At this point in our Raveloft escapades it's hard to tell whether "the devil Strahd" is subtly manipulating our group of adventurers or we've simply lapsed into a cycle of self-sabotage.
Having sorted the incident at The Old Bonegrinder, we started to head towards Vallaki, where we were to leave Ireena, Ismark, and the rescued children, Myrtle and Freek, before continuing on our way.
Unfortunately, 20 minutes outside of the town there was a garish carnival at the side of the road, and Rufus and Dolly decided - over the grumbles and disinterest of everyone else - that it would be an 'uplifting' experience for the children (ignoring the fact that we're in frakin' Ravenloft where NOTHING is uplifting).
Of course, it turned out to be a horrific freak show (there was slight disappointment at the absence of a "Dungeons & Dragons" ride), we were spied upon by a masked man (all the carnies wore masks), the kids won some strange items in a hoopla game (which Ragar checked and declared as 'not magical'), and Rufus had his fortune told before I finally convinced everyone it was time to leave.
We'd been there over an hour, it was dark, and the top-hatted ringmaster showing us around was creeping me out - especially as we appeared to be the only visitors.
That bizarre distraction over, we finally made it to Vallaki, only to find the gates barred to us. So I, Syr Edvard of House Dobbin, played my "do you know who am I?" card and got all noble on their ass.
We were allowed in, on the promise that we went straight to the inn, The Blue Water, and reported back to the gate the following morning, which we agreed to.
At the inn, having secured rooms for the night, we all got a little rowdy with the locals. I drank with a couple of young lordlings while Dolly mingled with the "common folk" and chatted with an elven entertainer and spinner of tall tales (the only other elf we've seen in Barovia).
We all heard, from different people, about the local burgermeister's unpopular obsession with weekly "festivals" (paid for by the towns folk's tax dollars) to ward off "The Devil Strahd".
|Vallaki burgermeister Baron Vargas Vallakovich|
Dolly had found three gold teeth in her pack, but had no recollection of where they came from, and asked Rufus to sell them for her.
I suspect, much like K'ao's "familiar" Norman the badger, the magical mists of Ravenloft were also somehow responsible for the sudden appearance of Dolly's gold teeth!
Come the morning, it quickly became clear that the "reporting to the guards and getting a permit to enter the town" was little more than a scam, but we were too jaded (hungover?) to dispute it.
However, while the bulk of our group went to find the burgermeister and sort out more permanent accommodation for our charges - Ireena, Ismark, Myrtle and Freek - Rufus sauntered off on his own to the address he had been given for the "thieves guild".
It was, of course, a trap. The thieves - an apparent guildmaster and a couple of thugs - tried to rip the halfling off.
But he wasn't having of it. After getting punched in the face, Rufus nimbly ducked and dived and got his shortsword at the main man's throat.
The thugs got sent out of the room, so Rufus and the man could parlay. Rufus got the three gold coins he was asking for for the teeth, but then demanded another three gold as compensation.
The "guildmaster" refused, and as the thugs burst back in, our little murderhobbit stabbed him to death and declared himself "guildmaster" (because that's how it works).
The thugs dragged their friend's body out as Rufus ordered, but then legged it, abandoning the corpse downstairs in the building.
Nursing some cuts and bruises Rufus then set off to find us.
Our audience with the burgermeister;didn't go much better. He was asking way too much money to buy or rent property in the town, even though there were plenty of abandoned buildings, and we were about to leave when the 'easily bored' K'Ao insulted him.
|Vallaki: a very silly place|
Dolly was up for a fight and trying to nock an arrow in her longbow, while I was asking Ragar if he had any magic that could diffuse the situation.
Luckily, he was able to call upon some supernatural commanding voice that cowed everyone into submission, and gave us a window of opportunity to make our excuses and leave.
We met up with the bruised and bleeding Rufus.
Deciding that Vallaki was a very silly place, it was time we were heading on our way, with our travelling companions still tagging along, on the promise that we would find them somewhere to settle as soon as we could.
After all, we were supposed to be heading to the next town over, Krezk, to find a wandering Vistana who would be able to help us defeat Strahd and free Ragar's cousin from the vampire's thrall.
Perhaps Krezk would be more welcoming to the idea of our friends settling down there.
Instead, having passed through some woodland, we took a detour to a creepy crumbling tower off our chosen path, which I'd just suggested we take a look at from the road.
However, before you know it Dolly's knocking on the door and setting off some magical lightning trap that's zapping Ragar and I (the two members of the party with metal armour, who also happen to be the least agile).
As we retreated, to salve our singed bodies, and to hide behind a seemingly abandoned caravan on the track to the tower, we noticed strange markings on the iron door of the crumbling edifice, and the word "KHAZAN" engraved above it.
|The engraved iron door of the crumbling tower|
To be continued...
The Tuesday Knights:
- DUNGEON MASTER - Simon
- Rufus Longhole - Pete
- K'ao the Welf - Erica
- Dolly Spartan - Clare
- Ragar - Kevin
- Syr Edvard of House Dobbin - Me