Curse of Strahd (play-by-post)

Beginnings

Her tail tapped on the bulwark of the ship, betraying her impatience. The town of Daggerford was visible in the distance. Her meeting with Zelraun was very brief; evidently Duchess Morwen of Daggerford was in need of assistance and the Harper offered his organization’s support. As this support, Lamb had some apprehension about dangerous work with several Zhentarim operatives (described as “hired firepower”) and a small force from the Order of the Gauntlet — an interesting combination, to be sure, but Duchess Morwen had many friends, payed well, and was not picky when it came to getting things done.

“We strive to protect the powerless,” Zelraun had said. “If the children kidnapped by the werewolves are still alive, we would see them safely returned.” He handed her a scrollcase and sent her on her way.

When the ship finally came to port, Lamb hurriedly made her way onto the dock. Behind her she heard some snide comments. As a tiefling she was used to it, but this time they were stranger than usual. “What a little weirdo. Glad to see that one go,” a hand said. “Caught him in a corner, staring at the wall. Was handy on deck, though.” Lamb turned around to throw a dirty glance at the sailors, and nearly knocked a gnome off the dock with her tail. “YEEeeeeeee…” A sound — halfway between a squeak and a shout — came from his mouth as he barely caught on to one of the posts and pulled himself back up.

That’s right, there was another Harper supposed to accompany her. This gnome matched the description exactly, down to the blank look and wooden pipe he was obsessively chewing on. He also deftly twirled a scrollcase identical to the one Zelraun had handed her with a spell scroll of remove curse inside it.

“Hail!” She bowed deeply twice to the gnome and prostrated her self as openly as possible. Feeling wronged by the comments that she had mistakenly identified towards her self, she decided to try to make the judgmental filth the slightest bit jealous of her new companion. “I am Clamant the Sonnateer of The Harpers and as of this moment your humble servant.” This mention of the Harpers draws a few interested looks; the intended effect. She darts a quick look to the side at the filth to see just how slack she could make their jaws. “You must forgive me but I was not informed of your name?

The gnome twiddled the scroll for a second more before stowing it. He muttered indecipherably — “Menumble Pyewackett, knives meecha” and gazed with ill-disguised longing at the sea. Lamb picked up some of the gnome’s scattered belongings to continue the servant charade and the two made their way into town.

Llaniver Strayl, a famed paladin of Tyr, gave the three their briefing. “Bolvar. Anton. Meet Garlan. He’s joining you in this endeavor as a representative of the monastery of the Watchful Eye.” The Torm worshippers glanced at the tall stranger appraisingly, who grunted in return acknowledgement. “Garlan has devoted himself now to the safety of the gentle folk of Daggerford; most definitely a worthy pursuit.”

The vaulted ceiling of the ecumenical temple of the Order of the Gauntlet loomed over the party as they made their way outside. From Waterdeep, they were to travel to Daggerford and meet with the Duchess. They made an imposing force: a monk of Hoar, a paladin of Torm, and a blademaster in service of the same. They were to join with others at Duchess Morwen’s mansion to deal with the werewolves from the Misty Forest menacing Daggerford. Certainly the group of three should be more than enough, and the others would be dead weight.

Sir Llaniver had provided each of them with a potion of heroism, signalling the importance of this duty to the order. As they all knew, the order must be ready to lash out the moment evil acts, and not a moment after. The order must strike hard and fast. The order must smash evil with overwhelming might, or it will swiftly overcome all. For this reason, the order had to be willing to work with any who would serve in the destruction of evil, regardless of motivation.

The lone cloaked and hooded figure walking along the main thoroughfare easily avoids notice. The dark clothes are fine in make but nondescript enough to blend in with the dwindling light. The only embellishment is in the fine leather gloves, trimmed with fox fur for warmth and the leather boots – too well-made for the average traveller.

The figure pauses for a beat to look up at the sign on a tavern and in the pale lamplight, her fine elfin features, coppery skin and pale hair peek out from under the large hood. Her golden eyes scan the encroaching darkness, brow furrowed in her concentration – the hallmarks of her people giving her face a sharp, severe cast. She moved inside, and made her way to the planned table, where another cloaked figure already sat. Aila waited there for the third to join them. There was no reason to waste time talking now, and have to retread traveled ground later in conversation.

There was nothing special to remark upon about the other figure sitting at the table. Just another cloaked wanderer, wide brimmed hat pulled low, smoke wafting up from the pipe and further obscuring the owner. A quill shuttles back and forth across a thick sheet of vellum, pausing only to wet itself in pitch black ink before continuing its immaculate script. Each letter is shaped quickly but perfectly; not a single drop of ink is wasted or spilled.

The fingers grasping the quill are the only thing out of place: thick digits that dwarf the tiny instrument grasped delicately between them. Now other things begin to creep into notice: the figure is slouching, not sitting upright. Even still, it’s a head above the other patrons. A glance beneath the shadows of the hat shows the sparkle of lenses in front of the glowing crimson gaze that is focused solely on its work.

A tink echoes hollowly as the nib of the pen hits the dry bottom of the inkwell. Without looking away from his work, Helyg lowers the glass jar under the table with one hand while the other gestures over the page with the deliberate movements of arcane magic. A brief gust of wind caresses the wet ink, drying it almost instantly. There’s a wet, sucking sound and a brief struggle as the figure wrestles with the tentacle wrapped around his ink. With a wrench and an audible pop, the inkwell is recovered from the grasp of the suckered appendage, and it slinks back inside to sulk. A raised eyebrow — quickly suppressed — betrayed Aila’s surprise. Maybe this job wouldn’t be so boring after all.

Three! Unheard of. One was already a treasure. Two marks of favor were reserved for jobs of the utmost importance, with more danger involved than most would be willing to risk. Three? Almost certainly this meant someone broke the first rule of business: don’t let it get personal. On top of this already extravagant payment was a cloak of diversion. Her “benefactor” Veneficus made it clear to her that this was not an opportunity to be passed by. Avreen briefly brought her hand to her necklace — the symbol of her indenture — and quickly brought her mind back to business to avoid dwelling on her situation.

“Business” was working with a diverse group to remove werewolves terrorizing Daggerford and the villages to the east of the city, north of Waterdeep. Duchess Morwen was their indirect employer; Avreen would meet two fellow operatives at the River Shining Tavern and go from there to meet a representative of the duchess. Probably from the Council of Guilds.

Avreen made her way inside the River Shining, where two figures awaited her at a corner table in the dim common room. Both of them also wore cloaks of diversion; a telltale sign that she was in the right place. These strangers were also Zhentarim but according to her contact they shared her “naive bent”, whatever that meant.

“Good day to you both”, she said curtly. Of course she was working with two half-breeds. The half-elf returned the glare with a grimace that might be mistaken for a smile, if you were being generous. “Uh, name’s Avreen. I usually work alone, but this seems pretty serious, so it’s, uh…” She paused to send a sideways glance at the golden-eyed youth. “Good to be working with you. Either of you have intel on the duchess? Pay seems suspiciously high.”

“You can call me Aila,” she replied. “All I’ve heard is that the duchess pays.”

Tilting the brim of his hat back, the last of the three tipped his eyes up and down Avreen’s form before smiling happily. “It’s a pleasure, Avreen, Aila. I am Helyg. I, too, have heard the duchess pays well, and in that manner the three of us much prefer to just gold.” He returned to his scribing, ignoring the tense atmosphere.

Varis did not need to consult the Emerald Enclave to know that the werewolves were disrupting the natural order. For balance to be restored, they needed to be eradicated with prejudice. A fellow member of the Enclave assisted him in tracking the werewolves to the Misty Forest. Once pointed out to Varis, the tracks were blatantly obvious; clearly Talos was on their side, for uncommonly mild weather preserved the tracks perfectly. Unfortunately, Varis had to return to Daggerford to collect a force of adventurers to assist him in eradicating the werewolves, but he was very confident in his ability to return to the general area of the forest his ranger had told him the werewolf lair was. How hard could it be to follow those obvious tracks?

View
Durgin and Questions

Durgin took three deep breaths before opening the door to the council hall, where nine (!) adventurers stood waiting. This was going to be an ordeal.

“I thank you all for arriving here. I hope your travel to Daggerford was pleasant. My name is Durgin Brightstone. Unfortunately the duchess is busy, but I am here to brief you, answer what questions I can, and provide your travel compensation. Speaking of which.”

Durgin snapped his fingers and the council servants handed out the pouches of coins. The gnome made a show of counting the coins and snorting out loud. Of course. Durgin continued his briefing.

“The hamlets east of Daggerford have fallen prey to a sizable pack of werewolves that spills out of the Misty Forest on nights of the full moon, cloaked in a crawling mist that follows them wherever they go. They’ve been spreading death and mayhem. They murder the adults. They kidnap the children. Once they are done they return back to the woods. Smaller groups than yours have attempted to combat them, with little success. We hope you can find the werewolf den and, ahem, clean it out. Ideally bring back the children as well, but I am not optimistic. I recommend traveling east early today to arrive at the Misty Forest before nightfall, since it is near the full moon; we’d like to catch the werewolves as they leave the forest, before they wreak any more havoc.”

Durgin took another deep breath and spoke the question he already knew the answer to: “Do you have any questions for me?”

The stunning tiefling who had introduce herself as Clamant asked first for details of recent attacks.

“The most recent attacks were last month; about three weeks ago. Over the course of five days the werewolves struck three hamlets: Byrne, Hommlet, and Tawold. Again, many adults were murdered and some children captured.”

“And where are these hamlets?” Clamant continued.

“On the northwest edge of the Misty Forest.”

One of the warriors, splint-mail-clad, asked about the pack’s size.

“Our estimate is a score.”

The cleric of Talos asked about why the beasts came to Daggerford, the size of any previous groups trying to quell them, the mist, and what means would be acceptable.

“The previous group who tried to help us was four soldiers and a ranger from the Lords’ Alliance. They did manage to capture and interrogate one of the werewolves, and obtained little useful information before expiring. The party tracked the werewolves into the Misty Forest and we have not heard from them again. Most of the villages to the east have been abandoned at this point. Any methods to disperse the pack are on the table. The mist is almost certainly magical, but none here have been able to discern where it comes from.”

The monk said “There are many tales of the strength of werewolves. Have they any weaknesses?”

One of the warriors blurted out “Some texts suggest silvered weapons are helpful in dealing with lycanthropes. Sorry.”

Durgin kept back a glare. “Silver, as he says, seems to be more effective. This has led to many silver charms and silver-edged weapons being sold. You should be able to find some available here in Daggerford, but expect to pay out the nose for them.”

“And how many nights is it to the next full moon?” the golden-eyed elf (half-elf?) asked. “Oh, and are there any living victims of the attacks?”

“The next full moon is in five nights. And, incredibly, no survivors. These monsters are very thorough.”

After a few moments, Durgin relaxed. The battery of questions was over.

The hulking spellcaster then stepped forward, pushing back the wide brim of his hat. He smiled, and hunkered down a couple of feet to meet Durgin eye-to-eye before reciting a litany of questions from a page in his book.

“How long has this been going on? Which hamlet was attacked first?”

“Who has survived these attacks to inform you of their habits? We need to discus the events with someone who has first hand experience. Were any of them infected?” (If told there were no survivors) “How do you know it was werewolves, and that the children were taken if there weren’t any survivors?”

“Where are the corpses of the adults? How many people have been killed, and how many children are missing?”

“Who were these groups, how many members, what was their composition and preparation?”

“Do you have any maps of the area, do you know which hamlets have been struck? How close have they come to Daggerford proper?”

“Do you have cells prepared to hold these miscreants, silver chains ready to bind them? If not, you might wish to prepare them while we apprehend the criminals. Even after we have them in custody, I imagine our investigation might be quite a while before we have all the evidence.”

With a snap, the half-orc closed the book with one hand and absent mindedly held it in front of his cloak, murmuring “Thank you, Seffy” as his octopus familiar took it from him with practiced ease.

At this point, the gnome stood and began wandering around the room. Durgin took another few deep breaths before launching into his own litany.

“This has been going on for three months now. A larger village, Hommlet, was the first attacked. It’s now been almost completely abandoned after the repeat attack last month. Some adults survived the attacks by hiding themselves. The adults’ corpses are mainly buried or burned, shredded to pieces. About 60 adults have been killed and nearly half that many children kidnapped. The groups of werewolves were a bit under two dozen. They did not sound particularly organized, but did not need to be. I can provide you with a map shortly. They’ve not come any closer than ten miles to Daggerford. We do have many cells in the prison. Silver chains, no, but I’ll see what we can do. That’s a good idea.”

It seemed that the adventurers were finally out of questions. “Well, in this case I’ll take my leave. I will be here, in case you come up with any more.” Durgin managed a smile and bowed before leaving the room. This group seemed capable.

After a barrage of introductions, the party began planning and discussing tactics.

“Yeah, going to buy some doggy treats.” Pyewackett snorted obnoxiously and slipped out the door. He returned shortly and asked “Ey, where do I get these?” holding out a shopping list, scribbled in grease: Alchemist’s Fire, Manacles, Sanity, Poisin, Antitoxin, Shovel.

“I’ll accompany you” Avreen said. “I’m going to see about silvered arrows.”

Durgin entered behind him, and spoke “I forgot to mention, you all have rooms at the River Shining, and the owner there has been instructed to provide you with instructions as to where to find anything you might need in town. Also, here is the map you requested.”

With that, the party exited the Council Hall and ventured out into Daggerford.

View
Daggerford

After leaving the Council Hall, Lamb began planning her afternoon. She came well prepared and as such needed no additional supplies. It would do no good to worry further today when there wasn’t a single shred of solid detail to build a plan on. The half-orc pulled out a large piece of parchment, and began sketching as the group walked back to the River Shining. Between the bookish orc and the insane gnome, it was nice to not be the most unusual member of the group.

As the party made their way to the inn, Avreen slipped away without a word. She wandered about the city for a bit, finding her way to the market. A sign with a simple bow and arrow drew her eye and she walked into the fletcher’s workshop, exiting quickly thereafter due to exorbitant prices for the silver arrows she was after. “I think I’ll come back later, to get some arrows at a more honest price…” she muttered to herself as she walked away.

Once back to the River Shining, Avreen came inside to see Clamant already performing (and drinking) in the common room. Avreen noted that the harp performance was drawing quite a bit of positive attention from the crowd — Clamant would make for an excellent distraction at some point in the future. Avreen sat next to the rest of the group at a large round table.

Helyg was talking to Reenan, who had taken a seat next to the group. “Thank you for hosting our little group. I’m sure it’s a hassle to have so many different beings under one roof. It takes a deft hand to manage a place of this size, but I see you have two.”

The old elf replied with thanks and a well-practiced smile, judging by the faint lines on her face that betrayed her age. "I’m sure you’ll want to know what I know about town. Not much interesting has happened recently apart from events I’m sure you’re more educated about than I am, but the duchess encouraged me to share with anyone willing to help everything that I know. In fact, there was another group — from the Lords’ Alliance — that intended to deal with the werewolves last month. They captured a werewolf alive and brought it back here, much to the town watch’s dismay. They questioned it before it died. The party then traveled southeast to the Misty Forest and hasn’t been heard from since. If you want to know more about it, you should ask Eravien Haund. He’s a member of the Lords’ Alliance — "

HEY Reenan” Pyewackett interrupted. The table turned to look at the gnome. “D’you know where I can get these things, but in silver?” He slapped a greasy crumpled list on the table. Reenan reached over and gingerly picked it up. A look of confusion grew on her face as she saw the childish scrawls and stick figure drawings along the side. “Sanity?”

“Grrr, it’s just…” Pyewackett trailed off for a moment, before continuing: “I was gonna make another list but someone ate my pencil. But, hell, if they got it…”

“Well friend, you should be able to find most of these things at the market, just inside the south gate of town.” The gnome immediately pushed back from the table, knocking his chair over before bolting out of the inn. Reenan managed to wipe most of the bewilderment off of her face, and the smile returned as she turned back to address Helyg and the rest of the group. “Where was I? Ah, all I was going to say was Eravien is a member of the Lords’ Alliance and also of the Council of Guilds. He certainly will have more information for you.”

Reenan’s last sentence was punctuated with a substantial round of applause as Clamant finished another song. The party joined in, and as it died down Reenan spoke again. “I’m afraid I need to attend to business. If you need anything, let me or one of the attendants know.” The rest of the table murmurs thanks with the exception of Garlan who simply grunts.

“I think our large friend here has the right idea” Avreen posited. “We should gather information today, and leave first thing tomorrow morning. No use getting caught out at night.” Helyg nodded.

Garlan grunted again. “The quicker we rid the world of these monsters, the better,” he spat. “They disgrace mankind by wearing our skins. I say we head for the villages first thing tomorrow morning to root them out.” He abruptly stood, saying “I will leave my belongings in my room and then go to the town to purchase a silvered weapon. Please meet me here in a few minutes if you wish to accompany me.” Without waiting, he left to go to his room.

Aila and Helyg made their way to the constable’s office and jail. They were welcomed inside, being on business from the duchess. “Greetings.” The constable approached, saying “I’m sure you want to hear about the prisoner.” Aila nodded a yes in response.

“The prisoner was brought in here last month. He was a human at the time, in terrible shape. I was amazed he was still alive. The Lords’ Alliance tortured him. I was bothered by this until the man transformed and nearly snapped his chains. The Lords’ Alliance immediately killed him, thank the gods.”

“Can we see the bindings?” Helyg asked.

A pair of broken manacles and a set of chains with bent links testified to the terrible strength of whoever had been bound by them. “Might we borrow some of your restraints?” Aila requested.

“Unfortunately we don’t have an abundance of supplies. To be honest, I’d rather you kill them than bring them back here,” the constable said with a grim look.

At his home next to the Council, Eravien greeted Aila sweetly and Helyg in a more saccharine manner. “And to what do I owe the pleasure?” the noble asked. “We heard that some of your soldiers had success in dealing with the werewolves, and we wanted to help.” Eravien returned the smile accompanying Aila’s statement, and welcomed them in.

“Of course I will let you know all that I know. I only ask that you give the Lords’ Alliance their due credit for assisting you in this manner.” Aila nodded sweetly, doing a good job of hiding her contempt. “The prisoner was interrogated under a Zone of Truth. He let us know that the werewolf pack has almost forty members, and they come from a distant land called Barovia. They worship a deity called Mother Night, who neither I nor the cleric have ever heard of. Evidently the beasts murder adults for fun and food. The children have been captured as a sacrifice to their dark god.” Eravien shuddered as he said this. “Ander, the group’s cleric, said it sounds like the werewolves leave and return to Barovia through some kind of ancient portal. I know little of such matters.”

“Ah, might you give us a description of your task force?” Helyg asked politely. Eravien gave names and descriptions, with a poorly-hidden scowl. “Thank you kind sir. We’ll leave you to your business now.”

“What a nice man.” Aila commented. Helyg chuckled as the two walked to the market.

Something was watching him. Pyewackett dragged his pack — full of most of his shopping list — behind him. He whipped around to see a raven on a post behind him and to his left. “…” The raven cocked its head to the side. “Don’t be a smartass.” The raven cawed once. “Fine, whatever. Listen.” Pyewackett pulled the recently purchased and shiny bell from his pocket. “You can have this, BUT…” The raven hopped closer on the post. “I need to know about the were-beasts.”

As they walked about the market doing their business, Aila and Helyg spotted their gnome whispering and wildly gesticulating to a bird. After a moment, he pulled a whistle from pack and made a shrill shriek with it, drawing the attention of everyone from the surrounding stalls. “This is mine though, you can’t have it” the gnome said. He then walked away, dragging his goods. The half-elf and the half-orc shared a sideways look, then a shrug, and continued their search.

Avreen twiddled her fingers inconspicuously. The lock on the window across the street popped open, and the rogue stopped concentrating on her mage hand. She moved to the alley next to the fletcher’s and began to look through the window. A passerby paused in the street for a second, making eye contact with her before hurriedly walking away. She’d have to be quick. Fortunately she had made a note of where the fletcher kept his silvered arrows, and effortlessly opened the locked chest. She took five of the arrows and left fifty gold pieces in their place before replacing the chest, crawling out and relocking the window, and making her way back to the River Shining.

View
Rebeginning

It was a long, drawn-out nightmare. The first night’s combat was encouraging; driving away the pack with no casualties. The next few days were tense. Wolves attacked every night, but were driven away with steel and spell. The only casualty was one of the drafthorses. The dead wolves revealed no more shapeshifters, for better or worse.

Anton fled during the night one night before the full moon without warning anyone, his training in stealth proving effective.

The night of the full moon, like every night, was filled with the howls of wolves near and far. The remaining horse panicked and the stupid beast managed to break a leg struggling to get free of its picket. Now being much lighter on supplies than when they left town, the party decided after much debate to abandon the wagon here rather than bother pulling it themselves.

The worst part wasn’t the nightly harassment by the wolf pack, which seemed infinite in number at this point. It was the fog, and the unending path to nowhere.

The path appeared after the first full moon and the party followed it in unspoken consensus. It was pocked with black pools of water and overgrown in places from disuse. It wound to and fro, in some places seeming to make a complete circle, but always continued on into the forest, and always contained tracks of wolves and humans, moving side by side.

The fog swallowed everything more than thirty feet away. Regardless of the time of day the cloying mist was there and incredibly thick. At first, the sounds in the fog put everyone on alert. Footsteps, disturbed underbrush, heavy panting. Investigation would always yield no answers. Even at midday, shadows would flit around just out of sight. Whether it was imagination, sorcery, or infuriatingly evasive enemies, no one could tell.

At least another week passed. It was hard to tell; even when the sun should’ve been directly overhead it was eerily dim in the forest. Meager rations, fitful sleep, and constant stress took their toll. Everyone seemed so different than when they had left… however long ago that was.

Finally, ahead, jutting from the impenetrable woods on both sides of the road, are high stone buttresses looming gray in the fog. Huge iron gates hang on the stonework. Dew clings to the rusted bars. Two headless statues of armed guardians flank the gate, their heads now lying among the weeds at their feet. They greet you only with silence.

The silence is shattered as the gates noisily swing open, rusty hinges screeching.

Without a second thought you walk in through the gate, which slams shut, waking you from your reverie.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.