After having successfully defeated the monster Logoth the Devourer, deep within the mansion’s secret cellars. The monster was slain, and the Durst family’s remains had been put in the crypts the party sought a way out from the accursed abode, and they could see the illusion that had lured unsuspecting adventurers in before was finally lifted, and unfriendly, magical scythes residing at every door of the house, thirsty for blood, blocked their path to freedom. Most of the party jumped through the doors hoping to be quicker than the scythes. Although not with utter success the party did manage to get to the floor with the balcony and broke through it and licked their wounds.
After a long rest the party climbed down a rope they tied to the railings, and left the mansion behind. While wandering the harsh landscapes of Borivia the party came upon a valley, and for the first time in what felt like an age the fog did not seem too thick and offered the adventerous companions a peek of what charm the land could possess, and in the distance a village drew their attention. They decided to descend down the valley to find it.
Upon entering the village they heard a distant sob of sorrow in the distance, and a raven who held its gaze upon the party almost sinisterly before it flew away. After a brief discussion the party decided to follow the raven, and after a short walk through a crowd of skeptical, and unfriendly faces from the villagers, the party found the raven perched on top of a tavern called “Blood of the Wine”. There were not many friendly faces to find inside either, but a man called Ismark the Lesser approached the adventurers almost immediately, holding no prejudice for them by sight alone like most of the villagers, but seemingly desperate for aid in a matter. He boldly asked for help on behalf of his adopted sister Ireena Kolyana. The party agreed to at least hear him out and followed him back to an old mansion that had definitely seen better days, and marks of attacks in the night could be seen on the wood. Eastmark yelled for his sister to let them in, and upon entering the party could see the woman clad in armour and armed with a sword as if she expected battle any second. As Ismark had explained earlier the Dark Master Strahd has his attention on her, but Ireena didn’t seem to know much about why that is either. She, however, had encountered Strahd before and it had earned her a bitemark on her neck, but even if Strahd had every opportunity to kill Ireena he had not done so. At least it was clear the Dark Master did not want her dead. Being a gentle and kind woman she asked if she could travel with the party for a while, at least up to the village called Vallaki, as it would be better protected and more alert for attacks, but before they traveled she asked a favour to bury their adoptive father Koliran Kodeevarich in the local cemetary, but she and Ismark required about an hour or so to prepare the body. Which gave the adventurers some time to explore the town on their own.
The halfling and the elven monk left the mansion to visit the local general shop, while the rest remained behind. Upon entering the shop they quickly realized the shopkeeper was no friendlier than the rest of the townsfolk, and even upped the prices on his wares. While Perry attempted to pursuade the merchant to give them a discount with his prettiest smile he was as stubborn as a dwarf, believing he had no competition and that they would give in to the outrageous prices eventually. In other words he was a huge asshole, and nor Jaqoros or Perry bought anything from the store that day.
Somewhat disdraught by the unpleasant experience by the shop the elf and the halfling both felt the calling of old habits in the nearby tavern. The monk eager to return to a pitcher of wine, and the halfling scouting for fools to trick in card games. Luck would be on their side as a table with a small group of humans were playing cards together, and Perry took the initiative to stroll over in an attempt to invite himself to their game. After the obligatory insults to his height and the promise of gold as entry fee the group allowed Perry to join the card game. However, Perry thought to take advantage of the situation and said he was not interested in winning gold, but would rather have information if he won. Information about Madam Eva, as he had notice how the same group had reacted to the name at the previous visit to the tavern. This was not the halfling charlatan’s first card game, and cheated as easily as Jaqoros could pour wine down his throat. Reluctantly the group had to admit defeat as they could not spot Perry’s sleight of hand, and gave up the information he had requested. Madam Eva could be found in her camp outside the village near Tser Pool. The halfling bowed and bid the humans a smug farewell, and if looks could murder it would have been the halfling’s final one.
The monk appeared pleased with what he had witnessed and waved his companion over to join him at his table, and indulge in celebratory drinking. Coralaeth soon joined them by their table, although, he did not drink as much as the other two. Happy to see their companion they told him of all that had transgressed in the tavern until he got there, and it would take another two hours of broad tales and the nurture of precious comradery before they realized they should probably return to the mansion to the rest. So they did.
After Perry and Jaqoros had finished making an ass of themselves with Perry telling a tasteless joke of the dead burgomaster and Jaqoros shamelessly falling asleep as soon as he got in the door Ireena suggested, somewhat irritated, that perhaps they should postpone the funeral until the morning, but Coralaeth, Han Vellsing and Galdorin had done their necessary preperations, and were good to go, and the halfling insisted both he and Jaqoros were feeling just fine, which he demonstrated by poking his finger in the monk’s chest until finally awoke.
Soon the party was on their way towards the graveyard, and upon reaching the church they noticed the tracks and signs of conflict the church must have been exposed to. The stench pure evil had left behind could nearly be smelled in the air, but they entered the building none the less. It was no less eerie inside either. A wailing cry errupted from the church’s depth as they moved further inside. There they found the priest Danovich who looked like he had seen more evil than any holy man ever should, but still kept holding on to his faith in the Morning Lord to bring them a better dawn. The party learned the scary moans they heard from below belonged to the priest’s son who had succumbed to vampirism, and he was crying out in pleading to have his hunger sated. None of the party asked if the priest fed his son, or what he fed him with. Instead they were eager to put the great former leader of the town to his final rest, and the priest was willing to aid.
As the adventurers and the grieving siblings entered the graveyard they were greeted by unfriendly howls, and soon a pack of vicious wolves were upon them, but the wolves would prove to be the easy prey here, and the party easily dealt with them. The funeral continued, but it did not take long before another interruption came upon the funeral procession. The Dark Master himself had come to attend the funeral in person. Not to pay his respect to the burgomaster, but for Ireena. He extended a hand with nails that looked more like claws and beckoned to the woman. There was something unnatural about the dark lord’s gaze, and as if she had to obey she started walking towards him as he called to her by a different name: “Tetiana”. Galdorin and Han Vellsing were quick to react and stopped her from walking into the Dark Master’s evil embrace. This did not sit well with Strahd and it dawned on the present company a fight was upon them. More vicious wolves flocked to their master’s call, and Strahd himself went in to claim his prize.
Coralaeth bravely put himself in Strahd’s path and challenged his might, which would prove to be a foolish endeavor. The half-elven bladesinger hoped to prove to be the Dark Master’s equal in a close quarter duel, but Strahd merely scratched at the bladesinger with one hand which was enough to send Coralaeth knocking on the gate of the gods before he even knew what happened. The display of recklessness and the brief demonstration of the vampire lord’s power inspired fear and doom in the adventurers, and they quickly realized violent solutions would not favor them that day.
The halfling who held the most experience with talking his way out of impossible situations ran forth with arms raised in surrender and bent the knee to Strahd before he could finish off Coralaeth. Perry attempted to appeal to Strahd’s humanity, but quickly realized that part of the dark lord had long since perished. Instead Perry offered his service to the vampire in the future if he would spare Coralaeth and the lives of his companions that day, and through either sheer, pure luck, or perhaps divine intervention from the gods themselves Strahd accepted the halfling’s offer and withdraw. As the wolves withdrew back to from whence they came the vampire shot an icecold glare at Perry and told him he would one day have to stand true to his word.
Donavich quickly stepped forth as soon as the devil had disappeared and put his healing hands onto the demolished Coralaeth and brought him back from the brink of death. Befuddled and dazed by the unpleasant encounter the elf asked what had happened, and the halfling looked relieved at the speedy recovery of his friend and explained everything that had occured. The bladesinger appeared genuinely grateful.
Ireena expressed utter loathe in herself after seemingly having succumbed so easily to Strahd’s magic by stabbing the carcass of a dead wolf repeatedly, but the adopted daughter of the deceased burgomaster quickly gathered herself and joined the others to proceed with the funeral, which went uninterrupted this time.
Once the funaral was over Ismark, Ireena, and the adventurers returned to the old mansion, and after a good night’s rest the party decided the morning hours would be an excellent time to investigate the strange, unnatural sobs they had heard throughout the village. They located the sounds to emit from a house near the general shop, but upon close inspection they discovered the main entrance was borded up. Fortunately one of the elves spotted a small window on the second floor. Small enough for a sneaky halfling to fit through. Perry offered no objections and climbed the guttering like a monkey who had just spotted a banana. Inside he found a woman sitting down, rocking back and forth as if gripped by madness and grief. It would appear to be accurate as she kept repeating how her daughter would never leave her doll. The same doll the woman was clutching tightly. It looked like a dreadful thing ill suited for a child. Once the woman took notice of Perry she asked him to find her daughter and gave him the doll on the promise it would be given to her daughter once found. The woman offered little else of information about her daughter’s whereabouts and only gave a vague description of her appearance. The halfling hurried downstairs to remove the obstacles preventing passage into the home so the rest of the party could join him inside. They investigated the house thoroughly and attempted to convince the woman to leave the house and seek the priest Donavich, but to no avail. They decided to keep what they learned in mind, but not actively persue this quest just yet.
Upon the road towards Tser Pool to find Madam Eva the party stopped at a strange site at an intersection to their destination. A spyglass in the middle of the road almost beckoned aluringly to the party. Jaqoros and Perry, ever the slaves to their own curiousity, immediately went to pick it up and inspect it. It worked well enough as a spyglass should, but it was far from a usual spyglass. Through it the adventurers could see the world engulfed in a merciless storm. Not long after they came upon a wooden gallows where some unfortunate Barovian had met his fate at the hangman’s noose, but the drow Galdorin grew pale upon the sight. Not because the sight of hangman’s death made him queasy, but because he saw himself hanging there. In disbelief he asked the others if they could see it too, but they did not. Only he could see himself dangling from the noose. The halfling asked for the spyglass and looked at the hanging corpse, but it looked no different in it.
Finally the party reached Tser Pool, but upon entering the camp they got stopped by the dwellers who seemed friendly enough and even offered them a place by their fire. Though, the adventurers remembered the last time they enjoyed themselves with a cheerful caravan and politely declined. This did not sit well with what turned out the be the Vestrasi people, and they were insulted by the party’s refusal of their hospitality, and so denied them the opportunity to speak with Madam Eva. After a lengthy back-and-forth between the adventurers and the gypsies they finally relented and said they ask Madam Eva if she felt like seeing them. They returned with a demand that the party had to first spend the night at the camp and partake in the festivities and traditional story-sharing. The party agreed, and the person who appeared to be the leader of the wandering folk shared a tale of the dark master that sounded more like a warning than a story.
As the party went to sleep they were eventually awakened and were led to Madam Eva’s tent. An old crone who knew their names and faces before they had even set eyes on her themselves. Somewhat startled the party could only listen to the old fortune teller as she demonstrated her knowledge of the party and its members. Finally she asked them if they would like to have their fortune told. They did not object and the old woman laid down five cards on her table, flipping them each in turn as she explained their meaning. The first card a wizard. “Look for the wizard’s tower” the old crone said. The second card showed a monk, although vastly different to Jaqoros kind. “This card tells of a powerful force of good. A symbol of great hope”, the fortune teller insisted. “The treasure you seek is hidden behind the house of a saint”. The third card a picture of a mighty warrior. “This is a card of strength. The master of the march know of whom I speak". When the old crone flipped the fourth card she said “This card sheds light on someone who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness. Seek her out in the Ocovious Abbey”. The final card showed a dark lord. “Your enemy is a creature of darkness, beyond mortality. He lurks in a place of darkness and in the place to he must return”.
After exiting the tent the party now had a new riddle to consider. They noticed a lot of the Vastrasi people were already up and awake despite the ungodly early hour. Daylight still not expected before another few hours. Most of the party joined in festivities and drinking with the Vastrasi while some went to get some extra sleep. Coralaeth needed to heed nature’s call, though, and went to relieve himself on a nearby tree by the edge of the forest, but suddenly a womanly figure caught his attention. He didn’t get a good look at her, but her words were clear and firm, and spoke of warning and doom. “Leave the Vastrasi people behind immediately for they are the servants of the devil Strahd” she claimed. “Go to the Blue Water Inn. You will find allies there.” She swiftly disappeared after, and Coralaeth returned to his companions to share the news.
At the first light the party left the camp and decided to take a shortcut through the woods. Wolves, some as large as grizzly bears, pounced upon them in hope of an easy meal, but the adventurers dealt with them quickly. They crossed a bridge into the lands of Ravenloft, but somehow they were allowed to cross them unmolested. After a few hours they came upon a gate similar to the one they had ventured through before, and outside they discovered a body in the ditch of the road. It was caked in dried mud and in its hand rested a crude stone axe. The party stepped closer to investigate, but as they did the body sprung up to life and scrammed as quickly as his feet could carry him. Jaqoros wanted to persue the man, but the rest of the group was not so sure. After a quick vote the majority ruled they were to persue the man, and Jaqoros being the quickest of the bunch chased after the man like a cheetah on the prowl.
The monk caught up with the man soon enough, but once he did two more sprung out from the woods and attacked the monk in a savage fashion while the rest of the party were still frantically trying to keep up with the monk’s lightning speed. After trading a few swift punches Jaqoros retreated to his companions with the barbarbarians tightly on his tail. A fight most brutal ensued, but the party was able to put down the savages.
Once they found the road once more the party stopped for a short rest and looked over the map Ismark had given them. A windmill could be found nearby, perhaps the same one Perry had the deed to. Once they approached the windmill they saw a raven perched above, and its freezing glare told some of the adventurers there was danger to be found inside. Some expressed their concerns, and some insisted they should at least take a small peak inside before leaving. The halfling offered to sneak inside alone. A discussion broke loose between the companions as they once more faced a decision that could very well alter their fates.