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Ravenloft

Black_Out

Purveyor of Dark Delights
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
It all started with a letter.


Not a simple letter mind you, but one that was elegantly scribed on layers upon layers of rich parchment that had been pressed together into one durable single sheet. It held its shape remarkably well despite being curled around itself for so long within a tarnished copper tube that kept it safe from the elements. Tiny blotches and stains upon the paper wordlessly confessed to the scroll having some age to it's fibers, but the ink was deep and dark, and most certainly freshly penned. Those little marks of age, the manner in which the words were wrought upon the smoothly sanded face of the scroll, and the red wax seal emblazoned with the shape of a castle tower that crisply fell away once opened all granted it an air of undeniable authenticity.

How that strangely dressed young man who couldn't of been but a handful of years her elder had found her amongst the swarming populace of Krotice was truly baffling. It wasn't as if she kept an address, or held a steady job somewhere. In fact she was all but the opposite of that, drifting randomly about the poverty stricken streets she called home. But that oddly attired man who could of passed as a peacock with all of the colors his garb flaunted found her all the same. Hell he even knew her by name, which was down right disturbing for it's own reasons considering she was sure they had never met. Still he didn't seem to be much concerned with her once that sturdy copper scroll tube was gone from his moderately bejeweled hands and firmly in her own. In fact he seemed so intent to move on and forget about her that he had to catch himself in mid turn and recompose himself. "Ah, ahmost forgat." At least he claimed such, though his dusky blue eyes and that little silver ring piercing the right side of his brow didn't lend much sincerity to the words.

His scrawny arm had descended to a deep red leather belt that hung around his waist like a sash, where his deft fingers unsnapped a tiny black coin purse from its possession and flicked it her way. "The Burgomastah, eh' wanted ya ta know, tis just a spittle of tha astates coffas in dat dere bag." His fingers had been busy adjusting his colorful scarf and fiddling around with the loose ends of a red bandanna that nestled across his dark brown curling locks of hair. "Use eht ta make yo' way, tha shoud be anough crowns ta pey fo'a guide, an if nat, dere's more dhen anough ta seddle up wid'em in Barvovia."

By the time her joyous eyes had risen away from the sparkling gold coins that held her in a sort of hypnotic state the gypsy was gone from sight. Ducked back into the throng, leaving her with a tease of untold wealth, and a note with a simple map delicately traced across the backside of its page. An easy to follow path, clearly penned, that would bring her directly before the gates of Barovia.


Hail unto thee,

It is with a great sense of sorrow that I must pen this letter unto ye and deliver such tragic news upon your eyes. Though you no doubt possess no memory of her, your proper birth mother, Ireena Kolyana, has fallen deathly ill. I fear that by the time this letter finds it's way into your hands, she will be gone from this realm. She was, and has always been the love of my life, and though I am by no means your father, for her heart belonged to another, I am duty bound to carry out her last wishes.

She beckons you to come home, to claim her estate and it's holdings, and do with them as you see fit. You are the last of her blood, the last of her and your family's lineage. I am sure that you have many questions, and from my understanding of things you have every right to be both skeptical and bewildered by all of this news so many years later into your own life that blossoms before you. I beg of thee though, return home. The gates of Barovia are open unto you. Do not let your mothers estate fall into obscurity and be lost from its rightful heirs.

Follow the map upon the back of this letter and it will lead you without fail to the village of Barovia. When you have found your way onto the path, be sure to travel at the onset of the rising sun. Do not stray, do not turn back once your journey is well underway, for the Svalich Woods are a dangerous place to find oneself at night. Heed these words and you will come to the edges of Barovia by nightfall. Once beyond the gates the manor should be easy to find, simply look to the south for it sits alone there on the fringes of the village proper.

I will greet you personally upon your arrival at the front door to your mansion, and do my utmost to answer any and all questions that I am capable of.

With much love, and regret for not being able to personally deliver this message unto you,

Koylan Indrirovich,
Burgomaster of Barovia

And so the gathered trio found themselves upon the wandering road that meandered along the valley floor between the foot hills of the Balinok Mountains. Black pools of water stood out like dark mirrors about the muddy roadway. Thick, cold mists spread a pallor over the path. Giant tree trunks rose up on both sides of the lonesome road, their branches clawing into the heavy lingering fog. In every direction beyond the narrow trail the forest seemed to grow more dense, becoming more and more oppressive until the fog grew so thick that it washed it all away. The muted presence of the sun shined like a blurred out blot through the fog. It's passing was difficult to trace through the dense canopy of limbs that crossed like the webs of some spiders nest overhead. The eerie silence only amplified the seemingly distant howls of wolves, closer croaks of toads, and other less identifiable sounds that intermittently greeted them.

The going was slow, but every step drew them closer to their destination, while every stride also pulled the hazy glow of the sun further down towards the horizon. The mist only grew thicker, leaving just a shallow deathly grey light to pierce through to the trail below. Even the towering trees whose trunks were almost touching began to fade away into the obscuring fog. The thick, damp undergrowth pressed and crowded all around, making it nearly impossible for the small group to keep each other in sight at all times. It had grown silent, after several hours spent on the road, as if the band of travelers were treading through a quiet graveyard that exuded a feeling of an unsounded scream waiting to be released.
 
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Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
Katya trudged through the heavy growth. She had never been this far out of Krotice before. For some reason she had imagined it differently coming out here. The gypsy’s stories always made it seem there was an actual road. Narrowing her dark eyes, she tried to take in her surroundings. It was dark and grey here, the light hardly reaching through the trees and barely making it through the fog. They hadn’t seen any sign of the wolves yet, but she wouldn’t be surprised to find some lurking in this forest. Right now, she was so glad she had decided to spend some of her newly inherited coin on better gear and boots. The supple leather moulding to her body. Her long dark hair was pulled into low ponytail, a leather cap shielding her head.

From her pocket she pulled out the letter to have another look at the map on the back and the words that had heeded it. They had left at dawn as the letter had advised, so they should make it before nightfall. Not that she could tell where the position of the sun through the dense trees. Still, she thought to herself, this route was not quite what she had imagined when the Barovian messenger had found her.

It still baffled her how he had done that. She had been in one of the worst parts of town. A cap drawn down over her eyes to shield her face in an attempt to lay low. She had more enemies than friends in Krotice these days. And this messenger had changed everything. He’d been dressed in the ridiculous garb she had only ever seen on gypsies. A peacock amongst the drab colours of the poor, clearly signalling he was not one of them. Not one of the rich either. Just simply not a Kroticean. Still he had managed to find her just fine, with the letter and the coin purse. At first she’d been wary, eyeing him steadily as she weighed her options. She didn’t know him, how did he know her? Was this some ploy by the Feodorovs? Who had sent him?

But she didn’t think anyone could have thought up this thorough an act, this outfit, this accent. It was too elaborate a ploy for the stuck up crime boss that hated her right now. It didn’t matter much as the peacock had already thrust the scroll tube into her hands. Frowning she’d glanced from the scroll to the gypsy, but her fingers had curled around around the tube readily as soon as she learned it came with a pouch full of coin. Time had seemingly sped up after that.

Once she learned of her inheritance, it was that promise of the ‘coffahs of the astate’ that swayed her decision. Regardless of whether she believed this was actually her family’s estate, it was worth checking out. At that point she realised she knew next to nothing about Barovia or the road to get there. All she’d ever heard was gyspy stories of wolves and treacherous roads. People that had actually been there were practically impossible to find in Krotice. It was hard to separate truth from legend when it came to Barovia. Still from what she knew, not a journey to undertake alone. So she had put out the word she was looking for a crew to join her on the road and started her preparations.

Now she looked behind her at the boulder of a man that had joined the group. He looked solid, like a man that wouldn’t easily by rocked by anything. A good quality in anyone, especially on the road. But she suspected neither the destination, nor the adventure had been reason for him to come along. No, he’d joined up for the other girl.

Katya glanced at Esperanza out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t want to show how weirded out she had been to come face to face with this girl. The resemblance between them was uncanny. It had been like looking at her own reflection. Perhaps a slightly different tilt to her eyes. And the way they presented and carried themselves had been so different. Still how did they look exactly alike? That wasn’t normal. Combined with the way the gypsy had found her, Katya distrusted the situation. There hadn’t been any others interested in this trip to Barovia, so it would have to do. The girl moved with the grace of a swordsman, so there could be advantages to having her along for the trip. And, so Katya figured, better to keep this one close to see if she could find out more about her.
 

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Barovia.

The word had haunted Esperanza Sergovia dreams –nightmares, really. Every scrap of her past, of where she’d come from, had been lost, burned with the orphanage she’d long been rescued from. Only that name remained, that one, solitary clue.

Not much was known about Barovia. Most of what she could track down was just as like to be myth as fact. Few who ventured to Barovia made it, and fewer still ever returned. Taking this job was supposed to be her chance for answers, but Katya compounded her questions instead. Who was this young woman whose face reflected her own?

Katya held those answers to her to chest; who ever she was, and why she was traveling to Barovia, Esperanza would have to figure out. She wasn’t the trusting type, and hadn’t spoken up much since agreeing to hire them on. There was a deep ache in Esperanza’s soul, however, hoping –wishing– that she’d finally come upon blood kin, some relative who could provide the answers she sought.

Xavier was her rock, a comforting and familiar presence as she plunged into the unknown. Typically, she thirsted for adventure, for the freedom to go about as she pleased. But as much as she wanted to travel to Barovia, everything about this job rubbed her the wrong way, and she didn’t have it in her to argue when Xavier insisted on coming with her.

The path wound through dense woods, the thick canopy above blocking out the sun. At first, it had been nice to travel with the heat bearing down upon them, but as the hours stretched on, the shade of the trees seemed to darken into the shadow of the moon. She’d lost all sense of time, plodding along, hoping to see the village materialize around the next bend. She noted Katya glancing at the map once more, and dared herself to speak up. “Can you tell if we are close yet?”
 

xavierrol

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Aug 24, 2013
Location
Ohio
To say that Xavier was against this trip was something of an understatement, he considered it the height of folly. But as was his nature, once the decision was made, he put his full effort and support behind young Miss Sergovia. As their progress slowed once again he moved forward, shifting the spear he used as a hiking staff to his left hand and drawing his sword. The road to Barovia, if one insisted on calling it a road, was overgrown from disuse and several times he had resorted to using his blade to cut through the densest of the undergrowth between the trees. He hacked away something of a path in their general direction, enough for the two girls to pass through without too badly tearing into the fabric of their clothes. It was something close to a crime for Xavier to use his blade in such a way, he would need to spend no small amount of time sharpening and dressing the blade when they finally reached their destination. Once through this latest hedge he fell back once again, content to follow and listening for Katya's response to Miss Sergovia's question.

Xavier had a general idea of their direction of travel but he was more concerned with how to get back to the established road they had left that morning than where they were going. Taking up the rear he spent a lot of time looking back, picking out landmarks such as there were but he had to admit much of it all looked the same. He hacked a few trees to leave blazes to follow in hopes Esperanza would find her answers soon and be ready to head home. For her sake, he hoped she would find the answers she sought, he knew how haunted she was by her unknown past. He was not her counselor by any stretch but he had a fondness for her that was unlike his hired hand relationship with the rest of the family. He was careful to keep that fondness hidden, though not always successful especially when they were alone. She was something like the daughter he never had and like many parents he wondered why she couldn't just be sensible and marry a wealthy nobleman and live a life of comfort while furthering her family's fortunes. Her beauty would make that easy enough, her temperament was another matter entirely. Not that she was unpleasant in any way, she just seemed too independent to take such confining vows and submit to a man she didn't find worthy. He couldn't help but smile at her insistence that she not marry a man that couldn't best her in a duel, much to the frustration of her parents and more than a few aspiring suitors.. Even if he did feel a most unfatherly jealousy when she took the losers to her bed. Xavier himself was no duelest, often reminding Esperanza that in a true fight there were no rules, but he couldn't stop his mind from considering her challenge for himself. He tried not to dwell on that idea to keep his own sanity.

Katya on the other hand, was a nearly complete mystery to Xavier. About the only thing he was confident about her was that she had a nothing much to lose quality about her which could be very dangerous. He had some doubts about the validity of her letter, and even more so the story behind it. Still he could clearly see the shock of both girls as they realized how identical they were to each other in most every detail. That was about the only genuine emotion he sensed from her. Clearly they were kin and their paths couldn't help but be intertwined but he felt certain the wolves weren't the only predators about.
 
OP
Black_Out

Black_Out

Purveyor of Dark Delights
Joined
Jul 9, 2018


The timing of Esperanza's question ironically coincided with a thinning of the bleak grey blanket of fog that stretched out before the trio. What loomed just ahead of them upon the narrow path that was wide enough for a single wagon to traverse seemingly answered the question without Katya having to even part her lips. As the dense mists pulled back like a curtain that was revealing a stage an aged battlement of weathered granite rose up out of the fleeing gloom that had obscured their vision for so long. Somewhere in the distance beyond the parting veil of fog the sound of thunder echoed through the valley and broke the silence.

The gateway into Barovia was massive enough to rival any such structures found in Krotice. Heavy stone walls pressed out of the thicket of impassable trees and underbrush that threatened to suffocate the narrow trail. Jutting from the impenetrable woods on both sides of the road, the high stone buttresses loomed up out of the gray fog that fell across the ground like a slowly swirling carpet. Towering iron gates hung wide open from the stone work, gently creaking as a growing breeze wafted through the yawning portal. Dew clung to their rusted bars with a cold tenacity, eating away at the still sturdy gates with a timeless patience. Silently standing guard upon the flanks of the decrepit gates of Barovia were a pair of mountainous statues. Armed soldiers that were wrought out of stone held titanic swords that were pointed downward between their feet. Patches of damp moss clung to the cracked and fissured headless sentries. The heads that had been removed from their broad shoulders lay buried at their feet, mostly hidden beneath dense layers of weeds and shrubs.

The approaching dark clouds were revealed over head as the roof of branches receded as the trail drew near the waiting gates. The coming outburst of the storm was preceded by a soft drizzle of bone chilling rain that fell from the angered heavens. A light sheen of moisture began to cling to the land as the fading sun hinted to the inevitable fall of night that was soon to press away the meager rays of the sun that managed to pierce the darkened clouds that boiled above. A flash of lightning stroked like an angry brush across the sky, it's thunder booming as the tempest began to strengthen. Wind lashed across the trail, spreading debris and crackled leaves across the path before the group.

To the far left side of the gate near the forests edge a cluster of bushes and tall reeds shifted and shook in a manner unbecoming of the winds handiwork. The source became quickly apparent as the squawk of vultures rose up out of the underbrush. Their grizzly bloated forms were busy plucking their sharp curved beaks into some unseen carcass. Beady pools of black from one of the handful of scavenging beasts turned to discover the group upon the road. With a toss of its long narrow neck upwards a morsel of decayed flesh was swept down its gullet before it let out a horrid call. Large wings flapped at the stale air as a cacophony of shrieks rose from the gathering of vultures. Their heavy grotesque forms ascended upward, leaving their unseen meal behind as they circled about before coming to perch high above upon the upper reaches of the crumbling gates of Barovia.

As the vultures watched and licked their claws clean a view beyond the open gates of iron was afforded. The weed plagued uneven dirt road carried onward in mostly a straight fashion until the covering fog painted the horizon with its deep grey glaze. The closely clustered forest parted like a wave crashing into the bow of a galley and in the dwindling light that remained high reeds and grasses reminiscent of moors framed the roadway as it disappeared into the low hanging clouds of fog that persisted. Without the umbrella off the forests canopy overhead the ground had grown softer. Not quite soft enough to sink a boot into, but yielding enough to leave a print where one had tread.
 
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Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
Katya carefully tucked the scroll away as the mist faded away to reveal the gateway to Barovia. It looked positively ancient, withstanding the wear and tear by time, the forest and the weather. Slowly her eyes travelled along the massive structure with its broken guardians. The stone heads that lay on the forest floor were huge, taller than she was. It was an impressive site, no doubt about that, but it was far from welcoming. "Barovia.." She said softly, thoughtfully. She wasn't sure what she had expected. Perhaps this explained why no one ever went here. It didn't seem to be invited visitors in. Not that it mattered much.

She turned her head to face Esperanza, letting her lips curve into a grin. "Looks like we've made it to the border. Let's go."

Slowly she stepped forward, approaching the creaking gate. But as the storm moved in she upped her pace. Moving in this weather would be miserable, but standing still would be worse. The storm didn't look like it would let up anytime soon. A chill went through her as the rain came down on her. In front of the gate she hesitated for a moment. Refusing to look back at the other two, she glanced up at the vultures for a second. Vultures were scavengers. Perhaps the wolves had left a kill here at the gate. It was time to get a move on. Katya didn't want to be in these woods when night fell. There was no going back. Katya had come this far and she wanted answers. Answers about this letter, whether it was real or not. Katya wanted to know who sent it. Answers about Esperanza too. It was too much of a coincidence. The sudden inheritance. The two of them looking exactly alike. The confusion and shock in the other girl seemed real, but then some people were excellent actors. Katya would know.

Setting her jaw, she firmly placed her boot in front of her and walked through the gate. Once through she looked back at Esperanza and Xavier, waiting for them to pas through so they could continue on together. None of them had so far actually brought up the elephant in the room. The identical looks of the girls. For now that suited Katya just fine. She hadn't missed Xavier, whom she had come to call the Boulder in her mind, looking at her. Studying her like she had been studying them. He had joined her crew, but if it came down to it, he would go for Esperanza. Katya wondered how much the other girl was aware of the dedication this man had for her. "You guys coming?" She invited them sassily, her hand gesturing to the path behind her. "Storm's coming, we better keep moving."
 

xavierrol

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Aug 24, 2013
Location
Ohio
Xavier watched as the fog seemed to lift as if it where the opening of a curtain for some sort of dramatic production. He couldn't help but get the sensation that some malevolent force was manipulating the very elements to set the stage for whatever was about to happen. Seeing Katya there, framed by the ancient gates left him to ponder what role she had to play in this tale. She was strong, he had no doubt, but was she heroine or villain? He was stirred from his pondering by her declaration they had reached the border. He moved up from the back of the party to place himself between Esperanza and whatever threat might materialize from the haze that had enveloped them. As if he felt the greater threat was no longer the wolves behind them but their destination itself he almost instinctively put himself in a position to protect his charge.

As the vultures squawked and took flight he went to find what it was they had been feasting upon. They did not kill for themselves so as distasteful as it might be he would identify what had been killed, and more importantly, what had killed it. "In a moment." He said without looking as he dismissed Katya's call to proceed at least for the few moments it would take to see what he could learn. He pulled up the hood of his cloak against the stiffening rain though was careful to keep the garment from keeping him from his sword even as he gripped the spear in his other hand. His eyes moved constantly, as if assessing every feature of the gates for threats, the mood of the place had him at a high level of alertness.
 

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
It was as if the heavens themselves answered her query.

Esperanza stopped in her tracks, taking in the grand gates of Barovia, the ancient guardians that stood watch over the village. That both were headless seemed, for a moment, a terrible omen, these twin warriors suffering the same horrific fate. Of course, it was more likely they were created the same way, weak at the neck, and time had overcome their grand design. Whatever the truth was, Esperanza felt small as she passed alongside the massive heads, their unblinking eyes still keeping watch over the surrounding lands.

A cold and bitter wind chilled her to the bone, and rain lashed at her. Even if Barovia hadn’t been her destination, she’d have no choice but to enter, if only to escape this sudden storm. Even still, her feet seemed rooted in place, unable to urge them forward.

"You guys coming?” Katya asked, in a way that sounded like teasing. "Storm's coming, we better keep moving."

It took another heartbeat before the words could breach her mind, and a another heartbeat yet before she could respond. “Yeah, I’m right here.” The first step weighed a thousand pound, muck clinging to her boots as if to keep her still, but she pushed forward and through the gates.

Right, no dawdling. Whatever awaited her awaited within the village.
 
OP
Black_Out

Black_Out

Purveyor of Dark Delights
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
The muddy road waited ahead of Katya as she lingered just beyond the other side of the ancient gateway into Barovia. The tall reeds and grasses formed a natural wall around the trail and they swayed with the growing winds that blew through the fog shrouded landscape of the valley before them. Mercifully the massive stone walls of the gate granted the woman some coverage from the irrepressible chill of the rain that patiently bid its time to greet them.

From her vantage point Katya watched as Esperanza trudged forward towards the gate to join her. Xavier, the Boulder, was by her side and seemed keen to keep his charge protected until he paused and broke off to investigate the source of the vultures meal. Esperanza was momentarily left alone as he headed off to the left side of the crumbling structure and pushed his way through the tangled overgrowth of weeds and shrubs. Though their distances were not far apart from each other, the clouds of fog and mist that hung low to the ground and the diminishing light of day played havoc with their sight lines.

The further apart they became, the more wraith like their forms became to one another. The smell of rot, at first faint, only grew stronger with every step until it overtook the other aromas and banished them. By the time Xavier's stride had brought him to his goal he could barely make out the specter of Esperanza waiting at the cobweb riddled entrance of the gate, and her twin, Katya was all but gone from sight as she loitered on the opposite end of the tunnel. But the visceral sight before him and the task that he had set out to perform became the focus of his efforts.

There, hidden away from casual observation at the edges of the thicket of woods was what was once a short plump man whose corpse had turned a blackish green. A collection of beetles mingled about the body, partaking in the feast it offered. His skin had dried away in places and was still bloated in others. Portions of his thin hair had fallen away from his scalp, and his face had sunken inward. As the warrior knelt down to examine the carcass that had been gouged, ripped, and pecked at by the vultures the means of death seemed quite evident. A single line curled across the mans throat, it had the look of a sharp and precise instrument and though the passing of time had let the wound curl open it was obviously a thin blade that done the deed.

The man himself, who Xavier roughly estimated to be somewhere in his elder years was dressed in a distinguished manner. The cut of his clothing resembled that of a man of some station and certainly of the upper class. But his traveling jacket had been torn from his body and laid in a disheveled heap at his side. His blood stained shirt and moldy trousers were ripped and shredded in spots where the vultures had picked away at the meat of the man. A black leather strap that was typical of a coin purse had been cut in half and hung from his belt, and if the man wore jewelry it was gone.

About the body, obscured by mud Xavier spotted a tube of stained bamboo. The seal of wax had been broken, and small remnants of its existence were scattered about the scene. At a glance, the keen eyes of Xavier noted a crumpled up piece of parchment several feet away, stuck in a barricade of twigs and weeds. Though it was stained by the elements, it was still quite readable, and from the date upon it, nearly a month old. It read.

Hail thee of might and valor:

I, the Burgomaster of Barovia send you honor - with despair.


My beloved home has been plagued by a creature calling its race 'vampyr.' My once adopted daughter who has grown into a lady, the fair Ireena, has been plagued by the creature over these past several nights. I fear for her greatly. For over four hundred years he has drained this land of the life-blood of its people. Now, my dear Ireena has taken sanctuary in the security of my manor with only the symbol of our savior, the Morning Lord, and my servants to protect her. Yet I fear that even that holy relic will not be enough, the creature has become far to powerful to be fought any longer.

So I have decided to leave in the hopes that this letter will find its way into the proper hands and that I might spoil whatever cunning plans the Devil of Barovia has set his sights towards.

Give us up for dead and encircle this land of death with the symbols of good. Let holy men call upon their higher powers so that the evil one may be contained within the weeping walls of Barovia. Leave our sorrows to our graves, and save the world from this evil fate of ours. I beseech you, do not enter Barovia unless you intend to end this monsters reign of terror, for the mists that surround our haunted land are a poison that will suffocate any that try to leave these lands of dread. This fate I accept, though I have hopes that an antidote I plan to acquire before my departure will spare me that painful end.

There is much wealth entrapped in this community. Return for your reward after we are all departed for a better life.

Kolyan Indrivoich,
Burgomaster
 

xavierrol

Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Aug 24, 2013
Location
Ohio
Xavier had almost certainly expected to see that the vultures had been feeding on a wolf kill, some wild game that had met an unfortunate yet wholly natural demise. As he began to see what an effort it was to reach the spot he had second thoughts, especially as it was taking him out of immediate reach of Esperanza. Still it would be helpful to know how recently the wolves had fed to have an idea of how hungry they might be this night. He once again had to resort to hacking away at underbrush and actually smelled his destination before laying eyes on it. That in itself seemed odd, a wolf pack leaving enough behind for the vultures that it could rot to the point of such smell. But he had already broken through the worst of the underbrush so he might as well satisfy his curiosity.

When he first realized it was a man he looked back to Esperanza out of reflex and was troubled to see just how difficult it was to make out her form even though he hadn't felt he had moved that far away. He fought back his disgust and anxiety however, this man had been long dead so it was unlikely the killer or killers was still close by. This was no wolf kill, despite the age of the corpse his cause of death was clearly unnatural, a clean slice across his throat. The fine clothes only added to the puzzle, such a man of wealth should have been missed by now, surely someone would search for him wouldn't they? Bracing himself, and taking a deep breath of the cleanest air he could find he held his breath and searched his jacket and clothes. Seeing the cut coin purse he thought perhaps a simple robbery, foolish man should have just given up his gold and kept his life.

Continuing his search he found the tube and shortly thereafter the parchment. Seeing nothing else of use or value he picked up the parchment but didn't read it right away. He despaired for any kind of tool to give the man a proper burial. Looking at the waiting vultures, knowing they would continue their feast as soon as he left. There was nothing to be done for it though, it was too damp to build a pyre and he had no tools to dig. He made a silent prayer, crossing himself before heading back towards the others, beginning to read as he walked. He stopped in his tracks as he read the word "vampyre" again looking towards his young charge to ensure she was still where he left her. Struggling between his desire to keep reading and getting back to Experanza he tried to do both, stumbling several times but catching himself with the spear which he used as a staff.

"It is...was...a man. He was murdered, some days ago by the looks of him." He thrust the parchment into Esperanza's hands and physically grabbed her elbow to drag her towards Katya. This was rather unlike him, only once before had he physically forced her in such a way, when one of her lovers had been attacked in a tavern and she had been too close for his comfort. "Read it aloud." He said when he got close enough to the Katya. "We need to find shelter before nightfall." He told them, ignoring the rain and the cold for the moment and no longer content to follow at their pace. He would prefer to turn back, to abandon this foolish quest, but that wasn't an option. He didn't believe the words about the fog being a poison, nor did he believe in vampyres, but it would be dangerous to travel the woods at night and in this storm. There was evil about and though he did not yet know its true form, he would be on his guard and would be sure to place himself between it and the beautiful young daughter of the Sergovia family.
 

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
For a time, Esperanza was certain she’d lost sight of both Katya and Xavier. Which had to be impossible, right? Because they couldn’t be more than a dozen paces apart. But she struggled to make out Xavier’s figure in the darkening fog, and that same mist seemed to swallow up Katya’s silhouette. Should she stand still, anfd wait for Xavier to follow her into town? Or try and catch up to Katya, before her mysterious doppelganger could escape her sight?

Either way, the decision was made for her, when Xavier caught up, waving a scroll before him and demanding she read it aloud. Strong hand cuffed her arms, his fingers digging almost painfully into her flesh. Her immediate reaction was to jerk away from Xavier’s grasp, but his iron grip held her fast. Whatever he’d read had rattled him worse than finding the days’ old corpse. Shaking, she unrolled the scroll and read it out loud.

Her eyes swept toward Katya, her visage nearly a mirror in the haze of fog “Did you know about this? Who sent for you to come to Barovia?” But Katya wasn’t given much of a chance to respond before Xavier cut in again.

"We need to find shelter before nightfall." He had a point. Whatever questions she had or explanations Katya could offer, all of it could wait until they were somewhere safe and dry.

Esperanza nodded in agreement, and glanced out into the fog. “There must be something here. All we can do to keep moving. Then we can figure out what’s going on here.”
 

Touch Of Temperament

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Dec 29, 2012
Katya waited for the others as the fog thickened around her. Esperanza was headed her way, she could see that. But after Xavier had stalled, she couldn't distinguish much more than the outline of his figure. The fog was taking on an opaque quality. Katya had never seen a fog set in this intensely and this quickly. It was almost unnatural. Especially with the storm coming in. The damp mist clung to her clothes, the cold seeping into her skin. She was started to lose her patience. What was taking him so bloody long? They should be moving, finding shelter, before they were all wet, cold and miserable. Folding her arms, she thought she could finally see the Boulder stepping through the gates. It took him long enough.

He practically dragged Esperanza with him the last steps before they reached Katya, who couldn't help but be amused at the protectiveness in the large man. At least they had now caught up to her, but Xavier was obviously shaken. The large man barked at his princess to read a letter aloud. A letter not unlike the one she was carrying right now. Katya frowned, turning her head slightly as she listened to Esperanza. As apprehension built at the contents of the letter, her eyes narrowed at this new letter. Some of the words and names were similar, but this story was completely opposite. Fantastical even. Vampyres, poisonous

Esperanza started questioning Katya as soon as she had finished reading, but Katya was focused on something else. She was already moving closer, she needed to see this letter. Compare it to the one she had. Brushing up against Esperanza side she managed to look at the letter for a few moments, before Xavier interrupted them. The letters were written by two different people, even though they were signed by the same name. She needed a better look at that letter, but she wasn't going to get it now in this weather.

"Let's move. Stick together.." She said, even knowing that was somewhat unnecessary as she was sure no one would be able to pry Xavier away from Esperanza's side. "Keep your eyes out for anything resembling shelter or a building." At least the path was a little better accessible at this end. Every step she could feel the forest floor getting softer and slippier from the rain.
 
OP
Black_Out

Black_Out

Purveyor of Dark Delights
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Even with the briefest of glances at the crumpled letter that was in Esperanza's hands it was obvious that the letters were crafted by two different authors. Where Katya's was gracefully wrought in smooth flowing lines upon a rich parchment, the beaten down letter in Esperanza's hands was penned with a noticeable tremble and upon a lesser grade of paper. In the brief moment it would be easy for Esperanza to likewise steal a glance at the eloquently scribed letter in Katya's hands before the group set out at a brisk pace down the muddy road while the rain fell in a incessant chilling drizzle.

As the ancient gates of Barovia were left behind the mists that had plagued the groups every step began to thin and ultimately dispersed, perhaps being absorbed into the surrounding dampness. Thick and long reeds and grasses reached like seeking fingers into the fringes of the muddy trail. In the fading sun light high and jagged mountains were revealed to the north as the obscuring fog lifted away. Their slopes were hidden beneath the tops of the towering pines that dominated the Svalich Woods. Off in the distance a deep and heavy tolling bell echoed out over the valley. It's sound was constant and repetitive ding-ding-ding that filled the valley for a steady minute before it finally faded away. Leaving uncontested rolling thunder to roll over the valley once more.

As dusk was settling in the tall reeds and grasses pulled away, breaching into the road no more as farm land rose up to replace them. Fields of wheat and barley in the midst of harvest took up large swaths to the south of the road while freshly planted rows of corn grew in favor to the north. Underfoot the state of the trail began to improve. Mud and muck thinned out and an old smoothed cobblestone roadway began to offer a more stable footing. Cart tracks, paw prints both large and small, along with the markings of boots were glimpsed in places where just moments ago by the gate not a trail could be seen of any recent passage.

Some ten minutes into their journey beyond the gate the first glimpse of the village of Barovia came into view just as the fields that bordered the roadway fell away as long grasses that were perfect for grazing took over the landscape. Just a few short minutes away along the wet cobbled road a cluster of weathered and greyed buildings waited silently. The main road seemed to cut right into the heart of the modestly sized village. Most of the structures were simple two story dwellings with eaked thatched roofs and sturdy wooden support beams that contrasted their bleak colorless walls. The closest building though was easiest to view.

Along the villages outer fringes was a large barn just a few hundred feet away. It sat mostly alone, just a short distance off to the north side of the main road into town. What at first appeared to be graffiti covering its walls turned out to be a myriad of religious symbols to the Morning Lord painted in places across the heavy planks. Every window way into the shelter of the barn along with the side doors were boarded over. Light shone from a single oil lamp that hung from a pole just outside the wide open doors of the barn. From that open entry way the shadowy silhouettes of men and animals bled out into the darkening night from the warmly lit interior. A single figure stood under the open barn doors, peering outside towards the south towards another figure in the fields several hundred feet away to the south of the barn.

A lean and lanky figure was busy wrestling with a stubborn cow that refused to budge. Desperate pleas and curses fought against the roar of thunder that swept over the valley. But as his eyes caught sight of the trio of strangers approaching down the road his shouts went silent. For a moment he stared in frozen disbelief before the howling of wolves broke over the valley from seemingly every direction. With one last tug on his lead the stubborn cow relented as he quickly began to lead the animal back to the waiting open doors of the barn.

A crack of lightning split across the cloudy skies that churned above, briefly granting view of a nearby mountain peak that towered over the village's north west edge. The unmistakable black shrouded shape of a castle with spires that seemed intent to pierce the skies like they were spears came into view and just as quickly vanished as darkness fell around its form again. The winds howled and the rain began to strengthen, pounding the roadway just as the man and his cow made their way into the warm light coming from the inside of the barn up ahead.
 
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BennyQ

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Night was falling once again on Boravia, a sickly dark wall that advanced relentlessly over the ominous and doomy village. As if life bore already the failing light of hope and opportunity, nighttime in Boravia was like a transition into a new way of reality. It was truly the time and abode of death, which stalked without prejudice or care for whatever it consumed. No matter what shape, form, or method it took, it’s presence was always felt, always foreboded, and overall completely inescapable. Yet for Valery Bucren, it was the end to another day, succeeding a long list of similar days, none of which bore any hope for change.

It was difficult to think of the future and what rivers and valleys there may be yet to cross in life, when the bridge to simply get past the night was already fraught with many perils and hardships. He was a man who lived for nothing else but this never-ending cycle, of fruitless tasks and toils during the day only to jealousy guard whatever meagre reaping could be had during the night. Would today be the day it all came to an end? Bucren was starting to loathe the routine, switching from farmhand to guard, and then back again. And for what?

There were some days when it grew to be too overwhelming. Some days he just stood outside, watching the growing darkness, wondering if he should just allow himself to be consumed by whatever dread forces the night commanded. This wasn’t his home so why was he even here? The answer was shrouded in the murky past and he didn’t even bother to recall it anymore. He was here. Trapped. There was no change anymore and he had given up hope for it. Whether it be wolves who tore him limb from limb, or the bipedal creatures that were hinted off in the murky mists beyond the town’s perimeter, he did not care. Today he wondered if it might be the day at last where he just let loose any such regard for his life.

But instead he carried on. Routinely. Without change.

This particular barn where he had his guard station appointed was nearest to the gates of Boravia. Sometimes he like to stand outside the doors, in the final moments of dusk and through the first moments of night, tempting fate and death by watching to see if any of the rumours were true. The wolves certainly were. Ghouls and zombies, he had seen shapes but never anything concrete. Mists could refer to anything, whether it be simply fog, the murk of swamps, or indeed something like the breath of a plague demon. Thunder crackled in the sky above. Perhaps there would be light to see by for these rumours and guesses. He had a moment. Everything was secure. The doors were reinforced. Any window would be boarded up. They were ready for the nightly siege.

Pulling his dirty grey hood over his head to guard from the rain, Bucren began his little sightseeing by leaning against the wall, next to the open barn doors. The animals were all safety stowed inside. Most of them at least. Though he might guard them, their owners were not actually keen on Bucren touching them. Others from the village had that responsibility. He was only meant to die in their defence, nothing more. Apparently outsiders like him carried disease, even if its been over a decade without manifestation of such from him. Such facts didn’t matter. He watched one of his fellows take an animal out to be used as bait and offering, as if the dread forces could be sated and pleased by such a thing. How did one please and curry favor with the night itself? He snorted. Some thought it sated the deadly beasts outside. Bucren figured it would only lure them deeper and deeper inside, in search of something more. They didn’t have enough livestock to do this forever. No one cared about his opinion though.

By now he had learned the shape and schedule of his fellow citizens, who they were, what they might be doing and in that particular space. Any other sort of movement that was out of place would be quickly noted, as such action was often only reserved for the wild beasts and danger. Or the strange folk who lived at Tser Pool. Even Bucren was unsure whether they were friends, allies, or just some dark entity all on their own. Their matriarch was certainly something. He recalled his first, and only, meeting with her. Having dealt with merchants all over the land, Bucren knew being straight to business was often ideal. No one wanted to mingle with outsiders any longer than needed. But this woman, she just launched into a strange diatribe about…him. It was so unusual. He wasn’t going there again anytime soon. This place had enough craziness attached.

But there was uncertain movement in the village. It was usually uncommon to see danger before the final rays of the sun had set but in this mist, sometimes one couldn’t even witness that event. Perhaps the storm had brought enough promise of night to bring unwelcomed company into their village sooner than usual. At last, another tempt with fate. But when Bucren narrowed his eyes, one hand on his bow and feathered arrows tickled the palm of his other, he saw these were neither beasts of the four legged variety…or even of the two legged. These were…visitors. Warm blooded visitors. And they had come at a very poor and miserable time in Boravia.

Thunder crackled again, igniting sight of the entire town, though it was something he had seen before. And simply put, he didn’t like seeing the rest of Boravia. It made him remember that even after being here so many years, there was still so much more to it.

Moreover, the path that led deeper into the town went right by his barn and its open gates. The others would be securing all the other thresholds and windows before going in, him last of all. He could already hear their complaints. Bucren having another piss outside the doors. Hope the wolves bite his cock off and leave us alone they snickered to one another. Humour. Rarely heard or even evident in this place, yet badly needed. He ignored them. Soon enough they would come and see the newcomers as well.

Typical of Boravia, they would take bets on which one they would hear screaming first at night, when they were caught outside without shelter or help. Bucren only pursued his lips. They would never find shelter. Not unless they hurried right to the Vine. And even then, they had to find it in this muck. They wouldn’t stand a chance.

He looked up at the sky again, dark clouds moving in, with thunder crackling. It was going to rain probably. Which reminded him how thirsty he was…

“Who’s that?” One of the other guards pointed out to his fellow as they came around to the front, having done a quick walk-around inspection of the barn. They could now see the three individuals on approach.

“Three woman? Must be witches. Always witches about.” Another muttered darkly.

“It’s two girls and a man.” Bucren said. The others didn’t argue it, only glancing at him with something between distrust and disdain. If he was wrong, that was typical of outsiders. If he was right, he used some outsider trick or ploy to learn such knowledge. It didn’t matter.

“Visitors. Stupid.” The first shook his head. “What are they goin’ to do, arriving this late? Cause chaos and madness running all over town. And here I wanted a good night’s rest.”

“We never get any rest. Not when they’ll be scratching and clawing at the doors.” A third said.

“Who? Them?” His companion asked. It was always an uneasy thing to endure hearing helpless travelers caught outside at night, begging for entry and safety. No one helped. Usually helping meant dying just alongside them.

“Them, and the wolves.” The first answered darkly. He shook his head and went inside. Bucren still watched the travelers coming on, corner of his lips twitching downwards a little. He knew these people were unsympathetic. They were all used to death, so it didn’t bother them especially when it involved someone they didn’t know or cared about.

“Bucren, since you like to piss with the moon, go tell them to get lost.” The elderly guard said, signaling Bucren out given his one distinction; not being one of them. He didn’t complain. Someone should be courteous enough to at least give directions. They could at least die somewhere away from them and save them the trouble.

He didn’t go to them though, the three travelers. He stood by the side of the road, where they would inevitably have to pass by him in order to get anywhere. He must be quite the sight. A soaked grey cloak and hood draped over him, covering a roughspun tunic with a sleeveless leather vest. Dark breeches tucked into boots, perhaps the only item of quality he owned, along with being armed with bow, sword, and knife. His bow was slung now and his hand rested on the hilt of his sword, a rusty iron grip that clearly needed working. His eyes gazed coolly over the three. Two girls…and this last one is an actual fighter. He definitely would have news of things.

The two girls though…strange indeed.

“You lot must have gotten lost.” Bucren greeted in a casual, slowly spoken tone, typical of a small town peasant who had all the time in the world clearly. But time was running short here. “It so happens when you let your feet aimlessly follow the road in front of you. Smart people don’t come to Boravia, unless this is a happy miracle.” His tone was dry, not full of any hope at such a prospect, even if it were true. “The people want to know your business here. Pleasure, I take it?” He said, offering up almost, almost, half a smile at his own dry wit here. Thunder crackled, a sad rain fell, and the lands looked bleak and dismal. It was not a place that heard laughter for years. So much pleasure.
 

xavierrol

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Ohio
As the dark woods became pastoral farm land and the muddy track turned to cobblestones, Xavier's grip on Esperanza slowly eased until he released her completely. "Begging your forgiveness miss." He said as a token of apology, though she likely knew him well enough that he would readily do it again if concerned for her safety. The storm and the howling of wolves still concerned him, but in a normal land, at least the kind of lands he had frequented in the past, such things were more a nuisance than an actual danger. As the village began to come into view, illuminated at times by the lightning, he scanned as best he could for something like an inn where they could find lodging for the night. He was somewhat reassured by the sight of men and farm animals at the barn, even if the activity seemed a little odd. Xavier was no farmer so he was not attuned to the normal workings of things but as he looked more carefully a few things seemed out of place. The holy symbols seemed more like a desperate act haphazardly enacted than a solemn token of blessing from the faithful. The boarded windows again looked haphazard and rushed, as if trying to make a fortress from a barn. He would have been curious enough to ask of such things were he in not such a hurry to get the girls off the road and into a proper shelter.

Another flash and Xavier noted the high castle, if Katya's letter was not an outright forgery, that might well be their ultimate destination. It was too far to risk tonight though, not with this weather and the fierce howling of wolves. Better to spend some coin at an inn than to risk it. Of course that all depended upon the two girls accepting his wisdom, which was by no means a sure bet. Still he could be persuasive when he had to, and when the need arose he wasn't opposed to overpowering the young girl for her own good.

Still cautious, Xavier noted a man with a bow heading towards the road as if to intercept them. He eyed the bow nervously, while he could throw a spear fairly far, he couldn't hope to match the range of the bow. Worse yet the man held it at the ready, his other hand near the quiver. He considered leaving the road and walking wide but they were already in range, he was better off closing the distance so his own weapon could be effective. He sighed a breath of relief, as the bow was slung and the man gave a friendly greeting. "If the town beyond is Barovia we are on course Sir." Xavier replied in a quicker, more cosmopolitan tone. While it made little sense to him he could only think of this man as a guard, but why a simple barn would need such a thing was just another mystery for Xaiver's tired mind to chew upon. Xavier let his cloak cover his sword so as not to appear threatening but kept a firm grip on his spear, though more like a traveler's staff than a soldier's weapon. Xavier gave a ready smile to the guard's rather poetic explanation of their predicament. "Sadly I have news from just outside this land's very gate, a murder most foul, I am afraid." He kept quiet about the note, leaving the two letters for the girl's to either share or keep secret as they saw fit. "I am surprised his body was not found prior, looks like he had been dead four or five days and not so far off." He stopped short of making any sort of accusation against the effectiveness of the guard posted so relatively close to a murder. "I shall let my charming companions speak of their business if they are so inclined, I am a simple servant, meant to keep them safe and comfortable such as I can. Speaking of which, is there an inn in town where we might find lodging? And if you can pardon our lack of social graces, we are in something of a hurry with this weather." As if on cue another bright flash of lightning illuminated the country side. Xavier stayed silent about the wolves, assuming they were natural creatures that would run away from an armed human.
 

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
Katya had let Xavier and Esperanza move in front of her as they trudged down the path. Let the two of them stick together as she brooded on the two letters and more specifically the difference between them. Where she had been wary of the initial letter, now she distrusted the contents of either letter. Which was the real letter? Who was this burgomaster? Had she been tricked in coming here? But why? It didn't make sense to her. So frustrating, she needed to know more.. The others had seemed just as surprised by this new letter, but while they were a crew, Katya couldn't count on them. The mist had dissipaded, but that made the going no less cold or wet. The ground was starting to get slippery underneath her boots. At least the path had become wider and it looked like people actually lived here. The dense forest had made way, opened up to open fields as the storm settled in. Thunder rolling around them, drowning out any other sound as the lightning streaked along the skies.

The rain plastered her hair to her skin while she let her eyes glide over the land ahead of them. Behind her the light was fading. Whatever the source or the truthfullness of either latter, both of them warned of Barovia at night. And of course, they had all heard of the wolves. So Katya was definitely inclined to believe that. In the distance loomed a dark castle, occasionally highlighted by the flash of lightning. At least they were not far from an actual village. The promise of shelter had bolstered all three of them as Katya from the back could tell they had all picked up their pace.

Then a new sound came from the woods behind. A piercing howl. The wolves. Katya glanced over her shoulder as instinctively her hand came to rest on the handle of her knife. It wouldn't be much good against a wolf, allowing them far too close. But it was better than nothing. Katya was a girl from the streets, tough, but her strengths lay not in battling the creatures of the wild. That's what she needed a crew for. She certainly didn't want to be surprised by any of those beasts. The howling was so loud, she could only imagine they were numerous.

The warm light from the stables was alluring, but she could tell from the stranger awaiting them by the road they were not welcome. Katya dipped her chin, studying the man as Xavier talked to him. She knew that look on him, had seen it plenty on the streets. The look of those worn away by life, she had worn it herself until she became better at hiding it. He would be hard to fool, though. He looked like he had already learned to expect the worst from other people. Katya checked out Xavier and Esperanza and then returned to the stranger. The conversation between the two men chafed at her, but she bit back her impatience, knowing full and well the song and dance some times had to be done. Let het play her part. "It is a family matter that has brought us here." She said, stepping forward. Her posture assured, shoulders back as her weight rested between her two legs. Her voice was low, but melodious.

"Could we not step out of the rain in the barn? It would be nice to warm up somewhat while we talk. I can tell you more about our business here and you give us directions to an inn or tavern, or anywhere we might stay? I have been told it is not safe to travel in the dark." She interjected, offering a half smile her eyes flicked up to meet the stranger's eyes. Nothing too sacharine, she saved that for other types. Another wolf howled, other joining its chorus. Katya glanced back at the woods, with the storm clouds gathered around them.
 

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
A family matter.”

Esperanza let Katya’s words speak for her as well, not interested in making herself out to be a mad-women with her dreams of this place. While no one thing stood out as recognizable to her deepest memories, all of it felt familiar. More of an emotional connection to this place than any real physical connection. It was almost as if the land itself spoke to her. She belonged here. Now all she had to do was convince the locals of this fact.

“We have coin,” Esperanza insisted, jingling her change purse. Whatever worries or trepidation the locals may have towards outsides, money spoke every language, and opened many doors. “And, because we arrive so late in the day, with such little sunlight remaining, we would pay handsomely for shelter against the storm. Nothing fancy is necessary, not even a bed. A roof and four walls would do for the night.”

Brushing back a dripping lock of hair, she offered the man a smile. A shy smile, a vulnerable smile. A smile that promised so much gratitude for the smallest of favors. A smile that usually worked well for her, a young, attractive woman of means with an impressive family name. “Esperanza Sergovia, of the Krotice Sergovia’s. And you are?”
 
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Black_Out

Black_Out

Purveyor of Dark Delights
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Distorting sheets of rain blurred the movements of the men within the warm comfort of the barn as the storm reached its crescendo. Rapidly gathering storm water formed small streams that swept under and around the boots of those gathered on the road. The fast moving currents all swept southward with the faint slope of the land vanishing into the dark and lonesome grazing fields. In the looming shadows of the fortified barn a sickly and malnourished goat strained its neck against a cord of rope that kept it leashed to a sturdy short wooden pole that was sunk into the ground. The animals scratchy cries of panic and despair were muted by the drumming of the rain.

As the group made the briefest of pleasantries along the roadway into Barovia a voice from the barn called out over the din of the storm. "Hey, Bucren, why don'cha take tha night off an git lost with em!" The disdain for the outsiders in the veteran guards voice was all to evident as his pitch fork wielding shadowy form stood between the glow of the open doors, barring entry. No sooner then the words had left the mans stubble and pock marked framed lips the large open doors to the barn swung shut with a resounding thud. "Fella ain' got no sense!" Another voice bellowed from behind the barn door as the sound of heavy timbers could be heard as the main doors were barricaded against intrusion. The disheveled and soaking wet goat offered no sympathy as it unsuccessfully tried to trudge away from the wooden beam it was tethered too.

The screaming wind whipped the rain against the gathered group as a single deep and booming ring of the church bell echoed over the village. Burcren knew its meaning all to well. Night had descended upon Barovia and that bell was the last warning given to find safe shelter for the night. Just like every other dwelling in Barovia the Vine would be locking and securing their door now. Unlike every other dwelling though the proprietors of the Vine would open their doors for a fee. The hinted at comfort of the warm light that fell through narrow gaps between the boards of the barns walls began to fall away as their sources were doused by the guards inside. Further into town beyond the driving rain, meager pinpoints of light that came from scattered locations began to snuff out as well. Within moments after that single bell toll the village of Barovia fell into utter darkness as all light fell away from the buildings of Barovia.

As quickly as the surge of rain came, it began to recede, turning to a faint drizzle in a matter of moments as the worst of the storm blew away to the south. By the time the skies settled overhead the glow of the sun lingering on the horizon had fallen. Soon the tumultuous storm pulled away completely, leaving a scattered drop of rain to fall from the skies. Leaving only thunder and lightning to linger in the rolling dark clouds that hung over Barovia. Night had come to the village and the tendrils of the fog could be seen already creeping back in over the land as a flash of lightning lit the dreary village for but a breath.

The howling of the wolves drew closer as night laid claim to Barovia. Lone howls pierced through the darkness from every direction. The howls that came from the unseen southern edges of town were not those of lone wolves, but of a pack. Every howl that followed seemed closer while the terrified goat continued to bay in a panic.
 

BennyQ

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Nov 3, 2013
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Canada
The thunder and winds were really crackling now, as if these newcomers had come to witness the most fierce storm Boravia had ever seen. Of course for many of the battered residents of this town it would have to be violent storm indeed, one that cracked the foundations of even these old hovels and houses about. The winds kicked up fiercely and Bucren’s cloak whipped and flapped about his legs and sides. It felt cold to the bone. And bleating of the sacrificial goat could barely be heard. When it stopped was when the problems really started…

At first the other man’s politeness, the one who was the guard, felt a little off-putting. No one spoke like that in Boravia, simply because no one here really warranted being called a Sir, whether in rank or figuratively in spirit. Fortunately one needed worse insults, if it was indeed one, to shift Bucren towards wrath and retribution. He had endured it here many years. He did not want to think what these three might have to endure. “You are right. The town behind is Boravia. Beyond those walls is not. You’ll have to speak with whoever owns that land about that murder.” He simply answered the other man’s report with a shrug.

Nor would he have cared about any criticism of indifference on the townspeople’s part. You stop to investigate or bury a body out there, it was most likely the grave you would dig would be your own as well. But wasn’t it like that everywhere? They’ve come to an emporium of death. One slain body outside shouldn’t matter. That was life in his part. Bucren’s expression showed no shock or even regard for this news. But upon being directed to the charming companions at his side, he could not help but take interest, in both the reason for their presence, and the fact there were finally some sweet and pretty faces in Boravia to look at, besides the Burgomaster’s daughter.

An inn is what they needed. Seem typical for customers. And old Arik could use some actual business that weren’t the same old boring faces. Like his own. The first girl to speak mentioned a family matter that brought them here. Strange. Usually it was family matters that drove people away. This first girl, who along with the guard gave no introduction, asked whether they might take shelter from the rain within the nearby barn, even as the winds and rains picked up. Preemptively even his response, for Bucren knew better, his so-called colleagues told him to basically take the travelers and fuck off. Perhaps if they were lucky, all these outsiders would be killed off in one single night. Then they could loot all their clothes and gear, whatever the wolves left behind.

Finally they got to business, when the one who called herself Esperanza Sergovia offered money and coin for services. Now that would open up some lips and minds around here. “Bucren.” He answered flatly in regards to his own name. His surname of course but they didn’t need to know that. Only a handful of people in this town knew his first name and he preferred to keep it that way. It wasn’t as if these newcomers, the man and the two girls, who looked awfully alike, were going to share their life story with him now were they? “I could tell you the inn is the worn down building with the cracked foundations and the broken roof, but that might easily apply to every building here.” Bucren said in his same tired, dry tone. “So I suppose I’ll have to show you. Nothing fancy is necessary, because it’s all we got here. Come along then.”

He turned on his heel and began to make his way back up the road. “And if you plan on stabbing me in the back, be sure to cut my ankles too because you certainly do not want me coming back for you.” He said, looking over his shoulder and giving the trio a half-smirk, his first smile since they arrived.

The storm was moving in now, violent and repressive to anything not rooted in the ground. Trees swayed but the houses remained motionless in the murk, only occasionally lighted from the flash of thunder above. Each house sat dormant though, for not even a light shined through as every window and threshold was barricaded against the elements. And those that came with the elements. It looked as if the town was preparing for a siege, which it was, one that came nightly and never-ending, day after day, week after week, till it became years with no count or end. For Bucren though it was everyday life seeing such sights. There was not a single person or beast about. Except of course for the bleating of the goat, far behind, which still could be heard when the wind ceased for a heartbeat as if to breathe, or the thunder lay quiet for a moment. Ominous.

The main road brought them to the center of Boravia, which should have been the heart of the little settlement. It was, if that heart belonged to a man long dotard and decrypt in years. Weathered signs spoke of greater prosperity in past times but no longer. Other buildings sat about, including the town’s only inn. Bucren paused near where the road met the square to point it out. “Blood on the Vine.” He pointed out to the trio. “It’s the only place they’ll let you in, for a price.” He said and looked as if to say more, but a new bleating sound from a different direction gave him pause a moment. No, that wasn’t the goat. It sounded like a person. No, not the sound of a person being devoured by wolves. More like the sound of a person watching someone be devoured by wolves. Haunting.

He said nothing about it though. Just continued his trek to the door of the Vine, which looked as shuttered and blockaded as any other home. Bucren drew out his knife and used the hilt to bang on the door, not wishing to bloody his knuckles trying to get the door warden’s attentions. Yes, they had a door warden here, a cheap, devious little gypsy man. “It’s Bucren, open up!” He demanded. There was no answer but a little peephole cover was removed, as if expecting tribute. Instead Bucren crouched and glared into the hole. “Pias, you little wee shit. I got company out here, let us in. Tell Arik he’ll make twice as much on them so fuck the door price. Or fine, three a head, nothing more. Open this door.” He hissed, even trying to reach into the peephole to grab the warden on the other side, to twist and pinch and hurt in any way to further coerce the man to barter down the price and let them in.

It was a savage life here, after all.
 
OP
Black_Out

Black_Out

Purveyor of Dark Delights
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Pias wasn't in the finest of moods to begin with when the rap of Bucren's knife hilt echoed through the dingy little tavern. To start with the cards just weren't being kind to him today. Now it was night in Barovia and the lean gypsy lad already had a full decanter of watered down wine simmering in his belly. And he was on door duty. He was always stuck on door duty. It was part of the price for being the lowest on totem pole. He got the job no one else wanted, but everyone wanted done right.

So he was right pissed when the game halted and he left to go answer the knock at the door. Leaving his three comrades from the gypsy camp to sip their equally watered down wine in silence. Being called a little shit by some outsider that was lucky to still be alive in this hell hole caused his blood to boil. "Aoi, is tha you Bucren ya fuck and yer infected fuckin arm." He snapped back as the taunt drew him in towards the viewing slot, just close enough for Bucrens hand to snatch up the loose and thin deep green tunic and vest that covered his compact chest.

Pias grunted spittle into Bucrens wrist when the side of his head smacked into the door as the stronger woodsman on the other side pulled him in. "Ya know tha deal. Five gold a head. Most ya gonna do to me is club my pretty little head against this door. Lot worse is gonna happen to you, out there." Pias hissed back into the slat as the sharp tip of a needle thin dirk pressed into the underside of Bucren's wrist. "Now ya let tha fuck go or ya gonna have anotha wound." The point of the dagger caused Bucren to relent.

"Tha's better." Pias composed himself as he took a step back from the door and fixed his ruffled up shirt. "Now the doors gonna open and your gonna have five gold a head ready or we're gonna boot ya back out into tha night." Pias said sternly as he began to lift the beams that barricaded the door away. After he set the slabs of timber aside Pias began to unlock the deadbolts before he swung the door open wide.

The weasel faced gypsy with colorfully beaded long dark hair peered out into the night at the four and with a voice that was full of urgency he grumbled. "Now get inside and put the gold on tha table and find yaselves a place to sit." Arik the gaunt looking bartender barely lifted his head to look towards the door as he quietly took a rag to a glass, cleaning it to perfection. From the looks of it, the glasses that lined the shelf behind the bar were the only things kept in any state of excellence here. The rest of the interior of what was surely once a fine and favorable establishment had all fallen into disrepair and was left in shoddy shape at best.

But still a modest fire from a hearth off to the corner spread warmth and flickering shadows through out the taverns confines. The three gypsies from Pias's table watched quietly as the group was hurriedly ushered in by the door warden. They had seen plenty of things over the years here in Barovia, but still visitors to the Vine after the sun had fallen were a rarity. A rarity that most often meant visitors had arrived in Barovia. And visitors meant trouble. The variety of blades kept in sheathes that the three of them gripped let it be known that they were ready for trouble. Off in the shadows at the far corner of the inn hall sat a lone and mysterious figure that quietly sipped from a glass of wine.

There were plenty of open tables available, the rest of them in fact were open. Each with an unlit thick red candles that sat in the center waiting to be lit. In the shadows towards the far right, near the mysterious gentleman that Bucren recognized as Ismark, the son of the Burgomaster, was a flight of stairs that led upward towards the inns rooms.
 

xavierrol

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Aug 24, 2013
Location
Ohio
Xavier got his first lesson in just how cheap life was in this land as the man seemed little concerned with something as serious as murder. Still he sensed no real malice from the man, just a rather shocking level of indifference. While somewhat unsettling, Xavier shifted his focus towards safety for their small band, especially Esperanza. Seeing the guard's reaction to his companions confirmed in Xavier's mind that it would be best to let them do most of the talking. Not that he faulted the younger man for his heightened interest, he had been a young man once, and even now he would readily admit to the physical attraction of his traveling companions. Despite any misgivings he might have towards Katya, she wisely kept her cards close to the vest and gave a passingly vague answer as to their business. Clearly a request to warm up would be received much more readily from the pretty lips of such a fine looking young lady. Though as good as it would feel to be warm once again, he thought the barn an unnecessary delay in finding suitable quarters for the night. It would be all the harder to set back out into the cold dark rain once they felt the warmth of a fire.

In contrast to Katya's streetwise response, Xavier had to fight from rolling his eyes as Esperanza jingled her purse in front a total stranger. Yes money could open many doors, but he had found it best not to flaunt it too early or obviously but it was hardly the first piece of his advise that the young lady had decided to ignore. Of course money and beauty were not her only assets as she offered a small sample of her charm, a smile that was nearly powerful enough to beat back the overwhelming gloom of such a miserable day in an equally miserable land.

At first it seemed that Esperanza's offers would only secure them a single name of the barn guard and a not particularly promising description of the lone inn. However a call from the barn seemed to settle matters for them. What appeared to be additional guards more or less dismissed their new friend just before securing the barn fortress for the night. If a single guard had seemed odd for such a humble barn, an actual detail of guards seemed to border on paranoia. The roughness of this Bucren's dismissal led Xavier to wonder if he was some sort of outcast or if it was the others that were somehow defective in their sense of camaraderie. Xavier had been in his share of guard details and though he didn't like everyone, there was at least a sense of cohesion. This was indeed a strange land with strange customs.

With the decision more or less made for them, they proceeded towards the town. Xavier listened to the howling of the wolves which was becoming disturbingly coordinated, like a pack on the hunt and he shuddered to think what they might be hunting. Their new friend did little to endear himself to Xavier as he made a comment about backstabbing. He gave Esperanza a puzzled and somewhat offended look. "I can assure you I am not a backstabbing highwayman." He replied somewhat stiffly in contrast to the the other man's expression of mirth.

As they reached the securely barred door to the inn, any hopes the encounter at the barn was a solitary and isolated oddity were soundly dashed. Though still tense as to their circumstances, Xavier did concede sharing an amused smile with his traveling companions at the rather unusual dialogue and negotiation taking part on their behalf with the unseen 'wee shit' of a doorman.

The warmth of the fire went a long way towards mitigating the otherwise disappointing quality of their rather limited lodging options. Instinctively Xavier's eyes scanned the room assessing everything in sight as to possible threats, opportunities for defense, and escape. In his travels he had learned it best to always have a plan for the unexpected. The card playing gypsies were the most immediate threat, hands on hilts as if expecting trouble. Xavier gave them no reason to feel alarmed but he doubted that would matter much to them. He leaned his spear against the wall as it would at least appear disarming though in reality the long weapon would be of limited use indoors and would only interfere with his sword if it came to that.

A lone figure in the distance was not as obvious a threat, though that hardly ruled out any possibility of trouble. His gaze returned to their erstwhile guide as he would want to gauge the local for any sign of concern about the clientele this night. Not that this Bucren was in any way above suspicion, but he was about as close a thing as they had to a friend at that moment. As Esperanza had been so eager to jingle her coins, he decided to leave it to her to arrange their accommodations for the night. He had never heard of a door fee just to enter an inn, but it was hardly the most distressing bit of bizarreness he experienced so far this day.
 

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Esperanza followed Bucren through the town, eager to get out of the rain. The storm seemed to worsen by the moment, and soon they’d be at more risk than mere discomfort. Not to mention the grow howls, louder and more imminent than the boom of thunder. He remained cold towards them, but at least he offered to show them to the inn and negotiate in their favor, unlike the others who encouraged them to die off quickly.

Shabby as it might be, the inn was more than welcome refuge against the storm and the howls and the general distrust of the village. Even if that distrust. seemed to follow them in here. She didn’t miss the way the men gripped their hilt, as if expecting trouble.

Esperanza didn’t argue the point , dropping money on the table and taking a place by the fire. She had questions of course, too many questions really, and besides not knowing where to even begin, she needed to get warm first. So she hung up her cloak, kicked off her boots and began wringing out anything else she could take off while still remaining decent.

Esperanza briefly wondered if there was anything worthwhile to be gained by making conversation with the locals, but decided against it for the moment. Everyone they’d so far encountered were so rude and uncouth, she had a hard time believing if could be worth her time.

Perhaps her life of privilege had left her woefully unprepared for her lack of welcome here. She was a young, attractive and unmarried woman, from an important and wealthy family. Most people tripped over themselves to meet with her. Here, however, none of that seemed to matter so much as her status as an outsider, earning her derision and suspicion.

Finally, once she was as dry as she could get without completely disrobing, she made her way to the bar and offered more coins. “Rooms for the night, and glass of wine for now. I don’t suppose there is any warm food available as well?”
 

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
Barovia was a grim place. The way Bucren's pals had closed the barndoors on him and the haunting sounds of howls had driven that point home to no uncertainty. This storm wasn't helping either. By now they were all soaked through and through. A shiver ran down her spine that had nothing to do with cold, but everything with those screams, pure terror that was. Krotice was not an easy place to live, but this was something else. Scowling, Katya glanced about her at this town the local was leading them into. A battered old town that tried its best to shut out the night. She didn't blame them. With all this, the rain wasn't even at the forefront of her mind anymore. Bloody wolves. The inn didn't look much better. She didn't miss the little interaction between Bucren and the scrawny man at the door. Not very friendly. They were making the most of people caught outside after sundown.

At least they let them in. The inn had seen better days, but it was dry and had a fire burning. And most importantly as she was coming to understand, it kept the wolves out. Nobody was happy to see them, looking at these new visitors like they were as much trouble as the wolves out there. That's alright. Katya could deal with wariness and distrust. Interestingly enough, they weren't much happier to see the guy that brought them. She pursed her lips in amusement as Esperanza flashed her little pouch of coin again, before making herself at home. That was one way to make friends. But the other girl had the right of it. Food and drink wouldn't be amiss.

Katya's eyes were sharply on the gypsy that manned the door as he pocketed the gold. It wouldn't be hard to take that coin back from him. It'd be only fair after the way he had charged them an arm and a leg, just to get inside. Not right now though. Too many eyes on them. And she didn't want to get kicked back out there. But at some point, she'd get even. Wiping the water from her face, she glanced at Bucren. "Delightful, those mates of yours."

Everyone inside was still watching them. The gypsies at the cards table, the mysterious figure in the corner and the barman. Keeping her things close, Katya sank down on one of the chairs, chosing one that gave her the wall at her back and everybody else in her sight. All the men inside had their weapons on them, she wasn't foolish enough to part with hers. What she really wanted was a room for herself, time to consider those two letters thoroughly. In lieu of that she would settle for learning more about this bloody town. She would have to be patient though. "Are you guys sitting?" Glancing from Bucren to Xavier, she gestured towards the other chairs at the table. "Or are you joining the game?" Amusement curled up the corner of her mouth.

Her hair clung to her head and clothes, dripping wet still, but she ignored it. It would dry. The winds howled around the building, joining the chorus of the wolves. "Is it like this every night?"
 
OP
Black_Out

Black_Out

Purveyor of Dark Delights
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Without a hint of hesitation Pias slammed the door shut as soon as everyone was safely inside. The trio of deadbolts were swiftly locked followed by the wooden beam being settled back into place. The young weasel faced gypsy let out a sigh of relief as he leaned against the door for a moment and caught his breath. With a look of bewilderment to his features his gaze followed the movements of Esperanza and Katya as they pair entered the establishment and went about their business. Whatever thoughts were floating around in Pias's head he made no mention of them as he moved to grab the coins with his greedy little hands and stuff them into the pocket of his pants.

Arik remained seemingly disinterested in anything and everything as he continued to dutifully clean goblet after goblet to a perfectly polished shine. Though the barkeep must of noticed Esperanza approaching as he assembled a set of four spotless goblets atop the bar. The thin and wiry barkeep with sunken eyes mumbled as he turned around and bent over "We only sell bottles." Shaky fingers parted a dingy red curtain that hid an arrangement of wine bottles. As she inquired about food and a room for the night Arik rose back up and set a dusty bottle of red wine down next to the glasses. He spoke in that same muted tone as he avoided making eye contact with her. "Beef stew and bread, we got one room, two beds. Two gold for the wine, one for the stew, and five for the room." Arik spun back around and headed through an opening that led into a darkened kitchen where the light from a few candles danced about. From the kitchen his voice carried softly through the inn. "I'll be back with your food."

"Be glad we let ya in lass, just keep ya voices down and don't make no ruckus." Pias gave Katya an annoyed glance as he double checked the locks on the door before peering out of the spy hole briefly. He slid it shut, adding before returning to his mates at the table. "Nay, we don't have outsiders popping in every night." As Pias joined the rest of the gypsies at the table a few of them gave the young man their own stern and annoyed looks as their game resumed. Silently cards were dealt, without a word bets and raises were made, and voicelessly pots were collected and ante's for the next round slid into the middle of the table. Just the sound of the cards being shuffled for the next round joined the modest crackling of a few logs that burned in the hearth.

The lone figure off in the shadows of the corner of the inn sipped away at his glass of red wine. It was all to obvious that the plump and well dressed man was fully intoxicated as he swayed side to side despite being more or less firmly seated. The sound of an occasional hiccupped snort fell from his fat lips. Barely visible in the dim light to his side was a decorative scabbard for some short blade that was leaned up along the wall.

Abruptly his slurred voice broke the relative silence as he looked towards the group. "Hey, you there. Did my father, did my father send for you?" He attempted to stand as best as he could, knees wobbling beneath him as he one hand fumbled to keep grasp of the table while he balanced his glass of wine in the other. "I'm, I'm Ismark, the Burgomaster's son, my father went to find help, did you see my father?" As he stood the faint lights in the tavern hall washed over him highlighting his disheveled appearance and the wine stains upon the white of his shirt.

Not even heeding any answers to his question he staggered towards the bar where Esperanza was waiting for the barkeep to return with her stew. As he drew closer his blood shot and watery eyes hovered on the young lady's face and in an effort to clear his vision he blinked and hardened his stare upon her. "You, you look just like, just like Ireena, except your hair's to dark to be." Some sort of realization dawned on the drunkards face as he looked towards Katya and then back to Esperanza. "You, your her daughters." His forward progress awkwardly halted as his hip planted against the bar and he started to shuffle clumsily backwards away from her as if she had the plague. His head shook feverishly from side to side as he mumbled and muttered in disbelief. "No, no no no no, go away, you shouldn't be here, it's not safe, she sent you away, no." His feet stumbled over one another nearly as much as his words did and with a thud the plump son of the Burgomaster fell onto the cheeks of his rounded ass. Inexplicably he managed to spill only a few drops of his ruby colored beverage as it waved about in his wobbling hand. "He'll come for you, just like your mother."

As suddenly as Ismark had fallen onto his rear, two of the gypsies rose up from the table with a look of disgust etched across their mustached faces. "Just leave him be." The older of the two spoke up with a threatening glance towards Xavier and then Bucren. "He's a drunkard who doesn't know what he's talking about and the last thing we need is him getting out of hand." The pair of gypsy's cut a business like path across the tavern floor towards Ismark who by now had fallen onto his back. His precious glass of wine had faltered from his grasping hand, leaving the watered down red liquid to soak into the floorboards. "You want to talk to him, talk to him in the morning when he's sobered up." He spoke as if it was an order while the other two gypsies who remained at the table found their hands falling back towards the handles of their weapons once more.

As the pair weaved their way towards Ismark to gather him up and escort him up the flight of stairs towards his room, the barkeep Arik returned from the darkness of the kitchen and set a wooden bowl, spoon, and a half a loaf of dried up looking bread down in front of Esperanza. "Eight gold." He whispered, barely paying attention to the scene as he set a simple brass key down next to the stew. "Room three."
 
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xavierrol

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Aug 24, 2013
Location
Ohio
Though it had been nearly a decade since Xavier gave up the road to guard the Sergovia family's most precious possession, falling in with established customs came easy enough to him. Clearly noise was something of a concern as even the hard looking gypsy's were careful to keep their voices down playing in near silence. He wondered if this was an evening ritual or if this was just the way things were here. One could feel the anxiety of this place like a physical presence and it was difficult to believe that anyone could live like this all day and all night. Though people were amazingly adaptable as he had learned on his travels. Were it not for the clear sense of danger, Xavier would have been quite content to sit and watch, learning more of their customs though he had to admit he didn't care for them all that much. His curiosity however had to wait as the lone stranger began to speak. While he noted the words which only added to his concern and the utter uncertainty of their situation, it was his movement towards Esperanza that became Xavier's most prevalent concern. On instinct he moved to intercept the apparent drunkard before he could get within easy reach of his young charge.

He did not draw a weapon, hoping the man was indeed as drunk as he appeared, though acting drunk was a good way to have someone let the guard down. Xavier was too professional for such a ruse though he had to admit it was a pretty good act if the man wasn't truly three sheets to the wind. He allowed himself a low laugh as the man fell on his arse, acting or not he was much less a threat on the floor. He left Esperanza to deal with the bartender as he watched pretty much everything else. She was free with her money, which wasn't all that unusual for her and he felt no shame in allowing her to pay for him, he being essentially a servant after all. As was also usual, he had significant coin stashed about him, a little was his own, but mostly belonging to the girl's father, enough to get her out of most of the usual kinds of trouble.

He watched to see if Katya would interrogate the drunkard even as the gypsy's scurried to get him up, help seemed a strong word for it as their care lacked any sort of compassion. It almost appeared to be more out of self interest, self preservation even. As if raising one's voice in passion were a risky thing in this town. His ears perked up at the claim of being the burgomaster's son, he was struggling to keep track of who was related to whom here. Except for the uncanny resemblance of the two girls, Xavier was beginning to think it was all some mad fairy tale meant to lure in the unsuspecting. He looked between the two girls once again, admiring both their beauty and the obvious similarities. Esperanza was certainly an unsuspecting type, at least in his reckoning, as she would probably always seem the young girl he had first met. Katya seemed to have ample street smarts, but she had that look of avarice that had blinded many a wiser soul.

While Xavier had traveled with Esperanza before, never was it in such primitive conditions. He smiled inwardly at the limited accommodations and wondered which side of her door he would be sleeping on this night. He certainly respected her privacy and modesty (such as it was) but he was not opposed to compromising either to ensure her safety. Katya complicated matters as well, seeing as how she could be every bit as much of a threat to his charge than anyone else here. The complicated calculus of ensuring Esperanza's safety was almost enough to make him forget about the howling of the wolves outside.
 
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