The fortified village of Krezk lies near the edge of Strahd’s domain, and the wall of mist that marks the border is clearly visible above the treeline. Yet even here there is no escaping the vampire. In fact, the villagers are so terrified of Strahd and his wolves that they never venture away from the village. Within their walls, they grow trees that provide ample wood to keep them warm on cold nights, and they draw water from a blessed pool. They have chickens, hares, and small pigs, as well as gardens of beets and turnips. The only thing they depend on from the outside world is wine. The burgomaster, Dmitri Krezkov, comes from a noble family and regularly has wine delivered from the nearby winery, the Wizard of Wines, to keep the locals’ bellies warm and their spirits up.
Looming high above Krezk is the Abbey of Saint Markovia, once a convent and hospital, now a madhouse overrun with wickedness. After Saint Markovia and her followers failed to overthrow Strahd, the abbey became a fortress closed off from the rest of the world. Strahd ruthlessly preyed on the fears of the clerics and nuns holed up inside, but ultimately it was their isolation and greed that doomed them. The clergy began fighting over food and wine. By the time their supplies ran out, they had either been killed by each other’s hands or driven hopelessly insane by Strahd’s acts of terror against them. For years afterward, the villagers of Krezk avoided the place, fearing that the abbey was cursed, haunted, or both.
Then, over a century ago, a pilgrim from a distant land came to Krezk and insisted that he be allowed to reopen the abbey. The nameless man was strikingly handsome and extremely persuasive, and the villagers couldn’t help but do as he commanded. Eternally young, he presides over the abbey to this day, and locals refer to him simply as the Abbot. Many villagers suspect that the Abbot is Strahd in disguise, for they’ve heard stories about Strahd appearing in other guises.
The road branches north and climbs a rocky escarpment, ending at a gatehouse built into a twenty-foot-high wall of stone reinforced with buttresses every fifty feet or so. The wall encloses a settlement on the side of a snow-dusted mountain spur. Beyond the wall you see the tops of snow-covered pines and thin, white wisps of smoke. The somber toll of a bell comes from a stone abbey that clings to the mountainside high above the settlement. The steady chime is inviting—a welcome change from the deathly silence and oppressive fog to which you have grown accustomed. It’s hard to tell at this distance, but there seems to be a switchback road clinging to the cliffs that lead up from the walled settlement to the abbey.
The air grows colder as you approach the walled settlement. Two square towers with peaked roofs flank a stone archway into which is set a pair of twelve-foot-tall, ironbound wooden doors. Carved into the arch above the doors is a name: Krezk. The walls that extend from the gatehouse are twenty feet high. Atop the parapet you see four figures wearing fur hats and clutching spears. They watch you nervously.
Krl is driving the wagon with Ireena on the seat beside him. Karolinus occasionally rides on the gate at the back of the wagon, loaded with wine barrels. Everyone walks along the road, it takes a little over 2 hours to get to Krezk. Ayrole is dancing part of the time.
You notice a crowd by the gates and a lot of yelling going on. Mal takes to the sky to check it out and reports a group a villagers seem to be crowding around 6 men with a wine wagon of their own. One of the group is heading into the town along with a guard and villager with the remaining 5 standing guard over the wagon.
A guard asks your purpose as you approach. When he’s told you have a wine delivery for the town, he asks suspiciously, “How much?”. Answering you’re not expecting payment, he grins and explains the group in the middle of the mob were trying to charge the town for the wine shipment they had “found”. They’ve sent for the Burgomaster’s wife to get her to figure out what’s going on.
The thugs notice the party and start a confrontation. They square off against the Paladins, 2 latch onto Ireena and pull her from the wagon while the last one goes for Krl driving the wagon.
A fight begins and as it does the thugs transform into their werewolf hybrid forms.
A lot of clawing, biting, and fighting follows. The paladins are both bitten at one point. 3 of the werewolves are killed and when the leader returns from the village with the Burgomaster’s wife and sees 3 of them dead, he shifts into wolf form and howls and they flee. The werewolves serve Strahd and knew who Ireena was. They had wanted to bring her to Strahd for a reward.
A very grateful town thanks you and shares some of the wine bottles with you and tell you of a clear spring within in the town that will make you feel healthier if you drink from it. Intrigued, you follow Anna, the Burgomaster’s wife, to the spring.
The mist-shrouded village beyond the wall is nothing more than a scattering of humble wooden cottages along dirt roads that stretch between stands of snow-dusted pine trees—so many trees, in fact, as to constitute a forest. To the northeast, gray cliffs rise sharply, and the road winding up to the abbey is easy to see from this vantage.
- Residents never leave the village for fear of being attacked by wolves, dire wolves, and werewolves.
- About once a month, a wagonload of wine arrives from the Wizard of Wines, the winery and vineyard to the south. The business is owned and operated by the Martikov family.
- Burgomaster Krezkov recently lost his fourteen-year-old son, Ilya, to illness. Ilya was the last of the four Krezkov children. The abbot visited them in the night, offering to raise their son from the dead. They agreed and he was alive again. But within the next day he had attacked his father and slit his throat, doing severe damage, but not killing him. They locked him up, but a local woman felt sorry for him and freed him. They’ve run off together.
- A pool at the north end of the village provides fresh water throughout the year. Next to the pool, the village’s ancestors built a shrine to the Morninglord in a gazebo. It’s known as the Shrine of the White Sun.
- The Abbey of Saint Markovia is named after a priest of the Morninglord who took a stand against the devil Strahd. After a fierce uprising, Markovia and her most loyal followers stormed Castle Ravenloft, only to be destroyed.
- The abbey was once a hospital and a convent, but it fell on hard times after the land was swallowed up by the mists. Some of the clergy fell prey to Strahd, while others went mad and either starved themselves to death or turned to cannibalism.
- The head of the abbey, called simply the Abbot, arrived over a century ago and hasn’t aged a day since. He occasionally visits the Shrine of the White Sun but doesn’t talk much, and he demands tribute in the form of wine. No one knows his true name or where he came from, and many believe he’s Strahd’s servant or the vampire himself in disguise.
- No one from the village visits the abbey anymore. The abbey’s bell rings at odd times, day and night, and the place is filled with baleful screams and horrible, inhuman laughter that can be heard throughout the village.
Pool and Shrine
Even under gray skies, this pool at the north end of the village shimmers and sparkles. Near its shore sits an old gazebo on the verge of collapse. A wooden statue of a mournful, bare-chested man, its paint chipped and faded, stands in the gazebo with arms outstretched, as though waiting to be embraced.
Drinking from the waters grants everyone a free roll of their hit dice to regain points. The blessing is only granted the first time a person drinks the water.
As Ireena reaches the pool’s edge, an image appears in its sparkling blue waters: a handsome youth of kind and noble visage. The sadness in his eyes turns to sudden joy.
“Tatyana!” he says. “It has been so long! Come, my love. Let us be together at last.”
Ireena gasps and puts a hand on her heart. “My beloved Sergei! In life, you were a prince and a man of faith. We were to be married long ago. Has this blessed pool called your spirit to me?” She reaches toward the water’s surface as a hand of water rises up to take hers.
Ireena is pulled into the pool and embraces Sergei beneath the rippling water. You have never seen a happier couple as they both begin to fade from view.
A peal of thunder shakes the land, and the dark clouds coalesce into a terrible visage. A deep, dark voice from beyond the mountains cries out, “She is mine!” A terrible crack resounds as blue lightning splits the sky and strikes the pool.
Almost everyone is knocked prone from the blast and the old gazebo is knocked down from the force. The blessing pool has been destroyed, the water no longer magical. Sergei will never manifest here again.