Session 36: Skeletons in the closet
The strange disembodied voice returned. Taunting the party, it cackled loudly, “Haw haw! You guys don’t stand a chance!” A highly decorated rug began to curl at the edges and then hover in the center of the room. “Woo! I’m a ghost!” Mocked the voice. “I am the one that watches. I have seen you here. I have seen you there. You will not find the girl. Not before it is too late. Haw haw!”
Last night was the 36th session in our online D&D Curse of Strahd campaign. We continued to explore Lady Wachta’s mansion, finally heading down into the basement in the hopes of finding our ally Ireena who was being held hostage.
In the last two game sessions we explored the upper and lower floors of the mansion and were convinced that Ireena must be in the basement. We ended last session in a study room on the ground floor, being taunted by a disembodied impish voice. The voice gradually faded away and we decided to head down to the cellar.
Our party is Engong and Her Associates:
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.
They could hear the voice trailing away, laughing down the hallway. Engong relaxed her shoulders signally the rest of the party to stand down too. They were confused about the nature of the voice. Was it the house mocking them? Was there an invisible foe keeping tabs? Or were they all suffering from hallucinations caused by poorly digested cheese toasties? For now they just had to continue their exploration. If their presence had been discovered then time was running out to save Irena.
Before we left the library, Brundle Swash checked for magic. He rolled an Arcana check: 7. He saw no evidence of magic. Boastfully Victor performed the same check, “Watch how a wizard checks for magic.” He rolled an 8, “There’s definitely no magic here, nothing at all.” We didn’t believe him. But right now there was very little we could do. So, pausing only to polish off the half-finished glass of brandy, we decided to move on.
Sneaking ’round the back
Our DM admitted to us that he’s been finding it tricky to remember that he controls our wizard ally Victor, and that he has to keep thinking about what Victor would do in each situation. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Victor remembered that there was an entrance to the cellar ’round the back of the house. We only wished that Victor had told us this two sessions ago, before we explored every other room in the mansion.
Being a stealthy rogue, Kosef was chosen to scout out the entrance to the cellar and report back to the party. I rolled a stealth check of 29 (a really good roll; my modifier is +12!) and was able to confidently sneak around the back without being seen.
I quickly found the cellar door and could perceive no traps or guards so I headed back to my companions. I gave them the “all clear” and together we made our way ’round to back of the house.
Exploring the basement
The entrance to the cellar was through two wooden doors that were sunk into the ground. They didn’t appear to be locked and so Baräsh and Engong opened it and began descending the wooden stairs into the dark basement below. We then all tried to stealthily follow them down the stairs. Anyone who’s played even a small amount of D&D can tell you: group stealth check always end badly.
The stairway was rickety and wooden and had a metal banister. Baräsh and Engong went first. They passed their stealth checks. Then it was Kosef and Gimble Timbers. We passed our checks too. Finally came Victor and Brundle Swash. They did not pass their checks. Victor sneezed and Brundle stubbed his toe. Loudly.
Fearing this would cause whomever was in the basement to be alerted, we froze, holding our breaths and waiting for the inevitable call of “Roll Initiative!” to come. It didn’t come. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The room we had entered was 30-feet square with a dirt floor. There was a set of stairs on the eastern side of the room leading up and four make-shifts beds along the north wall. In the dirt there was a trail of footprints that seemed to come to a stop in the middle of the south wall.
His eyes adjusting to the gloom, Gimble Timbers stepped out into the middle of the room. Instantly the dirt around his feet began to tremble. Ripples spread out around the room as six skeletal hands shot out of the ground. One hand grabbed Gimble’s foot and within seconds six skeletons had risen from the ground and were bearing down on our gnome fighter.
The skeletons attacked with a surprise round and three out of six hit Gimble Timbers dealing 12 points of bludgeoning damage. Baräsh ran over to the gnome and cast Shield of Faith on him, giving him a bonus to his armor class (AC). Gimble then attacked two skeletons with his attacks and rolled a critical hit on the first, smashing it. Bones went flying into the air as he turned and hit the second skeleton.
Engong, making the most of her “Mobile” feat that allows her to run through enemies without invoking opportunity attacks, dashed past three skeletons, punching and kicking them as she passed. She landed two hits and a flurry of blows–more hits than she’d get in most fights in total–and one of the skeletons fell to the ground.
Kosef, Victor, and Brundle all made their attacks and dealt some minor damage to the skeletons, and by the time it was the skeletons’ turn again, there were only three of them left standing. Each was badly hurt, but still managed to hit Gimble and Baräsh.
It only took one more round of combat for the skeletons to be dispatched, with only the gnome fighter and paladin taking any damage. Baräsh wasn’t helped in this by the fact that he wasn’t wearing any armor–he’d taken it off to don the cloak and mask of the town’s guards. Although he just got away with it in this fight, he would really need to do something to bring his AC back up.
Skeletons in the closet
Once we had dealt with the skeletons, we headed up the stairs at the far end of the room. Our DM looked surprised at this–we were foolishly neglecting to investigate the mysterious footprints in the dirt. He stayed quiet and let us discover our mistake in our own time.
The stairs lead to a strange lobby area, where four pairs of old boots sat beneath a coat rack with four dark robes. At the end of this room was another door. But this had no handle and clearly opened outward. Engong pushed the door and it swung to reveal the inside of a cupboard full of fur coats and boots. More confusion.
Somehow we had found the back of a secret entrance and had made our way back into the mansion. We had entered one of Lady Wachta’s many wardrobes. This is not what we wanted to do, but it did allow Gimble Timbers to remark: “Well I guess everyone has skeletons in their closet.” Our DM insisted that the last two sessions were not just an elaborate set up for this joke, but we weren’t sure whether to believe him or not.
After we recomposed ourselves, we headed back down to the cellar to investigate those odd footprints. Sure enough, they lead to an odd brick formation in the wall and Baräsh was able to make out the edges of a hidden door. Being a strong and stupid dragonborn paladin he wasted no time in smashing the door down and charging into the room.
We all followed in and discovered another oddly lit square room. In the middle of the room was a pentagram marked out in blood. At each corner of the pentagram sat an empty chair with a candle flickering beside it, and at its center a crumpled humanoid mass; a body. Ireena?
Kosef ran towards the body, “Ireena!” he yelled. “We’re too late!” But it was not Ireena. As he turned the body to face him he realized his mistake. The zombie’s eyes opened and it bit hard into Kosef’s arm. The rogue yelled out. As Baräsh and Engong dashed to his aid, a voice rang out behind them. It was shrill and female: Lady Wachta.
“Fools. I knew I was right to keep a close watch on you. But you are so incompetent I needn’t have bothered. You even came into your own tomb willingly.” She began laughing hysterically. “Do you not understand? No one can keep Strahd from his bride.” Lady Wachta stood in the doorway. Ireena was by her side, dazed as if under some sort of spell. Brundle tried to push the door between them closed, and as he did he saw six dark figures standing with Lady Wachta: the vampire spawns they had fought before. Brundle froze.
“Vampires, now is the time you have waited for,” hissed Lady Wachta. “Seek out your prey and finish them off.” END
This session really couldn’t have ended any worse for us. Once more we are bound to begin the next session with the words “Roll Initiative!” At least we are all a higher level now.
Since we began our stealth mission four weeks ago, we have so far failed to rescue Ireena, nearly missed three secret doors, not found out what the invisible voice was in the library, and have set off just about every trap and alarm possible. But, on the plus side, our DM said that if we survive this next fight then we got to progress to level seven. IF we survive.