Mahel, attempting to take the long way around via the Old Svalich Road, did her best not to succumb to fear. Carefully moving along the side of the road as to not attract attention, she moved with stealth and little sound. On the road ahead of her, sitting completely innocently, was a large bag. Mahel had seen and heard enough in Barovia to know that the most innocent things held horrors and traps for the unwary. Using her skeletal mage hand, she spilled out the contents… which turned out to be heaps of gold pieces! Resisting the urge to succumb to greed, she had the mage hand place the pieces back in the bag, all the while crows gathered in the nearby trees until there were dozens, if not hundreds of the black birds. She could feel the eyes of the nearby crows on her. None of them seemed friendly — none were speaking, at least. Seeing it was most likely not a good idea to take the bag from its spot, she moved on. Further down the road, Mahel spotted a woman with a long white dress heading in the opposite direction. Although Mahel avoided her as she passed by, Mahel saw her again in front of her a mile or so down the road again, exactly as she had appeared. This time, however, Mahel accidentally tripped on a root, and stumbled onto the road. “Oh hello,” the woman remarked. “I’m going to ”/wikis/vallaki" class=“wiki-page-link”> Vallaki to meet my husband." Mahel awkwardly tried to converse with the woman, asking her what her husband’s name was. “That’s funny,” the woman said wistfully. “I… I don’t remember.” Mahel suddenly saw that the woman had a dagger in her chest, her dress slowly staining red – however the woman didn’t seem to notice. “Well! Good luck! See you soon!” Mahel said, passing the murdered spirit quickly as she glided again back down the road. “I’m never leaving the party again,” she mumbled to herself.
Further down the road, Mahel heard the scream of a woman whom she then found gravely injured by the side of the road. Taking the poultices and medicinal potions from the woman’s pouch, Mahel brought the young woman back to health. The woman, named Fiona, was incredibly grateful and mentioned she was attacked. To show her gratitude she promised to let Mahel in on a secret: a way out of the mists that encircled Barovia. She took Mahel and brought her to a nearby clearing where two dusk elves were tied up and two more killed. The clearing had a small tent set up like the Vistani and she presented Mahel with the promised way out. She believed the Vistani were keeping the secrets of escaping Barovia because they loved tormenting the Barovians. She also believed that if she drank the blood of a still living Vistani she would be able to escape the mists. She invited Mahel over and attempted to slit the throats of the helpless elves. Mahel interceded and used her shocking grasp to electrocute the clearly insane Fiona. The elves introduced themselves as Hans and Franz Tomescu, who appeared very grateful and offered to take the Mahel to the nearby Vistani camp at Tser Pool. Along the way, Hans and Franz spoke about a little about their race, the dusk elves, and how the elves were punished long ago by having all the females of their race “cleansed” from Barovia. Their generation would be the last of its kind here. Their leader, Kasimir Velikov, who resisted Strahd, was someone to meet if they wanted to know more.
They continued on until they reached a crossroads – this being Barovia, of course the crossroads was marked with an empty gallows. Hans and Franz openly admitted that this place was a place of great darkness – it was where many of the females of the dusk elves were hanged by Strahd and his army. The road signs indicated the way to the Tser Falls, Castle Ravenloft, and Vallaki. Choosing their path, they turned to continue onwards towards the vistani camp. As they did so, the sound of the gallows creaking behind them drew their attention. Turning to look, they saw that the previously empty gallows now held, swinging from it, a body. To Mahel’s horror, she saw that it was her own father’s body hanging there, his open mouth croaking, “Maaaaaheeeeelllll….” The other two saw this and knew it to be an illusion. But it was too powerful an emotional trigger for Mahel. As she saw the mists from the nearby graveyard encroaching on the gallows, she rushed to it, tears in her eyes. The two dusk elves screamed a warning, but it was too late… the mists closed in on her as she reached the gallows….
Back in Mordenkainen’s cave, Ismark had fully and painfully transformed into a werewolf! Marek, consequently, freaked out and continued to pound on the door of force that separated him from his compatriots – he would not be able to take on this creature alone. Leowen waited in her chamber to hear the chime that signaled that she accomplished the riddle correctly, but instead heard nothing. The voice of the magic mouth resounded through the chamber. “Shoe? You guessed Shoe? That doesn’t even have five letters. There are clearly five letters in this answer as you have to walk… oh, never mind. I’ll give you one last chance, and then I’m going to have to light you up.” The sound of hissing gas punctuated the end of the mouth’s statement. From the smell of it, it was highly flammable. Leowen had a “thing” for fire and began to panic. From the other side of the force wall, Van Richten began to pound heavily. His muffled voice could be heard faintly, calling to her, “WWWWGGGGNNNNN!!!” Leowen made the connection and ran speedily across the tiles that spelled out “WAGON”. A chime sounded signaling that she had gotten it right and thhe doors to her chamber opened again. But the magic mouth was non-plussed that the old man had communicated the answer to her. A loud sucking sound was heard from Van Richten’s room, and then a pop. Then silence.
Freed from his room by Leowen’s answer, Ulfrik ignited the magical Sunsword and leapt into action to defend Marek against Ismark. Between the two of them, they were able to subdue him, knocking him out instead of killing him. Leowen, however, was traumatized by the suggestion that she would be immolated, and had a minor panic attack, sitting on the ground and hugging her knees, mumbling to herself. “You almost got us killed!” Temporarily relieved from the threat of Ismark’s ravenous hunger, Ulfrik chained up their wolfy companion. He noticed that his arm was itching furiously. He rolled up his sleeve and saw something quite disturbing. He wondered if it was time to tell his companions his secret…
Marek decided to explore the rest of the cave. Marek found himself facing two additional puzzles and using his intuition, was able to solve them and open several doors connecting the rest of the complex, including the ones connecting to Leowen and Van Richten. Leowen was finally able to snap out of her daze. Marek went north to attempt to solve perhaps the final puzzle, but he found the whole thing rather tedious and began to argue with the mouth, saying that he didn’t want to play the game anymore. The Mouth, his feelings hurt, shut the door to the puzzle room, and left him in there. Marek sighed, said “Fuck,” pulled out his wineskin, and started to drink heavily.
Back at the crossroads….
As soon as Mahel touched the body of her father, it melted into nothingness, fading from existence. Hans and Franz reached her and forcibly pulled Mahel away from the scaffold. Shaken from this evil image, Mahel rejoined her walking companions and made their way to Tser Pool. There the two dusk elves were rejoined with their vistani brethren who were overjoyed to see them back safe and sound although saddened to hear that two of their number had been lost. Hans and Frank thanked Mahel for returning them safely and offered a reward, as well as said that she would be welcome at the camp any time. They also mentioned that Madame Eva would love to speak to her. Mahel declined the reward saying that she had to get back to her companions as soon as she could. Saying her goodbyes, she walked past Tser Pool along the low road to the Tser Falls under the bridge a thousand feet above. Reaching the falls, and noticing the tunnel behind the falls, she went inside.
It was at that moment that Mahel entered the cave that Marek was locked inside his room. Mahel saw Ismark and Ulfeik chained up and spoke with the magic mouth. To prove that they were indeed Mordenkainen’s compatriots, Mahel drew his sigil in the sand. The mouth recognized it and turned off all the traps and force walls, freeing Marek (still drinking) and showing that Van Richten was unconscious in a room which had no oxygen. Leowen cast spare the dying which saved an almost-suffocated Van Richten. Ulfrik, who up until now was unsure as to their meaning, showed his secret to the group: tattoos on all parts of body which up until the full moon has been in common but we’re now in infernal.
Majesto flew over and translated the words that he could see on Ulfrik’s arm: castle, moon, hatred. Other words could also be seen: the name of Leowen as well as another, unfamiliar name. The tattoos appeared by themselves long ago, when he died and then was resurrected by the Dark Powers in The Durst House. There were certainly other words but it would take a thorough examination to see them all.
Marek searched around the caves and discovered Mordenkainen’s spellbook and journal. Mahel unlocked spellbook with her mage hand and found many, many spells as befitted an archmage of his status. Van Richten read the journal and felt uneasy as to what it meant…
The group thought it would be best to take a long rest in the room, leaving Ismark and Ulfrik outside and having the Mouth redo his traps in case someone or something came to seek them out before dawn. The mouth agreed as long as they would tell Mordenkainen how good of a job he did this whole time. After all, all the mouth really wanted was Mordenkainen’s love and recognition.
The group leveled up to Level 7!! And there was much rejoicing! But questions still abounded!
The spellbook was found but could it save Ismark? He was indeed a fledged werewolf! What were those new markings on Ulfrik? Will Marek ever find his shadow? Who was Leowen talking to? And will Mahel ever stay with the group?
Answers to these questions and more next week!