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Old Jun 20th, 2020, 03:37 PM
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Knights of Barovia

Off to Vallaki:
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Rolling thunderclouds cast a gray pall over the land of Barovia. A deathly stillness hangs over the dark woods, which are patrolled constantly by Strahd's wolves and other servitors. The evergreen trees of the Svalich Woods climb the sides of the mountains that enclose the valley. The largest of these peaks is Mount Baratok, with its snow-covered cap and rugged slopes. Baratok's slightly smaller twin, Mount Ghakis, is mostly bald with tufts of trees here and there. Between these two mountains stands Lake Zarovich, which is fed by streams of ice-cold water pouring down the face of Mount Baratok. On the south side of the lake rests the town of Vallaki, enclosed by a palisade. West of the two mountains, atop a hill, stands the Abbey of Saint Markovia, around which the Barovians built a walled village named Krezk. Between Vallaki and Krezk lie the ruins of Argynvostholt, the fallen bastion of a knightly order called the Order of the Silver Dragon, wiped out by Strahd and his army. East of the mountains lies the village of Barovia, shrouded in mist and bereft of walls and defenses. The dark silhouette of Castle Ravenloft looks down on this village from its perch atop a one thousand-foot-high column of rock known as the Pillarstone of Ravenloft.

The inhumanly cry of a murder of ravens shatters the eerie silence overhead. A lowered drawbridge of old, shored-up wooden beams stretches across the chasm, between you and the archway to the courtyard. The chains of the drawbridge creak in the wind, their rust-eaten iron straining under the weight. From atop the high walls, stone gargoyles stare at you out of their hollow eye sockets and grin hideously. A rotting wooden portcullis, green with growth, hangs above the entry tunnel. Beyond this location, the main doors of Ravenloft stand open. A rich, warm light spills from within, flooding the courtyard. Torches flutter sadly in sconces on both sides of the open doors.

You have been summoned by the General for a special mission, likely another fruitless one, as it has been for the past one hundred years but you must answer the call. As you enter the courtyard of the castle, dismal rain begins to fall, lightning routinely lights the sky, followed by peals of thunder that make the castle shudder. Thick, cold fog swirls in this courtyard. Sporadic flashes of lightning lance the weeping clouds overhead as thunder shakes the ground. Through the drizzle, you see torch flames fluttering on each side of the keep's open main doors. Warm light spills out of the entrance, flooding the courtyard. High above the entrance is a round window with shards of broken glass lodged in its iron frame. Standing before the main doors is a figure, large by human standards, clad in blackened plate armor except for his head. His malicious grin made even more gruesome by the scars that mar his face, General Daedalus Karnack awaits your arrival.

"Oi, About time you shook your old bones and found your way here. The Count says he heard tell of that hunter, Von Richten coming from his eyes and ears in Vallaki. Go there and capture him. It shouldn't be hard to catch one old man with a death wish." He turns and enters the manor doors, his armor creaking and clacking as he vanishes within, leaving you to your mission. You and your allies proceed immediately to the stables and each to your steeds, hellish spawns of the Count's own nightmare, jet black horses with fiery orange eyes that can run for days without tiring. You and your allies ride out into the misty darkness that has become commonplace and down the mountain from the castle, following the winding path, your steeds churn the dirt of the road into a morass of mud. You wind past the dilapidated windmill, the Bonegrinder, that holds the coven of hags and their dream pastries until you enter the Svalich Wood. Lightning mimics daylight as it cuts a jagged line through the sky, closely followed by the roar of thunder. You and your allies don't pause despite the many glowing eyes that seem to pop up all around you throughout the forest, the creatures know better than to attack the anointed knights of Count Zarovich.

The Old Svalich Road meanders into a valley watched over by dark, brooding mountains to the north and south. You and your allies reign in your Nightmares. The woods recede, revealing a sullen mountain burg surrounded by a wooden palisade. Thick fog presses up against this wall, as though looking for a way inside, hoping to catch the town aslumber. The dirt road ends at a set of sturdy iron gates with a pair of shadowy figures standing behind them. Planted in the ground and flanking the road outside the gates are a half-dozen pikes with wolves' heads impaled on them. You have arrived at the familiar Mourning Gate of Vallaki Village.

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As your loyal steeds stamp their fiery hooves into the mud, the mournful cry of a raven sounds overhead as one of the black creatures soars overhead, coming to light on one of the wolves' heads impaled along the wall. The raven crooks it's head and looks at the knights before croaking, "Nevermore" before hopping into the air, spreading it's inky black wings to bank overhead of you and your allies before coasting over the wall and into the village, out of your sight range. As one peculiar sight vanishes, another draws your attention. A pair of red dots materialize in the treeline of the wood, as four more red dots appear, a black wolf pads from the underbrush, it's glowing red eyes a sign that it belongs to the Count. As the wolf reaches the road beside the Nightmare that Ulric sits astride, it begins to change, shedding it's course fur to reveal a man, bereft of clothes except for a black-beaded rosary that hangs around his neck that climbs from all fours, "Sir Bathion, Riven sent me to find you. I'm to warn you. A large group of bandits has found their way into these lands. We lost four werewolves and ten wolves of our pack to a hunting party of theirs led by a boisterous half-elf." As he finishes his report, he remains on the edge of the road, grimacing at the wolf heads impaled on the stakes on either side of the gate but not barring the Knights' passage into the village.

Last edited by Hal Hammerhand; Sep 20th, 2021 at 03:57 PM.
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Old Sep 20th, 2021, 08:06 AM
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Jhazelle moved towards the castle with deliberate steps only stopping once inside the courtyard and before the General Daedalus. She despised being summoned by the man in fact any man including her master himself. She hated them both with a passion unlike anything else she felt. Still she could not refuse the Count's commands or those of the general. There was no pleasantries exchanged by the summoner and the knights. They were Strahds elite warriors chosen by the vampire lord for their skills. Jhazelle listened as the General gave them their orders and then turned leaving them to their task.

Van Richten was well known for his meddling in the affairs of strange creatures and undead, he was famous for destroying such creatures, and helping those unfortunate enough to fall prey to such creatures. Jhazelle had no true animosity towards the man though and as they rode her mind drifted wondering it he might know of a way to reclaim her life it certainly couldn't hurt to ask before destroying the man at the Count's bidding. Jhazelle had grown to maturity in the Underdark where the women of her people ruled over the men. Still she had been a slave and if not for her father would have most assuredly not survived the jealousy of her drow sisters.

When they reached the gates of Vallaki she looked to the wolves heads on pikes. It was barely a few moments when the wolves came also servants of her master, the lead wolf shifting before their eyes leaving his standing on two feet bereft of clothing, he was not an unattractive man, but he was a werewolf and beneath her she was a vampire after all. As he spoke his warning she looked to the others before responding.

"We thank you for your warning, though our task is different we will keep our eyes open for these bandits and should they cross our path deal with them accordingly, we have a more pressing matter to handle though first and foremost. Were I you I would find a den and and wait it out, Van Richten has been reported and we all know his predilection towards any of our kind. We are here to stop the man before he can cause too much trouble. Possibly even putting an end to him as a whole."

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Old Sep 20th, 2021, 03:43 PM
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Rune
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Summoned once more. As he woke one more time, Rune sighed softly as he cast aside the stone lid of the tomb in which he lay. In the beginning, irrespective of the circumstances of his undeath and the pain he had inadvertently wrought others, Rune had found a certain…..exhilaration in his condition. Blessed with greater speed and strength than others along with powers that lesser beings could only dream of, he revelled in what he could do even as he struggled to control his feral bloodlust.

As the roll of years turned into decades and then centuries, things changed. Gone was the delight over the powers which he could bring to bear over mortals, replaced by……ash and nothingness. A deep unsettling nothingness that had permeated Rune’s very being and replaced his grandiose feelings of immortality. An apotheosis that had been replaced by bleak apathy. Indeed the long nights spent in Strahd’s service had long since become devoid of meaning to Rune. As time had gone by, Rune had lost interest and pleasure in those things that had once given him joy and meaning. The faces and names that passed him by in the interminable roll of years were nothing to the vampire, they were as dust in the breeze.

Yet the Count Strahd von Zarovich had called him forth once more, and Rune, as always, was compelled to answer the summons. All these years as a weapon of the Count, all that power and strength and yet it could not banish the gnawing emptiness inside of him that threatened to devour him whole.

And yet, despite everything, he was not alone. He never had been, not until the day came when he would crumble to dust under the call of the sun’s burning light.

”Estelle,” he intoned to the shadows, to where he knew his eternal companion in undeath would also be stirring to wakefulness.

”We are summoned once more.”

His companion. His bond, his weakness. For it was his own folly that had doomed both to an existence of eternal undeath.

~~~

General Karnack was a loathsome individual. Oh, the times that Rune wished he could pierce the vampire’s filthy neck with his needle sharp blade. Rune, even as he stood there wordlessly listening to the latest menial task that Strahd had deemed to lay at the feet of his greatest and strongest knights, contemplated the thought of killing the foolish general over and over again.

The silver haired knight rode wordlessly in the center of the five chosen of Strahd on his steed of shadow and fire. To the side he could see the glittering, envious eyes of crimson watch them wordlessly….eyes that coveted what the knights had. He allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction at the thought. Of course none would openly dare challenge the knights. To do so would be to invite death itself to their doors.

Then they arrived at the Mourning Gate, and Rune cast his eyes impassively over the pikes set in the ground, mounted with the twisted and bestial visages of the wolves heads implanted on them. And then, as the black wolf approached them, it’s eyes burning a deep crimson, Rune met its gaze and watched emotionlessly as the wolves form twisted and stretched. Wolf no more, it took on the form of weak mortality standing as the red-haired man addressed Sir Bathion. Rune knew the man, of course, the werewolf Ulon

Rune felt his lips twist upwards in a sneer as he looked at Ulon with thinly veiled contempt etched across his pale features. In truth he did not care if others addressed “Sir Bathion” as if he led the contingent of knights. In fact it suited Rune to have the elitist and arrogant vampire take the lead and take all the risks and the pain. Rune was happier in the shadows as a spider poised to strike than the loud and obnoxious soldier. Still, as Jhazelle spoke, Rune found his crimson gaze drifting over to the once-drow. She was a strange one, as was their situation. In life, as surface and drow elf, the two would have been mortal enemies. In death however they were united under the same cause, yet within Rune there was still a shadowy echo of the being that he once was. A twisted reflection and mockery of his self in life yes, but it was still there, even in his vampiric state. It was simply difficult for him to let the prejudices of his life go completely, almost as if by doing so he would lose part of a link to the mortality he once had and still, deep down….a part of him still desired. His natural instinct was to distrust Jhazelle. Respect, yes, but certainly distrust because of her origins as drow.

”This is of no consequence to us surely? We have our task as set to us by our “master”,” Rune almost spat the word out in contempt. ”That task is the only thing of import to us. Let the village militia deal with these bandits.”
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Old Sep 21st, 2021, 01:22 AM
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Ulric

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Sir Ulric Bathion awoke from his slumber as the crest of daylight faded away. With the suns last light fleeting, the tomb of the ancient warrior slid open as it had done so, so many times before. The grinding creek of stone against stone fills the cold room, yet no one other than Ulric would ever know. His sanctuary was safe, lonesome, and completely unknown.

As with most summons, ulrics form of such came from his master via magic sensory. A connection he had earned so many years ago from the devil himself. They spoke less than they once had, yet the communication stayed open. When the count called, Ulric answered.

Ulric bid the general a due, respectfully adhering and listening to the daft blokes orders and instructions. In truth he didn’t care for the general, at all. Wanted to rip his throat out on multiple occasions and strictly for the fact That ulric didn’t care to take orders, orders from anyone. But it was a necessary evil. He would keep the general in his court until the time came. Useful like a pawn on the board even if the pawn didn’t know he was playing.

As they neared Vallaki Ulric could already smell the dankness of dog. Whether it be upon pike, or behind brush he really couldn’t have cared less.

“Ulon, it has not been nearly long enough” his condescending demeanour placing the were wolf well below him. “I suppose this… Half elf bandit is frightening to you? A common thief, dispatching the likes of your wolves, count Zaroviches own mighty hunters. Pathetic.” A pause of utter disgust awkwardly tensions the already thick air.

“On the other hand…It might be fun. To toy with dinner once again. A little song and dance, Something for ourselves. Remember fun Estelle?” A longing in Ulrics voice was both concerning and depressing. For what could a nightmare long for?

“Shall we not entertain the young pup? It would not take but long that I am sure. After all, Fresh blood never hurt anyone” a sly and sadistic smirk flushed the pale face of Sir Bathion. An energy illuminated his last set of words with a youthful and yet chaotic vibrance. A smile crossed his face, bearing his razor sharp fangs in a simple notion of ‘licking his lips’ in vampire vocabulary.

“What says my fellow ‘Knights of Barovia’ ?”

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Old Sep 21st, 2021, 02:58 AM
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the AwakeningFelicity awoke from her slumber to the soft, but incessant knocking upon her chamber's door. She looked aside to the woman wrapped up beside her. She was a pretty little morsel, her raven black hair currently covering her face. But her neck was bared, enticing the vampire to partake again.

~ If you kill her, you know the consequences. the incessant voice in her head announced.

With a hiss of annoyance, Felicity shoved the slumbering mortal off her bed with a loud thump, followed by a grown. The girl, knowing better than to complain, scrambled to her feet and left the room, simultaneously allowing the servant entrance. She'd be well taken care of, allowed to heal. And admittedly, she was one of the more pleasant treats, so allowing her to live wasn't all that bad.

As Felicity dressed, she listened as the servant girl told her of the summons, to meet with General Karnack. With a sneer and a loud chomp of her teeth, she sent the girl scurrying away. By the time she reached her private stable, her steed was saddled and ready for her. It wasn't one of Strahd's, but a white horse that she had trained from a pony for her own use, naming it Yara.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After the short ride to the castle, Felicity puts Yara to stable before making her way to the courtyard to the keep, to find her fellows also summoned. ~ Well, this should be fun. she thinks to herself, as she continues forward to join them. Involuntarily, most likely Illissa's doing, she looks to Jhazelle, before pulling her attention back to Strahd's general. With a yawn, she shows him his due respect, though the name of their quarry does cut the yawn short, and brings her full attention to him.

Von Richten. She had tangled with him once before, and barely survived. Felicity glares at the retreating back of the Karnack, after his last words. ~ If he's such an 'easy prey', why don't you hunt him? she wishes to say, but a single fang punctures her lip, keeping her from back talking the fool. Mission laid out for them, the group retrieves their fiery steeds, and ride out on their mission. As is usual, Sir Ulric Brag-thee-on takes the lead, and Felicity stays near the rear. It's not a bad place to be, actually. She doesn't have to give too much attention to where they are going, just let the `mare follow the rest of them, allowing Felicity to focus on other things.

Like how good it is to see Rune again. He's looking mighty fine in that armor. Or maybe Estelle?

But before she can night-dream too much, a strong musk invades her nostrils, bringing the 'Knights of Barovia' up short. Soon after, young Ulon shifts before them. Felicity watches with hungry eyes, taking in every inch of what she sees. "It is possible these bandits are connected to our prey. I vote we at least take a look at them, to assess whether they are worth our time." she smiles down upon Ulon. "As for entertaining the youngling, I'm sure I could handle that on my own." she says, leaning forward on her steed.


 

 

 

 
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Old Sep 22nd, 2021, 01:22 PM
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Estelle, The Solitary Knight
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Fragments of memory rippled across time, drifting like blazing embers, calling out to her like stars in the darkness. Many feared the crypts, that they would be locked away and forgotten. For Estelle, to be forgotten for all time sounded rather appealing…to embrace the darkness is to face oneself amid the stillness and deafening quiet. The dead do not dream. When all is still, there’s only the whisper of one’s inner truth. For many years, to avoid this, Estelle forsook everything she had known and loved, forging ahead into a new state of being. She embraced the unquenchable bloodlust to stave the tide of sorrows, but there is never a bottom to it. There isn’t one distraction or proclivity strong enough to make one forget the past and much of what is taken for granted when alive. The warmth of sunlight on the skin. Having a beating heart and breathing lungs. Flesh that ages. Life’s blood in one’s veins. Soulful connections…one cannot realize the devastating loss, until the glories of life have been stolen away. An eternity of emptiness is what awaits the cursed undead. Crueler still, there is no escape from this fel. For many, the answer is to kill one’s heart and soul, becoming an empty husk guided by thirst and baser instincts. Becoming a hollowed creature is certainly a frightening thought. Estelle spent the greater part of a century trying to avoid them. Especially you-know-who!

To wither away in peaceful slumber is what Estelle truly wished for. But then, there’s always the vile knell of Master’s calling, summoning her back to the gritty world she would all but relish disappearing from. Hissing through her dry lips, colorless eyes snapped open, glaring at the lid of her coffin. Perhaps…if I just remain there…and go back to sleep…the filthy compulsion will go away!

Shutting tight her eyes, Estelle remained still as a corpse. Damn the consequences! How many vampire churls did HE actually require to wrangle a few werewolves and slaughter simpleton pests? Estelle swore off doing that kind of work again, as it was utterly beneath her talents as a Blackstaff Mage. Gritting her fangs, her limbs began to tickle and burn the longer she resisted Master’s call…at first, near a century ago, the pain was excruciating merely at the thought of dallying. Now, it was more of a dull, throbbing ache that one of the witchy crones in the castle might complain about. Let’s see how long I can ignore Him this time…

Hearing that familiar voice call her name, soft and plaintively too, full of puppy guilt and long-dead dreams—Estelle’s eyes immediately snapped open again. Damn. Pressing against the lid, a few pale fingers crept between the cracks. “Blooood.” The words sounded like the infernal hissing of a foul tempered ghoul, but really it was her parched throat blanketed in dust. How long has it been? A few years? Coughing a wad of cobwebs from her throat, Estelle chomped on the resident tarantula as it came trundling up her esophagus. The gooey center helped somewhat, but she still felt like a dried up prune. “Ugh, so dry…be a dear and fetch my grimoire. I left it in Piddlewick’s crypt...” Truly, it’s one of the safest places in castle Ravenloft. Master despises clowns.

While Rune hurriedly swept off to do her this favor, Estelle roughly shoved the lid off her coffin and dragged herself up, truly resembling an emaciated corpse, all skin and bone her once pristine gown had eroded into dusty tatters. Dragging her claws along the wall, little lines followed the vampire outside her sanctuary. Expressing her great displeasure at this rude awakening, Estelle howled miserable shrieks that could no doubt be heard throughout the bowels of the castle. Little feet scurried for their lives, but Estelle quickly caught and dispatched a hoard of rats, tearing off their heads and draining them like furry waterskins. Tossing their carcasses aside, when Estelle finally emerged from the shadows she no longer resembled a spindly crone. Her youthful features returned, albeit her appearance was not as radiant or alluring as it might have been with human blood. This dead husk is all a wicked facade anyway. Maintaining the charade is a hassle.

By the time Rune returned, Estelle was prepared for another asinine mission. Dressed in rugged leather, an elven sword dangling from her hip. Wearing a dour expression, Estelle swept a worn leather cloak imbedded with beads and coins around her shoulders. The coins themselves were charms they had collected from the Vistani, months before the Devil added the pair to his permanent collection. The charms proved useless, now she wore them as a reminder not to trust the so-called kindness of strangers.

“Mark my words,” Estelle growled, regarding Rune with an appraising eye. The elf appeared well- nourished, despite how deeply he despairs. “This sword of mine is a noble blade. I have mind to refuse, should pure bloodshed be asked of us. First and foremost, I am strictly an intellect, not some butcher of sheep!” Saying this in practice, as though the vampire before her was the Dark Lord himself, Estelle poked Rune’s muscled chest just so he could feel the gravity of her words. The Devil had a knack for persuading her to do unsavory things. In fact, Strahd knighted her in jest, knowing just how deeply her resentment festered. Despite how strongly she loathed his undying guts, a few caressing words were all it took to sway her heart and mind. That’s why she had been avoiding Strahd for decades, relegating herself to the crypts and whatever cold dark corner she could find. Master can’t order her about if he can’t find her! Luckily, the monstrosity had the attention span of a snotty toddlekin. His interest in his playthings shifted with the phases of the moon. Estelle was grateful for that…but Strahd was never one to let her be for too long.

Damn it all.” She spat, brushing off some spidery cobwebs from Rune’s tussled hair. He was making those sad puppy eyes again, which only infuriated her. “I’m not speaking ill of your work, Rune. It’s not like either of us have a choice anyway. Do you…ever think about the days when we were alive? I just want to hold onto a sliver of dignity—some piece of me that isn’t dead and rotten from the inside out.” Patting Rune on the head like she used to, back then she would playfully do so as an excuse to feel the cool softness of his hair, like a silky pony mane. Doing so now felt so joyless. Meeting his gaze, Estelle said this for Rune and Rune alone. “Promise me you won’t become like those bloodthirsty hollows? It is better to despair than feel nothing at all.”




As the shadowy group assembled before General Karnack, Estelle made her once in a decade obligatory appearance. Scowling at the angry storm clouds, the lightning, peals of thunder, and the torrential rain, the Dark Lord must be greatly peeved again. Often the weather reflected his fickle moods. Resting her eyes on the oafish gorilla-man that somehow had been given charge over Ravenloft’s deadliest, everything that spewed from his mouth sounded dreadfully boring. As he blathered away, Estelle picked the grave-dirt from under her fingernails—until the mention of Von Richten, that is. Unable to disguise the disgust plain on her face, how many times have they chased rumors, only for it to have been a huge waste of time?

Then again…if they enter Vallaki, this would be a grand opportunity to grab a few books for light reading. Gods, how long has it been since she’d even touched a book? Several decades, at least! Why, the only books to be found in Ravenloft were those present in Strahd’s personal study. Right next to his bedchamber. Rubbing her forehead, the mere thought left her queasy. The odds of running into the Dark Lord were roughly eighty five percent. Thankfully, she had the good sense to do her research on the go, which held no risk of mental scarring.

Her fellow knights appeared likewise riveted for the chase, although, probably for wholly different reasons. Jhazelle would no doubt enjoy a change of pace, and as expected Sir Bathion had the same vigilant air as a hawk honed on its prey. She couldn’t quite read what Rune might be thinking, only that her presence likely heightened his undying anxiety. He always seemed on his best behavior when she was dragged along, but it’s a wonder if he found refuge in his blades…and actually enjoyed the bloody errands Master tossed him, like crumbs to a desperate animal.

Eyeing Felicity across the way, she appeared particularly pampered and rosy-cheeked this bleak and rainy evening. The scent of blood wafted around her like a perfume. How nice it must be to be privy to Master’s slaves…the irksome feeling that tickled her nerve wasn’t jealousy, per say, only a distaste for those who openly reveled in their clear superiority. Strong and swift as they are, nothing changes the fact that they are despicable monsters. Nothing but blood-hungering parasites! They deserve to live in the filthiest of conditions, legions away from civilization! Though she never dared to openly voice this opinion, lately Estelle felt strong bouts of hostility for no apparent reason. Surely, it probably had something to do with her change of diet; or, maybe, being dragged from her coffin over a piddly rumor! Raising a brow, the way that mad strumpet looked at Rune oft made her want to rip out her eyeballs and pop them like grapes.

Rune already had enough on his plate without entangling himself in Felicity’s web. The callous woman would chew him up and spit him out. Ptoo! Quick as that. Friends look out for each other, besides, Felicity only seemed interested because….Rune’s an elf, obviously, with hedonistic tendencies. When they were alive, Estelle never once objected or stood in the way of the parades of strumpets that Rune would romp with night after night. That was his business. However, this is different! Once you’ve shared the same curse, the same crypt, and still-beating hearts, challengers easily rouse one’s bloodlust. Crossing her arms, Estelle stood tall like an impenetrable wall of ice. It’s a good thing too. The murderous intent written on her face must have assured General Karnack, to some extent.



Riding their flaming nightmare steeds through the misty, dilapidated countryside, they reached the gates of Vallaki rather quickly. Glaring with distaste at the line of wolf heads impaled on sticks, the smell of musk and blood was simply overpowering. A werewolf then bounded up to them and transformed before their eyes, before the gate, without any worry for his own safety. There should be cause to worry, no? Does Ulon not care if he is spotted by the guard? That said, the five of them certainly stood out far more than a naked man wallowing in the mud.

Estelle quietly listened to the conversation, flying back and forth from one to the next, until Sir Bathion called her name. Unfurling a ragged sigh, Estelle smiled and shrugged. “Fun? I do believe I’ve forgotten the meaning of the word.” Of course, by her definition, fun meant something completely different than what Sir Ulric had in mind. No doubt, he wished to hunt down those bandits and feast on them like a dinner banquet. As for Estelle, a fun time was perusing a book on ancient histories over a glass of fresh venison blood. Granted, it has been quite a while since she had willfully embraced such luxuries. It felt far more satisfying to deny herself things that her living self once enjoyed, as monsters deserve nothing less than what these decapitated wolves received.

“Whispers of rumors are what led us here, no? At present, we have no solid leads.” Saying this dryly, matter of fact, Estelle squinted at the flirtatious Felicity, so bold in her ways. “However…when I think of a ‘boisterous’ half-elf, the impression I get is he likes to talk. Perhaps he could be persuaded to talk on matters relevant to our mission?”

Leaving that suggestion dangling like a worm on a hook, Estelle shrugged again, creasing a smile.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2021, 05:31 PM
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Vallaki:
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Ulon bowed to the Knights and turned back towards the forest, shifting back into his lupine form as he disappeared. The Knights entered the fortified town through the gates with the peering, ever-watching eyes of the werewolf heads and found themselves in the streets, lit by the eerie window-lights of the dark city. People scurried away from the Knights' wake, going into houses and slamming shut the doors with loud thuds, the sound of bolt and chain rattled within. The patter of rain hit the vacant cobblestones of the street alongside the fiery hooves of the nightmare steeds that struck sparks in passing. They made their way to the center of the city where the street branched in a criss-cross, the leftward avenue, a sign that reads 'The gate to the lake' and led to the waterside that would take them across the Lake and into the Svalich woods. The rightward avenue would take them to the center or hub of all city activity, the true center where inns and businesses sat around the market, this is where they might find the rascal, Von Richten.

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Old Sep 22nd, 2021, 05:33 PM
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The others seemed settled on hunting down the bandits. Rune for his part simply shrugged his assent with their wishes. Truth be told he was as apathetic to the thought of going after the bandits as he was to the mission of hinting down Van Richten. “An old man with a death wish” General Karnack had referred to Van Richten. This…..this latest errand was an embarrassment. Was this what the mighty Knights of Barovia had been reduced to? Tracking an old, doddering man who was no doubt senile and incontinent? Was this an example of what the future held for the powerful vampires, once the hand-picked elite of Strahd Van Zarovich?

Hand-picked.

The thought, in and of itself was somewhat unsettling. It implied that Rune had had a choice in his ascension from mortal elf to undead predator. It implied that this terminable existence of grey nothingness was something that he aspired to.

The truth was anything but.

Do you…ever think about the days when we were alive, she had asked back in the tomb, and Rune had not answered her, lost as he was in his silence and trapped inside the thoughts that had imprisoned him for so many years and had never ever left him go.

Always.

Rune’s gaze flickered towards her for a moment as the grip on the reins of his flaming steed unconsciously tightened. She could not hear his answer of course, not there stood at the gates of Vallaki, the so-called Mourning Gate because he had not vocalised it. Yet to internalise it in his own mind made it as real as if he voiced the thought himself. In her own way, Estelle already knew this. She perhaps always had. He could no more let go of his own past as could she.

I always remember, inasmuch as I try to banish the past back to the void it belongs. Yet I do remember, and I lament for the mistakes I….we have made that have led us to this place.

**

Promise me you won’t become like those bloodthirsty hollows?

The transition from life to death to undeath had had a deeper and more profound effect on the once-elf than he could ever have anticipated. There was a warmth and delightfulness to mortality than Rune had ever been able to appreciate while he had been alive. But then, one never truly appreciates that what they have until they are gone. In life, Rune was a “damn or be damned” type of individual. Live for the moment, do not dwell on the past and do not contemplate the future. It was this hedonistic, thrillseeking lifestyle that had led him to push the boundaries of feeling and sensation further…..ever further. Like a creature trapped inside a gilded cage, Rune delighted in testing the borders, simply bending the threshold between life and death as far as it would go.

Quite what Estelle had been thinking in agreeing to accompany him back in those days given the person that he was. Self-centred, arrogant and conceited, Rune had been caught up in his own selfish desires to give a damn about anyone else. And indeed, as he marched a cavalcade of nameless, faceless nobodies for unthinking nights of passion, one could question why she had remained as companion to such an obviously flawed and narcissistic individual.

Perhaps she saw something in Rune that he did not see himself, and as he was spurred onto acts of greater and greater debauchery, it was something that would only be undone in his own death. What he did not have the right to do…..the right to cause, was someone else’s death because of his own selfish folly.

**

Perhaps it is so that I am already hollow.

The thought came unbidden, and it was one that demanded a certain amount of introspection. Life had gone now, and Rune had found undeath to be……wanting. Existence was grey, a shadowy echo of what once was. A dark mockery, was this world of eternal twilight. Passions that had once burned strong within him had dwindled slowly over the course of the centuries that had passed until the ash-like embers of what once was had extinguished. The world, which he had once challenged in a game of life and death, had become an interminable, almost meaningless existence. It was this paradox that defined him, this twin being that was the opposite of what he once was.

And Rune envied the others. They had all kept facets of their being. Jhazelle and her eternal drive. Felicity and her passions still ran strong, even if Rune sometimes questioned her sanity as she whispered to herself in the still of night. Bathion and his arrogance….in some ways he reminded Rune of the person he once was in life, even Estelle and her intellect, her desire for knowledge. And it was as he looked to Estelle that he knew the true depths of his own folly, that he had never seen what he had until it was gone, stripped away by the mantle of undeath.

Perhaps that is my own curse in a way. Perhaps I am……truly hollow.

They continued to sit there, and although the seconds slipping by into the night meant nothing to one who had immortality and understood the true meaning of its curse, the indecisiveness irked Rune.

“Very well,” he nodded to Bathion. “I have not fed yet this night. Lead, and we shall partake of the blood of those who stand in our way.”

Once more, his gaze flickered to Estelle, his expression unreadable.

I cannot promise you that I am not hollow. This…..is not in my power to give.

She was, in many ways, his greatest regret, for so many different reasons.

Rune followed the others into Vallaki.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2021, 10:11 PM
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Ulric

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“Von Richten isn’t going anywhere. Word has already spread amongst this town of our prescence. The Vampire hunter, as daft as he undoubtedly is, would love a chance to steak anyone of Strahds elite. A trap he will set, of course. It won’t matter, and we will drink him dry. If he leaves, we will find him as we always do.” Ulrics voice was tempered and collected, there was no sense of concern. ”Master will want his pet dogs to be taken care of, that is what we will do”

Ulric steers his hellish steed down the path with which leads to the lake. “I hope you learned how to swim after all these years my dears” he smiles flirtatiously back at each his female companions. Fully aware the complications of being exposed to water, a weakness they all shared.


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Old Sep 23rd, 2021, 07:20 PM
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the Choice MadeFor a half-second, a pout can be seen on Felicity's pretty visage, which quickly turns to a sour glare as the werewolf doesn't even acknowledge her flirtations, and just walks away back to his filthy pack. Then she might notice Estelle's eyes upon her, and sits up straighter in her saddle, eyes rolling up and away. "Whatever." she had once been the paramour of Strahd himself. She reminded herself. She had betrayed her sister for power... and she was gifted with eternal life, a small keep, and a nagging voice perpetually crying in her head. What more could she ask for? A wallow in the mud with a filthy beast? No thank you. Felicity was better than that.

"Who needs to swim? I taught myself to walk on water. I might be persuaded to cast upon all of us." she brags at Sir Ulric's prodding, as they rode toward lake. ~ Can you? Illissa sounded off, in her mind. "Shut up!" she hissed back, to no one in particular. She kept her gaze steeled ahead, ignoring any looks the others might shoot her way, or not. She was not insane. The voice in her head was real. It had always been there. She could feel her sister, riding along, taunting her. Ridiculing her every poor decision. Even now, she could hear her giggling at her now foul mood. ~ Stop laughing at me. she thought toward the insolent woman within.

~ I could just let them drown, and there'd be nothing you could do, to stop me. Neirian favors me.

Felicity's lips lift into a snarl. ~ No you wouldn't. You still think you can save us. A silly fantasy. We are the doomed of Strahd. Forever punished for our crimes of thinking we could fight against one so powerful.

~ Your sin is killing Yara!

~ And because of her, you allowed the others to die around us. You are not perfect, sister. You are guilty of caring more for Yara, than you did for anyone else. Even me. This thought was met with silence. It was a never-ending war within the powerful body. Illissa was too guilt-ridden to ever push out Felicity's control. The stronger sister felt no guilt at her actions, or so she told herself. She had avenged her friends, and in doing so, created a new life for herself. Even as a servant of a powerful vampire lord, at least she was still alive.

Felicity looked to the others. "At least I haven't completely lost myself to this immortality." she whispers, trying to justify herself. Her eyes once again fell on Rune. This time not filled with the usual lust, but with... loneliness. The servant girls were lovely, and had at one time filled her with joy. But the game had become cold after they began to fall into a routine of sameness.

She could not, or would not kill them. She couldn't even harm them... too much, or Illissa would make her life worse for another two months. Or maybe longer this time. And the servants had come to understand this. They knew not to too openly defy her, because they could still be made to pay dearly. But they didn't fear for their lives, as they had at the beginning.

When she had shared her bed with Count Strahd von Zarovich, she hadn't needed to to worry about how the servants reacted to her. Illissa had been shoved so far down, that for those first few years after Yara's death, there was not even a whisper from her clerical-half. It had been so long, in fact, that Felicity had begun to wonder if she hadn't killed her too. Of course, after Strahd had grown bored with her, Illissa began to whisper in her ear once again. Teasing, taunting, and finally showing that she had a metaphorical backbone after-all, by not allowing her fighter-half access to spells she had been casting as if they were her own.

Strahd had kept his promise of power to her. He made her one of his elite knights. He gave her a keep, along with mortals to serve her every whim. But now, after a hundred years, she wanted for something else. She just wasn't sure what, exactly. The fighter shook her head suddenly, as if pulling herself from her melancholy. In the wake of the shake, she resumed her look of lustful confidence.


 

 

 

 
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Old Sep 24th, 2021, 06:00 PM
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Estelle
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Smirking at Sir Bathion's typical swagger, Estelle was not entirely immune to the attentions of confident men. In fact, she welcomed flattery and witty repartee. Their lack of sincerity made it all the more gratifying when setting them cheerfully ablaze. She found Ulric's smarm overly thick this lovely evening, perhaps because it had been so long. "Why swim, when such a dashing knight can carry me across?" Flicking her gaze to Rune, Estelle lifted a teasing smile. "Am I not a Lady worthy of devotion?"

A nagging thought niggled her brain. Assuming this wasn't just another goose chase, did Ulric truly intend to kill Von Richten? Were their orders not to bring him back alive? How strange, perhaps she had heard wrong? Jhazell remained quiet, and the others seemed too lost in their own worlds at the moment. This whole scenario struck Estelle as rather off. Von Richten had always been Master's prey. Strahd is at heart, a vengeful soul. Hunting down worthy opponents remains one of his last, exquisite joys. For such a prize, she couldn't imagine Strahd simply lingering by the wayside. Trusting them with a task like this...didn't sound like him at all.

What if...this is a test? Thumbing at her reigns, Estelle grimaced, mulling upon the unsavory thought. There's no denying that she had remained bitter, even after a hundred years. How could a puppet not resent the strings that bind it, or the hand that coerces it to dance? Glancing at Rune's back, though it may simply be a figment of paranoia, nothing could quell the quiet dread as it grew into a looming shadow.
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Old Sep 25th, 2021, 06:45 AM
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Rune
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Even as the knights, pressed into their world of unending servitude, watched the roll of centuries pass them by, there were some things that never changed. Sir Ulric Bathion being a boorish lecherous swine being one of them. It seemed that even immortality itself could not dull that one's impulsive and irrational tendencies. Not for the first time in his existence, and likely not the last, Rune contemplated running his blade through Ulric's eyeballs, but as always it was not practical to do so. Ulric's elitist alpha-male tendencies would bring about his doom one day and Rune was always the sort of person who wished to greet the reaper on his own terms. It suited him to have someone else with be the focal point of attention and therefore be the one who would take the inevitable fall for the rest of the group.

Rune would do what he did best. Skulk in the shadows as the dangerous assassin poised to strike. Unseen, unheard and with the world at his mercy as it always was.

As the fearsome knights arrived at the lake, Felicity suggested that she had the ability to allow them to walk on water.

His nightmare steed seemed agitated, perhaps by the presence of running water. Reaching down to stroke the mare's neck, Rune hushed the steed. It was strange that even given the nightmare's otherworldly abilities, mundane things such as running water still held the ability to make it uneasy. Would that Rune was still capable of feeling such emotions, but long ago he had succumbed to the effects of immortality. Barren inside, Rune sometimes wondered if he was incapable of passions in the way that Bathion and Felicity still displayed. Anything would be better than the grey nothingness that existed inside of him as a void.

"That would certainly be a useful feat Felicity," he said aloud, shattering his own internal musings. "However I fear Sir Bathion here would still sink under the weight of his own egotism."

Chuckling softly, he dropped back in-line with Estelle as she questioned whether she was worthy of devotion to be carried across the lake.

"It reminds me of the time when you were determined to go fishing in the depths of the River Dessarin, Estelle. You were adamant that there was a relic hidden in the depths of the lake. You were always dedicated to such ancient curiosities."

He laid his hand on Estelle's arm as he reminisced, yet the message he was conveying was both simple and clear.

Yes. I still think about the days when we were alive. I have not forgotten, despite everything.

"You were never the strongest swimmer. You misjudged the current, and you got stuck in the water, struggling not to be swept away. I had to dive in to carry you back out of it again. You were scared half to death, but we laughed about it afterwards. But of course there was the time you had to pull me out of the mud pit that I got myself stuck in so we were even…."

Squeezing her arm softly, Rune's eyes took on a distant, almost faraway expression from the memory, a small smile crossing his ashen features.

"They were simpler times back then."

Letting go of her arm, Rune gazed over to the other side of the lake.

"The night is not getting any younger and I would hate for us to be here to greet the dawn because we couldn't manage to find our way across a lake."

His smile turned into something sardonic as his eyes passed from one to the next of his fellow knights.
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Old Sep 30th, 2021, 06:52 AM
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Jhazelle rode along quietly listening to the others speak their own truths and minds. She was not one to speak absent mindedly and drone on. The news of the loss of so many werewolves and wolves was disturbing was this group of bandits that they were so capable of dealing with such creatures.

Finally she had heard enough. "It matters little want it is we want, we have orders, to find Van Richten, at the same time we are always tasked with dealing with those who would threaten Lord VonZarovich, these bandits could be just that. KNowing their numbers and their strength is vital as well. Our master will not like hearing of such attacks upon his own. I say we check out these bandits and deal with them directly before they can cause much more trouble. Besides most of us it seems have not yet fed they could prove to be a good evenings meal."

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Old Sep 30th, 2021, 05:02 PM
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Lake Zarovich:
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At the foot of the mountain, nestled in the misty forest, is a large lake. The water is perfectly still and dark, reflecting the black clouds overhead like a monstrous mirror. Pulled up along the shore are three small rowboats. A fourth boat can be seen in the middle of the lake, with a lone figure sitting in it, fishing pole in hand. The knights that keep up with the lands of their master know the man in the boat is the town drunk, a resident of Vallaki. The name escapes you, which seems strange but this might be a sign of the times, a hundred years since the start of your servitude to Strahd.
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-Each rowboat can safely hold five people.
-You won't have to worry about your weakness to running water since the lake is a still body of water.
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Old Oct 4th, 2021, 12:51 AM
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Midnight RideFelicity lightly slips off her horse, and walks toward the boats. "Well come along. Or do you think these boats will paddle themselves?" she asks, turning to look at the allies. "I think we should take two boats. Me and Rune, in one. You other three in the other." she suggests. She looks out over the water toward the lone fisherman, and tries to
Dice Wisdom Check:
1d20+5 (10)+5 Total = 15
remember his name. She's pretty sure it's Timmy, or Thomas. Maybe Theodore. She had come here before, a few years back, when she had first learned the Water Walk spell. She had wanted a calm water to walk across, to practice. It would not due to look foolish in front of the other knights. Terry was easy enough to bribe. A half-bottle of rye whiskey, for every trip to a secluded beach on the lake shore.

She stands near the edge of the water, and takes
Dice Perception:
1d20+9 (2)+9 Total = 11
a better look at the fisherman. "Isn't it a weird time to be out fishing?" she asks aloud. Even in life, she'd never understood the allure. And in a hundred years of undeath, she still had not figured out the secret.


 

 

 

 
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