they fell in.
The clouds had been gathering steadily and thunder cracked as I looked down at them. Jake and his two boys began to plead their case. I figure they expected me to drop a rope down to them. I could have done, lowered it down and allowed them out. What did it matter? It was over; Their deeds had been put to an end and their faces where now well known by the locals. I could head back and point the guard in the right direction. In or out of the pit, these naked villains would be ridden down in no time.
Thunder cracked again breaking through the white noise of their begging. A light rain began to fall. The damp would chill these men deep tonight. They may not make it to morning.
The thunder clapped a third time. I could have lowered a rope, but I didn’t.
What did it matter?
A good question but my answer came before I could contemplate it more than a couple days. Duchess Morwen Daggerford sent word which arrived today in Secomber. The letter was short and curt. I suspect my report of the now deceased members of Jakes Jacks irked her. Lady Daggerford has the reputation of a good hearted ruler, but love of others opens a lot of doors you would never walk through for your own sake. Nobles probably step through more doors than most. The stereotype is that they are pragmatic, right?
Regardless of their scruples.
What a glorious waste of time; It is entirely likely that this entry only exists due to the boredom I feel on this short trip. I paid a local riverman to take me along to Daggerford, so I’ve none of the normal travel activities to occupy my mind. The old boatman is a small soft spoken fellow who kept to himself, for the most part. He shared his tobacco with me, so there’s that.
All it would have taken is a messenger with a small pouch of shiny metal, or even a writ of payment. I figure she has more intolerable people to be dealt with. I nearly died my first row with Jakes lot, and then it took near a week to plot my ramshackled pit trap. After a couple days to mull it over, I’m not sure I have it in me to continue this line of work.
The ask came slow and was seasoned with good food and great drink. Indeed the Duchess had laid out quiet a table filled with flanks of meat, spiced soup, and spicier wine. The company certainly had variety.
The most notable aside from the Duchess herself was an elf. She was quiet and polite but like most of her kind manage to come off a bit haughty. She has one of those oddly twisting Elven names, I’ve taken to calling her Ann in my head. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s my inexperience with Elves.
Sat to the right of me was a talker. Blonde woman maybe a few years older than myself strumming aimlessly on an instrument with one hand as the other repeatedly raised a cup to her lips. Not annoyingly talkative thank the gods. She introduced herself with a bit of flair as Gal. I still feel a wince of mental pain when I try to recall the joke she made finding out my name was Cal. Her and the others did a good job keeping attention off me. Still I could feel Morwens gaze from time to time. I did my best to nonchalantly avoid eye contact.
To my left was a dwarf. Normally I would have been a bit more comfortable with a kind that can say as much with a grunt as most can with an extended conversation, but this one was odd. The bulb of her dark woolen hair bobbed back and forth as she attacked the food in front of her. She called herself T’homm the Lady Dwarf and I’d say she was mostly correct. Dwarves for the most part are blunt, but her manor was shaded with a bit of wild ignorance of the world, like a mountain dwarf on her maiden trek outside of the clan halls.
Beyond my two neighbors were a few local ministers about the table. The Duchess and Ann sat near the head of the table. At what could be described as the extreme end of the table was a younger woman, Cera. I would have said she was out of place but in all the table was fairly awash in one-offs. I’m not sure but I think in her head she was attempting to beat the entire gathering in a drinking contest. During a little chat she was having with a minister near her she punctuated sentences with what T’homm called “Lady gulps.” I’m slightly intimidated by the amount of wine Cera downed in the short time we had to dine before Morwen hit us with her modest request.
In short her Ladyship The Duchess Morwen Daggerford wanted us to gently run off a band of gypsies which had taken residence outside of her modest community. For some reason or other the band was bothering local merchants. Some of whom were present and nodded continuously as the Duchess spoke. Apparently she had tried the proper thing and used her own men to ask the gypsies to move on. The men returned with mouths full of good reports and bellies full of wine. It didn’t matter. The decision had been made and the act needed to be followed through. Myself and the others at the table were to be the next emissaries, but this time Morwen had an ultimatum for the nomads; Move on or be moved, and by morning no less. We all generally agreed to the task. I wasn’t happy to be strong arming a seemingly harmless group but in this instance it would be in their best interest, and I certainly wasn’t going to risk Lady Daggerford’s displeasure any further.
We set out almost immediately, with only a minor bit of negotiating; Cera wanted drink for the task and T’homm wanted soup. The Duchess agreed. Walking from the room I saw Cera filling her wineskin, and T’homm filling her pockets. I swear I hadn’t had more than a couple goblets, but I have no other explanation for what I saw. A tall dusky dwarf topped by a ball of hair filling her pockets with soup will be one of the last images to leave my mind as age takes my memory, assuming I make it that far.
I donned some basic gear and grabbed the sledge. Hopefully a show of force will do and a use of force can be avoided. The group of us decided it best to be straight forward with the encampment and not dance around the action that would be taken if the folk didn’t move on. Stanomere put himself forward as the man in charge of what looked to a be a family group with a small assortment of generations and branches. The most of them were no real threat, just a few man who looked like the fighting sort but Stan had the measure of someone not to be trifled with. I wasn’t’ sure at first but it became apparent that he was someone very familiar with the weave. He told a folk tale using the flames of the campfire to embellish his words without any apparent effort. I fear that if he had been intent on enthralling us to his side, we wouldn’t have even noticed. The tale itself was of their homeland, now cursed due to the actions of some prince figure.
I regret not paying more attention given our current circumstances; The gypsies agreed to break camp immediately if we traveled with them to their homeland and help break the curse. We were given time to gather the rest of our belongings from Daggerford and report our success to Morwen. Unfortunately the Duchess had retired for the night and we were given the vague notion that we would only be received once it was clear the gypsies were gone. So much for payment. Who knows how long it will take to travel to and return from this Barovia?
I’m sitting in a gypsie wagon surrounded by complete strangers and strange new acquaintances; Going be hard to sleep tonight.
It had occurred to me that I am being shipped off by Morwen due to my distasteful act. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. With the odd bunch I’ve been entangled with and the vague task we’ve been set to accomplish, I consider it likely.
I’ve been spending enough time with the Vistani people now that my opinion of them has begun to soften. They seem like any other folk, but they prefer not to be tied down to a specific land, or landlord.
The soup in T’homm’s pockets has begun to turn.
Pg. 76 1017.9.30
I find it hard to believe he’s unable, so I assume Stan is unwilling to speak plainly about our trek. He has said we should be in Barovia soon, but that doesn’t pair with my knowledge of the area. I decided not to press the issue very hard, I’ve resigned myself to my punishment.
Tried getting some more info about Barovia from the Vistani, but they generally implied Stand was the best person to speak to about such matters; So much for that.
Not sure what happened but T’homm smells a bit better today.
Where to begin? Today was shit, fucking awful, and a bad indication of how our time here in Barovia is bound to go.
While I slept a thick fog had gathered. For the season this was not an alarming event. The problem was with the small amount of scenery we could make out through the thick grey. The trees had changed. The calm composure of the gypsies and Stan’s welcome to Barovia didn’t help warm any of the chills rolling along my back. With no way back for us Stan began to come clean in a way with our new situation. This mundane seaming fog was a cage about the land of Barovia, a cage from which only the Vistani themselves could venture from. Cera to her credit showed some backbone where I had faltered and attempted the fog. Before making very far out she returned with a pale withering look about her claiming it felt like the fog was sapping her will; We were stuck in this strange land until the gypsies allowed us to leave.
We continued traveling for a while until passing through a wrought iron gate near which the smell of death lead to the body of a man mauled by some beast. On him was a letter generaly addressed to anyone who may pass the iron gate not far back along the road. It was a cry from the father of a dead child filled with warnings of a vampires and death. Anyone who read it was meant to turn away and leave Barovia to its fate. I wondered if leaving was an option by the time you made Barovia’s fog laden causeway. There was only the one road in, right? And only the Vistani could navigate it. As we pondered the letter and its implications, howls began to ring out. No doubt the clarion call of the same animals who savage this poor man. In spite of the danger I felt the need to bury the man. Why my feelings make such demands at such times I can’t say. The wolves put everyone else on edge. Stan spoke on them implying that they didn’t pose much threat to a sizable group like ours, especially on the move, but there was a slight mention of werewolves. I gave in, easing my shovel. All I could offer the man was fire. There would still be something left but the wolves would no longer be able to sate their taste for blood, only char.
“The Map,” so called by Stan was a small favor from the gods and a helpful indicator that this damp cage filled with terrible beasts and the looming threat of supernatural undead wasn’t much larger than a fiefdom and could be crossed easily. The map seamed legitimate as well, a while after we left the ravaged body we reached the Village of Barovia as it indicated. There wasn’t any indication of activity from the outside, seemed a sleepy village. While our current end was the meeting of his Madame still off along the road a ways, Stan insisted we go into the village and have a look around. The gypsies made mention that they wouldn’t be welcome in the town and thus insisted that we go alone.
Homes and building in the town looked in various degrees of disrepair with ramshackled rooves, boarded and broken windows, faded paint and wood stain. Even now as I sit in one of the accursed homes it’s hard to sus out the reason Stan and his ilk would have us venture into the village. Maybe a test? If so it’s a shit test and I dislike the things I’ve had to do.
Near the center of town we came upon some children, of a kind. Aside from the purple of their skin, which was a bit off putting, Rose and her younger brother Thorn were children. Driven from their home just off the side of the water well where they stood by some monster. They manage an escape from the house where their parents and newborn sibling did not. That was it, we had to go in. I gave the children a bit of food to keep them in place. It was simple tack but Cera worked a bit of magic to make it more palatable.
We entered the home and found that unlike the exterior, the interior was that of a well-kept home with not a bit of the grime and filth the outside would indicate. I stopped a moment to take in this oddity but then pressed on. The pace at which my new fellows decided to proceed wore on my nerve. I can admit that I was a bit hastened, but we had entered the home with the notion that somewhere in the house was a child in danger. Each door was slowly checked and opened. On the other sides were rooms then worked over and searched. I can appreciate the diligence of checking everything, a small child could fit in a great many places, but the parceling out of the found goods…Even having assumed the worst about the parents everything would then have been Rose and Thorn’s. It was distasteful stealing from children.
In the dining room I started contemplating the strange gradation of my own morality. I was in this strange home to save the life of a child and looking down on a bit of thievery from my new companions when only a week back I had judged three men’s lives not worth the effort of dropping a bit of rope from my hand. When I snapped back from my though I focus in on my warped reflection in the curve of a spoon I’d been holding up. In the corner of my eye I could see Gal giving me a satisfied look before leaving.
The next floor was much the same as the first with clean rooms clean maintained. We entered a what was Gustave’s study. It was an unassuming room lined with books and a stocked desk. Pulling at the books opened an adjacent hideaway, the door to which I wedged open with a chair. Inside we found clues to what may have befallen the Durst family in tomes and writing of an occult nature. The lot was all apparent fakery. The dead body of an thief found in the chest amongst the forgeries… there had to be something worth the trouble. I passed back a letter in the thieves belongings, Gal read it aloud.
Letter is filled with jazz about a Vampire asshat (I legit spaced out here, will edit maybe.)
The next floor was a break from the ab-norm of the lower floors showing age and wear. The light too seamed to fade a bit so I set a bit of The stairs ended in a lading bedecked with cobweb and a sign of life. I looked closer and found a spider in the webbing, the green scintillating creature seamed to gleam brilliantly in the light of my hammer. It wasn’t until I heard Gal yelp that I could look away from the spider. The ornate black armor which had been waiting for us at the top of the stair had decided to shake the layers of dust from its form and swipe at her. Gal’s cry triggered a gut reaction. I raised my hammer and swung hard. After a heavy blow the armor returned the kindness hitting me full in the face. Reeling back I can just make out the shape of Ann through the blood in my eyes. I feel a warmth as she bestows her god’s blessing on me. With an arcane expulsion from Cera, a bit of jeering from Gal, and a whack from T’homm the armor fell. It clamored and fell to pieces, empty. This was not the only animated object to be found.
Beyond the guarded door we found room more akin to living quarters, no the studies and entertainment halls of the lower floors. In a small pantry T’homm was accosted by an animate broom. The broom apparently has a code of fealty. After having been shattered to luminescent kindling it returned under the apparent command of the lady dwarf. This house began to turn sickly as we found a room with the ghostly visage of a maiden. After dealing with the specter a chest in the very room opened to reveal the remains of a woman stabbed repeatedly. Rumor begins amongst the others that it must have been the nursemaid and true mother to the youngest Durst we were in search of, I’m inclined to agree. But what of the baby? Continuing the explore we entered a long room at the end of which was a doll on a window seal. In their haste to examine both Cera and Gal find themselves victim to a bit of clutter on the floor. I myself almost fell to the same clumsiness which would have been unpleasant for the two on the ground.
It happened so quickly it almost didn’t register. A slight brown figure rushed past and using the recovering Cera as a vault leapt high into the air. With a guttural cry, T’homm landed at the far end coming down hard with her hammer and smashing the porcelain doll on the window. The sack like yellow dress of the doll fell to the ground encumbered by fine shards of ceramic. With a huff, the dwarf turned and left. I looked back to see here plant in front of a padlocked door, a satisfied smirk on her face. The dwarfs act itself was inexplicable, what waited for us on the other side of the door at her back was unimaginable.
Crude illustration of a T’homm in flight
After producing and handing over the key to the padlock on the door, the dwarf waded into the horror of that room. On the floor were two small skeletons. As we silently approached to examine them T’homm began to speak aloud to no one in particular save the names she uses, Rose and Thorn. After a couple brief questions she moves to the back of the room and a dollhouse. A stiff stomp later and half the house was gone. The visages of Rose and Thorn screeched into being. I nearly fell backwards. The bones before use indeed belonged to the pitiful creatures we’d left just outside, and above the bones their spirits. Their gaunt emaciated faces distraught with the damage done to the toy home. I can’t take my eyes off the boy as conversation passes, in his ghostly grasp is the doll smashed by T’homm now whole. The Dursts had gone off to deal with some monster, leaving the children locked away to wither and die. Less aghast than I, the others manage to get some useful information.
The children explain that the dollhouse is a replica of the Durst home, secret passages included. As they mused of the fun we would have playing together it became clear to me that we would not find their younger sibling in any better condition than they. The only course now was to unearth more of the mystery of the Durst home and punish whoever was responsible for the children’s suffering.
Rose asked if we intended on staying to play. I broke away from Thorn to answer Rose; we didn’t have time. In spite of roses protest I turn to leave, then insanity. With a word and a wave Cera tries to put the children to sleep. Enraged, Rose rushes. With only a touch she drops Cera to the ground.
Large patch of spilled ink
Raising the sledge high I stepped to Thorn who looked back with the questioning gaze of an ignorant child. Repeated blows brought wails from him. I…
The children were difficult to do away with, but it was done. After confirming the existence of the passage which would take us to the basement levels of the Durst family home, the group choose to rest. We’d have been fools to stay in this place without leaving watchers at the ready. Myself and An were first.
Before sitting to write I took time to gather the remains of Rose, Thorn, the nursemaid, and the unknown thief. Each was carefully wrapped in sheets gathered from the house and I laid them by the front door.
Hoar is not forgiving, his satisfaction comes when the scales are balanced. I fear what weights will come to balance our deeds today. Hopefully laying these people to rest will ease the sway.
The events here in the Durst home grow more macabre. Passing the children’s room on our way to the basement we catch sight of the spirits of Rose and Thorn, renewed and waiting. It is a slight relief that whatever we did yesterday didn’t seem to have any real impact on the children’s… existence. I pass by doing my best to not acknowledge them, and my companions follow suit and we pass undisturbed. I don’t know what it will take to finally lay them to rest but I will see it done.
The basement itself is a tomb, and I’m not being hyperbolic. The Dursts apparently put their family mausoleum under the house. I’m not sure what the other are feeling but I put aside whatever reservations I had started out with and set to finding answers. I displayed no hesitation as we pried crypt and coffin open to the drum of faint chanting. We found all but one of the four crypts empty. (Wait, was it 8?)
A swarm of carrion insects burst from one of the coffins, biting and stinging as they found gaps in my armor. It was a minor annoyance quickly dispatched by the group.
A network of subterranean hallways extended beyond these grave plots. Holding sledge aloft to shed a divine light we began following along a wall. It was clear from the room we discovered in his study that Edward Durst had a particular interest in the occult. His interests apparently went beyond collect a few works of demonic fiction. The tunnel we walked expanded out into a living quarter for what could only assume was a cult. I spent time and a good deal of effort opening the footlockers. Clues to the nature of the cult were sparse but the group gathered some valuables among which was a dull sword. It needed a buff to show its true nature but a close inspection revealed the sword to be silvered.
T’homm took for herself a bejeweled eyepatch. I still don’t know much about the group, but the dwarfs quirks are already becoming welcome respites on our grim adventure.
In a dining hall we found gnawed bones and scraps from a cannibalistic feast. The dim light of sledge spares me much of the disturbing detail, but had it have been brighter I may have been spared the monstrous encounter waiting for me.
In a darkened alcove on the far end of the room I was beset by a tentacled beast. It lashed out giving my shoulder a solid thump and latching on in one smooth motion. It pulled hard snapping at me with a cracked beak. I just managed to raise the sledge knocking the boney maw aside and push away. Calling on Hoar to assist in my retaliation I landed two swift blows on the slithering thing. The second was solid and left one of the creatures four tentacles dangling limp from a strand of flesh.
The others rushed to aid me. it was then that T’homm called out asking the gods for salvation as she grabbed onto my buttocks. The warmth traveled from my lower back up to my bruised shoulder and cleansed the pain. An dark blast of energy from Cera ended the fight. I don’t know much of the arcane but and the only mage I’ve come across wasn’t much in a fight, usually managing to ward himself before the fight ends but not much more. Cera on the other hand has been direct, using her arts for straightforward offense. I’m glad to have such a consistent artisan at my back.
After the Grick, came a pack of undead. I’m surprised how quickly our group has gotten tactical rhythm. The ghouls fell quickly emblazoned by Gal while being harried by Cera and Ann standing safe behind the wall of T’homm and myself.
Walking down a hall past the undead, T’homm fell prey to a pitfall. After helping the dwarf from the hole, the group decided to take an alternate path and avoid any attempt to cross.
It was then that we found Strahd. Not the man himself but an idolic statue. Cera got close enough to inspect but stood exasperated with the statues lack on information. With an outstretched hand she conjured a blast shattering the top half of the stonework. Strahd must be a powerful individual. On the destruction of his idol a pack of his avatars descended on us. The fight was quick but took a serious toll.
The four black figures moved quick. Two split off seemingly drawn to Ann and the other split themselves between T’homm and eventually Cera. A quick prayer for aid and Ann sent brilliant light shooting through one of the shadows. You could almost hear it’s ephemeral cry. It was apparent that these being of darkness did not appreciate the light of gods. Holding the sledge high I called to Hoar. Not typically a god of goodness and light, he had no qualms sending me the strength to seek retribution. A radiant bolt shot forth into the Shade already feeling Ann’s righteousness and it faded to nothing. The second succumbed to the same combination of godly radiance. The efforts of T’Homm, Gal, and Cera saw the third dealt with and the fourth weak enough for Ann to dispatch.
Those unfortunate enough to have been struck by the dark creatures described a feeling of weakness spreading from their wounds, and I fear that Cera had taken the worst of it. The damage done to her was to such an extreme that her once long hair had fallen to the floor.
In this state we could not press on into the depths. Finding a passage back up to the first floor of the home we rested.
On our return we continued our last route finding a small suite with a small sitting room attached via a short hall to bedroom meant for two. Another door in the sitting room was assumed to lead to the statue of Strahd but it was no door. Looking it over for safety Gal was snapped up in the large tongue of an amorphous wooden creature. Breaking free she stepped back lashing out with her own tongue.
“Last time I saw a tongue that impressive the person at least knew how to use it.” (Think I fucked that up.)The insult brought whoops and hollers from the rest of the party. The creature even seamed to let out a wooden groan of disappointment. Foolishly, I decided to sate my curiosity and asked Gal about this once we had returned to the Vistani.”It’s a sex thing,” she said in a loud voice. I had to drop my gaze to the ground in order to avoid all the looks drawn from about the gypsy camp. All I saw of her was her feet rocking back and forth for a moment then turn to leave.
The group surrounded the monster best we could in the small space. With each attack we became stuck in thick mucus, but it didn’t matter. The creature was fairly weak and posed no real threat beyond its initial surprise.
During our examination of the bedroom two slats in the walls opened loosing a pair of foul undead. The figures where rotting and emaciated but the faces held clear resemblance to the portrait of Gustav and Elisabeth Durst above in the main house. The stink of the couple was horrid and it showed as the color drained from our faces and some of the group began to retch. Gal surprised the lot of us managing to mimic Rose’s voice calling out to her parents for help from the adjacent sitting room. Gustav took no notice but the animate corpse of Elisabeth showed concern and ran from the room taking hits from us as she passed. Swift blows from sledge and arcane blasts dropped Gustav and Elisabeth fell quickly afterwards. I felt a slight weight lift as we worked over the creatures. The Durst couple and their cultish worship of Strahd were the source of the tragedy surrounding their children and we had put a final end to them.
From the Durst’s sleeping quarters we managed a route around the pit, finding a set of dark stairs leading down.
The stairs lead down to a large reliquary where several small alcoves held strange ceremonial objects. Like the occult books found in Gustavs study these relics were fakes gathered by ignorant people seeking the approval of power beyond their rudimentary understanding. Two paths lead from the junk room. One dipped into a shallow pool leading to a heavy portcullis which T’homm, Gal, and myself failed to raise. Along the other we found several small chambers bedecked with chains and manacles looming over the remains of prisoners long forgotten. Ever observant, Ann found a door hidden behind the spot where one such set of grim bindings hung.
Behind this door a large water filled chamber in which the ever present chanting boomed and then died. Off to one side was the portcullis, on the other a natural hollow in the wall, and in the center rounded stairs lead to a platform topped by a dais.
I myself was drawn to the refuse piled in the hollow. As I walked closer, what looked like the moss covered pilings of sacrifices long past began to gently sway, almost like breathing. I silently backed up motioning for the others to follow me from the room before they could do anything.
I explained best I could the possibility of what the creature might be and we began to discuss how to proceed. Unfortunately Cera and T’homms curiosity cut short the conversation. The pair climbed up onto the platform triggering the ritual. Dark figures appeared all around the chamber taking up the chant once more demanding a sacrifice. The demand was denied by pair and as they made their way from the platform the mound of refuse in the hollow began to stir, spurred on by the chanters who now demanded the failed sacrifice be punished.
The creature of moss wood and refuse was massive, taking up as much space as our party would have when clumped together. We’d lost any chance to surprise the beast but fate was with us regardless. Calling out for Hoar’s protection I charged forward and swung wildly, the head of the sledge rebound harmlessly off hardened outer layer of the hulking wooden mass. On the shambling mound’s far side appeared a glowing mace which struck out on Anns command. T’homm followed me in tossing out an axe as she closed. Cera and Gal lashed out with magic. The hulk repeatedly came down with massive club like limbs but its’ lumbering speed allowed us to find safety each time. It was defeated with an ease that surprised the party. Its’ said the gods rolled dice to decide the fates of men, the dice were on our side in this fight.
That was it. With the hulk defeated we had cleared all that the tunnels beneath the Durst house had in store for us. With triumphant strides we made our way back up to the first floor and were met with the wrath of the house itself. Choking smoke filled the rooms pressing upon us the need for a hasty retreat but blades met us at each of the doorways we could see. Gal initiated a plan to jam the blades at the exit of our current room with whatever furniture she could manage. I looked around in a panic and saw weakness in the house. What had been freshly plastered wall before was now rotted and sunken with exposed wattle. The door would not allow us to pass I’d make a new one.
The sledge broke through the wall easily enough allowing a stream of gnashing rats to spill out and onto me. I can’t be sure what everyone was doing at this point. Gal’s furniture remained aloft and T’homms grumbling could clearly be heard next to me but the house had decided to make our escape harder by separating use from each other’s sight turning the lot of us invisible. Biting at my neck the rats became visible. I swept the sledge across my left shoulder and arm smearing a few of the rats across my mail and dropping others to the floor where they met the soles of my boots.
Less encumbered I pushed through the hole in the wall. Looking back through I could see the others beginning to close in Ann following me directly. Luckily the room I’d accessed was the reception with only a pair of slashing blades between us and the outer landing. Ann leaped through, her elven grace allowing her to make it out to the landing with minor nicks. I waited to make sure the others would be making their way through. During that time I looked down seeing the bundles remains of the children and recalled a promise made the day before. I couldn’t be sure I could make it through the blades with all of the bundles in arm, so I tried something different and snatched up the adventurer’s remains. After a moment to try and match the timing I tossed the bundle through the door. I winced a bit from the pain of the rat bites and my arm did move as swiftly as I’d hoped. The bundle was ravaged. Showering Ann and the landing in the dried and cracked bones. Chuckling a bit T’homm leaped through afterwards followed close by her now nicked and battered broom servant.
Gal who had been sticking her head through the wall for clean air must have understood my intent. Snatching up the bundle of Rose’s remains with a swift motion she jumped through the reciprocating blades of the doorway getting to the other side without being hit.
Next came Cera who had managed to pass through the first set of blades but was now faced with a second and then a third before she would reach safety. The first had taken a toll on her but she managed to buttress herself with a bit of magic before dashing through both the second and third in quick secession.
No more stalling. I was the last one to make the jump and I had to do it with Thorn and the Nursemaid in hand. I gave myself a few feet of lead up, but again my timing was faulty. I couldn’t even cry out as my torso caught a blade full on, paralyzing my diaphragm. Another did it’s best to split my skull but only managed to put a severe dent across the back of my helmet. It was inertia more than will that kept me going and I fell to the ground on the other side.
Hoar looked down at me with a grimace, “You think you’re worthy of peace yet? You’re not done yet.” With a swift kick to the face I was awake and being greeted by T’homm’s broom. It was diligently weeping the adventurer’s bones into a pile at my face. Refuse with refuse I’d thought to myself as I stood up.
The gods must have thought something similar, we quickly discovered that the Durst house was a house out of time. On our escape many of our spoils had spoiled. None were more disappointed than Cera who opened up her wineskin to find she had only managed to smuggle an extremely aged vinegar from the house. The spoon I’d taken from the dining room is now the blackened bronze color of severely tarnished silver.
We put the children the nursemaid and the adventurer to rest before dispersing into the Vistani camp to recoup.
This morning started off smooth. I helped the Vistani pack up to get underway but they had not laid out as they had the previous nights of travel. I’m guessing they hadn’t really expected to stay the night outside of the village until we the party returned in a weary state. What was nearly two days for us was a few hours for the gypsy folk.
Along the road we passed a tree from which hung a man. The man was gruff warrior type with dried blood making a black bramble of his short beard. White eyes surrounded by over flowing rivers of red showed a man who was left to writhe and wriggle as the weight of his own body strangled the life from him.
The man was me.
I don’t think anyone else saw what I saw. To them it was a faceless stranger, they didn’t see me and they certainly didn’t see themselves. I’m not sure why, but pulled the spoon from my belt. No change.
The Vistani home was as I expected, a travel camp like we’d become accustomed but on a grander scale. The wagons split up all moving forward to find a nice empty spot near other indistinguishable wagons in row after row separated by tents every so often. I’m not sure the difference between the two for these folk but Stan came after having made the rounds to friends and family. He gathered myself and my companions leading us to Madam Eva’s lavish tent. She gave a smile and bit of chatter to each of us as we entered. I was taken aback slightly when She mentioned Jake and his Jacks but at this point I can’t be sure Morwen and the Vestani aren’t in collusion.
First the obvious questions were dealt with. Yes we were stuck here in Barovia. Yes the Durst house was a test. No we aren’t the first group to attempt the house. Yes it was necessary.
My hard feelings on the matter had lifted when we put Rose and Thorn into the ground.
From a small box Eva pulled a small hand painted deck of cards and began to shuffle. (The card deal, I was a tad spacious.) She held the cards spread out in front of me. Took one just as the others had done. I was about to flip it but she quickly snatched it from me hand. I was more surprised at her speed than anything else that had occurred. She laid them out in a specific arrangement and began to flip them one by one explaining each as she went. The entire time I focused intently on my card. Eventually it flipped and was revealed as “The Innocent.” (Again spacious.)
After a bit more questioning and some perusing of the map we decided on what to do first in our quest to lift the curse on this land. Tonight we would have more than a travel portion, and get some rest. Tomorrow we’d back to the village of Barovia to find our innocent.