Ravenloft: Beyond the Veil

The Tower of Khazan

Entry 7 (23 Flocktime cont. - 24 Flocktime, CY 575)

23 Flocktime, Addendum:

A haunting development! As we were turning in to take our rest for the night, and just as I finished my prior entry, there was an unexpected visitor at our host’s door. It seemed that the Abbot himself—the mysterious figure who rarely emerges from that scream-haunted edifice—had come to pay his respects for the Burgomaster’s son, and to our shock, offered to raise the boy from the dead, claiming, “The Gods of LIght would see your bloodline restored.”

Naturally, given the general tenor of this realm, and all that we had learned of the abbot and abbey since arriving, we were skeptical of this offer. It took some effort, but in the end we convinced our host to at least sleep on the offer so as not to make any rash decisions.

Consulting with our noble cleric Stefan revealed that it is possible to perform such a resurrection without violating the natural order of things, though he was as skeptical as the rest of us, given the rarity of such a ritual. He determined to be present when the resurrection was performed and we all agreed that if what returned did not seem in every way to be the Burgomaster’s son returned, we would destroy the thing, whatever the cost.

24 Flocktime, CY 575

This morning we awoke and our host determined that he would go through with the resurrection, but agreed to have Stefan there and take his council if anything seemed untoward about the ritual. We had a few hours before meeting the abbot, which was fortuitous as Stefan was also called upon to sit in upon a birth.

He later informed us that the child was dead quiet upon its birth, though in good health otherwise. This lack of crying, the midwife claimed, meant that the child was born without a soul, a claim which Stefan found ludicrous, but the midwife insisted was common (there are, she said, many people without souls in this land). We found this proclamation to be not only dark, but foolhardy—after all, the soul is by its nature the very spark of life; the gods do not permit true life without one.

it was thus with distaste in his mouth and heart from this rank amateur that Stefan returned to us and oversaw the abbot’s resurrection of B. Krezkov’s boy, which to our astonishment seemed to go without the slightest complication and was, as they say on the streets of the Greyhawk thieves’ quarter, “on the up and up.”

Following this strange juxtaposition of omens both good and ill, we set out for the next stage of our quest: To the tower!

We decided, given the completion of our mission to protect Ireena (may the gods bless her soul wherever it may be), to continue seeking the artifacts prophesied in our reading from the Vistani Shuvani Madame Eva. The nearby wizard’s tower that we had seen on our travels seemed the next logical place to explore, and we set out this morning on the next leg of our journey.

The trip to the tower went largely without incident—a pleasant change of pace in this black world—and at length we found ourselves facing a causeway spanning a mist-covered lake, leading to a tall but decrepit tower spanning at least four score feet into the sky. Its upper layers were surrounded by a crumbling scaffold, apparently once erected to repair old damage. The place seemed abandoned from a distance.

As we crossed the causeway, we discovered that in fact we were not the first to visit this tower in recent days. A colorful wagon spattered with mud was situated before the tower. The wagon was in good repair and of recent use, purple in color with gold trim and red drapes covering tombstone-shaped windows from the inside. Lanterns adorned each corner. The immediate impression we shared was that of the Vistani wagons we had encountered in camps earlier in our journeys. At the rear door of the wagon, which was secured with an iron padlock, hung a sign reading “KEEP OUT.”

A brief discussion ensued, during which we decided it would be in everyone’s best interests if we took a look inside. After all, who knew where we would find the artifact we sought? Adren and I gave the doorway a thorough examination, discovering that not only was it locked, it was booby trapped. We managed to circumvent the trap and enter. The wagon had been rigged with 101 flasks of alchemist’s fire, designed to explosively destroy all within if someone entered without permission.

Fortunately, we are that good. To send a message to that end, each of us took a few flasks for our future use, while leaving enough to reset the trap for our kind host.

We noted that the decor inside the wagon spoke of a woman’s touch. The sword we sought was not within, though we found several items of interest, among which were a number of pages from the journal of a monster hunter, who had inadvertently caused his entire family to become victim of a “baleful Vistani curse,” and be sold into the clutches of a vampire named Baron Metus. The poor man, through his own folly, had not only seen his son sold to a vampire, but later had to destroy the boy, who himself had been turned. The story made our hearts heavy, and I cannot help but wonder if such a dark fate awaits any who attempt to do the work of heroes in this realm.

Having read the journal pages, we replaced them and took our leave. Aside from the few vials of explosives we took, we left the wagon untouched and reset trap and lock.

After circling the tower, we set upon a strange puzzle set into the iron door—a bizarre symbol featuring what appeared to be intersecting lines and stick figures posed with varying arm positions; the name “KHAZUN” was emblazoned above. It was Adren who set upon the idea of simply mimicking the postures of the stick figures, and the door’s mechanisms gave way with clicking and grinding, allowing us entry into the foreboding place.

Once inside, we found ourselves in a large chamber with statues surrounding platforms at one side. We examined the room carefully, and noble Davlin set upon the idea that the platforms were magical lifts powered by the animated statues. All it took was stepping on the platforms and issuing the command to “Go!” and we began our ascent.

The majority of the tower was barren, with each floor looking much like those below, but when we reached the fourth level, we discovered what appeared to be a private chamber with a bed, stove, desk and chair, and trunk. A suit of armor stood along one wall. The chest gave off a lavender aroma but upon investigation, contained nothing of true value…save a rotting, severed head! We chose to leave this decidedly unpleasant discovery where we’d found it.

We eventually lit upon the idea of using Khazan’s name, which animated the armor! Upon commanding it to take us to the sword, it began removing bricks from the wall, unveiling a secret compartment inside containing a platinum sword hilt and guard, but no blade. We gifted the sword hilt to our mighty warrior, Cymrick, who will attune to it this eventide to hopefully discover any mystical properties it might have.

We then ordered the armor to re-conceal the compartment, and made our way outside, where we discovered a lovely Vistani woman approaching the tower on horseback across the causeway. She was badly wounded, and we stepped forward to offer her aid. I gave her a healing potion we had in our stores, and Stefan tended to her wounds until she felt well enough to tell us her tale.

The young woman had the bearing of a warrior, and carried the scars of one to boot; her right leg was in fact an artificial replacement. She introduced herself as Ezmerelda D’Avenir, the owner of the wagon we had discovered. Lady D’Avenir has a keen eye as well as a strong sword arm—she noticed immediately that we had bypassed and re-secured her traps and locks, but thankfully, she held no grudge against us.

We discussed the tower further, and Ezmerelda informed us that she, too, had found the head in the trunk and thought it best to leave it be. She has been using the tower as a base of operations to seek her mentor, a great scholar of the dark arts and creatures of this demiplane named Rudoph Von Richten, who it seems has gone missing and whose journal pages we had earlier found. This tower, it seems, was the last known residence of Von Richten.

Lady D’Avenir has also taken what opportunities she could to strike out against our mutual enemy, the Devil Strahd. It was, in fact, from his very castle that Lady D’Avenir had recently fled with her wounds. Intrigued, we asked her to tell us what she knew of Strahd, and this is the story she told:

Once, many long generations ago, there was a great warlord named Barov von Zarovich, who with his bride Ravenovia sired two boys: Strahd and Sergei. As the two grew, Strahd became a mighty warlord, bloodthirsty and warmongering, while Sergei grew to a young man of noble bearing and honorable nature, favored of their mother.

Ever seeking to win his parents’ favor, Strahd invaded and conquered an entire valley, slaughtering those living there with wanton fury. This valley he named Barovia after his father, and within he built the Castle Ravenloft, named for his mother. Still his parents favored Sergei, and even upon their death Strahd continued his competition. It is said that Ravenovia is buried somewhere beneath the castle itself.

Feeling that his work was not done, Strahd made a deal with the dark powers of the Shadowfell to gain immortality that he might continue his bloodthirsty campaigns of conquest. The Dark Powers, however, would only grant this request with a murderous sacrifice upon Strahd’s part.

Strahd did not have to wait long for his opportunity. It so happened that a young woman named Tatiana came to live in the valley, and Strahd fell madly in love with her, but she in turn loved Sergei with all her heart. Strahd, driven mad with jealousy, played the part of the good brother until the couple’s wedding night, whereupon he murdered Sergei, thinking this to be the sacrifice that would seal his pact.

It was not to be, however; when she discovered Sergei’s murder, Tatiana’s heart broke, as did her mind, and despite Strahd’s every effort to stop her, to bring her back from the brink, the girl threw herself from the high parapets of Castle Ravenloft, her body disappearing into the misty chasms below.

At this moment, the guards turned on Strahd, cornered and shot him…but it was for naught. It was Tatiana’s death that sealed Strahd’s pact and he had become immortal, a powerful vampire driven by rage and anguish, and he slaughtered his own guards and palace staff. As the dark vampire lord slaked his hell-spawned thirsts for the first time, the mists rose, surrounding the castle and spreading over the entire valley. When the mists subsided, the entire realm of Barovia had come here, to this Demiplane of Dread, trapping both Strahd and its inhabitants within forever.

The Lady D’Avenir has yet to tell us her whole story, how she came to be in Von Richten’s tutelage, and what became of her tribe, who she told us are no more. In return for her tale, I entertained our host with tales of our own exploits, whereupon she offered to allow us to remain in the tower with her, and use it as a base of operations for our own excursions. We agreed, and determined that our next move was to exterminate the foul, perverted false druids who had descended upon the Wizard of Wines.

It has been yet another eventful day, though mercifully one without placing our lives in mortal peril from the claws and teeth of some unnatural beast. It is, thus, with a sigh of some relief that I take my rest this night, wondering once more what the future will bring…

Quotes

“We may be heroes, but we’re also vagrants. Pick the lock.” – Alex to Adren

“Rogue the trunk, elf the walls and Greyhawk the room.” – Adren

“You’re a bad priest!”
“I thought that was obvious by now!”
“When Eberron sends immigrants, they’re not sending us their best!”
-Alex, Stefan and Adren

(Re: Cymrick attuning to the sword)
“What exactly does, ‘attuning’ to the hilt, mean?” – Davlin
“Does he have to do something naughty to it?” – Stefan
“Ew, he’s going to stick his tongue all over it!” – Adren
“Just a little tongue. But not porno tongue. Respectful tongue. Church tongue!” – Alex
“Oh, my gods, I’ve got to get out of here.” – Myra

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