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Darth Paul
Posted by the GM
Curse of Strahd
Chapter 18: The House of Strahd
Having rescued a pair of small children, a boy and a girl, from cages in the hag's lair, the heroes decided to head on to Barovia village to find a place for them. They hadn't seen Ismark Kolyanovich for weeks either, and decided it was time to inform him of his sister's fate. But their passage was not unnoticed. They passed through the upper Gates of Ravenloft, in the shadow of the massive castle itself. A black coach, drawn by two black horses, awaited them. The driver was as silent and still as a phantom, and the doors to the carriage sprung open as the heroes neared. Volta, Verity, and Kyne entered the carriage as Evan and Lupin hustled the children down the road to safety. Caxius, Cira and Shokk balked at entering the eerie vehicle, and in an instant, the situation turned deadly.

The doors to the carriage slammed shut, trapping the trio inside. The horses seemed to burst into unearthly blue-purple flames and burn down to skeletons. The death coach charged Shokk and Cira, overrunning the pair and nearly trampling them fatally. The coachman lashed at Caxius, while Verity, Volta, and Kyne felt a deathly chill sap their very life-force. Verity forced the door open and jumped out, and was clipped and sent sprawling as a result. Kyne called on the gifts he had gotten at the Amber Temple, and blasted the coach from the inside with lightning and cold while Volta hacked away with her axe. Shokk swiped at it as it thundered by, and Caxius and Cira launched spells at the grim coach.

Strahd sent his coach for the heroes. They declined the offer.

Cira realized this black coach was not so much a vehicle and three creatures as it was a dark spirit, a single entity, no doubt sent by Strahd. With radiant light from her divine spells and the mighty hewing strokes of Shokk's blade, they managed to drive the thing off. It became no more substantial than smoke, thundering off back towards Castle Ravenloft. Badly hurt, the heroes forced their way down the road, recovering their strength as they hurried. Apart from a few hunters on the road, they had no challenges as they entered Barovia village.

Ismark was overjoyed to see them, and took the news of his sister's apparent rebirth and escape from Strahd's dark reach in stride. He put the heroes up for the night, giving them time to plot their next move. Shokk had terrible dreams that night, dreams of falling, and felt no better rested on the morrow. Despite his fatigue, he, Verity, Volta, Caxius, Cira, and Kyne set out to visit Castle Ravenloft. They figured that the time had come to find the bones of the silver dragon said to lay beneath the castle, and to learn more about their ultimate enemy.

The road to the castle was quiet, though the overcast skies grew into a storm by the time they reached the drawbridge. It passed over a sheer drop more than 1,000 feet high and led into the walls of the great castle. Castle Ravenloft was built atop a giant stone plinth, and overlooked the entirety of the valley to the east. Although the doors to the great central keep were open, the heroes made their way through the courtyard and along the side of the mighty castle. The inner walls were as high as the outer - nearly 80 feet - and were pierced by an iron portcullis. With a little might and magic, the gate was opened and the heroes circled the upper chapel and made their way to an overlook. Beneath the stone balcony, they could see windows carved into the rock more than 150 feet below. Using a climbing kit and some minor magic, Kyne secured three ropes together, anchored them around a gargoyle, and made his way down the face of the cliff to the windows.

They were opaque with caked on dirt, but he cleverly began to quietly remove the sections of stained glass in preparation of opening them. He quickly realized that he would have to cut an opening big enough to climb through, as the windows were fixed. Kyne also saw that it was some sort of tomb set in the rock beneath the castle. Finally, he saw only too late five black, spectral figures emerge from the stone around him and attack. Wraiths! Only his vampiric heritage saved him from instant death at their touch. Kyne quickly ignited the shining blade of the Sunsword and dove through the opening into the tomb. Caxius saw what was happening and grabbed Verity, using his magic to teleport them both inside. Cira and Shokk started to climb down the rope, hand over hand, to reach their comrades. The blade of sunlight along with Verity's magical pipes proved too much for the wraiths, who fled into the darkness. Shokk nearly slipped coming down the rope, but made his way after Cira into the tomb.

Castle Ravenloft stood like a brooding titan.

The heroes found they were in the catacombs beneath the castle, and that this was the tomb of Queen Ravenovia and King Baranov, Strahd's parents. A curtain of blue light sealed the crypt, and it was quickly determined that only Cira could pass back and forth through the wall of light. Everyone else was stuck in the upper catacombs. Realizing there was no other way out, the heroes began to explore the catacombs beneath Castle Ravenloft.

The catacombs were cramped, the floor thick with mist and a squishy substance that proved to be bat guano, based on the literally thousands of bats perched overhead. They opened several tombs, finding a vampire bride of Strahd's, along with a banshee, a body covered in gold, and a tomb with Kyne's name! The place was horrid and dank and they finally found the stairs out. Making their way up, they stopped at the next level. The corridor they found was thick with fog, and a short figure was slumping down their way. He was not quite five feet tall, broad shouldered, and had animal-like features. He was Cyrus Belview, a member of the same family experimented on by the Abbot, and Strahd's manservant. He offered to show the heroes the way out, one that would allow them to bypass the main hall.

Foolishly, they accepted.

Strahd's portrait was as evil as the vampire lord himself.

He led them to a side corridor, and gestured for them to enter. As the heroes made their way down, a pair of steel shutters slammed shut to either side of them. That section of the corridor became an elevator and flooded with gas that nearly rendered them unconscious. It shot up 300 feet in a matter of seconds, and ended at a simple landing. There were two statues, a portrait of Strahd, a rug in front of a door, and spiral steps to either side, one going up, one going down. It turned out the rug, the statues, and even the portrait were guardian constructs. The heroes dealt with them swiftly and surely, made their way down the steps, found the main hall, and retreated from the castle. Strahd's mocking laughter could be heard in the storm....
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Tags: Milestone , Recap