Heading out of the rioting/burning town of Vallaki, the party took a road-less traveled towards the abandoned wizard tower at lake Baratok. As the rain poured down, the party became aware of strange popping and cracking coming from the woods, and shortly a group of 6 animated scarecrows attacked the group. They were put down without much trouble, although Holaf was afflicted by their fearsome gaze and spent most of the fight cowering with visions of his worst nightmares.
At the base of the tower across a causeway there was a parked wagon. There was no one around, so the party attempted to get into the tower. A copper disc depicted a bunch of stick figures in various poses with lines connecting them. After Klept touched it and triggered a giant lightning blast, Holaf stood in front of it and danced in the sequence depicted, and the door swung open. Inside, a statue/golem-operated elevator took Holaf and Klept up to the top floor, to a room that had been recently inhabited. A suit of plate armor was against the wall, along with a chest that contained old lavender and an embalmed head.
In the meantime, Jal broke into the wagon through a secret door on the bottom, which was good since the main door with the Keep Out sign was trapped with a serious amount of alchemist’s fire. He grabbed a bunch of gear as well as some pages that looked to be torn out of a journal. The wagon appeared to be home to a female vampire hunter, who returned in the middle of the night. Badly injured, Ezmerelda told the party she had been battling Strahd, and had barely escaped. She had been using the tower as a base. She gave the party a lot of useful information, including that the Order of the Silver Dragon had made their home Argynvostholt, a now defunct castle to the south. The Order had fought Strahd and lost, and their spirits were now trapped – and likely twisted with hatred of Strahd. Ezmerelda is at least part Vistani, and knew of Madame Eva’s fortune telling. Some Vistani apparently serve Strahd, sometimes unwittingly.
Travelling to the Abbey the next day, Jal was forced to give up his magic refilling wine flask to the burgomeister, Dmitri, in order to gain passage to the village of Krezek, high in the mountains up steep switchbacks. Once past the Krezek gate, the party headed straight through the tiny snowy village onward to the abbey.