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, July 04, 2005

Log Entry 1

Drulovic went home, and the four retired with Tersis for a private study where they could be free from the people that regularly visited the temple every morning. The first impressions between them were cautious, and each one looked at the priest as the only person they would address. It would take a long time to build confidence between them.
Tersis exposed the situation and what Yuri had found that morning in Kirien's cell. Since the poisoning seemed so far an inconclusive clue, all attentions turned to the note and the ball it spoke of. Tersis told them it would be open to the High Society and exceptionally, since this was the first of the Season and therefore an official happening, to a few more classes of the society, notably wealthy merchants and distinguished individuals. Naturally, if they wanted to go to the Ball, getting in would be a problem.
"Yuri will be able to enter easily. Since I am inherently Member of the Council, in virtue of heading Ezra's Church in the city, I cede my place to him with the excuse that he'll be staying in Keshgel for a while and needs to know the people. Evangelina will, I believe, be able to enter as Drulovic's Company, since he's enrolled in the Merchant's League. As for the others, I think you'll have to find your own means of entrance. The Ball starts at nine."

After the conversation with Tersis, Yuri led the rest of the group to examine Kirien's cell. Gregor made a minute inspection of everything he could see, including Kirien's trunk, but they could find nothing new. The scarcity of clues made this death a veritable mystery. Yuri once again eyed the flower suspiciously, but he did not doubt Ezra's knowledge: there was not poison in the flower, and Yuri had been poisoned. At length, they left the room, and considered the clues they had: a boy had brought the flower and the note; the note seemed to be from a Lady who'd be at that night's Ball; nothing had been stolen from Kirien's; there were no signs of break in at all, and he had died peacefully, without any fight or sudden disturbance, since there were no signs of violence at all. The fact remained, however, that he had been poisoned, and the flower was, thus far, completely unimportant, or else it played an unknown role in the whole scene. The next step was clear: at the Ball would be another person with a flower like that one that could probably throw some light over the whole situation.

They spent the rest of the day in preparations for the Ball. The excitement grew as the hour approached. Yuri took hold of the flower in Kirien's cell. He kept it in the vase until late then, meaning to tuck it in inside his tunic only when he left to the ball. But, without so many worries, he arrived to the mansion where it was going to take place forgetting the flower at the church. Obviously worried, he found a small lad to whom he gave a trinket if he went back to fetch the flower for him.
Meanwhile, Drulovic and Evangelina had already arrived and entered the ball. The other two arrived slightly later: asking here and there, they had no difficulty to find the urban manor of Lord Francis Ratcliffe. It was still soon, and the place teemed with last minute sellers and opportunists who presented their wares to the invitees. Especially numerous were the flower-sellers. No doubt, flowers were very appreciated by the local elite, for every woman bore in her at least one flower and even some men had their own too. They tried to note the flowers of the guests, as they climb out from their carriages and climbed the stairs of the mansion. But in the middle of the confusion, it was a vain effort. Thus, Gregor and Nikola addressed some sellers and tried to buy a certain white flower with deep red lines. That seemed to be a very strange request, for no one acknowledged that variety and so, invariably, tried to sell other qualities or deferred them to one Elineu Mitrescu, master florist of Keshgel.
Elineu Mitrescu himself was not hard to find, as he too was making good business on the stairs of the mansion. His reputation was superb in Keshgel and the highest dames only bought from him. Many delayed the buying to precise this late time for they knew Mitrescu would have freshly cut flowers at their best for the party. They found him so busy he could scarcely hear them, but Elineu was a kind old man, and between sales sympathetically told them to meet him next day at his shop. He had not the flower they sought, but if all they wanted was information, then he'd be more than glad to help.
There was nothing more they could do, so they walked around the house, looking for a clandestine entrance. Lord Ratcliffe's manor was not overly big, and it hadn't any green grounds around it. Its entrance gave to a large avenue, from which one small lane issued to border the left side of the mansion. The entrance was illuminated by two potent lamps, and two guards barred the entrance to interlopers. The right facade looked over another avenue that crossed the first one, thus placing the house as a fancy elegant corner. The small lane, on the other hand, accompanied the side of the house and separated it from the nearest property. It then connected to a street that led into the second avenue, and was parallel to the first, effectively bordering the back facade of the house. This side was dark, and all the windows in the ground floor were closed and barred.
Gregor walked around the house looking for some entrance, but when he was leaving the lane onto the street, a dark shadow approached and bumped into him. Gregor fell to the ground, and in the blink of an eye, saw the furtive figure reach up to him and leave in a hurry. He checked his belongings: his purse was gone, and within it, all his money.
"Lovely, now I'm stranded in a town I don't know, with people I don't know and without money. Bastard!"
At least, Gregor had a place to stay: he had paid a week in advance at the Red Boar. Crestfallen, he completed the tour around the house and met the other two in the dark lane.
"There's no back door we can use. No entrance... and I was robbed!"
The others tried to give him some comfort, but they turned to finding an entrance into the palace. They saw that, on the first floor, large windows spilled a bright light into the night, and deduced those should belong to the ball room. Three balconies projected outwards just above them. Gregor proposed:
"We can enter through this. I have a grappling hook with me, and we can lift ourselves over there."
Nikola nodded and Gregor threw the hook. In no time, he was on the balcony. It was still early, the guests were still arriving and no one was paying much attention to the balcony. They were lucky. Nikola, meanwhile, managed to climb with the help of his feet and hands alone, and joined him.
"We still have to try to pass undisguised inside" said Gregor. "I'll pretend to be a fur seller. What about you, Nikola?"
"I'll stay here. I don't like these parties and these people. I'll espy them from this balcony."
Watching carefully the movement of the people inside, Gregor timed his entrance perfectly, completely unnoticed. He mingled without much difficulty, although it was clear that there were two distinct classes within: the nobles and the merchants.

Yuri waited patiently outside, until at last, the boy arrived with the flower. Yuri hid it well, taking care not to show it, and approached the gates. He showed a letter from Tersis Hauptmarsh declaring him as his representative and entered easily, in the stead of the Church of Ezra.

The Ball was brilliant and crowded. The First Balls of Keshgel were famous in Irvanika among the upper classes, and some families made the way from Ingelberg to attend it, although no one came from the backwards North of Irvanika. There were many young ladies who waited impatiently for the hour when they would be presented to the society, virginally sat along the walls, watching the party unfold. Their elders conversed in scattered groups among the brightly illuminated hall, drinking and tasting the delicately refined pastries that were brought by the servants.

In the middle of all this confusion, Yuri and the others opened their eyes and ears in search for the flower or some useful rumour. There were many people with flowers on their attires, but none was exactly like Kirien's. They checked and double-checked, but in fact, no one was sporting a flower that matched the description.
"It is still soon... perhaps that person will arrive later", tried to reason Yuri.
He briefly approached Evangelina and Gregor, but they feigned mutual ignorance.

Among the many rumours in the ball, one was prevalent among all others. It seemed that one certain Lord Jeremy Barthold, an arrogant man and well-known for his bad temper, was the father of some Lady Gowena, a charming beauty as few in Keshgel. Surely, she was the dream of any noble young man, and she herself was of high lineage on her mother's side. But for some reason, Lord Jeremy had forbid her from coming to the ball. In fact, rumours said he had indeed imprisoned her in her own house, locked in one of the towers. Invariably, people shook their heads at Jeremy's prepotency and bullying of his daughter, and more than one suggested that there was some dark family secret justifying their enmity. The fact remained, though, that Gowena, who had already come of age, was not allowed to frequent the society even though she would probably become its brightest starlet if she did.

Judging from the descriptions they heard, they soon could identify Lord Jeremy and ascertain all the impressions they had formed. The man was large, fat, but not tall. He had a deep resonant voice and he always spoke with a loudness more suitable for a singer on stage than for a delicate person. There was constantly an entourage around him, hearing him dissert about politics, morality and good manners. He was almost a zealot! It was clear, after some time of observation, that he disliked profoundly being gainsaid, and for said reason, he threatened those that did with a mean look that suggested all the power and influence he had. The other always left the group or backtracked in his words, with fear of some reprisal.

Another focus of attention in the ball was a curious couple that was the object of everyone's curiosity. The man was tall, handsome, of a pure yellow blonde hair. All about him transpired class and an excelling education. He didn't speak but barely, however, always with distinction. Occasionally, people approached him, but it was evident they were doing it only for social duty and interest. They spoke just a little, but they couldn't avoid doing it with great deference. He, on the other hand, did not seem to be in the party to amuse himself, but rather to watch the others and take his amusement from that observation.
At his side, stood a young lady slightly shorter than him. She was completely clad in black, in a long dress that barely shower her feet, plain and almost unadorned, but leaving her shoulders, neck and most of her uppermost chest in plain view. She looked a bit pale and frail, but a simple and lovely silver necklace adorned her neck. Here eyes were ebony black and the hair, long and silk-lustrous, reaching at least the middle of her back, sported proudly the same dark hue. She was striking. Her beauty was perhaps off-putting, and even a bit scary, but she was, without the faintest glimmer of a doubt, extremely beautiful. She looked to her partner with respect, and remained silent unless that attitude could mean rudeness of her part.

Yuri was thus lost, studying the population at the ball, when he was approached by a distinct tall man with a soft and highly classed tone that approached him like this
"Sir, I was looking for Tersis Hauptmarsh, but I have now been informed that he delegated his presence on you. As such, it is you I must address, as representative of the most significant Church in Keshgel. It is a matter directly of the jurisdiction of the spiritual realm, and I trust you'll be interested in it. Will you hear me?
"Sir, first I'd have to know who you are."
"Oh, of course. Silly me. Lord William Milhouse" he declared, not without some faint trace of vanity, while bowing in a perfectly measured gesture. "My business is a matter of the church, but I shall not hesitate in taking it to the Council if need be. But since Ezra is represented here and now, it is my duty to present the case."
This piqued Yuri's interest
"Very well, I'll hear you."
"Then, perhaps you'd like to accompany me to a balcony? There are far too many ears and noise in here."
Yuri followed the suggestion and accompanied the man. The night was clam and pleasant, quite agreeable with last warmth of the summer. Milhouse drew a cigar and tentatively offered one to Yuri
"No thanks, I don't smoke."
"Your loss. They're magnificent" he expelled a puff of smoke. Then he began
"As I was saying, this is a matter of the Church, whichever that Church is. There is a street in this town where no one enters" his voice deepened to a dark ominous tone. "There have been years that it is abandoned, dark, forgotten. People tell many things about a house, at the end of the street, and the fame that it is haunted spread, so rapidly, that people avoid not only it, but the whole neighbourhood."
He paused and looked Yuri in the eye, with a solemn face, as if gauging the effect of his words. Drawing once again in his cigar, he continued, with a swelling barely disguised fury.
"Well, I'm a distinguished member of this city, my family has lived here for generations, and I love it as few do" (his voice was now growing perceptibly stronger). "And I cannot allow" his face was now read, and he stressed these words with a strong knock on the balcony's rail "that there are places in Keshgel where one can not go even by day!"
He paused a while to rest from his outburst. Regaining his composure,
"I don't know if the stories they tell are true. Superstition is very strong, as you might well know, and the tale is old. Even though, they say that in that house you can see a queer figure at the window. Sometimes, it's an old woman, famished and dressed in rags, all in black, with a sad or a malignant look, not all people agree. Other times, it's a young girl, with an angel face, always very sad, nearly transparent but also in rags and tatters. They say a witch lived there; they say a mother tortured her daughter and left her to starve. They say many things, but in truth, no one knows what is going there."
"Please, calm yourself" said Yuri, as Milhouse nearly had another outburst. He did, and continued softer
"For the welfare of our city, that zone has to be cleansed. And even though I consider it is only the duty of the church to do it, I'm willing to pay for that to happen. Now, are you going to do your task?"

After hearing patiently, Yuri answered evasively. He said he was new in Keshgel, after all, but that he would relay the matter to his superior. Perhaps he might find some people willing to help him if he were actually told to undertake the task. Milhouse was mildly satisfied with the answer and both returned to the ball, independently.

On another side of the room, Gregor had found Evangelina alone. She told him that Drulovic was not feeling well and had returned home. In truth, though, he had plainly told her that things were going bad for him in Keshgel, and he didn't want to be at the Ball, where so many people were that despised him or actively tried to harm him. He had come solely to give an excuse for Evangelina to enter. So, they banded together and feigned to be relatives. However, as time passed, they were clearly becoming more and more outside the ball. So, it was with an undisguised surprise that they watched the curious couple they had noticed earlier approaching them and bidding them good night.
He offered them two glassed that he nonchalantly took from a passing platter, and with a casual, almost amused air, introduced themselves:
"Let me introduce ourselves: William Cairnstone, and Victoria Cairnstone."
Evangelina and Gregor bowed, and in turn told their names.
William continued, curious
"So, you seem to be as much outside this party as we are. You understand, social duty calls. I can't quite place you, though. You must be new, aren't you?"
Gregor hesitated a bit, slightly off-guard, but then answered
"Well, yes. I deal in furs and this is a good time to pass around Keshgel. I thought of coming to the Ball and smell some possible deal."
William looked at him, smiling, and then asked simply
"So, you're in the League, aren't you? That's odd!"
This remark left Gregor with the impression that William had seen underneath his disguise, but the latter quickly let the matter fall asking other minor questions. Eventually, Evangelina found it was time they too knew something about their new acquaintances. William replied
"Oh, we don't live exactly in Keshgel, but rather on a quaint comfortable house in the vicinity. I've been in the city for a few days, just to attend the ball. You know, everybody watches everybody in these meetings. This is when the most of political intrigue is done and put in motion. Don't be caught off-guard, you two" and smiled when saying these last words.
He further said that the family was old in Keshgel, but that it had moved outside and returned only recently, and at present, neither he nor Victoria did anything useful. They merely sought interesting ways to spend their time, as all the other nobles did. The talk had reached an end, and the two couples separated.

Yuri watched the final moments of the talk, and briefly felt an urge to join Evangelina and Gregor and ask about the strangers. He dismissed it quickly and concentrated on the flowers. Now it was late, and the person carrying the other flower should already be in the room. He surveyed the other guests attentively, he scanned every flower he saw and came, once again, to the disappointing conclusion that no flower like his own was at present in the ball. He barely had time to curse his bad luck when the host, descending the grand staircase at the end of the hall, announced that it was eleven o'clock, and with the sonorous gongs of the huge grandfather clock in a corner of the room confirming his words, he told the guests to give way in the dance floor, for the Ball was going to begin. The debutantes were the leaders, and at his request, they stood from their chairs, formed a line in the middle of the room and another line of impeccable gentlemen, some old, some young, joined them to lead the young girls on their first ball. The pairs were mostly their parents, but there were also some elder brothers or cousins. However, no betrothed were allowed, for only members of the family could thus introduce the starlet.

With the beginning of the ball, the party entered its final phase. The groups and talks diminished and nothing more of interest happened. Yuri tried, in vain, to find a flower like his. Near desperation, as already some of the guests were leaving, he chose to display his own flower for the first time, wandering around the room in the hopes that someone would notice, but eventually, the clock sounded three and the Master of the House announced the party was over.

The guests left for their houses. Nikola vanished alone and Yuri found a cab to take him, Gregor and Evangelina each to his destination. The driver, experience in his craft, perceived Yuri was new in town and charged a hefty sum. There were mild protests, but in the end he had to pay.
"City of thieves, this is...", Gregor exclaimed unto himself. After leaving Evangelina at Drulovic's home, Gregor and Yuri agreed to go look for Elineu Mitrescu in the morning. Gregor would seek Yuri in the church.

Yuri spent the night at his room in the Church, but his sleep wasn't restful. For the whole night, he was disturbed by the howls of wolves seemingly too near from the city. Perhaps somehow induced by this disturbance, Yuri dreamt of the mad man... again. But now, the setting was different.
He was before the unkempt garden of a large house, fenced by a tall wall. The house was pink, once, but now it was so dark that it seemed almost black. Yuri was sure he had never seen this house. Yuri saw himself pass the gates into the garden. It was plain day and he could distinctly hear screams. They seemed human, but nothing in the dream suggested what their cause was.

15th September 751, 5th night of the Waxing Moon

The following morning, Yuri met Nikola again at breakfast. Hauptmarsh, too, was there, eager to know of their nocturnal inquiries. They said their search had been in vain, and Tersis suggested that they should seek about Kirien in the neighbourhood of the search. Yuri waited for Gregor, and when he arrived, the two of them set to look for Elineu Mitrescu's flower shop.
They found it after a while. Elineu was quite the charming old man, always serviceable and with a genuine will to be helpful. He asked if they had the flower with them, but Yuri said that he had taken it from the vase to take it to the Ball and that, meanwhile, it had died. Elineu shook his head but said
"No matter, from what ye told me, the'e's no doubt, 'tis a Spide'-Rose. 'Cause of the lines it leaves when it changes colour, ye see. Aye, it changes colour regularly, from complet'ly red to white wi' eight red lines. 'Tis very rare in Irvanika, kno' ye, and grows only in Borca, to the southwest."
"And do you have any for sale, here?"
"No, no, no! I don't sell that flow'r. People don't like it much, the'e's plenty mor' int'resting flow'rs here. But if ye fancy it, then my importer in Kleinstadt might know mor' about it, since he lives so near the border. And no, I don't think anyone else could be marketing it. In fact, I doubt even any of the others kno' about it!" he left an innocent laugh out and with that the conversation ended. They returned to the temple of Ezra, to decide their next steps.


Post a Comment

<< Home