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Finn’s Journal #12 – His Carriage Awaits

Entry #11 – Day 7

 

We spent that night enjoying the company of the Vistani (Except for Uphir, whose distain for the Vistani was hard to conceal – for their part, they did not seem to mind), singing songs, dancing and entertaining each other. Squeakers and I put on one of our mainstay performances – The rodent and the knave. That one never fails to produce ample laughter. Tetsuo, in a very rare show of expression, put on an inspired performance of his martial hand to hand skills. To me it seemed a dance of sorts, but with a very deep meaning somehow. It is hard for even a bard to explain. I was very impressed.

 

We learned some very important things from Eva and her Vistani. I feel certain that her display of prognostication was a demonstration of true ability. The clues that she has laid bare for us are not exactly fully understood, but in time I feel we will understand them. She could not shed very much light on the history of how or why Strahd cursed the people of Barovia and this land. We learned that the Windmill in one of her readings is likely the one that can be found near the road, between mount Gackus and Lake Zarovich, as we travel west, but it is also the haunting ground for a group of Night Hags. She suggested that these creatures are likely behind the horrible nightmares we are suffering from.

 

She spoke of the adventurers who came about a year ago. A powerful wizard who rallied many Barovians behind him and marched against Ravenloft. When it came to confrontation the mob of villagers fled and there was a great magic battle between Strahd and this wizard. Lightning and fire rained down from the mountain. After a lengthy duel, the wizard was sundered and thrown from the heights of the mountain.

 

Most surprisingly we learned that our dear Janlynn likely somehow has some Vistani blood in her. The strange deck of cards that she was given from Tora were in fact Tarokka cards and Janlynn had received a strange vision from one of these cards. She asked Madame Eva to teach her how to read the cards and last night we were able to have Janlynn read the cards for us. We asked about how to help Gertruda. She was a natural. We have our very own Seer! I am so proud!

 

The cards were dealt out as they were before with the cards placed in the same manner. I will not replicate the diagram again, but I will write of her prophesying numbered as before. Please forgive my memory here as I am writing this the next day and had imbibed far too much wine last night.

1. The first card shows history. The Shepherd was drawn. This reveals the truth of our meeting with Mary, and her sharing with us the plight of Gertruda.

 

2. “This is the protection card. The Charlatan was drawn. Gertruda is being deceived by someone and revealing this truth to her will aid her.

 

3. This is the power card. The Elementalist was drawn. Janlynn saw a small castle looking through amber in an underground cavern.

 

4. This card reveals where help may be found in this matter. The Executioner was drawn. Janlynn received no reading from this card. I am unsure if this is a good or bad thing.

5. This card gives clues as to the main obstacle or enemy ahead for us. The Dark Lord was drawn. Janlynn immediately received a vision of who she knew to be the Devil Strahd. He seemed to turn and look directly at her. She was shocked and dropped this card, visibly shaken.

 

Heading off the next day at our usual late start (The nightmares resumed as expected) we followed the road west into the rugged terrain of the mountains as we ascended about the river to a huge stone bridge a thousand feet up. A view like this should be incredible, but all was shrouded in the usual clinging gray mist.

 

Beyond and out of reach was a waterfall. Normally such natural wonders fill my heart with joy, but I felt something distinctly sinister about it. We speculated that it would be quite convenient if there were a secret tunnel hidden behind that rushing curtain of water – leading directly to one of our goals – but no way to test that flight of fancy.

 

Following the road further west and up, the trees and foliage became denser as we entered a deeply forested rocky terrain. The trail continued unfailingly onward and we followed it with as much gusto as we could muster. Dark mountains, twisted trees and the heaviness of prophesy hung over us like a cloud. Even I was unable to shake the mood when we eventually came to a crossing in the road. Right there at the branching of the road sat a beautifully detailed black carriage, with two fine black horses at the head.

No driver could be seen and as we tentatively approached, the door to the carriage swung open with the sure intent of offering us (willing us; demanding us!) to experience the comforts within. Inspecting as close as we dared, we confirmed that there was nothing in the cab of the carriage either. What force opened the door? The will of the devil, no doubt.

 

This was the personal carriage of the vampyr Strahd von Zarovich, Overlord of Ravenloft and all the lands of Barovia. It was quite apparent that he knew we were in the mountains and that this was his offer to meet him at castle Ravenloft – which of course, this second trail led to. There was very little debate as we all cautiously moved on following the westward track.

Some time later we began to hear the baying of wolves and began to see a few of them gather on ledges in the cliffs above us. With our nerves frayed to the limit, and the wolf sightings becoming more frequent, we saw a small fire just off the road ahead in the trees with a dark figure beside it. Standing upon the roadway were a few very large and malicious looking wolves. Could this be Skennis, and what would that mean for our troupe?

From a distance we announced ourselves and engaged in conversation with the stranger. It was Skennis and Uphir stepped forward to be the one to dialogue with him as she had spoken to him at length previously at the Durst’s barn. Skennis would not allow the Burgomeister’s children to pass – he demanded that they return to Barovia. He wanted to make us a special offer to gain some allies in this land. He was offering us the chance to become part of his pack, to become a werewolf!

This sparked an emotional debate amongst our group. Many more wolves were gathering in the shadows and this was looking to be a battle that we would be hard pressed to win. Skennis was offering us (Beyond becoming werewolves) the chance to go backwards and avoid any battle, and some in the group thought that was the wisest choice. Others within the group, myself included, thought that we should fight Skennis and his wolves now and resolve to make it to Vallaki and refuge for our new companions.

 I cannot, and will not, speak of whom in the group wanted to follow which course of action, as it does not really matter. I will not lay judgement upon any in our troupe while debating an almost impossible decision. Both sides had strong points in the debate. I can only speak to how I felt at the time.

I felt a growing rage as I stood there with the group debating, with Skennis looking on. Death very well awaited us if we chose to fight through and continue our quest. Going back still left us at the mercy of Strahd at the time of his choosing. All of our solutions lay in front of us, not behind. Fear gripped my heart and I felt as if a bristly noose were being drawn slowly taut around my neck.

There was no right answer definitively and I suppose there never is, really. With no good choice in front of us I was forced to confront my deepest resolve. We were stuck in this place, potentially forever under the thumb of an evil overlord. I could tangibly feel and see the deflating effect this place was having on my friends. Beyond our resolve to escape this predicament, what was our first, most natural response to problems since coming here? To steadfastly and heroically fight against the evil of this place, to aid those we could, and to bring the Morning Lord’s light to this dark realm.
 

Our actions in the Death House and Barovia came from a pure place of goodness and knowledge of what was right. I strongly felt that some fate has brought my heroic friends and I here, to make a difference and perhaps lift the curse upon this land for all of these downtrodden souls. My rage built until I burst a few feet ahead of the group and screamed at Skennis, with all I could muster, to stand aside – calling him a knave and whatever other names came to my mind. I have never felt so strongly about anything, we cannot go back on our word to Ismark and the Lady Ireena. The only way to salvation was to go forward and fight the evil that lay ahead.

I realize how foolish I must have looked – this small and unassuming creature red with rage pointing down the road to an obviously more powerful foe, but it felt right somehow. I know that I am not the warrior and never will be, but these people whom I am bonded through battle with are all the most courageous and heroic beings I have ever met, or even read about. Each one is a magnificent and righteous warrior against the darkness. I am humbled to even consider myself their friend. If I, as small as I am, stood forward and defied the werewolf, perhaps my friends could find resolve in themselves.
 
As Skennis smiled and the debate continued, Ismark relented and said he would go back to Barovia. With a heavy heart I voted to break the tie and go back to the village. Once we were well away from that evil creature, We stopped and debated some more. You see, Janlynn had whispered to Ismark to pretend to relent and go back, to buy us some more time to figure this problem out. We discussed gathering more silvered weapons in Barovia.
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