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Literature / In the Castle of the Night

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In The Castle of the Night is a supernatural-horror web novella by VineLightnote , an entry in The Kindness of Devils and a prequel to the main series set in 1955. It can be read here.

Set in 1955, Hardestadt Delac arrives in Transylvania with his friend Professor Loren Prospero, deep within the Carpathians at the same time a tour group is exploring the region. Arriving at Castle Krolock, Hardestadt becomes aware that, as All Hallows Eve approaches, a terrifying evil has taken root within the castle and is hunting those within.

The work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Agent Scully: Daphne Westerna is a professor who doesn't believe the ghost stories floating around about places like Castle Krolock and is really just interested in architecture. A vampire murdering people through their dreams and his servants being monsters convinces her otherwise.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Maria, Stadt's lover several centuries before the events of the current story, who identifies as "they/them".
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Krolock uses his last remaining descendant of his brother Serghei's family as an immortal anchor to keep him linked to the physical realm. He also has him trapped under his bed, impaled all over, and deprived of sunlight, food and water. When Prospero kills him, it's a mercy.
    • In the climax, Krolock is dragged away by the mysterious dark powers he made bargains with. It's implied the fate that awaits him is quite nightmarish.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Count Nicolai Gabriel von Krolock is evil as they come.
  • Badass Bookworm: Prospero and Daphne Westerna are both bookish professors and both make decent showings of themselves.
  • Badass Normal: Prospero is close enough. While he has minor psychic powers as a medium, they don't come in handy during a fight, making him—for all intents and purposes—a normal guy fighting vampires alongside the son of Satan.
  • Battle Couple: Stadt and his lover Maria. The two of them are shown fighting monsters side-by-side in flashbacks.
  • Big Bad: Count Nicolai Gabriel von Krolock is the arch-villain of the story.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Frederick Hughes, who seems like nothing more than an affable man who ropes in tourists for trips to Castle Krolock. At one point he even seems to sacrifice himself to buy time for Elsie to escape wolves controlled by Krolock. In actuality, he's a faithful servant of von Krolock and delivers these people as sacrifices to his master.
  • Cain and Abel: Von Krolock loathed his goodhearted brother Serghei and eventually destroyed him and much of his family line.
  • The Cameo: Koschei the Immortal puts in a cameo, fighting alongside Stadt and Maria in a flashback.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Prospero is very, very clearly Vincent Price.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: During the course of the story, reference is made to an aristocrat who's name was lost to time, but remembered for the atrocities he committed. This person was only known as "The Dragon." When Daphne translates the word Krolock was calling Stadt, she finds out the closest meaning the word has is... "dragon."
  • Classical Movie Vampire: When restored, Count von Krolock cultivates this image, black cape and all.
  • Co-Dragons: The Kraan brothers, Radu, Raovk and Kryder, function as von Krolock's chief subordinates.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Stadt versus Radu Kraan can't even be called a fight. Radu ends up chopped up into pieces with strikes from Stadt's sword too fast to be seen.
  • Daywalking Vampire: Certain breeds of vampire can enter the sun, and von Krolock sought to erase this weakness from himself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Loren Prospero proves himself Hardesadt's equal in quiet snark, if not his superior.
  • Deal with the Devil: Von Krolock thinks he made a bargain with Lucifer, but given Lucifer in the setting is a Noble Demon, what truly accepted his pact is left ambiguous. They're certainly not friendly though as they drag von Krolock away into the "hungry darkness" when it comes time to collect Krolock's debt.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Implied to be the fate of von Krolock, who gets a visit from the dark powers he bargained with, that drag him away into the "hungry dark." Whatever they are isn't made clear, but given how devils are usually pretty chill in this setting, he might've preferred being dragged off to hell instead.
  • Evil Is Petty: Nicolai von Krolock's kind brother Serghei? In the family crypt, his skeleton's head has been ripped off and placed between the body's legs. Gee, who could've done such a thing?
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Kraan siblings seem to genuinely love one another. In the backstory, Krolock was about to kill Kryder for angering him, his brothers begged for mercy, getting him spared but at the cost of his tongue. When Kryder is killed, Radu and Ravok swear to avenge him, an oath Ravok doubles down on after Radu is killed.
  • The Fair Folk: The Iele, Zana and Sanziana are fairies from Romanian folklore. Their species has nearly been wiped out by Krolock committing grotesque experiments on them to empower himself.
  • Forced Transformation: Krolock keeps the souls of his victims trapped as wolves under his control.
  • Fur Against Fang: Averted, like the original Dracula novel, the werewolf Kraan brother Kryder is just a loyal a minion of the vampire Von Krolock as his own vampiric brothers Radu and Ravok.
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: Averted. Romania is explicitly communist and the tour group only functions there through well-placed bribes, while Hardestadt's expertise is given leeway by the government, though he fully acknowledges their patience is not infinite.
  • Master Swordsman: Von Krolock manages to hold his own with Hardestadt in a sword duel, something very few villains in this series have ever achieved.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: There are multiple types of vampires from folklore here. Two are Moroi, which are life-drinkers, while one is a Strigoi Viu, and the last is a Strigoi Mort, the most powerful and evil type of vampire.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Prospero is devoutly Presbyterian.
  • Shout-Out: Tons.
    • Prospero resembles Vincent Price, and his name is a reference to two of Price's roles: Frederick Loren from House On Haunted Hill and Prince Prospero The Masque of the Red Death
    • Daphne Westerna's last name is a clear reference to Lucy Westerna from Dracula
    • The Kraan brothers reference a kinsman named Anatole who served Count Regula, a reference to the Christopher Lee horror film The Blood Demon (also known as The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism.)
    • Count von Krolock's MO and appearance reminds one of Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street and his name is from Tanz Der Vampire, which is even a chapter title.
    • Several other nobles suspected of vampirism are mentioned, such as Count Mitterhaus of Steitl, a reference to Vampire Circus and Lord Ruthven, a reference to Polidori's The Vampyre.
    • The destruction of Wisborg and the events there? Wisborg is the main city in Nosferatu and the events are a clear reference to Bloodborne.
    • The name Barovia for the village and the goodhearted white shep brother Serghei? Hello Ravenloft.
  • Skeptic No Longer: Daphne Westerna no longer doubts the supernatural after encountering multiple monsters in one night.
  • Tuckerization: Ravok Kraan is named after Ravok, a friend and fellow troper to the author Lightysnake.
  • You Are Already Dead: How Stadt's—for lack of a better word—"fight" against Radu goes. He's sliced up so fast that he barely realizes what's happened until he's literally falling apart. Stadt even quotes the trope.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Frederick Hughes, who had loyally lured people to Castle Krolock for the Count to prey upon, is killed for his blood the moment the Count tires of him.