Day Forty Seven
Landing this time on the tower we flew off from yesterday, we went down the tower. We had a few small encounters – one with an enchanted painting and carpet, another with a zombie cut in two, whose upper body attacked us, and his legs then followed. We realised that this tower staircase was the one that went all the way down to the half-submerged dungeon. Good, we thought, knowing it was not far from here to the corridor we suspected the crypt lay beyond. After a brief skirmish with hags, we found our suspicions to be correct.
The crypt was truly massive. We had to wade through deep guano laid down by myriad bats that loomed like a moving ceiling. Thirty-two great pillars lined the centre of the room in eight rows, and we soon realised these were crypts. Overtaken by curiosity, we determined to open as many as we could.
The first few were by and large uninteresting (beyond morbid curiosity in the dead) and we were not there to rob graves so we ignored any treasure that would not help us in our cause. In the third tomb we uncovered we were met by a crazed ghost of the inhabitant, a fat man wearing fake wings. But for the most part he, and any other being we encountered down here, were minor work for the faith of Donavich. The next crypt was of a vintnet and bore one of the greatest treasures possible, one we never dared to hope we’d find: the gemstone Champagne du Stomp. It is impossible that he could have stolen it from the vineyard, but looking at the plethora of wine bottles in that tomb he must have stolen it after death in his quest for more wine. Now we must find the Martikovs and return this.
The next crypt bore another great treasure, for it was the crypt of the one and only St Markovia. Her skeleton was disintegrated upon the slab, but for one bone: the thigh bone. Her spirit spoke to us and told Donavich to take the bone and use it for holy purpose. We discovered that it makes an effective mace against the undead, as at the next tomb the vengeful ghost possessed the gargoyle statues around us and attacked. The bone made quick work of him.
One minor crypt that was interesting to us was Piddlewick – Donavich and Ireena recalled that there was a young man in Barovia called Piddlewick. But we found nothing important there. The next crypt to bear fruit was the crypt of Tasha Petrovna, a priest. With her blessing and instruction we took her symbol: we are to use it at her grave in Krezk, which we will know by the ever growing roses there. Some great treasure lies there.
Next we saw some interesting things in some Kings’ tombs: in that of Troiski, a three faced helm, and in that of Catski, a strange assortment of items he invented. But in that same row we saw a familiar name: KAHZAN. Surely this was the wizard of the tower? We entered his tomb and I read the name on the stone aloud, pronouncing it proudly: “Kahzan, his name was power!” Little did I imagine the effect this would have! A magical staff of great power appeared above the begemmed skull of this former lich. Those of us with magical talent cast spells to discern its nature and to try and dispel any traps. Ireena grabbed it first and was zapped terribly. While we were distracted by her hurt, Radovan noticed it was slowly fading from existence and he jumped on it before it could fully vanish. Luckily, Ireena had used up all of the trap’s power, as Radovan managed to grab it unscathed. Esmerelda now bears the staff, and it truly great, with powerful magics hidden within.
The next few rows of crypts brought a bitter taste to our mouths, for it was here we found some brides of Strahd. We fought one, poor Sasha Ivliskova, and ended her torment. She seemed as if she had been abandoned by her selfish master. We saw the name of another bride on a crypt: Petrina Valikovna. We recalled Valikovna was the name of Kasimir the dusk elf. We decided to ask him about this relative of his first before breaking in. As if we weren’t disgusted enough already, we saw later in the row he had written Ireena’s name upon one of the crypts and labelled her as wife. The presumption! Marja and I used strong vines to obliterate the name. We laughed at the next familiar name though: mine! Dirwin, for he meddled too much. We laughed and laughed, and when the others began to move on I paused behind to mark my territory as an animal would.
In the next row we met two advisors of the king before Strahd, one of which was Stefan Gregorovich (perhaps an ancestor of Radovan?). Both skulls were enchanted so the men could give advice after death, but there was little they knew, so we chatted with them and asked their opinions. We fought spiders and bats, and came upon a crypt guarded by frosty lichens that had a terrible, biting cold. But it was in there that we found the greatest treasure of all, so I had to brave it in the form of a great bear. Even in that form, my final few steps were as a man, crawling out in great pain from the cold. But I had found a treasure even greater than Champagne du Stomp. It took an identify spell from Esmerelda to realise this, for on the outside it looked like a normal blade. It was a lucky blade, but instead of using it for its purpose, we could consume it to use its ultimate power: the spell Wish. I handed it to Ireena and let her know: now we can return to Death House and rescue her brother Ismark. Such has been my wish since the first day I entered this forsaken realm.
We continued, finding trapped crypts, one filled with ghouls which gave us a tough battle. But finally we came to the crypt labelled General Kroval “Mad Dog” Grizlek. Warily, we entered. Within we found it protected by six hell hounds and the wraith of the General himself. It was a tough fight, but we were determined and won the day. Within the sarcophagus was the knowledge we knew from prophesy to seek: the journal of Strahd von Zarovich.
Perhaps too confidently, we strode forward to more adventure, for in the southernmost large crypt, Godfrey perished in a trap. We avoided the place and bitterly regretted it, but knew we would see Godfrey again in the morning, in some new form. Instead we went to the greater eastern crypt. I was the only one who could pass through the magical gates guarding this one. I went in alone to find a crypt with windows overlooking the village of Barovia, and two almighty tombs: the good king and queen, mother and father of Strahd. I left their resting place and returned to the others. We returned to the north wall and the final crypt there. It was indeed the crypt of Sergei, the brother of Strahd. Within it was safe, and we took with his blessing his holy symbol of great power. With this, Donavich informed me, we could not only end Strahd, but this very day we could destroy the house of death which was still consuming Ismark’s soul.
With this goal in mind, we fled the castle, took to the air and flew the short distance to Barovia. We rested in the church for a moment, as the skirmishes within the castle had taken up quite a lot of our energy. We waited and planned our assault against Death House, and read aloud from the journal of our enemy.