The party arrived back in the village of Barovia as darkness fell. They returned to Ismark and Ireena at the Burgomaster’s mansion. They agreed to stay there until leaving the village, both to protect Ireena, and keep the twins away from the villagers in the tavern.
Exhausted, they quickly fell asleep, although Cordelia made small talk with Ireena as she lodged in Ireena’s bedroom that night. Ireena told her that Strahd had been obsessed with her since she was a little girl, but his predations had become more aggressive once she “came of age”. He had bitten her twice in the last year, the second time on the night of the Burgomaster’s fatal heart attack. She confessed that as much as she hated him, there was still some animalistic attraction there.
The next morning, Ismark announced he would be leaving the following day for the Graenseskov. Darian agreed to go with him as a man-at-arms. (Stanley missed this session)
Ireena expressed a desire to leave at the same time for Vallaki, giving the party one last day in the village. Ismark’s search of the village birthing records found that the merchant, Bildrath was the descendent of the Durst twins’ aunt and uncle. Ismark agreed to approach him on the twins’ behalf and see if he would take them in. Hezekiah went with him.
At the mercantile, Bildrath listened incredulously, and after a bit of hemming and hawing, consented to taking the girls into his household. He called for his nephew Pariwimple to lead the girls’ to the home they shared with Bildrath’s sister, and to see that she made sure the girls were properly fed and clothed.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party visited the townhome just to the north of the Burgomaster’s mansion where they had heard sobbing a few times before. After pounding on the door for some time, the crying stopped, and a woman answered the door. Aged with grief, and somewhere in middle age, she introduced herself as Mary. She had been crying since her daughter, Gertruda, had disappeared about a week before. She refused to believe the teenaged girl had run away, “She’s never left home before”. Mary clutched a doll which, when asked, she said was her doll growing up, handed-down to Gertruda when she was born.
Gertruda’s father had died when she was a baby, and it was just mother and daughter on her own these past years. The mother just wants her baby back. Zib asked if they could take the doll with them, and they would look for her. After it was handed to him, he noticed a tag on the doll which read “Is no fun, is no Blinsky!”
From there, everyone met back up and discussed their travel plans. On the morning of the next day, the majority of the group would depart west for Vallaki while Darian accompanied Ismark to the Graenseskov.
Ismark pulled Devlin aside and “man-to-man” mentioned that he knew the Baron of Vallaki had a son who had come of age. If the situation presented itself, Devlin was to arrange an introduction between Ireena and the son. Political marriages to the Vallakovichs of Vallaki and the Volchykrovs of the Graenseskov would be the basis of a political alliance between the heads of three of the four major population centers in central Barovia, none of which had any love for Strahd.
While this was going on, Zib walked up and tugged on the side of Devlin’s beard, ripping it off and exposing it as fake. Devlin blushed, blaming it on the inability to grow facial hair as a half elf.
The party repeated Madam Eva’s fortune to Ismark and Ireena, asking about certain elements of it. When asked about a blade of pure sunlight, Ismark related the tale his father had shared with him. When Kolyan was a small child, a visitor had come through the village carrying a sword with a blade of pure crystal which shone with an inner fire like the light of day. He claimed it was a powerful weapon to be used against Strahd, and he was carrying it to safety. The man had left the next day, and no trace of him was seen again. Neither Ismark nor Ireena recognized the description of its location, nor that of the other “fortress within the fortress”. Likewise, neither knew of any carnivals, it had been years since one had come through the valley.
They rested for the night, and early the next day said their goodbyes to Ismark and Darian who began the journey to Volchykrov manor beyond the howling hills in the Graenseskov to the east. The rest of the party headed west out of town, crossing the Ivlis river before the road re-entered the Svalich woods. Soon after, a brown wolf, obviously injured ran into the center of the road in front of them, turning to snarl at the woodline. Three other wolves, all gray, fell upon it, snarling.
The party brought down two of the gray wolves with ranged attacks, and another fell from Zivago’s sword blade. The brown wolf, near death, growled at the party, but slumped to the ground.
Devlin approached the animal, feeling a connection to it, and calmed it, offering it rations from his pack. This allowed Cordelia to approach and cast cure wounds on the wolf, bringing it back from the brink of death. The wolf remained wary of the rest of the party, but fell in beside Devlin like an old friend.
Soon, the party noticed that a huge flock of ravens was pacing them on their journey. Cordelia took this as a good omen from her goddess, and Ireena agreed, saying the raven was a symbol of good luck in Barovia and as far as she knew, Strahd had no power over the ravens like he he did over the wolves, rats, and bats.
Further up the road, they reached the crossroads where the path branched off to the Tser pool. Waiting in the center of the road was a cloaked figure. He through off his hood to reveal Doru, the vampire spawn son of Donavich the priest. Cursing the party for their plot to slay him, he boasted that his “true father” had freed him, restored him, and now he would feast on their blood. Zivago and Devlin were observant enough to notice wolves creeping up on the party from either side, and as the wolves charged, a fierce battle ensued. The flock of ravens divided into two swarms, attacking one of the wolves which quickly fell to the pecking beaks of the carrion eaters.
The other wolves were felled by the party even as Doru charged past Devlin and Zivago, reaching Cordelia. Seeking revenge for their earlier meeting in the church undercroft, he grappled her, his claws digging painfully into her side. She attempted to escape but failed, as her companions peppered the vampire spawn with several attacks which seemed to have little effect after his resistance and regeneration. Ireena ran up and swung at Doru with her longsword, but missed. Doru snarled at her to back off, he wasn’t allowed to hurt his new father’s future bride and thus his fight was not with her.
Cordelia finally broke free as Zib and Devlin’s wolf landed blows on Doru. Doru swatted at Zib and missed, while Zivago charged into the melee, completing the encirclement of the vampire. Cordelia’s sacred flame fell upon Doru, causing him to char and smoke a bit, and halting his undead regeneration. More attacks followed, and after running and being harried by the raven swarms, Doru finally fell. Zib attempted to stake the unconscious vampire’s heart and failed, driving the stake into his chest, but missing his target. Hezekiah tried, and failed as well, as Cordelia launched a guiding bolt at the prone and disabled vampire. It struck, and the radiant damage instantly turned the undead creature to ash.
Hezekiah and Zib both collected some of the vampire’s dusty remains, considering it a potentially useful arcane component of some sort. They continued on their journey, breaking for lunch and a short rest at yet another bridge which crossed nearly 1000 feet above the Ivlis river. To their west, they could see the falls, while to the east Barovia lay across the valley and past the Tser Pool.
They spent much of the afternoon cutting back and forth along the sides of the mountains, turning left at the next fork in the path, as the right path appeared to climb up toward the high cliff upon which perched the castle, Ravenloft. The party passed through another stone gate much like the one they had come across on the east side of Barovia village. Finally, cresting one last hill, they spotted Vallaki in the valley a few miles ahead and to the northwest. Not far to west of them, on the edge of a precipice, stood a windmill. While old and dilapidated, it matched the painting in the Durst house, and the description of the location on the deed found in that house matched their present environment.
Ireena argued against visiting the place immediately as it gave her the creeps. Also, any serious delay would prevent them from reaching Vallaki before dark, and the others agreed with her assessment of the situation. As they discussed it, a trio of stooped figures, one pushing a peddler’s cart approached up the road from Vallaki. Three old crones, the one with the cart a good deal older than the others stopped, offering the party their wondrous “dream pastries”. The halfling’s eyes lit up, and ignoring the party’s collective warnings, spent 5 gold on a handful of the tasty-smelling treats. The oldest crone introduced herself as Morgantha, and the other two as her daughters Bella and Offalia. She told Hezekiah he could find them at their home in the windmill when he was ready for another batch of dream pastries. As they wandered off, Zib mentioned to the party that they would have to get the deed to the windmill certified as authentic so the girls could take ownership of it.
After descending into the valley for another few miles, the party reached the east gate of Vallaki and found it closed. A male and female gate guard asked the party’s business in Vallaki. Zib stepped forward, but was met with “What manner of creature are you?” by the xenophobic guards. Ireena stated that she was the sister to the Burgomaster of Barovia and she sought to visit Vallaki with her companions.
Hezekiah, unable to resist his belly any further ate one of the dream pies, immediately falling into a bliss-like trance, complete with full hallucinations of an alternate-reality paradise.
The guards opened the gate, warning the party that they should leave their weapons sheathed within the town, and that the “beast” (wolf) was not welcome in the town. Devlin argued, threatening to bring the wolf in anyway, but the guards would not relent, calling for other guards which were out of sight to “go find Izek” when it looked like it might come to blows. Devlin relented, but refused to enter, either, if the wolf would not be allowed. The guards suggested Ireena call upon the Burgomaster, Baron Vallakovich in his home on the southern loop of the town. The Blue Water Inn could be found in the center of town, just past the main road leading north toward Lake Zarovich.
A pair of passing Vistani asked the party if they had seen a little girl, about seven. Their “headman”‘s daughter was missing since the day before and they were looking for her. They offered to let Devlin stay in their camp to the southwest of Vallaki if he helped them look for her.
Just then, a church bell tolled the dinner hour from somewhere on the west side of the town. The party, minus Devlin, entered through the gate and began walking west down the main thoroughfare. They spotted a stock yard to their south, in a corner of which sat a carnival wagon, its painted facade aged and peeling. And with that sighting, we ended the session.