Episode 4: Dragons and Drow

As the sun starts to set behind the ever-present clouds that darken Barovia’s skies, Siri sadly tells the others what has happened with Ireena, although she doesn’t understand why. They decide to go to the Rosenkratz’s house (where Ireena and her brother are staying) to see if she’s okay, but Ismark turns them away, telling them that his sister won’t come out of her room and doesn’t want to see anybody. Siri relates what she saw at the pool and asks him to tell her how sorry she is. He’s sympathetic and says that he will, bidding them goodnight and closing the door.

The group walk back down the path, wondering how they will spend their evening before turning in. Thia goes to the burgomaster’s house to spend some time with her children. Obryn returns to the peacefulness of the pool to clean and maintain his weapons. Siri and Haldar take a walk up the hill towards the Abbey, where they sit and chat about Krezk, the wedding, and the strange book that the paladin took from the Abbot’s chambers. But Devlin, well, he has other plans.

Turning himself invisible, the sorceror walks back to the Rosenkratz’s house and fenagles his way into the house by tricking the maid into thinking that some of the local kids are playing a prank on her. Once inside, he creeps up the stairs and spots Ismark sitting with his back against one of the bedroom doors. There’s a soft sobbing coming from within.

“Ireena, please, come out and tell me what’s wrong so I can help?”

The sobbing briefly stops.

“Go away, Ismark!”

Devlin casts the Message cantrip, and whispers to Ireena.

“Can you tell me why you’re so upset? Who was that man? And why did he call you Tatiana?”

“You can go away too!” the young woman yells from inside the room.

Ismark looks up, confused.

“What did you say, Ireena?”

Devlin tries again, still keeping his voice low.

“Tell us what’s going on and we might be able to do something. What is it you need?”

“I don’t want to talk about it, go away.”

Devlin sighs and, knowing that he has tried his best to console the young woman but wishing he could have done more, he leaves the Rosenkratz’s and walks back to the burgomaster’s house.

The next morning, at breakfast, the group discuss their options and decide that it’s time to visit Argynvostholt to sort out the revenants, on the promise that the next place they visit is Vallaki so that Obryn can confront Isek, and Devlin can kill the burgomaster and take over the town.

Dmitri Krezkov is only too happy to let them take some horses for their journey and, although it takes them about a day to get there and they have to fight some wolves on the way, they arrive relatively safely.

Argynvostholt would have been an imposing building in its day. A huge gothic-style mansion, it has ornate windows and towers, with the tallest octagonal tower rising from its farthest end. The courtyard in front of the entrance is resplendent with a huge statue of a dragon that faces the main doors, striking the adventurers as a little bit odd as it would seem more logical for it to face outwards, away from the building. However, despite the beauty of the ancient structure, it now lies neglected and in ruins. An entire wing has collapsed in on itself, and the creepy aura of silence is broken only by the occasional whistle of the wind through the bare stones and broken glass. Even the horses feel this aura and, as they become more and more agitated, the adventurers decide to leave them a little further down the road with Lightning, Siri’s undead elk, to protect them so that they can approach on foot.

Haldar determines that the statue is that of a silver dragon, a good entity, but the direction it’s facing is still somewhat unsettling. Siri checks the steps up to the main door for traps but finds nothing, so she and Obryn hop up onto them. There’s a click and the dragon’s mouth creaks open, but it expels only a rush of stale air, much to the relief of all concerned.

Through the doors is a massive hall with a once-lavish staircase at the far end. There are four marble busts of a noble figure, and a painting above the stairs depicting the same man, portraying him as handsome and distinguished, with silver-streaked dark hair and an ornate sword at his side. As they stand in the entrance, a huge winged shadow moves across the walls and disappears with a faint hiss, making them all shiver. Suddenly, Obryn spots a door standing ajar at the far end of the room and makes a beeline towards it, finding a large dining room beyond. Faded tapestries of silver dragons in flight line the walls around a beautifully carved central table and chairs, while two life-sized statues stand guard at one end. A chandelier high above the table glows faintly despite its age, and Devlin senses some magic around it.

His curiosity now piqued, Obryn pushes open the door between the two statues and peers into another room; this one a chapel lit by a stained glass window depicting the Morning Lord at the far end. Devlin joins him, and they both see three figures kneeling before the altar. One rises and turns.

“Strahd has sent enemies!” he cries, drawing his sword.

Devlin responds, a little panicked.

“We are enemies of Strahd!”

The revenants do not listen as the adventurers plead with them to try and make them see that they’re on their side. When that doesn’t work they consider just fleeing the chapel, but in an instant the revenants are upon them, forcing them to defend themselves. And holy cow, the knights are formidable foes, with sword skills that have been well honed in battle. It’s a difficult fight, but finally the last revenant is taken down and the chapel once again falls silent, save for the whistle of the wind blowing through the cracks and the squeaks of exhaustion from the band of injured adventurers.

After dusting themselves off and searching the revenants for anything useful, they spot a spiral staircase to one side of the chapel. It leads them up and up, past the first floor, past the second floor, and still it rises. They realise that they’re inside the octagonal tower they’d seen from the outside of the building, and when they reach the top they see that the climb was truly worth it. Peering through the oddly prismatic windows they can see the towns of Vallaki and Berez, the river winding south from Lake Zarovich, the vineyards of the Wizard of Wines with Yester Hill close by, and, off in the distance, the rising snow-covered peaks of a mountain range. On the ceiling above them they notice four hooks where something, now long gone, might have hung at some point, and as they descend the stairs back down to the chapel they wonder if the tower could have been used in the past as a lighthouse of some kind.

The rest of the ground floor is fairly unremarkable; an old bedroom with a number of tattered bunks inside, a long disused kitchen. The collapsed wing of the house is also eerily quiet, except for the occasional drip of water splashing onto the tiled floor. When the group gingerly push the doors open, they can see that the walls are still standing but above them is open sky, blocked here and there only by the remaining wooden beams and floorboards that still jut out overhead. Siri steps cautiously inside. The floor is… sticky.

Suddenly, eight shining eyes appear in the corner of the room followed by shadows moving fast around them, some skittering up the walls while others edge towards the meal that has just entered their lair. A fearsome battle ensues, and giant spider guts go flying all around. Swords swipe, spiritual weapons smash, and spells fly until calm embraces the room once more. While Haldar digs joyfully through the broken furniture, finding a chest containing a potion of greater healing and another of firebreath, Thia sees Drusilla kneel beside one of the spiders and place her hand upon it.

“Forgive me,” she whispers.

Preferring not to linger too long in the room in case other spiders appear, they return to the kitchen and notice a door that they haven’t yet checked. A storeroom lies behind it, and when Devlin thinks he sees someone hiding behind some barrels in the corner, he immediately casts Levitate, flinging the unfortunate soul into the air.

“Stop! STOP!” cries a now very visible dusk elf. “Let me down!”

As Devlin lowers him back to the ground, he reluctantly introduces himself as Savid and says that he’s there looking for Arabella, the young Vistani girl whom the group had rescued and returned to her home a while back.

Devlin pulls a face.

“We found her, she’s fine,” he says, suspiciously. “Unless she’s gone missing again? How long have been looking?”

“Must easily be more than a week,” replies Savid, scratching the back of his head in bewilderment. “But I haven’t been back to the camp. I wondered if she’d ventured in here to play so came in to look, but there were too many revenants for me, so I hid.”

Haldar steps up.

“What do you know about the revenants?”

The dusk elf looks at the ranger as if he’s been hiding under a rock for his entire life.

“They used to be an order that followed the Silver Dragon,” he replies, a little haughtily. “They attacked Strahd but he was too strong for them. He made them watch as he killed the dragon, dismembering its body and taking parts of it as trophies, and then he killed all of them too. They became vengeful and returned to life as revenants, swearing to make him suffer for all eternity. Have you not heard…”

Savid suddenly stops, his eyes widening as he spots Drusilla at the back of the group.

“A female dusk elf? A real female dusk elf? How can this be? There are no female dusk elves!” he exclaims in excitement. “I must tell the others, let me go! I must tell them there is hope for our species!”

Horrified, Drusilla slips through the doorway and disappears, not wanting to be returned to the dark elves for a life of servitude, but Savid won’t calm down.

“Let me go! I must go!” he yells, and promptly pushes his way past the adventurers, runs through the open hall to the main door and legs it.

“Well, damn it,” says Devlin, looking around for Drusillla. She’s nowhere in sight. During a quick hunt for her hiding place, Obryn opens the door to the last remaining unexplored room on the ground floor, peering inside. Siri follows him. They see a dilapidated parlour, with a large chair, a fireplace and, rather unusually, a coffin standing upright against the far wall. Obryn, in fearless mode, smashes the coffin open only to find that it’s actually a drinks cabinet, and a disappointing one at that as all the bottles inside it are empty. On the other side of the room, Siri examines the cold, dark fireplace. She doesn’t find anything, but the two hear a hissing sound and both take a step backwards when a fiery dragon materialises in the hearth.

“My knights have fallen into darkness,” it breathes. “Save them, if you can. Show them the light they have lost.”

As it dissipates, the barbarian and the paladin run from the room to tell the others what just happened.

After managing to find Drusilla again, the group head to the bedroom they’d found, which overlooks a graveyard outside that has a small, white, hexagonal structure. During Thia’s watch, while everyone else is sleeping soundly or meditating, she sees a corpse claw its way out of one of the graves, walk over to the white building and kneel in front of it for a few moments, then trudge towards the door to the chapel…

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