Eleint 27, 1489DR – The Fading (September)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.