Rioters in the Mist

Sacrifices

I never really remember what it’s like to wake up. I only know that I wake up, still with a hole punched through my chest, still with the eerie inner silence that marks the absence of a heartbeat, of blood rushing through my veins. My vision is clouded, dreamlike, as I make my way toward my party. Things only come into focus when I descend a staircase and see Mal waving his arms around, no doubt freaking out about what to do next.

They turn and look at me, all growing noticeably more pale. I smile, give a little wave, and simply say, “Hello again.”

I pick up my equipment from my own splattered remains, Arianna motioning toward me with disbelief and suspicion. After a couple questions, they’ve accepted my identity. I am Cheinne. Still.

Then we’re off to search for the dragon’s skull. Down seems a good direction to look, since going back up would probably put us face-to-face with Strahd and whatever new dangers he’d place in our way to protect that crystal heart.

It isn’t long before we come upon the elf who guided us through the house when we first arrived. He sits at his desk, scribbling something on parchment. When we make ourselves known, he looks up and delivers a tight smile. With careful, deliberate movements, he puts away his quill and tells us he’s been waiting for us. He stands, slowly, and reaches out for his scimitar.

Then, with a shriek, he rushes toward us.

Lasers light up the room, lightning flashes, the sound of flesh ripping makes my stomach turn. When we get close to him, a wailing sounds in our heads. The screaming, moaning, feral pain of the people who’ve been cut down by this monster.

It takes some time, more time than some of us would have liked, but we do defeat him. Out of breath, and with some blood lost, we search the room.

I snatch up his key ring. Good thing, too, since a hidden keyhole in the wall presents itself to us. One of the keys fits, and a staircase is revealed behind the door. Crypts are downward. It seems obvious to go down. But we decide to explore the rest of this floor first.

Luck seems to be on our side. In the very next room, a hall decorated from floor to ceiling with bone stretches out before us. A bone table with bone chairs sits under a bone chandelier and a ceiling embellished with all different sorts of patterns of bone. And there, in the far corner, hanging over a doorway, is the dragon skull.

It’s heavy. 250 lbs of bone is a bit too much for most of us. Paak carries it with ease, but we are interrupted by a small, insignificant looking man with twitchy movements and nervous eyes. His name is Cyrus.

We can’t tell if he’s friend or foe. He is clearly loyal to Strahd, but seems all too willing to give us whatever we might need to escape this fortress. Even offers to lead us out himself. Hesitant, we follow. I manage to convince him to give me a mysterious white key that hangs around his neck.

We follow him behind yet another secret door and, just as it seems we might make it out with ease, each side of the hallway is blocked off and gas fills the room. One by one, my companions drop to the floor in a deep sleep, all except for Paak and me. Then the room moves.

We can tell we’re shooting upward, but can’t quite see anything. Paak notices a trapdoor on the ceiling. We both climb through and find ourselves in an elevator shaft. Darkness cloaks everything above us. We have no idea how high we’ll climb or how long it will take before we arrive. We have no idea what will be waiting for us when we get up there. We both agree we don’t want to find out.

Paak takes out his ax and swings at one of the chains pulling us up. Nothing happens. I work at another chain with my tools, unscrewing the anchors that bind them to the room. It comes undone and the elevator jerks, putting me slightly off balance.

Another great swing from his ax and Paak breaks through his chain. It whips upward as the elevator swings violently toward the wall, off balance. It strikes the stone and gets wedged there, bringing us to an abrupt stop.

A small victory. Another chain strains against the tension and a link begins to bend open.

We have to get everyone out, and quickly.

One by one we slap people awake. Mal and Watts wake up, though the effort makes the compartment slip against the stone. We try to move slowly, so as not to disrupt the box more. Arianna won’t wake up, so Paak carries her. Both Mal and Watts make it to the landing a mere five feet below. Paak jumps off with Arianna, making me promise to go back for Cyrus.

I stare through the trap door at his crumpled body. Was this a coincidence? Or did he lead us to a trap?

If there’s one thing I have learned in this world — there are no coincidences. I leap to the landing on my own, leaving Cyrus to his fate.

Which, it turns out, was plummeting down the elevator shaft, crashing to the bottom.

Through the door behind us, the impenetrable tower loomed over us, wiping away all thought of Cyrus.

After a foolish attempt to climb the tower without assistance, Mal grabs my piton, ties it to a rope, and anchors it on the battlements. He easily climbs up and opens the door from the inside.

Treasure beyond anything I have ever seen awaits us. I line my pockets with gold. Finally, something worth this mess.

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Drastic Times, Drastic Measures
A brief explanation of how we wound up as dinner guests at Castle Ravenloft

I woke up in the dark with a headache. As I filtered through my memories, I realized both were caused by being hung upside-down in a spider’s cocoon. I remembered watching Pak go down under a pile of spiders. Before I could think of how to get him out, one of them had webbed me and the rest had pounced.

In hindsight, none of this should have surprised me. We hadn’t exactly been the most circumspect group, and it was bound to catch up to us. But that was cold comfort to me as I was waiting to become a spider’s dinner. I was always more interested in history rather than the natural sciences, but I still found the situation appropriate. What was this except the strong eating the weak, the fundamental rule of nature? As humans we like to put on airs about how we’ve escaped that cycle, but it’s always waiting for us just beyond the edge of the campfire.

The chilling realization of my fate began to set in. For all I knew, the rest of the group was hanging alongside me, each waiting their turn. There would be no eleventh-hour rescue, no heroic charge against all odds. We’d had our chance. But I still wanted to press on. In spite of all the failures, I wanted to continue to live. Perhaps that was why Strahd had summoned me. He knew I would dance till the bitter end. While it pained me to give him the satisfaction, that was simply another bitter pill to swallow in my road to survival, and the least of them at that. The much more difficult step was to reach within myself to the festering, hungry disease I had contracted on the road out of Vellaki when those shapeshifters had waylaid us. I had felt it strengthening my body, coursing through my veins, but I had managed to hold it in check, reluctant to relinquish control. That reluctance was a luxury I could no longer afford.

I removed the walls I had built so carefully around it and let it run free through my veins. My skin stretched and split. My heartbeat quickened. With a single thrash I broke free of the webs. When I landed I was vaguely aware of Pak beside me. But I was more acutely aware of the spiders around me. The skittering bastards who had sought to feed on my flesh. I lashed out with claws and teeth, tearing into them. I fought recklessly, charging each new foe until it dropped, but they eventually overwhelmed me once again.

I came to with my companions around me. Mal had returned to rescue us in spite of his constant protests. And even more oddly, Cheinne was there. It only took one look to realize she must have come to a similar conclusion as I had: life, no matter how tenuous, is worth any cost.

The party recuperated and explored the rest of the manor.

In the throne room we found a colossal armored dreadnaught. The shining sword across his back seemed to be the one from the Vistani woman’s prophecy, but the huge blade across his knees and his aggressive manner dissuaded us.

We also came across a council of undead in one of the rooms, who told us of how Strahd’s army came to tear down their order and curse their hall. They slew the dragon Argonvoss and took his body away. We theorized that if we could get his body back, the curse on the hall would be lifted and we could claim the sword. Without any leads on the body, however, we found ourselves at loose ends.

While we continued our exploration, we saw a cart draw up to the manor and unload a coffin before peeing on it and then leaving. When we went to investigate it, we found that its make matched those we had seen in Vellaki at the coffin-maker’s house before finding the saint’s bones. And what was more, the coffin had Mal’s name on it. But inside was a swarm of bats. Ravenloft continues to be as inviting and friendly as ever.

Without any further leads on Argonvoss’ body, we decided to take up Strahd’s invitation rather than risk his displeasure. We were also hoping he would become talkative over dinner and tell us something of the silver dragon’s fate.

On our way to the castle we were lured off the road by a will ’o the wisp and led to a crumbling tower full of zombies. We managed to dispatch most of them, with Arianna putting a number to flight. As we were fighting, however, we heard a loud explosion outside. When we went to check on it we found a Vistani woman who had apparently vaporized a large portion of the undead host.

She identified herself as a vampire hunter named Esmerelda, the apprentice of the man we’d met in Vellaki who joked about feeding steaks to his horse. She was also the owner of the cart we found in front of the wizard’s tower before triggering its explosive trap. We decided to keep that detail to ourselves. We offered to get her into Castle Ravenloft to let her have a go at Strahd and she agreed to accompany us. She seems very driven, but isn’t much for conversation.

We arrived at the castle without further incident, the huge doors opening before us. Esmerelda took off on her own at once, and we were greeted by a servant who showed us to the dining room.

We ate the food, reasoning that if Strahd wanted us dead he had many more opportunities than poisoning a dinner. It was the best meal I’d had since coming to this accursed place, and I felt ready to match wits with our captor when he appeared. But he was unfortunately tight-lipped about Argonvoss, and when we asked why he had brought us here he simply vanished, locking us in the castle.

We found a secret passageway behind an organ and followed it to the battlements, where we fought an animated suit of armor. It was a tough foe, but Pak managed to push it off the battlements. Nothing was likely to survive a drop like that.

We continued to explore the battlements, looking into the castle’s windows as we went. We saw a number of strange rooms. A ballroom with a tilted cake; a woman calmly reading in bed who waved excitedly to us. We eventually made our way back into the castle proper and began exploring more. We came across a hall filled with statues of nobles frozen in terrified poses who seemed to change their pose as the lightning flashed across them. We also found a study full of books. Most of them were unremarkable, though; hardly the kind of fare I was expecting from someone with such seemingly eccentric tastes as Strahd.

The girl’s bedroom was nearby; Cheinne went to talk to her, but before long she left for dinner. Cheinne followed her downstairs, but came back shaken and unwilling to talk about what she had seen. Given our experiences here so far, nobody was willing to press her.

We also found a secret passage into a room apparently filled with treasure. But when Mal went to investigate he was paralyzed by some kind of gas trap. We sent Cheinne in after him, who was fortunately unaffected by the poison. She also found another secret passage filled with spiderwebs through the first secret room. Secrets within secrets. It suits Strahd.

We investigated the webbed hallway and emerged in a belfry similarly covered. Recalling our unfortunate encounter in the manor, we burned the webs and let that sort out the spiders. Afterwards, I went to ring the bell and narrowly avoided it falling on me. But at least my curiosity was satisfied.

Through the belfry there was a huge vault with an impenetrable adamantine fortress inside of it. We circled around, but couldn’t make head or tail of it. Having hit a dead end, we went back to the study to regroup.

We decided to keep exploring the battlements, and came across a yet taller tower which we began to make our way up. At the top of the tower was a huge red crystal that pulsed in a steady rhythm. We quickly deduced that this was the heart of the castle, another element of the Vistani prophecy. Out of curiosity, we began to attack it, but the castle began to shake as we did so. Arianna and Pak fell all the way down the tower. Cheinne and I continued up the stairs while Mal stayed adamantly on the landing.

Halberds came to life to defend the heart but I managed to dispel the magic controlling them, sending them plummeting down the tower after our companions. But in the fighting Cheinne fell as well. I got close enough to the door to hear Strahd ordering someone to stop the people attacking the heart. I planned to turn invisible and hang off the edge of the stairs to approach Strahd once his lackies passed, but as I lowered myself my grip slipped and I began to plummet towards the ground.

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Argynvostholt, part 1

There was a time when Mal didn’t believe in ghosts. It seemed like years ago; before the mists, before Strahd, before this damned half-light that the Morninglord never seemed to truly penetrate. But that was then. This… this was something else entirely.

While Pakfur and Arianna walked Savid back to the main road, the dusk elf’s words rang in Mal’s ears. A silver dragon. An army of knights. Defeated. Yet somewhere in this ruin, some remnant of their power remained. Something powerful enough to challenge Strahd. Whatever it was, It had to be here. It had to because the prophesy foretold it. It had to because if it didn’t…

“I might as well walk into the woods and let the werewolves take me.”

The wizard glanced at him. “What’s that?” But Mal just shrugged. Watts seemed to be changing as well. His once-youthful face now rugged and unshaven, hell he even looked more muscular. And Cheinne was missing. Again.

The woman had a habit of poking around where she didn’t belong, and it was going to get her into trouble.

And then Chienne shrieked.

The two men grabbed their staves and rushed out of the rubble-strewn kitchen, through the dining room with those omnious armor statues, into the mist-filled chapel. Three men bore down on Chienne. Their pale skin taut, their armor ragged and filled with holes, the longswords they carried were keen-edged nonetheless.

The battle was over quickly, with Mal’s spinning staff knocking aside slash after slash, while Chienne darted back and forth, her rapier cutting through dessicated flesh. And eventually it was silent again.

Panic creeping through him, Mal unbarred a side door and dashed outside, the damp chill of the evening air a welcome respite. A respite, that is, until his eyes focused on his surroundings: a graveyard. The earth around the graves all disturbed. They clawed their way free. They refused to rest.

And then Chienne shrieked. Again.

Back through the door, Watts tore up one flight of stairs, Mal the other. The tight spiral stumbling steps threatened to pitch him over at any moment, but then he saw the light from her lantern, and there she was, just above him, facing some kind of transluscent soldier. Chienne stabbed at the thing, but it—it walked through her—then slashed its blade across her back. Above, a second ghostly soldier strode through a door, flanking Chienne.

No. No. No. It was too much.

Mal dashed back down the stairs. Arianna and Pak were standing in the doorway, bemused. A bloody Watts stumbled down the opposite stairs.

And then Chienne screamed.

This wasn’t like the other screams. It was wracked with a pain and sorrow that froze Mal’s blood. The big half-orc shoved him aside and dashed up the stairs. There was an eternity of seconds, and then the slow, steady thump of boots on the stone.

Pak, covered in blood, carried Chienne. Her open eyes were fixed on the ceiling. A fist-sized hole cut clear through her chest and out her back.

At a loss for words, the remaining four stumbled back to the tiny servants quarters, to hole up for the night somewhere defensible. They lay Chienne’s body gingerly inside one of the empty wine casks in the other room. There was nothing he could have done. He couldn’t have saved her. He repeated the mantra throughout the night, but it felt no more true when dawn’s light crept through the cracks in masonry.

Pak was up first, rummaging through the demolished kitchen for scraps of food. And then he was out of the kitchen and into the dining room. And then the creak of ancient hinges announced the half-orc was exploring.

“Spiders!” A half-orc’s whisper carries like a human’s shout. As Mal, Arianna and Watts piled into the kitchen doorway, Pak bristled and choked up on his greataxe, preparing to charge. But from the chapel, three undead knights emerged once more.

Could they be the same knights? They looked the same, but the dents in their helmets from Mal’s staff were gone. His mind reeled, his reactions sluggish, as one of the knights bore down on him. Its blade bit into his shoulder, then his side, the pain clouding his vision, his mind refusing to accept that he had to kill these abominations again.

Beyond the door he could hear Pak cursing in orcish, generally a sign that the fight was going well. Flames and electricy crackled in his ears as Watts and Arianna peppered the thing with magic. Eventually it fell, and they burst into the room to find Pak bloodied from half a dozen cuts, one knight fallen before him, the second kneeling from a grievous wound. Pak raised his axe to finish the thing, leaving his guard down; it lunged.

Mal gestured, and ball of Lathander’s fire shot forward, engulfing the thing’s face. It writhed momentarily in a silent scream, then collapsed. Pakfur stopped, his eyes narrowing at Mal. He’s mad. At Me. For stealing his kill. I saved his— The half-orc roared and wheeled, reason clearly drowned in bloodlust, and dashed through the door. From within there was a sickening crunch of steel on chitin.

The other three dashed toward the door to find Pak buried beneath a pile of man-sized spiders. Arianna whispered a quick prayer to Umberlee and the ceiling exploded in a roaring boom, leaving Mal’s ears ringing and a hole in the wall.

Spiders poured through it. Angry spiders. Ichor driped from their shrapnel-speared exoskeletons. Now they were coming through the door as well, crawling over Pak’s still body. Arianna disappeared under a net of sticky webbing, and Watts collapsed beneath clicking mandibles.

There were too many. He couldn’t save them. But he could save himself. He rolled backwards and slammed shut the kitchen door. He hazarded a quick breath then tore back through the servant’s quarters, down the hallway, and out the servant’s entrance. He exploded from the door into the Morninglord’s feeble light. Then he froze.

In his path, stood Chienne. The ground behind her visible through that fist-sized hole in her chest. This time, she didn’t scream.

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On second thought, let's not go to Kresk - 'tis a silly place
It's only a model

It is mildly distressing that I count as a success a day in which we didn’t burn anything down or make any new enemies, but here we are.

In fact, contrary to making new enemies we established an ally for ourselves – of sorts. We met with a werewolf who told us that Strahd has poisoned her pack (I believe merely metaphorically…?) and installed one of his henchmen at their head. We developed a plan to challenge him to single combat, cheat, and wrest control of the pack from him, gaining their allegiance against Strahd in the process. Before undertaking that particular endeavor however we decided to strengthen ourselves by pursuing some of the other prophecies, and with that goal in mind we made our way to Kresk.

On our way we were waylaid by a pack of direwolves. After dispatching them, Strahd appeared and inquired pointedly about our absence at his table. We dissembled and demurred, but he still seemed quite adamant that we join him within a week’s time and to drive the point home he set the skeletons of the fallen wolves against us, though fortunately Arianna’s divine connection rendered them largely ineffectual. Strahd’s invitation only served to renew our dedication to pursuing the prophecies, and we continued toward Kresk.

When we finally arrived at Kresk, we found the burghermeister to be eccentric to say the least. He addressed us from the walls and refused to open his gates until we brought him wine. Recalling a crossroads pointing to a vineyard, we retraced our steps. En route, our growling stomachs and our denial from Kresk put our nutrition foremost on our minds, and we conspired to dress and preserve the meat from the direwolves, which should keep us trekking through the woods of Ravenloft for quite some time, though I have some concerns about scurvy.

With our immediate need of food met, we decided that Kresk was a silly place and that we wouldn’t rush back to it. Instead, we investigated the prophesied “dragon’s house,” based on a lead we got from the werewolf about a certain manor.

The trap on the manor door was mercifully defunct – I was not looking forward to a repeat performance of our entry to the wizard’s tower. Once inside, we felt…watched, somehow. But that didn’t stop us from getting down to the usual business of looting the place for anything not nailed down.

We found a large sitting room without much in it, but next door was a storage room for wine with a little elf who had gone looking for missing children and become one himself – he took cover in the manor but wanted badly to leave, insisting it was haunted. I am most curious to prove or disprove that claim!

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Possible Hints for Prophecy Locations

The prophecy about the “Dragon Home” may refer to a old dragon lair indicated by the she-werewolf.

The white tower may be in some mountains south of us.

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There Wolf, There Ghoul Pack

Well… The good news is that I’m not a frog any more. Being a frog was surprisingly uninteresting, all things considered. The reduced intellectual capacity really did a number on my ability to enjoy jumping many times my own height. Pity. Then again, I don’t remember the taste of insects, so I can’t complain too much.

I was rescued (accidentally) by the most amusing group of adventurers I’ve ever met. One excessively acquisitive thief, one half-orc with relatively little common sense, one wizard slowly turning into a werewolf, and one… guy with a stick who seems to be the only source of good sense the group has. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how they’re still alive. I think I’ll keep them.

Anyway, they rescued me from an apparent frog-genocide at my old home and turned me back by dragging me into a tower with some sort of anti-magic field. We then explored the tower. This exploration included me falling through the rotting floors of the tower twice. When we made it to the top floor, we discovered a small bedroom with very little in it except for a preserved head of some sort. Which smells of lavender. Strongly. I like lavender, but not this much.

We then spotted what we assumed to be a group of the locals chasing after my new friends (who, if I understand correctly, lit their mayor’s house on fire) and so we went on the lam, accidentally stumbling our way to the lair of the local werewolf pack. Before we left, the thief took the preserved head, which I can only assume will come around to bite us in the ass soon enough.

The thief observed a sister beating her brother to death with a rock in order to earn membership in the pack. Understandably, the thief found this somewhat traumatic. Less understandably, she ran to go retrieve the entirely dead body of the boy, thus alerting the werewolves.

We were able to parlay with the wolf who found us and convince him we had a shared enemy, so we retreated to the shores of the nearby lake to wait for our midnight meeting with the wolves. Unfortunately, the thief brought her new pet corpse with us. We buried the kid and lit a fire…. Which brought the local ghouls down on our heads like some sort of foul-smelling gourmet’s seeking a new delicacy.

We fought, but the surprise made it hard keep on our feet. The thief went down twice, even with my throwing out one of the few healing spells I knew. Unfortunately, I was the second member of the party to go down. I don’t remember what happened next.

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Dance Dance Revolution

When we awoke, the children were gone.

I checked on their tent and all I found was blood everywhere, mottled hair littering the ground. I grabbed the nearest Vistani and shook him, shouting about the children. His bleary eyes and choice of headwear (an overturned pot) told me that he was too hung over to be of any help.

Who — or what — could so brazenly enter this encampment and whisk away two children?

The party gathered outside the children’s tent and noticed tracks and a deep groove leading through the encampment and to the north west. We had to follow them. But we had to prepare.

The people offered us talismans against the wolf spirit. They wanted a hefty price, which Pak paid. I am not so trusting. They looked like junk, so I just slipped one away from the merchant’s pack without him noticing. Better to be safe than sorry.

As we followed the path, we eventually came across an abandoned wagon. It looked shady and we probably should have taken a bit more caution, but we waltzed right up to it and opened the door.

I don’t remember what happened next. A loud noise, heat, light, and pain. Lots of pain. When I next awoke, there was a crater where the wagon once stood. The nausea that plagued me since drinking the Mother’s Milk had disappeared, thankfully. Somehow, Pak had managed to save us after the wagon detonated. Lesson learned — check for traps.

Or… lesson not learned. We made our way to the tower and, once again, Pak gave the door a good knock. Lightning arced off the tower and struck him. He hit the ground with a thud. The sound of wolves in the woods drew near.

We noticed symbols on the door of the tower, which ceased its electric crackling. They looked like a dance.

So I danced.

Immediately a blue dragon appeared, landing on the ground in front of us. My heart raced, and shouts from Watts and Mal came from behind. They wanted me to stop dancing.

But if there’s anything I know, it’s that when a scary creature doesn’t want you to go somewhere, that’s exactly where you need to be going. I wanted into that tower.

And plus, don’t dragons usually mean there’s a hoard of treasure nearby?

Watts was taken down by the beast rather quickly. I started to doubt my resolve. What if this didn’t open the door? What if we all died here?

Mal finally popped out from his hiding place and stalled the dragon some more. I managed to finish the dance depicted on the door’s carvings.

The dragon disappeared! And the door to the tower opened!

I whooped with glee, but Mal wasn’t as pleased. As we stabilized our party members and dragged them into the building, he gave me the most murderous look. I made sure my dagger was easily accessible.

Once inside the tower, the door closed behind us. Trapped. But safe?

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Readings from Madame Eva

3 of swords – “history” – “knowledge of the ancients help you defeat your enemy” “Go to the mountains. Climb the white tower guarded by golden knights.”
4 of swords – “a powerful force of great protection, a symbol of great hope” “the thing you seek lies the dead beneath mountains of gold coins"
8 of cups – “power and strength. it tells of a weapon of vengeance, a sword of light” "the treasure lies in a dragon’s house, in hands once clean but now corrupted”

the devil – “ally” – “sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the fight against darkness” “a werewolf holds a secret hatred for your enemy. use her hatred to your advantage"
the fool – “your enemy is a creature of darkness, this card will lead you to him or tell you who seeks him ​*giggle*​” “look to great heights. find the beating heart of the castle; he waits nearby"

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In which we spoil our appetites before an important dinner date

After our narrow escape from Strahd’s lackeys we returned to the church with the bones in hand. We skulked back to the church, one eye over our collective shoulder lest we were followed.

When we returned, we woke the priest and informed him of our success. He was quite grateful and restored the bones to their proper place at once. As soon as he placed them into the altar they began emanating an aura of calm, a clear sign that the church’s blessing had been restored. With any luck this should keep Strahd’s servants at bay.

I found it most curious that the bones were entirely unremarkable when we retrieved them; I had tried detecting magic from the first floor of the coffin-maker’s house with no success, but now that they have been placed in their proper place they are unmistakably divine artifacts. It’s certainly not uncommon for there to be magics which rely on a coincidence of object and place, particularly divine magic and its extensive dealing with blessing of an area. A most instructive experience nevertheless.

We stayed the night at the church to recover from the day’s ordeals; perhaps we have found somewhere in town we can call a safe haven after our time on the run.

The next morning we found a letter had been delivered; Strahd invited us to dinner at his castle, with promises of our safe passage – to the castle, at least. We weighed our options given the leads we’d found so far and decided to investigate the windmill we’d seen on our way into town since it was on the way to Strahd, since we decided it would be unwise to keep him waiting.

Strahd’s promise of safe passage, unsurprisingly, was not worth much. As we traveled down the road toward the windmill we met a few travelers who asked to see any valuable weapons we possessed; when Cheinne showed them the sword we took from the manor in Barovia they threw it into the woods and attacked us, transforming into humanoid wolves as they did so. We were managing to keep them at bay until one slipped past Cheinne and Erevan to take a bite out of me. I came to shortly after in time to dispatch the beast.

As we rested to recover from that encounter, Cheinne mentioned that she had a spellbook that detailed portals out of this land. While she did indeed have a spellbook, I could find no mention of portals in it; just the margin-scribblings of an amateur alongside some genuine arcane insights. I’ll have to look into the book’s contents more when I have a chance. Cheinne was typically cagey about how she got the book; it seems the Mayor’s son had been dabbling blindly (which is to say, dangerously) into the arcane, and she took the book after some form of mishap.

We arrived at the windmill, where a crow scoffed at us. However, an incredible aroma from within soon drove all thoughts of miscreant birds from our minds. We entered the windmill and were greeted by an elderly woman who offered to sell us pies, though she was disappointingly reluctant to tell us any details about the windmill. Erevan tried a bite of the pie at her urging, though the rest of us were wary after our time in Ravenloft. He seemed to suffer no ill effects, however, and told us that it tasted as good as it smelled.

Before we departed, Cheinne decided to take a ‘detour’ to the basement after fast-talking the old lady. When she returned she seemed pretty insistent that we leave quickly, and the old woman excused herself to check on her oven.

Outside, however, we were once again delayed by Cheinne’s insatiable curiosity; she wanted to see what all the racket had been upstairs. Erevan and I boosted her up to the balcony so she could look in the window. Whatever she saw clearly startled her, as she lost her usual sturdy footing and came tumbling down. Once she’d picked herself up and dusted herself off she seemed quite shaken indeed, insisting that we go to save the children. She told us she’d seen two other women upstairs singing to crates about how they would soon be pies.

We debated for a while on if we could fight them, especially with Pak and Malarn still back in town, but ultimately decided we couldn’t leave them to the witch’s devices and went to the rescue, hoping we could catch the one we’d met in the basement and kill her before her sisters could come to help.

We found her tending the oven and managed to sneak up and push her in. To our surprise, however, she was much stronger than we expected, and while we were able to keep her contained for some time she eventually broke free, evidently unperturbed by her time spent cooking. She woke a foul-smelling beast she affectionately called Pooky from a barrel, but we dispatched it in short order in spite of its noxious emissions. However, I think the real battle is just beginning as we engage the witch in earnest.

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Where there's a window
There's a way to jump out of it

My companions showed up at the church, and didn’t look so great. Pak lay unconscious on the ground with something long and sharp sticking out of his head. Mal offered to take care of him while the rest of us planned what moves to make next.

The priest of the church seemed very upset — some bone relics that protect the place were stolen. The prime suspect? The grave digger he employed. Not a bright fellow, but that made it all the easier for the bard to go and make friends while I made my way down to the priest’s room. Watts and I searched through, didn’t find anything special. Except for the fancy clothes hidden beneath his mattress. I left him the wig I found in the woods. He’d probably get better use of it than I would.

We followed the grave digger back to his…humble abode. It was a shack and, through the slats of wood, we could see him and his family feasting on an old goose. Still, goose isn’t cheap. Where had he gotten the coin for such a dinner?

The bard, having established their friendship beforehand, managed to get information out of him. The coffin maker in town seemed to have purchased the relics. It was time to pay him a visit.

The house was easy enough to break into. The ground floor didn’t have anything of interest — a few empty coffins in the show room. There was a light shining on the top floor, however, so it was obvious what we had to do next.

We made our way up the stairs, skipping a room that seemed to simply be filled with empty crates, and opened up the coffin maker’s door. He cowered on his bed, wet floor and holy symbols surrounding him. In one of his wardrobes, we found the bones we sought, but what was he so scared of?

We found out soon enough. Vampires rushed down the hallway toward us, taking a chunk out of me and sapping the life from the bard.

There was only one way out. The window. We managed to jump out and make it away alive, but I’ll never forget the coffin maker’s screams.

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