Abram Alaric stood in the forest, kneeling before the eldest tree and whispering prayers to a god that had been long-dead. He concentrated deeply on the words he spoke, the unnatural silence of the dense forest aiding in his almost meditative state. This silence was broken by the sound of wings fluttering. Abram looked up, seeing the large black bird that sat perched on the tree before him, and knew his prayers had been answered. The raven cawed once, stretching its wings out. It was much larger than the other birds in Ravenloft, the bird’s eyes glowing a bright azure blue. The color was a stark contrast to the greys and browns of the dying woods, and its eyes seemed to beckon him in. Without warning, the bird spoke.
“Rise, King Abram.” it said in a stentorian voice surprisingly suitable to its stature. Abram rose to his feet as the bird instructed, remaining silent as it continued.
“I have heard your prayers for an heir, as you are unable to produce your own, and I have come to fulfill them. You will have an heir, but for a price. The immediate price is the loss of your left arm.”
“And the delayed price?” The king asked, suspicious of the bird’s wording.
“You will know the ultimate price once you reach that time. You are not in a position to haggle with me, Alaric.” Abram grew silent once more. The raven was right.
“Now, extend your arm.” He did as he was instructed, extending his arm out in front of him. Suddenly, a searing pain engulfed the limb, Abram crying out in agony as his arm aged before his eyes, the skin growing pale and beginning to sag and wrinkle, before darkening and rotting. Within minutes, there was nothing but bone left. He touched what remained of his left arm, the white bone crumbling to dust underneath his fingertips. When he returned his gaze to the tree, the raven was gone, leaving behind a single black feather in its wake. He took it, placing it into the pocket of his cloak before pulling his hood on and leaving the woods.