Curse of Strahd

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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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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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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Sermon for the funeral service in Portend Hallow

We gather this dawn to bid farewell to Keil Stoneson, Maighread Burke, Tol Jansen, and Shim Fisher. These guards that sought to ensure our safety as we traveled will be greatly missed by their families. Indeed, we who journey on shall miss them as well. Their presence was most reassuring. I recall speaking with guard Jansen a few nights after we’d left Waterdeep. He told me stories of his children, his brothers, his wife. The pain they will feel will not soon be salved.

We remember Doomguide Golar Pace, priest of the great god Kelemvor here in this community. The Morninglord and the Lord of Death agree on much, and so, in a way, though I’d never met him, I feel the loss of Doomguide Pace keenly. But it is the people of Portend Hallow that will truly feel his absence.

But this we know, Lathander’s Grace starts every new day. Death is not a sorrow for the dead, for they are going to their reward. Their burdens are at an end. Now, at last, they may rest.
Starting today, cast aside your sorrows and know in your heart that better days are ahead. Keep faith in the gods. Accept the protection of Helm; the healing of Ilmater; and justice of Tyr; and finally, the hope and inspiration of Lathander. Spring is here, and it’s time for renewal. For a new day. For a blessed sowing of new seeds and a prosperous rebirth for this humble town. That is true hope. That’s the Hope of Dawn. Even when things seem their darkest, His Light shines through. Let us join hands together and show the lands that the Dawn will always rise.

We pray with our hearts and souls to the Lord of the Morning.
Oh glorious god! giver of life, remover of all pain and sorrows, bestower of happiness, creator of new life, thou art most luminous and exalted. We meditate upon thee. May thou inspire, enlighten, and guide our hearts in the right direction.

May we all walk in His Light.

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Zora's lvl 3 details and recent thoughts.

In the last week or two, Zora has focused her meditations on trying to find what her purpose is as a “seer”. Zora is an unconventional sage, preferring to uncover knowledge through reading the stars and contemplating the hidden truths contained within myths and legends. In a similar way, she is the answer to the question: “What if a bardic college student were homeschooled?” As opposed to being a courtier with access to scholarly libraries, Zora opens her own, less conventional paths to knowledge and lore (lore is her chosen bardic path) by means of her people’s timeless tradition of ethereal divination.

Cutting words is a skill her mother taught her to keep the cads away. She is now really starting to get better at that. Zora has also found that through her recent focus and the honing of her fortune telling skills, she is now more keenly aware of things others might not notice at first glance (expertise in insight and perception).

She has been working on a new spell which will hopefully help Zora’s divination skills, called “detect thoughts”. After a couple of rough scrapes, she has also been trying to perfect the use of a classic self-defense spell called “shatter”.

Zora’s thoughts:
Argh! I thought I was going to skip funeral…now crazy cat is here making horrible screeching! Pallas says cat tells her things, but all I hear is angry screeching!.. I guess we have to follow cat?…Pallas says we have to go to stables…fighting with dead?

Is true, some dead walk and attack, Friendly and Bront are no more. Disgusting goblin not dead, is no justice…Child Ash has been taken by mysterious man who bring letter. We must catch him and bring her back! Pallas and Dahl ride quickly while Filibert and I make hasty last rites for dead and check graveyard for any more clues…is shame he is priest…such a waste…ah, never mind…

We ride all night…no luck, he is quick, we are slow…strange place for gate…was wall here once?…now is only gate…we follow tracks through…Dead man off side of road!…is ill omen…find letter telling people to stay away…not sure we were meant to find or not, but we cannot leave. We must find Ash!

Is morning in strange town…is not deserted, but quiet like war with no fighting…strange…No friendly faces here…people seem cursed…At least we should find Burgomaster here…Dahl hears crying woman…we follow to house…poor woman, crazy maybe?…lost her daughter…is dark day here…very bad….curse maybe?

We find house of Burgomaster, but he has died…we find his children at house, they say he not write our letter, but he write letter we find…strange, strange…

Dahl and Filibert go to take Burgomaster body to church for funeral…too many funeral!…Pallas and I try to talk to people, find man with Ash…

People very strange here…not welcoming at tavern…no help from shop…old woman selling pies for 1 gold! 1 GOLD!?! What can you put in pie that cost so much? You could make world’s biggest beet pie for 1 gold! Mmmm!….beet pie!…

Is time for rest….aah, rest!…I can remember no day so long as this!…Is day?….Is not dark, but is not light…is like, light afraid, kept away by something….curse….curse…I know no such curse…

Ah!…good to sleep in…I stay warm in bed, not at dreary funeral this time…DAMN CAT!…GO AWAY!!..Oh, Pallas, no!..we not go…fine, fine!…we go…More dead fighting…why they not stay in graves?!…

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Filibert reacts to the past several days
Undead means delayed travel to Phlan

Auril’s kiss! We have found ourselves in quite a mess of a situation. A young girl from Portend’s Hollow has been kidnapped by that strange man who’d delivered the Burgomeister’s plea the other night. It seems that this man was determined to find a way to bring us to the town of Barovia one way or another.

Even worse, I and my traveling companions have now encountered undead on two occasions! First in Portend’s Hollow, and then last night, in Barovia. Beshaba’s Bad Breath! The local priest of Lathander, Fr. Danovich, has even spoken of vampyres. He claims his son has been bitten and suffers from the vampyre’s curse. The son has been locked in the basement of the church for a year now without feeding. The poor man. He is truly caught between the Dragon and the Desert. While I sympathize with Fr. Danovich, I do not believe this evil can be allowed to continue to exist. I fear that I may have to do what this priest cannot.

By the Light of Lathander, I will do what must be done. Morninglord, give me the strength.

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Dahl's Oath of Vengeance

This strange land grieves me and the plight of its people pains me. From this moment I swear to do everything in my power to destroy this “devil Strahd” and liberate his victims.

Oghma help me.

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Pallas's Change in Tactics

Since being forced to travel to Barovia to chase down Ash and her kidnapper, Pallas has been forced to rethink her tactics going forward. Everything she has learned about Barovia so far has led her to believe that magic should probably not be the first weapon she constantly reaches for in her arsenal. So often magic tends to be bright or flashy or loud, all of which are things that will easily make one stand out in this quiet, gray place full of things she does not yet understand. This is a place that calls for more subtlety. They’ve already attracted a great deal of attention simply by being outsiders, they don’t need to attract any more unnecessarily.

This does not mean that she’s entirely forsaking her magic, and she’s definitely not opposed to using it to protect herself and others or to get things done when they need doing. However, she feels that this is a place to use some of the more subtle skills she’s learned over the centuries, especially sneaking into tombs and ruins. This place reminds her of some of the more dismal places she’s acquired artifacts from. She’s a bit rusty at sneaking and picking locks, but it’s like riding a horse, you never entirely forget how to do it.

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Each dawn brings hope

The good priest Donavich is clearly in denial about his son, Doru. Donavich holds out hope that his son’s condition can somehow be reversed, cured. I do not see that happening. But perhaps the good Father has a stronger faith than I.

We buried the Burgomeister. Fr. Donavich insisted we separate the man’s head from his body before putting him in the ground. While this was quite unusual, I deferred to the priest’s greater familiarity with local conditions. A small crowd did show up in the morning to pay their respects. I have suggested to Fr. Donavich that if he cleared his church of debris, it might be a more visible sign of the hope that the Morninglord promises. Perhaps he will take my advice to heart while we are away. The next step will be to remove the wailing vampyr spawn from the church basement. Baby steps.

Our group has been joined by a man who knows how to use a blade, two blades actually, to good effect. This man, Duram, wandered into town and seems to be on a quest to find something strong to drink that isn’t wine. Whatever his purpose in life, his fighting prowess should prove valuable as we continue our search for Ash.

Yesterday, at Izmark’s request, we set out for Vallaki, a nearby town. He hopes that he and his sister will find safe shelter there, farther from the watchful eyes of Strahd von Zarovich. Along the way, we stopped at a Vistani camp to inquire about Aragol, the man who’d taken Ash from Portend Hallow. This camp was in high spirits and warmly welcomed us with dance, food, and wine. I confess that I was unprepared for the strength of the wine that morning. So caught up in the dancing and good spirits was I, I over-indulged in the wine. My companions were good enough to bundle me into our wagon when they departed.

I might have slept for the remainder of the day’s trip to Vallaki, but at mid-day, I was awoken by the sounds of fighting. Our party had come upon a group of scarecrows magically brought to life! By the time I recovered my wits and moved to join the fray, my able companions had dealt with the animations. Naught remained of the creatures but ashes. Fire proved to be quite effective against creatures made of straw. We continued on.

We were able to reach our destination just before nightfall. We were welcomed at the church by Fr. Lucien Petrovich. There were a number of other townsfolk present seeking the safety of the church walls. While the circumstances are unfortunate, it is good to see that hope still burns in the hearts of the people. It was my honor to lead the gathered folk in prayers and songs to the Morninglord and the night passed uneventfully.

After lauds, Fr. Petrovich drew me aside to share with me the grave news that the Bones of St. Andril had been stolen from the church and we were, therefore, perhaps not as protected as we’d hoped. I agreed to help him find out who was responsible and recover the relic.

I first questioned Yeska, the altar server for the church. He confessed that he’d over heard Fr. Petrovich praying about a month ago and passed on the information to Milivoje, the town grave digger. We questioned Milivoje and learned that he had dug up the bones and sold them to Henrick Vandervoot, the coffin maker.

The investigation continues.

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Zora's thoughts, stardate 2423.5

This village have church to match their inn and store. Is worst church I ever see! This priest must worship God of trash! And he has sick son locked in basement? One more funeral already…

Who is this strange dwarf wandering in from the mists? He outsider, like us. His story eerily similar to our own. It seems caravans not safe anymore like in old days. I like him; I think he probably has many good stories. I hope he come with us.
Ismark is anxious to get his sister far from Barovia. I am happy to help; happy to leave this village.

On our way, we stop at Vistani camp. Is bittersweet time. I enjoy their music and dancing, but it reminds me of my family, who are all gone. We are invited to meet Madam Eva; she do reading for us. These cards of hers are unlike anything I ever see before. Her words are equally strange…My own deck has not these cards. It seems my vision does yet not become clear…

Filibert enjoys Vistani hospitality, perhaps too much! He is totally drunk! We help him into wagon. He can sleep rest of way.
Weather still gloomy, but journey is pleasant…until we are attacked by…walking scarecrows?! This place not right!

Thankfully, scarecrows not last long. Rest of journey is quiet.

At last, we are in Valaki! After returning wagon, we head to Vistani camp to try to find Ash, or at least find out where Aregal went. And here he is, finally! He not answer questions and Pallas getting more and more angry…Now Dahl hit him! Is just as well, we get nowhere talking! Aregal really tough, I keep thinking he go down, but he stay on his feet! Is lucky for us others not join in. At least we have Filibert and Durum in case things get ugly. Wait…where they go? Weren’t they with us?

Aregal is finally beaten. Who he summon? It’s Ash!

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