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 25

Some time later, the crowd had dispersed, sent away by the elders. They too conversed for a bit of time and entered the house better to talk in privacy. The band profited to approach it and sate their curiosity of what had happened. Donosty too had left, and they were practically the only ones that hadn't moved away. What words or threats had so effectively cast the population away, they did not know nor could they affect them.
The house was large and well-appointed, considering the miserable village where it was set. It was clearly out of place, nearly opulent. It was surrounded by a large but badly tended lawn where two distorted trees grew. It was surrounded by an iron spiked fence in the front side that turned into a stone wall two metres and a half high in the rest of the perimeter.
They thoroughly examined the exterior of the property for signs of entrance but could find none. So, they moved inside the lawn. The few men that had been there were out of sight, so they could examine the fences once again undisturbed. After a detailed search, Eva found, on the left side wall, marks of someone that had climbed them from the inside. Yuri was near, and they found footprints leading to that part of the stone: they steps were short and highly marked in the front, but there were almost no traces of the heel. There seemed to be marks of toes. "Clearly", said Yuri, "they belong to someone with small feet, short, barefooted, who was running and...." he turned to the wall and studied it meticulously. There were several spots where the vines had been broken, and a few places where a bit of the stonework seemed to have crumbled
".... and he or she had difficulty in climbing this. Come Eva, we need to find the tracks on the outside. They are most surely there." Gheata and Gregor joined them and they discussed briefly on what this could possibly mean.

It was at that moment that someone interrupted them.
"What do you think you are doing here?!"
They turned around and saw a brute ill-mannered man.
"Get out, you have no business here!"
The man looked threatening but an elder approached him and said
"Leave this to me. You can go, Penev"
The man left and the old man addressed them in a much politer way
"So, why are you here?"
Gregor, as the only one in the group who understood Balok, explained him that they had heard the burgomaster had died and that they could probably help in an investigation. The man did not seem overanxious about the solution. In fact, he spoke in a tone that seemed to indicate that there was not much else to uncover. The man had died and the mysterious dagger seemed to be proof enough to all there needed to be known. This was definitely something Gregor could not understand, so the elder said
"Come with me, I'll show you the scene."
He led them inside. There was no one left of the other men that had been conversing there.
"Do you know anything of Barovian History?"
Gregor and Yuri shrugged uncomfortably
"Yes, a bit. What kind of history do you mean? Old culture?"
"Hmmm... more like its general culture. Any way, that dagger you see there is a Ba'al Verzi dagger."
This seemed to be it. This fact alone seemed to conclude any investigation, as if that could explain all that had happened.
"I don't understand." stammered Gregor to Yuri to which he replied
"It seems they don't want us to investigate, they prefer to drown and forget all this as soon as possible."
The man inquired
"Don't you know about the Ba'al Verzi?"
"Who were they?"
"Ah!... then your culture isn't complete. Never mind, the majority of the folks in Barovia don't know them either.... Not anymore.... Surely the elders will remember old tales, but they're as old as time. The Ba'al Verzi have disappeared hundreds of years ago.... four hundred, some say. Not more than two hundred and a half, according to others. That's not important. They were silent for ages until now and that's what is worrying. They're back!"
"But who were they?" they asked all at once.
"They were assassins. Ruthless, deadly efficient --- the worst. They were the enemy in the night, the secret shadow that stalked without warning and never was caught. He could be your kin, your wife, your daughter, your own father. You were never safe from the Ba'al Verzi, for their damned alliance to their killings were stronger than any bonds they could have to you, be it blood or friendship. You could never know if your most trusted friend was a Ba'al Verzi who might one day want to kill you. For the Ba'al Verzi did not try, they simply did do it, without hesitation of remorse of any kind. Sacred was their gold and their black oath!"

"I see... So, you want our help to investigate?"
The man gasped, nearly smiling
"Investigate what? It was a Ba'al Verzi, that's all there is to know, that's all we'll ever know! You cannot tell them from others, they have no marks, no signs. Except for their dagger and this one left it on the victim. Pay attention, if you follow that road, you may well repent in the end."
"Nevertheless, please tell us what you can. Who lives here?"
"Burgomaster Kolyanovich was a widower and he lived here with his daughter, Irina. Apart from them, only the servants and the butler live here."
"I see. And can we speak to the daughter?"
"Now, that's interesting. She seems to have disappeared too."
"She did?" broke Yuri abruptly when Gregor translated the words to him. "And how old is she? Is she about this tall?", he added, mimicking a height with his hand.
"She's 15 and yes, that's about her size."
"Then we must find her. Come Eva!"

Yuri and Eva left the house and proceeded to find the tracks on the outside. Gregor and Gheata stayed to interrogate the staff. While Gregor exchanged a few more words with the old man, who was called Shuri, Gheata took the dagger from the body. Shuri seemed to flinch at this motion and looked at Gheata disapprovingly.
"I fear your friend will learn more of the Ba'al Verzi's lore than I'd care to know."
"Because so; I don't wish to talk any more of these matters."
Turning to Gheata, Gregor said
"I think you should best put the dagger back. That doesn't seem a good thing to me."
"But I don't see any reason to put it away. I got it, and I want it to me. It's mine now."
Shuri motioned his head negatively and added.
"Look, the servants are here. You can question them now."
There was not much they could tell. They all had gone to bed at the usual time. Only the butler said the master had left and returned late and that he went to bed but seemed to have some difficulty sleeping. As for him, he closed all doors and windows, adjusting the precautions for the night, and went to bed later. Te body was found in the morning by the first maids entering service. He was lying right on the carpet in the entrance, near the stairs for the top floor. His eyes were opened and he gazed at the ceiling, bewildered and surprised. There was only one blow that had been fatal, for it had pierced right through the heart.
The butler could confirm that one side door had been found open in the morning, with the key turned on the lock, from the inside, but they could find nothing more.
Gregor and Gheata left the house. The latter said
"Well, guess I'm going to trade this for my sword."
"Fine, I'll go with you."

They looked for the gypsy in the same area where they had found him the previous day. He was not there, but after a while, the familiar peddling of knives and pans reached their ears. They followed him to his caravan and once again he offered to trade the sword for the Ba'al Verzi dagger. Gheata hesitated for a short while, feeling something in him that resisted to delivering the dagger. But the desire for the greatsword was too strong and he made the trade. With nothing left to do, they went back to the inn and waited for the nightfall.

Yuri and Eva worked diligently. She picked a track a few metres away from the house and they followed it until it reached the Ivlis. It looked like the one they were following had swum across, so they went to the bridge at the entrance of the village and crossed. Once again they picked the track which, this time, led into the forest. With ample daylight, as the sun was in its highest point, it didn't look that much menacing. They went amidst the trees and began following the track once again. But, to their disbelief, their quarry seemed to be always ahead of them. Four hours past, and after having lost the track several times, they began feeling uneasy. The forest was dead silent around them. Neither birds nor beasts made a single noise, and the trees looked oppressively still, except.... except that their positions seemed to shift. Eva was the one to give the alert.
"I don't like this. I think I felt a tree move."
They began walking slowly, purposefully conscious that they might be being watched. Eva kept her eyes wide open and suddenly she gave a cry!
"That tree has a face in it!"
It seemed to, indeed. There were features in it that reminded a face, and definitely not a kind one. Yuri cried, in al the tongues he knew, that he meant no harm, but they moved only slowly fearing the fury of the man-tree. As they retreated, two or three more of those creatures seemed to watch their steps and close behind them. The forest was covering her secrets.

They returned to the village as dusk was settling in and hurried to the inn.
"Five minutes later and I wouldn't let you come in for the night. Be warned!" said the innkeeper in a disagreeable manner.
The dinner was uneasy. It seemed that all the other patrons were looking at them suspiciously and mumbling in their backs. Gregor couldn't pick the mixed conversations, but words like Vrolok and Witch appeared now and then. He couldn't tell if they were referring to him and his mates, but he wasn't too comfortable. Fortunately, the people departed sooner than usual and he had still time to peacefully savour a grog of Tuika that he decided to experiment with an excuse of cultural curiosity.

When he went up, he found Eva lying in his bed, asleep. He lay by her, thinking that she had waited for him purposefully. That, however, had not been her intentions for when she awoke with his touches, she immediately cast him away and went to her own bed.
"Still, she hasn't been as ruthless as yester night", he thought.
"Well, better sleep. I have an important ritual in the morn."

3rd October 751, 2nd Night before the New Moon

He awoke soon, in time to prepare for the ceremony at the church, but he was baffled by Eva who, few minutes later, entered the chamber with a tray carrying breakfast.
"I was rude to you last night, so I thought I might bring you breakfast!"
She smiled and Gregor thought that perhaps the Gods were returning to his side.
"I'm sure the sun will rise today, and I'll be there to greet it!"

He was right. Once again, he, Eva and Yuri made their way to the church still before dawn. Donosty was looking serious and solemn, all prepared for the event that was going to take place.
"Be firm, Gregor. This is serious, you are going to be accepted by the Morning Lord. I can tell we'll see the sun soon enough, so do not fail on your words and your feelings."

Gregor changed into the ceremonial tunic Donosty had lent to him. He knelt and as the priest sang his chant, Gregor took a holy wafer from him.
"Receive this wafer as a sign of purification of your body. Recite now the words that will cleanse your soul."
Gregor rose and murmured his part of the ritual. Then he performed one turn around the church, the first half looking downwards, the second half looking at the sky. As he completed the turn, and came to the point where Donosty was standing and invoking the Morning Lord, the sun rose from the trees and filled the horizon with its pure luminous rays. Donosty bade Gregor kneel and blessed him. Then he commanded Gregor to rise and spoke aloud the last words of the ritual, using a mirror to make the sun shine on his forehead.
"Tell me, Gregor, do you feel the Morning Lord's grace within you? Can you feel his blessing?"

Gregor felt his soul fuller than ever before. There was a new warmth in his spirit, a new confidence. He could only reply
"Yes, I do..."
"Then I welcome you, Brother, as too the Morning Lord has done."

His friends clapped in applause. Then, Donosty spoke again

"I think you should stay with me two or three days more for me to teach you the basics duties of the priest, your basic duties, now."
Gregor thought for a while and then agreed to it.

Eva and Yuri went back to the inn. There was not much to do so Yuri studied his book and Eva whiled her time away. Gheata was still sleeping.


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