The old man settled into the wooden chair closest the hearth, its antique frame creaking under him as he scooted it nearer the blaze so that golden light danced upon his grizzled face and played at shadows against the wall. He began speaking to no one in particular, but the resonating tone of his voice wore the tell-tale earmarks of a storyteller. The hustle and clatter of the inn eased to a quiet sigh and the old man’s voice filled the expectant air. The muted colors of the twilight sky painted the smoky windows, but even the busy street seemed to fall silent.
“We’ve known them, oh yes. The stuff of our fairy tales and nightmares. Indeed, we’ve known them like unwanted beggars at the doorstep to our dreams. But never have we asked from where these beggars come. Where was their home—this ill begotten place that banished them to our bedsides as daylight slipped to dark?”
All eyes turned to the storyteller. He leaned forward in the old chair, but even its straining wood seemed to respect the mood and remained silent. His hawk-like gaze passed over the crowd, sky-blue eyes pausing upon each eager face. There was more than curiosity in the eyes he passed. There was fear and there was knowing. Too many had seen the mists creeping from Delerion’s ancient Core. Too many had felt the cold passage of something tangible stealing through the night just under bolted windows and closed shutters.
And of course there was the clattering hoof beats of a horse-drawn black carriage. It rattled through empty streets as much as it charged down nightmare alleys of the mind. Into it went helpless victims, snatched by pale hands and pulled into the shadowy confines of the carriage only to be gathered up by the mists and stolen away into the night.
The old man continued. “Now, I think, we begin to see. That barrier to the breeding ground of nightmares, fables and fairy tales has at last frayed and worn thin. The mists roll in from that shadowed dream kingdom, but through the mists we peer into...the Dim.”
A shadow passed through the inn, nearly snuffing the candles and oil lamps. The hearth fire dropped as though suddenly quenched, replaced by a single hesitant tongue of flame that licked the air as though with trepidation. The gathered patrons of the inn shivered as one, drawing cloaks and scarves about themselves but finding no comfort from the chill that seeped into the bones.
He paused, eyes drifting to the darkened windows as his voice fell to a whisper. A hand pointed toward that encroaching night, as if his mind had projected whatever vision now haunted his thoughts. "And upon some twisted tree rooted at the edge of our reality and dreams perches a dark raven that watches and waits. You feel its gaze the same as I. But who does it seek...and why?”
Murmurs of unease swept the crowd in a ripple. The innkeeper leaned in towards the muscled door man whose countenance clouded. The story-teller’s yarn was reaching its frayed end.
Slowly he eased back into his chair, slipping a long-stemmed pipe from his belt and busying himself with a pouch of sweet smelling tobacco. One by one the patrons of the inn went back to their meals or mugs, casting occasional glances over their shoulders and speaking in hushed voices. The old man brought the pipe to his mouth and struck a match across the arm of the wooden chair. Outside twilight gave way to full dark.
“What we fear most to ask,” the old man said, though all those around him pretended not to listen, “is whether or not these dream remnants have escaped the Dim, or whether they’ve been set free.”
(The above is a small prologue to the Laughing Moon adapted Ravenloft adventure that will be run at the upcoming convention on Saturday, Oct. 20th. Part 2 will be published on Friday, October 12th.)
More information about the convention can be found at www.laughingmooncon.com
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