Having successfully recovered the Tome of Strahd from the Wizard’s deserted tower on Lake Baratok, the party bugged out before Rictavio/Van Richten’s arrival (apparently with a pack of werewolves on their heels), and headed for the Wizard of Wines Winery. On the road, they encountered a mysterious band of people camped in the woods and narrowly avoided coming to blows with the prickly strangers – among them an imposing human named Merrick Valkyrie whose demeanor of “mutually assured destruction” defused the escalating conflict before it began.
Good thing too, because the strangers turned out to be Davian Martikov and his family (father of Irwin Martikov and patriarch of the wereraven wine makers). He told how they’d become dispossessed of the family estate after the culmination of years of raids by mysterious forces – most recently a band of druids from the south with strange nature powers. He also reluctantly divulged the secret of the family’s long horticultural success in otherwise barren Barovia – a trio of magic jewels which preserved the vineyard’s fertility – but which have been stolen one by one over the last five years. The last seems to have been taken during the raid that turned the Martikovs out.
Pledging to retake the Winery – and Merrick joining them for the purpose – the party made the short journey to the Wizard of Wines and found it in the possession of druids, who themselves commanded an army of twig blights.
But druids bleed and blights burn, and the party made easy work of the invaders. They also recovered a missive describing an upcoming ritual at a place called Yester Hill to the southwest: one which features the stolen Martikov jewel, and the mysterious words “Winter splinter”.