25 Flocktime, CY 575
So it was that we awoke this morning with new resolve, determined to fulfill our obligations to the Wizard of Wines and hopefully return another of his magical Seeds. We had intelligence regarding the location of the dark cult of druids, and set out determined to put an end to their foul machinations.
En route, we stopped to speak to the Martikov family and check in on them. They are doing well and working to rebuild their business. They helped us to resupply and we departed once more, following the trail of the druids until, around mid-day, the heavy and oppressive canopy opened up to what appeared to be an ancient burial ground — a number of mounds scattered around a massive central mound, which was raised in several levels, each with a road-like platform separating it from the level above.
Atop the mound was a circle of stones forming what appeared the remains of an ancient druidic menhir or henge. We detected movement atop the mound, but before we could move forward, Adren spotted what appeared to be a dark warrior astride a gigantic black horse, whose eyes blazed red, with fire belching from its hooves where the struck the ground. The sight was bone-chilling, but it seemed uninterested in us, and after a short period, departed.
At this moment a thunderstrike rang across the clearing, and we noted the activity atop the mound increasing. A wall of mist arose around the area, enclosing us in its clutches. Without wasting any further time we made our way up the mound, where we witnessed a ritual in progress that froze the blood in our veins. Six druids and six barbaric wild-men were engaged in the worship of an enormous, gnarled and twisted tree.
Without delay, Myra, calling upon nature’s wrath against these corrupt abominations, summoned a wave of thunder that laid waste to our enemies, then launched herself into the fray, assuming her customary form of a great grizzly. She tore into the druids with a fury that only a priestess watching the corruption of her faith could know. We joined the fray, only moments too late, as the tree took on humanoid form and sprang to life, the very gem we sought burning within its breast. It strode into the forest, its foul intent something we could only imagine.
Adren and I gave chase while our companions engaged the druids and wild men. My roguish companion had a stroke of genius and loaded his cloak with five flasks of alchemist’s fire, which he launched at the tree, setting it brightly ablaze. I followed suit, just as Cymrick entered the fray, tearing into the blazing monstrosity and bringing it low with the martial skill upon which I’ve come to rely so many times during our acquaintance.
The battle was over, and the bodies of our corrupt and fell foes lay scattered about. The strangeness of our day was not to end here, however; as we discussed our next move, noble Stefan spotted through the mist a white fortress rising high over a walled city. The vision then faded from view, as Myra heard a voice guiding her to a broken cairn, in which she found a dark, magical spear that called to her. She claimed it as her own.
We gathered the magical gem from the breast of the tree-thing, and returned it to the Wizard of Wines, to their gratitude, and have now settled in to spend the night with our new friends.
26 Flocktime, CY 575
A somewhat sad day today, as we bid farewell to another friend and another enchanting beauty. We returned to the tower to bid Ezmerelda farewell and give her our thanks for her aid. We have resolved to continue to unravel the puzzle of the tarokka reading we received from Madame Eva.
Our beautiful Vistani benefactor gave some insight into our reading, informing us that there is much hidden wealth among the families of Vallaki, which is oft accompanied with the madness that arises in family lines formed of generations of questionable marriages. She also hinted that there was, across the lake from that town, a mad mage who was rumored to once have faced Strahd and survived.
So it was that we returned to Vallaki to seek information about the mad mage. There, we met our friend Rictavio once more, and now strongly suspect that he is, in fact, the van Richten whom Ezmerelda seeks; he is, however, reluctant to admit this, so we dropped some hints about the Vistani woman and let the matter drop.
“Van” Rictavio helped us a long a bit further, informing us that he once looked up the Mad Mage, and could give us a general location where he might reside. We dined with him, thanked him for his help and information, and set off for Mt. Bartok, across the lake from the town.
Upon climbing the mountain, we found ourselves high amongst the dark clouds, where we encountered a fearless, huge elk which turned into a human before our eyes, with a long grey beard and raw power crackling in his gaze.
He invited us to his home, and as we had been warned, was quite mad, though not in a threatening way. His mind wandered to times long past, to other places and worlds. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that this “Mad Mage” was, in fact, the legendary and lost wizard from Greyhawk, Mordenkanien!
It was both an honor and deeply saddening to meet this great hero, now laid low from his own challenge against Strahd. Indeed, if such a great mage as Mordenkanien cannot defeat the devil of this land, how can we? Still, we will soldier on.
He gave us a few pieces of advice. To Myra, he said use the spear sparingly, as it is a valuable tool, but has a deeply corrupting nature. To Davlin, he said to return before we head for our final battle against Strahd, and he may have some incantations to help, though these, he feels are just beyond the skill of our own wizard at this time.
Thus it was that we have returned to Vallaki to pass the night, and tomorrow we will travel to the next of our many leads: the location of the haunted mansion where it is rumored that a dragon died long ago—the place known as Argynvostholt.