Hearing the spectral child exclaim this, the mage shifted thoughtfully in his chair. “Hmmm. Name rings a bell,” he muttered.
Recognizing his name immediately, Aike and Marek stared at each other. If this person was indeed Mordenkainen, then he was a legendary wizard from the annals of history! The others weren’t quite sure that they heard the name right or weren’t clear who this person was. Nevertheless, if he was a powerful wizard, then his missing spellbook might be the answer to many of their problems. If this spellbook was in fact, still around, it could be a powerful weapon against Strahd in the right hands, and would perhaps also be the way to remove lycanthropy – which to Ireena, Ismark, and Ulfrik, was essential. The PCs asked Mordenkainen if there was any other place or entity that might know how to get rid of the werewolf curse. Mordenkainen mentioned that there might be two: the Abbot of Saint Markovia (immediately dismissed by the PCs due to the creepy factor) and the Amber Temple, a place of ancient arcane knowledge. Leowen remarked that the temple was made known to her through her interaction with Kasimir Velikov at the Vistani camp outside Vallaki, and that the temple would be VERY dangerous. There had to be another way….
Remembering what the ghostly child had said, the PCs asked Mordenkainen if he recalled at which waterfall he fought Strahd. Mordenkainen admitted he did not remember. Mordenkainen shuffled into his study and returned with a old map of the whole land. It seemed that Tser Falls would be the only waterfall close to Castle Ravenloft – likely the base of the falls being the place that the spellbook would have landed after the mage’s fall, assuming it was still there a year later. Guided by the map, the group discussed if they would want to take the Old Svalich Road back through Vallaki, or take a boat from Aracos across Lake Zarovich around Vallaki then row down river past a large abandoned mansion called Argynvostholt (Mordenkainen remarked that a silver dragon once lived there but Strahd killed it and took its skull as a trophy), then portage half a mile, and finally row down the river to the falls.
At this time, Robert approached the mage and reminded him that the Magnificent Mansion spell had to be recast every 24 hours. Asking everyone to step outside, the mage began to cast his spell. Suggested that perhaps the staff would change their behaviors if Mordenkainen changed their physical appearance and attire, Mordenkainen altered the ghostly staff based on the PC’s requests. Entering the mansion, the PCs found that the ghostly staff was now a bevy of beautiful, blonde, spectral women. However, their demeanor and personalities had not changed; dour Robert was now just dour Roberta….
Exhausted from the day’s events, the group decided that if at all possible, they should try to get some sleep and determine in the morning how best to travel to get Mordenkainen’s spellbook at Tser Falls. Marek, predictably, got drunk on mead, then passed out in his bed. Aike was shown to his room, and, seeing his feather bed, flew into a rage, and tore it to pieces. Leowen, needing to bathe, entered the bathroom, cast darkness, then disrobed and took a comfortable bath before heading to sleep. Ulfrik collapsed onto his comfortable mattress and started to snore. Being an elf and needing only to trance for several hours, Mahel woke after only four hours, then sneaked downstairs to attempt to snoop through Mordenkainen’s study. Inside, she found the mage behind his desk, almost as if he knew she was coming. During their interaction, Mordenkainen awkwardly hit on her, while Mahel attempted to find something interesting to read (or pocket). Finding a large black book entitled Volo’s Guide to Monsters, as well as a local history book and a poetry book, she spent the rest of the night leafing through these tomes attempting to gain more knowledge while avoiding Mordenkainen’s pitiful attempts at small talk. Mordenkainen, feeling the cold shoulder, left his study looking saddened and disappointed.
Morning came swiftly, the mage’s attendants serving the PCs a delicious breakfast in bed. After dressing and equipping themselves for the road ahead, the decision was made to leave Ireena with Mordenkainen, although he stated that he would only allow her to remain with him for two days, until the next full moon. If she (or the others) were to become a werewolf permanently, it would happen at that time. Ireena said quietly to Mordenkainen, “If I am to become a creature of darkness, I’d not want you keep me alive.” As they had no time to spare, the PCs decided that it would be more direct (although perhaps more dangerous) to go through Vallaki. Leowen said also that they had an ally in Vallaki at the Blue Water Inn, and that she was not afraid of being recognized by Izek or the Baron – she had a score to settle, anyways. Ismark and Ireena shared a tearful farewell as the party stepped outside the mansion to the cold forests of Barovia once again.
Mahel re-summoned Albreth, who was very much still a skeletal weasel – the Dark Powers still had their sway outside of the safety of the mansion. Albreth confirmed that the note was delivered to Vasha’s house, but the PCs decided to make their next stop there to make sure that she was OK. They passed by her house, but found her not there. Concerned but hopeful that she was alright, the PCs continued on their way. After getting lost for a time in the Svalich Woods, they found the dirt road leading back past Aracos. Violca stopped them at the Vistani Camp, asking why they were leaving, seeing that the residents of Aracos were still in danger from Strahd. The PCs apologized, but said that they would return in a short time. Violca looked anxious and saddened as they walked away.
The dirt road turned quickly into the Old Svalich Road, which meandered east to the outskirts of Vallaki. The group decided to split in two; Mahel and Marek would enter first to test and see if it was safe, and the rest would follow, meeting up at the Blue Water Inn. Mahel disguised herself as one of the blonde female servants from the mansion, and walked with Marek to the western gate. There, they were confronted by guardsmen dressed in purple who asked what their business was in Vallaki. As some form of security measure, one of the guards pressed a silver amulet in the shape of a sunburst into their palms. Nothing seemed to happen, and they were allowed entrance to the town. Marek and Mahel walked straight east to the inn, going past the church.
Seeing the two enter, the other four approached the gate. Surprisingly, the guards didn’t recognize Aike, Ulfrik, Leowen or Ismark. Pressing the silver amulet to everyone’s hand (or talon), to their amazement, nothing happened. Ulfrik and Ismark were relieved, although tried their best not to show it. The four stopped quickly at Saint Andral’s Church to check on Father Lucian Petrovich, Myrtle and Freek. Freek had become an altar boy and Father Petrovich said that Myrtle now worked at the inn helping the Martikovs and had befriended their young children.
Marek and Mahel arrived at the inn and met with the Martikovs, the others arriving shortly after. It seemed that the Baron was still in power, and the latest festival was called the Parade of Purple, which was to be enacted tomorrow. Urwin said that Gadof Blinsky had left Mahel a present with them, if she had ever returned to the Inn, and produced a wrapped box. Sensing massive creepiness, Mahel carefully unwrapped the box, to find (in mild horror) a plush werewolf toy, stuffed with sawdust with tiny woodcarved baby heads dangling from strings from a pocket on its front. It had dull knife blades for claws, and retractable teeth. “Look,” said Marek jokingly, “it’s Ireena!” With a snarl of rage, Ismark picked up the gnome and shook him above his head. “Don’t talk like that about my sister!” he growled. Interposing himself between the two, Ulfrik attempted to calm the situation down. The tavern went dead quiet for a moment, then resumed its normal ambiance. Sensing a sensitive subject, Urwin ushered them into the kitchen. The PCs asked the Martikovs about ending this curse of lycanthropy. Urwin explained that his family had lycanthropy through inheritance, and not through a curse or contracted disease. There was no way that he knew to cure it, barring killing yourself. However, he had heard that an extremely powerful spell akin to destroying a curse or disease could possibly counteract the condition. Leowen recalled Rictavio (aka Rudolph van Richten) who, as a hunter of these creatures of darkness, would be the authority on rituals or spells that might end curses of this kind. The problem, they soon found out, was that he’d been imprisoned by the Baron at his mansion. A quick plan was put in motion to distract the Baron and his soldiers, then have Mahel sneak inside the mansion to find and extract Van Richten. As the group formulated their plan, Aike motioned to the others at something he saw out the window. On the western side of Lake Zarovich, a massive black storm cloud had formed directly over the town of Aracos. The PCs watched with with horror as huge arcs of lightning blasted the small community, over and over and over….