Ravenloft: Curse of Strahd

Khazan's Tower
week 23 game log

After resting in re-grouping in Vallaki, the party set out west on the Old Svalich Road. They headed for an old wizards' tower on the shore of Lake Baratok where they were hoping to "charge" the magical stakes given to them by the Mad Mage.

upon arrival they found a wagon sitting just outside the tower. They tried picking the lock to the wagon several times without success. That's when Zean decided to unleash a magical thunderous attack on the door. Big mistake.

The wagon was booby-trapped with dozens of vials of volatile explosive liquid. Zean's attack activated the trap, throwing several party members flying through the air. The wagon was completely destroyed leaving a smoking crater in the ground where it had stood.

After patching themselves up, the party moved to the tower door. The door was made of iron, with no visible handles or hinges. In the middle of the door was a large, embossed symbol — a connected series of lines with eight stick figures set around it. Carved into the lintel above the door is a word: Khazan.

Each stick figure embossed on the door featured differently positioned arms — either bent up or down at the elbow, or sticking straight out to the side. The party imitated the arm positions of all the stick figures in sequence, disabling the trap and causing the door to swing open.

Inside the tower, the party could see a flagstone floor is strewn with debris, and a few old crates stand near the east wall. A five-foot-square indentation in the center of the floor contains four pulleys attached to taut iron chains that stretch up through a similarly sized hole in the rotted wooden ceiling. Standing next to the chains are four tall clay statues.

The party was able to figure out that the statues would animate and use the chains to raise and lower a platform, allowing access to the upper floors. The second and third floors were in a poor unkempt condition.

Unlike the levels below, this fourth floor showed signs of recent habitation, and although the place reeked of mold and mildew, it had plenty of creature comforts, including a cozy bed, a desk with matching chair, bright tapestries, and a large iron stove with plenty of wood to feed it.

While they searched the room the group was alerted to a horse and wagon approaching the base of the tower. They went downstairs and outside to investigate the situation. Upon drawing near, they could see the driver of the wagon was none other than Rictavio, the traveling bard they had last seen in Vallaki before the death of Baron Vargas.

Rictavio asked about the loud explosion he had heard, and the party explained about the wagon. Rictavio said that he had been staying in the tower on and off for a few months, but he had no idea who's wagon was parked outside since he was last there.

Before they could talk any further, the haunting howls of a pack of wolves interrupted them. They sounded very close, but a foggy haze obstructed the view to the shore from the tower base. Emerging from the mists came charging over a dozen wolves lead by a pack of hulking werewolves.

The Mad Mage's Mansion (part two)
week 22 game log

After fighting the clockwork golem, the party advanced into the next chamber. This square stone room featured a small wall inlet containing 5 candle flames, as well as a 5' diameter red circle painted on the floor. Once everyone was in the room the doorway behind them vanished, leaving only a seamless wall. After a moment one of the flames in the inlet was extinguished, followed by another a short time later. The party deduced this was some sort of countdown, but there were no clues as to what was going to happen, nor what to do about it.

As the last few candleflames flicked away, the party frantically tried arranging everyone inside the confines of the red circle on the floor. But quickly changed their minds, dispatching everyone to stand outside of the circle

They should have stayed with their first instinct. As the final flame disappeared, the entirety of the room was filled with a ferocious explosion of flames. Only those things placed inside the circle were spared the fiery blast. Fortunately everyone managed to survive and move on to the next chamber through a newly revealed doorway.

The next chamber was another stone room, but this time with a pedestal bearing a conch shell. The party was weary of everyone entering the room, thinking it might again trap them all inside with some horrible trap. After trying to mitigate the possibilities they eventually conceded that the only way forward was to play along.

Again the room sealed itself once all had entered, then a soft-toned blare came from the shell and an impossible amount of water began pouring forth, quickly flooding the room. As the room filled with water the party scoured the room for any clue on how to escape, but they found nothing. Finally as the party began to float in the rising water, one party member discovered that if they placed their head under the water they could read an otherwise invisible script written there. It was a riddle which read "What always runs but never walks, often murmurs, never talks, has a bed but never sleeps, has a mouth but never eats?"

Visenya answered "A River" causing the water to rapidly drain from the room. Another doorway was revealed, showing the mad mage sitting behind a desk. The wizard's head was down and he was engrossed in the tome before him. After entering the small study the party found their feet frozen in place. Nothing they tried could caused them to budge from the spot they stood. Then the sound of a rattling chain betrayed the fact that a set of metal spikes was lowering from the ceiling onto the characters location.

The wizard ignored all their pleas, right up until the party produced a magical scroll from their equipment and began to read it aloud. Upon hearing the incantation, the mage's curiosity caused him to lift his gaze. After listening for a moment he said "Remove Curse? Really? Do you even know what that scroll is for? Hahaha, I'm afraid that's not going to be much help to you, foul assassins." and he returned to his book.

The spikes descended closer and closer, when finally the incantation was complete. The wizard's head swayed for a moment, then he went still. With a sudden jolt the mage sprouted upright waving his hand, causing the spikes to quickly recede back up into the ceiling.

With his madness cured the age, named Mordenkainen, was able to relate his story to the party. He had come to the demiplane a year ago. He had rallied a number of people to help him assualt castle Ravenloft, but the effort was ultimately in vain. The mage dueled Strahd with powerful magics, but he was eventually bested. The last thing he remembers is going over the Tser falls.

Mordenkainen said that he would need to recover his personal staff and spellbook before he would be in any condition to battle the vampire lord again, but he was able to offer some help with the party's upcoming confrontation with the hags at Old Bonegrinder. He provided the party with 4 large wooden stakes engraved with mystical runes. He said the stakes could nullify the hags' ability to shift into the Ethereal plane and escaping, as they had done to the party before.

There was only one catch, the stakes needed to be "charged" in order for them to work. Mordenkainen did not have the requisite materials, but he directed to party to the old wizard's tower on the shores of Lake Baratok in the western end of the valley.

The Mad Mage's Mansion (part one)
week 21 game log

Upon arrival back in Vallaki at midday, Zean went directly to Wachterhaus to deliver a scroll that might cure the new burgomaster's daughter, Stella. Lady Fiona examined the scroll and offered her thanks, saying that if there was anything they ever needed, and she was able to assist, they need only ask for it.

Wanting to capitalize on the remaining daylight, the party head straight out to and across Lake Zarovich. A few hours later they arrived on the north shore of the lake. After securing the boats and walking up the craggy coast, they saw an elk standing on a rocky spur about sixty feet away. Suddenly, it assumed the form of a man in tattered black robes. His hair and beard were long, black, and streaked with gray, and his eyes crackled with eldritch power.

The group started to move forward and address the man, but he instantly vanished without a trace. After a search of the area, the party found what appeared to me a magical portal and deduced the mage must have gone in. After some trepidation, the party followed suit.

One by one, the party went in. But when Rolen approached the entrance there was a loud noise and she was forcibly thrown several feet back. After some puzzlement, the party determined that the Bag of Holding that Rolen had in her possession was the cause. She hid the bag nearby, and joined the rest inside the mansion's foyer.

Beyond the small foyer was a magnificent grand hall tended by magical servants. At the far end of the hall the party saw a large swimming pool, with a beautiful tiled mosaic at the bottom. A metallic glint caught someone's eye. The item was a magical ring (Ring of the Ram).

The party went on to explore the two wings of the mansion. On the first side they found lavish bedrooms, baths, and other luxury accomodations. Looking through some of the chests in these rooms, the party came upon a pair of magical boots (Boots of Speed).

While Zean was checking for more loot, he saw a small chest sitting apart from the rest. When he reached out to touch it adhered to his hands, and then revealed a small mouth full of teeth. The creature bit Zean's hand, causing him to release it. After chasing the small creature around the room for several minutes, the party was able to corner it. Rolen used her natural affinity with animals to calm the creature enough so that she could handle it. The "mini mimic" proved to be quite friendly, and has taken to following the party around as they explored the rest of the mansion.

The party moved on to explore the opposite wing. There they found a massive library. The party spent some time looking through the collection of books for any clues about the Mad Mage, and his history. Almita was able to zero in on a manuscript that shed some light on the mystery.

The Mad Mage is a famous Archwizard named Mordenkainen, from a land called Oerth. The wizard was also a member of a powerful group of adventurers called the Circle of Eight.

After exploring the library, the group came upon a nondescript door bearing a placard reading "do not enter". The characters picked the simple lock on the door and proceeded into a short narrow hallway. At the end of the hallway was a stand bearing a glowing quill and a pice of paper, next to a heavy iron "door" comprised of several interlocking layers of heavy gears, slides and chains.

As the party approached, the paper began to reveal writing that read "Let it be known that the owner of this residence has offered fair warning to the person(s) who are trespassing into this private area. No local law enforcement, or similar entity, shall hold the owner of this residence responsible for this ill-advised decision to proceed. Signed ____________________ " leaving a blank space for each party member to sign their name. The party was unable to touch the heavy door until everyone had (truthfully) signed their name to the document.

The door was a confusing entanglement of gears, levers, and locks. As one lock was turned open, another would lock tight. After several minutes of attempting to figure out the proper pattern to open the multiple locks, the door began to violently buck within the door frame as it re-arranged itself into a new form, gradually assuming the shape of a bidepal warrior with wicked bladed weapons at the ends of its' arms.

With nowhere to run the party turned to fight the clockwork construct, now free from the door frame and stepping toward them.

Building The Devil's Bride
week 20 game log

While searching the rest of the abbey's madhouse the party came upon a cell which, unlike all of the others, was locked. They picked the lock of the door and entered to find the missing Ireena, alive and well. She explained that the Abbot had been forcing her to dine, dance, and all other manner of activities whilst his creation mimicked her every movement.

It was only when Ireena tried to leave the cell with the party did the golem move to intervene. As the group fought the construct, Clovin had arrived on scene. The two-headed mongrel immediately turned and fled, presumably to alert the Abbot.

After dispatching the golem the party exiting the madhouse with Ireena into the abbey's main courtyard. There the Abbot, and a half dozen mongrelfolk, stood to block the party's escape. The Abbot explained that he only needed Ireena for a few more months, and then she would be release completely unharmed. He pleaded with the party to see the greater good his plan could achieve, but the party was determined to free Ireena.

The Abbot then revealed his true form, with huge luminous wings of holy energy extending out over 10 feet in either direction. Rolen's summoned animals were the first to confront the Abbot, and with one swift motion of his mighty wing he picked up a massive horned beast and hurled it over the abbey's outer wall, directly 400 feet above the village below.

The Abbot lost the will to continue after his creation was destroyed in the fighting. He gruffly dismissed the party complaining that his work had been set back by years, and he flew off into the distance. The mongrelmen left in the abbey scrambled to their various hiding spots upon the Abbot's departure.

The party scooped up several clerical scrolls from the Abbot's workshop before departing back to Krezk. As the party walked the road down from the abbey, Ireena was hearing a voice calling out to her from the shrine at the northern end of the village. The party agreed, somewhat nervously, to accompany her to investigate. As she approached and touched the shrine, Ireena suddenly fell to the ground. As the group rushed to help her up, she told them about the strange vision she just had…

In life, Strahd von Zarovich was a count, a prince, a soldier, and a conqueror. After the death of his father, King Barov, Strahd waged long, bloody wars against his family 's enemies. He and his army cornered the last of these enemies in a remote mountain valley before slaying them all. Strahd named the valley Barovia, after his deceased father, and was so struck by its scenic beauty that he decided to settle there.

Queen Ravenovia lamented the death of Barov and was fearful of Strahd. War had made him cold and arrogant. She kept her younger son, Sergei, away from the battlefield. Strahd envied the love and attention his mother visited upon his brother, so in Barovia he remained. Peace made Strahd restless, and he began to feel like his best years were behind him.

Strahd scoured his conquered lands for wizards and artisans, brought them to the valley of Barovia, and commanded them to raise a castle to rival the magnificent fortresses of his ancestral homeland. Strahd named the castle Ravenloft, after his mother, to demonstrate his love for her. When it was complete, Strahd invited his mother and brother to come to Barovia and stay with him. Sergei eventually took up residence at Ravenloft, but Ravenovia passed away while traveling to her namesake. In sorrowful disappointment, Strahd sealed his mother's body in a crypt beneath the castle.

Strahd's attention soon turned to Tatyana, a young Barovian woman of fine lineage and remarkable beauty. Strahd believed her to be a worthy bride, and he lavished Tatyana with gifts and attention. Despite Strahd's efforts, she instead fell in love with the younger, warmer Sergei. Strahd's pride prevented him from standing in the way of the young couple's love until the day of Sergei and Tatyana's wedding, when Strahd gazed into a mirror and realized he had been a fool. Strahd murdered Sergei and drank his blood. He then chased Sergei's bride-to-be through the gardens, determined to make her accept and love him. Tatyana hurled herself off a castle balcony to escape Strahd's pursuit, plunging to her death. Treacherous castle guards, seizing the opportunity to rid the world of Strahd forever, shot their master with arrows.

But Strahd did not die. The sky went black as Strahd turned on the guards, his eyes blazing red. He had become a vampire.

After slaughtering the guards, Strahd saw the faces of his father and mother in the thunderclouds, looking down upon him and judging him. He had destroyed the family bloodline and doomed all of Barovia. The castle and the valley were spirited away, locked in a demiplane surrounded on all sides by deadly fog. For Strahd and his people, there would be no escape.

Shaken from her experience, but otherwise ok, the party were invited to spend the night within the safe walls of Krezk. They rested well before setting out early the next morning heading back east to Vallaki.

The Abbey of Saint Markovia
week 19 game log

The party climbed the cliffside road up tot the abbey high above krezk. They were met by two sleeping mongrelfolk guards who escorted them through the main courtyard and inside the abbey.

Visenya managed to discreetly slip away from the main group and investigated the grounds along the perimeter of the outer abbey walls. She investigated a small graveyard containing many of the abbey's original inhabitants, priests and nuns from the distant time when Strahd had the abbey under siege. She also raided a garden on the opposite side of the compound and loaded the party's bag of holding with fresh vegetables.

The party dined and asked many questions of the Abbott, which he answered freely and openly. He revealed the truth of his identity and nature as a celestial being. He also discussed how he and Strahd infrequently meet, and how he has taken it upon himself to redeem the vampire lord and ultimately save all the people of Barovia.

The Abbot's plan includes "building the ultimate bride" for the dreadlord, to open heart to goodness and lift his curse upon the land. Over the past century the Abbot has become rather adept at a number of surgical skills, in addition to his natural healing abilities, while working on the various ailments and conditions the mongrelfolk demanded treatment for. The Abbot went on to explain that he had spent the better part of the last 10 years constructing "Vasilka", and that she was hopefully nearing the time at which Strahd might finally meet her.

After dinner the Abbot lead the party on a brief tour of his laboratory/workshop, and showed them to the other main building of the abbey. There they were offered lodging for the night and the Abbot excused himself for the evening, returning to his work. In and adjacent room the party met a striking woman by the name of Ezmerelda D'Avenir. Ezmerelda is a vampire hunter who was looking for an opportunity to ambush Strahd the next time the vampire lord paid another visit to the abbey.

Rather than rest, the party went on to explore more of the abbey on their own. They descended a staircase and found them facing down a lightless corridor with multiple doors. Behind those doors creatures shattered the quiet with their mad cackles and whispered curses. The stench was overpowering. Before he set out to create a bride for Strahd, the Abbot tried his hand at creating a more rudimentary golem. This creature now paces the hall, tirelessly guarding the abbey’s madhouse and making sure no mongrelfolk escape. Even in the gloom, you can make out its' monstrous shape lumbering down the hall. When the darkness could no longer hide its true nature, your eyes were treated to a terrifying, 7-foot-tall assemblage of human body parts.

The sixty mongrelfolk confined here are fed at irregular intervals by Clovin Belview. None of the mongrelfolk aren't restrained, but they refuse to leave their rooms for fear of being killed by the golem or cast out of the abbey and forced to fend for themselves.

Visenya rejoined the party, coming into the madhouse from the garden. Several of the mongrelfolk wewdesperately hungry due to Clovin not feeding them, apparently out of deliberate cruelty. Visenya emptied the vegetables from her bag of holding for them. The starving wretches fell upon the food with ferocity, ignoring everything else.

The Village of Krezk
week 18 game log

The party battled the fearsome "Wintersplinter" summoned by the druids of Yester Hill. The 30-foot-tall creature proved more than formidable as he seemingly ignored most attacks against him, and even appeared to be regenerating from the blows that did seem to have an effect. The Tree Blight lashed out with it's thick roots in an attempt to restrain the party as it reigned down vicious blows with its massive arms.

Eventually the party overcame the monstrosity and retrieved the magical gem the druids stole from the winery's vineyard. In rough shape after the battle, and fearing the druid's imminent return, the party opted to travel back to Krezk in the dark of night rather than wait for the sun to rise. The Martikov family greeted the party as the returned, but the weary adventurers insisted  on immediate rest before discussing any of the night's events.

The following morning the party met with Davian Martikov and relayed the events at Yester Hill. When Davian asked for the winery's stolen gem, the party attempted to leverage him for more support in the fight against Strahd. While the exchange seemed to ruffle Davian's feathers a bit, he did pledge the support of the Keepers of the Feather in achieving their goal. The family instructed Rolen in how to use the family's trained ravens to send messages, and said they would keep an eye out for the party whenever they travel in the civilized areas of the valley.

Then the group took possession of four barrels of wine, and set back out to Krezk.

Shortly after delivering the wine to the burgomaster, the Abbott unexpectedly paid a visit. The Abbot told the burgomaster and his wife that he wanted to raise their son, Ilya, from the dead. He claimed that the “gods of light” wanted the Krezkov bloodline restored. The party was escorted out of the home as the burgomaster set about the task of digging up his son's body.

Before long a scream could be heard from inside the home. The party rushed in to see Ilya, stunned and dishevelled but fully alive, being held firmly in the embrace of his hysterically overjoyed parents. With a soft smile on his face, the Abbott turned and headed toward the door without a word. As he passed the party he stopped and extended an invitation for the party to visit the Abbey and join him for dinner.

Following the Abbott's departure, the party roamed the roads of the small town encountering several of the locals. The villagers of Krezk (called Krezkites) offered the following bits of local lore:

  • Residents never leave the village for fear of being attacked by wolves, dire wolves, and werewolves.
  • About once a month, a wagonload of wine arrives from the Wizard of Wines, the winery and vineyard to the south. The business is owned and operated by the Martikov family.
  • Burgomaster Krezkov recently lost his fourteen-year old son, Ilya, to illness. Ilya was the last of the four Krezkov children.
  • A pool at the north end of the village provides fresh water throughout the year. Next to the pool, the village's ancestors built a shrine to the Morninglord in a gazebo. It's known as the Shrine of the White Sun.
  • The Abbey of Saint Markovia is named after a priest of the Morninglord who took a stand against the devil Strahd. After a fierce uprising, Markovia and her most loyal followers stormed Castle Ravenloft, only to be destroyed.
  • The abbey was once a hospital and a convent, but it fell on hard times after the land was swallowed up by the mists. Some of the clergy fell prey to Strahd, while others went mad and either starved themselves to death or turned to cannibalism.
  • The head of the abbey, called simply The Abbot, arrived over a century ago and hasn't aged a day since. He occasionally visits the Shrine of the White Sun but doesn't talk much, and he demands tribute in the form of wine. No one knows his true name or where he came from, and many believe he's Strahd's servant or the vampire himself in disguise.
  • No one from the village visits the abbey anymore. The abbey's bell rings at odd times, day and night, and the place is filled with baleful screams and horrible, inhuman laughter that can be heard throughout the village.

During their wandering, the party observed a woman sprinting past them to a local home. The group learned that a woman named Dimira Yolensky was about to give birth. In the absence of a priest, the burgomaster's wife, Anna Krezkova, supervised the blessed event and offered prayers for the health of the mother and the child. Dimira eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but the baby didn't cry. One of the midwives commented to the party in confidence "That child has no soul. Very sad." She explained that she was raised to believe that newborns are soulless if they don't cry, and that most Barovians lack souls.

The Druids of Yester Hill
week 17 game log

The party turned and dealt first with the druid poisoning the vat of wine, allowing the twig creature escape to the far side of the room. It climbed the side of the easternmost cask, and disappeared into a large crack on the side. The druidess fought with the self-sacrificing determination only a crazed zealot could posses. As the first blows of the fight were landed the party could see the twig creature re-emerge from the crack it had just crawled into. Followed by another, and another. The huge cask rocked slightly just before the crack burst open pouring forth dozens and dozens of the wicked plant monsters all over the eastern portion of the room. The mass swarmed towards the group as quickly as the creature's little legs would carry them. As she lay mortally wounded the druidess called forth a twisted and barbed bramble of plant growth to engulf her enemies, but it only delayed the inevitable briefly.

With the druidess felled, the group turned their attention to the twig blights. They fought back the wave after wave of the little creatures with the assistance of some ravens that had been perched on the beams above.

After the battle, the party tended to their minor wounds and took the opportunity to help themselves to several bottle of wine. Both from the poisoned vat, and from the non-contaminated ones. They then explored the remainder of the first floor including some storage areas, the crushing tubs, and the barrel maker's workshop, but nothing notable was found. The party proceeded back to the spiral ramp in the eastern part of the winery, and went up to the 2nd floor.

Looking down a short hallway the group could see into a room with a ten-foot-square hole cut into the middle of it. Looming over the hole was a wooden loading winch positioned above the cart previously seen in the loading dock below. Perched atop the winch was a man with wild hair, rotted teeth, and skin painted red with blood. He wore no clothing and waved a gnarled staff made from a black branch as he babbled incoherently at you.

Acting quickly, Rolen cast a thunderwave at the man causing him topple over backwards and crash into the wall 10 feet behind him. The rest of the party moved to subdue the man while he was prone.

The druid managed to land one blow against Visenya with his black staff before he was overcome. As the weapon struck the life seemed to drain out of her, rejuvenating the crazed druid as red blood oozed from the staff's pores.

Even with such a wicked weapon at his disposal, the druid was no match for combined forces of the party. Visenya decided that the dark staff was better in her care, then left out in the world for anyone to fall victim to.

Rask noticed a from this area to the adjacent master bedroom, and moved on through two more children's bedrooms before coming upon a room dominated by a large contraption, presumably some kind of printing press. Rooting through some of the cabinets in this room was one final druid along with two accompanying vine blights, who were all vanquished by the party in short order.

The party signaled to the Martikovs hiding in the nearby woods that it was safe to return to their home. As the family thanked the heroes, the topic quickly shifted to the missing gemstone. Dag said "If none of the druids here had the gem, they must have already taking it back to Yester Hill." Once again the family pleaded with the party to recover the stolen gem, not only for themselves, but for all the people of Barovia.

The group left immediately for Yester Hill. After an hour's trek they emerged from the thick woods leads to a hill covered with dead grass and cairns of black rock. Dark, ominous clouds gathered high above, and a single bolt of lightning struck the hilltop. West of the hill, the land, the woods, and the sky vanished behind a towering wall of fog. Dirt trails ran along two concentric rings of cairns that encircle the hillside. Each cairn was a ten-foot-high mound of slimy black rocks.

That is when the spirit of Kavan, a long-dead barbarian chieftain, reached out from beyond the grave. Rask heard a whisper, a deep voice carried on the wind "Long have I waited, for one who is worthy. My spear hungers for blood. Retrieve it, and rule these mountains in my stead, just like the mighty warriors from the early days of the Whispering Wall." Rask felt drawn to one of the cairns on the hillside. As he approached it, he could sense the presence of Kavan's magic spear under the rocks. The rocks of the cairn were heavy but rolled aside, revealing a blood spear lying amid Kavan's moldy bones. Rask took possesion of the spear adn the party moved on.

Atop the hill was a wide ring of black boulders and smaller rocks that collectively formed a makeshift wall enclosing a field of dead grass. Lightning struck the edge of the ring from time to time, illuminating a ghastly, fifty-foot-tall statue made of tightly woven twigs and packed with black earth. The statue depicted as a towering, cloaked man with fangs. It bore an eerie resemblance to Strahd von Zarovich. Closer inspection revealed roots sprouting from the ground around its base wrapped around the statue, providing added support and durability.

As the characters inspected the statue further, a dozen druids rose up from hidden "graves" scattered around the hilltop and began muttering a ritualistic chant. At first the party held their ground at the top of the hill, but when they realized the druids were more focused on completing their ritual than advancing upon them they began to worry. The group started trying to subdue the chanting fanatics, but it was too late. Lightning was now striking the statue repeatedly as the ritual came to a climax.

A horrific thirty-foot·tall plant creature burst forth from of the statue, sending twigs and earth flying. The creature resembled a undead treant with green light seeping out of it. several of the surviving druids cried out the name "Wintersplinter!" in gleeful triumph.

The Wizard of Wines
week 16 game log

As the party crossed the vineyard heading to the winery a half dozen animated scarecrows roused to meet them. After a flurry of blades and hay, the party noticed an old man standing at the border of the vineyard and the western woods. He beckoned them to come to him before returning to the thicket. Suspicious of a trap, Rolen dispatched her summoned lions to investigate. The lions followed the man's scent to a small clearing in the brush where his trail went cold.

At a cautious pace the party caught up to where the lions had lead them, but there was no sign of anyone. Only a conspiracy of ravens in the surrounding trees. Then cutting off the brief silence was the shrill, creaky voice of an old man "Call off the hunting cats!"

The party acquiesced. The same old man they had seen from a distance stepped out from behind a nearby tree. He introduced himself as Davian Martikov, owner of the vineyards and winery. He explained that he and his family were driven from their home by evil druids and their wicked minions, taking refuge in the nearby woods. From behind trees all around them at varying distances, out stepped the members of Davian's family as he introduced them:

  • Adrian, his eldest son
  • Elvir, his youngest son
  • Stefania, his adult daughter
  • Dag, Stefania’s husband
  • Stefania and Dag’s four children: a teenage son named Claudiu, two young boys named Martin and Viggo, and a baby girl named Yolanda

The party asked Davian directly "What's up with the ravens?" The old man was flustered and began to angrily deflect when Stefania stepped forward "It's ok, we can tell them papa." As Davian grumbled stubborn objections, Dag stepped forward rolling up his sleeve revealing his forearm. With a few shakes of his exposed arm he suddenly revealed a set of gleaming black feathers from his wrist to his elbow. "We are called wereravens. We are men, not beasts. We mean you no harm."

The party asked the family why these druids were attacking the winery. Stefania explained that the druids of Yester Hill, along with Baba Yaga's animated scarecrows, have been a not uncommon nuisance in the vineyards over the years. It was only an uncharacteristically large assault directly on the winery building in the early morning hours that caught them off guard.

Davian's youngest son, Elvir, asked "Shouldn't we tell them about the missing gems?"

Davian's face became red with exasperation as he raised his walking stick and whacked his eldest son in the back of the head "You're proving to be no smarter than your idiot older brother Urwin!"

Together Stefania and Dag related the story of the winery, with Davian's cranky interjections interspersed throughout the tale.

The Wizard of Wines was founded by a mage whose name is buried in the annals of history. The wizard fashioned three magic gems, each one as big as a pinecone, and planted them in the rich valley soil. These “seeds” gave rise to healthy grapevines, which produced sweet, plump grapes. Even after Strahd’s curse settled over Barovia, the gems kept the vines and their grapes from succumbing to the darkness.

The winery is known for three wines: the unremarkable Purple Grapemash No. 3, the slightly more tantalizing Red Dragon Crush, and the rich Champagne du le Stomp.

Ten years ago, one of the vineyard’s magic gems was dug up and stolen, and as a result, the winery stopped producing its best vintage, the champagne. No one knows what happened to the gem. Davian blames his middle son, Urwin, for the loss because Urwin was on watch the night the gem was taken. Davian is convinced that Urwin shirked his duty to spend time with his betrothed, and the two have been at odds ever since. To this day, Urwin steadfastly denies his father’s accusation.

The party agreed to help the family take back their home and recover the stolen gem. The party crossed back over the open field toward the winery building. As they drew near to the house scores of blights that chased the party into the loading dock area of the winery. The door into the main building from the docks was torn from the hinge laying off to the side. The party scrambled to re-secure the doorway against their pursuers.

The party found themselves in a small hallway with a closed door and a smooth spiraling ramp down to the basement, which the party ultimately decided to follow. The basement was noticeably cooler than the upstairs was, with the party seeing the own puffs of breath hanging in the air. Wooden pillars and beams supported the ten-foot-high ceiling of the ice-cold cellar, which was split in two by a five foot-thick brick walls. A thin mist covered the floor. Each half of the cellar featured an eight-foot tall wooden wine rack. The western rack stood empty, but the eastern one was half filled with wine bottles.

Something moved behind the eastern wine rack. Through the holes, the party glimpsed a half dozen humanoid figures hiding in the shadows, and heard a gravelly voice muttering the words of a spell.

The party sprang to immediate action hoping to act before the spell was finished. They forced the large wine rack bisecting the room toppling over. Sending it, and the dozens of bottles it held, crashing down on top of their foes.

The group dispatched their enemies and went on to explore the rest of the basement in more detail. The cellar got markedly colder the closer to the north wall. Against that wall rested three frosty barrels containing Purple Grapemash No. 3, a fact emblazoned on each barrel's side.

A secret door between the two halves of the wine cellar was found and opened, revealing a freezing cold passageway. A dark tunnel stretched on for fifteen feet, ending at an archway to a shallow cave. The characters could see a brown mold covering the walls, floor, and ceiling around the archway and the cave beyond. Rolen sent her lions in to investigate. As soon as they drew within a few feet of the mold a ferociously dangerous cold seemed to absorb all the heat from their bodies, causing the summoned creatures to instantly disappear.

Other than the oddity of the brown mold to explain how the wine cellar was kept so cool, the passageway had nothing interest to offer so the party moved on to the western end of the basement and up the stairwell they found there.

Back on the ground floor the party entered a large large, two-story chamber filled with the rich smell of fermenting wine, dominated by four enormous wooden casks, each one eight feet wide and twelve feet tall. A wooden staircase in the center of the room climbed to a ten -foot-high wooden balcony clinging to the south wall. Stacked against the wall underneath the balcony were old, empty barrels with "The Wizard of Wines" burned into their sides. The balcony climbed another five feet as it continued along the west and east walls, ending at doors leading to the winery's upper level. Underneath these side balconies were several doors, some of which hung open. Beneath the sloping roof stretched thick rafters, upon which scores of ravens were quietly gathered. They seemed to watch the party with great interest.

The balcony creaked, drawing eyes to a wild-looking figure hunched over the westernmost cask, pouring a flask of thick syrup into it. She wore a gown made of animal skins and a headdress with rams horns, her hair was long and unkempt. Suddenly, the party saw something skittering across the floor. It looked like a tiny creature made of twigs. It moved from its hiding place under the stairs and disappeared behind the easternmost cask.

The Wounded Elf
week 15 game log

After turning Bluto over to the authorities the party immediately got moving to get Arabelle back to her encampment outside Vallaki before it got dark.

About a mile outside of town, and down a path from the main road, the woods parted to reveal a small, grass-covered hill with low houses built into its sides. The homes had elegantly carved woodwork and decorative lanterns hanging from their sculpted eaves. Atop the hill was a ring of barrel-topped wagons surrounding a large tent.

As the party approached they saw three dusk elves standing guard outside one of the hillside houses. The guards saw that the party had the missing Arabelle with them and advised the party go directly to Luvash and Arrigal, the leaders of this Vistani clan. As they started to leave Rolen noticed that one of the guards, a young elf named Phann, was openly gawking at her.

Piled outside the tent were several empty casks of wine. From inside the tent came the crack of a whip followed by the howls of a young man. A barely conscious and shirtless teenager was tied to the central tent pole, his wrists bound with rope and his back streaked with blood. An older, larger man in studded leather armor was lashing the young man with a horsewhip, causing him to scream again. Standing in the bigger man's shadow was a third man also clad in studded leather. "Easy, brother," he said to the whip-wielding brute. "I think Alexei has learned his lesson."

The two men in studded leather armor were the leaders of the Vistani camp – the brothers Luvash and Arrigal. Luvash was punishing a Vistana named Alexei for failing to keep a watchful eye on his daughter. The characters' arrival with Arabelle instantly dispels Luvash's rage, and he ran to embrace his daughter forgetting about Alexei.

Luvash was overjoyed and as thanks he told the party they could choose any one treasure from the his treasure wagon. After looking at the different options the group opted to take an onyx jewelry box with gold filigree (worth 250 gp) containing six pieces of cheap jewelry (worth 50 gp each) and a potion of poison in an unlabeled crystal vial (worth 100 gp).

After selecting their reward, Luvash invited the party to dine and spend the night with the clan. Noticeably absent from the meal was any wine. Arrigal explained that they often purchase their wine from a regular shipment made to Vallaki from The Wizard of Wines, but the latest shipment was several days past due.

After dinner Rolen, Visenya, and Rask went down to the guarded house built into the hillside. There they met with Kasimir Velikov, the leader of the dusk elves. Kasimir invited the party to hear his story.

Centuries ago, the dusk elves eked out a modest living here at the hilltop and had limited contact with the outside world. Then Kasimir's sister Patrina started acting strangely. Suffering from what they thought at first to be simple sleepwalking, Kasimir eventually became convinced that she was in fact a concubine of the devil Strahd. Thinking it a better fate than becoming a vampire bride, Kasimir and his fellow dusk elves stoned Patrina to death. Strahd was enraged. As punishment for depriving him of his bride, Strahd butchered all the women in the dusk elf tribe, and Kasimir’s ears were cut off to punish him for instigating the stoning. Strahd took away Patrina's body, which is now sealed in the catacombs below Castle Ravenloft.

Patrina now speaks to her brother in dreams, telling him how years of guilt and regret have cleansed her tortured soul. Kasimir wants to see Strahd destroyed so that his sister can be rescued from her eternal damnation.

Patrina has told Kasimir that the Amber Temple, an ancient vault hidden in the Barovian mountains, is where Strahd forged his pact with evil powers and became a vampire. Kasimir has been spying on the temple for years, but he needs adventurers to help him survive its perils. He thinks that the secret to breaking Strahd’s pact and freeing Barovia from its curse might be hidden there, but more important to him, he believes that the Amber Temple holds the secret to restore his sister Patrina back to life.

At that point Kasimir directly asked the party if they intended to destroy Strahd. After they confirmed, Kasimir told them he had a powerful item to help in their quest, but he would only relinquish it if they party swore an oath to return to him after defeating Strahd and accompany him to an expedition to the Amber Temple. The party agreed and promised to return and see Kasimir after confronting Strahd.

From a secret compartment built into the fireplace Kasimir removed a large amulet connected to a heavy chain wrapped in a fine white cloth. As he unwrapped it he explained that it was the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, a unique and ancient artifact sacred to the good-hearted faithful of Barovia. The holy symbol is a platinum amulet shaped like the sun, with a large crystal embedded in its center. The holy symbol recharges itself every day at dawn and has several powers for battling vampires and other undead.

After meeting with Kasimir and returning Arabelle to her camp, the party returned to Vallaki. After an uneventful afternoon the party went again to the Blue Water Inn. The group knocked on the door to Ismark's room, but he did not answer. They entered the room to find a note stuck to the wall with a small dagger. The note read "I have Ismark. I will release him unharmed if you bring Ireena to Old Bonegrinder before the new moon (5 days away). She is being held prisoner in Krezk."

The party briefly debated whether to storm the windmill right away in an attempt to free Ismark, but ultimately decided to try and track down Ireena before doing so. The party gathered up supplies in their stagecoach and left Vallaki heading west. The 4 hour trip along the Old Svalich road to Krezk was uneventful.

The party arrived at a gatehouse built into a twenty-foot-high wall of stone reinforced with buttresses every fifty feet or so. The wall encloses a settlement on the side of a snowdusted mountain spur. Beyond the wall you could see the tops of snow-covered pines and a stone abbey clinging to the mountainside high above the settlement.

After being denied entry by the guards, the party spoke with the burgomaster of Krezk, Dmitri Krezkov. Dmitri explained that he places the safety of his village above the welfare of any strangers. He has seen adventurers before and assumes that they are somehow entangled with Strahd, and he isn't prepared to shelter Strahd's enemies any more than he is willing to humor Strahd's allies.

He then paused briefly before saying there might be a way for the characters to help the people of Krezk, whereupon Dmitri would be required by his oath of office and his honor as a Barovian noble to show them hospitality. Dmitri then asked the characters to secure a wagon load of wine from the Wizard of Wines winery to the south. His people have been without wine for days, and the next delivery is long overdue.

The party then left the gates of Krezk heading south for the winery. The opted to leave the stagecoach behind and took their horses on a shortcut through the woods directly to the winery. After traveling for another hour, the party emerged from the woods and crossed into an open vineyard, there they saw several scarecrows tied to posts at the far end of the field.

As the party drew closer they could see the scarecrows start to move and climb down from their posts.

The Monster of Lake Zarovich
week 14 game log

After a night of rest at their new headquarters in Vallaki the party went to the Blue Water Inn. There they met with Ismark, exhausted after his fruitless search for any sign of his missing sister. He explained that he was going to return to his home village of Barovia and assume his role as the new burgomaster. He begged that the party would continue the search for Ireena, to any length and any cost. He then resumed his rest and encouraged the group to talk to Urwin and Danika, and perhaps the town guard, about following up on any possible leads.

Danika was tending to the bar area when the party emerged from Ismark's room. She relayed a tale of suspicious behavior concerning one of her regular patrons, Bluto Kargarov. The previous day he had been seen carrying a length of rope and a large sack, and seemed evasive when asked about what he was doing with them. He hasn't been seen since Ireena's disappearance.

After talking with Danika the party went to speak with the town guard about anything out of place they may have seen. Guards stationed at the West Gate reported a strange group of self-described pilgrims arriving just as the last traces of daylight dwindled away. Even with low hanging hoods to obscure their features the guards could see that the men had some kind of beastly deformities. Without a full appreciation exactly why, the guards opened the gates and welcomed them into the town. The same group of men were back at the West Gate several hours later, this time leaving Vallaki, and again the guards let them through without a second thought.

The party decided to follow up on Bluto first. The last time he was seen he was heading toward the North Gate, presumably to go fishing out on Lake Zarovich. Once the party arrived at the lake they could see several rowboats on the shore, and Bluto sitting motionless in a rowboat a few hundred feet from the shore.

The party started preparing to take two boats out onto the lake, but as soon as they stepped in the water Bluto stood, lifted a wriggling sack up from the bottom of the boat, tossed it overboard, and calmly sat back down, staring off into the distance the whole time.

The party scrambled to action, hurriedly rowing out to retrieve the trapped victim before the bag sank. They arrived just as the bag slipped beneath the water. Kahn dove in pulling the bag back up towards the surface.  As he swam he could see a huge tentacled horror charging up from the lake's deepest depths.

The nightmarish creature lashed out with with its long barbed tentacles, but its most fearsome weapons was a savage psychic assault. It immediately became apparent that this creature must be the source behind Bluto's enthrallment. Try as it might, the party stood fast against the creature's telepathic probing. During one of the mental attacks one character was able to glimpse a part of the creature's mind.

The beast, called an aboleth by the sages, was an ancient creature from a time before the gods. They are memory incarnate, the sum accumulation of not only from their own immortal lives, but all the knowledge and experience of every creature they have devour.

The creature desired Vistani victims most of all, in the hopes of gleaning the secrets of navigating the mists and escaping Ravenloft. For generations the Vistani in the region have told cautionary tales urging them to give Lake Zarovich a wide berth. As a result, the aboleth has resorted to mentally coercing the town drunkard of Vallaki into herding fresh quarry.

After a fierce battle the party vanquished the beast and watched it sink back into the lake's depths. They immediately opened the sack to reveal a terrified and traumatized Vistani girl. The group brought the girl, named Arabelle, along with Bluto's unconscious body back to the lakeshore.

On the way back through Vallaki they stopped at Wachterhaus and turned Bluto in for his crimes. Lady Fiona vowed to give him the justice he deserved. With a few hours of sunlight remaining the party opted to rush Arabelle home to her encampment west of Vallaki without delay.


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