The Ravenloft Files

The Ravenloft Files, Vol.19, Chapter 7

Tales of the Mistborne: Dark of the Moon
Chapter Two

Realizing that the wolves would soon catch up to us, we began to look about for some means of fortifying our position should we be forced to defend ourselves. But we were quickly running out of time. To either side of us, we saw dark shapes flitting through the trees, darting and disappearing in the shadows. The crunching of paws on the snow and the sudden snap of twigs and branches could be heard. The wolves were circling, and it was only a matter of minutes before they closed in to attack.
The only defensible ground was an open clearing where it would be easy to see the wolves coming. It seemed that the forest itself was alive with menace. Suddenly, a great black wolf was there, larger and more terrifying than I could ever imagine, watching us with keen human intelligence from the edge of the clearing. Its yellow eyes burned with hunger and hate…

Excerpts from

The Journal of Brother Quinn
Of the Order of Guardians

(Continued from) Wednesday, March 25th, 742 B.C.:

After having killed the two ghoulish white shadows, and realizing they appeared to be somewhat intelligent creatures, the thought occurred to us that they might have a lair nearby, and that there might be valuables in that lair. So Baldo used a potion of treasure finding to see if he could locate any such valuables. At the time, it seemed unlikely. But as it turned out, the potion led us to a snow cave about four hundred yards from where we first encountered the creatures.

There we found a small hoard of coins, an enchanted dagger and a magic ring. Perhaps more importantly though, we also discovered two parkas, two sets of snowshoes, a sturdy backpack and shelter for the night.

It was well after sundown when we finally settled in for the night. As it now stands, we should have enough firewood to get us through the night, and while Garret’s magically created food certainly would not garner any accolades for taste, it should easily sustain us for the time being. Tomorrow we will continue our trek to the northeast and with any luck, find some sign of civilization.

Day 2, June 24th, Year 1127 of the Patriarch’s Calendar:

Having learned that the land of Vorostokov uses a different reckoning than that of Barovia, although the nomenclature in their calendar is the same as that of vaasi, I have decided to adopt the calendar of Vorostokov in my writings in the hopes of avoiding any confusion in the future. The fact of the matter is I have no idea how the time here might relate to that of Barovia, since it was spring when we last saw Barovia and, according to the local calendar, it is now summer in Vorostokov, though one would certainly not recognize it as such by the weather we have so far had to endure. So one might ask – did we travel back in time? – did we travel forward in time? – does time even flow the same in this land as it does in Barovia? Who can say? Since these questions cannot now be answered, it may be pointless to even speculate, and with that being the case, I will follow along with what seems most prudent.

Once again the night was bitterly cold and seemingly never-ending. But we managed to make it through, albeit in great discomfort, and with the faint lighting of the dawn, and following our morning prayers, we proceeded on through the knee-high snow and the dense evergreen forest and resumed our slow and arduous journey towards the northeast. For most of the day, our travels were uneventful.

But gradually, towards the latter half of the day, we became aware of a certain sound that seemed to come and go as if drifting on an intermittent breeze through the forest. It was the distant howling of wolves. And as the day wore on, what at first we took to be a seemingly innocuous disturbance slowly grew more pronounced, until eventually becoming an ever-increasingly, threatening presence. By this time, it had become obvious that the beasts were following behind, hot on the scent of our party…

…The power and malice of the black wolf was awe-inspiring. But it turned and abruptly vanished into the woods – just as its pack mates dashed in, faster than our eyes could follow! Only Baldo was able to fling a dagger at one of the wolves before they closed, and missed.

Immediately we were set upon by the snarling canines, some of us having been distracted by the black wolf as if that had been its intent. Ferociously their jaws snapped at us, ripping our clothes to shreds with their fangs as they clamped on tight and shook their heads in a wild frenzy, often drawing blood as they did so. Never before had I seen such a viscous display of savagery from a pack of wolves. It was as if they had become uncontrollably maddened by an insatiable hunger. Every one of us was beset by at least two or three of the bloodthirsty beasts, though some of us fared much worse than others. Poor Peg, in fact, the least experienced of us and most assuredly unaccustomed to close-quarter combat, was quickly pulled down by some of the wolves and was soon being mauled to pieces.

Perhaps more disturbing was the fact that while some of the wolves appeared to take injury from our weapons as they normally should, others seemed to be completely unaffected by our attacks. Clint, for example, shot one of the wolves dead, only to discover that the wolf next to it remained completely unharmed by his bullets. The rest of us thereafter, began to encounter the same difficulties. So Clint quickly reloaded one of his pistols with silver bullets and found that they were able to affect those wolves that we had not been able to harm otherwise. We then noticed that some of the wolves had glowing red eyes whiles others did not, and realized that it was the wolves with red eyes that we had such difficulty in harming. Fortunately, Waylan by then had cast a fly spell on himself and had flown up above us. He then swooped down and let loose with a lightning bolt spell that killed several of the wolves of both kinds.

But it was almost too late for some of us. Peg had been torn apart by the wolves and was on the verge of dying from her injuries, though she managed to cast an invisibility spell on herself for protection. Baldo had also been pulled down by the wolves and several more of us had been badly bitten and were bleeding from multiple wounds.

However, the most dangerous threat, by far, still had yet to enter the fray, though it did so now. The huge black wolf then suddenly appeared behind Waylan and tore into him twice, taking large chunks of flesh out with each vicious bite. Fortunately, we had apparently done enough damage to the wolf pack at this point that their leader called a retreat. The wolves then turned and quickly bounded into the forest, leaving their dead behind, though we did manage to get a parting blow on one of them.

With the wolf attack now over, Garret healed our wounds by channeling positive energy and we briefly discussed what had just occurred. Considering the fact that some of the wolves were only harmed by magic and silver weapons, we could not help but suspect that some of the wolves may have been lycanthropes, though I have come to understand there are several known varieties, particularly those that take the form of a wolf. From what we have heard and read, most of these are capable of spreading their lycanthropic disease – which means some of us may be infected, and there is really no way of telling who. Thankfully, out of the seventeen wolves that attacked us, including the large black wolf, we managed to kill ten of them, seven of which appeared to be normal wolves while three were possibly lycanthropes. Not including the large black wolf, three of the normal wolves fled, as did three of the possible lycanthropes. Since food and clothing appear to be in such short supply in this land, we decided to field dress the seven normal wolves for their hides and meat and take them with us.

After doing this, we continued on our way. But we did not get much further before the sunlight began to wane. So, because of our apparent lack of progress this day, due in part to the shortness of the daylight, we decided to cast a light spell and continue on for another hour or so. As we did so, we eventually came within sight of what must be a frozen lake that Waylan had spotted two days before when he flew above the trees to look around. Soon after that we came within sight of something else.

Once again the night had become bitterly cold. It was also unnaturally still and quiet, and the forest was flooded with the silver light of a single moon, making it easy to see. Towards the end of this day’s journey, we spotted, off in the woods, a dim orange glow – the light of a campfire.

Encouraged by the prospect of encountering another human in this frozen wilderness, not to mention the alluring warmth of a fire, we continued on in the direction of the light. The fire was about half a mile away, through the forest, and soon we came upon a clearing where a campfire crackled before a small lean-to made from pine boughs. A dark-haired young man sat before the fire, warming a cup of steaming tea. The fellow was wearing weathered buckskin, with a great parka of fur hanging over his shoulders. A sturdy bow and a large battle axe lay close to his hand. A pair of rabbits was roasting on a spit over the fire. As we drew near, we called out to the man a greeting so as not to alarm him and asked if we could approach. He answered back a welcoming reply and invited us to join him. Some of us I think did not expect to receive such a friendly reception in such a forbidding wilderness, but we were certainly glad for it.

The young man introduced himself as Mikhail Zolnik, calling himself the marshkovik, or leader of the warriors from the nearby village of Torgov. We, in turn, introduced ourselves and even Waylan gave his real name with the logical assumption that an alias such as Lord Jotto would be wasted on such simple folk as these appear to be. We struck up a conversation with the man and learned much about this land and its people, and in exchange, we told him much about ourselves, particularly our homeland and our recent and mysterious appearance in this land. Most importantly, we told him about our encounter with the man we believe to have been Igor Rikorsky and the subsequent discovery of his campsite and journal. We showed the journal to Mikhail and the map that was found within, and he was very grateful to us for having received the warning that Gregor and his men, the boyarsky, intend to attack the village of Torgov. He told us that he would take us to the village tomorrow and asked if we could assist the village in any way that we could. After listening to what he had to say, we assured Mikhail that we would help him and the villagers however possible.

This then, is a portion of what we learned from him, or at least what we were told, and Mikhail appears to be a warm and friendly person, both patient and polite – so we have no reason to distrust him: First of all, this land, known as Vorostokov, appears to be cursed with a winter that has never come to an end in more than a generation, though Mikhail claims to be unaware of its cause. The land, which appears to encompass less than a dozen villages and no more, is supposed to be entirely surrounded by a ring of mountains through which no pass is known to exist. And though the weather here is bitterly cold and could easily kill a man unprotected, he assures us that we should be grateful that we have not yet witnessed what he calls a zilinya neshka, or black-ice storm, which he says no man is likely to survive without shelter. He also mentioned that the white shadows we encountered yesterday are known locally as yeneshyy, or white cloakers.

The most powerful man in Vorostokov, he tells us, is the boyar Gregor Zolnik, whom Mikhail freely admits is his father, though he has not seen him in years. According to Mikhail, Gregor is an evil man, and his warriors, the boyarsky, enforce a reign of terror over the other villages. The boyarsky demand tribute from the other villages and take it back to the main village of Vorostokov, starving the rest so that Gregor’s favorites may be fed. Mikhail’s village of Torgov, he tells us, refused to send tribute when the boyarsky came last week, and he fears that the boyar will make them regret their decision.

Tomorrow we will travel to Torgov and see what can be done about all of this, though I fear the outcome may be grim.

Day 3, June 25th, Year 1127 of the Patriarch’s Calendar:

Upon our awakening in the morning, Mikhail, as promised, began guiding us to the village of Torgov with no unexpected difficulties along the way. Though it has been an exhausting and often painful few days, we are starting to become accustomed to the extremes of the climate, and thanks to the wolf meat that we prepared last night, we have had plenty of food. Garret has also adjusted his spell selection to better accommodate my companions and him, and protect them from the cold, though I have refused any magical aid in this regard, feeling that it is necessary for me to endure the harsh elements without such comforts so that I may more quickly redeem myself for having broken my vow of poverty. I rely instead on natural means such as fire and the furs we have gathered to protect me from the cold, for it would be foolish to allow myself to succumb to frostbite or hypothermia, which could easily occur were I to leave any part of my body exposed.

Towards the end of our day, as the twilight was fading, our trail came to an end at the village of Torgov. The Trek had been exhausting. Mikhail’s home, as it turned out, is a tiny little hamlet at best, nestled in the shadow of a barren, snowy hill. A dozen small cabins sit in a circle in the center of the village, and about a dozen more small farmhouses and worhshops are scattered around the general area. Farmland covered by a blanket of snow surrounds the sleepy village. The granaries and livestock pens are almost empty.

Mikhail led the way to a small cabin and entered, stomping snow off his boots and shaking the ice from his parka, and we followed suit. Inside, warm firelight filled a cozy taproom. A handful of villagers were drinking hot tea or hard cider, with somber expressions on their faces. They acknowledged Mikhail with smiles and handshakes, but watched us with suspicion.

“Anna, Pyotr, Kerin, these are strangers I met in the forest,” Mikhail said, making introductions all around. They are exhausted and half-frozen, but they have an odd tale to tell. Bring cider, bread and blankets for them.”

We thanked the villagers for their hospitality and offered to pay for their goods and services with our unique skills and talents, such as Garret’s ability to heal and provide food, just to name a couple. It soon became obvious that the village has no clerics or spellcasters of any kind and they were quite amazed at the few spells that Garret cast. For the time being, Waylan and Peg have perhaps wisely refrained from casting any of their spells for fear of becoming the subjects of a witch hunt, though, from the sound of it, there may soon come a time when their spells will be needed.

We spoke with several of the villagers then and told them what we had learned from the journal of Igor Rikorsky, and we offered to assist them in defending the village from the boyar Gregor. In turn, we got to know some of them: There is Anna Karella, an attractive young woman with an easy laugh and dancing eyes. She is a friendly and cheerful person and is the fiancée of Mikhail. Then there is Pyotr Bolshoi, a grizzled old farmer, surly and morose and a hopeless pessimist who is convinced that resisting the boyar is useless. Kerin, a tall young man with keen eyes and a cat’s grace is said to be the village’s finest archer. He appears to be easily impressed and may be too eager for a conflict with the boyar. We also spoke at length with Kerin’s aunt Greta who is the owner of the taphouse. She is a kind-hearted gossip who seemed more interested in filling our ears with news about the other villagers. Garret and I also took the opportunity to tell some of the villagers about the Morninglord and did what we could to spread his word, since it was obvious that the village and the land could really use some hope and the services of a cleric.

After some discussion, it was decided that we would have an impromptu meeting this evening with any of the villagers willing to come and talk about the defense of the village. So we sent Kerin out to spread the word among the villagers and in time we had a small gathering at the taphouse. We then had a brief discussion and it was agreed that in the morning we would all gather together and formulate some plans to help defend the village, though if possible, we would do what we could to avoid any bloodshed. Unfortunately, there is no way to know at this point, when we might expect the arrival of the boyar and his men. It literally could be anytime now.

For the night and presumably for as long as we need it, Greta has offered to let us sleep in the taproom since there is really no other place for us to stay. It is good to be once again in a warm and relatively comfortable dwelling. But I am concerned about what tomorrow may bring.

Day 4, June 26th, Year 1127 of the Patriarch’s Calendar:

To our dismay, the boyar Gregor and his boyarsky arrived much sooner than expected. Our sleep was interrupted by the sounds of fighting outside. Men were yelling and cursing, and the sound of steel on steel was clear. The wind howled terribly, and the sun had not yet risen. Only blackness and frost could be seen outside. But it was obvious that the village was under attack! Realizing we could not run out into the night unprotected from the elements and unprepared for battle, we quickly donned our gear and outer clothing.

When we were ready, though I felt as if we had taken too long, we opened the door and stepped outside to see chaos. Wind stung our eyes and the frantic shouts and cries of the wounded were confusing. It took a moment to make sense out of the scene.

One of the peasant’s huts near the center of the village was burning brightly, and tall powerful warriors in chainmail were preparing to burn other cabins, torches flaring in their hands. Villagers were attacking the warriors with whatever weapons they could find – pitchforks, hammers, hatchets, and hunting bows. The warriors were cutting them down in a battle-rage.

In the middle of the fight Mikhail frantically hewed at the warriors with his axe. “To me! To me!” he cried to the villagers. The men of Torgov were outnumbered and outclassed, but their anger had lent them strength and they were managing to hold their own. More warriors were pouring into the fray, though, and it was certain that the peasants would be defeated if they did not get help.

Overseeing the attack was a stocky, broad-shouldered man with a bushy beard and a great fur cape. He held a bastard sword by his side, and directed his followers with hoarse shouts and gestures. Beside him stood a tall, slender youth dressed similarly and a wiry guard with a great battle axe. Their attention was obviously still elsewhere.

Seeing the man with the bushy beard, and realizing he must be the boyar, Gregor Zolnik, I ran towards him, dodging past combatants on either side, and charged up to him. He saw me coming though and landed the first blow on me with his bastard sword. Then the man with the battle axe circled around to my flank and came after me. I then struck the boyar several times with my fists and though I know that I hurt him, he did not appear to be greatly affected. I knew then that this would not be an easy fight, but I was determined to take down the leader of the boyarsky and put an end to the violence as quickly as I could.

The majority of my companions meanwhile ran to the aid of the villagers as many more would have been lost had they not. Still, even with our assistance, the villagers were dropping as quickly as the boyarsky. It was apparent however, that Gregor had not been expecting an experienced band of adventurers to be helping the villagers. No doubt, he was counting on easily overpowering the peasants of Torgov, but with our unforeseen presence, he clearly began to rethink his strategy.

Due largely to our aid then, the tide of the battle turned in favor of the villagers. The boyarsky fought fiercely and neither asked for nor gave quarter, and the villagers managed to hold their ground. With an awful oath, Gregor Zolnik suddenly ordered his men to withdraw.

Surprised by the unexpected call for retreat and the cautious lowering of weapons, I glanced back behind me and saw the villagers too spent to follow as the boyarsky began to pull back. Looking at Mikhail, I saw him step forward and raise his sword in defiance.

Gregor then turned and cried, “Listen to me, people of Torgov! If you surrender, I will spare your village, but if you make me return to Vorostokov to gather my warriors, not a soul among you shall survive.”

“Go back to Vorostokov, then!” Mikhail shouted back. “We have seen your mercy, father! We will die free rather than live beneath your heel!”

“You have not seen the last of me, my son,” growled Gregor. “Your outlander allies will not be around to save you the next time we meet, Mikhail. I’ve let you be for far too long.”

The boyar then turned his back on me and the village, and I was left standing there with a mixture of confusion and outrage. Though I was badly wounded I was convinced that we could defeat Gregor and his men, and I was certain it was a mistake to let them go.

Mikhail apparently read the emotions so clearly written on my face and said to me, “Let them go. He is my father, and there has been enough bloodshed for one night.”

Still I could not see how Mikhail could say such a thing, considering the threat that he had just issued. But I tried to keep in mind that these were people entirely unaccustomed to such violence and that a son and his father were at the core of this conflict. So I did as Mikhail asked and let them go. With a look of contempt then, Gregor stalked off into the darkness with his men following, while the village fell silent, save for the moans and cries of the wounded.

Garret immediately began tending to the wounded and managed to save many of them from dying, though for some it was too late. Others meanwhile ran to fetch water and put out the fires. I did what I could to help with the cleanup, though I was still angry with Mikhail for quite some time for allowing Gregor and his men to get away. I was certain that there would soon come a day when we would all regret this decision.

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