Moe has spent the last couple of days relaxing in and around the “World’s End Inn,” a simple place in the town of Arbora, in the land of Nova Vaasa. His friends and traveling companions have agreed that their immediate futures lie on different paths from one another.
The dwarf Thurik seeks to hone is head against some rocks or something; while the half-elf paladin Thalia has her soul up for auction and wants to make a bid; and Sophia, Ava’s sister, is out to melt someone’s brain again.
“In return for giving life to those who should be dead, Grey Ravenshaw has “requested” you find an artifact known as the “Desert Flower.” The Desert Flower looks like an emerald the size of a man’s fist. The location of the artifact is unknown, but Grey believes the artifact to be somewhere within the Amber Wastes. The Amber Wastes are desert lands scorched by the relentless heat of the sun. Life is harsh and unforgiving among the land’s endless sands.
Reaching the Amber Wastes will be a difficult task in itself. The land lies hidden beyond the known lands—somewhere in the misty netherworld. The safest way to journey to this land is by a route known as “The Road of a Thousand Secrets. “This route is considered the safest and most trustworthy means to reach the Amber Wastes. The entrance to “The Road of a Thousand Secrets” is found in southern Hazlan. Hazlan is a land of ancient magic and severe oppression, found in the south of Eastland, at the southern end of the Balinok Mountains.
Grey warns he will be of no help on your journey. You will be traveling to lands far beyond his reach. But if you retrieve the Desert Flower your obligation will be fulfilled and no longer in his debt.”
The Desert Flower has been retrieved, but before the party is ready to return to Hadley everyone must go their own way. So everyone has all agreed to meet at this inn one year from today.
As the party separates and goes their own ways Moe is left to his own thoughts and where his future may take him. He ponders his future for a moment and then catches the slight aroma of fresh baked bread and before he knows what is going on, he has a sack full of fresh baked pastries which he undoubtedly paid top price and is sitting on the back of a wagon full of horse feed. Apparently while he was purchasing the overpriced muffins, he agreed to travel with a horse trader north to Bergovista, then west into Barovia. His final destination here is the Weary Horse Inn.
The Weary Horse Inn lies on the Old Svalich Road. It is a natural haven for horse smugglers, being safely within the frontier of Barovia, yet only a short ride from the bright plains of Nova Vaasa. Its owner, when queried as to his preference for Barovia over Nova Vaasa, is wont to say: “There is much that is wrong in Barovia that is true. But here it keeps to the dark.”
Over the next few days, especially after he runs out of pastries, Moe finds himself contemplating on something that Thurik said just before they departed from Arbora. “Don’t ye be gittn yerself mixed up with all that gypsy card readin’ business?” Moe thought he just meant to stay out of trouble. Then he remembers what the little Vistani girl told him about his card reading:
“The Shepherd” was selected for you because you have spent your life watching over your herd. It marks you as a loyal companion and devoted friend. On the other side because of the card drawn for your future, “The Temptress,” the card could represent you failing as a trusted friend, either accidentally or purposefully.
The second card drawn was, “The Avenger,” which represents your past. You have lived a noble life that has owed allegiance to no one… However, crimes of your past need to be rectified, you have not committed these crimes but your family has. If these crimes are left unresolved it will cause you great harm.
The third card drawn was, “The Swashbuckler,” which indicates that which opposes you. I see the Swashbuckler as a warning that you must not overindulge in your wild spirit, otherwise it will cause you ruin.
The fourth card drawn was, “The Temptress,” which represents your future. The Temptress is from the high deck so it has great power and meaning. You will be tempted in times forthcoming to leave the path of the righteous for the path of evil. I cannot see what choice you will make because it has not been decided.
The fifth and final card drawn was, “The Esper,” which represents your friend and allies. The Esper reminds us of the powers of the mind. You will find salvation in good judgment and intelligence, whether it is your own or your friends.”
Moe also remembers the dream he had when he died and the feeling he had when Lord Ravenshaw brought him back from death. The Dream of Shadows:
Deaths hand shows no compassion, or remorse, it’s final. For an eternity death has touched mortal beings and sent them to other realms. With no concern for where they went or if they would ever return, death knew only one action, to stop life, to free mortal souls and send them on their way. Today was different, today was new. Death has always been alone, forever in darkness, forever in silence, except for this day. Death reached down to touch a soul and for the briefest of a moment he hesitated, in less than a blink of an eye death was not alone. Another presence touched his hand ever so slightly. He had never experienced this before, and he reviled in the experience. The presence did not come from the meager mortal he was touching, but from something or someone far, far more powerful than a simple mortal soul. Death was enamored by this and for the first time in existence he hesitated. Death’s first thought was to reach out to the presence, but before he could do so it was gone. He continued on as he has since the beginning of time.
He knew that he will find this presence, and perhaps for the briefest of moments again he will not be alone. He only had to wait, and to Death, time has no meaning.
Moe Zwergziege was mortally wounded; he could feel his life leaking out of him. The darkness was closing in on him and things began to go silent. He knew he was dying, and the darkness was Death coming towards him. Moe was more curious than he was afraid. He has never been dead before and his last thought before Death touched him was, “I hope I still can get some biscuits.”
Just as the last bit of light escaped his mind, and Deaths grasp totally surrounded him, Moe felt a presence, was it light? he was uncertain. The darkness paused for the briefest of moments as if it too sensed this presence. Moe ran, or at least in his mind he ran towards this presence as fast as he could and just before the darkness engulfed him completely, he saw the presence, it was not darkness nor was it light, it was shadow.
Moe has died in a shadow, and stepped back into the gloominess with a bit of shadow in his soul. He now has a new purpose, the protection of this land. Moe still has a lot to learn about the Shadowfell and now is indebted to a powerful individual that can teach him more about the land of the mist. He will follow in Lord Ravenshaw’s goals…. At least for now.
Since they have recovered Al-Andalus, Moe’s path is unclear for the first time in many months or actually in a couple of years. He is now in charge of his own future, or at least the next year of it. Moe thinks to himself, “I need to figure outs how to fight these undead that have infested the lands. Who knows a lot bout killin’ Undead? Umm, let me thinks… Oh yeah that’s right! Radu! The weird guy who followed the Morninglord.”
Moe pulls out the old holy symbol that his mother gave him when he left home. The symbol was a simple, rose-tinted disc of gold. He looks it over, slips it back in his bag, and says “Now where did Radu live again?”
Moe hitched a ride over the mountain pass from the village of Bavoria to the town of Vallaki—the same mountains pass the he and his companions crossed almost about a year ago.
Moe gets a room at the Blue Water Inn, the same place he spent several months in his last visit waiting for winter to end. Moe remembers a few of the faces in the area, but no one seems to remember him. The Blue Water Inn is an ancient hunting lodge converted to the task of lodging visitors to Vallaki. It offers an excellent view of Lake Zarovich, with good quality rooms, private conference rooms, and good quality food.
Moe spends the next couple of days, quietly looking around Vallaki and discreetly asking about Radu to no avail; either Moe was mistaken that Radu was from here or he simply does not want to be found.
On the third day in Vallaki Moe spots a man who looks like a merchant or possibly a trader. The guy is watching Moe very closely. He was not watching him like he was a “mark” more like he was watching him like he knew him.
Moe did his best to try and avoid the guy, but before Moe could figure out a place to disappear, their eyes locked for a few seconds. Moe thinks to himself, “Did that guy just wink at me? Nah…” Moe glances away but after a few seconds he looks up again and the guy does it again; however, this time the winks are different because there is a hand movement and some body movement included. Moe thinks to himself, “possibly some kind of code?” Moe was uncertain, so he glances away again.
When Moe looks back at the guy, he sees that the guy is now STARING at him with a confused look on his face. Moe decides to bluff the guy and does some combinations of winks and a hand gesture or two. The man’s jaw drops for a brief moment as he suddenly looks like he just saw the dead Pharaoh Anhktepot. The man quickly leaves and vanishes into the dim light.
Moe thinks, “Wonder what I said wid my winks?”
A few nights later Moe is awakened by a large bumping noise, and a sound that is similar to flesh hitting wood. When he finally comes out of his slumber the pain in his head and his back is almost unbearable. Apparently he is in a burlap sack of sorts and just been tossed on a table or onto a wooden floor. He is bound with rope, gagged, and blind folded. He has a large knot on the back of his head and the taste of blood in his mouth.
Apparently as Moe is trying to figure out what is going on he moved around too much and he is smacked in the head, just before he falls unconscious again, he thinks to himself, “I wonder if Sophie is getting revenge on me, oh wow maybe Thurik is here lying next to him too?” Blackness.
Moe was awakened a few moments later by the smell of cat urine. After he gags a few times he finds himself tied to a chair still wearing a blind fold. He is asked by a male voice, “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
Its felt like days since Moe had eaten or had drinken anything; so he was only able to manage a scruffy sounding “Moe” and a few squeaks and grunts.
“What are you DOING here” the man protests again. Moe fumbles words and manages to say “Wa-terr.” The man gets up and moves to the other side of the room, after a few moments the man comes back to Moe and dumps a bucket of water on his head. Moe tries his best to slurp up some of the water which now has washed the dried blood down his face.
The water has moistened the blind fold enough to allow Moe to adjust his vision and see into the room. The room is completely dark except for a small candle on a table about ten feet away. Moe sees his backpack and weapons on the table. He shifts his head and sees the man he winked at holding a club of sorts. The man again says, “What are you doing here.”
Moe, now with damp lips can speak and says, “Somebody apparently stuffed me in a bag and brought me here!” Whack! Moe is thumped in the head again, and sees stars briefly. With the distraction, Moe notices that the area behind the man is shrouded in dim light; he uses his “Shade Stride” ability and teleports to the other side of the room. In a flurry of motion, now free from his restraints, Moe acts, pulling his blind fold off, he bolts right back at the man, snatching the man’s kukri from his belt and just as the man is turning around to figure out what happened. Whack! The man is knocked out.
Moe eases the man into the chair he just vacated and ties him up with the bindings. He checks the door and hears some voices that sound like they are twenty or thirty feet away, but not getting closer.
As the man starts to awaken from the exchange, Moe holds his kukri up to his throat and says, “Ssuuu, be quite and you might live.” The man eyes are wide with astonishment and whispers as quietly as possible, “Brutale”? Is that you?”
Moe interrogates, the man for the next few minutes, checks the man bindings, gags him, and slips out of the room into the hallway. Fifteen minutes later, Moe is leaving the small warehouse with a nice new kukri, which he calls “Wink,” and more information than he is ready to comprehend at the moment.
(Insight will reveal he is not telling the whole story.)
Later that night, Moe is contacted via a shadow, very much like the one that Grey Ravenshaw used. The shadow explains to Moe that it was sent here by a friend of the Ravenshaws and that he would like for Moe to come to the City of Midnight. The shadow does not explain much to Moe, other than his presence is requested and he needs to get the city as soon as possible.
The shadow explains that it will guide him to the city. The shadow will attach itself to Moe’s shadow and will guide him along the way. (Imagine Peter Pans Shadow.)
The next morning Moe leaves the town of Vallaki, never finding Radu which was his original purpose for coming to the town.
Over the next few days, Moe traveled back to Bergovitsa in Nova Vassa to pick up a pony named “Tip-Toe.” Moe says he mainly went that way because it was the way his shadow was going.
Moe travels for several days until he reaches the Shadow Rift. The Shadow Rift is a vast chasm that festers like a wound in the center of the misty lands. Its sheer cliffs drop away abruptly from the neighboring lands as if the land has simply crumbled into nothingness. While approaching the cliffs Moe meets some really mean looking creatures which call themselves the “shadow fey.” These shadow fey are hostile and are very violent towards anyone that is not “Of Shadow.”
Moe explains that he needs to head into the rift. The shadow fey warn him not to travel too deep in the rift because dangerous giants roam around the bottom of the rift. They allow him to pass because he is part shadow but warn permission would not be granted to those who are natural. Moe asked them, “You guys mind watching out for my pony, Tip-Toe?” The shadow fey agree so Moe departs towards the rift—letting his shadow guide lead the way. Moe hears the whinnying of his horse and the laughter of the shadow pixies as he gazes into the black abyss.
Roughly two hundred feet below the Rift’s edge, black vapors swirl in hypnotic patterns, an unsettling, ebon reflection of the Mists themselves. These tenebrous vapors conceal whatever lies at the bottom of the Rift. As Moe descended into the Shadow Rift, he felt a chill run down his spine, the journey to get here was not without complications.
(Insight will reveal he is not telling the whole story.)
Moe brushes off his hesitancy and continues. Luckily Moe came prepared for the climb down, however he did not expect to have company. After one hundred or so feet of climbing, Moe stops on a small ledge to catch his breath, when he turns away from the cliff and looks down into the rift his blood freezes. From the blackness he sees shadowy shapes emerging from the blackness. Bits of darkness move out of the vapors and are moving towards him. Moe glances up and then back to the shapes. “Oh, crap! There is not enough time to flee,” he thinks. So he wedges himself onto the cliff edge, checks the sturdiness of the piton he is using to anchor himself in this spot, and draws out his magical short sword and mumbles, “I am just a rock, just a fat rock… Please don’t see me….don’t see me.” He closes his eyes as the shapes get right up to him. He can feel the coldness of the shapes as they get next to him. He peeks open one of his eyes, and is staring at one of the shapes, which has eyes! Red pin point eyes and it is only a few inches away staring directly at him.
Moe says, “Hi,” as his breath is letting out a cold mist. The shape, moves back at the sound of Moe’s voice, pulsates in a grey and black pattern, and then darts directly at Moe. Moe instinctively leaps back, slamming himself against the cliff face and partially loses his grip. He immediately drops his short sword and it goes falling into the rift.
He grabs for the wall. As he catches himself, the shadow figure is on top of him. Moe’s heart stops, flashes of shadow dance around his face, swirling in and out of his mouth, eyes, and chest. He can feel the tendrils of coldness moving through his body searching and probing him. Moe lets out a giggle, “Tee he, stop that tickles.” Soon Moe notices that he is no longer holding on to the cliff face. He half expected to blink his eyes and wake up from a nightmare. Then he feels the rush of air blast him in the face and notices he is falling, his eyes begin to water as the wind is whistling in his ears. Moe thinks for a second “Wweee” and then sees that he is heading directly for hundreds more of these figures.”
Moe tries to stir away from the pack of shadow figures, back peddling and flapping his arms about, but he has no experience in flying, or rather long distant falling. So he throws his arms up in front of his face just before he is engulfed by the waiting dark tendrils. Then everything goes quiet. He peeks his face out and he is standing or rather floating among the dark clouds. The air here has no odor, and is thin, similar to the air on the top of the Balinok Mountains, and almost as cold.
He has the feeling he is in the mist again, but with a different feel. This place is darker than the mist and much colder. It’s as if he has gone into the mist’s shadow. As the shadow figures are swirling around him and under his feet a portal or door way appears in front of him along the cliff wall. He is urged to move through the portal. He steps through and time seems to stop, Moe can feel that he is being transported. The gloominess and dread that he has grown up with has now changed. He still feels that he is among the shadow, but somehow in a different location. He describes the feeling as if he was trapped in a dark and forbidding bottle, and somehow he was poured out into a dim and ominous bucket.
Moe finds himself standing on a cobblestone road leading off into the darkness in both directions. He glances about searching for his dropped short sword, but does not find it. He hears music coming from behind him, shrugs his shoulders and starts walking in the direction of the music.
The music is getting louder as Moe is walking to the music. He thinks the music is some kind of wind organ or bag pipe of sorts. The music is very eerie and off-key. Soon he can make out two figures ahead standing next to a small hill. The larger figure is moving from the small hill, picking up a handful of stones, moving them to the road, and then stomping on them a few times. Meanwhile, the smaller figure is standing behind a cart of sorts, turning a crank on the side, which is obviously where the music is coming from.
As Moe approaches the two figures through the gloom he can make them out more clearly. The large creature is a construct of sorts; its body is made up of pieces of stone, wood debris, and miscellaneous junk. The smaller creature appears to be a monkey. Not unlike the monkeys Moe had seen near the oasis outside of Har’Akir, only this monkey is larger. The monkey turns the music box crank and the golem dances. Moe thinks out loud, “Wow that is really neat!” This gets the attention of the monkey, and he stops cranking the music box. The golem stops in midstride dropping one of the stones and rolls over. Moe glances down, picks up the stone as if to bring it back to the golem. But the stone feels strange in his hand so he closely inspects the stone. Suddenly he realizes it’s not a stone but a skull. He screeches, drops the skull, and looks at the small hill, which he realizes is a pile of skulls. Moe takes a step back, looks down at the road, which is crushed skulls. He jumps off the road with a startle and involuntary shivers. The monkey, starts laughing hysterically at Moe, pointing and laughing. Moe says, “Hey, it isn’t funny, those ones were people”. The monkey stops laughing briefly, looks at the pile of skulls, then back at Moe, and starts laughing again. Moe, now a little frustrated at this monkey, picks up the skull he dropped and takes aim at the monkey. Suddenly, the monkey stops laughing and says in perfect Mordentish, “I would not do that if I were you!” The skull falls from Moe’s hand once again as his jaw almost hits the floor. Moe says “A talkin’ monkey?” The monkey responds, “I was thinking the same thing about you!”
Moe spends the next day following his shadow until it leads him to the edge of a bog. Here he negotiates with a short, evil looking Halfling for passage on his barge. Moe later learns it is not a Halfling but a “Dark One.” The Dark one takes him through a nightmarish swamp full of foul and disturbing creatures to a large city on the edge of a vast ocean. This is the City of Midnight.
To hedge out unwanted dangers from land and sea, a massive black wall encircles the city. The wall’s foundation sinks deep into the moor on land, and descends to the bottom of the shallow waters of the city’s harbor. Lanterns hanging from posts extend out from the walls and cast a sickly green light across the surrounding lands. This keeps the bog monsters at bay and wards ships away from the slimy rocks hidden just below the water’s surface. Stone limbs, hands, feet, and even faces provide macabre wall décor. These protrusions twitch and writhe, and the sounds of their laughter echoes in the cold wind that blows off the sea. More disturbing are the city gates. Carved to resemble skulls with jaws agape, these entrances mar the walls at various points. Peering eyes set in the rock watch those who pass beneath them. Worse of all, the gates don’t stay put for long, drifting along the walls as suits their fancy.
Inside the walls, the city is dank and crowded. The cityscape is a jumble of buildings piled one on top of another, with the occasional tower thrusting out from the heap to waver in the air. The structures are fashioned from the same dark stone of the walls, and feature the same curious design, complete with staring stone faces and headless torsos. Buildings seem to crane inward, as though they were eavesdropping on whispered conversations in the streets. The streets themselves are a twisting maze of passages, corridors, canals, and bridges. Disturbingly, the city’s features share the bog gates’ mobility. The city constantly shifts and changes, as if alive. New buildings sprout from uncertain depths, twisting up and out of the mass of low-lying rooms and corridors to form a new tower. Months later, the spire collapses into a heap of rubble.
Moe spends the next ten months or so learning about this place and its land. His combat and stealth skills are honed. He spends most of his days within a place he calls the Opera House. He became friends with a humanoid known as a Tiefling named Yarol. Yarol liked to gamble so he and Moe spent many nights betting on everything from dice rolls to toad racing. Yarol won some kind of house that had black lanterns during a game one night and departed shortly afterwards. He never saw him again.
Moe did a fair bit of traveling on secret missions here and there for the group at the Opera House. Moe was somewhat in the dark most of the time, but he just went along with the flow of things, grasping on to as much knowledge as he could.
Moe says, “Yep it was fun alright! I left and came back here. Can you guys help me?
I need to find Grey Ravenshaw’s dagger again.”
“Oh and I almost forgot, I brought you all some presents!”
He fumbles around in his bag and pulls out some black goggles with black lenses.
He says, “I got these off a dead keeper. These are for you Sophie. Sorry, they are a bit banged up—you’d should have seen the dead guy!”
He pulls out two identical jewelry boxes and hands one to Thurik and the other one to Thalia. He says, “I bought these in the Plaza of Gargoyles using the rest of the Pharizian gold I had.”
The jewelry boxes contain holy symbols to the Raven Queen.
Moe says to the rest of the party, “So where did you guys go?”
Everyone notices a few minor changes in Moe, he actually has a bit more of a shadowy appearance, and his short sword is now replaced with a kukri. The kukri has a skull on the pommel and has leather wrappings on the hilt with red and black stripes. His backpack is new and seems to be full of all kinds of miscellaneous trinkets now. He also has a new glow in his eyes, as if he is looking at the world with a different outlook. You also might find him writing in a small journal from time to time. His accent is a bit different, and his vocabulary is sometimes amiss. For example, he occasionally will call someone a “bloak” or a “barney.” You also may catch him whistling a tune that you have not heard before. Over all you get the general idea that Moe has gained a vast amount of knowledge and is still trying to sort through many of his thoughts.