Moving through the dark forest, the PCs carefully trod along the path north to Vasha’s abode. Aike leapt up into the trees to get a better vantage point, while Mahel swung from tree branch to tree branch, scouting ahead. Ismark, Ireena, Marek, Ulfrik, and Leowen walked slowly along the dirt path.
After a mile of walking, the party spied a small box in the dead center of the road. A box in the shape of a coffin with a small lever on the side, potentially something to be pulled or turned. Dread crept over the party like an icy chill. What was in the box? Who had left it here? Was this a trap? Keeping her distance, Mahel used mage hand to turn the lever in a circular motion. A familiar tune emanated from the box, and after a few seconds, the top popped open and a small doll dressed in black with large red eyes, a widow’s peak and small wooden fangs sprung out of the box! Clearly some form of representation of Strahd himself, Aike felt inclined to grab the box flying up into the air and throw it to the ground. Shattering, pieces of metal, wood and cloth flew everywhere. A small fragment of the doll’s head remained, staring up at the group through dead blackish-red eyes. Mahel approached, and took a piece of the fine cloth for her own purposes.
Leaving the eerie toy behind, the party walked further along the road to find in a small patch of ground, clear of trees, an old cottage with a slight dusting of snow on the roof. Flowerbeds flanked the door, burst with colorful snapdragons, pansies, and petunias. An elderly woman wearing simple clothing moved about the yard, speaking quietly to herself as she tended the flowerbeds. As she noticed the PCs approach, the woman stopped and turned towards them. She smiled a wistful smile filled with sadness. Aike, suspicious of who this person truly was, remained in the trees, while Mahel sneaked behind the house and entered through a window to surveil the interior. Finding a tidy yet small house with nothing out of the ordinary besides a library of old cookbooks and romance novels, Mahel began to look around for sewing materials.
Vasha did confirm she was the woman whom they were seeking, and told them they could discuss whatever pressing business they had with her once her gardening was done. While working, she chatted pleasantly with them, but avoided questions about her own history until she had completed. The party noticed that her face showed a mixture of pain and happiness. When asked about Talaitha, she answered that she could sense that Talaitha was with them but that she would never be able to truly pass on as she was haunted by her spirit. Talaitha could not see her, and she could not see Talaitha. This all seemed not new to her, as if this situation was familiar although distinctly painful to her. When the PCs inquired more about this, Vasha stated that before discussing matters of true import, she insisted on finishing her work in the yard. After a few hours of work, she invited them in for dinner, preparing a simple meal of roots and melon. After everyone was settled, she offered to answer their questions by telling them her tale…
Many years ago, before he became a vampire, Strahd von Zarovich came to the village of Aracos during his war to end the enemies of his family. To him, Aracos was a convenient staging ground, a place he could billet troops and review plans. His days were spent in long meetings, staring at maps or conversing with his generals. Nights he often spent with Vasha. To Strahd, Vasha was just a distraction, one he soon forgot as his armies marched onward. To Vasha, however, Strahd was much more, and nine months after his departure, she gave birth to a child, the daughter of Strahd van Zarovich. As far as she knows, Strahd did not know that he had a child. The child, whom she named Talaitha, was never healthy, and four years later, she died. Vasha sunk into a deep depression after Talaitha’s death, craving death herself. But the Dark Powers had other plans. Vasha was cursed with life. So long as her daughter’s soul suffered, Vasha lived on. She had lived for over 400 years. Vasha often sensed the ghost of Talaitha around her hovel, but Talaitha could not see or hear Vasha and vice-versa. Over time, Vasha had now come to believe that if Talaitha could see her, the girl’s soul would be quieted, and they could both rest.
Vasha over the years had also had also learned a great deal about the state of life and death in Barovia. For instance, there existed two sorts of people in Barovia, those she referred to as the “cursed,” and those she called the “blessed.” The cursed were missing something, a “spark” that allowed them to experience life fully. “They’re easy to spot, being the sort that go about in drab clothing who never smile… like you,” she said, gesturing at Leowen. Leowen looked angrily but said nothing. Contrarily, the “blessed” wore color in their clothing and, occasionally, even smiled. Looking at Aike’s colorful new outfit, Vasha seemed to intone that Vistani were part of this group. Marek, remembering the oddly jovial behavior of the townspeople at the inn in Aracos, mentioned this quietly to Ireena, who looked somewhat disturbed by this talk about souls and the soulless.
After dinner, Vasha suggested the PCs spend the evening in her cabin before departing in the morning. The Svalich Woods were dangerous in the daytime, and doubly so at night. At night, while the party slept, Mahel sneaked out for a walk. Hearing quiet sobbing coming from Vasha’s room, she turned up her nose with annoyance and began to walk northwest among the damp and misty moors. After a mile or so of walking through the fog enshrouded hills, she spied several figures emerging from the forest, dressed in hides. Overhearing their conversation, one of them said quietly, “Kiril said it’s this way.” The five shaggy looking men then started to walk in a beeline southeast towards the obscured outline of Vasha’s house. Sensing something wrong, Mahel struck out with the green lightning of her witch bolt, singing the group’s leader. “Do you want to talk?” she boldly intoned. The man, writhing in pain, growled, “Talk? No…. no talking needed.” He then shifted form, his clothing ripping to tatters as his body altered form to that of a large wolf! His compatriots followed suit, all doffing their human forms for those of immense, slavering wolves. As she took in the form of the beasts emerging from the half-light of the encroaching night, her eyes widened and her voice was not able to articulate a single sound. Her brain froze, offering no course of action for her now trembling limbs to take. Mahel quickly recalled all she knew about werewolves and her last encounter with their leader, Kiril Stoyanovich. No Esmerelda here to help charm them, Mahel took off like a rocket towards the house, sprinting as fast as she could, yelling, “Silver chains! Get silver chains!!!” The wolves followed her in quick pursuit, but Mahel’s elven speed outmatched those of the evil lycanthropes. Within shouting distance of the house, Mahel looked over her shoulder… to see that the wolves had disappeared….
Alerting her sleeping compatriots, they arose to assess the situation. Ulfrik and Aike followed Mahel’s tracks to find those of the wolves. Following them, they saw that the werewolves tracks stopped within a hundred feet of Vasha’s abode, retreating into the forest. Following the tracks to the edge of the forest, Ulfrik and Aike suddenly saw a blinding crash of lightning arcing into the forest and heard a deafening peal of thunder… only that there was no rain in the evening sky. When their vision cleared, through the trees, they saw the outlines of five wolves attacking an enormous brown and silver elk, which was rearing up and striking out with arcane power at its foes….