Episode: Occupy Barovia

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Episode: Occupy Barovia
Maggot tree.jpg
Episode: Occupy Barovia
In-Game Dates Discord, 636 HR; Sovereign, 635 HR
OOG Dates April 2012
PCs Atticus, Darius, Descartes, Gaibe,

Greylord, Otto, Jason, Raine, Pheodora

Previous Episode Episode: Heart in Darkness
Following Episode Episode: A Better Chess Partner
Pre-game Planning Pre-Game Events: Spring Games 2012

Don't worry, this is what will have had happened.

-Darius

Following their arrival at the Tower, the Azrai decide to execute Operation: Occupy Barovia, an inspired plan to disrupt the Lawshredder Ritual at its theorized weakest point.

Contents

Paths are Plotted

The Azrai all plan to use the Tower to travel to Barovia around Sovereign 635 HR, just prior to Pheodora's attempted removal of Aram from the Godstone of Degredation (see Operation: Occupy Barovia for details). However, the group has several other tasks they wish to accomplish as well.

Sigil -17th Mortis, 636 HR

Phe Missing

Most of the Azrai arrive at a pre-designated Zactar safe house that Descartes knows is empty at this time. Upon arrival, they notice Pheodora is not with them. Gaibe reports that on their "jump" leading to the safe house, he joined Phe in traveling to the Mortuary. Phe apparently first collected several necessary possessions for the ritual. She then met with Cyric and used his laboratories to re-infuse herself (Malazar) with both the remaining essence of her prior body (that was in the possession of Cyric) and the memories from the Memento Stone. During this transfer, the Barovian mists manifested and things went awry. Once the mists dispersed, both of Phe’s bodies were gone and the Memento Stone was cracked.

Azrai Contact Ren

The Azrai send Ren the sending requesting his meeting. After confirming the authorization codes, he responds and says he would be there right away. Upon arriving, Jason makes the pitch to get some of Zactar’s blood. While at first hesitant, once it was revealed that its intended use was as a weapon against the GATEOAT, he was very agreeable. He said he would return with the requested amount as soon as possible.

Journey to the Festhall

The Azrai rent a carriage to the Civic Festhall and send Erin Montgomery a message requesting a meeting with her. As the Azrai travel across the city to the meeting, they are struck with a subtle feeling of anxiety and unease, as if out of place...or time. Once at the Festhall, the pleasantries wear on for some time while the Azrai await her audience. Once she joins the group, conversation is light until the Azrai breach the subject of access to the Sensory Vaults. Erin seems put off by the request while Raine detects that she is concerned with the Silent Servants (guardians of the vaults) becoming further compromised.

The Azrai eventually manage to convince her that the course of the Lawshredder murders, and possibly her life, depends on information contained within some of the stones inside the vaults. Erin then reveals that the vaults were recently infiltrated. After making arrangements for an Azrai escort within the vaults, she goes to retrieve the golem infiltrator for the Azrai to question.

Within the Vaults

During a previous "jump", Atticus ran several HUB Queries that revealed the sensory stones the Azrai were interested in were only filled with Trolan's memories mere seconds before he destroyed the vault stones. The Azrai concluded this was an attempt to remove sensitive memories just before his demise. (Silvanus Andrellus even admitted to destroying the "crystals" to "protect the identity and location of my acolyte" - See questions to Siilvanus).

With none of Trolan's memories to preserve or view present during this time, Sensate security leads what the Azrai initially mistake as Kavi into the vaults as a prisoner and the accused infiltrator. While not Kavi, the Azrai realize this creature is a Sinestral, the same prototype as Kavi. Erin admits all of her attempts to extract information from the creature, both physical and mental, have so far proven fruitless. Upon hearing this, Raine pulls out a scroll and casts a spell granting her a vision of the creatures’ course of action. It reveals that the Sinestral was sent here by Mr. Dory to examine the specific stones that the Azrai came here to find, then to observe the actions of the Azrai upon their arrival later (now).

At the request of various Azrai, Atticus "disassembles" the Sinestral finding a two-way transmitter. This sparks an in depth discussion about what Mr. Dory may have already found out. The Azrai also begin to discuss whether they can somehow access the memories that Trolan imbued into the sensory stones during the mere moments before they were destroyed.

They determine it may be possible to tap into the location in the ethereal that the stones link to when recording and replaying the memories based on those stones unique signatures. Atticus believes it is possible to access such locations remotely with the right equipment, but that such devices were not yet developed. After additional discussion, they determine it might be possible to re-imagine the pool of thoughts in the Archives of Arendur to make such a remote connection and survey the available ethereal signatures until the correct signals are found and then remotely connect and copy the information before the destruction of the stones.

Despite the intricacy of such an attempt, Atticus believes he managed to make the necessary adjustments to the Clockwork Fortress. Shortly thereafter the Azrai all begin to experience a spike in their collective anxiety and most agree that they can sense the Tower/portal opening to Barovia.

Return to the Safehouse

The Azrai briefly return to the established safehouse. Ren returns with blood he extracted from Zactar and despite some brief conversation, he asks that he not know anymore details. The portal to Barovia opens and the Azrai step through.

Barovia - Sovereign, 635 HR

Arrival

The Azrai arrive in Barovia at the same place as in their first visit, albeit this time, the ground is soaked as opposed to wet. They hurry off the road in time to hear the approach of horses. A party similar to that which appeared the last time approaches. The group recognizes Filliped the Bold, Lt. Vilko Van Ryce and Captain Danovich among a number of armed, dark-haired men on horse back. In this case, however, their leader is not Captain Danovich, but a Baron Venden Van Ryce. While at first dismissive of the "rabble" that ran off the road, Baron Van Ryce engages Gaibe in conversation after recognizing his symbol and introduces himself as the Burgonmeister.

Orientation

During an initially heated exchange, "Manceal" (Gaibe) confirms that he is part of the security detail from the outer Baronies sent by Strahd and actually manages to put Van Ryce in his place. On the way towards his manor, Van Ryce begins an initial debrief and reports that he and his men have recently captured the Skinsaw Man and that they have been dealing with the plague of the Vistani Witch. Van Ryce inquires about Manceal Savosk’s orders and formal arrangements are made for accommodations during the Azrai's stay.

During this trip, many of the landmarks seem familiar, but the Azrai can see odd differences, as if seeing an echo of their manifestations during their previous visit. For example, the Burgonmeister’s house is in a similar location, with some similar architectural consistencies, but is in much better condition. Moreover, the manor is now on a river instead of a cliff, there is no well, and the entire structure has a large, beautiful glass dome on top. As Greylord approaches the manor, the Sanguine Axis begins to vibrate and he can tell with little doubt that the manor is associated with the Godstone of False Crusades.

Meeting with the Burgonmeister

Village Map

The Azrai get settled in the manor and then are joined by Vilko and the Burgonmeister. He lays out a map of Barovia which is mostly the same as the Azrai remember. The primary exceptions are that the sanctuary is not around and in its place is a large prison complex.

Venden shares that he has not been in Barovia long and that he came only to take over for the previous Burgonmeister. When asked, he said his son, Vilko, was the previous Burgonmeister; to which both seem put off (Vilko out of shame and spite, Venden out of disdain and impatience). At this point, Darius notices black spots on Vilko’s neck, a known symptom of the plague.

When asked, Venden cannot recall when the plague began. Oddly, he attempts to cover this lack of knowledge by relating its beginning to the arrival of the Vistani Witch and Father Charlatan. He then proceeds to sing the praises of his accomplishments in capturing Father Charlatan and the Skinsaw Man. The Azrai further question the Burgonmeister about the Skinsaw Man’s capture. Venden claims they had tracked the Vistani Witch to her hovel outside of Barovia and that both the Witch and the Skinsaw Man were there. The Witch escaped, but they managed to capture the Skinsaw Man. After relaying all of this information, Otto "suggests" Venden and the Azrai work together. Venden agrees.

Manceal reveals that part of their "royal" imperative is to track down the witch and end the plague. As such, he tells Venden that the Azrai will need to examine the scene (i.e. Witch's Hut) and interview the Skinsaw Man to help track down the Witch. At this, Vilko mysteriously and abruptly excuses himself from the meeting.

Descartes tells Atticus to watch for Vilko exiting the manor and to subsequently track him. After some time without seeing him, Manceal then requests his servant Descartes go "find his sweater" allowing Descartes to attempt to find how Vilko disappeared. Although Descartes is unable to specifically find Vilko, he does discover a heavily warded passwall presumably leading to tunnels underneath the manor.

The Azrai take their leave claiming to investigate the Vistani Witch’s hut to hunt her down, when in reality they are hoping to find both Pheodora (who is still missing) and temporarily borrow the Protean Map.

Through the Town to the Witch's Hut

The roads follow a familiar path and lead to a town that is mostly recognizable, complete with familiar buildings marked with red X’s on the doors. One significant difference the Azrai notice is the towering, twisted tree in the town square. A 250 ft tall, 100 ft wide, black, warped tree writhes in the square, featuring dozens of dark haired women and religious figures hanging from its branches, many of whom exhibit signs of mist sickness and one of whom is Pheodora. Again, the sanguine axis alerts Greylord to the presence of a Godstone and he becomes aware that the tree (or its vicinity) is representative of the Godstone of Degradation.

Gaibe learned from a local that the tree is called the Maggot Tree of Hangman’s Square and Jason and Descartes notice a potential correlation between this tree and an ash tree, such as Yggadrasil.

Descartes then casts a find the path to locate the Witch’s hut and the Azrai continue on their way. Darius hangs back with Atticus, the former watch for anyone following while the latter covers the Azrai’s tracks. In doing so, Atticus found sets of additional horse and boot tracks most notably, the boot tracks of Vior.

The spell leads to a grass hut on a raised hill cleared of the cornfield with totems on stakes surrounding the hut. As the property comes into view, the body of a horse can be seen, blood still damp on the earth underneath it (within 48 hours by Gaibe’s estimate). Darius moves to investigate the scene as it develops. A number of soldiers’ bodies litter the vicinity of the hut along with a couple more horses.

Darius is able to determine that the subject (Vior) came out of the hut fighting, took one soldier hostage, began peeling his face back as he backed toward the cornfield, killed another that approached, and just as he was reaching the edge of the field, he collapsed. Inside the hut, another soldier lies dead on the ground and in the center of the hut was the robed body of a dark haired woman. The Azrai confirm that it is the body of Malazar and realize that she is not only alive, but unharmed; albeit unconscious. In attempts to awaken her, the Azrai discover a note (insert note on Wiki here...).

Lazy Descates summons an unseen servant to dig under where Malazar was, and therein, the servant finds a box containing the Protean Map.

Malazar wakes up and the Azrai decide to attempt to make contact with the Vistani Witch at the Vistani Camp to set up a crusade to distract Vanden and crew from the town when the ritual takes place at the town square. Atticus picks up on the set of tracks that left the hut and made it away into the fields and begin to follow them, assuming they were those of the Witch. While on the trail, he picks up on a second set of tracks following the ones leading the Azrai.

Vistani Camp

As the Azrai approach, tent like structures come into view and morose music can be heard in the distance. Before getting too close, the secondary set of tracks stops and retreats back into the woods. The following set of tracks went back around and seemed to return in the direction of town. The Azrai continue on toward the camp. At the bend in the river just before the camp, the music stops as if the Vistani knew visitors were about to arrive.

As they approach, figures could be seen moving to spread out on all sides of the camp. Upon entering the camp the figures surround the Azrai pointing crossbows and rudimentary rifles. The gypsies of the camps bid the Azrai leave. The protean map showed the witch in the far tent and the Azrai disregarded the warnings and proceeded toward the tent. At that point, a Katarine (Noxana) left the tent instructing the gypsies to lower their weapons since the visitors were the ones Lady Elena spoke of.

She lead the Azrai into the tent which featured Lady Elena/the Vistani Witch/Derioch sitting at a table at the far end and a body covered with a blanket soaked in blood amidst surgical tools in a near corner.

The Azrai join Elena at the table which holds nothing more than a deck of tarot cards with the symbol of the black rose on the backs of the cards. Otto proceeds to warn her that a contingent from the town may be coming. She then told the Azrai that the Alchemist had been the one that told her of our coming. Along with the details of our arrival, he brokered a deal with them. In exchange for Emile, he said he would make arrangements so that the Burgonmeister would never trouble them again as long as they stayed within the confines of their camp. This decision was not one that all within the camp agreed with and this was visible in Katarine’s reaction. Elena then requested she leave the conversation and prepare drinks.

Elena admitted that she had left the camp to return to her hut and it was at that time that she was ambushed, not by Vanden or the town, but by Vior, likely in reaction to his mother having been delivered to the Alchemist.

Malazar then asked about the body in the tent. Elena said it was one of their own who had been attacked by the “biter”, or “mumbles”. She said they those who are bitten become infected with the plague and come back from the dead. They were unable to save her, and those they are unable to save, they must burn.

Gaibe then asked about the man living near the waterfall. She confirmed she knew of Dr. Mortenheim and said he was the only one that still resisted HIM. She said she had not met the Dr. and that Father Charlatan was the only one who had before he was captured.

Before departing, Malazar casts SWD on the body of the girl (Kaylee Harvin). With that, Katarine says that none leave the camp without receiving a reading from Lady Elena.

The Sailor - On a journey filled with danger The Tower - (Hisses) This card is the centerpiece of the journey. It represents ruin and destruction. The Magician - Represents someone masked. Perhaps with us on the journey or waiting for us or following us. The Lady of Shadows - She has two faces and stands at the center of all of this. Likely the magician searches for her or she searches for the magician. The Hangman - One of us must make a sacrifice for the journey to be successful.

The reading is ominous. It has ruin at its center and death is at its end.

Dr. Mordenheim

The Azrai decide to seek out Dr. Mortenheim and request a guide to the waterfall. Elena says they would retrieve one of their scouts and offers some of their elixir to help navigate the mists, protecting the party from the Lord of the Castle. Just then, a few scouts return and announce that a rather large contingent was headed for Barovia lead by a mechanical man with the symbol of the Barovian number six. Katerine suggests this is part of the Central Purge that Father Charlatan spoke of (which Baron Vendan assumed the Azrai were part of).

The scout leads the Azrai up the mountain. Along the way they can make out train 88 in a station below. They arrive at the bridge over the waterfall and the guide says this is where he stops. They can see a castle across the waterfall and an out of place, overflowing dam beyond as well. Those with arcane sight detect swirling energy culminating around the castle itself...

...The Azrai knock. A bloody flesh golem answers and beckons the Azrai to enter. The castle is bare, no noticeable furniture or decorations are featured within. The creature leads the Azrai to a tall winding staircase that ascends one of the towers of the castle.

They climb the stairs to find a man in a mechanical wheel chair who peers through a telescope surveying the valley below.

Gthumb can put mems back into Phe to restore the mems. Problem is some are from events that have not yet happened and should not yet be received. A device could be built to deliver the memories at specific times (memory). He can fix memento and put the memories in it, or put them in Memory. He will put them in memory. Elena was supposed to die, but things have been changed due to our arrival. The Central Purge is led by breach construct #6 which was sent here to deal with the anomalies (the Azrai). The Azrai plan to leave Memory with Gthumb to work on the memories while they plan to roll the prison, break out Vior, return with him to Gthumbs castle, and prep the ritual at the castle to open a gate to the square at the culmination of the ritual.

Prison Break

The Azrai buff in preparation, then teleport invisible to the torn down walls of the prison. They make their way in and down the lift shaft to the lower level of the prison. After following a party heading toward Vior, they find a woman and a couple plague doctors presenting a writ of transfer. The two guards lift the portcullis and the woman steps forward, preparing a syringe filled with what those with arcane sight believed to be deep crimsonweed.

Gaibe springs into action, disarming the woman and Darius grabs the syringe with telekinesis. Greylord props the portcullis open with an immovable rod. Due to the preparation of the Azrai, the woman and one of the guards were quickly taken down and the others promptly surrendered. They briefly spoke with the guards, learning that there were no additional precautions for the prisoners recently. They obtain the writ from the woman and it is from the Alchemist seeking transfer of the prisoner to their custody. The writ also featured a religious symbol that Otto recognizes as that of the followers of the Urgotha. Greylord then identifies the temple on the protean map as a temple to Urgotha.

Raine takes the writ to the West wing and convinces the guard, who happens to be Ibor (Donner), that the writ is for Father Charlatan. He releases Charlatan to her care without much question. Charlatan immediately recognizes Malazar and focusses on her intently.

At about that time, an audible alarm is raised and a sole prisoner in the south wing begins pleading for his release, claiming it was beginning, in a state of obvious distress. The Azrai recognize it to be Daniel (Bali) and move quickly to free him as well. While chaos seems to be beginning in the prison, surprisingly, it does not seem to be in reaction to anything the Azrai have done. In fact, the Azrai manage to return to the surface and teleport without incident.

Jason peered through the telescope to check out the prison from the topside and reported scenes of the prison half on fire and guards and plague doctors trying to respond to the escape of the caravan of incoming prisoners.

Things begin to settle down back at Grundlethumb’s castle. As Malazar begins to speak with Charlatan and Grundlethumb about her body hanging from the tree in the town square and its persona (or lack thereof), Daniel speaks. “I’ve seen all of this happen before. The whole town will burn and the Dragon crumbles. The city will drown in ash.”

Attack on Vilko

The Azrai decide to take further advantage of their heightened combat abilities and attempt to disrupt the murder chain by striking Vilko. Gaibe and Malazar teleport to the dome, where Vendan was located. The rest of the Azrai travel to the second level where Vilko was, intent on killing him and disrupting his ability to kill Vendan.

Fortune helped them to take down Vilko and Filliped, but before they were able to celebrate their victory, Vendan’s body came crashing through the ceiling. The Azrai head to the dome just in time to see the Breach Construct “breaching” the ethereal and taking his leave.

Back to Mordenheim's Castle

The majority of the Azrai return to Dr. Mordenheim’s castle, but Gaibe and Greylord head back to town to retrieve Phe’s body. They check the Protean map zoomed in, to get a better idea of where Mr Dory is in the square. They are surprised, and perhaps dismayed to find he registers “in” the tree / Godstone of Degradation. This concerns them due to speculation that if Dory is in the stone, it may be an attempt by Strahd’s forces to block the Azrai’s plan to push Vior back through the stone.

After discussing the tree and the undercity with Dr. Mordenheim, it seems more plausible that Dory is not in the tree, but in a Dream Machine under the tree. With that, Gaibe and Greylord decide to bury the Protean map back at the hut and return to prepare for the ritual with the rest of the Azrai.

Preparations

Wherein the Azrai plan for a siege and the ritual. The preparations include:

  • Guards and Wards
  • An exploding bridge with several deadly wall spells, zones of anti-magic, and other nefarious traps
  • A force dome protecting the site of the ritual.

During the preparations Pheodora worked tirelessly with Mordenheim to accomplish the following:

  • create more Crimsonweed
  • imprint memories from "Phelezar" into the Memory Stone
  • imprint memories from the somewhat shattered Memento Stone into the Memory Stone
  • surgically removed Phelezar's enhanced organs and inserted them into the body of Pheodora

Castle Siege

A man with top hat and cane (Vrinn) crosses the bridge demanding the Azrai hand over the Vistani Witch. The Azrai refuse, so Vrinn begins to send wave after wave of enemies and reality altering fog crashing into the castle. The castle begins to be ripped apart brick by brick by a fierce storm and the tentacles of a colossal zombie Havero. Things look increasingly grim as Vrinn continues to be able to alter this reality at a whim. Pheodora turns the tables by using a "Miracle" to remove Vrinn from the tree and thus the dream machine, thus putting the Azrai on even ground.

Vrinn disappears temporarily only to inhabit the body of Construct VI. The breach construct assaults Pheodora during the climax of ritual, seemingly pushing her through the portal atop the castle towards the Maggot Tree. Gaibe plunges his sword through both the construct and Pheodora, killing the construct. But Pheodora had been swallowed by the tree possibly crossing through the same (Fourth Door) portal that disappeared Pheodora during her original ritual.

Return to the Tower

Back In the Tower - Discord, 636

TTF in the Tower

Back In the Tower - Discord, 636

The Azrai return to the Tower to the same arched hallway in which they originally arrived. After taking only a few steps, there is a TTF.

TTF in the Tower

Though the following TTF has many of the same elements as a recent TTF in this same location, this TTF has additional information AND is a POV TTF (typical Memory Stone TTFs are more 3rd person). This prompts the Azrai to view the additional POV information to be because of Pheodora's imprinting of Memory with the Memento Stone.

"You float, high above Sigil, near one of the Gatehouse bridges, surveying the massive battle below. Soldiers from many factions are fighting off constant waves of attacks of faction and lower planar forces. Missiles, both magical and mundane, bombard both armies, while small airships battle overhead. You are bristling with power and firing white-hot bolts of energy into the melee below all the while ignoring the assault on the Gatehouse around you. You know you cannot be harmed. You are invincible - the Lady incarnate. When something strikes you...hard...you barely have a moment to register the confusion before there is nothing but darkness."

"You awake, but that scene has shifted. You sit on a dais, surrounded by robed women all wearing dark masks similar to Phe's. Though your vision is obscured (as if you are also wearing a mask) it only takes moments to realize you are no longer in Sigil, but Arendur. This is reinforced when you see that you are surrounded by the cheering of tens of thousands of people, all assembled to hear Tolumvire speak from the balcony of a building that looks much like Sigil's Gatehouse."

"On the balcony, Tolumvire raises the Staff of Aoskar and the cheering crowd begins to quiet. Tolumvire's voice booms across the masses below - 'Today marks the beginning of a new age for the multiverse. We will escape from the bonds of our fate, unite the multiverse, and begin anew!' With that, the crowd resumes their uproar."

"But those words barely register, as your mind is elsewhere. Was the ritual successful? Were both rituals successful? Wait, both rituals? How is that even possible? Where are the others? Are they here?..."

"And even as these thoughts race through your mind, the crowd screams its tribute to Tolumvire...and strangely somewhere nearby, you sense...Aram Oakwright? You sense him and his his vengeance boring into you. You close your eyes, trying to focus..."

"An explosion nearby wakes you from your stupor. You open your eyes and the scene has shifted. You are back in Sigil, wounded, on your back and staring up from one of the Gatehouse bridges. You hear the sounds of massive battle nearby, but you are unable to register exactly were you are at or what is happening. Thofalcon looms into your view just in time to rip a creature clambering over the edge of the bridge and throw him hundreds of feet to his death below. Worthington actually seems to be standing over you, shouting orders to 'hold the line'. You realize they are protecting...you."

"Shaking yourself awake, you draw upon the energies of the city and become HER. You rise into the air and resume HER vengeance on any enemy who crosses your path. You resume the mantra you had been repeating, in one form or another, all battle long: 'this gate must not fall'...blast...'just hold the line'...blast...'those damned machines better be right'...blast."