Session 17: Into the Castle

We’ve made it to the castle!  Cordelia’s player, Kristy, was absent this week due to an approaching hurricane (it missed us), but Paul was back to personify Zib.  Barbara, a player in another campaign which I play in took up my offer to join us and run one of the NPCs (thereby lightening my burden), and chose the gunslinging Ezmerelda.

The party sets off for the castle in the two horse-drawn wagons owned by Van Richten and Ezmerelda.  Ezmerelda takes this time to recount her last visit to the castle.

I entered the castle through the front doors, which were closed but not locked.  The entry hall was square, with a vaulted ceiling.  Four statues of dragons seemed to stare down on me as I crossed to the double doors leading deeper into the castle.

The next room was a great entryway, octagonal, with 4 columns propping up a high, domed ceiling.  Eight leering, fiendish gargoyle statues stared down from niches around the dome. Bronzed double doors blocked further progress east, and a huge stairwell climbed to the north before curving up and to the west.  To the south was a dark, open hall with a short passage leading east to a circular stairwell leading up and down.  On the west side of this hall was a closed door, light spilling out from beneath it.  I avoided this room.

I cracked one of the bronze double doors open, and the meager light shone into a long hallway shrouded in darkness.  In the gloom I could make out statues flanking the hallway down its length.  Fearing stumbling over a trap in the dark, and unwilling to give away my position with a light source, I closed the door without entering.

I decided to take the short hallway off of the southern hall east and up the circular stairs to the next level.  The stairs continued up, but I stopped at the first landing.  West of the landing was a door which led into a lit office of some sort.  Books, scrolls, and ledgers were scattered everywhere, and a large black desk dominated the room.  Four locked and bound chests drew my attention, but was I set my lockpicks to the first, I heard footsteps coming down the stairs behind me, so I quickly passed into the next room, shutting the door behind me.

I believe the third floor of the keep is occupied, as that is where the footsteps of whoever entered the office behind me had originated.  Unlike the undead, whose footfalls on the tiled floor of the audience hall were nearly silent, this individual had no inherent stealth, so I think it likely it was human, or another similar race.

I found myself in a large audience hall.  A single throne-like chair stood atop a raised dais to the south, while dim light entered from a huge broken window frame opening to the courtyard to the west.  On the north side of the hall, twin stairs set 20 feet apart lead downward.  Double doors on the north side of the east wall stood closed.  I tied my rope to the base of the frame, letting it out the window to have a quick escape ready should I be detected.  I could hear the sound of a chair being dragged across the floor behind the desk, and someone sitting down.  

My attention distracted, I almost missed the sound of the doors on the northeast side of the hall opening, but as the temperature in the room dropped, my eyes fell upon four armored figures slinking into the room, a blaze of infernal fire in their undead eyes.  Wordlessly, they sniffed the air, and their gazes turned in my direction.  Though my invisibility held, I had no doubt they could sense me.  The odds were not in my favor, so I quickly ran to the window, the creatures pursuing the sounds of my steps.  I shimmied down the rope, back into the courtyard.  Looking up, I could see their silhouettes at the open window, peering down, but they did not pursue me.


I ran across the courtyard, beneath the gatehouse and over the drawbridge, not stopping until I was well down the road to where I had left my wagon.  

After a brief stop at Strahd’s coach to read a wedding invitation for two days hence at dusk and addressed to Cordelia (and friends), they continue up the road to the castle, halting the horses about a quarter mile from the gatehouse and drawbridge.

They continue on foot, crossing the bridge while avoiding a suspicious looking slimy section in the center of the gatehouse ceiling.  Entering the castle courtyard, they can see the tracks of multiple sets of wagon wheels leading around to the left side of the central keep and through an open gateway in an inner wall extending out from the castle itself.  The castle’s massive front doors are open and torchlight spills out into the dreary courtyard.

Zib casts invisibility on himself and creeps up to the open gate, looks in, and sees some villagers from Wachterton unloading boxes of goods from a cart and nervously disappearing out of site, possibly through a door around the side of the castle.  Apparently, wedding arrangements are underway.  A large number of zombies dressed in Strahd’s livery stand in a large semicircle around this side yard, watching over the delivery.

He reports back to the party and then checks the other side, finding a similar wall, this time with a closed and barred gate.

The party argues for a bit over the best course of action.  Zib’s invisibility has a good amount of time left, and Van Richten can provide Ezmerelda with invisibility through his alchemical abilities, so the two of them creep in the front door to scout ahead.  Devlin, also capable of stealth goes with them but lags a bit behind, while Ismark, Cordelia, the good doctor, and Driscoll the wolf bring up the rear.

Four statues of dragons, each the size of a man stand upon platforms set near the top of  the entry hall’s walls.  Their eyes gleam and glimmer in the torch light.  Ignoring them, the stealthy group checks the inner doors for traps, and then cracks them open.  The next chamber is the huge octagonal hall with pillars and gargoyles.  A wide, great stairwell leads up to the north before turning 90 degrees to the west and climbing further.  To the south, a hall extends, with a narrower hallway off its east wall.  Large double doors in the west wall lie closed, but bright light escapes in the crack between the doors and floor.

This place appears deserted, so the rest of the party is waved forward.  They make plans to breach the double doors, weapons at the ready, and stumble into a richly-appointed fest hall.  Hundreds of candles are lit in the chandelier above the table.  The table is set with delicious-looking food and drink, and a well-dressed figure sits at a huge pipe organ at the far end of the room, facing away from them.  He plays some harsh chords on the organ, and turns to greet them.  It’s Strahd!

“Welcome, my friends.  You are a bit early for the wedding.  It is of no worry, though.  As you can see, you’ve been expected.  Please, enjoy my hospitality.  Eat.  Drink.”

The food smells delicious, but no one seems to have much of an appetite.  The visible party members question Strahd about Ireena, but his answer is evasive, stating simply that she is resting in her chambers.  After about a minute, he vanishes.  They question if he was ever really there.  Zib and Devlin admire the crystal goblets and fine silverware, and take the opportunity to fill their packs.

They decide to hurry up and explore.  As they reenter the main hall, Cordelia sees a vision of a white raven fly through the room, disappearing through the double doors leading farther into the castle toward the east.  The others fear it’s a trap and head up the great stairwell, instead.  It leads up to a wide landing with two stairwells leading up back to the south.  Between the stairs are a pair of suits of armor, both clutching large maces in their gauntleted fists.

Devlin and Zib notice something odd about the floor in front of the armor.  Zib looks around for something to test it with, and runs back down to the dining hall, picking up the roast pig and returning with it.  He hurls the platter onto the suspicious floor in front of one of the suits of armor, and the armor surges forward on some sort of mechanism, its mace slamming into the pig, sending roast pork flying everywhere.  Devlin catches the apple which flies from the animal’s mouth.

They skirt around the outside of the room and ascend the westmost stair, finding themselves at the north end of the great audience chamber Ezmerelda had visisted from the other direction.  Ezmerelda and Devlin hear the sounds of light footfalls coming from a set of double doors to the east and warn the party in time to set up an ambush.

Two vampire spawn enter the room, and are cut down where they stand by a massed volley of magic, alchemy, and arrows.

Ezmerelda points out the door leading to the office she was in before, and Zib wants to check it out.  They enter, finding a thin, bookish-looking human sitting behind the great desk, furiously scribbling in a ledger.  A rope dangles from a hole in the ceiling within reach of his arm. He looks up, apparently annoyed at the interruption.

Zib bluffs him into believing that Zib is there at “the master’s request” in order to check the books, especially the treasury figures. The accountant, Lief, is annoyed because Strahd doesn’t tell him where all the treasures are, but he assures Zib all is in order.  Zib asks about “the sword and the symbol”, and Lief says Strahd still hasn’t found the sword, and it’s almost like the sword doesn’t want Strahd to find it.  The symbol is safe in the treasury.  Zib tells him he wants to check on it, and Lief says “make sure you put out the fire first before you go through the secret door.”

Zib notices the four chests in the room and asks for the key to open them.  Lief tells him he’s forgotten where he put it, but then remembers, and tosses it to Zib.  As the gnome is busy opening the chests, Van Richten hurls an alchemical flask at Lief, which bursts, covering him in quick-burning flames which consume the accountant where he sits.  The doctor says he saw Lief reaching for the rope, obviously intending to sound some kind of alarm.  No one else noticed this.

Two of the chests are crammed full of copper pennies and those are ignored for the other two, partially full of gold and platinum, respectively.  Out come the packs, and in goes the coin.  At the bottom of the chest of platinum, he finds a book which purports to grant the reader great health and fortitude if read.  The party searches the room for other wealth, but finds nothing but ledger upon ledger full of figures.

They leave the office through the other door, reaching a circular stair leading up and down. They climb to the next landing and then through a door opening west into another dining room.  This one is full of cobwebs, and a moldy wedding cake, centuries old stands on a table.  A large harp sits in one corner, while a well-polished lute, remarkably free of dust lies on a windowsill.  Zib inspects it, and identifies it as one of the legendary instruments of the bards, a doss lute.

The wedding cake has a single figure of a bride atop it, and the tiny miniature looks a lot like Ireena.

A door leads north from this room, and perception checks are made, but no one hears anything coming from within.  They open the door, and see a comfortable lounge.  A wooden table and leather-backed chairs lies in the center of the room, occupied by a dusky-looking elf and a pair of vampire spawns.  Bookshelves and comfy divans line the walls.  A fire burns in a huge hearth to the east, above which a large portrait is mounted on the wall.  The portrait seems to be lit by a soft white light coming from something on the mantle.  Double doors in the west wall are closed.

The elf speaks.  “I am Rahadin, the master’s chamberlain.  He’s been expecting you to try to rescue her.  I am hear to ensure you fail.”  With that, he and the undead leap up.

Zib hurls a fireball into the center of the room, scorching the table, chairs, and carpet, but leaving the shelves of books unharmed.  Van Richten follows this by hurling an alchemical device that booms, creating a shockwave which cracks the table in half.  Cordelia sends a spiritual weapon dancing after Rahadin, and the enemies close as the party backs out of the doorway and back into the dining room.

Rahadin charges Zib, and as he nears the party, they can hear a cacophony of screams of terror within their heads, the restless souls of those killed by this dark elf over the centuries.  This sound builds to a crescendo, and those near him begin to bleed from their noses from the psychic damage inflicted.  Rahadin swipes at Zib three times with his scimitar, but the dice come up 2, 1, 1, shy of the 3 needed to hit Zib’s 13 AC!

The vampire spawn are dropped by Ismark, Devlin, Van Richten, and Cordelia, while the spiritual weapon, Esmerelda, and Zib work on Rahadin.  Finding himself surrounded and alone, heavily damaged, the elf misty steps to the other side of the room, fleeing down the circular stairs from which the party arrived.

Wasting no time, they head into the study and approach the mantle.  Devlin reaches up and pulls a sword hilt off the mantle.  It’s shedding a soft light, but doesn’t look very impressive.  He passes it to Zib, same thing.  Zib hands it off to Ismark, and suddenly, a blade of pure light springs from the hilt.  This must be the legendary sunsword!

As they are examining the blade, one of the double doors open, and a slim figure steps into the room.  It’s a young girl, somewhere in her teenage years, and dressed in a fine gown. Her eyes speak to a certain innocence, or perhaps naivete, not usually found in the denizens of Barovia.

gertruda

“Did you just beat up Rahadin?  Good.  I hate him.  He scares me.”

Zib has a feeling he knows who this girl is.  “Gertruda?”

She looks confused.  “How do you know my name.”

He pulls out her doll, given to him by her mother almost a week before.  “I believe this belongs to you.”

She grabs the doll, all smiles.  “At least I’ll have one friend here.  I thought the count loved me, but ever since SHE got here, I’m nothing to him…just her maid!”

“Where’s Ireena?”

“If I tell you, will you take her away from here?  If she’s gone, I’m sure he’ll love me again.”

“Sure, sure, where’s she at.”

“She’s right in there”, pointing to the double doors.  With that, she exits out of a door in the north wall, closing it behind her.

Before opening the doors, Zib remembers Lief’s advice, and starts yanking logs out of the fireplace, smothering the flames with water and ruining the already-singed carpet.  Searching the interior, he finds a secret door, but there does not appear to be a latch.  They search behind the painting, around the walls, and finally, the poker in front of the fireplace, which opens the door when pulled.

Behind the door is a room with a large chest.  Two torch sconces are on the far wall, one empty, the torch it once held in the grip of the skeletal remains of some poor schmuck who now lies draped over the chest.  Lots of copper and silver coins are scattered on the floor.  Devlin returns the torch to the sconce, which opens yet another secret door on the far wall between the two sconces.  They ignore the chest and peer inside.

A dark hallway is draped with giant spider webs.  A narrow path leads through them, ending at a door at the end of the hall.  They light the webs, waiting for them to burn, and then make their way to the door.

Zib opens it, peering inside.  More webs fill the chamber, climbing up the walls and concealing the ceiling somewhere far overhead.  A single rope hangs down between the webs into the middle of the room.  Zib’s darkvision and keen perception detects the shape of giant spiders clinging to the webs above, and he casts a fireball upward.  The webs burn, the spiders char, and the burned webbing reveals a concealed door in the north wall.

After searching the door for traps, they crack it open and find an octagonal room.  Its center is dominated by a 20 ft wide, 20 ft tall fortress of metal.  A door of some dark metal is set in its center, and many narrow arrow slits are the only other apparent means of entry.  They have found the “fortress within the fortress”foretold by Madam Eva’s reading.

We end the session there.

 

 

 

CoS Session 16 – Yester Hill

After an uneasy sleep, the party decides to go after the second gem stolen from the winery. They decide to stop by the Wizard of Wines, to have lunch with the rest of the Martikov clan before climbing Yester Hill to the south.  Two painted savages step out of the woods as they approach the turn-off to the winery, heading south toward the hill.

After lunch, the party continues to the hill, finding a large circular wall of stacked stones atop it.  Two pathways circle lower on the hill, and stone cairns are spaced evenly around them.

Devlin hears someone calling to him from one of the nearby cairns.  The voice says “Long have I waited for one who is worthy. My bow hungers for blood. Retrieve it, and rule these mountains in my stead, just like the mighty warriors from the early days of the Whispering Wall.”  He digs at the rocks, exposing the skeleton of a long-dead barbarian chief.  A longbow made from the horns of some great bovine beast is clutched in one hand. Loose around its skull is a simple silver circlet.

Devlin grasps the bow, and immediately intuits its abilities.  Once attuned, it will provide an outstanding bonus to hit and damage (+2), and whenever an arrow it shoots reduces a target to 0 health, Devlin will gain 2d6 temporary hit points.  After the magical item drought of the early part of this campaign, the items earned in these last two sessions will really come in handy. Cordelia is sure the bow is cursed and that Devlin will be taken over by some evil spirit sooner or later.  No gifts come without a price within the lands of Barovia.

They enter the ring of stones, and find the earth within soured.  Dead grass has been trampled by countless feet, and a 30 ft tall wood and wicker effigy of a fanged man (Strahd) stands along one wall.  Directly across from the opening they entered is another which leads to a copse of dead trees some distance away.

Cordelia gets a torch from Devlin, lighting it and walking toward the wicker Strahd, intent on setting it ablaze.  As she gets close to it, there is the clatter of stones from all around them, and six druids and six painted berserkers burst forth from the rock wall surrounding them.

A fierce battle breaks out, with the druids attempting to control the party with hold person and entangle spells.

Cordelia hurls one of the gems from her necklace at the effigy, catching a pair of druids in the blast, frying them instantly.  The effigy is set ablaze.

The-Wicker-Man

Esmerelda is entangled, but even motionless and at disadvantage to attacks, her shots are devastating.  Devlin’s hunters mark and new bow are a vicious combo, taking out druids left and right.

Kokhed charges at a druid, but gets caught between two berserkers, paralyzed by the druid’s hold person.  The berserkers all attack recklessly, striking with great accuracy, but opening themselves up to counterattacks.

Zib casts suggestion, telling one of the berserkers that Devlin is the reincarnation of their tribal leader.  He has the bow and must be protected against these other traitors!  The barbarian’s eyes glaze over and he cuts into a nearby friend.

The extremely one-sided battle starts turning the other direction when Cordelia missed attack rolls with guiding bolt after guiding bolt. Kokhed is on the other side of the circle from the rest of the party,  and after three rounds of automatic crits from the berserkers, finally saves against the hold effect and manages to go into a frenzied rage.  However, he has already taken too much damage, and after a single round of attacks, falls to the attacks of his foes.

Zib launched several shatter spells, which turn the tide, but finally loses his concentration on the suggestion when a druid got close enough to land a thunderwave on the tightly-packed party.

Unconscious, Kokhed is struck by the one remaining berserker standing over him, failing two death saves automatically with the auto-crit he takes, and putting him one away from death.  No one can get in range to heal him!  As the party cuts down the last of the berserkers, Kokhed rolls his last death save…an 8!  Kokhed is dead!

Cordelia has a plan!  Revivify!  But wait…revivify requires diamonds as a material component…diamonds the party does not have!  She doesn’t have gentle repose prepared, so Kokhed will go gentle unto that great night.

The effigy has fallen apart and burned itself out, and amongst the coals and ash lies a pristine green gemstone.  Scooping it and Kokhed’s body up, the party returns to the Winery. They give the Martikovs the gem, and leave Kokhed with them to allow the wereravens to bury him according to their customs.  The Martikovs curse Strahd and his minions, and tell the party they can likely make the winery work with just the two gems for now.

The PCs and Esmerelda head back to Van Richten’s tower in case the good doctor has already returned with Ismark, but he has not.  There, they bed down for the night.  In the AM, the sounds of an approaching wagon wakes them, and there is the good doctor Van Richten with Ismark in tow.

After Ismark is brought up to speed on recent goings on, Cordelia outlines her plan to get into the castle and retrieve the symbol and weapon which Madam Eva foretold in the reading way back in session 5:

This second card tells of a powerful force for good & protection.  A holy symbol of great hope.

(9 of coins / Miser)

Seek out a fortress inside the fortress.  In a place hidden behind fire you will find what you seek.

This third card is  the position of power and strength; it tells of a weapon of vengeance, a blade of sunlight.

(8 of Stars / Necromancer)

Within  the castle, a woman hangs above a roaring fire.  Find her and you will find the treasure.

Cordelia’s thought is to enter the castle in two groups.  The first would include her and Ismark.  They would seek an audience with Strahd and Cordelia would admit defeat, and act like she just wants to go home after the wedding.  They would attempt to keep Strahd distracted, while the others, known as the “stealth” group, would use Esmerelda’s previous scouting of the castle to locate the two rooms containing the artifacts and retrieve them.  If time permitted, they would look for the skull of Argynvost and retrieve it as well, hoping that its return would cause the undead revenant knights to ally with them against Strahd.  With the weapons safely in their possession and the knights on their side, they can plan to attack during the wedding.

Ismark is against this plan, as any delay would cost them freeing Ireena, which he feels should be the focus of any delve into the castle.  He is also concerned that splitting their forces would allow Strahd to divide and conquer them at their leisure.  Devlin agrees that the party should go into the castle at full strength and as a unified force.

Cordelia emphasizes that no one who has tried a “frontal assault” on the castle has been successful.  They argue about frontal assaults versus utilizing stealth to scout ahead a room or so, but maintaining party cohesion as a single group.  As a whole, they end up agreeing  that the items should be the first priority, as they would make surviving any encounter with Strahd or his minions much more likely.  They are worried, rightly, that Ireena will be well-guarded, but Ismark is adamant that rescuing his sister before her transformation into Strahd’s vampire bride be included in the plan.

Cordelia has another plan, if all else fails.  If she can get close to Ireena, she will kill her. Knowing Strahd wants to possess her above all else, she can barter her ability to raise the dead for Strahd leaving them alone (until they are ready to face him).  She doesn’t mention this to the NPCs for good reason.

With most of the day remaining, and knowing the castle is four hours away, the party loads up in both Van Richten’s and Esmerelda’s wagons and begins the journey from the tower to the castle, ending the session.

CoS Session 15 – Argynvostholt Pt 2 and Back to Wachterton

Zib’s player was absent again this week, so I had my hands full running him and Kokhed.

The party starts exploring the remaining rooms on the second floor of Argynvostholt.  They quickly find themselves trapped in an upstairs hallway, a wall of stone manifesting to block the way back from the T intersection in which they stand. Through doors at either end of the hallway, float phantom warriors wearing the livery of Strahd, the spirits of his mortal army.  While their mundane weapons are not very effective against the incorporeal undead, they still defeat them soundly.  The two rooms have nothing of interest, and after a few minutes of searching for a way out, the wall of stone disappears, and they make their way back to the first floor.

It’s getting late in the day, and they hope to make it back to civilization before dark, so they decide to explore the non-spider infested side of the first floor and skip the arachnids for now.  In a wood paneled den, they have one last supernatural experience.  A fiery dragon-form erupts from a still hearth, floating above them.

“My lights have fallen into darkness.  Save them if you can.  Show them the light they have lost.”

With that, the fire burns out.

Cordelia and Devlin both think it would be a good idea to ask Madam Eva to do a reading about the dragon’s skull.  So, with that in mind, they decide to make their way to Vallaki (now Wachterton) for the night as they will be closer to the Tser Pool camp.  They arrive back at the town just as night falls, and make their way past the creepy gate guards and to the inn, where Kokhed is reunited with the Martikov clan.

Late that night, the smell of smoke wakes the party.  After determining it’s coming from outside the inn, they make their way to the street.  On the east side of town, flames rise from the Church of St. Andral.  They quickly don their equipment and run over to the church.  Outside, a group of masked cultists stands on the far side of the street chanting “Witness his glory” over and over.  They look up, and see a laughing Strahd circling above the church, mounted on his nightmare.  Ireena clings to his back, looking very cosy with the vampire.

From within the blazing church, screams can be heard.  A villager runs out the door, making it part of the way down the steps before a feral-looking vampire spawn falls on him, biting deeply into his neck.  The cultists cheer and resume their chant.

Tired, low on resources, and even lower in morale, Cordelia, Devlin, Esmerelda, and Zib turn back toward the inn.  Kokhed changes into a raven, leaving his equipment on the street and flies into the burning building.  He later rendezvous with the group back at the inn and reports there were no survivors within the church.  The priest, and every  innocent who sought nightly refuge there had been slaughtered by a group of vampire spawn.  By morning, the building has been consumed by the fire, and smoldering embers and debris are all that remains.

 

 

CoS Session 14 -Argynvostholt Pt 1

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.

 

 

 

 

CoS Sessions 12 and 13 – Werewolves at the Gate

werewolftemple

After a short session last week, I waited until after this week to have enough for this report.  With the defeat of the hags, the party searched the windmill, locating their treasure stash on the third floor which consisted of a driftglobe, a potion of healing, and some pieces of cheap jewelry.  Their ill-gotten gains from the pastry business consisted of several gold coins and semi-precious gemstones which were hidden in the barrel of sludge found in the first floor kitchen.  Rose, Thorn, and the other two children were all from Barovia, so the group decided to head there.

They encountered Strahd’s carriage at the turn-off to the castle and it appeared to be waiting for them.  Devlin looked inside and found a note inviting them all to dinner.  He penned a quick reply declining the invitation due to short notice and asking for a rain check, and pocketed the note, waiting for the right time to tell the party about it.  Perhaps after they aren’t lugging around four children.  The coach’s door shuts on its own and the horses gallop up the narrow cliff-side road toward the castle.

They next made a stop by the Tser Pool encampment where they had met Madam Eva almost a week before. The player characters were each given an opportunity to meet with Madam Eva separately to ask any personal questions and get answers from Eva’s Tarokka deck.  Each had several solid questions that they asked, and while the answers were not always clear, they provided solid nudges in certain directions.  I don’t remember all the questions and answers, but Devlin’s player Sarah did an awesome job of recording them all in her game notes, so I’ll see if I can’t borrow them to type them up as a separate post.

Before Devlin left, he asked if there was anything they could do to repay the assistance she had provided.  She declined at first, sticking to her motto of “No favors asked, no aid accepted.”, but after pulling a card from her deck which she did not reveal, she changed her mind.  “Return here tomorrow on your way back to the west, and I may have a request of you.  I do not bind you to any service, I may simply ask a favor you are free to decline.”

The characters with four children in tow continued back to Barovia, reaching it just before nightfall.  They returned to the home of the other children, a brother and sister, and found their mother, going through withdrawals from dream pastries.  Cordelia cast lesser restoration on the woman which seemed to ease her pain significantly.  The woman cried over her husband having convinced her to trade their children to Morgantha for a basketful of pastries which they had binged on until they were gone.  She promises the children that it will never happen again.  Daddy is gone and won’t be coming back. Momma pushed the oven on his head.

Not ready to leave kids in the care of a murderess and former addict, Cordelia drags the woman and her kids to Donavich at the church.  Donavich speaks with the woman and is moved by the story she tells him.  He then states that she should get her children back, and agrees to check in with the household multiple times a day and help them through this troubled time.  He’s back to shepherding his flock in the village!  This is agreeable to Cordelia and crew, so they leave the reunited family

They make their way across town to the townhome of Bildrath’s sister.  She is overjoyed to see the kids and horrified that the once-friendly Hezekiah would betray everyone’s trust as he did.  She promises not to let them go off alone with anyone.  She’ll make sure her son, the stock-boy Perriwimple, keeps an eye on them when he’s not working.  This doesn’t reassure any of the party, but they have a vampire to eventually defeat and several more wrongs to right, or treasures to plunder, or damsels to save, or towns to overthrow…they have a lot of unfulfilled goals.

The first goal is sleep, and they do so in the common room at the Blood of the Vine.  The night passes uneventfully, their first night back in the shadow of the castle far above atop the pillar stone of Ravenloft.  We end session 12 at this point and pick up session 13 in the morning.

In the morning they pack up and depart quickly after Cordelia leaves the majority of Ireena’s belongings in Donavich’s safekeeping.  She takes Ireena’s sword and her healer’s kits with her.  (they’re doing Ireena no good while she’s in the castle)

They again take the shortcut by the Tser Pool and Devlin meets Madam Eva outside her tent, waiting.

“There is a stone mansion somewhere to the west where once a silver dragon made its home.  It is now a haunted and troubled place.  If you encounter it in your travels, you can share with me any books or other writings you find there.”

She requests no promises, this is simply a favor they are free to pursue or not.  That told, they travel toward the windmill, where Madam Eva has hinted that they may have missed something in their search…when asked about the location of the third missing gem from the winery fields, her cards showed that they had recently been very near it, but failed to spot it.

They head back toward the mill when they again pass the turn-off to the castle.  The coach is back and again, its door waits open.  Zib wants to go to the castle, but is held back by Cordelia, who distrusts his motives.  Devlin checks and Strahd has penned a reply to his note from the previous day.  It apologizes for not being able to reschedule for the time being, there is a wedding being planned.  He promises them an invitation to the wedding once the betrothal is official.  Devlin slips back out of the carriage and agrees with Cordelia that they’d rather go to the castle when Strahd isn’t there, if such a thing can be arranged.

They return to the Old Bonegrinder which is soon to be renamed as the Durst sisters are now the owners of it.  Part of Barovia property law states that in order to prove ownership of a building, beyond having an official deed signed by the Count, the owners must be capable of defending the property from those who would take it by force.

Searching the upper level of the windmill, they find a small bird’s nest tucked up in the eaves of the attic where the drive wheel gears turn the main shaft.  In it is a small blue stone which pulses faintly with dim blue light.  Kokhed confirms that it is the first “seed” that was stolen, Zib wants to see it, but Devlin tosses it to Kokhed for safekeeping.

They decide to head to the tower on the lake where they are to meet Van Richten.  Kokhed will split off to fly the seed back to the Martikovs at the winery before meeting them at the tower.  They pass by Wachterton, where new signage has been procured and hung (no more scratched out “Vallaki”).  The elf and Vistani camp is subdued, and Driscoll the wolf eyes the camp longingly, apparently wanting some of the wine the Vistani had been feeding him when wolf-sitting for Devlin.

They take a shortcut on a game trail which travels around the north side of a wooded peak instead of the main road which would take them around the south.  This gets them to the turn-off to the tower quicker, and they reach a treeline sloping downward to green grass shores alongside a mist-shrouded lake.  A straight grass causeway led from the shore directly to an island about a hundred feet off the lakes shore.  On the island was a single stone tower.  Parked beneath it were two wagons, one they recognized as Rictavio’s carnival wagon, the other a closed-top barrel wagon.  They spotted some work horses grazing freely along the woodline just to their south.

Around the tower, loped several wolves and an equal number of two-legged figures which looked fur-covered.  They hid in the woods and observed.  From across the lake, one of the figures called up to the tower “Give us the girl, old man. She killed my mate and now I claim her life as tribute for the pack in return.”

The only answer from the tower is a loud explosion as a bright flash appears in one of the arrow slots on the fourth floor.  The large werewolf who had been speaking recoils as if struck by something.  His companions take cover behind the wagons while their wolves creep under some scaffolding on the building’s side.

The siege continues while the party waits for Kokhed’s return.  As the sun sets, the werewolves and their wolves howl.  In the darkness, they begin circling the tower again. There is no answering fire from the tower.

Just after twilight, Kokhed descends on a mighty flap of wings.  He has delivered the gem and has seen the evil rival lycanthropes.  He cannot carry a silver weapon, so he will have to rely on his beak or some other means of damaging the werewolves.  Cordelia has a silver dagger, Zib a silver short sword, but Devlin has no silver arrows or weapon.

They begin to implement a half-formed plan before it’s formed.  Zib casts invisibility on himself as Devlin orders Driscoll to guard Zib.  Invisible, Zib creeps up the causeway stealthily, while Driscoll stalks at a distance behind him.  Neither are noticed by the wolves or werewolves.  Zib empties out flasks of lamp oil, saturating a 10×10 section of ground before creeping forward onto the island, about 30 feet from the apparent werewolf pack leader.

A lot happens at once.  The party begins a stealthy approach up the causeway after Devlin casts pass without trace on the group.  Some of the werewolves catch the scent of Kokhed, who was not so stealthy, even with a +10 modifier to the roll.  The leader catches a closer scent, that of the invisible Zib, orders his pack to attack those on the causeway, and begins to home in on Zib with his nose, striding back and forth before coming to a stop directly in front of Zib.  He swats out with his claws, miraculously catching an invisible, dodging, Zib across the forehead with a lucky shot despite the disadvantage.  Zib backs away, making a stealth check and the pack leader loses his scent momentarily.

There are more sharp thunder-like cracks from the tower, and the werewolf leading the charge down the causeway stumbles as it is struck twice by something none of the party sees.  Something else is hurled from another arrow slit on the fourth floor, and explodes in a radius around its impact near the werewolf packleader who is singed, but manages to dodge the brunt of the blast.  Devlin shoots an arrow at the center werewolf in the pack which charges them, and thorns sprout from its shaft, showering its target and the werewolves around it with thorns and dealing some damage in the process.

As luck would have it, the five werewolves dash action causes them to bunch up and end their turn directly in the oil-saturated area.  Cordelia prays to the Raven Queen as she hopes that a sacred flame burns hot enough to ignite oil.  The Queen’s favor is with her, and the white flame misses her target, but strikes the ground next to it solidly, the white flash giving way to dull blue and orange flames and a rising wave of heat.  The fur of the werewolves catches fire.  Four of them peel off into the lake while the one struck by the unseen attacks from the tower continues forward in a rage, on fire.

Driscoll has readied for this and leaps forward seizing the werewolf by the throat. Unfortunately, his teeth are incapable of penetrating the magical hide of the werewolf, and it shakes him off as it lashes out at Cordelia, sinking its fangs into her shoulder.  She rolls pretty high on her Constitution save, and sighs in relief.  She responds by drawing her silver dagger, striking and connecting for damage, though the werewolf doesn’t appear to weaken any from the blow.

The wolves which had been hiding under the scaffolding run toward the causeway to join their werewolf masters, but two are cut down from more unseen attacks from the tower, again accompanied by thunderous claps and bright flashes.  Of the other four, Zib drops the front two and injures the back two as he appears uttering the words of a shatter spell. Another projectile is hurled from an arrow slit, exploding and taking out the remaining two wolves.

A voice calls down from the tower top, “My wagon, under the seat, arrows and bolts.” Devlin makes a leap over the burning section of causeway which is already beginning to burn out, and just makes it to the corner of the near wagon.  Hoping this is the right one, he flips up the seat, revealing a cubby sporting a quiver of arrows, a case of bolts, and other goodies.  He snatches an arrow from the quicker and begins drawing the string as he turns to fire, noticing the head of the arrow gleams silver in the moonlight.  Two arrows fired in quick succession strike the burning, pissed-off, shot-up werewolf who finally drops from the abuse.

The werewolf packleader has loped out into the water to bypass the burning section and this turn closes with Cordelia and Driscoll the wolf. Kokhed swoops down on one of the werewolves in the lake, raging, and grappling his foe, forcing it beneath the lake’s surface. They struggle for position, with Kokhed coming up on top and keeping his opponent from surfacing to breathe.

Cordelia has been attacked to within a few hit points of dropping, and Zib has sustained a bit of damage.  With the loss of their wolves, the werewolves’ fortunes change quickly.

Cordelia lands inflict wounds on one of the other werewolves who charged her, then again the following turn on the pack leader. Devlin’s shots are deadly accurate, and he adds a hunter’s mark to the packleader for extra damage. Two more werewolves are downed, and as the leader howls and retreats, one more cracking boom from the tower causes the back of his head to explode, sending his lifeless form falling to the ground.

One of the remaining werewolves is captured, and the final werewolf flees, and Van Richten opens the tower door and ushering the party inside. He takes a moment to explain the trap mechanisms guarding the tower entry in case it becomes important later. They stop to gather up the belongings of the werewolves, still lying where they had originally changed, and then carry the unconscious werewolf, now changed back to human form inside.

There they are ushered over to strange elevator.  Four sets of chains connect to a pulley system somewhere far above which lifts a platform.  Four clay statues, animated golems come to life to pull the chains, raising the platform toward the top of the tower.  They pass two mostly-rotted and destroyed levels before reaching the solid, but musty fourth floor.  It’s obvious someone has been living here, and from across the room comes a woman with Vistani-like features.  Van Richten introduces her as his protege, Ezmeralda, and with introductions made, we end the session.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Ismark’s Letter

Dearest Ireena,

I pray to the Morninglord that this missive finds you and our new friends well.  I have arrived in the Graenseskov, and am the guest of boyar Borje Volchykrov.  Plans proceed for the wedding, but there are dark goings on here in the border woods.  The people are plagued by a beast in the shape of a great dire wolf, but one with a cunning, human-like intelligence.  The boyar is convinced that his court is under a curse laid on him by a foul fae hag which he had executed last year, and that the beast is a man able to assume the shape of a wolf.

This beast has killed at least twenty men, women, and children in the last year, most recently the boyar’s leal knight, Jovich.  I have been tasked with finding and stopping this monster, as a sign of my worthiness to marry Cvetlana.  To be honest, I find myself hoping I am unworthy, for she is a plain and homely girl, of a cold demeanor.  Spoiled by her father, she orders the household around as if she were a queen, and has already turned her sharp tongue my direction, a time or two.

Darian and Zhivago are proving to be boon companions.  We fought off two attacks by packs of wolves before we even reached Volchykrov manor.  Their puissance at arms is apparent.  There have been some words exchanged with the boyar’s “hounds”, led by the man’s boorish son, Cedomir.  It doesn’t help that Cedomir is on my short list of potential suspects.

Borje refuses to even entertain the thought that his son is anything less than a fitting heir.  If we didn’t need his support to maintain our own family’s position, I would already have left him to his own devices.  But regardless of my personal feelings, the people of this land no more deserve this beast’s predations than you deserve to be the focus of Strahd’s unholy and unwanted advances.

Tomorrow, we ride forth to look for the monster hunter who Borje had employed to track the beast.  The man disappeared a couple of months back, but in finding him, or at least his remains, we may learn more about our quarry.

I know that Barovia is not a safe place for you to be, but I must ask.  If you have found a place of safety, can you send our new friends to check on the villagers?  I heard some troubling gossip from a drinking friend of the boyar’s, Aco “Four Eyes”, a traveling spice and coffee merchant, who arrived back here not long after we did.  He swore that while passing through our village, he saw Pavel and Eta turning little Freek and Myrtle over to an old crone in exchange for some pastries.  Nonsense, I’m sure.  What kind of parents would trade their children for pastries?  Still, it troubles me to think that yet another darkness may be preying upon the poor folk of Barovia.

Take care of yourself, dear sister.  I worry, though I know you are in competent, safe hands.  We will be reunited soon, if it is the Morninglord’s will.  I look forward to that day.

Your loyal brother and burgomaster,

Ismark Kolyanovich