We rejoin the party in the great tent of Madam Eva, the Vistani wise woman and fortune teller living near Tser Pool with her caravan. We asked her more about the cards and their potential meaning.
Card 1 (The Bishop): The first card tells of history, knowledge of the ancient will help you better understand your enemy. What you seek lies in a pile of treasure beyond a set of amber doors. This is the knowledge of the ancient.
We asked about the Amber Temple. Madam Eva said that the temple is on the slopes of Mt. Ghakis beyond Talenka Pass. It was the place that Strahd went before he became a vampire. She said that knowledge of his transformation would be there and knowledge of his background would be there too. The Amber Temple is an ancient place but she did not know who created it or why. She did say that there are giant beasts on the mountain and many people are afraid to approach because of that. She did not know of any other inhabitants. We asked what the knowledge would be or how it would be contained, a book, cave paintings, scrolls, a person, but she did not know/say. She simply told us to follow our destiny and go to the temple where our questions would find answers.
Card 2 (The Transmuter): This card tells of a powerful force of good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope. Go to a place of dizzying heights where the stone itself is alive.
We asked about the mountains and Strahd’s castle. She told us that she didn’t know what was meant by ‘dizzying heights’ but that both the mountains and Strahd’s castle was high. She did confirm that the castle was built of mortar and stone but did not know what it meant to be ‘alive’. We decided that Strahd’s castle was the likely place for this since the reading mentioned ‘place’ and ‘stone’ but we were unsure. We asked if Strahd ever entertained guests or if anyone ever even returned from the castle but she did not know.
Card 3 (The Enchanter): This is the card of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of sunlight. I see a kneeling woman, a rose of great beauty, plucked too soon. The master of the marsh knows of whom I speak.
We asked Madam Eva if she knew of any marshes. She knew of two rivers that could have marshes. One to the east and one to the west out of lake Zarovich near Mt. Ghakis. We determined that the place with the blue flowers that we saw was not a marsh and probably didn’t fit the description we were giving in the reading.
Card 4 (The Broken One): This card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in your battle against darkness. Your greatest ally is a wizard. His mind is broken but his spells are strong.
We asked more about the mad wizard. Madam Eva confirmed what we learned about the battle. She told us that the body was never found. We decided to ask more about this mad mage figuring that we could probably find him near Mt Baratook.
Card 5 (The Broken One): Your enemy is a creature of darkness who’s powers are beyond mortality. This card will lead you to him. He haunts the tomb of the one he envied above all.
We first ask her about her relationship with Strahd. She tells us that her people are an old people and that they have Strahd’s favor. They serve him but they also serve themselves. Madam Eva never leaves the valley but could if she wanted to. Other Vistani do leave from time to time. She refuses to tell us more about the Vistani and Strahd’s relationship.
We ask of Strahd’s friends and family. We learn that he came from royal blood before becoming a vampire. His father was King Barove. The lands were named Barovia in his honor. His mother was Queen Ravenova. The castle Ravenloft was named in her honor. Both died before Strahd took these lands and he took these lands before his change to vampirism. Strahd also had a brother named Sergei. His brother did come to this land at some point but also died centuries ago.
We left the Vistani and headed to the village of Vallaki. We took the long road up the mountain and over the falls but stopped briefly at the cross roads where we previously found the gallows. Korina and Ada decided to stop and investigate the gallows yet again. The saw that the open grave had been filled and that the tombstone which still held Elmer’s name was now planted in the ground. When they investigated further, a hand emerged from the mound of dirt in the new grave and grabbed Korina. They managed to escape the grasping hands and came back to the party. Their wounds were healed and we continued on.
After several hours we came to a cross road. One road looked like it was once a prominent road. That road turned to the east towards Strahd’s castle. The other went west. We took the west road and continued walking. We eventually came to a great gate similar to the one we entered just a few days before when we arrived in Barovia. When we passed through them it became clear that these gates faced the opposite way and opened the opposite way from the original gate. Korina tested and found that when we approached the gates from the Barovia side we had to manually open them. When we passed through, we closed them again. After we walked a few dozen yards beyond the gates, Korina turned around and walked back to them. The doors opened automatically. We closed the doors and continued on toward Vilaki.
We came to yet another cross road. One lead to a foot hill. It was smaller and had recent tracks of a small hand cart with wheels. The other road had heavy traffic and was bigger but less recently used. Elgian realized that this cross roads was illustrated on his deed and that by taking the smaller road, we would make it to his windmill. We decided to continue on to the road that we thought would lead to Vallaki. We promised Elgian that we would investigate the other road after we made it to Vallaki since the walk back would only be a few hours.
After several more hours on the road we began to feel as though we were being watched. We did not see any eyes but the feeling was shared by all. We came upon a body. It was a small child that seemed to have been killed by wolves. The body was too broken and marred to identify so we said a prayer for the child’s passing but continued on.
We arrived at the walled village of Vallaki. The mists seemed to be held at bay by the walls but they pressed close. Several wolf heads on pikes lined the road up to the gates. We hailed the guards. The guards allowed us in but told us that the gates would be locked at night. They told us that the inn was the Blue Water Inn and that we would find food and lodging there if we needed it. We continued in to town.
We first passed a stock yard with a big wooden carnival wagon. The wagon has some writing on the side ‘Rictavio’s Carnival of Wonders’ and the side of the wagon was spattered with blood. On the wagons door frame there was an inscription “I bring you from Shadow into Light!” As we approach the wagon it lurches. We heard some growling from inside but no human sounds. Elmer knocked on the door and asked if anyone needed help in there but was only answered by growls and grunts. We decided that there was no need to go looking for trouble in these lands since trouble has no trouble finding us and we left the wagon. We continued on to the Blue Water Inn.
When we arrived at the Blue Water Inn we noticed that there were lots of ravens perched on the roof and eves (I think this stood out because it was the only building with the birds on it). There are a set of stairs along the outside wall leading to a second story. We enter through the front door and are welcomed by an inviting common room 20 by 40 feet. There is a bar tended by a woman and several tables. There are about a half dozen patrons but two stand out in particular. They have the look of adventure about them and they have bows.
Elmer and Mondross go to speak to the two adventure types while Ada and Korina speak to the bar tender.
Elmer and Mondross greet to the two and introduce themselves. They offer to buy them a round or two in exchange for information. Even before Elmer can make the offer one of the men drains his cup and happily accepts the offer. Elmer calls for refills and the chat begins. (in told Elmer spends 2 silver and 4 copper for the conversation). The men tell Elmer and Mondross that they are Yevgeni Kruskin and Szoldar. They are wolf hunters and are responsible for several of the piked wolf heads that we saw on the way in to town. They also point to some of the (many) wolf heads on plaques that adorn the walls of this tavern and proudly state that they killed many of them. They know of two marshes and would gladly lead us to one if we like. Their fee would be 5 gold per day and they would have to be back before nightfall. When I asked why, they simply said it’s too dangerous to be out in the night. They tell us that the river Luna that runs south of here has a marsh. The marsh is haunted and dangerous. We should be careful. I also asked them if they knew of the wizard of Mt Baratook and they say that they’ve seen him “sulking” about the northern shores of the lake. They tell us that there are boats along the lake shore if we want to cross but people rarely do.
Ada and Korina greet the woman. She seems pleasant and friendly. She speaks briefly with someone in the kitchen. Her two boys run about the bar and then upstairs and she admonishes them. There is something very “normal” about her, not like other in Barovia (the area, not the town). She tells us that her name is Donika. We ask her of the Amber Temple and she says that she has heard of it but knows very little. Only that it’s somewhere around Mt. Ghakis. Her Husband comes out of the kitchen and introduces himself. He is Urwin Martikov. He recommends one of the wins (red dragon crush) and then complains of the Wizard of Wines vineyard being late with their order leaving fewer drinking options. Donika tells us that if we would go and check on their order that they would be willing to feed us and give us drink on the house for our troubles. We make a non-committal agreement to look into it if we pass that way.
When asked about the wolves Donika tells us that the wolves are spies (for Strahd?) and that’s why they hang their heads with pride in the inn. She also tells us that she knows of Blinsky the toy maker and that his shop is here in town. She gives us directions. She doesn’t know anything about the marshes but does know that the old mage hangs around Mt. Baratook. She tells us that we can take boats across the lake to the base of the mountain and may even be able to get a local fisherman named Bluto to take us across.
She tells us about the Burgomaster of Vallaki is a man named Baron Vargas Vallakovich. He holds regular festivals in the town and makes trouble for anyone who asks too many questions. His henchman Izek Strazni seems to be his enforcer and has a history of violence. Vargas puts on many festivals. Last week was the Wolfhead Jamboree and this week is the Festival of the Burning sun.
Korina tells the innkeepers of the plight of Ireena and Ismark and asks if the inn will put them up for the time being. She tells the keepers that we hope to aid the people who suffer under Strahd’s oppression. The inn keepers seem cautiously pleased about this and agree to help us and Ireena. We decide our next move is to go to Mt Baratook and find the mad mage so we bed down for the night and plan to head out in the morning.
The next day we leave for the lake. We find our way to the boats and see that one boat is already on the water. Figuring it’s Bluto and that he may have some information on the mad mage, we row out to him. Ada and Elmer notice that he has picked up a burlap sack. Something inside the sack (about the size of a child) squirms. Bluto throws the sack into the water where it sinks immediately. We quickly row toward Bluto. Elmer leaps into the water and retrieves the sack. Bluto makes no move to stop him nor even acknowledges that the party is even there. Elmer brings the sack back to the party’s row boat and they open it to find a young girl. She seems to have poise and self-possession beyond her years as she thanks the party for rescuing her.
Elmer swims back to Bluto’s boat.
The girl says her name is Arabella and that she is a Vistani.
Elmer climbs into Bluto’s boat. Bluto doesn’t move.
Arabella tells the party that her father told her not to go to Vallaki but she is willful and decided to defy him. She went to town and was kidnapped by Bluto on her way.
Elmer opens one of the oar locks and picks up the oar.
Arabella tells the party that she thinks Bluto thinks that Vistani children bring good luck and maybe he kidnapped her so that he could get lucky and catch fish.
Elmer stands over Bluto with oar in hand. He thinks about the dead messenger on the road. He thinks about the vampire in the cellar of the church. He thinks about the desecration of that holy place by the hand of an anointed priest. He thinks about mad merry and her lost daughter. He thinks about the gallows and the sight of himself hanging there. He thinks about the open grave with his name on it. He thinks about the dead child on the road up to Vallaki. He thinks about this man Bluto mindlessly tossing the little girl into the water. He thinks about Strahd who is at the bottom of all of this. He thinks to himself (and quietly says to Bluto) ‘so this is what it feels like to snap’.
Arabella tells the party that if they return her to her father, he will be grateful and may reward them. The party agrees. Suddenly they hear a sickening smash as heavy wood crushes bone and flesh followed quickly by a splash. They look over and see Elmer standing alone in Bluto’s boat. Elmer replaces the oar in the oar lock and begins rowing along back to the shore on the Vallaki side of the lake. The party rows back following him.
The party takes the girl to the town gates hoping to pass through to the other side where she says her father’s camp is. The town guards look disgustedly at the little Vistani girl and turn the party away, “no Vistani allowed.” Arabella tells the party that she knows a secret way around town to get to her camp. The party follows. After walking beyond the town and down a small trail in the woods, the party is confronted by a strange looking elf. His skin is dark and clothes are all grey. He looks surprised to see Arabella and tells the party to come with him, her father will want to see her immediately.
We walk for a bit and enter into a clearing with a small hill. There are a half dozen houses partially dug into the hill and similar dark looking elves standing around them. There are several wagons in a circle on the top of the hill. The elf leads the party to a tent at the center of the circle and the party hears someone being beaten with a whip as they approach. When they enter, the beating is stopped. A older man says “Easy brother, I think Alexa has learned his lesson”. We believe the older man is Arabella’s father.
- Deal with Arabella and the Vistani men. (Reward? Information? Allies?)
- Work on the children angle
-Check in with Blinsky (since we’ve found ourselves back in town)
-Ask him and others about Mad Mary’s daughter and her doll
-Should also ask about Morgantha who is kidnapping children and selling dream pastries, maybe she’s living in a gingerbread house, all we need to do is follow breadcrumbs
- Check out the mad wizard of Mt Baratook
- Check in on Elgian’s windmill as a potential base of operations
- Check on the wine order from the Wizard of Wines Vinyard
- Check out the marshes that were mentioned (should we take the two guides from the bar?)
- Amber Castle