As long as the inhabitants of the tiny, isolated Carpathian hamlet of Ilajescu had any folk memory, the great hunting lodge of Sarmej had existed on the great forested berg to the south. Smoke could occasionally be seen rising from it on clear days, and still nights often revealed lights within, but the people of Ilajescu never ventured near the lodge all the same.

The people who occasionally lived there were known to dress finely, speak rarely, and kill intruders on sight. The Imperial governor and his lackeys always dismissed these concerns when they were raised, noting that the lodge’s inhabitants were free nobles of good standing, but they were always noncommittal about the nobles’ actual names and titles. By the time of Emperor Francis, the Imperial authorities refused to acknowledge the lodge at all.

Ilajescu remembered, though, as a villager would be murdered every few years for straying too close to Sarmej, an unfortunate circumstance not helped by the local youth who viewed a successful trip to and from the remote lodge to be a worthy feat of manhood and test of mettle. But if the mysterious nobles of Sarmej caught an intruder, they would return, at best, with a harrowing tale of being pursued and shot at.

Eventually, after a night of heavy drinking following a successful harvest, a group of youths set out for Sarmej with the intention of breaking in and taking something from it as proof of their feat. Not one of the eight youths was ever seen again, and the following evening, the inhabitants of Sarmej attacked Ilajescu itself. Bearing flaming brands and dressed in dark clothing, they targeted the homes of the eight and burned them to the ground. A large part of the harvest was also destroyed, as were the five townsfolk who attempted to fight back.

No one was able to see the figures clearly, and the Sarmej attackers never uttered a sound.

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