Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #14
“Windmill Full of Bears”
By MARK WILSON
DM: A Friend
(Me) Ahk-wa – Female Aarakocra Ranger
Aial – Female Aarakocra Druid
Lhandroval – Male Aarakocra Sorcerer
Gwaihir – Male Aarakocra Bard
System, Setting, Adventure: D&D 5e, Barovia/Ravenloft, Curse of Strahd
PC Level: 6
Previously, the bird siblings had obtained a “Tome of Strahd” and returned to their allies at the winery to discuss and prepare for their assault on the old women (see also: hags) who have been killing children at the windmill.
Strahd Shops at Hot Topic
So we read this Tome, which does contain some interesting info about his backstory, his hatred of his brother and yearning after his brother’s betrothed, Tatyana, who has apparently been continually reincarnated in Barovia. We also learn he’s terrified of Gwaihir’s light sword (formerly the brother’s), and that a stake through the heart can’t actually kill him, though it can immobilize him.
And…it’s really mopey. Strahd sounds like a sulking teen. We make plans to mock him for this in the future.
The DM also reminds us that we heard previously that souls don’t leave Barovia, so its people are continually reincarnated, which makes some sense of the Tatyana thing (presumably, the current incarnation is Ireena, who we lost a while back).
The Martokov raven-folk then give us their intel on the witches at the windmill, and we discover when one of them leaves with the cart (full of meth-pastries). We hatch a plan to ambush her, then confront the other two in the windmill.
The Druid Summons
On our way to the appointed ambush spot, we encounter a druid, accompanied by some twig blights. Unsurprisingly, he says he’s been called to Yester Hill to help revive the giant tree (that we had previously chopped down and burned, though he doesn’t know that). Both sides are wary of one another, but Gwaihir manages to glean from him that they wish to attack the winery again, and that the tree can only be killed permanently by uprooting it. With that knowledge, we kill him and the blights (safe in the air). We make a mental note that the tree at Yester Hill may not be entirely dealt with.
We hide at the mouth of a forest along the road that we know the old lady will take. She doesn’t see us, and we unload on her. Aial entangles her while Gwaihir silences her. In this helpless state, we do a ton of damage. She finally manages to get out and pleads with us for her life, promising us power and knowledge. She tries to teleport out (Plane Shift), but Gwaihir manages to counterspell it. This leads us to not believe her promises (we were already somewhat skeptical) and we finish our kill.
Lhando severs her head to be sure (we were REALLY wary of these hags), and we bury her body off to the side of the road, with the pastry cart on top of it. We then head to the windmill.
We stealthily fly up to the 2nd and 3rd levels of the windmill, which have windows. In the latter we see the two remaining hags, laughing and poking at a child in a cage. Wanting to attack almost immediately, Aial throws a rock into a 2nd story window, and one of them goes to investigate. At this, we attack on the 2nd floor.
The hag runs back up to the 3rd floor, only to be still within the radius of another Silence spell. Moreover, Aial summons bears, which take up the remaining space in the already-cramped 3rd level. However, a 4th levels exists that we hadn’t known about (it lacked windows), and they both take a trap door to it, taking opportunity attacks but still living. When we make our way up to the 4th floor, the two are gone.
Let It Burn
The remainder of the time is spent freeing children and investigating the windmill. Before burning it to the ground. Among the items we find are a few creepy potions (labeled “Laughter,” “Youth,” and “Mother’s Milk”) as well as liquid that “smells like demons,” about 100 toads (which we release) and a few chickens and eggs (which Ahk-wa kills and takes to cook later).
Ahk-wa then ensures that the windmill burns entirely to the ground, to prevent them from starting up their kid-killing again anytime soon. She despondently tosses the deed (obtained in Session #2) into the pyre as the windmill burns, saying it won’t be of any use anymore.
We fly the children – Freek and Mertle [sic?] to Vallaki, to consult with Erwin about where we should keep them. They don’t want to return to their parents, having been traded for the addictive dream pastries, but we lack a good safe place to harbor them. With that dilemma – and other stops to make afterward – we call the session.
I always wonder about how much official modules can “pivot.” Like, do we need to worry about two hags hunting us now? The prospect is exciting, but they could just as easily disappear into the background of the adventure.
Of course, DMs can take those threads and run with them, so it can happen whether or not it’s in the text. I think I’d have a hard time running most adventures anywhere near as-written, and most of my usage of them has just been to borrow ideas (which I think they’re excellent for).
Our plan against the hag(s) was great, imo. We utilized our stealth, control and debuff spells wonderfully together. The windmill plan likely would have worked too, with them both silenced. Alas, we didn’t know about the trap door, or else we had them surrounded on literally all sides.
Subterranean environments are still going to be our toughest test, but the strategies available to us as Aarakocra really do change how we play the game, which is neat.
Finding a babysitter and exploring one of a few logical next steps (Berez, Krezk, or the tree again, most likely)