Illya Kuriakin, trained as an assassin, quick-witted, typically one step ahead of the enemy
Drake Hawkins, street-smart, analytical yet with almost animal instincts
Mel MacElroy, logical, rational, not prone to impulsive actions
Anton Ringlin, talented athlete, careful investigator, rarely making an error
The Quick Summary:
The Marx Brothers and their team, accompanied by Ireena Kolyana, villager and target of the Vampyr Count Strahd von Zarovich, had their fortune read at a gypsy camp. The cards read as such:
The first card told of a powerful force for protection against the forces of darkness, located in a “place of dizzying heights that all loathe to travel” where “the rocks themselves live”.
The second card told of “knowledge of the ancient” which may provide understand of a foe that could be found “amid the ruins of a place of supplication.”
The third card predicted darkness and evil, exposing their foe as a powerful man whose “enemy is light, and whose powers are beyond mortality.” This foe could be found “with a fallen prince of old” and that “the brother of dark is light and he rests in this place.” There is a very good influence there. If you are there, the powers of good will aid you.”
The fourth card told of a weapon of light, a weapon with a vengeance, located in the very heart of darkness: “his home, his source … the one place to which he must return.”
The final card showed the object of the team’s mission: “a book, yet more than that, the ultimate beginning of the inevitable end, watching and waiting … hidden behind one of the heroes, as it was so long ago when the fates decreed this domain should be created. To find it may bring about two victories, but at a great cost.”
They entered the castle and encountered the Vampyr Strahd von Zarovich, whose affection for Ireena was apparent. Their search led them through many rooms including a dining room, throne room, sitting room, bath chamber, and bedroom; they encounted Strahd’s accountant, who they tied up, and a young woman, who, fearing that she was working for the Count, they killed. They also fought and defeated a pair of undead guardians, a magical portrait, and a coven of witches. But they had yet to find a clue to the location of the object of their mission.
Proceed to Part
Two, the play-by-email summary.
Proceed to Part Three, the original internet session
The LONG version:
These four men had come a long way. They had fought many battles together. And now they walked down the steps of the great tower in the castle known as Ravenloft, searching for a tome of great importance and its master, the Vampyr.
It had been a few weeks since they left the small town of Twixt on a mission to locate the book Malakandra. The Master of Twixt claimed to hold the secret to their return home, and had promised them such passage once the desired tome was returned to him. To help them on their mission, the four men brought with them four assistants -- the mage Nyean Cassandri, the clerics Sarah Walton and Simon Stale, and the teamster Ollie Trent. By the time they reached the land of Barovia, Nyean had fallen, and Simon had been transformed into a beastly-visaged creature called ‘orc’. Still, once in the borders of Barovia, they carried on despite these setbacks, adding to their number a young, beautiful woman named Ireena Kolyana, daughter of the now-deceased burgomaster and a primary target of the Vampyr’s attacks. They got little useful information from the villagers, scarcely more than the name of the master of Castle Ravenloft, Count Strahd Von Zarovich, and stories of his powers as an Undead.
The gypsies staying near the village were even more hostile, yet the gypsy leader Madam Eva provided them with....well, perhaps useful, even vital information, or perhaps nothing more than the ramblings of an old woman. Her predictions for their near-future were based on the drawing of six cards from an old, well-worn deck. The first card turned was a Ten of Diamonds (how odd for the four adventurers to see a normal deck of playing cards in this world so different from their own!). The old woman’s voice croaked as she interpreted this card. “This card”, said she, “is a symbol of great power. It tells of a powerful force for good and protection against the forces of darkness. This is in a place of dizzying heights that all loathe to travel. The road winds ever upward and the rocks themselves live here! The diamond blesses your skill here, but bodes poorly for your protection.” She paused before turning over the second card, a Seven of Diamonds. “This card tells of history. Knowledge of the ancient may help you understand a foe. You may find this amid the ruins of a place of supplication. Again, the diamond will in this place bless your skills but curse your protection.” The third card, a Jack of Hearts was turned. “Ah! I see darkness and evil behind this card. Your foe is a powerful man whose enemy is light, and whose powers are beyond mortality. You will find him with a fallen prince of old. The brother of dark is light and he rests in this place. There is a very good influence there. If you are there, the powers of good will aid you.”
As though fatigued by her efforts, Madam Eva closed her eyes and breathed deeply, quickly. Her eyes opened, seeming to stare into a distant place, as she turned over the fourth card, an Ace of Spades. “This card is good for you, and bad. It is a card of power and strength, the victor’s card. It tells of a weapon of light, a weapon with a vengeance. But it is in a very bad place, in the very heart of darkness: his home, his source. The place is his center, and his life. It is the one place to which he must return.” As the old gypsy-woman speaks, there is a short pause after each “he” and “his”, as if she must battle with the simple pronoun for control of her speech. “The spade is a dark shadow of evil cast over that place. You fight under its influence there.”
The next card, the fifth, was turned over quickly, as though Madam Eva fearing lingering over the Ace of Spades. This card was a Four of Clubs. She peered at the card, then closed her eyes. “This card shows the object of your quest. A book, yet more than that, the ultimate beginning of the inevitable end, watching and waiting.....” A pause, then, “It is hidden behind one of the heroes, as it was so long ago when the fates decreed this domain should be created. To find it may bring about two victories, but at a great cost. The club sustains your strength in this place, but holds you from victory.”
The old woman’s eyes opened again as she turned over the sixth and final card, a Jack of Diamonds. “And here, here is the root card. Out of darkness and chaos, this card finds the reason and foundation for darkness and chaos. This card shows the purpose of all things. It is the key to life and death and else beyond. The darkness loves a light and desires it. Great subtle plans are in motion about you; plans that the dead may find warmth from the living.”
Further attempts to get information from Madam Eva were in vain. So, despite little more than vague knowledge of the enemy they faced, they planned their assault on Castle Ravenloft.
They got to bed early the night before their planned entry into the Castle. They awoke several hours before dawn, and, estimating the road to the castle to be 2-3 miles of steep terrain, decided to ride their horses up to the castle. They originally planned to begin their journey before sun-up, to give them maximum time in the Castle while the vampire was at his weakest; but the sounds of the Svalich woods dissuaded them from this plan. The sun rose opposite the mountains and set behind them, so they were able to start out at first dawn, (though the darkness of the land, the eve-present fog, and the grey clouds covering the sky made it difficult to recognize the beginning of the dawn.) Riding the twisting, climbing rode carefully but quickly, they arrived at a fork in the road after about 20 minutes. The dirt road continued to the northwest while a wide road led east into the heart of the dense forest. Patches of cobblestone show up through the east road, telling that it was once a great road. To the right side of the fork stood a large carriage with two horses. Both horses were black as pitch. The horses snorted violent puffs of steamy breath into the chill air. The carriage door swung open silently.
It took only the exchange of a quick glance between the members of the group to give a wide berth to the offered carriage. Unexpressed was the unavoidable conclusion: they were expected.
They passed the carriage and continued on. A few minutes later the carriage came tearing up the road; the quickly scattered out of the way as the two horses ran past at a lightning pace. A few moments later, and the sound of the hooves on the ancient road drifted off into the distance, and all was again silent.
After passing through the craggy peaks of the Balinoks, the road took a sudden turn to the east and the startling awesome presence of Ravenloft itself towers before you. You come to a stop just in front of twin guardhouses of turreted stone, broken from years of use and exposure. Beyond these, a 50-foot-wide precipice gapes between the Balinok cliffs and the walls of Ravenloft, a chasm of dizzying depth that disappeared into the fog-shrouded distance far below. The lowered drawbridge of old shorn-up wood beams hangs precariously between you and the arched entrance to the courtyard. The chains of the drawbridge creak in the wind, their rust-eaten iron straining with the weight. From atop the high strong walls, some gargoyles seem to stare at you from their hollow sockets and grin hideously. A rotting wooden portcullis, green with growth, hangs in the entry tunnel. Beyond this, the main doors of Ravenloft stand open. A rich, warm light spills from them into the courtyard. Torches flutter sadly in sconces on both sides of the open doors.
They passed over a creaking drawbridge and entered the courtyard of the dread keep. Cold fog swirled around the darkened courtyard. Sporadic flashes of lightning lanced the angry clouds overhead. Thunder pounded the courtyard. A light drizzle began to fall. Ahead, they saw torch flames fluttering in the wind on each side of the keep’s open main doors. Warm slight was spilling from those open doors into the courtyard. Doors in the gate towers on each side of the tunnel entrance were shut tight against the rain. A howling wind rushed through the courtyard. Above, in the mists, loomed the dark towers of the keep. Flickering lights shone from a short round tower on the southeast side of the keep. The party subconsciously drew closer together, as they strode through the courtyard into the castle.
They passed through the open ornate, massive doors, past the fluttering torches that cast dim yellow flickers of light from the entry way. Twenty feet into the castle, a second set of doors suddenly swung open effortlessly and the sounds of organ music drifted out. Overhead, in the entranceway, four statues of dragons stared down, their eyes flickering in the torchlight.
Through the open doors they passed, into a large entry room. Cobwebs hung from dust-covered columns of this great hall, illuminated by torches fluttering in iron sconces. The dust and webs cast strange, moving shadows across the faces of stone gargoyles squatting motionlessly on the rim of the domed ceiling. Cracked and faded ceiling frescoes were covered by centuries of decay. Two doors of bronze stood closed to the east. To the north, a wide staircase climbed into the darkness. All the while, sad and majestic organ tones floated about you from a lit hallway to the south.
South the party did proceed, wordlessly, as the organ music continued. Ahead of them, torchlight fluttered against the walls of the vaulted hall. To the east, a dark and forbidding hallway ran into the darkness. Beside that opening, a suit of armor, oiled and glistening, stood at attention in a shallow alcove. To the west, large double doors hung slightly open, a steady bright light escaping through the opening. Swells of organ music came from behind the doors, spilling their melody of power and defeat into the hall. The group stood, in awe, contemplating for the first time the true enormity of their task. Still, having worked together for so long, they needed to exchange but a few words to plan their course of action. Drake and Illya carefully approached the armor standing in the alcove to the east while the Anton and Mel kept watch. Carefully separated, one to the left and the other to the right, Illya and Drake paused momentarily until, upon a silent signal from Illya, Drake stepped forward and swung his longsword at the neck of the armor. A large clattering filled the hall as the helmet skittered across the floor. Another pause, then Illya approached the armor and peering inside, gave the all-clear signal.
Gathering together again, the group stood before the western door. Mel and Anton were somewhat reluctantly in the lead, side by side; behind them stood Simon and Ireena, then Illya and Sarah, and, in the rear, Ollie and Drake. Several moments passed as the party gathered up their courage; then Mel and Anton together swung open the large double doors.
They stood for a moment peering into the room. It was a magnificent 40-foot square room, brilliantly lit by three massive crystal chandeliers. Pillars of stone stood against dull white marble walls, supporting the ceiling. In the center of the room, a long, heavy table stood covered with a fine white satin cloth. As the group slowly, carefully entered the room, they could see that the table as laden with delectable foods of every type: roasted beast basted in a savory sauce, roots and herbs of every taste, and sweet fruits and vegetables. They also noticed that eight places were set at the table with fine delicate china and silver. At each place there was a crystal goblet they later would find filled with an amber liquid whose delicate fragrance tantalized their senses. At the center of the far west wall, between floor-to-ceiling length mirrors, stood a massive organ. Its pipes blare out a thunderous melody that offers in its tone greatness and despair. Seated before the keys, its back toward you, a single caped figure pounded the keys in raptured ecstasy. The figure suddenly stopped and a deep silence fell over the dining hall. The figure suddenly turned to face the party.
“Greetings, thee of might and valor,” the figured intoned. “Please, be seated and dine. I am honored to have thee as my guests.”
The figure before them was tall, and neatly dressed. His skin was colored a grayish-green, and his eyes shown with a reddish light. He smiled a smile that sent shivers down one’s back.
Silence took over the room for a moment. The group had continued on with their agreed-upon plan, fanning out, weapons at the ready. Drake spoke, if only to put an end to the oppressive silence. “Time’s up, Vlad.”
The vampire didn’t seem to notice the remark. He was looking at Ireena. “Ah, such fair beauty you bring with you. Such company does not come often to my home.” His smile widened, but if the effect was meant to be friendliness, it failed most utterly.
Ollie broke the next moment of silence with a simple uttering. “The mirrors!” Each of the group then simultaneously realized what Ollie had meant. The vampire’s reflection was clearly present in each of the several mirrors on the walls. Perhaps as a reaction to this revelation---vampires weren’t supposed to cast reflections---or perhaps simply as a response to the need to do something, Mel, who stood closest to the vampire, pulled out his shotgun and fired two shots. The figure laughed, a mocking, evil laugh, and vanished completely from view. Immediately upon his disappearance, a fierce, bone-chilling wind rose up and roared through the hall, putting out all the torches. In the darkness, the party heard the screech of ancient hinges, and the solid thud of many heavy doors slamming shut, one after the other, into the distance. They also heard the portcullis clang shut, and the tired groan of the aged drawbridge pulling up.
The vast room was now dark. A wind whistled through its confines. Crystal sang out in the darkness as the great chandeliers rustled in the wind. The fragrance of the food is all that remained of the scene that was momentarily before them.
Quickly, Mel began to pull the tinderbox from his pack. The rest of the group gathered closely together. Sounds of eating, almost animalistic, came from near the table of food. The group stood, poised to pounce. As their eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, and they began to make out a single figure eating at the table, Mel suddenly used the tinderbox to re-light his torch, momentarily blinding them all.
It was Ireena who first made recognition. “Simon...” she said in relief. It indeed was the party’s own cleric, eating at the table at an amazing rate, with alarming manners.
“Good food,” he said between bites.
If fear of potential poisons wasn’t enough to dissuade the party from dining (even though it had been weeks on iron rations, and the smell of the food was almost irresistible), the image of the orc cramming food and pouring drink into his mouth did the trick. Though he refused to be restrained from continuing his meal, Simon appeared to be suffering no ill effects from his ‘feast’. After re-lighting several of the torches in the room, the group looked about but could find no clue to whatever happened to the vampire.
The party retreated to the hall from which they had entered the dining room; there had been no other exits. The only light in the castle now came from the pair of torches they carried; Ireena carried one in the middle of the group, and Ollie one in the rear. The eastern exit to the hallway led about 20 feet to a spiral staircase going both up and down. Illya spoke. “Let us start at the top....” Nods of agreement were swift in coming, and the group slowly and carefully climbed the staircase.
At the next floor up there was a door. A glimmer of light shown from under the door, so, though the staircase continued on up, the group decided to try the door. It opened easily, and they entered a large square room. Dusty scrolls and tomes lined the walls of the room, and were scattered across the floor. In the center of all this clutter stood a huge accountant’s desk. A figure crouched atop a tall stool, scratching a seemingly endless scroll of paper with a dry quill pen. A rope hung next to the creature from a hole in the ceiling. The group entered the room, almost surrounding the man at the desk. A quick conversation with him resulted in only irrelevant information. His name was Lief Lipsiege, he was Strahd’s accountant and had been for as long as he could remember. He knew of much of Strahd’s treasure, but not all, and no, not the Malakandra. Further conversation became frustrating and the party was able to subdue and tie up the accountant, preventing him from getting hold of the rope from the ceiling.
A door opposite the doorway to the stairs led to an extremely large room, perhaps twice the size of the dining room. Dim light from the courtyard fell into this room in jagged shafts through the broken glass and iron frames of a large window in the west wall. This immense room stood in chilly, brooding darkness. Hundreds of dust-thick cobwebs draped the room, hiding the ceiling from view. Directly across from the window were double doors in the east wall, on the same wall and maybe 25 feet north of the door through which the party entered. At the far southern end of the hall, a huge throne stood atop a raised platform. The back of the throne was turned to the room. Staircases at both ends of the north wall lead down. A rough sketch (top of map is north):
A quick search of this room revealed nothing. After listening carefully for any sounds, the group opened the massive double doors. They opened up into a quiet section of dark corridor. Immediately across the corridor, another pair of double doors stood. Looking both north and south, deep alcoves of darkness faced each other with death-like silence. Almost beyond sight, human figures could be made out. A few tense moments of careful action revealed both the figures to be skeletons, pinned to the wall with spears. Both skeletons also had spears in their hands. Despite their threatening appearance, they did not appear to be animated, and the group let them rest, proceeding eastward through the double doors. These doors opened up into a long, 20-foot wide hall with a dark vaulted ceiling. Shadows seemed to dance across the distance ceiling. A low moan echoed through the length of the corridor, intoning sadness and despair.
At the end of the 100-foot long corridor is another set of double doors. Passing through the doors, the team saw a long balcony overlooking a vast, rubble-strewn room. Two large, ornate thrones stood in the middle of the balcony that is covered with dust. The thrones face away from the brass-banded double doors that lead to the balcony. Sitting in the thrones were the first real challenges to the team since they entered the castle: a pair of hideous, decaying corpses, attacked the group as soon as Illya peered around the side of the right-hand chair. Besides the room below, which because of the darkness was barely visible, the only point of interest to this balcony was a wooden staircase heading down into the darkness, just to the north of the double doors.
The team began to proceed down the stairs, which were made of old wood within a stonework shaft. However, Each step resulted in the sound of straining wood, creaking and groaning, and, deciding that they did not want to risk the staircase collapsing, they retreated to the balcony, then back down the corridor, through the throne room, past the furious but still tightly-bound accountant, and onto the spiral staircase. Up they strode, to the next level, where they decided to again try the door rather than continue to the top of the staircase.
The door opened easily and they found themselves in a 20-foot hallway ending in a door. The door was made of delicately engraved steel. Intricate details still stood out clearly on the door’s surface. The door seemed to almost shine with a light of its own, untouched by time. Yet, on each side of the door, there was an alcove filled with a darkness that shames the night. A figure stood like a shadow within each alcove, still as the cliffs of Balinok. The team ever at the ready, Mel took a single step toward one of the figures when both it and its opposite figure jumped out at the group. The figures were hideous, evil radiating from them like the smell of a rotting corpse. Though these creatures were easily dispatched, Drake took a hit that seemed to weaken him, not just physically but as though, well, as though part of his power, his skills, his instincts, were taken away. Drake left this encounter feeling alright, but somehow more vulnerable than when he had begun.
Somewhat shaken, the group turned its attention back towards the door. They opened it careful, and stepped into the next room. Dust immediately filled their lungs. The musty smell of death and decay swirled around them. In front of them, a long table of polished oak lied beneath a blanket of dust. The rotting table cloth lied in tatters beneath dusty china plates and stained silverware. In the center of the table, a large, tiered cake leaned heavily to one side. The once white frosting had turned green with age. Cobwebs drape like dusty lace every side. A single doll figure of a well-dressed woman adorned the crest of the cake under thick layers of dust. A window in the south wall is draped with heavy curtains. There were wooden doors in the north and west walls, and an ornate steel door in the east wall. The team searched the room briefly, the aura of sorrow was so intense there that they decided quickly to move on.
They chose the northern door, from under which they could see flickering light. A blazing hearth fire filled the room with rolling waves of red and amber light. The walls are lined with ancient books and tomes, their leather covers well oiled and preserved through careful use. All is in order here. The stone floor is hidden beneath a luxurious rug of a deep-patterned weave. A large, low table sits in the center of the room, waxed and polished to a mirrored finish. Even the poker next to the blazing fireplace is polished. Large, overstuffed divans and couches stand in order about the room. Two luxurious chairs face the hearth. A huge painting hangs over the mantelpiece in a heavy, gilded frame. The rolling light of the fire illuminates the carefully rendered painting. It is an exact likeness of Ireena. Though the painting is obviously centuries old, the likeness is unmistakable. Besides the single door in the south wall through which the team entered, there were two doors in the north wall and a set of large double doors in the west wall.
The Vampyr once again made an appearance, taunting them, but disappeared before they could take any significant action.
They proceeded through the double doors in the west wall, which opened up into what appeared to be a large bedroom. Sweet smells wafted from this delicately lit room. Windows on the west wall were covered by heavy read draperies, hanging stiffly from the high ceiling 20 feet overhead. Their tassels of golden fiber glinted in the light of three candelabras sitting atop small tables about ht room. Tall white candles brunt with bright, steady light. A large bed, canopied by silken curtains, sat with it headboard against the north wall. Lying amid the velvet and satin sheets, and bedclothes is a woman in a a nightcoat. One of her dainty slippers has fallen to the floor at the foot of the bed. Carved into the headboard with great skill and care is a large “Z.” Besides the door through which the team entered, there are double doors in the southern wall. While Drake and Mel carefully woke and questioned the woman lying in the bed, the rest of the team carefully searched the room. Outside the windows could be seen an outdoor walkway running north and south, bounded on the western side by a stone wall. Nothing else out-of-the-ordinary was found. As far as woman was concerned, her name was Gertruda. She seemed to pose no threat. She considered Strahd “that nice man” and to her, the castle was “wonderful”. She seemed totally unaware of any possible dangers to her or anyone else. She agreed to accompany the party, and was placed in the middle of the pack as they walked, so she could be carefully watched.
The double doors to the south opened up into a bath chamber, which turned up nothing of interest; in its far southern wall, an exterior walkway running east-west could be seen through two windows; an archers tower that could be reached from the walkway was in view of the westernmost window; this tower appeared to mark the southwestern corner of the castle. A single door in the eastern wall of the bath chamber led back into the dusty room containing the sagging tiered cake. The party proceeded through this room and the adjoining hallway to the spiral staircase and went up to the next floor of the castle.
A landing of flagstone 10 feet wide by 20 feet long wobbled slightly underfoot. The chill draft of wind whistled mournfully through the room, rushing down from the circular stairs on the north end of the east wall. Pausing only for a single round through the landing, the wind continued down the stairs on the south. A single doorway with a heavy plank and metal-banded door opened to the west. Beside this door, an ancient portrait stood watch over the area, its still eyes defiantly staring back at the group. The party paused on the landing, and, as they rested, Mel seemed to notice they eyes of the portrait following his movements. He pointed this effect out to the rest of the party, and Illya, longsword drawn, took a swing at the painting. The painting seemed to come to life, using some sort of magicks to attack the party. They fought back, until finally the portrait’s ceased.
The party decided to try the door next to the portrait, rather than continue up the circular staircase. They entered a room with a low ceiling supported by heavy beams, which seemed to press down on them. The west wall curved with the tower and was fitted with three windows of leaded glass in steel latticework. Plush overstuffed chairs and couches are placed about the room. Their fabric has faded with age, until the prints were nearly gone. A bookcase lined the east wall between two doors. A search of the room revealed nothing. The books on the shelf appeared to be normal books, none of them matching even remotely the description of the Malakandra. Perhaps out of frustration, during his search Illya tore apart one of the chairs in the room, finding nothing. The group decided to rest. While they did so, they conferred quietly amongst themselves about Gertruda. During the battle with the painting, she seemed to be in the everyone’s way. Was this innocent accidence, or....... And she incessantly babbled as the party moved on; was this to give warning to the Count or any of his creatures? She seemed totally innocent, but experience had told them that enemies can take many forms. It was decided. Her death was quick and painless. Sarah objected vociferously (though her voice remained quiet) and it took several minutes to calm her down.
The party tried the southernmost door in this room, and it opened up into a smaller room. A huge bed sat in the center of this room, its four corner posts rising to a black canopy trimmed with gold tassels. Several comfortable divans are placed about the room. There is a banded door in the west wall through which the party entered, and a smaller unbanded door in the east wall. The small door led into a small, empty 10-foot-square room lined with pegs. Neither room yielded any more information, so the party backtracked to the circular staircase and again went up the dusty spiral staircase.
The group stopped at the landing on the next floor up rather than continue up. As they passed through the single door, an evil essence embraced them. Torn and broken couches lie in heaps, haphazardly strewn about the 20-foot-square room. The low ceiling seemed to press down upon the group. Deep claw marks covered the hardwood furniture. Claw marks have also sliced the once lush upholstery to shreds. From the dark shadows amid the rubble, three pairs of green eyes stared back at them. On the alert, the party proceeded carefully into the room. The junk laying around the room made it hard to navigate, and the three creatures in the room managed to evade capture, though they were identified by Anton as cats. They decided to ignore the felines for the moment and, after carefully listening, opened the door in the far southern wall of the room. It opened up into a large oppressive room with a low ceiling of heavy beams. It was lit only by the dim light of two leaded glass windows in the south wall. Steel lattice work covered both windows. Several tables stood throughout the room, their legs seeming to barely support the glass jars and bottles that sit atop them. A quick check of the jars revealed such labels as “Eye of Newt”, and “Hair of Bat”, and “Snail hearts.” The feeling of dread seemed to increase as they approached the single door in the northern wall of the room.
They opened it. Through the darkness of the next room they could just barely see green-glowing wisps bubbling up from a huge black kettle. Electric sounds of cackling suddenly strike, sending a shudder through each of them. A coven of witches appeared from out of the shadows. They attacked the party with their magicks. They party defended themselves, forcing their way into the room, spreading out. After a quick terrible battle, joined in the middle by three black cats, the witches and their feline pets lay dead. A search of this room revealed a large book. Mel attempted to pick it up, but as soon as he touched, he was jolted by what seemed to be a powerful electric shock that through him back into the wall. A very careful examination of the book ensued, and the party regretfully came to the conclusion that it was not the Malakandra; Ollie identified it as a mage’s spellbook. Because of Mel’s experience, the group thought it best to leave the book where it was, perhaps to return for it when their main tasks had been accomplished.
The group returned to the spiral staircase and went up. The sounds of pouring rain increased as they went up the final 20 feet of stairs when opened onto the top of the tower. A turmoil of black, boiling clouds rolled unceasingly over the dark towers of Ravenloft. The 60-foot-diameter tower roof was rimmed with broken parapets that dropped into the swirling mists of fog below. A slender stone bridge spanned the gap between this tower and the tower to the north, some 20 feet away. To the east, the high tower of Ravenloft thrusts skyward with no apparent opening at this point. The pouring rain, the electric crackling of lightning accompanied by booming thunder, the slipperiness of the stones under your feet, the general disrepair of the castle (and, presumably, the railing that would be one’s last hope if his footing was lost on the bridge) all convinced the team to avoid the 10-foot wide stone bridge to the other tower. Besides, once safe and dry in castle, the group conferred and decided that perhaps a more logical place to find the Living Dead would be below the earth. They began the long descent down the tower towards the ground floor. They stopped at the accountant’s room, to attempt a more thorough investigation. However, Lief was clearly agitated and they did not even try to unbind his mouth. Anton had recalled a set of staircases leading from the throneroom beyond and suggested they try these as being less confining than the spiral staircase. The group agreed, and passed through the throne room to the westernmost staircase. They descended to a landing midway between floors. After reaching the 20 foot by 40 foot landing, they paused. Stone arches supported a ceiling covered with frescoes, 20 feet overhead. The frescoes faded lines depict the stone mountain tops which Ravenloft stands, being taken by armored forces on horseback. The faces of the characters int eh fresco are scratched beyond recognition. Dust floated in the air, making it difficult to see details. As the group continued single-file towards the single staircase heading down to the ground floor, they passed two suits of plate-mail armor covered with dark stains, set back in a pair alcove between the staircases. Each suit of armor held a mace designed like a curved dragon head. Engraved words on the arches above the alcoves are scratched out. As Mel, the leader of the group stepped in front of the first suit, it leapt forward, swinging its large mace at its target. Mel leapt backwards, but held his return volley as he watched the armor return to its position on the pedestal. An examination revealed a pressure-plate built into the floor, triggering movement in the armor, which is otherwise harmless.
The entire group paused for but a moment, a moment that seemed to last a decade. And it is here that we pick up the story of many quests: the quest to slay the Vampyr; the quest to free the land of Barovia and the lovely Ireena, the quest to find the Malakandra and return it to the Master of Twixt, the quest ultimately for home.
Proceed to Part
Two, the play-by-email section.
Proceed to Part Three, the original internet session