Entry #10 – Day 5 It was a tense and haunting night filled with rats, wolves, night terrors, and an encounter with a possible werewolf. The wolves continued to taunt us through the night, and soon a score or more had the barn surrounded, with some even attempting to claw their way through the ancient walls of the structure. There was one wolf in particular who was spotted across the road, just sitting there watching the barn. Watching us.
Some time later, while Uphir and Akkiir were on watch, they heard the soft sounds of a flute outside. It seemed to be coming from a small campfire just inside the woods a short way off. A silhouette could be glimpsed now and again, but the resident of the campfire was obscured mostly by trees. A conversation was started between Uphir and the stranger. He quickly offered up that he could control the wolves, and upon request he had his lupine minions stop trying to break into the barn.
Little was learned about the stranger, but they managed to get some information about the lay of the land. The stranger’s name was Skennis and he could control the wolves. He lives in the forest with his pack. He serves the devil Strahd – as all do in this land. Uphir believes that he may be a werewolf based upon their conversation. Strahd controls the gates to this land and they only open usually to let his vistani servants enter or exit (This proves that Silvo is a knave. He is completely responsible for luring us into this cursed land). The rest of this land is locked in by the killing mist, so no one may leave. He mentioned that Strahd is a powerful sorcerer as well as vampyr.
He said the Durst’s were a wealthy merchant family who were cursed by Strahd. We may think that we had freed the souls of the dead within, but Skennis assured us that not even souls may escape from the Devil’s land. Of the village Barovia, he says it is cursed and he does not go there – but it is still occupied by Barovians. There are also other villages nearby – Vallaki and Kresk.
We learned that this is not the first-time adventurers have come to this land. Over the many years, the Devil would send out his Vistani to lure in more. This has happened over and over again, always leading to the doom of these visitors. He likes to test these heroes for some reason. We were told our certain death was only a matter of time and we will never leave this land. Skennis was gone by the time we got up the next day.
As usual, we started late, at around noon. We backtracked on the road towards the entry gates to this blasted dismal realm. The fog had lifted, in fact it retreated deeper into the woods. The immense gates stood before us, as impassable as any mountain. Learning the status of the gates and knowing we could not yet do anything about it, we set off to the village of Barovia in earnest.
The closer we got to the village the more we saw of outlaying farms. As we crossed the grassland we encountered a peculiar area where the grass seemed to be whispering to us in soft, indistinct voices. I shall call this the Whispering Sward. We stopped at one farm to refill our water skins from a pond and we were confronted by an old farmer who sat on his front porch with a crossbow leveled at us. I offered to be the official delegate for our troupe and approached the man. This farmer was fearful, suspicious of us, unfriendly, abrupt, and generally ill tempered. We would learn that these characteristics are common of most Barovians.
We learned little from this man and paid him generously for the use of his pond (a gold piece!). We decided to leave the rest of the farmers and their dilapidated farmsteads alone and continue to our destination. I wonder if anything actually grows in this desecrated soil? We encountered some shambling zombies as we followed the track to the village but our experienced troupe quickly dispatched the undead, using range and the benefit of faster movement to good use. No one suffered a scratch!
– I am noticing that my fey powers are increasing daily since I have succeeded in finally tapping into the life force of the Feywild. My fey blasts are becoming more powerful and having deadly effect on the undead minions of Strahd. I can feel the power rippling just beneath the surface of my skin. It is both exhilarating and somewhat terrifying to open the connection and feel pure energy from the Feywild pour into me and then flow out through my hands. Master said that with practice I would have success, but I had not expected it to come so quickly or so strongly.
– More than just using this force as a weapon, I am beginning to find ways to weave it’s power into some of my other talents and spells. With more time spent in study and practice my talent will increase, however I may not find the time to practice the ancient forms needed. I feel as though this place is the antithesis of my homeland and the ancient Feywild, and it drags on my spirit like a foul pox.
The dark and dour village, nestled in a valley at the base of the towering spire of rock upon which sits the castle of the Devil Strahd, was as eerie as the rest of this cursed realm. The village proper seemed almost empty with darkened and derelict houses lining the muddy cobblestone street. The village was as quiet as death except for the single chilling wail of anguish coming from the center of town.
On our way to investigate the wailing, we noticed that most businesses off the derelict marketplace were broken and dilapidated. Only two buildings seemed like they were open for business – A darkened tavern named “The House of Plank and Stein” and a mercantile with a sign stating “Bildrath’s Mercantile”. We vowed to return, but hastened on to the desperate sounds of the wailing woman. On the second floor of one of the raggedy homes was our target.
I headed up the rickety steps and made my presence known at the door. Using as soft and comforting language as I could, I learned that this distraught woman was named Mary and her daughter Gertruda was missing and she felt that Strahd had taken her as a consort.
Between Janlynn and myself we managed to calm the woman down somewhat and promised that we would help her daughter if ever we encountered her and she gave us a very disturbing doll to give to her so that she would know we were friends. The frayed tag on the doll read “Is no fun is no Blinky” Janlynn gave her the prayers of the Morninglord to ease the pain in her soul.
We headed directly to the strangely named tavern after leaving the woman Mary. The tavern exterior, rather than being welcoming and warm, left a feeling of dread and despair and almost seemed more repellant than enticing to customers passing by. Directly inside the entrance, in a small foyer, a giant of a man stood watching the entry. I do not exaggerate when I say this man was all muscle and I could not detect even the briefest of sparks within his dead eyes. He grimaced slightly at me so I knew he actually was alive.
– The Barovians that we have encountered in town are very much like the paintings we saw in the Death House. Ashen skinned, severe looking people dressed in dark colors and grey everywhere, as if they are dressing to match the atmosphere of their cursed land.
Beyond revealed a tavern as any other, although mostly empty and as gloomy as one would expect for this place. A long table with benches took up the greater part of the common room. A young Barovian sat at one end and three vistani women on the other. A slender barman stood behind a tattered bar lined with rickety stools. His personality made the suspicious farmer we encountered seem like a great bloke – beyond telling us the price of the wine, he barely spoke.
We ordered some of his wine and moved to take our seat at the table. Mary had mentioned (along with sage advice not to kill a raven as they are good luck) that the Burgomeister’s son, Ismark, could usually be found at the tavern and we suspected that this young man might be him. We were proven correct. We engaged in conversation and learned some information from him as well as a plea for help.
We learned that the Burgomeister had recently died and that Ismark’s sister Ireena was in dire danger. As the Burgomeister’s message had said, she had been attacked and bitten by the Vampyr Strahd and he feared he would be back for her again soon. He wanted us to help him escort Ireena to the next town over, Vallaki. Haste was of utmost importance.
We followed him to the Burgomeister’s mansion, which was as decayed as the rest of the town. The windows were all boarded up and all around the house the ground was trampled and worn away as if an army of creatures had trodden there. Once inside we were asked to wait in the sitting room while he went to fetch Ireena. It was then that he told us and we could see (And smell) the corpse of the Burgomeister in a coffin in a room across the hall. He had been dead some three days.
The beautiful Ireena was soon presented to us and described how the mansion had been under siege by minions of the Devil. Strahd wanted Ireena and they felt that he would soon have her if she did not escape this place and find a place to hide. We reassured her and agreed to help her transport her father’s body to the cemetery for a proper burial in the only place to still have consecrated land.
We carried his coffin in a cart through the barren village and up the hill to the cemetery, which was directly at the base of the towering spire. We could hear strange sounds from within the church and we rushed inside to see the priest across the nave and just then, from beneath the floor came a loud wailing.