Adventure at Last!
I, Alexianthalus Moonwhisper, commit this record of the adventures my companions and I share to paper that our legend be remembered and rediscovered through the ages. These are the true accounts of the perils, dangers, and heroism we shared together, individuals from as far apart as folk could possibly be, coming together in time of need to serve a far greater purpose.
It began a scant few nights ago…
For too long, my noble companions, Cymrick the fighter and Davlin the mage, and I have traveled the lands of the Flaeness, seeking true adventure as befits the heroes we believe we can be, but all too often have ended up singing in bars for coin, and fighting our way out. Now, it seems, the gods have finally chosen us for a greater destiny.
We had signed on with a caravan to escort some valuables to the Free City, when we were overtaken by an awful storm. Separated from our caravan due to a landslide, we aided a farmer who had become stuck in the mud, and he agreed to put us up in his homestead until the storm passed, when we could move on and catch up with the caravan later. Alas, this was not to be as strange events befell us from this moment forward.
First, we made the acquaintance of a man named Stefan, who quite literally fell out of thin air, insisting that he had been battling pirates on some sort of airborne ship, a phenomenon that in all of Oerth we’d never heard. He in turn claimed to be from a place called Eberron, and had never even heard of the Free City of Greyhawk, which we found incredulous at best. We were then attacked by wolves—near-rabid and mangy mongrels who we quickly dispatched with the aid of another newcomer, named Adren, an exceptionally (bordering on unnaturally) handsome man (if I do say so myself) with somewhat ethereal features, who hails from a city called Sigil, another locale with which we were singularly unfamiliar.
Alas, in the battle the farmer’s life was lost and as Stefan, apparently a cleric, made arrangements for laying the body to rest, we got to know our new companions a bit and Adren hypothesized that none of us were any longer in our home worlds, but had been transported via unknown means to another plane.
Enter the final member of our group, a distinctly unpleasant and exceptionally unfriendly druid by the name of Myra who fell in with us after having been likewise trapped in this plane (“Demiplane,” as she named it, somewhere in the Ethereal) for some time. Myra was possessed of a note, apparently from the burgomaster of the place, warning all newcomers away from a nearby settlement, detailing the biting of his daughter Ireena Kolyana by a vampire and admonishing all comers to leave the town, Barovia, alone, that the evil was too great to overcome. We, of course, decided to investigate.
Our sardonic new guide led us to the small town via a strange gate that opened on its own through some strange magic as we approached. The gate had no fence or wall attached, and seemed set either to welcome or frighten—perhaps both. On a dead body nearby we found another note, also apparently from the local Burgomaster, begging for assistance and detailing the same tale as the first, of the affliction by great evil of his beloved, Ireena Kolyana, and begging for aid in battling this darkness.
The town we entered was of astonishing and eerie architecture of a kind I had never before seen; well-built multi-story stone structures with peaks, angles and high gables—each with its own highly artistic but aesthetically ominous visage. We made to find an inn to bed down for the night when we came upon a child weeping in the streets. He claimed that monsters had his parents in his home and begged us to come to his aid. A vague sense of foreboding tugged at the corners of my consciousness as we followed the child, encountering his sister at the entrance of one of these strange homesteads.
The children refused to enter and indeed vanished as we took our first few steps into the place, cementing our fears that something dark overshadowed this dwelling. Even worse, the door slammed behind us and could not be opened by any power we had at our disposal. We commenced to explore, finding very little on the ground floor save for a well-made longsword which was claimed (for now) by Cymrick and a deed to an old windmill, which Adren claimed. Upstairs we encountered the decayed bodies of two children, and paintings of the kids we had encountered as well as what we deemed to be their parents. A battle with a ghostly “nanny” of sorts and the discovery of letters and journals detailing horrific acts added further to the mystery of the spirits we had encountered herein. Among these discoveries was a journal from what appeared to be the lord of this realm, a noble named Strahd who it seemed had been worshipped or at least highly revered by the owners, admonishing them for the sins they had committed and cursing them to live with the fate that they had brought down upon their own family. There were mentions of a misunderstanding regarding bestowed immortality, so this Strahd was at least viewed as a mage of great power, if not something darker.
Following our investigation of the upper floors, we again encountered our ghostly children, who it seemed had died imprisoned in their own bedroom. They bade us once again to destroy the monster in the basement, and unveiled a hidden staircase leading into the bowels of the place. Having determined that the home was abandoned and the family dead, we felt this might be a good place to temporarily set up shop, and descended into the darkness to ascertain that there were no other immediate threats to be removed…
In the basement we found ourselves in a family crypt, which sent shivers up my spine. In the Flaeness no one would bury their dead beneath their own home. The idea is, at best, unnatural. After investigating the crypts and fending off a small swarm of centipedes, we discovered our druidic companion’s ability to transform herself into animals and become a fearsome warrior in the process.
The chambers through which we made our way led into some sort of dark and twisted temple. A strange, rhythmic chanting whose words or direction we could not at first make out reverberated through the chambers. As we delved deeper, tracking the strange intonations I was reminded, to my horror, of the images from the cursed Book of Eibon which are forever burned into my brain. I admit, for all my brevity, the cold tendrils of fear tugged at the corners of my consciousness. I retreated, as I oft do, into my defense mechanism of spinning tales from related incidents from the folk tales, myths and legends of my people. Other creatures spewed forth from the pits of Hell that accosted us included a serpent-like being with a beak and four tentacles surrounding its head, and a number of ravenous undead ghouls.
At length we came to a central chamber with a large wooden statue of a handsome nobleman holding in his hand a smoky crystal orb. The orb and statue were mundane, according to our great wizard and mighty druid, but its central position combined with the chanting, which we could now make out as “I am ancient, I am the land,” repeated over and over, led us to deduce that this figure must be the mysterious Strahd.
The chanting we eventually traced to a central chamber, filled waist-high with water, at the center of which stood a dais on which there was a sacrificial alter. The chanters were revealed to be phantoms, whose intonations now changed, demanding the death of one of us, as we faced their dark master, a creature comprised of refuse and rotting, fetid plant matter. Though not without difficulty, we emerged victorious, sending the monster screaming back to the pits of Hell from whence it was spawned, and fled the domicile, whose very doors, windows, walls and fireplaces had turned against us. And yet still with bravery, tenacity and heroism we plied our unique abilities to escape the hellish place alive and mostly intact. Indeed, I daresay after a hefty flagon or four and a strong night’s rest, we shall all be right as rain once more.
We then found ourselves once more on the streets of the Village we assume to be Barovia, a new group of companions from disparate worlds who have learned to fight and trust together, seeking our next challenge in this dark land which is clearly in need of heroes. May Pelor and St. Cuthbert, Boccob, Lydia and Olidammara, and whatever gods my new companions hold dear, smile upon us as we make our way into the murky future!