Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #16
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
Session #16: “Hy-bird-ization”
PC Level: 7
Previously, the bird siblings had killed Wolfsteak – the werewolf leader aligned with Strahd – and began making their way back toward Krezk with his head.
A Transformative Experience
Mists complicate our return to Krezk. Fearing an ambush, we shack up in Leoman’s Tiny Hut for the evening, waking at night. The sky is clear and Strahd is just standing there. Well f***. He greets us and asks if our encounter with the werewolves was “a transformative experience.” Gwaihir gives him a slow clap and Aial makes fun of his diary.
But then he changes the friggin’ phase of the moon and Aial becomes a were-bird and attacks. Ahk-wa and Lhando knock her out, and Ahk-wa flies her into the air, the second time in a day that she’s held an unconscious sibling aloft (perfectly fitting her protective older sister role). While this happens, Gwaihir shows his sun sword to Strahd, who is momentarily shocked to see it. He attacks Strahd. However, Strahd charms Gwaihir into unigniting the sword, and leaves shortly thereafter.
We camp outside Krezk with Aial still in were- form, only entering in the morning once she had turned back to normal.
Entering Krezk, we meet with the Burgameister [sic] who is thankful for the head of Wolfsteak. They once again agree to take in the children we saved from the windmill, and we agree to fetch them in Vallaki. But first, we’ve received a letter, addressed to the fake names we gave Strahd back in like Session #5 (most of them Scooby-Doo references). It’s an invitation to Strahd’s castle, to converse with him in a more civilized environment. We ponder this but make no definite plans. We then leave for Vallaki.
While there, we speak with Erwin again, who we tell about Aial’s wereform. As were-ravens themselves, he offers some perspective. He also tells Aial she should marry one of his kin at the winery (Adrian? He’s the heir to the winery, apparently). Aial seems surprisingly interested in this possibility.
Returning to krezk, the children become ingratiated to their new home.
Births & Baths
While this happens, we explore a nearby healing pool (which doesn’t remove Aial’s curse, alas). Gwaihir sees a face in the pool when he produces his sword, but he doesn’t know what it means.
Just before bed, we put a bell on Aial and surround her with ball bearing (her were-form can’t fly). Gwaihir is called off to the birth of a local child, to give a blessing in lieu of a priest. He performs a hymn of the Morning Lord, and all are pleased with this, though the baby doesn’t cry, a clear sign that it has no soul.
Lastly before bed, Ahk-wa borrows the ashes of their father from Aial and flies around the area with them, speaking with his memory. She laments his death, saying they could use him now in this land that seems to be corrupting them. But she says that he would be proud of her siblings, who are powerful beyond words and good…good in ways that Ahk-wa herself could never be. And she’ll do whatever she can to keep it that way, whatever the cost. She returns and goes to bed.
In the night, the Vallakian girl (Mertyl) is scared and falls asleep with Gwaihir, who puts her under his wing.
Patching Things Up at the Abbey
We fly to the Abbey the next day, in search of help for Aial’s affliction. We find weird hybrid creatures and an Abbot that – while clearly powerful – may or may not have all his marbles. He claims to have been duped into transforming former lepers into the hybrids around them (duped by someone we figure to be Strahd). He also has stitched together a mute but aware woman that he claims is a bride for Strahd, and may offer a way to remove Strahd from this land. We interrogate her as well as we’re able, and she seems to want to marry him. We’re skeptical of this plan, but we need help. We offer to find a dress for the bride in exchange for any three spells he can cast. We bargain him into casting one in advance, and he cures Aial of lycanthropy. We learn that another may remove the madness from the Mad Mage.
Having concluded this business, he invites us to explore the Abbey, but to avoid the lower levels where the most dangerous of the hybrid abominations resides.
We explore, notably meeting a few other strange hybrid creatures and a prototype of the flesh-golem-bride that initially has features taken from the “best parts” of the four of us: Lhando’s legs, Ahk-wa’s arms, Aial’s torso/chest and Gwaihir’s head. Out of character, we say that this makes perfect sense, as Ahk-wa is the martial one, Gwaihir is the “face” of us, and Aial has the biggest heart, so to speak. Lacking a good explanation for the legs, we make it canon that Lhando has sexy legs. This is revealed to be an illusion, though, and quickly fades to a normal humanoid.
In the last room, we discover a woman – Esmerelda – formerly of the Vistani, who has a history as a vampire hunter with “Von Richten” (Rictavio, we figure out as players). We get a long backstory about her history with the land, vampires, Von Richten, and werewolves. She is laying an ambush for Strahd here and doubts the Abbot’s plan. She also has an intricate peg leg and comments that both she and Lhando have great legs. Gwaihir seems jealous at this, and Ahk-wa is amused/annoyed.
We make tentative plans to work with her toward destroying Strahd before heading out in search of a dress.
Felt like a long session, but really it was just RP-heavy. Lots of small RP scenes that were cool.
Some small irony that the only PC legitimately interested in lycanthropy (Ahk-wa) and the only player legitimately interested (Gwaihir’s player) didn’t get the choice. But ah well. Crisis averted, and back to being “normal” birds.
We began the slow crawl back to potentially accepting Rictavio as an ally, but we’ll still have some strong words for him and may never truly be friends.
So we have a marriage proposal for Aial from the ravens, and a potential love triangle with Esmerelda and the boys, with whom there was some amusing chemistry. Perhaps fittingly, last session Ahk-wa sawed the head off of the only NPC she had truly taken a liking to in the campaign (Wolfsteak), so there’s not much going on with her. But I’m ok with that.
Hunt for a wedding dress, then getting our remaining two spells from the Abbot (that may bring the Mad Mage back to sanity). I think we as players are sensing endgame with potential traps laid for Strahd, but something tells me there’s a bit more.