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?