D&D Encounters – Curse of Strahd – Vallaki in flames
After my companions concluded that we may be under equipped to tackle a whole den of werewolves we decided to return to Vallaki, and we begin the couple of days march that will get us there. The journey was mostly uneventful until the night before we reached our destination.
We had reached the stone bridge that crossed the Luna river and were preparing to make camp when we heard wolf howls not too distant. We couldn’t be too sure how far away they were and so kept a vigilant watch as we camped.
It was just before what passes for dawn in these grey dismal lands when the only one of us without a natural ability to see in the dark, Eldon, noticed the wolves creeping up out of the ravine beside the bridge, he nudged me awake just as more of the filthy beasts burst out of the nearby treeline.
Wolves rushed in at us, showing a cunning beyond normal animals they went after our sleeping companions and myself , but thankfully their attack did rouse the others from their slumber. Eldon’s bow sang as it sent arrow upon arrow into the wolves, and as dawn had not yet arrived I still had my summoned boar to assist me as my blades struck at the ones nearest me. Having been caught unarmoured Pertinax and Rorik were feeling the bites severely and it actually looked like the fight would go against us when a swarm of crows swept in and began haranguing the wolves from behind, turning the tide and then chasing the last of the wolves away. One of the birds remained and began to morph into a bird man. It spoke with a thick Barovian accent and told us that they (the were ravens) had been watching us since we visited the Winery and had decided that they shared our goal in defeating Strahd and his minions.
Since we were now all awake we began our preparations and broke camp, heading onwards to Vallaki. Expecting to find the gates closed and to have to barter our way back in we were surprised to find the gate open and unattended. A large column of smoke rising from within. Heading swiftly in we discovered that a fire had been started at the church and several guards were organising a bucket chain and moving civilians out of the way. We talked to one that despite recognising us was willing to accept our help. He said that most people were being directed to the Inn. We asked if the priest was still inside but he wasnt sure.
We rushed into the church to see the priest laying limply at the altar, a familiar robed figure standing beside him – the Abbott. Pertinax and Rorik stride up the central aisle while Eldon and I shadow up the outer sides. Eldon takes a bowshot at the Abbot, striking true but the man seems barely injured by it. It does anger him however and he throws of his simple robe as a pair of large wings spread from his form – he’s some sort of angel, and carry him across the room to strike poor Eldon down into unconsciousness with a single blow.
Pertinax and Rorik rush intercept the Abbot and I head over to the priest, quickly administering a healing potion to the unconscious clergyman. Helping him to his unsteady feet I whisper “Where’s Ireena?” but the Abbott must have excellent hearing, and ignoring my companions wings his way back over to where I’m standing. I decide to take a risk and in Draconic I tell him “Leave here, I’m bringing the girl to the master” but he see’s through my deception and laughs at me. So I quickly stab my blade into the priest beside me, right into his gut, as my silver shortsword makes a stab toward the Abbot and I sprint back away from the altar towards the exit. I expected the Abbott to follow but he picks up the lifeless body of the priest and with a thrust of his wings flies up out of the ruined roof of the church with his prize.
A quick look confirms that Ireena isn’t in whats left of the church so we head back out and towards the Inn. As we approach we can hear signs of combat further towards the western gate. At the Inn we spot the altar boy we met previously, and discreetly question him. He tells us that Ireena left town with the man with the tiger in the caravan and the lady with the wooden leg. Pertinax wants to help with whatever is attacking the town from the east so we head that way, but as we move he suddenly runs off to the west saying he’s remembered something we might need.
As we approach the eastern gate we can see about a half-dozen guards with Izek, the burgomasters henchman, battling a pair of creatures we recognise as the Abbot’s handiwork – flesh golems! I whisper something to Eldon as we approach, he nods and takes up a position to the side, bow ready. Rorik stands ready to use his spells before closing into melee. I dash up beside Izek and shout “We’re here to help”.
While the guardsmen’s weapons are having minimal effect on the golems, Izek is using his strange arm to throw small balls of fire at them and causing more injury. I spot an opening and stab my blades forward – into Izek! “I told you this wasn’t over” I growl as I nimbly step away, just as Eldon’s arrow whirls past my head to strike Izek squarely.
He’s unwilling to turn his attention to us as the golems continue to attack, but with another pair of blade wounds from myself, an arrow from Eldon and Rorik’s conjured spiritual weapon he does turn to us and swipes at me with his battleaxe. His deformity certainly hasn’t diminished his strength and I stagger under his attack, but thankfully our combined attacks drop him. The guards are still trying to hold off the golems, I toss Eldon the coins I promised him for attacking Izek and I give Izek’s axe to Rorik and begin heading back to the Inn. Honestly I expected my companions to want to remain and help the guards but they both follow me. Before we reach the Inn we meet Pertinax, he’d run back to the church and recovered the saint’s bones. We tell him Izek is dead and that we intend to leave. He agrees and we go back to the Inn and ask the altar boy which way the tiger caravan went, apparently it headed out fo the west gate and so we set off that way.
I tell my companions that I wish to visit the Vistani camp that we helped nearby, and suggest we head there as they may have further news of our quarry. Lubash is surprised but happy to see us. He tells us that Rictavio, Ireena and Ezmarelda did indeed come to see him, leaving the tiger caravan with him as a decoy while they took another one off to the west. While my companions talk to his sons about this I have a quiet word with Lubash.
The Vistani graciously extend their hospitality overnight to us and we happily accept, next morning they are all preparing to move out. Pertinax and Rorik gather their gear and get ready to follow after Rictavio but before they notice I’m not doing the same. “Our roads part ways here my friends” I say, “my path lies not within this dreary land, Lubash has agreed to take me elsewhere and Eldon has agreed to accompany me. I have acquaintances that would value his skills. Farewell my brothers-in-arms, I hope you find those you seek.” with a clasp of arms we bade each other fair travels and I watched as they set off.
Eldon and myself found seats amongst the Vistani caravans and were soon rolling along at a sedate pace through the Svalich Woods. The ever-present mists began to enclose us and both myself and the halfling reached for weapons, but Lubash assured us we would not need them. Continuing to travel onwards the mists became so thick we could barely see the wagons in front and behind us, but after almost an hour of constant travelling the mists recede once again but we’re no longer in the woods. Indeed, we’re no longer in Barovia as I begin to recognise local landmarks, we’re on the road no more than a days march south of Waterdeep.
Lubash halts his caravans and tells us that he has to go back now, but thanks us once again on behalf of his daughter and wishes us safe journeys. Eldon and I gather our gear and begin walking northwards, when we turn to look back the caravans have again disappeared, only a wisp of misty fog drifting across the road where they should have been.
I don’t know if I shall ever see my other comrades again, honestly, I’m not sure it would be of benefit for either of us. The Black Network has nothing to gain in Barovia, whilst the Realms are much better suited to our goals. But first a warm bath and a hot meal are in order, then I’ll introduce Eldon to my “friends”. But that’s another story.