When running a new party, get around the question of plot density by having the first discovery to be a deck of fate, or whatever you call it. If you use a real deck, you should definitely stack it to have the desired outcome, which is to curse the party to attract weird things to happen and involve them. This should not be told to the players at the time, so that they won't just up and try to get themselves 'decursed'. Though quite why they would want to is beyond me.
A large river that is continuously covered in a thick layer of fog. There will be either a rope ferry to get across or possibly a boat that is rowed across by worshippers of the water elementals. It is very thick fog to the point where it even muffles voices even at close range and visibility even beyond a foot is almost impossible.