Curse of Strahd

Chapter Two: Darkness over Baroburg
Wherein the sought is found and the lost revealed

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The group quickly grabbed their fallen leader and tended all their wounds. After a moment to explain the terrors he had just faced, Blade suggested they all get lodging in town. The Vistanti leader, Stanovich, urged them just to continue, but this time he was over-ruled.

All went into the inn and tavern, the Blood of the Vine Inn, and after ordering a meal and a room, turned to the locals in the bar. A woman playing a lute in the corner attracted Klepto, and he sat next to her accompanying her on his flute. The soldiers questioned the only other person in the bar, a man, Ismark the Lesser, and he explained that his sister-in-law was acting strange and had barricaded herself in their house. Her name was Ireena Kolyana. Sven was worried about this, due to the letter he had found back at the gates to Barovia.

The Letter found at the Gate

Fjornborg suggested they then visit the local Church of the Triune. There they met the local priest, Father Donavan. He was keeping a local boy, Doru captive there. The group decided to return to the church in the daytime and deal with the problem then. On the way out, the clock struck midnight, and a procession of spirits slowly appeared in the chapel pews then walked out. Father Donavan assured the group that it was harmless, and it happened every night. This time, though, it was clear that Donavan’s own spirit was in the procession. The group followed the spirits down to the main part of the village and they went to their room for the night.

That night a terrible thunderstorm raged. Sven, staring out the inn window, saw during a flash of lightning a hauntingly beautiful human, a woman with red hair, walk out into the town square, then become surrounded by bats. After the next flash of lightning, she was gone.

Upon rising, they found Ismark still at the bar, hungover. He again insisted they help him with Ireena. They then went back to the chapel, and found Father Donavan had hung himself in his room. They then went down and easily slew the obvious vampiric Doru, as he was chained to the floor, and complaining madly for blood. They staked the vampire, and it ceased to exist. Blade then set the chuch ablaze.

They then went to the other side of town to Ismark’s house, the home of the Burgomaster, Ismark the Greater. There they were let in by Ireena. All the soldiers of the 13th were immediately struck by how much she looked exactly like their lost commander, Anastasia Karameikos, even down to the scar on her forehead and mole on her cheek. She herself seemed to recognize the soldiers, then slammed the door in their face.

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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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Prologue: The Death House Pt. 2
Wherein Blade, Skylark, and Budro are almost eaten by a house.

The two children, Rose and Thorn, told our heroes that their parents were missing, but not in the town, rather the absent parents were lost in their own house. The pitiful pair persuaded Skylark to enter, and the others followed. The children stayed outside.
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p. Inside, things were quiet and dark. Nothing moved. At the same time, nothing truly seemed amiss. A search of the downstairs revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Blade took a sword from about the mantle that had the etching of a windmill upon it. Upstairs also revealed nothing to odd. Klepto then discovered the secret door.

Beyond, a stair way led to the attic. immediately, the air grew cold, the sense of breathing could be felt. Up they went, and the darkness grew, Blade lighting a lantern. In the dim light, they could see boxes and stacks of furniture lying draped under grimy sheets. Behind a door, they found a nursery, and Skylark could feel the sense of dread even stronger here. There, behind a doll house, was another secret door, and ladder going back down. They one by one went down, down, down into a basement.

The basement showed signs of age and decay, but also of recent use. They entered an area that clearly was a family crypt. Names of the Durst family were on small vault doors, the kind made for coffins to slide inside. They also found ones for the children, Rose and Thorn. They declined to open any of them.

Deeper down they then came across what appeared to be a cultist den. then further on, a stair down. Musty smells came from the passage down, and a sense of foreboding washed over the heroes. Yet still they ventured on.

The stairs opened onto a chamber that clearly was a summoning chamber. Around a pool of fetid water stood a stone path, inscribed with mystic and diabolic runes and symbols. The room had a high ceiling, and the sense of breathing now had grown to an unmistakable level, as if the entire room was inhaling and exhaling in terrible way. Then the pool began to bubble and and then suddenly exploded in a spray lit by Blade’s sputtering lamp. A growl and a groan revealed a horrific beast, made of what appeared to be flesh in a gelatinous mass that shifted and rolled over it self as it rapidly neared the three stunned heroes.
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p. Blade quickly recovered and brought his blade down hard on the monster. The abomination returned by wrapping itself around Blade in a grapple, then pulling the two of them into the pool. Skylark jumped on its back, stabbing it repeatedly with her daggers. Then Klepto’s magic missiles seared holes in the side of the beast. It let out a yowl and began to bleed. Blade tore free from its grasp, and sliced off a large hunk of it’s terrible pile of flesh. It again tried to grasp Blade, but this time he jumped back out of the pool. Skylark stabbed again, then she too leaped out of the water. Budro then touched the water with his shocking grasp magic, dealing the damage to the foul monster. Again Blade slashed and again blood and sinew came from the beast. Letting out another howl, the creature slid down in to a deeper part to the pool, escaping.

Then the breathing stopped, only to be replaced by an earsplitting howl. The entire house began to shake and bits of the ceiling fell from the ceiling. The heroes ran out of the chamber and up the stairs. Past the den, they could see the passage back to the crypt, but now bits of iron bars and stone block and other parts of the basement itself were pushing in and out of the passage. It was as if the hallway itself was a mouth and anyone walking down it would be mashed by its teeth. Yet there was nothing for it; the basement was still shaking, and Budro was hit by a large block, causing him to bleed profusely. They had to go, but indeed, they were cut and smashed as they did so.

Up the ladder the things were no better. The entire house was alive, doors opening and slamming shut, things falling off shelves, pieces of walls, floors, and ceiling popping out, collapsing, and attacking the heroes on their way out the entire way. First Klepto fell, passing out from his wounds. Blade grabbed him, and they went on. Then Skylark also fell. A halfling under each arm, and his war-blade slung on his back, Blade ran through the main floor, smashing through the front door, barely escaping the House of the Dead.

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Prologue: The Death House Pt. 1
Wherein Blade, Skylark, and Klepto meet at a bar and enter Barovia.

Times were hard for Blade Blagovich, veteran of the famed Thirteenth Phalanx, a mercenary comapny of the recently ended Civil War. He had found a little work as a caravan guard, but his Vistanti heritage kept some away, and his battle scars scared away the rest. But he was now on a mission, a quest to meet his old fighting buddies, as the Grand Duchy of Karameikos celebrated the first anniversary of the Civil War’s end.
On his way to the capital of Specularum, Blade found himself in the dour port city of Sulescu, in a seaside tavern, the Barnacled Dock, deep in a mug of ale, waiting for an employer and listening to a pair of halfing bards on stage. Their set ended, and they joined the soldier. Then the door swung open….
The Baroness of Sulescu’s guards flung the bounty on the table. Blade, always in need of coin, was to chase off the Vistanti who had set up camp outside of town again. The Baroness decided Blade’s heritage would help. The two halflings, Skylark and Klepto joined in.
After negotiating with the Baroness, the party met the Vistanti at their wagon caravan encampment. Their leader, Stanimir, welcomed them heartily, saying that he had been waiting for them. He then ordered the Vistanti to strike camp.
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Stanimir insisted the party join him and go into Barovia. He related the true tale of the vampire Strahd, that he was just cursed, and that is was the Vistanti’s fate to help remove that curse. Strahd himself knows this, and he allows the Vistanti safe passage to further aid the Vistanti. Stanimir then claimed that a prophecy foretold the party would be the ones to end Strahd’s curse and they must come with him immediately.
They reluctantly agreed, having no better prospects, and they joined the Vishanti caravan. They left Sulescu heading northwest unto the mountains. The Vishanti guides warned them to beware the fog and to always stay on the path. A deep fog enveloped them soon, and they all felt sleepy, with all but Klepto passing out. Klepto stayed put, and the other soon awoke, but entirely exhausted.
The caravan entered a land devoid of color or light. Now at night, the moon was behind deep clouds, so that the forest path the caravan now passed though was darker than pitch. Wolves would be heard baying off in the distance. The deep dark trees closed in and all became convinced they were entering the land of the dead.
Soon the forest gave way to a mist covered farmland, the crops looking mostly dead and moss covered. Then a small village appeared, there at the base of a huge steeply pitched cliff. Atop the easily thousand foot escarpment stood a castle, tall and towered, made of dark stone. Back down in the valley, little sound could be heard, but cries of unknown origin could be heard faintly from the castle.
The party decided to take a break while the caravan got more food for the horses. The They chose to avoid the Bar and began slowly looking at houses. Sure enough they found one with a young girl and boy out front.
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