Ireena fell ill on the return to the Blue Water Inn, beginning to succumb to the effects of her third vampire bite. The Martikovs surrendered a room for use as a hospice, and Jeros was able to stabilize her for the time being – but also realized she’s doomed to rise as a vampire should she die or be killed.
Urwin Martikov revealed his family’s heritage as wereravens (which explained the mystery of why his son Brom wasn’t mortally injured when Zul, Jeros, Mistral, and Ismark attacked him during their depredations as werewolves.) and their leadership of the Order of the Feather (an alliance of wereraven folk united in resistance against Strahd).
After hearing of the Tarokka Card reading, Urwin advised the party to consult with the Vistani encamped southwest of Vallaki to discover more about the possible whereabouts of the Sunsword. He also advised them to steer clear of the windmill northeast of Vallaki (which the locals call “Old Bonegrinder” and is a place of dread). He also enlisted their aid in investigating the sudden loss of shipments from and communications with the Wizard of Wines Winery, which his family owns and runs.
Not long after Urwin promised them a cart and horse for the journey to the Winery, Strahd himself banged on the door of the Inn and demanded admittance. He knew Urwin was harboring Ireena, and he’d come for her. Urwin refused him admittance, but as their testy exchange continued, Ismark rushed outside to challenge the Devil himself. Within moments, Strahd threw Ismark’s bloodless corpse through the front window of the Inn, and followed it up with the bloodless corpse of Father Lucian (the Priest of St. Andral’s Church, whom the party had aided in the recovery of St. Andral’s relics mere hours before).
Stymied by his inability to enter the Inn without an invitation, Strahd left – but vowed vengeance on the Martikovs and the party for interfering with him.
Now that the Order of the Feather’s clandestine resistance of Strahd was about to become an open war, Urwin and the party pledged themselves to common purpose. Urwin advised the party to rapidly seek the relics Madam Eva spoke of: beginning with the nearby Vistani encampment, then traveling to the Wizard of Wines Winery to investigate the trouble there, then doubling back to meet Rictavio (aka Rudolph van Richten) at the ruined tower on Lake Baratok (which the cards tell holds historical secrets of great importance in defeating Strahd).
At the Vistani encampment, the party met the dusk elf Kasimir, who has lived long enough to remember the time before Strahd’s transformation. Kasimir mourns a sister lost centuries ago to Strahd – and who he believes is still entombed at Ravenloft. He told the party of the Amber Temple, a legendary wizard’s stronghold on a southern spur of Mount Ghakis to the far south of Barovia. The temple was a source of great power even before Barovia’s sundering from Faerun, and according to some lore may have played a role in Strahd’s vampiric transformation. Kasimir hopes it may also hold the secret to undoing Strahd’s power, and perhaps also impart the power to return his long-dead sister from the grave.
Kasimir echoed the advice to avoid the Old Bonegrinder, advised against buying potions of any sort from the Vistani, and also suggested that something more than agricultural acumen allowed the Martikovs to grow vineyards while most other farmers found Barovia’s soil barren.
At the Vistani camp, it became clear that the majority of the Vistani were out seeking a missing girl (Arrabelle, the seven-year-old daughter of Arrigal, the camp’s leader). In fact, the party interrupted Arrigal and his brother Luvash whipping the young Alexia, who’d been charged with watching over her when she disappeared.
Offering to help, the party discovered that the last person Alexia saw before Arabelle’s disappearance was Bluto, Vallaki’s drunk fisherman. Following this lead to Lake Zarovich, they discovered the drunkard had the girl tied in a sack on his boat, intending to offer her to Mother Night to improve the fishing. It was easy enough for them to recover the girl and apprehend Bluto – and upon returning to the camp, the Vistani employed all their artistic flair in the prolonged torture of Bluto.
Grateful at the return of his daughter, Arrigal offered each party member a choice of one item from his treasure wagon. Besides the excellent haul of gold (and less excellent fraudulent potions) obtained, the party found and took possession of the Sunsword – which was with the Vistani just as Madam Eva foretold.
Before bedding down for the night, Mistral took notice of one suspicious-looking Vistani man who seemed intent on warily studying the party, then was seen later leaving for Vallaki at a full gallop.
The next day, passing Lake Baratok on their way to the Winery, the party spied the ruined tower from the road and decided to investigate it even though Rictavio hadn’t yet arrived. But before even reaching the foot of the tower a band of Vistani bandits accosted the heroes, and demanded they leave the site immediately and stop “putting their noses in places they don’t belong”. The result was predictable, and the party made short work of the bandits – and on searching them, found they’d been hired by Lady Fiona Wachter (presumably of Vallaki) who’d evidently been spying on the party for Strahd for some time.
The initial approach to the tower was difficult: Jeros discovered the anti-magic aura surrounding it, recognized the inscription “Khazan” as the name of wizard who’d served as an advisor to Strahd, and Kildrack triggered the lightning barrier at the door.
Rather than trying to solve the puzzle on the door’s front plate, Mistral and Kildrack attempted the rickety scaffolding which led to a hole on the third level – and instantly discovered it wasn’t sturdy enough to support an armored dwarf. Kildrack fell through the platform like a rock through wet tissue paper, but wasn’t seriously injured in the fall.
Mistral was able to levitate Jeros to the scaffold’s remnant, and he secured ropes to the window. Jeros also spared the others the trouble of collapsing the rotten floor on level three by taking care of that personally (handy thing, that lycanthropic immunity to injury).
Mistral triggered the elevator system (powered by four clay golems) and rode safely to the fourth floor, then secured enough ropes for the other party members to join her. There they discovered Rictavio’s hideaway and recovered his journal, and Doxros noticed a rich-looking book hidden in a niche behind a suit of armor.
Remembering the Wizard Jeros had mentioned, she spoke the name “Khazan” aloud and the armor instantly marched towards her and presented itself for service. Now able to reach the book, they discovered it was none other than the Tome of Strahd – Strahd’s personal memoirs, again just where Madam Eva foretold it would be.
But the party’s satisfaction with the expedition faded as, upon leaving the tower, they heard the howling of numerous wolves closing on their position from all directions.
Permanent magic items: Sunsword (given to Mistral)
Relics obtained: The Tome of Strahd, The Journal of Rudolph van Richten
Story rewards: The favor of Arrigal the Vistani, for saving his daughter; the assistance of Kasimir if seeking the Amber Temple; Alliance with the Order of the Feather