Ravenloft: Curse of Strahd

The Broken Coven
week 26 game log

The Battle at Old Bonegrinder
week 25 game log

After downing the beastly Izek, the party has turned their attention to the windmill. They rushed one of the hags hiding within. When the battle turned against her she tried to magically escape, but much to her surprise her spell was countered and she was forced to make her final stand.

Now the party is preparing to explore the upper floors of the windmill to rescue the captive Ismark and deal with the remaining hags. At least now with the coven broken they will be less formidable.

Back to Vallaki
week 24 game log

The group battled the werewolves charging Khazan's tower and overcame them, though several party members had been bitten by the cursed beasts. Rictavio fought surprisingly well, and after the battle revealed his secret.

He was not a traveling bard, rather he was a monster hunter named Rudolph Van Richten who came to Barovia months ago to defeat Strahd, the greatest vampire of them all. During his time in the tower, he had scrapped some of the old magical equipment in order to fashion a few useful items. He explained that while the stakes could no longer be "charged" that he himself would be able to perform the arcane operations to activate them, and he volunteered to join with the party and help in the fight against the hags.

One of the defeated werewolves then groaned, alerting the party to the fact he was still alive. They questioned him and learned that the werewolf hunting party had been out looking for children to take back to their lair. The pack had a ritual where they would abduct a number of children and pit them against one another in battle, rewarding the sole victor with an infectious bite transforming them into the newest member of the pack.

Van Richten said that if the party could obtain the blood of the pack leader, they would be able to cure the afflicted party members. The party took note of the werewolf's story, and decided that after fighting the hags they would follow up on the information.

Van Richten rode with the party back to Vallaki where they began their preparations for confronting the hags and Izek at Old Bonegrinder. The ransom letter left by Izek had stated that Ireena be brought to the windmill "before the next full moon", which was happening that very night.

As the daylight waned, the party set out for the windmill. Before making their final approach Rask had stealthily scouted the perimeter trying to get clues about what they might be facing. He could see a hulking figure tending to a fire outside the windmill. Though it was not apparent at first, Rask determined that the figure was in fact Izek, but he looked very different from the last time they had seen him.

Izek's demonic arm had apparently spread across the majority of his body. He had gained a large amount of muscle mass and his skin was now mostly covered by dark chitinous plates, with only a few patches of his original human skin showing.

After the fire was got going, Izek returned inside the windmill closing the door behind him. Rask rejoined his comrades as the party made their final decisions on how to approach.

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.


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