The figure in the mist emerged: a skeletal warrior astride a skeletal steed. The rider came slowly through the thickening mists, making no noise as it came, paying no notice of the PCs, and holding an unlit lantern — as if it were cursed to search for something elusive for all eternity. As it passed the party on its way down the cobblestone road, Ismark and Ireena bowed their heads in sad reverence. The rider then disappeared into the mists, which had now completely concealed the road, the Abbey above and the town of Krezk below. Inquiring as to what was the nature of this eerie figure, Ireena intoned that this was a Reaper, a long dead adventurer that had ventured back into the Mists after being trapped in Barovia, never to find its way out even in death.
Seeing that they had no way forwards or back or risk becoming like the creature from the Mists, the party decided to spend a short rest on the road until the fog cleared. Ulfrik determined during the rest to see if he could attune himself to the newly found magical longsword hilt. When he did, he was magically communicated to by the sword that it was all that remained of a mighty weapon of good, once owned by a warrior named Sergei. The weapon’s power could upon command call forth a blade of radiant light, and would be able to slash through Strahd’s undead ranks, blazing forth with the power of the sun.
It was at this time that the mists started to thin and the party found themselves in a different area of Barovia, away from Krezk and the Abbey. The Dark Powers had something else in store for them, it seemed. Almost as if on cue, a strangled cry emanated from the wood, then was suddenly cut off as nearby shapes became visible in the distant foggy woods. Moving swiftly in that direction, the party discovered an elderly man slumped against his cart, frantically beating at a pack of massive wolves. They barked and whined as they snapped at him with slavering maws. The party jumped into action, dispatching their foes with might and magic. It was at this time that two humanoid figures leaped from the shadows and joined in the fray: a dark and dirty Vistani assassin and a female vampire, joining the remaining wolves in their attack against the party. Igniting the Sunsword, Ulfrik used his martial prowess to quickly reduce the undead minion to ash as the remainder of the party subdued and knocked out the Vistani. Turning to the wounded man, it was clear to Marek that this man, who called himself Bogan, would not live long. His wounds were not extremely deadly, but his aged body, combined with the vicious wolf attack had close to finished him. He looked at the PCs, knowledge of his coming death clear in his eyes. “Please,” he gasped, “Please, take me home.” When asked where his home was, he words came forth slow, deliberate, and full of desperation, “Aracos… Please let me hear the song of Tarin one last time.”
The party hoisted the dying old man onto the wagon, which was unfortunately missing its horses, most likely devoured or dragged off by the dire wolves. They also decided to awaken the unconscious Vistani and question him. Upon waking, the Vistani, who said that his name was Alek Alastroi, was tight lipped, clearly terrified of Strahd and fearful of the power he had over the afterlife, even when threatened with death. He finally admitted that a Vistani named Milosh ordered him to find Bogan, then rendezvous with the vampire spawn and take her to Bogan who would dispatch him. Alek also admitted that he was part of a Vistani group currently camped outside of Aracos, a small village to the north on the western shore of Lake Zarovich. Restraining the Vistani, they unceremoniously dumped him in the back of the wagon next to Bogan, and began to push it up the road to Aracos.
After an hour of hard labor pushing the wagon up the road, they neared the small village of Aracos. Just outside of town, a ring of colorful wagons announced the presence of the traveling Vistani, as was foretold by Alek. Even at this hour, a few of these brightly dressed folk noticed the party, one mustachioed man bringing out tables with small potions, calling out as the party neared — these potions, the man promised, could see people safely through the mists and out of Barovia… "…for only 50 gold! Uhh… make that 40 gold… OK for you, special price, only 30 gold…. listen, you’re making my family starve, but I can do 25 gold… " It was clear after a brief haggling with this man, that the potions sold were nothing more than a hoax.
“That’s enough, Grigori.” A young Vistani woman poked her head out of the doorway of a nearby wagon, beads rattling on her brightly colored sash. She glanced in the party’s direction, and upon seeing Mahel, smiled and stepped from the wagon. “I’m Violca.” she said cheerfully, and moved forward. As she did, a large man the party had not previously noticed stepped from the shadows of a nearby wagon and moved forward with her. Unlike most Vistani, this man wore all black, and his eyes sparkled with malice and anger. He stayed back, shadowing the movements of Violca and glowering sourly in the party’s direction. Violca continued, “I feel the fates calling for you, please, you must let me read your fortune.”
While Ulfrik, Ismark, Ireena, and Leowen helped to push the cart further towards the town, Mahel and Marek stayed behind with the Vistani, if only temporarily intrigued by this offer. Mahel stepped into the vistana’s brightly painted vardo wagon and sat across from her host. Marek, acutely interested, quietly stepped inside to observe. Between the two women rested a small wooden table with an incense urn, a few tallow candles, and a heavily used tarokka deck. Violca began her reading, placing six cards on the table and intoning in a trance-like voice what their meaning portended. Before long, the reading had ended, and Mahel and Marek knew only a vague sense of what dark future they would face. From outside the wagon, Marek heard a bit of a commotion, and spotted the darkly clothed Vistani man huddled closely with four other Vistani. A black crow alighted on his shoulder, and the bird held its beak near his ear, as if whispering to him. After a moment, it leaped into the air and the large man motioned to one of the others, who scurried off into the darkness. The dark Vistani then looked directly in Marek’s direction and openly returned his stare back at him. Thanking their host but sensing danger, Marek hurried Mahel out of the wagon and jogged lightly back up the road to join their rather exhausted companions.
Unnoticed, however, was a cloaked figure in the woods observing their every move…