On Saturday 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”)

As the party regains consciousness, the foreboding atmosphere of Castle Ravenloft begins to affect them. Krossa, particularly, feels as though the walls of the archer’s post in which they spent their rest are somehow a little closer than they were before. He walks around the room to shake the feeling.

Before they set off, Malis wants to go back into the office where they found Lief and search through the chests they saw there. Maybe there’s something useful in them (though, she’s also convinced that at least one of them is a mimic). But what if Lief pulls the rope again, provided someone repaired it while they slept? What if Lief calls for help? 

Cairie has a plan for this: she’ll turn invisible, and then threaten the man with her knife to cooperate. Khurz and Ezmerelda seem put off by the idea of almost torturing a defenseless old man for some possible coin. But they decide to go through with it, as Cairie turns invisible and goes out into the corridor and through the secret door back into the large audience hall.

Malis follows Cairie through the office door as Cairie rushes up to Lief, grabs him, lifts him, and pins him – still invisible – against the far wall. Lief shrieks and shrieks high-pitched yelps of terror as Malis comes in and tries to calm him down. She reasons with him, saying that her invisible friend is quite unstable and will absolutely kill him if he gives her a reason. This works.

Fletcher and Ezmerelda post up on the throne in the audience hall, keeping guard, while Krossa and Khurz remain in the corridor by the secret door, also staying on watch. Malis is able to determine, through light interrogation, that Lief is the accountant for Strahd (whom they’ve started calling “Fraud,” through fear that saying his name aloud may call his attention to them), and has been working for the vampire lord for longer than he can remember.

Lief admits that he came to the valley with Strahd’s family. Cairie eventually agrees to put Lief down when he seems like he’s no threat, and Malis continues to question him. She asks what’s in the chests. Lief says that there’s a small fraction of his master’s treasure in there – the rest is hidden throughout the castle and the valley of Barovia. 

Malis asks that Lief does not reveal to anyone that they were here and had this conversation. She tries to bargain with Lief, saying that if he doesn’t speak about them to anyone, then he could be freed when they have defeated Strahd. She even offers him a position as her own accountant, once she’s free of Barovia and rich. She mentions going on a vacation, which Lief does not understand. She tries to explain, talking of beaches and the sun – neither of which Lief has any knowledge.

Lief asks for one thing: a sheep. He wants a nice, fluffy sheep, which endears him to Malis’s heart. She says he could be a shepherd, and have a whole flock of sheep, but no – Lief only wants one; he doesn’t want to count anymore. Loving this, Malis agrees, and Lief asks her to draw one for him. She does, and the drawing brings a small smile and tears of happiness to Lief’s eyes.

My player’s actual drawing

Cairie checks the chests, but finds old, large locks on them all that would only fit a special key – her thieves’ tools would be too small to affect the mechanisms inside. They spend a few searching the office, after Lief admits he doesn’t remember where he hid the key, but find nothing. Fletcher, impatient, has Ezmerelda ask Lief where Strahd’s tomb is in the castle. Lief says it’d be in the catacombs, deep down below – all the way down.

The party then goes through the other door, closing the secret door in the audience hall, and down a narrow spiral staircase. After a minute, they reach the ground floor, mark the wall with chalk, and keep going down. After another couple of minutes, they reach a landing that opens up to an empty corridor heading forward, but decide to continue downward.

Not seven steps down the next set of stairs, Fletcher, taking point, finds a body lying prone in the way. He casually flips it over, and recognizes Kasimir Velikov. He is unconscious, and both of his legs are completely mangled, bloody, and broken in several places. Khurz comes down, picks up Kasimir, and takes him up to the landing, where he lays him down and casts cure wounds on him, then gently slaps him awake.

Kasimir comes to with a frightful gasp, and Ezmerelda comes over to calm him. He recognizes her better than Khurz, and he relaxes, though is in great pain. He says that the statues did this to him, the statues in the room with the different colored stones and the hourglass. Everyone exchanges glances, recognizing this description of the room with the brazier and the fire that teleported Cairie, Malis, and Ezmerelda back to Vallaki the last time they were in the castle’s dungeons. Kasimir begins to lament about finding his sister.

Malis and Cairie immediately want to bring him along with them, despite his legs – which Khurz offers to splint. Kasimir objects, saying he does not wish to be a burden on their quest to defeat Strahd. He convinces them to let him stay here, where he has yet to be found by anything else. Since he is weaponless, Malis gives him one of her daggers, saying that if things go south, to use it on himself. Kasimir understands, and the party continues down the stairs.

They descend for another ten minutes without interruption, until Fletcher’s foot splashes down into a low layer of water on the stairs. He continues down until he is chest-deep in water, finding himself in the same, drowned dungeon hallway that the women found before. He arms himself with his bow, and starts carefully moving forward. Khurz follows, but keeps his distance. Suddenly, Fletcher disappears, and splashes down into a cell somewhere. He triggered one of the teleportation traps. Cairie comes down and curtly explains what happened, and starts leading a serpentine path through the hallway – having remembered where the traps lie beneath the water’s surface. Fletcher frees himself from the cell and rejoins the team.

They make it to the large torture chamber, and remember they got out by climbing up to the balcony, which Ezmerelda remembers leads to the brazier room. They can go straight to Strahd’s tomb from there, according to the riddle. They climb the balcony, pass through the red curtain, and then the door into the brazier room. They see the white flame, the large hourglass, the colored stones, and the two large, iron statues on either side of the room.

Deciding, again, not to try any of the three doors on the other wall – and convincing themselves that they are ready – Ezmerelda picks up the yellow stone and tosses it into the flame. The sand in the hourglass begins running down. Fletcher is the first to jump through the fire, and each of them follows in turn.

After a blinding white passage, the group emerges into darkness, in a large room. They can feel evil in the very air. Their eyes adjust, and they see a tomb. In the center of the tomb, resting atop a mound of fresh earth, they see an eloquent, polished black coffin, its lid closed. They notice, behind them, a set of stairs leading up to a closed portcullis, and a lever on the wall next to them.

Malis goes up the stairs, and keeps an eye on the coffin, ready to blow it to hell. Fletcher walks up to it, up onto the mound of earth, and checks the coffin for traps. He then places his hands at the bottom of the lid, and glances at the others for permission. They nod. Fletcher flings open the coffin. …Empty.

A hand bursts up out of the earth beneath Fletcher’s feet, and grabs onto him, as three creatures leap up around him!

And they’ve made it to Strahd’s tomb!! What will happen next?! Who’s in there with them?! Did Strahd set a trap?!

Find out next time, in “Beneath Ravenloft!”

Until then, Well Met!