Lost in the Mists
The Endless Road
Much to the disappointment of our players and the poor souls of Miredus, the kingdom had not returned to the plains of Jura with Vosk’s death. With the barrier of the King’s Blade gone, an endlessly tall wall of thick mist now encircled the land. While they were not home, they had been freed from Vosk’s brutal rule.
But what to do next? Goodman had found a journal containing Vosk’s notes. These notes were appropriately dreary, but offered some insight into the domains of the Mists. It appeared that the first domain was a land called Barovia, and all other domains seemed to branch off of this central dark kingdom. Lucas told his tale of escaping Barvoia and it’s Dark Lord: Strahd. Goodman mused that perhaps this Strahd was The Fallen that they would have to face. With little other options, the party decided to leave Miredus to find new answers. With solemn goodbyes, our players ventured into the Mists.
They were quickly lost within the magical fog, but tied themselves together to stay close to each other. But the mist was home to more than simple disorientation. The party was quickly beset upon by strange creatures made of the mist itself. They attacked with wispy claws and haunting mental attacks, actively trying to drag our heroes deeper into the mists. It was a difficult fight, but the heroes were able to defeat these creatures and send them back into the mist.
Where these creatures simple predators hiding in the fog or the true denizens of the Mists? Our heroes were uncertain.
The party now found themselves on the other side of the misty barrier, and in a land much different than Miredus. Miredian steeps were replaced with rolling hills with scrubland. The sky was unfamiliar. And the only man-made feature was a highway that stretched out to the horizon. With little other choice, they set off on the road.
After hours of travel, the players happened upon a grisly sight. Three bodies laid discarded on the side of the great road. Dishearteningly, the three corpses were obviously of a small family. Their clothes were very different than anything the players had seen and they found a map of an unknown land. These poor souls were obviously traveling to some distant place when they were cut down. And most unsettlingly, all three were missing their heads. Goodman deduced that all three were decapitated by a heavy but sharp blade, and their bodies rested exactly where they had fallen.
Our heroes contemplated on what could have brought such a grim fate to the poor travelers while walking on the road. They did not have to contemplate for very long. As they spied a small village at the edge of river, they saw a dark horseman. He was clad in black armor and rode a mutated black stag. The rider held a terrible sickle in one hand and was missing his own head! To make up for this loss, dozens of ghostly heads were wreathed around the rider.
The players wisely realized that this was a fight they could not win at the moment and chose to run for the safety of the running water. In a thrilling race, the players made it across the bridge just before the horseman could cut Garret down. The rider was repelled by the river as well as Goodman’s prayers, and dissipated into shadow.
Having escaped this ghost, the party ventured into a nearby inn. There they met an inn-keep named Jerek. They had reached the town of Havensguard, built on the banks of a river to offer protection against the Horseman.
Jerek told a grim tale. Long ago, there was a town called Tranquility that was a stop along an ancient highway to a massive kingdom called Behlem. Tranquility was a small but prosperous town, but one day they were attacked by a massive beast. The stories varied as to the beast’s origin, but the most common tales stated the beast was a hydra. Being powerless to stop the hydra, the people of Tranquility pleaded for help. Their prayers were answered in the form of a grand warrior whose name had been forgotten. He is remembered only as “the Horseman”.
The Horseman and his company hunted the beast and destroyed it. The town of Tranquility was saved. But a new threat emerged. The Horseman turned out have a heart as black as the stallion he rode and he took what he wanted from the town as payment. He even forced himself on the mayor’s daughter. After that, the people had enough and overpowered the Horseman. They executed him on the town green.
Jerek said that after this happened, there was a change in Tranquility. Many people went missing and the road that once led to Behlem no longer went there. And, a month later, The Horseman returned. Now some kind of spectral berserker, the Horseman rode the highway killing any in his path. No one had been able to permanently destroy the Horseman, and hundreds of people had been killed on the road. The spirit seemed bound to the road in some way and could not venture much beyond the road. Running water and holy symbols could repel the rider as well.
It appeared that “The Road”, as it was called, was a Domain. Travelers from other parts of Ravenloft, and other places beyond, could be caught up and find themselves on the Road. These travelers often did not make it far before the Horseman ran them down. Some of the survivors had banded together in small communities along the Road. Jerek said that Havensguard was once such place and the citizens were trapped in town, for to venture too far beyond could invite the Horseman’s rather. Jerek did state that a town calling itself Tranquility existed on the Road. Perhaps more answers could be found there.
Hoping to glean an answer to this mystery, the party set out the next morning to travel to Tranquility. The Road stretched out away from Havensguard and the players were quickly out of sight of their recent refuge.
As the crested a hill, they spied a small but dense town on the western side of the road. This was the town of Tranquility that they had heard about. Enclosed by a black iron fence adorned with holy symbols of forgotten gods, the town appeared safe from the Horseman’s nightly rampages. Outside of the town and enclosed in its own large fence was a manor. On north of the town was a large graveyard, much too large a place for such a small town and to the west was a lush but ominous forest.
Entering the town was easy and the heroes were warmly welcomed once they announced that they planned to put the Horseman to rest. The townsfolk darkly referenced that the graveyard was so full due to the countless victims that the Horseman claimed and it was the citizenry’s solemn duty to bury the dead every morning. The heroes began investigating the legend and discovered some peculiar things. They learned that the event of the Horseman’s death occurred four decades before, but everyone seemed to think that only ten years had passed. Through this time, Tranquility was led by Mayor Eli van Hessen, and his daughter was the young thing who was so harmed by the dreaded Horseman all those years ago. Also, the heroes learned that the populace was very pleased by the Horseman’s arrival and wanted to elect him as the new mayor; the knight’s dark deeds quickly soured their admiration.
Our players then decided to seek the Mayor for more information. After traveling to the Van Hessen estate, they party was greeted by another large fence and guards posted at the gate. They asked for an audience with the Mayor, and were initially rebuked. Eli van Hessen eventually arrived but declined to let them onto the grounds citing his daughter’s growing illness. The party saw that Van Hessen could not possibly be old enough to be the same mayor from the story, but insisted that he was. Goodman was able to convince the Mayor that his clerical powers could be of some assistance. He alone was allowed passed the gate.
The manor house was elegant but falling to decay, likely due to lack of formal use. Eli led Goodman to the overgrown garden courtyard. The mayor’s daughter Talitha awaited her father sitting beside a large, exquisite rose of bright crimson. She was distant and weak, but allowed Goodman to attempt to remove her affliction. The Morning Lord’s power was able to temporailiy remove the sickness, but it appeared to be a magical curse and would not simply fade. The mayor was happy for even a passing relief for his daughter and welcomed the party to dinner the following night. The party left the manor with many questions, and vowed to explore the graveyard.
That night they were awakened by the scream of the Horseman’s latest victim. In the morning the players took on the somber duty of burying the poor girl. After meeting with a mysterious groundskeeper, our heroes buried the girl and followed the groundskeeper’s directions to the Horseman’s grave. They unearthed the grave and found the man’s skeleton. Predictably, the classic methods of putting the spirit to rest would be prevented here as the head was missing. Saima also noticed that the ribs of the chest had been pulled open and they deduced that the Horseman’s heart was likely taken as well as his head. Regardless if the Horseman was the Dark Lord of the Road or just a vengeful ghost, without these items, there would be no way to put the creature to rest.
Within moments of this discovery, the party was attacked by a pack of ghouls and a golem made out of the grave dirt! These vile creatures were hungry for the flesh of the living, but the party was able to defeat them all. The groundskeeper had warned them to “beware the Reeve”; they party did not heed this warning and ventured into a large mausoleum in the cemetery.
Inside they found a stairway to a darkened basement court. The hall was filled with zombies and ghouls and at the dais their “king” identified itself as the “White Reeve”. The terrible wight acknowledged that it knew the truth about the Horseman and the location of his missing appendages, but he would not give this information willingly. Instead, he wanted the heroes to serve him as undead warriors! The party would have none of this and launched to attack the dreaded White Reeve.
The heroes of Miredus faced the wight and his ghoul minions. Goodman summoned the blistering light of the Morning Lord and destroyed many of the undead quickly. The Reeve and his skull lord creation lasted longer, but even they fell to the power of our heroes. The White Reeve pleaded for mercy, offering information about the Horseman in exchange for its continued existence. Begrudgingly, the party agreed.
The Reeve all but confirmed their assumptions. The Horseman had answered the call of Tranquility to slay the foul hydra and did so heroically. Afterwards, his company left but he stayed because he had fallen in love with the mayor’s daughter Talitha. The Reeve told the party that the couple would meet in the graveyard and profess their dedication to each other, with the Horseman swearing that he would protect her and the town for as long as he lived.
It was clear what happened next.
Mayor Van Hessen was threatened by the Horseman’s popularity and knew he would lose his position. So he forced his daughter to say that the town’s savior had brutalized her. The townsfolk were so betrayed by this that they lopped off his head that next day. The Reeve noted that some time later, Talitha returned to the Horseman’s unmarked grave and took his heart.
As for the Horseman’s head, the Reeve confessed to taking the skull with the plan to raise the defeated hydra as a foul servant. The wight successfully reanimated the beast, but lost control of it. The ghostly wyrm still lurked in the forest, guarding the Horseman’s head. The party forced the Reeve to take them to the hydra’s fen. Once this task was complete, they freed the wight and warned him to never cross their paths again. Our wise heroes knew that the Reeve would return at some point.
The party entered the fen and were immediately attacked by the spectral hydra. The beast was powerful, but the party worked together to defeat the creature. After removing the multiple serpentine heads, they used the Morning Lord’s light to sear closed stumps. With the hydra’s destruction, the party uncovered the clean skull of the Horseman. Now they simply needed the heart.
Our players left the forest and raced across the Road to Tranquility. They went to the Mayor’s house for a late dinner. Welcomed into the dusty manor, the party began their meal with the Mayor and his daughter. Lucas slipped away discreetly and was able to sneak into the garden where he uncovered the Horseman’s heart underneath the crimson rose. With this item, the party finished dinner and left for the evening.
They immediately returned to the graveyard and returned the Horseman’s heart and skull to the grave. Goodman concentrated the soil and the party placed a makeshift marker for the slain hero. They then went to the Road to confront the Horseman’s wrathful spirit. Though Goodman attempted to put the spirit to rest without violence, the shade was too far removed from the valorous knight it had been to respond to reason. The party then faced the Horseman and the insane ghosts of his victims on the desolate road outside of Tranquility. With justice on their side, our heroes brought the Horseman to his final rest.
But their task was not yet completed. The party returned to the manor house and confronted the Mayor about his crimes. When faced with the strength of our players, the Mayor yielded and offered to leave Tranquility forever. He was allowed to, and his daughter opted to stay in Tranquility. Eli van Hessen then left the village immediately, a broken and defeated man.
The party vowed to remain in the town in order to see a new governing council elected. With the Horseman gone, the Road was safe and communication between Tranquility and Havensguard began. Even with this success, there was more sorrow. Within a few days, Talitha was found at the Horseman’s grave—-dead by her own hand. A sad fate indeed. The party saw to her burial next to her lost love.
The mysterious groundskeeper thanked the party for putting the Horseman to rest. He noted that the Mists hadn’t released the town just yet, for they still had to atone for their deeds as well.
Our heroes then set out onto the Road to discover what next the Mists had in store for them.