Curse of Strahd (play-by-post)

Beginnings

Her tail tapped on the bulwark of the ship, betraying her impatience. The town of Daggerford was visible in the distance. Her meeting with Zelraun was very brief; evidently Duchess Morwen of Daggerford was in need of assistance and the Harper offered his organization’s support. As this support, Lamb had some apprehension about dangerous work with several Zhentarim operatives (described as “hired firepower”) and a small force from the Order of the Gauntlet — an interesting combination, to be sure, but Duchess Morwen had many friends, payed well, and was not picky when it came to getting things done.

“We strive to protect the powerless,” Zelraun had said. “If the children kidnapped by the werewolves are still alive, we would see them safely returned.” He handed her a scrollcase and sent her on her way.

When the ship finally came to port, Lamb hurriedly made her way onto the dock. Behind her she heard some snide comments. As a tiefling she was used to it, but this time they were stranger than usual. “What a little weirdo. Glad to see that one go,” a hand said. “Caught him in a corner, staring at the wall. Was handy on deck, though.” Lamb turned around to throw a dirty glance at the sailors, and nearly knocked a gnome off the dock with her tail. “YEEeeeeeee…” A sound — halfway between a squeak and a shout — came from his mouth as he barely caught on to one of the posts and pulled himself back up.

That’s right, there was another Harper supposed to accompany her. This gnome matched the description exactly, down to the blank look and wooden pipe he was obsessively chewing on. He also deftly twirled a scrollcase identical to the one Zelraun had handed her with a spell scroll of remove curse inside it.

“Hail!” She bowed deeply twice to the gnome and prostrated her self as openly as possible. Feeling wronged by the comments that she had mistakenly identified towards her self, she decided to try to make the judgmental filth the slightest bit jealous of her new companion. “I am Clamant the Sonnateer of The Harpers and as of this moment your humble servant.” This mention of the Harpers draws a few interested looks; the intended effect. She darts a quick look to the side at the filth to see just how slack she could make their jaws. “You must forgive me but I was not informed of your name?

The gnome twiddled the scroll for a second more before stowing it. He muttered indecipherably — “Menumble Pyewackett, knives meecha” and gazed with ill-disguised longing at the sea. Lamb picked up some of the gnome’s scattered belongings to continue the servant charade and the two made their way into town.

Llaniver Strayl, a famed paladin of Tyr, gave the three their briefing. “Bolvar. Anton. Meet Garlan. He’s joining you in this endeavor as a representative of the monastery of the Watchful Eye.” The Torm worshippers glanced at the tall stranger appraisingly, who grunted in return acknowledgement. “Garlan has devoted himself now to the safety of the gentle folk of Daggerford; most definitely a worthy pursuit.”

The vaulted ceiling of the ecumenical temple of the Order of the Gauntlet loomed over the party as they made their way outside. From Waterdeep, they were to travel to Daggerford and meet with the Duchess. They made an imposing force: a monk of Hoar, a paladin of Torm, and a blademaster in service of the same. They were to join with others at Duchess Morwen’s mansion to deal with the werewolves from the Misty Forest menacing Daggerford. Certainly the group of three should be more than enough, and the others would be dead weight.

Sir Llaniver had provided each of them with a potion of heroism, signalling the importance of this duty to the order. As they all knew, the order must be ready to lash out the moment evil acts, and not a moment after. The order must strike hard and fast. The order must smash evil with overwhelming might, or it will swiftly overcome all. For this reason, the order had to be willing to work with any who would serve in the destruction of evil, regardless of motivation.

The lone cloaked and hooded figure walking along the main thoroughfare easily avoids notice. The dark clothes are fine in make but nondescript enough to blend in with the dwindling light. The only embellishment is in the fine leather gloves, trimmed with fox fur for warmth and the leather boots – too well-made for the average traveller.

The figure pauses for a beat to look up at the sign on a tavern and in the pale lamplight, her fine elfin features, coppery skin and pale hair peek out from under the large hood. Her golden eyes scan the encroaching darkness, brow furrowed in her concentration – the hallmarks of her people giving her face a sharp, severe cast. She moved inside, and made her way to the planned table, where another cloaked figure already sat. Aila waited there for the third to join them. There was no reason to waste time talking now, and have to retread traveled ground later in conversation.

There was nothing special to remark upon about the other figure sitting at the table. Just another cloaked wanderer, wide brimmed hat pulled low, smoke wafting up from the pipe and further obscuring the owner. A quill shuttles back and forth across a thick sheet of vellum, pausing only to wet itself in pitch black ink before continuing its immaculate script. Each letter is shaped quickly but perfectly; not a single drop of ink is wasted or spilled.

The fingers grasping the quill are the only thing out of place: thick digits that dwarf the tiny instrument grasped delicately between them. Now other things begin to creep into notice: the figure is slouching, not sitting upright. Even still, it’s a head above the other patrons. A glance beneath the shadows of the hat shows the sparkle of lenses in front of the glowing crimson gaze that is focused solely on its work.

A tink echoes hollowly as the nib of the pen hits the dry bottom of the inkwell. Without looking away from his work, Helyg lowers the glass jar under the table with one hand while the other gestures over the page with the deliberate movements of arcane magic. A brief gust of wind caresses the wet ink, drying it almost instantly. There’s a wet, sucking sound and a brief struggle as the figure wrestles with the tentacle wrapped around his ink. With a wrench and an audible pop, the inkwell is recovered from the grasp of the suckered appendage, and it slinks back inside to sulk. A raised eyebrow — quickly suppressed — betrayed Aila’s surprise. Maybe this job wouldn’t be so boring after all.

Three! Unheard of. One was already a treasure. Two marks of favor were reserved for jobs of the utmost importance, with more danger involved than most would be willing to risk. Three? Almost certainly this meant someone broke the first rule of business: don’t let it get personal. On top of this already extravagant payment was a cloak of diversion. Her “benefactor” Veneficus made it clear to her that this was not an opportunity to be passed by. Avreen briefly brought her hand to her necklace — the symbol of her indenture — and quickly brought her mind back to business to avoid dwelling on her situation.

“Business” was working with a diverse group to remove werewolves terrorizing Daggerford and the villages to the east of the city, north of Waterdeep. Duchess Morwen was their indirect employer; Avreen would meet two fellow operatives at the River Shining Tavern and go from there to meet a representative of the duchess. Probably from the Council of Guilds.

Avreen made her way inside the River Shining, where two figures awaited her at a corner table in the dim common room. Both of them also wore cloaks of diversion; a telltale sign that she was in the right place. These strangers were also Zhentarim but according to her contact they shared her “naive bent”, whatever that meant.

“Good day to you both”, she said curtly. Of course she was working with two half-breeds. The half-elf returned the glare with a grimace that might be mistaken for a smile, if you were being generous. “Uh, name’s Avreen. I usually work alone, but this seems pretty serious, so it’s, uh…” She paused to send a sideways glance at the golden-eyed youth. “Good to be working with you. Either of you have intel on the duchess? Pay seems suspiciously high.”

“You can call me Aila,” she replied. “All I’ve heard is that the duchess pays.”

Tilting the brim of his hat back, the last of the three tipped his eyes up and down Avreen’s form before smiling happily. “It’s a pleasure, Avreen, Aila. I am Helyg. I, too, have heard the duchess pays well, and in that manner the three of us much prefer to just gold.” He returned to his scribing, ignoring the tense atmosphere.

Varis did not need to consult the Emerald Enclave to know that the werewolves were disrupting the natural order. For balance to be restored, they needed to be eradicated with prejudice. A fellow member of the Enclave assisted him in tracking the werewolves to the Misty Forest. Once pointed out to Varis, the tracks were blatantly obvious; clearly Talos was on their side, for uncommonly mild weather preserved the tracks perfectly. Unfortunately, Varis had to return to Daggerford to collect a force of adventurers to assist him in eradicating the werewolves, but he was very confident in his ability to return to the general area of the forest his ranger had told him the werewolf lair was. How hard could it be to follow those obvious tracks?

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