Clarice huddled at the base of a dead tree, shivering in the icy rain. The gibbous moon overhead illuminated the small clearing where she and the three outlanders had decided to make camp after escaping from the angry Vistani. Of course, camp was a relative term. The three of them had done nothing but argue about whose fault it was for not having tents, not being able to start a fire in the rain, and not preparing any spells to create food with.
There was a small upside to being stuck with the adventurers, however. At least the three of them still seemed interested in helping her acquire the Sunsword. Madame Eva had told them that the blade was sequestered away somewhere inside Lysaga Hill. Still, Clarice had to question the motives of these three strangers. Fluffy, Shane, and Ed did not seem like the sort of people to help others without some kind of reward.
"There it is," Clarice informed them the following afternoon. "Lysaga Hill."
"Somewhere in this hill is the sword, right?" Shane asked.
"Yes," Fluffy replied, "and once we use it to destroy Strahd Von Zarovich, all of Barovia will bow to my kitty will!"
"I cannot accept the idea of another dictator ruling Barovia," Clarice said firmly. "This land has been oppressed for far too long."
"Like you can stop me. I'm two tiers higher than you!"
"It is not nice to be mean to the pretty lady," Ed said reproachfully.
"Come on crew, let's be off," Shane commanded as he marched up the hill.
As the group got halfway up the hill, a massive spectral creature comprised of hundreds of ghostly screaming faces rose up from the ground before them. It howled menacingly, challenging the adventurers to continue up the hill.
"Evil spirit begone!" Shane bellowed as he held up his holy symbol.
The spectral beast did not even flinch. Clarice rushed forward, taking a downward strike at the creature, but she gasped in surprise when her sword passed harmlessly through it.
"How hard do you think this boss will be?" Shane asked quizzically. "Paper Mario, Final Fantasy, Devil May Cry ..."
With a single pulse of energy from the creature's form, Ed collapsed to the ground at their feet.
"Diablo," Fluffy said in a panic.
Clarice struck at the creature again, and she could not suppress a smile when the creature howled in pain as her blade caught firm for a moment in its spectral body. The creature turned the furious gazes of it thousand eyes upon her, and she felt a momentary sharp pain in her head before her world went black.
"Well that sucked," Shane grumbled.
"I figured you would have been able to turn in the third time," Fluffy replied irritably.
"Just not my lucky day."
"I told you to go Divine Metamagic, but no ..."
"At least we got away," Ed said cheerfully.
"Of course, now we need to hire another cohort," Fluffy complained.
"I don't think it killed her," Shane said. "I saw it drag her up the hill and drop her down a hole."
"So let's go rescue her!" Ed declared.
"Can't we just hire someone else?" Fluffy grumbled. "It's easier, and we could get something more powerful. Like a wizard."
"Then who would use the Sunsword?" Shane asked.
"Ugh, fine, I guess we could hire a gish..."
"I'm rescuing Clarice," Ed said bluntly. "I like her, and she's part of the group."
"You get attached to characters too quickly," Fluffy argued. "They are disposable! Look at it this way: N
"I am going to go rescue her."
"Ugh, you're so stubborn ..."
Clarice groaned as she slowly awoke, the pain in her head a lingering reminder of her defeat. Her hands and feet were bound with heavy ropes, and she had been stripped of all possessions save for the thin white tunic she wore beneath her armor. From where she lay on the cold stone floor, she could see a dim green light emanating from the center of the room, where a pallid woman stood stirring a cauldron. The woman smiled wickedly when she saw that Clarice was awake. She stepped over to her and crouched down beside the captive. With the woman this close, Clarice could see that patches of her skin were missing, revealing thick green scales beneath.
"Well, my pretty," the woman cackled, "I'm certainly glad you are awake. As you can likely tell, this skin is getting rather worn out. Lucky for me, you are nice and young, so a suit made out of you will last me quite some time!"
There was the sound of a mighty battle cry, and Ed lunged from the shadows at the woman with his spear. The witch narrowly avoided being skewered by the sudden attack, and the creature let out an angry hiss as she attacked the man with her bare hands. Clarice winced when she heard Ed's nose break as the witch smashed her hand into his face, and he collapsed to the floor, felled by a single attack twice in the same day.
"That has got to be the worst rescue attempt I've ever seen," the witch said.
"At least he tried," Clarice retorted, struggling in vain against the ropes that bound her.
"Oh well," the witch said with a wicked smile as she drew a long skinning knife from her belt. "At least I can still have my fun."