Curse of Strahd

A dinner Invitation...
Argynvostholt and a Werewolf den

Marpenoth 7, 1489DR – Leafall (October), Friday

The next morning the party ascends the stairs to investigate the third floor. On this level they find more signs of ruin. They pass some ruined bedchambers, collapsed bathrooms, but also an audience hall.

The west wall of this fifty-foot-long, thirty-foot-wide audience hall has crumbled, leaving a gaping hole and a pile of rubble. Weapons and shields that once hung from the walls have fallen to the floor and succumbed to rust. A large, wooden throne carved to resemble a dragon with unfolding wings faces three tall windows to the west. Slumped in the throne is a gaunt, armored figure with one gauntlet wrapped around the hilt of a great-sword.

Master Do stands right at the entrance of the room and calls out “Hello? Who are you?”

The figure at the end of the hall simply replies, “Go. Away.” Master Do stands his ground and insists, “This place is a mess…”

The creature's grip on the greatsword tightens. "If you have come to destroy me, know this: I perished defending this land from evil over four centuries ago, and because of my failure, I am forever doomed. If you destroy this body, my spirit will find a new corpse to inhabit, and I will hunt you down. You cannot free me from my damnation, nor would I wish it.

"If you have come to free this land from the creature that feasts on the blood of the innocent, know this: There is no monster I hate more than Strahd von Zarovich . He slew Argynvost, broke the life of the knight I loved, and destroyed the valiant order to which I devoted my life, but Strahd has already died once. He can't be allowed to die again. Instead, he must suffer eternally in a hell of his own creation, from which he can never escape. Whatever can be done to bring him misery and unrest, I will do, but I will destroy anyone who tries to end his torment."

Not wishing to disturb the figure any further the group slowly backs away and moves on to the rest of the building.

They investigate to the northwest of the fortress and come upon some sort of gathering hall. Through the dust and cobwebs, they see faded war banners adorning the walls of a spacious chamber, in the center of which stands a heavy wooden table. An iron chandelier hangs above the table, which is surrounded by six high-backed chairs with wood-carved dragons perched atop them . Slumped in five of the chairs are skeletal humans in tattered chainmail.

The corpses tilt their heads in their direction . One of them growls, "Why do you the living disturb the dead?"

Through some skilled diplomacy the group is able to speak with one of the spirits, Sir Godfrey Gwilym. He confides that the knights are trapped within Argynvostholt as revenants because their leader, Vladimir Horngaard, wishes to remain as a revenant to ensure Strahd lives in torment in eternity. Sir Godfrey also reveals that this curse may be lifted once the skull of the dragon Argynvost has been returned to the mausoleum, this would also help to weaken Strahd’s power on the land. However, during the battle of Argynvostholt Strahd took the dragon’s skull as a prize and placed it within his castle. The exact location of the skull within Ravenloft is unknown.

With this new information the group goes to the building’s roof to finish their exploration. They find ballistas and turrets, some of them destroyed, and plenty of signs of battle. They also pass by a Dragon Gargoyle which magically activates in their presence and whispers:

When the dragon dreams its dream Within its rightful tomb, The light of Argynvost will beam And rid this land of gloom.

The verse makes a reference to the dragon’s skull being laid to rest.

They climb the roof’s tower and reach the top. From there they get a good view of the land surrounding the structure: To the north and east lies a mist-shrouded valley with dark woods, a small town, and a lonely windmill on a precipice. To the south, a river flows through a foggy marsh. To the west, between rocky hills, they glimpse an abbey perched on a snowy mountainside beyond a long stretch of fog-smothered pines. The abbey was probably the place Father Lucian recommended they visit for more information and aid against Strahd. He said it was led by a group of Morninglord priests, which we know Strahd clearly dislikes.

Having explored the entire building they decide to return back to Van Richten, accompanying the wounded Savid as far as they could so he could return back to the Dusk Elf encampment now that the Vistani have been driven away.

Ezemrelda leaves ahead of the group and they find her already at the tower in a heated exchange with Van Richten. It seems both of them have known each other for a long time. From the argument the group guesses that Ezmerelda was a sort of assistance, or protege, to Van Richten. At some point during their travels they separated, but the cause for their rift remains unclear to the party. For the moment, however, they decide to set aside their quarrel and unite in fighting Strahd and his minions.

After taking a short rest the group decides to investigate the Werewolf den Bladehelm and Makaelis had found previously.

Lacking stealth they are stopped by two guards at the cave’s entrance. Intimidated by the group’s initial presence the guards hesitate to sound the alarm, but the group decides it is probably best to leave the place immediately, as the number of werewolves within remains unknown and it is nighttime.

The party retreats from the den, but are met with a messenger outside the cave’s mouth. They are given a letter invitation for dinner…

My friends,

Know that it is I who have brought you to this land, my home, and know that I alone can release you from it. I bid you dine at my castle so that we can meet in civilized surroundings. Your passage here will be a safe one. I await your arrival.

Your host,

Strahd von Zarovich

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Exploring Argynvostholt

Marpenoth 6, 1489DR – Leafall (October), Thursday

4pm

After defeating the revenants in the chapel the party exits the room through the northern door. Tucked behind the mansion is a fog-shrouded cemetery enclosed by a seven-foot-tall fence of wrought iron. In the northeast corner stands a mausoleum.

They suddenly feel like someone or something is watching them. Looking up, they spot a well-dressed man with a thick mane of thistledown hair observing from a high tower window. He draws the curtain and disappears from view.

They continue forward and notice that the corpses from the gravestones appear to have crawled out of the earth. Of the missing corpses there is no sign, but the surrounding fence is intact, which suggests that no one got into the cemetery from outside.

They reach the mausoleum. Tarnished, silver-plated gargoyles shaped like dragon wyrmlings cling to the stone-tiled roof of this mausoleum. An eight-foot-tall, four-foot-wide white marble door set into the southwest wall is engraved with a name: ARGYNVOST.

The interior of the mausoleum is dark and dusty. They spot four empty alcoves with raised floors. Etched into the far wall is a verse written in Draconic. Unfortunately, no on in the party can read Draconic, so they copy down the etching hoping they might run into someone who may be able to translate the text.

They exit the mausoleum, pass by the cemetery and re-enter the mansion to continue their investigation. As they search through the kitchen and wine cellar they find a wounded elf named Savid. He had been tasked with finding the young Arabelle, the Vistana child kidnapped and rescued earlier, and report back to the Vistani camp.

Savid was attacked on the road by needle blights, and once wounded sought refuse in the old mansion. The party offers to take him back to the camp once their investigation is complete. He in turn offers some history on the old fort:

  • Argynvost was a silver dragon that liked to assume human forms. Argynvostholt was the dragon's home. In human guise, the noble dragon led a group of knights called the Order of the Silver Dragon. They gave shelter to refugees who had come to the valley to escape Strahd's army.
  • Strahd's soldiers slew the dragon, destroyed the order, and sacked the mansion.
  • Vistani and dusk elves avoid the mansion, believing that the dragon's ghost haunts it.

The wine in this cellar has long turned to vinegar, but they bear the name of a winemaker that keeps popping up: Wizard of Wines. Next they enter what appears to be a parlor. From the hearth springs forth a fiery dragon. It flies about the room and speaks to the group:

“My knights have fallen into darkness. Save them if you can. Show them the light they have lost!"

With that, the fire burns out.

Confused and a little wary the party moves to check the second floor. They find more ruin and signs of the devastation that took place centuries ago. While investigating the northern rooms the party is attacked by a group of phantom warriors.

At this point, Bladehelm also makes his entrance downstairs. He had been investigating the werewolf den with Makaelis but soon got tired of “that insufferable warlock!” And so he decided to ditch the caster and catch up with the rest of the group. He happens to walk in at the right moment and is able to help the party in the battle.

After defeating the foes, the group witnesses a smoky dragon apparition fly past them and to the main hallway up through another set of stairs. Where did it go? Before looking further, they all settle down for a long rest.

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Dusk Elves freed from Vistani!

Marpenoth 5, 1489DR – Leafall (October), Thursday

After leaving the Vistani encampment near Vallaki, the group heads back to Van Richten’s tower where Kasimir and the rest of their group awaits. It is decided that the group will help Van Richten attack the Vistani encampment and help free the few Dusk Elves that remain.

Kasimir also reveals to Arannis that he is, in fact, a Dusk Elf. His parents were fortunate to survive the initial slaughter of their people, but were soon discovered after Arannis’ birth. An elder Vistana offered to help take the child to safety. Arannis’ parent died trying to help them escape notice.

The group waits until dark, hoping for most of the Vistani to be too drunk and tired to expect an attack. They take with them the Vistani prisoner they captured earlier and tell him to help get the women and children out of Barovia safely in exchange for his own life. He agrees and leads the party unseen to the encampment.

1am

Luvash and Arrigal, the Vistani leaders, are defeated and the camp secured. Kasimir decides to stay with his people for now to help them settle, but he will join our adventurers once they decide to travel towards the Amber Temple, a place he says holds great power to help them defeat Strahd.

After the successful attack they all head back to the tower and as promised Van Richten reveals the location of the werewolf den. It found east of his tower. He will not, however, give them the sunsword, but will join the group with sword in tow once they decide to conduct an assault on Castle Ravenloft. For now, he will keep the sword safe until it is needed.

They retire for the night.

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The "Bards" Request
Party visits Rictavio's tower and Vistani camp near vallaki

Marpenoth 4, 1489DR – Leafall (October), Wednesday

5:30pm

While investigating the second floor of Wachterhouse the group makes two gruesome discoveries.

Lying under a Gentle Repose spell, within the locked master bedroom, is a presumably dead Lord Wachter. The spell upon him makes it seem as if he is merely asleep, probably placed on his body shortly after his death, and unknown to everyone except Lady Wachter.

Also found within the master bedroom is a locked, and trapped, chest containing an ancient set of bones. Father Lucian later tells the group they probably belonged to an old enemy of House Wachter. His bones kept in order to keep anyone from raising them from the dead.

Locked inside another nearby room is Lady Wachter’s daughter, Stella, in her late teens to early twenties. It becomes painfully obvious that the young woman suffers from severe mental instability; she repeatedly tells the group she is a cat. Unable to help the poor girl the group closes the door behind them and leave Wachterhouse to rest for the night, having been unable to find further evidence of Lady Wachter’s doings or whereabouts – although the party is pretty sure she has gone to visit Castle Ravenloft.

Marpenoth 5, 1489DR – Leafall (October), Thursday

6am

Before setting off to their meeting with Rictavio, the party goes to fetch Astor at the Blue Water Inn. An early riser, and early drinker, Astor is making warm conversation with the inn owner Urwin Martikov. Astor has agreed to look into Urwin’s wine problems. Urwin claims the wine shipments have stopped for weeks now, and his stock is running dangerously low. It seems the Wizard of Wines winery will have to be investigated at some point…

12pm

The party arrives at Rictavio’s tower residence. “Rictavio” reveals himself to be Rudolph van Richten. He is a famous vampire hunter back in Faerun – Dale has heard many tales of his exploits, and his thoroughness.

Van Richten also wants to destroy Strahd, but he firmly believes that the Vistani are his servants and must be eliminated. In exchange for assistance defeating Strahd, and information on the Barovia werewolf den, van Richten wants the party to help him attack and destroy the men of the Vistani encampment. He will not harm women or children.

The group decides they will not agree to help the old hunter unless they’ve looked into this camp themselves.

Before setting off for the encampment they are attacked by rogue Vistani. They manage to capture one and bring him back to the tower for questioning. There seems to be some truth to van Richten’s theory; Vistani appear to be working “for the master.”

When the captured Vistani hears of the group’s plans to investigate and attack the nearby camp, he offers information on a missing young girl, daughter to one of the Vistani leaders. He suggests that finding the girl may provide a less violent resolution to the problem. The group considers this and make their way to the camp.

2pm

Before reaching the camp the party passes by Lake Zarovich. They spot a lone boat on the lake with a fisherman and a squirming sack. Suspicious, the party grabs some boats and goes to investigate the scene.

As they approach the small vessel they see the man throw the moving sack overboard. It is the size of a small person. After quick action Dale and Master Do manage to pull the sack from the water. A young girl, Arabelle, is found bound within. This is probably the daughter of the Vistani leader the captured man mentioned before.

The fisherman is in a sort of trance. He does not acknowledge the others and continues to speak to himself about “offerings for the fish.” They seize him and take him back to the Vistani camp, along with the rescued young girl.

Once at the Vistani camp, Luvash, the young girl’s father and Vistani leader takes her up in her arms and begins to weep. He promises to offer safe passage through the camp and guest rights to the group. He orders a celebration feast and invites the group to stay.

Walking around the camp the party notices that aside from the usual Vistani wagons, are elven homes. Outside the homes are elven male guards. When questioned they all direct them to the home of their leader, Kasimir. (Arannis bears a strong resemblance to these elves)

Kasimir tells the group that his people are being held prisoner by the Vistani. He would like nothing more than to defeat Strahd and free his fellow elves, but he has been unable to escape or fight back due to lack of numbers.

There seems to be a lot left unsaid, but the party manages to smuggle Kasimir out of the camp. They will take him back to van Richten’s tower and discuss their next potential move. There are many angles to this story.

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Revisiting Wachterhouse
Spies, cellars, and cultists

Marpenoth 4, 1489DR – Leafall (October), Wednesday

12pm

After speaking to the burgonmaster the group decides to investigate the mysterious bard, Rictavio. They ask some of the townspeople where they can find a carnival wagon, and they are directed towards the local stockyard, where most travel vehicles are stationed once they enter Vallaki.

The stockyard has several locked sheds along its periphery and lies adjacent to a roomy warehouse. A wooden sign above the front gate reads "Arasek Stockyard." The stockyard is a general store and a facility where storage sheds can be rented. It is owned by a middleaged married couple, Gunther and Yelena Arasek.

Parked at the south end of the stockyard is a sturdy carnival wagon, its colorful paint peeling off. Faded lettering on its sides spells out the words "Rictavio's Carnival of Wonders." A heavy padlock secures the back door. While the group checks out the wagon, Dale enters the store to speak with someone in charge.

As the rest of the party investigates the back of the wagon it suddenly lurches, as though something big has thrown itself against the inside wall. You hear the cracking of wood, the scraping of metal, and the snarl of something inhuman. Upon closer inspection, you see that the sides of the wagon are spattered with dry blood . You also see an inscription on the wagon's door frame that reads, "I bring you from Shadow into Light! "

Arannis is pretty sure the sound resembled that of a “big cat.” It was best to leave that part of the wagon alone.

The group then heads towards the front of the wagon and finds another door, locked. Asher easily unlocks it and enters to further investigate. Although he doesn’t find much of interest Master Do is able to find a hidden compartment with treasure inside, including the “Sunsword,” or “sword of sunlight” from Madam Eva’s fortune. They take the treasure and exit the wagon.

Meanwhile Dale is informed by the stockyard owner’s that Rictavio has paid a generous sum of money to keep his wagon safe. Rictavio pays them and they in turn don’t ask any questions. They also know that the bard has been staying at the local inn for about a month, but they don’t know much else. Dale bids them farewell and returns to the group, unaware they have entered the wagon and retrieved treasure.

As they discuss where to go next Rictavio appears in the stockyard and bursts into angry screaming when he notices the party has broken into his wagon and stolen property. Dale is surprised and also angry at the group, as he never agreed to steal, only to investigate.

After a heated exchange, Rictavio is handed back his property, but allows the party to keep the weapons. He has agreed to tell them the location of a werewolf den in Barovia if they help him defeat Strahd and fight the Vistani. They could discuss the matter further the next day at noon, at a specific location decided by the bard. He marks the party’s map and leaves to attend to his unfinished business.

2pm

Our adventurer’s take some time to shop in the village and complete other small tasks, before they revisit Lady Wachter’s house now that they have been given access by the burgonmaster.

4pm

When they reach the mansion’s entrance they see two young men arguing with one of the guards, they demand access to the home, and appear to be a little intoxicated. Our adventurers discover the two young men are Lady Wachter’s sons, Nikolai and Karl, who wish to enter their home but find themselves locked out by the guards. The party is able to diffuse the situation and hand them some gold so they may return to the tavern and resume their drinking. After some moments of consideration the pair agrees to leave without further incident.

The group investigates the first floor without finding much worthy of note. They run into Lady Wachter’s spy, Ernst Larnak, who had previously tried to hire the group in service of the Lady in the parlor area. He is unhelpful and unconcerned with the group.

A secret staircase is found to the home’s cellar and the party descends. Below they encounter a group of skeletons and another secret door through the cellar’s door opening into what appears to be some sort of ritual chamber. Four cultists are waiting within, but they are defeated, albeit, with some difficulties at the end. (Arannis almost dies DIES!)

Although all foes are defeated, Dale feels some sort of presence move past him and out of the room. The party still needs to investigate the 2nd floor.

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Vampires in Vallaki?
Vallaki vampire investigation

Marpenoth 3, 1489DR – Leafall (October)

7am

The following morning the group headed towards the home they saw the vampires enter the previous night. After clearing the surrounding area there entered the home through the back door.

The home was dark and musky, some furniture items seemed out of place, as if there might have been a struggle. The party heads towards the basement and they encounter an ungodly sight: Kneeling over an altar, holding a very dead body, are three robed figures. A battle ensues and soon a Vampire Spawn joins from the shadows.

The party triumphs and they investigate the rest of the basement. They take a closer look at the body and find it to be a older man, scarred with unholy symbols, and missing several organs. They also find a letter in the robes of one of robed men:

My faithful servants, I hope you have all needed resources for our shared endeavor. I look forward to hearing of your progress.

LLTN,

W

The party moves their search to the second floor of the house. The last bedroom down the hallway contains signs of violence and struggle. The window has been broken in, with shattered glass littering the floor. There are drops of blood on the wood, and the bed sheets appeared to have been dragged towards the broken window. There is a lone pink slipper on the floor. The room appears to have been occupied by a young woman, who is now missing, presumably kidnapped.

Assuming the mysterious “W” is probably Lady Wachter, the party heads towards her estate.

They find guards surrounding the mansion, access closed off to all citizens. When they question one of the guards he tells the group that Lady Wachter is wanted for murder, but no one can find her.

The burgonmaster has ordered the search of her home in hopes of finding her whereabouts. No one is granted access inside except for Makaelis, who was able to bluff his way into being an “investigator.”

Makaelis enters the home and investigates the basement, where he find an assortment of bones, ritual books, incantations, glyphs, and other treasures. He also finds an ornate letter addressed to Lady Wachter:

My dear Lady Wachter,

 

How pleased I have become with your work. Your reward is soon to come. I bid you dine at my castle to further discuss matters. It will be a grand event.

 

Your Lord,

Strahd von Zarovich

Due to his sticky hands, Makaelis briefly suffers the appearance of an unseemly Third Eye on his forehead, but it would disappear after his next rest.

10am

The group now returns to the burgonmaster’s mansion hoping to capitalize on the present chaos. He is beside himself with anger. With the festival so close at hand, Lady Wachter on the loose, and his right hand man dead, Baron Vallakovich will need all the help he can get. He agrees to deputize the party and sends them on their way. He wants his festival to succeed and the murderess caught!

The group returns to St. Andral to check up on Ireena and to speak to Father Lucian in case he can offer further assistance.

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Vallaki
Kidnapping, murder, and more!

Marpenoth 2, 1489DR – Leafall (October)

7am

The following morning the group makes their way north to the Town of Vallaki. On the way they encounter a large pack of wolves, but win relatively easily.

The Old Svalich Road meanders into a valley watched over by dark, brooding mountains to the north and south. The woods recede, revealing a sullen mountain burg surrounded by a wooden palisade. Thick fog presses up against this wall, as though looking for a way inside, hoping to catch the town aslumber.

The dirt road ends at a set of sturdy iron gates with a pair of shadowy figures standing behind them. Planted in the ground and flanking the road outside the gates are a half-dozen pikes with wolves’ heads impaled on them.

9am

The shadowy figures turn out to be town guards, and they demand all travelers identify themselves before entering through the gates. The party reveals their names and purpose and enter the town, heading first to the church of St. Andral, where they hope Ireena will be granted asylum.

The church of St. Andral is very similar to the church they visited back in Barovia, the only difference being this church has an active congregation. As the group enters the church they see dozens of people praying to the altar, which holds an ornate box atop it.

They meet Father Lucian Petrovich, the church’s priest, and he agrees to grant Ireena and her two new wards refuge within the church, but he has a favor to ask. Some days ago the holy bones of St. Andral were stolen from the church. Father Lucian was the only person in Vallaki who knew about the bones, but he recently mentioned them to Yeska, a young boy, to put him at ease about the recent attacks. The bones are believed to protect the church from all evil by villagers and Father Lucian. He suspects it was Milivoj who stole the bones but has been reluctant to confront him because the lad is so temperamental. Father Lucian has also not reported the theft for fear it may create a panic in town.

The party agrees to speak with Milivoj and promise to return with any news. When the group questions Milivoj he admits that Yeska told him about the bones. He also admits to passing along the information to Henrik van der Voort, the local coffin maker, and to stealing the bones for Henrik inreturn for money to help feed his younger sisters and brothers. Milivoj seems repentant, however, and promises not to steal ever again, as he fears he may have endangered the church through his actions. After chastising the lad for a bit the group heads towards the coffin maker’s shop.


While the rest of the group is investigating the bone theft, Master Do wanders town with Bladehelm and they arrive at a shop called Blinsky Toys. The owner of this establishment is Gadof Blinsky, an eccentric toymaker with a fascination for eerie playthings. He has a pet monkey called Piccolo, who was gifted to him by Rictavio (whom Asher would later meet at the inn). Piccolo wears a custom-tailored ballerina tutu.

Bladehelm notices dozens of dolls that have an uncanny resemblance to Ireena. When he asks Blinsky about them he says that the dolls are all commissioned work for an Izek Strazni, the burgonmaster’s right hand man. These dolls are not for sale.

Although the shop showcases dozens of different toys and dolls, Master Do becomes enamored with one ventriloquist’s dummy that looks like Strahd von Zarovich, and so he buys it before leaving and heading back to the church with Bladehelm. Upon returning to the church Bladehelm informs Ireena of the odd looking “Ireena dolls” found in the toy shop. She decides to check out the shop later in the day.


12pm

The rest of the group visit the coffin maker shop, and force Henrik to divulge the location of the bones. Upon a successful intimidation Henrik tells them they can be found in the room upstairs. The party gathers the bones and some coin, then head back to the church to tell Father Lucian the good news.

On their way back to St. Andral Asher notices the crows following them as they travel through town.

The party returns the bones to Father Lucian and he places them back at the altar, after which a strong holy force is felt take hold of the area. It seems the belief that the bones protected the church may have some foundation… They also meet once more with Milivoj and lecture him on his actions. Dale gives him some money to that the young man can properly support his younger siblings. Milivoj is touched and humbled, swearing never to steal again.

Asher heads off to the local tavern, the Blue Water Inn, to try and reserve accommodations for the group and to check up on Ismark, who would be leaving the next day now that his sister has been safely transported to Vallaki. Upon reaching the inn Asher notices the odd ravens once more. Once inside he rents rooms for those in the party not staying at the church, speaks a while with Ismark, and meets a colorfully dressed half-elf bard named Rictavio.

Asher and Rictavio remain at the inn sharing drink and conversation. The bard describes himself as a ringmaster from a distant land traveling on his colorful carnival wagon. He’s been staying at the inn for almost a month. When he arrived he was accompanied by his monkey, Piccolo. The monkey wasn’t welcome at the inn, so he gave it to Blinsky, seeing the toymaker in need of a friend. Rictavio admits to having no musical talent but manages to entertain locals with his stories of faraway places. As the conversation carried on Rictavio seemed to pay close attention to the silvered dagger held by Asher.

In a moment of epiphany, Asher was also reminded of Madam Eva’s fortune: “This is a card of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of vengeance: a sword of sunlight. The Illusionist… A man is not what he seems. He comes here in a carnival wagon. Therein lies what you seek.”

When Asher began to further inquire on Rictavio’s true purpose the bard daftly deflected and quickly made his exit. As the bard left the inn the rest of the party entered the tavern. They wish to pay the burgonmaster a visit and inquire about the odd festivities and frequent arrests.

As they approach the mansion they notice lights flickering in the attic.

They are given audience and finally meet the somewhat unhinged leader of the town.

Baron Vargas Vallakovich has been forcing weekly festivals on the town for months, believing these festivities will protect Vallaki from the devil Strahd. Citizens that do not participate or are otherwise “disruptive” are arrested and even executed. While the group is speaking with the baron, Asher sneaks off and investigates the mansion, specifically the attic. Asher finds a locked room at the end of the attic with strange lights and noises coming from within. Not wanting to press his luck Asher leaves through a 2nd floor window and meets up with the group outside.

Having been told by the burgonmaster to speak with his right hand man Izek concerning any festival matter, the party heads towards the townsquare. There they find guards taking down old festival decorations and placing up new ones. They also see several citizens tied up in the stocks, including children. Izek is standing to the side serving as supervisor to all the activity.

Outraged by the treatment of the citizens the group confronts Izek about his tactics and demand the people be let go free, at the very least the children. He refuses and threatens to call all the guard on them, and so the group leaves the square before matters become worse.

3pm

As they walk through the alleys Asher and Arannis notice someone following them. They confront the person, who turns out to be one of Lady Wachter’s servants, with an invitation to meet with his mistress. Somewhat skeptical, they follow the man to Lady Wachter’s estate.

Lady Fiona Wachter seeks to gain control of Vallaki. She believes herself to be both of higher birth and competence than Baron Vallakovich. She offers a partnership of sorts between herself and the party, asking the group to seal their deal by killing Izek, the burgonmaster’s creature. She presents her case as one of bringing order and peace back to town, and finally doing away with the horrid festivals everyone has been forced to endure. However, when she learned of Dale’s opinions towards Strahd, she immediately rescinded her offer and ordered them out of her home. She would suffer no ill words against Lord Strahd.

When they return to St. Andral they find that Ireena never returned from her walk into town. The children tell the group that she left to visit a toy shop in town, where the dolls in her likeness were discovered. The party heads towards the shop and question the toymaker Blinsky. He tells them that all the dolls are regularly commissioned by Izek. Izek had related to the toymaker the description of the dolls, whose likeness came from a woman in his dreams. He also admits that Ireena had visited the shop earlier in the day but left alone.

The group wants to investigate the burgonmaster’s house immediately, but Dale objects saying they lack sufficient evidence to accuse Izek. Thankfully, Bladehelm is able to gather information from some street urchins who inform him that Ireena was kidnapped by Izek and probably dragged into the burgonmaster’s mansion. They ultimately all agree to investigate the house.

First, they enter through the attic window Asher had used earlier in the day. They search the attic and enter the previously closed door. There they find an assortment of voodoo dolls, animal bones, and a badly drawn teleportation circle, which they discover could seriously harm any user. Someone has been studying crude magic but the room is presently empty.

They move down to the 2nd floor and finally find Ireena tied up to the bed in Izek’s room. She relates to them her kidnapping and the mad ravings of Izek who is convinced she is the woman he’s been dreaming about, as well as his desire to “have her” later that evening. Izek is expected to return to the room soon, so the group hatches a plan to catch the kidnapper.

They manage to capture the large grunt and sneak his unconscious body out of the mansion through a magical floating spell.

They all make it back to the church and interrogate Izek. With no redeeming information coming out of their questioning they give Ireena the role of judge. She swiftly kills Izek and leaves the room.

Not ones to waste an opportunity the group carries Izek’s dead body through town and dump it visibly in Lady Wachter’s estate. Drama would surely unfold…

They all return to the church and prepare for rest, but as everything begins to quiet down the lookouts spot shadowy figures moving oddly through the mist. In the distance they see a handful of these creatures enter a home while the others make their way towards the church.

They are vampire spawns, and seem to be unable to cross some invisible protective barrier surrounding St. Andral. After several failed attempts to enter the figures disappear and the group is able to catch some rest. They would have to investigate the invaded home in the morning.

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Old Bonegrinder Mill
The group faces Morgantha and her daughters

Marpenoth 1, 1489DR – Leafall (October)

4pm

 

The group travels on the road for a while before approaching a split in the path.

The Old Svalich Road transitions here from being a winding path through the Balinok Mountains to a lazy trail that hugs the mountainside as it descends into a fog-filled valley. In the heart of the valley they see a walled town near the shores of a great mountainside lake, its waters dark and still. A branch in the road leads west to a promontory [headland], atop which is perched a dilapidated stone windmill, its warped wooden vanes stripped bare.

The group leaves the main road and heads toward the mill to investigate further. The onion-domed edifice leans forward and to one side, as though trying to turn away from the stormy gray sky. There are gray brick walls and dirt-covered windows on the upper floors. A decrepit wooden platform encircles the windmill above a flimsy doorway leading to the building’s interior. Perched on a wooden beam above the door is a raven. It hops about and squawks at the party, seemingly agitated.

Makaelis and Arannis are able to make out a spoken warning from the bird: “Beware! Hags inside!”

Beyond the windmill is the forest. The group can spot a ring of four squat megaliths at the forest's’ edge. Ravens can be seen circling in the air above the stones. After considering the raven’s warning and checking for traps, the party enters the building.

The ground floor has been converted into a makeshift kitchen, but the room is filthy. Baskets and old dishware are piled everywhere. Adding to the clutter is a peddler’s cart (the same one seen in Barovia village), a chicken coop, a heavy wooden trunk, and a pretty wooden cabinet with flowers painted on its doors. In addition to the clucking of the chickens, the party can hear toads croaking.

The sweet smell of pastries blends horridly with a stench that burns their nostrils. The awful odor comes out of an open, upright barrel in the center of the room. Warmth issues from a brick oven against one wall, and a crumbling staircase ascends the wall across from it. Shrieks and cackles from somewhere higher up cause the old mill to shudder.

After investigating their surrounding for a moment they find about a hundred toads piled inside the trunk, and notice small human bones littering the flagstone floor. The noise the party makes cause the old woman Morgantha to descend the stairs, wearing a bloodstained, flour-caked apron. A long sharp bodkin impales her bundled-up mound of gray hair.

She seems surprised to find visitors, and soon becomes agitated when the party accuses her of illegally squatting in the old mill, previously owned by the Durst family, and whose ownership now belongs to the burgonmaster of Barovia, Ismark. Morgantha attempts several weak pleas, but the party is unsympathetic.

Recognizing defeat, and taking advantage of the party’s momentary discussions, she rushes up the steps and disappears. Almost immediately a demon-ichor rises from one of the barrels and attacks the group. They quickly dispatch it and head upstairs after the old woman. (Ismark, Ireena, Astor, and Dale stay behind.)

The dirt-caked windows allow very little light to enter this eight-foot high chamber, most of which is taken up by a large millstone connected to a wooden gear shaft that rises through the ceiling in the center of the room. A stone staircase continues up. Morgantha is found here with two ugly young women, presumably her daughters Bella and Offalia Wormwiggle, wearing silk shawls and gowns of stitched flesh. Long needles stick out of their tangled mops of black hair.

The women cackle with glee and attack the party. After a handful of difficult rounds the group is able to defeat Morgantha and Bella, Offalia manages to slip away by casting a dimensional rift, closing it behind her once crossed over. With no more enemies to face everyone heads upstairs to finish clearing the building.

The cramped, circular room contains a ladder that climbs to a wooden trapdoor in the nine-foot-high ceiling. A moldy bed with a tattered canopy stands nearby. In a rotting wooden closet are three crates, stacked one atop another, with small doors set into them.

Next to the closest is a heap of discarded clothing. There are two living children caged inside the crates, a young seven year old boy named Freek and girl, Myrtle, who is barely five, from Barovia. The group offered to take them back to their parents, but they much rather preferred to stay with Ireena, since they still remembered how their parents willingly gave them to the hags as payment for their dream pastries. Touched, Ireena heartily agreed to become their guardian.

It was now time to rest. They would all head towards the walled city of Vallaki in the morning.

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Vistani, Beserkers, and Werewolves. Oh my!
The party leaves the Vistani encampment and head towards Vallaki

Before the group retires to sleep an older Vistana who was sitting by the large bonfire walks towards Makaelis and brings her hand up to his face and traces its outline.

“You remind me of him, yes you do!”

When questioned by the others as to what that means she replied, “A mighty wizard came to this land over a year ago. I remember him like it was yesterday. He stood exactly where you’re standing. A very charismatic man, he was. He thought he could rally the people of Barovia against the devil Strahd. He stirred them with thoughts of revolt and bore them to the castle en masse.

“When the vampire appeared, the wizard’s peasant army fled in terror. A few stood their ground and were never seen again.

“The wizard and the vampire cast spells at each other. Their battle flew from the courtyards of Ravenloft to a precipice overlooking the falls. I saw the battle with my own eyes. Thunder shook the mountainside, and great rocks tumbled down upon the wizard, yet by his magic he survived. Lightning from the heavens struck the wizard, and again he stood his ground. But when the devil Strahd fell upon him, the wizard’s magic couldn’t save him. I saw him thrown a thousand feet to his death. I climbed down to the river to search for the wizard’s body, to see if, you know, he had anything of value, but the River Ivlis had already spirited him away.”

She turned away and began walking back to the fire, “An odd thing indeed! I wonder what the stars have in store for us.” <meta />

Eleint 30, 1489DR – The Fading (September)

6am

The next morning they gathered their things and departed the encampment. They followed the river to the base of the canyon, at the far end of which a great waterfall spills into a pool, billowing forth clouds of cold mist. A great stone bridge spanned the canyon nearly one thousand feet overhead.

9am

The group was not traveling for long before a band of berserkers surprised them. These wild mountainfolk were covered head to toe in thick gray mud, which is how they were able to sneak up on the party. They were able to take the enemies down and captured one man for interrogation. His name was Astor.

Astor was washed clean to better see his face and offered clothing, which he put on reluctantly. He revealed that his group had been ordered to follow and attack the party by the “master.”

Makaelis used a spell to read his thoughts but was unable to see who “the master” was. After some heated dialogue Dale was able to convince Astor to join them on their journey, offering coin, food, and shelter. Their show of strength was enough to win him over. Besides, who didn’t like adventures!

They pushed onward, camped for a night and suffered another encounter the next day. <meta />

Marpenoth 01, 1489DR – Leafall (October)

11am

This time they found a pack of werewolves. Initially they only saw one man standing in the middle of the road, but it soon became apparent that he was part of a larger pack. In the midst of battle Bladehelm realized that some of these enemies he had seen before! They probably come from the same den that destroyed his village!

The fight was won. They healed their wounds and carried on. Soon they would pass the old mill, now occupied by the old pastry seller Morgantha.

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Rites of the Morninglord
The Burial and Meeting Madam Eva

Eleint 27, 1489DR – The Fading (September)

5am

The group now finds itself inside the Burgonmaster’s mansion, after being recruited by Ismark for a special escort mission to Vallaki.

The interior is well furnished, yet the fixtures show signs of great wear. Noticeable oddities are the boarded-up windows and the presence of holy symbols in every room. The burgonmaster is in a side drawing room on the floor—lying in a simple wooden coffin surrounded by wilting flowers and a faint odor of decay.

Ismark offers the group refreshments and invites them to make themselves comfortable. Supplies, food, and boarding would all be provided for them. Ireena remains silent and by her father’s coffin.

As they sat around the drawing room enjoying the drink Ismark provided a knock came to the door. A disheveled half-orc stood in the doorway asking about a den of werewolves he had been tracking for the last couple of days. He mentions that the claw marks covering the mansion are very similar to the ones he had been tracking these past weeks. He introduces himself as Bladehelm Gorefister. Bladehelm explains that his village was attacked and ravaged by werewolves. Since the attack he has set off to hunt down the beasts and bring them to justice. During his investigation Bladehelm became lost within the Slavich woods, losing his way in the mists, but somehow survived to reach the village of Barovia.

After some strange introductions and probing from the group, it was decided that this half-orc could join the escort party to Vallaki, as Bladehelm’s personal hunt would take him in a similar direction. For now they would all catch their rest and set off to the church in the morning to convince the local priest to bury the deceased burgonmaster – Ireena refuses to leave Barovia until her father is put to rest with the proper rites. They say their goodnights and head to bed.

Eleint 28, 1489DR – The Fading (September)

12am

A little after midnight, as the group slept and Arannis kept watch, an odd thing happened. Arannis noticed a soft glow of light shining through the mansion windows. The light’s source seemed to coming from the church’s direction. Curious, but wary, Arannis approached the windowsill and looked out into the town below.

An eerie light suffused the graveyard. From this light emerged a long ghostly procession. Wavering images of doughty women toting greatswords, woodwise men with slender bows, dwarves with glittering axes, and archaically dressed mages with beards and strange, pointed hats — all these and more march forth from the graveyard, their numbers growing by the second. These visions looked no different than our adventuring group. Armed and battle-experienced, and yet they were all dead.

The throng marched through and out of town and towards the towering Castle Ravenloft on the cliff’s peak. The march’s light continued on into the distance until is was visible no more. Barovia was left silent and still, as if nothing had ever happened.

Morning came and the group made its way to church, passing a woman with a cart selling some type of sweet pastries. Arannis also related to them the strange event he witnessed during the night as they walked through town.

Asher asks one of the villagers about the woman, to which the man responds, “Yeah, she comes here every week to sell her sweets. I think she comes from the old mill north of town. The pastries help some of the people escape their sadness, but they can also be addicting. She makes pretty good coin…” Asher thanks the man and returns to the group.

Atop a slight rise, against the roots of the pillar stone that supports Castle Ranvenloft, stands a gray, sagging edifice of stone and wood. The church has obviously weathered the assaults of evil for centuries on end and is worn and weary. A bell tower rose toward the back, and flickering light shined through holes in the shingled roof. The rafters strained feebly against their load.

They approached the heavy wooden doors of the church which were covered with claw marks, similar to the ones found outside the burgonmaster’s mansion, and scarred by fire. They knocked on the door but no response came. The faint sounds of prayer could be heard coming from within.

After debating for a moment the group decided it was best to force the doors open and get on with their task. After breaking the doors the group entered into a ten-foot-wide, twenty-foot-long hall leading to a brightly lit chapel. The hall was unlit and reeked of mildew. Four doors, two on each side of the hall, lead to adjacent chambers.

The chapel was strewn with debris, and they head a soft voice from within reciting a prayer. Suddenly, the prayer is blotted out by an inhuman scream rising up from beneath the wooden floor.

Further down the hall, in what appears to be a chapel, they spot a shadow. The group moves forward to investigate.

The chapel is in shambles, with overturned and broken pews littering the dusty floor. Dozens of candles mounted in candlesticks and candelabras light every dusty corner in a fervent attempt to rid the chapel of shadows. At the far end of the church sits a claw-scarred altar, behind which kneels a priest in soiled vestments. Next to him hangs a long, thick rope that stretches up into the bell tower.

From beneath the chapel floor, you hear a young man’s voice cry out, “Father! I’m starving!”

The man they find in behind the altar is none other than the town’s priest, Father Donavich. He has been praying throughout the night, making his voice hoarse and weak. He is, in a word, insane. A little more than a year ago, his twenty-year-old son Doru and several other villagers stormed Castle Ravenloft in revolt, having been lured there by a wizard in black robes who came to Barovia from a far away land. By all accounts, the wizard died by Strahd’s hand, and so too did Doru, who returned to his father as a vampire spawn.

Unable to kill his only child, Donavich trapped his son in the church’s undercroft and has kept them there since, unfed. Doru cries out to his father at all hours, while Donavich prays day and night, hoping the gods will tell him how to save Doru without destroying him.

The group sympathizes with the priest’s situation and offer to deliver his son from his torment, but Father Donavich forcefully rejects the idea. His son is trapped and separated from the rest of the village, and therefore poses no threat to anyone. Donavich will continue to offer his prayers until his son is somehow cured. Dale, however, knows another way in which Doru might be cured, but it requires his death and subsequent resurrection, a spell too strong for any in the party to successfully cast. The group appeases Donavich and allows his son to continue trapped under the church, but they still require his assistance in the burgonmaster’s burial.

Donavich happily agrees to conduct the rites and instructs the party to return in the morning for the ceremony. He allows them to leave the coffin overnight as he will make the necessary preparations. The group also takes the opportunity to ask about the ghostly procession Arannis saw during the night. Father Donavich explains that every night at midnight the spirits of adventurers victim to the cruel games of Strahd rise from their graves and march towards the castle, drawn by their still strong desire to vanquish the devil, but never able to succeed. It is a sad state, but they are now forever trapped in the nightly procession.

The group says their goodbyes and begin to make their way back to the mansion. They once again spot the old woman pushing her cart and selling what they now hear to be “Dream Pastries.” This time, Asher followed her through the alleys. He saw her knock on a residence, speak with two adults (they seemed to be pleading) and shove something the size of a child into her cart. As she walked away from the home’s residents they called after her, but she did not look back.

Asher and the group confronted the woman and asked her to reveal what was inside her cart. She calls herself Morgantha, and insist she only carries the Dream Pastries she sells. Makaelis buys some, and would later eat 2 to his regret.

As Morgantha is distracted by the group and their inquiries Asher sneaks around them and uncovers the cart. There is a young boy child tied and gagged within. The old woman notices the deception and quickly realizes she is found out. She gives up the boy, saying he was being taken to simply work of his parents’ debt, but under good care. The group is naturally skeptical about her intentions.

Recognizing defeat Morgantha leaves the boy with the group and goes her own way, probably back to the mill she calls home. (The group would later discover that this mill is the same mill mentioned in the will they uncovered at Death House.) The boy is returned to his parents, who seem to be under the influence of the old woman’s Dream Pastries.

On their way back to the mansion the Dream Pastries finally kick in for Makaelis. He collapses to the ground and enters a deep slumber which no one can break. They must now carry the elf back. He would end up sleeping all the way through morning.

They reach the mansion and tell Ireena the good news. In the morning her father will be buried and they will be ready to set off for Vallaki, but not before stopping by the Vistani encampment where a Madam Eva awaited them.

Eleint 29, 1489DR – The Fading (September)

6am

The next morning the group, Ismark, and Ireena attend the burgonmaster’s funeral. After the ceremony Ismark stays behind to finish burying his father and Ireena returns to the mansion to finalize travel preparations.

It is now time to gather the party and leave for the Vistani encampment.

12pm

After leaving the village of Barovia, they head towards the west. The group reaches River Ivlis Crossing.

They discover an old wooden gallows creaking in a chill wind that blows down from the high ground to the west. A frayed length of rope dancing from its beam. The well-worn road splits here, and a signpost opposite the gallows points off in three directions: Barovia Village to the east, Tser Pool to the northwest, and Ravenloft/Vallaki to the southwest.

Across from the gallows, a low wall, crumbling in places, partially encloses a small plot of graves shrouded in fog, but none in the group venture to investigate further.

As they make their way out of this area Arannis hears a creaking noise behind him, coming from the gallows. Where there was nothing before now hangs a lifeless, gray body. The breeze turns the hanged figure slowly, so that it fixes its dead eyes on Arannis. He sees his own face in the dead body! The others in the group just see a stranger’s face. They quickly leave this cursed place.

2pm

As they follow the Old Svalich road they catch a whiff of pipe smoke in the cold air and hear laughter through the fog. Two drunken Vistani men emerge from the wood’s edge. They offer to “guide” the group towards the Vistani encampment for 100gp. Asher counteroffers to have the group guide THEM for 100gp instead. Given their drunken state, the Vistani agree to Asher’s offer and hand him a bag with the negotiated payment and some extra gemstones.

They resume their trek to the encampment. The road gradually disappears and is replaced by a twisted, muddy path through the trees. Deep ruts in the earth are evidence of the comings and goings of wagons.

4pm

The canopy of mist and branches suddenly gives way to black clouds boiling far above. There is a clearing here, next to a river that widens to form a small lake several hundred feet across. Five colorful round tents, each ten feet in diameter, are pitched outside a ring of four barrel-topped wagons (vardos). A much larger tent stands near the shore of the lake, its saggins form lit from within. Near this tent, eight unbridled horses drink from the river.

The mournful strains of an accordion clash with the singing of several brightly clad figures around a bonfire. A footpath continues beyond this encampment, meandering north between the river and the forest’s edge.

Two Vistani men approach the group and ask their purpose. They tell them that Madam Eva is expecting them, and are led inside her tent where they are told, “At last you have arrived!

Magic flames cast a reddish glow over the interior of the tent, revealing a low table covered in a black velvet cloth. Glints of light seem to flash from a crystal ball on the table as a hunched figure peers into its depths. She cackles and looks at each group member in turn addressing them by their name, and then asking, “Would you like me to read your fortune?”

They agree.

She takes out a deck of Tarokka cards and begins her reading, dealing 5 cards in all.

She places her hand on the first card.

“This card tells of history. Knowledge of the ancient will help you better understand your enemy.” She flips the card, The Elementalist. “The treasure is hidden in a small castle beneath a mountain, guarded by amber giants.”

The second card. “This card tells of a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope.” She flips the card over, The Warrior. “That which you seek lies in the womb of darkness, the devil’s lair: the one place to which he must return.”

The third card. “This is a card of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of vengeance: a sword of sunlight. The Illusionist… A man is not what he seems. He comes here in a carnival wagon. Therein lies what you seek.”

The fourth card. “This card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness. Ah, The Mists! A Vistana wanders this aland alone, searching for her mentor. She does not stay in one place for long. Seek her out at Saint Markovia’s abbey, near the mists.”

The points towards the fifth and final card. “Your enemy is a creature of darkness, whose powers are beyond mortality. This card will lead you to him!” She flips the card over, “The Innocent. “He dwells with the one whose blood sealed his doom, a brother of light snuffed out too soon.”

She collects all the cards and puts them away in her robes. “So, will you brave adventurers help this land find deliverance?” Madam Eva goes on to explain that she has summoned the group here to help Barovia rid itself from Strahd’s curse. She herself is too old and weak to do it herself, so she requires the help of strong battle-experienced and brave adventurers. Unfortunately, they are not the first to attempt this task. Those who came before obviously failed, and died as a result. But Madam Eva has faith in this group, and so they agree to help the Barovian people. But first, they must complete their promise to Ismark and deliver Ireena to Vallaki.

Madam Eva notices Ireena standing in a corner and a flash of what seems like recognition crosses her eyes. “This will be an interesting venture indeed… I wish unto you good fortunes and the sun’s blessing. May your success be swift and complete! And now I will retire. Begone! Eat and drink by the fires. My people will happily care for you this evening.”

They are escorted out by two large Vistani guards out into the bonfire surrounded by other Vistani, who are eating, drinking, singing, and dancing. They spend the evening in the encampment, their travels to resume in the morning.

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