We left our heroes on the edge of their seats finding out what may be all they need to know to find their way out of this nightmare, or is it?
With the group in adventurers hanging on every word from Madame Eva; she decided to make it a spectacle ensuring they received their monies worth. In a wisp of magic she took a map of Barovia (the land they are in not the town they had just left), and telling them what they were looking at and threw it into the fire… and the map did not burn! Instead it was emboldened with marks that indicated specific locations and places. In awe and afraid to touch it as Madame Eva heald it out, Andromeda, the only one among them that was unafraid, reached forward and took this magic riddled unburnt parchment very delicately in her hands.
As they left Madame Eva’s tent they heard an older gypsy man telling stories to children in the camp. They stop to listen for a few minutes and they hear about a man who lead a group that had battled against the vampire Strahd. Could this be the people from town that tried to rebel that they saw as ghosts just a night ago? The location where this battle occurred was called Tser Falls; they were ultimately defeated. The legend goes that anyone that is defeated by Strahd has their soul trapped and is eternally bound to the cemetery. They rise every night and march to his castle… to what end they do not know. Before they leave the camp they take some time with the older male gypsy, and they find out that there is a tower in a lake that was a “wizards’ tower”; which seemed to connect with one of their tarot card clues. The tower is somewhere to the east of Vallaki; it is supposedly in Lake Baratok. One last question from Melrick to the old gypsy before they left is how Strahd became a vampire. There was a story about a knight that came from another realm, that was mortally wounded by a group of assassins; he was saved and nursed back to health by the gypsies, and while the details aren’t known of how he transformed to the tyrant he has become, what they could share was that the gypsies were granted the ability to come ago in the land as they please as payment for their kindness, the only ones that have ever been allowed to leave Barovia. Supposedly the legend goes that he can only be killed by fire, sunlight, or a stake through the heart. With that, they did not speak a word and headed solemnly toward the lake that may house the wizard tower they have decided to try and find as the first step in solving this nightmare.
As the group was preparing the leave town, Lythander decided to try and sell his wares. He found a merchant in town who did not have enough in gold pieces to buy what they rogue had but he was willing to trade. After some negotiation, he was able to garner a couple potions, a couple more scrolls, a hat, and a dagger; the latter two appeared to be magical (according to Bent). The group seemed happy with the haul, and off they went heading west…
Heading down the road, not too far into their new journey they come across a man at a distance who appeared to be cloaked feathers. While Lythander is jittery and immediately hides, Melrick scoffs and heads right toward the stranger and addresses him, “hello there!” It turns out the stranger is heading to the town they just left, en route to Barovia proper; he is in search of a larger quantity of wine. “My name is Sergei Martakov” is how he introduces himself and the group chats with him for a bit. The dwarf questions why the man is travelling alone, and the man dismisses the questions as erroneous. During the conversation Lythander reappears in an uncomfortably conspicuous manner and asks some questions about Boliski, stating he is a toy maker in Vallaki. Sergei also mentions to them to visit his brother if and when they arrive in Vallaki; he is the innkeeper of the Blue Water Inn. He also warns them to not leave the roads, as it’s much safer than the roaming off.
As they continue to travel along the path, they find themselves in a large canyon with ridges rising up a thousand feet above them; as they gaze up they see a large stone bridge connecting the two ridges on either side of the canyon on the far side they see a castle, the adventurers believe this, indeed, is Ravenloft Castle where the vampire Strahd calls home. As they exit the large cavern it appears to the group that something is amiss; in fact this would be a perfect place to spring a trap. Their fears were quickly affirmed as a they see an animal looking creature, that was something between human and animal bipedal but crawling, flanked by animated twigs. Melrick immediately heads toward the bipedal animal and lands an axe in the middle of it’s chest. He carves through and buries his second weapon just to be sure in a complete coup de gras. As the dwarf pulls his axes from the rib cage of the fallen animal, the twigs were easily dispatched by the rest of the party, save for Andromeda who put two bursts of flame into a nearby twig figure and is unable to bring it down; apparently her druid sense compelled her not to destroy the animated plant life. Thankfully Ismark and Irena were there to finish off the final animated twigs despite Andromeda’s best efforts to keep it alive.
After more time passed, however uneventful, they see a gate that leads to… well, where they don’t know; they believe it might be the manner of Castle Ravenloft. The gate is fallen and on the ground and they decide to leave it be and head further toward the task at hand. As they journey farther they come towards a fork in the road and find a sign that says “Bonegrinder”; they look farther up the road and see a windmill on a hill. They decide to stay the course and go farther, still, up the road and after another half mile or so and they come up on another lone figure clad completely in armor, appearing aggressive in nature and seemingly looking for a scuffle. As they approach further they noticed a symbol on the breastplate of the human figure. They move close enough to see the anger in his eyes, but he does not charge but puts his hand on the hilt of his sword and once again Melrick fancies himself the party spokesperson and calls out “do you serve the cursed one!?” only to hear him respond “it is YOU who serve the cursed one” in a gruff voice. Shamesh does not recognize the symbol but denies the assertion on behalf of the heroes. Seeing that the group was questioning him looking for a better answer, “I serve the order of the Silver Dragon and if you are who you say you are you should find Vladimir Hornguard, leader of my order.” The knight of sorts proclaims his crest of that belonging to the Ravenkind and he advised the group that his order is found Argynvostholt and dedicated to clearing the area of the cursed Strahd. The heroes ask if he wants to join them in their pursuit of Strahd, however he advised they have to go to Vladimir to seek his counsel before going further. They agree to seek out Vladimir and head toward Argynvosltholt.
As they leave together they pass a lake and see a man in a boat in the middle; after a closer look Lythander notices a sack next to the man in the boat that seems to be moving a bit, almost as if there is something or someone inside of it. As they are watching he throws the sack in the water and then drops a fishing line into the water. Aghast, the group hurries to pull out the magical hat that they had, which they previously found out was a hat of water breathing, and the dwarf heads in the water with the hat to find out what was in the sack that was moving. The Dwarf rushes to the sack under the water and slices the bag open to see a little girl in the sack who was not moving. He brings her to the surface water and then rushes her back to shore where Andromeda grabs the young girl and immediately forces her to spit up the water she had swallowed finally able to stabilize her. While the druid was saving the little girl Melrick was rushing back to the boat; however Lythander was even quicker to notich an arrow on his longbow; he loosed an arrow dead on target at the man in the boat and caught him square in the chest. By time the dwarf got to the boat to capsize it and pull the clearly devious man under, he found the man with an arrow through his chest. With a disdainful look backs toward shore, he let the man sink to the bottom got into the boat and rowed it back to shore. Once there he finds the group having a conversation with the girl who shared that she was taken from her family, is currently only seven-years-old, and doesn’t know why she was taken. They offer her some food but she doesn’t want anything to eat; she is, however, from Vallaki, so they tell her they will take her back home.
They arrive, finally at Vallaki, and they are greeted at the gate, but not granted entry; told by the guard at the front “if you’re alive in the morning, we’ll see you in then!”. They set camp outside, set watches, and take rest until morning. While the group sleeps, Lythander and Andromeda are on watch. Throughout the watch Lythander starts to nod off (pretending he would later say) and the Druid enters a meditative state. Suddenly, Lythander’s awareness kicks in and he notices four wolf shaped figures on the edge of the camp, not engaging but lurking. He wakes the group, and Andromeda eagerly moves to the edge of the camp ready to defend her friends from the incoming frey, but does not engage. As she is waiting Shamesh lunges forward and sinks his blessed weapon into one of the wolves. Immediately following that Bent and Andromeda are unexpectedly put asleep; falling to the ground. From the opposite side of the camp, they hear that silky regal voice “that was not kind to do”. Shamesh wheels around, and sees for the first time… Strahd. He walks up to Irena, the woman of his desires and caresses her face as he strolls through camp. Shamesh demands he get away from her, and with a wry smile that seemingly encouraged his apparently pet wolves jump the paladin from behind tearing at his clothes. Not too long after, the Burgermeister’s children both fell asleep. Melrick lunges towards a wolf and puts an axe into one wounding it badly and Shamesh turns around lands another blow in the hurt wolf, but it does not fall. Lythander proceeds to engage and fight, however is quickly and inexplicably turned into a toad. The situation is quickly growing dire; Melrick and Shamesh are determined to go down fighting and take down two wolves with them, and while they are busy fighting the overgrown canines, Strahd whispers something in the Irena’s ear then turns snapping his cloak around him is gone. Shamesh is overcome by one of the remaining wolves, not before being fended off by Melrick then the wolves take off into the wood; the dwarf is the only remaining hero on his feet.
Looking around he is absorbs the situation in enough time for Lythander to turn back from a frog as quickly as he had turned into one while Bent and Andromeda wake from their forced slumber. The rest of the night passes uneventfully, however the group is clearly aware of what they are up against at this point and they are terrified at the disadvantage they face. Nearly despondent the group barely rests through the night and when morning approaches they clear camp and approach the gates again. This time it’s a different guard of Vallaki and they announce their desire to see Sergie’s brother, the innkeeper from the Blue Water Inn and they are granted entry into town.
As they walk through town they see a man posting an announcement about a great celebration called the Wolf’s Head Celebration, and no sooner are they done reading the announcement when a man walks by ripping the announcement down and putting up a new one called Celebration of the Rising Sun. Lythander briefly questions the change in celebration notices and the man will have none of the questions. As the man walks away he is hawk eyeing Irena in a manner that makes the whole group uncomfortable after Lythander points out to everyone the glare of the man. After looking around, with some urging from Lythander and Andromeda, they decide to bring the little girl home while Irena and Ismark decide to go to the Inn. They approach the camp of the Bisconi and they find their way to the little girl’s house. They speak with her father who is elated, he gives the group a large sum of gold in great gratitude for returning his daughter. As they go to leave Melrick steps in and asks the man why his daughter would have been taken; he claims he doesn’t know. The group tries again to leave, and the dwarf presses further and asks, “does it have something to do with Strahd?” The man rushes over in hushed tones and asks them to keep their voices down when they speak his name. He advised he only serves Strahd as he must but that this camp is loyal to Strahd. They find out that those who complain about the festivals are deemed malcontents and draw the eyre of the Burgermeister of Vallaki. About this time they notice that those roaming around outside are taking extra notice of their conversation and decide to bring it to a close, thank the man for his generosity and head back to town.
On the way back to the town the group decides to head to the inn to find Irena and Ismark. When the arrive they find the familiar face of Sergei who is back already and he introduces them to his brother, Irwin. After sitting down to a good meal and making arrangements for the night they find out some more of the happenings around the town. Apparently the Valleki Burgermeister is a bit overbearing to all save for one woman in the northern part of town. This particular woman is very much despised by the Burgermeister here but he leaves her be because she is rumored to have strong ties to Strahd. They also find out about an abandoned camp outside of town, it was supposedly by Strahd for an offense against him; though that has never been verified. In town the continued celebrations are supposedly to keep Strahd away, though the people in town don’t believe it works nobody will dare speak out against it because of the Burgermeister’s fear mongering. This week is the celebration of the Rising Sun. With further discussion the site of the fallen dragon comes up again, and once again they find themselves being compelled towards Argynvosltholt. a silent nod amongst the group and they all concur this site of the religious sect and fallen dragon needs to be visited. After a good meal they decide they to find Irena and Ismark and update them on what they have discovered. Irwin agrees to show them to their room, and en route they hear what appears to be a large congregation of birds in a room, they stop and…
The heroes are seemingly never safe! Next week we find out what the inn had waiting for them…