"I think I'll start with the boy," the witch cackled, grabbing Clarice by the hair and dragging her over to Ed. "I'll make you watch him suffer for a while."
Clarice's despair suddenly lifted when she heard the sound of combat and the yowling of many cats echoing from somewhere nearby. Help was on the way. She just needed to keep the witch occupied long enough for them to arrive. So she did the only thing she could think of: fight back.
The young woman swung her legs around and smashed them into the back of the witch's knee. The hag yelped in surprise and dropped Clarice to the floor, then turned and glared at her.
"Stupid girl," the witch snarled, grabbing Clarice by the front of her tunic and pulling her up to eye level. "I'll carve you up first, you little ..."
Clarice smashed her forehead into the witch's nose with a satisfying crunch. The witch dropped her again, clutching at her face, and Clarice watched in horror as the hag's face began to crack and flake off into little pieces. The witch let out a deep growl and lunged at Clarice with the skinning knife, but the blade shattered in her hand just before she could plunge it into the girl's body. Clarice could not contain a smile as Shane and Fluffy entered the chamber, followed closely by the army of mangy tabby cats.
"Oh I'm sorry, did I break your concentration?" Shane said with a smirk.
"Why must you interfere, outlanders?" the witch shrieked as the rest of her skin began to crumble away. "I just want a new suit!"
With a swift uttering of words Clarice could not understand, a beam of light and fire lanced forth from Shane's palm, striking the witch in the chest. The hag let out one final scream before she collapsed to the floor, her body smoldering from the heat of the spell.
"Looks like this witch wasn't all she was cracked up to be," Fluffy laughed.
Shane threw his fist up in the air and let out a triumphant "YEEEEAAAAAAAAHH!
"We're just full of one-liners tonight."
"It puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again!"
"Will you please stop that, Fluffy?" Clarice asked yet again. "I know that I had to be rescued. You don't need to mock me for it."
Despite the tibbit's rude behavior, Clarice was grateful that the outlanders had arrived when they did. After the defeat of the witch, the group had found a hidden compartment beneath the cauldron which contained Clarice's equipment as well as an intricately carved oak box. Ed had proved to be an expert with traps and locks, and had been able to open the box without any ill befalling the group. Within that box was what they had been seeking for many days, and what could prove to be Barovia's only hope for peace.
"So what does it do, exactly?" Clarice asked as the four of them walked back down the hill.
"It's, uh, magic," Shane replied hesitantly.
"Well I'd hope so," Clarice laughed, clapping him affectionately on the shoulder.
"We have no idea exactly what it does," Fluffy informed her. "Just hit things with it. It's the only reason we rescued you anyway."
Clarice sighed contentedly. She did not mind not knowing all of the powers the Sunsword had. She was just glad that things finally seemed to be going well. She looked toward the sky, letting the icy rain wash away the dirt and grime that had stuck to her inside the witch's cave. She longed for a bath, and remembered that Tser Lake was not far off. She wondered if her companions would mind a small stop before departing for Castle Ravenloft.
She bumped into Ed's back suddenly, and she stammered out an apology for not paying attention. It was then that she noticed all three of the outlanders were looking around suspiciously.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"We failed our Listen checks," Fluffy whispered.
"I mean, we didn't hear anything unusual."
"Okay, so ... let's keep going."
"Not until we figure out what we didn't hear."
Clarice scratched the back of her head, wondering if all outlanders were as strange as these three. Suddenly a trio of hulking, black furred wolf-beasts lunged at the group from the thick trees on either side of the road. The howled ferociously as they attacked with tooth and nail. Clarice narrowly avoided being gutted by her foe as its claws tore through her armor but stopped just short of her flesh. Reacting quickly, she counterattacked with a heavy blow to the creature's leg, the Sunsword flashing brilliantly as she struck. The wound on his leg would hopefully prevent him from attacking one of her companions.
"Time to run!" Fluffy shrieked as he bolted down the road. "No spells!"
"It's Brindol City all over again!" Shane grumbled irritably as the heavily armored priest struggled to keep up with the cat.
"Shut up! You're out of spells, too!"
"I am very sorry Clarice!" Ed shouted over his shoulder as he too fled the battle.
"You're fleeing again?" Clarice hollered angrily. "Is this normal for you people?!"
"Yes!" she heard Fluffy shout back.
The wolfmen quickly encircled Clarice, cutting off any hope of escape for the young woman. They leered at her hungrily, thick saliva dribbling down from their fanged maws. Clarice swallowed back her fear and tightened her grip on the hilt of her sword.
"I just got rescued from a witch half an hour ago, and now I get left to the wolves," Clarice grumbled bitterly. "Typical."
"I hate random encounters," Fluffy said. "They mess up my system."
"You have a system?" Shane asked.
"I divide up my spells into threes, that way I know exactly how many spells per encounter I can cast given the average three encounters per day."
"Heaven forbid there be more than three battles ..."
"So what are we going to do now?" Ed asked quickly.
"Same thing we were planning on doing," Fluffy replied. "Go to Castle Ravenloft, kill Strahd, take over Barovia, move on to the next place."
"But Clarice is gone, so now no one can use the sword against the vampire."
"We'll just go into town, hire a barbarian or something, and give him the sword. Happy?"
"But Clarice had the sword, and we left her behind."
Fluffy and Shane looked at one another as if suddenly coming to the same realization. The tibbet groaned in exasperation and the priest threw down his mace in frustration.
"I hate you, Fluffy," he snapped. "I hate you so very much right now."