If you’re reading this, it means you’ve heard the stories. A skeleton lady called Bonehilda living in a mansion somewhere down in the Forgotten Hollow. And if you have done your horror stories homework, you also know that a vampire by the name of Count Vladislaus Straud IV supposedly originates from the Forgotten Hollow, as well.
Do you believe in coincidences? You shouldn’t.
Because the story of Bonehilda begins with a very young Vlad Straud.
As a young boy, Vladislaus and his sister Hilda were inseparable. They spent all their time playing together. Hilda loved her brother very much, and he loved her. And as they grew older, they remained best friends. They helped each other through the difficult times, especially after their parents had died. Hilda was all Vlad had left – until she was taken away from him, too.
She was sick. They found it too late. There was nothing anyone could do. There was nothing Vlad could do. Not in time to prevent her death, at least.
But he didn’t give up hope. There must be something. Something… magical. And so he traveled the world, looking for the Greatest Witch Naomi. At first she felt not a single bit of compassion for the Count. But he went back the next day. And the next day. And he begged. And after a year, nine months, three weeks and 6 days, Naomi changed her mind. Impressed with his dedication and sacrifice, she told him about a Resurrection Ritual that would bring back Hilda.
“There’s only one thing…” Naomi said.
“Name it. Anything. I’ll do anything.” Vlad groveled.
“Anything?” She raised an eyebrow. “Straud, let me ask you. Have you ever… killed someone?”
He raised his eyes to hers. “Never,” he said, “but I will for her.”
“The Ritual demands a certain… sacrifice. A virgin, on the night of her wedding.”
He swallowed. “Then it must be done,” he said, trying to sound more calm and collected than he was. “Anything else?”
The Witch smiled. “As for my payment… I will need… you.”
“You mean m-my… soul?”
“No, I mean you. I want you to work for me. You will be blessed with great power, an immortal life, and the opportunity of a life time as my personal… let’s say delivery guy. You will be picking up something somewhere and take it to another location. Easy-peasy. There will be a few… minor side effects, but nothing you can’t work around, I’m sure.”
A silence hung in between them for a while. Vlad sighed.
“Well, I already said I’d do anything. As long as I get her back. So, yes.”
After the Witch handed him the tome for the Ritual, she collected her payment. Vlad wasn’t quite sure what he expected, but it definitely wasn’t this. She waved her hand in the direction of his neck, and he felt a sting as if two giant mosquitoes had just gulped a feast. “Here”, she said, and handed him a cloth to clean up the trickle of blood dripping down his neck. “It’ll sting for a bit, but it shouldn’t take effect until after. You can pick up your robes and gear from my assistant on your way out.”
And thus Vladislaus Straud traveled back to his mansion and set to his preparations. Five candles made of the fat of five different beasts. A pentagram drawn from the chalk of the First Chapel. And at last, a virgin on her wedding night, on the night of a full moon.
The incantation Vlad had to read was in Old Simlish, a language he hadn’t studied, so he practiced it for days until he was sure he’d have it right, word for word. But when he recited the spell, the magical energy snapping into place and the dark spirits coming to do his bidding, something went horribly wrong…
For Hilda had not returned to the Realm of the Living in flesh and blood. What crawled out of the coffin was nothing more than animated bones, covered in what ragged cloth was left of her dress, though with the mind and memories of young Hilda Straud. She was horrified – at what he had done, at what she had become. But he looked at her, and he didn’t see the horror, He only saw his little sister. He cried, so happy to have her back. To not be alone anymore. They could be together. Forever.
Oh, if only she had shared the sentiment. Because as horror stories go, they rarely have happy endings. Hilda found herself unable to forgive her brother for the sins he had committed. He would live his immortal life, cursed by thirst and regret, for all eternity. He had what he wished for – Hilda had returned from the dead, albeit not the way he wanted.
To this day, Hilda is tethered to the Straud mansion, unable to leave because of the state she finds herself in. She roams the lands surrounding the mansion, hiding away from all humankind. No one has seen, heard or spoken to her ever since.
Or have they? Because where else do the stories come from, I wonder…