Three Keys

Pre-Dawn

Start the tale with the Prologue

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Adventure Log 2 : Lessons Learned

It was second watch when everything went pear-shaped.

Janko was wandering the camp in the pre-dawn, he’d volunteered for the second watch and so far it had been uneventful. The sun would be up in an hour, maybe less, and the darkness was just starting to recede when Janko got that odd feeling that he was being watched.

He stopped his round and peered into the darkness. Nothing seemed to be out of order at first, then he noticed that the crickets had stopped chirping, and even the gentle breeze seemed to have stopped rustling the grass. He stared intently into the scrub brush just outside the gentle glow of the fire, moving his eyes slowly across the camp. Then he saw them. Two embers of eyes beneath a brush, looking intently at him. He stopped and watched, the eyes looking at him. He slowly raised his bow so as not to spook the creature, and held his breath. One shot between the eyes would do it, and might even get them fresh meat for breakfast. All he had to do was take careful aim and not rush…

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The creature leaped out of the brush with a roar and moved right to the sleeping David Richardson. Janko couldn’t believe how quickly the animal had moved! Before he had the chance to loose the arrow, it had raked a giant claw over David in his bedroll. The snarl of the creature immediately woke the rest of the party, who leapt to their feet and grabbed at weapons. Janko tried to reach out with his mind and calm the animal, to perhaps convince it to move on and leave them alone, but the beast was a blank wall. He felt nothing from the cat, no intent, no hunger or anger. What the hell? he thought.

While the huge cat had run it’s claws through the bedroll, it had succeeded only in tangling David in it, making it difficult for him to extricate himself. Janko loosed the arrow and caught the creature in the shoulder, it cried out in pain and made another swipe at David, who had finally gotten himself out of the shredded bedroll and had axe in hand. He made a half-hearted swing at the creature, but his sleep-addled brain was not yet fully aware and he swung wide. Harrison harried the animal with a sling shot to the side, but it did little more than annoy the cat, and Yanew’s thrown dagger went wide as well. Janko tried again to reach out to the beast, but was met with the same blank wall as before. This is no ordinary animal, Janko thought, that’s the only explanation!

The cat the rose on its hind legs up to an intimidating height, clawing at its own head. The skin peeled off and the creature let out a piercing scream through the exposed sinew, teeth, and eyes! The party had to cover their ears from the skull-splitting noise, and David, the animal’s horrifying visage only feet away, panicked badly, dropped both axes and ran as fast as his feet would carry him. The cat raked its claws across David’s back as he fled, shredding cloth and skin!

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The others had finally gained their feet and their minds were clear. As David ran past him screaming in fear, Yanew’s thrown dagger pierced the creatures hide, followed swiftly by an arrow from Janko, and the creature fell dead before it could take another step. In the silence that followed, there was only the panting from exertion and the distant yells from David as he continued to run, although they were quieting as he slowly came to his senses.

He wandered sheepishly back into camp a few moments later as Yanew was cutting open the cat to see if it had inadvertently swallowed any treasure. The ranger retrieved the arrow from the beast’s shoulder and wiped the blood on the grass. While the priest sewed up David’s torn back David sewed up his torn bedroll, he looked up and stared at Janko, whose face had turned a bright blue.

“What?” Said Janko.

“Your face,” said David, “it’s… blue?”

Janko looked at his hands, but they were fine, but a quick nod from Harrison confirmed that Janko’s face was, indeed, a bright blue. “Do you think it was the animal blood or something?!”

“Yeah, probably,” said Yanew, up to his elbows in the large cat’s blood. He was poking at the skin on the dead cat’s face with his dagger. “Huh. Looks like the skin is still attached, just not by much. Weird.”

“But you’re…,” Janko started, before he stopped and looked at the Gnome, a slow realization crossing his mind. “You’re a dick,” he said to Yanew as the color faded and his face returned to normal.

“Next time you see something,” Yanew scolded, “raise the fucking alarm. Now, pack up. Let’s see what’s up there.”

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