Recording can be found here: https://youtu.be/AKsxY35yCAU
The mercenaries (Malfien the human ranger, Enoch the half-orc cleric , mouse the halfling monk, Aramil the elf wizard, Geddy the tie fling warlock and Vessero the human rogue) were on their way back from the city of Eveninglast, after escorting a caravan from the Ironclaw Barony.
While camping in the misty forests, fog engulfed them, and soon they were attacked by wolves led by a huge dire wolf with deep red eyes. When the attacked ended, the mercenaries found themselves in an unfamiliar land.
Following a damp road to the west, the mercenaries found a corpse holding a crumpled envelope (see the attached text below). Further down the road, the mercenaries found the small town of Barovia, a dreary place, with its people living in fear from the 'devil'. Mary, a commoner, tells the mercenaries of her beloved Gertruda, who was taken by the devil to his castle. At the Blood of the Vine tavern, the mercenaries meet three Vistani women, and a man called Ismark - the town's burgomaster's son.
Ismark asks the mercenaries to help him save his half-sister, Ireena Kolyana, from the clutches of the devil. He plans to take her west to a town called Vallaki, a settlement in the heart of the valley, beyond the view of Castle Ravenloft, where the devil resides. Ismark want to consult with the priest living there, and he believes he has the power to help. Maybe the mercenaries will find more answers there too - but Ismark isn't optimistic. Many strangers have come to the land of Barovia, none survived the encounter with the devil. The mercenaries agree, and they soon meet Ireena, at the burgomaster's mansion. She is very pale, and the two puncture marks on her throat are clearly visible...
Hail thee of might and valor:
I, the Burgomaster of Barovia, send you honor—with despair.
My adopted daughter, the fair Ireena Kolyana, has been these past nights bitten by a vampyr. For over four hundred years, this creature has drained the life blood of my people. Now, my dear Ireena languishes and dies from an unholy wound caused by this vile beast. He has become too powerful to conquer.
So I say to you, give us up for dead and encircle this land with the symbols of good. Let holy men call upon their power that
the devil may be contained within the walls of weeping Barovia. Leave our sorrows to our graves, and save the world from this evil fate of ours.
There is much wealth entrapped in this community. Return for your reward after we are all departed for a better life.
Kolyan Indirovich, Burgomaster
Recording can be found here: https://youtu.be/yvTwo5H-bbU
The mercenaries learned that Barovia's burgomaster - Kolyan Indirovich - died out of fright, after his mansion was attacked for several weeks by wolves and 'other things'. His father dead, Ismark wants to take Ireena away from Castle Ravenloft and consult the high priest at the town of Vallaki.
Ireena insisted they would bury her father before leaving, and the group headed to the small chapel at the bottom of the mountain on top of which Castle Ravenloft was built. On their way to the church, the mercenaries encountered a raven, who seemed to take interest in them.
At the chapel, the mercenaries learn that the town's priest, Donavich, has locked his son in the basement after the young boy was turned. Apparently a powerful wizard arrived to Barovia and rallied the population against the devil. None returned. Only Daru - the priest's son - returned, but as a vampire spawn.
The mercenaries tried to destroy the creature, but the devil's spawn proved to be a formidable opponent. With the chapel burned to the ground, the mercenaries watched as the burning creature fled into the darkness.
With the spawn banished, Donavich weeps for his ruined chapel, but has agreed to lay the dead burgomaster to rest. The raven - the same one encountered before - is waiting in the graveyard, on top of one of the tomb stones, looking impatient...
Recording can be found here: https://youtu.be/bS_cKG9i8Z8
The mercenaries left the village of Barovia and headed west on the muddy road leading to Vallaki. On a crossroad, they saw a gallows, and suddenly the dead body of Vasseru was hanging on a rotting rope. It dissolved to ash when Aramil tries to touch it with a mage's hand.
Following the raven, the mercenaries found themselves at a Vistani camp, and had their fortunes read by Madam Eva. She flipped five cards, telling the mercenaries to heed what they reveal:
- "This card tells of history, knowledge of the ancient will help you better understand your enemy. A book is hidden in a small castle beneath a mountain, guarded by amber giants".
- "This card tells of a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope. Seek a cask that once contained the finest wine, of which not a drop remains." (No image available, sorry!)
- "This is a card of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of vengeance: a sword of sunlight. Go to a place of dizzying heights, where the stone itself is alive!"
- "This card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness. Find the leader of the feathered ones who live among the vines. Though old, he has one more fight left in him."
- "Your enemy is a creature of darkness, whose powers are beyond mortality. This card will lead you to him! I see a dark figure on a balcony, looking down upon this tortured land with a twisted smile..."
In addition, she told you that Strahd comes from a royal bloodline, but he died decades ago and now endures as one of the undead. He had many consorts, but his only true love was a Barovian peasant girl named Tatyana. She does not know what was her fate.
The Vistani drew you a map of Barovia, here, and warned you to stay away of the ancient Windmill near Vallaki - an ancient evil lurks there. They also told you a tale about a mighty wizard who challenged Strahd, and plunged down the Ivlis falls and was never seen again after a fight with the devil.
The mercenaries continued to Vallaki, and the raven lead them to the windmill. After a short debate, the mercenaries decided to investigate, smelling cakes and pastries from the decrepit structure. It seems someone has locked small children inside - the mercenaries heard two distinct voices call out, one Bella Sunbane and one Offalia Wormwiggle. The mercenaries ventured in, leaving Vessaru outside, alone in the rain....
The mercenaries defeated the hags, although one seem to have escaped. The children where freed, and the raven turned out to be a wereraven named Falkon - he claimed the hags trapped him in his raven form after he tried to free the children himself. Thanking the mercenaries, he told them to seek out Urwin Martikov - the owner of the Blue Water Inn at Vallaki. They will be safe there. He also told them that the 'feathered one' leader is probably the Old Crow, his uncle, who runs the Wizard of Wines winery a few miles to to the west of Vallaki.
Reaching Vallaki, the mercenaries find the place a little more lively than Barivia, but soon realize that despair and madness took hold of this town as well. A deformed halfling wearing militia uniform is seen beating up an old man at the town's stockyard. When the mercenaries intervene, the halfling cries out in surprise, claiming Mouse is his long lost brother, and flying into a rage when the mercenaries try to separate the two.
Geri, in the meantime, was led to the house of Lady Fiona Wachter - a noble who's interested in Geri's unique heritage. The woman is clearly mad, as she sleeps with her dead husband. She claims Geri can unlock great power, if he only agrees to visit her 'book club' at her basement...
The mercenaries fought Izek and the guards under his command, killing the guards while Izek managed to pull Mouse closer to him. Vasseru stole Izek's dagger (a ceremonial dagger) but soon the group lowered their weapons as another squad of guards rushed into the town's square, and Izek, proving to be a tough opponent, still on his feet. Izek triumphantly marched them to the burgomaster's mansion for a trial, while Ireena and Ismark slipped away to the inn.
In the meantime, Geri realized that Lady Wacther mistakenly considered him as a fiend she have been trying to summon. Her devil-worshipping cultists are about to take control of town, but they need to kill Izek, who is unnaturally strong. She told Geri that she needs a book that seems to be in the possession of 'strangers' who recently arrived town. The book completes her collection of writings belonging to the diabolist Devostas. The knowledge in the books will allow her to destroy Izek.
At the burgomaster's mansion, Izek locked Mouse in his private room (revealing dozen of dolls resembling Mouse scattered all around). With Geri's magic, Izek agreed to release the group, but refused to allow Vasseru go unpunished. The usual punishment is getting locked in the stocks, but Izek decided to hang Vasseru...
The mercenaries managed (with supreme luck and agility) to release Vasseru at the last moment, crashing Rictavio's carnival wagon on Izek in an epic fight, then fleeing out of town to hide in the forest until they can slip back in and deal with Izek, who seemed to have survived his close encounter with the wagon.
But at the forest, the surviving hag was waiting...
The mercenaries defeated the remaining hag while the Old Wolf watched. The hag - before dying - taunted Nalfien and told him Strahd is looking for a successor...she also told Enoch that Ireena would never love him, and called him Sergei.
The mercenaries decided to head back to Vallaki, and boarded a merchant wagon headed to the Blue Water Inn with a wine shipment. Apparently wine is in short supply, as the Wizard of Wines shipments are slowing.
At the inn, Urwin Martikov and his wife Danika welcomed the mercenaries warmly, telling them that they are in debt for them help Falkon. Danika told the mercenaries that a man named Rictavio is eager to meet them when they have the time. When the mercenaries found Ireena, she fell into the arms of Enoch, calling him Sergei, but then forgetting that she did so. She told the mercenaries that Ismark when to the forest to search for them, but never returned.
The mercenaries learned that Izek is badly wounded, and is recovering at the Burgomaster's mansion. They also learned that the burgomaster forces the population to join ridiculous parades that aim to 'make everyone happy' and so drive the darkness away.
Rictavio turns out to be none other than the legendary vampire hunter Rudolph Van Richten, who is on a quest to vanquish Strahd. Due to a curse, Van Richten cannot aid them directly, but he did tell them that Strahd is desperately searching for the soul of his lost love, Tatyana (dying in Barovia doesn't release the soul). Van Richten believes that Ireena carries the soul of Tatyana. He also told the mercenaries that Strahd brought them for a reason. He looked at Nalfien when saying that.
Van Richten told the mercenaries about the Order of the Silver Dragon and the dark Temple located in the Blinok mountains (referring to two locations mentioned by Madam Eva). He also told them that Davian Martikov, Urwin's father, can tell them about the third location. Without the items mentioned in Madam Eva's reading, the mercenaries have no way of defeating the devil...
The conversation was interrupted by Izek, half carried by his men, as he stormed the inn demanding to finish business with the mercenaries...
The mercenaries fled Izek's wrath and headed toward Vallaki's church, while Vasseru and Mouse headed toward the Baron's mansion to ambush Izek upon his return.
At the church, father Lucian welcomed the strangers and took Ireena to be healed. He promised the mercenaries that the devil has no hold on people inside the church. Aramil - after spending some time in the church's library - discovered it has something to do with the bones of St. Andral that rest in the crypts below the church.
Mouse and Vasseru ambush succeeded, but during the fight Izek stabbed Mouse, dropping him. At that time the other mercenaries - noticing Vasseru and Mouses' absence - arrived at the mansion after witnessing the bodies of Urwin and Danika, who were murdered by Izek in his rage. A quick fight followed, and the mercenaries slew Izek. Lady Fiona Wachter arrived then, along with the Baron and the town's people. In the exchange, Enoch killed Lady Yachter - who exposed herself as a devout of Strahd - and the baron, now without his evil henchman, collapsed into his madness.
Ireena offered to lead the town's people until they rebuild, asking the mercenaries to head to the forest and find Ismark, who went missing.
At the forest, the mercenaries had their first rendezvous with Strahd, who told them they should not protect Ireena, or their actions will not go unpunished. As a way to emphasise his threat, he introduced Ismark - now a shambling, walking corpse - to the mercenaries, as he retreated into the darkness.
The mercenaries destroyed the Ismark's undead body, and found a small locket on his remains - containing two paintings depicting Ismark and Ireena. The heroes debated how to bring the news to Ireena.
Heading back to Vallaki, the mercenaries brought her the news, noticing that she is healed from Strahd's feeding attempts. Devastated, she grabs her sword, but Enoch calms her down, saying that they are not strong enough to fight the devil. She swears to prepare the people of Vallaki and be at the mercenaries disposal when the time comes. She hands out her ancestral scabbard to Enoch as a token.
On their way to the Wizard of Wines, the mercenaries encounter a group of rough looking man who are looking for someone, the husband of Ismarelda - their employer. They left, leaving the mercenaries somewhat confused, and Nalfien pale and thoughtful.
Approaching the Wizard of Wines, the mercenaries saw a beckoning figure near the line of trees circling a valley. It was Davian Martikov, who was tending his wounded family. Apparently, 'evil druids' invaded the winery and drove them away. In their desparate escape, Yolanda, the daughter of one of his sons was left behind. Davian - after learning of Urwin's death, and for a split second shows his true form (that of a raven) - tried to hurry and save her himself, but the mercenaries beat it to it.
In the winery, the mercenaries encountered a filthy looking druid poisoning the fermentation vats. The surrounding was crawling with lurking vine blights. Geri was able to snatch Yolanda and escape using his broom, while the other mercenaries were fighting the blights and the druids.
Vasseru killed one of the druids by drowning her in the fermentation vat. He then grabbed the magical wooden staff she was carrying, intending on breaking it (as his dagger suggested - breaking the staff will destroy the blights).
But Vasseru found himself standing on a barren hill, with a huge, dead tree in which an ax is embedded, blood oozing from the place where the ax struck. several black stones were standing in a circle nearby, and strange sounds were emanating from somewhere...
While Vasseru stood comatose in the middle of the winery, with vine blights creeping all around, the mercenaries fought for their lives. To make sure Vasseru is out of reach, Aramil levitated the rigid rogue while the Enoch dropped his hammer and shield and leaped onto the levitated rogue, trying to break the staff in two.
Vasseru - still on the barren hill with the dead tree on top of it - tried to reach for the ax embedded in the wood, but felt roots grasping his feet, pulling him down beneath the earth.
Enoch managed to break the staff, sending energetic ripples through the winery - and the vine blights shriveled and died. The mercenaries gathered as Davian stepped into the winery and started to interrogate Enoch after seeing the half-orc standing with the two broken parts of the staff. Apparently the staff was made out of a branch of a Gulthias Tree, a baleful plant-like carnivore capable of massive destruction.
Davian urged the mercenaries to hunt down the evil druids (after telling them about the magical gem they stole from the winery) - but the mercenaries wanted to rest first. Reluctantly, Davian agreed and tried to make his guests as comfortable as possible.
At night Nalfien woke up from a nightmare just in time to see Strahd, riding a flying black mare with fiery hoofs, gesturing at the winery. A huge tree-like being strode into the valley, and the mercenaries leaped from their beds outside to fight the horrific creature. Apparently the evil druids performed their ritual unhindered...
After a long and hard battle, the mercenaries defeated the creature and took the magical gem that gave life to the plant-like creature, but at a terrible price. Davian, his two sons, Geri and Mouse nearly perished.
With the threat removed and the winery safe again, Davian did his best to allow his guests to rest and recover. But at night, everybody woke up to the shrieks of Stefania - his son's wife. Yolanda, the infant, was missing - and so was Vasseru....
The mercenaries rushed to search for Vasseru only to find him sprawled naked on the dry mud in the middle of a pantegram, knife in hand. An unidentifiable lump of raw flesh was next to him, and he was covered with blood. Fearing for the worst, the mecenaries tried to keep Davian away until they figure out what really happened.
Davian arrived and seemed determined to break his previous vow and attack the mercenaries, when Aramil's owl spotted a lone rider approaching the valley with a wrap in his hands. Savid, a dusk elf, found the baby in a wolf's den nearby.
The mercenaries left the winery with several ravens watching their departure, and investigated the den, spotting a rune carved into the bark of the dead tree that housed it. Savid told them the rune is similar to Strahd's crest (a bat sprawled before a castle).
Werewolves attacked the mercenaries as they approached Agrynvostholt, biting Aramil and Enoch, but the half-orc's blade - El Kalar - gave them grievous wounds and they fled.
At Agrynvostholt, Nalfien was horrified to see a wagon similar to that he and his late wife owned. Forcing open the doors of the ruined mansion, the tip of a blade greeted him, wielded by none other than his wife - who seemed to be oblivious to his identity...
Journal of Rudolph van Richten
For more than three decades now, I have undertaken to investigate and expose creatures of darkness to the purifying light of truth and knowledge. “Hero” I am named in some circles; “sage” and “master hunter” I am called in others. That I have survived countless supernatural assaults is seen as a marvel among my peers; my name is spoken with fear and loathing among my foes.
In truth, this “virtuous” calling began as an obsessive effort to destroy a vampire that murdered my child, and it has become for me a tedious and bleak career. Even as my life of hunting monsters began, I felt the weight of time on my weary shoulders. Today I am a man who has simply lived too long. Like a regretful lich, I find myself inexorably bound to an existence I sought out of madness and, seemingly, must now endure for all eternity. Of course I shall die, but whether I shall ever rest in my grave haunts my idle thoughts, and torments me in my dreams.
I expect that those who think me a hero will change their minds when they know the whole truth about my life as a hunter of the unnatural. Nevertheless, I must reveal, here and now, that I have been the indirect yet certain cause of many deaths, and the loss of many good friends. Mistake me not! I do not merely feel sorry for myself. Rather, I come to grips with a devastating realization: I now see that I am the object of a baleful Vistani curse. More tragically, the nature of this hex is such that I have not borne the brunt of it; instead, far worse, those who surround me have fallen victim to it!
I have related the tragic story of how my only child Erasmus was taken by Vistani and sold to a vampire. I explained how Erasmus was made a minion of the night stalker, and how it was my miserable part to free him from that fate at the point of a stake. What I have neglected to illuminate before is how I tracked Erasmus’s kidnappers across the land, or how I “extracted” Erasmus’s whereabouts from them. In fact, the Vistani took Erasmus with my own, unwitting permission.
They had brought an extremely ill member of their tribe to me one evening and insisted that I treat him, but I was unable to save the young man’s life. In fear of their retribution, I begged the Vistani to take anything of mine if only they would withhold their terrifying powers, of which I knew nothing. To my lasting astonishment, they chose to surreptitiously take my son in exchange for their loss! By the time I realized what had occurred, they were already an hour gone.
Incensed beyond reason, I strapped the body of the dead young man to my horse and doggedly followed the Vistani caravan through the woods, naively allowing the sun to set before me without seeking shelter from the night. Shortly after darkness fell, I was beset by undead that would have slain me, had not their master—a lich—intervened and spared my life, for reasons that I do not completely understand. He somehow detected me and, with his powerful magic, took control of a pack of zombies that wandered in the forest. He spoke to me through the mouths of the dead things and placed a magic ward against undead on me, then animated the dead Vistana and bade it tell me where I could find its people. Unfortunately (I say in hindsight), the plan worked. I found the child-stealers, and my unwelcome entourage included a growing horde of voracious undead that could not touch me, thanks to the lich’s ward.
When I found the caravan, I threatened to set the zombies on the Vistani unless they returned my dear boy. They replied that he had been sold to the vampire, Baron Metus. Something inside me snapped. I released the zombies, and the entire tribe was eaten alive.
Yet the story has not ended. Before she died, the leader cursed me, saying, “Live you always among monsters, and see everyone you love die beneath their claws!” Even now, so many years later, I can hear her words with painful clarity. A short time later, I found my dear Erasmus made into a vampire. He begged me to end his curse, which I did with a heavy heart. The darkness had torn him from my loving arms forever, and I foolishly believed that the curse had exacted its deadly toll. I wept until an insatiate desire for vengeance filled the bottomless rift in my heart...
At the gates of Agrynvostholt, the mercenaries meet Esmeralda, a dashing young woman who looks very much like Nalfien's dead wife. At that exact moments wolves charged into the clearing, led by the werewolf that Enoch wounded in the forest - Kiril Stoyanovich. The werewolves tried to snatch Enoch's sword, but failed, leaving one of their members - Ilya Indirovich - behind. Enoch released him after the werewolf promised to aid Enoch and the mercenaries when the time arises.
Nalfien tried to understand why this woman - his wife - doesn't recognize him. Esmeralda said that Nalfien is under some powerful Vistani curse, and later confessed that she searches for Rudolph Van Richten, while waving off Nalfien's attempts to make her remember him.
The mercenaries started investigate the ruins of Agrynvostholt, noticing the tower atop the ruins (highest peak) and the 'stone that is alive' (the dragon that activated when they investigated it). Realizing a powerful weapon against Strahd is probably hidden in the ruins, the mercenaries decided to venture in. The ruins looked deserted, but Enoch had a feeling that 'something is there', and the party decided to rest outside.
After resting, Vasseru and Geri decided to fly up to the tower to try and investigate its peak. Passing through the mists and vanishing from the party's eyes, Vasseru landed on top of the tower, beholding a magnificent view of Strahd's domain. Disguising himself as a knight of the order, Vassero broke into the room found on the top of the tower, and landed in the midst of several undead knights. Calling him an 'impostor', they attacked him, and threw his unconscious body down the tower, after telling him that Strahd must not be allowed to die again - he must suffer forever for the crimes he committedd against his own people. Saved at the last moment by Aramil's feather fall spell, Vassero told the group what befell him, and they all decided to go in in spite of the evident danger.
Inside the ruin, the group entered a desolate chapel with several undead knights kneeling in front of an altar to the Morninglord.
Combat erupted, with the mercenaries nearly overrun by the might of the undead knights....
With one knight down and most of the mercenaries in a very bad shape, Enoch surrendered El-Kalar to avoid certain death by the hands of the remaining knights. Recognizing the holy symbol of the Morninglord on Enoch, the knights decided to put the mercenaries on trial for burglary and murder. Unfortunately, the highest ranking knight fell under the mercenaries' blades. In an unorthodox twist, it fell on Enoch to serve as prosecutor in the coming trial...
After consulting with the group and investigating the library for any information that can help the group during the trial, it became apparent that Enoch must do his job well, but the Oath and the Measure (the knights' code), can be twisted in favor of the mercenaries.
Enoch served as prosecutor, with Geri as a defense councilor - and one by one the mercenaries were summoned to stand inside a zone-of-truth spell and answer questions posed to them by their interrogators.
With clever questions and clever answers, the mercenaries showed the knights the light they have lost, and the corrupted evil of their existence - allowing the revenants to forfeit their sworn revenge against Strahd and ignite the sun-sword once more.
In a back room in Agrynvostholt, a young Arabel lost her ghostly play-mate, how bid her farewell and asked her to accompany the mercenaries to Van Richten's tower. Arabel - a vistani seer inspite of her young age - told the mercenaries that she saw them in her dreams, shedding 'tears of joy' at the tower....
The mercenaries, still in Agrynvostholt, debated their next step and rested. Enoch attuned to the Sunblade, and discovered that the weapon is sentient, and was once in the possession of Strahd's brother - Sergei.
While resting, Enoch and Aramil - who were bitten by werewolves - turn. The group hurries to keep their turned friends at bay and cast remove curse - not before a nasty fight occurs.
Later on, the group is reminded of Arabel's seer's powers, as she divine that Vasseru will "kill a beautiful woman who looks like a princess."
The heroes decided to head to Van Richten's tower, and found it watching the cold and still lake...
The mercenaries discovered that Van Ricthen's tower was created by a wizard named Khazan. A dead magic zone engulfs it, preventing any magic from being cast within. Van Richten told Vasseru that he needs Arabel's blood to destroy an artifact called "The Heart of Sorrow" - a magical item that protects Strahd. Without destroying it, Strahd will be an even more formidable opponent. Vasseru was pondering Van Richten's request when Luvash - Arabel's father - emerged from the forest.
The frightened Arabel ran to the tower and started climbing its outer wall, while Esmeralda fought to keep the murderous father at bay. The mercenaries tried to find a fast way out of the tower, but descending the elevator and defeating the magical lock on the door proved hard.
The mercenaries manage to burst out of the tower and defeat Luvash and his lackeys, while Enoch and Mouse save Arabel who was trying to hurl herself from the top of the tower to the lake.
Esmeralda - fearing of Arabel's life - took her to Vallaki, while the mercenaries turned to explore the tower while debating their next steps...