My dungeons and dragons group began a new campaign a couple weeks ago. I thought I’d share the tale with you. We’re following the storyline of “Dungeons and Dragons; The Curse of Strahd.”
A dead scent trails through the luscious forest. With it, I feel the faintest of a chill that conflicts with the noon day sun. I’m on the right track. My prey is only a couple hours ahead of me.
My name is Mwezi Hu and I hunt vampires.
I’ve been tailing this one for the past few days. A village I arrived in was having issues with mysterious disappearances. When I inquired about, I realized they had a vampire problem. A small nest was budding in a nearby cave. I took out the thralls and vampire fletchings with no issues, but the ancient that led the nest got away. The coward.
I wish I recognized this ancient’s scent. You see, my pack was slaughtered by vampires. I survived solely at the sacrifice of my forebear. I remember the scent of every one of those bloodsuckers that killed my pack. Someday I’ll get my revenge.
For now, I settle for any vampire. Those walking corpses are curses upon society. The coward I’m chasing probably hoped to become a lord someday when he started the nest by the village. I’m glad I dashed his dreams.
As I continue into the woods, a fog rolls steadily at my feet. That’s odd. It’s the middle of the day and there aren’t any lakes or streams nearby that would harbor fog. I still have the vampire’s scent though, and it looks like he scraped his claws on that tree. I keep going.
The fog slowly thickens and soon I can’t see five inches in front of my face. I growl as the vampire’s scent slips away from me. I won’t find his tracks if this keeps up. I turn to my pack and riffle through it for my compass, but a flash of scarlet catches my eye. I forgot I had that. When I woke up this morning, this scarlet letter was resting at the edge of my camp. It’s addressed to me. Some sort of invitation to some castle event thing. I almost tossed it out. I don’t have time for castles. It doesn’t matter if my reputation as a vampire hunter has made me famous or not. I don’t attend parties. The name on the letter that keeps me from throwing it away, though. Some guy named Strahd. There’s something about that name.
I keep going through the fog. I keep hands outstretched so I don’t run into trees, but the trees that surrounded me seemed to have disappeared. I can’t find one no matter how many steps I take. Not to mention, the grass beneath me has shifted to gravel. I know I wasn’t near any roads, so where did…? The hairs on my skin stand on end. This fog is more unnatural than I thought.
The crunching of rocks catches my attention. I draw my morning star. Perhaps that cowardly vampire isn’t as much of a coward as I thought? If he’s trying to ambush me, I’ll give him what for. There’s more crunching. Footsteps. Multiple from the sound of it. I close my eyes and breath deeply. Something out there has the scent of smoke to it. Another smells of scales. The last smells humanoid.
“Hold it!” A skinny tiefling summons a magic sword in hand the moment he spots me in the fog. I squint at him, morning star at the ready. This devil-horned humanoid is the one that smells like smoke and the dragonborn–lizard person–beside him is the one smelling of scales. Her hand goes to the javelin on her back. She has a barbarian’s build and I’m not ready to provoke the rage in her eyes.
“Where did you two come from?” I demand sharply.
“Us?” The dragonborn huffs. “We were just walking. Where’d you come from?”
“I was hunting.” I watch these two’s mouths as I talk to them. They both have the sharp teeth of their races. No extra long canines and, judging by their smell, they’re not vampires. I lower my morning star. “I was following my prey through the woods. Though I seem to have lost the woods when this fog rolled in.”
“Us too.” The tiefling lowered his weapon as well. “The fog rolled in and here we are. My name is Vyke.” He motioned to the dragonborn. “This is Vayne.”
“Mwezi Hu.” I nod in a curt greeting.
Vyke dispells his weapon and moves his hands to his hips. “So…any idea why we’re all out here in this fog?”
When his hand brushed one of his belt pouches, I caught a flash of scarlet. “Wait.” I stepped forward and pointed. “What do you have there?”
Vyke raised his eyebrow. He opened his pouch and pulled out a scarlet letter. One that looks identical to the one in my bag. “You got that invitation too?”
Vyke nodded and Vayne revealed a scarlet letter of her own. “I did as well.”
The new voice causes the three of us to jump. To my right, a hand pokes out of the fog about waist high, a scarlet letter held within it. Vayne and I wave the fog away and a small halfling in a dark cloak is staring up at us. “Hi! I’m Bree Goodbarrel.”
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t unnerved. I scented this girl and yet I had no idea she was standing right next to me. “Hi…”
“Okay…” Vyke appeared a little unnerved as well. He glances at Vayne, then to me. “So, a tiefling, a halfling, a dragonborn, and a human all get invited to some Strahd’s castle.”
Vayne huffs. “That sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.”
“Yeah,” Vyke fumbles a frown. “But what’s the punchline?”
“Only one way to find out.” I point off. The fog was clearing that I could tell where the path continued. I looked at the others. “Up for it?”
Vyke and Vayne shrugged. “Better than staying here,” the dragonborn mutters.
“Let’s go!” Bree disappears into the fog once again. I rolled my eyes. Rogues.
We hypothesize why all of us got fancy invitations, but we don’t get very far. None of us know who this Strahd guy is. The fog clears further and we spot a structure in the distance. My first thought is the castle, but as we get closer, dread seeds my gut. It’s a manor of some sort and it’s not in good shape. The walls are black. Scars of a fire lace its frame. What shutters haven’t fallen off are banging in the growing wind. A couple of the supports have me questioning if a good storm won’t knock it over. A black forest of dead trees surrounds the house. When I was hunting my vampire it was the middle of the day. The others can can’t have been walking for thirty minutes and the sky holds the shades of night.
“This doesn’t feel right.” Vayne eyes the house and the surrounding woods. “Where are we?”
None of us get the chance to answer. Some sort of roar comes from the woods behind the house. Bree stiffens and draws two daggers. “What was that?”
“I don’t know.” A chill rattles my ribs. I’ve faced many creatures in my time. Hunted monsters and animals alike and I didn’t recognize that roar.
“I’m going to sneak around the side of the house.” Bree looks back at us. “Get an idea of its perimeter.”
Vyke shakes his head. “Splitting up isn’t a good idea.”
Another roar quiets our group. This time, it sounds like its coming from under the house. When Bree takes a step toward the house, the front doors open wide. I tighten my grip on my morning star. I can’t see anyone inside and strong wafting of rot assaults my nose. “Something doesn’t smell right in there.”
“Smell right?” Vyke gives me a strange look. I don’t blame him, though. He doesn’t understand why a human like myself has heightened senses and I’m not about to tell him. “There’s no point in sticking around here or scouting the back of the house,” Vyke continues. “We might as well just go in and figure out what’s going on.”
I agree with him. If we find someone, they might give us an explanation as to where we are and why we have these letters in our pockets. I don’t trust this house, but we have no better options. I keep my morning star in hand. Vyke summons his sword. Bree couples her daggers, and Vayne takes her javelin from her back.
Together, we go inside.
To Be Continued…