“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
― William Shakespeare
The door opened with a creak to reveal a spectral figure, armored and holding a bow at the ready. Marek found this particularly funny, and continued to guffaw. The spectral warrior did a double take…. and said with a look of concern, “What’s so funny?” Haavich, recognizing this a member of the Order, stepped forward to address the ghostly figure. Through conversation, Haavich convinced the warrior that the party was under his protection and that there was nothing to be concerned about. Satisfied, the warrior said “Sir Vladimir will want to know about this,” and floated downstairs. Marek finally stopped laughing. The party, sensing that this was their cue to leave, gathered themselves and went out to the roof. In the misty darkness, the outline of a dragon perched on the battered remains of the roof stood out against the cold grey of the fog. It was a statue, but Haavich and Marek noted a faint magical aura to it and approached. When they stood in front of it, it opened its maw and sung, in the fashion of a magic mouth spell:
When the dragon dreams its dream
Within its rightful tomb,
The light of Argynvost will beam
And rid this land of gloom.
Bemused, Haavich noted that this was the same song that Argynvost had imparted to him, and realized that his goal was to bring the missing part of the dragon back to the manor where it belonged. But where was it? Strahd certainly kept it somewhere. Was it in his castle? Or another place, as the dragon spoke of a “fortress” yet to be discovered…..
After going downstairs and picking up the still unconscious Ismark, the party made their way out of the manor house. Haavich saw that Ismark was still in a comatose state, and inquired as to how he got that way. The party told Haavich as to how Ismark ingested the belladonna and most likely poisoned himself. For this past encounteres with the herbs of Barovia, Haavich knew that there were many harmful plants and remedies that bloomed in the valley of Barovia, and that certain groups used their knowledge of herbalism to create salves and potions. The Vistani or the Keepers of Feather might know of an antidote to Ismark’s condition. Considering that the party was to return the second seed gem to the Martikovs at the Wizard of Wines, it was easiest to ask them when they arrived.
The PCs walked along the Old Svalich Road for a few hours in the dim morning sun and arrived, once again at the Wizard of Wines winery. However, there was no sign of anyone there. Had something happened to them? Mahel jumped up to the roof to get a better view of the grounds, and then heard the sounds of riding horses and a carriage coming down the road. She plastered herself against the roof, hiding as best she could. The horse drawn wagon came into view, with Davian Martikov and his youngest son Elvir at the helm. Davian did not look so good — he slumped in his seat, his skin was pale and flaccid and sagged from his face. His eyes had a dull grey film over them that suggested that he had undergone a shock or was subject of some kind of debilitating disease. Elvir stopped the carriage and met with the part, imparting his worry, though happy that the party was able to return the seed gem to them. Now the winery would be able to once again start production and return a semblance of happiness to the land.
Elvir brought the party inside, where the other members of the Martikov clan were assembled, hiding from the evils of the outside world. Elvir talked about his and his father’s trip to Vallaki, and how Urwin and Danika’s children were in the same state – still encased in the necromantic cocoons, however now Urwin and Danika were in a state the same as his father and detriorating fast. He and his father closed the Inn for business in order to tend to their health but when Davian started to show symptoms of the same disease, Elvir took him from the house and returned to the winery. This disease seemed contagious and they needed to find a way to stop it. Mahel, who had been listening to this conversation from the roof, swooped down with elven grace and said with a level of determination rarely seen, “We have to go to ”/wikis/vallaki" class=“wiki-page-link”> Vallaki. Now."
Haavich inquired further with Elvir, and thinking back to his past, recognized these symptoms. He told a story of how many years ago, members of the order faced a foe that encased his brethren in cocoons like this in order to sap their very life force, and that it took a symbol of great holy power in order to free them. He was hazy on the details, but that was what he knew. Realizing that they now had in their possession two objects of holy power, the party thought that they needs must go back to Vallaki and attempt to use them, to destroy the curse and free the Martikovs.
During their brief stay Elvir noticed the condition of Ismark, and the group related their story of his lycanthropy and subsequent attempt to rid himself of it. Now that he was in a self-inflicted coma, Elvir related that a flower – Meadow Saffron – could counteract the poisonous effects of belladonna. That flower, however, could only be found in the mountainous regions of Barovia, and not down in the valley.
The group rallied, saddled three of the horses from the wagon, and left for Vallaki, leaving behind Ismark with the Martikovs. The ride to Vallaki was swift on horseback, taking less than half the time than by foot. Mahel disguised herself as a noble human in an effort to enter the town without conflict. Ulfrik and Haavich stayed a hundred yards behind as to avoid their odd looking appearances interfering with Mahel’s subterfuge. Marek stayed far behind, hiding in the nearby forest in case the need to run was imminent.
Mahel used her female charms on the guard at the gate, Lars Knurls, and found herself escorted to the Blue Water Inn. As she walked her horse through the streets, she noticed that there was yet another festival set up by the Baron – one in which the residents were wearing large papier mache fish heads and festooning their garb with scales and fish like ornaments. Appropriately it was known as the Festival of the Fish. Ulfrik and Haavich, seeing Mahel’s success, went up to the gate, and Dr. Haavich used his Haunting Presence on the remaining guard, causing him to open the gate from the sheer power of his withering gaze.
Marek followed suit, reaching the gate and convincing the remaining guard that he was a personal friend of the Baron and convinced him to let him through. Once in town, the group approached the Blue Water Inn and went inside. The place was silent as the grave. Dust coated every surface of this once boisterous inn. Almost all the doors were locked and there was no sign of anyone nor did anyone respond to their calls. Ulfrik went upstairs and entered the children’s room. Urwin and Danika were slumped at the side of their children’s beds, coated with a greenish slime which was beginning to crystallize around them in the same manner as their children’s cocoons. They had to do something and fast. Ulfrik unsheathed the Sunsword and used it to cut down the pods, and slicing them open. Green goo splattered Ulfrik until he was slathered with the viscous liquid, yet this did not deter him. He gently removed the bodies of the children from the pods and lay them on their beds. The vein-like cords attached at the back of the children’s necks were impervious to the Sunsword’s strikes. Marek removed the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind from his pocket and presented it with ardent fervor towards this evil substance, as if to turn it as an undead creature. In doing so, the veins started to wriggle and throb, screeching in pain as if alive. Seeing that the cords were now vulnerable, Ulfrik made two mighty swings and severed the children from the necrotic/necromantic magic. Immediately, the children and their parents recovered from the evil disease. Later after they recovered, the Martikovs rejoiced at seeing their children safe again. and offered their sincere gratitude to the party. Mahel teared up at seeing the joyous reunion, and the party felt empowered that they have done this land some good amid the horror that they had witnessed these many weeks.
Now, to get out of Vallaki… which turned out to be not so easy. First off, it was nighttime; at this time the guards would be patrolling the streets and the gates would be barred and heavily guarded. Second, they were trapped in a city where they could be recognized by the wrong people, and punished or eliminated for their past deeds against he Baron and his retinue. Ulfrik mentioned his desire to head to the Amber Temple south in the Balinok mountains, and the Martikovs noticed their style of dress – if they were to go climbing mountains, they would need cold weather gear. And the only place nearby to obtain said gear would be the Arasek Stockyard. Locked at this time of night, but that was not going to present a problem if they were stealthy enough….
After bidding the Martikovs a fond farewell, the group moved stealthily to the Arasek Stockyard, where Mahel picked the lock, and crept inside. Once inside, she ransacked the store, purloining a bow, some arrows, the needed cold weather gear for her and her compatriots, and the most expensive looking thing in the shop — a finely jeweled hourglass. Exiting from the store, the most odd thing was that there were no guards patrolling the streets. Hopefully they could leave the town without an incursion. They walked their horses to the eastern gate, and Mahel charmed a scarred tough looking guard into letting them through, which caused a fight to break out between him and another non-charmed guard. As knives and swords were drawn, they group spurred their horses and rode swiftly from the town.
As they rode around west of Vallaki to rejoin the Old Svalich Road, it was advised that they find shelter at Van Richten’s tower before they were caught exposed at night on the road. They passed silently by the destroyed town of Aracos. Not a soul stirred there. Eerily there were no bodies, no remains — only destroyed houses and buildings – the remains of the once joyous town. And there were no Vistani. Not even their vardo wagons. Perhaps the Vistani were able to escape in time, perhaps not.
As the gibbous moon shone through the dark clouds over Lake Zarovich, they arrived at Van Richten’s broken tower. After opening the magically trapped front door, the group stepped through… to find that they triggered another trap! An arrow shot from above and skewered Mahel in the shoulder. She yelped in pain and withdrew the projectile. “”/characters/rudolph-van-richten" class=“wiki-content-link”>Van Richten! It’s us, stop shooting!" The sounds of speech were heard from the floors above. The group drew their weapons in the case that the tower had been compromised and boarded the elevator. Ulfrik intoned, “Up,” and the golems controlling the chains slowly pulled the platform to the top floor.
As they crested the top floor, they saw three figures — Van Richten (holding a crossbow with a look of embarassment), Ezmerelda D’Avenir… and Baba Lysaga strapped upright to a table. And she was very much awake.