A quick trip the Gur encampment had produced amazing results. A 5-copper novel, about some nonsense involving a flying castle full of dragon cultists vs the typical hero-types, had a map tucked in among the pages. The trinket peddler didn’t even notice map and sold the book for a pittance with the real prize folded neatly within. Once away from the caravans the prize was inspected; it was a legitimate map of dwarven make with the familiar Dethek runes in need of translation. Mt. Hotenow was clearly visible as was old Neverwinter from back before the spellplague of the previous century. The map seemed to show a series of caverns or tunnels east of Helm’s Hold that led to a dwarven cache of some sort. Perhaps a war vault or buriel chamber for an ancient king. No matter what lay at the end of the trail there were bound to be dwarven-made treasures ripe for the taking.
A party was assembled and the standard share contract was signed for all members. One share each of treasure or goods split from the sum total. Buriel costs – in the rare case of a mishap – would be subtracted from the total before shares were distributed. Wills were written and dropped off at local temples or with family members and the new commissioned adventuring party set off into the wildnerness. Unfortunately, less than a full days hike from Neverwinter did the entire endeavor go sideways.
Spring fogs were common. The mornings especially were well known for the thick haze before the suns warmth burned them away. This fog though, dense and blinding, was unlike anything they had ever seen. It muffled the background noises of the forest, dampened the smells of wildnerness, and seemed to choke their campfire to a sputtering ember. Then when finally the pre-dawn light gave them some relief they noticed their environs were no longer the same. Where majestic old-growth trees of the Neverwinter Wood had towered over their camp now there were only gray, gnarled. leafless skeletal mockeries of trees. The crunching leaf-covered forest-floor seemed more like a vision of late fall, not early spring. The smell of rot and damp moss promised a long season of heavy rains and decay. The worst thing though was the trail they had been following was no where in sight and wolves prowled at the edges of their meager firelight. The group agreed it would be best not to stay in one place and wait for the wolves to muster the courage to attack.
The group lit torches, kept close, and picked a direction and moved. Less than an hour later they stumbled onto a gravel trail with a crooked sign marking the way to an unfamiliar named village – Barovia. Finally having an option of where to go they struck out for the village hoping to find help. Instead, they found a sleepy and rustic community notable only for the lack of life in the early hours of the morning. The overcast sky gave no hint of what hour it was and no hearth seemed to be lit judging by the chimneys of town. The cobblestone roads were empty and not even the familiar barking of neighborhood dogs or the crow of the cock broke the uneasy silence. The first sound they heard in the small village was a sob – a sob belonging to a particularly frightened little boy with his face buried in his sister’s coat. The sobbing boy was probably around 7 and clutched both his sisters coat and a stuffed doll stitched to look like a soldier. The doll even had a little cloth sword stitched into its fingerless hands. His sister had the sort of severe expression one only sees on a big sister, full of bossy bluster, but not yet possessing the tell-tale signs of womanhood.
The girl, when questioned by the armed strangers, didn’t hesitate to share her story. There was a monster in her house. It was yowling in the basement and she and her brother were not going back in there until it was dealt with. Her parents had gone to deal with the monster but had not returned. Her name was Rosavalda Durnst and her brother was Thornboldt, Rose and Thorn for short.
Being decent people the party agreed to search the house for any “yowling monster” and find their parents. The house itself wasn’t in great repair and the further the party investigated the more foreboding it seemed. Pastoral images held dark and twisted designs and a crawling tension seemed to permeate every room. Finally, the house pushed back against the explorers and animated armor and brooms rushed to kill the meddling guests. Then in the attic, the true horror began.
A spectral nurse maid attempted to drain the life forces of the party while protecting an empty crib. Her body was found tucked in a chest and wrapped in a bloody bed-sheet. The door to the children’s room was locked from the outside and within the bones of Rose and Thorn were found moldering on the floor. Their apparitions appeared and told a tragic tale of being locked within by their parents to protect them from the monster. They then starved to death waiting on their parents return. Clues led to the discovery of a subbasement dungeon beneath the house and strange cult activities held within. Not wanting to be alone again the ghost children possessed two members of the party and led the search for their parents.
The dungeons were also similarly haunted as the rest of the house above. A malevolent chanting could be heard from somewhere in the darkness and the corridors were plagued with the living dead. Signs of cannibalism were found along with other corruptive rights held by the long-since-dead cult. As the group explored the chanting grew louder and the undead more persistent in killing the invaders of their unholy sanctum. The true nature of the house was becoming evident room by room but the source of those echoing dark words had yet to be found.