We left for the tower we suspected Ricktavio was inhabiting. When we arrived, we found Esmerelda’s wagon. She climbed underneath it – the only non-trapped entrance – and brought us out several weapons and potions that will help us in our cause.
Then we turned our attentions to the tower. It had a magic door on it, and being foolhardy, I went straight up and touched it. We got blown back by a strike of lightning. Esmerelda tried mage hand, poking it to no avail. Then I realised the pattern. There were lines pointing to stick figures. I followed the line and did each action shown by the stick figures. The door opened thankfully.
Inside the place was pretty well trashed. There were four clay golems which pulled the elevator up the middle of the tower. We were a little wary of them at first, but they never attacked. The first three levels were empty and dangerously rotted. But the fourth level was safe and looked recently inhabited. We found a page of text from Ricktavio, and learned something hideous about his past. He had attacked the Vistani tribe who took his son and sold him to a vampire, using an army of zombies. After this he was victim to a Vistani curse. We also found an embalmed Vistana’s head in a chest. Ultimately we only learned things we didn’t want to learn by visiting that tower, but the day was very early, so we decided it was time to attack the ruins of Berez and rescue the gem of Red Dragon Crush.
The weather and the landscape got darker and swampier as we got closer to the ruins. We saw a pulsing light, but it was across a wide river, so we decided to investigate that later. Instead we made our way carefully through the village ruins until we saw the first scarecrow. We set ourselves up with some cover and started firing lightning and fire at it, with a crowd of my summoned ravens as a beacon for more scarecrows to come into our line of fire. In this way, despite the mist and rain, we dealt with seven scarecrows in total without taking a single wound.
We waited a few minutes to make sure no more were coming, and then we saw a dark shape moving swiftly towards us. We were on guard, but it was only a wereraven. Her name was Muriel and she was the one trying to signal us. We had no idea there were allies in this forsaken place. She led us around, showing us the ruins of the town. There was a chapel, just a shell of the former building, and a manor. As I snuck up the hill to use the spyglass I alone encountered a spectre of a man. He was not hostile though, and moaned to me of the death of his daughter Marina, by the hand of Strahd. He directed me to look to where the town center once was, to see the statue of her.
At once I whistled for the others. Upon seeing Ireena the ghost cried out “Marina, you’re alive!” and faded out, finally at rest. Much disturbed, we looked at the statue. Tatiana, Marina… it would appear that Ireena is someone who returns after death. It would appear she is the punishment of Strahd.
Moving on, Muriel showed us across the river to the standing stones she had been signalling us from. After a few moments’ meditation we learned some of the purpose of the stones. They would be a good place for magic item creation, and they were warded against magical scrying. But they also had images of animals on the rocks. So I decided to change into animal form, and as a great white bear, I felt power surge through me. It was time to attack.
Back across the river, from a long distance we spied the odd, spider-legged tree hut of the witch. We could even dimly spy her through the open door cooing at a cradle. There were two cages full of ravens before the door, and Esmerelda turned Radovan invisible so he could go up and pick the locks on them. Muriel whispered to the birds not to draw attention to us. Radovan managed to get one cage open, but not the other, and he and Muriel tried to pull it open to no avail. We decided the time was past ripe. We had to attack.
Because she was so surprised, we managed to get the witch with Esmerelda’s lightning bolt, Donavich’s fireball, and Marja struck her hut with lightning a few times before she could even react. My ravens flew inside to start harrying her. Muriel climbed up the cage and started whacking at the chain to release it. The witch, nearly dead before she could even retaliate, fled in a speeding, flying chariot made of a giant’s skull, but as she did she awoke the terrible treehut.
But it was to no avail for her. She and the hut had taken far too much damage. He harried the hut until it fell, and we had time for one last pot shot against the witch. Donavich took it with a fireball, and faith guided his hand, for the witch had decided to trick us a fly off in a different direction, but not well enough to trick our wily priest.
Within the hut we managed to salvage many treasures (though we were attacked by four undead hands as we opened a chest, but Donavich swiftly dealt with them). There was magic ammunition, spell scrolls, potions, a stone of good luck and a hideous flute of most mournful tone. Most importantly we found Red Dragon Crush. I asked Muriel to tell Davien Martikov that I was ready. She flew off, telling me to meet them at the standing stones at midnight.
Also we saw what had been in the cradle all along: it was a baby version of Strahd. Could it be that she was his nurse? Or his mother? Either way, we were both happy to have dealt with this monstrous ally of his, and also kind of creeped out to be looking down on this innocent illusion of the fiend we intend to destroy.
We waited, camping at the stones. We were attacked by bats, agents no doubt of Strahd, but otherwise it was a quiet night. At midnight, Muriel, Davien, and one other joined us. I handed Red Dragon Crush over and we exchanged words, to the effect of he hopes that I am the one to take on Strahd. A wereraven landed on my exposed wrist and pecked my artery.
The change will take tomorrow night at midnight, under the light of the full moon. We returned home to our lair, where I spent a restless night as my body began the hidden changes.
We started a quiet day which would see us facing no unanticipated enemies on the road for once. We went into Vallaki and received no special attention for doing so. Blinski had completed the toy castle and it was so impressive that I couldn’t help myself, I commissioned another toy from him. I told him of yesterday’s moving witch hut, and he was excited to get started on that. We also went to the coffinmaker to ask what the coffin was all about. He said he had been paid a great amount to make and deliver the coffin by a man called Vasily Von Holtz. Why does that name sound familiar? Before we left town we went and saw the priest and asked how everything was going. Everything seemed fine. Hans and Katarina are working for him now, which is nice.
Next we stopped in Krezk to deliver the toy castle, a gift basket of food, and to check on everyone. The abbey has been given over to renovation for a new orphanage. No mongrelmen have been spotted, though there were some suspected sightings.
We walked to the tower to pick up Esmerelda’s wagon and slowly returned to Vallaki, where we left the wagon in the stockyard. Then we returned to our lair.
The night was spent in imbuing the unfinished stake with magic from all sides up at the standing stones behind the mill. It was midnight when we finished, and as the magic filled the stake, I felt myself finally taken hold of by the blood of the raven. I transformed fully, my throat letting out a loud, piercing cry. I flew to join the flock in the trees, and they welcomed me to the night.