How the Illusionist Wizard still hasn’t learned how to help others

After leaving Vallaki in a mess, went about to try and improve the overall situation of Barovia, though one incident after another things would only get worse.


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The story happens right after myself and the party escaped a Vallaki whose political land has been ruined at my very own hands. These events transpired roughly a year ago at the time of posting in an Adventurer's League Curse of Strahd campaign so spoiler alert. There would be party members that came and went and I myself missed two events so some details may be missing. The core of the group was the Tortle Cleric Franklin, the Human Paladin Harbek, the Human Nobleman Rogue Swashbuckler Giorgio, the Halfling Bardbarian Tohit, the Half-elven Sorcerer Tolthalach and myself, the High Elf Nobleman Illusion Wizard Eloran.

*Prelude*

I write these words not with pride, nor with fondness, but as a cautionary tale. Do not do as I have; do better.

Long before I have come to that cursed realm Barovia I was the eldest son of an elven family, living happily with those whom I loved, until my big sister was taken away and murdered by a company of orcs out on a hunt. I was merely 47 years at that time and I did not take it well. I locked myself for days on end for 5 years when something came to me: a majestic tabby cat with golden wings of a gryphon, a Tressym; a familiar unsummoned but sent to me. She called herself Numenera and she came to help me, sent here by my sister in my time of need from beyond the veil. As Numenera shared thoughts with me she also shared emotions and I was feeling happiness once more. In return, I freely share my mind with her, though I suspect she may be more intelligent than I… our current Dragonchess score providing proof.

Decades later, I find myself in this cursed land called Barovia; we've both managed to escape death on several occasions by now and Vallaki was engulfed by madness at my hands and we were headed east towards a rundown windmill used as a base of operations for three wicked hags selling pies laced with hallucinogenic substances. A few days earlier we have managed to legally procure the deeds to the windmill and if the tresspassers were to continue to do their business there they would have to pay rent. We knew we weren't powerful enough to take them on so we settled on inconveniencing them instead.

The initial meeting started off well and we had a foothold at the negotation table and we would have reached an agreement with Numenera resting on my shoulders ensuring no foul play would be attempted. As it happens so often in Barovia, things rarely go smoothly and during discussions they nonchalantly revealed their preferred dish: human children, fact that angered our paladin, Harbek. He quickly lashed out assaulting the lead hag, barely wounding her and sealing our fate. The response was brutal: one of the hags turned Giorgio into a toad, the second put the fear of all gods into Tolthalach. The third let out a cackle and conjured a Lightning Bolt, hitting as many of us as she could: Harbek, Franklin and myself… and Numenera. I recovered in time just to see my beloved companion slowly turn into particles of golden dust and fly away into etherealness. With her something else was taken from me, the realm was that much darker without her, but something else took it's place, something I haven't felt in decades. An unbridled rage washed over me and I no longer cared whether I'd live or die, but the hags would pay.

My power were not enough. The hags shrugged off every illusion I threw at them and they were unphased by the relentless assault of my group. Myself, Harbek and Franklin were taken down while Tohit, Giorgio and Tolthalach managed to escape. The three of us left in the windmill were kept alive, caged and at the mercy of our captors.

I woke up first with a clearer head, followed by Harbek and Franklin. The hags were quick to proclaim their victory and stated their demands, but I wad none of it. The windmill belonged to me, which meant I was in control of who could be invited. If Lord Strahd foiled my plans in Vallaki, he shall protect his little amusement when it's required; or so I've threatened the hags. They changed their tune in a heartbeat and released all three of us. I've even given them the deed to the windmill in exchange for a favor I would ask of them later so long as I would not ask them to go against Strahd or his forces. It's at this point our Tortle Cleric left the group.

We continued our journey westwards, we wanted to reach Krezc and to do so we needed a reason to be let in. Fortunately, back in Vallaki we were told there's a winery south of Krezc and they are late on their deliveries of win to the city and their courieris are given free entrance. It took us two days to reach the winery; two bleak days with no joy to be found and a nightmare in the middle of my trance, a nightmare of Numenera dying and crying for help…

Out of character: While Numenera is a familiar from the Find Familiar spell, the wizard didn't cast the spell and so he can't bring her back with it and she can't return because she needs a body which she gains from the Feywilds. And since this is Barovia, her souls is trapped in there unable to pass.

When we reached the winery, we found the owner and his family not in the house, but in the forest roughly 500 feet from the building, hiding and scared. They told us a few druids came with an army of living twigs and took over the place, stealing a magical gem used to grow their grapes. In return for driving out the druids, they promised they would give us wine to deliver to Krezc and a large bonus upon the return of the gem. Our plan was simple and effective: Tohit would alert the animated twigs and lure them together for Tolthalach to hit with a few fireballs, while Harbek, Giorgio and I would take care of the stragglers. We defeated the twigs and the druids, leaving one alive for interrogation to tell us where to find the stolen gem.

It's here I had to leave for a session so I don't have all the details, but the gist of it is the druids were attempting to create a plant golem using the gem as a catalyst of growth. The group managed to take down the druids before the ritual was completed and retrieved the gem, then camped out in the clearing.

Meanwhile I was struck with nightmares, each one showing me more of Numenera, her agony and her soul wandering. The deeper I went, the more I started to understand, there was a way to bring her back. I woke up and asked to see the magical gem and I started pouring all my magic into it. I did not know if it would work, it all might have been delusions of a man in grief, but I would not forgive myself if I wouldn't have tried. The gem started pulsating green and slowly rising in the air. The pulses started becoming rythmic, like heartbeats and veins would grow from the gem until they formed a shape all too familiar: a feline with a pair of large wings. The ritual would then form an etheral outline of Numenera and slow down. Her physicality would take time to fully form, but she was back and she was alive, that is all that mattered to me. And with that, the sky seemed a few shaders brighter in spite of the permanent clouds blocking the sun. This meant I could no longer return the gem to the winemakers, I needed it and I would not allow anyone to take Numenera away from me ever again.

However, there were two similar gems in Barovia, one lost and another in the posession of a powerful entity, a hag older than any other who taught all the others the art of magic.

We returned to the winemaker, feigning ignorance about the gem and hiding Numenera from their sight. While not pleased, they honored their end of the deal and gave us wine to deliver to Krezc. We continued our journey to remove Strahd from power, however that is a story for another time.

At some point, Harbek received a message in his dreams; the hags were summoning us to them; they wanted to enter a contract with us. Revenge was in my grasp, if I could have them sign a contract nad make it magically binding, I could shatter their little coven and allow us to fight them one by one.

I collected as many yellow flowers and herbs as I could, boiled them and made ink. After coating a piece of parchment in it, i poured what remained into a bottle. With help from Numenera, I was able to write up a contract with clauses asking the hags to retrieve the magical gem from their former tutor and clauses in case they are unable to perform the task. It was a simple and fair contract that would ensure the safety of both the party and the hags while they would attempt their retrieval. On the second page, after signatures I've started writing in yellow ink additional clauses that would restrict the hags' movements whether or not they would be able to complete the task. The ownership of the windmill would be transferred back to me, the hags would not be allowed to harm us in any direct or indirect way and they wouldn't be allowed to come within a mile of each other. However, the restrictions would come into effect only after 5 days have passed. We wanted the hags to have a good chance at finding and bringing us the gem.

When we met the hags I handed our DM a read-only document with the contract and written in white the hidden clauses. The hags failed to spot any issues with the contract and happily signed it informing us the task will be impossible. In return, we would have 200 days to convince the mayor – now King – of Vallaki to allow Pie trade. That was fine by me, 200 days would be more than enough to hunt down each hag one by one. As the hags leave to attempt to bring the gem, we discover a child kept in a cage. The group decides to free her and ensure her safety for the time being.

Fast forwarding a few days days, I've missed a couple of sessions due to real life. The group went on adventuring and four days after the contract was signed, the child was kidnapped. Harbek received another message in his dreams; the hags knew of the hidden clauses and took the child back. The contract was still in effect though and they requested the group's presence to hand over ownership of the windmill. There, the partyy found the child in the clutches of one of the hags. They would not stand for it and they jumped at her with everything they had, killing her in an instant, voiding the mutual guarantee of safety clauses and the entire contract. I wasn't upset about it when I found out since the contract managed to serve it's purpose, breaking the coven and weakening the hags. We have never been bothered by the other two ever since.

Days later we found ourselves camping for the night in a clearing, no predators nearby and an unusually calm night. Numenera has grown accustomed to her new body with the bone structure, musculature, organs and skin fully formed, there was only a matter of time for her fur to grow back to it's old galmor.

That night, while trancing in my tent, the camp was attacked by a murder of crows, turning into humanoids as soon as they landed. They rushed for my tent where they found me. Before I could react, they lunged forwards, but not to me. With a quick strike, Numenera was once again dying right next to me, powerless to help her, her body vanishing before my eyes leaving only the gem. The assaulter took the gem and started running; his final mistake. Learning some tricks from my friends, I incinerated the assailant on his 5th step together with four or five of his comrades. The party killed the rest; we left no survivors…

After the onslaught we inspected the corpses of the fallen, one stood out, we all recognized his face. It was one of the winemaker's children.


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