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Crowded into [[Rudolph_von_Richten?]]’s room at the [[Blue_Water_Inn?]]







The party stayed in the back of the Vistani cart on the road to Vallaki, but poked their heads out of the cart when they heard a disturbance with the horses. They saw Morgantha pushing her cart down a fork in the road leading up to the [[Old_Bonegrinder?]] windmill on the side of the mountain. She passed the Vistani carts and pushed ahead of the caravan to Vallaki. The party confirmed with Ismark that she lived at the windmill with her two daughters, and nobody went there unless on Dream Pastry business. They decided not to reveal themselves and to continue on to Vallaki.

In the early evening, the caravan reached the town, but their travelling companions informed the party that the town did not allow Vistani within the gates. They approached the gates alone, and witnessed the town guards easily dispatch two direwolves that attacked the gate. They managed to persuade the guard who came out to skin the wolves that their need was dire, and were allowed entrance into the town on the condition that they head straight for the [[Blue_Water_Inn?]] in the center of town.

They passed a brightly colored wagon with “Rictavio’s Carnival of Wonders” painted in elaborate lettering on the side at the [[Arasek_Stockyard?]], though, that Erani could not resist checking out, despite the ominous lurching and snarling coming from inside the wagon. She adroitly scampered up to the roof and peered intop the wagon to see a very large saber-toothed tiger wearing specially made armor inside. Telra cast a spell to allow her to befriend and interrogate the cat, and found that the beast’s owner had been training it to hunt “bad people” with a certain scent and wearing brightly colored clothing. The party suspected he meant Vistani. Erani picked the lock on the door of the wagon, but earned herself the jab of the poisoned needle that was cleverly hidden in the lock in the process. She and Lesviel searched the cab, but found only another doll sporting an “Is No Fun, Is No Blinsky!” tag, wearing brightly colored clothes… and torn to shreds. Telra checked after them, though, and the sharp-eyed druid spied a hidden compartment under the seat that the others had missed in their haste. Inside the compartment, they found silvered weapons, garlic, holy water, and wooden stakes… certainly the tools of a master vampire hunter. The town guard was approaching, and with only seconds to decide, they left the items so as to stay on this potential ally’s good side.

On the way to the inn, they noticed several signs for various shops in town, noting in particular a [[Coffin_Maker's_Shop?]], [[Blinsky_Toys?]], and the [[Town_Square?]] which appeared to be gearing up for some sort of festival.

At the inn, the party found a large crowd enjoying the wine and the stories of a colorful half-elf bard. [[Karl_Wachter?]] and his brother [[Nikolai_Wachter?|Nikolai]] noticed the newcomers and offered Hogar Rask 20 gold pieces to start a fight with some gruff looking hunters (just for some excitement) but he declined, and bought the brothers and their entourage a round of the inn’s best wine, [[Red_Dragon_Crush?]]. It turned out to be the last of the inn’s supply, though, and from here on out it looks like everyone will have to make due with the [[Purple_Grapemash_No._3?]], at least until it runs out or the inn is resupplied, but Hogar overheard the innkeeper speaking to the bartender about the shipment from his father being late.

The party swapped stories with the Wachter brothers, telling them about their “daring escape” from Durst Manor. In return, they were able to pick up several bits of gossip about the town:

  • The half-elf is named [[Rictavio?]] and has been staying at the inn for some time now. The Wachter brothers have some sort of trick they have planned to play on him.
  • The mayor, [[Baron_Vargas_Vallokovich?]], has decreed that there will be a festival in three days. However, there was a festival just last week, and it seems there has been a festival every week for the last several years.
  • The baron has a henchman, [[Izek_Strazni?|Izek]], who lost his arm as a child, but eventually grew a demonic-looking replacement. Everyone in town with any sense is scared of him.
  • The Wachter brother’s mother, [[Lady_Fiona_Wachter?]], hates the baron and loudly proclaims to anyone that will listen that she’d rather be ruled by a devil than a madman.
  • There is a village far to the south that has been abandoned for decades. The rumor is that Strahd destroyed the town after the town’s mayor angered him.

While the rest of the group drank with the Wachters, Darali and Lesviel wandered over to listen to some of [[Rictavio?]]’s outlandish stories about were-hares and half-orcs that could chew through iron chains. They attempted to ask him about his cart, but he “noticed” that the famous Darali was in attendance, and the crowd demanded a performance from her. She. was. fantastic. People came in from the streets and packed the house to see her dancing, playing the flute, trailing flames from her fingertips as she performed. For her finale, she began juggling balls of fire and then, one by one, tossed them high in the air and let them fall down her throat, swallowing them to the crowd’s thunderous applause. She earned 110gp and free room and board at the inn for the night, but [[Rictavio?]] took the opportunity to slip off to bed.

The next morning at breakfast, they decided on a very direct approach, and came clean with [[Rictavio?]] about the weapons they, uh, “found” in his cart. They managed to persuade him that they were on the same side, and he brought them to his room to confer. There, he took off his hat, and instantly his entire appearance changed—he was actually the legendary vampire hunter [[Rudolph_von_Richten?]]!

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The party embarked on their trip to escort Ireena and Ismark to Vallaki. On the way, they learned a bit more Barovian lore:

  • the Vistani are the only ones that the mist allows to leave Barovia
  • some female Vistani have the ability to tell the future with uncertain accuracy
  • vampires can control or charm people
  • vampires cannot cross running water
  • sunlight can kill a vampire

The party was set upon by some thorn blights, but defeated them easily, and reached a crossroads with a gallows and a few graves. They decided to follow directions to the Vistani Encampment, but as they left, a body all of a sudden appeared on the gallows. It twisted around slowly to face them, and while most of the party saw a face they did not recognize, Telra saw her own face on the corpse. Shaken, the party left hurriedly.

The party soon came to an encampment of Vistani and joined them at the campfire. Erani slipped away to rifle through their belongings and found nine gemstones (but only told the party she found four). Darali performed for the Vistani and dazzled the audience with her fire dancing. Word will quickly spread of her talents, and she will likely be recognized in the future. One of the Vistani told the tale of the powerful and charismatic wizard mounting an assault on [[Castle_Ravenloft?]] a year ago, and the bad end the attackers came to. This was likely where Doru, the priest Donovich’s son met his fate.

Finally, the group entered Madame Eva’s tent. She seemed to know details about each of them that she couldn’t possibly have known. She read told the group that she was waiting for them, and had foreseen that they would be the ones to finally free Strahd von Zarovich from his curse. She read their fortune with her [[Tarokka_Deck?]] and told them the following:

  • The first card tells of history. Knowledge of the ancient will help you better understand your enemy. Look for a wizard’s tower on a lake. Let the wizard’s name and servant guide you to that which you seek.
  • The second card tells of a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope. I see a kneeling woman—a rose of great beauty plucked too soon. The master of the marsh knows of whom I speak.
  • The third card is one of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of vengeance: a sword of sunlight. Look to a place where sickness and madness are bred. Where treasure once cried, the treasure lies still.
  • The fourth card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness. I see a man of faith whose sanity hangs by a thread. He has lost someone close to him.
  • The final card will lead you to your enemy, a creature of darkness whose powers are beyond mortality. I see a secret place—a vault of temptation hidden behind a woman of great beauty. The evil waits atop his tower of treasure.

After the reading, the party haggled with the Vistani to secure a ride on one of their carts to the town of Vallaki.

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Our intrepid and extremely cautious adventures hemmed and hawed a bit, but agreed to take Ireena and Ismark’s father to be buried. Telra found an old wheelbarrow in the greenhouse, and they perched his coffin precariously on it and started down the road towards the Church. When they were nearly at the church, a small child ran out in front of the wheelbarrow, and Hogar had to quickly turn to avoid the kid, spilling the body unceremoniously into the street. Everybody was too grossed out to touch it, and Lesviel hit on the idea of using her Mage Hand spell to stuff him back in. This time, they secured the coffin with rope, and made it the rest of the way to the church with no trouble.

At the church, the group decided to try to avoid talking to anyone at all and bury the body in secret. However, Donovich, the priest, spied them out of the window and came out to ask them what they were doing. They tried to leave the body with him to take care of, but he pleaded with them that he would not be able to do this himself, as his son was no longer available. To make matters worse, in Barovia, they apparently worship the Morninglord, and the body had to be buried at sunrise. Erani made sure to let the priest know that his god had clearly abandoned him; it was not immediately clear why she needed to be so cruel to the sad, sick old man.

The party did not relish the idea of spending the night, so they decided to dig the hole now and use magic to convince the priest to go against the rites and traditions of the deceased. They entered the church to search for tools, but were immediately struck by the sound of a young man screaming ceaselessly from beneath their feet that he was hungry. Upon interrogation, the party discovered that the priest’s son Doru had traveled with a band led by a powerful wizard several months back to kill the vampire Strahd once and for all. Everyone died, but the priest’s son returned all the same. The priest was clearly more than a little insane, and has been praying for a way to save his son ever since he returned a month or so ago. The party decided that the son was probably a vampire and wanted no part of him, even though the old man had managed to trap him in the cellar by himself. Rather than retrieve shovels from the cellar, the party gathered up broken bits of wood from the destroyed church pews and scratched a shallow grave for the mayor.

By that time it was sundown, and they could hear that wolves and zombies were attacking they mayor’s house, so they decided to hole up in Mad Mary's Townhouse. They did not sleep, and could hear all manner of strange things outside the house all night long.

They returned to Ismark and Ireena the next morning, exhausted. Since it was after dawn, Ireena assumes everything was handled properly at the church, and Darali spun a vivid story about the townsfolk lining the street weeping for the departed mayor, and a lovely dawn service. She was very convincing, and Ireena believed the lie completely.

The party decided to make a quick stop at the general store to sell the junk they found at the house, but found the storekeeper’s prices exorbitant. They needed a disguise kit for Ireena, but the 250 gold pieces the owner demanded was 10 times the fair price! The party briefly considered their options, but the shopkeeper called out a big, muscular lad to cow any thieving impulses they might have had. Even Erani decided it wasn’t worth it!

Finally, the party set out, Ismark and Ireena accompanying them with plenty of provisions for the long journey. After crossing the bridge over the river, in mid afternoon, they walked into an ambush set by a small pack of dire wolves. Ismark joined in the fight and the party dispatched the wolves with barely a scratch. Rattled even so, they decided to make camp and travel exclusively at night from here on out.

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Our intrepid group of heroes, (who have yet to pick a name for their merry band), made their way back to the tavern in the small Town of Barovia. There, they managed (after a few tries) to find the house of young Grygori, the boy they saved from the mysterious old crone, Morgantha. His family didn’t seem very interested to talk to the group, but Erani was able to slip like a shadow back into their back room to steal the last of his mother’s Dream Pastry, which she claimed was literally her only pleasure in life. Perhaps with that in mind, at the last moment, Erani decided to leave a small crumb (perhaps to taunt to the poor woman).

After leaving the house, the sun was well and fully down, and the group realized they had nowhere to stay for the night. They debated camping out in the sobbing woman’s first floor since it was fortified, but ultimately decided to try to make it to Ismark and Ireena’s house. Ismark suspected a trick of Strahd’s and refused to open the door. Just then, three wolves and two shambling zombies lurched towards the group, pinning them against the locked front door of the house. Between Lesviel’s sleeping spell, Erani’s ruthless execution, Darali’s scorching rays of fire, and Hogar’s fancy footwork, the group managed to dispatch all but the last zombie, who continued crawling towards the group with his one remaining arm. Telra, Who had been furiously healing the groups wounds, keeping them alive, strode out and smartly rapped his skull with her shillelagh, splitting it open like an overripe melon.

Ismark witnessed this astounding display of fortitude, strength, and bravery, and hurriedly ushered his newfound friends inside, convinced they were no threat.

Inside, they met his sister Ireena, whose remarkable beauty set her apart from every other villager they had seen, even her brother Ismark. She insisted that she couldn’t possibly leave the town without knowing her father was laid to rest at the Church (that everyone in town seems to avoid).

Tired and spent from the ordeals of the day, the group piled haphazardly into the manor’s guestrooms and fell into a deep, restorative sleep.

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The party rested in the room with the two ghasts before continuing on. The door to the next room turned out to be a mimic (a creature that can disguise itself as inanimate objects) and when Hogar tried to open the door, it bit his hand. The party attacked it, Hogar managed to rip his hand out of its mouth, Darali froze it with an orb of ice, and Lesviel shattered it with her rapier.

The next room had lots of skeletons, and a statue of a man wearing a voluminous black cloak holding a smoked crystal glass. The party decided that they better not touch anything, but Erani stayed behind and tried to steal the crystal ball because it looked valuable. As soon as she touched it, five shadows on the wall attacked the party. Normal weapons didn’t seem to be too effective, but Telra’s shillelaghs and Lesviel’s silver rapier worked well. The party held their own while Lesviel worked her way around the room, dispatching them one by one. She was grievously injured when one of the shadows reached into her chest and drained the life force directly from her heart, but Telra was able to restore her somewhat with a magic spell of healing.

They found a secret exit in this room with stairs leading up to the trap door in the den on the first floor that would have come in very handy if they had to make a hasty retreat.

Finally, the party made its way downstairs. They found a rusty iron portcullis blocking their way, but Hogar manage to lift it up with the help of the party just enough to let Erani slip under and open it from the other side. They entered a large room filled with water with a raised stone dais and a bloodstained altar. All of the chanting stopped.

Hogar cautiously approached the altar, but as soon as he did, 13 shadowy figures appeared around the room shouting “ONE MUST DIE!” over and over again. Lesviel used her knowledge of religion to determine that, even though the cult never had any idea what they were doing and all of their rituals were hokum, still there fervent belief managed to imbue the house with some sort of power. The house required a sacrifice, and that’s why it drew the party inexorably here.

Darali cut her hand and bled on the altar hoping that that would appease the house and the spirits, but it just excited them and they shouted even louder.

Next, they placed their faithful and brave little mouse friend, Chester, on the altar and Lesviel used sleight of hand to make it look like she was killing him, while Darali manifested a magical image of the mouse’s tiny dead body. It was a cunning and inspired ploy, but it failed. The house knew, and the party could tell that any further attempts to deceive the house would trigger the fight of their lives.

The party had a choice to make. Sacrifice Chester, for real… spill his tiny blood on the altar to save themselves. Or run for their lives and risk the house’s anger. Tearfully, each party member raised their hand in assent. Hogar gave Chester one last bit of direwolf jerky, and placed him on the altar. Quickly, painlessly, Hogar sliced Chester in half. The chanting stopped, and the house was satisfied. Each of them also felt as if something far away was watching them, and knew what they had done.

On the way out they found Rose and Thorn’s graves. They retrieved their bodies from upstairs and lay them to rest properly and were able to convince Rose to “go to sleep”. They felt a bit better for having given the children some measure of peace.

The house didn’t try to stop them on the way out and they all emerged into the weak sunlight of Barovia. A massive direwolf with glowing red eyes was waiting outside for you. It laughed at you and then began to walk away. Telra cast speak with animals to ask why it was laughing, and it’s surprised you all by turning around and answering in common so you can all understand “I think you all will be very amusing.” It loped off, the party was too surprised to react.

After that, the streets began to fill with commoners going about their business and life seemed to return to what passes for normal in this village. The party decided they could use a drink and headed for the local tavern!

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Interlude: Escape from the Cult

The party members slept in the cultist’s chambers beneath Durst Manor last night, and all had the same vivid dream. On waking, they compared notes and pieced the following together:

You wake with a start to the sound of a light scratching on your chamber door. “Radu, my love, it is Jazmina.” You breathe a sigh of relief and crack open the door, and let the slender woman slip inside and into your arms. “Quickly,” she says, “gather your belongings. You are right. Gustav and Elisabeth’s blind devotion to Strahd has brought us nothing but despair. We leave tonight.”

You can feel your heart pounding as you hastily gather your belongings. Within moments you have a small traveling pack ready. The last item is a small silver locket with a portrait of the beautiful Vistani woman in front of you from before this nightmare began. This you place around your neck so that it will remain close to your heart.

The two of you slip out the door into the blackness of the tunnels beneath the mansion. “This way, my love!” she hisses. “I was nearly caught on my way to you. Elfric is skulking about down that hallway.” You shiver involuntarily. She leads you down one turn, then the next, and before long you are disoriented. You reach the heavy wooden door and she clutches your arm and whispers “We are nearly free!”

You push open the door, but instead of the secret passageway out, you find you have stumbled into the altar room! Gustav and Elisabeth are their in their robes, ringed by the other brothers and sisters. Jazmina closes the door gently behind you.

Elfric and another brother grab your arms and thrust you into the center of the room and onto your knees. With a cruel smile, Gustav exclaims “Radu! Brother! Sister Jazmina tells us you that have some concerns…”

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Define external redirect: Baron Vargas Vallokovich Arasek Stockyard Coffin Maker's Shop Rictavio Town Square Blue Water Inn Rudolph von Richten Lady Fiona Wachter Izek Strazni Tarokka Deck Blinsky Toys Nikolai Wachter Old Bonegrinder Red Dragon Crush Karl Wachter Castle Ravenloft Purple Grapemash No. 3