Strahd vs. The Gentlemen Bastards
Chapter 10; The Order of the Silver Wolf
<The Old Svalich Road…>
Grimm heads west to catch up with the rest of the Gentlemen Bastards. On the road, he encounters a young half-elf being chased by a pack of wolves. Destroying half of them with a single casting of shatter. When Grimm continues west, the half-elf follows – introducing himself as Will Solace.
<Near the frozen Luna Lake.>
Kylar regains consciousness next to a campfire at the base of Mount Ghakis. Across the fire, he sees his weapons laid before a stranger. The man introduces himself as Emil Toranescu. "I saw to your wounds the best I could, but I'm afraid it won't be enough." After much palaver, its revealed that Emil requires Kylar's weapons to save his sister. Kylar struggles, but fails to rise. The stranger shows his true form, that of a werewolf, and offers to pass the curse of lycanthropy to Kylar in an effort to restore strength to his body. Kylar agrees, Emil bites him as delicately as possible.
Just then, Winston enters the radius of the campfire's glow. The cocking of his gun alerts the werewolf. Emil slowly withdraws from Kylar, he and Winston recognize one another. Emil explains there was no other way to save him. Emil explains his plight; his sister is the leader of a rebellious faction of the werewolf pack. She had caused a divide between Strahd’s lapdogs and the more free-thinking wolves. Until she would submit to the packleader's dominance, she was stripped of her rank within the pack and Emil was imprisoned beneath Castle Ravenloft. Winston agreed to help them, but warned Emil that he wouldn't abide being turned into a werewolf. They journey north.
<The town of Krezk.>
Baron Dmitri Krezkov and his wife, Anna, serve breakfast to their guests: Elyadra and Galinndan. The elves part ways; Galinndan seeking the seclusion of the western wood, Elyadra remains in Krezk. Elyadra accompanies Baron Krezkov to the scene of the recent murder. He tells all he knows of the victim; Dargus Dargovich was a woodsman, one of only a few that leave the town to hunt or act as scout and protector for the logging crew. He was single, lived alone and was quite fond of the drink. The investigate the man's home. Elyadra discovers that the door was not forced and apparently nothing was stolen. She deduces that Dargus knew his attacker. She asks the burgomaster to gather the woodsman when they return today, she wishes to have a look at each of them.
Winston and Emil reach a lone 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. Winston spies a distant city in the fog, they move closer. They come upon Strahd standing at the foot of the hill, the dark lord is gazing upon the distant city. After a few moments, he mounts his nightmare horse and flies away. Both the gunslinger and the werewolf are compelled to approach this wall of fog. As they near it, the image of the city changes. It takes the familiar shape of the city of New Orleans, a place on a distant world that Winston once called home. He can hear the people on the streets and canals, he can smell the spicy food in the air. The sound of thunder atop the hill draws him away from his longing. Between the crashes of thunder, he can hear voices chanting, "Wintersplinter, Wintersplinter…" He recalls the Martikovs' warning and knows the druids' ritual must be stopped.
<In the woods and on the road to the north.>
Winston, Emil and Kylar sneak up the hill and peek between the standing stones. The black boulders 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.
Winston dons Rictavio's hat of disguise, taking the form of Strahd. He marches up the hill to interrupt the druids' ritual. Upon seeing him, the druid and berserkers fall prostrate before their dark god. Doing his best to throw his voice, Winston commands them to abandon this chanting and go directly to Castle Ravenloft for it has fallen under attack. The tribe obeys, charging eastward down the hill. Winston spots a green glow coming from the statue's chest, he climbs up to investigate. From within the earthy chest, he withdraws a glowing gemstone – the shape and size of a pinecone. This is the gem that Davian Martikov had tasked the Gentlemen Bastards with recovering! Winston pockets the stone and calls out to Emil and Kylar. They wait until the barbarians are some distance off before they torch the statue.
Moments later; Galinndan, Grimm and Will meet Winston and the others on the road north of Yester Hill. They exchange greetings and fill one another in on the experiences of their individual journeys. Winston reveals that he has been especially busy, for he has recovered the Tome of Strahd, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, and the missing winery gem. He explains that Sauron is still on the lamb. Galinndan tells them that Elyadra isn't far away, they can find her in Krezk. They all agree to assist Emil, but wish to collect their friend Elyadra first.
When the woodsmen return that evening, Baron Krezkov gathers them. Elyadra looks at the six men, when she rests her hand on the pommel of the moonsword, she immediately identifies which of them is the killer. Or wolf in sheep's clothing, as it were. She silently signals the baron, and follows the man home.
The rest of the party arrives in Krezk about this time.
Just as the man is about to enter his home, Elyadra fires off a silver-tipped arrow.
The sneak attack strikes true, causing the woodsman to shift into hybrid werewolf form in response. The Gentlemen Bastards come to her aid, and they bring the werewolf down – rendering him unconscious rather than slaying him outright. Upon waking, he is put to the question. The murderer is Varik, he reveals that days ago, while on a hunt, he was bitten by a wolf. He kept this wound a secret from his friends and family. The next night, he woke to the sound of his wife's beating heart. He couldn't stand it, and how hungry it made him. He left the house and could think of only one person he could talk to – his best friend. Dargus came to the door in a drunken stupor, invited him in and that's when the hunger overcame him. Varik begs the party to kill him, end his life before he can harm his family. Elyadra does not hesitate. The blade of the moonsword cuts his throat like it was made of parchment. But, when the cold white light it sheds touches Emil and Kylar - they both involuntarily shift to hybrid werewolf form. As this is Kylar's first time, he's driven mad with hunger and bloodlust. He lashes out at the nearest person: Elyadra.
Emil tries to restrain him, "Be calm, my brother. This is not the place." But, Kylar shrugs him off in a rage. The party is forced to engage Kylar and bring him down, he shifts back to human form. They decide to beat a hasty retreat from Krezk. Kylar uses his remaining spells slots for recovery. They leave the Old Svalich Road, following Emil to the werewolf den.
"You will be under my protection," Emil claims, "as long as the pack still holds to the old ways." They enter the mouth of a cave that resembles the snarling snout of a wolf. They are met by werewolf guards, but they stand down, allowing entry. Emil leads them to a part of the cave dedicated to the worship of Mother Night. They are introduced to his sister, Zoe Toranescu.
She explains that their packleader, Cyril, is due back from a hunt at any time. She vows to assist the Gentleman Bastards in their final showdown with Strahd, if they would help her kill Cyril so that she may unite the pack as its new leader. They agree to. As Elyadra examines the great pile of treasure beneath the wooden statue of Mother Night, Kylar notices a group of children at the back of the cave. He is amazed to find his daughter among them. Zoe tells them that she found the girl on the moors near Castle Ravenloft, but warns that there isn't much time. Cyril will return in moments. Winston and Elyadra set an explosive trap using the silver bombs they had crafted days ago. The party can hear Cyril coming, he exchanges words with the guards and is informed that Emil has returned with outsiders. Cyril and his supporters rush into the chapel of Mother Night, triggering the bombs. And with a fireball from Grimm, Cyril surrenders. Zoe watched in amazement as Kylar savagely beheaded Cyril and ate of his flesh – so bold for this newly turned lycanthrope. Kylar brought the head of her vanquished foe before her. When she asked if he would kneel to her and accept as packleader, he said that he would and asked for her hand in marriage. She accepted by kissing him before the shrine of Mother Night, where the blood of her hated foe passed from his lips to hers.
Madam Eva's prophecy regarding the individual who will help them greatly in the battle against darkness has come to fruition.
Kylar proposed forming the Order of the Silver Wolf, taking inspiration from the knights of a similar name. Once Barovia's tyrant was deposed, the Order could serve the Barovian people coming to their aid in times of strife. Perhaps one day the wolves within the mist may be honored as protectors rather than feared as monsters.