Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Scribblings of a Scribe VI Continued...

Excerpts from the notes of Archivist Tim, Friar of the Order of Ehlonna

Barovian Date: 11th of the 11th Moon

Our belongings down the meanest dinner-knife piled outside the door, we entered within, and were hit immediately by the close, humid smell of a tent too long occupied and seldom aired out. Eyes already watering, we stumbled forward in the sudden gloom and were confronted by a long bench and table. Behind it, hunched forward in an enormous wood-and-velvet chair, sat a withered crone who could only be Madam Eva. Her hair was loosely gathered up beneath a garish cap of motley, and her wrinkled face and figure was fat as only extreme prosperity could bring in this harsh land. Her eyes, though, were by far her most striking feature, and though I could not tell their hue in the dim light, it surely felt as if they saw more clearly into my soul than many a learned abbot had in all my years with the Order.

She bade us sit upon the wooden bench, and carefully laid a blood-red cloth atop the table before laying an ornate deck of cards upon it. As we each drew cards in turn at her direction, (save for Rial, who reacted angrily at this practice and refused to take part,) her eyes lost their focus and seemed to cloud over – her voice, too, seemed to sound as if far away, though we saw her still seated scant feet from us across the table. She spoke of our pasts, our presents and futures, but try now as I might her predictions elude my memory, leaving me with only a vague impression of having felt unease at her words of the time. Clearer, however, are the tantalizing clues that she gave us regarding all manner of esoteric arcana.

Ashlynn had told us that she sought the Sunsword when she came to Barovia, a relic of ages past with a blade of crystal and the ability to rend even the most unholy of flesh beyond its ability to heal. From Madam Eva, we learned that the fabled weapon had been broken hilt-from-blade! This desecration of holy power was by a wizard in the employ of Von Zarovich family many years ago, and he had succeeded in destroying the hilt of the relic. The blade, however, was spirited away by a light-touched apprentice of the mercenary spell weaver, and hidden away in the one place the cursed family would never think to look – the humble bell-spire of a humble chapel that we were all too familiar with of late.

The hilt of sword would need to be replaced, but this was no matter for a village blacksmith and a few lengths of sturdy leather cord! Instead, we were told, the sword itself would need to forge ITSELF a new hilt upon a worthy and consecrated altar – and from no less material than trinkets and items already imbued with magical enchantments.

The wise woman spoke next of the Lord Strahd himself, and the few glimmers of knowledge and good in his past that may still remain to aid us. Among them, hints of hope that may still reside in his brother’s crypt, and an ancient tome said to be buried alongside his parents in the bowels of the castle. The tome in particular piqued my interest, for Madam Eva claimed that it spoke of his origins, and the source of his strength. She claimed that it spoke of three relics, which when positioned in specific points of the castle would rob him of some of his supernatural stamina – to ask how she knew this, and yet knew not what the relics were or what exactly they did, did not cross our minds in that dim space, so close-packed and filled with odors of travel and incense alike.

Peering into a crystal globe on the table in front of her, she professed yet more knowledge of the land’s lord, saying that the Lord Strahd sought a lady to wife. She continued on, claiming that his appetites were so inhuman, however, that he would consume any maiden who came into his power, leaving only death behind. Given that many families were sundered, their members missing or slaughtered, in the recent plague of undeath to strike the village, it was a likely thought that perhaps some of the missing were not among the decayed flesh we had burned on the pyre – perhaps instead they were even now in the keep? In particular, we recalled the case of a young girl who had disappeared near the end of the plague. He distraught family swore that their doors were barred and their windows shuttered throughout, but that their daughter had still disappeared. Was this the work of Strahd, or just the work of a young maid too long confined indoors with her controlling parents, choosing the wrong time to try to make a dash for the next building over?

As our incense-muddled minds were struggling to deal with the questions that this raised, the old woman reached beneath the table, and brought forth a small, finely crafted amulet on a thin metal chain. Shaped like a raven in flight, the similarity to the heraldry on Sir Ulric’s shield was immediate and unmistakable, and it clearly held Draven’s attention fast. This was the “Holy Symbol of Ravenkind” according to the withered vistani woman, and was a gift from the land to its champions. Largely dormant, it awaited the day when a new bearer would hold holy vigil with it, and make offerings to the land for its allegiance – once awakened and bound to its new host, however, it would empower its bearer with strength to stand against the land’s enemies. While not stated directly as best my memory serves, it was certainly implied “the land’s enemies” included the Lord Strahd.

It was while Draven was distracted admiring what appeared to be an icon of his order, and Thorax seemed lost in desirous lust for the woman’s aged bulk, that Madam Eva was to make a statement that would dog my mind for days to come: she claimed that all evil in this land sprang from Lord Strahd, and while the Blaspheme was a focus for the recent plague of undeath, it was Strahd in the end who was behind it all. We departed her tent shortly afterwards.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Aegis Company

It's been pretty busy the past week or so, but slow when it comes to material to blog about. Although I do have something I feel I should mention: Recently BioWare's official Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG website began phase 1 of its guild implementation system. And after a month or so of tossing around ideas about starting a local guild, forgetting completely about it, and then suddenly getting asked by everyone about it; I got up off my ass and went and registered our guild:

Aegis Company

Aegis Company is a collective of West Coast gamers united together to defend the Republic and the principles it stands for. Aegis' tenants are Fun, Generosity, Fairness, and Tolerance.

This will be my first time running a guild but it is my hope that my interest and passion for this game and Star Wars in general combined with assistance from my more experienced comrades will enable all of us to make this guild both fun and helpful for our members. I'm equally excited and nervous about this.

I'll have to start reading up and filling all those guild details. The games not even out yet but I want everything to run as smoothly as possible when it does.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Scribblings of a Scribe VI

Excerpts from the notes of Archivist Tim, Friar of the Order of Ehlonna

Barovian Date: 11th of the 11th Moon

Our week has been busy, but with the trivialities of daily life that come with any settlement rebuilding after near-disaster. Clearing wreckage, making small repairs to houses of people and faith alike, and slowly accounting for the dead and missing. The new burgomeister did his best to make good on the promises of riches cited in the mysterious missive that summoned us, but our small band refused most of what was offered – the village was not rich to begin with, and what was offered was from the annual taxes owed to the local lord. We knew that to take such sums was to leave the village open to reprisal in the spring when the lord came for his taxes, and as such we left the largest share untouched.

We did accept other compensation beyond monetary, however. Chief among these was a house that we collectively shared - the village now having a surplus of dwellings after the loss of life in the undead plague. Rial moved the alchemical laboratory from the church crypt into a back room, and after giving burial to the remains of the former owner we found within a wardrobe, the house became a welcoming site for us.

A town guard was formed at the behest of Draven, and he spent long days with the aid of Thorax and Ashlynn drilling the new recruits in the basics of martial activities. Their equipment was sorely lacking, however, until I convinced Bildrath the shopkeep to part with a variety of basic weapons and armor that he had been hording for a not-inconsiderable sum. While we have no illusions about their readiness to fight supernatural threats like the undead, at least we knew that common brigands and starving wildlife would not be able to prey on the villagers.

At last, however, we could justify waiting no longer, and felt that we had to set out to discover the truth of what the villagers had been telling us: that the lord of the land, far from being the thirteenth noble to bear the name “Strahd von Zarovich”, was instead actually a vampyr, and possibly the same creature that had been the first of that name. His rule was said to embody a combination of brutal suppression of dissent, a cultivation of isolation from the surrounding realms, and neglect of the needs of the land’s people.

Strahd left his roads little better than muddy tracks cutting through the wilderness, the trees encroaching wherever travelers had not cut them back for campfire fuel, and the wolf packs always visible as they flitted just out of bowshot among the undergrowth. Brigands were said to roam the realm, preying on the few travelers they could find – as evidenced by the death of the son of the late cleric Danovich, at least some of the villagers tales had a basis in fact.

Our road was to take us north, to a small lake known as the Tsar Pool, and an encampment there of the local nomads – known locally as Vistani. There was said to be a wise woman among them, one Madam Eva, who was well versed in local lore and the legends we sought to chase down. Our road was still clear, for which we thanked the gods given the lateness of the season, and we made good time on our hike. Reaching one of the few crossroads on the trip however, we stumbled across a handful of Murks (semi-corporeal wraiths) haunting a small graveyard and gallows. We made quick work of them thanks to the assistance of an older man who was there at the same time – a mentor of Draven in the raven-knights named Uric, it turned out.

Later, one of the ever-present wolf packs finally grew daring enough to assault our party directly, led as it was by an enormous winter wolf who clearly dominated his smaller woodland kin. It was a short, brutal fight to bring the beasts down, during which the magic of the elf Rial was instrumental – his strange augmentation magic turned the orc into an oversized killing machine, while his fiery bolts wrought havoc among the pack. Thorac insisted on taking a prize from the wolf when it finally lay dead, and ended up with its still-bloody skull on his head like a gruesome helmet. We cut a large haunch from the thing as well, bringing the meat with us as a gesture of goodwill towards the nomads we sought wisdom from.

We reached the camp in late afternoon, easily spotting the multicolored canopies of tents and wagons amid the green trees and against the grey backdrop of the now-sullen sky. Our reception was a wary one, with their sentries alertly watching our movements as we made our introductions. The wolf meat was well received, however, and was roasting on the fire by the time we were led to the oversize yurt belonging to Madam Eva.