Curse of Strahd

Double, double

The party headed towards the old mill. The beaten down path towards it did not offer much cover, so they would have to hope that no one in the mill was watching the path. 10 minutes later, they had arrived at the wooden door of the mill.

The mill was about three stories high, with windows at each story, and a dilapidated wooden scaffold outside each level. Adran immediately proposed entering through the second story window to catch any inhabitants by surprise, though Elga, Oscar and Lady Arimaka were more absorbed by a curious raven perched upon the front door of the mill, which seemed to be attempting to communicate.

Adran and Daisuke clambered up the scaffolding and took position on either side of the window. Unfortunately, the discussion of whether to enter stealthily or not, and whether to attempt to communicate with the bird had attracted attention, and the window slowly creaked open.

An ancient head peered out of the window. Without hesitation, Adran grabbed the old woman and pulled with all his might. With a surprised yell, the crone found herself flying out the window and onto the muddy ground below. Further cursing followed from inside the mill.

To Lady Arimaka’s sense, the old woman smelled of putrefaction and disease, a sure sign of moral decay. A quick sign to Oscar and Elga, and they attacked. However, almost immediately the old crone vanished, and two of the adventurers felt something run past them.

Meanwhile, the creature in the mill was descending the stairs. Adran snuck in behind her and shot her point blank with his crossbow, attracting howls of rage as the vile witch Morgantha wheeled about and charged him with her long diseased claws. Lady Arimaka came to his assistance, with the remaining adventurers engaged with the hag outside. Soon, they heard screaming as the third weird sister joined the fray from further down the road.

The battle was long and challenging, with the women regularly turning invisible to avoid the party’s attacks. The party was aided by the raven, which began by perching upon the sisters and attempting to peck their eyes out, and afterwards, transforming to a half-human, half-raven form to attack. The battle ended with one hag dead and the remaining two in flight.

A search of the mill revealed two children about to be baked into pies, and Ismark decided to take them with him as he returned to Barovia. A further search of the environs revealed an ancient circle of stones, likely the reason the witches had taken up residence in the mill. While the stones were a testament to an older pagan religion of the region, the witches seemed as if they were attempting to desecrate the power in favour of their own infernal patron.

The raven introduced himself. He was a Borovian under a curse the permitted him to transform into a raven, and he had assisted us because we sought to exterminate the evil witches. He indicated to us an inn in Valaki where we might find assistance, and provided some background on the region and the Vistani, who are rumoured to consort with Strahd. After thanking him, we continued on the road to Valaki.

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Dreams in the Witch-house

After the first dispiriting encounter with Lord Strahd, the remains of the party: Lady Arimaka, Oscar, Elga, Delfina, Daisuke, Adran, Ismark and Ireena sought to regain Kolyanovich manor before nightfall.

The mood was somber, reflecting the loss of Mika. As the group made its way through the town, they heard the creaking of an ancient barrow, pulled by an old woman selling pies. The pies seemed popular, with the inhabitants of the town jostling to purchase them. Oscar noticed however, that despite appearances, the crone did not appear to be struggling to pull the heavy cart.

Suspicious, Lady Arimaka invoked her god’s insight, and received guidance that the woman was not what she seemed. Indeed, she radiated strong evil. Upon hearing this, Adran immediately melted into the shadows and sought to approach the woman without arousing attention.

The others approached the woman, despite Ismark’s apparent disdain for her, although he was unable to exactly describe the source of his aversion. The crone attempted to sell the party a pie. Questioning the ancient failed to disclose why she radiated evil, and the pie itself seemed harmless. Lady Arimaka was suddenly seized with doubt.

At that point, Adran, who had gotten lost in the town’s winding streets, re-emerged from a cross-alley. Unaware of the intervening discussions (and perhaps, not really caring), he shot a quarrel through the air that landed with a solid plunk in the middle of the woman’s chest. Despite being a shot that should, by all reason, destroy a regular humanoid several times over, the woman responded to this attack by disappearing, abandoning her cart. Discussion with the onlookers seemed to indicate that her customers had an intense, deep, almost maniacal craving for the pies, and that if the customers were unable to pay, the crone would take their children away. From Ismark, the group obtained the location of the old mill where the crone resided.

The party spent the evening in Kolyanovich manor, where Adran’s investigations identified that only one of the notes had been sent by the late burgomaster: the second, written in a different hand, sent by an unknown party intent on luring the adventurers to Ravenloft.

Attempts to procure horses for the trip were unsuccessful, so at dawn, the group set out on foot. At midday, the party arrived at a crossroads, surmounted by an ancient crow. The crow seemed to want to communicate, so Elga addressed it in its own language. The crow led the group to an encampment of Vistani, and to their ancient matriarch. She offered to tell their fortune, and drew the macabre tarot. She first drew the philanthropist, followed in quick succession by the transmuter, the anarchist, the marionette and finally, the horseman. She spoke in riddles, speaking of prophecy and half-veiled signs.

The party spent the night and part of the next day with the Vistani, searching the area for a rumoured weapon that might be effective against Strahd, but unsuccessful, the party eventually broke off the search. As they continued to follow the road, they drew close to the mill in which the witch was said to live. The rumours of the stolen children spurred Lady Arimaka to storm the mill and defeat the evil within. And so the party plans its approach.

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Pawn Sacrifice

The party emerged from the Dearth house into the pale mid-morning of the town and quickly set off in search of accommodation, food or answers (in no particular order).  Wandering what appeared to be the main strip of the settlement; the group came upon an inn and entered.

Like everything else we had encountered, the inn was dinghy and ill-maintained, but still serviceable.  Adran tried to draw the bartender into conversation to no avail.  Delfina had more luck with a wealthily garbed young patron.  He introduced himself as Ismark Kolyanovich and offered us food and lodging for assistance in protecting his sister, Ireena Kolyanovich.  It quickly became clear that the young gentleman was the son of the burgomeister who had sent the initial message.

Ismark led us back to the family estate, a dilapidated mansion at the end of the main cross-road.  Two things arrested our attention on the trip.  First, we heard weeping coming from one of the houses along the way.  Lady Arimaka insisted we investigate.  We identified the cause of the weeping as a householder along the main way.  Upon prompting, the woman explained that her daughter, Gertruda, had disappeared a week ago from her bedroom.  The girl had piercing green eyes, but an investigation of her bedroom failed to disclose any information we could use to track her.

Second, the mansion itself seemed to have been attacked by large creatures with sharp claws.  We were unable to obtain a satisfactory response from Ismark as to the cause of these marks on the house.  At the house, we met his sister Ireena, and obtained more particulars on the situation.  Ireena had attracted the eye of the local nobleman, Count Strahd (“the devil Strahd” Ismark sneered) and required our assistance to flee to township further afar from his charmed gaze.  She was, however, unwilling to leave the family homestead without burying her recently departed father, lying in state in the dining room.  It was quite obvious that though the family (and perhaps the town) had known prosperity, there was very little left.  The heirs had no servants.

Lady Arimaka agreed to transport the former burgomeister to the town chapel: she and Oscar held one end while Elga grunted and lifted the other.  An odd procession for a town worthy: the half-orc easily doing the work of two pall-bearers, the two dwarves awkwardly carrying their part, followed by the bereaved, the enchantress trying (and failing) to look subdued and sufficiently decorous and a slouching half-elf and handmaid taking up the rear.
When the procession arrived at the chapel, a dim light seemed to indicate the priest was present, but he failed to respond to our hails.  We left the Kolyanaviches and Mika to guard the body while we entered the church.

We met Father Donavich, a sad, pathetic, broken man.  It seems his son had joined a mob to protest the actions of Count Strahd, and Count Strahd had responded by giving him the gift of undying death.  The younger Donavich was confined under the chapel, wailing his hunger.  The
restless dead take priority over the more restful dead, so the priest, Oscar, Lady Arimaka, Elga, Delfina and Adran went to deal with the risen son.  The battle was short and successful.

The group then returned to the task of burying the unfortunate burgomeister.  Father Donavich realized that the shovels were in the rectory, so went to get them with Ismark.  Adran, suspicious, accompanied them.  After their departure, a ominous carriage pulled by jet black horses appeared.  Lord Strahd descended, and went to pay his respects. As he passed through the cemetery gate (literally, he became mist to cross), a skeletal hand shut the church door, trapping the priest and Ismark inside.  Adran pulled at the door, and in a feat that surprised no one more than himself, succeeded in freeing the prisoners.
In the cemetery, Strahd called to Ireena.  Though the charm seemed initially successful, a protection spell by Lady Arimaka freed her from his control.  He then summoned a clutch of zombies and wolves and departed.  As he left, Ismark drew his sword and attack.  Unfazed, Strahd picked him up with one hand and threw him against the chapel, knocking him unconscious.

Elga, Delfina and the two dwarves fought the zombies and wolves.  Adran carried (dragged) Ismark back to Father Donavich and persuaded (nakedly threatened) him to return him to the manor and keep him safe.

In all the confusion, Strahd charmed Mika, drew her into the carriage and departed to the castle.  The party regrouped to the Kolyanovich home, with Father Donavich, where they must decide whether to take Ireena to another town, or, as suggested by Father Donavich, to a monastery of his order.

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The Fall of the House of Dearst

Adran peered out into the darkness. The thing seemed to have withdrawn for the moment, but with Lady Arimaka and Oscar essentially incapacitated, and the rest of the group in full rout, the outlook appeared excessively grim…

“One must die…” the chant repeatedly ceaselessly. Well, if his death would secure the release of the others, and particularly the salvation of Lady Arimaka, Adran was prepared to make the sacrifice, particularly if by doing so, he could take as much of the creature with him as possible.

A violent, reptilian part of his brain also drew some consolation from the fact that up until that moment, the creature had been engaging them upon its terms, overwhelming oozing force seeping through the narrow corridors. Now, in the dark, silent recesses of the crypt, Adran would be engaging it upon his terms, with a quarry unaware and shadows hiding wicked quarrels. Adran crept into the corridor, leaving his backpack as a message to the others.

Daisuke was worried, but it was a zen worry, so it was all good. Oscar and Lady Arimaka had ceased running, and Elga had disabled the blades in the attic, but Adran had failed to rejoin them, and the stairs leading down to the crypt were silent. Elga pushed past him, and a moment later, she was followed, more cautiously, by the sorcerer. Daisuke was unsure that this was the best course of action, but felt that his presence would be beneficial to prevent the others from coming to harm, so he descended after them.

Adran stalked the creature through the dark, back towards it lair, but was surprised when it turned down a different path. The target was too tempting, so he cocked his crossbow and let loose a quarrel to what looked like a sensitive appendage. The creature let loose with a mouthless roar while he took cover against the wall of the crypt.

At the same time, the sorcerer and Daisuke came upon the other end of the beast. The sorcerer conjured a gout of flame into the creature while Daisuke let out a yell and smashed the creature with a flurry of blows. The creature exploded in an orgy of fetid green mucus.

The party reassembled and continued their exploration. As they pressed through a corridor, the floor split open around them and grasping, desperate hands reached out. Elga went into a fury, hewing about her with her great axe. Lady Arimaka overcame the icy clutch of fear that held her in its thrall, and set out among the ghouls with her Warhammer. Even the sorcerer lobbed fiery death at them from the end of the hallway.

The group continued, out of breath, exhausted from the ceaseless combat. They took refuge in the room at the end of the hallway. The room had a queer stone sculpture resembling the mysterious stranger the party had crossed on the way to the Dearst manor. In its hand the sculpture held a peculiar glass orb. The orb seemed to exert a strange fascination upon Lady Arimaka. It held flashes of dark swirling smoke that seemed to reach out to her. Almost without knowing what she was doing, she touched the orb, which flashed. The shadows within the orb were no about her, screaming and screeching and grasping.

One of them sought to escape, flying out towards the exit of the room. Adran, keeping watch by the door, barely had time to turn as it came upon him. In a process that seemed to take a mere second, the shade leeched the life out of him, leaving him lying unconscious against the doorway. Elga’s axe and Daisuke’s fists seemed to slide through the shades’ form, doing little damage. With a muttered prayer, Lady Arimaka’s Warhammer was more effective. Oscar than began to chant, his holy symbol glowing with the light of a deity to be determined later. The harsh light of indeterminacy caused the shades to cower and flee, while Lady Arimaka, Daisuke, Elga and the sorcerer decimated the remaining creatures.

The gang barricaded the room and took time to recover the recent fights. Further exploration led the group back to the attic room where they had discovered the remains of Rosevalda and Thornwald Dearst. Overcome with a supernatural lethargy, Lady Arimaka and Oscar sank into the child-sized cots and descended into a stupor. Reflecting upon the odd behaviour of the possessed heroes, Adran realized that burying the bones of the child ghosts might bring them peace and cause them to dissipate. This led to a third (and final) descent into the crypt to bury the bones.

The plan was successful and Oscar and Lady Arimaka arose with their previous personalities restored. The group then emerged blinking, into the daylight.

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The Creeping Horror

{Compiler’s note – Several pages of the manuscript are missing here.}

..climbed down the stone stairway into the basement of the house. The basement had been worked: it was not a natural opening. I will not venture to guess how much time, effort and expense went into building the elaborate underground redoubt.

Lady Arimaka and the cleric led the way. They seemed to know where they were headed through the winding passages beneath the house. As we approached our intended destination, they seemed to lose their nerve more and more. Shortly before the stairwell leading to the lower level, she insisted that stop a moment to rest.

She was deaf to entreaties that such a pause left the group exposed to attacks or that we were not terribly injured. She and the cleric were extremely reluctant to continue.

Nonetheless, we persisted. Even so, Lady Arimaka and the cleric grew visibly more nervous until finally, they refused to move. The way forward was barred by a metallic grate, and we were unable to move it.

Through the grate, we could see that the room was roughly rectangular. The room was edged by a five-foot ledge that gave way to a pool of water, with an island rising from the middle of the pool. We could vaguely make out some sort of altar in the middle of the island. The room had a second entrance, so we backtracked and entered there.

A closer examination of the altar demonstrated that it was caked with rust red stains. The pool was not deep, but upon touching, hooded apparitions appeared on the ledge and began chanting “One must die” in ominous tones. From the corner of the room, a large mound which we had mistaken for a refuse heap began to move and slowly shifted towards us.

The stench was overpowering. Elga attempted to slash it with her axe, but the mass formed a crude pseudopod and dealt her a blow that sent her flying across the room. It then continued its slow advance towards us.

Lady Arimaka and the cleric screamed and ran through the door, while Elga, the monk and I attempted an orderly retreat. We continued to attack it as we withdrew, but our attacks were largely ineffective.

Lady Arimaka and the cleric reached the attic but the house itself seemed possessed by a furious desire to push us back into its bowels. The stove belched poisonous fumes at them and weird, eldritch blades sprang out of the doorway to cut off retreat.

Elga and the monk caught up with the dwarves in the children’s room while Adran stubbornly continued to ineffectively shoot at the creature. The…

{Compiler’s note – though the manuscript does continue, the material appears to have been exposed to water and garbage, rendering it difficult to read.}

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A mysterious message
In which unknown parties solicit the assistance of our heroes

It began with a gaudily dressed gentleman entering the tavern. He proffered us a note, requesting our assistance, purchased a round for the tavern, and swept out into the darkness. Although I followed him, he mounted his horse and quickly disappeared into the darkness.

The message was a call for help. The Burgomaster’s daughter was stricken by a mysterious illness beyond the ken of the townspeople to cure. We set out early the next day in the indicated direction. The overcast sky and the somber woods urged caution, so the monk and I took point. After several hours, we found ourselves crossing a large gate carved into the stone, after which the woods became even more somber and obscure.

The monk heard an eerie gurgling from off the road, so he and I went to investigate. We came upon a humanoid creature feeding upon a hapless traveller it must have pulled off to the side. I shot at it with my crossbow, keeping my distance and luring it towards my colleagues back on the road. Surprisingly, the creature ignored injuries that should have by all rights incapacitated it, sloughing off body parts as it continued to advance upon us. Our combined might was too much for it though.

As a precaution, I offered to burn the body while my colleagues examined the body of the traveller. However, as the body burned, I heard hoofbeats upon the road. A nauseating fog rolled in. I went to warn the others and we decided that discretion was the best course. Nonetheless, through the fog, we caught as glimpse of two black stallions, a man of noble bearing stepping down and a mysterious woman hidden in the recesses of the carriage.

The mist drained our vitality, though we successfully struggled out to a town. The mist seemed to be pushing us to a particular house. Before it, two young children claimed to need our assistance. They claimed that their parents and younger sibling we victims of a monster hidden in the cellar of the house. In our weakened state, we explored the house, but our efforts to locate the cellar came to nought. When we sought further information from the children, they had vanished.

The house itself was steeped in the unnerving and the supernatural. The walls seemed alive with skittering and strange creaks. When we visited the ballroom, we received strange visions of things past. The library contained a secret room with a skeleton and a treasure chest, containing a cryptic letter.

We reached the second floor of the house, where a suit of armour animated, gravely injuring Lady Arimaka. It took a combined effort for the rest of us to knock it down the stairs, destroying the eldritch enchantment upon it.

We then returned to rest in the maid’s room we had discovered. Alone among us, Lady Arimaka’s slumber was fitful and intermittent. We shall uncover the secrets of this house, and when we do, we shall shoot it in the face!

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All spots filled
Gearing up to start

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Just a quick note that all available spots for this campaign has been filled.

Watch this space for the kickoff in May,

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