Bela Lugosi’s Dead: The Curse of Dirwin: the Outback Druid in Ravenloft, part.18

Day Fifty

Argynvostholt, 4AM – those remaining of my team rose from their sleep. Kasimir set out to learn the spell fireball. Marja sent Animal Messenger as many times as she could as a ritual, to the towns, to our allies, to any she could find who would join the fight for the survival of the realm. Radovan and Ismark went through our copious amount of treasure and dished out the most useful items, potions and scrolls. I, however, went hunting for the sabre toothed tiger that Van Richten had trained to kill Vistani.

With the spell Locate Creature, and in the form of a raven, it took little time at all to find the beast as I flew over Berez, but more importantly, I noticed I was being signalled by the standing stones there. It was my fey benefactors. They explained to me that I had to end Strahd by midnight or the realm would slip into the Shadowfell, taking everyone with it. I realised that Esmerelda had gone to her doom with false knowledge: she thought there needed to be a dark lord to replace Strahd, and had thought to become that being. With that knowledge, I spoke to the tiger, who thankfully decided to ally himself with us. He invited me to ride him, and we realised that already, the distance between Berez and Agynvostholt was negligible.

We arrived back in time for me to help Marja send off her Animal Messengers with the message for everyone to meet us at Bonegrinder. The tiger, who we dubbed Euphrates, was wary and respectful of Marja’s wolf Word. I spoke with everyone to gauge their energy. Radovan was terrified but with me all the way. Ismark was angry that Ireena had been captured and eager to begin. Kasimir was eager to get the crypt and save his sister. Marja was eager for it all to begin, for this is what she had been here for all along.

6AM – a service for Donavich in the courtyard of Argynvostholt. I put his ashes into Radovan’s care and we all spoke a few words. I talked about everything he had overcome to be with us, like his son’s death, and his addiction. Radovan talked about his kindness. Ismark talked about what he used to be like before I came to Barovia. Marja talked about his strength of faith. Then we set off to rescue Kasimir’s sister.

In the form of birds we flew through the gathering storm, buffeted by the wind and the rain. We saw below us on the road a trashed Vistani caravan and the body of Madame Eva, exsanguinated. Looked as if Esmerelda had gotten her revenge. We continued on and spied the massing troops of undead and unholy in the courtyards of the castle, so we avoided those and went through the hole in the roof by the library and from there down to the crypt. The halls were eerily quiet and we progressed without harassment. We went to the crypt and Kasimir’s skin went more and more corpselike as he used his new power to raise his dead sister. The two of them reunited, we all left and returned to Bonegrinder to meet the assembled forces of good. Marja, Kasimir, his sister Petrina and I all went to rest and recover while Ismark and Radovan organised the people arriving with the help of Lanna the minotaur and Father Petrovich from Vallaki.

4PM – that afternoon I rose to the bad news: Kasimir had been killed by his sister, who had fled to rejoin Strahd. We were bitterly sad but had to carry on with our duties. The Martikovs had arrived by the end, so I gave Davien the gem Champagne du Stomp, and he gave me a tearful hug. 

8PM – Godfrey and the assembled forces of Argynvostholt arrive to aid us, and the general for the army is chosen – Radovan, of all people!

9PM – we march. Radovan manages to hit one of the guardian dragons of the castle right in the eye, starting off the battle with a grand gesture of defiance. Blinski saves his life with a thrown toy, and Gertruda managed to save Davien’s life too. Everyone was here for the final battle. While he leads the army, Godfrey, Ismark, Marja, Euphrates, Word and I snuck in via the highest tower to the chapel. Before we went in we summoned Daylight on myself, Marja and Godfrey before Strahd could dispel it.

We headed down the stairs to find Strahd at the altar, Ireena laid out on it, and all his elite guards waiting to attack. Strahd ignored us while Godfrey opened with turn unholy, which made many of our enemies turn and run from us. But Strahd still threw spell cancelling effects at us. Animated armour and chapel pews attacked us, along with a vrock, wraiths, rats and vampire spawn, one of which we recognised as Petrina. As Strahd bite into Ireena’s throat, Esmerelda leapt from the balcony and impaled him on Kahzan’s staff. He missed her with disintegrate, but still she realised he was too powerful and she was fighting a losing battle. So she broke the staff.

Taking the full blast, she disintegrated. Strahd took a hard hit, Ireena rolled off the altar, and all enemies attacking us, besides the vrock, fell down inert from the blast. We took damage too, but not enough to down us. Our potions of invulnerability had really paid off. Godfrey smote the vrock down. Strahd cast a fireball which downed half of us. Then, as I felt unconsciousness flow up to meet me, suddenly I heard a voice and felt a presence. Donavich told me to stand, and I and the others found ourselves standing, reinvigorated. We all converged upon Strahd to slay him, and finally the holy symbol I had taken from Donavich’s body began to burn with the brightness of the sun. Suddenly, he was mist.

He flowed down into the floor and we ran down the stairs to the crypt. I flew in the form of a raven, and left the others behind in my haste. I realised where he was going: the crypt that had a teleport trap on it which Godfrey had fallen into. I flew right past that to arrive in Strahd’s crypt.

Strahd

Source: Wizards (Curse of Strahd DM’s Screen)

The man himself was there, still, eyes open, in the coffin. I walked forward and with stake and mallet, drove the wood into his heart. He screamed. He cried. He begged. All the while, my hammer pounded, steady. The one who had caused such pain and death, he who was so above us mere mortals, was pathetic and desperate at the last.

When it was over he was dust.

Epilogue

Naturally the party was the next day. It lasted for nearly a week, and I don’t remember all of it, except the sunlight was bright and the realm was reconnected. I definitely remember Marja and I using the spell Awaken on Word and Euphrates. They weren’t very impressed with us, as they didn’t think talking was a very impressive activity. Also, Marja and I called down an earthquake on the mountain to hide the Amber Temple.

Over the time, several different things came to pass. Blinski told me and Radovan of his plan to build toys of such a great scale they would need an entire park to themselves. The Martikovs departed, returning with all three gems to the Wizard of Wines. The Vistani, carrying the cautionary tales of Esmerelda and Madame Eva, moved on. The dusk elves who were left went with them. Ismark was elected burgomeister of Barovia, and in that village the church became the church of St Donavich. The wolves of the realm were dumb animals again, and the barbarian tribes have decided to try and either civilise, or to open up trade negotiations. Radovan was probably the most respected thirteen year old who has ever existed. I don’t think he’ll be king of the realm though, seeing as there’s no castle anymore, and everyone agrees they don’t want a monarch again.

Speaking of the realm, it is connected to the Prime Material again, but I don’t think we’re in Faerun anymore. This means I can’t get the children of Daggerford back, and I have lost Matilda my mule, as well as all my friends on that plane. But we can only move forward…

… Most of us, at least. For Ireena never really belonged here, and Sergei came to retrieve his bride. They walked off into the air, over the cliff beyond the ruins of the castle, and vanished into the sunlight.

I retired at one point to the crypt of King Barov and Queen Ravenia, the only place I knew none of my companions could follow me into, guarded as it was. There I sat for a time, thinking on those who had died. I mourned for Kasimir, who had wanted nothing but to set right the wrong he had done and save his sister. I mourned for Van Richten, whose writing had been a great help to me, despite his tragic flaws. I mourned for Esmerelda, now that I had time to feel sad rather than angry. She thought she was doing the right thing, and she didn’t realise we were there for her, she didn’t have to do it all alone. But she had been far too hurt to do that.

I mourned for Ireena, though she was in heaven and happy. Mostly I mourned for what might have been between us, in that brief time before she realised her true identity and fate. I mourned for Donavich. Though he was sainted now and would never be forgotten, I remembered him as a fat, jolly, and very flawed fanatic friend who stood by me even when we disagreed. Already the iconography of his church was forgetting the truth, lionising the man and creating a dim image of the truth. I mourned a little for Godfrey too, for though he was at peace now, he and all his order, I appreciated his help and sense of humour.

Finally, I mourned for a man who had tried, in his own way, to be my friend. I had tried to save him, I had tried to find a way for us to co-exist. Was there every any hope? Or was this always the way it would turn out, in all possible worlds? If I had tried just a little harder, could I have saved the soul of Strahd von Zarovich?

Some questions have no answers. But Marja, Word, Euphrates and I have agreed to journey together and seek the answers to the ones that remain. The biggest question left, the cause of all of this, we shall seek along the roads and in the darkest reaches of the world:

Who is Tenebrus?

Here ends the diary of Dirwin, slayer of Strahd, he who wears the pelt of Sangxor, the man who is both raven and the crocodile…

For now!

Here’s a celebratory song starting at 1.44 … or watch the whole clip below

The Amber Temple: The Curse of Dirwin: the Outback Druid in Ravenloft, part.17

Day Forty-Nine Continued

As we flew to the Amber Temple Kasimir told me of the reason why he needed to go to the temple. It turned out that he wanted to seek the power to bring her back from the dead. She had been a lover of Strahd’s, and when the dusk elves killed her for this, Strahd killed every female dusk elf. Wracked with guilt, Kasimir wanted to return her to the world. I told him I wanted to help him get there, but paying the price for the power would be his choice.

In the lead up to the temple we were nearly buffeted off our mounts by the mighty wings of an enormous roc. Greatly hurt by this bird, but still alive, we rested in a cave near the Amber Temple. While we rested I talked with Esmerelda and tried to get a gauge on what she was planning to do regarding Rictavio. She wouldn’t give me a straight answer. But she did try and pin down what my intentions were. She said Madame Eva had told her that we couldn’t win, that the land would die if we tried to kill Strahd, or we’d just fail outright and he’d come back. I told her I couldn’t believe that until I’d tried.

Source: Curse of Strahd Campaign Guide

Exploring the territory, we saw Rictavio’s wagon and the main entrance to the temple, but we decided to take a secret entrance we found through a fissure. Through there we ran into a tribe of barbarians, but I held up my hands and told them we weren’t here for them. I think they were more intimidated by the hide of the demon goat Sangxor which I wore on my shoulders. So they let us carry on through the temple. We explored the eerily silent halls until we found a wizard called Vilnius hiding in a lecture hall. He asked us to help him find his master’s remains in the hall, so we took him with us. Next, we ran into a golem that attacked us, but there was only the one, so we were able to overcome it.

The next room and statue however proved far more deadly. We went onto a balcony and from the great, deep hood of the statue in the central chamber, a fireball came out and burnt us all badly, killing Vilnius. We hid in a side room and made our plan. I flew through an arrow slit in the wall in the form of a raven and landed inside the hood to find a wizard sitting in there! But as I tried to question him, he teleported away.

So I returned to the team and we made our new plan. Because there were further arrow slits along the west wall through which fire bolts were being shot, we needed a distraction. So Esmerelda threw out a bunch of illusions from the deck of illusions Pidlwick gave us (she got a goblin, kobold, incubus and an ogre, but she decided to use the cloud giant and a bunch of bandits). While these illusions provided a distraction, my summoned pixies turned my party into birds, and Esmerelda flew invisibly, and we all met in the hood of the statue, guarded by its magical darkness. The trick worked, and then Esmerelda cast Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum on the hood, with all the wards turned on against being heard or seen, and no teleporting out… but the ability to teleport in was allowed.

We waited in there and the wizard teleported back after an hour. We tried in many different ways to interrogate him magically, but he seemed to be immune to all of this. We soon found out why, as he attacked: he was a demon! He fled, and teleported away once outside of the hood. We decided to wait in the hood for him or a replacement to return, and return he did, with six flaming skulls. Marja threw out illusions ( a troll and an ogre mage) to distract them and I summoned ravens which got quickly exploded by all six fireballs. Somehow we miraculously survived this onslaught, and Esmerelda cast a magical shield up to deflect all magic spells thrown at us. It was very, very tough, but on our last legs we managed to destroy the skulls with ranged attacks, and the demon, bound to protect the temple, could not help but attack us until he died. We got a spellbook, a cloak of many things, and some treasure for our troubles. But we needed to rest in that hood for a good few hours after that.

When we finally found Vilnius’s master’s corpse, he was long dead, but Kasimir picked up his wizard staff. In the next few rooms we uncovered a scale model of Castle Ravenloft, a tome of understanding, a green copper ewer of renewing wine (protected by spectres), an evil statue that almost bewitched us all, and a room for of skulls. Behind that we found an amnesiac lich. Rather than attacking, I restored his memory. His name was Exethanter, and we were able to convince him that we were not invading his temple but trying to repel other invaders. He gave us passwords for the locked doors, and we kept exploring. He also told us what this place was: the prison or crypt for dead gods. The last place we visited on the upper level was a library with every single spell in it. We sighed wistfully and left…

Downstairs was when we began to find the dead gods, and their amber-sheathed forms whispered promises. But each of their promises came with prices we were not willing to pay. So we continued exploring, fighting witches and their brooms, a death slaad, poltergeists, and golem that was a twin of the first one upstairs. From the copious treasue piles we took only eight statues of saints and a children’s book for the orphanage.

Through the last portal we found the Amber Vault, in which the worst of the gods were kept… and a bleeding, dying Rictavio. We rushed to heal him, and Strahd swooped down. He already had taken the pact with the dead gods and looked much changed. We went to our routine for fighting him, with Donavich casting Daylight… which Strahd countered! Then he cast Disintegrate on Donavich, and my most loyal companion was forever reduced to dust. Filled with rage and despair I lifted the holy symbol from his remains, but its power failed for me. Once Godfrey was downed too, Strahd lifted Ireena into his arms, the sunsword slipping from her hand. Then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, Esmerelda murdered Rictavio and took on her the pact of the vampire. She teleported out, leaving us all shocked.

Kasimir forged forward to meet his goal, and took upon him the gift of Zudun the corpse star, which was the ability to raise the long dead. But his skin took on a corpse-like appearance. 

We turned to the last of the amber crypts as it spoke to us. It was Tenebrus, the one who had made Strahd in the beginning, and had remade him now. It laughed at our despair as it rose out of its crypt…

It had never been trapped at all.

We left the temple to see the edges of the realm falling away. The world, it appeared, was ending. When Strahd marries Ireena and then murders her at midnight tomorrow night, the realm will end and he will be free to ascend to greater, darker power.

The Point of No Return: The Curse of Dirwin: the Outback Druid in Ravenloft, part.16

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.

Day Forty-Eight

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.

Day Forty-Nine

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.

10,000 BC (2008) ROLAND EMMERICH (DIR) TEBC 007

Source: 10,000 BC (2008)

(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 😦 )

Dare to Hope: The Curse of Dirwin: the Outback Druid in Ravenloft, part.15

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.

tatiana

Source: TSR

Weekend of Constant Raiding: The Curse of Dirwin: the Outback Druid in Ravenloft, part.14

Day Forty-Four

We were woken by the sound of our traps and glyphs being triggered. We quickly got dressed and armed ourselves, and Strahd’s zombies and ghouls were upon us. We managed to control our territory and keep them completely away from us with ravens and ranged attacks. Marja summoned up all the willpower she could and we heard the distant rumble of thunder as she called lightning to strike the ground above us, where she couldn’t even see, to carve us out an exit route. But we wouldn’t end up needing it: we spotted Strahd like some hideous spider climbing the ceiling. He wasn’t expecting what happened next: Donavich blasted him with a orb of pure daylight.

We were hopeful that this was our chance. He did manage to rally a little, as he got a hold of Radovan’s psyche and made the boy shoot Donavich (though he was hard-pressed to injure that mountain of a man). Marja broke him out of the spell and he burst into tears. But then he steeled himself, and drew out the stake we had finished making only a few hours prior. He loaded it in his crossbow, and I couldn’t have asked for a better shot (OOC note: best time ever to CRITICAL!) as he stuck it right through Strahd’s chest. For a moment we thought we had him! We blasted him with spells and all the fight we could muster, but sadly the magic stake faded to dust and he managed to escape from the tunnels he had earlier invaded.

It was a dark time for us. He had broken our spirits pretty badly, especially when we realised he had zombified Blinski, Ireena’s father Ismark the Greater, and our two hunter friends from Vallaki. We fled to Vallaki and took down the crucified body of the new burgomeister. We begged the priest for shelter for the night but were met with a closed door, so we slept instead in the office of the stockyard. In the morning people were throwing fruit outside. I yelled at them to get lost and then we would. Once they left, we flew on giant kookaburras with Castle Ravenloft in our sights. But a quick detour: Radovan wanted to go home. So we dropped him off in Barovia and told him we’d visit him tonight to make sure he was okay. He was tearful. I didn’t want to drag it on any longer than that.

Spirits low, we crept into Ravenloft via a lower courtyard open to the sky. We went in through a door to a room with a guest book, and ran into a mongrelman who shuffled ahead of us and insisted we come to the guest rooms. We ignored him and explored the corridors of this wing of the castle. After a few creepy rooms, we found the creepiest of them all: the bone room. Peeking in, we were sure that this room, bedecked with bones as furniture and decor, would house the skull of Argynvost, and we were right! It was above the door. We fought a zombie here but we didn’t stay to fight more. We went back out to the courtyard where we ran into Radovan leading a small mob! He had felt guilty after we had left so he brought his parents and their friends with their pitchforks to help us. We thanked them all and told them to go home and wait for a signal for us one day when it was time to attack, but for now we had to return the skull. We asked Radovan if he wanted to join us again and see this thing through. He agreed, though he told me tearfully that he was going back to his parents after all this was over. We flew straight to Argynvostholt.

This turned out to be the best possible thing that could happen. As we replaced the dragon’s skull in the mausoleum the whole air of the place grew lighter. The revenants faded away in the light of the silver beacon that grew above the tower, making all of our hearts take courage. What’s more, the morbidly humourous Godfrey finally joined us, taking his boyfriend’s armour now that his vengeful spirit is calmed.

Day Forty-Five

Waking today, we had all had pleasant dreams and felt much lighter than before. We wasted no time in getting back to Ravenloft and carrying on from where we left off, this time with the aid of our revenant paladin.

We went past the bone hall today and went on to the office of Rahadin, the dusk elf. There was no parleying with him, though Kasimir had led us to expect that would be the case. Even with demonic aid, we were too powerful for Strahd’s lieutenant. But we had to rest after that encounter. We locked the door and rested. We nearly had a witch creep in on us looking for her pet cat, but Esmerelda’s quick thinking and prestidigitation (making a cat’s meow from far off) saved us from being found.

Down the secret stairs from Rahadin’s room we tripped a trap and a illusory Strahd came into view, though of course we didn’t realise it was an illusion until we attacked. But past that was a room with seven cups of stones and a white fire in the middle. The text around the brazier suggested that the thing was a teleporter.

I was very keen to use it but others were a little frightened. So instead we explored further corridors off that room. We found a grim looking arena of torture to the south. To the north, we found a corridor and then Godfrey and I fell down a chute. After checking out the bottom I flew back up to the others and told them to come down too. We were stuck inside a half submerged prison cell. We managed to get the door open with group effort and explored the other cells. We found a magic sword in one. Through the doors to the south we heard a man crying out from help and when we found him I realised who he was: Emile, the mate of the werewolf Zuleika. I mentioned Zuleika to him and told him we had been looking for him, if only to reassure him we could be trusted. We broke him out and looked for an exit. 

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Source: Wizards (Curse of Strahd Campaign Guide)

We had a bunch of false starts on the road to exit, with Godfrey triggering multiple chute traps that led to different prison cells. We managed to break him out of all but the final one, so he slit his own throat – the idea being that his spirit will find another corpse to occupy. It was a grim prospect but he did it cheerfully. Despite us all being disturbed, we had to carry on. We walked west and found the terrible arena from before so we went there and triggered the revival of a crowd of zombies. They didn’t last long, happily. We found ourselves back in the teleporter room and on a whim decided to go to the violet location, “mountain spire”.

We found ourselves in an ancient tower in a stormy, snowy pass. Esmerelda informed us it was the Tsolenka Pass. At some point during this time Emile slipped away from us. Hopefully he finds Zuleika. Meanwhile, we went to the top of the tower, where we were met by elemental ice maidens who attacked us. After that, at the bottom of the tower we met the demon goat Sangzor! But he was easy prey for us too. However, the last thing we encountered that day was not easy prey at all. We reached a great gate with green fire dancing in the portal. It was guarded by four stone demons. We gave up and were about to fly away on my four kookaburras, but that attempt to circumvent them the statues sprung to life! The fight was truly brutal as they had many attacks that could poison or paralyze us. But, as always, our teamwork won out. As we left to return to Argynvostholt, we worried about this road… for it is the road up to the Amber Temple, the one we will have to take again surely. What kind of road has these defences? What kind of temple gives sentient evil to a mountain goat?

But another gift was given that night. I felt my power grow stronger and visitors from the fey lands beyond the mortal veil came to me in a vision. They gifted me with new spells, such as the ability to shoot a magic bolt at range, to understand foreign languages, and more importantly the ability to summon fey creatures to my aid. This seemed to convince Marja moreso than before that I am a good ally for her and her environmental cause. 

Also, Godfrey found his way back to Argynvostholt… in the body of Blinski. We obviously weren’t happy about this, but what can we do? It’s not like we can be party to his death a third time…

Day Forty-Six

On our third consecutive raid we decided to use the teleporter straight away and go to red for “lore”. Sadly this was not the shortcut we hoped it would be (we were looking for Mad Dog’s Crypt in the hopes we’d find the promise knowledge prophesied within), but instead we found ourselves in Strahd’s library. This was not bad, as I had been there before and so I knew where we were! Going out into the hall we went into one of the great tower staircases of the castle. Little did we know this was the best possible result we could ask for. Above us hung a great, magical heart. We realised what it must be: a regenerative source of Strahd’s health. We attacked.

It tried all it could to throw us off the stairs with earthquakes and magical halberds, but we got to the top (flying aid from kookaburras and my hybrid form was needed to save people from falling to their deaths!) and we cut the heart to ribbons. But as we basked in our triumph (or rather, Ireena wiped copious amounts of thick blood off her) eight vampiric servitors came up after us. That was a tough fight, but we held out against him. 

Out the top of the tower we saw open sky and decided to head home for the day as we were badly hurt after the attack of the vampires. But first we had to fend off some undead soldiers. This wasn’t hard, especially when we used gravity as our ally. This time instead of kookaburras I summoned my new pixie friends. Eight of them were enough to polymorph each of my companions into birds. You can’t really request specifics from pixies though, so our higgeldy-piggeldy army made of flamingos, parrots, and me the raven, flew back home with pixie riders.

Everything’s going well. Too well. We had better hurry up, because if we take too much longer, Strahd will strike out against us and destroy more innocent lives to hurt us. 

But he will not stop us.

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Source: Jean-Baptiste Monge (found on Pinterest)

A Lycanthrope: The Curse of Dirwin: the Outback Druid in Ravenloft, part.13

Day Forty-Two

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.

pscapebwitch

Source: Wizards (Curse of Strahd Campaign Guide)

Day Forty-Three

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.

In which all-out war is declared : The Curse of Dirwin: the Outback Druid in Ravenloft, part.12

Day Thirty-Eight

We rose at dawn and packed as much as we could onto the wagon. We returned Hans and Katarina to Vallaki and picked up the wedding dress from the seamstresses. Then we continued to Krezk. All ten of our orphans (Myrtle and Freek, our original orphans, and our would-be werewolves, Magda, Vladislav, Boris, Lavinia, Anton, Ivana, Fatima, and Sergei) our mule Bruce and the wagon, Copernicus the goat, 10 chickens, and all of the toys I had bought for the children, all came to live in this sleepy commune. After delivering the children safely, Donavich took some time out to ward the gates while Ireena and I tried to find the source of the mysterious voice she hears every time we come to Krezk.

All together again at lunch time we decided to go up and deliver the wedding dress ourselves and scope out this Abbot fellow. We went up the hill to the fortified abbey and were greeted at the gates by two shambling figures of mongrelmen, made up of different parts of animals. What the heck was the Abbot up to? They led us through and we found more mongrel men, including one in chains who, when we tried speaking with her, bit Ireena and tried to lap up her blood! We were most disturbed, but then we were called in to meet the Abbot.

He was every bit as beautiful and composed as the last time we had seen him, and greeted us serenely. With him was a beautiful young woman, and I congratulated him on his bride. Oh no, he said, I was mistaken. He was not the groom. Who was, I then asked. Has he not told you, asked the Abbot. A dread fell over me. This quiet young girl was to marry Strahd? I took a closer look at her and that was when I noticed the smallest, most delicate stitchmarks on her wrist. No, no just her wrist. Her whole body. I complemented the Abbot on his workmanship and he tried to pretend I was imagining things. Giving an odd look at Ireena, he led us all in for lunch.

Ireena, Radovan and I tucked into the stew, stupidly. Donavich was the only one to push it aside, and when I noticed, I stopped too, and pushed Ireena’s away from her. It was too late: Radovan slumped in his chair. Oh dear, the Abbot said, I had hoped you would not guess and eat up all the stew so it would knock you out until Strahd arrived. He had guessed at Ireena’s identity and was going to give her to Strahd instead! Instantly we rose to the fight, as groggy as we were. It was to be a difficult fight, we realised, as he stood and revealed his true angelic form! We fought as hard as we could, but in the end he managed to grab the sleeping Radovan and force us to surrender.

He had made several mistakes. One of them was leaving us alone, unharried, for an hour in his dungeons, as it meant we could refresh some of our spent energy should it come to a fight again. The other mistake we had no idea about until our rescuer arrived at the door. Turns out the werewolves north of Krezk had long been aware of the mongrelmen and one had informed Zuleika of our capture. She came to rescue us while her pack created a distraction at the other end of the abbey. I turned into the form of a great prehistoric bear and bashed through the door. There was no time to retrieve our confiscated weapons; Zuleika insisted we follow her at speed to the portal.

The portal! I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave, but to get everyone with me to safety was a tempting idea. We raced down the hill to a placid pool with a gazebo beside it. To our horror, we spotted a red and black dot on the horizon, moving incredibly fast. Strahd. We increased our pace.

As we reached the pool suddenly a vision took a hold of not just Ireena this time, but all of us. Sergei, she cried out. Tatiana, a man’s voice called to her, and a watery hand reached for her. Strahd slammed between them and stared into Ireena’s eyes. She fell into his arms. Dirwin, you have betrayed me, came the dark indictment from the creature of the night. As we raced to attack, he shrugged off our blows, and walked steadily towards the pool. He threw a fireball which burned us all greatly, including Ireena, who looked near death. He carried her into the pool.

A foolish attempt! The pool exploded in fury, flinging Ireena away from Strahd and he, scorched and hideous beyond recognition, flung not far from the ruins of the gazebo, where Radovan had run to hide. The child, face filled with fear, picked up a burning piece of the structure and rammed it straight into the fiend’s chest. He was paralyzed!

Donavich revived the felled Ireena and ran to help Radovan hold the stake, while I was locked in combat with Strahd’s fell steed. The other three tried their best to hold the fiend down while I battled the beast and manage to extinguish its life and flaming mane. But alas, even as I had that minor triumph, the pinned vampire stared into the eyes of Radovan and willed the boy upward. As soon as the stake was out of his heart, he vanished into mist, which flew over the hills.

It was a failure, yes. But to come so tantalizingly close and live to tell the tale? That was a victory in its own way. At least that’s what the watching crowd seemed to agree on. We were taken back to the burgomeister’s and nursed back to health. I sent four giant kookaburras into the evening light. One to Vallaki, informing the priest and burgomeister there that the name Dirwin was now mud to Strahd, and that they should make efforts to protect themselves against any repercussions for our association. The second to the Martikovs of the winery, informing them of the development and their eminent danger. The third giant kookaburra to the tower east of Krezk, hoping it would find its way to Ricktavio to inform him of the open warfare state between the master and me. And the final giant kookaburra to Marja and Word, informing them that now was the time to return and join Public Enemy Number One.

deva

Source: Wizards

Day Thirty-Nine

When we woke it was to find many allies and acquaintances calling on us. First came the Martikovs. They came to say they were moving on and abandoning the winery for now, as they were open allies of mine. Also they told me they believed I would be the one to take Strahd down, and they would help me however they could.

Second came Marja and Word, and thankfully they were ready to pledge fully to our cause. Soon after came the third visitor, and it was a Vistana called Esmerelda, so had found our note intended for Ricktavio. Turns out she is a student of his. She decided to pledge to our cause too, though she seems a little bit more likely to rebel against our group consensus should we come to a disagreement. Fourth came Madame Eva and the Vistani! This was completely unexpected. She spoke to me and told me about the Amber Temple far in the mountains to the south. She said it was the source of Strahd’s power, as well as her own. I also theorize it may have been the source of Izek’s power too. She seemed angry at me when I tried to say that I would try and defeat Strahd without compromising with evil. And finally Zuleika and her pack had come to join us. She was perhaps a little ashamed of running away from the confrontation with Strahd, but I told her I understood and that her rescue had been invaluable to us.

With everyone assembled, Donavich whipped up a crowd with a powerful speech against the Abbot. I could finally understand why he would become a priest. I had seen his faith in action, but now I was finally seeing his public speaking in action. He told them of the mongrelmen and of the flesh golem he had made of the body parts of their dead daughters. He told them that the Abbot was a fallen angel who was happy to compromise with Strahd for convenience. Soon the crowd was whipped up and we went up, Krezk inhabitants, lycanthropes, and my party.

While the small army of ours faced the mongrelmen the Abbot placed in his courtyard, we ran into the abbey to find our confiscated weapons. Unfortunately this was a real struggle for us, as we had to wade through room after room, fighting off mongrels and shadows in our search. In the end we had to bust straight into the dining room where the Abbot and his terrible bride were. Ireena and Radovan slipped away and found the weapons in the room underneath, returning to join the fight upstairs. This time, with our additional allies, we had the angel on the ropes. The hideous bride was a great brute and tore a couple of commoners limb from limb, but we stirred her into such a frenzy that what ended up happening was she dealt the final blow to her creator. But we were able to put her down too.

A well earned rest in Krezk that night as we recovered and made our plans. Tomorrow, to Castle Ravenloft.

Day Forty

What a terrible idea! We left Krezk at dawn and went straight to the Castle. We faced great skirmishes – wolves at the gates harried us, and then wights in the courtyard put a mighty dent in our morale. But the final straw was the four dragon statues in the hallway. We nearly died in there. We ran for it, flying on summoned giant kookaburras all the way back to the windmill. After a short rest there we carried on to our secret lair were we spent a night argumentatively. I had to speak sternly and with conviction to end the bitter conversations. Tomorrow, we take on the Dead Dragon’s Lair.

cosargynvost

Source: Wizards

Day Forty-One

We arrived at mid morning at Dead Dragon’s Lair or as we later learned to call it, Argynvostholt. The ancient defense of a dragon statue breathed a gentle cooling breeze on us rather than the intended attack. We entered the ruins of the grand old keep.

It was a sad sight within of former glory now crumbled. We went upstairs and in a room found a hearth from which a small, ashy dragon burst. It flew through the rooms and led us to a dark ghostly knight. His name was Vladimir and he stopped us. He spoke in long dead voice of his vow to see Strahd punished… and that he would stop any who tried to end Strahd’s punishment. I argued that Strahd’s punishment was punishing more than just the vampire. The knight did not care. Since neither of us would budge from our moral positions, it was a fight. He called out six of his phantom order and attacked. We prevailed, though it was hard won. We considered stealing his armour and sword, but his spirit would chase us across Barovia if we did, so we decided against it – at least until we put his spirit to rest.

We met two people in here who did not attack us: an injured dusk elf called Savid who had come looking for a missing person. We healed his leg and promised to help him back home once we were done here. Also we met Godfrey, once the lover of Vladimir, the only undead knight who did not attack us. We begged him to join us, sure that he was the ally that Madame Eva had spoken of in her tarroka card reading she gave me. He said he could only do that once the spirits of Argynvostholt were put to rest.

Also we saw a strange sight – a man rushed into the courtyard, and delivered a coffin. We went down to look, and the name on it was “Radovan”. We were all frightened, but to alleviate the mood I pushed Radovan so he almost fell in. But seriously, that’s something to investigate when we get back to Vallaki. Could it be our old friend the coffinmaker?

As we explored more of the complex we fought more spectral knights and phantoms, all of the order of the silver dragon whose likeness covered many surfaces in the form of art. We also saw more illusory dragons in hearths and heard ghostly voices which spun for us a tale. I will tell it plainly, though we learned in bits and pieces from spirits, voices, letters and paintings. This ruin was once the home of the order of the silver dragon Argynvost, who lived and fought amongst his disciples. They fell four hundred years ago when Strahd’s armies descended upon Barovia. His skull was taken and kept in Castle Ravenloft. If we can find it and restore it to this place, three things will happen: the restless dead here will be able to finally settle; Godfrey will join us in our cause; and the light of Argynvost will shine as a beacon over Barovia as a symbol of hope. We were in truth bitterly disappointed that we would have to return to Ravenloft without a powerful ally, in order to earn the trust of that same ally! But we managed to clear the ruin out and map its known rooms.

We returned Savid to his people outside of Vallaki and the leader of the dusk elves, camped with the Vistani on the outskirts there, asked us to take him to Amber Temple when we go. His sister had been killed by Strahd, and he wanted vengeance. Any ally is welcome!

We returned to our lair to rest our very weary bodies. Tomorrow we think we will seek out Ricktavio before we decide what to do next.