The Walter-monster, Retlaw the eternal, oozed forward onto the dais, babbling as it approached. Hezekiah and Devlin found it easy to hit with ranged attacks, but other than some of its mouths momentarily changing their babbles to screams, it showed little injury. Darian’s eyes glazed over in confusion as he went to act, and he went charging toward the far wall, passing no closer than 10 feet of the creature’s actual location. When he reached the other wall, he turned, confused, and having lost his turn. Zivago strode boldly forward and slashed into the beast with his longsword. Ichor and teeth rained from the creature.
Zib cast comprehend languages, and the confusing babbles of the abomination clarified as he could suddenly understand all of the tongues it spoke. He was almost overcome mentally by the things he heard, but was able to resist the effect by focusing on just one or two voices out of the whole. One of the things he heard from Retlaw was a secret that one of the other characters has been keeping from the group.
Cordelia blessed the ranger, bard, and warlock. On their turns, each succeeded in resisting the confusing babbling of Retlaw and added some ranged damage. Darian recovered, flanking the abomination from the other side of the dais, and adding his own sword to the melee.
A few failed saving throws from Cordelia and Zib had them striking at each other for a turn, but neither landed a blow on the other. Zivago was briefly blinded by the creature’s spittle, but the beast was unable to land a bite attack on anyone, and finally fell to the combined might of the party, felled by an arrow of Devlin’s which pierced the center of the monster. Its form immediately rotted into a thick black slime.
The entire structure of the house began rumbling as a vortex appeared in the air above the dais. Spirits could be seen flying through the air and up into the vortex, swirling within it screaming like damned souls. Bits of the ceiling began raining down and the party gathered the girls and hightailed it out of the cellar, back up the circular stairs to the attic.
There, they found the house itself had turned against them. Scything razor blades had replaced the doors, and poisonous smoke emitted from every fireplace. Through some trial and error, they found the blades avoided the twins and the smoke seemed to recoil from them. Utilizing the girls, they were able to pass the blades without injury. The fumes affected a few characters, but none was felled and they all collapsed out into the street gasping for fresh air.
Turning around, they saw the mists of Ravenloft clinging thickly around the house. As the mists thinned, the house’s appearance had changed, seeming to age centuries in seconds. It now matched the run-down and abandoned look of the homes around it. The windows opening into the one room they hadn’t explored on the first floor were broken out, and inside was the looted frame of a room, all furniture and valuables long since plundered or weathered away.
Rose mentioned that everything around them looked much older than the twins remembered it. Rose also said that she and Thorn knew they had been asleep for a long time because they only had each other to talk to, but didn’t know how long it had been. They mentioned their mother’s brother was the town merchant. The party decided to go back to the Blood of the Vine and rest before looking for Ismark. He had asked them to go do something good for the villagers, and now he could help them find a home for two refugees from the village’s past.
They found Ismark discussing village business with a trio of villagers in the tavern, and thoughts of rest disappeared as he waved them over. It had been 15 minutes since they left him, apparently time in the house passed differently than outside. The party told him the improbable story of the twins and he believed it, remembering the name Durst from records kept in the Burgomaster’s mansion. He promised to research it further.
One of the Vistani owners of the tavern suggested the party seek out Madam Eva for a fortune reading. Madam Eva was the most powerful Vistani seer of this generation and could be found at the Tser Pool encampment, down the road to the west of town. But first, Ismark asked them to return with him to his home.
There he thanked the party for saving the two innocents and asked them for another favor, to escort his sister Ireena to safety, somewhere outside the reach of Strahd, perhaps the town of Vallaki far to the west. In turn, he would see what he could learn about the twins lineage and see if they might have family still living within Barovia. Ireena interrupted to state she would not go anywhere until her father was laid to rest at the church.
The party helped Ismark and Ireena carry the Burgomaster’s coffin to the church. There, they found a despondent Donavich. His son, the vampire spawn, Doru was still locked beneath the church. Ismark took him aside, and in his capacity as Burgomaster convinced Donavich that the creature below was no longer his son, and promised his aid in putting him to rest after the Burgomaster was buried. No townsfolk came to the graveside service.
When it was over and the party returned to the church with Donavich, Ismark, and Ireena, they found the doors open, the trapdoor to the undercroft opened, and Doru was gone. Devlin was able to find tracks leading in and out. A booted humanoid, smaller than a human or half-elf, but much larger than a halfling or gnome had arrived on a horse, entered the church, and left with Doru by his or her side. They had mounted the horse and left town toward the west.
Remembering that was also the direction of the Vistani camp, the party set out, bringing the girls with them, and promising to meet Ireena and Ismark back at the Burgomaster’s mansion by dark. They traveled over a bridge and back into the Svalich wood, climbing into the foothills of the western mountains before reaching a crossroads. The northwestern path led down to the shore of a large pool along the river Ivlis. Traveling alongside it, they ran into the Vistani camp, a group of tents pitched among a defensive square of four wagons. Horses grazed nearby, and drunken revelers danced around the afternoon bonfire.
A pair of Vistani playing cards on a tree stump greeted them, saying that Madam Eva was expecting them. The party was ushered into the largest tent, nearest the pool’s bank, where they met an old crone sitting behind a drape-covered table complete with a scrying ball and deck of Tarokka cards. Hezekiah greeted Madam Eva, and was surprised when she called him by name and told him he and his friends were expected.
As the girls walked in Madam Eva looked up in surprise. She told the party that by rescuing the girls from their sleep, they had acted as the hands of fate and that the girls had a part to play in a future story. She assured Hezekiah that the party would soon find the place the girls belonged. Turning her focus back to the party, she told them that they came seeking a way out of these lands, but while the roads into Barovia were many, all paths out led through the castle and its cursed resident.
Madam Eva drew 5 cards and arranged them into a cross shape.
This first card speaks of knowledge of the devil’s past. To know your foe’s history may speak to his weaknesses.
(7 of Swords / The Hooded one)
A man is not what he seems. He comes here in a carnival wagon. There you will find what you seek.
This second card tells of a powerful force for good & protection. A holy symbol of great hope.
(9 of coins / Miser)
Seek out a fortress inside the fortress. In a place hidden behind fire you will find what you seek.
This third card is the position of power and strength; it tells of a weapon of vengeance, a blade of sunlight.
(8 of Stars / Necromancer)
Within the castle, a woman hangs above a roaring fire. Find her and you will find the treasure.
This fourth card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against the darkness.
Seek out the brother of the devils bride. They call him the lesser, but he has a powerful soul.
Your enemy is a creature of darkness, whose powers are beyond mortality. This will lead you to him when you are ready for your final confrontation.
When the time is right, you will find him in the mother’s tomb.