After turning Bluto over to the authorities the party immediately got moving to get Arabelle back to her encampment outside Vallaki before it got dark.
About a mile outside of town, and down a path from the main road, the woods parted to reveal a small, grass-covered hill with low houses built into its sides. The homes had elegantly carved woodwork and decorative lanterns hanging from their sculpted eaves. Atop the hill was a ring of barrel-topped wagons surrounding a large tent.
As the party approached they saw three dusk elves standing guard outside one of the hillside houses. The guards saw that the party had the missing Arabelle with them and advised the party go directly to Luvash and Arrigal, the leaders of this Vistani clan. As they started to leave Rolen noticed that one of the guards, a young elf named Phann, was openly gawking at her.
Piled outside the tent were several empty casks of wine. From inside the tent came the crack of a whip followed by the howls of a young man. A barely conscious and shirtless teenager was tied to the central tent pole, his wrists bound with rope and his back streaked with blood. An older, larger man in studded leather armor was lashing the young man with a horsewhip, causing him to scream again. Standing in the bigger man's shadow was a third man also clad in studded leather. "Easy, brother," he said to the whip-wielding brute. "I think Alexei has learned his lesson."
The two men in studded leather armor were the leaders of the Vistani camp – the brothers Luvash and Arrigal. Luvash was punishing a Vistana named Alexei for failing to keep a watchful eye on his daughter. The characters' arrival with Arabelle instantly dispels Luvash's rage, and he ran to embrace his daughter forgetting about Alexei.
Luvash was overjoyed and as thanks he told the party they could choose any one treasure from the his treasure wagon. After looking at the different options the group opted to take an onyx jewelry box with gold filigree (worth 250 gp) containing six pieces of cheap jewelry (worth 50 gp each) and a potion of poison in an unlabeled crystal vial (worth 100 gp).
After selecting their reward, Luvash invited the party to dine and spend the night with the clan. Noticeably absent from the meal was any wine. Arrigal explained that they often purchase their wine from a regular shipment made to Vallaki from The Wizard of Wines, but the latest shipment was several days past due.
After dinner Rolen, Visenya, and Rask went down to the guarded house built into the hillside. There they met with Kasimir Velikov, the leader of the dusk elves. Kasimir invited the party to hear his story.
Centuries ago, the dusk elves eked out a modest living here at the hilltop and had limited contact with the outside world. Then Kasimir's sister Patrina started acting strangely. Suffering from what they thought at first to be simple sleepwalking, Kasimir eventually became convinced that she was in fact a concubine of the devil Strahd. Thinking it a better fate than becoming a vampire bride, Kasimir and his fellow dusk elves stoned Patrina to death. Strahd was enraged. As punishment for depriving him of his bride, Strahd butchered all the women in the dusk elf tribe, and Kasimir’s ears were cut off to punish him for instigating the stoning. Strahd took away Patrina's body, which is now sealed in the catacombs below Castle Ravenloft.
Patrina now speaks to her brother in dreams, telling him how years of guilt and regret have cleansed her tortured soul. Kasimir wants to see Strahd destroyed so that his sister can be rescued from her eternal damnation.
Patrina has told Kasimir that the Amber Temple, an ancient vault hidden in the Barovian mountains, is where Strahd forged his pact with evil powers and became a vampire. Kasimir has been spying on the temple for years, but he needs adventurers to help him survive its perils. He thinks that the secret to breaking Strahd’s pact and freeing Barovia from its curse might be hidden there, but more important to him, he believes that the Amber Temple holds the secret to restore his sister Patrina back to life.
At that point Kasimir directly asked the party if they intended to destroy Strahd. After they confirmed, Kasimir told them he had a powerful item to help in their quest, but he would only relinquish it if they party swore an oath to return to him after defeating Strahd and accompany him to an expedition to the Amber Temple. The party agreed and promised to return and see Kasimir after confronting Strahd.
From a secret compartment built into the fireplace Kasimir removed a large amulet connected to a heavy chain wrapped in a fine white cloth. As he unwrapped it he explained that it was the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, a unique and ancient artifact sacred to the good-hearted faithful of Barovia. The holy symbol is a platinum amulet shaped like the sun, with a large crystal embedded in its center. The holy symbol recharges itself every day at dawn and has several powers for battling vampires and other undead.
After meeting with Kasimir and returning Arabelle to her camp, the party returned to Vallaki. After an uneventful afternoon the party went again to the Blue Water Inn. The group knocked on the door to Ismark's room, but he did not answer. They entered the room to find a note stuck to the wall with a small dagger. The note read "I have Ismark. I will release him unharmed if you bring Ireena to Old Bonegrinder before the new moon (5 days away). She is being held prisoner in Krezk."
The party briefly debated whether to storm the windmill right away in an attempt to free Ismark, but ultimately decided to try and track down Ireena before doing so. The party gathered up supplies in their stagecoach and left Vallaki heading west. The 4 hour trip along the Old Svalich road to Krezk was uneventful.
The party arrived 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 snowdusted mountain spur. Beyond the wall you could see the tops of snow-covered pines and a stone abbey clinging to the mountainside high above the settlement.
After being denied entry by the guards, the party spoke with the burgomaster of Krezk, Dmitri Krezkov. Dmitri explained that he places the safety of his village above the welfare of any strangers. He has seen adventurers before and assumes that they are somehow entangled with Strahd, and he isn't prepared to shelter Strahd's enemies any more than he is willing to humor Strahd's allies.
He then paused briefly before saying there might be a way for the characters to help the people of Krezk, whereupon Dmitri would be required by his oath of office and his honor as a Barovian noble to show them hospitality. Dmitri then asked the characters to secure a wagon load of wine from the Wizard of Wines winery to the south. His people have been without wine for days, and the next delivery is long overdue.
The party then left the gates of Krezk heading south for the winery. The opted to leave the stagecoach behind and took their horses on a shortcut through the woods directly to the winery. After traveling for another hour, the party emerged from the woods and crossed into an open vineyard, there they saw several scarecrows tied to posts at the far end of the field.
As the party drew closer they could see the scarecrows start to move and climb down from their posts.