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”)
Three vampire women, all wearing unique, soiled, tattered wedding gowns and jewelry, leap out of the mound of soil beneath Strahd’s coffin and attack!
Ludmilla Vilisevic, wearing a white gown, immediately counterspells Khurz as he attempts to summon his spirit guardians to aid in the fight. Anastrasya Karelova, wearing red, and Volenta Popofsky, wearing copper and gold, attack Fletcher, who fends for himself. Anastrasya casts mirror image on herself and skitters away and up onto the wall. In response, Ezmerelda fires an empowered magic missile at Anastrasya and her duplicates, leaving only the real one left on the wall.
As Fletcher moves around the coffin to reach Ludmilla, she casts chain lightning at him, Khurz, Cairie, and Malis, greatly wounding each of them, and then she backs away to the other wall. Volenta runs up to Khurz and sinks her fangs into his flesh, draining some of his life force. Krossa runs to Khurz’s aid, and Cairie attempts to use that distraction to her advantage and strikes at Volenta.
Fletcher turns and runs up the wall to engage with Anastrasya. Malis lines up a shot, and fires a lightning bolt through Volenta and Ludmilla. However, even though she cast it carefully with her sorcerous abilities, Khurz still takes enough damage to fall unconscious. To try and save Anastrasya from Fletcher, Ludmilla grasps a hold of the human with telekinesis and yanks him off of the wall. But Fletcher holds onto Anastrasya, and brings her with him. The two hang suspended in midair above Strahd’s open coffin.
The group finishes off Volenta, and then Krossa runs up to Ludmilla and pummels her with his hammers, causing her to lose her concentration on Fletcher. The two fall roughly into the coffin. As Anastrasya raises herself up, Cairie fires an arrow straight through her face, killing her. Fletcher and Ezmerelda all run up to join Krossa in fighting Ludmilla.
As Ezmerelda unleashes a flurry of strikes with her two swords, Ludmilla suddenly grabs the blade on her third strike, and slashes a claw at the blade, breaking it. Ezmerelda looks on in horrified shock, as Ludmilla grins triumphantly at her. But Fletcher’s blade suddenly pierces up through the bottom of her skull, and through the top of her head. Ludmilla crumbles to dust.
With that, the group relaxes, and goes to Khurz’s aid. He’s alive, and stable, just unconscious. Krossa is able to rouse him. As Khurz begins to work on a prayer of healing for them all, they are interrupted by a rapping on the portcullis bars behind them at the top of the stairs. They turn and see a man dressed in rich, regal purples, possessing a young, angular face and long blonde-brown hair. He identifies himself as Escher, and asks what they’re doing in the master’s tomb. They tell him they’re hunting vampires.
Escher, excited by the possibility of mutual assistance, proposes that he help them in their quest, if they help him. Khurz rises, and then pulls the lever in the tomb, which raises the portcullis gate. They invite him down to speak, but Escher immediately seems put off by the idea, saying he’s not quite ready to take that step. He hovers above the floor a few feet, says he’ll be up there waiting for them, and then disappears from their sight.
The party then discusses their plan. Khurz indeed performs his prayer of healing, and then they debate whether it’s a good idea or not to destroy Strahd’s coffin. Ezmerelda reveals that, if Strahd becomes too weak and flees, he will attempt to return here to heal. And a vampire as powerful as him cannot simply be killed, he will need to be killed in his resting place. Perhaps they can leave a trap on the coffin? Nobody has the necessary spells to do this, though.
Finally, they decide to destroy it, because then he’ll have no ground to go to. They all ascend the stairs and wait as Malis turns back, and utters a prayer to her hellish ancestors in Infernal. She whispers to her tensed fingertips as red sparks ignite and create a small ball of fiery light, which she tosses over her shoulder at the coffin, causing a huge fireball explosion in the room and destroying the coffin.
As they celebrate this small victory, and see where they are now – the ancient tunnels of the catacombs beneath Castle Ravenloft – they notice that Fletcher is gone…and in his place stands a wight, armored and armed. Krossa immediately grapples the ghoulish monster and tries to speak to it as if it were Fletcher but transformed somehow. Malis, attempting to put distance between her and the fight, moves aside along the wall of the catacombs…and disappears in a flash of light. The group looks, and sees another wight standing where Malis once was.
Fletcher suddenly finds himself in a dusty, dank, confined wooden space. Panicked, he pushes against the close walls around him, but to no avail. Malis also finds herself in a small box like his. Suddenly feeling like the entire weight of the castle is pressing down upon her, Malis also cannot break free. Fletcher steadies his mind with one thought: if anyone is going to sit upon the throne of Ravenloft, it’s going to be him. He pushes again, so hard this time that the lid of the coffin flies off and clambers to the floor noisily.
Malis hears this commotion and starts banging on the lid of her coffin. Fletcher searches among the many coffins that lie within this deep vault, carefully stepping over the thick layer of human bones and rusted swords that absolutely cover the floor. He finds Malis’s coffin and frees her. They begin looking for a way out of the room, but there are no doors. They are trapped.
“Where did they go!?” Ezmerelda shouts as she readies her shortsword and a handaxe. She, Khurz, Krossa, and Cairie face the two wights that attack them, and easily dispatch them. They quickly deduce that they must stay put, that moving out of this immediate space will do to them what it did to Fletcher and Malis. There is no sign of Escher.
None of them have the magic to help them out of this area, so they all decide to jump. Each of them succeeds in leaping over a space of the floor in front of them, and does not teleport away. Now they must set out to find their missing friends.
In the vault, Fletcher and Malis look up and find a long shaft in the ceiling above them. Fletcher spider climbs up the walls and onto the ceiling, where he reaches down to Malis. She takes his hand, and piggy-backs on him as Fletcher crawls up the shaft. At the top, they find one of the walls is actually a stone slab that can be moved. Fletcher pushes it away, where it falls forward onto the floor with a boom.
The two climb out of the room to find it was one of the columns that support the catacombs. Looking around, they see that each of the columns acts as a kind of crypt, and each has a stone slab door that can be moved. And there are tons of columns. They find the floor is squishy, and discover that it’s covered in bat guano. Together, Malis and Fletcher begin searching the catacombs for their friends.
They destroyed Strahd’s coffin!! Holy crap!! I am excited to figure out the ramifications for this, and to see how that’s going to affect the final confrontation. I have some ideas already, just need to figure out the logistics of it.
It was a bit of a shorter session – due to the Covid-19 crisis, we’re all video-conferencing the game now, and some of our internet connection was behaving funny, so we decided to call it early.
But now the party is split!! In Ravenloft, at that!! What’s going to happen to them? Will they reunite? Will one group be ambushed by something truly terrifying? Find out next time, in “The High Tower!”
Until then, Well Met!