While Moire collects her thoughts, Rictavio lunges in at Tegan's chiding words. "Not so, sir! Stories may rise or fall in magnitude by the telling, regardless of a humble origin. I don't know which of you, if any, has woven a tale in your time, but with a little work, one can draw epics out of grocery lists. Do not let him sway you, madame. Hold forth! If your recitation fails to dazzle, let me mull it over for a fortnight and see if we don't make of it a yarn for the ages."
"But you raise an interesting question," he says to Tegan, "when you ask who needs to be invited to stroll into a public house. I will tell you: Although the custom here is to say, the Devil this, the Devil that, these people are no demonologists versed in villains and vagaries of the lower planes. No, the 'Devil' is no fiend, but an undead lord, powerful, but subject to an awkward assortment of adverse constraints. The Barovians can spout any number of these supposed natural laws by which he must abide. In some cases, such as this strange inability to enter a place uninvited, they are apparently correct. In others, such as the notion that he will be frozen in obsessive torpor at the sight of a common broom until he counts its bristles, I suspect they traffic in fable. But who knows?"
The procession of guards and miscreants having disappeared down the street, a new group arises from the west: Two of Vallaki's guards walk before a large, empty ox-drawn cart. A sturdy, freckled young woman with a broad-brimmed hat holds the reigns.
"I have been known to draw a crowd at a hearth or two." mumbles Hircus, then speaking more clearly "Why don't we all take a seat inside and get out of the street. Ina, you can make your amends to the folks from last night while we swap tales, but we must be quick about it so we can get on our way. No offense Mr. Rictavio, but we don't have time for the long-winded version." Hircus turns and gestures toward the tavern.
"Intriguing," says Rictavio. "From what you say, I picture a man tongue-tied in intimate conversation, who requires an audience to expand."
Rictavio looks off in the direction he was headed, then back at Hircus. "Very well, you will have your interested audience at the inn, especially so, I expect, if we carry in the two eponymous escutcheons of your epode." He gestures at Moire and Tegan's shields. "However, if you prefer someplace indoors but more private, I know a place."
Pinching his brow Hircus slowly nods as he takes in Rictavio's flowery vocabulary. "You are correct, Mr. Rictavio. I suspect my military background is to thank for that particular character trait." Hircus looks around nervously then continues, "If you think it best that we find a more private location then we shall. Ina, do you still intend to make amends with the folks in the inn?"
"Very well," says Rictavio. "Follow me, across the street." He points with his cane, then strikes out in front of the ox-drawn cart, which is still a safe enough distance away. He leads you into one of the narrow mews on the south side of town, where people cover their faces and close windows as you pass. A pot of night soil is emptied with suspicious timing from on high as you pass one oddly-angled house, spattering noisily and noisomely in the muddy alley. "Charming, as always," comments your escort as he sidesteps the excreta.
As you pursue Rictavio's zigzag course through these tight, dirty alleys, Vandwandir mutters lazily and invisibly in Tegan's ear, "Apropos of nothing, I note that this is precisely the sort of environment in which a trusting guide might find himself knocked on the head and had his belongings given a thorough inventorying, just to see what he's really up to. Apropros of nothing, as I said."
After a few minutes meandering, you emerge at the rear door of a brightly-painted building that Hircus and Ina recognize as the odd toy shop you passed on your way to the Baron's manor yesterday evening. Ignoring the door knocker shaped like a gargoyle with its tongue sticking out, Rictavio draws a key from his vest pocket and unlocks the door, which creaks slightly as he opens it. "The toymaker is a friend," he offers by way of explanation. He steps in and holds the door for the rest of you. A sign above the frame reads, Floated but couldn't fly, wasted but wouldn't die.
Rictavio appears to have brought you to the toymaker's workroom, the most striking feature of which is a half-completed, life-sized doll of an auburn-haired woman. Only the head, torso and one arm are present. Straw juts out of the torso where legs and the other arm have yet to be fabricated. Shelves line the walls, full of thread, buttons, scraps of wood and cloth, paints and tools. Strange toys are propped up here and there: a painted crow's skull on a stick with a pull-cord hanging from its mouth, a merry-go-round with wolves instead of horses, a mobile with wooden bats, a miniature gallows. A closed door leads elsewhere in the building.
With a high-pitch chittering, a small monkey leaps from one of the shelves to land on Rictavio's shoulder. "Why hello, Piccolo!" says the half-elf. "Good morning to you too!" He turns to you. "I can't keep him at the inn, so he stays here with Mr. Blinsky."
"Now," says Rictavio, as he closes the rear door. "Here we are, none to spy on us. So, tell me this story of the two shields. I twist on tenterhooks. But we should keep our voices down. Blinsky is surely still asleep at this hour." His eyes sparkle in anticipation.
Ina glances up at the ceiling where this "Mr Blinsky" was likely sleeping, shrugging at her friends and then turning to the myriad toys around the place. When she sees the doll, she shudders a little and begins inspecting the other toys, avoiding the doll as much as she can. She spins the wooden bat mobile, the corner of her mouth twitching as the creatures seemingly dance.
"Before we begin this tale, I really must apologise for last night. It's been...difficult. I'm not sure what came over me."
"Oh, nonsense," chuckles Rictavio. "Never mind that. I have wiped it from my memory as if my brain were whisked out of my nose by some aberrant beast from the Underdark." Following Ina's lead in exploring the knickknacks, he picks up a colorful pinwheel with a crank. Rictavio gives it a turn and it produces sparks, along with an eerie groaning sound. He shakes his head in wonder and puts it back.
A few more minutes of uncomfortable small talk go by, with Rictavio commenting on the toys, on Piccolo, how strange this land of Barovia is. Finally, he has sunken to talking about the weather, when a sharp rapping sound comes from somewhere on the other side of the door connecting this workshop to the toy shop proper. The knocking repeats. It seems that someone out in the street is knocking on the front door of the building. You hear footsteps moving about over your heads, as the knocking repeats with greater force. "Blinsky!" says an angry voice muted by the two intervening doors, "come on, open up!" The distinctive voice is that of the Burgomaster's brutish man, Izek Strazni.
"Well," says Rictavio, "that would appear to be our cue to depart. I will not overstep Mister Blinsky's hospitality by standing in the way of business. Goodbye Piccolo. I'll see you tomorrow. This way friends. We'll have to conclude our confab at a consequent date. " He puts the chittering monkey on one of the shelves, then opens the back door and holds it for the rest of you. It sounds like someone just kicked the front door quite hard, as the footsteps upstairs scamper about with increased urgency.
Following Rictavio out the back door, Hircus only then realizes how foolish he must seem. Ritctavio was expecting, no, Rictavio deserves to know what happen to the other adventurers they found along the road to Vallaki. Seeing that he only has seconds, Hircus blurts in a hushed voice as they walk. "We found them dead, all of them. Slain by Torm knows what and being eaten by wolves. My honor balks only now because that day we feared for our lives on that road. Mr. Rictavio we took what we needed to survive. I am sure that you need no further explanation if you have spent even one day outside these city walls." With a curt nod, Hircus looks around to gain his bearings. "Which way?"
Rictavio nods and sighs. He is suddenly far more solemn than his previous demeanor. "I am relieved, to tell the truth. When I saw what you carried, I knew those three adventurers had met their end. My only fear was that it was by your hands, but I consider myself an unrivaled judge of character, and I believe you. And yes, I know what Barovia can drive good people to. I am not your father confessor here, just another sinner. I have done worse myself, and that was before I even came here, so how can I judge?"
"If you wish to know, their names were Tobar Kale, Dain Stormchaser and Inza. They came to Vallaki with that young woman from Barovia village, Sofiya, who waits for their return at the Bluewater Inn. If you do not object, I will break the sad news to her. Use these mementos of theirs with a clear conscience. I am told all travelers who are waylaid by the mists must sooner or later contend with the Lord of the Land. I hope you fare better than Tobar, Dain and Inza. You have seen how I cower at the inn, drink and tell tales. How long will that keep me safe, I wonder? After all, the wine is already gone."
"Well, this is where we part ways, for now. If you just go through that alley there, then turn right, you'll find yourself back at the main road through town soon enough. But before you go, let me do as I promised and give you my tale, in likewise abbreviated form:"
"While within Vallaki's walls, I keep respect for the local superstition and will not name the Lord who so bedevils this land. Ages ago, and I do mean ages, when he was but a man, he conquered this valley and built his home here."
Having said even just this much, Rictavio is already returning to his old animated self, warming to his subject as he continues.
"He was powerful and handsome. Men and women came from far to court him, each hoping to rule by his side. They bored him, every last one. But then he met a young woman, a native of Barovia. Her name was Tatyana. She was not one of those suitors who, salivating, sought to seduce the lord. She was kind, clever and beautiful. He was smitten at once. But oh, sad lord, she loved another: his very brother! Those two were to be wed, but on that day, the lord slew his own brother and drank of his blood, becoming a vampire. He chased Tatyana through the castle halls, until, in desperation and despair, she threw herself from a balcony and died. A curse descended on both lord and land, trapping all within."
"And as with all Barovian souls, that of poor Tatyana was trapped by the mists, doomed to rise again in a newborn body with each generation. What has the immortal Lord of the Land to do then but wait in his castle until he finds the latest incarnation of his lost Tatyana? Then he is a man obsessed once more. He hunts her, to make her his bride he things. But he knows, he must know, that she is ever fated to slip from his grasp, into death once more. This is his eternal torment, hers moreso, and all of ours as well."
"You tell an intriguing story, Rictavio, and it's one that tells us more than any story we've heard so far. It does beg the question; if this land is a curse, a prison for the man who made himself a monster...why are foreigners brought to Barovia? We're not the first and evidently this Lord of the Land delights in dealing with travelers sooner or later. Do you know what brings those like us here, and why?"
With Hircus and Ina at her side, the Paladin listens intently to any last explanation before smiling warmly at the man and reaching out to firmly shake his hand. "You've done us a kindness, sir, and that means even more in this land. Thank you. May Ilmater shelter you and give you the endurance you need to make your way in this life. I believe we have business elsewhere and we'd best get to it while we're still able to."
There's a grimness to her smile, as the Paladin realizes how strong this Lord is, how the land seems to be his ally as much as his prison, and how inevitable their eventual deaths may be. But smile she does. For if the outcome is nearly certain, she knows a greater truth. It's not your ending but your actions that define your life. And hers will be spent striving to the last.
You and Rictavio go your separate ways, with the sounds of some vague commotion coming from the toy shop behind you. As you part, the loquacious half-elf speaks of the land and how people come here."
"Ah, Moire, an astute question. While he waits for a whiff of his wayward Tatyana, the Lord does divert himself with drifters from distant domains. It is the Vistani—I believe Ina said you have met some of them—who often bring these newcomers to Barovia. Behind their cheery, carefree ways, they are notorious kidnappers and deceivers. They alone come and go as they please here, telling whatever tale it takes to play on the kindness, avarice or curiosity in their victim's heart. Oh, our kind lord is sick and only you can cure him. There is great treasure in Barovia, yours for the taking. Et cetera, Et cetera."
"But the mists themselves have their appetites too and may devour a traveler without warning. Who knows what their reasons are. And finally, some mad fools who know full well what waits in Barovia seek out the mists and walk through with eyes open: crusaders, heroes, lost souls and madmen." Ina picks up a passing wistfulness in Rictavio's voice as he speaks these last words before heading back into the twisted alleys of Vallaki.
It doesn't take long to reach the so-called Sunset Gate at the west end of the town. It's still early in the morning and soon after you pass the church, its bells ring out. This seems to be the cue for a greater portion of Vallaki's sleepy population to rouse themselves. More paper lanterns and other decorations are being put out along the main road.
The gate is open and the guards remind you, somewhat perfunctorily, to make sure you're back by day's end for the Festival of the Blazing Sun's grand promenade. The fire pit north of the Old Svalich Road is no longer attended; it merely smoulders.
Following Gunther's directions, you easily find the path about a quarter mile past the derelict shacks along the road. From there it's a short distance to the treeline, and you are soon reprising yesterday's travel, on yet another muddy trail marked by wagon ruts and horseshoes prints. The forest is dense to either side. Tegan and Vanwandir walk behind the rest of the group, chatting quietly back and forth to each other.
It's not long before the forest opens up again, and you are in a broad clearing, maybe five hundred feet across, with a neat hill rising thirty feet at its center. A large colorful tent caps the hilltop, with covered wagons huddled around it in a ring. You catch glimpses of several horses tethered in the space between the wagons and the great tent.
The base of the hill sports stranger habitations, for, despite this having been called a "camp" by everyone who has mentioned it, the houses built into the hillside appear quite old. They are simple, cozy-looking buildings with peaked roofs, but far from the type of temporary lean-to one would expect in a place where people live for a week, or even a season, at a time.
Three people in gray cloaks are in front of the nearest of the houses, which is about a hundred feet away. They stand with relaxed posture, facing each other, possibly in conversation. One of them turns and looks in your direction and nudges their companions. Their faces are obscured by the hoods of their cloaks, so all you can make out are a few wisps of black hair.
This scene is strangely familiar to Inawenys, tugging at a stray thread of memory.
Moire listens to Rictavio's parting soliloquy with rapt attention and a kind smile before giving him a friendly wave as the group finally moves off.
Once the companions reach the Sunset Gate, the Paladin glances at her friends and shakes her head slightly. "That wasn't much of answer, was it. If this is a cursed land, a curse meant for its Lord, why draw others in? Perhaps the Vistani are a means for doing so, perhaps these mists are but neither give us a why. Hopefully we'll have an opportunity to look for an answer. I have a feeling our lives may depend on it. Unless you have some further enlightenment to offer, Vanwandir?
The ex-pirate turns at the sounds of the church bells and slows to a stop for perhaps three beats of the heart before picking up her pace once more. A wistfulness for what's been lost and may never be regained fills her with a brief, sudden melancholy. Even the reminder of a Festival isn't enough to lift her spirits. Thankfully, the road does. As they put the town behind them, Moire settles into a good traveler's pace and stretches the uncomfortable night's sleep out from her stiff body. By the time they reach the clearing with its hill and tents, she's limber of body and of mind.
"Fortunate meeting!" she calls out as her group approaches the three cloaked figures. Hooded as they are, they don't present the most welcome of invitations but then she and hers hadn't been invited and no doubt they weren't expecting visitors. "We're travelers looking for stories and it's said there are none better to be found than here. May we trouble your morning briefly, to see if we've arrived where we meant to?"
The Paladin doesn't cut the shiny, sparkling figure she once did in her gleaming mail. But there's a warmth and friendliness in her eyes, and if these figures enjoy the looks of a comely woman, they certainly will find nothing to object to in this approaching stranger.
Entering the clearing Hircus notes the wagon circle atop the hill protecting the tent. He can only see this for what it is. He sees a fortress. Who would position themselves on the top of a hill for all to see? An enemy could easily surround this place cutting off any chance for escape. Hircus grits his teeth into a smile and nods along with Moire's greeting as they approach. In a hushed voice so that only Moire can hear Hircus says, "Careful Moire, by the looks of this camp these folks are not looking to receive guests, but to repel enemies." Hircus continues his smile and attempts to mimic Moire's ease.
Apparently startled by Moire's question, Vandwandir—he's now visible as a bat once more—looks up from where he was just whispering into Tegan's ear. "What's that Loopanom? Something about how our prison operates, who are the jailers, what do they want from us? I've never been much for the what and why of things. Leave that to the sages I say. Rather, I try to concentrate on practical solutions. For instance, Cor lo Tatzi and I were just discussing what Deadbeat Gargoyle said back in that maudlin hamlet, that bit about the Powdered Lover and his lost paramour. If Sachramenadies does think this individual, in her current incarnation, currently resides at that inn, well, might not she?"
"I know I've been a strong advocate of presenting ourselves directly to the Powdered Lover, but now we have this new information, about someone he wants to ... acquire, in a place he cannot enter, but we can. I just don't know. Wasn't somebody asking me just this morning about what sort of a gift Sachramenadies might hold in high esteen? I'm not suggesting one course of action or another, but it does seem like something to our advantage could be pieced together out of all of this. Don't you think? Just something to think on." His little eyes gleam in the dull morning light.
The three people outside the nearest hut stand ready as Moire crosses the clearing. Yes, they definitely have weapons under their cloaks. Closer now, it's clear that these are not Luca, Lala and Cappi's people at all. Besides their drab clothing, the faces within the cowls belong to three elven men of late middle age* or older. But their skin is darker than the elves you have known, ashy and gray.
The closest man takes a step forward to meet you, but then one of the others stops him and advances himself instead. He pulls back his hood, revealing long black hair. He is the eldest of the three. Surprisingly, the characteristically long, angular lobes one would expect to see piercing even such a full mane of elf hair are completely absent. His ears must be malformed or have been mutilated at some point in his long life.
The elder elf's pale gray eyes gaze past Moire, Hircus and Tegan as if they are not even there, but come to rest on the young elven woman behind them. His mouth hangs open in wonder, and there is a tear in his eye as he says, "Inawenys, can that really be you, my pale sister? But, you have not aged a day. How is this ..." He seems at a loss for a moment, then says, "Quickly, you must come inside!" He motions towards the hut, but looks warily up at the large colorful tent. "Come, inside," echo his companions, to all of you.
Ina's curiosity piques at the somewhat familiar sight of the clearing, another half-remembered smell on the breeze. When it becomes apparent that the figures aren't Luca and his friends, Ina feels awash with a mixture of emotion - relief (perhaps someone less...troublesome than that other lot?), wonder (ha, these are the 'real' elves, then?), horror (but...his ears...?). And then he speaks her name. Such a simple thing, but elves lived for so long...perhaps answers were within reach? Her heart thumps in her ears as she steps towards the tent, forgetting herself, her very human friends. She turns to them, questions half-formed.
Seeing their reactions to In, Moire pauses in the midst of exchanging a knowing nod with Hircus. She'd agreed with his assessment, right until the man named their companion. Despite some residual paranoia, Moire was rather certain they hadn't been anywhere in this land long enough for Ina's name to have circulated. And given her own memories of...remembering things she couldn't possibly remember, it was entirely possible this was as honest as it appeared.
With Ina already moving forward, Moire pats Hircus on the shoulder while her other hand drifts down towards her belt. No reason to be uncivil...but no reason to be unprepared either.
With that, she follows the suggestion of the speaker and heads inside after Ina.
Hircus nods at Moire's pat on his shoulder as he narrows his eyes toward the crest of the hill. What has this elf so concerned? He motions for Tegan to enter before him, and as the fighter passes he quietly says, "What did I tell you? A lost wanderer should wander if he intends to discover anything useful." With a wide smile, he gives Tegan a nod then lets his gaze drift to the fighter's shoulder. "Thank Torm for setting us on this path this morn."
Though Hircus' suggestion is intended for Vanwandir's ears, the tiny familiar is nowhere to be seen. He's either made himself again, or is hiding somewhere in Tegan's belongings. Tegan, however, catches Hircus' meaning and, nodding, says, "Yes, always one of my favorite sayings," as he appears to brush something off his shoulder. He grins and winks at Hircus.
The front door of the house opens into a vestibule of sorts, with a heavy curtain drawn across its width. Putting a hand on Ina's shoulder, the older elf draws the curtain aside and ushers her into the main room, with Hircus, Moire and Tegan close behind. The two middle-aged elves enter last and shut the front door behind.
The house extends beneath the hill a good deal more than was evident from outside; There are no windows in the sitting room, but candles and a low fire in the hearth provide light. The place is well-packed with worn but comfortable-looking furniture, wall hangings, rugs, small portraits of elves and humans, shelves lined with all manner of keepsake and trinket. The smell of cedar masks a faint damp, musty odor.
"I cannot believe it's really you," your host says again, stopping to turn and face Ina. "We had heard you were lost to us." He reaches out to embrace her, but then stops when he sees that her eyes are frozen in a distant stare, and she is wavering in place. He grasps her by the shoulders and puts his face close to hers. "Inawenys, what is it? It's me, Kasimir!"
This room is overwhelmingly familiar to Ina, although many, many details have changed—pictures and trinkets added, moved, gone. The furniture is the same, though with a century or two of additional wear.
She vividly sees the house as it once was, herself sitting in one of the big chairs near the fireplace, sipping a sweet, mouth-numbing tea made from cloves. Kasimir is seated across from her. The two of them are speaking in the Vistani language—he has been teaching it to her. He is much younger, a middle-aged elf himself. His long dark hair is back over his shoulders, exposing the scars where the tips of his ears have been cut off.
They have been discussing Vistani words for different animals and monsters, when Kasimir gets up, pours himself another cup of tea and changes the subject.
"I wonder, little sister, have you thought any more on what I told you about the Temple? I know it is a bitter pill to have been tricked to Barovia with promises of riches to plunder. But while there may be no way home for you, there are treasures here still, and worth more than gold. By all means, use that old abbey in Krezk to get your hands and feet back in practice—bring me back a trinket for my collections. But when you are ready, let's talk about the Temple again. That is the place, I think, where we will find the real treasures, and many secrets too."
"Now," he says, sitting down again,"let's discuss these Vistani words for the parts of an ox."
To the eyes of Moire, Hircus and the others in the room, Ina is lost in a daydream, unresponsive. "What is wrong with her? Can you help her?" the aged elf asks them.
Moire takes in the much more expansive home with only a slight widening of the eyes. Given how on edge Barovia has made her, it's a wonder she's not expecting to be ambushed immediately. But the state of the place impresses itself upon her and she relaxes. This is the wear of care and the ages, not the erosion of neglect.
The elf's embrace of her friend brings a smile to the Paladin's face. Her reflexive envy is small, barely noticeable. Luskan would still welcome you, if you still put loyalty and family over foolishness of the Gods. The voice of her doubt, the old piratical side of her still persists but it's an expected irritation, one she's so used to now that the sight of the elven reunion brushes such personal considerations aside.
At last until Kasimir shows concern and Moire notices the state her friend is in. Bad timing. With a grimace, the Paladin steps forward and slips a supporting arm around Ina's shoulders before guiding her elven friend to a seat. "Give her time," she asks in a soft, kindly voice. "We've only recently...returned I suppose is the word and it's not been a return without consequence. If you and your kin would sit with us, we'll tell you what we can. Ina will come to her senses on her own. She just needs a little time."
Hircus keeps a close eye on the elves as they enter through the curtain. Now that Hircus is feeling a bit more at ease with these new Barovians he begins to notice the state that Ina is in. The elf must have noticed as well. "What is wrong with her?" asks Hircus a bit indignantly as the question lands on his ears more like an accusation than a plea. "I am a healer of the flesh, not the mind. This place, this land the very air we breathe. That is what is wrong with her my new friend." Hircus gives a quick shake of his head in irritation. "This land, Barovia, it is like a dark dream from which we can not wake. We traveled to you seeking answers, not questions. We were brought here just yesterday even though you seem to have lost Ina years ago. This state she is in is not uncommon to us in just the first day we have been here, but you seem to be baffled by her predicament." Hircus ends his rant and lowers his head whispering a short Tormish prayer to calm himself.
"I am sorry. You must understand it has been a trying two days for us." Hircus rests a hand on the back of a chair. "I mean you no disrespect. Ina will recover. These spells come and go but have so far not left any of us in a permanent stupor. Just give her a moment."
"Yes, I understand," the aged elf says to Hircus. "Our valley, once beautiful, has been steeped in waking nightmare for centuries. I am sorry, truly sorry, the mists have claimed you. Here, we shall help Inawenys down." He wraps his arms around her and lowers her gently to the floor. "I am Kasimir, by the way," he says, looking up from the floor beside Ina, "an old, old friend of hers. You three, you say you came through the mists just yesterday? Where did you meet her? Nobody leaves Barovia but the Vistani. But if she has been at large in Barovia all this time, she should have come to see me sooner. No, something unusual is afoot, unusual even by Barovian standards."
As for Tegan, he seems a bit distracted by the trinkets that fill the shelves around the room. He sucks his teeth, then says, "Some fresh air will do her good. I'll crack the door," and goes back to the vestibule. One of Kasimir's younger companions watches him as he does. The front door creaks open and a draft of cool air comes in through the parted dividing curtains.
Just a few minutes have passed when Ina comes to, stretched out on the rug with Kasimir beside her. "There you are," he says. "Wherever did you go?"
Ina raises a finger to her lips, the feeling returned to them. She sits up, hand twisting up to her chest before she holds it in her lap. "Oxen..." she mumbles, "You were teaching me Vistani...how long ago was that?" she looks in sad wonder around the room, a slight blush on her cheeks as she sees people looking at her, "Ah, I was remembering," she looks to Kasimir, searching his expression, "I'm sorry, we only recently arrived, as it were. We're trying to piece things together. You're the first person who knows any of us."
Hircus helps Kasimir lower Ina to the floor then stands upright. "Kasimir, I am Hircus Hornbrow. I am a cleric walking the path of Torm." Hircus holds his palm to his chest and gives a nod. "We have come to speak with the Vistani, but we have found you instead. Now, you say that you know Ina, but she clearly was not aware of your existence here. Well, until now. How do you explain this? How is it you thought she was lost to you"
She's been reluctant to speak to this point, reluctant to probe too closely into impossible memories. Into the impossible reality that she's privately ignored; that they are friends and yet when they woke a few days ago in that field, it may have been the first time they'd ever met. Moire tends to be more introspective than she feels is good for her, so she avoids contradictions that can't be directly faced and resolved. Nonetheless, the time may have come to try.
"It's more than that, my friend," the Paladin says to the Cleric of Torm and she reaches out, patting him affectionately on the arm. "And we, all four of us, know that. We woke...somewhere," Moire says, turning back to the elf. "Together. And though we knew each other, see each other as friends and treasured companions, I don't remember how we first met. How we got to know each other. I doubt they do either. We remember the lands we came from, well outside of Barovia. And we remember..."
Moire's brows furrow and she sighs, finally admitting it. "Impossible things. Bits and pieces, prompted when we come across certain objects, certain people or places. I seem to remember this place from years ago, more years than I've lived, generations possibly. And I don't know how but something tells me that we perished here, long ago, only to be brought back a few days and brought together for a purpose."
"Have you any guesses on whose purpose or what that purpose might be?" The last words are directed towards the strangers in the room and, though Moire's smile is still present, there's a steel-like quality to her voice, projecting a Paladin's force of will. She is a force of righteousness and goodly people will answer, while the wicked cower.