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, November 14, 2005

Log Entry 3

The group lay scattered on the ground for a while, recollecting their bearing. At length, they got up and returned to the temple. Their first brush with the supernatural had been too unexpected for each of them, but more taxing for Nikola than for anyone else. It was around noon when they arrived. They had lunch alone, since Tersis was absent, and after that, they went separate ways.
Nikola went to look for a tavern in the low side of town, where even if he were recognized the damage wouldn't be too great. He was in need of some stiff drink to recompose completely. Evangelina returned to her cousin's home. Gregor and Yuri waited for Tersis and discussed the mysterious house with him.
"... I really don't know what happened inside, Reverend, but I feel we were pulled by someone. We were climbing those stairs because something else wanted!"
"I understand, Yuri, and you were really lucky to shake off that influence. Come with me, I am low on supplies and besides, the church is worried mainly with mundane things here in Keshgel. I don't have many scrolls around, but perhaps I can find something of use."
Tersis rose and asked Yuri and Gregor to wait for him. A few minutes later, he returned with one single scroll:
"Here, this is all I could find of use. As I told you, day-to-day life here in the church doesn't require much divine magic, so you're lucky I could even find this. Take, it's a prayer to Ezra, a small incantation but a very useful one - it will protect you from most wicked things, and as far as I remember since the last time I used one of those, it will protect your minds from unwanted intrusions too. Unfortunately, it isn't powerful enough to veil more than one person..."
"Never mind, Reverend, we'll manage, and thank you very much", said Gregor while bowing.
"Oh, by the way" he called. As they turned, Tersis continued
"A woman named Martha was here today. She wanted to thank you a service you did to her son. I told her I would give you her thanks, Yuri. You did well."
"Thank you, Reverend Father."
"But there's one more thing she said, and that might interest you."
"Yes?", they both asked.
"She said the boy who came to deliver the flower to Kirien was not from this neighbourhood. He was an outsider, although probably from the city. Ask Thomas if you find him, it was he who told his mother".

* * * * * * * * *

Nikola looked at his empty glass. The tavern was dimly lit, crowded and accordingly noisy, but neither of this made Nikola drop his guard. He was sitting in a corner, hidden in the shadows as he was wont to do. He had drank two glasses already and thought that was enough, but at the same time, he was thinking this was the right place to find information, and so he sat and watched, looking at his glass as one who considers another go or one who is already past the ability to walk and ask for another one, but in reality, he was listening, carefully, to all the conversations around him. He didn't have much hope of hearing about the house they had been to that morning, but the possibility existed.
Many of the conversations he picked didn't make any sense at all to him, since he had never before mingled with this part of society, as he was trying to clear his reputation. He listened and listened and contemplated buying someone a drink when he heard what he had been waiting for
"Ho, lads, ya kno' what's strange? I've seen this mo'nin', wi' me very own eyes, a group o' people walking down the old abandoned lane!"
"Nah, Gorr, ye dreamt!"
"I'm tellin' ya I did not! I saw them!"
"And what d'ye think they were doin' there? Talk to the witch? Feed the crazy lady? AHAHAHAH!"

The conversation ended in a huge laugh, but some minutes a later, a different group picked on the same thread, this time with more seriousness. Listening attentively, Nikola came to find that rumours spoke of a witch that had lived in that house years ago. They said her husband had left in disgust when he found out his wife's wickedness and she in turn had tortured her daughter until the poor went crazy. It had become a cursed place, and no one dared cross path with the witch, so the house and then the street were forsaken entirely. The witch, supposedly, died many years ago, but no one still dares enter the lane.

* * * * * * * * *

Evangelina profited the afternoon to talk a bit with Thérèze and try to find something about Kirien, but what she learned took her by surprise. Thérèze had never looked worried to Evangelina, at least not more than usual for everybody else, but that day, Thérèze cracked under her cousin's questions. She found out that not everything was going well with Drulovic, business had never looked good in Keshgel, competition was strong and they were drowning in debts. He was a horse dealer, but ever since he had come to Keshgel and bought that house for him and Thérèze to live in, he had been steadily driven aside by pure bad luck, malice and outright theft and intimidation. Now, after four years, they were bordering on bankruptcy and the situation looked as dire as it had never before. Thérèze tried to be strong always, but her own efforts were poorly rewarded as well, and although she tried all her best to cheer her husband, she feared he might be near to collapse.
Evangelina embraced her as she wept on her shoulder. Then she took her to a comfortable sofa, and let her rest alone.
After that, she went to look for her Drulovic. Since she had arrived to Keshgel, on the 13th, they hadn't talked but briefly. They had gone for a walk early the previous day, but as they had gone to the church so that Drulovic could introduce her to his friend, Josep, the events cast all their plans into turmoil and they hadn't been able to properly talk again. Now was time. She found him at his shop and passed the afternoon with him. But he was as shut as a clamp, and Evangelina didn't learn much from him. She only managed to bring a smile to his face when she showed him her mare Cal, and what new tricks she had taught to her.

* * * * * * * * *

It was late, but Yuri remained awake. The events of the day danced in his mind and prevented his sleep. Restless, agitated, he turned and turned in his bed trying to shake away the images that haunted him until at last he got up.
"It's useless to be in bed if I'm not going to sleep", he said to himself.
Yes, it was late. It was almost perfectly dark outside, with the pitch blackness of the night tempered only by a still weak moon. Yuri watched the street from the window of his cell. No one, nothing,
"I must be the only person awake in this city", he exaggerated.
And then he looked better. A couple of shadows moved down the street, slowly but purposefully. But... they were not people:
Yuri got dressed. "What are wolves doing in the middle of the city at night? In all my years, this is a first!" he thought. He grabbed his mace but didn't have time to put on his armour. "I'm not going into a fight", he tried to convince himself, "I'm just going to follow them."
When Yuri reached the street, the wolves had just passed the temple. They advanced slowly and sniffing the air, as if they were looking for someone, but not for prey... as if they were following a beckoning. As they turned a corner, Yuri had to run but when he reached there the wolves had gone, disappeared. Yuri looked around, trying to discern where they could have gone, but all he saw, or thought he saw, from the corner of his eye, was a shiny white figure riding a black horse, down in the distance, towards the exit of the city. It was just a glimpse, and Yuri wasn't really sure it hadn't been just a trick of his mind, so he decided to turn back and once again try to sleep.

16th September 751, 6th Night of the Waxing Moon

The following day, the group met at the temple again with the intent of exploring the haunted house, but this time they were going to forge a plan of action. They went back to the shunned lane and made their preparations outside. It looked as crumbling as on the eve, mystifying them after they had seen the walls and the roof still holding when inside. But then, that was not the only strange point about the house and they chose not to dwell on it.
"We have to go inside protected by Ezra's blessing", said Yuri.
"I want be going", said Nikola. "I stay outside while you explore."
"But what's the matter, Nikola? You're with us." asked Evangelina.
Nikola almost sniggered at her, mockingly.
"Yes, what a great thing. And from what you told me yesterday, that lady you saw is not exactly normal, is she? Are you such a good protection for me?"
Evangelina didn't know what to say so Yuri broke the silence.
"Well, that's set then. I'll pray for Ezra to guard us inside, but I have power for protecting only two people. Gregor, can you shield yourself from harm?"
"Sure, Yuri."
"Then I'll lay Ezra's boons on me and Evangelina."
Yuri chanted the sacred words and cast his protection spells. Gregor did the same but when something should have happened, he knew he had failed. He looked alarmed
"What happened?" asked Evangelina.
Gregor blushed.
"The Goddess has abandoned me... How stupid I was, of course" he said almost to himself, while covering his face in shame. Yuri had understood what had happened, although this was the first time he saw a priest being denied the gifts of his deity.
"Here, we still have Tersis' scroll. I'll use it on you, Gregor."
Yuri read aloud the magic script and then proclaimed.
"Now we are all as well protected as we can be against the dangers that lie behind that door. We should go in, the more we delay the more resolve we'll need. Let's go."
As they moved to the door, Nikola added
"Well, since you're going inside, let's make a test about that thing of being night instead of day. I'll be outside, in front of this window here. See if you can see me.
"Sure thing, Nikola", acquiesced Gregor.
The three entered, to find the house as still as before. Still the sobbing echoed. They tried to ignore it as they methodically performed the test suggested by Nikola. They looked at the window where he was supposed to be, but all they could see was the night outside. There was no Nikola. Opening the window and peering outside, all was normal: Nikola stood there in bright daylight, with an emotionless face.
They went back to the hall.
"Whatever is the problem in this house, I think the solution must be upstairs", suggested Evangelina, with more bravery than she felt at the time. The others agreed and decided to climb the stairs. They were old and creaky, and the bluish light of the previous day was still there, descending the steps to reach and call them. Up they looked, and saw that the first landing gave to a corridor faintly illuminated by the same blue light, which led to one of the rooms. The girl they had seen was not on the stairs this time, and her sighs seemed to come from one of the rooms above.
They climbed, and followed the corridor. All the doors were closed, and everything was dark and almost indistinct safe for the clearly illuminated room. They looked inside. Sitting on a bed was the woman they had seen. She was crying.
They called to her, asked her name, but she never spoke. She seemed mute. But her expressions did change, and they tried to communicate with her by reading her face. She could understand them, apparently. She had quick changes of humour and so they tried to be careful on their approach. There were several things lying on the floor, objects that had remained behind and been preserved from the apparent mess and destruction of the first floor. They noticed the girl was extremely attached to them, almost in a possessive fashion, for she became alarmed when they touched one of them. She became furious when they asked her if she was married, but at the same time, all her attention was focused on Yuri and Gregor, ignoring Evangelina completely. But with patience, and after many questions, it became apparent that she seemed to be waiting for someone. Gregor sympathized with the girl and longed to know her name. He wrote his in a piece of paper and handed it to her. But as she was taking the note she hugged Gregor with a strength he had not expected. Immediately he felt a cold invade his whole body and sent shivers through his spine. He cried in shock and desperately tried to debarrass himself from her. He felt the cold numbing him and weakening his strength and his determination. It was a chill he had never experienced, an unnatural coldness that seemed like the grip of death. Evangelina was paralyzed. Yuri twice invoked Ezra to scare away the apparition, but to his dismay, she was not affected. Gregor, finally, with the last of his waning strength, managed to break free of the deadly embrace and ran out of the room and down the stairs like mad. The others followed suit, with Evangelina grabbing some of the objects on the floor as she exited the room. They all came out of the house in alarm.
As they got outside, Evangelina examined what she had. They had seemed notebooks of some kind, but now, in her hands, there was nothing more than dust.
With the help of Nikola, they took Gregor back to the temple. A concerned Tersis healed some of the bruises Gregor had, but the only medicine for the weakness had to be a good rest in bed. He took him to a vacant cell and let Gregor rest.
"This matter is serious. You are probably not prepared to deal with the supernatural yet, my friends. I think you should get some advice first", recommended Tersis.
"I'll be in my room", was Nikola's only reply.
Yuri and Evangelina decided to visit William Milhouse again still that same morning.

They arrived to his house in no time, and were quickly admitted to Milhouse's presence.
"So, so", said he enthusiastically, nodding at Yuri, "your presence here must be a good sign. Have you decided to investigate the subject I told you of?"
"Indeed I have, sir, and I have even begun my enquiries already, together with Lady Evangelina here present and two more companions. However, we've run into some unexpected difficulties are came here to seek your assistance... knowledge wise, that is".
"Hmmm, I see. Please sit down, and explain me your dilemma".

Yuri told them what they had seen, how apparently there was a ghost in the house too powerful for them to deal with.

"In such matters", Milhouse observed, in a circumspect manner, "knowledge really is a necessary resource. I have no experience myself of dealing with the supernatural, rather I should say, of stalking the supernatural!"
His features had become hard like stone, and his look, lost in the distance, had turned to a menacing gaze, mirroring the internal anguish and fury that welled in his heart. Yuri and Evangelina noticed this change, but couldn't understand what motivated him so. He drew a deep breath in his pipe, and then, softening just a bit, went on
"But I should say a dear friend of mine, Dr. Rudolph Van Richten, is quite the expert in these matters. I met him once, long years ago, when tragedy struck at my door, and we've become friends ever since. At any rate, knowledge, he said, is the most potent weapon one can have against the scions of darkness."
He closed his hands so tightly that he'd surely have smashed a glass, were he holding one.
He rose, and pacing back and forth, turned to Yuri and Evangelina and said:
"Rudolph has written a number of books on these dark subjects. Ordinarily, I don't speak of this with anyone. They are not safe for the common man. But you, Yuri Azimov, you inherently have to deal with them by nature of your condition. And you, dear Miss, if you accompany him, surely you're hardened enough to go through such hardship. So, I beckon you to procure 'Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts'. Everything old Rudolph could tell you about hunting ghosts is there. I had two of those, once. Unfortunately, I've lent one of those to another party I sponsor and the second one was tragically lost in an accident a few years ago... some of my most precious books were consumed in a small fire here in the house. The material damage was not great, but the knowledge that was lost was... alas, irreplaceable. I trust, though, that you might still be able to find a lost copy around the city. Luckily, Irvanika is a quite forward country and these things are not forbidden as they are in other places."
"Thank you, sir. We're going to look for such a book", said Yuri.
"Before you go, don't forget to study about the house. The City Records might be a good place to start. Also, you might want to look for a medium"
"A medium, you said, sir?"
Milhouse nodded, lay his pipe on a table and sat comfortably again.
"A medium indeed", he continued, "those are the dealers with the other world. From what I remember reading, ghosts usually have a purpose and can be led to rest if that can be achieved."
He paused, enjoying the attention that he had captured in his audience.
"Any such means is preferable to a direct confrontation with the creature. The powers that they have from their unearthly existence are too terrible for the most of us and, the gods preserve us, we should deal the least possible with them. But mediums are at home in that ethereal realm. Those can be your best guides to such a resolution."
"And do you know any you can recommend us, sir?", asked an eager Evangelina.
"Not from experience, no, the one I dealt mostly with passed away some time ago. But I've heard speaking of one who seems to have a good reputation. Look for Professor Baku. He shouldn't be hard to find, and apparently he's a serious sort and has been garnering a good fame."
"We will. Thank you, sir."
"I'm glad I could be of use. I'm always ready to assist those brave enough to go on these missions."

When Yuri and Evangelina returned to the temple, Gregor was afoot again, feeling completely recovered. The four of them sat for lunch and discussed the plans for the afternoon: Evangelina was to go look for the City Records, Gregor was to find Professor Baku while Yuri and Nikola were going to track the book around some book shops.

They had to visit a number of them before entering a small shop crowded with books around everywhere. It was musty and smelled of stale air. They were greeted by a short, over-active man that seemed to be easily scareable and easily excitable. He spoke in a shrill voice, rather like an adolescent, but he was an amiable fellow. He loved his books exceedingly, as could be seen by the care with which they were treated. Yuri and Nikola wanted to browse them, but he denied it vehemently. Instead, he asked if they could tell what they were looking for. Luckily, he had just the thing!, and soon they came out with an old ragged copy of the Guide for the outrageous amount of 40 gold coins.

Meanwhile, Gregor found Professor Baku, after some enquiring on the street. The man wasn't difficult to find at all, and he led Gregor to his working room. This was heavily decorated with morbid items, mostly associated to death and the other side, like skulls, black candles, boned candlesticks, crystal balls and depictions of spirits, demons and other dark and ominous entities. The man itself seemed likewise sinister, of short stature, large, curly unkempt hair, and a beard that had been growing for months... at least.
Gregor presented the case and the Professor laid his conditions:
"I'll give you the first consultation free of charge, and then you'll tell me everything you know about the entity. Mind, we do not know if it is a ghost, it could be something else entirely". Gregor was impressed, thinking the man really must know his trade.
"Then, I'll visit the house with you, free of charge. After that, I'll give you a second consultation, this one you have to pay, and that's when I'll be able to tell you the necessary proceedings to finish the haunting. Some more consultations may be needed, but the price will always be the same: 30 gold coins. Now, it's up to you. I'll be waiting for your return, sir."
Gregor thanked him and went back to the temple to tell his findings to the rest of the group.

Evangelina went to the Council Hall of Keshgel and once there proceeded to the City Records. An old man came to greet her warmingly and offered his services. He was around his seventieth autumn and walked curved forward. The skin of his front was ridden with deep insets reminding a tree's bark. His hair no longer covered the top of his head, but still grew mildly on the sides. He wore thick spectacles cut in semi-circle that tended to slip down his nose. His voice, frail and aged, was nonetheless enticing and his spirit seemed fresh and young. He was charmed by Evangelina and evidently glad to help her
"Oh, let's see, let's see, my dear lady. Oh, you're so young and beautiful... you remind me of a girl I knew back then. Oh, the memories, yes, yes.... what was it you were looking for? Ah!, yes, that house that people don't visit anymore.... Mmmm.... I think I remember her. She was called Sarah, but when I proposed her she said I was too short. Ah, but never mind. I found my wife later.... I'm lost again, aren't I? What was I going to.... ? Oh, of course. How silly of me.... that house.... Hmmm.... Hmmm.... It should be around here somewhere.... What is your name again, dear? Evangelina? How charming, it suits you.... And, do you have a sweet-heart? Oh, a girl your age should have... I had!" and he blinked his eye, punctuating his endless but warming prattle, "several!" He blinked again, nudging Evangelina. The little man could be delightful, but he was also despairingly slow and forgotten of things. At length, he found a piece of paper and let go a shout of triumph
"Here! Ahahaha, I knew I'd find it. I'm still not that old, you know?"
Evangelina simply smiled with her eyes, shook her head and thought "Of course not, uncle..."

But he had indeed found what Eva sought. The last record concerning the house was dated 90 years back, and it signalled a purchase made by Minesta and her husband Holger. They were the last known owners.

"Is there anything about a daughter? A young girl?", asked Evangelina.
"No, nothing in these records."
"And what about burial records? Are there any?"
The old man scratched his face and said
"Hmmm.... no, actually, we do not keep those records. Those would be with the church, I wager.... oh, but it's gone now, ever since that dreadful burning. Because, you see, now we have the Church of Ezra here in Keshgel, but in that time, Ezra still hadn't come to Irvanika. Have I told you of the parties we made in those old times? There were lots of festivals and dances and.... oh, don't look at me like that, I know, I know... I lost myself again. Well, as I was saying... before Ezra, we had The Order (that's what it was called) and they were the ones who performed burials and kept the records about that. I don't know where those records will be now, if they exist and were not burned with the Cathedral, but I'll try to look for them. Is that well for you? Can you come back later?"
Evangelina nodded and said she would return. She said goodbye to the nice old man and went back to the temple.


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