Curse of Strahd

Letter from Pallas Xiloscient to Soonya Kashiir

Dearest Soonya,

I hope this letter reaches you before you start to worry, or you start to think I’ve abandoned you to run off into the woods with a handsome druid (again). There have been several delays along the road from the Lords Alliance to the master of my own caravan abandoning me and his other passengers in a dreary little town in the middle of nowhere! Speaking of the caravan, that story you always tell about the hook horror and the hook-nosed whore won’t be making me laugh anymore, not after one so recently tried to kill me. It did succeed in tearing apart several of the caravan guards. Luckily (by Tymora’s grace, I know you’ll say), several of my fellow travelers proved to be very capable of handling themselves in a fight. I wasn’t even forced to draw Evander, though I did do my best to set the beast on fire. That was the only moment I’ve been thankful for the mists that have plagued my journey recently—everything besides the hook horror was too damp to catch fire.

After that debacle we were down to two wagons (the ever so gracious and courteous foot soldiers of the Lords Alliance having so gallantly liberated us of several others earlier on), and the weather made for quite the slog, especially since our caravan master decided to take a “shortcut” along an old smuggler’s pony track through the mountains. I hate this weather, and if we fail at everything we’re trying to find I promise I’ll let you finally take me to Calimshan. The desert sounds delightful right now.

However, I’m afraid I’m going to be delayed even further now. While stuck in this little town (it’s called Portend Hollow. Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t before now, and it’s not on any of my maps) I received some rather distressing news out of Phlan. Not the bit about the dragon, but apparently some time before that there were problems with the dead rising. I know you’ll think me a sentimental fool, but I have to go there. I have to know if Verrel’s rest was disturbed, if his bones are still in his tomb. I know, I know, I’m not being rational, but when have I ever where that man was concerned? If you would, please say a few prayers to Tymora for me, and maybe I’ll get lucky enough and someone will have already slain the dragon by the time I can get there (although a dragon’s hoard isn’t a bad place to look for a Moonblade).

I’m leaving for Phlan in the morning right after my traveling companion helps the locals bury the guards killed by the hook horror as well as a local priest of Kelemvor and the woman who possibly killed him. My companion is a rather dull and terribly serious human boy, young even by their standards, although he’s as crotchety as an old Orc with a spear up its ass. He’s a priest though (Lathander, I believe), so that’s to be expected, I suppose. Yourself and your goddess are excluded from my quibbles with religion, of course. He would not have been my first choice of traveling companions. If I’d had my pick I would have chosen the rather interesting young half-elf woman who apparently reads fortunes or the sailor with the large hammer (which, sadly, is not a metaphor). However, the priest is even more determined than I am to get to Phlan, and I’d take just about any company over traveling this dark and damp road alone.

There are a few things I wanted to ask for your insight and opinions on, strange things beyond mists, hook horrors, and my late husband possibly rising from his grave. I mentioned to you the dead priest of Kelemvor in this town, well, I was among the group who found him and it was not a natural death. We found him in his home, which had very obviously been ransacked by someone looking for something. The priest himself was dead upstairs along with a woman we had seen in the tavern the night before (along with her companion). No one knew the woman or what business she had in town, but it seems safe to guess it had something to do with the priest and what we found near his body. It is a glass jar, stoppered and wired securely closed. Inside it’s filled with red liquid that seems to bubble and move on its own. It’s magical, but I don’t have the slightest clue what it is. You know I’m not easily disturbed by the unknown, Soonya, but this thing unnerves me. I’m taking it with me, because of course I am. It unnerves me, but that means it also interests me. You’ll have to take a look at it when we finally see each other again (if I haven’t solved it’s mysteries by then, or sold it).

The other thing I wanted to ask you about is a place. Have you ever heard of a town called Barovia? The locals in Portend Hollow swear it’s only about a half-day’s travel away, but they seem to know very little about it. No one seems to have ever traveled there or could name anyone they knew of from Barovia. I ask because earlier this evening a man (a vistrani I’m told) entered the tavern and delivered a letter addressed to me and the four others I had been traveling with. It was addressed to us, by name. I found that even more disturbing that the jar of red mysterious liquid, that someone from a place I had never been to or heard of would know me by both first and last name as well as all of my fellow travelers, people who I have not known for long at all.

The contents of the letter were equally suspicious. It was a plea for help from the burgomaster of Barovia (one Kolyan Indirovich) for all of us to come to Barovia and save a woman named Ireena, who he says is suffering from a mysterious wound. You’ll be laughing I suspect at the idea of me treating someone’s stubbed toe, let alone a mortal sounding wound of unknown origin. Really, the entire thing reeks of some sort of trap. The people here seem friendly enough, but we both remember how lovely that old couple near Hellgate Dell seemed. I still have the scar from where that bastard bit me! I don’t have you here to remove any curses from me again if I go running off into dangerous places, so for once I’m doing the safer thing and ignoring this very obvious trap. I just wish I could say the same for all of my new acquaintances. Unfortunately, the paladin (even though he’s a follower of Oghma, who I usually hold in high regard for their intelligence) was swayed by a cry for help, and the fortune teller girl was intrigued by the letter’s offer of gold for aid. I don’t completely understand the sailor’s reason for going, but I was not able to make any of them see how much of a set up this obviously is. It’s a strange thing to be on the sane, safe side of a situation for once, but I’m glad that I am.

I hope to see you soon. If you have any inclination for causes that could use a great deal of good luck, you should join me in Phlan, if not I hope to meet up with you in Elventree after I attend to Verrel.

Yours,

Pallas

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Zora's thoughts
not an actual journal

Editor’s note: Zora’s “journal entries” will be logged as a collection of thoughts and mental conversations she has with herself. While Zora is literate, she doesn’t read or write much and has no interest in keeping any kind of actual journal in some useless book she has to lug around everywhere!

Well, is unfortunate that the caravan has disbanded. That hook horror was crazy, though! Never seen anything like that before, especially tucked away in a box like some demonic birthday present! Oy!

Is too bad, because I met some nice people that I thought might be good to travel with, but now it looks like we’re all headed in different directions. We certainly agree we can’t stay in this little stop. I can’t scrape together any kind of living here and I don’t think the others could either.

Is crazy thing this bizarre letter we got from some random stranger inviting us by name to some unknown place. Still, I am quite curious about the whole thing. Could be bad news, but can’t be worse than those poor fools who want to go to Phlan! Even if I liked cities, Plan is last place I ever want to go, EVER! Good luck to them if they go.

I ask the cards and stars about this mystery invitation, but Savras shows me nothing! The ether is as foggy as the woods around here. Is cloudy like I never see before. I don’t like not seeing, is not natural. Mystra, guide me. . .

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The Burgomaster's Plea

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On the second night of your stay in Portend Hollow, you close by the warm blazing fire. It burns high due to the constant care and feeding by Friendly. Another pot of another stew simmers in it’s flames. It fill the room with the smell of onions, potatoes, carrots, and a delicious roast which you assume is infused with Norman’s favorite condiment. When Friendly later opens the door to fetch more kindling, you hear the sound of a heavy rain, and a cold gust of air reminds that you of the damp fog outside which lies over Portend Hollow and the surrounding forest.

a3b4a405f6b596d47f92818d44b2f4c0.jpgAt one point, the door suddenly swings open, a hush falls over the room. Even Cassyt stops talking. Then framed by the fog and light that escapes the inn only to be swallowed by the mist, a form strides through the doorway. His heavy, booted footfalls and the jingle of coins shatter the silence. His brightly colored clothes are draped in loose fold about him, and his hat hangs askew, hiding his eyes in shadows. Without hesitation, he walks up to your table and stands proudly in a wide stance with folded arms.

In an accented voice he says:

“I have been sent to you to deliver this message. If you be creatures of honor, you will come to my master’s aid at first light. It is not advisable to travel the Svalich Woods at night!”

He pulls from his tunic a sealed letter, addressed to all of you in flowing script. He drops the letter on the table.

“Take the west road from here some five hours march down through the Svalich Woods. There you will find my master in Barovia.”

Amid the silent stares from all present in the room, the gypsy strides to the bar and says without hesitation to the hulking barkeep,

“Fill the glasses, one and all. Their throats are obviously parched.”

He drops a purse heavy with gold on the bar. With that, he leaves.

The babble of conversation resumes, although somewhat subdued. The letter lying before you. The seal is in the shape of a crest you don’t recognize.

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Next: Welcome to Barovia
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