“Where are you going? This isn’t your patrol.” Baräsh began to get worried, this wasn’t part of the plan. In an act of desperation, he dived towards the guard. But not before he could let out an alarm that echoed around the town. Within seconds, six more masked guards charged down into the alleyway. For a second the two groups stared silently at one another. “Imposters!” yelled the first guard. “Get them!” They threw off their masks, revealing six smooth, skeletal, ginning heads. They raised their scimitars and charged at the party.
Last night, session 34 of our Skype-based Dungeons & Dragons Curse of Strahd campaign saw our adventuring party continue a stealth mission. There were almost no hiccups. Almost.
Last session, we had our fortunes read by the infamous Madam Eva, she was keen for us to help Barovia return to its former glory by freeing vampire overlord Strahd Von Zarovich. By ‘freeing,’ I think she meant ‘killing.’ She gave us five Tarokka card readings, each with its own mysterious objective. One we had already completed when we made Victor Vallacovich our ally. Now we just need to find a powerful sword in a swamp; some ancient knowledge at the end of deep, winding road in the mountains; a powerful source of good and protection amid the ruins of supplication; and then we will fight Strahd in the depths of darkness where he must return.
So, after 33 sessions, the campaign must be nearly over, right?
Before we can worry about all that, we have to save Ireena from the clutches of Lady Wachta the evil Burgamaster of Vallaki. We believed that Lady Wachta was keeping our friend hostage in her grand mansion and we planned to sneak into the building, find Ireena, and take her to safety in nearby Krezk. While in the mansion, we also wanted to find and rescue Lady Anna Kreskoff, whom we believed was also being held there against her will.
Disguising ourselves as masked guards of Vallaki, we attempted to cross the town in the dead of night to get to Lady Wachta’s mansion. In trying to blend in further, our gnome fighter Gimble Timbers took a growth potion. Our other gnome, Brundle Swash, was in his wild-shape squirrel form and sleeping in my character’s pocket because he was absent last week. As we began this session, we had made it most of the way to the mansion but were accosted by nine skeletal guards led by a human. They did not want to let us go about our business, and we knew that the ensuing battle would need to be swift and quiet.
Engong and Her Associates are:
Engong – Half-Orc Monk, pyromaniac, leader, not a ‘people person’;
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, has a pet dog called Kevon;
Baräsh – Dragonborn Paladin, Oath of Vengeance;
Kosef – Human Rogue, impatient, played by me;
Brundle Swash – Gnome Druid, disheveled, turns into a bear;
Victor – Human (Teenage) Wizard-in-Training, has issues, NPC.
Seeing the skeletal guards charge, Engong and Her Associates drew their weapons and readied themselves for battle. Baräsh raised his hammer and brought it down fiercely on the first guard to reach him, dashing bits of skeleton onto the ground. Engong followed up with an impossibly fast flurry of blows taking out two of their attackers. Gimble Timbers’ shortsword made quick work of guard number four. As Victor prepared a Ray of Frost, he was struck by the fifth guard, who was then in turn decapitated by Kosef’s daggers, leaving guard number six to fall to Victor’s spell.
This left the human guard leader. Who was clearly unnerved by the speed in which his troupe had just been dispatched. He recognized the party and dropped to his knees in supplication. “Please don’t kill me. I’m just doing my job. Lady Wachta has us working these fiends, patrolling the streets, but I don’t know why. Oh please don’t kill me.”
We show some mercy
We managed to get the first combat over pretty quick and we were confident that we hadn’t alerted anyone else to our presence. But the encounter still wasn’t over. We needed to decide what to do with this groveling guard.
Mercifully, we decided it was best not to kill him, instead casting both Sleep and Invisibility and hiding his unconscious body in an alleyway. We were all very pleased with ourselves for this act of mercy and hoped that it wouldn’t come back to haunt us.
Just as we finished secreting him into an alley, we heard footsteps quickly approaching. A single guard was jogging towards us, slightly out of breath due to his large size. He had been alerted by the calls of the now unconscious guard. We stood ready for another battle.
Oldest trick in the book
The guard approached panting heavily. We greeted him silently, still wearing our guard costumes. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Where did they go?”
Gimble Timbers pointed towards the stable quarter and Engong said, “That way. There was six of them.”
“Ha!” said the guard. “I knew it! You’re no guards.”
Oh no! We fell for it. Our DM was giddy with satisfaction. Of course, we knew the skeletal guards were mute, but Engong couldn’t resist replying. This set us up for another rather difficult situation. However, with some quick thinking, diplomacy and a deception roll of 19 against the guard’s insight of 2, we miraculously managed to convince him that we were guests of Lady Wachta, enjoying a late night stroll, and avoiding the curfew by using the masks and robes.
Not only did the guard, Boris, believe us, but he offered to escort us back to the mansion. All we had to do was put in a good word with Lady Wachta for him. Which we assured him we would.
Breaking and entering
We arrived at Lady Wachta’s mansion and Boris left us to it. We could see there were two guards posted at the front gates, so we headed around the back for a sneakier entrance. Brundle Swash cast Pass Without a Trace on us, which would aid our stealthy-ness for the next hour.
As we approached a window we could see it was barred with iron. Baräsh used Misty Step to teleport into the room and lifted the sash window from the inside. Our DM later told us that it was this action that set off the warding glyph alarms alerting Lady Wachta to our arrival. But as far as we were concerned, we had successfully ‘stealthed’ our way in.
We quickly left that room, ignoring Ernest Lanark who was sleeping in a chair by the fire, and we headed for the stairs that lead up to the bedrooms. We had been guests of Lady Wachta before so had a keen idea of the layout of the mansion.
Searching the bedrooms
Up the stairs, we entered a corridor that presented us with five doorways. We spent the next half an hour or so, deciding which room to try first. As it was dark, only the characters with Darkvision could see anything. So this meant Engong, Gimble Timbers, and Baräsh took the lead on exploring the rooms. The first room had three sleeping figures, none of which were Ireena or Lady Anna.
The next room had odd feline purring sounds coming from it. Victor recognized this as the bedroom of his former Fiancé and so we knew to avoid it. Room number three had another sleeping person in it. Closer inspection by the Dragonborn revealed it to be Lady Anna Krezkoff. The woman we believed was being held hostage. Baräsh and Gimble Timbers gently woke her and explained they were there to save her. She looked confused. “But I’m no hostage,” she said. “Lady Wachta has been very kind to us.”
This confused Baräsh very much, but he didn’t think to ask any other questions and turned to leave. But, surprisingly, Lady Anna asked him to stay to keep her company. Fearing she would raise the alarm otherwise, Baräsh the Dragonborn paladin agreed to stay with her.
Lady Wachta’s bedroom
Promising to return for Baräsh on the way out, the rest of us went to explore the last two rooms. One had two large, stinking, men passed out drunk on the bed. They were Lady Wachta’s sons. We ignored them and went to the last room, Lady Wachta’s bedroom.
The door creaked open slowly. At first, it seemed like the room was empty, but then Brundle noticed there on the bed a body, a dead body. It was clearly male, so not Lady Wachta. But who? The room was large and impressive. A family portrait hung above a hearth. It showed Lady Wachta, her two boys, much younger than they were now, and what must have been her husband. Brundle glanced back to the bed. The husband was the dead body lying there, each eye covered by a small copper coin.
“This is creepy,” whispered Gimble. Kosef agreed. Engong began to search the room. She pulled two fine dresses from a walk-in wardrobe and looked very smug. As she spun around, mocking herself, she glimpsed a large oak chest at the foot of the cupboard. Kosef came over to investigate. He easily picked the lock and disarmed the trap and the chest sprung open.
Gimble Timbers, Engong, and Kosef all peered in and gasped. The chest was filled with bones. Bright, shiny, pristine bones. Human bones. What’s more, the chest was clearly lined with lead. Kosef pulled out a plaque that read: “Here lies the body of Leo Delivsnia, enemy of the Wachta’s.” Gimble Timbers reached into the chest and pulled out a skeletal foot and tibia, “I’ll save this for Kevon.” END
Well, that was an odd session. We did loads but achieved very little.
So far we’ve searched the upstairs of Lady Wachta’s mansion and found nothing of use. We couldn’t decide if the weird chest full of bones was a vampire or some sort of phylactery or what, so just locked it back up and left the room. Next week we’ll have to go back to find Baräsh and continue our exploration of the mansion.
It felt like we did a lot of things we did wrong this session. This included: not checking for alarms or traps; forgetting about Kevon the dog, until we were halfway through exploring; not asking the right questions of Lady Anna; skipping past important rooms. Never mind, we still had fun. Baräsh especially. I think our DM was keen for us to find something, he said he had a big fight planned, but I suppose that will just have to wait until next time.