Into the Mists

Session #2

The story picks up with the adventurers stepping through a pair of heavy oak doors into a richly appointed hall.  Unlike the dusty foyer, the hall is clean and shows signs of recent care.  A black, marble fireplace dominates the north wall. Decorative oak panels adorn the other three. A sweeping staircase of red marble ascends to the second floor. A closer inspection of the wood paneling reveals disturbing images hidden among the otherwise wholesome carvings— skulls, serpents, and creeping skeletons.

A thorough search of the first floor reveals a small cloak room, dining room, kitchen, and a richly-furnished hunting den, complete with three stuffed wolves.  A locked cabinet in the hunting den vexes Carric, but otherwise the three rooms are unremarkable.  Like the hall, the rooms are tidy and well-kept.  

The adventurers make their way upstairs, and emerge into another hall.  Four suits of decorative plate armor stand against the east and west walls, each pair flanking a set of double doors.  A fireplace dominates the north wall, above which hangs a family portrait depicting a dour mother and father, two glum-looking children, and a swaddled, faceless infant.

On the second floor the party finds a well-stocked library and a music conservatory containing a harpsichord and standing harp.  The library has hundreds of books covering many different subjects.  Thaelyn picks up one entitled The Lands of Barovia. Thinking that it may prove useful he takes it for further study.  Meanwhile Carric searches through a large desk and discovers an iron key in one of its drawers. Back in the conservatory Aramaris inspects a dozen or so small, alabaster figures that adorn the mantel above a brick fireplace.  The figures are carved in the likenesses of dancers wearing rich attire, though their faces appear gaunt and skeletal.

On the third floor the party encounters a suit of black plate armor that magically animates as they approach it.  The animated armor attacks them, and a battle ensues. The adventurers are ultimately victorious, and Kinsey collects the scattered pieces of armor in the hopes of crafting a set of full plate later.

Further exploration of the third floor reveals more rooms in similar states of disrepair.  Ormir glances out a bedroom window and notices two barefoot children playing in the middle of the cobblestone street below, even though it is well after midnight.  He recognizes them as the children from the painting downstairs. As soon as he makes the connection they turn and look up at him.  A moment later a wall of thick fog engulfs them. When it clears they are gone. A shiver runs up Ormir’s spine. Unbeknownst to him, his doom has just been sealed.

While this is occurring, Carric is across the room rifling through an ornate jewelry box that sits atop a vanity.  He finds several pieces of expensive jewelry and pockets them.  Aramaris notices what he's doing and confronts him about it.  There are a few tense moments that are alleviated with a joke from Thaelyn, and the party moves on.

The adventurers continue to explore the third floor.  Aramaris discovers a secret door behind a hinged mirror in what seems to be the nanny’s bedroom.  On the other side of the mirror is a wooden staircase leading up. The adventurers climb the creaking stairs and emerge into an attic, where they find dozens of old pieces of furniture beneath white sheets. Under one of these sheets they discover a large chest, inside of which are the skeletal remains of a woman.  Old bloodstains discolor her dress, and a quick inspection reveals that she died from multiple stab wounds.  

Sensing treasure, Carric picks up her remains and shakes them out onto the floor.  His compatriots try to stop him, but it is already too late. With a gibbering howl the enraged spirit of the dead woman manifests before them, and attacks with grasping, ethereal claws. During the chaos Ormir hurls a magical firebolt into the mix, and Carric accidentally steps in front of its path. The wad of burning goo hits the warlock in the head and lights his hair on fire, sending him stumbling headfirst into the wall.  He connects solidly with a support beam and knocks himself unconscious. The rest of the party defeats the wraith in short order and Caerius reluctantly heals Carric, bringing him back to consciousness.  They decide to remain in that room for a few hours in order to recover from the fight, and set about barricading the door.

After resting for nearly four hours, the party disassembles the barricade and sets off to explore the rest of the attic. They find a locked door nearby, and Carric opens it with the iron key he found downstairs. Before them is a small room containing a bricked-up window flanked by two dusty, wood-framed beds sized for children.  Closer to the door is a toy chest with windmills painted on its sides and a dollhouse that’s a perfect replica of the dreary edifice in which they stand.  These furnishings are draped in cobwebs.  Lying in the middle of the floor are two small skeletons wearing tattered but familiar clothing. They are clearly the children from the painting, the same ones Ormir saw standing in the street.

Aramaris and Ormir decide to say some words over the remains, in order to put the spirits to rest.  As they complete the rites they are surprised the see ghostly effigies of the two children manifest before them.  In hollow voices the spirits introduce themselves as Rosavalda and Thornboldt Durst, and reveal that they were killed by their parents.  They also warn the party of a monster in the basement, one that they have never seen themselves.  When asked about the basement they point at the dollhouse, and then fade away.  The adventurers take a closer look at the dollhouse, and soon discover a secret door located in the attic room where they encountered the wraith.

The party heads to that room and locates the secret door with little difficulty. The hidden panel swings open on oiled hinges, revealing a narrow stone staircase that spirals down into darkness.  With weapons drawn and lanterns out, the party descends single file into the inky blackness.

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Session #1

The story begins in the town of Shadowdale, in the year 1490 D.R.  It is nearing the end of Autumn, in the month of Marpenoth.  The chill of Winter approaches, and the fields are barren save for a few malformed pumpkins and solitary scarecrows.

In the middle of town sits the Old Skull Inn, a two-story, beam-and-plaster edifice.  On this chilly evening it is the only building in Shadowdale showing any signs of life.  Warm light emanates from its small windows, and wood smoke billows from its brick chimney.  

The front doors of the inn swing open, and a drunken man stumbles out, staggering around the corner to relieve himself.  Laughter and boisterous conversation pours from the open doorway.  Inside, the tavern is full to capacity.  Two barmaids and the stout innkeeper hustle about as they try to keep the food and drink flowing.  The tavern room is packed with the usuals, farmers and tradesmen mostly.  But on this particular evening there is another group of patrons that stands out— a motley band of adventurers gathered around a long, rectangular table.

Sitting at one end of the table, nearest the warmth of the fire, is a dashing, finely dressed bard.  The man leans back in his chair, balancing with casual ease and strumming idly on an expensive looking lute.  Every now and then he pauses his playing to write something down in a small book.

Next to him sits a grizzled warrior with broad, hunched shoulders and a face like a burnt chunk of wood.  The man grunts as he saws methodically at a giant steak with a knife and fork.  The sinewy muscles in his arms and neck flex impressively with every movement.

Next to the fighting man sits an impossibly handsome half-elf dressed in plain, unremarkable clothes.  His angular features and distant gaze give him an almost alien beauty, one that is both mesmerizing and off-putting.  He seems distracted by his own thoughts.

Across from the half-elf sits an armed and armored Cleric of Mystra.  A shield bearing the Goddess of Magic’s iconic symbol, the eight-pointed star, is slung across his back, and a mace hangs from his belt.  An aura of calm assurance seems to emanate from him.

Next to the cleric is another half-elf, this one straddling a chair that’s turned around backwards.  A toothpick dangles from his mouth and he grins devilishly as he pokes fun at his table-mates.  The faint smell of brimstone surrounds him.

And finally, across the table from the bard sits a red-skinned, white-haired tiefling, dressed in the simple garb of an ascetic. She watches her companions intently, her body completely still.  If not for the occasional blink of her yellow, pupil-less eyes, she would appear as a horned statue carved from red stone.

*

Over the course of the evening the tavern slowly empties out.  Only the party of adventurers and a few drunken farmers remain.  Outside, the wind quiets down and is replaced by thick, cloying fog.  

Later that night the front doors swing open and a peculiar figure steps in.  He is a man, tall and thin, dressed in an assortment of colorful garments and jangling bells.  Without hesitation he strides over to the adventurers’ table and stands before them, his hands on his hips.

Speaking with a thick accent the strange man declares that his master, Kolyan Indirovich, the Burgomaster of Barovia, seeks their aid.  He hands the tiefling, Aramaris, a rolled up letter, sealed with wax.  He then gives them questionable directions to Barovia, bows, and departs the tavern as quickly as he came.  The fog seems to leave with him.

Being deep in their cups by that point, the group decides that aiding the suspicious man is a good idea.  They agree to depart for Barovia the next day, and a long night of celebration begins.

The following morning the party leaves Shadowdale, setting out west along the Northride.  After five hours of travel, they notice a piece of brightly colored cloth tied to a tree on the side of the road.  They approach this marker and soon spot a trail heading off north from the main road, into the primeval forest.

The party follows the trail for many hours.  Over time, a thick fog begins to creep in around them.  Soon they are encompassed by this fog, and cannot see more than thirty feet in any direction.  Eventually the dense forest parts before them, revealing a towering stone wall with a rusted iron gate.  Two headless statues flank the gate on either side.  

The gate opens as they approach, seemingly on its own.  With a bit of reluctance the party passes through.  The bard, Thaelyn, is the last to walk between the headless guardian statues.  As soon as he crosses the threshold, the gate begins to close.

They travel for another hour, at which point the cleric, Caerius, smells something odd in the air.  It is the stench of rotting meat.  Intrigued, the party leaves the relative safety of the trail and follows the scent into the forest.  It doesn’t take long for them to locate the source— a decomposing corpse.

A quick investigation reveals that the man was killed by wolves, but not just any wolves.  The half-elf sorcerer, Ormir, has seen these types of wounds before.  The man was killed by dire wolves.  Further searching reveals a letter clenched in the man’s rotting hand.  The letter is similar to the one they received at the Old Skull Inn, though it tells a different story, and is written in different handwriting.  Like the other letter, it too is signed “Kolyan Indirovich, Burgomaster of Barovia”.

The sound of distant howling rouses the party from their thoughts, and they quickly make their way back to the trail.  They continue on and eventually emerge from the forest onto a fog-shrouded bog. The trail widens into a proper road, and after a mile or so the mud beneath their boots is replaced by slick cobblestones.  The shapes of buildings begin to emerge from the mist ahead, and soon they find themselves on the outskirts what appears to be a deserted town.

Night is approaching fast, and the party decides to take shelter in one of the abandoned houses.  They approach a three-story mansion on the corner of two empty streets, and knock on the front door.  There is no answer, so Caerius tries the latch and finds it unlocked.  Inside is a dusty foyer.  As soon as the fighter, Kinsey, steps into the room he is set upon by a swarm of squeaking, red-eyed rats.  The small beasts seem to be driven by some fiendish power, clawing and biting at the adventurers with reckless abandon.  The fight is over quickly, however, and the party lays waste to the vermin with sword and spell.

After sweeping the burnt and blasted rat bodies out the front door, the party decides to fortify the foyer and make camp there.  The half-elf warlock, Carric, suggests that perhaps they explore the rest of the house first.  He thinks there might be something of value to be found in the other rooms.

The promise of treasure seems to tantalize the rest of his companions, and after a brief discussion they agree to explore the house first.  They gather their gear and walk towards the oak double doors that lead deeper into the mansion.

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