A clamminess completes the foggy night sky of Karg, refuge of Il Aluk’s intellectual schools of thought. But your journey has lead you to a simple building, hiding place of a scribe in service to Azalin Rex himself. In lieu of recent events, Toubirj the Quickened Hand has found himself waiting the darklord returning to “normalcy”. But, a network of underground thieves, vindictive academics and disgruntled mages has lead you to an otherwise humble abode. A short, meek and disheveled looking man answers, his ill-fit body frame moving like a tower of junk ready to topple. A gangly left arm extends to usher you inside quickly, as he soon slams the door and closes several locks. And with a few muffled words and motions, a spell further seals the way out. Shuffling to a chair, he lurches over while placing his head upon his hands. He studies you, inquisitively before cracking a smile. Rather than speaking, he simply hands over a piece of parchment.
“Hail to you, reader. You sought this scroll expecting that strange bard, yes? Pity, he still has not been found. I am but a humble scribe, commissioned by his mighty majesty, Azalin. Divination boons have gifted me with the joys of deeper knowledge, if only to satisfy my liege. While he has returned to a period of deep contemplation, I continue to collect and gather. Times in Darkon have been an overflowing cauldron, bubbling and dripping, awaiting tipping point. That time is passing, as my master returns to dark recesses. Should you have particularly juicy information, less vulnerable information can be extended in trade… Just, do it quick. I know he listens, my arcane senses have made this known! But, you care for Ramon. Luckily, I have a few of his journals in my possession. Allow to extend some of his knowledge to you. But first, I simply desire to know what you offer in return.”
The frail and strange man finally opens his mouth, “Well, I’m waiting. If you’re here, you have good information to share.” He taps his fingers together, expectantly. Reaching into your bag, you open a carrying case for various parchments, handing them in the direction of the squat man. His grin widens as he gracefully accepts the documents. Scanning them in rapid pace, he quickly jumps between pages of notes. “Ah, this will do well. First edition notes from the bard. Let me offer some fine bits of my own in return. And mark my words, we are safe from interlopers. Do not fear these secrets being overheard… save for by his highness. That isn’t an issue, is it?”
Author’s Note: Am I done with Ramon? What does the future hold in general? I’m still not sure with either. In the meantime, let’s return to various domains of dread. And with that, plenty of secrets and rumors!
A New Poison
Borca is a domain ruled by intrigue, deception and backstabbing. The last factor is usually dictated by poison, the very weapon that both current darklords used to gain their damnation. In fact, they were brought together by the same fate that bound the original darklord in the first place, Lady Camille Dilisnya. Ivana Baritsi inherited the position by poisoning Camille, while Ivan Dilisnya’s domain merged due to the Grand Conjunction. But, given how they are allegedly related to the clan of assassins responsible for blood shed in Barovia, doom was inevitable. While important to the pains of the domain, they are not the total focus of this tale. From the wealthiest of noble to the lowliest of commoner, the corruption and wicked mindsets run deep and rampant. Even the mostly noble Church of Ezra has deep rooted flaws, as nobles will often pour money into funding beautiful projects for the church, rather than the aid of its people. The Church of Ezra very much obliges to this, especially since Borca is the founding place of the faith. It is only appropriate that much of the land is lush with a beautiful nature, much of which carries the very ingredients to continue the land’s literal hazardous obsessions. In fact, much of the tempting wild fruits and plants of Borca carry a deceptive deadliness to them, all the more symbolic of the realm. Despite all this sinister beauty, the cruel rule of the “Black Widow” and her distant relative have worn down the people, some taking up a fatalistic perspective on life. As has been said, poison practically runs in the veins of this land and new methods of slaying with the substance are actively sought out. This need not be literal or physical, but figurative due to the tendencies for abuse cases to arise. Manipulation is very much a poison in Borca, allowing them to toy with the trade of other nations too. Their role in the Treaty of Four Towers, a measure against Falkovnia, helped assure that. None the less, actual foreign toxins, potions and more continue to be brought in, to continue an evil practice. Recently, some influence of the island domain of Dawnsveil found its way into the corrupt aristocratic Borca.
This started when a group of former cultists, changed by the Dark Witch herself, fled into The Mists. Rather than being engulfed, they found themselves in a new land to hide in. Like the Witch, they carried a strange film-like sheen over their skin, which has become as dangerous as the Witch’s. For some time, the refugees lived out in nearby forests, evading hunters and scouts alike. But, rumors of strange violet-tinted people that killed others by touch arrived to Ivana Baritsi, who assembled search parties. Soon, Ivan Dilisnya caught news of this, creating a counteracting party to beat his cousin to it. Both sides managed to wrangle and divide the former Witch followers, bringing them back for all means of experiments. Initially, the deadly skin of these mutated cultists was harvested for new concoctions and creations. In time, both relatives began to plot ways of manipulating the captive escapees to their ends; The Church of Ezra. Acolytes, monks and other devout of the church were hired to proselytize to the cultists, all while convincing them that this is righteous penance on the path to salvation. In time, this use of torture and propaganda broke the violent-tinged horrors into compliance. In the months following, both Ivan and Ivana discovered that their respective relative was doing the same. Letters and messengers were sent to inform the other that they should stop copying this procedure. Matters grew worse when visions of the Dark Witch began to haunt the refugees. One by one, the refugees began to take their own lives, then dissolving into the sickly violet liquid harnessed by both siblings. This lead to another revelation, their desired new poison was now limited in quantity. As the prisoners finally died off, new forces were assembled to be the first to find more of these poisonous mutants beyond Borcan borders.
The Unshaken Lover from a Dark Dream
Jacqueline Renier is a darklord with a curse of loneliness, she is doomed to let her bestial side override her desire for companionship. Despite the acceptance of her leadership, her charismatic presence and romantic demeanor; the Mists always doom her relationships to failure. However, the Gentleman Caller is more than aware of this. While all her previous callers have died, he surmises that if he can have his way with her, he might help to break her curse and help to unravel matters in The Mists. From a distance, he has begun to influence the leader of Richemulot through intrigue-filled games of flirtation and erotic mystery. If he can cement the fraudulent relationship, the experiment may come to fruition. The Caller is no mere man, but a horrible creature of some wicked underworld. As a demon called an incubus, the Caller carries a great demonic strength to him, as well as means of charming and manipulating the desires of others to his own gain. Over several months, he has courted Renier through letters, brief appearances and more. His latest feat was fending off a potential lover who Renier shockingly scorned and dismissed. The obsessed suitor planned a grandiose assassination plot, before the Caller tracked him down and quickly ended his life brutally. Word got back and the ruthless matriarch herself awarded the Hero of Richemulot as part of a public ceremony. In gaining standing with much of the noble Renier clan, his plans were coming to fruition. This has continued with other candidates for being a suitor being threatened or scared off by either the fiend himself or by other proxies. All the while, his true identity remains a mystery to all except Jacqueline herself. Her knowledge is merely speculation though. She fears that the mysterious stranger might be the legendary Caller, but she has no way of proving this.
Curiously, The Gentleman Caller was never one to take an overthought and methodical approach for long periods of time, but his recent failures with Azalin and the False-Oinoloth have likely changed that. He chastised himself over such a break from his usual methodology, especially contending with a non-tanar’ri based fiend. But, this begs another question, what sort of child would be conceived. How would the fiendish blood interact with the tainted Renier blood? The spawn would be something of pure evil, driven by the cruel whims of both parents. The plan succeeding is one matter, the other is what monster would be brought to torture Richemulot. Should the Caller learn all about Renier’s curse and trials, he could theoretically undo all of them, helping to start the road to a new Conjunction. In the meantime, a Vistani who found herself nearby one of the flowing countrysides beyond the urban reaches. Said vistani received vision of a ‘horned rat’ born upon this plane. No one knows what that means, but a fear of wererats keeps people on their feet. Many suspect a dark prophecy that will bring doom to the fair city and beyond, much like the grim vistani fears within Invidia.
One story that’s held with pride is that Duke Gundar lives. While life in the old domain was far from prosperous, the Gundarakite ethnicity are greatly mistreated minorities in the new domains that they are confined to. The irony of their story of “hope” is that it’s quite true. For a rather long time, Gundar’s corpse was paraded as an exhibit in the wandering carnival quasi-domain. For months, perhaps years, the display would follow as the carnival crew traversed the mists. After a stake was removed from his heart during a show, twisted unlife returned to the body. Some time after everything closed for the night, a restored Gundar broke from a holding case and fled into the night. Narrowly avoiding hunters and slayers, he emerged into Invidia. Still weak after spending so much time in a skeletonized state, his mind was addled and confused. However, he knew he had to find Castle Hunadura, the former seat of his power. The vampire took to preying upon those in his way, as he had to find out why he needed to return home. After all, he still ruled the land in his mind. He was more than unaware of how Barovia and Invidia conquered what remained. Very quickly, he discovered a changed world around him. Emblems for an Aderre befuddled and baffled the vampiric tyrant, as no such person did dwell in Gundarak prior. Such a name belonged to Invidia, a rival nation. The forces of Gabrielle Aderre had their work cut out for them, while fending off the reanimated vampire. His single-tracked mind almost drove him to annihilation before he fled deep into the woods facing the Prestige Mountains. There, he picks off stragglers as well as readies for another strike to retake his lands. Matton Blanchard’s wolfweres may become his next target for undeath recruitment.
Word has spread of this fabled return. One of the few beings to proclaim to clash with this new Gundar was an elven vampire previously seen in Forlorn. This was none other than a different legend, Jander Sunstar. The undead elf found himself clashing with what felt like a phantom during his travels. He was familiar with Duke Gundar, but had heard he was slain for good. Upon escorting a troop of monster hunters towards Valachan, he found himself defending the group from a surprise assault of bandits-turned-vampires. Among them, rebels brandishing symbols claimed by the Gundarakites. The dispatched cursed horrors had a trail of blood leading to the vengeful man himself. While Jander and the mortal hunters ultimately fled, they shared their tale to those who would listen, later including a very distraught Malocchio Aderre himself. Jander was made prisoner for questioning by Malocchio, before the vampiric elf was somehow freed to return to Forlorn, where he rested prior. Others say they’ve seen in old Gundarak grounds found within Barovia, either attacking Barovian soldiers or rallying Gundarakites to fight for him. Once again, seeking collectives of vampires and spawn in an area is a good way of tracking him down. Agents of Count Strahd himself have relayed his disgust and frustration to any adventurer or hunter hired to take the “phantom” down. A return of Gundar would jeopardize the growth and power of Barovia as well, after all. Plus, should enough of the Gundarakite minorities catch news of this, their incentive to rebel would increase well beyond the ability to maintain.
The Haunted Hunter
Within Dawnsveil, the Dark Witch and Governor Orvird aren’t the only ones doomed to an eternal struggle. The Haunted Hunter is one such entity. A ruthless serial murderer, it walks the streets of the various settlements to slay anyone who would dare to wander the night. At times, this phantom figure can be seen in nearby woods to claim anyone extending their work time well into the darkness. But, what is this creature? A mere specter, but one influenced by the Witch rather than directly created. This cursed figure was once Dereke Robinsburg, a silversmith with an expertise in creating kitchenware. He came over during the initial voyages to this new world, in hopes of building a glorious new empire for Grandglen. His interest in exploration and his devotion to his nation landed him a position within the new colony. During initial hardships, he was gradually called upon to serve in overseer and defensive roles, especially against native raids. This earned him honorary military acknowledgement. Curiously, his troubles only truly began after the rest of his family entered in later voyages. When the witches residing in the hills beyond the villages retaliated against the colony, Robinsburg’s family were among the casualties. Grief stricken, he demanded justice from the assembling forces of witch hunters, who proceeded to ignore his plights in favor of their mission. He succumbed to a downward spiral of alcohol abuse, leading to progressively more shoddy workmanship. Friends within the community encouraged him to go on a hunt to ease his troubles. Whether from the spirits of the natives, lingering dark magic or something else; something twisted his perceptions out on the trails. He saw his friends as twisted mockeries readying to attack, so he proceeded to shoot and stab the shocked hunting party. The last member, bleeding out, managed to shoot Dereke between the eyes before passing himself. The last thing he saw was the light of the full moon. The incident was discovered soon after. When The Mists claimed the colony, his restless soul was given new form. He is adorned in dark winter clothing, covering all but his frostbitten face. His eyes and teeth shine like silver, glimmering all the brighter when he readies to strike. Often, he’ll mutter to himself about how the colony has failed him and that only he alone can kill The Witch. His drunken sounding mumbling is a tell-tale sign that he draws near. Attempts to bar him from entry to a place always fail, as he seems to magically unlock all that try to oppose him, save for wards against the undead. His targets for that night are usually decided by random, but always relate to a family of the descendants who failed to save his family or failed to lift him from his lowly state in time.
However, this tragic phantom inspired something far worse than his misguided revenge. A religious cult, feeling abandoned by the state church of Grandglen and even the visiting faiths of the Mists, formed in celebration of a dark anti-hero. The Cult of the Haunted Hunter believes that the slasher is just in his killings, as they feel that the colony has grown complacent and decadent, no longer brave enough to actively fight The Witch. Plus, they see the Hunter as an arbiter of morality. Often, the killer is attracted to “immoral” acts and sacrilege of his own beliefs from life. Promiscuous youth, indulgent users of alcohol and narcotics, abusers and other figures of moral contempt are common victims. Should there be nights where the Hunter fails to surface, the cult will take matters into their own hands the night after, slaying in his honor. Ironically, they have had a better record with slaying sympathizers of The Witch than the actual witch hunters, militias and soldiers within the colony lands. Even more curious, their rigid devotion to this murderous entity has somehow shielded them from the influence of the Dark Witch of Dawnsveil herself. It is said that a fisherman’s shack near the old pier has become their primary place of gathering during the daytime. If asked, they’ll proclaim that they are part of the effort to restore the boating docks and ports off the coast. Since many have taken the job as a cover-up, this is partially true. And while their numbers are limited, the damage done to both factions of the Governor and The Witch have become known. While many villagers try to incorporate silver into buttons or other parts of their garb to show status, cultists always retain more than that, usually underneath everyday wear. Even though they are empowered by the full moon and carry silver, they don’t know that many militiamen are lycanthropes of various strains. In many ways, this cult resembles a darker side of The Strings Player’s supporters within the Appleklein Mountains.
The Doorway to Horror
While this curiosity is connected to Reality’s End, it’s not fully from it. After the plan to create the stable Mist Gate proved a failure, A similar device found its way into Sigil’s Hive Ward. It was quickly coveted by criminals and tinkered with. Upon finding that those who entered this strange portal never came back, they enlisted wise sages to help figure it out. One managed to crack the knowledge that it was a gate to The Mists, but a one-way portal at that. How this information surfaced was likely the machinations of the Dark Powers, feeding the greedy and malicious criminals inspiration. Not long after, they used this sage to learn more, until two of the more charismatic thieves of the guild adopted offensive and barely accurate Vistani personas. They set the device up as a recurring installation in the Gatehouse Night Market, a haven for black markets and underground sales. They boasted a challenge to the most daring and boisterous in the audience. If they pay to use this portal to the “Mist World”, the vendors would pay them back triple upon return. So far, nearly 100 people have used it. Where they end up? Reality’s End, a domain that most reflects Sigil itself. Many of the new prisoners aren’t even aware that they’ve left The Cage, but the grim reality soon dawns upon them after enough travel. They either find themselves adapting to the hellish parody of The Cage or find themselves ensnared by the fiends that actively patrol the city grounds. Those who try to escape are usually killed by the Mist Fiends that replicate the battles of The Blood War. Those who seek practical crafts are much safer than those who don’t, often becoming “entertainment” for the ruling class of yugoloths.
This band of low-lives have found their share of troubles in time. While the law in the form of the Harmonium have given them a tough time, one of their ranks pulled their ties in The Fated to ensure that proper paperwork kept the venture up. More than local order, the Entropic Gloom seeks revenge for the mockery The Mists made of them. While some members, mostly Kargatane, have defected and paid to use the portal; others seek to steal it or destroy it. Through proxies and mercenaries, several of the thieves responsible for the portal have been killed. The two “vistani” salesmen who have become the face of the operation are desperate to hire their own muscle to ensure their scam continues. They have even sought out the help of far worse “Cross Traders”, including heavily influential ones at that. Some methods of stopping this have lead to more desperate tactics. A raid took place in the Hive Ward, innocent bashers and violent bloods alike were slain, in an effort to track down those responsible for stealing their artifacts. While the Harmonium ignores much of the isolated violence in The Hive, the magnitude of this got them involved with investigation. In addition, a join effort with the Mercykillers and The Fraternity of Order was established to figure out what’s going on. Many of the perpetrators were ultimately slain or mazed, with some relaying information on the Night Market to important figureheads. More and more strange characters have begun to appear at the market, asking odd questions and displaying knacks for dark magic. Even stranger, genuine Vistani have appeared in the city to offer the frauds an ultimatum, give up all of this or face grave consequences. One Vistani woman, Raunie Elsmira Yannochov of the Yannochov circle, has offered passage into The Mists. Her stipulation, give up their awful ways and join her tribe’s caravan where they can actually learn the life of the Vistani. It is unknown if she is actually a Vistana herself. Right now, there is a race to end this new Mist Gate by multiple groups; The Entropic Gloom, Cross-Trade bands, Cooperative Faction Investigators and the Vistani.
The Traitors of Necropolis
Death resents himself and knows that he’s a fraud, but this has been kept a secret from many of the revolting undead denizens within Darkon. However, some have discovered the farce that they’ve been stuck with. The image of Necropolis as proof of the Grey Realm’s ascension has also been shattered for many disillusioned supporters, who are not only saddened by their current state by also by their fake leader. Much like the agents of Necropolis subverting the greater domain around them, there are those doing the exact opposite. They see Il Aluk’s fate as both a lie and a travesty, agreeing with the rest of (or most of) Darkon’s population. While Death’s Unholy Order of the Grave have infiltrated other domains, the Order itself has ironically become infiltrated by undead loyal to Azalin’s causes… or at least the destruction of Necropolis. Many of these schemers don’t care about the well-being of Darkon as a whole. In fact, most of them are merely sick of Necropolis, favoring some prior status quo or gaining clout with the rest of the domain. While their victories have been gradual and small, they have succeeding in the absolute destruction of Korderd Scodge, a vassalich gaining favor from the order. This shaking event did put the notion of traitors on high alert though. Should Necropolis be destroyed, many fear that that’ll turn their attention to Darkon as a whole. Given the rebel bands figuring themselves to be superior inheritors to power, treason on a national scale is a likely outcome. If matters become bad enough, a likely outcome is Azalin’s and Death’s forces having to cooperate to banish them.
So far, a few of the traitors have been rooted out, especially after branching efforts in other domains have failed and the far worse death of an important ally. The rest have kept to more subtle strategies, usually working from an underground and creating networks of intrigue. However, some have found their way right to the hidden towers and dusty crypts of Azalin himself. Lucer Ontarmm, a vampire recruited to the Kargat, was a former agent of Death and member of the Unholy Order. His saw the fallen city as a failure doomed to one day be destroyed. Despite Azalin’s failures, he had seen the Lich gradually break from his holding binds… at least against learning magic. As a powerful master of the arcane arts, his other desire was also to collaborate on projects with Azalin. To him, this was not so much admiration, but an opportunity of gaining graces with the darklord and gaining some power as well. His most recent, The Mist Gate, resulted in him being destroyed by the device’s explosion. The vampire spawn he created somehow remain loyal to the rebellion against the Order of the Grave. An active operative is a lich within Il Aluk’s university grounds, Verad Finn. Much like the Vice-Chancellor, a former professor, the Requiem made him into one of the horrifying denizens. However, his devotion to the Order’s cause shattered upon enough research revealing the Grey Realm mythology to be a sham. And worse, discovering bits of truth on Death’s possible origin. Ever since, he has been gradually been crafting subversive propaganda to spark questions and skepticism within the sealed city. And by chance of a few escapees, his information has gotten out to former colleagues in Karg. As such, efforts have been formed to ensure that this information continues to circulate around Necropolis and beyond. However, misconstrued word has gotten to the religious establishments of Darkon, sparking new form of controversy. The churches around Darkon declare much of the information to be blasphemy, but tolerate passages that call for erasing Necropolis. By some miracle, he hasn’t been discovered within Necropolis, even though suspicions regarding the propaganda have arisen.
D’Amberville and the Wulver
Much of the problem starts with Celia Whitmore’s Duskpeace Lodge, but that’s only a part of the story. One subject that was within her care, Dr. Henri-Marcel d’Amberville, was a mage from the Outsider world of Mystara. As with many mages from the mageocracy of Glantri, the pursuit of magical knowledge supersedes morality. No principalities embody this more than the madness of New Averoigne, let alone House Amberville. From a young age, the caster was fascinated by Sphere of Energy; a division of Immortal powers within the world, unaware of Etienne’s true nature. He took to The Valley of Wolves to capture and experiment on lycanthropes to learn the nature of their curse, until discovered by the Baron of Morlay, a fellow werewolf vying for recognition from the other principalities. Fearing for his end, Henri-Marcel killed his remaining captured experiments and fled, where he was taken by The Mists He arrived to Verbrek in 753 BC. By twist of fate, he had also become infected with lycanthropy. This lead him to Verbrek, where he studied the Cult of the Wolf God. Dissatisfied, he found the Duskpeace Lodge far more palatable. The Whitmores did all in their power to help him gain control over his curse. A mixture of his clan’s inherent madness, the wolf supremacy ideas of the domain’s darklord and the training from the lodge mixed into a twisted ideology as well. To him, only when one fully controls the power of the beast and melds it with man do they become a powerful being. His growing cult revolted against the lodge and broke free, creating and kidnapping new victims for the maniacal cause.
Upon making it to Barovia, one of the victims prayed to The Morninglord, asking for salvation and freedom. An “angel” conjured by the Dark Powers then changed those within Amberville’s grasp, as the hybrid creatures took on slightly more wolf-like physiology and behavior. Plus, their silver weakness, inherent hardiness, ability to infect, defense against normal weapons and shapeshifting abilities were gone. In time, even Amberville lost those abilities too. All of this have left them far more open for werewolf hunters, let alone regular adventurers. Even true werewolves attack them out of hatred. Due to being different than actual werewolves, d’Amberville has referred to these new creatures as “Lupins”, dubbed after the dogmen of Mystara who ironically hate werewolves. However, to the Mist Lands denizens who have encountered them, they are the Wulver. Amberville’s grasp on these new beings quickly loosened, as even his most devout saw the miracle of the Morninglord. To them, Amberville was just a controlling mad mage whose ideals failed. After forming new pack-like groups, Amberville has been left to fend for himself as he searches for magic that will restore his power. Now ashamed of his wolf-like shape, he often disguises himself as his original human form, among many facades. One of his primary end goals is to exterminate the other wulver, to erase the failure of his past. He has no other goals for the future, with his own ideology ruined before him. His own mania has left him as even more of a target for true werewolves though. He has since returned to Invidia, where he seeks to assemble forces. Only then can he propose a mutual deal with Malocchio Aderre, where his group promises to help rid Vistani if the Invidians (and possibly Falkovnians) can help purge the “lupins” or wulver. However, not many forces are willing to come into conflict with the Church of the Morninglord as a whole, if they even welcome the wulver into their ranks.
Kleiner Garten Festival
The Appleklein Mountains is seen as a backwards and closed space by many, especially more urban cultures of Mordentish. While the mountain lands are often fearful towards outsiders, they still offer a wide array of arts, stories and more. This is where a yearly festival comes into play. Not only is this an opportunity for villages to share their creations, but for the more able residents to document it for future generations. While literacy is not common within such reaches, those who are trained rarely flaunt that as few learning opportunities exist. As for the festival, it is a showcase of local styles of music, different types of crafts, folk tales and ghost stories made from the previous year and other types of talent. On popular sight is a contest to judge who gains the favor of the Strings Player. While the judged dawn garb inspired by the Strings Player, some say that it’s the only day of the year where he might show up and disguise himself as one of said judges. Whoever wins said competition is granted permission to work directly with the mayor or chief of a settlement to ensure its prosperity throughout the year. The name of this festival is rooted in the cultures of their home world, where they believed that such a gathering is like growing a garden for all to harvest from. While cultures and perspectives within The Mists are changed, the core ideas of the festival are maintained to some degree. Also true to the name is how it acts as the fruits of a little garden’s labor. And to them, a community itself is a little garden. A major part of the festival celebrates the final harvests after long seasons of toil over growth.
And, unlike much of the year, this is one of the few times when outsiders are granted much more clearance. In a sense, this is to prove to these outsiders that this land has much to offer. Majority of the visitors treat the villages with much respect, taking up much in the ways of hospitality too. However, this only accounts for the families and businesses that allow or open themselves up for festival season hospitality. Much of the land still retains its strong xenophobia. However, just because the Strings Player is liable to show up and possibly enjoy himself for a short time, doesn’t mean he won’t get involved with his twisted justice. Many bards, scribes and other artists from the outside solely visit to rip-off some work of art they’ve witnessed. The Player takes great offense to this, usually resulting in their demise before making it far past the festival grounds. Likewise, those who would try to desecrate such a special time are met with a brutal punishment by the protective darklord. But, true to his nature, once he has revealed himself to the public, he’ll have an involuntary compulsion to escape in fear. His tragic curse will never allow him to fully enjoy the joys of life, nor the company of others. For the most part, he can blend into the festivities, as disturbances are rare and it’s common tradition to create a costume paying homage to the “Hero of the Mountains”.
Strange Murders in Lamordia
If the Haunted Hunter is a serial murderer who can be traced, then the culprit within Lamordia is almost the opposite. This mystery killer was initially blamed on Adam, but the methods employed are far beyond what can be associated with a Dread Flesh Golem. Plus, many of the murders would make no sense for Adam. The latest victim, a lone mage, was last seen in the Sleeping Beast Mountains. Some blame the general contempt for magic within the overly logical domain of Lamordia, implying that it’s not one killer but multiple. Some surmise a cabal of fanatics dedicated to eliminating any occultists or “odd” characters that dare to blight the scientifically advanced realm. However, the murders themselves are rare outside of the villages of Ludendorf and Neufurchtenburg, implying that these people work well outside of the law or even society. Among suspects, the notorious Dr. Mordenheim and even Emil Bollenbach have been subjects for questioning. The former’s responses were mostly confusion, while blaming Adam for much of it. Various subjects have been approached on this matter: a ghostly fisherman named The Loud Man claimed to see bodies bumped nearby, a dread flesh golem named Morton who loathes Bollenbach, a paranoid fisherman named Drenched Timothy who reeled in a severed arm by accident and a deranged worshiper of the Sleeping Beast named Dordriek. All of them provide widely detached accounts, some verging on illogcal (especially Dordriek).
What has been gathered is that this unnamed mage, among many others, followed in the footsteps of Eserine the Sorceress, who allegedly trapped the Sleeping Beast so long ago. Puppets of The Fiend became primary suspect, even though only one has surfaced. Dordriek has proved largely incompetent and only a danger to himself. After Drenched Timothy found the arm and went into hiding, no over discarded limbs have been found. One prime suspect, Dr. Ludwig Heiftleberg, is a mad scientist who is said to make projects that will “leech off the Sleeping Beast”. His colleagues denounced him as a superstitious buffoon. He hasn’t socialized with others since. A vague outline of Dr. Heiftleberge was spotted by mountain men during a bad storm. As they reached out to him, a bolt of lightning struck nearby as he tumbled downward. Another body fell with him. His association with Dread Flesh Golems is known, as he planned to use the Sleeping Beast as a battery to fuel his experiments. The man is insular, except for his few mystery associates he’ll converse with. Should one evade his traps and make way to his house, he’ll shout at them to go away if they can’t identify themselves as his friends. All he has revealed himself is that he witnessed a friend die at the hand of a storm, while other allies of his vanished soon after. After informing that he suspects one of them of foul play, and vague directions as to where they might be hiding, he refused to say more on the matter. It’s just as likely that he is guilty though. Though, his fear of harassment came from vigilantes tormenting him, after he was placed as a suspect. And much like other crafters of Dread Flesh Golems, his creations turned on him, as his Sleeping Beast experiments failed.
The Shadow Domains
This phenomenon was born of one word, Paradox. The failure of Vecna created a cascading cataclysm throughout known reality and beyond, empowering The Void as well. This plan of destruction and rebuilding provided the damnation of the False-Oinoloth. However, it resulted in time working far stranger within The Mists. Usually accessed by random, one can find themselves in the past, usually in a domain or location that no longer exists. Explorers have found themselves in the original Arak and Gundar, as well as core-linked domains of Markovia, Bluetspur and G’henna. These encounters usually entail a populace either oblivious of the current year of the Barovian calendar or supplying an alternate history unlike anything else seen before. These blips in space and time are probably still harnessed by The Dark Powers, even if they weren’t the initial cause for them. Long term and direct interactions with these so-called “Shadow Domains” can prove extremely dangerous. And worse, someone tampering too much might find themselves stuck within said dominion, in order to prevent more paradoxes and contradictions from forming. None the less, they hasn’t stopped Kargatane from finding loopholes. This has lead to travel into an alternate Il Aluk, which they harness for information while seeking ways of finding weak points within Necropolis itself. Certain recruited “Traitors of Necropolis” have also joined in these efforts, in part to see what life was like before the incident.
No Shadow Domain is as dangerous as the Burning Peaks cluster as a whole, a mixture of two domains that shouldn’t exist after the paradox of Vecna occurred. His simultaneous success and failure broke even The Lands of the Mists, if for a fleeting moment. But, the domains themselves prove so much worse. Even stranger, a reborn living Vecna has been unveiled there, as previously failed plans at reincarnation have now strangely succeeded. A newborn with an eons-old pool of knowledge and intelligence resides as darklord, while a puppet vestige of Kas continues on. However, flickers of reality sometimes reverse the domains to as they were before. Much like with Forlorn’s Castle Tristenoira, parts of these domains jump between time. However, much of these points in time don’t genuinely exist or shouldn’t. By some dark miracle, these domains can no longer influence the dimension as a whole, nor is it likely for anyone to find it beyond an accident. What should be of more concern are the many plans of these many incarnations of Vecna. Few know what each of them plan, but a conjoined effort could ultimately sunder the entirety of the Demiplane of Dread for good. Or at the very least, unleash the confusion of the shadow domains upon all others permanently. Given how the many have found ways to exploit these fake domains, the latter is quite likely. It’s possible that this is all according to plan.
IMAGE CREDIT: Paul Gilmore – Forest; stock photo resource – Poison Bottle; Henry Fuseli – The Nightmare; Gerald Brom – Nosferatu; Faraz Shanyar – Pirates concept art; Reconnections – Doorway (photoshop of stock photo); Imortis – Undead Thief; Marie de France (???) – Wolves; Walt Curlee – Apple Picking; Talon Dunning – Adam; Emilio Rodriguez – Dark Castle 2