Everyone is the small crammed wagon sat quietly while the light of that one table candle flickered around. Shadows danced across the decorative and fringed pillows and cushions that lined the room. The thick silence was final broken when Zara finally found the question they were all looking for. “Where is Strahd? we’ve heard so much about him, but where is he from?”

It took a long time before the frail women at the other end of the small round table spoke. “He stays in the castle on the cliff, Far above the village of Barovia, where it cast a shadow of fear that stretches across this entire land” she paused for a moment, to inspect the four adventures across from her. She was a wise women, and knew no warning would spurn the four youngsters. “I would not advise it but if you seek the devil, Castle Ravenloft is where you should look, If you do seek him, check first in the town of Barovia, someone there may know more of what you yet seek”

She said that last word with a hint of exhaustion ” Please, I’ve done all I can for you now, and this has been a tiring exercise, whatever you do remember the prophecy or the devil will claim you”

Madam Eva shirked back into the mass of pillows behind her, and it almost seemed like the already dim light flickered into an even less luminous flame.

The visitors each shared a look, and Andareta was the first to take leave of the wagon. Outside the group was met with that same bright colored gypsy, his stripes and flairs were almost dizzying. However he was beginning to become a familiar sight his short brown hair topped with what looked like a squishy red hat, those sharp storm grey eyes and his his bare feet were becoming more welcoming every time these strangers saw him, soon they thought they might even discover his name. “See, I told you Madam Eva would answer your questions!” he said with a grin. Andantra give him a look of pure frustration, as she threw he hands up, “all she really did was give us more questions! well that and tell us about how were all going to die!” Von Hoheniem moved to consul her “Honey, It alright you heard her we should go to Barovia see what we can find there, the gods have not completely forsaken this place” It was always interesting to see these two lover quarrel, Zara and Ilaryon knew better then to interfere with the Teifling and her Paladin lover. “Ha!” the gypsy screamed out “You must be one of much faith, your kind do not last long here, the only true god we have is the devil, and he is far from merciful” Ilaryon saw the chance and took it, “Gypsy! your fortune teller told us of the town of Barovia but as we do not know this land we need a guide, will you bring there?” The gypsy replied in lock step as if he anticipated the question ” My name is Stanimir, not Gypsy, elf!” after this he stared a Ilaryon for a moment, “and yes I can bring you to Barovia, in the shadow of the castle, we can even take my wagon, if you are willing to pay… say 100 gold?” His jovial eyes and dancing bells almost turned sinister at this remark, and everyone could sense he truly meant business. ” It is dangerous to travel so close to the castle, who know what of the devil’s playthings are loose there?, besides I hear tell he visits a women of Barovia often” Zara was quick with her counter offer, a business women her self, he subordinate  Lia had been plying baubles I the camp since they arrived. “50 Gold” she spouted, “It may be dangerous but were are here to protect you” Stainmir raised his hand in objection, “This is not a game dark elf, it is 100 gold, or I do not guide you, any others here will offer the same price, we do not work for less then our skills are worth” The adventurers then searched through their respective coin pouches, Together they each held out in a circles 25 gold,

“We have enough” said Ilaryon, “But is it worth it?” Zara Replied, “Fuck it! we need a guide” Andareta retorted, ” but I’m not playing anymore then this” she continued. The entire group looked at Hoheniem, “No” he replied we can follow the roads, we’ll make it somewhere and somewhere has cheaper guides” The group broke from the huddle, “Stainmir, we will find Barovia on our own” said Andareta, she stood ready for a counter offer. “I see” the light haired gypsy replied, he reached into a pouch behind him and produced a small piece or parchment, folded into a simple square, “Guides are expensive, maps on the other hand are quite a bit cheaper, it will be much easier to navigate if you have this” “And I suppose that’s a 100 gold too?” Zara asked with a hint of sarcasm at the end.” Why no my dear, only 50 gold for the map, all the other adventures I’ve sold it too didn’t have a problem with the price” Stanimar replied, with a smile a smooth as think honey. Zara already had a reply ready at “Other adventures” ” used goods, Stanimir 25 gold, take it or leave it, we’ll get there either way” Stanmir looked away for a moment, and turned back, “for dead men walking you all sure are a pain, here 25 gold for the map, I hope you last longer then the last group and try to avoid getting blood on it” he sneered as he handed the map over and snatched a hand full of coins. As Stanimir walked away you could almost see the mist swirling around him, as if those wicked claws of night and fog were reaching out to grab him. The mist looked even more pale in the light of the full moon, this was their first night in this strange haunted land, but something told all for of them, that moon would be their only true companion every night.

(Photo Credit Pintrest)





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