Day Forty-Seven Continued
After lunch and a rest, we left the church and went to Death House. It had regrown since I last cut it down to size, all the way back on my first day here in Barovia. When we got there, ready to exorcise the place, Donavich had a crisis of faith. He told us all he had used a spell to ask a question of his god and received no answer in return. We tried our best to bolster his faith. Ireena told him that she would be dead if not for him. Radovan said much the same, as we had rescued him in the first place too. I told him that if he can’t believe in his god, he should believe in the good that we had done for so many people since we started our journey. Marja said the gods were probably fake anyway. Esmerelda, a bit more tactfully, said that on her journeys she had even met clerics who didn’t have gods.
As worried as I was that our ministrations were going nowhere, Donavich rallied and a great shaft of light connected the holy symbol of Sergei in his hands with the sun in the sky. Suddenly, Death House wrenched itself up off its foundations and spewed forth wraiths and spectres. The fight was tough, as Death House was able to start sucking the very souls out of half of our party. But Donavich with his renewed will controlled the battlefield with the power of the holy symbol, terrifying and weakening our enemies. With several great blasts of power, Death House was no more – for good this time!
I raised the luck blade above my head and spoke the wish that came to me, not quite consciously at first – that every innocent who died in Death House be brought back to life as they were. Suddenly not just Ismark, not just the two children, but about fifty other people stumbled out of the wreckage. Many adventurers, most of only common ability, had stumbled in there like fish drawn into the maw of an angler fish. Ireena ran to Ismark, and we all had a happy reunion, though I was worried about the sudden surge in homeless skilled people in this tiny village. With quick thinking we corralled them, got them clothing, found a leader amongst them (Lanna Es-Drelig, a seven-foot tall minotauress) and told them to behave themselves.
Esmerelda, Marja and I returned to Argynvostholt for the night, leaving the native members of our party in Barovia to organise the newcomers.
In the early light we flew to Krezk to visit the orphans. We installed the thighbone of St Markovia in the abbey to hallow it, as much as we needed it as a weapon. Then we went to the rose-covered grave of Tasha Petrovna, and inserted her holy symbol in the identically shaped indentation in her gravestone. Suddenly the gravestone crumbled to dust under a ray of sunlight, and a ring of regeneration was revealed. Truly, a useful treasure to find!
We stopped over at the tower of Kahzan, knowing as we did now that the man used his own name as a password for secret things. In the bedroom at the top of the tower, our quest met with success: the suit of armour was animated when I proclaimed “Kahzan! His name was power!”. We took it back to the abbey to watch over the children, telling a trusted adult there how to activate it.
We stopped in Argynvostholt to pick up Godfrey, who was once again in a different body. Then we went to Barovia and picked up the remainder of our team. Things seemed to be well organised there, so we left, flying up to the Castle, a far shorter distance by kookaburra than by foot! We started in the crypt, to retrieve Godfrey’s gear and the remains of Blinski. In order to do so we had to destroy 29 wights and a full 200 skeletons who lived in that particular crypt. We did this cheaply, with Esmerelda and Donavich chucking fireballs in the centre of the pit. With that done, we retrieved the leftover gear and the remains of Blinski.
We approached the great staircase in the middle of the crypt where we met with a band of six vampire spawn. Though their bites were vicious, we dispatched them. We found the staircase blocked off, except for a small hole that a gaseous form of a vampire might seep through. Feeling like this might be an important retreat of Strahd’s, Marja and I assessed the situation and decided that we could clear the ruined masonry. It took us a full two hours, but we did. During that time we met a band of four adventurers, some of the ones we rescued from Death House yesterday. We told them to stick behind us and we would get them out.
Heading up, we found the chapel. Adrenaline rushed through me and I nearly turned and fled, but we realised there was no need to panic. Strahd was not there. Esmerelda was greatly confused. Madame Eva’s predictions were never wrong, she said. It was worrying, but I figured we should be grateful for now. He wasn’t here now, but maybe next time.
In the chapel, we found the holy symbol of Ravenkind, an icon of great power, which Godfrey now bears. Also we found a mace of terror, which Donavich now wields as he had given the Blood Spear to Ismark. There was a bloodstain on the ground, such as might never wash out even after 400 years. We had a feeling we knew what might have happened here, or at least Ireena had a feeling she knew. Up in the balcony over the chapel were two zombies, but otherwise the room was empty.
Heading now through the main corridor of the chapel we returned to the main hall of the castle and met with a little cat. Though it was vicious, I calmed it and asked it where we could find two things we were looking for. Of Mary’s daughter (a young woman Strahd had stolen from the village of Barovia, OOC: yes this quest has been going a long time, I know!) it knew nothing, but it told us the clockwork man was at the top of a tall tower. So we started climbing the towers we knew of. Off of one, we stumbled into a library with a living man within! His name was Lief. He was Strahd’s accountant, and he had been chained to the desk. We freed him, and found the key to some of the chests in that room. We took some two thousand gold worth of treasure, and left. We ran into more vicious cats, though they did not attack. The top of this tower was the bridge we were familiar with, and we stopped there to let off Lief and the adventurers, flying them down to the village by way of kookaburras.
We went across the bridge to the next tower, the one we had defeated the heart in, and at the top of that tower we found nothing but many swarms of bats who attacked us. Leaving that tower, we found ourselves in the library again. We decided to explore this floor more, and thank goodness we did, for in Strahd’s bedroom we ran into Gertruda, Mary’s daughter! She was a damn fool, and wanted to stay with the ‘nice handsome man’, but I spoke to her simply, and told her that people were coming to attack the castle and we didn’t want her to get hurt when that happened, so we would return her to her mother. That convinced her, so I summoned pixies, and these enchanted her, both into flight, and by their mere existence (which was partly the idea), and we watched her fly out of the window down towards the village.
In the same floor we found a room with a four hundred year old wedding cake. How ridiculously sad is this Strahd? Within this room was a magical lute, and when I played it, lo and behold, the ghost of its original owner appeared! It was Pidlwick, the fool. He told us to come down to his crypt and receive another treasure. We agreed heartily, though we set out to finish our quest to find the clockwork man first.
We soon regretted this. Finally we found him, all the way up in the top of the tower above the chapel. He hid in the rafters until I coaxed him down, telling him that we would take him to a place where there were children to play with. Thank goodness he revealed his true form then and there, because as we all filed out, he pushed Godfrey to his death! We killed the clockwork man after that. Even if our plans for Blinski worked, the toymaker did not need to meet this monstrous creature and create copies of him!
We ended our foray into the castle that day in Pidlwick’s crypt, where we found a deck of illusions. That being done, we fled the eerily empty castle for Vallaki. Foolish perhaps, to head there when we were so hated, but we had a purpose: to heal the young Lady Wachter, the one who had been driven mad by Victor Vallakovich. We could do this because of a spell I had recently learned. We healed her mind, and spoke to her of all that had passed. When we told her that she was the heir to the throne, she balked, and told us she wanted nothing of that, just a quiet life with her cats. Not a bad idea, that. We returned to Argynvostholt for the night.
In the morning we tried another spell I had been thinking of, and it worked, though unexpectedly. I managed to bring Blinski back to life, but changed. He was now a white-skinned dragonborn. But inside, he was definitely the same morbidly humorous toymaker. We returned him to Vallaki, where he took up again in his shop, with Piccolo the monkey.
It was time, we decided, to tell Kasimir of his sister’s demise and escort him to the Amber Temple. We left town only to find the Vistani camp had been trashed. Despairing, we searched and found the bodies of many Vistani, but we ran into Kasimir alive and well. I vowed to bring back Arabella, the young Vistana who we had once saved from drowning, but it would have to wait until I had my energy back. We looked through the wreckage, and Kasimir pointed out that our assumption was wrong, Strahd had not been the one to attack the camp. The markings were of a large cat attack.
A large cat…
We knew someone who had kept a large cat… fed it with meat… guarded it secretly…
I always knew I should have made more of an effort to free the thing… but foolishly, I trusted him…
We were all shocked, but none more so than Esmerelda. She, his student, but also a Vistana. She perhaps hadn’t realised how much he hated her people. Had he hated her, all the while teaching her how to survive?
We were shaken. But we knew where he was, we had wagon tracks leading up through the Tsolenka Pass the other day. Now there was one more reason to go to the Amber Temple.
Ricktavio. Rudolph Van Richten.
(OOC note: Yes, we are breaking far from canon here. Would the ‘real’ Van Richten commit such an atrocity? Who can say? But in our campaign, this is what has happened. Gasp! The betrayal 😦 )