Curse of Strahd

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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Escape from Death House

Eleint 26, 1489DR – The Fading (September)

Morning

After enjoying a night's rest, the group continues exploring the underground dungeon. They return to the Darklord’s Shrine, where they found the orb, and continue down the south hallway. Asher leads the group and encounters a closed door. He begins to look for traps, but as his hand touches the door’s surface he becomes glued to it! This is not door, this is a mimic!

The creature attacks the group but it is soon disposed of (not before Master Dō manages to make an awful Knock-knock joke pun).

Makaelis also unintentionally summoned a Unicorn, a side effect of his Wild Magic abilities. The Unicorn became drawn to Dale, because of his goodly nature, and offered up some key pieces of advice, also blessing him with magic. This encounter went unnoticed by most of the group.

Now that the hallway is clear the group continues forward.

They come across what seems to be the Cult Leader’s den, with a bedroom attached to the eastern side of the room. While investigating the bedroom, which held containers with items and treasure, the men are attacked by the ghosts of the manor’s owner and his wife; Gustav and Elizabeth Durst. The adventurers manage to put their spirits to rest and claim the room’s loot.

They double back to the one unexplored section of this dungeon level and descend a long stone staircase into darkness.

As they reach the bottom landing they discern a dozen or so voices saying, over and over, “He is the Ancient. He is the Land.” The room appears to be some sort of Reliquary, where the cult stored “relics” although most seems to be non-magical.

This room contains two exits, one leading to a portcullis currently closed, and another leading to a makeshift prison. Being unable to pass through the portcullis the group heads into the prison area. This cult had no patience for dissenters or traitors. Remains in the area reveal that they were not shy about torturing or murdering their own ranks.

While investigating the prison and the individual cells, Dale is able to uncover a secret lever that opens a gateway to a large ritual chamber. After scavenging the prison the adventurers enter the newly revealed chamber.

The chanting stops as the group peers into the forty-foot-square room. The smooth masonry walls provide excellent acoustics. Featureless stone pillars support the ceiling, and a beach in the west wall leads to a dark cave heaped with refuse. Murky water covers most of the floor. In the middle of the room stairs rise from an octagonal dais above the water. Rusty chains with shackles dangle from the ceiling directly above a stone altar mounted on the dais. The altar is carved with hideous depictions of grasping ghouls and is stained with old dried blood.

The group cautiously on the walkway circling the room. This is an evil place. People have been sacrificed in this room, perhaps hundreds of them. After moments of investigative silence the group finally approaches the altar. Once foot is set on its stones the chanting rises once more and thirteen dark apparitions appear on the ledges overlooking the room. Each one resembles a black-robed figure holding a torch, but the torch’s fire is black and seems to draw light into it. Where one would expect to see faces are voids. These are the long dead cult members, their spirits bound to this place by the evil acts committed within.

“One must die!” they chant, over and over. “One must die! One must die!”

The group is confused, “What do they want?” one asks. Asher steps closer to one of the figures when realization hits him. “They want a sacrifice, any sacrifice, at the altar. I’ll be right back.”

In a couple of minutes asher returns with a rat in hand. He walks towards the altar and breaks its neck, but the chanting continues. He then pulls out a dagger and cuts the rats throat, its blood spilling down unto the altar surface. The room goes silent and the figures disappear.

The group looks around the room in confusion. What just happened? Where they drawn here to appease this “house” with a blood sacrifice? What would have happened if they refused?

Further investigation reveals a Shambling Mound in the east corner of the room, lying in wait. The group decides not to disturb it further and they return upstairs for rest before finally leaving this cursed place.


Eleint 27, 1489DR – The Fading (September)

After barely surviving the horrors of Death House, the adventurers seek food, rest, and refuge. Their best bet is the local tavern. As they begin to make their way to the building the Vistani entered earlier that day they see a single shaft of light thrusting illumination into the main square, its brightness looking like a solid pillar in the heavy fog. Above the gaping doorway, a sign hung precariously askew, proclaiming this to be the Blood on the Vine Tavern.

Once they reach the entrance, they notice the sign had originally read “Blood of the Vine,” the “n” having been scratched over with an “f.” They enter through the doorway.

This tavern has seen better days in the past; although it appears to have once been an elegant establishment it has noticeably become shoddy through the years. A blazing fire gives scant warmth to the few huddled souls within. They include the barkeep, Arik, three vistani women, and a man whose name is Ismark Kolyanovich.

Upon spotting the newcomers Ismark is quick to invite them over to his table and offers them a round of drinks.

“Friends! Please, join me, enjoy some wine on my coin!”

The group turns to the man speaking and Asher responds, “One moment my good sir! We must inquire about our friends first.”

The man nods and the group walks toward the Vistani women sitting by the fire. They ask about the other Vistani who led them into town and the women tell them that they have gone onward to the Vistani encampment just outside of town. They left about two days ago, but the camp is not difficult to find. The group thanks the women for the information and walk towards the young man who greeted them earlier.

The man’s name is Ismark, and he is the son of the village's burgonmaster, Kolyan Indirovich. The burgonmaster has died recently and Ismark seeks to protect his sister, Ireena, whom he believes is coveted by the devil Strahd. He pleads with the adventurer’s to help him transport Ireena to the town of Vallaki, where he believes she will be protected from Strahd’s intentions. The group informs Ismark that they are on their way to see Madam Eva, in a nearby Vistani encampment, but Ismark points out that the encampment is the on the way to Vallaki, so they would be able to travel together and accomplish both tasks. He offers to them 50 gold pieces each and free room and board for the night at his estate.

The characters agree to accompany Ismark towards Vallaki for now. They follow him out of the tavern and head for the burgonmaster’s mansion for some much needed rest.

A weary-looking mansion squats behind a rusting iron fence. The iron gates are twisted and torn. The right gate lies cast aside, while the left swings lazily in the wind. The stuttering squeal and clang of the gate repeats with mindless precision. Weeds choke the grounds and press with menace upon the house itself. Yet, against the walls, the growth has been tramped down to create a path all about the domain. Heavy claw markings have stripped the once-beautiful finish of the walls. Great black marks tell of the fires that have assailed the mansion. Not a pane nor a shard of glass stands in any window. All the windows are barred with planks, each one marked with stains of evil omen.

The group looks worried, one asks “Ismark, what has happened here?”

“It is that devil! He comes during the night and attacks our home, but I will never allow him to have my sister. Never!”

Ismark walks up to the heavy wooden front door and knocks three times.

“Ireena, sister, it is Ismark! Please open the door.”

From inside, the group hears some shuffling and then several clicks and clanks that probably belong to some very complicated locks being undone. The door is opened and through steps a striking auburn-haired woman, probably around her mid to late twenties. She wears a long fine dress with a longsword strapped at her hips, her right hand rests casually on the hilt. There is intensity in her gaze, but also a hint of sadness.

“Well, Ismark, I see you’ve made some new friends. Who might they be?”

Ismark laughs. “These are weary travelers who have recently come into town. They have agreed to help us take you into Vallaki, as I have suggested to you before. But please, we can speak more of it in the morning. Right now these brave souls would appreciate some time to rest. Friends, please come in!”

Ireena disappears back inside and Ismark after her, inviting the group to follow.

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The children were dead all along...

Eleint 25, 1489DR – The Fading (September)

Evening

The group investigates the last room on the third floor and find another servant’s bedroom. This room contains two stained glass double doors leading to a balcony, a bed, two nightstands, a dresser, a fireplace, and another door on the west end. Dale and Asher investigate the fireplace and find the burnt remains of what used to be light blue cloth among the old ashes.

They continue their search; they open the door inside the bedroom and discover an old nursery room, with a single decaying crib at its center. Also in this room, the ghost of a female nurse maid, jealously guarding the crib. After some initial difficulty the characters vanquish the angry spirit.

Asher heads toward the crib and retrieves a small bundle of wrapped cloth, colored light blue. This must have been the infant the children had told them about earlier, he thought. He decides he wants to return the bundle to the children, who are still waiting downstairs, but Dale suggests they look inside it first. After unwrapping the bundle Asher finds nothing inside. He returns to the manor’s entrance hoping to find the children still waiting there, but they have vanished. No trace is left behind. He returns upstairs to the rest of the group.

Having been exhausted by the battle they all take a good night’s rest. Further searching would have to wait until morning.


Eleint 25, 1489DR – The Fading (September)

Morning

Earlier, Asher found a secret button on the room’s dresser which opened access to the home’s attic. The group now ascends the steps.

The attic is in a decrepit state. Dust and spiderwebs cover most of the surfaces, the air is damp and heavy with the smells of decaying wood. On the north end of the attic they see a locked door, whose keyhole portrays a familiar symbol also present in the key found earlier in the library, currently held by Master Dō. Dale instructs Master Dō to open the door, which he does, after some confusing interactions.

The room contains a bricked-up window flanked by two dusty, wood-framed beds sized for children. Closer to the door is a toy chest with windmills painted on its sides and a dollhouse that’s a perfect replica of the dreary edifice. Furnishings are draped in cobwebs. Lying in the middle of the floor are two small skeletons wearing tattered but familiar clothing. The smaller of the two cradles a stuffed doll that they also recognize. These are the long forgotten remains of Rose and Thorn.

Realization now dawns upon the party; the children have been dead all this time. As Master Dō begins to play with the toys found inside the toy box the children’s ghosts appear. It is a sad tale. Rose and Thorn were regularly neglected by their parents and abandoned in the attic until they eventually starved to death. They were locked in the room to “protect them from the monster in the basement,” but the children suspect their parents were more concerned with entertaining guests. They tell the group of a secret door can can lead them to the lowest level of the house. Rose points towards the dollhouse, which is an exact replica of the house, and where the group can find the locations to all the secret doors within.

Dale collects the bones of the children and promises to put place them in their proper resting place. As the party attempts to leave the room the children become distressed. Having suffered so much neglect in life, and fearing being abandoned once more, the spirits possess the bodies of Dale and Arranis. Hopefully this is not a permanent situation…

The group continues their search and head towards the secret staircase in the attic, leading down to the basement. When they exit the staircase the party encounters damp stone floors and walls, and the faints sounds of human chanting.

This place looks more like a crypt than a basement, and for good reason, as the Durst family crypts are also located here. Inside 4 different alcoves are the sarcophagi of the Durst family. After looking at the name plates for each one, Dale finds those meant for Rose and Thorn and lays their skeletons to rest. This act frees both him and Arannis of the children’s possession. They experience a sense of gratitude and release as their young spirits depart the plane.

The group carries on and soon finds two separate sleeping quarters. The first is poorly furnished and rough, the second containing a well and elegantly made beds, although dusty and old. Inside each bedroom are locked chests with treasure, which they open and loot. They also find black robes, presumably used in cult-like activities, which most of the group decides to wear in case they need them later on; Dale refuses to wear the robes due to his paladin vows. The chanting can now be heard growing louder but no words are discernible.

While exploring the maze like corridors they encounter ghouls, which are quickly dispatched. These ghouls, however, seem to be wearing the same cult robes they found earlier in the sleeping quarters. Could these be the remains of the cultists?Grick

The party finds a dining area and Asher runs into grick. Although surprised, the group is able to defeat it easily. They then enter a larger chamber further on…

The room is festooned with moldy skeletons that hang from rusty shackles against the walls. A wide alcove in the south wall contains a painted wooden statue carved in the likeness of a gaunt pale-faced man wearing a voluminous black cloak, his pale left hand resting on the head of a wolf that stands next to him. In his right hand, he holds a smoky-gray crystal orb. The room has exits in the west and north walls. Chanting can be heard coming from the west.

Master Dō is inexplicably drawn to the orb and begins making his way towards the statue. Although probably a very bad idea, the group does nothing to stop his progress and decide to ready their weapons instead. The moment Master Dō seizes the ord 5 shadows appear in the room and attack the party. This encounter proves to me more difficult than their past scuffles, but the group manages to survive, largely in part to Dale’s radiant damage skills.

Now in an empty chamber, they must explore further still find the source of the growing chanting noises.

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The Adventure Begins

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.

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