Curse of Strahd

Into the Mists
Starting out

It all started with a party. Ryko was holding court at the Laughing Dragon.

As the evening wore on, Dorn stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. Instead of the brisk, refreshingly clear night he expected, he found himself surrounded by a dense fog that blocked all vision beyond a few feet away and almost seemed to stick to his flesh. He went back inside to get Fox to inspect it. He was engaged in a spirited discussion with Ryko, with Karina and Ryota standing nearby in their own conversation.

When the five stepped into the night, the silence that greeted them was almost complete. The noise from inside was quieted even before the door finished closing. The fog even hid all trace of the glow from the lamp across the street. They stepped into the road, their footfalls muted, so see at what point the light would become visible. They had crossed almost all the way to where the lantern should hang before realizing that they were moving across damp earth, rather than the flagstones that made up the city street. Turning back, they sought out the tavern, to no avail. Even Karina had lost all sense of direction and was unable to find the tracks they had just left. 

Eventually, the fog cleared enough the cold glow of the moon visible, even if the orb itself was not. The Blades could see, now, that they were standing on a road running through a heavy, dark forest. Inspecting their surroundings, they discovered flowers that none of them recognized — not even Karina, who had ranged further than the others.

Without any other real option, they began to walk along the road. After a mile or so, they came to a great wall set with an ancient, damaged gate. Passing through this gate felt significant in a way the five could not quite articulate, but shortly after passing through, they found evidence of wolves attacking a man on the road and dragging him away, except that the wolf prints were huge — many times the size of any wolf they'd ever seen. As they discussed their options, they heard a wolf howl in the distance and decided they need to find shelter, soon.

The woods stretched on for another mile, or so, breaking into poorly maintained farmland, with almost as many weeds as choked, irregular crops. Yet another mile, and they came to a town. Much like the farmland, the town was poorly maintained and looked as though the live had been bled from it. As they approached town, they could faintly hear a woman's wailing and sobbing in the distance. They entered the town, with Ryota hoping to at least find an inn where they could assess the situation.

They passed a series of sad, battered houses, uncertain about which were in use, until they came upon two forlorn children standing outside what must have once been a fine mansion. When asked, the children said they were outside because of the monster inside and asked if the travelers would save their baby brother, in the attic. There was little discussion about whether to save the baby. As the five approached the front door, they could feel the fog tightening around them, again, in an almost sentient embrace.

Climbing the stairs in the main hall, the group found that the first two floors were in pristine condition; well-lit and clean. Upon reaching the third floor, however, it was found to be filled with dust and cobwebs, with no sign of any use in years, if not decades. At this point, Ryko expressed concern that things were very much not as they seemed and the group started debating whether to continue to investigate the attic or to step back and be more cautious.

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Background and History
Notes from Session 0

Our story starts in the city of Tengou, a city largely dominated by merchant houses seeking to secure their routes. While not the largest, House Bronzeflame is one of the more respected of these houses, due to the honor it has traditionally displayed.

Like most merchant houses, Bronzeflame maintains a standing body of guards, both traditional and elite. Also, like most houses, it has occasional needs that are not appropriately addressed by the skills and availability of these guards, which it supplements with temporary agents, usually drawn from the ranks of skilled mercenaries in the area. Those who prove trustworthy, loyal, and competent may find themselves with regular employment. Some even become closely enough associated with the House that it becomes difficult to tell where the interests of the House end and those of its retainers end. While this group is officially recognized by House Bronzeflame, it is informally organized and individuals are rarely publicly acknowledged. Indeed, most members are not even informed, privately, that they are considered to be part of this trusted circle. It is simply apparent to those who pay attention. 

This paramilitary group is traditionally known as the Pearl Blades and the current leader is the eldest scion of House Bronzeflame, Ryota Bronzeflame, who displays all the honorable and duty-bound nature one would expect from such a position of authority. In recent years, however, people of taken to calling it the Pearl Court because Ryota's brother, Ryko, a dynamic individual and potent sorcerer, has been called on by his sister to help out with some functions that require his abilities. Ryko's love of life prompted many more… social… gatherings at the Laughing Dragon. Even though those included could not all be part of the Pearl Blades, the appellation stuck and Ryko is occasionally referred to as the Minister of the Pearl Court, much to Ryota's consternation.

During a solo outing that she thought would be relatively safe, Ryota was ambushed by a pack of goblins. Fortunately for her, Karina, a young tracker, had been following the goblins. Before anyone else could react, Karina had fired arrows into the two goblins closest to Ryota, killing them and scaring off the rest. Karina then helped Ryota to finish her task and returned to Tengou with her. When she was younger, Karina's clan had come from the northern steppes on business unknown to her, but she became separated from them and left behind. Being a foreigner, she was not readily accepted by the locals and she learned to fend for herself and live off the land, rather than turn to less savory trades. Despite her youth, Karina quickly won Ryota's trust and has become one of her preferred agents.

Dorn was the eldest son of a renowned weapon and armor smith in a distant city, but Dorn saw too many men who relied on these possessions in lieu of skill go to their deaths. He resolved to learn a better way and eventually found a master who taught him skill without relying on outside instruments. When his training came to the point where empty forms no longer suffice and he set out to test his mettle. He wandered, taking what work he could until he found a job being offered by a woman who carried one of the last great blades he had worked on with his father, when his father's craft was at its height. This woman, Ryota, appears to be honorable and possess a keen mind, but it remains to be seen whether she trusts the blade or hones her own skill. So far, she has found regular and interesting work for Dorn and the two have started to develop a mutual respect.

In preparation for a particularly difficult, deep trek into the wilderness, Karina made contact with Fox, a reclusive man of the wilds, to enlist his aid. Fox found the companions of that day to be more tolerable — and tolerant — than expected. He began to visit Tengou with ever increasing frequency to get news on happenings beyond his "territory" that may impact him. He also found it wise to have allies on which he could call. Truth be told, both Dorn and, especially, Ryko are willing to engage in pleasant metaphysical conversations after a couple glasses of wine.

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