Episode 046 – (CoS #34) – Rise of a New Dawn

Episode 046 – (CoS #34) – Rise of a New Dawn

The group sits in the secret room where an elevator shaft makes up half of the room and the device that moves it takes up much of the space you can stand on. It is cramped as the party begins to rest and check their new items. Sato sends Brimstone to watch Strahd who was left standing on a cliff outside of the chapel the party just left. It’s not long before Brimstone reports back to Sato that Strahd is walking to the edge of the cliff and then just walked right off.

They had left a few hours ago. I should be with them, he thought. He ached. His bones were tired. He thought of his sons and their sacrifice. Two of the three seeds were returned. He could just go back to making wine for Barovia and ensuring the safety of his family and his kind. What was best? Joining a fight they couldn’t win and dying in the process? Avoiding conflict and hoping that whomever is left can help him rebuild? He continued slowly around the outskirts of Vallaki.

As he continued to ponder his decision, he came across a tall half-elf, clad in armor, praying in the woods. It only took him a moment to recognize Rafiki. “You didn’t leave with the others?”. Rafiki didn’t move but answered softly.

“He wasn’t in control, Davian”.
Brant?”.
“My judgement of him was so absolute. He chose his actions and I sentenced him for them”.
“You couldn’t have known Rafiki”.
“That’s the problem Davian. Everything was so black and white before I was brought to this horrible place. If I accompany my friends, what if they fall under Strahd’s control? How do I know if their actions are their own?”
“I’m not sure how to answer that Rafiki, but you can’t make that decision if you’re not there to fight with them.”

Rafiki paused and thought over the old man’s words. “You were supposed to be our ally, Davian. That’s what that fortune teller said, anyway.

“I will be honest with you, since you were with me. I fear this is not a fight we will win. If we lose, whomever is left will have to exist in this horrible place and carry out some sort of semblance of life. They will need to rebuild.”

Rafiki rises and turns to the leader of the Feathered Kind. “Davian, I fear that if we lose this fight, there won’t be anyone left to rebuild at all.”

The Paladin and the Were Raven stare at each other, both processing their next course of action. Rafiki nods and looks towards Castle Ravenloft. Davian follows his gaze and grimaces. “Davian, we need to get there… fast.”.

“I can fly us there…”. Rafiki looks surprised and gestures to his large, armor-clad body. “I don’t think a Raven can carry…. This”. Davian takes off his shoulder pack and pulls out a small vial with something large floating in it.

Rafiki… I may be old, but I think I have one more fight in me”. Davian quaffs the potion and tosses his pack and weapon to Rafiki. His arms and chest immediately start to enlarge, his thighs stretch and the loose skin under his neck begin to tighten. He spits out the floating object that was in the potion — a hulking, yellow, fingernail. “Make sure to hold on.”. With that, Davian Martikov, leader of the Feathered Kind, changes into a large, jet black Raven and stretches his wings.

In the sky looking down on the cliff Davian and Rafiki hover as they watch Strahd walk on the under side of the cliff and pass right through dirt covered windows. Brimstone sees this and tells Sato that Church Boy is in the sky being carried by a large Raven. Brimstone meets with Davian and Rafiki in the air and lets them know Sato is just inside. They follow the imp inside to the secret room. The room barely fits everyone as the two squeeze in and Brimstone goes back out to scout. Now with everyone together the party takes their time to identify two items, spend time healing wounds and catching up Rafiki and Davian on the current situation and they tell everyone where they just saw Strahd go. Rafiki and Tortoo attune to the new items and are ready to continue. Brimstone gets sent out to scout where Strahd went through the windows, he finds them on the under side of the cliff and peels back some of the dirt to reveal a catacomb. The group meanwhile uses the lever in the room to move the elevator, the cage quickly rises past as a counter weight stone goes down. Without word Jun jumps on, followed closely by Raf. Getting to the bottom Jun recognizes this as the trap that Tortoo and Sanzin fell in earlier. “Are we no longer trying to be careful in finding Strahd?” Sanzin asks everyone rhetorically. Jun shouts up asking to be brought back up, they pull the lever again and bring the elevator back down which causes the counter weight to shoot up and Rafiki and Jun jump off to rejoin the party.

Everyone decides that going to where Brimstone saw would be the best thing to do and to take the fight to Strahd. Instead of going down the shaft, the known path seems to be the safest way. Working their way back to the basement following the secret path behind the organ the group gets to the room of bones. Doing some napkin math they determine they are still above the catacomb and need to get lower. When Sanzin walks into the room with a thick hanging fog Sanzin all but disappears beneath it. Instead of letting him move forward they work together to push away the fog as they make their way to the staircase they took to find Elwin. Heading down the hall with the elevator trap being sure to avoid it and take the familiar staircase down for the first time. Reaching the bottom the stairs descend into a hallway heading west, it is filled with 5 feet of water and one by one the party wades into the dark murky water while cries of help can be heard from the south. Sanzin cautiously moves ahead checking for traps and makes it 15 feet into the hall when jets of water shoot upward obscuring him completely from the rest of the party and as the water falls Sanzin is no where to be seen. Rushing in Rafiki, Sato and Jun gather around area where he disappeared and find a wooden plank, each making their own attempt to break through. Tortoo uses the time to check on the cries from the south. Jun finally breaks through and Rafiki immediately swims down into the hole that was revealed, he returns to the surface and reports back he found nothing. Sato makes an attempt himself and finds nothing as well.

Opening the southern door Tortoo can hear the cries of a man more clearly now, and decides best to return to the group. More cries from the north door can now be heard, Jun opens the north door and calls out to Sanzin who replies from the furthest cell. A feeling of someone in need washes over Jun and Sato as they enter into the room lined with prison cells. The two pass by the cells to find Sanzin at the end, both noting a glowing sword locked in one near the door. The two make multiple attempts at Sanzin’s cell door, achieving nothing. Sanzin pulls out a crowbar to assist but, still the two manage no progress. In the mean time Sanzin uses his ring to give himself gills and webbing allowing him to move through the water with ease and continues to pick up coins he found in the bottom of his cell as he waits. Across the hall Tortoo and Rafiki find more cells, these with dead prisoners and a man in the end cell pleading to be let out. He explains he was chased into the castle, and caught by the guard while resting and imprisoned. Tortoo did not believe the story and threatened to hurt him if he did not tell the truth. Worried for his life he tells a different story, he is a werewolf that was part of a pack that followed Strahd and he was trying to become the leader that caused a rift in the pact and he was caught and put down here. After spending some time in a cell he no longer wanted to work for Strahd and wanted to escape.

Tortoo is not impressed by the story and casts Sacred Flame which causes Rafiki to grapple and pull Tortoo away from the cell. Jun can be head from across the hall “Rafiki, we need your help getting Sanzin out”. Rafiki calms down down Tortoo by explaining the group needs help and the party can come to an agreement on how to handle the prisoner. The two walk past Jun who tied a hammer to a rope in an effort to pull the glowing sword to him and find Sato frustrated that he couldn’t find a switch to open the cell. Rafiki grabs the crowbar and with Tortoo continuing to give him guidance he feels he can get the cell open it may just take some time. While he made his attempts Jun got the sword from the cell but, was wary of grabbing it and held it above the water by the rope and the feeling of needing help faded and he could feel appreciation. Slightly worried Jun asks the sword if it understands him and he feels acknowledged. Giving it to Sato as he walks by to see if he can also feel it. He confirms what Jun felt and says it reminds him of the Staff that corrupted Brant. Jun puts it down and can feel the yearn for help again. Sato spend some time investigating outside the door as Rafiki pops the cell door open a few minutes later.

Rafiki and Tortoo fill the party in on what is going on with the werewolf in the southern room of cells. They walk from the northern set of cells and cross the hall where Davian waits at the bottom of the stairs and continue south to the far cell where the Werewolf begins his pleas again. Jun and Sato speak with the man asking for what he can provide to the group as the risk of letting him out is high as a previous ally of Strahd. He agrees to fight with the party until he can escape. Sanzin agrees with Rafiki that he should be let out. Tortoo wants to kill him, but Sato and Jun think the compromise would be to leave him locked up. With the majority in favor of not letting him out the party leaves and closes the door to the room behind them as the man’s screams fade to a muffle.

Continuing west down the main hall checking for traps, they find one to avoid and with Davian now in tow enter a large chamber that is difficult to move through as it is filled with 3 feet of water and on the north side a balcony overhangs 10 feet above the water. Dark objects throughout the room jut out from the surface of the water. Sanzin heads in and checks the nearest object and makes it out to be an Iron Maiden, as he is looking at it the heads of zombies begin to slowly break the surface of the water.

Combat Highlights: Jun landed many Sun Sword blows. Sanzin used his new form to freely move about the room landing sneak attacks. Davian missed most of his shots, landing one from the back of the room. Eldritch Blast almost killed two and finally dropped one for Sato’s Temporary HP. Rafiki’s Crit miss resulted in confusion where he walked from the battlefield. All party members killed a zombie and only Jun took damage.

Round 1Round 2Round 3
JunMoves into the room and dodgesKills one with the sword and lands 2 other attacksKills one with the sword and lands 2 other attacks
RafikiAttacks twice and lands one hitKills one with sword and crit missesIn confusion, walks away from the fight
TortooDeals Sacred Flame damageHits one with Word of Radiance and misses anotherKills one with Word of Radiance
SatoEldritch Blast hits twice, pushing it backLands two Eldritch BlastsKills one with Eldritch Blast and hits another
SanzinLands a rapier sneak attackLands another rapier sneak attackKills the last zombie with sneak attack

The party pushes forward and climbs the north wall to get onto the balcony, behind to to chairs that overlook the chamber below is a large 30 foot curtain. Pulling it back reveals a single door. Opening it reveals a large brazier in the middle of the room with an hourglass hanging above it, its sand not falling. The words high above the brazier can be seen “INSERT BRAZIER SAYING HERE”. Surrounding the white heatless flame are colored stones*** and in alcoves on the west and east wall are two huge statues of men on horseback looking to charge to the center of the room. Three doors can be seen on the other side of the room. Not touching anything they check the three doors and find all of them with stairs cases going in different directions. This was it. The master’s tomb, from what Brimstone described that had to be where they needed to go. Gathering around Sato grabs the yellow stone “Ready”, Jun pulls out the scroll from Mordenkainen and Blesses himself “Ready” the party replies with tepid confidence. Throwing the stone in the fire roars high and the flames change color, the sand above begins to fall quickly. Jun is first to go “See you on the other side” and steps in disappearing in a flash, the sand is quickly emptying. Sanzin, Rafiki, Tortoo waste no time in following. It continues to trickle with little to no time left Sato, and Davian step into the fire and the room is left empty. Each of them seeing a bright blinding light before is disappears and they appear 10 feet in front of an ornate coffin sitting in the middle of a large room.

Someone beings to speak and Sanzin hushes them to a whisper. “Take the Sun Sword and drive it into the coffin” Rafiki suggests with a whisper, “Open the portcullis?” Sato suggests noted the closed gate up a set of stairs behind where the party appeared. Jun slowly approached the chest and brings the blade up above and drives it down into the top of the box sending splinters into the air and hands with dainty lace gloves begin to bust through the ground and three Vampire Spawn claw their way out of the ground as it shakes violently. Three brides of Strahd engage the party.

Combat Highlights: The fight started with 3 vampire spawn that made efforts to disarm Jun of the Sun Sword but, failed while Sato and Tortoo worked together to put the hurt on with Hold Vampire from the Amulet of Ravenkind*** and Sickening Radiance. One vampire is not held by the spell and disarms Jun of the sword. Sato sends Brimstone to scout and Rafiki takes the time while two of the three vampires are paralyzed to Bless the party. Jun is held in attempt to grab the sword but Sato breaks him free and picks up the sword himself giving it to Jun. Brimstone reports back that he is in a box and can’t see, he is in a coffin. A wight appears from behind the portcullis and starts to shoot at the group. The whole party lands blow after blow quickly dropping the two paralyzed vampires and strike the third down with the sun sword. From behind the ash of the third dead spawn Strahd appears and throws a fireball into the room before leaving through the walls. The portcullis falls and everyone starts to make their way north up the stairs.

Jun leads the charge and sees the wight to the west and charges towards him, but almost instantly he is teleported into a coffin elsewhere. A wight appears where he disappeared from but, only Sato seemed to notice. Strahd appears and almost bites Sato but is evaded and Strahd leaves through a nearby wall. Attacks land on the wights that assault the party. Strahd appears again through a wall and pierces Davian with his claws as his body goes limp and slumps to the floor. Sato sees an opening on Strahd and steps into the hallway from the stairs and disappears into a coffin, another wight appears in his place, this time Rafiki notices. Brimstone is caught out of position as he is making his way back from pit of coffins and Strahd appears through a wall and strikes him down killing him instantly. The party sees Davian drop and feels a rush of inspiration that persists. Jun struggles to get the lid off his coffin. Tortoo uses Spare the Dying on Davian and Sato is quick to get the coffin lid off and immediately leaves when he hears noise from another coffin and begins to climb up the shaft of the pit. With more wights appearing, the group continues to attack them.

Strahd appears in the room again this time attacking Tortoo landing one blow and missing the other. Sato hears the group and begins rushing south. Jun continues to struggle to open his coffin lid. More attacks on the wights land and drop the remaining one. Sato is only a corridor away from the group when Strahd appears from the wall behind him and strikes him Sato ice blocks himself to mitigate the damage. The party readies actions for when they see Strahd appear. The ice fades from Sato as Jun finally gets out of his coffin and is quick to climb to the top of the pit. Strahd appears again landing blow after blow after blow, the final one downs Sato in front of him. Sanzin moves up and sees Strahd, taking a shot at him before moving back. Tortoo moves up and attempts to hold Strahd with the Amulet and fails. Jun hears commotion from the south and sprints towards it and sees Sanzin slumped in front of Strahd, he runs by and takes a swipe from Strahd but grabs onto Sato and picks him up carrying him towards the group and in a flash both disappear, back into coffins.

Strahd appears from a wall and attempts to grab and bite Tortoo but misses and Rafiki takes his chance, launching himself at Strahd pushing him back into where he saw his party disappear and in front of him Strahd disappears and almost immediately after he does as well. Two wights appear and Sanzin rushes up telling Tortoo to trust him as he pulls him into the trap and they both teleport to coffins. Jun is first to escape, and notices a coffin rattling, Rafiki is next to get out of the coffin. Few words are exchanged between the two but Rafiki lets Jun know Strahd is here. Sanzin and Tortoo are next to remove their coffin lids, leaving only the unconscious Sato and the coffin that shook. Jun kneels atop the coffin and drives the sword down, not breaking. Punching it and the top busts apart. Jun brings the sword down into the coffin piercing into Strahd and then lands another unarmed strike. Attempting to move Strahd is stopped by Rafiki and he uses a psychic blast on the whole party, everyone but Jun failed. Sanzin’s body immediately slumps. Tortoo drops unconscious. Strahd tries to move but is stopped again by Rafiki. He looks to Jun for guidance, who manages to get out through tears “KILL HIM”. Rafiki lands blow after blow adding his divine smite of radiance damage.

On death’s door Sato uses Dark Ones Own Luck to change his fate and stay alive for a bit longer in his coffin. Strahd attempts to rip Jun’s shadow from his body but, Jun holds on. He then moves up the wall and climbs on the ceiling making his way to the exit from the pit. Jun runs under him and misses two attacks with the sword and leaps up and grapples Strahd in place. Strahd tries to charm Jun to let go but Jun is able to resist and maintains his grasp. Rafiki runs and leaps off a coffin bringing his sword across the hanging body of Strahd and as the blade leaves his body it turns to a mist that begins to dissipate in the sunlight. As the fight with the devil ends Sato fails to hang on and dies in his coffin.

TABLE TO BE ADDED

Strahd can’t hide his surprise as death takes him into the black abyss. Surprise turns to rage, and the Pillarstone of Ravenloft trembles with fury, shaking dust from the ceiling of the vampire’s tomb. The shudders abate as Strahd’s burning hatred melts away, replaced at last with relief. The dark orbs of his eyes wither and sink into his skull as his corpse deteriorates before you. In a matter of moments, only bones, dust, and noble garb remain. Strahd von Zarovich, the dark lord of Barovia, is dead and gone. Sunlight fills the room from Jun’s sword, where Strahd once clung to the ceiling. Celebrations would need to wait “Heal Tortoo and check on Sanzin, I’ll find SatoJun tells Rafiki who reaches down and touches Tortoo’s shell to heal him and bring him back from unconsciousness. While Rafiki checks on Sanzin, Jun opens a far coffin and finds Sato laying inside, worse for wear but, peaceful all the same. Jun confirms his fear and turns back to the group “He’s gone.” Rafiki stands up over Sanzin looking to Jun “So is Sanzin.” he paused before continuing, “I can bring one of them back but, we don’t have much time. Jun you know them better who do I bring back?” The Monk had lived alone and taken a vow of silence for 10 years. The silence after Rafiki spoke pierced Jun unlike anything he had ever felt. It had been less than two months but, he found his family that bonded over hardships and triumphs. The choice was not easy but, he knew when he looked at Sanzin that he was making the right choice, “Bring Sato back.” he sullenly tells Rafiki. Rafiki walks over to the coffin and begins to cast revivify on Sato.

The choice was not easy but, he knew when he looked at Sanzin that he was making the right choice, “Bring Sato back.” he sullenly tells Rafiki. Rafiki walks over to Jun who pulled Sato’s lifeless body from the coffin and he begins to cast revivify on Sato. It takes a minute but Sato comes to and sees Rafiki and Jun looking down at him, trying to gather his thoughts he looks over and sees Sanzin’s small body crumpled on the ground. “Let me walk” Sato requests and Jun lets him down and helps him to Sanzin’s body. The vampires had taken their pound of flesh from Sanzin. Sato leaned over and buried his face into Sanzin’s chest, “Why did you pick me?” he shouts into his chest. Jun stands in silence. Looking up to Jun he repeats the question through gritted teeth, “Why did you pick me?”. “He would risk anything for you Sato, he nearly died to save your dad. I know you’ll be able to get through this… I don’t know he could have” Jun responds. Sato stands up, looking at Jun “You know who I am and what I’ve done, he doesn’t deserve this” pointing to Sanzin. “He doesn’t.” Jun agrees and continues, “but we need to leave now and he is coming with us.”. The group climbs up the escape of the pit and make their way back to Davian, as they approach they see the Wights that appeared with the traps. Each of the group jumps where they think the traps are and land safely.

Combat Highlights: Jun is first to jump the trap letting him get two rounds of attacks that land, and with Sato’s range Eldritch Blasts the pair are able to take down the wights.

Round 1Round 2
JunThree attacks on one wight and kills itFour attacks, three land on one and kill it, the fourth hits another
SatoJumps into position, lands two Eldritch Blasts, killing oneLands two Eldritch Blasts to kill the last wight
RafikiJumps into position
TortooJumps into position

Rafiki makes his way over the trap and heals Davian, the group gets him to his feet. “What is going on, where is the Devil? His voice is the last thing I remember!?” Davian asked weakly. “He is gone, we have to leave now though.” Jun tells Davian as they move to leave. Davian spots Sanzin on Tortoo’s back and he hangs and shakes his head, “You all gave Barovia justice today.”. The group works their way through the catacomb and find a flight of spiral stairs that they take up to a room with many bookshelves lit by a large fireplace. Fine furniture adorns the room, the group enters from the north west with Jun guiding the group. Checking each door in the room he sees a girl laying in a bed and closes the door, a weird looking kitchen, and finally a stone corridor that he guides the group through. It leads them to a large tower the extends far above them and below them, the same tower Sato fell down not long ago with Elwin. They climb the stairs up and make it to where the Heart of Strahd once hung, crossing the bridge to the adjacent tower they notice the skies are skill grey though the nearby battle sounds have faded.

When Strahd ended B’alakraz’s life, his spirit was held in Barovia. Even in death, one does not escape. He found himself caught in the dreadplane of Ravenloft. After sometime, his spirit was pulled back to the land and was surrounded by others just like himself. All dead, all prisoners. He began his march to Ravenloft with the rest of the army. He had no choice. His ethereal body almost moved on its own, or rather he felt there was some force pulling him towards the castle. Anytime he got close, he would fail. The drawbridge would raise and he would fall. He would scale the mountainside and he would fall. Once, he crossed the drawbridge but the metal gate slammed down on him and cut him in two. Each time we would find himself in the dreadplane and eventually have himself be pulled from it to perform another march.

One march, he felt a pulling from another direction. West. For some reason, his form listened and it broke away from the hordes of dead adventurers. He ended up in a small camp and was pulled into a tent where a woman, who named herself Madam Eva, introduced herself. It was the first time that anyone had acknowledged him since he began his marching.

B’alakraz tried to speak, but no words came out. Madam Eva smiled and raised one hand. “I know you are scared B’alakraz… you have met a terrible fate, dying in the land of Barovia. Your soul is trapped here for eternity I’m afraid.”. B’alakraz only stared at her, unsure of what to do next. He missed his friends. He always dreamed of the after life as a glorious endeavor. Not this. Forced to march and fail for eternity. Madam Eva spoke again, interrupting his thoughts.

“B’alakraz, you do not know who I am, but I will tell you that Strahd is not the only being in Barovia who has Royal Blood. Let me tell you my story.”. B’alakraz slowly nodded and Madam Eva grinned.

“My real name is Katarina, and I am the daughter of a Vistani woman whom King Barov, Strahd’s father, took to his bed during one of his many crusades. I know that I am Strahd’s half-sister but I have told no one, save you, of the royal blood flowing through my veins.

Over four hundred years ago, I came to Barovia to try and join my half-brother. I was scared he would shun me, so istead, I situated myself into Strahd’s court, working as a maid in Castle Ravenloft. I came to know the castle like the back of my hand, and was present for the wedding of Sergei and Tatyana. After Strahd went mad and murdered his brother, I fled the castle and took refuge with the Vistani. Back then, Mother Night was still present in Barovia and I forged a pact with the goddess. I traded my youth for the power to undo the evil that Strahd had wrought. Mother Night transformed my younger self into an ageless crone and gifted me with the power of magical foresight. Under the guise of Madam Eva, I used this ability to work with Strahd. He was interested in my powers. I send my Vistani out in their wagons to visit other worlds and bring adventurers to Strahd’s domain. As far as Strahd is concerned, this is a safe endeavor as my magical foresight always shows Strahd prevailing.

However, B’alakraz… my secret hope was that my foresight would be incorrect. It never was. Everyone I brought here perished to Strahd. In a way, I am just as guilty as the devil himself. There was one exception though. You. You and your friends were the exception. I foresaw that if I brought you here, something would be different. I dared not do anything different, so I brought your friends to me and read them their fortunes. They are close, B’alakraz. Ravenloft is close to a different future. It will need your help first though.
You see, B’alakraz, I was gifted one other thing from Mother Night. She gave me the ability to grant a boon of leadership. She told me that the dead must have a leader and that only one of their own could lead them. I believe that is you, B’alakraz. I would like to grant you this boon, if you will let me.”

B’alakraz did not hesitate. He approached Madam Eva. Madam Eva rose and smiled. She laid her hand upon his head and found purchase on its spectral form. “Lead them all B’alakraz”. B’alakraz spoke and for the first time, he heard his words. “I will”. Just then, he felt a stinging sensation all over himself. He could feel his body again, but it felt painful. Madam Eva recoiled and stared at him in horror. “No! B’alakraz! The Devil is taking you as one of his spawn! The boon will only work if you are a spirit! You must be free from his grasp! B’alakraz! You need to…”. It was the last words that B’alakraz heard before his spirit was pulled back into Barovia. His eyes opened wide and he was facing a mirror. Strahd was behind him, hands on his shoulders. Welcome B’alakraz he spoke slowly. B’alakraz stared at his master as his thoughts of Madam Eva and his friends swirled away in a mist of fog.

—-

The southern battlefield was bathed in a mixture of silver and green light. Large patches of each were shifting back and forth as the battle of the dead ebbed and flowed. The eeriest aspect of the fight, besides the otherworldly glow was the lack of sound. The revenants and the fallen adventurers and ghostly prisoners of Strahd were all locked in combat, but there were no sounds of footsteps, no sounds of swords clashing against armor, no screams of pain and no orders being shouted. It was merely a silent, deathly dance under a dark and terrible sky. Then, from the back of the Army of the Dead, a dragonborn raised his sword. He opened his mouth and a column of flame flew into the air. He began to bellow orders and they pierced the silence. His army looked back at their leader and began following his commands. The light over the battlefield slowly began to shift. Silver became green. B’alakraz roared and charged into the fray.

The group continues the path they’ve traveled before, making their way down another spiral staircase into the room where there was one remaining hissing kitten. Jun approached it and picked it up by the scruff of it’s neck and wrapped it as it clawed at him putting him in his bag to travel with as the hisses get muffled as he goes into the bag. Moving into the next room they spot Elwin hiding behind one of the previously knocked over tables, his head poking up. “Sato! Did you do it?” Elwin says as he stands to his feet. “Yes dad, Strahd is dead. You need to come with us now though.” Sato says as the two embrace. Over his shoulder Elwin sees Tortoo standing with Sanzin. “I’m sorry” Elwin tells his son. Using the secret door in the ceiling they make their way to the familiar staircase, jumping the elevator trap, and out from behind the organ; one last time. They leave the dinning area and make their way to the front of the castle when the doors burst open. Ireena Kolyana stands in the opening, wasting no time to enter the castle.

Ireena pressed her back into her brothers and gritted her teeth. The Scarecrows were surrounding them now. She lashed out with her sword and lopped off one of their arms. Straw and ichor poured out and a hellish scream escaped from the monsters maw. She could feel her brother lunge forward. She heard another scream behind her. “Sister…” Izmark said through clenched teeth. He paused for a beat “we have them right where we want them!”. She could hear the sarcasm in his voice and she actually laughed. Even when facing death, her brother could still make her laugh. She closed her eyes for a quick second and tried to catch her breath but it was stolen from her. Red eyes flashed. Blue eyes flashed. Just for a moment, but they were visible in her mind’s eye as clear as crystal. She felt a need. A need to leave, right away. She had to go to the castle. She had to go to him.

Izmark wiped the stinging sweat that dripped into his eyes. He and Ireena had been surrounded but he could see the Villagers of Barovia fighting to get to them. He was proud of his village. They were terrified of the Devil Strahd but they knew this may be their only chance. Many of them fell, but many were proving themselves capable with their make-shift weapons. They made their way to the ring of Scarecrows threatening himself and Ireena and began their onslaught. Pitchforks pierced into the evil constructs. Sicles cut off their limbs. Kitchen knives were repeatedly stabbed into their backs. Hammers bludgeoned them down until their bodies stopped moving. Izmark whirled around to face his sister, but she was gone. She had already begun walking, almost calmly, to the east, through the piles of constructs and dead villagers. He took off after her when two Vampire Spawn scrambled down from nearby trees and rushed them. Their teeth bloody, they bent over in a hunched position and hissed at the siblings. They moved quickly and Izmark knew they were outmatched. A voice yelled from behind them. “Spawn of Strahd! Perhaps Bildrath can help you see your master?” Bildrath reached into his pocked and pulled out a medium sized black ball. “Mister Izmark… Miss Ireena… run towards me…now!”. He drew back his arm and rolled the ball forcefully towards Ireena and Izmark. Izmark grabbed his sisters arm and pulled her back, running towards Bildrath. The ball rolled past them as the Spawn gave chase. Vines and roots shot out of the ground just past the fleeing siblings and caught the two Spawn off guard. They twisted around their legs quickly and they both fell forward. The vines made their way quickly up their thrashing bodies and pinned them to the ground. The villagers descended on them.

Izmark grabbed his sisters shoulders. “Sister… what are you doing? Where are you going?”. Ireena didn’t know exactly how to answer that but she saw the worry in her brothers eyes. “Izmark… my brother… I must leave. It is my destiny. I do not feel fear though. I want to go. I will be alright. You have always taken care of me and I will love you for an eternity but my time here is at an end. I belong with him.” Izmark could only stare at his sister. He knew he should stop her. He knew he shouldn’t let her go but there was a voice deep in his soul that made him do neither. He kissed her forehead. “Go Ireena. I will always love you and I hope we can see each other again. Perhaps in the sun.”

Ireena Kolyana got to her feet and hugged her brother. She smiled and turned towards Castle Ravenloft and began her journey. Above, a large Raven with something large clutched in its talons flew by.

CONVERSATION WITH IREENA TO BE ADDED

“Let me show you” she tells them one more time and walks towards everyone. Each move out of her way as she confidently walks the halls of Ravenloft. Pushing past another set of doors into the Chapel where they first saw Strahd outside on the large overlook. She walks past the alter and steps through the broken glass window and out onto the cliff side. She continues to walk toward where Strahd once stood only hours ago, Sato stays back at the chapel with Elwin and Davian as Tortoo, Rakifi and Jun follow Ireena outside. Jogging to catch up to her as she continues to get closer and closer to the edge until finally a light flashes behind them. Wheeling around, a stately man—a being of flesh and blood—in shining armor and a flapping cape. His countenance shows great strength of will, yet the forcefulness of his presence is tempered by his calm, sad eyes. His features are those of Strahd, yet subtly different. His voice is calm and peaceful. “My name is Sergei von Zarovich.”

He turns to Ireena. “Tatyana, the time is at hand to rest. Come, my love… my wife.” He stretches forth his hand. Ireena Kolyana’s questioning eyes suddenly open with recognition and knowledge. Forgotten memories rush back to her. “Sergei!” she cries, springing to him with the grace of a doe. They embrace. Ireena turns to you and says, “I am Ireena Kolyana, but in my past I was Sergei’s beloved Tatyana. Through these many centuries we have played out the tragedy of our lives. Now, with our deepest gratitude to you, that tragedy is over. It is time for joy to begin again.” Shimmering light surrounds Ireena and Sergei. Hand in hand, they walk east toward the edge of the overlook. Their feet do not touch the ground as they tread a path beyond this mortal world. Their invisible road takes them beyond the eastern precipice, their glow illuminating and thinning the clouds above Barovia. The clouds suddenly break open, letting through the glorious sunlight from the rising sun. In the valley below, the strange fog dissolves. Barovia is free.

The sun barely crests the horizon and it can still be felt on the heroes faces. The lands once covered in grey clouds and shrouded in mist and fog are now slowly being bathed in sunlight. They walk back to the entrance of the castle and through the main gate overlooking the battlefield in the distance. The cries of battle can no longer be heard. “Back to Vallaki”.

Uri jumps over a rock, sliding down its backside, the coarse texture ripping at the exposed flesh on the back of his leg. He barely registers the pain. His mind is racing, his heart pounding. For a moment, he recalls the absurdity that was his training as a Vallaki guard. Always in pairs, pikes at the ready, don’t turn your back on any of Strahd’s wolv — he is shaken from his thoughts as a black blur of fur and gnashing teeth crests the same rock and buries its jaws into his partners neck, blood splashing over its muzzle and splattering onto Uri’s face and chest. The enormous wolf shakes his friend violently. Uri can hear the skin tearing. He wants to move but his body refuses. Why can’t he lift his stupid pike? The wolf tosses his friend aside and a jet black eye focuses on Uri. It lunges and Uri screams out, in what seems to be a battle cry, “PIKES AT THE READY” and closes his eyes. His arms, as if obeying an order, raise quickly. There is a yelp and a gurgling sound. He opens his eyes and pulls his pike out of the wolf’s mouth. A mantra begins in his head “always in pairs, always in pairs”. He rises, looking for an ally and is instead witness to what seems like another 20 enormous wolves bounding from the tree line, howling in rage. They begin to descend on his fellow Vallakian guards.

They close fast. He can see his comrades dig their heels in, ready for the onslaught. They are being brave in the face of their death. Uri is proud of them. Tears begin to stream down his face as he rushes to join them. Always in pairs. Always in pairs. He’s saying it now as he runs, each breath a word. The sky ahead of his begins to glow a bright reddish orange. He’s close to them now. He can feel their heat. Is that possible? A bright white light flahses in front of him and he is thrown 15 feet backwards as his ears pop and a wave of heat washes over him. He sits up quickly. The wolves are on fire. All of them. Most have been turned to ash, some are still running, their fur burning. The smell is almost instant. It’s a horrible mix of burnt hair and meat. Over the crackling fires and the screams from the battle still raging around him, Uri hears maniacal laughter and a shrill voice scream “FRY YOU FUCKING DOGGIES, FRY!”. Viktor Vallokovich strides forward, his gaunt eyes sparkling with delight. He sees Uri and extends a hand and helps him. He stares at Uri and smiles like a madman before continuing his march. This kid is insane, Uri thinks to himself. He’s not sure why, but he’s smiling too.

Leaving through the front gates heading west, what was once the sound of battle now cheers of victory as the sun continued to rise from behind Castle Ravenloft. The sounds grow louder as they continue west back to Vallaki, it doesn’t take very long until they begin to see the first signs of the battle that took place on the Ravenloft Moors throughout the night. The path takes them halfway to the Gate of Barovia when they see the first of the army. More cheers erupt as the massive group sees the haggard heroes, rushing up to congratulate and assist. Getting on horse back they break from the path and ride north through the battlefield. Groups of people from all over Barovia were spread throughout both in celebration and mourning those who fell. The fully risen sun now at their backs as they ride back to Vallaki.

The far north of the battlefield was vulnerable. He knew it and he knew that the Wizard fighting alongside him knew it too. A few of the Raven scouts had returned with reports of swarms of Vampire Spawn and what looked to be a legion of undead making their way along the northern swamp land. Himself and Mordenkainen were still at the basecamp set up in Vallaki. Their army was getting smaller and smaller and there wasn’t much left in reserves. Certainly not enough left to go north and fend of Strahd’s spawn and an undead army. It was Mordenkainen who suggested that they themselves go survey the situation. An hour later and Van Richten was atop a hillside, staring off into a walking nightmare. “They’ll further ahead than we thought” the Wizard said under his breath.

After surveying the situation they agreed that there was no time to back track. They needed to make a stand. Van Richten had already made his peace with death, but he knew what it meant to die in Barovia. It was something that still frightened him. Nevertheless, the urge for revenge was still strong with Van Richten. He thought of his son. His sorrow turned to anger, his anger to rage. He looked at Mordenkainan while drawing his two rapiers. “Cast your spell, Wizard… let’s watch them burn”. Mordenkainen began his chant, his hands gracefully sweeping through the air while each of his fingers seemed to dance to their own rhythm. The light around the powerful mage grew dark. Death in Barovia was not the only thing that Van Richten feared that day.

The black sky ripped apart into a starry abyss, its edges burning with fire. The hundreds of Spawn and thousands of undead instinctively looked skywards as the meteors began to hurtle down on them. Their force shook the ground, each exploding into an enormous fireball. There was no escape. Their destruction was absolute and the northern swamp was burning with undead men and women who had fallen to Strahd over many, many lifetimes. Van Richten started down the hill towards the massacre. He thought he could see some of them still moving.

A gruff voice grabs the attention of everyone, slowing down they see Mordenkainan and Van Richten approaching. CONVERSATION TO BE ADDED. With that the party continued west until they were back on the Old Svalich Road, passing through hordes of the remaining majority heading back west.

The boulder shook the ground as it hit. It was coming at such speed and force that it managed to bounce before hurtling forward and destroying one of the catapults. Three members of the Vallakian guard were caught in its path. Danika didn’t hear them scream but she saw their remnants smeared in a hellish painting of blood and gore on the boulders backside as it finally rolled to a stop.

The monsters shadow was enormous as it swooped back in the sky. She had never seen anything like it. She didn’t even know birds could be that big. This was its third boulder. If she had to guess, the first two had wiped out about one hundred of the people fighting with her. She was scared, but she hadn’t backed down when the war started. If anything, she was thriving and the Feathered Kind had seem to gravitate towards her as their leader in the absence of Davien. She embraced the role but now, with this bird, she wasn’t sure if what she had planned would work. She thought it ironic that a bird could be her people’s demise.

It was too fast to stop outright, but she thought if they could wear it down, they might have a chance. She yelled for the Feathered kind to join her and told them of her plan. Each WereRaven dropped their dagger and began their transformation into a jet black bird. Each pecked at their dagger until it was secure in their beak before taking flight into the night sky. Five minutes later, they could see the Roc approaching again, it’s massive form outlined in moonlight with another impossibly large boulder perched in its talons. It began its descent, wings pinned to its side. Above the enormous Roc, the Were Ravens began their descent, heading straight for the birds path. Danika had lit a torch, hoping to catch the birds attention but it seemed to be flying right at her anyways. She held her ground. The Roc screamed downwards and released the boulder. Just before it smashed into Danika, she shape changed into a Raven and pushed hard to the right, wings flapping furiously. The boulder missed but she could feel its draft as it rolled by her.

She forced her way up and turned around quickly. Her kin flew better than she had ever seen that day. As the Roc stretched its wings to get air under them in order to ascend, the Were Ravens struck. They kamikazed their way downwards and when each were about five feet from the Rocs gigantic wingspan, they tossed their daggers out of their beaks and transformed back into their human form and simultaneously snatched their daggers out of the air. Miraculously, none of them missed. Each of the Were Ravens buried their daggers into the wings of the Roc. Stabbing, slashing, pulling, the Were Ravens were relentless in their attack. The Roc let out a deafening scream and began rolling in the air, wings beating frantically. Many of the Feathered Kind were tossed off but were easily saved from harm as they shifted back to their Raven form. The Roc soared higher, but the damage was done. His wings were immobilized and he plummeted to the ground.

Danika managed a smile before looking back to the war raging all around her. She stole a glance at Ravenloft Castle. It seemed darker than usual. She hoped her friends were still alive.

Reaching the gates of Vallaki the sun now breathed a new life to what was once such a sullen place. The mass of people split and travelled around Vallaki while others entered through the gate, Uri could be seen smiling and celebrating with those who passed. Making their way down the main road passing through the main intersection before the Blue Water Inn, Sato spots Viktor heading back to his family home. Tying up their horses outside, they head inside to the welcoming arms of the Blue Water where Danika rushes to the group in excitement and stopped in her tracks when Tortoo brings Sanzin to his arms. “I’ll get Father Lucian” Rafiki tells everyone from the doorway. Danika gets a blanket to cover a table with for Tortoo to lay Sanzin. Surrounding the table no one speaks as look over the halfling’s body. Danika grabs another sheet and covers the body, and at long last everyone sits down with a deep exhale.

CONTINUE HERE

Gods, they were filthy. As a boy, Dmitiri Krezkov was always taught to not only respect the land, but to fear it. This was, afterall, Barovia. He understood why now. No matter how many of these dirt-caked Druids that he cut down, it seemed that two more would take their place. Worse than that was that his soldiers couldn’t seem to make up any ground to get to the back line to attack the Druids who were controlling the plants. There were too many blights, vines, and plants getting in their way. Each step was like walking through tar as the plants would wrap around their ankles and the blights would slash with their razor thin claws. His soldiers were holding their own but he feared that they were slowly losing the battle.

The Mongrel Folk had joined up with Dimitri and his village and he was thankful for them. They had lived so close to each other for so long but had never really came into contact. They were odd creatures, a mis-match of hair, teeth, and limbs. They were relentless though. They didn’t seem to mind that the blights would regrow from the ground. It just meant more for them to chew on. Their leader, Otto, had spoken with Krezk before the battle but spent most of the time insisting that he was a better leader than he was. Dmitri wasn’t really sure what to make of him but he was here beside him now, panting and grinning.

Dmitri took a chance and spoke to Otto again. He tried to formulate a plan with him so that his Mongrelfolk could create some kind of path for his soldiers to push through to get to the back lines, but Otto was soon to remind Dmitri that he was a better strategist than he was. Dmitiri, frustrated, pointed across the field at the controlling Druids and yelled “well, they’re better strategists than both of us and we’ll all be dead soon”. Otto stared back up at him. The grin slowly moving off his face. “He… he thinks he’s a better strategist than me?”. Dmitri threw up his hands in frustration but stopped them in mid-air. He bent down and looked Otto in the eye. “Yes, he thinks he’s a better strategist than you, and he thinks he’s a better war general than you”. Otto slowly turned his head and stared across the field to the Druids. “He thinks he’s better than me?…”. “Nobody is better than me.”. Otto suddenly sprinted off on all fours, dodging almost effortlessly amongst the blights and plants. He picked his way over to a pair of Mongrel Folk who were fighting a small pair of blights. Dmitiri could see them make short work of the blights before the two followed Otto into the writhing field of plants.

Suddenly, bursting through the blights and plants, a muddy Druid charged at Dmitri, and looked to almost stumble forward as he shape-changed into an enormous crocodile. It quickly bull rushed him and knocked him onto his back. Dmitri wasn’t an especially fine warrior, but he did wrestle, and quite well. As the lizard pushed him backwards, he went with the force but twisted his body and managed to get the crocodile on its side. It furiously began to gnash but he was able to slide around onto its back, his arms wrapped around the crocodiles neck, holding on for dear life. It was then that the stinging started. Tiny, razor sharp cuts began to slice into his back, under his leather armor. The blights were washing over him in waves, each taking a stab while chittering with their tiny teeth. Dmitri rolled over onto his back, pulling the croc with him and simultaneously crushing some of the blights. The pain in his back wasn’t so bad now. Actually, he didn’t feel any more cutting or biting. When he began to focus a little more he noticed that the whole battlefield was a lot quieter. A shadow suddenly loomed over him and Dmitri watched as it thrust a sword into the lizards exposed belly, rendering him back to his human shape. Dmitri eased his hold and the druid slumped to the muddy ground.

“Sir, all of the plants and blights are dead”. Dmitiri’s eyes focused on the soldier from Krezk standing over him. “It’s only the Druids left now and there aren’t many left”. Dmitiri got to his feet. His soldiers were attacking the remaining Druids while the Mongrelfolk formed a large circle, corralling them inwards and blocking their escape. Emerging from the circle and towards Dmitri bumbled three short shapes, all wearing filthy cloaks that earlier belonged to the Druids controlling the plants. They stopped short and the middle one pulled his hood back. Otto’s tongue was hanging out, his smile very wide. “See, I’m the best at war.”

The hot, acrid perspiration of the Werewolf rose in a drifting plume of steam, giving away its position in the tall grass to the rider atop his horse. Luvash held his smile and instead nodded slowly to his niece, perched on a branch, in a tree about 60 feet from their prey. She knocked an arrow and silently drew. The arrow made no sound and pierced the neck of the werewolf. It shot up in pain, revealing its full form. Wasting no time, Luvash drew his own weapon and fired on the beast, ending its life. Arrabelle descended from her position and made her way into the tall grass to retrieve her arrow. Luvash coaxed his horse forward to meet her. Prior to this one, Arabelle and himself were riding back to back and cutting through swathes of Werewolves along with the other riders from the Vistani. The beasts were fast, but not nearly as quick as the skilled Vistani riders. Not all the Vistani were unharmed though. The beasts were taking their toll. In fact, the one that they had hunted had effortless ripped the throat out of one of the Vistani horses and proceeded to tear open the belly of its Vistani rider. Perhaps that’s why Luvash chose to follow it into the nearby tall grasses as it made its retreat. He wanted revenge.

Luvash collected Arabelle and pulled on the reigns of his horse to rejoin the battle, when a man, completely naked, stepped out of the treeline. “Vistani riders”. His voice was loud, but calm. “You have hunted and slain one of my brothers”. Luvash sees that the man is leaning forward, his neck bending to one side. He hears a rustling from behind him… no from beside him… both? He turns his head as Arabelle gasps. More men, all naked, previously unseen, are rising from the tall grasses. Their fingers becoming elongated, their jaws breaking as they extend forward. There bodies begins to grow fur as their hunch becomes more pronounced. “We are not mere beasts” the man says as his eyes became larger and turn a sickly yellow. “We are hunters too”. The last of his words turn into an almost indistinguishable growl as he leaps forward as does the rest of his pact.

Luvash leaps from his horse as Arabelle moves to do the same. “No.” he tells her and puts a hand on her leg, keeping her from getting down. “You are the future of the Vistani and the greatest gift of my life”. There is such conviction in his voice that Arabelle doesn’t move. She sees her uncle draw his curved blade as he slaps the horses back side. He spins and severs the leg of one of the five charging werewolves, opening a pathway for the horse to run as the werewolf tumbles to the ground. She looks back as her horse tears across the tall grass. She remembers him teaching her to ride. She remembers him sneaking her bits of honeycomb before bed. She remembers the bravest person she knows. She looks back and sees him rise from the ground, beasts clawing and tearing at his body as he slashes and stabs at them. He screams… but she hears no fear in her uncles voice.