FifthColumn's Curse of Strahd

Canto the Eighth

Springs Eternal

“She smiled and said with an ecstatic air: “It shines like a little diamond”,
“What does?”
“This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.”
—Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason

The Seventh Morning on Barovia

-The Outlanders rose in the Wizard of Wines Winery, having been urged back to Vallaki in light of growing unrest in town, Lord Strahd’s own statement of intent to attend the Festival of the Blazing Sun (which he promised was a spectacle not to be missed), and Ireena’s precarious sanctuary within St. Andral’s Church.
-Having sent raven messengers the night before to both the Blue Water Inn and to Ismark in the Village of Barovia, the group loaded up the Martikovs’ wine wagon with full and empty barrels to help them bypass the guards at the town gates. Accompanied by Adrian and Elvir, they approached Vallaki and split into two groups to mask their numbers from those who may be watching for them. Half took the wine wagon to the west gate and the rest traveled to the north gate, where Muriel Vinshaw was scheduled to work guard detail.
-At the west gate, Sydney was relieved to see Dargos, the guard who had shown her deference a few days prior. Aethelred had transformed himself into a small animal and joined Grim in Sydney’s pocket.. Rurik, Sydney and Esmerelda had stashed their weapons in an empty wine barrel. Dargos the guard proved deferential and helpful, but told this group to take their wine shipment directly to the burgomaster’s mansion; instructions which they promptly ignored and headed to the Blue Water Inn.
-At the North gate, Orin, Alistair, and Liveth met Muriel Vinshaw, who was working guard duty as she’d promised. Her fellow gate guard was suspicious of them, but Muriel helped the m talk their way through. They rendezvoused with the others at the inn.
-Upon arriving at the Inn, Danika Martikov anticipated their requirement and sent them straight upstairs to find Rictavio. The “carnival master” tried feebly to maintain his ruse, but Ezmerelda had already deduced his real identity and let him know it. He took off what proved to be an enchanted hat and the illusion fell: he was not a half-elf at all but an older, far more distinguished but impressively coiffed human man: Rudolph van Richten!
-Van Richten took Ezmerelda aside for a bit and ther group watched as her ire subsided and the two embraced tearfully. When they returned to the group, Van Richten told them his theory: Strahd would arrive at the Festival this evening and offer to remove the Vampire Spawn who had been harassing the town for a few days, in return for the townspeople handing over Ireena Kolyana to him. He believed the group needed to get Ireena out today if they hoped to save her. When asked to join the Outlanders in their mission, he offered sadly that the best thing he could do to help was to stay away from them. Ezmerelda didn’t argue.
-On Muriel’s tip that the town toymaker, Gadof Blinsky, was making a doll who looked eerily like Ireena, three of the party including Alistair, Orin, and Liveth set out to investigate. Blinksy was a portly, jolly man in a threadbare old jester cap, and his shop was full of weird and macabre toys. Muriel had not been exaggerating.:The doll was the spitting image of Ireena. While Alistair attempted to get some information, Orin, thinking the doll might have some sort of magical value, tried to snatch it, but Blinsky caught him and became enraged. Orin pacified the toymaker with short-term charm magic, but the three were unable to get anymore information from him and so Alistair and Liveth headed for the church and Ireena while Orin headed back to the Inn and his companions.
-Meanwhile, the others had concocted a plan to smuggle Ireena out of town. Since Strahd had twice bitten Ireena, Ezmerelda knew that Strahd could psychically locate her no matter where she was, except apparently while under the consecration of holy sites like St. Andral’s. They decided to use Aethelred’s magic to put Ireena into a deathlike state, remove her from the church, deliver her to the holy spring of St. Markovia in Kresk, and decide the next step from there. Elvir and Adrian positioned the wine wagon outside the North Gate to facilitate their escape.
-When they arrived at St. Andral’s Church, Liveth and Percy took up scouting positions outside, as did Rurik. Sydney noted, by way of the rod of Awareness, that there was an active scrying orb outside of the church, and that they could not bring Ireena through the front door. They entered, noted that an old woman was playing alone at the front pew and Milivoj was keeping watch outside from the belfry. The Outlanders told Father Lucian and Ireena what was going to happen if Ireena stayed and how they planned to exfiltrate her. In spite of her misgivings, Ireena was convinced by Sydney’s plain speech and agreed, but Father Lucian was concerned not only about Strahd, but also Izek Strazni, who seemed obsessed with Ireena and had been leaning on the priest to let him see her.
-No sooner had the words been spoken than Izek arrived with six guards and shouldered his way past the priest and into the church. He was not expecting a full counter-assault, however, and was quickly disabled by the party inside with no opportunity to fight back.
-Outside, Rurik, Liveth and the cat made quick work of the guards as well, and surprisingly to some, Rurik took care to leave each guard alive. Their unconscious bodies, along with that of Strazni (also left alive), were dragged into the walled cemetery but the group knew that time was of the essence before reinforcements arrived.
-Aethelred induced the false death state in Ireena and the rest fed her out the side of the church by a side window and toward the North Gate. When they arrived, they found Orin, who had passed the time by entertaining and gambling with the guards, waiting for them with the cart. They were just about to leave when there was a disturbance just a few houses south of the gate.
-The Outlanders saw a wizened old crone standing outside a residence. There was a commotion before the people inside tearfully presented a small boy of about 6. He screamed but the old woman lifted the child with unexpected strength into a burlap sack and tossed the squirming bundle onto her hand-cart.
-sydney and Liveth ran to the child’s aid, and the old woman explained haughtily that the child was fair payment for her Dream Pastries. this family couldn’t get enough of the sweets and their account had fallen far into arrears: 50 Lords behind! Sydney gave the crone enough money to cover the boy’s release, as well as purchasing a few pastries for the group. The old woman returned the child to his parents, who were delighted. The child was rightfully NOT delighted with his parents for putting him in such a position to begin with.
-After Orin and Alistair had a few quick words of assurance with the still suspicious guards, the group set off for Kresk. Apparently their trick had worked to keep Ireena’s departure unnoticed, for they were untroubled by pursuers. They did, however, have to face a half-dozen giant spiders who had staked out the road, and they did so with fire and steel. Orin, in particular, took a special savage glee in roasting the monstrous creatures.
-On arriving in Kresk, the Outlanders beelined for the holy font and placed her within the waters before reviving her. Upon doing so, a vision appeared in the water. A young, beautiful man in fine clothes with dark hair smiled directly at Ireena. He spoke, calling her "Tatyana, my love’. Ireena seemed at once to remember everything of her past time, and was ecstatic to be reunited with the spirit of her betrothed (and Strahd’s murdered brother), Sergei Von Zarovich. He reached his hand toward her and she accepted it, and they both became one with the surface of the pool, then shimmered and disappeared.
-As the Outlanders looked on with an immense sense of relief and joy, black clouds roiled overhead. The face of Strahd seemed to appear in the clouds and lightning flashed. “SHE IS MINE!” The storm bellowed, and a bolt of purple-white energy struck the pool, sending Outlanders flying, destroying the nearby gazebo and the statue of the Morninglord which Liveth had worked so hard to restore. The waters of the pool became black and dead. The Oulanders left Kresk at the burgomaster’s insistance, and knew that though Ireena/Tatyana may now be at peace, the full wrath of the Devil Strahd would now be brought to bear in vengeance against them.


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