Session 13: Unlucky For Some
It seems entirely appropriate that the 13th session of our ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ gothic horror adventure would be our most fearsome, gruesome and unlucky so far. We have been playing ‘Curse of Strahd’ for nearly three months now and far too much has transpired to recount it all here, you’ll just have to catch up from the beginning.
Suffice to say terrible, terrible things have happened. Mostly to my character, Kevon the tiefling sorcerer. Our party, made up of a gnome fighter, half-orc monk, dragonborn paladin and Kevon, have struggled through horrifying ordeal after horrifying ordeal, including encounters with Shambling Mounds, Spectres, Hags, Druids and even Strahd von Zarovich the vampire lord. At one stage Kevon died, but miraculously came back to life, albeit in a different, withering, body.
Last night’s session began in Vallaki in an abandoned house that had been taken over by what we assumed were fake cultists. We had already tried to talk to them but Engong the monk, never one to suffer fools, decided to cut the conversation short and she punched the leader, knocking him to the ground. Kevon had already worked himself into a frenzy as cultists were primarily responsible for his earlier death, and he used this moment to send three magic missiles straight into the nearest cult member. That is where this session began.
Our party consists of:
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, inquisitive, wearing a top hat and eye-patch, prone to wander off;
Engong – Half-Orc Monk, taciturn, really fast, not a “people person”;
Baräsh –Dragonborn Paladin, pious and self-righteous, very stupid;
Kevon – Tiefling Wild Magic Sorcerer, paranoid, undead, played by me.
Kevon, Engong, Barash, and Gimble Timbers
Kevon let loose three shimmering magical darts that flew out from his palms and crashed into the chest of the lead cultist. The cult fanatic yelled out, drawing back his hood to reveal an emaciated face, with scarred skin pulled taught across his skeletal features.
Engong stood over the downed cult leader, hands on her hips, scowling. “Well,” she said. “I’m waiting for an apology. There was no need for you to say those mean things, and until you apologize you won’t be leaving this place and neither shall we.”
Seeing the other cultists take up offensive stances with scimitars drawn, Gimble Timbers readied his shield, but remained hopeful for a peaceful resolution. Baräsh attempted to diffuse the situation, but his pleas for a cease in hostilities were quashed by the sharp end of a cultist’s rusty dagger.
What followed was quite a frenetic battle in a relatively confined space. The paladin wanted to employ non-lethal force but he rolled the lowest initiative and blood had already been spilled when his turn came around. At one point, when it became clear that Kevon was entirely taken by bloodlust, Baräsh attempted to knock him out, but unfortunately missed his attack – the dice were not favoring the dragonborn in this battle.
The cultists were a lot harder to kill than we thought they would be and put up a good fight. They repeatedly shouted out in unison varying threats and assurances that “the lady will take us all together as sacrifices,” and really that should have been a clue that they had something sinister planned. But the fight went on.
Gimble Timbers got over his reluctance to fight once he’d been hit a couple of times and Engong used her speed and multi-attacks to good use, taking out a couple of the minions. All the while Baräsh was insistent that we could find a peaceful solution.
His hopes were in vain as after six rounds of combat Kevon finally landed the killing blow against Avril the cult leader. As his final magic missile struck, the cultist fell, laughing. “Yes, yes. Into the darkness. Into the abyss. We are awaited, my mistress is calling me.” At this point, all of the other cult fanatics saw their leader fall and turned their scimitars onto themselves in a final bloody act of hara-kiri.
The encounter over, we all stood around contemplating our actions. Gimble Timbers was covered head to toe in crimson blood and Baräsh was upset that more innocents had died. We tried to remind him that they were probably not innocent, but he wasn’t convinced and so wanted to go straight to the town guards to report the incident. Needless to say, we did not all agree on this course of action.
As we discussed our next move, a large knock was heard at the door and a man who insisted he could help us shouted through the keyhole. He was a member of a book club we had heard about earlier and thought we might need some assistance going against the Burgomaster. We thought this was a bit presumptuous and ignored him until he eventually left.
Moments later another knock came at the door followed by a large bellowing voice. “Hello, it is I, Riktavio. I heard there was some trouble in these parts. Are you folk alright?”
We weren’t really in the mood for guests and told him so, but he pushed his way into the house anyway. As he surveyed the carnage, we were reminded of his odd appearance, his brightly coloured shirt with extended cuffs and ruffled collar exposing a rather hairy chest and large gold medallion. He then explained that he knew who we were, what we had done and that we had been marked by Strahd. He said he could help.
We were not inclined to believe him, even when he lifted his hat and his whole appearance changed. However, he insisted that we could come with him to the Bluewater Inn to “recoup, recover and regroup”. Eventually we went with him, although Kevon was not convinced. Gimble Timbers just wanted to steal his magical hat.
At the inn we spoke with Riktavio for a while, he told us that he was in disguise, hiding from Strahd and gathering information. He was worried to hear that there were cults in Vallaki and that vampire spawn had been seen here too. We also talked about our Tarokka reading from Madame Eva and he gave us more information about our predictions, pointing us toward the mountain range to the south and to the ruins of Berez. Eventually time came for him to leave and he bade us look for him in his tower on the shores of Lake Baratok.
Let the Festival begin!
After our meeting with Riktavio, we rested and then it was time for the festival. We had heard a lot about this ever since arriving in Vallaki and had learned that Vargos the burgomaster was obsessed with regular carnivals that he said kept out evil spirits. In fact we had previously witnessed him kill a man for “not having the right festival energy”.
Therefore when we saw him descend on a man who had laughed out of turn at the opening ceremony, we feared that he would do the same, so intervened. Baräsh ran to intercept the enraged Burgomaster and somehow convinced him not to deal a fatal blow, instead he was dragged away by Izek Strazni the fearsome leader of the town guard.
As he was led away, Vargos turned to Baräsh, “So, you happy now? You saved that man’s life. Now let’s get on with this festival. Remember, smile everybody. Be cool. Positive energy y’all!”
As he said this a scream erupted from crowd followed by a rush of people as throngs of revelers and festival goers stampeded past in a blind panic. Vampires had invaded the town and were attacking the church.
Death in the aisles
Baräsh was the first to rush off, desperate to save people and atone for our previous mis-deeds in Vallaki. A typical ‘I have bad feeling about this moment’ followed as the rest of the party glanced at each other and reluctantly went after the dragonborn paladin.
When we arrived at the church, our worst fears were realized. We could see the vampire spawn we had fought previously crawling over the church, bodies and blood splattered everywhere. We remembered that we had left our friends Ismark and Ireena inside with Father Lucian and dashed to enter the building.
As we got to within 10 feet of the doors something flew out of the air and crashed down at our feet. It was a bloodstained severed arm. There was a ring on one finger that we recognized straight away was Ismark’s. Then the rest of his body was thrown towards us, his skin ripped and torn and there was a large gash across his face.
We ran towards our fallen comrade when out of the shadows a familiar figure rose up. His hair slicked back and dressed in the same fine suit as when we fought him last. STRAHD!
The vampire was chewing on Ismark’s other arm. “Oh, good evening chaps. So nice of you to come. I’ve finished with Ismark here. Can you tell?”
Fearless, the paladin approached Strahd, “Please let us by, Devil.”
“I’m afraid I cannot do that. You see, my beloved is in there and I just will not let anyone get between us anymore.”
Baräsh then tried to use his Turn Undead ability, but it has no effect on Strahd. Kevon panicked and casts Mirror Image on himself, causing two illusory Kevons to appears at his side, Gimble Timbers shots an arrow at one of the vampire spawns, and Engong stood with her hands on her hips scowling.
Strahd yelled out “Your time has come gentlemen. Vampire Spawn to action!”
Unaffected by the Paladin’s words, Strahd struck out at Baräsh knocking his holy symbol from his hands. He proceeded to stroll straight past the dragonborn, kicking Ismark’s body along the way and headed straight for the tiefling sorcerer. For a second Strahd was distracted by the duplicate Kevons, but soon found the real one, as two cold, sharp hands gripped tightly around his withered, brittle neck.
Meanwhile, Gimble Timbers sent another arrow flying towards a vampire spawn that was scaling the east transept of the church. It hit the fiend, piercing its side and causing it to jump down from the building and dash at the gnome. Engong remembering the amulet around Strahd’s neck, ran up to the Vampire but failed to snatch the pendant from him. Strahd casually swatted her away like an insignificant fly.
Baräsh dashed into the church, yelling for his companions to follow, but the sight that greeted him caused him to drop to his knees. Bodies lied strewn across the aisles, the whole interior of the church was ripped to pieces and covered in human blood. The lifeless corpses of Brother Lucian and Mylos the street urchin lay slumped at the altar, and behind it sat Ireena, perfectly still, silently holding her face in her hands.
As Baräsh crossed the threshold of the church he turned and saw Kevon was still in the vampire’s clutches. Strahd’s focus was now entirely upon the tiefling, his mouth opened to reveal two sharp extended incisors that closed around Kevon’s neck. The sorcerer did not struggle as Strahd drained his blood. Kevon’s body wilted. But before it fell to the ground Strahd struck out with his claw-like hand and pulled Kevon’s barely beating heart straight from his chest and held it aloft. Kevon Died.
George Would Be Proud
Noooo! Not again.
This episode was amazing, and had enough major character deaths to make even George R R Martin proud. Ismark: Dead. Father Lucian: Dead. Mylos: Dead. All the congregation: Dead.
And what’s more, the way our DM described each wound and attack in such visceral, gory-filled detail meant we won’t forget this session in a long while. My favorite moment was when Gimble Timbers struck the final blow against one cultist and his enemy fell creating fountains of blood that shot upward in crimson jets.
Finally, and rather tragically, I think Kevon might be dead for real now. I don’t see any coming back from having your heart removed and thrown at a companion. Also, our DM suggested I create a new character, which was a bit of a clue. I’ve got a few ideas already; I think I’ll go for that rogue I’ve always wanted.