Penitence

Dark Dreams and Black Water

An offer is made, and a favor is earned

The third day in Barovia

Though small, Kasimir Velikov's cottage felt comfortable and quaint with its folk decorations. However, Kasimir had not slept well in his own home for many months due to dark dreams—visions—sent to him by his sister, Patrina Velikova. Centuries ago, when the Curse of Strahd befell the land, Kasimir and Patrina lived among their clan: Kasimir their leader, and Patrina the clan's witch. However, Patrina sought to become the Devil's consort. As an act of punishment, but perhaps also mercy, Kasimir ordered her stoned to death. This provoked the Devil's wrath against the dusk elves and Kasimir in particular. Since then, and for reasons unknown, Kasimir has been reborn into the clan generation after generation, though still bearing the disfigurement that the Devil's henchman caused him. Months ago, he began to have dreams that he believed were visions sent by Patrina's tormented soul, which was penitent after years of torment over her betrayal of her people. She sent him visions of a "temple of amber" high up in the mountains to the south, near Mount Ghakis. She said that there was great power hidden there, including the power to return her to life.

Kasimir knew what the damned sought—as they always did—and promised to help them defy the Devil by revealing to them hidden knowledge that would help them defeat him. However, he would only reveal this knowledge if they helped him journey into the depths of the Amber Temple and find the secret that would help him restore his sister to life.

While in the Athinganoi camp, the damned sought out their leaders, two brothers named Luvash and Arrigal. Luvash was in the middle of brutally whipping a young Athinganos named Alexei, who had been the only sober one watching over the camp when Luvash's daughter, Arabelle, went missing. Arrigal restrained his brother to keep him from killing the young man. When he noticed the strangers' presence, Luvash's demeanor suddenly changed to that of a gracious host, and he welcome the strangers but was regretful that they had little wine to offer due to a delay in their delivery from the winery. He offered the strangers treasure—and his immense gratitude—if they could find his daughter, or at least get them some more wine.

Convincing Luvash to let Alexei work with them to find Arabelle, the party went to the edge of the camp, where Arabelle had last been seen a little over a day ago, having vanished as the Athinganoi's revelry carried early into the morning. Knowing about where to look, and despite the passage of time since the girl's disappearance, Mao-Ying easily picked up some tracks missed by the other search parties. Passing into the forest, they seemed to indicate a larger figure dragging a smaller one and then dragging an object alongside. They continued through the trees and then crossed the road west from Vallaki and back into the dark, silent woods, eventually exiting the woods again onto the shores of Lake Zarovich.

On the black waters of the lake, which reflected the dark clouds above like a monstrous mirror, a lone figure sat slouched over in a tiny rowboat. Observing the figure for a few minutes to determine if the man was living or dead, in his right mind or perhaps ensorcelled, they saw him pull up a sack from the bottom of his boat. Rushing to two other rowboats on the shore, they rowed as quickly as they could as the man dropped the sack into the water.

Before the sack could sink into the lake's abyssal depths, Lazlo threw off his leather jerkin and dove in like a falcon striking through the sky to grab a dove in its talons. Mao-Ying helped him back into the boat as the weight of the sack pulled toward the void, and they opened the sack to reveal a young girl whose raven-black hair was matted like seaweed over the alabaster skin of her face. Emil rushed over to resuscitate her, and the holy light that channeled from his fingertips made the girl's eyelids flutter open to reveal silvery pools.

The man in the boat, who met the description of Bluto Krogarov, the missing patron from the Blue Water Inn, sat in his boat and offered no resistance as he was hauled ungracefully back to shore. Though Arabelle was shaken and dazed, the kindness of her saviors calmed her enough to explain what had happened: Bluto appeared unexpectedly from the woods and grabbed her, stuffing her into a sack and muttering nonsense about fish, the lake, spirits—and "sacrifice." Unwilling to take Bluto to the Athinganoi camp after seeing Luvash's treatment of Alexei, they left him in the care of Irina and Ismark at the Blue Water Inn until they could interrogate him later.

Luvash was overjoyed at the return of his daughter and showered her with affection, thanking the strangers for going out of their way to save his girl's life. As promised, he and Arrigal unlocked their "treasure wagon" and let the party choose one container: they chose a wooden chest, which was heavy with aged electrum coins bearing the profile of an imperious figure with sharp features.

Though it meant drinking up the last of their wine, the Athinganoi held a celebration for Arabelle's heroes. Mao-Ying and Lazlo helped the Athinganos musicians and impressed them with their energy and skill. Inspired by the raucous music, a group of young Athinganos men begged Puck to dance with them and swooped her up into a lively whirlwind of swinging and twirling. Emil preferred to get away from the noise and returned to the church to help with the daily chores and glower at Milivoj, who glowered right back. Yaroslava stayed but remained on the sidelines of the revelry in order to watch the sky so that they did not stay past the time needed to prepare for their dinner with Lady Wachter.

The damned said goodbye to the grateful Athinganoi and returned to Vallaki to prepare for their dinner, not knowing what to expect…

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