Curse of Strahd

Chapter Nine: The Reclamation of Argynvolt Hold
Wherein our heroes turn on a haunted castle's lights

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Chapter Eight: Dread from the Druids
Wherein cursed land is made whole and relics recovered

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The teleportation did not go well for the party. For an unexplained reason, the trip was like falling while standing still and time was racing by and frozen at the same time. Sven’s nose began to bleed and he fell unconscious. Rictavio screamed at the group to not lose hold of Sven lest he be lost in the astral plane. The trip was nearly unbearable, but finally and instantly, the party appeared in an attic, a hexagram teleport circle below them.

Skylark was the first to notice that both Galenas and Leolin were also unconscious, though apparently unharmed. Urging quiet, Rictavio motioned for them to leave out a nearby window. Blade decided to ignore the small figure he noticed at the door, and carried the elves up and out to the roof, and Fjornborg slung Sven over his back to do the same. Eventually, they all made their way to the Vallaki streets, for it seems they teleported to the attic of the Burgomaster’s house! They hustled back to Wachterhaus and safety.

There they eat and but not before Rictavio gave each a small coin polished to a mirrored finish, and he demanded they not lose them. He pointed to his black hat, ringed with similar coins. The woman in black nodded, and all could see her hat was the same. Rictavio explained that the tokens kept others from magically scrying upon the bearer. Strahd had been doing just that since they had arrived, Angered, Blade demanded Rictavio give them answers, about him, the woman in black, and Strahd. Fjornborg jumped in about his lycanthropy, grabbing Rictavio.

The woman then told every one to calm down, and the two explained it all:

She was Olivia Avenir and she had come to Barovia after waiting five years for the Civil War to end in order to rescue her Mentor, the great Undead-Slayer Osric Van Ricten / “Rictavio”. He had come to Barovia just before the Civil War, as part of the infamous expedition funded and sent by Grand Duke Stephan himself. Osric was the co-leader of the group, along with Archmage Mandzorion (founder of the Arcane Academy). They had persuaded the other great heroes of Karameikos to end the Curse of Strahd once and for all.

“The Lost Boys” – The lost expedition to Barovia:
Osric Van Richten / “Rictavio”
Mandzorion
Marcus Tempus
Lurien Goldheart
Jehenna the Red
Otiluke
Matthias the Twisted

Their ingenious plan was to take a dwarven dirigible and fly into Barovia, over the fog. Mandzorion’s tests seemed to show it would work, and work it did. Soon, they were over Lake Zarovich, heading towards Vallaki. Then Strahd appeared, astride a nightmare. A battle in the air ensued, and they were doing well, so well, they did not see the enormous eagle attack the dirigible from above. They all fell in the the lake to the foul laughter of Strahd.

Eventually, most of the Lost regrouped, but Mandzorion never was seen again.
In the end, they decided to continue onward to Ravenloft Castle, but one by one, they fell to Strahd. Only Osric, with his hat, was able to escape. Then he went into hiding, having spent little over a year hiding from Strahd. Now Skylark jumped claiming that he was lying. How could Olivia wait FIVE YEARS until the Civil War was over to enter Barovia, if Osric was only hiding for a year here until now? Osric’s answer was that the Curse of Strahd had made Barovia separated from the rest of the world both physically and temporally. Time passes slow in Barovia, with one Barovian year equaling five normal years. While 300 years has passed in Karameikos, only 60 has passed in Barovia. This explains why Ireena Kolyana was in Barovia only for a few months, yet in reality she was missing from Karameikos for over a year.

So now, Rictavio (as he preferred to be called now) wanted to know why Blade and his friends were in Barovia. Fjornborg confessed that he and his soldier buddies just there to find Blade. Skylark said she and Klepto were just along for the ride. Blade had come because of his Vistanti heritage. At this, Rictavio narrowed his eyes, stepping back. In the end, though, Everyone agreed that no matter the reason for their being here, they all were now trapped by the Curse of Strahd the same. They all vowed to destroy Strahd and trust each other. Then they retired and recovered the best they could as nightmares of fire, wolves, falling, and Strahd himself kept them up through the night,

In the morning they discovered that the two monks, Timex and Braavo, had left yesterday to gather herbs, and had not returned. Ireena/Anastasia was fine, and safe under the protection of Izek Strasniand Ismark the Lesser, despite their constant bickering on how to protect her best. Osric and Olivia (who had grudgingly forgiven Skylark and Blade for blowing up her well stocked wagon) told them they needed time to stock and create weapons for an assault on Argynvolt Hold, the probable location of the Sunsword (Osric is sure the silver dragon key unlock something there). But as Sven, Galenas, and Leolin were still unconscious, attacking that haunted castle was not going to happen. Instead, Blade, Skylark, and Fjornborg would investigate the Winery, the quest given by the wereravens of Vallaki.

On their way out of Vallaki, the three joined a painting contest to “Paint What You Think the Sun Looks Like”. Blade’s “Angry Fire” placed second overall! Sadly Fjornborg’s “Hamburger Sunset” had too many rips and tears from his over aggressive painting technique to do well, but Skylark’s entry of a blank canvas did raise the eyebrows of “Baron” Vargas Vallakovich . Hopefully he doesn’t find out that she tried to steal art supplies.

They then decided to jog out to the Winery, as it was only about five miles away. They did so with surprising ease, and after being denied entry to Krezk for a pit stop, found them selves in a light rainstorm, walking between dying and rotting vineyards towards a large farm building. Then they saw a man in a black cloak motioning for them to approach. They did so cautiously, but it turned out to be Davian Martikov, owner of the winery, and father to Urwin Martikov . He explained that evil druids had come and attacked the winery, killing the workers, and some of his family as well. The majority of the druids left south, but a few still remained in the winery. He pleaded for the three heroes to clear out his winery of the druids that remained behind as the main group headed back south towards their home at Yester Hill. A stone circle was found there, the place the druids held depraved rituals to a cthonic and evil god.

They entered the winery carefully, their boots getting stuck in the mud. About the time the reached a loading dock door, numerous scratching twig blights emerged from the vineyards all around. Blade resisted his urge to burn them all, as he knew the winery needed to remain intact for the sake of the Barovians. So the retreated into the darkened winery. One by one, they were able to fins and slay the druids occupying the place, foul dirty men with dirty blackened faces and torn and tattered furs. The twig blights they corralled into a hallways and simply sliced apart in the bottleneck one by one. They searched the place, but founf nothing odd, though they did find one of Blinksy’s toy’s, a black forse with flames for a tail and hooves. It had an engraved name, Bucephalas. They then returned to Davian.

Davian thanked the three, promising them they could take a wine shipment back to Vallaki right away. He then, however, explained that he hadn’t said the whole truth to them at first. Davian explained that the only thing keeping the soil fertile and vital at the winery were the three Ur-Stones he had placed in the Vineyards decades ago. Now, they were all gone and he implored the heroes to recover the three Ur-stones, as they were the only things keeping the vineyards alive, and therefore the Barovians as well. One had been taken many years ago, leading to the end of the popular “Champagne du Stomp” vintage. The winery did fine, however, with just the two remaining stones. Sadly, the second had only disappeared a while ago with an attack by a witch named Baba Lysaga. The third had just been taken by the Druids three days ago when they dug up the final Ur-Stone and took it south to Yester Hill.

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After a short rest, the trio began jogging to Yester Hill. Again, Rictavio’s tokens seemed to be working, as no encounters occurred. As they drew near, the rain increase to a storm, and lightning flashes could be seen ahead. The entered a large clearing and could see a large grassy hill with a circle of stone obelisks at its top. Ringing the entire hill on three levels were more stones, but much smaller. They approached cautiously and stealthily. It became clear that the smaller stones were graves, and the entire site was an ancient burial mound. They reconoiterred the entire hill’s base and discovered two things. First, Blade heard a spooky voice coming from a burial plot, telling him to dig. He reluctantly did so, and found a magic spear with an obsidian spear head. The voice told Blade that he was of the ancient line of Vistani kings that once ruled Barovia and that he was to be its king once again!

Second, they came across a small bench on the side of the hill, seated facing outwards. Yester Hill was right next to the fog wall that was Barovia, and when Skylark sat in the chair, she could see through the fog at a gleaming white citadel. When she got up, she could no longer see it.

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Finally, half way up the the rear of the hill, they came across a circular grove of dead trees and a terrible half dead tree in its center. There was a skeleton at the base of the tree and an axe planted right in its trunk. The tree was surrounded by dozens of twig blights. Skylark, who seemed to know all about twig blights, knew that the tree was a Ghoultree, an ent that had been killed by a vampire, and now prodeced twig blights. The three again dispacthed the twig blights and burned the Ghoultree down. Sadly the fire burned the shaft of the axe, but they recovered the head, which seemed to be a magical weapon that did more damage to trees and plants.

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Then they saw a flying object drop from out of the storm and towards Yester Hill. It was Strahd riding Bucephalas. As Fjornborg retrieved the axe, the rest watched Strahd circle the hill, and clearly notice the fires they had made killing the Ghoultree. Nonetheless, Strahd did not attack, rather he flew over to the top of the hill and landed behind the wall of black standing stones. The trio began to ascend the hill, and the lightning grew more intense as they did. They noticed now that the lightning always struck the tops of the stones, never the ground. They also now could see the huge statue that stood atop the summit: a humanoid shaped fifty feet tall, made of thorny vines and filled with some sort of black mud that oozed from it it wet clumps. In the chest of the effigy was a great green glow, coming from an unknown source. Reaching even closer, they could hear over the din of the storm a distinct whooshing sound and the grumbled chanting of a ritual spell, the same they had heard fighting the druids earlier.

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Then they reached the closest standing stone, and hiding still, they could see a circle of the foul druids, their dirty blackened faces chanting over and over a mumbled spell. in the circle stood the effigy and facing it, the vampire-lord himself, Strahd. The time for hiding was over and the heroes rushed in to stop what ever foul spell Strahd was preparing. Blade and Fjornborg’s attack struck, but Strahd simply laughed as his wounds healed. He then charmed Fjornborg, commanding him to attack Blade. Things looked grim as Blade tried to evade Fjornborg while still harming Strahd. Blade was hit again and again, and he became bloodied.

Meanwhile, Skylark had sneaked around and began assassinating the chanting druids. They were deep into concentration and put up no resistance to her blows. To her horror, though, as one druid died, out of the ground itself emerged another foul druid, who began chanting again. Seeing she couldn’t kill the druids fast enough, she figured that the glow might be coming from the Ur-Stone, so she climbed the effigy, thorns slicing her as she did. Sure enough she could then see a stone embedded inside the vines. She sliced away the roots, pulled out the stone, and fell back as a great green explosion blew apart the effigy.

The explosion jarred Strahd’s concentration, and Fjornborg was free from his charm. Holding aloft his holy symbol of the Blessed Triad, he then brought a holy smiting down on Strahd twice. Strahd growled in pain, and retreated in bat form. The trio took this as a chance to get out with the Ur-stone, and before the druids could mount an offense, they ran down the hill to safety.

They made it to the Winery safe and were rewarded with one bottle of Davian’s private stock of the few remaining “Champagne du Stomp”s left. They then loaded up a wagon with a large wine shipment, and in the morning left for Vallaki. Their luck held, and they made it to Vallaki unharmed and hailed as heroes. The Baron called for an immediate celebration, and named the trio “Heroes of Vallaki”, giving them medals. Urwin held up his bargain and gave Fjornborg the Icon of the Raven Queen, a relic holy symbol of immense power. All seemed outstanding and great, and the party lasted all day. Then at sundown, as the celebration was ending and folks were getting ready for the curfew, there came a loud banging at the city gates….

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Chapter Seven: Tragedy at the Tower
Wherein a prophecy comes true and things are destroyed.

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The heroic soldiers came down from the Abbey, very pleased with their ridding Barovia of another evil. To their surprise, up walked Skylark. She had come to help, and reassured everyone else that Ireena was ok. She knew they were in Krezk from the burning Abbey, as she assumed Blade was up to his old tricks. Then they saw the lines of a fire brigade forming. As the Abbey lay directly over the town, its burning structure was now falling down upon Krezk’s buildings. It too was now alight, and screaming people were running about. Everyone quickly joined in to save the town, and managed to not implicate themselves in the arson they themselves created.

Later, they were told that using all that water was a waste, as it was blessed water, good for holding Strahd at bay. Walking down a bit and into a secluded grotto, they found a pool of clear water. Across the pool was a statue. After Blade fell in twice trying to cross the grotto without getting wet, everyone made it over to the statue, a statue of St. Halav. More investigation revealed that the pool and the statue referred to the Vistanti card readings, and that the water was holy water. They pushed back the statue and discovered a silver key with a dragon head as a turner. Not exactly the item they sought, but clearly this was a step towards it,

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Happy that they had somewhat solved one of the prophecies, they were interrupted by three figures that now stood on the other side of the pool, getting ready to urinate in the pool. The figures ended up being werewolves, a problem for Leolin especially, as he had no magic or silver to combat them. The rest did end up slaying the beasts, and then they chose to get out of Krezk before anyone found out that they had actually started the fires.

The next morning, the party left Krezk, arriving at the crossroads again. While trying to decide which place to go, either back to Vallaki or to the Wizard of Wines, suddenly a flock of ravens swooshed over them, heading the only other direction, north back up towards the mountains. Knowing of the Wereravens help, they decided to head that way.

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Soon they arrived a small lake up in a hilly valley. In the middle of the lake lay a four story tower upon a small rocky island. Connecting the island to the shore was a wooden causeway 100 yard long. The ravens swooped up and around the tower then landed on the roof. The adventurers carefully crossed the causeway and found the door to the tower was sealed by a magical lock and trap. There was also a Vistanti style wagon parked in front of the tower, with it’s door clearly marked with a sign saying “Keep Out” on it. The tower itself was ancient and in terrible shape. The third floor was missing a large section of its wall. The top story, however had curtains in glass windows and looked intact. As there was no obvious danger, they decided to take a short rest to heal from the werewolf encounter.

The door to the tower’s combination lock was not too hard to decipher, and they gained entry to the tower. Inside, conditions were not much better than the outside. There was a wooden platform connected to chains that went up into the roof and then back down to the hands of four little statues. Blade chose to climb one of the chains, and Sven quickly followed. As they neared the top, Leolin also began climbing. This added weight was too much for the ancient pulleys holding the chains on, and the whole apparatus began falling. Sven was able to grab on to the trapdoor that allowed access to the top story, but Leolin and Blade fell hard to the ground. Sven was able to get up to the top floor and he began looking around what appeared to be a living quarters. He first opened a small chest and was amazed to find a preserved human head that began talking to him!

Before anything else could happen, Blade decided to check out the wagon. He called for Skylark to join him to check for traps. Skylark discovered that the door was indeed trapped, and tried to disarm it. Alas, she was not successful, and set off a huge fireball that destroyed the entire wagon, and instantly killed the girl who thought she was a cat that had taken a liking to Fjornborg and tagged along this whole time! Skylark was knocked unconscious, her clothes and belongings ablaze. Worse, before the rest could go outside to see what had happened, the concussion for the explosion caused the entire tower to collapse! Leolin was knocked out from a huge chunk of masonry struck him on the head, cracking his skull. Only the clerical healing from the also injured Fjornborg and Galenas kept them from dying. AS the group recovered the echoes of the sxplosion and demolition still echoed around the valley, and the ravens were now gone.
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But now came a wolf howl nearby, then another, and then a whole chorus. The party desperately gathered themselves together, and began heading back across the causeway, sensing that wolves or worse were coming. Clearly the wolves were coming to investigate the destruction. Sure enough, before they made it past halfway down the causeway, a pack of wolves appeared from the treeline. Then their horror grew as they saw that half the wolves were in fact werewolves. A fight for their lives began, as Skylark and Leolin were still badly injured. The party was able to take down many of the beasts, but only the timely aid of a woman rider in a black cloak and hat saved the day.

The woman did not introduce herself, only immediately began to ask who had blown up her wagon. Before an argument broke out, there was a flash, and Rictavio / Van RIcten appeared by magic. He exhorted the party to quickly join hands and come with him before Strahd appeared, as he surely would be coming to investigate the destruction o the tower. AS he told them all this, he quickly recovered some items from the crumbled tower, chiefly, the head in the chest, and then the entire group teleported away.

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Chapter Six: Asylum of Madness
Wherein Loelin tracks down friends and helps them burn evil

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Meanwhile, in the outside world, the elves of Dorneryll, Galenas’ homeland, were creating quite the stir. Ever since Tempus had been spending so much time in nearby Haven, the Silver Princess had been acting odd. She had not been attending to the upkeep of the nature, and the bonds keeping Haven attached to the world were slipping and weakening. This worried the elves, for if Haven went, surely the goblins of the Dymrak Forest would invade Dorneryll and kill everyone!

Word spread quickly from Dorneryll to all the elves of Karameikos. . . find the Chosen One, Galenas, bring him back, and hurry!

One who head the call was Loelin, another veteran of the Karameikan Civil War, but not of the 13th. He was an archer from the free companies of elven archers that volunteered to fight the evil Black Eagle Barony. His company fled under the onslaught of the great demon brought forth that terrible day among the willow trees near the river. For this, the humans saw only cowardice in the elves, especially Leolin’s company.

Nevertheless, Leolin had happened to have seen Galenas at a veteran’s dinner (see Chapter One!), and had followed him to a Vistanti camp along with some human soldiers. Soon Leolin found himself in the back of a Vistanti wagon heading into the cursed land of Barovia, following about a day behind Galenas and the soldiers. The fog crept over him and he passed out completely.

Back in Vallaki, the group decided to split up. Ireena was deathly afraid to travel outside the town, lest Strahd come for her. Her dreams had grown full of fear and suffering, and Strahd was in all of them. She would be protected by Izek and Ismark, plus Skylark was not well from the battle with the vampires, having been knocked out. The rest would push on to find the artifacts needed to defeat Strahd.

Before they could go, Urwin Martikov. the taven owner, drew them all into his chambers and told them in secret that he was a were raven! The were ravens were the only real forces of good in the land with any hope of fending off Strahd. They had done so for hundreds of years. Urwin possesses the Feather of the RavenKing, and uses it to help fend off Strahd. He would give it to the Adventurers if they would complete a quest for him. The local wine is the only drinkable substance in Barovia. Lately, no wine has been shipped to Vallaki. The Wizard of Wines, as he is called, was Urwin’s Step-Uncle. Also the ravens have sensed terrible evil afoot at the winery. Without the wine, the people of Vallaki would not have anything untainted to drink, as the Curse of Strahd corrupted all the water in Barovia. All of this meant that the heroes could have the Feather if they took care of the problem there.

On the way out of town, the Burgomaster asked the group to take a message to the Burgomaster of Krezk. This way they could also gain entry to the town for shelter if needed. As the group left the gates, Blade spotted a Vistanti encampment, and chose to investigate. There they found Leolin. He was being cared for by Kasimir Velikov an Eladrin who led a small group of other Eladrin sharing the camp with the Vistanti. He told them of a place he wished to visit: the Amber Temple, a place with a huge stone head for a entryway.

Leolin awoke and was reunited with Galenas. He was saddened to hear they all were trapped in Barovia until Strahd was slain. They all then went over to the Vistanti to get answers. Unfortunately, they were busy doling out punishment to a boy who had been found guilty of allowing the chief’s daughter to disappear. Half the Vistanti were out looking for the girl, Arabelle. Blade spoke to the chief, Luvash Korovich, asking for horses, but none would be given unless the daughter were found.

The group then left west towrds Krezk and the winery. They were accosted at one point by bandits, but otherwise the walk was simply a long one. They would not reach the winery by dusk so they headed to Krezk for lodging.

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Krezk lay on the side of a steep mountainside. Tall walls made of stone proved this place was ancient. It was clearly a Republican-era monastery of St. Halav, built for protection and seclusion. They were high enough in elevation that snow began to fall and the fog froze on the group as they traveled up switchbacks to the strong gates of the place. The guards let them in after they showed the letter from Vallaki. Meeting this town’s burgomaster was not as harrowing, but much more serious. Krezk stayed safe by keeping all strangers out and relying on the power of the Abbot of the Abbey. Towering above the main part of the monastery was a abbey with an octagonal tower and attached dormitory. It seems the Abbot came to Barovia after the fall of Strahd’s Curse. The abbot’s holy powers keep Strahd at bay, but at the price of complete obedience from the town’s inhabitants. The abbot’s demands were few, however, and mostly kept to himself in the abbey above.

The party was intrigued by the Abbot and asked to meet him; the burgomaster suggested they leave him alone. Nonetheless, they continued up the side of the mountain as snow began to fall heavily now. They reached the gates of the abbey’s outer wall, and found it unguarded and open. They continued, but Sven snuck around the side of the structure to look for clues. The rest continues up a path to the front door of the chapel. Sven peered though a window and saw a handsome human man in robes teaching a red haired woman how to dance. Sven paused unsure what to do.

By now though, the rest had passed into an interior courtyard of the abbey and witnessed madness. walking past double doors, they saw a row of nine small sheds, each with a small humanoid inside, behind a wired cage door. Three posts stood in front of the cages and chained to one was another figure under a blanket. The group felt a sense of dread as they walked further into the open courtyard, noticing that the octagonal tower lay to the right, and the dorm was to the left. Then out of a nearby well, a sound could be heard, and then a figure climbed out: a grotesque man with spider eyes, a frog foot for a hand, and a taloned raven claw for the other. It leaped at the party, and immediately, the things in the cages began screaming, and the figure under the blanket flew up, it too a mongrel-folk of a woman with spider mandibles and bat wings. She strained at her chains, flying up and screeching a mad wail.
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Inside the tower, Sven saw the Abbot react the commotion by grabbing the woman and heading out a door to the courtyard. Sven went through the window into the room. Outside, the party was fighting off the spider-man, just as the Abbot came out the door. The combat killed the red-head, actually a flesh golem, and this enraged the Abbot. He revealed his true form, a angelic deva, but one with a clear madness about it. They fought and the Abbot was slain.

The Abbot

Inside the dorm, they only found more abominations that it appears the Abbot had created from people that had come seeking help and asylum over the centuries. They decided to burn the place to the ground. They then made their way back down the mountain, the abbey ablaze behind them.

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Chapter Five: Tale of Two Houses
Wherein a power struggle ends in unfortunate violence

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In the morning, the group was told to wear black pins with sad faces, and to attend the mandatory pep session. They did so and watched “Baron” Vargas Vallakovich and “Baroness” Petranova Vallakovich conduct a terrible play and actually kill a villager. The people all began to yell and the dead man, and then cheer the Baron for killing him. Then the entire mob began to yell at the top of their lungs, swearing and calling the death of anyone and everyone. Soon the mob ran out of steam and dispersed back to their homes, all the while hearing the call of Baron Vallokovich that "All is Well!

After the pep rally, the group decided to stop spitting up, and deal with one thing at a time.

Leaving Ireena with Ismark at the inn, first they decided to stop the the nearby Burgomaster and see about the strange dolls of Ireena. They were allowed in by an attractive maid, and taken to a den with a large mounted bear. They of course did not stay and wait, instead leaving and going upstairs. There they eventually met Izek Strasni. He fought them for intruding, but eventually “Baron” Vargas Vallakovich appeared and stopped the fight. They group explained Fiona Wachter’s theft of the Bones of St. Stephen. Vargas ordered his bodyguard to go with the heroes and apprehend Lady Wachter.

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So they went to the mansion called “Wachterhaus”. Galenas had seen it in his wanderings the night before. They encountered no one as they entered the house, only encountering a young girl, the daughter, Stella Wachter, the girl who thinks she is a cat. She took an instant liking to Fjornborg. In the cellar, however, they found the vampires, all six and Fiona Wachter, a sorcerer. The fight was difficult, but with the entire party involved, and the help of Izek, all the vampires were permanenly slain. Fiona was able to teleport away, however.

The group claimed Wachterhaus for their own, grudgingly allowed by the Burgomaster as reward. Finally, as Ireena and Ismark moved in, Izek and Ireena met. It instantly stirred both of their memories… for an instant, it was clear she remembered being Anastasia, and the Izek was her trusted bodyguard and companion. but then the memory faded. Ismark was taken aback, thinking that he was her true protector. Nevertheless, the three decided to stay in Wachterhaus while the heroes sallied forth to search for the artifacts promised in the Vistanti prophecy.

Just then, Rictavio appeared, with his wagon in tow, the same Galenas was so interested in earlier. He told them, in secrecy, that the card referred not to Blinsky, but to him. (He had given Blinsky the monkey.) He was in actuality the famous vampire hunter Rudolph van Richten, one of the survivors of the failed Ducal Expedition into Barovia years before the Civil War. All this time he has been in hiding, but the arrival of the heroes has given him renewed hope. But for now he asked them the keep his secret intact for the time being. With that, “Rictavio” left with his wagon, saying he would be back soon, and for the heroes to continue their quests for now.

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Chapter Four: All is Well in Vallaki
Wherein lodging, prayer, healing, and dolls are procured

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The rain was lifting and the sun setting as the group neared the gates of Vallaki, half wounded and feeling defeated. The guards let them in, giving them a yellow happy face button, and saying they needed to wear it at all times, unless at a festival, then they had to wear the proper festival button, else face the consequences. Ireena admitted she didn’t know where to go or who to stay with, only that she kept having dreams about a person who could help what lived in Vallaki.

With no other ideas, they went to the inn.

It was named the Blue Water Inn, and was the first pleasant place they had met in Barovia. Sven noticed raven roosting the in the eaves of the attic. They got rooms from the owner, Urwin Martikov. He advised them to visit the Church of St. Stephen, and Fjornborg decided to take Sven with him. Blade and Skylark talked to a half-elf bard named Rictavio. He talked about coming here in search of adventure and told them that Vallaki was safe as long as the bones of St. Stephen were in the local Triune Church. SO then the two wandered around town looking for equipment.

Ireena and Ismark stayed in the Inn. Galenas became bored and decided to go check out a strange wagon he found on the way walking in time.coswagon.jpg

Fjornborg and Sven found the pastor, Father Lucian Petrovich with a serious problem. The Bones of St. Stephen were missing. This powerful artifact was the only thing keeping the people of Vallaki relatively safe from Baron Strahd. They questioned the gravedigger, Milivoj, and he confessed the theft. He had given the bones to the coffin maker. They immediately left to go find the coffin-maker.

Meanwhile, Blade and Skylark came across an odd place: Blinksy’s Toys. The shop was run by a dwarf who made macabre kids toys. He had a pet monkey, and they made them think of the card readings. said he would not go with them though. Skylark noticed that there were numerous dolls that looked like Ireena. He said they were for a man named Izek Strasni who lived with the Burgomaster of Vallaki: “Baron” Vargas Vallakovich. They decided to have a chat with them in the morning, and left to sleep at the inn.

Now in full nighttime, Fjornborg and Sven entered Henrik van der Voort, the coffin-maker’s home. The two interrogated him, and he claimed that the Lady Wachter hired him to steal the bones, which were upstairs. They quickly found themselves surrounded by six vampires, all of them young men wearing uniforms of the Karameikan Army. The fight grew grim, and only the timely arrival of Galenas (who had grown bored of being bored) saved Fjornborg and Sven. The three dispatched four of the vampires, but two of the beasts fled with the bones. The group, badly hurt, returned to the inn and all rested the best they could.

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Chapter Three: The Vistani Encampment
Wherein fortunes are told and plans are made.

Ismark the Lesser convinced Ireena Kolyana to open the door, and after much discussion, Ireena explained that Ismark the Greater was dead. Ireena was afraid that she had done it, that she was a murderer. Ireena wanted the bury her adoptive father at the church and then leave at once for Vallaki to the east. The soldiers all wanted to take her, as they were all conviced that Ireena was truly Anastasia Karameikos.

They took the body of Ismark to the church, which was still partly on fire. Skylark was able to convince Ireena that they could just bury the body and Fjornborg’s prayers would be enough to lay her father to rest. They then left for Vallaki. Outside of town they met Stanimirand he again urged them to meet with Madame Eva. it was on the way to Vallaki, so agian the group joined the Vistanti cavaran.

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After a while, they came to the camp. A roaring fire and a meal greeted the group, and soon the met with Eva. She gave them a Taroka card reading, and it gave them clues to artifact locations, items and other information that would help them slay the vampire lord Baron Strahd! She told them to leave and to beware as Strahd knows almost everything that happens in Barovia.

The Tome of Strahd

The Feather of the Ravenking

The Sommerswerd

Strahd’s Enemy

Strahd’s Location

At this point the party wanted to continue escorting Ireena to Vallaki. They then traveled up higher into the hills. Rain began to fall. They then could see Castle Ravenloft nearby, no longer above them, but now at the same altitude.
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Soon they came to a road running toward the castle, blocked off by a great iron gate. As they approached the road, the gate opened by itself, and the thundering of hooves could be heard. Then out of the rain drove a covered wagon, pulled by four horses abreast.

tser_falls.pngp’s attacks caused one horse to die. Skylark and Timex leapt on the carriage in an attempt to kill the driver. The driver jumped off and the whole carriage fell off a nearby cliff; Skylark and Timex barely leapt to safety themselves. Then the driver revealed himself to be Baron Strahd Zarovich himself. He unleashed a magical fireball into the heroes, knocking some out, and severely wounding the rest. He then told the adventurers they had done well, and looked forward to another meeting. He then invited them to his castle anytime for dinner. He then polymorphed into a bat and left.

Not at all wanting to go to Castle Ravenloft, they continued on the main road. as the sun began to go down, but still raining, they came across an old dilapidated windmill.
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Blade and Skylark got a very bad vibe from the place, so they continued past. They then came through a woods and finally to a large town surrounded by a wooden palisade and towers. It was Vallaki.

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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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