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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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

 

 

CoS Session 10 – Wachterton?

As always, Curse of Strahd spoilers abound in this recap.  Zib’s player, Paul, couldn’t make it tonight, so the usually loquacious bard didn’t have a whole lot to say, but I’m sure he’ll make up for that next week after reading this recap.

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Play begins as the players wake up after spending the night at the Wizard of Wines winery along with Kokhed, their new wereraven companion and the Martikov family.  Cordelia prepares her spells for the day and then purifies the wine vat which had been poisoned, leaving a tasty wine within.  The Martikovs feed them breakfast and then Stefania and her husband Dag prepare the draft horses and wagon for the wine deliveries as the players stow their belongings and prepare to set off for the village of Krezk.

The journey to Krezk is uneventful, and around mid-morning they climb the hill to the gates of the walled village.  They can see the Abbey of Saint Markovia on the hillside high above the village.  When the guards see that it’s the wine delivery, they quickly call the Burgomaster who graciously accepts Krezk’s allotment of wine.

They make some small talk with the villagers and learn some back history of the abbey.  The abbey is named for Saint Markovia, a follower of the Morninglord who led a revolt against Strahd a couple of hundred years ago.  Predictably, she and her followers stormed the castle and were never heard from again.  The abbey had been abandoned until, a little over one hundred years ago, the abbot showed up.  He took residence, watches over the village of Krezk, but has a hands-off managerial style, letting the burgomaster run things.  He demands wine, possibly to keep his new followers occupied.  Nothing else is said about those…

The party climbs the narrow path up the steep hillside.  As they reach the first switch-back, Cordelia notices Ireena staring off to the northwest, where a small shimmering pond of water lies just inside the village wall.  Ireena says she feels strangely drawn to it, and could swear she heard a familiar voice calling her name.

Ignoring it for the moment, they reach the top of the hill and the abbey’s walls loom above them.  A bell stands outside the closed gate.  They ring it, and two cloaked, hunched figures, neither one reaching five feet in height, come out of one of the gate houses.

“Wiiiiine!  Wiiiiine!” the one barks.  He’s deformed and monstrous, a beardless dwarf covered in patches of donkey flesh, with a wolf’s ear, a human ear, a wolf’s snout and fangs, the legs of a great cat, and the tail of a donkey.  He’s speaking common but can barely be understood, he is friendly and enthusiastic, though.

His companion is even more hideous, partly scaled like a lizard, partly furred like a wolf, with cat paws and opposable thumbs, and apparently female.  He calls her Zygfrek, and sends her off to tell the abbot the wine has arrived, as he ushers the party inside the walls.  They’re a little freaked out, but the creatures don’t seem violent, so they accompany him through the outer walls and through the inner doors to the courtyard, after passing a graveyard to their south and seeing a walled garden at the north end of the abbey grounds.  Devlin looks for signs of open or fresh graves, but doesn’t see any.

Within the courtyard, they’re surrounded by small buildings which resemble chicken coops, but are padlocked on the outside.  A well stands in the center, and a bat-winged humanoid with a spider’s mandibles for a mouth is chittering crazily while tethered to a rope in one corner, apparently to prevent it from flying away.

Devlin, seeking to make small talk, asks their guide, who has introduced himself as Otto, about the abbot.

“He’s a genius, and a great man.  He is responsible for giving us these wonderful forms.  It’s greater than I ever dreamed it would be”, is Otto’s garbled response.  Insight rolls indicate no deception or magical compulsion, while this guy might be a little “off”, he is legitimately the abbot’s #1 fan.

There’s screaming coming from within the coops, but Otto shouts at them “Shut up! Shut up!  It’s not dinner time yet!”

“It’s the mad ones”, he apologizes.  “The process doesn’t go perfectly for everyone.  But, these magnificent forms are a blessing, and worth the risk.”

The party is looking at Stefania and Dag, but the two of them are taking this in stride.  They look a bit repulsed, but this isn’t their first delivery to the abbey, and it’s always gone okay before.

Before long, the abbot steps out.  He’s a young, extremely attractive man with a beatific aura, and apparently he hasn’t aged a day since his arrival over a century before.  He thanks them for bringing the wine, and invites them to bring it inside the great hall.  Inside, a kettle boils over a fire, a long table is set for dinner, and a woman in a torn and disheveled red dress stands near it.  He tenderly reaches over and takes her hand, introducing her as Vasilka.

She makes some noise in her throat, but appears incapable of speech.  Looking at her closely, both Devlin and Cordelia notice that her powdered skin appears stitched together in places.  The abbot, seeing their reaction, explains that Vasilka is his greatest creation, meant to be a bride for Strahd.  By giving the devil his heart’s desire, he hopes to heal the land of Barovia.  He just needs a proper wedding gown.

The party knows that Ireena is what Strahd desires, but diplomatically keep hush about that.  They agree to look for a wedding gown (Zib has seen one in the Burgomaster’s mansion in Vallaki), and make an excuse to leave.  On the way out, Cordelia sees the abbot’s shadow on the wall, and the silhouette has large feathered wings rising up over its shoulders.

As they descend back into the village proper, the party tells Stefania, Kokhed, and Dag that they will meet them at the gate.  They walk north to the pond Ireena saw.  Near its shore stands an old gazebo which looks like a good wind will knock it over. An old, wooden statue of a bare-chested man with its arms outstretched as though waiting to be embraced faces the pond from the center of the structure.

Ireena reaches the pool’s edge, and an image appears in the sparkling blue water: a handsome youth of kind and noble visage.  His eyes are sad, but suddenly light up with joy.

“Tatyana!”, he says.  “It has been so long!  Come, my love.  Let us be together at last.”

Ireena gasps and puts a hand on her heart.  “My beloved, Sergei!  In life, you were a prince and a man of faith.  We were to be married so long ago.  Hsa this blessed pool called your spirit to me?”  She reaches her hand toward’s the water’s surface, as a hand of water rises toward her.

Cordelia grabs Ireena and pulls her backward, away from the pool.

“No, let me go!”, Ireena screams.

“Wait, no, it’s some kind of trap”, Cordelia tries to explain.

“You don’t understand, I’m meant to be with him.  I’ve always meant to be with him!  I am…was…Tatyana.  His betrothed.  He is my prince, my beloved Sergei!”  Ireena struggles to free herself, but it is too late.  The pool’s surface returns to normal, and the vision of Sergei is gone.

“Nooooooo!  Sergei!”, Ireena screams, inconsolable.

The wind begins to blow from the east, the direction of Castle Ravenloft.  Seemingly from nowhere, a storm rushes in, and a downpour begins.  Lightning strikes the nearby gazebo, shattering it, and setting the remains of the statue on fire.  Demonic laughter echoes over the mountains to the east.

“Muahahahaha.  She!  Is!  Mine!”, Strahd’s voice booms across the lands.

Confused and somber, the party, a nearly suicidal Ireena in tow, returns to the gate for the journey back toward Vallaki.

As they reach the bridge over the Raven river, a raven descends from the sky, transforming into a naked young man.  Covering his junk out of modesty in the presence of human women, he calls Kokhed over, engages in a moment of conversation, then turns back into a raven and flies east.

“We’ve found one of the seeds stolen from the vineyards.  The Baba, Lysaga, holds it in the ruins of Berez.  She is a powerful witch, and those druids are obviously her allies.  They must hold the second.”

“Where do they come from, do you know”, asks Devlin.

“They attacked from the south.  There are ruins there, atop Yester Hill.  They must reside there.”

That information in hand, they finish the escort mission without further encounters in the wilderness.  It’s approaching evening as they near the Vistani camp, they can smell smoke in the air, and see multiple plumes rising from within the town of Vallaki.  Buildings are burning!

The Vistani are overjoyed to see them, though there is a tension in the air.  Almost all of the dusk elves and Vistani are on watch around the camp and hovels.  Luvash and his brother, Arrigal come out and oversee the unloading of their allotment of wine.  Luvash rubs at a bandage on his neck.  Devlin asks what’s going on in Vallaki, and Luvash replies with a chuckle.

“I heard Izek Strasni had a little accident last night.”

“What kind of accident.”

“The permanent kind.  After that, there was some kind of fight.  They’re killing each other in there.”

“Who?”

“The townspeople.  None of our business, we’re just staying alert to make sure it doesn’t spill over out here.”

Luvash and Arrigal open their treasure wagon and Luvash counts out several gold coins into a small sack, tossing it to Devlin.

“For the wine.  We will celebrate tonight.  Will you stay?”

They would love to, but they have one more delivery, and are anxious to see what’s going on in the town.  The Vistani offer to keep Devlin’s wolf, Driscoll for the night, and Devlin asks them not to get the wolf drunk on ale.

“Of course not…we have wine now!  Much better than ale!”

As they are leaving the camp, a middle-aged dusk elf approaches them.

“Heroes, may I speak with you?”

He introduces himself as Kasimir Velikov, leader of the elves.  He has heard about the outsiders’ exploits, and wonders if they might assist him.  His dead sister, Patrina Velikovna’s spirit languishes in the crypts beneath Castle Ravenloft.  A powerful archmage in life, she opposed Strahd and was killed within the castle.  Now, she speaks to him in his dreams, seeking a way to be freed from her torment.  He has heard that the abbot at Saint Markovia’s holds the power to restore the dead to life, and if they could retrieve her remains, they could acquire a powerful ally against Strahd.

Cordelia, priestess of the Raven Queen doesn’t like the sound of this.  She says that they will be happy to put the elf woman’s spirit to rest, but bringing her back to life would be altering the natural order of things.  He counters that were it not for the undead monster in the castle cutting her down before her time, Patrina would only now be approaching middle age as an elf.  And he doesn’t believe that it’s possible for her spirit to move on from here.  She has been dead for hundreds of years, but her spirit still lingers in this cursed land.  They promise to take it under consideration.  He is not happy with the answer.

Leaving the camp, they circle around and approach the eastern gate of Vallaki.  The plaque which once proclaimed the town’s name has been defaced, and next to it hangs a temporary wooden sign, possibly scrawled in drying blood, which reads “Wachterton”.  Guarding the gate are four humans wearing robes and bronze devil-faced masks over their armor.  They carry glaives, and silently open the gate, motioning the wagon and its entourage into the town.

wachter_cult_masks

“Uh, hi.  Are you the same guards that were here the other day?”

“We are one.  We serve at Her pleasure.”

Things have obviously changed in Vallaki, but maybe not for the better.

As they make their way toward the Blue Water Inn, they pass the burnt out remains of the general store.  From deeper in the town, smoke rises from the block where the burgomaster’s mansion stood.  They do notice the church still stands on the far side of town.  They pass more groups of the robed and masked guards in the streets, but whatever fighting happened here appears to be over.

The inn is closed and locked, but when Stefania knocks, the Martikovs answer, and quickly usher everyone in, after hurriedly unloading the last of the wine.  After the door is secured, they fill the party in on recent events.

The evening before, masked intruders assassinated Izek Strasni in the street near the Burgomaster’s mansion.  Then, in the predawn hours, the masked cultists took to the streets, slaying those loyal to the baron, before storming the baron’s mansion.  The baron and his family were dragged from the building as it was put to the torch.  They were brought to a hastily-constructed gallows in the town square and summarily hanged.

Lady Wachter has assumed control of the town, and renamed it Wachterton.  Some of her cultists have used  the chaos to settle a few scores, as some of the casualties had no particular loyalties to the baron.

A moment later there is a loud knock at the door.  Four masked cultists flank an unmasked man the party recognizes as one of Lady Wachter’s retainers.  He greets the party and tells them that the Lady looks forward to seeing them in the morning at Wachter house.  She has their reward.  Oh, and both Nikolai and Karl Wachter are wondering how long the inn will be closed.  They’re growing anxious to return to their favorite table in the common room.  He and the masked cultists depart after Urwin promises to reopen the next day.

The mood is somber over an evening meal shared with the extended Martikov family.  Urwin is happy to see Kokhed, his niece, and her husband, and asks Kokhed, “So, they know?”  Kokhed nods, the party knows the secret of the Keepers of the Feather.  They stand united against Strahd.

Cordelia offers to pay for the big room which sleeps four, but Urwin assures her that her coin is not needed.  She, Devlin, Zib, and a still distraught Ireena bed down there for the night, posting a watch.  She takes the first watch, and Zib the second, both of which pass uneventfully.  Shortly after Devlin’s watch starts, Ireena, restless, rises from her bed and approaches the window, opening it and complaining that the room is too stuffy.  Devlin chides her gently, closing the window.  Cordelia, woken by the commotion tries to get Ireena to go back to bed, but Ireena resists.

Devlin looks out the window, and with his darkvision, sees a man hovering there in the air.  The man’s eyes glow, seemingly looking into Devlin’s soul, and Devlin fails a Wisdom saving throw, charmed by Strahd!

“Open the window, dear friend”, Strahd suggests reasonably.

Devlin opens the window, and suddenly two swarms of bats enter the room, attacking Zib and Cordelia.

“Invite me in, it’s a bit cold out.”

Devlin is cranky from lack of sleep, and a little perturbed at the commotion his buddy’s pet bats are causing.  There was no need to attack his other friends.

“No.  I’m tired, come back in the morning.”

Cordelia begins fighting the bats, and Zib backs into the hallway, crying out to alert the rest of the Inn to the attack and casting a shatter spell which does as much damage to the wall as it does to the bat swarm.  Strahd casts a polymorph spell at Cordelia, which she resists.  The second swarm moves to attack her as well.  She retaliates by calling on the Raven Queen to bring forth a nimbus of light, surrounding herself with true sunlight which bathes the room, and shining out the window onto Strahd.  His skin begins to smoke and blister.

Strahd changes tactics, catching Ireena’s eye with his gaze.  Another failed saving throw, and Ireena is charmed!

“Come, Ireena, let us be off from this place.  Devlin, stand aside.”

Ireena rushes to the window, leaping out and into Strahd’s arm as Cordelia and Zib can only stare in horror.  Cordelia focuses the light around her into her hand, hurling it at the vampire, who raises a palm, intoning a single word of arcane power.  A shield of force deflects the beam of sunlight, which flashes out, leaving the room in darkness once more.

Strahd quickly descends to the ground where a black horse with flaming hooves and glowing red eyes, a nightmare, awaits.  As one swarm of bats is destroyed and the other driven off, he and Ireena climb onto the infernal steed and it takes flight, quickly disappearing out of sight.  Ireena is lost!

Cordelia is furious at Devlin, but Devlin just doesn’t get what the big deal is.

“When do you think Ireena will be back?  You think she’s going to stay out ALL NIGHT with him?”

Cordelia attempts a sacred flame cantrip to burn some righteous sense into Devlin, but he makes his Dexterity save.

She then attempts a hold person on him, but again, he saves.

Kokhed grapples Devlin from behind, but the slippery ranger wriggles out of the hold.

Zib then casts suggestion, telling Devlin to “Let him grab you, it’s for your own good”, and again Devlin’s near-perfect iron will resists the effect.

All told, it takes four wereravens, Cordelia, and Zib to get Devlin restrained and tied to the bed before he can cause any further trouble.

“A vampire’s charm is limited in duration, he should be fine in a day or so.  Until then, we’d better keep him tied up here with the blinds drawn”, advises Urwin.

As Cordelia lays in a fetal position on her bed, she receives a taunting sending from Strahd.

Hello, Priestess.  It was good seeing you again.  Ireena is with me, where she belongs.  Come to dinner at the castle.  Yours truly, Strahd.

She sends a reply.

This isn’t over.  My goddess will end your evil, soon.  Hurt Ireena, and you will pay!  See you soon, asshole.  You’re not as good looking…

“…as your brother”, she finishes, but unfortunately the last bit of the message is cut off as the sending expires.

It’s nearing morning, so Danika begins making breakfast for everyone.  The meal is even more somber than the previous evening’s supper.  Just after first light, there’s another knock on the door.  A messenger from the Graenseskov has arrived on a horse.  He asks for Ireena and is told she’s not available.  Recognizing the description of the other party members, he entrusts a letter, sealed with the Burgomaster of Barovia’s crest, to them.  It’s from Ismark.  As they open it, we end the session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CoS Session 09 -Poisoned Wine

Spoiler warnings again this week.  Wizard of Wines Winery, specifically, and Curse of Strahd metaplot as well.  While looking for art for this week’s blog post, I came across this track which fit the mood of the session perfectly.  A little gothic, a little psychedelic.  https://poisonedwine.bandcamp.com/track/dystopian-trance

Winery

After a couple of sessions meeting the major players in Vallaki, and the living legend Dr. Rudolph van Richten, my players are loving the sandbox.  This campaign keeps serving up information which manifests as dangly little “hooks” that they can choose to ignore, or not, at their leisure.  They’re also doing a great job of following their own goals and  motivations, as well as going “off script” in unexpected, yet awesome ways.

Last session, Zib had possibly set in motion a chain of events in Vallaki which could spark some big change in that town going forward when he anonymously sent the Vistani a note implicating Izek Strasni in the kidnapping of Luvosh’s daughter.  Lady Wachter had told the party that if Izek were out of the way, then her “book club” would easily be able to seize power and she could bring a more enlightened style of rulership to the Burgomaster’s seat.

But we’ll have to wait until next week to find out what went down back in the VK, because we were on the road this week, heading toward the Wizard of Wines Winery.  They stopped along the road for a long rest (a day camp!) at the end of last session after the fight with the dire wolves.  So it was early evening, daylight fading fast by the time they reached the winery.

The party travels down a side road off the main road, which quickly turns into a muddy path as a light drizzle begins to fall.  Another path splits off to the west, descending into a valley.  As they break the treeline, a meadow sprawls before them.  On its far side, lies the 2-story stone winery.  A path winds up to it between massive fields of grape vines, leading to a loading dock next to the winery’s attached stable.

To the north, in front of a stand of trees, a cloaked figure stands, beckoning them.  As they approach, more figures step from the treeline, careful to show upraised palms and no weapons, though cowled and cloaked.  The eldest threw back his hood and introduced himself as Davian Martikov.  The others, were his family, including his two sons, his adult daughter her husband, and four children, and a close family associate, Kokhed, a tall and powerfully-built man with a maul strapped to his back, with shaggy black hair, and a black beard with a stripe of white hair along one cheek.

Davian explains that he owns the winery, and two days earlier, his family had been forced to flee from it when a large group of plant creatures, led by a trio of wild-looking humans, attacked.  The humans had moss and twigs woven in their hair, were dressed in ragged robes, had dreadlocked hair, and were definitely unwashed.  Their plant creatures were infesting the vineyard, and seemed to be controlled by the leader of the three humans who was carrying a gnarled staff.  Zib remarked  that it seemed a fine evening to kill some hippies.

Kokhed introduces himself as a close friend of the Martikovs, and that he mysteriously knows of the characters by reputation.  As enemies of Strahd’s minions, he already considers them friends.  He is willing to join them and serve as a guide around Barovia if they will help take back the winery.  The Martikovs are late getting out their latest shipments, and the people of  the nearby towns depend on this wine to add a bit of happiness to their lives.  Already having two different groups (the Martikovs of Vallaki and the Vistani outside Vallaki) offering rewards if they get the wine flowing again, they quickly accept.

Kokhed sketches out a rough map of the winery in the dirt.  He’s not sure where the hippies are, just that they went inside and no one’s seen them come out since.  As they approach the building, he warns them that the fields are thick with the plant beasts, and sure enough, the withering grape vines begin shaking, their brown leaves parting as six groups of five vaguely humanoid plant-creatures covered in spiky growths emerge.  The closest groups are about one hundred feet from the building, the others another hundred feet away from those.

The players lights torches, deciding to make a stand at the corner of the building near the stables.  Cordelia is the first to act, and shoots a crossbow bolt that streaks off nowhere near the targeted group.  Devlin shoots an arrow, felling the lead creature in the other close group, and orders the wolf, Driscoll to guard Zib.  Zib readies his hand crossbow, Ireena takes cover at the corner of the winery stables, and Kokhed shudders, transforming into a massive man-raven, still clutching his maul in his now feathery arms.  The down on his stomach covers well-defined, protruding abdominal muscles.  He caws loudly, and a conspiracy of ravens perched on the roof of the winery separates into two swarms and begins to harry the needle blights.

The two lead groups of blights close in from opposing directions, and Cordelia is struck three times, once critically, by a volley of needles from the first group, nearly dropping her.  The other group fires into Driscoll, Devlin, and Kokhed.  Zib opens up with the big guns, casting shatter and a sonic boom echos off the surrounding hillside.  Two of the lead group of blights crumble, and two others are seriously injured.  Cordelia’s having no luck with sacred flame, as my saving throw rolls get hot.

Devlin, Driscoll, and Ireena engage the other lead group, while Cordelia, Zib, and Kokhed finish off the first.  The third and fourth groups of blights move into range, but are engaged by the raven swarms, and some healing is tossed around, keeping Cordelia and Driscoll in the fight.

COLLEGE-LIBERAL

The party retreats to the loading dock just in time to run into a female human, one of the three “hippies”, coming out.  She casts a hold person at the first target she sees, the cleric, Cordelia, who easily makes the Wisdom save.  Zib retaliates with a sleep spell cast at level 2, and rolls one greater than her current hit points.  She gets ganked in a single round as Kokhed finishes her off, splitting her head open like a melon.  They run inside, barring the door behind them.

Ascending from a circular stairwell in front of them, another “hippie” arrives in time to see his ally fall, but runs back down the stairs and out of sight.

 druid_hippy

 

The party catches their breath, then gives chase, into a dark wine cellar.  Their torches illuminating the room they are in, but leaving the far room in shadow.  Cordelia casts a nimbus of light which brightens the area a bit, and the party can make out more plant creatures in the next room, with the druid about sixty feet away at the far end of the cellar.

Ranged attacks are exchanged, and Ireena moves up to take cover.  Kokhed flies into a rage, flapping his wings to cross the over the heads of the needle blights, landing in front of the man, but misses his strike.  The druid grins evilly, chanting, gesturing with some mistletoe, Kokhed fails a Wisdom save, and is frozen in place!  His blights turn and tear into the barbarian wereraven, only his supernatural resistances keeping him from being killed outright.   I rolled 42 damage between the four advantage-to-hit/auto-crit-damage claw attacks, but his resistance dropped this to 21.  Kokhed remained paralyzed but still conscious (and raging) with 4 hit points remaining.

The rest of the party focuses on the blights while Zib runs into the next room and around the wine rack, avoiding the blights to engage the druid in melee, and firing off a healing word on Kokhed.  The druid laughs at Zib, chants a word in druidic, which caused his cudgel to glow brightly, and says “Now, the bird-man dies!”, as he swings the shillelagh at Kokhed.  The ineffectual blow bounces off Kokhed’s rock-hard bird abs.

Another druid, this one carrying a gnarled tree-branch staff arrives down the stairs behind the party.  He chants, and a thunderwave ripples across the room, shattering wine bottles, and injuring Driscoll, Devlin, and Cordelia.  Cordelia is knocked back toward the center of the cellar while the others resist.  On his next turn, the other druid casts the same thing, but both Zib and Kokhed make their saves, taking minimal damage.  More bottles burst, sending wine everywhere.

Cordelia makes out the sound of shattering wood as the rest of the blights from outside have breached the barred door.  Driscoll bites deeply into the druid with the staff, knocking him prone, while the others mop up the remaining blights in the cellar.  The druid with the shillelagh swings at Kokhed again, this time missing critically with a dread natural 1.  Again the shillelagh bounces off Kokhed’s rock-hard bird abs, but this time, he loses his grip (a second natural 1 on a Dexterity check to maintain his grip on the weapon), and the shillelagh rebounds from the barbarian’s muscles, knocking the druid hard in the forehead, its enchantment dealing maximum damage and dropping him.

The druid with the staff stands back up, unleashing another thunderwave, but again, both Driscoll and Devlin save.  He doesn’t last the round, not getting a chance to activate his vampiric staff, and Devlin picks up the staff, attempts to break the staff over his knee, but fails.  He tosses it toward Kokhed, who is finally released from the hold person spell, but critically fails his roll, and the staff bounces about 20 feet away, landing at the wolf’s feet.  Devlin commands Driscoll to “fetch the stick”, making the Animal Handling check easily, and points to Kokhed.  The wolf obeys, running the staff over to the barbarian, who manages to break the staff on his second attempt, just as a horde of blights descend into the cellar from both stairwells.  There is a bright flash and a pulse of energy tears through the building, and the blights instantly fall, inanimate.

Everyone catches their breath and is disappointed to find no loot on the druids or the remains of the plant creatures.  The Martikovs arrive to reclaim the winery having seen the blights remaining in the vineyard’s fields fall.  They thank the party and invite them to stay the night.  They find an empty gourd flask on the ground near one of the wine vats, and while Cordelia doesn’t recognize the remaining dregs of the foul substance that it once contained, poison is the most logical assumption.  She notes that this vat smells “off”, and makes a mental note to prepare purify food and drink the next morning to restore it.

They are brought into the family’s confidence, and Davian tells them of some lost “seeds”, magical gems which until recently were planted in the fields and caused the vines to grow in this normally inhospitable climate.  The gems were stolen, likely by the druids and one of their allies, and without their magic, the fields are already starting to go barren.  While he knows it was asking a lot, if the party comes across them in their travels, he would be eternally grateful if they could return them.

Also, he gives the party 3 moss agate gemstones, and asks if they will accompany his daughter and her husband on their wine delivery the next day.  They will be traveling to the village of Krezk, then over to Vallaki to drop off wine for the Inn, as well as the Vistani camp.   There are two already-promised rewards waiting at the end of that journey, and the party quickly accepts.  But first, this night there will be a celebration and a feast, and he provides the party with a pair of bottles of Red Dragon Crush, and six bottles of Purple Grapemash No. 3.

The party settles in for a much-needed long rest, experience is awarded, and Kokhed and Ireena level to 4th, catching up temporarily with the PCs.  In typical Curse of Strahd fashion, the encounter site was one massive pitched battle, with highly memorable moments, if not so epic in scope compared some of the other storylines.

wine_carafe

Reminder to myself and the players…when Cordelia purifies the wine in that poisoned vat, that particular batch is going to be released as a special edition, bottled in her honor, under the name “Raven Queen Red”.  Davian Martikov will make sure you get a few samples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CoS Session 08 – Blinsky’s Burns

CoS Session 08 – Blinsky’s Burns

We are down to three adventurers, Zib, the gnome bard of lore, Cordelia, human-ish noble woman, and cleric of the Raven Queen, and Devlin, the mysterious half-elven beastmaster ranger.  They are joined by an NPC Ireena, the noble adopted daughter of the former Burgomaster of Barovia village, and Strahd’s current unwilling “love interest”.

We open the session where we left off.  It is mid-morning, and Ireena and Cordelia walking toward the church.  Devlin, his wolf Driscoll, and Zib are returning to Vallaki from the Vistani camp outside town.  Hezekiah was going back to the inn to secret away the Tome of Strahd.  Ireena and Cordelia see a fenced-in graveyard in the church yard, clumps of mist rising from the ground around the graves.  A young man with a dark countenance is leaning on a shovel, staring at the ladies as they approach the steps to the church doors.

Inside, it is quiet.  At the front of the nave, a robed man stands with his back to them, wiping down the altar.  From a side room, a young boy emerges, and calls out

“Father Lucian, my chores are done.  Can I go out and play with my friends?”

The kindly-looking priest turns, addressing the boy.

“Good boy, Yeska.  Go play now, but be sure to be back before dark.”

The boy runs out of the church with a big smile on his face, one of the only sincere smiles the party has seen since arriving in Vallaki.  Ah, the innocence of youth!

The priest introduces himself as Father Lucian Petrovich.  He knows Ireena by reputation, and greets Cordelia with the respect due a follower of a different faith.  They chat for a bit, and he mentions that morning is the quiet time here at the church.  He holds nightly services overnight, usually fairly well-attended, as some of the townsfolk seek refuge within the church as darkness falls.

He goes on to tell them a bit of the history of the church, Saint Andral’s.  The sacred bones of the church’s namesake, Saint Andral, had long been buried in a crypt beneath the church’s altar, but a few days ago, someone broke into it and stole the bones.  He suspects the youth, Milivoj, the groundskeeper and gravedigger, but the boy has dark moods, and he fears a confrontation.  Without the bones, he fears the church is no more of a sanctuary than anyplace else in this cursed land.

That’s nice, but the party has an appointment with the Burgomaster, so after Ireena says some prayers for the soul of her departed father, she and Cordelia leave to return to the Inn and rendezvous with Devlin and Zib.  They go to look for Hezekiah, and he’s not in his room, though his pack  is there, and the Tome of Strahd is on the bed next to it.  They wait a couple of hours, but Hezekiah doesn’t return.

The party, down another fellow, heads to the Burgomaster’s mansion to present themselves.  As they are making their way toward the front door, it opens, and Izek Strasni and four town guards emerge.  Izek says “You heard the Baron.  Let’s get these posters put up around town”.  As he passes the parchment to one of his men, Zib and Devlin get a quick glimpse.  It’s a poorly-drawn caricature of a half-elf, with long pointed ears and a top hat.

WANTED: For public endangerment, possession of a wild beast within the town walls, and causing malicious unhappiness, Rictavio the Villain.  Last seen driving a carnival wagon.  Reward: 50 electrum coins, alive or dead.

One of the guards holds the door for the party and smiles exaggeratedly at them.  “All is well, strangers.  Be happy!”

They enter the front room, and see a wide stairway leading upstairs to their right, and a narrow hallway leading down the length of the first floor of the house, doors on either side and one at the end.  Bundles of twigs line the hallway and are stacked in the front room, clearly meant for the wicker sun to be lit at the festival next week.

As they call out a greeting, a woman comes out of a door down the hall to the left.  Clearly the Baron’s wife by her dress and manner, she greets them.  She introduces them to “her good friends” who have dropped by for tea.  Entering the dining room, the party sees eight women digging into plates of sandwiches and cakes, and sipping down tea as fast as they can.  They give quick waves to the party before tearing back into the food.

The Baroness Lydia escorts them into a room across the hall, where they are soon joined by the Baron.  Introductions are made by Ireena, who has met the Baron on several occasions before while visiting with her father and brother.  Baron Vargas Vallakovich is pleased to meet the characters, especially the noble Cordelia.  When the Wolf’s Head Jamboree festival is brought up, the Baron proclaims it a smashing success, and invites them to attend the Festival of the Blazing Sun if they are still in town.

Cordelia inquires about the Baron’s son, Baronet Victor, and is told the boy is probably upstairs in the attic.  Cordelia earns an elbow from Ireena by intimating that Ireena was asking after Victor, and would like to visit him.  The Baron, with a sly grin, offers to show them  the way.  He leads them upstairs and down and around the long upstairs hall, into his master bedroom.  There in the ceiling is a trapdoor leading up to the attic.  Pulling it down reveals narrow wooden stairs set into the door and leading up into a dusty room.

“Boy, you have visitors!  Come down here!”, calls the Baron at the top of his lungs.

From the other side of the attic, and muffled by more than one door comes the reply “Leave me alone, I’m busy!”

“Oh, it’s fine, go right up.  His room up there is through the main attic.”

Cordelia and Ireena ascend the stairs, while Zib nudes Devlin, who reaches into his pack, producing the deed to the windmill he retrieved from the Durst house at the beginning of the adventure.

“I believe this property falls under your domain, as we passed it a few miles away on our way here.  Is this a legitimate deed?”, Zib asks the Baron.

“Ah, yes.  The Old Bonegrinder”, says the Baron.  “That witch, Morgantha and her daughters have been squatting there for some time if I’m not mistaken.  The bearer of this would certainly be on the side of  the law were he to evict them from the place.  And so much the better!”

That settled, Zib and Devlin ascend to the attic and through the first door, where Cordelia and Ireena are standing on the far side of a room used for storage, knocking on a door with a skull carved into it, and a sign hanging from the knob which reads “All is NOT WELL”.  After some hemming and hawing, the Baronet is persuaded to open the door when Cordelia mentions that “there are two hot women out here waiting to talk to you”.

As they enter, they notice the young man sitting on a stool with a book in his lap.  He barely looks up, obviously focused on studying the tome.  Around the room, the animated skeletons of six cats prowl around, ignoring the party.  What are first mistaken for three small children stand in a corner, but on closer inspection they turn out to be life-like wooden dolls, dressed in children’s clothes.  “Those are my pupils, they are being punished”, the crazy Baronet decrees.  “Ivan, eyes to the wall!”

“Why won’t it work.  What’s wrong with the damn thing”, Victor whines.  He motions to a magical circle inscribed in the floor and then makes a rude gesture at the book he’s studying.

Zib uses his knowledge of things arcane, and realizes that the “teleportation circle” which Victor has drawn is imperfect, and will cause an effect much like a human-sized mousetrap of force energy if activated, likely snuffing the life of anything sent through it.

“Uh, that thing’s not right.”, Zib tells him.  “It’ll likely kill anyone who tries to use it.”

“Oh that explains it”.

“Wait, how many times have you tried using this thing, and on what.”  Devlin questions.

“Oh, two times.  On…the cats”, he motions to the creepy undead cat skeletons.

Surprisingly, no one in the party asks to make any kind of insight check at this news.

“Well, we’re glad Ireena got to see you, aren’t we?  But we should be going”, Cordelia goes.  This guy is definitely not marriage material for Ireena.  She hopes Ismark isn’t too upset.

The party makes its way out of the attic quickly, hearing the door shut and latch behind them.  The Baron is nowhere to be seen as they descend back into his bedroom, so they take the time to peak around the other doors on this end of the hall, seeing a fitting room complete with an old wedding gown draped on a wooden bust and a large mirror.  The next door holds a washroom, complete with clawed tub.  Cordelia steals a piece of soap, saying “What, did you see the prices they’re charging for soap in these stores?”

They head back down the hallway and around the corner to another door.  It opens to a loud bark, and they’ve found the Baron’s library.  He sits behind a desk flanked by two huge mastiffs, slavering and drooling.  “Oh, you’re visit is over.  You may see yourselves out” he says.  They shut the door, taking a moment to peak through the keyhole of a locked door across the hall from his.  Devlin’s darkvision pierces the darkness, and he sees that the room is full of dolls, all of which look like Ireena!

This is brought up to Ireena, who had already learned from Zib that Izek had been special ordering dolls that bore an uncanny resemblance to her from the toymaker, Blinsky.  “Let’s get out of here”, she shivers.

As they’re coming down the stairs, the door opens, Izek has returned.  Zib calls out a greeting, and then follows it with “Oh, Blinsky told me to tell you your order is ready to be picked up.”  Izek gives him a dark look as he shoulders past them.  Listening intently, they hear the sound of a key in a lock and a door opening and shutting.  Apparently, Izek lives here with the Burgomaster/Baron and family, which clears up any confusion about who might be ordering the dolls.  Ireena quickens her pace out the door.

The party decides to return to Blinsky’s, as the rest of them haven’t yet met the man.  Again, the little, vested, tutu-wearing monkey approaches them on the street with a card in his hand, but when he recognizes Zib, he puts the card back in the vest pocket and chatters, hopping back to Blinsky’s door.  They enter and Blinsky goes through his welcome speech, then welcomes Zib back.  He offers them his latest creation, a small toy gallows playset, complete with hanged man and a button, which when pushed, opens a trap door causing the man to dangle from the twine “rope” around his neck.

Zib begins to mention that he may have inadvertently let it slip to Izek, but the words aren’t even out of his mouth when they hear commotion on the street in front of the store.  Izek marches up the street, his fiend’s arm raised with a plume of devil’s flame rising from it.  Curious townsfolk along with a few guards follow him at a distance.  The party takes off out the back door of Blinsky’s shop, leaving the man confused, just as Izek hurls the flame, setting the front of the building on fire.

“Seize him!  Malicious unhappiness!  To the stocks!”  Izek shrieks as they run down the alley behind the shop.  They hear Blinsky protesting as his building begins to burn.  The little monkey runs out the door of the shop.  Zib turns, holds out his arm, and the monkey scrambles up it onto his shoulder.  They turn to leave, but the monkey takes a chunk out of Zib’s ear with a fierce bite before leaping off his shoulder and running back the other way.  It pauses halfway down the alley, and squats, but runs off as Zib reaches into the back of his own pants saying “Oh no, I can play that game too, monkey!” and squinting with exertion.

From there, they head nearby to the smith, one Kasto Nostova, to try to sell a suit of half plate which they’ve been carrying around since the Durst house.  He says he can repair armor, but no one in town has the money to buy such a fine suit, other than maybe the Araseks, owners of the stockyard and general store.  Cordelia buys a few daggers, but passes on a rapier which looks serviceable, but entirely normal.

The Arasek’s buy the half plate, and from there, the party asks directions to the Wachter house, as Zib would like to pay the brothers’ mother a visit as they suggested.  Everyone gets a chuckle at Chris Perkins’ imagery of a house which hates itself after falling into disrepair and dilapidation.

A servant of some sort, an older gentleman, opens the door here, and everyone recognizes his face as one they’ve seen multiple times around town.  He ushers them through a dining area and into the attached parlor where they are greeted by Lady Fiona Wachter, a fashionable woman of middle age.  She sizes them up quickly, and falls into boasting about how long the Wachter family has been aligned with the von Zaroviches, to which Zib replies “Isn’t there only one of him?”

Immediately recognizing the well-armed party as adventurers, Lady Wachter begins recruiting them to her cause.  She seeks to replace the Baron as Burgomaster, as he’s clearly insane and unfit to rule.  “Better to serve the devil than that madman!”  She points out that her book club, made up of nearly a quarter of the townsfolk by now, are all behind the idea of a change in leadership.

“We take recruitment very seriously”

“The only thing standing in our way is Izek Strasni.”  If he were to, exit the picture, the Lady would be ready to step in and seize control from the Baron and his men.

The party learns that she’d offer 100 gold coins to anyone who could make the Izek problem go away.  They promise to think on it and make their way out, as they’re kind of creeped out by this woman’s casual attempt to hire them for assassination.  Granted, Izek is a complete creep and monster from what they’ve seen.  Zib writes a note to the Vistani camp leader, Luvash, telling him that “Izek Strasni ordered the simpleton to kidnap your little girl”.  He finds little Yeska playing in the street, and pays him a whole gold coin(!) to deliver it to Luvash, telling him that “a hooded man” gave it to him to deliver.  Unsure of what will come of this, they retire to the inn, making plans to check out the Wizard of Wines Winery the next day.

Morning comes, and they set off for the winery.  Shortly after leaving town, Devlin’s wolf, Driscoll starts growling at something in the tree line.  They spot a trio of dire wolves attempting to encircle them, and the wolves charge as they’re spotted.  Driscoll intercepts one, bringing it to its knees with a fierce snap at its hindquarters, and preventing it from reaching Devlin.

Another wolf charges Cordelia and worries her arm, but she retaliates with her warhammer.  Zibb viciously mocks the prone wolf, and shamed at its lineage, the wolf still manages to rise and retaliate on Driscoll, dropping the pet’s health by over half in one fierce bite.  A return attack by the wolf companion and an arrow from Devlin drop the beast for good, while Cordelia lays a damaging inflict wounds spell on the wolf engaged with her.  The final wolf approaches Devlin and connects for some damage, but cannot bring him off of his feet.

Focused attacks on this second beast whittle it down, though it fights on to death while the third wolf continues attacking Devlin to little effect.  Soon, all three wolves are defeated, and the party moves on down the road, traveling for nearly an hour before reaching the second bridge and finding the path south which is supposed to lead them to the winery.  Looking north down the river, they can see a tower climbing out of the fog, clearly the tower Rictavio/van Richten mentioned to them.  We finish the session as they decide to stop there after checking out the winery, and before returning to Vallaki.

They turn south, and begin traversing the narrow path leading to the Wizard of Wines.

 

 

 

CoS Session 07 – Plot Thread Overload

Obligatory Curse Of Strahd spoiler alert.  Huge Spoilers this week, so stop reading now if you’re playing a CoS campaign.

 

After taking a week off due to play unavailability, we picked up this week down a pair of fighters.  It looks like Stanley and Perry are both dropping out of the campaign, leaving us with a party of four (five if we include Ireena, the NPC).  Losing Zivago and Darian, we’re left with Hezekiah,  the halfling warlock, Zib, the gnome bard, Cordelia, the human cleric of the Raven Queen, and Devlin, the half-elven beastmaster ranger with his new wolf companion, Driscoll.  This is going to be a long write-up, as our 3 1/2 hour session was almost all role-play, with maybe a half dozen dice rolls all night.  A lot of plot threads were introduced, and as predicted, the game world just “opened up” after tonight.  For those interested in coverage of the side-adventure “The Beast of Graenseskov”, I’m probably two game sessions away from beginning to run it, so keep checking back.

We open with Devlin making his way to the Vistani camp.  He hears again about the Vistani headman, Luvash’s missing daughter Arabelle.  The two Vistani redshirts with him lead him to Luvash’s tent in the center of the camp, atop a large round earthen mound.  He notices several well-kept draft horses and riding horses grazing inside the circle of wagons.  None of the Vistani seem to bat an eye at the wolf.

Devlin is introduced to Luvash, a huge leather-clad man who was currently beating a half-naked teenager with a horsewhip.  The man being whipped, Alexei, was supposed to be watching Arabelle during the time she went missing.  As Luvash explains, “It’s what I pay him for.”  Alexei agrees that he deserves every lashing.  Some jokes about the DM pulling a D&D to B&D switcheroo are made.  (OOC: Zib makes a dick joke.  Hezekiah points out Zib seems to have a fondness for dick(s).  Rest of party roll their eyes.)

Luvash’s brother, Arrigal, is also there, along with a handful of passed-out Vistani.  Luvash offers Devlin a drink of wine, but commiserates that there supply is running low, and their usual shipment from the Wizard of Wines winery is late.  But he’s got bigger things to worry about, with his daughter missing.  He provides Devlin a description and promises him a reward of “The pick of one our tribe’s finest treasures” if he can find Arabelle and return her safely.  The  Vistani relate that they camp here, near the town, but outside it, because the Vistani are persecuted, blamed as horse-thieves and the type of people from which you need to hide your teenage daughter.

Devlin asks about the windmill, and Luvash warns him not go near it.  The old shrews that live there are some sort of medieval drug pushers, selling “dream pastries”.  One of his men got hooked on the things, even going so far as to steal from other members of the tribe, like a man possessed, in order to get more.

“Well what happened to him”, asks Devlin.

“We beat the devil out of him, he’s fine now”, Luvash replies.  He points to a guy limping around outside.

“How long ago was that?”

“Oh, about a month.  He’ll heal.”

“He’ll heal”, the bound and still bleeding Alexei parrots.

Meanwhile, Cordelia, Zib, and a catatonic, blissed-out Hezekiah (still high on dream pastry) stop at the general store to do some shopping, convert some sellable treasures into cold, hard gold, and otherwise get the lay of the land.  Prices here are still 5x what they’d expect to spend, but Ireena mentions that it’s a closed market, almost never any imports other than what adventurers drawn to the land bring with them.  All of the shops in town are generally second-hand goods stores when it comes to adventuring gear.

They move from there to find the inn, noticing a flock of ravens, the same flock that aided them against the vampire, Doru, flying into town.  They recognize one particular raven with a bit of white on the side of its face.  The ravens fly across town to perch in the eaves of a 2-story building, which is soon revealed to be, the Blue Water Inn!  The heathen, Hezekiah tells Cordelia “This is in no way an omen of your god”.  Ireena thinks it’s good luck.

The innkeeper introduces himself as Urwin Martikov, and the lady next to him as his wife and business partner, Danika Dorakova.  Their boys, running along the balcony upstairs are Brom and Bray.  Urwin’s got slicked-back black hair and a clean cropped black beard.  A couple of their workers are hanging around in the common room, but no one seems to be doing any work.  Also in the common room are a pair of teenage boys, dressed in upper class, but old and shabby clothing.  Cordelia thinks no one would be caught dead wearing it in Waterdeep.  Also, a well-dressed half-elf wearing a top-hat and spectacles sits alone at a table sipping a tea.

The party acquires a pair of private, two-bed rooms, and Zib later rents out the four-bed room for Hezekiah, wanting some privacy from the inebriated halfling.  Ireena and Cordelia babysit Hezekiah, who briefly comes to his senses, before shoving another dream pastry into his mouth.  Occasionally, he utters some complete nonsense that never-the-less is completely on-topic to the conversations going on around him.

Zib takes off before it gets dark, to find Blinsky’s toys.  As he’s walking up the street, a small monkey dressed in a little vest and pink tu-tu runs up and hands him a business card.  On one side it reads “Is No Fun, Is No Blinsky!”  On the other, “Follow me to Blinsky’s House of Wonders”.  The monkey runs ahead and stops before a storefront on the right side of the street.  It waits for him to open the door, then scampers in the shop and onto the shoulder of the shopkeeper.

The shopkeeper turns toward the door and utters a well-rehearsed welcome which is part poetry, but mostly absolute cheese, but delivers it with such feeling that Zib completely buys it.

Zib pulls out the doll that Mad Mary gave him, and Gadof Blinsky, the toy maker, remembers his father making the doll and selling it to a little girl from Barovia village almost 35 years ago.  Zib tells him that the little girl’s daughter is now missing, and provides the description of Gertruda that Mary had given him.  Blinsky relates that she had been in his shop about 10 days before.  She wanted a new doll, something to commemorate her betrothal.  Something that reminded her of her betrothed…and her soon-to-be-husband looks a lot like this marionette which is based on the Count in the castle!  Zib’s eye is drawn to the doll sitting on the counter beneath the marionette.  It looks just like Ireena!  Mind-blow, he asks Blinsky about that doll.

“Is special commission, private commission”.  He looks a little worried.

Sliding 5gp across the counter, Zib convinces him to give up the name of the commissioner.

“Izek Strasni, the Baron’s sheriff.  You’ll know him by the arm.”  Blinsky also takes time to relate that the Baron, also the Burgomaster, in his infinite wisdom, had recently outlawed unhappiness and mandated happiness.  Festivals were being thrown on an increasingly frequent basis, mandatory attendance…and children required.

On his way back to the Inn, Zib notices a couple of guards being supervised by a big guy with a massive, red-scaled devil’s arm.  He figures that’s Izek.  The guards are taking down posters for the last festival, the Wolf’s Head jamboree, and putting up new ones for the Festival of the Blazing Sun to be held in 10 days.

Meanwhile, Cordelia and Ireena are getting the same story about the Burgomaster’s recent decree (and the recent and upcoming festivals) from the Innkeeper.  She also hears about poor Bluto, a local fisherman.  The only local fisherman brave enough to risk the wolves of the forest to go fishing on Lake Zarovich each day, though he never catches anything.  During the small talk, Urwin also motions to the two youths getting drunk in the common room.  Those are the Wachter (he pronounces it Vahk-tur) boys.  Their mother is Lady Fiona Wachter, a noble that doesn’t get along with the Burgomaster.  They have a sister.  Rumor has it, she’s crazy, and thinks she’s a cat.

Zib returns to the inn, and the party decides to invite the Wachter boys to play some cards.  They recognize Ireena as the late Burgomaster of Barovia’s daughter and tell her she’s become a real hottie.  “And your friend’s a real hottie, too”, the older one winks at Cordelia.  The girls quickly dominate three hands of three-dragon ante, and the boys are 8 gp poorer, having bet double or nothing on the third hand.

The drunken young men ramble on about their mother, the idiot Baron (they don’t care who hears them), and other assorted topics, before Nikolai, the older, says he’ll just earn his winnings back from his brother, if Karl fails to go through with their dare.  The party seems interested, but they shut up about it.  Later, Zib pulls them aside and after telling him how “cool it is that he’s a gnome” (they first mistook him for a halfling), confide that they wanted to get a good look at the strange half elf’s carnival wagon, so they were going to sneak away to the stockyard before going home to get a look at it.  Zib offers to make it worth their while if they come back and tell him what they find.

Rictavio is in the corner, so after the boys leave, Zib makes his way over there, while Cordelia and Ireena go talk to a couple of new arrivals, some Wolf hunters who don’t seem too talkative or friendly but are willing to put up with a few questions from a pair of ladies.

Cordelia mentions the attack by wolves (with a vampire) on the party’s way to Vallaki, and they reply, “Need any wolves killed?”

She explains they already killed the wolves (and a vampire), except for the friendly wolf that befriended the party ranger.

“Need that one killed, then?” asked the one hunter.

She quickly realizes these guys aren’t very helpful unless wolves need killing.  The men do say they hope she kept the pelts, as the Baron’s men will pay well for each pelt returned.  She snaps her fingers.

Meanwhile, Zib and Rictavio begin playing a dance of words.  Rictavio seems to confide in Zib, in a very roundabout way that he’s not a big fan of the Baron’s new decree, but that such absurdities can all be traced back to the true cancer in the land, living in the castle.  He also mentions points out that no one seems interested in working for, or even attending the carnival he’s trying to get started.  As a man who makes his living as an entertainer, he considers himself part capitalist, but also an altruist, and would like to bring “real happiness” to the people of the region.

As one performer to another, he questions Zib frankly about what he feels is the best course of action in a situation like the one they find themselves, stating that he trusts Zib and his friends more than any resident of Barovia, since he’s obviously an outsider but keeps good company.  Rictavio knows Ireena’s family by reputation as “some of the few good ones”.  Neither man nor gnome is willing to be the first to put all his cards on the table, so they go their separate ways.

The characters retire for the evening, Zib napping lightly until he is awakened by the Wachter brothers tossing rocks at his window from the street below.  They look like they’ve seen a ghost, and quickly scale the outside of the building and into Zib’s open window.  As Zib shuts the window, he hears what sounds like a huge cat’s roar from somewhere on the east side of town.  A few seconds later, there are cries from watchmen.

The brothers relate the tale of their trip to the stockyard.  They went to the back door of the wagon, but something inside was alive, and rocked the wagon back and forth before bursting through the back door.  It was an armored tiger with fangs three feet long!  They ran off, not waiting around to see where the tiger was going.  Unfortunately they didn’t get a good look inside the wagon, as the tiger scared them both sober, and they got the hell out of there.

Zib thanks them for the information, and offers to let them stay in his room until just before dawn.  It probably wouldn’t be good to be caught on the streets with a tiger out, and the two troublemakers are obviously scared to go back out.

They leave just before dawn, asking Zib to come visit their house when he had time.  Shortly thereafter, the rest of the folks in the Inn wake up to a loud banging on the door of the common room below.  A loud voice is heard questioning the innkeeper, and shortly thereafter, one of the Martikov boys is knocking on the door to request that all guests come down to the common room.  As Hezekiah comes to, he doesn’t recognize the room he’s in, but apparently, he’s eaten all of the dream pastries he bought, and all he can really  think about is going to buy more.  Cordelia corners him in the hall, casting lesser restoration on him.  Hezekiah realizes the pastries had some sort of magical hold on him, but he’s a halfling, so part of him still wants more of them.  He does wonder for the first time, what these things are made of…pure awesomeness, he’s sure!  The dream world of the pastry trip was a lot cooler a place than Barovia.

Izek is there with some guards, and he’s asking questions about the tiger on the loose in town.  It has so far evaded the watch and everyone in town is afraid for their lives.  Zib and Hezekiah notices Izek’s eyes widen briefly when Ireena appears on the stairwell.  He tries to play it off, but Hezekiah starts confronting him in a very teasing manner…

“I don’t know anything about a tiger, but I do know something…you are obviously in love with this girl!”, pointing at Ireena.

“Arrest him.  The charge is malicious unhappiness, he’s making me unhappy”, Izek orders his guards.

Hezekiah looks ready to resist, so I have the party roll initiative.  Cordelia wins the roll, and manages to defuse the situation with a quickly-cast calm emotions spell.  With the smaller group, and no big dumb fighters left, I’m playing a bit loose and allowing inspiration to be used much like Action points, so I allow Kristy to burn Cordelia’s inspiration to give Izek disadvantage on his save after stating he will make it.  I roll again, and his 5 is much lower than Cordelia’s spell save DC of 13.  The situation defused, they quickly change the topic after assuring Izek that no one knows anything about any tiger.  Zib just shakes his head, content to let Cordelia and Hezekiah handle the talking, for now.

Izek suggests strongly that the party present themselves to the Burgomaster at his mansion later that day.  Baron Vallakovich doesn’t like armed strangers he doesn’t know in his town, so they should introduce themselves ASAP after the tiger crisis has been resolved.

After he leaves, Cordelia and Ireena look at each other.  “Well that wasn’t creepy”, Ireena understates.

Rictavio is seen sneaking down the stairs as Izek starts questioning the wolf hunters.  Zib creates a distraction “Is that the tiger you’re looking for”, and pointing out the window on the other side of the Inn.  The guards and Izek run over, but don’t see it out the window.

“Damn, it just went that way.  Can I help you hunt it down?”, Zib offers, as Rictavio makes his way out the door.

“No, stay put, we’ll go find it”, Izek mutters and ushers his men out and down the street the opposite direction from the way Rictavio heads.  Hezekiah waits a minute, and then leaves the inn, going the way Rictavio departed.  He follows the man back to the stockyard, where Rictavio checks the back of his wagon, and then checks a secret compartment in the front of it.  Hezekiah’s too short to see what it contains.  Seeming satisfied that only the tiger is missing, Rictavio turns to the halfling, expecting some questions.

“Why do you have a tiger?”

“I’m not a carnival master.  It’s the Vistani’s fault my wife and son were killed.  I’ve trained the tiger to kill Vistani.  They are Strahd’s spies and lackeys, and I intend to do something about them.  My name is not Rictavio”, he announces, dramatically.

“My name, is Dr. Rudolph van Richten, the famed vampire hunter.  And I am here to kill Strahd von Zarovich”.

The grognards at my table cheer as the other players look confused.

Hezekiah assures Van Richten that their paths are aligned, and brings up Madam Eva’s reading that “The man who is not what he seems” will have something they need in his carnival wagon.  Van Richten, mind-blown, says “It is true.  I have the Tome of Strahd, the count’s own journal, and have been studying it these past months.  Once I’ve found my tiger, I’ll be heading to a tower west of here.  Seek me out there, and I’ll pass the Tome to you.”  Zib writes a quick note for Van Richten to give   Don’t trust the Vistani, tell your friend.”  He scratches a rough map in the dirt before heading off to look for his tiger.

Hezekiah returns to the inn and relates this information to the rest of the party (minus Devlin who’s still outside the town).  Zib has heard other bards tell tales of Van Richten.  His fame is such that it has reached even the bards of the Forgotten Realms, no doubt told by some lucky escapee of the mists.

Devlin wakes up, in the forest, clothes torn and ripped, but not bloody this time, at least.  His wolf, Driscoll is asleep by his side, but rises well as Devlin gets up.  Confused, he realizes he’s not far from Vallaki’s east gate.  He commands Driscoll to go wait at the Vistani camp, and the wolf gets his meaning and heads off into the woods.  He makes his way to the just-opening gate.

Back at the inn, van Richten returns to hurriedly pack his remaining things.  He’s found  the tiger and gotten it securely back in the wagon with no one getting hurt, and now he hopes to break out before anyone tracks the tiger down.   Standing at the door out, he hands Hezekiah a wrapped book, The Tome of Strahd!  He’s changed his mind, he doesn’t want the book to fall into the wrong hands if he’s caught, and he trust the party to catch up with him at the tower in a few days, or no more than a couple of weeks, if they need to let the heat die down.

As he’s leaving, both Hezekiah and Zib note a strange, dumpy-looking man heading down the street toward the north gate of town with a suspicious-looking tied sack under his arm.  Another townsperson greets him by name (Bluto) and asks him what’s in the sack.

“Bait for the fishes” he answers as he keeps walking, head down.

Hezekiah runs out to distract the man, who ignores him as he continues his lurching, half-stumble toward the gate.  Zib comes up from behind and cuts a slice in the sack, and long dark hair tied in a pony tail drapes out, attached to the gagged head of a small girl.  Hezekiah casts a friends spell, hoping to get the man interested in talking enough to stop moving, and successfully persuades Bluto to tell him about his bait.

“The fish, they stopped coming.  So I grabbed a magic Vistani girl.  I sacrifice her to the fish gods of the lake, and the fish will come back”.

Zib one ups Hezekiah, casting a suggestion that Bluto doesn’t need this bait, and he should just go fishing without it.  The weak-willed drunkard accepts this, drops the girl on the ground, and keeps walking out of the gate.  He’ll be a little upset about the little peoples’ enchantment magic, but not until Zib’s wears off, and since the suggestion included fishing, they’d have all day to get the girl to safety.

Devlin comes into town and finds the inn just as Zib and Hezekiah are returning with the now-freed young girl, who has introduced herself as a Vistani “princess”, Arabelle.  She doesn’t know why the bad man took her, but he hit her on the head as she wandered in the woods outside the town and had kept her at his house the night before putting her in the sack and leaving for the lake this morning.  If the two hadn’t seen him, she would likely be sinking into the lake by now.

Devlin recognizes the girl from her description and the munchkins tell him, Ireena, and Cordelia how they went about freeing her.  The party agrees that she should be returned to the Vistani as soon as possible, and Devlin is warned about what Van Richten said about the Vistani.  They agree it’s best to get the reward for the girl’s return before any tiger attack might happen.  Devlin and Zib would return Arabelle to her father.  If the Vistani are Strahd’s spies, it won’t hurt to have a little pull with one of their leaders.  Meanwhile, Cordelia and Ireena wanted to check out the local church, while Hezekiah decides to lay low in the inn for a while.

Luvosh is ecstastic to have his little girl back.  He asks who took his little girl, and the two evasively reply “Some simpleton from town”.  He asks the man’s name, but the two pretend they don’t know it.  Luvosh turns to some Vistani and says “Find this man”.

He now offers them the reward, as he calls his brother over to one of the wagons.  They fiddle with, and then unlock a pair of locks on the back door, and open it to reveal several chests and other containers.  Choosing from among a large chest of electrum, a smaller chest of gold, a valuable jewelry box with some random inexpensive jewelry and a fine crystal vial with an unknown potion inside, a large wooden “throne” bedecked with semi-precious stones and gold trim, a fine rug, and a plain wooden box (“Ignore that one, those are the fake potions we sell the rubes, and as of  today, you are no longer rubes”), the two conferred and chose the jewelry box.

Arrigal and Luvosh shut the wagon, locking both locks and then fiddling with them again, before Arrigal leaves the camp, and Luvosh thanks the two, again.  He promises to look after Driscoll while Devlin is in Vallaki, and will “Try to track down some rabbit stew for your fine wolf”.   Oh, and if you happen upon any wine, let us know.  Our regular shipment from the Wizard of Wines is late this month.

We end the session as Hezekiah studies the Tome of Strahd at the Blue Water Inn, while Ireena and Cordelia are making their way to the church in Vallaki.  The innkeep mentions that his wine shipment from the Wizard of Wines is late, and offers a reward if Hezekiah and his friends can go out there and retrieve it.  If  they’re unable to, he’ll offer a smaller amount if they can at least determine what’s causing the delay and relay the information back to him.  He provides Hezekiah with directions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CoS Session 06 -Crispy Vampire

The party arrived back in the village of Barovia as darkness fell.  They returned to Ismark and Ireena at the Burgomaster’s mansion.  They agreed to stay there until leaving the village, both to protect Ireena, and keep the twins away from the villagers in the tavern.

Exhausted, they quickly fell asleep, although Cordelia made small talk with Ireena as she lodged in Ireena’s bedroom that night.  Ireena told her that Strahd had been obsessed with her since she was a little girl, but his predations had become more aggressive once she “came of age”.  He had bitten her twice in the last year, the second time on the night of the Burgomaster’s fatal heart attack.  She confessed that as much as she hated him, there was still some animalistic attraction there.

The next morning, Ismark announced he would be leaving the following day for the Graenseskov.  Darian agreed to go with him as a man-at-arms.  (Stanley missed this session)

Ireena expressed a desire to leave at the same time for Vallaki, giving the party one last day in the village.  Ismark’s search of the village birthing records found that the merchant, Bildrath was the descendent of the Durst twins’ aunt and uncle.  Ismark agreed to approach him on the twins’ behalf and see if he would take them in.  Hezekiah went with him.

At the mercantile, Bildrath listened incredulously, and after a bit of hemming and hawing, consented to taking the girls into his household.  He called for his nephew Pariwimple to lead the girls’ to the home they shared with Bildrath’s sister, and to see that she made sure the girls were properly fed and clothed.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party visited the townhome just to the north of the Burgomaster’s mansion where they had heard sobbing a few times before.  After pounding on the door for some time, the crying stopped, and a woman answered the door.  Aged with grief, and somewhere in middle age, she introduced herself as Mary.  She had been crying since her daughter, Gertruda, had disappeared about a week before.  She refused to believe the teenaged girl had run away, “She’s never left home before”.  Mary clutched a doll which, when asked, she said was her doll growing up, handed-down to Gertruda when she was born.

Gertruda’s father had died when she was a baby, and it was just mother and daughter on her own these past years.  The mother just wants her baby back.  Zib asked if they could take the doll with them, and they would look for her.  After it was handed to him, he noticed a tag on the doll which read “Is no fun, is no Blinsky!”

From there, everyone met back up and discussed their travel plans.  On the morning of the next day, the majority of the group would depart west for Vallaki while Darian accompanied Ismark to the Graenseskov.

Ismark pulled Devlin aside and “man-to-man” mentioned that he knew the Baron of Vallaki had a son who had come of age.  If the situation presented itself, Devlin was to arrange an introduction between Ireena and the son. Political marriages to the Vallakovichs of Vallaki and the Volchykrovs of the Graenseskov would be the basis of a political alliance between the heads of three of the four major population centers in central Barovia, none of which had any love for Strahd.

While this was going on, Zib walked up and tugged on the side of Devlin’s beard, ripping it off and exposing it as fake.  Devlin blushed, blaming it on the inability to grow facial hair as a half elf.

The party repeated Madam Eva’s fortune to Ismark and Ireena, asking about certain elements of it.  When asked about a blade of pure sunlight, Ismark related the tale his father had shared with him.  When Kolyan was a small child, a visitor had come through the village carrying a sword with a blade of pure crystal which shone with an inner fire like the light of day.  He claimed it was a powerful weapon to be used against Strahd, and he was carrying it to safety.  The man had left the next day, and no trace of him was seen again.  Neither Ismark nor Ireena recognized the description of its location, nor that of the other “fortress within the fortress”.  Likewise, neither knew of any carnivals, it had been years since one had come through the valley.

They rested for the night, and early the next day said their goodbyes to Ismark and Darian who began the journey to Volchykrov manor beyond the howling hills in the Graenseskov to the east.  The rest of the party headed west out of town, crossing the Ivlis river before the road re-entered the Svalich woods.  Soon after, a brown wolf, obviously injured ran into the center of the road in front of them, turning to snarl at the woodline.  Three other wolves, all gray, fell upon it, snarling.

The party brought down two of the gray wolves with ranged attacks, and another fell from Zivago’s sword blade.  The brown wolf, near death, growled at the party, but slumped to the ground.

Devlin approached the animal, feeling a connection to it, and calmed it, offering it rations from his pack.  This allowed Cordelia to approach and cast cure wounds on the wolf, bringing it back from the brink of death.  The wolf remained wary of the rest of the party, but fell in beside Devlin like an old friend.

Soon, the party noticed that a huge flock of ravens was pacing them on their journey.  Cordelia took this as a good omen from her goddess, and Ireena agreed, saying the raven was a symbol of good luck in Barovia and as far as she knew, Strahd had no power over the ravens like he he did over the wolves, rats, and bats.

Further up the road, they reached the crossroads where the path branched off to the Tser pool.  Waiting in the center of the road was a cloaked figure.  He through off his hood to reveal Doru, the vampire spawn son of Donavich the priest.  Cursing the party for their plot to slay him, he boasted that his “true father” had freed him, restored him, and now he would feast on their blood.  Zivago and Devlin were observant enough to notice wolves creeping up on the party from either side, and as the wolves charged, a fierce battle ensued.  The flock of ravens divided into two swarms, attacking one of the wolves which quickly fell to the pecking beaks of the carrion eaters.

The other wolves were felled by the party even as Doru charged past Devlin and Zivago, reaching Cordelia.  Seeking revenge for their earlier meeting in the church undercroft, he grappled her, his claws digging painfully into her side.  She attempted to escape but failed, as her companions peppered the vampire spawn with several attacks which seemed to have little effect after his resistance and regeneration.  Ireena ran up and swung at Doru with her longsword, but missed.  Doru snarled at her to back off, he wasn’t allowed to hurt his new father’s future bride and thus his fight was not with her.

Cordelia finally broke free as Zib and Devlin’s wolf landed blows on Doru.  Doru swatted at Zib and missed, while Zivago charged into the melee, completing the encirclement of the vampire.  Cordelia’s sacred flame fell upon Doru, causing him to char and smoke a bit, and halting his undead regeneration.  More attacks followed, and after running and being harried by the raven swarms, Doru finally fell.  Zib attempted to stake the unconscious vampire’s heart and failed, driving the stake into his chest, but missing his target.  Hezekiah tried, and failed as well, as Cordelia launched a guiding bolt at the prone and disabled vampire.  It struck, and the radiant damage instantly turned the undead creature to ash.

Hezekiah and Zib both collected some of the vampire’s dusty remains, considering it a potentially useful arcane component of some sort.  They continued on their journey, breaking for lunch and a short rest at yet another bridge which crossed nearly 1000 feet above the Ivlis river.  To  their west, they could see the falls, while to the east Barovia lay across the valley and past the Tser Pool.

They spent much of the afternoon cutting back and forth along the sides of the mountains, turning left at the next fork in the path, as the right path appeared to climb up toward the high cliff upon which perched the castle, Ravenloft.  The party passed through another stone gate much like the one they had come across on the east side of Barovia village.  Finally, cresting one last hill, they spotted Vallaki in the valley a few miles ahead and to the northwest.  Not far to west of them, on the edge of a precipice, stood a windmill.  While old and dilapidated, it matched the painting in the Durst house, and the description of the location on the deed found in that house matched their present environment.

Ireena argued against visiting the place immediately as it gave her the creeps.  Also, any serious delay would prevent them from reaching Vallaki before dark, and the others agreed with her assessment of the situation.  As they discussed it, a trio of stooped figures, one pushing a peddler’s cart approached up the road from Vallaki.  Three old crones, the one with the cart a good deal older than the others stopped, offering the party their wondrous “dream pastries”.  The halfling’s eyes lit up, and ignoring the party’s collective warnings, spent 5 gold on a handful of the tasty-smelling treats.  The oldest crone introduced herself as Morgantha, and the other two as her daughters Bella and Offalia.  She told Hezekiah he could find them at their home in the windmill when he was ready for another batch of dream pastries.  As they wandered off, Zib mentioned to the party that they would have to get the deed to the windmill certified as authentic so the girls could take ownership of it.

vallaki

After descending into the valley for another few miles, the party reached the east gate of Vallaki and found it closed.  A male and female gate guard asked the party’s business in Vallaki.  Zib stepped forward, but was met with “What manner of creature are you?” by the xenophobic guards.  Ireena stated that she was the sister to the Burgomaster of Barovia and she sought to visit Vallaki with her companions.

Hezekiah, unable to resist his belly any further ate one of the dream pies, immediately falling into a bliss-like trance, complete with full hallucinations of an alternate-reality paradise.

The guards opened the gate, warning the party that they should leave their weapons sheathed within the town, and that the “beast” (wolf) was not welcome in the town.  Devlin argued, threatening to bring the wolf in anyway, but the guards would not relent, calling for other guards which were out of sight to “go find Izek” when it looked like it might come to blows.  Devlin relented, but refused to enter, either, if the wolf would not be allowed.  The guards suggested Ireena call upon the Burgomaster, Baron Vallakovich in his home on the southern loop of the town.  The Blue Water Inn could be found in the center of town, just past the main road leading north toward Lake Zarovich.

A pair of passing Vistani asked the party if they had seen a little girl, about seven.  Their “headman”‘s daughter was missing since the day before and they were looking for her.  They offered to let Devlin stay in their camp to the southwest of Vallaki if he helped them look for her.

Just then, a church bell tolled the dinner hour from somewhere on the west side of the town.  The party, minus Devlin, entered through the gate and began walking west down the main thoroughfare.  They spotted a stock yard to their south, in a corner of which sat a carnival wagon, its painted facade aged and peeling.  And with that sighting, we ended the session.