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Session 5: Oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally, golly, what a day. Kalin the Wood Elve Ranger and Billy as the play went on would be preparing to help the resistance in the fight against the Toymakers forces. Together, the pair fought the mine overseer as well as his bodyguard , Billy close to death even as Kalin blew up dynamite to drive away the bodyguard as the coup initiated by Lady Volenta took place. Meanwhile, the party would fight the Puppeteer who used his wires and puppets to clash and slash. The Toymaker, revealing he had some power would take control of a puppet to help defend and in the end, as the puppeteer was dying he screamed in fear, about how he could See now. With this look of terror, he died and his prosthetics would be taken by the party. His body was strange, maggots en mass within him and his eyes had been sliced out. But they would manage to escape Toy Town and together, they would all escape alongside refugees and resistance members, the elderly Toymaker at their side. Alana would find them, the group giving each other some choices as to what to do next before the party decided that the Black Kegs; the gunsmiths of Barovia were next. The journey would be far and as they considered what to do, the Toymaker suggested an idea. And with the party, helped establish a hot air balloon for them all. Before they left, Alana warned them that Strahd had conducted work up there fairly recently and to be wary. For two days, the party lingered and the balloon took off as they flew towards the direction of the mountains, the party briefly seeing a strange floating structure in silhouette against the red moon of Barovia. Three to four days passed, the party encountering nothing of any real significant danger though in the distance, they could see the storms that followed Strahd below in the lands away from them. The vampire lord seemed to be working if the storm was any indication, swiftly moving from one end to the other of Barovia as a whole. And then as they approached the mountains, a sniper below began to hit their balloon. The party immediately scrambled to fix it, using a combination of mending, water spells and other things though the engine blew out and a scuffle ensued. Ashes and soot upon the wind would be tasted in the breeze ahead, down below the figure of a monster keeping pace in the woods sighted before vanishing. Heinrich would fly off ahead, sighting the walls of a town and what looked like fortifications towards the woods. As spotlights would be centered on him, he swiftly waved a flag of truce and managed to convince the people they were friendlies. The balloon landed in the square of the town, more than a few among them intently happy to be on solid ground again. Though as they relaxed, they realized who the town belonged to now as on a flagpole, Strahds emblem could be seen flying in the breeze. The people looked to be a mix of regiments, dating from 1863 it was discovered. Civil War regiments of both sides,caught up in the mists about three years ago from their perspective. When told it had been more than twenty years for the party, Officer Boone they had established relations with was shocked. At the saloon, it was here too that they met other folks...A Felyne named John and a sleepy, Irish looking cowboy named Rob-both who introduced themselves after the party encountered the Lord Mayor with his bodyguards. Two golems and the Ghost of Strahds Black Fist-a burly rifleman who could turn invisible. Upon discovering Ireena, the mayor laughing would ultimately decide to wait. He would call Strahd and for the next three days, the party would be watched...But not molested, provided they behaved. Between Boone, Rob and John(the latter two who claimed to be smugglers), they painted a grim story. Dwarves were being made to work the factory, producing firearms and siege weapons by the score on Strahds orders. Starved to prevent rebellion by the mayor, a greedy soul who loved money and kept hostages-dwarve and americans to keep the town under his thumb. As he mentioned a curfew, the druid had long since left on a quest to find wood. With Vec following to make sure he was alright as both missed the last part of Boones warning. Of something stalking folks in the streets and killing them. The druid would almost die to it, the creature revealed to be a Wendigo as Komodo drove it off with holy light. It also proved to be vulnerable to silver, a fact that came in good stead when the party(save for Rokai and Ireena who stayed in their rooms) were ambushed by three of them, learning as well that exposure to daylight would kill it for good when weakened enough to the point of death. Though in their clash, someone had taken the time to kidnap Ireena behind everyone's back and left a calling card. A rolled up cigarette, smoked to a stub. The same brand as left behind in their camp long ago. The same one favored by Rob who got them to give him a light earlier. While the mayor claimed to have the Ghost on his payroll? The REAL Ghost had been here all along. Following the party since Toy Town and managing to get ahead of the group at the Black Kegs Town. Now, as the party must figure out how to deal with Ireena, Strahds Agent and the Mayor's plots and a Wendigo infestation? The town gates open wide as a Vistani Caravan rides in. Madame Eva, seer has arrived and with the Vistani allied with Strahd, will her presence bode for good....Or ill? Time will tell....
Session 5: We Barely Knew Ye After a strange dream, the party woke up for the day in the manor of Lady Volenta. After a quick discussion of their options, they came down for breakfast where the Lady of the House had set a feast for them with Olivia by her side. Upon being asked, she then shared information about the Murder Plays of the Toymaker and what do expect, cautioning them to be ready for anything as no two renditions(even of the same story) were alike. She then pointedly asked Yimir why he kept looking at Olivia so intently, upon which he admitted to the promise he made to the Tin Soldier to help her escape from her. He then asked if he could talk to her and Volenta granted five minutes in exchange for seeing the sun. Casting sunlight, the party watched as Lady Volenta charred and was harmed though she made no outcry and if anything looked transfixed. Keeping her word after, she declined Yimirs offer to feed on him and gave them time to talk. Yimir would tell Olivia there was an escape route and he would find her after the play. The party would then be escorted to the infamous Opera House where they would meet the rest of the cast as well as a being from their world, one Dorian Gray who would play the role of Strahd himself. Alistair in particular despised him on sight and the feeling was mutual, as they engaged in a contest of pain-the dandy healing from the strikes inflicted. They would also meet the Puppeteer; the Toymakers second in command who initiated his orders and laws. He would inform the party and those connected to the play that they would be expected to merely survive, the talking lines reserved for others. The play itself also had them meet new party members, as well as saw the death of Grimoire who would be ripped apart in the first act. The play took part in four acts and was as a whole, the tale of Strahd first coming to Barovia with his army and his Black Fist legion, which the group played as. The first act had them combat a puppet construct known as the Songbird which killed Grimoire and dropped Yimir and the second upon a ship had them face the Giants of the Lake, which managed to curse both Alistair and Heinrich into deformed beings. As the play continued, it was clear that Strahd was watching them as they fought and seemed incredibly annoyed. As the third act rolled and the party was healed and de-cursed by their patron, Lady Volenta would mention how Strahd and a man named Sergei painted as a villain by the play were no such things. And how much he idolized and loved him, the two of them actually brothers. This gave a spark of an idea and as the third act rolled, Heinrich went entirely off script. This was not a new thing, the party not being actors in the slightest accidentally turning the tragic story into a comedy from hoisting Dorian Gray at the ship front, king-of-the-world style to the stoic nature of Komodo who utterly refused to participate and became the straight man of it all. Heinrich, seeking wordless permission as Dorian Gray monologued would look up at Strahds box, miming a backstab into Gray. Strahd, considering would slowly nod and give the thumb of approval,suddenly more interested. And so, aloud the wizard would ask if 'Strahd' knew how to deal with fiends. Gray would flounder, the audience snickering and Strahd unamused as the man attempted to sacrifice one of the party members to get the play on track, a thing utterly foredoomed to failure as Heinrich summoned Imps. Both Imps, normally liable to go wild would realize where they were and recognized Dorian Gray. As the actor panicked, Yimir who had been busy assuring one of the extras(Olivia) to stay close, would go to Gray and proclaim if he submitted to his magic, he would protect him! Gray did so. And would be subject to a hold person. The Imps, recognizing this as their lucky day decided to leave the question of escaping Barovia for another day as they took out clubs and proceeded to beat the crap out of a frozen in place Dorian Gray, his strange immortality doing nothing for the pain. The narrator, seeing Strahd leave the box at this point would declare to Gray's panic, that the forces of the island lake spirits would steal Strahd away. Though not without his prop cape that Heinrich took nor without being pantsed, the last they saw of Dorian Gray being the Imps stealing him away as he vowed revenge, at this point giving up any pretense of staying in character. And so the play ended, Lady Volenta granting Yimirs request to release Olivia from her service as she thanked him for letting her see the sun before this ending. Because at this point now, when she left the room? They would no longer have this relationship and would be enemies again. The thought was surprisingly bittersweet, and interrupted as Strahd entered the room. As Volenta attached herself to his side, Lord Strahd would declare he hadn't been so entertained in a long time. He would also extend an invitation for two weeks and a half from now to dinner at his castle, handing them a personal invite. After leaving, the party would have enough time for a short rest, the play enabling them to be led to the Toymaker himself! But when they arrived....It was not to any sort of evil. Instead, they found an old human male-working on a doll in his workshop as Ireena helped him, the latter explaining how she stayed with him-at first because she knew the others were seeking her, and then later to help the old man. When told what had become of Toy Town, the Toymaker was horrified and completely ignorant of what was going on outside his workshop. For the true enemy and agent it seemed was his Second in Command, the Puppeteer confronting them and gleeful about Ireena here. In the midst of his monologue, Yimir flung a guiding bolt. And the clash of the Puppeteer and the party began!
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!
Session 2. 'Come Little Children.' The party made it to Anarky, a town of near ghostly silence as a counterpoint to the nightmares that drove Cedric away into the blood night. There,they met an old woman who was selling Mince Meat Pies in town. Though she creeped out some of them, others accepted the pies and she gave them directions to the Burgomeisters House. She also upon being asked, mentioned how she had seen Dorian Gray and a gentleman with 'strange eyes' alongside the description of a Hyde. All of whom had apparently entered Castle Strahd some weeks prior to them. The manor looked as though it had endured a siege and only fortune spared the house survivors. Ismark and Ireena, son and daughter of the Burgomeister who had perished from fright. His body in a coffin, they wished to bury him in a churchyard, in sanctified ground. Staying overnight, Vec the Bounty Hunter and Billy the Gambler both experienced strange dreams of a nightmarish person, rotting from the inside out reaching for them and woke up with maggots in their bed from the dream intruder. Yimir, priest of Anubis would experience a vision of a storm swirling in black and hungry in the desert, as he prepped the body for worship. Escorting the body to the church, they met the priest and his son-a vampiric stricken man whose sanity was kept alive by the constant prayers of a fellow worshipper. After they buried the father of Ireena and Ismark, they heard the sound of a carriage. And they sent Ireena and Ismark into the chapel, as they met Strahd and his jester, Piddlewick. A wooden puppet with a sadistic tone and wicked humor. Strahd himself seemed respectful, placing a flower on the headstone of Ireena's father and talking politely to the party. Taking their measure in whether or not they'd bow to him, all seven remained straight and he seemed approving, even in the way all of them decided to protect the Ireena from him. His response was to corrupt one of his horses into a monster to deal with them and ride away. The party engaged in a fight then, repelling the creature as it came! But in the aftermath of the fight, the creature in it's death throes managed to desecrate the chapel and it was agreed they could not stay. For Ireena to be safe, she would need to go to the Abbey of Markovia on the other side of Barovia. The second night as they traveled had them encounter in passing a hut with legs, walking in the distance as it carried it's load of children, sobbing in fear. Though only Ireena heard them, oddly enough. The old lady they had encountered in the village then suddenly appeared in their midst, offering to invite them home as soon as she saw Ireena. The party warily accepted and at the windmill, they discovered the doors were magical in nature, the final one bringing them to a shrine to Strahd atop the mountains, though the image seemed warped and twisted oddly enough. The alarm spell she had set on the door they broke through tipped off the Hag, prompting her to trick them with an illusion before she tossed in a fireball spell. In the fight, she alerted Strahd to their presence and as he came, Vec killed the witch with railroad spikes after a weakness to radiant damage was found and the witch severely injured. The last they saw of the windmill was the presence of a single figure, landing on the ground from the skies. They then ran into Professor Vasili, a scholar and a traveler who helped them. Providing sanctuary and company, he made good company and discovered a tracking spell among them, throwing away the object which had it on as well as alerted them to a town in the mountains run by a Gun Smith and his company. The Black Kegs were among those like them, brought in from the mists and so they ultimately decided to visit later. At Lake Zarovich, they parted ways with the professor and learned of a process the village uses to protect themselves from Strahd...Which required a sacrifice to the God of the Lake of their children. They left the night before the sacrifice, believing their mission came first and vowed to return to deal with this when they could. Upon the road, they ran into a trio of werewolves who attempted to question them about Ireena and were blasted by the Warlock, prompting a deadly fight. In the end, they killed all three and discovered that Strahd had put out a reward for Ireena, with information about her or her whereabouts to be rewarded. Loot: One map of Barovia, one tarp, a week's worth of supplies, fifty feet of rope, crude tribal amulets ×3