The Ravenloft Files: Dead of the Night

The Ravenloft Files, Vol. 23, Chapter Two, Out of the Fire and Into the Frying Pan

The slim column of flame burned with magnificent intensity, as tiny bits of charred bone from the burning corpses seemed to dance within its form. We rushed towards the funeral pyre, and as we did so, blue-hot tendrils of fire began to flicker and dart from the burning column. Suddenly one of the tendrils shot out and struck a man who had been frozen in place with fear. In an instant, the man burst into flames as he screamed in agony and staggered around with his arms flailing about in the air. Moments later, he fell to the ground, dead, …and yet his body continued to burn.
Some of us, now realizing we had a pyre elemental in our midst, began casting protective spells, while Vance and Scar moved in to attack. Just then, another tendril of flame darted out from the column of fire striking the burning corpse that lay on the ground nearby. The corpse jerked about as it seemingly sprang to life. Then it stood up and, like a zombie on fire, began shuffling towards us…

Excerpts from

The Journal of Jareth Ambrose

(Continued from) Wednesday, March 1st, 745 B.C.

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the place where we were attacked by the werejaguars, and since I did not have the spells memorized to create the mounts we had been using to travel with, we decided to make camp in this same location. Tomorrow morning then, we will make a fresh start and resume our travels.

As a side note, I have noticed this evening, that it appears some of us have also resumed experiencing bouts of despair. It seems that the animator, which has attached itself to Vance, is back to its old tricks. I find this to be a bit discouraging as we had thought the animator might have left us, since we did not feel its presence the entire time we stayed with Lady Valerie.

Perhaps the animator was compelled or even prevented from having any effect on us while we were in the lady’s presence. Though this might simply have been a mere coincidence, it is yet again another reason to suspect there may be more to Lady Valerie than meets the eye.

Thursday, March 2nd

As planned, after I had created magical horses for my companions and me, we picked up where we left off and headed out on our journey to the northern territories of G’Henna. Before long we came to the river indicated on our map and, after a slight detour, found a place where we could ford the river. Once across, we continued our trek to the north and rode for half the day with no interruption until we noticed a plume of smoke rising up ahead of us. Moving more cautiously now, as we drew closer to the source of the smoke, we eventually crested a low hill where we could then see in the valley below, a small crowd of people gathered around what at first appeared to be a bonfire. Puzzled as to why people would be gathered around a bonfire in the middle of the day, we continued to approach until we realized that the bonfire was actually a funeral pyre and that there were several corpses lying atop the burning pile of wood.

Not wanting to disturb the funeral rites of the people gathered, who appeared to be ordinary common folk, we altered our course to skirt around the area. But by this point, some of the people had already spotted us, and although they seemed to be somewhat hesitant and suspicious, one of the men waved at us and cautiously moved in our direction. Realizing he wished to speak with us, we turned our mounts once more and rode over to the man. When we got near, the man introduced himself as Yuri, and asked us where we were headed. We also introduced ourselves and simply replied we were traveling far to the north.

He seemed to be sizing us up as if to try and determine our capabilities and our intent. But eventually he nervously stammered out a plea for assistance, saying that his band of people had been attacked by a small horde of goblin-like creatures and that five of them had been captured and taken away. Initially, he asked only that we pass along any information we could as to the whereabouts of the missing people. But knowing we could do more to aid these people, we offered to try and track the creatures down and rescue the captives.

Yuri then told us that he and his companions were pilgrims on their way to the Vale of the Blest. So we warned them against going there, saying we had heard that the rumors about the vale were false and advised them to go someplace else. Yuri added that the creatures had attacked them about the same time yesterday.

This obviously would give the creatures about a day’s head start. He also pointed out that they had managed to kill one of them. Yuri then directed us to where the dead creature lay and we were able to identify it as a kobold.

But as we were examining the dead body, we heard a sudden commotion coming from the crowd of people and turned to see what was happening. It was then that we noticed an unusual column of fire had risen from the funeral pyre…

…As we began attacking the pyre elemental, we quickly learned it was highly resistant to weapons. Because of this Vance soon turned and focused his attacks on the burning zombie, which he was able to have a much greater effect on. Scar, however, continued to attack the elemental with his sword and managed to do a fair amount of damage to it by swinging as hard as he could. He paid a price for it though when the elemental struck him with a tendril and caught him on fire. Scar, nevertheless, ignored the flames and continued swinging away at it. Redwald, of course, blasted the creature with his firearms, also doing significant damage to the creature while Ladislav and I cast spells, either at the creature or in an effort to aid or heal our companions. As I suspected, while the creature was resistant to weapons, it was, on the other hand, quite vulnerable to cold-based attacks, a fact that I took full advantage of. Although the monster was fairly tough, we eventually managed to destroy it without suffering any further long term ill effects.

Afterwards, Ladislav healed any injuries we had. Then he and Redwald also cast a few healing spells on some of the pilgrims who were still injured from the kobold attack. A short while later, we were ready to resume our travels. We suggested to the pilgrims to remain in this area, in the hopes that when we presumably rescue the captives, we will be able to more easily reunite them with the pilgrims. We then set out, following the tracks of the kobolds and their captives, which headed off in a northeasterly direction.

Due to the size of the band of kobolds and the presence of the captives, which would certainly slow their pace somewhat, the tracks were easy to follow. So we undoubtedly gained some ground on them. But because they had a full day’s head start, we were still a considerable distance behind them when the sun went down and we were forced to stop. Thankfully however, no one this night has shown any signs of despair. This is probably because the animator had more than enough negative emotions to feed off of earlier in the day.

One final thought – after some consideration on the matter of the pyre elemental, I am still puzzled by its sudden appearance. If I am not mistaken, ordinarily a pyre elemental would need to be summoned by magic, just as any other elemental – so unless there is some other unusual explanation, I can’t help but wonder if the elemental was intentionally summoned. If so, then by whom and to what purpose?

Friday, March 3rd

This morning we continued tracking the kobolds and their captives. The tracks were still easy enough to follow, but we may have lost some ground on them during the night. On the other hand, we were mounted and moving at a rate faster than they could possibly hope to. They are also probably unaware that they are being pursued, and so it is possible that they have no reason to push their pace.

Nevertheless, after traveling the entire day, we still have seen no sign of the kobolds other than their tracks. But Redwald and Scar have assured us we are probably no more than a few hours behind them. Unfortunately, with the coming of dusk, we were once again forced to stop for the night.

As I write this, we are camped just a few miles from the jagged hills known as the Claws of the Beast, which originally was to be one of our two destinations where people are rumored to have disappeared. I for one am glad we are now skirting around this forbidding range of hills, not only because of the difficulty and dangers of passing through it, but also because we appear to be headed in the direction of a place called Valuan’s Windmill, where an elven wizard is said to live. It would be a huge understatement to say that I was disappointed when the spellbook we took from the House of Bones was destroyed. So it is my hope that I might be able to acquire some much needed spells from this wizard. And yet I remain skeptical, much like the mood among my companions, which feels dismal. Perhaps though, we are only experiencing the all too familiar symptoms of despair brought on by the animator.

Saturday, March 4th

Shortly after setting out this morning, we came within sight of the desert known as the Frying Pan, where Valuan’s Windmill is said to be found. It was into this desert that the kobold tracks led us, and soon after entering it we discovered that the tracks had been obliterated by the unceasing wind that blows off the hills to the west. It was discouraging, I must say, to have come all this way and so close to catching up with the kobolds, only to lose their trail. Then the thought occurred to us that the elven wizard Valuan might know where to find the kobolds. It was yet another excuse to go and speak with the wizard and I was glad for it. So we continued on into the desert and by midday came within site of the wizard’s windmill.

Though the windmill appeared weather beaten even from a distance, the sails continued to turn. As we rode closer we saw that a deep pile of sand had formed on the west side of the tower, the few windows were blackened out and the entire structure was heavily worn by the constant wind and sand that blew against it.

Making sure to keep our backs to the wind, we rode up to the windmill, dismounted from our horses, stepped up to the door and knocked on it. Shortly thereafter, the door opened a few inches to partially reveal the thin figure of a male elf, with a suspicious scowl on his face. We introduced ourselves and asked if he had seen a band of kobolds in the area. His expression did not change much at this and he seemed hesitant to talk to us. Eventually though, he confirmed that he was aware of a band of kobolds in the area. Nevertheless, he appeared very reluctant to invite us in, until we asked him if we could enter. Finally he consented and opened the wide enough for us to step into his abode and out of the wind.

Inside the windmill, it became immediately obvious that he rarely had visitors as he had few places for us to sit. Most of the space was occupied by bookshelves, stacks of books and scrolls, jars and containers of various substances, and all sorts of odd specimens and writing materials. The sails of the windmill, we discovered, were not used to mill grain, but rather to generate electricity. There were a number of electric lamps around the place in addition to a few other electrical devices I could not identify.

We asked him if he had any water, to which he replied that it was in short supply. Then, oddly enough, Redwald offered to fill his water barrel up with water using a spell. Once this was done, the elf seemed to open up a bit more, and introduced himself as Valuan. He then told us that he knew of a kobold lair whose entrance was in some old ruins a few miles away. He offered to draw us a map leading to it and we allowed him to do so. I then asked him if he would be interested in trading a few spells, and he seemed genuinely interested. But still we got the sense that the elf did not care for company and was anxious for us to leave. I was also reminded that there were people being held captive by kobolds, which meant that the spells would have to wait.

With a map leading us to the kobolds now in hand, we wasted no more time and thanked the wizard for his help. Then we set out again and continued our trek further into the desert. Unfortunately, the desert terrain made travel more difficult and slowed us down considerably. So by the time we neared the ruins, the sun was beginning to set. Rather than try and find the lair in the quickly fading light, we decided to make camp, and enter the lair in the morning when we are better prepared. It will get chilly tonight, so we have made a campfire, but since we are so near the kobold lair, we have placed it in a low-lying area where the light will not be as obvious. And as we might have expected, the bouts of despair have once again returned.

Sunday, March 5th

Unfortunately, our efforts at concealing our campfire last night did not prevent an attack from the kobolds, who snuck up on us in the middle of the night and attacked. There were almost a dozen of them, and a few of them were even capable of casting arcane spells, though they were very minor. We were able to repulse the attack however, without too much difficulty and killed all the kobolds within sight.

Later in the morning, once the sun had come up and we were well rested and prepared, we quickly located the entrance to the lair and entered. Using several magical sources of light, we made our way through a maze of narrow tunnels and almost immediately became the victims of numerous traps and ambushes. Though we had Vance up front looking for traps, there were some that we missed, and some that Vance found but failed to disarm effectively. These traps ranged from shooting fire, falling rocks, ensnaring ropes, a falling bag of acid and even a rotting badger that made some of us nauseous. Only once did we manage to completely avoid a trap, which was a falling log.

As we were dealing with these traps, small groups of kobolds were attacking us from hidden niches and narrow passages. Again some of these kobolds were sorcerers while others were fairly skilled warriors wearing crude breastplates. Each time we were attacked, we managed to kill the attackers, but not without suffering a few injuries along the way, which Ladislav had to heal.

Finally, after experiencing numerous traps and ambushes, we arrived at a huge cavern that was dimly lit with torches and bisected by a wide chasm. The chasm was spanned by a stone bridge and a pool of water lay on the far side. Near the pool of water, we could see the five captive pilgrims chained up and surrounded by numerous kobolds, many of which appeared to be sorcerers. Spread out over the entire far side of the cavern were dozens of kobold warriors including some that wore breastplates. And finally, standing over all the kobolds and near the captives was a familiar looking elf – it was, of course, none other than Valuan. Apparently, Valuan had intentionally led us into the lair of the kobolds where he hoped to defeat us, though for what reason we could only imagine. He did not even bother to explain himself, but instead began casting a spell.

With no time to hesitate, we immediately charged into the cavern, when Vance and Scar suddenly stopped in their tracks and began looking about in an obvious state of confusion undoubtedly caused by the wizard’s spell. Realizing the threat that the elven wizard posed, not to mention the kobold sorcerers, Ladislav and I focused on them first. I led off with a web spell that trapped the elf, several of the kobolds, and all of the captives. Then Ladislav hit the same area with a silence spell.

This effectively took the elven wizard and several of the kobold sorcerers out of the battle for a short while and prevented them from easily escaping with magic. We then turned our attention to the horde of kobold warriors that came rushing towards us. Unknown to us at the start, there were numerous kobolds hiding in niches on our side of the cavern when we entered, and they came out to attack us from the rear and flanks. Redwald concentrated his firearms on these while I tossed fireballs across the cavern to wipe out large groups of kobolds there. At times, Vance and Scar were unable to do anything but stand and babel incoherently, or, even worse, cause injury to themselves. But whenever kobolds got close enough to attack them, they were able to fight back. Ladislav, meanwhile varied his actions between attacking kobolds and healing our injuries.

Unfortunately, several of the less powerful kobold sorcerers had managed to avoid the web and the fireballs and they proved to be a constant problem with their unerring magic missile spells. The kobolds were also aided by reinforcements that streamed in from other tunnels. So the battle continued on for quite some time. Eventually, Valuan and the other sorcerers managed to escape the webs and as they did so they too reentered the battle. I summoned a hound archon at one point and sent him after the elven wizard, or where I thought he was. But due to an obstructed view caused by the webs and stalagmites, I had lost track of him and did not realize he had turned invisible and somehow moved to another area of the cavern. Soon afterwards, the hound archon was killed by one of the kobold sorcerers.

Valuan, meanwhile focused several of his spells on me. Most of them were not visible spells, but I could sense the hostile forces of these spells as I managed to resist their effects. For the remainder of the battle then, the elven wizard did not cast a single attack spell that proved effective against us. But the same could not be said about the kobold sorcerers.

Towards the end of the battle, the confusion spell on Vance and Scar finally wore off and they were able to regain their senses. By this point, the vast majority of the kobolds were dead. I had cast a spell to locate the invisible elven wizard, so Scar used one of his figurines to locate him. Suddenly the elf found himself under attack with no one to help defend him. It was at this time when Vance crossed the bridge and killed one of the kobold sorcerers. Unfortunately, there was another sorcerer standing nearby and Vance was already seriously wounded. The sorcerer struck Vance with a lightning bolt spell and killed him. Moments later, the sorcerer was killed.

Scar and I then closed in on Valuan, who drew out a wand but then dropped it in his haste to touch Scar with it. Coincidentally, Scar lost his grip on his sword as he went to swing at the wizard and it too clattered to the ground. Redwald took a couple of blind shots from across the chasm but missed. I then cast a scorching ray spell and finally killed the elven wizard.

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