Curse of Strahd Part Six: Familiar Faces

DM Notes
In the town of Goldenleaf, there is a tangible excitement as two of the heroes of the great Dragon War are in town: Nithbis and Aesir. Celebrations break out, and the mood is jovial. Driessa and Ava both find themselves at home in the spontaneous celebrations. Ava perfectly imitates a Bard, and the bard then harmonizes with her mimicry. The crowd loves the performance, and Ava quickly becomes a bit of a local celebrity. At first, she is overjoyed to have the attention, but her growing frustration at her inability to communicate back sees her withdrawn and a bit sullen.


Driessa takes to the social scene with grace, and becomes the life of the party. The atmosphere picks up yet again when another familiar face shows up: Ennis, riding atop her Golden Elk Caywin, escorted by an unknown Elven archer. Ennis disappears into Nithbis’ sanctuary.

While Ava and Driessa enjoy the celebrations, Vrice and Caecillius drink in The Horny Toad tavern. Vrice doesn’t trust the heroes- or rather doesn’t trust what they may become when tempted with power. Caecilius respects what they did, but feels no great love for them. Caecilius does find the opportunity to speak of his group’s exploits, and weaves such a compelling narrative, that he has the ear of all of the patrons. Word spreads of the group, and their deeds become known.

Later in the evening, Ennis made her way through the crowd to seek out Ava. She asked if she could speak with her privately, and when she did, she cast powerful spells to undo much of what was done to Ava.

Ava had memories of being a young elf child, and being stolen away. She had memories of a cruel wizard performing foul experiments on her and others, keeping them in cages. Suddenly, the memories became a tangible, shared vision, and even Ennis seemed surprised. In the memories, the two found themselves on a snowy mountain, and set into the stone were two huge brass doors, slightly open and a boiling darkness from within. A voice from within spoke:

“That creature is mine. She bound herself to me.” A shadow slinks out of the door and spreads across the ground.

Suddenly a voice from behind, and a man appears. He is dressed in shining plate, with a silver

“Behold, I, Kelemvor the Lord of Death and master of the Crystal Spire claim this woman. Release her of your foul gifts, neverborn.”

The shadow slinks back inside and whispers “I am the giver of gifts, ancient and terrible, and you young lord, will see this girl suffer.”

The door slams shut.

Kelemvor speaks to Ava “Ava, your soul is free, but you will be hunted. In the Amber Temple high atop Mount Ghakis a shadow resides. It is hungry, and now it’s will is bent towards your soul. It is not the only dark you will encounter soon; far from it. But you must free yourself by defeating it. You and your comrades; the ranger who found you, the displaced knight, the wayward celestial all face a terrible journey. Perhaps none of you shall survive- I cannot foresee. But I am with you, wield my spark, and bring light unto the dark. Stand now, and speak with your own voice.”

Ava and Ennis come out of the vision, and for the first time Ava speaks: “I am ava.”

Vrice witnessed her speaking, and realizing she suddenly has found her voice, he weeps. Caecillius and Driessa look on, somewhat confused, but understanding the joy. Ava repeats “I am ava!” over and over again.

Later in the evening, Beishar requests that the party investigate a camp just outside of town, per Nithbis’ direct orders. Vrice bristles at the request, and Beishar has none of it. Eventually, once the party has calmed down about Ava’s new voice, they decide to comply.

Around the fire, they find people dancing and whirling to strange music. They are dressed with loose fitting, earthy colored clothing decorated with bangles and other scrimshaw. They are greeted by a smiling old man, who motions for them to sit near the fire with him. He tells them he has no quarrel with them or the town, but asks if they would hear his tale. He introduces himself as Stanimir.

Stanimir fills his mouth with wine, then spits into the fire. The flames turn from orange to green. As they dance and sway, a dark shape appears in the bonfire’s core.


“We come from an ancient land whose name is long forgotten — a land of kings. Our enemies forced us from our homes, and now we wander the lost roads.”

The dark shape in the fire takes the form of a man being knocked from his horse, a spear piercing his side.

Stanimir continues. “One night, a wounded soldier staggered into our camp and collapsed. We nursed his terrible injury and quenched his thirst with wine. He survived. When we asked him who he was, he wouldn’t say. All he wanted was to return home, but we were deep in the land of his enemies. We took him as one of our own and followed him back toward his homeland. His enemies hunted him. They said he was a prince, yet we didn’t give him up, even when their assassins fell upon us like wolves.”

Deep in the bonfire, you see the dark figure standing with sword drawn, fighting off a host of shadowy shapes.

“This man of royal blood fought to protect us, as we protected him. We bore him safely to his home, and he thanked us. He said, ‘I owe you my life. Stay as long as you wish, leave when you choose, and know that you will always be safe here.’”

The figure in the dancing fire vanquishes its final foe, then disperses in a cloud of smoke and embers.

Stanimir’s face becomes a somber mask. “A curse has befallen our noble prince, turning him into a tyrant. We alone have the power to leave his domain. We’ve traveled far and wide to find heroes such as yourselves to end our dread lord’s curse and put his troubled soul to rest. Our leader, Madam Eva, knows all. Will you return to Barovia with us and speak with her?”

The party considers it for some time, and eventually agrees they’d be willing to help. The group continues to drink and dance and sing with the strange travelers, save Caecilius who remains vigilant throughout the night.

Suddenly Caecilius blinks once, then twice, and then before his very eyes the scene changes completely. The trees are different, and a thick mist blankets everything. Where once wagons, and a campfire, and tents were; now only husks of wagons and trampled grass. A muddy road snakes past. The rest of the party, once blissfully sleeping in wagons with companionship or sprawled on furs by the fire, now lay on the cold, wet ground.



The party are alarmed and confused, when a polished black carriage slowly emerges from the fog, pulled by two stout horses. The door on the side of the carriage unlatches as the ponies stop. Inside, a note with a wax seal.

Caecillius, Driessa, Vrice, and Ava,

Thank you for your company last night. We are warmed by your willingness to help; truly you are heroes! Heed my warning. Do not stray from the road. The horses will lead you to our camp at Tser Pool. Do not under any circumstances leave the carriage, no matter what you might see.

-Stanimir

Journal of Vrice Kilcannon
The next day the town celebrates the arrival of this sorcerer and this puts me in a dark mood. Ava seems to be enjoying the celebration and even joins in. I must admit part of me is happy that she is having a good time but a part of me is jealous of the attention she is getting. Gods...what is wrong with me. Can’t I just let her be happy without be so damn selfish...I just worry too much about her. And to make matters worse another one of these dragon slaying heroes strides into town on a fucking golden stag...who does that? How pretentious...typical elf.

Soon the Elf strides into the tavern and demands to speak to Ava. Ava agrees and I follow to make sure she is ok. I see them talking and the elf puts her hand on Ava’s head and they stare at each other for long moments until finally Ava looks up and says “I am Ava!!!” I fall to my knees and weep for her...maybe that elf is one of the good ones. I humbly thank her for whatever she did.

The mood is later spoiled as one of the Witch’s lapdogs demands that we go to the edge of town and look into some vagrants. What the fuck...we are not at her beck and call. The arrogance of these people. My dark mood returns. The manservant storms out pissed at my rebuttal. I inwardly smile at his annoyance. I find myself losing my temper so much these days. I wonder if this journey to find my father is wearing me down too much. Maybe I should abandon it...NO...I must free him or destroy him one way or another.

As we get to the vagabonds they appear to be gypsies, dancing, drinking and having a good time. They seem harmless. We are greeted by a charismatic man named Stanimir who tells us he is from a far away land but I barely listen as I drink and I am entranced by a raven haired beauty named Alanna. I barely remember the night but I do remember bedding Alanna...I feel great as I wake except I look around and the wagon I slept in is burned out and overgrown with vegetation. I get up up and look around and I have no fucking idea where I am. We are all there and they are all just as confused as I am. There is note from Stanimir to take a horse led carriage and not to stray from the carriage. We are all confused but decide to take the carriage which leads up through an ancient and dreary land as the carriage makes its way through huge gates and into a deep forest passing strange sites and small villages until we stop along a raging river and what looks like another gypsy camp.

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