Curse of Strahd

Celestial Overseers

“Shamsiel, the child has begun her trials!”

Atop the pristine peaks of Mount Celestia, an iridescent figure hovers before an ornate brazier with blue fire. Images of a young, dark haired girl shimmer between the flames.

“Indeed, Erela. I have great confidence in this one.” The deva’s voice rings out like a gentle chorus of cellos.

“But why this one, Shamsiel? She has so many…weaknesses,” squeaks Erela, buzzing around and flickering like a lantern caught in a windstorm.

“Flaws are quite different than weaknesses. Admittedly, she lacks confidence, experience, and she is plagued with self-doubt. The child knows nothing of her own potential. But most importantly, she is afraid.”

“She’s afraid!” hums Erela. “How could she ever be a hero with so much fear in her heart?”

Shamsiel’s white eyes gleam in the light of the fire. “For now, fear is her greatest strength. Only those who are intimate with fear can truly value courage.”

Erela turns a bright shade of pink and flies circles around Shamsiel’s head. “Let us assume she discovers courage. Even then, she lacks devotion! She has shunned the gods and curses her life. That resentment festers in her!”

“Look closer, my friend,” Shamsiel leans in, almost brushing against the blue flames. “Despite a life of hardship, she is good. She knows compassion. Most souls would turn dark from such adversity, but instead she learned empathy. She is a champion for the downtrodden, an ideal that will take her far.”

“Having ideals means nothing without motivation,” sings Erela, now perched on Shamsiel’s shoulder. “What is stopping her from turning back? What drives her onward?”

At this, Shamsiel laughs. It is a symphony of warmth and joy that parts the clouds and sends rays of light across the mountainside. The blue flames in the brazier explode and dance, illuminating the image of the young girl with perfect clarity. She huddles in the corner of a dusty room, face wet with tears.

“Belonging. She knows she was not meant for this world, for this life. It tugs at her. It bonds her with this quest. She will do whatever it takes to find out where she needs to be. To find out where she is needed.”

Joslyn glances up as if peering through the flames. Her body is trembling, but her eyes are calm.

The Tarokka Reading

Madam Eva drew the cards slowly from her sleeve, shuffling them haphazardly with bony hands, smiling and cackling at the group in her tent.

"This card tells of history," she says as she gestures for one of them to draw the first card. "Knowledge of the ancient will help you better understand your enemy." The adventurer draws a Six of Glyphs. "The Anarchist. I see walls of bones, a chandelier of bones, and a table of bones—all that remains of enemies long forgotten."

"The next card tells of a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope." She gestures again for another member of the party to draw the second card: the One of Coins. "The Swashbuckler. I see the skeleton of a deadly warrior, lying on a bed of stone flanked by gargoyles."

"Your third card is a card of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of vengeance: a sword of sunlight." She waits for the third card to be drawn, the Four of Swords. "The Mercenary. The thing you seek lies with the dead, under mountains of gold coins."

The old crone sets aside her cards and pulls a new set out of her other sleeve.

"Now this card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness. Please," she says, asking another party member to draw this card. She laughs when they pull the Artifact card. "Look for an entertaining man with a monkey. This man is more than he seems."

"And finally," she whispers, "our last card." She pauses. "Your enemy is a creature of darkness, whose powers are beyond mortality. This card will lead you to him!" As the final card is drawn, she does not even glance at it, staring the adventurers in the eye one by one. "The Innocent," she intonates. "He dwells with the one whose blood sealed his doom, a brother of light snuffed out too soon."

She watches the adventurers eagerly, leaving the cards at rest on the table, ready to answer questions but divulge little.


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