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stonegod's Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Ch. III [IC] (Completed)


Spawn of Khyber/LEB Judge
The Telling: The Final Question

"How do we defeat the great evil that plagues this land?"
Madam Eva's shoulders slump as a great rattling sigh escapes her. It is then that the gathered catch a brief glimpse of her age, seeming beyond many mortal lifetimes. It is fleeting, not much more than a ghostly illusion, but this was a question she was most certainly dreading.

And waiting for.

She looks Ashlyn in the eyes, her gaze reflecting all in the room except herself. Her words are measured, precise. I tell you this now and only once, for after this telling Madam Eva answers no more. You meddle in skeins near old as the earth itself, and it has caught many a noble soul. Already, you have lost many and more will be gone from you before it is done. When you go to the Castle, some will die.

Ashlyn or Jarrith may have started to say something. The smirk on Marot's faces may have be the beginning of words, but Madam Eva silences them with a glance. She was to have none of it. Glancing meaningfully at them all, she closes her eyes, beginning the ritual. The deck has been touched by no other than ye, Lady of the Sword, and this be your last telling. The answer to what you seek is already before you.

She removes her hand from the card on the table. A baleful eye glares out from it, its power palpable.


The Master of the Castle is powerful, a once-man whose enemy is light and whose power transcends death itself. You will seek him in the Castle, and though he may find you many times, you will find him but once. Placing her hand on the deck, she swiftly draws another card and places it over the first. It is clear her hand is starting to tremble.


Her eyes are still closed, her voice clenched, focusing on her trance. You shall seek him on his throne of old. As the Castle was once the seat of its kingdom, you shall find its only king there. The power of good will ward you here, but only once, only when the wards are broken. Her hands now with a noticeable palsy, she grips the final card, and pulls it from the deck with a hiss, smoke clearly coming from it. She places it across the cards, the sign of the future.


Eyes closed in trance, black blood weeping freely now, she struggles with the final words of the telling. Out of darkness and chaos, this final card finds its reason and foundation. It shows the purpose of all things—the key to the life and death and else beyond. She takes a ragged breath, then continues. The darkness gathers its strength, seeking allies both light and dark, and strikes out against those that would replace it. Another breath, this one wet. All the cards smolder now, their acrid stench like old death. The Master turned those that would stop him against each other, pitting his greatest foes against his greatest rival. Already they have stopped the dark witch, turned the maddened wolf to him, and given him the keys to the wards. All that remains is for them to deliver him she... who will rule... by his... side!

As Madam Eva finishes the last words, she screams as the cards flare in a dark fire. Her eyes fling open as she pulls back her scorched hands. Soon, nothing is left of her cards but ash. None from the camp come to her.

Madam Eva looks haggard, her face more withered, almost more feral at the same time. Whatever she had done, it had cost her.

Her voice weak, she addresses the gathered. It is done. I have done all that has been compelled of me, served who I must. I can answer no more. Leave Madam Eva to her fate.


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First Post
Ashlyn listens intently to the old lady's words, committing them to paper even as they are uttered. She notes the smoke, the blood, and the dark fire, but mindful of the effort that the old woman it putting forth, Ashlyn focuses on the words, on the telling.

Once the telling is done, Ashlyn slides the paper back into her pouch, as she stands and reaches over the table to grasp Madam Eva's left hand by the wrist. Looking only at the old woman, she speaks "Any words that I might utter are naught but pale shadows, yet should you wish it there is more that I would offer. For your pain and your fatigue I offer what small healing is mine to give."

[If Madam Eva consents, Ashlyn will use 24pts of Lay on hands and 1x Lesser restoration]


As the group leaves the tent, there is a noticeable expression of both pain and anger across the face of the paladin shifter. Khensu tries hard to regulate his breathing, centering himself, keeping himself in control. Although his vigil in the town square did much to strengthen his mind and spirit... what was revealed to all within the tent has blown across the embers of doubt still within in, keeping the potential fire burning.

"I suppose I would be that maddening wolf then, eh?" he says quietly and firmly... not leaving any expectation for someone to try and change the meaning. "I have caused setbacks to our cause several times, and from what Madam Eva implies... many foes were made and are still friends of the fiend in the castle. How can I be sure that I am my own man? How can I?" He glances at Jarrith, and the stalker looks at him for the merest millisecond before he has to turn away. Jarrith knows the truth that Khensu espouses... they aren't sure. They can't be. They do not know the power that the land and the Lord holds here, so who is to say the shifter still isn't under his sway?

Jarrith purses his lips and stares back at the tent from which they came. He considers things for a few seconds, then turns back to Khensu with a steely look of determination. "You're done, here, Brother. There's nothing you can do. Take the Tome of Strahd... there's nothing more from it we can gleam... give it to Ochem, and then join the caravan and leave. If you can find Janis take her with you. And tell Ochem that Marot, Ladreth, Avron, Tessa and I will catch up with the caravan when we can."

Khensu's face reveals his pain. He knows what Jarrith says to be the truth. He is a liability now. Even if he honestly believes in his heart that he is stronger than anything that would affect him... the truth is... he just doesn't know. He wipes a slight tear from his eye and embraces each member of the party in a goodbye, before leaving them to return to Master Ochem.

(Whether he takes the Tome to Ochem as an impetus to have the caravan leave Barovia is up to the group to decide first. If they want to hang onto the tome, then Khensu will remain in town with the caravan instead. But in either case... I won't run Khensu for this last section of the adventure up at the castle. Preferably he leaves Barovia altogether so that we have less worry of him coming back under Strahd's spell, but if he needs to remain within the area, so be it.)


Spawn of Khyber/LEB Judge
Once the telling is done, Ashlyn slides the paper back into her pouch, as she stands and reaches over the table to grasp Madam Eva's left hand by the wrist. Looking only at the old woman, she speaks "Any words that I might utter are naught but pale shadows, yet should you wish it there is more that I would offer. For your pain and your fatigue I offer what small healing is mine to give."
Madam Eva flinches, her claw like hands shooting back. Her answer is almost a hiss. All that be done is done, child. Touch me not! It is best for all of us.


First Post
Tessa sat silently throughout the reading. She had never seen the like of it- it was like no ritual she had ever seen, but she could sense the undercurrents of power at work within the tent, like a strong river flowing beneath a sheet of ice. She fought back a startled exclamation at the flames which finished the reading- she was no stranger to the sudden flare of dark flames...

Once they had left the tent, she remained silent- like most of the others, she was trying to see what sense could be gleaned from the mysterious words. She shook her head sadly at Khensu's dismay, but she hardly knew the big shifter as well as Jarrith did, and she doubted she could spin words that would ease him. She did clutch at the haversack which held the Tome, but did not immediately produce it- was now the time to give it over? And, after all, was Ochem the one who should finally hold it?


First Post
"No," Avron says. "That is not you referring to you. I did not take place in your battles against lycanthropes, but that is probably what she refers to." He looks the shifter in the eye, the human's eyes are clear, free of madness. "We will need your arm in the battles to come. You are the glue that holds us together. Your very spirit strengthens my mind just standing nearby."


First Post
Ravika was bewildered by the colouful, almost garish display, at the campsite and was immediately uncomforatable by the campsite. Surely anyone this brave, or foolhardy, was someone that she should be wary of. During the reading, apparently the woman was a soothsayer of some kind, Ravika kept a close watch on her and once her age began to show, the shifter was questioning her accuracy.

She will silently exit the tent, not fully understanding the events that just transpired, but anxious to aid in freeing this land of the darkness that had taken hold.


First Post
With Madam Eva's reaction Ashlyn quietly pulls back her hand, "Very well, if that is how it must be then I bow to your choice in this. Nonetheless you have my profound thanks. I will do all that I can to ensure that your efforts in this are not for naught."
Ashlyn then takes a single step back and executes a very formal bow, which to anyone versed in the protocols of Cyran nobility, would indicate her great respect for the seer.


As she leaves the tent, she catches word of Sir Khensu's statements and she lets out an immediate, unvolutary, exclamation, "No!"
Walking up to the shifter paladin she looks him directly in the eyes and states, "I cannot let this pass. You are a fine man and it has been my honor to accompany you, but on this you are wrong. You cannot simply give up and allow fear of the machinations of one steeped in unlife to rob us of a powerful ally. Even if your interpretation is correct, I would still have you with us. And I believe you are mistaken as to the meaning of the words spoken within, but this is not the place to discuss such things. Let us talk on the road."

Once the group in on the road again and away from the prying ears of the camp, Ashlyn moves alongside Jarrith and Khensu and speaks again, quietly, her words obviously intended just for the two of them, "I apologize for my bluntness, but I believe that you are both mistaken. Mistaken in your intent and mistaken in your interpretation and I hope that you will at least hear me out as to my reasons why I believe so."

"Madam Eva spoke of the vampire's greatest foes being pitted against his greatest rival, obviously referring to our little group as his greatest foes, and the witch we met on the hill as his greatest rival. Then her next words were ..."

Ashlyn then pulls out the paper on which she had written the exact words of the telling and recites back Madam Eva's words: "Already they have stopped the dark witch, turned the maddened wolf to him, and given him the keys to the wards."

She then continues, "'They' obviously refers to us and then she spoke of the witch and the maddened wolf as being separate from us by the wording which she used there. Furthermore, she used the word maddened, which is not a word that can correctly be used to describe you Khensu, not now nor at any part of our travels here. Avron perhaps could well be called mad, but not you. Not even when the dark rage that smoulders deep within you was bought out in the battle with the werewolves in the town could you have been called mad. One might have said of you then that you were overtaken by rage, enraged, mindless, or a host of other synonyms that I do not have the time or inclination to think of right now, but not mad."

"I suspect that we have not met all of the lycanthropes that live within these lands, and that the phrase 'The maddened wolf' simply referred to a particularly powerful specimen that we, fortunately, have not met yet. It is folly to think that we, in our short time within the borders of these lands, have met all the various creatures that inhabit it, and it is dark and foolish pride to believe that you are so important that you must be the maddened creature referred to in the telling, without even allowing for the possible, and given our experiences, the likely existence of a creature more fitting to the description."

"There is only one other thing that I would say. We need you. We need every able weapon in this fight that stands before us. Will you ever be able to look at yourself in a mirror, if you walk away from this battle now?"

Ashlyn continues to look at the shifter paladin, she does not look away, but the anguish written on her face speaks even more. She knows the harsh nature of what she has said may break not just one, but two friendships, and she fears that. Yet she has not stepped away from saying what she feels she must, even if the cost be so high, for she is sure that otherwise, the cost will be higher.


Sir Khensu stops his walking as Lady Ashlyn makes her case. Jarrith steps up as she talks as though he wants to interject, but as the shifter remains silent and listens to the paladin, he holds his tongue.

"There is only one other thing that I would say. We need you. We need every able weapon in this fight that stands before us. Will you ever be able to look at yourself in a mirror, if you walk away from this battle now?"

After Ashlyn finishes her comments, Khensu takes a moment to ponder her words. He sighs inwardly, then drops his head to his chest. "You speak truth, M'Lady. However, this is not something I bring up off a whim. I've been fighting with this inside of me my entire life. And after what Madam Eva has said... I just don't know what might be true anymore."

He looks up at her, then glances at Marot, then the others in the group other than Jarrith. He never actually looks back at his Brother, as he knows that whatever he himself decides, Jarrith will go along with. Finally, after a few more moments, he glances back at Lady Ashlyn and nods. "As you wish. I shall stay."

Straightening his shoulders and trying to regain a regal composure, Sir Khensu starts off again in the direction they were travelling. As the rest of them all start up as well, Jarrith cannot help but take a few steps over to her, and lean in to casually whisper... "Sure hope you're right..." And he purses his lips in an expression that says that he's not so sure she is. He kicks the sides of his horse and then gallops forward to catch up to his Brother.

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