Curse of Strahd

The Man with Two Brains

Van Richten took the time during the night to translate the tattoo on Ulfrik‘s skin. The effort took almost all night, but he was successful in obtaining the translations for the infernal text imprinted. Each stanza of this poem indicated a member of the group, and the portents were seemingly dire for each of them. Mahel only required four hours of rest, but her unease about Marek since he lost his shadow only served to make her more outwardly nervous. She kept an eye on him if only to make sure that he didn’t turn on them or steal Mordenkainen’s tome for his own purposes. The rest of the group, exhausted from the day’s action, slept soundly.

In the morning, Ismark had returned to his normal state, weary from his transformation but glad that he had not harmed anyone. Mahel attempted to avert her eyes from Ismark’s naked form and offered him her headdress taken from the evil druids to cover his more tender areas. He placed the headdress around himself and seeing that it did nothing but suggest that he had antlers sprouting from his nether regions, kindly refused. Instead, he took his shirt and wrapped it around himself. His studded leather armor lay on the ground, ripped and bent in parts from his transformation the night before. It would take time to repair it. Marek pored over Mordenkainen’s spellbook, seeing many familiar arcane glyphs but not able to comprehend the more complex spells. It was clear that if they were to use the book to return to Mordenkainen’s mansion via a teleport spell, they would need someone more knowledgeable in the ways of the arcane. Mahel suggested travelling back to the Vistani at Tser Pool, and that someone named Madam Eva seemed like she would know more; Mahel was owed 100 gold from them anyways. Leowen and Ulfrik, remembering the sage crone, agreed that it might be their next step. Van Richten grimaced and said that he did not like the idea of parlaying with these people but grudgingly agreed.

The group left the cave behind, the book remained with Van Richten. The group went along the path to the Tser Pool, and Van Richten stated clearly that if they were to enter, he would stay behind – his relationship with the Vistani was strained, to say the least. The PCs met the rescued dusk elves who then brought them to Madam Eva. Eva was concerned to see the PCs again, in that they had not obtained the full roster of magical artifacts that would help them defeat Strahd. She talked to them about their potential destinies; and that they had much to understand about their pasts and futures. She scried in her crystal ball to see where they should go to help fulfill their destiny: to obtain the other two items and defeat Strahd. Mahel showed Madam Eva the glass bauble that she found, and Madam Eva looked forlorn — it was a possession of young Vistani girl named Arabelle, who when she scried for its owner, found her… at the bottom of Lake Zarovich. Leowen gasped in horror, and remembered the warnings of a knight named Gideon… Speaking to Madam Eva as to Marek’s condition, she said that there were evil forces in this land who were able to take one’s shadow, which is the part of your soul that allows you to stay good and not perform evil things. Without it, one would slowly give in to more base tendencies. Mahel looked ever more intently at Marek, who grinned and took a quick swig from his wine cup and asked for more. Changing the subject quickly, Marek asked if Madam Eva was able to help them by transporting them back to Mordenkainen’s mansion; they had a spellbook rife with spells that needed a spellcaster of great power to use. Madam Eva smirked and said that she would be willing to help but that she would need a token from the place if the spell were to be successful and not transport them over a far away cliff or into a mountain. Begrudgingly, Van Richten was brought back to the camp with the book, where the team experienced a tense few minutes of silence between Van Richten and the Vistani. Madam Eva herself said with a vicious sneer how their encounters had not been the most comfortable. Van Richten simply stared her down and handed over the spellbook. Madam Eva used it to open a magical teleportation portal, and handed the book back to Van Richten. Hoping for the best but prepared for the worst, the group one by one jumped through the portal, and landed… on a stone floor, in a laboratory. Was this Mordenkainen’s Mansion? It didn’t look like it. Looking around, they saw a broken glass jar on the floor with a viscous liquid seeping into the stone mortar. Moving past it, they found Mordenkainen in a nearby room, sitting in front of a large fireplace in a large leather chair with his back to them. He seemed overjoyed to see them and called for “Robert” who was now a phantasmal goblin with a long mustache. Ismark asked for Ireena, who Mordenkainen said was chained up in his “dungeon” since she had transformed on the full moon last night, and that the moon was to be full for two more days. Mordenkainen saw his spellbook and asked the party to hand it over so they could receive their reward. The group started to question him about things, such as what he would do with the book now that he had it. Leowen, looking intently at him, noticed a bead of sweat slowly forming on his forehead. Leowen, not giving anything away, came up and touched his face, then turned his head to see a large bump hidden at the back of his head. Her eyes widened and grabbed at the book. Mordenkainen’s eyes flared a bright purple, and in deep speech said, “YOU SHOULDNT HAVE DONE THAT.”

With inhuman strength, he, no, IT… threw her twenty feet across the room, and its hands burst aflame with black and blue fire. Leowen’s jaw dropped and she let out a gasp of recognition. Reflexively she cast Evard’s Black Tentacles, which immobilized the Mordenkainen-thing. Marek ran for cover, and began to prepare healing and restorative spells. The Mordenkainen-thing cast a massive Fireball and although Mahel was able to dodge out of the way, others in the group were not as lucky and were lit aflame. Marek cursed, and cast a cloud of daggers, at the restrained monstrosity, which the thing easily _counterspell_ed. It then cast Time Stop, which it used to escape from its restraints and advance on Leowen. It was at this point that the unnoticed aberration that Mahel and Van Richten had encountered in the Blue Water Inn, the Ghrom, dropped down from the ceiling where it had been hiding, and attempted to subdue and paralyze Ulfrik. Luckily, it missed him, which allowed Ulfrik to light up the Sunsword and slash at the creature. Ulfrik attempted to shove the undead thing away from but its strength was too great. Ismark hit the Ghrom with his longsword, but as it was not enchanted, it simply pinged off the creature’s tough carapace. Van Richten used his magical healing ability to heal himself, and Marek did the same for Leowen. From a prone position, Leowen blasted at the Mordenkainen-thing with her eldritch blast, which pushed it back into the tentacles. The Mordenkainen-thing discharged a black and blue lightning bolt at Leowen, knocking her to the ground unconscious, at which the summoned tentacles disappeared. Mahel continued to throw her daggers at both foes, staying out of the melee as best she could. The Ghrom finally was able to strike at and paralyze Ulfrik with its stinger tongue, but with Marek’s assistance (a portent), Ulfrik found the resilience to free himself from the awful poison. Free of his torpor, Ulfrik summoned his full strength and slashed furiously at the Ghrom. After half a minute, the tide of battle had turned – the Mordenkainen-thing bleeding blackened blood, and uttering deep speech which only Leowen could understand.

After several massive swings from the Sunsword, the Ghrom was destroyed, dissolving into a puddle of greenish-brown goop. Seeing an opportunity to finish the creature off, Mahel stabbed the Mordenkainen-thing, which uttered a horrible high-pitched shriek. Mahel spun and swiftly slashed through its skull… and the brain toppled out. Actually, more like jumped out. It was a horrific creature: a distended purplish brain with legs! The thing used a sort of psychic blast to debilitate Ulfrik and control him, but Marek stepped in the way and cast a second portent, increasing Ulfrik’s resistance to the ability. Mahel leapt to the fore and skewered it with a single powerful stab of her rapier. Infuriated beyond belief, Leowen began to repeatedly fireblast the remains of these three things until they were nothing but ooze and blackened ash.

Seconds later, Robert appeared, and seeing the awful mess, inquired what had happened. The group said it was nothing that Robert should concern himself with. Sadly, Robert floated away to get a mop to help clean up the mess, unaware that the “mess” was the bodily remains of his master. Robert also indicated to Ismark where Ireena was being held, who freed her. Half way through channeling yet another fire spell to further incinerate her foes, Leowen’s spell seemed to shut off by itself. Leowen seemed shocked. Ireena, noticing this, came over to speak to Leowen. Leowen said grittingly through her teeth, “I’m fine.” Ireena, however, heard a telepathic scream in her head from Leowen – something was just not right. According to their calculations, the mansion would disapparate in only an hour and a half, and as its legendary creator was now destroyed, sadly would not come again. Ulfrik spent the time to repair Ismark’s armor while Marek and Mahel checked through the mansion for clues as to how this thing (which Mahel came to remember as an Intellect Devourer) came to take over Mordenkainen’s body. They found notes on the creature in the lab, and surmised that this creature came from the glass jar which was smashed on the floor. The group congregated in the main hall, to see that Leowen was now holding a small black mirror, which she showed to each of the characters. She stated that it was very special, in that it showed to each viewer’s their “inner darkness.” To Mahel, it showed her as a child in a forest, running from something or someone, chasing her with terrible speed. To Marek, it showed a younger version of himself sitting in a cold, bleak house peering into a giant orb swirling with colors and images, his eyes wild and bloodshot. To Ulfrik, it showed himself as a boy panting in a cold field, running to keep up with another older boy on horseback: his brother, who called him teasingly “Little Wolf.” And to Leowen, it showed her a crystal clear image of her face, but clearly something inside that vision that she both feared and hated.

Time passed quickly, and the group left the Mansion, which faded away in the cold frost of the Baratok mountains. The full moon was soon to rise for its second night, so the group decided it safer to stay in the forest and to chain up Ireena and Ismark to a nearby tree. As the full moon rose in the sky and Ismark and Ireena screamed with the pain of the lycanthropic change, Leowen attempted to say telepathically, “It’ll be OK.” However, the words actually came out of her mouth. Leowen drew a little intake of breath, and her eyes widened. Putting a palm to her lips, her eyes imperceptibly began to well with tears. She had lost her telepathic powers….

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mattgordon

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