Friday, June 24, 2016

Fresh Graves for Old Bones

Having returned from a winery dealing in demonically-infused absinthe with a retinue of the lost and damaged (two people whose sanity has been blasted by the horrors they were subjected to, one woman transformed into something monstrous by the machinations at work at the winery, and the transformed woman's traumatized brother) in tow, Grimm and Tarvin made an appointment to meet the Rue sisters at the Black Orchid tea house to seek their advice about what could be done for their new charges. 

This time, only Morrigan Rue was able to meet with them, her clothes noticeably torn and perhaps stained with blood. Morrigan offered that she might know of a church in Krevborna that could aid the transformed Emilia; she also seemed to think that recuperation in an asylum would be the best thing for Petro and Mirella. 

Since Tarvin and Grimm had done her a great service in retrieving the books of demonic lore that Josep was using to blend "demon's milk" into his absinthe, Morrigan also disclosed that she and her sister had uncovered Strahd von Zarovich's plan to annex their homeland of Krevborna and assimilate it into Barovia. As such, they were leaving Barovia through a path through the mists known only to them in hopes of returning to their homeland to prepare for Strahd's invasion.

(I'm not sure if this is overly clever, but I've pulled a "reverse Ravenloft": usually in Ravenloft campaigns the characters get sucked into the world and struggle to escape; here, I'm having Ravenloft be something that sneaks into your world and attempts to colonize it instead.)

Through a deft bit of rhetorical maneuvering, Tarvin managed to pawn off Martinus and Emilia to Morrigan's care. Grimm and Tarvin both agreed that they would travel back to Krevborna with Morrigan and Pandora in three days. Which, of course, gave the pair ample time to shore up their ambitions with the deeds they'd recovered and accept Ivara Olashenko's invitation to dinner. Ivara lives in an old manor house, complete with stone gargoyles upon the roof. While they ate borscht and roast chicken, Ivara evidenced both her gratitude to Grimm for saving her life and a keen interest in "ghost stories." 

She also seemed interested in the prospect of adventure, so much so that Tarvin offered her the chance to accompany them to Krevborna (!!!). For dessert, they were presented with fruit pastries bought from a strange old woman famous for the dream-like effects wrought by her confections. After a few bites of his, Tarvin got lost within himself, dreaming of his own nobility and the deference he craves. Grimm was unaffected by his pastry, but Ivara's eyes rolled back in her head as well--she later claimed to have dreamed of mountains of books and a loving pet snake. This left Grimm in an awkward position, waiting around for hours while his host and master indulged themselves in magical reveries. 

With a few days to kill before leaving Barovia, Tarvin and Grimm decided to return to the Death House to test some theories about the connection between Strahd's land and their own Krevborna. They found the house as they left it, but decided to give the children's corpses in the nursery proper burials. They located a church with an adjacent burial ground. However, they heard strange sounds coming from within the tool shed where they hoped to find a shovel. It turned out that the church's altar boy, Milos, a hulking red-headed boy with a pocked and pimpled complexion, lived within the tool shed. A few coins and some fast-talking got him on his feet to dig graves for the children. 

Whilst digging the graves, though, he voiced his surprise that the priest was allowing them to set anyone to rest within the burial grounds because "the ground wasn't any good." When pressed on what he meant by that, Milos told them that since the relics of the church's patron saint were stolen the burial grounds were unhallowed. Sensing that he knew more than he was letting on, Grimm and Tarvin plied him with wine and took him into their confidence, after which he revealed that he had stolen the saint's bones at the request of a carpenter in town because he badly needed extra money to help feed his family.

The carpenter's shop was unmistakable due to the coffin-shaped sign in front of the two-story brick building. Grimm picked the lock of the side door, allowing the duo entrance into a showroom filled with different makes of coffins. Stealthily scouting the building, the pair managed to surprise the old carpenter in his bed and *ahem* apply some pressure to make him explain himself. He revealed that he had been commanded by Strahd himself to make away with the saint's relics so that the church might be left vulnerable to Strahd's undead minions. Under duress, the carpenter indicated that there was a secret panel in his wardrobe where the relics were hidden. 

Grimm and Tarvin returned to the church with the relics, intent on restoring them to their proper place within the church's altar. As they made their way down the church's central aisle, they spotted a woman sitting in one of the pews; as they approached the altar, she moved to stop them. She was a pale woman in a tattered dress, beautiful save for the fangs and claws that marked her as one of the unclean. 

The pair must battle their way to the altar, then. The woman proved supernaturally fast and strong; she used her claws to fasten into Tarvin's flesh and draw his neck to her ravening maw--he felt his life's blood gushing from his torn throat as he sank to his knees and prepared to leave his life before the church's altar. And then...a voice came out of the darkness, offering him his life again in return for...something of him. Fearing death, Tarvin chose to take the offer. Although still covered in his own arterial blood, he found that he was no longer wounded. Meanwhile, Grimm (who was having better luck against this creature with his silver sword) managed to catch the woman beneath the armpit with his blade and drive her to the ground, where she quickly turned to ash.

Returning to the Blue Water Inn, the pair found Ivara waiting from them, reading a book by candle light in the common room. Tarvin went to clean himself and head to a well-deserved rest, leaving Grimm to a strange conversation with Ivara about the nature of serving others versus choosing mastery of one's self--is it better to be the dagger that is a tool used by others or to be the hand who wields the dagger for one's own gain?

Oh, and Ivara has decided to take Grimm and Tarvin up on their offer of travel to Krevborna. Perhaps she'll find that adventure she's been wondering after, no?

* * *

The spoils:
XP - 200 each
Loot - none!
Extras - for restoring the relics to the church and laying Rose and Thorn to rest, Tarvin and Grimm each gain inspiration
- Tarvin has been touched by the darkness after accepting a new lease on life; more on that at a later date (note: rolled a 13 for this)