The Ravenloft Files

The Ravenloft Files, Vol.19, Chapter 8

Tales of the Mistborne: Dark of the Moon
Chapter Three

The snow cave that we had built provided only so much protection from the storm. Worse yet, the air was growing colder and colder, despite our efforts to block out the wind and ice. It also seemed to suddenly grow darker in the cave, so Garret cast a light spell. In the next instant, sinister shadows appeared all around us, patches of darkness emerging from the snow and the driving sleet and the howling wind of the black ice storm.
Mikhail leaped to his feet, his cape fluttering behind him in the swirling wind. “The arayashka! We are doomed!” he cried…

Excerpts from

The Journal of Brother Quinn
Of the Order of Guardians

(Continued from) Day 4, June 26th, Year 1127 of the Patriarch’s Calendar:

Following the brief battle with the boyar Gregor and his boyarsky, we spoke with Mikhail and he asked Waylan if he had any means of observing the boyar and his men to see if they were headed back to the village of Vorostokov as they had said they would. He mentioned that he had noticed Waylan talking to his “pet” raven and had also seen Waylan casting spells during the battle, so he was curious if the raven could be used to fly overhead and spy on the boyar. Waylan said that he could do this and immediately sent Lefty off on a quick reconnaissance mission. Mikhail then warned us, although he was grateful for our assistance, about the use of arcane magic, as so many of the land’s people are fearful of magic.

A short while later, once all of the fires had been extinguished and all the wounded had been tended to, several of the villagers showed their gratitude towards us by giving us a collection of winter furs, a basic set of rations, and gear to aid in surviving the harsh climate, including a set of either snowshoes or skis for each of us. They did this despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that some of them had seen Waylan casting spells and were somewhat fearful of him.

With things returning to a semblance of normalcy in the village, we then gathered at the tavern and asked Mikhail what he intended to do at this point. By then, Lefty had returned and told Waylan that the boyar and his men did indeed appear to be headed back to Vorostokov. With this information, Mikhail told us that he thought the village would be safe for a while. He felt certain that Gregor did not have enough men with him to risk returning, and that he would have to return to his hall to get more warriors. According to Mikhail, it would take Gregor ten days or more to get there, depending on the weather.

He then told us that he wants to go to Kirinova and convince the men of that village to help him fight off Gregor – and he asked us to go with him. He said they could not spare any more of Torgov’s menfolk, and called us great heroes in an effort to persuade us. He told us we could go to Kirinova and return before Gregor even reached Vorostokov. He also felt that we might be able to find some answers as to why we have found ourselves in this land, since Igor Rikorsky originally came from Kirinova.

We agreed to go with Mikhail to Kirinova and gather any allies we could find there. But we thought it would be best if we then went on to Vorostokov and took the fight to Gregor rather than return to Torgov. Mikhail agreed that this might be a better plan but was concerned about the safety of his village. Either way, we would have at least five days to think the matter over, since it would take that long just to reach Kirinova. Mikhail did not want to set out until tomorrow morning though, since there were a number of preparations he would need to do today. So this gave us time ourselves to prepare and to become somewhat accustomed to our snowshoes and skis.

During this time, Vadolus, who is taking great care not to reveal his true identity as both an elf and an arcane spellcaster, took the opportunity to partake of a pastime that is apparently central to the social life of every village in Vorostokov – and that is the sweathouse, where men and women gather to trade stories and song in thick heat, though it is understood that there are certain rules for social conduct governing these sweathouses as it is a tradition to enter them naked.

If anything unusual did occur in the sweathouse, no one told me about it and Vadolus apparently does not wish to discuss the matter. I get the sense that whatever happens in the sweathouse, stays in the sweathouse.

I, on the other hand, spent much of the day talking with some of the villagers, Greta, the owner of the taphouse in particular. She told me that more than twenty years ago, the land we now know of as Vorostokov was mostly referred to as the Grovinekevic Forest in the Northern provinces of Cerillia, which none of us are familiar with. Then one year, winter came early and the crops were ruined. Four months later, in the hardest winter anyone could remember, the villages were on the verge of starvation. But somehow, Gregor Zolnik, the master hunter of the village of Vorostokov, was able to hunt down enough food and kept many of the people of his village from starving to death. By the end of the brutal winter, Vorostokov was the only village in the area that had not lost over half of its population, and Gregor Zolnik was hailed as a hero. Duke Andrei Vladimir in fact came to thank him personally and Gregor met the duke’s third daughter, Ireena. Shortly afterwards, Gregor and Ireena were married and they moved off to live in the duke’s castle. But when the following winter came, the land of Vorostokov was suddenly cut off from all surrounding lands including the other provinces of Cerillia, and game was now more scarce than it had ever been. The great black wolf appeared about that time and since then the land has been trapped in a never-ending winter. Fortunately, the hero Gregor returned to the land and once again saved many of its people from starvation.

Over the course of twenty years or so, Gregor has become the most powerful man in Vorostokov, taking the position of boyar and ruler of all the land. In recent years though, game has gradually become more plentiful and the villages are more capable of fending for themselves. It may be because of this, Greta believes, that Gregor feels his power is beginning to slip and he has, as a result, become more of a tyrant. I feel however, that there is also a connection between the black wolf and the never-ending winter, since they both appeared at the same time, and I suspect there may be a druid involved – a druid that sometimes takes the form of a black wolf – a druid that is quite likely the darklord of this realm.

Day 5, June 27th:

We left the village of Torgov this morning and began our trek to Kirinova, following pretty much in the footsteps of Gregor and his men.

Though we are a day behind, we are well provisioned and the weather is clear and calm. It is however, still quite cold. Fortunately we have encountered no unexpected difficulties so far and up to this point, we are doing as well as we could have hoped for.

Day 6, June 28th:

We started out this morning much the same as yesterday. But toward the end of the day, the sky began to grow very dark and clear, almost as if night was falling – but the sun was still shining. It was a strange sight to behold. The temperature meanwhile, began to drop rapidly. A keening wind then sprang up, rising from nothing to howl ferociously, driving stinging particles of ice before it. Mikhail screamed above the noise, “It is the zilinya neshka! We must seek shelter at once, or we shall surely die!”

We were out on an open plain, so immediately, we began to build a snow cave in a nearby depression. It was all we could do for protection and building a fire in this relentless wind was out of the question. Unfortunately, Garret had not prayed for any spells to protect us from the cold, since each of us now has a parka and furs, and he did not think we would need any magical protection. But as we would later learn, the possibility of frostbite and hypothermia would not be our only concerns, for we would eventually discover that there are beings which actually thrive in such inhospitable weather…

…With Mikhail’s shout of despair we quickly drew our weapons and prepared to defend ourselves. These arayashka, (meaning “snow-people”) as he called them, were actually some kind of undead wraith. There were six of them and like all wraiths, they were incorporeal and therefore very difficult to harm. But gradually we began to wear them down. In return however, not only did their touch cause freezing burns, but they also drained our strength with each successful attack. Fortunately, Garret was able to affect them by channeling positive energy in the area and this easily proved to be our greatest weapon against the snow wraiths.

After we killed three or four of the creatures, the others turned and fled into the walls of snow, and we have not been bothered by them again. Still, we have the zilinya neshka to deal with, and according to Mikhail, it is not likely to let up for many hours.

Day 7, June 29th:

It has been almost a full day since we barricaded ourselves in this snow cave. Over this time we have had to make numerous repairs and modifications to the cave in order to keep out as much of the ice and cold as we could. But it has been nearly impossible. The night was almost unbearable and many times we have begun to succumb to frostbite and hypothermia. To combat this, we have tried to stay huddled close together to preserve our body heat and every once in a while, Garret has channeled positive energy around us or cast healing spells on us, without which I am certain some of us would be dead.

There is however hope, as the storm appears to be letting up. Unfortunately, it is also nearing another end of a day. So we will be forced to spend one more night in this snow cave.

Day 8, June 30th:

This morning, with the storm now over and the weather much improved, we were able to resume our trek to Kirinova. Fortunately, with our snowshoes and skis, the added precipitation has not made any substantial difference in our rate of travel though we did lose an entire day camped out in the snow cave.

Day 10, July 2nd:

After five days of trekking through the frozen forests and icy plains, plus one day spent waiting out the storm, we approached the village of Kirinova, which according to Mikhail lay just over the next hill. There we hoped to find hot meals and warm beds awaiting us. At the top of the ridge the open farmland that surrounds the tiny hamlet could be seen.

Then we heard the sound of wolves howling in the forest behind us, not too near, but not far enough away for peace of mind. Still several hundred yards from the village, it became obvious that something was terribly wrong – there were no fires burning and no lights showing in the dark cabins. The village was still and quiet.

At that point the wolves fell silent. A glance behind us however revealed dozens of them watching from the edge of the woods. The great black wolf was there! Instantly they sprinted silently from the forest and began to head for us. The nearest buildings in the village were only about fifty yards away, and the wolves were probably a quarter of a mile or more behind, but closing fast.

Feeling the need to run for the nearest building, we started to take off. But Garret told us to wait while he quickly cast a spell. The cover of the nearest building seemed miles away, but with Garret’s spell we were soon able to outpace the wolves through the knee-high snow. Still, the wolves behind us silently converged on our position, flitting over the field like graceful gray shadows and headed towards us. We then spotted a building directly ahead and the wolves were still a hundred yards off.

The door of this building had been knocked off its hinges, and some of the window’s shutters were left half open. As we approached we saw that the inside of the cabin was dark and cold, but not too dark to hide the horror that lay within. An entire family lay sprawled in death inside, torn to pieces by some savage attack. Outside, many of the nearby houses and buildings were also dark and cold, with doors swinging in the wind. Behind us we could hear the soft padding of paws on the snow, signaling the eminent arrival of the wolves.

I realized then what we could expect to find within each of the buildings and it was suddenly all too much for me to bear. I had not been expecting to find such a terrible tragedy and I became so overwhelmed with revulsion, that I could not enter the building. Instead, without giving it any real thought, I took off running. In my horror and in an irrational state of panic, I fled through the village and well into the fields on the opposite side – never realizing that I was all alone. I ran as fast as I could for what must have been a full minute or more, though it seemed much longer. When I finally came to my senses, and discovered that I was by myself and that nothing was chasing me, my thoughts turned to my companions. So I turned around and headed back, though I was too spent to return at the same rate at which I had fled.

Meanwhile, my companions were busy dealing with the wolves and later on they explained to me what had taken place. While I was running away, the others moved into the cabin, though I was not the only one who was affected by the horror within. Baldo was also quite disturbed by the sight. But instead of running away, he became momentarily stunned by what he saw and thereafter was shaken, though he was still able to fight when pressed to.

Before the majority of the wolves made it to the cabin, Waylan cast a spell and threw up a wall of fire that caught most of them on the far side. Vadolus and Mikhail then picked up the fallen door and put it back in place to keep out the wolves, though they were not able to secure it before three of the wolves pounced on it and tried to knock it down. It took all the efforts of Vadolus and Mikhail just to keep them out. Clint meanwhile was using his pistols to great effect and shooting out of one of the windows at the wolves and identifying the red-eyed ones from the normal wolves as he did so.

One of these wolves boldly jumped up into the window to attack Clint, only to be blown away by his pistols. But soon after two more wolves jumped through a second window to threaten Waylan, Garret, and Baldo. Fortunately they were able to deal with them. Many of the other wolves outside meanwhile, were circling around the wall of fire, but these paused for some unknown reason before approaching the building. The apparent reason however, soon became evident when several men appeared from behind other buildings with burning brands in their hands. They tossed these brands on to the roof of the cabin my companions were in and though the roof was covered with snow, they eventually caught fire to the roof.

As this took some time however, other wolves continued to try and enter the cabin. Garret, seeing the black wolf waiting on one side of the cabin, cast a searing light spell and struck it. But he was discouraged to see that the spell did no apparent harm to the wolf. Vadolus then told Mikhail to let go of the door they were holding and as he did so, Vadolus cast a burning hands spell on the door. It was quickly knocked down however, as the three wolves then rushed in and attacked. One of them pounced on Peg and knocked her to the ground. But again, my companions were able to kill them.

By this point the men had disappeared and all of the remaining wolves were waiting outside for the cabin to begin burning. When it did, my companions decided to jump out of a window that was on the far side of the cabin from where the black wolf stood watching. Waylan cast a black tentacles spell in an area where some of the wolves had congregated, but these wolves managed to escape it. Then using a fly spell, Waylan flew out of the window and struck another group of wolves with a slow spell. By now, my other companions were making their way out of the window, though they continued to be attacked in the process. Still, the wolves were being taken down, most of them normal wolves.

Eventually, there came a point when the wolves decided they had lost enough and they suddenly retreated. I was on my way back at this point and saw the cabin burning. But by the time I reached my companions, any wolves that were still alive were far off in the distance.

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