D&D Encounters – Curse of Strahd – Luna passing

Curse of Strahd CoverWe continue our adventures in Barovia.

The Vistani leader just happened to be the father of the young girl we rescued, earning us a comfortable nights rest in the safety of their camp. While they held a small revelry to celebrate the return of Arabel, I talked to a few of them to get some further information on the lands around us, specifically to match up any further clues from the card readings.

One of them was quite forthcoming about the “white tower in the mountains with golden knights”, suggesting that it may be the tower at Tsolenka Pass. Using the map we had they showed us its location and we could see two possible routes, a clear but winding road through the passes of Mount Ghakis or a rough trail along the Luna River. The Vistani were willing to let us have a cart and horses to aid us on the promise of setting them free to return (as they had been trained to do) when we had no further need of them. After a brief discussion we agreed to follow the river as it would allow us to keep fresh water supplies during the journey.

Another outlander was visiting with the Vistani and chose to accompany us onwards, a halfling by the name of Eldon, he seemed a capable fellow but time would tell. When dawn broke we prepared ourselves and departed.

We made good time with the horses and cart and as darkness approached we made a camp close by the river and took turns to keep watch during a thankfully uneventful night. As we prepared to break camp and continue, our ranger Luna (who had gone down to the river that shared her name to freshen up) let out a yell of alarm. Most of us rushed to her aid, Eldon clambered up a tree and began supplying covering bow-fire.

A sodden figure had arisen from the river and attacked the ranger, quickly knocking her off her feet. We couldn’t be sure of her condition until we had a chance to check  her but we were otherwise engaged. As I got there along side Pertinax the creature turned its baleful gaze upon me and I suddenly found myself unable to move a muscle, then it struck me with a fist as cold as the grave and the shock snapped me out of it. Thankfully my training allowed me to strike it and dance back out of reach before it could make further attacks at myself.

It took the combined efforts of the rest of the party to finally drive it off (it retreated into the deeper waters of the river where we couldn’t follow) and then we looked to our companion. Unfortunately it was too late for poor Luna, she had been mauled too viciously by whatever that creature was. Unsure of what her burial customs were we just rolled her remains into the river that bore her name and returned to our camp, packing our gear and moving on.

Despite the mornings loss the day was almost pleasant as we travelled along the riverside, as evening approached we spied a small vistani camp ahead and once we told them we were friendly with Lubash (Arabel’s father) they were happy to let us camp with them and as the path ahead would quickly become impassable for the cart, agreed to return the horses and cart to the larger camp. While we had some trust in these travellers we still felt it necessary to not divulge our destination, instead telling them we were heading up to Lake Luna. The night was cold but uneventful.

Next day the path did indeed become much steeper as we ascended the scree besides the river, it was slow going and late into the afternoon when we finally crested and rejoined the more well-travelled pass. Ahead we could see a pair of stone built gateways either end of an old stone bridge crossing over the river below. Atop the nearer of the gateways were what must have once been imposing statues of mounted knights but one had suffered much damage leaving it little more than a pile of rubble. Ever wary, myself and Eldon approached cautiously ahead of the main party but the guard posts were long abandoned and empty. The others caught up to us quickly and we began to cross the bridge.

As we did so we could see a black cloaked figure on horseback standing at the mid-point, it wasnt making any aggressive gestures but we weren’t going to risk anything. Having summoned a giant badger from my bag earlier in the morning I sent it scuttling  directly at the figure, it moved within reach and then passed straight through it! Some sort of illusion perhaps. Mostly satisfied that it posed no harm we walked past it, though weapons at the ready. Our caution was unnecessary though as it dissipated into smoke as we drew level with it. More than one of us let out a sigh of relief.

The gateway at the far end of the bridge was similar to the other one, though both statues were intact. Again, Eldon and myself checked ahead but all was abandoned. Beyond the gateway the pass continued to rise with a small tower of white stone beside it and a third gateway beyond. The gateway looked intact but the statues this time were of some demonic looking bird creatures facing out further up the pass and a strange green shimmer hung in the air between the gates.

We approached the tower, finding the door to be secured from inside. Neither Eldon nor myself had anything to open it with (aside from brute force) but there were others better suited to that task. Pertinax took a good run up and burst the door open. Inside was an empty hearth and a stone stairway leading up. We ascended to the upper floor to find another hearth (though this one had a dire wolf’s head mounted above it) and an iron ladder leading up to a trapdoor in the ceiling. Each wall of the octagonal tower had a window in it, affording a grand view but making the room very cold. While I examined the head and hearth for anything hidden Rorik began climbing the ladder, though it took several attempts as some of the rungs snapped under his weight before he managed to reach the top and open the trapdoor. The wind took it our of his hand and slammed it back against the roof, causing a few of us to jump in surprise.

The roof and its crenelations were decorated with statues of golden female warriors armed with lances facing outward, most of which were intact. A thin layer of snow-covered the roof but Rorik and the others cold just make out a pile of rags. When they checked them they found them to be the tattered remains of a skeleton in leather armour (beyond any practical use), Rorik poked the remains about with his weapon unable to find anything but Pertinax’s eagle eyes spotted a glint of something and just before the dwarf’s rough handling would have tossed it over the parapet, managed to grab the item.

It was an amulet on a chain, shaped to resemble the sun so rarely seen since we entered this cursed realm with a large red gem set in its centre. Both Eldon and I paid particular attention as the warrior put it about his neck and tucked it under his armour. The words “…a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope. Go to the mountains. Climb the white tower guarded by golden knights” hung in my ears, surely such an item should be of better use to either our cleric Rorik or even the paladin rather than Pertinax, no matter how pious his actions had proven him to be. Maybe someone should reallocate it at some point.

A brief search of the tower revealed nothing else of value so we discussed our next step forward, consulting the map. The only remaining clues we had were either linked to Strahd himself, which we assumed meant his castle, or the werewolf holy site we had been informed about by the hunters in Vallaki. We decided to begin heading that way but would make a stop at the small village of Krezk (the only other settlement we hadn’t caused to hate or fear us so far), but this time my companions wanted to follow the mountain pass.

The four-day journey was mostly quiet, aside from a night-time disturbance of bats swarming down the pass, I was mostly protected by the bulk of the dire wolf I had summoned though the creature was destroyed in the process. It was at this time that Pertinax discovered that someone had indeed taken the amulet from him but despite being offered to search people’s packs he simply stated he hoped whoever had taken it would return it.

The day after the amulet had still not been returned and the normally jovial warrior had become quite sullen, could this be an effect of the amulet? This time he did search packs that were offered, finding it hidden away in Rorik’s, the clerics, pack. “Perhaps the amulet seeks a wielder more to its liking, I have heard of some magic items having a sentience of their own” I offered, but Pertinax simply reclaimed the amulet and put it back around his neck.

We reached the small hamlet of Krezk as evening began to descend once more, it may be the smallest of the settlements we’ve encountered but certainly the most secure. Surrounded by a twenty-foot high stone wall reinforced with buttresses it looked like it could withstand a small siege as we approached the gatehouse…..

Krezk-Gatehouse

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