The Abyss Stares Back

Deal with the Devil

We take the surviving cultist out of the mausoleum to one of the inns in the town of Teufeldorf where we question him. Amongst bowls of soup and trenchers of bread, all of us attempt to put the ex-cultist at ease and get some information out of him. He is loathe to believe us, understandably, at least partly because we are so incredibly weird. We freely admit to him that we are the Synod, since it has become apparent that we are, but try to put him at ease with the claim that we didn’t really know who were were murdering or why.

He (and he can’t remember his name here) doesn’t remember much about recent times. He thinks that he is from Zeidenberg, and that he and his sister were converted there. They were poor and needed jobs and or money, giving us the impression that the cult preys on such individuals. He can’t believe that we are planning on killing the scholar. Because we totally are. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know why he and his two friends were able to shake off the control of the awakened, but I take some blood samples and give him a medical examination to analyze later. They might be useful in figuring out how to free other awakened.

In the morning, we take him to the temple of Lathander to hopefully recover, or at least get someone else watching him since he is worried that he will revert. Talking to Sasha, we find out that the asylum had been successfully emptied and that we can burn it down. Or we could, if we wanted to take some time to do so now. But we don’t. We head straight to Barovia to confront Johanna and end this.

When we get there and find her (and Sebastian, dutifully watching her) in the university, she seems to be upset, with a brandy snifter on her liquor cart smashed. It’s probably out of anger for all the headaches we’ve been causing her, combined with the fact that we just turned her most recent boyfriend into ashes. But there’s a simple solution for that, so after our initial greetings I stay with her and Mads and Milosh go into the back room to find whatsername. She’s there, but she’s acting as if she has been lobotomized or something (which is probably accurate, even if it’s not in a physical sense). Milosh, after trying to convince her that her home and duty is in Point Hope without any luck, resorts to putting a Vistani curse of pain on her instead, and she and her artificially cheerful personality stumble out of the room in agony and lurch towards the door.

We send Sebastian off after the unnamed lady, and the rest of us stay to confront Johanna. I blow our original plan of murdering her before she realizes that we now know what we know now by telling her that we know what we know, and that we know that she knew all along that we didn’t know what she knew or what she was. She takes the new knowledge in stride, although she is disappointed that we didn’t kill the escaped Awakened faster (we do tell her that they are dead, which should spare the remaining man in Teufeldorf, unless he turns back and Sasha or Digweed kill him). I drop what would have seemed to be a bomb, that I am willing to work with Johanna against Strahd, since the two groups are in direct conflict. And the Milosh drops another bomb by entertaining the idea! And then he scolds her for sending a note to the cultists, because seriously we would never have figured it out if it wasn’t for that note.

We chat. Or maybe negotiate, not sure if it counts. Milosh demands that Johanna change her nasty ways and stop turning people into acid demons, which she halfheartedly agrees to after telling us to “find a better way” (I am unconvinced that a bunch of peasants with pitchforks can harm an army of vampires in any meaningful way, so maybe the acid possession is better). She also tells us that she knows that Strahd has some kind of nefarious intentions for the Vistani, whom he has “tolerated” thus far. She doesn’t share anything yet, since we have yet to prove any kind of not-stabbing-her-in-the-back loyalty. We discuss how we might be willing to work together on common non-evil goals, like driving back the Ravagers, helping the Vistani and weakening Strahd’s control over the world.

Mads, unlike Urban and Milosh, is still unconvinced that any good can come of this new deal, although maybe the realization that most of the people in Barovia aren’t real people at all – only soulless shells – might change his mind. Mads and Urban go off to break (or conceal) the news from Sebastian, who is waiting to escort somebody to Point Hope, and who will certainly not object to working with the people who transformed him into a blood-sucking monster rather than getting his violent revenge on them.

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