Marpenoth 7, 1489DR – Leafall (October), Friday
The next morning the party ascends the stairs to investigate the third floor. On this level they find more signs of ruin. They pass some ruined bedchambers, collapsed bathrooms, but also an audience hall.
The west wall of this fifty-foot-long, thirty-foot-wide audience hall has crumbled, leaving a gaping hole and a pile of rubble. Weapons and shields that once hung from the walls have fallen to the floor and succumbed to rust. A large, wooden throne carved to resemble a dragon with unfolding wings faces three tall windows to the west. Slumped in the throne is a gaunt, armored figure with one gauntlet wrapped around the hilt of a great-sword.
Master Do stands right at the entrance of the room and calls out “Hello? Who are you?”
The figure at the end of the hall simply replies, “Go. Away.” Master Do stands his ground and insists, “This place is a mess…”
The creature's grip on the greatsword tightens. "If you have come to destroy me, know this: I perished defending this land from evil over four centuries ago, and because of my failure, I am forever doomed. If you destroy this body, my spirit will find a new corpse to inhabit, and I will hunt you down. You cannot free me from my damnation, nor would I wish it.
"If you have come to free this land from the creature that feasts on the blood of the innocent, know this: There is no monster I hate more than Strahd von Zarovich . He slew Argynvost, broke the life of the knight I loved, and destroyed the valiant order to which I devoted my life, but Strahd has already died once. He can't be allowed to die again. Instead, he must suffer eternally in a hell of his own creation, from which he can never escape. Whatever can be done to bring him misery and unrest, I will do, but I will destroy anyone who tries to end his torment."
Not wishing to disturb the figure any further the group slowly backs away and moves on to the rest of the building.
They investigate to the northwest of the fortress and come upon some sort of gathering hall. Through the dust and cobwebs, they see faded war banners adorning the walls of a spacious chamber, in the center of which stands a heavy wooden table. An iron chandelier hangs above the table, which is surrounded by six high-backed chairs with wood-carved dragons perched atop them . Slumped in five of the chairs are skeletal humans in tattered chainmail.
The corpses tilt their heads in their direction . One of them growls, "Why do you the living disturb the dead?"
Through some skilled diplomacy the group is able to speak with one of the spirits, Sir Godfrey Gwilym. He confides that the knights are trapped within Argynvostholt as revenants because their leader, Vladimir Horngaard, wishes to remain as a revenant to ensure Strahd lives in torment in eternity. Sir Godfrey also reveals that this curse may be lifted once the skull of the dragon Argynvost has been returned to the mausoleum, this would also help to weaken Strahd’s power on the land. However, during the battle of Argynvostholt Strahd took the dragon’s skull as a prize and placed it within his castle. The exact location of the skull within Ravenloft is unknown.
With this new information the group goes to the building’s roof to finish their exploration. They find ballistas and turrets, some of them destroyed, and plenty of signs of battle. They also pass by a Dragon Gargoyle which magically activates in their presence and whispers:
When the dragon dreams its dream Within its rightful tomb, The light of Argynvost will beam And rid this land of gloom.
The verse makes a reference to the dragon’s skull being laid to rest.
They climb the roof’s tower and reach the top. From there they get a good view of the land surrounding the structure: To the north and east lies a mist-shrouded valley with dark woods, a small town, and a lonely windmill on a precipice. To the south, a river flows through a foggy marsh. To the west, between rocky hills, they glimpse an abbey perched on a snowy mountainside beyond a long stretch of fog-smothered pines. The abbey was probably the place Father Lucian recommended they visit for more information and aid against Strahd. He said it was led by a group of Morninglord priests, which we know Strahd clearly dislikes.
Having explored the entire building they decide to return back to Van Richten, accompanying the wounded Savid as far as they could so he could return back to the Dusk Elf encampment now that the Vistani have been driven away.
Ezemrelda leaves ahead of the group and they find her already at the tower in a heated exchange with Van Richten. It seems both of them have known each other for a long time. From the argument the group guesses that Ezmerelda was a sort of assistance, or protege, to Van Richten. At some point during their travels they separated, but the cause for their rift remains unclear to the party. For the moment, however, they decide to set aside their quarrel and unite in fighting Strahd and his minions.
After taking a short rest the group decides to investigate the Werewolf den Bladehelm and Makaelis had found previously.
Lacking stealth they are stopped by two guards at the cave’s entrance. Intimidated by the group’s initial presence the guards hesitate to sound the alarm, but the group decides it is probably best to leave the place immediately, as the number of werewolves within remains unknown and it is nighttime.
The party retreats from the den, but are met with a messenger outside the cave’s mouth. They are given a letter invitation for dinner…
Know that it is I who have brought you to this land, my home, and know that I alone can release you from it. I bid you dine at my castle so that we can meet in civilized surroundings. Your passage here will be a safe one. I await your arrival.
Strahd von Zarovich