Aike and Ulfrik saw through the mist and trees the battle taking place between this mystical elk and four large wolves…. and a horrifying man/wolf hybrid – a werewolf – just as Mahel warned. Equating these creatures as part of the forces of Strahd and this elk as a potential ally (and not just a normal animal), Ulfrik rushed to attack. Aike flew back to the house to alert the other PCs. Marek, seeing the battle taking place on the edge of the forest, ran to provide any help he could.
Reaching the house, Aike cried out quickly “Ulfrik needs assistance,” then flapped back to the forest. Ismark took off like a shot, while Leowen sighed and started to saunter towards the forest edge, seemingly in no rush. Seeing her brother run off to defend Ulfrik, Ireena looked at Mahel and inquired whether they should leave the safety of the house. Begrudgingly, Mahel agreed they should help, and she and Ireena ran to assist their compatriots, leaving Vasha peering out her window at the faraway battle.
One by one, the PCs arrived to help Ulfrik, providing their martial and magical prowess defeat these creatures of darkness. The elk was a formidable presence and clearly had great magical power, as it was able to fire bolts of mystical energy at these creatures as well as toughen the surface of its skin to prevent the deadly bite of these lycanthropes. However, the vicious bite of these creatures was not completely avoided. Ismark, then Ireena, then Ulfrik were in turn bitten by the werewolves, and the deadly disease of lycanthropy was potentially transmitted to one — or all — of them.
With a single werewolf left standing, the party gathered to dispatch it. The elk then transformed into a man, his long, black hair and beard streaked with gray, his eyes crackling with eldritch power. “Creature of darkness, I command you to begone!” he shouted in a gravelly voice, and pointed his staff at the remaining werewolf. A strand of sticky fluid shot out of the staff and encircled the creature in a sticky cocoon. “Damn,” he grumbled under his breath. “Wrong spell.” Taking the opportunity, Leowen struck the werewolf with two eldritch blasts, instantly killing it.
Thanking them for their help, the powerful wizard asked the PCs their names, although seemingly not remembering his own. He indeed had a knowledge of Strahd and the evil power over his land, and reputed himself an enemy of the vampire, but beyond that, seemed to retain no information as to who he was, how he arrived in Barovia, or what he was doing there. His memory seemed patchy at best.
Aike searched the bodies of the werewolves (now returned to human form) and on one werewolf found a piece of parchment with the words, “Kill the old woman. Bring the others to me. -K” Assuming that the “K” was Kiril Stoyanovich, most likely under the orders of Strahd himself, it seemed only fair to warn Vasha as to this failed attack. Inscribing a postscript, Mahel put the note in Albreth’s empty rib cage and sent him (complaining) back along the moors to the cabin.
Leowen inquired with the mage if she could cast a Read Minds spell on him which would be able to peer into his surface thoughts, and then, with permission, his inner thoughts. This, she explained, would allow them to help him remember who he was. The mage agreed, and Leowen cast the spell. On the surface, she could clearly see the mage’s fear of Strahd, as shown to her by a vision of the mage surrounded by bloodthirsty vampire spawn. Perhaps he did not altogether trust them? Peering then deeper into his mind, Leowen found nothing but a blank space… as if someone or something was blocking her from seeing further into this man’s mind.
Although the party would not seemingly be able to help the man remember who he was, the mage offered them shelter at his nearby mansion. Surprised that this man would have a mansion, let alone one in the midst of the forest, the party tentatively agreed. Leading them to a clearing in the forest, the mage stopped. An invisible door shimmered and opened, allowing the party to enter. Inside, they found themselves inside a magnificent foyer with wood and marble floors and walls, and attended to by a host of spectral floating servants. Given rest, food, and pleasant drink, the party found true respite for the first time in a very long time. It also seemed that once inside, their spells and familiars, altered by the very lands themselves, were now immune to their evil effects.
The head of the ghostly staff, Robert, admitted that “the master” specifically instructed his staff not to tell anyone (including himself) who he was, where he came from, and how he could be “cured” of this mental affliction. However, this place seemed an amazing sanctuary, one in which Ireena might finally be safe from Strahd. Asking the mage if Ireena could stay at the mansion until Strahd was encountered and stopped, the mage agreed…. but at a price. The mage’s spellbook (which also acted as his journal), he said, yawning heavily, was missing – he had lost it. How long ago, he did not know, nor did he know where it was that he had lost it. If the party could find his spellbook, then he would allow Ireena to stay. “But where is this book,” Marek intoned, “how do we even know where to start to look?” At this, a ghostly child ran forward and began to speak. Flying quickly forwards, a young maid clamped her spectral hand over the boy’s mouth, shushing him. Robert raised an eyebrow and said, “If you’ll excuse me, I have errands to attend to…. sir.” Looking over at the mage, who had fallen into a doze, snoring loudly in his padded chair, Robert rolled his eyes and levitated through the marble wall, passing through.
With Robert gone, the staff of spectral servants relaxed for a moment. The spectral boy jutted forwards and said boldly with a wicked grin, “Ooooh! Ooooh! I know! I know who you are!” The mage startled from his sleep as the myriad floating staff gasped in terror at this confession. The child continued, unimpeded by any of the ghostly servants.
“Ha, ha! Silly man! You told us! You fought Strahd a year ago and he pushed you off the big waterfall. And your name is Mordenkainen!”