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 07, 2005

Log Entry 33

Gregor nodded to Yuri's words, somewhat disappointed, but soon enough, the prospect of rest, food and what looked like a thriving commercial activity enlightened his spirits again:
"Come on, you slugs. There's Krezk over there, hurry, let's leave these mountains behind for good.
They moved fast, uplift by the vision of a large city before them. They were still on the Old Svalich Road, which had nothing but disappeared under the deep snow cover in the last days, but here, it hadn't snowed as much and there was only a fine white blanket two inches deep. The road descended towards the base of the Balinoks, at first in a gentle slope, but then at a more determinate grade. However, it wasn't enough to be dangerous, if advancing carefully, and so they had time to appreciate the full landscape around Krezk.

Krezk was a big city, about twice the size of Vallaki. It might even be larger than Keshgel. It stood on a plain at the base of the mountain, but its outskirts already began to climb the lower slopes of the Balinoks. To the southwest, a large forest snuggled into Krezk. To the north, spread a large lake, big enough to hold two Krezks within it, but still smaller than Lake Zarovich. Some strange red fluid seemed to seep from the ground around the lake into the water, tingeing it with a characteristic, slightly unpleasant tonality. Unlike in Vallaki, here there was no activity in the lake. They took note of this
"No fresh fish for us in Krezk, it seems" commented Gregor. "What a pity., and I that am dying for a nice roasted trout with onions and ham... might even add some vegetables and a bit of Tuika... I liked the taste of it, and I'm sure it will go well with..."
Gheata elbowed him as Gregor began to lick his lips daydreaming about food.
"Instead of thinking only about eating, a diet would do you nice. Where else have you seen an 18-year old priest weighing 200 pounds and wanting to adventure?"
"It's 198! Not 200! And that was before this entire journey. I'm sure I must have lost some 20lb already!", said Gregor a bit insulted. He became adamantly silent and they continued to descend. He searched Krezk from afar, looking for a building that could resemble the Sanctuary of First Light

The division of the city into quarters wasn't immediately apparent from above. It had a high citadel opposite the mountainside that was heavily fortified. These seemed to be the old city walls of Krezk, which had outgrown them immensely, stretching up to the limits imposed by the forest, the lake and the mountains. Only the western side had still margin for further growth. The most striking features of Krezk were a tall tower in the centre square and the intense activity on the streets. There seemed to be selling stands sprouting everywhere, and a particular area where the crowd was more pervasive. This was all they could understand about Krezk itself.

They ended their descent about noon as they entered the busy streets of Krezk. Immediately, they felt immersed in a kind of permanent fair. There were stands lined uninterruptedly along the street side, advertising all kind of mundane and exotic items. These last ones caught Gregor's attention and he inspected them slowly. He found several oddities he had never heard of: Verbrekan mushrooms still moist, which was an amazing feat, considering that between Krezk and Verbrek, they still had to cross the whole of Borca. And according to the seller, who stressed this information with a low voice and a conspirational tone, leaving Verbrek alone was perhaps the most difficult part of bringing the mushrooms at all. He nodded to reinforce his own assessment, and adjusted the mushrooms anew with the reverential attitude of one who is cleaning holy relics. Gregor and Gheata feigned understanding and moved on. They had never heard of Verbrek and the sinister reputation that it had.
A bit farther ahead, they spotted marble statues of Ezra from Borca and pipes of fine wood from Mordent. Another stand interested them with sights they had never seen: large ivory tusks sculpted with curious and obscene (to their eyes) drawings of voluptuous women and several-legged deities, tropical woods made into statues, carved ebony; strange vests the seller called saris and scents unknown to their nostrils: sandal, lotus, and several kinds of incense.
"Come, feast your eyes into the exotic. Admire the worked teeth of the elephants of Sri Raji, the delicacy of the tunics from the goddesses; sense the perfumes of that far away land; or admire these works of ebony and tropical wood: these come from the very Wildlands themselves, from some lost tribe that has made peace with the jungle. I lie you not! A recent expedition from Sri Raji managed to bring these few items from there. Truly, these are priceless artefacts!"
They shrugged and moved along, to admire a stand where proud steeds where in exhibition
"Nova Vaasan horses! Nova Vaasan horses! The best in the whole Core, the preferred by the Vistani."
Indeed, they were excellent animals, but their interested was immediately diverted by a stand a few metres ahead. The two sellers spoke with a thick Forfarian accent and talked eagerly to each other as the customers eyed over their wares. The highlights of the stand were given to a barrel of water-of-life and a strange instrument they called a bagpipe. Gregor was incensed by the view of the barrel
"This water of life, what is it?"
"Ah, lad, if ye not kno' it, yer missin' the best drink o' the world. Aye, 'tis the best drink in the whole land, the nectar of the gods" said one of the sellers.
The other completed
"'Tis a spir't drink from Forlorn, brewed from malt and the special herbs that grow only in the Forfarian hills, by the Loch of Red Tears. The Tears of Aggie, they say. This is decanted for 12 years at least before being brought to ye, the happy customer."
"To drink the Úisge-beatha is a gift from above. Here, have a bottle."
"How much is it?"
"A trifle, sir, a mere trifle. Aye, for what it is, you canna say 25 gold coins is too much. This is a rare preciosity."
Gregor coughed. He had nearly been seduced by the drink and the sellers' talk, but this was much more than he was willing to spend.
"Oh, perhaps some other day then. Bye!"

After much browsing like this, they left the market and arrived to the centre square. There they could see the tower was a tall square minaret, without obvious entrances. Asking around, they found it was the Needle of Ghaddar, dating from the time of the Tergs, and that it had no obvious use. No one knew what it meant nor why it was there, still standing. But Gregor's intent was to go as fast as possible to the Sanctuary, now that his curiosity of shops had been sated. Asking around, he found that Krezk was divided into four quarters that all met into the main square: they had entered by the Fine Commerce quarter. It bordered the General Commerce one, dedicated to more worldly things like food, inns, and the several crafts. The last two quarters were dedicated one to residences and the other to temples. Going in this direction, they found the Sanctuary of First Light was just the first building in this area. It was an eye-catching construction, light and gracious, but tall and massive. Gregor, suddenly aware of the Gheata's dubious intentions and self-control, tried to convince him to stay outside... to no avail. The whole group entered the hall of the temple, where a large crowd prayed. They all looked desperate and some even destitute, and the great majority was, no doubt, Gundarakite. They even spoke in a language Gregor didn't understand. But apparently, there was no one of office in the hall.
When Gregor told the others there were mainly Gundarakites, Gheata said
"So these are the rebels we have to kill? We can start right now"
Gregor opened his eyes wide in alarm.
"No!" he tried to use all his persuasiveness to deter Gheata. After some work from him and Yuri mostly, they convinced Gheata that these might not be rebels, but simply innocents. They kept a watch on Gheata while they wandered by the temple. The hall had several arches leading to side alcoves. In one of these, Gheata found a priest that directed him and the group to the High-Priestess Elizabeta Peroshkaya. Elizabeta had a cold, almost glassy look. She was not hostile, but it seemed that her old age (she must be at least 70 years old) had taken away from her all compassion and joy that one would expect from the leader of a hopeful church. Her milky hands seemed frail, and yet she exuded a determination and a strength of will that few people could match. It's as if her eyes could read directly into someone's soul. She was polite and respectful, but at the same time very direct and straight to the point. She welcomed Gregor with a tired but frank smile, and without further delays she performed the confirmation ritual on him. She allowed the group to watch as she imposed the habit on Gregor, prayed for his admission in the church and spoke the formulaic words that welcomed him into the brotherhood.
Then she took him by the hand, and led him to a niche in the wall where an adorned crystal case housed a precious relic.
"These, Gregor, are the Hands of the Dawn Healer, the mummified hands of the first High Priest of our church. These are a miraculous relic, Gregor, held dearly here and shown to the public only twice a year in the most high festivities of the Morninglord. On these days, people flock here to receive the wondrous miracles that these hands beget, for they are said to cure any disease in the land. And I show them to every new priest, so that she or he may begin his career with his faith reassured."
"Go now", she continued. "You have a duty of bringing hope to these people and remind them, that no matter how long the night, no matter how deep the darkness, the morning will come and light will prevail. Go Gregor, and give freely happiness and hope!"

Gregor was calm and peaceful as he hadn't felt in over two months. At last, he felt bathed whole in divine power within, at last he felt the touch of the divine caressing his soul. His journey into Barovia, the one they had dreaded so much and argued so much about, had come to fulfil its purpose and he finally was an ordained priest of the Morning Lord, a priest with the proper vows and legitimacy. He felt complete, and ready to dare the world with a new courage and determination.


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