Lost in the Mists

A servant's tale, part 7
Come What May

Time gets away from me and my chronicles suffer for it. I hope The Morning Lord can forgive this small sin in light of all the good His emissary has done. His emissary, I like the feel of that. Recently a spectre wailed at us, asking who dare disrupt her masters plans and I informed her that I was the emissary of The Morning Lord, and invited her to come see His Light. Perhaps a bit self-grandizing, but no less true for the deeds I have done in His name of late. We have slain two Dark Lords since last I thought to track my progress, those of Darkov and Varostakov. We are lately in Barovia, Lucas’ home of Vallaki, in point of fact. It is a pretty little town on a glistening blue lake.
Upon our arrival, several problems came to light and we took it upon our shoulders to help in fixing this place. Nothing we wouldn’t do anywhere else, but since Lucas once made home here it felt even more important. He, after all, helped us in our home; It’s only right we repay that favor.
The murder of two cousins became our top priority, and missing elves and civil unrest also needed our attention; but first a Vistani seer, the second of three foretold gave us all a reading, save the newcomer to our midst. Just as well, he was not part of the first reading, who knows what his inclusion would have done to the predictions. Everyone got some kind of hint about a trial and a power that would come to them, except myself. I drew The Fool, which spoke of conflict and a grim fate with Strahd. However Lucas detected something not forthcoming in her demeanor when she spoke of my fortune. Is it possible that she is the one not to be trusted? Or is there something she is worried about in me? Perhaps my claims of His emissary are not so far off the mark.
But if I am to meet my fate at the hands of Strahd then so be it. The light does not shy away from the encroaching dark, for it knows it will come again with the dawn.

View
Life #32 - A Vampire in Monk's Clothing

We scaled Mount Baratak and as we climbed higher the air grew thin and frigid. Winds battered us as icy air filled our lungs. After enduring this hellishness for a day we came upon frozen bodies. They looked like statues carved out of ice, but they were very suspicious-looking. As we approached there was a terrible wailing. Out of the snow came a crying woman. We knew she was not what she seemed and sure enough, the frozen forms sprang to life as the specter attacked us.

While she was formidable, we were victorious over the specter and her icy minions. Lucas told us of some legend involving a young woman who was caught in a storm on the mountain. Her specter had killed most of the men who went to rescue her, leading to tales of her spirit attacking travelers and stealing the warmth from their bodies.

We continued down Svalich Pass and began walking along Old Svalich Road. We finally, after all this time, had reached Barovia. As we came over a hill we were greeted by the sight of a large walled town on the shore of a huge lake. Lucas told us it was Vallaki, his hometown. We proceeded to Blue Water Inn where nearly everyone who we spoke with was quite surprised to see Lucas alive and well.

As we spoke with the townspeople, we learned more and more of troubled times that the town had been experiencing. Two members of the council, the Watcher cousins, had recently been murdered. And the nearby dusk elves were losing their hunting parties somewhere in the nearby woods. There was also fighting among the people of one of the districts in the town.

We agreed that we should do something about all this trouble plaguing the area and offered our services to the Burgomaster. He was more than happy to accept our aid. Before we began though, the Vistani bard, Arabelle, at the inn read our fortunes.
I drew first and based on my cards Arabelle told me that at some place called the Tser Pool my vitality would be bolstered for the fight there. Some of the others also were told of places where they would receive greater power for the trials to come.

With knowledge of our potential futures we ventured onward. We dug up the Watcher cousins so that Goodman could once again perform his favorite, and very helpful, rituals. Goodman learned that the men had been killed by a monk dressed in white and with a full black beard. He was inhumanly fast and wore a golden lion pendant. He also learned that the Watchers had all been warned to stay away from the family mausoleum.

We put the bodies to rest and then got some rest. The next morning we ventured to the dusk elf camp near the town. The dusk elves were very polite, although there was some tension between the elves and Lucas. The elves explained that two of the hunting parties had vanished. The dusk elf leader, Kasimir, told us that he had made an agreement with the Watcher family to keep their mausoleum hidden in the forest. He had apparently failed to uphold his part of the agreement.

With Kasimir’s help we were able to locate the mausoleum. Someone had clearly been there recently. Inside we found a stone box in the center of the floor that had blood on it. The box appeared to have been sculpted with magic, rather than carved with tools. The corner of the box had been broken, revealing it to be hollow. We smashed the hole enough to get a better look inside. We found that every inch of the box had been scratched from the inside, except for a small portion containing a symbol to the Morning Lord.

The conclusion we’ve reached now is that the box was a prison for a vampire, and that vampire is now free. When some grave-robbing fool broke the corner of the box, the vampire turned to mist and escaped. He then sought out the Watcher cousins to enact revenge for his imprisonment.

Looks like we’re hunting for vampires.

View
Life #32 - The Howling

We ran through the woods from Gregor and his group. After running through the dark, chilly forest we were beset upon by Gregor’s barbarians. While they seemed fully capable of terrorizing the people of the town, they proved no match for us. We quickly beat them and continued our flight towards Barovia.

As we ran the howls grew louder and were getting closer and closer. Soon, as we neared an icy river, a group of werewolves burst out of the forest and attacked. We focused our attacks on one at a time in order to combat their regeneration. Though the fight was difficult, we succeeded and continued on.

We continued to run for over an hour, with the sounds of our pursuers growing fainter. We weren’t sure what that meant, but we didn’t wait to find out. After one of the longest hours of my many lives, we reached the base of the mountain pass that would take us to Barovia.

It was then that Gregor showed himself. He was there with some more of his lupine followers. He offered to allow us to join his pack and he would give us the gift of his curse. When we refused the fighting began. Luckily, Goodman had a vial of alchemical silver he acquired in Nova Vassa and coated Saima’s weapon with it. That certainly helped, but the fight was still brutal. Between Gregor’s pack and Gregor himself, we had our hands full. While Saima’s silvered weapon helped mitigate their healing abilities, she couldn’t attack all of them. But by focusing our attacks again, we were able to best them all.

With Gregor’s terror over, we ascend the mountain and go onward to Barovia. What terrors await us there, I wonder?

View
Saima's Journal: Sweet Dreams

We continued on the road. One night, while Garret and I were on guard, we both found ourselves awakened without knowing we had fallen asleep. The landscape before us had changed. Garret and I agreed to not tell anyone that we had fallen asleep. When everyone else awoke we followed the road and came to a farmhouse where another horror awaited us: A family slaughtered. The scarecrow that killed them and their dead flesh attacked us and left us with no choice but to kill them again. We searched the farm and found a diary describing a handsome stranger that gave the family the power to bring the scarecrow to life. After it helped the family with the harvest it turned on them, killing them and skinning them. What kind of man would do that to a family?

We continued on into the land of Darkon and found an inn to rest in. That night I had the strangest dream… When I awoke from the dream, I got up and followed some strange impulse to go to the tavern. It seems all my companions had the same dream and the same compulsion. Waiting for us there was the Darklord of the realm, Azalin Rex. He talked for some time. Basically he left us with no choice but to complete a mission for him: Enter the Necropolis, his capitol, and reclaim it for him.

Entering the Necropolis meant immediately dying when we stepped in. Azalin assured us he would bring us back once we defeated the entity known as Death. I was afraid, but I faced my fears with the others. As soon as we crossed the barrier, I felt the life in me extinguished, replaced by The Hunger. I felt as though my insides were hollow. The need to feed on blood overwhelmed me. I looked at my companions, all now horrific monsters. I opened my mouth, now filled with sharp teeth, to ask if everyone was alright but what came out instead was, “I’m hungry.” I did not trust myself to speak again for some time.

We had to fight our way though but we made it to the fortress of Death, discovered how to make him vulnerable and defeated him. When it was done, Azalin returned, thanked us and offered to keep us in our current form and keep us with him as allies. A few of my companions were tempted. I vehemently opposed the offer. Once we all refused, Azalin gave us the Icon of Ravenkind, an artifact that he said would be useful in the fight against Lord Strahd. He returned us to life and sent us on our way.

I have not felt the same since we returned to life. It did not bother me at the time but while we were in the fortress, I caught my reflection for a brief moment. Since then, I have not had my usual nighttime dreams of being alive with my family. That face, pale and gaunt, eyes glowing red and full of rage… that face haunts my dreams now.

View
Life #32 - A Vorostokovian Werewolf in Ravenloft

As we investigated the cabin we found we could see the remains of a violent scene. Multiple people had been murdered, and even the animals had been slaughtered outside, as I discovered. As we pored over the scene, we could hear strange whispers from out in the night, which then gave way to screams.

Something was clearly coming for us, so we barricaded ourselves in the cabin. There was a clawing sound from right outside the cabin, so I moved to the window to investigate and that’s when three burned skeletons rose up and attacked. I attacked one through the window and then moved outside to try and keep as much attention away from my companions. The skeletons were joined by two other creatures, one which could fly and summoned fire, while the other was armed with vicious bony claws.

The fight waged into and out of the cabin multiple times as we tried to get a handle on our attackers. After we put them all to rest, Goodman consecrated the area… something he has to do a lot of these days. We rested in the cabin for the night and set out the next morning.

On our way to Barovia we found a small village. Those living there were a simple people, and while they were somewhat suspicious of us at first, they soon offered us what little help they could. But they told us of creatures that stalked the forest.

The town elder, Durlain, explained things in more detail. He told us that Gregor, who we quickly surmised to be the Dark Lord of the area, was a prince who had killed his wife. After her murder he began hunting his subjects. He had become a werewolf, but rather than fear the transformation, he embraced it. The evil atrocities he committed dragged he and his realm into Ravenloft. Now, he and his pack regularly hunt on the night of the full moon. Anyone who was outside the village walls during a full moon was surely doomed, and even those inside the village weren’t safe.

As is our luck, we were in the village on the night of a full moon. And since Gregor is the dark lord of the realm he would know of our arrival. With seemingly little choice in the matter we offered to protect the village as best we could.

As night fell we could hear the pack off in the distance. I began beating my axe on my shield and shouting for Gregor to show himself. We didn’t have to wait long. Gregor, his other werewolves, and his human barbarian slaves all swarmed into the town. Gregor admitted that he was looking forward to hunting us, and offered to leave the rest of the villagers alone if we would run, to make it a sporting hunt, as it were.

What choice did we have? We ran for the border to Barovia.

View
Life #32 - A Long, Cold Night

After leaving Kantora we hiked westward. We were able to cross the border into Vorostokov without incident, which was a welcomed relief. The relief did not last long, however, as we were greeted by a harsh blizzard as soon as we entered the forest of Vorostokov.

Ahead of us was a mountain, and as we climbed it the snow and wind beat down on us. The temperature quickly dropped and we were in severe danger of freezing to death. We pushed onward; at one point I was forced to use my shield to plow a path through the snow for the rest of the group. I’ve never seen a snowstorm like that before in all my lives.

Working together, we were able to continue our ascent up the mountain. When all hope was nearly lost, we found a cabin in the middle of the woods just as the storm began to die down.

Let’s hope the weather continues to be mild tomorrow.

View
The Grinning Child (cont pt.3)

The parlor had been rearranged for Isaac’s viewing. They had decided to keep a smaller window of time for viewing and kept his mouth covered with a seemly white cloth. They weren’t sure if the illness was still communicable, but they had figured better safe than sorry. Elma had taken it harder than she had with many of the other children. She had still held out that Isaac would recover. This world, however, chose to be cruel, far more often than kind.

Grim had continued to shadow Elma and only left her side on rare occasions. He had been a small reprieve. He seemed curious and capable, he’d often watch her doing her chores, then imitate her himself. She recalled seeing him offer Isaac many small kindness, though many times he was still asleep with fever. She felt herself frowning and felt that Isaac had been propped up long enough. They would commence with the funeral tonight.

Vlera gave a few words to initiate the ceremony. It was pleasant enough, but Elma had felt the whole thing lacking. Thoughtlessly a song had come to her lips as Grim watched intently.

“There I wept,
as they laid you down.
Your hopes, your dreams
lay in the ground
Darkness crept
in from all around
you lied down still
you made not a sound.
I must accept,
my sorrow must drown
that you will, and I will
one day be found.”

Through her blurred vision she saw Grim reach up for her face and wipe a tear away. Odd, she thought, as she hurried to regain her composure.

“Don’t worry about me, my dear, I’ll be fine. These are just not easy for me.” Elma patted the top of Grim’s head and continued to look ahead at the small rough stone humbly protruding from the earth.

Vlera gave the young elf a dissaproving look.

View
Life #32 - The Mean Streets of Kantora

So Goodman has once again spoken with a corpse. This time he used the ritual on the murdered girl. He also used another ritual to see through her eyes in the final moments of her life. Between the two rituals we learned she was strangled in an alley by The Beast, who wanted to know why the mysterious stranger chose her. As her life slipped away The Beast threatened the girl’s newborn, as well.

The next morning we learned that the White Hands and the Lawbringers were both looking for information about recent events. We would have to work quickly if we were going to solve this mystery.

As we were trying to brainstorm I came up with the idea of using magic to disguise Saima to look like the murdered girl. We were able to make a Hat of Disguise for Saima to wear. Then we began to spread rumors that the murdered girl had been resurrected in an attempt to lure the Beast to attack again. Lockhold, Lucas and Barlow all followed Saima while she walked the streets in her disguise. Goodman, Garret and I waited at the murdered girl’s house. We put up the girl’s mother and her baby in a room at an inn to keep them safe.

Lockhold returned to us at the girl’s house to let us know that he found some street thugs talking about the girl’s resurrection and that they planned to attack. They were also talking of someone named Malken.

We only waited for a short time before the gang launched their attack. They tried to lure the girl to the door with the ruse that they were members of the guard. As some of them knocked at the front door, others burst in through the back. Saima was all too pleased to drop her disguise as they rushed towards her. The small house was packed as the gang members quickly swarmed in. While maneuvering was difficult in the cramped quarters we were still able to dispatch all the attackers fairly quickly.

We left one of the gang members alive so that he could lead us to this Malken. One look at the bloodied and beaten corpses of his friends was enough to convince him to help us.

View
The Grinning Child (cont)
In the city of Il-Anuk, Darkon 20 years ago

Isaac had been slipping in and out of the dark with the heat of his fever. His room had been moved to a room in the upstairs kept away from the other children. With the storage supplies taken out and his bed put in, there was little room left to accomodate the small table left next to his bed that kept a fresh supply of water and towels. Frequently, he would find his sheets changed, though he could not be sure when this had happened he was certain it was always Elma who had done it.

When he was awake he frequently thought about her and the way her auburn curls often hid her smile. He was also certain that if he could dream she would waft through those umbral thoughts as well bringing the sunshine with her. Dreams had not come to Isaac for some time now. Sleep was a dull thrum that took away the buzz of damp and hot world. As it stood, there was a window at the end of the hall and allowed for a stale breeze at few select points during the day and allowed even less daylight through the bottom crack of his door. Elma would bring the sunlight in with her when she came, very casually as if she didn’t know she was doing it at all, leaving the door half open. Isaac knew better though, and despite having not told her yet, he would repay his debt in full to her by marrying her.
Isaac had many points where he’d woken up recently…by something. He’d never heard anything, but he could tell someone was there, or had been there. As far as he could tell it was always in the night and he was always struck by a certain dread silence. There were times where he thought he might be dreaming, but he knew his dreams had left him for some long indeterminable time by now. His small, clammy fingers pulled his blanket around his nose where he found it too unbearably warm. There the blanket stayed, stifling his breathing further. Did he see something behind the half opened door? No, no he couldn’t. His vision was blurry and trying to focus made his head hurt more. He was brave and stood vigilant under his covers until a wave of naseua washed over him and brought him down into the dark again.

He awoke in the morning, looking at the open door and found the dark wood of the hallway looking back at him. He grabbed a towel off the table and wiped the sweat off of his forehead, then dabbed it in the waterbowl and wiped his face with it again, in a familiar and unpleasant ritual. He had knocked something off the table, small and metallic. Looking at the table there was a rubber ball and a single jack. He grabbed it thoughtfully in his comprehending hands.

This happened for several nights to come. Small trinkets, candy, some rather attractive buttons, smooth stones, these all found a way to his table. Never a footstep, never a person in sight other than Elma. He was afraid to ask her what these were. What did they mean? He hid them under his blanket to keep her from seeing, but when she changed the sheets she must have noticed. He wasn’t always awake when she changed them. When Elma did come in, Isaac was all hushed. She brought in the daylight as she always did, but he felt like there was a shadow following her. It was hot, and his tongue groped around in his sweltering mouth to find the words to say, but he failed. He shrunk into himself as she left again. “It appears you’ve found a new friend.” Elma smiled knowingly at Isaac. The words, as they left her mouth, stuck into his chest. He gaped into the empty doorway at her passing, her words had fallen ominous across his young ears.

That night the presence was there again. Isaac felt as if he were boiling. The shadow that follows her daylight, it had been leaving these trinkets for him. Why? What would it gain? Did he owe it something? Was it taking his life? It wanted what?

Isaac flushed. He knew what it wanted. It wanted Elma, it wanted to take her from him and to leave him in a wake of anguished existence. Isaac didn’t have a lot of strength, but he must do something. He lay in bed, thrashed in his covers, eyes closed, but ever so slightly open. So clever, Isaac thought to himself. He waited for the silence to come, when the wood of the house stopped breathing, when the wind would hesitate. Before him a ghostly hand appeared above his table gently placing down a sweetbread close to him. His chest lurched but he kept his gaze on the hand and looked past it to the door, trying to retain the illusion of his sleep.

A face grinned back at him from the darkness.

Isaac forced air through his lungs issuing forth all of his fear, all of his apprehension, his anger, his weakness, and his exhaustion.

“Know this, shadow!” as his voice struggled to maintain his strength. You cannot have her! She brings the daylight to me and me alone! I will protect her from you so long as I live. You can have all your things back, they won’t change my mind! I promise you this! You will never find happiness, you will never have the sunlight as I do. I know you want it, but you cannot ever have it, because your darkness will get in the way! No matter what you do, you will always be in the dark and despair."

The words hung dead in the air. The wood stopped breathing, the wind hesitated, the moon hid its face behind a cloud.

The grinning face retreated back into the darkness and so Isaac expelled a silent breath….

View
Life #32 - Can't Leave Kantora

Nova Vassa is a barren, dismal looking place. Of all the places we’ve wandered through, few have made me long for the halls of Pelor’s citadel in the Astral Sea like this one. After several hours of walking through the plains we found a razed fort where the soldiers had been impaled on tall poles before being murdered. We buried the slain soldiers before setting up camp for the night.

Before breaking camp we were approached by an undead rider atop an undead horse. They didn’t attack us, but the rider wouldn’t speak either. He would only shake his head to answer questions. After running through many questions, we eventually determined that the rider wanted to follow us south. We decided to allow it to follow, at least for a while.

We continued south. As the day wore on the heat became brutal, but we press. We took a brief rest so that Goodman could use a ritual to gain insight into the rider’s final moments. He confirmed our suspicion that the rider died a savage death in battle.

As the sun began to set we stopped to make camp. Dusk became night and the rider began to grow restless. Later in the evening the rider motioned eastward, and we saw a dust cloud approaching. As the cloud grew closer we could see an orange glow emanating from within. When the dust cloud got closer we could see what was approaching. They were nightmares; a herd of them! Our silent companion helped us fight off the beasts. Garret and Barlow were beaten and burned by the foul creatures, but we were victorious.

The following morning we continued on our journey. Later in the day we found a road that led us to a village. We were greeted by a man named Erik, and as our undead friend left us, Erik explained the nature of our silent companion. In the lands of Nova Vassa it seems that when a traveler dies on horseback while trying to get home, they can come back as an undead creature that tries to help travelers reach their destination. They are friendly, but lonely creatures, it seems. In all my lives I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a thing.
Erik gave us some provisions and explained the area to us. He told us of Vlad Drakov’s soldiers terrorizing the land. And then, after the defeat of the soldiers, they destroyed everything they came across as they retreated. The destruction of the fort was likely their handiwork.

We told Erik that we were trying to get to Vorostokov and then through the mountain pass to Barovia. He offered two routes and we decided to go with the quickest option. We would journey to the capitol city of Kantora, and then through the forests of Vorostokov.

Erik spoke more of the history of the area. He told us of what led up to the current ruler, Othmar, coming to power and becoming a tyrant. Othmar has refused to step down from his stewardship at the appropriate time, apparently mad with power. Some of us in the group were unsure if we should help the people of Nova Vassa, but we seem to keep getting distracted by things like this. The people of Miredus are counting on us.

We left the next day and after three more days of travel, we arrived in Kantora. The city was a strange visage against the dreary landscape. Brightly colored towers stood high above the stone walls. As we explored the city we found that the streets were filled with the destitute, and looming over them were the very privileged few who lived disgustingly opulent lives.
We secured rooms at an inn and were ready to leave the following day. While the city seemed to be in dire need of people like us to right the wrongs the masses were facing, we were too afraid of further delaying action for Miredus. That night we all struggled to sleep peacefully. Our shared discomfort over the course of the night convinced us to stay one more day to investigate the city.

Some of the locals told us of a “Beast” that had been preying on the city for more than ten years. He preferred young, beautiful women, and would leave them brutally murdered in the streets. Sir Tristan had so far been unable to bring the man to justice.

Meanwhile, Goodman also followed up on the mysterious traveler who gave the farmer the potion that created the murderous scarecrow. Goodman found a wizard that may have been able to provide more information. A stranger showed up in Kantora several months ago and bought such a potion from the wizard then. He then seduced two of the women in the city. One left with him while the other one was left in the city.

Goodman tried to find the girl who stayed in the city, and discovered she had just been murdered by the Beast a few days before.

So much for leaving Kantora in a hurry…

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.