Curse of Strahd

Darkness falls

Ansgar,

The omnipresent danger we have been facing has at last proven to be too much for us. Pallas is dead. Viktor is dead. I tried to bring them back, Ansgar. But there was nothing left of Viktor to raise! His death drove Pallas mad, and at the end, she rushed headlong towards death, unconcerned about her life or ours; there was no stopping her. And after she’d fallen, when I tried to raise her, her spirit refused life; she preferred death. The Holy Scrip I’d used so effectively for protection was gone, wasted, and two of us, fully one third of our strength, were gone.

I convinced Durrum to accompany me back to Barovia village to bury Pallas’ body in the graveyard at Fr. Donavich’s church. It’s the least I could do to honor her memory. Zora split. We left Dahl by himself. I’m not sure why. No, it doesn’t make any sense. Fuck it. No one gives a shit anyway. In any case, I hope and pray that he is still alive when we return to wherever it is we left him.

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Filibert's letter to Ansgar, written from Argynvostholt

Dear brother,

I sometimes wonder why I continue to write these notes to you. I don’t know when, or even if, I’ll ever be able to resume my journey to find you. Indeed, I am unsure even if you yet live. But my hope and my belief that we will one day be reconnected keeps me going, so I will continue to put my thoughts and experiences to paper so that, upon our reunion, I can share them with you.

Anyway, I was telling you about my investigation into the missing bones of St. Andril.
We went to the coffin maker, Henrik Van Der Voort’s shop. Although reluctant, to put it mildly, he did allow us entry. Pallas successfully located the stolen relics, and in the attic, we found several crates, which, after a moment, burst open when the vampire spawn therein emerged to attack us! We engaged these undead fiends with the intent of destroying them. So filled was I with righteous zeal, that I did not notice that the others of my party had chosen to retreat rather than fight. Pallas was yelling something about setting the building ablaze so that fire might do what needed to be done. She started conjuring fire in various spots around the room, which quickly spread along the floor and walls. Clearly, I did not join in the general retreat quickly enough to suit her and as punishment, she started another fire behind me in the stairwell, cutting off my only exit. With danger now on both sides of me, I was forced to abandon my fight with the spawn and throw myself through the flames or risk certain death as the building was consumed around me.
On the one hand, her approach seems to have worked. The building was completely destroyed in the inferno. On the other hand, the town authorities took an unfavorable view of a group of strangers committing arson in their community. We were lucky they only banished us.

Having been kicked out of Vallaki following the arson incident, our company was contacted by agents of a Lady Wachter of Vallaki. She offered to assist us in returning to the town in exchange for our help with some political maneuvers she had in mind involving deposing the current Burgomeister. Well, without getting too into the details of local politics, the Burgomeister did seem to be abusing his position, so we thought it worth listening to the Lady’s proposal.
But first, her agents, the Martikovs (who run the region’s only winery as well as run the inn in Vallaki) required that we aid in restoring the winery, The Wizard of Wines, to operation. It turned out that wine production had stopped because some evil nature worshipers had stolen some magic that facilitated the growth of the wine grapes. We had to not only defeat these druids and the foul blights that they’d created at the winery itself, but recover the magic that had been stolen. Our band, whatever faults we may possess, has proven to be quite adept at fighting. Not only did we destroy many foul corruptions of nature, but we recovered some powerful magic weapons with Dahl and Durum will put to good use. AND, let me not fail to note, we encountered Strahd von Zarovich. He was present as these druids attempted to complete a foul ritual, the intent of which will remain as unknown as the goal is unrealized. At this point, Strahd did not seek to engage our band. He did cast a spell or two, but it felt more like he was toying with us, testing us, or merely unconcerned about our presence. After a few moments, he departed.

The winery now restored to its rightful owners, the Martikovs (did I mention they’re were-ravens? No? They’re were-ravens.), we regained entry to Vallaki by concealing ourselves in the wagon delivering a shipment of wine for the next in a long string of festivals organized by Burgomeister Vallakovich. We met with Lady Wachter and she told us about the Burgomeister’s erratic and abusive behavior and policies, and we learned that his chief enforcer was Izak Strazni, a brute with a demonic looking arm. Dahl was keen to investigate a carnival wagon we’d seen days earlier when we were being ejected from town. He recalled something from the fortune reading that the company had received from Madam Eva of the Vistani.
We made our way towards the location of the wagon, but came upon the town square where the latest of the Burgomeister’s happiness festivals was taking place. Only moments into the proceedings, we heard screams and commotion coming from a block away. A large tiger had wandered into the area! The assembled townsfolk scattered in all directions. The tiger actually seemed nonthreatening. Some of our party followed it at a distance as it walked through town and ultimately out the western gate.
Meanwhile, Dahl and I thought it a good idea to see if we could take advantage of the chaos to investigate the Burgomeister’s residence, find this Strazni, and ‘convince’ him to cease his abusive ways. We found the place with little trouble and stealthily made our way around back and in through a rear entrance.

I can imagine you having a good laugh now, dear brother. Yes, I, your rule-following, law-abiding little brother, was willingly breaking into a private home, assisted by a paladin of Oghma no less! Desperate times? I admit that I am coming to see a certain wisdom in your approach to life.

In any case, we made our way silently up the back staircase of the home, and found the Burgomeister in his study. We quickly subdued him, without injuring him, I might add, and learned that Strazni was indeed in residence, just across the hall.
Again, we carefully approached our intended destination, but there would be no reasoning, or even discussion with this brute. It was a short, intense fight, that left the ‘sherrif’ of Vallaki dead. One exceptionally peculiar thing about the man’s chambers; there were dozens, DOZENS, of dolls displayed around the room, all bearing the same countenance; that of Ireena Kolyana!

The rest of our company rejoined us at the house. Pallas sat the Burgomeister and his wife down and laid out how things were going to change in Vallaki. No longer would the leader be allowed to mistreat the people. Lady Wachter was eager to take his place, and without Strazni around, there was little to stop her from doing so. Pallas was convincing…. sort of. As least we think that things will improve. Little did we know then that Lady Wachter might actually be worse. More on that in a moment.
We also learned that the Vallakoviches had a son, Viktor who spent all his time in the attic of the home. While I stayed with the couple, and Durum passed out in the living room (he’d found some genuine ale after all), Pallas, Dahl, and Zora went to search the attic and make sure the son understood the new order. It was in the attic that the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind was discovered. This was MOST fortuitous. As I mentioned before, our ultimate victory over Strahd may depend on this wondrous artifact.
Viktor, it turns out, has some affinity for arcane casting. Although he seems a sullen, moody youth (can it truly be that he is but one year younger than I?), Pallas felt it would be dangerous to leave him unsupervised. As such, she offered to take him on as an apprentice. Despite his mother’s objecting, Viktor accepted. He will be coming with us.

We also found time to finally investigate the carnival wagon. The wagon belongs to a man named Rictavio, and it was his tiger that was loosed as a joke (by mischievous, thuggish children of the Lady Wachter) upon Vallaki. Zora searched the wagon and found therein a journal written centuries ago by Strahd himself! Ansgar, I think that devil may have included hints in those pages as to how he might be defeated.

That night, Strahd attacked.

Upon hearing a commotion in the middle of the night, we rushed through the town to find Strahd and a host of wolves and zombies attacking the church; he was calling for Ireena to come to him. Our fighting prowess was on full display that night! Not only did we quickly deal with the devil’s minions, but Zora did something that actually caused Strahd to flee! What ho! This may not be as difficult as we’ve been led to believe!

In spite of this, it seems quite clear that Vallaki is not safe from Strahd. Not only is he able to come and go as he pleases, Lady Wachter turns out to be a supporter and sympathizer! If we are to keep Ireena from harm, we’ll have to find somewhere else. We have three options before us. Travel further west to the fortified town of Kresk, try the Amber Temple just outside of Kresk, or the ruins of a castle, Argynvostholt. We asked Urwin Martikov for some additional information about our three choices, which he was happy to provide. We decided to test our luck with Argynvostholt as it is the closest.
We ask Ireena and Ismark what they would like to do, stay in Vallaki, or accompany us to the ruins. They opt to come with us.

Oh, here’s the story on Lady Wachter. Yesterday (the day after Strahd’s attack), we’re tying up loose ends in Vallaki and one of those loose ends is to get back to the Lady about her request to depose the Burgomeister. We were all arrayed in her sitting room, listening with growing shock and dismay to Lady Wachter tell us how acceding to Strahd’s rule is better for all, when Dahl sensed evil coming from the basement. He and I excused ourselves from the room under the pretense of having to use the privy. Sadly, we are not especially skilled in deception, so we were unable to proceed surreptitiously. Dahl has a straightforward way about him and upon this occasion was not at all worried about what anyone might think. Without any pretense, he went right for the basement and I went with him. We had but a moment to look around when suddenly, eight or more skeletons clawed and crawled their way out of the ground beneath and around us. The rest of our group, along with Lady Wachter was making their way to the basement by this time, and together, our party made short work of these undead. Without even a second to catch our breath, a secret door opened up and we found a group of five cultists. They presented no challenge whatsoever, and we kept one alive for questioning. But Lady Wachter had other plans. She muttered an incantation that snuffed out the life from the last cultist. She claimed the cultists must have been intruders, but she was obviously lying. Pallas enchanted the woman and tried to get some answers from her new ‘friend’, but even in her charmed state, the Lady Wachter is a politician. Apparently, she has no friends that she trusts with the truth of things. Despite her obvious deception, we didn’t feel we had cause, or right, to punish the woman in any way, so we left her. So you see, brother, not only is Strahd a threat on his own, but he has supporters in town. No, it would no longer be safe there at all.

So, bright and early this morning, our group (Dahl, Pallas, Durum, Zora, Ireena, Ismark, Viktor, and myself) departed for Argynvostholt. It took but half a day to get here. We managed to make our way inside, and have defeated a few ghostly apparitions that opposed us. One spirit, ‘friendlier’ than most, is intelligent and took the time to speak with us. He conveyed much of the history of the place, and of Barovia. This shade told us that souls that perish in Barovia are trapped here, unable to travel on to their final resting place. This is abhorrent! It cannot be allowed to stand. Brother, I borrow from Dahl’s book when I now swear an oath that this evil must end! While the rest of the group goes off in search of another ghost here that was the commander of this company of paladins while they lived, I am staying behind with Ireena and Ismark. I hope to have more good news when next I find time to write.

Your brother,
Filibert

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Madness takes its toll.....

I grow increasingly worried about my companions. Pallas was very cavalier with her use of fire on a local shop in Vallaki. She burned a business to the ground to kill a couple of vampire spawn. That I was nearly killed in the process seemed, at best, to be of little concern, and at worst, a deliberate act on her part. Fortunately, the worst that happened (to us) was that we were thrown out of town. Arson often produces that effect.
Durum retreats to drink with alarming frequency. And now Zora has become unhinged, fixating on a wedding dress belonging to the wife of the burgomeister of the town. She was quite ready to engage in combat with the woman over the garment. Would she have killed to steal this dress? Would she have died for it?!? I suspect that she harbors a deep desire to be wedded and the sight of the gown robbed her of her good sense. I hope it was but a temporary madness. I thank the Morninglord daily for Dahl’s presence. He, at least, is still sane.

We have recovered a most wondrous item, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. As seems more and more likely, we are heading towards a confrontation with Strahd von Zarovich. This holy artifact should serve to increase our chances of prevailing in that forthcoming fight.

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Zora's thoughts, stardate 2423.5

This village have church to match their inn and store. Is worst church I ever see! This priest must worship God of trash! And he has sick son locked in basement? One more funeral already…

Who is this strange dwarf wandering in from the mists? He outsider, like us. His story eerily similar to our own. It seems caravans not safe anymore like in old days. I like him; I think he probably has many good stories. I hope he come with us.
Ismark is anxious to get his sister far from Barovia. I am happy to help; happy to leave this village.

On our way, we stop at Vistani camp. Is bittersweet time. I enjoy their music and dancing, but it reminds me of my family, who are all gone. We are invited to meet Madam Eva; she do reading for us. These cards of hers are unlike anything I ever see before. Her words are equally strange…My own deck has not these cards. It seems my vision does yet not become clear…

Filibert enjoys Vistani hospitality, perhaps too much! He is totally drunk! We help him into wagon. He can sleep rest of way.
Weather still gloomy, but journey is pleasant…until we are attacked by…walking scarecrows?! This place not right!

Thankfully, scarecrows not last long. Rest of journey is quiet.

At last, we are in Valaki! After returning wagon, we head to Vistani camp to try to find Ash, or at least find out where Aregal went. And here he is, finally! He not answer questions and Pallas getting more and more angry…Now Dahl hit him! Is just as well, we get nowhere talking! Aregal really tough, I keep thinking he go down, but he stay on his feet! Is lucky for us others not join in. At least we have Filibert and Durum in case things get ugly. Wait…where they go? Weren’t they with us?

Aregal is finally beaten. Who he summon? It’s Ash!

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Each dawn brings hope

The good priest Donavich is clearly in denial about his son, Doru. Donavich holds out hope that his son’s condition can somehow be reversed, cured. I do not see that happening. But perhaps the good Father has a stronger faith than I.

We buried the Burgomeister. Fr. Donavich insisted we separate the man’s head from his body before putting him in the ground. While this was quite unusual, I deferred to the priest’s greater familiarity with local conditions. A small crowd did show up in the morning to pay their respects. I have suggested to Fr. Donavich that if he cleared his church of debris, it might be a more visible sign of the hope that the Morninglord promises. Perhaps he will take my advice to heart while we are away. The next step will be to remove the wailing vampyr spawn from the church basement. Baby steps.

Our group has been joined by a man who knows how to use a blade, two blades actually, to good effect. This man, Duram, wandered into town and seems to be on a quest to find something strong to drink that isn’t wine. Whatever his purpose in life, his fighting prowess should prove valuable as we continue our search for Ash.

Yesterday, at Izmark’s request, we set out for Vallaki, a nearby town. He hopes that he and his sister will find safe shelter there, farther from the watchful eyes of Strahd von Zarovich. Along the way, we stopped at a Vistani camp to inquire about Aragol, the man who’d taken Ash from Portend Hallow. This camp was in high spirits and warmly welcomed us with dance, food, and wine. I confess that I was unprepared for the strength of the wine that morning. So caught up in the dancing and good spirits was I, I over-indulged in the wine. My companions were good enough to bundle me into our wagon when they departed.

I might have slept for the remainder of the day’s trip to Vallaki, but at mid-day, I was awoken by the sounds of fighting. Our party had come upon a group of scarecrows magically brought to life! By the time I recovered my wits and moved to join the fray, my able companions had dealt with the animations. Naught remained of the creatures but ashes. Fire proved to be quite effective against creatures made of straw. We continued on.

We were able to reach our destination just before nightfall. We were welcomed at the church by Fr. Lucien Petrovich. There were a number of other townsfolk present seeking the safety of the church walls. While the circumstances are unfortunate, it is good to see that hope still burns in the hearts of the people. It was my honor to lead the gathered folk in prayers and songs to the Morninglord and the night passed uneventfully.

After lauds, Fr. Petrovich drew me aside to share with me the grave news that the Bones of St. Andril had been stolen from the church and we were, therefore, perhaps not as protected as we’d hoped. I agreed to help him find out who was responsible and recover the relic.

I first questioned Yeska, the altar server for the church. He confessed that he’d over heard Fr. Petrovich praying about a month ago and passed on the information to Milivoje, the town grave digger. We questioned Milivoje and learned that he had dug up the bones and sold them to Henrick Vandervoot, the coffin maker.

The investigation continues.

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Pallas's Change in Tactics

Since being forced to travel to Barovia to chase down Ash and her kidnapper, Pallas has been forced to rethink her tactics going forward. Everything she has learned about Barovia so far has led her to believe that magic should probably not be the first weapon she constantly reaches for in her arsenal. So often magic tends to be bright or flashy or loud, all of which are things that will easily make one stand out in this quiet, gray place full of things she does not yet understand. This is a place that calls for more subtlety. They’ve already attracted a great deal of attention simply by being outsiders, they don’t need to attract any more unnecessarily.

This does not mean that she’s entirely forsaking her magic, and she’s definitely not opposed to using it to protect herself and others or to get things done when they need doing. However, she feels that this is a place to use some of the more subtle skills she’s learned over the centuries, especially sneaking into tombs and ruins. This place reminds her of some of the more dismal places she’s acquired artifacts from. She’s a bit rusty at sneaking and picking locks, but it’s like riding a horse, you never entirely forget how to do it.

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Dahl's Oath of Vengeance

This strange land grieves me and the plight of its people pains me. From this moment I swear to do everything in my power to destroy this “devil Strahd” and liberate his victims.

Oghma help me.

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Filibert reacts to the past several days
Undead means delayed travel to Phlan

Auril’s kiss! We have found ourselves in quite a mess of a situation. A young girl from Portend’s Hollow has been kidnapped by that strange man who’d delivered the Burgomeister’s plea the other night. It seems that this man was determined to find a way to bring us to the town of Barovia one way or another.

Even worse, I and my traveling companions have now encountered undead on two occasions! First in Portend’s Hollow, and then last night, in Barovia. Beshaba’s Bad Breath! The local priest of Lathander, Fr. Danovich, has even spoken of vampyres. He claims his son has been bitten and suffers from the vampyre’s curse. The son has been locked in the basement of the church for a year now without feeding. The poor man. He is truly caught between the Dragon and the Desert. While I sympathize with Fr. Danovich, I do not believe this evil can be allowed to continue to exist. I fear that I may have to do what this priest cannot.

By the Light of Lathander, I will do what must be done. Morninglord, give me the strength.

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Zora's lvl 3 details and recent thoughts.

In the last week or two, Zora has focused her meditations on trying to find what her purpose is as a “seer”. Zora is an unconventional sage, preferring to uncover knowledge through reading the stars and contemplating the hidden truths contained within myths and legends. In a similar way, she is the answer to the question: “What if a bardic college student were homeschooled?” As opposed to being a courtier with access to scholarly libraries, Zora opens her own, less conventional paths to knowledge and lore (lore is her chosen bardic path) by means of her people’s timeless tradition of ethereal divination.

Cutting words is a skill her mother taught her to keep the cads away. She is now really starting to get better at that. Zora has also found that through her recent focus and the honing of her fortune telling skills, she is now more keenly aware of things others might not notice at first glance (expertise in insight and perception).

She has been working on a new spell which will hopefully help Zora’s divination skills, called “detect thoughts”. After a couple of rough scrapes, she has also been trying to perfect the use of a classic self-defense spell called “shatter”.

Zora’s thoughts:
Argh! I thought I was going to skip funeral…now crazy cat is here making horrible screeching! Pallas says cat tells her things, but all I hear is angry screeching!.. I guess we have to follow cat?…Pallas says we have to go to stables…fighting with dead?

Is true, some dead walk and attack, Friendly and Bront are no more. Disgusting goblin not dead, is no justice…Child Ash has been taken by mysterious man who bring letter. We must catch him and bring her back! Pallas and Dahl ride quickly while Filibert and I make hasty last rites for dead and check graveyard for any more clues…is shame he is priest…such a waste…ah, never mind…

We ride all night…no luck, he is quick, we are slow…strange place for gate…was wall here once?…now is only gate…we follow tracks through…Dead man off side of road!…is ill omen…find letter telling people to stay away…not sure we were meant to find or not, but we cannot leave. We must find Ash!

Is morning in strange town…is not deserted, but quiet like war with no fighting…strange…No friendly faces here…people seem cursed…At least we should find Burgomaster here…Dahl hears crying woman…we follow to house…poor woman, crazy maybe?…lost her daughter…is dark day here…very bad….curse maybe?

We find house of Burgomaster, but he has died…we find his children at house, they say he not write our letter, but he write letter we find…strange, strange…

Dahl and Filibert go to take Burgomaster body to church for funeral…too many funeral!…Pallas and I try to talk to people, find man with Ash…

People very strange here…not welcoming at tavern…no help from shop…old woman selling pies for 1 gold! 1 GOLD!?! What can you put in pie that cost so much? You could make world’s biggest beet pie for 1 gold! Mmmm!….beet pie!…

Is time for rest….aah, rest!…I can remember no day so long as this!…Is day?….Is not dark, but is not light…is like, light afraid, kept away by something….curse….curse…I know no such curse…

Ah!…good to sleep in…I stay warm in bed, not at dreary funeral this time…DAMN CAT!…GO AWAY!!..Oh, Pallas, no!..we not go…fine, fine!…we go…More dead fighting…why they not stay in graves?!…

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Sermon for the funeral service in Portend Hallow

We gather this dawn to bid farewell to Keil Stoneson, Maighread Burke, Tol Jansen, and Shim Fisher. These guards that sought to ensure our safety as we traveled will be greatly missed by their families. Indeed, we who journey on shall miss them as well. Their presence was most reassuring. I recall speaking with guard Jansen a few nights after we’d left Waterdeep. He told me stories of his children, his brothers, his wife. The pain they will feel will not soon be salved.

We remember Doomguide Golar Pace, priest of the great god Kelemvor here in this community. The Morninglord and the Lord of Death agree on much, and so, in a way, though I’d never met him, I feel the loss of Doomguide Pace keenly. But it is the people of Portend Hallow that will truly feel his absence.

But this we know, Lathander’s Grace starts every new day. Death is not a sorrow for the dead, for they are going to their reward. Their burdens are at an end. Now, at last, they may rest.
Starting today, cast aside your sorrows and know in your heart that better days are ahead. Keep faith in the gods. Accept the protection of Helm; the healing of Ilmater; and justice of Tyr; and finally, the hope and inspiration of Lathander. Spring is here, and it’s time for renewal. For a new day. For a blessed sowing of new seeds and a prosperous rebirth for this humble town. That is true hope. That’s the Hope of Dawn. Even when things seem their darkest, His Light shines through. Let us join hands together and show the lands that the Dawn will always rise.

We pray with our hearts and souls to the Lord of the Morning.
Oh glorious god! giver of life, remover of all pain and sorrows, bestower of happiness, creator of new life, thou art most luminous and exalted. We meditate upon thee. May thou inspire, enlighten, and guide our hearts in the right direction.

May we all walk in His Light.

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