Clarice's body ached. It felt like someone had mercilessly beaten her. Through the haze that clouded her mind she tried to remember what had happened to her, but the last thing she could recall was being attacked by three wolf-men. She could feel the icy rain on her skin, and something wrapped around her neck.
She slowly opened her eyes and saw that one end of a chain had been tied around her neck while the other was securely tied around the trunk of a nearby tree. Clarice looked around quickly, but saw that she was alone in the clearing. Painfully, she crawled beneath the leafy boughs of the tree she was chained to and hugged her knees to her chest.
"Naked, alone, and chained to a tree," she said to herself, shivering in the cold. "Clarice, what have you gotten yourself into?"
Suddenly, she heard the sound of something approaching through the brush. Clarice looked around desperately for a weapon of some kind, but could not even see a rock large enough to be useful. She clenched her fists tightly. Empty-handed, she would have to fend off whatever was coming for her. As soon as she saw movement, she reacted.
"Hatchling's Flame!" she shouted, blasting whatever was approaching with a cone of fire from the palm of her hand.
Clarice heard a scream of surprise, and a few moments later Shane stomped into the clearing looking quite singed. Close behind him were Ed and Fluffy.
"I've had it with your Tome of Battle crap!" the priest snarled. "You did more than enough of that yesterday."
"See? I told you she would still be hostile," Fluffy said smugly. "We should kill her."
"I didn't know it was you," Clarice said quickly. "I'm sorry, Shane."
"One more thing like that and I'll strangle you, got it?" Shane replied irritably.
"I don't understand. Why are you treating me like an enemy?" she asked nervously.
"She won't remember," Fluffy informed Shane. "She's afflicted, not natural. They suffer amnesia when they change."
"I'm still pissed," Shane grumbled. "She effectively took out all three of us by herself."
"What are you talking about? I wasn't even hurt," the tibbet argued.
"Why would she attack you?" the priest snapped. "You didn't do anything!"
"What, am I supposed to know that we're fighting stuff effectively immune to my swarms?"
"You could try doing something other than **** out cats."
"Please," Clarice said softly, "what happened?"
"You turned into a doggie-girl and tried to eat our faces," Ed answered as best he could. "Face eating is rude, doggie-girl."
"Wh-what are you talking about?" Clarice stammered.
"Can we keep doggie-girl, Mister Fluffy?" Ed asked.
"You want to know what happened?" Fluffy asked Clarice. "I'll tell you everything. I relate all relevant information."
Clarice blinked in confusion, staring at the tibbet curiously. It seemed to take a moment for Fluffy to come to the realization that he had not told her anything. He scowled.
"Oh come on, you know what happened," he said angrily.
Clarice shook her head.
"Ugh, fine. You got separated from the group when we were traveling back from the hill ..."
"No, you three abandoned me when we were attacked by those monsters on the road," Clarice said firmly.
"Oh, you remember that?" Fluffy chuckled. "Anyway, they were werewolves. You got infected. You killed them, wolfed out, and proceeded to beat the crap out of the three of us when we came back."
"You must be joking," Clarice replied nervously.
"He's not," Shane answered bluntly. "That's why we chained you to the tree. Like a dog."
"By the way, we don't have time for your whole 'oh gods what have I become' speech," Fluffy said pointedly. "Assuming you aren't going to flip out in the daytime, we're heading for Castle Ravenloft."
"Hey, now I can call her a bitch and it will be appropriate," Shane chuckled as he turned to leave the clearing.
"I think you're right," Fluffy snickered, following the priest out of the clearing.
Ed approached Clarice and knelt down beside her, a friendly smile on his face.
"I have fixed your clothes so that you can wear them again," he told her. "I will get them for you, okay?"
"Ed, wait," Clarice said quickly, catching him by the sleeve before he could rise. "Am I ... am I really a monster?"
"Of course not," Ed replied. "You are a pretty lady who will catch a cold for not wearing anything in the rain. Fluffy told me that you are only doggie-girl at night-time."
Clarice's hand slipped away from Ed's sleeve, and the man rose to his feet. He patted her on the head, then turned and walked out of the clearing. Clarice stared after him for several long horror-struck moments. Eventually, she let her head fall against her knees and she began to weep bitterly.
"I love random encounters!" Fluffy declared excitedly.
"I thought you said you hated them," Shane replied quizzically.
"I love them when they give enough EXP to level us," the tibbet laughed.
Clarice tuned out the outlanders' nonsensical chatter as the group pressed on up the steep mountain trail. She was glad to be clothed and equipped once more, but she had enjoyed slaughtering the bandits far more than she felt comfortable with. The sight of their blood had stirred her in an unsettling way.
"Here bitch!" Shane called out, snapping her out of her musings. "Come!"
Clarice realized that she had fallen behind the rest of the group and hustled to catch up. She glared at Shane angrily.
"Good girl," Fluffy snickered. "Maybe later we'll play fetch with you."
The young woman immediately turned her harsh glare to the tibbet, who merely looked up at her smugly. She clenched her fists in an effort to restrain her pent-up anger. Fluffy and Shane had been poking fun at her all day, and she was quite fed up with it. She could not prevent an angry growl from escaping her lips. A sudden sharp pain hit the back of her head, and Clarice whirled around furiously.
"Bad girl," Shane said reproachfully, poking her in the chest with the stick he had hit her with. "Be nice to the cat."
With lightning speed Clarice grabbed Shane by the throat and slammed his back into the rock wall behind him. The priest struggled in vain to escape her iron grasp.
"Touch me again and I'll show you how much of a bad girl I can be," she snarled, tightening her vice-like grip on Shane's throat.
"Clarice, please let him go," Ed said quickly. "I will make them be nice to you, okay?"
The young woman dropped Shane to the ground, horrified at what she had almost done. Shane staggered to his feet as he gasped for air.
"I'm so sorry," Clarice said quietly as she quickly made her way up the trail ahead of the group, her cheeks burning with shame.
is touchy today," Fluffy scoffed.
Strahd Von Zarovich watched from the shadows of the rafters as the four adventurers entered his palace. A priest of a foreign god, an imbecile with a spear, a talking cat, and Kolyan's adopted daughter. Zarovich had suspected that the unusual girl would one day be a problem ever since the mists had deposited the child in the village. She had grown up to be quite the fetching woman ... perhaps she should be kept. Strahd licked his lips in anticipation.
With a wave of his hand, the double doors behind the adventurers slammed shut. Zarovich watched gleefully as they spent several frantic moments trying to open the doors. Now that they had entered his home, there would be no escape. He unleashed a ray of black flame down upon the man with the spear, and the man screamed as the fire enveloped him. He collapsed to the ground.
"Ed!" Clarice cried out in panic, kneeling down beside the rogue's lifeless body.
"I apologize for my rude introduction," Zarovich said as he floated down to the ground in front of the adventurers. "I am Strahd Von Zarovich, master of Barovia and lord of the fine castle you intrude upon. Welcome to Hell."