The heroes had returned to Barovia village following Kyne
's betrayal in the dungeons beneath Castle Ravenloft. Ismark Kolyanovich had put them up for the night, and when dawn came, they decided on a course of action. The Sunsword had been lost to them, and with no other clues to go on, Evan came up with the suggestion that they visit Madam Eva and have their fortunes told once more. Lacking any other clear course, the rest of the group agreed. Shortly after breaking their fast the heroes made their way along the road out of town towards the Vistani encampment at Tser Pool. The Vistani had not moved on, and though they were initially wary, they remembered the heroes and greeted them cautiously but warmly. After an exchange of gifts, they were led to Madam Eva's tent.
"Welcome again," the old woman said as they entered. "You have come to have your fortunes told, yes? I will give you three answers. One for the question you came to ask, one for the question you did not come to ask, and one for the question you did not know to ask." Although confused, the heroes paid the price of one gold coin and Evan stepped forward to draw the cards. The gnome wizard drew the 6 of Glyphs - the Anarchist. "The treasure you seek is in a hall of bones on a table of bones." He next drew the Seer. "Your foe awaits you in a place of warmth, wisdom, and despair." Finally, Evan drew the Broken One. "A man of faith, whose sanity hangs by a thread. He will be your greatest ally...now. There is another with him you need. One eye, one hand." With that, she told them that the best repayment would be to give Strahd peace and lay him to rest at long last. The heroes thanked her and left, pondering her reading.
The heroes had questions, and Madam Eva had answers...
They came to the conclusion that the "hall of bones" could only be an ossuary, likely found beneath a cathedral or castle. As they had found nothing of the sort in the Amber Temple or the Abbey of St. Markovia, they realized it had to be beneath Castle Ravenloft. Second, they determined a place of warmth would have a hearth, and wisdom indicated books, and finally that place would also have to be in the castle. Thus, they would likely find Strahd in his study. Finally, the broken man of faith could only be Father Donavich, whose son Doru had become a vampire. They visited him at the church of the Morninglord in Barovia, and he agreed to accompany them to the castle when they were ready to confront Strahd. "Not for revenge. But for justice." And more importantly, there was one there with him, a man with dusky skin and pale hair. He wore a patch over one eye, and one hand was gloved with an archer's gauntlet. He was Zahar, an archer with a knack for magic, and a hunter of werewolves. Both Caxius and Shokk
had met him what seemed like months ago when they set out from Daggerford to investigate werewolves in the Misty Forest. He'd been lost in the woods for days he'd said, only to find himself...here. With the duo vouching for him (and with him having nowhere else to go) Zahar decided fighting a vampire lord and finding a way out of this land sounded like productive uses of his time.
With that, the heroes made their way back up the road to the castle of Strahd von Zarovich. They ran into a group of hunters along the way, shortly after finding wolf tracks and a hidden bundle of clothes in the mud near the gallows at the Tser crossroads. This same group had suggested campsites to them in the past, and with a short detour, Volta determined it would be an excellent place to be ambushed. Werewolves, they surmised. Well, time to deal with them later.
The black coach was waiting for them as they reached the western Gates of Ravenloft. The mute driver gestured as the coach's doors opened. Without word, the heroes climbed in or clambered on the runners, and took the ride up to the castle. The coach clattered across the drawbridge and onto the cobbled courtyard. The doors of the castle stood open, the light of torches spilling out. The heroes made their way inside, past the entry hall, and to the spiral stair that down to the flooded dungeon far below. They made their through the torture chamber, up onto the balcony, and to the room with the strange, stone brazier.
The black coach awaited them. Strahd knew they were coming, and was seemingly unconcerned.
There were seven slots around it, and a verse detailing seven locales around the land. Seven stones, each a different color, rested in small depressions around the edge of the brazier. The large hourglass above was filled with black sand that did not run down to the bottom. Using his arcane talents, Evan identified the brazier as a teleportation device. One of the colored stones could be cast into the white flame burning without heat in its center. The flame would change color, the sand run down, and a teleportation circle open. After a minute, the circle would close and the stone roll back up to its starting position. They determined some of the likely locales - the Amber Temple, the Abbey of St. Markovia, the castle's highest tower - but declined to try any at the moment.
They turned their attention to the stairs leading up from this room, and took the middle path. It led to a fog-shrouded, narrow corridor with a pit trap that Shokk
barely avoided falling down thanks to Volta's reflexes and strong grip. The polished marble shaft led down at an angle, likely back to the flooded dungeon Evan thought. Zahar made his way forward, carefully blocking the pit's lid closed with a spike after it reset. Edging down the narrow passage, the heroes found it ended in a blank stone door with no handle or hinge. Volta pushed it open, and discovered that they had exited into the crypts beneath the castle. Once again, fog crept up to their shins and they could feel the squish of filth beneath their boots. Thousands of bats clung to the ceiling overhead.
Without any other prospects, the heroes began to search the crypts. They passed a few by, opening the likely prospects. They found the crypt of Saint Markovia herself, where bones animated into a giant skeleton with long, bony claws and a handful of skeleton warriors. These foes were quickly smashed, and the only thing remaining was a decorated thighbone on the marble slab. A spirit, that of the blessed saint herself, appeared and bid them use her body as a weapon. The thighbone was magic, enchanted to strike like a mace that would disrupt the undead with its holy power. Verity took the weapon, and the bard had a determined look on her face.
Another crypt opened into a shaft that dropped 40 feet into a vault filled with coffins. The group descended, finding that the dozen plus coffins were occupied - by wights! But Verity's quick thinking led her to dazzle the wights with a hypnotic pattern of lights, giving Evan time enough to surround them with a wall of fire. The wights that weren't consumed by flame were cut down in swift order, their life-stealing touch no match for enchanted steel and silver arrows.
They went on, finding some minor treasures in one crypt, and a harness of wood, leather, and metal in another that appeared to be some sort of flying machine - along with a musket pistol, smoke powder, and plenty of silver bullets! Volta took the contraption, while Evan took the gun. They found another crypt, that of King Triosky, and a swarm of skeletal body parts flew out and attacked! Two skeletal warriors with four arms rose, as did the skeleton on the bier. It had a three-faced helm with three skulls beneath! This dreaded skull lord and his undead minions fought hard, and Volta nearly fell as several of the heroes were wounded badly. But Caxius used his magic wand to change one of the skeletal warriors into a bunny rabbit and absconded with the tiny beast! With these foes defeated, they found the skull lord's plate armor was enchanted to provide resistance to the cold touch of necrotic magic.
The Skull Lord, King Triosky, was not amused at being roused.
They made their way back to a small side chamber, blocked by a portcullis. Shokk
was able to raise the gate, and they found a larger tomb with a coffin on a large, marble slab. Three statues stood in niches along the far wall - two angels flanking a young warrior in shining mail. This was the tomb of Strahd's brother, Sergei von Zarovich. His body was perfectly preserved in his coffin, and his shining half-plate looked new. Cira could tell it was theirs to take, that Sergei was at peace with Ireena's (or Tatyana's, as it were) passage beyond the misty borders of this dark land. This was a place of peace. The heroes chose to rest here for a short time, then press on to find the ossuary and take the Sunsword back...