We now continue with our chronicles of the adventurers in the Expedition to Castle Ravenloft mega-module...
Again, our party of intrepid adventurers consists of:
Camillus, gladiator/warrior of Aegeia, worshipper of Athena and favored of Gold Saint Leo.
Clark Stievesen, Priest of Terian
Serena, barbarian-turned-Paladin of Thor and on a mission for the All-Father Himself.
Zekros, 15-year-old prodigy sorceror
Poplock Duckweed, Intelligent Toad acquisitions and access expert (i.e., rogue).
Ashlyn of the Lightbringers, an anti-undead sect of the worshippers of Myrionar (god of Justice and Vengeance).
Having just completed their battle to keep the center of the town safe and introduced each other, the party and Ashlyn entered one of the remaining functional establishments, the Blood of the Vine tavern. The tavern was extremely crowded with refugees from other parts of town, and the innkeeper was permitting them to stay for the duration. This of course effectively meant that either he had to be running a tab on all of them, or was putting them up at a great loss. After some inquiries, Camillus managed to determine the extent of the total tab current for the townsfolk and paid it, with extra to cover the next few days. This, as one might expect, earned him considerable goodwill.
After a short dinner, they went to talk with the Burgomaster's son, Ismark. It didn't take long to discover that the note they had received apparently did not come from the Burgomaster; it was a forgery, but for what purpose no one had any clue. The discovery that the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind was apparently not only near, but in the hands of his sister, Ireena, was what drew the attention of the party more than anything. Ireena was currently barricaded in the Burgomaster's mansion, keeping vigil over their father's body (the Burgomaster having died just shortly before the zombie incursion began).
There was some spirited debate about what to do next; all were concerned about a single young woman (even inside a strong house) alone in the zombie-infested town. After some considerable discussion, the party put it to the vote and, in a heavily conflicted decision, agreed to investigate the church first and then travel to the Mansion afterwards. While a number of people indicated that the wise woman Madame Eva might have answers, the camp at which her people lived was quite some distance from town through (to the party) unknown territory, so only Zekros seriously argued following that route first, and even he conceded that it would be best to deal with the immediate problem if they could.
Despite Ashlyn's concerned eagerness to investigate the church and what had happened to her two companions, she agreed that it was best for all concerned to rest up first. The inn being overcrowded, the party selected one of the vacant buildings around the square, barricaded all passages which might lead beyond the main barricade outside, and rested.
Nothing bothered them through the night, despite occasional disquieting sounds, and the group set off quite refreshed. Barovia was not about to allow that to continue unchallenged, however, and at the next street intersection more monstrous creatures ambushed them. This battle was not as long-fought as the one for the village center, but this time new monsters appeared, creatures exuding a noisome stench that sickened any near them. It took some time for the illness, which had affected most of the party, to pass.
The party then approached the church, whose doors were closed. Listening at the doors, Zekros and Poplock heard some sort of muttered praying, not exactly... normal sounding. To some surprise of the party, Zekros recommended caution, finding some other way in. Camillus, not in the mood for subtlety, voted for the direct approach, and the party decided to go with that method.
They shattered the doors and stepped forward, over the threshold.
But either it was a well-laid, trap, or the worst of luck was with them. Doors flew open down the dingy hallway leading to the main hall, and skeletal figures with glowing eyes emerged, casting spells even as they did so. Shockwaves of blazing sound battered the party, stunning Ashlyn, Camillus, and Poplock (the front rank). At that moment, a crazed-looking old man popped up from behind the altar, shrieking "You won't take my son from me!" and then invoking something from a tattered parchment.
Black-glowing energy shattered the air around the party, cold and life-destroying. Camillus' eyes glazed over and he collapsed, while the other two in the front rank nearly fell.
Enraged, Serena bulled forward, past the fallen or stunned, and with two swift strokes felled the first rank of skeletal attackers. Zekros' fireball streaked past her shoulder and detonated in the entryway to the main hall, destroying the back rank and, judging from other sounds, other creatures waiting in ambush. The crazed old man seemed to suffer a bit of a shock at the sudden retaliation and leaped down a hole, out of sight.
But Camillus lay still, unmoving, unbreathing.
To interject here, it is my general policy -- our game contract, in fact -- to not permit PC deaths unless the player thinks "it's time", or if the player does something INCREDIBLY stupid and out of character. On the other hand, I am attempting to play this one mostly by the rules, and the module is VERY specific about the tactics of the opposition in this situation. And Camillus FUMBLED his save.
"I have not the strength for this..." Clark Stievesen admitted grimly. He glanced up at the others, and a tiny fragment of hope came into his eyes. "But... three of us, myself, Serena, and Ashlyn, for three gods, could unify our prayers in a single ritual. That would be stronger, and -- just maybe -- would convince Terian to grant us this one miracle."
As the three representatives of the gods prepared themselves, Zekros furiously carved out a ritual circle, following his own knowledge of ritual and the directives of the others. Then the three took their places, with the body of the fallen Camillus in the center, and prayed.
Camillus heard screaming, and fell through a bloody darkness. And then, looming before him, a bleak cavern entrance, and a monstrous three-headed hound grinning and licking its chops, behind it a grim and pitiless gray-faced figure. But before he passed the verge of the cavern, a blaze of golden light came from behind him. "And for shame, warrior! Would you leave the world with my task to you undone?!" demanded the voice of Gold Saint Leo. A gold-armored hand grasped his shoulder. "Back with you, and let us not have this happen again!"
The gray face lifted, a moment of anger flickering, but being stilled, for as Camillus turned he saw, behind the Saint, three shimmering figures: the spear-bearing warrior goddess Athena, the hammer-wielding Thor, and between and behind them, towering over all, a black-garbed figure whose head was a blaze of light and whose cloak was clasped with a golden sidewise eight: Terian.
He opened his eyes, and saw the others looking down. "Camillus?"
Ashlyn, surprisingly, was the first to reach him.
A rare event...