For the final time, we follow our heroes; and whether it’s their finest hour or a glorious demise, there is only one way this ends: a battle with the vampire lord will ensue….
As the heroes approach the high looming Castle Ravenloft, they see and hear the dark flutter of crows overhead. They pause, take a moment before entering and consider all that has happened that has lead them here. With Godfrey at the fore, he suggests that there is not time to waste, and he moves the group forward. As he moves deliberately towards the gate, it is already open, but Andromeda almost too excited, pushes through the gate. She goes first followed by Shamesh, Malrick, Bent, Hugo, Lythander, and Godfrey. Our heroes are ready to embark on what may be their greatest triumph, or ultimate demise.
They march, deliberately, to the front door and attempt to enter through the garden, as Lythander moves through the green outdoor conservatory an animated broom, almost in mockery of what he has encountered before, leaps out at him; this time however the rogue is ready, strokes an arrow and splits the old wooden broom in two. Now at the front door, just as they arrive in expected fashion a finely dressed, yet worn and weathered elf, carrying a scimitar, greets them solemnly and professionally, citing that their master is expecting them… beyond creepy but not really surprising. He leads them to a larger room up a set of stairs. There they see a feast on the table in front of them and the heroes hear a familiar voice, “come eat, enjoy some food”; they hear the sultry voice of Strahd. Then the music arises and catches all their attention, the lord vampire appears to be playing the large organ across the room. Shamesh motions to his companions to halt, and he waves his hand across the feast and the room from a far; after pausing a moment he says that the whole thing is an illusion, but the elf minion is evil; that’s all Melrick needed to hear, axes drawn he attacks!
Before anyone can get to the elf, he unleashes a wave of energy and the whole group grabs its’ head in pain, clearly he was doing some psychologically incantation and then he immediately tried to dance to safety. Melrick swings wildly landing one blow and missing with the other, Bent, Hugo, and Andromeda all miss slinging spells at him. Shamesh lands a big blow and Lythander lands an arrow strike. Then the elf unleashed another wave of psychological energy, and the group once again has to steady itself after being caught in the magical blast. Then Melrick lands another blow, Bent finally casts a successful spell, as does Hugo, and Shamesh landing the final blow laying the elf minion low. They search the body and find nothing more useful; the party quickly moves on.
As the heroes move further up to the second level of the castle, the come upon a man scribing something in a small study, and immediately they to take up arms, but Lythander has a steady hand and Shamesh holds off the heroes, who are now on high alert, from unleashing on this elderly man. The man tells the group he is a slave to Strahd, and very much wants to leave. He does have some direction to give them, and sends them back downstairs where they may find Strahd in the castle, in the cathedral.
They enter the cathedral and see a row of windows down a long, fairly narrow, hall lined in windows. At the end they see brass locked openings or doors, with the image of a rising (or setting) sun above the enclosed openings. They move through the long hall into the a larger hall almost like a cavern alter, through the brass doors. Once inside, they see a cloaked figure genuflecting at the altar across the room where sunlight is shining through a worn hole in the roof onto the space where the cloaked figure is kneeling altar, with a mace at his feet. At closer look, the kneeling figure is a dead body and after Bent detects the magical aura in the room and advised that the mace and the silver statue on the altar are magical. They approach the figure and confirm he does not move or animate, he is in fact, simply dead. They pick up the mace to see if it will fit in the statues hands on the altar and it will not fit. Having deemed it’s magical properties Shamesh decides he will wield it for the benefit of the party as they hunt the undead Lord. The group looks around the rest of the altar but finds nothing; as Melrick clumsily looks around he knocks over a candelabra and the noise flutters out a small flock of ravens, and one falls upon the group in a large swoosh… Strahd, has finally emerged.
With the group reeling Strahd immediately strikes at the heart of the heroes, and unleashes a flurry of blows on Andromeda, and then locks a nearby door closing Bent out of the fight. Lythander tries to strike back and misses, moving farther away to the altar to stay at a safe distance. Then Strahd continues to unleash blows on the little druid girl and before she can even react she is knocked unconscious, Godfrey conjures a protective incantation and then magically unlocks the door that Strahd had previously used to hold Bent out of the room. Andromeda groans on the floor, she’s still alive, but critically hurt. Bent moves to quickly re-enter the room now that he heard the door unlock. Hugo unleashes lightening on the undead Lord, and Strahd moves quickly through the crowd, grabbing the lifeless body of Andromeda and begins to suck her blood after biting her on the neck. He seems restored, and rises to smack Shamesh in the face. Shamesh calls down a holy prayer to see his weapon illuminate with power. Strahd moves and lays into Bent who is his next biggest threat, and is able to land a blow and the Tiefling sorcerer erupts in a shield of power, protecting him from more damage. Godfrey moves aggressively toward Strahd looking to bring a final end to his enemy With an unholy blow Godfrey splits Strahd into a cloud of dust that washes over the heroes and filters through the floor. Shamash dives at the dust trying to finish the foe, but only hits the solid clay floor.
Hugo moves quickly to heal Andromeda after Lythander stabilizes her. She was conscience and gathering herself to once again fight. Shamash moves and hugs his friend, with a hug, she seems fully refreshed. As they are healing Andromeda, Bent is melding stone digging a staircase through the ground to chase Strahd, nearly 80 feet they find a hole through the floor and descend to what appears to be a crypt. They see gravestones, nearly 40, and as they look through the writing on the graves, they find nothing of consequence. They chase down the stairs feeling like Strahd is not in one of these graves. As they descend the stairs they don’t find anything anything until they run into a purple velvet curtain, large, ceiling to floor, and they end in a room where there is two coffins, they read the inscriptions on the caskets and they appear to be the resting place for Strahd’s parents. They find nothing else in the coffins other than stately dressed corpses. They move back into the large crypt, the find two rough exits on each end of the crypt. Heading toward one far end lead by Bent, they enter a room with a portcullis covering a door. Bent uses a mage hand to move the portcullis and they find resting place of Sergei, Strahd’s brother. The heroes, now smelling the final battle upon them. They head to the other far side of the Crypt. They find another portcullis, and Melrik steps forward and grunts loudly pushing the large heavy door aside. They enter the room and they find the unearthed dirt and the fresh smell of death, they believe this was where Strahd rests; when they enter the find that there is one casket and the decide before they open the casket to pull out the Sword of Dawn that they have carried with them for many days now. Hugo raises the sword high above his head ready to dive it down into the vampire lord’s chest, while Melrick and Shamesh move to either end of the casket with Bent and his mage hand in the middle. However, as soon as their hands touch the casket, four eruptions from around the casket happen all at once, four undead zombie woman ready to defend their lord emerge and start scratching and clawing at our heros.
The undead woman form a line in front of the casket almost like a dead meat wall in front of the coffin. Bent moves to one side and slings a missile exploding the first female abomination. Then Shamesh and Melrick land consecutive blows on another, making it turn to dust and ash. However the final two fight on, seemingly immune to Andromeda’s noxious puff of smoke, and Lythander is unable to land consecutive bow shots. The unholy essence of the final two in Strahd’s harem starts to take effect as the heroes begin to weaken. Melrick steadies himself to land another blow, and Hugo launches a magical attack destroying the final wretch.
And so, the moment they have fought, and bled for over the past days weeks and months. They all move to open the casket at the same time, assuming the same positions at before, bracing themselves for anything that may happen. Andromeda eagerly looks on and Lythander strings an arrow tight, and once again Hugo raises the big blessed blade above his head. In unison, Melrick, Bent, and Shamesh open the casket and Hugo dives the sword into Strahd’s chest just as he opens his eyes but barely before he can move! In a final surge Strahd reaches out grips Bent pulls him close and tries one final time with a grasp of his wrist, only to see it fail and explosion of ash and magical dust erupts from the casket and an explosion of magical essence and fog all around Barovia is lifted… our heroes have conquered the undead overlord of this other dimensional land!!!!
As the heroes brush away the dust and death of the room and world around them, they all react differently. Shamesh bows his head in prayer, Andromeda sits huddled and begins to cry, Hugo and Lythander search the casket for anything that might mean the vampire lord has survived. Melrick takes in the scene around him and strokes his beard wondering what to do next, while Bent, of all the heroes, is peculiar, touching his own skin, almost as if he absorbed some essence of the dust. As the heroes make their way back through the castle they do not move briskly, but slowly, steadily, wearily. Bent hovers further and further back behind them, Andromeda the closest link between the group and tiefling sorcerer who continued to silently insist on moving slower and slower. As they near the exit of Castle Ravenloft, the heroes wait at the exit peering out to the world without the heavy mist they had been accustomed to; and slowly Bent approaches. In a solemn tone he asks his companions to leave him, while their journey has been together it is time for them to part, he is not ready to leave the castle. Perplexed the group tries to inquire, and Melrick protests, but Andromeda, quietly looks upon the face of the sorcerer and understands… the being whose face they look upon is no longer the same, he is different, and so are they. She looks at her longtime companion Shamesh with a gentle glance and subtle nudge encourages him out the door, the holy dragonkin puts a big arm around his dwarven friend and pulls him with them out the door and Lythander and Hugo never really protested having understood it was time for all of them to move on, and go home. As they exit the castle the rest of the mist raise up and they are once again whisked away before they can comprehend their surroundings.
The fade to black was broken by the heroes, deja vu sets in, in a subtle yet horrifying way; again the heroes find themselves to just be waking up, amidst a dense heavy fog that seems to be falling from above their heads. They look around and realize they are on the end of the embankment where this adventure had began so long ago just outside of town, and Bent is not with them. The fog is descending, and this place, is not familiar at first, but then again all too familiar to where all of this began. Could this really be, are they in the same place where they first found themselves in, in… in Barovia? As they rub their eyes, and gather themselves realizing the nightmare that is now closing in on them, they hear a familiar voice, more sultry than than they remember, and with a tone of darkness that is not familiar, Bent is in their ears and in their heads, “my friends, it’s good to see you are still here…”
A nightmarish end to never ending story, we thank our hero characters from DOGC friends: Mike, Dave, Will, Anthony, Eric, special occasional guest Josh, and of course our beloved DM extraordinaire Bryan. It was a gripping six month adventure and forever will our characters be enthralled to Barovia; we leave it to your imagination what becomes of them…