The adventurers stood still, while the question hung in the air. Something about the cramped wagon, with that lonely candle which mixed both the all to familiar darkness and the bright colors of thoses gaudy gypsy decorations, it made them question why they were even there. Something that had not happend since they arrived in this strange land. “Yes” croaked the old crone, “I am the one you seek, the one who has your answers, that is why you’ve come?” Her ancient eyes studied the teifling, “Andareta, the warlock, summoner of demons, deceiver of the flames”, Madam Eva then turned to the metal clad Paladin, “Von Hohenhiem, the ancient, Spring Warden and lover of lies.” This instantly drew a reaction from the guest, they suddenly realized this was not just an old women who was revered for her age. Her head turned again and locked eyes with drow who sat in the back, watching every move ” Zara, weaver of magics, and lover of wealth, defiant of her people” with this she trailed to the elf, “and you Ilyrion, Spring Warden, Hunter of monsters, master of thorns.”
” and I am Madam Eva, I know why you have come, but I do not know why he has brought you here” her shaking voice trailed into the shadows, while mist curled around the windows of the wagon.
” The land of Barovia is cursed, and the devil Strahd is the source” at the mention of that name, the old gypsy’s voice grew strong and powerful as if a sense of fear brought on the requirement of extra efforts to concisely relay the information, or perhaps confidence welled inside her, confidence that her audience was now fully listening.
” no one enters or exits this land without his knowledge and consent, and why he sent for you for you I cannot fathom. However I sense, perhaps you could heal this place. My faith in the gods is little here, but the Morninglord does sometimes work his miracles.” Madam Eva looked down at her table, there, next to the candle, sat a round glass ball about the size of fist propped on four ornate claw like feet. Inside, mist swirled and vague shapes danced about. Von Hohenhiem, the man of faith, stared into that crystal ball. Inside the fog cleared, and the sky above a dark castle broke open, a blazing sun rose high in the sky, and the shadows of the castles high peaks dominated the small village below.
Zara, the drow, spoke up first, ” Who is the Devil Strahd? ”
” Strahd was a man, who’s luck was terrible, he now blames the people, and the land for his fate. He rules this land, but only in name, and through fear, if any of his subjects even knew who he truly was, they would leave this place at any cost”
“And you want to stop Strahd?” Zara asked
“Strahd, is not all bad” Eva said, as her voice trailed and her eyes gazed across through those dirty windows. “But he is lost, and his people suffer, he has brought you here, perhaps for his own enjoyment, or for other reasons that I do not know, but I can help you”
“You’re coming was foretold, long ago, in the vague prophecies of my people, perhaps we should look into you’re future?”
“Yes” Zara replied, clearly piqued at the offer, the others were just as interested.
Madam Eva reached into a chest that sat to her side, and removed a small velvet bag. From inside she produced a set of wooden, ornately carved cards she shuffled them in her hands for a moment, and set the stack on the table.
” one of you must shuffle them, go until they sit right in your hands” she said, as her eyes fixed deeply on Andareta. “you my child, take the cards”
Andareta reached out with inferno touched hands, and grasped the set of cards. They where surprisingly heavy, even though they were no larger then common cards. She shuffled them, and all five of them sat in near silence, while the wooden cards clanked together like a old loose door banging in the wind. After a short time, the teifling stopped, he cards simply sat right, like the final piece of a puzzle, it simply felt right.
Madam Eva knew, she did not even seem to register Andareta had stopped. “good, now place five cards, in a cross and we will begin to see your fates” There sat a small cross of five cards. An ornate picture of that crystal ball was carved into the back of each card.
Madam Eva reached across the small table, and flipped the first card, “This card will tell of history, knowledge of the ancient will help you better your enemy” her voice took on a sinster quality as a picture of mad man, screaming whist he sat shackled. Behind him burned a structure with an impressive visage, burning wildly while smoke trailed into the distance. ” hmmm, the Anarchist” as Eva spoke, her eyes glassed over, and in that same mysteriously quiet voice she greeted them with ” I see walls of Bones, a chandelier of Bones, and a table of Bones – all that remains of enemies long forgotten.”
The trance she entered wavered a little, but only long enough to reveal the face of the next card. Carved into the wood was a wild women, dancing around the cauldron bellowing a mountain of smoke. “This card will tell of a powerful force of protection, a holy symbol of great hope, you must search for the crypt of a wizard ordinaire. His staff will be your key”
Again, as she set the card down, Eva returned briefly from whatever misty place she visited, but before long, she produced another card face, and another piece of the future. This card showed a lonely, worried women, who clutched her staff as shepherded her flock into the mist.”This is a card of power and strength, it tells of a weapon of vengeance; a sword of sunlight, to find it you must find the mother- she who gave birth to evil”
This time, Eva’s trance did not fade she swiftly moved to the next card, the bottom of the cross, as she revealed the saintly image of a women, her hair in buns, dressed in an ornate gown, light radiates behind her as if good followed her every step. “This card sheds light, it will show you the one to help you greatly in your battle against the darkness, and it is Evil’s bride whom you seek!”
Madam Eva’s voice rose as the last notes of the words left her throat, her hand quivered over the last card, the cross was almost complete it simple missed a center, a heart. “Your Enemy is a creature of Darkness! whose powers are far beyond mortality, this card tell us where you will find the monster!” her hands moved now quickest of all, The card’s face was grotesque dungeon scene, where chains hung from the ceiling, and only the small light that shown from behind cell bars offered any hope. “He lurks In a dark Hall of Bones, down deep in the pit of his castle”
There the five cards sat, a cross of confusion and mysticism, the Mad man Anarchist, the powerful Evoker, the lost Shepherd, and the naïve Innocent, at the center of it all the Donjon, the pit of bones. It created a sight that burned deep in the outsiders for a long time to come. While Madam Eva sat sunken down, warn from peering into what will be.