The following is the only legible detail found in a piece of parchment found at a local inn.
It looks like it’s from a personal journal of a kind.
It would soon be recognized by those who knew the man, to be written in the unique hand of local resident; Solomon Van Buren.
- Reconnaissance nearly complete
- After last night’s conversation with Lady Ally, I’m now sure the item is in the house exactly as thought
- One last pass tonight to make sure the staff keeps to their schedules
- Target still tomorrow night before Solomon returns from the trip. Still not sure how many people know he’s been gone, but my sources are unquestionable
- The back balcony is best; easy access and no lighting
- Remember tear-away camo clothes just in case
- Confirm horse packed and ready before going
That same night, you find his journal open. So odd, you think to yourself, he’s so protective of this. Not able to contain your curiosity, you cautiously position yourself so the waning firelight illuminates the page. In the flickering light, you note the elegant handwriting, and the words spring forth:
“… and so I will make this page my confessor, as no one else now seems fit. Even those around me still steal cautious glances and are careful not to touch me; as though I’m contagious. So be it. This is to be my curse, it seems.
I think back on that night now, so recent and yet so far away. So much has changed it seems like this has happened to someone else, that which even my heritage cannot hope to hide. So trivial did my pursuit seem; another treasure for the pile, just one more trinket to add to the coffers, and one more story to hopefully hear echoed for a time. Ego; nothing more.
… but she changed all that.
I thought it prudent to take his form; I had planned and practiced a number of times for just such a reason. But when she saw me, I could tell that something was different. Her venom was palpable in the hall of that huge house. I didn’t recognize her words, I didn’t smell the components, I didn’t even feel the magic until it was too late.
Actually, I remember feeling nothing at all when I awoke, the flames and smoke bearing down on me. I should have been incapacitated; unable to breathe from the billowing clouds of smoke rolling through the house, but they merely confused me. The flames were real enough, however, and I remember the thought that I would burst into flame right there, laying on the ground.
If only then I knew that my escape was due to my new nature; I might have perished instead. The horror I have now come to accept might have given me enough pause to consider welcoming the flames; to end it. But no sooner did I have the instinctual thought to flee, I found myself standing on the grass outside below the balcony I had used to gain entry; the darkness held back by the inferno which had almost engulfed me.
Then I heard the screams. I still hear them now; horrible and agonizing. I knew immediately it wasn’t her screams, but those of Solomon’s wife and child. I knew they were going to be home that night; the plan was to be in and out without a whisper. But how things had gone awry…
My mind felt like it was breaking. Maybe it was the magic still poisoning me, maybe I was still a man at the time.
My kind was never meant to be a vessel for this evil!
Whatever the cause; I remember nothing more of that night. My next memory was the awful truth searing my flesh as if in the heart of a fire, and these men finding me, all of them covered in soot head to toe in their frantic search for survivors. I’ve already penned those first days so I will not recount them again here.
What continues to surprise me is that despite my curse, despite my true nature, these three remain steadfast. Truly, I will take this as a sign that this evil has not rightfully been brought upon me, and I will be rid of this. Had they not found me disoriented, reeling and half-mad with confusion, I surely might have perished on that first day.
I care not whether these men were initially motivated by the guilt of not warning Solomon of depth the witch’s madness. A spurned lover can say many things, but this one’s power and poison were both dreadful. Perhaps it is the horrorible memory of the innocents who perished that night that spurs them to act? Or instead it is simply that they pity me; a wretch in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in the wrong guise!
So much has come to light now, I am no longer certain of their real motivations. Even I, in my preparations for that night, did not know any of what we have since learned. It seems Solomon has many secrets, and the hunt for him now serves the four of us.
Who is Solomon truly?
Where was he the night the witch came looking for him?
Why has he not returned to bury the wife and child he supposedly loved?
At our last stop, we picked up his trail again and it leads now to Winterhaven; a town rife with rumour and legend.
We will arrive tomorrow, and if it is our fortune to find this man; there will be much to answer for. If I thought prayer useful, I would pray for Solomon this night.
He will need it tomorrow…
A log in the fire cracks and breaks, waking you from your focus on the book. Startled, you gaze down. He sleeps still. Backing slowly away to the other side of the fire, you settle yourself for the few hours before you take your turn at the watch.
He’s right. Solomon will need it.