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, August 22, 2005

Log Entry 28 - Interlude: The Awakening...

1st October 751, 7th Night of the Waning Moon

Nikola woke up early, determined to find a job that very same day. He wandered through Ingelberg intent for the whole morning, but nothing could be found that suited him. At last, when the sun was reaching its zenith, he found a house with a brass plaque hanging by the door, with the lettering Eberhardt van Kruger - Financier. Nikola decided to try his luck.
Eberhardt van Kruger was an old distant man. He looked crippled from age and moved with difficulty. His eyes were deep and seemed acutely vigilant, like a hawk's. But the man was very correct and professional. He seemed interested in Nikola and admitted that he could well use another assistant. This was music to Nikola's ears. He was to work as a simple clerk, responsible for noting the deposits that people came to make in Van Kruger's house. He was also to check the credit notes that were presented to the House. As a clerk, he should be able to pay them, but being new, Van Kruger decided that Nikola wouldn't have that responsibility yet. There was another clerk in the house and that should be the only one with access to current coffers. In parallel, Nikola was also responsible for some administrative tasks of the house. Everyday, he was to receive the fret-boy of the grocer's, Finn, who would bring fresh milk, bread and vegetables. Occasionally, he would bring other kinds of merchandise that the house would need.
The job appealed to Nikola. It didn't demand much of him and above all, it was the best pay he could find so far: 15 copper pieces a day. However, it still didn't cover his expenses with lodging and food.

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

The next day, Nikola went eager to his work. There was not much movement, but he had still much to learn and he never felt the time pass slowly. Eberhardt van Kruger didn't usually spend his time in the clerks' room, so Nikola was alone with the other man. Early in the morning, the boy Finn came. They exchanged brief words and presented themselves. Finn was a 17-year old skinny lad, fair-skinned and almost reddish blond hair. He was very outgoing and nice, causing a feeling of easiness in Nikola. The next day, Finn tried to know Nikola a bit better and began asking him a few questions. Soon enough, he was at ease with Nikola as if he had always known him and began telling him the rumours that ran the street. He told him of Eberhardt's bad fame in Ingelberg.
"He's a correct sort, you know, but he's so selfish! Cripes, you couldn't trust him to help his mother. He's greedy and wants all for himself, always alone there in his house. You never see him party, you never see him giving someone a gift. And yet, he's rich! At least, people say he is... Filthy rich. Mind you, he's an honest fellow. He'll always pay you what you're due, but not a single penny more! Besides, he spends as little as possible. See what I bring him? There's always yesterday's bread and one or two fresh loaves. He eats the dried one. He used to give it to his employees too, but they complained so much that he had to allow for something fresh for them. But you'll never see him eat meet. Most of the time, not even fish. Well, you get the idea. He never comes out either. I well trust I'm the only link he keeps with the outside world... besides you and the other clerk, of course. But then, I guess his illness doesn't help. Oh well, he's not a nice person at all, but fortunately, I've never found any of his clerks to be like him."
Nikola found the information useful, but did not want to delve deep into a conversation about his employer. Instead, he asked about the town
"Oh, there's mighty interesting things happening here, you know? There are talks up and down about some mysterious happenings by the river. You know, now and then, there are bodies that come up there, coming from the sewers. There's marks on them, you know? Like teeth! They say it is people that fall in the river from the canal. That they drown and then the rats bite them. If they're alive when they fall and they try to swim, those bloody accursed rats will bring them down and feast on them until they're done. Those we never see again. The lucky ones are those that float down just barely touched. I bet it must be better to drown than be eaten alive, but then again, that's just me!
You know, only yesterday another one came up. He should be around 20, all filled with small cuts here and there, some chunks of flesh missing and all that. The rats, they say. Just between you and me, I think it must be a bit more that that."
He made a protection sign and then added
"Well, I have to go. See you tomorrow again."
Over the next week, Nikola grew accustomed to his work and to the endless prattle of Finn. He came to be a welcome visit every morning. The first clerk, meanwhile, ceased to come, but Nikola never asked why. On his third day, Van Kruger came to spend the afternoon in Nikola's room. He sat in a high chair in the back, immersed in the gloom of the room, and observed, silently. He did the same the next day, and then the following day. He was usually silent, asking few questions about Nikola's life, but on that day, he addressed Nikola in a curious tone.
"Nikola, my boy, you are diligent and I like that, but I worry for you. I've been watching you and I notice you don't have friends..."
Nikola gasped, trying to guess at where Eberhardt wanted to go
"Look at me... crippled, old, alone. Do you want to be like me? I'm rich, yes. But do you think that is all?"
Nikola stared, trying to conceal all his expression.
"You have a gambler's face, Nikola. You must be cold, as I also am. But look at me, and think of this as a warning. You wouldn't like it here, and I can at least tell you how this happened to me. It's up to you to decide if you want to come the same way or not.
I'm rich because I was clever and diligent. And I was always clever and diligent because I must! I was ugly in my youth, not deformed but ugly. At any rate, women were never attracted to me. You must know what pangs we feel when we're young, when love courses in our veins and has no outlet, no one to whom to be given. I was that! People in general thought of me as distant and arrogant because I could read and knew arithmetic, and they avoided me. But women, they mocked at me! How daring of them... And they mocked at my lack of grace, at my insecurity among them, at the holes in my shoes and at my patched trousers. They mocked at my working so much. And despised me.
You know what one feels after a time? That it's useless. If that's the way it is, I'll show them. And that's what I did. I worked hard, very hard. I was young but I had strength in me. I worked with late Mr. Franz Gillingher. And he taught me a lot. I earned money, good money even. I dressed better, but I found I still couldn't mingle with the others of my age. I discovered I simply did not know how: I didn't know theirs words, couldn't understand their talks, didn't find their jokes funny and in short, had no past history with them. No one knew of me, what pleased me and what made me laugh. And I, I knew nothing of them, what were their interests, what were their social codes. I had been too far apart for too much time. And when I tried to laugh, I found I couldn't. It wasn't in me any more. I had grown sombre, colder.
And then, something happened of strange. Women came to me at last. That was like a beam of light, but it ended all too soon. I was intelligent, I could see! When they were with me, it was not at me that they looked, it was not with me they wanted to talk or be with. They were always expecting for some gift, some present, some favour. They could be with me or with my dead uncle, it would mean the same to them, as long as they got the money! Yes, now I was rich, no more patches and dirty clothes! I was ugly still, but it didn't matter! Now, I was acceptable, now I could have their company... for a price. Oh, but I have my dignity, Nikola. When you're poor as I was, that's the only thing you have. And I always made sure that the money I earned did not steal it from me. I always kept my honour. I sent them all away. As soon as I understood their intent and could learn what their ilk was, I shut myself from them for ever more. I shut myself from the world.
So, that's the word, is it? Well, it won't drag me in. If now I have to pay for what was denied me when I should have had it, if even then I will not be considered an equal, then why try? And I decided I would only be a spectator, if at all. A rather uninterested spectator of the comedy of vice and virtue that is our society. Instead, I'm the one that society will come to to feed its needs and lewd desires. I'll give them the instrument of their decadence: the money they covet so much. But at the same time, they'll feed me with it. They want indulgence, they'll have it, but they'll have to pay too.
Years passed. I grew distant and fed ever anon the pit I had dug. They did the same too. But I tell you, when you're young, this is a choice you think you can make and endure for the rest of your life. Money is power and if you have the money that controls the society around you, then you're the be all end all of that society. You're important, you matter, even if you're not liked, you are the most vital point in their lives. But age teaches some truths that are concealed from young eyes. You feel lonely, and loneliness is more difficult to endure than poverty. Oh, so much more. You don't know what it is to be alone for years and years in a row. Decade after decade. And now, I regret so much that choice I've made that I'd like to go back and have a friend at least, someone to talk to. Alas, it's too late now. So all I can do is to tell others my testimony. Avert their eyes from the path of perdition.
You, Nikola, you seem to be on that path. Learn from me, and avoid it. Trust the people around you or at least give them a chance. And don't try to do everything alone."

That day, Nikola considered carefully what he had heard. It had been a strange confession, but it all made sense when, by the end of the week, on the 8th of October, Eberhardt came to him with a proposal.

"Nikola, I am old and crippled. I can not write for long any more, and I want to write my memories. I trust I don't have much time in this world already, and I need your help. Will you work as a personal secretary for me? You'll keep your duties as a clerk, and on top of it, I want you to write for me. I pay you 3 gold coins per day and you can sleep and eat here in the house."

Nikola accepted without difficulty. The following day, Finn invited him to go to the pub at night. At first he was reluctant, but then he decided to go. For Nikola, it seemed like ages since the last time he had been in a pub having fun with other people. They weren't' his friends yet, but they were good drinking companions.

9th October 751, 1st Night of the Waxing Moon

The next day Nikola went to work a bit later. He was not with a hangover, but he was near it. But Finn insisted with him to go out that night again, saying there was one he wanted to Nikola to meet.
That one was Nancy Buttler, a dark-haired beauty as few Nikola had ever seen. She was charming and slightly shy, but it was obvious to everyone that there was some chemistry between the two. That week Nikola went out with the group a few more times, more out of interest for Nan that for anything else.

16th October 751, 3rd Night Before the Full Moon

Finn came suddenly to Nikola, later than usual.
"You don't know what happened! Nan is missing. And another boy from the docks too!"
"Missing? How missing?"
"Missing! Gone! Nobody has seen them! She didn't come to the pub last night" (Nikola hadn't gone either, he now remembered. The excesses early in the week had left him exhausted and he couldn't indulge any more in those long nights) "and today we went to look for her at her house, but she didn't sleep there. She's missing, completely!"
Nikola didn't know what to say. Finn, with his head completely lost, quit him and went to give his news to someone else. The police, perhaps. But then again, the police only worked when the victim was known or rich, and neither was the case with Nancy Buttler. Nikola felt his usual self taking over. His chronic detachment, his killing of his emotions, his blunt spirit conspired to tell him that Nan would appear, eventually, and she wasn't that important to him yet. After all, he had known her for a week at most. There were people more suited to look for her and worry about her than himself. He went back to his work and shut Nan out of his mind.

19th October 751, Night of the Full Moon

Nikola twitched uncomfortably, keeping his eyes closed. It was morning already and he felt the light entering the room, but he felt something strange. The bed sheets seemed to be moist, and they made a noise of having been wet with something denser than water... something that made them cripple. He opened his eyes and sat in his bed. As he looked at himself, he could barely muffle a scream. The sheets were red all over! He threw them down and looked at himself. He was naked, completely naked, and he had wounds all over his body. Small wounds, true, but he too was all drenched in blood. No way that amount of blood could have come all from himself. He sat immobile for some minutes. He didn't remember anything at all. That last three days had been as normal as the others before them. He had gone to work, eaten, written for Eberhardt and gone to bed. Only that this morning his awaking was all that different. His first thought was to conceal what had happened, whatever that had been. He washed himself and the sheets. Then, he noticed his clothes were draped on a chair and he put them on. He checked outside the door. It was unlocked. There were some blood drops on the floor from the door to the bed, but they were not footprints. There were some drops in the corridor too, but they disappeared a bit after. Decided to find out if possible if something strange had happened, he went to clerk's room as nonchalantly as possible and waited for Finn.
He didn't disappoint him. As usual, he brought not only the food of the day, but also the news of the day:
"Have you heard the howls last night? People are frightened today! Everybody speaks of it."
"Erm... yes, I heard. Dreadful". Prudence commanded that Nikola lied.
"You know, a man has been found just outside town. Ghastly sight it was, with his entrails all out. Ripped from top to bottom, long rakes of long claws quite visible... People say it can only be one thing..."
"Werewolf", completed Nikola absently. His words were just what Finn was thinking, but Nikola was rather echoing his inner thoughts, his comprehension of what had happened to him.
"So, it is revealed at last", he thought to himself. All since Tersis' strange measures towards him after the wolf's assault, almost two months ago now, Nikola had suspected he might have been infected. And now, it appeared, that was confirmed. He answered only absently to what Finn said, nodding here and there, but his mind was somewhere else entirely.
That day passed slowly. He was distracted, and fortunately Eberhardt was not in the room, for he made many mistakes that day. None were serious, but he was eager to go back to his room and be alone.

That night, he pondered well on what he'd do. This had just been the first night of the full moon. Two more he'd have to endure. He remembered those dreadful three days last month, when his tempers were way out of measure. His insults to everybody, his untempered violence brought upon him and the others a lot of troubles, but at least he didn't kill any one. He couldn't quite say that, this time. He locked his window. He locked his door securely. He hid the key beneath his carefully laid clothes. He just wanted to be sure that if he could leave the room in the fore coming night, at least he'd be aware of it in the morning.

20th October 751, First Night After the Full Moon

Nikola awoke. He was still in bed. It was Sunday and he didn't have to work.
All seemed normal, the door closed, his clothes undisturbed. But his mind was not. A dream still wavered vividly. Every minute detail still reminisced in his mind with absolute clarity. And it disturbed him.
He recalled his nightly visions. He was in a room with sand in the floor. A round cage of about five or six metres of diameter stood around him. It was an arena. He was naked, and in the middle of the arena, two more girls were with him, young and also naked. They were engaging in bloody sex acts, in a blatant and quite violent sado-masochist orgy. They were mutually torturing each other with whips, chains, spikes and lit candles. Black curtains hang from the outside of the cage but they let see a figure completely cloaked in red and black sitting in a very high chair. The figure had a whip and commanded to the three naked victims what they should do, how they should touch each other, how they should harm and how they should moan, how they should lie passively or actively bittersweet excite the others. The whole scene was strange to Nikola's eyes, but he wasn't sure he disliked it. The commanding figure, however, seemed to be doing that for its own pleasure and needs. They were merely the three slaves.
This was not a good way to start the day. Was it an allegory of his new condition? But why was he the slave? Could it be that the figure was simply a representation of his bestiality, of the Animal Within that wanted to get through, and be free at least unconsciously? Did that mean that he had successfully repressed the transformation that night?


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