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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Interlude: The Regent of Jhothûn
~ fifth-day, 25th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
miles above Toril


"He will allow us to use the portals as we will, and we may request our wishes through magical sendings."

   Hakam was filling in the details of their visit to Jhothûn to the others. Tavis and Kaedlaw had remained behind and the genie and Tavis were to discuss what the throne's revelation meant for the boy, for Hartsvale, for Jhothûn, and for all of giantkind.

   "My geas has been fulfilled, and our exile is over," said Leokas.

   "We await word from Tavis, as we may need to fly him home, but after that, we can go anywhere we would like," said Hakam. "The question is, where next?"

   "With this vessel," said Szordrin, "nothing prevents us from flying to the Rock of Bral and tracking down the Interlink Consortium. All our destinies are intertwined with that one rock. Only if we know where Samber has been in the past will we be able to know what he is truly up to. And where better to inquire than Bral?"

   "I agree that we should visit Bral eventually," said Leokas, "but I think that we need more information first."

   "I am inclined to agree with Leokas on this," said Solisar. "I admit that I know very little of the place."

   "Teshburl, then?" said Szordrin. "We can follow leads on Walker, who we know had dealings with Samber."

   "Or we could rendezvous with Jayce at Lantan," said Hakam, "since he seems to be making progress with his investigation into Samber's background. Plus, Ombert, The Daisy's captain may be able to use the stars to guide us all back to Samber's island so that we can return Ilthian to her family."

   "We also told Mythlos, Cassiera, and my mother that we would meet them again at Mythlos' keep in Tethyr," said Leokas.

   "This is perhaps lower priority," said Solisar, "but a visit to Evermeet would permit me speak with my grandmother about what I learned about Iyraclea while on the Great Glacier."

   "You intend to stay with us, then," asked Leokas, "now that you have the option of leaving?"

   "I am greatly intrigued by the matter of Samber," said Solisar, "perhaps more now than ever...."

   "And you, Belvin?" asked Hakam, "Has your jungle god given you more visions?"

   Belvin shrugged. "I shall decide where Kamil and I are to travel when I need to."

   "One thing that I have wanted to do since Thultanthar," said Hakam, "is return to Sseth and retrieve Allu's genie bottle. I warrant that we are prepared to speak with the efreeti now and question him about how he obtained Samber's omlar gem. I think that I shall send Sseth a message in the morning."

   "I am against the idea of going to Allu's palace," said Szordrin. "Both Allu and the blue dragon could potentially be there."

   "Fair enough. I agree that Walker is probably as good a source about Samber right now as is Allu," said Hakam.

   "I also wish to return to Silverymoon, before heading to Teshburl," said Szordrin. "We have many things to sell, and from your descriptions, it sounds like there is much we could purchase."

   "I agree," said Leokas. "We are out of provisions. We can probably ask the genie here for a day's food, but genie-created food lasts no longer than that. Our new vessel could also use some ballista bolts."

   "Some furnishings would also be appreciated," said Hakam.

   "...And some sailing implements," added Solisar.

   "Well, then there is the matter of what to wish for...," Hakam began.

   This second discussion took them nearly an hour, and they arrived at no full consensus, though they were leaning toward some way of protecting the spelljammer. Ultimately, they decided to sleep on the decision.

~~~~

Just after dawn of the next day, Hakam woke the others. "I sent a message to our brass dragon friend about meeting up with him sometime in the future to retrieve Allu's bottle. I had to waste two sending spells to get a response, but he rambled something off about 'skeletons swarming toward Allu's palace from... the Altar...' of the Air. At least I assume that he meant the Altar of the Air; he did not get all the words out."

   "That may change my vote," said Leokas. "We should visit with Sseth in person and learn more."

   "I agree," said Szordrin, "but we should still stop at Silverymoon and Teshburl on the way."

~~~~

Several hours later, each of them were scattered about the spelljammer, resting and waiting. Ilthian and Solisar were in Ilthian's room, writing out math problems to solve how long the spelljammer's magical bubble of air would last before they would need to return to the surface to replenish it.

   Suddenly, Belvin leapt to his feet from beside Kamil. He had spotted a cloud of vapor coming over the railing. "The Ice Queen!" he shouted to the others, and then he began chanting. An instant later, a column of fire appeared, striking the growing cloud at its center.

   The cloud took shape, as the others rushed over. No sooner had a thick hand formed from the gases then a ray of frost and ice shot forth from the fingers, covering Belvin's skin with white.

   Calm yourselves, they all heard in their heads. It was the qorrashi's voice. I have been sent by the Regent of Emperor Kaedlaw to summon you.

   Belvin wiped the frost from his face and shivered. He was very cold but otherwise not harmed. If the ice genie was injured, he did not show any sign of it.

   "How did you find us?" asked Leokas as Solisar arrived onto the deck to see what the commotion was about.

   I am no longer bound by oath not to leave the palace, said the Prince of Jhothûn. As a genie, I need not air for flight. I suspected that you would be somewhere up, and it is not difficult to spot a sailing craft in the heavens if you rise high enough.

   "I assume that by 'Regent' you mean Tavis?" asked Hakam.

   No, said the genie, I did not. Though the emperor's father may wish to speak with you as well. Do not keep the Regent waiting. If you join hands with mine, I can take you there immediately through the Astral Plane. However, I warn you that the touch of my skin is painful to most mere mortals such as yourselves.

   "Anachtyr, protect me from the elements," Hakam prayed. Then he said to the qorrashi, "I shall take your hand."

   Kytharrah rushed up excitedly and grabbed the genie's left hand. "Very cold!" he said, as the frost nipped his fingers, but he wore a toothy grin on his face. Hakam took the genie's right hand and grimaced at the cold, which was painful despite his prayer.

   I can carry several others through as well, if more of you wish to come. Simply join hands with your companions. Solisar joined with Hakam and Kytharrah, since he hoped to see more of such a historical site as Jhothûn, and Szordrin did as well.

   They all felt a strange and momentary sensation, then found themselves standing in the throne room of Jhothûn. There, leaning against one of the pillars, was Tavis, who was restringing his massive bow. Nearby, the throne of ice and stone was empty, but beside it was a larger obsidian throne of simpler design. Sitting upon it, was the misshapen form of Basil of Lyndusfarne.

   "Am du paart, Solisar of Evermeet!" said the old verbeeg.

   "Am du paart, Regent of Jhothûn!" the sun elf replied.

   "I trust that you have been well this last month or so?"

   "Ignoring the fact that I was stabbed to death by a lamia noble, yes."

   "Annam's juveler!" said Basil.

   "My god returned my powers, and I called him back to the living," said Hakam.

   "Clearly, we have much to talk about, friends," said Basil, as if he knew all of them, though in reality he had only ever talked to Solisar before.

   They learned that Kaedlaw had already returned home to his mother, by the power of the wish. Tavis would be returning home soon in the same manner, but he had wanted to thank the members of the party and say goodbye before departing.

   Brianna and Tavis had spoken with the Prince of Jhothûn at great length, and it had been decided that Basil would reign as regent until Kaedlaw came of age. This would require a long time spent in near solitude for the verbeeg, but at the moment, the idea of exploring the four floors of the citadel excited him more than any concerns of loneliness. Besides, the powers of the genie could wish friends back and forth from Hartsvale three times a day if needed.

   As for Queen Brianna and Tavis, they had much to consider in regards to what to do with the fact that their son was the future ruler of not only the tiny kingdom of Hartsvale but perhaps of all the giant tribes of Faerûn! For now, they intended to wait and seek out advice from what giant and giant-kin allies they had. They suspected that most giants would not accept the news readily. At least they had many years for Kaedlaw to grow up.

   In regards to the portal, they had decided to leave the delusional orc druid on the Sea of Moving Ice and the ice devil Tosvin as portal guardians of Karffbadh and Gharreil, respectively. They would serve as first line of defense for the hidden citadel. Now that the qorrashi was no longer bound by oath to the palace, he could pass through the portals, or indeed go anywhere he needed, to also defend the secret. For the portal at Choshein, Brianna had sent Hrodmar, the frost giant guard of Earls Bridge, to serve as guardian. (Hrodmar was happy to give Kytharrah one last wrestling match.)

   The genie provided them with another luscious meal and also with temporary provisions that would last them on the journey to Silverymoon, where they planned to first stop to resupply.

   Solisar sat next to Basil while they ate and told him some of the details of his brief visit to the Fugue Plane. Then the conversation turned to what Basil had learned so far of Jhothûn.

   "Iseheim, I mean Jhothûn, contains no books that have survived the ages," said Basil, "but the genie here revealed to me that there are ancient crypts below. I expect to spend a good deal of my time there examining what friezes I may find. I believe that the base of little Kaedlaw's throne shows the handiwork of stone giants, and I would not be surprised to find more gifts of theirs from the earliest days of Ostoria in those crypts. The steinjotunen were the only true record-keepers of the Jotunbrud. Surely, you will want to stay and explore them with me?"

   "Believe me when I tell you that I would like nothing more," said Solisar. "What scholar of the Jotunbrud would not? However, I seem tied into something greater — or at the least, more urgent — taking place perhaps among the human gods. My companions have been exiled now many months, which has kept them from their true quest, and I am now a part of it. As they are at last free from exile, they are anxious to set out again. May I kindly request a postponement?"

   "Of course!" said Basil. "Remember, I am a verbeeg; what is mine is yours."

   "He means to say, 'What is yours is his,'" said Tavis.

   "Basil, I must warn you of something," said Solisar. "The guardian of the portal at Gharreil is an evil entity who serves a powerful priestess of the human goddess of winter. She is perhaps immortal, so great is her magic. I know not yet the full extent of her plans, but she lusts after the treasures hidden in this city. I do not know how her magics compare to those of the genie who now serves you, but be aware of the matter, and use caution."

   "I thank you for this," said Basil.

   After the dinner, they said goodbye to their friends. "Tell Leokas that I enjoyed the challenge of shooting archery with him and learning of the beasts of the High Forest," said Tavis to Hakam. "I shall remember him if ever I nock an arrow against a goblin."

   Tavis then gave Kytharrah a large bear hug, and lifted the minotaur off his feet. This surprised Kytharrah, but he snorted happily.

   "Keep following the guiding light," said the firbolg.
Session: 92nd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 19 2017 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Annam's Heir
~ fourth-day, 24th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
somewhere over the Silver Marches


There was a gentle knock on Ilthian's cabin door. She got up off her pile of blankets and opened it.

   "Good morning! It is time for your writing lesson."

   "Solisar! Hakam fixed you!" She jumped up and down with delight.

   "Yes, yes, he did," said Solisar, "though I feel weaker than I felt before."

   "Did he fix Kytharrah also?"

   "Indeed, he is above deck now, standing at the railing. We are on our way back to the ice genie, and then we will be able to go wherever we want."

~~~~

"We cannot fly the spelljammer directly to Choshein," said Leokas emphatically. "I absolutely will not permit it. Whoever has been scrying on us will see that we have traveled there and know the location."

   The party were gathered below deck, as the ship sailed through the sky on its own wind power. Tavis and Kaedlaw were eating a second breakfast, and Kytharrah and Ilthian were practicing writing.

   "Not if we keep Ilthian in her room," said Belvin. "All the scrier will see is the wooden walls of the cabin."

   "As long as the scrier does not switch to scrying on one of us," said Solisar. "As of earlier, when I visited her, the scrier was still focused on her and not any of us."

   "It is a risk that we have to take," said Hakam.

   "No," said Leokas, "I cannot permit such risks, not while under the influence of this geas."

   "What do you suggest then? That we abandon the spelljammer somewhere in the desert, leave Ilthian behind on the vessel, and ride our camels to Choshein with Tavis and Kaedlaw?"

   "We are not going to abandon Ilthian," said Solisar.

   "It was not a serious suggestion," said Hakam. "I have a duty to see that she returns to her home."

   "I am more concerned about someone stealing our spelljammer, wherever we chose to leave it," said Szordrin. "The fact of the matter is that Ilthian cannot go anywhere near the portal to Jhothûn anymore, and we cannot leave her alone, so we are going to have to split up. We were nearly defeated by a small band of lamia when most of us were present; if they or another band of Shadovar or a blue dragon spot a sailing vessel in the desert, it will attract attention."

   "I agree," said Hakam, "but the spelljammer is less likely to be stolen at the entrance of the cave to Choshein than if we leave it over the desert and some of us travel on camel. Leokas, if Ilthian stays in her cabin, the scrier will not even know whether or not we have stopped."

   "A ship of this size can be spotted for miles, especially from the air," said Leokas. "We could avoid detection of our approach to Choshein on foot easily enough, but even if we are safe from the scrier, while some of us travel to Jhothûn, many hours may pass with the ship drawing attention to our location. As Szordrin said, there are indeed blue dragons in this desert. It is a miracle none have tried to take us out of their skies yet."

   "While some of you go to visit the ice genie, I can take this vessel into the heavens," said Belvin, "into the Sea of Night. Is not that where it was designed to sail?"

   "He is right," said Solisar. "From Szordrin's and my investigations, I am convinced that the magic force surrounding this craft will give us air to breath for the duration. No dragon can fly so high."

   "I can send Belvin a message to descend again and pick us up whenever the matter with the ice genie is resolved," said Hakam. "We will only need to have the ship anywhere near the entrance to Choshein for the brief time that it takes for those of us going to descend the rope to the ground. What say you, Leokas? Will the geas permit such a minor risk if ultimately it means that the emperor of Jhothûn has been found?"

   Leokas nodded.

   So this is what they did. For the rest of the day and into the night, first Leokas and then Szordrin piloted their flying vessel from the helm chair. Belvin remained at watch, scanning the skies for dragons or other dangers. They retraced the journey from Silverymoon up the river and to Fork Road and Ascore. By night, they flew over Ascore and Hlaungadath until they came to the edge of Anauroch's glacier. This they followed south-southeast until they came to a great corner in the wall of ice and began following it east-northeast. When daylight came, they were passing through a gap in a large north–south mountain range. From here, Leokas again took the helm, watching carefully with his extended senses the lay of the icy land as they headed north over the High Ice. When highsun came, they had at last arrived at the cave entrance to what was once a subterranean frost giant city.

   Leokas, Hakam, and Tavis and his son descended the rope to the ground, and the others waved them off as they entered the dark opening. Belvin then took the helm, as Solisar stood nearby.

   "Take us up," said Solisar.

   Belvin willed the ship to rise and continue rising. Solisar went quickly to the deck, where Kytharrah was standing at his usual spot on the railing. Szordrin was also present.

   "We are very high!" said the minotaur.

   "Yes," said Solisar, as indeed the ground grew farther and farther away, beginning to look less like land and more like a simple blur of white and yellow. "I have never been this high, and we are going much higher."

   "Why is the world bending?"

   "It is always round like a ball," answered the sun elf. "You only cannot tell because it is very big, and usually you are standing on it."

   "Is the sky getting darker?"

   "It is. We are entering the Sea of Night. We are flying into the always-nighttime where the stars live."

   "There they are! I see them!" The minotaur spun around pointing as the points of light became more and more visible as the blue sky faded away into the darkness of Realmspace. "I can still see the guiding light, even though it is night," said Kytharrah, pointing at the sun above them.

   "Ferry does not like this," said Szordrin. The camels seemed agitated as well.

   Belvin joined them on the deck. "High enough for you?"

   "I never knew that Toril would look so beautiful from up here," said Solisar. "Truly the Seldarine have blessed us to see such a sight."

~~~~


"One, two, three, step!"

   Leokas, Hakam, Tavis, and Kaedlaw found themselves under a gold-plated domed ceiling, painted with images of snowflakes and clouds. They were back in the Palace of the Emperors in Jhothûn.

   "Where are we, Papa?" asked Kaedlaw, who had had no experience of traveling through magical portals. "Where did the cave go?"

   "This may be our new summer home, Son," said Tavis. "Do you think that Mama will like it?" Tavis gazed around. "It is certainly more giant-sized than Castle Hartwick," he continued to no one in particular. "I will not have to worry about banging my head on things anymore."

   A cloud of bitter cold ascended from below until it was level with the wide, circular balcony on which the four visitors stood. The ice genie, the qorrashi, the last Prince of Jhothûn materialized before them.

   You have returned, my guardian. Have you completed your quest? Have you found the heir.

   "We believe that we have," answered Leokas.

   "We are certain that this young giant child has the blood of Annam's youngest son in his veins," said Hakam. "Whether the throne of ice and stone accepts him remains to be seen."

   [i]The blood of Arno and Julien?
Tavis cringed when he heard the genie's words in his head. Did I not explain to you that Ottar stood higher in the ordning than the ettin?

   "Yes," answered Hakam, "you did explain this, but you also told us of the prophesied last son of Annam, who had not yet been born, did you not? This boy here has the blood of both Arno and Julien and the prophesied final son. That final son was indeed born, far to the north in a little-known land of Hartsvale. The humans of that land called him Hartkiller, and his descendants still reign there to this day."

   "My wife," said Tavis, "the boy's mother, is a descendant of Hartkiller."

   "What manner of giant are you?" asked the Prince in Jotun.

   "I am a child of Othea and Ulutiu," said Tavis, bowing humbly. "I am a firbolg."

   The genie expressed confusion upon its frozen face. Does the boy have firbolg blood as well? No one with tainted blood could be the true heir.

   "The story is indeed complicated and unpredictable," said Hakam. "You will not believe it if you hear it first. Withhold your judgment; permit us let the boy sit upon the chair, and then we shall tell you strange plan that Annam has seemingly laid out. We also have learned the fate of Ottar, your liege."

   You discovered Ottar's fate?

   "He was betrayed and poisoned by Lanaxis," said Tavis. "I have seen his corpse with my own eyes."

   Lanaxis... did this?

   "We will tell everything," said Hakam. "May we go to the throne room? Our stories will matter not if the boy is not chosen."

   Come, said the genie. He floated down the large hall away from the portals, and they followed him. He led them to the end of the hall, where it intersected with a larger, window-filled one. They had come this way before, as it was the only way for non-flying creatures to descend to the lower levels of the palace. The qorrashi took them to the banquet hall where he had first told them of their quest. From there, they took a staircase and then another, down to the first floor of the palace. A short distance later, they entered a large rectangular chamber, supported by high narrow pillars.

   Here sat the "throne of ice and stone". It was large enough to seat a storm giant. The four feet of the throne were carved from rock and shaped like the skulls of white dragons. The rest of the chair looked to be carved from solid ice. The back of the chair appeared like thick icicles arranged side-by-side.

   Have the boy take a seat on the throne, said the Prince, but be ready to remove him should the chair reject him.

   "Go on, Kaedlaw," said Tavis. "Hop up in the chair."

   Kaedlaw went over to the throne. It was too large for him to be able to pull himself up onto it. Tavis came over and gave him a boost.

   As soon as his little — by giant standards — rump sat down on the square block of ice, the throne began to melt. Water pooled upon the floor, as the arm rests and icicle-back reduced in size. Within a few moments, the ice of the throne had shrunk down to fit Kaedlaw snugly, as if it had been carved to his size all along. Kaedlaw giggled. "The chair moves funny, Papa."

   "Is it cold?" asked Tavis.

   "No, just slippy."

   The genie floated over and circled the throne several times, examining it.

   "Stôllinn hefur validh." spoke the genie. Then he translated for them in their minds. The chair has chosen. So Ottar's dynasty is ended, and this unexpected child is both Annam and Ottar's heir. Then the genie floated low to the ground as if bowing low and swore fealty and service to Kaedlaw in the tongues of giants.
Session: 91st Game Session - Wednesday, May 31 2017 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Darth Paul
Posted by the GM
Curse of Strahd
Chapter 25: A Beacon in the Dark
The heroes fled down the road leading to Castle Ravenloft, reaching the upper gates as the sun dipped below the horizon. The sky was overcast and dark, lit only by flashes of lightning and the eerie blue balefire which danced among the gorse and heather lining the steep road. They found Strahd's black coach awaiting them. The silent coachman pointed to them with his driver's whip and the doors to the coach opened. The heroes declined to get in.

With a crack of his whip, the black horses burst into blue flame, consumed until there was nothing left but fiery skeletons drawing the black coach. It charged the heroes, attempting to run them down as the coachman gestured with his whip. A cold chill ran down the heroes' spines as it charged, but they fought back. Cira and Lupin managed to dodge the coach's wheels but Shokk, Volta, and Verity weren't so lucky. Zahar kept well back, and he peppered both driver and horses with arrows. Evan had vanished, along with the dragon's skull, protecting the precious relic. In the end, despite the half-orc barbarian nearly being run down, a blow from Volta's axe shattered the hip of one skeletal horse, sundered the front wheel of the coach, and sent the whole thing into a tumble. It vanished amidst a spray of churned up mud and earth, and the thunder of its wheels was replaced by the roll of the storm overhead.


Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me...

Barely pausing to catch their breath, the heroes made their way down the road towards Vallaki. They did not pass unmolested. Cira, Evan and Lupin provided light as best they could, but this became a beacon in the night. The group heard the flap of leathery wings overhead, and saw two giant bats descend, accompanied by swarms of normal-sized bats, all with shining eyes and glinting fangs. The two monstrous ones were mounted by warriors in the mail and livery of Strahd's household guard. Like the rest they had seen, these warriors were already dead, their withered flesh clinging tight to iron-hard bones. They brought bows to bear, but the heroes were ready with missiles of their own. Zahar proved to be as good a marksman as he claimed, and his arrows brought one down in a hurry. Verity used a favorite spell to create a pattern of hypnotic, swirling lights that lit up the darkness and brought the huge bats crashing to earth. Volta, Shokk, Lupin and Cira were quick to capitalize on the fallen wights, and brought them low in a hurry.


Giant bats descended from the night sky.

Stopping only long enough to grab the skull, the heroes pressed on to Vallaki. Some honeyed words from Verity got them through the front gates and across town, with the heroes only pausing long enough to bind their wounds and catch their breath. They continued past the Luna River crossroads, running into a shambling horde of zombies along the way! These unnamed dead, victims of tragedies along the road, were no doubt animated by Strahd's necromancy from afar. But Cira called on the holy power of the Morninglord and blasted them all to ashes and dust.

With hardly a pause, the heroes made their way up the long, forested road to Argynvostholt, the seat of the Order of the Silver Dragon. They would return the dragon's skull to its crypt, as they had promised the dead knights who still lingered in the ruined manor. But their way was not clear just yet. Several sets of lambent eyes shone out of the darkness ahead as they reached the front of the ruin. Dire wolves. What meager light came from the moon and the night sky was eclipsed as a shadowy, draconic form flew overhead. It was a dragon of shadow, a living darkness, no doubt called up from the pits of night by Strahd's foul wizardry. A figure sat atop it - a vampire, from the gleam of his eyes and sharp teeth - in dark robes. One of the devil Strahd's dark servants, sent to stop them.


The shadow dragon descended out of the night sky, seeking the dragon's skull and the heroes' deaths.

Exhausted and embattled, the heroes fought against the dire wolves and Strahd's fell servants. The shadow dragon flew in, it's breath a lance of lambent purple flame, searing and rotting flesh. Its wings, claws, tail, and bite tore at them, notably Caxius and Zahar, whose attacks seemed to cause it the most pain. The vampire warlock blasted them with fire and lances of force, but Cira blasted him back with radiant bolts of holy light. In the end, sword and spell laid the dragon low, and its shadow flickered into the dark as the vampire riding it crumbled to dust.

With the way clear, the heroes made their way into the mausoleum behind the manor house and placed the skull to rest. As they did, a beacon of silver light lit in the topmost tower of the great house, shooting skyward. They felt new hope surge into their breasts. As they made their way back into the main hall, Sir Godfrey Gwilym descended the steps. "You have laid my brethren to rest, even Vladimir Horngaard, whose sword you," he nodded to Shokk, "carry. With our master laid to rest, we can rest as well. What arms we had are yours. Seek them in the vault upstairs." With that, he crumbled to dust leaving only his armor behind. Among them they found a scythe-like polearm and a longbow, both enchanted, a shield that could warn its bearer of impending harm, and a breastplate of spell-forged steel. Re-armed and armored, the heroes rested until dawn. With hope in their hearts, they would make their way back to the castle soon enough - and put and end to Strahd!
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Darth Paul
Posted by the GM
Curse of Strahd
Chapter 24: The Hall of Bones
The heroes ascended the steps from Sergei von Zarovich's tomb and resumed their exploration of the crypts beneath Castle Ravenloft. They found a few empty crypts and a couple of traps, one where Volta nearly fell thirty or so feet into a spike-filled pit, and one where Shokk did fall, plunging through an illusory floor into a room filled with ghouls. They found a crypt of king's counselor, whose skull answered a few questions for them. They found the crypts of General Kroval "Mad Dog" Grislek, where a sword wraith and a trio of hell hounds awaited any foolish enough to move the slab aside. They found the crypt of King Droston the Hellborn, and faced tar devils and a clever imp. They also found a crypt with a warning carved above one of its two arches. Caxius stepped in...and the tiefling warlock found himself elsewhere.


General "Mad Dog" Grislek and his hounds of hell.

Caxius had appeared in a tomb, one with black earth covering the floor and a polished coffin of ebony and silver at its center. Three small niches stood to one side, and steps led out the other. As the tiefling touched the coffin, the earth pushed aside in the niches and three beautiful vampires emerged - the brides of Strahd! But Cira, Verity, and Volta stepped through afterwards, and the three living women fought against a trio of dead ones. Shokk figured out where the sounds of combat had come from, and ran that way just behind Evan. Both of them reached a corner leading to the portcullis blocking the entry to the tomb...and vanished! They reappeared in coffins, at the bottom of a shaft beneath one crypt they had already explored and cleared. The dead, charred bodies of wights lay scattered about, and the two were able to climb up out of the place and back into the crypts.

Meanwhile, the vampire brides were momentarily stunned by Cira's presentation of the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. Gaining the upper hand, the heroes quickly dispatched the unholy trio. Realizing they had found Strahd's tomb, Cira dumped holy water on the earth filling the coffin and said prayers over it. This place would no longer be a sanctuary for the vampire lord. Verity took the jewelry of the dead vampire brides - another thorn to prick Strahd's pride. They found that one of the archways teleported them back to the empty crypt that led Caxius here in the first place, and set about checking the rest of the crypts. They found the crypt of Strahd's steed - a nightmare - but with a word of power and a gesture, Evan banished it back to the infernal realms from which it came.


The brides of Strahd...

That said, the heroes used the knowledge gained from the skull and their map of the castle to find the ossuary. They went up the stairs at the west end of the crypt, exiting on the level with the wine cellar. They made their way to the double doors at the west end of that fog-carpeted hall, and opened them cautiously. The room beyond was covered in bones, everything from digits to thighbones to skulls, set in elaborate patterns in the walls, floor, and ceiling. A table and chairs crafted of bones stood in the center of the long, wide chamber, and most importantly (and impressively) a dragon's skull hung over the door they had just entered! Further, Evan saw something in a vessel crafted from bones on the table - the hilt of a sword! The Sunsword was here!

Ignoring the other doors leading out of the room, Shokk and Volta began trying to take the dragon's skull down. Evan, Verity, and Cira moved further into the room, while Zahar kept watch. Four great pyramidal piles of skulls and bones were here, one to each corner of the room. With a sudden clacking and clattering, the piles rushed together, forming a massive heap of bones moving as one! Great limbs of bones and skulls unfurled from the massive thing as it rolled forward on skulls. It brought limbs as big as tree branches down with bone-shattering force, scattering the heroes and rolling over the top of them in a wave of crushing, scraping, and piercing bones.


The thing was a necronaut, a juggernaut formed from the bones of the dead, and it nearly stopped the heroes' quest once and for all.

But the heroes fought back, Shokk and Volta rushing in with sweeping blades as Verity struck with the blessed thighbone of St. Markovia. Cira cast holy light at the thing, and Evan blasted it with fire and force. Zahar conjured arrows of shadow to distract the monstrous undead thing, and Caxius blasted away with bolts of eldritch force. Though battered, bruised, and nearly crushed beneath the weight of the thing, the heroes scattered the bones about the room, ending the creature's unholy animation.

With the skull in hand, they made their way back up the spiral steps - only to be stopped by a stone wall in the middle of the steps! But Cira called upon a prayer to the elements, and shaped a hole in the wall big enough for them to pass through. They continued up into the great hall, and ran for the doors. Gargoyles began to come to life, and the dragon statues in the foyer animated, breathing gouts of flame! But scorched or no, the heroes ran for the castle gates. It seemed Strahd wished them to stay, but they refused his hospitality.

Regrouping on the road to Castle Ravenloft, the heroes had the great silver dragon's skull at last! And they had recovered the Sunsword. Their next stop: Argynvostholt!
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Darth Paul
Posted by the GM
Curse of Strahd
Chapter 23: The Crypts of Castle Ravenloft
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...
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