I will be writing up the sessions of my new horror DnD campaign, in story form. Session One will take three parts, here is the first:
The screams of the the dying rent the air as the royal guard cut their way through the stands. The four men on the stage heard nothing though, blood spilling from their lifeless corpses to mix with the falling rain.
The old woman, Runda, sat hunched over a small fire beneath the awning of her wagon. She swore as the first fat drops of rain began to pelt the tightly stretched cloth and pulled her cloak tighter around her. “Orson,” she called out to the giant of a man across the camp, “get over here out of the rain boy!”
Her son, the circus strongman, came trotting over with the lutist David in his wake. They squeezed under the awning alongside her, Orson’s large hand reaching towards the cook pot that was even then steaming away with a good smelling stew.
Slapping her son’s hand away, Runda waved over Jane. The little knife thrower was sure to be hungry, and had few enough friends within Tarver’s Circus. The young woman smiled gratefully, squeezing in beside Orson. The old woman smiled inwardly as her son began to blush.
“I hope the play is going alright. Maybe they got done before the rain, you think?” asked David, who was carefully wrapping his lute against the weather. In the fire light it was a little easier to see the age lines starting to creep onto his face. He wasn’t nearly as old as Runda, but it was clear he wouldn’t see forty again.
Runda shrugged. “The way Tarver likes to draw things out, probably not. Serve him right to get a little wet.”
A peel of thunder rolled through the rapidly darkening sky. “I’m just glad we didn’t have to help,” Jane muttered. “Much rather be here in camp.”
Their camp was a loose circle of a half dozen gaily painted wagons, set up in the middle of a rundown park. The area of Ravensbluff that they were in was called the Thick, and was poor enough that most folks were too busy trying to find something to eat to waste time in a park. Which meant that for the circus folk there had been little money to be made. Even Runda’s fortune telling had barely made anything, which in most towns was a sure money maker.
It was fine though, because Tarver and his thespians had been hired to put on a play by a rich noble. The money he had put forth was enough to keep the entire circus fed and happy for at least a month or two, as well as some much needed repairs to the wagons. It had been some time since Tarver’s Circus had had a patron, but Jaccob vor Revis had proven to be free enough with his money.
Orson cocked his head. “Do you guys hear that?”
The rest of the small group cocked their heads. The sound of rain splattering against the taut awning, and the crackle of the small fire filled their ears. But as they listened closer the sounds of screams began to be heard.
“Is that…is that a battle?” asked Jane.
David shook his head. “Sounds more like a massacre.”
Runda got to her feet, and scooped up her staff. “Orson, get your things.”
David tried to put a hand on Runda’s arm, but she was moving way towards the front of her wagon. “Runda, what the hell?”
She whipped around, eyes blazing. The hunch was gone from her back, and she seemed filled with a never before seen vitality. “That’s coming from the Theatre. I’m not going to wait around for them to come here and mop up.”
David got to his feet. “Lords Runda, for all we know…”
Jane cut him off, pointing. “Where’s he going?”
Darting past their camp, clearly trying to stay in the shadows as much as possible was their patron, Lord Revis. He was moving quickly though, darting away from the direction of the sounds of the conflict. Had it not been for the knife thrower’s sharp eyes, there was little chance they would have noticed him.
“Hey!” shouted David, who took off at a run for the man. “Hold up!”
Jaccob paused at the mouth of an alley, swearing. David reached him, with Jane on his heels. There was a splatter of blood on the man’s cloak, the red dripping pinkly onto his boots.
“What’s going on?” demanded David as Runda and Orson came running up behind them. Orson had scooped up the large maul he used in his act, while his mother was carrying a large bag slung over one shoulder.
Jaccob looked back towards the theatre “I’ll explain on the way. But we need to get away, now.” He turned and began walking quickly off into the rapidly falling night. The little group followed after, with Runda making her way to the front.
“Its about that play, isn’t it?” she snapped at the noble.
The man nodded his head after a moment’s pause. “I meant to make a statement about the kings heavy hand, but had no idea that this is how he’s react. To kill everyone…just for being there…”
“Our people?” Jane asked.
Jaccob just shook his head. “I only made it out by pretending to be dead, and even then it was a near thing. I was lucky.”
“Then maybe our folks got lucky too,” said Orson, though his voice made it clear he didn’t believe his own words.
“Look, I will get you to safety, and then see about the rest. It’s the least, the very least I can do.” He stopped, looking around a corner, peering down into the next street. “I will take you to my family’s old manor. Its abandoned now, but it will be safe enough.”
The five raced through the storm as quickly as they could. The sounds of combat had turned into sounds of rioting. The Thick was known for its bloody outbreaks of violence, and the attack at the theatre had clearly sparked one of epic proportions. So it was with a sigh of relief that the group reached the gate to the manor.
This area of the Thick had clearly been nice, long before the nobles had all moved their homes up onto the hillsides surrounding Ravensburg. A stone wall, ten feet high, partially obscured the view of a grey, two story manor home which was their objective.
Back bent against the rain, Jaccob pulled an amulet from his cloak and pressed it against the gate. It pulsed with a faint blue light, and the metal creaked open with a groan. He quickly waved them inside.
They found themselves in a courtyard. What few shrubs still lived were overgrown, though most were dead and skeletal. Its twin fountains were empty and covered with black streaks of dying moss.
“Wait here, at least a couple of hours. I will send all of your people that I can find here. But if in two hours, I am not back you need to flee. My family has a crypt below the manor, you can reach it through the basement. There is a secret passage that will take you into the catacombs beneath the city, and from there you can reach the sewers, which will take you beyond the city walls. Do you understand?”
Runda gave a curt nod and began herding the group towards the covered porch area, and out of the rain.
“You can search the house for anything that might can help, but there isn’t likely to be much,” he added, looking unsure of himself. “Just keep an eye out for the others.”
“Run on now,” barked Runda, and the noble pushed the gate shut before running off into the night.
“Damn,” said Orson, trying to shake the water off. The dark grey of the manor loomed behind them. “I’ve half a mind to just go on inside.”