Chapter Three – The Graveyard Battle

Chapter Three: The Village Graveyard of Barovia

The Graveyard of the Village of Barovia stands eerily quiet now that the spirts have left.

Castle Ravenloft from Graveyard
Castle Ravenloft from Graveyard

Father Tobias stands beside the demented and inconsolable priest, who is now praying over the lifeless corpse of his vanquished son. Offering Clerical words of comfort with a conviction born of the certainty of pure faith Father Tobias at last sees beyond the pitiful wailing of Donavich and sees the broken mind, mangled by the long decades spent fending off the evil of Strahd and his minions. It is beyond the Cleric’s natural powers to heal a broken mind…but what if the ‘Staff of Curing’ given to him by no less than King Korin Ironaxe of Illefarn, could aid him?

He grasps the ancient relic with both hands and lets its agency seep into him. Finally, Father Tobias, lets forth a triumphant exhalation, indeed this ‘Staff of Curing’ will aid the hapless and broken priest. There is no greater joy for this servant of St Cuthbert to heal the good and deserving.

Within mere moments of using the power of the ‘Staff of Curing’, we see a vivid change in Donavich as the veil of madness lifts.

Magic Item - Staff of Curing
Magic Item – Staff of Curing

He shakes himself loose from the shroud and stands before us, beseeching forgiveness for his sins, his blindness to the terrible reality that his son, Doru, was long since gone. Only a foul creature of death remained, masquerading as his son….a vile cuckoo of malevolence.

Donavich now tells us all he has to know of these lands and its inhabitants, especially the one call Count Strahd von Zarovich.

These are the facts or rumours that I can tell you of Count Strahd:

  • Count Strahd von Zarovich is a Vampyr, and he dwells in Castle Ravenloft. No one is welcome at the castle.
  • The devil Strahd is a curse placed on the land because of a forgotten sin of the Barovians’ ancestors.
  • A Vampyr must rest in its coffin during the daylight hours.
  • At night, Strahd can summon wolves and vermin to do its bidding.
  • A Vampyr can transform into a bat, a wolf, or a cloud of mist. In its humanoid form.
  • A Vampyr can’t enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants.
  • Running water burns a Vampyr like acid, and sunlight causes a vampire to burst into flame.

These are the facts or rumours that I can tell you of the lands of Barovia:

  • Anyone who attempts to leave the land of Barovia begins to choke on the fog. Those who don’t turn back perish and are never heard of again.
  • Many strangers have been drawn to Barovia over the years, but they ALL die or disappear before long.
  • Wolves, Dire Wolves, and Werewolves prowl the Svalich woods, and hungry Bats fly the skies at night.
  • The village of Barovia sits at the east end of the valley and the only way to reach Castle Ravenloft is by the Old Svalich Road.

These are the facts or rumours that I can tell you of our beliefs and inhabitants:

  • Two divine forces watch over the Barovian people: the Morninglord and Mother Night.
  • Before the curse of Strahd befell the land, the Morninglord watched over the Barovian people from sunrise until sundown. Now, the sun has not shone unobscured for centuries, and the Morninglord no longer answers their prayers.
  • The presence of Mother Night is felt most strongly between dusk and dawn, although night-time prayers to her go unanswered. It is widely believed that she has forsaken the Barovian people and sent the devil Strahd to punish them for their ancestors’ offenses.
  • Spirits drift along the Old Svalich Road toward Castle Ravenloft in the dead of night. These phantoms are all that remain of Strahd’s enemies, and this damnable fate awaits anyone who opposes him. Some have become evil, like there master while others still cling onto the goodness of their previous lives.
  • The Vistani serve the devil Strahd. They alone are permitted to leave Barovia.
  • Never harm a raven, lest ill fortune befall you all!
NPC - Donavich
NPC – Donavich

As our attentions are set upon Donavich and his tale, Sigune sees the creature laid out upon a cot, awaken, she shouts a warning. He attempts with all his unholy strength, to escape…feigning death as do some animals…thankfully we had tied the creature with heavy bonds which it thrashed futilely against. It looks like the creature can regenerate as the wound inflicted by Sigune was now healed!

The priest, Donavich commands us to hold his son down – and draws forth a wooden stake of twisted hawthorn and without hesitation drives it into his heart – the only way he knows to truly defeat a Vampyr.

The shrill death scream chills even the noblest and bravest of hearts.

As we noble adventurers make repast within the relative safety of the decrepit and battered church we learn that the armoured Ghost that we had met earlier upon the road was in fact once a knight of Count Strahd – identified by Sir Ly by the Silver Dragon symbol set on the wandering spirit’s shield. They were once the Knights of the Order of the Silver Dragon, sworn enemies of Count Strahd.

Father Tobias notes that the Holy Water he created prior to entering Barovia has soured; another strange effect of this foul and tainted land. More is made for the party with the aid of Donavich.

A fence of wrought iron with a rusty gate encloses a rectangular plot of land behind the dilapidated church. Tightly packed gravestones shrouded by fog bear the names of souls long passed. All seems quiet. During daytime, the cemetery is a still and peaceful place. Every night at midnight, however, a ghostly procession takes place.

Watches are set during the night but they pass uneventfully.

At dawn we proceed with our plan to bury Kolyan Indrirovich, Ismark’s father, with an additional grave for Doru. Ismark and his sister Irina have also spent the night with us and are eager to lay their father to rest in the family mausoleum.

Map - The Village of Barovia
Map – The Village of Barovia

Galan suggests that he watches over us from the church bell tower. He soon spies two large Dire Wolves walking towards the cemetery from the East and two more from the West. Soon after two, or more, approach from north barely visible through the swirling mists.

Thora eagerly excavates two human sized graves in the heavy sub soil, her spade moving in a tireless and efficient arc.

We make a protective cordon around the graves and bodies, with the Spell casters in the midst to offer them most protection.

Can’t remember what Mirafir did when he is assailed by a cloud of large Bats, that press so close to him that he can cast no Spell, save perhaps from an item of stored power.

Monster - Bat, Swam of Bats
Monster – Bat, Swam of Bats

As we are distracted by the flapping and mewling of hundreds of leathery winged beats; there is a stirring from beneath the dark soil of the graveyard. Forcing their way from beneath the ground in a shower of scattered mud and soil arise semi clad and armed Skeletons. Ten or so lost souls, in all form in a loose encirclement around us, rising up from fresh dug graves.

They are larger and more fearsome than those we have met previously and are further protected by shields and assorted weapons.

They close in with purpose, pushing towards the priests, who have now thrust their Holy Symbols in the direction of greatest threat.

Frimly draws a vial of Holy Water and hits his target with obvious effect. Thora likewise hits with her heavy Battle Axe but neither foe is halted.

Father Tobias tries with all his will to turn the creatures in front of him, but these are no normal Skeletons, these are Count Strahd’s and they easily rebuff his efforts to exhort the power of St Cuthbert. Crestfallen, he resorts to unleashing his mace upon our osteopathic enemies.

On the other flank Sigune drops a Skeleton in a pile of splintered bone.

Monster - Strahd Skeleton
Monster – Strahd Skeleton

The Skeletons swing at us with malign purpose, but all evade their blows.

Ismark and Irina join in our attack but curiously are not attacked themselves. Strahd’s feelings for this raven haired beauty clearly extend to having no harm befall her.

Father Tobias hits with a mighty blow and then another with bone splintering consequences for his opponent.

Mirafir remains curtailed by the swarm which stop him casting Spells.

A blow from Frimly lightning fast sword drops his Skeleton.

Away from our gaze and protection, Galan, becomes trapped in a vast ‘Spider Web’ cast by a mysterious Invisible creature or force, which had previously tried to push him down the bell tower shaft.

The Skeletons are all despatched, though Sir Ly (or Father Tobias?) has been struck a fair blow.

From atop the church tower a fine clad man, it can only be Count Strahd, appears and taunts us before calling forth a torrent of squirming biting rats and bats that nearly engulfs us.

When he has finally said his piece the Count transmutes into a huge and vicious looking enormous Bat creature and flies away towards Castle Ravenloft. Thunder and lightning crescendo as he departs.

NPC - Count Strahd Batform
NPC – Count Strahd Batform

As quickly as they came his summoning’s also disappear.

All we can do is return to the burial ceremony and make plans.

Father Tobias looks stricken as he sees his own grave stone. Another cheap stunt from Count Strahd it would seem.

Ireena Kolyana is happy to go with us into the lair of her would be suitor…it may be that she will limit the impact of Strahd’s worst offensive powers. She is as brave as she is beautiful and shows no signs of fear or consternation.

On the to assess the source of Mad Mary’s woe we stop at the town mercantile shop and equip ourselves with wooden stakes and mallets that we may drive one into the evil fiends foul heart.

Mad Mary – very sad, lost her daughter blah di blah!.

NPC - Mad Mary
NPC – Mad Mary

Thora had wondered out loud whether the tower in the woods that Mirafir has spied when we entered Barovia might offer us some hint of clue as to Strahd and a means to extinguish him, Mirafir made a reading of his cards and showed the card he had drawn…that of the Tempter, surmi9sing that it was merely a decoy and would offer us no good.

By midday we are readied for our perilous quest and head out towards Ravenloft Castle in the South East of Barovia.

We reach a wooden bridge to take us across the River for first time. Soon after there is a large gibbet set near to the road, strung upon it swings the body of a man, vile and distended and green with putrescence. Frimly gazes upon this and catches his breath in a gurgle of fear as he sees himself hanging there, blowing in the wind. Strahd is once more toying with us, seeking out weakness and voids in our courage.

We make it unmolested to a crossroads, where, after some fruitless debate, Mirafir again draws a card from his astrological deck…it is the ‘diviner’ card and thus we decide to take the shorter Pool road

Thora: “Shorter distance means easier!”

Thora mutters to no one in particular.

As night begins to fall we come across a jolly Gypsy encampment. We all invited to join them.

Barovian Gypsy Camp
Barovian Gypsy Camp

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