Curse of Strahd

A campaign for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game.


A Drowning Averted

The Old Svalich Road, east of Vallaki and south of Lake Zarovich

Gideon's muscles burned as he dragged the overweight man fully ashore. He awkwardly lowered him to the ground with as much care as possible, but with little grace, due to the man's bulk.

Propping the limp but heavy man up against a convenient rock was itself difficult, the dead-weight drunkard providing no assistance in the process. Gideon noted that there was at least some movement in his glassy-eyed vacant stare, and enough reeking breath uttering forth from his lungs, to confirm that he had not yet departed this life for the next.

Gideon thanked Sarenrae for that small mercy, at least. He sank to his knees for a moment to recover himself, massaging the still-burning muscles of his right forearm from his exertions.

The sound of movements stirred him from his exhaustion, and anger coursed through him as he found time to consider what had just transpired. With force of willpower he clamped down upon that anger, remembering the wolf for whom that anger was like nectar, but failed to suppress it entirely. He turned and cast an irritated glare in Kromdenlin's direction.

"I am a Paladin of the Order of the Everlight's Flame," he began through gritted teeth. "I follow the tenets of Sarenrae. I do not issue death sentences, least of all without knowing the entire story."

Krom had stopped in shock and confusion at this, and Gideon continued without pause, gesturing at the barely-conscious man next to him with one hand.

"This man is not beyond redemption, not yet at least, and until that threshold is met, my actions will be tempered by compassion and thoughtfulness. Not a rash haste for bloodshed."

Krom recovered enough to protest. "I was merely trying to subdue him, before someone ended up in the water! It was only supposed to shock him, but he went up like a torch - how was I to know the fool was doused in alcohol?"

Gideon took a few more breaths, and calmed himself further. He had to remind himself once again that he was no longer among fellow paladins, and indeed even the very name of Sarenrae seemed to mean little-to-nothing to the inhabitants of these dark lands. He needed to be more understanding of that, and more watchful for circumstances that could spiral out of control without a steadying hand.

Over by the rotting dock, there was a splash of water and a gasp as Yonna's head briefly emerged from the lake from air, before returning under the gentle ripples of the lake to continue conversing with the shark. His new companions were certainly unusual, of that there was no doubt.

Returning his eyes to land, Gideon saw the young girl standing pale and shivering on the shore next to Glendore, who was checking her over for injuries. She seemed physically fine, to Gideon's relief, although the whiteness of her knuckles as she clenched her toy bear close gave sign of the emotional trauma that undoubtedly lurked within. He noted that she was already wrapped in Krom's cloak, as a bulwark against the cold. He softened at that, and reminded himself that despite the rashness of Krom's action, his intentions had been noble - to protect the girl.

"He was going to throw her in the lake, in a sack," muttered Krom after a few seconds, in indignant self-defence. "There's no excuse for that."

Gideon glanced back at the oblivious, red-faced man, and brought forth all the compassion his faith in Sarenrae could provide. "Perhaps not... but we do not know his torments," he explained. "We do not know what brought him to this point. He reeks of alcohol, and in these tainted lands that may not be the only thing poisoning his mind. We have already witnessed and heard of some of Strahd's loathsome powers, and his inescapable presence and influence - this man may well be of that devil's party, perhaps even without knowing it, although I admit I fail to see how the death of a Vistani girl could be Strahd's intent."

"Fair enough," accepted Krom grudgingly. "But what do you propose we do with him now? We have no time to wait for him to sober up, we barely have the daylight to reach Vallaki as it is."

Gideon cast his eyes up at the already-darkening skies, and nodded in agreement. "No, and nor can we simply leave him out here in the wilderness - and I don't propose to join him here for the night, either," he said, eyeing the lengthening shadows of the looming trees, and the impenetrable darkness that lay beyond them. "We'll have little choice but to carry him, somehow," he continued, although his muscles ached again at the prospect.

Krom snorted at the suggestion. "You go ahead, Gideon. Alas, my shoulders won't reach high enough to help support him."

Gideon nodded in acceptance, and turned back to the drunken man. Kneeling beside him, Gideon offered up his waterskin to the man, who grabbed it eagerly.

"I apologise for our... overzealousness," Gideon stated carefully, although the man seemed to have already forgotten the recent incendiary state of his clothes - not to mention the burns on his skin, already healed by Sarenrae's grace. "I will, however, require an explanation from you for your actions," he continued, more sternly. The man seemed not to hear, as he greedily and clumsily upended the waterskin at his mouth. It seemed like barely half of the clear liquid found that gaping orifice, the rest splashing down over his chin and down onto his clothes. After a second, the blotchy red face of the man twisted at the realisation that the liquid was merely water, and he lowered the waterskin in disappointment.

He suddenly registered Gideon's presence again, and tried in vain to focus his watery eyes upon the paladin. "Got any wine?" he asked, hopefully, before letting forth a vigorous belch that sent an eyewatering invisible murk in Gideon's direction.

Gideon sighed, and offered up another silent prayer for Sarenrae's patience.