Upon a pale horse... (The Mists of Ravenloft)

Book One, Chapter Four

Heroes find horror and vengeance under the stars

What happened before…

Villim Steinadler (along with his companions Lydis, Helen, and Cara) were ambushed at the grave of Eckhardt Steinadler by his widow Nina Levigny and her bodyguards. Nina revealed that Eckhardt’s body was not buried there because she knew that Villim would try to steal it and take it back to Falkovnia. Of course, what she did not know was that Eckhardt was not dead, but in a magical slumber induced by a Vistani potion that Villim had put in his wedding drink.

Graveside Standoff

September 21, 747 – As both sides prepared to do battle, Villim was able to talk down Nina and her group, telling them it is not worth either side losing their lives over a empty box of dirt. She laughed and agreed, but let it slip that his body was really buried the in Levigny vault in the Society of Astrologers observatory tower.

Lena Missing

Vivianne contacted Lydis and told her that her sister, Lena had been missing since the wedding of Eckhardt and Nina. Evan Moreau joined Lydis as they investigated her apartment. Here they heard from the landlord that she had a suitor visiting her recently. As he recalls, the two came in quickly the night of the wedding and left abruptly. They bribed the landlord to give them entry to her rooms and found Lenas Diary which revealed a disturbed mental state and a shocking romance with Compte Jean Marcel de Penible… An author that seems obsessed with masochistic pain and suffering. Also wedged in the diary was a barbed fishhook, which was stained with a bit of blood.

They tracked down his apartment in the squalor of the Harbor Distrct and found it also abandoned. However, they did find deranged notes and ramblings from Penible talking of a ritual he was planning for Lena that would make her be “with him forever”. The drawings attached to his ramblings included her nude form, along with depictions of a ring of chains. It appears from the notes that the ritual would take place at the Society of Astrologers’ observatory tower.

Rusé the Rat

Louise Reiner called Helen of Verbrek into a private area of her mansion to show her a dust-covered nursery. She told her that “this was your room as a child. Here I would hold you in my lap and read to you.” She gave Helen a copy of Tales of Rusé the Rat and said that it was her favorite as a child. Helen read through the stories of the devious rat and was appalled. She demanded to know who her father was and Louise told her that she did not know. She had been depressed and slept with a number of men at that time. It had been so long that she can’t remember any of their names. Helen stormed out in disgust.

Boris and Maria

Boris went to visit Maria and found her to have disappeared. Left in her place was a note saying that when the time comes he would “know what to do” and “for her sake, he should do it”.

Society of Astrologers

September 22, 747 – Louise Reiner was able to get the group access to the Society through one of her spies. At the gatherings it is common to go masked, so once inside they should have no trouble moving about unnoticed. Before leaving, the masked spy told them the to get to the crypts below, they would first have to ascend the tower and look for a secret entrance from there.

Inside, they make their way to a large hall where all numbers of masked individuals are participating in various methods of decadence. Many of the statues had an unnerving, life-like quality to the group to realize that they were really living (possibly enchanted) people painted to appear as statues.

The group separated hoping to blend in better and aiming to spot any of their targets. After a short time of wandering about the crowded rooms, Evan spied Devard speaking with a woman of Hazlani descent. He planted himself close by and waited for an opportunity to catch him alone.

Also, Cara began to hear the voices of a woman pleading for help. She slipped towards the back of the large crowded hall and began to search for a door as directed to by the voice.

At the center of the room, the entire group spotted Compte de Penible on an elevated platform preparing to give a talk, which was to be followed by a “demonstration”. There was a large, covered cage on the platform with him. Lydis feared that her sister might well be in the cage, but was torn between a desire to save her (which would mean near-certain death) and the thought of watching her suffer tremendously at Penible’s hands. Distraught, she made her way over to Evan and Boris.

Evan and Devard

As the Penible began to speak, Devard and his Hazlani companion slipped out through a side door, Evan, Boris, and Lydis followed quietly behind. He made his way to a room decorated in fine silks where people were taking part in all forms of carnal pleasures. He and his companion slid into a curtained alcove. Boris, Evan, and Lydis waited a few moments before readying their weapons weapons and bursting into the alcove.

They discovered, to their surprise, that Devard and his companion were both lying inert having smoked a large quantity of Opium. Evan instructed Boris to bind Devard and convinced Lydis to use a poison cleansing ritual to clear the opium out of his system with the two-fold intent of clearing his head and making him suffer. Evan sent Boris and Lydis out of the room as Devard began to regain consciousness.

Evan interrogated Devard and realized that he was nothing more than a small player in the Society. He was attempting to steal Evan’s books in the hopes that he could be promoted. However, he was a wizard of negligible talent and the Tome of Sanguinary Repercussions was far beyond his grasp. Every attempt he had made at deciphering the powers of the book had resulted in bodily harm. Evan asked him why he did what he did to Sophie and Devard just laughed claiming that she was “in his way”. With those words, Evan pulled out the Lycanthropy Serum and injected it into Devard.

Devard howled in agony as he twisted into a hideous rat-like monstrosity. Evan quickly summoned Boris who slayed and mutilated the twisted Devard. From here they found their way up to the top of the tower to look for the entrance to the secret chambers of the Society.

Cara and the fey

While Boris, Lydis and Evan were busy with Devard, Cara continued to hear the calls of the female voice pleading for help. She made her way through some dusty hallways until she found a a jail cell covered in arcane runes where a pale otherworldly being was being held prisoner. The chamber was lit only by a single tall candle at the far end of the room and the being was clearly female in form, but was impossibly thin and stood nearly seven feet tall. Its limbs were unnaturally elongated and and its delicate fingers appeared to be “weaving” the shadow of a human that was handing suspended from the ceiling of the cell.

The guards who saw them approach immediately attacked. Helen and Villim battled the guards while the being turned to Cara and again repeated its plea for help. Cara could sense that the being was of fey origin due to her close encounters with the beings in Tepest. Villim shouted a warning as several more guards entered that chamber after hearing the commotion.

Cara used her magical knowledge to undo the wards imprisoning the being and the fey immediately let loose a terrible blast of otherworldly energy into the guards, slaying the all on the spot. She then stood in the light of the candle a wove a bit of her own shadow… This she handed to Cara and told her that when she was in great need, she should “eat” the ball of shadow and the creature would “repay its debt to her.” The being then vanished into the shadows and was gone. The three then continued up the tower and rendezvoused with the others.

At the tower’s top

The group met at the peak of the Society of Astrologer’s observatory and could no find the secret entrance they had heard of from Louise’s informant. However, the discovered a series of runes and symbols that surrounded the central pillar. They quickly realized that they were signs of the zodiac and that they were out of order. After a great amount of debate, they finally were able to rearrange the symbols and a secret stairwell down revealed itself.

Penible

In the depths of the tower, the group could see lights coming from a small stone room. Chains hung from the ceiling giving it the appearance of a macabre slaughter house. In corner, Lena sat naked, kneeling within a pentagram on the floor. Hanging above her was a strange ring of chain that they had seen depicted in the Compte’s notes. Hooks attached to weights were inserted into the flesh of her arms and she held her hands out over candles. The candle flame licked at her flesh leaving it reddened and blistered and when she pulled away from the candles the weights pulled tight tearing at her skin. Lydis rushed towards her, but Lena called for her to stop.

“I am learning so much from this,” she exclaimed. “I have found freedom in suffering!”

The Compte de Penible appeared behind them and taunted them, asking if it surprised them that she would be such a willing participant in his teachings. He was shirtless and the group could see that his body was covered with hideous and painful scars. The group wasted no time with his taunts and went straight to battle. Lydis rushed towards her sister, but at the Compte’s commmands, the chains rose to block her path and restrain her. When they struck Penible, his skin flayed away revealing a mass of chains beneath it. The chains burst free from his arm and he used them like a cruel flail against those who attacked him.

The ring above Lena began to glow red and its tightly wrapped chains began to unfurl. The group threw everything they had at Penible and after a particularly vicious blow from Boris, Penible lay dead, his body exploding in a mass of chain, flesh, and bone. Thinking that the threat was over, the group pulled Lena from the circle on the floor and kicked over the candles. Suddenly, the chain flashed outward and pulled her tight underneath the ring. The center of the ring burned with fire and Lena screamed in agony as she stared deep into the flames. This lasted a few moments and she collapsed to the ground, the chains releasing her and wrapping themselves tightly around the ring again. Lydis rushed to her side and held her head against her chest and soothed Lena as she sobbed and shook.

Boris stood staring at the remains of Penible for a few moments and a voice in his head whispered for him to take up the chains and take their power. Without hesitation, he grabbed the chains from Penible’s corpse and they quickly wrapped around his left arm tightly, glowing red with hellfire and burning his flesh. Boris fell to the ground and howled in a mixture of agony and masochistic laughter.

Evan gathered up the chain ring and took it with him to study and keep safe.

Buried Alive

Villim pressed to group forward fearing for Eckhardt’s life and sanity as he had likely been awake for the better part of a day and within a grave. The pressed forward deeper into the crypts, paranoia setting in from the occasional rat they saw watching them with beady eyes. Finally, they located the Levigny crypts and could hear the sound of hoarse screams faintly coming from the other side of the wall. They smashed down the bricks and pulled Eckhardt from the coffin he had been buried in. He was weak from struggle and nearly deranged from the suffocating darkness.

The group began to hear sounds coming from behind them and they flew through the corridors using Helen’s instincts to guide them out. They burst out onto the surface streets in the early predawn and ran for safety.

Betrayed

September 23, 747 – At the end of a nearby street an unmarked carriage stood waiting. Several cloaked wererats stepped out of the carriage and produced a bound and hooded woman. Villim looked at the group in confusion trying to figure out the meaning of it all, when Boris stepped forward and took Eckhardt. Villim screamed out at Boris, but he his screams were cut short as the wererats removed the woman’s hood to reveal Villim’s sister and Boris’ wife, Maria. Villim sunk to the ground defeated as Eckhardt strolled over to the wererats, a slight smirk forming on his face. Villim was further shocked as Maria collapsed into Boris’ arms and the two shared a passionate kiss.

The carriage drove away and the party was left stunned by what had just transpired… But their shock was short-lived as they looked down toward Louise Reiner’s manor house and saw flames and smoke rising from its walls…

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