Four Fables

Episode 313
The Abbey of St. Markovia

The whole party arrives in a cold room within the Abbey of St. Markovia located in the village of Krezk. Well, almost all of them; they all begin to realize some went other ways with the colored rocks: Emil went to Valaki with the green stone, Kasimir went to the Amber Temple with the blue stone, and Shep, well, he should have made it with them but is no where to be seen (or even sensed by Breath of Wind’s revenant ability). The party hopes Shep is ok but are more concerned with the grotesque, two headed viol player in the room with them.

They meet Clovin, a drunk and the head servant of the Abbot. The human priest only named the Abbot has, for over a century (and not aging), taken care of the Abbey of St. Markovia which was believed to be cursed by the villagers of Krezk for a long time. They all meet the Abbot who, at first, assumes the party is servants of Strahd since coming through the teleportation device. Once true intentions are revealed it seems the Abbot has been creating flesh golems in hopes to appease the Devil, himself, with a “perfect” bride which will return the lands of Barovia to a happy and peaceful time once again. He believes his current one is ready but just needs the most perfect bride dress. Senna is ready to take on the Abbot (who has been respectful to these new visitors this whole time) but he turns into a beautiful angel and clobbers Senna with his mace in one hit. The party, ready to fight, begins to make their attack but Ismark is able to calm everyone down. Breath of Wind realizes the item they need, the Tome of Strahd, is here in the Abbot’s dining room. The priest didn’t know this and proceeds to pull the secret cache out behind the mantle over the fireplace. Breath wishes to have it but the Abbot finds this as an opportunity to trade: the book in exchange for them to find a dress for his flesh golem, Vasilka. The group agrees and they leave the abbey as they hear strange screams, laughter, and all sorts of commotions behind locked doors further inside the temple. They also ask Clovin to take care of their friend, Shep, if he shows up sometime soon.

The heroes descend the cold mountain and into the village of Krezk. They become good friends with the Burgomaster, Dimitri, who assumes they are with the Abbot. They only say they are travelers on a quest for him. The burgomaster is able to give them warm cloaks and a place to stay after Breath of Wind is nice enough to perform a worship service for Dimitri and his wife, Anna’s, late child who died of disease just a few days ago. Talks of who will take over as Burgomaster when Dimitri and Anna passes away have been floating around the community since that was their last child who has died. To add insult to injury, someone has been grave robbing in the middle of the night to steal entire bodies for the past few months within their community.

Ireena is drawn to the natural spring to the north of the village for some reason. Locals say the pool was blessed by St. Markovia herself long ago. Ireena has a similar feeling as she did the other night after her horse died. She explained to her brother that her horse, Lo-Shid, spoke to her in her dream last night (while in Rudolph’s tower), telling her that he was in a safe place but that his name was not Lo-Shid, it was Sergei. It turns out this sense of calling was the spirit of Sergei himself, who reaches out to his beloved “Tatyana” (aka “Ireena”) who appears as a water spirit from the blessed pool. Senna has a similar experience there by the pool but senses her late half-brother, Thorin, who was almost killed but saved by his vampire lover, Hulda, who changed him into a vampire as well. Even the water spirit, Sergei, looks similar to Thorin according to Senna. Because of this similar connection, Senna prevents Ismark from stopping Ireena from touching the water spirit’s hand. Ireena exclaims, as if she has known all along yet she has never said anything like this before, “My beloved Sergei! In life, you were a prince and a man of faith. We were to be married long ago. Has this blessed pool called your spirit to me?” She reaches out and embraces the water spirit, Sergei, and, with that, she is pulled into the pool as they both look so happy; they fade from existence. Ismark is mad, and frantically tries to rescue her. But she is gone and the monk is struck by blue lightning as a thundering voice comes from the east that bellows, “She is mine!” Strahd is not happy.

All is not lost though. The party finds the pool has restoration magic to it for those who first drink from it (and only one time). Also, Ismark finds new purpose as his new weapons begin to de-age in the pool. You see, Ismark found a scroll from an ancient monk sect known as the Okina Tobira (“The Great Door”) within Castle Ravenloft’s walls while they were there. This kensei secret group of monks were sworn to prevent outsiders from entering the Amber Temple. They practiced the art of the Katana (sword) and Yumi (bow) and were trained to specifically take on spell casters since the Amber Temple has a plethora of knowledge of the occult. It seems one of these monks tried to take on Strahd many years ago and failed so now Ismark takes on this Kensei mantle and agrees to help the heroes in order to get to the Amber Temple since he is called there himself.

They get back to the cottage of the burgomaster where they had tied up the “Barovian” they captured and brought here from the Castle. Unfortunately, the thug slipped away out the back window when no one was there. The party gives up on that lead and decide to rest there for an hour, partaking in a meal provided by Anna. The locals tell them that Vallaki has the best tailors in all of Barovia and they would be able to make a beautiful wedding dress for Vasilka.

Before leaving Krezk, they see the thug they had tied up before on top of the city wall not far from the main gate. He points at Senna and casts a Vistani curse upon her, “Forever you shall be cursed! May the beasts of woods prey upon you and the wounds you receive from their jagged teeth forever scar you!” The Vistana jumps over the other side of the wall and onto a horse (with the help of another Vistana it seems who is on his own horse) and gallops off. The party takes pot shots at them but are unable to strike any of them down.

With that, the heroes travel towards the east to Vallaki. On the way they find a bundle of clothes hidden in a hallowed out tree log (peculiar…). They also come across an abandoned hut along the trail. There, they are greeted by a large pack of wolves who begin to over power the group. Breath and Ismark don’t know what to do as the wolves devour Senna before she can even try to climb up on top of the house; it seems the curse on Senna was effective. Suddenly, a werewolf peeks out from the woods and whistles at the pack of wolves; the pack scatters. Emil shows his face as the werewolf and gives them a smile and says, “You saved me, now I saved you. We’re even.” And he trudges off into the dark woods. But it’s too late for Senna. Her lifeless body lies on the ground. But not for long. Once again, the Raven Queen, has found a new follower yet Senna’s head is filled with new powers as a revenant and the whispers of the dead that distract her constantly. The undead slayer is not happy as she becomes a partial undead servant for the goddess, The Raven Queen.

The group is quiet the rest of the way to Vallaki with Senna trying to understand her new found powers. Once at the gate of Vallaki, a raven greets them, beckoning them to follow it. They trust it as they enter one of the side gates and up and down various dark alleys in order to keep from drawing too much attention to themselves. They arrive at the Bluewater Inn and are escorted quickly inside by Urwin Martikov, their wereraven friend. They are given refuge that night in the raven’s loft that is only found by a secret door within the inn. Urwin explains that with the Wachter’s all but dead, missing, or imprisoned (the Wachter boys are), the Baron is blaming the adventurers for the tiger attack (Rudolph’s tiger that went on a rampage inside the town a few days ago) and the Wachters and their cult. Rudolph and the rest of the party are wanted criminals in Vallaki. When asked about a wedding dress, Urwin mentions that the Baroness had a beautiful wedding dress ready for Stella Wachter who was supposed to be wedded to their son, Victor (though that never came to fruition). With that only lead, the group prepares for tomorrow an infiltration into the Baron’s home, grab the dress, and get out of town quickly.

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Episode 312
The Hourglass

The heroes continue to explore the castle finding it’s interesting denizens: zombies, betraying Barovian thugs, creepy crawly hands, wights, and much more. At one point, Kasimir says he is called by his sister in the crypts and he runs off downstairs. The group chases after him and are greeted by a banshee within his sister, Patrina’s, crypt. Many are struck down but the group is able to stop the banshee from destroying them. Kasimir, when he comes to, explains to them in his grief that his sister was stoned by him and his elven brothers for fear that her betrothal to Strahd those many years ago would come to fruition. In response, Strahd orders Rahadin (a dusk elf himself) to kill every dusk elf woman and cut the ears off all of the male elves as punishment. He believes with her spell book (now in the hands of Shep) and the powers that are in the Amber Temple that gave Strahd his vampirism will resurrect her to her true elven self.

Shep breaks down as well in this conversation, telling of his story: His family was from Berez and his parents were killed by Strahd for being followers of the Raven Queen, the fire from the vampire’s spell destroyed his eyes in the process. Kasimir says that’s impossible because Berez has been in ruins for almost 200 years. Shep realizes when his family was killed and he was transported through the mists to Erryes, the timeline jumped 200 years into the future. Kasimir figures that he must be Ulrich’s boy, the burgomaster of Berez long ago who was killed for killing a woman Strahd had favored and wanted to turn into one of his vampire brides.

The group find many traps along the way but also a few new interesting items: a shimmering short sword, a silver statuette, a black mace, and Patrina’s spell book (along with some coins). At one point in their rest in the dungeon Shep is almost killed by a pair of wights and almost welcomes death for the fact that he feels no one is listening to him anymore. However his new mace calls to him and he uses it’s power to drive the undead away by himself. A new resolve is on the boy’s face, as if he has aged a few years.

Also during their rest, Deckard is greeted by an invisible voice who claims to be on his side. She claims to be Ezmerelda, the apprentice of Rudolph Van Richten. She doesn’t totally trust them but gives them some clues on where to go to get out of the castle. “Indigo and green are safe colors when it comes to the hourglass,” is all she tells him. She says not to tell the rest of his crew about her until she can totally trust them. She says she has been here for two days, exploring the entire castle to become familiar with it when she decides to strike down Strahd herself. Deckard agrees and she is gone.

Thanks to the new directions that Deckard has, they continue to travel through the castle. They also save a Vallakian man named, Emil, from the dungeons who claims he was chased by wolves, captured by Strahd’s guards, tortured and thrown in this cell. He gives aid to the heroes as they travel throughout the dungeons.

The heroes finally come across an hourglass hanging from the ceiling; ;the sand within it has stopped. One of the kids listening to Razzle Frazz’s stories in the present day points out that the same hourglass is hanging on the storyteller’s wall but looks a little different compared to what it was in Strahd’s castle. Also within the room is a brazier with strange colored rocks near it and a riddle written on the hourglass. It seems this will transport them to various places throughout Barovia. The riddle says:

“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 the ancient magic’s womb
Yellow to the master’s tomb”

Deckard just says, “Trust me,” and casts the indigo stone into the fire and is teleported away. The rest fall suit (including the knocked out “Barovian” Ghrakis is carrying with them) but, with only a few remaining, Breath of Wind witnesses Emil turn into a werewolf and he seems genuinely appreciative of their help getting him out. He casts the green stone in and is gone. Kasimir says after that, “You know I must do this,” as he grabs a blue stone and says, “Tell Shep I trust him with my sister’s spell book, but I must go to the Amber Temple and find the way to save my sister,” and with that, he’s gone too.

Breath hears footsteps from beyond the door as he tries to figure out which stone to throw in. He panics, grabs the indigo one, throws it in the fire as the door opposite the room opens showing the devil, Strahd’s, cruel face.

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Episode 311
A Dinner Invitation to Castle Ravenloft

Before leaving Krezk, Rudolph apologizes to Deckard. After an acceptance to his behavior, Rudolph offers to help revive Tornado in a timely fashion so they can still get on the road before dark. After reviving the ranger’s once again zombie cat, Rudolph mentions that his own saber tooth tiger, “Moongrass,” (a familiar tribe name to Breath of Wind) was once a mother not long ago though her only cub that survived while here in Barovia went missing. He believes that Tornado was in fact the cub of Moongrass (though Moongrass doesn’t acknowledge the undead creature now). Rudolph, after his conversation with Deckard, realizes that Breath of Wind may be undead himself. So he talks to the catfolk and asks what his plans are if he gets his friends out of Barovia and vanquishes Strahd. Breath says the Raven Queen will most likely take him to the unknown and he will finally be put to rest. Rudolph offers to help Breath in that situation if it comes to it, Breath “appreciates” the offer as best as he can.

Within a half hour’s time, the group arrives near the gates of Krezk. Senna Loot’sko is able to inspire the group by telling of her past family issues with vampires and hopes that they will come together as a unified group after all they have been through. A slow clap and “Bravo!” comes from around the corner as the group comes upon a dignified dusk elf dressed in a nice, ornate black suit standing in front of a large, black carriage. He exclaims how great Senna’s speech is and introduces himself as Rahadin, the head chamberlain of Lord Strahd Von Zarovich. He bows and gives the group the letter they “dropped” (the one burnt by Shep) as it is an invitation to dinner with the Count at Castle Ravenloft. The group, ready to fight, now notice a group of werewolves (the same ones Ireena saw earlier that morning) surrounding them in the woods and threatening the Vallakians that they were escorting. Realizing there is no way around this “dinner invite,” the group agrees as long as the Vallaki servants and Stella Wachter are brought to Krezk. Rahadin agrees and orders the werewolves to escort the scared Vallakians with the party’s letter from Baron Vargas in their hands.

The heroes are taken by a jovial elf many hours into the night towards Castle Ravenloft. Many various dark creatures (Scarecrows, wolves, evil druids, twig blights, Vistani, etc.) greet and bow before the carriage and Rahadin. Deckard takes out one of the twig blights with his crossbow but is greeted by various (presumably dead) voices within his head thanks to Rahadin. It disturbs and hurts him as he becomes quiet for the rest of the trip.

They arrive at the castle, rain soaked, as they enter the grand entrance of Strahd’s grand home. There they have dinner with the vampire himself, Strahd (or so they think). He entertains them with organ music, food from their own specific home in Erryes and he pleads with them that he is a just ruler of Barovia. He wishes two things: one of these 5 heroes that came from Erryes to become his heir to his throne and to have his Tatyana back, a soul he believes inhabits the body of Ireena. She refuses, They disrespect him in his own home and he seems to be very upset by this. The candle lights extinguish all the rooms and they hear every door, portcullis, and drawbridge close within the castle and outside the courtyard. It seems they must now find a new exit and leave this terrible place.

While traveling they are attacked by creatures of shadow, flying swords, (even a Strahd mannequin that “attacked” the party) and swarms of bats as the murderous castle seems to be very hard to take even an hour breather. They also come in contact with Lief, Strahd’s accountant. He is a prisoner here and says he wouldn’t make it out there, plus he’s chained to his desk. He tries to ask the heroes how much they are worth in gold in order to best account for Strahd’s future wealth. The heroes also notice many adventurer name’s above their own in a thick ledger he is working on. They don’t seem to appreciate that and they interrogate him for information but he isn’t too forthcoming. They do take some of the gold and platinum from his room including an interesting and magical book to look at later.

The 8 heroes continue east further into the castle as Kasimir feels going out the front door might be too dangerous; they also find a large window on the west wall of the castle to be reinforced with magic so going out certain windows might be too hard. The wizard did hear from his sister that Strahd is a powerful wizard as well and might have the ability to teleport to various places in Barovia so easily from within his castle.

They happen upon two very unique zombies sitting in chairs as they are attacked near what appears to be a broken chapel.

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Episode 310
Explosions and Explanations

The group traveled west towards Vasilli Van Holtz’s tower. On the way they are almost ambushed by mud soaked men with stone axes. Their guttural language was unknown to the party but they were able to make peace with them before an attack happened; both groups retreated.

The mist makes it hard to see and the group becomes lost in the woods finding themselves north of Lake Zarovich. There they see an elk transform into a man who yells at them, “You thought you could take me in my weakened state? You’ll never take me and my eldritch might!” He casts a lightning bolt that knocks Ismark unconscious but Ireena is able to calm him down before a fight truly begins. He doesn’t know his name but the only word that comes to him in his maniacal monologue is the country name, Cush. Breath of Wind, convinced this is their ally according to Madam Eva’s fortune reading, is able to calm him down and find out what’s wrong with him. He invites them into his magical pocket dimension further north in the woods where the culture and amenities of the world of Erryes is littered throughout the many roomed mansion. Breath finds that his mind is broken and a specific spell, “Greater Restoration,” will cure him (but only if they let his “Mind Blank” spell finish for the day since he casts it on himself every morning and that protects him from such restoration magic). Before they can make anymore leeway with him he shouts at them to get out, threatening the fight all over again, his mind is truly broken. The group leaves back into the woods and marks their whereabouts for later on, swearing that they would restore the mad mage’s senses.

After an almost deadly fight with horrible scarecrows, the party limps to the lake where the tower is. They try the door but find it booby trapped with a lightning bolt that almost kills some of them. Thinking that’s the only trap, they check what they think is Vasilli Van Holtz’s wagon parked outside, and are treated to another large explosion in their face as hundreds of alchemist’s fire that is lined within the wagon are ignited once Deckard tries to enter the wagon door after picking it’s lock.

With that another death is observed: Lo’Shid, Ireena’s horse, as the explosion guts him. Picking themselves up, the group moves into the tower (after figuring out it’s puzzle). Ireena and Ismark mourn the horse’s death, with Ismark emptying all of his bottles of wine into the lake, swearing to no longer be a drunk that hurts his step-sister and new friends. He mentions to Senna at one point that his efforts must be turned to meditation or else what’s left of his family will be totally gone. The group finds an antimagic field placed on the tower along with strange clay golems that lift the small elevator inside up and down the various floors. They explore Vasilli’s home, finding not much to it except a living quarters on the fourth floor and a severed Vistana head inside a chest. Also a strange, perhaps magical, set of plate armor is found and taken by Ireena.

During their rest there in the early morning, those on watch find that a group of wolves are interested in the horse carcass outside. Ireena checks on them on her watch and notices a pack of them are eating Lo’Shid with the Alpha protecting them. What’s strange is that the large wolf even speaks and says, “This is our prey and you will be ours as well if you interfere.” Upset, but feeling outnumbered, she backs away into the tower, sobbing. The wolves leave after their bellies are full.

They finish their rest there, with Breath of Wind now contemplating of removing the glove on his hand forever as it’s magic doesn’t seem to work inside the tower. Senna says he doesn’t have to use it but Breath thinks with its power it will be necessary to kill Strahd, so he puts it back on. As they go outside the glove (an obviously cursed sentient artifact) hurts him shouting that he must never enter that tower again or else.

Vasilli, in his actual wagon, arrives at the tower after their rest. He claims the muddy road got him stuck for the night. The group tells what happened and he says the wagon that blew up was most likely Ezmerelda’s, an ex-pupil of his. Upon entering his tower he fully explains who he is. He removes his disguise and says his name is Rudolph Van Richten, a vampire hunter who has tasked himself to kill Strahd. He thinks the party is on to something good with the tools needed to destroy Strahd. But he is very upset that they have aligned themselves with the dusk-elf, Kasimir, as the dusk elves are known to be in league with the Vistani (who he hates extremely). He realizes the only way to prove Kasimir’s innocence is to ask the dead Vistani head that he has in his chest. He goes outside and casts “Speak with Dead” on it and interrogates it. He is able to deduce that Kasimir doesn’t work for Strahd. He is on neutral terms now with the party and says that if they get the tools they have mentioned to defeat Strahd he will help by finding a “Greater Restoration” scroll for the Mad mage. Expecting an exchange for this, Rudolph just says he wishes to help by seeing if they are truly here to defeat the devil. Though he doesn’t show it, he seems hopeful for these heroes. The group gathers to leave for Krezk and begin their travels there.

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Episode 309
Tea Time!

The group spent the night in the church, consoling the villagers there and Father Lucien. The next morning they are able to buy some new equipment and “interesting” new toys from Blinksy’s Toy shop (also getting some information from Blinksy while they are there).

Later that day they are honored guests at the Festival of the Blazing Sun. It goes off as best it could…until the rain came and doused the fire spectacles. People are upset but most surprising to everyone is Lars, a town guard, who bursts out laughing due to the mishap. The baron exclaims he must be arrested for insolence. He is dragged away, manacled and in shame. Shep tries to liven the party back up by casting a fire spell on the wicker sun and is called a witch by the villagers. Izek insists he must be arrested for casting magic and the party is about to fight their way out. Thankfully, though, Ismark’s quick thinking and tongue is able to bribe Izek to let them go. Izek still “arrests” Shep and takes them all away. Once the money has exchanged hands he lets the boy go and insists they leave their city by this afternoon, the party agrees.

Before leaving they go the Wachterhaus to still visit Lady Fiona. Shep notices the eye he drew was on this house (due to the mysterious man who followed him a few days ago). They enter and are greeted warmly by Lady Fiona and her servants (though not Shep’s mysterious follower). She invites them for tea since they have to leave so early and they all oblige (Deckard is even able to get a cup of an exotic drink to the Barovians: coffee) and try to get information from her. Not much is gleaned, except the fact that they were drugged from their drinks!

The whole party falls asleep with Deckard waking first in what appears to be a cultist’s sacrificial chamber. He wrestles a dagger away from Lady Fiona and stands to wake up his friends. A skirmish breaks out between the party and Lady Fiona and her cultist “book club.” An imp appears to fight at one moment but is severely hurt from Ismark and he flies away with his tail tucked between his gangly legs. Fiona shouts that her master, Strahd, deserves this town more so than the baron and that they won’t get in her way. But by the power of the Raven Queen and the rest of the party, they vanquish all of cultists. Deckard, seeing the fight seemingly over, steps out of the secret room and a crew of undead skeletons breaking from the ground assault the group immediately. After taking care of them the group finds Senna and wakes her up.

They bandage their wounds downstairs for an hour and proceed up into the Wachterhaus, exploring its seemingly empty grounds. They gain some treasures and find some letters written to Fiona’s ancestors from one simply named “Rictavio.” They also confront the chef and maid of the house who were asleep. They say they never knew about the cultists downstairs and Lady Fiona’s true activities. The party believes them and agrees to give them safe passage to Krezk because if they stay, the Wachter boys will have them hanged for betrayal.

Noticing it’s late at night (and that they said they would have left the town by now) they quickly find the rest of their group at the western gate leading out of town. The others mention that a large saber tooth tiger was running a muck after the festival, though it never killed any villagers, only 2 vistana. It turned out it was their new friend’s pet, Vasilli Van Holtz (the carnival master from the Bluewater Inn). He thanked the other party membesr for getting him out of town with his pet without troubles and says there is a tower to the northwest of here that he plans on holing up at if they ever want to visit him.

The group, under the cover of night (and hopefully Izek not following them), travels the western road toward Krezk.

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Episode 308
Him

The gang is summoned by an old man in the woods not far from the winery. They talk to him, cautiously, as they find out he is Davian Martikov, the owner of the winery (he is accompanied by a few others from his family). He explains that a bunch of druids came into his winery and took over the place as he and his family ran out in a hurry a few days ago. The party agrees to help them.

The heroes approach the house and are greeted by dozens of deadly blights. They run into the house and find many more blights along with the crazed druids who seem to be poisoning the caskets of wine. With the help of a few swarms of ravens inside the winery, the group is able to vanquish the blights and the druids (though one gets away). They are able to take on the 60 some enemies because Shep and Ireena find that one of the druids had a magic staff that controlled the blights. Once they broke it the remaining blights collapse in a heap of branches.

The family is thankful and shares with the heroes that they are secretly wereravens themselves, sworn to protect this land from Strahd. Breath of Wind references the Raven Queen but they mention they follow the practices of Mother Night who no longer hears their prayers. They also mention that the winery will be inactive from now on as the 3 magical seeds that gave life to their crops was stolen by these druids. 2 of their last known whereabouts were taken to the ruins of Berez and Yester Hill (the third is unknown). The party agrees to search for them and helps the delivery of wine get back to Vallaki (with a very happy and drunk Ismark on the back of the cart).

While they travel north to Vallaki, Senna explains what happened to her in Vallaki. She met Lady Fiona Wachter, who she did not get along with well but found out that the Wachters aren’t a fan of the Baron and his leadership. Senna also found out from Nikolai that his sister, Stella (the one who is mentally disturbed), was supposed to be wed to Victor, the Baron’s son, but that fell through a few months ago when she started acting like she was a cat.

After leaving, Senna spent her day with Blinksy and his toy shop. He was kind to her (though his toys were quite creepy) and his monkey, Piccolo, warmed up to her as well. In her travels throughout the town she became quite soaked and Blinksy offered her a red dress as an apology for his untrained monkey who stole her purse earlier. She agreed and got to know Blinksy learning that he is in search of Fritz Von Weerg’s (his mentor) greatest invention, a clockwork man that he believes to be in Castle Ravenloft. As Senna looked at all the dolls, however, she noticed one that was not for sale that looked exactly like Ireena (and her). When questioned about it Blinksy admitted that Izek threatens to close his toy shop if he doesn’t continuously make these dolls for the captain of the guard. Every month Izek gives more details of what he is looking for; this made Senna uneasy as the toy shop owner didn’t know why he wanted these.

That night, after dinner with Blinksy, Senna strolls back to the inn while a billow of smoke and fire looms overhead on the opposite side of town. On her way a vampire spawn draws her into an alleyway and introduces himself as Escher. He bites her, marking her neck and claims, “I will have you later, my lady. You are ravishing.” She slumps down, horrified, as he sprints away. A guard comes to help her and runs after the vampire spawn. Senna, scared for her life, finds an abandoned home and spends the night there. She returns that morning to go with the party to the winery.

Upon arriving in Vallaki with the wine, the Martikovs reward the party for their help along with the Baron at his home with each hero asking for a specific reward. Examples of some of those rewards are: gold, an unlimited wine ticket when staying at any tavern in Vallaki, a new toy from Blinky’s shop, and a written consent of safe passage into the walled city of Krezk (as Ireena and Ismark feel that this town isn’t safe for them to stay at either). They plan to leave the next day but are asked by Vargas to be his honored guests tomorrow afternoon for the Festival of the Blazing Sun. Also, Senna received an apology letter from Lady Fiona and an invitation to dinner tomorrow (along with her friends too) after the festival at the Wachterhaus. They realize their time in this town is not yet over. Senna was worried about her hair falling out from previous nightmares throughout the night and that some kind of curse was on her. Thankfully one of the rewards they got was an elixir that cured that of her.

They get to the church to see how Father Lucien is. Everyone is happy as a small service is being held in honor to the Morninglord of the restoration of the bones of St. Andral. Suddenly, a swarm of bats looms over the pale moon, enveloping it into darkness and screeches. From the swarm a single bat descends and transforms into a misty figure, shrouded in fog. A gaunt handsome man steps down onto the road as people begin to run in fear. The beautiful lord looks at a woman and says, “Fetch me a glass.” Scared, but quiet, the woman nods her head and walks into a house and begins to assault a man inside for his bottle of wine. She screams, “Give it! Give it!” Struggles and grunts can be heard and a crash as a pool of blood spills out of the house. The woman, with torn dress and a black eye, steps out onto the street with a bottle of wine and a glass as she begins to clean the blood off the long stem. She pours it for the heavenly dressed man and he takes it from the peasant woman, sipping it while looking at the heroes who are now standing in the entrance of the church. This is Strahd von Zarovich, the devil, himself.

In one hand, he holds the glass of wine that he swirls around and sips – its crimson contents clinging to the sides of the glass. In the other hand, he fiddles with a familiar deck of cards, drawing them, regarding them, discarding them. He looks to you. Father Lucien tells the party not to leave the church as they are safe from the devil’s minions and the count himself.

“I should have known you’d find yourselves here, despite all my efforts. It appears you are guided here by," he flips another card, “fate. What a fascinating concept. For time eternal, I believed myself to be the master of everything in my life – before and after my ascension into the night. Outsiders have come and died; what’s consistent is that I get what I want. Ireena, you will be mine, no matter what you might say or do. Satisfaction will be mine in time, for I control fate, as I control everything. But you,” Strahd drops the cards and wine to the ground, staining the woman’s dress a bloody red, "you have threatened to shatter that. My beloved, Tatyana, will know her place, in my arms once again for eternity. I’m driven forward unlike any creature this world has ever known. The pain and suffering of my people can no longer be ignored. The world will see me rise up from the ashes of this city (if you so choose to take me on) and know the Von Zarovich family return with fury and hellfire at their backs. I step out into the world with the sole purpose of it’s destruction, and how does the world greet me? They send me a rag tag bunch of vagrants who know nothing more than fighting and murder. You have no understanding of what I have lost, but after today you’ll begin to feel but a fraction of my pain. We will prove it so with a simple decision for you.” He calls out, “Freek, Myrtle, come to me, my children.”

Before you can find the children you saved at the Bonegrinder Mill, they are next to the vampire lord, in a trance. The count places his hands on the heads of the two children, “For not giving me Ireena, this is your punishment, you decide: which of these two will live?”

The party is quiet as Shep’s eyes well up with tears. The catfolk is the only one who takes action and answers with an attack spell at the lord which seems to evaporate into darkness as it gets close to Strahd. The vampire scoffs, “If that’s your answer then…” He tosses both kids to the shadows as 4 vampire spawn from the coffin maker’s home descend and swarm the children. A short yelp is heard, and all that is left is clothes and dry bones when they finish eating.

“You have doomed these children to the bonegrinder as their original intent was. You could have saved at least one of them if you had proper manners.” The hag, Morgantha, appears suddenly before Strahd, kneeling and asking for her ingredients. The vampire nods and the woman collects the bones of the children and disappears once again.

Strahd turns around with his retinue of undead and floats a letter over to you the party. “With that out of the way, I hope we can be more…civilized. All is forgiven, I would suggest to take the letter.” Shep, with anger in his wet eyes, lights the note on fire with Strahd leaving the city by the eastern gate as he doesn’t seem to notice the young warlock’s response. Once again, there is quiet and eerie calmness in the poor city of Vallaki with only a priest sobbing in the streets.

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Episode 307
The Burgomaster of Vallaki

Razzle Frazz almost forgets about the others that aren’t with the main group as he recalls what Deckard was doing during that time before they got to the coffin maker’s home. “Deckard had a hard choice to make that day that changed his entire view on the undead.”

Earlier in the day Deckard is able to resurrect his animal companion with the new party gold from the Vistani. However, Tornado has changed, it is now a zombie cat! Deckard decides to accept his companion as is and realizes that maybe not all undead are evil.

Back at the coffnmaker’s home, Ghrakis chases after Henrik. Meanwhile, the rest of the party is attacked by six vampire spawn who have holed up in the coffin maker’s home. Ismark holds his own for the first time as he drunkenly strikes down with fury on the undead with his fists. Even Zombie Tornado is able to help once Deckard calls it to his aid. However, the fight is too deadly; realizing they must escape immediately with the bones, the party is able to fend off some of the undead, call for help from the local militia and run away. The vampires retreat as well while Izek arrives with a retinue of guards and proceeds to burn down Henrik’s home.

While escaping, some of the party meets Baron Vargas Vallakovich, Burgomaster of Vallaki. He invites them into his home to help and says that Izek and his guards will take care of their problem. “All will be well!” as he says.

Breath of Wind and Shep take the bones back to the church of St. Andral to restore the crypt, but they don’t realize that they are being followed by one of the vampire spawn that attacked them earlier. The vampire tries to take the bag of bones and runs away but somehow the two followers of the Raven Queen are able to destroy the evil undead. But in the process, Wind uses a different weapon than what his glove had given him and in turn his hand begins to be devoured from the inside by the glove itself, screaming within his mind of his folly for using an inferior weapon. They return the bones, Father Lucian is thankful and performs the ritual to the Morninglord. He says these are holy grounds once again. Those two sleep the night there, peacefully.

The others get to know the burgomaster who assures them that Izek will take care of the vampires. He invites them to stay the night and they do so. They hear strange noises coming from the attic during the night as well. The next morning, during breakfast, the baron and his family are introduced to everyone. Vargas tells them he is worried about his upcoming festival of the Blazing Sun and not having the wine needed for the celebration that is to happen tomorrow afternoon. The party agrees to go to the Wizards of Wine Vineyard not far from here to see what happened to the recent delayed wine delivery in return for various prizes they each ask for. He asks they need to make it back by tomorrow morning. Before leaving, the whole party meets up at the burgomaster’s home. Izek is also there having breakfast and for some reason is eyeing up Ireena a lot and is even cordial to her (unlike the others). Ghrakis mentions that Izek took Henrik and put him in the stocks for colluding with the “Devil.”

As they leave the mansion, Shep bumps into a young man (maybe 16) who seems to be in his own world and harsh with Shep. The maid says that’s Victor, Vargas and Lydia’s son, who locks himself in the attic all the time. Shep, interested in what the young man has (and a bit ticked at how rude he was), uses his raven to look up in the attic window to see what Victor is hiding. There he sees a few skeletal cats lounging about (mysterious magic is afoot!) and 3 children standing in the corner of the attic room which is covered with various books on a table.

Shep notices something else: when almost at the inn to gather the group and the wagon from the Martikov family, the boy notices that they are being followed by a strange man with a sword, hand crossbow and dark hood. Shep confronts the man in an alley alone and tries to figure out who he is by talking to him while invisible. The man, surprised by Shep’s magic, sneers at him and leaves. Shep follows the man to a house on the other side of town and the man just laughs at the boy as he goes inside. Shep inscribes an eye on the fence post next to the house to convey that “he’ll be watching him.”

The group gathers to leave and before they hit the road, Senna returns (after being gone for the past 30 some hours), a bit frazzled, but not harmed. She says, “Don’t ask,” and proceeds to change into her travel clothes and armor and joins the group as they travel southwest out of town towards the winery. On the way, Shep reveals that he has an old map of Barovia in his belongings (though it is a bit sparse with names on it). As they come to a fork in the road and find a sign that says “Southeast: Berez,” Shep has a sense of home and belonging as he looks down that road towards Berez; he ignores the feeling for now. As they continue, the group is also attacked by strange little creatures made of wood along with a howling human druid who casts destructive magic at them. Before they vanquish them, the strange man yells, “IT’S GOING TO RAIN! HAHAHA!” What’s eerie is that he’s right, it begins to drizzle as they arrive at the front of the Wizard of Wines Winery an hour later.

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Episode 306
The Town of Vallaki

The group stays the night in the inn while Senna stays at the Wachterhaus and Deckard and Ghrakis end up in stocks for the night. The stocks are full of women, men, and children, and Ghrakis (though a bit fearful at first) meets a new friend who seems to know their names through his own dreams. The dusk elf’s name is Kasimir Velikov, he was locked up for being in Vallaki without a Vistana escort while he was purchasing goods for his clan of elves. That night, “Wind” checks on Senna, Deckard, and Ghrakis and even though they are in weird situations, they say they are fine.

The next day, Ghrakis gets the feeling that Kasimir might be their “ally” against Strahd since he is a wizard and knows the names of his friends. He agrees to help them if they escort him to the Amber Temple soon, they agree.

They then leave the children from the Bonegrinder with the local church. At Saint Andral’s Church they meet Father Lucian and a couple other orphans. He agrees to watch the children from Barovia village if they return St. Andral’s missing bones; St. Andral (which turns out to be the original name of the angel of Pelor, Malakiy, before he became an angel) is a saint who’s crypt is in the church to the Morninglord . The party finds that Milivoj (an orphan who digs the graves for the church) stole the bones himself and sold them to the coffin maker, Henrik, in order to feed his brother and sister. Ghrakis is grateful to the stubborn Milivoj and says he’ll teach him tomorrow morning how to properly swing a sword.

The party begins towards the coffin maker’s house but are interrupted by a Vistana named Arrigal, who does not seem pleased that Kasimir is in the town. “Wind” recognizes him to be the same man who offered the party a letter to come into Barovia for help way back in Midia less than a week ago. They demand answers, he playfully tells the group that Strahd is the one who tells him what to do and it was his job to bring them here. Arrigal seems more concerned that Kasimir hasn’t introduced his new “friends” to his brother, Luvash. With some awkward gestures, Kasimir, in fear, tells the party for them to go meet Luvash at the Vistani camp outside of the town.

They travel an hour away into the woods outside of the town and come to the Vistani camp and Dusk Elf clan homes. Luvash is beating a man within an inch of his life for failing to watch his daughter, Arabelle, who has gone missing. Kasimir introduces them and Luvash insists that if Kasimir wants to leave with his new friends and travel outside of his home, he must find Arabelle. Wind is very upset with how they have been treated here in Barovia and even with much warning from Kasimir, it’s not enough as Arrigal strikes him down through the throat and knocks Wind unconscious. It’s not enough as they see Wind’s wounds begin to knit together and they all realize he is a revenant. Wind tries to attack when he gets up and Luvash sighs, “Now one of your brothers must die, Kasimir.” The dusk elf defuses the situation by casting “Sleep” on the tabaxi. He falls asleep and swears that they will find Arabelle immediately and to spare his friends. Luvash agrees and they drag their catnapping friend away to Kasimir’s home.

Kasimir explains to a more calm party that his whole entire race was killed by Strahd, all that is left is about 20 male dusk elves that live here, under the “protection” of the Vistani who camp here. Patrina, Kasimir’s sister, is locked away in the crypts of Castle Ravenloft thanks to Strahd and he wishes to free her. The only way to do so would be to go to the Amber Temple south of here. The heroes recognize “amber doors” in their fortunes and realize there is a connection there so they know another place for them to go is south toward the mountains where this temple is that Kasimir is set to go to as well.

The group decides to find Arabelle and their tracking leads them north to lake Zarovich. Before getting there Wind, trips over a severed hand with a magical glove on it. He takes it of the now skeletal hand and puts it on, feeling called to it. No longer able to take the glove off, the catfolk doesn’t mind as he feels that his glove is the most powerful weapon at his disposal.

When arriving at the lake the group sees In the distance a lone figure fishing and tosses a bag in to the water. Realizing that the bag had a person in it and that a strange water beast was on its way to feast upon the bag, the heroes grab a row boat and get there just in time to kill the fisherman (thanks to Wind’s new Versatility Glove that summoned a heavy crossbow that shot lightning bolts from it) , a crocodile and fend off a swarm of quippers. They save Arabelle who was in the bag and she demands to be sent home.

The heroes take her back and Luvash is very glad to see her. Kasimir is even able to convince Arabelle that Arrigal doesn’t need to kill the Tabaxi as he swore he would when they returned. The Vistani are happy and give them a treasure, explain that the potions that Vistani try to sell adventurers to get out of the fog are fake, and that Kasimir is free to go, if only for a few days. Kasimir understands that Luvash will kill his brothers if he’s gone too long.

The group returns to the Inn to check in and the majority of the group. They meet a half elf gentleman named Vasili von Holtz who is living at the inn too. He claims to be a ringmaster of a traveling carnival and claims to be from Midia. He isn’t too much help to the group but does mention what he knows of the land around here. He mentions that there used to be an order of knights to the silver dragon that used to live in the now abandoned mansion not far to the southwest of here called Argynvostholt. He takes his leave with a bag of apples (and a wolf steak hidden inside as well) and wishes the heroes “Good luck” and that if they ever want to hear more of his weird traveling tales to stop by tonight here at the inn to hear his stories.

The party finally arrives at Henrik’s (the coffin maker) home that night. They force their way in as he denies them entry at first. He’s very scared and gladly tells the heroes where the bones of St. Andral are. Wind grabs part of the set of bones hidden away and begins to look in the junk room upstairs for the other half. Once doing so, Henrik’s fear sets in and runs out of the home screaming as Wind’s hand is grabbed by a strange creature from within one of the boxes as it punches out towards the catfolk!

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Episode 305
Old Bonegrinder

The party continued Northwest winding through Barovia. They come to a windmill not far from the trail and, remembering of the Dursts deed to the windmill from the village of Barovia, they go to explore it. Upon entering the first floor they are greeted with sweet smells of the dream pastries being cooked. But before indulging themselves in it they come across small, human bones littered throughout the floor of the kitchen and children’s teeth found outside of the windmill. They assume the worst and hear a cackle from upstairs.

They go upstairs and are greeted by Morgantha, the woman who sold dream pastries to them the day before. Deckard is quick to draw his crossbow but the women upstairs startle them all and Morgantha sees it as an opportunity to get the drop on the party. A battle is made inside but the 3 women are quick to magically disappear. The party goes further upstairs to find 2 children, Freek and Myrtle, encased in boxes. They tell them their parents sold the brother and sister to these hags in order to buy more dream pastries. Disgusted, they break them out of their prison and begin to take them outside.

Ghrakis is the first to go outside and is surprised by the 3 hags who lightning bolt him 3 times in the chest. No one understands how he survived those hits and wasn’t outright killed. The battle continued with plenty of disappearing acts. It wasn’t until Tornado, Deckard’s snow leopard, is killed and harvested for “ingredients” and Senna being turned into a living ingredient (A FROG) by the hags that the heroes realize they must run. Both parties seem to call it a draw and 2 of the women run into the woods, the third is no where to be seen. In the midst of the fight, the polymorphed Senna makes a quick and tactical decision before the party runs and hops into the unconscious half orc’s pocket. When he gets up, the frog travels along with him not knowing.

After some deducing, the party realizes Senna is the frog. They take the children and their companions and continue their travels with the windmill burned down before them. But before leaving they find 4 mysterious monoliths that depict cities of the land of Barovia that are linked to a specific season (Winter, Autumn, Spring, and Summer).

The group travels until nightfall as they arrive in the walled city of Vallaki. After some persuasion and acknowledging some obvious racism towards non-humans from the guards, they are able to get in. They travel to the Blue Water Inn for some rest. Senna uses her false identity as a beautiful merchant woman and becomes chummy with Karl and Nickolai Wachter, nobles of this town. She is offered rooming at their house for the night and gets Deckard to fake an argument in order to look like she can’t go with Nickolai. But it backfires and Karl threatens Deckard for “abusing this poor woman.” Deckard threatens him back with his crossbow and Karl smacks him with his glove. A punch flies, a table turns, and pretty soon Grhakis, Deckard and the Wachter boys are having a classic tavern fight with each other.

Bells sound and the Wachter boys smile as they begin to stop fighting. Deckard attempts to remedy the situation with a bribery of wine but it’s too late. Quickly, 4 guards come inside to stop the fight and Nickolai points to the two adventurers and a large, bald headed quiet man grabs the ranger and barbarian to arrest them. What’s extra creepy about this large soldier is his right arm is totally red, veiny, and leathery (as that of a warthog). His touch is hot as his long claw-like fingers grabs them and binds them both with manacles. As they are escorted out, Nickolai comforts Senna and says, “This is how we handle ruffians in our town.” Deckard and Ghrakis (with wine in his manacled hands) are taken to the stocks of the town square and bound outside in the slightly rain evening. Breath, Ireena, Shep, Ismark, and the two children stay at the inn for the night.

Senna is escorted by Nickolai to their home. The nobles run upstairs to take care of what sounds like a cat and take Senna to a room upstairs. The room has leather bonds on the bed and Senna gets wide eyed. They encourage her that it’s not for her and that their sister, as they say, is “not right in the head, she thinks she’s a cat. Hence the bonds are for her room. We will take care of our sister for the night.”

Senna is worried but reassures them that she understands. She becomes more worried as they leave her to the windowless room and she hears the door locked from the outside, locking her in.

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Episode 304
Madam Eva

Doru singled out the Tabaxi Cleric of the Catlord ripping into his throat and drinking from his open wounds. The party tried to stop him and brought him down as best as possible but they were too late, Breath of Wind was dead. The group continues to lay into the vampire with Father Donavich helping with holy water.

In the midst of the calamity, “Wind” has an out-of-body experience where he meets the Raven Queen. She claims his god, the Catlord, is only superstition and even if he did exist, his powers wouldn’t be able to reach in this otherworldly place. However, her powers do and she offers it to the catfolk. He takes her hand and is returned to the land of the living in the midst of battle, changed to a cleric of the Raven Queen and now a revenant: part mortal, part undead.

Ireena kills Doru on the steps as it ran away in fear from the face of Senna who last screamed, “I didn’t know! Forgive me, my lord!”. Donavich weeps at the dusty remains of his “son” and insists they leave at once. Shep looks at Wind in a new way knowing of his transformation.

They meet with the mercantile and tavern but don’t much luck finding information and items to buy there. The Vistani at the tavern insist they see Madam Eva at the Tser Pool. They also meet Ismark “the Lesser”, Ireena’s step brother. He drunkenly greets them and they convince him to come with them as they travel west to protect Ireena. Before leaving they also console Mad Mary who’s daughter, Gertruda, has run away from home. She fears the worst for her and the party says they will do their best finding her.

While traveling through the woods they are attacked by large Dire wolves and are able to kill most of them and drive the other away. Also, a skeletal horse and skeletal rider came out of the woods while they traveled the road; it seemed to be searching for something with an extinguished lantern in it’s hand. Deckard takes the rider down with a crossbow bolt but the skeletal horse gets away. Finally, a lady named Morgantha tries to sell her special pastries to the group along with some information about Strahd and his land. They buy one dream pastry and Senna feels drawn to eat this wonderful mincemeat pie. She does so and finds herself in a drug-like trance of euphoria. She has a wonderful dream of being home with her family until the party wakes her back to reality from her slumber and is that much more depressed.

They continue to the Tser Pool and find an encampment of Vistani who welcome them with wine, dancing and campfire stories. One mentions a story of an old wizard who came to this land over a year ago and tried to kill Strahd along with other Barovian revolters. He and many of the villagers were killed and cast into the Tser Falls.

The party then meets Madam Eva who knows who they are and was expecting them. She describes their only escape (other than the Vistani who have offered pricey potions to get through the deadly mists which Senna bought one) is release Strahd of his curse. She reads their fortune saying 5 important facts, the locations of 3 ancient relics: the Tome of Strahd, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, and the Sunsword. Also, a broken wizard will help them and that Strahd can be found on a balcony. With nothing more to say to them, Madam Eva retires to her bed, exhausted.

That night the group is able to sleep among the Vistani without any issues. The next morning Madam Eva’s tent is there but she is gone. The group continues north to explore to no avail the Tser Falls. After some backtracking and taking a different road, they come across a gallows. A woman is hung by a tree and for a moment, Senna sees herself in the face of the woman hung there. When she double takes, it looks like an unknown peasant. She also thinks that she sees multiple corpses hanging not far in the woods.

That early afternoon, they finally arrive at a crossroads to the north after passing over a tall bridge that spans over Tser Falls, one road leading east towards Castle Ravenloft, another heading south where they came from, and a third leading Northwest.

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