May 12, 2019

Travel Log of 1311, #1

Nick Silvestro

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I have recently begun playing a new campaign of D&D with friends, and I take pretty copious notes while we play. I guess that's a holdover from being a DM. Anyway, I had the thought of giving my notes a little creative writing flourish and turning them into a journal. So here it is - session one of our campaign, as journalled by my character, 1311, during his downtime. Enjoy!

Entry #1

We have been traveling as a group for some time now, nearly a month. I've asked them to call me Robert. We have taken and completed a few odd jobs, but on the path we are currently travelling, some quite curious events have taken place, and I thought it prudent to begin a log book. I will attempt to keep track of our events and document them as thoroughly as I can remember them. I will begin when we first noticed something was off.

The night air was thick, and the fog started to roll in. We had been heading east on this road for a while, so this seemed a good time as any to set up camp for the evening. I offered to take first watch. Moradin and Taroc played cards for a bit. Guybrush quietly studied his texts. Lucian began his trance having offered to take second watch.

I don't yet know if they realise I don't sleep. I pretend to sleep, but truthfully I am fully conscious the whole time, and just shut my eyes quickly if I see or hear anyone coming. Once they are gone, I reopen them and continue to sit or lie still.

The fog got incredibly thick during my watch - visibility dropped to mere feet ahead. I did a quick scan around and could barely see the end of our tents and campsite, although the fire held the fog at bay for a comfortable enough radius.

When dawn broke and we began to pack up, Guybrush was the first to notice - we had woken up someplace else.

I took a quick walk around the area, trudging through the fog like molasses. The path that we had traveled in from the road, and even the road itself heading east to west was completely gone. Instead, we were in a clearing surrounded on all sides by a thicket of trees.

Using the sun as a guide, we continued to travel east regardless, pushing our way through the trees until after around 5 minutes, we came across a dirt road that traveled north and south. There were no marks on the road, no tracks of any kind. It was clearly a traveled path, carved into the forest by feet and carriages past, but there was no evidence of recent travel at all.

A brief discussion later and we set off north, which some time down this winding path became west. The farther we travel, the closer the fog seemed to close in on us, nearly to the point of claustrophobia.

After a while, the trees on either side of our new path began to thin, as did the fog - except behind. The fog behind us stayed impenetrable, almost insisting that we move forward only, as if the fog itself was laying the path ahead of us as we pushed on.

The trees and fog clearing gave us a new view of a hilly grassland on the path ahead, like an oasis in stark contrast of the doom and gloom of the dense fog behind. Finally, we spotted tracks in the mud - humanoid, one set, mustn't be more than a few days old. Hope. We decided to follow them.

Lucian said that while we follow these prints on the path, he would like to stalk us in the trees to one side. He's a bit strange. I like it.

Eventually the tracks lead us down into a gully that then lead into a clearing. We notice the hills begin encroaching our vision on both sides, until we come across the mountain pass and the gate. On either sides of the pass are what must be 150 foot high sheer cliffs. Between the cliff faces has been constructed an impressive wall by some artisans of history, and a passage way through the mountain pass has been opened but was blocked by a huge wrought iron gate.

On either side of this enormous ornate gate were tremendous statues of armed guardians, wearing suits of armour and holding large swords. Their carved adornment have clearly not helped, as the toppled statue heads lie still in the dirt and weeds, with nature doing what she does best and reclaiming her stone with a thick covering of moss.

We noticed that the closer we came to this landmark, the fog behind swallowed up the path to an even greater degree than before. We'd been on the road for a bit by this point however, and decide to camp for the evening, continuing on the next morning. Hunting for a good spot to set up, we head in towards the gate, and as we close in the gates swing open with a loud chorus of rusty iron scraping on stone echoing through the mountain pass and presumably into the fog, though I have doubts as to whether the sound penetrated very far beyond that. We decided to camp a bit away from the gate.

Entry #2

An uneventful night's rest. We prepared ourselves and set off through the gates. As the last of us passes across the threshold of the entranceway, the gate scraped closed behind us, the noise amplified by the echoes in this chamber. A mixture of curiosity and fear led me to inspect the gate and I could find no mechanism or means for the gate to move by itself. We continued on.

Upon clearing the other side of this incredible structure, the fog had cleared and the road was paved. There was obviously someone to maintain upkeep here. Our spirits were high, until we saw it. Just a glance initially, Guybrush pointed it out quietly. A bloodied body, lying still beyond the bushes on the left side of the roadway. We investigated cautiously and found an envelope in this poor man's hand, sealed with wax emblazoned with a rather ornate letter B.

While the others poured over the envelope and the letter contained within, I checked the body and attempted to find a cause of death. I don't know why I say attempted. It wasn't hard. My training in this matter makes it trivial. I wish it didn't. I pretend it takes me longer than it did.

Bite marks on the arms, teeth punctures on the neck. Large pool of blood under the body. This man was mauled to death by some kind of dog or wolf and left here to bleed out. I began to dig a ditch in which we could properly bury the body.

The others had now read the letter out. It was from "the Burgomaster of Barovia" signed Kolyan Indirovich, and says that his daughter has been bitten by a vampyr, and is a warning to leave them for dead and encircle the lands of Barovia with "symbols of good." I don't know where Barovia is. Maybe the gateway was the entrance, and we're now in this land. And what is a vampyr? Whatever it is, it doesn't sound promising. I'll copy the full letter out.

Hail thee of might and valor.

I, the Burgomaster of Barovia, send you honor -- with despair.

My adopted daughter, the fair Ireena Kolyana, has been these past nights bitten by a vampyr. For over four hundred years, this creature has drained the life blood of my people. Now, my dear Ireena languishes and dies from an unholy would caused by this vile beast. He has become too powerful to conquer.

So I say to you, give us up for dead and encircle this land with the symbols of good. Let holy men call upon their power that the devil may be contained within the walls of weeping Barovia. Leave our sorrows to our graves, and save the world from this evil fate of ours.

There is much wealth entrapped in this community. Return for your reward after we are all departed for a better life.

Kolyan Indirovich
Burgomaster

Well, I didn't know about the others, but I do not particularly fear evil or unholy beasts. My training taught me that in order to fear such things, one must have a soul. I was not created with a soul.

Guybrush insists that he help, being a holy man there is surely something he can do. Lucian's eyes sparkle at the mere mention of wealth.

While discussing the matter, we are ambushed. Five enormous wolves attack and while we put up a good fight, I must have been damaged badly, as the next thing I recall is being back at the gates. The others tell me that we killed one of the wolves, but the others got away - with the body of that poor man. We could still hear howling in the distance.

Entry #3

We rested at the gate for a while, and Lucian took a look around and spotted some roofs in the distance, an hour or two down the road. We cautiously set off, keeping an eye out for more wolves in the direction of the persistent howls. None attack, and we continue safely until we come across a village. All of the buildings are dark. There is no-one around, no movement, no sound. Except for the sobbing. Quiet sobbing. Childlike sobbing.

We find them, a young girl and a younger boy. They are standing in the middle of a street as any other in this village. The girl is wearing a light blue ornate dress with a lovely red velvet looking cloak. Her skin looks unnaturally grey-blue, but that very well may be the weird cast that seems to come from the sun being perpetually behind cloud in this area. The boy is about half her size, wearing a hooded coat similar to the girl's dress, and clutching a small stuffed bear toy. They look alike, probably siblings. The boy is sobbing while the girl leans over and is talking quietly to him. When they see us, he shied away and hides behind the girl.

As we approach and try to comfort the children, the girl quickly shushes the boy and says to us, "there's a monster in the house" and points to a brick house behind them. The house looks like it has seen better days, and is currently as quiet and dark as all other houses we have seen while wandering this odd village. There is a gated door at the bottom which looks rusty, but ajar.

Asking the children about this monster, they say their parents keep it locked in the basement, but don't know what it looks like. They refuse to go back into the house. They don't know how to get into the basement. We tell them to wait here, and we will investigate.

Entering into a foyer, we notice that although it looked decrepit on the outside, the inside is clean and well maintained. It is not dusty, and the walls and floors look clean. There is a shield on the wall, with the emblem of a golden windmill on a red field. Either side of the shield are painted portraits, with no nameplates. I wonder who these people are. They look aristocratic. They look like people I would have once been sent to kill.

Moving from room to room, we find more paintings. Fields, flowers, satyrs and nymphs. Guybrush notices that if you inspect them more closely, many of these paintings have darker themes, snakes and skulls - death. Many of these rooms contain fireplaces, and I light each of them to bring some warmth into this cold old house. It doesn't seem to do much. Lucian revels in finding some locked cabinets and chests, and being able to show off his thievery skills. I revel in finding a rather lovely cloak and top-hat, which I immediately adorn. I look regal.

As we climbed the grand spiral staircase, hung upon the wall in the second level's landing is a rather grand painting of a man and a woman, and two children. The children depicted are the ones that we recently met outside, though they seem happier in the painting. The man and woman must be their parents. The man in the painting is also swaddling a baby. The woman looks unhappy. Looking through the rooms on this level initially reveals nothing of interest, however Taroc looked out one of the windows towards the front of house and noticed the children were no longer in the street, and in fact could not be seen anywhere.

We also discovered a library, much to Moradin's delight. He began searching the shelves for interesting books, and discovered a book that when pulled opened a secret panel. Beyond this passage was a small room that contains some documents describing some kind of necromancy, and a chest with a skeleton half sticking out of it, three darts embedded in the leather armour still adorning it's form. Shifting the skeleton aside, we checked the contents and saw that inside were some spell scrolls (which Moradin took), some blank books (exquisitely bound in black leather), and a few documents. One of the skeleton's hands was also clutching a letter.

The documents are a deed to a house (this house?), a deed to a windmill (perhaps the windmill in the shield emblem?), and a will signed by Gustav and Elisabeth Durst, bequeathing the house, the windmill, and all other family property and possessions to Rosavelda and Thornboldt Durst. Perhaps these were the children outside? The letter is written in lovely flowing calligraphy. I will copy it out below.

My most pathetic servant,

I am not a messiah sent to you by the Dark Powers of this land. I have not come to lead you on a path to immortality. However many souls you have bled on your hidden altar, however many visitors you have tortured in your dungeon, know that you are not the ones who brought me to this beautiful land. You are but worms writing in my earth.

You say that you are cursed, your fortunes spent. You abandoned love for madness, took solace in the bosom of another woman, and sired a stillborn son. Cursed by darkness? Of that I have no doubt. Save you from your wretchedness? I think not. I much prefer you as you are.

Your dread lord and master,
Strahd von Zarovich

The desk in this library had some calligraphy supplies on it, which I was most interested in, though they seemed basic at best. I took the paper and searched the drawers, finding an iron key. There were no locks to match the key in the area, so I held on to it.

We continued upstairs, and immediately noticed a stark difference to the first two floors - this level was very dusty and cold. Opposite the stairs on the landing was a dusty suit of armour, covered in cobwebs. Being cautious, I took a ball bearing from my backpack and hurled it at the suit. A moment later it animated and attacked, but was quickly dispatched. There was also a storage closet, with generally regular looking janitorial supplies. I began to dig through for anything of interest, and as Moradin shouted that the broom in the corner was emanating a magical aura, it too animated and attacked, knocking me unconscious. I came to outside the closet, the others looking over me and the broom broken in two. This house is full of surprises.

Continuing on, we entered a master bedroom of sorts which was also dusty and in disarray as most other areas on this level. The rug on the floor must have smelled as rotten as it looked. Above the fireplace was a dusty portrait of the same man and woman in the previous painting from the second floor landing. This must be Gustav and Elisabeth Durst. Lucian made quick work of a long forgotten jewellery box, discreetly pocketing the contents. He thinks we didn't see. We saw it.

The last room we searched on this level appeared to be an ornate bedroom with attached nursery, albeit completely covered in dust and cobwebs. Opening the doors to the nursery, and a spectral being of some kind manifested and also attacked. Lucian and I lured it out into the hallway where the others were, and we were thankfully able to be rid of the beast. Carefully heading back into the nursery and inspecting the crib, we found tightly wrapped bundle, with nothing inside. Very strange.

After those small skirmishes, I suggested we head back down to the library and take another break for a while. I desperately needed to rest and adjust myself. The others agreed, and we barricaded the door.

Entry #4

After an hour or two of rest, we climbed back up to the third level and kept looking around. While pushing and poking around the walls, we discovered a secret passage way from the landing into the nursery. It also concealed a dust-choked staircase leading up into the attic.

Heading up into the pitch black, using a lit torch to burn through the cobwebs clogging the staircase and hallways, we discovered a door that was sealed from the outside with a large iron padlock. The lock perfectly matched the key I found earlier. After unlocking and removing it, I pocketed the padlock and key again. They might be useful in the future. Pushing into the room and we found a window covered over with bricks flanked by two small child-sized beds. Near the door was a toy dollhouse - it was a scale replica of that very house we stood in!

Sadly, in the center of the room were two small skeletons wearing the rotten and tattered clothing that the children outside were wearing, the smaller skeleton still clutching a dusty stuffed animal.

Lucian began to inspect the dollhouse, and as soon as he touched it, visions of the two children appeared. The girl asked what we were doing. We spoke of our discussion outside, but they didn't know anything about that. They said they were once Rose and Thorn Durst, but they died. We asked how to get into the basement, and Rose showed us in the dollhouse that there was a secret passage in the attic.

Thorn asked if we could stay and play with him, but we said that we still needed to go slay this monster. As we went to leave, the two children became agitated and angry. Rose "jumped" into Guybrush and Thorn into Lucian. Their demeanors immediately changed - Guybrush became very insistent on heading to the basement and killing this monster, and Lucian became rather afraid, but happy to follow Guybrush's lead.

We all agreed and headed for another room in the attic, which revealed a secret passage containing a steep staircase descending through the floors into the basement. Down we went. I wondered what fresh hell awaited us below as I trudged behind Guybrush and Lucian. Still better than my old life.