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”)
In the bowels of Ravenloft, Cairie, Malis, Ezmerelda, and their new ally Emil fight off the last two zombies within a large, flooded torture chamber. Cairie sneaks up on one and drives her new, sentient glowing shortsword up through its spine and skull, slaying it in one blow. Malis picks pieces off of the other one with her firebolt cantrip, while Ezmerelda finishes it off with a well-aimed handaxe throw.
After regrouping, Ezmerelda eyes the balcony above the torture chamber, where two plush thrones sit overlooking the room of death. She wonders aloud if there is a way out for whoever comes to watch. She produces a grappling hook and rope, and succeeds in climbing up. Everyone else easily follows her to the balcony. There, they pass through a curtain and find a door to another room.
Cairie checks the door for traps, and is confident that it is safe, though she still uses mage hand to open it up. Her spell, affected by the darkness of Barovia, produces a sickly green, skeletal hand that reaches out and opens the door.
In Berez, Krossa tries chasing down the wolfen form of Kellen, who flees as fast as he can. Fletcher runs forward with his longbow, and fires two shots, one of which successfully trips Kellen, allowing Krossa to catch up. Kellen turns back into his human, boy form. Fletcher continues pelting Kellen with ineffectual arrows, until Krossa is able to turn him over and hogtie him.
Kellen sobs in anger and frustration, fighting against Krossa with weak jerks and wriggles. Krossa carries him back to the cottages, while Fletcher asks the dwarf why. Krossa isn’t fully okay with killing a child, but hopes to get information out of him.
Meanwhile, Khurz has been checking the remains of Fletcher from where he died. What he witnessed he’s pretty sure is the resurrection spell, but it never leaves behind these kinds of remains – especially since Fletcher died of his wounds from a wolf attack. The remains appear as large chunks of used and burnt charcoals, which easily break apart in his grasp. Khurz can’t quite figure out what happened.
After Krossa and Fletcher rejoin with Khurz, Fletcher intimidates Kellen into spilling what he knows. Kellen reveals that his father is Kiril Stoyanovich, and that he followed their group to Berez from Vallaki, for the last two days. This news spooks Fletcher some, as he realizes it has been two days since they fought Baba Lysaga.
Kellen says that when he returns to his kind, he will get a larger force and come back in order to prove himself to the pack. Fletcher asks what will happen if he doesn’t come back, which Kellen does not answer, frightened into silence.
Krossa wants to head out, but Fletcher asks if they’re bringing the loud child-creature that will give their position away to all of their enemies. Just then, a fireball explodes all around them. After recovering, Krossa looks to see Kellen half-burned up, his flesh searing from the blast – apparently dead.
Fletcher looks for their assailant, and they find Baba Lysaga floating toward them in her skull. She cackles happily at them. Krossa goes to take cover behind a crumbling stone wall. Lysaga says that her Strahd was so pleased with her gift for him. She told him that the human, the dwarf, and the half-orc all died in the battle, and were of no use to him, so that she could keep them as pets and serve in her ritual to Mother Night.
Fletcher tries to use his dark power of suggestion to get her to come down, but it fails. Lysaga, in retaliation, immediately turns Fletcher into a black goat. Lysaga cackles with glee.
Back in Ravenloft, the three ladies and Emil step into a large stone room with a large stone brazier in the middle of it. On either side of the room stand two tall metal statues of knights on horses, their swords drawn and ready to charge. Above the heatless white fire in the brazier hangs a huge hourglass whose sand doesn’t fall from the top portion. On the other side of the room stand three doors – there are messages written on each in blood.
The door on the left says, “Mostly death,” the door in the middle says, “Total death,” and the door on the right says, “Certain death.” On the rim of the brazier are seven cups carved into the stone, with each one holding a different color stone gem. These seem to correspond with a verse written in glowing letters on the base of the hourglass:
Cast a stone into the fire:
Violet leads to the mountain spire
Orange to the castle’s peak
Red if lore is what you seek
Green to where the coffins hide
Indigo to the master’s bride
Blue to ancient magic’s womb
Yellow to the master’s tomb
They find another message handwritten in blood next to the green stone, “Escape.” Next to that lies a gold coin. Cairie notices there is a bloody fingerprint on the green stone too. Ezmerelda examines the gold coin and gives it to Malis, who also notices that it does not have the visage of Strahd on it, which she figures means it comes from outside of Barovia. Perhaps another adventurer figured this all out and left the messages and the coin.
They start to figure out the poem, and guess as to where all the riddles take them. They agree that they do not wish to go to any of these places – thinking blue might take them to the Amber Temple, as could red. Indigo might go to the Abbot above Krezk, who had made a bride for Strahd. The castle’s peak nor the master’s tomb would do them much good in their current state, and going to the top of a mountain would be pointless.
The only one left that was questionable was the green, which was the one with the message of, “Escape.” But could they trust it? Malis starts to examine the handwriting, and latches onto the hope that the elaborate “E” written in loopy writing could be of her friend Gilly, who was taken by Strahd weeks ago. Could she have figured all this out? Could she have escaped?
Hoping against hope, Malis tosses the green stone into the white fire. The fire immediately turns green, and the sand begins to fall in the hourglass. But nothing else happens. Malis and Cairie both become distressed, thinking that something was supposed to happen. They fear that if time runs out of the hourglass, something bad might happen.
Taking a risk, Malis steps into the green flame. She feels her body being tugged suddenly, and almost falls flat on her face, but she steps forward to catch herself, opens her eyes… and finds herself in a completely different place.
In Berez, goat-Fletcher runs into a nearby cottage. Khurz also moves into a cottage, the one across from that one, drawing Lysaga’s attention. Krossa uses that to sneak into the cottage that goat-Fletcher ran into.
Khurz quickly uses the spell scroll of mass cure wounds he took and heals himself and Krossa. Lysaga flies her skull down to the doorway to Khurz’s cottage, and attempts to cast geas on him, asking him to kill his friends. It doesn’t work, though, with Khurz’s willpower being too strong. He runs at her skull, and jumps on, grabbing the rim of it.
Krossa runs out and smashes his hammers into the skull, doing some damage to it. In return, a mass of flies burst from the skull and attack him. Lysaga tries to polymorph Khurz as well, but, again, her spell doesn’t work on him. Goat-Fletcher tries to headbutt the skull, but only scrapes the bottom of it. Khurz, however, succeeds in pulling Baba Lysaga bodily from her skull and onto the ground. He drops down also.
Goat-Fletcher charges at Lysaga, headbutting her fallen form. Krossa comes up as well, and succeeds in hitting her a few times with his hammers, even as the flies continue to harass him. Just then, six scarecrows burst out of the ground and surround the three of them. Lysaga gets up, and casts power word stun on Khurz, freezing him in place.
In this moment, they all hear the squeaking and clattering of something made of wood and metal in the distance. Looking up the road leading out of Berez, Krossa, goat-Fletcher, and Baba Lysaga see a fine black carriage approaching with no horses and no driver.
The carriage reaches them, pulls to a stop, and the carriage door opens. A thin, finely dressed elvish man steps out, his fingers laced in front of his stomach. He extends his master’s invitation to them, saying that if they don’t come, their friends will die a torturous death.
Baba Lysaga steps behind a shield of her scarecrows, and asks if her gift did not please Strahd. The man doesn’t answer. Fletcher suddenly returns to normal, and asks if they get to ride in the carriage. The man says, “Of course,” and steps aside, waving a hand at the carriage door. Fletcher immediately walks over and gets inside.
Krossa sees that Khurz cannot move, and cannot pick him up to carry him, so he pushes the half-orc down and drags him toward the carriage. Fletcher helps Krossa pick him up into the carriage. The man closes the door, and the carriage starts on its way.
Beneath Ravenloft, Cairie and Ezmerelda watch Malis simply disappear. They look on the other side of the bright fire, but don’t find her. Just then, the sand runs out, the flame returns to white, and the green stone reappears on the brazier’s rim. Cairie grabs it again, tosses it in, and the flame turns green again. Sand runs through the hourglass once more, and Cairie jumps into it.
Cairie also appears in the room with Malis, a wooden room full of large crates, some of which have been smashed and their insides have spilled out, which consisted of dirt and soil. Ezmerelda and Emil pop into the room near them as well.
Cairie recognizes this room – they’re in the coffin maker’s shop in Vallaki!
They rejoice at escaping from Ravenloft, and head downstairs, Cairie leading the way. She opens up the door to the front room and walks right into a body. She jumps back to find that the body of the coffin maker, Henrik van der Voort, hangs there just inside the doorway, swinging slightly from the rope around his neck.
Cairie climbs up the door jamb and cuts him down, then walks over him and leaves the store. Malis and the others follow. Outside, they discuss what they want to do. They should try to head back to Berez to see if the men are still there under the witch’s watch. Emil asks about this witch, and Malis mentions Baba Lysaga. Emil says no way, and says he needs to go. Disappointed, but understanding, they let him. Emil asks about his wife, and Malis says they buried her at the winery.
Cairie, Malis, and Ezmerelda decide to try and get some help from their allies in the Blue Water Inn, even if it means running afoul of Lady Petrovna again. Any help would be worth it to reunite with their comrades. They head to the inn, and find it surprisingly lively and warm.
Urwin calls them to the bar, and says that the warmth is because his brother just delivered a shipment of Red Dragon Crush wine, which they have not been able to serve in some time. Malis tries it, and finds it delicious. They say, though, that they have some troublesome news, and don’t want to discuss it out in the open. Urwin takes them into the kitchen.
Malis tells him everything that has happened. She mentions Baba Lysaga, and the castle, and how Danika – his wife – appeared to them in the swamp and turned out to be a hag aligned with Lysaga. Or, she says, perhaps she was merely looking like Danika, they can’t be sure. Urwin says his wife was no hag. Malis and Cairie also mention that they had his boys, and that she tried to deal with them for their safety, but they couldn’t find them.
They need to go back to Berez for the rest of their party, and they need help, anyone they can get. Urwin nods, comforting Malis with words of friendship, and goes from the kitchen. A few minutes later, he returns with Yevgeni the wolf hunter, and Milivoj, both armored up and ready to go. With that, the five of them leave for Berez, Urwin staying behind.
As they reach the Luna River Crossroads, where the road forks south toward Berez, they see the opulent black carriage approach from that direction. It stops, and out from behind it walks the elven man, who invites them to Ravenloft and to join their friends inside.
In the carriage, Fletcher forces the door open with all of his strength and steps out. They all see their allies there, and Fletcher steps up to the elf. He tells him, “Screw your master, screw his invitation, and screw you.” The elf merely bows and steps away toward the carriage. He disappears behind it, and then the carriage starts moving down the road.
Reunited, with Khurz still stunned, the group is glad to see each other, and speaks of their separate adventures over the past two days. They agree that they need to go rest before they do anything else, and start heading back toward Vallaki. They will speak of escaping Ravenloft, of the werewolves, of facing Baba Lysaga again, and of finding the third green gem.
They will plan that, after resting and regaining their strength, it is time. The only thing left that they can do is go to Castle Ravenloft on their own terms – not Strahd’s – and attempt to finally kill the dread vampire lord of Barovia.
Alright, folks, this is it! We’re there! After three years (with some extended breaks in there too), the party is finally ready to enter Castle Ravenloft and search for Strahd! This is going to be AMAZING! I cannot wait to see how this turns out, to see what they will find.
I have placed many exciting possibilities inside the terrifying castle, and so we’ll just have to wait and see where the party goes and what they will find. I’m extremely excited and a little bit nervous – I really don’t want to mess this up. This is, potentially, the most important area of the whole campaign, and I want it to be memorable in the best way.
I was really happy with how this session turned out. I had to be somewhat “in control” of the game to make this all work. I wanted the party reunited just as much as they did, so I was hoping that my guiding hand was more invisible to my players than it was to me. It seemed to work. There were definitely some pretty big “we’re doomed” faces when Baba Lysaga showed up again.
The man in the carriage is Rahadin, but the party doesn’t know that, or know really who he is yet, but they’ll find out soon…for their sights are set on Ravenloft.
Strahd von Zarovich is waiting for them, and the adventurers are on their way….
What will happen? Find out next time in, “Strahd’s Proposal!”
Until then — Well Met!