Toward The Edge Of The World

Gnomes Aplenty
::knock knock:: Milo ::knock knock:: Milo ::knock knock:: Milo

In all, we spend a good week “recuperating” in Expeditious Retreat. Garrick spends time on long scouting roams. Mery pesters Devane about the gnomish activities and eligible Syndracor royalty. Liam recruits Milo to start an infirmary, and Jared helps out as an orderly. I spend some time tending to our gear and make a quick day-visit to the Seer.

We’re in the Retreat when a Caravan from the South arrives, mostly European drivers and merchants, though the supplies/goods were from much further away. Apparently clearing out the pirate leader from Anapole did some good.

Another unusual event was when a Lady Gnome (Lizadene), escorted by 12 well-armored escorts, arrived and checks into Devane’s hotel. They are apparently here to talk to Namfoodle. My impression is corrected when the Lady asks to speak with us. We meet with her to learn that she is looking for the gnomes we encountered digging up the quartz pyramids. The diggers had been reporting in (magically), and shortly after we left them, stopped reporting. The Lady was dispatched to investigate, and now asks for our help as scouts/guards to find the missing diggers. After some internal discussion with her Guard, the Lady sends four of them with us while she remained in the Retreat. Tomas indicates that she is rather well-placed within the Swiss government.

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Meeting More Lanterns
Practicing French with Gaston

The journey back to Expeditious Retreat is marked by an unusual encounter with some goblins. Garrick doesn’t guide us into an ambush, and ends up talking with the apparent leader. This goblin, Razak, is the only warrior of the group, and speaks better Elvish than I. The other ~40 goblins are various ages, appearing to be non-combatants. Razak indicate he is trying to escort the refugees elsewhere — lacks a word in goblin, using an elven word approximating a refuge. They are escaping one of the Russian cities overrun in the main war, and Razak is their sole escort. Garrick thinks we can help. The escapees are “not of the way.” We agree to camp to discuss things further.

Razak reveals the goblins follow two paths. Way of the Monster and Path of the Culture. The Monster are more hunters/warriors. The Culture emulate other cultures and live in peace. The Culture are not of use to the Overlords. When asked how he came to be escorting the group, he shows off a tatoo of a Lantern. Milo tends to the wounded (to the awe of the Goblins), and feeds them a secret stash of turnovers. Mery claimed the last one before I could get one.

Razak was indoctrinated as a Lantern by his swordmaster, an Elf. Being a Lantern gave Razak the strength to resist the Way, and he expects to be judged in the afterlife. After turnovers, Razak gets talkative. “The War is not our fault.”

The Overlords obtained the service of the goblins in a deal. The Overlords used a birthstone (fertile man and fertile woman touch it at the same time, woman becomes pregnant, gives full birth to males that mature to full adults in a matter of a few [4-5] weeks) to populate the Goblins for the War. These males have a “hollowness” to them, and are intensely loyal to the Overlords. Rumor suggests the birthstone is in a Castle, and is moved around (to be used regularly). Some are called overlords, however are only the lieutenants of what may be one Overlord. The junior overlords wear a symbol (wings around an hourglass or lantern). Milo thinks the symbol somewhat resembles a symbol of a Lich of some kind. Tomas knows he has seen someone in Montenegro wearing the symbol.

Against Tomas’ better judgement, we escort the goblins to their destination, adding about three days to our journey. Tomas and Razak arrange a couple of seasonal rendezvous spots in case we find a reason for needing to further share information.

Along the way to the retreat, we take a shortcut, and run across a group of gnomes and humans digging up some quartz pyramids (about three fit to a side). Mery approaches, with the rest of us escorting, and initiates some conversation. They report that this area used to be part of Syndracore (the humans are former denizens). The pyramids are part of some project they had been working on before the war. They decline to be more specific than “its not a weapon.” Then they learn we’re (mostly) from Montenegro from Milo, when he offers to help them connect with our Chief Artificer. They provide Milo with a bunch of complicated diagrams for couriering to the Artificer. They’ll be working for a few more days before heading back to the coast.

Back in Expeditious Retreat, not much has changed. Tomas learns from his new Lantern lady-friend-from-the-Gem that Marcus Devane (proprietor of the pop-up hotel) is the former artificer of Syndracore. Kell visits Namfoodle, who may have figured out how to make the blaster-staff’s side plates, and was negotiating with a group from Montengro offering to set him up in a lab. Mery camps at the Gem, waiting for Gaston, who is currently occupied elsewhere in the Gem. I spend my time at the BottleTop, chatting with Tess. Lynn, Milo’s barge-ship captain friend, is also passing through, and Milo eventually notices and whisks her away. Mery spends time flirting with Gaston, and sets up a longer discussion with us as a group. Apparently Mery missed the chance to practice her French with Gaston.

We meet with Gaston in a secluded back area to have a longer discussion. He still has a Lantern ring, rather similar to the one Tomas is wearing. Gaston gives us condolences for becoming Lanterns. The symbol of the Goblin Overlord is an older Lantern symbol. The one with which we’re familiar is a more contemporary version. Some stories suggest a King/Queen created the Lanterns, another the Druids, and yet another about someone that started as a lantern and eventually became a King or something.

At one point, Gaston’s job was to keep the King of France alive. Gaston knows how to use the Rings (we have to go through three) to get to the Pit, and shares the information with us. We’ll need four people and the thing we want to leave. One witness, two to throw, and one to bear the mark. The mark can be used to get the thing back from the Pit. Gaston claims the Elves will claim the Birthstone is not theirs, however it really is. There is an Elven Lantern that can tell us more, a fellow by the name of Sha Zara — probably Razak’s instructor. Tomas is wearing the ring of Gaston’s Lantern sponsor, long dead (Paulanis Di’Avignone, called himself the King of Paris). A Jeweler in Paris (name and address provided) can provide the rest of us with rings. There are Lanterns, and friends of Lanterns. According to Gaston, living to the ideal of the Lantern is enough to become a Lantern. The responsibility drives all Lanterns to fall at some point.

He tells us to look for Circles in un-traveled spaces for the most part. One is in Paris, another in Pensa. He doesn’t know of any that are outside. One is in the basement of an Inn in Prussia. The “route” to the Pit will work from any Circle. He believes that a Circle might be in/near the Starstone in the Montenegro capital.

As an off-hand comment, Gaston theorizes that the Everwar is between two Lanterns, the sources of the factions. Other rumors suggest that various Crowns are now rathe nervous with the change in International affairs with the lifting of the Romanian Dark. Another rumor reports a fire elemental spawning in Switzerland until the Swiss Guard intervened.

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The Flooding of a Mine
Fun with Water

Tomas and I chat about acquiring Namfoodle’s knowledge and talents for the blaster staff. Tomas seems to think this thing could be quite significant, and argues for taking it or Namfoodle back to Montenegro. We agree to send back a request for someone to come out and negotiate.

The next day we “officially” visit the Dwarven liquor merchant and view the available wares. He is doing some decent business, and we make quick arrangements for a lengthier meeting that evening.

Then we head out to deliver some turnovers to Sabrina the Troll Seeress. Following my new philosophy of keeping seers in the “not pissed off at me” column. After a nice visit and lunch, we return back to the Retreat.

Back at the Retreat and after dinner, we met with Glavin to compare information and plan our next journey phase. Our destination is a town about 25 miles to the NW of Moscow. The mine has five main tiers, and we’ll need to use a dwarven elevator between at least a few of the tiers. He gives us enough information to orient around and near the mine, and use some of the equipment. We’ll be meeting another Dwarf, Robart, on the bank of the Vistula River to serve as our guide inside the mine, should we need to enter, and help determine what we may have to do while onsite. Denying further access to the Ore, and estimating how much has been removed, are the desired goals of our trip. Later someone will need to figure out where the removed Ore has gone and how it is being used. Glavin passes along a sealed scroll tube with our written authorization from the Dwarven Government to conduct a survey of the mine. Glavin tells us the mine used to be a good supplier of Gold and Copper, and the Russians have been highly interested in Gold and Silver.

The next morning, we set out overland up the Vistula into Poland and a bit beyond, ending up in our meeting-spot of a village. Robart is not hard for us to find, and we quickly adjourn to the local version of a pub.

The next morning, we’re back on the road. We take a shortcut across a part of Russia, and note that the old saw of “I put my army on the borders” may not be a figure of speach for them. So many armed Russians! As we get closer to Moscow, we have to spend more time avoiding larger goblin-and-friends units (bigger than company size). Eventually we punch through the mobilization areas and get close to our target town. Not many troops wandering around overland. Pretty well maintained roads and a very well fortified town, with large open fields of fire surrounding it.

We spend some time watching the mine. Goblins are working continuously, using three shifts that bring up ore and ship it back to and through the village and ultimately off to the South without any apparent local processing. At least one mine cart per trip is handled specially, guarded, and loaded on a different set of wagons.

Robart tells us about the slit shaft that will serve as our secret entrance into the mine’s second tier. The shaft goes in at a steep angle for about a mile, and should avoid all of the outer guards. Robart sets up a water-lubricated slope for us to “surf” down the shaft. Other than bouncing a few dozen times off of the ceiling and walls, I made it through, pretty much paving the way for the rest of our group. Fortunately, Milo was quick with some healing.

We made our way deeper in. Garrick hears some shuffling ahead. After some scouting, we determine the light noise is coming from a hole blocking our passageway. At the bottom, about 30 shuffling zombie-likes: one goblin, the rest dwarves. Milo offers to dispose of them, and we briefly discuss contingency plans. We briefly split up, leaving Robart, Jarred, and Kell a bit back, while the rest of us escorted Milo up to the hole. A quick prayer later, the cluster of zombies is so much dust. Garrick notices some twinkling from the passage walls reminiscent of the sparkling from the Romanian mist that Milo routinely triggered. Milo keeps us at the pit to watch the dust. Just when I’m ready to leave, Milo indicates the dust is moving. And slowly the dust starts reforming back into zombies. While we’re playing with the dust, Robart find a piece of the Dark Ore we’re trying to understand.

Robart doesn’t recognize the Dark Ore, other than that he has never seen it before. Figuring the mine has been active by the goblins for three years, and the ore quality ranging from rare to uncommon to common, he projects between a couple hundred pounds, 300-500 pounds, or a ton. Milo reports the ore is quite evil. We briefly discuss what we can do about it — we certainly don’t want to add to the zombie population if we can avoid it. Flooding is an option, perhaps to force the goblins out. Kell reveals she has, in effect, a stink bomb that is pretty powerful. We quickly plan to drop that down a shaft, wait for the goblins to leave, check out what they were up to, then flood the whole mine while we make our way out. Simple, really.

Kell drops her package, and the Dwarven gong-warning starts sounding. After some confusion amongst the goblins, their Ogre Magi and Ogre overseers order them out of the mine. Robart takes us down a few levels to investigate their work and Milo grabs some samples. Back up to the second tier, Robart excavates an escape route, and uses more water magic devices to make some of the water fill the escape shaft at high velocity. We are gushered out as the mine begins to fill. Success for now!

From a convenient overwatch position, we watch the area tremble and the goblin response. A pale human of some kind emerges from a nearby building to take charge of the goblins and their response. The human orders the Ogre Magi, who send a squad a goblins in to the mine (only a few return), and soon after mobilize the garrison to prepare for a perceived attack from the mine. When such an attack doesn’t manifest (we’re not fools). The human does some spinning trick and disappears. We watch long enough to see he doesn’t come back right away, and that a few escaping snakes and zombies get chewed up by the awaiting goblin forces.

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On the Road Again
Blasters!

After cornering the Queen, Milo, Mery, and Tomas chase down Porter. Porter reveals that he bought the ring from a drunken guy in a local bar near the harbor, after spending about a year trying to chase one down. Mery tries to get a description of the guy (Gaston). Porter indicates he looks a lot like someone in a painting at the art gallery. The painting depicts the King of France and a hunting party, with Gaston in the background.

Kell and I spend some quality time to Blay’loc’s ale. Garick does whatever he does at night. Maybe I’m imagining things, but he seems a bit more relaxed lately.

The next morning we gather for our first regular breakfast and catch up on summaries of the night’s events. Garrick doesn’t show up.

At the Gallery, we found the painting with Gaston. The primary view is of the French King, center portrait. Gaston is off to one side, background, looking at something over the viewer’s right shoulder. On a hunch, Mery badgers a nearby art student to make her a sketch copy. Tomas asks the local Docent about portraits from a similar timeframe. Turns out there are two in the basement that we get to view. One of the French Queen and party, the other of one of the Royal Children.

Tomas spends his remaining time in the City researching, both in bugging people and reading dusty tomes, trying to chase down more information about the Lanterns. Reinhart Nobles, a Prussian officer, is a resulting name from Tomas’ prior personal experience.

We start our latest trek to Expeditious Retreat with a new ritual: Mery vaulting into the saddle. She succeeded on the first try! Late Spring, roads muddy, more patrols and military units staging and starting to range. The Retreat is bigger than ever in our experience, with an actual hotel. Tess welcomes us warmly and we catch up for a bit. Apparently the hotel is operated by “a creepy guy in a top-hat”, and apparently the hotel sprang up from a doorknow and a key used by the guy.

Milo checks in at the Gem, and checks out the girls again. Hears a story about a raucous (yet fake) Russian that rode out of town on a “heckuva horse.”

The rest of us head to Namfoodle. Several goons are guarding ’foodle’s place for some reason. Inside, some kind of magical staff weapon that can make a pretty impressive blast. Nam’ doesn’t think he has all the best parts. The blaster is powered by a crystal receptacle at the base of the staff. Holds two charges, recharged by some alchemical liquid (takes a while). Nam’ indiates that his business partner had mentioned the receptacle could also be charged by pouring magic into it. Mery gives it a shot, and I get the privilege of the first shot. Tomas and I trade, getting about ten shots out of the “charge.” Apparently the Russians have made something like this. Milo catches up to us while we’re testing. This blaster staff is a good fit for the Russian magocracy to safely equip its massive manpower reserves for war.

I take a few moments to ask Nam’ about the Swiss walls of cotton candy and acquisition of shipwrights. He doesn’t have any useful information, though does seem fairly puzzled by it.

After wrapping up with Nam’, we tromp over to the new hotel. The proprietor (Marcus Devane) is definitely creepy. Hotel seems fairly standard, fairly upscale ammenity-wise for a place like Expeditious Retreat. Four floors, hot and cold running water. The hotel is apparently the result of his artifice, his master work.

At the Gem for the night, Tomas had an interesting encounter with one of the girls. One of the relatively older ones. She noticed Tomas’ ring and offered to let Gaston know to visit Expeditious Retreat, which Tomas accepts. Tomas also manages to learn how to use the Circles (using sounds linked to the runic groups around the outside, and a measure of salt). She impliictly acknowledges she is one of the “good” Lanterns, and that the schism is rooted in philosopy of how to effect the ends.

By pure coincidence, a Dwarven (Glavin Perch) liquor merchant has also recently arrived.

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An Urgent Letter to the Queen
And the reason for Russia's trading for gold and copper becomes clear

Your Most Royal Highness:

We have discovered that Russia has developed a weapon usable by any person that fires a ray capable of injuring or killing an unarmored person at range, and possibly hurting an armored one. The weapon, which looks like a staff with copper and gold disks, can be easily aimed and can be fired several times before it must be taken to an artificer or wizard for recharging. It appears that a relatively small amount of gold and copper is needed to make this fairly sophisticated device. It is possible that the Russians have made or are making the devices in significant numbers, as it seems to be easily manufactured by artificers with a fair amount of capability and resources. One such device has made its way to Expeditious Retreat, where the gnome usually in residence has had some success in copying it.

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How the Romanian Heroes Rest
Have you hugged a Lantern, today?

Lunch at the Palace, casually. A fairly pleasant lunch, mostly focused around our activities in Romania, interspersed with “friendly” commentary from around the table.

English, Elves, and Dwarves (as well as Montenegro) are jointly supporting Romania, and even Russia has officially acknowledged their improved status and some notion of support. Prussia and the other germanic states have abstained from formal support, though certainly welcome Romania’s military support on the front.

Some of the Queen’s officers have noted that Prussia is buying all of the platinum they can find. Russians are buying copper and gold. The Queen’s advisors best theory is “something related to magic.”

Without solid information on how to permanently dispose of the Siege, or what do do about the Prussians or Russians, our only path of inquiry is into the Dwarven mines (the one where dark ore was discovered that kept trapped Dwarves from being fully dead).

On the way out, we each received a hug from the Queen!! The smell of her hair was exquisite.

Sent off a note to (Dwarven) Ambassador Blay’Loc asking to call upon him socially after dinner. This way Kell and I could catch up on our drinking, set up our trip to the mine, and avoid undue scrutiny.

Sebastian responded to my note arranging for a lunch the next day at a downtown cafe in a convenient location.

I shop for furnishings. Something more than a mess kit and travel backpack. Maybe a cheap table.

Tomas researches magical uses for fine ores, Milo wanders off to his churchly duties with a mix of research, and Merry returns to Court to keep the Queen entertained during all the politicking and Court shenanigans. Garrick disappears to spend time with Pellerion.

Milo’s acolyte researcher, Corbin, has uncovered a bunch of information generally linking probable Lantern activities with various disappearances of powerful magical artifacts or solving of a significant problem. Milo notices that many of the examples match scenes on the frescoes in Pensa. One fact Corbin has dug up of immediate relevance, is that artifacts can be disposed of in “the Pit”. Not necessarily a destruction, but something hard to get things out of or something. Unfortunately, no maps or travel descriptions. From the Royal Archives, Milo learns a bit more about the pit, leading him to believe it to be more of a disposal site managed by a Caretaker. Possibly more information from the Royal Academy of Mages. Later research into pure metals and magic led to a reference to the last use of the Pit including an Ascension of a new Caretaker.

Milo sends out what I should not have interpreted to be an urgent request for a breakfast meeting (an hour after dawn).

Our social visit with Blay’Loc is well lubricated, and lasts until dawn. Our one bit of business was to arrange a Dwarven guide to meet us in Expeditious Retreat and take us to the mine in a few weeks.

The morning’s meeting goes decently well, at least as much as I recalled through my hangover. Turns out this wasn’t urgent, rather a new ritual he wants us to start — a daily brief and planning session. Good idea, wish we’d coordinated more. I suggest our next meeting be in the meeting area that Porter has arranged for me. Milo and Tomas brief us on their research. Milo asks Mery to get an informal discussion with the Royal Artificer to followup on a research thread. We make initial plans to head back out to Expeditious Retreat in a few days — pushed in part by Mery’s desire to be gone from the city fast.

Mery scurries off to visit her magical tutor to arrange a casual meetup with the Royal Artificer. An accidental visit at a local establishment is quickly arranged to permit Mery and Milo to buy the Artificer a drink and have a quiet conversation.

Lunch with Sebastian at an outdoor cafe not far from the barracks near the harbor. I share a lot of our experience in Romania, and observations about the Goblin (civilized) we saw along the way. Exchanged notes about the Russian and Prussian activities, and our plans to visit the Dwarven mine. The nearby city is probably to be avoided. The Swiss Gnomes have engaged a very large number of Greek seamen, and shipwrights. Why would they be building so many ships? Apparently in history the Gnomes have also attempted to build a large (around their country-sized) wall of cotton candy. We talk briefly about Sebastian and Mery’s engagement party, which apparently is going to be a very complicated thing. I almost think they’re not in a hurry to be wed.

The Artificer’s establishment of choice turns out to be a discrete or private men’s club. Mery and Tomas watched while Milo made the initial approach, which led to an adjournment into a private room. Apparently, seeking to dispose of the Siege (not directly referenced) and seeking the Pit, has put us in the middle of a Lantern vs Lantern dispute. And Milo (and Tomas and Mery) doesn’t recognize a code phrase of the Lanterns. The Artificer points out that Tomas’ ring (Lantern’s ring) should be “investigated fully.” And that becoming a Lantern, and a force for good, was a Choice. And not many “real Lanterns” (forces for good) are left. We need the Circles to get to the Pit. They are some form of transportation device, made simply and easy to use. The former owner of the Lantern Ring (worn by Tomas) was owned by a distasteful Frenchman, known as Gaston. The apparatus (the Siege) cannot be destroyed by any known means, leaving the Pit the only apparent viable option. The description of the Circles matches the enscribed brass ring we saw in Pensa.

Milo and Mery corner the Queen to ask for details on the Lantern Ring. She had previously tasked Porter to “find me a Lantern signet ring”, and he found one…

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A Business Opportunity

Dearest brother:

I’m sending you this dispatch by the fastest means possible, but I’ve no doubt that word has already reached you that the eternal mist covering Romania and Transylvania has lifted. And it was indeed a mist that covered the entire landscape. A mist that has taken its toll on agriculture. And poor growing seasons has led to increased reliance on livestock for food, starving livestock. And now, with only surpluses of wood, wine, and soldiers, much is needed as the weather becomes colder. In particular, all manner of foods capable of wintering, and oat fodder to rebuild the strength of the milk herds.

Your most respectful and fond brother

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Romania Saved!
A Pair of Knightings

Tomas pulled Milo and I together for a quick consultation on our plan for the Siege. We quickly agreed that it did not exist, to avoid questions, and “we found it, it’s ours!” At least until we get back to the Queen.

Our week on the road back to Ravenloft is spent admiring the sight of sky, and joining in the celebrations that have sprung up in every village and hamlet we encounter. After the first dozen, you’d think we’d get tired of it. However, the Romanians are just so spontaneously happy that I really can’t resist joining in.

On arrival back at Castle Ravenloft, we are ushered directly (with the Siege in tow) to the War Room, where an impromptu reception is underway of varied important dignitaries. Strahd consults with most of them on the disposition of the Siege (not that we offered) to which most seem inclined to have it destroyed. Strahd sends them off to tend to their provinces, and reconvene in Bucharest in a month, probably rebuild the government.

Dispatch ships from other countries are starting to arrive at the coast. Other dispatches and communications are sent out.

After a flurry of coordination, we are left with Strahd and Sebastien. Strahd asks us to take the Siege with us, and cautions that no one government should be allowed to control it, and that he trusted we can find an appropriate disposition for the Siege, and hopefully a permanent one.

Then we move on to our original purpose for coming here… namely to put the Necklace on Strahd. Nothing initially happens. However, that night, Strahd’s nightmares do not make an appearance!

Strahd kindly arranges for his troops to retrieve our horses from the country outskirts. Various dignitaries and groups start arriving in various areas across the country, and some of the early politicking to find the next King begins. We follow Strahd to Bucharest and watch the last-minute political maneuvering from the front row. The final two competitors to Strahd bowed out on the last day, leaving him as the sole remaining contender for King.

The coronation of King Strahd proceeds as these things apparently do. Lots of slow pomp. Fortunately, there is a heckuva party afterwards! We were all given our formal outfits (my uniform), and even Jared shows up in his military uniform with some impressive dress fruit.

The former Queen showed up to the party, and announces (very loudly) her support for King Strahd. Military consultations occur, and Strahd promises some troops for a projected Spring offensive. Even the Elves sent a representative.

Mid-evening, King Strahd pulls us out into a private room, where he extends some nice wine and his thanks, along with the support of Romania. The next day we are named Heroes of the Realm, and Knighted! A few days later, we ship out a week-long sea journey back to Montenegro.

We are met dock-side by Porter to “sign some papers” and escort us to “store our luggage.” We get taken to the Montenegran Treasury, where we check in the Siege to the formal inventory as personal belongings.

Milo and Mery visit the Queen, Garrick visits Pellerion, and the rest of us wander off on our own. I pick up the keys to my new flat from Porter and move in. Since I travel rather… light, I’m still free for a quiet evening of anonymity for at least a few hours.

In the morning, we receive an invitation to see the Queen later in the day. I send off a note trying to arrange a lunch meeting sometime soon with Sebastian.

Mery visits her Father briefly before he is called away on Crown business.

Our appointment with the Queen turns out to include a Montenegran Knighting to go with our Romanian one.

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A Siege in a Graveyard
Shield, please!
The Lord High Marshall spends a few days collecting a mounted troop contingent to escort us along our way to seek the Siege. We idle away the time talking to the various folk in the Castle. We coordinate having the Marshall’s forces to engage a known goblin position to pull off defenders from where we think we need to go… about a day’s ride away. Mery continues her research into a proper Royal match for the Queen. Many of the locals continue to watch Jared carefully, like they think he is going to eat them alive. During some of our down time, Mery asks about that… and we learn he is/was the 3rd in the line for the Romanian throne. And that he had slit the neck of of his King. After enough days of mustering, we ride off with a cavalry escort. With our new friends, we head off-road for the first time, following the Wayfinder’s pointing. Once again, the Wayfinder doesn’t work right away for Mery, and works for me. Fortunately, our escort is used to this, so we made good and safe progress. Near the end of the day, the Wayfinder just starts spinning oddly, which we interpret as “close!” Spreading out in a search pattern with our escort, Mery and Tomas spot an oddity. While Kell begins an investigation, our escort spreads out to defend our position, and quickly discovers we’re in the middle of a Graveyard. A place they recognize. The oddity is a covered with strange runes that are reported to be Atlantean. After Kell approves an approach, Mery starts fiddling with what we think is the Siege. Almost immediately after she begins, ghoulies form out of the mist and attack! While we deal with the increasingly swarmy waves of ghoulies, Mery worked on the Siege. The fighting was touch and go for a while, as the waves of ghoulies kept overrunning us. We kept beating them back, and many more would jump into their place. Another, larger, ghostly figure forms into a humanoid that approaches. Scary bastard! As the new critter arrives at the Siege, Mery finishes something up. The critter disappears, and the ghoulies start bleeding and looking somewhat more permanently dead. The mist slowly starts to fade, but there are yet more ghoulies to slay. Eventually, we run out of ghoulies to kill. Eventually. When we are able to survey the aftermath, we were surrounded by ghoulie/goblin bodies, and th mist was starting to slowly blow away. We regroup, stack and burn the bodies, and take the now-smaller and somewhat less active Siege with us. Our escort figures out which Graveyard we’re in, and he start on the roughly three day trip back to Castle Ravenloft. Got here in one, back in three. Damn the mist!
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Castle Ravenloft
Are you a prince?

We wandered down the road a while. We lost the road… somehow… several times along the way. Fortunately, we kept stumbling back on to it often enough to keep making progress. Ran across a patrol, that help us when we got close to what we thought of as dark (really hard to tell). Followed a trail to a nearby farm. They were happy to give us use of their barn for the night, and were otherwise hospitable. The lot of them, as well as their goats and chickens, really looked fairly scrawny. Nigh unhealthy even. The soldiers showed fairly obvious signs of war weariness. That dull look in their eyes was all too familiar.

Dobrich, a barricaded city, is our immediate destination. Mery pulled out the Wayfinder and fiddled with it, asking it to take us to the King of Transylvania. No apparent effect. On a whim, I offered to try, and repeated her attempt. This time, the Wayfinder pointed a way, off-road. After some discussion, we ignore the Wayfinder’s direction in hopes that a branch from the road would offer some a better alternative. A bit further down, we do find a better road-based path that heads us closer to where the Wayfinder points. Somewhere along the way, we bust through a bunch of the local goblins. They slice up pretty regularly, but fade away or disperse when killed. Over the next few days, we slowly become accustomed to this dark place. We continued asking locals where to find the King of Transylvania. We’re somewhat excited when we finally get the point when the answer changed from “Transylvania” to “in the mountains.” We run across one of the empty cities, and work our way around it, which takes a while since its boundary isn’t even or predictable. Or maybe Garrick is losing his touch. Naaah. We got ambushed by a crazed screaming/wailing human, not well clothed, dies to Garrick’s fast shot. Doesn’t fade away like the goblins. We move along hastily as more start approaching our flank — and then they fade away as we get beyond the town. As we continue, we found ourselves really losing track of time, including what we might call “dusk” or “dawn.” Sleep is hard, yet sought more often. My thoughts turn somewhat… homicidal as all of our normal habits and customs become newly aggravating. On day 167, or maybe hour 32, and a few more fights with the ghoulies (with repeat customers), we arrive a something new. A different kind of barricade on the road, fairly well defended. We’re brusquely ordered to halt (which we do), and we wait for a squad to deploy a forward V wedge from the gate with some kind of officer in the middle. We exchange a few, lets call them pleasantries, show our papers, and wait a bit for a response. We pass the the initial inspection, and a new guy, a Priest named Rovak, welcomes us to Regina. Tomas notes in passing that we’re nowhere near where we thought we could or should be. Damn mist. Rovak shows us through the City, packed full of refugees. Rovak tells us the crowned King of Romania ran off sometime ago into the mist. The other “King”, the one the army follows, Strahd Von Zarovich, is probably off at his home in Castle Ravenloft. Somewhere down one of the roads out of Gate #3. Milo spends several days at the local hospital, healing the wounded, with the rest of us pitching in as best we can. While there are a bunch of other priests in town, they don’t have the healing prowess of Milo. They tried to explain this to me, and I didn’t quite follow it all. Something about divine access, being exposed too long to negative vibes and such. Tomas learns that Rovack is probably the Romanian ArchBishop from before the mist. Pretty much running this city-sized refugee camp. Most of the country’s populace is probably here. Safe, though not overly thriving. The city is raided pretty regularly by the goblin-ghoulies, but the soldiers handle it well. Garrick spends time with the city patrols, getting familiar with the local area, the way they work, and learning a lot more about how to survive in this damn country. Mery spend time here and later in our encounters with high-ranking Romanians looking for an eligible Prince. After the hospital’s roster of wounded is largely purged, we head on out via Gate #3, and fully aligned with the Wayfinder’s arrow. The locals’ directions shift from “in the mountains” to “to the West” and such. For once, we run across a mounted patrol, with cavalry paraphernalia, led by one Captain Viscalvo. The Captain apparently has been asked by Lord Marshall Zarovich to escort us to Castle Ravenloft. The cavalry troupe looks well fed, fit, and prepared for pretty much anything. They really stand out compared to the rest of the Romanians so far. They doubled us up on horseback and a newly-requisitioned wagon, and we rode pretty darn hard to the Castle, via an elevating winding mountain road, and finally a drawbridge. The Captain delivers us, in the courtyard, to a waiting man. He is dressed well. Milo and I notice the Iomedae emblems, Tomas picks up on the family crests. This guy is mid-30s, probably 5th or 6th in line for the Romanian throne (later we learned firstborn, 4th in line for the throne until he entered the order). He introduces himself as Sebastian and plays host while his ‘master’ is indisposed at present. During our initial conversation with Sebastian, a few of our group hear a soulful scream of rage. Sebastian reveals that the Curse (!!!!!) has afflicted his Master (the Lord High Marshall Zarovich), watching a repeat of the murder of his family — sounds similar to what we saw in the city replay. Sebastian also mentions th e curse being on the Castle. I do not get much sleep that night. At breakfast the next morning, we meet the High Lord Marshall. to whom we can refer to as General. Who arrives in full battle armor. To the only seat without breakfast. Big mountain of a man. Maybe the “giant shadow” we’ve been seeking? After attempting to foist the necklace on to him, the General tell us we need to make Romania safe, and find the artifact that is creating the Eternal Siege (or is the Siege). Mery whips out the Wayfinder and gets a lock on the direction. I ask if he has much experience with seers, and he revealed that his (murdered) wife was one. The General believes the goblins are operating according to some large master plan (and not necessarily explicitly on their own). They were too well prepared, organized, and bred far faster than anyone expected. The Siege was likely carried by 3-4 goblins.
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