The road wardens took some time recovering from the attack to tend to their wounded, scan the horizon for more attacks, and collect their much-awaited bread from the overturned cart. While they did this, however, there was a commotion coming from inside of the main building, and it seemed as if the people who had taken shelter in the structure during the bread debacle were now running out. Milosh was the only one with enough situational awareness to notice this, and was the first to rush in through the doors. Inside, after struggling through the fleeing crowd, he came upon one of the wardens left to watch Lucinda and Schneideldorf, now crawling down the hall bloodied and half-crazed. He managed to stammer something about a monster that he and the other library garrison members tried to fight, and then slumped against the wall in pain and exhaustion.
Upon reaching the library, Milosh found it in disarray, although no vicious creatures could be seen inside. Books were scattered all about, and the cage where Schneideldorf had been languishing looked to have been torn open from the inside. The scholar (the one we didn’t like) was still inside, now quite dead, with his head bent sideways at an unnatural angle. His condition was confirmed by Milosh with a few quick pokes of his sword. The other scholar (that we do like) was missing entirely, although there was a fair amount of blood splashed on the floor around her desk and a trail of it leading towards the cage. Milosh questioned another one of the guards, unconscious on the floor of the room, whom he slapped back into wakefulness. Lucinda had been taken, the bookwarden relayed, by a huge creature who appeared out of thin air along with a few of the cultists, presumably during our battle with the unbread cohorts of Nedsdad. The cultists even had a message for Lucinda before beating her into unconsciousness – “Blood begets blood. He wishes to speak with you”. And now they probably are.
There were only a few signs of the cultists’ presence here – the overturned shelves and general destruction, a lingering, horrific stench like sulfur mixed with rotting flesh, and the glimmering, sparkling remnants of what appeared to be teleportation magics inside of the shattered cage (said I, after Mads and I arrived in the library to look for Milosh). The magical effects were still lingering enough for us to analyze them, and my conclusion was that it was a medium range, intraplanar portal with a geographical offset of some distance to the east, probably near the city of Barovia. But this wasn’t very accurate, and we were somewhat fond of Lucinda (I was, at least), so we decided to bend our magical might to the task of her immediate rescue. And by magical might, I mean Sebastian, whom we convinced to hold open the link until we could set up for a ritual. Inside the cage, we constructed a tent covered in bizarre runes of Mads’ design, and Sebastian and I worked together to pull the portal back open and hurl ourselves through it. And we did! After a three-hour casting, and without even one of us being torn apart in a magical maelstrom of destruction. Which, in hindsight, was very much a possibility.
We appeared on a rough trail leading through dark woods, the floor of the bookcage translocated with us and still underfoot (along with a sizable chunk of Schneideldorf), but even in the dim light it was not difficult to find the footprints of a large, clawed creature imprinted on the path, along with the boots and acid-scorched dirt that was the sign of the cultists. The trail had the stink of them, literally. We followed it until a hour or so after sunset, at which point we came to a large clearing containing a single-room-sized shack, probably a woodcutter’s or hunter’s, and a large, stench-emanating barn, both backed by a rocky cliff with a sliver of the moon rising over them. On the path between the woods and the shack stood two cultists around a small campfire, watching the path and the boundary of the woods.
Mads went off on his own to scout the area and skillfully avoided the gaze of the two guards, making his way up to a window on the side of the house. Although his view was obscured by a curtain, he could see the rough silhouette of one person sitting on a chair and another two people walking around inside the structure. No one was speaking, and the person in the chair did not appear to be struggling. He then made his way back to us to report. We decided to go smash-and-grab on the shack, with Mads getting into position under the window once again and jumping in to break the person in the chair (Lucinda, we hoped) free and drag her out of the shack before her guards could react, while the rest of us rushed the sentries to keep them and whatever-was-in-the-barn occupied long enough to let Mads and hopefully-Lucinda escape.
So we did just that! Or something approximating that, at least. Mads blinked into the room in a blur, but instead of cutting Lucinda free immediately (it was, in fact, Lucinda), he attacked her captors, who were definitely of a higher calibre than the average cult thug. This gave her torturer time to put his dirty hands on her skull, to what effect we did not know. Meanwhile, as Milosh and I charged the campers, a massive demon-thing exploded out from under the barn and counter-attacked, nearly decapitating Milosh. We could only keep its attention on us for a few moments, but it was enough for Mads to finally get back in on the plan, dump Lucinda out of the chair away from surely-not-death-with-one-touch guy and hurl himself and her out of the shack’s window, followed by the cackling laughter of those inside. Seeing that he was free, Milosh and I turned and ran from the demon and the remaining cultists.
We retreated to the south, keeping one step ahead of our pursuers, and finally came to the shores of Lake Zahrovich, dark and glistening in the weak moonlight. On the other side glowed the lights of the city of Barovia. If only we could reach it…