Lost in the Mists

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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…

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A servant's tale, part 6
Paths cross

Happenings collide and I would be a fool to consider them chance. The Morning Lord brought us here so that I may track and stop the scarecrow scoundrel, this much is clear. I am on his trail now, for I have found that a man seeking a similar such potion was here only weeks ago and that he bed at least two women, quitting with one in the night. The other, poor soul, has been slain only three nights ago by some mad man or monster known locally as “The Beast”, whom we had determined not to hunt initially, for time waits for no man, most of all the virtuous, and were we to slay every evil we hear whispers of Strahd would as like to die of old age before we found him!
But He is sending me a message again, surely, for no sooner did we decide to move on then I found the trail of my scoundrel and his path, in a way, converged with that of The Beast.
We’ve recently run afoul of the local law, as well. Bunch of drunks and bullies all, near as I can tell. Still, we only subdued them, lest we start killing men for the meagerest of sins. Perhaps they’ll learn a valuable lesson from their beating. More likely they’ll just take it out on someone wholly innocent and meek to make themselves feel strong.
Morning Lord, protect those of this land who cannot do for themselves.

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A servant's tale, part 5
Guiding Light

I have received a sign from The Morning Lord that I am on the correct path in seeking Lichdom: while traveling through the plains of Nova Vaasa, a lone rider approached in dawn’s first light. He was a dead man, on a dead horse, and though initially I perceived a threat, he turned out a benevolent force. A doedridere, as was later explained to us. Riders slain in battle that rise to accompany travelers, wholly unique to this land.
A helpful undead that appeared at dawn; His intentions could not be clearer, and His message has been received. I am on the right path. I suspected as much, though it is good to know it as true.
We also, in our travels, met a new companion. His name is Lockhold, a messenger of some kind. We verified he meant us no ill and permitted him to travel in the safety of our group to his destination. It was immediately clear that was a wise decision, for we were beset upon by a herd of hellish fire horses, Nightmares, someone said. They were a very dangerous foe. Lucky that we had Lockhold and the doedridere along with us. Or fate, as Barlow would remind me. His stability seems increasingly gossamer as he looks ever more to the stars. I shall have to ensure that my quest for unlife does not blind me to his ambitions. I will pray on his mental state, in hopes that He can guide me to something that can help Barlow before he goes too far.
I must look further into justice for the family we found skinned, as well. Whatever the monster that brought that evil to them, it must be stopped, lest it do the same to others.
We are tomorrow bound for Vorostokov via Kantora, the capital city of this land. Erik, an elder in the town we are bedding in tonight, gave us an in depth history lesson along with some useful information about the city. The Church of the Lawbringer reigns there, and any that stand out are not tolerated. That should be amusing. I seek no quarrel with misguided worshippers of an unloving God, but neither will I stand aside while good people are struck by those who think they know better. Someone must defend those who cannot. The Sun’s rays burn not only the unholy, but all who perpetrate evil, no matter what mask they wear.

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The Grinning Child
In the city of Il-Anuk, Darkon 20 years ago

A rap at the door and Elma was up, startled. What time was it? Moonlight poured through the slats in the window piling neatly into organized lines on the floor. Elma rarely fell asleep anywhere but her own room, let alone the front room. Little Isaac had been keeping her up, his fever would simply not diminish. This had been almost two weeks of her tending to him and its toll was worn underneath her eyes. She wondered if she would lose him before the fall. She’d lost many children, none of which were hers.

The door was struck again and snapped her out of her dismal reverie. She looked to the counter and saw that the candle had been spent. Wrapping her shoulders in a shawl, rushed to the door. Who is it? She inquired warily.

“It’s Uldric, I have a child here!

“Uldric?” her mind reeling to catch up. “Cold earth, what are you doing here at this hour?”

“A child, Elma, I found him wandering the streets. I’d have come in the morning and had him stay at my place, but the missus doesn’t trust him.”

“What nonsense are you talking about Uldric?” She hoisted the bar and opened the dark wooden door with some effort. It allowed a grizzled bartender into view. Next to him he held the hand of a small child covered in a lump of clothing. “What do you mean she doesn’t trust him?”

“That’s what I’m tellin ya Ellie! The missus and I were spooked by this little one! We were turnin down for the night when we hears this little one laughing off in the distance in the dark of night! Can you believe it? She begged me and begged me not to go, but you know me, I can’t have any of our little souls running around after the witchin’ hour. She tells me it’s a bad sign and I know it’s a bad idea, I just can’t help myself. So I grab my lantern and Lucy, just in case.”

“That old mutt couldn’t gum her way through your wife’s pastries! What good will she do you?”

“My wife makes some tough pies besides, but you mind yourself! So I heads up towards the Borodin farm and wouldn’t you know it, this mal’chik is sittin on their knotted elm, naked as night. I try not sneakin’ up on him, you know, don’t wanna scare him. But soon as I get close enough he turns and he has this big ol’ grin on ‘is face, bout takes the life out of me! Lucy liked ’im well enough, though. He liked Lucy well enough too. Doesn’t seem to talk, don’t know if he can’t or don’t wanna, but he seems bright enough. I took him back home, tell the missus what happened, and she wants nothing to do with him. Says he’s a downright bad omen. She wants me to take him to the hills, but you know I can’t have no part of that. That’s why I brought him here. Allister’s looks after the kids, just fine as far as I can tell. I hope you have room.”

“We always find room here. Don’t you worry about that. Let’s get you inside and under some covers.” She guided the child in with her hand while removing the scarf draped over his head. “Oh.”

“Yes, well, there’s that too.”

“This is an elf child, his parents can’t be from anywhere around here.”

“Yeah, it’s right strange. Can’t exactly fault the missus for thinking the way she does.”

“Well why don’t you come on in, little omen?”

The grinning child’s eyes twinkled up at her.

“Aren’t you just grim?” her eyes twinkled back.

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A servant's tale, part 4
Of darkness & Death

We many Points of light put the horseman of Tranquility to rest and brought his aggressor, the Mayor, to justice. His daughter handled this poorly and took her life before we had even set out into the Mists again.
We came upon a farmstead on the road. The family laid slaughtered and skinned, betrayed by a stranger they gave shelter and hospitality to.
We next found ourselves in a realm beset by undead, a place called Darkon. It’s king had gone missing in some cataclysmic event that turned everyone in the capital into those very undead that were now assaulting the land.
The king, a lich and the Dark Lord, it turns out, needed our help. Demanded it, in fact. He was blocked from entering his former realm as a new entity had claimed it as it’s Domain, and it called itself Death. The Morning Lord teaches that there is only the one true death when the light fades and our soul passes to its final destination, and everything else is just a falsehood. This was much the same. Azalin, the lich Dark Lord, informed us that upon our entering the Necropolis we would be killed and reborn as abominations. He also informed us that we had no choice if we intended to seek out Strahd, for he would not let us leave his realm otherwise.
We Points all died with nary a whisper, and rose again as ironic forms of our living selves. I myself became a Knight of Death, marshalling and bolster my undead allies with cursed energy and scorching my enemies with the fires of the nine Hells.
It was fantastic.
The power granted unto us, coupled with our already formidable abilities, made us nigh unstoppable. The others immediately jumped at the opportunity to turn back, once we dispatched the false Death. I remained silent, stunned by their weakness. If only we could harness these abilities, think of the good we could do!
Ultimately I agreed to turn back to my new, cold metal form, if only to avoid serving Azalin, for I am well aware that he would have me doing more duplicitous tasks were I indebted to him. But in the ritualistic readings there was mention of turning oneself into a lich, able to go on forever without need to feed upon the innocent like the lesser forms of undead. Surely the Morning Lord guided me to this for a purpose. I must commune with Him further. I’m aware of the potential hubris I skirt, I’ve learned from my past mistakes. Cautions must be taken, lest I find myself seeking power for powers sake.
There’s so much evil in this place. I begin to think I should not leave, even if we get the opportunity. I could live forever here in His grace, moving across the lands with the Vistani, cleansing the dark from the lives of good, innocent people like those poor farmers. My eternal place by The Morning Lord’s side would be a worthy sacrifice for such a cause, would it not?

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