Eberron: The Shadow of Ravenloft

Lucian Journal 3
Surfeit of Stairs

I found the little man fondling my belongings covetously, and I took a stern step away from him. I asked where he would ordinarily deliver the … meal, such as it was, and he described the path we’d taken to arrive here in the kitchens. I tried not to think too hard about the earlier dinner. We excused ourselves, and Cyrus Belview enthusiastically said that he looked forward to picking over our corpses to claim our belongings. Creepy fellow.

And then we found his stash of trophies from past adventurers. Topscuttle insisted on searching for enchantments, and the rest of us picked through the lot for about ten minutes, but we found nothing of any particular interest. Then we proceeded to explore the rest of this level of the castle.

A door to the north held a shadowed room in which lurked a darkling creature that Relic identified as a shadow fiend. It ignored the gnome’s lightning bolt, but magic missiles worked well enough. We managed to evade its umbral grasp, and the creature’s body melted away into nothing upon death. Fascinating and macabre. A quick investigation revealed a secret door hidden in the western wall. We decided to descend the stair beyond.

A door at the bottom opened up into a chamber watched by stony gargoyles. A flaming brazier burned in the center of the room, casting angry shadows all around. It was flanked by a pair of four-armed iron statues, and above it floated an hourglass. Curiously, all of the sand remained suspended in the top half of the glass. Relic boldly entered the chamber, heading straight for the large chest resting on the far side of the brazier. Topscuttle’s warning cry came to late as the door we’d entered slammed shut, and the sand in the hourglass began to fall. Curiously, words appeared upon it as well, forming some manner of riddle:

Riddle goes here.

I looked at the nearer iron statue, which the gnome assured us was an iron golem – a construct that would surely kill us all even if the room had only contained one. The lower arms held sword and shield, but the upper arms were raised high, palms up. I climbed the statue and on each of the palms, I found a small gem – one red, one blue. I could see the other golem held gems as well, and called to Bex to retrieve them, though she was already moving that way.

Having retrieved the gems, we looked for some sign of where they might need to be placed. The chest looked ordinary, the golems and gargoyles lacked eye sockets, so all that was left was the brazier. I tossed the blue gem into the flames. The sands stopped flowing and the door from which we’d entered the room opened once more. I breathed a sigh of relief, but urged the others to haste as I knew not how much time I might have purchased us.

The changeling unlocked and opened the chest, but it appeared to be empty. Topscuttle moved to examine it, and noted the bottom was an illusion. She drew forth a scroll, two potions, and a small deck of cards. We pocketed these until such a time as we could more safely examine them. Using the other gems, we learned that the two other doors to the north from this chamber opened onto other stairs leading back up. The southern door opened to a lower chamber divided by a thick curtain.

I pushed it aside to reveal a pair of thrones on a balcony overlooking a flooded torture chamber. There appeared to be bodies still strapped into some of the more exotic devices. Sickening, really. I inspected the cushioned seats and discovered a heavy sack of platinum coins. I informed the others of my find and it brightened our moods, somewhat. A flooded passage led to the east from the torture chamber, and we decided to descend and explore it further.

No sooner had our feet hit the water than a dozen bodies tore free from their restraints and set upon us. I managed to destroy one of them before Relic climbed back to the balcony and instructed the rest of us to follow. Assuming he had a plan, I complied. I’d just mantled the railing of the balcony when the warforged sent a bead of fire streaking at the walking dead, destroying all but one. The last was brought low by a ray of fire sent from Topscuttle, who was perched on one of the rotting chandeliers above. The threat eliminated, we climbed back down and proceeded to the east.

Art heard a voice crying out from somewhere ahead and took the lead. He noted a pressure plate beneath the water in the hall, and Bex confirmed that there were several others. Relic, ever curious, asked what stepping on a pressure plate would cause. At her best guess, the rogue suggested that a pit trap might open beneath whomever triggered the trap.

We found a pair of doors flanking the hall and opened the southern one, from which the voice emanated. It led down a short flight of stairs, but brought the water level up from three feet to five, so it was very slow going. We entered what appeared to be a jail, the walls lined with several small, barred cells. The last on the left was occupied by a man.

He said his name was Emil, and he claimed to be a Barovian villager. Ireena frowned, saying she didn’t recognize the man, and then he admitted that he was from farther east. I asked Topscuttle to keep an eye on him, and we searched the rest of the jail, including the cells beyond the northern door. We found several more bags of coins, a mix of platinum and electrum. This is proving to be quite the lucrative endeavor. Assuming we survive.

The hall at the end of the jail hall held another winding stair upward. We ascended back to the ground floor, and took our rest in the dining hall. Then we decided to explore the rest of this level before venturing up or down any farther. We hadn’t gone more than a couple of rooms over before we encountered half-a-dozen gargoyles that turned to look in our direction as we entered…

Lucian Journal 2
Passage to Ravenloft

I did not sleep particularly well in the guest house, but neither I think did the others. Arturo and Relic reported having seen a spectral procession making its way from the cemetery toward the castle in the dead of knight. Ireena explained that the spirits were the souls of adventurers who had failed to oust Count Strahd over the years. They rose every night to try once more, but as ever before, they failed. Cheery thought.

We made our way to the mercantile, where I bought rope for an exorbitant fee. Unfortunately, there were no other commercial options in the village, and the merchant’s suppliers were the gypsies. We discussed our next move briefly before deciding to visit the gypsy encampment by the river, and without further delay we left the village behind. The fog remained, though at times the wind would kick up to stir the trees, the icy river, or whatever other bit of scenery might be handy. If possible, it seemed that the clouds above had grown darker from the day before. Until we arrived at the camp.

The sun was actually shining above the camp, and I beseeched Topscuttle to determine what enchantments, if any, were laid about the camp. Despite the chilly reception we’d received by the gypsies at the tavern the night before, those in the camp welcomed us in to share their fire and sing songs. We enjoyed their hospitality for about a quarter hour before the gnome approached the fire, shaking her head. No magic of any sort? Curious.

Shortly thereafter, we were shown to one of the tents. Within, we were met by an aged gypsy woman, who greeted us by name, rattled off an innocuous secret about each of us, and said that we were expected. She had been watching us for some time, and offered to read our fortune in her cards. Seeing no harm in it, we agreed, and she laid five cards face-down on her little table. Each of us turned one card over at her bidding, and she translated the meaning of each card, though as with most divination I’ve experienced, it contained little of substance. Still, it pleased her to have done the reading, and I asked after the airship crash.

She claimed to remember the crash and described a place in the forest northeast of the village. She also said that the Master – her title for Count Strahd – had his minions take anything of value from the ship at the time and back into the castle. I thanked her for the location anyway, then bid her and her people good fortune. She returned the generic blessing and we returned to the road.

The weather grew worse as we wound through the forest-mountain pass and crossed the high bridge. We came to another fork where a dark carriage waited, hooked to a pair of dark horses. The door of the carriage opened on its own, but no one sat within. Relic was the one to suggest that it had been sent to deliver us to the castle, and with the storm growing stronger, we climbed aboard. The sable steeds took off at breakneck speed down the partially cobbled road, even as the rain began to fall and the thunder pound.

They stopped abruptly at a pair of weathered guard houses flanking an open drawbridge. To get out of the weather, we hustle across into the courtyard then straight ahead to the nearest open door. Dark music permeated the house, and we followed it to its source in a grand dining room. There a dark-cloaked man appeared to be seated at a massive organ which took up the majority of the west wall. He welcomed us to the castle and bid us sit and eat. A tasty-looking dinner was laid out with a seat for each of us. The wine in each crystal goblet was of the highest quality.

Not sure what else to do, we thanked our host for his hospitality and sat down to dine. He watched us for a time, and it became uncomfortable. Bex pointed out to me that his reflection appeared in the mirrors arrayed around the dining room, something Donavich assured us was not true of vampires. I asked the man a couple of questions and his tone turned threatening before he disappeared from the room, doused all of the lights, and apparently slammed all of the doors and even the portcullis closed, trapping us all within the castle. I illuminated the table with a simple cantrip, and Art began to relight the snuffed candles. We finished our dinner, then stood to investigate.

I discovered a secret door behind the organ, and opened it to reveal a hall with a dark-cloaked mannequin hanging within. Likely the method by which the illusion was accomplished. We began to explore, descending a spiral stair, and encountering a number of skeletons in a dead-end hall set with alcoves. We dispatched the animates with relative ease, and continued our exploration of the castle. We encountered a small man called Cyrus who asked us what we were doing outside of our rooms in the tower. When we told him that we were not offered rooms in the tower, he fretted, then turned to a nearby door muttering about needing to finish dinner. We pursued the odd little man into what must be a kitchen, but smelled more like a charnel house.

Three large cauldrons bubbled, and as we watched, arms reached out from within. The little man began poking at them with a large spoon and lamented the loss of his cooking skills. Unsure what to think, Arturo and I moved closer to the nearest cauldron to inspect the contents. A dozen zombies crawled out of the cauldrons and began to attack! We defended ourselves, though it took longer to dispatch these dead than it had the skeletons. Still, we were victorious, with only minor injuries to show for it. We then turned toward Cyrus, hoping for some sort of explanation…

Lucian Journal 1
Village of Barovia

After traveling through Karrnath, I never thought to see a more downtrodden land, but Barovia goes above and beyond the oppressive feel of even that fell nation. The “road”, such as it was, passed through a self-opening/closing rusted iron gate and into a mist-shrouded forest, with trees impossibly close together, preventing one from leaving the slick cobbled path for more than a short distance in any direction. And then Relic found the body.

The mustachioed fellow had clearly been dead for several days, apparently savaged by some beast, based on the tracks in the mud and tears in his flesh. He carried a missive from the Burgomaster of Barovia, warning outsiders to avoid Barovia and/or establish a holy barrier to prevent the evil within – a “vampyr” – from escaping. Of course, the letter also referenced the wealth in the village, so it seemed a somewhat conflicted call to action. Still, I held out hope that we might learn something of the airship purported to have crash-landed some five decades past.

We proceeded into the village proper, drawn through its dim and empty streets to the sound of wailing that carried across the stillness – the only sound aside from Arturo’s frequent strumming on his lute. He had been playing minor chord arrangements since we entered the gate, as if trying to provide the soundtrack for a play. A solid companion, but sometimes I wonder at his commitment to dramatic flair. We made our way to the village square – though really it was more of a circle – noting signs for a tavern and a mercantile, before following the sound of the crying down the main street to the south.

We found a two-story house that appeared to be boarded up from within, and though we knocked heavily on the door and called out to any within, we were not answered. Topscuttle Weirdwalker, our eccentric “spider-gnome”, cast a minor transmutation and then crawled up the wall to peek into the un-boarded upper-floor windows. She found them locked and gestured for Bex to help. The changeling complied with a glib comment, as is her way. A few minute later, Topscuttle managed to open the door for the rest of us and we made our way upstairs to find Bex trying to console a sobbing older woman. Arturo stepped in.

He got her talking and she told him that her daughter Gertruda had been taken to Castle Ravenloft, as had others before her. We asked about the burgomaster’s letter, and she pointed us to the manor at the end of the southern lane before devolving into wracking sobs once more. We left the old woman to her misery, with promises to investigate her daughter’s disappearance.

The burgomaster’s manor had several signs of being cursed, even moreso than the rest of Barovia. All windows shattered, a wind that only seemed to serve to make the bent iron gate swing and creak noisily, weeds choking the yard, and foliage covering the outer walls as if the very ground were trying to swallow the building. Charming.

A small door in the front door for an occupant to speak through opened at our knock and a woman asked us our business. I told her we sought the burgomaster and told her we’d found the letter on the dead messenger just inside the gates of the village. She asked to see it and confirmed that it was from her father, the burgomaster, and not a trick of the dread count. She introduced herself as Ireena Kolyana, the woman purported to have been bitten by the vampire, and thus more closely subject to his curse. She led us farther within the manor and the smell of death prefaced her showing us the body of her father. His heart had given out after too many nights of being terrorized by the minions of Count Strahd.

She insisted that she was no longer safe in her home, and that even the townsfolk had abandoned her for fear of the vampire. We expressed our intention of investigating Gertruda’s disappearance, and she insisted on coming with us. When asked why she did not simply leave Barovia, she explained that the mist prevented it – choking the life out of any who tried to flee. Only the gypsies knew of a way to escape the killing mists, and they were known to guard their secrets closely. I asked her of any stories about a flying ship having crashed in the area, and she said she’d never heard of such a thing, suggesting that Mad Mary – Gertruda’s grief-stricken mother – might know. One thing at a time.

We offered to help her bury her poor father, and she was very grateful for it. Arturo cleaned up the corpse with a minor cantrip, and we wrapped it in a heavy cloak for Relic to carry to the church north of the village. There we met Donavich, the local priest and introduced ourselves. He helped us bury the poor man, and talked at length about the vampire, enumerating its many strengths and few weaknesses. Clearly, he sees us as a means of ridding the village of their oppressor.

I asked Donavich about the airship wreck, and he recalled a story he’d heard as a boy about a flying ship crashing in the woods. Men went to salvage what they could from the wreck, but as the story went, agents of Count Strahd intercepted them. What became of the cargo was unknown. It seemed that the library in Castle Ravenloft was the most likely source of information about the wreck.

We finished burying the burgomaster, and the priest said a few words over the grave. The others began to head to the tavern, but Donavich pulled me aside and confided in me a secret about Ireena: she was not the burgomaster’s true daughter. Master Kolyana had found the girl near the base of the hill upon which Castle Ravenloft perched. He’d taken her in and loved her truly, raising her as if she were his own flesh and blood. I thanked the priest for this insight and caught up to my companions.

The Blood on the Vine tavern – formerly “Blood of the Vine”, though the preposition had been struck through and revised – was as dreary an establishment as one might expect. What few locals dared to be out as sunset neared hunkered over their tables near the fire that did little to ease the chill – even though it was late Summer. Ireena greeted a man within as her brother, whom she introduced to us as Ismark the Lesser. We informed him of his father’s burial and sat down to speak with the man. The rest of the patrons paid us little mind.

I expected the people of Barovia to be more … reactive, to the presence of a tiefling and a warforged in our midst, but really they haven’t batted an eye. I presume this is because the fear of Count Strahd, their personal devil, is so deep that anything else can only be a lesser evil and therefore not worth the effort of fearing. Arturo could not stand the stagnant atmosphere, and began to play more merry music to raise the spirits of those at the tavern. I will say this for the man: he is a talented musician and gifted showman. His performance managed to cut through the morose atmosphere and drew a smile from Ireena, which Ismark commented was a rare sight indeed.

The young woman offered us lodging for the evening at the Kalyona guest house, across the street from Mad Mary’s home. For lack of a proper inn, we of course accepted her offer of hospitality.


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