Evening of the third day in Barovia
With little choice other than to obey the stipulations of Lady Wachter's dinner invitation, the damned shed their weapons and armor and traveled together to the lady's manor, known as Wachterhaus. There, they were greeted through a panel in the front door by a maid, who opened the door and allowed them to step inside. From the outside,it was evident that Wachterhaus had once been a fine structure—perhaps even finer than the baron's—but it was now in a state of decay, being claimed by vines that crawled their way up all sides of the weathered building. Upon stepping inside, however, one was surrounded by furnishings rivalling—and in many ways surpassing—the baron's.
Fiona Wachter herself was a tall, gaunt, and austere woman, at least in appearance. As she greeted her guests, it became clear that she was a woman of fine manners and a very congenial host. She invited them to sit with her by the fire while dinner was prepared and spoke at length with them about their histories before finding themselves in Barovia. Once dinner was served, however, discussion turned to politics. The damned learned about the lady of the house, as well, discovering that her husband had passed away years ago and that one of her dearest desires was to see her profligate sons take after the noble and virtuous man that her husband had been.
Once dinner was served, however, the conversation turned to politics, as it always does. The lady's disapproval of the baron reflected the newcomers', and she spoke at length about her particular concern with his governance of Vallaki. The baron's endless festivals, she said, spread false hope, leading some to expect escape when none is possible, and thereby wasted time and valuable resources on a useless endeavor. Worse, this "defiant thrashing about" could only agitate the Devil (or, as Lady Wachter called him, "the Master"), which could put the townsfolk at risk. However, she considered the Master not a tyrant, but more of a negligent landlord: the right people needed to act as mediators between the people and the Master in order to supplicate him and earn his favor rather than his ire.
Emil suddenly stormed out of the house at the mere implication, but the rest of the party stayed behind to discuss this with the lady. While various opinions were offered, none in the group were willing to entertain the notion that the Devil could—or should—be negotiated with. Lazlo attempted to illustrate the dangers of passive collaboration with the unrighteous through a theatrical analogy, but the lady's opinion was resolute and unmoving: the baron was a madman, and Vallaki risked reprisal from the Master as long as the baron flagrantly defied his rule.
During this intense discussion, which made its way back to the parlor, Puck slipped away to explore the house. She stepped into another room off the combined parlor and dining room and discovered another comfortable den that apparently shared the fireplace with the parlor. There, a familiar-looking man—Ernst Larnak, who had been shadowing the newcomers after their arrival in Vallaki—sat near the fire. He seemed shocked and quickly ushered Puck out of the room.
While the rest argued with Lady Wachter, Emil went to the baron's manor and, thinking back to Yaroslava's description of the house, attempted to scale the wall and climb into the window nearest the room in which Udo was held captive. Though he was seen skulking around by a peasant, he scaled the wall and passed through an empty bedroom before finding the locked closet, from which a man's frail voice begged for help when called to. A stirring from the nearby room sent Emil darting back through the window, uncertain whether—and to what degree—he was noticed.
The party reassembled at the Blue Water Inn, where Irina and Ismark had been dining with Rictavios and listening to his stories. Rictavios's uncanny lightheartedness seemed to be having an effect on Irina, a different side of whom was beginning to show the longer she spent time away from the village of Barovia. However, the party had a grave discussion about the future of Vallaki, uncertain whether to support the baron, the lady, or to to say to hell to both of them. Emil in particular desired to free Udo by any means necessary, and the rest of the party began to consider that deposing the baron could end up being the best outcome for Vallaki. Not wanting to lose their safe harbor, Irina and Ismark made an offer: they would petition the baron for Udo's freedom in order to avoid violence. It was agreed that they would do so the following day, and the party would decide what to do pending the outcome.
As the group dispersed to their own distractions, Yaroslava slipped into the baron's manor to retrieve her arms and some traveling supplies. She gave an excuse for the maid and the gate guards and traveled on her own for hours through the Svalich Woods back east towards the mountains. The silent woods offered no challenge to her lonely march towards her evening summons. Reaching the crossroads in the mountain path, she found a driverless black carriage pulled by two black horses that seemed to be waiting for her. The door swung open for her and carried her through the dark pass and over a great drawbridge into the massive fortress standing at the edge of the cliff.
A heavy rain began to fall, and she sought shelter inside the open double doors as lightning illuminated the night sky. Passing through the antechambers of Castle Ravenloft, she began to hear organ thundering through the halls, and a dark, swarthy man descended a staircase to welcome her. It was the castle chamberlain, Rahadin, and he guided her towards the dining room, from which the organ music echoed. Yaroslava recoiled as she drew close to the man and suddenly heard a cacophany of screams assailing her mind. Rahadin apologized for disturbing her and said that he no longer heard them.
Yaroslava was left alone in the doorway of the dining room and saw a table set for two with an opulent meal, beyond which a cloaked figure hammered away at an organ whose pipes stretched up to the ceiling and roared with thunderous music. Masses of entwined, marble bodies decorated the instrument, those at the bottom and along the pipes reaching up towards the sky, while those carved into the top reached below. The music suddenly stopped as the figure rose and turned to her—a tall, imperious figure who reached out with long, aristocratic fingers and spoke:
"I am Strahd von Zarovich. Welcome to Castle Ravenloft."