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By Steel and Spell, Part II
Posted on Tue, December 20, 2011 by LordCeb
MasterArminas writes "
Continuing the story from Part I, our heroes makes new discoveries and learn what kind of foe they now face.



By Steel and Spell:  Part II
“Ravenloft?  My map had a ruined castle by that named marked on it; in a valley several days to the west.”

“Indeed,” answered the elf.  “And it is from that valley where this evil has emerged.”

“Cai, my people have known of this place for many years—it is an evil place where even the bravest of Frutzii warriors dare not to tread.  A place avoided by all but those who seek death,” Joachim whispered.  And then he smiled.  “Of course, we are smarter and stronger than bands of raiders gone a-viking.”

Katherine shook her head.  “Do not dismiss the danger so lightly, my friend.  I have received visions from the Witch Goddess of an ancient evil that once more stirs—an evil given shape by the depths of the Abyss.  And we have a witness to that evil here in Chelas, one whose tales strain the imagination, yet bear the ring of truth.”

Joachim squirmed and looked uncomfortable.  “He arrived badly wounded, his arm torn and a hole in his side from a blade—but gentle Katherine made short work of those injuries.  Yet, his spirit falters and fades . . . as though he labors under a curse.”

“Joachim speaks the truth here, Malachi,” Katherine nodded in agreement.  “He seems to bear within him a poison, but not even the divine invocations granted me by Death’s Guardian can grant him ease; he withers away despite all that we can do to aid him.”

“And he begs any that listen to travel to this valley—to the village of Barovia—to protect his niece Ireena Kolyana from any evil that cannot be named—must not be named,” said Nath’anatel.  “All he will say is that she is in grave danger from the sleeper who has woken, and that if the unholy union succeeds, all of the Flaness will become a realm of dread.”

Mordecai shook his head.  “What union?  Who is this sleeper?  What is the source of the evil?  My friends, you are not normally so cryptic.”

Nath’anatel looked embarrassed for a moment.  “No.  We have none of these answers, and know little more than you.  Even our priestess’s attempts to commune with her Goddess have been . . . clouded.”

“My answers are cloaked in a grey mist, Mordecai, as though a vast gulf is interposed between the Taker and her servant—yet, I sense that she too is concerned and that I must travel there.  It is most strange, for never have I heard her call so faint.”

“And this witness?” asked Mordecai, “Can he not answer any of your questions?”

“You will understand once you see him, Cai,” answered the barbarian.  “He struggles and he fights for his next breath, and it is a battle I would gladly wage for him, if but I could.  But he drifts between the waking and the sleeping, neither fully in one or the other.  He babbles madness, but I can taste the fear he sweats, and I find myself growing angry at the one who has reduced this man to such.  This creature has much for which to answer.”

The elf and the priestess nodded their agreement.  And Mordecai frowned.  “When can I speak with him?”

“He lies in the House of Healing,” Katherine said.  “If you are prepared, we shall take you there now—for he may not last the night.”

The four stood from their table and Mordecai threw his travelling cloak across his shoulders, pulling up the hood over his head.  “Let us be off then.”

The cold air outside was twice as bitter after the warmth of the Grey Goose, and the rain had grown even heavier.  But the walk was short and soon enough Mordecai was standing inside the House of Healing, where an acolyte of Beory took their cloaks and hung them over the fireplace to dry.

“He grows weaker, mistress,” a second healer said to Katherine.  “I fear that his time is nigh.”

“We must speak with him again,” she said simply.

“If you must . . . but I beg of you to be mindful of his condition and not overly tax him.”

Mordecai followed his companions up a set of wooden stairs to the second floor, and then into a room where a man lay in a bed.  The room stank of sweat and blood and sickness, and the man’s labored breathing was harsh and guttural as he struggled for breath.  His skin was hot and flushed, covered with the sheen of sweat, and his muscles shivered despite the heavy quilts piled atop of him.

The warlock stepped closer and looked down upon the man—who suddenly opened his eyes.  “Is it you, Andre?  Have you returned from death to bid your father one last goodbye?”

Then the man’s eyes cleared.  “No, I see that it is not my Andre.  Are you here then to aid my niece?”

“Tell me of this creature,” Mordecai commanded gently.

“He sleeps, we thought him dead and gone these thirty years, but he slept away the decades.  The mist has returned, the mist which ensnares us, prevents us from fleeing.  He will not stop, he cannot stop until he claims her.”

A wracking cough tore through the man’s body, and bloody spittle flew from his lips.  “I burn!” he screamed.   “I burn within as though thrown onto a pyre!”

He reached out and grabbed Mordecai’s arm with a feverish hand, his eyes growing wide.  “He cannot claim her, she is not his—she cannot become his . . . bride.  If the union is consummated, he will no longer be chained to our valley, but free to walk to the Flaness.  Free to spread death beneath his wings—and horned one who bears the skull-mace will laugh as your kingdoms fall into his domain.”

The man screamed again, and then fell into a deep sleep, his eyelids fluttering.

Nath’anatel shook his head.  “He says the same things, over and over.  Always asking for this Andre.  Always reciting the same warnings.”

“Aye,” whispered the barbarian as gazed on the dying man.  “And a shame too; it is not right that anyone die like . . .” suddenly Joachim broke off and twisted his head towards the door.

“I heard it too,” said the elf as he drew his sword.

From outside a sudden scream rose from the acolytes and the elf and barbarian rushed through the door and down the stairs, quickly followed by Katherine and Mordecai.  The priestess stopped on the edge of the balcony and began to chant as Mordecai saw a horde of skeletal and rotting carcasses pour through the shattered door.  The walking dead!

Joachim had not bothered with the stairs, but instead leaped to the ground floor, drawing his two-handed blade and cleaving through two of the creatures as he entered his rage.  The elf ran down the stairs and tumbled past two more before rolling to his feet and slicing apart the zombie who loomed over one of the acolytes with his curved elven blade.

Mordecai felt a wave of energy press against his body as Katherine finished her chant, holding her holy symbol of Wee Jas high as it radiated a cold, harsh light.  The dead who walked recoiled, as their skin began to smolder and burn, but then the radiance died, and they continued their advance.

“These are not mere skeletons and zombies,” Katherine yelled out.  “Beware, friends.”

“Ya’ think!” Bellowed Joachim as one of the creatures parried a slash that should have torn it in half.

Mordecai heard a crash behind him and pivoted just in time to a very large, very powerful looking creature standing amidst the shattered remains of the window.  Thick fur covered the creature from head to toe, and it had the head of an angry wolf atop its humanoid body.  Oh joy, he thought as he focused his will and thrust his left arm forward.  A bolt of eldritch energy crackled across the room and caught the creature in his chest, staggering it.

It snarled in pain and fury, but it turned away from Mordecai to concentrate on the sick, dying man.  “No escape for you, Dmitri Kolyana; the Master has commanded your death for fleeing.  For seeking others to wage war against him, as futile as that may be, he has ordained your execution.”

The wolf-man howled mightily and raised both clenched fists towards the heavens and then drew his arms down, opening his clawed hands.  Dmitri screamed in agony as the bed upon which he lay erupted in flame.

“And it casts spells,” Mordecai whispered.  “I could use some help here!”

From the common room outside, he could hear the clash of steel and Katherine chanting again, and Mordecai gritted his teeth and loosed another blast, only this one opened gaping wounds on the beast’s hide which oozed blood in a constant stream.  The creature howled and turned back on the warlock, charging forward with its claws raised.

Mordecai ducked beneath the first claw, but the second one backhanded the warlock through the door, over the banister and he landed hard on the wooden floor beneath.  Perhaps luckily, one of the zombies partially broke his fall.

“Heh,” chuckled Joachim, “interesting technique, there, Cai.”

Mordecai, hugged his free arm against his broken ribs, and struggled to regain his feet.  A third wave of positive energy expanded through the room, and the last of the undead creatures finally dropped to the ground.  And the wolf-man stepped out onto the balcony.

A wicked dagger flashed through the air—flung by Nath’anatel—and caught the beast in the throat.  But he remained up, and loosed a powerful howl that resonated through the room, causing the four adventurers to wince in pain. 

The warlock fought with the pain and concentrated on focusing his energies.  He flung one hand forward, and the spell took shape.  Dozens of black tentacles materialized around the wolf-man, each radiating cold.   Three of the rubbery limbs grabbed the creature and began to constrict as he struggled in their grasp.  Katherine moved down the steps rushing to aid Mordecai as the elf and Joachim readied themselves to charge.  Once they were in position, Mordecai uttered the words that would dispel the magic, and the tentacles faded from existence.

The beast lurched as he pulled against forces no longer in effect upon him, and then Joachim was there swinging his mighty sword down into the creature’s torso.  The wolf-man fell to his knees and Nath’anatel reached past the barbarian to plunge his own blade into the beast’s throat.  Finally, the wolf-man collapsed.  His body shrank and the hair was shed, and instead of beast there lay a naked man on the floor.

“Did he bite you?” Katherine asked.

“No, but I think he broke a couple of ribs.”

“Hold still,” she said as she pulled off his cuirass and the shirt of mail, laying a cold hand directly atop the broken bone.  Mordecai winced as he gentle touch set his side afire.  “Hold still, I said!”

The warlock gritted his teeth as she pressed down and began to chant—and then the pain began to fade as the two broken bones knit themselves back together, the swollen tissues surrounding them receded and the bruises faded away.

“My thanks, priestess,” Mordecai said.

“You should rearm yourself; there remains the small question of how these creatures got through the gate without sounding an alarm.”

The warlock quickly pulled his chain shirt back on and with Katherine’s aid he secured the leather cuirass as well.  A cursory check ensured that the acolytes were still in good health, and then the four adventurer’s cautiously made their way back outside into the rain.  At the gates, they found that the night watchman was dead, his chest torn apart by those great claws and the gates themselves swinging freely in the cold night air.

Joachim pushed the gate closed and secured it once again, as Mordecai and Katherine checked the body.  “Nath’anatel, have you that bag of wolf-bane?” she asked.

Without a word, the elf passed across a small leather pouch, and the priestess placed the herb within the words and then chanted a prayer for the dead.  Mordecai summoned his power as the priestess backed away from the body and then unleashed a blast of fire that consumed him to ashes.  “It is the only way to be sure,” he said simply.

“I’ll watch the gate,” the barbarian said.  “They won’t be getting past me so easily.  But I think you three had best inform the Mayor.”

“Aye,” Mordecai answered as alarm bells began to ring, “but I do believe those women from the House of Healing already have.”
"
 
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Re: By Steel and Spell, Part II (Score: 1)
by SirXaris on Tue, December 20, 2011
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That's a great introduction to the dangers the party can expect to face in the adventure to come.  I'm curious to know if you are recounting, and perhaps embellishing, the actual adventure as experienced by yourself and other players or if you're writing this as purely original fiction based on the module.

SirXaris



Re: By Steel and Spell, Part II (Score: 1)
by Argon on Mon, December 26, 2011
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I like the retelling of this story. It shows how Ravenloft fits Greyhawk well. Looking forward to the further adventures of this party.

Later

Argon



Re: By Steel and Spell, Part II (Score: 1)
by rickstr on Thu, April 05, 2012
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Great, just great. You told your great imagination, let me see it all with your eyes. I will look forward to continuing. Big story of Ravenloft.

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