I've been terrible at doing summaries lately so I thought I would provide some bullet points of our recent sessions (for real this time):
The Ruins of Berez
Our Damsels of Distress (including Marigold) hike overland from Vallaki toward Berez to rescue friendly ravens and others that the Lysaga has threatened. They encounter a treant tearing up old sickly pine trees named Barumfenir. Barumfenir is a sort of gardener of Barovia vainly trying to nurture new growth, but the land itself is so sick that this is doomed to failure. Nevertheless he keeps at it, unable to treat the cause.
After crossing the Luna River, the party charges into battle against shadows in Berez, which are decimated by Zyrella. The party is then fired at by gray fey folk with enchanted arrows. Marigold's performance distracts them, providing a non-lethal resolution, including the sharing of Siren's Elfen Mead. The gray fey or Aridni followed Elsinore into Barovia, where they have become rather taken with the Lysaga and capture ravens for her. Marigold departs the group, suggesting that the Aridni see Cirque performance back in Vallaki while the others explore the ruins.
In the center of the ruined village is a massive blasted husk of a tree that radiates dark energies. Many of its branches have been sculpted into cages in which are captured several ravens. Brigid tears the cages apart once they see the piles of feathers and small bones scattered about. Little do they know they're being spied about by more small folk from afar. Just as the final ravens burst free, a familiar one returns and calls, "The Woman Wrapped in Diamonds is coming!" And in the overcast sky they can see a blue green glow, muted by the clouds.
They prepare for battle and heave javelin and firebolt into the sky, but the Lysaga calls to them that she serves Fate, just as they do. The village around them glimmers into illusory life of a time, centuries before. The Berez Burgomaster and Brother Gregor whisper that Strahd has visited and has taken a liking to a young woman, the auburn-haired Marina who just at that moment strides through the market square with goods to take home.
The party splits to chase these phantoms learning that Burgomaster Lazlo and Brother Gregor fear for the girl's very soul as Strahd would make her an undead bride. Meanwhile, the others witness as Marina is called in the dead of night to the Luna River's edge. Strahd can be seen in his royal finery as he walks across the river, his skin melting and scalding with each step through the flowing river. He calls to Marina, but calls her Tatiana, and that he would lower himself to be with her, that he loves her as he has for centuries. Just then, Lazlo and Gregor appear, seeing the monstrous Strahd charming the young woman! He embraces her and she bears her neck and he feasts upon her!
The scene vanishes and they are all some distance to the west of town, its torchlights flickering in the distance. Gregor is praying as Lazlo holds the weakened girl. Lazlo holds her tight as Gregor finishes his prayer, raises a dagger, and stabs Marina through the heart! She dies, but the clouds coalesce into a monstrous, sickly storm, crashing lightning down around them! The Lysaga speaks again that she is a servant of Fate as are these adventurers!
And with that the memory of this place fades, the Woman Wrapped in Diamonds hovers overhead and her form raises a hand as if in blessing, but each of the adventurers sees the fate of an ally... the day and hour of their death! And with a moment to compose themselves, bolt of steel and fire arch into the air! The Lysaga lowers herself to lash them with her long, cloth like tendrils. Brigid leaps into the air, sending the Lysaga (and herself) crashing to the ground! They swarm and strike, tearing at her form. Danu transforms into a constrictor snake and wraps herself around the strange, glowing woman, but just as she would tighten she vanishes into the air!
With tendrils lashing about, Urdes aids Brigid back to the blasted husk of a tree as she smashes the Lysaga back to the ground, her glow visibly dimming. And as she strikes the ground her form splits into four things like hawks made of her wrappings that scatter! Ramona stabs at one with her rapier, its magic fading quickly and going limp. Urdes strikes like a spark in the light, tearing one of the hawks to shreds. Danu, in her serpent form, springs at the third, her jaws clamping down on it as it explodes in a shower of light and cloth. The final glides toward Zyrella who fires at it with three beams of pure flame, but it weaves between them! As it rises into the air, Brigid springs off of Zyrella, the mace gifted to them by the Abbot in Krezk in hand, as she swings wildly at the rapidly ascending form! Zyrella shifts, Brigid's ankle is at the wrong angle, her land loosens, and the mace flies from her grasp! The final aspect of the Lysaga wraps its tendrils around the mace and climbs higher as Ramona fires wildly into the air and Urdes slings a trio of darts at it, but they do not find their target! The form shifts into the low clouds as Zyrella and Brigid launch a final volley, but it is gone!
~ ~ ~
Bedraggled and relieved of valuable burdens, they scour the landscape. In the spot of Marina's death, they find a carved granite memorial to her, beautiful and regal. Strahd had called on the land to flood Berez in revenge, but this stood on one mound of dry land. A cracked stone step revealed a cache of valuables: A white dragonscale mail, a strange bit of crockery with a dozen corked spouts, a gray bag of odd balls of yarn, a bottle of Champagne du Stomp from the Wizard of the Wines vineyard, and various small gemstones. With these winnings, they set off along the sodden road north, hopeful for shelter before night set in.
Argynvostholt and the Son of a Dragon
From the Luna River Valley they looked up to find a worn stone edifice to the west, the worn sun shrinking behind the distant, mist shrouded horizon. The Damsels of Distress climb the steep, scrubby valleyside and find what had once been a sturdy, even elegant keep! As Urdes scurries up the wall, they spot some furry creature on the opposite side of a garden fence. Brigid attempts to chirp at it, but it retorts in a speedy brogue that, while foreign, is clearly in the common tongue. After some hesitancy about Danu's snake, a half dozen other creatures stand upright and speak back and forth, wielding pint sized spears in hand. It turns out their rescue of the ravens has already been reported here and they are encouraged to go inside. Urdes, meanwhile, has ascended the wall of the keep to find a massive, silver-leafed canopy is growing out of the keep's roof! The rest of the band enters following a warning that the fellow inside is on the senior side.
After finding several rooms littered with shattered beds and other furniture, as well as a kitchen with several stored root vegetables, they enter the main hall where the trunk of this great tree has broken through multiple floors, its branches entwined with some room as it absorbs the gray light of Barovia from above. They are greeted, in a way, by a man of sunken, pallid skin in a suit of armor, his eyes red and lined with black. Ramona curses as she identifies this as a revenant, a dangerous and hateful undead. But just as well, Zyrella notices the dragon's head pauldrons matching the hue of the great tree. She speaks up, just as Urdes is ready to strike at this new threat.
As it turns out, this is Sir Godfrey Gwilym, the last of his order who served Argynvost, a great silver dragon who once confronted Strahd with a band of knights. Now, the nights have finally been allowed to rest as Argynvost's great skull was returned to rest in the mausoleum, quelling the hatred of his commander, Sir Vladimir Horngaard, who had sought Strahd's eternal suffering. Godfrey has been recovering odds and ends to restore the vault and eventually raise arms again with the broken Strahd, but in his age he seems to have become a little... odd. Nevertheless, he is handy with smithy's tools and makes adjustments to the dragonscale mail to fit Ramona. Meanwhile, Brigid attempts to hunt, finding only a few rabbits, as she is unable to shake the sense that someone is spying on her.
Following a meal provided by the Burrowlings (more parsnips, beets, and wild greens), they find a musty but solid bed in the upper floors where they rest. In the wee hours of the night as the room's fireplace burns low, a creature of nigh translucent skin enters and gobbles up some of the low embers. Urdes awakens to the stirring and spies that it is a small dragon, or dragonette as it were, who is charmed by Urdes' fire control and he happily eats a burning candle from the bedside before warmly snuggling into the group. Wicker, he says in a happy telepathic echo, as his belly glows through his waxy scales.
In the morning they find odds and ends in the old vault, its door still pried from its hinges from a century before. In the clutter they find a finely made quarterstaff that Urdes begins to spin about and a scimitar of unusually keen design that Danu spins about. With Ramona's newly fitted chain, they prepare to set off along the old road toward Vallaki.
Hunting the Mad Mage
A brief stop over in Vallaki included shopping for bits of leather and iron buttons, warm wolf fur cloaks, a climbing set, speaking with hunters about the "Mad Mage of Mount Baratok," and a trip to the toymaker Gadof Blinksy. Blinsky. When Ramona showed him the clockwork spider she had found, Blinsky noted a small maker's mark in etched into its underside: CB in a lantern. Blinksy had seed the mark before, but did not know the designer, though it was of consistently high quality. Brigid, disappointed that there was not whiskey to be had at the toymaker's, picked up Ramona and joined the others for the trek toward Mt Baratok.
The hunter Szoldar had said that the mage had come from afar and had been about since before Strahd had fallen. He was able to transform into beasts and even control storms. His name, Szoldar had reflected as he scratched his wiry beard, was Mordenkainen.
They hiked off of the road around the edge of Lake Zarovich, its waters cloudy and glacier fed. After an hour, Urdes and Brigid heard a woman singing in the woods which they followed, leaving the others along the bare trail they had carved. The woman sang in an old tongue of the woods about her lost love, and as they came upon her, they could see black hair entwined with vines. Her love had been lost, she sang, but... her love had been a tree?
A nymph, it occurred to Brigid and Urdes. Had Barumfenir destroyed this nymph's tree? And as the others began to backtrack and find Brigid and Urdes, the woman stood and seemed to slough off her skin to reveal a bulbous, putrid, and sickly form beneath! But for a brief moment she seemed lovely still to Urdes, but that charm faded quickly indeed! With a cackle she flung herself behind one of the massive felled trees.
Danu, in her wolf form, sprung behind the long and tried to bite the awful creature, but suffered the slicing of terrible claws instead! Some lingering magic of the Lysaga that had bound their fates together sent shudders across Ramona's face as she spat blood. Brigid threw off her lupine cloak to reveal a contraption of leather and... iron buttons that Ramona climbed into as they bellowed together! Urdes leapt to log and swung herself onto the corrupted creature where she pried at her eyes, blinding her with a terrible cry!
Danu shifted forms into her constrictor snake and slithered over the blinded monster and bound her just as Brigid strode forward and cut at the creature with her glass axe, lightning crackling at its edge but not quite having the effect planned. Ramona, however raised her rapier which became white hot, matching a flicker in the halfling's eyes, as she stabbed at the creature, sending it into a quaking fear that fought against Danu's binding.
With few other options, the corrupted creature cried out, releasing a awful cacophony that nearly deafened those near! And Brigid's glass axe, so long at her side since that morning in the Bazaar of a Thousand Colors back in Chrom, her axe that had struck the great head of the Sea Dragon, shuddered in her hand, threatening to shatter... but it held yet as the creature's scream faded.
And as it did, Danu's grip tightened and the putrescent, bloated head of the creature popped like a blemish and the creature deflated in her grasp!
~ ~ ~
Washing off at the nearby mountain stream, Brigid inspected her axe. She knew it well and there was the faintest of changes, some crack within that had not yet surfaced perturbed her. And so, she did not notice the ravens perch around her and squawk introduction. "Where do you go?" With Danu always shifting, she had taken to maintaining her ability to speak with beasts frequently, an interesting meditative technique for her. With a bit of confusion, Brigid spoke and the ravens offered the direction to the road.
As Danu and Urdes approached, they asked about the Mad Mage. They had seen a great elk not far, but away from the road. With some eager prodding and still weary from their hike and the monstrosity they had confronted, they set off up the scrubby slope of Mount Baratok. And around a copse of trees they could see a great elk looking down on them from its twelve foot high stature, his eyes glimmering with hints of blue.
"This is your thing, Danu," Zyrella said with a nudge.