Fear of the Dark

16 and 17th...Probably into the 26th night.
Tsolenka Pass and The Amber Temple

Uther, after chasing Rudolph van Richten away, summoned a horse with a spell and chased him down.

His progress impeded, van Richten stopped to address Uther.

Bastian and Karlotta met with the group.

They interrogated him a little bit. He mentioned that he had come to Barovia to attack Strahd, that he had a theory that Strahd my slumber at times, and that he had an assistant, Ezmerelda, who had Ireena in a safe place.

During this interview, Bastian had a memory of seeing van Richten after class. Bastian was going to see him about a project. Upon seeing the boy, van Richten said, “Ah, come in my boy!”

Baz saw a 19th century style lab full of boiling concoctions as the scientist moved from station to station. Upon the stuff Baz passed by was a map that read, in part:

…That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. Their dead remains tell secrets in dreams. Here the shadows of their true shape screams; made not of matter, yet their whispers shatter

There was also a Vistani woman in an expensive looking red coat in a corner studying an old parchment.

“Don’t worry about Ezmerelda,” van Richten had said, “She’s one of the good ones. An assistant that I’ve had for a long time.”

Baz remembered that he was looking for blood. A bit of vampire blood for an experiment that he was trying.

van Richten moved to a station where a plant, bloody to the touch, was sitting in water. “A cutting from a gulthias tree,” van Richten explained, fawning over it for a moment. “The blood that flows through is vampiric, but has its own unique properties. You cannot kill a gulthias tree without the prolonged use of a hallowed spell over time.”

van Richten moved to another station, “This is the blood of a vampire spawn. It is almost identical to that of a master vampire. However I suspect that it is different. The spawn changes with the death of the master. It may even become inert. This particular sample is from a spawn from Bavaria.”

Baz remembered words from books or from van Richten, he could not remember, “Kill a vampire spawn and nothing will happen…Kill a master vampire and he will return to his crypt where he must be staked to the ground to die. In this way, he is like the gulthias tree.”

Baz remembered taking the sample from the vampire spawn. And he was back in the rain, sitting with Karlotta and Uther, questioning his old mentor.

Van Richten also mentioned that he had had a powerful and vivid dream in which he was talking to the wizards Kazahn and Exethanter. While doing so, the brother of Strahd’s bride Tatyana approached him. He was named Remington, but in the world of dreams, Remington looked exactly like Bastian.

Wet and tired they let van Rirchten return to the Abbot.

The group left immediately. Upon leaving the city gates they found Arrigal, waiting in a cart and ready to go.

They went quickly back to Kasimir’s home, and with him as a guide, they decided to head toward the Amber Temple.

The trek was steep. Barovia had never been hospitable. The endless smoke colored skies, the lack of sunlight, and the damp that bore into your bones.

But this was different. They left through relatively normal, if rough road. The first two days, a rain washed much of the road out. They put their pelts on to stay dry, but it caused a sweat under the skin that made them lightheaded and hot, even as the rain poured around them. Their feet took longer to move in the mud as they began to see the huge mountains ahead coming at them.

The steep hills here were clearly rarely accessed, and why would they be? The gloomy trees became fewer and fewer as they continued for days, and the road became steeper and rockier.

On the first day of seeing snow in the air they were almost relieved that the pelts may have been useful instead of violently warm. But that night, when they found a small alcove between the jutting mountains to build a fire, they barely slept through chattering teeth as the snow continued to fall.

They continued on. The snow became all that they saw as the ground became hard and frozen one day, slippery and icy the next. Finally they were forced to raise their feet up far more than they would have liked to trudge through the endless snow. Constantly, always falling, the snow continued to fall from what gray sky was visible between the mountain peaks.

The rings of warmth kept them warm in the way a fresh belt of whiskey may have. It felt good. On occasion, they one could not help but to take off the ring to see mow miserable and cold it was being waist deep in snow along a pass. But immediately the chill would force the ring back onto finger and the sudden warmth would cause a violent shiver.

They learned to dig into the snow, to make crude snow caves in which to sleep. Sometimes they hoped the protection of ice would preserve their own heat more than a fire could give them. It was an excuse to not start a fire, they all knew, as they were exhausted and miserable.

They came to a path clinging to the side of a mountain, hugging the wall as close as they could, for they could not tell where the snow had built upon air and where there was road beneath.

The shelf of rock on which the road clings grew more narrow, but to their left the icy hills rose until meeting their feet. Ahead, through wind and snow, they saw a high wall of black stone lined with spikes and topped by statutes of demonic vultures with horned heads. In the center of the wall, as they approached, they spied an iron portcullis, behind which random explosions of green flame attempted to ignite. Behind this a tower of whit stone stood, covered with golden statues of warriors covered in snow.

As they left the road to the clearing in front of the wall, a sign in an ancient and harsh looking language became clear.

Baz, being an academic, could make out the ancient words:

By proceeding you leave the placid island of ignorance, a mercy in the midst of the black seas of infinity; magic here pieced together the terrifying vistas of reality: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. Their dead remains tell secrets in dreams. Here the shadows of their true shape screams; made not of matter, yet their whispers shatter

Uther tried to walk through the gate, dodging the stuttering flames. He remembered, suddenly, a year ago when he had been here before. He was with The Incorruptible, the Corrupted, and a thief named Ginny Tealeaf.

Back then it wasn’t a sputtering of green flame, but like a wall of green lava flame pouring down from the top to the bottom. Ginny had provoked Uther to try and walk through the flames on faith alone. He tried, and just as he started on fire, he felt a searing pain and then it over as he momentarily lost himself. The Incorruptible had seen Uther on fire and pushed him all the way through, beating Uther’s flames out. He put a healing spell upon Uther. The dwarf upon looking down upon Uther commented, “You’re supposed to be a rock upon which the Raven Queen relies. It doesn’t mean that you are a rock.” He helped Uther up and dispelled the magic in the gate. Making sure Uther was alright, The Incorruptible said, “Let’s go get ”/characters/mysterious-female" class=“wiki-content-link”>your daughter."

The group passed the tower and went directly ahead to a bridge. There they saw Strahd upon it. Arming up they attempted to attack, only to find it was an illusion. From there it was across the bridge to the temple. In what looked like a mountain, covered in snow, they saw a facade of a amber above.

The front of the structure was at least fifty feet high with six alcoves containing twenty foot tall statues. Each of theses statues was of amber, depicting a faceless hooded figure in prayer. Between the two innermost statutes was a stairway that led down into the dark.

At the bottom of the stairs they found themselves on a black marble balcony with shattered railing overlooking a large floor. To the right and the left the balcony disappeared into darkness, and ahead of them a large staircase went to the darkness of a big floor.

But upon seeing this, Uther remembered a year ago when he had been running toward the spot he was now standing.

There were a lot of people with him, faceless, as they ran across the temple floor toward the stairs he now faced. Fire rained down on them as everyone scrambled. He remembered now the voice of Urwin Martikov shouting, “It’s a goddamned killing floor!”

Urwin ran with the others as people were struck down in fire. He felt pain like he had never felt before. The people in front of him were struck with the same lightning that had just torn through his own body. He dropped to the ground and heard the chaos around him. People were on fire, screaming, dropping, and burning. You couldn’t move as you smelled the burning flesh.

“Leave the dead!” Urwin shouted, “We need to get out of here!”

Uther was sure he would be among the dead left behind, but then felt a hand grab his and help him to his feet. He looked up, seeing the young face of the huntress Murual Vinshaw help him to his feet. “You’re damned lucky you won’t remember this,” She said, “Let’s go…”

And then Uther was back there in the present, looking down at the floor.

The group, wisely, decided not to go down the stairs and instead took a left and went into a room. Here they ran across some people that had slipped through a hole in the ice to camp in a large room.

A huge woman, built like an Inuit sumo wrestler stood in front of them. She declared that she was Malice the Magnificent and that this was her place and she wouldn’t give it up for anyone. Behind her were six other figures. A bulldog looking barbarian with dark skin named Sucramad; a wall white older Viking named Eerffeg; a fit and fast young warrior named Elk; a big slow, tubby barbarian named Tap; a female in black with an Innuit look to her named Enij; and a dire wolf.

The group engaged in battle. For a moment it seemed as if Kasimir was going to cowardly run away the way they had come. But he had actually left and come back through the other opening to attack the group of warriors from the far side.

With the room to themselves, the group rested.

Thus ended the first night in the Amber Temple.

The group woke up and decided to double back and investigate the way that they had come. They moved past the stairs, again wisely not going to the killing floor, and then into another room opposite the one they had fought the warriors.

One the way they ran into a spectacled man with a kind of Austrian accent. He introduced himself as Heinrich Stolt and mentioned that he didn’t remember anything. He seemed to have the same kind of amnesia that Uther had been suffering from. He asked if they could join their party in order to figure out what had happened to him. They agreed.

Here they ran across three flame skulls, which they defeated with relative ease. Part of this was that Heinrich had a powerful lightning spell that seemed to be a surprise to him.

In the room they were in was a hole that seemed to go to the lower floor. The group opted to explore the rest of the East balcony. There was damage in the hallway where the balcony was cracked severely. They decided to pass by a door to their right as they continued on to find a room with a broken wall and, beyond that, a balcony that overlooked a statue at the far end of the killing floor. A little more investigation revealed nothing so they decided to double back, again skipping the door on the east, and to the hole in the ground.

They slipped down the hole into a hall that had a few doors facing them. They opened up the door to their south. There were three slabs of amber, each with a fleck of something incredibly black, blacker than anything they had ever seen within. Kasimir warned the party not to touch the amber and certainly not to commune with the spirit within. Heinrich wasn’t having that and so touched the southernmost block of amber. His head dissolved into mist leaving a jackal’s head that was devoid of muscle strength on one side, leaving a disfigured look to it. He touched another one, to the east, and his eyes grew a sickly yellow and grew lazy.

He wondered if this was a good idea after all.

The group checked the other two doors in this hall. There was a bedroom covered in cobwebs that seemed to have nothing of interest, so they passed it by.

There was also a room with a shield guardian sitting there, long since inactive and seemingly broken, that they passed by.

The only thing left from here was to hug the large statue on the killing floor, opposite the stairs. Since they had momentarily killed the flame skulls on that side, they decided they were probably safe to try and sneak across.

They passed by a very well sealed door to their right, and continued behind the statute, successfully sneaking past the statue and another door. This second door was shattered. Uther remembered walking to that door with the Corrupted, the Incorruptible, and Ginny Tealeaf.

A year ago, a little ahead, they had pried open the room that they wanted to get into. After opening the doors, Ginny Tealeaf said, ““I shall I shall, ain’t nothin’ no door like me shan’t slag like a bugger! This is all ye now, I say, I say. Ye need the two of you lot for the ceremony and old Uther here to watch your keister. I’m off to find some treasure!”

Now all that was left of Ginny Tealeaf was the smashed remains of her and her cloak in front of an open vault door.

Deciding not to go in, the group continued to the other side, under the balcony on the west side.

Here they found the door that Uther had opened a year ago. Still wide open. They walked inside.

Uther remembered walking in there with the Corrupted, the Incorruptible, and Ginny. Ginny had opened the door and, apparently, gotten herself killed when she left to open a nearby door.

Uther had gone in first to make sure everything was safe. There was nothing there but the amber sarcophagi with the dark specks buried within them.

“Will this do?” The Incorruptible asked the Corrupted.

“Oh yes, oh yes,” The Corrupted responded, nearly with a sexual thrill that Uther didn’t like. The Corrupted knelt to look at the perfect blackness inside. “You will see it?”

“We both will,” the Incorruptible said as he began to lay out supplies. Uther listened while he watched the door. The Incorruptible continued, “It’ll draw toward you, and as it moves, I will see its old form and sever it at the right place, assigning it to the black infinity where it came from.”

The Incorruptible and the Corrupted worked to put a white powder around the sarcophagus and changed until the powder erupted into white flame. The Corrupted stoked the flame from outside the circle, his hands and eyes glowing, his hair beginning too and, and chanting words just under his breath.

The Incorruptible sat inside the circle, chanting holy words.

The sarcophagus began to hiss, like iron growing to hot, and then cracked. Then cracked again. And again.

The Incorruptible moved to the middle, looking at the cracks as the amber fell away while the Corrupted peeled blackness from the light in front of him.

Uther remembered looking at the Incorruptible as his eyes changed from that of a saint into a fury.

“My God,” The Incorruptible stammered, “It’s full of stars!”

He continued as darkness in the form of light illuminated him, "a shadow of horror is risen
In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific!

“Self-closed, all-repelling: what Demon hath form’d this abominable void…

“This soul-shuddering vacuum…Dark revolving in silent activity: Unseen in tormenting passions; An activity unknown and horrible.”

The Incorruptible ran his dwarf hands through his hair, his eyes never blinking, speaking words not his own "A self-contemplating shadow, In enormous labours occupied…Eternals beheld his vast forests…Age on ages he lay, clos’d, unknown Brooding shut in the deep; all avoid The petrific abominable chaos…His cold horrors silent.

“The mocking endless cry, the daemonic shoggoth, life given pattern by ancient ones with no language, no voice but the imitated accents of our byonge masters!”

He began to weep pathetically and fell to a fetal position, pulling the hair from his head muttering about a blissful blank before we existed, bleeding and broken.

Before the white fire extinguished into the darkness of the Incorruptible’s wailing sobs, Uther saw the Corrupted push his nails into his own forehead and, with a demonic grin, try to tear his own face off as tears rolled down his cheeks.

But now Uther walked into the black room with Kalotta and Baz…


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