[DnD] Curse of Strahd 04 – Vistani Camp and Van Richten’s Tower

I’m currently DM’ing a Curse of Strahd campaign for some friends. These posts will act as a journal of their progression, challenges, and victories.

Read the whole series of posts here.

The party discussed what to do next, and decided that winter clothing was much needed for any trek into the mountains. They traded at Arasek stockyard, trading direwolf pelts plus gold for winter clothing for the entire party.

Whilst trading, Rolen noticed a large carnival wagon parked in the yards. He witnessed it move, as though something large inside had thrown itself against the wall. The name “Rictavio” was painted on the side. The merchants of the stockyard were paid enough to not ask such questions. After a cursory examination, the party left the wagon alone.

As it was nightfall, the party returned to the inn with intentions to spend the night. They drank more, with Danika warning the party that their supply of wine was dangerously low and there had yet to be any deliveries from the Wizard of Wines. She estimated they had another week of supply, if they started watering it down. The party shared a few drinks with the Wachter lads (Nikolai and Karl) who were pompous and disbelieving of tales from outsiders, including the tall-tales told by Rictavio.

Rictavio came downstairs on dusk, and the party interrogated him about his wagon. He bribed them 100 gold pieces to keep quiet and ask no more questions. He ordered food at the bar, and left to “dine with [his] beloved Drusilla”.

At the door to their room they found a letter, sealed with Strahd’s seal. In Strahd’s neat hand was an invitation for them all to join him at his castle to dine, and that their passage to the castle would be safe. It was decided to take Ireena to Krezk first, before going to the castle. They burnt the letter.

 

Early morning, the decision was made to travel to the Vistani camp and see the “Wounded Elf” that Madam Eva had spoken of. Five minutes west of Vallaki they found a small hill, topped with Vistani tents and surrounded by Elven hovels. Each hovel was guarded by an elf, and when one was asked about Kasimir (the name provided by Rictavio) they were directed to the Eastern most hovel.

Inside was an elderly elf, disfigured by having had his ears removed. They described Madam Eva’s reading-  “a wounded elf has what you seek. He will part with the treasure to see his dark dreams fulfilled.” He talked of his dark dreams of his long dead sister Patrina, how she was to have wed Strahd but she was killed by her own brother and people. In retaliation, Strahd slew all female and child dusk elves, and had Kasimir’s ears cut off. In his dreams she speaks to him, from her crypt beneath Castle Ravenloft, telling him that all darkness has left her and she repents.

When the party mentioned a treasure, he made them promise that when they travel to Tsolenka Pass that they would travel with him, and together visit The Amber Temple – a place with the power to break Strahd’s hold on the land, and to save his sister. They agreed, and from beneath the floor boards he removed a sword hilt. When Diesa held it, briefly a blade made of sunlight flickered into existence, then faded. Kasimir described as a Sunsword that Strahd had ordered destroyed – the crystal blade was no more, but the hilt remained. It was a sentient blade, and those who hold it feel it’s emotions – in this case, a deep hatred and loathing of Strahd. Kasimir told them to keep it hidden, that if Strahd knew they possessed it he would kill them all.

The party looked upon the Vistani tents, and saw a youth being whipped. Watching they saw Arrigal, the very Vistani who had tricked them into coming to Barovia – they left hurriedly before he saw them.

Before returning to Vallaki, it was decided to see if they could locate Bluto – the drunken fishermen that people were concerned about. From the South shore of Lake Zarovich they could see a lone boat 400 feet out. The wind was blowing so they were unable to signal him, however the wind carried the sound of crying. They saw the figure lift a sack, and smash it against the boat – apparently carrying a halfling. Rolen cast Walk on Water and the party sprinted out towards the boat. Just as they reached it, the fisherman lifted the sick and threw it into the lake. Rend dived after it, while the party incapacitated the fisherman.

In the sack was not a halfling, but a young Vistani girl named Arrabelle. She asked to be returned to her people’s camp, from which Bluto had kidnapped her. The party knew that the Vistani would kill the fisherman for his crime, so they split: Rolen, Rend returned Arrabelle to the Vistani whilst Diesa and Ireena took Bluto to Vallaki – to face judgement with Izek (The Baron’s right-hand man, and closest thing to a Sheriff).

Arrabelle’s father Luvash was overjoyed to see his daughter, and insisted on a reward. The two collected a chest containing 650 gold pieces. As reward, and returned to Vallaki.

At the gates of Vallaki, guards were hurrying people to join the Festival of the Blazing Sun. The skies parted and rain fell upon it, foiling the Baron’s attempt to ignite the wicker sphere at the heart of the festival. A guardsman burst into laughter, and was tied and dragged behind the baron’s horse upon his arrest. The party asked after Izek, and was directed to the western gate of the city.

Izek was a tall man with a fiendish right arm. Upon seeing Ireena, he became like a mad man. He grabbed her hair, and started trying to drag her away. Rend cast invisibility on Ireena, who sliced her hair with a sword to escape Izek’s grasp. Bluto took the opportunity to attack with a concealed club. In a brutal battle, Izek was slain and Bluto knocked unconscious. The party decided to flee Vallaki and continue on their way to Krezk.

At a crossroads, Ireena pointed out a small round structure portrayed on Lake Baratok, and wandered if it was the “Wizard’s Tower on a lake” described by Madam Eva. It was on the way to Krezk, so they followed the path towards it. On the way they heard hoofprints and stood off the road. A skeletal rider and skeletal horse, holding a rusted lantern upwards, galloped past.

On the lake they found a dilapidated 80 foot tall tower, partially collapsed with scaffolding on one side. Parked at the front was a barrel-topped wagon, locked. The door of the tower had a strange glyph upon it, and a name “Khazan”. Rend tried to knock, but the second his flesh touched the door lightning encased the tower and hit him hard. Immediately after they heard more hooves from the woods they had come from.

They hid, and saw a Vistani woman riding fast towards the tower – injured and bleeding. She dismounted and approached her wagon. Rolen madse himself known, and the party revealed themselves. She asked for healing, which Rolen granted. She introduced herself as Ezmerelda, a monster hunter who was searching for her mentor Van Richten. She asked if they had seen him, but they had no heard that name. She showed them the burnt remnants of his journal she had found at this tower – they described his son been taken by Vistani, and that a lich had helped him track them down. But they had already sold his son to a vampire, so he slew all of them bar a few – Ezmerelda’s family among them. She ran away from them when she was older and found Van Richten, wanting to help him find his son. But he already had, turned into a vampire. He slew his son to release him from the evil.

Ezmerelda knew he had traveled to Barovia in the hope of destroying Strahd, the most notorious of all vampires. She feared that the worst had already happened to him.

The party asked of Madam Eva’s reading, that “wizard’s name and servant guide you to that which you seek.”. They spoke the name of the wizard who built the tower, Khazan, and a suit of armour inside animated. They found that it would follow orders. When they asked it to find the “knowledge of the ancient” it started removing stones from a wall, and removed from it an ancient Tome. It was written by Strahd, describing his  life.

They learnt of his hatred for his brother, Sergei, and his jealousy of his betrothal to a woman named Tatyana (a name they had heard Strahd refer to Ireena as). Strahd slew his brother, and Tatyana threw herself from the castle walls to escape him. The tower guards shot Strahd with arrows, but he survived. He talked of three temples which allowed him to become the land.

Ezmerelda asked to travel with the party, as they were more likely to find Van Richten together. They agreed, and the party travelled to Krezk. Unfortunately, the gates to Krezk were sealed. Talking through the gate, the Burgomaster said he would let them enter if they could secure a load of wine from the Wizard of Wines. The party set off once more.