On 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”)
The adventurers face down against the six wolves – one of them much larger than the others – and the battle commences! Krossa runs up to one wolf, and – wielding his two hammers, he sandwiches the wolf’s skull into a bloody pulp. One down.
The dire wolf attacks the rest of the party. One of the smaller wolves runs up to Kasimir and begins attacking him. Van Richten’s armored tiger runs over and engages with another of the wolves. Ezmerelda burns through one of the wolves with one fire bolt, and Malis has less luck with hers, though that does not deter her.
Then, two of the town’s guard come running into the fray from behind, cutting off possible escape for the wolves. They run together to one of the small wolves and kill it using their spears. Anna Krezkov also comes to aid the adventurers, and fires a guiding bolt at the dire wolf.
Together, the party fells one of the two remaining wolves, and the dire wolf. Cairie, Ezmerelda, Kasimir, and Fletcher have surrounded the last remaining wolf, but their weapon attacks don’t seem to be doing enough damage, and the blades aren’t sinking in as far as they should be.
The wolf, taking some damage, rises up on its hind legs and assumes a hybrid form of wolf and man – a werewolf. It continues to attack, but the group is able to defeat it, thanks in large part to Ezmerelda’s silvered shortsword, which she sinks deep into its rib cage even as van Richten tries to sputter out a warning.
With the threat seemingly gone, Anna commands the guards to do a perimeter sweep to find out how they got through the wall. Fletcher sneaks off and hides near the gazebo that houses a shrine next to a shimmering pool of water, and listens to the conversation out of sight. The others convene around the dead werewolf as van Richten attempts to inspect the body.
Frustrated, van Richten chides Ezmerelda for her brash action, saying that now they are far less likely to learn anything about the pack and their whereabouts. Malis comes to Ezmerelda’s defense, though, saying that it’s unlikely the creature would have willingly talked.
The party watches, then, as the hybrid form of the werewolf before them slowly shifts back into a human form – and that of a naked young man, torn, stabbed, and bloody. It is not Ilya – Anna’ son, as Krossa had suspected. Again, Anna asks if the adventurers can eliminate the wolf threat, and end the constant struggle against their ilk.
Fletcher, meanwhile, finds his reflection in the shimmering pool, which sparkles in the moonlight. In the reflection, the black fur on his face is gone, his eyes and teeth have returned, though he still appears like that of a living corpse. Fletcher tongues his gums and feels his face. Unfortunately, the reflection merely shows him what once was, or maybe the hope of what could be. He goes back to the group.
Malis and Cairie really want to get back to Kasimir’s hovel to get the holy symbol they seek, and fear putting that off for too long. Fletcher agrees, saying that they have bigger problems to worry about – namely the biggest problem facing Barovia. Anna surmises that the adventurers seek to destroy Strahd. She reveals that the werewolves are aligned with Strahd, and do his bidding. This information somewhat changes the party’s attitude.
Observing the dead young man before them, who was barely out of his teens, a comment is made about the children of Barovia, and how they seem to have no protection from the evils of the valley. Anna says this is mostly true – and that the werewolves are no different. The pack steals children from the villages in order to turn them, and increase their numbers. Fletcher remembers breaking into Old Bonegrinder, the windmill where he found the Tome of Strahd, and what he had found there – barrels full of bone dust next to sacks of flour, and piles of children’s clothing.
Van Richten volunteers to stay in Krezk and scout around the surrounding forest to find the werewolves and their den, which Anna believes is nearby – hence the constant danger. This will free the party to do what they need to do. However, the knowledge that the pack is preying on children and turning them changes the party’s minds completely. They now agree to go out and find the den and do what they can.
Fletcher asks if Anna would be able to provide anything for them in exchange for doing this deed, feeling he is entitled to some kind of reward or reimbursement. She says she might be able to give them provisions and rations, but not much else. Fletcher actually is looking for silvered weapons, or a way to get his weapons silvered. Anna has nothing of the kind, and recommends they check with the Abbot with the Abbey of St. Markovia.
The party then reveals that the Abbot is insane, and that they are not able to go back there due to their encounter. This news alarms Anna, though she admits it does explain some things. Anna then heals Malis some before the group follows a scent trail that van Richten’s tiger found. It leads to a squeeze between the edge of the town’s northeastern wall and the mountain atop which stands the Abbey.
They all slip through the gap and follow a trail northeast into the thick Svalich Woods. They spend a little over an hour tracking the wolves, losing the trail, refinding it, and so on. As various members of the party start to become more noisy, Fletcher goes and condescendingly forces them to the extreme rear of their group, so as not to endanger the rest of them.
Finally, they spot something through the trees – a very large, rocky mountain face, out of which appears to be growing the snarling face of a wolf. A cave has grown out of the mountain over time, which strongly resembles the snout and jaws of a wolf. Malis, Kasimir, van Richten, and his tiger all remain behind, while Fletcher, Krossa, Cairie, and Ezmerelda sneakily scout forward. Cairie turns herself invisible.
They reach the edge of the treeline, and see the large cave up ahead at the end of an incline. Fletcher and Cairie volunteer to scout a little closer, and head up the hill toward the cave. Inside, they can both see the faint glow of firelight, and can just barely hear the discordant notes of a very amatuer floutist.
As they try to get closer, Fletcher’s feet loose a few rocks that go tumbling noisily down the incline. Cairie sees a shadow on the wall of the cave mouth approaching. Fletcher goes up to and hides against the side of the cave mouth, where he won’t be seen. Cairie watches a woman with ratty hair and shredded clothing step out of the cave, holding a spear. The woman looks around for a while, then goes back inside, stating, “It was nothing…”
Cairie stays where she is, still invisible, and keeps watch on the mouth of the cave while Fletcher scales the side and crawls onto the top of the rocky outgrowth in order to peer into the cave from above it. He lowers his head just enough so that his eyes see into the cave, upside-down, and looks around. Inside, he sees two women holding spears some sixty feet into the cave, along with iron sconces along the walls filled with lit torches. The awful flute music is louder within.
While lying on the top of the cave mouth, something small hits Fletcher in the back. He rolls slightly, and hears a pebble hit the rock beneath him. He looks up and tries to see what caused it. He does notice a sort of dip or scoop in the rocky mountain way up high. So he uses his spider climb ability to easily scale the mountain.
Some hundred feet up, Fletcher finds a wide, rocky ledge almost carved into the mountain face. No one is there, so Fletcher pulls himself up. There, he finds a wide circle made of stones, inside which are old splatterings of blood and small bones. Nearby are three spears, also stained with old blood. Fletcher figures someone was standing here, and caused the pebble to fall on him, below, but he cannot see anyone, even with his truesight, nor does he see any way that someone could have easily left this ledge. Fletcher inspects the area, but finds no further answers, so he takes the spears and heads back down the mountain. Some distance down, he wedges the spears into the rock to keep them from being used against them.
Fletcher makes his way back to Cairie and relays what he found, believing the circle of rocks to be sacrificial in some way. Then he takes her back to Krossa and Ezmerelda, again revealing what they found. The four of them regroup with the others, and come up to find Malis and Kasimir playing a game of tic tac toe in the dirt. They explain the situation, and make a plan to go forward and make a full frontal attack on the cave – it’s the only way they can think of to get in and defeat the pack.
Werewolves! Aw, I’m so excited, I have finally introduced the werewolf storyline to the adventure! Like the Amber Temple, it’s one of the harder locations to naturally work into the campaign’s path because it’s so out of the way. You either have to trek through miles and miles of dangerous forest, or traverse a lake and then hike up a mountain.
So when the opportunity presented itself to have the Krezkov’s son be afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy and then he’d turn and the party may or may not wish to go wolf hunting… I couldn’t resist.
So now the party has found their den, and they’re planning a full frontal assault!! I’m such a lucky DM. I’m excited to attempt to present this encounter as a moral dilemma. We’ll see how it turns out.
Werewolves are tough to beat, especially if you don’t have any silvered weapons. So far, only van Richten and Ezmerelda have those – no one in the party has any silvered weapons. I’m not exactly sure how they plan to fight off these beasts – especially those who have no access to magic.
How will they do? Find out next time – “Tooth and Nail.”
Until then – Well Met!