Strahd vs. The Gentlemen Bastards
Chapter 5; The Devil and a Madman
Galinndan finds himself in a mist-shrouded pine forest. He discovers that he is made up of mist himself, but still in the form he had in life. He moves to a dense wall of fog where he senses the presence of another being. He reaches a sort of barrier in the fog; a wall but its transparent and membranous. Beyond this barrier he sees a hideous form.
It moves against the barrier as though caressing it, or testing it. Galinndan gets the strong suspicion that this thing is seeking a way to get at him, to pierce the barrier. After a few moments of staring one another down, the thing moves off. Looking through the barrier, in the distance, Galinndan can see a town lit with odd lights and sees a great machine moving across the countryside.
Soon, Galinndan notices that his feet are gone, his legs trail away into the mist. He thinks that the longer he remains, the less of him will remain. He meets another vaporous spirit, she speaks to him. She tells him that their souls can't move on, its part of the curse, eventually a child will be born in Barovia and their soul will enter that child. They'll live again, but remember nothing. She seems content to wait. Galinndan floats on, but soon hears a voice calling to him. Seconds later, he is ripped from this misty forest and sits up to find himself in a simple stone room. He looks himself over, he's back, he's himself, he's alive.
Sasha Ivliskova is glad to see him and immediately fills him in. She tells him that the Abbot of St. Markovia has brought him back from the dead. She tells him that his friends abandoned him for some treasure, leaving her alone with the task of returning him to life. She bids him to rest and when he's ready, she'll introduce him to the Abbot.
He rests for an hour, regaining enough strength to walk. She leads him out of the room, into a bare stone hallway. There's a door ajar to the adjacent room, inside he sees a sheet, covering a humanoid form that rests on a table. He ignores this and is led to the Abbot.
The Abbot of St. Markovia is a handsome, ageless man wearing a simple gray robe. He greets Galinndan and Sasha, then introduces them to a young woman named Vasilka. She appears to be the most beautiful woman Galinndan has ever met, but soon suspects that there's something not quite right about her. She looks like what a woman would look like if she were created by a man. After a short conversation with the Abbot, he learns this is the case exactly. The Abbot explains that for years he has been trying to create the perfect bride to offer Strahd, to end his curse by relieving his pain and despair. He admits that he agreed to bring Galinndan back from the dead to task him with obtaining a suitable wedding dress for Vasilka. He needs this in seven days time. Galinndan agrees. He and Sasha leave the abbey and briefly visit the walled village of Krezk below before flying across the valley toward Vallaki and the Blue Water Inn.
<The following is an excerpt from the journal of Winston, gunslinger and member of The Gentlemen Bastards.>
Some town guards, led by the burgomaster's henchman - Izek Strazni, surrounded the inn. They tried to banish us from Vallaki and required we surrender our weapons. We refused their orders and it looked as though a fight was going to break out. When Izek threatened to harm Urwin Martikov, the innkeeper surprised us all by transforming into a wereraven. We fought them off and they retreated to the burgomaster's mansion.
The Martikov family recognized that Vallaki is no longer safe, they set off for the family winery in the country and leave the Blue Water Inn in our care.
Elyadra pays a visit to Wachterhaus. She meets with Lady Wachter and they speak about what will happen after the burgomaster's imminent death. Lady Wachter plans to fill the void and assume control over Vallaki, to rule in Strahd's name. Elyadra is taken to the basement level of Wachterhaus. Before stepping onto the room's dirt floor, Lady Wachter says, "Let the dead remain at rest". Elyadra follows her to a secret door and is introduced to Lady Wachter's bookclub, four cultist-like figures standing around a magic circle. Elyadra politely declines their invitation to join their ritual. Elyadra makes her way back to the Blue Water Inn.
<Returning to the journal of Winston, gunslinger and member of The Gentlemen Bastards.>
Kylar and I head to Blinsky Toys to ask about this doll that Kylar keeps waking up next to. We encounter a monkey that steals his bag and scatters everything around. The monkey placed a business card in the bag and threw it back to Kylar. We gather his things and head to Blinsky's. Kylar and the toymaker chat a bit. The shop is filled with creepy toys, I end up buying a doll that bears a resemblance to Strahd and I buy the monkey Piccolo.
On our way back to the inn, we run into a large man with a fishing pole. Over his shoulder, he carries a sack with something squirming inside. Kylar asked him to wait up, but the man didn't want to be bothered. Finally, we force him to stop. Kylar knocks him out in one punch, we open the bag – its the missing vistana.
They feed us and offer some gifts for us to choose from. Sauron uses detect magic on the treasure wagon, discovering that an onyx jewelry box contained the only magical item. Inside were six pieces of jewelry (worth about 50 gp each) and an unmarked potion in a crystal vial. He casts identify to reveal that it is a potion of poison. Sauron drains the soul of the kidnapper in front of the gathered Vistani. Sauron also meets with the dusk elf, Kasimir Velikov, and the two mages make fast friends. Kasimir tells Sauron of the dreams that haunt him, which he believes were sent to him by his dead sister, Patrina Velikovna, whose spirit has languished in the catacombs below Castle Ravenloft for centuries. He believes that the secret to breaking Strahd’s pact and freeing Barovia from its curse lies in a place called The Amber Temple, where he also hopes to find the means to bring Patrina back from the dead. Kasimir is planning an expedition to the Amber Temple, he hopes to embark in five days. He invites Sauron to accompany them and offers to share knowledge and spells.
The town bell tolls mournfully, signaling the death of Burgomaster Vargas Vallakovich.
We leave the camp and head north to Lake Zarovich at Elyadra's request. We seek one called the Mad Mage of Mount Baratok whom Elyadra learned is an enemy of Strahd. She thinks we may find an ally in him.
We encounter an elk that starts talking about the dark one, it flees. My horse gets eaten by an invisible beast. We talk the wizard into calling off his invisible hound. He seems very off. Elyadra tells him that we can help him, in exchange for helping us vanquish Strahd.
Following the burgomaster's death, the Festival of the Burning Sun begins in the town square, though the tone is muted and no one is celebrating. Night falls and the party retires to the Blue Water Inn for rest. After an evening meal, Elyadra and Kylar leave, but not together. Elyadra uses the festival as an opportunity to do some larceny. Kylar visits St. Andral's church.
In the wee hours of the night, Galinndan is shaken awake. Sasha stands over him, clutching him. There's blood on her mouth and chin, and terror in her eyes. "I'm sorry, I couldn't stop myself - the hunger. I'm so sorry, you must protect me from the others." He sees the fangs in her mouth. Before he can ask any questions, he hears a scream coming from down the hall - from the room that Ireena and Ismark share.
Kylar enters St. Andral's Church during the nightly mass, he seats himself on a pew. Father Petrovich gives him a nod, continuing his sermon about the love and protection of the Morninglord. His words trail off when he sees three figures standing in the doorway. "Please come in, all are welcome in the house of God." As if waiting for this invitation, the figures stridently cross the threshold and walk boldly toward the priest. At this instant, a swarm of bats pour inside, harassing the parishioners. They flee in terror, leaving only the priest, the paladin, and the three strangers. The tallest of them throws back his hood and moves toward the priest like a predator after prey. Kylar recognizes him as Strahd von Zarovich.