The party stands in front of the remains of Lorgoth the Decayer, a massive pile of human remains and refused once held together by dark magics. Atop the pile is the tiny bones of baby Walter, the youngest still-born bother to Rose and Thorn. The party decides that Walter’s corpse needs to be interred as well along with the rest of the family, so Brume claws his way to the top of the pile. It was nauseating work, but the cleric managed to cope and finally retrieve the small skeleton and bring it down to the others. Yenkin (controlled by the DM) has to be told not to try and dig through all of the bones to look for loot.
While heading towards the family crypts, several of the heroes notice that the constant dust and footprints over the entire basement/dungeon are missing along one corridor. They decide to return the remains before exploring further. After this, finally having a moment to breathe and relax, Clementine introduces herself to the party. She is a half-elf sorcerer, and had been part of an adventuring party that had chased werewolves to Barovia before being caught up in the Death House. Her party, except for her, had been eaten by the ghasts (Gustav and Elizabeth Durst).
While discussing the corridor emptied of dust, Bogdan decides to return up the spiral staircase to the attic, lighting his way with a torch. Once there, he notices some extremely startling changes:
- all of the windows were gone, replaced by solid walls of bricks.
- all of the doors were gone, replaced by vertically spinning scythes within the door frames, spinning fast enough to make whirring sounds
- the fireplace was pouring out thick black smoke
- the interior walls were newly cracked, with rivulets of blood pouring out from all of the cracks, making the walls damp
Choking from the smoke and frightened, Bogdan quickly dashed back into the staircase, running into Tamar leading the rest of the party upwards, having noticed Bogdan ran off without them. After explaining the changes around fits of coughing and stutters of fright, the group retreats back down to the dungeon level. After talking it over, they decide to explore the dust-free corridor before daring the even more dangerous house above.
Bogdan cleverly suggests that they should approach it from the eastward direction, so the party heads back towards the room with the table and chandelier instead of a straight-forward approach. Of course, the “door” is back in place and Bogdan moves foward to combat the mimic.
The battle was intense. Bogdan’s staff and fist both got stuck, magically adhered to the surface of the mimic within his first two strikes. While Tamar stares in disbelief — who fights with a door?!?! — Brume and Clementine unleash their spells at the mimic, showering sacred flames and magic missiles upon it. Bogdan is able to yank his hand free and retreats, abandoning his staff, while the “door” chases him with clunky movements. Clementine gets caught too close and is grabbled by the door’s tongue, pulling her closer, and survives from some fast heals by Tamar as Brume distracts it with his longsword. A few dangerous attacks
more and the mimic is defeated, nearly falling on Clementine in the process. Yenkin (again via DM) has to be yelled at by Tamar to avoid trying to drag the entire door behind him, claiming it was loot.
Resting for a short while, the party then moves into the room free of dust, where Brume finds a hidden door. The door is behind a false wall of clay, nearly rotted, and Brume has no difficulty in bashing it down. Inside is a short staircase ending at the foot of a ladder leading upwards. Brume heads up the ladder, almost falling as one rung breaks away, before reaching the underside of a barred trapdoor. Opening the door, Brume finds himself in the den in the first floor of the house, with all of the same dangers (sickle doors, blood walls, black smoke, bricked up windows) as in the attic.
Misquoting some scripture, he blesses himself and lets bold action dictate his future, charging headlong at the eastward wall separating him and his allies from the exist. Smashing through the blood-sodden wall, he lands in the foyer area with the front door in sight, only to be set upon by rats swarming from the broken wall. Unleashing a mighty wave of thunder, he scatters most of the rats before killing the rest with his sword. He yells for his party, and together they escape the Death House, all choking from the poisonous black smoke that was filling the den.
Now back in Little Barovia , the mists had retreated. They were still present, but now much more like normal fog, only thick enough to be noticed at a distance. The party welcomed the respite from the indoor gloom, even if only to return to the outdoor gloom and the land of the mists. A little over 24 hours had passed by the party’s reckoning, so they guessed it was roughly the same time of day as when they had entered. Strangely, though, the horses were still warm and did not appear to be any more hungry than normal.
Decided this house was a blight, and to save any future adventurers from it, Clementine set about lighting it on fire. Walking around the outsides of the house, she used Produce Flame over and over until the house was well and truly turning into a bonfire. (“It was totally an accident, officer, I swear.”)
All of the nearby houses look much the same. Most are boarded up. It’s gloomy enough that even though it is daytime (or whatever passes for daytime in a land this choked with mists), candles or other lights are needed indoors, yet no lights shine from within these dwellings. A few have some small sounds coming from them, but it could be a stray animal or just the boards of the houses settling, so the party keep going forward until they reach the center of town. They they find a tavern and a storefront.
They choose to go into the tavern. it has a sign in front that reads Blood on the Vine, but careful examination reveals it’s been changed from Blood of the Vine. The tavern looks like it was once a nice place … long, long ago. It’s run down and shabby now, and has very little in the way of occupants. A short, pudgy man named Arik is the barkeep, a blond man drinks alone in the corner, and three Vistani woman chat quietly among themselves.
Brume approaches Arik to buy a drink, and the man is pretty dull. He stands there, cleaning already-clean glasses, until he answers Brume’s questions with as few as words as he can. A good description for him is “plain”; he wears drab clothes, his eyes have a dull look to them, and even his voice is bland when he speaks. While ordering his drink, Brume overhears the three Vistani talking, and catches a snipper about ‘… think Madame Eva would know?’
Brume, realizing they likely of the same people as Stanimir, approaches them and asks if they knew the old man. They admit they do, and inquire as to why Brume asks. As the cleric relays the tale of their fall to wolves, the Vistani make a point of asking if it was wolves or werewolves. Tamar confirms that at least some of the wolves were werewolves. At the end of the tale, the three women introduce themselves as sisters named Alenka, Mirabel, and Sorvia.
Brume indicates that he has the spellbook of Stanimir. Sorvia, the one who had asked about the werewolves, asks if he will return it to the Vistani so that they can give it to Stanimir’s apprentice. Brume hesitates, unsure if the spellbook should really be returned to them. Alenka then says that she can prove that they knew Stanimir — his wagon has an “open secret” to his friends. Underneath the seat of the driver’s position, in a cleverly hidden false drawer, is a stash of exceptionally good Tabac. She asks the party to go with her and her sister’s outside so she can prove it.
After they all go outside, she does indeed prove that what she said was true. Upon seeing that the party was also truthful, that this is indeed Stanimir’s wagon, she offers a reward for them burying the old man and bringing the truth of the matter to his people. She hands Brume a bag of 75 gold and a spell case containing a scroll of Calm Emotions. Brume in turn hands over Stanimir’s spellbook.
After conferring with her sisters, Mirabel then asks the party to travel with them in the morning to meet Madame Eva at a camp about a few hours journey away. They offer the party free logding and drinks for as long as they wish as a further plea to come with them, as well as gratitude for honoring their dead friend Stanimir.
While this was happening, Tamar notices that a raven perched on the eaves of the tavern, watching them. Watching them intently, in a very un-raven-like behavior, now that she noticed. Casting Speak With Animals upon herself, she tried to ask the raven what it saw. The raven answered clearly, without the usual intelligence barrier most animals would have in this situation. It mocked her, refusing to answer any questions clearly. It did give a warning, however — that many animals (although not ravens) served as spies for Strahd. Shortly after, the raven flew away. As it took to the wing, it circled the druid, and a single feather fell from it that Tamar.
They all head back into the tarern, the party to their table and the Vistani to a back room. Clementine approaches the blond man drinking by himself in the corner, who introduces himself as Ismark Kolyanovich.. Asked if he knew much about the town (and specifically where they could find the burgomaster, Kolyan Indirovich), Ismark replies in the affirmative. He says that Kolyan is his father, but has passed away. Clementine then asked if he knew anything about his father sending out a letter.
Showing him both letters, Ismark says that the one they were given by Arrigal at the Waystone Inn back in Daggerford must be a fake, because Ireena is his father’s adopted daughter, not his lover. Also that the handwriting was not the same as his father’s. The other letter he said looks like the real thing, but was unaware it was sent. He asks about the body they found it on, and claims it was his father’s manservant Dalvan Olensky. That letter’s date (in the Barovian calendar) was a little over a week ago. He speculates that his father found out about the fake letter somehow and wanted to warn the party away from Barovia.
Guessing that their prowess exceeds his own, Ismark then begs a boon of the party. He wants them to take his sister Ireena to the fortified town Vallaki, in the heart of the main valley of Barovia. The journey would be to the west, far enough away to be a full hard day’s worth of travel. Tamar asks why he wants to move his sister, and Ismark starts to explain.
Strahd von Zarovich is apparently attacted, or perhaps even infatuated with, Ireena. He has already bitten her twice, as they are two sets of bite marks on her neck. The weird part is that it’s commonly known that vampires cannot enter a private home without an invitation by a resident, and no one has invited Strahd in. Regardless, as the story unfolds, it turns out that Barovia as a whole was cursed by some feel deeds that the ancestors of the Barovians did. No one remembers what the bad deed was, but the effect of the curse was that the devil himself, Strahd, became their dread master. It was then that the deadly mists surrounded the area, and no one can leave. Anyone trying to enter the mists starts to choke or dies from exhaustion, and the few who manage to survive more than that end up back where they started no matter how long and hard they try.
Previously, the land had two gods, the Morninglord and Mother Night. One watched over them during the day, and the other at night. But since the curse, Mother Night has unanswered their prayers and there has been no sun to pray to during the day. Some even say it was Mother Night herself who cursed the land, such was the betrayal by the Barovians’ ancestors.
When asked if any had tried to fight back, Ismark mentioned a powerful mage who had fought against Strahd a year ago, but he lost and went crazy after. He was simply referred to as the “Mad Mage” since.
Ismark distrusts most Vistani, and says they are usually servants of Strahd. The three sisters who own the Blood on the Vine are exceptions.
When asked about animals spying for Strahd, he said he didn’t know anything about it. Noting the raven’s feather on Tamar, he said that it was widely accepted that ravens were an omen on all luck, both good and ill.
- bag of 75 gold
- spell scroll of Calm Emotions
- Tamar, for being baffled at why a human would fight a door, is curiously inspired.
- For burninating the Death House, Clementine is inspired.