Ravenloft Campaign: Woven Fates

Tonight, I relate the story of a group of strangers that met here in the Land of Mists and, forced by destiny, wandered its roads in formidable adventure. Join us as I lead you from their first meeting along through their travels, their misfortunes and their shining moments. Grace them with your compassion in their losses; bless them with your support when the sky is dark and bleak. Do not forget to bestow your praise upon them as they vanquish terror and hold back the minions of darkness. Raise your arm to cheer for their victories!
And above all, share your glass with us for them, both in sorrow and elation, as you accompany them in the thorny road from lost adventurers to heroes of the mists.

Come, huddle with us by the fire here in the dark. The night is cold, but within the ring of Vardos, its evils cannot touch us. Tonight, you are a guest of the Vistani and nothing will harm you. Come, the Prastonata is over and now is time for the Doroq. Let the tales now unfold, let the revelations begin...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Log Entry 18

With the flight of the last remaining soldier, the fight was over and the band allowed ifself a moment to rest. It had been their clearest victory yet, and so soon after the disastrous encounter with the highwaymen it served well to raise their morale once more. Almost cheerful, no doubt relieved, they began to feel more confidence in themselves to survive together. Gheata had been extremely helpful this time, which showed that despite his rude and selfish personality he could yet be important to have him around. As to what exactly was Eva thinking she would do with that soldier, leading him by the hand to the barn, they had no clue, and all, but Gheata, chose to ignore her motives: surely, she guessed her companions were there and was trying to lead him to a trap. Gheata, though, looked upon her with other motives. Slyly eyeing Eva as she ran to give chase to the soldier, but obviously at a disadvantage in that long dress, he considered that perhaps there was more in her action than merely a womanly preference of clever seduction over violence and that maybe, just maybe, she really might be looking for a male... physically looking for a male.

Yuri's determined voice called him back to reality

"Well, we had to bury Dinech. Now we have three more bodies to bury. It won't do to leave them here, and we owe it to Eva's father at least. Come, let's put them on the cart. Eva will lead us to the nearest village. Eva? Where's Eva?"

Eva came back soon enough. The man had flown on horse towards the north. They would never catch him now.

"Eva, is there a cemetery nearby?"

"Uh... yes, there is! There's a village a bit to the west, near the Kleinstadt road. It will take us about an hour to get there, and it has a cemetery"

"Right, then take us there".

They lay the corpses in the cart and rode to the village. The weather was turning foul. Dark clouds covered the sun and its faint and filtered light dimly lit the day. There was a bland moisture in the air and a soft but cold breeze.

"Autumn is upon us, I reckon. Well, it's its time, I guess."

They arrived there without incident and immediately went to look for the caretaker of the graveyard. There was an area there left aside for common digs and the unknown deceased and there they buried Dinech and the three Greyhound soldiers. Yuri performed the rites and bade them eternal rest, after which they returned to the inn.

The morning was spent, and the first couple of hours after noon had already gone. They set for lunch and sadly recognized they wouldn't be able to depart that day. There were but three hours of sun left after they finished their meal. Scant time for travel and reach a place to spend the night.

Gregor was disheartened. His anxiety to reach Barovia was obvious. Ever since he had learnt the solution for his spiritual conflict was there, he loathed every hour that prevented him from travelling in that direction.

"Much though I may be anxious to depart, I guess we can go no farther today. This business with Gheata's pursuers made us waste one day of travel. Might as well go rest, now"

"You're right, Gregor, but since we're here, there's a place where I'd like to go. That cathedral on the crossroads.... it intrigues me. I wish to go there."

"What, are you mad Yuri?" Eva startled. She nearly stood in alarm.

"But... you don't know what you're looking for"

"And what is that, Eva? What is there about that Cathedral that makes it so dangerous?"

"I don't know, but.... it's bad, it's evil. Everybody knows that.... I've heard that all my life! Stay away from the Cathedral if you want to live long"

"Yes, alright, but.... what's in there?"

Eva sat, blushing, her reply soft and timid

"I don't know... really, but these tales say there's something evil inside. I don't know what, but I don't want go near there any more than I have to"

"Well, then, I'll go. Anyone else?"

"Not me, thanks"

"Gregor is out. What about you two?"

"I fear no one. I go". Nikola accompanied Gheata

"You can count me in too."

"Then, we'd best go now. The sun doesn't wait for retarders and I want to be there with plenty of light."

Yuri, Gheata and Nikola departed immediately. They took an hour to arrive at the crossroads. Looming in before them, there it was, that massive construction: a large, tall Cathedral of a bygone era. Its façade bore the pride of those that had built it. Two massive gargoyles guarded the entrance while two high pinacles piercing at the sky, in search for some God. Did they ever find it? Who knows. As they had seen before, it had been burnt in the past. They remembered Antonín's tale, and the full horror of that fiery punishment bore hard into them: the Cathedral had been burnt to punish the Knights of the Order. The Cathedral had become a version of a witch burning in a monumental scale: a full host of Knights had been sentenced inside, crying for life, barred from the outside as all around them turned into flames, a living hell. No wonder people avoided it. Its size commanded respect; its testimony of a massacre invoked fear. Unique within the ruin shone the rose-window above the door. It lay unscathed as if no fire had ever touched it.

The three stood in awe by the road, looking up to encompass the full view of the Cathedral's majesty. Yuri boldly stepped forward, followed a fair distance by Gheata. Nikola remained on the road. Yuri stopped, gazing at the stained-glass. The clouds had opened and the sky was visible again. The setting sun would soon shine upon it, and surely inside the nave the rays would light the church like fire. It is to the great rose windows above the entrance doors of most churches, those with the entrance facing west, that the Alchemists call the Rose of Fire. The sun shines with a reddish light when it sets and Red is the colour of the end of the Great Work: The Rubedo, the Work on Red. Noon is Albedo, the second stage, the Work on White, which follows Nigredo, the Work on Black. There's no window pointing east. At the start of the day, no light shines within a Cathedral, but it will enter through its southern stained-glass at midday. North, however, will always look up to the night, for though there is a window in that direction, the sun is never there.

Would it be a coincidence that the church was destroyed by fire and the western window is the only untouched remain of the church? These questions danced in Yuri's head. The obscure knowledge he had gained when studying at Ingelberg returned to his head in a disorganized mass of incoherent and disconnected facts. Was it a coincidence? Fire, Rubedo? Had it anything to do? This was a doubt he wanted to clear. He took hold of his holy symbol, mumbled a prayer and meditated. He waved it at the church, silently, steadfast and attentive.... No, nothing. There was no magic there, no lingering trace of any arcane or divine energy anymore. Perhaps inside he could feel it. The building itself could be like a shrouded for any faint sacredness that still remained inside... though the cruel burning surely had desecrated the building.

He approached, boldly as before, but holding the Holy Symbol. He felt that Ezra cared for him and would protect him in the darkness. He was but seven meters away from the door when, from a little mound to the left of the road, no more than forty centimeters high, a hazy vapour began to rise. It's form was vaguely feminine but bore resemblance to no one Yuri knew. Wisps of cloud trailing behind it, waving in a wind Yuri could not feel, it stretched its hand in Yuri's direction, palm opened in sign of forbiddance.

Yuri froze on his tracks. Gheata eyes the thing alarmed. He drew his pistol but his legs wavered and slowly, hesitantly, began to walk backwards to where Nikola still was. This looked at the scene without understanding. The horse neighed nervously, and Nikola calmed him, and mounted. Only Yuri remained in place, till the figure spoke

"Go back, Yuri, go back! There is a great darkness inside, greater than you can face. Go back!"

The figure remained diffuse, and after speaking its piece it began to dissolve quickly. It could not easily abide the sun. Yuri hesitated. He looked at the cathedral again and at the symbol in his hand. Shaking his head, he turned back, unsure of that being the right choice.

The three riders came back to the inn, distraught, and they arrived just as the sun set. Soon, the warmness that spread from the fire in the common room was all the comfort they needed.

They didn't speak of the evening's events. The Cathedral was a theme none of them wished to bring forth, not even Eva or Gregor. Instead, they focused on the leaving the following morn, and the warm dinner before them.

After the meal, the residents gathered in the common room as was usual at The Walking Knight. Yuri alone retired for a private room set upon brewing a healing mixture. Things were beginning to feel strange and dangerous, and surely one balsam only would not be enough.

The others joined the gathering below. As it happened, the wind began to howl outside though the night didn't become stormy. But the voices lowered and in a few moments, a storyteller began spinning a tale of ghosts. When he finished, the first reaction was silence, but then it drew an applause from the audience and a new round of drinks. It was then that a tall elegant man, finely dressed with a carefully trimmed moustache, and probably in his middle thirties, took center stage and announced his name: Edward Pond, one of the most esteemed and famous poets throughout the core. And tonight, since the mood was so appropriately set for it, he would recite one of this last writs: The Raven.

Pond was a master reciter. His voice vibrated with a frightening, masterfully studied tone. His words echoed the terror felt by the poem's narrator and he easily enthralled the audience. Well, most of the audience.

Eva and Gheata were whispering to each other. She was seeing a new face of his: tender, seductive. For all his physical prowess and almost absent affection, he was showing himself capable of other more appealing endeavours to her feminine desires. He wove his charms like a web. Eva protested, but only mildly. In truth, she too wanted him. But she was unsure.

"I must not. I barely know you and I've never been with a man."

"Well, if that is a requisite, then you'll never be with one. You have to let go, it's not something to dread, it is a part of everyone's life, and it has to start with someone. Better that it be with someone you know. Let it go, Eva, I'll teach you."

"But it is my first time. You...."

"I'll be gentle. Don't worry."

They left and went upstairs.

Gheata slept that night in Eva's room. The usual silence of the night was only here and there disturbed by gentle sighs of pleasure and surprise. Only too late did Eva remember that her parents slept in just the room next door, and that they probably had heard her stifled moans. As for the Gregor and Nikola, they heard something unusual but slept without cares. Only Yuri, absorbed by his work, failed to notice anything. He finished late and threw himself heavily on the bed.

That night, Yuri dreamt. He saw himself before the Cathedral once again, but this time he was alone. He approached the door, even as he'd done before, and once again a mist rose from the little mound. A feminine figure took form and warned him "Do not approach more, Yuri. There is evil too great for you in here." The shape was vague as it had been before the church, but it slowly became more defined: a longsword, a shield. It continued "I have other plans for you." Yuri awoke, a single word dangling on his lips:



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