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”)
For Cairie, Malis, Ezmerelda, and Emil, a short flight of stairs leads up out of the five feet of water in the dungeon to a hallway only covered with about two feet of black, brackish water. They find a hallway stretching to their right and left, both very dark, but straight ahead is another iron barred door leading down into an identical set of cells as the ones they just left, and Cairie sees a pulsing, warm glow coming from inside.
They open the door and Cairie finds the glow coming from inside the first cell. She can see that a glowing blade lies underneath the water. Malis goes in and grabs it as Cairie finds herself doubting its safety. Could this be the sunsword they’ve been looking for? Malis pulls it out of the water, and it suddenly starts shedding bright light everywhere! Malis also hears a voice in her head.
“Ha-ha! Together we shall vanquish the forces of EVIL where they lie!”
The sword is very enthusiastic and full of fervor. It’s ready to go. Malis finds this completely strange and a bit overwhelming. She feels as though she’s hallucinating, and passes the sword off to Cairie, who then also hears a voice in her head.
“Oh! Another wielder! You are not as powerful as the last one, but together! We shall slay EVIL where it lies! Tally-ho!!”
Cairie, a little less annoyed than Malis, agrees, and begins using the sword’s light to search the other cells for more weapons. They find a long-dead half-elf – likely another adventurer from some time ago – who carried a longsword (which Ezmerelda takes), a pouch of gemstones, and a potion of heroism that Malis identified and pocketed. The sword insists to Cairie that they are wasting their time to fight EVIL!
Cairie and Malis also find a ton of treasure in coinage lying on the floors of two of the cells, which Malis greedily starts scooping up, claiming over a hundred pieces of platinum. She gives two handfuls of electrum to Ezmerelda, who then exits the cell block. She calls down to Cairie and Malis, saying they needed to see this.
The two rejoin Ezmerelda and Emil, and Ezmerelda points down the hall, which leads to a much larger, open room. But, before that, leaning propped up against the wall just ahead are Cairie’s bow, quiver of arrows, and her rapier. Cairie, naturally wanting her personal effects, goes to grab them. However, upon stooping to pick them up, she disappears in a huge splash of water, reappearing in one of the cells they just left.
Cairie picks herself free and rejoins the party, a little more annoyed.
Up ahead, they see Ezmerelda’s weapons propped against the wall even further. Cairie volunteers to use mage hand to retrieve them, and successfully does so, giving them to Ezmerelda. She begins to strap up.
In Berez, Fletcher climbs to the top of Baba Lysaga’s hut and looks around for any sign of where they are or where they should go. He sees through the dense fog in two directions the hints of small structures. He mentions this to Khurz and Krossa, and the three decide to check out the ones to the northwest.
Upon reaching them, the group finds these structures to be crumbling stone cottages surrounded by short, decrepit walls. Three of them, in fact. They investigate each one. Fletcher finds his bow and arrows in one cottage, and Krossa finds his hammers neatly propped up in another.
Finding nothing else, they leave and head for the southern group of structures. There, they find even more cottages on the brink of falling apart. Searching these yields Khurz’s axe, and Fletcher’s blades. Then, upon finding nothing else, they decide to follow the dirt road connecting all of the cottages to the north to try and find something familiar. But they don’t get far before Khurz and Krossa hear the sound of quiet sobbing.
They investigate the last cottage and find a young boy with dirty blonde hair. He cries, and is startled to see them. They try to calm him down, and Khurz wins him over by offering him some jerky. Meanwhile, Krossa searches this cottage and finds his silvered dagger stashed beneath a broken, molding table.
The boy says his name is Kellen, and Krossa recognizes him as one of the boys they rescued from the werewolf den. Kellen says that they are still after him, and chased him through the forest. He found this cottage and hid here. Khurz offers to protect him if he comes with them.
Back in the dungeons of Ravenloft, the group moves forward into the large room, now armed and ready to go. The sword that Cairie carries provides enough light to reveal that this huge chamber is full of torture equipment, with skeletons still strapped to many of them. Malis spies her two daggers on a rack far into the room, stabbed down in between a skeleton’s rib cage.
Cairie, being a sneaky elf rogue, asks the sword if it can dim or turn off its light at all.
The sword responds, aghast, “What?! How would we see our way to EVIL and vanquish it?!” Cairie tries to hide the sword in her cloak, which manages to hide most of the light.
With the assurances of Ezmerelda, Emil, and Cairie’s sword, the group goes into the room to retrieve the blades, and Malis does so with no trouble. But then six zombies rise up out of the water and start to attack!
The ladies hold their own, with Ezmerelda proving especially useful with her multi-attacks. She is truly on her game here. Emil also proves useful, as Cairie notices that the zombie’s attacks don’t actually cause him any harm at all. But he tears through them pretty easily. Cairie and her new sword carve through a couple of zombies as well. Ezmerelda finishes off one of the zombies with a flourish, and a thrown handaxe through the face, gaining Malis’s heart-fluttering approval.
Back in Berez, the group of men lead the boy away from the cottages, but they instantly hear the sound of growling. They prepare, with Khurz using thaumaturgy to shake the ground and amplify his voice. He warns any creatures nearby that the boy is under their protection.
They watch as a werewolf in hybrid form rounds from behind the very cottage they found Kellen inside. He says they’ve come for the boy.
Fletcher nocks an arrow and asks if that werewolf was there in the cave, when they made the deal that the pack would all be left alive if they agreed to stop going after the children of Barovia. He asks if the creature remembers that his party killed their leader. He asks if they really want to renege on their deal right now.
The werewolf merely chuckles and says, “Not exactly.”
Fletcher fires two arrows in succession, the first one takes out the werewolf’s leg from under it, knocking it prone. The other embeds in the werewolf’s clavicle. Just then, a huge dire wolf runs up into Fletcher’s peripheral, and clamps down on his bow arm, dealing enough damage to knock Fletcher prone and unconscious. It bites him again, dealing severe and near-fatal damage.
Khurz watches as the werewolf gets up and easily takes the arrows out of its body, unharmed. It charges at Krossa, but is unsuccessful in landing any hits. Khurz runs at the werewolf’s back and attacks with his axe, but it does no damage. Krossa stabs at the werewolf with his silvered dagger, dealing moderate damage against the beast.
A smaller wolf now runs up and bites at Krossa’s arm, dealing a little damage.
Kellen then moves behind Khurz, who is engaged with the werewolf and has cast magic weapon on his axe to actually deal some damage, and the young boy transforms as well. He grows, and changes into the hybrid form of a werewolf. He growls out, “You…killed…my FATHER!” and attacks Khurz! But he only manages to scrape his nails and teeth against Khurz’s armor, leaving scratch marks in it.
The werewolf continues to try and attack Krossa, but the dwarf is too cunning for it. In return, Krossa slashes and stabs at the werewolf with his silvered dagger. He smashes the head of the wolf at his side with his hammer. Then, he delivers a killing blow to the werewolf, driving the dagger up into his brain stem through his throat.
Kellen, seeing this, turns and runs.
The dire wolf, however, tears a huge chunk out Fletcher’s throat, killing him for good.
But…just after Fletcher dies, a swirl of dark energy coalesces in a space not far from his dead body. A deep, purple glow forms within the dark energy as it takes the shape of a man…and Fletcher appears! He reincarnates as a new copy of himself, thanks to the dark powers he gained from the Amber Temple. The dire wolf looks around in confusion at the new man and the dead one in his clutches.
Khurz, agape, walks over to the dire wolf and kills it with two huge blows of his axe, lopping its head clean off. Khurz asks how this is possible. Fletcher merely laughs and laughs, possibly at the fact that he’s the only one who hasn’t gone in on the “names that start with K” business everyone else seems to enjoy.
Krossa tries to chase after Kellen, tackling him and stabbing him with his dagger, but Kellen morphs into his wolf form and escapes even further, attempting to get away.
Krossa continues after him.
Back in the torture chamber beneath Ravenloft, the ladies and Emil face down against two more zombies.
And the story continues! They are separated, but they are not helpless! I was so excited to bring this sword into the game. The book says it communicates merely by sending emotions to its wielder, but I thought, “how boring is that?!” So I gave it a REAL personality! I gave it this really over-the-top, old-timey British accent, like you would hear of the famous explorers of the Amazonian jungles or something. It’s truly fun.
The men, though NPC-less, manage to easily hold their own against TWO werewolves, even while only technically having one silvered weapon!
I was very excited to bring Kellen back into the story. He’s this throwaway NPC in the werewolf den location, but I wanted to give him a bigger role in the story, and to kind of show that the werewolf threat to Barovia is not quite done with. What the players end up doing with this information is up to them.
My other main thing about doing this was how fun it was going to be to throw an evil child character at them. Up to this point, there haven’t been any evil children. All the kids that they’ve run into have been innocents, and victims. Poor Yeska was killed by Strahd himself, and Ilya was attacked and turned into a werewolf and then killed his own father.
So now was my chance to throw them off with a seemingly innocent, helpless child, who turned out to be a werewolf after their blood! It was definitely fun. Just wait until you find out who his father is!
It was SO FUN having this double encounter thing going on. I wrote out this post as I described the action, so we were constantly switching back and forth between the action like it were a movie, and it did feel very cinematic (something one of my players said, not me!), and it was awesome.
That theme continues in the next session, where the group has to figure out how they’re going to reunite with each other. Will they? Will those trapped in Ravenloft ever escape? Find out next time, in “A Momentous Rest.”
Until then — Well Met!