The party spent the night at the Vistani encampment near Tser Pool. In the morning, a Vistana came up to them, offering them a silver piece each for a lock of hair. He said it was for the great toymaker Gadof Blinsky’s magnum opus; as proof of the toymaker’s prowess, he showed off a doll of a noblewoman that was uncanny in its lifelikeness.
An Lao immediately realized that the Vistana had some ulterior motive, and stepped between him and Heskan. Kolmogorov examined the doll, but was startled when Tev made it stick out its tongue at him. Heskan liked the doll, and took it. Gnomie was suspicious of the doll, and turned into a mastiff. He tried to get the doll by first acting like a cute dog, which didn’t work, and then tackling Heskan, which also failed miserably.
When Heskan didn’t give up the doll, Tev used minor illusions to make the doll smell odd and make fun of Heskan. This only made her further enamoured of it; she named it “Lady Funnysmell”, and stuck it behind her shield so no one else could steal it.
Meanwhile, the Vistana realized he wasn’t getting anywhere when Kolmogorov told him the story about the corgi (which was almost 20 minutes long), and quickly made his exit, calling out “Remember friends, is no fun, is no Blinsky!”
They leave the camp, and 20 minutes down the road, they discover a small leather bundle, containing a drab Barovian outfit. The bundle itself was covered in raven feathers. After some investigation thanks to Gnomie’s mastiff form and everyone pooling their knowledge, they decide that it must have been left by a wereraven whose transformation was being triggered by the previous night’s full moon. They recalled although wereravens are secretive, unlike many other lycanthropes they try to be a force for good. After some discussion, they return the bundle to its place (though Gnomie says that they should take it, as he would leave his clothes during his lycanthrope days as a cry for help).
On the clothes, underneath the collar, they find an embroidered sigil of a feather. Kettle left a gold piece in the bundle.
After another hour of travel, the party crossed the River Ivlis on a stone bridge. On the other side, they saw a gallows with some unmarked graves nearby. Tev spent a few minutes cleaning the graves, and found they were never carved with names. As they walked away, a body appeared on the gallows. To most, it looked like a Barovian, but Heskan saw herself. When An Lao touched the body, it dissolved into mist.
The party entered Barovia Village, which had a few people walking around. Some stared openly, others ran inside and slammed the door. The house from the day before is ash and rubble.
They next stopped in Bildrath’s Mercantile. They quickly discovered that Bildrath is a jerk that only cares about money, and overcharges for everything (“If you want it, you’ll pay for it eventually.”). Heskan felt awkward about entering a shop and not buying something, but immediately changed her mind when a day’s rations was 5 gold. Tev left some sulfurous smells behind. Gnomie kept antagonizing Bildrath, to the point that he called his giant nephew Parriwimple out from the back, and told him to get them out. Heskan tried to pull Gnomie out, but he slipped away. Finally, seeing that Bildrath is a little rattled, Gnomie leaves.
Outside in the street, An Lao proceeds to excoriate the party for acting unheroically, drawing a crowd of Barovians staring at the strangers having an argument. Kettle tries to slide away from the party and pretend he doesn’t know them by hiding in the crowd, but the Barovians all step away from him as he does so.
They leave the town, heading back to where they found the body with the letter near the gates. However, they discover the body is lying in the middle of the road, rather than where they found it in the forest. They dig a shallow grave and bury him. Before they cover the body, Kolmogorov checks under the collar, and finds a crest of a shield with a raven in flight, which they recognize as the same sigil that sealed the letter to Gustav Durst from Strahd von Zarovich.
The party heads back to town. There they find a strange old woman in a carriage full of picnic baskets. They are horrified when she goes up to a house and trades a basket for a small boy, who she stuffs in a sack and throws into her carriage. Heskan confronts her, while An Lao frees the child. In the interrogation that follows, they discover the following information:
- The basket contains “dream pastry”, a special pastry that lets the user hallucinate their happiest place. Most of the residents of Barovia village are her customers, though she only occasionally takes children.
- There are three involved in the creation of the dream pastries: Morgantha (the one speaking), Bella, and Ophalia.
- She agrees under pain of smiting not to use children anymore.
- They produce the pastries at the Old Bonegrinder, about halfway between Vallaki and Barovia.
Kettle eats part of a dream pastry, and immediately passes out hallucinating. Heskan has to carry him around for the next couple of hours.
The party next heads to the church. There they discover the priest of the Morninglord, Father Donavich, his voice hoarse from long hours of prayer. The church itself is a wreck, the walls clawed and the pews smashed. Donavich is unsure of how the beasts were able to enter the building, as usually the children of the night cannot enter a building without invitation. There are cries from underneath the church of a young man claiming he’s starving.
Donavich tells the party that his son Doru stormed the castle a year ago with 10 others and an outsider wizard. When the party speaks to Doru after Heskan offers some of her blood, he says that Strahd tore the villagers apart, drinking Doru dry while slaughtering his friends. For Doru, it was over so quickly that he doesn’t know what happened to the wizard. Doru is much calmer once given blood, and despite his desire to die rather than starve, he believes Heskan’s promise to return every few days to feed him until they find a way to save him. As they leaves, An Lao praises Heskan for his promise to Doru “You’re a good dragonborn”.
The party decides to investigate the Burgomaster’s mansion. Heskan knocks at the door, only to have the door kicked open and someone wearing armor stick a longsword in his face, threatening to take his head if he steps over the threshold. The misunderstanding is quickly sorted out, and Ireena Kolyana removes her helmet. She tells them she’s been bitten twice by Strahd, and the mansion has been under siege ever since. Her father, Kolyan Indirovich, died two days previously from a heart attack due to the stress and fear. She tells them to go fetch her brother Ismark from the tavern, as he has some ideas for how to escape Strahd.
Ismark is very depressed, with his father dead and his sister under threat, and now discovering that his father’s letter didn’t make it out of Barovia. Ismark returns and presents the options as he sees them.
- We stay in the mansion until we die. Ireena whacks him upside the head for that. She reminds him that eventually Strahd will tempt one of the villagers to betray them. Staying isn’t an option.
- The party takes Ireena to the fortified city of Vallaki to stay in the church there. Rumor has it that hallowed ground is one of the few places the devil and his minions will not attack directly.
- The party journeys past Vallaki to Krezk and the Abbey of Saint Markovia. The saint’s protection may keep Ireena safe there.
The party also mentions wanting to deal with the dream pastries at the windmill. Ireena wants to help smite, as she doesn’t like them either. Ismark reminds her that the whole point of this is to keep her safe, but the party points out that they can’t make it to Vallaki in one day and will need somewhere to hide out, and hey we probably own that windmill see this deed? Ismark reluctantly agrees.
With the few hours of daylight left, Ireena and Ismark ask for the party’s help to bury Kolyan. They carry his coffin up to the church, where Donavich is shocked to see Ireena out of the house. She tells him to get it together, we don’t have much time to do this. With Donavich’s help, Kolyan is buried with the rites of the Morninglord, and everyone feels like they accomplished something good…
However, the sun seems to have set far faster than you thought it would.
The last rays of sunlight fade from the sky, and a great howl of many wolves rises from the forest beyond. You hear a thunderous rattling of wheels, and look towards the gate. A large black carriage tears up the cobblestones, the two massive draft horses snorting puffs of steamy air into the night. It turns and rattles to a stop; the doors face you with its ruby red crest, a depiction of a shield behind a raven in flight.
The doors swing open silently on well-oiled hinges, and a tall man unfolds from within the carriage. His noble visage is betrayed by the piercing, predatory eyes that look upon you with disdain. Ismark falls to his knees, and Ireena’s hand grips the hilt of her sword. Father Donavich simply closes his eyes and whispers “Morninglord grant me strength, for the devil walks before me”.