The Bardic Chef

Broiled Beholder and Other Dungeon Delicacies

I love a good challenge. I also love being extra. The thing I love more is having someone running a game who gets that about me, and wil...

But can ARELLA do bardic stuff? Let's find out.

By 11:06 AM , ,

I love a good challenge. I also love being extra. The thing I love more is having someone running a game who gets that about me, and will supply me with things that aren't just dice rolls. 

Prianna is in a very good position for this right now. Still completely separated from her entire team (Victor excluded) by the entire map of Barovia, held captive by Strahd inside Castle Ravenloft, and forced to perform various tasks to entertain him and stay alive. Being separated from the entire team poses some challenges by themselves. I hate taking up more spotlight than I need, which seems weird considering the "extra" thing I just mentioned, but that's how I am. I don't like taking up more of the group's play time than I have to, because we have a limited window of play, and they're doing major storyline things while I dick around in a giant castle all day. So these things are being handled "off camera" for the most part. I'm being given activities to do, and about a week's worth of time to figure out how to do them and keep Prianna and Victor alive. THEN I WRITE THESE AND HOLD MY BREATH.

I'll pick up where I left off last time - serving a blood-soaked three course meal to Strahd. Because she now knows his reaction, and her next challenge.

Prianna stood, watching this fiendish vampire eat dish after dish, going on and on about how surprised he was by the depth and intricacy of each ingredient. Her fingers were laced with Victor's, trying to calm both herself, and the terrified man beside her who couldn't stop shaking. They were bloody, exhausted, worn down to a breaking point already, but it was still very possible for them to fail.

She had gotten it right. Strahd's favorite dish was being eaten, and he seemed shocked to see it there. He complimented her cooking, waxed nostalgic about the memories of battlefields and when he had more power than he did now. Victor was relieved. Prianna... was irked.
You see, she had spent all of that time, all of the energy putting the best of her abilities into the first course, convinced by what she had been seeing that it was his favorite dish. Hell, the body parts of her and Victor went into that one for that very reason. No... no. The goulash hadn't been the favorite. The cabbage rolls were.
The cabbage rolls, something she saw no clues about, something she picked off the top of her head because the style of cuisine matched what she assumed the favorite dish to be. She had been lucky. To Victor, this was a win. To Prianna... second place rarely gets you into the history books. Prianna doesn't do dumb luck.
The player behind Prianna was equally as disappointed, mind you. The clues for the cabbage rolls had been on the floor of the castle I had opted not to search, and that decision would've killed Prianna and Victor if I hadn't picked cabbage rolls anyway.

They survived. He enjoyed the entire meal, from start to finish, which spared their lives for the moment. Of course... the bored vampire just had more for them to do, and Prianna knew that. She practically collapsed into one of the dining chairs when Strahd asked them to sit down, her knees had been threatening to go out on her since she walked in, and not having them shake beneath her made her feel more confident.

Strahd wanted to know more about them. Victor he seemed to know everything about already, down to complimenting how much his eyes looked like his mother's. Prianna cooly explained who she was, where she was from, what she did, all while running her fingers in circles over Victor's knee, trying to keep him from having a heart attack. The vampire was showing a lot of interest in him, something Prianna was not happy with at all.

When Strahd heard she was a bard, he was very intrigued, and also asked Victor if he played an instrument, given his noble background - he verified yes, a little piano and harpsichord. Well. WELL. This was news to Prianna, and a feeling of dread settled into her stomach. "A little" meant a lot of things when it came out of Victor's mouth - either he was completely selling himself short and was a master of it, or he'd tapped the keys a few times to satisfy his mother and had never touched it again. As those thoughts swirled in her head, she heard Strahd get up from the table, and begin his orders for the next day.

He wanted her to compose a song.
For both of them to perform in the ballroom the next evening.
About him. 

He spoke on past that, about finding more clues within his castle, about how he'd have certain tastes, but Prianna's ears had turned off at that moment. Music, as it turns out, is not something she feels she can shift to the tastes of a particular person. She could absolutely create a song and perform it, all about what she knew and her impressions of this vampire... but she would not be spending precious hours hunting around a castle to figure out how he'd want her to perform it. This was going to have to come from her heart. 

The dining room was silent after Strahd left, and Prianna was frozen, emotionless as notes, staffs, and trebleclefs ran through her brain. Victor let out a great commotion, kissing her, holding her tight to him in relief, but she didn't seem to respond at first. When she did react, it was even in tone, quiet, and steady, but her hands roamed Victor's body, looking for any kind of relief from the intense pressure she was under. 

It was decided they'd get some rest tonight, wake up the next morning with fresh minds, and go from there.

Sleeping = long rest.
Long rest = Prianna's spells are topped off.
Prianna's spells being topped off = two dimension door spells for myself and one other are now at my disposal. 

Prianna makes this known to Victor as she prepares them a simple breakfast of drop biscuits and berries the next morning, but suggests something odd. She wants to see this through. She doesn't expect him to get it, she doesn't expect him to even agree with it, but something in her is driving her to see this challenge through to it's completion. If it all goes tits up, the two spells will be enough to get them outside of Castle Ravenloft's walls, and there's a (skeleton) horse and what remains of her wagon waiting for them. Running now would be what most of their party would do, she can practically hear some of their voices now, beckoning her to burn the spells and get the hell out of there... but she thinks that they'd be hunted, viciously, if they were to do that. Running might be the more dangerous option right now, so... if they can keep Strahd happy, learn more about him, befriend him even, that would get them a lot further anyway. 
Dimension door? Victor's teleportation spell? Both are back-up plans right now. One is obviously faster than the other, and better in emergency situations.

They seek out the ballroom together. Prianna urges Victor to sit at the piano and show her what he knows - simple scales, chords, sharps and flats, anything he retained. He's not particularly skilled, out of practice, but he knows enough to be background if she takes the lead on the song. She has him play through the scales a few times, then hit particular notes so she can tune her violin to the state of the piano. When it comes time for song writing, she asks Victor to spend the next bit of time practicing his scales and chords especially, playing any simple songs he still retains from lessons, anything to get his fingers limber and remind himself of what he used to know. While he does that, she sits on the floor, head against his hip, trying to sort out what to do with this composition.

She was certain that nearly any musician in Barovia - if they even existed here anymore - would write a dark, doomed ballad of Strahd's terror and power over this realm. Everyone saw him as "the devil" here, a menace that needed to be eliminated in order for everyone to be happy again. But from what Prianna had learned during her time here in Barovia, she wasn't sure that she agreed with that assessment.
One, the people of Barovia seemed like they'd be miserable sacks of shit either way. You didn't need Strahd sitting in a castle for them to continue screwing each other over like that - if Strahd was eliminated, they'd find something else to blame their woes on, so long as that blame was never shifted onto themselves. She also knew that Strahd himself was going through quite a bit of trouble right now, separated into three very unique aspects and scattered all across Barovia - the one she was performing for tonight was possibly the cruelest, the pure vampiric form of him... but even this form had shown glimpses of warmth and humanity when shown kindness in turn.
Strahd was also a father - a good enough father than his daughter had contacted them seeking help to put him back together again. There was something to be said about that. 

Prianna couldn't identify with a lot of these traits. She wasn't a parent, and had a very poor relationship with her own family. She had no place of power, and she certainly had never led a war. But there was one particular trait of this man that she did understand, as warped and twisted as his version of it was.


The man was madly, passionately in love with a woman from his past, a woman he was desperate to make his own again. Yes, they had saved that girl - Ireena - from that fate. Still...
She closed her eyes, and tried to picture herself in a similar place as Strahd, but with the lanky black-haired wizard in the place of Ireena. It was... an eerily easy thing to do.

If, for whatever reason, she was doomed to be without Victor for hundreds of years, alone, longing for even the slightest of touches from his hand... she'd be completely insane too. If a version of him suddenly appeared, the spitting image... that crazy mind of hers would probably... do the exact... same... thing...

She didn't know if she liked admitting that about herself, and she briefly turned her head to the side to press a light kiss against the side of Victor's knee, cast a smile up at him, and began to write. Occasionally she would stop, ask Victor to play something to see if he was even capable of doing so, but she kept the piano's part of the music as simplistic as she could, without it sounding plain.

Then she stood, picked up her own instrument, and began to suss out the notes for her own part of the piece.

The song itself it's a strange concoction. D minor is considered a sad and melancholy musical key, but to Prianna's ears it can sound dull and droning. What she imagined Strahd's mind to be was the exact opposite of that. The years of madness, the intense urges for love and companionship, that's the kind of thing that makes your brain swell at a fever pitch, with a bombardment of thoughts, compulsions, and loathing that never let you truly rest again. Bb minor on the other hand, held a richness to it that she felt was better suited to a vampire. Still sad, still haunting, but with a little pip of regal flair. It was a slightly more difficult key to play in - Victor was given some particular scale drills for it right away.

The song itself was broken down into different areas of Strahd's mind. The barrage of quickly-timed notes, at a strong level, a bombardment of hundreds of years worth of pain and suffering, while trying to hide it all under the mask of a vampire lord. Slower, more methodical sections to represent his sorrow, the loss of his love, even a potential acceptance that he may never see her again. Then, another swell of excitement, hope, and the same intense madness upon seeing her again - at least a version of her. One that never ceased.

As she completed the final notes of the piece, she examined it over. The song didn't sound malicious at all, no threats of death or destruction, nothing that came across that Prianna was afraid for her life. A part of her was surprised by that - maybe she wasn't all that terrified of this man after all. She was to a point, of course, he did hold incredible power over her, but... she viewed him as less of a monster than she probably should. She had already humanized even the most pure vampiric part of him - that alone was potentially lethal.

The rest of the day was spent playing it over and over again. Correcting mistakes, getting the timing right, making sure it was so burnt into her and Victor's brains that they could play it in their sleep. When they only had an hour and a half left, she ushered Victor out again and got them ready. Well, as ready as they could be. She did her best to get the blood stains and filth from their clothing, she brushed back Victor's hair, redid her own, and even applied a bit of the perfume she kept in her bag. She didn't have to do all of this, she was sure that Strahd just wanted his song and nothing else, but... every little bit helped, especially in the way of respect with this man.

I'm pretty sure I wasn't expected to actually make a real song. I was expected to explain what the song meant, what it sounded like, and that was about it. ... but I'm extra. I was also a very young child when I taught myself piano, and took formal lessons for it until my late teen years. I had plans, at one point in my life, to be a concert pianist. 

This was not something the DM knew when he handed me this. He knew I had a lot of experience with music, but not that I actually did know how to write music and compose a song. I was way out of practice - I can't actually play anymore, due to my muscular dystrophy starting to effect things above my waist too. I hadn't put an actual song together, especially not for more than one instrument, since my mid-teens. 

But you see, there are programs out there. Like Noteflight, Musescore, Sibelius that allow you to write sheet music and then hear it back again.

So you know what I did this over the weekend?

I wrote a song.

IT IS NOT A VERY GOOD SONG. It sounds like someone who knows sheet music but is inexperienced/out of practice with song writing got onto a program and made something. But. It's there. In the key I wanted, with a simple piano accompaniment. It sounds like the tune that was in my head.


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