Ravenloft: Beyond the Veil

When You Stare at the Darkness

Entries 3-5 (20-22 Flocktime, CY 575)

Entry 3: 21 Flocktime, CY 575

I begin to feel like we truly have a purpose here: to act as champions for a land beset by darkness that is in dire need of heroes to bring hope and light to their world.

Last night, mercifully, passed without incident, and upon the morn we took breakfast with our new acquaintance Rictavio. Noticing that the morale of the people seemed somewhat down, I regaled the crowd with a tale of St. Cuthbert and his battle with a great ancient dragon, standing alone to protect a village who had lost all hope. The message was that with hope and determination, even a single man can stand against great evil and find divinity within himself. The crowd was heartened, and my tale earned us free lodgings from the innkeep.

After breakfast we decided to explore the town a bit, and Brother Stefan expressed an interest in finding the local temple. It turned out to be easy enough to find, a large but simple structure dedicated to the Morning Lord, a deity who seems to have much in common with the sun gods from both Oerth and Stefan’s world of Eberron. While there we met the local friar, Father Lucian Petrovich, who informed us of a tragedy that had happened recently. It seems that the bones of a great Saint, relics which sanctify and protect the church and town, were stolen recently, and he feared the consequences should the townsfolk find out. We promised to see what we could turn up.

The investigation was a convoluted web of humanity’s inability to keep secrets and vulnerability to corruption and fear. We made our way through an orphan (Yeska) to the church’s groundskeeper (Hendrick), who in turn told the local coffin-maker. This coffin-maker paid Hendrick to steal the bones.

We tracked down the coffin-maker, who refused to answer the door of his home until we threatened him with legal repercussions, at which point he allowed us inside and admitted that he had the bones upstairs. He guided us through the home, a process that our entire group agreed was all too easy, into a room where the bones lay. He then explained that a stranger had arrived at his home recently, introducing himself as “Sergei,” and asked for several of his friends to be put up for the evening. Without understanding why, the coffin-maker agreed and invited them in, at which point they held him hostage for days. They were, he said, monsters who planned to attack the church and needed the relics removed to allow them entrance.

At this point his “guests” made their presence known: vampires! Another great battle took place during which everyone acquitted themselves admirably. It took all of our wiles (and not a little use from sunlight streaming in through the windows) to defeat our foes, but we emerged once more victorious, and closer as a unit as a result. The bones were returned and Father Lucian expressed his eternal gratitude. We then returned to the inn where we once more had dinner with Rictavio and were introduced to a friend of his, the toymaker Blinski who specialized in wooden nesting dolls. Once more I sang for our supper and we turned in for the night, after agreeing to check out “our” abandoned mill the next day in hopes of discovering part of the prophecy of the cards.

Entry 4: 21 Flocktime, CY 575

What an eventful day! Once more we have done our part to beat back the darkness that seems to plague this entire land.

This morning we took the time to visit Blinksi’s. I was, admittedly somewhat disturbed at the morbidity of his toys, but Adren purchased a ventriloquist dummy that had been constructed to look disturbingly like the Devil Strahd, lord of this land. We also discovered a doll that looked startlingly like our charge, the lovely Ireena. When we inquired about the toys, Blinski told us that a man named Izek Strani instructs him on which toys to make, a cryptic answer at best.

Following our visit to this odd little toy shop, we finally, after ensuring that Ireena was secure, made our way to the old mill, whose deed Adren held. It was a rickety structure with dirty windows on the second floor, where the remains of a collapsed catwalk hung from the sides of the building. We walked around to inspect the place, and found no windows on the first floor, but a raven seemed very put out at our presence, its cawing evoking the very sounds of the dead themselves, sending chills up our spines.

We discovered an active chicken coop, and noted the smell of baking, indicating that someone was occupying the place. To our surprise, the door was unlocked and we entered into a kitchen where there seemed to be pastries baking in the oven, their pleasant aroma combined with an awful smell that we discovered was wafting from an awful, green, brackish liquid filling a barrel in the corner.

Adric and I quietly made our way upstairs, where an old woman in a bloodstained apron swept the floor and called up a stairwell to someone above. We snuck back downstairs and investigated the kitchen quickly. We found three jars of substances that Davlin informed us were magical, these were labeled “Youth” (a golden liquid), “Laughter” (a red liquid), and “Mother’s Milk” (a green opaque fluid).

Myra took the form of a mouse at this point and made her way upstairs, as the old woman came down and asked us if we had come to buy pastries. Choosing not to reveal our hand as owners of the mill, we inquired about the pastries, which she told us were “Dream Pastries” that “Soothe the senses and help people to escape.” Again, so as not to raise suspicions, we purchased a dozen (which we had no intention of consuming), and took our leave.

We camped outside and waited. Not long after, Myra returned to inform us that upstairs were two ugly younger woman—daughters of the old woman—who were torturing two children in cages! Our path forward seemed clear, especially when the old woman left for town, bearing a wagon full of her goods behind her.

We entered and sneaked our way to the third floor, where the two daughters “played” their horrible games with the children, and attacked. Myra, our intrepid druid, took the form of a raccoon, her size allowing her to handily sneak past and the animal’s dexterous hands allowing her to undo the latches on the children’s cages while we distracted the two daughters.

Our shock and disgust were not to be ended yet, however—the daughters revealed their true form as hideous, demonic hags and brought their hellish powers to bear against us. Relying upon magic from the arcane blasts of Davlin to my own clouds of daggers, and Adren’s skill at striking vulnerable spots on enemies using my silver sword, and Myra’s shifting from raccoon to dire wolf, we managed to defeat the evil women and rescue the two children, a 7-year-old boy named Freek and his 5-year-old sister, Myrtle.

We explored the place to discover that the active ingredients in the pastries included flour made from human bones, and recipe books explaining that they were in fact magically addictive—the old woman was peddling harmful hallucinogenics to the townfolk. We resolved to shut down her little business for good.

We did, however, find the holy symbol predicted in our prophecy! It is a symbol in the shape of the sun, made from platinum with a blood-red crystal set in the center. Brother Stefan took charge of the icon.

We then hid outside, waiting for the old hag to return, and when she did we spiked the door of the mill shut to trap her within, and set the building ablaze. Her awful screams echoed throughout the valley and back to whatever Hell from whence she came. Thus satisfied that good had been served, we made our way back to the town. As it turned out, Ireena was familiar with Freek and Myrtle, both of whom were from Barovia and had been in danger of being “sold” to Strahd by their father. As such, they had no desire to return to Barovia. Seeing the children lightened Ireena’s spirits somewhat, and she worked with us to arrange for a place for the children to be looked after in town.

At dinner we gathered some more information about the surrounding environs in hope of exploring more of our prophecy after guiding Ireena to her destination. We discovered a few more facts about the town. It seemed that the burgomaster was insistent on forcing constant festivals and celebrations upon the people, which were morbid in both their theme and frequency, and that only one citizen stood up to him, a woman named Lady Fiona Watcher, who may or may not have ties to the Von Zarovich family.

We also garnered several potential leads from the surrounding area:

  1. The nearby lake was once the home of a mad mage who used to skulk around the northern shore. He was known as the Mad Mage of Mt. Baratok, and he hasn’t been seen in some time. It is possible that there may be a home or tower there worth exploring.
  2. A drunkard fisherman is the only one who ever bothers to use the lake. He never catches fish, but has a large boat. His name is Bluto Kroarov.
  3. There is an abandoned village south of town named Berez. It is whispered the burgomaster of the town offended Strahd, which somehow resulted in there no longer being a single soul left.
  4. To the Southwest of the town there is another Vistani camp.
  5. To the west is a haunted mansion named Argynvostholt that may be worth exploring. It is rumored that a dragon died there long ago.

With that information, we took our rest, and are preparing to leave for Krezk tomorrow morning.

Entry 5: 23 Flocktime, CY 575

We left Vallaki at dawn after a light breakfast, choosing to be as inconspicuous as possible and take the west gate. Ten minutes out of town we saw the southern path leading to the Vistani camp, which we noted for future reference and continued on across the Luna River via a bridge, when we came to another crossroads two miles from town. I kept a mask of morale up, but I find that every time I approach a crossroads now, I cannot get the image of myself, hanging from a gallows, out of my mind. I held back the chill, however, as we examined the sign post which guided the way to Krezk and the Tsolenka Pass (straight), to Lake Bartok (right) and to Berez (the abandoned village to the Southeast). Ireena was now no longer familiar with the terrain, as she had never been this far from Barovia.

Another 2 or 2-and-a-half miles on we came to a road leading south, with no signpost. Beyond this we came to a fork in the road, where a sign pointed to Krezk over a stone bridge, Vallaki back the way we came, and to the southwest to the Wizard of Wines, a winery whose name we recognized from the libations served at the Inn in Vallaki. We resolved to visit his winery upon our return.

Astonishingly, Myra noted that the river opens up into a lake to the Northeast, upon which stood a high tower—just like that predicted in our tarokka reading! Taking careful note of this, we continued on another 2 or 3 miles to Krezk, a village set into a valley at the base of a crescent-shaped hill, with the abbey at the precipice. Our goal, and, it seems, our time with Ireena, was coming to a conclusion.

I admit to being somewhat smitten with our charge, and my heart is saddened at seeing her go, though I pray to whatever gods may be listening that she finds safety and guardianship here from the evil forces that seem bent upon escorting her into shadow. May our paths cross again one day during brighter times, and may we get the chance to know one another in whatever manner the gods wish.

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jasonvey

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