FifthColumn's Curse of Strahd

Canto the Fourth

Brood

I ain’t no demon, Lord
Oh look to me please
Good men are sufferin’
With the evil at ease
And millions of innocents
Are born to disease
Oh where is our solace, Lord?
Oh Lord, answer me
I look to your people, Lord
But they’re being cruel
They sleep with the criminals
That they aim to recruit
They raise in their stadiums
A poisonous brood
I think they would crucify
Oh someone like you
One day, will this be over?

—The Silent Comedy, All Saints’ Day

The third afternoon in Barovia:
-The Outlanders interrogated Milivoj, the church groundskeeper, at his home. They learned that he is the primary caretaker for 3 small children (siblings, they deduce). The children were thin and gaunt but sat silent and still while the party was present.
-Milivoj admitted, after negotiating for an 80 ep payoff, that he had stolen the [[Bones of St. Andral]] for a lot of money (though less than 80 ep!) and given them to Henrik Van der Voort, the Coffin Maker.
-Van der Voort had said the bones were for an important client, but nothing more specific.
-The party made a beeline for the Coffin Maker’s Shop, wasting no daylight. Liveth knew from her supernatural attunement earlier that multiple undead creatures were, or at least had been, inside.

-En route, they chanced to rendezvous with Aethelred, whose investigation of the plant blights they had encountered earlier had borne fruit. He explained that the blights spawn from a very twisted miscarriage of nature called the Gulthias tree. Legend has it that the first Gulthias tree grew from the blood-slaked stake that had been used to destroy a vampire. Such a tree is purely malevolent and bent on consuming the blood of living creatures. The blights it produces are often shepherded by evil druids who serve as servants to the tree, and maraud the wild places seeking blood to feed it. The blights in Barovia have been around for centuries, but their activity level is increasing parabolically this season: they are emanating in larger and larger groups from an area to the far southwest of the region. Aethelred thought to get closer to the source of the blights for more information, but spent one harrowing night in the woods along the piedmont of Mount Ghakis before deciding that he may be out of his depth.
-Aethelred now knows that there are wild people in the far-flung places. They run on all fours and wear nothing but blue-grey mud and some leather strips to carry their stone-age tools. They are not particularly aggressive, but weren’t happy to see an outlander druid, either.

-The Outlanders found the shop closed and locked, with windows barred and covered in heavy drapes. Sydney cased the perimeter and found a side door that could be lock-picked out of street view. In the mean time, Aethelred assumed the form of a squirrel and scaled the building, clambering down a stovepipe into a wrought-iron potbelly.
-Aethelred could partially see, and Sydney could hear, the creaking steps of old Van der Voort crossing from his second-floor kitchen into his bedroom. Brazenly, in broad daylight, the party commenced a stealthy trespass of the establishment, moving through the workshop and shoddy coffin display, and up to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, they saw a kitchen to one side and an expansive storage space with wooden pallets and massive crates marked “хлам” (That means ‘junk’ in Rurik‘s native Russo-Common!)
-Rurik, tired of squinting through the dim, dusty room, moved to open a blind, but in doing so kicked a pallet and raised a clatter to wake the dead!
-The old man, alerted to the trespassers, rushed from his bedroom with a candle in his hand. Sydney quickly cold-cocked him and he crumpled in a heap.
-Moving quickly, Aethelred was released from his hiding place in the woodstove, Alistair began to search van der Voort’s quarters, Rurik, Sydney, Liveth, Ismark and Ireena investigated the "junk crates. Sydney’s keep awareness revealed trace movement in each of the boxes.
-A crate near Rurik burst open. soil and sawdust spilled forth revealing an open casket and within, a very awake woman in leather bodice and breeches, her pale face painted with a stripe of red across the eyes. She bared her fangs, surprising no one.
-She spoke with a very un-Barovian accent (she sounded like certain folk of the Sword Coast, actually). She seemed happy that breakfast was being served and whistled to rouse her compatriots, but then glimpsed Ireena, immediately recognized her and it seemed that her priority suddenly changed.
-The other crates began to rattle visibly and another creature, this one an oddly emaciated-looking, tuskless half-orc, burst free behind Rurik and tried to grab the fighter, who deftly and resolutely refused to be manhandled. This creature’s own fangs erupted from his jaws: razor-sharp incisors from the top and bottom.
-Alistair, meanwhile, had found a secret compartment in Henrik’s wardrobe, and recovered the Bones and a small sack of coins. He shouted that the task was done and bolted for the exit. The others followed suit: some down the stairs and some through the second-story windows!
-As the group ran toward the Old Svalich Road and the safety of St Andral’s Church, the female vampire leapt lightly from the window and into the street. She was smugly unperturbed by the daylight as she cried out merrily “They can’t protect you forever, ”/wikis/Tatyana/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Tatyana!" Ireena knew the creature was calling to her, although she didn’t know the meaning of the name. Had Ismark not held her back, it appeared she would have resigned herself to her fate at the hands of the undead.
-Back at St. Andral’s, Father Lucian shed joyful tears when the bones were returned, but the revelation of perhaps 6 vampire spawn in Vallaki caused him no end of panic. Before he set to work on the rituals necessary to reconsecrate the relics and the church, the priest warned the Outlanders that there was no simple solution: reporting the vampires to the Burgomaster could be tantamount to “spreading malicious unhappiness” and get them all arrested, exiled, or worse. He implored the party to find a way to quietly address the vampire presence but Aethelred, having already had enough of the civilized life summed up the sentiments of his companions: “We may be the heroes this town needs right now, but we aren’t the heroes it has.”
-The group determined that if the Bones kept Ireena safe from harm in the church, that their obligation had been met and they must continue in their quest to find Ezmerelda d’Avenir as well as the prophesied boons to defeat Strahd. As the church filled with parishioners seeking sanctuary from the unknown horrors of the night, the Outlanders resolved to watch over the church only until morning and to leave Vallaki at first light, leaving Ireena in the care of Ismark and the Morninglord.
-Overnight, Liveth took up a watch in the church’s bell tower and watched as six vampire spawn, including the two they’d seen in the coffin shop, unabashedly sauntered toward St. Andral’s, circling and pacing around it like alley cats, whooping it up and making wolf-calls before finally walking back down the Old Svalich road, knocking over planters and rubbish bins, frightening the few passers-by who hadn’t already bolted themselves indoors, and disappearing.

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