Expedition To Castle Ravenloft - Forgotten Realms

The Seer & the Desecrated Church

Excerpts from the journal of Gevyen Tallmer of Tethyr in the Year of Wild Magic, 1372

17 Eleint: Today we have done a little to ease the unholy dread that has besieged this land of Barovia. It is been a day of moderate victory for the rule and love of Lathander – may his light speedily return to dispel the fog and gloom. At a conference this morning, we band of travellers decided it best to seek the counsel of Madam Eva, as she has often been referred to as the wisest in the region. Ashlyn and I did not travel with the adventurers this morning; I had no stomach for these terrors and stayed firmly behind the barricades. Besides, we needed the time to regain our sanity and chart the course of Barovia’s redemption. Saldek, Glor, Seymour, Valarion and Ash ventured forth to seek the fortunes as told by Madam Eva. She resides in an encampment a couple of miles to the west, surrounded by those of her clan. I have discovered that these tribespeople go by the name of the Vistani – I have seen a few of their number here in the Blood Of The Vine. They wear the same garb as that mysterious messenger we encountered in the Weary Horse a few days ago, though I have not recognised his face here. Gaining the encampment was not a simple task; once again our sturdy companions were beset by undead foes. Again, Seymour proved his mettle, with his shining Lathandan holy symbol blasting shadowy beasts (I think Murks, by their description) into oblivion. Once again our party had fortuitously saved another valiant warrior. At the crossroads they encountered one Sir Urik, of the Order of the Raven. He explained that he was the last of his order, a noble association of virtuous champions, united under the symbol of the raven. They had set aside political and religious allegiances in forming a pact to fight evil, and had prospered for centuries. I am amazed at the unearthing of all these sects that to me have only existed in hidden scrolls and tomes. It is apparent that the raven is the epitomising symbol of holiness and truth in this realm. Sir Urik graciously thanked our party for their divine assistance and suggested to both Ash & Seymour that the path of the raven is one that should be strongly considered. I know that this is not an affront to Lathander’s church as it has been scribed that many Lathandans have swelled their ranks in the past. Apparently, initiation into the order is by supplication at the chapel of Castle Ravenloft – surely this is where that mad lord Strahd holds sway? Sir Urik departed from the group to return to Barovia, as they continued to the Vistani camp. The Vistani eyed our party suspiciously, but that in itself is not surprising in these troubled times. Madam Eva held audience with Seymour, Ash and Valarion – despite his recognised skill on the battlefield, our Ecaterine saints be praised that de Crecy held his tongue. Eva proved to be an extremely large lady by all accounts and quite a cryptic mystic. She read our fortunes in the fashion of these parts by the dealing of cards with odd symbols & sigils. When posed a question about Strahd, she explained that the cards read that “he will be found when the three servants of Hell are slain, in the place of the gathering.” Looking at the befuddled expressions of the three she clarified that “a spawn of Hell has come to the top of one of the castle towers, and she is served by an unholy trio.” It is obvious now that this Strahd is not the noble Lord he professes to be, to be in league with such minions. But why shall we encounter him in only one place? Eva did seem to think that the omens were in our favour for such a meeting that despite the influences of demonic forces there is still the power of a good influence at that location – allowing our blows to strike true and hard. The question of the Sunsword posed yet more dealing of cards. “Seek the Sunsword where the river flies,” she said, adding, “this is a card of water and air, the weapon should be near the falls.” On the question of the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, “seek it where the river flows into the land,” once again clarifying, “this card speaks of elemental forces mingling together. The symbol should be in the marsh downriver from here.” Finally, when a query regarding the zombies was made, “Put an end to the blasphemy of the death that refused to die, and the plague will cease – to end the plague of death, you must end its source.” I have never before relied on the word and say of a mere seer, as Lathander lights my path daily. If this woman speaks truly though – how much closer am I to my true goal!
The party returned to Barovia at midday, and a council of war was formed. By all accounts it was apparent that the church itself must be confronted – to seek a cure to this monstrous plague. It is of a difficult afternoon that I write; of dire tragedy and of simple blessing too. Once again, I did not accompany the venturing band as I have little effect against supernatural foes and not the gall or strength to wield a weapon – this quill is now giving my hand the most severe cramp as I scribe these words. This time Ashlyn did accompany my friends, as she was keen to find her companions. Yet again they were assailed in the streets, this time by foul flesh eating ghasts banding with the unfortunate villager zombies. The church proved to be in dire need of repair, a gray sagging edifice of stone and wood standing atop a slight rise, on the very roots of the great pillarstone of the omnipresent castle that is dimly apparent through the interminable fog. Seymour and Glor reported some signs of disturbances to graves, and some hoarse chanting was heard from within. Eventually our heroes broached the church’s door to be confronted by the renegade priest, Danovich. He countered vainly by launching a spell from a grubby torn scroll – which exploded in his hand in a outburst of countless screaming illusionary skulls, it is extreme with luck I feel that this spell’s true horror was not effected. Danovich’s fight was aided by yet more undead, and when our heroes’ actions turned against him he leapt into the basement through a rotting hole in the floor. It is with horror that I relate the discovery within. Danovich had invigorated a most foul creation from the remains of his poor departed son Doru – by what means I know not how. The depths of the depravity that this poor man had sunk to in seeking to continue his son’s life! The beast, a blaspheme by name and nature, took the combined strength of our entire party to destroy – it even shook the unassailable strength of Saldek to his very core. On Doru’s felling, the most miraculous transformation occurred, with all the town’s zombies becoming bereft of animation. It was to crush Ashlyn’s spirit today that she discovered the corpses of her companions Mathilda and Thendrick – at least now they can be laid to rest with due ceremony and reverence. It was with little joy that we reassembled in the Blood of the Vine this evening, more a spirit of weary acceptance in our troubled minor victory. News was sent to Ireena of the quelling of the plague, and the townspeople brought Kolyan’s body to lie in state in a chamber of the inn. It will be on the ’morrow that we enclose his body with clay. On a side note, I was aware of the attentions of the elf Valarion towards Ireena – it seems he has been offering her his support as she struggles with her woes. So then, a day of trouble, of strife and of cleansing – small steps towards the goal of Lathander’s glory. How much more will we need to endure? Sir Urik, Ashlyn and I have decided to room at our desecrated church to commence the long and arduous path towards its rehabilitation and consecration.

Gevyen Tallmer Scribe to the Dawnhall of the Morninglord, Zazesspur, Tethyr


100545
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Excerpt from the journal of Valarion Ulthedran

1372 17th Day of Eleint

After another dawn watching the Lathandarians gesticulate at the sun, prostrating themselves on cobbles in a manner most undignified in my humblest of opinions. We headed west toward a Vistani encampment where we might find Madam Eva, apparently a wise woman of great renown. We came upon a crossroads and gallows neighboured by a graveyard where another armoured figure struggled against unearthly beings of shadowy form. In an act of impressive talent de Crecy raised aloft his holy symbol and the creatures seemed to be shred by the morning sunlight. The saved man was Sir Urik of the Raven Order, last of his order. He offered to take Seymour as an applicant to a chapel in a local castle named Ravenloft but we have no time. I suggested he might be able to add his arm to aiding the people of Barovia by going there to fend off zombies.

The Vistani were wary as they always are and Seymour, Ash and I entered Madam Eva’s tent to seek her help. In all honesty it was the same mystical mumblings I have endured most of my life, however she gave us some leads on where certain items may be found, that way profit lies.

The more time I spend in the presence of the God-botherers the more I wonder at their goals. Glor at least finds humans as disconcertingly odd as I do and Saldek, though unclean and somewhat sullen, is an honourable comrade to have at my side. I can no more allow this infection of undead to spread then I could allow my own arm to turn gangrenous, I may have fallen from favour with my house but I still hold my small nobility as a symbol of honour and responsibility.

We left the Vistani encampment soon after talking with Madam Eva, though the road was uneventful our journey was closely shadowed by a pack of wolves who maintained a safe distance for the entire journey but close enough to observe us and our actions.

On our return to Barovia we found Ashlyn and Sir Urik waiting in the Blood on the Vine, we explained to Ashlyn that our group would now venture to the church in search of her comrades and, if she so wished, she might join us. While in the Blood on the Vine I ordered a bottle of their cheapest wine, little more then vinegar, and sent it to Ismark. A simple barb perhaps but I find it hard to see a noble who would leave five strangers to save his town while he seeks inebriation before the suffering townspeople.

The church was at once imposing and decrepit, the oppressive feeling that hangs over the town seemed stronger there. de Crecy and Glor investigated the surrounding graveyard while I scaled the churches outer wall having noticed some damage to the rooftop. With grace and aplomb I moved across the tiled roof to look down on the church through a hole, below was a scene of disarray. Pews were scattered about the central chamber and a great hole had been opened in the floor, I could hear a single voice chanting echoing about the deserted church. Having seen all that I might from that height I launched myself into the air trusting in my own agility, and a magical ring, to bring me safely to the ground. Some may think such displays to be vulgar and showy but I use them as a test of my abilities and to maintain my talents at their highest.

Seymour and Glor had found little save a grave that appeared to have been opened from within. Saldek and Ash led the group into the church while I brought up the rear with Glor, Seymour and Ashlyn between. A single aged man stood at the altar turning on our entrance, he began to chant a spell. Doors to either side of us burst open and shambling corpses shuffled towards us, needless to say Saldek and Ash sprung into action to lay the accursed undead to final rest but not before I was struck by one of the festering monsters, the wound festering rapidly and turning my stomach weakening my own blows. With the undead felled we turned our attentions to the priest, Danovich. Saldek closed rapidly and soon Danovich leapt down the hole in the floor. Seeing no other way down I pulled my rope from my backpack and tied it around the altar to give my armoured companions an easy way down. Saldek leapt relying on a ring that is a twin of my own while Seymour shimmied down the rope, pausing half way down to call upon his god to repel the undead waiting below. With style I launched myself down the hole with sword in hand ready to add to the affray. What I found below was undead fleeing Seymour’s piety with a strange monstrosity stitched together from parts lurching towards the place where we stood, Danovich was in one corner behind a peculiar table chanting his spells once more. Knowing my blade to be more use against the living I ran at Danovich hearing the heated sound of battle as Saldek and Seymour confronted the blasphemous homunculus with Ash soon adding his blade to the fight. Overhead Glor cast his spells from a makeshift platform of two pews spanning the hole and Ashlyn added her crossbow. I struck twice before Danovich was able to wind a spell about me that made my muscles rigid. I saw no more of the battle until a searing light stretched from behind me and struck Danovich, Seymour so Saldek tells me.

Among the undead were Ashlyn’s two companions, no doubt Danovich found such a foul deed ironic. I left my comrades to explore the basement while I returned to the altar above. In an alcove set in the altar I found a few items of interest including Danovich’s journal, a document titled “Liber Blaspheme” that would appear to be something to do with raising that creature encountered below, and some trinkets of more earthly value that I shall dispose of and split the profit with Saldek, despite what my House may think I remain an Elf of my word.

Perhaps I have spent too long amongst Humans but it would seem the goals of this bizarre group are for the good and freedom of the peoples of this land, to that end I would gladly add my sword and wit for there are too many who would endeavour to take free will from these fine people whose only fault is having been born commoners. Every conflict brings our group closer in action if not word, we act in a strange symbiosis where little needs saying even if we see things differently in our times of rest.

Our return to the Blood on the Vine and news of our success was wide spread, while my companions enjoyed their victory with the company of the townspeople I sought out other duties. Travelling to the burgomaster’s house I sought out Ireena at her late father’s side, his corpse bloating and foul even as his beatific daughter knelt at his side amongst religious sigils and signs. Ismark had already sent news to Ireena of our success at liberating the town of the zombie threat but I had other news born in the journal of the corrupted priest Danovich. With trepidation and as delicately as possible I brought to her attention the passage that explains that she is not the Burgomaster’s daughter but swore an oath to keep my silence until we might find out more about her lineage, there is nought to be gained by allowing this information to reach the ears of common rabble or her decadent brother. We agreed that it was time for her father to be given a proper holding in state by his people that they might pay their respects and so went to fetch locals to bear his body aloft through the streets that he might rest in the tavern or town square.

The people were quick to offer their aide and it was agreed that Seymour would hold the service as the most senior priest in the locality before the late Burgomaster was laid to his final rest in the newly cleansed churchyard.

Five of us retired to our makeshift lodgings leaving the dwarf to drink his fill at the taverns expense. Late in the night we were disturbed by howling from the streets, large wolves prowling the narrow ways of Barovia! I assisted Saldek in donning his armour after swiftly wriggling into my light mithril shirt. Ash and Seymour were to their arms as well trained as one might expect. Saldek and Ash moved to one door, Seymour to another while I grabbed my bow and headed to the first floor in the hope of gaining some strategic advantage. The conflict was short and bloody leaving many of the wolves fleeing from fierce blades and divine magics alike, my bow adding little more then a light nuisance. Saldek examined the corpses and proclaimed the fallen beasts to be Wargs, far worse then simple wolves.

- Valarion Ulthedran

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