Log Entry 38
"What is that good for?" asked all the others.
"It brings luck." she cheered.
"If I knew it before, I wouldn't have given it away."
"Oh, come on now", said Gregor, "be a gentleman."
Irina thanked and continued, telling them that in Barovia crows were thought to bring luck. They were considered protective animals, and there was no better protection than a crow making a nest in one's house.
That night they went to bed early. Gheata had to conform to the fact that in such a small village as Lemnizka he could find no outlet for his carnal needs He tried to convince Eva but she understood he merely wanted her for one night only and only for his selfish needs. She was very clear she would have none of that, and Gheata desisted of the thought.
20th October 751, First Night After the Full Moon
The next day, they got up very early, so they had breakfast and left at daybreak, mounted and fully equipped. They had decided to try to find the creature and give it a look at first hand. All they had from it were impressions and vague descriptions, and they needed to have more solid information before drawing their plan of attack. They retraced their journey of the eve until they arrived to the charred clearing, and there Gheata found the tracks, now fading, and picked up the trail. They followed it for more than an hour, inspecting attentively their surroundings until they spotted, perhaps 20m ahead of them, a tall, hulking and awkward figure standing among the trees, and that could be none other than the beast they were tracking. It was absolutely motionless, fixing an indistinct point in the horizon. It looked as if it were resting.
It was almost 3 metres tall, and vaguely resembled a human figure. It seemed to have a head, a torso, two arms and two legs. Those parts had been taken from sundry sources, making the whole thing look grotesque but also ridiculous, but almost all of them could have come from a farm: one of the feet was an inverted bucket, while the other came from a rough block that had been used to chop wood. While one of the arms was made from a pitchfork, and was its only metal part, the other was a forked tree branch. Its torso was a wooden water trough, similar to a wider and taller barrel, from which emerged a round sign post of those found at crossroads pointing directions that supported a wooden crate serving as head. It had one single black knothole in its middle giving off the horrible impression that it was a truly seeing eye.
Eva approached the creature quietly, nearing up to 5 metres from it, to study it in detail. The 'head' tilted and turned slightly, making the knothole look directly at Eva. It stood there, immobile as before, staring. Eva trembled momentarily, but noticing that the beast did no other movement, she turned to study it instead. At this range, she could see most of the wood used was old and practically rotten. The legs were made of many distinct parts: planks from old furniture, old fence-posts and even spokes from cart wheels. But what stroke her attention was a curious medallion that hung from its neck, but she could not understand what it was and she did not want to approach more. She noticed the track the creature had made: it had effectively trampled all the heavy undergrowth where it had trodden, so it was clear for her that there was only one path leading to or departing from where it stood. She returned to the rest of the group and told them what she had found.
The group considered the hypotheses at their disposal
"It's not like we're going to chase it now", said Yuri, "but if there were a river here and we could dunk it inside, I believe we could destroy it."
Gheata made the best use of his wood skills, and after scouting around for just a few minutes and studying the trees and the ground he said there probably would be some kind of stream in less than an hour from where they were.
"Well, it seems the Golem always leaves this place by the same way it takes to enter."
"I think you're not getting the picture right, Yuri", countered Gregor, "it simply arrived here and stopped. It hasn't yet returned."
Yuri noticed the flaw in his reasoning and concluded
"So, it may not have a fixed resting point."
Eva was a bit unnerved for it being so still, and that gave them another hint
"Could it be that it only operates at night?"
"We've seen its head move, so it is active, Yuri."
"Yes, but what if it only strikes at night?"
Yuri's mind was racing. He hid behind a tree so that the creature couldn't notice his actions, and prayed to Ezra to tell him if there was any magic nearby. Nothing! Nothing around detected as magic.
"The creature is not magic", he said surprised.
"Ahah!", said Gregor, "then there must be someone inside operating it."
This was an unnerving suggestion, but it was quickly overwhelmed by other considerations, and no one took it seriously. The new debate began with a suggestion from Eva
"Perhaps we could topple it somehow. If we threw a rope..."
"It would have to be a fire-resistant rope", said Yuri, but Gheata gave another suggestion
"Not if we could make it fall on its own. Like if we planted round rocks in its track."
"It would smash round rocks."
"Then, we could fell trees, so near one another that it would have a hard time avoiding it. Anything, to make it lose balance and fall".
They considered several kinds of stratagems and practical issues, like hanging several ropes and lassoing its neck or the time needed to fell several trees in succession. In the end, Yuri called the host and said they had seen everything they could by now.
"It's no use staying here. We should go to Zeidenburg and try to understand how this thing was formed. At any rate, all this we've discussed here are only suggestions for the future. When we strike, it will have to be the definitive blow."
They returned to the road to Zeidenburg, the same that comes from the Dreadpass and Borgodyna, and arrived to its vicinities in the early afternoon. They had no trouble finding the house of Ivan Szimin.
The house was by a road and there were some more houses around. In the vicinity, two of them had burnt completely and there was a large mark on the road itself showing beyond doubt that a large fire had taken place there. They found some people wandering by, all of Gundarakite people, as Gregor told them, and despite some initial fear, one woman was eager to tell them a few things. It was clear she did not resent Ivan Szimin's passing. What she told them made them was revealing. Ivan's death had happened just in the same week when he had declared a new tax raise for farmers, an outrageous increase of 50%. However, all the Balok farmers were exempted from it. That caused a deep resentment among the Gundarakite populace, as was to be expected, but that never turned into public uproar. People were too afraid here. They had heard Ardonk was around, and that sparked some bit of hope, but during that week no one saw him and after a while he was never spoken of again.
"I think it was all a rumour and nothing more", she told them.
One thing that certainly was not a rumour, however, was that a statue had been burning on the road in front of Ivan's house in the night he had been killed. They asked if Ivan had been killed in the fire, but she said his house had never burned.
"No", she said, "they say he was wounded by a blade."
The woman couldn't tell them more, so Gheata knocked at Ivan's door. A servant came to open and questioned what he wanted. As Gheata asked him if he spoke any Mordentish, in that same tongue of course, Irina overtook him and said
"Let me handle this."
She told the servant she was the daughter of Kolyan Indirovich, late Burgomaster of the Village of Barovia. She had known in time Ivan Szimin's wife and daughters and had learnt of Ivan's demise. Being herself in the process of mourning for her father's death (although she gave no details of how it had happened, and it grieved her a lot to think of it), she had decided to present her condolences to the mourning women. The servant told her they were not available, but let her in all the same. Using her charms, she asked what she could of Ivan's death and when she left the house, she told her findings to the others.
"They say Ivan was killed in the office. That's that window over there".
She pointed at a window that faced the road, and looked directly at the spot where the flaming statue had been. The servant himself had not seen the statue burning, although the maids that were upstairs by then later told him they had seen it, for when he reached the office it had vanished. All that remained was a charred cart, in front of the room's window. Ivan was lying grabbing at the window, which was open, clutching a wound on his abdomen with his left hand. On the right, he handled his silvered sharp letter-opener that was tinted with red. It was clear he had fought, and his assailant had taken the best of him.
They enquired more people, trying to complete the picture. Ivan Szimin was not well liked in the region, for he liked to show off his illegal gains, obtained from exploiting the Gundarakites. He was so far away from Barovia's central authority that no one questioned his gains and, anyway, probably no one would even if he were nearer Castle Ravenloft.
Gregor suggested that there the one who had killed Ivan had nothing to do with the Golem, and that he simply took the opportunity to his advantage as a distraction for a people within the house to enter the office and kill the boyar. But Irina suddenly remembered a detail
"Oh, and another thing, the butler told me that Ivan's medallion of office had disappeared."
"The medallion", they thought, "is that what hangs about the thing's neck? Could it be that the robber had put it there somehow?"
Yuri crafted another possibility. They had simply been burning trash they had burnt in a cart, for what purpose he was not sure, and the killer and robber of Ivan had thrown the medallion to the pyre. For some unknown reason, for they had heard and seen other stranger things, that medallion could have had some metaphysical effect on the burning material causing it to take form with the medallion around its neck. Out of hatred, somehow, it had taken life and taken revenge on its creators.
But they were not happy yet. They found more people who witnessed a statue had never been there but that during the night, one had been burning in front of Ivan's office. They could see it had been brought on a cart, and that was all the trace of it in the morning. But another thing had been found when sun came: a dead body by the cart, almost unrecognizable but identified by elimination as Stepan Klizera. It surely was no coincidence that the two houses that had burnt over the next week, killing all inside, belonged to two other farmers who had been seen drinking that night with Stepan and a stranger. The stranger vanished after the event, no one else saw him around anymore, but he and the three dead men seemed to be the final link in the puzzle.
"Ahah! So, there's still another possible theory. This stranger brought the statue assembled here in one piece, on the cart, and he needed the help of these three men for something, making it stand, perhaps. After they had helped, he went in and killed Ivan, took his medallion and threw it at the statue. Perhaps he knew it would give it life and is now directing it to kill other people, although this is mere speculation, so far."
They could not advance more on their theories, for another incident took their attention. Gheata had approached Irina and touched her on the shoulder, saying he wanted to speak with her. She dodged him with repulse and slapped him in the face, but he grabbed her arm by force saying
"I want to speak with you."
"Come away with me and I'll tell you"
"I will not go with you anywhere! Now leave me!"
As she cried, the others eyed Gheata threateningly. Eva was angered and voiced her fury first
"Leave the girl free, Gheata!"
Gregor and Yuri also took their weapons menacingly.
Gheata still held Irina and whispered at her ear
"It's about your father. I know you didn't kill him of your own will. It was the dagger!"
But she shook violently and merely said, shaking, in a tone the others could not hear
"I don't want to talk about that!"
Gheata released her and she ran to the protection of the others. The group looked at Gheata who stood estranged from them.