So Much Story, So Little Time

This campaign is expansive in scope. With approximately 130 actual play episodes, starting from the beginning can be a chore. If that is what you would like to do, we won’t hold that against you. But, if you’re looking to jump right into the action without dedicating a massive amount of time, Field Reports has you covered. Get the finer points of the story and start listening to the actual play at full speed. 

Want to know more specifics? Each episode covers a different point in the campaign and below you can reference what episodes are covered in each.

Listen to episodes Read Transcripts

Field Report Episodes

Terms of Service

Recap of episodes 0-7

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The Rig Situation

Recaps episodes 30-35

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Big Trouble in Granz City

Recaps episodes 54-59

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Welcome to Invenas

Recaps episodes 81-87

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The Glasmeda Isles

Recaps episodes 110-117

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Try, Try Again

Recap of episodes 8-15

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On The Edge

Recaps episodes 36-41

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New Faces

Recaps episodes 60-65

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Under the Web

Recaps episodes 88-94

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The Constable

Recaps episodes 16-21

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The Curse of Strahd

Recaps episodes 42-47

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Searching for Answers

Recaps episodes 66-71

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Fall of the Web/Making it in Mechfall

Recaps episodes 95-102

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The Task at Hand

Recaps episodes 22-29

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Separation Anxiety

Recaps episode 48-53

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Not What They Seem

Recaps episodes 72-80

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Return on Investment

Recaps episodes 103-109

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Field Report Transcripts

The story begins with seven strangers: Arguile, a Tiefling Rogue searching for his mother, and a member of the Masterful Gains Guild. Galadlòriel, a Wood-elf Cleric of the Arcana Domain searching for her parents and a follower of the Protector. Kaleb, a Water Genasi Blood Hunter with a mysterious past, and dark pastimes. Kyver Sabertooth, a Tabaxi Rogue with a hatred for Humans and a member of the Royal Vagabonds. Shanks McNasty, an Eladrin/Wild-elf Fighter trying to start over and a former member of the Hell Riders. We’ahqa, a Water Genasi Circle of the Shepherd Druid, and a hermit looking to fulfill his father’s final wish. And Zechs Kushrenada, a Tabaxi Ranger trying to recover his childhood memories, and a member of the Shuffle Guild. These seven receive a mysterious card with a Medusa’s head symbol on one side and a number on the other, each on their separate paths and spread across several planes of existence. As each reads the card, they are instantaneously transported to an open field with a small building in the middle. 


Unsure of where they are and who they are with, the strangers cautiously make their way toward the building. As they approach, they all notice a circular wooden sign hanging outside the structure with the same Medusa’s head imprinted on the card they each received. They enter what appears to be a tavern that is bigger on the inside. A half-orc, who introduces themself as Ciruk, greets them from behind the bar (Shanks is seated in a corner as the rest of the group enters). As they all cautiously take seats within the tavern, a lanky human ma, (think Matt Smith as The Doctor), bursts into the room and reveals that he is the one that sent them each their cards. His name is the Journeyman and he is a contractor of sorts. The job he’s offering requires a combination of talents he feels this particular group has. After many questions about payment, his powers, and his intentions; he informs them that the card number is the sum they will be paid if they complete their mission. The mission: to take the path through the forest to the village on the other side, just outside the cursed valley of Barovia. The forest is supposedly infested with zombies and other undead creatures. They agree and enter the forest. After an arduous battle with a small enclave of zombies, they vanquished their foes and rested for the evening.


The party awakes in the forest to find that their companion Shanks has disappeared but they continue down the wooded path toward the village on the other side. There is some teasing from Kyver and Arguile towards Galadlòriel (Glad) for her love of nature and trees, (this is a running joke for quite a bit). Walking into town they notice a peculiar sight: the tavern that they embarked on the day before had somehow traveled to the other side of the forest. The majority of the party heads to the tavern while Glad and Kaleb make their way to the temple in the center of town. It is here that they meet the Goliath Paladin Galahad, a follower of the Platinum Dragon, who is knee-deep in old tomes and scrolls. After a short conversation about his research on his oath, the Oath of Conquest, Glad invites Galahad to join them at the tavern. After the three finish their meditation, prayer, and research they make their way over to the tavern. They walk in to find that another stranger has joined the group, the Kenku Artificer Attros, a dark and mysterious figure with a strange symbol on his cloak who only speaks aloud in Edgar Allan Poe quotes.


A long conversation goes on between the group and the Journeyman where he tries to assuage everyone’s doubts. He tells them that they don’t need to worry, not only does he have the money promised to everyone, but they’ve passed their first test and their next mission will be walking through the door any second. During this conversation, a messenger from the village of Barovia bursts in requesting the party’s presence at the behest of the Burgomeister. The party is a bit taken aback. The Journeyman explains that he needs them to help him take care of the plague in the valley of Barovia. In return, he will help the party with each of their quests. Most are a bit incredulous at this offer, as they have not told anyone, not even the other members of their new party, what they’re looking to accomplish. The Journeyman tells them that he knows what each of them is seeking out and begins to very vaguely list each person’s future goals. He reiterates that if the party is successful in helping him free the valley of Barovia, he will help them with their crusades.


The party accepts the mission and sets off to the apothecary and blacksmith for supplies required for their travels, Zechs makes a custom order on a bow that has blades attached to it and Galahad makes a deal that if they come back alive and save Barovia the smith will give him a free suit of plate armor. The group then makes their way into the mist of the forest and is ambushed by another horde of zombies. After the battle and fighting, both with the zombies and each other, they successfully defeat their foes. The party continues through the mist until they happen upon a Vistani camp in the middle forest. There is a rocky start to their stay there, but the tension soon lessens and they are invited into the larger tent in the camp to speak with the matriarch Madame Eva. There they are given a tarot card reading in which the path to success was laid out for them. 


Zechs is the last party member to leave the tent, asking Madame Eva if she can do a reading for him. He explains that he does not have any recollection of his past up until his 16th birthday. She tells him: “You have a dark and shadowed past. Dark and winding like the path you’re currently traveling. To find what you are looking for, you must conquer the foe within yourself.” While the rest of the party either heads to sleep or makes friends with the travelers, Kyver decides to try and rob the camp. He is successful to a point until his cloak catches on a stray nail, and he faceplants, scattering the objects of his plunder all over the ground and waking up the entire camp. A fight almost breaks out between Vistani and the party until Attros comes to the rescue with a set of manacles and a high persuasion to let the party leave with their lives. So instead of a long rest, they must continue through the mist-choked forest. 


Wandering through the fog and mist after just escaping with their lives from the Vistani camp, they reach eroded gates marking the beginning of the realm of Barovia. Through the fog, they hear a resounding “YURRR!!”. Upon a cautious approach, they find that Shanks is there to meet them and rejoin the party. In the slight bit of confusion surrounding their ally’s return, Kyver slips his bonds only to have Zechs manacle himself to Kyver. The party continues traveling through the woods spotting a dancing light in the mist that is identified as a Will-o-wisp. Despite protest from Kyver, they follow the light to a derelict tower with a single chest inside it. The party fans out and places itself in tactical positions inside and at the entrance of the tower. Arguile makes his way in to pick the lock and with very little trouble he is successful. Galahad follows behind and with his long sword, he opens the chest. The ground underneath the party shakes and zombies burst from under their feet. 


A battle ensues with the party beginning to show signs of working together. Galahad smites the undead, We’aqha wild shapes into a pather, and the Tabaxi fight side by side while still chained together. Arguile deftly makes his way through the fight picking off wounded enemies, while Shanks and Attros sit at the entrance taking potshots with their bow and Eldritch Cannon. Kaleb sticks to the back, out of harm’s way, while Glad prowls through the horde dropping enemies as she goes.  After a hard-fought battle with several one-shot kills by Glad, they finally make their way out of the forest and into a clearing. As they enter the clearing that holds the village of Barovia, the cry of a blood hawk is heard in the distance. It swoops down to Zechs and it is a gift from his mentor Argo. The offspring of Argo’s trusty hunting companion, Zechs introduces the party to his companion Duo. While making this introduction, Shanks slips back into the forest with the party only noticing a bit later.


The party makes their way into Barovia and finds the local tavern, an inn called “Blood of the Vine”. There they meet the Burgomeister’s son, who not only pays for their room and board but sets up a meeting with his father for the following day. The party then slowly disperses throughout the evening to their rooms while talking about their backgrounds and reasons for adventuring. Kyver passes out drunk on his table and Attros decides that it would be a solid idea to chain him to the table and take the key with him. As the evening comes to a close Galahad has a dream in which his deity Bahamut, the platinum dragon, speaks to him and warns that violence should only be used as a last resort. 


As the party arises from their night’s rest, they split into more minor factions. Argile and Zechs stay behind to pick on Kyver as he makes several attempts to escape the chains given to him by Attros. Galahad, Attros, Glad, and We’ahqa leave almost immediately after breakfast to search the town for supplies while waiting for their midday meeting with the Bugermister at his family’s estate. Before leaving, Kyver, who is still chained to the table, asks Galahad to help him out of his chains. Galahad responds by destroying the table without relieving Kyver of his bonds. With Zechs and Arguile chuckling about the state of Kyver, the other four make their way out of the tavern towards a mercantile. 


The four meet the proprietor of the establishment: Bildrath. His selection is few and prices are outrageous. The quadra questions him on his prices and they find that he is the only game in town. Since no new items can be brought into the realm of Barovia, trade has stagnated, and since demand is only up when people like them wander in he must capitalize when the chance appears. The four balk at this and tell him he can fuck off. They leave the store as Zechs and Arguile make their way toward it. The groups exchange pleasantries and the two are informed that the prices are crazy high and the guy running the shop is kind of a dick. They acknowledge this and make their way inside. Galahad, Attros, Glad, and We’ahqa make their way into the barely populated village to see about talking to any of the locals for more about what’s happening here. Meanwhile back in the mercantile, Zechs runs interference for Arguile who manages to steal a health potion from the unsuspecting shop owner.


Attros splits off from the group while the other three go to investigate the sound of weeping in a nearby house. He investigates an abandoned building and soon finds himself in a battle for his life with several swarms of rats. Galahad, Glad, and We’ahqa find the source of the weeping on the second floor of a barely lived-in house. It is a mother weeping over an old stuffed bear. She tells them that her daughter had been taken by Strahd and she is scared that she will never see her again. The three ask her who Strahd is and she looks at them as if they were crazy. She refuses to talk about Strahd, as she fears it will call him back to her residence. It’s at this moment that the three hear a loud thunderclap from nearby and rush toward the sound. The scene they come upon is that of Attros lying unconscious on the floor with swarms of rats starting to gnaw at him. The three quickly jump into action and save their fallen comrade. 


Meanwhile, Kyver finally escapes his bonds and makes his way across town to a slightly rundown house. Most of the village is seemingly abandoned save for the house at the end of the avenue.  Standing outside it are a boy and a girl who caution him of the monster in the basement. From outside, Kyver can hear the sound of a baby crying. Not a huge fan of humans in general, Kyver tries to physically move them aside but is unsuccessful in doing so. Regardless, he makes his way into the house’s double doors where he finds wide halls the width of the house. On one end, a black marble fireplace and a red staircase on the other. Mounted on the wood-paneled wall over the fireplace are a sword and several ornamental suits of iron black plate armor. This is a place that was once wealthy and there may be valuables to be found. Kyver searches the house, taking the sword into the main hallway. Then he cartoonishly looks for more things to ransack only to find himself flat on his butt with a curtain on top of him. Making his way to the second floor he finds a library/study there he steals what he perceives as the most expensive book there.


The rest of the team meets up at the house that Attros almost died in. The sound of thunder rolls through the small village and the group sees the Medusa Cascade appear before them. They witness a quick exchange between the Journeyman and Shanks before Shanks is thrust forward with the door closing behind him. Shanks looks around and realizes that Kyver is missing. Shanks looks to Zechs and asks, “Where’s ya, boy?” Zechs replies, “We may look alike but he’s not my people.” Arguile quips, “Can he even survive without us?”


Using We’ahqa’s locate objects spell on Kyvers gold they manage to find him at the rundown house. The two kids inform them of the monster in their basement and the baby on the top floor. The group asks the children if they have seen Kyver. The children inform them that someone fitting that description did go into the house after almost kicking the brother of the two. Arguile makes a quip about Kyver not having good aim. “He missed? Yup, that’s Kyver.” The group, led by Galahad, decides to help the children. They make their way into the house. Baby first then deal with the monster in the basement and hopefully find Kyver along the way.


Zacks asks Galahad if he could take the lead because of his collapsable pole. Lots of 10-foot pole jokes ensue. Making their way to the second floor they find Kyler in the library study. After reprimanding him from leaving the group he asks Glad about the book he found in hopes that he retrieved something valuable. She told him in a passive-aggressive sarcastic way, “Why would I tell you even if I knew.” The baby’s cries continue to pierce through the air. Glad and Shanks encourage the group to continue following the sound of the baby crying. They follow the sound of crying to the third-floor staircase. Once upstairs they are met with an animated suit of armor which they battle with. 


After defeating the armor the group explores the rest of the floor gaining loot and finding a secret stairwell leading up to an attic. In the attic, they find a door. The team broke the door only to find out later that Kyver had the key the whole time. Once the door is broken down, the sound of crying stops. There, inside the room are the remains of two small children. After investigating Zechs finds a replica of the house they are currently in the size of a dollhouse. They realize that the skeletons on the floor have the same clothing as the children they had seen and spoken to outside. The ghosts of the children appear and inform them of a passageway leading to the basement. The party makes its way to the basement to confront the monster however Zechs and Arguile are possessed by the two children. Zechs manages to escape possession but the little boy possessing Arguile needs convincing.


The group decides to rid the house of the monster in the basement to help the children rest their souls. However, the boy child possesses Arguile’s body. Arguile is shaking and moving strangely. Galahad tries to convince the boy child to release Arguile. “I know you’re scared but we need our friend to defeat this monster.” Arguiles’ convulsing body shuffles to the doll house where he picks up the boy doll. The ghost of the girl child goes over to Arguile and places her hand on him to console him. She informs the group that their names are Thorn and Rose. 


Shanks convinces Thorn to release Argyle, “Hey Rose, would it be possible if Thorn can release our friend so we can go fight the monster, and then we’ll bring him right back when we’re done with the monster? And then we can play?” A small spectral orb comes out of Arguile’s chest and Thorn appears in front of Argyle. Thorn hides behind Rose timidly. Rose asks to come with them. Zechs agree as long as they don’t possess them. Arguile snarls at Thorn who shakes a little. He then convinces Kyver to join them using Atros’ newly found gold as bait for him to follow them into the basement. “Hey Floof, get up here. The bird has three gold rings. I know you want them.” Kyver replies, “What’s with your face you look like you’ve seen a ghost.” “The stupid kid possessed me”, Arguile laments. “You want me to kick’em?” Kyver asks. Rose gives Kyver a death glare, scaring Kyver. Making his fur stand up.


While heading downstairs they hear disembodied voices and chanting. Glad starts to cast Calm Emotions to help ease the children’s minds as well as her own. From the edges of the room that they enter into, a dining area, a serpent-like monster known as a Grick appears but the party makes quick work of it. The party continues forward, out of the dining area, Kyver and Zechs argue about which room they should go in. Zechs is concerned about the dangers that might be at work in the house. Kyver teases him saying let’s just go into the Kumbaya room then and hope for the best. Zechs comments on how Kyker just has a way of getting under everyone’s skin. Attros, tired of the bickering, flips the bird at them both. Arguile, however, encourages them to continue following the chanting. Not long after this, they encounter ghouls in the cramped corridors leading out from the dining area.
 
While the party begins to make progress and downs most of the ghouls, We’ahqa breaks away from the group to scout ahead and is attacked by a mimic disguised as a door. Zechs follows We’ahqa and can help keep him conscious until the rest of the party can defeat the ghouls. With the ghouls defeated and We’ahqa saved from the mimic, the party takes a short rest to regroup. Continuing inside the house the team split s up. Following the west side of the hall, they find a room. There is a broken bed and a footlocker. Galahad attempts to open the footlocker but he and half of the party are attacked by ghasts.


A ghast slashes Galahad, piercing his armor straight to his skin but because of his Stone’s Endurance, the attack had no effect. A glow emits from his chest and the wound heals instantly. Another ghoul takes a swing at Glad but she swiftly moves out of its way. She notices a cold spot on the wall but focuses her attention on the ghasts. Meanwhile, Kyver goes through the entryway guarded by the mimic and finds a statue holding a crystal ball. Attros follows behind Kyver to keep an eye on the situation, not wanting to leave the rest of the party being attacked by ghasts. 


Back on the other side of the hallway, Arguile bursts into the room with the ghasts to help Galahad and Glad. The ghasts are unphased and attack both Arguile and Glad. Blackened claws rip into both of them. Zechs sees Attros running down the hall he follows him. In the statue room, Kyver observes the statue. Keeps a 5-foot distance away. Shanks sees a claw come at Arguile and uses his archery expertise to trick shot and kill the creature. We’ahqa watches in amazement and yells out, “Ricochet! Take your aim! Fire away, fire away!” The arrow bounces from the floor and ricochets between Galahad’s legs. Almost hitting his crotch. Unfortunately, he is a bit too late and Arguile is struck by the creature, becoming paralyzed. Gald summons her Spiritual Weapon; a scepter with a blue gem and attacks one of her enemies.


Arguile is still paralyzed. Galahad thinks about moving Arguile out of the way but makes an attack at the same enemy Glad hits. Galahad and the creature exchange swings and misses, but with the creatures distracted We’ahqa drags Arguile out of the room to safety.  It doesn’t come without consequence as a ghast scratches him upon his exit. In typical We’aqha fashion, they compliment the creature on its attack. In the statue room, Attros uses Ray of Frost on the skeletons on the wall just to be sure that they won’t animate and the three of them walk to the statue.


Kyver picks up the orb and five Shadows appear from the walls. Three of the creatures attack Kyver and he quickly goes unconscious. Zechs advances quickly and sinks his blade into one of the shadows. On the opposite side of the hall, Shanks continues to attack the ghasts from a bit of a distance, trying to keep the creatures off of his companions. He is not as successful as he would like and Galahad takes a vicious attack and falls unconscious. Zechs is successful and kills a shadow, placing Hunter’s Mark on another, and attempts to throw acid at one but misses.


With a continual onslaught of arrows from Shanks, Gald uses her amulet to enhance her spiritual weapon and continue the attack on the undead creatures. In the statue room, the Shadows move closer to Zechs, Kyver, and Attros. As they advance, Zechs picks another off with his bow. Attros uses the spell Thunderclap to push back and destroy two others advancing from behind. The two remaining shadow creatures attack Zechs and Astros both missing. We’aqha races into the room to find Kyver unconscious and attack one creature with Primal Savagery, killing it. They then use Healing Word to heal Kyver and bring him back from the brink of death. With a final blow from Zechs, the final Shadows is destroyed.


After a few shots, Shank destroys one of the ghasts while Glad uses Magic Missile to dispose of the other one. Arguile’s paralysis ends and Galahad is healed. The team looks through the locker finding various valuables. Meanwhile, with Attros, We’ahqa, and Zechs the orb rolls across the floor toward We’aqha as the dust settles. We’ uses a cloth to pick up the orb and gives it to Kyver. Kyver splits off from the group, a bit embarrassed. While the rest of the party rests together, We’ahqa goes to Kyver. They have a short conversation about what just happened and We’ahqa tells Kyver not to worry because he cares and wants to help him. Just then, the chanting begins to pick up and they both realize that they know where it is coming from. Further down into the basement.


After their rest, the group heads down further into the basement toward the chanting. “He is ancient! He is the land!” echo through the staircase and the chamber below. They enter what looks to be a room of relics and alcoves all over the walls. Glad turns to Kyver, “Don’t touch anything!” Attros flares a Ray of Frost in his hand to ensure that he doesn’t. Zechs decides to move in and observe the relics, in case they might have some relevance but he can tell they’re useless. Shanks and We’Aqua snoop around and find jail cells and a secret door within one. Galahad uses his Divine Sense to see if there’s anything behind the door, though he can’t sense anything concrete. He does get a feeling there’s something behind the door. Just before they open the secret door, Galahad sees something shiny. Being paranoid the group checks carefully. It turns out to be a gold ring on a corpse, so Shanks grabs it. 


“You grave robber!” Arguile jokes. Shanks ignores him and uses a lever within the wall, opening the door and revealing a 40ft room with a small moat built in. Rusty chains hang from the ceiling, and a stone altar, stained with blood, is on a dais towards the back of the room. As they walk in, the chanting abruptly stops. Zechs takes out his pole, makes a dick joke, and uses it to measure how deep the water is. They figure it’s about 5ft. 


Glad jumps into the water and makes her way to the dais, with the party in tow. When she reaches the dais 13 hooded cloak figures appear and start to chant, “One must die!” Confused, the party looks around the room and sees a mechanism on the wall nearby. Several run over and try to figure out if it will help or create more problems for them. We’Aqua jumps in after them and he notices that it might open the gate next to it. He continues to look around the room and finds a pile of weeds and refuse in one of the corners. 


Glad: “Hey guys, why don’t we just leave?” 
Kyver: “the door is open..” 
“One must die! One must die!” The chanting continues. 
“Who must die? Who must die?” We’Aqua mimics in response. 


The team tries to figure out what the figures truly want and possibly find a loophole. Since they’re not planning on sacrificing a member of the party, they brainstorm. Maybe they can use one of the bodies they already killed. Shanks starts to go back for the skeleton they passed by but as he starts to leave Glad gets off the dais. As she does so, the chanting switches to, “Lorghoth the Decayer, we awaken thee!” A Shambling Mound awakens. “This tree we can kill,” Glad says.


The party begins its battle against a mass of rotting plant matter and human remains. They quickly find out that the Shambling Mound is resistant to non-magical attacks. The casters of the group begin to sling spells at the creature with urgency. An onslaught of spells and arrows fly across the ritual chamber, resulting in some serious damage to the mound. A part of the way through the fight, the now-falling-apart mound lets out a discordant roar and summons a second one. The party begins to battle as Magic Missiles fly and Divine Smites flash within the chamber. Eventually, the creatures are destroyed, with Kyver firing the kill shot on both.  The chanting stops and the figures disappear.


They investigate the area to see if there is anything else to deal with but come up with nothing, they then make their way upstairs and speak to the kids. “Did you kill the monster?” Rose asks with Thorn cowering behind her. Zechs speaks up, “Oddly enough the asshole over here killed both of them.” He points to Kyver, “So he might not be as bad as we thought.” They look to Kyver in amazement and think, ‘He did something useful?’ “Could you do one more thing for us?” Rose asks, “Could you put our bodies to rest? They’re up in the attic. We want to go to sleep.”


The party agrees and Zechs and Galahad retrieve the bodies from the attic. The kids then show them their crypt. They thank them and smile as the disappear. Though they’re happy they helped the kids, the party is ready to get the fuck out of the murder house. They try to leave but poison gas begins to surround them. Glad, Zechs and Galahad start to cough and take damage. They try to break through the windows but they’re bricked up. Attros figures out that the gas is coming out of the fireplace and tries to freeze it with Ray of Frost. It slows it down but isn’t successful in stopping it completely. They must go down to go back up and make their way through a trap door to avoid the swinging scythes in the doorways.


They race through the basement back to the secret staircase up to the attic. Trapped in the hallway by more swinging blades, Zechs dives through the doorway to the children’s room in the hopes that the replica dollhouse will have some clues to get out. Unfortunately, he finds that the only way out is through the front door and smashes it in frustration. Out in the hallway, the rest of the party tries to investigate the orb again hoping to find something but it’s just an orb. Then they investigate the doors and realize there’s a pattern to the blades. If they run at the right time they might be able to go through. 


Attros runs through the blades but doesn’t time it right, he is unconscious but alive. We’Aqua speaks up and reminds the team of the chant “Once must die”. We’ahqa sneaks back toward the basement to sacrifice themself to save their friends, and Kyver notices and follows. Zechs and Galahad see Kyver leave and follow too.  They convince We’ahqa to stop and they return to the group. Galahad uses his size and strength to run through the walls to get to Attros and is attacked by rats. He stomps and crushes the rats around him as he pours the potion of health, given to him by Glad, into Attros’ mouth. 


Glad suggests grabbing a rat to sacrifice it. Kyver listens and grabs once and starts to get attacked by them. Having successfully grabbed one, he rushes downstairs to the altar but the sacrifice doesn’t seem to have any effect. We’Aqua takes their scimitar and stabs their belly, trying to sacrifice themself again. Zechs and Kyver try to stop them. There is a tense back and forth where the blade switches possession a few times until Zech takes the blade and holds We’ahqa down using his claws forcibly then uses cure wounds. We’ahqa doesn’t understand why they won’t let them do this to save the party. They inform We’ahqa about the brittle walls and that potentially being the quickest way out, without anyone dying. They break through several walls and continue to fight and kill swarms of rats until they successfully break through the outer walls.


They are met by the Journeyman outside. He claps and grins smugly. “Excellent job you guys,” he looks clean-shaven and dressed well. “Well, that was fun to watch.” We’Aqua looks as if they just figured something out. “Wait a minute, is your name the Journeyman because you travel a lot!” “There could be something to that,” JM replies. “Dude, that is a very specific name, good thing your parents named you that! Anything else would have been terrible.” “I know right?” Jm chuckles as he places his hand on We’Aqua’s shoulder and says, “Friend.” “Friend back, man! Friend back!” We’aqha exclaims from Galahad’s back.


Back at the tavern, JM lets them know they’ve missed their meeting with the Burgomeister, but he can help with that situation. Without really getting into details, JM lets the party know that he has some ability when it comes to bending time and space. He then gives all of the party members two-inch wooden tokens with the tavern’s insignia on one side and strange circular writing on the other. These coins are a direct way to connect with him and the tavern. If they’re in trouble, they can use a token to contact him. However, they’re one-time use and will become mundane wooden tokens after use. JM tells them to rest and ready themselves for the task ahead.


Shanks asks to talk to The Journeyman in private. We’Aqua turns himself into a flea to listen in on their conversation. This conversation reveals that Shanks was picked up earlier than the rest of the party. He was brought in to lead the group because of his prior military experience. Shanks explains that the party is full of wild cards that do stupid shit at stupid times. The Journeyman counters that this is the reason that he was asked to come in and lead the party because, after all, he is capable of doing more than shooting things in the junk. Shanks shakes his head in frustration and makes his way to the door. JM stops him, pulls out an ornate wooden case, and presents it to Shanks. It opens to reveal an intricately carved and shaped Elven Long Bow. The Journeyman explains that this is called Mind’s Eye and once he’s mastered himself the bow will be able to make any shot that he can see within his mind’s eye. Shanks thanks him and absconds to his quarters. 


The following morning, the party is rested and ready to meet the Burgomeister. The Journeyman asks what they think they’ll do once they’re finished with the meeting and the party relays to him the Tarot cards that were meant to lead them on a path of success. At the sound of one, in particular, JM becomes a little jumpy and decides to give a boost to Shanks’s new bow. He then pulls out a wrapped package and gives it to Zechs. It is the bow that he had custom ordered a few days ago, but with some modifications and additions to it. Zechs thanks him profusely and slips him a letter to his mentor Argo. Shanks rallies them together one last time before they head back out of the tavern, making a promise to each other to try and work together as a team.

They leave The Medusa’s Cascade in the early morning going to the Burgomaster’s house at the request of his son Ismark. The manor looks old, creepy, and unkempt. The team is hesitant about going into a house after their last traumatic experience. “Buckle up buttercup!” Glad declares to the team. Zechs gives Glad her bow back, thanking her for lending it to him, and starts to admire his new shortbow. The party makes their way to the tattered manor through the weed-chocked front yard. With a large fist, Galahad knocks on the door. Stabbing his greatsword into the ground next to him, he declares that Shanks do the talking and gives him an intimidating glare. 


Shanks is caught off guard by this. “Okay.. so who sent us?” he asks the rest of the party. “The burger guy…” Glad replies thoroughly creeped out by the appearance of the manor. “The Burgomaster’s son, Ismark,” Zechs corrects. “Ok. Well, I’ll let y’all handle all the talk since y’all know more about them.” Shanks declares uncomfortably. “We were all given the same information…” Zechs replies, exasperated by the back and forth. “Well, I know you all don’t want ME to do the talking,” Kyver chuckles. There is a bit of a pause in conversation then, “Alright, I’ll do it,” We’ahqa declares. Arguile immediately chimes in “No. No. Not him.” We’Aqua looks disappointed. 


As the party bickers amongst themselves about who will do the talking; a young, fair-skinned woman opens the door. It’s the Burgomaster’s daughter: a beautiful woman named Ireena. She informs them that the Burgermeister is dead and has been for several weeks now. She tells them that a pale, hauntingly handsome man named Strahd is visiting her in the night but she doesn’t remember anything that happens during these visits. We’Aqua asks for a description and starts to draw him. While We’ahqa works on the sketch, Ireena shows the party the two bite marks on her neck that are in different stages of healing. We’ahqa finishes their depiction of the man that Ireena described and the drawing is incredibly accurate. Ireena is frightened by how much it is. Glad is deeply disturbed and asks if Ireena will come with them to escape Strahd. 


Ismark, as well as the rest of the party, agree that this is the best course of action. He asks the party to take his sister anywhere but to Castle Ravenloft, where Strahd lives. The team is willing to help them but Kyver wants to get paid for helping. Shanks and Arguile also agree that they should be compensated for the task, however, We’ahqa and Glad disagree. Ismark tells the party that he isn’t wealthy but has some influence in town. Arguile asks if Ismark can talk to the local shopkeeper to lower the prices on his merchandise as payment. 


Ireena buts into the conversation and tells both the party and her brother that she has no intention of leaving the village. She argues that she is not a helpless damsel and doesn’t need to be whisked away. After some back and forth, Ireena finally agrees but only on the condition that the party takes her father’s body and lay him to rest across the village in the chapel’s cemetery. The party agrees and Shanks and Galahad lead the makeshift funeral procession to the cemetery. 


While walking to the church Zech sends Duo up into the sky to do some scouting and he spots something strange: a Water Genasi, a Kenku, a Wood-elf, and a Goliath leaving the tavern behind them. Duo flies down to We’Aqua and relays this to them. We’ahqa understands him and tells the group there’s another Genasi, like themself, but doesn’t fully relay the message. This sort of catches the party’s attention, but it doesn’t fully register as they’re more focused on burying the former Burgomaster. Minutes later they arrive at the chapel where they meet the priest, Donavich. His eyes are sunken and he looks like he’s in a bad way. 


He greets the party and thanks them for bringing him the villages fallen leader to be put to rest. He extends his hands and prays over the body and as he does an inhuman scream rings out from under the floorboards. Zechs and Galahad use their respective abilities: Primeval Awareness and Divine Sense to detect an undead presence within the chapel. “FATHER I’M STARVINGGG!” a feral voice cries out from underneath the chapel. Donavich explains that they must not go to the basement, as it is his son. 


Donavich tells them, “A little more than a year ago my son Doru, and several others were lored out of Barovia (the city/town/village) by a wizard in black robes.. by all counts the Wizard is dead and I thought my son was too… he’s not my son anymore..” He struggles with telling the story. Almost as if he is reliving the moment. “I can’t send him into town and I can’t kill him… no, this is a place of God.” Zechs cuts in: “Thankfully, I’m not a fan of religion. I can take care of him for you—”


“You can not kill him on these grounds!” Donavich protests. “I understand. This is a holy place and he’s your son but as you said he’s not your son. All I’m asking is if you want us to put him to rest,” Zechs replies carefully. “If it’s any consolation, I am a man of faith. I follow the teachings of Bahamut and he watches over my blade. I hope that you can trust that we only wish to do what is right.” Glad reminds the group that they still have to lay the Burgomaster to rest. Everyone concedes that they should do that before anything else. 


Realizing that Donavich isn’t willing to part ways with his son the group decides it’s not their problem and it’s time for them to go. We’Aqua tells the Priest that if there’s anything they could do they will. On their way out of the cemetery, Arguile reminds Ismark of his agreement to talk to the shopkeeper. They head back to Bildrath’s shop, most of the party going inside while We’ahqa waits with Duo outside. The party can buy some of the merchandise at what would be the regular price but is still left unsatisfied as the selection is lackluster at best.


All but Shanks, Arguile, and Kyver leave the shop. Shanks tries to sell the ring he found in the Death House, but the shopkeeper offers less than half of its value. The three of them decide to steal from him as payback for being a jerk. Shanks and Arguile run distraction for Kyver to steal some potions of healing. By asking rapid-fire questions about how much their different weapons would be worth, their plan seems to be working. However, Kyver has a different tactic in mind. He casually makes his way up to the counter where the other two are and in one fluid motion, grabs the owner’s head and slams it down through the display case, knocking him unconscious. Kyver steals 5 of his potions but gives one to the guy on his way out. 


Moments later, the party hears from outside the shop “Parriwimple, after them!” The party laughs at the name, but out of the front door comes a rather tall and buff-looking man with an angry expression on his face, followed by Bildrath, covered in blood. Ireena and Ismark are shocked by this and look to the party. Bildrath points to Kyver, exclaiming “It was that one. Don’t let him escape Parriwimple!” The rest of the party takes a step back from Kyver, but he is unphased. He looks over to Ireena and says, “don’t look at me, he slipped and fell.” With a critical success on his deception check, Ireena, Ismark, and Parriwimple believe him. 


The shopkeeper is confused. “I did not slip and fall through my display case.” But there is nothing he can do as Parriwimple pulls him back toward the shop, “Come on Uncle, let’s get you cleaned up.” With that, Ireena hurries the party out of the village. As they leave the area that surrounds the village of Barovia, the party sees old gallows made from a gnarled tree. As they approach it, the party sees what looks like an old corpse of a human swinging at the end of the rope. However, Kyver sees himself at the end of the rope and it makes him feel very unsettled about the next leg of their journey. Using his Primeval Awareness, Zechs detects a massive amount of undead energy emanating from the large castle on the cliff to the northeast that overlooks Barovia proper. He relays this to the party as they make their way into the woods with their new charge.


On their journey through the forest, they come upon a familiar site: a Vistani camp. But the closer they get to the camp, the more they realize that it isn’t just another camp, it’s the SAME camp. They make their way in and ask to meet with the matriarch of the caravan. The very same woman that they met in the fog greets them outside the largest tent. “I knew you would come,” Madame Eva declares. “You are here on a mission, a quest to free this land!” She beckons them into the tent and takes out tarot cards. 


“Ah, the three of swords! Go to the mountains and climb the tower guarded by the Golden Knights. There you will find your 1st treasure.” We’ahqa starts to mouth her next card, almost perfectly. “One of stars,” She continues. “Go to a place with dizzying heights where the stone is alive. There you will find your 2nd treasure.” She pulls out the next card and We’ahqa mimicking her voice says exactly what the card is. “4 of stars look for a home guarded by a great stone dragon. There you will find your final treasure.” Madame Eva is very caught off guard and stares at We’ahqa in disbelief. We’ahqa replies to her stunned expression with, “It’s ok, I’m freaked out a little bit too.”


Realizing that they won’t be receiving any more mystical knowledge from the caravan, the party asks for horses to aid in their quest. Madame Eva tells them the animals they have are for their livelihood and that none can be spared. The party concedes and makes their way out of camp and back into the forest. Galahad reluctantly gives We’ahqa a piggyback ride, warning “If you make one horse sound…” “I won’t!” We’ahqa quickly replies, making clicking noises instead.


Even here, in the mountains, the forest and the fog are inescapable. Ahead, the dirt road splits in two, widening toward the east. The party sees patches of cobblestone, suggesting that the eastern branch was once an important thoroughfare. Parked at the fork in the road, pointed east, is a large black carriage drawn by two black horses. The horses snort puffs of steamy breath into the chill mountain air. The side door of the carriage swings open silently. Ireena is frightened by the scene and the party decides to head away from the carriage. They eventually reach gates guarded by 2 headless statues. The gates open on their own. 


The party takes a rest for the evening. The watches are all very quiet, both in terms of things happening around them and the discussion between those awake and watching. In the remaining moments before dawn, a mist rolls in through the party’s camp revealing a tall, pale, hauntingly handsome man in formal attire standing above Galahad. Zechs and Attros awaken the rest of the party. Before anyone can make a move toward him, Strahd whispers something to Galahad, charming the Paladin into protecting him. The party is frozen in fear as Strahd then glides over to Ireena and gently touches her face. Wanting to protect her, We’ahqa wild shapes into a panther and charges toward Strahd.  


The party tries their best to defend their charge but Strahd seems to have an answer to everything they throw at him, with Galahad trying to stop the party from attacking him. Glad, Kyver, Attros, and We’ahqa all try to stop Strahd but it’s ineffective. The party talks among themselves saying this guy isn’t a joke and that he is toying with them. They’re not sure if they can take him. As they’re having this discussion, Strahd leans in toward Ireena’s neck and bites her. We’ahqa charges Strahd in panther form but transforms back into their regular form and tries to stop him. Strahd thanks the party for looking after his bride. The party is confused by this statement and after much debate, the team decides to leave Irena with him.


The party shakes off the harrowing experience and makes their way toward their destination without their charge. Meanwhile, Kyver hears whispers. They call for him to the windmill in the distance. Kyver manages to convince the rest of the party to check it out. They make their way to the rundown and seemingly abandoned windmill. Immediately upon entry, the party is hit with a foul smell and croaking coming from a chest in the corner of the small ground-floor enclosure. To their right, they see a set of spiral stairs leading up. Glad and We’ahqa make their way up them and are met by a woman with pastries. We’Aqua gives the woman a coin and asks for one. Glad has warning bells going off in her head and convinces them not to eat it. Glad points out the blood on her apron but We’ahqa is too focused on the pastry. 


Downstairs Galahad uses Divine Sense and detects three undead presences. The woman with the pastries tries to convince We’ahqa to eat a pastry. Before he can take one, the party realizes what is happening and they engage in combat with the woman, who turns out to be a Hag. After the party significantly damages her, she cries out, “SISTERS!” Two more Hags appear from the top floor. The party manages to defeat all of them, Shanks firing the kill shot on the original with a trick shot. The remaining two decide this isn’t a fight they can win, so they flee.


Glad, Galahad and We’ahqa make their way up to the top floor to check on what sounded like children that they heard during the battle. They find that they’d been sold by their parents to the hag. They ask to be taken to Ismark and Ireena, with the party being a bit cagey about the whereabouts of Ireena. They search around the windmill for anything of value and find some jewelry, potions, and a strange magic dagger that looks to be made of both steel and bloody bone.


As they leave the windmill, the Journeyman messages Shanks to see how things are going. Shanks replies with the situation at hand and the tavern appears minutes later down the way. Our intrepid adventurers make their way into the tavern and order some drinks for rest. The Journeyman begins to ask Shanks and the rest of the party what was going on. The battle is explained as well as the ordeal with Ireena and Strahd. Upset by this, the Journeyman stops time to have a private conversation with Shanks. Shanks explains their confrontation with Strahd in more detail and about the dagger that was found in the windmill. The dagger is called Bloodlust and Shanks decides to give it to Kyver.


Seeing that Kyver receives this new weapon, the rest of the party decides to ask for new stuff too. The Journeyman asks the party to make a list of things to keep a lookout for. He also suggests talking to the group’s Artificer: Attros. Shanks takes him up on this and Attros crafts a couple of vial arrowheads for acid. Attros also makes a bag of holding before retiring to rest with the rest of this group.


During the long rest, Kyver receives a vision from a dark and malevolent force within Barovia. The entity tells Kyver of the gift of Strahd’s power, the arrogance in its wielding, and their disdain for him and what he has done with their gift. They offer Kyver a deal: depose Strahd, kill the party, and rule over Barovia. Keep the dagger, gather a gift in the Amber Temple, and gain the power that Kyver craves. Kyver accepts.


Following their rest, the party is dropped at the Tsolenka Pass to make their way toward one of their objectives. Moments after the tavern leaves them in the cold and windswept terrain, it appears in front of them, and out walks another Water Genasi named Cereius. They learn that he is a cleric of the Moonweaver and that he received the same deal as the rest of the party. The team continues up the pass in search of the 1st treasure the “three of swords”. Ahead, through the wind and snow, they see a high wall of black stone lined with spikes and topped by statues of demonic vultures with horned heads. A closed iron portcullis is set in the center of the wall, behind which burns a curtain of green flame. On the other side of the dark wall, gripping the mountain’s edge is a guard tower of white stone topped by golden statues of mighty warriors. We’Aqua wants to touch the green flame. Arguile convinces him that he should touch it since he’s “fireproof”. Arguile gets burned badly but not as badly as We’Aqua would’ve been. 


We’ahqa and Cereius use the cold to their advantage and cast Shape Water to create an ice lift. The party manages to get over the gatehouse wall but once they reach the other side they realize that the statues are not what they appear to be. The statues shed their stone outer crust and two Vrocks fly down to attack the party. The party puts up a fight but Arguile goes down. Seeing his comrade go down, Shanks rapidly fires several arrows and kills the one responsible. Gaining ground, the party gangs up on the other one. While the final blows are being dealt to the creature, We’ahqa catches one of Zechs arrows mid-flight in their mouth and stabs the creature with it. Galahad goes down with a strike from the dying Vrock but Kyver uses this as a chance to take it out for good. The two clerics make their rounds to heal those that were hurt during the fight.


Zechs is pissed about what happened in the fight, especially with We’ahqa. Shanks and eventually We’aqha make their way over to smooth things over. We’ahqa offers to make arrows out of ice and give the two archers some disposable ammo to have a shoot-off. This seems to help and once everyone is healed and rested they make their way into the tower. It seems to have been abandoned for years. The party slowly makes its way up to the top of the tower. Ten-foot-tall, gold-plated statues stand atop the battlements, facing outward. Each one depicts a female human knight holding a lance. The cold wind stirs the snow, under which they see human skeletons clad in rusty mail. The swirling snow assumes the forms of thin, young women. The wind howls, “Begone! The treasure is ours!”


The party jumps into a battle with undead specters guarding something that had to do with their first Tarot card: the 3 of Swords. It’s a hard-fought battle, however, this fight is within the cleric’s and paladin’s wheelhouse. With Cereius, Glad, and Galahad leading the charge; the encounter ends rapidly. Upon defeating the guardians, the party finds a dusty old book. It turns out to be a personal journal of Strahd himself. Some of the party then decides that it would be a good idea to melt down the statues of the golden knights that surround the top of the tower. Hilarity ensues. 


Half of the party stays at the top of the tower to work on the statues while the other half makes its way down to the ground. After some time, the group on the tower decides to just topple a statue over the side to get it to the ground and worry about getting the gold off later. We’ahqa volunteers to wild shape into a bear and drag it toward the gateway with Arguile kind of helping push in the back.


While the shenanigans occur, the tavern shows up on the interior side of the gatehouse portcullis. While We’ahqa drags the partially melted statue over to the tavern, the rest of the party enters. After a less than stellar greeting by the party, sans We’ahqa and Arguile, Zechs shows the Journeyman what they found at this location: Strahd’s journal. JM is somewhat impressed but questions the party about where We’ahqa and Arguile are. He’s directed to the window where he sees We’ahqa pulling and Arguile pushing a massive statue.


Tension arises between JM and Kyver as he explains what was going on with the statue. However, the tension doesn’t dissipate as the Journeyman questions the party further. After a fairly lengthy conversation, the issue is resolved and is chalked up to a misreading of the situation. The Journeyman concedes that he wasn’t clear about how he was willing to help and that he will provide a seed for a party fund to help the group focus on the reason that they’re in Barovia. The party then speaks about where the next destination and the next tarot card. The village of Krezk is brought up as the place to head to. 


In preparation for the following day, Shanks and Attros head into the workshop. Shanks takes the different tinctures from the Hag’s hovel and analyzes them. He’s able to refine them into usable and replicable formulas. Attros spends his time refining the vial arrows that he made the last time the party was in the tavern. They then work in tandem to create and fill some of the vial arrows with poison and holy oil. Once those are complete, Attros begins to make a prototype for a harness. This harness is for Duo and is made specifically to mount Attros’ Eldritch Cannon onto Duo’s back. However, the concept winds up being a bit more complex than originally theorized. Within the tavern proper, We’ahqa spends their time with their medicine and herbalism kit to make two potions of healing. They also spend some time copying ritual spells into their hand-made spell book.


While all of this happens, Zechs heads back into the Journeyman’s office with JM to have a conversation. They speak about their two encounters with the same Vistani camp. Zechs brings up the subject of Tabaxi and if JM has seen others like him. The Journeyman confirms that he’s seen others like him. The two go on to speak about Zechs’ memory loss. Waking up in an alley with no memory of who he was and how he’d gotten there. For several years, he was able to get by and eventually met Argo and the Shuffle Guild. The conversation turns back to his memory loss and the ominous message given to him by the Vistani woman Madame Eva. The Journeyman gives him a range of possibilities as to why he may not have access to those memories. He then suggests that Zechs should get to know the rest of his party a bit better and that Glad would be the one to talk to. It ends with talking about time and the Journeyman’s role in the grander scheme of things. As Zechs leaves the office, he reaches out for a handshake. He notices that there is a slight glimmer of golden dust floating off of the Journeyman’s hand as well as his face when he meets his eye.


Galahad, We’ahqa, and Zechs make their way into the workshop and ask for help making new equipment. Shanks makes acid and poison arrows. Galahad asks We’ahqa and Attros if they could help make him a Javelin. We’ahqa uses Shape Water to make one from ice. Attros uses it to make a mold and to forge a real one. As Galahad and We’aqha make their way back out to the tavern area, Shanks shares something with Attros as they finish up. Shanks is a nickname. His actual full name is Shankise Minknasi. A mispronunciation that stuck, a way for him to distance himself from his past in some form.


Kyver and Welby the Halfling bartender sit down and drink together. After a few rounds on the house, Kyver tells him his story. He finds out the reason why Kyver hates humans: a nobleman raided his village, murdered the adults, and took the children, hostage. The nobleman’s son was especially offputting to Kyver. He speaks of his friend Todd, the fighting pits, and his troubles within his captivity. Kyver talks about having to kill his friend to eat. Welby floats the idea that maybe not all humans are as terrible as Kyver thinks. The pair bond over giving their party members crap. Kyver decides he likes Welby but soon passes out from drinking after making a fool of himself in front of the Journeyman.


Stepping over the passed-out Kyver, the Journeyman makes his way over to Arguile and Cereius at the bar and asks what is on their mind. Arguile says he doesn’t enjoy being scolded for doing something he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to do. JM questions, why don’t they ask? Arguile tells him it isn’t his nature to ask for help. They end up discussing why the party, especially Arguile, has trouble asking questions and for help. He then asks Cereius how he is doing with his new party and offers words of encouragement. Eventually, the rest of the party makes their way into the tavern area. JM proceeds to clarify his stance and how his help will be given from this point forward. He will provide the party with an “expense account” to help with anything that the party might need. 


We’ahqa asks JM to upgrade his scimitar. Arguile hands his rapier to JM and as this happens Kyver lets out a horrid fart causing Zechs to vomit. Attros uses his magical tinkering to mask the smell with a mug over his beak. Zechs asks Welby for a drink to clear his mouth. Welby grabs a drink and walks toward Zechs. He soon smells the fart and throws up on Kyvers back. They try to clean him up because he’s passed out but they make more of a mess. Zechs brings up the Tome of Strahd and poses the question of where the party should go. Shenanigans ensue when the group tries to clean up Kyver and Attros uses Ray of Frost to cover his hand in ice to backhand Kyver into waking up. Glad nopes out. 


The next day the party makes their way back into the tavern, with Zechs and Galahad having a conversation about the gods. Kyver wants to drink more but Zechs convinces Welby to make halfling coffee for Kyver. Kyver enjoys the coffee and offers some to the rest of the party. Cereius and We’ahqa take him up on it. Attros tries to fuck with the coffee by altering its smell and is successful. The three of them all drink the coffee anyway. All three of them become incredibly jacked up. If they weren’t awake before, they’re awake now. 


We’ahqa gets incredibly animated and requests Shanks to teach him how to focus. Glad casts the Calm Emotion spell and it works but not for We’ahqa. Shanks jumps up and runs him through physical training, following him like a drill sergeant, doing ladder drills, super jumps, and fetch. We’ahqa conjures a flaming scimitar at Shanks’s request, begins swinging it wildly, and hits Shanks with it twice. We’aqha, now realizing that he’s hit his friend, begins to snap out of it and heals him. In the aftermath, Shanks asks Welby for a sample of the coffee. The party decides that instead of Shanks being in charge, Zechs should take over that role. He begrudgingly takes the mantle of leadership and asks for everyone’s support. Eventually, the party heads out to Krezyk to seek more information about what they’re up against. Before they leave, Galahad hands the Journeyman his extra greatsword to be upgraded along with the rapier and scimitar.


The party makes their way through the pass and into the forest after leaving the tavern. Traveling north, out of the mountain range, and back toward the small pockets of civilization, they discuss what they should be looking for and how they should go about getting the information they need. Attros suggests finding the marketplace in Krezk when they arrive. Eventually, they come to a crossroads with a signpost. There are three signs: North to Krezk, Northeast to Vallaki, and Southwest toward The Wizard of Wines. As they make ready to head north, the party is ambushed by druids and a plethora of twig blights. The party makes quick work of the enemies and continues their way north, sending out their familiars and animal companions to scout ahead. 


The road is clear ahead but there seems to be a tower on a small lake not too far north of where they are now. Planning, the party decides to potentially split into a stealth group and a battle group for a tactical retreat and ambush if there is trouble. Zechs and Attros believe that this tower is the tower that is mentioned in their Tarot card reading. Splitting into the two groups; Zechs, Attros, Kyver, Arguile, and Shanks make their way stealthily toward the tower using the spell Pass Without A Trace. We’ahqa sends Franchise with the party as an extra means of precaution.


They come up to a stone tower that is old and decrepit, with collapsing scaffolds clinging to one side where a large gash has split the wall. Timeworn griffon statues, their wings, and flanks covered with moss perched atop buttresses that support the walls. Parked near the base of the tower is a barrel-topped wagon spattered with mud. Franchise is instructed to check out the wagon. There is a fresh coat of paint on the outside with brass lanterns and a sign that reads “Keep Out”. Before moving closer, the party decides to check out the statues at the base of the tower, taking a lesson from the day before. Arguile takes a shot with his short bow at the gargoyles, with nothing happening. 


Satisfied that the statues will not come to life, the group turns their attention back to the cart. Using Mage Hand, Arguile tries to pick the lock from a distance of 30ft. While this is happening, part of the group heads over to the tower to try and find out a way inside. They find a strange-looking puzzle lock on the front door. Attros reaches out to touch the door to cast Identify, and as he does a field of lightning bursts out from the tower. Most of the group can react in time to not take the brunt of the damage. Not wanting to fuck with the tower anymore, the group turns their attention back to the wagon. The rest of the party makes sure to give both Arguile and Zechs a wide birth while they pick the lock. On this second attempt, Arguile picks the lock. They all agree to back up and use Mage Hand to open the door. An explosion rocks the area, and everyone except for Zechs and Shanks is knocked unconscious. 


The other group sees the explosion and rushes to the rest of the party. Zechs casts cure wounds on the three unconscious party members. Galahad tries to ascertain what happened but is only able to see the lightning crackling around the tower and a pile of smoking wood. We’ahqa, noticing that Shanks is on the verge of collapse and having a bit of a grasp on how Cereius’s ability works, walks over to Shanks and says “Hey, I’m sorry about this but it’s for your benefit,” and clocks him. Shanks goes unconscious and the rest of the party freaks out. We’ahqa just tells everyone to wait and Cereius walks over to heal him. Shanks is now revitalized. We’ahqa explains to Shanks why he did it. Shanks says “That’s 2,” and leans in to hug him. 


There are several different “discussions” that happen afterward. Kyver, We’ahqa, and Arguile bicker over the scaffolding. Shanks, Galahad, and Zechs discuss what they learned from this experience. Attros shows Cereius what happened with Magical Tinkering. They eventually decide to continue toward Krezk. They converse with each other on their travels about various subjects, mostly just how the whole day has gone to shit. The party eventually makes its way to an elevated settlement with high walls. 


Approaching the gatehouse at the end of the road, they see several guards along the wall. Zechs speaks out first letting them know that they’re travelers seeking a place to stay and some information. A guard responds to them, asking what information they seek. Zechs tells the guard that they’re on a quest and Kyver chimes in saying that he needs a place to take a shit. Zechs is not overly pleased by this and lets him know. Galahad tries to get him to shut up but it doesn’t seem to have any effect. We’ahqa does end up persuading him to stay quiet. They wait outside the walls for the Burgomaster. Eventually, an older man comes down to talk to the party, flanked by two guards. The party explains their situation, however, the Burgomaster lets the party know that he will not be able to help them. We’ahqa picks up that something is wrong and tries to help push the conversation in the direction of helping. Shanks offers to help on the party’s behalf. The Burgomaster tells them that a shipment of wine is late in coming, if the party helps to bring it there Krezyk may be able to help them.


The party agrees, but Arguile bargains to get Kyver into the gates to do his business. The gates open and a host of guards let Kyver in. After some tom-foolery involving wiping, Kyver is brought back out and the party begins their journey back the way they came.

The party has a short rest and then heads southwest to Wizard of Wines. After We’ahqa summons horses for the party, they turn into a Clydesdale for Galahad to ride on. Kyver jokes, “Look who’s giving who a ride now.” As they ride, Zechs uses Duo as a lookout and he sees a Manor covered in dead vines in the distance. Zechs relays the information back to the team and asks if We’ahqa could talk to the plants once they’re out of their horse form. They continue for a few more miles before reaching a crossroad, then head West towards the Vineyard. 


“Yes, let’s go to the Vinyard maybe they’ll have good wine!” Kyver exclaims.
“These things never end well..” Galahad warns.
Arguile quips, “Cat, you know you have 9 lives, but do you have 9 livers?” 
“Well I was up drinking last night, and I got to empty my stomach earlier…The number 2 felt like a number 10,” Kyver replies.
“Hopefully this place has toilet paper,” Arguile shoots back.


It starts to drizzle as they reach the Vinyard. The party approaches a cloaked figure at the entrance. “Shanks, are you feeling talking?” Zechs asks. Shanks replies with “I’ll do my best.” He greets the grizzled old man. He wants to know why the party is there. Shanks tells him that they’re looking for the shipment of wine that was supposed to be delivered to the town nearby… He introduces himself as Damian Martikov, the owner and head of the family that runs the vineyard. He continues that they’re in the right place but abominations from the woods and druids have taken over the winery. “They look like dead trees and shrubs but then they start moving.” Shanks offered the parties help. Damian thanks them.


Shanks asks, “Where can we find you when we’re done?” To which Damian replies, “I’ll be right here.” Before disappearing into the brush and vines. The party heads to the main building on the property, which they’ve been told is the most active. As a precaution, Zechs sends Duo up into the air to scan the area, unfortunately, Duo doesn’t see anything. Making their way to the manor, trees, shrubs, and vines start to move toward them. 


The party dashes for the stables to plan their attack but realize the We’Aqua isn’t with them. They’re making a charge at the enemies solo. Frustrated, the party rushes to fight with them. The battle ensues with the multiple blights and Druids. The enemy has surprise on their side, however, the party can set up in better tactical positions and are victorious. Duo, still in the sky at the end of the battle, informs Zechs that there aren’t any other blights but there is a massive tree approaching them from the south.


The team finds the barrels of wine and debates amongst themselves if they should take them back to the village. Zechs leads the conversation and the team decides whether it’s ethical or not to take them without clearing the rest of the building. Kyver and a few others agree that the mission is to take the wine and go. Zechs points out that every time they half-ass things go to shit. Kyver and Zechs have a heated moral debate. 


We’ahqa, in their bear form from during the battle, walks into the discussion. While everyone argues, We’ahqa raises their paw. The party stops and looks toward the bear. Arguile asks, “Yes, Bear?” Franchise swoops down and sits on their shoulder. Through grunts and gestures, We’ahqa explains that Franchise can be a lookout while they finish the mission. Kyver sarcastically asks, “Does anyone speak bear?” Shanks quickly chimes in and explains. They decide to split the party and explore the winery fully, hoping to rid the place of its problem. 


They split into equal groups of three. Making their way quickly around the building they find two other entrances besides the front door. They make a plan to breach all of the doors at the same time. Almost immediately they’re caught in small skirmishes with Vine Blights and more Druids. But because of their initial stealth and the advantage of surprise, all of these scuffles are short-lived. Once the building is cleared the party searches it for anything that may be valuable and won’t be missed. Finding empty wine bottles, Arguile and Kyver decide to fill a couple from the fermenting casks and have a celebratory drink. Unfortunately, the wine has been poisoned by the druids, and the two become sick. Seeing that both of them are in dire straits, Galahad uses Lay on Hands to bring them back to health. 


Attros, Arguile, and We’ahqa hear the tell-tale sounds of The Medusa’s Cascade appearing outside. They inform the rest of the party and they make their way out from the interior of the winery, following the lumbering black bear form of We’ahqa. The drizzle that had started earlier has turned into a steady rain. Thick droplets fall hard on their collective heads. As they trudge their way through the winery grounds, littered with the corpses of the vine, needle, and twig blights alike, they focus on the tavern ahead of them in the distance. Closing in on the familiar building, they begin to sense that something isn’t right. One by one, they all begin to notice signs of a battle but not the one they have just finished.


Zechs break into a dead sprint towards the sanctuary of the group’s benefactor, with the rest of the party in hot pursuit. Step by step, the scene becomes clearer. Scorch marks streak across the exterior of the tavern, smoldering in the now-driving rain. The ranger skids to a stop in front of the door, turning and working the handle to no avail. As the party begins to crowd around the entrance, each trying in vain to open the door, a faint rumble makes its way closer. 


“Clear a path”, roars the Goliath as he charges towards the door. The party parts just in time to witness a streak of metallic blue light make contact with the locked entryway. With a very loud crash, the Paladin bursts into the tavern, its interior in even more disarray. The rest of the party follows Galahad into a scene of chaos and near destruction: scorch marks litter the walls, and tables, and chairs lay in splinters and chunks on the floor. There is a brief calm that comes over everyone as they take in the scene until Kyver hears a small crash towards the back, seemingly coming from the Journeyman’s office.


Pushing through his compatriots, the Tabaxi makes his way toward the doorway. This door is also locked. Acting quickly, the rogue pulls out his thief’s tools and makes quick work of the lock. By this time the rest of the party is on his heels as he bursts into the almost untouched office. “Please don’t!”, they all hear from the back corner of the room, recognizing the voice as the bartender Welby.


“Welby, brother. What happened?!”, Kyver asks his friend as he reaches the halfling’s hiding spot. “He’s gone. They took him.” Welby whimpers. “Who’s gone?!” Zechs questions. “The Journeyman, he’s gone. They took him.”


After finding Welby in the Journeyman’s office the party begins to ask questions. The interior of the tavern looks like a battle scene. Welby tells the party that he knows who took him and where he is being held. But before he discloses the information, he implores the party to take a rest and let him clean the place up and collect himself. Shanks pulls Zechs aside and gives him a rundown of the plan that has been formulated in his head. He explains that the Journeyman is key to stopping Strahd. Using the tavern to bring them back to the point in time when Ireena was taken and getting her back. “That doesn’t happen without the Journeyman,” Shanks emphasizes. “This fucks everything if we can’t find him.”


Zechs agrees but doesn’t want to put his faith in a plan that might not happen. Before the rest of the party heads off to bed, Zechs pulls Glad aside. He asks her about her relationship with the Gods, her parents, and her faith. She believes her father is The Green Man, King Oberon of the Seelie Court. The two converse and get to know each other a little bit better. He eventually makes his way up to his room after helping Welby clean up the tavern.


The party reconvenes the next day in the tavern and finds a stranger at the bar. A taller Half-orc with a pseudodragon familiar. He calls himself Revan Ahkbar. Welby explains that he is a former traveler with the Journeyman and is there to help the party get him back. Revan is understandably cautious around the party but settles in pretty quickly. After some interesting interactions between Revan and the rest of the party, Welby begins to explain the situation. Welby and the Journeyman have been traveling for close to six months when they were raided by a group run by a being known as The Constable.


The Journeyman gave himself up to prevent any bloodshed. Welby goes on to explain that the Journeyman was arrested for the crimes of “Disruptions in Time” and multiple others across several planes. He’s unaware of whether or not the crimes are legitimate but the Journeyman was taken to be held captive at a place called “The Vaults”. Welby continues that he feels the best course of action is to split into two groups: a stealth team to infiltrate “The Vaults” and break the Journeyman out, and a negotiation team to try and appeal to the Constable for the Journeyman’s release.


The party asks about The Constable but Welby has only ever heard the name. He speculates that he may be of the same ancestry as the Journeyman. Welby goes on to tell the party that from what he does know “The Vaults” are in their own pocket plane and that it is a prison meant to hold time travelers. The group agrees that a split may be the best route and begins to discuss who should be in what group. After a long back and forth, the party decides to split in almost the same way as when they investigated the strange tower in Barovia but with one key difference: Zechs and We’ahqa would switch places. To keep in contact, Revan and We’ahqa would exchange familiars. Keirich, (ky-RICH), would go with We’ahqa and Franchise with Revan. 


Once the groups are solidified, Arguile brings up the weapons that were left for the Journeyman to enchant. Welby gives the party a nod and asks them to follow him. He leads the party through the workshop to a door in the back corner of the room. He pulls out a large set of keys and proceeds to unlock the door, opening it to a vault-like display room with many different weapons and items. Welby explains that these are items that the Journeyman has found specifically for the party and each of them gets to choose one. 


Arguile chooses a well-crafted rapier with runic writing etched into the blade. It’s called the Guardian’s Rapier and this magic sword will allow him to teleport short distances at will.
Attros choose a smooth, three-foot-long rod that is continually shifting and changing in subtle ways. It’s called the Rod of Mercurial Form and it can change into anything that can fit within a 5ft cube.
Cereius chooses a ring that looks as though it’s been crafted from bone and is cold to the touch. It’s called the Puppet Master’s Ring and along with a boost to his spell casting, it gives him the ability to cast the Speak with Dead spell.
Glad chooses a circlet made from the scales, teeth, and horde of an ancient white dragon. It’s called Gothia’s Bane and along with a boost to her spell casting, it grants her resistance to cold damage and adds it to her melee attacks.
Galahad chooses a giant-sized greatsword emblazoned with Bahamut motifs. The sword is called Kanna’s Fury and this magic sword grants the Goliath extra force damage when using it.
Revan chooses an amulet with celestial markings and wing motifs. It’s called the Wings of Tabbris and along with a boost to his spell casting, it grants him advantage on all Charisma checks and saving throws.
We’ahqa chooses studded leather armor covered in flame motifs and warm to the touch. It’s called Armor of Dis and along with a boost to their armor class, it deals fire damage to anyone who attacks them with a melee attack.


The party decides to drop the stealth/scout group first. Welby sets the course and moments later the tavern’s door opens into a dimly lit stone hallway. Shanks, Arguile, We’ahqa, Kyver, Attros, and Keirich make their way into the space. They all agree to wait on the outcome of the negotiation to make any kind of move. As the tavern door closes, the rest of the party braces themselves for what is to come from their audience with The Constable. Welby sets the tavern’s course for the Constable’s Hall.


With their destination reached, Welby wishes the party luck as they exit the tavern. They walk into a massive hall that is at least 100ftx100ft. Large pillars stretch up to the ceiling above and expanding out in front of them is what seems to be an intricately carved glass floor over a frozen lake. Between each pillar is an armor-clad figure holding a shield and spear. Off at the other end of the hall is a dais on which is a large throne and a cloaked figure sitting upon it. The figure has a pale complexion with a slight glow to them. Galahad clocks the guards as some type of variation of Aasimar. 


Galahad is the first to speak, requesting an audience with the Constable. “State your purpose,” he hears in response. Galahad explains the reason they are there and what the Journeyman’s supposed crimes are. They are beckoned forward and the group makes their way to the center of the hall. “So you wish to free the Journeyman. Do you know of his deeds?” the figure asks. “Do you know what this person is capable of?” The party concedes that they don’t know but are looking to find out and make amends. 


“The extinguisher of whole civilizations? The murderer of entire worlds? The marauder of time, you wish to let him roam free?” the figure responds. The party says that they didn’t know of his crimes and that they believe he is trying to make amends for his past deeds. Their argument is persuasive and the figure inquires how the party feels the Journeyman should atone for his “sins”. Zechs takes the lead and explains the situation with Strahd and the land of Barovia but the figure isn’t swayed. They argue that the Journeyman is the greater evil of the two, asking “If you spare a single ant from under your boot and use your other boot to destroy an entire anthill, do you deserve forgiveness?”


Zechs contends that small deeds add up and fighting against evil, no matter the size, is worth doing. Unfortunately, his words fall on deaf ears. Zechs asks what the Constable plans to do with the Journeyman. The figure responds that the Journeyman will stay in his vaults and pay for every life he has taken. This confirms to the party that they’re indeed talking to The Constable and not someone lower in command. “To what end,” Zechs asks. “To his end,” the Constable replies. They begin to go back and forth about the difference between intent and action when Revan chimes in.


He argues that all of the things that the Journeyman is accused of doing are arbitrary. That these charges don’t take into consideration the extenuating circumstances of the situations in which they occurred. He posits that everyone, at some point in their life, must make decisions that don’t have clear-cut answers. Looking directly into the eyes of the Constable, he asks if he’s ever had to decide possibly having to cross the proverbial line to protect those that needed protecting. The Constable concedes the point made and Revan asks if there is anything that can be done on The Constable’s behalf that would act as penance for the Journeyman’s crimes.


Seemingly in the mood to bargain, the Constable asks the group what they propose this deed should be. The party responds that they want the Constable to tell them what a better alternative to imprisonment would be for the Journeyman, but they misunderstand the type of bargain being made. The Constable states, “I do not see a better alternative. I believe his punishment is just and right.” Revan suggests that the Constable let the Journeyman free temporarily to help with ridding Barovia of Strahd. When that task is complete, they will then return him to the Vaults. He agrees under one condition, someone from the party must take the Journeyman’s place until the party returns. 


The party gathers together to discuss this new development. Revan turns to Franchise to relay the events thus far to the group in the Vaults. Unfortunately, due to the odd setup of the pocket planes that they are on the message doesn’t get through. As he realizes this, he hears the familiar voice of Kierich in his head asking him what was happening. Revan relays the events to the other group while the rest of the negotiating party discusses what to do. They eventually tell the Constable that they have someone in mind but would like proof of life before they move forward.


The Constable responds, “That won’t be necessary. The deal is such: you want the Journeyman, and you leave someone here to take his place. And they stay here until he is returned. No ifs, ands, or buts.” Galahad questions the Constable’s intentions if they’re good or evil. The Constable replies that good and evil have nothing to do with it, it is about the law. Galahad offers to be a paragon of the law for the Constable in keeping the Journeyman to his word. Zechs interjects with a question about where this law that is being spoken of comes from. 


Rising from their seat for the first time, the Constable makes his way toward the party flanked by his guards. Speaking directly to Zechs, he says, “There is no higher power than the law.” “And the law is you?” Zechs questions. “I serve the law,” he gets in reply. Zechs decides to push for more information as the Constable makes his way toward the group. Revan notices that there are white scales that are splotched across the Constables’ skin. He questions Zechs on what he knows about the Journeyman and himself and what their powers and capabilities are. Zechs asks again for some “enlightenment” but is told that the only information they need is the deal at hand. If they’re lucky the Journeyman may tell them what is going on but not presume that they deserve an explanation for a situation that is above their heads.


A faint glow begins to emit from around the Constable as his eyes grow brighter and brighter, causing Zechs to turn away from him. Galahad takes the lead again and informs the Constable that they will find another way of completing their task as they need everyone in their party to do it. They are given leave from the Hall and begin to make their way out. On that walkout, Revan turns to the group and says that he will stay to get the Journeyman out. They all promise to come back for him and Revan informs Keirich that he is going to stay. We’ahqa thanks Revan and offers to take care of Keirich.


Revan turns back to the Constable and tells him that he has decided to trade himself for the Journeyman. But instead of acquiescing to the offer, the Constable becomes enraged. He moves forward toward the party again, shedding his robes along the way revealing more scales covering parts of his torso and arms. Standing in front of the party, he declares “Here is the new deal. I take him,” pointing to Galahad, “or none of you leave here.” Zechs questions why but is shut down immediately. The Constable repeats, “Him or none of you leave. You can all join the Journeyman and ask your questions of him then. If you want to switch someone so much, then it is my choice, or I take whoever lives and you can join the Journeyman.” His guards begin to close in around the party.


Galahad looks to the party and tells them that this is not a fight they can win. Do what needs to be done and save Barovia. Zechs promises that they WILL come back for him. As this takes place, Revan informs the other group of the turn of events. We’ahqa reacts violently and is subdued by the rest of the group. They calm We’ahqa down and tell them that they will break Galahad out. Galahad is led out of the hall by several guards. Several minutes later the guards return with a woman with a dark complexion in the same clothes that Journeyman was wearing the last time he was seen.


The Constable looks to the party and says, “A deal is a deal. Now go.” But the party protests, saying that they don’t know this woman and that she isn’t the Journeyman. The Constable only smirks and tells them to leave again. The mysterious woman makes her way to the exit with a purpose. As the party enters the tavern again, the woman makes her way toward the Journeyman’s office they try to stop her. Welby is called over and after a brief and slightly heated discussion, she heads into the office. Welby assures the party that everything will be explained in due time. Zechs and Revan try to confront the woman but the door to the office is locked. Zechs makes his way up to his room. 


As this is all happening, the entrance back into the tavern appears in the Vaults, and the party there makes their way back. Welby greets the returning group and tells them that there will be an explanation soon. Roughly an hour later, the woman emerges from the office in a much better-fitting set of clothing. Under her right arm, in a holster, is a book. Attached to her back is a wooden staff and on her shoulder is a small creature known as an Almiraj, (AL-mirage), a small rabbit with a horn on the crown of its head. She scans the room and asks for someone to grab Zechs.


Shanks goes up to the second floor and grabs the Ranger. She explains that she is the Journeyman. They’re hesitant but eventually confirmed through several means that she is who she says she is. JM explains that they’re a race called the Palenguard. They come from the places in between planes, there to protect them. She explains that if you were to walk out into a rainstorm and freeze time, each raindrop would be its own plane of existence. Endless worlds scattered across a massive expanse. It is her, and her people’s job, to protect these planes from disaster. Further, she tells the party that they come from different prime material planes. They’re able to do this because of their incredibly long lifespans and their powers to regenerate. 


She speaks about the Constable and how she was held for more than a century. The conversation turns to the supposed crimes that she was being charged with. She confirms that she did those things but it was more complex than good or evil, right or wrong. The weight of those decisions rests on her shoulders constantly. The party asks about where the Constable comes from but she truly doesn’t know. He is part of a similar order to hers but from another place entirely. It seems to be a meeting of an immovable object and an unstoppable force. 


The conversation turns to their plans to get Galahad back. From potential layouts, defenses, and the potential accelerating timeline. We’ahqa brings up the last point several times and insists that they leave immediately to get him back. The party agrees and makes their way to the Vaults. As they enter the dimly lit stone hallways of the prison, We’ahqa comes up with an idea. They’ll cast Locate Object to search for Galahad’s armor. With no ping from the spell, the group moves forward as stealthily as possible. We’ahqa turns to the group and suggests that they wild shape into something small to search ahead and try to get a ping from their spell. 


Kyver peaks his head into a doorway and sees the floor covered in crawling insects. He suggests that We’ahqa turns into a beetle. The Druid, without hesitation, rough shapes into a beetle and zooms off ahead of the group. Through the hallways, We’ahqa buzzes with the party not too far behind. Almost immediately, Attros’s Mercurial Rod comes in handy. The party is able to expertly maneuver around obstacles, dismantle traps, and even ambush several roaming enemies. 


After finishing off a room full of Orc warriors directly after ambushing an Earth Elemental, the party finds its way to an intricately locked door. Using their collective knowledge they figure out that two locks are being utilized: one mechanical and one arcane. Arguile and Cereius tag team the door and with some effort they successfully get the door open. We’ahqa surges into the room, still in beetle form, and sees a set of half-plate armor, a massive greatsword, shelves of books, a cot, and a familiar but fairly older Goliath.


Perplexed, Galahad stares at the beetle that buzzed into the room and landed on his shoulder. It’s been 50 years since Galahad has seen anyone besides the guards who brought him his food and his friend Bothok. It’s strange for him as he was just talking to Bothok when the door opened. Throughout his captivity, an older human man named Bothok visited him. They conversed about many things throughout the years. Religion, law, justice, philosophy, tactics, and more. Every so often there would be an inkling in the back of his head that there was more to Bothok than what he saw. However, Galahad finally saw what it was just as the door was opening and this beetle was flying in. Bothok was the avatar of Bahamut, there to help comfort and aid him in his time of sacrifice. Stretching out his hand, he watches this beetle skitter onto his hand and a shard of a memory pops into his head.


The Genasi. The Druid. They could shapeshift into beasts. “Are you We’ahqa?” Galahad asks out loud. The beetle begins to jump and make noises and across the room a cat with wings appears. Franchise. The realization that he will be leaving is now at the forefront of his mind. The beetle flies back out of the room and Galahad begins to gather his things. The rest of the party comes into the chamber and sees the older Galahad finish donning his armor and sheathing Kanna’s Fury. 


The celebration is short-lived as the party realizes that they must now get out of the Vaults before they’re caught. They race through the hallways and empty rooms until they find their way back to the place they began the journey. In front of them on the same wall as before is the door that they came through. The Journeyman steps up to the door and walks through it with the party right behind her. There is a bright flash as they walk through the doorway and are transported into a forest clearing. 


At first, it’s just Galahad, Cereius, and Arguile in the tree-lined field. Something isn’t quite right. A familiar voice creeps into their heads and says “Thank you for coming back so early. Now, for my consolation prize for all of the cheaters in the room, a fight to the death.” They’re somewhat confused by this and question the voice, The Constable, out loud. “Amongst us?” Arguile asks. “Yes,” the voice replies. They refuse outright.


“Did you know we would come back?” Cereius questions. “I knew you were dishonest,” The Constable answers. “We couldn’t possibly have left our friends here,” Cereius explains. “That was the deal that you made,” the Constable retorts. This back and forth continues for a bit longer when Galahad speaks up, “Constable enough with the games. Where are we and where are the rest of our friends.” 


“Fight to the death.”
“Why would we fight to the death with each other,” Galahad yells. 
“Because it is the only way you’ll get to leave,” the Constable snarls in reply.


Shanks appears in the clearing. He receives the same message and rejects the idea of fighting to the death. “Do whatever it is that you wish. But you will not leave until you fight to the death. Or die of natural causes.” Shanks begins to look around and assess the situation. He bolts into the woods only to come back into the clearing from the opposite side of the forest. They’re trapped in an elaborate illusion. Once they come to this realization, Galahad ponders on the vast amount of knowledge that he’s learned over the last half-century, convinced that this is somehow a test. 


Galahad tells those who are there and appear that this battle to the death may be a metaphorical one. However unlikely, the Constable may be speaking about battling inner demons and killing your past self. Though, in his estimation, this doesn’t sound like something the Constable would do or care about. The Journeyman, who has just appeared with Zechs, acknowledges Galahads personal growth with a slow clap. Attros then appears and the group begins to get antsy. Nothing seems to be happening.


With every passing minute that goes by the party hears in the back of their minds a whispered, “fight to the death.” We’ahqa and Revan appear in the field. Shanks decides to take a page from Galahad’s book and contemplate the situation. With some deep thought and reasonable conjecture, he’s able to sus out the connections of everything that just happened. This has all been contrived by the Constable. It seems to be a lording of power over the group. What he is asking the party to do is what he truly wants. Not necessarily that he wants the party dead but potentially that they may be “freed” in some way. 


Attros, sensing something similar, approaches Galahad and implores him to take his life. Galahad responds that he doesn’t believe that that is what the test is. Attros says that they don’t know what the test is or if this is real or in their minds. At this point, Shanks comes out of his inner thoughts and agrees with Attros. “You’re right. This is the test.” Kyver appears in the clearing.


Zechs decides that he will be the one to sacrifice himself and the rest of the party gives him a lot of grief. “Enough with this hero bullshit, let’s just figure this out,” quips Arguile. But Zechs is convinced that he has to be the one that is taken out, to prove a point about the death of a few to save the many. From the back, Cereius breaks into the conversation.


“Sorry to interrupt, everybody, because some great things are going on. But I can’t lie, part of me wants to know what you would do in this situation,” Cerius asks, turning from the group to the Journeyman. She looks back at Cereius and pauses to think. She then walks slowly over to him, looks him dead in the eye, pulls out her staff, and says, “I’d hedge my bets.” From out of nowhere, her staff flashes, and she strikes Cereius twice.


A fight erupts among the party as the Journeyman speeds away from Cereius toward Galahad. He catches her with Kanna’s Fury, stopping her and using his backswing to trip her. Revan and Cereius join in the fray, casting Witchbolt and Ray of Enfeeblement. Both the bolt of energy and the sickly black beam miss their target. Kyver looks very confused at the sudden acts of violence but decides to join in anyway. Quickly making his way to the downed Journeyman, he strikes her with Bloodlust. Though she is hurt, the Journeyman seems oddly happy about how things are going.


Shanks watches from his kneeling position and locks eyes with the prone Journeyman. As he pulls back on his bowstring, she mouths “do it.” He lets an arrow fly and it strikes her between her eyes, killing her. He looks up to the sky and asks “does this satisfy you?” In the back of his mind, he hears the reply, “there’s still eight of you left.” Cerius, still confused about what just happened and bleeding from his head says “Well, I wasn’t expecting that answer” as he looks down at the Journeyman’s body. Shanks looks over at Cereius and quips, “it gets worse.” Two more arrows fly at the Cleric, pinning him to the ground, dead. He places his bow on the ground and puts his hands up. Attros walks to Shanks’ side, shouts “Presently my soul grew stronger, hesitating then no longer,” and casts the Shatter spell. A loud boom splits the air, downing the Kenku and injuring Shanks. 


Zechs reaches out to the Constable and questions whether or not he was right. That this is just an elaborate point that is being proven. That what the Journeyman does is unjust and incorrect. “If you survive, I’ll tell you,” he hears in response. Zechs activates the Barrage feature on his bow. On the verge of tears, he releases a single arrow. Five arrows make contact with Shanks’ chest, grouping in center mass. Before the light leaves his eyes, Shanks gives Zechs a thumbs up and mouths “nice grouping”. Turning toward We’ahqa he threatens the Constable about being sure to keep his word or there will be consequences. He lets a single arrow fly at the Druid and through some strange twist of fate, they catch it before it hits with their teeth. 


Arguile rushes his way over to Zechs. He asks, “how determined are you to do what has to be done if you talk to this guy? To get an answer for all of this.” He unsheaths his rapier and runs himself through, he is unsuccessful in taking his life though. Galahad, above these games, walks to a fallen tree. He jams Kanna’s Fury into the ground and pulls off his armor in a sign of nonparticipation. We’ahqa makes another threat to the Constable while watching all of this violence unfold. 


“If this doesn’t kill me, I want you to be the one,” Revan calls to Galahad, shooting himself point blank in the chest with an Eldritch Blast. He isn’t able to end it in one shot and drags himself closer to Galahad for him to finish the job. Kyver asks the Constable, “last one standing?” He hears in reply, “I see someone gets the picture.” Kyver smiles and just lays down shouting “I’m not standing!” Zechs looks to Arguile, “with absolute certainty, I will see this through.” Zechs strikes him twice with his bladed shortbow. “Damn, you couldn’t do it one hit,” are the final words uttered from Arguiles mouth as he falls to the ground. 


Galahad stands and walks to Revan, helping him to the tree trunk. He asks, “are you sure this is what you want?” Revan replies, “you see me bleeding? Make it clean.” Pressing the tip of his massive greatsword into his companion’s neck, he severs Revan’s head from the rest of his body. Calmly, Galahad walks back over to the fallen tree and sits back down. Kyver decides to stay in his prone position and We’ahqa continues to taunt the Constable. 


Zechs turns his gaze at Kyver and his single arrow turns into four. Three arrows hit, dealing a substantial amount of damage.  Zechs seems to be in an extreme amount of emotional duress. Galahad calls to Zechs, “I will not kill myself, but I won’t stop you from doing what needs to be done.” Zechs breaks down into tears. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning strikes in between Zechs, Galahad, and Kyver, hitting all three and killing Kyver. Zechs immediately turns to We’ahqa, who is still sitting on the ground, and fires three shots. Hitting on more than half, We’ahqa is looking very injured. 


We’ahqa calls another lightning strike on Zechs, however, this is not enough to take him out. They get up and move away from Zechs and Galahad. Zechs pursues the Druid and fires another barrage of arrows, hitting on most. With the look of a pincushion, they fall to their knees taking deep gasping breaths, We’ahqa is still alive but barely. Galahad walks forward, takes out his javelin, and hurls it at the Water Genasi. His aim is true and as We’ahqa takes their final breath, impaled by the javelin, Galahad turns to Zechs. Zechs apologizes for the circumstances they’re in but Galahad tells him not to worry. They will see each other on the other side. 


Zechs fires three shots, missing the first because of his trembling body. The second has four arrow releases with two misses and two hits. The final shot also has four arrows and all of those hit their target as well. Even with six arrows in his chest, the Goliath still stands. Galahad looks into Zechs’ eyes, closing the distance, and says, “Don’t kill me with the bow and I will see you on the other side, my friend.” He clasps Zechs’ forearm and stares into his eyes. The Tabaxi drops his bow saying, “I’m sorry that in the end, I couldn’t save you.” And with tears streaming down his face, he releases his claws and buries them into the Paladin’s chest. Galahad falls to the ground lifeless as Zechs looks around at the scene of destruction he stands in the middle of.


Zechs lets out a guttural cry. As he looks around, he feels a warm sensation in his chest and sees that his wounds are healing. From the trees, the Constable appears in front of him with a smug smile on his face. Zechs races toward him yelling, “are you satisfied?!” The Constable only responds with the casting of a spell, as a crackling sphere of energy illuminates around him and then dissipates. “You’re just going to sit there with a smug smile after I just killed almost my entire party?!” Zechs rages.


There is a tense back-and-forth between the two. The Constable pokes and prods at Zechs’ emotions. Constantly answering his questions with questions of his own. What few answers he does give are cryptic. He does confirm that he serves a higher power and that what the party just went through was a punishment for breaking their deal with him. The heated discussion turns to Zechs and his past. Claiming to know about all of their stories, it seems that the Constable knows a great deal about Zechs in particular. 


“You’re repeating history. You were born to be a sacrifice but you were saved. And yet you walk back into being a sacrifice. You’re repeating history.”


Zechs becomes confused and impatient. His demeanor shifts to something more confrontational than before. The Constable feeds on this, pushing Zechs more and more with taunts and bits of information. He begins to circle Zechs in a predatory manner. The conversation has turned into a game of cat and mouse. Still, the Constable presses Zechs about his memories and why he doesn’t have his early ones. With rage bubbling to the surface, Zechs answers in a near roar. “I DON’T KNOW! I don’t know anything about my past! I wish I knew, I came here for answers. And now I’m here left with you telling me that I know something that I DON’T KNOW.”


The Constable chides him for acting like a petulant child and throwing a tantrum. He pushes harder as if he is trying to awaken something. Zechs’ anger continues to build but then he is given the name “Oberon”. He recognizes the name. King Oberon of the Seelie Court, patron of hunters and rangers. A figure Argo has spoken about on occasion. Zechs presses for more but he is rebuffed. There is a pause in the conversation, and both feel that the time for talking is over. The Constable throws his robes off and spreads dragon-like wings, leaping into the air as Zechs opens fire on him. The two clash back and forth for a moment before the Constable hits the ranger with a Fireball, downing him on the spot.


Zechs opens his eyes to the sound of a strange thud. As his senses return to him, he realizes that he is suspended underwater in a cylindrical glass tank. And the thud noise that he is hearing are his party members trying to break it open. Thud, thud, thud, CRACK. Zechs feels the pressure released as his group breaks through and pulls him out. Catching his breath, he is picked up by Shanks and We’ahqa. He sees the rest of the party, as well as the Journeyman, there too. She pulls what looks like a pale purple, oversized river stone out of her pocket and smashes it to the group. An eruption of light engulfs them and they feel their bodies violently pulled to the center of this field of light. As the light subsides, they look around to see that they have returned to the tavern.


Immediately after the ordeal with the Constable, the party scatters to different parts of the tavern. Zechs grabs himself a bottle and heads straight to his room. The rest of the party takes individual seats within the tavern area. The Journeyman pulls Welby into the back for a private conversation. Attros sees everyone off by themselves and beckons the party to speak about the traumatic experience that just occurred. The party agrees that everyone should be present to start talking. Shanks makes his way up to Zechs’ room.


The door is locked and Shanks tries to break it down. It doesn’t budge and We’ahqa makes their way up to the room. They deftly pick the lock, looks at Shanks, and walks back down to the tavern area. Shanks enters the room to a despondent Zechs and tries to get him to come back downstairs. They have a tense conversation about a few of the more traumatizing events. Shanks ends it and walks back down to the tavern, leaving him to his drinking. 


We’ahqa, seeing that the mood is very somber, decides to create food with their magic for each party member. Shanks and Attros decide to work out their frustrations by tinkering in the workshop. Galahad takes Zechs’ plate of food and takes it up to him. The goliath sits down next to him and begins a conversation. They talk about how long Galahad was kept captive. The bombshells of information that the Constable told Zechs in their confrontation. His connection to King Oberon, Glad’s supposed father. How he was able to take the lives of his party. Galahad tells him that he wasn’t responsible for what everyone else decided to do. He tells Zechs that leaders are only as good as the people around them and that he should share his burden.


Zechs is reminded of Argo during the conversation and the mood takes a turn for the better. Galahad reminds Zechs that they still have a mission. People that they can help, that Zechs can help. After they help Barovia, they can look toward the Constable. As they speak, they hear a small voice in the room. It’s Duo and it seems that he is starting to learn how to speak. As this conversation is taking place, Attros and Shanks are working hard to refine the vial arrows that Attros had created not too long ago. 


In the tavern area, the Journeyman reappears and asks the group to gather there. Glad and We’ahqa head out to grab Zechs, Galahad, Shanks, and Attros. Everyone converges back in the tavern. She begins to start fielding questions about the encounter. The subjects of past groups, the beings in charge of bestowing “the law”, the Constable’s appearance, the vaults they were kept in, and information that is potentially being kept from them among others are brought up. Eventually, Kyver starts to make his way over to the Journeyman, asking if they’ve been watching the party longer than they’ve been together. She denies it as Kyver asks another question: “how many versions of the party has she met?”


She tells the group that they are the only versions of them that she knows. Going on to say that there are undoubtedly other versions of them but just running into them by chance would be very rare. Unphased, Kyver continues his line of questioning. “Why do I keep seeing these visions of my death,” he asks. The group is taken aback by this information and they conclude that it is likely the realm of Barovia, twisting the things that see and experience. JM asks him if he’s had any other visions and he quickly replies that he hasn’t.


As a token of appreciation, the Journeyman gives the party some information about their quests. Welby brings out a wooden box, opens it, and begins handing out small items and pieces of parchment. Things get heavy pretty fast. Kyver opens up his parchment to reveal the floor plans of a manor. The home of the nobleman that killed his family and enslaved him. “Why did you give this to me,” the Tabaxi asks. “I think you know the answer to that,” replies the Journeyman. Kyver begins to rock back and forth in his chair, a mixture of rage and fear in his eyes.


The attention turns to Cereius as he opens a folded slip of parchment. While he doesn’t reveal what is on the parchment, it appears to be something that involves his deity The Moonweaver, and dreams. Next, she hands Glad a small scroll. Opening it reveals a summons to the Seelie Court and a meeting with King Oberon. The summons speaks of potentially dire consequences if this meeting is not attended, by not only Glad but the realms at large. This catches the attention of Zechs, who gives her a look of needing to speak with her. For a second, she doesn’t recognize the name but then it hits her. King Oberon is also known as The Green Man, her supposed father. 


Arguile is handed a scroll as well, reading it to himself. It is a mention of his mother in communication between nobles. This is the first bit of information he’s received or found about his mother since the day she was taken and he escaped. He asks how old the scroll is and is informed that it’s not very old. Next, she turns to Shanks and hands him a small pouch. It’s a small key. She tells him that he should go up to his room, and turn the key from the inside until the symbol on the door changes from a wolf to an oak tree. Walk through the door and take the key with him, as he will need it to return. He makes his way up to his room. 


She turns to We’ahqa and hands them a folded piece of parchment. A symbol comprised of four intersecting triangles. Underneath are the Druidic characters for “D” and “C”. They figure out that the symbol is a convergence of the four elements of the prime material plane in Druidic. They remember a bedtime story that their father had told them when they were younger. A story about the beings that created the cosmos called the Daughters of Creation. We’ahqa thanks JM for everything that she’s done. With a nod, she turns to Attros and hands him a letter. 


He reads it to himself, reaching his hand up to his chest to clutch a pendant around his neck. “Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore! Quoth the Raven Nevermore,” he cries as he crumples up the letter. This letter is from his wife Lenore, who, until this point, Attros had known to be dead. Murdered by his former guild and the reason for his quest for revenge. She asks him to come back to her and rejoin the guild. “Prophet! said I, thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!” he continues, tearing the letter in half. 


Zechs is next to receive something from the chest, a sealed letter. He recognizes that this is Argo’s handwriting. Instead of reading his letter there, he decides to read it in private. The Journeyman then turns to Galahad and hands him a piece of parchment. It contains the symbol of Bahamut and what seems to be some sort of code. He asks where she received this communication and is told that a cleric of the platinum dragon delivered it to the tavern specifically for him.


While the party is given their bits of information, Shanks goes up to his room and follows the Journeyman’s instructions. Turning the key three times, he sees the symbol spoken of and opens the door. Pulling the key out of the door, he makes his way into a room of a similar size as his own. Several different shortbows and quivers adorn the wall. The door closes behind him and he is now alone. Looking around, a particular shortbow catches his eye. It has been many years since he last saw this bow and he makes his way closer to it. Next to it is a familiar dagger, so familiar that he beings to investigate it for markings that may confirm his suspicions. Right where he was expecting, he finds the letter “D” carved on the hilt in the elven script. 


He pulls the dagger off the wall, holding it and staring at it in disbelief. The door opens behind him and instinctively he makes ready to attack. From his position, he sees a slender, copper-skinned female wood-elf with greenish hair enter the room, and as she turns there is a moment of recognition. “Dona,” Shanks asks in a slight and trembling voice. She meets his eyes and a smile creeps across her face. “I didn’t expect you back so soon,” she says warmly. Shanks and Dona have a loving but confusing conversation. It seems that the person he was in love with so long ago and lost is here with him now but in a different time and place. In due time and explanation, he understands what is happening. Dona always finds a way to explain things in a way he’ll get it.


Getting into his room, Zechs opens up his letter from Argo. It speaks of a pact that he made a long time ago with a being he cannot speak the name of. However, he can give him little bits of information about his past. He is from a place called Nymora. It’s not a place that Argo has ever been to but has heard of. His only connection to it is a story of a cult to a deity known as the Cat Lord. This cult was raiding villages for sacrifices and Zechs’ was one of them. He apologizes for keeping things from him and hopes that the information he has disclosed will be useful to him. At the bottom of the letter is a string of letters. 


It’s a lot to take in and Zechs looks to Duo asking him, “I don’t suppose you knew about this buddy?” “Zechs. Noms” is the reply he receives from his animal companion. After grappling with this new information, he heads back downstairs to get Duo some food and contemplates whether he wants to continue drinking or not. He grabs some food and another bottle, We’ahqa sneakily casts Lesser Restoration on him before he heads back upstairs. Continuing past him, We’ahqa finds the Journeyman and asks a few questions. When will they be receiving the weapons that they gave JM back? Where will they be dropped off after they recover? And finally, if JM would be willing to teach We’ahqa some hand-to-hand combat. She answers: soon, back at the winery, and that she would lead We’ahqa.


As We’ahqa walks away from the conversation, Attros asks JM where she got his letter from. She informs him that it was delivered to the tavern in an envelope with a wax seal emblazoned with the Telltale Guild’s crest. This seems to weigh heavily on the Kenku as he thanks her and exits the room. The rest of the party disperses to their rooms for rest and recuperation. Attros makes his way into the workshop and begins work on his homunculus servant, crafted into the visage of an owl.


Arguile and Cereius make their way up to their rooms to rest, overwhelmed by everything that has just occurred. Kyver still seems out of it, he’s now muttering numbers to himself. Galahad fixated on figuring out the cipher given to him, standing and heading up to his room. Zechs, restless, makes his way back downstairs and walks past Shanks, who seems to be in a very good mood. Pacing down in the tavern area, Zechs is looking for something physical to do. He decides to go over to Kyver and slides the bottle of wine he took earlier over to him. He hears “565, 246”, over and over. The other Tabaxi doesn’t seem to even notice that he’s there.


Zechs gets back up and begins to wander around the tavern, looking for a place to train or do something physical. Shanks walks over to him and suggests to start doing target practice in the tavern area on the far wall. They break into a conversation about everything that happened. Shanks pulls his battle axe out and asks “ever wonder why an Elf carries around an Orc axe?” 


He goes on to talk about how he grew up in a household that wasn’t tolerant of others. His parents and tribe were murdered, and he was lost and alone. At his lowest point, an unlikely father figure stepped into his life, an Orc warrior named Jamrie. Jamrie explained that Orcs and Elves have a common ancestor, they came from the same place. It was their diverging paths as people that made each what they are. Ultimately, this was what set him on the path he is taking now, deconstructing his prejudices and learning to see people as individuals and not as the preconceived notions he once held about their entire culture.


Zechs laments that he went from having no information about his past to having more information that he knows what to do with. And that he doesn’t know how much he can trust this information because of its source, at least regarding the Constable. He speaks about the guild and Argo. He then poses the question, “why did you think I would be suited for the leadership role” to Shanks. The archer responds that he saw the qualities in Zechs and that he needed to learn from doing. That mistakes are a given. That he didn’t get to where he is in his skill set because he made all of the right decisions. He got to where he is because of the mistakes and bad calls that he’s made. That failure is a part of success, an integral one. 


As the two converse, the Journeyman appears behind them. Zechs asks if they’re having trouble sleeping too. She tells them that it’s difficult with a conversation going on outside of her room. Apologizing, Zechs explains that they were trying to find a place to exercise and work out. She points toward the stairwell that leads up to the second floor and there is a door underneath it where there wasn’t before. She says “that’s the place you want to go. It’s all yours.” As the pair gets up, Shanks gives the key back to JM telling her that he won’t be using it again. She lets him know that she’ll hold onto it for him, in case he changes his mind.


Zechs asks for a conversation with JM and a few members of the team, including Shanks and Attros. The elf goes to look for Attros in the workshop and finds him sleeping. He sees a silver, mechanical owl with a small opening in the center of its chest sitting on a letter. In the Artificer’s left hand is a locket, the one he clutched earlier while reading his parchment, and it seems that it would fit perfectly into the small cavity of the owl. Curious, Shanks reads the letter the owl sits on. It is a reply to the letter he received from JM. In it, Attros explains that he can’t rejoin and rebuild the guild as they were the ones who killed her. That he must oppose her, even in the face of his undying love for her. He concludes that if he must face her and kill her, along with the rest of the guild, he will take his own life as well so that they can be together again in death.


Shanks leaves the room in shock. He informs Zechs that Attros is out cold and that maybe they should wait on the strategy meeting until the following day. He agrees and begins to head to the stairs with JM. They chat about needing to speak to Argo as soon as possible, regarding his letter. He asks about Nymora and why he lost his memories. They part ways and Zechs makes his way down into an expansive room with many different training areas. After an hour or so of target practice, Zechs decides to sleep in the training facility. 


Over the last several hours, while the rest of the party was dealing with the information that was given to them, Glad has been on her journey of discovery. To escape the chaos that is the tavern area, she makes her way up to her room and lights incense as she begins to contemplate and meditate. As the incense burns to slither up toward her like a snake, she breathes in deeply and pushes the noise and distraction of the physical world aside. Opening her eyes once again, she finds herself in the home that she once shared with her late husband Thiadikus. She moves her way out of her home, and down to the path among the trees in the Forest Bastion. Bioluminescent purples, blues, and greens light her way as she walks through the natural hall of trees and plant life. 
Along the way, she looks over the seedlings planted in memory of those who have passed on or fallen too soon. Ahead of her, she sees a tall, slender, bronze-skinned, and golden-haired figure sitting in front of one of the seedlings. She approaches the figure, feeling that there is a familiarity with her. The figure turns toward her, smiles, and stands to greet her. They tower over her, and at her eye level, she sees a familiar symbol hanging from a chain around their neck. It’s at this moment she realizes who stands before her: her God, The Protector. Shocked, Glad cautiously asks for help. She explains the situation about the scroll she has received from the Seelie Court and about the party that she is part of. 
 


The conversation goes deeper, as The Protector asks her questions that spark new ideas and different outlooks. They speak of truth, family, and her husband’s death. She takes in all that her god has to impart to her. The Protector bids her a fond farewell and slowly vanishes from her sight. She makes her way back up to her former home and sits back down on her prayer rug, closing her eyes. When she opens them again, she is back in her room at the tavern.


Meanwhile, Galahad sits in his room going over the cipher, incredibly frustrated by the experience thus far. As he continues to work on this cipher, Arguile begins to dream of the day that his mother was taken from him. Racing through the manor in which he was interred with his mother to see her being dragged to a carriage. He makes a move to go to her but is restrained by two guards and is confronted by the head of the household. They exchange heated words ending with Arguile spitting in his face. Arguile manages to get out of the hold of the two guards and bowls the nobleman over, hands around his neck. He asks who his mother is being taken by and through the gasps for breath, the nobleman tells Arguile that the person is new in the area and his crest is a thirteen-pointed star made of swords. With this information, he lets go and races into the forest surrounding the property. He wakes up in a cold sweat and looks over at the letter on his table, eyes locking on the wax seal of a thirteen-pointed star made of swords.


Arguile, though, is not the only member of the party that is experiencing strange dreams. Cereius has his prophetic vision. Standing on what appears to be water, but he is somehow not sinking. The only light around him is that of a distant full moon. Not straying from the moonbeam in front of him, he walks to the edge of a precipice. From the moon glides an ethereal-looking elven woman. It’s the Moonweaver, his patron deity. They speak of his faith, his journey, and the help that she wants to provide. As they finish their meeting, the Moonweaver reaches out to Cereius, touching his chest and filling him with comfort, warmth, and light.


The following morning the party makes their way, slowly but surely, back to the tavern area. We’ahqa is one of the first to arrive and approaches the Journeyman, asking if they have a place to exercise their mind. The Journeyman informs them that there is a library in the tavern and directs them toward it. For hours the Druid scours the books within the large, tower-like room. At first, they only find the children’s stories that they knew from their father at bedtime. But the longer they look and the deeper they search, they come upon a revelation. The Daughters of Creation are the focal points of an ancient and lost religion. They find renderings of mountains carved into cities, massive feminine effigies, and a temple deep within the chasm of a mountain. 


As the rest of the party convene and begin to eat breakfast, We’ahqa makes their way out of the library and walks to Galahad who is still incredibly frustrated by the cipher. They offer to help the Paladin. Galahad tells the Druid that this was given to him by his god and it would be a disservice to not figure this out on his own. We’ahqa agrees and remarks on anything else Galahad might want to address, outside of the cipher. Galahad is unsure about what they’re talking about. The Druid is a little hurt by this and decides to go get themself some coffee. 


Meanwhile, Attros makes his way out of the workshop with a mechanical owl on his shoulder to sit at a table to eat something. Shenanigans ensue with the rest of the party, and Shanks and Attros make a quick exit to the workshop. As they make their exit, Welby returns from the back with coffee spiked with alcohol. The party is taking bets on what will happen when We’ahqa drinks it, as the Druid has never had booze before. JM joins in on the betting right before We’ahqa downs the coffee and asks for another. The betters double down, and the Druid slams back another like a champ and asks for another. Arguile pipes up “hold the coffee,” and the Halfling obliges. We’ahqa pounds it, feels that something is off, and tries to cast Lesser Restoration on themself but isn’t quick enough. They violently vomit right in between themself and Welby, splattering the Halfling. 


We’ahqa apologizes, then turns and walks shakily over to Galahad and pushes him. Galahad is not overly pleased with this current situation. He places his hand on the Druid’s head, uses Lay on Hands to take away his drunkenness, and begins to talk away.

We’ahqa sobers up, “What, you can’t handle talking to me? Now that we’re both sober, face me.” Galahad is confused and slightly amused. He doesn’t take We’ahqa seriously. “Really without my stuff on me?” Galahad asked. “What, you need a Javelin?” We’ahqa forms an Ice Javelin using the Shape of Water and tosses it to Galahad. The rest of the party riots like high schoolers witnessing a fight in the playground. Arguile cups his hands and shouts, “He’s calling you out!” 


We’ahqa spreads his arms out wide, taunting, “Go for it!” JM abruptly chimes in, “Hey, hey, hey! The arena is downstairs if you wanna fight.” We’ahqa walks downstairs. Zechs goes from being amused to concern. JM walks by Zech, Arguile, and Kyver and says, “10 Gold on the Druid.” Then walks downstairs. Arguile rushes downstairs to take a seat. While everyone rushes down to see the fight Kyver looks at the paper JM gave to him and goes to his room. 


Galahad and We’ahqa step into the arena. There are potions lining shelves all over the room. Zechs looks over to JM, “What are the rules?” JM replies, “1st to fall.” Noticing the stack of potions Cereius comments, “Good I don’t gotta heal nobody.” Then sips his coffee. “I have to cure wounds if anything gets too far,” Zech mentions. “I wouldn’t let it get that far,” JM reassures Zechs. Serious says disappointed, “aw, that’s no fun.” “Goddammit, Cereius!” Zechs replies. 


“I’m betting 15 on We’Aqua.” Arguile makes a bet. “Ooo, 15 on We’Aqua.” JM notes. The “fight” starts with Galahad using his Conquering Presence but We’ahqa is unaffected. They retaliate with a push, trying to goad Galahad into action. “Fight me,” the Druid demands. Galahad tries to trip them but is unsuccessful. We’ahqa summons their Flaming Scimitar (the “c” is silent) and attacks the Paladin. “Hit me,” the Druid demands again. Again, Galahad tries to trip We’ahqa and again it is unsuccessful. The friendly Druid begins to tense and quiet as they go into a rage. Slashing across the Paladin with their Flaming Scimitar. Galahad begins to try, slashing at We’ahqa with Kanna’s Fury. 


As the fight continues, Zechs makes his way up to the workshop to inform Shanks and Attros of what is going on. Shanks is working on analyzing the Halfling coffee, he’s able to distill it down to a pure form but is not satisfied. He then looks to Attros and confesses that he read the letter that the Kenku had written. “Are you going to try and stop me?” Attros asks. On the contrary, Shanks is willing to help him. He speaks vaguely about a group that he was once part of that he wishes he could destroy. 


The fight ends with We’ahqa casting Hold Person, telling the Paladin “I forgive you,” hugging him, and holding the spell until it ends. At this point, everyone feels the floor shake slightly, as if the tavern is touching down somewhere. No one wins and the group decides to give Welby the money from the wagers as an apology. Eventually, the party makes its way upstairs. There is a knock at the front door of the tavern.


Zechs answers the door, opening it to find a small, pale man dressed in formal wear. “Are you the people that helped my lord?” the man says. “I’m sorry,” the Tabaxi replies. “You helped my lord find his bride,” the man clarifies, handing him a rectangular card. Zechs grabs it and blindly hands it back to whoever is behind him. “Who’s your lord,” Zechs asks the mysterious man. With a smile, the man replies, “why Lord Strahd Von Zarovich.” And with this, he vanishes. Zechs immediately activates his primeval awareness. Though there are pings of undead in the area, nothing as powerful as Strahd is present. 


There is a larger presence of undead a bit further out, presuming it’s the giant tree from before. Duo goes and scouts it out, and when he comes back it’s confirmed that it is the tree. The party reads the card and sees that it is an invitation to the wedding of Strahd and Ireena, taking place in two weeks. Chaos ensues but eventually, the party makes its way out into the fields of the winery. As they emerge, Attros summons his Eldritch Cannon onto his mechanical owl. Several blights and druids are making their way toward them and the party makes quick work of them.


They make their way to the wagon with wine barrels on it and make a break for the exit. Zechs and Shanks jump into the front of the cart, We’ahqa summons horses for the party, and they’re off to the races. Exiting the building, they feel and hear a rumble coming from the south. Kyver notices a massive tree that is animated and heading for the party. We’ahqa tries to slow its advance by summoning fire but a massive root emerges from the ground and grapples the Druid. Galahad, seeing this, turns his horse to rescue his compatriot, swinging Kanna’s Fury and severing the roots grasp. The Goliath pulls the Druid out of mid-air and seats them on his horse, racing back toward the party. The party begins to take potshots at the tree but it doesn’t relent. Arguile has an idea and as Kyver shoots his short bow, he cast Darkness on it. The shot is a direct hit and disorients the tree long enough for the party to escape. 


The party rides through the forest and continues into the night. There are some conversations among the party. They’re still working through the ordeal with the Constable and the information that they received after. Arguile talks about the dream he had the night before. He mentions the crest in the letter. A thirteen-pointed star made from swords. Attros recognizes the symbol. It reminds him of the Telltale Guild and the deal he made to fulfill his promise of revenge. He tells Arguile that they may be dealing with the same entity, a greater demon by the name of Arioch. “Arioch is an Archduke of the Abyss. If she is where he is, alone right now with our strength and capacity, we won’t be able to simply get her back. But I may have a way of reaching out to him.” Arguile thanks him for his offer and tells the Kenku that he will take him up on it if they make it through to the end of this current mission. 


Kyver, still distraught about the information he received in the tavern, carves the number 565 into the side of the wagon. As they continue into the night, Attros asks Cereius for his shield. He takes his tinkers tools and infuses magic into it, making it a Repulsion Shield. Glad breaks into a small speech about what her original goals were. She talks about how it was really about finding her place and her family again. She tells them that she sees them as her family. Arguile tells her, jokingly, that he will have her back as long as she has the bag of money that JM gave to them. Some shenanigans entail a wrestling match between Kyver and Cereius that has Kyver getting thrown off of his horse. It ends, though, with the rogue kneeing the cleric in the groin as payback. 


We’ahqa apologizes to Galahad for how they reacted to the whole situation in the tavern. Galahad assures them that it’s ok, that their feelings are valid but wonders why the Druid was so angry. We’ahqa confesses that some in the party are just comrades to them but others are more than that. They reconcile their differences and the conversation changes to Galahad’s cipher. After lots of frustration and setbacks, he was able to decode it. It reads: “Chaos abounds. My sister plots. Collateral Damage. Daughters of Creation.” We’ahqa is shocked by the last line and they explain what they learned from the research in the tavern. Galahad wonders if the Daughters could be connected to Tiamat, the “sister” mentioned in the code. The Druid is pretty sure that they are separate things entirely. 


The party finally makes it to the city gate of Krezk. Zechs informs them that they’re there with the village’s wine delivery. The Burgomaster greets them again and gives them passage into the village. [22]


They inform him of the moving tree threat outside the walls. He doesn’t seem distraught by the possible threat. “That is why we never go outside the walls.” Zechs shrugs it off and asks him if the party can have a place to stay and if the town has a marketplace where they can get goods. He directs them to an empty house in the village; as for a marketplace there isn’t one in town, however, Vallaki does. The party inquires about the land but the Burgermeister doesn’t know much. “We don’t leave the walls. There are wolves and werewolves… I’m sorry I don’t have much information. Many of us have lived here for generations and don’t know much about the outside of the walls. I’ve been here all my life like my forefathers who founded this village.“ We’aqua naively chimes in asking “You have four fathers?” The Burgermeister gives him a questioning look and whispers to Zechs “The blue one.. he is strange…” 


Zechs asks if there is a sage or historian who might know, attempting to gather more information on Strahd. The Burgomaster tells them about the Abbot who lives in the Abbey on the hill. However, he doesn’t fully trust him because he hasn’t aged for over 100 years. In addition, they learn that The Abbey was named after the Abbey of Saint Markova. The Markovians stood against Strahd and stormed Castle Ravenloft to fight, however, there were no survivors. The Abbey was also once a hospital before the mist came. 


It’s late and the party retires to their lodging to rest and prepare. Shanks and Attros make arrows while We’aqua and Galahad chop wood for a fire. Zechs and Glad talk about the Archfey, King Oberon. Zechs believes he might be linked to his forgotten past. Glad has to appear before the Seelie court on the night of the receding moon and is debating leaving the party to do her quest. She feels that it is imperative and wishes that the team would accompany her but understands if she might have to go on alone. Glad believes that if Zechs joins her the team will follow. Zechs still feels that he doesn’t have much control over the team. He also feels that they should deal with Strahd first. He tries his best to validate Glad and assure her that he will help her but it is clear that he is determined to defeat Strahd. Glad reluctantly agrees, “Yeah, let’s find out what those tarot cards mean.” Gathering with the rest of the party they go over the tarot cards again to decide their next move.


While they’re planning, Attros looks at Shanks, takes out all his ball bearings, and asks if he can put acid in The hollow center. We’aqua also gives his ball bearings. Shanks’s eyes light up; he immediately runs over to his tools and starts making acid.  Zechs asked if Attros could do anything with his caltrops. He starts to draw plans using them. The rest of the party is amazed by the creativity he’s come up with. Curious about The Abbey, We’aqua, and Zechs sent out Franchise and Duo to scope out the location. We’aqua uses magic to see through Franchise’s eyes. There are guards but not much else. 


The party continues to plan but a bored We’aqua asks Kyver to do training drills outside. We’aqua puts on a blindfold and asks for Kyver to sneak up on him successfully. Kyver does so with ease but after a while, he grows bored and sneaks off into the woods. “Marco… Marco” We’aqua peeks under his blindfold. On the floor is a note with the word Polo on it. We’aqua turns into a panther and tracks his scent. Kyver hides his tracks but We’Aqua can pick up on details that he missed. Running through the woods Kyver finds a house and sneaks in. Although the modest home doesn’t look like it would contain valuables he continues to look around stealthy. We’aqua follows him. While looking around Kyver gets the sense that there is someone behind him, returns to his senses, and leaves the house. We’aqua remains hidden while watching Kyver leave. Before he leaves the home he looks around to ensure Kyver didn’t disturb the people who live there, once satisfied he continues to follow Kyver. He finds Kyver sitting in front of the lodge they’re staying in, looking up at the sky. We’aqua rubs his head on Kyvers shoulder then transforms back to normal. “Wanna talk about it?” We’aqua ask. “Tonight was a goodnight,” Kyver replies nonchalantly.  “Tonight was supposed to be a trust exercise, just so you know,” We’aqua says, then walks inside the lodge. Before he goes in Kyver says “Polo” We’aqua replies “Marco” and shuts the door. 


Shanks notices We’aqua coming in without Kyver. He sees that We’aqua is unnerved sitting in a corner of the lodge. Shanks offers his flask, We’aqua takes it saying thanks but places it on the floor next to him. They tell the archer what happened and consider their reckless actions. Outside, Kyver starts to carve out a poem on the exterior of the lodge. Once satisfied he heads to sleep along with the rest of the party. 


In the morning, Galahad wakes before everyone and starts to head to The Pool of the Morning Lord. Shanks notices him and asks to join. Galahad agrees and they go to the pool. There he prays to the Morning Lord. Shanks watches and once the Goliath has finished his prayers he asks him about his faith. Shanks wonders how he could still have faith after his god left him in prison for 50 years. Galahad feels that he had to go through that trial to become a better paladin. Shanks is jaded from his religious upbringing, feeling that his religious leaders were only out for themselves. Despite that, he admires Galahad’s faith and commitment to Bahamut. The Goliath tells him religion and faith are not the same and acknowledges that there are some people out there using God as an excuse to justify wrongful actions or personal agendas. People might even judge him as one of those people but his relationship with his god is personal and helps him on his journey. Galahad also apologizes to Shanks on behalf of his former religious leaders. Turning back to the pool Galahad takes his sword, cuts his hand, and places the holy pool water in his wound.


Once everyone wakes, the party, except Glad, heads to the Abbey to speak to The Abbot. When they arrive the party gets the attention of 2 wayward guards. The team notes them as mongrelfolk; humanoid creatures with different animal body parts. Arguile asks Kyver sarcastically, “is this what happens when you crossbreed?” Kyver replies “I don’t know. Maybe ask your mom.” After an awkward interrogation by the mongrelfolk, the guards reluctantly allow them in. As the party gets escorted into The Abbey, Galahad leans over and whispers to Zechs telling him this place is giving him a bad feeling. Shanks is also unsettled by the whole situation. 


They’re led into a courtyard and they see a mongrel bat woman chained and screaming. The party tries to aid in helping the woman but fails. She screams and scurries away from them. He sneaks away from the group to peer into the windows of the Abbey from the courtyard. He sees several different rooms including what looks like a summoning circle. Shanks believes there might be a spell being cast but without Glad they have no idea of knowing. The party is led into the main hall of the Abbey. 


Gentle-sounding music trickles down from above, played on a single-stringed instrument by some unseen master. The ground floor is one large, fifty-foot-square room with arched, leaded glass windows. A cauldron sits on an iron rack above a fire in a hearth, while above the fireplace mantel hangs a golden disk engraved with the symbol of the sun. In one corner, a wooden staircase climbs to the upper level, while in another corner a stone staircase descends into darkness. Several chairs surround a wooden table that stretches nearly the room’s length. Wooden dishware and gold candelabras are neatly arranged on the table, standing behind this is a young woman with alabaster skin dressed in a torn and soiled red gown. Her auburn hair is neatly bundled so as not to touch her soft shoulders. She seems lost in her thoughts. The party begins to realize that this woman is a flesh golem when they hear footsteps on the stairs behind them.[23]


A handsome young man ascends the stairs in a brown monk’s garb with a wooden holy symbol that resembles the sun. He introduces himself as the Abbot and asks what the party wanted to talk to him about. The group seeks information about the lands of Barovia. The rumor of his aging, or lack thereof, is brought up as well. The Abbot speaks on the small town of Valaki and of Castle Ravenloft. He also denies the rumors of his youth. The party continues to question him about his intentions. He points out that the woman that is sitting before them was made to be Strahd’s bride.


This catches the party off-guard. They delicately break the news that Strahd is already betrothed to be married. He refutes this and asks for proof. Shanks offers up the invitation and Abbot snatches it from his hand. The party can see that, as he’s reading it, his happy demeanor is quickly fracturing. They continue to question him and push him for information. As this all occurs, Shanks begins to piece things together. The Abbot is neither friend nor foe, he is genuinely trying to help the situation, however misguided his attempts are.


Probing further, the party asks him about his creations that are in the other areas of the Abbey. He tells them that they are the unfortunate early experiments that eventually led to the woman sitting in front of them. They continue to question and pry. Attros asks about Tatiana and if he has seen her before, though, Abbot has only heard a description. The Artificer shows him an image of Ireena and the priest is taken aback. The two look nearly identical, based on the descriptions. We’ahqa begins to push boundaries and tries to touch the woman. The Abbot becomes incredibly defensive, shouting that she is not to be touched. 


Shanks asks about his creations. The Abbot tells him that they’re a family that is native to Krezk, the Bellviews. They sought these augmentations because of a need to be perfect. Though, Abbot admits that the family’s idea of perfect is fucked up. A man, known at the time as Von Holt, came to the abbey to help with the Bellview’s “improvements”. This man turned out to be Strahd and it was at that point that the Abbot knew that he couldn’t destroy the Vampire. His solution became giving him something else to focus on, a bride, and hopefully trying to persuade the Dark Powers to leave Strahd be.


Zechs brings up the Vistani and some descriptions of the tarot cards. One description is confirmed to be Castle Ravenloft. Another is considered the home of the Order of the Silver Dragon, Argonvostholt. The Abbot goes on to posit that the Vistani seem to be able to journey in and out of Barovia as they, please. He offers the party a tour of the Abbey, but the party is unsure. After some discussion, they decide to decline the offer. However, before the party leaves the abbey, they are asked if they could get the Abbot into the wedding. The group says that they’re not sure but will look into it for him. He even offers to grant them a favor. He gives them a sending stone to keep in touch. And with that, the party leaves the abbey. 


The party meets back up with Glad on their way down from the Abbey and immediately wants to get out of Krezk. They make their way out, stopping at the Burgomaster’s home. The party asks if there is any other work that they can do for him and the village. He mentions that helping the Martikovs get the winery running again would be beneficial to all. And then he comments on the party having just come from the Abbey. He asks what the Abbot is doing up there and Shanks replies coldly that he’s been “making mongrels” with “spare parts”. The Burgomaster nods his head and laments that this must be why the village’s dead go missing. “If you are looking for something to do for me, I would very much like to not have the dead in my town taken from their loved ones.” The group exchanges looks, and Arguile pipes up with “It’s not our problem.” The party ends up deciding to clear the vineyard before they take on anything else.


The Burgomaster gifts them the cart they delivered the wine on and they begin to make their way back to the vineyard. In transit, the party talks about potentially setting the Abbot and Strahd against each other. This could be a situation they could manipulate in their favor. We’ahqa has the brilliant idea of forging a copy of the invitation to facilitate this plan. As the group continues further the sun begins to set and eventually they stop close to the vineyard to rest for the night. The party breaks into two groups for the watch: Galahad and We’ahqa on the first shift, and Shanks and Zechs on the second shift.


We’ahqa and Galahad have a humorous exchange that turns serious during their shift. Galahad gives We’ahqa a bit of a rundown of his past. Leaves his clan, meets his mentor, Antonius, training with him, and finally runs into the party. Dedicating a year to each tenant of his oath, the Oath of Conquest, three in total. He pulls up his sleeve to reveal a branding of them on his forearm. He laments that he hasn’t truly accomplished anything. We’ahqa assures him that the things that he has already accomplished are good and admirable. Just because his culture is based heavily on deeds, he doesn’t discount the things to which he has pledged his life. 


The Druid and Paladin take their rest and the two archers take over the watch. Shanks and Zechs have a conversation that gets philosophical. The elf admits that he’s starting to care about the other party members, which scares him. With Zechs probing for a bit more information, Shanks reveals that he was once part of a “very devastating group of people” that he has been trying to get away from. He feels a bit of a kinship with Attros because of the disillusionment from being with this group. The lines have become blurry and he’s had to draw his own on occasion. Zechs probes deeper and asks about his moral compass. 


This pushes things in a more personal direction. He talks about being “mixed blood”, Eladrin, and Wild-elf. He was looked down upon and called an abomination. A mixture of two things that should never have been. Seeing the things that he saw at the Abbey, the things that he was likened to, was beyond startling. He makes no qualms about what he would like to do to the Abbot but doesn’t think the group would agree with his methods. The subject changes to religion. Shanks is a man of logic and reason. Faith without basis is something he can’t get behind. 


Kyver has another dark vision from the entity that offered him power. Power in exchange for Strahd and the party’s demise. With the resurfacing of his early life, the idea of power over humans is more appetizing than ever. The entity reminds him of vaults made of amber. Kyver takes the dagger Bloodlust and carves the words “The Vaults” into his forearm. The wounds healed almost instantly into barely noticeable scars. “It must be before the wedding. He cannot have a bride,” the entity whispers. With these words, the vision fades and Kyver awakens to rain. [24]Returning to the Vineyard, Damian is upset with the party for leaving for several weeks without completing the job. They get into a heated disagreement about the logistics of the mission and Damian goes as far as to call Arguile a racial slur; a demon while addressing him. We’aqua is not one for sitting back and letting people disrespect his friends, threatens him with his dagger, and asks him to be careful. The conflict subsides and We’aqua offers food and water as an apology. While leaving, Arguile shoulder checks Damian. Kyver, who is dazed from his vision, glares at the man but sees him turn into a raven and flies away.


The party races toward the Tree Blight and Druids surrounding the winery. We’aqua summons four bears to attack the tree. It crushes one of them while the other three claw and bites at the bark and branches. The rain continues to pour and Glad calls a bolt of lightning from the sky and strikes the tree. Exploding, it smolders and falls to the ground. Shanks uses Mind Eye and his acid arrows to take a long-distance shot at the fallen tree. His shot hits its mark, burning the tree from the inside out. The party makes quick work out of the rest of the druids. Kyver, however, seems to be off of his game and is unnerved by the whole situation. Checking the smoldering Tree Blight, they notice that arcane runes have been carved on it.


They make their way into the winery to clear out any remaining druids. They spit up and search the building cautiously. On the search through the winery, Kyver is startled by Galahad and almost attacks him. The paladin doesn’t mention anything but makes a note that something is up with Kyver. Elsewhere, Shanks comes across a magical staff in the winch room over the carriage bay. He suggests to Arugile that a caster should examine it before anyone touches it. The snarky Tiefling agrees, walking up to the nearest window and breaking it, calling the casters to come and examine what they found. We’ahqa, Attros, and Glad come to check it out and they learn it’s powerful and possibly helpful for later. The building is now completely clear of Druids or blights. 


Walking out of the building We’aqua goes to Kyver who is craving on the side of the winey. He asks Kyver if he stole anything. He takes out his Medusa’s token and says to give it to Glad. We’aqua declines and says to do it himself. Kyver walks away from him wordlessly and goes back into his dazed state. The normally peaceful Water Genasi pushes the Tabaxi but Kyver doesn’t react. We’aqua then trips Kyver and the two start to get into a tussle on the floor. We’auqa shouts, “What is going on with you?” Finally, Kyver opens up about his past. He tells the Druid that his father was betrayed by Humans. He, unfortunately, witnessed his father’s head on a spike. The nobleman of his homeland sent out an order to raid his village, slaughtering his people, and capturing him and other Tabaxi children. He spent 565 days in slave pits before he was free.


“I know you must think less of me,” Kyver says. We’aqua tries to assure him that they don’t feel that way, they just want to understand him. “Understand this, I am an evil son of a bitch.” Kyver states. We’aqua disagrees and says if Kyver was evil he would’ve killed them. Kyver says nothing and walks to the cart. They travel back to Damian. Once they inform him that his winey is cleared he apologizes for his behavior and asks what is the nature of their visit. After noticing how Damian reacts to the topic of Strahd, they feel it’s safe to tell him they were here to rid the land of Strahd. Martikov offers his help. He and his people are willing to aid in ridding this land of him.


Zech then asks him if he knows of Baba Lysaga. Damian is visibly unnerved by the name. We’aqua seeing Glad once cast Calm Emotions goes to him, places his hand on his chest, and says, “Calm”. Although We’aqua doesn’t have the spell, it somehow works and Martikov relaxes. He tells the party what he knows and the location of The Baba Lysaga. Meanwhile, Glad noticing how off Kyver is follows him to the back of the Vineyard. He’s staring up into the sky kind of babbling about being an innocent child, then he whips out his dagger in a daze. Glad asks him if he’s okay and then Kyver drops to his knees, shivering; the dagger falls out of his hand. He cries “Help me!” Glad looks around to see if anyone saw. Shanks and We’ run over to aid her. Glad goes to him and she checks to see if her magic would work to help but it cannot aid in healing his emotional trauma. She tells him “we cannot help you if you don’t open up to us.” Kyver, still dazed, asks her “What makes a person evil?” She says, “I think we all make mistakes and we all have trauma but people who refuse to do better are the truly evil people.” He tells them the name of the man that killed his father Abraxis Vitalis. The party assures him that they’re there for him. He walks away and starts to crave Vitalis’s name on a tree. Glad turns to Zechs and states “ever since he’s gotten that Dagger he’s been acting strange.” Zechs then turns to Shanks saying “you gave him that dagger, you have to deal with him.” Shanks says nothing but walks to Kyver accepting his duty to his comrade, followed by We’ahqa.[25]


Shanks and We’ahqa come in to de-escalate the tense situation. The archer speaks about having things in his past that he wishes could be different. That the whole group has terrible things that they regret. He specifically points to Attros as a prime example. Kyver gets in really close asking what he is supposed to do about these human nobles from his past. What is anyone supposed to do? Shanks leans in, speaking quietly and evenly “we bleed ‘em out real slow.” “I’m ready to bleed out all these motherfuckers,” Kyver says in response. They agree that they’ll do it together, but not before they finish the job in Barovia. 


All that Shanks asks for is the dagger. Though it’s not said aloud, it’s plain to Kyver that the rest of the group thinks it’s affecting him. “If you think this is fucking making me crazy, do what you must,” the Tabaxi proclaims, handing the dagger to Shanks. “But I’m telling you right now,” he continues, “the Journeyman should’ve never given me that map.” The two walk away from each other in opposite directions. Shanks back toward Zechs and Kyver off to go outside. Attros follows Kyver.


Shanks wordlessly hands off the dagger to Zechs. Who walks over to Glad and places it inside the group’s bag of holding. We’ahqa, curious and wanting to help Kyver, ask if they can examine the dagger. After a little convincing, Glad relents and gives them the dagger to look at, under supervision. With a thorough check, We’ahqa finds that this rare dagger is heavily imbued with necromancy. And while the magic that it emanates is dark, it doesn’t seem to have any curse or evil surrounding it. There appears to be no corrupting force. The Druid tries to nick the dagger but Glad catches them, politely but firmly telling them to put the dagger back where they got it. As We’ahqa walks away, Glad continues to sip on her newly purified wine.


Zechs heads back over to Shanks and the two discuss what they should do with the dagger. They both agree that the dagger may not be the source of the behavioral change but it doesn’t seem to be helping. They point out that if the Journeyman didn’t seem to have an issue with it, it must be safe enough. We’ahqa, who has been eavesdropping on the conversation, causally walks by and agrees. Zechs delegates the task of keeping an eye on Kyver to Shanks, who just chuckles at the idea. “You know how this group does with ‘charges’, so I’m just gonna leave that alone,” Shanks says. “Fine, you take the dagger” Zechs replies.


Shanks tells him that he knows he favors his bow and that he already has a dagger. From there, the two discuss who should take it if Shanks won’t. In the middle of this back and forth, Arguile appears from the shadows offering to temporarily exchange weapons. This pushes the debate further on who should take it. Zechs decides he’s done with the debate and tells Shanks that it’s his problem. None too pleased, Shanks walks outside to cool off. And Zechs heads back to Damian, who is still outside and slightly stunned by all of this. 


They pick up the conversation about the crystals that are required to grow their wines. Attros confronts Kyver. He tells the assassin that he thinks he’s justified. That the two of them agree on a lot of things. Kyver maniacally speaks about the blood on his hands and the idea of being saved. The Kenku asks what it even means to be saved. When the same horrible things happened to him and he had the choice of being saved or becoming a monster. He chose to become a monster. Because he wanted his peace, not to wait to be saved. He speaks of not killing those to save his kind but those he grew up with. The ones he had pledged oaths with. Kyver confesses that he is no better, killing innocents in his past.


Attros lets loose a torrent of information. Growing up in the slums and swearing to form a guild with his Kenku brothers and sisters. Being treated as scum and filth and then embracing it. Taking any job, doing anything they needed to do to survive. They became the worst of the worst. Kyver asks Attros to do him a favor, “from one fiend to another.” Attros interjects, “it’s funny that you say, fiend.” Kyver wants to become the boogeyman. The Artificer says that he’s aiming too small. Why not irradicate filth from everyone, not just humans? Purge evil with evil. Wash away the stains of old blood with more. “What they don’t realize is, once you have blood on your hands you can’t get rid of it. It’s about releasing darkness, but controlling it.”


Kyver admits that he doesn’t want to control it. Attros tells him that there is a time and place to burn everything down and start again. Instead of taking the hope in others away, why not find that hope and happiness again? Has he sinned so much that he can only sin now? Attros believes that Kyver can still be redeemed. At one point, Kyver thought so too. But since he was given the map to the nobleman’s manor and his actions after, he doesn’t anymore. Attros counters that the Journeyman gave him a chance to truly be redeemed. To end things once and for all. And that the only thing that Kyver was doing, was running away. Doesn’t he want to end everything for all of the other Tabaxi that had to go through what happened to him? The two vow to help each other.


Galahad and Cereius stand in the corner watching most of this unfold. They both speak of their faith. Cereius speaks candidly, for the first time, about his goddess The Moonweaver. He fears that she will ask more of him than he can give. Galahad commiserates with that feeling. Cereius remembers his early years in his small town. As chaotic as the adventurers that passed through there were, this party is at a whole new level. Galahad gives the Grave Cleric the lowdown on some of the earlier days with the group and Kyver’s exploits. Though he is new and barely knows him, he is worried about Kyver. 


Galahad is concerned for Kyver as well. What irks him, is it’s something about humans that seems to set the Tabaxi off. It feels like he is dead set on doing something terrible. He hopes nothing comes of it, as he doesn’t like the thought of having to intervene with Kyver. They both agree that even though they can understand the assassin’s feelings, they’re against the shedding of innocent blood. 


Shanks returns from the exterior of the winery, having sufficiently cooled off, and asks Glad for the dagger. Glad acquiesces on the condition that Kyver doesn’t get it back. Shanks assures her that it is not going back to him. With Bloodlust in his possession, the archer heads over to Arguile. They have a short back-and-forth that results in a switch. Arguile takes Bloodlust, to test whether or not it is affecting its wielder, and Kyver will hold onto the Guardian’s Rapier. Once it’s settled that the dagger isn’t a danger, they’ll switch back. He then makes the exchange with Kyver, who accepts it. 


As the party comes back together, Galahad notices that the wine has gone to Glad’s head. He goes to relieve her of this burden when Arguile asks for ten minutes of fun before he sober’s her up. “We need an inside joke, just ten minutes.” Shenanigans ensue involving Glad and Kyver singing and dancing around the winery until Galahad ends it. Eventually, they decide to head down to the Druids on Yester Hill instead of looking for Baba Lysaga. On their way down, Zechs and We’ahqa send their familiars up into the air to scout. 


The trail through the thick woods leads to a hill covered with dead grass and cairns of black rock. Dark, ominous clouds gather high above, and a single bolt of lightning strikes the hilltop. West of the hill, the land, the woods, and the sky vanish behind a towering wall of fog. Dirt trails run along two concentric rings of cairns that encircle the hillside. Each cairn is a ten-foot-high mound of slimy black rocks. Atop the hill is a wide ring of black boulders and smaller rocks that collectively form a makeshift wall enclosing a field of dead grass. Lightning strikes the edge of the ring from time to time, illuminating a ghastly, fifty-foot-tall statue made of tightly woven twigs and packed with black earth. The statue resembles a towering, cloaked man with fangs. 


We’ahqa pulls out the staff that was found within the winery. They tell Zechs that this staff will allow them to appear as a friend to the Druids and Blights. They have the idea of setting up an ambush and luring all of the people they can find on the hill into it. Make it quick and efficient. The party loves the idea and the Druid makes their way down the path to the bottom of the hill, Attros in tow. Walking up in a jovial manner, the Druid successfully convinces one of the hidden foes to come out and speak to them. A spacey human man curiously walks over to the pair. We’ahqa performs a couple of different smaller feats of magic and pulls two more from their hiding spots. The Genasi walks closer and asks why they were hiding.


The one who emerged first, a man by the name of Chico, tells We’ahqa that it was what they were told to do. To ambush the party that was up at the winery. We’ahqa and Chico have an interesting conversation, about when they joined the borough of Druids. Chico introduces the rest of the Druids that begin to come out of hiding. He seems jovial and upbeat. He talks about joining this group to eat and have people protect him. We’ahqa informs him that the Tree Blight has been defeated but the pair of them, We’ahqa and Attros, were sent to resurrect it. We’ahqa has Chico gather the rest of the druids in hiding to guide them to the ritual. 


We’ahqa and Attros lead the druids into the kill box, having them form a circle for a “great ritual”. The pair slowly back away from the circle and begin to chant. This is the signal to the rest of the party. In a matter of seconds, the Druids are decimated, including Chico. But We’ahqa saw something in Chico and tries to convince the group to resurrect him. [26]


The party is very much convinced by We’ahqa and Cereius steps forward to revivify the fallen Druid. It’s a tense moment for the cleric as he hasn’t had the best of luck with this particular spell. We’ahqa lets the party know that they want to talk to Chico before anyone else. The ritual is successful, despite Cereius’s fears and Chico comes back to life. We’ahqa explains to the Druid that this was all an elaborate test put forth by the Wild Mother. The rest of the party, except for Kyver, reinforces this notion as Chico looks around him at the carnage that just transpired.


Chico informs the group that the tree that they just fought has one of the crystals that the party is looking for. We’ahqa immediately sends Franchise to retrieve the crystal. He also tells them that there is a cursed tree on the opposite side of the mound. Telling them that they need to uproot it to destroy it. It has protection, so they should be ready. The party decides the best course of action is to take out the tree first and go from there.


As they weave their way up the path and through the cairns, a voice on the wind catches Shanks’s ear. “Long have I waited,” it says, “for one who is worthy. My spear hungers for blood. Retrieve it, and rule these mountains in my stead, just like the mighty warriors from the early days of the Whispering Wall.” Shanks relays what he heard to the rest of the group. He is drawn to one of the cairns. With some help from the party, he is able to uncover a long-decayed body clutching a spear. Attros casts the identify spell on it. He finds that it is the Blood Spear of Kavan. Shanks decides to keep it with him. 


The continue to the top of the hill, seeing a splintered base of what was once a carved wooden statue. Chico explains that it was a statue of Strahd before the ritual to make the Tree Blight. Further down the path, they see a small grove with a gnarly-looking tree. Chico says that this is the tree they need to take out. He also asks to stay behind at the top of the mound because he doesn’t want to be near it. After a short bit of planning and punning, Kyver and We’ahqa make their way down toward the tree. Kyver loses his footing and falls. Getting up, he begins to sprint at the tree and the blights surrounding it. 


There is a fierce battle between the majority of the party and the blights. Attros sits back, out of the radius of the conflict sips on some tea with Chico. But he doesn’t like the direction the fight is taking so he sends Gilead into the fray with his Eldritch Cannon attached to her. There are some back and forths but the tide eventually shifts in the party’s favor. At this turn, Attros walks back to Chico and sits back down for some tea. Near the end of the battle, a figure appears at the top of the mound. Strahd stands amused watching the battle take place. With a rapid pace, the fight ends, and tension grips the air as the rest of the party makes their way back up toward Strahd.


Attros tries to calm the situation down and starts a dialogue with the Vampire. He doesn’t seem too pleased that the party is in league with the Martikovs/the Were-Ravens. He questions the party’s motives. He reveals that he is actively trying to remove the Were-Ravens from Barovia. He was part of the ritual to make the tree blight and he is in league with the Druids. Galahad speaks up and tells the vampire that they were merely trying to help the folks in the villages. Giving them small pleasures to help keep them going. Attros sees an opportunity to keep on Strahd’s good side and tries to make it seem like the party is there to help. 


Strahd is resistant at first, telling the party that he has eyes on them at all times. That he saw that they were able to leave the land but decided to come back. The party asks outright what Strahd wants. He replies that he wants to stay in control. Attros ingratiates himself toward the vampire, speaking about losing a loved one. Kyver decides to make a move on Strahd but is shut down very quickly. Eventually, they come to an agreement: as a wedding gift, the party will bring the head of a Were-Raven to him on a platter and he will leave them be. He lets the party know that Ireena is very excited about her wedding day and thanks them for bringing them together.


Shanks asks about Strahd’s thoughts on the Abbot. He confesses that he has kept him around for the sheer enjoyment of corrupting him. The vampire eludes to the group that they are not what they seem. And with this, he vanishes into the mist surrounding the mound. Cereius, who has only just met Strahd for the first time, asks what that was all about. Attros gives him the rundown of their relationship with Strahd.


The party heads back down to the tree uproot it, and lights it on fire. Underneath they find a decayed body clutching a battle axe. Attros identifies this as a magical battle axe, named Treebane, that deals extra damage to plant life. The tavern then appears at the top of the mound and the party heads in. On their way inside, We’ahqa asks Chico where they can find the Were-Ravens. Chico remembers that they’re mainly split between two places: the winery and the town of Vallaki. The party invites Chico into the tavern.


Kyver, obviously distraught from the happenings of the last few hours, makes his way straight to the bar and begins demanding food and drink from Welby. The Halfling isn’t overly pleased by this and neither is the rest of the party. The party ignores Kyver and tells Welby about their situation with Chico. Welby responds: “If he can cook, I don’t give a fuck if he’s bad.” He pulls the Druid into the back to show him the kitchen. At this point, the Journeyman enters the conversation. 


The party informs JM about the trouble that they’ve been having with Kyver. Their theories about it potentially being the dagger that is causing everything. They tell her about Chico and how they convinced him to join them. Eventually leading to a conversation about the deal that they struck with Strahd to keep a brawl from breaking out. After a bit more conversation, she heads up to Kyver. Making her way in, she sees Kyver with a far-off stare and a crooked smile. They have a hard conversation about everything that has been transpiring recently. JM pushes for information, wanting to help him. 


Kyver breaks and asks why she gave him that map. She matches his energy and tells him that she did it so he could get revenge. She gave him the thing that he coveted the most in the world so that he could avenge his family. But he’s just going to throw it all away? He’s going to alienate her and the people who would be the ones to help him. A deep sadness overtakes Kyver, he feels like he’s a danger to everyone. He recounts the vision of his death at the beginning of their time in Barovia. He speaks about voices constantly hounding him. He believes that his soul is black and damned. She tells him that he needs to focus on his feelings and find balance again in his life. He needs to make amends with the people around him.[27]


As the Journeyman heads upstairs to speak with Kyver, the rest of the party sits in the tavern area. A new section has been added to the interior with a second fireplace and lounge-type chairs. Attros, frustrated with the party, silently makes his way up to his room. The party asks for drinks and Welby delivers. Shanks slips away and follows the Journeyman to eavesdrop on the conversation with Kyver. As the party drinks their ales, coffee, and water, the party discusses the situation with Kyver and the new development with Strahd. 


We’ahqa brings up the forged wedding invitation for the Abbot. Galahad mentions that they’re now expected to deliver heads to the “Vampire Lord” of Barovia. The Druid suggests faking their deaths. As they are discussing this, they realize that Shanks is not in the room. We’ahqa runs to find the archer and they meet on the stairs to the second floor. Shanks narrowly dodges the Genasi as they speed toward him. Eventually, the party all make it back down to the tavern, except for Attros and Kyver. Chico presents everyone with their new creation: Chicken and Waffles. It’s an instant hit.


Shanks is distraught about some of the things going on. He doesn’t think that Kyver’s problems are related to the dagger and that they’re most assuredly emotional. The party wants to help but they also want to see some kind of effort of change from Kyver, at least from their perspective. Shanks agrees and asks what the party thinks about their new deal with Strahd. Zechs brings up the idea of asking the Abbot to make them a ravens head in exchange for an invitation to the wedding. Shanks is immediately apprehensive. He’s not so sure that the party can trust any of the other parties that they’re actively making deals with. 


The Journeyman joins in the conversation. The party questions some things they’ve recently seen from Strahd. His ability to disappear from where he is. JM speaks about different vampire abilities and their shape-shifting properties. Zechs, thinking on his knowledge of the undead, tells the group about some of the inherent weaknesses of Vampires. Their aversion to sunlight and running water. Their ability to climb and walk on walls. How they must be killed where they rest, otherwise they will just regenerate and return. That radiant damage and holy water or oil inhibit their regeneration. All of a sudden, things begin to take shape. Plans begin to form. 


With some tentative plans in place, the party decides to try and help Kyver. Glad makes her way up to the Tabaxi and Shanks tags along as support. Glad starts by saying “look, you reached out to me for help and I didn’t know how to help you, but I’m willing. I see that you’re in deep pain and trying to get through it. We have a lot of battles to fight still, and I think I speak for all of us that we want you by our side. We don’t want you to be consumed by this rage. So please, help us help you.” Kyver quickly makes his way to Glad and stares her down, only to break eye contact and put his head down on her shoulder, letting out a small sob.


Behind him, Shanks gestures to Glad, who doesn’t know how to react, that he might want to be pet. She awkwardly pets Kyver on the head, unsure of what is going to happen next. In a quiet and even tone, Kyver says “If you expect me to purr…” Glad interjects his statement with “Listen Kyver, we just want to comfort you, help you, heal you. We want to figure this out so we can fight shit together again.” Shanks chimes in that he identifies with a lot of what Kyver is feeling and that he doesn’t necessarily know what to do to help him. They both express that they want to help and have him open up about what they can do. The conversation seems to end with a hug and a “thank you” from the Tabaxi. But Kyver then opens up about his past to the two elves. The slavery, the fighting tournaments, and everything in between. 


While this conversation is taking place upstairs, We’ahqa has a chat with JM downstairs. They bring up the staff being wielded by her, asking what it is. They identify it as the Staff of Dunamancy. JM confirms that is indeed what it is and that she is a Chronurgy Wizard. We’ahqa then shows JM the staff that they found at the winery. She tells the Druid that this staff is bad news and that they should probably not have it in play. We’ahqa senses that she’s worried about getting into the wrong hands and gives it to her. JM lets them know that their scimitar is ready for them, along with Arguile’s shortsword and Galahad’s greatsword. 


The conversation turns to what has been happening with the Journeyman. She talks about having just dropped off another group on a different plane. The world that this other group is in is a living, sentient being. She tells them that it’s currently known as Sloane and that members of the party are from that place. This is fascinating to We’ahqa and they eventually hug and end the conversation. We’ahqa takes a seat at another table and the Journeyman heads to her office. The focus shifts to Galahad as he peers into the new lounge section of the tavern. He sees a familiar, older man sitting in one of the chairs. Galahad heads toward him.


The two sit by the fire and discuss the happenings from the past week. Galahad comments on the cipher, to which Bothok replies that his sword is not the only weapon he needs to keep sharp. “A sharp blade will win you battles, but a sharp mind will win you wars,” the old man says to the Paladin. They speak about his sister, Tiamat, and how Bothok is unsure what her plans are but he knows that something nefarious is happening. The conversation flows, inevitably, to Galahad’s oath and tenets. Bothok speaks of these tenets as things that shouldn’t be taken in a literal sense. Though it is within the culture of Goliath to follow them as physical things to do, it is very possible that doing so would lead down a path of destruction. He suggests a more metaphorical approach. Galahad agrees, citing his time in the vaults as an awakening of his outlook and understanding of the Oath of Conquest. 


“I believe that you can follow the tenets that you’ve chosen, but it must be the intent behind them. Much like words spoken, you can say one thing and mean another. Just as your tenets can purport one thing but may intend another” Bothok explains. He goes on to tell the Paladin that spreading out his attention too much will make things harder to accomplish. He must focus on the task at hand before worrying about his sister and the other problems that face the planes. “Make sure that the annoying blue one survives,” Bothok orders. The two discuss this for a moment and Galahad agrees to keep We’ahqa safe but refuses to tell them of his charge. Bothok then opens up to questions from Galahad.


“Is there any insight or wisdom on the defeat of Strahd,” the Goliath asks. Bothok leans in and says “It seems to me you have the answers right in front of you. It’s a matter of arranging them in the correct order. You know how to take out Strahd, what can hurt him. You that he wants to stay in power. What are the tenets of your oath?” Galahad replies with his tenets and Bothok queries how these would apply to the task of defeating Strahd. He encourages Galahad to discuss it with his party and to finish this task in front of him. His mentor Antonius needs the Goliath’s help. With that, Bothok disappears from the tavern and Galahad contemplates this new information by the fire.


As Galahad is off in the lounge, Shanks makes his way over to the Journeyman’s office for the chat he had been looking for earlier. He immediately notices that the interior of the office has changed since the last time he was there. More bookshelves and cases line the walls, and where the large desk was before, sits a lowered table and two long cushions on the floor flanking either side. She is sitting on the opposite side of the table from the door and beckons him to sit. Shanks, however, decides to stay standing. He pulls out his bow and begins to talk about his difficulties in utilizing its different properties of it. He’s hoping that maybe the Journeyman can augment the bow to work with his current abilities. 


JM explains that the bow does work with his abilities. Because he is Eladrin, regardless of if he’s “only half”, the bow feeds off of his innate magic. The evocation of elements is directly linked to his lineage. She continues “what was it that you said to me when we first met? You hate how I talk in circles?” “Yes,” Shanks replies inquisitively. “If I always talk in circles, would it then make sense that I would give you a magical item that requires you to think how to use it instead of just point and shoot? A bow called Mind’s Eye?” Shanks realizes that this answer what staring him in the face the entire time. He apologizes for “wasting her time” and makes for the door. The Journeyman isn’t done, however, and uses her mage hand to close it before he leaves. 


She explains that if he wants more control over the bow, he has to have more control over himself and his mind. That what he needs more than anything is clarity. She questions if he feels like he’s only good for doing damage and killing things. If that is somehow his only skill or purpose. How he decides to go about this is totally on him, but the bow will never reach its full potential until he finds the clarity he needs. Some sort of insight seems to reveal itself to Shanks as he gives her a nod and thanks her for the help. 


Meanwhile, Kyver invites Glad for a drink. She accepts, very hesitantly, and on her way over to the bar she notices a familiar tall figure. Breaking away from Kyver, she makes her way over to the Protector. She asks about Kyver and if they’re somehow linked. He says that their futures are linked in some way but not their past. The conversation turns to all of the different things that the group is trying to accomplish. He comments that she keeps odd company but that she’s also an odd duck herself. A traveling, adventuring Wood-elf that is a cleric in a non-nature-based religion. It’s what he likes about her. He encourages her to begin to wear her vestments again. Glad talks about the painful memories attached to them: leaving her home behind and losing her husband. Eventually, the conversation ends on the topic of Glad looking for her father and her fulfilling the need of finding out “where she comes from.”


Getting up from his seat in the lounge, Galahad makes his way to the Journeyman’s office. Speaking in the office, Galahad asks about Kanna’s Fury. She talks about tailoring the sword to his oath with Bahamut. It will grow and become more powerful the further he gets into his journey. He realizes that the scrollwork on his blade is incomplete and there are more abilities to appear later on. [28]


The party takes this downtime as an opportunity to figure a few things out about their motives on this mission. Zechs makes his way down to the workout area. Working with Duo on their link and timing. Examining his bow, his internal motivations, and his perspective on the situation at large. While this introspection occurs, he remembers feeling a seem somewhere on the bow. With this in mind, he starts going through maneuvers and movements with Jack of All Trades. Again, he feels a seem on the handle area and finds that one of the decorative symbols has risen slightly from the rest of the bow. 


Putting pressure on this risen symbol, it clicks down and begins to bend the bow back in on itself. The string loosens and the center of the bow folds, disconnecting into two short swords. He heads up to JMs office and inquires about what he’s just figured out. She concedes that she had a part in this design and remembers that Zechs had wanted a bow that acted like a shortsword. So, why not a bow that acted like two short swords? They converse a bit more and almost everyone decides to make their way to bed. 


Sitting in their room, We’ahqa listens intently to his armor. They begin to hear whispering in a language that they don’t understand. Eventually, they fall asleep, repeating the phrases they heard in their mind, over and over again. While the rest of the party sleeps, Cereius receives another vision from the Moonweaver. In a very similar situation to his last meeting, a bright and massive moon sits on the horizon. A silhouette of a woman darkens the light emanating in front of him. As he walks closer, he’s able to see familiar features of the figure. This is his wife, Valencia. It can’t be, he thinks, she’s been lost. She seems out of sorts, she’s unaware of the things that have transpired. Cereius explains, in detail, that she has been cursed and that he is trying to find a way to get her back. He promises that he’ll never give up because he knows that she will never give up either. They embrace and cry together as the vision fades to black.


Meanwhile, Attros has an entirely different encounter with someone unexpected. A small, albino child suddenly appears inside his room, unmoving like a statue. He questions the child, who responds that they are a messenger for Elrin. Attros questions further, “why are you here?” The child tells the Artificer that their mutual friend wishes to bestow power upon him. That of a devotee, a cleric. Attros, clever as always, asks if there is a catch. The child confirms that there is and that he must deliver a gift to a member of the party. Upon the delivery, he will be granted his new abilities. Powers from the Domain of Death. A small, smooth, red stone that is meant to help his friend Arguile. Attros takes the stone and casts Identify on it. At the end of the ritual, he finds that it is called the Light of Elrin. It is meant to be used as an added protection for the bearer. 


He thanks the child, telling them that their friend would be very appreciative of this gift. They discuss their master a bit and Attros asks if they need to be escorted out. They thank the Kenku but decline the offer. As soon as Attros turns away from the child, they are gone. Attros contemplate what just occurred for a moment and then makes his way to sleep. While the rest of the party sleeps, Shanks comes out of his trance and makes his way to the workshop. Working diligently through the early morning, he is successful in distilling the halfling coffee down to its purest form. However, to make it easier to transport and consume, he needs to find a natural binder to add to the mix.


Kyver, taking the talk that he had with JM to heart, tries to make friends with Zechs. Wanting to bond with the other Tabaxi, he shares different tidbits about his life. Zechs is understandably hesitant about the whole situation. As awkward as it is, it seems incredibly genuine. He talks about his life in his village, on his parent’s farm. Zechs opens up a bit more too and explains a bit more to Kyver about what he remembers from his early life. The tension remains but things seem to soften a bit. 


Meanwhile, Arguile is in his room working on the forgery of the invitation to Strahd’s wedding. He manages to pull off a near-perfect copy. As he’s admiring his work, he gets a knock at the door. Attros is at the door and is permitted entry. He asks about the forgery and when he looks, he’s unable to tell the two apart. Attros slides Arguile the stone he received the night before. He explains the benefits of the stone and Arguile accepts the gift. The rest of the party, including the Tiefling and Kenku, make their way down into the tavern. As they decide on what to eat, Galahad makes his way off to the training area. He spends time training different maneuvers, does some strength exercises, and soaks in a hot spring.


As the party eats, Kyver heads over to the Journeyman’s office. They get into a conversation about the direction that Kyver would like to go in his development. Kyver questions her about magic and wizards. She encourages him to try and work toward this new goal of learning magic. She goes as far as offering him a beginner’s level book of magic. “Read that, and when you’re done read it again. And when you’re done, read it again. And when you’re done, read it again. Memorize it,” she tells Kyver. Kyver thanks her and heads over to Arguile. He offers him a swing for his mother’s comments. Arguile isn’t interested so Kyver hugs him. That changes the Tiefling’s mind and he headbutts Kyver. The Tabaxi apologizes for his earlier comments. Arguile accepts and leaves it at that. 


While the rest of the party continues their meals, Shanks heads to Chico, hoping to find a natural binder for his “Elven Enhancement Pills”. Chico informs him that he can indeed help him with his problem. What he’s missing is a substance called Acerbic Gum. Once he adds it to the mixture, he should be able to press tablets out of the refined powder of Halfling coffee. Shanks takes the gum back to the shop and is successful in making his pills. While the archer makes his pills, Attros comes into the workshop and makes a final batch of vial arrows. Once this is complete, he distributes these arrows amongst the rest of the group.


JM comes out to the group as they prepare to head back to their mission. She asks Arguile for the vampiric dagger, explaining that he will get his rapier back and that she has something for Kyver to replace the dagger. She heads to the vault with the dagger and comes back with what appears to be an onyx sword handle with a ruby set in the center of it. She explains that this handle will manifest a blade for Kyver, as long as he is proficient in wielding it. The conversation turns to where they should go next.


There are several plans thrown out there but the one that is settled upon is to try and set up the Abbot against Baba Lysaga. How they’ll do it exactly, it’s not quite clear but that is the goal in mind. In the meantime, they’re going to head to Vallaki and search for the Were-Ravens and the Dusk Elf that was part of the tarot card reading. With that, they make their way out of the tavern and back toward the vineyard. There is where they find Damian and let him know their plan. Damian informs them that there are other members of his family up in the town of Vallaki and to look at the Blue Water Inn. He explains that Baba Lysaga isn’t someone who should be taken lightly. She is a staunch supporter of Strahd and will come if called. The party thanks him, hands over the crystal they recovered from the Tree Blight, and makes their way north.

On their way north to Vallaki, the party continues to discuss different strategies to take out the multitude of enemies that they seem to be up against. The majority of the plans heavily rely on the element of surprise. As they travel, Galahad begins to sing a marching song that he learned from his mentor Antonius. Zechs recognizes the song, it was a song that his mentor Argo sings as well. It seems that Antonius and Argo were once adventuring companions in a group called the Gargoyle Unit. Attros, too, seems to know their mentors. The Kenku explains that he met them in a previous life when he still had his small shop. 


Galahad speaks about some of the things Bahamut told him in their most recent conversation. Zechs asks Attros what happened to his shop and why he became an adventurer again. Attros replies that it was his wife’s shop, but she’s dead now. He reminisces about the past and about righting the wrongs that occurred, leaving it at that. The party continues to walk in the rain. As the day comes to a close, they come to a scene of civilization.


The road meanders into a valley watched over by dark, brooding mountains to the north and south. The woods recede, revealing a sullen mountain burg surrounded by a wooden palisade. Thick fog presses up against this wall, as though looking for a way inside, hoping to catch the town aslumber. The dirt road ends at a set of sturdy iron gates with a pair of shadowy figures standing behind them. Planted in the ground and flanking the road outside the gates are a half-dozen pikes with wolves’ heads impaled on them.


Shanks makes a slightly theatrical case to be let into the town of Vallaki. The guards, seemingly not wanting to deal with the group, relent and let the party in. As they walk through the town they pass by an old church, and many dwellings both inhabited and abandoned, and eventually come to a large, two-story wooden building with a stone foundation and sagging tile roof, upon which several ravens have perched. A painted wooden sign hanging above the main entrance depicts a blue waterfall. They make their way into the crowded tavern.


They approach the bartender, a woman named Danika, for lodging that night. They come to find out that she is the daughter-in-law of the owner of the vineyard. There is no love between the two. The party orders drink, and food, and find seats in the tavern. Kyver takes everyone by surprise by ordering water and sitting quietly, reading his new book from the Journeyman. We’ahqa offers to help Kyver with learning about magic and its different types. 


Zechs inquires about a Dusk Elf possibly being in the area. Danika informs him that there may be one over at the Vistani camp by the western entrance to the town. She informs the Tabaxi that the Vistani seem to be working for Strahd and are not to be trusted. Zechs relays this information to the rest of the party and they discuss mentioning the Were-Ravens and their plans to ambush Strahd. They figure that it’s probably a better idea to not bring it up until the tavern is much less crowded. Smarter to not risk people eavesdropping on the conversation. 


Eventually, they disperse to bed, splitting between three rooms. Attros asks shanks for a vial of water and casts the spell Ceremony on the water, creating Holy Water. While everyone else settles down to sleep or goes into a trance, Attros, and Arguile head outside to try out some new tactics. Attros casts Spiderclimb on Arguile and runs him through variations of how this could be used in and out of combat. They speak about the other members of the party and how the future plans of the group may or may not go as intended. They go on to speak about Arguile’s past and his mother, what little the Tiefling is willing to say. 


During Shanks’s trance, he begins to have visions from his past. Terrible scenes from the tail-end of his time with the old guild he was once part of. He relives the deaths of his former guild at his own hands, except for one person. A person close to him, someone special. He awakes from his trance to find a Verdan woman sitting across from him, eyes fixed upon him. This shakes him to his core. She tells him that she sought him out to ask him why he did what he did.


Glad wakes up during this conversation. There is a little bit of an introductory back and forth between Glad and Rig, as Shanks wants to keep his distance. It is readily apparent that Rig enjoys making him feel uncomfortable. Glad decides to take a quick nap before everyone else wakes up, she’s gotta keep her strength up to deal with the bullshit. While the rest of the party sleeps, Shanks and Rig converse about the situation that the party is in. 


The rest of the party begins to wake up and Cereius, Kyver, We’ahqa, and Attros meet Rig for the first time. We’ahqa asks the new person how she knows Shanks. She tells them that those questions get deferred to Shanks because she doesn’t know what she is and isn’t allowed to say. Shanks is adamant about not answering anything, so Rig gives them a very vague description of their working relationship. She eludes to a physical relationship but doesn’t outright state it. Attros, Kyver, and Cereius nod and introduce themselves on the way out of the room. 


Elsewhere, Zechs, Galahad, and Arguile make their way out to the rest of the party. Galahad and Zechs share a short conversation about their mentors and how it was luck that they would be in an adventuring party together. How when they finish with Strahd, they should all get together for drinks and catch up. The idea of a drinking competition between Galahad and Argo is also mentioned. Zechs, Galahad, and Arguile meet up with the rest of the party down at the bar. They all order food and drink for their morning meal.


Shanks and Rig are the last to rejoin the party. The archer is noticeably uncomfortable and unsure about what to do in the current situation. Arguile and Zechs speculate about who Rig is and while they help Kyver with his book on magic, We’ahqa tells them that her name is Rig and is an old friend of Shanks. Kyver, annoyed with the whole situation, exclaims that she’s his baby mama and the party loses it. Zechs approaches the two of them and asks what the deal is. Galahad interjects before Shanks can answer, “Shanks! A friend of yours is a friend of mine! Come! Drink with us. Break your fast.”


Shanks immediately goes to the bar and starts pounding beers. Seeing this, Galahad orders up some hard liquor as the remainder of the party introduces themselves. With shots being poured, Arguile asks if Shanks is ok. Shanks tells his friend that it’s complicated. Telepathically, Rig asks Shanks if it really is all that complicated. To which he replies, “more than you know.” Suddenly, within his mind’s eye, Shanks is sitting in a nondescript room with stools and a table; Rig sitting across from him. The conversation that follows is a cat-and-mouse dynamic between Shanks and Rig. 


“What do you know about the people that gave us our orders?” asks Shanks. “That more than likely, they were into some shady shit that we probably shouldn’t have known about. Which is why I made sure that I didn’t know about it,” Rig answers. Shanks continues “did you really stay out of knowing about it?” “It’s called compartmentalization, Shanks. You should really learn how to do it at this point,” Rig retorts. “Just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean it’s good,” Shanks postures. “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it’s bad either,” Rig replies coldly, “you have defense mechanisms and so do I.” 


Shanks asks what compartment he’s in now. Rig stares him directly in the eyes and tells him that he is his own, individual box. And that box has one thing in it. A single word and he already knows what it is. Shanks cryptically reveals that he was given an order and he didn’t follow it. Rig pushes for more information and this is when Shanks makes his escape from this mental conversation. [30]


Back in the bar, there are cheers all around, welcoming Rig into the party. Shanks is overwhelmed at this moment. Arguile and Zechs take note and tease him for it, pressuring him to take more shots. Shanks pleads with the two, “I can’t!” Galahad turns to him with a shot in hand saying, “Bahamut is with you, my friend.” Everyone cheers again and drinks another shot. During the festivities, Shanks, visibly drunk now, turns to Zechs, “We must find Strahd’s coffin.“ Zechs agrees strongly. Shanks continues, “Rigs specialty is finding unfindable things.” Zechs comments on how convenient that is and Rig smiles. “Our former team was a group of specialists. I am good at finding things, he’s good at shooting things.” 


They wrap up at the bar with Shanks bringing Rig up to speed on their journey thus far, “so now we have to find the Dusk Elf.” “Hey guys, are we sure we’re supposed to meet a Dusk Elf and not an elf at dusk?” We’aqua inquires. Zechs shaking his head sarcastically shrugs the statement off, turning his attention to Rig he asks, “By any chance have you seen a Dusk Elf on your way here? She hasn’t but she mentions a camp and the party decides to pay their tab and follows her into the woods toward said camp. 


In the clearing of the woods, they see a grass-covered hill that harbors homes on the sides of its landscape. Atop the hill, above the fog, is a rig of barrel-top wagons circling a large tent with a column of smoke pouring out from a hole in the top. Even at a distance, they are met with the smell of wine and horses. We’aqua suggests he could talk to the horses to gather intel and the party agrees. He approaches a horse, “Hey what’s been going around these parts? Everything Stable?” Unamused, the horse replies, “What’s it to you, bud?” We’aqua failing at being nonchalant brings up the topic of Dusk Elves and the horse tells him there are many Dusk Elves that live there, which is he looking for? The druid tells him he doesn’t know their name. “Dusk Elves have names?” 


The horse tells him everyone has a name and introduces himself as Steve. We’aqua asks if Steve has heard of a Dusk Elf that might’ve been mentioned often. The horse recalls the name Kasimir and shrugs in the direction of where he lives. Meanwhile, the rest of the party watches as We’aqua and Steve neigh, whine, and grunt at each other. He talks to Steve and learns that his humans misgender him. We’aqua can relate to being non-gendered himself. “Hey bud, If you ever see me and your humans make you feel that way just let me know. I’ll talk to them for you… Everyone deserves kindness, respect, and love.” Steve appreciates his words. Parting ways, We’aqua asks permission to pet Steve. Steve thanks them for asking for consent and agrees. The rest of the party is baffled by the conversation. We’aqua fills them in and they head to Kasimir’s but not without the druid giving an earful to a couple of guards nearby regarding Steve.


They make their way to Kasimir’s small and guarded home. One of his guards tells the group that only 3 can enter. After much debate, Galahad, Zechs, and Shanks enter. The Dusk Elf is curious to know what business they have with him. Galahad informs Kasimir of another Vistani Camp and how it was foretold that they would meet. Shanks in Elvish, tells him that he has suffered a great loss and is haunted by it in his dreams. Kasimir, also in elvish, tells him of his sister Catrina who passed away long ago but still sends him messages in his dreams. He tells him that if they could bring her back he will aid them in any way he can. Shanks relays the information to the others in common; he and Kasimir continue the logistics of the mission. “My sister’s lust for power led her to befriend Strahd, a decision she now regrets.” The party learns that her body lies in the catacombs of Castle Ravenloft and that the power to bring her back is in the Amber Temple.


This is very unsettling for the party to hear and ask for some time to talk it over. The tarot cards play a heavy role in the discussion and Zechs decides to ask Kasimir about them. Kasimir knows who the Vistani woman is and cautions him to take what she said with a grain of salt. She is powerful and can see things but she could very well be lying. Zechs asks about Kasimir’s headspace and he explains that his one and only goal is to save his sister from “eternal damnation”. He goes on to confirm that one of the cards is most likely Castle Ravenloft. Shanks interjects and asks about the wizard who fought Strahd long ago. Kasimir refers to them as the Mad Mage and confirms that it actually happened. He continues that he is still alive and not far from where they are right now.


The party contemplates going after the Mad Mage for help and Kasimir says it may be worth it but would be a gamble. Zechs decides to excuse himself from the conversation to have a word with Cereius. Meanwhile outside, We’ahqa sits with Kyver and Arguile as they work through the basics of magic. There is a rare moment of bonding between the three of them. They see potential in the Tabaxi but he’s not quite there yet. Elsewhere, Rig and Attros share a moment. Rig asks about his guild and mentions, by name, his guild. She’s heard of them and knows their reputation. They speak about her reasons for joining the group and how it isn’t just to catch up with Shanks. She’s looking for answers. Attros changes the subject back to the Telltale Guild and why he left. They find that they both have more in common than first assumed.


Zechs makes his way over to Cereius as he spaces out, waiting outside. Zechs cuts straight to the point and asks if Cereius is capable of resurrection. The cleric tells Zechs that he has attempted it before but wasn’t overly successful. He eludes to something in his past. He also tells the ranger that resurrecting someone that has been gone for longer than a week or so is way out of his range of power. The conversation turns to the morality of trying to bring back someone that old could be dangerous. Not only to the soul of the person but potentially to those around it. Zechs finishes up and heads to Attros, asking him to head inside with Galahad and Shanks to help with Kasimir. 


The members inside make the decision to first head to the Amber Temple and help Kasimir with his quest. Then make a straight shot back north to find the Mad Mage and hopefully bring him to their side. Followed by hoping that the Journeyman will be able to help transport them back to Castle Ravenloft to save on travel time and face Strahd before his wedding. Meanwhile, Zechs and Rig have a short conversation about her motivations, which eventually turns to talk about Shanks. However, Shanks catches the tail end of the conversation and pulls Zechs aside, cautioning him about Rig. The party makes there way back out to the rest of the group. Kasimir makes a deal with the Vistani and the party now has transportation. Hilarity ensues while they decide upon their horses. 


As they begin to make their way south, the party realizes that they’ve been close to the Temple. They have to pass by the archway of green flame and the white tower where they found Strahd’s Tome. With the familiarity of the route, the travel doesn’t take as long as previously anticipated. As night falls the party decides to make their way to the archway and tower for rest. Riding up to the archway, the party spends a bit of time trying to figure out how to get over it again. Kasimir nonchalantly walks up to it and dispels the flames that block the pathway and gestures toward the tower. [31]


The party makes its way into the abandoned tower, happy to find that the ground floor is large enough to house the horses. They begin to settle in for the cold night, Galahad brushing Ignacio after a long day’s journey south. Zechs leads a group back out onto the mountainside to collect firewood. Attros, Galahad, and Shanks help to gather and dry out what little burnable material could be found. With fires lit, the party decides on the watch schedule for the evening. Rig and Galahad first. Shanks and We’ahqa after them with Kyver and Zechs ending the evening. 


Atop a familiar tower with a missing statue, Galahad and Rig survey the landscape. With the surroundings quiet and calm, Rig turns to the goliath and sparks a conversation. A dialogue between the two that innocently wanders into Galahad’s personal past. However, the Paladin turns the focus onto Rig and the strange things she has claimed to do. She speaks about a job involving a corrupt wizard and their network of young arcane assassins and spies. How she was more of a pointer or bird dog and others like Shanks would do the dirty work. Galahad asks and it is confirmed that Shanks was with Rig on this particular job. Their shift ends with Rig heading down into the tower to wake Shanks and We’ahqa as Galahad prays on the ramparts.


Shanks and We’ahqa take their positions at the top of the tower and look out into the night sky. It’s a quiet night, however off in the distance, We’ahqa hears the cry of a bird of prey. The thing that catches them off guard is that it’s much deeper than it should be. We’ahqa points out the direction of the cry and Shanks peers a little closer. The bird looks to be a good distance away but still has the size of Duo if he was sitting there with him. We’ahqa realizes that it’s a Roc that has nested in the mountain pass somewhere. This sparks a conversation about animals and We’ahqa’s relationship with them. The druid speaks about not having friends growing up outside of the wildlife of their home and that they’re still learning how to be friends with those who aren’t animals. 


“You know how to listen. You look at people and can size them up, I can tell,” We’ahqa explains. “You really get a measure of people and things. It’s really the same with animals, all you have to do is listen. Just see the thing for what it is and accept it. Then you’ll have a better understanding of it.” 
“I had a mentor try to help me with some of my fears,” Shanks expounds. “He explained to me that animals kind of see the truth of you. I’ve sort of been scared of that.”


The conversation makes its way into decisions and the toll they take on the people that make them. We’ahqa tells Shanks that they do their best to live their lives without regrets. Learning, for the Druid, is the most important thing. Shanks speaks about the extreme situations he’s been put in and We’ahqa advises him to cut himself some slack. We’ahqa finishes the conversation by telling Shanks to let people in, and shed some light on the dark that he’s holding in. With that, they head back into the tower to wake Kyver and Zechs for the final shift of the evening.


The two Tabaxi settle in on the tower, Kyver pulling out his book and Zechs scanning the terrain. Zechs begins to ask Kyver about his home. Kyver reminisces about a place called Nymora. A city built into the trees in a large forested area known as the Heartwood. His family lived in a small village outside the city proper. This sparks imagery, and memories, in Zechs head. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Tabaxi has any recollection of his childhood. A clear scene of holding hands with an older female Tabaxi, a Caracal like him, holding his small, child-like hand. They walk through the open forest, the woman looking down at him with a loving smile on her face. Zechs breaks down into tears. Zechs eventually thanks Kyver for this and the assassin tells him that he doesn’t need to thank him. He’s happy to share that with him.


Daylight peeks over the mountain tops as the party prepares for the next leg of their journey. They travel for roughly half the day when the road fades away under a covering of snow. It takes them far enough to see the facade of some kind of temple carved into the sheer mountainside ahead. The front of the structure is fifty feet high and has six alcoves containing twenty-foot-tall statues. Each statue is carved from a single block of amber and depicts a faceless, hooded figure, its hands pressed together in a gesture of prayer. Between the two innermost statues is a twenty-foot-tall archway with a staircase leading down.


The party investigates the facade and statues, however, the overall vibe of this place is dark and unwelcoming. The party tries to figure out how they’re going to approach the situation. Kasimir explains that this temple is where the Dark Powers are kept. Rig suggests scouts illuminate the situation. Shanks suggests that We’ahqa wild shapes into a beetle. After some conversation the party splits, We’ahqa changes into a beetle, and the scouting party makes its way into the temple. We’ahqa immediately takes off and begins to fly around the inner rooms of the temple. They speed through many different rooms, seeing several potential enemies and pitfalls along the way. While the Druid does their recon, the rest of the party slowly makes its way deeper into the main chambers of the ancient temple. Eventually, they venture into a large open area lined with statues. 


Four black marble columns support the vaulted ceiling of the temple, at the north end of which stands a forty-foot-tall statue of a cowled figure in flowing robes. The statue’s stony hands are outstretched as if in the midst of casting a spell. Its face is void of utter blackness. The ominous statue stands between two black marble balconies, one of which has partially collapsed and fallen on the temple’s black marble floor, in front of an open doorway. The walls of the temple are sheathed in amber, and the doors leading from it are made of amber as well. Arched hallways coated with amber lead away from the temple to the west and east. Flanking these exits are alcoves that hold white marble statues of robed human wizards with pointed hats and golden staffs. One of them has toppled over and lies shattered on the floor.


At the behest of Attros, Shanks runs back out to the group outside to bring them in. The Artificer has a deep feeling of dread and thinks that they should be close in case trouble rears its head. When they arrive, Zechs asks Kasimir what they’re looking for. He makes them aware that they’re searching for the vaults that are within the complex. He hasn’t been here before but knows of their existence. As they continue to make their way into this larger area, three bolts of flame shoot out from the globe of darkness around the large statue’s head and hit Kyver. A swift and furious battle ensues, ending with Galahad using Kanna’s Fury like an axe to take down the statue and the Arcanoloth hiding at the top of it. Arguile finishes off with a strike to the back with his short sword and slicing its throat with his dagger.


Zechs uses his Primeval Awareness to try and sense any other creatures in the Temple that might do them harm. The temple is crawling with Fiends and Undead. Galahad searches the body of the fiend to find a spellbook, some treasure, and a Robe of Useful Items. Cereius suggests using his ring, The Puppet Master’s Ring, to speak with the dead fiend for more information about the things going on. While the rest of the party does a quick inventory of their Bag of Holding, Cereius begins his questioning. 


“How many others are here,” the cleric starts. With a raspy and choked voice, the creature replies “There are many.” The cleric continues, “Where are the sarcophagi?” “To the north and the south,” it answers. “Why do you stand guard here,” the cleric inquires. “Great powers are kept here. They must be guarded at all costs,” the creature responds. “How do we acquire this power?”  “You must find the sarcophagi and make your deal.” With the final question, Cereius asks “With who do we make the deal?” As the breath leaves its body once more, it relays the final answer, “The Dark Powers.”


Zechs thinks back to realize that the Dark Powers are the entities that gave Strahd his powers. Kyver begins to get visuals of the shadowy figures from his dreams. The location and deal that was made come to the forefront. Zechs begins to dole out a few different items within the party, taking the Robe of Useful Items and giving the Cloak of Protection to Galahad. We’ahqa, still scouting around as a beetle, encounters more rooms and several amber sarcophagi. [32]


As the party continues to take inventory of their Bag of Holding, Attros makes his way over to Cereius. Attros apologizes for the misunderstanding earlier when the party last faced Strahd. He tells him that he didn’t mean to hold him back the way he did. Cereius asks him not to worry about it. The subject matter of that confrontation hit an emotional soft spot in him that may have led to a bad decision. He sees it as Attros stopping him from doing something stupid. Cereius reveals that the loved one insinuated by Strahd is the reason for his journey. Attros relates to this, as he has the same motivation. A path to redemption. The two bond over their past and motivation. 


While this is happening, Shanks pulls Rig to the side for a private chat. He apologizes for how he reacted back at the bar, but Rig says that was her intention. She wanted to “knock him down a couple of pegs.” He promises that they will have the talk she wants to have after this is all done. She admits that wasn’t lying in their earlier conversation about not knowing what the higher-ups were doing in their organization. She explains that it wasn’t out of defiance or being a cold-hearted bitch, it was out of survival. She talks about how she’s been looked at as a waste of space and an abomination her whole life because of what she is. A Verdan, a mutant. He insists that she isn’t a waste of space and that he always wanted her around. 


As We’ahqa continues to fly through the temple, Rig walks over to Kyver. She asks him about his book and encourages him to keep learning. Kyver complains about getting hit by the arcanoloths initial attack. She relates heavily, as she is usually the point person on missions like this. The conversation ends as the party decides to make a move. Attros suggest setting up an ambush using the Rope Trick spell but before anything can come from it Kasimir just disappears. Seconds later, an explosion blasts from an adjoining hallway. Kasimir appears again and begins to apologize profusely. The group checks around the corner to see a slightly charred We’ahqa and corpses at the end of the hallway.


Zechs asks about what We’ahqa saw throughout the temple. They speak about finding rooms with amber sarcophagi and creatures in them. They formulate a plan, using magical tinkering Attros will create an illusion of a suit of armor. Kyver, Zechs, and Arguile will be the lure. When these creatures We’ahqa spoke of follow, the illusion will be the focal point. Once they attack it, the party will let fly an onslaught of attacks to take them out quickly. The plan goes off without a hitch and the party is successful in taking out the creatures, which they find out are Nothics, with relative ease.


They check out the room that the creatures came from and find the amber sarcophagi. Hearing about what is inside the chamber, Kasimir makes his way to it and the tombs. Zechs and Shanks follow the wizard into the chamber and watch as he reaches out to touch one of the sarcophagi. He touches and holds his hand in place for a moment on the first one. Pulling his hand back slowly, he moves to the next. Zechs asks if they can help, and the wizard replies that he needs to find the correct one. And the only way to do that is to touch each one they find until he comes in contact with the correct spirit. After searching the chamber, he concludes that the one he is looking for isn’t there. 


Zechs asks what spirit Kasimir is searching for, and he answers with the name Zudan, the Corpse Star. He pleads with the group to find the other vaults. The party makes their way through the hall to find another vault. They manage to find two more, one directly adjacent to the first vault found and one down at the opposite end of the hallway. Zechs feels the compulsion to touch the sarcophagus in front of him, but We’ahqa is quick enough to stop it. He takes a step out of the chamber as We’ahqa begins to cast Detect Magic. Arguile and Shanks ask what happened and Zechs explains that he was compelled to reach out and touch the object. 


Shanks questions the whole situation and Zechs says he didn’t like it from the start. Moving away from the rest of the group, Zechs explains that he’s wary of having Kasimir and his sister help them defeat Strahd. Having greater numbers aside, none of this sits well with him. They already have wildcards in the group and adding more at this point isn’t comforting. Attros chimes in questioning his sudden moral compass. Zechs explains that it’s not about morals but he’s hesitant about this whole thing because of its implications of it. If they succeed in stopping Strahd, will it just put the valley into a worse situation than before?


Shanks nocks an arrow in his bow and looks to Zechs, “Then make a call.” Attros echoes this sentiment with a countdown. Zechs stops the potential assassination with a stipulation: if they step out of line, they die. But for now, they’re allies to the party and Barovia at large. We’ahqa walks over to the group and lets them know that there are massive amounts of magic exuding from the sarcophagi. Kasimir heads in behind them and repeats the same process from the last two rooms. Moments later he confirms that these aren’t the ones they’re looking for. He explains the history of the Amber Temple. The Dark Powers that were within the land of Barovia were caged by an ancient conclave of mages. They trapped the powers in the amber but the Dark Powers are still able to communicate through them. 


“So you mean to tell me that these things are still alive,” Attros questions. “Yes,” Kasimir confirms, “in a manner of speaking,” Zechs asks if they’re considered undead. Kasimir explains that this is very old magic, the magic is what Necromancy is derived from. Attros looks to Cereius for confirmation of this statement, and the cleric is pretty certain that it’s true. Attros wonders aloud if this is all necessary and leaning on his arcane knowledge, he comes to the conclusion that unless they receive a boon from a deity or come into extreme magic power, this may be the only route. 


Kasimir heads back into the main chamber and over to a set of locked double doors made of amber. Using his magic, he’s able to unlock them but turns back to the group for help opening them. Attros uses Thaumaturgy to begin to open the doors. Galahad is eventually coaxed into helping open the large doors. Galahad pushes the door open to reveal a room with piles of treasure against the eastern and western walls. A ten-foot-tall statue carved from amber in the likeness of a hawk-headed humanoid stands in a wide alcove to the north. Behind it, a crack has formed in the wall. As Galahad enters the room, the statue comes to life and charges forward.


The party gets into a heated battle, but with their numbers and the sheer amount of force, they come out on top. The party begins to dive into the piles of treasure. It takes them a solid 20-30 minutes to go through the whole thing. During this time, Shanks peaks into the crack in the north wall and peers into the room on the other side. A golden marble staircase with a black marble railing hugs the north wall as it spirals gently up a thirty-foot-wide shaft. Lying in the middle of the room are six rotting wooden crates, with what seem to be creatures nestled within them. The amber-covered walls are sculpted to look like tentacles that entwine around marble bas-reliefs of kings, queens, pharaohs, and sultans attended by myriad slaves. The west, south, and east walls contain alcoves, and standing in each alcove is a tall, rough block of amber. Two wide cracks have opened up in the south wall, spilling rubble and shattered pieces of amber onto the floor in the southeast corner of the room.


He relays this information to the rest of the group. Galahad suggests a short rest while Rig and We’ahqa take a look around to continue the search for more sarcophagi. Making their way down to the east hallway, they break into several rooms with large amber doors. They find a room with statues, another with carved reliefs, and two rooms with sarcophagi. The chamber at the far end of the hallway has walls of glazed amber, a floor of red marble, and a rough-hewn shaft in the center of its ten-foot-high ceiling. Three amber sarcophagi stand in alcoves, and above each sarcophagus floats a human skull wreathed in green flame.[33]


We’ahqa and Rig square off against several Flame Skulls. The battle is pretty quick and the pair defeat the undead creatures. Both, however, take a fair amount of damage from the scuffle. Rig decides that she needs to take a quick break from “looking for things that can kill her”, wanting to tell the rest of the party that they’ve found more of the amber sarcophagi. They make their way back and relay the information. It seems now that more tombs or vaults are hidden behind the locked Amber doors around the complex. 


We’ahqa, Kyver, and Zechs search for more and find another room of amber sarcophagi. They make their way back to the party and inform Kasimir. While the players rest, Shanks and Rig have a private conversation. There is a bit of small talk before the focus is on the real subject of conversation. She questions Shanks’s statement that he did what he did because of an order he was given but didn’t follow. Shanks explains that the order wasn’t about him, it was an order to kill her. She asks why he didn’t say anything to her. What gave him the right to make that decision without letting her in on what was going on? He continues to tell her that the answers to those questions are long and complicated but Rig seems to be getting to the end of her patience. 


Galahad approaches Kasimir to bring the Dusk Elf to the newly found sarcophagi. He walks through the rooms, just like the previous ones, checking each to find the correct one. These new rooms don’t hold the vault that he is looking for. Discouraged, they head back to the party in the treasure alcove. While this is happening, Zechs pulls We’ahqa to the side. He explains to the Druid why they’re in the temple and how he is getting very bad vibes from the whole thing. Kasimir’s sister seems to have flirted with the same powers as Strahd. We’ahqa is less trepidacious about the situation and offers suggestions to figure out what is going through Kasimir’s head. Zechs suggests that the Druid talk to him and find out whatever they can.


We’ahqa is ecstatic to be chosen for this. Puffing up their chest, they make their way over to the Dusk Elf, who is just sitting off to the side thumbing through a book. The conversation is innocent enough, with We’ahqa asking about his book. It’s a book of no importance to the situation at hand. The Druid asks if Kasimir reads about magic. The Dusk Elf pulls out another book from his satchel and We’ahqa recognizes immediately that it is a spell book. They offer a trade between them and Kasimir accepts. We’ahqa inquires about his sister and if she knew magic. Kasimir explains that while he had to learn it, his sister came to it naturally. 


The Druid digs a bit more, learning that his sister was entitled and had a bit of a temper. Kasimir explains that they had lost contact near the end of her life. She would rant about how the world owed them for putting them in the valley of Barovia. They would fight and make up, over and over again. The final time that they spoke was not the most encouraging situation. She told him that she was going to marry Strahd and never returned home. Only to haunt his dreams later on, revealing to him that she had died. In their conversations, he can hear the remorse in her voice. The conversation ends soon after and We’ahqa heads to Zechs to inform him of what transpired.


Aware of an undead presence in the room adjoined to the treasure cove, the party plans a meaningful way of getting in there and clearing it out. Attros brings up using a choke point so that they can pick off enemies one by one. Things get a bit heated as they try to figure out exactly who to send into the room, and Kyver wastes no time in heading in before a decision can be made. Sneaking in, he discovers crates that contain slumbering vampire spawns. Before the party is completely ready, he attacks and a skirmish ensues. The party prevails but not without heavy damage dealt to Galahad, Kyver, and We’ahqa.


After the battle fades, Kyver finds that he is in the place that the entities from his dreams wanted him in. A wisp of the shadow is highlighted in his vision, next to an amber tomb. Kyver is being pulled toward the one illuminated. Zechs notices the assassin making his way toward the amber tomb. He rushes over to stop him, making it a split second before Kyver’s hand touches the sarcophagus. Zechs tells him “Kyver, did you see what happened with me? I don’t think you were there for it. This thing compels you to touch it. I’m pretty sure whatever is going to come out of it is not going to be a good time. So, let’s not and say we did.” Kyver pulls his hand from Zechs and stalks away and out of the room. 


Kasimir makes his way in and begins the same process as before. This time, however, he finds what he is looking for. There is a surge of gray/black energy from the sarcophagus Kasimir stands in front of. It surrounds him for a moment and then fades away. Pulling his hand away, Kasimir is noticeably gaunt and paler. He looks as if he’s straddling the line between life and undeath. Galahad looks to the Dusk Elf, “Kasimir, are you alright?” The wizard replies, “I found what I needed.” The whole exchange is unsettling, especially to We’ahqa, who recognizes that this was a transfer of power. A transfer of dark power and magic. 


Galahad senses it too and uses his Divine Sense. There is an aura of undeath surrounding Kasimir. The Paladin questions him about this and his response is that it is the gift of Zudan. He is questioned further and they gather that Kasimir is steadfast in his belief that this is what he must do and that he knows what he is doing. Unfortunately, due to his proximity with the sarcophagi, Galahad is drawn in by one. Zechs can catch him in time but as they begin to walk away, he is pulled in and drawn in as well. Thankfully, after quick thinking by We’ahqa and Galahad, they’re able to get out of the room and make their way out of the temple. 


The tavern appears outside of the temple and the party makes their way inside. With the horses successfully in the stable and the group in the bar, Chico and Welby begin preparing food and drink.  Galahad looks to Shanks, Attros, and Zechs gesturing toward the Journeyman’s office. Implying that he wants to talk to JM with them. They all head into the office and begin an interesting conversation with the Journeyman. They explain the events that occurred in the Amber Temple. They have some trepidation about what he’s trying to do. Furthermore, there seems to be some apprehension about what will happen, not only if Kasimir resurrects his sister, but when they defeat Strahd. The party is divided on the power vacuum that will be left in his wake. Shanks brings up Rig to the Journeyman. He questions if she is just erroneous or if she’s possibly a mole.


The Journeyman tells the group that there are a whole host of reasons and means by which she could be here. A large majority of them have nothing to do with the Constable. However, it is definitely a possibility that he is involved. She tells the group that it’s up to them to decide what is happening. It’s at this point that Attros begins to stare down Shanks. His eyes begin to glow red. “I feel as if there’s something you’re not telling us, Shanks.” The archer asks what he’s talking about. “To something with Rig,” Attros accuses. A heated discussion begins between the two. Attros accuses Shanks of not being forthright with the group about not only Rig but his past in general. He argues that everyone in the group has shared something about their past and their goals, except for Shanks. 


Attros brings up the death of his guild at his own hands and then accuses Shanks of doing the very same thing to his guild. Shanks admits to it but it’s obvious that it’s incredibly difficult to talk about. The tension in the room is palpable as the conversation continues. Attros insists on hearing his reasoning for it. Communication begins to break down as Zechs gets involved. Eventually, Shanks relents a little bit and tells them a decent bit of the info that they’re looking for. The tension subsides just enough for Shanks to make an exit and Zechs follows. The Journeyman asks the remaining two what their thoughts are on the Verdan. They don’t know what to think but they don’t get the sense that she is there to do harm to the group. 


During the conversation in the Journeyman’s office, the rest of the party is resting out in the tavern. Rig and Arguile are sitting quietly speaking to each other when, from across the room, We’ahqa calls out “Arguile, Rig can I ask you a question?” The two agree and We’ahqa asks “What does sex feel like?” This rolls into an awkward and innocent conversation about “the birds and the bees”. The two explain it in the best way that they can. They describe, in clinical terms, what actually happens and eventually move on to the ideas of romance, lust, and love. We’ahqa is encouraged to think of sex in these terms and stress that consent on both ends of the act is needed. We’ahqa innocently asks Rig if they could have sex because he would feel safe doing it for the first time with her. Rig gently declines and reiterates that their first time should be with someone that they care about romantically. 


It’s at this point that Shanks bursts out of the Journeyman’s office. Hearing this last bit of the conversation, he freezes, causing Zechs to walk directly into him. Zechs tries his best to get him to come back into the office, even handing him a bottle of booze to calm his nerves, but Shanks isn’t having it. He takes the bottle and heads up to his room. Rig follows behind him. She looks to Zechs and says “let me see if I can talk some sense into him.” Zechs just shakes his head and heads back to the office. He lets Galahad and Attros know what is going on and Attros makes a b-line to the upstairs.


As Shanks gets to the door to his room, Rig comes up behind him and leans against the wall. They both exchange looks and Shanks pulls her inside his room. “Someone’s a little frisky,” Rig quips. “Is everything ok?” Shanks takes a big swig from the bottle and tells her that they need to talk. She tells him that she’s here and is ready to listen. 


“They wanted me to kill you,” Shanks blurts out. “The two partners that you were supposed to e going on the next mission with were bringing you into a clearing. I was supposed to assassinate you. They felt that you were a double agent after the last job we did. And they knew about our relationship. They knew about everything. I made a decision based on what I felt we had.” Rig walks toward Shanks, putting her hand on his face and moving closer for an embrace. As the two embrace, she pulls Shanks in close, and looking into his eyes says “I have a secret too… It was me.” And this is when Shanks feels a sharp pain in his torso. He looks down to see one of her daggers buried in his ribcage. [34]


Moments later, there is a thunderous clap coming from upstairs. Zechs and Galahad sprint toward the sound and burst into Shanks’s room. What they find inside is a strange scene: an unconscious Shanks slumped on the floor against the wall. Attros with his Mercurial Rod in Rapier form pointing it at another Shanks, Mind’s Eye drawn and pointing at the downed Shanks. Galahad unsheathes Kanna’s Fury, looking back and forth over the current scene, and asks “What is the meaning of this?” Zechs also makes a move to pull out his bow.


The Shanks that is still standing assures the two that everything is ok. He explains that Rig tried to kill him but he was able to stop her with the help of Attros. Attros lowers his weapon, and Shanks continues that he saved his life. Galahad counters that Attros wouldn’t accost Shanks in his own room. The archer retorts that he did it in the Journeyman’s office, what is different about his room. Zechs suspects that something is up and asks Shanks a question, that only he would know the answer to. However, the archer gives Zechs a vague answer. Galahad catches on and asks his own question.


“When we went to Krezk and you walked with me, do you remember where we walked?” Shanks, again, skirts around an actual answer and deflects by asking why he is being asked so many questions. Galahad continues to push and clarifies that this was their first real one-on-one conversation. Shanks brings up the subject of faith and his thoughts on it. This, however, doesn’t sway the Paladin. Something isn’t adding up in this strange situation. Elsewhere in the tavern, the rest of the party is beginning to become curious about what is going on upstairs. Slowly, but surely, they begin to make their way up.


Galahad and Zechs continue to press Shanks for specific answers. Shanks goes on about how ridiculous this whole situation is. Zechs begins to draw his bow and Attros shifts his Mercurial Rod into a shield and steps in front of Shanks. The more they push, the more vague Shanks gets with his answers. As the frustration builds, Galahad announces that he’s going to “make this easy”. He walks over to the slumped Shanks, reaches out, and uses Lay On Hands to heal him. 


Zechs continues to get to the bottom of the situation. He states the situation as it stands, in plain facts. Shanks though continues to have just enough plausibility to his answers to keep the situation from resolving. He speaks about how his conversation with Attros wasn’t a pleasant one and that what he just went through with Rig didn’t help the matter. He reiterates that Attros saved his life, yes, but it doesn’t solve the problems they had before. The two of them threatening him with an imposter on the floor isn’t helping anything. 


As Galahad’s healing touch awakens the slumped figure on the floor, they see his eyes move to the Shanks standing behind Attros. There is obvious confusion in his eyes. Galahad asks the same question he posed to the other Shanks and this time he receives the answer he was looking for: “We talked in the morning, by the water. And had a conversation about faith.” With this, Galahad stands in front of his friend on the floor and points Kanna’s fury toward the imposter. Zechs follows suit by converting his bow into two short swords and activating its Medusa feature. Pointing them at the imposter and Attros, he demands to know what is going on.


Attros responds by using Thaumaturgy to slam the door shut, his eyes beginning to glow a sickly red. The Paladin and Ranger continue to demand an explanation but Attros doubles down as his shield begins to glow as well, runes taking shape on its outward face. The facade of Shanks fades and reveals Rig behind Attros. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.” Galahad demands that she drops the bow. “Or what? You’ll kill me? I’m dead anyway,” Rig retorts. Galahad assures her that he will sleep well after she is gone and she agrees that he probably will. She lifts up Mind’s Eye and aims it at Zechs, who sees this as an opportunity to make his move. 


Using his natural speed as a Tabaxi, he successfully strikes twice before she’s able to let her arrow fly. As his blades bite into her skin, a fast-acting petrification process begins. Within 10 seconds, Rig is turned into stone. Cereius bursts in on the scene and makes his way over to Shanks, healing him. Zechs continues his attack as his blades slice across her. It pushes the petrification faster and Rig begins to solidify. Attros seems to snap out of a trance as Rig takes her final breath. The Kenku explained that she had cast a charm spell before they came. Galahad turns to Shanks and asks if they are going to end this, as We’ahqa runs into the room. 


The archer gets up and slowly makes his way over to Rig, studying the scene around him. Attros reaches out and casts Sanctuary over Rig, as We’aqha moves in front of her. The Druid pleads to the group that they don’t have to kill her. Zechs and Galahad are insistent that they must but We’ahqa looks directly at Shanks and asks “we don’t have to kill people, do we?” With all eyes on him, he bows his head in contemplation, piecing together the events that lead up to this situation.


20 Minutes Earlier


Staring down at the dagger hilt protruding from his stomach, Shanks’s vision begins to blur. Outside, Attros walks with a purpose toward the archer’s room. Stepping up to the closed door, he hears voices and conversation. Quietly, Attros focuses on the voices and listens in. Rig resonates low and cold, there is disdain and contempt in her voice. It’s difficult to hear all that is said but he manages to make out: “I bet you never questioned your orders until you got that last one.” (inaudible) “I could see your devotion to the idea of love. I knew then that you would do anything for me, and you did so well. You were the instrument of my takeover, my coup.” (inaudible) “Don’t you go dying on me just yet, this is just the beginning of your severance pay.”


Attros bursts through the door. He sees Shanks slumped against the wall on his prayer rug with Rig standing between the two of them, dagger in hand. Rig’s voice enters Attros’s mind. “If you’re going to come in, shut the door behind you,” she quips. Attros tells her that it depends on what she has to say. She replies that if he has questions, he should ask them quickly before they get interrupted. He asks if it really matters if the rest of the group is there. “Yes, it does,” she admits. Stepping forward, Attros closes the door.


Attros and Rig have a back-and-forth about satisfaction and revenge. She admits that she knows a lot about him and his guild. And then Attros asks a peculiar question, “is it a deal that brought you here?” 
 
“How do you mean,” Rig asks trepidatiously. “On every stormy night, a soul cries out in pain at something they’ve lost. A mysterious stranger shows up to help them, at some mysterious cost. Sound familiar?” Attros seems fairly certain about his assertion. “In a roundabout way,” Rig answers somewhat sarcastically. “I didn’t make the deal for this, though. This is just a perk.” 
 
Attros makes a comment about ambition. Rig replies, insinuating that Attros would know what it’s like to be different and looked down on. He does and knows it all too well. He admits that he can’t hate her for the things she’s done, regardless of the decisions she’s made. “If you’re scum to everyone else, why not be the best scum you can be,” Rig questions. “Once upon a time, I might agree with you there,” Attros answers. The conversation turns to the tavern, what kind of deal did Attros make to get in there? Help is the answer the Kenku gives. He laments about his frustration with the party and the distraction that it is. She asks about the Journeyman and Attros concludes that they’re well-intentioned. Even if the road to hell is paved with good intentions. She agrees, based on what she’s witnessed. 


Rig asks a final question, “what are your thoughts on redemption?” Attros’s eyes begin to glow red and the Mercurial Rod in his hand shifts into the form of a rapier. “I guess you could call it the perfect lie. Something to give false hope and give someone who is dead a reason to continue.” Rig nods in reply and asks if he has a final question before things start happening. “Would you allow me the honor,” Attros requests, gesturing to Shanks? 


Rig obliges, stepping back as Attros moves toward the slumped elf. He kneels and uses magical tinkering to say “Those threatened by my way of life. That they’d murder her, my wife. In the vengeance that would unfold. Perhaps a detail left untold. When I killed old friends and brothers, blood washed my hands and others.” He reaches in, closing his grip around Shanks’s throat. Pointing his rapier back, it begins to glow as he casts Thunderwave at Rig. He then quickly casts Spare the Dying on Shanks as the archer passes out. 


He wakes up in a forest and is surrounded by underbrush, a pair of glowing yellow eyes fixed on him. With heavy, and slightly numb, limbs he pulls himself up into a standing position. Getting more in tune with his surroundings, he recognizes the area he’s in. It resembles a place in the Forest Bastion he used to travel to with his father as a young man. A large green and grey wolf lopes out from the trees, sniffing around Shanks and staring at him. A voice enters his mind “Shankise, it has been quite a while. I have not heard from you, since you were a child. Since you left your father’s care.” Shanks is in a state of disbelief. The voice continues, “I come to you at a turning point in your life. One where you have to make a choice. Continue the path that you’re on or forge a new one.” 


“Who are you,” Shanks asks. As if to answer his question, a flood of memories from his time with his father. The hunts. The rituals. Even his tattoo. “You know,” the voice states. Under his breath, Shanks whispers “Solonar.” The voice continues “You stand upon a precipice, the slightest miscalculation will send you to your doom.” “Survival is the way,” Shanks replies mechanically. He begins to cycle through the mantras taught to him by his father. “You remember what your father taught you, but you forget the golden rule. Like an arrow in flight, it is difficult to arrest the consequences of an action. Choose your targets carefully, for an ill-considered action can have a long-reaching impact. That is the situation you find yourself in now, and it is not the first time.”


Shanks asks what he is supposed to do. How can he find balance when life is full of pain and despair. The voice tells him that balance requires opposites. Life and death, love and pain, hope and despair. A balanced mind creates a balanced hand. Shanks seeks balance, he knows the rituals and mantras but he doesn’t understand how they will help him when things are not going as they should. The voice tells him that everything does go as it should, they don’t need to know why. The only knowledge consists of knowing that you know nothing. The only constant thing is change. Shanks begins to make some deep insights about time and actions, coming to a resolution.


The wolf bows its head and turns back to the direction it came from. The underbrush recedes to reveal a beautiful temple; some pieces seem natural while others are definitely refined and sculpted. The wolf looks at him and proceeds into the temple. He follows down a wandering path with carved reliefs of various forest-dwelling animals. The wolf turns back to look at him once more and then trots into a small cluster of pale white birch trees. He follows and it opens into an earthen room with a circle of pedestals fashioned from petrified wood. A lone figure stands across the room behind a pedestal.


As he approaches, he recognizes the figure. They resemble several different depictions of The Hunter or Solonar. He kneels in front of the god in the way his father taught him. The Hunter instructs him to stand, he isn’t clergy. Shanks queries that the teachings aren’t right? Solonar tells him that there is no right or wrong, there is only balance. The tall, lithe figure leans forward to meet Shanks’s eyes. His deep umber skin glistens with sweat. His long, underbrush-textured hair drapes over his cloak of leaves and slides over his shoulder. Speaking out loud, the Hunter says “I’m willing to help you. And give you this second chance. Your friend has saved your body. It’s up to you to save your soul. I ask but two things of you: Walk in harmony with nature and oppose the efforts of those who would disturb her delicate balance. And choose your targets carefully, for an ill-considered action can have a long-reaching impact. Both in your life and abroad.”


“Without question,” Shanks replies dogmatically. Reaching out his hand toward Shanks, the Hunter commands “Always question.” Touching his forehead, Shanks comes to consciousness with Galahad standing over him. 


Present Time


Shanks pulls his head back up from contemplation with the word “Balance” in his head. He moves toward We’ahqa and Attros and embraces them. “No, we don’t have to kill her,” he says. Zechs storms out. Shanks explains that they do need to question her and find out what exactly is going on. Galahad protests but will honor Shanks’s wish and proceeds to storm out. The archer looks back to We’ahqa, and the rest of the party that is present, and insists that they have precautions set up. He also wants to get the Journeyman in on the decision. As Shanks makes his way down to JM, Attros, and We’ahqa remove her weapons and shackle Rig’s rigid figure. 


The party, excluding Galahad, Zechs, and Kyver, stands idly in the room as the Journeyman enters. Having just been informed of the situation, she quips “crazy plot twist right?” We’ahqa questions if she can do anything useful in this situation and she admits that her spells just “go boom”. She lets them know that she will help when she can be of service, turns around, and walks out. Before she’s out the door, the Druid asks where Shanks is. JM tells them that he went to get a healing potion. Meanwhile, Galahad makes his way down to the training area, where Zechs had absconded to. 


JM encourages We’ahqa to restore Rig and interrogate her. She doesn’t feel that Shanks is in the right headspace to talk with her and make rational decisions. Attros volunteers to do the talking and the rest of the group agrees. We’ahqa asks for his weapon, just in case she manages to charm him and the Kenku agrees. He hands his Mercurial Rod over to the Druid, who straps it to their back. So, with Attros, Arguile, Glad, and Cereius looking on We’ahqa dispels the magic petrifying Rig. And at the point of a sword, Rig is led over to the rug where Shanks sat moments before. 


We’ahqa informs her of why she is still alive and how the conversation she and Attros are about to have will go. She agrees. Attros sits down beside her on the rug and begins to ask her questions. They speak about the situation at hand. It seems that it was part of a deal that she had made. Her life is forfeit and she’s on borrowed time. This whole thing was built on chance. Attros presses further and she speaks about making the deal for mostly personal goals. The character assassination of someone she doesn’t name, though it’s implied that they already know who it is. She laments the fact that she knew she had a fifty-fifty chance of not making it out. While they were alone, before, she tried to escape but her bracers wouldn’t function.


Attros offers a chance at continuing to live. A chance for a new deal. But she doesn’t think that she can break her current arrangement. Attros inquires about who she made the deal with, but We’ahqa goes a step further and names the Constable. She reluctantly confirms that is working for him. The Kenku digs further and she reveals that her mission was to stop the party and disrupt the Journeyman. It doesn’t seem he is as worried about the party as he is about JM. She admits that her plans just happen to line up with his. 


Attros continues with the questioning, asking what Rig sees as redemption. She smiles, “it’s a pipe dream. There’s a point of no return for those kinds of things and I’m way past it. Might as well lean into it. It is possible, but I’m not really looking for it.” Attros muses about death and its uncertainty. He compares Rig to his guild and wife. Things that were supposed to be gone but aren’t. He speaks of the deal he made, wanting answers to the questions he had about life and death. He admits again that he can’t bring himself to hate her. Even knowing what did and why he doesn’t see her as irredeemable. 


Elsewhere, Shanks makes his way into the training room. He walks in to see Zechs drinking heavily and in a rage. He makes his quietly over to the health potions. He drinks one and waits patiently for the Tabaxi to come over to him. Zechs confronts Shanks about what just happened. He calmly explains everything that happened up to when the two walked in and thanks him. Zechs begins to chastise him for keeping Rig alive as Galahad makes his way into the room. The Paladin makes his way over to the training dummies and swings his sword, discharging a Divine Smite, destroying several at once. Turning, he also wants to know what exactly is happening.


Zechs goes off listing all of the things that they’ve been through. How could he want her alive when she just killed him? “I’ve never been so love-struck in my life. Was it that good Shanks?” The archer feels the anger welling up inside him but manages to calm it. He explains that it’s about love for her but this is all his mistake and he owns it. Zechs reminds him that they have two liabilities in the tavern and one of them just killed him. Shanks waits for Zechs to stop yelling and tells him that he needs to be able to speak to give his reasons. Galahad informs him that the group has already started interrogating her and Shanks thinks that that is best. He is not the person to do it. But they do need to find an advantage to the larger game that is laid out in front of them. This could be what they need.


He goes on to explain that Zechs petrifying her allowed them to get that info while mitigating the risk of harm to the group. Galahad asks, “then what?” The three go into a back-and-forth about the difference between taking a life out of vengeance versus protection. Making different points about what it was like in the situation upstairs. Coming to a better understanding of each other, Shanks talks about finding purpose and meaning in the visions he had while he was unconscious. He vows that this situation will never happen again, though Zechs doesn’t seem assured. He continues that the team must come to a consensus about what action to take or they’ll never be able to achieve what they need to. The three of them reconcile and Shanks makes his way upstairs. 


Back up in Shanks’s room, Cereius approaches the pair. He tries to relate to Rig, speaking about being used by someone and having a price to pay to be free of it. He guesses that Shanks was her price. Rig replies, “have you ever loved someone so much that it hurt?” Cereius tells her that he knows that pain, it’s with him all the time. But he doesn’t let it consume him. She asks how long it’s been, Cereius is hesitant to give an exact number but estimates about a decade. They go on to discuss their breaking points. Once they’re past the point of no return, how far will they go to get to the one they’re looking for. 


The subject turns to redemption. Cereius tells her that he thinks everyone’s life has worth and he would hate to see her embrace death when she could still do good with the little bit of life she has left. Rig stares back at the cleric and coldly states that she isn’t afraid of death. This sets Glad off and she lays into Rig. The verdan sits and waits for a pause in the threats and makes an underhanded remark. It’s plain now, to the group, that she is trying to goad Glad into violence. Cereius steps in to try and calm things down. It’s at this point that Shanks walks into the room.


Shanks and Rig stare daggers at each other. Cereius asks if the archer is ok and he assures the cleric that he is. Attros wants a few more questions before the conclusion of this event comes. He asks her if she knows of being called Elrin. She doesn’t recognize the name but admits that she hasn’t met everyone out there. Attros draws a comparison to the deal he made with the deal that Rig made. He offers to speak to Elrin on her behalf, but she tells him that she’s made too many deals. Attros responds, “that’s what makes you a good businesswoman.” Rig makes a comment about Shanks being the one to help him build her empire.


She launches into a barrage of harsh words and insults directed at Shanks. “He saved my life then ran away like a little bitch.” She continues “I searched for the vast majority of the rest of my life looking for him. I made a pact with a time traveler to find him.” Arguile asks why she would try to kill him if she spent so long trying to find him. She spells out that she was the one to give the order to kill her. It was a test, that he passed. But instead of coming to her, he ran away. And not just away from the area, but to a different time. She then makes more inflammatory remarks to the group. 


We’ahqa jumps in to calm the situation down again and tries to find a way to keep her alive. A way to trick the Constable into thinking that she achieved her goal. Rig reiterates that there is no way out of this for her and thanks them for at least trying. With this, We’ahqa sprints out of the room to find the Journeyman. Taking his Mercurial Rod from the Druid during their exit, Attros shifts it into a dagger and tosses it to the ground between Shanks and Rig. He undoes her shackles and backs away. “It is your life, the remainder of it. Choose to do with it what you will.” Attros asks Shanks a final time to let her go. 


Shanks picks up the dagger and walks to Rig. “I’m sorry,” the elf says. Rig just stares back at him, resigned to her fate. “That’s nice. Too late for that now.” Shanks stares back at her saying, “I know, but a balance must be restored,” plunging the dagger into her chest. He holds eye contact with her until life leaves her eyes. Methodically, he pulls the dagger out, drops it on the floor, and makes his way to the exit. As the rest of the group files out of the room, Attros crouches beside her lifeless body and uses Chill Touch to freeze her in death. Nevermore,” the Kenku whispers. Nevermore.”

The team gives their final words to Rig. They agree that they did what needed to be done. “Well, should we get rid of…” Arguile gestures to her body. “I’ll handle it.” Out of the shadows, Shanks walks towards Rig’s body. The tiefling pats him on the back on his way out of the room. As everyone clears out, Attros questions if Shanks should destroy the body. Shanks believes once something has changed there’s no going back. The Kenku agrees but adds that everything is always changing and eventually they can have use even after death. Shanks thanks him for his wisdom. Attros nods then exits the room leaving Shanks to get rid of the body. 


While the party rest, We’aqua looks up the two phases he keeps hearing, Duke of Swords and Lord of Chaos. Finding a book in JMs library, he goes to her hoping she can translate Abyssal. The Druid is told that she can not but someone and their party does. He goes straight to Arguile thinking that surely the tiefling would know the demonic language. To the Druids surprise, he doesn’t. Arguile makes a joke about how racist it is to assume that he would know the language. We’aqua jokes back and agrees that it was, they laugh a bit about it then Arguile promptly kicks him out of his room. 


We’aqua barges into Kyvers room with a book in hand; oblivious to the destroyed state of the Tabaxi’s space, he asks if the cat knows Abyssal. Kyver in fact does know. Together they learn about the Arch Fiend called Arioch*, an intelligent, charming, and manipulative godlike arch-fiend from the abyss. He takes an interest in mortals who get involved with the ailments of lawfulness and chaos. He urges them towards chaos. At times he would appear as a golden skin, silver-haired elf but the text goes on to say, if one is to stare long enough you would see his demonic true form. We’aqua thanks him, then gestures to Kyver’s disheveled room. The Tabaxi claims he’s redecorating. We’aqua doesn’t pry and leaves Kyver to himself.


Meanwhile, in a dream, a mysterious stranger approaches Arguile asking, “You wish to find her?” Pictures of his life flash before his eyes and the Tieflingg ask, “Who are you?” He learns the stranger is the man from the emblem he wears. The stranger continues asking what he is willing to do to find her? Arguile replies whatever it takes. The man leaves him saying he will be in touch. Arguile wakes in cold sweats. After a few deep breaths and looking around he claims himself enough to fall back asleep.


In Kyvers dreams, an evil red-eyed mist approaches Kyver. In a chilling tone, he says, “Liar. Betrayer.” Kyver jokingly asks how he lied and betrayed him. It goes on and introduces himself as Tenebrous. The Tabaxi compliments him on his name, saying nice to meet you. He asks why he wants the party dead. Tenebrous says to prove he is worthy of his gift. He goes on to say if he doesn’t succeed he will use his corpse to do his bidding as he demonstrates his necromancy conjuring a Lich-like creature. It storms up to him staring. Once it gets in Kyvers face it disappears, waking him.


In the morning, Attros and Shanks are already hard at work in the workshop. Shanks approaches the Kenku and hands him a broken wooden wolf mask. Attros notices a green bracelet on the archer that he hadn’t noticed before. Shanks just says that it’s a token to remind him of a mistake in his past. The artificer gestures to Gilead, insinuating the same thing. Shanks explains about the mask, as it was his father’s. He wants to start the mending process of the mistakes of his father that he’s internalized. The mask is his symbolic way of starting that. Attros nods in agreement and mends the mask for him, using the bark from the tree blight they defeated earlier. 


Attros begins to look over the few items that Rig had on her. Casting identify, he finds that her bracers are heavily imbued with Chronurgy, time magic. They seem like they’re part of some kind of Pact magic and the magic is slowly fading. Attros makes notes for JM, as he continues his work on other things. The rest of the party makes their way down to the bar for food and drink, while Kyver goes to find the Journeyman, and We’ahqa heads to the library to try and find more information on Arioch. Kyver finds JM in her office.


They start with a little bit of small talk, how many groups has she had before his party, what the plans are for them after Strahd, and how protected the tavern is. The last question piques her interest. Probing a bit further Kyver begins to tell her of the dreams he’s been having. He mentions Tenebrous and there is a slight familiarity with the name like she’s heard it before. Going to her bookshelves, she scans and finds an old tome. Opening it and reading a bit, she asks why Kyver mentions that name. He admits that while he was off his rocker, he made a deal with this entity for power. His mission was to kill Strahd and the rest of the party for control over Barovia. But the party has grown on him and he doesn’t want to be part of the deal anymore. 


Continuing to read while Kyver explains the situation, something clicks in JM’s head. “You made a deal with ORCUS?!” Kyver has no idea who this is and answers her question with a question, “who?” “Ocrus, Lord of the Undead. Prince of Undeath. Blood Lord. Prince of Spectres. Master of Vampires and Liches. The Shadow that Was,” she says in a harsh tone, turning the book toward Kyver. She questions him more and just grows more and more upset with the whole situation. She agrees to help but is absolutely bullshit about it. So she sends him out of the office while she tries to wrap her head around all of it.


Meanwhile, Galahad and Zechs head to the workshop to grab Attros and Shanks to finish their meeting with the Journeyman. After a brief discussion, Arguile joins the conversation after stealthily making his way into the room. He informs them that Rig had made a deal with the Constable. “Shanks was not the primary target, just the icing on this fucked up cake,” the Tiefling explains. The conversation turns to Strahd and the potential of heading to the Mad Mage. Zechs wants to get to the end game of the whole thing. The group agrees with the Tabaxi but they want to make sure that they have a plan to end this, once and for all. Decide to hedge their bets and go after one more Tarot card. Attros is pretty much fed up with the decision-making within the group.


The group exits the workshop and Arguile peels off immediately, heading to the bar. Shanks, Attros, Zechs, and Galahad make their way into JM’s office. The Journeyman looks somewhat exasperated and they notice this right off the bat. They inquire about her mood and JM simply refers them to Kyver, as he is the reason for her mood. The conversation pushes forward into the realm of the tarot cards. She confirms that the 1 of Stars is a reference to Castle Ravenloft. They move to the 4 of Stars and she tells them it is a reference to the Order of the Silver Dragon and a place called Argynvostholt. It’s in an area south of Vallaki. 


They speak about the Amber Temple and Kasimir. She mentions that the power within him won’t “spill out” but he will continue to look worse and worse as they go. She assumes he made a deal with a dark power and that they should also ask Kyver about making deals. She switches back to Argynvostholt and explains that it was an ancient order of knights that followed a Silver Dragon. The leader was a man by the name of Vladimir Horngaard. Things didn’t end well for the order. The conversation turns back to Kyver and she urges them to speak to the Tabaxi. As they leave the office, Attros hands over Rigs bracers, and he notices a look of recognition in her eyes.


Galahad, Attros, Zechs, and Shanks head toward Kyver with a bunch of pints in hand. Galahad takes the lead with Attros as the other two keep a slight distance. Placing the ale down in front of Kyver, Galahad asks why JM was so upset by him. Kyver, after a lot of explanation, spills the beans about his deal with Orcus. Galahad is absolutely livid and the rest of the party is not a fan of the information the Paladin disseminates to them. Attros questions Kyver about the consequences of breaking his deal with the Demon Lord. The Tabaxi is resigned to his fate but the party doesn’t really want to let the subject go. Zechs lays into Kyver especially hard.


At this point We’ahqa walks out of the library, in just their loincloth, announcing that their armor was made in the Infernal Plane. This sets Zechs off and he asks if anyone else has some extraplanar being talking to them or trying to kill them. Arguile, half-jokingly, tells Zechs that he’ll keep him updated on the conversations he has in his dreams with a mysterious being. Zechs loses it, but before anything drastic can happen, Attros breaks the tension with his Thaumaturgy. He tells the Tabaxi to get himself together and We’ahqa is confused.


Galahad explains the situation and We’ahqa starts giving ideas on how to get out of the pact. The party begins to discuss how they might help Kyver. Unable to come to a conclusion, they table the discussion. We’ahqa decides that they don’t want the Armor of Dis anymore and Shanks offers to take it. JM settles things on the armor, telling the party that it was made in the Infernal Plane but not actually imbued with devilish magic. A question is brought up about the stone floating above Arguiles head and Attros explains that it’s a gift from his parton Elrin. She doesn’t recognize the name but trusts Attros at his word.


Meanwhile, searching through the remains of Rig’s equipment, We’ahqa asks Shanks if he’s alright with them using Rig’s old armor. Shanks tells them that they’re an adult and can make their own decisions. While equipping it, We’ahqa finds a sewn-in hidden pouch on the interior of the armor. Not caring for money, they take the pouch and toss it to Arguile. In the pouch is a leather and twine necklace with what looks like a gilded flower. The flower is known as a “Snap Dragon” and has the appearance of a skull. As the Tiefling examines it, there is an illusory effect that changes the skull to the visage of a young Water Genasi. Arguile shows We’ahqa the necklace and they recognize it from their childhood.


“That’s me. Why did she have that? That’s Dona’s,” the Druid says, perplexed. Shanks is caught off-guard, “did you say, Dona?” We’ahqa explains that they had a Wood Elf friend named Dona when they were young. She was their only friend that wasn’t an animal or plant. They made the necklace together. We’ahqa using their nature magic and Dona using her illusion magic. Dona was able to magically change her appearance. This puts Shanks into a tailspin and leaves We’ahqa confused. Shanks starts putting things together: Rigs could shapeshift. Her favorite flower was the same as the flower on the necklace. And she does know what Dona looks like…[36]


The revelation hits Shanks like a ton of bricks: Rig, masquerading as Dona, was friendly with We’ahqa as a child. The Druid isn’t exactly sure what is happening. Shanks inquires if she was kind to We’ahqa and the Druid explains that she was one of the only people that they knew, growing up, that was kind to them. She was one of their favorite people. Shanks acknowledges this and begins to walk away from a very confused We’ahqa, looking down at their necklace. 


Shanks makes his way toward the training room, with Attros not far behind him. Zechs grabs some food and makes his way up to his room. The rest of the party stays in the bar area drinking and dealing with the aftermath of We’ahqa’s revelation. They are incredibly distraught, and Kyver pulls them over to the bar for a drink. Before leaving the bar to head down to the training area, Cereius tells We’ahqa, “sometimes you can feel you know a person, and you know everything that they’ll do. That you know that they’ve got good in them, and it isn’t until they’re standing in front of you doing the evilest things that you realize you don’t know a person as well as you think you do.”


Everyone left in the bar, besides Glad, joins the pair in taking shots of hard alcohol. Shanks makes his way down and starts doing some strength and agility training. Attros, not far behind, approaches the archer saying, “funny, I’m the bird here. Yet, you’re more of a chicken than I am. Why are you running?” The two go back and forth, talking about the interaction that just occurred between Shanks and We’ahqa. Shanks speaks about Rig using the visage of Dona to ease the feelings Shanks had about their situation. He didn’t feel it was right and wanted to show her that he loved her for who she was. At this point, Cereius enters the room.


Shanks questions why Attros is judging him, because in his mind, what happened is essentially the same as Attros’s situation. The Artificer responds that they aren’t the same and lists several reasons why mirroring his arguments from the Journeyman’s office the prior day. Shanks wants nothing to do with the conversation stating “I don’t tell you how to live your life, don’t tell me how to live mine.” Cereius joins the discussion and adds some context to the whole situation. Telling the two that they’re almost the same person, just with different points of view. He implores them to find a balance and work things out. 


After a bit more conversation, the two come to an agreement. They’ll hash it out in the sparring pit. Cereius announces this up the stairway to the bar and the rest of the party runs down to watch and wager on the contest. It’s a unique battle in which Attros pulls Shanks out of his comfort zone. The Kenku uses the archer’s disinterest in close-quarters combat to his advantage, pushing what normally would be a mismatch into a fight down to the last blow. It ends with Shanks delivering the knockout blow with his spear and just narrowly avoiding a knockout from Attros. The two end their conflict with each other and turn to see that the rest of the party is down in the training room watching it take place.


Meanwhile, Zechs is still up in his room, he registers movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning to look, he spots what looks like a wooded archway, with a small thatch of white birch trees in place of his room’s door. He’s able to see a thick and lush wilderness behind the stand of trees. An overgrown path leads deeper into the mysterious forest. He grabs his stuff, leaves a note for his party members, and makes his way into the wilderness. Strange sounds fill the air as he walks the path, sending Duo up into the sky to get a lay of the land. Flying high over the area, Duo sees a very lush canopy spreading for miles around him. The sky seems to be in constant twilight. Dusk to the west, dawn to the east. 


After about 10 minutes of walking, the two come up to an opening in the path. Seeing flits of light zooming through this tree-covered clearing. In front of him, he sees a beautiful palace carved in stone with trees and vines seemingly acting as columns. It seems as though it’s a natural formation but also built. He can hear words being spoken in a strange language that he can understand. The voices are coming from the flits of light streaking by him, speaking of a king and a court. He interjects into a conversation, asking ‘the Seelie Court?” 


After a bit of conversation, he figures out that he’s speaking to Pixies and Sprites. They agree to take him to see the king. It dawns on him then, he’s in the Feywild. Zechs follows the Fey folk into the palace, eventually walking into a massive hall that appears to be an enclosed forest. Guards halt his progress and ask who he is and what his business is with the king. He explains the important bits of his backstory and posits that the king may have been involved. After conferring with the king, the guards tell Zechs that he can have an audience for a very limited time. 


Making his way toward the king, presumably King Oberon, he gets a better look at his features. Tall and muscular for a sprite, the king has jet-black eyes, and skin the color and texture of oak. His hair is thatched and braided with brambles and runs down his shoulders. Wearing a leather cloak over his right shoulder, stitched with green, brown, and orange leaves. “You wish to speak with me,” the king inquires in an even tone. Zechs explains the circumstances of his being there and reiterates his memory loss. Leaning forward, the king asks “What is it exactly that you’d like me to do for you? Would you like your memories back? Do you feel that you are ready to handle these? For I do not have time to explain.” 


“Are you responsible for taking them in the first place,” Zechs asks. “I gave aid when needed,” Oberon responds. Zechs inquires if he’ll be able to do it later if he doesn’t want to retrieve them right then. Oberon concedes that it’s possible but something about his hesitation makes Zechs feel uneasy. If the king is on the fence about the situation, it could be dangerous for him to regain what he’s lost. Ultimately, the choice is left to him. “Would it be possible to give me the part of my memories that feel relevant, or is this an all-or-nothing thing,” Zechs asks?


“Seeing as your time is running out, I leave that to you to decide what is relevant. And, as for clarification, your time is running out because the doorway is closing in several minutes from now,” Oberon replies. Zechs agrees to take all of them and the king leans forward. Touching his fingers to Zechs’s forehead a bright green light emanates from them as years worth of memories flood back into Zechs. The Tabaxi sees images of many different things that don’t quite make sense to him, and the dissonance of this recall becomes increasingly painful. Oberon pulls away and beckons him to escape before his portal closes. 


Zechs bolts from the palace and luckily finds the path that he originally took. Racing his way through the thick forest, Duo leaps off of his shoulder to chase after a creature in the trees. He calls out to his companion but is unsuccessful at persuading him to return. He can see the portal beginning to close not thirty feet from where he is. After a bit more coaxing, Duo comes back to him. Zechs cradles him in his arms and uses his Tabaxi speed to sprint toward the closing doorway. Putting his head down, he makes it partially through the closing archway before being tangled in the vines. Out of instinct, he releases his claws and is able to cut himself free just as the vines close in and the portal disappears. 


We’ahqa becomes distraught down in the training room, ripping off Rigs armor. Shanks and Attros pull them off toward the stairway back to the bar. Shanks explains that Rig wasn’t all bad and that the Dona that he knew may have been Rig but it doesn’t take away the friendship they had. Sometimes good people make bad decisions that lead them to do terrible things. They converse about the nature of feelings and each of their viewpoints. We’ahqa wants Shanks to detach from his feelings and the world around him. They speak of the past and the validity of feelings they know to be true or false. Eventually, We’ahqa retrieves Rigs armor and the trio makes their way up into the tavern.


Soon after, the rest of the party follows suit. Galahad grabs two beers and heads up to Zechs’s room. Galahad makes his way in to see a sobbing Zechs. The Paladin isn’t overly enthused about the situation. Zechs begins to mumble, “I remember,” over and over again. Zechs explains everything that just happened. He’s not sure that this is what he wanted. Galahad is confused by the entire situation for a moment. He assures the Tabaxi that things will make sense in time. Retrieving his memories is a good thing. Galahad begins to ask questions about what he sees in his head. Zechs speaks of potentially his parents, a Drow woman, and of the possibility of him being a sacrifice. 


The talk of the sacrifice catches Galahad off guard, but Zechs goes on to explain that it matches with what the Constable had told him in his illusion. The Paladin does his best to comfort his companion. Zechs asks for Galahad to grab the Journeyman, Glad, and Cereius. Back in the bar, Kyver approaches Cereius to try and get a bit more background on him. The rest of the party sits in silence, listening to the awkward conversation happening at the bar. It’s at this point that Galahad comes back down to the bar. He explains the situation to Glad and Cereius and they both make their way up to their friend. 


Galahad makes his way to the Journeyman’s office. She is sitting contemplatively looking at Rigs bracers. He explains the situation and she seems very curious about everything. Up in Zechs’ room, the Tabaxi explains the situation, and to help, Glad casts Calm Emotions on Zechs. With the whole story unfolding, Cereius is somewhat taken aback. Speaking of the sacrifice, Zechs references the Constable again. He reads from his letter from Argo, citing a cult to a god known as the “Cat Lord”. At this point, the Journeyman enters the room. She asks if Oberon seemed to be the one that called him. Zechs explains how the doorway appeared in his room. How he made his way to Oberon’s court and spoke with him. It didn’t seem like he was expecting Zechs and this is very peculiar to JM. 


She suggests to Zechs that he keeps a second journal to try and impose order on the chaos of his newfound memories. JM goes to leave and Zechs asks if she can get a letter to Argo before they finish with Strahd. She agrees and pulls Galahad out of the room for a more private conversation. She reveals that there was a surge of arcane energy from Rigs bracers when the doorway to the Feywild opened. She believes it was the Constable that opened that portal for Zechs and she’s unsure why. She tells Galahad to keep it close to the vest until Zechs can come to terms with everything that’s happened. She makes her way back to her office.


Shanks and Attros have a private conversation in the bar. Attros tells him that there will be no more secrets between them. He explains his deal with his patron, forfeiting his soul to gain his vengeance. In his eyes, he died the day his wife was slain. He has lost everything that mattered to him, nothing matters anymore. He confides that he didn’t want to tell We’ahqa about this, they are too young to understand. He is dedicated to his journey, “fate is a cruel mistress.” The two make their way to the workshop until a location is agreed upon for the group to go to next. 


Kyver and We’ahqa walk into the workshop not too long after Shanks and Attros. Attros seems to be working on some type of rapid-fire crossbow. Shanks is working on his first attempt at Alchemist’s Fire. Kyver signals to We’ahqa to be quiet as he sneaks up on Shanks. He gives Shanks a scare that almost ruins the mixture that he’s working on. Shanks isn’t too pleased with this and laughingly Kyver asks if they have any extra crossbow bolts. Attros reaches his hand into his bag of holding and pulls out a massive pile of bolts. Kyver asks the two of them for a favor in case he doesn’t make it out of Barovia. Attros tells him he won’t do any favors for him because he will make it out alive. Kyver reluctantly accepts this and leaves the workshop with We’ahqa in tow.


Meanwhile, Galahad is down in the training area soaking in the hot springs to try and relax after everything that’s happened. Zechs is up in his room, finishing writing all he can about the images he sees in his head. He then crafts a letter to Argo before heading down to the tavern’s library to research the Cat Lord and Paka. At first, he has trouble figuring out how to navigate the library as it is a large open tower of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Asking JM, he finds out that there are instructions on navigation within the library. She also informs him that their destination, Argonvostholt, is close and they will be arriving shortly. He heads back to the library and figures out how to move around the tower. His search is fairly fruitful and gives him a good base of information upon which to build. He gathers the others to prepare for Argonvostholt. [37]


Before the party leaves, they exchange the loose items that were found in the Amber Temple for gold and platinum pieces. Arguile mentions that he’s been dabbling a bit more into magic and asks if JM has anything that may help with that. She is noticeably giddy about this, runs back into her office, and returns with a spellbook for Arguile to start recording spells in. She suggests talking to Glad and We’ahqa about ritual spells. 


JM looks at the group and gives them a bit of background on the place they’re going. It was a former stronghold for an order of knights and it seems that the knights don’t stay dead. She asks if anyone has any experience with revenants. Zechs and We’ahqa both begin reciting facts about the undead creatures. They are souls of the fallen that are trapped on the plane of existence they’re on. When they’re defeated, they find another corpse to inhabit and continue with their task. Once the task is complete, they’re supposed to move on but since they’re in Barovia the souls seem to be trapped there.


She wishes them luck as they make their way out of the tavern. As they walk out, a grim scene unfolds before them. High above the river valley juts a quiet promontory upon which looms a sepulchral mansion, its turrets capped with fairytale cones, its towers lined with sculpted battlements. A third of the structure has collapsed, as has part of the roof, but the rest appears intact. A dark, octagonal tower rises above the surrounding architecture. Out of the fog comes a distant peal of thunder, quickly accompanied by the howling of wolves in the woods below, but the house stands silent, seeming like the fossilized remains of some long-dead thing smote upon the mountainside.


Perched atop a ten-foot-wide, a ten-foot-high cube of granite is a moss-covered statue of a dragon, its wings tucked close to its body. The statue looks east, toward the mansion. Cereius notes how peculiar it is for a “guardian” to be facing the building instead of away. Duo does his normal overhead pass and doesn’t see anything moving around in the area. Using his Primeval Awareness, Zechs detects a heavy presence of the undead. We’ahqa, staring at the statue, zones out and falls into a memory of their childhood. In a serene scene in a dense forest, they see a beautiful, almost radiant, stag move into view from the foliage. They lock eyes with it and a serene calm comes over them. The Druid remembers this day vividly, as it was very close to the time that their father fell ill. The moment passes and their vision refocuses on the statue.


The rest of the party sees We’ahqa zone out for a moment. Kyver asks what happened and We’ahqa explains what they saw. It’s a bit disconcerting to the rest of the group. Kyver leads the way up into the manor, flagstone steps flanked by stone railings climb to a landing in front of a pair of tall, wooden doors with rusted iron bands and knockers shaped like small dragons. Carved into the lintel above the entrance is the word Argynvostholt. Stealthily, Kyver slips into the main hall.


This room feels like a king’s tomb. A grand staircase leads up to stone balconies held aloft by stone pillars and arches. A tall, faded tapestry depicting a nobleman in silver armor hangs from an iron rod above the staircase landing. Six sets of double doors lead from this foyer. Along the walls, displayed on marble pedestals, are three alabaster busts of handsome men. A fourth bust and its pedestal have been knocked over, and their shattered remains lie strewn across the mosaic floor. Two chandeliers of wrought iron hang from the ceiling like monstrous black spiders. A great shadow with wings moves across the walls and disappears. He hears the soft bestial hiss in the darkness.


He ignores the shadow and gives the all-clear to the rest of the group. The party begins to spread out a bit, searching the manor clues to where they need to go. Kyver finds an old dining hall with a chapel attached to it. Galahad finds that the collapsed area is full of webs and giant spiders. He seems to be spotted by some of them, but he’s able to leave without incident. Galahad tells the group and We’ahqa wants to go talk to them. As the rest of the party bickers about what they should do with the spiders, Cereius is pulled into memory.


He’s transported into the chapel he was married in. As the memory progresses, he realizes that this is his wedding day. The feelings and emotions from that day wash over him, and as he reaches out to hold his wife’s hand the vision fades. We’ahqa and Arguile start arguing more and Cereius tries to end the squabble. We’ahqa turns from the Tiefling and walks into the collapsed room. The Druid casts Animal Friendship on the closest spider and begins to talk to it. They talk about how long the spiders have been there and what it will take for them to leave the party alone. We’ahqa offers them food, and while the spiders request “the big one” (Galahad), We’ahqa summons a creature for them to devour instead. 


While this is happening, Arguile makes it known that he wants nothing to do with the spiders. So much so, that when We’ahqa comes back out telling them the deal he made and stopping his spider friend from following him, Arguile storms out of the manor. Galahad tells them that this isn’t something the party needs to deal with right now, so hold up their end of the deal and leave the spiders where they are. Reluctantly, We’ahqa agrees. Speaking to their friend, they confirm that the knights that are in the manor are not welcoming and “not very nice”. 


As the cold air hits Arguile stepping outside, he’s pulled into a vision of a memory of his past. He relives his first steps into the port city of Gamsby on the island of Mechfall. The harbor and large population of gnomes and dwarves are, at first, overwhelming but it settles into comfort. He realizes that this is only days before meeting his mentor at the Masterful Gains Thieves Guild. The closing door behind him snaps him back to the present.


Kyver begins to search through the other rooms, as Cereius explains that something seems to be happening here. He explains that he just experienced a vivid memory of his marriage. We’ahqa tells him that they also had something along those lines, saying it was positive but bittersweet. The party continues to search through the manor, finding several different rooms, one where there is a stranded Dusk Elf. He tells the party that his carriage was stranded nearby and he’s been hiding in the manor ever since. The legend is that this place was once the keep of a Silver Dragon named Argyn and his knights. The head of the order, Vladimir Horngaard, wielded a greatsword made of sunlight. Their mission was to defeat Strahd but they failed. When Argyn was killed, Strahd’s minions butchered him and took his skull as a trophy. It is supposedly displayed in Castle Ravenloft. The only way to stop the revenant and set them free is to return the skull to the manor and place it on the beacon that is located in the tower atop the manor.


The party considers the information and asks that the Dusk Elf stay put until everything is over. They agree and the party continues with their search for the manor. We’ahqa splits off quickly to bring Arguile back to the group. Whole again, the party eventually makes its way back into the dining hall. As Galahad inspects the armored statues, he drifts into memory. He sees a campfire with his mentor Antonius, the night they met. They were drinking together, talking about the nuances of being a Paladin. Antonius talks about his oath of vengeance and Galahad hears things that were said in inebriation that he didn’t recall. How his wife, a Wood-Elf, had been slain in raids by Goliath tribes. Tribes he went to war with, and worse, he was describing the Tribes of Tarren Ridge, including his own. He speaks of his friend, a Wood-Elf and Paladin of the Protector, Thiadikus. And the last thing he hears before the vision fades is “you know, you’re alright for a Goliath.”


We’ahqa notices first that Galahad zoned out and asks if he had a vision too. Galahad confirms it was a vision and describes it to the party. As he’s describing it, Glad becomes tenser and interrupts when Thiadikus is brought up. “That was my husband,” the cleric says evenly. “That’s the reason why I no longer trust Humans.” Galahad apologizes for everything, explaining that he wasn’t part of any wars and that his mission was to stop things like that from happening. She can’t blame him for the actions of his mentor but this only strengthens her resolve to accomplish her goals. She believes he doesn’t need to apologize for Antonius, he has proven himself over and over again. She expands a bit more on the situation, speaking on revenge, betrayal, and loss. She asks for a moment to gather herself and leaves the room.


Peeking into the chapel, Kyver spots three armored figures kneeling before the altar. Relaying this to the group, they assume the figures are revenant and they should avoid this room.  Attros, not wanting to take chances, casts the Arcane Lock spell on the door. They turn around and make their way up the main staircase. As they search the second floor, Zechs is pulled into a flashback from his childhood. He’s five or six years old, being led toward a bonfire in the woods by a Drow woman. They come to the fire and it’s surrounded by cloaked figures. The woman crouches in front of Zechs and asks, “Ok Quil, are you ready for your big day?” He nods and she leads him to a large stone altar. Lying on the cold stone, Zechs notices a large and ornate ceremonial dagger. The woman reassures Zechs that everything will be ok. The next thing he sees is the dagger swinging down at him and then he’s back in the manor.


Zechs is gobsmacked as he makes his way toward the north wing. Cereius notices this and goes to speak with him. He describes the vision to the cleric and Cereius pales slightly. Zechs focuses on the positive that he potentially knows his actual name. The two have a short conversation about Zechs’s history with names and how he got his current name. Meanwhile, Kyver forges ahead into the north wing with Attros at a distance, being the second set of eyes. Unfortunately, as Kyver enters the wing, he inadvertently sets off a trap. A wall of stone appears between Kyver and the rest of the party. The rest of the party rushes to their friends’ aid, unsure of what they can do. [38]


Zechs sends Duo outside to watch from the outside as the party begins to assess the situation. Arguile figures that the wall is magically conjured and dispelling it is the best route to go. A fight erupts on the other side of the wall, with Kyver and Attros’s familiar Gilead deftly avoids his adversaries and fights back. We’ahqa rushes into action and uses Dispel Magic to open the hallway up again. The battle comes to a close quickly after that, as the party comes to Kyvers aid, either destroying the Spectral Warriors he’s fighting or turning them with Turn Undead.


The party comes to the conclusion that what they just fought is not the revenant and they need to keep their eyes peeled. They continue to search the second floor, finding the balcony of the Chapel with the three revenants from the first floor. During the search, Shanks falls into memory. He’s reliving a part of the Exandria job, in a city called Rexentrum. This is the point in the mission where he decides to let go of waiting for Dona. It fades as he’s releasing an arrow from his bow. Cereius notices this and asks if he’s ok. Shanks hesitates but admits that he thinks he saw something. 


Kyver informs the group that he is going to start checking out the third floor ahead of them. The party follows soon after, coming upon five of the remaining revenant sitting around a long dining table. Attros, once again, uses Arcane Lock to make their exit more difficult. Further, into the floor, they find a massive audience hall with a wooden throne facing three large windows. On the throne is a slumped, skeletal figure in plate armor clutching the hilt of a great sword. They devise a plan to have Kyver sneak up, try to knock the sword hilt out of the creature’s hand, and have Attros use Thorn Whip to pull it away from it. If that fails, Galahad volunteers to try and persuade/intimidate the figure to hand the sword over without a fight. 


They agree on the plan and Kyver sneaks into the room with the party hiding on the outskirts. The Tabaxi makes his way quietly to the throne and lands a blow on the creature’s hand. However, the revenant has an iron grip on the hilt and startles to life. A beam of sunlight bursts from the great sword as the revenant glares down at the Tabaxi. Before it can attack, Attros Thorn Whip distracts it and it looks back toward where the rest of the party is hidden.


The creature’s grip on the greatsword tightens. *insert Horngaard/Galahad speeches*


Taken aback by this speech, the Revenant pauses and then releases a guttural battle cry that reverberates through the manor as the battle for the Sun Sword begins. A flurry of action begins as the revenant begin to break free from the rooms they’ve been locked into. A magical aura of cold and wind begins to emanate from Horngaard as some of the party goes after him. Galahad ultimately gets to Horngaard and takes him down. The arcane storm that was raging dissipates but the battle isn’t over yet as the remainder of the revenant and spectral warriors flood into the room and begin to overwhelm Galahad and the rest of the party.[39]


The battle rages on as the party is separated from the support of each other. Several members of the party go down, including Arguile, Cereius, and Attros. Galahad, however, is the one that takes the brunt of the force from the remaining Revenant, falling and being picked up multiple times. Shanks and Kyver are successful in taking out two of the undead knights but things look bleaker and bleaker by the minute. In a final bid to end the eventual death of his party, Galahad is able to persuade the second in command of the order. The fighting ceases and the party uses this chance to escape the manor with the Sun Sword in hand.


Once outside, they decide whether or not they can camp out close by or head back to Vallaki. Kyver brings up calling the Journeyman and they conclude that calling is the best option. While this is happening they begin to hear the howls of wolves in the distance and they seem to be getting closer. There is a break in the cloud cover and they see that there is a full moon. Unfortunately, the Journeyman is indisposed and can’t pick them up at their current location. So We’ahqa quickly summons horses and wild shapes into a larger horse for Galahad. They decide it’s best to ride in the dark to the nearby village of Vallaki. 


The party races off into the woods, making a mad dash to civilization. They hear howls behind them but at a distance that there is nothing in their field of vision. The horses are beginning to get spooked and Shanks notices disturbances in the trees around them. They continue to race through the forest, passing the crossroads that lead to Vallaki and Kerzyk. Looking back again, Shanks spots seven to eight large Werewolves with an even bigger one leading the charge. He enthusiastically tells the party about the company. Zechs drops his caltrops to hopefully slow them down. 


Shanks watches as a handful of their pursuers are tripped up by the caltrops laid by his Tabaxi friend. However, he also sees them begin to flank out around the trees. They eventually make it to the front gates, but they are closed. Zechs tries desperately to get the guard’s attention. He succeeds but the guards are too afraid to open the gates. Shanks screams to let them in and the guards race down the towers. Meanwhile, Attros rides toward the Werewolves and the pack parts for the largest one.


The leader shapeshifts into a tall human man in chainmail and walks calmly toward the Kenku. Attros asks why they were pursuing them. He tells him that his name is Kiril and that they were tasked with it, he insinuates that Strahd is the one behind it. Attros questions why they would follow orders from Strahd. Kiril tells him that it is the only way that they can leave the cursed valley. He asks if the party would seek his pack’s aid and Attros agrees. The party is weary of this offer and Galahad dismounts from We’ahqa, walking over to Kiril. The Paladin probes for more context and by the end of their conversation he has enough to make a deal. Kiril will defect to the party’s side and will bring them information about Castle Ravenloft. With this, the party and pack part ways, making a show of “fighting them off”. The gates slowly open behind the party and they enter the village of Vallaki, completely exhausted.[40]


Shanks approaches Attros and asks how he knew that the Werewolves wouldn’t attack the party. He tells the archer that if they had wanted to attack, they would have. Nothing was in their way. The artificer emphasizes the ability to read intent. Wearily the party makes its way back to the Blue Water Inn. They acquire the same rooms as before and after a long night’s sleep, the party makes its way back down to the bar. Galahad begins to examine the Sun Sword and attunes to the magical blade. During this attunement process, Galahad hears a voice within his head, “who wields me? To whom do I speak?”


The sword and Galahad converse telepathically. It questions his intentions and ultimately agrees to be wielded by him. Frustratingly though, the sword is very limited in answers. Duo, while asking for food, reveals to the rest of the party that he can talk. And not just random words, but in complete sentences. Everyone is surprised but also impressed by the development. Galahad relays to the party that the Sun Sword has spoken to him and it seems its only purpose is to destroy Strahd. Hesitant at first, the party decides to roll with it and start planning out their tasks for the day. Unsure of when the Journeyman will arrive, they decide to look for a shop as well as see what else the village has to offer.


They also discuss the pros and cons of continuing the pursuit of the Mad Mage to aid in their fight against Strahd. They also try to figure out exactly when they will see the revenant from the night before. Ultimately deciding to stay for at least a day to think about the Mad Mage more and wait on the information promised to them by the Werewolf Kiril. They ask Danika where the best place to shop is and she points at an older Half-Elven gentleman at the bar. He’s a traveling merchant that just came in not too long ago. Otherwise, the items available are extremely limited. We’ahqa makes their way over to the older man. 


They inquire about possible wares to be sold. He says he does but asks what these wares are going to be for. We’ahqa blurts out “Strahd”, without any hesitation. The gentleman’s eyebrow arches up in an amused manner and tells the Druid to meet him in a few hours in the Arasek Stockyard. As We’ahqa thanks the man and walks back over to the party, Galahad inquires about the festival that is happening outside. Supposedly, according to Danika, it’s supposed to boost morale. She sees it as a vanity project more than anything else. Zechs pursues this line of question further and asks if there is anything else strange happening in town. She casually mentions the church and that most anywhere in town probably has something strange happening. Meanwhile, Arguile asks We’ahqa if he can borrow their ritual spellbook and begins working on copying Find Familiar.


Leaving Arguile at the inn, the party heads out into the village. They decide to check out the church first, searching for Father Petrovich. Back near the western gates, the come upon a slouching, centuries-old stone church that has a bulging steeple in the back and walls lined with cracked, stained glass windows depicting pious saints. A fence of wrought iron encloses a garden of gravestones next to the church. A thin mist creeps among the graves. Galahad immediately recognizes the iconography of the Morning Lord. The Paladin approaches the front doors and knocks.


Eventually, a wizened old Human priest answers the call and greets the party. Galahad asks if the party can take a look around the church and the priest enthusiastically invites them in. “Ask and you shall receive! You’re just the people I need!” Walking in cautiously, Galahad uses his Divine Sense, and luckily there is no sign of the undead. Father Petrovich leads them to the pulpit, turns, and explains to the group the sacred bones that protect the church, insinuating from Strahd, have gone missing. He asks the party to find the bones and return them. The person he suspects is the gravedigger Milo. According to the father, only his acolyte and Milo knew where the bones were. He believes that Milo is most likely at the festival and will likely be carrying a shovel. 


The party accepts the charge and sets off to find Milo. Duo is sent off ahead to scout for Milo and Arguile rejoins the party. The blood hawk spots three separate individuals with shovels. Using Duo’s newfound speech, he calls out Milo’s name and through the process of elimination they find the man they’re looking for. The party decides to send Cereius, as he’s in his priest garb, to talk to the gravedigger, while the rest of them disperse through the crowd to prevent any possible escape.


“Milo! Oh, there you are! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you,” the cleric exclaims. Puzzled, the man looks back at Cereius, “do I know you?” “Come now,” Cereius answers, “look at that shovel! I remember that from when I was a child! Are you still digging ditches?” A smirk spreads across Milo’s face, “no, I’m digging graves.” “Wonderful,” Cereius replies, “I’ve heard you moved up in the world.” He goes on to ask Milo about the church and the priest. He persuades the man to accompany him toward the group and on the way he inquires about the bones. With a little bit of probing, Cereius finds out that Milo moved the bones for the coffin maker. Thanking him, he asks where he can find the coffin maker. Milo points him in the right direction and heads back off into the festival.


The party makes their way to the uninviting shop that is two stories tall and has a sign shaped like a coffin above the front door. All of the window shutters are closed up tight, and a deathly silence surrounds the establishment. Glad, over the situation, begins loudly banging on the front door. Unfortunately, no one answers. Arguile suggests that they pick the lock on the front door and break in. The lock is no match for the Tiefling, stepping back from the door he hands We’ahqa his spellbook back. Glad immediately walks in with the party on her heels. They walk in on an older man with woodworking tools.


He doesn’t put up much of a fight and spills the beans about the bones. He reveals a well-dressed man came to him for his help in return for business. The man’s name is the same one told to them by the Abbot: Von Holtz. They deduce that this man was actually Strahd. What confirms it, though, is the admission that Von Holtz, or Strahd, is keeping vampire spawn upstairs along with the bones. Galahad questions the coffin maker’s intentions and he concludes he was likely charmed into this situation. The Paladin decides that they need to exterminate the spawn and retrieve the bones, only then does Glad notice that Kyver has already left the room. [41]

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.

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. Zechs confirms that he’s returned from his job and introduces the members of the party that is traveling with him. He asks who from the upper members of the guild are around and Qho informs him that Inia is the highest-ranking member in the city.


Inia is currently on the Pincushion Maker bounty, though they’re currently in the guild hall. Zechs asks Qho to gather the others for some troubling information. She returns with Gojin, a Triton; Strohm, a Changeling; Kivela, a Shifter; and Inia, a Yuan-ti Pureblood. Zechs introduces the party to the guild members and gets right to business. He asks questions about the Pincushion Maker. Revealing the possibility of a shapeshifter and that the timeline doesn’t work, though he doesn’t give them information on Shanks yet. Only that he is not the pincushion maker.


He moves on to explain the whole Constable ordeal and the collision of the planes. None of them are very convinced by the information, though he is able to get across the idea of the multiple prime material planes. Inia questions why they need to know any of this, as they don’t take orders from Zechs. They reiterate that if the old man asks any of them to take it on, then the information would be relevant to them. Inia asks Arguile and Kyver about the member of the party that “is not the pincushion maker” in Thieves Cant. The two of them give the ranger some basic information on Shanks and Rig as well. 


The two of them question Inia a bit further about the Pincushion Maker. As this conversation goes on, Gojin strikes up a conversation with Galahad and Cereius. He also digs a bit into the situation that Zechs has told them that they are all in. The two confirm not only Zechs’s story but that their gods have spoken to them about the situation. He asks how Zechs is doing on his current journey. Through all of this, Zechs is a bit caught off-guard. He quickly realizes that his guildmates are thorough and wish to get as much information as they can.


The conversation moves on to contacting Argo and trying to get him to meet in a location that sits near the middle of both of their current whereabouts. They come to the conclusion that Granz City may be the best spot to meet. He asks his guildmates, again, to help the party find the tethers pulling the planes together. And again, Inia tells him that if he can convince the old man to have the guild focus on that, then that is what they will do. Otherwise, they will continue with their current assignments. 


However, Zechs decides that he will just give them the platinum for the bounty to direct their attention to the colliding planes. Inia isn’t overly pleased with this and tells the Tabaxi, flat out, that unless the old man diverts them to what Zechs is talking about they will stay on their current assignments. They even go as far as to say that Agro is in charge of the guild, not Zechs. After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Strohm breaks out their moonshine and begins to pour shots for everyone. Before Zechs can partake, Inia and Gojin ask him to join them upstairs for a debrief on his mission.


Following them upstairs, he sits in a rather large room with the two of them as they begin to lay out what is about to happen, not only with him but those that traveled with him. They explain that the questions he will be asked are Agro’s questions and it is his rule that they are asked. All members that have attained any rank in the guild have gone through this, and he will be no different. They explain that it is for the betterment of not only themselves but for those around them. Everyone wants him to succeed and none of the things they will ask about are of a personal nature. Zechs agrees to the debrief, and the pointed questions about his mission begin.


Zechs gives them the full rundown of the entire Barovia job. Explaining about the Journeyman and the Constable. He speaks about the ins and outs of each event as it unfolded. Ireena, the Revenant, the Amber Temple, and their final confrontation with Strahd. While Zechs recounts the details and answers their questions, he notices that their attention is on his posture, hand, and eye movement. He explains that he’s gained a new perspective on himself since he ventured to the Feywild and had his memories returned.


Zechs confides in the two that he is contemplating changing his conclave to Monster Slayer. He also reveals that one of the party members has a potential connection to Orcus. He mentions the connections between Galahad, Antonius, Argo, Attros, and himself. They end with a few pointed questions about the party that he travels with. They dive into his need to try and fill the gaps that he sees. At the end of all of this, he asks about the things that have been going on while he was away. Inia informs him of a cult following a figure in a Goblin mask formed by the town of Ravenwood, trouble in Terran Ridge, the Pincushion Maker, and various other smaller bounties. 


Zechs is dismissed and makes his way back down to the drinking downstairs. He lets Cereius know about the debrief and directs him upstairs. One by one, the other party members take their turns giving Gojin and Inia more context to the mission in Barovia. And one by one, Cereius, Arguile, Galahad, and Kyver detail their time in the demi-plane and their thoughts on how Zechs handled himself. Throughout these conversations, more is revealed about Shanks, Rig, and the interconnected nature of the party. [48/49]


After the debrief, the party begins to drink Strohm’s moonshine. During the revels and shots, Gojin follows up on his inquiry about Galahad’s armor. The Goliath regales him of the tale of how he got it and who made it, suggesting that Gojin gets a set for himself. Zechs wagers Arguile twenty gold pieces that he can’t pickpocket Inia. The two rogues dip into the shadows to wait for the opportune moment to strike. He is caught in the act and is told that if he tries that again, he will lose his hand. After a fourth shot of the shine, Arguile passes out where he stands. 


During the chaos, Zechs makes his way over to Kivela. He makes it known that he didn’t mean to hurt her feelings when the party arrived earlier. In the banter that ensues, she unwillingly admits that she missed him, and Zechs pokes fun at her. Moving from her, Zechs sits down with Cereius and begins pointing out the family dynamics of the guild. A drunken Qho makes her way over to the two. After a bit of conversation, the party comes together to play a game of quarters. Zechs passes at the table following a victory shot. The night ends shortly after with Galahad taking the two passed-out party members upstairs to sleep. 


Kyver decides that this is the perfect opportunity to pull a prank on the sleeping party. He searches their bags and finds himself some rope. He then moves across the room tying their feet together and eventually passing out in the corner before he can make his exit. The following morning Arguile, Galahad, and Zechs wake up to see what transpired the night before. Working together, through speed and a Hold Person spell, they tie his foot with the rope, throw it over the rafter in the room and hoist him upside down. For the cherry on top,  Zechs tosses a jar of bees into the room. At this point, Cereius walks by and just shakes his head saying “I told him it wouldn’t work”. 


Flashback to Glad entering her room in the tavern after the battle with Strahd. Sitting alone, she begins to meditate and is down toward the tavern area. Following this feeling, she makes her way down and has a conversation over tea with the Journeyman. She talks about how she has been experiencing blackouts. Glad is reminded of her summons to the Seelie Court and is transported to the Feywild by the Journeyman. Stepping through the door of the tavern, she walks through a lush clearing surrounded by forest. The plant life is all manner of colors; purple, orange, yellow, and so on. Darting across the clearing and through the trees are bright trails of light. 
She is greeted by a pixie named Gladys, who leads her to a massive tree with an intricate knot in it. The knot unfurls into a portal glowing with green light. She walks through it into another forest, but slightly ethereal in nature. From within, a four-foot-tall Sprite emerges, clothed in fine green fabrics and antlers upon his head. He introduces himself as King Oberon. He explains to Glad about the collision of the planes, and that there are only a few things that can be done. The first is to find the points where they’re connected and sever them. The other involves an ancient religion surrounding the creators of the gods called the Daughters of Creation.


Glad agrees to help in any way that she can, and as a token of his gratitude, King Oberon permits her to ask any question of him she likes. She asks him if he knows who her father is, thinking out loud that it’s not the most important thing but it’s an answer that she’s still searching for. The Archfey admits that he doesn’t know of her father. She reflects on her journey with the party and comes to realize that her search, though meaningful to her, is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. King Oberon smiles at this revelation and imbues her circlet with healing abilities to help her on the journey ahead. She thanks him for the information, his gift, and his time and exits the portal back into the Feywild. 


Making her way back to the tavern, she enters to find a faun sitting at the bar speaking to JM. Lithe and graceful, the faun hands Glad a letter addressed to “Quill” and walks out the door. Glad explains everything that happened while she was with the Archfey, and JM agrees to take her to the rest of the party in Belrondis. Meanwhile, the party eventually makes their way downstairs to the common room for breakfast. As they gather at a table and joke about the ridiculous prank they just pulled on Kyver when there is a knock at the door. 


They greet Glad and invite her in to join them for food and drink. She accepts and begins to tell them about all of the things that have happened in the last few days. Not only has she gone to meet King Oberon, but she talks about a letter for “Quill”, and a vision involving the Protector and a Daughter of Creation. The name “Quill” catches Zechs and informs his compatriot that he’s had some of his memories restored and that Quill is his given name. She gladly hands it to him and he quickly changes the subject sending a message to Argo. [50]


Cereius sends Argo a message without identifying himself and gets a confused response. Letting the party know, Zechs crafts a message with the same info but with the addition of identifiers. After a few messages, they agree to meet in Granz City in a week and a half. While they prepare for their journey, they ask Qho what the guild is working on and a few details about them. 


Qho reveals that something or someone is taking out entire Goliath tribes in the Terran Ridge, and this catches Galahad off guard. He is insistent to go back to the Ridge and suspects that Antonius is involved somehow. He cites his conversation with Bothok about Antonius needing his help as his main reason. They all agree to head to the Ridge after Granz City to meet with Argo. Qho brings up Zechs’s Conclave switch and its required three weeks of training up north. He still isn’t totally sure and says that he’ll discuss it with the old man when he sees him.


At this point, the party is ready for their journey west and heads out on the main trade route toward the capital city. The travel is easy and they set camp for the night. Galahad takes the first watch and decides to reach out to Bahamut for wisdom but his call goes unanswered. Arguile and Kyver take the next watch and the two of them dive into their arcane books. Arguile copies some spells into his spell books and Kyver continues to study his arcane for beginners book. Zechs and Cereius take the final watch. They speak about the letter from the faun in the Feywild. The conversation moves to Cereius and his quest to save Valencia and settle down with her.


Cereius confides that the visions he received from the Moonweaver may require him to leave the party and he hopes that they will understand. Zechs thinks that they will, if the time comes, and brings up his vision of the “deer lady”. Neither of them is sure why or how they are connected to her. Thinking deeper, Cereius comes to the conclusion that the three figures he saw may be from the three planes being pulled together. The blacksmith Vulsir is a legendary artifact maker and the others are important on their planes, perhaps. He also remembers the rumors about Nindlelough and its destruction. 


The day begins and the party continues their travel to Granz City. During the day, they run into another party of adventurers. A Goliath named Tolik, an Air Genasi named Marvin Barry, and an Elf named Zephyr Witchbane. After some conversation, the two parties part ways, and the rest of the day goes off without a hitch. Stopping for the evening, they make camp in a spot they camped at earlier when traveling to Belrondis. Arguile and Cereius take the first watch. 


During the watch, the Tiefling brings up the idea of pulling a prank on Kyver and persuades the Cleric to do it. If not for the fun of it, then for his balls. After some setup, the prank fails but Cereius is still able to catch Kyver in a compromising position with Create/Destroy Water. After the two head to bed, Kyver begins his watch. He notices some rustling in the treeline surrounding their camp. There is a feline shape in the shadows. The movement continues as Kyver watches and moves toward Zechs and Galahad. Out of nowhere, a Dire Tiger attacks him and the party awakens for the fight. The creature is smaller than normal and well out of its normal habitat. As the fight continues, several other spectral tigers join the fray, eventually either being destroyed or merging with the physical one making it bigger. The battle is hard won by the party.


Meanwhile, Shanks continues his conversation with Mr. Bell as he explains the situation in Granz City. While Shanks was in Barovia, a series of murders have been committed across Granzia by someone who matches Shanks’s description. Not only that but because he has missed the last 50 years of history in Granzia when he was picked up by JM, Granz City is very different from what he remembers. The Battle of the Fey Kings has left a mark on the city and parts of it have now melded with the Feywild. Bell emphasizes that this murderer could be anyone with shapeshifting magic and could be anywhere. The two discuss ways to clear his name and how to get to the underground tunnel system. 


Shanks makes his way back to his tavern and heads to JM’s office for a conversation. He mentions Mr. Bell and the Journeyman has no idea who that is. This leads to a discussion of her past faces. Shanks pushes forward and brings up the tether points and she confirms that several have been found by her other group. This then leads to the underground tunnel system and the current landscape of Granz City. She gives him a brief history of the Battle of the Fey Kings. She goes on to describe the tether points as being in areas that have strange things happening in them. Time sinks, magic behaving strangely, and creatures with altered abilities and strengths. 


She also confirms that Shanks is wanted, suggesting that Chico may have something to help him with that. Shanks is hesitant though because he doesn’t want to compromise his cognitive abilities with Chico’s arcane pipeweed. Speaking with Chico, he makes a deal with him to turn the pipeweed into teas for him to drink and ultimately alter his appearance. The Druid brings up the Wild Mother and how his resurrection and its pretenses seem to be false. They share a heartfelt conversation about it and Chico is very understanding and forgiving. At the end of it all, he hands Shanks a Cloak of Many Fashions to help him blend in further. [51]


Back at the camp, Galahad begins to make a cloak with the Dire Tiger’s pelt during the final watch with Zechs. The two are hyper-vigilant for a bit before settling into the normal rhythm. They discuss the encounter with the creature and how strange it really was. While Galahad begins to cook the meat from the beast, Zechs pulls out the note from the faun and begins to read it. It turns out to be a list of places, some of which he recognizes. Coldbring, Tritania, and the Coal Desert are places he recognizes from Granzia. However places like Stargrave, Drose, Landfall, Uscana, Ghelgo, and Mechfall he doesn’t. The list also has a strange symbol on it as well. 


During breakfast, Zechs brings up the list. Arguile recognizes the names of Uscana, Ghelgo, and Mechfall. The last of which is where he spent most of his life before joining this party. Kyver recognizes the name of Stargrave, a northern city in Sloane, but doesn’t recognize the other two places. The Ranger posits that these locations could be tether points. Eventually, the party breaks down camp and continues their travel. During the day, the party tries to figure out what the symbol may mean. Arguile remembers that it had something to do with We’ahqa’s information from after their run-in with the Constable. It sparks the name of the Daughters of Creation with Galahad. Travel is easygoing for most of the day and they make camp for the night. 


During the watches, Arguile and Cereius discuss Kyvers dumb luck and superstitions that they’ve heard of. Kyver works on his disguises and reads his arcane textbook. Zechs has a conversation with Duo about potentially changing his conclave. Duo doesn’t want him to but will help him however he can. He wants to save the world together with Zechs. The Tabaxi expresses guilt about the events that led up to Attros and We’ahqa disappearing into the Astral Sea. Ultimately, Zechs decides that he won’t change his conclave and resolves to work even harder with Duo to be the best team they can be.


Galahad and Zechs also discuss whether or not either will stay in Sloane or Granzia. The Paladin is unsure about the whole situation and wants to see what Antonius is up to. Especially if it has something to do with what’s happening in Terran Ridge. But the conversation turns to both of them looking forward to meeting more of their family and for Zechs to finally see his parents again. Another watch ends, and the party breaks down their camp and begins to travel toward Granz City.


During the day’s travel, they come to a fork in the road with a traveler resting in the grass next to it. It turns out to be another member of the Shuffle Guild, a Kalashtar named Cenari, and her familiar, a Red Panda named Tobin. She caught up with them when she heard from Qho about the colliding of the planes. She is part of the Horizonwalker Conclave and the party gives her the low down on what’s happening. Every now and again during this conversation, Cenari uses her telepathic abilities to flirt with and fluster Arguile. She asks the group if anything strange has happened to them recently and they tell her about the run-in with the spectral Dire Tiger. This confirms a few things for her as she’s been hearing about and seeing strange stuff around Startomb, Granz City, the Forest Bastion, and Dragonborn Valley. 


She talks about animals with strange abilities, magic acting oddly, and time loss. Galahad asks about Terran Ridge and the Ranger informs him of unconfirmed rumors of a single knight clad in black armor wielding dark magic as the culprit. She was actually heading that way after she leaves the party to check out what exactly is happening. With the sun beginning to set, the party decides to set up camp for the evening. 


Cenari and Arguile take the first watch. They speak about the flirting earlier and how Zechs is holding up. They speak of benefactors like the Journeyman and bond over their fairly new familiars. All the while, there is an allusion to a rendezvous after their watch. Kyver and Cereius take the next watch. Arguile asks Cereius to try and keep Kyver on his best behavior, as he doesn’t want interruptions during his alone time with Cenari. He goes as far as threatening to stab Kyver if he ruins it for him. He then bribes Kyver with talk of magic and access to his spell book if he behaves. The two on watch discuss Cereius’s life before becoming an adventurer and his joining the party. They also touch upon Kyver’s family, including his uncle who was an adventurer and going to see his parents again. 


They speak about Kaleb and that whole situation. Kyver brings up an Elf named Alma from his past. She was someone who had comforted him while he was in his prison and he cares for her deeply. She is also, supposedly, the person that stole him from his parents and altered his memory. Cereius suggests talking to the Shuffle Guild to help find more info about Alma’s whereabouts but Kyver doesn’t think it will help. What he’s truly worried about is how his parents will look at him once they know about all of the horrible things he’s done. Cereius reassures him that his parents will still love him and see their son, not a murderer. The final watch belongs to Galahad and Zechs. While the Tabaxi gets comfortable with a summoned bear, Galahd prays to Bahamut again for wisdom and guidance. He receives a vision of a knight clad in black armor with Chromatic motifs and a sword exuding dark magic.


The watch comes to end and the party begins to wake. Cenari is the first to arrive at the fire to cook breakfast and Zechs playfully pokes fun at her for her apparent conquest of Arguile. She deflects and takes a few verbal jabs back at the Tabaxi. But with the way it was implied, Cereius and Duo half-jokingly go to search for Arguile. The Tiefling hears his name being called and wakes up in the field by the camp with only a few articles of clothing. He makes his way into the camp without saying a word. There is a bit of telepathic flirting between Cenari and himself, as she brings him breakfast and coffee. After successfully locating all of Arguiles clothes, the party breaks down camp and begins yet another day of travel. 


At about midday, they come across the Medusa’s Cascade on the side of the road. They head into the tavern, where JM is waiting on them with some new information. The party fills her in on what’s been happening recently. The final story, the Dire Tiger encounter, segways into her new information. Some tether points have been found and she is now referring to them as “machines”. Two locations, Mechfall and Ghelgo, are mentioned and Zechs breaks out the list from the Faun, pointing out those locations. JM finds it interesting but the locations found in Sloane don’t match up. 


They ask about the symbol and she tells them that it was on We’ahqa’s letter and that they’re Druidic symbols of the elements. It may also be connected to the Daughters of Creation. She thinks, though, that the tethers are in groups of four per plane, going on to explain that the weird stuff Cenari told them about and their experiences are signs of a potential tether point. She mentions that their next stop is to see a tinkerer up in Nindlelough to help her create a device to track down these types of disruptions. JM describes the machines as having multiple floors. The first is a floor filled with doors. Potentially, doors to other places and planes. The second is a room filled with massive arcane crystals humming with energy. The third is a giant, open-air room with an arcane engine inside of it. 


She believes that there are more floors, but the other party was only able to explore three before things went awry. Apparently, they were transported across the plane just by entering one of the machines and closing the door behind them. Strangely enough, none of the machines that have been found have the same exterior. Some appear as a cave, another as a decrepit tower, and still another as a gleaming metallic structure. 


The party asks about Chico and the Journeyman tells them that he’s been saying that he’s in contact with the Wild Mother. Knowing this day would come, Galahad and Zech venture into the kitchen to talk to the Druid. They have a very similar conversation with Chico as Shanks did. There is one interesting bit of information that Chico mentions. Melora has been showing him visions of a place called Landfall. A city built in and around a massive mountain with huge statues surrounding it. They represent something to do with what she called “The Daughters”. This description matches what We’ahqa found and also brings up a story from Galahad’s childhood. A story that spoke of the place where everything was created.[52]


Before the party leaves, JM asks them to keep an eye out for Shanks in Granz City. She’s not sure what he looks like currently, or how he got within the walls. She knows that Chico helped him out and that he felt he had it under control. While she is speaking to the group, Arguile sneaks over to Welby and quietly asks for anything that may give him a “stamina” boost. The Halfling’s eyes dart between the Tiefling and the muscular woman who came into the tavern with them. With a nod and a wink, he covertly hands him a pouch with something that will make him more “viral”. With that, the party heads back out on the road for another day’s travel toward Granz City.


Meanwhile, Shanks prepares to head into the city. He plans to be dropped off along the outskirts of the Fey Steps in the area known as Spore Rock. Having arrived at his destination, he steps out into a shanty town, just outside the city walls. Green, purple, yellow, orange, and pink spores and mushrooms cover the landscape around him. And in the distance, heading away from the city is the visible edge of a large impact crater. Scoping things out, he notices that there are armed guards at the entrance and archers along the top of the wall.


Watching the gate, he surveys the guard’s routine for a moment. Taking note of how they interact with the traders and merchants entering the city. Seeing no other covert way of entering the city, he concludes that the best way is to walk right through the gates. Ducking into a small alley between shacks, he changes his cloak to match that of the guards. Hesitantly, he drinks the tea that Chico prepared for him, concentrating on the form he would like to take.


There is a strange sensation that overtakes him for a moment. When it passes, he looks down at his hands. They have a much fairer complexion than before. His locks are gone, as well as the points of his ears. Taking out his dagger, he assesses his reflection. He now appears to be a human man in a guard’s cloak. A sense of confidence washes over him as he casually strolls to the entrance.


The first set of guards barely notices him as he salutes them. However, he is approached by a guard clad in plate and wielding a spear, that is standing in the interior of the portcullis. The guard questions his purpose for entering the city and Shanks weaves a tale of being a new recruit from Ravenwood, named Brian. There is a quick back-and-forth between the two and he is let into the city with instructions on how to reach the citadel.


Walking into the Fey Steps, he begins to notice elements from the stories his mother once told him of the Feywild. Her voice rings in his head, “never trust the Fey”. Lush forest and bright flora crowd the densely packed buildings. Most of the signage in the area is in a language he can’t understand, likely Sylvan. However, he does recognize several different Thieves Cant glyphs hidden among the buildings. One, in particular, catches his eye. It’s the symbol of Attros’s guild, the Tell Tale Guild.


Shanks decides to follow the glyphs through the winding streets and back alleys until it eventually leads him to a small alleyway between several buildings that lead to a large alcove. Within the alcove, he notices several different Kenku. All of them seem to move with a purpose, carrying crates and bags. As the altering effects of Chico’s tea wear off, a voice within his head asks, “can I help you, sir?” He turns to find a sentry. A Kenku clad in all black and wrapped bandages around his arms.


Shanks mentions Attros and receives an apprehensive response from the sentry. He goes on to explain that he’s looking for Attros’s former guild. The Kenku gestures to ward the alcove and begins to lead him inside. A couple dozen Kenku are scattered throughout the alcove. When he enters, they stop what they are doing and begin to chitter and squawk. The sentry silences them with a loud, shrill note, and turns to Shanks.


The sentry tells him to stay put and not to move. The bounty on his head is very high and they will be looking for a reason to kill him. Shanks freezes. Several minutes later a Snow Owl Aarocokra enters the space with the guard in tow. Shanks recognizes her as Lenore, Attros’s deceased and then resurrected wife. She asks the archer why they shouldn’t just kill him and claim the bounty. What his proof is of knowing Attros.


He slowly and carefully pulls an arrow crafted by the Artificer from his quiver and hands it to her. As she inspects it, he takes in the situation. It seems that something is being built or worked on, though he’s not sure what it is. Whatever it is, he gets the vibe that Lenore is the spearhead of the whole operation. Satisfied, She asks a few more questions about her love and Shanks goes on to explain what is happening with the planes. Lenore then asks a peculiar question, “what do you know of Elrin?” Shanks admits that, outside of the affiliation to Attros, he’s not sure who he is. Lernore tells him, simply, that he is the bringer of balance, and Shanks is intrigued by this turn of events.


He offers his services in exchange for his life. Lenore is not opposed to the idea but informs Shanks that an offering must be made first. She beckons him to follow her, leading him into a nearby building and eventually to a small shrine room. A simple shrine sits along the back wall. A golden elf wreathed in flames. Lenore kneels and prostrates herself in front of it, gesturing for him to do the same. She tells him that Elrin will decide his offering and that he should meditate on it. Shanks obliges.


As the incense from the shrine burns, he begins to smell a sulfuric, sweet decay smell in the air. Upon opening his eye, the shrine is gone and has been replaced with a golden-skinned Elf-like being in fine red and black robes. The two have a discussion about balance and chaos. They speak about the planes and the Constable. Shanks finds that Elrin doesn’t seem too concerned with him. He also learns that Elrin knows his given name. 


They speak of Attros and Shanks’s potential offering. Elrin asks, “what’s your happiest memory?” Shanks speaks of his mother but the being asks for something specific. The memory that made him what he is today. Shanks speaks about the pride in his mother’s eyes when he made his first potion. Elrin questions why his happiness is based on achievements. He is looking for unbridled joy and frivolous things. Memories that can’t be tallied or marked.


Shanks capitulates and speaks about his first kiss with Dona. As he holds this memory in his mind’s eye, Elrin approaches Shanks. Leaning down, he touches the archer’s forehead with his thumb. There is a burning sensation and then it is gone, along with the memories of Dona and the meeting itself. Lenore reenters the room, with a smile she says “he accepted your offering”, and leads him back out of the shrine room. Lenore informs him that while they will not require his help with the artifact they seek, Elrin wishes for him to help Arguile with his goals. The Tiefling is important to Elrin and he wants Shanks to focus on that. He is given room to stay in until his party arrives in the city.


Meanwhile, the party begins their travel for the day. Cenari uses her knowledge of the area to cut some time off of their journey. They set up camp and begin their watches. Cenari and Cereius take the first watch, speaking about the Barovia job for a bit before it turns into a conversation about the strange things happening in Granzia. Kyver is woken up and starts the next watch. He spends most of his watch reading more about Hemocraft, or Blood Magic.


Galahad and Zechs take the last watch. As the Paladin waits for Zechs to join him, he reaches out to Bahamut again. He receives the same vision as before but with more detail. Along with the black knight, he sees an Adult Black Dragon with sparks of lightning around its wings and ice breath emanating from its maw. As the vision ends, Zechs approaches the campfire and Galahad explains what he saw to the Tabaxi. The conversation turns to Zechs’s apprehensions about his place in the party. His potential conclave change and his decision to not change it. He brings up the history of Coldbring, Tritania, and the Coal Desert. He believes these are the places to search for the machines. They finish the watch by talking about making their way to the Ridge to speak to any remaining Goliath Elders.

The party finally arrives in Granz City after parting ways with Cenari. There may be a  budding romance on the horizon for Arguile but time will tell. After the party has a run-in with the city guard, who may have been disillusioned in their view of themselves, they make their way to the Shuffle Guild. They are met by a member named Osamu, a swarm-keeper fey fox, who informs them that Argo is somewhere in the guild and to make themselves comfortable. Eventually, they are greeted by Argo who takes Zechs and Galahad into his office to fill him in on recent events. They speak of the machines, the pincushion maker, and Antonius. Argo informs the two that Antonius is a follower of Tiamat and always has been. He theorizes that Galahad is his balance, like the two sides of a coin. Meanwhile, Brian aka Shanks makes his way to the guild and runs into Kyver and Arguile outside. Cereius, Glad, and Osamu begin to catch up.


A drinking contest starts between Argo, Arguile, Galahad, and Kyver. Argo and Arguile are the last ones standing and splitting the pot, Argo confesses that he really only wanted to beat Galahad. After a couple of strained exchanges occur between Shanks and Osamu outside the guild, Shanks makes his way to the Shuffle Guild. A tense exchange between him and Argo takes place, where Argo agrees not to take him in for the bounty on his head. During the night, Elrin has a conversation with Arguile, revealing a lot to him that peak his interest. Meanwhile, Cereius has a lengthy conversation with his goddess the Moonweaver. Cereius receives a lot of insight into what it is he and the party must do in the days moving forward. Plans are made to contact the leader of the Silverlight Inquisition for safe passage to the underground of the Citadel, where one of the rumored portals is hidden.


The party heads out with Argo’s blessing to seek out the leader of the Silverlight Inquisition, leaving Shanks behind at the guild. On the way there the rogues find the hidden entrance to their location. A deal is struck and information is exchanged between the party and the leader “Vanessa”. She will help them get into the Citadel and down to the underground in exchange for their help with a Kenku problem that has recently popped up. Upon exiting, the party decides to split up. Galahad and Arguile take Kyver to a brothel to “make the peak”. Cereius and Glad head back to the Shuffle Guild where Osamu and Shanks are playing an intense game of Dragon Chess. The two clerics have a few insightful conversations with Argo about their journey so far. Shanks and Osamu banter back and forth about their ideals and outlooks on life. Zechs takes a walk down memory lane with Duo through Granz City. He stops by a few of his old stomping grounds as well as making his way to the library for some research. All seemed to be going well until Kyver has Hold Person cast on him by the madame and is shoved into a bag of holding and kidnapped. Galahad and Arguile hear the commotion from the lobby and investigate. They’re then led on a chase through the city and into the Fey Steps.


Kyver emerges from the bag of holding he was kept in and is informed that he was a means to an end. His captors? Worshipers of the goddess Tiamat. On the other side of town, Zechs is commissioning an enhanced bowstring for Jack of All Trades. Meanwhile, Cereius asks Glad to send Galahad a message to see what is taking so long, only to find out about Kyver’s abduction. Shanks asks what the problem is and Cereius takes him outside of the guild to have a private conversation.  Shanks is none-too-pleased about this development and why they were even at the brothel in the first place. While this conversation is taking place, a shot rings out and Shanks takes a hit to his shoulder and is almost pickpocketed by an invisible assailant. Cereius and Zechs, who returned to the guild as the shot rang out, head toward Galahad and Arguile’s location.  Meeting up, they find the bodies of the Tell-Tale Guild all slain, a note that reads “We know who you are and how to stop you”, and an effigy of Elrin. With the help of Zechs’ bestial spirit “Wolfy,” the crew follows the trail for Kyver to what they assess to be one of the machines that JM spoke of. They come to a pristine door on the wall of an ancient and forgotten summoning room. 


They go inside and find an endless hallway of doors leading to other planes and a single door that opens to a staircase. They head upstairs running into Kyver who recounts what transpired and all the while they unknowingly travel from underneath the Cathedral of Granz City to a mountain overlooking Dragonborn Valley. At the guild, Shanks collects himself and makes the tough decision to cut his hair and alter it. He then finds a private room and reaches out to his now patron Elrin about assisting him with his current predicament. He accepts but has conditions for Shanks, which he hesitantly accepts. He is granted the ability to alter his appearance with illusion magic. Heading back downstairs, in the guise of Zechs, he and Gald are met with Zechs’s summon, which leads the two back to where the rest of the party entered the machine. 


Meanwhile, the group finds themselves still separated by miles of Granzia. On the one hand, Shanks and Glad finally made their way to the machine that the others entered from. On the other, the rest of the party are all trying to get a sense of where they are and how this machine works. They find that the first floor is just an endless, winding corridor of doors, and the second is a large room filled with massive arcane crystals. The third is home to an open-air room with an arcane engine. The fourth floor is a barrack, the fifth is a tinkerer’s workshop, and the sixth is storage of some kind. Eventually, Shanks tries to reach out to Arguile to communicate with him via their connection. After a few attempts it succeeds and the group is able to relay some general info to each other. Shanks tries to open and close the door they entered repeatedly, hoping that he can find the door to where the group is.


The party finally is able to regroup after a few dicey encounters. They are picked up by the Journeyman and fill her in on what they’ve found. They make their way back to Granz City and the Shuffle Guild to update Argo on the latest while Galahad, Kyver, and Arguile go back to the Silverlight Inquisition. They tell Vanessa that the Tell-Tale Guild problem is taken care of, but THEY were not responsible. Vanessa informs them of a Rogue Killer which troubles the group. The party starts to make their way back to the Tavern when two figures appear in the doorway of the guild.

Introductions are made as the party meets two new adventurers who will be joining them. Thai Gur, a Tabaxi like Zechs and Kyver, but a thief and very standoffish. Salix Dendron a Wood Elf who is blessed by the Protector and has ties to the Daughter of the Void. One of the fabled “Daughters of Creation”. The group exchanges notes and information while making their way to see the legendary blacksmith Vulsir up in Nindlelogh. Cereius receives two rings that his goddess has sent him to get and reveals that the rings would help him bring his wife back to the material plane. Sometime later the group makes their way towards Terran Ridge to seek out the Nalakavi tribe of Goliaths that would hopefully give Galahad some answers as to who is killing his people. Eventually, they find themselves in what they believe to be the land of the Nalakavi and the druidic members of the clan are trying to figure out how Galahad can be who he claims to be.


Galahad’s claims are so outlandish that the Druids take him to the leader of the Nalakavi, Ilikan. The leader takes the Paladin’s tale as the truth and offers his help to the group. Ilikan gives Galahad troubling information that confirms what he’s been suspecting about his mentor Antonius. They are invited to stay for dinner and to rest there for the evening. A lot of heavy conversation occurs amongst various members of the group. A few are met by Cereius’ goddess Moonbow. Shanks has a heartfelt conversation with Zechs about dealing with the past and reconciling what his new reality is. The archer splits off to speak to Galahad after the moon ritual is complete to ask him about his thoughts on faith and his relationship to Bahamut. Meanwhile, Zechs has a memory resurface that is deeply troubling. He relives his apparent death and resurrection. Later on while the party rests, Thai has a dream with his former employer The Ring Leader who informs him that The Constable will be seeing him soon. 


The Paladin receives a vision from Bahamut. The Platinum Dragon gives him confirmation that Antonius is a follower of his sister. Antonius was his mentor by design, set on a path of vengeance by Galahad’s father and his war with the Elves of the Forest Bastion. He learns that he is going to be Bahamut’s Champion, but not quite yet. Galahad, and the rest of the party, are pulled from their rest with a  deafening roar of a Dragon overhead. There is utter chaos in the village outside. As the party dons their armor, Shanks pokes his head out of the door.


There is a commotion as bodies rush by the entrance of their hut in both directions. As he peers out, he can see that people are either running towards the forest or the ritual site. Setting down atop the back arch of monolithic stones is an adult black dragon with lightning crackling off of its wings. Steadying itself and coming to rest as a night clad in black plate, black helm and black great sword; all emblazoned with chromatic motifs, pushes forward Ilikan, who is passively complying.

 


“NALAKAVI”, he screams. “Descendents of Giants! People cut from the mountains! YOU HAVE BEEN JUDGED and have been found wanting. I give you but a single chance, as I did your kin, to save yourself from extermination. WHERE IS THE MURDERER THAT YOU HIDE FROM JUSTICE?! WHERE IS DRAGOMIR?! The coward has evaded me for long enough.”


“He is to the north, on the outskirts of Coldbring,” Ilikan says calmly. “He is forbidden to be anywhere else. He is forbidden to take part in any matters that consist of our people. Threatening us will get you nothing. Those were different times. It was a war. We mourn for their souls.”


“That’s where you’re wrong,” the knight growls. “You drew the blood of elves to appease your anger, it’s only right I draw your blood to appease mine. If you were truly sorry, you would not wear trophies of their dead! Of my friend! Of my WIFE!” He throws a necklace made with Elf ears at the Goliath.


The knight pulls the sword up over his head and with a loud cry, brings it down on Ilikan. A chromatic burst of energy comes from the strike, utterly destroying Ilikan. There is a momentary hush as a collective gasp comes over the rest of the village. From the distance a scream rings out, the dragon lets out a roar and releases a large icy spray onto the crowd, lightning leaping off of the shards of ice.


The party races to help the Goliath get to safety as well as get themselves there too. The Paladin, heads toward the knight to confront his mentor Antonius about his vengeful path. Antonius tells him to face him when he is ready, he will only let Galahad go this one time. The slaughtered goliaths have now become zombies that have begun to pursue the party tirelessly. Galahad hesitantly turns to protect his people and a chase ensues. The sleep-deprived party can’t seem to catch a break. Run, rest, fight, and repeat. The party is exhausted and growing desperate. Options are weighed out as they try to plan out their next steps.


The party, now rested after escaping the horde with heroics of Cereius, makes plans to head towards Sloane. They decide that they would head around the mountains of Tarren Ridge, avoiding Antonius, to the Constables machine out by Dragonborn Valley. However, the following day starts with Cereius gone, along with all his possessions. Assuring themselves that he was safe and only doing what was needed for him and his goddess, they make their way. Zechs and Galahad discuss their futures, their headspaces, their plans, and what they should do with Kyver’s lingering Orcus problem. As their watch ends they come to find that Kyver has left as well, and while not having anything to do with Orcus the group is still concerned. They push through and hope that he will be safe and return to them. 


The next night is also filled with lots of tension and unease as the party begins their night watch shifts. Shanks and Arguile have a very heated conversation with Elrin after he shares some bombshell revelations with them about both of their mothers. All the while a small pack of Displacer Beasts stealthily made their way to the occupied or sleeping party. They come out of their conversation to find a displacer beast heading for Salix.


After a brief but intense encounter with some displacer beasts, the party rushes after Salix. They find themselves gathering their things and rushing towards a portal to Sloane. Once there, they track them to a shack in a clearing of the woods. While the group investigates what transpired, the tavern appears outside. Feeling a bit relieved, the party heads inside and informs The Journeyman of what happened. Glad comes down to greet the party and inform them of her conversation with her patron Corellon about the Daughters of Creation. She has a noticeable change to her appearance and recounts her visions to the party. Suddenly, a transformed and badly injured Salix appears in the tavern. Insisting that they escaped their captors and the captors who took them had ties with The Constable. The Journeyman offers them rest and time to plan and regroup before heading back out to Sloane. 


They rest and make a 6-day trek towards the Grand Temple. Shanks and Arguile tell the party what Elrin has informed them of and there is some protest amongst their involvement. As they enter a scrapyard of gargantuan metal Warforged the party is greeted by a powder blue female Tiefling bard, who has been expecting them. Three other figures appear, a female Aasimar Paladin, a male Loxodon Cleric, and The Constable, who informs them that he just wants Thai. Memories of their first introduction to Strahd, the night they lost Irena flashes, and the group refuses to comply. Shanks takes the first shot and triggers a quick and intense volley and before long they are pincered. Put into an impossible situation, Thai gives himself up, and in an instant, they all disappear.

Left to tend to their injuries, the party gathered together to strategize and unravel the mystery of how they were caught off guard by The Constable. Shanks and Arguile sought Elrin’s assistance in determining if they had been tracked through magical means, taking the opportunity to inquire about the name Arioch. While engaged in conversation, a figure approached the party—a Kalashtar named Voyas—who claimed to have been led to them by the Daughter of the Flame. She had a vision of a Goliath and two elves. Bahamut intervened, alleviating Galahad’s suspicions, and they agreed to let Voyas accompany them to the Grand Temple. A dense fog enveloped the surroundings, reminiscent of the mist that shrouded Barovia. Eventually, they arrived at what they believed to be the temple, greeted by an Unillum named Izel, who informed them of the trials they must face to gain entry. The first trial awaited them—the trial of wit.


Fortunately, the group successfully completed their first and second tests. They were then shown the location of the final trial but were told that they were not yet prepared to face it. Further discussions took place regarding the boons bestowed by The Daughters of Creation upon select party members. They deliberated on their next course of action and decided to travel to Nymora, allowing Zechs to reunite with his family and seek answers concerning the disappearances of Kyver and himself. Upon reaching Nymora, they swiftly located Kyver’s family home as well as Zechs’. A bittersweet reunion unfolded between Zechs, Seti (Zechs’ mother), and Rinde (Zechs’ father), as they shared their respective experiences and caught up on recent events. It was agreed that they would spend the next few days staying with Zechs’ family.


After a heartfelt reunion, the party decided to grant Zechs some time alone with his family. Rinde, Zechs’ father, took the rest of the group to a local tavern to share a meal and exchange updates. Seti, Zechs’ mother, probed for more details about Zechs’ story, while Zechs sought information about the children of Nymora, their disappearances, the Vitalis family, and related matters. Following dinner, the party engaged in some late-night shopping, procuring various items as mementos of their time in Nymora. They ultimately resolved to spend a few days investigating the fates of Kyver, Zechs, and the other missing children of Nymora.


At Zechs’s family home, everyone enjoyed a well-deserved night’s rest. The following morning, they shared breakfast and agreed to extend their stay for a few days, using the time to recuperate, gather information, and allow Zechs’ family much-needed quality time together. The group ventured into town to acquire supplies for their stay, receiving a shopping list from Seti. While in town, they split up and explored various shops. Zechs ventured alone to the library, where he overheard something chilling and unsettling. Although shaken, he set aside his concerns for the time being. Within the library, he gathered a wealth of information about Sloane, the Arbitors, and past cults in Nymora. Several hours later, he continued his quest, seeking out families whose children had returned.


The party made the most of their time in Nymora. After their shopping endeavors, the group (excluding Zechs) decided to visit the temple of The Light of Elrin. There, Arguile and Shanks learned that Arguile was among the first chosen ones by Elrin. Meanwhile, Zechs encountered a family with a story similar to Kyver’s. Later, back at Zechs’ parents’ home, the party reconvened to share their discoveries. Voyas, Galahad, and Arguile pieced together a tale involving a hero and Arguile’s rapier. Zechs shared his findings about the Arbitors, the history of Sloane, and the cults possibly connected to his situation. During dinner, they discussed their future plans, and Zechs resolved to communicate with his home. Despite its eccentricity, he cast “Speak with Plants” and conversed with his home—an ancient tree connected to Amina. Amina confirmed she had been expecting him, solidifying the party’s decision to move forward. They would remain in Nymora for a few more days until the next available airship was ready to transport them to the Heartwood.


Amid tearful goodbyes between the majority of the party and Zechs’ parents, Arguile and Shanks opted to stay behind to keep a watchful eye and ensure the safety of Zechs’ family. Galahad was tasked with retrieving a piece of the Heartwood’s root to complete the enchantment on his armor. Shanks engaged in another conversation with Elrin, resulting in Shanks signing a contract with the Archfey. In exchange for assisting with the removal of individuals on Elrin’s list, Elrin would unlock the full potential of Shanks’ bow. Upon awakening from this encounter, Shanks’ eyes now glimmered with a golden hue, symbolizing his connection to his patron, Elrin. Voyas, Glad, Galahad, Zechs, and Salix arranged for travel to the Heartwood via an airship. While settling in, Zechs disclosed the unsettling information he had heard en route to the library, highlighting the connection between the cults, sacrifices, and a childhood memory. Galahad, employing Divine Sense, detected the presence of an aspect of Malar within Zechs, creating a sense of unease among the entire group. Simultaneously, during a stakeout, Arguile received a history lesson from Shanks concerning his past, particularly regarding Rig and the S8. As they concluded, they noticed a suspicious individual and decided to tail them.

The duo tails the suspicious individual throughout the streets of Nymora for the better part of two hours. When they see an opportunity to corner them in an alley and get some answers, they spring their trap. Turns out this individual is a Palenguard who goes by the name of the “Tinkerer” who is tracking a variant version of one of the party members. He explains the situation to the two of them, he’s not sure who exactly it is but he and his partner, who is on the skyship tailing the rest of the party, are going off of a tip from the Journeyman. Together they surmise that it’s likely Salix and they have to get to the party as soon as they can. They part ways with the Tinkerer and the two split off from one another. Shanks goes to the library just before close and picks up what he believes is useful information for not just him, but the party. Arguile heads back to Zechs’ parents and is eventually met by Shanks. 


Hearing a commotion in the distance they quickly go to check on it. To their surprise, they find that war has indeed come to Nymora. Arguile recognizes the enormous machines piloted by soldiers… from Iwi. They are slaughtering citizens en masse, the duo informs the guards to run and get the citizens to safety. Rushing towards Zechs’ home they inform his parents to pack a bag and tell them that they had to leave… NOW! Eventually making it back to a Mr Big who Arguile previously made plans to magically transport “something” to the ship where the party was. He now gets the 4 of them to transport and tells Mr. Big that if he has a place to go, he should get out of there. He assures them that the Arbiter will protect them and the four are teleported to the moving ship. 


We find Zechs’ parents, Arguile and Shanks in one of the lower levels of the airship. Shanks uses “Disguise Self” to appear as Glad goes to find Galahad and eventually Zechs, filling them in on most of the details. They leave Duo in Zechs’ room and an alarm spell is placed. Shanks then begins to fill Galahad and Zechs with the whole situation. After a bit of discussion and exasperation, they decide to fill in Glad and Voyas about their Anti-Salix problem. With everyone in the loop, they needed to figure out just how to stop the imposter. Shanks suggests that they try and find the Tinkerer’s partner, the Tailor. 


Taking the chance that the Tailor will reach out on their own, Galahad takes Duo to the dining deck for lunch. He’s approached by a tabaxi that shows interest in the Goliath in plate armor eating with a Blood Hawk. Not long after, Arguile and Shanks catch up with him and the Tiefling notices a note that’s been hidden on the Paladin’s person. It reads “Suite 2B”.After an appropriate amount of jokes, Galahad makes his way to the suite where he meets the Tabaxi woman, Summer. However, it’s revealed to just be an illusion, and Summer is actually the Palenguard known as the Tailor. She gets Galahad up to speed on what the situation is with the “Alternate”s and their relationship with and to the Constable. She confirms that the Judge, the Jury, and the Executioner are his lieutenants and then gets into how to properly subdue Alternate Salix and get them into Palenguard custody. 


The perspective switches and time jumps to ten days earlier. Salix wakes up in a dimly lit room, aside from the light over them. They are being held by a man named “Arbane” who works for Lady Sagewyng. He openly revels in having caught them after more than two centuries on the run. They meet their “Alternate” and the Constable, but things get fuzzy from there. Eventually, they come to inside a keep, meeting not one but six other residents. They’re all wards of the Web of Fate, the fanatical cult that has been growing throughout their hiding. Despite Salix’s hesitation towards them, their captors INSIST that they are friends and on the same side. Eventually, they meet other residents (captives, potential sacrifices) and start to get an understanding of just how grave their situation may be.


A blur of interactions pushes time forward to meet back up to where the rest of the party currently is. While in the dining area, Salix helps to clean up and begins an exchange of stories of their origins and why they would be sought after by the Web of Fate. They explain that they are a priestess or reincarnation of the Daughter of the Void and go into detail about what she looks like. Back on the airship, Galahad informs the party about what the Tailor said and they start to strategize a plan of attack. In a lapse of judgment, Zechs forgets to check on his Hunter’s Mark on the imposter, realizing that they are right outside the room they are discussing plans. A brief and tense pause later, Zechs’ Hunter’s Mark drops, and immediately the team searches every crevice of the ship to no avail. Alternate Salix is gone and left a very taunting message in their room.


 Zechs informs his parents about EVERYTHING that’s been going on with Alternate Salix and Malar and eventually makes plans to send them back home to Nymora. Glad uses Sending to relay to The Journeyman all that has transpired, but the spell is not received at all. The group, suddenly worried that they were captured again, asks if she can contact Chico or Welby. She reaches out to Welby who in the most horrific pained voice says “Make it stop.” The group is at a loss for what to do and spends the next few days of their journey in quiet contemplation and preparation for what’s to come. Finally in the Heartwood proper, after using Speak With Plants again to communicate with Amina, they arrive at the base of the massive tree and begin to make their way inside to speak with her.


Throughout their residency, (imprisonment), Salix begins to receive visions from the Daughter of the Void. They inquire if it’s happening to anyone else, which it isn’t. This goes on for many days. During this time they see a Unillum that is seemingly wearing a dress of buzzing and slightly agitated bees. The Unillum informs them that they are here to rescue Salix. Preparations are made and more information is gathered.


Meanwhile, at the Heartwood proper, Zechs and Shanks go to meet Amina, The Arbiter of the Heartwood. She looks just as Zechs remembers her. Some questions are answered, but even newer questions are now posed. They learn that Kyver is safe and traveling with a different party. She offers them relief as Nymora is indeed safe and lets them know that she can help with transportation to Invenas.


This is where we leave the party and we pick up where we left Thai. More specifically, the moments leading up to his capture by the Constable. He gave himself up to keep the party safe but knew all too well what lay ahead for him. He is brought back to the Infinity Bazaar, where he spent his youth and trained to be a thief and a killer. It’s a strange welcome home and no sooner does he return, than he begins plotting his next escape. After surveying his current situation he finds himself speaking to “The Ringmaster” Olmoz who is happy to have Thai back at the bazaar. He is greeted by Olmoz and some old “friends”: Morz, a hobgoblin, and Bosco, a halfling. The group is informed that they’re going on a job. Nothing like getting right down to business. They head off in pursuit of the Cindergems, stones that have massive amounts of arcane power and are supposed to be a myth. While they’re en route, they decide to catch up and air out any grievances. It’s briefly tense but that is pushed aside as they are shifting their focus to the task at hand.


With some well-crafted disguises and a bit of luck, they’re able to get their way into the main building and into the vaults, where they’re trying to procure the Cindergems. The trio sneaks by, deceives, or disengages any guard or trap that they come across. Finding not only heaps of gold and other coin but also coming across several rare magical items. While it’s nice to line their pockets with coins and add a few items to their collection, something doesn’t seem wholly right about this vault. Things get all the more real when they finally find the first of the six Cindergems locked away behind a door to a dead-end hallway that is trapped to high heaven.


Something isn’t adding up: lack of guards, the treasure is more like trophies of adventurers and only a couple have been found thus far. This doesn’t fit the MO of a vault for a mining company. The group makes their way further while knocking out guards, dodging traps, stuffing their pockets with gold, and slipping by any curious eyes. Eventually finding another gem, Morz offers a suggestion to Bosco and Thai. It’s a crazy plan, but if it works, it could just ensure their freedom. They take the gems and flee. Use the gold to buy Amulets against Divination and leave the Bazaar behind, for good. But first things first: find the rest of the gems and get the hell out of dodge without alerting the guards.


However, this job becomes more suspicious with every new inch the trio uncovers. The deeper they go the guards, the locks and traps are few and far between, and the loot in here just doesn’t add up. With some creative teamwork Morz, Bosco, and Thai end up subduing almost every guard they encounter with ease. As they continue to make their way through, they continue to keep things light with their friendly competition and try to one-up the other with who can bag the most coin off of the guards. Eventually, they do succeed in finding the Cindergems that they were sent to get. However, all this fun must come to an end and what has been a too-good-to-be-true job reveals its fangs. The room they passed through to get to the last gem holds a statue of an Emerald Dragon that faces the entrance. As they leave the final vault with the final Cinder Gem, the statue tracks them across the room. That’s alarming enough until the ground quakes and an Emerald Dragon burrows its way up from the floor and begins to chase after the rogues. How will they make it out of this pickle?

Meanwhile, back on Sloane in the Heartwood, the Collateral Damage party is making last-minute arrangements with Amina, the Arbiter. They are currently making plans and gathering supplies before heading back to Amina in the evening for passage to Invenas. For Galahad to receive a piece of the Heartwood’s root, Amina asks for something in return. Their mission: recover The Stone of Revival and put a stop to The Web of Fate. Easy enough… Right? But who is the Web and why do they need to be stopped? The Web of Fate is a fanatical cult that has taken hold of the ancient city of Invenas. They worship a forgotten spider god and sacrifice citizens of the city to keep their god’s enemy imprisoned in the Stone of Revival. To complicate things more, they are also the people that Salix has been running from for centuries and has seemingly been caught by. 


On their journey, they will be joined by a Grippli Druid that goes by the name of Quon. He is small and has the coloration of a poison dart frog. Quon had come separately to the Arbiter for guidance on a certain situation that is occurring in his home, the Glasmeda Isles. The situation holds an eerie similarity to the effects of the machines. The party accepts the Druid’s help in return for finding out what is happening in the southeastern island chain.  


That evening they are transported to the outskirts of Invenas. The city guards are on high alert and there are a lot of them. And as quickly as they had a plan for entering the city they saw that plan crumble. They were not welcomed into the city as they thought they would be. Instead, they are shot at and arrested. Their crime? Espionage. It dawns on them that they were expecting the party, they just didn’t think they’d walk up to the front door. While some members of the party are more inclined to comply, that idea doesn’t resonate with the entire group. 


Stripped of their equipment, they’re thrown in cells where they meet Arbane, the bounty hunter who captured Salix with the help of his displacer beasts. Pleasantries are exchanged, and immediately the party hates him. They find that he is one of the high-ranking members of the Web of Fate and that they’re to be sacrificed with their friend Salix later in the week, during the blood moon. Immediately after this encounter, plans begin to form for their escape. Galahad is told by Bahamut that “Patience will be rewarded.” He does as he did for 50 years and he meditates and accepts that things will work themselves out. While meditating, he is shown a vision of a 3 horned Unillum surrounded by bees. While Zechs has a dream in which he is being followed by a gray-green wolf, Solonor. The following day the two discuss these dreams, their situation, and plans to reach out to this Unillum Galahad saw.


While imprisoned in Invenas, the party finds themselves in different head spaces. Galahad and Zechs share a vision from Melora about the days to come. Using Locate Object and with the help of their Unillum ally speaking to Quon in bug form, they are able to get an idea of where their gear is. Plans are made for escape and Quon makes their way up through the drainage system and begins to get everyone’s gear into the bag of holding, using the Silence spell to their advantage. 


Corellon pays a visit to Glad and the rest of the party. He proceeds to say that while he can not be directly involved in what they are about to do, he can offer some aid, and tells Glad to touch her robes when the time is right. He offers answers and information to the party as well which somewhat puts them at ease. The Protector vanishes and we find the party in the beginning stages of a prison break. As gear is being redistributed they settle on a plan of escape. In a combined effort they used a new move called “Silent Knight” in which silence envelops Galahad, and before the enemy gets a chance to see what’s coming, it’s already over. The group dispatches wave after wave of guards while also freeing the prisoners as well. 


Somewhere in Invenas, Salix is starting to realize that they’re in some sort of illusionary captivity. What they’ve felt and experienced over the last several days is magically conjured to keep them here, wherever “here” is. Eventually, they find themselves suspended in what they assume to be water. As they start to come to consciousness they are greeted with the visage of a Pallid Elf that has come to their aid.


With the party’s escape from prison, they briefly part ways with the prisoners and reconvene at a safe house in the city. They find a small bit of the resistance in the underground tunnel system of Invenas. Meanwhile, Salix is also an escape. Eventually, they’re reunited and the group meets Salix’s rescuer Finnea, who they are told may have much information on what they are seeking. After a late and very-needed rest for everyone, Finnea manages to give the group the rundown as best as possible. 


They suddenly find people in a hurry leaving in the opposite direction of them. The group braces themselves for an inevitable fight as the city guard marches into the cavern. Galahad manages to use his “frightful presence” to intimidate the guards to stand down. He calls out those who lead this group for a good old-fashioned brawl. We find Arbane, a Tiefling woman, The Judge, and the alternates of Shanks and Zechs. Everyone takes a position as the first fight between Collateral Damage and The Web of Fate commences!


The party puts out a great effort, waging a tough fight with their enemies, even taking down a couple of their foes. But despite their best efforts, they learned a very tough but valuable lesson. Always take out the healer, because a Mass Heal from The Judge picks up the opposing side. Immediately the tides shift and the team considers a tactical retreat. It’s not what they wanted, they were SO CLOSE, but alas you live to fight another day. In a series of choices made out of creativity and desperation, they begin to make their way toward the opposite exit of the cave. They pick up downed members, fire spells, and strike enemies as best as they can on the way out. Galahad summons his wings and grabs who he can and bolts to the cave entrance, ready to strike down a smite to cause a cave-in. It won’t buy them a lot of time, but they’ll take whatever time they can.


Before moving forward, the group checks in and takes stock of what just happened. During this time Scyrah goes to explore the cave up ahead and is told to report back to Arguile anything she finds.  The group rests here, licks their wounds, and comes up with a plan of action. They meet back up with the resistance and Finnea who informs them of other notable members of the resistance who might be able to provide aid to the party. The group decides to visit the tea shop known as Herbal Delights and the owner Alésia. While there she divulges more information on the Web of Fate, their habits, and hangouts, and the group decides that maybe they should take them out one by one.

The party’s journey continues to unfold with a critical meeting. They make contact with Alésia, a prominent resistance member and owner of Herbal Delights. Alésia imparts her knowledge about the enigmatic Web of Fate and offers her support for the group’s upcoming plans. Arguile, Shanks, and Salix meet with Iggy, Lady Kree, and the familiar Aarakocra, Lenore, engaging in tense negotiations and gathering crucial information before reuniting at a local tea shop. Meanwhile, Glad, Zechs, and Galahad seek refuge in a safe house, trying to recover from the morning’s skirmish. It becomes evident that the party is plotting to eliminate Web of Fate members one by one, with their sights set on the Tiefling, Garron.


As the party assembles at the tea shop, the decisive moment approaches. They meticulously scrutinize their plan, and at this juncture, Galahad ponders on the Stone of Revival. What do they truly know about it? This newfound variable is factored into their strategy. Everyone takes their designated positions, and with clever thinking from Voyas, Garron’s path is redirected toward their trap. Tension fills the air, and the outcome remains uncertain.


Luring Garron into an alleyway, the party enacts their ambush plan. Things seem to go smoothly until she tumbles into a manhole and loses her bow. However, this marks the turning point for the team. A bewildered and frightened Garron casts magical darkness on Galahad’s armor, and by the time Glad dispels it, she vanishes without a trace. Despite their efforts, including magic and divine intervention, they lose their target. Eventually, Galahad, Zechs, and Shanks abandon the tunnel, leaving Garron’s bow behind, and the team regroups to plan once more.


After the unsuccessful attempt to remove Garron from the equation, the party reevaluates their options, with time slipping away. They consider going after the Stone of Revival and ask Iggy for information on gaining access to the Shrine of Fate. Iggy reveals he possesses two amulets that can grant entry, allowing them to pose as captains. They arrange to meet with him to secure the amulets and gather any relevant information about the tower, ritual, the stone, and the Web of Fate members. It seems like the party is planning a heist. But they can’t pass up the opportunity to take a shot at another member of the Web, the Owlin Grimwing.


The party heads to a known hangout for the rogue, a casino in the Vice Ward that resembles a stranded ship. They meticulously plan their next move, with Zechs overseeing the exits from the crow’s nest and Shanks, Arguile, and Salix disguising themselves as nondescript wood elves. The rest of the party remains invisible due to Salix’s spell. As they reconnoiter, they spot their target, Grimwing, who appears anxious and makes a suspicious gesture. One of his associates heads for the door, and despite their attempt at interference, the party realizes they must strike now or lose their chance. Galahad and Voyas move in, but Grimwing’s bow of warning alerts him to danger. Tension is high, and the stage is set.


Voyas blocks the door to the Harpy Room, inciting panic among the casino’s patrons. Zechs, outside, spots approaching guards and the distant sounds of Arbane’s voice and his creatures. Meanwhile, inside, the party quickly unravels the mystery behind the Stone of Revival and the venom walkers. As Grimwing meets his demise, a blinding flash of light emanates from his chest, travels to the tower, and returns to him. He transforms into a grotesque drider-like creature that screams, drawing the attention of the entire casino. Galahad, Voyas, and the others move to confront the creature, while Zechs realizes that it’s time to act. Grimwing falls, only to be revived as this monstrous entity. Salix banishes the creature, and Galahad opens a massive exit with his sword. The group disappears into the night, unsure if they were followed but confident that the information they gained is invaluable. Invenas is on high alert, the party is exhausted yet accomplished, and they choose to rest before the impending chaos of the following day.

 


The party’s attempt on Grimwing’s life may have failed, but it yielded valuable insights into their adversaries. The night hung heavy with tension as the party sought their well-deserved rest, fearing it might be their last. Conversations were had, but it was the dreams and visions that proved most intriguing. Voyas received a direct message from the Daughter of the Flame, revealing her role in the group, the unfolding story, and the impending events. As they woke, they discovered a bestial spirit of a caracal kitten left by Arbane, accompanied by a note scrawled in the dirt, reading, “Be seeing you soon, kitty cat.” Dark moments ensued, leading to a familiar skirmish, Duo briefly falling, Zechs reviving him and dispelling the bestial spirit, and eventually Voyas reaching out to Zechs mentally, only to hear his anguished cries as the stress of recent days and their mounting challenges pushed him to the breaking point.


The group resolved to proceed with their plan to infiltrate the Shrine of Fate using the captain’s amulets provided by Iggy. Shanks and Arguile embarked on this perilous journey, venturing deeper into the shrine, navigating shark-infested waters where a single misstep could have dire consequences. Nevertheless, they pressed forward, aware of the importance of their mission.


Inside the shrine, Arguile’s divination magic saved them from a potentially grim fate when they encountered most of the Web of Fate members. They successfully retraced their steps and returned to the rest of the party at the safe house, sharing the vital information they had uncovered.


Now, it’s the final hours before all the pieces of this intricate puzzle fall into place. With so much at stake, various members of the team reach out to their patrons, each seeking favor and guidance. They meticulously plan, considering all contingencies in case of failure or unexpected obstacles. The plan may seem audacious, but in this world of high risk, they know that sometimes, only the most daring plans can succeed.

As the ceremony approached, tension hung in the air. The party finalized their plans: Salix would be the distraction, Galahad would charge at Lady Sagewyng, the familiars aimed to snatch the stone, and Duo would be banished with it during the battle. Some of the plan went smoothly, creating a brief sense of confidence. But then, things took a dark turn. Salix vanished into a shadowy void after being stabbed, Zechs fell, and the situation grew dire. Gradually, the tide turned in their favor, but it was a grueling battle.


The momentum in the fight constantly swung as party members fell and were revived. Victory was far from certain, but their determination prevailed. They systematically defeated the members of the Web of Fate. After a hard-fought battle, a moment of quiet reflection settled in. Now, all that remained was to retrieve Duo and the stone, right?


Salix brought Duo back from Granzia, but Duo clung to the stone, even threatening to leave the group if they tried to take it. Despite a spell to release the stone, it clung to Duo. Shanks managed a calculated shot to free it, and the stone was secured in the haversack. Just when it seemed the dust was settling, a mysterious figure, Hoshino, emerged from beneath the Shrine of Fate. Thousands of years removed from his time, he joined the party, promising to help them recover his missing memories.


After some celebration and discussions, Voyas left the group, accompanied by an ally from her monastery. Her name was Rumi, and through a brief bit of conversation, it was revealed that she was the “distant cousin” of an old enemy: Rig. As a new day dawned, the party prepared to return to the Heartwood to deliver the stone to Amina.


The team handed the Stone of Revival to Amina, who reminded them of their promise to help Quon and the people of the Glasmeda Isles. They learned that Hoshino’s curse was not removable by a simple spell, leading to more questions for their new companion. Amina assured Zechs that Nymora was safe, and the party set off to see it for themselves, finding no sign of the wreckage they’d heard of.



Returning to the gem heist job, the team faces an unexpected obstacle: an EMERALD DRAGON! As they struggle to escape the dragon’s fury, things take a grim turn. The dragon inflicts severe psychic damage on Bosco and Thai, and it captures and mauls Morz. Despite their attempts to free Morz by force, the dragon is unyielding. Thai decides to plead for their lives, leading to a fragile negotiation. Morz, severely injured, is put down but kept nearby as Bosco and Thai strike a pact with the dragon, naming it Sage. Their shared mission: go after Olmoz and the Infinity Bazaar. Their pact, fake Bosco’s death and frame Thai as the thief of the Cindergems, while Morz runs interference.


With Sage as their transportation, the group heads toward MechFall, a modern city with horseless carriages and towering buildings. Thai shares his past with Bosco and the group he ran with, and they discuss The Constable and his plan to merge planes. Their destination is the secretive “Twisted Antler,” a speakeasy where drinks come at the price of information about Elvish Rum. Chava gives Thai a hard time for his abrupt departure, but they catch up and exchange pleasantries. Bosco reconnects with his old friend, The Connoisseur, who introduces him to a new fiery blend.


Sage and Thai divulge more about their situation, drawing interest from others in the room. Sage dispels an orb hovering around Thai. Meanwhile, Bosco’s stories captivate The Connoisseur, who desires more information. Both sides discuss their plan to take down Olmoz and the Infinity Bazaar. Thai is now on the run, and Bosco is presumed dead. Chava offers them refuge, convinced that Olmoz has sent assassins after them. Thai has a taunting dream visit from Olmoz, leaving him shaken. A messenger delivers a box with coins marked by the Infinity Bazaar, confirming they’re on Olmoz’s radar. They gather, use a psionic link, and set a trap to confront their would-be killers.


The team successfully lures out their assailants by posing as shoppers in the merchant district. Thai acts as a pickpocket, Sage plays the pursuer, and Bosco hides under an Invisibility spell in an alleyway. The assassin, a Kenku named Chitter, attacks, resulting in a fast and brutal battle. Thai nearly falls but is saved by his new allies. In a fit of rage, Bosco reveals his survival by removing his Amulet of Proof Against Detection, alerting the Ring Leader. They plan to move to another island, Ensy, to avoid further danger.

The party returns to Nymora after the recent events, finding no traces of the incursion. Zechs’ parents are back, unpacking their belongings. Galahad, with a piece of the Heartwood’s root, rushes to make arrangements for his armor, anticipating a period without it. Hoshino seeks information about his old friend Ice on the Lake, and Zechs and Salix delve into family history. The rest of the party engages in shopping and gear trading, with Shanks receiving his enchanted elven saber.


Amidst the respite, a shadowy figure begins trailing the group, providing vital information about JM’s safety through a mysterious woman. She leaves them with a black feather, hinting at future rendezvous. Galahad and Shanks engage in a drinking contest, resulting in Galahad’s victory. Zechs contacts Argo, who assures him everything is fine, though Glad helps Zechs discern that things are far from okay. It’s revealed that Argo is on his way to talk to Antonius, prompting concern among the party.


Galahad receives a vision from Bahamut, clarifying his role as the dragon god’s champion. The group plans for the next stages, resembling their time in Granz City after defeating Strahd. Amidst revelries and pranks, the party splits to enhance Shanks’ elven speed and acquire an airship for their journey to aid Quon. They meet with Aura, gather information from Torbera about the incursion, and learn of a venture to Balazaar for assistance.


Back at Zechs’ family home, the fallout from a seemingly harmless prank on Shanks reveals his long-standing mental struggles. After a heartfelt exchange, the party disperses for last-minute shopping. They spend the evening exchanging cultures and drinks at a venue, concluding with a show by the bard Rosco. Zechs has a contemplative moment, and a sincere conversation between Zechs and Hoshino unfolds.


Hoshino later converses with the Daughter of the Weave, gaining insights into his companions and feeling their shared pain even before their formation. The next morning marks Zechs’ 34th birthday, celebrated with a surprise breakfast banquet. Some of the group finalizes arrangements for travel on the airship “The Swift Hummingbird,” while Hoshino and Arguile gather essential items, and Shanks seeks guidance from the Light of Elrin.


On the journey to the Glasmeda Isles, Shanks and Salix continue refining Elven Speed. Hoshino performs the “Legend Lore” spell with the group to uncover information about Arguile’s “Guardian’s Rapier.”
 
“The Guardian’s Rapier is a rose of thorns, once held by Ybo, who plucked it from the heart of her people’s betrayal. Gerviss, the Void Dragon, served as her shield and companion on her journey. But the rapier’s true potential remains dormant, buried beneath layers of thorns, waiting for the one who possesses the courage to navigate its twists and turns. Yet, be warned, for in the center of the rose lies a seed of both light and dark, a seed that could bloom into a flower of beauty or a weed of destruction. Choose your path wisely, for the thorns will cut deep and the consequences will echo far.” 


Quon, their ally, sends an arcane message detailing strange occurrences in his homeland, expressing concern that it might be too late. Seizing a moment of respite, the group takes the opportunity to enlighten Hoshino (and Salix) about the party’s history before their inclusion. In the course of their conversation, Zechs and Hoshino make a startling discovery—Zechs’ bow, “Jack of All Trades,” has undergone a transformation. Despite multiple attempts, uncovering the new features proves challenging until they realize that one of the runes now allows Zechs to create teleportation circles wherever he goes.


Continuing their journey on the skyship, Galahad befriends a fairy dragon and negotiates a deal with the ship’s captain for Zechs’ new art project—a teleportation circle on the deck of the Swift Hummingbird. The tranquility is shattered as ominous clouds gather on the horizon, and lightning pierces the sky. A formidable opponent awaits: a blue dragon! Galahad discerns a connection to Tiamat, heightening the stakes. The party braces for an impending aerial battle, realizing that this skirmish in the skies may prove more challenging than anticipated. The question lingers: will they emerge victorious?

The confrontation commences as the adult Blue Dragon swoops down upon the airship, releasing a torrent of lightning breath upon the party. The devastating attack leaves some severely injured but miraculously conscious. To tip the scales, Salix employs Invisibility on Galahad, who decides to embark on a daring endeavor. Amidst the Dragon summoning storm elementals for reinforcement, the Goliath consumes a potion of growth and hurls himself off the ship towards the unsuspecting beast. Landing on its back, he affixes himself to the creature just as the Dragon attempts to shake him off by diving toward the open sea a mile below. In a heroic move, Galahad unleashes divine punishment, ultimately slaying the dragon.


Meanwhile, Arguile is knocked off the airship by the elementals, prompting Zechs to send Duo to his immediate rescue. A giant eagle comes to the aid of both Arguile and Galahad, with Duo excitedly recounting the events to Zechs.


Post-battle, the party diligently harvests the dragon’s bones, scales, and blood for future use. Exhausted, they finally find respite. Galahad’s newfound fairy dragon companion reveals her true identity as the dragon goddess Hlal. The two engage in a profound exchange about the challenges the party will face in the impending end, concluding with her transformation back into a fairy dragon.


Amidst damage assessment and airship repairs, Shanks learns the poignant backstory of Salix’s aversion to dragons, a tale woven with elements of love and betrayal. Arguile, reflecting on his airborne escapade, acquaints himself with the ship’s upper reaches. Zechs and Arguile discuss the latter’s guild, unveiling the disparities in their sentiments towards their respective affiliations. Hoshino gathers the group for another Legend Lore spell, unveiling more information about the machines and The Constable. However, casting the spell on The Constable and his machines yields more questions than answers for the group.


The Machines – Bisected low and high, three and three are one, one is four is twelve, low are unique anchor for three, high hangs in balance with law, to unmoor one is to disrupt twelve


The Constable – Many faces breed wonder then apathy, opposing forces always entangle, an immovable object meets an unstoppable force, constant struggle


This journey provides an opportunity for the party to deepen their understanding of each other, but it also underscores the scrutiny they face from multiple invested interests keenly observing their every move.


Zechs, sensing the weight of the future and the shared burden of guilt, engages in a heart-to-heart with Shanks. Meanwhile, Salix seeks guidance from the Daughter of the Void to confirm their worthiness of bestowed gifts. Zechs communicates with Qho, Kivela, and Cenari, each offering unique insights and warnings about the unfolding events across the planes. Galahad reveals that the Dragon allied with Antonius is Iron Nimbus Vulsir, a legendary Drulcas, shedding light on the impending clash between the two formidable forces. The party realizes that the individuals they encountered in Granz City, both outside and in the brothel, are aligned against The Constable and pose a threat to the party.


In the aftermath of recent events, the party decides to use Zechs’ conjure animal spells to familiarize themselves with aerial combat. Shanks contemplates the information obtained from Hoshino’s legend lore spell. Upon reaching the Glasmeda Isles, Quon and the party share updates, only to be confronted with a dire situation. The machines wreak havoc on the Isles, prompting the group to strategize their approach, considering the magical disturbances they might encounter. Shanks reveals another gift from his patron, Elrin, adding another layer to their preparations as they finally approach the machine.


Camping for the night, Shanks and Arguile engage in a conversation during their watch. They discuss mistakes, learning from them, and dealing with those who persistently repeat them. The conversation delves into their shared patron, Elrin, and the differing moral compasses within the group. Salix spends time training Duo during their watch, and Galahad helps Zechs try to connect with Solonar during the final watch.


The next morning, the group optimizes their time, with Duo securing a guide from the local fauna. The party gathers materials for their creations and seeks an elk for a meal. The group embarks on a drug-induced journey for various reasons, seeking clarity, resolution, or confirmation. The experience fosters group bonding, with each member encountering their own revelations and questions, all led by a primate guide with unusual limbs.


The team is led by their animal guide to the beginning of the dome. Initially, they come across a deserted town and plants shaped like Grippli. They begin to investigate and try to assess what happened here. They are uncertain of how much time they have before any strange occurrences happen to them, but realize that the dome has dissipated. The barrier that was distorting the land and magic has miraculously vanished. They decide to hurry towards the machine and scout out around it. Coming upon it they see recent scorch marks and try to assess what may have caused it and try to find the people responsible. They realize that this machine is down and will remain down for at least a little while, buying them the necessary time to coordinate an attack to take them all out at once.


There was some back and forth on whether or not to leave a way to access the machine, but they concluded that leaving a transportation circle that Zechs’ bow provided was the best solution. They made it back to Cordell and the Swift Hummingbird and discussed the next steps. Galahad and Zechs filled the captain in… on everything. Leaving her with a bottle of alcohol and lots of mindblowing information. They propose that they use the Swift Hummingbird to be the vessel for their quests while in Sloane, but Hoshino must include the captain and crew in whatever story he is writing about them. With newly agreed-upon terms they remove the previous circle on the ship and set a path to the Heartwood. This is just the beginning of their time in Sloane and the next part of their journey.