Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #9
“A Song of Ice and Arson”
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: 4
Previously, the party found themselves in the Wizard of Wines winery, having partially cleared it out, but surrounded by enemies.
Deus Ex Raven
After some brief investigating, we take a short rest. Ravens come and talk to Aial, telling her to “break the staff.” A Speak With Animals spell reveals that an “ugly” druid with a gnarled staff controls the many blights that are attacking. Cool, that gives us a plan. Aial tries to get more out of them, but they’re unhelpful, up to and including pooping on Aial.
A steady creep through the place reveals two more druids, the second of which is the ugly dude. We magically hold him in place and whup him good.
Aial briefly tries to use the staff – which looks evil AF – to control the blights. This is unsuccessful and they start to swarm. Ahk-wa cuts it in two with her longsword and the blights fall dead.
Ice Mold Boss
Ahk-wa finds a tooth necklace that she thinks is magical. She attunes to it with the others head to the basement. The three find another druid – who thankfully falls easily – while Ahk-wa ineffectually attunes to a necklace she finds isn’t magical at all. And we then encounter our toughest foe to date in the basement: a room full of mold. Both Gwaihir and Ahk-wa nearly die simply stepping into it, and the icy-cold room also extinguishes Aial’s Flaming Sphere spell. Terrified, we retreat back to the Wolfsteaks (Martokovs?) for a debrief and to gather any wine that isn’t poisoned to take back to Vallaki.
Aial can de-poison the other vats of wine, but we lack the time currently, so we agree to return at a later time to finish the task.
Since we broke the staff, we don’t end up with much of a haul otherwise. Just the tooth necklace, the previous session’s goat-horn headdress (both functionally useless but making Ahk-wa looks awesome), and a figurine of a Nightmare (a “Blinsky”) named Bocephalus.
We also get some exposition about 3 gems/seeds that help keep the wine flowing (the last was recently stolen, so they can’t make any new wine currently), and we get some leads on them, including Baba Lestaga and her scarecrows, and other druids who are at Yester Hill (where we need to go eventually anyway), which is also the presumed source of the blight-controlling staff.
Festival of the Blazing Sun Cart
Back to Vallaki, where we roll into town with the wine. It’s raining, but we try to bring some cheer (and other things).
Gwaihir makes some tentative progress with the Baron of Vallaki with some tactful use of the Light spell (to inflame the large sphere that was made for the festival) and his suggestive, persuasive powers. The Baron admits that just “being happy” hasn’t been working too well, and it seems like we might have a foot in the door with him. He and Lhandroval accentuate the festivities with large, flowing proclamations surrounding the wine, their light magic (“I bring you from shadow into light!”) and other such pageantry.
Meanwhile, Aial and Ahk-wa meet up with Nicolai and Karl, the “bros” who wanted to burn down Rictavio’s cart as a “prank.” Since he’s a carnival master and we all hate carnivals (mostly Aial and Ahk-wa) from our backstory, we’re suspicious of everything he does, despite his help against the vampires the night before. Inside the cart is a tiger that Aial speaks with, and finds that the tiger wants to be free to hunt. Forcibly detaining animals that want to be free to hunt raises every hackle in our bones, and we immediately break the lock to free the tiger, loot the cart (where Ahk-wa finds a grocery list of things that are great for fighting the undead), and we burn the cart to the ground.
The tiger heads for the festival, and ends up absconding with the monkey in a tutu (a friend, he says to Aial) that was with Blinsky. But it attacks no one. Gwaihir and Lhandroval see this and declare it a miracle from the Morning Lord. A song is played that spurs a conversation where they learn about a tinker named Von Weirg [sic] in Castle Ravenloft. They also learn that the Baron’s right-hand man, Izaak, has a son who isn’t at the festival. The tiger escapes without conflict, shockingly, and we think our involvement remains unknown.
Meanwhile, Ahk-wa celebrates with Nicolai and Karl, presumably ending her night drunk in a ditch somewhere.
Fun as the whole “Kill him, he’s a circus master” thing is from an RP standpoint, I was sort of hedging as Ahk-wa since Rictavio is clearly a potential ally. She was prepared to be convinced that he could be trusted. But then the tiger was there. It was basically the best way to tug at our backstory heartstrings. There was no way we couldn’t follow through with things at that point. So the cart burned. I did enjoy it immensely, despite the fact that it’s likely a bit of self-sabotage. But hey, I got a whole boatload of vampire-killing loot from the cart, which I’m excited to implement and share with my siblings.
It was also an amusing inversion of the sibling roles, since Aial and Ahk-wa are ostensibly the older, more cautious ones. Gwaihir got to play the stern, disapproving brother, which is usually Ahk-wa’s role. Depending on how this turns out, including her first ever drunken night of cavorting, it may represent a turning point for her as a character, for better or worse.
And we’re level 5 next session. Leveling up is always fun. I remain unconvinced that playing is as cool as DMing, but the endorphin rush of new abilities/spells/etc. is a blast.
Our DM got real-life “Wizard of Wines” wines for us to enjoy. I’m not much of a wine drinker (I have beer or tea most times), but hey, a DM who does themed gifts for the players is always going to be awesome in my book.
Up Next: Probably dealing with Lady Watcher and/or the Baron of Vallaki, and the fallout from our tiger escape. Eventually I hope we circle back to Yester Hill as well, as it passes by the winery and seems like a place that will tie a few plotlines together.