Session 4: 'Babes in Toy Town'
Fleeing from Chalkworth and the screams therein, Yimir and Vec split up midrun as Grimoire, now out of a job joined them. Reuniting with Billy and Komodo, they realized that the others were still missing when Alana landed and informed them of what happened to the wagon.
A massive construct Crow had descended, grabbing the whole thing and flying it away with Ireena in it, Heinrich having fallen into a tree to break his fall. Aided by Alastor, who had witnessed the abduction, both were ready to follow after but for the lateness of the hour.
And so with Alana promising to prepare the way before them as well as follow up on the Resistance, she transformed and flew away. Though not before informing them of where the Crow had taken Ireena.
Toy Town. The domain of the Toymaker, one of Strahds Agents of the Black Fist.
Taking up two days, one night on watch Alistair smelled tobacco coming from a breeze from the woods. He remained where he was, opting to simply be more cautious and nothing noteworthy happened until the final watch when Komodo was keeping an eye out. The smell of tobacco wafted again, stronger now from the direction of their fire and he immediately alerted the party. Nothing was missing and nobody had been poisoned or hurt....But by the fire, resting on a log that served as a bench was a roll-up cigarette smoked to a stub left behind.
Opting to keep a more cautious eye out, the party continued on their way and came eventually to the entrance to Toy Town, a cavernous highway that led down to underground gates and a bright, cheery city.
Toys of all description worked alongside humans, creating a seeming utopia. People were smiling, trade was in full flow and a more terrifying sight could not be envisioned.
Every smile was forced. Toy soldier constructs with blades for fingers would lead packs of ghouls on leashes,snarling and slavering. And if locals did NOT fit the narrative(an innkeeper who wasn't fat and jolly, or a toy maker who doesn't whistle), they would be culled. The rest who didn't fit the ideal narrative would work below in the silver mines, for which the city produced. Worked by slaves in all but name alongside toys.
Alistair and Billy would come across an execution in progress and curious, the Warlock discovered that there was something strange about each sentient seeming toy construct. Each seemed powered by something odd, which sparked an idea.
Komodo and Grimoire would be discovered by Professor Vasili Van Holtz, who had been contacted by Alana and came prepared, offering up silver weapons as he warned their possession was illegal in Barovia as a whole. Further sharing that they could find the Resistance down in the workers level, he then left.
Yimir and Heinrich would head up to the market district, seeing that there were levels closed off to the general public currently. In doing so, they would meet Lady Volenta Popofsky, one of Strahds vampiric brides. Attended by her handmaiden, she engaged them in light conversation and left on amiable enough terms. Though oddly, her handmaiden made sure to catch their eyes secretly, looking to the upper levels before following her mistress.
And so, with each duo finding out more, they came together and pooled their information, deciding it was best to go find the Resistance.
The workers level was a slum. Ramshackle structures, soot clouds and trash fires mingled with the workers voices in song as they mined silver to fulfill the daily quota. Coming to the 'Blood of the Vine' inn, the group would share the password and be let in as the situation was shared.
Ireena was indeed in Toy Town and in the hands of the Toymaker on the highest level. The Toymakers personal stronghold, where Resistance agents were being held as well. Though oddly enough, the Toymaker seemed to have no intention for calling in Strahd and was silent though the city had seen the return of the Songbird-the massive construct Crow that had snatched Ireena away. They would also gain information on the city itself from the arena known as the Opera House on the middle level to the mines, including the ones who worked there to bring the silver in. They would also gain information on Strahds Black Fist and how each of them fit into the whole of Strahds rule of Barovia.
They also gained information on where Ireena is most likely kept,several options presented to them regarding how to get up. After a discussion and the tidbit about how the Toymaker and Lady Volenta Popofsky are at odds, they decided to seek her patronage in order to traverse the dreaded Murder Plays-a combination of gladiator combat and operatic theater put on by the Toymaker for his town subjects with his second in command, the Puppeteer. They also discovered a potential additional source of information, a unique toy known as the Tin Soldier who lived in the slums. Feeling it was better to get more information first, they decided to visit the Tin Soldier.
The Tin Soldier when they found him was driving off a thug, the soldier himself about the size of a halfling. He was wary at first of them and when they asked for information, he declared food to be his price-the soldier being a guardian of children, whose parents had died in the mines or been killed. In a stunning move of generosity, Yimir, Alistair, Heinrich and Billy all shared their rations including a chocolate bar from Alistair which none of them had ever seen before.
It was a feast for them and the Soldier shared what information he had. The party discovered that the toys were all once human-the intelligent, sentient ones. Transformed by his power to fill his town and work without rest in the silver mines. All of them forced to obey the Toymaker, save for him. This due in part to escaping the process by sacrificing an arm to break free of his restraints. He also revealed that he was once the Burgomeister of this place before it became Toy Town and that his daughter was now the handmaiden of Lady Volenta. And so with this information, Alistair and Heinrich went to find Lady Volenta.
Billy and Yimir stayed behind with the children and the Tin Soldier, forging a new arm for him and keeping an eye on the kids. At some point during the night hours, they would face the ghouls unleashed into the slums, protecting the children and before witnesses, being the first to successfully stand up to the current regime.
Meanwhile, Alistair and Heinrich would impress Lady Volenta enough for her to entertain their request when the whole party came. Though a slip up enabled her to know they had allied with the Tin Soldier as she told them to bring the children with them when they returned. When her handmaiden led them to the door, she told them an interesting fact.
There are only ever three brides. No more. No less.
At the Tin Soldiers hideout, the party got into a furious debate over bringing the children or not to Volenta with the most prolific proponents of either side being Yimir who refused and Alistair who wished to get every advantage they could. Despite it, it was not a decision easily made and in the end? Billy would forge a dictated letter from Heinrich seeking to play on this rivalry both with the Toymaker and Volenta. With private sighs of relief, but wary misgving they came to Volenta Popofsky and found her in a brightly lit garden, painting as she used a corpse for her materials.
She challenged them over the lack of the children and Yimir boldly said they refused to do so. It turned out to be a test of their principles, which Volenta laughed over and prompted Yimir to attempt to make her flinch with fake sunlight. To his surprise, she was wistful instead as she spoke how she missed the sunlight as she gestured to her garden space-crafted with the idea of replicating a Summer day.
They presented their case, showed the letter and she had them perform a final test. Yimir and Komodo would both fight two of her minions to test their performance and brutality. They passed with flying colors and are now under her patronage... Guests of the Bride of Strahd as they prepare for their debute on stage in the Toymakers brutal murder plays!