SPOILERS BELOW for The Beast of Graenseskov
The party, newly minted at Level 2.
At the end of the last session, the party found themselves emerging travelling to the west despite having entered the woods going east. The weather was colder and there were patches of snow around, and the mist and overcast weather was persistent. The Squire, Dusan (or Jason as they insist in calling him), took them into Volchykrov Manor's main hall to introduce them to his master and the Boyar.
- Ser Alys de Rouge (a half-orc Fighter with a soldier background, currently the leader of the town militia of Daggerford), played by Tom (Guvnor). Lawful Neutral
- Kelwarin (Kel) (a half-elf Sorceror flush with the powers of wild magic, an outlander), played by Graham (First Age). Chaotic Good.
- Gaddock Teeg (a halfling wizard and former prizefighter), played by Alex (Doggetay), Neutral Good.
- Roscoe Tosscobble (a halfling Cleric of Life, a follower of Diancecht, god of medicine and healing, former hermit and companion of Ser Adon), played by Jag (Jagusti). Lawful Good.
- Ser Adon of House Starbright (a half-orc Paladin, from a knightly background, with two human retainers and a priest), played by Paul (dr_mitch). Lawful Good.
On entering the hall, they met a tall, blonde warrior in his late 20s, who Dusan immediately went up to and was beaten. Outraged, they challenged who and why he did that after 'the child had been saved from wolves'. The response was that the child was at fault and had Dusan not lost the shield then his life would not have been in danger. This was the way of things; the pact meant that safety was found in the settlements, not the deeper woods. The man was Ser Cedomir, eldest son of the Boyar. He soon remembered his hospitality as he realised that he had a party of monster hunters on his hands. Ale was offered in the same wooden flagons that Cedomir and his Knights, the Hounds of the Borderwood, were drinking from. They sized each other up, and the party found themselves formally invited to a meal that evening. They realised it was mid-afternoon, later than they had expected.
Excusing themselves, several of the party, notably Roscoe and Ser Adon, went to the Chapel carved into the rock face to pray. There they met a dwarven priest, Father Fiofan Kolotov, who recounted the tale of the Beast that was haunting these lands of the Graenseskov. It had appeared three days after a Hag had been executed on the Boyar's orders, and had progressively become more dangerous and vicious. The Graenseskov were the borderlands to Barovia proper, ruled by the von Zarovich's. The party also looked at a map of the Sword Coast left with the priest a few weeks before by a Monster Hunter who had subsequently disappeared. They said it was contemporary and yet it was at least a hundred and fifty years out of date.
The curse: "You who’ve raised hand against my sister, I curse you to reveal your true self, turning against kith and kin. I curse you to show your monstrous self under the sign of the soul’s true form"
Back at the Manor, Ser Cedomir recounted the tale of how the Pact between Wolves and the Volchykrov family had came to be with the actions of the first Boyar, Sordje, to a Dire Wolf cub. It was clear that Cedomir did not respect his father, and there was mention of the death of his brother at the hands of 'the Devil Strahd' as being the Boyar's fault.
The rest of the party arrived back in time for the meal; they met the Boyar and nearly immediately volunteered to assist ridding the Graenseskov of this beast. The Boyar subtly established they were lycanthropes by giving them drinks in silver flagons. Impressing the Boyar, they were immediately introduced to his daughter, Cvetlana, who he doted on and who was clearly a spoiled brat and had her father wrapped around her little finger. She was engaged to be married to Ismark the Lesser, the son of the Burgomeister in Barovia. They met Aco Koslov, a tall, gangly, coffee and spice merchant who used the Vistani to go through the mists and get himself stock. He wore small, round glasses. The also met Krabka, a mongrel-folk, who acted a bit like a jester yet was chained up at night. Father Fiofan was also present and getting very drunk.
Much information was learnt about the Beast and the death of the Hag.
- The Hag was one of three, and executed by a cold iron axe (on the wall in the hall) wielded by Cedomir. Another fled into the mists, and a third, Pretty Kolchya, who cursed her sister's killers had not been seen since. Ruzina the blacksmith's daughter forged the axe, and Father Fiofan blessed it and gave last rites to the Hag. The Boyar ordered her death having destroyed the coven's tower.
- At least 40 people had died and many animals had been slaughtered over the last year. The attacks were getting closer to the Manor, with the last killing three days before when Jovich, one of the Knights, was killed close to the Manor at a small lake as he went fishing.
- Ser Branimara, the Boyar's bodyguard, recounted how she was scarred by the Beast, which was 'as large as a horse'. She also clearly was attracted to Cedomir.
- The previous attack was on Lubomir, a servant, who was bringing two Oxen home when the Beast attacked, two weeks earlier. He was bitten badly and was held in the infirmary under the observation of the Halan Witches in case he was infected with lycanthropy.
Roscoe learned that the druid Merje, who runs the Infirmary with the Halan Witches, had betrayed the location of the Grey Sister's Tower when the Boyar started burning the woods to drive them out.
Roscoe also found out that Boyar Borje had attempted to hold back taxes from Strahd von Zarovich. His middle child, Pyotr, had been taken by Strahd as a punishment and had not been seen since. There were mutterings about Dark Powers and the Devil Strahd, and everyone assumed that Pyotr was dead. Cedomir's falling out with his father dates from this.
Koslov the merchant and Gaddock retired early and chatted on the way back to the Weary Horse Inn. Gaddock declined a nightcap. He noted that Koslov was preternaturally silent once he went into his adjoining room.
Ser Alys and Ser Adon returned to their room; both woke up the next morning in Ser Adon's bed. They have no recollection of what happened and are convinced that they just played chess and drank. The retainers probably know exactly what happened.
Later, Kel and Roscoe returned to the Inn. Kel had been quietly fixing things in the manor house with his mend cantrip as it bother him that the place was falling apart. Kel noticed that something gangly and dark was climbing Gustav's Turret where the Manor's ballista was kept.
Gaddock rose early; he had breakfast with Koslow and noticed blood on the merchant's collar. Aco tried to laugh it off as a shaving injury, but there was no wound. Gaddock suspects Koslov is a vampire.
Gaddock went to the blacksmith's forge and found himself flirting and being flirted with by Ruzina Nostrova. He bought charcoal, having secured incense the day before. He left the forge, and drew a magic circle in the yard, summoning an Owl to be his familiar in an hour long ritual. The locals didn't like this but he managed to talk them down.
Kel and Ser Alys searched the Monster Hunter Radke Iliev's former room, finding a silver dagger and some notes including the question 'Can I trust the Boyar?' in them.
The whole party went to the Infirmary. They were met by Merje the Seeker and Erelda the Herbalist. They agreed to let the group see the victim, Lubomir. Ser Adon drew upon his faith and laid on hands to purge any disease and heal the rest of the wound. There was clearly a tension between Erelda and Lubomir; Ser Alys established that this was because Ludomir had attacked Erelda for being a 'witch' several weeks before and was in danger until Merje intervened.
Gaddock sent his Owl to scout out where Jovich had been killed. Then they all climbed Gustav's Tower. They realised the ballista had been disabled. There was no sign of the creature, but they could see the tree near where Jovich died, some Barrows on a hill to the north and a Graveyard in the forest to the west. Detect Evil by Sir Adon showed nothing within 60 ft.
Next session, they hope get silvered or cold iron weapons from the forge, and talk to Merje about the Grey Sister's Tower. Clue lines (1) Jovich, (2) Lubomir, (3) Grey Sister's Tower. The party already suspect either Ruzina, Cedomir, Fiofan or Merje is the Beast, based on the curse. They've kind of ruled out Boyar Borje.
It started to get more complicated this week; I couldn't avoid some info dumps. However, this was setting the breadcrumbs and path going forward. I enjoyed this but the scenario is pretty badly organised to reference quickly, so I may have to do something about that over the holidays.
The Curse of Strahd will return in January 2020.
17 December 2019