The Curse of Strahd – Recaps episodes 42-47

Kyver has snuck his way into the back areas of the coffin makers shop. Making his way upstairs, he finds crates labeled “Junk”. Investigating further, he finds that these crates are the vampire spawn that the proprietor mentioned earlier. He decides against being reckless and retreats back down to the party, where Cereius uses his Eyes of the Grave to confirm this information. The party starts discussing a plan to take them out, possibly using the daylight outside to their advantage. Cereius comes up with the ingenious solution to use the Silence spell to mute the sound in the room to give them the ability to fight one at a time. This works incredibly well and the fight is over almost as quickly as it starts. The party does a quick search after the fight and finds the bones they were looking for. Moving quickly, they return the bones to the church in town and head toward the Arasek Stockyard. It’s here that they meet Rictavio, the Half-Elf gentleman from the inn. The party purchases a hefty amount of both mundane and magical items. Including a Hole Thrower, a Misspell Book, Belts of Returning, and Fairy Dragon Coffee. Satisfied, the party part ways with the eccentric gentleman and heads back to the Blue Water Inn. Within the Inn, the party discusses their objectives for the final confrontation with Strahd. They need to find the skull of Argyn, find the crypt of Kasimir’s sister, and find Strahd’s coffin to kill him. They discuss the realities of Strahd most likely knowing that the party is there to kill him. They waffle back and forth on whether or not to go after the Mad Mage. Attros has had it with the ineffective decision-making of the party and demands that they decide what to do. He slams his coin on the table and makes his way out of the tavern. Cereius picks up the coin and makes the call to the Journeyman. He receives a response from JM letting him know that she will be there very soon. Outside, Attros sees the tavern appear, alerts the party, and quickly makes his way into the Medusa’s Cascade. With the party not far behind Attros, JM greets the party and apologizes for her tardiness. They show her the Sun Sword and explain that they’re going to jump straight into the end game with Strahd. Galahad asks, “Do you have any other wisdom to bestow upon us?” To which the Journeyman replies, “try not to die and assume that there are traps.” The Journeyman allows them some time to finish preparing for, hopefully, their final meeting with Strahd. Galahad and Zechs make their way down to the training room. Arguile, Cereius, and Kyver ask for food and drink. We’ahqa makes their way over to the Journeyman’s office and asks if there is anything else they can learn about Strahd. They want to be prepared as much as possible before they head into the fight. They bring up the Constable and JM explains that this is the reason why they were late returning to the party. She doesn’t want to expand on it because she fears that the party will lose focus on Strahd if they know what is going on. We’ahqa doesn’t want to know right now but just wanted to be sure that there was some new information on their mutual enemy. Meanwhile down in the training room, Galahad begins testing out his new belt of returning. He strikes up a discussion with Zechs about if he thinks the party is ready for this upcoming confrontation with Strahd. The Paladin speaks about his doubts about not just facing a powerful Vampire but also a living castle. Zechs is slightly more confident, especially with the group’s knack for fighting against the undead. They both agree that everyone needs to work together and use their individual skills in tandem. They speak of fate and the coincidences of not just their connected pasts, but the entire groups. Galahad continues to focus on the Sun Sword as Zechs makes his way back up to the group to find Shanks. Frustrated by the lack of communication from his newly acquired weapon, the Paladin begins to destroy training dummy after training dummy. The sword’s sunlight blade set them on fire. Upstairs, Zechs finds Shanks in the workshop tinkering with an incendiary device involving his Alchemist’s Fire. He asks if Shanks can make more vial arrows for the Holy Water and Oil he’s procured. Shanks explains that Attros was the one who was making the arrows and had informed him that he will not be making any more weapons. We’ahqa finds and pulls aside Attros and Shanks for a private conversation. They won’t want the two to take them out if they’re charmed by Strahd into fighting against the party. They cite the initial encounter with Strahd as the reasoning for this. Both of them refuse, except for the Water Genasi being fully turned by the Vampire. As the three of them separate, leaving the archer in the workshop by himself. “Everyone seems to be out for themselves now,” he says to an empty room. The Druid makes his way down to the training room to find the Goliath drenched in sweat from destroying every dummy he could find. The Druid Wild Shapes into a panther and attacks Galahad. They trade a few blows but eventually, the Paladin is able to grapple We’ahqa. Dropping their wild shape, Galahad lets We’ahqa go. They tell the Paladin that the aggression was only to make sure that Galahad was ready for the fight ahead of them. In no uncertain terms, Galahad tells the Druid that he is ready and that the fight could come to him for all he cares. He confides that the sword has spoken to him but won’t give him any information. We’ahqa helps him to make contact with the spirit within it. “What would you like to know,” the sword asks. “One, who are you? And can you guide me through Ravenloft?” the Paladin queries. “My name is Sergei von Zarovich,” the sword replies. This takes Galahad by complete surprise. He continues his questions, finding that the soul of Strahd’s brother inhabits the Sun Sword and he has been seeking to destroy Strahd from the very beginning. Galahad relays that they have the same goals but need to know where his coffin is. Sergei doesn’t know where it is, otherwise, he would have been destroyed already. Galahad explains the situation with Kasimir and the Revenant. Sergei’s goals remain the same and ask to be woken when they arrive at Ravenloft. Galahad relays what he is told to We’ahqa and eventually to the rest of the party. Eventually, the tavern reaches the edge of Ravenloft and the Journeyman gathers them back down in the bar. She asks if there is anything else she can do to help. They ask her to reach out to Kiril, the werewolf leader. She sends out the message and gets a response almost immediately. JM informs the party that Kiril wasn’t able to confirm it but he believes Strahd’s coffin is in the Brazier Room. The party asks about Kasimir and she runs to get him. Asking about how to get into the crypts, he informs them that he doesn’t know how to get into them but knows the location of his sister. With that, the Journeyman wishes them luck and the party exits the tavern to Castle Ravenloft. [42] Thick, cold fog swirls in this courtyard. Sporadic flashes of lightning lance the weeping clouds overhead as thunder shakes the ground. Through the drizzle, they see torch flames fluttering on each side of the keep’s open main doors. Warm light spills out of the entrance, flooding the courtyard. High above the entrance is a round window with shards of broken glass lodged in its iron frame. To properly check the area out, Attros creates a platform with his Rod of Mercurial form. He beckons Shanks and Zechs to join him, and when they step on it he casts Levitate on the platform. Zechs uses his Primeval Awareness to assess the situation and gets a massive amount of Undead presence in and around the castle itself. Using the platform, Attros ferries everyone up to the walkway on the walls surrounding the fortress. Slowly but surely, the party makes its way to the center tower that rises above the rest. Kyver moves in first to scout, and as he steps into the spiral staircase, a reddish light flares in front of him and then settles into a dull, pulsing red glow. The spiral staircase circles up the tower’s full height. The tower, sixty feet wide at its base, becomes narrower as it climbs. At the pinnacle of the hollow tower, a large crystal heart pulsates with red light. Above the heart, the stairs continue upward. Looking back, he sees Shanks at the door, keeping an extra eye out. Attros makes his way in, not long after, to help assess the situation. As the rest of the party filters in, Attros and Kyver make their way down the staircase. Galahad tries to connect to Sergei to figure out what he’s looking at. The party feels an immense sadness overcome them. Galahad sees flashes of Strahd creating and connecting with this object. He comes to see that it’s Strahd himself, by sheer will, that keeps the crystalline heart hovering in this tower. He relays this to the rest of the party. Shanks quickly goes after the two going down the stairs and explains the situation. Attros theorizes that Strahd has used the heart to enchant the castle and become one with it. That the castle is a living thing. The Artificer reaches out and casts Identify on the Heart and Arguile steps up and tries to communicate with it. “We are not here to hurt you,” he declares. An overwhelming sadness washes over him. At this point, Attros finishes his spell and he finds that the magic of the “Heart of Sorrow” is old and derived from the same magics that keep Strahd in Barovia. Kasimir is asked about it and he confirms Attros’s suspicions. Shanks reaches out again to the Heart, “We’re here to help you.” He begins to see a scene unfold in the tower from the heart’s point of view. A man, clad in armor, and wielding a crystal sword stands at the entrance. Strahd makes his way up the staircase toward him. Flashes of a battle and the man falling to Strahd. He relays this to the group, and they figure out that the man was Sergei and Galahad is holding the hilt of the crystal sword. The Paladin presents the sword to the heart and tells it that they’re there to end its sorrow. It replies with an image of a platinum holy symbol in the shape of a sun and the sense that it’s close by. He relays this to the rest of the party and Kyver volunteers to head up above the heart. The stairs end at a dark and dreary room with manacles attached to the walls. In the middle of the room is a wood-framed bed fitted with leather restraints. At the foot of the bed rests a closed iron chest, its lid sculpted with an emblem. A wooden ladder leads up to a trapdoor in the ceiling. Thin streams of water drip through the trapdoor’s rotting wood, forming a puddle around the base of the ladder. He immediately heads to the chest to inspect it and finds no traps. He deftly picks the lock and finds a bejeweled gold crown and the holy symbol Galahad detailed. Kyver heads back down to the party with the crown on his head and the Symbol of Ravenkind. Attros casts identify and finds that this will be a valuable weapon in their battle against Strahd. The Paladin brings the Holy Symbol to Cereius and gives it to him. The party begins to make their descent down the tower’s staircase into Castle Ravenloft. They decide to continue down past the ground floor toward the crypts. Eventually, they find their way into a large and disturbing room. Dark stains cover the floor of this area. Large oak tables, scarred and beaten, lay scattered like toys about the room, their wood crushed and splintered. Replacing them are furnishings made entirely of human bones. The walls and the twenty-foot-high vaulted ceiling are a sickly yellow color, not because of faded or timeworn plaster but because they are adorned with bones and skulls arranged in a morbidly decorative fashion, giving the room a cathedral-like quality. Four enormous mounds of bones occupy the corners of this ossuary, and garlands of skulls extend from these mounds to a chandelier of bones that hangs from the ceiling above a long table constructed of bones in the center of the room. Ten chairs made of bones and festooned with decorative skulls surround the table, resting atop which is an ornate, bowl-shaped vessel made of yet more bones. The doors to the north and south are sheathed in bone, but the steel-banded double doors in the center of the east wall are not. Above these eastern doors is mounted the skull of a dragon. Sitting at the far end of the table is the bemused figure of Strahd. Attros and Kyver walk in and take a seat. A large chunk of the party sits either just inside the doorway or just outside the room. He admits that he was going to try to catch them in Vallaki and was perplexed at how they arrived here. Attros and Kyver engage in conversation with their foe, trading barbs and backhanded compliments with the Vampire. Strahd begins to spill little bits of information. Revealing his knowledge about and the twisting of the Abbot. It’s at this point that he acknowledges the rest of the party, one by one. The conversation continues from there, Attros takes a swig from his flask at one point, without swallowing. Galahad inquires about Ireena and Strahd says that he will send for her. The talking turns to their true intentions. Strahd calls their bluff about being there to help with his wedding. Even with being found out, Attros continues pushing the conversation forward, seemingly stalling for an opportunity. Through taunts and jabs at the party, they wait for the right moment. Galahad hears, in the back of his head, a continual urging him to kill Strahd. The group readies themselves for a strike as Attros lights a match and stands. He spits the oil into the flame of the match as a signal to attack. The rest of the party unleashes an onslaught of violence against the Vampire Lord. Unfortunately, it’s an illusion. “Well, well, well. The truth finally comes out,” Strahd muses. “Best of luck, gang” he taunts as the illusion disappears. Galahad takes the dragon skull from the wall and tosses it to Glad, putting it into the bag of holding. Footsteps sound outside the door. Everyone tenses for another attack, as the door, opens. Ireena pushes through the doorway, greeting them and asking them to follow her. She wears a flowing white and red gown and has a much paler complexion than the last time the party saw her. The bite marks are no longer fresh but scarred over. [43] The party greets their former charge, but they’re very weary of her presence. They apologize to her for giving her up to Strahd. She smiles at this and tells them that it was meant to be. She expresses her happiness and gratitude to the party. Of course, none of them believe what they’re hearing. They question her more and more, and yet she gives them the same answers. They are meant to be together and the party was the group that facilitated both of their happiness. She offers to bring the party to Strahd, but they question why she would do that. If he knows why they’re here, then he must have no fear of them. Ireena confirms that he doesn’t, they’re not the first group of adventurers that Strahd has faced. There is a bit more talk about manipulation, but nothing that reaches a satisfying conclusion. Instead Shanks, tired of talking in circles, aims his bow at Ireena. She replies in kind, beginning to cast a spell. However, Galahad intercedes and Attros follows this up by walking to Ireena and asking her to lead the way to Strahd. There is a bit of back-and-forth between the party until Attros just walks out of the room with Ireena following behind. Shanks is incredibly wary of Attros. Ireena leads the group back up through the tower they entered. Continuing on, she walks along the battlements to its edge, steps over it, and begins walking down the vertical wall. The party follows down using either rope or control water for an elevator. Eventually, she leads them to a large, open balcony with a silhouetted figure staring off into the distance between two horse-sized dragon-like creatures. This whole situation resembles the final Tarot card. Galahad notices, though, a blue-skinned figure coming out from the shadows. It’s Kaleb, their companion from when they first entered Barovia. Galahad questions if Kaleb is now with Strahd, to which he replies, “you all left me.” This catches Cereius off guard. He asks Kyver who this person is and he explains what happened. At this point, Strahd turns to face the party. He confronts Galahad about his brother’s sword. The Paladin comments on how it didn’t seem like Strahd cared for it one way or the other. There is a bit more back-and-forth until the topic of Tatiana is brought up. He begins to poke at Shanks, Attros, and Cereius concerning their lost loves. Taunting the rest of them about the decisions they’ve made since they arrived. It’s at this moment, Strahd manifests a set of plate armor and a longsword. They seem both ceremonial and battle-worn at the same time. Zechs lets two arrows fly toward the Vampire, tired of the talking. Shanks and Attros both stop the arrows from striking their target though. Attros with a Shield spell and Shanks with intercepting arrows from his bow. Zechs isn’t overly pleased about the whole development. Shanks turns to Attros and says, “You said if they wanted us dead, we’d be dead. Nothing’s different now, right?” Attros replies, “exactly,” and vanishes from sight. Strahd looks at the rest of them and taunts them again, “I thought we were here to fight?!” Zechs lets another arrow three arrows fly, with two hitting their mark. Immediately arrows, spells, and swords begin to fly. The party begins to split their focus, some going for the wyrmlings, others going straight for Kaleb, Strahd, and a now armor-clad Ireena. Kaleb is the first to fall with several arrows to the chest and head. Movement around the battlefield continues with Strahd walking on and phasing into the walls. An explosion rocks the field as he drops a Fireball spell on part of the group. Soon after, some of the Wyrmlings begin to fall but the battle is still an even match thus far. The party begins to focus a bit more on Ireena, doing their best to take some more powerful pieces off the board. Strahd freely moves around the party along the top of the ramparts, surveying the battle as it evolves. Unsatisfied with how things are going, he uses the spell Polymorph to change Shanks into a badger. The battle rages on with spells and arrows flashing across the castle grounds. Strahd reaches out and charms Galahad. Slowly, but surely the party is beginning to wear down the vampire’s minions. However, Ireena unleashes a Blight spell on Kyver that deals a large amount of damage. Strahd follows this up with another Fireball. Fortunately, Shanks is attacked as a badger and subsequently has his form reverted back to an Elf. Cereius, taking the opportunity presented, pulls out the Symbol of Ravenkind and uses its Hold Vampire power. However, Strahd can withstand the effect and he moves toward the cleric. [44] Strahd cleaves into Cereius with his sword and the cleric goes unconscious. Shanks rushes to Cereius, giving him a healing potion, disengages, and takes several shots at one of the remaining wyrmlings. It falls lifeless to the courtyard floor. Strangely, Zechs’s shadow detaches from him and becomes an entity itself. Ireena fires off a Guiding Bolt and sends her Spiritual Weapon toward Shanks and he goes down. Strahd looks down at the revived Cereius and charms him into putting the Symbol away. He then sinks into the stone and disappears. The cleric gets up and casts Healing Word on Shanks to revive his fallen comrade. Galahad takes the opportunity to take out Ireena. Brandishing the Sun Sword, he races toward her and hits with two strikes, dealing an immense amount of damage. She still stands but is looking incredibly hurt. All along, Attros has moved around the battlefield unseen. Unbeknownst to the rest of the party, he’s been hiding a last-resort weapon in case things look too dire. He readies himself, watching his compatriots fight for their lives. Shanks fires his bow at Ireena, who is currently distracted by Galahad, scoring the killing blow. Her body falls to the ground, unmoving. Zechs takes a two-prong attack as his shadow reaches out, sapping the life from him and barely makes it out of the brunt of fire being spit at him by the wyrmling. Unfortunately, this knocks the ranger unconscious. Strahd reappears on the battlefield, in the fray alongside Cereius and Shanks. Seeing Ireena downed, throws him into a rage as he reaches out to cast Inflict Wounds on the Elven Archer, scoring a critical hit. It almost kills him, however, the extra boost from Attros saves him. Shanks lies unconscious on the ground. Attros drops his invisibility and heals his fallen comrade. Cereius makes his way to Zechs and revives him as well. Galahad rushes toward Strahd and swings the Sun Sword, however, the Vampire Lord uses an arcane shield to divert the blows from hitting their mark. He parries and lands another critical strike, but this time on the Paladin. Attros reveals his last resort, an altered bag of holding. With this in one hand and a regular bag of holding in the other, he rushes toward Strahd and tackles him to the ground. Screaming, “Quothe the raven, NEVERMORE,” Attros jams one bag into the other and a vortex begins to appear. Attros and Strahd are immediately sucked into it and the others fight to keep their footing. The vortex continues to grow as the party begins to flee the castle. Galahad makes a run toward Ireena’s body. With this they make a hasty escape, all the while the vortex continues to grow in size. Parts of the castle begin to break away and fly into the black hole. Racing toward the ropes up the walls and climbing with all their might, they make it up to the top of the battlements. With a couple of lucky bounces, they manage to make it across the walls to the entrance of the castle. The vortex continues to grow, pulling more and more of the castle into it. Leaping off of the front of the castle ramparts, they narrowly escape the pull. Hitting the ground they hear a rush of air around them. They look back to see nothing but a crater in the ground. Taking stock, they see that We’ahqa, Attros, and Kasimir are missing. Distraught, Shanks pulls out his coin to contact the Journeyman and lets her know that the job is done. Looking out at the valley below, the party can see that the fog is lifting. Cereius reaches out to the Moonweaver, searching and hoping that Attros and We’ahqa are still alive. Feeling a sense of warmth and comfort overtake him, he mutters, “I hope you’ve finally found some peace, my friend.” Kyver walks to Cereius and consoles him. Galahad speaks to the Sun Sword, feeling the presence of Sergei leave it. Behind them, the tavern appears and the party makes their way in after leaving a few momentos on the battlefield. One of which is the stone that Attros gave Arguile. Shanks immediately heads to JM and has a quick conversation with her before heading up to his room. Glad, does the same, but skips the conversation. Arguile, Cereius, Galahad, Kyver, and Zechs are all that remain in the tavern. They all begin to drink, and some fairly heavily. Cereius focuses the first few moments on healing himself. At this point, JM can be seen taking a head count. She questions why there are only seven of them instead of nine. The party describes the events that took place. She takes a moment to process this information. She lets the party know that their missing party members are probably in the vast expanse of the Astral Sea. She also touches on the fact that Strahd may not escape the sea as well. They have released him from his prison. This is when a bit of in-fighting starts. Zechs is drinking hard at this point. Kyver begins to confront the group about how they work together. He brings up Kaleb, which Galahad laughs at. The discussion heats up, with Kyver listing off the incoming threats to the party. He speaks about how he fucked up, and the people that he felt truly cared about are gone now. He’s resigned to his fate and the possibility that Orcus is truly after him. They tell him that he isn’t the only one upset with how everything just happened. They need to face what they can with those who are still alive. The party starts to make potential plans on how they will work as a team moving forward. Pointing out combat tactics and other options for non-confrontational operations. Zechs then pushes the conversation to where they will be once they leave the valley of Barovia. The Journeyman informs them that they’ll be in Granzia, which Kyver and Arguile don’t recognize. It’s explained that it’s the plane where Zechs, Galahad, and Cereius are from in one form or another. Zechs brings up his trip to the Feywild and his memories coming back. This brings the conversation to contacting Antonius and Agro when they arrive back in Granzia. Galahad agrees and at this point, the party splits up within the tavern. Zechs heads down to the training room. Galahad, Arguile, and Cereius head up to their rooms. Kyver approaches JM and asks to reach out to his friend Poncho and a Drow woman named Alma. She reacts to the name Alma and when he pushes further she tells him that she will tell him everything he needs to know when he’s in a less fragile state. Kyver agrees that it’s probably a good idea and makes his way upstairs to his room. As the party rests, Cereius receives a vision from the Moonweaver. He sees flashes of different images: a crow drinking from a chalice sitting upon a cloud. A man sitting on a throne of vines and roots, two wolves made of underbrush sit by his side as he holds a pentacle. A Gnomish smith’s shop with a Gnome man working steel. A deer-like woman sitting upon a pedestal of petrified wood. And finally a mountain view of a forest with a Dwarvish woman looking upon it. He awakens and furiously writes the things that he saw in his journal. All the while pondering the meaning of what he just saw. He realizes that the first two images he saw were actually Tarot cards. It reminds him of his time in Ravenwood and a woman that lived there named Ethel. The first card is the Ace of Cups, which symbolizes taking an opportunity. The second card he recognizes is the King of Pentacles, symbolizing the need for investment. The third image reminds him of a story Ethel once told him about a Gnome blacksmith in the village of Nindlelough. The final two images are foreign to him. [45] Shanks POV: After the Strahd battle, Shanks is in a terrible headspace. He asks the Journeyman for the key that was given to him after the Constable ordeal. She points to one of his pouches and tells him that he’s had the key all along. Feeling the key in said pouch, he quickly makes his way up to his room and begins the process of using the key. Twisting it three times, he makes his way into Dona’s room in the tavern. He enters a dimly lit room, however, Dona isn’t present. Instead, he finds a man sitting in the meditation area. He approaches quietly, but halfway across the room, the man speaks. In Elvish, he says, “Mister Minknasi, right on time.” Shanks freezes, not knowing this man that sits across the room from him. Keying in, he notices the man is in a suit, leather gloves, a slight point to his ears, (perhaps half-elf), and the end of a cane sitting next to him. He introduces himself as Mr. Bell. The archer questions his presence and is told that he’s there to help him overcome his paranoia. To see the world as it truly is, and not as he fears it is. Shanks is slightly unnerved by this interaction and takes a moment to pull himself together. He tells the stranger that he’s appreciative of the gesture, but as he seems to know, he’s wary of anyone offering their help without knowing what they want in return. “I want to help you stop your planes from colliding,” Mr. Bell replies evenly. Shanks is taken aback. Mr. Bell is a bit perplexed that he doesn’t already know this information. He goes on to explain that the Constable has created “machines” to draw the planes that Shanks’s party is from together and destroy them. The archer questions his motives. Mr. Bell states simply that he wants to save lives, three prime material planes worth. Shanks asks why him? The man replies that he plays an essential role in the events to come. The archer reluctantly agrees to “play along”, noting his want to protect and help his party members. The man turns to him, still sitting, and asks him to help him up. Shanks doesn’t move to help and Mr. Bell painfully pushes himself up into a standing position. He continues the conversation, asking if Shanks has ever really looked at his skills and his position within his group from an outside perspective. He begins to list off Shanks’s abilities and attributes, and questions why he hasn’t combined them. The archer boils it down to trust. Trust in others and in himself. They discuss his worldview, what makes him nervous, and why he does what he does. Mr. Bell explains that he needs to learn to read people and read their vibes. Words aren’t the only thing important in a conversation. Does their body language match the things they’re saying? He poses the question, “how can you read the signals that are being broadcast to you if you aren’t open to receiving them?” Shanks rebuts that opening up leaves him vulnerable to all sorts of ways to be manipulated, punished, and hurt. Mr. Bell sighs at the response and looks toward his cane. Noticing this, Shanks looks down at his cane as well, seeing a medusa’s head on top of it. He asks if Mr. Bell is friends with the Journeyman. Mr. Bell answers very vaguely and Shanks balks at the whole situation. He doesn’t like the feeling of being a pawn in someone else’s game but being told that he’s in control. He explains his meaning with a metaphor involving Dragon Chess. “Everyone is a piece in the game,” Mr. Bell replies. This leads to an in-depth conversation about choice. Regardless of circumstances, everyone always has a choice in their actions. Unconvinced, Shanks pushes the conversation toward the machines. “What I really want to know is this, these machines out there: you’re saying that I have a role to play in destroying them?” Shanks asks. “You and like fifteen other people do,” Mr. Bell replies. Shanks questions how Mr. Bell can see so many moves ahead and make his decisions. The Half-Elf responds with, “I mostly just guess. Time is fluid. Shit happens. It’s really all about cause and effect.” “You always have a choice. That cause is like a turning point, a chance to think decisively about the choice you’re going to make,” Mr. Bell explains. Shanks asks how he can know that 15-16 people are going to play a critical role in stopping the catastrophe that’s coming, how does he know that’s the right thing to do? “It’s the best thing I could come up with,” is the answer he receives. The conversation concludes with Mr. Bell telling Shanks that as much as we think we have control, we really don’t. Everyone is doing their best with what they have. Trust will help him be happier, live longer, and achieve the things he wants. But it shouldn’t be a blind trust, but one that he can sense changes. This is what he wishes to teach the archer. Shanks decides that he wants to learn and asks what is next. Mr. Bell beckons him to follow him downstairs. Meanwhile, the party wakes refreshed for the most part. As Cereius is putting his gear on to head down to breakfast, he notices that his ring has altered. The Puppet Master’s Ring has gotten slightly bigger and now has more runes embedded in it. Arguile rolls from his bed and in front of him stands a small pale child. It appears to be holding something in its hand. The Tiefling asks if the child wants him to take what is in its hand, and they nod, getting no further explanation. Reaching out, he takes the object and sees that it is the stone that he left outside of the crater where Castle Ravenloft once stood. Looking back up, he sees that the child is gone and he is alone in his room once again. Shaking his head in frustration, he begins to dress. While he puts his sword belt on, he sees that there are new runes that have appeared on his rapier. Arguile then makes his way down to the tavern area for breakfast. Kyver heads straight for the Journeyman’s office to continue their conversation from the night before. There is a bit of small talk before they get into the meat of the discussion. The Journeyman reveals that Kyver’s parents are alive and they have been since the beginning. She goes on to explain that Alma, the Drow woman that Kyver still has feelings, used magic to manipulate the situation. She altered his memory, perhaps more than once. This confuses Kyver at first, but it eventually turns into hope. His parents are still alive, and he can see them again. He thanks her and heads back out to the party. At this point, everyone has either made their way down or up to the tavern. Through happy tears, he explains everything from his conversation with JM to the rest of the party. Zechs asks about the woman who took Kyver from his parents. He recognizes immediately that it’s Alma. It seems that Alma was the woman is the one who brought him to be sacrificed. Somehow, their pasts are connected. Kyver describes Nymora to Zechs to try and jog his memory. While he doesn’t remember much, Zechs speaks about a deer-like woman that he met when he was young. This immediately sparks Cereius’s curiosity, as this woman Zechs is talking about is the same woman from his vision the night before. Apparently, her name is Amina and she is from a place called the Heartwood. Cereius speaks up and adds his vision into the mix. However, they notice that Galahad is outside waiting to go into Argynvostholt. They decide to finish the conversation later and head out of the tavern to the front of the dilapidated mansion. The party makes a break for the mansion, as there is a large undead presence heading their way. Zechs and Arguile send their companions out for recon and while they run through the mansion they receive word of a large skull careening their way. This pushes the party to move faster. Racing through the halls and stairways they eventually make their way up to the top floor. Remembering their conversation with the Dusk Elf on their first visit, they find the pedestal on the roof where the skull must be placed. “As promised, Argyn, I’ve retrieved your skull. May you and your warriors find peace and leave this land,” Galahad declares. They’re successful in breaking the curse that has caused the revenant to come after them, however, now they must race back to the tavern. Unfortunately, due to their haste, they lose time heading back down to ground level. Tripping and falling over one another. Zechs receives another mental image from Duo and he sees a hag within the skull. Baba Lysaga has come to seek revenge. The party now engages the hag. Unfortunately for Baba Lysaga, the five adventurers are more than she can handle as the battle ends rather quickly. Her lifeless body and flying skull fall to the ground. After looting her corpse, the party makes their way back into the tavern past a very confused Welby. Inside, JM identifies their loot: Elven Chainmail, Displacer Cloak, and the Necklace of Adaptation. Zechs takes the Elven Chain, Kyver takes the necklace, and Arguile takes the cloak. The Journeyman sits them down and explains the situation regarding the Constable. She explains about the machines and what they’re meant to do. She thinks that this has been happening for a long time, potentially centuries. She gives them a rough timetable, possibly six months before the point of no return. She tasks them with searching for the machines and stopping them somehow. She will be working on it from her end but needs boots on the ground. She goes on to say that there are potential soft spots on each plane now. That is how she thinks Galahad’s tribe got to Granzia. She explains that his tribe is originally from the same plane as Zechs and Kyver, and yet they’re also on Granzia as well. Arguile asks if the machines are indicative of soft spots, and though she isn’t sure, it could be a good place to start. With all of this said, she directs them to the door and tells them that they’re in Barovia proper. Galahad leads the way, carrying Ireena’s prepared body. They make their way to the Bergermeister’s manor and deliver her to Ismark. He thanks them for their help and for bringing her back home. The party then makes their way out of Barovia, hoping that what Orcus told Kyver was a lie. They’re all able to leave, though Zechs decides to not take any chances and casts Nondetection on Kyver to hide him from his pursuer. On horseback, they make their way to the village that started everything. Galahad acquires his promised plate mail. The armor is well-crafted, with dragon motifs and the symbol of Bahamut emblazoned on its chest. [46] Leaving the small village outside of Barovia, the group decides to head to Belrondis. Zechs hopes there are higher-up members from the Shuffle Guild in the city. They decide on having some fun while they travel, a horse race. The loser will clean the horses at the end of the day. There are several lead changes but the winner, in the end, is Galahad and Ignacio. They make camp by a small lake, Zechs forages, and Galahad fishes with his javelins. After dinner, the party begins to settle in and figure out the watches for that evening. Meanwhile, Shanks follows Mr. Bell out of Dona’s room and down into the tavern. It is the Medusa’s Cascade but there are slight differences. Behind the bar is a burly Dwarven man who waves to Mr. Bell and the archer. Venturing further, they go out of what Shanks expects to be the entrance. However, it opens into a stark white room, revealing a desk and a well-dressed plum-colored Tiefling. She greets them with a nod, and as they get to the front door she calls out, “don’t be too hard on him!” The door opens into a familiar place from Shanks’s memory. They’re in the prime material plane of Exandria. Specifically in Zedash’s Pentamarket. This brings back a wave of memories to Shanks. Bell leads him into the market. He begins to question Shanks on his paranoia. Asking who in this crowd could potentially be an assassin? Shanks posits that everyone could potentially be there to kill him. He cites the use of illusion magic against him and just the way he was brought up, as reasons he’s suspicious of everyone. Mr. Bell brings up that the body and mind tend to remember more bad experiences. “Think of all the times you’ve been in a crowd and no one has tried to kill you,” Bell suggests. Shanks has a revelation, “it’s like positive and negative reinforcement. If you’re trying to avoid pain then you will treat everything like potential pain, before it has a chance to reveal itself.” Bell confirms this and explains that he needs to stop avoiding his pain and embrace it. Patting his injured leg, he cites it as an important lesson that he doesn’t want to forget. Shanks instinctively looks down at the bracelet he had received from Rig. Bell continues to speak as they walk into the market, touching on finding alternative routes to the same goal and using body language to read people. Bell begins to point to different people around the market. A gnome toymaker, a firbolg messenger, parents, and their children, a fish monger, and others. “The truth isn’t in what they say, it’s in how they hold themselves. Only the most gifted liar can control this. Sometimes the best read is still wrong.” Shanks begins to read their body language with the help of Mr. Bell. Slowly but surely, he begins to get the hang of reading the vibes around him. Bell continues to reiterate “cause and effect”. Shanks agrees but asks the question, “so how does this help me defeat the Constable?” Back at the camp, the party starts their watches. Galahad starts the night off on the first watch. He marvels at the night sky, having not seen a clear night sky for the first time in fifty years. Eventually, Kyver and Cereius take the second watch. The two of them begin to converse, Kyver asking Cereius if he’s able to warm up water. Cereius says that he can and warms up Kyver’s waterskin. The conversation turns to the night sky, the moon, and Cereius’s strange visions. It seems the Moonweaver is contacting him more. Kyver tries to prank Arguile but is caught. He then sneaks over to Galahad and pours it on his crotch. The goliath doesn’t move. Arguile gets up and joins them on their watch, Kyver ends up pawning the rest of the watch off on the Tiefling. Zechs takes over for the last watch. His watch is fairly uneventful and the party wakes feeling rested and refreshed. Galahad, though, wakes up to a wet spot on his crotch. It eventually gets out that Kyver was the one who put it there and Galahad promises that he will get him back. After breakfast, the party begins on the next day’s journey. It is uneventful, which is a great change from the last several weeks. They rest for the night and wake up the following day, only a half days journey from their destination. They decide on having another race. Meanwhile, in the Pentamarket, Shanks and Mr. Bell speak of trust within his party. “You harp a lot on trust and knowing as much as you can about a situation, which is always good. Don’t you think it may have been difficult to trust you, not knowing what was going on with you,” Bell asks? Shanks asks how it benefits him to be open with a group he doesn’t truly know? Bell answers his question with his own, “I thought you cared for these people, what did it take to get you there?” Shanks tells him that he had to get to know them, and it took a while. Ultimately, it chalks up to him feeling that the others weren’t putting in the same effort he was. “I’ll put it to you this way,” Shanks explains. “My bar, for lack of a better word, for opening up and getting to know people is at a higher state, you have to understand that my commitment and care for people also is at that same level. Whereas others may be lower as well, which means if I open up and commit to somebody in terms of being there for them, protecting them, caring about them, or whatever the case is. It is a full-hearted thing, I don’t half-ass it. I don’t give part of myself, I give all. That is not my shared experience with most people.” Bell takes a moment to take in what Shanks is saying. Looking him dead in the eye, Bell says “What your father did to you was wrong and no one ever told that it was. I’m telling you now. What he did to you was tantamount to child abuse. What happens to you in your childhood defines who you become later in life, unless you have a life-altering event that changes your perspective. You form those pathways in your head at an early age.” Shanks tells Bell that his father did the best he could with what he had, he was a man of war. He doesn’t fault him for what he did, he saw it as necessary. Bell talks about how those actions still affect him. Pointing out his archery, that the reason he is as good as he is, is because it made his father proud and he wanted that positive attention. He agrees that Shanks’s father loved him and did the best with what he had and knew, but it doesn’t make what he did right. And it doesn’t mean that he has to stay that way. “I’ve found that when you give what you give, it shouldn’t be for reciprocation. It should be because that is what you give,” he explains. “Being honest with myself and others, opening up to them has helped me much more than running from what I feared would hurt me.” Shanks reluctantly agrees. Confiding some deeper thoughts to Bell about his father. His disdain for his sensitivity, and why he buried his feelings. He asks where they go from here. Bell tells him that it’s all about practice. He urges him to get back to the group and asks him how comfortable he is with going to Granz City. He wants to give him a headstart and explains that he needs to find access to the underground tunnel system in the city. It will be important to find it, and it will be dangerous. Shanks is wanted for several murders in the area. He is being called “The Pincushion Maker”. He further reveals that the party will be making their way to Granz City and they’ve been in Granzia for the last several days. The pair make their way back into the tavern. Back in Granzia, the party dashes through the last step of their journey to Belrondis. Cereius manages to win the second race. Making it to the city walls, they wait in line to get in. Zechs lets the guards know that they’re to see the Shuffle Guild and they eventually get into the city. Heading toward where the guild is stationed, they find a bounty board in the city center. It has a myriad of posters on it, but featured prominently is a wanted poster of Shanks. Wanted for a massive amount of money for a dozen murders throughout Granzia. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, since the crimes have taken place in the last 6 weeks. Shanks has been with them for a large chunk of that, so it couldn’t be him. The other disturbing thing that they come to realize is that instead of having been gone for three weeks, they’ve been gone for six months. Galahad posits that it could be Rig. This gives them all the more reason to head straight to the guild. While they travel, they mull over the craziness of the whole situation. Finding the guild hall, the party makes their way in. They’re greeted by an Arakocra named Qho. She is a colorful bird of paradise, with an almost translucent swarm of butterflies around her. “Zechs! Is that you?!” she exclaims.

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