The Adventure Continues: The Final Chapter

For the final time, we follow our heroes; and whether it’s their finest hour or a glorious demise, there is only one way this ends: a battle with the vampire lord will ensue…. 


 

As the heroes approach the high looming Castle Ravenloft, they see and hear the dark flutter of crows overhead. They pause, take a moment before entering and consider all that has happened that has lead them here. With Godfrey at the fore, he suggests that there is not time to waste, and he moves the group forward. As he moves deliberately towards the gate, it is already open, but Andromeda almost too excited, pushes through the gate. She goes first followed by Shamesh, Malrick, Bent, Hugo, Lythander, and Godfrey. Our heroes are ready to embark on what may be their greatest triumph, or ultimate demise.

They march, deliberately, to the front door and attempt to enter through the garden, as Lythander moves through the green outdoor conservatory an animated broom, almost in mockery of what he has encountered before, leaps out at him; this time however the rogue is ready, strokes an arrow and splits the old wooden broom in two. Now at the front door, just as they arrive in expected fashion a finely dressed, yet worn and weathered elf, carrying a scimitar, greets them solemnly and professionally, citing that their master is expecting them… beyond creepy but not really surprising. He leads them to a larger room up a set of stairs. There they see a feast on the table in front of them and the heroes hear a familiar voice, “come eat, enjoy some food”; they hear the sultry voice of Strahd. Then the music arises and catches all their attention, the lord vampire appears to be playing the large organ across the room. Shamesh motions to his companions to halt, and he waves his hand across the feast and the room from a far; after pausing a moment he says that the whole thing is an illusion, but the elf minion is evil; that’s all Melrick needed to hear, axes drawn he attacks!

Before anyone can get to the elf, he unleashes a wave of energy and the whole group grabs its’ head in pain, clearly he was doing some psychologically incantation and then he immediately tried to dance to safety. Melrick swings wildly landing one blow and missing with the other, Bent, Hugo, and Andromeda all miss slinging spells at him. Shamesh lands a big blow and Lythander lands an arrow strike. Then the elf unleashed another wave of psychological energy, and the group once again has to steady itself after being caught in the magical blast. Then Melrick lands another blow, Bent finally casts a successful spell, as does Hugo, and Shamesh landing the final blow laying the elf minion low. They search the body and find nothing more useful; the party quickly moves on.

As the heroes move further up to the second level of the castle, the come upon a man scribing something in a small study, and immediately they to take up arms, but Lythander has a steady hand and Shamesh holds off the heroes, who are now on high alert, from unleashing on this elderly man. The man tells the group he is a slave to Strahd, and very much wants to leave. He does have some direction to give them, and sends them back downstairs where they may find Strahd in the castle, in the cathedral.

They enter the cathedral and see a row of windows down a long, fairly narrow, hall lined in windows. At the end they see brass locked openings or doors, with the image of a rising (or setting) sun above the enclosed openings. They move through the long hall into the a larger hall almost like a cavern alter, through the brass doors. Once inside, they see a cloaked figure genuflecting at the altar across the room where sunlight is shining through a worn hole in the roof onto the space where the cloaked figure is kneeling altar, with a mace at his feet. At closer look, the kneeling figure is a dead body and after Bent detects the magical aura in the room and advised that the mace and the silver statue on the altar are magical. They approach the figure and confirm he does not move or animate, he is in fact, simply dead. They pick up the mace to see if it will fit in the statues hands on the altar and it will not fit. Having deemed it’s magical properties Shamesh decides he will wield it for the benefit of the party as they hunt the undead Lord. The group looks around the rest of the altar but finds nothing; as Melrick clumsily looks around he knocks over a candelabra and the noise flutters out a small flock of ravens, and one falls upon the group in a large swoosh… Strahd, has finally emerged.

With the group reeling Strahd immediately strikes at the heart of the heroes, and unleashes a flurry of blows on Andromeda, and then locks a nearby door closing Bent out of the fight. Lythander tries to strike back and misses, moving farther away to the altar to stay at a safe distance. Then Strahd continues to unleash blows on the little druid girl and before she can even react she is knocked unconscious, Godfrey conjures a protective incantation and then magically unlocks the door that Strahd had previously used to hold Bent out of the room. Andromeda groans on the floor, she’s still alive, but critically hurt. Bent moves to quickly re-enter the room now that he heard the door unlock. Hugo unleashes lightening on the undead Lord, and Strahd moves quickly through the crowd, grabbing the lifeless body of Andromeda and begins to suck her blood after biting her on the neck. He seems restored, and rises to smack Shamesh in the face. Shamesh calls down a holy prayer to see his weapon illuminate with power. Strahd moves and lays into Bent who is his next biggest threat, and is able to land a blow and the Tiefling sorcerer erupts in a shield of power, protecting him from more damage. Godfrey moves aggressively toward Strahd looking to bring a final end to his enemy  With an unholy blow Godfrey splits Strahd into a cloud of dust that washes over the heroes and filters through the floor. Shamash dives at the dust trying to finish the foe, but only hits the solid clay floor.

Hugo moves quickly to heal Andromeda after Lythander stabilizes her. She was conscience and gathering herself to once again fight. Shamash moves and hugs his friend, with a hug, she seems fully refreshed. As they are healing Andromeda, Bent is melding stone digging a staircase through the ground to chase Strahd, nearly 80 feet they find a hole through the floor and descend to what appears to be a crypt. They see gravestones, nearly 40, and as they look through the writing on the graves, they find nothing of consequence. They chase down the stairs feeling like Strahd is not in one of these graves. As they descend the stairs they don’t find anything anything until they run into a purple velvet curtain, large, ceiling to floor, and they end in a room where there is two coffins, they read the inscriptions on the caskets and they appear to be the resting place for Strahd’s parents. They find nothing else in the coffins other than stately dressed corpses. They move back into the large crypt, the find two rough exits on each end of the crypt. Heading toward one far end lead by Bent, they enter a room with a portcullis covering a door. Bent uses a mage hand to move the portcullis and they find resting place of Sergei, Strahd’s brother. The heroes, now smelling the final battle upon them. They head to the other far side of the Crypt. They find another portcullis, and Melrik steps forward and grunts loudly pushing the large heavy door aside. They enter the room and they find the unearthed dirt and the fresh smell of death, they believe this was where Strahd rests; when they enter the find that there is one casket and the decide before they open the casket to pull out the Sword of Dawn that they have carried with them for many days now. Hugo raises the sword high above his head ready to dive it down into the vampire lord’s chest, while Melrick and Shamesh move to either end of the casket with Bent and his mage hand in the middle. However, as soon as their hands touch the casket, four eruptions from around the casket happen all at once, four undead zombie woman ready to defend their lord emerge and start scratching and clawing at our heros.  

The undead woman form a line in front of the casket almost like a dead meat wall in front of the coffin. Bent moves to one side and slings a missile exploding the first female abomination. Then Shamesh and Melrick land consecutive blows on another, making it turn to dust and ash. However the final two fight on, seemingly immune to Andromeda’s noxious puff of smoke, and Lythander is unable to land consecutive bow shots. The unholy essence of the final two in Strahd’s harem starts to take effect as the heroes begin to weaken. Melrick steadies himself to land another blow, and Hugo launches a magical attack destroying the final wretch.

And so, the moment they have fought, and bled for over the past days weeks and months.  They all move to open the casket at the same time, assuming the same positions at before, bracing themselves for anything that may happen. Andromeda eagerly looks on and Lythander strings an arrow tight, and once again Hugo raises the big blessed blade above his head. In unison, Melrick, Bent, and Shamesh open the casket and Hugo dives the sword into Strahd’s chest just as he opens his eyes but barely before he can move! In a final surge Strahd reaches out grips Bent pulls him close and tries one final time with a grasp of his wrist, only to see it fail and explosion of ash and magical dust erupts from the casket and an explosion of magical essence and fog all around Barovia is lifted… our heroes have conquered the undead overlord of this other dimensional land!!!!

 

As the heroes brush away the dust and death of the room and world around them, they all react differently. Shamesh bows his head in prayer, Andromeda sits huddled and begins to cry, Hugo and Lythander search the casket for anything that might mean the vampire lord has survived. Melrick takes in the scene around him and strokes his beard wondering what to do next, while Bent, of all the heroes, is peculiar, touching his own skin, almost as if he absorbed some essence of the dust. As the heroes make their way back through the castle they do not move briskly, but slowly, steadily, wearily. Bent hovers further and further back behind them, Andromeda the closest link between the group and tiefling sorcerer who continued to silently insist on moving slower and slower. As they near the exit of Castle Ravenloft, the heroes wait at the exit peering out to the world without the heavy mist they had been accustomed to; and slowly Bent approaches. In a solemn tone he asks his companions to leave him, while their journey has been together it is time for them to part, he is not ready to leave the castle. Perplexed the group tries to inquire, and Melrick protests, but Andromeda, quietly looks upon the face of the sorcerer and understands… the being whose face they look upon is no longer the same, he is different, and so are they. She looks at her longtime companion Shamesh with a gentle glance and subtle nudge encourages him out the door, the holy dragonkin puts a big arm around his dwarven friend and pulls him with them out the door and Lythander and Hugo never really protested having understood it was time for all of them to move on, and go home. As they exit the castle the rest of the mist raise up and they are once again whisked away before they can comprehend their surroundings.

 

The fade to black was broken by the heroes, deja vu sets in, in a subtle yet horrifying way; again the heroes find themselves to just be waking up, amidst a dense heavy fog that seems to be falling from above their heads. They look around and realize they are on the end of the embankment where this adventure had began so long ago just outside of town, and Bent is not with them. The fog is descending, and this place, is not familiar at first, but then again all too familiar to where all of this began. Could this really be, are they in the same place where they first found themselves in, in… in Barovia? As they rub their eyes, and gather themselves realizing the nightmare that is now closing in on them, they hear a familiar voice, more sultry than than they remember, and with a tone of darkness that is not familiar, Bent is in their ears and in their heads, “my friends, it’s good to see you are still here…”

 


 

A nightmarish end to never ending story, we thank our hero characters from DOGC friends: Mike, Dave, Will, Anthony, Eric, special occasional guest Josh, and of course our beloved DM extraordinaire Bryan. It was a gripping six month adventure and forever will our characters be enthralled to Barovia; we leave it to your imagination what becomes of them… 

The Adventure Continues: The Revenant Hero

This castle is nearly complete and they have yet to find what they are looking for, however, they bravely seek a dragon to sleigh; they should be careful what they wish for… 


 

The heroes continue to ascend through the dilapidated cathedral and tower, as they climb higher, the group finds very little of use. While they are rummaging room by room, Andromeda finds a tomb that is half burned and hacked up. She gives the book to Bent and he thumbs through it carefully, not finding anything of significance… however a page flies out and lands at his feet. He looks at it, with a peculiar glare, and tilts his head. After a few moments he realizes he is reading the last words of Argynvost; citing to the group that he was saying goodbye to his mortality and taking his “true from”, which the heroes took to mean this man must have been becoming the dragon itself, in order to join the fight presumably against Strahd. After reading the slip of parchment, Bent starts to say the name aloud, almost calling to the being, giving the notion to the group that he believes this being is still here; perhaps this is the reason the ghostly dragon has been following them through the building. As they ponder the thoughts, a cloud of dust emanates from the room they are in and a figure sitting on a throne at the far side of the room is revealed, and a loud hissing voice emerges “gooo awaaayyyy”. The party is startled, but Bent begins to ask many questions of the figure that appears to be animated, and not a real person. As he asks more questions, the hand around the hilt of the sword the figure is holding seems to clench tighter, but no other movements are made. The form of a knight is clear and he only says that Strahd cannot be destroyed and they are doomed to stay as Strahd suffers in this reality. They implore the knight to help them repeatedly and the knight stops responding. As the group continues to question the stoic inanimate knight, Andromeda quietly moves closer to the figure and reaches out for his sword, as soon as she does he animates stands up and assumes his fighting position.

The heroes immediately takes an aggressive position, Melrick strikes first trying to disarm the knight, but was unsuccessful. After the dwarf hacked away he seemed to do no damage but undead skeletons seems to manifest all around the party almost as if they were coming from the knight as he was attacked. Bent lashes out sending magical bolts at the nearest skeletons that had animated around them blowing magical holes in the skeletons. Then Shamesh swings wildly trying to fend off the nearby foes accidently landing a glancing blow on the nearby dwarf who was obviously not expecting the incoming sword from his friend. Melrick was not phased, despite the disadvantage he had incurred. He lands several blows on the knight who is finally starting to seem phased by the oncoming assault. However the knight was skilled, despite the source of his animation being unknown, and he laid consecutive strikes into Shamesh, thankfully Andromeda was not far and was able to keep her friend from falling. Melrick, Hugo, and Bent continue to unleash their fury on the surrounding undead, the dwarf focusing on the knight who was now taking blow after blow; this did not stop him from proclaiming that no matter what happened in this fight his demise would only mean a new host tomorrow. As Shamesh took more damage from the surrounding undead and the knight himself, Andromeda was able to move closer to employ more healing on her companion keeping him in the fight. The dragonkin, despite being kept in the fray by his druidic companion, was unable to land any successful blows clearly shaken by the battle as he was taking the majority of the eyre of the undead enemies. Bent unleashed a chain of magical lightning into the nearby enemies, anddespite taking damage he is able to hold his concentration dropping a nearby skeleton. Hugo unleashed more magical energy that drops another undead. Andromeda seeing the opportunity to help her friends with the tide turning, stepped aside and dropped a bolt of lightning from her fingertips electrifying the undead who were conveniently in it’s line of fire with Melrick stepping forward to land the final blows on the knight; as he crumbled he swore vengeance on the paladin that stands before him, but Shamesh was vigilant turning his attention to the nearby skeleton, and finally was able to land a blow and drop another skeleton. Bent continued to concentrate and land more lightening onto the final skeleton and while Andromeda grunted some magical words in angry fashion at her quarterstaff and watched it curl, whither, and gnarl while glowing; she charged into the last skeleton landing the last blow that watched it crumble. Needing a rest the heroes searched the skeletons to see what they could find. There was a magical sword, and an amulet that the party decided to keep and the druid girl took a moment to mediate.

After they gather themselves they search the remainder of the room and Shamesh found another door that appeared to lead further up the tower, and up they went. As they ascended the stairs they received shots from above and Hugo ran toward the door that was protecting the area where the skeleton warriors were firing from and with a wave of thunder slammed them with the door and crumbled them. As they continued to move up the narrow stairwell they were met at a doorway with another skeletal warrior. While being stuck on the stairwell there are skeletal warriors are coming from the walls as they are at a choke point trying to enter the final landing spot at the top of the tower. While they fend off the ghostly skeletal figures they fight their way to the top of the stairs and ascend into the room through the narrow doorway. They pass through the gargoyles that looked like dragons… and the statues spoke to the heroes, saying:

When the Dragon dream’s its dream within it’s rightful tomb, the light Argynvost will beam and rid the land of gloom”

They enter the room and they see five revenants that animate demanding to know why the living are so intent on disturbing the dead. Bent speaks for his companions and once again proclaims that they are there seeking help in destroying Strahd; no sooner does he utter the words that one of the revenants steps forward and says, “say no more, I am Sir Godfrey, and I will help you destroy Strahd!” As he states his claim the fellow revenants are not pleased and they turn to attack, the heroes seeing their opportunity to fulfill one of the final prophecies, they know they need to save this fallen knight. Andromeda slings a fiery cantrip from across the room as the revenants surround Godfrey. Melrick rushes forth and starts swinging wildly at the nearest revenant. Shamesh finally finds some skill with his sword and lands some blows on the most damaged revenant, while Bent lights up the far corner with a fire blast trying to take down a revenant flanking Godfrey. As the heroes come to the aid of the knight Shamesh conjures more magical power and smites the knight standing in front of him. Bent then continues to unleash his magical power onto the corner revenant knight flanking Godfrey; seeing the opportunity to get into the fray, Andromeda growls angrily and once again her quarterstaff withers and gnarls as it starts to glow as she charges in to lay blows into the revenant that Bent had been trying to bring down. Seeing the cue her companions focus fire down the flanking undead, freeing up Godfrey a bit more. Shamesh moves to the opposite flank to get Godfrey further protection and tries to draw attention off of their new paladin friend, however the effort fails as these ghostly legends are ruthlessly intent on destroying Godfrey. Bent continues to rain witchfire down on the enemies, and after moving between the final two revenants Andromeda sends another fire blast at the enemy being attacked by Godfrey, then opens her palm and blows a noxious magical gas at the undead being watching it whither beneath the puff of sparking green dust. Behind her back the final revenant moves forward and tries to flank her but Hugo draws its attention with a shocking grasp pushing it away to save both himself and Andromeda. Shamesh fails again to do anything of consequence with his blade but is continuing to protect his allies from incoming blows. Melrick, in an antagonized rage of frustration with being in this castle brought the engagement to an end, bringing down the final revenant with a flurry of axes. Godfrey looking grim, but pleased with his new companions and said:

“We go to Castle Ravenloft….”

 


 

The end is nye, and one way or another, our heroes are entering the final chapter and versus of this saga; will they live to tell the tale, or become ever part of the story of Barovia, allowing Castle Ravenloft to claim their lives…

The Adventure Continues: The Battle in the Cathedral Tower

The heroes survived a legendary encounter, and now with a growing sense of purpose they find themselves delving deeper, or higher, into the cathedral in pursuit of the answers they need to defeat Strahd…


 

The heroes, growing very weary both mentally and physically, searched the bodies on the scene in this cathedral and find nothing on the fallen creatures. The group looks around the decrepit castle and doesn’t see anything distinct. They step past the undead knights on the floor and approach the alter. Look up through the broken top of the building they see a beacon tower; they believe this where they need to go. On each side of the altar there is a spiral staircase, ascending up toward the second level of the church toward the tower. They approach the door and Lythander inspects seeing no traps and discerning the door is open, the heroes enter. There is a balcony and two doors, Lythander checks both doors again and one appears to be compromised so they use the other, which is covered by a curtain. They walk through the curtain and see a marble pedestal with a black cloth covering the top of it. Shamesh walks up to the cloth with no fear and pulls it off… it’s… it’s… it’s Bent’s head!!! … or at least identical to it. Andromeda, seemingly unphased, walks up to it and does what appears to be a medical inspection on the head, and it is in fact a real head, no longer alive or producing blood. She then walks up to Bent and touches his head indicating she is looking for similarities; indeed it does not appear to be an illusion. While this is going on, Hugo walks up to the other curtain in the room and there is nothing behind it; after he walks away from the curtain it closed behind him on it’s own with nobody noticing.

They walk further into the tower and up another set of stairs; Lythander slips ahead and, in an attempt to try to be sneaky, accidentally hits a loose board which makes a loud creak followed by a swarm of giant spiders emerging from all around the room the rogue just entered. Bent, having been unshaken by the recent experience of seeing his own head on a pedestal, steps forward throws a fireball over his companions into the room dense with spiders and turns them into a smoldering fury, leaving only a couple still moving. Shamash rushes past Lythander to take the first attack and dismisses it with little affect. Lythander drops an arrow into one of the overgrown arachnid, a deadly shot indeed, killing it where it stood leaving only a single over sized insect remaining. As the last spider leapt in desperation at her friends, Andromeda slung a fiery cantrip at the giant creature and it exploded into a ball of flame hitting the floor dead and smoldering. Seeing the room was clear the heroes headed across the floor to see what else they can find. They make their way to the other side of the same floor and find another tattered room and look out the windows to see the familiar fog overhanging the surrounding property, they know Strahd, or at least his influence, is here. 

As they cross to the far side of the room they head toward the next area of the tower to try and find what other secrets this cathedral has to offer, the party moves to turn a corner and as they do, a magical wall appears amidst the room and separates the party at least momentarily. Hugo, quick to react, separates the stone wall with his own incantation, and the wall is pulled apart to make room for himself, Andromeda, and Shamesh to move through uniting the team again. They turn the corner to the last room, and after they enter three phantoms appear, and they clearly are moving in a quick aggressive manner towards our heroes. Imbued with a magical bow, thanks to Shamesh, Lythander lights up the first shadowy figure, followed by Shamesh himself who lays a magical weapon into the nearest phantom. Bent then conjures a fire bolt and fells another, while Andromeda conjures a friendly companion, a large white polar bear, sending it off to aid her allies while she grunts some healing noises toward her dragonkin friend. Meanwhile Hugo, Lythander, Melrick, and Bent focus fire down the final phantom, and in a wisp of smoke it disappears. With no more foes in the room, they move farther into the tower and encounter another four shadowy phantoms. Melrick tears into the nearest set of shadowy figures, and does damage, though not magical enough to banish it. Shamesh whispers a prayer to his weapon, now imbued with holy magical energy his sword prepares to smite while Andromeda gives Guidance to her conjured bear. Nearby Hugo lights the nearest foe with a Sacred Flame; unable to avoid the incoming burn from the cleric, the phantom is consumed and dismissed. Another fire bolt from Bent, and magical blows from Shamesh to the nearest enemy and the room is cleared for the fey polar bear to charge into action, landing bite and claw attacks at all the nearby enemies. Andromeda heals her dragonkin friend, again, and this time the dwarf too, while the conjured polar bear continues to tear at the abominations. Melrick follows with another blow, dropping another phantom, the magical bow rings true from Lythander and drops a third shadowy figure, and finally Shamesh charges and lands a final aggressive swing on the final evil shadow. The party looks at each other after having cleared yet another room in this haunted tower when Lythander proclaims, “let’s go find that dragon”.


 

Confidence is growing among our heroes and they have all but called out the shadow dragon looming over the fallen castle; do they know what they have done? Find out next week… 

The Adventure Continues: Figments of Imagination

We left our heroes in a perilous position last time, with an animated hut that was now a monstrous creature rumbling the ground as it headed directly for the heroes controlled by a legendary evil hag who they could not bring down; the situation is dire, and would this be the end???


 

The heroes stand awe struck with the monstrosity that was previously just a wooden hut heading toward them; Bent, desperately makes directly for the cage to free the remaining ravens who release and immediately rush the polymorphed hag forcing her to rush off; at the same time Melrick steadies his dwarven courage rushing the monster, dive bombing his axe into its’ leg. In a large SWOOOOSSHHH he lands face first onto the ground and realizes that the enormous moving hut was just a figment of their imagination. The last two animated scarecrows fall lifelessly on the ground seemingly being sapped of power as the hag has flown off chased by the wareravens; our heroes had survived, yet again. Just a trick? The heroes don’t feel like they have won this battle as much as the hag was likely done toying with them and they were somehow spared. 

They now take in the scene around them; they see that the animated house had never moved and was still sitting there where they originally saw it. The party moved into the hut to see what happened to the child that was being rocked in the cradle by the old hag. Lythander approached first, reaching in to try and take the baby out of it’s bed; the flesh of the child turned to a moist smoke as he reach his hands in, it was another figment. It seems all of the hag’s incarnations will not stand now that she is gone, but they had all equally left the heroes perplexed not knowing if anything that they have seen was truly real. Underneath the crib, where there was a green glow emanating from the area that they had seen during the battle. Melrick took his axe to the floor and ripped up the floorboard finding the acorn they were seeking; seems all was not lost here. They find a trunk in the same room and Lythander cannot help himself, as he hastily looks over the box seeing nothing unusual and picks the lock successfully….

BBBBBOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!

He had set off a massive explosion. The whole party, save for Andromeda, took collateral damage while Lythander, and his lightning reflexes, were able to avoid the repercussions of his own handy work. As the smoke cleared four dismembered hands crawled out of the box and jumped onto the closest hero to them. Lythander, caught completely caught off guard, unleashes a point blank arrow at the first hand diving for him which missed completely splintering the the nearby wall; the rogue fell back screaming, tripped over his own feet running toward the nearest door and landed falling into the wall. Shameesh, hacking wildy at the floating hands like swatting flies, split three of them in half. Bent reached out with a calm deathly handshake giving the final hand an electrified grasp. With the creepy tiny abominations now dismissed, they search the rest of the box and find a number of items that might be handy as their journey continues, both magical and mundane.

The heroes searched the remainder of the little village, then went back to the original grave, found nothing new and finally headed up to the mansion. At the mansion they encountered a spirit, a man, ghostly, wispy in shape, with a bluish green hue and a dank smell of death but not one of fear or of anything the party felt they should fear. The spirit man nonetheless threatened the heroes, demanding they stand down, wanting to know why they were all there. Lythander stepped forward and told the ghost that they are enemies of Strahd and seek to destroy him. The spirit tells them that Strahd has put him here and his soul cannot rest until Strahd is destroyed. The ghost tells him the story of what happened to the village, and to him. He says that to save his daughter from Strahd he had to kill her, a tragic sad end to his daughters life. He laments how Strahd sought to claim his daughter as his bride and how he had bit her, taking her blood; killing her was the only thing he could do to save her from damnation. Once she was dead Strahd became enraged, losing control and destroyed the village killing both this man and his brother who had taken the young girl’s life. He said that his daughter reminded Strahd of his first lost love and Strahd felt like they had taken her from him again. The vampire lord cursed this man, the former Burglemeister of the town, to be bound as a ghost to the village for all eternity. After the spirit ghost told his story he shriveled back toward the basement which was sealed by a pile of rocks. Bent steps forward and willed the stone away to clear a path toward the basement, where the party quickly followed to see where the ghost had gone. Unfortunately they didn’t find the spirit, or besides some rotted champagne bottles; however there was a small crate in one corner. They opened it to find a half dozen healing potions, which the heroes knew would be useful at some point; they divided them up and moved on.

They exited the mansion and looked across the fjord that old stone house was built adjacent to and see some lights coming from a small stone collection on the far side. They overlook the water’s surface; it was pitch black, and almost entirely still across its’ expanse. They seem to all be pondering if they wanted to cross; Andromeda stepped forward and put her staff in to gauge the depth of the water and it’s about 4 feet or so. Besides Melricks natural apprehension to be up to his eyes in murky water, the rest of the group decided to brave the fjord and cross to the other side. They approach the area and see a person as the come closer to land; there was a woman who comes from a hiding position to confront the group, she did not seem to have ill intent. She identified herself as a scout and spy for their wareraven friends. She advises that the old crone was Strahd’s wet nurse and he was as near and dear to her as her own child might be; she hated anything that opposes Strahd. The group made camp deciding to stay for the night resting their weary heads. In the morning they offer the scout an opportunity to join them however she declined; she felt this was not her adventure and reminding the group that she was not the hero that they are. As such they headed out and bid their new acquaintance farewell.

On their way to Argonyvast they see the rising sun dry the dew on the grass as the heat warmed the earth; what they didn’t expect was the the sounds of battle rising around them; louder it grew but they did not see anything. Lythander motioned that he would scout ahead to see if he could figure out what was going on. Once there the rouge finds nothing, he returns to tell them he sees no sign of battle; no sooner does he finish speaking when the familiar dense fog they can’t seem to escape anywhere in Barovia settles onto them yet again; all of a sudden they see cavalry heading at them from one side and on the other a regiment of pikemen bracing themselves for impact. As they draw their weapons to defend themselves they are too late the cavalry crashes into them….

Wincing at the impact, the heroes look at each other and notice the mist is gone, there was no battle around them and the whole thing was not real, yet again another figment. The group is beginning to question the reality of everything they see. Gathering their wits as best they can they head the rest of the way toward Castle Argonyvast.

When they finally arrive at the castle they see a giant statue of a dragon, they slow their approach as they hear the thunderous noise from above descending on them and a gargantuan silver dragon flies low over their heads forcing all the heroes to duck instinctively covering themselves in weak hope of surviving any impending attack! Once again the heroes realize it is yet another figment as the dragon turns into a mist as the form of the dragon “crashed” upon them. Growing more annoyed the group is growing tired of these illusions frustrated with the world around them. They approach the front door and knock to enter and the large statue of the dragon nearby turns to open its mouth and blows a 60 foot cone of cold worthless air at the group as they all scatter out of the way, diving to avoid whatever was about to happen. They pick themselves off the ground, dusting off the dirt, realizing nothing at all happened other than them diving on the ground to avoid some funky smelling air being blown from an old dragon statue. They realise the protective nature of that statue has long since been gone, it no longer breathes whatever it had in the past. Once upon a time they may have been incinerated, now they are just dirty from pointlessly diving out of the way; this castle is decrepit or so it would seem.

As the group returns to the door they realize they were told that the dragon they just had the vision of has long since been dead as well and so has probably everything in this castle. Upon second approach the door was open and they enter, skeptically; once inside they see a big open hall and a number of stone busts of what appear to be fallen knights that had protected the once proud castle. The huge hall had a shadow cast across it from overhead as they look up they realize the shadow is again a reminder of the once great dragon that roamed these lands, it’s ghostly form must continually haunt the halls and lands around the castle. They advance farther into the castle and into the next room adjacent to the great hall it appears to be the entrance to a chapel with three kneeling figures farther ahead into the main chapel area on the stairs to the alter. The stained glass windows in the chapel are destroyed as is most of the chapel. To the heroes surprise the figures rise as the group enters chapel area; they were approaching the adventurers, and did not appear to be friendly. Instinctively Shamash stepped forward to intercept the undead beings, not wasting any time to even entertain discussion; he knew whatever must be moving in this castle cannot be good. From behind the paladin, Ben fired on the skeletal warriors but seems to do little damage to them; then Lythander fired a dead shot into the nearest undead knight, shattering a piece of skeletal bone off in an otherwise grotesque fashion. Melrick then engaged, slashing away at the nearest foe he was able to disarm one of the knights. Hugo also fired into the skeletons to try and bring down one of these animated abominations; as they closed ranks Andrameda ran around her friends to find a clear lane of fire to the three enemies and unleashed a lightning bolt from her fingertips igniting all three of the foes, yet still they stood; this was not good!  

The undead warriors began to fight back and the heroes could see their skeletal bodies mend and repair as they inflict damage on them; the fear starts to set in that these undead warriors were regenerating. Shamesh, the holy paladin ever steady and unwilling to waiver, won’t be denied as he smites one warrior watching it finally crumble leaving two remaining skeletons. Emboldened now that they have seen one fall, Melrick continues to fight and tear at the enemies and again disarms his nearest foe. With renewed concentration, the little druid girl unleashes another bolt of lightening into the enemies, and this time a skeletal warrior is shattered falling to a pile of dust leaving just one remaining undead warrior. Seeing an opportunity to end this scrum, Merick rushes to land the final blows hacking the foe to pieces. Our heroes look at each other consider where to go next…


 

With uncertainty at every turn, surrounded by figments of their imagination as well as undead terrors trying to end them, their sanity hangs by a thread, as does their courage and vigor. We leave them in the castle to see if they can survive long enough to find their next clue!

 

 

The Adventure Continues: The Old Witch!

Our heroes were left on the mountain above a cemetery resting before they head down toward the blighted graveyard, do they have enough left to survive?!


 

The heroes took a short rest atop the hill where we left them then descend to the cemetery below; immediately after they enter hallowed ground, the shrubbery around the dead tree animates and the stick figures they once before encountered emerge. The group rushes the down the slope of the hill and they are quickly engaged by the animated twigs. Bent lights the initial cluster of evil shrubbery ablaze and leaves them incinerated. The remaining animated branches rush the heroes attempting to grapple them to the ground. Bent avoids engagement, Andromeda turns into a snake to attempt to wither away, but is pinned and morphs back nearly the moment she tried to turn; Melrik turns lashes through the twig in front of him. Lythander is able to break free and point blank shoots an arrow through the head of the nearest creature, then turns and fires into the other creature pinning Andromeda. Shamesh fighting bravely against the largest of the evil twigs lands blow after blow into the big creature and then Melrick comes over and lays into it again; finally the paladin lays low the creature with his last swing. Hugo is able to clean the last of the twigs from around himself and Bent.

As the dust settles from the scrum, they realize that the animated twigs are coming from the main dead tree, the party thinks that they should burn the tree down, and Lythander points out that the sap leaking from the tree is blood and they should uproot it in addition to burning it. They entertain the idea of having Andromeda morph again into a large mule or horse to pull it out of the ground, but Bent conjures a cantrip to start magically digging the roots up while the rest of the party are still debating the possibility. He molds the earth to his will and at the end when the tree is finally completely dug out Andromeda lights the uprooted tree on fire with a small flame from her hand; with the tree ablaze the felt assured this tree would not longer be a problem for future travelers. As the tree was uprooted the shining hilt of a sword was revealed. They pull it out of the ground slowly and surely not knowing what to expect. After having unearth it safely they gather the rest of the items they have found thus far, laying them on the ground in middle of the loose circle the heroes now stand in. They see the cloak, the hat, the hilt of sword, and the axe they had pulled from the base of the tree before uprooting it. Bent waves a hand and some arcane words over the items and they all start to glow, it appears they are all imbued with some kind of magic.

As they are dividing the items amongst themselves for safe keeping they hear a scream from a woman running up the mountain and they run to chase after what they heard. Andromada stays behind wondering why they are taking off so quickly… and behind her, suddenly, unexpectedly, she is aggressively grabbed! Feeling the squeeze around her arms, abdomen, and throat! Her eyes grew wide with terror as the realization of what is happening washes over her.  She knows before she even sees the abomination; it’s Strahd! He laughs as sees the panic on her face; she squirms to look behind all she can see is her friends too far away to try to save her and below there are skeletal hands reaching up clawing at her pulling her down towards the hole in the earth underneath her. He lowers her into the hole as she flails wildly in panic, unable muster any noise because Strahd had her by the throat. The ground closes in around her and she begins to suffocate; drawing a final bated breath in absolute terror. 

 

SNAP!

 

Andromeda is back to reality and all her friends are right next to her, there was no screaming woman nor had her friends left her. She has imagined the whole thing… and then she hears a chuckle off in the distance, as does Melrick, Bent, and Lythander; it appears Strahd was in fact nearby but nobody else is aware of the vision she just had, frightened she sits on the ground, and waits for the group to gather themselves and head out.

They head back to winery to tell the warepeople what occurred and return what they have found. Their friends were happy to hear that the heroes found the magic acorn and the source of the evil tree creatures that were attacking their vineyards. They decide to throw the heroes a celebratory feast to commemorate the great victory. While they are feasting Bent takes time to really examine the items they have found. After deliberation he is unable to discern the true source of the arcana within these items; however the sword he can see that there is clearly another piece of it somewhere, but more importantly he realized that the sword can destroy Strahd. He can sense that the sword itself is afraid of Strahd, and more importantly that the Strahd is afraid of it; he realizes that this sword should be wielded by his paladin friend. Meanwhile Melrick spends time inspecting his new axe, and the hilt of the axe is made of vines and leaves, and it appears that it was created to kill plant and tree life. The party, after further discussion realizes that the the skeleton they found at the bottom of the tree was likely somebody that was trying to chop down the tree to get to the sword hilt below. In fact they believe the tree, an unholy entity itself, was probably put on top of the sword to hide it by Strahd.

They are given provisions by their friends at the vineyard to complete the shipment and journey  to Irwin at the Inn. Before leaving they express gratitude for the generosity and they have now made allies of the druids. Off they go and on their way they decide to travel near to the tower where they last saw Esmerelda hoping for some inclination of what became of her. They find two dead naked men with claw marks all over. They deduce that the large wolves they keep seeing must be warewolves. They find nothing further, and thus head the rest of the way back toward Valaki. After an uneventful trip back the rest of the way, they return the wine as promised. Irwin looks approvingly upon them and sends his daughter to gather something for his adventuring friends. She returns with something wrapped in cloth, it’s a big old book, dusty, and imbued with an essence they don’t quite understand. Bent takes the book, blows the dust from the book and begins to read from it aloud.

The book is hand bound, old, leather, and brittle. It takes little time to realize that the book itself must have been written by Strahd, in a shorthand that is known to be unique to him (according to Irwin). After reading a few passages from the book, it reads as if it is an autobiography from Strahd telling his story; might this be a diary? The heroes agree that this is indeed his journal. The story tells that he had an unrequited love, a woman named Tatyana, who instead loved his younger brother, Sergei. On the day they were to marry, Strahd made a pact with Death to prevent the loss of his love to another man; completing the pact by killing his own brother and preventing the marriage. Tatyan despaired, now hated Strahd; he chased her to try and explain that he made the pact because of his love for her, but she would not listen. She ran to the top of the castle and flung herself over the walls, to her death. Strahd tried in vane to find her body but never did. He fears she still haunts him, and now his is locked in debt to Death forever. In the journal he admits that the only way to kill him is the blade of the sun that his brother once wielded and the he intends to destroy it; furthermore he explained that a stake through his own heart will not kill him but will only pin him in place until he can remove it. The passages also reveals that he now eternally sleeps under Castle Ravenloft, and the walls of the stairwell that lead to there are sealed. This revelation now has the group pondering the the whole of what they have learned; in a way, this almost humanized the monster.

They know they are still not yet ready to deal with Strahd, they still have more to do as they need to all the help they can find if they are to destroy this undead lord. Off they head to the ruins of Berez, the location of the last seed, to help their druid friends gather the remains of what they have lost from the vineyard. On the way they find the very same lantern that was not lit before, however now it is burning without any plausible explanation; more importantly it appears to be burning without any source of fuel. Sensing no evil they decided it could be useful, and Melrick insisted they were going to use it; proudly carrying it on their journey the dwarf lead the way.

They arrive in Berez and notice that the town is essentially in ruins and rubble left in the aftermath of an attack from Strahd (as they were told previously). The town buildings are crumbling and all of them appear to have previously been the homes of a bustling little township. As they approach the rear of the village they see a large tree stump with a light emanating from it. Lythander sneaks up and sees inside the big tree trunk a decrepit old woman rocking a baby cradle with a glow coming from underneath the crib; it appears the large tree was hollowed out into a home. Nearby there’s a pot containing… warm blood? Adjacent to the pot is a  large glowing skull, floating, with two cages hanging off of it that are holding imprisoned ravens. The rogue believe these must be some of their wareraven friends! Lythander is able to sneak inside the tree hut undetected and proceeds to pick the locks on the cages releasing the wareravens; they immediately head toward the old woman to attack her! She turns and starts flailing at the birds; seeing the chaos ensue the rest of the party starts to rush the entrance to assist Lythander. The old hag rushes to the glowing skull fighting off the ravens swirling around her and jumps into the skull that was now upside down. The hag, protected securing herself in the overturned skull was able to fend off the annoying wareravens in time to unleash what was intended to be a fireball into the approaching heroes, but not before Bent was quick to counterspell saving his friends lives. The hag was not able to avoid Lythander’s arrow, she never saw him in the waylay of birds and the arrow struck at her back delivering a devastating wound to the unholy creature. While all this was happening in the hut, the scarecrows around the property began to animate and attack getting to Shamesh first, working their their way toward the whole group. Their claws, magically imbued, cause Melrick to flee in fear down the nearest ally taking more claw swings as he ran. Shamash, fighting at the front, steps forward and breathes flame into the nearby foes including into the hag. 

Andromeda seeing the hag hiding in the skull decides to drop an explosion of lightning directly toward her and destroyed two scarecrows that fell in the path of the surge, while also burning up another and finally ending at the skull and the hag herself laying an explosion of electricity on everything it touched. Unfortunately, her companion Hugo was also caught in the path of lightning; and she immediately recognized she had to help him, growling some noises to heal her friend. Hugo grits through the pain, and unleashes a wave of thunder toward the nearest scarecrows. Bent unleashes another fire bolt at another scarecrow, then Lythander drops another arrow into a nearby scarecrow. Again the hag was thwarted by Bent who dispelled the next incantation she attempted. Melrick comes to his senses, finally stopping himself from fleeing and returns to the fight; with a dash he engages the nearest scarecrow to try to help Andromeda. Now free the druid girl can unleash another explosion of lightening into more scarecrows ending at the hag, one more scarecrow is destroyed and the skull is further charred and again Hugo is electrified badly hurt by the Andrameda; she grunts and growls some additional healing incantations toward her cleric friend to keep Hugo in the scrum. Still on his feet thanks despite being electrified twice, Hugo finally successfully creates a thunderous wave of wind to destroy a nearby scarecrow and move out of the path of lightning coming from Andromeda. The hag seeing the situation getting dire turn herself into a swarm of flies, and then the hut they found her in all of a sudden shakes the ground and animates into a massive abomination that rumbles the ground all around it as it walks toward the heroes. In awe everyone stops to turn and look…


 

This may well be the end, the monstrosity is too much for the heroes at full strength, and certainly too much when they are on their last efforts, next week will we read their doom? 

The Adventure Continues: The Hill They Will Not Die On

We left our heroes once again bruised and battled, but doing the greater good. They saved the vineyard but this time, and now they are about to be asked yet again, to help another Barovian; however will this task set them back on track? 


 

Our heroes gather themselves after the fight with the unknown animated stick beings and the head of the vineyard thanks them for warding off these needleblights; because the group demonstrated such prowess he asks them if they would be willing to take on another task. The vineyard needs help finding some seeds that are missing, it seems they have been taken by the creatures they just fought; three special seeds in total. They are larger in size, about the size of a child’s ball and glow green; they believe they are in the area atop a small clove and nearby cemetery; they are the key to the vineyards future growth and prosperity, key to their survival. The heroes discusses briefly and decide to help their new friends and also believe that this may be key to another piece of the gypsy’s riddles if they are recalling it correctly. Off they go making their way to the hill where they believe the evil druids come from in hopes they will find the missing seeds. Before leaving Lythander and Melrick arrive at the vineyard sent by Irwin to help them with the shipment of wine. The group explains to their newly arrived companions what has occurred and where they are going.

On the way Lythander sees a glow coming from off the road in the woods, a sort of green floating orb. The group stops and takes stock of the situation around them. Hugo sends in his owl to see a bit closer and there appears to be nothing in the way that needs to be concerning, so they move in closer. Shamesh heads directly, but cautiously, towards the glow and the green light moves away from the him… then stops. Hugo decides to send his owl in to see if the light moves again, as it approaches, the light does not move but the owl combusts as soon as it approaches the light and it’s incinerated inexplicably; Hugo is furious, and the heroes are in a bit of shock. The heroes not sure what to do decide the light is not worth pursuing; Andrameda contemplates shape shifting to move closer, however Shamesh concerned for her well being, immediately discourages her as he sees she’s considering the notion. They move on towards the hill and eventually arrive without further incident. The trail they are on leads up the hill and forks to encircle the top. They don’t see a tree on the hill (as the riddle from the gypsy suggested they would), which perplexes Bent in particular, as he notes aloud he was thinking this is where one of the particular riddles would lead.

On top of the hill, they see an encirclement of rock formations in an alcove with a statue made of dark burnt wood tree branches formed into the shape of a man clad in armor snarling with fangs at the very center. A wicker man of sorts that Lythander proclaims immediately as “Strahd!”. Not that it was the abomination himself, however it was clearly erected in his likeness. The group then notices as they search the area, a dozen covered graves around the hill, inside below the wicker statue they see what appears to be one seed. They review the riddles again, and believe this may well be gypsy’s riddle related the druid card:

This is a card of power and strength and tells of a weapon of vengeance, a sword of sunlight. An evil tree grows atop a hill of graves, where the ancient dead sleep

They further recite to themselves the advice they had received:  “The ravens can help you find it, look for the treasure here”. The group discusses the whole thing and decides that this cemetery is not something to trifle with and they shouldn’t be standing here any longer, decide to light the statue ablaze. Andrameda steps forward muttering a low growl and slings a flame from her palm at the wicker man, and up in flames it goes. As soon as it lights, the graves around the hill erupt with earth covered figures emerging from the graves.

It is scary site to see them so quick to action; Lythander looses an arrow and downs one. Hugo unleashes lightning into another one and starts to damage the oncoming undead creatures. The undead charge in and start tearing and ripping at the heroes; Bent takes damage and tries to recover as he stumbles back. Lythander rolls to avoid but still takes a glancing blow, as he glides away Melrik rushes in and lands multiple blows and takes stock of all the enemies threatening Andromeda. The dwarf crushes one abomination and wounds two others; following that incoming barrage of attacks as the undead are clearly trying to get to little druid girl clearly angry she lit their statue ablaze. Andromeda takes the opportunity to disengage her nearby foes and as she frees herself she heals Shamesh who was wounded throwing himself in front of her. The paladin responds in kind to these evil undead giving them the honor of his blade and delivers holy contrition on his undead enemies as he closes ranks with Melrik. Lythander now freed up having dove away sends another arrow into a nearby foe, sticking right into the shoulder blade of the target, it turns toward him glaring, angry and ready to reciprocate against him. The monsters continue to attack and claw and fight to destroy the party. Shamash and Melrik are being battered, but the dwarf is not dismayed, he tears into another skeletal warrior and rips his axe through it and into another; Lythander still firing but can’t bring any of them down, but remains steadfast. Hugo is unable to dodge the incoming barrage and he falls to the ground unconscious. Andrameda rips through a wreath of vines growing from the ground around her feat, reacting quickly to revive Hugo, and then in a surge of anger she unleashes a massive bolt of lighting into two of the undead, badly charred they both fight on, with Hugo now on his feet, he heals himself further and then unleashes a wave of thunder emanating out from him. The far off creature with a staff closes on Andrameda and wraps her in vines again from the ground around her. Meanwhile Melrick continues to fight back, continuing to flay wildly around him taking another undead soldier down. Bent finally after a whirlwind of spells takes another down, as does Lythander; the undead are starting to fall. Andromeda unleashes another single explosion of lightning from her fingertips; this time into the oncoming undead spell caster.  It was clearly controlling these risen dead and it was destroyed where it stood leaving a track of charred ground right through the middle of where it once was; the vines holding Andrameda in place wither and fall to the ground as the necromancer fell. She turns quickly and moves towards Shamesh firing a flame at the last whirling undead maniac near the paladin but misses; however it was enough to distract him so Shamesh can beat it into the ground until it stopped moving. They have seemingly held of the undead.

The engage the only undead that was not destroyed to try to get answers but realize quickly it will be no help and Lythander put his dagger through its head. The heroes gather themselves and walk to the edge of the hill to look over the other side; looking down they see a tree that appears to almost be bleeding, with a half dozen undead mulling around what seems to be a dead creature laying against a shimmering axe that is buried into the base of the tree. They decide they need to gather themselves and rest before engaging what’s there. Shamesh and Lythander stand watch while the group ponders its next move.

 


 

Our heroes once again live to tell the tale and may have found the first real piece to this puzzle, but stranded atop a hill in a blighted cemetery their options are low and all they have left is their resolve, until next time…

The Adventure Continues: A Wizard’s Tower

The adventurers know not where they are supposed to go, or what they need to do next, have found themselves now being side tracked to help Barovians everywhere they go; desperately trying to get themselves back on track… 


 

With the frey finally settled and the hags lifeless on the ground, Shamesh attended to the children, asking if they are okay, and if they knew what was happening. The children point to the bones on the dirt floor and say the hags were making ‘burnt pie’. After a slow pause, the adventurers realize that the evil beings were cooking children into the pies. Shamesh asks about the children’s families and they tell the heroes that they were sold to these hags and never want to go back where to they are from. Not knowing what else to do the adventurers decide to head back towards Valaki and bring the children to the Inn. As they exit the home they hear the creepy sound of the old windmill in the distance and on the road up ahead they see Bent heading towards them. They catch him up on what they found and what has happened then they continue to head back toward Valaki. Shamesh, Bent, and Andromeda walk with the children while Lythander and Melrick set out up ahead to scout the path and get back quicker in order to make arrangements for the children at the inn before they arrive with their companions.

On the way back the second group travelling with the children encounter a very fast moving wagon heading towards them directly; Shamesh steps in front of the wagon to find out why it is recklessly traveling so fast up the road. The dragonkin priest introduces himself and inquires about the hurry; the human looking man appears to be tattered and a bit enraged. After questioning each other, the man realizes that the group is not a threat to him and drops the edginess from the conversation. He explains that he has been held captive by Strahd who has killed his family. He is intent on bringing him to ruin, and he wants justice for his loved ones; apparently he is on a suicide mission back to Castle Ravenloft. Shamesh explains that they are not yet ready for that battle, and further notes that they have already encountered Strahd which did not go well. The Paladin insists that this man would be throwing his life away if he tries to avenge his family in this manner. Shamnesh, with sincerity in his voice, explains they need to know more about their foe before they engage the powerful vampire again. The man, who finally introduces himself as Hugo, agreed to join them as they were all committed to the same goal: ending Strahd. The horses on the wagon had become frightened amidst the setting sun and arguing; they simply do not want to press on further. Andromeda, with a gentle hand, tries as she might to calm then, however unsuccessful, she agrees that they should not push the equine beasts. As such the group decides to make camp and wait until morning. The night passes uneventfully but when they awake Shamesh shares that he had nightmare about seeing the dead walk around him and in the end he saw his companions, even himself, as a dead minion of Strahd. The dream seems ill timed and doesn’t make sense, but they do not speak more of it and head back to the inn. The morning was heavy with wet dew, and on their way they meet another group of commoners; a dozen or so in number. They seem to be mostly frightened and unwilling to talk too much; it’s clear they are keeping safe by staying in a large group and travelling to the town of Barovia. Nothing comes of the encounter and they finish their journey back to Valaki. 

They arrive back at the inn and they see their friend Irwin, the innkeeper who had bailed them out of jail. He offers to find a safe place for children however he has a problem, requesting their help. The adventurers are feeling indebted to him, and agree to help despite their pressing desire to find their way home. Irwin says his wine supply is waning and he needs another shipment for his inn. Irwin grants them use of his cart to make the trip to pick up the shipment and return with the wares. He offers them a free meal before they leave, to which they happily accept. During dinner they realize they don’t know why the shipment has not been coming and thought it might be good to ask. When done eating they go to find Irwin to inquire more about the situation, however they find he is not available; oddly, he is gone on an errand not to return anytime soon. All of a sudden this simple delivery request has become all the more complicated by this uncomfortable set of coincidences. However, in a strange place, Irwin has been the closest thing to a friend they have met, so they decide to carry out the agreement with the greatest caution and resolve themselves to a conversation when they return. Before leaving Hugo wants to buy some equipment because currently he only has the clothes on his back. Andromeda offers him a silver longsword she had procured along her travels and he gladly takes it. They head to a store to find him some additional equipment; namely a warhammer, scale mail, and a crossbow. Their new warrior friend was now ready to join this band of unsung heroes and contribute to the demise of Strahd! Lythander and Melrick have business in town, needing to attend further to their weapons and armor stay behind to ensure the safety of the children and attend to their own needs before setting off on this delivery effort.

Finally the rest of the group head out of town west toward the vineyard; as they travel on the roadway they saw a sign at a large crossroads where there was a directional mile markers pointing at key areas around Barovia. As they checked for proper instructions, the group notices and empty grave, that appears to be dug up just off the road from the cross section of heavily traversed roads; they go closer for further inspection. While the group ponders if this is the work of Strahd’s minions, Hugo dismisses the notion asserting this is not typical of his work or his minions. Inside the grave they find a left behind necklace; Bent examines it determining that it is not magical however there is a symbol depicting a raven on the necklace charm. Another referral to ravens, and the group recites the gypsies clues and thinks this may be alluding to something they need to find in order to ultimately make it home, they decide it best to hold on to it, handing it to Andromeda to keep in her pack. With no need to stay further they look back at the map and realize this trip could be used for two purposes. One off the key riddles they heard in the gypsy camp was specifically about a lake with a wizard tower. They had discussed heading this way many times before but had been repeatedly sidetracked. However, this time their travels will take them near the lake where there appears to be this wizard sanctuary. It was an easy reroute for the party and they decide to head towards the lake en route to the vineyard; finally excited by the possibility of key to the clues given to them by the gypsy fortune.

As they travel off in the distance they see the tower which is, in fact, sitting on a lake; this, they believe, is the very “tower on the lake” that contains the wizard from the riddle. Hugo sends his owl off into the distance for no apparent reason; Andromeda takes quiet note that the owl is not an ordinary creature of the forest, while not giving notice to anyone else. The owl returns and while nobody else saw the simple connection, Hugo proclaims to the group that the tower is occupied; clearly he had a way of garnering the info from the owl that nobody else seemed to realize, save for Andromeda. As they approach the tower there is a wooden cloth covered wagon out front, obviously used, old, and somewhat broken down. It was resting alongside a rickety sign that states clearly and simply “KEEP OUT!”. The adventurers will not be this easily deterred at this juncture and they decide to investigate. Shamesh knocks on the door and there is no answer; however the owl flutters to the window sill and draws attention to the broken window. It was perched next to an opening too small for it to fly through, but to small for Andromeda who transformed herself into a field mouse and ran up through the window and into the wagon before her friends could even protest. She rifled through the wagon that had little in it save for a rough drawing, and before the rest of the heroes even knew what was happening she burst through the now broken door waving the piece of paper in her hand excitedly as if waking up to presents on her naming day. Bent received the paper quietly and inspected it, but unable to discern with the stick figure markings were that had been drawn on the parchment. 

They approach the tall brick spiral building, adorned with wood framed windows up high with metal grates in front of the stain glass windows, with a pointy roof just as you would imagine at the top made of wood shakes that were old, needing of repair but still functional, if only barely.  In front they see two large dragon heads almost as if they are guarding the door on either side, of a very thick old tall wood door. Right out of  story novel, adorned with antique black metal hinges a handle, but no lock of any note. As they approach there is clearly a sign on the front the large wooden door; it has something inscribed on it, a single word: “Kazan”. They try to detect magic as well as some other incantations but realize that the eerie silence surrounding them is not happenstance; they have been in an area that dampens magic. Not knowing what to do next Andromeda, naively and eagerly, knocks on the door as vigorously as she can; but to no avail as there is no response. The party members are trying to figure out the answer to getting inside the tower, Bent stares intently at the sign above the door, then again at the parchment he was given early by Andromeda, then back at the door, again to the parchment. After a quiet pause where the rest of the party realizes he is focusing in on something, Bent starts making some funny motions in a pattern of sorts, almost a poorly rehearsed dance… and at the end the door opened! After a high five from his friends for the fancy “dance” moves, the group enters.

They find a platform in the middle of a stone circular room, with light dewy moss and a dampness in the air from time spent completely undisturbed.. There were golems on either side of the room positioned as if they were holding onto something, aiming the palms of their guantlets toward the ceiling where a large wood door was, but with no perceivable way to access it. There was tattered drapery along the walls with no particular significance to the symbols that the group recognized, and a rope that seemed to be tied to the tapestry that landed behind the golems. In the center of the room was relatively well kept wooden platform, well made, and not as worn as the rest of the room; somehow still showing polish and shine more so in the very center of the platform more than the outer edges. Hugo moves to the center of the room and stands on the platform, directly in the center. As soon as Hugo stood on the center of the platform the golems turned and started to pull on the rope behind them; it was not tied to the tapestry but to the door above. Slowly the door descended; it was a concealed elevator large enough for the group to fit. They realize this is their ride up, and figure out quickly that the golems must be magically animated by their presence on the platform; in the elevator they went and up it brought them.

They arrive at the top where they see another stone lined room with even more dampness  than the room below that smells more dank, and with what appears to be an ironclad golem to one side, larger than the ones they had encountered below. Bent instinctively says the word Kazan aloud; immediately the iron golem animates, loudly, with a puff of dust and rust that startles the adventurers making them all clutch their weapons watching the metal soldier march forward toward the sorcerer and stop three feet away from him. He looks at his friends, surprised, and Shamesh, now understanding, says the same word from across the room, and watches as the golem turns heading directly toward him stopping three feet from where he stood just as it did in front of Bent. It’s clear Kazan is the trigger word and the golem is following their instructions. Now understanding how that works, they decide to inspect the room further to see if there is anything else they can turn on, open up, or decipher.  There is a slot in a wall that appears to be of some significance. Shamesh walks over and carefully puts his hand in the slot and nothing happens, and he feels nothing. Bent, now starting to fully understand how the animation in this room works, instructs the golem to put his hand in the same slot, to which it obeys.  Walking over loudly, clanking with every step, it stretches out a metal hand into the slot and out it pulls something out… a secret compartment containing a beautiful chain symbol with the Ravenkind on it. Bent walks over to the golem and the revealed compartment; after a quick inspection that suggest nothing dangerous about what’s been revealed, or the necklace, he picks it up and turns to the group states he believes they have found what they have come for and they should head out. They agree and make their way down the elevator and out the front door.

As they leave the tower they head toward the main road again and see a woman riding up toward them that is on a horse with dark hair and dressed in noble garments, but appears the part of an adventurous noble at that. Hugo immediately recognizes her as Esmerelda, the person who rescued him from Strahd’s castle. Once she came closer they could see she was not in good shape and had been injured. The group asks her what is wrong and she tells them she had just escaped from Castle Ravenloft as she had gone there after her rescue of Hugo, and tried to slay the Vampire Strahd, but failed; however escaped with her life. His minions were after her, they are on her tracks not far behind. The group tries to convince her to come with them but she maintains they will not stop until they catch her; she assures the group that she can handle the incoming attack now that Strahd is back at the castle. Hugo and Andromeda protest leaving her alone, but she reaffirms they are safer if they leave and Andromeda, despite her clear conflict with the notion of leaving her behind listens to Shamesh; before leaving she emboldens Esmerelda with a druidic blessing.

They leave her to head towards the vineyard and as night falls they approach their destination only to see a skeletal horseman approaching them with a lantern that shines no light. They sense no intent of harm from the horse rider and they let him pass gripping their weapons tightly; nothing happens, they hear him head off into the distance. They press on and arrive at the vineyard, an expansive green grove, that they cannot see the full size or scale of in the evening light. It smells pleasant enough, a living freshness they really haven’t smelt since arriving in Barovia, but still with an undertone of dank that they have become familiar with as well as the thick mist that seems to follow them wherever they go; including now surrounding the vineyard on all sides. They meet a person at the front of the vineyard who proclaims himself to the be the owner and Shamesh introduces himself, and the group, stating they are here to pick up the shipment for Irwin. He is a grumpy man but acknowledges their purpose, and mumbles to himself a bit. Shamesh tries to inquire as to why the shipment is late and the man grumbles more to himself but does not answer the question. The paladin considers pressing him harder, but looks around and notices there are a lot of people around, including children, and does not want to escalate the situation further. In the mist that is surrounding everyone, figures start to emerge, seemingly, from the air. The children around them turn into a flock of ravens and fly away and the adults turn to what appears to be wareravens; the adventurers realize that the people of the vineyard are about to be besieged and the ravens are, in fact, allies to our heroes in this situation. They draw their weapons and engage!

Andromeda was first to act and she immediately emboldens Shamesh, growling an incantation with a noise that sounded almost like a bear; subsequently the paladin steadies himself for battle with his own divination of heroism. Bent demonstrates his sorcerer prowess and slings a fireball into the group advancing on them from the mist, despite them still being too far away for the heroes to discern what they were even fighting. The magical ball of fire wiped the whole cluster of creatures he targeted leaving only a smoldering cloud. Despite the casualties the enemies closed even faster, and there was more to their numbers than originally thought. Andromeda turned her attention towards the nearest group and a growth of spikes emerges from the ground and the creatures ran right through it. While they weren’t slowed, the magic eruption of vines and branches damages them further. Bent continues to level the clusters of creatures with another fireball turning more into a pile of burnt embers. As they approach further, the adventurers are disciplined in holding their line but the creatures now have enough range to put what appear to be darts; blowing them from their claws into both Bent and Andromeda. Both heroes took damage, and they saw one of the ware raven friends fall and another wounded. Now close enough the heroes could see the createres are some kind of animated wisps of wood, stick, and vine; many of them and all rushing the heroes despite taking casualties. Bent fires another magic missile and another creature falls, meanwhile Hugo and Shamesh are now close enough to get into action. The paladin misses, however Hugo engages the last group that appear to only be armed with their own claws, but not before watching another of their new raven friends fall. Andromeda, now having time to react with Hugo intercepting the on coming group of stick creatures healed herself and quickly backs to a safer distance to protect her friends should they need her healing hands. Bent, working himself into a frenzy, unleashes another trio of missiles and takes three more down. With just a few creatures left, they turn their attention to Hugo; the cleric producers a thunderous wave that eviscerated the remaining enemies. As dust settles, the adventurers escaped unscathed, and went to see if any of the vineyard workers can be helped…  


 

The vineyard is safe, and the heroes are growing in prowess, however they are now on a mission for a man whom they barely know for a reason they were never give being attacked by creature they have never seen. Next session will they find answers to any of these questions?