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 26

Gheata rose for lunch. Along with Yuri and Eva, he ate at the inn. Then, he dressed up, donned his armour, and went for a walk through Barovia. The sun was still shining, and he quickly saw the whole village. Faithful to his wantonly needs, he had been looking for girls, apparently unaware that such kind of market would be very much unpopular in such a small town where everybody watched everybody else closely. The open practice of such a profession would surely attract a fair deal of prejudice upon the unfortunate one.
Gheata, however, was not the thinking type. He was simply a man of desire and at that moment, all he cared for was the satisfaction of his needs. He made two, nearly three, full visits of Barovia. Always the same result. But he couldn't help notice that every time he crossed with someone else, he was looked upon quite despondently or, most often, even ostensively ignored. Not a good omen, but he always discarded the warning passed to his subconscious: they had overstayed Barovia's hospitality.

Gheata went back to the Blood o' the Vine. It was empty at that hour in the afternoon. People were working in their fields and daily lives. Only at night, near dusk, would the inn fill with the accounts of the day. For now, there really was nothing to do, so he sat at a table and order his first round of Tuika.
"Ah, let's see now how strong this is. On with the brandy!"
Bran Martikova, the innkeeper, brought him a glass of Tuika and then went back, sombrely as always, to his affairs. He stayed behind the bar profiting to clean a few glasses, opening a new barrel, and checking some notes in a small pocket pad, but he didn't even disguise his distrust of Gheata, always watching him carefully. Had it been someone else, he probably would have kept notice the innkeeper could read and write. In such a village as Barovia, it immediately placed him in an elite of some kind. But Gheata was oblivious to all that. He ordered another Tuika. Over the course of the afternoon, he ordered a few more, savouring them one after the other as a true connoisseur. As Gheata asked for the third one, the innkeeper commanded him, in a much distorted form of Mordentish and with plenty of body language, that he show his money. Gheata simply put his pouch on the table and said
"Take what you need... burp."
Bran eyed him suspiciously again, but he only took his fair share.

The afternoon was boring for Eva too. She liked action now and then, and didn't quite enjoy the idleness she had to endure today. She too went for a walk through the village and the fields outside. She returned to the inn, and there found Gheata drinking. His purse was on the table, and his head swung as he sang merrily and carelessly. He looked well past sober, but he still could recognize Eva. In a slow, dragged voice, he called her and invited her to drink, offering to pay for her drinks.

At that moment, Yuri came down from upstairs. He had stayed in the room studying his book for the afternoon, and now that hunger stabbed at him, he came for a little bread and fruits. He looked at a stunned and dizzy Gheata and shaked his head in disapproval, but he went on. He could well see the innkeeper was vigilant, making sure that nothing serious happened, but well happy for making good business with this careless visitor. He bought his food and retired for a separate table.

Meanwhile, accepting Gheata's offer, Eva sat in front of him, but said immediately
"I'll keep watch over your purse, so that you don't get robbed Gheata."
"Oh, that'sh fine.... I trusht ye... Now, come and drink wid me."
They ordered two more drinks, and then Gheata still asked for another one. He was now clearly drunk. Eva thought she'd better take him away from the table, and thinking of no better way to distract him, threw, without giving a clear thought to the consequences.
"You've drunk enough, Gheata. Don't you want to come to bed?"
She intended to take him to his bed... quite alone. But this particular phrasing was alluring and had an immediate effect in her companion's quite clouded mind.
"Shure!... Let'sh go!"
"Well, it's working so far", she thought. Perhaps she should find a way to put him asleep. She led him to the upper floor and, at the top of the stairs, still considered, mischievously, that he'd probably fall a sleep in fall indeed he did from the stairs. All it took was a slight tripping him. He was robust enough to take the fall without problem, but then...
"What a bother, I'd have to carry him up and he's heavy."
So she thought, and she concluded that it was better to lure him to bed. She opened the door and getting behind him, pushed him onto the bed. But she tripped in the bedside rug and fell over him. Completely focused only on Eva, as his mind was unable to take anything else, Gheata reacted quickly like a cat. He turned around and making use of his weight rolled over and got on top of her, tearing her dress in the process. Now, things had taken a turn Eva hadn't expected. But they got worse. Gheata was really intent on taking her, and she realized at last that her proposition might have been imprudent at best. Her dress had slipped to the floor and she was now lying beneath Gheata dressed only in a corset and her underskirt. Then, he picked a dagger he had in his boot and, with a skill impaired but not completely destroyed by the haziness induced by the alcohol, he shredded her corset completely. He ogled at her breasts for a moment. Eva tried twice to escape his grip, tried to turn around, but he was stronger. Things were really desperate now
"I don't want to fall for you a second time!", she thought. She battled to leave his grasp, but he overweighed her. At the same time, he began feeling her breasts, drooling over on top of it.
"Now, this is too much!", Eva thought. Making use of all her self-control, harnessing the strength of all her muscles, she became tensed and with agile body motions, she managed to hit Gheata in the face. He was surprised at first, but was too drunk to react. She released a hand and punched him directly in the face. Two punches were enough for Gheata to fall to the side, unconscious. He was bleeding from the nose and a bit from the mouth, red blood dripping on the sheets. She didn't even care. She took her clothes and Gheata's own cape, and concealing her almost naked body in it, went as quickly as she could to her room.
Yuri, on the other hand, savoured his light meal oblivious to anything but the comforting pleasure of a full stomach after an intense study.

When she arrived to her room, Eva evaluated the situation. She hadn't been exactly raped... almost, but not completely. She had managed to resist him and knock him out which, at the least, and considering he would remember it, would make him think twice before trying that again in the future. On the other hand, she had lost one of the two corsets she had and her dress was ruined. But, after a closer inspection, she determined that the lower half could still be used as a skirt and, with a little needle-threading, she could make it suitable for that. She dressed and sat in her task.

Gregor spent the whole afternoon at the church. When the sub began approaching the horizon, he took his leave from Donosty and headed back to the inn. It was more crowded now. Seeing none of his friends, he went up to his room, where he found Eva dealing with her dress. He didn't pay much attention to that. Other matters were preoccupying him more
"So, we'll go to meet the Count, today?"
"Yes... think so" she responded absent-mindedly
"I'll go call the others."
He went first to Yuri's room
"Hey, get ready. We have to meet the Count."
"Right, I'll leave in a moment."
Then, he went to Gheata's room. He knocked at the door and, as no answer came, insisted. Twice without reply made him double on his efforts, knocking more and more loudly, which attracted Yuri's attention. Gregor tried the door and, as he found it open and entered, Yuri joined him.
The first thing Gregor saw was Gheata bleeding on the bed. Then, he felt the smell
"Woosh, he drank 'til he passed and bumped his head on the bed enough to make him bleed. Oh dear, will you ever learn?"
but Yuri was more observant
"There's blood in the sheets but no where else. Knocking sheets doesn't make anyone bleed... oh well, whatever."

Gregor woke him up with water and finally he came to his senses... but he was with a severe hang over still. Gregor shaked his head, and with an air of disgusted but resigned sense of duty, invoked his new deity's power to cure him, at least partially, of his "illness". Eva arrived, then, and nonchalantly, feigning she knew nothing of it, simply asked what had happened.
Yuri looked at her suspiciously
"You are in quite an interesting state this afternoon, Eva. Are you sure you have nothing to do with this?"
Eva looked at him, and affecting a ladylike air, simply shook her shoulders
"You shouldn't be asking that to a girl."
He didn't care anymore either what these two did, so he let the matter fall.

They all had supper later. The eyes of the room were on them all the time and they began feeling some discomfort which only really passed away when all the patrons had left and they were alone on the room. It must be nine o'clock, or thereabout. They waited anxiously, impatiently. A question dangled in their heads
"If we haven't spoken to the burgomaster 'cause he... well, he died before we could, how does the Count know if we're going or not?"
Gregor voiced it, and Yuri mused
"Perhaps he'll just send transport anyway. Let's wait. If no one comes, we can simply go to bed and go about our lives in the morning."
So wait they did, but they came not to need their lives to go on only in the morn. When it was just a few moments before ten, a sound of hooves and carriage wheels could be heard in the yard in front of the inn. The innkeeper rose, half-alarmed. He looked through the slits in the wooded shutters and went to check the bars and locks almost instinctively. He rose to double lock the door when Gregor asked him
"Wait! That might be for us."
The innkeeper paused, obviously caught between two wills. Then, mumbling something that looked to Gregor to be "better not offend this Van Holtz, after all", he opened the door wide to receive this late-night guest.
The man peered inside and seeing the adventurers, addressed them
"I am come to fetch the visitors to the Lord Count and take them to the castle"
The innkeeper flinched imperceptibly and blanched subtly. Clearly, he was a man of big self-control, but he said no other word. Yuri picked his lantern and lit it. The group stood and exchanged the light of the room for the truly dark darkness of the night. It was almost new moon, after all.
As they came out, they saw a tall man in front of them, elegantly dressed in black, with a cape over his shoulders and a hat that covered most of his features. He was slim and his hands looked of a noble paleness, the kind that aristocrats so jealously prize. Behind him, a finely appointed coach stood with the door open, inviting them. It was as elegant as the man, with velvet red cushion seats. A team of two pure black horses was pulling the carriage, and Eva approached them to snuggle the animals. Surprisingly, they reacted unfriendly to her touch, even startling her. The coacher said
"They don't like strangers" in an apologetic tone, and made signal for her to enter.
Gheata was the first to enter. As the others followed him, Van Holtz closed the door and took his place in the driver's seat. They immediately departed at breakneck speed, dashing through the village's streets. They were deserted, no other sound was heard and the heavy darkness was only pierced by the two spotlights the coach carried by the driver. The fast clop-clop of the horses through the dead-like empty and dark streets couldn't but echo sinisterly on their ears, to the point when the beating of their hearts mixed into the rhythm.
They covered the distance through the forest at that same impossible speed, even in the tight corners the road made, even on the unkempt ground after the crossroads. With each pounding of their hearts, they saw the trees whizzing before them and occasionally they even had glimpses of a large shadow ahead of them. At last, they stopped. Abruptly! Yuri peered at the window, waving his lantern to illuminate a bit of the way. Ahead of them, was a chasm, fog-shrouded and apparently bottomless. It was dark, menacing and terrifying. It was at least fifteen metre wide, between the Balinoks' cliffs and the mass of Castle Ravenloft's walls ahead. The sense of a great power fell over them, some kind of force seemed to exude from the large pit. Bridging it, was a decaying drawbridge. It didn't look solid at all, but it might be a trick of the night. The carriage moved forward and led them beneath the portcullis in a bastion host. Two turreted guardhouses flanked the gate, and winged bipedal gargoyles perched on the walls watching the night, guarding.
They came into a yard that felt quite pleasing and comforting, despite the ominous sense of foreboding that emanated from the castle. Two large double doors were open, in an inviting and rather welcoming manner, spilling a warm light into the night-shrouded ground. Van Holtz climbed down, opened the door and invited them into the hall.
They left the night outside and entered a magnificent room decorated in a splendorous, albeit old, taste. There were many paintings on the walls, mostly dedicated to war and battle scenes. The majority represented events from before 350, but there were also more recent depictions. A large crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, illuminating the whole room as well as clear sunlight. Van Holtz directed them to a study, and left them to wait while he fetched the Count.
The study was comfortable and warm. A large fire crepitated in a fireplace in the corner and several plush couches invited the guests to sit. They did so and admired the cosy room. There were several bookshelves, mainly decorated with things other than books. The whole setting was relaxing and induced sleep, but they didn't have to wait long.
Soon enough, tall elegant and finely dressed man opened the door and greeted them with enthusiasm in a thoroughly correct Mordentish, but with a heavy Balok accent:
"Ah, good evening, dear guests, I'm so happy you could come. I am Count Strahd von Zarovich, Lord of Barovia. I would invite you to follow me to a room where we can speak more at ease, but if you are comfortable here, I will happily oblige you."
They shrugged and looked at each others and decided to go to the other room. Strahd led them up the stairs to the first floor, and into double doors guarded by two one-metre-high columns with a classic warrior on top. They entered into what looked like a war room of sorts, full of maps and figurines, charts and battle plans. There was a table at the end of the room where most documents lay, and several chairs where Strahd commanded his guests to sit. He took his place behind the table. Then, with an air that betrayed a long experience as general, he addressed his motives to invite the group:
"As you know, I am ruler of this country, and that means I must worry for my people. Right now, I have a problem between hands: a cruel rebellion that grasses in the south and is gravely damaging my people. These rebels are led by one Ardonk Szerieza and they respect nothing: they burn villages, kill women and children and even attack the churches of my people. I have dispatched several groups down there, but they have thus far been unable to control these despicable outlaws. They hide in the woods, attack furtively and wage a covert warfare that is, by all standards, unfair. My soldiers aren't accustomed to the woods and thus can do battle only at their disadvantage. What I need is a special group, a commando that is not known to be affiliated to me, someone no one can identify.
Well, that's where you come in. You are foreigners, no one can associate you with me, and besides, you are used to weapons, as your acceptance of my hospitality with sword and shield clearly shows. But let's waive that mild insult to me and my courtesy.
Recently, these rebels have come more north than ever before. My commanders in the field have tried to contain them, and are currently holding the rebellion at the peaks near Zeidenburg, but a village past them to the north, Borgodyna, has been recently attacked. It is just south of the Dreadpass, but more importantly, it is at the gates of the Luna Gorge that flows between the Balinoks into Vallaki and Lake Zarovich. That point they must not pass!, but I don't even know yet who they really are, how many they are and where they're hidden. That's what I need you to find: if you manage to, kill or capture them, but it is of vital importance that you return with a report. Do not wage a battle if you cannot escape it, I need information more desperately than I need a group routed. Remember, who are they, how many are they and where is their base. Do you accept?"

They had listened attentively, and all of them seemed to receive the commission willingly. But they were going to play hard
"You said we would be rewarded."
"Yes, of course. What is your price?"
"Well, I was thinking 100 000 gold pieces for each", said Gregor.
Strahd didn't flinch. He merely looked compassionately to Gregor and said in a patronizing tone
"Now, now, you are definitely not being realistic. I was thinking more about 1000 each of you."
Gregor blushed. He knew he had ventured a silly amount. What Strahd was proposing was more or less what Eva had thought, and probably the others too, but
"We are going to need equipment", said Yuri.
"I can provide you with weapons. You'll be able to find almost anything you wish here, bar magical things of course. I've met many adventurers in my day, and they all expect me to have magical items. As if I would partake with them willingly, in a world where even the lowliest magical dagger is a rare preciousness. I've heard in Darkon it's quite another tale, but I wager that's more myth than reality, by any means."
"Well, then we can pick whatever equipment we wish?", asked Gregor, hopingly.
"You sure like to beg. I don't enjoy beggars over much, be warned. You can speak with my armourer, but I'll deduct whatever you take from him from a total of twelve hundred gold coins each of you. That's final."
"Very well, we accept", said Yuri, "but we are going to need a place to sleep."
"You are welcome to sleep in the castle. Besides, I wouldn't let you leave at this hour of the night, lest you be prey for wolves and worse. My chamberlain will take you to your rooms. Have a fast journey and bring me news soon."


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