The party defeated the werewolves menacing the Martikovs, and slew the pack leader Kiril Stoyanovich – but one of them they spared: the boy Streth Ondensky (a former pupil of Zul Simium’s at Winterhold Magic College) who’d been kidnapped from Daggerford four years ago by the werewolves. At the sight of his old teacher, all the fight left him and he surrendered. Jeros cast Remove Curse on the boy.
They informed Urwin of Davian’s family’s murder at the hands of the druids of Yester Hill, which he took in stride.
At Urwin’s urging, the party joined Urwin’s family (wife Danika, teenaged daughter Danya, and boys Brom and Bray) and sought refuge at the Church of St. Andral. Father Petrovich acommodated them all, still grateful to the party for recovering St. Andral’s relics. It was there that the former priest Donavich had fled with Ireena when the werewolves attacked the Blue Water Inn. Prior to taking a much-needed rest, the party agreed to escort the Martikovs to the Wizard of Wines Winery on its way back to Yester Hill, and the party acquiesced to Donavich’s demands that they take Ireena with them on the trip since Vallaki was no longer safe for her.
They also interrogated the former werewolf Streth (still only 17): he told of the horror of his abduction, and the werewolves’ practice of making raids into Faerun (usually around Daggerford) for children – who’d be imprisoned in the werewolf den and set against each other, gladiator-style. The strongest children would then be turned into werewolves, and then they’d eat the others. He told them where the werewolf den was located northeast of Lake Baratok, and also that internal discord had arisen because Emil Toranescu and his wife Zuleika (who now had children of their own) had developed misgivings about their kidnapping practices, and tried to lead a coup against Kiril. The discord had become so distracting that Strahd himself intervened, and Emil was subdued and sent to Ravenloft to face Strahd. Urwin was unwilling to take the boy into his care because of his role in the destruction of the Blue Water Inn, but Fr. Petrovich agreed to take the boy into his charge. He also agreed to have a dagger silvered for Zul (ready in a week).
The party ruminated over the discovery that the werewolves could pass between Faerun and Barovia, seemingly at will – but unfortunately Streth couldn’t share any specifics.
In the morning, Zul was stricken by a bout of gastroenteritis which culminated in him expelling Wintersplinter’s noxious sap (which he’d apparently ingested while inside Wintersplinter’s gullet) from every orifice – along with the lost Martikov “seed” gem that’d been stolen by the druids and used in the ritual that animated Wintersplinter – which they returned to Urwin.
In the morning, passing unlucky Vallakians stockaded in the town square by the burgomaster for “disrupting the peace of Vallaki” by mocking the most recent festival, Merrick publicly made disparaging remarks about the burgomaster – which resulted in the party being stopped at the gate by eight Vallakian guardsmen, as well as the burgomaster’s personal bodyguard and enforcer, Izak Strazni – an intimidating brute with a greataxe and a mismatched arm.
The party made short work of militia and Izak, much to the delight of the Vallakians (who seem not overfond of the burgomaster), and Merrick vented his spleen with some pointed vandalism on the gates of Vallaki (“Burgermeister est Daster, Best Fester, Lest Bluster”). The party relieved the guards of their valuables, and found a Blinsky doll on Izak’s body clearly made in Ireena’s image. Zul kept it because…well, he seems to be collecting the fucking things.
During the distraction, Ireena tried to run away under the influence of a spell. Jeros stopped her by casting sleep, and Kildrack spied the fleeing spellcaster as none other than Lady Fiona Wachter (Strahd’s most loyal devotee in Vallaki).
On the road to the Winery, Urwin reminded the party of their appointment with Rictavio (aka Rudolph van Richten) at the Wizard’s Tower on Lake Baratok. And later, Kasimir Velikov (the dusk elf from the Vistani encampment outside Vallaki) rode up hastily to inform the party that the Vistani were mobilizing in pursuit and were less than a day behind them.
The party decided to make a stand at the Wizard’s Tower, and arrived there mid-afternoon. Van Richten was there with his wagon, and had learned the location of the other two Martikov gems: one was in the possession of the witch Morgantha at the Old Bonegrinder just to the east of Lake Baratok, and the other was in the old ruin of Berez – which even he seemed afraid to speak of. He was astounded to hear of the discovery of Strahd’s diary at the tower, and spent the afternoon poring over it and making notes. He read aloud the passage in the journal that spoke of his embrace of the dark powers in an attempt to woo away his brother Sergei’s betrothed, Tatyana – whom Strahd coveted. He entered his accursed state when he murdered his own brother, and drank his blood.
Van Richten also gleaned that there seemed to be a link between Strahd’s curse and Strahd’s imprisonment in the Barovian demiplane. It was clear to him that, while some of Strahd’s servants could pass from Barovia to Faerun (notably the werewolves and the Vistani), Strahd himself could not – nor alas could Van Richten, though he used to be able to cross planes before himself becoming trapped in Barovia.
After a long rest – and preparing their patented alchemist’s fire pit for the approaching Vistani – the party were informed by Urwin Martikov that the werewolf den was indeed where Streth said it was (he’d scouted it in raven form during the night) and that there seemed to be a civil war going on there.
The Vistani arrived at mid-day, led by Arrigal and Luvash. The latter again thanked the party for rescuing his daugher Arribel, but regretfully explained that “that debt had been paid” and there was a higher allegiance to Lord Strahd.
The battle was short and the Vistani were eradicated – none even got close to the tower.
After the battle, Merrick’s curiosity almost got the better of him as he noticed van Richten’s wagon shaking – and nearly unleashed the plate-clad tiger within (“a little something I’ve been preparing for the Vistani”, he explained).
+1 Rapier (Merrick)
4 Healing potions