btstrahd

On the Road Again

The battle continues. Herman charges Strahd, eager to fight someone his own size., so Strahd transforms into a humoungus undead lizard monster and eats Herman. Werewolf Mira joins the vampires in attacking Izek. Karl knows a loss when he sees one and dashes toward the house. He sees the teenaged son of the Burgomeister trying and failing to cast spells from the attic and threatens his way in. Ireena decides to surrender to end the carnage. Galen and Trinn struggle to stop her.

Ravens suddenly dive-bomb into Strahds lizards eyes. more ravens arrive, and transform into men with spears. Strahd tosses Herman aside and tears through his new enemies. The wolves beset the were ravens as Izek falls in a pool of gore.

Briza, meanwhile, is on the move: he has reclaimed all of their belongings and their horse and throne. He sees Ricatvios destroyed wagon, former home of the tiger, and the sledgehammers of the Watchter boys nearby.

Ireena struggles to surrender against Trinn and Galen, and in the process she is accidentally injured. Furious, Strahd charges the mansion, blowing the face of the house off. He assumes his Vampire form on the threshold and emands Ireena to his side. Trinn holds her tight. he asks for an invitation inside and demands someone show fealty to their king. When no one responds, he simply walks inside: it had been a ruse all along that he required an invitation. Before he can kill everyone Karl enters and zaps Trinn, causing her to release Ireena. Ireena agrees to go with Strahd, but first removes the wedding dress she is wearing as a statement.

The party can do nothing but watch as Strahd leads Ireena awat. A familiar black carriage driven by Rahadin makes its way toward the house. Ireena screams in horror as she spies Izeks battered and mutilated body. Strahd calls the vampires off and restores the moon, making Mira human again. Finally he and Ireena board the carriage and are away.

Trinn saves Izek life, and Karl kills the Burgomeister for this nightmare of an evening.

They return to the Blue Water and Briza and Urwin, who explains that the ravens are his kinfolk: a flock were-ravens called the Keepers of the Feather. Like the villagers of Barovia, the ravens commit to help party in their battle against Strahd. Urwin pleads for them to head to the winery to speak to his estranged father to reunite the Keepers and get the wine flowing. Finally he gifts them with a wondrous artifact, a bag that can summon animal companions to help them on their way.

The next morning the party make their way out of what’s left of Valaki, heading toward the safety of Kresk and the winery not far from it. Along the way, they are attacked by a mad druid travelling with packs of needle blights, and in the fight Mira breaks her bow. It’s really not been her day. The druid escapes despite Herman’s craziest efforts.

Arriving at a fork in the road the party follow a path that ends in a mansion. The once-glorious building has fallen to ruin. A huge statue of a dragon dominates the courtyard. The party enter a den from the main hall. A spark escapes the fireplace and grows into a dragon/ The dragon is shot and explodes, wounding those in the room.

A secret door in the den reveals a store room and a man hiding. He claims he is in search of a Vistani girl, missing from their camp, but was wounded and has been hiding here to recuperate. The party tell him Arabelle has been brought home safe and heal him. He is relieved and thankful, and shares a bit of information about this house called Argynvostholt…

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Party Crashers

Vargas is on the cusp of doing something terrible to the boy who laughed at him. Rictavio tells Herman to find him at a nearby tower and asks to keep eyes off of him so he can slip away. Herman kills two birds with one stone by punching the Burgomeister in the face.

All that can be heard is the rain. Before the shock subsides a voice calls for the Vargas’ head from the crowd, then another. The men seem shocked by what they are saying. Suddenly a guard is stabbed by a member of the crowd who himself is stunned to to have done so. Those on the stage are suddenly aware that the cult has hidden themselves amongst the crowd and are using their magic to command the villagers to attack the guards and each other.

The party does their best to take out the cultists but as one dies two more appear. They speak words of pain to wound horses, causing the beasts to rampage and crash into the crowded masses. Villagers attack gaurds, who lash out in panic into the crowd. Within minutes the dreary party has become a full blown riot. The party and the guards struggle to kill the cultists as Izek and a group of guards lead Ireena, Vargas and Lydia back toward the mansion. From the direction of the church breaking glass can be heard follow by shrill shrieking. Occasionally a saber-toothed tiger passes through.

At some point the sun is finally ignited, and Herman reasons this is the inspiration the town needs to cool down, so he serenades the riot with cries of ‘all will be well!’ as he stands before the burning sphere and the parties casters send rays of flame into the cultists in the crowd. Briza ups the ante by tossing fireballs and thunder waves into buildings housing attackers, showering the scene in flames and debris. It’s pretty much the apocalypse.

Herman takes an interest in the tiger and rushes to catch it. His timing is poor, however: the sound from the church is made clear when thousands of bats fill the skies, heralding the approach of a number of vampire spawn from the direction of the church. If that weren’t bad enough, more vampire spawn have blocked the path back to the mansion, causing Izek, Ireena, Vargas and Lydia to turn back. And if that weren’t bad enough, the massive sun at the center of the festival explodes, revealing Strahd at it’s core, burning and laughing at they mayhem around him.

Strahd wastes no time heading for Trin. He angrily demands his journal be returned and badly wounds her and Galen. Briza knows where this is going and rushes back to the Blue Water to round up their gear in preparation for a hot escape. Trin is left with little choice but to return the Devil’s book. Delighted, Strahd decides to claim Ireena while he’s here and begins a slow, mocking chase for her.

Herman helps Izek hold off the vampire spawn so that Ireena, Vargas and Lydia can escape back to the mansion, which is surrounded by wolves. Trin and Galen make it inside as well as Karl and Mira assist in the battle against the spawn. Strahd arrives at the mansion and demands Ireena come outside. He reveals he has Urwins children tied by the neck under a tree and will hang them unless she comes. Something is unusual about this, as Briza arrives at the Blue Water to find a secret passage in the inn where those same children and hiding with their mother. Mira ends the illusion by shooting the ‘rope’ around their necks. Strahd is annoyed by this, and decides to reveal a secret of his own: with a wave of his hand a cloud passes before moon, changing it’s phase from to full.

Mira’s heart pounds. Her blood races. Her bones ache and breathing becomes much too difficult, she collapses in pain and howls, before standing again as a werewolf….

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Festival of Fire

Lady Wachter returns her attention to the group. Herman asks for a bathroom then heads toward the basement. Vladislav Wachter corrects him and directs him upstairs. Herman passes the master bedroom and catches a glimpse of what appears to be a man in the bed. He rejoins the group, and they surprise Lady Wachter by denying her their allegiance. She informs them that they shall henceforth be enemies and asks them to leave. Lady Wachter retreats upstairs and Galen follows.

Galen hears lady Wacther in her room talking to someone. As he enters she paralyzes him with a spell and cuts his throat. She disappear into a closet as the group minus Coral and Mira follows.They discover the magically sustained corpse of Nikolai Wachter in their marriage bed. Investigating the closet they find a chest containing some bones and one of the artifacts that Madame Eva had foretold of: the Tome of Strahd. The rear of the closet hides a secret ladder to the basement. Mira reports a rattling sound approaching from the downstairs. Galen joins Mira and Coral. Briza sets the room on fire then he, Trinn and Herman descend the ladder. A number of skeletons tramp up the stairs; half break off to engage the new arrivals.

Both groups defeat the skeleton packs as the fire draws attention from the locals; as the fight rages guards and townsfolk arrive to fight it. Mira finds a library upstairs with a secret room containing a number of treasures. She also discovers the bedroom of Stella Wacther, a young woman who believes herself to be a cat. Izek arrives as the library cats pour down the steps not at all surprised to find the party here. Meanwhile, Briza finds another secret door. Opening it reveals a group of cultists in a ritual chamber. Briza immediately attacks, but they strike him down. Izek manages to kill one but the rest use magic to escape.

Mira, Trinna, Coral and Stella escape the house and rush back to the Blue Water while Izek, Brizza, and Herman discuss options. Herman leads Izek to the Blue Water where Urwin has helped Coral hide Stella. He reminds them all, including Rictavio, that the festival will begin shortly.

They rest and review the Tome of Strahd. The speak with Urwin at length about a letter and their future in Barovia before they head to the Burogmeisters mansion. Coral and Mira instead join the crowd. Vargas and Lydia Valakovich greet them with Izek and Ireena, who is decked out in a fancy wedding dress, “the most beautiful dress in Barovia”.

The festival begins and the group travel to town square as the villagers light torches and fireworks in the rain in a forced attempt to celebrate. They all ascend the stage, where Izek lights a torch for Vargas. A hush falls over the crowd as Vargas delivers an ecstatic speech and raises the torch to light the massive sun. Before he can the rain snuffs the fire.

After a moment of silence a single, loud laugh is heard in the crowd. Vargas grows icy with anger. The crowd parts revealing a terrified teenaged boy. Vargas declares him guilty of criminal unhappiness. Before things can escalate a scream is heard in the distance, then another; someone screams that there’s a sabre-toothed tiger loose; sure enough, a flash of the beast is seen dashing through the crowd.

Rictavio grows rigid and ghostly pale; it’s clear he knows something about the beast…

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Meeting the Neighbours

Urwin rouses the group in the morning and tells them they’ve had visitors: they’ve received invitations to to both the Burgomeister’s and Lady Wachters homes. Urwin warns them to tread carefully; these are the two most powerful families in Valaki, and are mortal enemies. The group decide to first visit the coffin maker, Heinrich, to inquire on the matter of missing bones.

Heinrich the coffin maker refuses to let the group enter so Galen, Coral and Briza break into the back entry. Galen rushes for the upstairs and fumbles. Heinrich panics and implores he stay out but Galen easily slips upstairs. The rest of the group follow minus Coral, who robs Heinrich instead.

The second floor is a windowless storeroom for coffin. Eight older boxes are splayed about the floor. Heinrich begs them to go but he is too late: two Vampire Spawn emerge from their boxes of earth. Heinrich flees the house as a battle erupts. Coral chases Heinrich, finding the old man begging the guards for help, before he disappears.

The party are badly wounded and attempt to move the fight outside. Coral spies Izek, some guards and the priest approaching. Izek burns the coffin makers shop as Galen manages to levitate one of the spawn, and the group kill the other; the collapsing wall exposes the floating monster to bright sunlight and he roasts. As the guards deal with the fallout Izek asks the party follow to the Burgomeister’s mansion. They agree, but Mira decides to track Heinrich instead.

Lydia Valakovich, wife of the Burgomeister, and Ireena welcomes them to the manor. She and a group of upper-class ladies are crafting the final decorations for the Festival of the Blazing Sun. when they have some privacy Ireena reveals that Izek is in fact her brother. She was drawn to him, and he to her. He has sworn to keep her safe and she trusts him, but her faith the Valkovich family is less strong.

The group share a boozy brunch with Burgomeister Vargas Valkovich who seems quite mad. He asks the group for their allegiance and makes them guests of honour at the festival. For some reason, they offer up Rictavio to be a clown of honour? There’s no reason for that. The party also get a glimpse into a domestic issue between the Valkovich family and their teenaged son, who is allegedly teaching himself magic.

Mira locates Heinrich in the church. He explains that he lives in poverty and as an outcast, and nobleman offered him enough money to start a new life in exchange for the saint’s bones. Now the money is lost, his shop is ruined and the guards will surely kill him. Mira takes pity on him and gives him money to start a new life and let’s him go.

After leaving the Burgomeister’s and a quick stop at the Blue Water to regroup with Mira the group head to Lady Wachters. From the basement they hear multiple voices in what sounds like a chant. Ernesto appears and offers his services for cash;Herman misunderstands and punches him in the face. Ernesto leaves, promising that he’ll see them again. Finally they are Lady Wachter. She makes her case simply: she is loyal to Strahd and believes she should run Valaki. She asks the group for their fealty; should they refuse, they will be enemies.

Her drunken sons interrupt the conversation, giggling and carrying sledgehammers as they head out for the day. Their mother leaves the room to scold them and demands to know what nonsense they’re up to as the party consider their options…

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Game of Throne

Herman, Ireena, Trin and Galen help the Vistani girl, Arabelle, into their boat as Bluto holds half-halfheartedly to his, weeping at his missing fingers. A slow wave forms on the far shore and moves toward them; behind it, the colour of the water shifts and brightens. Bluto is soon surrounded in the bright blue water. As the group reforms on the shore a sharp scream comes from across the lake, and suddenly the entire body of water is bathed in magical lightning. Bluto is incinerated. The lightning ceases and a satisfied cry is the last sound from the base of Mount Baratok. Briza decides to investigate while the others return Arabelle to her father.

They arrive at a Vistani camp on a hilltop ringed by ancient houses carved into the hillside. These are the homes of Dusk Elves, Rahadin’s people, living alongside the Vistani. The follow the sound of screams to find Luvash and Arrigal, Vistani brothers, whipping a bound Vistani man, chastising him for losing Luvash’s daughter Arabelle. Her safe arrival brightens thier mood, and Coral teaching them a cruel new whip trick makes their day. The group join the Vistani for drinks and learn that this particular group are loyal to Strahd, but for returning Arabelle Luvash promises that, if Strahd calls upon them to harm the party they will turn the other way. They are offered a reward fors saving Arabelle and of course they chose a throne. They purchase a horse and a rickshaw to ferry their prize around, so they actually lost money on the deal.

After making a great impression on all of the Vistani except Arabelle the party prepare to return to Valaki. They are secretly summoned to the home of a hooded Dusk Elf called Kasimir. After learning the party are enemies of Strahd, he shares his story: centuries ago, his sister had been a love of Strahds. Rather than let her be transformed into a Vampire the Dusk Elves killed her. In retaliation, Rahadin and Strahd executed every dusk elf female and sliced Kasimirs ears off. Kasimir worries for his sisters soul and believes he can save it, and he claims to knows the source of Strahds infernal power. He asks the party to accompany him to the Amber Temple someday soon.

The party and their throne return to Valaki to find Bluto’s mother weeping at the church. Her unhappiness catches the attention of Izek. Before he can detain her Izek spies Ireena and is almost hypnotized. Coral fakes a runaway horse to distract him as Ireena and Trin and Mira head into the church. Izek tosses a fireball, sending Coral on a wild ride throught the streets. Herman almost ruins everything before he and Galen rush to find Coral. Along the way they pass the town square, where they see the guards who ate the dream pies being stoned and humilated.

In the Church the group learn that it is no longer a sanctuary: the bones of a saint made the building hallowed, but they have been stolen. The oung gravedigger did the deed, and from him they learned that he sold them to the coffin maker as he was desperate for cash. Meanwhile, Corals joyride ends at the toy shop of Blinksy. Inside he is confronted with an array of morbid toys, but most upseting of all is a series of dolls that are the spitting image of Ireena. Blinksy shares these were made at the behest of Izek. Galen and Herman arrive and Blinksy agrees to make a doll of Herman. They buy a few Ireena dolls and a Strahd marionette.

They store the horse at the Stockyards next to Rictavios wagon. Inside, something huge lurches and growls, but thats a problem for another day. They finally regroup at the Blue Water Inn and confront a man that has been following them all day. He quickly cops to it and identifies himself as Ernesto, a spy for Lady Wachter. He tells them he can arrange a meeting and they agree. Coral shows Ireena the dolls and she is horrified and confused. Herman enjoys his time in the throne, but is interrupted when the dream pie guards drop by for a drink and decide they want some payback. Herman fights them both in the barn and wins tidily, mortally wounding one. The victory celebration leads back to the bar, where they discover Ireena has disappeared in the chaos.

Mira and Coral rush to find her. From a rooftop Mira locates her as she arrives at the Burgomeisters mansion. The door is opened by Izek and she is lead inside. Mira takes a shot and hits Izeks hand. Izek mobilizes the guard to find his attackers.

The pair sneak back to the Blue Water to tell the others what they’ve learned. Soon after Briza returns, with a story of his own…

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All Will Be Well

The party’s rest is interrupted at dawn by a Vistani knife at Mira’s neck. Her assailant demands to know who the party really are as they lead her to the Tser pool. The pristine water has been transformed into a lake of blood. The Vistani are furious that the group has brought Strahd’s wrath upon them. Madame Eva manages to defuse the situation but suggests that the party don’t stay for breakfast.

They continue through the mountains towards Valaki. Along the way they spy some neatly folded clothes hidden in a bush dusted with raven’s feathers. The rogue takes the feathers and slices the collar of the shirt. Later they fight off a pack of werewolves seeking prey. Meira suffers multiple bites, which probably doesn’t mean anything.
They spot a coloruful carriage making it’s way toward Ravenloft. Soon after they come upon They come upon the windmill depicted in the Death House, now in a deadful state of repair. A flock of ravens act erratically as if they were tyring to warn the group away. Taking the birds advice the party contineues, finally reaching Valaki at dusk.

Unfortunately the city does not look quite as safe as they’d hoped; the pallisades are papered with layers of faded party announcments, streamers, patrty favours, and colourful signs. Wolves heads on pikes line the walls, remnants from the Wolves Head Jamboree. The top layer of signage announces the upcoming Festival of the Burning Sun. The door to the town is locked and they are refused entry until the rogue bribes the guards with Hermans Dream Pie.

Valaki is littered with the refuse of dozens of disappointing parties. The citizenry bear wide, false smiles and meaninglessly call “All will be well!” to passers-by. The party visit a chuch overburdened with refugees before finding rooms at the Blue Water Inn. It’s owner, Urwin Martikov, welcomes them and fills their cups. He laments that the that the wine isn’t their finest; no shipments have come from the Wizard of Wines in over a week. He tells them that if they are able to get the wine flowing it will be worth their while. He also introduces the group to the only other guest of the inn, a colorufully dressed Elf called Rictavio.

They party spend the rest of the night at the inn gathering information. Except for Herman, who engages in a drinking contest with two local hunters and nearly kills them. Rictavio in particular shares quite a bit. They learn:

  • the Burgomeister, Vargas Vallakovich, is obsessed with happiness. He has forced the town into bi-weekly festivals for what feels like forever. Unhappiness is a crime.
  • Vallakovitch has a cruel henchman called Izek that enforces his bidding.
  • The Wachters are a wealthy family that oppose the Burgomeister.
  • Purple lights have been emanating from the Burgomeisters attic.
  • A town called Krezk is further down the road and much safer, although rumour has it something stange is afoot with the Abbot there.
  • The church is a safe haven for refugees and is protected by a powerful divine source.
  • The general lay of the land (lake to the north, Vistani camp to the east, Krezk to the west)
  • Rictavio is a travelling entertainer who has found his way into Barovia by accident. he’s been stuck here for a month.

Addtionally, the rogue has a strange encounter with Urwin after dressing in a disguise that included the raven’s feathers; the innkeeeper grew very serious and demanded to know where the feathers came from. The rogue defused the situation. He was also able to pickpocker a few electrum and a key from the wealthy Wachter brothers.

In the morning the party explore further, searching for safe haven for Ireena. In the town square they witness a cruel-faced man have children toss rocks at people in stocks for the crime of unhappiness while a gigantic wikcer sun is erected. They decide to explore the lake based on Madame Eva’s property but instead find the image from Galens dream journal: in the middle of the lake sits a dull-faced man in a row-boat. Across from him sits a burlap bag. Half the party rush toward him in a boat as he tosses the bag overboard; a young girls voice screams within. The dull-faced man drops into the water in resonse to their screams and grabs the bag. Herman dives in and slices his fingers off as Galen levitates the boat into the boat with Trin.

Trin opens the bag to find a very angry Vistani child. The girl demands to be taken to her father immediately…

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The Road to Valaki

Strahd places a magical charm on Herman and asks he retrieve a pound of flesh from Galen for Ireena’s injury. Galen doesn’t like the sound of that so he levitates out of reach, but Strahd calls the wind and smashes the halfing into the Pillar of Ravenloft. Galen gets stuck on an outcropping as he crashes to the earth, just in time for Herman to hurl an axe into him.

Briza, Trin and Mira retreat into the church where Father Donavich madly chimes the bell. Ireena runs toward the santuary but is set upon by Strahd. Ismark panicks and bites the Vampires throat to free his sister. His plan works, but he is violently thrown and knocked unconscious. Donavich’s mad ringing causes the the bell to break free and it crashes into Mira. The creature under the church grows even more wild at the first sight of the outside.

Meanwhile a Halfing Rogue has entered the church unseen to survey what is happening and watchs as Herman whips his axe – Galen and all – at his friends. Ireena finally makes it inside, and a sudden shroud of silence descends. Strahd can be heard stalking outside before he too grows silent. Dawn breaks over Barovia, or at least what passes for it. Moments later, the badly mangled corpse of the Burgomesiter is violently thrown through the church window. Strahd floats in the shattered stain glass, bids farewell to Ireena, and flies away.

The Rogue decides now is a good time to figure out what’s been screaming in the basement. He opens the door to the undercroft and is dragged down by Donavich’s son, now a vampire spawn. Mira opens the door to help, but is tackled by Donavich. Galen pulls the Rogue free while Herman, himself again, thinks it’s best to throw the priest into the undercroft. The vampire immediately descends upon its father. Briz tosses a molotov but the Rogue believes it’s meant for him, so he catches the bomb and throws it back. Galen magically floats both father and son into the church as the son feasts upon his fathers blood. The morning light lacerates the monster and the party dispatch it. Overwhelmed with grief Donavich collapses on the remains of his son. And then the Rogue murders the priest.

So that went well.

Ismark is resuscitated and together they come up with a plan: Trin will wear Ireena’s funeral garb and go to the Burgomeisters Manor so people will believe Ireena has not left. The group, including Ireena, will travel in disguise to Valaki. Ismark retrieves their belonging from the inn while they rest up. He hands Galen a familiar looking black journal when he returns containing a fresh entry in it. Meanwhile, Mira makes a quick trip to the local shop which proves fruitless; useful gear in Barovia is as rare as sunlight.

The party follow the mountain round out of Barovia. They come to a crossroads with a gallows; a corpse hanged by the neck twists in the wind. As it spins to face the party it is revealed to be the spitting image of Briza. As they examine the corpse a familiar skeletal rider on a dead horse appears out of the fog and descends from the gallows into the forest. The road sign says the path leads to the Tser Pool, home of Madame Eva; whom both Stanmir and Donavich suggested they seek out. Once again, the party follows the dead rider.

After a few miles they arrive at a clearing on a lake. Vistani wagons and tents are scattered abut. Vistani drink, eat, dance and play music. The group is welcomed and enjoy a few drinks and hot food. while they wait for Madame Eva. Galen and the Rogue play a few hands of cards and cheat their way to victory; no way that can come back to haunt them!

Finally Madame Eva welcomes them into her tent. She recognizes each of them as if she’s known them her whole life. She tells them that there is a way to lift the King’s Curse; to do so, they will will need to find powerful artifacts and allies about Barovia. She performs a Tarokka reading which provides clues to where they might find these treasures.

As night falls the party decide to spend the night at the Vistani camp. Darkness falls over the forest…

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The Burgomeisters Funeral

The Death House reaches it’s terrible conclusion: Badger and Wren are lost in the depths and Basti and Arveen are murdered by it’s traps. Meira, it seems, is the sole surivior.

In Faerun a Duchess asks a group of adventurers for their help ‘relocating’ a rowdy caravan. Dozens of colorfully dressed revellers drink and dance around bonfire and invite the party to join them. Their leader, Stanimir, shared a story of his people, the Vistani, saving the life of a wounded prince. The prince would become a king, but a curse has befallen him. Stanmir is searching for hereoes to help lift the curse. They agree to follow the Vistani to Barovia.

They travel over night and day and night again. Breaking camp, they find themselves on a strange forest rounded surrounded by a fog with no sign of the Vistani. A group of ravens circle overhead until a spear kills. Rounding a bend they find a Dusk Elf, Rahadin. He carries a spear and travels is an ornagte black carriage. He introduces himself as the Chamberlian to the king and warns them to stay away from Ireena Kolyana. As he boards the carriage a wolf pack emerges from the fog and attacks. After the battle the group find a body riddled with spears and clutching a letter from the Burgomeister of Barovia. The letter implores people to turn away from doomed Barovia.

They follow the road to a weary village and discover Meira in the street. Meira, Trin and Galen bring the bodies of Basti and Arveen to the graveyard before regrouping at the Blood on the Vine tavern and inn. They are met by Ismark Kolyana, son of the Burgomeister. He asks they touch a small fetish to proves they are free from the curse, and they do. Ismark needs thier help: the Devil seeks his sister, Ireena, and Ismark wants to hide hide her from him. They agree to help.

They rest for the evening at the inn. They notice a curious behavior among some of the locals: they seem empty, almost hollow; they move mechanically and without emotion. A party of Vistani tell them they should speak with Madame Eva at the Tser Pool, a name Stanimir also mentioned. They also warn that the Devil has many spies and many guises. Later, the sound of marching breaks their sleep. Peering from their windows they spy a ghostly procession: the spectres of thousands of warriors march from the graveyard up the step mountain road. The sound of a siege rumbles in the distance.

In the morning they spy an old crone exhcnage a pastry for a four year old child. The crone is delighted by their attempts to scare her and returns the child. She says she’s seen others like them; “a mad wizard”, “silver dragons”; all come to kill the Devil and all dead now, but so exciting to see them try. Herman demands a treat. He gives the child the pastry, which sends him into a dreamy reverie.

Arriving at the Burgomeisters Manor they find a warzone. Ismark introduces Ireena, now twice bitten by the Vampire King. They reveal the Burgomeister died three days ago. Ireena agrees to Ismarks plan to secret her to the town of Vallaki grudgingly, but not until they bury their father – at dawn, according to his faith.

After another night of siege and marching dead the party meet Father Donavich, the mad priest. The interior of the church is destroyed. A voice screams come From the undercroft, begging their father for food. Donavich ignores the pleas. As guests arrive he casually mentions that Ireena is adopted, a fact she does not know herself. Each guest touches the fetish as they enter. The ceremony is brief; afterwards, an elderly guest stands and transforms into Strahd himself. Ismark brandishes the fetish, but Strahd laughs; he created ritual himself to give them a taste of hope. he turns to Ireena and bids her to come; she falls under his thrall and obeys.

Zombies erupt from the graves and chaos breaks out. Briza webs Strahd and Ireena and Isaak; Herman plunges his axe into the Devil to no effect. The baying of dogs can be heard coming closer. Galen sets the web ablaze as Donavich rushes into his church and madly rings the bell. Trin and Herman and Meira pick off the zombies as Strahd lifts Ireena from the web and attempts to leave with his prize. Galen burns Ireena, freeing her Strahds charm. The Vampire raises his claw but Ireena plunges a dagger deep into the Devils neck. Wolves flood the streets attacking anyone and everyone; another pack appears on the roof of the church as Strahd slides the dagger from his neck.

He turns to the party with hate in his eyes…

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The Enemy Revealed

The party decide to rest. Before they do so the ghosts of Rose and Thorn warn that there will be no peace below the house. The children say to use their bedroom while they stand watch. True to their word, the group is able to enjoy a long, event-free rest.

Returning to the dungeon they discover a large room which appears to be a place of worship. A statue of a gaunt-faced man dominates the room. One of his hands strokes the head or a cruel looking wolf, while the other holds a fragile ball filled with swirling gray smoke. Egon reasons this is a perfectly smashable thing so he smashes it. Immediately afterwards the shadows of Egon, Arveen, Badger, Basti, and Wren rip from their bodies and attack.

Basti is nearly killed in the battle, but soon Arveens shadow soon finds itself alone and flees beneath a unnoticed gap in the wall: a secret door. Egon, who is on a roll, throws his lantern at the shadow. The creature escpaes as oil and flame seep under the door. Arveen magically forces the door open, revealing a burning wooden staircase leading out of the dungeon. Wren grabs his sleeping roll to suffocate the flame, but he trips, drags his blanket through the oil, and flings it over the stairs, spreading the flames higher and faster. Badger figures that’s enough of that and slams the door.

With Basti on his feet, they proceed. Basti check a door for traps, which is usually a great idea, but is instead grabbed by the door – actually a mimic- bitten, soaked in acid and nearly killed again. After defeating the mimic the party find the quarters of the cults leaders, Gustav and Elisabeth Durst. Wren opens a footlocker and is immediately set upon by the masters of the house, now Ghasts, who erupt from the clay walls. The party make quick work of the couple; Even Basti stays alive. Wren notices he’s dropped the book he found at the village gate and that there is a note inside in his own handwriting documenting the dream he had the night before. They find a number of baubles, most notably a gorgeous cape which Arveen takes.

Finally they descend to the lower level. The chanting becomes clear and deafening: an invisible choir repeats “He is Ancient; He is the Land”. Stairs descend to a porticullus, behind which is a large, water filled room with large alter in its center. Egon and Badger force the porticullus open; the chanting immediately stops. They and Wren enter the room while the other three stay outside.

As Wren reaches the top of the alter ghostly images of the cult ring the room chanting “one must die, one must die”. The group realizes they are asking for a human sacrifice. Egon realizes this is another good time to throw a javelin. The chanting changes: “Decayer: Decay. Decay.” A pile of corpses, bone, leather, wood, metal, scum – all the assorted trash of a thousand rituals- suddenly moves as a single mind. Mira recognizes it immediately: this is an unholy version of a shambling mound, and they have no chance. The whole dungeon shakes in displeasure. She screams for the group to run.

Wren kicks the creature, and is immediately knocks him out. The paladins determine they must save him before fleeing and attack the creature, fighting for their friends life. Mira runs to the exit but waits; Basti rushes upstairs.

And then Arveen magically slams the porticilus, damning her friends to death in service to her evil god, before rushing past Mira up the stairs.

Holy shit. Just… man.

Mira, Arveen and Basti return to the secret door in the statue room. Basti scales the walls leaving pitons for his frineds to climb. He throws open a trap door to find himself in the hunters den, where Arveens shadow attacks, but is easily killed. The trio enter the room to find the house has changed; the windows are gone and the fireplaces belch black, poisonous smoke. All of the doors are gone, too, and swignig blades now slice through their frames. The building rumbles in rage; it’s not quite finished with them yet…

Downstairs, the paladins get Wren to his feet and fight bravely but the monk is engulfed by the monster and Badger and Egon are badly wounded. The paladins get the portcullis open, and Egon manages to handcuff himself to Wren and pull him out from under the beast, but tragedy strikes when the creature kills Egon. Badly wounded, Badger now stands alone against the beast…

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Beneath the House

Basti inspects the corpse in the chest and determines the victim to be a hapless adventurer killed by a poison dart trap. As he is about to inspect the chest Egon decides to make sure the chest is really a chest – yeah – and hurls a javelin into the narrow chamber and deep into Basti. So I guess the chamber was still dangerous, but not for the obvious reasons.

Inspecting the chest and corpse nets a number of items, including:
- a battered message on the corpse containing a plea for help from the the Burgomaster of Barvovia, Kolyan Indirovich.. A great evil has befallen someone close to him and he is offering a reward for assistance in ridding them of their woes.
- the deed to the house and a windmill, and the last will of the Durst family.
- A handful of magic scrolls.
- a letter from Strahd von Zarovich to Gustav Durst. The elder Dursts seem to worship Strahd as a messianic figure and perform rituals and sacrifices in his honour. Strahd thinks nothing of them at all. Additionally, it would seem there is a dungeon and alter to be found.

The party completely explore the rest of the house, finding a few valuables and an assortment of crossbows, before finally playing the harpsichord. Something in the house grinds to life. The party return to the attic to find a newly exposed, narrow spiral staircase descending deep into the house.

Following the stairs down they find themselves in a series of narrow, man made tunnels. An undecipherable, persistent chanting echoing through the halls. They discover the family crypts and lay to rest the corpses of Rose or Thorn- or maybe not, they kind of mixed the bones all up. They discover the empty crypts of Gustav and Elisabeth as well. Badger opens the matriarchs resting place and is assaulted by a massive swarm of colourless, silent wasps. Mostly in the mouth.

After they deal with the wasps, Basti scouts ahead to find a dining room littered with human bones. The room contains a number of exists and a small larder. Egon opens the larder and is violently attacked by a Grick. The monster is able to knock Basti out and attempts to leave with its new meal, but Egon grapples the creature to the ground. Wren delivers an elbow drop from the top of the table to finish the beast off.

They press on, finding accommodations for both the leaders and the members of what is clearly a cult. One hall contains a descending staircase, from which the chants emanate. As they explore a particularly tight corridor they are ambushed by ghouls erupting from the walls. The battle goes really well; Wren, Badger and Mira do their part and butcher the ghouls. Egon is about to have a highlight of the night moment when he grapples a ghoul Zangief-style. Before he can unleash the ’gief Basti fucks it all up and almost stabs Egon in the eye, causing him to drop the monster. Arveen turns the creature, sending it running, but Basti is pretty sure he can fuck that up too and tackles the fleeing creature in a hallway far from the rest of the party. The ghoul thanks him then quickly knocks the rogue out. Badger rushes to save his friend(?), only to be caught in a spiked pit trap, felling him too. Arveen finally ends the pain by kill the last ghoul and stabilizing her friends(?).

It started off so cool, too.

Battered and bloody the party lick their wounds and consider their options: two more paths remain, one to the west, and one that leads deeper into the dungeon and to the source of the strange, persistent chanting…

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