Curse of Strahd – Prologue

The cards are drawn, their fate is set…

Far away, in the dark corners of the world, evil waits.  Far from lands of dragons and pixies lies a kingdom shrouded in shadow where few people venture.  The land of Barovia is a place of much speculation amongst the northern tribes and much is made of its legends.  Of a place where werewolves run free and vampires prey upon the innocent.  Some claim to have been there but this is often scoffed at due to the pervasive nature of the other important ‘truth’ that is known about the region.  It is a place that few seek, traversing dangerous paths to find the valley hidden between rugged mountains but it is also a place that ever fewer ever come back from.  As one walks amongst the valleys of the north, people will whisper tales of relatives who ventured there, curious to discover it again only to never return, lost to the mists that blanket the woods near its borders.  Its name is legendary and its myths many. 

Far off in this ancient land, rising high above the forest below, a jagged peak stretches out, cradling on its furthest edge a dark and foreboding structure.  A castle hewn from black stone and rugged granite that reaches up into the night sky, its turrets stretching like fingers of a drowning man who is breathing his last.  Within the uppermost part of one of its towers, far above the enormous gates and vast, gothic glass windows, a light is burning.  At the window stands a man, handsome, well dressed and imposing.  He looks down on the kingdom below as if he is counting each soul as it falls under his view.  Behind him a slender elf with dark hair clears the table from dinner.  He looks up and pauses.  The man by the window doesn’t even look.  He just knows. 

“What is it Rahadin?”

The elf pauses, as if he fears what he says will provoke anger. 

“My lord… it is happening again.” 

“Yes, it is.  It always does.  Let them come.  They will not prevent me from finding her.” 

“Yes my lord,” replies the dusk elf, lifting the items away from the table. 

“Perhaps this time one of them will prove worthy….”

Elsewhere within this shuttered kingdom, as one table is being cleared, another is being laid but for an altogether different purpose.  Sat in a brightly coloured tent, the old woman spreads her withered hands across the table, smoothing out the black cloth that covers it.  She then picks up a deck of tattered cards, splits them and shuffles them in a manner she knows so well she does not need to even look at them.  Smiling to herself, she allows the augury to flow through her, guiding her movements and selecting the correct cards as she places them face down on the table in the prescribed cross pattern.  Once five cards have been placed, she considers them for a moment before turning over the first. 

“The Soldier,” she mutters to herself.  “Not the first, certainly not the last.  Rigid, unyielding but strong.” 

As she turns the second, a frown crosses her face.  “The Priest, like we need any more and their foreign gods.  Pointless.”  With disdain, she turns the third. 

“The Avenger…” she ponders, intrigued.  “Perhaps he has finally created the monster he always feared he would…”  The fourth card is turned. 

“The Paladin, bah!  His favourite kind, often so easily turned.”  Disappointed she flips the last and hesitates. 

“The Hooded One.  Just what do you expect to get from a place of such secrets?  More to add to your own?  Just what do you know, I wonder….” 

Lost in thoughts, she barely looks up as a swarthy looking man enters, pushing the flap of the tent to one side.  He waits patiently, knowing well not to bother her while she is in the middle of a reading.  After what seems like an age, the old woman looks up at him. 

“Is it time?” he asks expectantly. 

“Send the wagons,” she orders.  “Let’s see if the devil dares try his luck again…”

And so it began.  Five strangers found themselves on the outskirts of Barovia in the middle of the night, surrounded by wolves and a strange mist.  They ventured into the darkness, seeking shelter, only to be drawn into something far greater.  They have found themselves trapped in this dark land and drawn into conflict with the ruler of Barovia, Count Strahd von Zarovich, an ancient vampire who seeks a new bride to call his own. 

The adventurers have made allies, a burgomaster’s son, Ismark and his sister, Ireena, who Strahd seeks to claim for his own.  The Martikov family, traders in wine owners of the finest inn within Vallaki, another town within Barovia and the burgomaster of Krezk, a small commune on the furthest reaches of Strahd’s domain.  Along the way they have become tasked with finding three relics and an ally who the mysterious Vistani, seers and travellers of the dark realm, are convinced with help them to bring Strahd down.  They have found one holy relic within an ancient tower that dispelled all magic about it but two remain hidden.  One in a ruined and flooded town ruled over by an evil witch and another that still lies within ‘a dragon’s grasp’.  They have aided the winery that supplies the realm with free wine and committed to finding the two remaining gemstones that empower the winery and allow the vineyards to grow.  And recently crossed swords with a furious and manic wizard who could not be reasoned with and appeared to be reliving battles from long ago. 

But they have also found themselves burdened by their own personal missions.  Nordan, stoic Blood Hunter of monstrous beasts, has been challenged for his father’s sword that he wields and recently had to find a way to end the curse of lycanthropy that he had acquired through combat with the region’s werewolves.  The raging Barbarian, Obryn, always in search of ale has taken the quest to empower the winery as a personal task, a field of hops and barley his reward should he retrieve them all.  Siri, the Paladin, a good person faced with an unholy and corrupt realm, seeks virtue and to do the right thing in this den of iniquity, her morals challenged by the dark energies around her.  Thia, dedicated healer and Cleric, came to this realm to find her father and children, kidnapped from their home by werewolves, now closes in on a heavily guarded werewolf den.  And Devlin, exile and shadowy Sorcerer of the Underdark, now finds himself confronted with another Drow who has promised to further his powers if they set her free. 

With many paths open to them, the five adventurers must help each other to overcome their fears and unite in face of the great evil that lays claim to this land.  For only in unity can they hope to fight against the dark forces that would tear them apart and consume their souls.  Only together can they hope to bring down the unholy tyrant of this land and find their way back home…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s