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    By Steel and Spell: Part IV
    Posted on Thu, January 19, 2012 by LordCeb
    masterarminas writes "The companions arrive in Barovia to find that evil is not always evil.

    By Steel and Spell:  Part IV

    Past the old gate, the mist thickened into a heavy fog that clung low against the ground and the ancient oaks that lined the road.  Mordecai felt a shiver run through his body at the chill, a most unnatural and unwholesome cold that seeped deep within his bones.  He tightened his grip on the mace that he held in one hand and glanced at his companions.  They too felt it.

    The continued their slow walk, straining their eyes to see through the thick coils of vapor.  But then the mist suddenly lifted, revealing a deep valley before them, filled with old forest.  Dark clouds covered the sky, diluting the rapidly decreasing light; but even so, no illumination glowed at the windows of the village below.  On the far side of the valley, a waterfall fell from the top of cliff, slashing down into a lake, at the base of the cliff.  A long and treacherous road ran back and forth along the cliff face, before vanishing into a tunnel.  Mordecai nodded to himself.  That road must lead to the brooding castle that perched on a granite spur that hung over the valley.

    Brooding over the valley, rather.

    “By Moradin’s Beard,” whispered Zephraim.  “If that fortresses walls be manned, it could not be taken with less than a thousand men—or a hundred dwarves.”

    “And yet, not a single guard walks the battlements, friend Dwarf,” replied Nath’anatel.  “But it’s name of the Raven’s Loft was well chosen, for the black-winged Stormcrows nest there in great number.”

    Joachim snorted, and laid his mighty two-handed sword across one shoulder.  “I’ll trust your sight, Nat, but even without defenders, that’s some cliff face to scale by rope.  If that drawbridge can be raised, it’ll be the devil’s own work getting in, defended or not.”

    “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Mordecai said with a smile, causing Erestan to groan in pain at the deliberate pun.  “In the meantime, friends, I suggest we get to the village before the light fails completely.”

    “And ye say my jokes are bad,” Joachim muttered as he lifted his sword once more and trotted down the road.


    Clearly, something was afoot in the village when the weary travelers finally arrived.  Scores of townsfolk were gathered in the square, and each carried a burning torch lifted high.  Some held pitchforks as well.  And in their center a man stood upon a crate, and bombastically addressed the crowd, whipping them into a fervor.

    “Brings back memories,” sighed the dwarf, but he carefully adjusted his shield and drew his axe.

    Mordecai spotted a man that shook his head, walked away from the crowd with two others in tow, and moved towards him.  “Ho, there.  What is the cause for this, friend?”

    “Are ye blind, strangers?  They mean to burn to a girl as a witch, to put an end to these cursed times and make the creature on the ‘Loft sleep once more.  No part of it, I or mine will be; there comes no good of fighting evil with evil, I say.”

    “Why do they blame her?” Katherine asked.

    “Irena is different, priestess,” the peasant answered.  “Our burgomeister, Dmitri Kolyana, adopted her as his own daughter after she was found in the woods as an infant.  And strange things happen around her.  Now, Andre has gone missing, and many other of our folk.  And the burgomeister himself has vanished.  The fools think that the creature will be sated with her death, that she is cause of our misery.  I shan’t be here when they throw her living body on the pyre.  Now, I must return home, strangers, good night.”

    The peasant motioned at his sons and they hurried off to a nearby home, and then shut and barred the door behind them.

    “A fair damsel in distress,” Joachim said stretching, “at least we have not come this far for nothing.  How do you want to play this, witchling?”

    “A more subtle approach might bear fruit—perhaps they can be reasoned with,” the warlock answered and he began to move towards the center of the square.

    From a large home at the edge of the square there came a high-pitched scream, and three men hauled a woman forth, throwing her roughly on the cobblestone steps of her manor.

    “THERE!” the instigator shouted wildly.  “There is the witch who has cursed our lives, our crops, our fortunes!  The changeling who should have died as a babe, but for the ill-though kindness of our missing burgomeister!  SHE is the one who has brought this doom upon us!”

    “Vladimir  Chenko!  What is the meaning of this?” the woman yelled.  “You know me!  You all know me!  Father will skin you alive when he returns if you do this!”

    “LISTEN NOT to the devil-spawn in human guise, my friends!  She is the cause of our misery!  Fix her to the stake, and may you return to the Abyss in cleansing fire!”

    Mordecai stopped, it would be useless to try and deter the crowd, who where now whipped into a frenzy expecting the girl’s death.  He would only be shouted down, or worse, hauled up to the pyre alongside her.  But unlike the girl, Mordecai was indeed a warlock.

    He drew upon the anger within his soul and he thrust one hand forward, and a jagged bolt of lightning leapt from his hand to impact the stake with a thunderous CRACK, the explosion knocking the leader of this mob from his crate.

    “You know, I like this definition of subtlety,” Joachim said with a grin as he drew his sword, advancing right behind Mordecai; Katherine, Nath’anatel, Erestan, Howl, and Zephraim trailing along with weapons drawn—and fangs bared.  “Quite a way with words there, Cai.  I’ll be remembering it for the next time you get on me for not being subtle.”

    “Release the girl,” Mordecai said in a low rumble that resonated throughout the entire square.  “No one will be burnt tonight.”

    “Another witch!  Quickly, grab hiMMMMM!”

    The shout was broken up as Mordecai fired a second blast of eldritch magic, this time burning in ochre flame, at the feet of the speaker.


    Chenko had clambered back atop the pile of stacked wood, and rested on hand on the stake to maintain his balance.  “The demon-spawn cannot kill ALL of you, you fools!  Take him!  AIEEEE!”

    From the back of the companions, Erestan had nocked an arrow and sent it flying through the crowd; it struck Chenko in the hand and pinned him to the stake.

    Katherine strode forward, her holy symbol proudly displayed upon her chest.  “The warlock travels not alone, and no spawn of demons he is, good folk, but a slayer of them.  Or do you doubt the word of a servant of the Stern Lady?” she asked as she lifted her arms and chanted a short mantra.  And the crowd gasped as she grew in stature, doubling her size to nearly eleven feet in height and she began to glow with a fell light.


    The mob broke apart and ran, as Joachim grinned wildly at the enlarged cleric.  “I think that yon tremendous cleavage has frightened them into flight, gentle Katherine; I must confess, it is quite intimidating even for ME.  And strangely alluring, all the same.”

    Zephraim snorted and he clambered up the pile of kindling and yanked free the arrow.  “Go home, lad.  Be smart now and tend your wound while ye still can.”

    The villager tumbled down the stack and took off running like the hounds of hell were at his heels.

    “Aye, a definition of subtle that I like, methinks,” said Joachim again as he walked toward the young lady lying on the ground.  He frowned as he knelt, and then he turned back to the rest.  “She has no wound, but she is unconscious.”

    “Get her inside, Joachim.  I fear this night has only just begun,” said Mordecai.

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    Re: By Steel and Spell: Part IV (Score: 1)
    by SirXaris on Thu, January 19, 2012
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    Very well done, MasterArminas!

    A few laughs, some dread, and a bit of bashing.  Everything a good tale requires. :)


    Re: By Steel and Spell: Part IV (Score: 1)
    by Argon on Fri, January 20, 2012
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    Agrred a fourth telling of this tale and I look forward to the next. Keep them coming MA.



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