After rushing her to a temple of Ioun and consulting with life cleric Samhel of Pelor, the party was informed that there was little to be done for Bree and her child – unless they could access stronger magics. Samhel introduced the party to human druid Mika Murrowind, who told them of the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind – a powerful artifact of the Raven Queen. It had been long lost in Barovia, a cursed land of darkness and misery, ruled over by the infamous vampire Strahd von Zarovich. Mika believed that rescuing the relic would earn 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 accepted the mission..
The party prepped by each silvering a weapon and purchasing Monster Hunter kits (Reiko declined to have a weapon silvered, so Born silvered two of his hammers instead). Mika let them know that at least two parties had 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 warned 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, knew that monsters such as werewolves emerged and attacked nearby villages to carry off children.
After a night of rest, Mika met the party at dawn and sent them into Barovia by way of a Tree Stride spell.
The party landed at the Ivlis River Crossroads. The evil miasma of Barovia was thick and choking, and Truetongue immediately attempted to back out, only to find the passage through the tree has closed. Three roads awaited them – labeled “Barovia” to the East, “Vallaki” and “Ravensloft” to the southwest, and “Tser Lake” to the northwest. Bob noted additional markings on the “Tser Pool” sign in thieves’ cant, indicating a friendly welcome.
There was also a long abandoned gallows. When the party did perception checks, Reiko spotted three watchers in the woods – but also saw a vision of herself hanging from the gallows. Born immediately attacked the closest watcher. In the battle, the three would-be bandits attempted to flee, but the party easily killed one and captures the other two.
The survivors – Drilvia and Dragomir – pled innocence, claiming to be Vistani – “Friends to all!” – merely defending their home territory. Bob read them as full of shit – they were lying in wait to attack travelers. When the party pressed for information on the Holy Symbol of the Raven Queen, the Vistani suggested the party speak with Madam Eva. When Berensir searched the body of the slain Vistana, he found a crude, hand-drawn map of Barovia.
Drilvia and Dragomir rode Born (as a horse) to the Vistani camp at Tser Pool. Along the way, the party noted two ravens watching them, whom Reiko identified as motivated by human intelligence. Drilvia mentioned “It is not wise to harm a raven – they carry the souls of the dead.” Drilvia also mentioned that many in Barovia lacked souls altogether. She was offended when the party asked if she has a soul – obviously she did!
At the Vistani Camp, the party met with Madam Eva who told them they were fools to enter Barovia for a mere bauble and that they would die there. Still, she provided them with a card reading. The reading was 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 refused to elaborate any further upon her answers, ignoring the party’s questions. When Born tried to intimidate her, Madam Eva stared him down without fear, telling him he could do nothing worse than what Strahd would do if she offered more. Berensir got the impression that Madam Eva was a deep well of secrets, but that her card reading was given in earnest and delivered honestly to the best of her ability. She told the adventurers she had seen hundreds like them over the centuries. All had failed to destroy Strahd. The only thing that shook Madam Eva was when Berensir revealed that Rudolph Van Richten had entered Barovia a year ago. Madam Eva retreated into thought and was non-responsive to the party, rising only when Dragomir returned with the slain body of the third Vistani bandit. She conducted what appeared to be a basic resurrection spell. While she was distracted with her thoughts, Honest Bob successfully pickpocketed a folio of papers off of her.
The party scattered throughout the camp and found many of the Vistani open to providing more information:
Truetongue discovered that the “white tower” was in Tsolenka Pass to the southwest, and got a map direction.
Truetongue also discovered that “living stone” may refer to Ravensloft itself, Strahd’s castle.
Honest Bob, using thieves cant and deception, tried to research the wizard’s crypt, and discovered:
- There was a winery called Wizards of Wine staffed by “good people”.
- There was a saint called Saint Markovia buried in an abbey in Krezk.
- There was a mad mage running about somewhere.
- There was a whole floor of crypts in Castle Ravensloft.
The party also learned that “evil’s bride” may be referring 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, got 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 decided to strike out directly across the wilderness in the direction of Tsolenka Pass. Bob took the opportunity to review the folio he had lifted from Madam Eva. It appeared 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 detailed preparations for a massive wedding. The bride was “Tatyana” and the groom was “Sergei.” Bob speculated that Sergei might be Strahd’s son.
A couple hours in, their trail was picked up by wolves. Thanks to Berensir’s traps and sharpshooting, the dire wolf and the two regular wolves accompanying him were quickly taken down, and the party continued to the edge of a sheer cliff. Reiko accidentally summoned an undead vulture to spy out the land instead of the eagle she wanted. Still, she discovered that the cliffs continue to rise to the west and south. She did not spot the white tower or anything that looked like a pass. After hearty debate, the party voted 4 to 2 to return to the roads rather than climb the cliffs. They took a long rest and had 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 used a teleport ability to zap them back to the Vistani camp, and they hurried back to the road before the startled Vistani could react.
This time the party turned north on the dirt road, and found 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 saw before facing the bridge were three ravens in the trees, who flew off to the north over the bridge when noticed.