I shall now give you one general rule for life, one insight into luck, and one piece of advice that covers them both.
1. Know who is telling your tale.
2. Luck shines on those who learn the lessons from their own past.
3. Keep a journal.
Many of us like to believe we are in charge of our own “stories.” Not in the way where we determine our fates (although there will be more on that later). No, I mean to say that we trust we will be able to reveal to the world how our personal story unfolded. This is rarely so. Quite often, upon reflection, it is apparent that our personal tales are fashioned by the commoner found lounging at the adjacent table. Don’t believe me?
When the next mistral travels through your village inquire:
How many of his tales did he witness personally?
Did he believe a story as first told him by the “brave knight” who claimed to have beheaded the dragon using only his grandmothers wooden teeth? Or did he ask around?
How many of these “epics” did he even compose himself?
No, this lesson is to impress upon you that if you are to be great, then stories will be told. And if stories are told, then someone had to be their author.
And so we arrive back at my third point, my advice: Keep a journal.
You will witness in this book that there are dozens of people, if not more, who could claim to impart some of my tale. Believing, that as a witness, they bare the veracious account. But because I am the one scribing it in its entirety, my telling will be viewed as the most authoritative. What someone else may attribute to skill, conceivably, may have just been luck. And I wish the record to be my own. As often as feasible be the one who puts your legends to ink. While it keeps an accurate account of your deeds, it also gives you a map not to follow.
And that brings me to my second point: Luck shines on those who learn the lessons from their own past.
As we all know, lightning rarely strikes the same place twice. So it is with luck. Hardly ever do you witness a duplicate instance of great fortune. If it were so then it would appear as patterns, and wizards with too long of noses would begin dissecting it. No, luck is known to be fickle for just this reason. Tymora wishes to be unpredictable. You cannot, and should not, ever think you will be lucky in the same way twice. Let your story be your guide. Keep your history near and you will not be doomed to repeat it. You need your tale to be fresh in your mind. For the next time you find yourself in a comparable situation, you will most likely not be gifted with identical luck, and you will need to synthesize a new avenue out of it.
As for my story:
We had just liberated ourselves from the dreamworld, and we were probing our way through this new country-side.
Before we approached the village of Barovia we were met on the road by a local gypsy. This world calls them Vistani. She was a stunning beauty who took a liking to me immediately. After exchanging a few pleasantries she insisted that I accompany her back to her encampment just outside of the town of Barovia. She realized her slip of the tongue at once, and extended the invitation to the rest of the troupe.
We arrived to find her companions enjoying an evening of frivolity. Wine, music, and dancing were interrupted only by food and stories. We quickly ascertained that this beauty had ulterior motives for the invitation. She had bid us to come because of a grand-motherly figure in the camp. This half-crazed elderly woman, Madam Eva, wished an audience with us. It soon became apparent that while she may not be in possession of great luck or fortune herself, she was blessed to be quite the fortune teller. She told us of a powerful vampire named Strahd who held sway over this land. She then spoke of her people and how we should be careful not to trust them, for many of them have sworn fealty to Strahd. At last she informed us that if we are to ever depart this land, we must overcome Strad. A daunting, and deadly, task to be sure. Our fortunes were laid out in front of us and, though cryptic, the five cards were informative enough to give us guidance us on our quest.
Card 1: A treasure to be found in a lonely mill on a precipice
Card 2: A holy symbol of great hope on a skeleton of a warrior, lying on a bed of stone flanked by gargoyles.
Card 3: A sword of sunlight in a fallen house guarded by a great stone dragon.
Card 4: An ally to be found in a troubled young man surrounded by wealth and madness.
Card 5: Find our enemy in darkness where morning light once shone – a sacred place.
As we left the happy camp of the Vistani we began to realize, even more, that this land was filled with perils. We would have to trust each other, and tread lightly, to persevere.
We arrived in Barovia and took stock of the town. It was not very large, nor very well kept. The village had seen better days and so had the townsfolk. We made our way to the inn and established lodging for the week. At the inn we were approached by a young man eager to bend our ear. His name was Ismark Kolyanovich. He was a thin pale man with light hair, he had a tale of woe, much like any other man of this town I suppose. Nothing of this stood out to me initially(Remember the first lesson of this chapter. His tale, if left up to me to tell, will become nothing more than a footnote in mine). That is, until he mentioned Strahd. Now that he had divulged such information as to cause my attention to emerge, I was intrigued to hear that his sister had been on the receiving end of Strahd’s advances. Their home was assaulted by agents of Strahd, bent on ushering her away. This strain had taken it’s toll on their father, and had culminated in his recent demise.
Now that they were on their own, Ismark was desperate to escort his sister away to safety. He had heard rumor that a larger village, not too far away named Vallaki, had been experiencing relative security and freedom from Strahd’s influence. He wished to hire us to conduct them safely there. This band of adventurers I am now grudgingly associated with, jumped at the chance to be upstanding folk. I was not so eager to make an immediate enemy of Strahd. Keeping a low profile has its advantages and, while this might be the right thing to do, I hoped this would stay unobserved. Never the less, we traveled to their home to discuss how to proceed.
The house might have been impressive if it weren’t for the condition it was in. Windows and doors were covered and had seen obvious signs of assault. Weapon marks(or were they claws?) were clearly visible, as were the splotches of dark fluid, not known to be either blood or ichor. Again I wondered about the wisdom of this act. Ismark introduced us to Ireena. A beauty who’s dark hair and complexion seemed to contrast with Ismark’s. And this was exaggerated even more when they prepared for travel. Ismark traveled light with leather armor and rapier; while Ireena fortified herself with impressive full plate and longsword. I would love to say that we departed at once, but their father’s burial must be attended to first.
We traveled as a group to the local temple. This was dedicated to the morning lord. Notice I did not say Lathander. For we soon discovered that, while all indications give credence to this being the same morning lord, it seemed quite odd that they did not know of the name Lathander.
As we entered the temple we were greeted by the local priest. He seemed willing to perform the rights. This was agreeable to me as I wished for us to vacate this town as quickly as possible. We were feeling somewhat safe and secure knowing that, even with all this evil in the world around us, we were standing in a holy temple. But life rarely stays as you would expect it. Hearing a young man’s voice crying out for food, we investigated and found a vampire being detained there. We set upon it and soon found he was quite the adversary. As luck would have it, being in a temple must have swung the fight in our favor because we were suffering very few real injuries. The priest began to castigate and then forbid the battle as he revealed this was his son, but in the fray we were forced to end its miserable existence.
Obviously this did nothing to ameliorate our relationship with the priest. After much “coaxing” we were able to finish our duties there, bury their father, and continue on our journey toward Vallaki.
Oh and Kat bought a pastry from a very sketchy old lady. More on that later.
Our excursion on to Vallaki met without incident. Along the way we observed a windmill sitting high on a hill overlooking the surrounding area. We all agreed that this must be from our first card reading, but since we were charged with the transport of Ireena we decided to reserve this investigation for another day. We also happen to alight upon evidence that there are wareravens in the area. Although none were witnessed directly.
Entering into the city of Vallaki we proceeded directly to the main inn. And after procuring lodging for the week, we started to gather any information we could. The local bergermaster was a man of means who believes that keeping the people “happy” is the key to keeping the city safe. Being unhappy is punishable, and so everyone here does what they can to appear “happy” about everything all the time. Not being a dullard I adopted a similar affectation quickly so as to not draw attention to myself. My fellow travelers were not quite so skilled. We learned that the only family that does not indulge this fantasy is an older house with enough power that no one attempts to enforce this upon them. We also saw a local bard, but did not have the occasion to speak with him.
Now that Ireena and Ismark were safely tucked away at our inn, we set out to uncover the secrets of this windmill.