Curse of Strahd

Fire and Fury
The "Oooh, ooh, it burns!" edition

Daisuke and I stalked silently towards the witch’s hut. The hut was surrounded on all sides by wicker cages stuffed with ravens, cawing pitifully. Still, to date, two simple truths had never steered us wrong in Ravenloft:

1. Ravens tended to help out against whatever was attacking us that week; and
2. You can never go wrong stabbing old people, particularly if they were ugly.

Accordingly, the two of us approached the hut and freed the ravens, keeping an ear open for movement from inside the hut. As more and more ravens escaped, the cawing grew less frantic, and Daisuke heard movement from inside the hut. He signalled silently to me, then clambered onto the roof of the hut, as silent as a shadow.

I took a position next to the entrance, my crossbow ready to fire. The moment the old woman stepped out, she received a quarrel to the head. This was immediately followed by Daisuke tackling her to the ground. Lady Arimaka and Oscar rode up on Lady Arimaka’s er… adequate mount. The old woman barely had the opportunity to shoot off a spell before being reduced to a fine red paste.

As we entered the hut, we saw a crib with a child in it, crying. Lady Arimaka reached out to it while I reloaded my crossbow, but the child turned out to be an illusion. More than that, we soon realized that the child was none other than a younger version of Lord Strahd himself.
I am not particularly given over to flights of fancy, but I could not help but imagine what would have happened if the child had been a smaller version of Lord Strahd.

In any event, we realized that the gem we were seeking was located underneath the crib. Our first attempt to seize it resulted in Lady Arimaka almost losing her hand, as the hut seemed to spring to life to protect itself. Our second attempt resulted in Lady Arimaka’s axe being bisected (fortunately Oscar was able to mend it). Finally, our third attempt was successful.

We searched the room and found a chest. Oscar’s attempt to open it was unsuccessful, as he had failed to notice that it was latched shut. His failure was a stroke of luck, as in addition to being locked, the chest was ensorcelled. We successfully banished the spell and I picked the lock, only to be attacked by a swarm of dismembered hands. Although not a threat for the party at full strength, I shudder to think how much damage they would have done had we been substantially injured in the fight against Baba Lesaga.

Daisuke suggested that the gem might be able to disrupt the magic keeping us in Ravenloft, so we decided to detour by the gate leaving the valley before returning to the Wizards of Wines. This detour would result in our passing near Kresk.

The road along the way passed at the foot of a fortress in the mountains. As we approached the fortress, we saw ghostly visions in the mist of a terrible battle, with a dragon made of mist burning an invading army horribly. As there was no way to reach the fortress from the road, we resolved to return later.

As we approached Kresk, we came upon a party of foresters. They informed us that a small girl had been stolen from Kresk. They believed werewolves were responsible, and we decided to assist them in recovering the girl. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake.
Lady Arimaka had a spell which would permit us to track the girl, but it required knowledge of an identifiable item upon her person. Accordingly, Lady Arimaka lent her mount to one of the foresters to take to Kresk to find someone who knew the girl and could identify what she was wearing. In the mean time, Lady Arimaka and Daisuke attempted to track the werewolves.

I spoke to the foresters. In particular, I had noted that one of the foresters referred to the little girl as “soulless”. This struck me as an odd way to refer to a person, so I questioned him. He claimed that certain people in Ravenloft were born without souls, they tended towards grey and listless and simply seemed less “alive” than other inhabitants. His comment reminded me of some of the townsfolk in Valaki, who repeated certain motions mechanically. Even among the foresters, while some of them had splashes of colour in their outfit, others seemed drained of vitality.

The mount returned with one of the girl’s kinsmen. Lady Arimaka cast the spell and it led us to an ominous tower on the shores of Lake Baratok. Just outside of the tower, there was a ruined wagon, of the style used by the Vistani. It was locked and bore several inscriptions to keep out. Mindful of what had occurred at Baba Lesaga’s hut, I examined the door for runes. None were found. I then attempted to pick the lock. My attempt was unsuccessful. Oscar, impatient, broke the lock with his axe and swung open the door, igniting the several dozen vials of alchemist’s fire contained within. The wagon went up in an enormous conflagration. The entire party was burned within an inch of their life. The foresters and Ireena were not so lucky. We managed to save Ireena’s life, but the foresters were burned to a crisp.

Later on, at the foot of the tower, we discovered the body of the little girl, dead. She appeared to have been killed by some short of electrical discharge, but we have not yet ascertained the cause. We spent the night on the ground floor of the tower putting off exploration for the next day.

The Wicker Man
Third log entry - Adran

Following the massacre in Valaki, we were concerned about remaining too long in the town. The captain of the guard already seemed to have recognized Ireena, and Strahd clearly knew she was there as well. As a consequence, we decided to try some country air, and assist the Wizard of Wines recover one of the stones permitting him to grow his grapes.

We headed to Yesterhill, feeling that the trail was warmer for the druids than for the scarecrows. The hill was large, covered in mounds and stone cairns. As we proceeded up the hill, Elga was called by one of the cairns. She approached the stone monument, and began to dig, recovering a mysterious magical spear. Naturally, she began to complain about the scarcity of magical greataxes and greatswords. I believe I will spit in her food tonight.

It was fortunate that following Elga led us off the path leading to the top of the hill, for we were overtaken by a rider on a jet-black horse, Lord Strahd himself. Daisuke and I attempted to follow him (using some modicum of caution), but he was too fast. We did reach the top of the hill, where we saw a curious spectacle.

Strahd was speaking to a gathering of druids. He was upset with them and their failure, but we were unable to understand more. The druids seemed to worship Strahd in effigy, a massive statue of twigs and wood was built upon the top of the hill. While we watched, Strahd set off again on his horse, and the druids began to chant, initiating some strange ritual.

Whatever the ritual was, it was clearly not in our interest, so I snuck closer to one of the druids and skewered him with a crossbow bolt. The remaining druids and their berserker companions set upon the party. After a pitched battle, the druids and their allies were no more.

We examined the statue and discovered the missing gem in its recesses. Curiously, the statue seemed to have been built from living wood, and we managed to follow the roots to a massive, ancient, withered tree. The tree seemed to radiate an evil aura, and had attracted various of the plant based creatures we had seen. When we threatened the tree, all of them attacked us. The fighting was vicious, with the larger blights alternately lashing and entangling us, but in the end, we were victorious. Our examination of the tree revealed that it was the source of the bizarre plant based blights in the area, so with great effort, Elga chopped the tree down while Daisuke and I uprooted it: Daisuke with his shovel and me with my trusty crowbar.

We also discovered that the axe in the tree was magical, with peculiar properties against plant-based foes. Lady Arimaka claimed the axe, and we felt some small measure of relief in being able to rest for the evening without the threat of crazed druids or plant creatures. We now intend to attempt the ruins of Berem, lair of the scarecrows, to recover the remaining gem.

Valaki Church Massacre
Strahd - What a dick!

Rictavio entered the room. He said that he had seen us intercede on behalf of the unfortunate Valaki guardsman. He believe that he could put us in contact with character who also wanted to do good not evil in Borovia.

We headed out to the stables adjoining the inn, where we met Phaelan, an elf who, like us, had been lured to Borovia. She explained that she had participated in an attempt to overthrow Strahd, but that Strahd had visited horrible reprisals on the villagers involved and on her companions. She also told us that a band of werewolves had taken her children.

Before we could assist her, there was the matter of the family in the stocks in the Valaki town square. Daisuke, Phaelan and I went to liberate the family. For obvious reasons (not wanting to draw excessive attention to ourselves), our goal was to avoid killing the guardsmen. I disguised Phaelan as a human, and while she distracted the guards with her charms (literally), Daisuke and I moved to liberate the imprisoned family. They refused to be liberated, fearing reprisals. The family clearly feared the Baron more than they trusted us. I found it difficult to argue with their logic.

In the meantime, Lady Arimaka, Oscar, Elga and Ireena returned to the Valaki church to recover Mika’s body. Something must have frightened the population, because the church was packed with villagers seeking hope and protection. The band managed to descend to the crypt, where they were surprised to find that Mika’s body had disappeared. The interlopers had left a trail which the adventurers followed.

Unfortunately, the trail led them to discover a veritable army of darkness pooling about the church. Our quick-thinking heroes realized that with an army of vampires, Lord Strahd couldn’t be far behind, and, as a consequence, Ireena was in great danger! In order to protect Ireena, the quartet descended into the church and caused a panic among the churchgoers. This created a perfect cover for Ireena to slip out of the church unnoticed while the vampires feasted on the hapless villagers.

The screams of the villagers reached Daisuke, Phaelan and me in the town square. Daisuke was off like a flash to the church, and Phaelan transformed into a horse to carry me behind him. While Lady Arimaka, Oscar and Elga fought bats and other denizens of the night, Phaelan arrived and summoned bears to rip apart the vampire spawn. She quickly morphed into a bear herself and joined the fray.

The fight was overwhelming, with many villagers dying. When a vampire spawn attempted to take out Elga, an unexpected presence joined the fray on our behalf: Mika, displaying some very un-Mika-like traits: 1) not dying; and 2) actually contributing to the combat.

Strahd appeared, draining the priest. Daisuke had fought his way into the vestibule, and challenged him. In a daring display, he shrugged off Strahd’s attempt to mesmerize him, than ripped a tapestry and tangled the master vampire in it. He followed this with a brief pummelling. Strahd became mist to escape the tapestry and approached Daisuke, murder in his eyes…

Return to the Blazing Sun
Second log entry - Adran

Following the escape of the remaining druid, we were able to obtain more details from the “Wizard of Wines” concerning the harvest and the importance of the vineyard.

The vineyard is one of the few areas of Ravenloft where the land is not “corrupted”. The old vintner was unclear as to what this meant (since obviously, other land must be fertile or everyone would have starved), but it is very important to the inhabitants of the land. The vintner attributed the properties of the land to three “seeds” – pinecone-sized gems of different colours. Each gem was associated with a different variety of wine. Unfortunately, as of a few days ago, all of the gems had been stolen.

The first gem was stolen ten years ago. The vintner’s son, Erwin Mactikoff (known to us as the owner of the Blue Water Inn), was on guard, and when the gem was stolen, the vintner cast him out, claiming that he had not tried hard enough to prevent the theft. Obviously, the vintner looks pretty foolish now.

The second gem was stolen several weeks ago. The vintner’s hired hands tracked the theft to a band of scarecrows roving about the ruins of Berem, but the vintner and his people have been unable to recover it.

The third gem was stolen shortly before our arrival by the band of druids we attacked. Although we don’t know why they returned to the vineyard, it is possible that they wished to corrupt (or steal) the wine which had been manufactured before the theft of the last gem. In any event, according to the Wizard of wines, the druids inhabit an enclave called Yesterhill.

The vintner does not know why the scarecrows or the druids wish to obtain the gems.

After Lady Arimaka purified the remaining wine (and the vintner awarded us each two bottles of his best (and only) remaining vintage), we were asked to escort the wine back to Valaki, out of concern that the druids or the scarecrows might intercept the shipment. We set out that morning, accompanying the vintner’s other son.

Along the way, our group was attacked by a band of zombies, supported by dire wolves. Though hardly eloquent, the zombies suggested that their master had not found Mika to his liking, but that they wished to sample her themselves. Mika panicked and ran off. The rest of us put a united front against the zombies. Oscar advanced into the thick of the zombies and invoked the power of his god to rebuke them. Lady Arimaka and Daisuke charged the direwolves. Ireena fought off a zombie with her sword and the vintner’s son bashed heads with a cask hammer. I myself shot zombie after zombie from a perch point in a tree.

Even as we turned back the undead hordes, a scream rang out. Daisuke and Lady Arimaka ran to the sound. Daisuke briefly glimpsed a black shadow above the prone body of Mika, but by the time Lady Arimaka and Oscar arrived, Mika was dead.

Given the odd occurrences of the recent days, I pushed for a summary cremation of the body, following decapitation and dismemberment for good measure, but Lady Arimaka insisted that we bundle the corpse onto the wagon and bring it to Valaki in the hopes of finding help. Needless to say that we got strange looks upon passing the Valaki gates, and further needless to say that the local churchmen, though vaguely sympathetic, were utterly useless. We left the body at the chapel and were press-ganged into attending the Festival of the Blazing Sun.

The weather had turned overcast and drizzly as we hustled to the main square of Valaki. We couldn’t help but notice a large number of armed guardsmen watching the crowd and “encouraging” participation. Also observed were several stocks filled with men, women and children. Daisuke was able to briefly speak to a child, who admitted his crime was mocking the Baron. The crowd was restless. The Baron and his wife arrived at the square, where a large wicker ball had been doused in oil.

The Baron gave a few words, and turned to light the ball, but the ball failed to catch. One of the guardsmen laughed. A hush fell over the crowd as the Baron turned towards the unfortunate guardsman and yelled, “Seize that man!”. The Baron’s Captain of the Guard, a large man with a shaved head and an ostensibly demonic right hand, strode forward.

Naturally, Daisuke did something unfortunate, here defined as making a stand to defend the guardsman. “Fly, you fool, fly!” he uttered to the wretch. Lady Arimaka also leapt to the defense of guardsman, claiming that the man had laughed in response to a jest she had made. This failed to convince the Baron or the Captain of the Guards. Meanwhile, I crept up to the wicker ball – I add, for clarification, that the ball did not contain prisoners or any other such persons- and set it on fire, hoping to create a distraction to protect the Lady. At the same time, Oscar cast an evocation that calmed the spirits of the advancing guardsmen, and later the Captain of the Guards, to permit Daisuke and the guardsman to escape.

Once the ball lighted, the Festival was over quickly and the crowd dispersed. We set back to the Blue Water Inn, but not before noticing some peculiarities. Oscar noticed a man in fine dress, a nobleman, in attendance at the Festival. He seemed to be staring intently at Ireena, and smiling (the Captain of the Guards also seemed to recognize her). I myself noticed another man following us, but my attempts to identify him were unsuccessful.

While on the way to the inn, I stopped at the Arasek Stockyard, where I bartered one of my bottles of wine for a disguise kit, which I used to make Ireena unrecognizable. Time will tell if this is sufficient.

At the Blue Water Inn, Lady Arimaka announced that we would free the children from the stocks. Before we could respond, there came a knock on the door. It was Rictavio, and he said he could help.

Battle of the Barn
First log entry - Adran

At my behest, Lady Arimaka has accepted that I record a log of our adventures in Barovia. I fear that this adventure will be our last, so by creating a log, I hope that our sacrifice will not be in vain.

I will leave each completed log with Erwin Mactikoff of the Blue Water Inn for safeguard. Should we fail in our efforts, he is to show the log to any outlanders lured to Barovia.

The Wizard of wines retained our services to clear the winery from a band of druids who had taken it over. We had just arrived at the winery itself when a horde of small, tree-like creatures swarmed towards us from the vineyard.

I recommended that we take refuge in the stable: Lady Arimaka and Elga blocking the door while Oscar and I attacked the creatures. Lady Arimaka took Elga’s counsel instead, and we took up positions near the cart used to deliver the wines. This proved to be an unwise choice as, while we fought the creatures before us, we attracted the attention of the enemies within the winery, requiring us to battle enemies on both fronts.

Using the entrance to the winery as a chokepoint, I blocked the second wave while Elga and Lady Arimaka charged into the fray of the mobs of enemies before us. Oscar summoned a radiant hammer into battle as well. Although the fight was brutal, and we took heavy injuries, we succeeded in repelling the invaders.

I incapacitated one of the druids for interrogation. Elga and Oscar decided to explore further. After searching the druid, Elga joined them. The druid did not seem to speak the tongue of men, nor the fair tongue of my fathers. I attempted to converse with the little Dwarvish I knew, but the druid could not speak it, nor could Elga communicate with her in the language of the Orcs. I even attempted to converse in the secret tongues of the old ways, but this too was unsuccessful.

The druid wore a necklace of teeth, similar to the one found at the old mill. On a hunch, I spoke the name of the Dark Lady, She who walks in shadows and steals teeth. This name was familiar to her, as was the name Morgantha, the hag of the mill.

At this moment I heard a scream echoing from the catwalk at the top of the winery. Unsheathing my crossbow, I carefully stalked along the walls towards the sounds. I had almost arrived when Elga and Oscar gave the all clear. I returned to the prisoner.

As I entered the room, the prisoner was standing up, having escaped her bonds. She immediately went for the door out of the winery, I followed, bringing my crossbow to bear. As I shot, the string on my crossbow snapped, causing the quarrel to go wild and permitting the druid to escape.

And that is exactly what happened.

Festival of the Blazing Sun

The party arrived at Valaki, a stockaded town gaily festooned with wolf heads. The guards were at first reticent to less us enter, but we convinced them to allow us to enter.

Very quickly, the group learned that in a few days, the town would be hosting the Festival of the Blazing Sun, and that the Baron, the leader of the town, mandated happiness on behalf of the townsfolks, or else. He seemed to believe that this happiness would keep the darkness from Barovia at bay.

The group arrived to the Blue Water Inn, where they met Erwin Mactikoff, the owner and his wife, Danika. The party entered the inn as unobtrusively as possible, which varied from very (Adran) to “bull in china shop” (Lady Arimaka, Oscar and Elga). Erwin was willing to help, offering us a room to let, and the group engaged in discussions that evening.

Erwin advised that he had been expecting a delivery of wine which had not arrived, and offered us our stay, free of charge, if we could find out what happened to the shipment. We agreed and undertook to set out to the “Wizard of wines” the next day.

In the mean time, we had noticed a general store opposite the inn, named the “Arasek Stockyard”. On its premises, we saw a gaily coloured wagon. A brief investigation determined that it was some sort of carnival wagon containing a large tiger decked in armour. Its owner, Rictavio, a half-elf, was staying at the Blue Water Inn.

Adran went to speak with him, determining that he was not a native to Barovia, and he had arrived around the same time Lady Arimaka’s group had. He was an entertainer, and he was happy to perform at the Festival of the Blazing Sun.

The next day, the party set out to the Wizard of wines. It was set upon by a pair of dire wolves, but they were no match for the group’s steel and grit. The vineyard was not difficult to find, and the owner was happy to explain the current circumstances.

A circle of druids appears to have taken umbrage with an ingredient used by the owner in his wines, and has taken over the winery. The owner, his family and hands tried to fight back, but were overrun. The party has undertaken to chase off the druids, but progress towards the winery was impeded by a large group of needle studded horrors.

As if that were not enough, Mika has reappeared at the Blue Water Inn. She claims that Strahd released her when he grew tired of her, but neither Adran nor Daisuke are convinced…

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.

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.

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.

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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