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...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Log Entry 33 - Interlude: ... of the Beast

The day had dawned already. Nikola and Nancy agreed that they should leave at the next early dawn and that this day should be spent with the preparations.
"And where shall we go, Nancy?"
"I don't know, Nikola. But I don't want to stay here nor go back to my parents'".
"Well, I don't have many options either. I was travelling with some people that continued to Barovia. Perhaps we should go search for them there.
"Barovia? I've never heard about it. It must be as good as anywhere else".

It truly was the voice of despair or ignorance that proposed to go to a whole new country looking for some people that had preceded them there more than three weeks, and that could surely be anywhere by then. Nor did they pay any heed to the fact that the others had been warned the year was growing too old to go to Barovia when they departed. Surely, conditions would be much worse now. But as Nikola said, they didn't have many options. At least, if they went in that direction, there were more chances they could meet the group.

They then began a general search of the house looking for anything that could be of use to them in a long journey. Without any remorse, Nikola took a goodly part of the money that been on transaction the day before and not yet put in the safe. They also found food enough to last them almost a week, one set of warm travel clothes for each and a dagger that Nikola gave Nancy.

"I think this man deserves punishment, but it won't be me to deal it to him." Nikola said Nancy. "I'll leave a note here for the city telling what happened and that they should investigate and do whatever suits him. For now, I'm going to inform myself of how we can go to Barovia. Surely there must be someone around who can take us there."
Nancy simply nodded and lay down again, absent-mindedly, thinking on what had happened to her these last few days. She had always been the rebel type, and she couldn't stand anymore life with her parents, in a back-country farm where no one progressed from mediocrity. She decided to go to the city, and there she would prosper. It was very difficult at first, but she eventually met some friends among the young artists - painters, poets, musicians - of Ingelberg and found her own calling for the visual arts. It was a precarious life, but it felt better than life on the fields, the only one she had known up to the moment. And then, suddenly, on a fateful night, she was torn violently from this life like a flower that is plucked from the field, and cast into the nightmare that had been the last week. And now, she had to move again and start anew. But she had done it once, she could do it twice, and this time with a man to accompany her. She looked to the morning sun and dreamt about the future with humid but hopeful eyes.

Meanwhile, Nikola was in for a surprise. As he tried to unlock the door and then open it, he found that it was more than locked: it was shut by some unseen will that resisted all his attempts. He gathered all his patience, all his talent, the fine dexterity of his fingers and addressed the lock as a professional. But it wouldn't budge. Not even with the techniques he had learnt to unruly opening locks could he open that door. He kicked it. Nothing. He tried to open a window and leave and still nothing! He became alarmed. The windows were also closed. He grabbed a chair and threw it violently against the window, but it seemed to hit a transparent wall just before reaching the window.

"Magic! Curse that bastard Eberhardt!"

The whole house seemed to be enclosed by some aura that made them effectively prisoners. And down there, in the dungeons, lay the master of this prison like a spider in the web, probably biding his time to recover his strength and come after them. Nikola ran down stairs to confront Eberhardt. His face was stern and purposeful, and he questioned Eberhardt harshly about the house.

"Why can't we leave? How do I open the door and the windows?"

But Eberhardt had receded into the corner of the cell, hiding his face completely in the shadow. He didn't move, he didn't answer, and the silence was as threatening as the whole atmosphere of the house had suddenly become. Nikola bolted upstairs and woke Nancy violently of her daydreaming.

"We must go! Things have changed, much to the worse I wager."
"We are trapped inside. I remember there is that trapdoor in the arena that leads below and I'm hoping that exit is still open to us."
"And Eberhardt?"
"Didn't say a word. I fear him. He's a magician, after all, and who's to say he can't simply walk out of that cell whenever he wishes? I want to leave this maniac behind, soon, soon, now!"

They descended to the lower level at once and Nikola tried to lift the trapdoor... without any problem. He peered down and saw an underground river flowing below the opening, bordered by two ledges, half crafted, half rough stone. A set of iron stairs descended to the void over the river, but near enough the ledge that one person could easily jump to it and reach the stairs from it.

"I will go first, Nancy, and look around".
He lit a torch and descended. The river was a subterranean spring that had been used to emulate the sewer system of countries like Richemulot and Dementlieu. Looking ahead, Nikola could perceive in the distance the clarity of the day. Behind him, pitch darkness. The stink was strong, but it became bearable after a while.

"Come Nancy, we can go this way."

As they advanced, they could hear the screeching of rats all around them. They tried to ignore the rodents, but they were clearly everywhere, running aside them on the walls, on the ceiling but strangely without approaching them. Then, suddenly, a large rat jumped to the ledge just before them, coming almost from nowhere. There was an intelligent and purposeful look in its eyes, a threat that was not to be ignored. Nikola, alarmed, drew his rapier and prepared to face the rat, but he was no match for the creature, that bit him. Seeing this, Nancy ran back alarmed, but Nikola stood vainly attacking the rat that continually evaded him. Nikola became nervous and fearing for his life. The rat bit again his arm, and this time Nikola found it too much and retreated, holding his torch in the direction of the beast preventing its approach. He found the stairs for the trapdoor, and Nancy already above. She helped him climb up and they closed the trap door for safety.

"What now, Nikola?"
"Let's check the doors. If they're still closed, we'll have to try going this way again, anyway."

The doors were closed. Nancy took care of Nikola's wounds and they cleaned them with the remaining of an old brandy that still lay around. It was the only alcoholic drink in the house, attesting to Eberhardt's proverbial avarice.

"I was thinking, Nancy. We could try to look for oil. If we light it, we can use it to scare the rats away."
"You're right. I'll look around."

They found seven flasks of oil they could use and decided to rest and let Nikola recover from his wounds, which he did admirably with Nancy's help.

"I hope you don't catch any disease from the rat, Nikola. These are filthy creatures"
"Let's not think about that, Nancy" and he hugged her, caressing her hair.

They waited anxiously for the night. Every hour they spent in the house seemed the darkness inside it grew deeper, and Eberhardt's presence below more ominous and difficult to bear to them. If they could not leave by the sewers, they would have to confront the root of their fears. What was Eberhardt waiting for? Why had he locked the house? Was he planning a revenge on them? Still knowingly torturing them, only this time psychologically? Questions like these dangled in their mind and perturbed their rest, so that when at last the sky became tinted with the first signs of dawn, still two or three hours before the actual sunrise, Nancy said

"I think it is time now, Nikola. Shouldn't we go?"

He nodded silently. They felt as if their fate was hanging on a single roll of a dice were they had bet all their assets.

"Let's go, then."

They went down the trapdoor again. The light outside wasn't still enough that they could see it from the tunnel, but they knew the way. They were so fixed in that point just a few hundred metres away that they barely paid attention to their surroundings, and so they were easily surprised when a swarm of rats and mice cut the way in front of them but stayed there without attacking, simply cutting the passage. Then, a squeak behind them warned of the true danger: the large rat was there again, but this time Nikola was fast. He took Nancy away from it and confronted the beast again... and again he missed. Nancy lit and threw an oil flask, scorching it lightly. Nikola did the same hitting the filthy beast squarely. But this closed in like lightning and bit Nikola. He plunged forward again with the energy of despair missing the fast moving rodent which again bit him.

And then it happened. Nikola felt a rage growing to boil inside of him, filling all his body from hair to toe, giving him strength hitherto unknown. It was like the primeval feral nature of the stone age man had been awakened inside of him, and the primitive instincts of fear and survival took complete control of his mind and body. All his self was focused on only one thing: tearing and shredding the rat in front of him. He lost all reason as his body began to respond to the raw power that was being released inside. Or was it the other way around? For Nikola was visibly growing: his limbs increased and bulged under clothes too tight now to cover his body; the tiny hairs of his skin grew at an alarming rate to become a veritable grey fur; his nails turned into sharp claws and his face elongated to become a wolf like muzzle, as he issued a savage howl and Nancy let a sharp shrilling cry of sheer horror echo in the tunnel. Nikola was no more, he had succumbed to the Beast within, and she had taken control. Raw, vicious, cruel and hungering for blood; a wolf standing on two man's body, almost two-metre tall, such was the thing Nikola had become, and it wasted no time raking the rat completely. The last attack of the wolf-man was so powerful that it the skull of the miserable rodent.
Nancy was frozen in place, in complete shock of what she saw. Everything had been so fast she was merely transfixed into place, oblivious to what she saw. And then, Nikola turned to her. At this, she came to her full senses and the realization of Nikola's condition hit her square in the face. She knelt and pleaded him, but didn't manage to run. A last faint glimmer of humanity sparkled in Nikola's eyes, and just as he was going to bury his claws in Nancy's soft flesh that Nikola would rather have kissed and loved, the beast turned and ran away to the day dawning at the end of the tunnel. Nancy fell to the ground, limp and mentally exhausted. Around her lay Nikola's wasted clothes and everything he was carrying.
The beast that had been Nikola ran on all fours along the ledge, and arriving to the end of the tunnel, again released another long and piercing howl, both a defiance of society and a triumphant claim of savage freedom, freedom that came from a life away from the tethers and bonds of civilization. It jumped into the river and drifted away with the current.


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