Episode 5: Rise of the Revenants

Had they been anywhere else, the adventurers might have woken to rays of morning sunlight streaming in through the windows of their little bedroom, but this is Barovia, so the room just becomes a smidge lighter than it was. As they pack up their belongings, Thia tells them about the corpse she saw rising from its grave in the middle of the night, and each of them presses their nose up to glass to look outside.

“It knelt in front on that building,” the cleric says, pointing to a small, white, hexagonal structure in the corner of the graveyard. “A tomb, maybe?”

Haldar nods thoughtfully, and Devlin turns away from the window to collect his pack.

“Let’s go and have a look, shall we?”

Back in the chapel, with Obryn and Devlin taking the lead to make sure that no revenants have returned, they manage to lift the crossbeam from a heavy door on the left-hand side and, stepping through it, they see a small path leading through the graveyard to the white building in the far corner. The barbarian stands guard by the door, while the others creep along the path and, as quietly as they can, pull open the door of the structure.

It’s immediately obvious that this is a mausoleum. The walls are white stone with four empty raised alcoves, and there is a large white marble plinth in the centre that looks as if it may have been used to support something. An ornate plaque on the far wall is engraved with draconic script, which Siri and Haldar read out to the others.

“Here lie the bones and treasures or Argynvost, Lord of Argynvostholt, and founder of the Order of the Silver Dragon.”

The rest of the crypt is empty, so they close it back up and return to the chapel, heading up the spiral staircase to the first floor.

Splitting up to cover more ground, Haldar goes to have a closer look at the painting of the nobleman above the stairs; Thia finds a disused and leaking bathroom, and Devlin pulls aside a curtain only to see his own head impaled on a spike, making him wish he’d checked the bathroom instead. Siri and Obryn, however, open a door to another room with a fireplace. This time, when Siri checks the mantelpiece, the smoky form of a dragon materialises in the cold, empty grate, flies through both the barbarian and the paladin, and disappears out of the open door. Haldar turns to see it fly off up another set of stairs at the end of the passageway.

“Where did it go?” yells Obryn as he bursts out of the room with Siri close behind.

Haldar points and starts sprinting, quickly followed by the others.

“Up there!”

The second floor appears, at first, to be almost as deserted as the rest of the mansion, but the smoke dragon leads them along the corridors and into a large room, above which part of the ceiling has collapsed, leaving a pile of rubble on the wooden floorboards. Gingerly stepping over it, the adventurers see the dragon perch on the back of a beautiful carved wooden throne in which sits a heavy-set skeletal figure, clad in fine battle armour. The figure is slumped and lifeless, but as they approach it raises its head and stares at them with glowing blue eyes.

“Go away,” it grates, clasping its hand around the hilt of an ornate greatsword.

“That’s the throne and the greatsword from the painting downstairs,” whispers Haldar to his companions. “But the figure isn’t the same.”

The ranger boldly steps forward.

“We are enemies of Strahd. It was foretold that you would be able to help us to defeat Strahd and…”

“LEAVE!” the revenant interrupts, its voice now booming and echoing around the stone walls of the hall. It glares at Haldar. its blue eyes burning with light from deep within its skull.

The elf sighs in frustration and jerks his head in the direction of the way out.

“Come on, let’s go. He clearly doesn’t want to help us.”

The figure stands, and speaks again.

“Strahd slew Argynvost, broke the life of the one I loved and destroyed the Order to which I was devoted. Strahd has already died once and cannot be allowed to die again. He must be made to suffer eternally in the hell he has created, and we will make sure that he does.”

“And what can we do to make him suffer?” replies Haldar, raising his eyebrows.

The revenant’s grip tightens on the hilt of his sword and he half-draws it from its scabbard.

“YOU CAN GO AWAY!” he shouts, and the group beats a hasty retreat from the hall, nearly tripping over the rubble on the way out.

Feeling that there must be more answers in this place, they push open a door to the north of the hall that already stands ajar. Inside is a large table with six chairs, five of them occupied by slumped revenants in decaying chainmail, all of whom look up when the adventurers enter.

“Why do you disturb the dead?” one growls.

Haldar, feeling brave again, speaks up.

“We are enemies of Strahd,” he says, hoping that he sounds fearless. At the head of the table, another of the revenants slowly stands, regarding them curiously but with no animosity.

“We cannot help you,” he sighs, in a tired, scratchy voice.

Siri steps forward, taking Haldar’s lead.

“Who are you? And what happened to you?”

“I am Sir Godfrey Gwilym,” the revenant answers, wearily. “Seven hundred years ago, the dragon came and founded our Order, but then Strahd followed and wreaked havoc upon us. We swore to hold him, but one by one he struck us down. Argynvost shed his human form and took to the skies to fight, but even he succumbed in the end.”

The act of talking seems to take its toll on the revenant, and he sits down again as Devlin steps forward.

“The tower, is it a lighthouse?

“A beacon,” Sir Godfrey says. “A magical light that was smashed by Strahd and will never shine again.”

Devlin nods, sympathetically.

“And the man in the hall, the one who sits on the throne?” he asks.

Sir Godfrey sighs and looks away, his wizened face taking on a pained expression.

“Vladimir Horngaard, the head of our Order,” he whispers, a hint of sadness in his voice. “Now, I must rest.”

He slumps down in his chair again, and the four revenants around the table with him do the same.

Aside from a bedroom with an ornate, yet ancient, double bed, and a space on the wall that looks as if a shield might have hung there at some point, the only other door off this room leads to a room containing nothing but a slashed picture, hanging askew on the wall. When Devlin looks closely at it, he hears the soft flapping of wings, and a piece of parchment flutters to the floor at his feet. He picks it up, and reads it out loud:

“My knights have fallen, and this land is lost. The armies of my enemy will not be stopped by sword or spell, claw or fang. Today I will die, not avenging those who have fallen, but defending that which I love – this valley, this home, and the ideals of the Order of the Silver Dragon.

The evil surrounds me. The time has come to throw off this guise and show these heathens my true fearsome form. Let it speak terror in their hearts! Let them tell their stories of dark triumph against the protector of the Balinok Mountains! Let Argynvost be remembered as a dragon of honor and valor. My one regret is that my remains will not lie in their rightful place, in the hallowed mausoleum of Argynvostholt. No doubt my bones will be scattered among my enemies like the coins of a plundered hoard, trophies of a hard-won victory.

I do not fear death. Though my body will die, my spirit will live on. Let it serve as a beacon of light against the darkness. Let it bring hope to a land wrought with despair.

Now, to battle!  A”

When he’s finishes reading, Siri casts Mending on the picture, sad to see the dragon depicted on it ruined by the large slash across it. When she does so, the picture seems to become brighter and more colourful, and in the centre of the room a huge, ghostly silver dragon materialises, curled as if asleep. A deep, ethereal voice fills the room.

“Find my skull and return it to the crypt, so that my light can shine out over the land.”

The image fades away, as do the vivid colours of the picture, and Siri wanders back to the table where the revenants are slumped.

“Sir Godfrey?”

The knight raises his head wearily and regards her with mystical blue eyes.

“Vladimir told us that Strahd had taken the life of his lover,” she shuffles her feet awkwardly, feeling a bit embarrassed. “That was you, wasn’t it?”

Sir Godfrey turns his head away and says nothing, but Siri can see the pain in his expression.

“Can you not talk to him, persuade him to help us?”

The revenant speaks so quietly that she can barely hear him, his voice cracking with emotion.

“He will not listen to me anymore.”

Leaving the revenants in peace, the group gather in the hallway once more and head towards the ruined wing, making sure they leave no stone unturned. They can see that there’s not much left of it at all here on the second floor, but when Devlin edges across the remaining floorboards and looks down, he can see something strange that wasn’t there before. Sixty feet below, something is dangling from one of the broken rafters, gently swaying back and forth in the breeze. The sorcerer, his curiosity piqued, goes down to the ground floor with Thia and Drusilla so that he can see what it is but, when they get there, they’re disturbed to find a creature cocooned in spider webs. They pull the cocoon down and tear it open. Inside, they find Savid, the dusk elf who had run from them so that he could tell his kin about the female dusk elf they were travelling with, and he’s quite dead. Thia examines his body.

“There are puncture wounds here, from spider fangs,” she says thoughtfully, pointing to two large red dots on his skin. “But also, his throat has been slashed, and no spider would have done that.”

Devlin looks at Drusilla.

“Was this you?” he asks. “Did you kill him because he was going to give you away?”

Drusilla’s expression changes to one of horror, and she replies in a soft, shaky voice.

“This is nothing to do with me, how could you even think that?”

There’s a sudden commotion from above, followed by the sound of three pairs of feet thudding down the stairs at speed.

“RUN!” yells Haldar, dragging the paladin roughly by the arm. “Siri went back to Vladimir to see if she could get him to go and see Sir Gwilym, and he didn’t take it too well!”

They all race back to the horses, where they pause to catch their breath before Haldar looks up at Siri.

“What the bloody hell were you thinking?” he demands, red in the face.

Siri winces.

“I just wanted to get them back together,” she whispers. “I’m sorry…”

“Well, we can’t go back in there now,” huffs Obryn. “What should we do next? I vote we go to Vallaki and off Isek, then Devlin can kill the burgomaster and take over the town.”

Devlin winks and gives him the thumbs up.

“Or maybe we could go and destroy that awful tree on Yester Hill, given that Brogan told us that it had corrupted his kin,” replies Haldar. “I think we owe him one, to be honest.”

Obryn nods. “Okay, but then we go to Vallaki, kill Isek and take over the town,” he grins.

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