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…

The Adventure Continues: The Search for Strahd

Last we saw our new band of heroes they were inexplicably stuck in an alternate reality trying to figure out how they woke up in what may well be, not only another place, but another dimension, and more importantly how do they get back!? There we find them in the basement of a long abandoned home trying just get themselves out… 

 

As we return to find our adventurers where we left them: looking for the next place to go and solve their way out of this misty nightmare. While Lythander ventures back up the stairs of this abandoned home to find the skeletal remains that the group found earlier, Andromeda found a quiet place to meditate for a bit with Shamesh waiting patiently near her in the event something unexpected happened. Lythander shortly returned after putting bones in the third, and last casket, that was the only remaining place for a body to be laid to rest.

As they venture further into the lower level of the home, they find a new area to explore; before they enter Lythander dips into the room stealthily to inspect and after some thorough searching he finds a little collection of items including a small sack (made from some type of skin) that had a few dozen gold and silver coins. With nothing left in this area the group ventures in a different direction on the same level and finds an area that is made of dirt walls, separate from the finished look of the rest of the home. It looks and feels almost like a crypt, but crude and not well to do at all. In the walls of this “room” there were dug out caverns of sorts each walled off by stone slabs, save for one particular cavern that was left open with the slab set aside. As they examine the slab closer they find a name etched on the front: “Walter the Durst”. No one in the party has any idea who this person might be;  while Andromeda listens to her companions discuss the slab, she grunts some incantation which seems to be a protective enchantment of sorts and approaches the slab, touching the stone to inspect. The group stopped discussing and watched her intently, unfortunately (or fortunately) nothing happened, and they did not find anything further. 

As they move further and deeper into the basement crypt they begin to hear tantric chanting off further in the distance. Melrick took the lead and headed directly for what was certain to be an encounter with something; before he can even advance into the darkness ahead, four ghouls emerge from the ground in front of them. Seeing the dwarf attacked by the nearby ghouls the instinctive nature of Shamesh triggers and he moved to put the ghouls at a disadvantage defending his companion, but it’s not enough to protect the stunty warrior and the dwarf is quickly laid low; the heroes are shocked, but steady themselves to fight. Before the dragonkin priest lunges forward to try and save Melrick, he is touched by a protective aura from Andromeda. After Shamesh is out of the way, Andromeda sees Melrick on the ground and immediately makes her way to the fallen dwarf and cures his wounds bringing him back to the battle; now ready for action, after a quick playful tug of his beard by the the little girl, Melrick was back on his feet… not than anyone around would notice him standing! Meanwhile Bent who was trying to lay back at a safe distance was still unaware of what was going on up ahead still trying find his way toward the action and Lythander raced around in the darkness to find a vantage poin; the rogue layed down some shots from his bow putting another hole in the ghoul. As two of the remaining three ghouls surged on the dragonkin priest, Andromeda would not let her friend be taken down, she produced flame from her fingertips and continuously poured fire on to the nearby ghoul flanking Shamesh, while he hacked down another ghoul. As the dwarf found his way back to the fray, the last ghoul was felled after another arrow from Lythnader, who had appeared on the far side of the room, struck true; for now the dust settled.

Andromeda was able to use the flame on the tips of her fingers to create enough glow that they were able they move closer toward the chanting with some ability to see in the darkness. Now that they had some visibility, in the next room they entered they saw a statue of a man positioned in the middle of the open space that had a peculiar glowing orb resting in his hand. Just as they were starting to take in their surroundings, four more shadowy figures appear and it did not take long for the situation to become quickly dire! All the heroes were attack and caught off guard; Andromeda most of all, however she immediately transformed into a panther in an attempt to protect herself become agile enough to escape the shadow nearest to her. She slipped away in time only to see the vile shadows across the room envelop Bent; with the tiefling sorcerer on the ground and both of the groups’ healers engaged, there was nothing they could do as they were fending for their own lives. Lythander found his way through the melee and used his remaining stored healing potion to bring Bent back from the brink of death. The heroes continued to fight the shadowy figures fending them off the best they could as they all were weakened by their foes every second the fight went on, having already been worn thin by fighting their way through this whole crypt, they did not having much fighting spirit left. Andromeda growled an incarnation at her quarterstaff and the long piece of crudely crafted wood gnarled, twisted, and emanated a glow as she charged in hacking at the nearby shadow, bringing it down. Bent now on his feet was able to sling a series of magical missiles at the shadows blowing holes in them and Shamesh on his last legs swings wildly smiting his foes down with the final blow; barely the group found a way to stay alive, but after a short rest they had to press on.

As they moved toward the next opening further into the darkness they exited the area of the standing statue and off they go; however Bent hung back long enough to take the glowing globe in the hands of the stoic stone man. While he was examining the globe, Shamesh moved to go through the darkness and encountered a door on the far side of the room that he did not see or notice before. As he grabbed the door handle to turn it, the door animates and grabbed onto the gold skin priest and would not let go! Shamesh proceeds to try to beat the door off of him but the attacks seem to splinter and create new ways for the door repair itself. Shamesh was quickly dragged down and was unconscious on the floor; then the door seemingly stepped over the fallen dragonkin priest ready to take down the next hero. Andromeda empowers her quarterstaff once again, and takes a big swing at the door but did no damage. With the door distracted Melrick lunged forward putting blow after blow into the door with his axes and it started to splinter into pieces, this time, however the door was not able to recover. Bent fires upon the door with a blast of energy and the door splintered further, and began to retreat. Before it could get away Andromeda sent another blast of fire at the door and the back side was deeply charred as it seized up, lost animation, and subsequently fell onto Shamesh who was still laying on the ground. Lythander was able to stabilize the dragonkin priest and as he found his feet he took the last of healing potions the party had. The group was growing very weary while the chanting grew ever louder.

They really needed to rest further but they know they could not; so the group pressed further.  With the chanting growing louder by the minute as they moved closer they know they need to find the source to end of this nightmare. In the next open area further into the basement crypt they find what appears to look like a bedroom, with some boxes and trunks in the room; this room is set off the open space they were just in, almost like a resting place for someone that might tend to the area, perhaps. After some careful inspection of the foot locker and chest, they find a sack full of items. Bent sees a cloak he would like to inspect further; as he grabs the cloak from the trunk, pushing past Lythander, two more ghouls manifest from the chest and rise up attacking everyone nearby! The sorcerer is immediately overwhelmed by the creatures and falls to the ground; almost simultaneously the dwarf is hit and paralyzed, falling helpless on the ground as well. Lythander instinctively rolls out of the way to try to save himself, but he cannot get away fast enough as the larger ghoul that had taken down Bent grabs him slamming him into the wall and he falls helplessly on the ground. Shamesh, seeing how quickly the situation had turned bad, summons all his strength and was able to use his blessed weapon to take the smaller ghoul down. Andromeda again produces fire from her fingertips and started setting the larger ghoul ablaze; as the ghoul attempted to turn his eyre toward her she unleashed all her power, in what appeared to be a last desperate effort to save herself and her companions, a wave of thunder blew the creature and everything in the room into the wall. Before the abomination could steady itself, Shamesh lashed into the weakened ghoul and another fiery blaze is sent forth from Andromeda and the creature falls.

The heroes are bloody, weakened, and running out of resources. In the trunk they find the items they were searching through, and store them. They barricaded the door, listen for chanting and take some badly needed rest.

After a long rest, they gathered themselves with renewed strength and remove the debris barricading the doorway and head toward the chanting, one final time. As they moved closer they confirm to each other that the chanting never stopped at any point while they were resting. Heading toward the chants, they grew louder, at this point they sounded essentially like rhythmic screams.  They walk through a room with grotesque drawings on the wall and a horrific collection of items in thirteen seemingly specific areas, including severed body parts, and other unspeakable things. They reach the room that was clearly where the chanting was coming from and when they enter… nobody was there.

The room has a ledge around the upper exterior, where Bent went to light the torches on one wall and Andromeda, taking the cue, lit the torches on the other wall then she descended the stairs and used her quarterstaff to check the water depth. Seeing that it was only about two feet deep she waded in, with Melrick and Shamesh following. As soon as they step into the water, the chanting burst out again and thirteen human like forms appear on the upper ledge of the wall screaming the loud chanting again. Lythander discerns from the chanting that a sacrifice must be made; he offers his pet rat to complete cause, doing his best to yell above the screams and chanting coming from above. Bent yells back not to make the sacrifice, fearful that they might inadvertently complete the ritual which could bring forth something even worse. The heroes agree and they do not make the sacrafice, instead they make for the portcullis at the rear of the room to try and find a way out, but before they do the chanting changes, abruptly, and now what they hear is the yells calling for… for a monster “come forth Loregath the Decayor!!!”

From the pile of refuse piled in front of the room emerges a monster the likes which they had never seen, or smelled before; and as soon as it grows to full size, it began to lurch directly toward our heroes; chaos was about to ensue…

 

It seems we find our our adventurers at yet another cliff hanger, until next session to see if they will in deed survive another day in the nightmare of Strahd…