Ravenloft Campaign: Woven Fates

Greetings!
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...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Log Entry 36

Oblivious, for the moment, to anything but their own safety, the group despaired as Gregor and Eva struggled to get free of the web. Minutes went by and all their efforts proved futile. They tried cutting the strands with their blades, but they enmeshed around the weapons without being cut. Worse, pulling the weapons back required considerable effort. Gheata proposed setting the web aflame, but Eva reacted tempestuously. Gradually, Gregor regained his strength, as the shock from the grim scene they had witnessed weathered away. Feeling at last more resolute and stronger, he broke free of the web. Eva managed the same just a bit later and finally the group was all free.
They immediately turned to the poor women that were the only survivors of the cruel assault that had taken them all by surprise. They were three women. The youngest was around her early twenties, while the others must be already above forty years old, and she seemed, by her clothes and general apparel, to be someone of high standing. One of the other women paid deference to her as if she were her maid, for her clothes were visibly of less stand and she hugged the damsel with the protective instincts of someone who cares for her child. They were lying on the floor, crying shaking back as the group approached them, whereas the third woman stood in front of them trying to shield her companions of any threat. Her look was resolute, and she seemed much less affected than the other two. Her vests were not as imposing as the young girl's, but they seemed to be somewhat official.
"Like a Cleric's robe", Yuri thought.

Gregor and Yuri took the lead and tried to converse with the women, but all efforts were futile. They spoke a completely unintelligible, alien language. Two words echoed strangely in their minds, uttered separately from the rest of the speech: Toril and Athkatla, but try as they might, neither could understand what they meant. Could it be their names? They clearly could not understand each other, so Gregor and Gheata made gestures to show them friendship. Gheata offered her water, which they avidly drank. Gregor was going to offer them wine, but seeing that their thirst was quenched, he thought of keeping it for a direr time. But he offered to tend to her wounds instead. Yuri took a shovel and began opening graves for the fallen bodies, even though the sun was riding low already. Eva and Irina sprang to his help and the apparent cleric woman watched with interest. She bowed to them in thanks, but when Yuri prepared to perform his rites, she approached him and signalled that she wanted to do them herself in her own ways: the rites according to their own god, after all, and the precepts they had been brought up with. Yuri understood the justice of her request and glad to have been at least of some help, he stepped aside and let her perform the ceremony.
When they were done, they tried to make the women understand that the woods were not safe and, since they were going to follow journey, they were welcome to accompany them. Gregor ceded his horse to the young girl and her maid, while Gheata offered a place in his saddle in front of him to the cleric. She was about to refuse, but exhausted and shaken as she was, she accepted.
They looked around and understood they didn't know where they were. They had strayed far from the road but this was already so worn out that it wouldn't have made a difference if they had continued to follow it, after a time. The trees clouded all reference points they could have and on top of it, it had begun to rain. Gheata made a brief scouting of the surroundings and found they were perhaps half an hour distant from the first buttresses of the Balinoks, to the east, but to the west, the ground sloped gradually into a valley. Yuri studied the Atlas of Barovia he had bought way back in Vallaki and found the river Luna ran deep within these woods and passed just by Borgodyna. They pondered going east to look for shelter in some hypothetic caves, but there was no guarantee they would find them. On the other hand, the wet ground of the forest didn't provide any cover from cold or beasts, and not even the heavy undergrowth could present adequate protection. After a brief talk, the whole group consented in following a south-westwards direction to find the river. They moved swiftly and apprehensive as the sun sank below the horizon. One hour later, it was night, but they reached the river only when another half-hour had passed. The folly of their late departure from Krezk was now apparent, faced as they were with a difficult dilemma. Camp in the woods or go on through the night.
Irina, shaking, utterly uncomfortable outside after the sun went down, preferred to stop and do all the possible to remain safe, but the others convinced her that they would take as much risk by staying in some fixed place as if they were moving. And in this last case, at least they would be getting nearer some place where they could shelter. Gheata even suggested that she could help them fight anything with
"...those rays you shoot from your fingers."
Irina looked at him, distressed, pleadingly, wishing he had not remembered her of that. She looked at Yuri in look of comfort and he merely gestured as if saying "don't pay him attention. He definitely doesn't know what he says." This reassured her and she agreed to go.


Yuri and Eva lit their lanterns and they set on the move again. The rain still harassed their steps and bogged their speed down. They went on alert and afraid of the night, trying to shake the fear in their hearts with casual funny talk, but Irina couldn't relax even a bit. Years of ingrained fear taught by her Barovian culture had rendered her nearly helpless in the dark hours. Gregor stood by her trying to cheer her and offer some amount of comfort that could raise her morale and cheer her a bit.
Luckily, there was a road by the river in good condition that allowed them to travel as fast as they could, but they would still take about six hours to reach Borgodyna. The night grew deep and the moon they could see peeping between the trees was almost full. The rain persisted tirelessly and the sound of water falling on leaves blended with the eternal roar of the river. Despite the dense foliage, the ground was muddy and boggy, and the hapless travellers were displeasingly wet. They were still far from their destiny when an opening in the trees gave them a long look over the valley and they could understand, in the direction the river followed, a kind of orange light, far away. The flickering light and the ever changing tonalities between red and yellow left them no doubt: it was a forest fire, although still small. Perhaps it wouldn't outlive the rain, they hoped.

They pressed on their way, eager to reach some village at least or glimpse some warm light that signalled a house that could host them for the night. But something quite the opposite expected them instead. The rain had stopped not long ago and the night followed slowly, cold and silent. They could see the trees climbing from the Luna River and the outlines of the tree cut against the moonlight, bather by low clouds and rolling vapours. Irina trembled wildly. She sensed something was not right and feared. And then they heard why: howling, a dreadful choir rose from the depths of the dark, bleak forest and came to their ears announcing the wolves had gathered for a hunt. They were looking for prey. They seemed to be far to the south and the west, but from the eerie ominous darkness to their sides another figure emerged. Irina cried and pointed to the figure to their left: an enormous wolf, almost three metres long, approached slowly, sniffing the air and growling menacingly. Its fur was deep dark grey and its red eyes darted with the flickering light of the lanterns.

Quick as an arrow, Yuri stopped and motioned the rest of the group to stop. They all drew their silvered weapons, as Yuri held his holy symbol and mumbled a prayer to Ezra to favour Evangelina. He was answered and Eva felt boldened and so strengthened that she fearlessly charged at the wolf. It slid sideways to evade her, but she still hit it on the loin with her dagger. But the fierce beast responded with a savage maul of its claw that sent Eva to the ground in severe pain. She was bleeding abundantly from her neck and shoulder, but she was fortunate the wolf had missed her face for just an inch. Irina, taken by an unspeakable surge, stretched her hands and released a ball of energy at the wolf. She still could not understand the raw power that welled in her, but Sandor had taught her at least how to channel and control it. And right now, this was all she needed. It hit the wolf on the back, just enough to draw its attention away from Eva. The Cleric they had saved, in the back of the group, also tried to call for her deity but only emptiness answered her. Dumbfounded, confused, shocked, she understood her connection to the divine had been severed and that in this forsaken land her god did not grant her his attention. She stood there not knowing what to do. Gregor, on the other hand, confident that he was now a full priest, begged the Morninglord to grant his protection on Gheata. Shielded by Gregor's invocation, he ran at the wolf to defend Eva. The beast was sliced again and reacted furiously. It knocked Gheata down and bit him viciously, leaving Gheata close to death. Eva took this one chance to back away from the wolf and Yuri healed her as fast as he could with the divine powers of Ezra. Irina again and again let her balls of energy fly at the beast that was beginning to shake under their constant onslaught. Gregor blessed the party in name of his god and Yuri ran to the fallen Gheata who backed away from the wolf, dodging its attack. Eva, restored by Yuri's help, was determined to kill the wolf. She hit it hard, but the beast was still standing and it responded with a slash so brutal that it felled Eva immediately, mortally wounded. Gregor rushed to her side and cured her with the boons of the Lord of Dawn, just enough to keep her from dying but still unable to make her regain conscience. She breathed heavily and with difficulty and it was clear Gregor had saved her from the very verge of death. Seeing this, the foreign priest recovered her senses and threw a bullet from her sling at the wolf, but it flew over the target. She drew her mace and ran at the wolf and hit it square in the face. The beast held, though severely wounded now, and stroke back, but its paw hit solidly on the cleric's full plate without more damage than a backward push. But the wolf had been badly beaten and when Irina fired her fourth magic missile, it hit the animal dead in the chest, leaving it lifeless on the forest ground. Angry at having been felled, Gheata cut the wolf's head off and kicked it away, while Yuri quickened to assist Eva and Ezra brought her back to the light.
"Let's not do anything rash from now on", said he, "these woods are truly dangerous."

They pressed on their way with double determination and before long, they perceived ahead of them a large shadow in the night. They saw it was a palisade circling the city: Borgodyna at last. They surrounded it until they found the only entrance to the town was facing south. It was midnight, and the gates were closed. Gregor knocked and a sentry, on the other side, alerted by the unexpected call, hesitated before questioning back
"Who is it?"
"We're travellers, soaked from the rain and looking for shelter."
The guard opened a small panel in the door and gave a look at the strange group.
"I'd better go call Captain Konstantin."
He returned some minutes later with the other man. Konstantin was the top authority in Borgodyna, as there was no burgomaster. He was stern and hard, experienced and hard to deceive. He had seen many fights and his hard-lined, scarred face was ample proof of that. He questioned the group and inspected them, showing openly that he was reluctant to let them in
"You can sleep by the gates tonight, and in the morning I'll let you in", he said distrustful, but Gregor outburst pleadingly
"Come on, please, we're running from wolves, we're wounded, we're cold, this is no place to stay! We're just looking for a place to spend the night."
Konstantin gave him a second look, and noticed his Morninglord pendant.
"Is that a holy symbol you have there?"
"Erm... yes"
"Good, good. So you're not a vampire, at least. And is it silvered too? Hold it, then."
"I'll even bite it if you want to be sure" said Gregor, and he did.
"Very well, not a werewolf either. I guess that gives you some measure of trust. But you'll have to leave the weapons with the guards, nonetheless. I don't want riots in my city"
This did not amuse the others at all. They spoke between themselves about the request.
"I'll leave my mace with the horse, but I'll stay with it anyway. If he wants to keep the weapons, he'll have to keep the horses too, but I will stay with them."
Eva on the other hand said she would hide her silver dagger, and Gheata said it was simpler to show them Strahd's letter of safe-conduct and the guard would let them free, but Yuri was not so sure
"We don't know where he stands. He wears a badge of official to Lord Strahd, but that may be a simple cover. What if he is the true mastermind behind the troubles here? No, I'll leave the weapons, but I'll stay where they stay."
They accepted Konstantin's terms and accompanied him to a house in the middle of town that doubled as prison and Guard's barracks. They said adamantly that they would sleep there on the hall's floor and the Captain did not object.
"Do as you will. I'll see you tomorrow."

They prepared to sleep after a very long day, full of emotions. Gradually they fell into sleep, the vivid images of the day still hovering in their heads. But Eva and Gregor were more troubled than the others. The images of Jacqueline cutting the heads off the poor girls and of the men so suddenly turning on the very people they were apparently saving remained in their subconscious and refused to give them any respite. On and on they relived those moments and woke up startled and in cold sweats. Their cries woke the others but only for a short time. They went back to their sleeps but when they perceived the nightmares returned on and on, they decided it was useless and huddled against the wall and talked the night away.
"You know something, Eva?"
"What?"
"You still haven't slept with me..."
She smiled, slightly outraged.
"Is that the nicest thing you can tell me today?"
"Well... you understand. When I saw you there lying on the ground, I thought you were dead, and that was really the first thought that came to my mind."
"Wow.... brutally selfish, then, huh?"
"Hmmm... perhaps. Are you mad at me?"
"I guess I am... but I understand you. I also get these cravings now and then since I went with Gheata. I don't want to be involved with anyone, but you may still get lucky one of these days. But mark it well: it's not because YOU want it, it's because I want it. I wouldn't give in to a selfish, presumptuous, egotistical desire as yours."
"Hey, hey, hey... now you're offending me! You're being too harsh. It's not my fault if you don't understand I have been wooing you since before we came into Barovia!"
Eva was puzzled.
"You have?"
"Of course I have. Don't you remember at the Blood o' the Vine?"
"Perhaps you haven't done it right, then?"
"Anyway, I never understood how you could have slept with that brute Gheata who stiles every whore he can find. How could you descend so low?"
"Ah, so you're jealous after all, are you?"
"No I'm not. You wound me! I like you, that's all..."
"And I guess that's the best declaration I will get from you, isn't it?"
Gregor pouted and went to the corner. Eva came to him and caressed his hair from the back.
"Perhaps you'll get lucky one of these days."

18th October 751, First Night Before the Full Moon

The morning sun stretched its rays into the barracks's hall, waking the group. The three women they had found on the forest convened away from them. Yuri and Gregor made their morning prayers asking for guidance and protection during the day and the others readied for another journey.
Yuri was going to ask his deity for the boon of understanding languages when the other cleric approached him in his own tongue
"Good morning, sir. I could not thank you properly yesterday for all you have done for us, for I could not understand you. Nor did my God answer me, and that left me quite upset, but this morning I found my prayers were answered again."
Yuri was happy at this news and addressed her in the solemnest and most courteous of manners. She retorted accordingly and went on
"My name is Ashmina, and we come from the city of Athkatla in Faêrun as we were headed to Amn. Yesterday, you showed me your map but I have never heard of these lands. I need to understand what has happened to me and my companions and although we have enjoyed your company and are eternally in debt to you, we need to stay behind. We'll profit that we are in a city and try to find clues to what has befallen us. We have no desire to accompany you on your journeys and adventures, but wish you the best of lucks anyway."
With this, the three women left.

The group met Captain Konstantin a few minutes afterwards. Yuri approached him and tried to understand what the motive was for the weapon restrictions that were enforced in the city. Apparently, there was no more crime in Borgodyna than in any other city, nothing out of ordinary petty thievery and occasional murder. But on the other hand, he and Gregor found out, although Konstantin didn't open much of the game, that there had been assaults on people travelling towards or from Borgodyna in the past month, and villages around it were pillaged.
Gregor then pressed the captain for more, and he told them that they had been sending out patrols regularly trying to catch the bandits, but instead, what they're were getting was bands of Gundarakites fleeing from the south.
"It appears these rebels are fleeing from the fires that have been sparkling here and there with too much regularity. They say a tall figure with the head in flames always appear with those fires, and they say it's the Morninglord, but curiously, since the victims are almost always Gundarakites, it appears he is punishing them. Ahahaha" the captain broke into laughter "they're fleeing their own god!"
Gregor didn't like what he heard and he changed subject abruptly.
"I guess I'll go look around the city."
"Me too", said Eva.
The others followed suit.

They spent the morning studying the city. As far as they could tell, Gundarakites had lived there, but not anymore. They had occupied the southern part of the city, facing their own lands, while the Balok majority preferred to live near the north. They did not learn why or how the Gundarakites had left, but since they had, the southern side had turned mostly into empty and destitute houses that were converted into storages and guard posts. However, a wooden hut that served as chapel of the Morninglord subsisted humbly preserved for the occasional believer that passed by. In what looked like a recent change, a considerable part of the city's food resources had been brought to these empty houses and the number of guard posts had been increased, in an attempt to concentrate in one spot the guards assigned to protection of the city and of the crucial resources.

Gregor, moved by the humble presence of the Lord of Dawn in Borgodyna, entered the chapel and decided to clean it. It was aged and full of cobwebs, and of course there was nothing of high intrinsic value, but the god asked for nothing more. Eva volunteered to help and they spent the rest of the day cleaning the chapel devotedly. They only made a short break in the day to visit a herbalist in search for a tea that could help them sleep. She sold them camomile
"Great for insomnia", she said, which comforted them. They did not want another night like the previous one. They still considered going to spend the night together in the chapel, but then decided to return to the others.

The rest of the group wandered by taverns and pubs in search of useful information. They noticed that there was a deeply ingrained animosity towards the Gundarakites, an intense hatred even, sometimes.
"Murders that kill our children and envy our wealth", was the voice of the people. They were told that a fire had broke out a week before on the northern part of town, with some incendiary material thrown over the palisade, and just the night before there was a fire in the forest but two miles south of town. Happily, it was quickly extinguished by the rain. They also found out that the inhabitants of Borgodyna fear the God of the rebels, who seems to be some kind of Death deity.
"They call it Erlin, and they bring witches with them to damn us all".

Still before returning to the guard centre before nightfall, they gave a look at the burnt palisade, but it had been cleaned already and found no clues. Back at the prison hall, they were preparing to sleep when Konstantin told them:
"If you like, I can put you in some cells. At least there's straw there, and you don't have to sleep on those cold stone slabs".
They understood the remark, that the Captain was not happy to have them sleeping there yet another night, so they looked for an inn and lodged there. All but Gheata, who chose to wander the streets and look for professionals of pleasure to satisfy his urges. Unfortunately, he passed out into sleep just a few hours after and couldn't quite achieve that completely.
Gregor and Eva chose to stay in a room separate from the others, fully expecting more nightmares that night.
"At least, we don't disturb them", said Gregor. Eva agreed and prepared a tea for both of them
"Let's see if this makes an effect or not" she said teasingly.
If any effect it had, it wasn't to bring them peace of mind. They tried to sleep but the nightmares came again. They decided it was no good trying to sleep, so they leaned against the wall and spent the time mostly talking about their adventures, the time they had passed together and Gregor's slimming diet.

Irina and Yuri chose to stay in another room together, deeming it unwise to stay alone in such a city. Yuri finished reading the book he had found in the Circle as Irina observed and meditated on her problems herself. When she saw Yuri's elation at having finished his long study, she cheered him
"So, can you cast magic now?"
"I'm not sure. Let me see... Mana Arflamunte... Hmmm... Nothing yet. Perhaps I have yet to mature on what I've read."
"It will come to you over the days... as it comes to me" and her face grew sombre... and her voice lowered.
She continued
"I really don't know where these powers come from, but I'm not comfortable with them yet. Today, against the wolf, I merely felt the need to do something and this seemed the most natural thing to me. I stretched my hands and thought about those bullets coming from them and they appeared and... Boom... They stroke at the wolf. I know they were useful, but I'm still uncomfortable."
Yuri again lectured her into believing that it happened to some people, but that it didn't mean they were necessarily evil or monstrous. If at all, it was a calling that Irina had, that made her special and she had to learn to use it for the Good. She could be the very opposite of those monsters she feared, and she had to be the one to control her powers for what she thought right.

It was not much later when suddenly a guard gave a cry of alarm. Only seconds after, a huge clang was heard, immediately followed by an explosion. The sound came from the southern part of the city. Yuri and Irina awoke in alarm and dressed in a hurry. Eva and Gregor, still awake, ran to the street, and she went to the prison looking for her weapons before anything else. The captain was not there, but a guard was precisely stowing them away. Eva told him that Captain had consented and was too busy combating the fire. The guard was unsure and hesitating, but deeming it possible, and judging that since they were probably leaving in the morning the captain might not really know Eva had her gear, he handed it to her, hesitatingly.

Gheata awoke, to find himself thrown against the door of the brothel he had been to. This time he had left all his valuables at the inn, so all he lost was the 10 gold coins he had paid.
The group all ran to the site of the commotion. Enormous blazes licked the sky in the south-eastern corner of the palisade, near the city gates. The confusion was installed, with most of the city running to the gates to see what happened and an unfortunate few running from there to escape the fire. Several consecutive explosions could be heard and it was apparent that the fire was spreading over the storage and guard Houses. The sparks danced in the air and made the night almost unreal.
Yuri, Gheata and Gregor looked around, trying to identify suspects. They saw Konstantin in the front line of the combat against the fire, trying in earnest to staunch it and they could see no one with a suspicious look, or some unsurprised air, or even fleeing discreetly from the scene. Yuri looked for a house that he could scale to the roof, and 10 minutes later he was precariously perched on a high spot, out looking at the woods beyond the palisade. There, in the distance, he seemed to see the low branches of the trees shake of their own accord, but in a wave like motion, as if something was moving beneath them away from the city.

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