I’m 3 sessions behind on campaign reports, now that I’m running a second campaign and playing in yet another. It’s the most D&D I’ve played in years, so I can’t complain too much, but I do intend to get caught up before Session 17, when the players will take their first steps inside Castle Ravenloft.
After a few weeks off, we return to the game on the morning following the werewolf fight at Van Richten’s Tower. Zib’s player is missing for the session, so his character is along for the ride, but quieter than usual.
After learning a bit more about the two monster hunters, Dr. Rudolph Van Richten, and Esmerelda d’Avenir, our party consults a map of the region which Van Richten provides (the fold-out poster map of Barovia), to get a better idea of where they need to go. Finding the old mansion that Madam Eva had mentioned is fairly close by, they make a plan to go there and look for any clues to its history. After that, if they’ve got time before the big wedding, they’ll make attempts to retrieve the other two gems for the Winery.
Esmerelda had previously scouted the exterior of the mansion and is interested in learning more about it as well, so she agrees to accompany the party members and Kokhed there, while Van Richten will take a letter from Cordelia east to the Graenseskov to let Ismark know what happened to his sister. She also wants a chance to evaluate the party’s combat skills to see if they are capable allies to join in the fight against Strahd.
On the way to Argynvostholt, the players encounter a solitary traveler shambling toward them clutching a longsword. As he approaches, they see that he’s a walking corpse. He greets them with a query.
“Be you friends or foes of the dark lord of this land?”
They reply that they are foes of Strahd, and he encourages them to visit the very place they are now traveling toward. He tells them to seek out the leader of his order and convince him to help them against Strahd. When they ask the undead knight’s name, he pauses, confused. He doesn’t remember. For so long, he’s existed in a state of rage at the wrongful deaths of his brothers and the dragon they loved, that he’s forgotten who he was. This will be a recurring theme with the revenants they meet this session.
He continues on his way and the party does as well, arriving at the manor house a little before mid-day. The manor was once opulent, but has fallen into disrepair, and one side of the building has partially collapsed. A large octagonal tower rising from the back side of the building is intact, however, and smaller conical defensive turrets remain standing along the outer walls.
They see a large statue of a dragon facing the steps to the front door, and there is a moment of fear as some long-dormant magical effect triggers as they climb the steps. The dragon breathes a blast of cold air over them, but it deals no damage, its magic a shadow of what it once was.
Cordelia knocks on the door calling out a greeting, but her knocks are met with silence. They wait a few minutes and then enter, finding themselves in a large entry hall. A central stairwell climbs in a T to a balcony on the second floor overlooking the hall. Several sets of double doors are set into the left and right walls, and two other doors are set in the wall ahead on either side of the stairs.
Devlin stealthily moves over toward the right side and opens the central set of doors. The room beyond is in ruins, the roof and walls collapsed in places. Huge spider webs are strung throughout, and several gigantic spiders make their way along the webs. He shuts the door, and they decide to circle back later to clear out the vermin for the tasty experience it will provide.
As they return to the center of the hallway, a shadow of a great, winged dragon crosses the room, disappearing into the darkness above. There is a slight disturbance in the air.
The party decides to check out the upper floors, as the shadow seemed to be directing them that way. They head north at the T on the stairs, reaching the balcony overlooking the entry hall below. From there, they explore a couple of rooms in the upper hall. From a hearth in the second room, a tiny mephit-like dragon made of smoke emerges, flying out of the room and back down the hall to the balcony. They follow it through a curtain at the west end of the balcony and up a circular stairwell. It flies down another hall with a partially collapsed ceiling and into a large room directly above the entry hall.
Inside they find an armored corpse sitting on a large throne-like chair, clutching a gleaming greatsword. His eyes burn with a cold light and he challenges them with a raspy voice, asking if they are friends or foe, and warning that their deaths will be quick should they be foes. They are quick to assure him they are friends, and foes of Strahd, mentioning their encounter with the nameless undead knight they met on the road.
He introduces himself as Vladimir Horngaard, former lieutenant of the mighty silver dragon, Argynvost. He and his brother knights are kept alive by their hatred of Strahd, who centuries ago, when he was still a human, invaded this land with an army, slaying the dragon and his knights. They have forgotten much of their old lives. Vladimir especially curses Strahd as his lover and fellow knight, Sir Godfrey was slain at Strahd’s hand. Vladimir longs to be reunited with Godfrey.
After hearing the history of the order, the party requests Vladimir’s aid in defeating Strahd. At this point, they find out that Vladimir has no wish to see Strahd put to rest. According to the revenant, confinement to Barovia is Strahd’s curse and punishment, and he does not wish to see that punishment end. He gives them leave to explore the rest of the mansion, and tells them they are free to seek aid from the other revenants if they wish, but not to expect much.
They explore the rest of the floor, finding a group of six knights sitting around a table in a large chamber. These are worse off than Vladimir, and do not remember their names. They are a morose bunch, still pining over the loss of their dragon, and cannot be persuaded to provide any help to the party.
Up to the rooftop battlements, and the party is startled when a silvered statue of a small dragon speaks:
“When the dragon dreams its dream within its rightful tomb, the light of Argynvost will beam and rid this land of gloom.”
They try to converse with the statue, but after it has delivered its message, it remains silent. Looking out across the manor grounds, they see a mausoleum at the far end of a fog-shrouded cemetery. Four dragon statues, similar to this face outward from its roof. This must be the “rightful tomb”.
They explore upwards first, entering a door toward the back of the roof and climbing up to a high tower top. From there, they can look out over the land, seeing Vallaki, the Abbey of St Markovia, and The Old Bonegrinder mill.
They descend back down from the roof through a circular stairwell leading to what they believe will be the chapel. At the second floor landing, they can look out over the balcony into the chapel. Three more revenants kneel before a dusty altar.
The party makes their way to the first floor and greet the revenants, but are met with snarls of rage and drawn weapons. The hatred has driven these three mad, and they wish nothing more than to slay the living. The revenants are dispatched with relative ease, though many spells are flung by Zib and Cordelia, and the party searches the altar, finding a secret panel containing a necklace with 7 gemstones attached to it like charms, and a small potion bottle.
They make their way out the side door of the chapel and through the graveyard to the mausoleum. Entering it, they find the interior dominated by the skeleton of a massive dragon. Its skull is missing, and the rest of the dragon statue’s words leave little doubt that the return of the skull is the triggering event for getting Argynvost’s light to beam.
They feel safe in the mausoleum and take a short rest, identifying the necklace as a necklace of fireballs and the potion as a potion of diminution. The thought of a tiny gnome amuses everyone, so Zib is given the potion, while Cordelia accessorizes with necklace. We end the session there with the party deciding to explore the rest of the manor before taking on the room of spiders next session.