The Ravenloft Files: What Comes in the Night

Chapter One: The Fountain of Health

From out of the woods stepped the mysterious stranger, dressed in studded leather armor and wielding a flail now stained with the blood of his first victim. His most noticeable features, however, were his face, the entire right side of which was horribly scarred as if from fire, and his right arm and hand that were similarly mutilated. And then there were his pointed ears, like those of a demon! After pausing a moment to assess the situation, the stranger quickly moved to the far side of the carriage where lay the prone and defenseless body of Ruric, now bleeding out and hovering on death’s door…

These are excerpts from
The Journal of Finzer Sykes

Tuesday, March 18th, 747 B.C.

As I put pen to paper, I do so with great anticipation, and indeed a fair amount of trepidation, for what the future might have in store for me. It seems, at times, that I have come so far, in my brief existence upon this world, when I think about all the things that I have recently uncovered concerning my ancestry, and the mysteries that plague me still. And yet, I truly believe that my journey down the twisting and turning pathways of life, has barely just begun. And so, keeping this thought in mind, I have decided it would not only be very prudent but also very appropriate for me to record certain details of my journey, for posterity as well as for my own sake. Like my father before me, I have a certain legacy that must be dealt with. But unlike him, I shall endeavor to leave my descendants less in the dark about it than I was when first I set out on my own.

Nevertheless, despite all of this, I feel that now is not the time for delving into what would almost certainly become a dark and twisted maze of endless tunnels. So, most of what I have since learned, during this past year, I will, for reasons I would rather not go into yet, avoid discussing for now, preferring to revisit the topic at some point in the future. Instead, I intend to begin my journal by focusing on more recent events. Let me then start by providing some background, taken from firsthand accounts.

It was ten days ago when a young man with some noticeable fey blood in him, going by the name of Ruric, was summoned to the office of Samuel Valentin, Harbinger of the Rosy Dawn, and high priest of the Sanctuary of First Light in Krezk. Having been trained in both the ways of a ranger and a cleric of the Morninglord, Ruric was told that a good friend of Samuel’s, Darzin Morcantha, a ranger from the Teufeldorf area, had a very ill daughter, Justina, that physicians or priests seemed unable to cure, though they could, at least, treat her symptoms and provide her some relief. Both Samuel and Darzin were friends of the famous Dr. Rudolph Van Richten, and so they wanted to send word to the doctor as soon as possible to see if he would come and offer any assistance he could provide. Ruric agreed to be their messenger and was given a fast horse. The next day he took off and rode hard, taking just three days to reach Mordentshire when normally such a trip might take six days.

When Ruric arrived in Mordentshire, exhausted, and with his horse on the verge of collapse (reportedly, the horse would have likely died were it not for Ruric’s healing powers), he spoke with Dr. Van Richten and gave him the message. Although the doctor had some doubts that he could be of any help, he was willing to try. Perhaps he also felt obligated to go and offer his support. So, realizing that Ruric would need more than just a single night’s rest, and knowing he could not ride a horse very fast at his advanced age, he called upon the assistance of a young woman and aspiring paladin by the name of Nevena, whom the doctor had known for some time and who had been brought up at the Chapel of Pure Hearts there in Mordentshire.

The following morning, Nevena took the reins of Van Richten’s two-horse drawn carriage, and led them north out of town, while the doctor and Ruric rested inside. That night, they stopped and rested at an inn in Chateaufaux, Dementlieu, and the next day, they crossed the border into Falkovnia, with its strict, militaristic society.

That afternoon, as the carriage was heading south along the forest road, they were ambushed by six hobgoblins who had felled a tree across the road. First firing arrows, then coming at them with swords, the hobgoblins quickly gained the upper hand and had Ruric and Nevena, who were both currently riding at the front of the carriage, reeling from injuries. Ruric and Van Richten were forced to use spells and potions early on to heal themselves. Fortunately, unknown to everyone else, the three companions had an ally hiding in the woods. This mysterious stranger began attacking one of the hobgoblins from the rear and though he too had his struggles, he was able to keep that hobgoblin occupied. Eventually, Van Richten produced a magical short sword from a hidden compartment in his carriage and went on the offensive, managing to kill half of the hobgoblins himself. But at about the same time, Ruric was being hard pressed by the hobgoblins on his side of the carriage, having already taken a few arrow wounds when two hobgoblins closed in on him and mortally wounded him with their swords. One of these hobgoblins then jumped inside the carriage and began rummaging around while the other ran to join the battle on the far side of the carriage. Moments later, having finally killed one of the hobgoblins, the mysterious ally revealed himself.

From out of the woods stepped the mysterious stranger, dressed in studded leather armor and wielding a flail now stained with the blood of his first victim. His most noticeable features, however, were his face, the entire right side of which was horribly scarred as if from fire, and his right arm and hand that were similarly mutilated. And then there were his pointed ears, like those of a demon! After pausing a moment to assess the situation, the stranger quickly moved to the far side of the carriage where lay the prone and defenseless body of Ruric, now bleeding out and hovering on death’s door.

While Nevena and Dr. Van Richten were otherwise preoccupied and unable to stop the stranger, much less aid their fallen companion, the newcomer to the battle, instead of causing any further distress to the fallen body of Ruric, began binding his wounds and actually managed to save Ruric’s life. Then he turned and rejoined the battle, helping to take down the rest of the hobgoblins. Nevena killed the apparent leader of the hobgoblins, then they ganged up on the sole remaining hobgoblin and took him down.

With the battle now over, the three companions revived Ruric and introduced themselves. The stranger did likewise, calling himself Haladriel. He went on to tell them that since coming to this land only a few months ago, he had been mostly surviving in the wilderness and keeping on the move, largely because of the poor reception he typically receives in towns due to his appearance. Now looking for anyone to aid him or at least, not chase him away, Haladriel was quite pleased when Dr. Van Richten offered to let him ride in the carriage and help him sneak out of Falkovnia with minimal hassle. After tending to any injuries, the four companions then resumed their travels and ended the day in the city of Silbervas.

Over the next few days, the four of them made their way south, having used some magic dust provided by the doctor to disguise Haladriel’s appearance in order to escape Falkovnia. Haladriel decided then to continue on with his three new acquaintances, as he had no friends or allies anywhere else and no place else that would willingly accept him. The three companions, on the other hand, while not initially sure if the stranger could be trusted, gradually began to know him and, perhaps feeling sorry for him, and realizing he had some useful skills, being what he called a magus – someone who can wield arcane magic and weapons simultaneously – they decided he might be worth a try, initially as an ally but perhaps even as a friend. Finally, after six days of travel, the four companions arrived on the outskirts of the town of Teufeldorf.

This is where Damon and I enter the story. I have known Damon now for several months, both of us being natives of Mordent, we happened to meet at a tavern in Mordentshire, as we were both passing through. Damon is probably the most charming, well-behaved and affable, young man I have ever met, and yet he is so humble and, I suspect, naïve, that he would never make a great leader. Still, his powers of healing are remarkable for one who essentially has had no real training and no real experience. And, unlike most clerics I’ve seen, his power to heal seems to come more naturally. But the source of his power is a bit of a mystery to me, for he does not worship any particular deity, nor does he do much praying or reading. I don’t think Damon even knows where his powers come from, beyond the lies told to him by his older brother, Blain. I also don’t believe Damon is aware of his own potential. Unfortunately, his power to heal seems to have come at a price, for Damon is permanently lame, having suffered an accident when he was very young.

Anyway, Damon and I made a deal with one another, that night in Mordentshire while sharing a few pints, that we would explore this land, in an effort to try and explain the many mysteries for which the two of us want answers, and to aid others in need along the way. Gradually we made our way south, and two days ago, on Sunday, March 16th, we found ourselves in Teufeldorf. It was there in another tavern, that we heard talk about a young girl who could not be cured of a terrible disease, even by powerful magic. Knowing about Damon’s unusual ability to heal, I convinced him to give it a try. And so, on the following day, we were at the home of Darzin Morcantha, and Damon was performing his Sin-Eating ceremony in an effort to cure Justina, when Dr. Van Richten and his companions arrived.

They were, understandably, very puzzled when they walked into the room and saw Damon eating food that had been placed over the body of Justina as she lay in bed. So, I explained to them the Sin-Eating ceremony, which, by the way, several years ago had made Damon and his brother Blain quite famous in certain rural areas of Mordent and further east. Unfortunately, while Damon was able to make Justina more comfortable, he was not able to have any noticeable effect on the disease.

Then, Dr. Rudolph Van Richten, having stood by for some time, assessing the situation, stepped up and offered his knowledge and insight. He began by asking Darzin more pointed questions about the circumstances around the time when Justina contracted the disease. Darzin told everyone that Justina had been kidnapped by an old hag in the woods, an old hag who was suspected of having kidnapped several other children before her. Darzin said, he and a few allies of his hunted down the old hag, rescuing Justina in the process. It was Dr. Van Richten who then realized that the hag had laid a curse upon Darzin before she died – a curse that directly affected Darzin’s daughter Justina. According to Darzin, these were the old hag’s words:

“May you watch in horror as the light of your life slowly withers and dies before your very eyes! May you stand by and lament the fact that you are helpless to stop it! May the pain and grief become so unbearable that you will one day willingly hold Andral’s cup of poison to her lips to end the suffering!”

Dr. Van Richten pointed out that, perhaps in an effort to make her curse more likely to manifest, she may have been bold enough, or desperate enough, to actually reveal the means to negate the curse within the curse itself!

When I heard the name Andral, it sounded familiar to me. But it took me a few minutes to recall what I had heard about the name. Andral was the name, or at least one form of the name, of a deity that was Barovia’s first formally founded state church, about 600 years ago, but now almost entirely forgotten. I told the others what I knew about it, and then I was struck by inspiration yet again, when I then recalled a legend about an abandoned temple, dedicated to Andral, and only a short distance from here (and not far from where the hag was killed). This temple, known as the Temple of the Golden Fountain, was said to have magical healing waters so powerful that it might even bring someone back to life. However, during the time of the Terg invasion 400 years ago, the leader of the Tergs sent a stone golem to destroy the temple and kill everyone inside. Before the high priest, known as the Supreme Water Bearer, took his final breath, he laid a curse upon the temple, turning its water to poison. But it has been 4 centuries since and there is a decent chance that the curse has since been lifted. The thinking here, of course, was that maybe water taken from the Temple of the Golden Fountain could both remove Justina’s curse and cure her disease.

Nevena and Haladriel were quick to volunteer to go to the temple to investigate it, and they were not deterred when we were told that another small group of people had gone there just a few days ago and have not yet returned. I have to say that I was impressed by Nevena’s force of personality and her determination. Though she might not be as likeable as Damon, and she might be too strict for my tastes, I have a lot of respect for her drive and initiative, and I find myself thinking that I would be willing to follow her lead – so long as she is willing to listen to good advice, of course. As for, Haladriel, though I am not sure yet what to make of him, I can at least, understand his situation somewhat, since I too get many odd stares and sometimes even verbal abuse due to my so-called, “wolf-like” features. He also has some interesting abilities. Though he’s not very good at any of these abilities, he does appear to show great potential. Ruric, of course, was sure to join in, and soon did so. I have been impressed so far with Ruric as he appears to be a little more experienced than the rest of us, and it appears that we think alike in many ways. So, naturally, I felt obliged to offer my assistance. And, of course, easy going and always eager to help, Damon was not going to turn down the opportunity. Darzin and Dr. Van Richten then, would obviously stay behind and look after Justina.

The next morning – this morning – Tuesday, March 14th, 747 B.C., the five of us, having just gotten a full night’s rest and fully prepared with spells, as well as a few magical potions donated by Dr. Van Richten, we set out in search of the Temple of the Golden Fountain. It actually wasn’t difficult to find, since there were maps which showed the exact location of the temple. And it wasn’t far. It took us about two hours to walk there.

When we found the temple, Haladriel walked around the perimeter and cast several detect magic spells, mostly in an effort to locate the stone golem, if it even still existed. He found several areas where he detected magic. So, we noted these areas and focused on them when we began searching the temple. Some of us were half expecting the temple to be occupied. But as we began exploring it, the only creatures we encountered were giant insects, rodents and a venomous snake. Along the way, we fought and killed quite a few giant pests and collected a decent amount of treasure, including a magic ring, that we have yet to identify (but which is currently being worn by Haladriel), and a wand of magic missiles, which I was able to identify after I somehow managed to use a charge. Fortunately, no one was hit by the two missiles that flew out of the wand.

Another item of note, of course, is that we discovered the bodies of two people who appeared to have died about four days ago. Obviously, these were members of the group that went to the temple earlier and never returned. We were unable to retrieve the bodies, but we plan to take care of that. The first body we found was wrapped up in a giant spitting spider’s web. After killing the spider, Haladriel was able to remove the poison web sac and jaws of the spider so that it could actually be used as a weapon by aiming the jaws and squeezing the sac.

At some point, we did find what we believed to be the stone golem, spotting it from beyond a chamber where several columns had fallen. It fit the description we were given, of a minotaur with an axe, and the blade of the axe appeared to be covered in dried blood. But, if the golem was still active, it did not show any other signs of it. We kept our distance from it and never approached it, and it never appeared to move. But we almost certainly made enough noise, or were visible enough at some point, to draw its attention should it have any interest in us.

We also discovered a couple of golden pendants molded in the shape of ugly, winged creatures that I recognized as gargoyles and holy symbols for the Temple of the Golden Fountain. Suspecting they might bring good luck within the temple, Nevena and Ruric decided to wear them. Another, question we had talked about as we explored the temple, was whether or not there was an actual physical object known as “Andral’s cup of poison”, as mentioned in the hag’s curse, or if the cup was merely a metaphor for any container that contained the contents of the Golden Fountain. I suspected that later, since I had never heard any mention of a magical cup at the temple.

Finally, we came to a sort of antechamber that lay beyond a pair of concealed doors, and which lay before two huge doors made of white marble. These appeared to give access to an inner sanctum with walls and a ceiling made of black marble. It was here that we found the second body of a woman with severe claw marks on her face and back, laying in a position that seemed to indicate she had been fleeing the inner sanctum when she died. Here, we also found the skeletal remains of a priest, perhaps even the Supreme Water Bearer himself.

When we opened the white marble doors, it was dark inside. So, we lit a few torches and tossed them inside the chamber. With the inner sanctum now illuminated, we saw before us an ornate golden fountain, rising from the center of a circle of marble steps leading down to a pool at its base. A hideous creature carved from the black marble squat atop the far side of the fountain’s basin. Its horned head jut out between shoulders that sprout bat-like wings, while the creature’s clawed hands and feet gripped the golden rim. Although the statue’s mouth gaped open as though to spew forth the fountain’s water, no water came forth and the pool was nearly empty.

Considering the condition of the woman’s body, we were warry of the gargoyle that appeared to guard the fountain. So, going on a hunch, only Nevena and Ruric, the only two wearing the gargoyle pendants, entered the temple. They encountered no problems and were able to go to the fountain and collect some of the fountain’s water in a flask. Assuming we had done what we needed to, we immediately left the temple and walked back to the home of Darzin Morcantha.

Once there, we told Darzin and Dr. Van Richten about our expedition, giving them the flask containing the fountain’s water. The doctor then gave Justina a sip of the water and almost immediately, we saw a change in her appearance and she clearly began to feel better. So, it appears our mission was a success.

But we are not yet done with the temple. The question now becomes, ‘What is to be done with the temple?’ For now, only the seven of us at Darzin’s home, as far as we are aware, know the curse has been lifted from the temple. But now that Justina appears to be cured and because the family members of those who died at the temple need to know about the bodies we found, there is little chance that it will stay a secret for long. The place is still dangerous, however, and there appears to be a very limited amount of water left in the fountain. So, it probably needs to be guarded. But who has the right to assume control of the temple and who decides how the water in it is to be used? These are questions that will need to be discussed and ultimately answered. All I know for certain is that I would like to return to the temple and finish exploring it. There are a few questions about the temple that I want answered and I can’t help but wonder if there are any other items of interest to be found there.

Comments

arkhemedes

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.