Face to face with a looming townhouse, with not another soul around except for two lonely and frightened children, our heroes had little choice. Though they were cold, wet, and injured from their journey through the woods, they could not ignore the pleas for help from the children - Rose and Thorn. They'd heard the sound of monsters in the basement, and their baby brother was still in his room in the attic... The party couldn't turn away.
Asimi scaled the front of the building, attempting to get to the top landing - in and out - with the baby. However, when she made it to the second story, a raven flew onto the perch she was hanging from. At first it cawed and danced back and forth, but when Asimi tried to shoo it away, it nipped at her ear. Arkaeous sensed magic emanating from the house and the bird, and shot at it with his Eldritch Blast, but the bird evaded and flew away. Seconds later, a great wind and a grim presence, spread over the area and threatened to tear Asimi away from the building and dash her against the ground. She managed to pry open the window shutter and slip inside to relative safety.
|(Image from Wizards.)|
Arkaeous also noticed that the two children were in fact illusions, and secretly gave this information to Rowena and Mizhena. Informed, yet playing along, they entered the house and instructed the children to wait outside. When they turned back around, the child-illusions were gone.
Inside the house, they discovered that all the rooms were dark. Everything seemed in good repair, but abandoned. Quickly, they began to ascend the central staircase to reconnect with Asimi, but on the way Mizhena inspected some of the wall hangings and moulded plaster scenes decorating the walls. Each one at first seemed beautiful - depicting scenes of youths dancing among orchards, or animals frolicking in the forest - but the longer Mizhena looked, the more darkly twisted they became. The youths weren't dancing, but fending off bats as they bit at their hands and faces. The animals weren't frolicking, but running from hungry wolves. Further, the more she looked at these scenes, the more she became convinced she heard them
- the fluttering of bats wings, and the howling of wolves.
|(Image from missquitecontrary.)|
Eventually, the party reconnected with Asimi who had found herself in an old yet elegant ballroom with an ornate harpsichord in one corner. She had been inspecting the harpsichord and had discovered that several of the keys were rigged up to trip lines throughout the construct. She didn't know what the mechanisms did, but made a mental note and they continued upwards.
The party reached the third floor, where they discovered that the well-kept nature of the lower two floors did not reach the third. Thick dust, as if from centuries of disuse, covered everything. The floor was rotten and spongy below their boots, and the walls were faded and damaged from mould. Furthermore, they were confronted by a black suit of armour fashioned with a wolf's head helmet. Asimi moved to investigate, and the armour animated and began to attack. The fight was short but brutal, ending in an incredibly frustrated Rowena striking the helmet from the gorget, and destroying it entirely. Asimi recovered some valuable-looking armour shards and they pressed on.
|(Image from enjin.)|
The party found a large portrait of the Durst family - the owners of the house - showing the two children they had met, standing in front of a stern looking couple who were obviously their parents. The father held in his arms a small bundle which was obviously a baby - the children's baby brother. The mother, however, looked at the baby with obvious scorn on her face.
Mizhena continued to investigate the wall mouldings, and discovered a scene of writhing snakes. As she stared at it, she began to hear hissing and, pressing her hand into the wall discovered that it was a secret door that slid back to reveal a staircase into the attic. Without wasting time, the party journeyed upwards.
Upstairs in the attic, the wear and tear on the house was even worse. Cobwebs covered every surface, and the air around them was heavy with dust, spores, and the stench of ancient death. The party discovered a door held closed with a padlock that had rusted and fused into a brittle clump. With little effort, Mizhena was able to push into the room.
|(Image from Andre Govia.)|
On the other side, the party discovered a cell, with a barred window in the back, two small beds, a chest of toys, and a to-scale dollhouse of the house they were in. In the middle of the room, they also found the small skeletons of two children, as well as the shreds of clothes they recognised - these were the bodies of Rose and Thorn.
The party began to investigate the room when Arkaeous reached for the toy chest. A ghostly hand reached out to stop him, and the party were startled by the apparitions of Rose and Thorn. Arkaeous examined the ghosts and found them to be entirely different from the illusions - these were real, yet good-natured, undead.
The ghosts talked to the party, and told them that they had been locked in here by their parents, and had starved to death. Their parents spent a lot of time in the basement of their house, and must have forgotten about them. They also talked about their baby brother, who they revealed was stillborn. Further, as they talked, the party realised that the baby wasn't in fact their full brother, but their half-brother - a bastard child of their father and the house keeper...
|(Image from Wizards.)|
The party wanted to put Rose and Thorn to rest, but Mizhena declared that it would be impossible without putting them in their correct tombs. Rose told them that they had a crypt in the basement built for their family, and pointed to the dollhouse which showed the layout of all the rooms, including many from the basement. Rose instructed the PCs on how to access the basement - a code to be played on the harpsichord downstairs that would unlock a secret stairwell in the attic. The PCs decided to take the bodies with them to be interred.
When they tried to leave, however, Rose and Thorn became scared. They didn't want to be left alone again, and pleaded with the party to let them come with them
. This, naturally, meant they needed to possess two of the party members. Feeling compassion for the children, Arkaeous and Rowena agreed to have Thorn and Rose possess them respectively. Whilst the two of them retained their own minds, they began to become agitated - Arkaeous became frightful, and Rowena became bossy (even more so than usual).
The PCs travelled back to the ballroom and played the notes. As each note chimed, apparitions were summoned into the room. First of twirling aristocrats, dancing to the tune. Second of a caped and regal figure, standing in the doorway to the room, looking in balefully. Third of a massacre, of the caped man moving blindingly fast throughout the room tearing throats and bowels from the revellers.
|(Image from Halloween on Earth.)|
After the third note, a loud clunking sound could be heard above as the secret door was opened. The party, terrified of what they'd seen, travelled upwards, entered the musty and cramped secret stair, and began their descent into the basement of the haunted townhouse... But not before Rowena caught a glance of her reflection in a strange mirror, seeing her face withered and aged beyond recognition. The vision lasted for a blink of an eye, but left her shaken. A portent of what was to come? Only the land of Barovia could know for certain...
The party made it to the bottom of the stairwell, and found themselves in a rough-hewn, clay-cut warren. They followed the sketched floor plan they had created by copying the dollhouse, and discovered the family's crypt. Inside, they laid down the bones of the children, and Mizhena gave them their final rites. A hush fell over the party, and the spirits of Rose and Thorn left Rowena and Arkaeous. The children were at rest, but the monster - the thing in the basement - and the constant chanting they could hear remained...
|(Image from megalithic.)|
The party continued to explore the warren, and discovered several sleeping chambers for far more than just a family. These chambers included the possessions of what seemed to be cultists, not servants, and spoke of potential blasphemous rites that the Durst family had been undertaking. Eventually, they found several locked boxes which Asimi threw open with the flick of her thieves tools. Within they discovered several objects of a fell disposition, as well as a silvered short sword and a sack of silver pieces.
Continuing on, the party came to a ritual room, dominated by a wooden statue of a man with pale skin and striking angular features - the same man they saw in the vision who butchered the revellers in the ballroom. With one hand, the statue held the collar of a wolf. In the other, he held a misty-coloured orb. Around the room were pillars upon which hung chains from which dangled the broken remains of a score of sacrifice victims.
|(Image from Tribality.)|
Arkaeous inspected the orb, but in his curious haste, fumbled it and it shattered on the hardened clay floor. Instantly, living shadows melted from the walls and began to attack. The shadows proved immune to the weapons of the party, save for the silvered short sword. Asimi tried to figure out a solution to their problem, as they were quickly being driven back, when Mizhena fell to the ground clutching her wounds. All seemed dire, when Rowena lay her hands on Mizhena, and then put two and two together: the silvered short sword repelled the Shadows, so she instructed Asimi to scatter the silver coins along the floors to create a wall. This delayed the Shadows long enough that with the aid of fire and spells, they were able to defeat them or drive them from the room.
The party, nearly broken and exhausted, slumped to the floor. They would set camp in this room, defend the doorways, and rest for a few hours before they pressed on into the Death House.