Fate Comes to Call

Despite Max's rage...
We are still just rats in a cage.

Gentle reader, as I pen these words which might just be my last, I cannot help but dwell once again upon the general incompetence of my fellow party members. At every turn it seems this band of merry misfits go out of their way to sabotage our efforts at survival. The shadow of an idea of tactical thinking has been replaced by blind rage and overall stupidity.

As an example not only did these wonderful people decide to allow our webbed betrayer to lead us back into the castle of death, they also allowed him to make some of his supplies which he promptly turned against us. As usual our fowl weather friend made a hasty getaway before we could see how many lives he had. I hope that the nightmare he road off on eats him.

We are now trapped in the castle. The obvious exits have been in turn blown up, blocked off with magical stone and ice and are guarded by a legion of bowmen ready to fill us full of arrows from the ramparts of this tomb. We are in a bind and I fear that the only way out is through the master of this place or an alternate exit that is as of yet unknown. The castle seems to be guarded by a cadre of creatures who don’t talk to each other very much. Some seem outright hostile to one another. Perhaps if we can somehow pit these warring factions against each other, we can win our way out of here.

But that hope is slim enough to appear non existent.

In truth I am not sure why I continue to pen these words as it is clear that it will be some other adventuring company that will find this tome. I wish I had some advice or words of wisdom for you adventurer, but I fear that we have learned painfully little about the master of castle to be of any use. Indeed my only advice that I can give is that if the lord of this foul land offers you employment perhaps you should agree to his terms after all.

Better to serve in hell than to go mad and be eaten alive or worse in this place.

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The Oaken Wolves' Guide to Supernatural Creatures
By Roger Keenblade

Okay, new meat. If you’re reading this book, congratulations. You’ve proved you have the brains to read and the ability to stomach the rules laid out in the earlier sections of this book. If you have any problem with those rules, come and speak to me so I can kick you out on your ass as soon as possible. For those of you who can handle a few sensible restrictions, keep reading.

Now, I don’t know and I really don’t care what you did before you joined up, but you need to know that now that you’re in a mercenary core there’s a decent chance you’re going to run into some freaky magical shit. In fact, we have some freaky magical shit on our side, and you’d better be grateful for it because our mages and clerics and whatever else they call themselves are going to save your ass so many times they might as well own it. If you’re the type to freak out at a little finger-waggling and destruction of the rules of reality, see my instructions from the start of this part of the book.

This part of the book will tell you how to deal with freaky magical shit. You’re welcome.

Enemy Mages: These motherfuckers can fuck you up if you’re not careful, but they’re hardly immortal. Don’t cluster up and stay on your toes and you should be fine. Archers are a great way to deal with a mage, and so are other mages, but if you don’t have either get in the mage’s face and swing whenever they start gesturing and chanting. Most of them can’t deal with it and most of them can’t take a shot worth shit.

Allied Mages: On the battlefield, protect our mages and get out of the way when they say to. Off the battlefield, I don’t give a fuck. If you’ve got beef, don’t let it come to blood. If you fight ‘em, remember that they’re often fragile so be careful, and also that they can and will wreck you if you get too mouthy.

Undead: We may occasionally have to deal with necromancers. These weirdoes think walking corpses make better soldiers than actual people. They are wrong. Use bludgeoning weapons unless told otherwise, and if you need help get a cleric— the same spells they use to heal us can burn an undead to a pile of ash.

Elementals: These things are made of natural elements. You probably won’t run into one, unless a mage summons one. Be cautious and ask the smart people what kind of weapon to use.

Ghosts: Some people seem to think that walking corpses aren’t weird enough and summon dead people without bodies. These fuckers go right through armor and don’t even have the decency to be solid enough to hit without a magic weapon. Get a spellcaster or someone who has a magic weapon to deal with these assholes.

Oozes: We probably won’t run into these, but if you do, get a mage or something other than a normal weapon. Most of these weird things are acidic and eat weapons like no one’s business.

Fey: Apologize for bothering them and if we need to deal with them go get Axe. For whatever fucking reason he speaks their sparkle-tongue and can usually deal with them. If he can’t deal with them Cold Iron will kill them pretty easily.

Demons/Devils/Whatever the fuck these evil fuckers are calling themselves: It’s not likely that we’ll run into these asshats but if we do they usually resist normal damage. Spellcasters are useful again, and depending on what species of evil asshole they are Silver or Cold Iron works best.

Were-whatevers: People that change into animals without being druids. Usually do it on the full moon. Use silver weapons, if you get bitten tell someone so you don’t become one of them.

Golems: These big man-shaped things are made out of different materials. They’re tough as hell, but unfortunately for us magic doesn’t work on them so we need to deal with them the old-fashioned way. Either get a lot of guys or some really tough guys and get ready for a fight.

Dragons: Run and hope it didn’t decide to eat you.

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Prayer for Survival

Austere Lady,

Please give us the knowledge and foresight to see our enemies coming from a mile away. We march into this castle unknowing if our intelligence is true or not – our source is ducking unreliable, afterall.

I pray that this retaliation and onslaught is the worst that will come until we face the castle’s master… or at least that any fight we come to has as good of an outcome as this. Even with Jolias’ hand, we largely escaped unscathed.

Although with no escape, this may be the last time we see each other in one piece

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Mistakes
Every body else is dumb

It has once again been shown that Antonio is the only one I can trust to not make stupid mistakes. Everybody else outvoted us in order to allow Duck to brew potions to prepare for his inevitable betrayal (luckily I already destroyed his kit and regeants). Axe also kept the donkey around which backfired.

As the day progressed we eventually made our way to the castle and the bridge blew up with duck and the donkey on it (which he probably rigged in the first place). The donkey turned into a greater nightmare and flew him away as axe and I defended against the aproachjng undead.

As expected the undead got a few hits in and were neutralized soon but as they were being held the others continued destroying the frozen forms against my request. This will likely reduce our combat and scouting potential in the future.

On the bright side we now have a vampire under my control to question about the castle

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Without Love
Not Even Three days Grace

Max was working on a project one cold winter night in Ravenloft when something caught his eye. A traveler on the road, a seemingly blind man with a donkey. Something about him familiar. Max moved to inform his allies of the traveler and soon he discovered it was in fact a blind and feeble duck. He has come to strike a deal the others say. He comes in peace the others say. Max hears none of this, he only sees his prey. After a little coercion he convinces the others to allow him to “Parlay” with the Duck. Although they may have suspected it, Duck, was not as fortunate. Max extends a hand in “friendship” to the duck and as contact is made, Max wracks his arm and body with potent electricity, as he hears the bones pop and snap like a burning log, as sees the flesh turn black, he feels a grim satisfaction. The duck now lays unconscious at Max’s feet, the pain having knocked him out cold. Max feels something predatory within urge him forward. “Finish him off Max…he more than deserves it….BLOOD must be paid with BLOOD.” “He has disgraced you, do you have no PRIDE?” The others call out to him, “That’s enough Max!” “We need information Max!” None of this is heard, his back to them they are of no concern, only the meal before him. With a dark bestial grin unseen to the others, Max extends his left hand and levels it on Duck’s face. “I will….I will make you SUFFER as I have suffered.” Electricity crackles and arcs from his fingers and palm into the duck’s head. As he convulses his eye swells and pops like an overfilled water balloon, accompanied by a sickening squelch and a faint sigh as the Duck dies right there before Max. A strange feeling, No guilt, no anger, only a sated appetite and cruel delight at his demise. Something violent stirs within, the creature has tasted BLOOD, and it likes it.

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A story about a goddess
Coming to you live from the pantheon

A dark-haired God stumbles drunkenly through the magnificent halls of the Pantheon. Despite his swaying, the tankard in his hand never seemed to slosh over the rim. Even as he drunk from it, the amber liquid refilled itself.

This is Cayden Cailean, the man turned God, lord of drink and heroism, opposition to slavery, he who does the most impossible shit by complete accident. He, like he often was, was pretty drunk at the moment, and as he often did when he was drunk, he was going to bother the other Gods and Goddesses while they tried to do responsible things like listen to prayers or manage their domains.

The good thing about being God of alcohol is that fermentation is a process that mostly runs by itself.

The marble underneath Cayden’s feet was giving way to earth and well-kept grass. He was nearing the portion of the Pantheon managed by Vitaelyus. He reflected for a moment that the local nature and farming goddess was way more nice than Gozreh, and much more fun than Erastil, before swaying his way into her central grove.

“What’sh up, Vitty?” He called to the Goddess seated at the pool she used to look down on the world. It was showing a scene next to a bridge. A large man was stroking a donkey. His eyes were closed.

“Oh. Hello, Cayden. I’m just watching…” She sighs. “one of my worshipers.”

Cayden peered over her shoulder. “Oh, damn. Land of the Mists. That’sh gotta shuck. Why’sh he prayin’ to you?”

Vitaelyus massaged her forehead. “He wants me to see the donkey back to town safely. Ordinarily, I would do so. But… take a closer look.”

The Drunken God squinted. “Ish… that a Greater Nightmare?”

Vitaelyus sighed. Cayden began to laugh hysterically.

“It’s not like he has any way of knowing! Not really, at least.”

Cayden laughed harder.

“Would you stop it?” She shouted.

He trailed off. “Eh, yeah, fine. So, you going to do anything?”

She shrugged. “I have. I’ve given the Nightmare and its leader some bad luck. I can’t imagine it will do much, but these adventurers are quite…”

Both divine beings stared as the alchemist hopped on the back of the “Donkey” and slapped its ass. Cayden started laughing again as the Nightmare stepped on the hidden bomb in the bridge.

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The curse of the gypsy
I lay claim to what remains of your soul...

Gentle reader, the curse of the gypsy or “gypsy’s curse” as it’s more commonly referred to is a form of ritual magic that predates the usage of an actual written language by any sentient humanoid species by roughly one thousand years. The oldest tales of the ancient rituals practiced by the traveling people always first involve a curse as their most powerful ability. There are many charlatans out there who pretend to be Vistani or Gypsy and practice the “evil eye”. However, the fact remains that the dark power of the gypsy’s curse in the hands of a skilled traveler is a sight both dreadful to watch and terrible to be the target of.

To explain the power of a true gypsy curse, one must first come to understand the cursed existence of the Vistani themselves. The traveling people are a large and ever expanding tribe of men and women who somewhere in the veiled mists of time failed in keeping their word to an elder power. It is unknown who this power was or is in the present day. There are several dead gods in the oldest pantheons and moldiest tomes of forgotten lore who could have done such a thing. The end result of this failure was “to be cursed to forever wander the roads of man until such a time as the road home could be found again.”

It has been several thousand millennia now if the mystics and sages of the gypsies can be relied upon and still the curse lingers on. The road home has not been found. The curse has not been lifted. The gates keeping the souls of the traveling people from the halls of judgement are still barred and locked against their entry. The shadow cloaked road of despair and darkness continues to stretch before them.

As such a true Gypsy knows that when their life has ended they will once again be spun out by the wheel of time to be trampled and mangled underneath its unending tread. No matter what one does with their life will cause any deviation of this course. If you sell your soul to a demon in this life, when they are done tormenting you and cast you into the pits of fire to roast for all eternity, the great wheel of time gathers up those remains and casts you out again into the world for another bloody revolution.

Who knows? In this next life you may be a paragon of justice! Sworn and committed to battle against evil for as long as you draw breath! But when you take your last breath, usually against some form of current EVIL, you will still find that the wheel of time awaits you instead of the planes of paradise to crush you once again underneath its unending spin. More than anything else most sages believe that this is most likely the cause of the gypsy’s ambiguous moral and sexual nature. When one has been reborn a thousand upon a thousand upon a thousand times of both sexes, things such as morality and social taboos tend to become more “elastic” as the decades pass.

One of the worst fates and worst curses then that a Vistani can bestow upon a non traveler is to conscript them to their ranks. To rip their soul from its intended fate and bind them to the wheel of time for all eternity. Details of how this can be done are sketchy and closely guarded by the traveling people themselves, but it is said that the blood of a person who casts such a curse turns as black as the night itself while the deed is done.

It would be despairing indeed then if the caster of this curse was to mark them as anathema as well. To travel the crooked path alone and be forsaken by not only the superstitious and bigoted non Vistani people he meets, but by his brothers and sisters as well who would shun him from the circle of the wagons for his crimes against them in previous lives. There are some crimes, some injustices, some treasons that live on throughout the generations. Any child so marked will most often times be drowned at birth or left exposed to the elements for such a cursed birthright.

Woe be then to the man who be marked as such.

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Report 24th of the Goodmonth

Day at camp. Received message from Madame Eva. War is breaking out in old continent. Must try to make it back to Siendart to help. Also told of man to the south who would help with controlling my emotions, something I sorely need.

Duck approached camp, blinded and surrendered himself. As much as i would like to kill him, he surrendered – proper thing to do is hear what he has to say before causing any harm. Yet Max killed him not just once, but twice, and threatened another when he was warned. My concern is if he would do the same with us. He called lightning with no warning striking me by mistake.

Duck seems to be more forth coming with information when I play nice, so play nice I will – although I will make it clear that my supposed kindness will only go so far… For all members of our group as well.

What was learned:
Bridge will be dropped once we cross
Vampyr named Sasha is pulling the strings – Perhaps Strahd is insane?
There will be an ambush once we cross
Duck still can call his master
Duck knows what we seek and where to find it, but may be cursed from telling us.
Duck can still come back from death
Duck has a way of seeing with his medicine
There may be no other alternate entrances

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Revenge

The days have begin to grow colder and my clothes continue to rip and tear, which makes for an unpleasant combination. I should perhaps offer to repair Maxs as well since he offered to repair my weapons, if the others request my services as well I shall consider it. This is besides the point however.

Shortly after I finished we were informed by Max that somebody fitting Ducks profile is near the edge of the border. Axe and Antonio went to investigate while the rest of us remained, after a few minutes I sent a message to follow up and they confirmed. The rest of us approached and watched for ourselves.

With the near certainty of his blindness I remained silent to not give myself away and Max went to… “parley”. Expecting the next action I started weaving spells and as expected it fell to violence… in a manner. Max blew Duck up twice, which I must admit I enjoyed, and I began to placing curses on him. Shortly after Julianah attempted to scare us off into a meeting, it appeared to work on Max but not me. Eventually we did progress to a more civilized conversation and Duck began to spill his guts on why he wants us to help and how it can be mutually beneficial for survival. I did curse his ability to lie but with his skill I am not sure if it is enough so I still have some caution.

Duck also let slip that he can see and function if he takes a “medicine” from his backpack. I have half a mind to go through his pack and break it, along with any other vials and alchemy ingredients during the night to make sure he is no threat. By the end of the conversation I realized that my urge to curse him has began to subside, there is no game in continuing against a blind man that is not defending himself.

That is not to say that I will not continue to tear down his essential abilities however.

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We're Past Introductions Now, I Hope
The Formation of tTwNN Part 2

The followers of The Lady Eclipse liked to think of themselves as an unstoppable force, backed by the indisputable might that was their leader. Against normal threats, they may have been right— they were, after all, well-trained and well-equipped, and their numbers were not to be scoffed at either.

This is not a normal threat.

Dereck Forrester, better known as Axe in his line of work, is not a very proud person. Despite this, he does take a certain amount of quiet satisfaction when he hears how people describe him. Axe is, above all else, a professional— he has his quirks, but he does not let those quirks jeopardize his mission. He rolls with the punches and gets the job done. No matter how weird things get, he’ll stick with things and do his very best.

Even so, sometimes things get really weird. Axe reflects on this fact as he watches what looks like a renaissance fair escapee charge screaming into the fray he’s currently involved in, her sword glowing like the sun as she buries it in one of the many thugs he’s been busy dealing with. Given that the black-wearing rent-a-cultists are all openly gaping and staring at her, he’s not the only one that didn’t see this coming.

His shock doesn’t stop him from quickly decapitating another opponent in the shocked silence. Axe is, above all else, a professional. The presence of aid, not just from the lady knight but also from what looks like one of the more well-armored priests that Axe has ever seen, ensures that the remaining thugs are quickly finished off.

“Not that I’m complaining about the assistance, because believe me I appreciate it,” Axe starts, pulling a rag out of one of many pockets and wiping down his axe blade, “but who the hell are you two?”

“You can call me Paladin. This is Chaplain, my brother. We are servants of the Austere Lady and defenders of the peace.”

“Superheroic types? Guess it makes sense you folks would be out and about with something like this going on.” He shrugs. “Doesn’t matter to me, really. Any aid in a storm.”

“Are you not a hero then?” Julianah asks, hand creeping ever so slightly towards her sword.

Jolias seems much less concerned. “Yeah, that axe of yours isn’t really a typical weapon for law enforcement, so we figured you probably were more like us.”

Axe shakes his head. “Nah, I’m not a hero, but I’m no villain either. Name’s Axe. I’m a mercenary by trade. I wouldn’t even be involved in this, but I heard idiots dressed like these guys trying to break my nextdoor neighbor’s door down, and I like Ms. Williams. She baked me cookies last week because I helped her move her new mattress upstairs.”

Julianah seems satisfied with this explanation. Jolias, on the other hand, has seized onto one portion of the previous speech.

“Wait, Axe is your codename? Really? Did you name your dog Dog too, or is this a one-off thing?”

Axe sighs and grumbles to himself. “Old Man, I will forever appreciate what you did, but you have made every conversation I have with someone new into an Abbot and Costello routine and I might just hate you for it.”

“What?” Jolias asks.

“Nothing important. Do you two know where these lunatics are coming from?”

“I don’t really know. We’ve just been chasing the sound of chaos.” Admits Julianah.

Jolias opens his mouth, but whatever he’s going to say is interrupted as an arrow thuds into the ground not two feet away from Axe. Cautiously he picks it up, retrieving a paper that was wrapped around the shaft.

“It says the criminals are performing a heist at the museum.” Axe relates.

“How did whoever shot that know we were talking about that?” Julianah asks.

“They’re just that good.” Axe continues.

“What?” chorus the twins.

Axe shows them the note, written in elegant calligraphy. “That’s what it says.” Indeed, a few lines below the information Axe had related are written the words “I’m just that good.” It is signed “The Explorer” in an impeccable hand.

The trio looks at each other, shrugs as one, and sets off in the direction of the museum.

“Ha! That’s 25! I’m still winning!”

The men in service to The Lady Eclipse are beginning to worry. One cannot blame them for this, given the two foes they are facing. Maximilian McCloud, surrounded by wind and electricity, blasting foe after foe with crackling electricity and pure elemental power. They couldn’t even engage him from range, as the whipping winds were somehow strong enough to fling bullets and grenades off course.

“I don’t think it should count if I have to render them immobile first.”

Somehow even worse was is man in the black cloak, wielding a massive and deadly scythe. Half of the enemies he slays rise to attack their former comrades. Whenever he points at someone, they become debilitated— two men go blind, three go deaf, and others suddenly find themselves weakened or unable to stop their fingers from shaking and twitching.

What’s even worse is that the two are apparently treating this like some kind of game. Whoever kills the most wins. The sound of the conflict has drawn many of the troops sent out into the streets, and many are regretting responding to the calls for aid.

Max grins. “You’re just jealous.”

The Undertaker gives his own half-smile. “I can’t say I am.”

The villains can be forgiven for not noticing that the one among them trying to take command is felled by an arrow in his eye socket. They soon notice when he groans and turns to try and rip another man’s head off with his bare hands.

As things die down (in most cases literally) and the Undertaker’s servants begin to settle down into a permanent rest, he points to one of them. “17, not yet. Over here, please. I see you’ve got something there.”

Removing the arrow from the corpse, not even acknowledging the blood that spatters on his sleeve, Dakkras purses his lips.

“What’s it say?” Max asks

“These men are running interference for a heist on the museum. I knew I had to be there tonight, but not why. This is interesting.”

Max shrugs. “I was mostly just dealing with the situation. If there’s more to do at the museum, I might as well join you.”

The two men walk off through the streets, making their way towards the museum.

By happenstance (or perhaps, by the engineering of a dramatic archer) the five heroes— well, three heroes, one mercenary, and one technically heroic individual— arrive out front of the museum at the same time. Awaiting them is the Explorer, leaning against a pillar near the entryway.

“I’m glad you all could make it!” He exclaims, his voice carrying easily to the group.

“And you are?” Questions Axe.
“I’m glad you asked. I am the Explorer, a— well, let’s just say “Interested party” in the events of tonight. I have brought you five here to help me in dealing with the forces of The Lady Eclipse, who is attempting to steal a valuable tome from this museum. I would have dealt with it myself, but alas it appears the Lady herself has made an appearance, and while I am quite good in a fight I don’t think I’m so good as to take on someone like her alone.”

“So you need us, then.” Julianah fills in.

“Yes! You all are, from what I’ve seen, rather strong fighters, and heroes to boot. I figured you all would want a shot at someone this tough. So, what do you say?”

“I was going to be here anyways. I’ll help you.” The Undertaker intones.

“Personally, I’d like to speak to the person who has caused this much death. So long as she sees justice, I’m in.” Julianah declares.

“Sounds like fun” says Max, grinning.

“Eh, I’d like to get a word in with this Lady too. This was supposed to be my vacation time.” Axe gripes.

Jolias sighs. “I’m not getting out of this am I?”

“I don’t think so, no. So, if we’re in agreement, into the breach!” Shouts Antonio.

A/N: I hope I did the characters justice. It’s hard writing characters made by someone other than you.

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