Session 3: The Bloody Crow and the Raven Maid.
The party after searching the bodies of the werewolves discovered a wanted poster for Ireena, the woman being uneasy at how organized they seemed as compared to before. With that in mind, half of the party decided to split off as a decoy and meet them later when they could. And so, Ireena, Heinrich, Yimir and Vec together would go down the road, opting in the end to visit the village of Chalkworth where Ireena said a family friend ruled as Burgomeister.
Chalkworth seemed more prosperous than other villages they had seen, the banner of Strahd flying over the gate. Actual currency was used here, stained glass windows adorned the massive church in the center and there was traces of interplane settlement here in some of the building structure. Arriving just in time for a funeral, Yimir and Vec became suddenly, intently interested at how three bodies in question seemed to be prostitutes killed and knifed. The odd part was the fact the spine and skull were removed, prompting them to wish to look more deeply into this.
At Burgomeister Richards house, the group would meet the jolly figure who seemed to be looking into the deaths as well. On a scale model map, three places-an area in the slums, a factory and a graveyard would mark locations of deaths. It was here also they met Grimoire; an agent of Richard, a wizard who just wanted to set everything on fire and didn't care what it was. They also would meet a maid named Elena by happenstance, who used to work in the brothel and smiled a lot. As Heinrich and Vec interacted with their host, Yimir and Grimoire would head to the chapel to find out more.
There, Yimir would have his hands full in keeping their newest ally in hand. With his constant wish to burn everything, irregardless of time and people, Yimir would be hard pressed. More disquieting was the chapel interior around them as well. Shadows made the pillars look embraced by tentacles and the stained glass images of a Shepard with goats would at a second look, reveal fear on the expression of the Shepard and subtle mutations on the goats.
Behind the pulpit, a massive image of Strahd himself overlooked the audience in the pews.
At the end of the funeral sermon, while Yimir spoke to the cleric Sister Syrena, Grimoire attempted to upgrade from arson to breaking and entering, attempting to sneak into her office. Luckily, she seemed more amused than anything considering how poorly planned it was and decided to speak to both within.
Her holy symbol of a Crescent Moon to represent Mother Night would briefly look intertwined with some strange, twisted creature in the low light and shadows the cleric favored as they found the following.
-A nine headed serpent tattoo on the wrist of the victims.
Gaining additional information that all had worked at a brothel known as the Wink, they decided to leave even as the Sister watched them go with well wishes for their path.
The meeting proved unnerving enough that the duo would head to the inn first to throw off anyone following, Yimir seeing a Raven in particular that followed after them.
Meanwhile, while all this was going on, Heinrich and Vec would be interacting with Burgomeister Richard who was extolling the virtues of his home and how with Strahd and his patronage, the village prospered. He also upon being asked of anything that happened fairly recently besides the Ripper-esque murders, lamented how his favorite brothel was closed down. Though he had taken on the workers as his staff and even offered their use to his guests while here.
When the others returned around this point and compared notes, Heinrich went and called one of the maids, further confirming this to him. They also discovered that Henry Sutton had visited Sister Syrena and the brothel, prompting an odd connection.
Grimoire attempted to get ingredients for moltov cocktails.
In the end, led by Alana during the evening hours, all of them headed to the slums and the Wink. With Yimir noting an odd, birdlike movement to Alana as she kept a lookout for danger.
As she headed home, Grimoire attempted to burn down the door to get in, prompting Vec and Yimir to stop him.
Heinrich went around the back and began to break open the back door quietly,though he found himself watched by a Raven intently.
Taking a leap of faith, he said 'Alana?'
And the Raven responded with a croak and then cursed, realizing belately that Ravens don't croak.
Descending and transforming, Alana revealed herself in a Hunters guise and apologized for the deception. Revealing herself as a member of an order devoted to fighting Strahds influence, she also dropped the bombshell that she was the killer in town. The reason being that all the victims were already dead, infested by something that took over them. The proof of which laid within the Wink itself. Offering to keep an eye out, she transformed back into a Raven and flew away into the fog.
Inside, all of the group fought off a trio of Shadow's, in eerie, barbed tentacled forms. From a treasure chest in the center of the room, Grimoire plucked out a letter and set off a silent alarm to Syrena though they did not know. The letter was addressed to Sutton, whom Syrena apparently hated as in the background she would gather up a mob.
Meanwhile, back at the brothel the Wizard would plow ahead, finding the office of the owner and going after anything of value, ignoring the corpse and the portrait behind the desk of an apparently dead man watching him. The others catching up would perform an autopsy, discovering exit wounds along the throat and chest but also a lack of organs and a brain.
Alana in Raven form would fly to the window, squawking a warning as a mob approached. And the wizard, yielding to temptation set the brothel on fire. The flames grew and spread, creating a beacon that inadvertently caught Strahds eye, who had been conducting other business and corrected his path to Chalkworth.
By the time the party made it back to the manor, they had just enough time to make plans before the storm hit and they realized just who was in town.
Back with the mob, Strahd descended to see what was going on and the crowd grew silent and fearful. The wizard ignored it, pointing to him and declaring him the murderer the mob was seeking.
Cue every mob member splitting away from him, isolating him to Strahd who took his time walking to him. Realizing who he had just tried to invite violence against, Grimoire shit his pants and bowed. Strahd was distasteful, not wishing to sully his hands. But he recognized him as the Burgomeisters agent and produced an illusion of the party as he asked about them. Grimoire sold them out, speaking freely of where they were staying and who was with them, prompting Strahd to nod and walk away without even an afterthought for him, directing the mob to disperse as he sent his agent to the manor.
The party meanwhile would be frantically packing and preparing the wagon. The skies would be rife as crows clashed against the ravens, bodies dropping from the skies as Strahds agent arrived.
Alana, Heinrich, Vec and Yimir would fight as one against the Bloody Crow of Strahd, Alana unwilling to let Yimir sacrifice himself and the rest joining.
Together, they defeated the Bloody Crow though he had served Strahds ultimate purpose.
And so weakened, they emerged from the manor in time to meet Strahd himself, accompanied by Sister Syrena. Recognizing her clerical counterpart, the nun healed Yimir to allow him to stand on his feet, Strahd taking no notice as he looked at Ireena who seemed struck as she looked back, almost dazed.
All of them attempted to appeal to Strahd to let them go, claiming it would be more entertaining if he did so. When Strahd declared they would leave Ireena, they stood as one and declared they would fight first.
Strahd was thoughtful, then looked at Vec who had taken the Crows sword. Directing Grimoire(cringing, who had cowered and stayed out of the fight) to bring him the Crows body, he would take it and declare to them a test.
Five Enforcers of Strahd, making up the Black Fist would now be actively hunting them. The goal was to survive and should they defeat the rest of them(the Crow being one of the five and the weakest), Strahd himself would come for them personally.
He then left them, content to wait until then. Grimoire then attempted to loot the manor, only to be terrified off by Sister Syrena-the new Burgomeister of Chalkworth, the latter a husk for a lamprey-like worm Ireena killed in the background. Yimir, seeking closure went to ask directly the name of her God.
Upon hearing it was the Goat of a Thousand Young, he vowed to return. Syrena merely smiled and told him she expected nothing less and they parted without any ill feeling on her part.
And so here they are....With Grimoire at their side, Ireena safe...For now and an ally in the form of Alana. Soon to be hunted down by Strahds Black Fist, as Barovia looms before them.