It was a cool winter's evening on the floating island of Cinova. In the unnamed town outside Castle Vanda sat a small inn and tavern. Only a handful of patrons sat in the small common room; in the far corner, a gargoyle named Laoch sits in silence, his wings wrapped around him like a cloak. In another corner sat a mysterious man wearing a cloak and hood, a man named Ventis Malum. Another human, a young man with the unusual name of Dawn Torchlight, sat at one of the center tables. At the bar sat a valkyrie named Athena. On the second story, watching the three patrons down below, the ghost of a young vampire girl named Elanora was leaning against the banister.
The door to the inn opened and a vampire soldier entered, bearing the emblem of House Vanda on his armor. He looked around the room at the five patrons — the gargoyle, the two humans, the valkyrie, and even the young ghost (who was surprised that he could see her). "I suppose you'll do," he said.
"Her Grace, Baroness Kalia, would like to speak with you," he told them.
The five patrons were initially taken aback, but each finally agreed to see the Baroness. Elanora, the last holdout, agreed on the condition that there would be games.
The vampire introduced himself as Vojtech Zurin, the personal guard to Baroness Kalia. He led them to the castle. As they passed through the gate and down the castle corridors, the group saw an impressive collection of tapestries, paintings and other pieces of art from several different races. They were even surprised to see a large tapestry which appeared to be of Valkyrie origin — one which portrayed the valkyries in a very positive light, even as it showed the vampires as villains.
Finally, they entered the throne room. Large — but not overlarge — the room was empty save for a series of large pillars and the throne at the end of the room, on a large dais. More art hung on the walls, some of it of vampire origin but much of it from other races as well. Seated on the throne was Baroness Kalia, a beautiful, youthful-looking vampire. As the group approached, she was speaking with a servant.
Seeing them approach, she sent the servant away. As the group approached the throne, Ventis bowed, Elanora kneeled, Dawn nodded, and Laoch stood, doing nothing.
The Baroness greeted them. "The reason I have brought you here," she told them, "is that I need assistance with a task which my servants cannot accomplish." She told them that she needed them to go to the Lower Continent, to the village of Ottelruck in the Forest of the Dead, to retrieve a mysterious artifact which had recently been discovered there. She told them that the rumors she had heard about this artifact had piqued her curiosity, but she could not send any of her servants to find it because other Vampire Houses were also interested in this artifact — more powerful Houses, who would not have been happy to see such a small House interfering in their business.
The Baroness told them that she would give them a magical mirror with which they could contact her once they had found the artifact. She also told them that she was willing to pay them each 300 gold pieces, with 100 up front. For Elanora, who as a ghost had no need for money, she offered something far more valuable: information about Elanora's past, which she had forgotten after her death.
The group agreed to work for the Baroness, and she thanked them. They agreed to leave in the morning, and the Baroness offered a room in the castle for the night for any of them who wished to stay there. Laoch, Elanora and Ventis took her up on this offer; Dawn and Athena opted to return to the tavern.
Elanora, who had no need to sleep, spent the night exploring the castle. She discovered a secret door in one of the towers which was marked with an unusual carving. Passing through the door, she found a small room underneath the tower's spiral staircase which was filled with ancient-looking books and scrolls. Investigating the room, Elanora discovered one particular book which was sticking out of the shelf somewhat. On its cover she noticed a strange symbol, one which sparked something in her memory, but she could not place it. She tried to pick up the book, but in her excitement lost control of her corporeality for a moment and found herself falling through the floor.
Elanora fell through several stories into a large, well-decorated room with a large four-poster bed in the center. On the bed were Baroness Kalia and Vojtech Zurin, both unclothed and engaged in what to Elanora appeared to be wrestling. Seeing her, the Baroness yelled for Elanora to leave, which she did.
The young ghost next went to find Laoch, who was sleeping perched on one of the tower's balconies. Waking him, she explained to him what she had discovered, and asked his help in looking at the book. Laoch agreed to help her, and followed her to the secret room, where he retrieved the book for her. He read through the book and examined the cover, though he had no idea what the symbol might mean.
The next morning, the group met at the stables outside the tavern. Zurin met them there and explained that the Baroness had purchased passage for them on an airship traveling from Castle Vanda to the city of Rokova in the kingdom of Navistrad, on the Lower Continent. From there, he explained to them, they would have to travel overland to the village of Ottelruck, where the artifact was found.
The group boarded the airship and got themselves settled for the voyage. Laoch was pleased to discover that the engineer on board the airship was a fellow gargoyle. Elanora satisfied herself by exploring the ship, which led to the sailors believing the airship was haunted when some of them noticed her presence. After three days, the trip was complete and the group arrived in Rokova.
The group found the city of Rokova, one of the largest port cities in the human kingdoms, to be filthy, smelly and disgusting. Especially compared to Castle Vanda, which was clean and well-kept, they were very disturbed by the state of the city.
Upon arrival, Dawn went to the city's market, but found nothing that suited his interest. He went to a nearby inn and rented a room. At the inn — which he also found to be quite disgusting — he was told that the inn had only one room available, with a single large bed. He accepted these terms and rented the room anyway.
Laoch was reading the book, which he had taken from the castle when they left. After reading it, he discovered that the book was a history of House Marketa, one of the wealthiest and most powerful of the vampire Houses. Besides the early chapters, however, which detailed the two vampire wars of prehistory — the War of Vampiric Succession and the War of Dark Consecration — he found the rest of the book to be quite dry. After telling Elanora what he had discovered, she found that the name Marketa sounded very familiar to her.
Before leaving town, Dawn went out into the land surrounding the city and foraged for herbs. Afterward, he returned to the inn.