Slate sat against a tree just off the road, several yards from the city gates. Kass and Maestoff were instructing the guard and Father Lucien about the young Vistani girl and the fool fisherman. The fisherman was not evil but he suffered from a perilous case of idiocy. Of course if you start executing idiots where to you stop?
Slate shrugged and let out a sigh; he need to concentrate on recent events. Brielle, a mistress of intrigue and mystery herself, had always chastised him for being too direct and for his thinking being too linear. “Mysteries are like a three-dimensional spider’s web.” she would say “If you try to follow a straight line you’ll fall off onto the ground.” He wasn’t sure he completely understood but he could see the he and his friends were certainly holding the ends of numerous separate strands. But the secret to this dilemma was not in finding the center of the web; Strahd was the at the center. The solution would come from binding the varied entanglements into a tight knot around Strahd’s wicked neck.
The bundle of resolving threads, though not clear, were at least evident. The card reading and its five ciphers. Let’s take them one at a time.
The Trader: This card tells of history. Knowledge of the ancient will I help you better understand your enemy. Look to the wizard of wines! In wood and sand the treasure hides.
What we know: We discovered the Tome of Strahd…his own words in his own hand. What did we learn?
- Strahd lost his obsession, Tatyana, the youthful object of his desire (perhaps love) when she spurned him for his young brother. Committing suicide she was lost to him forever. So, we now understand the reason for Strahd’s obsession with Ireena…reincarnate or just a remarkable resemblance, it doesn’t matter. He is now immortal and he is desperate to make her immortal as well…both vampires but both together. Keeping Ireena from him is critical. But, in the end, the only way to do that is to destroy Strahd.
- What Strahd fears the most is the sun and light. But, just as much he fears a sword brought by his brother
Where these strands lead: It seems to me there are three important connections here:
- The connection with Ireena is clear
- There is a weapon essential for defeating Strahd, the sword of light, that we must find.
- The sword is connected to Strahd’s brother Sergei whose body is unaccounted for.
Slate barely heard the debate going on in the background but he kept his mind on task. So far they knew very little but did anything they know possibly connect to the other card riddles?
Philanthropist: This card tells of a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope. Look to a place where sickness and madness are bred. Where children once cried, the treasure lies still.
This puzzle does not seem to be connect yet to what we learned from the Trader.
Merchant: This is a card of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of vengeance: a sword of sunlight. Seek a cask that once contained the finest wine, of which not a drop remains.
Yes! This is where either we will find the sword or more about where it lies! Easy enough, or maybe not.
Broken One: This card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness. Your greatest ally will be a wizard. His mind is broken, but his spells are strong.
This has been clear for several days now. This undoubtedly refers to the great wizard that lost his mind battling Strahd. North of the lake his where is likely found; and that is where we are headed now.
Innocent: Your enemy is a creature of darkness, whose powers are I beyond mortality. This card will lead you to him! He dwells with the one whose blood sealed his doom, a brother of light snuffed out too soon.
This may mean the dead brother, innocent of wrong doing. A good guess is that he is entombed in the depths of Strahd’s own habitat, perhaps the last puzzle we will solve.
Find the ends and tie them together and do so as soon as possible. But, number one rescue Ireena. We cannot let her fall into the hands of Strahd.