After rushing her to a temple of Ioun and consulting with life cleric Samhel of Pelor, the party is informed that there is little to be done for Bree and her child – unless they can access stronger magics. Samhel introduces the party to human druid Mika Murrowind, who tells them of the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind – a powerful artifact of the Raven Queen. It has been long lost in Barovia, a cursed land of darkness and misery, ruled over by infamous vampire Strahd von Zarovich. Mika believes that rescuing the relic would incur the Raven Queen’s gratitude. Drawn by the promise of many other legendary treasures, the possibility of saving Bree, and the potential for fame and fortune, Born, Berensir, Honest Bob, Reiko, Alistair, and Truetongue all accept.
The party preps by each silvering a weapon and purchasing Monster Hunter kits. Mika lets them know that at least two parties have recently entered Barovia: famed vampire hunter Rudolch Van Richten more than a year ago, and a large party of adventurers 3 weeks ago. She also warns them of deadly mists surrounding Barovia, and that no one for 3 centuries had ever made it out of Barovia alive. Reiko, having traveled in the area, knows that monsters such as werewolves emerge and attack nearby villages to carry off children.
After a night of rest, Mika meets them at dawn and sends them into Barovia by way of Tree Stride.
The party lands at the Ivlis River Crossroads. The evil miasma of Barovia is thick and choking, and Truetongue immediately attempts to back out, only to find the passage through the tree has closed. Three roads await them – labeled “Barovia” to the East, “Vallaki” and “Ravensloft” to the southwest, and “Tser Lake” to the northwest. Bob notes additional markings on the “Tser Pool” sign in thieves cant, indicating a friendly welcome.
There is also a long abandoned gallows. When the party do perception checks, Reiko spots three watchers in the woods – but also sees a vision of herself hanging from the gallows. Born immediately attacks the closest watcher. In the battle, the three would-be bandits attempt to flee, but the party easily kills one and captures the other two. The survivors – Drilvia and Dragomir – plead innocence, claiming to be Vistani – “Friends to all!” -
merely defending their home territory. Bob reads them as full of shit – they were lying in wait to attack travelers. When the party presses for information on the Holy Symbol of the Raven Queen, the Vistani suggest the party speaks with Madam Eva. When Berensir searches the body of the slain Vistana, he finds a crude, hand-drawn map of Barovia.
Drilvia and Dragomir ride Born-as-a-horse to the Vistani camp at Tser Pool. Along the way, the party notes 2 ravens watching them, whom Reiko identifies as motivated by human intelligence. Drilvia mentions “It is not wise to harm a raven – they carry the souls of the dead.” Drilvia also mentions that many in Barovia lack souls altogether. She is offended when the party asks if she has a soul – obviously she does!
At the Vistani Camp, they meet with Madam Eva who tells them they are fools to enter Barovia for a mere bauble and that they will die here. Still, she provides them with a card reading. The reading is as follows:
Card 1"This card tells of history. Knowledge of what has passed will help you better understand your enemy." 6 of stars: Evoker. “Search for the crypt of a wizard extraordinaire. His staff is the key.”
Card 2 “This card tells of a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of much hope,. This is what you seek.” 3 of swords: Soldier. “Go to the mountains. Climb the white tower guarded by golden knights.”
Card 3 “This is a card of power and strength, a weapon of vengeance that thirsts for the hand of one who will wield it in revenge, a sword of sunlight.” 1 of stars: Transmuter. “Go to a place of dizzying heights, where the stone itself is alive! You must face evil itself.”
Card 4 “This card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness.” Queen of Hearts: the Innocent. “Evil’s bride is the one you seek!”
Card 5 “Your enemy is a creature of darkness, whose powers are beyond mortality This card will lead you to him!” Jack of Clubs: Seer. “He waits for you in a place of wisdom, warmth, and despair. Great secrets are there.”
She refuses to elaborate any further upon her answers, ignoring the party’s questions. When Born tries to intimidate her, Madam Eva stares him down without fear, telling him he can do nothing worse than what Strahd would do if she offered more. Berensir gets the read that Madam Eva is a deep well of secrets, but her card reading was given in earnest and delivered honestly to the best of her ability. She tells the adventurers she has seen hundreds like them over the centuries. All have failed to destroy Strahd. The only thing that shakes Madam Eva is when Berensir reveals that Rudolph Van Richten entered Barovia a year ago. Madam Eva retreats into thought and is non-responsive to the party, rising only when Dragomir returns with the slain body of the third Vistani bandit. She conducts what appears to be a basic resurrection spell. While she is distracted with her thoughts, Honest Bob successfully pickpockets a folio of papers off of her.
The party scatters through the camp and finds many of the Vistani open to providing more information:
Truetongue discovers that the “white tower” is Tsolenka Pass to the southwest, and gets a map direction.
Truetongue also discovers that “living stone” may refer to Ravensloft itself, Strahd’s castle.
Honest Bob, using thieves cant and deception, tries to research the wizard’s crypt, and discovers:
1. There is a winery called Wizards of Wine staffed by “good people”.
2. There is a saint called Saint Markovia buried in an abbey in Krezk.
3. There is a mad mage running about somewhere.
4. There is a whole floor of crypts in Castle Ravensloft.
The party also learns that “evil’s bride” may refer to a woman in the village of Barovia, the burgomaster’s daughter, whom Strahd is known to have chosen as his next consort.
Reiko, trying to figure out what her vision of the gallows meant, gets a tale from a Vistana about Strahd conquering the land of Barovia and enslaving a bandit’s ghost as one of his many spies.
After much debate, the party decides to strike out directly across the wilderness in the direction of Tsolenka Pass. Bob takes the opportunity to review the folio he lifted from Madam Eva. It appears to be household accounting notes for Castle Ravensloft, written hundreds of years ago by someone calling herself “Katarina of Ravensloft”. The last pages of notes are preparing for a massive wedding. The bride is “Tatyana” and the groom is “Sergei.” Bob speculates that Sergei might be Strahd’s son.
A couple hours in, their trail is picked up by wolves. Thanks to Berensir’s traps and sharpshooting, the dire wolf and the two regular wolves accompanying him are quickly taken down, and the party continues to the edge of a sheer cliff. Reiko accidentally summons an undead vulture instead of the eagle she wanted. Still, she discovers that the cliffs continue to rise to the west and south. She does not spot the white tower or anything that looks like a pass. After hearty debate, the party votes 4 to 2 to return to the roads rather than climb the cliffs. They take a long rest and have an uneventful night (other than some glares from Berensir at Bob and Born, and some awkward flirting from Truetongue in Reiko’s direction).
In the morning, Alistair uses teleport to zap them back to the Vistani camp, and they hurry back to the road before the startled Vistani can react.
This time they turn north on the dirt road, and find themselves facing a stone bridge, a thousand feet over a chasm carved out by a waterfall, guarded by mossy gargoyles on each end of the bridge. The last thing they see before facing the bridge are three ravens in the trees, who fly off to the north over the bridge when noticed.