Eleint 26, 1489DR – The Fading (September)
After enjoying a night's rest, the group continues exploring the underground dungeon. They return to the Darklord’s Shrine, where they found the orb, and continue down the south hallway. Asher leads the group and encounters a closed door. He begins to look for traps, but as his hand touches the door’s surface he becomes glued to it! This is not door, this is a mimic!
The creature attacks the group but it is soon disposed of (not before Master Dō manages to make an awful Knock-knock joke pun).
Makaelis also unintentionally summoned a Unicorn, a side effect of his Wild Magic abilities. The Unicorn became drawn to Dale, because of his goodly nature, and offered up some key pieces of advice, also blessing him with magic. This encounter went unnoticed by most of the group.
Now that the hallway is clear the group continues forward.
They come across what seems to be the Cult Leader’s den, with a bedroom attached to the eastern side of the room. While investigating the bedroom, which held containers with items and treasure, the men are attacked by the ghosts of the manor’s owner and his wife; Gustav and Elizabeth Durst. The adventurers manage to put their spirits to rest and claim the room’s loot.
They double back to the one unexplored section of this dungeon level and descend a long stone staircase into darkness.
As they reach the bottom landing they discern a dozen or so voices saying, over and over, “He is the Ancient. He is the Land.” The room appears to be some sort of Reliquary, where the cult stored “relics” although most seems to be non-magical.
This room contains two exits, one leading to a portcullis currently closed, and another leading to a makeshift prison. Being unable to pass through the portcullis the group heads into the prison area. This cult had no patience for dissenters or traitors. Remains in the area reveal that they were not shy about torturing or murdering their own ranks.
While investigating the prison and the individual cells, Dale is able to uncover a secret lever that opens a gateway to a large ritual chamber. After scavenging the prison the adventurers enter the newly revealed chamber.
The chanting stops as the group peers into the forty-foot-square room. The smooth masonry walls provide excellent acoustics. Featureless stone pillars support the ceiling, and a beach in the west wall leads to a dark cave heaped with refuse. Murky water covers most of the floor. In the middle of the room stairs rise from an octagonal dais above the water. Rusty chains with shackles dangle from the ceiling directly above a stone altar mounted on the dais. The altar is carved with hideous depictions of grasping ghouls and is stained with old dried blood.
The group cautiously on the walkway circling the room. This is an evil place. People have been sacrificed in this room, perhaps hundreds of them. After moments of investigative silence the group finally approaches the altar. Once foot is set on its stones the chanting rises once more and thirteen dark apparitions appear on the ledges overlooking the room. Each one resembles a black-robed figure holding a torch, but the torch’s fire is black and seems to draw light into it. Where one would expect to see faces are voids. These are the long dead cult members, their spirits bound to this place by the evil acts committed within.
“One must die!” they chant, over and over. “One must die! One must die!”
The group is confused, “What do they want?” one asks. Asher steps closer to one of the figures when realization hits him. “They want a sacrifice, any sacrifice, at the altar. I’ll be right back.”
In a couple of minutes asher returns with a rat in hand. He walks towards the altar and breaks its neck, but the chanting continues. He then pulls out a dagger and cuts the rats throat, its blood spilling down unto the altar surface. The room goes silent and the figures disappear.
The group looks around the room in confusion. What just happened? Where they drawn here to appease this “house” with a blood sacrifice? What would have happened if they refused?
Further investigation reveals a Shambling Mound in the east corner of the room, lying in wait. The group decides not to disturb it further and they return upstairs for rest before finally leaving this cursed place.
Eleint 27, 1489DR – The Fading (September)
After barely surviving the horrors of Death House, the adventurers seek food, rest, and refuge. Their best bet is the local tavern. As they begin to make their way to the building the Vistani entered earlier that day they see a single shaft of light thrusting illumination into the main square, its brightness looking like a solid pillar in the heavy fog. Above the gaping doorway, a sign hung precariously askew, proclaiming this to be the Blood on the Vine Tavern.
Once they reach the entrance, they notice the sign had originally read “Blood of the Vine,” the “n” having been scratched over with an “f.” They enter through the doorway.
This tavern has seen better days in the past; although it appears to have once been an elegant establishment it has noticeably become shoddy through the years. A blazing fire gives scant warmth to the few huddled souls within. They include the barkeep, Arik, three vistani women, and a man whose name is Ismark Kolyanovich.
Upon spotting the newcomers Ismark is quick to invite them over to his table and offers them a round of drinks.
“Friends! Please, join me, enjoy some wine on my coin!”
The group turns to the man speaking and Asher responds, “One moment my good sir! We must inquire about our friends first.”
The man nods and the group walks toward the Vistani women sitting by the fire. They ask about the other Vistani who led them into town and the women tell them that they have gone onward to the Vistani encampment just outside of town. They left about two days ago, but the camp is not difficult to find. The group thanks the women for the information and walk towards the young man who greeted them earlier.
The man’s name is Ismark, and he is the son of the village's burgonmaster, Kolyan Indirovich. The burgonmaster has died recently and Ismark seeks to protect his sister, Ireena, whom he believes is coveted by the devil Strahd. He pleads with the adventurer’s to help him transport Ireena to the town of Vallaki, where he believes she will be protected from Strahd’s intentions. The group informs Ismark that they are on their way to see Madam Eva, in a nearby Vistani encampment, but Ismark points out that the encampment is the on the way to Vallaki, so they would be able to travel together and accomplish both tasks. He offers to them 50 gold pieces each and free room and board for the night at his estate.
The characters agree to accompany Ismark towards Vallaki for now. They follow him out of the tavern and head for the burgonmaster’s mansion for some much needed rest.
A weary-looking mansion squats behind a rusting iron fence. The iron gates are twisted and torn. The right gate lies cast aside, while the left swings lazily in the wind. The stuttering squeal and clang of the gate repeats with mindless precision. Weeds choke the grounds and press with menace upon the house itself. Yet, against the walls, the growth has been tramped down to create a path all about the domain. Heavy claw markings have stripped the once-beautiful finish of the walls. Great black marks tell of the fires that have assailed the mansion. Not a pane nor a shard of glass stands in any window. All the windows are barred with planks, each one marked with stains of evil omen.
The group looks worried, one asks “Ismark, what has happened here?”
“It is that devil! He comes during the night and attacks our home, but I will never allow him to have my sister. Never!”
Ismark walks up to the heavy wooden front door and knocks three times.
“Ireena, sister, it is Ismark! Please open the door.”
From inside, the group hears some shuffling and then several clicks and clanks that probably belong to some very complicated locks being undone. The door is opened and through steps a striking auburn-haired woman, probably around her mid to late twenties. She wears a long fine dress with a longsword strapped at her hips, her right hand rests casually on the hilt. There is intensity in her gaze, but also a hint of sadness.
“Well, Ismark, I see you’ve made some new friends. Who might they be?”
Ismark laughs. “These are weary travelers who have recently come into town. They have agreed to help us take you into Vallaki, as I have suggested to you before. But please, we can speak more of it in the morning. Right now these brave souls would appreciate some time to rest. Friends, please come in!”
Ireena disappears back inside and Ismark after her, inviting the group to follow.