Two years ago, Edward Talbot, a Yorke lawyer known for defending less fortunate clients, received a letter from a mysterious client from the east. He left abruptly and did not divulge where he was going to his daughter Elizabeth but he promised to send her letters.
After six months, the letters stopped.
Then, a month ago, Elizabeth received a strange letter referencing things that never happened and places they never went. It didn’t take her long to find a code within the letter, which read “Barovia” and “Help”.
Over the next month, with the help of her father’s oldest friend and former adventuring companion Pennyworth Fandango, Elizabeth organized a journey to eastern Oceana to find the country of Barovia and save her father.
It was September 6th when Elizabeth and Pennyworth began to meet a small group of potential mercenaries, spellcasters and adventurers to accompany them on their journey. Few really stood out to them, apart from a wizard named George Milton and an Elf named Calos Undoloth, though Pennyworth wasn’t entirely thrilled with either of them.
On her way home from the first day of interviews, she was accosted by a pair of muggers. To her rescue came a strange man clad only in a bathrobe who swung down on a laundry line and helped her repel her attackers. He introduced himself as Varric Cawthon, “rock star, cosmopolitan and sex symbol”. They spoke briefly and parted ways, Elizabeth thinking the encounter quite strange.
The next day, they met another group of potential allies, including an ex-military officer named Alistair Thoreau, a witch hunter named Hans and a strange, schizophrenic tiefling warlock who went only by Duo. Varric, her strange savior from the day before, also came to ask about the job, which Elizabeth took as a sign.
It was a long debate between Elizabeth and Pennyworth regarding their party but, after some hours, they came to a conclusion: George Milton, Alistair, Hans, Calos, Duo and Varric would be the party to accompany her to Barovia.
The journey began quietly enough. Pennyworth saw them off at the docks, where he gave Elizabeth a mithral shirt and wished her well. They took a steam liner from Yorke, Cormyr to Antiva and then they took the Lightning Rail from there east, their destination being Albia in Eastern Oceana.
Elizabeth got to speak with some of her new companions, including Milton, whom she had a late-night drink with several days into their 10-day train journey. The conversation was casual but Elizabeth couldn’t help but feel there was more to him than there appeared when it was over.
Their last night on the train, Elizabeth was attacked by a strange assassin, who paralyzed her with strange magic. She was saved, though, by Duo and Alistair and discovered the other compartments had survived attacks of their own. They could not interrogate the lone surviving assassin, as he killed himself with a cyanide capsule in his teeth (Milton harvested the other teeth from the dead assassins). It was clear to them that someone did not want them to find Barovia, which strengthened their resolve to press on.
The Lightning Rail arrived at the small Albian village of Solca, with the intent of venturing into the mountains to find the village of Casselvania, where they hoped someone could direct them to Barovia, which did not appear on any maps. At the inn, Milton cast an Alarm spell on her room, warding it from harm.
During the night, Elizabeth heard a strange rapping on her window. Outside was a creature who appeared to be Pennyworth, but whose real form was that of a strange, demonic, misshapen owl. There were two and while one was killed by Calos’ longbow, the other escaped. Milton identified the creature as a Dretch; a shapeshifting minor demon. The party agreed to track and kill the other creature the next day, to save Solca from the demonic activity.
They ventured into the woods, a combination of Milton’s arcane know-how and Calos’ tracking skills, they found the rift where the Dretch had come through, killed the Dretch and then sealed the Rift.
Elated, the group began to travel back to Solca, a strange mist enveloped the party. Slowly, the forest began to change; the gnarled trees around them were not the trees they had been walking through earlier. They found a gravel road and the mist seemed to actively turn them around, not allowing them to leave the road.
The trees were almost suffocating and the muddy road was difficult. After some time, they came to a massive gate, flanked by massive headless statues. They opened on their own as they neared them. Waiting on the other side was a black carriage, out of which stepped a gaunt man, who bowed low.
“Welcome to Barovia,” he said, “We’ve been expecting you.”