It's a dark and unseasonably cold night. A thick fog has quickly settled in a quaint, unimportant province where we first find our…. protagonists? Inside the lone tavern of this town, The Slaughtered Lamb we find a bard entertaining the crowded inn with tales of his past, a loose association of elves/dragonborn and a singular cleric, with intentions unknown.
Due to the crowded nature of the inn tonight the bard, cleric, and known associates are forced to sit together. With ale and time the five grow to know each other's name and a little about each other when suddenly the door to the inn is kicked in and a man walks in with bright and flamboyant clothes of purple and blue.
A quiet falls over the inn and he walks directly over to the party stopping short of the table and crossing his arms to greet them. In an accented voice he says "I have been sent to you to deliver this message. If you be creatures of honor you will come to my masters aid at first light. It is not advisable to cross the Svalich Woods at night!" He then dropped a letter on to the table with a unrecognizable crest and beautiful flowing script.
"Take the road west from here some five hours march down through the Svalich Woods. There you will find my master in Barovia." He then strolled across the bar and dropped a purse of gold off to the barkeep instructing him to fill everyone's glasses. With that he left and the party investigated the letter.
Vertalas, the party's ranger picked up the letter and read it aloud for the rest of the party to hear and after some due consideration the group decided that they would spend the night at The Slaughtered Lamb and travel due west tomorrow to embark on this quest together.
With dawn the party met and began the journey west. As they marched through the Svalich Woods the forest turned from a normal temperate deciduous forest to a corrupted and haunted forest. The fog became thicker and the trees became gnarled and broken, many were dead.
After some hours the group came up two enormous stone buttresses with an iron gate between them. The heads of these statues lied at their feet respectively and the statues greeted the party with only silence. As the party approached the gates swung open on their own. The party passed through without trouble and the gate slowly shut behind them.
Another hour of travel passed and Delmirev & Vertalas noticed a stench of death on the air. They passed this knowledge on to the rest of the party and the party together decided that it would be wiser to continue traveling to their intended destination. The stench dissipated until they could no longer smell it at all. A few minutes later the sounds of wolves howling could be heard behind them toward the same direction of the foul stench.
After another hour of travel shapes began to form in the distance that were recognizable as buildings in the distance. The muddy ground underfoot gave way to cobblestone and the party finally arrived at their intended destination. A eerie, mournful sobbing could be heard coming from the village.
Wasting no time the party went straight to the local tavern, The Blood of the Vine Inn. Inside they found a somber man drinking wine by himself, a bored and dull, typical barkeep and three women in a corner of the establishment, huddled around a table talking amongst themselves. The three were dressed similarly to the man who delivered Kolyan’s Letter just the night before.
They started with the barkeep. Drearily he told the party the prices of the wines the inn had to offer. Dandelion of Streep offered his bardic services in exchange for free lodging with a flourish of fanciful speech. A twinge of amusement and excitement could be seen in the barkeep’s eyes, though he tried not to show it. “You’ll have to ask the owners bout’ dat.” The barkeep replied. After a short while longer Dandelion learned that the owners were in fact the three women in the corner of the inn.
The party made their way to the three and introduced themselves. Some talk of entertaining for free lodging and negotiations therein were had, but the notion of it was lost when the subject changed and the three women suddenly took on a more serious tone.
Reaching in his leather armor Vertalas showed the women Kolyan’s Letter and inquired if they had ever seen the seal before. The three were silent for a while and then the one who seemed to be the leader of the three replied that they did not recognize it. Dandelion could sense their hesitation and through his persuasive powers he drew from the lady that they could learn more about the letter by asking the authors son, the somber man drinking alone on the other side of the inn.
Naturally the party then gravitated towards this man who introduced himself as Ismark Indirovich. Vertalas offered the letter to Ismark who regretfully told the party that the penmanship was not that of his father’s and that the letter was a fake. Ismark had nothing to offer as far as who forged the letter or why, but he was glad the party was there; because he needed their help.
Ismark then proceeded to tell the party that his sister Ireena Indirovich was in grave danger. Wolves had been attacking the mansion for the past several nights and Ireena herself had been “visited” twice already by “the Devil Strahd” and he feared for her life if they were to meet again. Ismark pleaded with the party for them to assist him with moving his sister to the town of Vallaki. He said he didn’t have much, but that he would give them all he could, roughly 250 gold.
After careful consideration, the party agreed to help Ismark with his request; but with the exception that in addition to his gold they wanted a plot of land within The Village of Barovia and when the time was right, that Ireena Indirovich would marry Delmirev Balasar. With careful persuasion, Dandelion & Delmirev convinced Ismark to agree.
Wanting to waste no time the party and Ismark immediately left for the burgomaster’s mansion. With Ismark with them Irenna allowed the party in the mansion without resistance. Irenna cordially introduced herself to each member of the party and the brother and sister discussed leaving. Ireena agreed that it would be safer for her if she left the Village of Barovia and so she agreed to go, but only under the condition that before they could leave they had to bury their father, Kolyana Indirovich. Kolyana lied in a coffin awaiting burial in a nearby room.
Again seeing no reason to waste any time the party adapted to become pallbearers and began a funeral procession for the former burgomaster, their destination the village’s church graveyard. As they marched through the village the barovians sneered at them through dirty house windows and cracked doors. None joined in the procession.
A little over halfway there the party encountered an old crotchety lady who greeted them with a smile. She was pushing a cart with a very sweet smell wafting from it. The party continued through the village to the church, unwilling to be distracted; save for Anon who decided to stop to investigate the scent and strangely pleasant old lady.
After quick conversation Anon discovered that this lady was not a local villager but that she lived in a windmill outside of the town with her daughters. She came to the town to sell delicious pastries! Anon inquired to the price of the pasties to which the lady replied that they were 1G each. Anon was outraged by this price but negotiated that he would take a two for one gold deal. The old lady agreed. Anon stashed his loot and left to meet with the rest of the party.
The rest of the party went around the church straight to the graveyard where they began Kolyan’s funeral. Anon offered to use his clerical knowledge to do the eulogy. As the funeral was underway a blood curdling scream could be hear from inside the nearby church. The party continued forward with the funeral save for Delmirev & Belladonnä who stepped away to investigate.
They knocked on the door to the church, which was answered by Donavich, the local priest. Donavich attempted to make peace with the party, offering the he was sorry about all the noise and that it wouldn’t happen again. He even offered to assist in giving the eulogy saying he would offer prayers to the Morninglord in hopes for Kolyan’s deliverance from Barovia.
Donavich accompanied the party back to the graveyard and began to offer his own prayers for Kolyana, which Irenna seemed very pleased with. However, as he began the screaming from the church could be heard again. Delmirev Balasar took Donavich to the side to speak with him privately and through intimidation learned that the screams were that of Donavich’s son, Doru. Donavich confessed that his son had ran away with a small militia following a wizard a year ago in a failed attempt to overthrow Strahd. He said his son returned not himself, and he locked him away under the church a year ago, but Donavich insisted that he was taking care of the situation and had it all “under control”.
An hour or so passed as they party, Ismark ‘the lesser’ Indirovich, and Ireena all traveled west. The road crested over a rise and the party came to a fork in the road. A sign post read to the left Vallaki/Castle Ravenloft and to the right Tser’s Pool. Behind the signpost stood a gallows with an empty noose, behind that was a still graveyard, cold and hard.
Suddenly, from the woods near the graveyard six werewolves appeared, looking full of malice and hunger. Remembering back to all her studies throughout many libraries in her search for knowledge Belladonnä recalled that werewolves had resistances to any non-silvered standard attacks and that they were formidable foes, even for a party of five experienced adventurers such as themselves. She quickly conveyed this to her party members.
Thinking quickly, Dandelion used Calm Emotions to place the werewolves in a passive trance followed right up by Vertalas strategically placing a fog cloud between the travelers and werewolves, blocking their route of egress from the lycanthropes’ view. The party made a hasty escape to the left heading toward their intended destination of Vallaki.