“My mommy is missing. Can you help me?”
The spirit of the little girl Talaitha looked with large trusting eyes at Ulfrik, as if he was someone on whom she could indubitably rely. Not used to the needs of children, even undead ones, Ulfrik looked uncomfortably at her as he attempted to assess the situation. The little girl clearly did not know that she was dead, as she asked several times to help her find her mother, whose name seemed to be “Vasha Moldo”. According to Talaitha, her mother and she lived in a house in a place called “Argos.”
“Argos?” Ulfrik intoned.
Leowen stated that the girl probably meant Aracos and, being a child, might be mispronouncing it.
“I’m very sick and my mommy is worried about me,” the girl whimpered, an ectoplasmic tear in her eye.
True, the little girl’s round face had some clear signs of malnutrition. Perhaps this had something to do with her death? Turning to Marek, Talaitha commented that she’d never seen a “funny little man” like him before, as Marek grimaced and avoided her gaze. Through conversation, it was determined that Talaitha had no father, and that she had been hearing beautiful music in the “big building” (the Inn) and was able to even see people there occasionally; that’s how she found the PCs in the first place — she heard someone singing, and in the “light” of the song, the PCs became visible to her. Desperate for help, she pleaded with the party to help reunite her with her mother. Feeling somewhat saddened by her plight, Marek spoke on behalf of the party that they would try to find her mother — but did not know how to get in touch with her if they did. Promising the PCs that she would "be nearby,” the girl’s form silently drifted through the floor the same way that she arrived.
Exhausted from the night’s events, the party fell upon the good graces of the Aracosian people to give them rest and shelter for the night. Speaking to Pesha, it seemed that they had made quite an impression — no one had ever stood up to Strahd before. Holding the PCs in awe, rooms at the Inn came at no additional cost. Leowen inquired with Pesha why Strahd did not attack him. Pesha admitted that he was forced to allow Strahd admission inside the Inn, being that he was the owner and was the only one who could grant him permission to enter. In return for this, he was allowed to keep his life. Pesha also stated that nobody named “Vasha Moldo” lived in Aracos, but that lots of folk lived outside the town. The burgomaster kept records (property deeds, birth records, marriage certificates, etc.) on all of these people at the town hall. It was clear that if they were to do anything, it could not wait until the morning – they would have to find this woman and set the spirit of the little girl free. While Ireena nursed her wounds (Mahel volunteered to stay with her and Ismark) and Tarin slept a fitful night, Marek, Leowen and Ulfrik set out to the town hall where it was said that records of all Aracos’s citizens could be found.
Arriving at night, Marek determined that although the front door was locked from the inside, he could misty step though the window to the other side and unlock the door. While Ulfrik stood guard outside, Leowen and Marek searched through the records for anything that could point them to someone named Vasha Moldo. However, upon seeing the state of the records that the Burgomaster kept, it became clear that it would take up to 4 days of investigating to go through them all. Frustrated, Leowen left to head back to the inn with Ulfrik, while Marek stayed and began the investigation. Arriving back at the inn, the party met up with Doctor Garvinski, the local physician who was tending to Tarin. He said that Tarin was certainly weakened and ill from Strahd’s bite, and he would do all that he could for the man. Leowen and Ulfrik offered their services to destroy Tarin should he become a vampire, an idea to which the townspeople showed their discomfort. With that, the two retired to their quarters, seeing that the rest of their party was already abed.
In the morning, the PCs rose from their slumbers, although it was clear that Ireena was not up to full strength… and, more importantly, that Marek had not returned from the town hall. Fearing the worst, Ulfrik and Leowen rushed to the hall, leaving Mahel to tend to Ireena and make sure that she had recovered. When they arrived, they saw that Marek was indeed safe, but under arrest by the Burgomaster himself, Burgomaster Vasily Aracosek. The charge was “breaking and entering” as well as “larceny.” Leowen and Ulfrik detailed why they had broken into the town hall the night before, proclaiming themselves as those who had helped saved many in the inn from the forces of Strahd. Apologetic and grateful, the Burgomaster set Marek free, and told them that the woman who they spoke of was known in the town only by a select few, “an old crone who lives in the woods and visits town on festival and trade days, and who often asks around about the children of the town, specifically about the girl that lives in the old Moldova home. Many people find this odd, as nobody lives in the old Moldova home.” It was apparent that “Vasha Moldo’s” real name was most likely Moldova – this was obviously Talaitha’s mother. The easiest way to find her abode, the Burgomaster stated, was to take the forest path north from the Vistani camp outside of town. At last, progress!
Fetching a newly recovered Ireena and Ismark from the inn, they thanked Pesha for his accommodations and set off for the Vistani camp. Once there, they found themselves caught up in a rousing festival of song and drink. They were also pleased to see that Aike had found them once again! Festooned with brightly colored clothes and sporting a new personality (one which Leowen found quite personally annoying) Aike joyously danced through the Vistani, causing the myriad children to laugh hysterically. The other PCs joined in the raucous merriment, coming into contact with several figures: Milosh, again skulking in the shadows, Grigori again selling his potions (Mahel buying one and nevertheless giving back the goods!) a charismatic young Vistani dubbed “Suavemchandsy,” who proceeded to sweep Mahel off her feet in a half handed attempt at romance, and Dragomir, father to Violca, and leader of the clan. Aike became inebriated and staggered around the camp, Marek got into a drinking match with a much larger Vistani (which he won, barely) and Ulfrik did his best to get his groove on. Ireena, however, was much more somber. Coming out of a vardo after a conversation with Dragomir, she insisted that they leave to seek Vasha right away. Ismark, as ever fearing from his sister’s well being, prodded the party to leave with them. Leowen, meanwhile, quietly introduced herself to Dragomir to get more details on the spirit and on Vasha, but Marek drunkenly started spouting off about Talaitha. The music stopped in a heartbeat. The Vistani adults stared at them with shocked looks on their faces. The children, however, seemed unfazed. Taking a moment to avoid the awkwardness, Dragomir introduced himself as Radu‘s brother, and explained that the ghost named Talaitha haunted Aracos, and often made her presence known to the Vistani during their visits. It was not unusual to see the children play with the ghost (Talaitha felt safe with the Vistani for some reason) but parents in his clan of Vistani did not like their children playing with the evils of the undead, potential allies of Strahd. Dragomir said that his clan attempted to resist the will of Strahd through subterfuge and information gathering, rather than outright physical confrontation. “Strahd makes frequent visits to Aracos. However, unlike his customary travels through Barovia, he often comes to Aracos in secret, and we do not know why.” Turning the subject of the conversation to Vasha, Dragomir said that she was "as old as the land itself,” and was somehow connected with Strahd, although how was known only to the seers among the Vistani. Seeing that daylight was burning, the PCs gathered their semi-drunk selves, and set off for the dark forest path to Vasha’s cottage….