Eleint (September) 21 – 1489DR
Autumn Equinox Feast
In celebration of the autumn equinox, Duchess Morwen of Daggerford hosts an annual feast in her gardens. Among her honored guests are 6 well-known adventurers (Asher of Liene, Master Dō, Arannnis, Makaelis) who served the duchess loyally in the past. They have come to Daggerford’s aid on more than one occasion, and regularly accept small contracts from the duchess.
The cool autumn breeze blew through the streets as these travellers made their way to the feast grounds. They dined on hot, spicy soup and tenderly cooked pheasant, but in the midst of the celebration they could tell the duchess seemed more out of sorts that usual.
When a pall in the conversation fell upon the table, Morwen voiced her concerns about a band of wayward travellers, Vistani, camped outside of the town’s walls.
“They seemed harmless at first,” Morwen said, “But I have received reports that they have begun harassing townsfolk and other visitors as they come and go, demanding money and wine, and threatening to put hexes – HEXES – on anyone who doesn’t pay up. The audacity, on my lands!” The duchess appeared to become more than a little flustered at this point, both due to the conversation subject and perhaps the amounts of wine she has already consumed.
“Yesterday I ordered several guards to scare them away, but they couldn’t get the job done. No even sure why they deserve the GENEROUS salary I provide them with…” she offered loudly so that her men could hear. Some of the guards shifted uncomfortably at her words, seeming more than a little ashamed, for their mistress was, in fact, a generous ruler; the duchess had earned vast support among her citizens and it is common knowledge that her guards and soldiers are loyal to their deaths.
Morwen chuckled at herself and continued. “When the guards returned they spoke sympathetically of these ‘visitors,’ but I suspect they might have been magically charmed.” She paused and sipped from her wine.
“Now, I certainly don’t want armed conflict, heavens! The last thing I need is a violent confrontation with these Vistani. No. Arendale served as a good enough example of what happens when vistani and common folk become at odds.” Morwen put her wine glass down and looked intently at her guests,”But what I DO want is to send a stern message to those squatters, and I ask you to deliver it on my behalf—Leave before dawn, or I burn you wagons to the ground!” She sat back in her chair and picked up her wine glass once more. “So, will you do it?”
The group agrees to take on this missive and after dinner is completed they set off to the Vistani encampment.
As the evening grew dark, they came upon a dozen men and women gathered around a cackling bonfire. The folk were in good spirits. A few of them sang and danced around the fire while others found happiness in their flasks and wineskins. Three barrel-topped wagons were parked at odd angles. Tied to a nearby tree, grazing, were half a dozen draft horses wearing bright coats with bangles and tassels.
The group’s leader, the adventurers discovered, was Stanimir. He was accompanied by his daughter, Damia, and his son Ratka.
After the duchess’ message was delivered Stanimir laughed. “Don’t worry. We have no wish to make enemies of Lady Morwen. I have a story to tell all of you. First you listen, then we go. It this acceptable?”
The adventurers agree to hear his tale.
Stanimir fills his mouth with wine, then spits into the fire. The flames turn from orange to green. As they dance and sway, a dark shape appears in the bonfire’s core.
“We come from an ancient land whose name is long forgotten—a land of kings. Our enemies forced us from our homes, and now we wander the lost roads.”
The dark shape in the fire takes the form of a man being knocked from his horse, a spear piercing his side.
Stanimir continues. “One night, a wounded soldier staggered into our camp and collapsed. We nursed his terrible injury and quenched his thirst with wine. He survived. When we asked him who he was, he wouldn't say. All he wanted was to return home, but we were deep in the land of his enemies. We took his as one of our own and followed him back toward his homeland. His enemies hunted him. They said he was a prince, yet we didn’t give him up, even when their assassins fell upon us like wolves.”
Deep in the bonfire, the adventures saw a dark figure standing with sword drawn, fighting off a host of shadowy shapes.
“This man of royal blood fought to protect us, as we protected him. We bore him safely to his home, and he thanked us. He said, ‘I owe you my life. Stay as long as you wish, leave when you choose, and know that you will always be safe here.”
The figure in the dancing fire vanquished its final foe, then dispersed in a cloud of smoke and embers.
Stanimir’s face becomes a somber mask. “A curse has befallen our noble prince, turning him into a tyrant. We alone have the power to leave his domain. We’ve traveled far and wide to find heroes such as yourselves to end our dread lord’s curse and put his troubled soul to rest. Our leader, Madam Eva, knows all. Will you return to Barovia with us and speak with her?”
The adventures agree to help the Vistani and promptly return back to the duchess and deliver the good news. Although the duchess was already retired to her rooms, the lady’s steward was present to take the message and pay the men. He thanked them on behalf of his lady and wished them good travels.
Eleint (September) 24 – 1489DR
Entering the lands of Barovia
Stanimir and his convoy escort the adventurers to the village of Barovia. The journey took about three days. When they reached the village the Vistani continued onto the local tavern, while the travelers became distracted by a pair of young children standing alone in the streets.
The children were ten year-old Rose and seven year-old Thorn Durst. They are residents of a nearby house, but refuse to go back in for fear of the “monster” being kept in the basement by their parents. The adventures offer to the help the children and investigate the home.
Through their investigation the group uncovers a strange letter addressed to the owner of the house, the children’s father. The letter was signed by Strahd von Zarovich. It read:
My most pathetic servant,
I am not a messiah sent to you by the dark powers of this land. I have not come to lead you on a path to immortality. However many souls you have bled on your hidden altar, however many visitors you have tortured in your dungeon, know that your are not the ones who brought me to this beautiful land. You are but worms writhing in my earth.
You say that you are cursed, your fortunes spent. You abandoned love for madness, took solace in the bosom of another woman, and sired a stillborn son. Cursed by darkness? Of that I have no doubt. Save you from your wretchedness? I think not. I much prefer you as you are.
Your dread lord and master,
Strahd von Zarovich
The group also found the Durst will, deed to the home, and deed to an old windmill further along the Old Svalich Road. They take the documents and continue their search of the home.
When Master Dō and Asher reach the third floor they are attacked by a magical suit of armor. Asher is knocked unconscious on the first hit, but soon the rest of group reaches the third floor balcony and dispatched the enemy promptly.
Things are not as they seem in this house—The animated broom that attacked Master Dō would be proof enough later on.