While Leowen and Ulfrik opened the door to a nasty surprise, Mahel and Aike watched in horror as a dozen thorny intruders skulked into the winery through the open doors of the loading dock. Marek stood tensely in the fermentation vats, still not quite sure as to where he was, or who these people were; only that they had good intentions and had saved his life. Ireena and Ismark glanced nervously at each other, unsure as to where the next threat would appear.
Appearing enraged that the staff that Leowen had taken was in another’s posession, the druid reached out and cast a spell on her, causing dark green vines to sprout from the floor boards, winding around her. Instinctively, Leowen struck out with the power of the staff, but sensing a dark power imprisoned within, held back her fury lest she be consumed. Taking the impetus to action, Ulfrik swung his massive blade several times at the female druid, who had time only to grasp feebly at the dark wooden staff before she was hacked to pieces. Her allies, two hulking creatures seemingly constructed from bloated, moist creeper vines, encircled Leowen and Ulfrik with their own vegetative mass, attempting to constrict and draw the very life from them.
Meanwhile downstairs, deftly appearing out of the shadows, Mahel struck out with her rapier and time and time again darted to strike the blights as they entered into the winery. Each time she struck, she was able to nimbly meld into the shadows, awaiting the opportunity to strike again. Aike, however, seemed frozen with fear, unable to move. Seeing the need for action, Marek stepped in and provided magical support, covering the loading dock with a mystical slippery substance that disabled movement for several of these creatures, while at the same time constructing a barrier of spinning blades to encircle and tear them to pieces. Marek then sent his owl familiar Sir Milton to see where help could be had. With his keen owl eyes, Sir Milton noticed a large dark green stain on a wall that seemed to be growing from within the adjacent room…
Hampered by Leowen’s eldritch power, the two vine blights finally succumbed to the staggering might of Ulfrik and his whirling steel. Wiping the green fluid from their clothes, the two set off down the hall to rejoin their compatriots…. but were instantly mesmerized by… something… in one of the unsearched rooms on the second floor. As they were compelled towards it, the source of their telepathic control revealed itself – a massive 40-foot wide pulsating plant creature. The central body of the thing was a pulpy seed-like mass. Its dark green vines, thick as a man’s forearm, had encompassed the entire space of the master bedroom. On the ceiling, attached by some sort of viscous substance, four egglike pods hung by vines attached to the main body of the creature. Through some diabolical control, the plant was enticing Leowen and Ulfrik slowly but surely towards the center of the room, towards the “flower”. The plant opened its slime covered petals, and then enveloped Ulfrik whole, while Leowen struggled to retain control over her mind. On the ceiling, one of the pods began to slowly pulsate and grow, the thing inside it writhing with movement.
Downstairs, Aike awoke from his stupor, and began to lash out with renewed vigor, striking with his taloned claws over and over, slashing the blights to ribbons but taking painful strikes from them in the process. Seemingly unfazed from this, Aike waded further into the ranks of these foes, until eventually his strength gave out and he fell to their blows. Seeing her ally fall, Mahel again struck from the shadows and began to dispatch the remaining blights. Ireena and Ismark conversed quickly then ran upstairs to find Loewen and Ulfrik. Seeing them quickly retreat upstairs, and not knowing the location of his familiar, Marek carefully followed them. Finding herself alone with no more blights to destroy, Mahel swiftly attended to Aike to ensure that he did not succumb to his wounds. Hiding him (and her newly found headdress) under the eaves of the loading dock, Mahel followed Marek to see where their allies had disappeared.
Ismark and Ireena, arriving upstairs and coming within telepathic range of the creature, suddenly felt their minds violated by this creature’s psionic power. Ireena, for some implacable reason, was able to fend off the creature’s assertion over her, but Ismark was not as lucky. In a trance, he began to walk towards the master bedroom while Ireena frantically attempted to slow him down or stop him. After only a minute, the plant creature had sapped most of Ulfrik’s lifeforce and memories and had begun to transfer them to the thing in the pod. Seeing no more use for Ulfrik’s physically enervated form, the creature released his desiccated yet still-barely-alive body out of its carapace. At the same time, the thing inside the pod on the ceiling emerged: an exact copy of Ulfrik, albeit unclothed and with a look of malice. Hardly strong enough to stand, Ulfrik gasped for life, drawing ragged breath as the thing strode over to him to deliver the final death blow.
It was at this time, on the precipice of defeat, that a ray of hope shone into the darkness. With a gasp, Leowen broke free of the creature’s mind control. Horrified at the almost-Ulfrik, yet invigorated by her freedom, she threw two bolts of blue-black energy at the thing, which burned smoking holes in its torso. Writhing in pain, the doppelganger’s flesh melted and revealed its true form: a barely humanoid abberation with an unnatural maw full of yellowing teeth and vine-like appendages. Marek and Mahel arrived swiftly on the scene, and with their combined efforts, were able to repulse the creature as well as hold off the still entranced Ismark. Empowered by vengeance, Ulfrik slowly stood, grasped his greatsword lying on the ground and hewed the massive plant into gooey slabs with four slashes to its core. Once dead, the plant’s control over Ismark faded, the vines disintegrated and the evil druids’ takeover of the winery had been successfully foiled.
Exhausted from their effort, the party fell into whatever resting places they could find, while Leowen signaled Davian and his family to join them inside now that it was safe. Davian expressed his gratitude, but stated that there was more work to be done if the winery was to be truly saved. He told tale of three magical gems that were the controlling magic of the winery which were stolen at various times in the past by evil forces. The first gem had gone missing ten years ago, and as of now, no one had any idea as to its current whereabouts. The second gem had been stolen by a powerful hag named Baba Lysaga, who resided in the abandoned town of Berez, a days ride to the south east. Lysaga had been plaguing the Martikov family for many years, sending scores of animated scarecrows to attack the family. Her evil power was great, and the Martikovs were unable to wrest the gem back from her. The third and final gem was stolen by evil druids for some nefarious purpose related to perverting nature itself. The druids took the gem back to their evil abode on top of Yester Hill, a cairn of druidic stones used for the unnatural worship of the decaying power of nature and unhallowed, unspoken-of gods. There, the gem resides, guarded by their evil powers.
Politely sidestepping a conversation on how they would seek out these gems, Leowen instead inquired if the Martikovs would make a delivery of the remaining wine to Krezk to help ensure Ireena’s safety from Strahd. Davian agreed, ensuring that on the morrow, they would set out for the trip to Krezk, the heroes to escort them. Marek and Leowen began to plot their course for the following day, while Ulfrik and Mahel rested and Aike healed from his almost fatal wounds. Abruptly, Ismark indicated that there was something disturbing that he had found in the wrecked furnishings of the bedroom. Ismark led them to a dwarven skeleton, its flesh completely dissolved. Clearly this was the remains of the real Flint. Ulfrik and Leowen would have shared his fate, if it had not been for the combined efforts of their allies. Ismark then presented a dusty tome, a book of records for the Martikov family’s wine business. The records went back for over a century, and indicated that although recent business was to Krezk, Vallaki and even the Vistani, one of the first customers of the Wizard of Wines…. was Strahd himself.