Brume talks to the vistani about the horses & wagons they’ve been using. They belonged to Stanimir, but the party has been making use of them. Madame Eva says that the Vistani are really protective of their wagons, and they’d rather not part with that; but because the party brought the wagon back along with news of Stanimir, she’l sell them horses at a hefty discount. The adventurers end up paying 50g for five horses. Brume also buys some fingerless gloves off of another Vistani, with plans to use them as a surprise later.
The group leave Tser Pool and head back towards Little Barovia. As they crest a hill and come back to the Ivlis River Crossroads, they see the gallows again. Last time a dead body appeared as they left, but now it is empty again; no one sees either Tamar’s corpse or a Barovian corpse.
Continuing through the Svalich Woods, just before they wold have reached the stone bridge crossing the Ivlis River, they meet a well dressed gentleman alone in the road. It looks as if he was waiting for and expecting them.
The man is Strahd von Zarovich. He asks the party to step down from their horses so they can have a polite discussion, but the party is leary and refuses. Seconds later, he asks again, and they find themselves strangely listening and stepping down from their horses. His request was very reasonable, after all. Strahd wishes to talk with them about a young girl, Ireena Kolyana. According to Strahd, Ireena belongs to him. She pledged herself to him in exchange for Strahd resurrecting her father, who’s been dead these last few days.
Brume and Tamar disagree, saying you can’t own people. Strahd chuckles at this, saying of course you can. She made a vow, willingly; would the party force her to break her own vow? Strahd tells them they need not believe him, of course; he suggests they ask Ireena, and look her deep into the eyes, and know the truth for themselves. She’ll probably deny it vocally, but her actions and demeanor thereafter should reveal the truth.
Suddenly, Strahd asks Brume to come stand next to him. Brume, weirdly out of character, cooperates. Strahd lashes out with his hand and savagely snaps Brume’s neck with one hand. Staring the the jaw-dropped party, Tamar is the first to react and as such Strahd waves a hand in her direction and casts a spell, leaving a very angry and loud chipmonk in the place where the druid was standing.
He solemnly tells the party that this was a simple demonstration. They really ought to make the correct choice about Ireena, and not do anything foolish. With that, his body disperses into mist and he disappears. Suddenly Brume, dead and collapsed onto the ground, is standing and fine, if oddly silent; some illusion had convinced the party that he had been killed when he had not. Tamar was a real-live chipmonk, however, at least for the next hour or so.
Shortly after Tamar returns to her normal form — and continues a tirade of swearing —the adventurers arrive back in Little Barovia. They see what looks to be a smoke cloud in the air, and as they approach it’s clear that it is coming from the neighborhood where the Death House once stood. They decide to investigate before seeing Ismark and Ireena.
The Death House is apparently being rebuilt, as they soon learn. The smoke cloud is actually a thick dust cloud; with no visible reason to explain why, the house is steadily forming back together from nothing. The bottom floor looks more or less intact, but there is no roof or upper stories yet. clemetine says fuck that and goes to burninate it. AGAIN.
As Clementine sets to work, Tamar notices a body collapsed in the street not far from the Death House. The body is not-quite-dead, and it’s soon revealed that it is Zack Justwelm, a paladin who bears an extremely large greatsword and a holy symbol of Lathander. Zach is from Clementine’s old adventuring party! Clementine thought she was the only one who was not eaten, but it turns out Zach was buried in a different cavity in the basement, and once the party defeated Lorgoth the Decayer, the wall of earth holding him as a prisoner slowly started falling apart.
Zach woke up tied in that cavity, and managed to get out of the basement … only to find a cloud of swirling dust. He tried to go through it to get out, but the dust choked him and he passed out. He’s missing his three retainers, younger squire-aged children who help serve him. They were left in a wagon while he explored but there’s no wagon around anymore.
Yenkin, Tamar, Bogdan, and Clementine continue to watch the Death House burn. Meanwhile, down the street, an old woman is pushing a peddler’s cart and selling what appear to be meat pies to the villagers.
- brume and zach see her sell a meat pie to one house, and in the next hand over meat pies in exchange for a small boy
- old woman is Morgy
- zach accosts her, harassing her. wants to know what she’s doing with the kid
- Morgy explains kid will work to help her make pastries
- Zach doesn’t believe her. grabs her by the throat
- Morgy goes all grandma on Zach. mind his manners, what kind of servant of the Morninglord is he. ask the boy, she says!
- boy is Lucian Jarov. says his parents asked him to go with Morgy. he doesn’t seem to mind
- Zach realises he dun fucked up. Tries to back off and aplogize
- Brume is interested in pastry. Wants to know more about it, not so much eat it. Gets charged extra – 5gp – because of Zach
- They leave Morgy alone, go back to Lucian’s house and talk to parents
- parents make a point of not inviting characters in
- explain same situation to Zach
- all this racket causes three kids (ages? names?) to come out from across street, are Zach’s retainers
- they decide to go see burgomaster’s house
- yenkin feels ill, says he’s gonna stay at inn for a while, try to hide from Jenny Greenteeth
- they get to burgomaster’s. Ismark is irate that they took so long, it’s after midday
- see a new person. not willing to invite an unknown person it, so Ismark says to wait. a few seconds later Zach gets splashed in the face with holy water
- all is good, party goes into manse
- inside is all boarded up, holy symbols everywhere. homemade pine coffin lays on floor in a side room
- its Kolyan, previous burgomaster
- Ireena says she can’t leave him there, but no one in village will help them
- villages are they’re scared of her cause of vampire bites.
- Brume (?) asks if she remembers seeing strahd. its fuzzy memories, but barely
- did she agree to go with him if he saved her father? she doesn’t remember that.
- says she does not want to belong to strahd, even if she did say she was his
- party agrees, says they’ll take her to Vallaki
- she doesn’t want to go with her father like he is. will they help bury him? villagers refuse to help because they are scared of her
- party agrees
- zach almost drops coffin on way to Church of the Sun
- they get to church, meet Father Donovich
- he says that they can dig up plot tonight, but ceremony needs to happen at dawn
- warns about ghosts at midnight. Rose shows herself and says she wants to see the ghosts
- party agrees to dig grave. rest help clean up / restore church somewhat, moving debris, boarding up holes, etc.
- takes afternoon, agree to say the night in church. party (minus NPCs) will see what ghosts are about
- eery green light aries, party sees over a hundred ghosts from a small graveyard. clear that ghosts aren’t 1-to-1 with graves
- ghosts are former adventurers. one is Sebastienne, the man who died of the poison dart trap in Death House. Rose knows him, talks to him
- party can’t hear Sebastienne, only Rose
- Rose translates after. ghosts are eternally doomed to fight Strahd. can’t escape Barovia, even after death.
- each night they get a chance to fight him in Castle Ravenloft, each night they fail
- each night they have small hope they can do it, and hope turns to dread. says Strahd loves that hope turning into despair.
- they ride out of town, across ghostly bridge that spans Tser Falls for a quicker route to castle
- party does not want to ride out of town at night, goes back to church
- next morning, have burial. Brume misquote scripture. Donavich is like “no no no, dammit, you’re doing it wrong”
- party rides out for Vallaki
- along the way, see dead body in road
- as Brume approaches, dead body stands up and shoots at Brume, with others in woods doing the same.
- its an ambush
- zach makes all the bandits tired from dodging his sword non-stop, cause he can’t hit them
- Bogdan kills a couple. whacks one into a tree.
- Tamar goes wolf-mode and gives on a killing-nibble
- After bandits are dead, realize all but one are dressed like Vistani.
- they did not attack Ismark or Ireena
- scimitars and crossbows w/ bolts if anyone wants some.
- TODO: come up with numbers and add to loot list
- arrive at gates of Vallaki