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Literature / Drachenfels

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A Ragtag Bunch of Misfits travel to the Haunted Castle of the Evil Overlord Constant Drachenfels. One by one they fall to his minions and his Death Traps, until only the brave prince remains to fight the sorcerer and vanquish him at last. That's the prologue.

Twenty-five years later, Detlef Sierck, the Empire's greatest playwright, is rescued from debtor's prison by the Crown Prince Oswald. Oswald, the aforementioned brave prince, has a simple proposition for Detlef: he wants to produce a play about his defeat of the Great Enchanter Drachenfels, and he wants Detlef to write and star in it. The surviving members of the original band who traveled with Oswald are reunited for the play's premiere, a one-time performance staged in the very walls of Drachenfels' abandoned fortress, attended by all the nobility of the Empire. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Drachenfels is a Warhammer novel by Kim Newman under his Jack Yeovil pen name, first published back in 1989. It occupies a bizarre place in the Warhammer canon, suffering from a huge, setting-wide case of Characterization Marches On. Constant Drachenfels hasn't been mentioned in the background for years, having long since been displaced by Nagash the Great Necromancer as the setting's necromantic Big Bad. Details like goblins being willing to work for humans and vampires mingling relatively openly in Imperial society will look like massive errors to anyone who got into the fandom any time after the early nineties. Thing is, people really like it, so Games Workshop keeps it in print and other authors give it Shout Outs on a regular basis.

The protagonist of Drachenfels, the vampire Genevieve, went on to have a small role in the novel Beasts in Velvet and then to star in a collection of three novellas called Genevieve Undead and a short story collection called Silver Nails.

This book contains examples of:

  • Alternate Universe: Alternate versions of Genevieve are a main character in the Anno Dracula series, and a secondary character in the Diogenes Club series. The Diogenes universe also has a version of Drachenfels himself, although Constant Drache is drastically less powerful than his counterpart, simply being a crazed architect with a fondness for Alien Geometries. Elder Seth, the Big Bad of Dark Future is also an alternate Drachenfels, as revealed in Krokodil Tears.
  • And I Must Scream: A favourite of Drachenfels. Freezing people in place to starve to death with a feast laid out before them, trapping people in tiny pocket dimensions to be chewed on by rats for all eternity...okay, the second one might have been an illusion to fuck with Genevieve. When he died, there was a mass exodus of trapped souls finally leaving.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Played straight with Oswald von Konigswald, averted suprisingly (given the nature of the Warhammer world) with most of the others.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Menesh the dwarf was one of three remaining adventurers who managed to make into Constant Drachenfel's throne room. He was first to attack him, and was swatted aside, losing his right arm in the process.
  • Badass Bookworm: Astonishingly enough, Detlef does have his moments. Killing the Great Enchanter, for a start.
  • Body Backup Drive: Drachenfels, having survived since a time before almost every sentient species on the planet by piecing himself together replacement bodies every time his is worn out or destroyed.
  • Brainless Beauty: Lily Nissen, the actress brought in to play Genevieve. Not just brainless, but a bitch.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Changes to Warhammer canon made after the novel's publication have rendered quite a lot of it incompatible with it, but people love it anyway. Other authors continue to reference it, creating the bizarre situation wherein Drachenfels himself is never brought up but his castle and Detlef Sierck's plays are. The End Times reintroduces elements of the novels in Broad Strokes, with a resurrected (although amnesiac) Drachenfels serving as one of Nagash's generals against the Hordes of Chaos. An unidentified vampire heavily hinted to be Genevieve also pops up a few times to give the heroes significant intelligence.
  • Continuity Snarl: The later stories namedrop Gotrek & Felix as contemporary heroes and Beasts in Velvet follows up on plot threads from Skavenslayer, but this series is treated as having happened before Felix's lifetime within the other series.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Drachenfels kept the victims of the poisoned feast in his dining room, among many, many other things.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The feat which Oswald is famous for throughout the Empire — finally killing the Great Enchanter Drachenfels. At the end of the book, Detlef, of all people, does it for real.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Drachenfels has this a couple of times between Genevieve and the eponymous villain. Drachenfels himself has his immense age pointed early on by the adventurers reminding themselves that he was around when Sigmar Heldenhammer was still alive at least two thousand years ago and coming across the remains of his infamous Poison Feast in which an ancestor of Oswald's was a victim.
  • Eye Remember: As Lowenstein eats the eyes of those who once ventured into the castle, he sees their last moments from their point of view, all of which had Constant Drachenfels present.
  • Eye Scream: All the people who die on the way to Castle Drachenfels have their eyes removed... and then Laszlo Lowenstein eats them as part of a ritual to turn himself into Constant Drachenfels.
  • Flaying Alive: Menesh, the dwarf who took part in the adventure in the past, has his skin flayed off in a dark ritual within the castle.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Drachenfels, a monstrously powerful sorcerer who is older than humanity itself.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Even Drachenfels has no idea how his powers work, they just do. This is a guy so powerful the RPG supplement says the Chaos gods lend him daemons to keep him from beating them up and taking their lunch money. He was old before the Old Ones first brought magic into the world, and millennia older by the time Chaos first entered it; whatever his power source is it's completely out of context.
  • Lorre Lookalike: The creepy actor brought in to take the role of Drachenfels is named Laszlo Lowenstein, the birth name of Peter Lorre.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Oft-rumoured to have happened between Genevieve and Oswald, though the former denies it. Very definitely happens between her and Detlef, though.
  • The Mole: Oswald. And the blurb writers don't care who knows it.
  • The Muse: Genevieve has become this to Detlef by the end of the story.
  • The Role-Playing Game: Castle Drachenfels, an adventure supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. As the title implies, it focuses on the Great Enchanter's fortress rather than the novel's plot-line or characters (though one of the provided scenarios involves Drachenfels returning to life).
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Unusually, the hero is in on it too.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Genevieve muses on how many different kinds there are in the Warhammer universe (aside from the four you usually run into in the game). There is also a distinction drawn between 'truly dead' vampires that have actually died and are generally more monstrous and restricted by things like sunlight and running water and those like Genevieve who were never strictly killed during their turning and are still in a certain sense alive. Genevive herself would later be retconned in the second edition of the RPG as a Lahmian by blood but not by 'culture' - her sire Chadagnac the Ancient was himself turned into a vampire by a rogue member of the Lahmian sisterhood and Genevieve has no direct links to Neferata or her schemes.
  • Prima Donna Director: Detlef. Guy managed to run up a king's ransom in debt from refusing to compromise on special effects on his last play.
  • Pretender Diss: One of the signs of Drachenfels' arrogance is having a sort of parody shrine mocking Khorne of all entities, considering him an amateur in the pursuit of evil.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Emperor Karl Franz. He isn't the griffon riding badass of later versions of Warhammer (mostly on account of being considerably younger in this book) but he seems like a humane and capable individual.
  • Serial Killer: Laszlo Lowenstein has a need to dissect people alive, which makes him useful for Drachenfel's plan to return and claim the Empire.
  • Shout-Out: It's a Kim Newman novel, people. Don't make a drinking game of them unless you want to wake up having your stomach pumped.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Drachenfels deliberately allows (and in fact, actively encourages) Oswald to destroy his current body in order to return rejuvenated and with a room full of powerful targets decades later.
  • Time Abyss: Drachenfels. When Genevieve feeds on him, it's revealed that he remembers "the arrival of the toad-men from the stars". That's right, he predates the arrival of the setting's resident Ancient Astronauts. And when he does finally die, he realizes even his life has been little more than an eyeblink in the scheme of things. Brrr.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The final chapter briefly describes the clean-up and then details the later lives of many of the surviving characters.