Curse of Strahd Part 14: True Knight

Journal of Caecilius
We ran almost all the way to Vallaki. As we entered the town, it was bustling. Nothing like the cities of Faerun, although it looked like many of the villages and towns that Anghar and I passed through. Defeated and depressed but with life going on. War torn but with some smiles and perhaps hopes left. As we entered my eyes were drawn to a circus wagon that said “Rictavio’s Circus”. Ava and Driessa seemed concerned by it, but it was not of consequence to me. We traveled to the Blue Water Inn.

Art by Jonpintar
As we entered, the Innkeeper was a stout man with black and grey hair. He couldn’t take his eyes off Ava and seemed to regard her as important. I mentioned what Danovich told me about it being bad luck to kill a Raven. His head cocked and he nodded and loosened up. We talked of what brought us to Vallaki. We mentioned the attempted sacrifice of Ursula at the hands of minions of Lady Wachter. He pointed to some drunk thugs in the corner that were her boys. In the other corner was a man dressed in outrageous clothing playing a lute.

 I asked the innkeep to warn us of anyone looking for us and he agreed. We pulled all the beds into a single room. I offered Ireena the option of staying on her own or with us. She said she would rather stay in our room. I asked her to take first watch and she gave me a slow and stern nod. Almost rising into herself at the responsibility. I woke up for my watch and she faintly smiled before she fell asleep in her chair.

I sat going over the fortunes we were given and looking for meaning. I did my best to shine the armor of the morning lord. It’s metal maintains a tarnish that can’t quite get cleaned, but it is crafted with skill. The practice calms me as it always had. Losing my armor was like losing my skin when it was taken, and here I am rewarded with the skin of another holy warrior. Acceptance of my righteous path and tribute to my personal code of honor. I let my mind wander and fantasize like I did during my prison sentence. Revenge isn’t my fantasy, or at least, it isn’t the focus. Those wounds and transgressions I will never forget, but now I look to glory. The people we help on the path of justice will be struck by the strength of a dragon. The will speak the name of Caecilius of House Ras. They will pour tribute at my feet and quake in awe as people did in the days of old. I can see the shining gold and armor, I can see myself roaring from the top of castle Ravenloft. My heart is beating fast and suddenly I steel myself. That is the thought of a red dragon, not a knight. Besides. I am used to being despised by everyone. A traitor to my people, few as they are, and seen as a liability and enemy in wait due to the circumstance of my birth and my kind.

I am too strong for fantasy. I recognize I may never be celebrated even though my heart burns for it. That is what my comrades will never understand. Their hearts weren’t forged by Tiamat to subvert the darkest desires of mortals. Their lust for power, awe, and fear will never come close to that of my kind. They can barely contain their own emotions and desires as it is, and they will never know what it takes to deny yourself. To actively walk a path where abiding by your codes and oaths will be an endless pain and thirst from the heart. To starve yourself with every step you take in the name of justice. To murder yourself everyday that you wake up. To protect those who hate you and to condemn those who would fulfill your heart. My sister understood once, but now she rots in an unmarked grave. I am the only one left who understands and it is doubtful anyone will ever know. There are no others like me, only me.

I’m pulled out of my thoughts by a knock at the door. It is the innkeep Urwin. He informs me that someone is downstairs looking for us. A large man with a pike that scrapes the ceiling. My eyes go wide and I grab my sword. If those hags and Strahd have tried to trick us with the body of a fallen comrade, they have underestimated me. As I walk down I see what looks like Vrice. I tell the creature that if it has come here wearing the skin of a dead comrade then it has made a grave mistake. He claims that it is himself and we walk outside. He leaves his pike. I use my divine sense and he seems normal. He explains that Strahd returned him to life, that the devil won’t allow us to die yet. He asks that I don’t tell Ava as to not shake her faith. He seems humbled. I shake his hand as he walks inside but say nothing. He takes the opposite room to sleep.

In the morning the Innkeep’s wife brings breakfast. I tell Driessa and Ava to check the other room and they are delighted to find Vrice. Lady Martikov asks for Ava and they speak downstairs as we eat breakfast. When she returns we await what was said. She brushes it off as nothing as she spares a glance at Ireena. Ireena is no fool and can tell they don’t want to speak in front of her. She makes a comment of disdain and I give her a knowing look and glance. Her eyes meet mine as if to say this is outrageous. She leaves with Ursula and Driessa frowns and joins them. Vrice rolls his eyes as she leaves though he seems to have calmed some of his vitriol surrounding her. Still, I don’t understand their mistrust. Has she not fought with us? Has she not accepted everything we have told her about Strahd’s plans for her? She is cold but pragmatic. She has been gracious but it comes with the darkness of living here. Perhaps I understand all too well. She is an outsider to them. She is just a point of mistrust with some duty attached. She is not an ally to them but a liability. I’ve seen this before. I’ve received it before. I have no issues with her. In fact I think we need as many capable people as we can. I listen to Ava and she relays that the innkeeps are were-ravens and have a network of ravens as spies. They oppose Strahd, and said they would lend assistance. They asked if we could check out the wine shortage but Ava seemed disinterested. Seems strange to shun those who revere you and ask for aid, no matter how small the matter seems. With that we head down to the others.

As I head down the man who was dressed Wild is Rictavio and he is trying to get us to join his circus. Says he has been here for months. I joke with him but drink and ale with Ireena who seems to have been calmed by Driessa. He leaves and lady martikov says there is nothing to the south but abandoned villages and a creature who claims to be the mother of Strahd, the Baba Lysaga. Sounds like something we will need to deal with, but leaving Ursula here might be for the best for now.

After a few minutes we see the largest tiger I’ve ever seen, with huge fangs walking the streets and Rictavio chasing after. The Wachter boys are laughing and pointing. My comrades seem like they will let this go, but join me as I walk out. I implore Driessa to help as she is best at calming just about anything. As we get it under control the town guard approaches. A large man with one arm asks what is going on. Rictavio tries to explain but the man says to kill the beast. I interject and say that it will be for the coming festival. These festivals are some foolish attempt to keep strahd at bay with happiness. The Burgomeister here has a catch phrase “all is well.” The man is named Izek and where he is missing an arm one appears of fire. He interrogates us with menace, but I calm him. I tell him all is well and he asks if I believe it. I do, in fact, though not for the festival but because I am here. He invites us to the fest and to meet the Burgomeister. I tell him we will think on it and then extend my hand to shake his fire arm. He looks surprised but I can resist fire due to my blood. I hold it long and let smoke pour from my mouth. I find it best to shake hands with those who question your strength.
Rictavio asks us to please join him in his wagon. The party seems reluctant but we enter. When we do, his demeanor changes. He pulls off a ring and reveals an old man in strange clothes. He voice is grim and strained. He says he is Dr. Rudolph Van Richten. He is a vampire hunter who has chased Strahd since Strahd turned his son years ago. He finally has reached this place from another land of existence but now it is in his twilight years. He is prepared and stalwart. We agree to help each other as we can.

Vrice and Ava want to continue on to Krezk and not stay here to investigate. Vrice feels it is imperative to get her to where we said, though I think she would be safer with us. I also think we will sooner or later need to get involved in the goings on in Vallaki and the political struggle. He still has a bad taste since Triboar. I think he is trying to make up for rushing the hags, or perhaps they just want to be rid of Ireena. I think I will ask what she wants before we set out. I will go with what my comrades decide as protecting them was my oath. I will not break it. I will not bend. As I stated I am perhaps the only true knight of Faerun. For this reason Strahd will never beat me truly. I will likely die and join the ghost parade to march nightly to my doom. Bahamut will perhaps never be able to pluck me out and bring me to the halls of the holy, but I will never be broken.
Journal by Sean


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