Curse of Strahd

Chapter One: The Reunion of the Thirteenth

Wherein Civil War veterans meet and receive a quest

Everyone back home knew Galenas, the Werbalizer, but here in the big city, he was an unknown. This was by design, since he was now on the run.

For years, Galenas was beloved by his people, the elves of the Radlebb Forest. He was a young hero of the Elvenguard, elves who watched the borders of the forest, especially for undead beasts that roamed up from the cursed land of Barovia. Then came the Civil War, and the Elf-King sent Galenas with others of the Elvenguard to fight for Grand Duke Stefan of Karameikos.

Galenas was there then, for the Battle of Willowstone Ford, when Karameikos was saved, but its favorite daughter Anastasia Karameikos died. The Elvenguard was ordered to retreat just before that final melee, so even now the elves are seen as cowards by many Karameikans.

After the wars end, Galenas was invited to the Eladrin land of Haven, to join the court of the Silver Princess as one of the Chosen Ones. There, Galenas was made Court Herbalist and Game Warden. He lived in peace and harmony among the other Chosen Ones. Then came Tempus.

Tempus was a human warlord, a veteran of the Civil War and Battle of Willowstone Ford himself. Invited to Haven due to his need to recover following the wars, he became a favorite of the Silver Princess. Over the past year, Galenas watched her moods darken, and then she spent more and more time in her palace, not spending time with the Chosen Ones. Galenas was forbidden to tend the Palace Herb gardens. The Chosen met and decided to march to the palace for an explanation. The gates were shut and were not opened despite their pounds and shouts. Finally Tempus appeared and told the Chosen to leave Haven and never return. Of course some fought back, but Tempus’ blade devastated them, and Galenas fled the Palace.

At first, he and the others tried to resist Tempus. He organized the elves to resist the Eladrin led by Tempus, but their hit and run tactics only prolonged the struggle. In the end Galenas’ rebellions sputtered out, and Galenas was forced to flee, heading to the human lands to disappear in their cities.

Now in Specularum, Galenas wanted answers, and only one man could answer them. After days of hiding and skulking around army barracks and bars, Galenas tracked down Tempus. He was attending a Ducal reception for fellow survivors of the Battle of Willowstone Ford. Galenas hoped to find him there and perhaps get the chance to confront him alone, or at least learn more about him and his plans. So Galenas disguised his elvish appearance and sneaked into the banquet hall.

Meanwhile, seated at a table near the front of the stage were three veteran soldiers with a empty seat for a fourth. Sven, Fjornborg, and Timex were retired members of the Thirteenth Battalion, a celebrated mercenary fighting force from the Heiromachos against the barbarian heretics in the Turanian deserts of central Hyboria. They themselves were from all over the world: Sven was a Cimmerian barbarian scout, Timex was a fighting monk from Khitai, and Fjornborg was a Northman Paladin of the Triune church. All three, like the rest of the Thirteenth, were devoted to their fallen leader, Commander Anastasia Karameikos. And now all three were in the process of drinking and reminiscing about their years as fighting comrades. Sadly the final member of their squad, Blade, was missing. Marshal Tempus came by their table, asking about Blade.

Amdist all this Galenas had manage to evade detection and, taking a waiters garb, entered the hall, serving drinks. He recognized Marshal Tempus there at the table, calling for more drink. Before Galenas could get close, someone noticed his elf ears, and called him out for it. He was forced to retreat to the kitchen. Tempus then left to go the stage to deliver a Eulogy to Commander Anastasia.

The speech detailed the Battle of Willowstone, and the terror of that day. Only the timely arrival of the Thirteenth Battalion saved the day. Evil wizards had summoned a monstrous demon that laid waste to the Elvenguard forcing their rout. The Thirteenth rode fully charging into the river, and eventually slaying the demon. The wizards trapped Anastasia and her bodyguard in a paralyzing spell, and Baron Alhaster himself killed the Commander of the Thirteenth, Princess Anastasia Karameikos, Daughter of the Grand Duke. Her body fell into the river and was swept away. The Thirteenth rallied, surging forward and tore into the wizards and then into the enemy line, breaking it to pieces. After the hard fought victory, Anastasia’s body. nor that of her bodyguard, were found.

After a moment of silence, another toast for the dead was called out. By now, Galenas had returned, trying to get close to the table of mercenaries again, to see if he could learn more about Tempus from them. They grabbed drinks from Galenas’ tray and the hall erupted with a war cry and shouts for more ale.

Then the doors to the hall flung open and there stood a hooded man, swaying to and fro, clearly drunk himself. He stumbled over to the table with the assembled crew, and mumbled that he had come a long way to find them all. He was Lunashandra Braavo, a monk from a hidden monastery in the Blank Peaks to the north. He had a vision while in the depths of a drunken trance about the soldiers, that they had to go into the cursed land of Barovia and find their missing comrade, Blade. Also, Galenas must go with them, or the whole quest would fail. Finally, Braavo must go, for the sole reason of protecting the Chosen One. Braavo then took the final drink from the tray, downed it, then collapsed on the table.

The folks at the table erupted in conversation, arguing about why they should go, if they they should trust the elf, if they could afford to go, and finally how they would even get there. In the end, they all decided to go, if only to find there comrade in arms and then get out. They only knew that the Vistanti could get into Barovia safely, so they gathered their things, and headed out of the city.

After asking about, they were directed get to the coastal city of Sulescu, where the Vistanti kept a semi-permanent camp. After walking all day, they indeed found the camp.
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The caravan master, Lugash, met them, hurriedly saying that hey had just missed Stanimir and the rest of the last wagon train into Barovia just hours before. He agreed to take them himself, and the five heroes crammed themselves into the back of the wagon.

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As before, the fogs that eventually surrounded them brought on a deep sleep followed by exhaustion. They too traveled through wolf-ridden forests, then paused at the gates of Barovian land. Sven noticed a strange object behind a crumbing statue. He dared investigate and found a letter on a days old dead body.

The Letter found at the Gate

After another hour, they reached Baroburg, a sad looking village laying at the foot of a massive cliff, a thousand foot tall. Atop the cliff was a black castle of tall towers. They could see a flying steed with flaming hooves swooping above the castle. Riding the nightmare horse was a figure in a dark flowing cloak. It seemed to notice the Vistanti wagon, then it disappeared into the castle somewhere.

The wagon came to stop in the middle of the foggy and quiet rundown town. There, in front of the bar was a number of other Vistanti wagons; they had caught up with the caravan. The heroes stumbled out of their wagon, and wondered what to do next. Just then came a series of rumbles and crashes coming from a nearby house. They walked over to investigate, and the front door smashed open. Tumbling out was their Under-Marshall, Blade Blagovich himself. Under each arm was tucked a bleeding and unconscious halfling. He slumped down, looked up, saw his comrades and said, “’Bout time you all showed up.” Blade then collapsed himself onto the dark foggy street.

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