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?]]!