(Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals and/ or their characters. Characters have feelings too!)
Tiefling Warlock - Tenebris Gado
Elf Rogue - Bethrynna Starshine
Elf Ranger - Leana Falynn
Elf Cleric - Celdribath Venveris
Leana Falynn was beginning to worry. The others should have joined her at the camp by now. She had just finished setting it all up by herself, and in this forceful growing blizzard that was no small feat, but even through the hard work she had been becoming more and more anxious over the state of her companions. With that thought, she tightened the tent flap and set out to go and find them. Even with the chaotic weather, she found her way back to the path where Tenebris Gado and Celdribath Venveris waited. Neither of them looked in good shape. The cleric was sitting huddled in a cloak in the middle of the path, so motionless that she feared she was already too late. Meanwhile, the warlock was pacing about and hitting the trees in frustration a little ways off the path, and glancing anxiously around as if at any moment something was about to attack him. When he saw her, Leana thought that he might attack her, but quickly the madness left his eyes to be replaced by a look of complete relief.
"The monsters are coming, we must go!" He said to her in a hushed but urgent whisper. "We must go now!"
His tone alone was enough to make Leana react instantly and not question it. She rushed over to Celdribath and confirmed he was still breathing. Then with the warlock's help, they got him on his feet and started off toward the camp. While she and Tenebris half carried the cleric, she asked them if they had seen Bethrynna, and why they had not come to the camp, but neither of them had seen her since the two women had gone scouting. That raw and anxious knot in her stomach tightened even more.
Bethrynna Starshine slashed at the mist, but to no avail. Nothing connected, nothing screamed in pain. Soon she could no longer even see the faint, obscured form at all. She stood there a moment, panting, furious, terrified. She fell to her knees in the thick snow, despair making her limbs feel heavy. But then something caught her eye. Bright red in the white. Blood! Did she wound it? She scrambled around, trying to find a source, or a trail, but the falling snow had already covered it. There! More! It took her a moment to realise that it was her blood, she hadn't even noticed the pain through the haze of adrenaline. She felt around her neck cautiously, and her fingers came away wet and sticky. There were deep gash wounds there, like claws. she tried to bind the wounds, the task giving her something to focus on, and the focus allowing her to clear her mind. Once she had bandaged herself, she stood and wiped the snow off of her knees and arms, and tried to make sense of where she was. She glanced around intensely for any sign, but there was no indication, she had no idea where she was. Wait! There, in the distance. More red, more blood? Did she come from there? No, looking behind her she could barely still see signs of her own tracks, but they were there. She did hit it! She ran forward, and quickly picked up the trail of blood. This 'thing' would not escape her again!
They were pretty close to the camp site when Leana saw something moving ahead. She paused and halted her companions as she tried to catch a better glimpse, but it was gone now. She was about to call out, expecting it must be Bethrynna, when the warlock silenced her, still fearful of the creature he believed he had seen. She was in two minds when she saw more movement. Had the thing doubled back? She readied her weapon and then called out anyway.
"Bethrynna, is that you?"
The trio waited in a hushed and nervous silence for a moment, and then they heard a faint voice respond, "Leana?" Releif filled the entire party as they regrouped, and made their way the last few metres to the campsite. Bethrynna asked if they had seen something go by, just before they had seen her, she had lost the trail of blood just prior to that and was just continuing in the same direction, and really wanted to pick up the trail again. Leana responded that she had thought she had seen something, but no it was probably just her that she had seen. As the group got to the camp, there was a flurry of activity as they tried to get some warmth back into their cleric, get a fire going, and let all of the group catch their breath. The rogue wanted to head out immediately to try to pick up the trail again, but Leana insisted that she needed her to help here. By the time they had gotten everything set up properly, the adrenaline had left Bethrynna and she was too exhausted to think of heading out into the cold again. As she drifted off into a restless sleep, she could swear that she heard a steady, wet, dripping sound on the tent outside. As her eyes went dark she imagined that she saw blood seeping though the tent's side.
The morning was bright and warm. The companions had a quick meal and then set about packing up camp to head out as quickly as possible and try to make up some lost time. All of them seemed refreshed, except for the rogue, who looked like she had gotten no sleep at all, and was looking even more nervous and twitchy than she had previously. Nevertheless she didn't argue or fight with them, and went about her job without complaining, even if she had a distant look in her eye, and sounded like she was whispering to herself at times. As they were about to set out, Leana saw her searching around in the snow where their tent had been set up. As she approached and asked if the rogue had lost something, Bethrynna quickly brushed down the snow and gruffly replied, "It's nothing."
The party made it back to the trail quickly and were making very good time during the morning. By mid day the wind was starting to pick up again, and when the trees were not too dense, they could see gathering clouds in the sky above. It looked like this night would be even worse than the previous one, so the group picked up their pace, hoping to reach the lodge before nightfall. They had been walking for about two more hours when Bethrynna stopped, staring off into the forest. Leana noticed they were leaving her behind so she called a halt to the rest of the group and called out to the rogue to hurry, but Bethrynna Starshine shook her head and instead pointed into the forest.
"There." Was all she said.
Leana walked back to her, becoming annoyed with these hallucinations now, and when she reached Bethrynna she was about to give her some stern words, but something caught her eye as well and she paused. It was hard to see, a ways through the brush and trees, but a clear streak of crimson on the snow. More blood. Leana started forward to investigate, but Bethrynna caught her arm. "Be careful!" Leana had never heard the rogue's voice tremble like that.
About twenty metres off the path there was the body of a man sitting against a tree. There was a vicious and ragged wound is his shoulder, as well as blood trails from his ears, and numerous lesser gashes on his arms and hands. There were also numerous tracks in the snow around the body, snow leopards by the look. While Leana studied the tracks, Bethrynna and Celdribath went over to get a better look at the body. The warlock waited, halfway between the body and the path, trying to keep watch of everywhere at once.
"Looks like he died of blood loss, probably been here a day or two. Bite marks maybe, looks too big for a cat though." Celdribath was studying the ears of the corpse with a look of confusion. "Looks like the eardrums were pierced by a tool though, a dagger maybe? What do you make of that?"
"I'd say there are about three or four leopards about, judging by these prints. They've been here very recently, we might have even scared them off," Leana was saying, while Tenebris glanced around more nervously.
"It's odd they didn't eat the body though, While these animals do prefer making their own kills, in this kind environment they often scavenge too. I'd guess they're even starving, judging from these tracks."
"We should move." Bethrynna said it as a statement, not urgent, not panicked, just matter of fact. She was staring at the corpse, a faraway look in her eyes.
Celdribath and Leana glanced at each other. Leana shrugged, but the cleric looked at the rogue in concern. He was about to say something to her when Leana said "Okay, move out." Quickly he patted down the man's body and came away with a dagger and a small pouch containing some coins, and then the cleric followed after the others, watching the rogue sympathetically but holding his tongue.
It was getting close to sunset when the party finally caught a glimpse of the hunting lodge up ahead. The meandering path had been climbing steadily for the last few hours, which had slowed their pace and led them to believe they wouldn't actually make it, but something inside them had spurred them all on to keep going and not spend another night in the open. As they crested a steep rise in the trail and saw the lodge ahead, relief flooded all of them, that they had made it, and the lodge was still standing. The was no welcoming sight of smoke from the building's chimney however, which was not a good sign. Cautiously the group approached the structure, watching for any signs of foul play and straining their ears for any warning of another presence in the area. When they were close to the entrance, they picked up a trail of footprints heading across, toward the nearest trees, but they looked obscured, and probably at least a day old. They decided it best to check out the cabin before night came, and not go wandering into the forest again.
Inside the building, the group paused in horror at the hideous sight before them. The main room was in a shambles. Broken furniture lay strewn around the floor, and a lot of it had been used to barricade all the windows. It was easy to see by a pile of wooden boards near the doorway that the door had also been barricaded in a similar way at some stage. There were also scorch marks around the fire pit in the centre of the room, and along many of the walls, as well as lots of dried blood, also splattered over the walls and floor. There was the rank smell of death in the air.
A quick glance around the room revealed a small door in the side of the opposite wall, near what was probably a kitchen area, before all the furniture had been broken apart. Across from the kitchen area, on the other side of the fire pit was a sleeping area, with a few beds stacked high with furs and blankets. There was no sign of any movement.
This time the cleric opted to stay guard at the door, watching the outside of the building and the nearby forest for any signs of life, while the rest of the party entered the lodge to search it more thoroughly. While the ranger went over to look at the burn and blood marks around the room, the warlock took a look around the fire pit, and the rogue moved to the other door, to see what lay beyond. Bethrynna opened the door cautiously, weapon at the ready, expecting to find some ravenous beast lurking within, but instead all she found was a small store room. It was cold in here, with dried meats hanging from the ceiling and various other food stuffs and supplies lining the walls, and a large pile of snow leopard skins on the floor in the centre of the room. She was turning to her companions to tell them that the room was clear, when there was a blur of movement as something leapt out of the pile of skins towards her. She barely managed to move, the attack was so sudden, that she didn't stop the thing from raking her arms with what felt like claws and sinking it's teeth into her shoulder. She pushed the thing away, expecting some sort of wild animal, but no, it was a man. The man wore the rugged clothes of a trapper, and was dressed in a similar fashion to the body they had found in the woods earlier. Although he had a dagger in his belt, he had scraped her arms with his fingernails, as if they were claws, and in fact they were quite long and sharp and they had drawn a lot of blood. His mouth was still red with her blood, a piece of her flesh held between his teeth and the red staining his long and messy beard. His eyes had a crazed look in them, and just before he launched himself in another attack, he cocked his head to the side, as if listening to a whisper. This time Bethrynna brought her dagger up and stabbed the man in his stomach as he fell upon her, but she too had been hearing the whispers still, and she felt her stomach knot as she saw this man likely had that same symptom. She assumed the body they had found had it too, and had stabbed at his own eardrums to try to stop the incessant noise in their minds. With the distraction, she didn't defend herself as well as she normally would have, and even though she had scored a solid hit on the wild man, his teeth found her flesh once more, this time ripping out a chunk of her throat. Her vision blurred, and she crumpled to the ground.
The cleric, ranger and warlock all heard the commotion and sprang to the rogue's aid, but Tenebris Gado was the closest, and he made it to the doorway in time to see Bethrynna drop. His eyes lit up with an ominous red glow as he muttered some words of power and pointed at the wild man. A beam of magical energy shout out from his fingers, hitting the crazed attacker square in the chest, and knocking him back, but it was not enough to render him unconscious, and he came forward again at superhuman like speed. Leana took a position beside the warlock and loosed an arrow into the attacker, but still he came towards them. The cleric seeing all this from the main doorway, also charged across to join the fray, but being more concerned for their downed companion than attacking, he instead pushed his way past his other companions, and then slid into the room, with his shield raised defensively over Bethrynna and himself. With so many foes, the wild man seemed confused about which one to attack, finally going after the rogue and cleric at his feet, but the pause in his momentum allowed Celdribath to easily defect the attack with his shield, and counter attack by sweeping the man off his feet. Lying prone and surprised on the ground, Leana finished him off with a well placed arrow between the eyes.
Quickly the cleric reached out and touched the rogue, magical healing washing over her body as he whispered a prayer to his god. Although her wounds were mostly healed by the magic, the trauma of the attack and the events leading up to it still affected her, so the others helped her to her feet and towards the beds in the main room, intending for her to lie down and rest a bit. But as they pulled back the furs on the first bed, they were in for yet another gruesome discovery. Dead hunters lay in the beds, bodies cut and broken with the signs of a hard battle, but more disturbing were the numerous bite marks all over the bodies. Human bite marks.
... End Part 2.
The final chapter coming soon.
Boardgame and graphic novel enthusiast. Marvel or DC? Image. Old-school gamer. Avid role-player. Kermit for president. I believe that werewolves will rule the world one day.
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