Marpenoth 2, 1489DR – Leafall (October)
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.
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.
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.
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.