Author's Note: I do not own Castlevania, nor any of its characters, those are the rightful property of Konami, so please don't sue me. I don't have any money anyway. Any character not in the original game does belong to me. Enjoy!

Prologue

It is dismal and without hope here. There are no companions to be found save the occasional rat, or the conversation of the perpetually trickling moisture which pools in niches on the walls. My memories have kept me sane, my dreams have freed me from this hell, and the sound of my own voice is the only thing which keeps the gibbering madness at bay.

I was the only son and heir to a wealthy family. The Armsters of the Holy Roman Empire were an old and distinguished line. Five of my ancestors had joined their talents and strength to carve out a place for the family in the long annals of the aristocracy. While we were not as wealthy nor as powerful as they, we still had our pride, and our place in the court among our peers. We did not want for creature comforts or necessities, either. There were only two of us left, my father and I. I never knew my mother, she passed out of this world whilst bringing me into it. The stigma of her death was to haunt me, marring me irrevocably in my father's eyes. Though he had not particularly loved Mother, he was desperate for an heir. He was an old man when I was a youngster, and many whispered that it was a miracle I had been begotten. Some were so surprised as to speculate that I was a cuckoo, gotten on the wrong side of the blanket, and that Mother had perished for committing the sin of adultery.

Perhaps this is indeed the truth, if the gossip of servants is to be believed. My father was a rather cold man, it is difficult to envision him treating anyone with kindness. I cannot imagine him smiling in joy. In my memories he only smiled to mock or insult. The smile of my father was lethal, never bestowing the feelings a smile is meant to convey. He hated me in particular. From the start, I have always been sickly, pale and anemic. I did not take my first steps until I was nearing two winters, and it was another three before I began to speak. Father viewed me as an embarrassment and a disappointment. I was kept locked in a sickroom for the majority of my childhood and early adult years. He could not bear to look at me, for I was the undeniable reminder of his failed duty to his bloodline.

Doctors from Rome, Berlin and Paris were sent for in the hopes that I could be cured of my ailments. But, always after they had carefully repacked their instruments into their bags, they would shake their heads. "I am sorry, but his illnesses are incurable. Perhaps if we knew more about the nature of his affliction we could proscribe a medication or treatment. As it stands, he will be lucky to see the next autumn."

When it seemed that the Armster lineage would end with my impending death, Father flew into a rage: against God, himself, Mother… and I.

Chapter I

"Worthless!" Karl Armster screamed, his already haggard face turning crimson from his anger. A vein pulsed fitfully on his temple. When he raised his fist, the young man before him cowered fearfully. Heart pounding erratically in his fragile chest, Joachim Armster raised his thin arms in desperation to stop the blow. It came anyway, like the Khamsin storms brutally casting aside Holy Crusaders, the elder Armster's blow swept aside his son's arms and connected soundly with his left temple.

Joachim's teeth clacked together as he lost both his grip on his cane and his balance. He hit the floor so hard that the breath was forced painfully from his lungs. His eyes drifted shut, and for a moment he focused on the soft sounds of birdsong and the serfs calling out to each other in the fields. He groaned, dazed, and wished that he were naught but a serf, surely they were not beaten as much as he was! As Joachim lay gasping on the floor, his father towered over him, waiting for him to regain enough equilibrium so that he could hear the next barrage of insults. Joachim idly noticed that his father's spurs were blooded, and he momentarily sympathized with the horse unfortunate enough to attract the Baron's ire.

"Worthless boy." Karl rasped as Joachim struggled to his knees, folding his weak legs beneath him. "Damned wretch! I've long since wished you had followed your mother…well, soon enough." A cold light resided in Karl Armster's eyes as he cruelly gripped his son by the arm and hauled him to his feet. "The King, politically inept as he is, will be assembling the oldest of Germany's families at a fete in two weeks time. I have already taken the liberty of reserving a place for us." He chuckled, but the source of his amusement escaped his son's understanding. "Just think on it Joachim, a father-son holiday. And while we're enjoying the Lord's hospitality, you'll be aiding me in finding a suitable, fecund young lady."

The Baron grasped Joachim's jaw and pulled him close as his son gasped, "You, surely you don't mean to wed, Father?" The reek of brandy on Karl's breath was making his stomach churn. "Of course not. What foolishness! Truly, you are an imbecile!" Baron Armster snarled, then, shaking his son cruelly, he growled, "I'm expecting a grandson from you, boy. Whether you die or live means nothing to me, but this family…the Armster name will live on." Twisting the fingers of one meaty hand into Joachim's hair, Karl directed his gaze to the accoutrements filling his private chambers. Each piece of furniture, from his bed to the footstool sitting before the fireplace, sported the unmistakable signs of luxury in every decorative carve and whorl. Fine rugs lined the stone floor, rich in color and texture. They provided an aesthetic contrast to the painstakingly detailed tapestries hanging from the walls. As a child, Joachim had sat for hours in front of those same tapestries, imagining himself as a brave knight out to hunt, or a hero, casting out demons with a blessed sword. Bookshelves stacked with volume after leather bound volume were yet another testament to a boy's desperate wish for escape, any escape, even one into his own mind.

Joachim had retreated into the center of himself, lost for a moment in the memories of a foiled and painful childhood. His father's voice abruptly pulled him back to the present. "Our ancestors fought far too hard for what you see around you today, and I won't stand to see such a great family brought down by a worthless weakling such as you!" His tirade finished, the old man released his son and promptly left the sickroom, slamming the door shut in his wake. Joachim stared, trembling, at the door before retrieving his cane and hobbling carefully into the washroom. He stood still for a moment, bracing himself against the table's edge with his still shaking hands. His shoulders shook and his knuckles whitened as his grip tightened on the table. Unable to quell his misery, he hung his head and sobbed in helplessness and frustration. The sounds of his sharp cries reverberated from the walls, and he ceased suddenly, dashing the tears from his face, ashamed of his weakness and hating his father all the more for it.

His nose had begun bleeding during his father's abuse, and he noted that his newest blue jacket sported several new stains and rips. He tore it off angrily, even this simple task exhausting him. Panting harshly, he stopped his nose and examined his temple in the small mirror sitting atop his wash table. The left side of his face had already begun to swell, and a dark purple bruise which covered his face from eye socket to ear glared back at him. Joachim groaned as he carefully combed and arranged his hair to hide the ugly evidence of his father's hatred. I look like a fruit which has fallen off the farmer's cart. He thought ruefully.

He sighed and carefully removed the rest of his sullied clothes, casting them into the hamper for the servants to pick up later. The imprints of Baron Armster's fingers marred his shoulders, and his chest sported several bruises from its contact with the unforgiving stone floor. "And damn again." he murmured, consigned to regular brutality. He turned this way and that, searching for new bruises… ahh, there on his hip, he'd walked into the table this morning, oh, and here, on his leg, he'd tripped on his way back up the stairs after luncheon had been served.

There was yet another on his arm, behind the elbow, he wasn't too certain where he had gotten it. "I probably fluffed the pillows too forcefully," he spat, disgusted. Joachim tenderly removed the padding from his nostrils and probed the sides of his nose, checking for more blood. Taking up the ceramic ewer which had once belonged to his mother, he carefully poured water into the washbowl, sopping a cloth until his fingers numbed from the cold water. He washed the blood from his face and pushed the cloth against the bruise, the cold blissfully numbing the ache.

Casting one last look at his exposed form, he choked, "Dying be damned, I already look as though I am dead! I pity the woman consigned to wed with me. How can I give her a life when my own is to expire so soon? And as for children..." The fingers of one hand absently traced his visible ribs, counting them as he took in his spare figure. The thin legs and slender arms, the painfully protruding hipbones and collarbones. Even his face showed prominent structure, and his eyes gazed woefully from their bruised sockets. Joachim Armster resembled the figure of a broken angel, cast from the heavens. A shade of what could have been, had circumstances been kinder. A bitter smile pulled his pale lips back into a rictus. "What woman would ever desire to touch this?"