Lost in the Mists

A servant's tale, part 12
Heart of Darkness

We have entered Castle Ravenloft once more, and I suspect, for the final time. Either we walk out and Strahd is defeated or we never leave it’s towering heights again. I suspect His light will see us through, but I’m not such a fool as to believe victory is assured. The fiend met us as we crossed the threshold of his castle with a host of guardians in tow. He shied back from the light I bared to him but was not as perturbed as I had expected. He is the Lord of his domain and we are the intruders, so he has the advantage. I must remember this.
I have an advantage over him, though. I have learned many of his most personal secrets and vampiric powers. This has enabled me to learn how to better destroy him, and vampires in general.
I am also coming very close to deciphering the ritual to transcend mortality and become a Baelnorn. I feel I am on the right path here, but I will present it to the group when I understand exactly how it will work. I expect some of them to be uneasy about such a powerful weilding of the energies of life, but hopefully they will have faith, in His wisdom if not my own.

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Dark Musings

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The sky was black as sackcloth above the parapet. The Master of the Castle peered down on the village of Barovia from the High Tower of Ravenloft. A thick wall of mist surrounded Castle Ravenloft, but he could see through it, gazing on the distant lights of Vallaki. He reached out with his supernal senses and followed his minions closely. His creations were assaulting the villagers, seeking to destroy the foolish gypsy and her guardians. He could see through the eyes of the undead assailing the town, and watched as they were destroyed one by one.

After a few hours, he could no longer sense the battle, meaning it was over. No more troops could be mustered and sent to Vallaki before dawn. The saviors of Vallaki would be coming to the Castle with the sunlight. In the darkness, Strahd was deep in thought. He had suspected that these heroes were assassins sent by Azalin, cutting their way through the Mists to reach Ravenloft. After watching them and learning from them, he doubted it. They appeared noble in purpose, even if there was darkness in some of them. Strahd had suspected that the stories of the “Heroes of Miredus” were exaggerations, now he was unsure.

It was no matter. Other heroes had come to Ravenloft to destroy “the devil Strahd”, scores of them in fact. All of them failed at the task, going to their graves in defeat. But these heroes—-they were different. Strahd hardly had to wonder why: Tatyana. Every time Strahd had had her, every time he was close to winning her, she was taken from him. Vampire hunters, fever, chance—-all had cheated him. This time he kept her safe, locked away in the Castle, but now the Dark moved against him once more and sent sinister agents in the guise of holy adventurers.

The Dark. Strahd had come to suspect that the land he inhabited with Azlain, and all the other wicked lords, was a prison. And if there was a prison, there must be wardens. The dread within this land was almost palpable; it seemed to have a specific malice and intent. These Dark Powers were there, torturing Strahd as he tortured others. Perhaps “They” were the beings that came to him that night so long ago, seduced him into killing his brother and then taking his prize. If that was true, then he was a fool and everything he had done had been to benefit them in some unknowing way.

Strahd shook his head bitterly and his gaze smoldered in the darkness. He refused to believe that. His will, and his will alone had led him to where he was. He would break free and take Tatyana with him. And the Dark Powers that held the keys must know that he would be free soon. They manipulated this group on their path, leading them to a final confrontation with him. It was all so theatrical, so dramatic. There must be a malign intelligence moving the pieces into play for its own amusement.

We each play out the part Fate has written, Strahd mused. Somehow he knew that this battle would be his last. In victory or defeat, this would be the end of something: either of his imprisonment or his existence. But his will was the strongest. He was the Master of Ravenloft. No one would stop him, not this time. Not these heroes. Not the malevolent entities that ruled this prison.

Tatyana would be his.

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A servant's tale, part 11
Dawn always comes

Many evils have I faced, and in facing each come into contact with. Not mere physical contact, but deeper, within my soul. Yet each time it is cleansed anew by His light. In besting an evil force, more of His warmth and hue washes over me, burning away the darkness fighting to take hold.
Until now.
Never have I felt such darkness. Not even in the presence of Lord Strahd, in his halls, did I feel This. Was he merely concealing it from me or, in severing Strahd’s ties to his land did some small part take hold of me? What of the other Points? I shall have to be ever more vigilant in ensuring none of my fellows are taken in by the dark. Perhaps once the Lord himself is defeated I will once again feel the warm light on my face and in my soul.
We Points have broken his connections to the Fanes, stripping some of his power and exposing vulnerabilities not before realized by his past opponents. He is scared of us. Perhaps he was truly not when first we met, though I think he is smarter than to ignore Azalin’s weariness. But if he was not before, he is now. He shrouds his castle in poison mist, but the dawn always comes, and the mist always burns away.
We come for you, Strahd. No shadow is deep enough in His light.

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A servant's tale, part 10
The House of the Rising Sun

We Points travelled from Castle Ravenloft unmolested, as Lord Strahd promised. On our way to Zeidenburg we stopped in an inn for the night, but were ambushed by the proprietor. She was some kind of cannibal, and had a ghoul in tow. We sent them both to the Morning Lord. We found evidence of their foul appetite in the basement: piles of bones and personal effects. I cleaned and cleansed the basement, sanctifying the grounds to give rest to the dead. I repainted the sign to befit it’s newly anointed nature: The House of the Rising Sun.
In Zeidenburg, we found a family who told us that vampires were overtaking the town, killing people every night. We sent them to The House of the Rising Sun and told them to live there, freely given. On the way back through I intend to stop and erect a small shrine to the Morning Lord, instruct the family in His ways with the the intention of ordaining them eventually. Another Beacon of light in the dark landscape.
We made our way immediately to Lyssa’s manor and dispatched her guardians. Within we found many abominations, one even taking me out of the fight for a moment, but He brought me back and filled me with righteous fury.
We left none standing.
The beasts all slain, we searched through the place,and I stumbled upon an ancient tome Ina beautiful hand. I’ve been wrapped in it every spare moment since, quickly surmising that it is the tale of Strahd, written by his own hand. I’ve not put it down since. I finished moments ago and immediately put pen to paper. He mentions a young girl he believes is the reincarnation of his lost love Tatyana. Could this be Saima’s daughter, or does he have many young girls hostage in those labyrinthine halls? Do he believe her daughter is his dead love? Is he truly mad? I shall not mention this to Saima until more is known.
Also in the journal was a retelling of the encounter with Azalin in which he sold us out. Strahd had hinted as much had happened, but it’s interesting to have confirmation. Does the ancient lich truly fear us? This could be advantageous to us, to me in my path to eternal servitude of the light.

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A servant's tale, part 9
Words and war

The Morninglord continues to test my convictions, this time in greater measure than ever before. We have had dinner with Lord Strahd, Master of Castle Ravenloft, Dark Lord of Barovia and ancient vampire wizard. And I am still here to write about our conversation. A cynic, such as Lord Strahd, would say only because he let us leave his castle, but I would disagree. I think the Morninglord guided my companions and I safely through the dinner, ensuring our safety. Could he have killed us if he wanted to, then and there? Surely. But I believe he knew it would cost him dearly to do so. He is not a stupid man, Lord Strahd and I sparred with our words and I’ve taken his measure. One does not survive as long as he has by taking reckless risks. However his intelligence it matched only by his pride, and hubris shall be his downfall. He has been on top for so long, he has forgotten what it is to try, for anything. The Morninglord shall keep us in His light and we shall remind Lord Strahd of that. The fortune teller said dark things would befall me in the castle, and perhaps that’s true, but I am confident that I shall continue to hunt the darkest places of this land until, and hopefully after, I’ve drawn my last breath.

At the conclusion of our dinner, Lord Strahd revealed that he kept Saima’s daughter in his home, cared for and quite alive. This information I felt it prudent to reveal to Saima once we’d left the vampire lord’s presence, lest she take the rash actions I knew she would. She was unhappy with me, but I will bear that over the needless death that would have resulted in immediate action. Lord Strahd offered us a deal: we seek out and destroy Lyssa, a vampires whom Lord Strahd once commanded, that has now broken free and forged her own domain. In exchange, Astrid would be unharmed and we would have free passage through the country to do what we will, so long as we do not return the castle.

Hubris. He knows what we seek, but is so sure of our failure that he will let us take every step towards it. That is good, it will make our task all the more quickly resolved.

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The Grinning Child (cont pt. 4)
Taking Leave

It had been but a few days since Isaac’s passing and the rhythm of everyday life bad begun its pace again. Elma had begun her chores early, her mind needing the occupation. Today had been a day of miserable rainfall. A chill had crept through the house making Elma’s joints ache. “Still too young,” she thought to herself, certain she shouldn’t be having these pains. Wincing slightly as she scrubbed the floor she felt as though something was amiss. She had been doing her chores as she always had, but her mind was in a haze and less sharp than she typically allowed herself. It was an absence that bothered her.

Where was Grim?

A small panic had set in as her heart seemed to drop in her chest. Had he hurt himself? Where was he? Why wouldn’t anyone have brought it to her attention? She needed to calm herself first. Taking in a soothing breathe, she set to task of searching about the house and asking the other children if they had seen the elf child.

“I saw him go with Vlera earlier.” Inya had said to the open air when Elma had asked, never taking her eyes off her grubby hands as they attempted to sculpt mud brought in from outside.

“Thank you Inya, now you clean up that mess, the floor is not your art studio.”

A child’s exasperation was her only response as she had left the room in search of Vlera. Her hunt had taken her up to one of the storage rooms where Vlera was unsuccessfully trying to pull some blankets from under bins of old clothes.

“Vlera, have you seen Grim?”

“Well, I had, though he’s been adopted this morning.”

“What? Why wouldn’t you tell me?” she sounded more flustered than she wished to admit. Grim had grown on her in such a small time.

“On account that it was your old beau that adopted him.”

Elma’s heart shot straight through the floor.

“Lockhold? You let Edwin take him?! You know we said we’d never let him take another for his Latch Kids!”

“Did we? I recall you said had that and that I was rather absent in agreement.”

“How could you?!”

“Don’t act like you’ve got the moral high ground here! You were the one who brought Lockhold to us to begin with! There are too few that want these little bastards and we’re running shy on food for the lot of them as it is! No one would want that child! I did us a favor! That thing is a little demon running about the place and you’re the only one naive enough not to see it!”

“How can you even say half of those things that are coming out of your mouth? Lockhold’s kids get eaten alive by the world! That’s not a life you’re giving him, that’s a life you’re taking away! And yes, I brought him here because YES I was naive and a gullible fool! But I learned my lesson, how have you not? I thought you were cold Vlera, but I didn’t realize you were heartless!”

“Pah! Keep your high horse to yourself. Even with Isaac, we couldn’t afford to feed them all for another two months! With Edwin’s money we can continue to take care of the ones that we have already that aren’t cursed merchandise.”

“They aren’t merchandise!” Elma shrieked. Her outcry was met with a cutting slap across her face.

“Keep your voice down you damn fool!”

Stunned, Elma gaped. Her eyes then narrowed. She grabbed the collar of Vlera’s robe and through gritted teeth hissed, “The only reason don’t gut you like a fish is because I need you. You’ve become this wretched thing that blights everything she touches, and I need you.”

“Pah! It’s always this song and dance with you.”

Elma shoved her against the wall knocking loose some shelving and leaving Vlera a jumbled pile on the floor. It hadn’t been too long since Lockhold must have taken Grim, she could probably manage to catch him before they had gotten too far. Grabbing her rain gear she darted off to the neighbor to ask if she could borrow their horse. They were reluctant, but they had always liked Elma and favored her, this time as always.

She set off on the horse at a full gallop, already she was drenched with rain, her cloak soaked through. Still she strode on horse through the chilled gray, joints aching, hoping to see the two on the road ahead. All she could make out was more mud and a horizon. She pressed the horse onward faster and she could tell the horse was already tiring. Desperate, she tried pushing the horse, but it stumbled, and toppled in the mud. On her back Elma gasped up at the sky. The horse had fallen on top of Elma, crushing an arm, a leg, and her ribs. She choked and sobbed as water and blood filled her lungs.

The rain poured down mercilessly.

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A servant's tale, part 8
On the Trail of Terror

In Vallaki, as previously mentioned, we had three tasks set before us: solve the murder of two cousins, discover what was making dusk elves disappear and unearth the source of civil unrest in one district of the town. We decided that murder was the most urgent, lest more killings take place. We exhumed the bodies of the Watcher cousins and, using the insight granted by the Morning Lord, I peered into the last moments of their lives. Both had been slain by a hooded monk with unnatural speed and a lion pendant. He sought specifically to end their family line, and did so,they being the last. I then asked their corpses some questions, discovering a secret in the family: that of an old mausoleum deep in the woods behind the property.
Praise be unto the Morning Lord for these abilities, that we may avenge these wronged souls. Though I momentarily trespass upon their rest, it is only to bring them a final rest free of evil. The very fact that He has granted me such gifts tells me that I am on the right path in seeking eternal life here that I might always spread his life in the dark places of this dread realm.
We next journeyed to the elves, discovering they resided near the secret mausoleum. Their leader, Kasimir, informed us that he was charged with keeping any away from the mausoleum by the senior Watcher many years before. He entrusted us with the secret, seeing that the Watchers were no more. In the mausoleum we found evidence of an attempted grave robbing and a sanguine feast by a dark dweller. Surely this vampire must be the same creature that murdered the Watchers. We discovered that he is likely of the Dilisnya family, long since gone. How long was the wretch imprisoned in that tomb? It is no wonder he sought to destroy the Watchers, nevermind that this generation had no knowledge of their progenitors sins.
There was no trace of this creature in town, so we decided to hunt down the missing elves in hopes that they would lead us to him. Upon finding them, though, we only discovered more questions. They were all animated under the control of a spectre, who warned us not to interfere with her master, Strahd. If there were any doubt that he was aware of us, it has now been dissolved. His light dispatched her minions, freeing the poor elves while Lucas used his control of the wild to turn her into a chicken and the rest of the Points slew her as easy as one would expect to slay a chicken. An odd moment, certainly.
Having discovered the missing elves we delivered the grim news to Kasimir, who informed us the spectre was his sister in life. Let her be at peace, now, Morning Lord.
Feeling ourselves on a roll, we next sought out the source of the fighting in the Thaani district. We found ourselves more apparent than we usually are, which is quite,surrounded by tattooed people watching us warily. The wrongness was palpable there, drawing us to a house at the center of town.
Within the house was a tableau of madness: creatures from a Far Realm and all manner of books and writings on things better left unknown. Venturing up we found the source of the I’ll feeling, a creature inhabiting the previous resident, a librarian who hungered for more knowledge. I sympathized with the soul and dispatched his body with no joy. Outside the change was immediate.
We then sought out a woman who we believed last to have seen the mysterious monk vampire. It was clear to me that her mind had been tampered with and, with the aid of my new friend Father Lucian, removed the block the vampire had imposed upon Lady Yelena Aresek. It was not perfectly done, and she suffered some for which I am sorry, but memories forgotten can often be painful. More painful, even, than the bite of a vampire, which Lady Aresek had suffered at the monk’s hands.
Remembering what we learned, along with some new know gained, we put together that Lady Aresek’s blood might help hide the monk from The Darklord due to blood ties.
We paid a visit to Brom at the Inn to get any other info we might need out of him before seeking the Monastery of the White Sun. After some convincing he revealed that he belonged to some secret Order that sought to overthrow the Darklord, Strahd. Apparently Strahd is a vampire, though not the one we seek, Leo Dilisnya. Leo is a former employee of Strahd, renowned for his brutality. I shall bathe him in His light and cleanse him of his affliction.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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