Curse of Strahd

Chapter 1: Hunters Hunted

Fog seeps into the heart of the woods, and the minds of our heroes; the hunters become the hunted. Greybeard, Amaterasu, Hadriel, and Talitha find themselves pulled close to their campfire as oppressive walls of fog are raised around them, but their fire provides little comfort as it coughs and dies – held alight only by the the very grace of minor magic. The night draws out long for these ill-fated adventurers, and the grey morning has an unwelcoming strangeness to it. These lands are not their lands.

The veil of mist is pervasiveness, clouding their senses. Silence weighs heavy, broken only by the snapping of twigs like dry bones. Then, the distant moan of a wolf met by Greybeard’s howling response…and then an unnerving chorus of canines in return, many and directionless, but drawing close. Suddenly, there is the compelling caw of a raven perched close. Interpreting direction in its calls, the group allows the raven to lead them, leaving them at a dirt road.

East brings them to a white wall of fog, blindingly dense. Greybeard steps through and is abruptly rendered sightless and without breathe. He collapses, and would have been lost to the mist, had his companions not yanked him from its clutches. Seeing no progress before them, or in the threatening trees around them, they proceed West along the path.

After hours of trudging, they are brought upon their first signs of humanity—giant iron gates, flanked by the headless statues of soldiers. As they approach, the gates open to welcome them, an open maw salivating over a morsel. They step through and the gates slam behind them.

Their continuing travel brings little event, aside from an unmistakable aroma of death, which they decide to push pass.

Buildings rise up out of the mist and the group steps from the dirt road onto the cobblestone streets of a town. All is quiet and blanketed in ashy mist, which begins to twist around them, leaving them only one avenue to follow. Walking down the only lane afforded to them, they come upon two children, sobbing in front of a house. Compelled to help, Amaterasu runs to their side.

The older, a girl named Rose, takes a moment away from consoling her crying brother, Thorn, to explain that there is a monster in the basement of the house and that their baby brother is still inside. The group briefly investigates the old manor, finding the hallmarks of a well-off family—a windmill crest, a silver sword above the fireplace, portraits, grand dining area, a hunting lodge with stuffed kills. Finding nothing but an ominous atmosphere, the group goes back outside to question the children. Finding them unforthcoming, the group decides to take them inside the house with them, but the children resist and are forced through the threshold where they disappear…the house reacts of its own accord by shutting the outer gates on the companions.

More exploration brings more questions. Talitha encounters a secret room behind a bookshelf and in it finds a dead body, a chest, and a letter from one Strahd Von Zarovich to the homeowners—the Durst family.

Amaterasu encounters a shadowy image that compels her to a bedroom, where it disappears into a mirror and becomes her exact reflection with one difference…her throat is slit. Upon investigating the room, they find a stairwell behind the mirror that leads to the attic.

In the attic, the group is attacked by an animated suit of armor, which they fend off (with the final blow being dealt by Amaterasu’s bolt).

Finding a nursery, Talitha investigates a bundled baby in a crib. There is nothing inside, but she is promptly attacked by a ghostly nursemaid.

With some revelation, the group opens the locked door to a child’s room. There were beds, a toy chest, a dollhouse…and the skeletons of children crumpled in the middle of the floor. Approaching the chest, two ghosts resembling the children from before, warn them not to touch their toys. Talitha investigates the dollhouse, finding it to be a replica of the very house they are in, and in doing so, discovering its hidden passages. As they exit the room, leaving the children to their fate, the ghosts beg them to stay and lunge towards them—the girl seems to pass into Talitha.

Using their newly gained knowledge, the group proceeds to the basement via a hidden staircase in the wall. In the catacombs below, they find crypts—as well as signs of living: dining table, beds, chests, etc. But there is no life here, only death. The group is confronted, in turn, by a toothed worm and a mob of horrendous ghouls. They eventually find themselves in a large, water-filled room with a dais in the center. Stepping onto the dais, twelve robed ghosts appear and begin to chant in unison, “One must die! One must die!”

As Greybeard steps from the dais, the voices turn from a chanting to a summoning, calling forth a shambling mound of evil.

Fighting the mound brings the group to their brink…and then Greybeard falls in battle. Suddenly, the chant “One must die!” returns, and the basement crumbles around them, consuming the survivors in earth. However, rather than facing oblivion, they are pushed to the surface, ejected from the belly of the house through an esophagus of earth.

Greybeard wanders a wasted forest, pushing through mist that sticks in him like heavy bramble. He sees figures in the fog, fleeting, distant…resembling the figures of his lost children. After untold time, the group sees Greybeard stumble towards them, returned from some other world. They rest unmolested on the plot of land where once stood the deathly house, now vanished.

Hours pass in, not peace, but quiet. Then, the rolling sound of wheels on cobblestone approach. A large black carriage approaches, drawn by six ebony horses. As the carriage passes, the door swings open and a figure gracefully steps into the road without the carriage slowing. The carriage passes.

The figure approaches. Elegant clothes, long black hair raked back, a fierce widow’s peak, and predator’s eyes. He examines them. Welcomes them. Tells them that he brought them here, to his lands, because he sensed evil hearts among them…and his land could always use another black heart to bring blood and betrayal. Individually, he remarks,

To Greybeard: “You will find my wolves much less agreeable than wherever you got these trinkets from.”

To Hadriel: “You are abandoned from your god here. I think you will find that I am only lord you should have.”

To Talitha: “Gypsy woman, I think you should find good company here, although not the same mercy.”

To Amaterasu: “Mm. You would be a most interesting consort. Unfortunately for you, my eyes are for another.”

He welcomes them to his realm of Barovia and fades into the mist as it begins to pull away. They stand in the streets of the Village of Barovia…cast in the shadow of a massive castle on the cliffs above.

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