Ravenloft Campaign: Woven Fates

Greetings!
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...

Friday, November 26, 2004

Log Entry 20

Eva left Anita hurriedly and came back to the room to see Alistair crying with the face cupped in his hands. Nikola and Gregor paced nervously, while Yuri sought to understand more of Alistair's story.

"Why is it that you came looking for help on the road, when you have neighbours nearer?"

Alistair raised his head. He tried to quickly wipe his tears and look strong

"I was expecting the midwife. She was to come from the road. Besides...

Since all this happened... since Barton..." he sobbed "... was taken by the wolf, I've kept to myself. It shames me... and I've no nerve to appear before my neighbours. I'm sure they think as I do."

Gheata interrupted

"So, you're ashamed that you son has died? Why?"

"Because I let him!" He burst standing abruptly. "I let him die, can't you understand? One moment he was there and the next he was being dragged by the wolf, but I was there."

"And didn't you scare the wolves? Didn't you attack them?"

"Of course I did! But when I got to Barton he was already badly mauled. He never recovered."

"And do you think you could have done any better?" asked Yuri.

Alistair hesitated, sat again and let a breath come out

"I do."

"Well, then. Perhaps it was meant to be. Fate can not be defeated and you surely couldn't do more than you did. You'll have to let go, you'll have to overcome it. Give some rest to yourself, earn some respect for you again."

With these words, Yuri tried to calm Alistair down.

And then he burst

"Please, you've got to help me. What is happening is not natural. This is surely priest's job and I can you are one. Will you help me?"

Yuri was a bit dumbfounded and tried to digress

"I can do nothing right now. We'll see if Ezra helps me in the morning".

Alistair looked abated. He eased a bit, stood and went up to the window. He gave a brief look outside and closed them. Then, he bade everybody good night and went to his bedroom.

The others remained retired for their own room and conversed for a while.

Yuri was the first to speak

"I don't trust this Alistair guy. Something tells me he hasn't told the whole truth."

"Why? " questioned Gregor

"I just think it's not natural for someone to shun the neighbours for his son dying in an accident. He's hiding something, I'm sure."

"Mayhap he's just strange. I've heard of a guy once in a remote village that stood closed inside his house for forty years without wanting to see anyone. Someone would take him food and leave it on the door, but I know someone who never saw him during that whole time... They called him Uncle Gamish, but no one person knew what he looked like. Perhaps this Alistair is like him, perhaps he is a bit paranoid and thinks the others will always evaluate him and doesn't dare to risk it. I don't know, but perhaps it happened as he told us."

"Perhaps, Gregor, but I still have my doubts... Well, and what about tomorrow?"

"I say we sleep and leave as soon as we can. If the woman is delirious, there's nothing we can do about her." Nikola answered quickly and Gregor concurred "I agree with him".

"Perhaps... but in the morning, I'll be better prepared than today and there are some things I want to try. But be ready to depart early."

They then went all to sleep and did so surprisingly without worries of any kind.

28th September 751, 4th Night of the Waning Moon

Gheata was the first to get up. He heard some noise from the main room and went there, to meet Alistair who was preparing breakfast. They were soon joined by Nikola and Eva.

"Good morning. Anita is still in bed, resting. I'll have tea and milk ready soon, you can pick what you want. Where are the other two?"

"Oh, they're in the room... preparing. I'm sure you can hear the chants if you try." explained Eva.

"Hmmm... that's well then."

"And how's Anita?" asked Nikola, interestedly.

"She's doing well, I think, given the circumstances." Alistair visibly didn't like to touch the subject, so they dropped the conversation.

This was the front room in the house, the one that served as kitchen and common room. Two doors led to two bedrooms in the wall opposite the entrance and another to the left, that seemed to always be opened, offered entrance into a room with a larger table, clearly intender for happier gatherings and that seemed to have had not much use for a reasonable time. Its only window shut and it had no lights, but the light coming from the main one and from the lit fire where food was cooked was enough to illuminate it a bit.

They were casually sitting at the table when a rattle could be heard and all of them saw the pots lined on the bar being agitated one by one as if the earth was shaking. Yet, nothing else trembled and they looked stupefied as the pots shook from the rightmost one to the leftmost one and then... the one that was on the fire was violently knocked to the side and the scalding water it contained splashed all around. Nikola let a cry slip his lips as he got burned, but all the others managed to avoid it.

They looked around in confusion. Eva got up and ran to the bedroom and huddled in a corner. "I don't want to have anything to do with his!" she cried startled. Gregor and Yuri remained oblivious to her.

Alistair was locked in disbelief. Nikola tried to convince himself with a vain explanation

"Perhaps there was a draft..." but he knew the futility of his words. He looked to the fire without understanding but calling up all his practical sense said

"I guess it's better to clean this up and start again."

His words woke Alistair "Yes, yes, you're right" and he began to move quickly. But the rattling came back and soon Gheata saw the water in the basin being waved around, as if someone was playing with it.

"Erm... Alistair, have you put boiling water in the basin? You haven't, have you?" Just as before, he knew that was not the right motive, but he still wanted to cling to normality.

Alistair was dismayed

"That water is there since yesterday. It must be as cold as the weather..."

And then it stopped. The alarm in their faces couldn't be greater, and they all had grown considerably paler.

"Alistair... excuse us for a moment". Nikola and Gregor went back to the bedroom, leaving Alistair shocked in the room.

Eva came to them.

"Those two must be almost finishing, but why did you come back? Don't tell me something else happened."

"Yes... some invisible thing was playing with the water in the basin." told Nikola

"And... we heard that rattling again" added Gheata.

Eva blushed.

"I didn't tell you yesterday, but I heard it too. And I saw something strange... a towel falling from the air."

Nikola spoke the thought in the others' minds.

"So, this rattling seems to signal the entity that is doing all of this, if there is one."

but it was Gheata to offer a plan of action

"Then I say we try to catch it. Let's get some blankets and hear where it is then try to catch it".

Nikola agreed, but Eva refused to leave the room

"Thanks, I'm pretty well here..." she stammered.

Gheata and Nikola went back to the room, carrying a blanket each. Gheata also had his flail ready for whatever might be the case. Alistair was sitting, musing upon the strange disturbances. Nikola interrupted him

"Do you have any flower?"

"Why, sure! Here".

And then the rattling came. Already expecting it, they tried to locate its origin and could see the curtains waving near the floor. Nikola took a fistful of flower and tried to throw it, but let if fall before completing the movement. His second try, however, was successful: the flowers took form for a brief second, then fell to the floor evenly. In that brief moment, it had stood in midair in an almost spherical shape.

Nikola cried

"Wretched thing, I don't know what you are, but at least I know you are there. I won't cower before you" but there was much more courage in his words than he really felt. Alistair nodded, his own suspicions confirmed by Nikola's flour attack.

Yuri and Gregor arrived at that moment, leaving Eva alone in the bedroom, waiting that her friends would be able to solve the strange situation without needing her. Yuri was approaching Alistair to speak to him when Gregor, Nikola and Gheata cried almost at once

"Look!"

A blue handprint of a small baby child had appeared on the wall. It was a right-hand impression. And then again, and then once again. Three times the small right baby hand was left in blue on the wall. It looked like aquarelle paint. This time, Nikola retreated away from the wall. He was running out of possible explanations. But Yuri, seeing that time had passed for words, put thought into action and began an incantation. He concentrated for almost a minute and then said with conviction

"There is a restless spirit in this house. An afflicted soul. It's not very strong but it's still a suffering being. It is going to the dining room."

Telling everybody to back away he began a chant to his goddess. When he finished, he looked enveloped in a blazing aura, seeming taller and more commanding, with a stern and at the same time more attractive face. He seemed to be older in years but of a timeless age, compelling as a King of old, bathed as he was in Ezra's radiant splendour. At the same time, they heard the rattling once again, and could see a small candle floating at about fifty centimetres from the floor in the adjoining room. But it was lit and that worried them more than anything else up to the moment. Gheata was quick to react. He grabbed a blanket and threw it to the other side of the room, as Nikola, Gregor and Alistair backed in the opposite direction and Yuri put forth his symbol and displaying an immense divine power sent away the command of Ezra

"Flee, spirit! Be thou of darkness or innocent as a child, back away, for this is not thy abode! Leave us be in peace and leave this house for ever!"

Everything happened too fast. The blanket missed the candle by a few centimetres. The flame faltered but held and then, just one instant later, the candle fell without support to the ground, lighting the blanket. Nikola and Gheata were first to act, and stomping quickly on the flames they soon extinguished them. A sense of relief pervaded them, but Yuri was not sure

"I don't think it has really left. It may give us rest and respite for a while but I feel it will come back".

This, however, allowed them to rest for a while. For a scant ten minutes, they eased themselves on chairs, thinking on what to do. If it was indeed the case that Yuri's effort had not been definitive, then they still had something to do. Their rest was broken by Anita's sudden arrival from the bedroom. She looked weaker and tired. Two new red spots were on her dress

"Good morning. How are you? Have you seen my Barton around?"

Nikola badly disguised his yellow smile, but she didn't notice and he played along

"Oh, he's been around. And he's been quite misbehaving too!"

"That's my Barton, so small and yet so charming. Where is he? I can't see him"

Nikola continued the farce "He must be playing in the back."

Alistair approached Yuri and asked him to speak in private, where Anita could not hear them. Yuri retreated a bit too harshly and Alistair noted his resistance

"What happened? Why did you react thus? I merely wish to ask for your help."

"I find it odd that you ask me what happened. After all I've seen in this house, I'm not sure I can trust you."

"I've told you everything as it happened. What else is casting doubts in your thoughts?"

"I'll keep them to myself, if I may."

"Then keep them. But at least, help me and my wife, rid us and our house of these supernatural things!"

"Ah!, then you know it is supernatural. And yet you didn't tell me why you think that!"

"Why, for Belenus' sake. If what we have seen isn't supernatural, what the heck is it? I've never seen water dancing on its own! I've never heard stories of a candle flying by itself, and you saw it as clearly as I. If something is not natural, if something is not in nature to do, then by all heavens, it is supernatural to me!" His last sentence was uttered in mounting rage. His face had blushed red and his fists closed, but it wasn't a direct threat to Yuri: it was merely the frustration of his powerlessness to defeat what was beyond his comprehension.

Yuri accepted his views, but still said in a low tone

"How long has this been happening?"

"How long? Never, it started only today."

"Then I think you're the cause of this haunting, Alistair. You are the reason why Barton's still around. You haven't come to terms with his death. Nor you, nor Anita. Telling her to accept that seems to be beyond human strength but you at least are more reasonable than her, you still see reality as it is. Accept your failure, it was not your fault. You have to move on. Speak with your wife, convince her of this and when you come to terms with it Barton will leave you again."

Alistair heard and retreated. That hypothesis had not come to him before, but it made some sense.

Yuri, on the other hand, deciding he still had to shake Anita's views somewhat challenged her openly

"Anita, don't you think Barton is too precocious for a child with only one day? He can already walk around the house and knock things over. Isn't this odd for you?"

Anita looked at him surprised. There was some rationality in her yet and Yuri's question sunk hard into it. She bit her tongue and replied with a decreasing, less and less assuring voice

"No, no... he's just... a special child. He's my baby and he has come back to me!"

She remained silent, but it was apparent she was not in peace. She retreated into a semblance of absent-mindedness as she tried to reconcile her newly returned child with the fact that he had been born the previous day. Something in her mind spoke of the impossibility of it all, and she remained lost in thought.

Seeing this, and understanding that Anita began to slowly understand what was going on, Yuri spoke for everybody

"There are other possibilities for this haunting, for it is indeed Barton's ghost that has come back to the house. I think he may have been called by the immense dedication of his mother, and the relentless inability to allow his death. But this dedication may not be the only thing locking Barton in this world. Many times, ghosts are held on this side for the presence of a material focus or the unfulfilment of a special task. I doubt Barton had any pressing task to achieve so I'm leaning for the material focus. The problem is: in so short a life, what could have become so important to him, to what would he be so attached that could become a focus for his spirit? I can think of only one thing..."

"The rattle!" said Nikola with a burst of comprehension. "Is there a rattle in the house, Alistair?"

"There was, Barton's rattle. I buried it with him."

Suddenly, they heard the rattling again. The door to the guests' bedroom had opened of its own accord and Eva, whiter than the walls, tiptoed into the main room

"It is here again!" she waveringly moaned.

They were distracted by Eva's appearance and the return of the rattle. As Yuri had feared, Barton had not left the house. Suddenly, the priest turned to Alistair and asked

"And did Barton's rattle sound like this?"

The expected answer came immediately "Yes, very much like this."

"Then perhaps the rattle is the focus but since it is buried with Barton, it is beyond our reach."

"Why, Yuri? Surely, Barton was buried near here, wasn't it Alistair?"

"Yes... just under that tree over there. See?"

"So," continued Nikola, "we simply go there, take the rattle and break it apart."

Yuri and Eva protested vehemently "that's desecration! I cannot allow you to do that!"

Anita's voice sounded suddenly, disturbing and incoherent in the middle of the argument

"No, it isn't. I took it from there."

Everybody stopped at once and looked at Anita.

"What did you take?" asked Gregor.

"The rattle. I took it from the coffin before it was buried."

Anita was still absent-minded, speaking automatically as if in a trance, compelled to speak by some other will. She remained in conflict within herself: she still wanted Barton near her, but the clash between her desirous will and her reason within reality was being slowly won by the latter. Reluctantly, Anita was forcing herself to speak against her desires, and that she did with the utmost sufferance and effort. Yuri's voice sounded soothing and relaxing

"Where is it, Anita? Where did you keep the rattle?"

"In my drawer, besides my bed."

Her eyes were dry, but they seemed to not hold her tears for long.

"Take me there, Anita. Give me the rattle."

Anita got up and followed by Nikola and Yuri went into the bedroom. Slowly, achingly slowly, she opened the drawer, took the rattle looking mesmerized at it. She looked at it as if her whole baby was there, as if it were infused with the very essence of Barton. She clinched it strongly to her chest with both hands and still automatically, expressionless, left the room. Yuri put his arm around her shoulders and led her to the door

"Come with me, Anita. We've got to give Barton his toy for him to be peaceful again. Come with me."

Anita followed, without contesting. She held the rattle dearly to her, but she had begun to weep.

Yuri and Anita left the house. Two wolves emerged from the nearby woods, as if summoned by something or someone. The rest of the group followed. Anita and Yuri paced slowly, and the wolves remained at a fair distance of them, alternately looking at them and the tree where Barton's body rested. Alistair went ahead of them to the barn and brought back two or three shovels. Nikola, with his hand in his pistol, followed Anita and Yuri while the others offered escort ahead of them. They arrived to the tree without the wolves moving any nearer, but when Alistair began digging in the snow, a bombardment of snow balls coming from mid air flurried onto them. Yuri held his holy symbol, but as he began to conjure Barton, it simply flew from his hand. Yuri could feel a stronger force fighting against his grip and effectively wrestling his holy symbol from him.

"Telekinesis! Drat!"

The shower of snow balls stopped and the two wolves came running in with deadly intent.. Alistair begged for a weapon and Gheata lent him his flail then unsheathed his own hand-and-a-half sword. Nikola drew his pistol and set ready to fire at a wolf that might run in his direction. But the others were ill prepared and the first wolf was on Gregor before this could react. Still, he dexterously avoided the wolf. His next swing was deadly and pierced the beast from side to side through his heart. It gasped, the blood spurted tingeing the snow with ominous red, and died almost instantly. The other wolf made a run on Eva who, distracted by the one that had attacked Gregor, had kept her back to it, but a well placed blow by Gheata saved her from being actually attacked. As the wolf leapt at her, Gheata's full swing severed its head from its body and its life ebbed instantly.

All was silent. The two wolves had been defeated without mercy. Alistair dropped the flail, took his shovel again and feverishly began to dig and dig until in no time the coffin was exposed.

"Now, all we have to do is open this and put the ratter inside. I'll..."

Just as he was going to open it, Yuri stopped him, holding his hand

"Don't. There must be another way."

Alistair begged despaired "Please, let me do it."

and Nikola seconded him

Yuri reluctantly yielded and stepped back. Alistair asked for the rattle and opened the coffin. She assented and he tossed the rattle into the coffin, and closed it promptly. In that instance, a wail of grief pierced everybody's ears and finally Barton became visible. He was holding to his mother dearly, she held him with all her love and strength, but it all could see the adorable baby being pulled from her irresistibly by an unseen hand, while vanishing at the same time. Anita tried to hold him overdoing her own strength but Barton was gone.

Anita collapsed to the ground, crying without restraint.

"Barton, Barton... For the second time I lose you... Oh, Barton, dear child..."

Alistair came to embrace her, and planted a kiss on her forehead and holding her with love. He eased his hand into her long hair, and caressed it without speaking a word. Eva and Gheata decided to cover the coffin once more, while the others looked away from the intimate couple.

At length, Alistair stood and said

"I cannot thank you strongly enough. The loss of Barton again will be a heavy blow for Anita, but I trust in time she'll understand that was the only solution. The spirit was killing her, she was weaker I reckon, and she'll know this spirit was not truly Barton. It was not natural. Perhaps with time, we'll even have another child, one that is truly alive, and make her forget about Barton. Thank you once more.

I'm not rich, but I'll offer you what I have. Come inside, and I'll make you a hot meal. No doubt you'll be wanting to leave in the afternoon, since the morning isn't old yet. I'll offer you some rations for the way, you may need them. Come, warm by the fire and prepare as well as you can to go back to your life. Come, friends, and thank you again."

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