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?

The Adventure Continues: Would You Like Some Pie?

The heroes were left being overtaken by the city guard of a town in Barovia, and we not not of their fate, the druid escaped, and the rogue was left behind and everyone else was capture; is this the end?


 

The next morning Shamesh and Melrick wake up in a cell battered, beaten, and bruised. They are awoken by the clang of a mug against the bars on the jail cell they are lying in and the clink of keys opening the cell door. As they exit the station and pick up their belongings they see Andromeda with Lythander, who himself had missed the whole previous incident, and their new friend the Innkeeper. Being a business owner in town he had some political sway and made arrangements to have them released. Bent is nowhere to be found, but they are told he is at the infirmary. Before they leave the area they are warned by the local authorities “no need to cause more trouble here”

The adventurers are now desperate to leave town and simply want out, they decide not to rest and press on immediately to find any clue that might lead to their way out. As such the group heads toward the Bonegrinder to find another piece of this puzzle that hopefully leads home; the heroes travel in the direction noted on the map where they expect to find this character. As they approach Lythander checks the entryway of this dilapidated home for traps, finds one, and steers the group around it. Over the archway of the door they hear another crowing raven; Andromeda fears that this is a dark omen, and does her best to warn her companions.

They enter the creepy looking home, and as they make their way in there is an awful smell from something apparently cooking in the kitchen. They inspect the area briefly and see what appears to be a pot of ichor and a box that might contain some toads. They don’t open the box but they decide to descend to the lower level before heading toward the upper levels where they hear some noises. When they head to turn the corner to the sunken old living room they see an oddly chipper old woman who is alone and mildly cackling to herself. She speaks in a very high pitched voice and is offering them some odd looking pie, “would you like some pie?!?”. Shamesh looks around and notices the crunching below their feet… it’s bones; he immediately identifies the pie as evil and the woman as a covert demon! He loudly calls the old woman out as an evil creature, and demands she show her true form. She is not bothered, and does not respond. Melrick draws his weapons and demands again she show her true form. While this is happening Lythander hears some children upstairs and immediately strokes an arrow and looses it into the demon woman, the arrow sinking deep into its flesh but seemingly doing no damage. In response to the damage the demon woman finally shows her true form: a sickly, gangly, older woman. Melrick then charges and sinks two axes into the creature and again seems to do little damage. The old hag turns her anger towards Lythander and pours her unholy might into a blow on the rogue; Lythander is unable to dodge the incoming claw and is struck, whimpering and falling back after taking the impact. Andromeda heals Lythander’s wounds and heads to the corner of the room to steer clear of the melee. Shamesh then calls down for some divine help to smite his foe, and finally the abomination is wounded. Melrick is not deterred as two new creatures descend the stairs talking to the old woman as if it’s their mother. They are oddly cavalier and don’t seem to be in any sense of rush; they seem to be discussing, loudly, whether to help their “mother”; and then, nonchalantly join the melee. Andromeda sees the creepy younger hags leave the stairs to engage the rest of her companions and the druid girl climbs the wall to the upper level in order to avoid the eyre of these creatures. Once upstairs she sees a bedroom of sorts, with a tattered throw rug on the floor pealing pale red and green wallpaper exposing the wood sheath underneath and the worn wood floor and baseboards that smell of moth; she goes directly toward the crates that are the source of the whimpering. She opened the wooden boxes, prying it apart with her staff and watching the wood splinter around her; she finds wounded children inside. Andromeda immediately helps them out of the crates and conjures some good berries in her hand offering it forward encouraging the children to eat them. Her kind eyes and gentle touch makes them feel safe enough to eat the delicious berries; they immediately feel better. She finds their clothes in the corner of the room sitting on an old single cushion sofa chair that has several rips and a spring poking through the seat. She gives them the clothes to put on; even without words they understood she was helping them.

Andromeda, making sure to keep the children safely behind her as she moves to re-engage the melee below stepping lightly to the top of the wooden stairs only to see Lythander ascending the stairwell toward her; he stops pivots and drops another arrow in the back of the mother demon who finally fell where she stood. Her two children became enraged when they saw their mother fall and they turned their anger toward Melrick and Shamesh; the paladin took blow after blow as his holy aura drew the focus of their hate and down he went. Andromeda went immediately to her friends aid, and healed him to keep Shamesh in the fray. Melrick, still fighting feverishly, but is failing to overcome the evil hags. Lythander, stumbling his way up the stairs further, failes gain his footing and tries to loose another arrow but is unable to be accurate. Shamesh finds his feet and heals himself further to continue to stay on his feet. Andromeda pushes past Lythander, and she takes the form of a large black panther, as the room turns to hear the roar the beast leap off the stairs and surges forward to pounce on the hag fighting Melrick. With the hag now pinned to the ground beneath the panther Melrick, Lythander and Shamesh beat down the hag. Andromeda is forced back into human form as she took damage from the abomination in a last gasp. Seeing the holy weapon of her paladin friend fall to the ground, as she transforms back to her natural form landing on her behind; the druid girl finds her feet quickly growling some incantation and the air around her staff swirled as the shape of the quarterstaff began to curve, bend and look like a crooked shillelagh. She then turned to her attention to help Shamesh; saving him yet again, this time before she would watched him fall in battle. With another grunt, Andromeda was able to stabilize and keep the paladin from bleeding out. He rose, and the two continued to sink magical attacks into the last remaining hag. Melrick closes in on the final melee, and the evil creature made a desperate grasp at the stunty foe to try and bite at his neck, in a move to repulse the creature he pulled his axe up through the middle of the creature to split it in half. The frenzied melee ended, and the adventurers looked upon each other with both a sense of relief and terror. These creatures were torturing children, to what evil end they do not know. While they saved this day, the real challenge is still ahead. Weary, they silently left the home, with the children in tow, ready to face whatever horrific thing may come next…

 


 

Our heroes have lived to fight another day, but grow weary in Ravenloft, the prospect of escaping grows ever more dim. They have a map, but no clues on where to go next, we’ll see if they can figure out anything in the next session! 

The Adventure Continues: The Toy Store

We left our heroes back at the inn looking for more clues that would lead them out of this nightmare when the realized they were being surrounded by ravens!


 

… the ravens the adventurers had discovered were decorating the inn all around. The more they looked the more they saw the theme of the ravens surrounding them, including above the bar where they saw a diorama depicting a nest of ravens. This clearly harkens back to the tarot cards where they were foretold some cryptic info about their future by the gypsie. What it means they do not know, however they have keep moving; they are losing time and need to keep gaining ground on Strahd if they are going to survive and ever return home. After some quick discussion, they decide to head to the toy store to investigate further.

After they arrive at the Toy Store, they arrive at Bolinksi’s to find an eclectic collection of creep toys. As they are looking around, Gaydolf Bolinski himself comes out to the front to greet the group of adventurers, he’s a robust man above average in size with a monkey on his shoulder. “Welcome to Bolinski’s, I make magical toys for children”. He was a bit odd, but it seemed genuine that he was a shopkeep with no hidden agenda so far as they could tell. Andromeda meanders around the shop but finds nothing of particular consequence. The group notices that there are two dolls in particular that are notably interesting; one that appears to look like Strahd and the other that looks like Irena. They ask why there is dolls that look like these two characters, and Bolinski that he made the one that looked like Strahd from what he heard in the stories, and the other doll that looks like Irena he is asked to make one each month and it’s picked up by the Burglemeisters’s main thug Isaac. This seems to anger Shamesh and Bent in particular. They press him for more information and the situation escalates quickly. Bent becomes very aggressive as he rips a head off a doll and demands answers as to why the doll is being made and when it’s being picked up. Gaydolf does not seem to want to back down, nor answer anymore questions, and demands the adventurers leave, immediately. Bent nearly loses his cool as the rest of the group watches on in disbelief, the sorcerer charges the shop keep and knocks him to the ground, then unleashes a whirlwind of cantrips that tear up the shop. Bolinski is visibly shaken and tells them that Isaac comes each week to pick up the doll; then he begs for the his safety as his monkey climbs to a high shelf to get away from harm and screeches at the group. Satisfied with the information that Bolinksi has now given up, the tiefling drops a gold on the shopkeep and leaves, followed by the rest of the group. Andromeda, who seemed to be unaware of what was going on, comes to the front, noticing the shop in disarray, helps the shopkeep to his feet and consoles the monkey that has returned to his master. She scratches the monkey lovingly on the head and gives Bolinski another gold coin. Elated he gives the little girl a handful of dolls to which she accepts and excitedly runs outside eager to show her friends. The group then decides to bring it’s cheer to the Burglemeister’s house.

Because the Burglemeister is asking the toymaker to create this doll that looks like Irena, which seems uncomfortable at best, they want to know more. They arrive at the home and they are welcomed in by the Burglemeister and his wife, plus his dogs. After the Burglemeister greets them, and introduces his wife; she laughs lightly in response, in a relatively uncomfortable manner. Bent and Melrick start in, without much tact, on questions around the dolls. They explained that they went to the toy shop and found the dolls and were interested in the collection of dolls that he had. The Burglemeister seemed miffed by the conversation and asked Isaac, who was overseeing the conversation, to escort the group out. The group questions the motivation to have them removed so quickly; then, attempting to de-escalate the situation, they trying to explain they are only interested in resolving the issue of the missing children that belonged to Mad Mary. He concedes his position and offers to let them see the collection of dolls that belong to his son. His son is in the attic and doesn’t come down, he doesn’t explain why stating only that he wastes his time in the attic all the time. He continues to deny that he has dolls made and that there is even any interest in having dolls made. The adventurers brought to the son’s room and there is in fact a collection of creepy dolls clearly from the toy store.

Melrick presses the conversation and wants to know the stance the Burglemeister has on Strahd and the situation in the land of Barovia. The nobleman states that he thinks Strahd is a monster and the constant celebrations are what is keeping his town of Valliki safe. The Dwarf boldly suggest that it’s possible that Isaac may not be loyal and could be working for Strahd; the Burglemeister is skeptical but is willing to listen. Melrick and Shamesh suggest they can get proof for the Burgelmeister if he would be willing to give them a letter for Bolinskii which would allow them to release the next toy doll to them instead of Isaac. He agrees, goes to a desk in the room, scribes it, signs it, folds it neatly and hands it to the dwarf, they heads downstairs to find that Isaac has his own plans, and was waiting with a dozen soldiers. He demands they lay down their weapons; without hesitation, the Melrick draws both weapons, and Bent ignites his palm and the battle ensues. Isaac immediately is on Shamesh and buries him in a big swing from his great axe. The Paladin was staggered but steady and fought back breathing fire. Melrick was overwhelmed quickly, but steadfast, despite being surrounded by four combatants. Bent litt up half the guards with fire and despite the burning they were emboldened, surrounding him. Andromeda realises quickly how desperately the situation is getting  and moves to the wall, crawling like a spider to the ceiling. Shamesh continues to try to fight off Isaac, and it barely making a difference, fighting to what will likely be his last. The dwarf was not dismayed landing two axes, but felled neither guard; this was bad. Isaac was furious, landing another great axe into Shamesh who was on his knee and finally onto the ground. Andromeda was quick to respond, and growled in anger about her friend being felled, and the Paladin was saved. Bent was not faring well, but still burning the group around him; he was running out of life to give. The guards were continuing to press their advantage on the heroes, but were starting to falter. Shamesh tried to save himself by doing some additional healing but it wasn’t enough. Isaac wasted no time in putting the Paladin into the dirt, again. Andromeda would not allow her friend fall, growling in anger, and keeping the Paladin breathing. She moved to above Isaac, and leaped from the cieling to knock the captain guard prone, but he still gripped his great sword. Shamesh, unable to gather himself, is unable to land any blows on Isaac, despite him being on his back. The guards them jump to the opportunity to get to Andromeda, and they start beating her, forcing her to disengage immediately. Bent made a decision he was going to give his life, unleashing a fireball on Isaac, while he is exposed, but it cost the sorcerer dearly, as the guards around him beat him to the ground. Andromeda makes for the wall again and climbs quickly, and Isaac turns his attention back toward Shamesh, and brings him down yet again. Melrick finally took down two guards, but that was the last he had, before he was taken down by the remaining guards around him. There was one hero still standing, Andromeda was alone. She look around and realized there was no salvaging the situation and climbed across the ceiling to the door, and the guards were unable to reach her before she escapes, leaving the heroes battered, beaten and on the floor surrounded by the guards…


 

Will our heroes survive?! See if Andromeda can save them next time… 

The Adventure Continues: A Map to the Answers?

We left our heroes on the edge of their seats finding out what may be all they need to know to find their way out of this nightmare, or is it? 


With the group in adventurers hanging on every word from Madame Eva; she decided to make it a spectacle ensuring they received their monies worth. In a wisp of magic she took a map of Barovia (the land they are in not the town they had just left), and telling them what they were looking at and threw it into the fire… and the map did not burn! Instead it was emboldened with marks that indicated specific locations and places. In awe and afraid to touch it as Madame Eva heald it out, Andromeda, the only one among them that was unafraid, reached forward and took this magic riddled unburnt parchment very delicately in her hands.

As they left Madame Eva’s tent they heard an older gypsy man telling stories to children in the camp. They stop to listen for a few minutes and they hear about a man who lead a group that had battled against the vampire Strahd. Could this be the people from town that tried to rebel that they saw as ghosts just a night ago? The location where this battle occurred was called Tser Falls; they were ultimately defeated. The legend goes that anyone that is defeated by Strahd has their soul trapped and is eternally bound to the cemetery. They rise every night and march to his castle… to what end they do not know. Before they leave the camp they take some time with the older male gypsy, and they find out that there is a tower in a lake that was a “wizards’ tower”; which seemed to connect with one of their tarot card clues. The tower is somewhere to the east of Vallaki; it is supposedly in Lake Baratok. One last question from Melrick to the old gypsy before they left is how Strahd became a vampire. There was a story about a knight that came from another realm, that was mortally wounded by a group of assassins; he was saved and nursed back to health by the gypsies, and while the details aren’t known of how he transformed to the tyrant he has become, what they could share was that the gypsies were granted the ability to come ago in the land as they please as payment for their kindness, the only ones that have ever been allowed to leave Barovia. Supposedly the legend goes that he can only be killed by fire, sunlight, or a stake through the heart. With that, they did not speak a word and headed solemnly toward the lake that may house the wizard tower they have decided to try and find as the first step in solving this nightmare.

As the group was preparing the leave town, Lythander decided to try and sell his wares. He found a merchant in town who did not have enough in gold pieces to buy what they rogue had but he was willing to trade. After some negotiation, he was able to garner a couple potions, a couple more scrolls, a hat, and a dagger; the latter two appeared to be magical (according to Bent). The group seemed happy with the haul, and off they went heading west…

Heading down the road, not too far into their new journey they come across a man at a distance who appeared to be cloaked feathers. While Lythander is jittery and immediately hides, Melrick scoffs and heads right toward the stranger and addresses him, “hello there!” It turns out the stranger is heading to the town they just left, en route to Barovia proper; he is in search of a larger quantity of wine. “My name is Sergei Martakov” is how he introduces himself and the group chats with him for a bit. The dwarf questions why the man is travelling alone, and the man dismisses the questions as erroneous. During the conversation Lythander reappears in an uncomfortably conspicuous manner and asks some questions about Boliski, stating he is a toy maker in Vallaki. Sergei also mentions to them to visit his brother if and when they arrive in Vallaki; he is the innkeeper of the Blue Water Inn. He also warns them to not leave the roads, as it’s much safer than the roaming off.

As they continue to travel along the path, they find themselves in a large canyon with ridges rising up a thousand feet above them; as they gaze up they see a large stone bridge connecting the two ridges on either side of the canyon on the far side they see a castle, the adventurers believe this, indeed, is Ravenloft Castle where the vampire Strahd calls home. As they exit the large cavern it appears to the group that something is amiss; in fact this would be a perfect place to spring a trap. Their fears were quickly affirmed as a they see an animal looking creature, that was something between human and animal bipedal but crawling, flanked by animated twigs. Melrick immediately heads toward the bipedal animal and lands an axe in the middle of it’s chest. He carves through and buries his second weapon just to be sure in a complete coup de gras. As the dwarf pulls his axes from the rib cage of the fallen animal, the twigs were easily dispatched by the rest of the party, save for Andromeda who put two bursts of flame into a nearby twig figure and is unable to bring it down; apparently her druid sense compelled her not to destroy the animated plant life. Thankfully Ismark and Irena were there to finish off the final animated twigs despite Andromeda’s best efforts to keep it alive.

After more time passed, however uneventful, they see a gate that leads to… well, where they don’t know; they believe it might be the manner of Castle Ravenloft. The gate is fallen and on the ground and they decide to leave it be and head further toward the task at hand. As they journey farther they come towards a fork in the road and find a sign that says “Bonegrinder”; they look farther up the road and see a windmill on a hill. They decide to stay the course and go farther, still, up the road and after another half mile or so and they come up on another lone figure clad completely in armor, appearing aggressive in nature and seemingly looking for a scuffle. As they approach further they noticed a symbol on the breastplate of the human figure. They move close enough to see the anger in his eyes, but he does not charge but puts his hand on the hilt of his sword and once again Melrick fancies himself the party spokesperson and calls out “do you serve the cursed one!?” only to hear him respond “it is YOU who serve the cursed one” in a gruff voice. Shamesh does not recognize the symbol but denies the assertion on behalf of the heroes. Seeing that the group was questioning him looking for a better answer, “I serve the order of the Silver Dragon and if you are who you say you are you should find Vladimir Hornguard, leader of my order.” The knight of sorts proclaims his crest of that belonging to the Ravenkind and he advised the group that his order is found Argynvostholt and dedicated to clearing the area of the cursed Strahd. The heroes ask if he wants to join them in their pursuit of Strahd, however he advised they have to go to Vladimir to seek his counsel before going further.  They agree to seek out Vladimir and head toward Argynvosltholt.

As they leave together they pass a lake and see a man in a boat in the middle; after a closer look Lythander notices a sack next to the man in the boat that seems to be moving a bit, almost as if there is something or someone inside of it. As they are watching he throws the sack in the water and then drops a fishing line into the water. Aghast, the group hurries to pull out the magical hat that they had, which they previously found out was a hat of water breathing, and the dwarf heads in the water with the hat to find out what was in the sack that was moving. The Dwarf rushes to the sack under the water and slices the bag open to see a little girl in the sack who was not moving. He brings her to the surface water and then rushes her back to shore where Andromeda grabs the young girl and immediately forces her to spit up the water she had swallowed finally able to stabilize her. While the druid was saving the little girl Melrick was rushing back to the boat; however Lythander was even quicker to notich an arrow on his longbow; he loosed an arrow dead on target at the man in the boat and caught him square in the chest. By time the dwarf got to the boat to capsize it and pull the clearly devious man under, he found the man with an arrow through his chest. With a disdainful look backs toward shore, he let the man sink to the bottom got into the boat and rowed it back to shore. Once there he finds the group having a conversation with the girl who shared that she was taken from her family, is currently only seven-years-old, and doesn’t know why she was taken. They offer her some food but she doesn’t want anything to eat; she is, however, from Vallaki, so they tell her they will take her back home.

They arrive, finally at Vallaki, and they are greeted at the gate, but not granted entry; told by the guard at the front “if you’re alive in the morning, we’ll see you in then!”. They set camp outside, set watches, and take rest until morning. While the group sleeps, Lythander and Andromeda are on watch. Throughout the watch Lythander starts to nod off (pretending he would later say) and the Druid enters a meditative state. Suddenly, Lythander’s awareness kicks in and he notices four wolf shaped figures on the edge of the camp, not engaging but lurking. He wakes the group, and Andromeda eagerly moves to the edge of the camp ready to defend her friends from the incoming frey, but does not engage. As she is waiting Shamesh lunges forward and sinks his blessed weapon into one of the wolves. Immediately following that Bent and Andromeda are unexpectedly put asleep; falling to the ground. From the opposite side of the camp, they hear that silky regal voice “that was not kind to do”. Shamesh wheels around, and sees for the first time… Strahd. He walks up to Irena, the woman of his desires and caresses her face as he strolls through camp. Shamesh demands he get away from her, and with a wry smile that seemingly encouraged his apparently pet wolves jump the paladin from behind tearing at his clothes. Not too long after, the Burgermeister’s children both fell asleep. Melrick lunges towards a wolf and puts an axe into one wounding it badly and Shamesh turns around lands another blow in the hurt wolf, but it does not fall. Lythander proceeds to engage and fight, however is quickly and inexplicably turned into a toad. The situation is quickly growing dire; Melrick and Shamesh are determined to go down fighting and take down two wolves with them, and while they are busy fighting the overgrown canines, Strahd whispers something in the Irena’s ear then turns snapping his cloak around him is gone. Shamesh is overcome by one of the remaining wolves, not before being fended off by Melrick then the wolves take off into the wood; the dwarf is the only remaining hero on his feet.

Looking around he is absorbs the situation in enough time for Lythander to turn back from a frog as quickly as he had turned into one while Bent and Andromeda wake from their forced slumber. The rest of the night passes uneventfully, however the group is clearly aware of what they are up against at this point and they are terrified at the disadvantage they face. Nearly despondent the group barely rests through the night  and when morning approaches they clear camp and approach the gates again. This time it’s a different guard of Vallaki and they announce their desire to see Sergie’s brother, the innkeeper from the Blue Water Inn and they are granted entry into town.

As they walk through town they see a man posting an announcement about a great celebration called the Wolf’s Head Celebration, and no sooner are they done reading the announcement when a man walks by ripping the announcement down and putting up a new one called Celebration of the Rising Sun. Lythander briefly questions the change in celebration notices and the man will have none of the questions. As the man walks away he is hawk eyeing Irena in a manner that makes the whole group uncomfortable after Lythander points out to everyone the glare of the man. After looking around, with some urging from Lythander and Andromeda, they decide to bring the little girl home while Irena and Ismark decide to go to the Inn. They approach the camp of the Bisconi and they find their way to the little girl’s house. They speak with her father who is elated, he gives the group a large sum of gold in great gratitude for returning his daughter. As they go to leave Melrick steps in and asks the man why his daughter would have been taken; he claims he doesn’t know. The group tries again to leave, and the dwarf presses further and asks, “does it have something to do with Strahd?” The man rushes over in hushed tones and asks them to keep their voices down when they speak his name. He advised he only serves Strahd as he must but that this camp is loyal to Strahd. They find out that those who complain about the festivals are deemed malcontents and draw the eyre of the Burgermeister of Vallaki. About this time they notice that those roaming around outside are taking extra notice of their conversation and decide to bring it to a close, thank the man for his generosity and head back to town.

On the way back to the town the group decides to head to the inn to find Irena and Ismark. When the arrive they find the familiar face of Sergei who is back already and he introduces them to his brother, Irwin. After sitting down to a good meal and making arrangements for the night they find out some more of the happenings around the town. Apparently the Valleki Burgermeister is a bit overbearing to all save for one woman in the northern part of town. This particular woman is very much despised by the Burgermeister here but he leaves her be because she is rumored to have strong ties to Strahd. They also find out about an abandoned camp outside of town, it was supposedly by Strahd for an offense against him; though that has never been verified. In town the continued celebrations are supposedly to keep Strahd away, though the people in town don’t believe it works nobody will dare speak out against it because of the Burgermeister’s fear mongering. This week is the celebration of the Rising Sun. With further discussion the site of the fallen dragon comes up again, and once again they find themselves being compelled towards Argynvosltholt. a silent nod amongst the group and they all concur this site of the religious sect and fallen dragon needs to be visited.  After a good meal they decide they to find Irena and Ismark and update them on what they have discovered. Irwin agrees to show them to their room, and en route they hear what appears to be a large congregation of birds in a room, they stop and…


The heroes are seemingly never safe! Next week we find out what the inn had waiting for them… 

 

The Adventure Continues: The Gypsies, Strahd, and the Riddle

We return to find our heroes in the midst of a melee with a being very much their supperior surrounded by screams of illusionary cultists. The nightmarish scene is complete chao, and Andromeda was the first to gather her wits. In a thunderous wave she pushes back the creature of refuse while Shamesh grabs Melrick, who has passed out from the horrific odor and fear, and begins to drag him backwards through the swampish water on the floor. Bent, taking cue, begins to send magic missiles at the abomination, as does Lythander. Andromeda moves to help Shamesh pull Melrick to safety, thankfully this pile of muddy earth and refuse moved very slowly giving the druid girl a chance to unleash another thunderous wave pushing the abomination yet further back and away from the portcullis doorway.

Lythander and Bent continued to ravage the being from a far unleashing missiles, both mundane and magical, while Shamesh and Andromeda continue to pull Melrick to safety. The monstrosity seemed to not be interested in their unconscious friend any longer as he now moved toward Bent and Lythander, who were clearly now much more than an annoyance each taking pieces out of it with every attack. Shamesh seizing the moment rushes toward the beast diving his weapon into it’s midriff, with a large gasp the monstrosity was clearly hurt, and the gash unleash a noxious gas while the abomination delivered a muddy angry claw in response that threw off the paladin. Andromeda, who was about to cure the dwarf, now had to help Shamesh back on his feat after being on the receiving end of a big muddy claw or the group was done for sure; none of the other heroes could hope to stand up to this creature. Her instincts were right, as she revived her friend and cured his wounds the big muddy beast was back on top of Shamesh throwing him into the nearest wall. Meanwhile Bent and Lythander continued to take chunks off the monster from afar. Seeing that this was not going to work much longer Andromeda threw herself in front of the beast unleashing what was likely a final thunderous wave blowing off the front bits of the base of the creature, and seeing it wobble as Bent and Lythander continued to fire upon it with their last bits of bows and magical energy; it tobble backward into the wall falling into a pile, all three remaining heroes slumped having their energy and resolve all but exhausted.

After defeating the abomination, they quickly exit the house and exit that nightmare. As they move to leave the home, the heavy thick mist that surrounded the house lifts and they see the town around them. It’s now almost as if they are again, in a different place, not being able to see the creepy emptiness of the town or haunted house they just left behind them. Knowing they are clearly in a place they don’t understand. They head toward what appears to be the center of the town where they now find themselves. The s heroes are seeking locals to garner some insight into where they are and see if they can find a place to rest as well as sell their new found wares. They still don’t know where they are but they need to heal their wounds get their bearings. They find a merchant shop, but the unfriendly shopkeep is not interested in most of what they have, save for the sword; which Lythander did not want to part with. They leave the shop and decide they need rest, so they find an inn.

On their way to the inn, they hear a faintly wailing woman as they pass one particular house, but after a brief conversation they decide they can’t solve all the problems in this town in one day, and at this point they don’t even know what day it is and as such Melrick pushes the group on towards the inn. Once there the dwarf immediately heads for some ale while Shamesh and Lythander try to make arrangements for the night. The bartender, who is also the innkeep, is curt at best; he wants two silver pieces per adventurer for the night. They counter with two silver pieces for the group, and savvy inkeep is unyielding, as he counters back with the same two silver pieces per adventurer per night; he will clearly not be negotiated with. Growing short on patience and wanting rest Bent throws two gold on the bar and says how about some food, lodging, and drinks for the night. The innkeep doesn’t crack a smile, takes the money and tells them to have a seat.

Once settled in at the bar, a stranger from the across the bar, fairly stately in stature, asks the group to join him, his name is Ismark. The heroes, wanting a friendly person to speak with and potentially someone to garner any information from, are easily persuaded to go and join him. At this point Andromeda leaves the bar, without anyone noticing not even her friend Shamesh saw her sneak out.

Once sitting with Ismark, the rest of the group find out that this man is the Burgermeister’s son, and the girl referenced in the letter they found is his sister, Irena. After a little more conversation he realizes the group is a bunch of adventurers and he offers them a healthy amount of gold to help his own cause asking them to join his barbarian friend to protect his sister. Irena has a house in town and there is a very unholy being, one who oversees, dominates, commands this land. A vampire that is an overlord of these lands who has taken an unhealthy interest in his sister; the vampire’s name is Strahd. They don’t know why he has taken an interest in Irena, but she is not safe. It seems Strahd himself has not tried to enter her home but his minions keep trying on a nightly basis, though there hasn’t been any attacks on the home the last two nights; Ismark is asking for their help.

After some deliberation they realize they need to do something, as it currently appeals to their good nature to want to help, but it sounds like they are outside of their ability to deal with this problem. That said, they are do gooders at heart and decide they want to help.

While they are talking to Ismark, Andromeda is moving around town and comes across a gypsy selling some pies from her rickety cart. She is peddling something called “dream cakes”. Andromeda detects something poisonous in the cakes, but wants to learn more about this place, and feels like she might be able to garner more info about the land they are in if she can pick through the cake. She begins to approach the cart and suggests she wants to purchase one; out of the shadows to her right appears a very intimidating but well groomed and very well spoken cloaked man. He warns “excuse me young lady… do not buy one of those cakes” in a sultry voice. Eyes wide, Andromeda is taken aback by the stately gentlemen and his presence is thick near her; so much so it almost makes her shrink. As her eyes grew wide, and she could feel the evil surround her, not knowing who she was dealing with she must have instinctively shrunk backwards. The man spoke again, “tell your friends their plan will not work…”; then he turns and in a cloud of smoke that turns into a flock of birds that fly away and the man was gone. Andromeda, trying to figure out what she had just encountered, decides to heed the strangers advice and head back to the inn.

Once back at the inn, Andromeda meets her friends and they are discussing what they can do for the young woman and her brother that has offered to help. They still don’t know where they are, what time of day it is or how they can get back to Daggerdale. They start to conversate about the vampire Strahd which catches Andromeda’s attention. She looks at her dragonborn friend inquisitively, and he explains that the town aristocrat’s son had told them of a vampire in town and he was terrorizing his sister whom they were considering helping. The horrific look on the young girl’s face seemed to indicate she had intimate knowledge of the vampire of which Shamesh had spoken; the paladin realized his friend had seen this frightening being. He asked what had happened and Andromeda acknowledged the conversation with Strahd; she described on a piece of parchment that the vampire lord had told her that what they were trying to do won’t work.

The adventurers made the decision to go to the one house in town that they believe Strahd can’t enter, where Irena is staying and apparently they have been able to keep these monsters out. Once there they set up watches throughout the night and the group mostly rested or meditated. During the night, as the moon reached its peak, they saw a parade of ghosts from the cemetery in town rise up and walk towards the castle where Strahd supposedly resides. Terrified they stay clear of the ghosts outside, but in the morning they immediately go see Ismark to discuss what they have seen. He informs them that the ghosts marching towards the castle happens every night and that the ghosts are the souls that rebelled against Strahd; or so the gypsies have told. Unfortunately those storytellers are gone now, having headed west out of town, but alas, back to the matter at hand.

They find out that they are in the land of Barovia and in the town of Barovia (yes one in the same name); additionally there is a nearby town, Valeekey, where they think the best place to keep Irena safe. If they can get her out of town and beyond the potential reach of Strahd they may well be able to solve at least this one problem for the family. After discussing the potential solution amongst themselves they present the notion to Irena who is apprehensive. She does not want to leave the safe confines of the home but reluctantly agrees to leave if they agree to bury her father in the cemetery in Barovia, the same cemetery where they saw they dead rising earlier. This perplexes the adventurers but they trust her intentions and believe she is truly trying to set the soul of her father to rest. They found out the father died two days before they arrived and they have not been able to bury him, being afraid to go into that cemetary themselves.. They agree to help her, and head toward the church.

On the way to the cemetery they once again hear the loud moans of the woman they now know is called Mad Mary; they still do not have interest nor time to investigate that further, but it is clear that they need to at some point. They arrive at the church before heading to the cemetery and they talk to someone who appears to be the resident priest. Shamesh explains what they are there for, and the priest is amiable, though he has a request of the dragonborn priest, he asks them to help his son who is ill. They ask what the problem is and he doesn’t know, but he would like them to do it while they prepare a new burying spot for Burgermeister.

They head down the stairs into the basement of the church and the paladin detects evil to discover immediately that the son is an undead being, in fact a vampire. As the group descends to the bottom of the stairs the son screams “I can smell your blood!” and begins to rush the heroes. Lythander immediately slips past the party to gain a vantage point so he can deliver a critical blow to sick boy. Shamesh casts a blessing on the party and Melrick curses the unholy being where he stands. The boy’s priest father quickly tries to put himself between the heroes and his son, only to slip and fall. As he falls to the ground Ismark’s barbarian mercenary charges and collides with the vampire. After tearing into him, it seems that the wounds were meaningless to this being. Bent sends flames leaping towards the vampire and sets him ablaze, and the heroes can see him start to take damage. Lythander emerges from his new vantage point and lands some advantageous blow to try and divert the vampires attention toward himself and away from the barbarian. It did not work as he tears into the barbarian more, whose wounds look grievous. Shamesh then lays his blessed weapon into the abomination, and Andromeda then produces flame sending it toward the vampire that lights the undead man ablaze again, this time once and for all, as the priest’s son screams in agony burning and collapsing to the ground..

The priest curses the adventurers for destroying his son, they offer condolences but he will have none of it. He dismisses them from his church, so they leave him in the basement, however they decide to take it upon themselves to finish burying the body of the Burgermeister and bless his final resting place as they had promised Ismark and Irena.

They leave the cemetery and realise the moans of Mad Mary have not stopped since they entered the town and after a brief discussion on what they learned at the inn, she has been wailing for a week and nobody has checked on her. On their way out of town they decide to stop at the house and see if they can help her. The adventurers go to the house and when the knock the wailing gets softer, they call her name and the moaning stops. The barbarian goes around the back of the home and breaks a window to see if he can see inside the house. Lythander sneaks up the stairs to the backdoor with the barbarian and when he arrives at the top of the stairs he sees an old woman crumbled on the floor crying and clutching a deformed baby doll. The woman does not seem to acknowledge them and the rogue  immediately runs back to tell the rest of the party; the barbarian instead heads straight into the room and tries to interact with the woman. The rest of the party heads up once Lythander tells them what he saw, with a sigh the rogue follows and the Burgermeister’s kids stay behind. The group spend some time trying to garner the woman’s attention, and she responds only slightly but never really changes her current state. They eventually give up and leave the woman to her misery feeling that at least they tried.

Out of town they head moving west toward the town of Valeeky. On their way, the encounter a gypsy encampment, to which Melrick immediately stopped wanting to speak with them; partly his own excitement, and partly remembering the conversation a day earlier with the Ismark. After a few short conversations with a few gypsy they meet as they head into the camp, they are eventually introduced to Madame Eva; a very old gypsy who tells them she knows them, and asks if they made a mistake chasing those bandits in Daggerdale. Dumbfounded the adventurers are all of a sudden listening intently, she says she knows all of stating each of the heroe’s names. Seeing they are eager to learn more, Madame Eva sees an opportunity to solicit some gold from this group, and they do not disappoint handing over healthy payment to learn more. She says she must read their future, the dwarf excited to see the gypsy magic sits front and center while Andromeda, unimpressed, looks on skeptically while the rest of the heroes listen intently. The old gypsy shuffles a deck of cards and deals five cards, four a circular order and the fifth in the middle. Here is what she saw…

 

The Rogue: history, knowledge of the ancient will help you better understand your enemy. I see a nest of Ravens there you will find your prize.

The Wizard: Powerful force for good, a holy symbol of great hope. Look for a wizards tower on a lake, let the wizards name and servant guide you to that which you seek.

The Druid: 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. The Ravens can help you find it, look for the treasure here.

The Ghost: This card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness. I see a fallen paladin of a fallen order of knights. He lingers like a ghost in a dead dragon’s lair.

The Artifact: Your enemy is a creature of darkness who’s power is beyond mortality. This card will lead you to him. He lurks in the darkness where the morning light once shown, a sacred place.

 


 

What does it all mean? Where will this lead our heroes? The adventure continues next week…