Barovian Date: 31st of the 10th Moon
...Our route led to the town of Barovia, in the nation of the same name. The road was clear, but poorly maintained – the stone statues marking the edge of the land were cracked and broken when we chanced upon them. A quick pause saw them mended towards a semblance of their former glory.
...We have picked up a knight who calls himself Draven Steele. He has a queer pet raven that follows him everywhere, and seems to understand simple commands. Draven claims to be from Barovia, a member of a knightly order called the “Order of the Raven”. The orc-man's name, apparently, is Thorax (Thorex? Not quite sure, and the bloke can't spell it for me, of course). The orc-man is full of wild claims of his past deeds, from dragon slaying to being a formidable foe of undead creatures. We shall have to see how he measures up.
… We entered the town of Barovia today, and saw firsthand the devastation there. Buildings torn apart and burned, livestock dead in the streets. On our way deeper into the town in search of survivors, we encountered several groups of undead, and quickly confirmed the old adage that waters properly blessed will hurt the foul creatures – weapons can also be doused in the holy waters for extra effect. Some other preconceptions were shattered though: several of the zombies were still intelligent enough that they could cast (or perhaps, their malignant creator could cast through them?) spells such as “Hold Person”, and their bodies were far more durable than the fables would have us believe. The roaming packs of zombies were sometimes accompanied by other creatures, including foul Carcass Eaters (a type of diseased carrion-eating canine) that tried to feed on the living since all the slain rose again as undead. Other groups were accompanied by the dreaded Varghoulis (reanimated skulls that fly on leathery wings and screech with the powers of hell at their command).
The battles on the way into the town illustrated the classic orcish tendency towards exaggeration and bravado, but also showed that while the Order of the Raven may teach its members powerful skills for the use against undead, they were far less prepared to deal with non-undead abominations and extra-planar outsiders.
We found that the remaining villagers had fortified the town square, and were under active attack when we won through to them. A powerful creature called an Entomber (an undead that can seemingly bury the living alive with a touch) lead the assault, and worked its foul magicks on the orc-man before we could defeat it. We saw the orc-man claw his way back out of the ground however, and hope that he, too, is not now undead.
The town was being defended by Ashlynn, a human paladin of Ayailla (Aye-all-ah), who had arrived with two now-missing companions to search for the legendary Sunsword, a blade said to hold great powers against evil and undead creatures – those that wizards claim are animated by “negative energy”. (Their talk of negative energy is absurd! There is only energy or its relative absence – it cannot exist in reverse, or it would simply be indicative of movement in the opposite direction! In any rate, I leave these debates for elsewhere, as libraries are filled already with discourse on this subject.)
...Tavern talk of the guild known as the “Lightbringers” tonight. They are a group of allied undead-fighters, loosely affiliated with a number of different churches. They operate in Barovia, too, as Ashlynn's presence proves, but in numbers far too few to stem the tides of darkness currently flowing in this land.
...A patron who claims to the son of the now-deceased Burgomaster (a minor noble title in these parts, equivalent to a Baron or Knight with title over the town and its taxes, it seems) talked to us about the Burgomaster's death after he refused to bend the knee to Strahd Von Zarovich the XI, following 20 years of peace where the lord did not make any demands beyond token annual taxes. Troubling. If what he says is true, then the missive that summoned us here in the name of the Burgomaster could not have been written by him, and his son claims ignorance of the matter. So......who troubled to write the missive, and who managed to get the word out of Barovia to us – and how, since the town has been under siege for more than a week already!