We leave Madam Eva’s camp in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
We head west, towards Vallaki, following Ezmerelda’s trail. When we reach the town, we turn south to visit the Vistani. There, we inform Luvash of the suspected death of his daughter and return her hair ribbon. He offers us a valuable piece of art in exchange for the death of Baba Lysaga, who we believe killed the girl. We hesitate, but say we’ll see what we can do.
We then head west to the first intersection past the bridge. We head north toward Lake Baratok, and it’s not long before we reach the edge of the lake. There we see a tower built on a marshy island across an isthmus. Parked at its base is a horseless wagon.
We discover that the wagon is trapped with flasks of alchemist’s fire, and contains a fair amount of adventuring gear. We leave it for the moment.
The tower is trapped, and only the proper dance recital will open the door. This is a lesson enforced energetically.
We enter and discover an elevator raised and lowered by animated clay statues. Taking the ride to the top floor, we discover the hideout where we believe Rictavio and Ezmerelda have spent some time before moving on. We scan the place for clues and other items of intrigue. We find scraps of burned paper and carved, wooden ball-bearings. Of special note is the preserved head of an unrecognized fellow Dessarai. The head can answer questions if asked, and reveals that Rictavio killed the man, and turned him into this divinatory horror. He’d been looking for inside information about Strahd and the Vistani, though this innocent man was seemingly not much help in either of those regards.
Cereus hears a howl, and soon we all hear it. We exit the tower to discover a huge pack of wolves bearing down on us across the isthmus, with one wolf larger than the others. Another large wolf lurks at the forest edge beyond the isthmus, watching things unfold. Magical fire soon separates the ordinary wolves from the “others”, and soon we’re facing a few hybrid half-wolves.
The Goings On
By the time we get to the Vistani camp at night, it’s about two in the morning. One of the tribe chides Eva for being out so late. Most are drunk and passed out. We settle down for the night, and get a good night’s’ sleep.
In the morning, Glim scribes a new spell while we prepare food and recover from the previous day’s efforts.
We decide to follow Ezmerelda’s trail west, to Lake Baratok. We cross overland, avoiding the road where possible. It’s a comfortable walk. Cereus tells us that we haven’t been followed.
We stop at the Vistani camp. We seek out Luvosh, and Cali approaches him. “Sir, we’re sorry to inform you, but we believe that your daughter is dead. One of our companions went looking for your daughter, and discovered this… (she produces the red ribbon).” “And?” he says, “What price do you want?” “Oh, we simply want to put a father’s mind to rest.” Luccaria should have warned the others: we are a people accustomed to negotiations; to bargains. Nothing for nothing.
We explain about the hags, and how they tried to deal with Baba Lysaga, and how those of the coven are now dead. “So how much to kill Baba Lysaga?” We’re hesitant to commit to that task, even though a number of us would surely relish it. “Oh, well, that might be possible.”
“We could offer to get something for you, from outside this place,” Luvash offers. “Or perhaps this?” He hands a little key to his associate, who goes and returns with a small wooden throne with inlaid precious stones (valued at 750gp). “This is yours if you kill Baba Lysaga.” The other Vistani at the camp are all averting their gaze at the mention of the ancient hag.
Glim sends Alabaster to eavesdrop on Luvash and his companion’s private conversation as the rest of us are discussing our options. Luvash and friend say, “Do you think they actually have a chance?” “Well, they haven’t been killed by our lord yet.” “Yes, he was just toying with them. If he wanted them dead, they’d be dead.” “True.” “Should we send word?” “Naw, he told us to stand down. I don’t think he really cares where they’re going.”
We’re planning to go to the tower near Lake Baratok. Then fight the lycanthropes. We recall that it was called the Tower of Kazan.
We leave the Vistani encampment and circle around Vallaki to the west. We cross the bridge, come to the first crossroads, and head north from there. It’s a narrow road, but there are ruts. It’s wide enough for a wagon or two horses side-by-side, though certainly not as broad as the main road. The path comes to a T intersection, where there’s a part in the woods. Through it we see a lake and a tower on the near shore.
The lake is much smaller than Lake Zarovich, and surrounded by trees but for another break on the far side. There is a flat, marshy island joined to the land near us by a narrow isthmus. The tower is built on the island. There is a thick fog across the waters.
The door of the tower has a disc attached to it with stick figures engraved at cardinal points around the circumference, and lines attaching some figures to others in a continuous pattern. The word Khazan is carved above the door.
Cereus and Lucy stand back while the rest of the party advances toward the tower. Cali knocks once on the door when there is a sudden strike of lightning energy which encompases the entire tower! Most are burned badly, and Alabaster is simply gone. The party staggers back out of the lightning which continues to rage around the height of the tower.
Luccaria says that the symbols on the door looked like a dance. Turk walks through the steps, but it has no effect on the raging lightning storm sheathing the tower. Ireena doesn’t recall the name Khazan clearly, but knows that it’s a name from ancient history. Glimmerald starts to cast Detect Magic as a ritual. Accalia tries to dispel the magic around the tower, and succeeds! The smell of ozone hangs in the air, but the tower seems safe to approach again.
Stepping up to the front step, Turk performs the dance and the door opens!
There is a 5 foot by 5 foot vestibule with a tattered curtain blocking vision into the interior of the tower. We continue to wait for Glimmerald to complete her Detect Magic ritual. At the point when the Detect Magic ritual finishes, the door shuts.
Glim tells us that nothing about the door or tower is magical, though there is powerful conjuration magic on the wagon.
The wagon has a thick coat of purple paint, gold painted wheels, tombstone-shaped windows, and a steel padlock securing the back door. Hanging from the padlock is a little wooden sign that says “Keep Out” in common.
Glimmerald studies the wagon closely. She sees that underneath the wagon is a little handle. It’s for a hidden trapdoor in the underbelly! Cereus checks the door for traps, and says that it looks safe.
Looking through a window, we see that the padlocked back door has several wires going to several containers inside the wagon and we don’t think opening the back door would be a good idea.
Cereus opens the trap door, and nothing happens. He climbs up inside. The space above the door is safe enough. The wires from the back door connect to flasks hanging from the ceiling and there are similar flasks hanging all around the inside.
Inside is a wooden trunk with claw marks on it, a narrow wardrobe, and a bunch of gear: a climber’s kit, a disguise kit, a poisoners kit, a healer’s kit, a lyre, and a small wooden cage, inside which is a chicken with 5 eggs. There is a silver ewer with water in it for the chicken to drink from. There’s also a wooden shelf with a tiny wooden box on it, a set of copper pots and pans, three sets of manacles, a shovel, a wooden chest, and four rolled up leather map cases / scroll tubes on a shelf. The claw marks on the trunk are large enough to be tiger claw marks.
Cereus thinks disarming the traps should be relatively easy. Failing would be catastrophic, though.
Glim looks inside the wagon. Two of the rolled up map cases contain something magical (illusion and abjuration). There’s nothing else magical here except the wagon itself.
Turk repeats the dance at the door and it opens again. We enter. Cali tries to cast light, but it doesn’t work. Glim’s detect magic stops when she enters. Ireena thinks that it is a permanent anti-magic field.
The main floor of the tower is one large area featuring four clay statues of brawny men. Between them is a five foot square indentation with chains wrapping pulleys which are bolted to the floor. The chains rise to a similarly shaped indentation in the ceiling.
Cereus sees lots of tracks on the floor. One set of tracks could be the right size for Rictavio. The other set belongs to someone with an unusual gait, like they lean more heavily on one foot than the other and those footprints are a little more narrow and smaller than Rictavio’s.
Luccaria checks out the crates. They are empty. She stacks them. She says “Khazan” but nothing happens.
Cereus says, “Down” and then the statues begin to animate. He panics slightly but steadies himself. The four statues grab the chains and heave to lower the wooden platform. The elevator lowers to the bottom.
Looking up the hole we see nothing but rotting wood. Nothing near the hole’s edge. The fourth floor looks intact.
We are all gathered on the platform. Cali says, “Fourth floor, please” and the statues begin to pull the chains to raise us.
As we rise up past the upper floors we think the floors are dangerously weak. We continue up. We rise into the fourth floor, whose floor is relatively intact.
The second floor is all dust and cobwebs.
Time and elements have all but destroyed the third floor.
The fourth floor shows signs of recent habitation. There are creature comforts, such as a bed, a desk, tapestries, a stove with wood, and light through arrow slits. There is a standing suit of armor and a wooden chest. Rafters bend under the weight of the roof. Pulleys attached to the rafters support the elevator.
The stove is not warm, though it does look recently used. The bed is made, and nobody is hiding under it. Cereus notices a lavender aroma coming from the chest. The armor looks old. It is a set of plate with a bit of rust, but otherwise intact.
Cereus checks the desk for traps. He thinks it looks safe. The desk has a single drawer, which is open an inch.
Glimmerald investigates, but doesn’t notice anything unusual about the bed. She notices some hair on the pillow, a couple of different colours: some gray, some black. The black ones are much longer.
Checking out the oven, she notices tiny bits of burnt paper in amongst the ashes in the corner. The ashes have been disturbed, like someone searched through them.
Lucy checks out the tapestries and finds that they are brightly coloured geometrics.
Cali opens the chest. Inside are two things: a human head that smells of lavender, and a bottle which also smells of lavender. The head has a waxy complexion. It rests perfectly squarely, cleanly cut off with a saw perhaps. Someone has taken care to preserve it. There is a row of earrings in one ear. A shock of hair is purple. It looks like a young man in his 20’s. A Vistani, perhaps, but not a Barovian. Glim looks at the head, and says “Oh my, how old are you?” Suddenly the head springs to life and converses with her, though we don’t see or hear any of it. To Glimmerald it says, “Oh, is that half elf around?” “Who, Rictavio?” “Yes, he was giving me a ride in his wagon. I’d been kicked out of my tribe because I was caught stealing, and he was looking for a way into Barovia, but I didn’t know how to get into Barovia. Turns out that the old man was a bit quicker on the draw than I expected. He stuck me in the guts with a sword cane and then it was just darkness. And then I woke up and he was asking me questions. And now he wakes me up and asks me questions, and in between is just darkness.” What sort of questions? “Mostly about Vistani and Barovia. How many there are, where they live, who’s in charge of the camps, do they set watches, how many adults, how many children, and all sorts of questions like that. I get the feeling he doesn’t like Vistani at all.” What about Ezmerelda? “Who’s that? Oh, he mumbled something about her once. Student or something? I’ve never met her.” What was the last question he asked you? “He was asking about a camp south of Valaki. The number of adults, children, etc.” He says he’s Dessarin. “What year is it?” Luccaria recognizes the correct year as marked by those of the Dessarin Valley.
Has Rictavio asked you any questions about the Devil? “No, but he wrote lots of notes about them. He’d study it. Sometimes he’d sit at the desk and talk to me, even though he wasn’t asking me questions. He’d say he was going to kill the Devil. He’d do lots and lots of writing, but then put it in the oven and burn it. He’d talk about how many spawn, and what else might he have in his castle, and how long would it take to search.” Do you remember any of his answers? “He talked about the spawn a lot, probably no more than half a dozen. He could probably handle if it was just two or three, but not more than that at once. He sometimes talked to the elevator. He spent some time shouting at the armor, but nothing ever happened.” How strange.
Cereus hears something outside. He looks out through the mud-caked windows. South or south east? A single howl of a wolf. Very faint, very distant. Nobody else seems to have heard it.
Cali opens the desk drawer to find paper, quills, and normal ink. She then checks the oven, and gathers unburnt corners of paper, but it seems that the main unburned sheets are missing and possibly taken first.
We check the room more carefully, but find nothing until we examine the woodpile. In the woodpile we find several small wooden balls, not quite perfectly spherical. It’s as if someone was trying to whittle small wooden balls, but some didn’t come out right and were discarded. Ball-bearing sized.
Another howl, we all hear it. From the southeast.
We take the elevator back down. We move to the door and as Cereus puts his hand on the knocker the door opens. Outside, out on the isthmus, there’s 14 wolves, one of which is much larger than the others. They’re in a pack and coming up towards the tower. Another, even larger, dire wolf is lurking in the shadows of the forest beyond the isthmus.
Glimmerald burns the ordinary wolves to death, leaving us facing a few hybrid half-wolves. We battle, but end the session before its conclusion.