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) 

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.

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