Emerging from the cavern entrance that led them down to Khisanath’s lair, the party was embraced by the warmth of the afternoon sun. Comfort, as it always seemed, was once again a fleeting feeling as they took notice of the billowing trail of smoke off to the South. It was from that same direction those few villagers were fleeing the draconians through the valley when last Riverwind, Lake Breeze & their fellow companions descended into the cavern.
“What do you suppose is the cause of such a blaze?”, asked Lake Breeze already aware of the answer, but hoping against hope for an alternate reason.
“You know it in your heart already brother, come let us find shelter for the night.”, replied Riverwind in a somber tone.
“We’ve cleared all immediate danger”, Riverwind announced to the group, “What say you all on where we shall spend our night and recover our strength?”
The group, though both relieved to be rid of the dangerous Khisanth and still feeling triumphant from their recent victory, almost remained stock still and silent unable to even think on what the best answer might be. In the eerie silence and echoing off the canyon walls a low grumble could be heard. It was not the approach of a threat, but rather a very familiar growl coming from Rosalind or rather Rosalind’s stomach.
The barbarian, filthy and a bit scarred merely uttered her usually complaint, “Hungry… when will we eat?.” As she eyed the minotaur in a last resort type look.
“There is not much of a choice between here and any civilized town, we should take refuge in the village of our people”, Lake Breeze insisted.
“Your village is no more, your people are no more, it stinks of the dead! I want no part of that idea.”, protested Boots, failing to cover up his apparent fear with high and mighty words.
“That is your right”, replied Lake Breeze.
“But I’d like to see you fend for yourself without a healer and a dragon slayer”, Riverwind added as if reading his brother’s thoughts. The two smiled and began in the direction of their once home in the plains. The rest of the group muddled over their options and quickly reached the conclusion that the village was both the nearest thing to get to before night came and should they need it a healer and ranger would continue to benefit them greatly in the wild. Snotrag, pulled his boot-hat tightly over his head and huffed as he skittered off after the group.
It was not long before the brothers and their friends were back in the village. There were a few new tracks but nothing of importance for Riverwind to study before the night fell and weariness overcame him.
“It’s been a long day and we’ve not breathed fresh air for some time now. Let us rest and regain our strength, for tomorrow we head for Solace, unless anyone else has a better plan.” Raistlin advised. The mage usually quiet and for most of the last few days a bit sickly, had given voice to the thought on everyone’s mind before dosing off.
Rosalind, still a bit unnerved by the encounter with Khisanth took first watch hoping to further tire herself out and figured that after a couple hours, sleep would come easily. Time passed and the quiet forest took on an almost conspiring air. Mist, stirred among the dew covered grass and began to rise from the ground eventually engulfing the entire plains just beyond the borders of the tiny village.
Purely by habit Rosalind rose from the floor and drew her sword. The barbarian assessed the situation deciding it was best to wake everyone. As the group came to, with the exception of Boots who only grumbled and turned away and the sickly Rastlin who was once again succumbing to his bizarre illness and unable to stand, they noticed their barbarian rigid and in a defensive stance facing the door to the room they were in. Almost like a feral cat sensing danger nearby, she bared her teeth and gripped her weapon as if the encompassing mist was slowly coming for her.
Once their heads were clear of dreams, the rest of the group were also overwhelmed by unease, a sense of something not natural around them. It was Snotrag whose ears perked up as he detected a faint sound. Riverwind was next to notice and wondered what the faint noise could be. Kvoth, ever the knowledge hungry spell caster, did not care to allow things to remain beyond his comprehension, so he took a deep breath and angrily flung the door open in hopes to scare the mysterious entity as well as drive out his own fears.
No one was there.
Riverwind turned and bent a knee in front of Snotrag, “Whatever is out there must be terrified of goblins or it would have come at us by now”, said Riverwind in a sly yet Patronizing tone too low for the others to hear.
Snotrag who was not the brightest in the group when it came to subtle sarcasm, eagerly growled, “Snotrag will weed out this foe among the fog!”, Riverwind boasted, giving more pride to Snotrag’s ego.
As Snotrag waddled through the door Rosalind spoke, “click to us should you find the area to be clear or just, howl in horror if it happens to the opposite”. The barbarian having both shed and spilled blood with this small humanoid creature gave Snotrag a crooked smile before turning her gaze back toward the fog. “Have a care for that creature, Riverwind, he may save your life one day. Snotrag has proven his mettle and can be counted among our group as a friend.”, the barbarian warned without turning to the ranger. Riverwind gave no reply, though he knew in his mind the best scout in the group for such an unusual situation was the goblin rogue.
Snotrag drew his newly acquired sword before entering the fog and searched through the murky surroundings. The sound heard from the house was a bit clearer now, though just as faint. Straining his goblin ears Snotrag finally deciphered what it was he was hearing. “Help me… please help me…”, a strained and weak voice called out. It was a female, a goblin female, in these woods, he was sure of it! The rogue searched for a few minutes almost feeling as if he was going in circles until a low lying shape arose from the mist.
A small goblin female lay near his feet struggling to hold her upper body up with her hands as if the weight of the world was keeping her down. Sad and weak she called to him in goblin-speak, “Help… me…. please… help…” the mist still obscuring the details of this apparently suffering female goblin. Wary of a trap, Snotrag shuffled his feet slowly and carefully around this creature studying her, checking for deceptions or possible traps. Something wasn’t right. He was glad to see a familiar face, though he didn’t know the creature. It was nice not to find yet another pink skinned human or talking cow walking around on its hind legs.
Meanwhile back in the village… “It’s been too long, I don’t like this”, Rosalind admitted through clenched teeth, still put off by the unnatural feel of the mist.
“Alright, let’s go”, Riverwind said with a sigh, his guilt and fear weighing on him from talking the little goblin into being their cannon fodder. The remaining group, with the exception of the sickly mage and passed out kender, exited the house and wondered into the mist. As for the unconscious Boots and her brother, Rosalind hefted one under each arm with ease as she left.
“Snotrag..” the group called out in hushed voices, willing their eyes to see past their own noses further into the fog. To keep from getting separated, each member of the party held on to a piece of rope with one hand and hefted their weapon or item of choice in the other. It took some time, but eventually Riverwind, who was leading the group through the obscuring mist spotted two figures, one looking extremely odd as only a goblin with a boot on his head could look. Dropping the rope, Riverwind and Kvoth raced to the goblin’s side as they called out, “Snot!”, in both a relieved and protective shout.
“Snotrag find she-goblin…” the goblin announced twitching his snout still trying to decide what the next course of action would be. His companions had arrived, he was no longer alone. Surely anything that happened could be handled now. Riverwind, thrown off by the goblin’s statement only manage to get out, “but she’s hu-”, before he placed a hand on the female’s shoulder and suddenly becoming stiff as a board, all color beginning to drain from his skin.
Acting before thinking, Kvoth grabbed hold of Riverwind’s arm in an attempt to free him from whatever this creature, who he saw as human, but the goblin saw differently, was doing to weaken Riverwind. Just like links in a chain Kvoth found himself bound to Riverwind as the ranger was bound to this creature. All thought fled his mind and the world around him grew dark as his eye lids begin to close and the sound of his own heart slowed.
Lake Breeze lead the others in a direction he could only guess was correct and stumbled upon a scene the horrified him. Two of his companions stood frozen by a female laying on the ground. A female that was no longer weeping nor looking as if she were suffering in anyway. Considering his options, the cleric decided against force, held out his divine mace of disruption and spoke, “I am addressing the creature within, release those under your snare and show yourself!” Just as he finished speaking the tip of his mace gently tapped the shoulder of the woman lying on the ground and suddenly she dissolved. All traces of her lost in the mist.
Kvoth and Riverwind, as if they stayed underwater for far too long,, both began to choke and gasp for air as they fell to their knees. “What was that Lake Breeze?”, the ranger pleaded in a raspy and weak voice.
“Nothing good”, was the cleric’s only reply.
Just as the creature vanished, so too did the mist begin to dissipate. As it did, it became obvious the group was no longer in the smoking plains surrounding Riverwind and Lake Breeze’s former village, the grass no longer lush and wet from dew, instead dry and crackling beneath their feet. There was a stale scent on the wind as a town comes in to view. Taken aback by the sudden change in location each member took a moment to steady itself and after short discussion decided to enter the town slowly and quietly with Snotrag and Riverwind scouting ahead. It was still late in the evening where ever they were. The small party soon located a dimly lit building near the center of town where casual conversation could be heard and both booze and smoke could be smelled.
“I don’t see any defensive structures or guards posted anywhere, we should go in and find out what we can about this place”, Rosalind said aloud.
“I only see human’s in the windows. It might be best to conceal the minotaur and goblin. Don’t want to attract any unnecessary attention to ourselves,” Riverwind suggested as he pulled extra clothing from his backpack.
With Kvoth and Snotrag covered from head to toe or in Kvoth’s case hoof, the group entered the establishment as calmly as possible. Most sat down, taking up a broken defensive barrier around the main bar counter top as Boots approached and began asking questions of the bartender.
They party soon learned they were in the town of Crossroads as well as the tavern by the very same name. The group felt eyes on them as the towns people took turns staring at the oddly dressed newcomers. Boots was able to talk the bartender into selling off a few items of clothing to those who decided to try and blend more into their surroundings.
“If it’s work you’re looking for”, the bartender started, “I may have just the thing. We had a bounty letter arrive this morning, sent from the town of Barovia. It seems the Beurgermeister is having a bit of trouble.” Boots accepted the letter and returned to his group seated at a couple of the tables.
Breaking the seal on the envelop Kvoth read the request for aid to his companions. They learn that the town of Barovia was under an attack of some kind. The Beurgermeister was asking for aid from any who might be able to treat his daughter that had fallen ill, possibly from a supernatural predator.
Riverwind returned to the bartender and asked for direction to Barovia. Not long after the group took their rest in some of the room’s of the tavern in exchange for accepting the bounty. In the morning the party rose, replenished what little supplies they could find and headed out towards Barovia.
The days in this land seemed shorter as the sun seemed almost ready to set just before the group reached a set of old rotting gates. Walking past these gates one of the group spotted a shape laying on the ground. The figure is chewed and rotted beyond recognition with its gloved hand still clutching an envelope. Kvoth picked the envelope from body’s lifeless hand and read the contents. The group was unsettled by what is read. The Beurgermeister was warning all away from his lands. “Only death awaits you should you enter Barovia,” the letter warned.
“We’ve come this far”, said Rosaline, shrugging indifferently.
“Whether they’re pleading for help or pleading for people to stay away for their own safety, Barovia is under attack and I will not turn my back to those in need”, stated Lake Breeze dryly. There was some debate but the group eventually agreed there were reasons for everyone to go to Barovia.
Evening set before the group had made their way to the quiet town square. Boots hailed the first inhabitant they came across and requested information on where to find the Beurgermeister. With a wandering look the man gave the group directions to the bar around the corner. As Boots and the others entered the place it was the same setting as in the town of Crossroads. Quiet, dimly lit and various small groups of townspeople scattered throughout the room having a quiet drink. When told they would be able to seek information about the Burgermeister here the bartender simple motioned to a table by the window. Sitting there was a young man staring off into the distance, one hand gripping a large and almost empty win bottle. His body slumped back in the chair as if weary from weeks of stress.
Lake Breeze gave an awkward cough announcing their presence. But the intoxicated individual gave little indication being aware of their presence. “Excuse me, we were told you were the Burgermeister”.
“The Burgermeister is my father… was… my father…”, replied the young man who still did not make eye contact with the group.
“Was you say? Has something happened?”, asked the cleric.
“He was killed last week defending his home and family”, the man admitted, finally looking at the group surrounding him.
Kvoth turned to Boots, “How can that be, this letter from Crossroads is only two days old?”
“May I see this letter you mention?”, asked the man as he stood up steadying his legs under him. As the young man read the letter he shook his head. “This has all the markings of a letter of my father’s except the writing is not his”. The Burgomaster’s son finally admitted.
“Please, compare this letter to it as well.”, asked Boots. The young man read the letter of warning and nodded thoughtfully. “This letter, this matches my father’s writing as well as his signature. Where did you find this?”
“There was a body lying just within the borders of Barovia”, Riverwind replied. The young Burgermeister’s heir tipsy, tired from recent troubles searched the faces of the group. Having spotted no indication of deceit in their words, he invited them all to come to his family’s estate.
The fence and grounds were in a state of disrepair. The home itself was riddled with scrape marks and some scorch spots. Every window visible had been hastily boarded up. The inside was not that different, Furniture has been pressed against non-essential doors, all among the walls dozens of symbols had been etched, painted and penned in various sizes and patterns and the stench of death washed over them. Drawing his mace, the cleric, Lake Breeze guarded himself, “What lurks within these walls boy? Tell me quickly!”. “It is no threat, it is only the body of my father, dead a week now and I have received no help from the villagers to bury him. We have almost been shunned completely. With the misfortune that has fallen on this house almost no one will even look us in the eye”, the Burgomaster explained. “Your father, take me to him”, requested Lake Breeze. As he was led to the main room the cleric channeled his divine power reaching out across the area for any signs of evil. None could be sensed. But more troubling, was that for the first time Lake Breeze did not feel the full favor of his deity. And that was enough to plant a seed of worry in his soul. “Your father retains the goodness of his soul. I will speak to the others in assisting you with last rites and a proper burial”. “Thank you”, the young pan replied with little emotion before turning and exiting the room, no doubt to find another bottle of wine to cling to.