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Ravenloft

Castle Ravenloft

 

 

528: Powerful heroes assault Castle Ravenloft, confront Strahd, and are never seen again.

 

 

 

Fritzi Klein

Margeaux Rackham

Orlan MacShane

Sir Buranek Petrescu

Andrew Campbell

Lucinda Wethersfield

 

Highwayman

Crypt Raider

Monk

Barbarian Druid

Cavalier

Cleric of Kelemvor

Invoker

 

 

 

 

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Day Two: Castle Ravenloft

Strahd von Zarovich stares at the intruders within his study.  His nostrils flare.  His lip curls with rage.  In a fury, he berates the heroes.  He offers them one opportunity to live: To place their weapons and armor upon the table and return to Barovia to live out their lives as serfs.  The travelers do not simply deny the Count.  They defy him.

Strahd attacks, his enchanted sword flying to hand.  As he strikes, bats fill the chamber, clawing and biting, leaving bleeding wounds even as they confuse spellcasting and distract and disorient the travelers as they defend themselves against the vampire lord’s wrath.  Margeaux and Fritzi take the brunt of Strahd’s attack, but they return as handily as they endure.  Strahd’s wounds heal rapidly, though.  It is not until others join the battle against the Count that he flees.  He takes the shape of a large bat, darting from the chamber amid the chaos of the swarms filling the study.

Not long after, the bats have fluttered off, their panic subsided after Strahd’s departure.

The travelers consider their next course of action.  The Count is aware of them, but they already knew that.  Now, though, he has been personally affronted.  Strahd will seek to destroy them. 

They redouble their efforts to find the weapon Ireena sensed lay in the treasury.  By means of the link forged by the vampire’s two bites upon her neck, the travelers cement their plan.  After they find the weapon in the treasury, they intend to follow Lief’s map to the crypts and claim the weapon lying there.  With both, they hope to track Strahd to his brother’s crypt, where Ireena has seen Strahd spends much of his time.

The travelers investigate the chamber beyond the hearth.  This smoky room lies behind the fireplace. Glinting through the smoke, gold, silver, and copper coins lie scattered around a closed chest. The fittings on the chest tell of great workmanship. Attached to the east wall are two torch sconces. The southernmost sconce holds a torch with an intricate metal base. The other is empty. A skeleton of a man lies against the wall in broken plate armor. His right hand is on his throat while his left hand holds the matching torch from the empty sconce.

After only a moment’s hesitation, the travelers realize that this cannot be the Count’s treasury.  There is no weapon here, and in fact there is precious little of anything.  Even in repressed Barovia, there should be more in the treasury than this pittance.  They begin a search of the far wall, and quickly locate the shape of a secret door within the stone.  Fritzi checks the door  and wall for traps and follows a series of hollows to the empty torch sconce.  She believes there is no trap, but the mechanism within the wall will trigger when the dead man’s torch is returned to the sconce.

The travelers step out of the false treasury, all but Orlan.  The druid volunteers to operate the secret door.  If there is some manner of poison gas or other venomous trap, he says that he is resistant to poison in ways the others are not.  Orlan takes the torch from the dead man's hand and places it back into the empty sconce, the secret door opens.

Beyond, stretches an ancient hall choked with spider webs. Their dusty forms hide the very walls and ceiling. The webs are broken by a single cleared path down the center of the room.  This hall ends at a pair of bronze doors of highly ornate design.

Moving with great care, Orlan and his lion companion lead the way to the bronze doors.  Sir Buranek and Ireena follow, with Andrew and the others sheltering the burgomeister’s daughter.

The bronze doors swing open.  Beyond, dusty cobwebs fill the area, their musty smell assaulting the travelers’ senses and obscuring sight. Deep pools of darkness lie all about them as they attempt in vain to penetrate the spidery veils. A single path leads to the center of the room where a rope dangles from high above.

The travelers briefly consider climbing the rope, but cooler heads prevail, citing the myriad traps or alarms that could be linked to pulling on the rope.  They begin to pull at the webs covering the walls instead, searching for more secret doors in the exposed stone walls beyond. 

After a few minutes of searching, Fritzi returns to the false treasury to investigate the chest.  She searches the chest for traps but does not detect the gas bladder within it.  When she opens the chest, she releases sleeping gas that renders her unconscious. 

Acting quickly, Andrew dashes into the poisonous cloud and drags Fritzi back into the webbed chamber.  Orlan makes his way from the belfry to intone a prayer to Father Nature.  His words expel the poison from Fritzi’s body, bringing her back to awareness.

The travelers consider returning to their search of the web-covered walls, but Fritzi notices that the Count has dispatched a minion to attack them.  It is another wraith, like the two guarding the approach to the study.  Within this ghostly cloud is the figure of a regal woman wearing the coronet of a duchess or countess.  The wraith attacks, and the travelers can find no allergen to use against her in the web-choked corridor.  They defeat her with magical attacks, eventually driving her away.

With the wraith dispatched, and a cloud of toxic gas still settling in the false treasury, the travelers return to their search.  They also reconsider the rope hanging from the darkened ceiling of the belfry.  Andrew offers to intone a prayer to Kelemvor Lionsbane to grant him flight.  When the others learn that he can do this, they readily agree that it is a great idea.  In fact, Fritzi agrees to accompany Andrew, climbing into his arms for the ascent into the darkness overhead.

Fritzi holds the lantern, and after they rise five or ten feet from the floor, the farthest reaches of its illumination touch upon the darkened windows of the belfry’s upper reaches.  They also illuminate the bell at the top of the rope.  Moments later, Fritzi spots the webs moving in a manner that is counter to Andrew and her actions.  It takes only an instant to spot the spiders, each the size of a large dog, descending from the shadows overhead.

Andrew brings Fritzi sharply back to the floor of the belfry, and the heroes make short work of the spiders. 

 

 

The poison gas is largely dissipated in the false treasury, but the travelers are reluctant to leave this area without the secret weapon that Ireena insists must lie in this area of the castle.  After another hour of searching, the sun begins to set over the valley below.  Bats begin to make their exit from the castle.  Several dozen move upward through the castle to go hunting, fluttering through the gaping door at the rear of the hearth.  The bats find Orlan in the false treasury, and they swarm about him.  With help from Margeaux and Fritzi, Orlan crushes enough of the bats to send the rest into retreat, but he is left with a number of small, bleeding wounds.  Like so many other battles in Castle Ravenloft, the bat swarm was not lethal by itself, but it served to exhaust more of the travelers’ energy and resources.

Shaking off the attack, the travelers return doggedly to their search.  Margeaux finds a secret door, but it does not lead to a treasury.  It leads to a ten-foot platform the looks out on a shaft through the heart of the castle.  Still able to fly, Andrew enters the shaft.  Taking the lantern, he descends and ascends short distances.  He finds that the shaft continues past another platform some forty feet below.  Overhead, the shaft terminates at a stone ceiling, set with a trapdoor.

He flies upward, cautiously opening the trapdoor.  He rises into a landing.  A landing of flagstone 10 feet wide by 20 feet long wobbles slightly underfoot. The chill draft of wind whistles mournfully through the room, rushing down from the circular stairs on the north end of the east wall. Pausing only for a single round through the landing, the wind continues down the stairs on the south. A single doorway with a heavy plank and metal-banded door opens to the west. Beside this door, an ancient portrait stands watch over the area, its still eyes staring defiantly down upon the landing.

A woman stands before a portrait.  She has read hair and wears a traveling dress. 

When Andrew attempts to get the woman’s attention, she does not respond.  Sensing the power within the portrait, Andrew places himself between the woman and the portrait.  This action breaks the portrait’s spell over the woman.  She shakes her head, quickly proving to be of no threat.  She mentions coming to Barovia in response to a letter similar to the one that the other travelers received.  Andrew trusts her.

Deducing that the stairwell at the edge of the landing descends to the landing where the travelers fought the guardsmen’s wraiths, he leads the woman back to the others.  The others still stand in the corridor amid the trampled webbing.  Introductions are bandied back and forth, and the travelers come to know Lucinda, the invoker.  She explains that she is a wizard, and that her magic deals with fire.

Growing desperate, the travelers close the secret doors, isolating themselves briefly in different chambers.  They find nothing through this exercise that they had not already found.  Defeated, they resolve to follow Lief’s map to the crypts.  Perhaps after they get the weapon in the crypt, they can return to find the treasury. 

Lucinda recalls that she has a scroll.  Upon it is written a spell to locate secret doors and hidden portals.  Almost giddy, the travelers encourage her to use her scroll.  With it, Lucinda finds a secret door in the belfry, along a wall that had been searched thoroughly no less than four times, by at least three of the travelers.  After a moment’s further concentration, Lucinda estimates the best way to open the doorway.

The plundered riches of Strahd's secret horde lie before the travelers. There are tens of thousands of coins in the room, mostly copper, as these are the tax revenues of the impoverished Barovians.  Set in a rack along the far wall are three distinctive maces.  There are also well over a hunred valuable gemstones.   The travelers get Ireena to confirm that this is the chamber she saw in her vision of the Count.  When she nods, they set about looking for the weapon that Ireena sensed in that vision.

Fritzi finds a sword hilt among the coins.  She lifts it and it thrums.  She manipulates it and it shoots across the room to Andrew’s hip.  There, it slaps the hilt from Andrew’s own blade.  The old hilt clatters to the floor. 

Andrew draws his newly wrought blade, only to find that the formerly wooden hilt has become platinum.  The formerly steel blade is now crystal.  There is no mistaking that this is the weapon Ireena sensed.  Without a moment’s delay, Andrew approaches Ireena and Sir Buranek.  He presents the blade to Sir Buranek.  The cavalier accepts it graciously.

The travelers then turn to the three maces.  They appear to be:

·        A cold-iron horseman’s mace with an unidentifiable Barovian crest.

·        A silver-headed horseman’s mace with an unidentifiable crest.

·        A steel horseman’s mace with an unidentifiable crest in the shape of a severed clawed hand.

 

Lucinda casts a divination to detect the presence of magic.  After a minute to isolate the various auras before her, including those of her new companions, she begins to study the three maces.  The crystal sword is nearly blinding to her enchanted sight, and she can learn nothing from studying it.  When she looks for more details, the first two maces are likewise indiscernible.  The third mace, with the severed claw hand, bears an aura of Alteration (Creature Altering). Lucinda is also frustrated when she attempts to peer deeper into the third mace, however.

The travelers take the maces but leave the coins and gems largely untouched.  Fritzi takes a sampling, a coin from each distinct domain she could spot while the others dealt with the sword and maces.  Andrew takes the mace with the severed claw hand.  Fritzi accepts the silver-headed mace when it is offered to her, and Sir Buranek replaces his own flail with the cold-iron mace.

Eager to cover more territory, the travelers return to the study through the belfry and false treasury.  They open the door marked on Lief’s map.  Beyond lies a dark spiral staircase of rough-hewn stone.  The scents of earth and must rise from far, far below.  The travelers begin their long descent towards the crypts of Castle Ravenloft.  The chamber at the bottom of the stairwell is not a crypt, however.

This room is 30 feet square, rising to a 20-foot-tall flat ceiling. Gargoyle carvings smile, revealing their teeth, from high upon the walls, well lit by a brazier that burns fiercely in the center of the room. From their alcoves in the center of the east and west walls, two iron statues stand saluting with their weapons bared. Each statue has four arms, one with a shield, one with a sword, and the remaining two with their palms toward the ceiling over their heads. Their eyes seem to watch the travelers as they walk about the room. High overhead, an hourglass with writing on its base hangs suspended above the brazier. All of its sand is in the upper portion, somehow refusing to run down into the bottom. In the center of the room next to the brazier is a golden chest. A single door stands in the south wall while three doors line the north wall.

Andrew senses that the door will swing shut when he releases it.  Leaving it in Orlan’s hands, he levitates to the base of the hourglass to read the writing:

In the palm of my hand

Is the time left to thee

When it's consumed

Will the flame set you free!

 

Andrew’s continuing inspection reveals that all the doors in this room are spring-loaded and will shut on their own if not prevented from doing so. The travelers quickly determine that when all the doors are shut, the sands in the hourglass start will start falling.  Fritzi estimates that the hourglass will empty itself in about five minutes’ time. 

Andrew finds that the statues’ upraised hands each hold a colored stone. 

Sir Buranek is the first to propose that the riddle means that they must get one of the stones from the statues' hands and place it into the flaming brazier in the center of the room. The others are not receptive yet, though.  They remain convinced that the riddle speaks of the brazier burning them all to death, giving them the freedom of the grave. 

Neither Sir Buranek nor Ireena can offer any sort of historical or heraldic advice based upon the colors of the stones or the nature of the riddle.

With Orlan and Sir Buranek alternating at the door, the travelers study the many exits, the statues, the stones, and the chest.  After checking the chest for traps, Fritzi opens the box.  Again, the Count’s penchant for concealing his traps reveals itself.  Gas fills the room.  Andrew, Lucinda and Ireena collapse, rendered into a state similar to sleeping.  Sir Buranek catches Ireena before she can hit the floor.

The travelers must reassess.  They cannot open another door without closing this one, but without Andrew and Lucinda and Ireena, they are less confident than ever that they could withstand an attack by the two iron statues if triggering the trap brings the statues down on them.

 

“If something bad happens, I close the door and hold it.  Those things can’t come through here.  Too big.”

-Sir Buranek Petrescu

 

 

For a short time the adventurers move Andrew, Lucinda and Ireena to the stairwell before turning to the closed doors again.  Through her study of the locking mechanisms, Fritzi has found that the doors are linked to one another.  While one door remains open, she may be able to disengage the door from the network.  However, the possible repercussions of damaging the trap give the group pause.

The group is torn between attempting to disengage the door from the others and letting the door close and then attempting to solve the puzzle.  After discussion, Fritzi and Margeaux flip a coin.  The decision is made to attempt to disengage the door.

Sir Buranek enters the hall with Andrew’s shield, positioned to defend against flames rolling up from the chamber.

Fritzi attempts to disengage the door from the network within the walls.  She finds that the enchanted system within the walls is resistant to her tools.

 

“So we go to the tales option and immolate?”

-Margeaux Rackham

 

 

During the discussion that follows, Sir Buranek brings the three unconscious party members back into the chamber.  He shelters all three below Andrew’s shield.  When the others ask him why he has them inside, he explains that he cannot get all three of them out alive.  In his mind, he may as well keep the group together, because if half the party dies in this trap, then he and the unconscious travelers will be as good as dead in the minutes or hours that follow.

The others cannot argue, though several clearly disagree. 

The conversation continues for several more minutes.  Orlan has returned to holding the door open, and so it is the druid that Count Strahd attempts to dominate.  “Give me my beloved,” the Count commands.

Orlan shrugs off the vampire’s charm.  He turns to face the Count.  He tells Strahd to tell them how open the doors out of this chamber, or else he will close the door and Ireena will die with them.

The defiance and the reality of Orlan’s threat bring Strahd into a mad fury.  He leaps forward, but Orlan lets the door swing shut, engaging the trap mechanism within the room.

 

“You had your chance.”

-Orlan MacShane

 

 

The travelers must act quickly.  Sand pours through the hourglass as they anticipated.  Margeaux and Fritzi and Orlan scale the iron statues, plucking the colored stones from their hands.  They hurry to the brazier and drop all four stones into the fire, almost simultaneously. 

The northeastern door opens.  Strahd barrels through in a fury. 

The battle that follows is surprisingly swift.  Sir Buranek unsheathes the crystal sword, which blazes with life.  With each blow, the sunsword flashes and sparks with a holy blue-white radiance.  Strahd endures only three blows before falling to the Barovian cavalier’s onslaught.  By the time the Count realizes that he must escape, it is too late. 

Strahd is reduced to gaseous form.  He retreats to his coffin. 

For a moment Ireena believes that the threat has passed, but the travelers who have come from more magical worlds are quick to point out that the vampire will heal and return for vengeance.

With a better understanding of the room and its four doors, the travelers repeat the process.  When they realize that the door swung shut after Strahd’s entry—and thereby reset three minutes ago—they act quickly.  Margeaux climbs to the top of the nearest statue and tosses a stone to her companions.  This stone opens the door in the southern wall. 

Orlan peers beyond the door.  He finds a ten-foot space to a large red velvet curtain running 30 feet from the east wall to the west wall. The ceiling here is 10 feet high.

Orlan allows this door to swing shut.  The next stone the heroes drop into the brazier opens the door in the middle of the north wall, the door the travelers have been trying to open. The door creaks open to reveal a stone staircase between rough masonry walls. The hall is relatively free of obstruction and there is little dust on the steps. A cool dampness seems to flow from within as a thick fog slowly forms in the room. The staircase is obscured in the swirling mists. The wind within howls mournfully.

The stairs rise at a 45 degree angle a distance of twenty horizontal feet to a ten-foot-square landing. The masonry walls then abruptly end opening into a roughly hewn tunnel heading east.

The travelers enter a long, low tunnel. Its rough damp walls are barely discernible through thick fog. This tunnel passes through die rock-pillar of Ravenloft itself.

There is a trap door in the floor, 25 feet east of the top of the stairs. The trap is activated by weight, and when Fritzi and Orlan’s lion companion Malikier step upon it, it drops open. The shaft plunges from the trap door into the dense white mists.  Fritzi and Malikier both leap to safety on the far side, but their isolation makes them easy targets for a quartet of horse-sized spiders that rise from the mists moments later.

Though the spiders are overcome, their burning venom and sharp mandibles leave the travelers with still more wounds.  Andrew has nearly exhausted his prayers for the day, and Orlan has little more healing to offer his companions, as well.

With little choice but to move on, the travelers use rope and Margeaux’s magical boots to get their sleeping companions across the trap.  They continue down the mist-choked corridor towards the crypts.  Not long after, Andrew, Lucinda and Ireena stir.

All of the travelers are again on their feet when they reach the stone door at the end of the corridor, but all are growing wearier.

Beyond the stone vault door is the massive catacomb of Castle Ravenloft.  Buried deep beneath the keep, this arched ceiling sags over squat crypts, forming these catacombs. A thick fog clings to the floor at knee height. Cobwebs hang limp in the musty air.  Thick dust has settled over everything, filling the crypts' engravings, making it difficult to make out the names of those buried here.

Bat guano makes the mist-shrouded floor slick, and leaves glistening white stains down the walls of the many crypts.

 

 

 

Following Lief’s map, the travelers make their way to a portcullis.  Orlan and Margeaux lift it, and the travelers wedge it open with Andrew’s tower shield.  The tomb below rests in hushed silence. Great stained windows filling the eastern walls filter dim light into this room. A closed coffin stands on each side of this roughly forty-foot-square room.

As Ireena has seen in her vision, there is a sun-shaped medallion on the breast of the queen’s coffin.  The Holy Symbol of Ravenloft is an ancient platinum medallion that was once worn by the High Priest of Ravenloft. It is a powerful lawful good symbol. The holy symbol is shaped like the sun, with a grandfatherly face in the center.  The face, with its wrinkled brow and bulbous nose, is kindly and yet unyielding at once.

Andrew approaches the sarcophagus.  He kneels and prays to Kelemvor Lionsbane, asking for his god’s blessing before using such a powerful relic of a deity similar to Lathander Morninglord, a deity who is commonly at odds with Kelemvor.

When no answer to Andrew’s prayer presents itself, he takes the holy symbol.

 

“The Morninglord once opposed the Lord of the Dead.”

-Andrew Campbell

 

 

Now armed with both the sunsword and the holy symbol of Ravenloft, the travelers set their attention on finding Strahd’s coffin.  The asks Ireena, Where does Strahd lie?

Ireena says that she saw Strahd spending time in his brother’s crypt, but if he’s been defeated he won’t be there.

The adventurers figure that he will probably be in his own crypt now.

Fritzi indicates the remaining larger crypts surrounding the smaller ones on Lief’s map.  The travelers continue their march around the perimeter of the catacomb.  They investigate the epitaphs on the crypt doors facing them, but they do not take the risk of traveling venturing away from the outer corridor. 

After a short time, they reach the steps to the middle of the three larger crypts on their map.  Wide steps descend to a landing flanked by two alcoves. Within each alcove, standing the full 30-foot height of the ceiling, is a bronze statue holding a spear. A soft blue curtain of light flows between the two alcoves. Dimly visible on the other side of the light curtain are more descending stairs.

Andrew and Orlan are rebuffed by the light, which burns them and drives them back.  Orlan determines that the light is divine.  Andrew realizes that the barrier is the direct intervention of the Morninglord himself, sheltering the crypt beyond. 

Margeaux and Lucinda both pass through the light unharmed.

A peaceful stillness, a calm amid the storm, is felt in the crypt beyond. In the center of the tomb, a white marble slab holds the coffin of Sergei Von Zarovich. This quiet room is 50 feet long north to south and 30 feet across. To the north, behind the intricately inlaid coffin, there are three alcoves. Beautifully carved statues stand in each alcove, just as the day they were placed there.

Margeaux speaks to Sergei, or the deity sheltering him.  She says that they have come to kill Sergei’s evil brother.  She asks for their help.

The heroes discuss the light, and the power of the Morninglord.  It would seem to be impossible for Strahd to enter this crypt.  Ireena disagrees.  She recites the opening line from the Tome of Strahd, saying, “He is the land.”

Unconvinced, Lucinda guides Ireena through the light of the Morninglord.  Ireena passes through, unharmed.  After a quick glance, Ireena says, “This is the place where I have seen the Devil Strahd.  He kneels at the side of the sarcophagus.  When he is here, the place is dimmed.” 

Margeaux asks Ireena whether she would be willing to play-act a little.  Ireena replies that she would rather find the creature while he is powerless, but she will do whatever is necessary to save her people.

The travelers leave Sergei’s crypt and make their way quickly towards the third and final larger crypt on Lief’s map.

Strahd has one great deception left.  There are transpositional teleports.  These teleports form a protective ring around the obvious entrance to the Count’s coffin. These teleports exchange a living body passing through them for the undead body of a wight from beneath a crypt deeper inside the catacomb. Andrew, who is in the lead with the holy symbol of Ravenloft, is the first to be affected.  Since the transfer is practically instantaneous, and since only living and undead matter is teleported, Andrew’s armor becomes suddenly occupied by the wight. The teleport puts the wight into the same pose the character it is replacing had. The teleport exchange appears to others as though the character who was walking through the crypt passage suddenly turned into a wight.

The wight staggers, throwing down the sword in its right hand and trying to shake off the tower shield strapped to its left.  When Fritzi reaches out to see whether Andrew is all right, the wight in Andrew’s garb turns and attacks.  In the battle that follows, Orlan dashes around the crypts to approach from a flanking position on the wight.  This carries him directly into another teleport trap, and leaves his companions facing another wight in the druid’s garb.

The teleported travelers find themselves lying in a dark, confined space—the interior of the wight's coffin—wearing ragged, rotting cloth.

Andrew pushes himself free.  He calls upon Kelemvor Lionsbane to illuminate his surroundings.  He sees the coffins around him, and more than a dozen wights rising around him.  He dashes past them as they stir, quickly spotting the opening in the ceiling on the far side of the chamber.  There is no ladder or rope, not even actual handholds, just the broken stone of the old, worn wall.  The shaft rises forty feet to the crypt proper overhead.

Thinking of some of the epitaphs the travelers read earlier, Sir Buranek believes he knows where Andrew and Orlan were sent.  He dashes into the catacomb, and Ireena follows.  She stops him before they reach the crypt Sir Buranek was attempting to reach.  She has heard screams from below.  Sir Buranek wrenches the door open, revealing the top of the shaft.  Below, Andrew and Orlan fend off a horde of reaching, grasping wights.  Andrew blasts them with holy might, but the creatures are not stopped.

Sir Buranek leaps down forty feet, landing amidst the horde.  Moments later he rises from the masses of the undead and begins cutting wights in half with each swing of the sunsword.

Margeaux begins to bring weapons and holy symbols to her companions, dropping the much-needed items over the edge of the shaft. 

Lucinda rains fiery magic down upon the wights.  From fiery shuriken to minute meteors to ultimately a blast of searing sunlight that leaves all of the remaining wights as smoking corpses.  The wights, both above and below the crypts, have been defeated.

Ireena, who has been growing closer to Sir Buranek with every moment, admits her unabashed awe at what she has just seen him do.

The travelers reunite, hauling up Andrew, Orlan and Sir Buranek, and they heal their many wounds.  Orlan and Andrew must don their garb, which has been left stained and filthy by the undead that wore them. 

The others are free to investigate the crypt with the shaft.  There are two alcoves in the wight crypt, on the far side of the shaft and reached by a pair of narrow walkways.  Above the alcoves is the inscription, “Pass not these portals, ye foolish mortals.”

Andrew intones a prayer of augury before they attempt to enter the alcoves. “Will going through these portals bring us safely to the Devil Strahd?”

Kelemvor’s answer is: “The Devil’s warnings unheeded will guide you to victory unimpeded.”

The travelers brace themselves for a battle.  They imbibe potions, intone prayers, and otherwise brace for the worst Castle Ravenloft can throw against them.  Then they traverse the walkway and enter the lair. 

A darkness clouds this room and the essence of evil permeates the very air. The smell of freshly turned earth is here. This room appears to be fifty feet long from east to west and thirty feet across.  There are three empty alcoves in the south wall, from which the travelers emerge from the eastern. Settled into the dirt on the floor, lies a shining black coffin of finely waxed wood. The coffin's fittings are of brilliant brass. The lid is closed.

A ghostly elfin maiden and two vampire brides crouch around the coffin. 

The elf looses a keening wail when the heroes enter.  Andrew, Orlan and Ireena all fall.  Orlan’s power as a druid keeps him from dying, but he is not able to rise, either.  He collapses, stable but unconscious.  Andrew and Ireena turn ash gray, though, and their lives begin to flee them rapidly.

As the others go into battle, Margeaux opens the coffin in the center of the room.  Within lies the unresponsive body of Count Strahd von Zarovich.  Margeaux shouts to Fritzi to toss her a vial of oil from Andrew’s many pouches.  Fritzi crouches and finds one of the vials the travelers purchased at Bildrath’s Mercantile.  She tosses it to Margeaux, who douses Strahd’s body and lights it afire using a torch lit from the tip of Lucinda’s flaming staff.

 

 

 

Whether the travelers live or die, they have eradicated Strahd von Zarovich.

Sir Buranek cuts cleanly through the vampiresses and the banshee, finishing the work that Lucinda and the others began. 

As the battle winds down, Fritzi finds an herb she recognizes in the pouch where Andrew placed the oil.  In Barovia it is known as firesnap, a root that can be broken under the nose of an unconscious person to make him alert again.  The travelers use this to bring Andrew around for a short time.  Orlan can also be roused, because of his power as a druid of Renewal.  Before Andrew loses consciousness from his injuries, he and Orlan provide healing to the others—and at least one potion of healing is quaffed.

The travelers are ready to leave, but first Sir Buranek says he must find the two vampiresses.  They are somewhere in the crypt, rejuvenating.

Sir Buranek leads the way to the top of the steps the lead from Strahd’s crypt into the catacomb.  There, he vanishes, and all of his gear clatters to the floor.  It takes a moment for the travelers to realize that they cannot leave by means of the door.  Just like their attempt to enter the crypt, their effort at leaving has teleported one of their companions into the wights’ crypt.  This time, though, there was no undead creature to occupy Sir Buranek’s gear.

The travelers take stock of the situation.  Two of the three alcoves on the south wall are teleports. The center alcove is non-magical. The east alcove is the entry point for the teleport from wights’ crypt. Entering the east alcove does nothing. The west alcove teleports whoever enters it to the west alcove in the wights’ crypt.

Orlan and Margeaux stay behind with Andrew and Ireena as Andrew’s firesnap wanes.

The others leave through the western alcove.  They find Sir Buranek at the foot of the shaft and haul him up.  Over the hours that follow, the travelers hunt down the crypts with epitaphs that read “Wife.”  One reads, “Ireena Kolyana: Wife.”  Mercifully, Ireena has not recovered enough from the banshee’s keening to be with them when they find this vault.  With Sir Buranek wielding the sunsword, the travelers bring a final death to the vampiresses.

By the time they are all on the surface again, dawn has come and passed.  Weary, the heroes gaze upon the valley of Barovia as if for the first time.

Thick clouds are overhead. Through the chilly morning mists, the lands of Barovia are visible far below. There is a peacefulness here. Rest has come to the valley for the first time anyone can remember. There is sleep without fear.

A light flashes brilliantly behind the travelers. Wheeling around, they see a shining stately man in white armor and cape where Sir Buranek had been. His rugged features show great strength of will, yet the forcefulness of his presence is tempered by his calm, sad eyes. His features are those of Strahd, yet subtly different.

His voice is calm and peaceful. "My name is Sergei von Zarovich." He turns to Ireena, "Tatyana, the time is at hand to rest. Come, my love and wife." He stretches forth his hand.

Ireena Kolyana's questioning eyes suddenly open with recognition and knowledge. Forgotten memories rush upon her. "Sergei!" she cries, springing to him with the grace of a doe. They embrace. Ireena turns to the travelers. "I am Ireena Kolyana, but in my past I was Sergei's beloved Tatyana. Through these many centuries we have played out the tragedy of our lives. Now, with our deepest gratitude to you, that tragedy is over. It is time for joy to begin again."

Shimmering light surrounds Ireena and Sergei. Hand in hand, they walk east toward the edge of the overlook. Their feet do not touch the ground, they tread a path beyond this mortal world. Their invisible road takes them beyond the eastern precipice, their glow illuminating and thinning the clouds above Barovia. The clouds suddenly break open, letting glorious shafts of sunlight flood through. In the valley below, the strange fog dissolves, losing its power. Barovia is free once more.