The Story Continued... and Concluded
These notes will keep up with the campaign from this point forward, or at least attempt to. But first - some notes on other developments - some of which happened concurrently with the other page's notes that focus entirely on his Lycanthropy.
Feng had already been "lost" in a sense - though still lingered generally unseen by anyone but Zita - Jean, the thief had also mysteriously disappeared (though Ambrose and he had been at odds since the beginning)- suspicions on his disappearance fell to a foe that he had battled earlier that seemed to truly be a Demon (this shook Ambrose as he had never been that devoutly religious due to his generally very rational outlook and belief that change in ones' life was self-brought.)
However, during their travels a few new faces joined with them over time - one being Jerrard - a very large Falcovnian man who had fled the country and its corrupt military government. He was a very willful man - as big as an ox and very set in his beliefs. He was a challenge to Ambrose's self-assumed leadership to the party. One one hand, Ambrose was a military man and used to taking orders - however in his time here he assumed leadership of their group - seeing himself as the only one capable of doing so - and during this time the lycanthropy started to edge in on his perceptions - seeing the group as a pack and himself as Alpha - so Jerrard's commanding presence seemed a challenge - though Ambrose did waver in this due to his upbringing. Also, Soren - a man from Kartakkas - and a ladies' man in every sense of the word - his songs as beautiful as any Ambrose had ever heard. It was shortly after this pressure in both leadership and relationships (a little more than subconsciously seeing Soren as a threat to his relationship with Angelina) that Ambrose proposed to Angelina.
In sum (and a lot of backstory) Ambrose was by far the not only one in the group who went through changes - though he felt that his were the most difficult to deal with. Angelina discovered after arriving that her body seemed to naturally react to the environments that she visited - taking on adaptive characteristics that got more extreme the longer they stayed - to the point of becoming a full mermaid in the ocean, barky and covered in leaves in the forest, taking on characteristics of a desert lizard in the desert, and so forth. Caroline's features began to sharpen and refine - until the point she became a full elf (of whom Ambrose was very jealous - seeing no disadvantage to this change - more beautiful, elegant and graceful, not needing to fully sleep, AND agelessness - compared to his own changes he was silently rueful of the benefits the noblewoman garnished.) Zita began to see spirits, though developed an animosity to those besides Feng and the crew of the ship - between being controlled (mentioned in the first summary) by a spirit, the ghost that sent them here to begin with, and a few other more minor encounters she was getting quite touchy on the subject. Jerrard, while not from the same realm that they were, was also touched - and Ambrose felt the closest thing to sympathy towards him - stolen away at one point they found him in a coffin - apparently sealed so that the occupant could not escape - they rescued him and got him out before the time at which he would have been released - halting the changing spell that had been put on him - that would have changed him into a vampire - while it did not fully change him - it did leave its mark on him - and he was no longer really human either. Ambrose began to wonder why their group was changing so much - though took comfort in the fact that at least they had all beaten any detrimental mental effects... though wondered that if they were ever able to get home... if the effects would last.... how deeply this land had tainted them..
Between the changes going through the group, seeing Feng bound to the realm even after death, and one final straw - as they stayed longer and learned more of the individual lands they quickly learned that NONE of them was really a "good" place. Through their own eyes and speaking with others they learned that something about the land itself kept evil men in power - and even if one were to be defeated the infrastructure would see that only another evil person would take their place. In one instance in Dementileu they worked together with Alanik to bring down the men controlling the people... only to see a woman step to power that Ambrose knew was hardly better than the men they brought down. He felt sick with the realization - and the more he saw of the lands the more he saw it was true. All of these things led to one conclusion in Ambrose's mind: he wanted to go home.
One clue they had - just one. A vistani woman -whom they had done a favor for told them that there was indeed a way out - through the same man that had brought him there. He was a ghost and tied to the realm as they were... but if they were to find two of his mortal possessions - a sickle and a hat((I think... it's been a while)) - and return them to him - they he would return - and at the same time be both more powerful... and vulnerable... through this... they might return.
Adventure Summaries since then
* Caroline was captured and stolen off to Barovia to Strahd's castle itself. ((Tied in with the storyline of the reincarnations of Strahd's wife)). Party had to get in and rescue her. They traveled to Barovia through the aide of the Vistani, and met a group of wereravens whom had been seeking to destroy Strahd. The next night (a full moon night ^^; ) they attempted to disguise themselves as creatures of the night (Mostly Ambrose's suggestion - feeling still very out of place and sorts with himself at this point.) Long story short, they are successful in getting out without getting themselves killed, and flee Barovia before Strahd comes back and comes after them (and soon after discover that the borders are locked from them).
*They've fled to the adjacent country Hazlan and stay at an inn. Ambrose keeps himself pent up in the room for the next two night of the full moon (See the notes on the Lycanthropy story update for his mindset at the time). However, a few nights later (as the group is recouping from this very dangerous escapade) the mists rise up and separate the party - Jerrard, Caroline, and Soren go missing. Angelina and Ambrose wake to also find Zita missing - the two of them alone in the inn. ((OOC - major reformatting in the player group.))
* They find a little information that Zita was spotted leaving town from a man who wished to hire them to bring back a criminal who cast a spell on his fiancee to make her sleep with him. They agree to help him find the man - as he was headed in the same direction Zita was seen going, and Ambrose's has a VERY low opinion on manipulation magic.
*They travel to Valachan and do meet this man they seek, Arman. However, while the man turns out to be a mind-mage, he is a very charismatic man, and honestly not half as bad as he was made out to be. Furthermore, he was also from their homeworld - recognizing Ambrose's musketeer tabard. He had been stuck in the realms for nearly 10 years, and while he still carried a strong desire to return, had almost given up hope. He convinces the group of his innocence, and agrees to accompany them upon hearing that they had a clue to how they might get back (though was more than just a bit nervous when he heard it involved bringing dead ghosts back to life and fighting them.) However, his knowledge and experience with the land was invaluable. They traveled on, following clues to find Zita, finally locating her in a smaller village in Valachan. They learned of the sudden misty disappearance of the rest of the group, and she was heartbroken on Soren's disappearance. In her depression, she had been captured and controlled by a Paka (an evil and powerful cat-person) bent on dominating the realm and settle a personal score with the lord. She's been changed into a Paka as well, and is loyal to her, even her memories a bit hazy. However, the woman agrees to cure her if they can find an object in Tepest.... letting her go with them, though her loyalties were still with the other woman...
* Along with Zita, they traveled northeast, headed vaguely towards Tepest, Ambrose still rueful about more delays to trying to find a way home, as well as the disappearance of half of their group, and Zita's new... look and loyalties. Along they way, they stopped in a city in Mordent, seeing a young woman being apprehended by a mob. Upon investigating, they learned she was Fey, and accused of the murder of the mayor and several guests. She was pleading innocent, but her race alone was nearly enough to condemn her. As they were waiting on the hopeful appearance of the ship in the town, they investigated the matters - learning that it was indeed not she who had killed him but another Fey (a sith, shadowfey). Through much investigation around town, and delving into the cursed woods, speaking with ghosts in long-abandoned cursed manors, they found the sith in question - who had killed the mayor to retreive a painting of himself drawn hundreds of years ago that contained a map to his hidden residence. They bargained with him (knowing a powerful foe when they saw it) to get the copy back of the painting Arman had found by appearing in town dramatically to steal it back, thus proving the girl's innocence. In exchange, he also gave them a map back to the Shadowrift - the domain of the shadowfey - and the place the fey girl had been trying to find (its location is cursed so that no one can remember how to enter, even if they came from there.)
THE SHADOW RIFT
* However, right before they were about to escort her to the edge of the shadowrift (which conveniently would provide a shortcut to Tepest if they could pass through as well) something else happened to Zita. Apparently they had drawn the attention of other Fey, and Zita was tricked - and turned to a changeling (in other words, her soul was stolen away to the ShadowRift, and enslaved - leaving her body a virtual shell.) So, it looked like they were delayed again, and going to the shadowrift.
* They indeed went to the shadowrift, following the map given to them by the Sith. However, as they were traveling, strange things had begun happening to Angelina - her skin began to pale, the sunlight began to bother her, and her ears pointed - looking more and more like the Sidhe Fey who was accompanying them.
* The way into the shadowrift was tricky on its own - paths that traveled back to the same point, and so forth. Eventually, they made their way into a cave. However... Ambrose didn't plan on being stuck in a cave for days... especially combined with his lycanthropic hunger and daily requirement of about 20 pounds of raw meat. Biting down his revulsion, he ate a few large cave caterpillars, though that hardly put a dint on his appetite.
*As they emerged from the cave, he was virtually mad with hunger... and all of the memories of the trip through the cave were gone in a flash. To him, it seemed as if he had just been stricken with hunger. However, that wasn't the end of the problems. While they were out of the caves, they were in a vast grasslands, with nothing else living in site aside from themselves. As they walked, the grass seemed to cry under their steps - though they were still not appetizing ^_~. They didn't go far before Ambrose snapped, shifted to hybrid form involuntarily, and sprung on Arman. The group reacted quickly, and incapacitated him through some spells.
*While to everyone else, he was only unconscious for about 4 hours, something else entirely seemed to happen to Ambrose. He found himself waking up in a much more normal grasslands, naked, and in hybrid form. Long and the short of it, Ambrose was sent on a "spirit journey" - he found himself in a setting very similar to the New World, populated by tribes of Gray Runners, anthropomorphic wolves who followed the ways of the spirits and lived off the land, filling a position much like those of Native Americans. They recognized him as not quite one of their own, but welcomed him, understanding that he was there for a reason, and to learn. SootPaw found him on the prairie and brought him back to his pack, where he spoke with the elder, ManyMoons, who explained to him that he had come to learn something, and would not go back until that lesson was learned, but he must not worry about it or it would hamper him. They outfitted him with a simple loincloth and Ambrose was forced to take a step back and live life very differently. He was indirectly forced to come to terms with his lupine side (He was unable to shift forms during this time), seeing others "like" him all around, and a mirror was placed where he would see it when he woke up each morning. They showed him not only that he should not be ashamed of himself, but be proud of himself - and realize that he was an attractive specimin. They taught him to hunt with them - chasing down the buffalo, showed him the ways of skinning and utilizing the carcass. One other lessen was taught to him - to not let the beast inside him tear free. ManyMoons sent him to a mesa, leaving him there with a fire and nothing else, instructing him that he could not leave it nor return until he was ready and the fire extinguished itself. That he must learn to tame his hunger - giving him some general instructions on how to meditate in a cryptic fashion. Once again, Ambrose nearly went mad from hunger, but stared into the fire, forcing himself to breathe, to mediate the pain.... Then, after who knew how long, the fire went out... and he realized that he wasn't hungry. When he returned, he was told that he had been gone a full week, and feast was prepared in his honor. Finally, after over a month rolled by quite quickly, Ambrose REALLY opened up, felt more confident in himself and more at peace with himself. He was sent out to tame a wild stallion - one of the wild carnivorous horses that roamed the medows - to prove himself. After over a two weeks of tracking it, and repeated failed attempts to ride it (he was trying to break the horse instead of communing with it) - he succeeded. After another celbration, and he fell asleep, he was called to the tent to commune with the spirits with Many Moons ((Read: he went to the tent, he put strange herbs on the fire, and Ambrose started to see pretty colors and hear voices - but he'll swear by what he heard)). They congratulated him on his progress, and allowed him to ask a few questions - one of which he used to ask about returning home - they said that the objects that he sought were in other lands ruled by imagination, and that they could only be seen through the eyes of a child. Cryptic though it was, it was a clue. After the journey, he went to sleep satisfied.
*When he woke up (still in hybrid form), he found himself back in the ShadowRift. Exuberant, he glomped Angelina, expressing how much he missed her. He was quite confused when he heard the short time he was out - in between being stuffed dry rations. They were quite... skeptical of his story - claiming to be gone over a month and a half, when he had been asleep 4 hours with them there the entire time. But he was convinced, and equally so of the information regarding where the objects might be found. After having been in that form for what seemed to him for well over a month, he didn't even give it a second thought.
*They traveled, looking for anything vaguely familiar - finally coming to a fey city where they miraculously discovered Soren. He explained that one night at the Inn the mists rose up and he found himself there. He had been there for over a year, saying that time passed differently in the ShadowRift. He had become a performer for the court - somewhat against his will. He said that anyone who ate while in the ShadowRift and tried to leave could become a changeling - a willing slave to a fey, and completely specialized in one profession if they caught their attention enough for them to take them. Mortals were not seen as having any rights, and below fey. He had certainly attracted attention, and would not be able to leave if he tried, unless he somehow got a pardon from Queen Maeve herself, who had the power to negate the bond of a changeling to a fey. During this time, Ambrose remained in hybrid form - partially because he had grown used to it because of his "spirit journey" - and on another hand, he had already been seen like that, and he figured he'd draw more attention if they knew he could change forms. In fact, Ambrose remained in hybrid form througout the entire Shadow Rift ordeal. Meanwhile, coming here seemed to make Angelina even 'worse' - and they quickly discovered what had happened to her. However, in a strange blending of her environmental shifting, she would periodically shift to different types of fey - with the stimulus of an environment like before, or with strong emotion or the presence or contact of a different sort of fey. With each form, and as time was passing, her emotional and personality shifts became more dramatic.
*They decided to journey to the court to speak with Queen Maeve, and to try to convince her to release Zita, and allow them passage back out. Soren said that he might be able to break the spell the Paka had over Zita, but escaping the ShadowRealm was a more immediate priority. They traveled to where the court was being held to meet with Queen Maeve and try to request their freedom to leave the realm. She agreed, though on a BIG condition - the king of the unseelie, Prince Lott, was amassing the items necessary to free "the Twilight" - a terrible evil - from its prison on the mistaken belief that the changeling army he was amassing could destroy it once and for all. In order to do so he had to collect a series of items from safe places. She required that we either get to the items first to return to her, or get the items from the generals of his army that he had already taken. As a show of good faith, she pulled Zita back, rejoining her soul with her body. Then they set off to acquire the rest of the items.
* Before they began, and to prove their loyalty, they did not recover an item, though they had a very interesting time. They were sent to a village that had lost communication with her. Arriving there, they found that it had become overrun with undead - all speaking in unison, with horrid grins on their faces. They called themselves "Toban the Many" and proclaimed that they had followed the party into the shadowrift, and now had infected them through their contact and proximity- and within 3 days they would become like them. There was 1 left in the village uncorrupted, a Fir fey who brought them back to his clocktower, where he had been at work on a huge device for centuries. It would send individuals' consciousnesses back in time to an event for up to a few days. He told them that he could send them back to 3 days before Toban's creation - and that they would have this one opportunity to stop him and all of this from happening. They agreed, not having much other choice. They were sent back in time, and found themselves in the bodies of a few members of a Vistani caravan. Ambrose as a 15-year old girl, Soren in an 8 year old boy, Angelina as a young man, and Zita as an older man. They pieced together the clues they could in the time they were there, finally pinning down what had happened - a vistani man was really a thief with enough magic to disguise himself as a vistani. He had joined the group years ago when evading capture for his crimes. As he traveled with the caravan, he kept stealing, as the vistani for the most part covered his actions and moved around. He got himself into trouble in the city they were in - the vistani were accused of stealing a LARGE amount of items from a nobleman's house - and the camp would have been put to death after discovering for themselves the imposter - and he would have been cursed "since you always wear the face of another, may you always be cursed to only live in the skins of others". And thus over time he forgot himself and his origins, and became the undead collective... virus. However, the characters were able to stop the curse from being pronounced, and revealed the identity of the thief to the guardsmen. ((Very interesting RP session - and a really fun night)).
*The first item, the Gloves, was being guarded by a mountain spirit, at the tallest peak in the shadow realm - in a cache in the sky so high up that it was at the very point where reality broke down - and going any further would result in the disintegration of whomever went there - as the nature shadow rift is that one cannot enter through the chasm or else such happens to them. In order to appease the mountain spirit to get the item, however, they first had to negotiate with some displaced Djinn who lived in the mountain itself. Imprisoned themselves in Ravenloft, they sought something that could make them happy - immensely powerful and bored of their creations, and limited to the imagination of others, they were miserable since being trapped in Ravenloft. The party figured that they longed for something that reminded them of home. Between Soren and Arman's knowledge of the lands, they told them of an area whose culture was heavily based on their own and the mistways to get there. Appeased, they departed, helping them with their quest, and in their thanks - granted each one a wish - as long as it could be stated in a single word. However, they warned that if the lands were not to their suiting or had been lied to, that they would return to extract revenge. Angelina asked for "Fortuitousness" (we haven't seen this in action), Arman for "flight" (when he desires flight, however, and leaps into the air, his arms become like bat's wings), Zita, for a "decanter" -.- (she got an endless wine decanter). Ambrose, after a long weighted thought drew some conclusions. He no longer really wished to be free of what he once believed to be a "curse". He had control over himself, and especially since visiting the Gray Runners, was comfortable with his form. He wished to return home foremost, but the Djinn also said that they could not grant anything they themselves could not accomplish (which was their major problem as well.) Besides that, they had learned that Angelina, with becoming Fey, had likewise acquired the traits of them - including sleeplessness (only meditating)... and agelessness, and as a fey - virtual immortality through reincarnation. Ambrose had sworn to her his love, and did not ever wish to be parted from her (and also terrified by the fact that from what he had seen, all those from his world who died in Ravenloft did not go to the afterlife, but were bound to the realm either as undead or ghosts)- with his wish, he asked, somewhat dubiously, for "immortality". (This also has yet to surface, but OOC has an interesting catch/mechanism with it that I will discuss when it does come into play ^__^ ). Soren, surprisingly, did not ask for anything.
*The second item they had to recover, the sceptre, was supposedly in the hands of one of the fey generals of one of Lott's changeling armies. However, when they tracked it down, they found the entire camp dead, covered in webbing, and drained of blood. They followed the trail to an underground cavern, that technically was underneath Tepest, and thus had eluded the senses of the fey - as it was a thriving den of spiders, and the last surviving Zeldrow. After fighting their way through, and with the help of Angelina's powerful spells, defeated the Queen - who had stolen the sceptre to try to call forth her Spider Queen Goddess into the realm.
* The third item to recover was the Pendant. This item Lott had regained, but "given" to a race of stonekin that had migrated to the lands, as a show of faith (and also a means of maintaining control over them. They were good people, and had merely run into Lott before Maeve, but because of their honor, they would not betray an oath... unless we could best them at their own games. What followed was a day of competitions that the group had to compete against their best athletes - and these enormously strong people were quite good. Spells were forbidden from use, but natural abilities allowed. And through natural talents and ingenuity we won. For example, Angelina winning the swimming contest with her natural response of shifting to mermaid form, Zita bested them at climbing, Ambrose did some round about methods to win at wrestling (scaring his opponent out of the ring by howling, as stepping outside the ring was a loss), and winning a game similar to King of the Mountain. The final game was a round of drinking and storytelling, which Soren won. Finally, after winning, the pendant was handed over - and we made arrangements to have them meet with the Queen so that she could offer them refuge. However, as the pendant exchanged hands, small shadow demons issued forth and attacked. We bested them, but it prompted research into the nature of the objects themselves.
*When we returned once again to the Queen Maeve's, we found her absent - her
retainer there to give us the next instructions (however, we were under specific
instructions to only give the regalia to the Queen herself, so kept the pendant
until we would see her again - and this would prove useful.) Arman
researched the nature of the objects in the library, learning that they were of
some foul demonic origin, and more of their connection with the being that Lott
was attempting to battle. However, meanwhile, Angelina was having more
dreams... and said that in her dreams that when they assembled all of the items
together, they were sent home...
The fourth object to recover was the cloak, and it was in the hands of a literal shadow with whom Lott entrusted. In order to travel to the plane we were granted special pendants, that took us to the shadow plane - and the group appeared to be made of shadow itself - nulling sensations. When worn, the world seemed different, and the ruins we traveled to became a shadow city. It was the lord of this city who possessed the cloak. By using the Medallion we claimed to have been sent by Lott - who was checking on the safety of his objects - as rumors had been spreading that some had been stolen. We claimed that Lott demanded that we bring him back the cloak that he might keep it safer - and to ensure that it was still the cloak itself and not been switched. We were held long enough for Arman to do some quite creative spell usage in order to sneak into the king's chambers (as he had been trying and failing to contact Lott) and replace the cloak with another. We made it out and back to the real realm just in time.
*As they returned to the palace, and gave the Queen the 2 items, they spoke again, ensuring that her intentions with the objects were good. We were worried about HER motivations for wanting ALL of the regalia as opposed to just a few to keep from Lott, as it required ALL of them to open the gates. However, we were not in much of a position to bargain, and she assured us once again of her intentions, which seemed true. While we were at the palace however, as we slept, Ambrose (AND Zita this time) dreamed more than a dream - another "Spirit Journey" as it were. Ambrose found himself back in Dryton - on the fields... and there he saw Jerrard and Jade, AND Jean. Ambrose was overjoyed to see them, and see that they were alive, and that when they had been separated that they were not in danger, as he still had carried with him the guilt of not being able to find where they went - worried that something bad had happened to them. However, the joy was short lived as his sharp nose picked up the scent of blood, and lots of it. What followed was the scene of a massacre. All of the Gray Runners that he had known - the entire village, had been killed. There was no evidence of the remains of their attackers - it was truly a massacre. Ambrose was overcome with sadness, rage, and remorse... these had been the best people he had met in these lands - truly good, innocent people.... and they had been slaughtered. They spent days trackign the killers down - finding it leading back to the city that Ambrose had visited initially - that a bounty had been placed on the Gray Runners' heads - and Red Eyed Dawson - the half demon that they had initially encountered - had returned... with family. They killed enough Gray Runners to bankrupt the town - killing more than the bank that had put out the bounty could cover, and then they began to kill villagers. The group faced them, and defeated most of them, those that survived fled. Ambrose was still deeply saddened by the loss, but felt that at least he had done something to help amend the loss. He was able to see Jerrard and wish him well. As they defeated their foes, Ambrose saw a cloud shaped like a wolf, and hoped that that might be a positive response, and wished Many Moons, Sootpaw and the rest one final goodbye. .... of course, when he returned, most of the rest of the group, save Angelina this time who had been having strange dreams herself disbelieved him.... and Zita claimed ignorance -,-
* After the return of the Cloak and Pendant, they were sent after the next
object: the Ring. This was thought to have been last seen by one of Lott's
men in the Shifting Sands, a desert wasteland where objects that had been lost
long ago surfaced, or visa versa. They traveled to the sands, and only
shortly after traveling through the desert itself, Zita, who was wandering
ahead, got pulled under - disappearing through the sands. After some
investigation, they realized that they couldn't put a rope through without it
being "cut off". When Arman's staff was sent through it described being in
a room, with air... and those who went through could not get back out the way
they came in. With some hesitance, the rest of the group joined
them. What they found was a very (though they didn't know this) Egyptian
tomb, full of traps and dangers. Not long after they had begun weaving
their way through the maze-esque they entered a room with 4 40-foot tall statues
shaped like Egyptian gods. Soon after they entered, they came to life and
it quickly became evident that the party would not be able to defeat them.
Taking a risk, Arman opened a portal to the other side of the far door.
They group rushed through....
What each of the members saw after that, was a horrifying scene. Their chests felt sore, empty, and before them was a huge, Jackal-headed being, with their heart on a scale against a feather. Most of them, Ambrose included, saw it balance with the feather, and then awoke, intact, at the bottom of an impossibly deep pit. Angelina, on the other hand, had NOT seen her heart returned to her. Instead, she had seen her heart balance, and then a dark shadow wrap its coils around it, and then the scale tipping, the heart sinking like a rock. When she awoke, she still felt that painful emptiness in her chest... and no pulse. Soren was completely gone, and Arman's staff informed them that it had been nealry two weeks since they had fallen to their apparent near-death. Angelina was terrified, thoughts of what if it stayed gone, how to get it back, and what if they went back home to France, only to have whatever magics were keeping her alive to dissipate. They did the only thing they could: pressed on, Ambrose sorely hoping for the best. But as time passed, Angelina began to get more confrontational - especially towards Zita... bitter. They did find Soren... mummified. Apparently his curse had had some sort of strange effect - and whomeever was in the temple had used him. He attacked the party - and it was all they cold do to stop him - Angelina finally encompassing him in a magical coccoon... transforming him into a butterfly until they found their way out of the temple. When they did finally do so - they met with a woman, apparently recently emerged due to the lifeforce of another woman who had met her end in the temple - taken her body to return to the world. She had no quarrel with the party - especially after seeing their strength, and especially after having just finally reached her goal of rejuvination. She traded them the ring that had been in her possession for Ambrose's magical bracers, and let them go.
* Unfortunately, when they left, Angelina's heart did not return to them as Ambrose had hoped, nor had the woman any idea where it might be. However, as soon as they returned, finding themselves at the edge of the Shifting Sands, they were weak, drained, and watched in silent, abject horror as a swarm of shadowy ravens swooped over Arman, pried the ring from his fingers, and left him dead. When they finally had the strength to move, they had barely said something over his body when a small pixie flew to them, in an urgent rush, and demanded that they follow them to the clocktower... the same clocktower that the Fir who sent them back in time to stop Toban the Many lived. She said that Queen Maeve had been killed, and that they must hurry. There they were informed of the deatils. Lott had heard of the fact that the regalia had been being stolen, and set out to find out by whom. The ring in the desert was a setup, and he had sent some spies to find out who was taking them. There they had apparently captured someone who knew a LOT about the group. He was tortured, and Lott found out that his sister Maeve was behind it. He had sent his armies against her, killed her, and taken the regalia that she had taken from him, and had a full set. Without Maeve, the group had no way to leave the Shadow Rift, and they knew of his plans to free the Twilight - which everyone had severe doubts that Lott would be able to do. Not to mention that Lott was after them in particular, and would most likely make changelings out of the mortals and simply kill Angelina. They had little choice, but to strap themselves to the mechanism again, and try to stop Lott.
They awoke in the bodies of 4 unseelie shadow fey - apparently the same 4 who had been sent to find ... themselves. However, with the strong connection shadowfey have with emotions, the influence was evident on them, even with their own memories. However, following the trail, they did find the one that apparently would betray them - a man by the name of Dedrick - who they had never met before, but apparently had been shadowing them for a very long time. They captured him and, after some initial time of suspicion, after knocking the man out, did in fact realize that they were in fact each other - and there was not one of the original shadowfey in the group. They brought Dedrick to back to the tower, and were returned to their own bodies. Things had apparently been set right - Arman was back even, though with some very muddled and confused memories - as the plot that had been set into motion had been stopped. After some strange explanation, they realized that Dedrick had been following them for a very long time.... since right after Ambrose had gone through his ordeal in Verbrek when they had stayed over in Richlemont. Apparently, he had been sent by a woman they spoke with only briefly who had said something about having a problem with her sister... though when Ambrose and Arman spoke about it - neither could figure out why they had generated enough interest to warrant following. Though he was a quirky, amiable fellow - though his stories seemed to be knee-deep with half-truths. But, he was in a predicament now - enough to warrant him actually speaking with them, as he hadn't yet made a bargain with Maeve to leave the shadowrift.
*So they returned to Maeve, with the ring, and were able to extend the bargain to one more individual. However, the only items that remained were three: the Knife, the Sword, and the Boots. These items were in the possession of Lott himself, and the only way that she would grant us to leave would be if we got those last items. She knew where he was, and suggested that we feign knowing information, but that was the end of her assistance. Dedrick, however, was eager to help and prove himself to the group, and in thanks for including him in the bargain to leave. Angelina, however, had been getting worse and worse - very argumentative - and to the point of physically fighting with Zita - the only thing stopping her from seriously trying to kill her was the rest of the group - for whom she was showing less and less consideration. She was driven to get the last items, and was getting rather scary. Ambrose was very worried - linking it to the missing heart, and it pained him to see her so different. He was worried about it being the same woman, she was so different, though she still seemed to love him very much.
However, the plan to get the last items that Angelina proposed, while effective, hurt Ambrose worse than any blow of a sword or spell. Angelina proposed that the easiest way to get what they wanted was for her to go virtually alone into Lott's encampment - as the only fey among them - saying that she had information about the people taking the items, and then seduce him. Dedrick volunteered to accompany her - with abilities to stay out of sight - and take Arman's staff with them so that he could keep an eye on them, teleporting them out as soon as they had what they needed. Ambrose, however and understandably, did NOT like this idea, especially if it meant things having to go further than just a removal of clothing. But, they really couldn't think of an easier or safer way - and taking too many people would be obvious. In Angelina's defense, the plan worked. She took the form of a Nymph, promised him information, but asked that she be "rewarded" with some quality time with the Prince himself first - dismissing the guards. He removed his boots, and the dagger, keeping the sword at his side - which complicated things. She needed to distract him enough for Dedrick to remove the sword from his waist - and, well, while according to Bill Clinton she didn't have sex with him, according to most what she did was certainly sexual. Dedrick grabbed the sword in his moment of utter distraction, and Arman teleported them out, and them immediately they all teleported back to Queen Maeve's castle. Ambrose couldn't look Angelina in the eye afterwards. And while he almost believed Dedrick when he said that nothing happened, his keen sense of smell spoke otherwise. During the feast held in their honor, Ambrose barely said a word, and the sense of finality and reward when Maeve gave each of them a mark to allow them to pass out of the realm free was dulled by thoughts of what might have happened. When Ambrose went to bed that night (the plan was that Maeve would show them the way out the next day) he had an argument with Angelina. She accused him of not being thankful enough for what she did to get them out. Angelina was not in her right mind, and Ambrose knew that - he countered with how worried he was about her - that there had to be another way, that the Angelina he knew had gone to such lengths - to the point of dressing as a boy to become a sailor to avoid having to do what she just did. With that, fury filled her face at the accusation, and she stormed out. Ambrose was mortified at what he said, and with what seemed to be falling to pieces around him. His hope was that things would be fixed when they left the shadow rift - that it had something to do with the place's effect on her.
But... not a few hours after the group went to bed they were roused by guards and summoned to Maeve's throne room - where she accused them of treachery. Angelina had apparently stolen the full regalia and and fled, heading in the direction of the Obsidian Gates - where the Twilight was imprisoned. Things clicked, the dreams she spoke of -and the group pleaded to allow them to go after her - before the guards Maeve had already sent caught her.
Given her head start, despite the fact that they pulled out many tricks to go faster, by the time they reached her, she was already standing in front of the Obsidian Gates, decked out in the full regalia. The gates were opened to blackness, but in the blackness were eyes, and tentacles, and slowly, a tentacle reached out from the blackness to put the final piece - the crown - on her head. Realizing what this meant, Ambrose dashed forward, screaming Angelina's name, and grabbed the Crown from her head, prepared to cast it back into the darkness... when he was seized by three dark tentacles... and pulled in 3 different directions.
Things went black.. and then red.... and then very, very fuzzy.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group saw Ambrose pulled into 3 separate pieces,
killed instantly. For Angelina, seeing Ambrose killed broke the spell, and
the weight of what she had done fell on her. She threw the crown back
through the gate, and tried to run, but she felt its hooks in her cape - it was
the swanmay cloak that it had apparently slithered its influence over her to
begin with. As she tried to run, she felt it pulling her back, the white
feathers darkening to black. Dedrick rushed forward, cutting the cloak -
and the last of its hold on her (her form also solidifying to the single form
she was in), and she used her magics to get her as far away as she could,
trapping the Twilight back. The group fled as a roar of fury shook the
lands (a literal earthquake). The group collected at the bottom of the
mountain, Angelina at the height of despair, and very... very close to killing
herself out of the guilt of what she had done, and the fact that she felt
responsible for Ambrose's death - her reason for wanting to go home, her love,
and what she hoped would be her "happily ever after". The only thing that
stopped her... was a secret she had not even told him... that she believed that
she might be pregnant with his child. While she had been influenced by the
Twilight, she had been fully aware - just her perceptions skewed. It felt
like she had done it - and although that veil had been lifted, it was still
horrible. Maeve appeared before the group, and took the things back -
stern, but glad the objects were back - understanding the power that the
Twilight could exert. The realm was still safe, for the time. The
group spoke of going back to the clock tower - to try to stop things - but Maeve
informed them that it had been shattered in the earthquake... and would probably
take 100 years to fix. She gave them the map out of the realm, and
left them to mourn.
Finally, the next morning the group, shaken, left the shadowrealm.
Ambrose, meanwhile, found himself slowly regaining consciousness in the forests in Borca, the lands that bordered the entrance/exit to the shadowrift... as a normal wolf. Memories were fuzzy, as was his cognition, with only vague and sort of muddled memories of what had happened. ((While he did not know it yet, the "wish" that he had made of the djinns was quite real, and coming into play. While he died, his spirit had been sent to the closest wolf; his personality and consciousness overtaking it, and it would slowly physically become as he had been.))
When the rest of the group exited the cave into the woods in Borca, Ambrose smelled them, feeling a connection - though fuzzy. He slowly emerged from the woods in front of the people, despite the inborn lupine instincts to do otherwise, and lay down before Angelina. The group was taken back, but not quite sure what to make of it... but for the moment, are going with it, and he is following them, not wanting to leave Angelina's side.
As Ambrose followed them, Arman saw a vision to the side of the path, and as he started to follow it, heavy mists picked up and he began to disappear... Zita ran after him, to disappear as well.... finally, the entire group followed.... to a place whose vegetation looked remarkably like that of England. However, it soon became apparent that this was not the England that Arman remembered - for one, the time was VERY off... not to mention the fact that the figures that people mentioned were those who had long since been reduced to Legend... those of Arthur, Mordred, Merlin... They had apparently been pulled somewhere where Mordred has beaten King Arthur, taken the crown and sacked Camelot. The people lived in poverty and in fear of his tyrancy.
As time passed, Ambrose's cognizance and memories returned to him, and he did
what he could to get across to the group who he was. Angelina was a wreck,
and it hurt him to see her so upset, he wanted to call out to her, tell him he
was alright. However, because she was so upset and so hurt, she didn't
want to chance to get her hopes up at the idea. In the end, he approached
Arman, displaying his intelligence, and Arman got Angelina to cast "speak with
animals". It wasn't long until he collapsed into her arms, gushing about
how he missed her, and she about how sorry she was. She also cast a spell
to allow him to physically speak. She was trying to take the blame for
what happened, and Ambrose spoke with her - alleviating her concerns,
understanding where she was coming from. He too had been under mind
control before - and it wasn't like she had pictured: just watching your body do
something, but ones' perceptions were twisted, and the wrong thing seemed
justified. You remembered doing things, and rationing why you were doing
them. Ambrose more than understood, talking with her again about how he
felt during the Raquel incident, and when he had been under Nathan Timothy's
control in Verbrek. They spoke for hours, spending the rest of the evening
and night together. Ambrose learned of her pregnancy... of which he had
had unconfirmed suspicions, but he was happy... however this intensified his
desire to go home... although the new problem, and fear, emerged.... of what if
he was stuck like that. What if he couldn't become a man again - going
home as a wolf would be worse than staying here - no one would listen or believe
him.... especially his father.
When he joined the rest for breakfast the next morning, he revealed who he was in hushed voices when they were talking about whether or not it would even be worth trying to go home - it was enough for Ambrose to show who he was really with the vehemence of his opinion. He spoke with them, and revealed just what he knew of what was needed to go home: the items to collect, the pirate Reis who brought them there to begin with, the riddled clues about a land of child's imagination. And the others realized that he really DID have something to go off of, and the decision was cemented to try.... of course, the issue of Ambrose's current form was plaguing him... though Arman pieced together Ambrose's wish for Immortality with what had happened... leaving Ambrose dumbstruck - he honestly didn't put much faith into his wish, and of course then the concern that he was unable to specify immortality as he was - what if it just reincarnated him as a wolf?
Arman also spoke about the woman he had seen in the woods - the apparition that had caused them to be pulled into the mists - and a dream he had had the previous night - saying that it was up to him to save the people of this realm, and to travel to Arthur's tomb.
Long and short of it - they followed the instructions, to be met with... what remained of Merlin - an emaciated undead shell (Lich mayhaps?), but who was still tied to the lands and was powerless to stop Mordred. The only thing that could was Excalibur itself, which could only be wielded by a descendant of Arthur... which is where Arman came in... apparently tracing his line FAR back, one of his ancestors was an illegitimate child of Arthur. Ironically, Arman was the most inept in the party when it comes to melee combat - a rather frail and weak wizard. Ambrose was awestruck to literally be speaking with Merlin, having heard the Arthurian Legends growing up and idolizing the chivalric knights, the stories, etc.
Merlin also spoke that Mordred had been pulled into this realm, along with all of the magic in the world. In order for Merlin to be released and the people from his tyranny, he must be killed. Ambrose asked about them returning - if he might know of the items that they sought. Merlin smiled, and promised to tell him, no riddles, where to find them if they assisted. When he responded with enthusiasm, eager to actually participate and help out these legendary figures, but despaired as to his usefulness and current condition, Merlin told him that as long as he despaired, he would not change back. But this in and of itself gave him hope, and together the party followed his instructions to travel to Mordred's kingdom - in the middle of which was a lake - the only lake that the Lady of the Lake could now reside with her limited powers. But she still remained hidden from Mordred, guarding Excalibur.
Long story short, they infiltrated the kingdom, Mordred hot on their heels as soon as he heard of what was going on from his wizards and spies. They battled their way past the guards and to the lake, where the Lady escorted them down below the waters. There, she gifted Arman with Excalibur itself - inciting much drooling from Ambrose, and a tinge of jealousy, Angelina an orb of storms and some magical boots, Ambrose a pendant that allowed him to better assist in the combat like he was, as well as an ore was given to Angelina - an ore from when the earth was new, from the same vein that forged Excalibur ^^. The rest were given other useful items, and then they returned to shore were Mordred was waiting, and battled him, his guards, and the ghost of Morgan le Fey, in the end successful. As the final blow was struck with Excalibur and he fell dead, the mists rose, Merlin standing amidst them - and answered as promised. To travel to the library beneath Richlemont - there they would find what they sought. He also gave thanks with a canny smile - that he was released... as was the magic of "our" world.
When the mists settled, they were back in the forests of Borca, left in awe
of what had happened. And in desperate need of some downtime. They
traveled to the nearest city where, aside from Dedrick - who went to travel
ahead to Richlemont (that's where he was from) to do some preliminary
investigation, they got an inn and laid low for a while. Ambrose, after a
few days, was overjoyed to see some beginnings of changes - the toes/fingers on
his front paws beginning to lengthen - his dewclaw becoming more thumb-like.
But, on the same note, within a day or so of that he became unable to leave the
room - obviously not a normal wolf. While he had been wanting a break, he
felt stir-crazy in the room. Especially, since Angelina had been out for
most of the days, coming back tired... along with Arman. As much as he
hated to think of it, the suspicions wouldn't leave. He trusted her, but
it was still frustrating when she would come back late after being gone all day,
looking exhausted, and uninterested in doing much with him.
Finally... the secret was revealed one night (when it had been about a month - at this point he had changed to about hybrid form) - she and Arman came to his room, and unwrapped the most exquisite rapier he had ever seen. They had spent the time with a smith, and casting spells over it all day - she was so tired because it took a LOT out of her, literally putting a piece of herself into the sword to create it. The thought had earlier crossed his mind about the loss of the previous rapier he had had - but with all else that was going on, he refused to dwell on it.... but this... this brought tears to his eyes. Not only was it so magnificent, but she had been doing this for him. AND she had begun it before he had started to change back - she trusted him that much, that confident that he would change back. And she had spent nearly all her gold for the platinum on the handle, the tooling, the personal touches like an obsidian heraldic wolf in the pommel, his initials in the base of the blade with the musketeer cross...
At this point in time, Ambrose has gone through a lot of changes, and really matured as an individual. He has hope that he will actually return home - the way back seems within grasp now to him, he's made some strong friendships, and has found the woman that he wants to spend the rest of his life with. He has also certainly come to terms with his lycanthropy, to the extent that, regardless whether or not he would actually say it, the fact that Merlin said that magic has been returned - if Ambrose is correct in his assumptions, then that means when they return, magic will be possible there, ergo he will still be a lycanthrope... and deep down he's relieved. His opinion has changed drastically from something to be ashamed of to something that really defines him - he's proud of what he is and his lupine nature, it sets him apart and makes him a stronger person. He accepts its influence on his personality and his mannerisms. Even if the lycanthropy was in his blood, the fact that he overcame its twisting influences where a man of lesser will would have failed makes him proud. Also, the stick has certainly been removed from his posterior - he can be himself and knows that he does not have to be ashamed to have passions, to show emotion. Also, he can be himself with Angelina; he knows that there is a person that he can be totally natural with (in the bedchamber included) - which gives him an outlet for emotions that previously had been pent up far too long. He is also quite confident in his martial skills. His main goal is to get home (to a place where he can make a difference, where the land is not twisted by evil), marry Angelina, and raise their child(ren).
BORCA and RICHLEMONT
After finally reverting to his human form after the long delay in Borca, he was stuck like that for some time, having trouble shifting forms. During this time, he and Angelina and Soren had a MOST unpleasant excursion to a haunted house, named The House of Lament by locals - when a woman pleaded for their help, saying her daughter had been taken there by a brigand - and no one else would help. It soon became VERY apparent to the trio just why no one else had helped, as they became trapped inside, being threatened to be absorbed into the house itself. Long story short, they made it out by the skin of their teeth, and shortly after left for Richlemont.
In Richlemont they met up with Dedrick and the woman to whom he swore
allegiance, Louise Renier. She warned them at the last moment of what her
sister had planned, a Birthing Plague - engineered by her sister Jacqueline -
and designed to spread wererat lycanthropy across the country simultaneously -
carried by swarms of ordinary rats. This was the reason for the
fortification of the cities - not to protect against the Falcovnian invasion,
but to make it so that the people would be sealed inside the city when the
outbreak began. Furthermore, since it was her design, she would be
dominant over all of the new wererats, securing her power and allowing her to be
loved by her people for what she truly was. Louise gave Arman and Soren a
potion, saying it would protect them from Jacqueline's infection... and in a way
it did, but infusing them with HER strain of lycanthropy (Albeit, she promised,
a temporary one provided that they go into the sewers and procure the design
notes for the plague to prevent it from spreading beyond the borders of
Richlemont (as the Falcovnians WERE indeed attacking, but with this twist, the
lycanthropy would spread to their soldiers, spreading the infection across the
core). Being new circumstances, and the knowledge that what they sought
would be down in the libraries of the sewer-dwellers anyway, they accepted.
Angelina used her magic to disguise herself, and Ambrose was (reluctantly) given
an amulet to create the illusion of him being a wererat as well ((though his
coat pattern stayed the same ^_~ )). Ambrose was not amused to say the
least - looking like a rat, going down into smelly, NASTY sewers, and three of
his partymembers being wererats, and Angelina looking like one as well, and once
again being delayed from his goal of finding the way home - but... he did feel
strongly for needing to find the remedy to this plague - as the majority of a
nation just was infected with lycanthropy. However, he had doubts as to
the trustworthiness of Louise. Regardless, they journeyed deep into the
sewers, and were met with adversaries - primarily the wererat denizens of the
sewers who could smell through his disguise quite easily, and other unpleasant
things such as giant oozing carnivorous puddings, a beholder, and a rat-demon.
Additionally, powerful cults of wererats, such as the Plague Bearers put up
resistence. Finally, however, they made their way to the subterranean
library, where they relinquished some of the plague-bearer clerics from their
notes and got the documents back to Louise who was able to nullify the normal
rats still carrying the plague (but...apparently those already transformed were
SOL. She also cured Arman and Soren as she promised. Dedrick stayed
behind. Then they returned to the library - through Arman's teleporting
now that they had been there before, and located that which they sought: a
mysterious book called the Grimm Tome - which according to descriptions
contained in other reference works. It could transport children to a realm
of imagination.... precisely what they sought. And alongside it, they
found a magical poem that would supposedly revert grown men and women to
children, and whisk them away to a different world.
With these items in hand, they returned to Dementileu, where Arman proceeded to study them, and the group had a few weeks of much needed rest.
THE REALMS OF IMAGINATION
Part 1 - Neverland
Finally, after preparation and study into the effects of the spell (and making sure it would not have ill effects on Angelina's pregnancy) Arman read the spell from their quarters on the ship (which they had returned to in Dementileu). Suddenly, a great wind picked up, they became disoriented, and passed out.
When they awoke finally, they found themselves naked on a beach.... and appeared to be no greater than about twelve years old. However, thankfully, they retained their memories and perspectives for the most part. Most of their possessions were gone (apparently did not come with them) however, there was an impression in the sand of about the same size and shape of the Grimm Tome. What had happened was that the group had been transported to Neverland - or at least a version thereof. And along with their regression to childhood came a very very marked decrease in their abilities and battleworthiness. The adult pirates and Indians were intimidating - and the land mysterious, beautiful, and dangerous all at the same time. It also seemed to operate on very different properties - truly a land of imagination as the clues spoke - and yet the Grimm Tome - supposedly the portal to a different land of imagination was gone. After running from Indians, the group (Arman, Zita, Ambrose and Anglelina) encountered Peter Pan and the Lost Boys ((The timeperiod from which the characters originated predated J.M. Barre - and so knew none of the stories)). And the group saw how much imagination truly ruled - or, at least, Peter's imagination - his belief that Angelina could make clothing because she was a girl proved true - and tasks such as that were laughably easy - as she sewed outfits for the party (cute, childish mockups of their original gear - a play tabard for Ambrose, wizard robes and a pointy hat for Arman, etc). However, the boys had real swords - and when asked where they came from - they were told that they were stolen from the pirates. Eager to procure some sort of weapon, and with residual overconfidence - as well as viewing the pirates as a likely place to perhaps find one of the objects they sought (Captain Riese's hat or scythe) - they flew (with the thanks of pixie dust) over the sea towards the ship. However, when discussing ways to perhaps sneak up on the ship, they discovered another sinister twist of the land. Angelina decided to fly down to the waters to see if she could still become a mermaid there - to swim to the ship. However, as soon as she got near the water, webbed hands pulled her under. There were indeed mermaids in the land, but twisted sirens that lured men to drowning. Angelina also did indeed become a mermaid - but one twisted like the rest of the lands, and nearly lured Ambrose to his death when he saw Angelina - appearing grown once more, come to the surface and hold out her arms to him. With the help of Zita, however, they pulled her out of the water and dried her off - which returned her to her youthful, and mostly human state. At that point, they all agreed to avoid the waters. After that brush, they made it to the pirate ship.. however, their mission to steal swords did not go so well as expected. As children, and unarmed to boot, they were quickly and easily defeated by the pirates and sent down to the brig. However, soon Angelina was called to the Captain's quarters and she was brought face to face with Hook himself. However, he knew (from listening to their conversation while in the brig) that they were not from this place - they were different from the other children. And he explained that he himself had been trapped here - forced to assume the role of the Pirate - that killing Peter would be his only release from this land that held him. He was a pirate, but only by label - there were no villages to plunder, no ships to attack. When Hook asked why they were there - she told him that, like him, they were not from that world - and were seeking a way home - and needed the Grimm tome (and the other two objects). Hook pulled out the tome - saying that he had taken it from the Indians. Angelina, also through her detect magic - saw that Hook's hat had a great magic to it - cementing that that was one of the objects that they sought. Hook said that he would give them to her... provided that the group administer a poison to Peter that would render him unconscious, and bring him back to the ship for Hook to kill him. He refused to be generous and let them go when he himself was still trapped there - while he was, he said, a gentlemen - make no mistake - he was not nice. He said that he was certain that as soon as he remembered, Peter would be sure to come to their rescue - and that they would allow them to leave - if they agreed. Hook knew that he had something that they needed. Angelina was returned to her cell with this information - which sat heavy on their shoulders. TO kill a child - although, from the stories Peter was no longer really a child by the count of years - and according to what they knew of the lands of Ravenloft, and the way Peter seemed to control the realm... it was possible that HE, not Hook, might actually be the Dark Lord of the realm - and if so, then Hook was right - killing him would return the rest of the denizens to whence they came (from what they knew of what happened in Avalon). However, they were operating on no hard facts - and they could very well be contemplating the murder of a child - and working with pirates no less. However, other disturbing things began to surface in this land - the longer they were there, the more difficult it became to remember the land they came from - names of family... and things like that. All of the lost boys and Peter himself seemed to have completely forgotten their homes - living only for the present - and making a game out of killing - both Pirates and Indians. While being held in the cell, it also became apparent that Ambrose was indeed still a lycanthrope - but the land seemed to have changed that as well a bit - he would change into his hybrid form with every sunset - regardless of the phase of the moon... however, the age regression was a .... permeating issue given how much Ambrose's lupine nature had infused into his identity. When he shifted, his other form reflected the age reduction as well ^_~ - resulting in a rather indignant-looking humanoid wolf-puppy.
Finally, after quite some wait, Peter did come to rescue them - they procured weapons, and Peter brought them back to his base. Other aspects did cause questions -such as the inconstant length of night and day - seeming to conveniently follow Peter's desires.... in one final test to see the control Peter had over the land (and also to make sure that the scythe they sought was not also in this land) they proposed a night attack on the Indians. Within a couple of hours, the sun set, and the group and Peter were off to the Indians. However, instead of attacking (as the group was feeling very very vulnerable) they instead proposed a truce. They went to the camp, and the peace pipe was passed. Ambrose was the only one who feigned taking a hit.... and soon, Ambrose found himself the only one still conscious.... and faced with a moral dilemma. The poison was in Angelina's pocket.... and Peter was unconscious. First, he delayed by searching the camp for the scythe - to find nothing (but the reassurance that they would not leave here missing the item).... and finally, the desire to return home and trying desperately to convince himself that it WAS the right thing, Ambrose slipped Peter the poison, and with fairy dust from the likewise unconscious Tink, flew the group and Peter (tied to him) back to the Pirate ship.
There, the trade was made - the book and the hat for Peter - as the group was regaining consciousness. Ambrose felt horrible already - and then, as Angelina kissed Peter's forehead in an apology and farewell - he woke up, and flew up.... only to - moments later, fall dead on the ship. The sleeping poison was indeed a poison... just slow acting. But before reactions could really be made, the mists picked up, the land began to fade.... Quickly, Arman pulled out the Grimm Book and began to read as the land faded around them and the group saw a reenactment of what Really happened. Peter had been a headstrong boy - resenting his parents for forcing his decisions and rebelling against becoming a man. Whispers came to him in the form of a fairy - putting ideas in his mind - After killing his mother and attempting to kill his father - the embodiment of everything he, in his schizophrenia, viewed as bad with adults, the mists had brought him and his father to this realm - Peter living out each day as the hero of his fantasies - casting his father in the role of the villain with an ever-replenishing crew of pirates. However, his father did fight the stereotype... until a strange hat washed ashore.... when he donned the hat - he became the fearsome pirate captain that Peter wished him to be. Peter had indeed been the dark lord of the land.... whether he knew it or not. However, while this did alleviate some of the guilt, the heavy thought that when Ambrose HAD poisoned him, he had not know this remained.
THE REALMS OF IMAGINATION -
PART 2 - Twisted Fairytales
The group awoke again in a very different setting - still young (though a bit older) and clothed in the clothing Angelina had made them in Neverland - once again the Grimm Book gone - but with no indication of it having been there this time. They were in a deep forest, so thick that the branches blocked out most of the light. To make a long story short, they had entered the Grimm Tome - a land of Fairy Tales... sort of. ((If anyone has seen the Grimm setting book - we were run through that setting - which fit nicely with a relic from a Ravenloft book.) While the characters were familiar with the fairy stories, all of them had bitter "endings" - Red Riding Hood - whom they first encountered, in her interment in the wolf's belly was infected with vampiric blood from a previous meal of his - and become corrupted and twisted by it. Snow White had indeed been poisoned, but reamined poisoned - seeping into the plants and weeds around her - her perfect corpse a lure in a deadly trap. The troll bridge changed those who needed to cross INTO goats until they successfully crossed - but the bridge itself lost boards crossing, and trolls awaited underneath to snatch those who got too close to the edge. Many fairy tale was represented there - from Snow White, to Cinderella (Turned dominatrix), Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Humpty Dumpty (the current King - twisted and rotten and evil), the seven dwarves (dirty little men who had a thing for young women), etc etc etc. Finally, with much negotiating, close calls, and disturbing scenes (and perversions of childhood stories) the group managed to use Cinderella against Humpty Dumpty to get the scythe that had come into his possession, and escape the realm.
After escaping the Grimm lands, the party awoke, adult and fully clothed back
in the room on the ship from where they left. The Grimm book was gone, as
were the clothing that they made there, but the hat and the scythe were with
them. The trip had been a success - and the only thing between them and
the return home was Reise. Before they left, they were joined by an aging
Paladin named Aaron, who had arrived in the lands as a young boy from their
world - who had heard of their deeds across the lands - and wished to join
forces with others who sought to do good in these lands - when he heard they had
found the way home - really home - he lept at the chance to help them.
However, introductions were barely made when the ship began to move. With
the hat and scythe procured, the ghostly crew of the ship were eager to seek
their revenge on Reise, whether the group was ready or not.
The ship took them out to sea, where Riese's ghostly ship manifested, crewed by the undead pirates that the group remembered from that fateful day they were brought to the realm. The ship passed over their ship, joining with it - and Ambrose tossed Riese his hat and Scythe - which he accepted with a wicked grin, and donned them - his ghostly form materializing - appearing in its full horror. And a great battle ensued. In the end, the group was triumphant. The mist picked up, and the group passed out.
A BITTER RETURN
When the party finally awoke, they found their ship a derelect - in horrible
condition, with layers of salt over the deck. It appeared to have been
abandoned for quite some time. In the middle of the deck, a single Tarokka
card, "The Mists" sat. When the card was picked up, the face of the
Vistani woman who originally told them how they might return appeared, saying
she warned us not to lose everything that we held valuable in our endeavor.
Apparently when opening the way for us to leave the realms and return to our
homeworld, the opening was noticed by others... many of the darklords - and they
had passed through the tear between the realms as well. Given their power,
and the lack of magic in this world, they were able to put themselves in
positions of power... it had been a year since the rift opened. Strahd in
Romania, The Wizard King Azalin in England, Both Nathan Timothy AND Harkan Lucas
in France (and lycanthropy was rampant across the countryside ;_; ), Vlad Drakov
in Germany, and some mummy king in Egypt. The party was aghast. They
had FINALLY returned home.... but at what cost? The land they were trying
so desperately to escape had in a way followed them here - and begun to corrupt
their home. The saving grace that they clung to was that - unlike the
Core, the lands here were not by nature corrupt - and the Darklords did not have
the same home base advantage here or power over the lands themselves. They
needed to do something about it - to stop them - kill them before they could
spread their evil even further and corrupt their home. More so - they were
responsible for them being there to begin with. However, the bitter truth
being, that even if they could be successful in dethroning them, killing them
before they could cause too much damage... the world would never be the same
again - now exposed to the existence of magic, of the evil of these people, and,
what Ambrose most feared - the corrupting lycanthropy spread through this world
- through FRANCE. Where he might have been able to get away with subtlety
of his condition before, or at best ignorance of others as to the evils usually
associated with it - it was now known, and a known evil. Worst yet,
hundreds of his countrymen whom he had sworn to protect had been infected.
He worried for his family - for the state of France - more information yielded
that the Queen had been killed, the Archbishop had taken control of the country
and using the young prince (now king) as a puppet ruler, the musketeers
The group knew what needed to be done - they would need to stop the darklords and, somehow, return Europe to peace and some semblance of normalcy.
They mobilized quickly, traveling first to England - not wanting to fence themselves into a central country like France, as much as Ambrose wanted to deal with it - when it was surrounded by other countries also with problems. Besides, they knew that Azalin would be one of the largest threats - and using the element of surprise on one of the powerful ones made sense. Finally, Arman possessing Excalibur, and thus the rightful claim to kingship would help to rally the people to his cause before or after the deed was done. So they teleported to England. It was quickly evident the changes that had come into effect - the towns were patrolled by hoards of undead guards (The group had a sinking feeling when Aaron said that they could not have been dead for more than a year before raised - and that all of these guards had probably first been killed and then raised specifically for this purpose. The townsfolk were frightened - healthy, but afraid to even speak of Azalin in any sort of negative fashion even in their own homes. The group strategized - how to take down one of the most powerful wizards of Ravenloft. They eventually came upon the fact that one of the "items" they had brought with them was the beholder they had run into in the sewers of Richlemont - polymorphed into a lizard. Lifting the spell, and dominating it, they hid it under a blanket a cart that Ambrose went and purchased from the nearby town. They traveled quickly to London - where more changes were evident - huge stone arches inscribed with "watching" runes were all over the city - and the group could feel eyes upon them. As soon as Aaron mentioned the world "Darklord" - the undead patrollmen headed for their cart. They spurred the horses to a run, Aaron turning the guards as they did, and then drove through a dimensional door that Arman summoned - directly into the palace gates. What followed was primarily a magical battle between Arman and Angelina one one side, and Azalin on the other - 90 feet up in the window of a tower (wow, that'sa lotta A's!) With the help of the beholder soon keeping Azalin's magic at bay, Angelina's long range attack spells, and then a summoned earth elemental into the tower - Azalin, revealed to be a lich, was defeated before Ambrose could scale the tower. Finally, they located his phylactery with Angelina's staff, and Arman's magic eradicated it. However, right as it was being destroyed, a mist picked up around it.... and the object disappeared.... presumably the Dark Realms would not permit the death of the man who had once been in its grasp - pulling him back "home".
After defeating Azalin, They spent long enough in England to help rally the people, and established Arman as the rightful king. They used money from the treasury to help get people back on their feet - providing jobs for people to tear down the arches that Azalin had erected in London, and Arman, again with Angelina's locating magic, went off in search of what was left of his family. Meanwhile, Aaron refused to let the beholder live any longer - despite the fact it was dominated, he knew that it would eventually do evil once more, and battled and defeated it where it had been left by Arman to guard. Additionally, while he was gone, Ambrose and Aaron mobilized what remained of the men, and began routing out the remains of the undead minions, found strong, willing men, and began reestablishing a standing army. Arman DID find one person left - his sister. His parents had been killed for standing against the current rule. Returning with her back to London, he left her as Reagent, the country with temporary military rule both to defend England from other nations as well as find and destroy any remaining evil in the land that they could. Finally, Arman knighted the rest of the party with Excalibur.
After England, they traveled to France. Appearing in the woods outside of Paris, it soon became evident how bad the lycanthrope problem was when their arrival drew the immediate attention of two werewolves who, by the smell of things, had just killed a man. Ambrose was able to frighten them off, but a feeling of dread as to what happened to his homeland had already sunk in. They traveled into the Paris proper. First, they headed towards Ambrose's family's manor. Entering, the decor was... a bit different. The paintings of the family still hung on the walls, but all of them were slashed as if by claws, save portraits of Dreu. There was no one to answer the door, and the lingering smell of death filled the walls. The sinking feeling was cemented when Dreu slowly came downstairs with a ... twisted... look in his eyes. The story soon emerged through a bitter and emotional (on Ambrose's part) argument between the brothers. With Timothy's arrival in this land, and the discovery that this was the same world Ambrose himself was from, he made it a point to find his family... sensing the same potential in his brother - with fewer of Ambrose's scruples. After being infected, Dreu was ordered by his new "lord", Timothy, to slaughter the rest of his family to prove his loyalty (and as a jab towards Ambrose) - and be his liaison in the cities and a foothold with one of France's older powerful families. Ambrose was distraught... and furious - all of the frustrations building: his brother's continual dominance over him, and finding out away from home the true face behind his facade, the fact that he would NEVER be able to see his father proud of him and his actions, never seeing them again, never being able to introduce them to Angelina, and of course, the savage betrayal of his brother - attacking his father when his father had shown him love that Ambrose never felt that he had received. Words led quickly to action as they shifted forms and fought. Dreu had become quite powerful in Ambrose's absence.... however, Ambrose was still faster, and put his own brother to rest at the end of his sword. After the battle, Ambrose collapsed to his knees and let loose a mournful, soulful howl - letting loose his emotions: the sorrow and betrayal, and guilt at being the one to end Dreu's life - the last remainder of his close family. Meanwhile, Aaron went around an inspected the rest of the manor to make sure that there was no immediate danger.... there wasn't... however when he looked in the icebox he found the remains of the servants... and the family. Many of the servants were missing pieces. The servants were buried, and after Aaron wrapped the bodies, he and Ambrose (and the rest of the party) took the bodies of his family to the family mausoleum and gave them a funeral. Angelina also used some of her magics to repair the torn paintings. After that, the party strongly suggested that Ambrose rest - he was trying to focus on the mission at hand to keep himself going - but his body needed rest - and he needed to let out what he was feeling. He retreated to his old room with Angelina and spent the night in her arms.
Sometime early the next morning, as Aaron was sitting downstairs keeping an
eye out, Nathan Timothy himself showed up, demanding to see Dreu. Aaron
notified Ambrose, who came down to face him - surprising Nathan with his return
and the news of what had happened. Ambrose was smoldering mad - this being
the object of his hatred - the one who was truly responsible for the death of
his family, the final corruption of his brother, not to mention the vendetta he
already had against him for the mind rape in Verbrek, and very nearly turning
Ambrose himself into a monster like him. They argued for only a short
time, flinging insults and accusations. Without the hoards of werewolves around
him to protect him, Ambrose was able to easily defeat Nathan - but once again,
as the final blow was struck, the mists coiled around Nathan, presumably pulling
him back to Ravenloft. Finally, after a bit more sleep, they traveled to
the palace. Ambrose took Arman's staff and feigned an injury to his leg
(so that Arman would be able to teleport the group to him once he got as far as
he needed to, figuring that Ambrose would have the best luck getting inside).
Wearing his tabard he traveled alone to the gates of the palace where he was
stopped by guards - who told him of the disbanding of the musketeers.
Ambrose made a scene, saying that he refused to be ordered by anyone save the
Queen (or King) themselves. The scene proved successful, drawing out
Harkan Lucas - who had taken the role of Cardinal. While Harkan Lucas was
able to use a spell on Ambrose (uncontrollable dancing) for long enough to keep
him out of the fight, the rest of the group soon appeared and defeated him.
The young king, now freed of Harkan Lucas's spell, emerged from the palace, VERY thankful for freeing him. The group went to his coucil, and explained what they knew had happened. Indebted to the group - and very impressed by their skill, and with the disarray of the nation, gave the title of Duc and Duchesse to Ambrose and Angelina (as well as the portions of land of those men who had sworn allegiance to Harkan Lucas) - And Ambrose was already the sole remaining heir of his family land. Additionally, he bestowed upon Ambrose the position of the captain of the soon to be reformed musketeers, and personal advisor. To Aaron he mentioned that he would speak with the church about whom would be the new Cardinal. To Arman, already King of England, he could not exactly grant title, but agreed wholeheartedly to an alliance of nations. They spent about a week there assisting in the efforts to settle the land - knowing that they would have a lot of work to do once they finished with the darklords dealing with the werewolves. Aaron spoke to Ambrose and Angelina about Ambrose coming clean about his ... affliction - to prevent the secret from festering and coming back with a vengeance later were it to be discovered and used against him. If he was forthright, perhaps he could encourage those afflicted with lycanthropy to come to him - to help them learn to deal with it. With Timothy gone, they were returned to their human forms - and would only a danger on the full moons unless/until their human minds were twisted as well. Ambrose agreed with Aaron, though admittedly would be something to deal with when they Returned - after things had settled and after Ambrose married Angelina.
They traveled East to Germany next to deal with Vlad Drakov. They found that Germany was in the middle of a great war that had been going on for the past six months, as soon as Vlad was able to rally an army of mercenaries, defected German troops, and anyone else he could get to rally to his banner. The Germans were losing the war, vastly outnumbered at this point - and fighting against a strategical mastermind. In very sum, They were able to get an audience with the current King of Germany, and passed on the news of what was happening, explaining to him why France and England had not yet come to the aide of Germany. They swore to help, and set off to find Drakov. They found him all right, in the middle of an army of men probably numbering around 10,000 people (after assisting on the battlefield where some of his generals were waging war against a part of the German army). Aaron, who at this point, now that he was out of Ravenloft, was starting to discover that he could sense the evil in mens' hearts - those who gave off a chill like the relams that he had been stuck in for so long. Many of the men working for Drakov emanated this feeling - men who lived for battle - who exalted in killing others, evil men and mercenaries. Aaron tried to ride forward with a white flag to attempt negotiation - only to be shot at by arrows. They realized that there was no going around it - and that this was war, as much as none of the characters wanted to be responsible for it. Angelina pulled out a strange glass ball with crackling energy she had been given from the Lady of the Lake at the same time Arman got Excalibur - along with the advise that if they were in dire straights, that she could break it. She tossed it to the ground where it shattered - as heavy storm clouds began to amass above. Arman raised a dome of force, just in time to see the worst electrical storm anyone had ever seen ravage the army. By the end of the storm, it was very very easy to find Vlad Drakov - he was the only one still standing - protected by some sort of field around him. While an expert fighter, and surrounded by an anti-magic field, alone he was not nearly as formidable as with his army. They returned to the King, successful. When word spread of what had happened, the king was overjoyed... but very very cautious - continually reconfirming that he had a peace treaty with the nations the characters represented - and was celebrating their alliance. That night they celebrated and feasted... and Arman met a very special young German woman, whom he found out the next morning was the daughter of the King. They discussed their responsibility to defeating the two remaining Dark Lords, but Arman swore to return to her. And the King was most pleased by the news - further cementing the British-German alliance.
Yay summarization. They went after Strahd next... however, Strahd, unlike the rest of the Dark Lords knew of the group and had heard of their success and fled. Given his ability to travel quite quickly by night, he would prove quite hard to track down. In sum, the party split - Angelina (with her staff - and Arman's) traveled with Aaron on horseback, following his path. Meanwhile, Arman and Ambrose, who were going to wait until they located him.... however after about a week of piddling in an abandoned city got stir crazy knowing the danger out there. They decided to go to Egypt alone to fight the last threat - since Arman had been there before and could teleport them. They were able to determine his sort of favorite victim, and Arman played bait, with Ambrose quietly trailing him. When Arman was invited to the Darklord's new home- and as the Darklord began to siphon his energy, Ambrose caught him offguard and killed him (well, sent him back at least). Arman was feeling quite weak - while the process had been stopped, he was still drained to some degree - and they returned to Angelina and Aaron to be healed. Finally, Angelina and Aaron tracked down Strahd - finding a cave in a mountain he had taken shelter in during the day. They went in and, given his weakened state at the time of day, together defeated him - the last remaining Dark Lord in their world.
Arman returned to Germany to pick up the woman he had met, and they returned to France together, and over the course of a week-long celebration, there were two weddings - Ambrose to Angelina, and then to England where Arman wed his new wife.
TEN YEARS LATER
In the ten years since the characters glorious return to their world....
* Ambrose and Angelina were wed in a joint ceremony with KING Arman and his
new wife in a long ceremony that took place over the course of a week.
Much merriment, a lot of friends, and celebration.
*Ambrose confesses his sins to Aaron (now the Cardinal in France). Lots off his shoulders.
*Ambrose admits about his lycanthropy to the king - not wanting what he is to be a secret that might come back to bite him in the ass if it gets slipped accidentally. The king, given his debt to the group, and after seeing Ambrose prove his control, is understanding. Ambrose proposes a way to try to rehabilitate the people across the country that were infected. To do this, Ambrose has to come forward about what he is publically, but is a figurehead of hope to those who had been infected.
*He sets up a community on some of the land that he was given from the nobles that followed Harkan Lucas to set up a commune of sorts for the infected lycanthropes. Not all of them join (some are skeptical, some don't want to be shuffled away, some have already been twisted by the disease). While he isn't able to find a cure for those infected, and while unlike Ambrose (who had the natural potential in his blood) they can't control themselves in their lupine meins, they have a safe haven while they are human and a supportive community. And when they change, they have somewhere they can be contained so as not to bring harm to others or spread the disease further. Some even find love, have children. As it has only been 10 years, none of the offspring have (yet) shown to be affected (but those that will be will have the potential to control their lupine side).
* Angelina funds the women from the brothel she was raised at to get an
education and opportunities that they had not had. Through dealing with
the king, they promote education in France, and France emerges as one of the
most learned countries. Classes are bridged more and more frequently.
Angelina is adored by many lower class - because of her rags to riches story as
well as her promotion of education.
*However, because of the altruistic policies of Angelina towards the 'peasants', and because of Ambrose's admitted lycanthropy, they are never exactly popular with other nobles. There is a measure of fear and suspicion towards Ambrose despite the fact he is in control of himself, and they resent the fact that they are comparatively less privileged with the spread of education. They are on very good terms with the King, however, and that keeps them on 'invitation' terms... however they certainly don't have nearly as many friends as others, and don't exactly get invited to as many parties. Ambrose is captain of the musketeers and personal advisor to the King, which earns him respect - but not necessarily acceptance.
* Ambrose forbids hunting on his property, particularly wolves. Also not exactly a thing that earns him high marks towards others - and it wouldn't be surprising if there are certain rumors among other nobles.
* Ambrose and Angelina's first child is born about a year and a half after their return (poor fey 2 year pregnancies ^~ ). It is a son, named Chase (after Angelna's alias) Loup Maurlias. He inherits traits from both of his parents. While the lycanthropy itself isn't passed along (that they know of at least) he does have some certainly lupine characteristics - wolf eyes, pointed teeth, and fast-growing pointed nails. Not to mention... pointed ears (which could have come from either parent) - and fair skin. He also has the wild nature of a fey... mixed with wildness of a wolf - to put things simply, he's very much a wild child handful. Think a fey with the influence of a wolf (as they are generally nature inclined or influence to some degree) Additionally, he's got Angelina's dark hair (that grows quickly). He's mischievous, has boundless energy, and a prankster. He is also quite noctournal - disliking the sun (but not harmed by it). While he's not malicious, he's wild spirited and is quick to get upset (or tussles with other boys). While his actions certainly are aiding the gray hairs into Ambrose's hair, he knows better than to teach with as heavy of a hand as his father did. He has given up on fully 'civilizing' the boy - but has certainly emphasized morals to the boy. And for the most part, he's not bad per se - usually... intentionally.
* About three years later, they decide (after some discussion) to have a second child. Angelina really wants a daughter (and after the son, Ambrose agrees). They speak to Arman about ways to ensure that - and he says that while it is beyond his abilities to divine a gender (Arman kind of is inept in divinitory magics) he could, if early enough into the pregnancy, change the child to a female if it isn't already. And if it already was... then no harm would be done. So they agree. When the child is born - she was indeed female, very much so. Big blue eyes, long almost platinum blonde hair, dainty features and fair skin (not as an infant, but you catch the drift). She does still have elongated canines and fast growing nails and hair - but other than that, more of a sidhe nature came forward in her. She was named Lunette FiFi (Angelina's choice ^~ ) Maurlias. And compared to Chase, she was an angel of a child. As long as she gets her way. Very spoiled, and she does have a temper (and a voice!) if it's riled. She and Chase rarely get along.
~ At ten years after, this is the state of things - Lunette is almost three years old, Chase is eight. Ambrose is 36, comfortable, respected in his position if not widely well liked by other noblemen. He is on very good terms with the King, and very happily married. He has streaks of grey by his temples due to stress from Ravenloft and Chase. The musketeers (who were reinstated) he commands respect him and tend to like him (not 100% due to aforementioned reasons, or distrust him because they have lost loved ones to werewolves).