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Darth Paul
Posted by the GM
Curse of Strahd
Chapter 21: The Towers of Ravenloft
The heroes continued up the spiral stairs that had brought them to the office of the king's accountant. The next landing led into a short hall with two alcoves flanking an ornate steel door. As Shokk approached the door he saw two dark man-shaped figures, one standing in either alcove. With a gleam of red eyes, both figures collapsed into a swarm of rats! The rats surged forward and down the stair, biting at everyone. Shokk and Volta swept the swarms with their two-handed weapons while they stomped and smashed themselves and dozens of rats into the walls. Kyne swung about with the sunsword, incinerating rats by the score, while Caxius, Cira, and Verity used magic to blast and burn the rats away.


RATS!

With the vermin cleared out, they entered what appeared to be a dining room set for some sort of reception. A large, moldy, green-tinged wedding cake stood atop the table, listing precariously to one side. The small wooden image of a bride sat atop the cake, while the groom lay upon the floor, covered in dust. A harp stood in one corner, while a lute was on a table in the other corner. Verity investigated the lute, and found it remarkably clean and in tune - and enchanted! She played the harp, and a spectral figure materialized, that of a dwarfish man in the livery of jester. "I was Pidlwick the fool," the phantom said, "and my treasure lies in the tower above. I died falling down the stairs...." As the figure faded, Volta picked up the figure of the groom and put it back atop the cake.

That was a mistake. As the half-orc barbarian did so, the window to the battlements - where Shokk was standing - blew open in a cold draft of air. Verity and Volta both felt a chill close around their hearts. There was a presence there, an invisible presence! Verity cast a spell that rained fey flames down on the area, surrounding two invisible forms in flickering, spectral fire. One appeared to be a man, the other a woman, their phantasmal features contorted in fear and rage. With blows from enchanted blades and spells, the two spirits were dispelled.

Leaving through a door across from the one they had entered by, the heroes entered a bath chamber with an adjoining walk-in closet or dressing room. As Volta, Shokk, Caxius, and Verity went into the closet, Kyne and Cira went to investigate the tub...which was filled with blood. As Kyne approached, the liquid exploded upward and a figure shot up to the ceiling. It was a woman, nude, her pale skin and long, dark hair drenched with blood and her features distorted. Her hair reached down to lash at Kyne, wrap around him, and pull him to the ceiling where she raked at him with long nails and reached to kiss him, filling his mouth (but fortunately not his lungs) with blood. A hail of steel and spells greeted this foe, and she was brought low in moments. The horrid apparition and the blood vanished. The heroes grabbed a few capes from the closet to replace their own rain-soaked garb and went through a set of double doors on their right.

The room beyond was large, clean, opulently furnished...and occupied. A figure rose from a canopied bed along the far wall. It was a young woman with dark hair and wide, innocent eyes. "Who are you?" She asked, "Did Strahd send you?" The young woman, barely little more than girl, introduced herself as Gertruda. With a start, Cira realized this was the daughter of Mad Mary, who had wept so bitterly after her daughter back in the village of Barovia. The young lady was reluctant to trust the heroes and did not wish to leave. "Strahd has been very kind to me. He treats me like a woman, not a little girl. I won't go with you!" That changed when Caxius enchanted her with a simple spell. The heroes had decided - they must leave with her and now!


The innocent and unfortunate Gertruda.

They made their way back to a window and climbed out on to the parapet surrounding the upper floor of the castle. Making their way around to the side that faced the gates, they tied ropes together, secured them to a battlement, and prepared to climb down. Kyne was down first, with Shokk right behind. The burly half-orc paladin carried the girl. That is when things went horribly awry.

A cold wind flashed past Shokk, and Gertruda was lifted off his back and carried to the top of a corner tower, 40 feet up off the walkway. A dark figure stood there. Strahd! He sneered down at the heroes. "You cannot take what is mine!" He snarled, and with savage fury he tore the girl's throat out with his fangs and flung her body from the tower to the courtyard 120 feet below. He then hurled a fireball into the party, the explosion burning away Shokk's rope, and the paladin narrowly avoided a plunge 80 feet to the courtyard when he grabbed the nearest crenelation. The battle was joined, though the heroes were hard pressed. Caxius grabbed Volta, and the two vanished, reappearing next to Strahd. With a bit of magic, Shokk joined them. Verity enchanted Cira, allowing the cleric to fly closer, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind burning with bright sunlight.


Strahd joined them in battle atop the towers of Castle Ravenloft. Things did not go well for the heroes...

But their spells and blades were not enough. Shokk was thrown from the tower, and only his supernatural vitality enabled him to survive. Volta was horribly wounded, and Cira was brought low by Strahd's bite. If she had survived that, the fall to the courtyard was her death. Verity was nearly dead, and Kyne had fled over the wall, hiding from the dark lord. But Strahd had enough for now. "Flee with your lives! Know that I am your master!" Perhaps the sunlight and the wounding dealt by Volta's magical greataxe had taken their toll; perhaps not. Shokk used a prayer and managed to restore life to Cira, whose soul had not quite fled. But the heroes fled for now, managing to lower the drawbridge and regroup outside the walls of Castle Ravenloft.

They returned to the village of Barovia, joined later by Kyne, who had hidden. They rested, determined that they would first head to Vallaki, then perhaps to Krezk, and gather supplies and reinforcements. They were not done with Strahd. Nor, they knew, was Strahd done with them...
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