Friday, May 27, 2016

Into the Death House

Nobleman Tarvin Sellvek and his crafty servant Grimm Hogshead were making their way home after a night of drinking, cards, and gossip with the upper crust when a strange mist misdirected them from the familiar path. They found themselves on an alien street of boarded-up, abandoned houses...except for one house, which still seemed to be well-cared for. 

From within the mists the pair could hear the sounds of a child crying. As they ventured into the mists to discover the source of the crying, Grimm felt a tug at his sleeve; looking down, he saw a young girl and boy staring up at him forlornly. The children explained that they needed help; a monster was loose in their house and their baby brother was still inside. When asked which house was theirs, the girl pointed to the sole house on the street that still seemed occupied. Without further prompting, the adventurers entered the Death House of Barovia.

Exploration of the first floor revealed an empty, but otherwise expected set of rooms: kitchen, dining room, a hunter's den. Nothing too out of the ordinary...except wood paneling that seemed to add grotesqueries to its carved pattern (and spread to rooms where it hadn't previously been noticed) and a wolf pelt that must have crawled from the den to the main hall when the characters weren't looking.

The second floor was a bit more revealing. Moving a fake book in the library revealed a hidden chamber, in which was found a collection of grimoires and a heavy chest that was closed upon the remains of a slain adventurer. (Inspection of the remains showed that this unfortunate soul triggered a poison dart trap.) Underneath the skeleton was a collection of well-bound blank books, three scrolls, a signed will, the deed to the house, a deed to a windmill called Old Bonegrinder, and a letter from Strahd von Zarovich. Clearly, there was more to this history of this family than simple financial prosperity. 

As the adventurers ascended the red marble stairs to the third floor, they were met with an oppressive coldness that seemed to fall upon them from above. When they attempted to enter a door off the main landing for this floor, they were attacked by a suit of fire-blackened armor sporting a wolfen helm. Grimm managed to pry off one of the thing's armored arms, while Tarvin dealt it a destroying blow with his two-handed axe. 

Unlike the rooms on the previous two floors, the rooms on the third were choked with dust and cobwebs. After observing from a balcony that the night sky had been obscured by the strange mist that had waylaid them, Tarvin and Grimm were met by the spectral presence of a skeletally thin woman who did not respond well to Tarvin's taunts. A fierce battle ensued, the ghostly woman fading in and our of existence, her distended jaws sucking precious life away from Grimm. Ultimately, the intruders within the house were victorious, but sorely in need of a rest. After their repast, the pair explored the most disquieting object in the room: a cradle draped with a shroud of funereal black. Inside the cradle was a heavy, infant-sized bundle. Unwrapping the bundle they found...nothing, and no justification for its uncanny weight.

They also discovered, behind a mirror, a secret staircase leading to the attic. Within the attic they found a room that likely belonged to the children who asked them to enter the house, save that there were two child-sized skeletons lying on the floor, indicating that the children they had met previously were not living, breathing things. When the dollhouse in the room was touched the children's spirits appeared and warned the adventurers that they did not appreciate anyone playing with their toys. They also revealed that the windows of their room had been bricked up from the outside. Although the children were insistent that there was a monster in the basement, they were even more insistent that the adventurers not leave them alone. When the pair left the children's room, the spirits disappeared but both Tarvin and Grimm felt a small, cold hand clutching at their hearts.

From the attic they descended a secret staircase down into the labyrinthine basement of the house. In the basement, the sound of chanting was everywhere, despite the absence of any human explanation for the persistent incantation. Exploration led them past the family crypts, and into the lair of a cult. Lifting a metal portcullis led them into a flooded chamber with a raised dais and altar at its center. Climbing the dais caused the appearance of thirteen black specters who demanded that someone must die--clearly, they expected the adventurers to turn on each other to provide a sacrifice. 

When Grimm and Tarvin decided to flee, the spectral cultists summoned the Decayer--a monster made of bog filth and carrion meat--who pursued them to complete the cult's desired bloodshed. As they fled, the pair heard the voices of the spectral children ring out in their heads: the voice of the boy told Grimm to run for his life, the voice of he girl admonished Tarvin to stand his ground and slay the monster. And stand their ground they did: Grimm was knocked unconscious and hovered at death's door, whileTarvin was saved from a similar fate by embracing a primal love of carnage. Reaching into the monster's body, Tarvin destroyed it by wrenching its twisted root from its decaying bulk.

The house was now quiet. Battered but unbeaten, the two eschewed further exploration and left the house to find that the strange mist had retreated. However, they found themselves met by a black carriage that seemed to have expected their eventual arrival...

* * *

For record keeping purposes, the spoils:

XP - 550 each

Treasure -
11 gp and 60 sp in a pouch made of human skin.
three moss agates (worth 10 gp each) in a folded piece of black cloth.
a black leather eyepatch with a carnelian (worth 50 gp) sewn into it.
an ivory hairbrush with silver bristles (worth 25 gp).
a silvered shortsword (worth 110 gp).

a jewelry box made of silver with gold filigree (worth 75 gp).
three gold rings (worth 25 gp each).
a thin platinum necklace with a topaz pendant (worth 750 gp).

three blank books with black leather covers (worth 25 gp each).
three scrolls (appear to be protective magic).
the deed to the house.
the deed to a windmill (Old Bonegrinder).
a signed will.
a letter from Strahd von Zarovich.
four sheets of blank parchment.

a shield emblazoned with a gold windmill on a scarlet field.
a longsword with a windmill-styled crosspiece.