Day 27 – 18th day of lunar cycle
As we wander Krezk, we find Luco. “How very dare you,” I snip.
He explains that the situation had been messed up—terrifying, really. As the group lays into him, I feel most of my anger go away. I mean… to be fair, his instincts mostly align with my own, so I spoke up. “Honestly, I can’t be too mad,” I sigh. “That would make me a hypocrite.”
“You’re just mad you didn’t think of it first,” T’homm says.
I shrug. No denial from me.
We mess around for some of the day, wandering around the village. T’homm goes off by herself, and then emerges from wherever she’d been, wandering into the woods, looking a bit drugged and dazed. “Don’t? Stop?” I call out.
"Wait, don't go?" Cera adds helpfully.
There’s no response. “Well… you’re an adult.”
When she comes back, she looks… different.
“What happened to you?” Cera asks.
“I went into the forest, and met a bear,” T’homm starts. “The bear gave birth to a bird, and the bird regurgitated a worm, and I ate the worm. The worm gave me the blessing of the earth, and then I rubbed the earth on my shield and I said, ‘The shield of T’homm!’” She holds aloft the shield like she must have done during her acid trip in the forest, and we can see there is a worm on the surface of the shield.
Man, I’m still mad at T’homm, but most times I wish I didn’t have to be. She’s still a character, and I’m going to like telling her stories regardless. I still can’t drop the windmill thing. I know that it’s mostly petty, and maybe we should just talk it out, but I want to hold onto petty a little longer.
We set out later that day, planning on going to the Amber Temple. We see a few bodies, possibly torn up by wolves, and Luco advises us to decapitate them. Which the rest of the group can do, because ew.
Suddenly, a bat swoops overhead. We aren’t much surprised when Strahd forms where the bat lands, some kind of smug as usual. A thought occurs to me, and I raise my hand. Cera gets it a few seconds later and beams in to message me. “Does he know we went to see his dearest mother?” I whisper in my mind to her, a little smirk on my face.
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that, because Cera’s face lights up with unspeakable mischief. “Hey, Strahd,” she says aloud. “We visited old mama in the swamp, and her lovely baby. We’ve also done a little light reading.” Oops, I’ll go ahead and take the blame for this one, and we all watch Strahd’s face darken into a rage. He sics his wolves on us, and we brace for impact.
Before any of us can move, Jakauf steps forward and motions with a smooth, swooping motion. On the wolves a huge wall of fire shoots up, and I hear the yelps of pain accompanied by the smell of burning fur. Still, they come for us, and suddenly a lot of angry wolves are up close and personal.
I do happen to note T’homm and Cera crowding my flanks a bit more than usual. Without Cal, we’re all a bit more vulnerable. It’s a little cute of them to be worried about my particular squishiness, and I can’t say my instincts help much as I back up. We continue to attack, but as the wolves fall, we still cannot see Strahd’s form behind the flames. When the last wolf is dead, he reappears as we feared, charming Cera. “Give me the book!” he roars, locking eyes with her, knowing it was in her pack.
“Suck an entire bag of dicks!” she shouts back, though her body stiffens. Her arm flings out, and she fires off shot after shot, slamming into Strahd.
We start running.
Cera stands her ground, and Strahd outstretches his own careless hand. A black-green spell laced towards her, knocking her down. I stop in my tracks and run back to her.
“Cera! To me!” I yell, preparing to cast a spell.
She staggers to her feet, weakened but not out.
The moment her hand touches mine we blink out of Strahd’s range, and see him only as a small black dot, retreating as we flee.
That night, our long rest is uneasy, but undisturbed.
In the morning, my hut falls down, and we see the signs of wolves in our camp.
As we travel, we find Tolenka Pass, huge and ominous. We can see a bridge far beyond a huge wall of burning green fire. We walk up to the flame, contemplating how to pass. T’homm reaches out with her pinky as if to test the fire.
“No!” Luco and Jakauf shout at the same time, going to stop her. She pouts and huffs off. Luco rolls his eyes and goes to the side gate, going to climb the fence. At that point the rocks come back to life and attack.
We fight valiantly against what appear to be demons, but the moment Luco drops, the one still surviving backs off. I go forward hesitantly and heal Luco. Once they see me do something not all about trying to break the rules or kill them, the demon sends me a message. “Go through. Don’t hurt me.”
I relay this to the group. They shrug, and we pass through the green flame unharmed. “I TOLD YOU!” comes T’homm’s voice, late to the party.
We bypass a tower and go to the bridge, statues at both ends in various states of crumbling. In the middle there’s a black cloaked rider on a black horse on the bridge. When we get close, we see that he is Strahd. T’homm reaches out to pet the horse, and this time the other two don’t think to stop her. The figure and the horse both vanish into ash the moment her fingers make contact. We watch it drift into the river and continue until we’re off the bridge.
Eventually we arrive at what appears to be a castle carved into stone. We open the door and see a hallway with arrow slits in it opening into a cavern. And everywhere we look, amber coated every surface. “Guess we found the Amber Temple, guys.”
T’homm pulls up her cloak to move without being seen, entering the cavern. I more or less stride after and conjure up a couple of balls of flaming blue light, circling them over my hand. I see a statue in the middle, faceless. Curious, I conjure up dancing lights in the form of a mustache on where its upper lip might be. I just want to see the face. A chill runs up my spine when I see it’s faceless.
And then the statue fires a volley of magic missile at me.
I back away, stinging and immediately dropping the light, but recognize that I’ve pissed off some sort of deity. I’m an idiot, but I’m not that stupid, and I pull out my instrument and begin to play.
“I’m sorry! Oh my god, I’m so sorry!
Won’t happen again!
I know I’m a huge asshole just intruding on your castle—
Oh my god, I am so sorrryyyyy!”
I hold my breath.
A single warning shot to the feet, and then there are no more attacks.
We explore the cavern and head to another room. We explore a bit until we open the door into a huge lecture hall and see a man cowering on the other side. He seems very little threat, mostly burned, blistered, and huddling, so we approach cautiously but trying to appear friendly. We learn the dude was Vilnius (“Villainous?” Cera mouths at me; I just look at the mini-demon Vilnius has and raise my eyebrows). “Jakarius was my master. He is very dead now, killed by a… what do you call… The bone in head?”
“Skull?” I supply.
“Yes! That, but on fire.”
“They kill Jarakius. If you see him, I would like his book of spells. It is very cold out, and I need it to make it down the mountain.” Cera’s eyes light up with the mention of a book of spells. “I will let you look, but I do need the book. Please.”
“Why didn’t you get it?” Cera asks.
“The flaming skulls would have killed me. And there is golem, very large, is patrolling and attacking everything he sees. But he cannot fit through the door, so I stay in here.”
Have fun dying in here? We leave and pretty quickly find the golem. “Yo, golden shower! Collapse and die, please!” I call out as we attack. Luco gets separated, and T’homm gets beat on. I move back away just as the thing shrieks, temporarily fucking with the party. We finally beat him down and continue exploring.
In another room, we find a group resting: a gladiator, some berserkers, and a dire wolf. They’re friendly, and don’t mind us exploring as long as we don’t disturb anything or drag them into a fight. “Do please beware of the… oh, what is it. The thing here?” The gladiator pointed to her forehead.
“Skull,” I add, just as helpful as the first time.
“Flaming skulls. We do not like them.”
We open the door directly next to their’s and three flaming skulls immediately attack us. “What did we say!” they scream, running. I see a man’s burned and collapsed form near the wall; the wizard.
We attack back, but they’re hard to hit; they fly up, casting fireball, and I’m caught in the worst of it. I give T’homm haste as I beat out the fire in my clothing.
I come forward to look at the wizard. I see his book, on the ground, somehow surviving the wizard, and kneel beside it.
“Is that my book?”
Instinctively, I scoop the book stealthily into my bag at the sound of the apprentice’s voice. Then, I think about it logically. Books were worth a lot, but they weren’t my preferred loot. Cera seemed to want it. Would he let us use it first? Is that how magic worked? Gods, I hadn’t been listening to him earlier.
I stand and flash a winning smile, casting an inquisitive look at the group. “Book? Gosh, must’ve not been here,” I say convincingly. It doesn’t seem to be working, but I was just trying to think of if we should keep it or not.
“Give me my book! I’ll die without it!”