CoS Session 11: Dream Pastries

The characters start the morning in glum spirits.  Cordelia, especially, having just lost her best friend, Ireena.  Ismark’s letter has her feeling especially glum.  But, things begin to look up when her prayers are heard and she feels the Raven Queen grant her the next mystery of prayers.

The party received an experience bonus for delivering the wine shipments to key NPCs, enough to reach 5th level.  Our retainer NPCs, Kokhed and Ireena are a bit behind at 4th level.  Plus, Ireena is currently in Strahd’s castle.

Cordelia is able to end Strahd’s charm on Devlin early, allowing the party to function as a whole as we begin the day.  The Inn has reopened and the Wachter boys are at their usual table, getting their drink on early.  They are glad to see their friend Zib again, but he’s a bit annoyed that their greeting doesn’t give him the deference he feels he is owed for keeping their involvement in the tiger incident to himself.

Zib talks to the boys, and attempts to incite some chaos in the new order by convincing them that their mother will pay to have them killed next as they’re a threat to her rule.  The boys, coddled by their mother, cannot even conceive such a thing, and if they aren’t too drunk to remember this later, it could come back to bite him if they share his thoughts with mom.

Lady Wachter’s majordomo returns to tell the party that Lady Wachter is scheduled to hear grievances in the town square today, so their reward will be waiting there with her.  They feel like it’s a trap, and Zib begins planning wide scale arson.  He eagerly agrees to a scouting mission first, though, as there’s no reason to suspect the Lady of treachery at this point.

They approach the square in two groups, with Zib hiding in an alley, and the others approaching from a different side street.  The square is relatively busy and no one notices the party.  A few villagers have set up small market stalls selling foodstuffs.  Lady Wachter sits atop a high-backed chair on a platform at one end.  A few feet in front of this, the former burgomaster, his wife, and his son dangle from a shoddily-constructed, yet effective gallows.

Lady Wachter’s platform is flanked by 3 cultists in robes and mask, two carrying glaives, and the third wearing an amulet, apparently armed with just a dagger.  More troubling, at least two cultists can be seen perched on the roofs of surrounding buildings with crossbows.  They do not appear to be making any attempt at stealth, simply up there as snipers and lookouts.  Also, near Lady Wachter and her cultists, is a red-scaled, man-sized creature with horns, a tail, and a beard of ropy, tentacle-like growths below its scowling visage.  It stands at attention, clutching a wicked-looking glaive.  Cordelia recognizes it as a bearded devil, a footsoldier of the nine hells.

There are two townsfolk standing between the gallows and the platform , arguing their case to the lady.  As the players watch, she makes her decision, and one hands a bag of cash to the other.  Both kneel to the lady and walk off, their case settled.

Another robed and masked cultist emerges, though his girth and stride, and the facial hair protruding from under the mask give him away.  Blinksy, the former Toy Maker is wearing the trappings of the Lady’s cult.  He steps into position and makes a formal declaration of loyalty to Lady Wachter, thanking her for rescuing him from the stocks, and “freeing the town from the insane rule of the Baron”.  She thanks him for his tribute and sends him on his way.

As nothing appears to befall those who petition the lady, they feel they’re safe, and as a group, meet up in the square and approach Lady Wachter’s audience grounds.  She smiles as she sees them coming.  “I must say, I am impressed.  You work quick.  I didn’t expect to have to move as fast as I did, but you got the job done, and with such flair.”  She doesn’t come right out and say that she’s rewarding them for making Izek Strasni disappear, but everyone involved knows the score.

The lady motions to one of the cultists who moves behind the her chair and returns with a wooden coffer.  He presents it to the players and removes the lid to reveal an open sack within, filled with a couple of hundred gold coins.

“A little bonus for the speed with which you completed this task.”, the lady begins.  “And if you will be spending some time in Vallaki, there are some positions that need filling.  I’m in need of a new sheriff (she looks at Devlin), and may have an administrative position or two open soon (she eyes Zib).  Zib and Devlin appear ready to accept on the spot, but Cordelia quickly promises that the group will “take it under consideration”.  She ushers her friends away from Lady Wachter, grumbling under her breath about being the only moral compass in the group.

Kokhed rejoins the party from his position at the edge of the square and they make their way back to the inn to plan their next move.  There is talk of visiting the tower where Van Richten spoke of meeting them, but first, it’s time to claim the windmill known as the Old Bonegrinder from a trio of old ladies.

The party spends the rest of the morning traveling from Vallaki back to the windmill.  As they approach, each member gets the feeling that someone or something is trying to establish a mental contact with them.  They don’t sense anything malicious or forced about the attempt, so all open themselves up, and in a moment, Rosevalda, the communicative Durst twin is speaking to their minds.

“Oh Good!  I’ve been trying to reach you for hours.  Help!  Hezekiah came to the village yesterday and said he was taking us out for pastries.  We went with him, and he dragged us to this windmill.  He gave us to the old ladies in exchange for a basket of pastries!  And these ladies are mean, and when no one is around, they change…they’re green, and frightful monsters.”

She goes on to say that she and Thorn are in a small cage in a closet on an upper floor.  There are two other children with them.  There was another boy, but one of the monsters took him downstairs earlier today.  There was some screaming.  It stopped.  He never came back.”

Sure enough, as the party approaches the precipice upon which the windmill stands, they see the form of a halfling, lying outside, just off the path to the front door.  He is conscious, but in a dream biscuits trance, unaware of the goings-on around him.  They debate putting him out of his misery, but Cordelia has a plan to use him to get into the building.

Zib asks Kokhed if he could fly him up to the third floor windows, and the wereraven nods, though he explains his fly speed would likely be reduced by the extra weight.  Zib casts invisibility on himself beforehand, and Cordelia fixes the weight issue by casting enhance ability on Kokhed.

Devlin prepares to cast jump and enter the second-story window overlooking the inner stairwell.  Cordelia will go knock on the front door when Zib messages that he and Kokhed are in position.  Devlin orders his wolf Driscoll to guard Cordelia.

Kokhed lands lightly at one of the open third floor windows.  Looking into the room, they can see two green-skinned fey creatures, green hags, dancing around the vertical drive shaft of the mill.  The hags don’t immediately notice them so Zib messages down that the plan is a go.  Cordelia knocks on the door as Devlin casts jump and vaults up to the 2nd floor window just after the third hag, Morgantha, in her human form, walks by on her way downstairs to answer.

She takes in Cordelia holding a zonked Hezekiah.  “Yes, dear, back for more pastries?”

“My friend seems to be in a state.  Do you have anything that can bring him around?”, Cordelia asks.

“Come in, come in, let’s see what we can do about that.”

Cordelia enters the first floor, as Zib becomes visible after casting a sleep spell using one of his third-level slots which targets the two hags upstairs.  He is astonished that the spell isn’t powerful enough to sleep even one of the hags.  They turn to look at him just as Kokhed flies in the window, in a rage, squawking a challenge and swinging his maul.  The two hags scream “Mother, intruders!” and take defensive stances.

“You have made a very big mistake, my dear”, Morgantha says as she reveals her true form.  She turns invisible, and both Driscoll and Cordelia sense her pass by them and move up the stairs.

Zib follows up with a shatter spell which has the hags’ ears ringing and deals some damage to the mill’s shaft.  Devlin, seeing the second floor empty, moves up the stairs toward the third floor, climbing just high enough to be able to peer over the level of the floor.  Taking in the battle ground, he hunter’s marks the hag closest to Zib and fires an awkward shot which deflects off the hag’s thick skin.

Angry, the more injured of the sister hags runs up and grapples Zib, preparing to drag him toward her sister to be mauled, while the other calls for her mother again.  Kokhed strikes at the grappling hag, wounding her again.  Driscoll and Cordelia climb the stairs, running into the invisible Morgantha.  Cordelia swings at the space with her hammer, and connects with a grazing blow.  Morgantha retreats again, and calls out from just below Devlin on the stairs to the third floor “The coven is sealed, my girls.  Time to play.”  She chants the words to an arcane spell and becomes visible, as her form takes on a dark visage,  she mutters “Flee” at the wolf, Driscoll.  Overcome by the eyebite effect, Driscoll howls and yelps his way back down both sets of stairs, and outside the tower, where the effect ends due to distance.

Cordelia lands a solid guiding bolt on Morgantha, but Driscoll is out of position to follow up on it.  Zib swings his shortsword at the hag grappling him, and scores a hit.

With the coven in range of each other, the hags change tactics.  Arcane spells fly, and Kokhed is forced to make a Wisdom save against a polymorph effect, and skates by with a roll at the target DC (with his massive -1 modifier).  Zib makes a similar save against a Phantasmal Killer, and the party escapes the first volley of spells relatively unscathed.  Driscoll runs back inside and up the stairs, reaching Morgantha again on the dash, just in time for Morgantha to gaze at him again, this time causing him to “sleep”.  Again, his saving throw fails, and  the wolf curls up at the hag’s feet, sawing logs.

Zib calls out for anyone who has a dream biscuit left from their earlier encounter with the hags to throw it on the floor.  Devlin, confused, complies.  Kokhed misses with his maul, and Cordelia, with advantage from her last spell, lands yet another guiding bolt on Morgantha, who again maintains her concentration on the eyebite.  Zib cunningly suggests to the relatively uninjured sister that the biscuit Devlin tossed out is an extremely tasty morsel, and  that she should scoop it up and eat it immediately.  The hag’s Wisdom save fails her, and she complies, noshing down on the pastry, immediately falling into a stupor.  She’s still physically present though, and thus her sister and mother still receive the benefits of the coven.

Her sister takes the opportunity to cast a lightning bolt at Zib, who saves, but still takes nearly 1/3 of his max health in damage. Kokhed attacks her again, connecting solidly.  Morgantha attempts a polymorph on Cordelia, who easily saves.  Devlin sends another pair of arrows at the hag haranguing Zib, one of which connects for very solid damage.  Zib swings and misses, and the younger of the active hags goes invisible, retreating across the room.  The party turns their attacks on Morgantha for a turn, dealing some damage, though she’s not out of the fight, yet.  Her daughter reappears just inside the tower’s southeast window, lining up Zib and Devlin with a lightning bolt, which drops Zib to single-digit hit points and puts a bit of a hurting on the previously uninjured Devlin.

Cordelia lands a solid sacred flame on the daughter, dealing the decisive blow.  The hag’s corpse is blasted into fine ash by the holy radiance, which is then carried on the wind out of the window.  Morgantha screams, and goes into a rage, but an arrow to the neck by Devlin is split down the middle a moment later by the shortsword of Zib.  He attempts a flourish with the blade to decapitate her, but his dexterity fails him, and he just succeeds in opening the hag’s jugular, drenching him in green ichor-like blood.

Cordelia finishes the job for him, lining up a swing at the falling hag’s head with her warhammer, and catching it clean (nat-20).  The force of the blow causes the remaining connective tissues to tear loose, and Morgantha’s head flies out northwest tower window.

They bind the remaining hag, find and release the Durst sisters, along with another pair of children with the distinctive dusky look of Barovian commonfolk.  Cordelia comforts the children as she can.  Kokhed and Driscoll are awakened, and Cordelia channels divinity to heal

Thornvalda Durst silently approaches the final hag who is still in the rapturous hallucinatory trance of the dream biscuit.  As she stares at the prone fae, the hag begins screaming, her pleasant dream apparently replaced by something darker.  Her screams rise to a fevered pitch, and then green blood begins to trickle from her nose.  Her eyes bulge open, beginning to leak blood at the sides.  Something in her head gives away, and green blood shoots from her ears, nose, and mouth.  She twitches, and lies still, eyes still bulging, and blood leaking from every opening in her head.

“Not going to lie, pretty creepy, but I’m totally cool with it”, Zib says.

We end the session there, as the party prepares to search the former home of the hags.






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