Day 6, cont’d
The group takes a rest to prepare before continuing into the next room. I see the door in the corner, curious and going up to investigate. When I touch it, though, it morphs into a mimic, wrapping its tongue around me. I manage to get out, and when it goes to attack, T’homm’s shield is there to absorb the damage. The dwarf grins as she shields me before going to directly hit it; Cal joins in the fight, and they are both similarly grabbed. The thing knocks T’homm against the wall, swinging and hitting herself in the face… The entire thing happens very quickly, and as the rest of the group joins in, it didn’t have much of a chance.
“Last time I met someone with such an impressive tongue, at least they knew how to use it,” I mocked, watching it be taken down shortly after. Satisfying. We head into the next room, and because I am an idiot who learns exactly nothing ever, I immediately go to look into the crate and investigate a leather bag. This, of course, triggers the appearance of ghasts, the living rotting remains of Gustave and Elizabeth Durst, shrieking and attacking the group.
Listen. I have regrets almost every day. My risks are calculated, but man am I bad at math.
As the ghasts attacked my party and they did the same in return, I crouch down and throw my voice. Using a trick I learned long ago on the streets, I mimic Rose’s voice almost perfectly, my fear amplified in the small voice. “Mommy! Daddy! Help… I’m being attacked!”
I don’t feel terrible as the two go screaming into the previous room until I remember that T’homm is in there alone. I run to poke my head in and finger-crossbow at her. “Good luck!” I say, with my naturally inspiring attitude… Before fucking back towards the ‘out of there’ area. Dead things are not part of my aesthetic. T’homm and Cal wail on the two, and in horror in failing to find her daughter, Elizabeth tears herself apart. Cera appears to eliminate Gustave… And shortly after, my hands are deep in their footlocker, and as Anvyer watches me with a disapproving mother look I find thieves tools with a squeak of excitement.
But I’m nice. I hand out a magical cloak of protection to Cera on loan, three potions of healing to the others (keeping one for myself… we end up all even, and it would've happened anyway, but I appear nicer like this), and a spell book to Cera to thank her for the stories from earlier. I’ve managed to read one as we’ve been walking. I even attempt to give a chainmail shirt to T’homm, though she turns it down.
The group heads down the stairs to the changing, hearing a chorus of voices repeat, “He is the Ancient, he is the Land.” We emerge into a room with some of the creepiest things in a row. Cera went for an iron necklace with a demon face on it. I watch, not knowing whether to be proud or feel some very hypocritical judgments on her judgment. It’s rubbish, though, which she figures out quickly. There is a room blocked by a heavy portcullis, which most of us attempt to open but fail. We move down hallways with shackled, long-dead prisoners. Once again, I’m not a huge fan of dead things, so I stay towards the middle and let others investigate. Cera finds a secret door. I find a dead body of an ex-cult member… probably questioned their ways. I take the cloak, just in case. I hear the others enter the next room because the voices and their loud chanting suddenly stop.
The group goes to explore the room, which is an open area with raised edges and a lowered middle pit submerged in about two feet of stagnant water. A heap of plants rests in the corner, Cal quickly letting us know that it’s a Shambling Mound and… shouldn’t be attacked. In the middle of the water is a raised dais with a creepy shrine in the middle. The moment T’homm and Cera reach the top level of the dais, thirteen shadowy figures with anti-light torches appear. They begin continuously chanting, “One Must Die.” They want a sacrifice. They want a death from the group. A cold sweat goes down my back… and I make sure to avoid being near our group members. The chanting is getting louder, and they seemed to rely on the Shambling Mound to enforce the sacrifice. The worst of humanity emerges in these instances. But then Cera steps off the dais without sacrificing, and the cultist shadows call for their monster, the one Gustave and Elizabeth kept tamed, Morgoth the Decayer… to enforce the sacrifice.
The fight is a blur. The monster gets hexed, insulted, Cal strikes it with a doubly deadly hit, the group gangs up on it. Once the monster falls, the chanting stops and the apparitions vanish, taking their anti-light torches with them. Our day wasn’t over, though. We emerge into the first floor to take the bodies of the children and nursemaid and put them to rest, but the house itself attacks. The walls become brittle and old, though outwardly bricked off. There are clear doors to the exit, but each doorway now has two scythes slashing frantically. From every fireplace poured poisonous black smoke. I saw it and held my breath as I darted to pick up a chair and dash to one of the swinging scythe doorways, thinking I could slow it down enough to jump. Cera obviously feels the effects of the poison, but Cal has another idea: use his hammer to bust through the decaying wall. A few dead body parts and a swarm of rats crawls out. Anvyer pulls out a scroll of poison resistance, but in her haste, it fails and backfires—turning every living creature in the room invisible, including myself. I chuck the chair at the door and bolt back to the group, despite the blades swinging slowed enough for me to make a good attempt. I don’t want to isolate myself if I don’t have to… Though I doubt the group would believe I’m with them, as I’d had the opportunity to escape without them. We get through the door after dealing with the rats, Anvyer out first, before the rest of us made it out with the bodies. Cal got hit with the blades and fell, hard, with a spasm shortly after that indicated nothing good, before Anvyer went to heal him.
Outside, as the tension died down, I look into my bag and groan. Many of the things I nicked have tarnished and rotted to their true age, including the silverware, pages torn from the cult books… and the book of Barovian tales Cera had given me. At least the jewelry was okay. As I mourned, T’homm reached out and patted the side of the house, which now looked normal, though a second earlier it had been trying to kill us. “Okay,” she declared. With that, we headed back to Stanomere. He was jovial and didn’t seem to believe our exploits, but to be fair, he was a few into his wine. I even threw in sound effects and dramatic music to the story I spun, Cera providing backup. I mean, he enjoyed it, but he couldn’t accept that the village of Barovia had been so hostile.
I pause in the middle of the drinking, taking but sips occasionally. “Stanomere… Have you ever seen artisan tools such as these?” I ask, holding out my thieves tools.
He raised a brow and smiled. “Ah, the tools of the trade. Yes, I’m familiar.”
I finger-crossbow at him, then unfurl my fingers to reveal the silver ring held there. “Trade you, for lessons,” I ask. His smile grew wider. Deal.
Now… nothing stands between us and Madame Eva.
After passing a creepy hanged man in the road, we make it to the pools where the permanent camp was set up, and it was nice, seeing so many families reunited with their traveling loved ones. I am wistful, but thankfully in the back of the group. We go directly to Madame Eva’s hut, only paused by a couple of soldiers who wish to spin us a tale. I push back the flap of the madame’s entrance, immediately greeted by the infamous crone who would have the answers we seek.
Her eyes look straight into my soul. “My dear,” she murmurs. “I would not worry. You know she will be safe.” My blood runs cold, wondering what she knew. Thankfully, any curiosity from my companions is waylaid as she approaches each of them in turn.
“A warden’s job is never done,” to Cera,
“Do not beat yourself up about the temple. There was nothing you could have done,” she whispers to Anvyer.
“Jack and his sons seek the warmth of a fire elsewhere,” to Cal.
She hesitates at T’homm. “You… we shall talk. Later.”
Madame Eva then turns and takes a deck of cards, motioning for us to each take one. She reaches out for them, reading them to us. “Your card stands for history, the knowledge of the ancients that will help you understand your enemy,” she says to me, taking my card with long fingers. “You drew the paladin. The sleeping prince is a servant of light, and has a brother of darkness. Treasure lies with him, in Sergeis’ Tomb.” She takes the card from Cera. “Yours represents the force for good or protection… It’s a holy symbol of great hope. You drew the 9 of stars. In a dead village, drowned by river, ruled by one who has brought great evil into the world… Seek out Baba Lysaga’s Hut. The treasure is with the conjurer.”
“The power and strength of the group,” Madame Eva, to Anvyer. “The weapon of vengeance, the sword of sunlight… It’s in a small castle beneath the mountain guarder by amber giants. Go to the Amber Temple. And the One who will help you greatly in battle against the darkness… The innocent,” she said turning to Cal. “You will find a young man with a kind heart, a mother’s boy. He is strong of body and weak of mind, and resides in the village of Barovia.”
She turns to T’homm next, her eyes looking over the card given. “…the executioner, inverted. The creature of darkness, powers beyond mortality… I see a dark figure on a balcony, looking down upon this land with a twisted smile. He is in his castle.”
Well… This was less simple than I had hoped. That was a laundry list of things to do. The group put our heads together, as I turned the card of the paladin over in my hand; we settled on heading back to the Barovian village.
Oh the way back, we fought a collection of terrifying scarecrows stuffed with ravens. Upon their defeat, we were told by a passing group of hunters that the scarecrows were made by Baba Lysaga to attack the ravens and thus protect the eyes of the village children. The group can’t recall where Baba lives, but the villagers might know.
When we reach the iron gates that had closed behind us before, the village did seem different. The people of Barovia was there, but they didn’t say a single word as they went about their business. Whereas, just up the street, there was wailing.
It’s already been a long day.