Ravenloft

Sneak Attack
SneakAttack

The Cave behind the falls was the home to a Dwarf Trapper name Varikov. He is a depraved killer who enjoys trapping and skinning human prey more than animal quarry. The Dwarf and his pet Dire Wolf, Farkash, engaged the party in battle within the cave. Traps were sprung during the battle where Ghesh the Dragonborn found himself at the bottom of a 20 foot deep pit and Sir Urik, the Knight of the Raven, fell through a chute that caused our NPC knight to take a dip in the pool of water at the bottom of the falls. This was the last we saw of Sir Urik, it is assumed he is still fighting evil where he sees it. As the Dwarf lured the fighters in the party to the various traps, Zombies started to crawl up out of the floor to challenge those party members that are not normally in hand to hand combat. Eventually, the party was triumphant and defeated the Zombies, Dwarf and wolf companion.

Varikov’s latest work of human taxidermy was this adventurer he killed almost three months ago. He is dressed in his banded mail and posed as if in combat, holding a great sword in one hand and a sprig of wolfsbane in the other. He bears a plain gold band on the ring finger of his left hand.

The name of this adventurer is Jeref Maurgan whose wife asked the Church of the Raven Queen to find and bring him home alive. This task was assigned to the Deva, Ota, who is being chaperoned in this duty by the Dragonborn, Ghesh, by order of the Raven Queen Council. What this means to the two adventures is unknown at this time. The party then choose to take an extended rest, using the Dwarf’s cave as safe haven, to recover from the battle and prepare themselves for an assault on the Castle.

Earlier that day, after the battle with the Young Dragon, the scene changes to a throne room in Castle Ravenloft, a grinning victorious Kavan is found entering the room with Ziki behind him.

“Permission to approach you, my Lord”, asks Kavan on one knee before a very regal looking man sitting upon the throne.

“Granted”, replies Count Strahd, “I take it by your uncontainable grin that you were successful in your endeavor to gather another minion”

“Yes, my Lord, The one known as Ota has been given the 1st of the three ritual bites. And thanks to Ziki’s ability to infiltrate their ranks, we have learned of their plans to enter the Castle.”

“To do so will mean their deaths”, states Count Strahd.

“Yes, my Lord”, replies Kavan, “however, we have also learned that they plan to attack the Trapper prior to approaching the Castle. With your help and Ziki’s abilities, not only will I be able to apply the second ritual bite to Ota but you will be awarded with possession of Tatyana.”

“Be warned, Kavan, you maybe my favorite minion but you are not my only minion. To promise me that which I desire the most and then not full fill your promise will only prove to be harmful to you.” threatens Count Strahd. “What do you request of me?”

“Yes, my Lord, I understand. First the battle with the dwarf must cause enough damage to them that they will choose to stay in the cavern to rest. The Trapper alone will not be able to accomplish that, but if we sacrifice some of the infected Zombies, that will help to weaken the group enough. Next ….”

Back to the present, the adventuring party found a nice stash of treasure that the Dwarf trapper had accumulated over the years and after dividing up the loot, stretched out for a night of rest. The two elfs in the group taking turns at watch as they only need 4 hours of rest.

About an hour before Dawn, unnoticed by Leia the elf, Ireenia rises from her sleep in a dream-like state. She makes it half way across the cavern before Leia can react. She calls to Ireenia but getting no response, begins waking up the rest of the party. Ireenia makes it almost out the door when the group springs into action to reach her.

Leia transforms into a hawk and flys over the chasm that is blocking the most direct path to Ireenia, Archer (Lohastan) and Druid (Esteru) rush to help remind Snarg the Fighter of the chute trap they must pass by in order to catch up with Ireenia. Ghesh gives chase but not at the full double move that everyone else has done. With all the focus on Ireenia, none in the group noticed that Ota didn’t actually get up. Nor did they notice that Ziki, in the form of Ota, slipped out of a hidden room and joined the chase for Ireenia.

Ota for her part, found herself in a battle of wills with Kavan. He was able to dominate his will over her for her turn causing her to remain still and quite while the others left. For her part, Ota was close to casting aside the domination but calling her power of “Memories of a 1000 lifetimes” she was able to bust the domination spell that Kavan had her under. (Note: GM here, now that I think about this, I’m not sure that Ota should have been able to use that power. I allowed that night, but let’s review when it can be used). Still dazed, she was easy prey for a second attempt at domination by Kavan, he slowly approached the prone Deva.

In the mean time, Ziki was able to mimic some of Ota’s powers by use of magical items given to her by Count Strahd. For example, she was able to teleport most everyone outside the cave. All but the Dragonborn who did not rush after Ireenia. Outside, presented an interesting sight. Count Strahd is using his dominance power to call Ireenia to him. Blocking the narrow path (on one side is the fast flowing river at the top of the falls, and on the other side is a fall down a cliff side of over 200 feet) are 3 Dire Wolfs. Ireenia is taking a double moves to reach Count Strahd.

The Minotaur Driud, Esteru, moved quickly to battle the wolfs, Leia still in hawk form flys out over the wolfs to try and reach Count Strahd. Count Strahd ignores the approaching hawk, and lunches a double magic missile attack against the Archer. Staggering from the impact, the Archer activates his boots of spider walking and runs over the cliff side and along it’s edge to come up behind the point where the wolfs are blocking the path and finds concealment in the heavy foliage. The Archer let’s loose a double shot that hits the vampire and causes some damage. Ziki, as Ota, uses a wand of lightning to mimic another power of the Deva’s and blasts the wolfs. Still no one in the party is suspicious of Ota. The Dragonborn, getting ready to leave the cave notices movement way in the back of the cave, but chooses to join the battle. And quickly works his way around the wolf battle just as the Minotaur Druid finishes her attack on the wolfs and shifts back trying to avoid a three on one situation. The wolfs turn and attempt to attack Leia as she changes back from hawk form to human, the attack would have been bad, but Ghesh uses his ability to teleport an ally away from danger and moves Leia closer to Count Strahd.

Back in the cave, Kavan successfully over powers Ota’s will yet again, but Ota once more surges her will power up to break free of the dominance. Further more, she was able to cast a protection spell that would harm Kavan mentally if he attacks her.

Outside, Ireenia was able to reach Count Strahd side. Together they begin to walk away. Ghesh however, uses another of his abilities and swaps places with Ireenia via a teleport spell. Now both Ghesh and Lea are flanking the Count. Snarg, begins battling the wolfs and finds himself knocked prone. Strahd, seeing that Ireenia has been denied him, casts a choking cloud spell that engulfs Ghesh and Leia and then disappears. Ziki, knowing that is the cue that time has run out on Kavan’s plan, changes back to her natural Changling form and spits in Snarg’s face. Using a rogue’s sneak attack, she attempts to deliver a killing blow to Snarg. Maybe it was the spirit of Shatner that Snarg always claims to channel, but at that moment he was able to roll away from the killing blow. Denied again her kill, Ziki flings herself off the cliff face and feather falls gently to the woods below. Ireenia faints from the dominance spell being broken.

For Ota inside the cave, Kavan tries one last time to dominate his will over Ota’s but fails. Sensing the defense spell that Ota has cast and that time has run out on his plan, he flings himself down the chute trap to escape.

The party should feel pretty good after having defeated a very well laid out sneak attack plan.

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The Story Continues

Our Heroes arrive back home, unfortunately for Ota every body she was responsible for was consumed by the vampire’s necromancy spell. But, having failed in her mission, she is assigned to the care of a Dragonborn emissary of the Raven Queen who is noted for his sheer focus on completion of the mission. The Raven Queen religious organization has been granted generous funding from a lady called Helene Maurgen. She has asked for help from the church to find her husband, Jeref, and bring him home alive and well. Jeref has been missing for three months and was last known to be hunting werewolfs in the forest around a city called Barovia.

Upon arrival to Barovia, our heroes find the town under seige by the Undead. They fight their way to the center of town to find an archer defending what remains of the town. They join with the archer and turn back the tide of the attack, but not without each of the heroes contracting a disease. Trapped in the town with the village survivors, our heroes find young Toby and his family. They were trying to reach the Vistani (gypsies) encampment when they got trapped by the undead outbreak and have holed up here in the center of town. With the help of the Archer, they discover that the undead rising is a result of the town’s cleric gone insane due to the death of his son. The cleric had used a forbidden spell that he had found in the Castle Ravenloft that he thought would raise is son from the dead. Instead, it turn his son into a Blaspheme and began turning the dead of the city into walking zombies. One of the tidbits of information that the heroes learn from the cleric is that Ireena is not the natural daughter of Kolyan Indirovich (now deceased Burgomaster of Barovia). She never knew, but old Kolyan found her one day at the edge of the Woods near the very foot of Ravenloft’s crag. She was but a girl then and had no memory of her past. Kolyan adopted her as though she were his own and loved her dearly.

The Heroes visit Ireena next and find her standing guard over her father’s body. She was determined to not let him become one of the walk undead. But, now that the Heroes have stopped the outbreak, she asks them to help her bury her father. After the burial, our Heroes find a small secret hide away under a tombstone. Another small battle with undead ensue, one in which Ireena insists on helping. Of note for this encounter is what happens to one of the wrights after it succeeds in striking Ireena. Hundreds of rats come from all the cracks in the walls and devour the creature. After much scrutiny, Ireena breaks down and explains that she has twiced dreamed that the master of the castle, Count Strahd Von Zarovich, has visited her and expressed his desire for her. Closer inspection of Ireena reveals that she has two sets of bite marks on her neck.

Ireena and other town folk have informed the Heroes that Madame Eva, who can be found at the Vistani encampment, would be of great help to the heroes. So, off to the encampment we go, being sure to escort Toby and family back to their “home”. Along the way, the Archer gains a companion, Sir Urik. Sir Urik is a Knight of the Raven. (Before evil descended on the land of Barovia, it was home to an order of virtuous champions, the Knights of the Raven. United under the symbol of the raven, they set aside differences of religion and political allegiance in their quest to fight evil wherever it appeared. They prospered for centuries before the appearance of Strahd in their land, but now they are practically extinct. – Sir Urik) Ota is fascinated by this news and has asked to join the Knights of the Raven as their calling parallels her own desires to fight evil wherever it rises.

Madam Eve, a huge old lady, greets the Heroes with a grateful heart as they have brought back “home” young Toby and his family. She greets them all but comments on the divine power she feels from the diva, Ota. But, her attention falls on the dragonborn, whose duplicity is a strong attraction to the old lady. The results from her fortune card reading (which can be found on the Wiki page that has yet to be created) have given clues to our Heroes regarding the location of the Sunsword, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, the Tome of Strahd and their best way to defeat the evil one. The first two are powerful weapons against the undead, the last two are even more powerful then the weapons, knowledge on how to defeat Count Strahd.

The heroes find the Sunsword buried in the same cemetery as Ireena’s father. Their next quest was to retrieve the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. To do this, the Heroes defeated the Downed Lady of the Swamp. She had gone quite mad as a result of Strahd’s evil polluting the land of Barovia. She appeared as an old and horrendously ugly human woman with sickly yellow skin, covered in warts and oozing sores, and a mad tangle of greenish-brown hair resembling rotting seaweed. Her eyes stare wildly and her face was twisted in a perpetual mask of grief. Upon interrogating her, the Archer quickly killed her when he thought her mad ravings were threatening the party. After finding the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind hidden in a tree near the execution site, an elf appeared along the edge of the woods. He explained that they had hidden the Symbol as far away as they could from evil one of the castle, but it appears these foolish would be heroes would take it straight to Castle and into the hands of the evil one. He had heard them ask the Downed Lady about a fellow by the name of Jeref and informed them that he could be found in a cave by the Tser Falls. Last but not least, the Archer’s actions of killing the Downed Lady had not gained them any allies from the Elfs and that they were no longer welcomed in the Woods. A long fight out of the woods have left our Heroes near death in utterly exhausted. They retreated back to town and stayed in Ireena’s family mansion.

The next morning the sun is actually breaking its way through the perpetual fog that covers the land of Barovia. All are awake and making plans for what to do next when Ireena comes bouncing down the stairs all excited, for she will not be talked out of going with them to rid the land of the evil of Count Strahd Von Zarovich. She asks when we are all going to the castle. The Heroes explain that they want to make a side trip first to find the lost husband/werewolf hunter Jeref. Ireena explains that mission is along the way and if they are heading to the castle she has but one favor to ask. She explains that an old lady in the town has been driven mad with the lose of her daughter (I’m sensing a theme here), she has been inconsolable since her daughter has disappeared. Ireena wishes to give her some hope by explaining that if her daughter is at the castle, she will bring her back home. The old lady has been driven so mad with grief that Ireena feels that if Ota was to join her, that her angel-like appearance will give her a sense of calm and help give her hope that her daughter will be returned. Ota agrees and off those two go to see the distressed mother. Five minutes later, Ireena comes bouncing down the stairs all excited and asks when we are all going to the castle and where did that hourglass come from that is beside the door. All were able to escape the hourglass bomb trap and the Archer was able to track which direction Ota and the imposter had traveled. Following the trail, the Heroes enter an alley that is blocked by a Young Dragon. The Dragonborn tries to communicate with it, but it explains that he is under magical directions that they are not to pass. A fight begins.

Meanwhile, Ota is being lead by the imposter Ireena. They round a corner and the Barbarian Vampire is waiting for them. Ota finds herself dominated by the vampire. The imposter Ireena shape changes to Ziki, the changling serial killer from the floating city now turned vampire, and explains that Ota and her friends had robbed her of her revenge on the circus members who killed her son. Then, left her in the prison, where Kavan, the Barbarian vampire, turned her into one of his minions thus stopping her from even seeing her family in the afterlife. All that rage is now focused on Ota and anyone whom has helped her. Kavan, the Barbarian Vampire, explains that he was furious that Ota and her friends had stop his plans to take over the floating city and claim it as his own. All he dreamed about was killing her, but now he has changed his mind. Now she will become his bride, and with that said, sinks his teeth into Ota’s neck.

The battle with the young dragon, goes well in the favor of the Heroes. In the last rounds of action, Ota joins the battle. She remembers nothing of Kavan, but has full recollection of Ziki and her desire for revenge has shifted to now include all the Heroes. The party closely inspects Ota and discover the bite marks on her neck. Ota asks the party members to kill her if they find they cannot save her from becoming one of the evil things that she has dedicated her life to fighting.

The last thing that has happened before we left for Thanksgiving break, was a battle with Worgs and Dire Wolves that are protecting the entrance to a cave hidden behind the waterfall.

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The Story So Far
Let's start where Troy took over as GM

The story starts way back in time, so bear with me. The intent of telling this story is a reminder for most of the players, the first time hearing the tale for one of the characters and possible just brand spanking new for some of the existing players who may or may not even be reading this.

Awhile back, there was a group of adventurers who found themselves stuck on a continent far across the ocean from one they call home. War was breaking out and these heroes wanted no part of it. While coming into the wharf section of a Port City, the heroes witness a run away horse drawn cart with a Diva character trying to stop the horses from charging. This is Ota and she is trying to repay a debt she owes to the Priests of the Raven Queen. At the moment, she doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of it. To shorten the story up, the heroes help her stop her cart, rescue some children that were almost trampled over and all in all do what heroes do.

Ota invites the heroes to join her from some drinks and food at the local tavern. Here we meet some NPC characters, of special note is a hafling boy named Toby. The most handsome, charming and all round fantastic hero of the group, Nim Bell, wins via a 3 Dragon Ante game passage for the group (um with the exception of Nim himself as the Captain of the ship thinks he may have been cheated but can’t prove it) on a luxury cruise liner back to their home continent. Ota, who is assigned by the Raven Queen priests to escort her cargo of bodies (people from across the sea who were not as lucky as our Hero’s in leaving this war alive) back to their homes, finds herself on the same ship. As an amazing coincidence, Toby’s family of halflings will also be on the same ship.

As it turns out, the ship is actually a floating city. And our band of Heroes soon find themselves caught up in a murder mystery when a body falls from a tall building right in front of them. They track down many clues, get themselves deputized, find themselves a target of an hour glass bombing, end up fighting a baby dragon and saving only one of the intended targets. The murder is revealed to be a changeling female named Ziki, who lost her sanity when her only son was killed by a baby dragon while visiting a circus. The circus trainer who was responsible for caring for the baby dragons, was distracted from his duties by his affair with the wife of the circus owner. Shortly after the death of her son, Ziki gets word that her husband was killed in the war. Ziki snapped and begin to kill every member of the now disbanded circus. The last couple of members were residents on the floating city. Our heroes only clue to identifing this changeling who can make herself look like anyone is her right hand. It has only three fingers, two of which were lost in her attempt to save her child from the baby dragon’s rampage. Our Heroes were able to stop Ziki before she was able to kill the last member of the circus, captured her and put her in jail. Much celebration on the ship happens as the serial killer is no longer at large. The captain of the ship offers the Heroes a reward and permanent residency on the ship. But the celebration is cut short when all the dead bodies being taken back across the ocean start roaming the streets and killing people.

Once again our Heroes fight their way through the restless undead, losing their cleric along the way. They discover a vampire barbarian and necromancy sorceress performing some type of ritual that is animating the bodies. The sorceress leaves immediately telling the vampire that this was not what the Master wanted and that he is on his own. Our Heroes recognize the barbarian from a couple of earlier encounters: he was a shadowy figure in the bar who was watching Ota very closely, he was seen taking small personal items that belonged to the Heroes from a very blurry eyed Toby, this items were then given to Ravens who flew off the ship. But it was in this battle that our Heroes learn that this vampire barbarian has the ability to dominate the wills of others. The battle was hard but our Heroes were able to defeat the vampire and stop the ritual. The Barbarian got away by turning to fog, but not before he did the required “I would have gotten away with it if not for you meddling kids” line and he threw in an extra “I should have killed you when I had the chance” line to Ota as well.

More celebration is required and the journey proceeds without any further incidents, but of note was that Ziki killed herself by hanging in her cell about three days after the undead attacks.

NOTE: the story will continue in the next blog posting.

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