September 23, 2023

The Worst King, Who Also Happens To Be A Vampire

The group of gaunt looking men have been watching you from across the bar since you arrived. They are not subtle about staring, and they look like a strong gust of wind would send them tumbling so they don’t seem like much of a threat, but you keep one eye on them anyway, putting as much pub between you and them as possible. 

After some time has passed and drinks have been drunk, one of them gathers his courage and approaches, sliding into a chair at your table. 

“You seem like a strong and worldly traveler,” he says, voice low. You have seen enough of the world to know where this is going. 

“I am,” you say. “So, what will it be? Do you have a monster in the hills that needs slaying or a bauble that needs to be returned to a temple? Maybe a band of brigands has overrun your town? What do you have for me?”

He leans in a little closer, drops his voice a little lower. 

“We need you to kill our king.” 

You lean back in your chair, contemplating. This is a new one. For all your travels, you’ve never been sought out to murder royalty. You have to admit that the challenge is intriguing. 

“Is he an evil king?” you ask. Intriguing as the prospect may be, you can’t bring yourself to agree to kill someone who is just annoying. 

“He is terrible, cruel. Does horrible things to all of us,” the man says, clearly afraid. You notice deep scars on his wrist as motions to his compatriots, wounds that have been reopened over and over. 

Killing an evil king is something you can square with yourself and your gods, so you will take this job. 

“I think I can help you, then,” you tell him. 

“I have to be honest, it may not be easy,” he begins, but you wave him off. 

“I wouldn’t be interested if it was easy,” you say. “But in the end, a king is still just a man, and can be killed the same as any of us.” 

The man laughs uneasily. 

Hope you’re ready for more than you bargained for because it’s time to face the abhartach. 

The abhartach is essentially an Irish Dracula, and is now thought to have heavily influenced Bram Stoker as he created the vampire that we recognize today. According to legend, the abhartach was once a chieftain, small in stature either by birth or due to a war injury and  universally feared by his subjects for his cruelty and dabblings in dark magic. Unwilling to live at the whims of their villainous ruler any longer, a group of his subjects approached a neighboring chieftain, asking him to kill their terrible king. The rival ruler was happy to oblige and murdered the cruel king, burying him in the traditional manner out of respect for his station, if not his life choices. 

However, the next day the king returned, crueler than ever and demanding bowls of blood from his subjects. The townsfolk went again to the neighboring chieftain and asked him if he could maybe kill this guy one more time, and once again the chieftain agreed, and once again their terrible ruler showed back up the next day, even meaner and demanding more blood. 

Now an undying tyrant, the abhartach retains both its power and status as ruler and magical abilities. Stories describe him using dark magic to spread disease or cause swift, painful death to those who displeased or challenged him, with people often found dead in their homes, looks of horror frozen on their faces. 

Since the abhartach is already dead, just trying to kill it again is a bad plan. As we now know, killing a vampire is part ritual, a process that requires specific objects to weaken the creature, and the abhartach is no different. 

The only way to stop the abhartach is to trap it in its grave. According to folklore, this means piercing his heart with a sword made out of yew, burying him with his feet pointing up, covering the grave with ash branches and thorns, and then dropping a giant slab of rock over the whole thing. The big stone slab seems like it is probably doing the heavy lifting in trapping the vampire king in his grave, but skip the other steps at your own risk. It also bears remembering that no matter what, the abhartach is still under that rock, just waiting for an opportunity to escape and resume his evil reign.