They Paved Paradise (And Put Up A Monsterous Monlithic Sacrifice To Their Demonic Gods)

Further Misadventures with Kavan and the Mind Fog

The group rode in relative silence the next day. Their destination lurked in their minds like silt in a pool and their victories, though seeminly prodigious, seemed to pale whenever they considered what was to come next.

“It would be wise, my dear, if we escorted you back to the village,” Malakai was explaing to the stony-faced Tanya. “Our quest will henceforth be leading us directly into the maw of the beast, as it were. You would be safest returned to your family.”

“So that’s it then?” asked Tanya angrily. “Forget that I’ve as much right, if not more, to see Strahd suffer, you’re just going to get rid of me?” She punctuacted her response with fierce gesticulations, forcing Vampensh, whom she rode with, to work harder to keep his horse in check.

Although she was ostensibly replying to Malakai’s reasoned explanation, her vehement reply seemed more directed at Uther, who rode ahead of them. He looked apologetic, but said nothing.

“I’m afraid that’s best, yes. Though I don’t doubt your resolve, your sword arm leaves much to be desired.” Malakai smiled, his face awash in condescention masked by concern.

He was about to continue when Huge called a warning from the head of the column. He pointed down the track to a distant figure, wreathed in mist. They rode forward, the mists closing around the approaching person as if deliberately seeking to frustrate their efforts to identify the stranger.

As the distance between them closed, Uther spurred his horse and turned it, blocking the track ahead of them. “Halt,” he called into the mist, feeling for the familiar presence of evil. “Identify yourself, stranger.”

A slender figure on horseback trotted out of the mists. “I am no stranger,” came the familair, confident reply. The figure threw back a hood. “It is I, Ireena Kolyana. I ride to Castle Ravenloft, to seek its master.” She drew a shining blade from her waist, levelling it at them. “I would have words with him, and you will not stop me.”

“Nor shall we, and indeed welcome your company” replied Malakai. “But before we do…” He reached for the holy symbol at his neck and focussed his divine power on Ireena, sending forth a blast of positive energy that would have sent any number of Strahd’s undead thralls scarpering.

Ireena, however, didn’t even flinch. She remained stoic even as Vampensh cast a powerful abjuration on her, seeking to banish any unseen magical compulsions she might be under.

“I apologise if we seem brusque,” said the mage as he completed the casting. “These are dangerous times, and we must take no chances.”

Ireena nodded and sheathed her blade. “I understand.”

Abruptly, the mists around them closed, and the party suddenly felt the fearful effects of the mind-affecting fog pressing in on them.

“Gods, not again,” muttered Vampensh as he felt the familiar prickling of fear looming in his mind. Awash in the magical effect, he, Haradrim, and Grul succumbed to fear and bolted blindly down the road.

Uther spurred his horse after his fleeing comrades. “I’ll catch them and meet you soon,” he shouted to Malakai and Huge, who had just noticed someone else approaching them through the mist.

“Barabarian!” called a coase, familiar voice. “Is this not our time?” The mists swirled and revealed Kavan’s muscular bulk. He grinned maliciously and hefted a huge sword.

Huge drew his own weapon. “It’s always time.” He pulled his collar down, revealing the bite marks from his last encounter with the daywalking vampire. “I owe you a debt of pain.”

Kavan roared and charged at Huge, who smoothly drew his trident and set it in the ground against the charging vampire. Kavan barreled into him, the slam instantly draining Huge of his energy. He held fast though, near impaling Kavan on his trident. The vampire growled and stumbled sideways, clutching at his torso – so he never saw Malakai coming.

The cleric strode towards the bleeding vampire, his holy symbol glowing with divine power. “So you’re the famous Kavan the Grim?” He reached out a hand, channeling the pent up divine energy into the outstretched limb. “I have a message for your master.”

A ray of powerful light lept from his palm and lanced into the wounded vampire. Engulfed in the searing beam, Kavan howled in pain. He doubled over, his hair dangling lank over his contorted face, fangs bared in open defiance of the two defenders. “We’ll finish this later,” he growled.

With a dull whoosh, he faded into a cloud of gas a dissapeared into the mist.

“Run all you want!” shouted Huge after him. “I’ll ‘ave your teeth on m’ necklace yet, coward!”

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