The Tree’s have Eyes

werewolf2Bounding over roots and holes, sneaking through logs and hollows, Trojan moved at a quick pace, the trail was still strong despite the long passing of time. Hohenhiem  worked hard to keep up, but the only one who could truly keep pace was Ilaryon, and he doubled checked the trail every chance he got, he would briefly catch faint impressions of small feet in the dirt or mud two steps here, three there, then they would vanish for a moment. Or they appeared to vanish, here in the dark Svalich woods, it seemed either no one traveled or everyone did, sometimes its seemed tracked crossed and zigged,  but it was hard to tell exactly how old they were, it was a wonder he could find the girls’ tracks, thankfully they were much smaller then the rest. Finally the determined mutt slowed his pace, he came to a small , peaceful clearing in the woods. The grass here swayed gently in the wind, the sound of small night insects chirped and the ever-present full moon cast calming shadows of the grim world around them, it was like pocket of bliss in nightmare they were currently engulfed.

Trojan suddenly stopped, in the center of the grove he barked but Hohenhiem’s spell had Already warn off, the message was clear either way though, the trail ended here. Ilaryon moved to confirm the suspensions, indeed the trail ended. The four were at first let down, but they began to marvel at the place they found around them, Andareta found a strong felled log, and for a time her and Hohenhiem sat there watching the lighting bugs fly in the pale light. Ilaryon marveled at the beauty of the live game of the area, deer, birds squirrels and other creatures, whom he had all but forgotten now roamed around this peaceful place. Zara, simply walked the entire grove searching for something, she looked excited every time a turned rock reveled some strange unknown bug, or when she found glowing mushrooms new things were exciting and her mind raced with the possible uses for all of the strange curios she found.

After a short time the party rejoined, and regain their sense of purpose this was a nice break but they sought a missing girl, and now had now leads. “We have to find her, but I think this proves my point, the vampire took her! what was his name Stradh? I think” Andareta started off. “We can’t know that, but I think its safe to say there’s nothing more to learn here, as peaceful as it is…” Ilaryon noted, as he gestured around the grove, it was clear the idea of leaving pained him. “I agree” Hohenhiem added “Besides there has to be more information about this devil character in town, it was a god effort but perhaps this girl is truly lost”  Zara simple nodded in approval, the adventurers were not ready to give up, but it was clear this place we of no further use to them.

As one would expect, the Ranger, Ilaryon first heard the men approach, a rustle of the grass, the snapping of branches whom ever it was, either had no regard for the forest or wanted to be heard. His wood elf ears almost stood on edge as they cross the threshold in to the grove, from every direction he heard them, this was indeed deliberate. It was Zara who first noticed them with her eyes however, it is typical of a drow to be alert for treachery, six men circled the group, and as they grew closer each member reached for their weapon of choice, Hohenhiem gripped his longsword, and Ilaryon the two blades at his hips,  Andareta and Zara reach for this crossbows, they knew these men were not friends.

The Six encircled them were dressed in petty rags and bore no weapons or even shoes, despite this their stance was threating and the four adventures stood in a solid circle facing them. “Please you have to help us, we’ve been lost for days and there are some terrible creatures in the forest!” Andareta and Zara both went to speak, but Zara won out “We haven’t seen anything out here all night, in fact we’ve been looking for someone”

The man at the tip of the pack, the closet to her spoke back, it was hard to understand through his thick accent, and equally think beard, in fact all the men wore thick patches of facial hair, and their bodies seems just as coated in the stuff. ” Well we haven’t see none else out here, we were taken seen, we think by servants of that devil, they crashed on the road and our cage was broken open, we ran for it. Now ere stuck out here could you at least point the way to Vallakai for us?”

Now Andareta responded, and the two dark figures shared a glance, “we haven’t a clue where Vallakai, or whatever is, now why are you out here again? because slaves don’t try to trap the only help they’ve found all night!”

Again the Gruff, bearded voice answers, “I suppose you’re right, we’ll have to work on that for next time, eh?” He took a pause as him and the other men all shared looks. “Were really here look for dinner tonight” As he finished, he fell onto the ground screaming in pain, and the other men fell around them in similar fashion. The dark hair that covered their bodies grew and grew along with the shouts of pain and terror, blood spewed from elongated legs and arms, all around them now stood large lupine creatures, which glissaded in the moon light. From deep in the gullet of the monsters rang that same high pitched cry which had chased them through the roads, these were the monsters lurking, and they had found their prey.

(Photo Credit: Tribaity.com)

Advertisements

Mad Mary’s Melancholy

Mad Mary’s Melancholy

Mournful sobbing filled the streets, like a slow moving artic wind, everyone the sobs touched felt chilled and removed the natural world. Only Andareta stood strong against the laments, her keen ears did not hear just the sadness, not only despair, but she recognized a women in distress. Not a common trait for a teifling, but she felt compelled to seek out the source of melancholy cries. She bolted off into the dark streets seeking the women, and it was a stroke of luck the rest were broken from their addled shock to follow her, even here in the streets, with the break of that bleak dawn those dark claws of mist swirled around them, in every alley, by every door, covering every window mist and fog pervaded every inch of the place and hid secrets darker then that black night they traveled in. Andareta stood motionless as a the building she looked at, somehow the cries seemed quitter now, even though everyone knew this was the source. The Structure itself was unimpressive, a small wooden shack, with the same boarded up windows. However it felt all together older and more disheveled. The mist clung to this place which gave it almost in unworldly feel, and if you listened closely the echo of even greater sorrows could be heard.

“This is it” Ilaryon said softly as he approached behind Andareta. She already knew, regardless of the urgency or her need to help this women, she felt the heavy sorrow here, a small glimpse into what pervades the entire underpinning of the place, despair does not make a good traveling companion, but they all knew looking at his house, they would not escape it in this place. When the rest of them arrived they steeled themselves, again it was Andareta who first moved to open the door, which she found strangely slightly ajar. Inside the conditions were not much better then outside, in fact many would they were worse, all of the furniture was splintered and played across the room. It appears the remnants of it all were used to board up the windows, and until recently the door. Boards sit to the side ripped of, and smeared with blood. across the room in a corner sits a depressed, shambling mound of a women. The moans and cries got louder as Andareta turned her focus to the women, it is her despair that attracted her, but seeing this now, she almost turned away. It seemed this time, even her human half couldn’t find the compassion and resolve to help this women. As she began to exit the cries stopped, a soft broken voice spoke to her from that dark corner. “Please, you have to help me”, “No one has even come this far since It happened, its my daughter, please!” Hohenhiem and Ilaryon entered the house now, Andareta stood frozen only a few feet into the doorway. ” What happened to her?” she replied.

“I do not know!” she exclaimed angrily “ever since her father died in those cursed woods, I have made it a point to know where she is always, she never leaves the house, and now she is gone!” She returned to lamentation after this, and fell into a kind of trance. ” Can you tell us anything more? or perhaps where she might go?” Andareta asked the disheveled women but her cries only grew louder and it was plain she would be of no more help. Hohenhiem was across the room, where he found a pile of rags and cushions, a bed he presumed. lost in the sheets was a small doll, it looked misshapen and weird, missing one eye, where a small “x” was stitched in its place. However, it still had a distinct stare that made the Paladin feel even more uncomfortable in this place, around the small doll sat a sackcloth dress, obviously made by someone with little skill, perhaps even a small child. Sewn into the seem is a warn and frayed but legible tag, that reads “Is no fun Is no Blinsky!””I think I’ve found her bed, and some strange doll, but nothing here tells us where she could have gone” Hohenhiem told the others as they searched the rest of the one room home. Outside they spoke, slightly more freely now that they were away from the already distressed ears of the mother.

“I bet it was that devil, Strahd?” Andareta started off, she said it with a conviction, “How else would she just disappear, who knows what he’s capable of!” “But, we can’t know that, it sounds like she’s been stuck there her whole life, maybe she just left?” Ilaryon rebutted “Not it was Stradh!” Andareta replied, “I know it was, and we can save her, lets go to that castle, go and stop him” she continued. “I’m not quite sure that’s the best idea” Zara spoke up, but it was obvious the others agreed, “like you said we don’t even know what he’s capable of” Hohenhiem embraced Andareta, “What about Trojan, he might be able to smell where she went” he looked around, and got looks of agreement. With that it was decided and the group set out to find their wagon, parked just at the entrance of town. There sat Lia, checking inventory. Their pseudo-butler and professional chief, Alfred had started a fire to cook, and dancing around the two wagon horse was a mastiff, “Trojan!” Hohenhiem called, and the dog came running. Straight to Andareta, the two played and pawed at each other for a few moments while everyone else waited, sharing glances of either amusement or boredom. Hohenhiem constrained focusing on Trojan, now he felt more in tune with nature, he could hear the leaves and feel the wind. “Trojan, we need you to find this girl” he said as he produced the misshapen doll, a few stiff later the mastiff looked at him, and barked twice before he ran into the dark Salavich woods that surrounded them. Hohenhiem however did not hear the barks to him Trojan sounded like a deep voiced, and throaty man “She’s in the woods, keep up!”.

Photo Credit (WoTC Curse of Strahd Source book pg.44)

All Roads lead to….

All Roads lead to….

Stanimir laughed and shook his new coin purse at the group as they walked away covered in that pale moon light. “He would get pleasure out of swindling us, no way a map of this place is worth 25gp, I bet we can find one in Barovia for 5!” Zara exclaimed as they walked.

” Well either way we know where were going now, but do we leave tonight? it’s always more dangerous at night, more animals lurking about” Ilaryon asked, but the entire group looked around, hoping someone else would speak up. “Yes we have to leave now, I can’t stand it here for another second, besides would it even be safe to stay here? I feel like the longer were here the more these people hate us!” Andareta exclaimed as she shook her hand, she clearly had some strong objections to what the others were thinking. “Honey, they don’t hate us” Hoheniem said as he took her gently into his arms, “We’re outsiders in a camp of misfits, they don’t trust anyone, Madam Eva gave us her blessing simply by inviting us, her people won’t harm us” he continued. “No, maybe it comes down to that I just don’t want to be here! I won’t stay!”Andareta responded back. “I agree, something about this place… these people, I don’t like it either, besides it doesn’t look like I’m making much money here” Zara interjected as she began packing up her wagon, hey absent minded assistant Lia helped but as usual wasn’t much help. The two men looked at each other, from the looks on their faces, they agreed, It was time to leave, even if it was only because the women were.

With their belongings squared away they group sat down to look at the map, It looked detailed enough, but Zara still had a few comments to make it its quality, It showed a road that connected all three of the towns of Barovia, and the dreaded castle that loomed not far north of their current position. The Old Salavich Road, formed a highway, it went east to the town of Baroiva, and then onward to the edge of the domain. If you followed it west it hugged the curve of a mountain in the south, Mount Ghakis, which peaked south of the map’s border. Continuing west on the Salavich road, brought you to a fork, in which one path cut back to that dread castle, and the other to a town called Vallaki, following that brought you to the city of Krezek. All of this was a mystery to the four adventures, none of the cities sounded familiar, except Barovia, and the Natural lakes and mountains were all foreign. It was odd, when they met these Gypsies, near the Triboar trial outside the city of Phalandever, everything seemed as normal as it could be given the circumstances, and they knew well the areas around there, in fact the had a rich caches of maps and books of the area. So that when Zara check them as they traveled along on the Salavich Road. None of these place on the new, gypsy, map were mentioned. But it only took a day until they had reached this new place, how could they have never even heard of it?

“Where, Exactly are we headed?” Asked Von Hohenhiem as he sat next to Ilaryon at the front of the cart, it seems they were also stuck on first watch. “Well” the ranger responded “We’re not really sure, but if we take this short route here, we’ll make it to the main road, from there I was thinking the town of Baroiva, it’s the only place we really know about, and Madam Eva did suggest we check it out” Ilaryon continued on about the merit of his plan until they reached the Salavich road, by then Hohenhiem was convinced. The wagon started East, and as soon as the back wheels hit that ancient dirt, the Howl of those creatures in the forest started up again. “Have you any idea what beast that is? it seems to follow us when the moon shines” Hohenhiem asked, his hand resting on the glowing long sword in his lap. After a moment on concentration Ilaryon gave a gesture of frustration, ” I cannot figure it out exactly, it sounds like a wolf, or bear, but not quite, I’ve tracked a lot of strange things in my day, but whatever this is, I have not seen it before” “Well whos to say what it is, before now, we didn’t even know this place existed. At least it wasn’t on any of our maps, or in any of out books, maybe these creatures are new as well, as long as we can kill it, I don’t much care” Hohenhiem replied. After that, they sat in silence for a while, contemplating what ever is in the Salavich woods that now surrounds them.

Day was breaking as the wagon groaned near the first buildings of the huddle of shacks called Barvia.It was the sun that let them know day had come, but rather the absence of the strange sounds in the woods around them. Things got brighter but only barely, it seemed day wasn’t much different from night in the dark and depressed land. Every house looked like a warn pile of old boards nailed together, except for the doors, which had a surprisingly strong and clean character about them, most windows were boarded shut, and in almost every home the barking of dogs seemed constant. The wind sounded hard and heavy, but as the adventurer’s disembarked from the wagon, the sound cleared up and it was obvious gust and storms were an infrequent occurrence. The Sounds was a low, heavy, depressed sobbing, it floated through the streets as if coming from everywhere, and yet nowhere. The Few villages out didn’t seem to notice it, but Andareta knew it was that of a women’s voice, someone was alone and defeated.

(Photo Credit: BoardGameGeek)

Dead Men Walking

Dead Men Walking

Everyone is the small crammed wagon sat quietly while the light of that one table candle flickered around. Shadows danced across the decorative and fringed pillows and cushions that lined the room. The thick silence was final broken when Zara finally found the question they were all looking for. “Where is Strahd? we’ve heard so much about him, but where is he from?”

It took a long time before the frail women at the other end of the small round table spoke. “He stays in the castle on the cliff, Far above the village of Barovia, where it cast a shadow of fear that stretches across this entire land” she paused for a moment, to inspect the four adventures across from her. She was a wise women, and knew no warning would spurn the four youngsters. “I would not advise it but if you seek the devil, Castle Ravenloft is where you should look, If you do seek him, check first in the town of Barovia, someone there may know more of what you yet seek”

She said that last word with a hint of exhaustion ” Please, I’ve done all I can for you now, and this has been a tiring exercise, whatever you do remember the prophecy or the devil will claim you”

Madam Eva shirked back into the mass of pillows behind her, and it almost seemed like the already dim light flickered into an even less luminous flame.

The visitors each shared a look, and Andareta was the first to take leave of the wagon. Outside the group was met with that same bright colored gypsy, his stripes and flairs were almost dizzying. However he was beginning to become a familiar sight his short brown hair topped with what looked like a squishy red hat, those sharp storm grey eyes and his his bare feet were becoming more welcoming every time these strangers saw him, soon they thought they might even discover his name. “See, I told you Madam Eva would answer your questions!” he said with a grin. Andantra give him a look of pure frustration, as she threw he hands up, “all she really did was give us more questions! well that and tell us about how were all going to die!” Von Hoheniem moved to consul her “Honey, It alright you heard her we should go to Barovia see what we can find there, the gods have not completely forsaken this place” It was always interesting to see these two lover quarrel, Zara and Ilaryon knew better then to interfere with the Teifling and her Paladin lover. “Ha!” the gypsy screamed out “You must be one of much faith, your kind do not last long here, the only true god we have is the devil, and he is far from merciful” Ilaryon saw the chance and took it, “Gypsy! your fortune teller told us of the town of Barovia but as we do not know this land we need a guide, will you bring there?” The gypsy replied in lock step as if he anticipated the question ” My name is Stanimir, not Gypsy, elf!” after this he stared a Ilaryon for a moment, “and yes I can bring you to Barovia, in the shadow of the castle, we can even take my wagon, if you are willing to pay… say 100 gold?” His jovial eyes and dancing bells almost turned sinister at this remark, and everyone could sense he truly meant business. ” It is dangerous to travel so close to the castle, who know what of the devil’s playthings are loose there?, besides I hear tell he visits a women of Barovia often” Zara was quick with her counter offer, a business women her self, he subordinate  Lia had been plying baubles I the camp since they arrived. “50 Gold” she spouted, “It may be dangerous but were are here to protect you” Stainmir raised his hand in objection, “This is not a game dark elf, it is 100 gold, or I do not guide you, any others here will offer the same price, we do not work for less then our skills are worth” The adventurers then searched through their respective coin pouches, Together they each held out in a circles 25 gold,

“We have enough” said Ilaryon, “But is it worth it?” Zara Replied, “Fuck it! we need a guide” Andareta retorted, ” but I’m not playing anymore then this” she continued. The entire group looked at Hoheniem, “No” he replied we can follow the roads, we’ll make it somewhere and somewhere has cheaper guides” The group broke from the huddle, “Stainmir, we will find Barovia on our own” said Andareta, she stood ready for a counter offer. “I see” the light haired gypsy replied, he reached into a pouch behind him and produced a small piece or parchment, folded into a simple square, “Guides are expensive, maps on the other hand are quite a bit cheaper, it will be much easier to navigate if you have this” “And I suppose that’s a 100 gold too?” Zara asked with a hint of sarcasm at the end.” Why no my dear, only 50 gold for the map, all the other adventures I’ve sold it too didn’t have a problem with the price” Stanimar replied, with a smile a smooth as think honey. Zara already had a reply ready at “Other adventures” ” used goods, Stanimir 25 gold, take it or leave it, we’ll get there either way” Stanmir looked away for a moment, and turned back, “for dead men walking you all sure are a pain, here 25 gold for the map, I hope you last longer then the last group and try to avoid getting blood on it” he sneered as he handed the map over and snatched a hand full of coins. As Stanimir walked away you could almost see the mist swirling around him, as if those wicked claws of night and fog were reaching out to grab him. The mist looked even more pale in the light of the full moon, this was their first night in this strange haunted land, but something told all for of them, that moon would be their only true companion every night.

(Photo Credit Pintrest)

 

 

 

 

The Woeful Tale of Durgarn-hur

4e_dragonborn
(Photo credit )

Durgarn-hur or Fikli Ir

Deep in the heart of Dwarven mines lies creatures not for men to know, we have yet to see if Durgarn-hur is one of these beast.

I met him under the most normal circumstances, and yet I know it was the gods at work, to what end they send him, I do not know. It was in the Maiden’s Bloody Heart, a tavern I frequented at the time that we met, that the monster of a man simply sat at the stool next to me. He stands something like 6 feet high, and grabs the room with his impressive visage, gleaming white scales contrast the strained and warn leather that clings to him. Perpendicular jagged and stained fragments of metal thrust from his figure like wicked claws grasping for something not there. A deep red cloak rest around his neck, and drapes far below his waist, stopping just shy of his leather clad ankles, which are adorned with tribal feathers and beads. His Reptilian face is scarred and battered, covered in marks from a thousand encounters with bad luck, but his deep blue eyes seem endless, and when one looks upon them too long, they feel the chill of a deep, dead winter’s night. Around his hands sat two sets of heavy brass cuffs trailing from each, warn and rusted linked chains hung, dangled. When they rang it sounded like a melancholy procession filled the air around him. This is the creatures that sat just one stool over from me, this was Durgarn-hur. I never will know what compelled him that day, and that is again another reason I believe it work of the gods. For there is little chance he knew who I was. After the initial fear had subsided, I took it upon myself to begin the most life changing exchange I have ever had.

“You must be new here, I would remember a face like your’s” I said,

“Aye, it would seem I am a new stone in the pile” He replied in an unbelievably thick accent I could only perceive as that of a dwarf. This was not the first nor last time Durgarn-Hur would surprise me.

“Do yer’av anything stronger here, or should I just buy the whole cask?”

“I wouldn’t know, I always drink this same cheap stuff, your accent, it sounds .. dwarven?” I replied unconfidently as I waved the bartender over.

“My past isn’t a light subject, laddie, but if yer buy the cask, i’ll tell it to ya, on the stone’s oath” He replied as finished his second drink since he arrived.

I knew it was surely insane, no matter how good one story is, it is still after all a story, and he was so eager to tell it, it couldn’t literally be worth it weight in gold, but that is what he asked. If I had not known the bartender as well as I did, I wouldn’t have done it either, but I knew I could get a fair price. That little thing at the back of my head tugged at the thought perhaps this was a story worth hearing.

“Done”, I replied as I grabbed the bartender, to arrange terms, That was the only time I saw Durgarn-hur surprised.

“Ah well, I deals I deal I suppose, beside what’s the point in living a tale if you don’t get to tell it, In the mines, each dwarf’s story is recorded in stone so it will last forever, Mine however will live through you I guess.”

The Following is his tale, as best as I could record it, Some of it may be fuzzy, it wasn’t until halfway in I thought it truly worth recording, and by then so much had happened. He stayed in the spot all night, and if I had moved I thought I might loose this forever. The most fascinating tale I’ve ever heard from a stranger.

It was many years ago for us, but to dragon kin, times moves slower. He awoke in small nest made of straw and sticks, and remembers the warmth of the fire, something he would never forget. Staring back at him were two creatures, each of them had large ruddy cheeks, and long dark rivers of hair that flowed from their heads to their waste, they appeared more intricate in the middle, and one was clasped with shiny metals. The Creatures shouted and screamed at Durgarn. He however could not understand the reason, or their intent. More of the things came running into the stone room, shouting and dancing, it was a terrifying sight, but what he remembers most was that cracking fire, and its extreme, oppressive, titanic waves of heat, they spurned him, and in a flash of white he scurried across the room. This is the first Durgarn-hur’s terrible memories and the one that haunted him in the night.

Time passed, again, time feels different for the dragons, and he stayed under the dark stones of the dwarves for far to long. His next memories were after he had grown, he learned the language of the creatures that imprisoned him there in the granite vaults, with cyclopean walls, Dwarves they were called and Durgarn-hur was he. Placed in chains, he worked for the things, toiled on their machines, and with their metals, he helped forge masterpieces and mend the un-mendable, it was the only enjoyment he would find deep in those stones. One day Durgarn fell upon his worst of unlucky encounters. He asked one of the dwarves, why he was called Durgarn, and why he worked all day while others sat idle. This Infuriated the dwarves, who began yelling at at Durgarn, he however  did not yet understand what they were entirely saying, or why they were attacking him. One dwarf slashed him across the face with a shard of metal, this is how he got his first scar. From as he says, “an encounter with bad luck”.

From this day forth, Durgarn learned two lessons, to never question your superiors, and to fight when attacked. The Former would save his life, the latter, win his freedom. Durgarn-hur, was worked the next day, as hard as ever. Then he was gathered and brought deep into the mine, to a place he cannot forget, even in his more euphoric dreams. The Carved walls of the pit were to clean to climb, and circler design prevented any shimming up in corners. But Durgarn, had little time for either activity, sitting opposite of the young dragon kin, was a large beast, with razor like tusk and wild eyes, The creature stamped his hooves and charged. A wild squeal was loosed, and Durgarn knew, if he wanted to avoid another scar, he had to act fast. His mind however as a jumble, he could hear a thousand foreign words roaring around him, the wild cry charging at him. That and the raging fire, of very first day, the crackling of the wood, and the oppressive heat of the flames. He re-focused barely in time. Dodging the beast at the last moment, his scales tightened, and his cold winter eyes focused on the beast. As it crashed into the thick stone wall an even louder noise was loosed. Blood splayed all across the wall, and the beast fell silent. Everyone in the arena sat still, even Durgarn was in awe. He slowly approached the beast, and upon inspection realized when I had crashed into the wall, its tusk splintered, and falling back into itself, pierced the beast heart and killed it. Durgarn had finally had an encounter with good luck. He reached down and removed a large shard of the tusk. He held it in his thick fingers, and looked at the crowd. Durgarn couldn’t understand much, but from the roars he gathered, he wasn’t suppose to live. To him, it felt good to defy the odds, It was a feeling he would chase for the rest of his life.

After that night, Durgarn never saw a full nights rest, only times when he won in the area faster then others, and got just a few hours of rest. This in time was alright for the dragon kin, he lived on the excitement, and the odds were never in his favor. He fought more animals until the dwarves grew truly bored of him. They began to pit him against beast of the underdark, monster of an arborous nature that even he refuses to speak of. Finally they fought him, and in time he learned their ways. Even in his eyes earned the respect of some of the more, liberal dwarves. This, eventually won the dragon his freedom, and his right to bear the name Filik Ir, the Freed One. Durgarn remained in that dwarves mine for a short time, but he knew his time would come again, when those small dark monsters would force him to fight again. He left those stone vaults, and angry creatures behind. His tale would not be recorded in the stone hall of lore the dwarves kept. It would be song, by the bards of waterdeep, and by the children who hope against hope to escape an “Encounter with bad luck”

–Tale from the Journal of Kelvos Darkeyes, Traveling bard

Never trust a Gypsy

Never trust a Gypsy

The adventurers stood still, while the question hung in the air. Something about the cramped wagon, with that lonely candle which mixed both the all to familiar darkness and the bright colors of thoses gaudy gypsy decorations, it made them question why they were even there. Something that had not happend since they arrived in this strange land. “Yes” croaked the old crone, “I am the one you seek, the one who has your answers, that is why you’ve come?” Her ancient eyes studied the teifling, “Andareta, the warlock, summoner of demons, deceiver of the flames”, Madam Eva then turned to the metal clad Paladin, “Von Hohenhiem, the ancient, Spring Warden and lover of lies.” This instantly drew a reaction from the guest, they suddenly realized this was not just an old women who was revered for her age. Her head turned again and locked eyes with drow who sat in the back, watching every move ” Zara, weaver of magics, and lover of wealth, defiant of her people” with this she trailed to the elf, “and you Ilyrion, Spring Warden, Hunter of monsters, master of thorns.”
” and I am Madam Eva, I know why you have come, but I do not know why he has brought you here” her shaking voice trailed into the shadows, while mist curled around the windows of the wagon.

” The land of Barovia is cursed, and the devil Strahd is the source” at the mention of that name, the old gypsy’s voice grew strong and powerful as if a sense of fear brought on the requirement of extra efforts to concisely relay the information, or perhaps confidence  welled inside her, confidence that her audience was now fully listening.

” no one enters or exits this land without his knowledge and consent, and why he sent for you for you I cannot fathom. However I sense, perhaps you could heal this place. My faith in the gods is little here, but the Morninglord does sometimes work his miracles.” Madam Eva looked down at her table, there, next to the candle, sat a round glass ball about the size of fist propped on four ornate claw like feet. Inside, mist swirled and vague shapes danced about. Von Hohenhiem, the man of faith, stared into that crystal ball. Inside the fog cleared, and the sky above a dark castle broke open, a blazing sun rose high in the sky, and the shadows of the castles high peaks dominated the small village below.

Zara, the drow, spoke up first, ” Who is the Devil Strahd? ”

” Strahd was a man, who’s luck was terrible, he now blames the people, and the land for his fate. He rules this land, but only in name, and through fear, if any of his subjects even knew who he truly was, they would leave this place at any cost”

“And you want to stop Strahd?” Zara asked

“Strahd, is not all bad” Eva said, as her voice trailed and her eyes gazed across through those dirty windows. “But he is lost, and his people suffer, he has brought you here, perhaps for his own enjoyment, or for other reasons that I do not know, but I can help you”

“You’re coming was foretold, long ago, in the vague prophecies of my people, perhaps we should look into you’re future?”

“Yes” Zara replied, clearly piqued at the offer, the others were just as interested.

Madam Eva reached into a chest that sat to her side, and removed a small velvet bag. From inside she produced a set of wooden, ornately carved cards she shuffled them in her hands for a moment, and set the stack on the table.

” one of you must shuffle them, go until they sit right in your hands” she said, as her eyes fixed deeply on Andareta.  “you my child, take the cards”

Andareta reached out with inferno touched hands, and grasped the set of cards. They where surprisingly heavy, even though they were no larger then common cards. She shuffled them, and all five of them sat in near silence, while the wooden cards clanked together like a old loose door banging in the wind. After a short time, the teifling stopped, he cards simply sat right, like the final piece of a puzzle, it simply felt right.

Madam Eva knew, she did not even seem to register Andareta had stopped. “good, now place five cards, in a cross and we will begin to see your fates” There sat a small cross of five cards. An ornate picture of that crystal ball was carved into the back of each card.

Madam Eva reached across the small table, and flipped the first card, “This card will tell of history, knowledge of the ancient will help you better your enemy” her voice took on a sinster quality as a picture of mad man, screaming whist he sat shackled. Behind him burned a structure with an impressive visage, burning wildly while smoke trailed into the distance. ” hmmm, the Anarchist” as Eva spoke, her eyes glassed over, and in that same mysteriously quiet voice she greeted them with ” I see walls of Bones, a chandelier of Bones, and a table of Bones – all that remains of enemies long forgotten.”

The trance she entered wavered a little, but only long enough to reveal the face of the next card. Carved into the wood was a wild women, dancing around the cauldron bellowing a mountain of smoke. “This card will tell of a powerful force of protection, a holy symbol of great hope, you must search for the crypt of a wizard ordinaire. His staff will be your key”

Again, as she set the card down, Eva returned briefly from whatever misty place she visited, but before long, she produced another card face, and another piece of the future. This card showed a lonely, worried women, who clutched her staff as shepherded her flock into the mist.”This is a card of power and strength, it tells of a weapon of vengeance; a sword of sunlight, to find it you must find the mother- she who gave birth to evil”

This time, Eva’s trance did not fade she swiftly moved to the next card, the bottom of the cross, as she revealed the saintly image of a women, her hair in buns, dressed in an ornate gown, light radiates behind her as if good followed her every step. “This card sheds light, it will show you the one to help you greatly in your battle against the darkness, and it is Evil’s bride whom you seek!”

Madam Eva’s voice rose as the last notes of the words left her throat, her hand quivered over the last card, the cross was almost complete it simple missed a center, a heart. “Your Enemy is a creature of Darkness! whose powers are far beyond mortality, this card tell us where you will find the monster!” her hands moved now quickest of all, The card’s face was grotesque dungeon scene, where chains hung from the ceiling, and only the small light that shown from behind cell bars offered any hope. “He lurks In a dark Hall of Bones, down deep in the pit of his castle”

There the five cards sat, a cross of confusion and mysticism, the Mad man Anarchist, the powerful Evoker, the lost Shepherd, and the naïve Innocent, at the center of it all the Donjon, the pit of bones. It created a sight that burned deep in the outsiders for a long time to come. While Madam Eva sat sunken down, warn from peering into what will be.

(Photo Credit Pinterest)