After spending the night in a room with beautiful stained glass windows of St.Andral, St.Markovia and the Morninglord, the group rise early and prepare for their trek back to the Wizard of Wines, to return the cart. Haldar does some exploring and finds a box with four potions of invulnerability in it, while Siri worries about leaving Vladimir’s sword where anyone could pick it up and contemplates giving the now lifeless bodies of the revenants a decent burial. However, in the light of morning, something is different. Sir Godfrey’s body is gone. They check the knights’ meeting room and the chapel, but there’s no sign of him and they’re running out of time. With the threat of an appearance by Strahd looming over them (as there’s now a very bright light beaming out across the land) they quickly pack up and start the journey back to the winery.
After returning the cart to Lohrakna, they take to their mounts and head towards Vallaki, chatting about how they need a plan for getting Devlin and Obryn in, seeing as they’re wanted men in the town. They’ve only travelled a few hundred yards before they encounter eight men coming down the road towards them, dressed in common clothing and with visible weapons. They nod a hello as they pass and the men reciprocate, but the thought strikes them that this band might be up to no good and that they should probably return to the winery to put them on their guard. They try to think of an excuse to turn back that will not rouse suspicion.
“Oh no,” cries Devlin, loudly. “I forgot my stick! We’re going to have to go back.”
The group of men look a little confused when they pass by them again, but the adventurers get back to the main house and knock on the door. Adrian answers it, somewhat surprised to see them again.
“Back so soon?” he says, his eyes twinkling with amusement.
“We just wanted to let you know that there’s a group of men coming,” Devlin replies, pointing out to the road. “You know, in case they’re trouble or something.”
Adrian smiles confidently.
“It’ll be fine,” he says. “We do get visits from townsfolk on occasion, but I’ll call some of the hands in, just to be sure. Thank you.”
The men are even more confused when the party approach them again, this time with Devlin waving a small, ordinary-looking stick, while Siri watches closely, hoping that he’ll throw it.
“Got it!” he shouts to the group happily, guiding his horse over to them. “Hey, if you don’t mind me asking, where are you travelling from?”
The man at the front answers, gruffly.
“Oh, that’s a coincidence,” Devlin grins. “That’s where we’re heading! Tell me, do you know anything about the burgomaster’s right-hand man, Isek?”
The man shuffles his feet uncomfortably, turning to the others briefly before looking back at Devlin.
“Everyone knows Isek,” he mutters. “He’s…”
A voice pipes up from the back of the group.
“He’s a murderer!”
“Shut up, Emerick!” the man at the front hisses to his companion, giving him a filthy look. Siri cuts in, addressing Emerick directly.
“No, you’re right, he is a murderer. He killed our friend. Does the burgomaster know about this?”
Emerick laughs bitterly.
“Of course he does, but he won’t do anything about it. He’s too worried that Lady Wachter will depose him.”
“Lady Wachter?” says Haldar, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes,” replies Emerick. “She contests the burgomaster’s claim because she has royal blood. Rumours are that she worships devils and that her bloodline links her to Strahd himself.”
“She’s the mother of the two who are always being a nuisance at the inn?” asks Siri.
The younger man nods.
“Yes. They know they’re safe from prosecution, so they take advantage of it.”
The man at the head of the group spins towards Emerick and shoots him another stern look.
“Emerick, that’s enough!”
“No, people need to know!” replies the young man, defiantly.
Sensing that this conversation may be coming to an end, Haldar sneaks in one last question, smiling broadly in reassurance.
“Do you know anything about the burgomaster’s son?” he asks. “We’ve heard there are strange goings on at their house, purple light coming from the attic, servants disappearing, stuff like that.”
“Nobody goes upstairs in the burgomaster’s house…” begins Emerick, but his companion has had enough, strides towards him and pulls him away, giving the adventurers a backwards glance to make sure they’re not following them as they resume their journey towards the winery.
“All will be well!” Devlin shouts after them.
As the adventurers get close to the gates of Vallaki, they put the plan they’ve devised into action. Devlin makes himself and Obryn invisible, while Siri takes the reins of their horses to make it look as if she’s leading them. Even then, the guards on the gate are a little suspicious as they approach; an undead elk is hard to forget.
“You again!” one calls down from the town wall. “Where are the ones who were with you before, the ones who caused all the havoc in the town square?”
“I haven’t seen them recently,” Siri replies, truthfully. “I think they went into hiding.”
“Well, if you see them, you’d better tell them to turn themselves in,” the guard replies sternly, then cocks his head at her as he spots the two additional mounts that she’s leading. “Wait, why have you got those extra horses with you?”
Haldar flashes him a huge grin.
“We borrowed them from the Wizard of Wines to pull a cart. We’ve got to return them tomorrow.”
The guard pauses as if he’s considering the ranger’s answer, then gestures to another guard below to open the gates and let the party into the town.
“Fine,” he says. “Do whatever business you need to do and then get going.”
“We’ll be gone tomorrow!” Haldar shouts back, still smiling. “Thank you!”
They head straight for the Blue Water Inn, knowing that Urwin Martikov, the landlord, is probably the friendliest face they know in Vallaki. He greets them, lets them in, and isn’t fooled at all by the fact that two of them are invisible, offering them a room for the night. Siri and Haldar take the horses and Lightning around to the stable so that the animals can get some rest and, while they’re there, Siri points out the plethora of ravens roosting in the rafters that she’d seen the last time they’d visited. Haldar is intrigued and climbs the ladder up the loft to take a closer look. He sees a couple of boxes partially hidden beneath some straw, but with the birds eyeing him suspiciously, he leaves them where they are and goes back inside the inn to re-join Siri and Thia, who have ordered some ham and potatoes for dinner. Urwin tells them with a surreptitious wink that he’ll have some more food taken up to their room.
Later, after regrouping in the bedroom, the adventurers decide that the best course of action would be for Haldar, Thia and Siri to pay a visit to the burgomaster’s wife, Lydia, to ask if there’s any chance that Obryn and Devlin can be pardoned. They reason that they can do this under the guise of returning her wedding dress, which they’ve been carting around since leaving Krezk.
Carrying the box with them, the three make their way to the burgomaster’s house and ask to see Lydia, who leaves the tea party she’s holding to come and meet with them. She’s a little disappointed to see the state of her dress but says that she can have the dressmaker look at it for her, for which Siri offers to pay. She also takes the note from Anna Krezkov, telling them that she will read it later. However, when they ask her about a pardon for Obryn and Devlin, she can’t help them and says that they will need to wait in the study for her husband, who’s due to return from his rounds in an hour.
After kicking their heels for a while, the Burgomaster throws open the door and strides in, with Isek close behind him.
“I gather you want to plead for leniency on the part of your friends?” he says, aggressively.
“Yes please,” replies Thia. “As a group we’ve done a lot of good for this land. The revenants will no longer be a problem for you, and we have lit the beacon at Argynvostholt to spread light and hope. Can you not feel it?”
Haldar chips in. “We saved seventeen children from the werewolves, too, and started negotiations with them to cease their killings of Barovians.”
The burgomaster waves his hand dismissively.
“That is all beside the point. There will be no leniency for your friends, and if I see them in Vallaki I will have them arrested and imprisoned!”
Siri steps forward.
“Speaking of arrests, have you found the person who killed our friend, Ismark, yet?”
The burgomaster hesitates for a second, then appears to regain his composure.
“No, not yet.”
Behind him, Isek’s expression changes to one of almost imperceptible smugness.
“We haven’t found your other friend either, the woman.”
Siri nods, trying to hide her disdain over the fact that Isek will never be brought to justice for Ismark’s murder, or the possible attempted kidnapping of Ireena.
“Oh, that’s okay. We know where she is and she’s safe.”
The smugness disappears in an instant from Isek’s face, and anger flares briefly in his eyes as he glares at the three adventurers in front of him.
The burgomaster turns his head away and waves his hand again.
“Now, I am very busy and I have a festival to attend to. Please tell your friends that if they show their faces in this town again, they will regret it.”
Haldar jumps in with a smile, cleverly hiding the fact that he is reaching his senses out towards Isek and trying not to flinch when he encounters something fiendish about the man.
“Maybe we could help with that? We could put up posters, hang streamers, that kind of thing?”
The burgomaster turns back to them, his expression still suspicious but softened a little.
“Very well. Isek, take them to the storage shed and put them to work.”
They follow the hulking man outside, with Haldar whispering to them about the fiendish sense he’d got from him back in the study. It’s not too much of a surprise to Thia and Siri, given that Isek has one devilish-looking red arm and a hand tipped with vicious claws. He leads them to the shed and opens the door, revealing stacks of posters and banners advertising the next festival.
“Here…” Isek begins gruffly, but gets no further as Siri commands him to drop. He falls to his knees and Haldar panics.
“Siri, what are you doing?!”
The paladin stands in front of the burgomaster’s right-hand man and looks down at him.
“There’s going to be no justice for him if we let him go. He has to pay for murdering Ismark.”
She pulls out the sunsword and it flares in her hand.
“GUARDS!” yells Isek.
Back in the room at the Blue Water Inn, Devlin, Obryn and Drusilla are having a few drinks. Obryn raises his glass to his companions.
“I can’t wait to get my hands on that Isek,” he says. “I’ve been looking forward to killing him for ages.”
Siri, Haldar and Thia manage to get Isek tied up, gagging him with some of the bunting they find in the shed, but when Siri tries to get a confession from him about what he’s done and loosens his gag, he just yells for more guards again. There’s no other choice. The paladin strikes at him with her smite-filled sword, just as they hear thudding footsteps approaching. Haldar slams the door shut, but there’s no lock, and two of the town guards throw it open again. As the cleric and the ranger try to hold them off, Isek breaks free of the ropes binding him and hits Siri with the demon-claw, but she returns the favour, striking him again with a deadly blow that sends him crashing to the floor, dead. Another guard arrives.
“We don’t want to hurt you,” Siri yells. “But this murderer had to die!”
They don’t listen. Instead she commands two of them to flee; one of them legs it out of the shed towards the burgomaster’s house, but the other is unaffected so Haldar takes him down with his sword.
A loud scraping noise from behind them suddenly makes them jump, and they turn in horror to see Isek dragging himself back up off the ground, growling and slashing at Siri with his fiendish red arm.
“What the bloody hell…?” Haldar shouts, as Siri ducks his swipe and attacks him again with another smite that hits him hard.
“I have no idea!” the paladin yells back.
Thia, meanwhile, has killed the second guard, now all three of the adventurers concentrate their spells and weapons on the lumbering figure in front of them until Isek is, once again, dead on the floor from one of Siri’s powerful smites.
“They’re taking a long time,” says Devlin, swigging down the last of his wine in the comfort of their room at the inn. “I wonder what’s going on?”
Obryn picks up the bottle and pours himself another drink.
“I’m sure they’re fine,” he replies with typical Dwarven confidence. “They’re probably just signing the paperwork or something.”
A small, strange glow appears over Isek’s body, and Haldar, Thia and Siri look on with wide eyes as something rises from the corpse, floating in the air. It looks like a little ghostly jellyfish. Moving over to the dead guard nearest to it, it drops and disappears inside. The guard twitches.
“Oh heck,” says Haldar, watching as the man rises from the floor and picks up his sword, while Siri quickly sends a quick telepathic message to her undead elk.
“Lightning, quick, find Obryn and Devlin and bring them to us!”
Haldar finishes the guard off again, just as another appears in the doorway. All four of them watch as the ghostly tentacled being rises from the corpse again, only this time, as Siri takes a swipe at it, a portal opens behind it and it zips in, disappearing. The guard immediately turns and runs towards the burgomaster’s house, quickly followed by a ranger, a cleric and a paladin.
Hearing a bit of a commotion outside, Devlin walks over to the window and sees Lightning outside, rearing up in an agitated fashion and pawing the air with his hooves. He frowns and turns back to his companions.
“Something’s up, we’ve got to go.”
He dashes downstairs with Drusilla and Obryn, and Lightning darts off towards the burgomaster’s house when he sees them, stopping a way ahead and looking back to make sure the group are following. He leads them to the rest of their party, who are now standing in the street outside the house, surrounded by twenty-four members of the town guard, alerted by the two guards who fled.
“What did you do?!” yells the sorcerer in confusion.
“Siri killed Isek!” Haldar shrieks back at him, drawing both his swords and taking a defensive posture.
Siri raises her hands in surrender.
“He was a murderer and he was never going to be brought to justice for his crimes,” she shouts back. “The burgomaster made that clear. Isek had to die, and if I must stand trial for killing him, then I will.”
The guards advance on the group, but Siri refuses to fight them as they’re just following orders. Instead, Devlin casts a fireball into their midst, taking twenty of them out in one blast. Drusilla runs up alongside him.
“Good, good, now you are starting to use your power to its full potential!” She says, casting her own fireball and killing another four of the guards.
The last two men run into the house and slam the door behind them. Obryn steps up and swings his axe at the door, shattering the wood and allowing the adventurers to force their way in.
Everything is quiet inside. Perhaps the family are hiding, alerted by the guards. Perhaps they’ve all fled. But the group knows that the burgomaster’s son is up to something fiendish in the attic, so they dash up the stairs and throw open the doors to see they can find a way up. There aren’t any more stairs leading upwards but, in what appears to be a dressing room, Devlin senses magic coming from a mirror on the wall, so Siri casts the Identify spell to try to ascertain what it is. From this, she understands that there is an assassin in the mirror, and that a rhyme can be spoken in front of it along with the name of a victim to send the assassin after them.
She ponders this for a moment.
“Should we send the assassin after the witch in Berez, Baba Lysaga?” she says, thoughtfully. “She’s a servant of evil after all, and it might help us to recover the item we need to find there, and the gem that was stolen from the Wizard of Wines.”
As the others agree, she stands in front of the mirror and speaks the rhyme. A ghostly knight appears in the glass, attentive and rather handsome.
“Baba Lysaga,” whispers Siri, and the knight lowers his head in a nod and disappears, but the paladin feels strange. Next door, in the master bedroom, Obryn has found a hatch in the ceiling and pulled it open, but rather than follow them, Siri turns to leave.
“Wait!” Haldar calls after her. “I thought you wanted to get rid of the fiend in the attic?”
Siri waves her hand.
“You’re strong enough to deal with it yourselves,” she says dismissively, then wanders off downstairs and heads out of the house.
A little confused by the paladin’s behaviour, the rest of the group nonetheless make their way into the attic. It’s reminiscent of any attic room; packed with old, forgotten furniture, paintings and the like, all draped in sheets and covered with a thick layer of dust, but they do see a path leading through the stacked items. It ends at a door, on which someone has carved the shape of a skull and hung a sign saying ‘ALL IS NOT WELL’ from the doorknob. From inside, they can hear low whispering. Wanting to surprise whoever is inside, Obryn charges at the door, but it explodes in his face with a burst of blue energy. Devlin dispels any hidden magic, and then the tough barbarian tries again, smashing it to pieces and feeling a little bit cross that he didn’t spot the trap.
The room appears to be some sort of study. There are tables covered in sheets of parchment, and shelves with books and strange items of them. On a rug in the centre of the room is a skeletal cat, and they can see others skulking around as their eyes adjust to the light level. Behind the rug is a barrel, and in the northeast corner of the room stand three children with their backs turned to the adventurers. Haldar reaches out with his senses, and the feeling of something fiendish in the room is a lot stronger now. He walks over to the children, but discovers that they’re just inanimate dummies dressed in childrens’ clothes.
“This is too weird,” he says to Devlin, who lights up the room with a blast of faerie fire that dances around and then converges on the barrel, forming a small, demonic outline on top of it.
“Damn it!” says a scratchy, mischievous voice, and an imp suddenly becomes visible to them, an imp they’ve encountered before.
“You!” says Devlin, raising his hands ready to cast one of his spells. “Where is the burgomaster’s son, what have to done to him?”
“If you think I’m going to tell you that, you’re crazy,” he says. “I couldn’t corrupt you but he was easy, and he’s much too valuable for me to reveal his location to you.”
Fire starts to burn in Devlin’s hands, and the hexagram on his forehead lights up.
“Fine, then we’ll just kill you and be done with it,” he growls.
“No, wait!” Svart squeaks. “If you let me live, you can ask me three questions and I promise to answer them for you, but you have to give me your word that you won’t hurt me!”
Haldar is having none of it.
“I don’t know who this is, but just kill him! Do you really want to trust a fiend?”
Devlin lowers his hands and turns to his companions, asking them softly what they think should be done. Obryn and Thia are on board with the questions and Haldar finally comes around, albeit with many reservations. The first question they ask is what they need to do to redeem the burgomaster’s son, but Svart just laughs.
“I’ll let him go if you can give me someone better in his place. Then you can have him back in the condition I found him in.”
“What condition was th…” Haldar starts but Devlin silences him, aware that this would be the second question. Instead, they choose their next one carefully.
“How can we safely retrieve the second Wizard of Wines gem in Berez?”
The imp cackles again, then scratches his long nose as he considers his answer.
“You would need to get past the witch, Baba Lysaga,” he says, with more than an ounce of mischief in his voice. “But it sounds like you might have taken care of that already.”
The topic of the last question causes a bit of a discussion, and Svart casually opens the window while the adventurers are distracted. Obryn wants to ask what has happened to Siri, but Devlin is thinking bigger.
“Where can we find you next?” the sorcerer asks.
“Me? I’m always nearby,” Svart replies with a wink. “Victor is my current project so I’m never far from him. Now, those are your three questions, so I’ll be going.” He hops up onto the windowsill. “Oh, if you see another imp in town, please tell him that I respect his work. And it would appear the new leader wants to talk to you!” With that, he jumps from the window, turning invisible as he does so. Almost immediately, a loud, furious voice shouts up from below the hatch in the other room.
“You will all leave the attic immediately!”
Obryn walks over and looks down to see an important-looking member of the town guard glaring up at him.
“You come up,” he scoffs.
“We can wait all day,” the captain of the guard responds with a sneer. “You’ll have to come down eventually.”
Obryn returns to the room, and to his companions.
“Yeah,” he says. “We’re going to have to go down there. But we may as well have a good look around up here before we do that.” He walks over and aims a kick at the rug, which folds back to reveal a strange circle carved into the floor.
“What’s that?” he asks.
Haldar examines the symbols and markings, frowning thoughtfully.
“It’s a teleportation circle,” he answers. “But it’s badly flawed. This circle could cause serious injury to anyone that used it, perhaps even death.”
“Maybe that’s what happened to the two missing servants?” asks Thia. “They still haven’t been found and this might explain their disappearance.”
Seeing nothing else of interest in the study, the adventurers make their way downstairs. The guards surround them along with the captain, who’s wearing an expression of barely-controlled anger.
“You will come with us,” he says.
Thia addresses him in a voice filled with concern.
“Why are you so angry, my friend?”
The captain spins around and growls at her, his face so close to hers that she can feel his breath on her cheeks.
“I lost twenty-five of my men today. I would kill you all given the chance.”
He turns, barks an order and marches them all down to the ground floor. The house is filled with guards, but there’s no sign of Siri, only a tall, stern-looking woman who slowly applauds them as they appear.
“Congratulations,” says Lady Wachter, slyly. “I think I have a lot to thank you for. I have long believed that the burgomaster was in league with the devil, but it’s now time for someone with royal bloodlines to take charge of this town. I will see to it that there will be no more foolish festivals, no more stocks in the town square, no more punishments for not being happy.” She smiles, but it looks like a smile of victory, not joy.
“Rest for now,” she says, waving them out of the house. “When you’re ready, come and see me and we will discuss your reward.”
The adventurers walk back down the path to the street, where they stop and look around, a little befuddled over the fact that they’re now free to walk about the town without fearing the guards. Haldar raises an eyebrow and turns to the others.
“What did we just do?” he says.