Day Seven continued…
We spoke with the druidess Marja for some time. She was reluctant to head back with us so we came to a compromise and said we would only call her when the time was right. She had a secret to tell us: Mad Dog’s Crypt was in Castle Ravenloft itself. She suggested a daytime raid on the place at some point. That will be far in the future, I imagine.
We headed back for Vallaki via the lake and Radovan spotted something unusual on the bank not far from the road back to town. A grave had been freshly dug up, and the bones had been cracked open and the marrow consumed. I traced the tracks of the grave defiler and found that whatever it was, it was covered in spikes. Also the bones were partially scorched.
Back in Vallaki that night nothing much of note happened. I met two hunters who offered their services as guides. I may take them up on the offer in the future. They too had seen snapped and scorched bones in the woods. What is this beast?
Feeling brave, we headed out for the mill, leaving Radovan behind to be Blinski’s apprentice for the day. This turned out to be nearly a grave mistake. The witches within were far too powerful together. We broke open the door, nearly destroyed all their summoned demons, but despite all we could muster and help from wereravens, we fled with our tails between our legs. Luckily all of us survived, and the wereravens agreed to give it another go one day if we had a better plan. We headed back to Vallaki in defeat.
I woke feeling hideous. I had a terrible dream in which Strahd had taken all three of my companions to be his spawn. I was weakened by this and found the feeling of dread hard to shake.
Early in the morning we made our way with Radovan in tow back to Barovia, our plan to ambush one witch as she sold dream pastries and thus weaken the coven. On the road we met some wolves but made quick work of them. We were in Barovia by midday, and Donavich and I slept to recover while Radovan and Ireena entertained each other with games and guard duty.
In the evening we hardly needed to try and find the witch. We ran into her before her rounds had even begun. Soon she was writhing in mine and my summoned croc’s jaws, and we made quick work of her. Once we disposed of her we burned everything on her cart – a bag made of human skin, her blasted dream-pastries, and an evil black gem which, we discerned, she had been using to send me the vicious, hurtful dreams. Donavich attacked the cart with the fury of a man possessed. It was a cathartic experience for him.
We slept again in the crypt.
Early morning we made for Old Bonegrinder. We were nearly distracted by a foot path leading off into the woods, but we were set on our mission. By midday we made it to the mill. I called to the wereravens in their animal tongue, and we planned together. Not only that, but they informed me that the spiky beast was tracking towards Barovia through the forest… perhaps after me.
We made our plans and went through the open portal – we had destroyed the door last time we had made our assault. Radovan pushed over the barrel with which they summoned demons to their aid, and I summoned a cloud of ravens that swarmed up the stairs to find the hags. With all our mustered might and our planning, this time we were able to overcome.
In the mill we found many things: two children, a girl called Myrtle and a boy called Freek, who I have taken into my care; some witches brews of mysterious function; 100 toads who I have promised to prepare a pond for; and the sun sword. Ireena picked this up and seemed to become whole. She recalled things as if from another life: Strahd is frightened of this blade. Also, the imaginary friend of her childhood, ‘Sir’, who she told me of some days ago… it would appear he was a real person, as she recalled him too, as a former owner of this blade.
There were many hideous things which we cleaned up around the house and the grounds, but it’s going to be a big job to completely renovate this place. But we will do it, I am determined. The mill will resume its intended function and become a home for orphans. Such is my determination.