A Light in Darkness
Traveling the Dread Realms
Journeying from one domain of Ravenloft to another — and even within the bounds of a domain — can be a perilous and maddening undertaking. The Land of Mists has its share of physical dangers, including treacherous terrain and waters, inclement weather and wild predators. These hazards aside, overland travel often involves risks that are subtler, though just as hindering and frightening.
Travelers learn quickly that in the embrace of the Mists, time and distance can be meaningless. When surrounded by the roiling vapors, a dreadful numbing sensation settles over a traveler’s perceptions, a chill of the mind rather than the body. The passage of time is difficult to discern, and space seems to ebb and flow around the traveler. Without open sky or landmarks, navigation is essentially impossible. Modern magnetic compasses spin in sluggish circles or stand motionless. Many travelers emerge from the Mists as if from a nightmare, convinced they have be trekking through the vapors for mere minutes or many tedious months. Inevitably, their perceptions differ widely from reality; most journeys through the Mists take a few days, though almost any stretch of time is plausible.
For these reasons, travel between the Core, clusters and islands is problematic. Since the dawn of history, the Vistany have traditionally served as solemn guides for Mist travelers. The gypsies seem to understand the roiling mysteries of the Mists intuitively, and though the route they follow may be long and arduous, they usually bring their charges safely to their proper destination. Unfortunately, securing such reliable passage has a hefty price. Merely tracking down a Vistany caravan and then convincing the gypsies to consider one’s request are formidable tasks in themselves. The Vistani usually charge whatever they feel the traveler can afford, whether coin or valued possessions. Often they require their customer to complete an unfathomable and dangerous task in return for their services.
Other options do exist, however. As contact between various domains has improved, perceptive explorers and merchants have ascertained that travel through the Mists may be unpredictable, but it is far from random. Entering the Mists along a particular bearing in a particular domain leads to the same distant location… more often than not. The consistency of this strategy is less than perfect, however. These so called Mistways can lead hikers, caravans or vessels astray from their intended destination. For example, journeying due south from Hazlan and into the Mists usually takes a traveler to southeastern Pharazia. Occasionally, however, that same Mistway leads to eastern Vorostokov or northern Sri Raji. Particularly insidious Mistways ground seagoing vessels suddenly on dry land; one route strand ships that sail the Nocturnal Sea is Har’Akir’s sands. Although many Mistways function in both directions, some do not. Canny travelers never assume that reversing their route delivers them safely home. Despite these troublesome qualities, however, those who brave the Mists have begun to studiously table the Mistways, recording the domains they link as well as their reliability.
Even journeys through the open countryside of a domain have their own dilemmas. While distances that separate settlements or sites are normally stable, some travelers have found that the landscape plays with their minds in devilish fashion. A woodsman might discover that a journey that normally takes only a few hours, one that he has made dozens of times in the past, suddenly necessitates an arduous trek of a week or more. Such strangeness has a tendency to manifest at the worst possible moment, such as when ravenous horrors worry a traveler’s steps. Most folk believe that this phenomenon is a matter of perception, perhaps a fugue brought on by an encounter with the Mists. Surely, the land itself could not be changing beneath their feet?