We picked up right after the ghoul fight. Darien’s player, Stanley is in Orlando this week so I ran him as an NPC, mostly as another warm body/meat shield, but I also got to use his NG alignment as a chance to inject my 2c into the party’s arguments over loot distribution. The party debated moving on, but decided to take a short rest back in the “mess hall”. Before the rest began, Zivago and Cordelia went back up the stairs and down to the second floor where they packed up the 4 suits of armor along the walls of the hall. The fighters donned the two suits of plate mail, while two suits of half plate were carried by Devlin and Zivago with the intent of selling as the rest of the party declined the option of wearing a set.
After a short rest, the party ventured toward the area from which they determined the ghostly chanting was originating and found stairs leading down into the darkness. Not wanting to leave their backs exposed, they doubled back and went south, finding a shrine of some sort. Shackled skeletons lined the walls, and the far wall was dominated by a wooden statue of a man and a wolf. Insight revealed the man’s face was the same face on the electrum coins they had received as change at the bar (which they were told was Strahd’s profile). The statue’s outstretched hand contained a crystal orb. Hezekiah stepped up and spent some time performing detect magic as a ritual and detected no magic in the room. Emboldened, Zib stepped forward to snag the crystal. Zivago, Devlin, and Cordelia moved up to flank him in case of trouble.
Trouble arrived as he touched the orb. Five shadows flew up out of the statue, hovering in the air for a moment before attacking the front line. A hard-fought battle followed, with the party attempting to retreat back into the hallway to prevent being surrounded. Zivago, Darien, and Devlin all held the line, allowing the others to disengage. Repeated melee strikes from the three (against resistance), Hezekiah’s eldritch blasts (several missing), and Cordelia’s sacred flame cantrip (with vulnerability) finished the shadows, but not before Devlin, Darien, and Zivago had all lost significant amounts of strength (2-4 points each).
Zib ran right back up, grabbing and pocketing the crystal after seeing no further shadows appearing. (inspiration awarded) The party avoided the door (someone remarked it was the first door they’ve found in the dungeon), and went the long way around to the northwestmost section of the cellar. Here they found a sitting room with a table and chairs and a bedroom beyond it, with a big canopy bed against one wall with a chest in front of it.
Devlin was the only person who heard it, the scratching behind the walls. He had just enough time to call out a warning when a male humanoid creature, obviously undead, and wearing a black robe burst out of the wall in the bedroom, just in front of the party. A female undead, also in a robe burst out behind the party, where the two sisters were cowering. To their horror, before the others could act, and with Devlin caught out of range, the female undead, revealed to be Elisabeth Dust, called out, “My daughters! The ritual can now be completed.” as she grappled Rose and dragged her off down the hallway leading to the stairs down.
The male ghast, Gustav Durst, attacked once, dealing a bit of damage to Zivago before Cordelia stepped forth, presenting her holy symbol and calling upon the Raven Queen to wash the abomination from her vision. Turned, the ghast fled to the far corner to the bedroom, where it cowered for most of the fight.
Zivago, Devlin, Darian, and Zib, freed from the melee with Gustav, ran to catch up to Elisabeth. Rose managed to squirm out of her grip for a moment, forcing her to pause to re-grapple, which allowed both Zivago and Devlin to catch up at a three-way intersection. Darian took the long way around but got stuck at the edge of the pit trap Zivago had fallen into the session before. Zivago managed to strike the Elisabeth ghast once before Rose pulled free, running past him and out of immediate danger. Elisabeth bit into Zivago, critically striking him and dropping him from slightly injured to unconscious. As he lay there bleeding out, Zib and Devlin dealt additional damage to Elisabeth while Darian protected Rose, who had no problem skating along the outer rim of the pit trap to reach him.
A few rounds of blows exchanged, and Zib’s insight showed him that Zivago was losing a lot of blood (2 failed death saves). Luckily, Elisabeth had stepped over him, trying to reach her daughter and engaging Darian and Devlin in melee. Zib called out that they had a man down, and Cordelia ran out through the ghast’s own little wall-tunnel to reach line of sight on Zivago. Unfortunately, she had to dash to get there, and thus, Zivago would have to make a successful death save this round on his own. Zib offered Zivago his inspiration (the DM-granted kind, not bard die), but Zivago didn’t need it as the die roll came up a natural 20 for an instant stabilization.
Elisabeth dropped the following round, and Cordelia’s final spell slot was spent to Cure Wounds on Zivago. Hezekiah and Devlin kept cantrip and bow attacks ready if Gustav left the corner where he had fled. Gustav was pincushioned when the turning wore off. Searching the chest in the bedroom, the party located a magical cloak, a box with four unidentified potions, a chain shirt, a small vial of red liquid, a bullseye lantern, some thieves’ tools, and 7 parchment scrolls with spells inscribed on them. The party decided to take a long rest before venturing deeper as all were out of spells and class abilities, and also take the time to identify the scrolls and cloak. The vial of red liquid appeared non-magical, but smelled like fresh blood. The cloak’s enchantment was one of protection, and by popular agreement was given to Devlin as the two fighters were already tough to hit in their platemail. As Devlin donned it, the party noticed a small imperfection. Apparently its former owner had been backstabbed while wearing it, as there was a hole surrounded by dried blood in upper center of the cloak. Zib cast Mending on the cloak, but the next morning, both the hole and blood stain were back. Cordelia recognized the potions as potions of healing and held onto the box of them.
They reached the bottom floor, now able to understand the chanting coming from a tunnel to the west off of the reliquary they had just entered. “He is the Ancient, he is the Land.” Ignoring it, they waited a couple of hours while Hezekiah’s detect magic and identify rituals catalogued the minor enchanted items found in niches along the reliquaries wall. As the group decided who would get what, some of them found that their choice of treasure had some unexpected drawbacks. Devlin, in particular, ended up with two items with very good benefits, but ended up with an extra pair of flaws related to the new gear.
Heading around to the northwest, they found some hollowed out alcoves which served as some sort of jail. Only one shackled skeleton remained, dead not undead, wearing a single gold ring, and a black cloak similar to that worn by the ghasts. Finding nothing else they returned back to the reliquary, heading out the southwest tunnel, which descended down a slight ramp into about 2′ of standing water. A rusted portcullis blocked their path, but Darian was able to lift it easily (20 + 5 on the Strength (Athletics) check). They entered a flooded room with a raised walkway surrounding it, and a raised dais complete with altar in the center.
Remembering the shadows in the statue, no one wanted to approach the dais, fanning out along the east wall where they entered. After a few moments, dark shapes appeared in the room, dark visages of long-dead chanting cultists, the chant changing to “One must die.” Hezekiah had a vision of himself slaying Thornvalda with a bone ritual dagger, but felt no actual compulsion to make the vision reality. The party agreed that none would die, and after a moment, the chant changed to “Retlaw the eternal, we summon thee.”
As the session ends, a pile of refuse on the far side of the room stirs, and then a horrific monstrosity, all eyes and mouths bursts forth, howling and gibbering from hundreds of mouths. Horror overcomes them as they realize they have found Baby Walter, for part of the abomination resembles the face of an unborn fetus. The party will have to wait until next week to face this final challenge, deep in the dark heart of the Death House.