On most Sunday nights, a group of friends and I gather to play Dungeons & Dragons. This is the chronicle of their tale. (This post contains spoilers to “Curse of Strahd”)
Yesterday’s post, “Freakin’ Vallaki,” talks about how I went about planning what elements of this huge chapter would be “in-play” and what actually happened. Go check that out, if you want a top-down view of Vallaki.
Now, onto the story. Two more adventurers wake up in Barovia.
Jason plays demonkin eldritch knight Raif.
Jonathan plays halfling rogue Sly.
They find themselves in a dense forest. Searching through it, they eventually find each other and make with the introductions. Discovering that they both came to this place in the same, mysterious way, they agree to band together for strength and move on. They found their way out of the woods and to a vast lake. Out on the lake, they see a boat with two figures in it – one larger and one smaller. On the shore are two more boats.
Seeking answers to where they are and how they got there, Sly and Raif board a boat and paddle out onto the lake. As they approach the two in the other boat, they watch in horror as the larger figure puts a sack over the smaller, ties it, and shoves it overboard into the water.
Sly immediately dives into the water and swims for the sack. Raif brings his boat up alongside the other and boards the other boat to confront the large man seated within. The man babbles about this being the only way, the only way to end the suffering. Sly comes back up with the sack, and pulls it into his boat, revealing a young girl in brightly colored clothing. Raif immediately knocks out the man with a swift punch. Raif and Sly paddle both boats back to the shore.
On the shore, they learn that the girl’s name is Arabelle, and she is a vistana. She says the man, Bluto, was trying to kill her to please the gods. She also states that, if the heroes were to escort her back to her father at their camp, he would likely reward them. Raif and Sly agree.
Meanwhile, back at Vallaki’s Blue Water Inn, Khurz, Vash, and Cairie have breakfast with Urwin in the taproom. Gilrean is sick – possibly from last night’s food – and cannot rise from bed. The rest of the group decides to follow-up with Baron Vallakovich, and head to his mansion.
The Baron does meet with them, this time with his wife, Lady Baroness Lydia Petrovna. Discovering that the group is a band of adventurers, that can perform feats of magic and music, he requests rather firmly that they perform at his upcoming Festival of the Blazing Sun. It’s a way that Vallaki comes together to drive away the darkness of the devil Strahd. Vash would be doing a “Bard-off” with the resident bard, Rictavio.
Khurz then revealed that they brought Ireena Kolyana and Ismark Kolyanovich to Vallaki, seeking to keep them out of Strahd’s reach. This freaks the Baron out, and he demands that the group remove the object of Strahd’s affection from this town as soon as the festival is over. They are not welcome here. The adventurers agree, and leave.
Now, Khurz the cleric wishes to find the local church. They do eventually find St. Andral’s Church in town, and go in to speak with Father Lucien. They also meet the young altar boy, Yeska. Father Lucien is grateful for their visit, but admits he is troubled. The people of Vallaki come to the church every day to receive hope and light from its holy protection, but – recently – the source of that protection has gone missing. He does not wish to tell the people and start a panic, but he fears that something bad will happen if the bones of St. Andral aren’t returned to the church soon to re-sanctify it. When asked for any leads, Father Lucien admits he believes Milivoj is behind it – a troubled young man in his employ who tends the church grounds.
Sly and Raif arrive in town, having come from Lake Zarovich to the north of Vallaki, and run across two wolf hunters – Szoldar Szoldarovich, and Yevgeni Krushkin – whom they hire to escort them to the vistani camp outside Vallaki. At the camp, Arabelle leads Raif and Sly to the main tent, which is surrounded by wagons. Inside, two vistani men are whipping a teenage vistana boy. Luvash is the man holding the whip, and Arabelle runs to him – he is her father, and the leader of this camp. His brother, Arrigal, takes Bluto outside, and doesn’t return.
Luvash thanks Raif and Sly for returning his daughter to him, and offers them a single treasure from their stock. He then says this is reason to celebrate, but admits that they are out of wine. He requests that Raif and Sly find more and bring it to them so that they can host a party for the return of his daughter. Raif and Sly agree, and are told that they can go back to Vallaki and procure wine from the inn, or they can go all the way south to the Wizard of Wines Winery and get some from there. The adventurers decide to go back to Vallaki.
The timing worked out so that, just as Raif and Sly are returning to Vallaki from the vistani camp, Khurz, Cairie, and Vash are leaving the church to go look for Milivoj on its grounds. They bump into each other, and introductions are exchanged. They puzzle over how they all arrived in Barovia in a creepily similar way, and decide to work together to take on the vampire lord of this realm. However, each has their own task to which to attend at this moment, and therefore they split, agreeing to meet back at the inn later.
Khurz goes to the church grounds and does see a young man working away. He tells Cairie and Vash to hang back, and only intervene if he needs help, but he is going to try and talk to the man. He goes into the church yard and approaches Milivoj, who reacts defensively at the sight of an armored half-orc coming up to him.
Khurz merely wishes to talk, and makes a very good and convincing argument about working for the church, and helping the people of this town. Milivoj, however, owes the town nothing, for they would not help him and his starving family when they needed it. Instead, a man – the coffin maker, Henrik van der Voort – paid Milivoj handsomely in exchange for the bones.
Feeling sorry for the young man, barely out of his teens, Khurz provides Milivoj with a handful of gold to feed his family, and offers his services to him in the future. Milivoj is speechless and overwhelmed, and thanks Khurz. He is truly sorry for what he’s done.
Khurz regroups with Cairie and Vash, saying the coffin maker has the bones.
Meanwhile, Raif goes with Sly – who has now changed into his alternate persona, an old female antiques dealer named Maude – to the Blue Water Inn. They meet Urwin Martikov behind the bar and ask if his casks of wine are for sale. Urwin seemed uneasy about giving up his dwindling supply of wine, saying the regular shipment hasn’t arrived. Raif then mentions the winery, and Urwin – being of the family that owns the winery – becomes very guarded and suspicious. He refuses to sell his wine, and instead offers a trade. He will loan Raif the Martikov family cloak as a sign that he is operating on his behalf, if Raif will go to the winery and discover what has happened to the latest shipment. Raif agrees.
Sly – as Maude – asks Urwin if there are any oddity shops in Vallaki, anywhere with valuables for sale. Urwin speaks of the only thing he can think of – Blinsky’s Toys. With that, Raif and Maude leave the Inn and head for Blinsky’s shop. Sly removes his disguise. Within Blinsky’s shop, they meet the affable Blinsky Gadof and his pet monkey-in-a-tutu, Piccolo. They find nothing of real interest, but Raif does buy a ghastly looking doll that has different, interchangeable heads. He names it “Mr. Faceless.”
Sly and Raif then meet up with Khurz, Cairie, and Vash in the street. Khurz reveals that the local coffin maker, Henrik van der Voort, has the bones that belong to the local church, and that they’re going to confront him. Khurz promises Raif that there will be a fight to urge him to join.
With that, they head to the coffin shop.
This was an exercise as a DM for me. I had two groups of adventurers that I wanted to meet. So, I had to do so organically, without railroading them. They had to be free to make their own choices. Plus, having two groups cover the vast number of things to do in Vallaki was actually very helpful in uncovering multiple plot points and side-quests.
But whenever I tried to have their paths cross, it was like my players could tell and were actively making decisions to steer their characters another way. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what they were doing, until they finally met up outside the church. That was tough, but very fun and entertaining.
The whole encounter with Milivoj was brilliant, and probably my favorite Khurz moment so far. He was so diplomatic and empathic with the young man, and quickly cut to the heart of the problem. The way he treated Milivoj and the offering he made was touching, and I’m so glad that the encounter went that way.
One of the highlights of this session was Jonathan acting as Sly disguised as Maude. It was hilarious, and I’m so happy he took that background trait of having an alternate identity. I hope we get to see more of Maude in future sessions.
Remember to check out my article on Vallaki as a whole. I outline everything that you can find there, and then I highlight what I think are the most important parts, and the most fun parts. Definitely worth a read if you’re planning on running this complicated location in Curse of Strahd.
Next time, the party confronts the coffin maker…and discover more than they bargained for, in “Deals With Devils!”
Until then – Well Met!