Below is part two in my series telling the story of a DnD game that took place on the plane of Innistrad from the Magic: The Gathering Universe. To read part one, please go here.
Jack listened closely to the woods and scanned as her brother guided the horses through the narrow paths of the woods. They had chosen to take the woods route rather than travel through the mountain pass. The creatures that dwelled in the woods were a familiar adversary, the blood suckers of the pass… less so.
“The sun is going down,” Jack said, still scanning the trees for any sign of life.
“I know,” Franz responded, he was all too aware of the nightmares that could befell these woods in the dark, but they needed to press on. There was no way they could make it to Thraben in time unless they moved at night.
The sun slowly slipped beyond the horizon and veil of darkness soon over took the forest road they traveled. Though each of them was fine warriors in their own right, no one, no matter how skilled, would be comfortable traversing the forest at night. It was not a brave act to do so, it was foolhardy. They moved as quietly as possible, Franz did his best to keep the horses in line. There was little he could do about the creaking of the wagon. It seemed even young Helena was aware of the monsters that stalked these woods, as she took every possible care to avoid her chains rattling. Jack could barely see, the moon provided some light, but it was hardly enough to make out a few feet into the trees. That would have to do, since she knew it was far too dangerous to light a torch. Just then she saw something in the distance, just up the road.
“Brother, look ahead, there is someone,” she paused, “thing on the road.”
Franz saw the ethereal light as well. There was no alternate path to turn down, he decided to wait for them to pass. Holding his finger to his lips he did his best to slow the carriage silently. In spite of his best efforts, the old carriage gave off the dullest of cracks. However, in the seemingly silent woods, it might as well have been a blacksmith’s hammer striking metal. The eerie light slowly changed direction, heading toward the carriage.
“Be ready for anything.” Franz Whispered to Jack. He then lifted a small piece of copper wire and lifted it to his lips. Jack had seen him do this before, and though it seemed like devilry, she knew her brother’s gifts must have been blessings from Avacyn.
“Do not be alarmed my lady.” Franz turned towards the back of the wagon “We have some company up here, keep an eye out for anything approaching from the rear. You can respond to this message.”
Britta was momentarily shocked as Franz’s voice whispered a message in her ear. For a moment she looked around, failing to find him she soon realized the arcane trickster had more secrets then she perhaps wanted to know. He was an inquisitor after all, they always seemed to walk the line between the light and the dark. She had sworn an oath though, so as long as he did not impede that, he was still her ally.
“Understood.” Britta whispered back, partially wondering if she was succumbing to madness.
Franz and Jack watched as three blue and white specters floated towards the carriage. Their darkness cloaked bodies gave off a faint light and their faces seemed to fade into a blue mist, never truly materializing to be recognized. The seemed to both be apparent in the darkness, while still shrouded by it. They moved ever closer and made no attempt to communicate.
“Wayward ones,” Franz tried to make his voice carry as little as possible while still maintaining an air of confidence. “Where are you traveling, we mean you no harm.”
Jack began to move for her dagger ever so slowly. Franz shot her a quick glance as to say, that will not be much use here. As his sister frustratingly ceased her movement, Franz got an idea. Pulling the copper wire back to his lips he pointed at the closes geist and whispered a message to it.
“You there, we mean you no harm, we are simply travelers who wish safe passage.”
“Travelers… yes… simple… no…” Franz was surprised to hear the voice in his ear, he had not expected that little trick to work.
“Well that is a matter of opinion, but we do not mean you harm and have no quarrel with you. We only wish to pass.” Franz continued. In all his years, he had never actually spoken to a spirit before.
“Perhaps you… can do… something for us…” The spirit responded, every few words seemed to linger, as if the wind itself was speaking.
“We can certainly try, but what could we possibly do for you?” Franz asked, the copper wire still held in front of his lips. The geist were no longer moving forward.
“We want… what you want…” The spirit mustered, “The blessed sleep…”
Franz thought quickly, how they could possibly help them with that. They were already disturbed, already wondering.
“Britta,” Franz spoke aloud, “I believe we have something more suited to your skill set then ours.”
Britta, confused, jumped down off her ledge and began to move around to the front of the carriage as she did, she whispered through the cloth covering the carriage.
“Be silent little one, no one need know you are here.”
She moved to the front of the carriage and managed to maintain her composer as she rounded the carriage to be face to chilling face with not one, but three geist.
“How can I be of service.” She said in a firm tone, speaking to the geist in front.
“The want the blessed sleep” Franz replied on their behalf.
Britta thought about this for a moment. It was her duty to ensure the people of Innistrad the blessed sleep. At least, as many as possible. How though, how could she put someone to rest, whose sleep had already been disturbed.
“Doesn’t Avacyn have any blessing you can perform?” Jack asked, never taking her eyes off the apparitions in front of her.
“You’re a genius Jack!” Britta grasped the pendant of Avacyn that laid around her neck and pulled a little vial of holy water from her belt pouches. She began to sprinkle the holy water on each. At first the water hit and gave the sound of steaming water being thrown on a hot stove, but then, the phantoms slowly began to fade. “Be at peace vigilant watchers of the night, Avacyn’s light still watches over you, and her blessing is still upon you.” The spirits continued to fade and just before they were all but gone Franz sent one last message.
“Thank you, friends, be at peace.” He expected that to be the last of it.
“Beware the Red Cloaks…” One last whisper in his ear, then… only the wind.
The three stood in darkness once again. Britta said a few more words to Avacyn and returned to her perch on the back of the carriage.
“That was different.” Jack said, but it was not a snarky remark, Franz sensed nothing but sincerity in her voice.
“We should find a place to rest for the evening.” Franz said in a matter of fact tone.
They pushed on a little further down the road until they found a thicket that seemed at least somewhat defensible. A felled tree lay propped up by another with bristling vines wrapping around both. They moved the carriage into the thicket and managed to conceal it as much as possible. The horses were given a bit of food and then tied to the trees.
“Is there any food?” Helena asked impatiently.
Jack pulled the cloth up, so she could see them and slipped a bit of trail mix and berries through the bars to her. She shoved almost all of them into her mouth at once and began to chew. As she finished she looked back out and said, “Don’t want have any meat?” Franz thought this was an odd question but decided to respond regardless.
“Not currently, and even if we did, lighting a fire to cook is not a good idea right now.”
Helena looked visibly disappointed and with a scoff said, “Well do you at have a pillow?”
Jack dug through her pack and found a set of fine clothes. She had never even unfolded them. They were not really her style, but ever inquisitor carried some with them, you never knew when you might have to be fancy for a little while. She handed the rolled-up clothes to Helena and asked if that would be sufficient. Helena gave a satisfied nod and carefully, as to not rattle the chains too much, curled up to sleep.
“I can take the first watch.” Britta said. She stood taller than both inquisitors and had her arms and armor on already. Franz looked to Jack and back to Britta and nodded.
“In a few hours, wake me up, and I can relieve you.” Jack said, propping her pack up against the carriage.
Britta climbed onto the top of the carriage and began to scan the area. The darkness was all around her, but she knew the angle Avacyn would protect her. She contemplated the fate of the young girl they were transporting, she hoped they would make it in time. She thought of Jack, the quiet but quick-thinking women who she expected was a match for even the wiliest creature. Then her thoughts drifted to Franz, he was certainly a mystery. He had some darkness to him, she knew that, but he seemed a just man. The scars he wore showed he was a survivor. As her thoughts continued to wonder she realized it had been some time since the others had gone to sleep. Nothing interesting had happened and there was not even so much as a rustle form the woods. With that she decided it was time to get some rest herself. She climbed down the carriage, and as she took off the metal pieces of her armor, nudged Jack awake. Jack opened her eyes and quickly gaged her surroundings.
“Nothing to report.” Britta said as she laid her chain mail down.
“Alright then.” Jack began to gather her weapons and moved out from the thicket.
Rather than climb up on the carriage, Jack decided to go for a walk around the area. She was never that good at sitting still, and this journey had already had to much of that. She began to move around the brush, around the thicket, making sure to keep a sharp eye out for anything out of place. Soon she realized these woods were abnormally quiet. No insects or anything. She continued her scouting. Every so often she would loop back around to the carriage. She was sure she would catch anything sneaking up on it before it got there, but she liked to go back and check nonetheless. Finally, as she scouted a bit back in the direction they had come from, she found tracks. Large paw prints in a shape she was all too familiar with. She searched a bit more, but only found tracks leading away. They were being followed, but why had they not attacked? This would be a question for another time, as she knew better than to be caught out alone by a howl pack. She instinctively retreated and awoke her brother.
Franz began to get up, gathering his weapons and Jack explained to him about the tracks. He lifted the cloth to check on Helena. She lay there, sleeping, her legs kicking, as if running in some dream.
“They sense their own.” Franz said with a sigh.
Franz’s watch went by slowly. He sat perched on the carriage and awaited the dawn. As he waited, the sounds of the forest slowly returned, insects hummed once again, and the singing of night time frogs could be heard. What ever had spooked the gentle creatures of the woods, must’ve moved off he thought. When the first rays of light began to poke through another cloud choked morning, he began to climb down to wake his companions.
The group prepared the carriage for travel and Jack pulled Britta aside to tell her about the tracks. Britta nodded and told Jack she would watch closely for anything following them. As they chatted quietly, Helena piped up from still uncovered carriage.
“Were there hunters here?”
“What do you mean?” Franz asked genuinely curious.
“Well,” Helena began to sniff the air, “it smells like my father’s hunting dogs.”
“There are no dogs here.” Franz says, scanning the woods.
“No not here, they smell… farther away.”
Franz quickly looked over to Jack and Britta, they both shared the same look of worry after hearing her words.
“Can’t you smell them?” Helena asks.
“No,” Franz replied, trying to hide his apprehension. “It must be your keen senses.”