Friday, July 15, 2016

A Will is a Prophecy of Death Waiting to be Fulfilled

Since the party had inadvertently stripped the mining town of Uriel of its protection from bandits during their last adventure, Tarvin Sellvek busied himself in Chancel shaking the family tree looking for someone who could take over the duty of guarding the town. Aid came in the form of Abel Sellvek, a relative from a distant branch of the family. Abel is a veteran of eastern wars, and was able to muster a small band from his former mercenary company, the Sword of Sorrow. More importantly, Abel was in need of gainful occupation due to past follies.

Tristan also spent his downtime looking for help in securing Uriel and establishing a foothold for the religious mysteries of St. Othric. In Chancel he uncovered a small group of recent converts led by an earnest woman named Seraphine Krieger. Seraphine has a checkered past as a criminal. She was tried for her crimes and executed by hanging. However, she did not die upon the gallows; she hung from a rope for three days and experienced a vision of St. Othric. She survived the ordeal and was born again to spread the glory of the saint throughout Krevborna. She bears the scar of the noose around her neck as a reminder that her life should be forfeit. She also pledged to protect Uriel, while establishing a mission there in the name of St. Othric.

Tarvin had been looking into the family tree to find someone to marry Grimm to so that his "servant" might fully join him in fraternal loyalty. The solution to that aim was also found in Abel; Abel had daughter of marriage age named Erabelle, and he had reason to join his daughter to a man without family or noble status: he had acquired some gambling debts that he cannot clear himself of. If he is provided with eight-hundred gold coins to free him from those debts of honor, Grimm gains a wife. Erabelle, for her part, is no fool. She knows that this marriage is purely a transaction, but in truth doesn't mind overmuch--anything to get her out from under her father's roof.

And so, Tarvin and Tristan rounded up their newly-forged soldiery and headed back to Uriel to re-establish peace. Little had changed in the weeks they were gone, but the town proved very receptive to their plan for keeping Abel (and his soldiers) and Seraphine (and her converts) on a stipend to defend the town. Plans were drawn up to build a chapel to St. Othric that can also serve as a fortified watchtower. 

Following a lead on the Durst family that the adventurers hadn't had time to delve into on their last visit to Uriel, Tristan and Tarvin visited the local inn and tavern, which was operated by a tattooed former sailor named "Black" Durst. The innkeeper explained that his family had formerly been wealthy and prominent, but the main line of the family had fallen into the worship of dark powers. He knew of the windmill, the Old Bonegrinder, that Tarvin was looking for and was even able to provide a map to the mill's location. Tarvin and Tristan also paid Black Durst to keep The Passion of St. Othric under lock and key in the inn's safe.

Significantly, before leaving Uriel to visit the Old Bonegrinder Tarvin made out his last will and testament.

The way to Old Bonegrinder was treacherous: to reach the mill the pair would have to travel through the Silent Forest and venture near Hemlock, a town known to be overrun with witches and devil-worshipers. Just outside the forest, the party made camp...and during the night were approached by a stranger wearing a jaunty hat of black with a sable plume, his clothes made of trim black velvet and his black boots polished to a luster. The stranger offered the duo wine, which they both politely declined. He then sat down with them, by the light of a lantern, and began to talk of the difference between devils and demons. The stranger, who later revealed his name to be "Mikhail," expressed the view that demons are creatures of the flesh, of bodily desire. Conversely, devils are creatures of the spirit, of spiritual corruption. Thus, while most folk use the terms "demon" and "devil" interchangeably, they are opposites and are in fact antagonistic to each other. 

The stranger then posed Tarvin and Tristan a question: which did they suppose was more worth fighting against, demons or devils? Both men agreed the demons seemed more worthy of destruction, which pleased the stranger to no end. He felt about his person, then pulled out a parcel which he unwrapped, revealing two bronze daggers that he wished to give to Tarvin and Tristan to protect them from any demonic beings they might encounter. Suspicious about where this conversation was going, Tristan opened himself to otherworldly emanations and correctly determined that the stranger was, in fact, a fiend. Not wishing to take a gift from a fiend directly, they offered him a pair of coins in return for the daggers--which Mikhail gladly accepted. The daggers now in the hands of those that said they would slay demons, the stranger stood up and took his leave. The pair settled back into their camp, and heard the stranger call out to them one last time from the darkness, "Say hello to the Olashenko girl for me next time you see her! Tell her that Mikhail sends his regard."

Wishing to avoid the town of Hemlock, Tarvin and Tristan made their way through the Silent Forest and stuck to the hill line, leaving the witch-town below in the fog-shrouded valley. Eventually they spotted a windmill at the apex of a hill--the area seemed abandoned, the windmill in disrepair, and its windows grimed over with filth. Upon entering the windmill, the pair found themselves in a makeshift kitchen littered with broken pottery and dishes. The room held a peddler's cart, a coop filled with clucking chickens, a cabinet with flowers painted on its doors, and a wooden trunk from which issued the croaking of frogs. The room also contained an oven, which was filling the room with the sweet smell of baking pastries. Underneath the appealing smell of confections, however, was a sharp, acrid smell...that was determined to be coming from a barrel of vaporous green ichor placed by the stone stairs leading up to the next floor. Tarvin checked the oven, noticing that broken bones were scattered across the floor; the oven held a tray of pastries that looked not unlike those served to him at the dinner party hosted by Ivara Olashenko.

Tristan and Tarvin climbed the stairs to the second floor, where they found an old woman sweeping up great clouds of white dust and old bones. The center of the room was dominated with a mill stone attached to a wooden shaft that ascended through the ceiling. The pair debated sneaking past her to continue up the stairs to the third level of the mill, but their conversation drew her attention. She asked if they had come to buy her pastries, which led to a conversational game of cat and mouse. Pastries were purchased, but not eaten. The woman revealed that her daughters were upstairs. Cackling laughter was heard from above; the laughter seemed to shake the windmill. The old woman's unwillingness to let Tarvin and Tristan explore the rest of the windmill resulted in her lunging at them. The pair fought her off with axe and glaive, while she removed a hairpin from the gray bun at the back of her head and used it to repeatedly stab a rag doll--with each stab of the poppet Tarvin and Tristan felt their own bodies pierced through, though without obvious injury or blood. The battle was a pitched one, requiring that Tristan channel the healing light of St. Othric, but the pair proved triumphant.

Not wishing to stumble into an ambush on the next floor, Tarvin detached his shadow (a power he gained by accepting a bargain with the darkness when he had previously felt the icy grip of death at his throat) and sent it to scout ahead. The shadow scurried up the stairs and reconnoitered the situation; when the shadow rejoined him, Tarvin knew that there were a pair of women--one blonde, one dark--seemingly tied at the wrists to the mill shaft with rope. The room also held a stack of crates, a dusty bed, and the floor was strewn with discarded clothing.

Our heroes ascended the stairs. The women claimed that they were abducted from a nearby farm and that the witch below had planned to grind their bones into flour for her pastries; they pleaded to be freed. Noting that their tattered gowns were not the clothing of farm girls, Tarvin saw through their lies and attacked them. The women, of course, were not truly bound to the shaft at all, but merely attempting "the succubus gambit," which any seasoned adventurer was sure to see through. "I told you it wouldn't work, Ophelia!" the blonde hissed to her dark-haired sister.

The resulting combat was edge-of-the-seat tense. Tarvin did massive amounts of damage to the blonde woman, but she dealt him massive amounts of damage in return with her iron-hard claws. Tristan was having difficulty landing solid blows with his glaive and eventually switched to the enchanted Sword of Armin and the bronze dagger from the stranger to do more reliable damage. As the fight wore on, the two women dropped the facade of being damsels in distress; their youthful skin began to slough off, revealing the women to be wicked hags. Slipping through Tarvin's guard, the blonde witch caught him with a terrifying blow that robbed him of consciousness and sent him bleeding to the floor. Now faced with two foes, Tristan opted to stand his ground even though he was grievously wounded and had exhausted the holy power he could call upon. He managed to dispatch each of the women by penetrating their foul hearts with the bronze dagger, but it was a very near thing.

Tristan immediately attempted to staunch Tarvin's bleeding, but to no avail. With a gasp and a death rattle, the light fled from Tarvin Sellvek's eyes forevermore.

Hearing whimpering sounds coming from the crates in the room, Tristan left the side of his fallen friend and found that the crates were actually wooden cages--two of which held a boy and a girl respectively. They begged to be released and claimed that the witches had kidnapped them to ground their bones into flour. Suspicious of this twice-told tale, Tristan again opened himself to the emanations of the supernatural, but these children proved to be just children. Tristan released them from their prisons and searched the rest of the room. The tattered and musty bed seemed unused, and he found that several pieces of jewelry had been sewn into the mattress for safe-keeping.

Gathering the children, whose names are Myrtle and Franklyn, as well as the corpse of Tarvin Sellvek, Tristan decided to head back to Uriel. On one night within the Silent Forest during the return journey, Tristan saw the light of a bonfire deep within the forest and heard ominous chanting in a language he did not understand, but decided against investigating further for fear of leaving the children in danger.

In Uriel, Tristan alerted Abel Sellvek about his kinsman's death. A funeral service and burial was arranged for the next morning. Dr. Robisard, Black Durst, the newly-installed soldiery and clergy, and a few of the brothel women attended the last rites. Tristan gave a moving oration about the bravery and darkness within Tarvin--an example of mankind's dual nature and an expression of the hope that it is our good deeds that win out in the end. A marker of cold gray stone was placed at the head of the grave, providing a lasting monument to the man who had so recently ushered in a new era of prosperity in Uriel.

After the funeral, Tristan was approached by a woman with curly, dark hair wearing a mourning veil. She introduced herself as Ivara Olashenko, an acquaintance of Tarvin and Grimm's from their misadventures in the foreign lands of Barovia. She offered Tristan some consoling words on his loss, and requested that he accompany her back to Chancel to inform Grimm of his friend and master's untimely demise. Tristan agreed, Ivara placed a bouquet of white flowers on Tarvin's grave, and the two decided to depart the next morning. As Tristan and Ivara left Uriel the following day, they saw that the wooden sign displaying the town's name was being removed and replaced. The workman hung a new sign above the wooden palisade encircling the town--it was now to be known as Sellvek's Hollow.

* * *
The spoils
XP - 900
Treasure - 

  • Six pieces of semi-valuable jewelry worth 150 gp in total
  • Two bronze daggers (magical, +1 vs. demons)