FifthColumn's Curse of Strahd

Canto the Second

Pack Tactics

“All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel. …Think about it. There’s escaping from the wolves, fighting the wolves, capturing the wolves, taming the wolves. Being thrown to the wolves, or throwing others to the wolves so the wolves will eat them instead of you. Running with the wolf pack. Turning into a wolf. Best of all, turning into the head wolf. No other decent stories exist.” Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

The second morning in Barovia:
-The outlanders assisted Ireena and Ismark in the internment rituals of Kolyan, Donavich and Doru.
-Sydney discovered that the pit trap she’d set before the church doors had certainly been tripped during the night. Man-sized bootprints could be seen around its edge, but there was no evidence that anyone or anything had reached the bottom.
-Alistair gave a passable liturgy for the deceased, improvising at points where Donavich’s texts were damaged.
-The party finally took a much-needed rest at the burgomaster’s estate.
-During the night, Aethelred was troubled by nightmares of twisted, shuffling trees blotting out the sun. He excused himself from the trip to Vallaki to seek more clues about the blight creatures which had attacked the previous day.
-Rurik also dreamed, vividly, of an older woman wrapped in jewels, lying in bed next to a mannequin while bats and ravens swarmed overhead and a faceless figure in a bridal gown loomed over the bed.
-The party set off toward Vallaki late in the morning.
-In the Svalich Woods, the party encountered a lone footman in chain mail, visored helm, and a white surcoat emblazoned with a grey dragon. The warrior was surrounded and assailed by four wolves as the outlanders approached, with more streaming out of the forest to join the fight. The six travelers and the stranger, with notable contributions from Liveth’s panther Percy, made quick work of ten wolves in total.
-Only one wolf attempted to attack Ireena during the fight, once, and it immediately withdrew with a look that seemed like recognition.
-After the battle, the stranger, who had sustained multiple bites and claws but seemed none the worse for wear, set off on his way to the east, but not before questioning the party’s motives, telling them “when you’re ready to hunt real prey, get to Argynvostholt and look for Vladimir,” and raising his visor to reveal the desiccated face of a rotted corpse, but with piercing and vibrant blue eyes.
-Pressing on, the party came to a stone bridge spanning the canyon over the magnificent Tser Falls. Its four gargoyles proved to be mundane stone.
-As they crossed the bridge a skeletal figure on a skeletal warhorse galloped by, dropping a small book at Rurik’s feet. Sydney picked it up and saw that it gave a detailed description of Rurik’s dream…written in his handwriting. Rurik wanted nothing to do with it, but Sydney pocketed it.
-Ismark and Ireena believed the rider to by “Old Zaszlo”, a restless spirit who hunters claim has been criss-crossing Barovia for centuries, seeking a way out.
-The group traveled on, approaching the western Gates of Barovia. The huge iron gates swung open as the outlanders arrived, and closed behind them. At once convinced that Lord Strahd was aware of their presence, the party rushed to make westward progress.
-They arrived at a dilapidated windmill, which Ismark and Ireena said had been abandoned as long as they’d known. Some were tempted to investigate it, given the windmill deed and motifs found at the Durst house, but daylight was drawing scarce. An agitated raven atop a post seemed to want their attention. Casting a spell to speak directly with the bird, Liveth got a crystal-clear message: “Stay away! Not safe! Go now!”
-Less than a mile from Vallaki, the group encountered a dark, hirsute man carrying a small sack of pelts. Calling himself Valentin, he offered to accompany them the rest of the way to town. Immediately distrustful, the group gamely agreed, making small talk and learning the the Blue Water was “the best inn in all Barovia.”
-Sydney was quick to confirm that Valentin was sizing up the group’s collective armament. When he tossed his sack of pelts to Rurik and excused himself to answer nature’s call, the outlanders bolted without a second thought.
-Valentin caught up, of course, now in the form of a bipedal lupine recognizable mostly by his pants.
-The group stood and fought. Though the monster proved immune to their blades and arrows, Valentin was certainly susceptible to Alistair’s magical blasts and was no match for the combined efforts of the other five travelers (and Percy) to restrain him.
-Having despatched the creature (whose corpse reverted to its human form), the party finally reached the failsafe surrounding Vallaki, but too late: the gate guards had padlocked the entry. They were obviously fearful of something and unresponsive to even Ireena’s persuasion. They told the travelers to try their luck with the Vistani to the southwest and come back in the morning.
-The party saw no alternative but to take the guards’ advice. They found the Vistani camped atop a seemingly manmade hill, perfectly round, into the sides of which six hovels with intricately carved woodwork had been built. Most of the Vistani were inside of their own various, but the outlanders found a large central tent in which two men were savagely whipping a teenager tied to a post.
-The smaller of the two men introduced himself as Arrigal, and his larger brother as Luvash. The beaten boy, Alexei, was being punished for faltering in his duty to protect Luvash’s daughter, Arabelle. When the brothers, who claimed to be in charge of the camp, were away the previous afternoon and the remaining Vistani were drunk, 7-year-old Arabelle disappeared. The brothers had dispatched a dozen of their people to find her to no avail.
-Arrigal agreed to allow the party to camp in an unused cards or in their own tents as they preferred, in exchange for a few of the furs Rurik had looted from the werewolf.
-If they wanted information about the Vistana woman mentioned in Madame Eva’s Tarokka reading, Arrigal expected their help in locating Arabelle. “You seek a Vistana, we seek a Vistana; fair trade.”
-The group agreed. They began to make camp and explore trade options with the Vistani.

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