The Ravenloft Files

The Ravenloft Files, Vol.19, Chapter 9

Tales of the Mistborne: Dark of the Moon
Chapter Five

Without warning a group of wolves burst out of the underbrush ahead of us, snarling and yapping. They sprinted forward to the attack with fangs bared. Mikhail then suddenly clutched his head and fell, screaming, “No! No!” He thrashed about in the snow, snarling and foaming at the mouth. His eyes became yellow and feral, and his hands began reaching for the wolfskin in his pack!

Excerpts From the

Journal of Waylan
Mage of the Mistborne

(Continued from) Day 12, July 4th, Year 1127 of the Patriarch’s Calendar:

Following the disturbing news of Quinn’s death, a grim and somber mood fell over us as we huddled around the fireplace and thought about the loss of our friend and of the desire we had for revenge on his killer, Gregor. But we also thought about the difficulties that lay ahead, with all our weapons and magic items taken from us and most of us afflicted with lycanthropy and essentially under the control of our enemy.

But the two witches, Natalya and Elena, were not yet done with their efforts to aid us, as they said they had one more person to search for. This time they would try to find Mikhail. So once again, they told us to stay in the cottage. Then they bundled up and headed back outside into the dark and frozen forest. While they were gone, we hardly said a word to each other – our thoughts clouded with a heavy sense of despair.

But about an hour or so later, the gloomy silence was finally broken by the sound of the witch’s return, and with them, their nephew Mikhail. One look at his face though and it was plain to see that he too was disturbed by troubling thoughts. Obviously he was trying to come to terms with the fact that he was some kind of unusual lycanthrope, like his father and his brother. We saw that he still had with him the wolf pelt that was given to him by his father, though he did not wear it, and he seemed to carry it as though its touch made his skin crawl. He was given a blanket and he sat down next to us by the fire, as we briefly discussed all that had happened since we got separated.

With this done, Natalya pulled up a stool by the fire and spoke to us. “We have watched you for some time now”, she told us. “It has been many years since anyone stood against Gregor. My sister and I hate the boyar and want to see him dead for his crimes, so we will aid you against him. At the same time, we are aiding ourselves.”

“Years ago,” Elena said, with her eyes blazing, “that fiend murdered our mother. You can help us exact our vengeance against the boyar.”

Mikhail at this point, still seemed weakened and confused, but as Elena spoke he raised his head, his eyes smoldering. “He killed Antonina?” he said. “Another murder at his hands!”

“By now you have seen the kind of man that Gregor is,” Natalya continued. “You have also seen the dark magics that he commands, taking the form of a great black wolf when he wants, and forcing his boyarsky to serve him. He is an evil creature, a creature of darkness. If his rule continues the day will come when Vorostokov is empty save for the howling of the hungry wolves.”

“Besides,” cackled Elena, “if you do not strike now, you will never be able to. Gregor’s curse has touched several of you, and he can force you to change at will. But once your change is ruled by the moon, you will never be able to break the curse. The dark of the moon is only three days away. If Gregor is not dead by then, you will become his servants.”

“I will die before I become another of his boyarsky,” Mikhail muttered.

“Gregor will soon return to his hall and await your return,” said Natalya. “He knows that your efforts to avoid his hunt were futile – no matter what happened, you would be his in a matter of days. We think he took your weapons and equipment with him. Mikhail knows the way to the boyar’s hall.”

“You owe us your lives,” Elena said. “You can repay us by destroying Gregor – something that is in your own best interests to do.”

“If you do not undo Gregor’s curse by the dark of the moon,” Natalya repeated as she rose, “you will be his forever. You may rest here for the night. We can give you furs and supplies.

“Mikhail can probably find weapons or allies in the village, but you shouldn’t trust anyone you meet in Vorostokov. Many of the people are under Gregor’s sway.”

As it turned out, in addition to the furs and supplies, Natalya and Elena were also able to provide us with a few potions and some background information on Gregor. From what we have learned about Gregor’s curse and the beginning of the never-ending winter, we now suspect that Gregor is in fact the Darklord of this realm, which means he will not be easy to kill even if we can get back our weapons and equipment. We must somehow find his weakness and exploit it or we will never be able to permanently kill him.

With no spellbooks, Peg and I will have to make do with the spells we still have memorized and the few that we have in common with the witches, as they will allow us to use their spellbooks before we set out. Meanwhile, Garret has fashioned a crude holy symbol out of wood which should allow him to cast spells. In the morning, we will try to locate a few pieces of wood that we can use as staves or clubs. These, for the time being, will be our only weapons.

Day 13, July 5th:

With the dark of the moon expected in less than three days, we set out this morning towards the village of Vorostokov. The parkas and furs provided by Natalya and Elena were barely adequate, but by now the forests of Vorostokov had become familiar and we were getting used to the cold weather. Still, not having our usual weapons and armor was unsettling, though we did manage to acquire a few crude staves, and the lighter load made traveling easier. For most of the day, the woods were quiet and dark, but there was a distinct sensation of foreboding.

Then suddenly we were under attack…

…With the wolves approaching, we knew that Mikhail was struggling with the urge to don his wolfskin and become one of them, and we were afraid we would have to fight him as well. But he fought against this incredible temptation and managed to prevail, though he could do nothing else for the entire fight. I myself resisted the urge to use a spell that would blast all seven of the wolves in one fell swoop. But I suspected I might need my more powerful spells later on and would not likely have a chance to regain them. So we fought the wolves with our crude staves and a few minor spells, receiving a number of injuries in the process.

Without our armor, most of us were much less protected and it showed. Fortunately, these were all ordinary wolves and we had no difficulty with healing our injuries. With the wolves defeated and our wounds tended to, we continued our trek to the village of Vorostokov.

When we approached the village, night was settling over the land, which may have been a blessing – the shadows, along with the parkas and furs, hid our identities well. The village was surrounded by snow-covered fields, and the glistening band of a frozen river wound past the sleeping cottages.

Across the river from the village, there was a large wooden palisade and the peak of a high roof was visible behind it. Guttering torches flared before an open gate. This was Gregor’s hall as Mikhail pointed out. He then made the suggestion of asking some of the villagers if the boyar had returned. He said we may be able to collect a few weapons, adding that there are many in Vorostokov who have no love for Gregor’s rule.

He recommended that we first visit Andrei the Furrier, who is known as the most outspoken opponent of Gregor left in the village. We agreed with this, and Mikhail led the way to a large cabin with a snow-mantled roof where he knocked softly on the door. A moment later, it was opened by a thin old man with white hair and a face like seamed leather. “Mikhail,” he said with surprise. He then looked us over and motioned for everyone to step inside.

Inside, the cabin was filled with all kinds of cured pelts and skins, as well as raw skins stretched on racks to dry. A gaunt woman sat by the fire, sewing several pelts into a warm cape. As we looked about, the host straddled a chair and spoke to us. “I am Andrei. My wife is Miri. I can see that you are strangers to Vorostokov. Who are you and why have you come?”

Mikhail then made introductions and we explained to him our purpose in the village, though we said nothing more than we had to and made no mention of lycanthropes. We told Andrei that we needed weapons, advice, a place to hide and possibly some allies.

As for weapons, Andrei suggested a man known as Ivan the Strong as he was said to have a magical bastard sword though he himself was now an old man, and Katerina the Trader, whose husband had fought and killed Gregor once only to be killed the next day by a wolf, after which the boyar returned to the village unharmed. We were also told about other people in the village who might be of help, such as Tarak Tupolek, Mastislav and Olaf, three young men who likely would be interested in joining us in any attack on Gregor. Then there is Marik the Mouse-eater, the village’s hedge wizard, and Brother Terensky, the village priest, both of which could be good sources of information and other, hard to find items.

A few other people were mentioned as well, such as Anatoly the Carpenter, who helped to build the boyar’s hall and knows its layout very well. Unfortunately, several of these people were related to, or otherwise had ties to members of the boyarsky and we could not be sure who we could trust. And the more talking we did to the locals, the more likely we were of being caught by the boyarsky. Even staying at the home of the most outspoken opponent ran a certain amount of risk to us as well as Andrei and his wife. We debated for some time on just how many people we should talk to and how much we should involve the villagers.

But we finally agreed on at least speaking with Katerina the Trader. She lived next door to Andrei and it was a simple matter for Andrei to go and ask her to come and talk with us. We then talked to her and she agreed to lend us her husband’s weapons and armor. It wasn’t much but at least it was a start.

We could not come to an agreement on speaking to any other villagers just yet. But we did want to look into finding a place to hide. Staying at Andrei’s seemed to be too risky. So Mikhail suggested an old smokehouse that no longer saw much use. The smell of the smokehouse would help to mask our scent from any wolves. But Baldo pointed out that the smell of the smokehouse might follow us where ever we went and attract the wolves to us instead. So Andrei suggested using the boyar’s old cabin. Since the boyar now stayed at his hall, the cabin was largely abandoned. This, we thought, was a better alternative.

So we divided ourselves up into pairs and two by two, we headed off in the direction of the boyar’s cabin. Baldo and Mikhail, the two quietest among us, took the lead. About half way there though, we ran into trouble as a pair of large men in furs suddenly rounded a corner. Baldo and Mikhail had already made it across the road and were out of sight. But I was behind them and did not see the two men coming until they were right in front of us. When they saw us, they drew their swords from their sides and advanced. “Who are you?” one of them demanded. “I haven’t seen you around here before.”

I hesitated for just a moment, unsure of how to respond. But I saw Mikhail rapidly approaching from behind the two men saying something about me being a cousin of his. I, however, made the mistake of telling the two men that I was heading to my home, overlooking the fact that in a village as small as Vorostokov they would know everyone who lived in it. The two men realized then that I was lying and moved to attack. Fortunately though, we proved to be quicker as Baldo came up and stabbed one of them in in the back, while I cast a spell on the other that caused him to become momentarily dazed. We were then able to take out both men quickly and quietly.

The encounter may have actually turned out to be a good thing, as we were able to acquire more weapons and armor from them. But we could not be sure how much their presence would be missed and what effect that might have. We carried both of their bodies with us to the boyar’s cabin since we could not leave them in the streets for anyone else to find.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the cabin. Here, the wind moaned eerily within the silent ruins of Gregor’s home. The door was standing open, and snow had drifted in to cover the floor. Few furnishings were left – an old rocking chair by the cold fireplace, a battered trunk by the window, and a few hides hanging on the walls. Some odds and ends such as clay jars, iron pots and knives, and needle and thread litter the earthen floor of the house.

The musty smell of long disuse was strong, and the placed seemed dank and small. The wind moaned higher, and suddenly a terrible chill descended. There seemed to be another presence here. Upon sensing this, Baldo, who was in the lead, refused to enter the house.

So Vadolus got the nerve up and stepped inside. When he did, the battered old chair by the fireplace began to rock, slowly creaking back and forth, and a faint cackling noise could be heard. A chill ran up my spine and I very nearly took off running. But the thought occurred to me – where would I run to?

Then Mikhail stepped in behind Vadolus and as he did so, in the rocking chair, a ghostly glimmering of a white, crystal net of glittering ice took shape. A pair of pale hands appeared next, working the net, weaving it. In a moment, the rest of the apparition became clear. An ancient crone rocked back and forth, cackling and muttering as she weaved the powdery snow into a spider’s web of ice.

“Welcome, Mikhail, welcome,” she whispered. “Come and give your grandmother a kiss, my boy.”

Mikhail’s face was slack with terror. “Bolzhoi moi! It is Antonina,” he exclaimed.

“Twelve years ago your father murdered me, Mikhail,” the spectre continued. Her voice was as faint as the wind in the snowdrifts. “There is a power in this land that sustains his curse, that gives life to him now. Gregor cannot be destroyed. If you kill him, his curse will only bring him back stronger than before. His curse must be broken if you are to finally kill him.”

“The curse of the wolfskin?” Mikhail asked, his voice tight.

“It is Gregor’s source of power, and his only weakness. Sprinkle the skin with salt and wolfsbane, and when next he dons it he will become the black wolf again, but he will be vulnerable to your weapons. Kill him while he is caught in this form, or you will never be able to defeat him again.”

“If Gregor is killed in man-form his curse will carry him off to a secret cave in the forest. If you are quick you will be able to poison his skin before he vanishes. His cave lies three miles to the south, beneath a black and rotten oak.”

“Will this break the curse that he passed to me?” Mikhail asked, desperately. But the apparition was fading again, already. The spectre’s laughter echoed like shattered icicles and was gone.

With the apparition now gone, the rest of us stepped inside the cabin and closed the door. It now seems clear what we need to do. But how to go about it is another matter. We will spend the night in this place, and think about how we might accomplish this task.

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