The party followed the muddy, rarely—used Old Svalich Road as an unnaturally thick fog closed around them. They found the rusted iron gates to the land of Barovia open, and entered.
The fetid reek of death led them to the claw-marked corpse at the side of the road. A hand-written letter tucked in the dead man's threadbare clothes was from Kolyan Indirovich, titled "Burgomaster of Barovia". Addressed to "thee of might and valor," the letter cautioned that the land of Barovia was haunted by a powerful and unholy vampire, and that potential visitors should instead flee to save themselves, and leave the land to its cursed fate.
Soon after finding the letter, the howl of wolves filled the hilly, wooded lands surrounding the road, and the party hustled along the road to reach the village of Barovia.
Barovia, consisting of about 100 buildings in a clearing about 3 miles from the Gates of Barovia, is a dreary, silent village of age-worn wooden houses and muddy, cobblestone streets. Many of the homes appear deserted. In the small square that marks the center of the town, Bildrath's Mercantile and the Blood of the Vine Tavern show some of the few signs of live and activity in the village. A church with a large cematary are on the northwest edge of town.
In the tavern, the party encounters Ismark Kolyana, son of the Burgomaster whose name was on the letter. Ismark, fearing for the safety of his sister Ireena who has for some reason attracted the keen interest of the vampire Strahd, convinces the party to visit the Burgomaster's home, where they discover the body of Burgomaster Kolyan Indirovich, who died a week earlier after the house came under repeated attacks at night by wolves. The party agreed to Ireena's pleas to help her take the body to the church for a proper burial.
In a side-trek, Noel tracked down the source of loud crying and moaning heard from a nearby house. She encountered a distraught woman raving about her lost daughter, Gertruda. Noel said they would try to find her, and took a strange doll owned by Gertruda thinking it might help find her. The doll had an odd tag, "No Blinsky, No Fun".
Meanwhile, once at the church, the party discovers that the priest, Donavich, is suffering from exhaustion and terrible anguish. His teenage son, Doru, returned from a visit to Strahd's nearby castle a changed and horrific person. Donavich, unsure what to do or how to cure his son, locked him in the church's cellar, even as the son claimed to be starving for human blood. Over the half-hearted objections of Donavich, the party entered the church's undercroft, and was attacked by the disheveled creature that was once called Doru. He possessed strange powers, including resistance to many of the party's attacks, and he caused much damage before finally being defeated.
After a ceremony to bury the Burgomaster, Ismark asks the party to accompany him and Ireena to an abby in Krezyk, on the other side of the nearby town of Vallaki. Ismark believes she will be safer there. The party leaves early in the day, in the hopes of reaching the town, about 15 miles to the west via winding roads, during daylight hours.
On the way, they encounter an encampment of Vistani, a strange race of travelling humans not native to Barovia. The Vistani appear welcoming, and after sharing stories with the party, invite it to visit the tent of their fortune telling elder, Madam Eva. Madam Eva speaks words indicating she knows something about each character already, then she uses a Tarot-like deck of cards to read a strange fortune to the group. Eva's fortune is described here.