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Curse of Strahd [CLOSED]

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
After trading looks, Moire stands at attention and says "Luvash, we rejoice we were able to find Arabelle and seeing daughter and father reunited is all the thanks we could ask for. As my friend Luca can confirm, we came to this place a mere two days ago with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Your hospitality alone has been the greatest reward travelers like ourselves could have hoped for in Barovia. Our travels are not done, though, no more than yours are. When we must regretfully depart from your excellent company, we'd welcome any provisions you might spare for adventurers like ourselves but our greatest treasure will be the memories of the finest friends anyone could ask for in all of Barovia!"

The Paladin lifts her glass in salute to Luvash and offers a toast, saying, "To the finest friends!"
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Just as a yawn is contagious to the weary, Moire's snap to attention compels a good soldier to his feet and that is where Hircus finds himself, hand on his chest and staring into the middle distance. When he realizes where he is, Hircus loosens his stance and tries to play off the compulsory military reaction as a stretch to massage his fatigued muscles. The cleric, content with his recovery, listens to Moire as she displays her leadership skills. He also takes note of Syvis and Ina's reactions.

Hircus agrees with Moire's assertion that we expect no reward, but somewhere below the surface Hircus wants to ask for whatever gear can be spared to help us to be better equipped to deal with the Barovian devils. However, his mistrust for the Vistani helps restrain the notion to ask outright for a reward. Instead, he let's Moire's denial of a prize hang in the air as he raises a glass, "To the finest of friends." He repeats after the paladin.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid gray; padding: 10px]luvash arrigal.jpgAs Moire speaks, Luvash strokes in beard in an exaggerated pose of wise contemplation. His brother Arrigal, however, grins wolfishly at the ex-pirate's diplomacy. When Luca's name is mentioned, Arrigal turns his head back to look across the tend to the slightly older man. Luca meets Arrigal's gaze with a blank expression while Lala whispers something in his ear.

"Hrmmm," mumbles Luvash when Moire has finished, "any provisions we might be able to spare." He turns to address to people gathered in the tent. "Has anyone got a spare tinderbox, if it's not too much to ask?" A few chuckles answer back. Warming to this jest, he grips Arrigal's shoulder, stoops over, and twists his face into a mask of despair. "Brother, please, if it won't make you and your family go hungry, can you part with ... an old blanket and ... an apple?" A titter of laughter rolls through the crowd. Struggling to keep a straight face, Arrigal heaves a heavy sigh, turns his empty vest pockets out, and hangs his head in mock shame. Riotous laughter fills the tent.

"Quiet! Quiet!" shouts Luvash. "Do you think we are poor like Barovian villagers and cannot properly show gratitude?" he asks Moire. "I will take you outside to the treasure wagon and show you a chest with six hundred gold coins. You may have it! Fine jewelry! A beautiful rug! You need only say the word. Or, if what you desire is not here now, I will send Alexei to fetch it by sunrise." Alexei, the man whose face was bloodied this morning, and spent the greater part of the day out searching for Arabelle, slumps with a look of utter exhaustion.

"So," says Luvash once more, "I ask you, name your prize."[/div]
 

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
Moire smiles slyly at Luvash's parry and sets her wine cup down before spreading her hands palms out as if to show she's unarmed...and at his mercy. "I wouldn't dream of suggesting mere gold or jewelry or rugs no matter how beautiful could possibly compare with the jewel that is your daughter." Her smile widens just an inch as she warms to the bargaining, well aware of how she could follow that line of thought towards an even greater reward. But that's the thought of a Pirate.

The Paladin instead says, "That said, a chest of that size could refurbish the four of us. For my part, armor and a proper sword. My friend Ina might stand a sword as well but I'll let my friends speak for themselves. Barovia's a strange land to us; seeing us properly equipped for it could save our lives. Or at least let us risk them again, for the right cause." The implicit offer of remaining at the Vistani's service is unspoken but likely understood.
 

jfish

Junior Member
Ina watches the thinly veiled tension, wary of them accidentally offending their hosts. She'd been in this situations several times - clashing customs were always...tricky. She relaxes slightly when Moire mentions an alternative - it would be wise to accept something. Even if it would be held over them later.

"Ahh perhaps something lighter than a sword - a rapier, perhaps; I don't have as much strength as yourselves," she laughs lightly, hoping to aid in breaking the tension, "Though some armour that fits properly wouldn't go amiss," she adds, gesturing to the ill-fitting leathers she's currently wearing.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid gray; padding: 10px]vistani_Alexi.jpgFrom across the room, the young woman Lala stares daggers at Ina as she talks about a rapier. But Luvash nods vigorously at both Moire and Ina's requests. "Yes, yes, of course, Barovia is a place of trials for heroes like these who would stray from beneath our skirts," he explains to the Vistani gathered in the tent. "Alexei, note these fighting women's measurements well. You are going shopping!" Alexei squints, holds a hand in front of his face and appears to be gauging Moire and Ina's proportions with the gap between his thumb and index finger. Luvash laughs and shakes his head in bemusement.

"And you two," Luvash says, turning his attention to Hircus and Syvis. "What will you have? Also the tools of war?"


clear.png[/div]
 

Abrahms

One Thousand Club
The Elven druid watched the conversation go back and forth, each comment parried and returned with laughter, then tensed as she was suddenly dragged into the unfamiliar dance, attention brought towards her. Were she still a wolf, her tail would have been tucked as she'd try to make herself smaller -- this day had been far more than she'd originally intended when she'd set out in the morning.

Otrev's cage was once more in her grasp as she fidgeted with the metal bars, trying to think up an answer. She shook her head, "No ... I have no need for men's weapons ... I just ... I'd like somewhere safe to sleep. A nest free of thorns and vipers, away from the cold and rain." Glancing down at the small bird she added faintly, "... my home feels impossibly far away ..."
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Hircus was intent on keeping quiet and not asking anything of the Vistani. His caution was thrown aside by his manners when Luvash directly asked the cleric what he would like as a reward. The large man stuttered a quick reply, "I... I feel somewhat responsible for keep this group in one piece. It would be nice to have the tools of a healer in case we should happen upon a pack of wild wol..." He looks sheepishly at Syvis, "...animals. Bandages, salves and that sort of thing. If that is not something that you have, I could always use a better backpack or bag. This thing has seen better days." Hircus holds his gear out to show the state of his backpack. With a laugh, Hircus continues. "I am a man of simple needs. You must forgive my practical requests. I get that from my father."
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid gray; padding: 10px]archfiend-bottle small.jpg"Good!" exclaims Luvash with a clap of his hands. "So modest, but there you have it. Alexei, with me." Without further ceremony he turns and strides out of the tent. Alexei hurries behind, while the other Vistani revelers almost immediately resume their recreations. Luvash's brother Arrigal smiles to himself, sucks his teeth and goes off to join the group of gamesters around one of the other fires.

Only a few minutes pass before Luvash returns with a small wine bottle hoisted high above his head. Everyone else is silent once more as he stands to address his heroes. "I have here," he says to Hircus, "The Archfiend, a very old, very precious bottle from the Wizard of Wines. Who knows, things as they are, maybe there will not be any more. It is strong wine, sweet and fortifying. One swallow when you are sick or hurt and you are back on your feet in no time—a second swallow, and maybe you are back off your feet again." There's some strained laughter at this little joke as he holds the bottle out towards Hircus.

"Now follow me," Luvash commands and beckons the four adventurers outside. Several of the Vistani also come to see what their leader has in mind. The dark night sky is punctuated by a crescent moon visible through a gap in the clouds. Lanterns on the circled wagons cast a warm glow on the horses up here, while the elves' homes at the bottom on the hill are similarly lighted by their own lamps.

A bit father out, in the dim light beyond the elven houses, Alexei is noisily struggling with a mass of canvas and struts. Luvash's heavy hand slaps down on Syvis' shoulders, his boozy breath near. "You see?" he says, "Here is your new home for traveling, as requested. My very own, but I give it to you, and large enough for you and your friends. You will try it tonight to see how you like it. Hurry up, Alexei; they are tired and you still have your errands to run!"

"Stay with us a little longer or retire to your nest as you like,"
Luvash says. "Tomorrow morning you will have your swords and armors."[/div]
 

Abrahms

One Thousand Club
Following back outside, Syvis took a grateful breath of fresh air, away from the almost overwhelming smell of alcohol within the tent and smells of so many people pressed together in the heat of candles. The druid glanced up at the moon briefly, wondering if this strange place followed the same moon cycles -- considering everything else felt so off, she wouldn't be surprised if the next night it was suddenly a full moon in the course of one night.

At the size of the tent, the druid was interested -- she had not expected something so large, and being offered, she stepped inside, trying to wipe her feet on the damp grass before entering. The strange comfort that came with having protection from the outside made her sigh, spending the whole day on edge, trying to win over a new pack and understand unfamiliar territory had suddenly left her very tired. Fighting the desire to wildshape into a wolf and curl up in a corner, she bowed her head towards the Vistani, "Thank you very much, we will try to take care of it and maintain it." She trailed a hand along the fabric before setting herself down with the birdcage, opening it and chirping to Otrev, attempting to coax him out to investigate the space.

Looking up at the others she added, "Before I rest tonight, I will create some 'goodberries' -- I don't know if you're familiar with them, but they are healing berries that will hold for a day, and fight off hunger for a day. I'm willing to offer some to your camp as well -- if not for people then at least for any animals you have. I know from experience sometimes it can be hard to find enough to fill their bellies, and horses seem very important to your pa-- group."
 

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
Luvash's show of bringing out the excellent wine for Hircus brings a smile to Moire's face. For all that this land is a dark one, smiles have come easily to her for the past few days. There are times she marvels at that, given the flashes of memory she's experienced of her last time in Barovia are only of grim moments.

It's in high spirits that she follows the Vistani father into the night. Moire's eyes open wide at the spacious tent and she's briefly speechless. For indeed, since their exile from Vallaki (and since the revelation that the Vistani's King appears to be the party's mortal enemy), the Paladin had expected only hardship and stiff sleeping in the wilderness. Any faithful of Ilmater expected a measure of that, even welcomed it. But looking at the tent, Moire can only feel relief at the prospect of dry, sheltered slumber in the nights ahead.

"My friend, an afternoon's work feels poor recompense for your generosity. If all the Vistani are as gracious as you, then Barovia's villagers are the poorer for not seeking out your friendship." Pausing for a moment, Moire leans in to Luvash and says "We plan to visit Tser Pool to consult with Madame Eva soon. If we can carry a question for you, we'd be happy to bring its answer back the next time we're in the area."

"As for the evening, I would love nothing more than to dance until dawn. But my friends and I have endured our share of hardship today and it may be some time before we'll have the benefit of sleeping peacefully among such good friends. Give your daughter our love and good night to you."

Assuming Luvash is appropriately pleased by her praise, Moire's content to settle down with her meager possessions. "You're welcome to get some rest now," the Paladin suggests as she brings out her scarlet-stained cord. "I find my mind is active enough for the moment. Perhaps prayers to Ilmater will settle it."
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid gray; padding: 10px]Luvash declines Syvis' offer to share the magical berries, with the assurance that the Vistani want for nothing, though Syvis also detects a hint of skepticism or wariness about accepting the enchanted fruit.

To Moire's news of the planned visit to Madame Eva, Luvash nods and says, "Good. Good. I'll ask and let you know in the morning if there is anything to convey." As he wishes you a a good night, hoof-beats ring out, the sound of Alexei riding a stallion hard for the Old Svalich Road north of here.[/div]
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
The cleric takes the bottle of wine in his hands and outwardly beams with gratitude and curt nods of thanks, but inwardly Hircus immediately begins to wonder if this bottle is a curse or a blessing. He has still not decided whether he feels comfortable among the Vistani, and this bottle of wine doesn't help make his mind up. The Archfiend, of all names! In what plane does a cleric of the righteous and almighty Torm use a bottle of fiendish wine to heal his comrades? Plastered with a huge smile, Hircus nods some more and thanks Luvash for the gift and Hircus is not worthy of such a thing and, "It is a poetic name, of course. The Archfiend that is. I assume the name is not a literal description of the contents." WIth a nervous, forced chuckle Hircus examines the label on the bottle for any signs of an actual demon.

The weariness of a long, crazy day begins to weigh down the muscles in the older man's face. The tent is a welcome sight and his body responds involuntarily upon seeing a place to rest. Hircus drags himself toward the tent with only a brief goodnight to all. He does mention to Moire to wake him at midnight so he can make his prayers to Torm. Again, the cleric has missed thrww of his four daily prayers to Torm.
 

jfish

Junior Member
Ina, likewise, is visibly relieved for Luvash's offering of his tent. She thanks him - and Alexei - profusely, decidedly not reacting to Lala's look when the rapier was mentioned. It was just a sweet, albeit petty, little bonus. The elf graciously accepts the invitation to relax for the evening; she declines any further drink and instead retires to the tent, eager to take the armour off. Hopefully for the last time. Let's hope the new stuff fits better.

She sits, gently considering the rips and hasty repairs done to the various pieces of leather, humming low under her breath before she finds her target: one of the looser buckles. Careful not to damage the armour - a futile thought, really - she works the buckle loose and detaches her prize. A keepsake, of sorts. Something to fiddle with in her trance...

She spends her watch quietly, apparently deep in thought, but not averse to conversation if and when the others awaken.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid gray; padding: 10px]Nearly half the night has passed since the group settled down in the comfortable tent whose thick walls carry the lingering scent of exotic perfumes, redolent of far-off lands. Moire and Hircus have by now retired after completing their respective devotional vigils, and it is close to the time when Syvis will rouse Ina from her meditation so that she may begin her own restorative trance. The revels in the large Vistani pavilion at the crest of the hill died down a couple of hours ago and only the searching calls of the night birds and insects sound out across the still clearing. Perched at the open door of his cage, Otrev is a replica, in miniature, of Syvis at the threshold of the tent.

arrigal2.jpgWith only the slightest whisper of grass, Luvash's ever-smirking brother Arrigal is suddenly standing just to Syvis' left. The lantern he holds has a cover lowered to choke out all but the faintest wisp of light. Otrev startles and flutters back into the depths of his abode while Arrigal stands in silence, apparently gauging Syvis' response to his manifestation. Then he bows ever so slightly at the waist and speaks, at once rousing Ina from her trance but leaving Hircus and Moire deep in slumber.

"A great honor: The King graces us with his presence and wishes to meet the new arrivals. If you please, I will present you."
With his free hand, he beckons forth.[/div]
 

Abrahms

One Thousand Club
The peaceful night was welcome to Syvis as she sat watching over the others while they rested. Movement caught her attention here and there, and she longed to rest as well, but it would not do to leave the new pack unguarded. There was still an unease to the air between the groups, and perhaps not all were so keen on the people she found herself with. Collecting small blades of grass she worked at braiding them, keeping her hands busy while her amber eyes moved across her view -- then suddenly there was a man. The druid jumped slightly, tensed as she felt her nails begin to lengthen into claws as a reactionary strike only for her to manage to stop the instinct in time.

His words took a moment to sink in as she blinked -- such a strange time for their supposed king to arrive, she was surprised anyone was still awake either. Offering a gentle touch to try and soothe the small songbird, the druid replied hesitantly, "Uhm ..." looking around at the others still sleeping, at least as far as she was aware. Syvis bit her lip for a moment trying to think -- this was not something she had any clue what to do about. "The others are asleep ... I can try to wake them? I have ... never met royalty before, I worry I will ... displease him?"
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid gray; padding: 10px]"Try not to," is all Arrigal offers by way of reassurance, before gesturing towards the tent to indicate that Syvis should wake the sleepers therein.[/div]
 

Abrahms

One Thousand Club
With a faint nod, Syvis turned to the others, gently nudging their shoulders and speaking softly, "Do not panic, we're not under attack. We are being visited by a ... King to these people." She hoped her tone was neutral enough to not let Arrigal pick up on her unease. The way the group was concerned earlier she doubted this would go well.
 

jfish

Junior Member
Ina is just rousing from her trance when she feels a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes snap open and her hand is halfway to her dagger before Syvis speaks. If anything, her heart beats faster, her eyes flickering to the tent opening nervously.

"I suppose this is not...unexpected," she sighs, getting to her feet and stretching. She brushes down her clothes and pulls her belt on, double-checking daggers and picks are securely fastened to it.

Whilst the others are stirring and readying themselves, she steps outside and nods to Arrigal.

"I do hope we won't offend your king with our disheveled appearances,"
she ponders aloud, stretching her arms to loosen then up after her rest. I wonder how Tegan fared. The thought creeps, ubidden, into her head, a pang of sadness catching in her throat.
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Two warring notions enter the cleric's head when he is roused by Syvis. I could don my armor and be prepared to defend myself, but it will take some time and that could anger their king. We are not prepared to fight this devil, and besides, he is surrounded by his people. No, I will go as a mere man. I will face the tyrant of this land with only the strength of Torm's will in my hands. Hircus stands and brushes himself off then moves to push through the slit in the tent.

"It is a bit late," he looks up at the stars and then at Arrigal, "...or is it early? These stars confound me. I do not shrink from the chance for an audience with your king, but this meeting seems somewhat unorthodox. Does he always greet newcomers in the dead of night?"
 
Chapter 4

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid gray; padding: 10px]
Chapter 4: An Audience


"King Strahd does as he wishes," is Arrigal's answer to Hircus' question. "Now come with me," he says, seeing that all of the tent's occupants have risen.

Outside, the lights of the elves' houses, the Vistani wagons and the pavilion have been lowered or extinguished. The sky above has cleared from its daytime morass, revealing an expanse of brilliant stars interrupted by only a few lingering clouds. Moire cannot help but see that these are the self-same foreign stars she witnessed on first waking in that old woman's mysterious grove two days past, with the difference, however, that the troubling star that then shone so cold and pale is absent here. An vacant patch of sky lies where it formerly beckoned.

As Arrigal leads you around your tent and out across the large clearing, away from the central hillock, a stand of flickering torches comes into view. A small group is gathered there: six Vistani kneel on an elaborate rug laid before a wooden throne that was not here earlier. Hircus, Moire and Ina know at once that the person who sits on that throne is the Vistani King, the Devil, the Lord of this Land, Sachramenadies the Powdered Lover, Count Strahd Von Zarovich. The child Arabelle rests peacefully on his lap, half-asleep at this early hour. Syvis, though blessedly free of the others' visceral intimacy with Count Von Zarovich, has seen and heard enough in her brief time here to have some sense of just whom it is she stands before.

As you draw closer to the impromptu court, two of the kneeling Vistani are revealed to be the young woman Lala and the man Timbo who took such an interest in Otrev earlier. A couple of the others are also familiar from the revels inside the large tent. When you are perhaps twenty feet away, Strahd gently passes Arabelle to Lala and rises to his feet. Behind the throne, outside the light of the torches, hulking beasts seem to shift in the darkness. Syvis and Ina can dimly discern a pair of enormous wolves back there—easily the size of grizzly bears.

strahd in shadows.jpgStill kneeling, the Vistani shift to the edges of the rug, clearing the way before their king, who now stands just ten feet away. With saturnine solemnity, Strahd motions towards Arabelle with one hand. His lips part, about to make a pronouncement, but then there is the slightest twitch at the corner of his eye. A moment blossoms into a yawning chasm, into which his words vanish and are replaced by others.

"I do not know you," the ancient vampire says to Syvis, "though I sensed your arrival in Barovia."

Strahd's gaze moves on to Ina, Hircus and Moire. "But you three, I never forget a face. Moire, is it?" His eyes lock with the paladin's. "I never thought to see your face again." His nostrils flare ever so slightly, as if responding to a drifting scent. "Tell me, Moire, why are you here? What is it you have done to return?" His eyes are twin whirlpools that promise to tear the ship of Moire's soul in two and sink it in their depths. [/div]
 

Abrahms

One Thousand Club
Meekly following the group, Syvis kept fidgeting with her necklace as she carried the birdcage with Otrev. If they had to run ... she didn't want to entirely leave the small songbird behind, but if it ultimately called for it, she was slightly relieved to see Timbo -- perhaps he could care for Otrev if something ... unfortunate ... happened.

Her eyes caught sight of creatures in the dim behind the wooden throne and for a moment wished she could leave the conversation to the others and meet the new creatures -- ones she didn't think she'd seen before. She recognized features of wolves, but for them to be so large ... was strange and intimidating at the same time. Would they still smell any of her old pack on her by now? Had they maybe found some lost wolves? A cruel thought slowly worked its way to the front: what if they were what had been hunting her pack?

The wood elf shook her head slightly -- it wouldn't do to entertain such thoughts and set herself against the large wolves so quickly. They could still be allies yet, afterall: animals were much more straightforward than people, and there was a great example before her with the way this man carried himself. Though in human form, Syvis could recognize a predator, an alpha among the pack, the way all the Vistani watched his every gesture, every move, even if they did not entirely realize it.

As he passed over her, her thoughts dug for lessons decades ago -- how to interact with nobles and humans that passed through her grove's territory, and hesitantly she tried what she thought was a curtsy, dipping forward more into a bow while holding the large birdcage. Biting her lip for a moment she answered, "I am Syvis Glynrel, protector of a grove and wolf-pack far away, humble wanderer of these roads now." She tapped the birdcage lightly, "Speaker for and guardian of animals," shifting her way of speaking she began to do low growls and soft barks, speaking towards the large wolves behind the group, "I greet you, brothers of an unknown Pack, I hope your senses are sharp, fur thick, and bellies full."
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
This predicament has Hircus recalling to his military training. He has never landed himself so deep within the enemies clutches, but he has been witness to the taking of prisoners of war. The knights he served with were a noble lot that did not mistreat or interrogate an enemies soldiers. They would however, hold them for ransom until a desperate noble or rich family would pay for their release. These men varied in their behaviors from wilting and pleading to outright defiance. The prisoners that fared the best were those that carried themselves with confidence and respected the station of their captors. This is the tact that Hircus chose to employ.

The vampire did not address Hircus, so the cleric chose to stand at parade rest and direct his attention toward Moire, who he so as their mutely nominated leader. Until he is addresses, he will remain as he is, chin held high, but not so high as to signify defiance.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid gray; padding: 10px]Syvis' words to Strahd fall on deaf ears; his concentration on Moire is absolute—from outside it's unclear who is the greater captive. The enormous wolves in the shadow of the throne, however, take immediate notice of the druid's speech in the common tongue. Their ears prick up and the beasts slowly advance until Hircus too can see the massive muzzles at the edge of the torchlight.

When Syvis slips into Sylvan to address the wolves directly, deep, guttural rumblings of agitation and curiosity answer back. Vistani eyes widen at the exchange. Arabelle shakes her head, blinks and looks sleepily back to where the wolves stand.

Suddenly, Arrigal is by Syvis' shoulder. His lantern is gone and the hand that held it now rests on the hilt of his sheathed sword. He looks to Strahd, but the vampire is still lost in his engagement with Moire. Silently, Arrigal's blade slides an inch out of its scabbard as his eyes find Syvis' throat. But the wolves grunt and step back into the darkness and, exhaling, Arrigal releases his grip. "Fool," he whispers in Syvis' ear. "You stand before a king and you court cupbearers?"
[/div]
 

Abrahms

One Thousand Club
Seeing the reactions of the humans, Syvis realized she'd gone too far -- but what could she do? Animals understood her one way or the other, the only way to completely prevent it would be to stay silent and then likely be accused of rudeness ... though the King seemed to ignore her anyway.

The Arrigal man would make a leopard or tiger proud with the way he managed to approach so quietly, always just out of eyesight until the last moment. The druid made a point to remember that, it was twice now he'd gotten the drop on her and it was not a comfortable sensation to be toyed with in a sense. Syvis attempted another bow, replying, "I apologize ... I didn't know. I only wished to greet everyone who came with your King ... I'm unfamiliar with expectations for such things. Where I come from, even the beasts of leaders are due their respect."
 

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