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Author Topic: The Van Couvenhoven Report ~ Riveting Tales of Adventure & History  (Read 392 times)

Meduegna

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[A new publication makes it's way around Barovia and the Keep of the Dyad...]

« Last Edit: March 22, 2023, 10:24:17 PM by Meduegna »

Meduegna

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Re: The Van Couvenhoven Report ~ Riveting Tales of Adventure & History
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2023, 02:03:02 PM »
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THE VAN COUVENHOVEN REPORT PRESENTS:
EPISODE I ~ JOURNEY TO CASTLE STAFANDUL 2/11/778

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INTRODUCTION
Godaag, Buna Ziua, but more universally... Good day! It comes with great pride to introduce the 'Van Couvenhoven Report'! Written within these articles contain scholarly reports and first hand accounts of great adventures into history and archeology all around the core! Seeing as this is our very first episode, I believe I will take some time to introduce myself. My name is Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven, historian and archeologist of Kartakass! Ever since I was a young boy, I have been enamored by songs and stories of lands distant and father. This joy for tales would evolve into a passion for history when I became a man, and then as I became a father I was able to tell the very stories and songs of my childhood and pass them to my own son. Today I travel the world not only to create my own stories and scholarly reports, but to learn about the past and the very rich culture of the world around us. I have decided to begin my journey in history rich Barovia and have since then met some very bright individuals with scholarly minds and knightly bravery.

With this group of talent individuals I have founded the 'Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers'! A guild dedicated to the scholarly pursuits of history and archeology. For those who don't know us, our mission statement: We are an academic group who are interested in the study of culture, history, and mysteries of the lands we visit. We are NOT interested in participating in politics of the realm, changing the way of life for the citizens who inhabit that realm, nor are we interested in impressing any kind of morals upon the populace. Our endeavors exist purely to document and expand academic understandings of the world we live in. The spirit of our group is strictly scholarly though we are happy to help uncover lost historical artifacts for the people and return them to the most proper of hands.

Within this episode you will read about our very first major journey into Castle Stafandul or as it is now known: Von Zeklos Keep. This is a written first hand account of our journey into the keep and events leading up before it. At the end I will write a section of concluding thoughts, a discussion on our thesis for the Barovian area, and an insight into our next adventure. Remember: a proud people comes with a proud history.
— Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven, Founder of the Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers

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Interview with Toret Matthew Garrett
by Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven

The decision to learn about the history of Von Zeklos keep began with our usual sunday meetings. Several options had been posed to our team of scholars but the one that captured the groups interest the most was Von Zeklos Keep. Von Zeklos keep is an old castle located to the West of Vallaki that is currently occupied by 4th sect Ezrites in Wachter lands. When I had announced our interest in exploring the keep I was reached out to by one Toret Matthew Garrett who wished to speak with me about the expedition and was willing to provide some background history on the topic.

I met with the Toret in Vallaki's noble district, he was a man with blonde hair and a friendly smile. A very mordentish gentleman indeed. I was taken to the rectory where we would discuss the expedition and what he knew about the history of Von Zeklos Keep.

Bartholomeus: "I am curious. What is the history of the keep, and how did it come to be under Ezran control?"

Toret Garrett: "The Keep has passed through many hands over the years. The first Boyars were the Toamna family.  The original name of the place was Castle Stafandul."

Bartholomeus: "What years did it hold such a name?"

Toret Garrett: "From two thirty one to roughly three twenty six."

Bartholomeus:  "Nearly a hundred years! So what was this family and how did they come to lose the keep?"

Toret Garrett: It was gifted to the Toamnas by the Princess General Nicoletta von Zarovich. I will recount the tale as I know it. The Castle was completed in two hundred and sixty one. It contained a Chapel to a now forgotten God. No records of its patrons are found or known. In two sixty, a plague was visited upon the Toamnas. It's source is unknown. Each member of the family fell. In the year three hundred and fifteen BC, Beatix Toamna was the last of her line; she was sick, childless, and without suitor. There are whispers in diaries and letters of necromancy and dark arts. She along with the servants, six priests of the forgotten God, and one acolyte named Gregory Pura were found in the chapel. In three hundred and twenty six, a serf wrote of the victory of Strahd von Zarovich I against the Tergs. In his letter, he openly wondered if and when a Boyar would return to haunted Castle Stafandul.

In the mid six thirties BC, the Castle was givent o the von Zeklos. SIlvestru von Zeklos was the first Boyar in three hundred years. The von Zeklo became worshippers of Ezra. Unfortunately, they also became obsessed with immortality. The land cursed since the time of Toamna began to permeate and influence the von Zeklos, their servants, and even the Home Faith anchorites of the Church of Ezra. Nicoletta von Zeklos was the last Matriarch of the family. She was born in Seven thirty one and she died in seven fifty three. In her time at the keep, she became a follower of the heresy called the 'Wurtbeicht'."

Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven: "What do the Wurtbeicht believe?"

Toret Garrett: The Wurtbeicht accepted a twisted profession of faith drawn from the land itself that the final revelation of Ezra is that undeath is the way to conquer the Mists and live forever.

The Toret would then explain to me how the Wurtbeicht became a threat when they openly scorned the Count. This lead to the action as nearly all the heretics were put to the sword. The Count did not want to name a new Boyar afterwards and instead left the land in the hands of Lord Wachter another Ezrite faithful. The keep itself would soon come under the oversight of Fourth sect Ezran forces.

This discussion with the Toret proved to be an excellent introduction to the topic that I brought up with our group at our next meeting. Positions were named, I was the Captain of the expedition and our second in command Nifretiri had taken up the honor of documenting our exploration of the keep.

 

illustrations in order: A ghoul from the Von Zeklos Crypt, A ritual chamber hidden behind a painting, specters of Castle Stafandul's protectors

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Journey into Castle Stafandul
Written by Nifretiri & Disclaimer and editing by Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven

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What you will find in theses passages may shock and disturb you. The Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers are a team of PROFESSIONALS and we explore historical sites knowing full well what kind of dangers may lie ahead. That being said, we strongly recommend that you do NOT try to follow our footsteps. What you do is your own choice at the end of the day, but do not say you were not warned. Stay out of abandoned historical sites and leave such ventures to the professionals for the safety of yourself and others.

~ Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven, Founder of the Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers
The entourage of Society of Van Couvenhoven assembles at the rustic inn "The rustic Belvedere", the day was over noon, nearing evening.

Four attendees: Neb Bartholomeus, nebets Nissa and Naur and a stranger: Seretse Akoro

Intentions are to start travel in the morn, towards the crypts. Foul rumors speak of darkness dwelling in the lower crypts, ancient, otherworldly.

Briefing follows: Toret Garret requests, no papers are taken out from the keep during the expedition, these are supposedly cursed. All things be only recorded in written form, in this journal.

"Adventure, Huzzah!" - Proclaimed by neb Bartholomeus.

The mood was beginning foul, wary. Nebet Naur spoke of bad memories, of these cursed halls and keeps.

Outside the Raduta Keep, a pair of Ezran faithful join the entourage:

A brief sight-seeing of the Raduta keep perimeters: The lake, where from the dead supposedly rise during night at midnight. During winters, the dead scrape and claw at the thick ice with hunger and desire .. A cursed spot, certainly.. The Ezran faithful regarded the sunken dead with consideration only as group of monsters, heretics perhaps. The very grounds near the water seemed wilted and void of life.

As the entourage approached the ancient crypts, the gates were already open. An earlier group already entered within? Or perhaps something more foul. The group prepared duly, with powers of both the arcane and the gods, before entry into the darkened crypt ways.

As the party entered the ancient crypt-halls, the flow was already littered by vanquished undead. But not too far into the crypts, the party was waylaid, ambushed by the crawling undead from the walls ..

A foul dark sigil was found by the altars with note from a fleeing person, an Ezrite, or Barovian? Uncertain. He wrote escaping from the clutches of the undead, and an "Orb" that was below the levels. What was this orb..?

The ancient crypt-halls appeared to be forgotten place of worship, perhaps on the upper levels. Basins of water and grand architecture decorated the floor. But today, only cobweb and the cursed dead.

We came across a vast expanse of void, leading down. Some spoke of Wurtbeich? A strange thing to be found, as if it was either part of the rock the crypt was built above. It appeared that a structure of a bridge was left by the edge of the chasm, to where, remains unclear.

Even a stone dropped into the chasm could not truly speak of its vastness, no sound was ever heard from it hitting the bottom .. It was unclear, what the bottomless darkness was hiding ..

The mood was taking shape of paranoia, shadows and bats were apparently cause for concern.

The party delved further down into a chasm of darkness. The massacre of past guardians greeted us, it was related to the note written in above level. Something of darkness, that came from beyond.

A legion of ravenous shadows protected the lower chambers, a dark, giant orb settled .. Nestled in the middle, it pulsed with malevolent foul power. Dark whispers echoed silently in the chamber.

An ancient plaque was prominently decorated by the back of the ancient, cursed crypt: "Here lies the servants of Ezra" Neb Bartholomeus suspects this was the place of the burial of heretics of old, to the faith.

In the cursed orb tombs, there was no sign of Ezran artefacts, or otherwise important lore.

~THE CRYPT, LOWER LEVEL~

More undead and cobwebs, dust await in the crypts proper, the maze-like architecture provided graves and resting place for innumerable amount of dead.

The cursed undead attempt to pose resistance, but our party was well-prepared to deal with the measly zombie and skeletons.

The middle of the lower crypts was centered by a wide-designed hall housing prestigious sarcophagus for the dead. Old dead, skulls, littered the hall-floors. A symbol, a sphere was depicted at the center of the room. Some spoke of this "Andral" again, perhaps the ancient symbolism was related.

A topic was discussed: a matter of dating the keep proper and even the crypts. Since the symbolism was not truly related to Ezran faith. Nebets Nissa and Naur, with their prior research, were able to find more information. From years 231 to 241, it was written that the faith of "Andral" was prevalent.

Some items found support this study, from more ancient origin than the Ezrite date.

The Andral faith, apparently disappeared alongside the Terg, for whatever reasons.

~THROUGH THE SECRET DOOR FROM CRYPTS, INTO THE SECRET CAVERNS~

As was scouted by nebet Nissa prior: A secret passage was found from the crypt ways, leading towards, somewhere. Giant bats delved the dark, they were hungry for any morsel of meat they could settle their fangs upon.

The weight of adventure was settling upon our leader, hunger .. The hunger .. We can only hope the rations will last throughout the expedition.

The formation of the caves was natural, by the looks of it, perhaps by happenstance. There was some markings of excavations, perhaps not truly natural after all. A thorough searching was conducted, but no other pathways were found, other than the original.

The party was again, waylaid and ambushed by foulest creatures of darkness. They were pitch-black and bloodthirsty.

The rest of the cavern way slithered and forked along in unexpected turns, after each dark turn, some shadow or beast awaiting for easy meal. Of all things, a living mass of mold, poisonous, a remark by one of the members of the party.

It is suspected, the tunnels were excavated well before the current date. With more primitive tools.

The bats are humongous .. Flap-Flap .. You can hear them coming, from afar ..

Coal-rich sources, seams were also found in the cavern ways.

The further corridors were filled with humanoid shapes, of slimes and disgusting things. What foul power could had bestowed this. Sickening olive color to them. The foul creatures had changed shape the very stone they dwelled on, green in color, foul in odor.

Our leader, tempting fate and disgusting pools of slime, almost felling into its slimy doom .. Fortunately for him, his balance was just enough to safe himself from a foul fate.

"Bwhahahaha!..."

~ACSENION TO THE KEEP~

Another ambush, by ghostly armors, wraiths.

The party entered into the Keep proper, part of the battlements, a wing-structure of either end. It was difficult to say for directions, travelling so long in the underground caverns at this point.

The battlements were fiercely protected by these ghostly armored wraiths to no end.

The guard-rooms were long abandoned, signs of struggle and brawling were evident. It had been long since any man or woman settled these halls, a realm of deathly wraiths only. The armories were long abandoned, leaving weapons and armor within' for anyone to claim.

Through a secret passage, the party was able to enter the keep proper. Mournful whispers and voices echoed from within'. The keep appeared clean and well-kept, compared to the cracked and unwell held rampart-floors.

Neb Bartholomeus' eagerness to open doors welcomed us with another ambush of foul, dark beasts of shadows. They were swiftly dealt with .. Only reminder was neb Bartholomeus' paced breath and shock.

By the southern-end of the keep floor, another reminder of a symbol of "sun" or affixed circular design was painted upon the floors. Perhaps a reminder of the "Andral" once again.

Strange animated furniture, hostile even, attacked the party from one of the nearby chambers. Whatever dark magic invoked the wood to be bloodthirsty, is a mystery.

A great banquet-hall with open floor, riddled with the cursed undead. Ghastly singing Lyrists and flesh-eaters, whatever curse had bestowed them to attend the forgotten banquet was gruesome indeed. The banquet-table a horrid sight: Parts of freshly caught men and women, being feasted upon by the cursed undead … Ghoulish undead, a result of cannibalistic endeavors, remarked by the scholarly party members of Seretse and Bartholomeus.

A discussion of cannibalism: Whether or not the heresy of the Ezrites was of cannibalism, to achieve some power over the dead through their devouring?

The castle or the "keep" seems to have multiple levels, crisscrossing. Of particular interest is one: The library, and the "Lair" below by some account by the word of Seretse? A lair of whom' or what? Nebet Nissa was questioning: Beatrix Toamna, Nicoleta von Zeklos, Izabella Von Zeklos? Camelia Von Zeklos?..

Seemingly, by the rumors of neb Seretse, none of these names sounded familiar.

By the northern wing of the keep proper: A library:

Scattered notes written by an elven lore keeper, or faithful? Suspicion of the "Fifth" sect was giving wariness to the writer, altogether different traditions that the writer was used to.

~UPPER FLOOR, OF RED HAZE~

 The party headed a floor up. We were greeted by a disgusting blob of blood, a red haze After copying the most interesting letters, booklets of the library. Surrounding the floor completely.

At one of the side-chambers, a set of letters was scattered haphazardly over the tabletop, exchanges between individuals over matters of various efforts. Of the event called the "Copper Knives" -rebellion.

The party came upon a gruesome sight of a chamber. Splattered in blood and foul markings of some profane ritual. The private chamber of  Nicoleta's. Some letters and writings were left unattended on the surfaces.

Much of the writings were of foul witchcraft, of death and terror: The Society will not record such writings in the journal.

Some speculation of the origins of such foul rituals, writings. Perhaps Nicoleta thought she was conversing with one of the long dead personnel of the Keep, Beatrix, or perhaps with something .. Otherworldly .. The strange presence in the crypts, the shadowed orb.

The once well-furnished and kept chambers were in shambles now, shadow and red ooze corrupting the very air.

~THE BASEMENT FLOORS~

The party delved deeper into the keep floors. Appearance to the upper level was similar, with the same wraiths and other monstrosities lurking the corridors. Holding cells of some kind, with past inhabitants with only bones and skulls to show.

~UNDERGROUND RIVER~

Through leagues of underground waterways, a passage to a strange lair was found. A strange place, whispers and foul voices in the distance. Lost undead children, craving for living flesh and blood.

Atop a cliff, a strange sight of a graveyard was found:

In the middle, a strange ancient statue, and a resting place of some long past noble, lady or a lord. Isabela perhaps. Broken pillars and marked floors, a most serene appearing scene, were it not obscured by the shadow of cursed dead.

A second high-ground, an ancient graveyard next to the first one. A vine leading upwards, bringing the party outside of the Keep proper, by the graveyard next to it.

The strange cavern and how it was formed is a mystery. How is it able to resist the lake-water pouring in? A ledge leading back to the keep was found, in the end.

The journey was set at an end, no casualties and most writings copied or recorded.

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Conclusions & What's Next?
Written by Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven

Our harrowing did not stop us, but rather only encouraged us for we discovered very new and interesting things! The Wurtbeicht heresy seemed quite desperate to join the ranks of undeath to achieve immortality and so they would stop at nothing to do so. Men were laid to rest with necromantic scrolls, men resorted to cannibalism in hopes of becoming ghouls in undeath, and even more vile dark rituals had occurred within the keep.

The 'Forgotten God' that Toret Garrett spoke of was none other than Andral; Barovia's first major religion. We have found many signs of Andral in our past expeditions but this was our first one in which we can tie to dates. It is in my opinion sometime between the fall of the Tergs and the occupation of Castle Stafandul by the von Zeklos family was when Andral's faith had fallen apart.

We are then left with the question: 'What happened?'. Monuments of Andral and his popularity can be seen all over Barovia. Even in the Western Outskirts of Vallaki, the now Morninglord Temple was said to once be a temple to Andral, and a long abandoned Monastery to the north is said to be yet another monument to Andral. We believe our next expedition will be to the north mountains to look at the tomb of the Terg invaders with hopes of finding more signs of Andral's presence.

The question of 'What happened?' is one that I believe the society has decided to take as it's capstone for Barovia. A documented history and understanding of Andral I believe will make a wonderful contribution to Barovian historians and scholars. Thank you for taking the time to read our publication and do be on the look out for our next writing concerning an expedition of the Tergs.

~ Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven, Founder of the Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers


Meduegna

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Re: The Van Couvenhoven Report ~ Riveting Tales of Adventure & History
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2023, 10:16:00 PM »
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THE VAN COUVENHOVEN REPORT PRESENTS:
EPISODE II ~ EXPLORATION OF THE TERG CRYPTS 3/18/778

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INTRODUCTION
As grandpa van Couvenhoven always used to say before telling us a great tale: 'Sit down you little rascals! Let me tell ya all about one of me grand adventures!'. Now grandpa van Couvenhoven wasn't quite the intellectual or archeologist, but he sure did entertain a small Bartholomeus so long ago! Today I am hoping to do the same though not just entertain but also educate; as I bring to light new and exciting information from my journeys to some of Barovia's darkest and most forgotten corners!

As I mentioned him earlier; I would like to dedicate this episode of The van Couvenhoven report to Dirk 'Grandpa' van Couvenhoven. Grandpa van Couvenhoven could best be described as a 'curmudgeon' with a good heart. An old stocky man who would entertain me, my brothers, and sisters with stories he made up. Despite his grouchy disposition he befriended a mangy orange cat with bent whiskers he called 'Whiskers' and he would always tell us about how Whiskers would save the day with his daring acts of bravery! In today's issue you will hear of the society's own harrowing account and acts of Bravery as they search the ruins of the Tergs only to come face to face with the Tergs themselves!

Rest in peace, Grandpa van Couvenhoven this one is for you. Remember: a proud people comes with a proud history.
— Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven, Founder of the Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers

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A Threat from the Shadows
by Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven

The decision to explore the Terg Ruins was a result of our latest meeting. We were curious to see if perhaps any remnants of Andral could be found there as well and what they might mean towards our exploration into the topic of Barovia's long lost faith. After we had made our intentions known however we were faced with a threat from an mysterious individual that we had written off as a mad man.

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Your pursuit to knowledge is commendable. I would have you see what still stands of my peoples culture upon the first floor, and also the desecration within done by the cursed Devil.
But I warn you. Go no deeper. Leave my kin in the lower floors to their anguish and disturb no ancient sacrophagi.
Any found in the deeper floors lives will be forfeit. As will any of Barovian blood who set foot in my peoples halls, above, or below.
Zagaz watch over you, and death to the Devil.


This message was relayed to us mere days before our expedition took place. I laughed, believing these to bet he words of a madman. Afterall: 'my kin'? The Tergs are dead! ...or so we thought! We had been warned before by others that the place had become a den to vrolocks and horrible sorts; yet it takes quite a bit to hold back a van Couvenhoven! I took Grandpa van Couvenhoven's famous words to heart: 'The only thing you have to fear is taxes, and the wrath of your wife!'. I think he was drinking that day but there is still good wisdom there for only those willing to be brave, take risks, and do a little gambling will yield high rewards and what fun is life without a few risks?

In this issue I believe you will find we truly tested the limits to that philosophy!

 

illustrations in order: The undead of the Terg Ruins, A statue of legendary Barovian lady-general Nicoleta von Zarovich, The Great Feast of Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven

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Exploration of the Terg Cryptsl
Written by Nifretiri & Disclaimer and editing by Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven

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What you will find in theses passages may shock and disturb you. The Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers are a team of PROFESSIONALS and we explore historical sites knowing full well what kind of dangers may lie ahead. That being said, we strongly recommend that you do NOT try to follow our footsteps. What you do is your own choice at the end of the day, but do not say you were not warned. Stay out of abandoned historical sites and leave such ventures to the professionals for the safety of yourself and others.

~ Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven, Founder of the Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers


~THE ASSEMBLY~

As was ordained by neb Bartholomeus, assembling of the society of adventurers at the Konstantine's lodge by the lake took place, some hours past dawn. A discussion was already underway by the dinner table as I arrived by the disheveled lodge. Local 'cuisine' particularly the fishes were on display and readily available for those readily to take on the offer. Commends to neb Bartholomeus to regale the society at any and all occasions. If nothing else was equal, or of apparent clarity in need of reassurance: Neb Bartholomeus' feast and hunger, and will to share such spirit unto others an impressive and steady reminder that things are, were and shall remain as they always have been ...

A calming serenity it was against the glint of suspicion and general  grey mood of the locals as they regarded our small group of society adventurers. A pack of malnourished wolves lost their claw and fang, but yet with the reminders of their true nature .. It was best we made way towards the mountains, the hospitality of the fishermen should not be taken advantage of..

A heavy shadow cast upon the society there was: Our assembled number counted only four: Neb Bartholomeus, Anlyth and nebet Naur. Often said words, whispers of the "ruins atop the foot of mount Baratak" was something akin to a bad omen, an essence of shadow itself that went by the lips of well-travelled individuals, or those fortunate enough to return and tell the foul rumors of it.

Bands of travelers have known to make way towards the mountains, never to return or incase they have done so, accompanied by laments and wounds to tell the gruesome tale of the mountains ... And the ruins. Heavy also, were the implications of a late message, personally directed unto the Society of Adventurers ourselves in the dark of night, from sources unknown: Dwell not the levels beneath the ruins first floor, or a promise of no return ...

"Neb Anlyth, a trusted companion and well-travelled man already shared his prior experiences of the same ruins: he had dwelled by the ruins to some extent with a crew of travelers. The revelations of dark ordeals and challenges ahead, even when informed, did not bring more peace unto the mind of the Society of Adventurers. Neb Bartholomeus however, as per to his nature was unphased.

"Adventure awaits! ... HUZZAH!"

We left as three, a climb begun towards the mountain-side ruins, at the break of mid-day hours.

~THE HILL OF GRAVES AND GRAFTED HORRORS~

The mountains rose defiantly against our ascension, each step more laborious than the one preceding. A promise of hardship plain obvious, Barovian soil itself refusing us from its bosom, the bounty of its secrets, rats skittering  beside the table for scraps of knowledge. But the lord of this banquet table was a great shadow looming above, he did not lenient enough to host vermin to his dinner of mysteries.. Not even a master of cuisine, neb Bartholomeus himself, the finest among us, was truly ready what was to come .. The promise of shadows we defiantly challenged .. Pride comes before the fall, Afterall ..

A few hours later of arduous climbing the nearby hills and steep landscape, our group was coming a-close to our rumored destination: The tower by the hill .. The graveyard.. We were not alone, it appeared, noted by neb Bartholomeus as he was amongst the first to glimpse at our far-sought goal, destination .. Delectable .. Aim of his desires.

"My, what a large fellow!.." Uttered neb Bartholomeus, winded lightly at our climb, a glint of surprised eagerness to find fellow travelers so far up the mountain.. "Godaag!" .. Uttered, once more only to be responded with ominous, foreboding silence..

We were dumbfounded by this stranger-.. Man-.. Caliban .. No, it was something else, a grafted horror, an eldritch design, a mass of ancient bone and horrid sinew: It howled mournfully, a bellow of shadow and death reaching from its misshapen core as it furiously assaulted us, lanky creature at the height of many times over even the tallest of fellows."

The realization came too short, Anlyth was first to draw blade and shield at the beastly challenge .. Neb Bartholomeus, yet winded by the climb and shocked duly by the sight of inhumane horrours, terrour and tremble in his breath and gaze .. Attempt to alleviate the dire situation, with a light, albeit perhaps hollow sounding jesting at its macabre might .. But what can a mortal man do elsewise, but to surrender himself to the horror and make light of it..

The sorrowful tool, creature was dealt with, but not without price: Not only a set of deep gashing wounds, but even more sinister evil a-creeping realization midst our small numbers: Doubt .. Doubt if we can make it? Whatever it was, neb Bartholomeus' desire to keep pushing, learning, or a foolish pride of us all: We chose to continue.

The graveyard itself was neatly arranged, in rows, ancient in design. The text was barely legible, but with due effort and translation the six graves were identified as:

Imrus, Adorgįn, Kökcü, Boldizsįr, Elek, and Gazsi. Each head stone bore the symbol of a warrior's upon horseback.

A secret entrance, well used, was found beside the ancient graveyard .. Leading to a small chamber beneath. It housed a small number of ancient sarcophagi, beside it on the floor, beside the dirt and roots of great old trees crawling down from the ceiling .. Dried blood, some newer and some old. The shadows growing more greater, looming in these underground holes, the air still and dusty .. I could hear Anlyth and neb Bartholomeus beside me, see them through the shadows .. There was no jesting, or light-heartedness left, the ghastly realization of presence of the "vrolock" at the point of our lips, yet none dared to utter it out loud yet...

~INTO THE ANCIENT HALLS OF THE TERG~

The architecture, design of the halls was great, a vast mind of grandeur clearly behind such pompous arcs and sweeping tile-floors, beyond necessity, only for the grandness of it. Great statues of old warriors, dignitaries were placed upon corners and archways .. On a single one of them, an unknown figure of ancient stone greatness, a defaced scratching, mad ramblings were written of "Zagaz", of "Lies" .

Neb Bartholomeus, Anlyth and myself, suspected these referred to the same mad writings the society received days before our planned expedition, however the fact it stood now before us, became a dreadful realization now, no more mad ramblings, but truth... Reality. The group pressed forth through grand arch-ways, chambers, our original assigned mission yet intact, the search for "Andral" and history of the Terg and their ruins, connections. We came upon truly, ancient secrets by the chambers ahead, but their connection to our original goals far-fetched. The "vrolock" had furnished the chambers into foul hives of uneased rest, accompanied by old and fresh bowls of blood .. Neb Bartholomeus, a jovial, great man as he might be, found little lightness in all of this-.. The deplorable sights, the reminder of mortal anguish in face of inhumane, shadow of cruel death of the "Vrolock". Any history there might had been, was now long lost, not a reminder of such things after the perversion of "Vrolock" designs and cruel tools.

The trio of our expedition wrought forth, through ghastly monstrosities and starving "vrolock", dispatching the foul creatures on our way towards the deeper shadows of the ancient halls. In one such chambers, a curious encounter: An ancient dead, deep in prayer, uttering its deathly beckons to powers in shadow, Zagaz, and cruel death amidst a candle-lit altar of offering, bones and fangs of the "vrolock" and blood .. More blood. In its deathly whisper of a voice, a mournful, hollow utterance from beyond the pale it spoke to us:

".. He said you would come.."

".. Your only warning. Do not go below. Slay the blood-drinkers. See the destruction. Then leave.."

So uttered the ancient priest, deathly warrior of death to us, a glimmer of cold, remorseless uncaring in its hollow skull and void-filled eye-sockets, before crumbling into dust .. Clanking of old armoring and belongings left after its existence. The promise shook our party, neb Bartholomeus, me and neb Anlyth shared whispers of concern, what was to come .. Should we continue?

We did, eagerness to do so was driven to us, by neb Bartholomeus' passion to see his mission true. In these same great chambers was yet another statue, of a once great figurine of ancient Barovian times: General Princess Nicoleta Von Zarovich: Detailed, well-kept armored form of a General-princess, she who vanquished the Neureni from our lands.

The fierce likeness of the woman's expression was not faded into time yet, she stood defiant against the roll of ages by her ancient watch, daring the ghast and "vrolock" all alone .. Here .. In the lost shadows. A link to the Neureni -invaders, the crypt of the great Khan located all the way towards Balinoks, which the society had explored before, by memory of neb Bartholomeus at the moment of study: The neureni horde came through Barovia in about two thirty B-C, if memory serves correctly. The Tergs do not arrive until ninety years later. The dates do not add up perhaps, or some room for error of true dates must be true, elsewise the General-Princess by the time of Terg arrival would had aged quite considerably. The only reasonable conclusion is that the image of Nicoleta von Zarovich has become a national symbol of military might for the people of Barovia. This is perhaps a topic the society may soon follow up on.

By the foot of this statue, another defaced marking:

"THE LAST WORTHY. SPAWNER OF EVIL."

The General-Princess, even in death, was still respected it appeared .. But the spawn of evil, was unclear at this point.


~INTO THE HALLS, DEEPER~

The group forged forth, foul terrors, the grafted horrors of mournful bone-creatures became more numerous. The Vrolock themselves active at the deeper parts of the halls. Fierce combat and deathly close calls later, the group finally choose to rest and catch breath .. More was promised, the shadows themselves promised no sign of relinquish, but only more of it, as it laughed silently at our efforts in the distance.."

None of our party felt relaxed, safe enough to shut eye, or to gain true rest. Instead a discussion spurned out from the omnious mood, perhaps to lighten it some, or in effort to:

Bartholomeus: "My current theory is that these are actually a Neureni tomb. There is very little history to go on here, most of everything has been destroyed!"

Anlyth: "Neureni tomb? With these ruins built onto of them?

Bartholomeus: "That is what I currently believe.

Nebet Nifretiri: "Who were the Tergs and the Neureni, again?"

Neb Bartholomeus: "The Terg were invaders from beyond the mountain-range, I believe .. If I can remember the Core's geography well enough .. they would perhaps have come from where the Shadow Rift is .. A supposedly heavily Fae infested land, locale."

"It is hard to believe, the complex was simply put here, it needed to serve a greater purpose, I wonder if the Tergs built it as a stronghold" - Noted by neb Bartholomeus.

After gaining back our meager strength, the group continued. Only to be greeted by another group of savage vrolock and golems forged of bone. We came upon a clearing of sorts, ruined flat structure above an endless void of earth, shadow and red mist below .. In the middle stood a lone tower, ramshackle and barely holding to its form, a reminder of bygone ages where the stones yet stood upright with some semblance to the ancient glory these buildings had. The doorway to the ancient tower seemed suspicious, wherein the design of the ancient tower appeared untouched by the ages, the doorway itself evidently did not share the same  truth, frequent markings of usage .. This or that, neb Bartholomeus was not phased by these facts, storming in with confidence.

The tower was indeed occupied, not by memories, shadows of ancient past. But by the bloodthirsty vrolock, their numbers were great and their ravenous desire for the living flesh and blood invigorated true as we stormed in .. Another fight ahead of us, our host spared us little warmth of hospitality. After a difficult quarrel, a throng of slain vrolock was laid low, their deathly shrieking now only an echo in the shadows of the ancient tower and complex. The tower was made of two floors. The first floor, a lobby in the past, now turned into a foul vrolock-inhabited coven of blood-sacrifice and fiendish practices. Foul markings and altars of blood decorating the ancient hall, churning foul mood through our group.

A small trinket was retrieved from the belongings of the vanquished vrolock: A clasp of some form, it appeared in likeness to a much ancient design than the Barovian ones. Tergish of origin, suspected neb Bartholomeus.

"The upper levels of the tower gave no more leads to our original goals, of Andral, another hive of the vrolock, torture-racks and blood-bowls .. Curiously enough, some logbooks and notes were on display by the table there, written either by one of the foul vrolock or more ancient in origin: The letter speaks in foul manner, discussing the turning of this one "Ana" and discussion of some origin of other location, Zeidenburg, Tepurich forest

This information was not apparently connected to historical evidence, but I have noted the words written in this journal, regardless. The group vacated the premises of the ancient and cursed tower, heading deeper into the shadow-consumed ruins, malevolent designs of grand proportions crawling from the depthless void of below, where no eye could truly see, eventhough my senses and gifts of seeing are much greater than that of a mundane man's .. I could not see, what laid in the abyss beneath.

A great stone, rock of some form stood mightily before us, red malevolent mist or fog surrounding it, a royal, blood-soaked mist donning the emperor rock .. It appeared dark, shapeless and formless, ominous .. Its design far too alien for our party to make sense of, we simply awed at it for a moment, before silently, warily making our way deeper into the cursed ruins.. The opposition of deranged creatures of shadow and death were still present, and their vrolock host .. With arduous effort we turned the opposition to ash whilst our journey pressed on.

At one far chamber, a great water-filled structure, a basin was settled on, surrounded and guarded by ancient statues of mighty warriors by its corners, their names and likeness in stone crumbled so much throughout the ages, it was difficult to tell much of them

"A baptizing pool" -Guessed neb Bartholomeus, excitedly.

On another chamber, an unusually old sarcophagi was found, the design was unlike anything else found in the cursed ruins .. Anlyth noted, it beared resemblance to the ones found in the ruins of Balinok mountains, the Neureni perhaps? Why would neureni sarcophagi be so much farther away, in a different tomb, perhaps these were actually the designs of the ancient Terg, infact. The inhabitant within' an ancient dead, seemed not to appear common to the Barovian stock .. Much to my dislike on disturbing the resting places of the dead, I stayed silent, neb Bartholomeus' enthusiasm to find the truth even in face of the ancient curse of the dead, by disturbance never stopped him .. I .. Fear the curse of the dead, and am wary of such things-.. A difference in our spirit, I suppose.

The ancient ruin-ways still continued, sprawling like an ancient snake deeper within' the shadow. By the far end of the snake-head our party came upon yet another great statue of Nicoleta, the prestigious, mighty general-princess and on the ancient placade by her feet was written:

" ~ They thundered from the east, a tide of blades and frothing fury. They rode like demons on their steeds, and slew our children without a thought; no sanctuary could be found against them, and no force of men or gods could halt their advance ~"

This definitely appears to be speaking of the Tergs -Said neb Bartholomeus.

"The writings indicate these ruins were an ancient, Barovian hold in the past, the text is written in the perspective of the Barovians." -neb Bartholomeus added.

Below the placade, crude scratchings with repeating words: "Lies .. Lies .. Lies .."

~THE PATH BELOW~

The crawling design of the ancient ruins seemed to come to an end, or rather an entrance to the lower levels. Our spirits wary, myself and neb Anlyth in particular. The prior warnings of the bone-priest were obvious consideration, for the wellbeing of our continued breathability. This .. Or that, neb Bartholomeus' passion to knowledge, even with high stakes to life itself, did not dissuade him to usher us in, to continue .. And foolishly, we did enter willingly into the shadow and death. Beneath, dark mists and ominous haze greeted us .. But farther yet, the deathly host and its hollow minions of ancient bones and ageless prowess of war, Tergish savagery:

"There is a fellow up ahead with a glowing .. Staff?" -Said neb Bartholomeus, squinting heavily in the shadow of the tombs. "I will try to reason with-.. What was that..?"

Were our intentions to escape now, it too was already too late, the Revenant had an aide appearing out of the shadows, veiled and robed in dark fabrics, locking our path back to the upper ruins shut behind us. We were now cornered, death afront and back. The dark robed figure, acolyte of the darkness and shadow appeared out of thin air, barring our escape back to the upper ruins, it uttered in its deathly cold whisper to our group:

" .. Go .. He wishes to speak with you .. " -Uttered in cold, remorseless, soulless utterance.

" .. Seems we have no choice now .. " Added by Neb Anlyth, under his steady breathing.

Our party approached the deathly host, the revenant janissary and his undead entourage of ancient warriors, now fleshless, animated in foul dark power of shadows, their eyes a-glow in malevolent spirit, death became naturally to them, life an anathema to their very being.. The blackguard of old regarded us with surprising ease of word uttered with despicable hollow, cold tones, echoing through us like a freezing wave of murder:

"Merhaba .. Greetings .. Explorers .. I see, my warnings do not deter you.. "

Neb Bartholomeus, all of his jovialness and fair spirit now gone, replaced by fear of shadow of the death, standing right in front of us, our life's held by its ghastly, bone hand, gripping upon the ancient red-glowing cleaver, a great sword of ancient design as an item of great renown and display for all those who dare defy the might of the Blackguard.

"Y-Y-You wrote this?.. " -Uttered Neb Bartholomeus, in timid, fearful fashion, standing in front of the deathly revenant.

" .. Some .. Some by the sihirizbaz on my behalf .. "

Apparently, this "Sihirizbaz" a term for a sort of a witch, or an acolyte. The darkly robed individual who stoo at deathly overwatch behind our group, no doubt ready to punish any further insolence. By the word of the Revenant, this "Witch" had been following us for some already, studying our expedition, our misdeeds .. Transgressions.

".. However .. None of you are Barovian .. This bodes well .. You will leave alive, that I assure .. " -Responded the ghastly Revenant.

"Are - .. Are you a Terg?" -Inquired neb Bartholomeus

".. The Last .. " -A cold whisper, a response from the revenant

At this moment, neb Bartholomeus began approach towards the revenant, due to whatever madness, fear or obsession taking to his mind, curiosity that may doom both lesser and greater men .. In careful steps. The revenant was not perturbed by the approach, perhaps it did not deem us a threat, or simply was ready to action at a moment's notice, no matter the position it was in.

"F-Facinating .. History walks! .. H-History talks! .. W-Write this down, Nifretiri!.." -Uttered neb Bartholomeus, a mixture of both awe and fear in his tone.

As the revenant and its deathly acolyte witch gave no intentions of retaliation to neb Bartholomeus' brazen approach, the conversation, harrowing interview continued duly.

"We would like to know about your life." said neb Bartholomeus with courage

The revenants, cold stare, emotioneless tone of deathly whisper uttered:

"What will you offer me, in exchange of this?.."

For a moment, neb Bartholomeus catching glimpses back at us, in attempts to find an answer, but soon enough running his fingers through the many pouches and pockets of his belongings, reaching the ancient clasp found in the upper level, of the vrolock Tower

"This clasp! .. It belongs to your people." neb Bartholomeus assured offering the gift to the revenant

The deathly revenant, examined coldly the offered gift .. Uttering in ancient tongue with its witch-acolyte accomplice, before replying duly

".. Return to your companions .. I will answer what I can .. But I will suffer no fool questions .."

".. O-Of course .. " -Stated by neb Bartholomeus.

Above: Janissary Burhan Yilmaz, the Last Terg


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An Interview with Janissary Burhan Yilmaz, the last Terg
Written by Nifretiri, interview and editing by Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven


Bartholomeus:"What is your name?"

Janissary Yilmaz:"I am Burhan Yilmaz. Janissary to the great Durukan the Unstoppable"

Bartholomeus:"Tell me of this ranking and who was Durukan the Unstoppable?"

Janissary Yilmaz:"We are lifelong soldiers. Raised from age. No mere militia. Unlike the [SWINEHERD] rank and file that the [DEVIL] employs.. Not much has changed, I have seen.. Durukan was the greatest chieftain for an era. I do not know how he met his end. Foul magic. I suspect"

Bartholomeus:"Ah, so you would be .. A knight of the realm for the Terg People?"

Janissary Yilmaz:"Knight .. No .. We held no land. War was our life. We saw nothing else."

Bartholomeus:"I-I see. What is this place then? Not where we stand in particular but in its entirety? Where we just were and now here?"

Janissary Yilmaz:" The official name .. I .. Do not recall .. We spoke of it as the kuzey kalesi .. The northern fortress"

Bartholomeus:"I see. This is a Terg fortress then?"

Janissary Yilmaz:"Barovians could not construct something as grand .. Their people are backwards, parasite .. All they hold dear is taken from others .. They squalor in my people's work's at every turn. Within the squalid city and the citadel. Even the [DEVIL] within Durukan's Keep."

Bartholomeus: "The the statues of Nicoleta von Zarovich? The ones you had .. Altered; what are they doing here then?"

Janissary Yilmaz:"Statues built in conquest .. To stake claim to what has been stolen .."

Bartholomeus:"I see. T'is curious that the Barovians would build the statues and then abandon this place."

Janissary Yilmaz:"They have not .. You slew them, in the upper levels .. Why they chose to build statues to thei ancestors I do not know .. We awaited for her death before we came. She was a fierce warrior, with a failure for a son "

"Yes .. Those leeches are not Terg .. " -Uttered the darkly robed witch-acolyte, from the dark shadows at our backs.

Bartholomeus: "I see. What were the wars like then? Being there? The Barovian forces? Did you have a rival of some sort, an enemy who you respected despite it all?"

Janissary Yilmaz:" Like any other war, to begin. Under Barov, they had grown lazy, divided. We grew complacent in our slaughter. Our first mistake was to slow and not kill them to the last. Our second was when we slew his mother and father. The [DEVIL] did not make the mistakes we had, in his vengeance. And so we were reduced .. To this .. I was old by the time my village burned. Twenty years, undone in flame" -The revenant recalled, its darkly, deathly eyes stared into the abyss. Dark enmity growing in its eyes, horrible and dreadful power as it recalled past memories of old."

" .. You should leave now .. " -Uttered the darkly acolyte witch behind us, our time was coming to an end. We were given pardons for this once, the path behind us opened as we returned back the way we came. The deathly silent stare of the Revenant Janissary and its Acolyte accomplice a dark memory and visage behind us..


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Conclusions & What's Next?
Written by Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven

Our nightmarish journey was unfortunately not the most historically educating one, though our very risky interview provided a firsthand account into the lives of one of Barovia's most ancient foes!

The greatest take away from this expedition perhaps is a warning to all my readers and those who are so enamored by the idea of exploring these ancient sites. I cannot tell you what to do but I can warn you, running into the walking dead and other foul creatures is one of the many hazards of our job and as such I would recommend that good people stay away from these historical sites and leave it to professionals.

This journey has left us with many questions now about the Tergs and who these people were. Strange folk from the Shadow Rift? Perhaps more can be discovered there of the Tergs?  A thesis for another time however as the Society is still very much interested in Andral and the fate of his once vast and encompassing faith.

At our next meeting we will be deciding our next expedition. I would like to remind all of my readers that our meetings are open to the public and when we do meet we meet on Sundays just after lunch at the White Lily. On a final note I would like to pay respects to my wise grandfather Dirk 'Grandpa' van Couvenhoven whose tales of adventure and courage helped inspire me to have courage to go through ordeals such as this one. Rest In Peace, Grandpa. You were one of the best the name 'van Couvenhoven' could offer!


"You can't half-ass going all in." ~ Dirk 'Grandpa' van Couvenhoven

~ Bartholomeus van Couvenhoven, Founder of the Van Couvenhoven Society of Adventurers

« Last Edit: March 23, 2023, 12:01:45 AM by Meduegna »