Curse of Strahd – 9 – A Random Encounter

In which the party finds a new ally (Samael, by the player of Kurwin), and gets a deeply intriguing invitation.

It turns out I never did write a summary for this session 🙁

In brief:

The party takes a shipment of wine from the Wizards of Wine to their brother the innkeeper in Vallaki, while promising to request that the brother visit the winery, in the hopes of reconciling with the patriarch.

While on the road, the party meets Samael, who is at that time, beset by undead. When he hears just what the stakes are, he is quick to throw in his lot with the party.

Fitzworth and Ismark receive a dinner invitation from Lady Wachter as they try to leave Vallaki after delivering the wine.

Curse of Strahd – 8 – The Toll of Yester Hill

In which the group makes peace with permanently losing a player (Grismar), and in which the powers of darkness see one character slip through their fingers, but manage to seduce another.

That morning, in the kitchen of the winery, Grismar puts his goblet down on the table. He looks at Davian and says: “I wonder if this one should have been aged a few weeks more.” Adrian puts his fork down just a little too carefully. Elvir, just about to pour himself another drink, pauses, holding the bottle awkwardly in mid-air. Even Sefania, standing at the stove with little Yolanda strapped to her back, pauses her stirring. They all look at their father expectantly. The old man raises his considerable eyebrows. “Oh, you wonder, do you now.” With a move like a bird diving for a worm, Davian snatches the goblet from beside Grismar’s plate and sticks his rather beak-like nose in. He inhales deeply, then frowns even more deeply. He returns Grismar’s drink, then snatches the bottle from his son’s hand and pours a small amount into the brown mug beside his plate. He picks up the mug, making a swirling motion. The kitchen is utterly silent.

One audible swallow later, Davian’s frown has not receded. “Claudio!” he barks. A gangly teenager jumps up out of his chair. “Check the ledger for this batch, and tell me what vats they were from. I believe our guest here may be onto something.” Davian’s grandson speeds out of the kitchen with the offending bottle, and tension leaves the room with him. Sefania cracks another egg into a pan. Elvir gets up to retrieve another bottle from a cabinet.

When the other party members enter the kitchen, they find Grismar and Davian seated opposite of each other with a row of opaque glasses between them. “I wonder where you got that nose, boy.” the Old Crow says. Grismar only shrugs as Davian continues “I wonder too if you don’t have a future as a wine maker. If you wanted one. We could use the extra hands.” Grismar looks pensive as he eyes his friends digging into their omelets.

Less than an hour later, the party, minus Ireena, who complained of worse than normal nightmares, meets in the courtyard between the woodpile and an empty cart. “To Yester Hill it is then. Let these druids see that they are no match for us. Are you coming?” Fitzworth looks at the dwarf with a question in his eyes. Grismar looks torn. Just as Chand opens his mouth, two small boys come tearing around the corner. “Gwismaw, Gwismaw! Look what we found!” They skid to a stop in front of the dwarf and the bigger child pulls an enormous frog out of the pocket of his coat. “We found it in the watew cistewn! Thewe awe so many! Come help us catch them!” And with that, the boys run off again. Grismar looks after them, shrugs eloquently and plunges his axe into the chopping block. “I can’t, Fitz. I need to be here.” With that, he turns and trots off in the direction of the shed, where excited squeals can now be heard.

Just a few hours later, storm clouds pass over the winery. The main force of the storm is a few miles away, but by the sound of it, lightning strikes there every few seconds.

The Martakovs huddle together in the kitchen, which smells of freshly baked bread. Just as it begins to rain, a raven pecks at the window. Sefania lets it in, and tears off a crust from a warm loaf. The raven gobbles this down, then utters a long series of squawks. Grismar strains his ears. He can almost understand it. When he looks to the others, his suspicion is confirmed. Bad tidings indeed. The flock of ravens that went with his friends – all dead. And another, a human, struck down by what the Martikovs say is surely Strahd von Zarovich. And then the raven seemed to lose coherence. More death, but not really, and one person that speaks with two voices. Surely the poor bird was confused, distraught by the loss of members from her flock.

As soon as the rain clears, the dwarf yanks his axe out of the chopping block and starts to pace in the courtyard of the winery. Adrian comes outside and beckons him over. “Leave be. Come back inside. One horse cannot wear two saddles, Grismar, no matter how much it may want to. Like my father, I am sure that your place is here with us. Surely your friends knew what they were up against. And didn’t you hear that most of them still live? The raven said so herself.” Grismar pulls on his beard in distraction. “Most of them, yes, but apparently not all.” Adrian stares at him with a blank look. “Nothing you can do will change this. It is simply what happens to those who stand in his way.” He shakes his head. A loud and angry howling approaches as Sefania enters the courtyard as well, skirts billowing like a ship under full sail. In her arms is an angry, flailing babe – little Yolanda. “Please, Grismar,” she says over the noise, “Can’t you hold her for a moment? Davian and Dag need my help with the labeling machine, and I can’t think straight when she’s like this. I’d ask Ireena, but she says she is not well.” Grismar drops the axe, and extends his arms to receive a tear-stained angry bundle from which two black eyes stare fiercely into his own at. A little arm swings out from the swaddling cloths and yanks on his beard. “Ow!” he says, as he untangles Yolanda’s fingers. As Sefania and her brother retreat into the house, he sits down on the chopping block and clears his throat, then starts in on a song he remembers from a long time ago.

“Cannily, cannily

Hush my lal bairnikie
Divn’t tha cry, my lal pet
Whisht at thy greetin’
Thee should be sleeping
It’s no’ time to waken as yet”

Once Yolanda is quiet, he looks up to scan the path on which his friends left earlier that morning.

Movement in the distance!

With the sleeping child still held against his chest, he starts down the path, towards the slow-moving group that looks both strange and familiar. Why is Fitzworth in his horse form? And what is the bundle slung over his back? He speeds up, taking note of Fillegan’s eyebrows which have apparently been burned away, and Ismark who looks grimmer than ever. Chand has not a hair out of place, of course, but Sumu’s rats’ nest is worse than usual, and she staggers like she’s drunk. Then it hits him. Kurwin. He’s not there. Unless, of course… an angry cry interrupts his frantic stock-taking. He’s squeezed Yolanda and she protests fiercely. He offers her a pinky, which she accepts with alacrity.

By now Grismar is within earshot of the party. Chand seems to be making a point.” Well, yes, obviously we’ll burn the body. But what do we do with his journal? Burning it would seem less than optimal.” Fillegan protests “It was his. He never left it out of his sight. Doing anything else with it would be adding insult to injury.” Fitzworth-as-horse throws his head up and seems to nod. Ismark shakes his head instead. “Kurwin was an accomplished hunter, and much of what he learned of his prey might be in here. I agree with Chand.” A shrill an unfamiliar voice cuts in “Burn it, keep it, what’s it matter! Ashes to ashes, that’s what all of this will come to.” Sumu reaches up behind her head with both hands and pulls her hair back. Once she’s braided it, the new voice sounds considerably more muffled. “That’s so rude! Don’t tell me your order allows its clerics to even be rude. Psh!” In her own voice, Sumu says “I-I can keep it for a while. Not read it, or use it, but keep it with us. Just as a reminder of what’s at stake.”

Ismark notices Grismar first. “Ho friend,” he says, voice raised to cross the distance still between them. “Please tell the house to expect us. Maybe ask your two young frog catchers to gather dry wood and brush for us some distance from the house. I am afraid we have a most unpleasant duty to fulfill.”

Curse of Strahd – 7 – Cleaning up at the Wizard of Wines

In which the party aims to send wine flowing freely through Barovia, but perhaps not entirely without ulterior motives.

“You do make a fine horse, Fitzworth.” Ismark says, with a wink. Ireena appears beside him with a smile. “And a friendly one too. Thanks for the ride.” Fitzworth’s eyes shoot from one to the other and he looks uncertain, but then Fillegan appears by his elbow. “It really was quite a useful disguise. I am not sure how else we might have left the town, if it wasn’t for that.” “Oh. Well, uh, thanks.” the tall gnome says. “I was glad to help. But I am even more glad that we have been able to deal a blow to these self-styled druids and their evil ways. Surely you agree that we should tear this evil out by the root, and go to Yester Hill as soon as possible.” The three that stand around him exchange glances. “It sure seems very important to you.” Ismark says. Ireena keeps her eyes away from Fitzworth, but gives a small nod. “They seem like the more attractive enemy to fight, don’t they?” Fillegan jabs Fitzworth in the thigh. “Just tell me who to stab, friend and that’s what I’ll do. Everyone on every dock on the Sword Coast knows that I’m the one you want beside you in a fight.” This makes Fitz laugh a little. “Then be beside me next time, alright? Especially when I let the wolf come out.”

Grismar has picked up the bottom half of a broken bottle of wine and is straining what remains inside it into his water skin. He seems to be humming to himself. Suddenly he looks around. noticing large piles of twigs and ash and charcoal. “What did you all get up to in here? Did you get in a fight with a tumbleweed? Huh.” He shrugs to himself and then looks around for another bottle that may still contain some wine.

In the other corner of the winery’s large space, another discussion is going on. “You forget yourself. I don’t serve your goddess. There is no reason for me to be bound by your rules.” Sumu doesn’t meet the mage’s eyes. “W-well. No. It’s not like that. I- I mean… Look. I don’t want to tell you what to do. You could have taken that gold, right? But the family would have asked. And you might have told them that the druids took it and that we never found it. And… and if it was just you, you would have gotten away with it. But if one of them so much as looks at me… they’ll know. It just didn’t seem…”

Kurwin’s low voice cuts through the chatter. “Gratitude is more valuable than gold. And gratitude we’ll win a-plenty here.” Chand snorts “Based on what the merchants charge when last we checked, I doubt your claim.” Ismark comes walking over. “Kurwin has the right of it. When people say the valley runs on these wines, it is barely an exaggeration. Restoring the Martakovs to their home and business gets us more than just the thanks of a well-to-do family. If we play this right, we could use both the restoration of the wine trade and the wine itself to get the ear of certain folk. You heard it yourself when Krezk’s burgomaster told us to chase down a shipment of wine for him.”

Chand shifts his weight to lean on his new staff and gives Ismark a thoughtful look. “Hm. Not to mention that we find ourselves with a rather large quantity of poisoned wine. Useless to the wine sellers, of course, but perhaps not to us.” Fitzworth has approached to hear this last remark. “Oh, yes, very useful. Maybe we can simply poison the evil fake druids! It would be a very fitting punishment.”
“I’m more interested in what that one druid was looking for in that cabinet.” All eyes move down some distance, to where Fillegan has now joined the group. “And that locket was interesting too. Was it just a forebear, you think? Or someone more… interesting?”

Ireena pulls on Kurwin’s arm. “Can you talk to the ravens? They may be our best and fastest chance to get word to the Martakovs in Vallaki, to let them know the family is alright.” The ranger nods. “First, a word with the people here, I think. They should be able to answer some questions.”