Excerpts from the journal of Gevyen Tallmer of Tethyr in the Year of Wild Magic, 1372
18 Eleint: Once again, troubling word of the forces that assail us. Glor, Saldek, Seymour and Ash; rooming at a house on the town’s square overnight were confronted by a howling pack of wolves. What forces command such forest creatures to invade a town? After felling a few of the beasts Saldek made the grim discovery that these were indeed worgs – a magical form of wolf that I am not familiar with. Surely they must have some unseen hand in forcing their way into Barovia? I am pleased to relate that a little of Lathander’s light broke through the fog today, during our ceremony to farewell Kolyan, Thendrick & Mathilda. Dauntingly the sunshine illuminated the spires of Castle Ravenloft for a brief moment, seemingly thousands of feet above; this does seem to be our future path. Life seemed to returning to Barovia, with Bildrath the merchant finally feeling confident to open his small mercantile shop. Prices I’ve heard are excessive, but this seems to be the way of commerce. That prat de Crecy sullied our good name in this village by badmouthing Bildrath’s commercial practices – surely we have want of friends in this locale, not enemies. With the immediate threat of walking dead banished from the streets, my companions set forth to hunt for the Sunsword. I didn’t fully divulge to Ashlyn that we seek the same relic that she does; mercifully today she was too burdened with the care that we must divest to the church. Saldek, Valarion, Ash & Seymour travelled towards the Tser Falls, a short distance north of the Vistani camp today. Glor, our peculiar young dwarf, seemed overcome with alcohol this morning – we assumed it’s some form of reaction to the weak beer. The companions passed the campsite without undue disturbances, and the terrain steepened into a gorge. Near the roaring falls they were beset by more wolves; but the most alarming event here was the crushing of Valarion’s leg by a bear trap. Lathander be praised that Seymour was able to minister aid swiftly; an action that I am sure has saved the elf’s gait. The path wound behind the falls into a natural cavern. It’s been related that the heroes fought a most strange battle against a grizzled dwarven ranger and his wolf companion in this lightless grotto. Apparently Seymour triggered a trap that should have shot him out into the falls, had he not side stepped in time (DM’s note – sodding natural 20!). It would have been a well deserved dunking by all accounts to remind de Crecy of the values of modesty and humility. The dwarven ranger, who we now know went by the name of Varikov, was swiftly overwhelmed by the party. On exploring the cavern, they encountered quite a grisly scene as Varikov had a penchant for taxidermy – a few of his victims stood cruelly on display, including a werewolf and a local adventurer named Jeref by his gold ring. Valarion seemed troubled by this finding, it is apparent that he may be on missions of his own in the land of Barovia. The companions ventured further than the falls this afternoon, winding up into the higher hills of Barovia. There is another gate to the west of the land, seemingly similar to that haunted portal with its headless guardians. Valarion related that he had decided to bypass the gates through the forest, but was assailed by confounding mists that tore at his very being. Of what he saw within those mists, he was too pale to confer when questioned. Late in the afternoon they returned by the main road they’d discovered, winding back towards Barovia. At the haunted crossroads by the gallows another being confronted the group. He was wild and hairy, with bestial claws and fangs – but by their account, very much a man. He fought with supernatural strength and vigour, requiring their combined strength to drive off. Exactly how they turned this beast, I am not sure; but one did mention of this beast suddenly melting into a dark mist that swiftly roiled northwards towards that accursed castle that blights this valley. I have a worrying recollection of what beast this may be, further research tomorrow may enlighten me as to its name. On returning to Barovia my companions regaled me of the tales of the day, and I queried politely as to their success in obtaining a sword. Ash confided that they had secured a sword, but was not currently in his reach. That bewildering clown Seymour even suggested that he had held it but thrown it up into the air! Ash Torsden I have trusted with my life – but who will rid me of this turbulent obfuscating priest!? I was too weary to question them further today, but if I feel that they are defying the rule of Lathander and our holy rule then action must be taken. But how to do so – I do not have an ally in Ashlyn as surely she desires the sword for her own? Tomorrow the companions have decided to seek the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, perhaps this challenge shall prove easier to solve.
Gevyen Tallmer Scribe to the Dawnhall of the Morninglord, Zazesspur, Tethyr
Excerpt from the journal of Valarion Ulthedran
1372 18th Day of Eleint
With the dawn came the rituals of the god-botherers to which I am becoming accustomed, shortly after was the burial ceremony for the late Burgomaster. I made sure my presence was felt by the sweet Lady Ireena before taking my absence with friend Saldek, while I returned to our lodgings to ponder what our situation had become Saldek went to the store which now opened itself to us, he later recounted a humorous anecdote about Seymour entering the shop and quibbling over the price of rope!
“How dare you sir! It is profiteering to hold this town to ransom in its hour of need! Fifteen gold for a length of rope! It is extortion and I shall have none of it!”
I must admit it raised a smile.
On approaching the falls we found ourselves once more confronted by snarling wolves lead by one great wolf that waited in hiding for us. With their usual efficiency my companions dealt death to the beasts and I carefully lead the way toward a path that might lead to our goal only to find myself impeded by a bear trap that came close to severing my delicate leg, only swift action on de Crecy’s part saved the limb and his magics gave me the strength to carry on.
We entered a cave behind the falls to find ourselves face to face with a towering bear eerily lit by the flickering of our everburning torch. To great relief the beast was dead and stood only due to the taxidermist’s art. Carefully we moved deeper into the cave. Saldek took a crossbow bolt from an unseen assailant, a wolf leapt from the darkness but was soon put down. We became aware of a narrow bridge crossing a chasm and on the other side a dishevelled dwarf armed with axes and a crossbow, he began to hack at the ropes with his axes so I acted swiftly and danced nimbly across the bridge to tumble past him on the far side, but too late to save our swift passage!
I stood before the dwarf whose eyes gleamed with insanity, flecks of spittle at his lips, I drew my whip and hatched a plan to tip the foul maddened creature into the abyss. While I battled the dwarf my companions made their way around by a tunnel off to one side. If it were not for the dwarf’s clumsy blows and apparent ignorance in his chosen weapons I may not have survived the battle, as it is I was badly wounded and lost my whip to his blades but with my reinforcements the dwarf stood little chance. Seymour told us of magic items about the dwarf’s grubby personage which Saldek quickly stripped away. A preserved adventurer stood to the back of the cavern wielding a bright magical sword, and of more interest to me, the wedding ring I had originally sought to find and return to the widow Helene Maurgen.
This area is most peculiar and the taint of the unnatural seems to grow thick in the air, perhaps there is something more malign that exudes this, I have no other word for it, evil which seems to pervade everything. Mayhap a remnant of the Lich King’s army? Or is it this mysterious Strahd that Danovich speaks of in his journal, I can only think that it is the duty of those of us with noble blood to cleanse this land so that commoners might live in some peace though their lives be wretched and short.
Our spirits bolstered by our success we chose to carry on our travels while the sun still held the sky against the night. We came upon a gate much like those we had passed when entering the area. Saldek tried his arm but the closed iron gates would not move even to his great strength, I explored the possibilities of passing beyond the pillars that held the gates in place but was confronted by a roiling wall of fog inhabited by the foulest of apparitions, loved ones dead and rotting reaching forth with skeletal fingers. I stumbled back to the party but uttered no word of what I had seen instead choosing to encourage a return to Barovia. Taking an unknown path we found ourselves once more at the accursed gallows crossroad where Seymour had dispatched those foul shadows with the strength his faith. There we were attacked from the mists by a strange figure of a man heavily built and hairy, he seemed unstoppable until Seymour drew the newly found blade and struck at him, in an instant the brightly glowing blade turned the creature to a dark mist which rolled away to join the ever present mists.
Once more ensconced in The Blood on the Vine I fell to talking with Ireena and her loathsome brother Ismark. While we talked the subject of the holy symbol arose and Ireena paled. Taking me to one side she explained that she no longer had it, some evil creature had spirited it away, but it would appear neither she nor her brother could make use of it, most intriguing as it was connected to the burgomasters bloodline, I know now that Ireena was not his child but what of Ismark? Further she whispered in horror of the nightmares she had been suffering in which the vile Strahd had crept into her bedchamber and performed despicable acts revealing two small puncture wounds where she dreamed she had been bitten, such acts cannot be allowed to continue! The sweet Lady Ireena is in no doubt that it is she that Strahd craves though in her dreams he calls her by the name of another. I have volunteered to spend the night in vigil by her bedside to ward away any creatures of the night who may venture near.
Late in the night a flight of giant bats flew about the village causing immense fear amongst the villagers with their screeching calls. I calmed Ireena and remained by her side until it was time to join my companions and once more venture forth to the nearby marshes where I believe the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind might be found.
- Valarion Ulthedran