As the party reviewed the information they’ve gathered so far in the Blue Water Inn, a messenger arrived from Barovia. It seemed the Children of Night had defaced the newly-reconsecrated church again. Father Andrei set off to handle that crisis, while the rest of the team remained in Vallaki.
They arranged for lodging at the Blue Water, including a deal where Tsora would perform for patrons in the evening in exchange for discounted room and board. Meanwhile, Alston reviewed his books and those he stole from Wachterhaus. He had Tsora try to transcribe the symbols from her dreams, and they each tried to carve a stake to match the dream. Alston ended up with something that was barely even a stake, but Tsora went into some sort of trance and created a nigh-perfect replica.
The party decided to call it a night, and they were visited by more dreams. Senna was back in Frost’s tower, but looking out the window revealed a murky swamp, and she could see glowing eyes beneath the water. Tsora saw more of the creation of the stake—now the symbols were being inked with an unsettling purple-black ink, just like the bottle Sir Vincent left to Andrei.
In the morning, the group decided to check out the burned ruin of the church. It was clear that there had been no effort to rebuild, and the fire happened years ago. Shortly after the death of Strahd. Ulrich, Sasha, and Alston heard something down below, and lowered themselves down into the ancient ossuary beneath the church.
Meanwhile, Tsora and Senna stayed up above. It was a fortunate decision, because while they stood guard, a red-eyed wolf approached. Calling on her druidic skills, Tsora communicated with it. The beast said it was watching them for its mistress, and that it obeys her because she has “the Hand.” The red energy then left its eyes, and it ran back into the woods.
Down below, the others found the source of the sounds—the muffled dying cries of a woman who appeared to have been eviscerated, having sought refuge in the church only to fall through the burned floorboards into the crypt below. She wore one of the ‘hand’ pendants that the Children of Night wear to mark themselves, and she was insistent that Doru would save her. Alston, acting as the most medically proficient person in the room, concluded that nobody was going to save her—she had only minutes to live. They managed to get a few details. She was with a group of other teens traveling through the Ruins of Berez to the south, when they came upon some strange statues and were then attacked. All she could get out about her attacker was “the claws…”
Alston knew Berez from his studies. Once the largest city in the area, it fell under Strahd’s displeasure. The vampire lord used his magic to flood the city and drown its inhabitants. Now, hundreds of years later, the ruins of the city rise out of murky swampland.
The party set off to the south, from forest to swamp. At one point they came upon a strange figure in the distance. As they approached, it became clear that it was simply a statue of an old woman. Senna set out to look for other statues, but found nothing until she turned to head back and found herself staring down a statue that was not there moments before. A defensive blast set a climactic battle in motion, as monstrous statues animated in turns and the party fought. Eventually they were victorious, and a spectral green image of the woman in the statues emerged from a pool.
The mysterious swamp woman said that she thought they were with the Children of Night, whom she hates for desecrating the remains of “her child, Strahd.” She also described herself as a “humble servant of Mother Night.” She offered the party a deal: a taste of formidable power in exchange for a promise to bring Strahd’s hand back to her.
While the party deliberated, Senna stepped forward and swore the pact. The witch took her word as binding for the entire group, and they all passed out. When they awoke, it was the middle of the night (they missed Tsora’s promised performance) and they could feel the effects of the old woman’s magic (they gained TWO levels.) But it was unclear what sort of force they had allied themselves with.