A Tale of the Knights of Light
Come one, come all! Hear tell a tale from the master storytellers. That’s right, I have for you all a tale told by a Vistani, one of the greatest tellers of tales to grace this shadowed land. Gather close. Come, sit, and listen, for today I tell a short story of the Knights of Light. I shan’t tell you the end, do not worry. Just a tale from the beginning. A story, no less, than from the knights themselves. Yes, that’s right, lean in and hear my tale good folk.
It was nearly night when the Knights stumbled into my family’s camp bedraggled and lost. Amusingly, these poor beggared folk were the heroes that the great madam Eva had predicted would arrive. So of course, we were pleasant and kind to these strangers. A remarkable feat in this dismal place, but we of the Vistani are a welcoming people. As the knights told it, they were looking for the witch of Ole Bonegrind. An amazingly foolish thing to be doing, but who were we to argue with such devout folk. An devout they were. They were clear of purpose an intent on doing right by the world. Were I not a Vistani, their resolve may even have been humbling.
Alas, I am one of the travelling tale tellers of the world so their goals were nothing surprising to me. Still, the story they told of their day. An astonishing story of terrible luck. Absolutely abhorrent luck. Really, I cannot imagine that their quest will end well when you consider them having such a terrible day. As they told it, their day began in a chapel in Barovia. Their hearts heavy with defeat, and clouded with pain. Even as they struggled to come to grips with their loss to some vampyr welp the night before, a new foulness befell them. You see, they had foolishly set out to protect a young woman the day before. A lovely young woman by the name of Ireena Kolyana. Yes indeed, that Ireena Kolyana, but this tale happens afore that one. You see, they had offered their services to her brother to protect her. An indeed, they had put themselves at a disadvantage just the past evening fulfilling that very duty. Yet, they could not have predicted the foulness that would come before the morn. For the Devil Strahd himself appeared. All quiet discipline an unassuming power, the beast himself knocked at the door of the chapel of the Morning Lord.
I know, I scarce believed it meself but the Devil Strahd was so confident of his power that not even the grounds of a church could dissuade him. The Knight Aldryn was the closest to the door. Unknowing of the danger he was in, he unbarred it. In that moment, he realised his mistake. Strahd is not short, but in comparison to the giant of a man Aldryn he seemed it. Barely lit by the predawn, he stood with the glow of torches flickering on his fine clothes and fancy silver walking stick. As Aldryn realised his error, the devil asked to be admitted. “Good morning sir, would you mind inviting me in” he asked, all unassuming politeness. The first such utterance, Aldryn refused. He had guessed at the identity of this fancy interloper you see. Yet he could not ignore the second request. “You will open the door for me” ordered strahd. Luckily, Aldryn was able to the final ardent urgings of the Devil to be invited in. “Invite me in young knight” he ordered. Aldryn responded with a loud warning to his fellows, but it was too late. The Devil spied his prize, and ordered Ireena to invite him in. You see, what the Devil doesn’t want anyone to know is, he cannot enter a dwelling unbidden. It is quite impossible for any vampyr in fact. The Devil is no different. But caught unawares with a will weakened by the Devil, Ireena was unable to resist. With not even a full sentence, she invited Strahd in.
As he strode up the vast chapel, Aldryn moved to interpose himself between Strahd and the other knights. Particularly between the Devil and his prize. “You cannot have her. We’ll die before we allow it” the knight spoke with a voice low, filled with fear. There was never any doubt in Aldryn’s mind about the price he would pay for an innocent life. That did not mean he relished the thought of it. The moment was tense as the devil considered the young knight before him. In his moment of distraction, Aldryn ordered his fellow Oloneirus to take the young woman’s life. Indeed, to my ears that seemed a cold decision. Yet, the young man uttered it with no hesitation. You see, to those knights the idea of serving anything in undeath is vile. It is the very defilement of all they stand for and they will not willingly let any soul suffer it. Faced with the unenviably unwinnable scenario before him, Aldryn felt he had no choice. Oloneirus though was not so quick to judge the situation dire. He was not willing to harm an innocent to save them. A fair enough position if you ask me. Still, his indecision and Aldryn’s resolve seemed to halt the Devil. They must have piqued his interest, for he offered them a bargain. As you and I know, a bargain with the devil is seldom a good deal. Yet, their situation was not tenable any other way. So, Strahd himself set the knights two conditions. If they met them, he would leave satisfied for the day. The first was their names. Though Aldryn had introduced himself the other knights had not. The one among them named Kael was foolish and attempted to lie. He failed, and in the attempt nearly cost them all their lives. It was enough to win over any other reluctant knights and in turn each gave up their names. This you see was just common courtesy. They knew the Devil’s name and now he in turn knew theirs.
The Devil Strahd’s second condition however would prove more costly. He asked of Aldryn a cost in blood. One day of freedom for Ireena in return for one day of feasting from Aldryn. With no hesitation and a look of utter loathing, the young knight exposed his neck. It took the Devil moments to drain the young man. It is not a pleasant thing, to have a vampyr feast on your most important fluids. Yet, the knight did not cry out nor did he whimper.
When the Devil was finished, he offered his arm to turn the young knight away from the light. And Aldryn resisted. That’s right, Aldryn Smithson. A knight of the morning lord. Refused the Devil himself and was willing to die on his word. Or so he wished. In his possible last moments, the Devil ordered him drink a second time and the knight found it too difficult to resist in his weakened state. As such, the knight of the morning lord took into him some of the taint of the Devil himself.
To Aldryn, it seemed the day they lived in was tainted just as he had been. For the rest of the day, the knights suffered from the worst luck they had ever had. They were unable to help Mad Mary, the denizen of the wailing house of Barovia. Indeed, they were unable to find any evidence of wrong doing to her daughter at all. The act of leaving the old woman with nothing but the words “we’ll find her” left a sour taste in the young knight’s mouth. Then, there was the fated trip to Vallaki. By itself a harrowing trek through dark terror infested woods.
Now though, the hike was marred by the knights tainted luck. Indeed, nearly every member of their small expedition was bitten by a wolfman that day, though none could be sure if they were infected with that dreaded curse. And then of course there’s the cursed gallows. You all know it’s a queer place at an intersection of the roads to Vallaki and Castle Ravenloft. The knights though insist it’s haunted. Apparently they saw all sorts of bizarre stuff there. They wouldn’t speak of it, though it was clear that it discomforted them immensely. Of course as with all things of real life that is where their tale ended. For afterwards they came upon us, and it seemed foolish for them to recount a tale that each of us listening were in fact living. Ha!
I know, the end does not equal the start. I will however leave it at this. Those knights, even with the foulness of the Devil striding amongst them, found their way to our camp and Madam Eva. If that was not proof that their luck had changed, I know not what else could be. An in the eve, they feasted and danced with the best of my family. So do not be disheartened my avid listeners, because the story is not yet finished and I am not yet gone from this fair town. So maybe, if I am feeling kind on the morrow, I will tell you another tale of the Knights of Light. Until then, Feast well and be kind, for as the knight himself is wont to say, you may not have a tomorrow to be kind on.