Session 22: Krezk
With a thud, the gates to Krezk lurched open and the party glimpsed the cramped city streets with the mountain rising up behind them. A richly dressed man with a well-trimmed beard stood beyond the gates watching Engong and Her Associates alight the wagon. At his sides, more heavily armed guards stood, their swords and shields menacingly visible.
“You may enter our city. But first, hand over your weapons.”
The 22nd session of my Dungeons & Dragons group’s play through of Curse of Strahd was strange and full of tension. Thankfully there were no technical issues that broke the mood, but my nine-month-old son did need some occasional attention. Luckily this was at times when my character’s input wasn’t required and so I didn’t miss out on too much.
After last week’s road trip episode, this week would give us the opportunity to explore a city. We had traveled from the Wizards of Wines winery to Krezk in search of an Abbot who we had been told could heal our friend. When we arrived at the gates, there was some hostility, but once we mentioned that we had wine, they allowed us in. We were still traveling with Victor Martokoff, the unfortunate teenage wizard son of the now deceased Burgomaster of Vallaki; hopefully he wouldn’t cause us too many problems…
Engong and Her Associates
Engong – Half-Orc Monk, pyromaniac, fast, not a “people person”;
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, withered arm, has a pet mastiff called Kevon;
Baräsh – Dragonborn Paladin, Oath of Vengeance, revived by the spirit of St. Andell;
Brundle Swash – Gnome Druid, disheveled, enigmatic, turns into a bear;
Kosef – Human Rogue, sarcastic and impatient, played by me.
The tall bearded man in front of the party was Dimitri Kreskoff. He introduced himself as the Burgomaster of Krezk and the only man who could grant entry to the city. His armed guards scowled at Engong and Her Associates from under their large embossed helmets as the newcomers began bargaining for access.
Eventually, after some haggling over a barrel of wine, they were allowed to cross the town’s threshold. “Come in. If Davian has vouched for you then you may keep your weapons. But be warned, we do not tolerate trouble.”
Suitably warned, Engong and Her Associates drove the wagon forward, past the impressive wooden gates. Davian bid them farewell, turned into a raven and flew away. No one in Krezk seemed to be alarmed by this, but Victor let out a shrill squeak of surprise at the vintner’s transformation.
As we entered Krezk, it quickly became clear that the locals were a very guarded people. Nobody wanted to talk to us and people weren’t afraid to show their disdain of foreigners. We quickly found out where we wanted to go. Our mission was to get to the Abby of St. Markovia, a place we had heard about from many sources, and to meet the Abbot there. The hope was that he could heal Gimble Timbers of his cursed, withered arm.
Meeting another Burgomaster was interesting, especially seeing as we had killed the last one we met. This time, the Burgomaster seemed a more reasonable and straightforward man. We made a deal that he would keep one of our barrels of wine in exchange for free passage into his town. Baräsh the paladin also agreed to come to his house after our business with the Abbott was concluded to check on, and maybe heal, his sick son.
To the Abbey
It wasn’t until the conversation with the Burgomaster was over that we realized Gimble Timbers had run off, up the hill in search of the Abbey. Fearing for his safety, Brundle Swash turned into a cat to speedily chase after him.
We decided to follow, but we couldn’t take our wagon with us, so we had to leave it with Victor. I was convinced this was a bad idea, but Baräsh thought it a great chance for our new companion to prove himself. Of course, as we discovered later, it really was a bad idea.
Making our way up the winding path to the Abbey took about an hour, and by the time we reached the metal gates we had caught up with Gimble and Brundle. The gates squeaked loudly as we pushed them open. “Hello Freindships,” said Baräsh furtively.
“Hello, my name is Otto. Who are you and why are you here?” came the rasping hissed reply from within.
“We are here on a holy mission. We must see the Abbot.”
A man stepped forward out of the shadows. He wore a cloak and hood that cast a dark shadow over him, and his back was hunched over, almost at a right angle to his body. As he stepped towards us, the lamp he carried illuminated his features. We stood in shocked silence as the light flickered to show a man seemingly sewn together from assorted animal parts. His ears were wolf ears, he had the snout of a bat, a lion’s paw on his right foot, and the tail of a donkey swished behind him.
We were shepherded across the Abbey, past many other strange hybrids and eventually led to a large courtyard. Kosef, sensing Kevon the mastiff’s discomfort, tried to calm the dog down. However, a failed animal handling check meant Kevon ran off, back to the entrance of the Abbey. Focusing on our mission to heal Gimble Timbers, we didn’t chase after him.
The courtyard had a number of large cages around its perimeter and we heard a howl come from one of them. Gimble Timbers approached and saw another pitiful creature clearly in distress. She had the torso of a human woman, but on her face, the mandibles of a spider, goat hooves at her feet, and bat-like wings instead of arms. She began to scream and flapped her wings violently, trying to escape. Just as Gimble Timbers was toying with the idea of helping her, another creature, half-elf half-hyena, entered the courtyard and said, “The Abbot will see you now.”
We were taken to another room and told to wait. Only a couple of seconds passed before a tall, handsome man with flowing golden hair and a voice like honey glided in. “What can I do for you, my travelers? What can the Abbot of St. Markovia do for you?”
Baräsh replied, “We seek your healing powers.”
“Who among you needs my service?” asked the Abbot as he studied our party.
Gimble Timbers dashed forward and dropped to his knees. “Oh, holy Abbot! My arm, help me!”
The Abbot told Gimble that he could fix his arm, but it would take time. He accepted the offer. Gimble Timbers was given a potion to drink and the gnome fell into a deep slumber the second the liquid hit his lips. The Abbot then picked up our companion and exited the room, leaving us to question whether this was such a good idea.
An unwanted makeover
As we waited, we were taken to a lobby by a pair of half-rabbit half-man creatures that claimed to be doctors. They wore white medical robes, so we believed them. In the lobby, alongside a beautiful auburn-haired woman playing a violin sat another grotesque female creature. She too seemed to have been stitched together by a madman let loose in a zoo. She had a goat’s head, bear’s paws, and alligator scales that covered her visible skin.
Engong noticed the lady playing the violin didn’t appear to have the same animal features as the rest of the Abbey’s inhabitants, although she did have visible stitch marks on her wrists and neck.
Moments later, the Abbot and Gimble Timbers returned. The Abbot was talking to the gnome as they entered the room. “I know I overstepped somewhat, but I couldn’t resist,” he said. Gimble Timbers seemed pleased and his arm appeared to be in full working condition. However, all was not as it seemed.
“I’m afraid the arm itself was too far gone to be saved, so I had to replace it. Luckily, I recently bumped into a Vistani merchant who was selling this one. It belonged to a mannequin. Apparently some poor chap had been using it as a makeshift weapon. But, with a few alterations, it’ll work just like your old one.”
The Abbot had made some other alterations to Gimble Timbers too. “Sadly the rot ran deep so I had to do some pretty drastic changes,” he said. “You might notice your sense of smell becoming heightened, that’ll be due to your new nose.” Gimble Timbers could see we were all staring at him. He lifted his hands to his face and asked, “Is it OK?”
We lied, “Yeah”; “Sure”; “Of course.” In reality his nose had been replaced by a wolf’s snout. Our DM described this as a “subtle” change, but it did mean advantage on perception checks requiring smell.
After the makeover the Abbot talked to us about the state of Barovia. He was concerned about Strahd; he believed he could appease the vampire by creating a wife for him. This was the auburn-haired lady playing the violin. He was very pleased with his creation. All she lacked was a wedding dress, so the Abbot asked us if we could procure one for him. Engong and I were not convinced about this, however Baräsh and Gimble Timbers agreed. So we left the Abbey with a quest to find a wedding dress.
Trouble at the Burgomaster’s
We returned to Krezk. Baräsh was keen to head to the Burgomaster’s to heal his sick son. Sadly he arrived too late. Baräsh offered to help with the funeral.
Kosef, Brundle, and Engong headed back to the wagon, only to find Victor had allowed the Burgomaster to take all the wine, instead of just the agreed single barrel. After chastising Victor for being so stupid, we headed for the Burgomaster’s to retrieve our wine.
We arrived at the house and could see a small gathering of people behind the building. This would be the perfect opportunity to send in the druid to see if he could find the missing barrels. Before long he returned and confirmed all three barrels were in the Burgomaster’s cellar.
After the service, the Burgomaster of Krezk was surprised to meet Kosef, Engong, and Brundle Swash on the front lawn. Kosef explained that there had been a mistake and that they would need their two barrels back, but the Burgomaster refused. This caused a stir among those gathered as neither Kosef nor Engong were willing to back down. The deal had been for one barrel, not three.
Before long, a mob gathered and it was clear they were not happy with the outsiders. Tensions began to mount, with Gimble Timbers and Baräsh desperately trying to keep the peace. Suddenly, a bottle was thrown through the air. It didn’t hit anyone but smashed loudly. This was a clear sign that things were about to get fighty. Engong readied her fists, Gimble drew his shortsword, and Brundle turned into a wolf.
Just as the first blows were about to fly, the Abbot swept in and all eyes fell on him. “PEACE! This is no place or time for violence. I suggest if you have concluded your business, you leave Krezk now.” END
Another session with no combat, but a really fun one to play, and we got pretty close to fighting on more than one occasion. The party seems to be pulling in different directions now, so it will be interesting to see if we can re-gel and become more cohesive.
Krezk presented a different kind of situation for us. Unlike Barovia or Vallaki, it wasn’t a place that had an obvious problem or adventure hook. Instead it took us a while to explore the town and make our own decisions.
The mongrelfolk in the Abbey were a truly disgusting and horrifying surprise. This was made even more impactful for me as the party first met them at a time when I had to leave the game to pacify my son. When I returned, the party was exploring a prison/dungeon area full of half-man half-animal hybrids. Gimble Timbers’ new arm was also a fun surprise, especially seeing as it was he who had sold it to Rashtoff the Vistani traveler in one of our first sessions.
Next week we will have to decide where to go next. Do we try to find a wedding dress? Head back to the Wizard of Wines to sort out the druids? Or something entirely different? Whatever we choose, I’m sure we can’t have a third consecutive week without combat. Can we?