Never again will I doubt the ingenuity of a rules-lawyer with an imagination.


The River Runs at 18 Gallons Per Round
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Clarice rose to her feet, her shoulders shaking with rage. She glared at Strahd Von Zarovich, who merely smirked back at her.

"You killed him!" Clarice shouted as she fought back tears. "You killed Ed! The one person here I considered a friend!"

"Why do we never get character development?" Shane asked Fluffy.

"I'm Mr. Fluffy the Cat God," the tibbet replied. "Who needs more development than that?"

"Maybe it's because you two are insensitive jerks to the NPCs," Ed's corpse suggested.

"Hush, you're dead and undermining Clarice's angry speech," Zarovich said reproachfully.

"Oh right, sorry," the corpse said before resuming death.

Clarice glanced at Shane and Fluffy for confirmation, and they motioned for her to continue. She nodded and turned her steely gaze back to Zarovich.

"I will make you pay for what you've done," Clarice said firmly as she drew her sword. "Pay for what you did to Ed, what you've done to me, and for what you've done to all the people of Barovia!"

"Wait!" Fluffy said quickly. "My turn first."

Fluffy cackled maniacally, and the room was suddenly filled with mangy tabby cats. Shane, Clarice, and Zarovich all stared at the tibbet as his laughter faded away.

"Cats?" Zarovich scoffed. "Really?"

"Did you forget already?" Shane grumbled. "Vampires have DR ..."

"It is only stage one of my brilliant plan!" Fluffy declared. "Now his black clothing will be completely ruined by the shedding of many cats, and he will run off and cry his makeup off!"

"Or I will just kill all three of you," Zarovich replied with a smirk.

"Oh, you are a non-sparkly vampire?" Fluffy asked sheepishly.

"Correct."

"&$@% my life ..."

Clarice shifted her footing and leveled her sword with Zarovich's chest. She glared at him defiantly.

"Stance of Clarity," she muttered. "You cannot go unpunished."

She lunged forward with a mighty cry, ignoring the biting and scratching of the cats around her legs. She leaped up, her sword poised above her head.

"Mountain Hammer!" she called out as her blade struck down in a deadly arc.

Zarovich stepped to the side, narrowly avoiding the attack. The sword smashed into the floor, sending bits of marble tile and bits of cat flying in all directions. Strahd struck at her with his long wicked claws, but the young woman retaliated faster than the vampire could react to.

"Feigned Opening!" she cried as she swung upward, catching Zarovich in the ribs with her sword.

"It's like watching bad anime ..." Fluffy grumbled.

"It's like watching good anime," Shane argued.

"Your opinion is invalid. You like Naruto."

"It has a good story if you skip the filler."

"Shut up and take your turn."

Shane acquiesced and aimed the palm of his hand at Strahd. A massive jet of icy water sprayed forth from his hand, drenching the vampire, Clarice, and dozens of cats. Clarice coughed and spluttered as she cast her eyes toward Shane in confusion. Both she and Zarovich were thoroughly soaked.

"What was that?" Strahd grumbled as he swept a lock of dripping hair out of his face.

"Vampires lose one-third of their health for immersion in water," Shane explained. "I just sprayed you with eighteen gallons of water in under six seconds. I'm pretty sure getting sprayed with what amounts to a riot hose of magic water counts as immersion."

Strahd Von Zarovich sighed exasperatedly, then let out a shriek of agony as his skin began to steam and burn. Fluffy cackled victoriously.

"I told you it would work," the tibbet said to Shane. "I skip my turn."

Clarice wiped the water from her eyes as she looked at the equally wet vampire. The constant biting and scratching from the cats was growing increasingly painful. She wondered if perhaps this was Fluffy's way of punishing her. She worked through the pain and struck at Zarovich again.

"Emerald Razor!" Clarice cried out; her blade flashed green for a moment as it cut across Strahd's chest.

The vampire hissed in pain, but still he retaliated. He drove his knee into her stomach, knocking the wind out of her. As she doubled over in pain Zarovich raked his claws across her back, his black talons tearing through her armor as if it were paper. She cried out and staggered away from him, leaning on her sword for support. Strahd smiled wickedly, but his smile quickly turned into an irritated frown as he was blasted by another jet of icy water.

"You giving up yet, Zarovich?" Shane asked with a laugh.

"Noob vampire focusing the tank," Fluffy snickered. "I skip my turn."

The swarm of mangy cats continued its relentless assault on Clarice, and this time she could not hold back a whimper of pain. She could feel the tibbet's eyes on her, and she knew he was trying to kill her.

I don't understand, she thought. Why does he hate me so much?

The pain of the swarm coupled with her own dark thoughts distracted her long enough for Zarovich to close in on her. He grabbed Clarice by the wrist and throat, twisting her arm until she dropped her sword. She struggled valiantly, but could not escape his inhuman strength. Another blast of water suddenly drenched both combatants, and Clarice was hurled to the ground as Zarovich exploded in a massive ball of steam. Nothing remained of his body save for a few wispy vapors, and those soon dissipated away.

"Vampires are so easy to kill," Fluffy chuckled as he at last dismissed his swarm.

"Whoo! Time to loot the castle!" Shane declared. "Think we'll run into any more battles?"

"Oh, I'm sure we will," Fluffy replied. "Luckily I only used one spell that fight, and you're down only a few orisons."

"I guess I need to heal up Clarice," Shane said grudgingly.

"No," Clarice said as she slowly regained her feet. "Save your healing for yourself."

"Are you sure?" Shane asked. "You're really hurt."

"I'm sure," Clarice replied with a wane smile. "You two enjoy yourselves plundering the castle."

"Where are you going?" Fluffy questioned suspiciously.

"I've done what I set out to do, thanks to your help," Clarice answered as she sheathed her sword. "Strahd has finally been destroyed, and that's reward enough for me. I'm going home."

***

It had been months since Clarice had last seen the outlanders. Things had returned to normal in Barovia Village, in some ways better than normal. Wolves no longer prowled the outskirts of the village, the townsfolk were no longer afraid to venture out at night, and the fog and rain that permeated the area had given way to pleasant sunshine and beautiful moonlight.

Of course, Clarice could not enjoy the moonlight. Every full moon she locked herself in her cellar to prevent herself from causing harm to anyone. However, a few days ago she had received a letter from the famed doctor Rudolph Van Richten. The letter had said that he could cure her affliction of lycanthropy so long as she had not tasted the blood of another human. Naturally, she accepted his offer.

It was dark and raining the night that he was to arrive. Clarice thought little of the weather, however. She longed to be free of her curse. She paced back and forth anxiously, praying to every god and goddess she knew of that Van Richten's cure would work.

A knock on her door broke her worried thoughts. Clarice rushed to the front door and pulled it open. A tall man stood on her doorstep. The leather cloak he wore to protect himself from the icy rain concealed all put his pointed chin and muddy boots.

"Doctor Van Richten?" Clarice asked.

The figure nodded solemnly.

"Come on inside," the young woman said with a smile. "Let's get you out of the rain."

The man stepped inside quickly and closed the door behind him. Clarice walked over to the fireplace where a small kettle hissed over the warm fire.

"I've got some tea here if you like," Clarice offered as she carefully removed the kettle.

"I prefer a different drink, Clarice," the man replied in an all-too familiar voice.

The young woman spun around with a gasp of terror as Strahd Von Zarovich tore away his cloak with a wicked smile. The kettle slipped from Clarice's hand as she backed away from the approaching vampire.

"Did you think a little water would kill me, Clarice?" Strahd asked, laughing mirthlessly. "Foolish girl."

Clarice turned and ran toward her bedroom, hoping to get her sword. Zarovich was faster, however, and grabbed her from behind before she could even reach the door. She struggled in vain against his grasp as he pinned her against his chest. She shuddered as the vampire ran his thumb along her bare neck.

"Clarice," Zarovich hissed in her ear, "it's time to put your blade to work."