On most Sunday nights, a group of friends and I gather to play Dungeons & Dragons. This is the chronicle of their tale. (This post contains spoilers to “Curse of Strahd”)
Rolen and Cairie were nearly to the end of the manmade causeway on Lake Baratok when…
The traveling wagon outside the tower on the little island explodes in a HUGE fireball that curls up into the sky. Khurz the half-orc cleric snaps out of his sleep and sees the destruction across the lake at the tower. He, Rolen, and Cairie go running across the causeway to find Vash’s body, burned and somewhat charred, lying on the other side of the island, thrown clear of the tower.
Sly’s body is nowhere to be found. Khurz goes tromping into the lake and tries to find the halfling, but he cannot. Unable to do anything more, Khurz carries Vash’s body back to Urwin’s cart and lays him there, wrapping him in spare cloths.
Raif, having been not far from Lake Baratok on the road back to Vallaki, sees and hears the explosion through the trees. He makes a run for the lake, and arrives as the party is mourning their lost friends. Upon seeing Raif, a tension forms in the air over everyone…as Ireena had fought with Raif last time they saw each other, and Urwin recognizes him as the man he tasked with going to the winery.
Urwin expresses his displeasure with the other adventurers, who had lied to him before leaving town, saying they did not know the people Urwin described who were going to the winery. They all agreed to get to the winery now, which appeased Urwin enough to calm him down.
The sound of an approaching horse draws everyone’s attention to the road. A Vistana woman arrives on horseback, dressed in bright colors. She leaps off the horse and demands an explanation of what happened here. The adventurers explain that they were looking for a bard that had led them here, and that the wagon killed two of their party.
The woman says her name is Ezmerelda d’Avenir, and the wagon belonged to her. She is very upset that they blew it up, not heeding her warnings to “KEEP OUT,” as the sign on the door said. She punctuates her anger by stating that those that were killed by the blast deserved what they got. She laments over the loss of her personal affects before stating that the commotion will surely attract powerful foes – and that she was already fleeing from Strahd, who wounded her, on her way here. They cannot stay.
Raif, noticing that it has begun to rain, immediately begins to leave the lake, heading for the road. Strahd does in fact arrive. He appears near Urwin’s wagon, taunts Ezmerelda, and attacks!
The group fights back, and quickly realizes that they cannot overpower him, and must flee. Cairie uses her Rogue’s Cunning Action to dash full-speed on each turn. Raif comes running back into the fight while Khurz is dodging Strahd’s fireball spells. He eventually gets a hold of Ireena! Khurz, Rolen, and Urwin clamber into the wagon and start to flee. Ezmerelda gets in Strahd’s face, and touches Ireena, casting a spell on her, which Raif witnesses.
Strahd goes to bite Ireena, but Ezmerelda’s spell – Protection from Evil and Good – causes a burst of white light to flash in Strahd’s face. He drops Ireena. Ismark grabs her, and Raif casts Burning Hands at Strahd! Everyone runs to the wagon to escape, while Strahd makes eye contact with Raif – the warrior with whom he had tried to strike a deal.
After narrowly escaping Strahd, the party debates on where to go in order to rest for the night. Ezmerelda and Urwin both state that the roads and woods are dangerous. Urwin mentions an old manor nearby that should be safe. They head up the road to a mountain spur, and nearly run over someone in the road!
Stopping, they meet an interesting being.
Jonathan now plays shardmind wizard Y’shaarj.
A man made of clear crystal pieces greets the adventurers, and says that he is coming from the manor they seek. He states telepathically that he was just up there, and that the place is full of angry spirits that call for Strahd’s blood. Feeling that to be suitable company, the adventurers agree to go there still. Y’shaarj decides to join them, finding strength in numbers.
The rest of the way up the road, Urwin Martikov info-dumps on the party the alleged history of their destination, which he calls Argynvostholt. He says that the Order of the Silver Dragon used to defend this valley from the barbarians long before Strahd and his armies arrived. Though when they did, the Order opposed Strahd’s rule, and they fought until Strahd and his army wiped them out.
The party arrives at Argynvostholt – a large, crumbling stone manor – and head inside. They find a study, deem it to be safe, and decide to camp there, leaving the wagon and Vash’s body outside with Ezmerelda, who’s wary of the place.
Once inside the study, the fireplace erupts into flame to form the shape of a dragon, which speaks to the adventurers. The dragon says that his knights have been blinded by revenge, and he asks the group to help them see the light and rest finally, and then the fire snuffs out.
A dwarf approaches the manor from the road and encounters Ezmerelda, who agrees to bring him inside to meet the others.
Mark is now playing mountain dwarf champion fighter Krossa.
Krossa explains that he awoke in the woods surrounded by muddy humans, from whom he defended himself and then fled across a vineyard overrun by plant creatures. Urwin confirms that these are the druids of Yester Hill – who worship Strahd as the god of this domain – and that the vineyard is his family’s winery, his goal. The group welcomes Krossa to stay the night with them.
Khurz takes the first watch, and learns more about the shardmind people from Y’shaarj, and their history as part of the Astral Plane. Raif takes the second watch, and takes a walk around the manor. He finds a steep cliff behind the manor to the east, and down – in the marshy valley below – a tiny village. With a substantial Perception check, Raif also notices one of the buildings is moving….
Cairie takes the third watch. She explores inside the manor, and finds a secret door in the study that leads to an ancient wine storage room. Inside, she finds a male dusk elf named Savid, who was hiding because he was wounded on the road and took refuge here, in the haunted manor. Cairie bandaged him in return for possession of his weapons while he stays with them for the night.
And that was the end of the session! It was really fun to come back after that big ending last time. Throwing salt in the wound by having Strahd show up right after two party members died was somewhat cruel, I know, but it fit so well to ramp up the tension. Luckily, my players were able to join in that same session and continue playing.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to run the Argynvostholt section of the adventure – as it’s pretty much entirely optional because it sits off the main road and holds no essential key plot points. It does, however, hold some great benefits to the players if they do things correctly. Based on my players, and how they’ve approached this campaign so far…I don’t think we’ll get to see the full benefits of Argynvostholt.
We’ll see what happens next time, when the adventurers wake up, in my next post, “Shadows from the Past.”
Until then – Well Met!