The party found themselves surrounded by cold malevolent shades. The dwarf, Nerrik, now possessed by Rose Durst went missing with the body of the Durst matriarch. He was the torch in the darkness with a holy light to push back the shadows. Without him the shadows pressed in and drained the strength of the others. Drawing them into their chilling embrace.
Then it was over.
Soon after the party found themselves alive and walking the streets of Barovia. Each had been the recipient of a unique Dark Gift that had saved them. They remembered nothing of death or afterlife and couldn’t fathom how they had escaped. The sorcerer Faen bore the wounds of immolation, his skin a tapestry of blisters and seeping wounds. The thief Duggan pulled his cloak down to cover his new half-dozen ears, each pointed and long aligned on the side of his head. Petr, the warrior, felt his stomach quiver in hunger but the thought of his rations filled him with disgust. On the early morning breeze he could smell the familiar stench of offal and it made his mouth water. And lastly, Nerrik the priest felt the eyes of many spectres upon him. The restless dead watched him intently and pressed into to whisper their dark thoughts into his hear. The only vestige from the fear was the cold grasp of a young girls hand in his, Rosavilda Durst.
The group was finally able to explore the village of Barovia and get a feel for the inhabitants. Most were sallow and withdrawn peasants in threadbare clothing. They did not laugh nor smile and seemed near lifeless as they slouched about their business. A few others though had life to them. The pie peddler Morgantha dealt in dream pastries that would ease the burdens of a troubled mind and seemed quite mad. Mad Mary wept in her house over the loss of her young daughter Grunelda. The priest Donavich who kept his vampire-spawn son secured in the basement of his church while he sought a cure for his blight, and Imarsk the Lesser who needed the aid of heroes.
Imarsk was son of the local Burgomaster. His adopted sister, Ireena, had become the target of the Devil Strahd and twice been visited by the vampire. Imarsk wanted her protected so they could flee Barovia for the walled village of Vallaki. Ireena would not leave until her father’s body was laid to rest which proved a harrowing ordeal as church was besieged by dire wolves during the night and the priest Donavich murdered by his own son.
The short trip to Valliki took the party past a Vistani camp where the mysterious crone, Madame Eva, gave them a on-the-house reading from her Tarokka deck. She mentioned three treasures needed to face the Devil Strahd. One found at the top of a wizard’s tower, one near a scarecrow in a snowy field, and another pertaining to the vistani where a missing girl would be the key. She told them they would face Strahd alone and he would meet them seated upon his throne.
With her reading still weighing on their minds they finished the trek to Valliki and found a town very different from the Village of Barovia. The Burgomaster of Valliki seemed to have a fondness for frivolous festivals with one being held almost weekly. His cries of “All will be well!” was almost a mocking insult from the townsfolk to rue their lots in life. Ireena and Imarsk were delivered to the man for safe-keeping away from the view of Castle Ravenloft.