Curse of Strahd

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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