'The Mists of Ravenloft' Campaign

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 Episode 24 of The Mists of Ravenloft
 2015-12-10 -  
The Cycle of Life, Death, and Renewal... ( Member Submission! )... 2015-12-10 
The mid-day sunshine shone through the large windows of the Blood on the Vine Inn, and fell upon Nikolai Indrirovich as he sat alone at a table near the back of the common room. Around him scrolls and notes lay spread about the table, and the Burgomaster flipped through each, a plate of cheese and bread forgotten by his side.

Nikolai’s wife was fond of scolding him for preferring to take his work to the inn, accusing him of avoiding her and the children, but the truth was that he enjoyed being amongst the folk of the village he represented. The fact that his numerous children were not running about distracting him was as unforeseen benefit of working at the inn, but he’d never admit to it to his wife. Today, oddly enough, the inn was empty, only a single Vistani, passed out from the drink, sat far in the corner of the inn. The Burgomaster shook his head in disgust. Some of the village folk had complained that the Vistani were coming to town more frequently, worried that the gypsies might become more common, but Nikolai figured they would move on eventually, and that nothing in Barovia would hold much interest for the vagabonds.

Nikolai was so occupied with the gypsy that he missed the sound of horse tack and the jingle of harness as a carriage of highly polished black wood and brass finish arrived outside the inn. Pyotr, the innkeeper, came rushing around the bar, a look of worry and shock on his face.

“Nikolai,” the innkeep hissed at the Burgomaster to get his attention, “The Lord of Barovia arrives!”

Nikolai Indrirovich rose to his feet, surprised, sweeping crumbs from his tunic, and fixing himself up quickly to look as presentable as he could. Pyotr had swept the inn doors open, Just as Viktor Greben, the commander of the von Zarovich house guard marched into the inn. Greben’s stoic face scanned the room, his eyes piercing into each of the dark corners of the room, seeking out danger, and finding none. The guardsman spied the Vistani and his brows furrowed as he took a few steps towards the gypsy and stood at attention, eyes locked on the drunkard.

Beyond the door, Nikolai could see Count Strahd von Zarovich as he stepped from the carriage, and waved his additional guardsmen away. Strahd walked purposefully towards the inn. The Lord of Barovia hesitated at the door, staring into the bright sun, and seemed to smile fleetingly. Nikolai blinked. The Count was always stern and serious, brooding almost, but this was the first time the Burgomaster had seen him smile. Many worried that the Lord of Barovia had fallen into melancholy spirits, alone in his castle. Nikolai knew that the Count had received word that his parents were coming to settle into Strahd’s new seat of power, so perhaps this would help bring new cheer into the Count’s life.

Strahd nodded to the innkeeper, as Pyotr bowed low, and strode across the room straight to Nikolai’s table. The Burgomaster bowed low, and Nikolai was aware of how nervous the Count made him.

“Do you mind if I join you?” Strahd asked in his heavily accented manner.

“Of course you are welcome, my lord!” Nikolai gestured to a chair, and sat down as Strahd von Zarovich settled himself across the table from him. Pyotr rushed over with fresh bread and cheese, and a bottle of his best red wine, bowing low once again as he scuttled away as quick as he could.

“Is my lord satisfied with the labourers I sent over,” the Burgomaster asked nervously, “do you require more skilled workers?”

“No.” Strahd replied flatly, “No need to worry, Indrirovich, the labourers have done a fine job of repairing and restoring the castle, and have even brightened up the courtyard in celebration of my parents’ arrival.” The count smiled, and Nikolai was taken aback again.

“My lord, forgive me my assumptions, I mean no offence, but you seem very happy today…” Nikolai stated, his curiosity overcoming his anxiety at speaking to the stern lord of the land. Strahd chuckled, a sound the Burgomaster had never heard, and then poured two glasses of wine, handing one to Nikolai before sipping of the red liquid himself.

“I've received word from my parents,” Strahd said as he ripped a chunk of bread from the loaf, “They arrive tomorrow, and they bring with them my younger brother, Sergei.”

“A prince of Barovia! I had no idea that my lord had a younger brother,” Nikolai said with a smile.

“He was a babe when I left for war,” Strahd replied, “But he comes now as a young man. But the truly good news is that he brings with him his betrothed!”

“Gods be praised!” Nikolai exclaimed excitedly, “There is to be a wedding then? Here?”

“Yes,” replied Strahd as he rose from his seat, wincing at an old injury in his leg, “But this means much work to be done. I would like the village to be decorated in celebration for their arrival tomorrow. The wedding, I imagine, won't be for awhile yet.”

“Of course! It will be done my lord.” Nikolai assured, “It would be an honour for us to receive such a noble family! What joyous news!” Count Strahd von Zarovich strode across the inn, stopping at the door, framed in bright sunlight, and smiled at Nikolai Idrirovich.

“The innocence of the young who are lost to love,” Strahd mused as he stared off into the sun, “I look forward to the renewed energy this will bring to Castle Ravenloft.”

Count Strahd turned back to Nikolai and nodded.

“My father wrote that Segei’s betrothed, a woman named Tatyana, is a rare beauty.” Strahd laughed, “I can see this marriage bringing a great change to this region. I feel that this wedding will be one that no one in Barovia will ever forget.”
 Episode 18 of The Mists of Ravenloft
 2015-11-20 -  
Catching Breath... ( Member Submission! )... 2015-11-20 
We almost lost him. One more inch...and he would have gone right off that bridge.

Despite herself, Kethra had to admit she was impressed with Mhardaveth. Even before finding the object of their quest, his holy powers (and strong shield arm!) had made the difference between life and death several times. The old man was only more invigorated now that they had found the sunsword. For someone who was mostly a ceremonial guard, he fought with skill and vigor unlike anything the sorceress had ever seen.

Her initial distaste towards him had lessened as well. If she were to be honest with herself, Kethra would admit that the reason she had taken such a dislike to him had been his age. Not exactly that he was old, but that he was a reminder that she would age as well...her beauty would fade and wither away, unlike her hated elven peers who would remain beautiful until their last days.

She had hated him for reminding her of her mortality.

Initially, she had also been supremely frustrated at Mhardaveth's senility; Kethra rarely had patience for even normal forgetfulness, and the paladin's dementia had tested her to the extreme. That night, though, where Mhardaveth...changed...for lack of a better word. He was calm, focused and deliberate...and it frightened her. Here was a man whose greatest opponent was his own mind; who knew he periodically drifted off into another state where he was a shell of his real self...and had no control over when it happened or why. Since then, she never reacted negatively to his forgetfulness or snapped when he just repeated himself over and over and over again...she instead tried to remember the noble man who carried with him a constant struggle that she honestly thought he couldn't prevail against.

If this is aging, thought Kethra, I want no part of it.

She knew that was shallow, especially in the face of one who was fighting the process and was still doing good in the world (Was that Kethra's goal? To do 'good' in the world? She wasn't sure; just a few months ago she might have said no, but now...). Nevertheless, the idea of losing her sense of self, all the flaws and perfections that made her Kethra...?

No. She would have none of it.

She felt herself close to admitting something, something disturbing.

She felt the fear rising; it wasn't the first time she had come close to admitting this thought but every time before, she had pushed it away. Now though, watching Mhardaveth help up Milo (whom she was also starting to really like; it's hard to have poor self-esteem when he's around!), she decided to have the same courage as the old man. So she let the thought forward:

She had seriously considered being turned into a vampiress to make sure she never aged again and would remain beautiful forever.

Hot tears rushed to her eyes and streamed silently down her cheeks as she set her jaw in embarrassment. The truth was, Mhardaveth, in his fight against his aging and all the curses that come with it had shamed her. How could she have entertained that dark proposal when she had the example of the paladin right next to her, showing her a different path? Was she really so shallow, so vain, so...useless?

Maybe.

She brushed away the tears, her lips closing into a tight grin. But I don't have to be that way anymore. I can be better. I have to be better. And not just for me...

Behind her, Yorword had reverted back to his own half-elven form. Kethra's heart sank a little every time that happened; he looked so old now, older than Mhardaveth, even. The banshee had aged him with her ancient curse, adding 40 years of toil to his already old body. But that wasn't even her main concern; she feared what it did to his mind...

Pulling him aside so that no one else could hear, she asked how he was doing.

"Not...not very good, Kethra," the druid stammered in response. "I....I...I...hate this place, and everything in it."

She nodded in reply, hoping the expression on her face was one that communicated sympathy; she was never good at this sort of thing, and was becoming painfully aware of that more and more. She knew that, as far as Yorword was concerned, she was a poor substitute for Brock, who would have done a better job keeping the druid's spirits up. Tentatively, she stroked his arm in sympathy. Yorword looked at her hand, then shot her a confused look, to which Kethra pursed her lips and awkwardly ceased contact.

They were silent for a moment more, being careful not to look at each other when Yorword cleared his throat. They looked at each other for a moment, Yorword clearly wondering if he should say what he was thinking, Kethra both hoping he would and wouldn't.

"Kethra, you know those animals I like to pretend to be by turning into them?"

"Yes?"

"I think, I...I think..."

Kethra could see the struggle in his sad eyes. She held her breath.

"I think I want to turn into one...and just never turn back."

Damn you, Brock! He needs you now, not me! Damn it...I...I...

"Well, you could, but...well, I mean...if you did, who would be there to snap me out of things when I fall into one of my states after a vampire has threatened to turn me into his bride?"

Yorword looked at her deep in her eyes, held the stare for a moment or two, but it seemed like forever to Kethra.

Does he...does he know?

The druid went to rejoin the rest of the group. Crying silently, Kethra followed.
 Episode 15 of The Mists of Ravenloft
 2015-11-10 -  
Escape from Castle Ravenloft... ( Member Submission! )... 2015-11-10 
The stones of the courtyard were slick with puddles, as the storm above drove droplets down like a rain of arrows on the small group as they fled Castle Ravenloft. The flashes of lightning and the clap of thunder combined to form a deafening attack as the five adventures stumbled across the drawbridge.

Mhardaveth, carrying the unconscious form of Carver over his shoulders, spared a glance into the abyss that separated the mountain from the castle. The ever present mists clung to everything, and yet he couldn't help but think of the beautiful woman from his vision, plummeting into the depths below. The paladin pictured the parade of woman, young and vibrant, all taken and corrupted by Strahd.

"You need to move now." Milo said, pulling gently on Mhardaveth. The paladin wasn't aware that he'd stopped and stared at the long drop below, the rotting wood beneath his feet creaking as the wind howled around him and whipped his cloak around him like an angry specter.

"How long have I lingered?" Mhardaveth muttered to the halfling, as he turned to follow. Had he had another of his lapses? Yorword was there too now, gesturing for the paladin to move, his face full of barely restrained fear and anger.

"Please, move." Milo said again, this time more insistent. The monk was smiling much less then when Mhardaveth had first met him. The four of them crossed, as Kethra waited patiently on the other side for them. Yorword paused. Even with the rain and wind, and the mud and dirt, there was no denying her poise and beauty. The rest of the group moved on and only Kethra and Yorword remained, staring back at the castle.

"We'll have to go back in there." she said resigned.

"Well, I... I guess. We could just stay in the cabin too. Maybe he'll leave us alone." Yorword mumbled. Kethra gave him a pitying look.

"Is the cabin that safe?" the sorceress asked. The druid sagged visibly, and shook his head.

"I... I don't think so. I think that other druid, was not... was not all there. I don't think anywhere is safe." Yorword replied. He stared up at the sky, letting the torrential rain wash down on him, and remembered his simple life before all this. Before the mines. Before this hellhole. Despite himself, the druid smiled.

"The sun is rising." Yorword said as he pointed eastward.

"He'll have to rest now." Kethra said, staring hard at the castle, "It will buy us the time we need to rest." Yorword started to leave, and Kethra glanced at the lightening patch of sky to the east. The coulds were still a rolling tempest of black and gray, so she could hardly discern the difference in the sunrise.

Even with the sun up, it would still be dark in the valley of Barovia. Even with the sun up, the storm, and Strahd would rob them of sunlight. Day was finally breaking, and still, they would not see the sun.

Not for the first time, Kethra wondered if she'd ever see the sun again...