into a vampire like herself.  What happened to her afterwards is something of a mystery, although it is at least possible she and Carmilla III are the same person (see below).

Countess Mircalla III (1679-98) was woo'd and then attacked by a vampire after a ball.  Many Karnstein females fall into the voluptuous blonde type, but others--like the third Mircalla--were darker, often rather exotic in appearance.  A haughty young woman, she nevertheless seemed to love at least some of her victims.  As a matter of record, a former (male) lover of hers named Vordenberg hid her grave but in old age, thinking better of his actions, left instructions about where to find her.  A Vordenberg descendant believed he did so, and destroyed her.  In fact, Mircalla (who used the aliases Carmilla and Millarca at one time or another) had substituted a peasant girl for herself.  She then wandered for many years, until finding another girl to love--in Chicago circa 1996.  She turned this girl, Lauren, but she ended up leaving her maker alone in Europe.  A decade or so later, Mircalla was spotted in Paris where she again fell in love, this time with an American student who came upon her feeding after midnight.  At last report, they remained in Paris, which became their hunting ground. (This would be the "Carmilla" in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's famous novella of the same name). Evidently this lady is fascinating as well as beautiful, having won the hearts of so many in her long life.

Mircalla IV (sister to Damien Karnstein) married a Spanish nobleman in 1772.  She eventually murdered him.  According to legend this was because he made her do "unspeakable things."  Given that two centuries later the family has no portraits of any female ancestors, this seems believable. Exactly what happened in the aftermath of this murder is not clear, but she herself becomes a vampire. She was last heard of at the estate of her husband's family, where she seduced the the wife of the descendant of her husband as well as a schoolgirl.  The husband killed all three by cutting out their hearts and was arrested.  Given that Mircalla IV was only a vampire and not a vampire witch like some of her kinswomen, it seems likely this was the true death for her.

Carmilla I Karnstein was sister to the notorious Count Prospero and like him died feeding the thirst of the vampire known variously as the Patriarch or the Red Death in 1710.  Either Prospero or perhaps the Patriarch himself resurrected her in 1830 (or maybe a soul-clone of Dracula Prime, seeking to wrest control of the Karnsteins from the Patriarch).  She masqueraded as a student at a local private girl's school, using the name Millarca.  At that time she seduced and drained more than one of her fellow students, as well as a would be occultist professor who guessed her identity.  But another teacher she entered into a relationship with, without feeding upon him.  At this time, a well-armed mob attacked Castle Karnstein and burned it, leaving it a ruin.  One eyewitness claimed her heart was pierced by a falling wooden beam.  She may however have been resurrected at a later time, as someone matching her description and giving the name "Carmilla Karnstein" reported more than a century and a half later in the United States (and at that time serving a cult that worshiped Cthulhu).  Was this the same Carmilla?  Difficult to say, not least because of other such vampiresses named Carmilla. 

Carmilla II (so called for convenience sake) never once gave her name as Karnstein.  But circa 1850 she became part of the household of a plantation in the American South.  There, typical of so many vampiresses of that family, she seduced the daughter of the house, Marie.  It turned out Carmilla had visited many years earlier and turned Marie’s mother as well.  Upon discovering this, the girl helped her father destroy a nest of the undead, including (eventually) Carmilla who died with Marie's name on her lips.  Yet it was too late.  Marie become a vampire herself.  Her own eventual fate remains unknown.  I do however have a theory about this specific Carmilla's identity, which makes her a Karnstein by blood but not by blood relation.

It goes back to the early 1800s, not long after the Napoleonic Wars.  At that time a young woman named Carmina had just married a Captain Hans Broken.  Due to a peculiar set of circumstances they ended up spending the night at the castle of one Countess Karnstein (fictionalized as "Kronsteen").  The Countess was destroyed--but not before she seduced and turned young Carmina, after persuading her the Captain had already been unfaithful. The young lady, like the Carmilla of three decades or so later and on the other side of the Atlantic, was a doe-eyed brunette with a waif-like air.  Her maker's identity remains harder to pin down, not least because as yet her first name remains unknown.  However, it remains possible she also was a Carmilla (whom we might as well call III), the chosen bride of one of Dracula's soul-clones who later encountered the fourth Batman and sought to resurrect her.

 Carmilla IV was certainly a Karnstein, the only daughter of Count Konstantin Karnstein, originally of the Hungarian branch.  Her grandfather had ultimately inherited the title after the main branch in Styria went extinct.  She herself was raised in Italy after the first World War, with her cousin Leopold.  Sadly, this led ultimately to her possession and destruction soon after the second World War ended.  She discovered the hidden tomb of Millarca I, becoming possessed by that vampire and eventually killed in her name.  Millarca meanwhile managed to possess Leopold's fiancee--an "unfinished business" which evidently allowed Millarca to rest in peace once her life with Leopold was done.

Yet this proved hardly the end of the story... 
Blood and Roses (motion picture) 
The Vampire Lovers (motion picture) 
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Carmilla: The Return by Kyle Marffin 
Paris Je T'aime (motion picture) 
The Blood Spattered Bride (motion picture) 
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
Lust for a Vampire (motion picture) 
Mall of Cthulhu by Seamus Cooper
Nightmare Classics (television film) 
Lesbian Vampires Lovers of Lust (television film) 
Batman Versus Dracula (motion picture) 

Addendum
Unreliable reports of at least one possible far future indicate a fantastically vile vampire noblewoman known as Carmilla also sought to resurrect herself following destruction. Or will seek to do so.  Her efforts will be thwarted by in part by Vampire Hunter D.