When they emerged, panting, from the Death House, into the mist-filled streets of Barovia, the dark, imposing figure of Von Strahd was waiting for them.
“I see you have survived the House… good, very good. Three of you at least bear the mark of Barovia. I believe I shall send you back to the Forgotten Realms where you can be my heralds!”.
Maclum – the only one not from the Forgotten Realms, believed he had been on a Vision Quest and was now already dead and in some strange afterlife. “Are you my spirit guide?”.
Strahd chuckled and said “I might as well be and my advice is to stay with these others and explore the world my mists take you to.”
Then the mists rushed at them, the village streets vanished and they were in a wintery forest of pines with freezing winds and snow. The Elf Ranger and the half-orcs recognised this as a forest a few days from the city of Phlan in the forgotten realms. Although it had been early spring when they left, it was clearly now the depths of winter.
La Ruina spotted the Crossing Inn a mile or so further down the valley on the main road to Phlan. It had twinkling lights, smoke rising from its chimney and the distant promise of somewhere warm and dry to get out of the foul weather.
They pulled cloaks and scarves around the worst of their disfigurements and went into the Inn.
Revan has blackened empty eye sockets (with a badly painted glass eye in one of them).
Mandingo has a bloody face with most of the skin missing and ragged holes where his nose used to be.
Perhaps most shocking is Maclum, who is a skeleton by night!
As they enter, they overhear some discussion about “Filthy Gur”, “Thieves and vagabonds”. It seems that the current residents have had some very recent trouble with a family of “gypsies”. The Gur are a nomadic people, usually travelling in brightly-painted caravans, often involved with circus/carnivals and freak shows. They tend to be entertainers, musicians, acrobats and story-tellers. As nomads, they are often viewed with suspicion whether it is deserved or not.
An elf wizardess was staying at the Inn, she seemed very perceptive and spotted the unusual nature of the new arrivals. She invited them to join her at a table upstairs and filled them in on and quizzed them about their recent adventures.
Aya Glenmyre was a beautiful elven woman, flirtatious (with La Ruina) but clearly very knowledgeable about the mists and about magic. "I’m here because of the Mists – I heard they had started appearing around Phlan and this is as close to the City as I dare to go as long as the Dragon – “The Maimed Virulence” – is still around, spreading its rule of terror. Hopefully in a few weeks the rebels will have re-taken the city. I can tell you have been into the Mists – to the world on the other side?"
Slowly she extracts their story, using all her feminine wiles on La Ruina to get him to brag and disclose everything. She is very interested in their tale as it seems to tally with her own studies.
She asks them to go hunting for the stolen items. In exchange she offers to direct them to a “Wise Woman” in the nearby area called Jenny Greenteeth who may be able to help them with their curses. Aya performs some kind of spell to locate the stolen items and they agree to go after them. She explains that the family of four gypsies came to the inn and were friendly entertainers – she is a good judge of character and does not think they had evil intentions.
When other travellers arrived and started talking about the Mists – they became agitated and the next morning they had vanished along with …
Aya’s magic wand (a wand of fireballs) – carried off by a young boy.
The Inn-keep’s cart load of weapons (waiting to be collected by the freedom-fighters) carried off by the boy’s father.
A Merchant’s bag of gems carried off by his uncle.
Also the oldest of the Gur (the grandfather) had provided the Inn’s cook with a potion to kindle his … well to strengthen his.. well anyway, they had found him asleep and could not waken him at all.
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The Wand of Fire
They set off in pursuit of “the boy”, guided by Aya’s divination. He had a day and a night start but the Mists came down and time and space seemed fluid for a while. They soon found themselves on a frozen hillside, dotted with impossibly bright thistles – the thistle’s burrs were glowing bright red. The floor of the steep slope before them was slick with ice and a patch in the middle, devoid of thistles, was even slicker as if newly glazed.
Maclum (no longer a skeleton – by day he seems normal enough), tried to climb the clear area to avoid the strange flowers, but slid back down again and then slowly picked his way to the top, carefully avoiding the burrs. At the top of the slope he ran into a bunch of Ice Cats – cats (about the size of leopards) but made of transparent ice, with glittering crystalline eyes. He quickly slid back down the slope as the cats attacked.
La Ruina tried to run up the slope between the flowers but ended up with three of the bright burrs stuck to his cloak. They started to smoulder and looked ready to explode [DM: At the START of his next turn so he would need a friend to help him get rid of them!].
Revan and Mandingo were soon hacking away at cats. La Ruina’s flame thistles exploded. They managed to stick a flame thistle on one of the cats and it exploded. Eventually they defeated the cats and stood smouldering on the slope. Only a few flame thistles remained.
The cats had been hiding in a cave and they went in to explore. From deeper in they could see a pulsing red glow and caught sudden glimpses of a flock of fire bats, circling the inner cave.
A young gypsy boy was huddled in the corner with his knees pulled up. He was gripping Aya’s broken wand and concentrating hard. A red glow seemed to emanate and the firebats swooped in but seemed to be repelled. The boy’s face was white and he looked terrified and exhausted.
As they entered the firebats swarmed at them and clung to them, draining heat from their bodies. They fought and, when the boy tried to run past them, they hung onto him. Eventually they killed all the bats and then interrogated the boy roughly. With the faceless Mandingo and the eyeless Revan, he grew even more afraid than before. Maclum noticed that as he became more fearful, the Mists grew thicker and swirled nearer.
The boy’s story came out between wide-eyed sobs.
“When we ‘eard about the Mists, we waz proper scared. Me mum az done prophesies and stuff and Grandad said this waz it – the big one! Any how ’e tol me ta snatch the elf woman’s magic wand and take it to …. well to a place I know where we cud of used it to hold back the Mists. But the mists come down and I got lost. Ended up here in the ’ills. An ice cat jumped me and the wand broke and all this magic streamed out making fiery flowers and that. I grabbed the broken bits and some of the power wrapped around me an I got into the cave. Then some bats came and they seemed to be drawn to the power and set alight. I ’ad to concentrate all night and half of today to keep the red glow going and it waz fadin fast. I fort I waz a gonna.”
They took him back to the inn and left him with Aya (and to face his punishment for his crimes). Aya sent them back out looking for the stolen gems – taken by the boy’s uncle. It seems that the Mists warp time and space and seem to be helping them catch up to the fugitives.