Cast of Characters
Brigid the Badass Barbarian by Heather Thornton
Ramona Briars the Small & Mighty Paladin by Candace Reagan
Zyrella the Firebrand Sorcerer by Cindy Ferkenhoff
Danu the Mercurial Druid of the Moon by Amanda Little
Urdes the Flamehearted Monk by Jenna Ashler
And Shiva Stoneheart, the Iron Gnome by Brooke Santos
With Special Guest Marigold the Bright Eyed Monk by Leslie Lilly
Note: It has been a crazy few weeks! For now, I'm going to post the bullet points of these sessions with the aspiration of returning to write more. Here goes! (Follow up: Turns out I'm really bad at bullet points.)
~ ~ ~
Our Damsels of Distress left the alleyway fight to track down the toymaker Gadof Blinsky at his shop in Vallaki. Unfortunately, he was locking up and eager to attend the surprise Cirque performance late that evening! They hurried to the old Arasek's Stockyard where several colorful wagons encircled a high tent! They were ushered inside with a variety of equally colorful characters.
The performance was high flying and elegant, but the surprise event was the return performance of the bumbling antics of Marigold, the Cupcake Queen! In lifted heels like frosted sweets and a brilliant ensemble of angelic sleeves and three orbs bouncing about her noggin, Marigold danced and pirouetted, always about to tumble but amble to spring back in place as beasts and acrobats moved about her frenetic movements. With the triumphant closing of the act, the Damsels of Distress rushed to their old friend, the far-traveling Marigold! A late evening of festivities ensued as they reunited!
In the morning, or, rather, the midday Marigold joined the band to head overland south toward the Ruined Village of Berez. Word from the Murder of Ravens was that an evil witch lived there, the Lysaga, who would capture ravens. Not only that, but she had a particular preference for those that ferried souls of the recently dead to the strange powerful Raven Queen. Through the thick pines they traveled, Danu and Urdes leading as the others, a bit more bedraggled from too much elfen mead, followed.
The thick, misty wood opened suddenly. Several trees had been felled and the trees around them were cast about. Between the heavy trunks were a few saplings in a vibrant, alpine green against the gray mists. Striding out of the wood came a massive creature of black bark with long streaks of sap, a half dozen eyes opened sideways along its trunk as three boughs bend like arms toward them.
As the others approached the clearing, Urdes introduced herself. This was Barumfenir, an ancient Treant, who had tasked himself with tearing down the old trees that were sick and replanting them in the Barovian woods. He grasped in two of his three arms a tree, probably twenty or more years old and snapped it like a quill; with it, he pointed out the rings of rot within. Ramona stepped forward and prayed for her particular sight of the unseen and when she opened her eyes, she could see the rot was a bright purple hue, as if the trees were taking it into themselves like the gardens in Krezk. Barumfenir, it seemed, was a gardener, but one of a sickened land.
It was in the water, Ramona knew it, and they looked to the south to the high, snowy crags of Mount Ghakis. Brigid recalled the glacier carved valleys of her homeland far north of the City of Chrom and how the sluicing melt would cut into the stones, becoming rich with milky minerals. It would taste of chalk, she remembered. Whatever success Barumfenir had, the contamination came from the water. And the water came form the peaks.
They wished Barumfenir well, though knew his task would ultimately fail until more was done upstream. And below.
~ ~ ~
The Luna River was shallow here, moving sluggishly through thick marsh grasses. They hopped between the large stones, slick with moss, the air smelling of sulfur and rot. Ahead they saw shadows flitting between the ruined walls of what had once been a riparian village; now it was a sodden wooden. Even the old stone walls seemed fragile and depleted. Off to the west at the edge of the wood silver lights flitted about.
Finally, with something to hit, Brigid raised her glass axe and roared as she charged toward the silhouettes in the village. Her totem bear rose around her and like a clamping of her jaws, she sliced into the shadows, which burst into clouds of fading ink! Danu charged in Brigid's wake, transformed into her lupine form, and leapt into the fray, tearing at the closest form.
Zyrella, though, she emitted a chortling that was almost, but not quite, sweet. She raised her hands and called words of power in draconic. The overcast gray sky whirled and sizzled and opened as a mass like a meteor screamed into the village! Pockets of swamp gas burst and popped as the shadows burned away and, in their spots, remained pockets of burning marsh where the methane was particularly thick.
And then the arrows came, first to Ramona whose vision became befuddled and swirling as the missile of black wood struck between the links of her chain. With the briefest of notice, the second went to Urdes who swirled and plucked it from the air before launching it back at her target, who immediately started laughing hysterically. And as their gaze turned they could see... faeries? Gray-skinned, black hair, and childlike in stature, but winged like moths, they held shortbows with sharp swords at their hips.
Marigold approached them. Fey? She thought, Fey always like a good show. And so she tumbled toward them, her cloak and staff whirling about her and she moved as if on fire. Her angelic blood sent light along her hands and out to the tips of her staff as she danced toward them. One slung his bow over his shoulder and began to clap! Urdes took the chance to join the performance and the two swung about the other in a beautiful martial dance. It was so captivating, that one of the gray faerie didn't notice a wit when her belt was unlatched by Urdes and her arms fell to the ground.
Shiva, not nearly so nimble, launched herself toward the audience of gray faerie. Her plate form collided full force into the still armed, and not particularly pleased, faerie in the rear as they two tumbled about between trees and pine needles.
The fourth faerie, seeing her companions clapping, laughing, or tumbling about her, slapped the chuckling one and shot herself into the air with great speed with her arrows. She aimed to flee!
Brigid and Ramona, suddenly clear headed, shared a look and a trusting nod. Ramona charged toward Brigid and leapt, Brigid flung the knightly halfling into the air who led with her hands as if about to flap her arms! She reached for the gray faerie's ankle and landed purchase! But her skin was smooth and her hand slid. Ramona could see the harsh silver eyes as she reached with her left, but the moment had passed and she was suddenly falling!
Danu acted on instinct: Still as her wolf she bound toward Brigid and leapt into the air over her! Ramona's form dissipated into mist and she appeared still some 30' above the ground when a surprisingly gentle pair of jaws bit and carried her to a mound of needles where the two crashed.
Zyrella spoke again as a bright orb of fire shot out from her hands toward the fleeing faerie, only to see it miss the wings of the creature who was tumbling about the air herself, but still in flight.
And so Marigold continued her performance vertically. The other faeries watched as, with a hand from Urdes, Marigold flung herself into the air and ran along the trunk of the great pine under which they had been fighting. She ran along a high branch and raised, as she did, not her staff or her fist, but two finely made silver tea cups. And, in her other hand, a bottle of Siren's Elfen Mead. She poured two glasses. Perhaps befuddled, perhaps charmed, or perhaps rather parched, the gray faerie took the tea cup and sipped, the mead's bubbles tickling her lips.
And with a flutter of her wings and Marigold's momentum (not to mention her penchant for falling gradually), the two descended in a gentle spiral from their high perch, sipping from the cups.
The adrenaline faded and they all sat speaking under the pine tree and enjoying the last of Marigold's mead.
~ ~ ~
These Aridini fey served the Lysaga, the Woman Wrapped in Diamonds they called her. They caught some of the ravens that even now were held by the curved, blasted tree at the center of town. While they had followed Elsinore through the mists, they seemed at home now with a strange and powerful queen in the Lysaga. The adventurers watched their words as they rested, all but Marigold anxious about if these Aridni might raise a dagger and engage again.
And they left Marigold with them for the moment, who spoke of more mead to the north with the Cirque des Étoilles. They had rather liked the mead.
The others inspected the ghostly village of Berez, though the tree at the center invited more than a little curiosity. Its tendril-like branches had been contorted into bird cages through some sorcery and it was only with brute force that Brigid could break them free. They flew off at the first chance, though one, a familiar one to Danu, returned and called out, "The Woman Wrapped in Diamonds! She comes!"
And in the low, thick gray clouds they could see the light, like a bright full moon behind clouds, was coming.
So, real briefly, we have a flashback to the history of Berez, Strahd, Marina, Burgomaster Lazlo, and Brother Grigor. It is illusory, but really happened, and the experience is different for the different characters. There is a lot of climbing on the blasted tree to reach the Lysaga who is hit to the ground and beaten on, then flies up, only to be hit hard again and transforms, on impact, into four hawk-like creatures made of her wrappings. Three of the four are quickly dispatched but one ascends and is missed again and again. Brigid, in the process, loses her grip on the Mace of Disruption from the Abbot, which is wrapped in talon like cloths as the hawk-form flies into the night.
They track down where Marina was killed by Brother Grigor and the Burgomaster Lazlo and a monument has been erected. It slides aside to reveal a cache of loot. Following a few rolls, it turns out the treasure includes white dragonscale armor, a gray bag of tricks, and a bottle of Champagne du Stomp from the Wizards of the Wine Vineyard. They then set out back along the road, but saw an old, once regale keep up the Luna River Valley side which offered some cover for rest.
Thanks! I'll try to get to more details soon!
Image Credit: Tome of Beasts, Artist: Bryan Syme, Kobold Press