Having incapacitated the vampire spawn addressed in the last report, we dragged the beast outside, and applied the proper disposal procedures for such creatures. Agent Grigor even produced some running water, although his interpretation may have been somewhat loose. While we were making sure the demon spawn would not return, Frizzt worked on placating the distraught priest, for what ends I am not sure.
The party then devolved into an argument over when to leave, how to confront the wolves, and which path to take from Barovia to Valakai. A confrontation with the wolves appeared inevitable, and Grigor and the priest of Clangeddin wanted to fortify in town. I was tempted to give in to their plan for the sake of a decision, but pressing on was really the ideal move. We’d have to fight the wolves one way or another, but it was unlikely that Stahd would run out of wolves even if we eliminated a bunch in Barovia. Movement was the right course of action.
The forest was thick, and the Barovian lordling was a poor guide. Agent Grigor blazed the trail for us, and we trusted his decisions on the route to take in the end. Despite our best efforts to make haste, it was unlikely we’d make it to Valakai in anything less than the predicted two day travel time. As a special feature of the forest, wolves began howling sometime shortly after noon, and their howling did not abate. Agent Grigor’s hound did find a hidden bundle of clothes on our route, but we left it. Argument was, we have enough enemies already, we might as well not make another one.
As night fell, our charges were becoming tired, and we decided to make camp. A clearing a few hundred paces from the road was to serve as our safe haven. Agent Grigor set up traps. Agent Talia tried to get the two youth to agree to sleep in the trees for protection, but they seemed to not understand the gravity of the situation.
Shortly into first watch, a pack of wolves surrounded us. I was situated in a tree, but everyone else had chosen to stay on the ground. The wolves circled us for a while, until one suddenly leapt to a charge. I immediately unleashed my sleep spell on a group of wolves, and two dropped into a slumber. Agent Talia commanded the two Barovians up a tree, and they finally complied. She then charged the lead wolf and began dispensing justice. Agent Grigor was bowled over by another wolf, but managed to roll back and kill it with his bow. Frizzt and the dwarf were charged by another part of the pack, and they dealt with them, although I contained another group of the pack in their direction with another sleep spell. Once we broke the first group’s charge, the second half of the pack appeared to think better of their plan, and dispersed into the forest. Left with a bunch of wolves, we helped Agent Grigor collect pelts for possible sale in Valakai.
The wolves gave us no further trouble, and we pressed on in the morning. Soon enough, Frizzt indicated to us that there were men in flamboyant clothes up ahead. Frizzt took the Barovians into the woods to hide them from the oncomers, while we confronted them. Agent Grigor took an aggressive posture, while the rest of us greeted the one friendly and flamboyant one of the trio. The Vistany (as he informed he was) tried rather hard to be helpful, and even offered to buy our wolf pelts as long as we went with him to their camp. That seemed like an unnecessary diversion, so we pressed on. Frizzt brought to us some interesting information, as after we departed, he was able to observe them for a while. They sent a runner off to their camp to inform them of what transpired, and that seemed to bode ill. We tried to double time, only to find another group of the Vistany on the path. We skirted them in the forest to avoid any more confrontations.
We reached a lake, and Ismark, our lordling guide, said we ‘should’ make it to town before nightfall. This was a little disconcerting, none of us wished to be stuck out in the wilds for another evening. Ismark had been a poor source of information all along. I decided to expend my power, and used the longstrider enchantment to gives us the speed we needed to reach town before nightfall. The guards at the gate were cautious, but once they saw we had wolf pelts, and even some wolf meat, they seemed a lot more eager to allow us access to Valakai.
Valakai has a healthy agricultural base inside its walls, and is a much more lively place than Barovia. It also appears that they have mandatory weekly festivals. Everyone was excessively friendly, which the others found pleasant, but I almost wished we were back in the subdued atmosphere of Barovia. Ismark and his sister (apparently their relationship is lost on me) were unsure as to what to do, and others in the party convinced them to present themselves to the local Baron as being respectable people of station visiting here. That took care of that. Hopefully Ismark will remember us, and we will be able to use him at some point later on as a resource in our quest.
The social establishment of Valakai was significantly more lively. The guards had told us to head there to find the one other traveler in town, a half elf bard. I immediately approached the half elf, who was lecturing to some children. He seemed perturbed and really wanted to get on with his lecture, but I needed information from him about von Richten. He did not seem to be able to supply any, though he invited me to lecture the children in his stead. I presented a very interesting analysis of attacking darkness with magic missiles, but they were uninterested. What a sad state of affairs.
Frizzt, I believe, tried to get information about the local goings on from the barkeep, but aside from the confirmation of the non-stop festivals, there was little information to be had. He joined agent Grigor and Talia, as well as the dwarf, as they approached a group of huntsmen, and shared ales with them. They had information as to how to market the pelts, but my companions ended up spending the evening drinking and exchanging tales with the men. They have a great revulsion for Strahd, and chose to interpret the glottal stop d at the end of his name as requiring spitting. They also informed my companions that there are walking plants in the woods, and that Strahd can see through his wolves. A market for wolf pelts and meat, and possibly a potato cartel from Barovia could be lucrative, if only we did not have more pressing matters.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Valakai is the weaponized happiness they wield. There is a consensus in town that by being happy, they keep Strahd, the Vistany, and the wolves at bay. Their excessive friendliness, constant festivals, and the Baron funded meat mead and spices add to this tool. One wonders whether this is a real effect, and whether we might be able to put it to use in our expedition.