Marpenoth 1, 1489DR – Leafall (October)
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.