The storyteller seated near the hearth had quieted, and his ominous voice was replaced with the soft sounds of a flute from a gypsy musician who took the stage in an effort to fill the silence. Still, the shadows of the inn seemed longer than usual and the warmth of the fire lessened. Though silent, the words of the old man still hung heavily in the air. The gathered patrons of the inn may not have liked being reminded of the darkness encroaching on their little worlds, but none could deny the truth of it.
At the bar, a tall man with more grey in his hair than black approached a young woman cloaked in the attire of a Senduan Mystic. Blonde hair the color of a noonday sun spilled over the iron trim of her cloak. Cricklyn Renn, by name, but here at Baldrake’s Hearth where her mother held infamy as a crowd favorite bard, she was known simply as Cricket. She touched his arm familiarly as he rested his back against the bar beside her. Murdoch, the aging proprietor of the inn, refilled her cup of wine and leaned in with wide-eyed curiosity.
“Well?” asked the barkeep, turning first to the man. “Torril, you’ve had your ear to the ground for a week now. What’d you find?”
“Everything the old storyteller said is true,” Torril said with a glance toward the man seated next to the hearth. “Something has leaked into Delerion’s ancient Core. It comes in the form of mist, but from what I’ve seen, it acts as though controlled or of a mind all its own. It seeks out certain victims or targets and...takes them.”
“Takes them where?” Murdoch asked.
Torril shrugged. “Can’t say. But the magic behind it is powerful. Very powerful. I’d say it’s not arcane or fey in nature. My guess...it isn’t of our world.”
Both men turned to Cricket, but her attention remained on the mug in front of her. Torril’s hand fell lightly on her shoulder, a rare look of unease crossing his features.
“What is it?” he asked softly. “What do you know?”
“Your guess is correct,” she said at last. Her gaze turned to meet his, and though it was not fear seated in her eyes, there was the terrible weight of some new revelation. “The mists that appear in the Core of the city spill from a previously unknown realm referred to now as the Dim.”
“Yes,” Murdoch said, “the storyteller mentioned this earlier. But what is it?”
“The Spire of Mystics is asking that same question,” she said. It was an unsettling response—the Spire of Mystics had stood for over twelve hundred years, and in that time had collected information from nearly every corner of the world. “We believe it is something like a fey realm, but inaccessible through any means we’re aware of. I think the storyteller said it best: it’s the breeding ground of nightmares, fables and fairy tales. Within this region called the Dim are numerous pockets. The mists are rolling out from one of those, and taking things from our world back to this place.”
Torril shook his head. “But why? What does it need from our world?”
Cricket took a long drink from her mug, then dabbed at the corners of her mouth with a napkin. “Officially, the Spire won’t say. Personally, I think that these pocket regions of the Dim act as prisons. Whatever’s trapped there wants out, and it uses the mist to collect tools, or magic, or people with plans for some kind of epic jailbreak.”
Murdoch nodded. “Makes sense, I suppose.”
“Makes sense,” Torril agreed, “but that’s quite a leap. What led you from nightmares and fairy tales to dimensional jailbreak?”
Cricket took a deep breath. There was something about Torril’s knowing gaze that seemed to give her strength. She had known he would call her out on her personal thoery. Expected it, even. “Because while you have been tracking where the mists come from in the Core, I’ve been tracking who the mists have abducted. Four disappearances have occurred in the last two days...one this very night.”
“Who?” both men said in unison.
“Last night, under absolute secrecy, four Senduan Mystics and two reiners escorted a Breaker into the ancient Core,” Cricket said in a whisper.
“Breaker?” Murdoch said. “What’s that?
“They have a unique power to undo magical spells, bonds, curses and the like,” Cricket explained. “Their powers are similar to those of a reiner, but Breakers are born with the ability. The Spire had hoped to use the Breaker in an effort to destroy the rift from which the mists entered our city.”
“Let me guess,” Torril said, “the mists took him.”
“All of them, actually. The Senduan, the reiners, and yes, the mists took the Breaker.”
The three fell momentarily silent. The musician’s song floated over them as though from another world. In a hushed voice, Torril said, “that was one. Who else?”
“The same time that was happening in the Core, it appears that the bundalin named Scribble disappeared along with a young vandi girl named Nelani. The two were together, just beyond the Spire perimeter,” Cricket said. “The mists crept in, and gone.”
“A bundalin hardly seems like a necessary accomplice for a jailbreak,” Murdoch said. “Coincidence perhaps?”
“No,” Cricket said flatly. “This bundalin once served the rogue magician known as the Burned Man. It's believed that Scribble still carries journals, scrolls, and other items of interest once held by the Burned Man himself.”
“So this power in the Dim wants the bundalin’s magic,” Torril stated.
“It’s worse than that,” Cricket said. “I said that Scribble once served the Burned Man. That was before his master somehow broke through the bonds of our world and slipped into a realm called the Dreamscape—he's now a conscious entity now ruling that realm. It’s possible, if not likely, that Scribble still carries journals or notes that lead up to that moment. In other words, the bundalin may literally carry the book on—”
“Jailbreaks,” Torril finished.
“And the vandi?” Murdoch asked.
“A werewolf,” Cricket said. She held up a hand, forestalling Murdoch’s follow up line of questions. “And no, I haven’t a clue how the bundalin came into the company of a werewolf gypsy girl, or why this master of the mists might want her.”
The old innkeeper shook his head and blinked in confusion. After a moment, he simply surrendered to the confusion.
“The last?” Torril prompted.
“A nijant named Albin,” she said. “Just tonight, roughly an hour ago. Were he merely a nijant, my concern would be solely for this man’s life. However, Albin carries on him a powerful relic of the ancient world.”
Torril’s expression darkened. “Please tell me it isn’t a key...”
“Not a key,” Cricket said, but her voice hardly carried any relief. “It’s a black sickle-shaped dagger. Within its make is the power to extract the very essence of evil from any source. The possibilities of such an item in the hands of this mysterious power behind the mists is frightening to say the least.”
Around them, Baldrake’s Hearth sat under a weight of uneasy silence. The gathered patrons of the inn seemed hardly aware of the musician on stage. Embraced by melancholy, suspicious of the dark that now settled heavily over the inn, they seemed content to sit in the gathered hush, comforted perhaps by the mere proximity to other living souls.
“So many questions, where do we even begin?” Murdoch asked.
After a long pause, Cricket said, “with hope.”
“Yes,” she continued. “Hope that the call for heroes is answered. And if the call is answered, we must hope the mists are banished before they come for us all.”
(The above post is a follow up to our last blog, and acts as a prologue to the Laughing Moon adapted Ravenloft adventure that will be run at the upcoming convention on Saturday, Oct. 20th.)
More information about the convention can be found at www.laughingmooncon.com
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