:: Dungeons & Dragons - The Threshold Party - "The Bite" - Nikolas contracts lycanthropy ::

"The Bite"

As recounted to Karnus Perdissium, Wizard of Glantri, in the Year 1008AC

My name is Nikolas Rokanov. This is the story of how I became a monster.

The wolves caught me by surprise. I was careless, hadn’t noticed I was being stalked. But they were clever too. They didn’t make a sound, didn’t betray their position until the very end. Perfect hunters. I admired them for that, even as they surrounded me on all sides.

Axes flew. Wolves howled in agony. Within a few moments the two small ones were down. Just the big one left. It snarled at me as I drew my sword from it’s brother’s still body. A pack. Companions. Weakness. I met it’s gaze and stared back at it.

It broke first. Charged at my side, but I sidestepped it and sent my sword arcing towards its head. The wolf danced away just in time. Clever, this one.

It feinted in at me, drew my attack. I saw it coming though and slashed hard into its side. The wolf drew back, almost shocked that I could hurt it. Arrogance. Didn't know who it was dealing with.

It darted in at me again. I slashed down, but this time it sprang over the arc of the sword and barrelled into me. My sword went flying. Before I could get back to my feet it was on me. Slavering jaws closed on my arm as its body pinned me to the floor.

Pain burst through my right arm as it’s teeth broke the skin. I pummelled the wolf with my free hand as it continued to chew on my exposed arm. Blood flowed freely on the ground. My blood. Put all my strength into pushing the beast off. Heaved with all my might and finally it rolled away.

I looked at my arm. The wound was bad. Damn thing had chewed me right through to the bone. Could barely move my hand. Searching around, I saw my sword. Grabbed it up with my left hand and swung round just in time to meet the wolf's charge.

It tried to pin me again, but I was too fast. Caught it in a downward arc that near severed its front leg. As it limped away howling we met each other’s gaze again. It knew it was beaten. But it was proud, stubborn. Ignoring it’s injured leg it pounced at me once again. My sword met it’s head and it spun off into the bushes where it lay still.

I didn’t look back as I returned to my stuff and bandaged the arm. That was my doom. If only I had turned around, maybe I would have seen something that would have warned me about what was to come.

I stalked off through the forest. I knew a bolt hole nearby where I could rest. It was risky to linger anywhere in the Deep Dymrak, but less dangerous than setting out to a settlement in the hopes of finding a cleric. The goblins can smell blood. I would have been easy to track. Better to take care of myself.

I made it to the place easily enough. Tree on an island in the middle of a stream. Not much, but it had strong branches and concealing leaves. I’d be safe here. For a while.

I settled down and tried to sleep. My wound throbbed painfully, and it was only through sheer exhaustion that I managed to drift off. I awoke hours later, in the dead of night. Through a gap in the leaves I could see the bright stars above, and the first glimpses of the rising moon…

I ate something, changed my bandages then settled back down. Patience and stealth. They’re the keys to survival. I had plenty of food. No need to do anything but sit and think. And sleep.

On the third day, I noticed the burning sensation in my arm. The wound was infected. I made up a poultice like my mother had shown me and applied it to the arm. Stared up at the skies – still the same scene, but the moon was much closer to fullness. Never noticed how beautiful it was – hanging there in the sky among the stars.

I drifted off, and when I awoke the fever was upon me. Tried to stand, but I was so bad I nearly fell out of the tree. How long had I slept? Hours? Days? Needed help – this was beyond my skill to treat. Damn wolf. Getting it’s revenge from beyond the grave. I couldn’t wait any longer. Had to risk setting out for… somewhere.

I packed my stuff and lowered myself to the ground. Crossed the stream, and was glad of the freezing water. Staggered through the forest for the rest of the day. By night I was lucky if I had gone more than two miles. Exhausted, I collapsed into a hollow and checked my wound. It was red and hot to the touch. Angry.

I tried to eat, but brought it back up immediately. Whole body felt like it was on fire. Lay back and stared at the sky, and slipped into a nightmarish dream. Something was chasing me through the forest. I ran and ran, but it had my scent. I couldn’t escape it. But the worst part is that a small piece of me didn’t want to escape. I wanted to get caught. To be consumed.

I awoke, sweating, consumed by the pain, and the fire and… oh… the moon. I stared up at it – nearly full. Stared at it like I’d never seen it before. Through the burning and the agony I could see it. Calling to me.

I lay there until dawn. I knew now that I was dying. That the end was near. Had to get to a cleric or I was done. I dragged myself to my feet and staggered on. Had to make it to one of the villages on the outskirts of Kelvin. Might not make it.

Again, the night came all too swiftly. This time it was different. This time I knew the goblins wouldn’t be far behind. Could almost smell them in the air. I tried to keep going, but was violently sick and had to collapse. This was it. I could feel myself dying. At least the goblins wouldn’t get me. I lay down and stared at the horizon as the sun set over the trees. I tried to fix my eyes on the sun, but all I could think of was the moon. I turned my head to see it, full and huge and all consuming. It was the last thing I saw.

The dreams were different this time. Vivid. Coherent. I moved through the forest in a blur and stalked my prey with ruthless efficiency. Couldn’t remember all of it, but it was exhilarating.

I awoke in the morning sunshine. The gentle warmth of the sun felt good on my naked body. The pain and burning were gone. I looked at my wounded arm, expecting to see the red, angry wound, but there wasn’t a mark on it. My arm was whole again. I sat up and looked around – I was nowhere near where I had collapsed last night, but I managed to follow a recent trail back to my gear. Something four legged had hunted here last night – I was lucky it hadn’t found me lying delirious in the forest.

I found my armour and clothes lying discarded beside my stuff – I must have torn them off in a fit of delirium as I succumbed to the height of the disease. But the fever had broken. I felt fine. Better than fine – I felt more alive than I could remember. Looking around was like seeing the world anew – sights and sounds were more vivid than I remembered. I sat eating my breakfast, just glad to be alive.

I set out back towards Kelvin. Told myself I needed supplies, but I really wanted to get back to civilisation for a few days. Still felt weak from the battle and needed to rest.

With a few more hours of walking, I found myself near Surenya. Small village, not many people. But it had a small tavern that I could rest in before I continued to Kelvin.

The curious fever that had consumed me weighed on my mind. Strange that the wound had healed so well, but perhaps it hadn’t been so bad in the first place. Just looked worse in my delirium. Maybe. But now the moon hung bright and round in the sky – a full moon. My arm ached dully as I sat staring at it. Couldn’t have looked away even if I’d wanted to..

That night, I dreamed the vivid dream again – I hunted in the darkness, slipping between the trees until I found my prey. Then I pounced with deadly accuracy. Again and again. No mercy. Sated, I slip back into the forest, leaving human cries behind me…

Again I awoke naked, nearly a mile from where I had slept. I picked through the forest back to my belongings and quickly dressed. I was confused. Why had the delirium returned, when the fever had broken the day before? Why had I wandered so far in the night? I dressed quickly and made my way to Surenya – needed to rest. Too long in the forest.

I entered the village late in the day. Skipped breakfast as I was strangely full – couldn’t have eaten anything. Made my way to the tavern where a crowd of people had gathered outside. Some sort of town meeting. Apparently there had been wolf attacks in the night. Three cattle and a dog had been killed. Someone had seen a great hulking wolf, bigger than anything ever seen before. Farmers were all for chasing the creature through the woods.

I said I would track it for them. The villagers were suspicious until the tavern-keep recognised me as the Lone Hunter. Having a reputation helps sometimes. Motives weren’t completely altruistic. I’m not an idiot. I’d already begun to have my suspicions. And my worries.

I went to the scene of the attack. Ignored the strange sense of familiarity about the place. Picked up the trail and followed it through the village. Three cows dead, just as they’d said. A dog was lying dead outside a house. Must have tried to challenge the wolf. Stupid mutt – didn’t know who it was dealing with. Followed the trail back towards the forest. Expected it to lead straight into the Dymrak, but it detoured. Turned off to the left. Must have still been hungry. Or angry.

Trail led towards an isolated house. The villagers looked shocked as I started towards it. Someone mentioned he hadn’t seen the owners this morning. With a growing sense of dread I opened the door to the house. Looked inside and felt sick. Two bodies. Savaged. Torn apart. Not eaten, not from what I could see. Just butchered. Killed for nothing. For everything.

As the women wailed and the men went to fetch weapons, I stood staring at the scene. I looked around the room – all of it came flooding back to me. He had tried to buy her time. Tried and failed. She had tried to run. Nothing escapes. Even at the end, she had pleaded with the beast for her life. No mercy.

I turned and stalked out of the house. One villager tried to get in my way, but I shoved him away. Told him I would find the beast and take care of it. Followed the trail as it wove through the forest. One last piece of evidence. Stood in the clearing where I had awoken that morning. That was it then. Yes. I was a werewolf. YES!

I turned and vomited. Looking up I could see the moon hanging in sky – waning now, but full and bright. Two nights in a row – what if there was a third? I ran. I ran as far and as fast as I could. Away from people that I could hurt, away from civilisation. Back into the Dymrak. Back towards the monsters. Back to where I belonged…

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