“Norran”… Queen Dannel of Cyre‘s voice was nervous as the bolted carriage door opened exposing a mess of cables, tools, lab equipment and the scent of someone who clearly hadn’t bathed in a very long time. Amid the chaos was a man, blood shot eyes wearing a stained lab coat who looked out at them with a mix of annoyance and curiosity.
Behind him fluid bubbled in large tanks, metal devices half-built were scattered around the room and everywhere wires ran in and out of the walls – clearly the idea of ‘Occupational Health and Safety’ had never made it to Cyre for invention was seen to be the greatest art… and who cared if you happened to lose a few limbs along the way?
Strahd von Zarovich was quietly fuming, picking up on the tension in Queen Dannel’s words.. how could this old and dirty man was no match for Strahd von Zaovich! Wooing the Queen – for in his mind she was just a new reincarnation of his beloved Tatyana was going to be easy!
Well as long as he didn’t reform and cause her to pass out at the sight of his fleshy exterior – for like Daniel Daybringer he knew that if he fell out of mist form his skin too would be nothing more then transparent jelly!
Queen Dannel seemed oddly nervous, picking her words with care "… I know you are busy, but I thought you might be able to help… " Queen Dannel said stepping aside as she gestured Daniel Daybringer to step forward – the naked Tiefling’s skin was a thin layer of wet jelly covered with a thin layer of mucus as he held a fish tank over his head, taking a hand to greet the Stranger, who was rather taken aback at the strange assortment of people before him.
At first it seemed impossible but then Daniel mentioned something that caused the Artificers eyes to go wide..
“What do you mean.. that you are unable to die?” Norran said in disbelief.
As Daniel explained the look of disbelief turned to excitement as Daniel described all the ways he had died and been sent back again and again.. while he didn’t know what the Tiefling meant about meeting death and being rejected – for he was of course a man of science not faith! There was no denying that if true this changed everything!. “I see.. well in that case yes.. it may just be possible!” he turned to both Daniel and Strahd “I believe it is possible to cure you from this affliction! If you are willing to undergo the procedure?” the years of exhaustion for a moment overtaken by excitement..
Daniel agreed, Strahd however did not.. for he did not trust this Norran, nor did he consider himself ‘afflicted’ other then by a need to save his Titania from this oaf and get off this train.
Asking for how to get off the train Queen Dannel looked heartbroken, “You cannot leave..” but as Strahd insisted she grew more panicked “you cannot, the train cannot stop or else the field that protects the train will fail and we will all surely die!” Strahd continued to insist and while Vecna pointed out that the horrors outside the window was not real – for they had come from outside and were fine there was no convincing them.
However Strahd and Daniel both stumbled upon a solution – the train could not stop until it found a safe harbor and Daniel insisted they could come to his domain instead.. “Yes” Strahd said as Queen Dannel praised Daniel, excitment in her eyes at a solution for her people but admitting that control over the train was not theres.. they would have to talk to the Captain instead. Strahd however stole Daniel’s idea but being the real genius saw that if the Train truly passed though every domain then there was no reason why he couldn’t get what he wanted most of all…
“My dear, the solution is simple.. you must come to Barovia!” Strahd said with a flourish, entirely forgetting the reason why the party had boarded the train in his eagerness to get off it again and bring his love home. “Come let us go talk to the Captain.. for I am sure we can come to a arrangement”.
This left Vecna to chose between Daniel and the strange man, and the disgusting sight of Strahd trying to woo the Queen.
Vecna decided that as disgusting as it was, the sight of seeing Strahd get fully rejected was going to be worth the temporary disgust, and whatever technological nonsense was afoot.
With a woosh of air Strahd, Vecna and Queen Dannel headed up train, leaving Daniel alone with the crazed artificer.
“Ah Daniel.. now just climb into the chamber” Norran said as he started wiring in cables and bringing up terminals that bathed the room in a eerly green light.. “Now this is going to hurt.. a lot..” he said far too late as the chamber closed.. the Tiefling feeling a odd chill and a momentary sense of panic as the tube started to flood with a thick goo.. the discomfort of his jelly-like skin easing in the chill before it came to his neck.. and as the chill turned to pain as the acidic liquid started to melt away his skin he started to scream – only for a metal tube to be released and slip deep down his throat – the horrible sensation of liquid filling his lungs as Daniel passed out…. waking from time to time to agony as first his skin was dissolved, his lungs melted away…. for no cure was without cost, and unknown to Daniel nobody had ever survived the procedure.
For the suffering was too much for anyone to take, hours of torture as skin was removed and replaced and upgraded with something better-then flesh!
As Daniel tried to scream around the tube in his mouth further up train Queen Dannel continued her tour, introducing Vecna and Strahd to her people as they stepped from one cart to another. Vecna started to notice the patterns, along with the red glowing light watching over them the pattern he noticed etched into each train car they came across where repeating and he realised it was numbers. Seeing the pattern and writing used over and over again made him realise that it wasn’t too different to one he’d seen used by Gnomes. Vecna was not a fan of Gnomes and the gaudy use of magic everywhere bothered him on a fundamental level. As they went up train he saw wonders wasted – from magic writing used to advertise menu items at the bar cart to wands being used to mend clothes and fabricate items in the work carts.
Everything about this society was wrong, but not nearly as wrong as the fact that their ‘Queen’ didn’t seem at all repulsed by Strahd’s advances.. indeed as the three of them passed though a clattering cart full of the hiss of steam and complex piping doing who-knew-what and into a atrium made entirely of glass filled with exotic fish she took what passed for Strahd’s hand and guided them to a point exactly half way.
Eyes darting from side to side she stepped close and whispered in Strahd’s ear “We’re being watched.. but here.. here we can speak freely…” Strahd felt her breath push a bit of him away, but missing the beat he leaned in "oh Tatania, you do not have to worry… " before launching into a speech of how he would save her, and take her to Barovia.
Vecna’s eye noticed that the red lights were not visible here, for the first time it appeared that they where not being watched. He waited for the put-down, for Queen Dannel to put Strahd in his place.
“Oh Strahd! Oh how glad I am that you have come to save us” ..
Vecna watched with horror as the women drew even closer to the mist form of Strahd.. while he had no glands to produce bile he never the less felt like he was going to be sick as he watched the display.. for it was OBVIOUS that Strahd was being played.. as Strahd continued to make promises of how he’d provide for the people of the train and make Tatiana his bride.
When there was the prospect of seeing Strahd crash and burn this trip had at least had some level of amusement, but Vecna’s mood soured as Queen Dannel attempted to take Strahd’s hand to lead them onwards, for what had seemed a simple matter of climbing abord the train, taking over if need be and gaining passage to this Carnival for a cure was taking far too long for Vecna’s liking.
All the more when Strahd had been offered a cure and didn’t even take it. Sure the Norran fellow seemed untrustworthy but what was the worst thing that could happen?
Surely it could be no worse then watching Strahd try to woo the women knowing that she would probably scream and run away the moment she saw his true form.
But clearly love made idiots of them all…