The Hare and the Hag

Posted on Oct 14, 2023 in Tales from the Table. Last updated on Apr 15, 2024.

A strong gust rattles the bare branches of the sallow trees and makes the loose snow dance in the air. It is the coldest winter that anyone can remember in Haarlan. Usually snow trickles once or twice during a winter only to disappear shortly after, but this winter it has been coming down in droves. The cold bites harshly outside and some argue this is not just a weather phenomenon, instead muttering that it is “the red winter” from old stories come again.

Such begins the pitch for the single-session D&D horror adventure that would become one of my all-time favorites as a player. It had the whole package—an intriguing premise, intense combat, fun characters, suspenseful pacing, and a shocking, deadly finale that I could hardly believe myself. The story’s been embellished with some details and (rather sparse) dialogue, as a dry retelling of the things I do remember wouldn’t really capture the feeling of the session. This story is how I imagine that the whole thing went down in the world of the game.

With that said, read on for the whole blood-curdling affair!

The invitation

It was a cold December afternoon. The dull, gray kind that crushes every hope of a Charles Dickens Christmas. D&D had been canceled that week. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the campaign wouldn’t be picked up again. But in all that winter darkness, there was a faint, glimmering light. A fellow player wrote to the group, announcing that he had a one-shot adventure ready to go. It just so happened that this particular player also happened to be a great dungeon master. Excitedly, we other players began thinking up character concepts. “Like I said, nothing too bananas. I want some grittiness from you guys too,” our new dungeon master explained. This was going to be good.

Arriving at the table we were informed of a few additional rules to help bring about the adventure’s frightful themes. Upon witnessing particularly harrowing events, we were to roll on a table to determine our characters’ emotional responses—a mechanic inspired by Darkest Dungeon. There were also tables for madness effects, but we thankfully never got to experience any of those. Of characters, there were three. All level five. One was a hammer-wielding human fellow named Gudbrand. His class was fighter. He worked in a temple as an acolyte of the storm god Kord. Another was Maven, the socially awkward tabaxi (humanoid cat-person) rogue, about whom I remember very little.

My character was called Jeran. He was a ranger; a warden prowling the borders of civilization. A Hunter of monsters and slayer of beasts, he channeled the primeval magic of nature itself to his will. Specifically he was a gloom stalker, hunting under the cover of night, and the darkness of the underground. He wore a cowboy-like hat and wielded dual hand crossbows.1 To keep himself warm in the harsh winter, Jeran wore a cloak of displacement that he had fashioned from the hide of a displacer beast. I should mention that Jeran was also a tiny little rabbit person. A harengon, in D&D-nomenclature. He stood about three feet tall, although counting his ears—pointing straight up through two holes in his hat—he was closer to five.

We had been allowed one rare magic item, subject to the Dungeon Master’s approval. The cloak had been my pick. Gudbrand’s player—knowing that the adventure would take place in the bitter cold—had chosen boots of the winterlands, which would let him stay nice and toasty no matter how frigid it got. Maven’s player had, somewhat inexplicably, chosen a ring of water walking. Probably not very useful in this adventure, unless all that snow would melt at once, I suppose. But hey, you know how cats are around water. It was definitely a flavorful choice if nothing else.

And so, with our trio of soon-to-be traumatized heroes introduced, we were ready to begin.

Knee-Deep in the Red Snow

On the outskirts of the city of Haarlan stood a large cart, filled to the brim with food and supplies. Two gray horses stood before it, shivering in the cold despite their thick wool blankets. Sitting at the reins was Rand—right-hand woman of the town’s Baron—covered in a red fur cloak.

The snow was coming down in droves. It had been snowing for days now and showed no sign of slowing down. Haarlan was ill-equipped for this type of weather. But things were worse still in Daalheim; a smaller town about a day and a half’s march to the east. A few days ago, a group of men from Daalheim had just barely managed to make their way to Haarlan. They explained that the year’s harvest was all but gone and the people of Daalheim were on the verge of starvation. Now Rand was headed there with what little supplies the town could spare.

But the extreme weather complicated things significantly and Rand would hardly be able to make the journey on her own, especially not if this was the prophesied “red winter” she had heard so many stories about. To accompany her, the Baron had hired three adventurers. So far only one had arrived. He was an orange tabby tabaxi named Maven. Clad in a grey coat, bow and rapier by his side, he stood there waiting, somewhat awkwardly, staring down into the knee-deep snow and making no attempts at conversation. Rand didn’t mind. It was too cold anyway. The town’s High Priestess of Sou, having arrived to see the group off, produced small, round seeds from a pouch in her pocket. She handed one to Maven and one to Rand. The cat examined the seed with some curiosity. It was glowing orange. He had icicles clinging to the fur on his face, Rand noticed. “Those are seeds from the ever-burning tree of Sou,” the priest explained. “Within them lies the essence of the Sunrise. They can warm and even heal you if needed.” Rand thanked the priest. She knew the seeds were a rare blessing. Maven simply nodded in gratitude as the priest began to make her way back to the town through the heavy snow.

Several minutes passed. Through the white curtains of snowfall, a lone man could be seen walking from the empty streets of the town towards the cart. He seemed to have no trouble making his way through the snow and, oddly enough, didn’t seem to mind the cold in the slightest. He wore gray acolyte robes under heavy chainmail. No cloak, no hat, or even gloves. A thick pair of furred boots was the only hint of winter clothing he had. Upon arriving at the cart, he introduced himself as Gudbrand. Gudbrand was a tall, muscular man with a square chin. He carried a warhammer and a shield decorated with a symbol depicting a sword with a lightning bolt for a crossguard.

Appearing later still—through little fault of his own—was Jeran. For him, the knee-high snow was more along the lines of waist-high, and he found himself hopping rather than walking in order to make any progress. Jumping through the snow wasn’t much of a problem for him—he was a tiny little rabbit-man, after all. Not one to get a winter coat, his fur was a grayish brown, now speckled with snowflakes, and he was easy to spot in the snow. Unless he crouched, of course. Nervous about missing the job, he had done his very best in hurrying to the cart and had become rather fatigued by the time he arrived. But he was there now and that was all that mattered. “Sorry I’m—” Jeran took several heavy breaths. "—late." He spoke with a of British accent of sorts, something I hadn’t planned for but seemed to come naturally with the character. Short and exhausted, Jeran got to ride the cart together with Rand. There was room for Maven too. Gudbrand chose to walk, which he did without effort even through the deepest of snow.

It was clear from the outset that this was not going to be an easy journey. The horses, strong as the were, struggled immensely as they trudged down the unshoveled road leading away from the city. Within less than an hour, the cold was beginning to affect the group. They wrapped themselves in blankets from the cart to stay warm. It barely took a minute for them to look like piles of snow where they sat.

On the way to Daalheim, just a few miles outside Haarlan, stood an old wooden cabin. It was the home of Farron, the legendary hunter. He was to accompany the party as an additional safety measure. Eager to enter the warmth of the cabin, Maven and Jeran leapt off the cart and started making their way toward the front door. The snow near the cabin was deep enough that little could be seen of Jeran except his ears. He got to ride on Gudbrand’s shoulders the rest of the way. Approaching, the group noticed that no smoke was coming from the chimney. “Good thing we’re here,” said Maven. “He’s probably out of firewood, the poor thing.” A quarter-circle of ground outside the entrance had been cleared of snow as if the door had been shoved open with great strength. Jeran noticed a series of footsteps leading from the door away from the cabin. They were almost completely covered up with snow, but there was one detail that made them stand out—underneath the faint new layer of snow, they were faintly red.

Jeran climbed down on the ground to get a closer look. “Blood,” he sighed. “I really hope Farron’s alright. But we can’t exactly follow the footprints in this weather.” He was growing concerned. What if Farron wasn’t in his cabin? What if some sort of accident had happened to him and now he was wandering all alone in the snow looking for help? While Jeran stood there imagining the worst, Gudbrand spotted a reddish fleck in the snow by the door. More blood? No, not as dark, and far thicker. He reached out a finger to touch it and immediately froze. His expression changed from one of curiosity to something more neutral; his eyes had a look in them as if he wasn’t really there, like he was somewhere else; staring into the far distance. The kind of look you’d find on soldiers returning from grisly wars. After a moment, he returned to his normal self, snatching his finger away and wiping it clean on the snow. For the first time, he shivered. “Let’s just go inside.”

Stepping into the cabin, the trio was immediately assaulted by the foul stench of rot. It smelled of death, but somehow worse. They knew from that very instant that something was terribly wrong. They could not only smell it, but feel it. Looking around the cabin, they spotted a bed in the corner of the room. It was covered in a slimy red ichor, dripping from the mattress and pooling on the floorboards. The group—now on high alert—drew their weapons and examined the room more closely. It was a tiny, single-room cabin. There was a small kitchen, a table, an armchair next to a fireplace, and of course the bed, defiled by some kind of awful red rot. There was nowhere for anything to hide in here. Except of course… under the bed. The three silently exchanged a look and nodded. They were all thinking it. Gudbrand began carefully approaching the bed, the other two in tow. Holding his warhammer at the ready, he crouched down to look underneath. He breathed a sigh of relief. “There’s nothing here.” They lowered their weapons. Maven knelt down to get a closer look at the red substance on the bed. He sniffed it. It was definitely the source of the horrid smell. “I don’t think we’re going to find Farron here,” Gudbrand muttered. “And frankly I’m not sure we’d want to.” He lifted a battleaxe off the wall, weighing its heft. It was a fine weapon indeed. “Under the circumstances, I don’t think he’d mind if I borrowed this.”

It was warm inside, relatively speaking. But the sickening, yet slightly sweet smell of rot was hardly better than the biting cold of the outdoors. And what had happened to Farron? Everything felt wrong, somehow. They couldn’t stay. The group turned back into the cold and made their way to the cart. Two on foot, one riding on shoulders. “Well?” asked Rand.

“We’re leaving.” It was Maven. “Farron, he wasn’t there, I—I think something’s happened to him.”

“What do you mean? What’s happened?

It was Gudbrand who responded; “Not sure, but would be a mistake to stick around and find out.”

Jeran looked back at the cabin as the cart started moving again. Poor Farron. He felt a tinge of guilt about leaving. But there was nothing they could do. After all, they didn’t know where he was or what had happened to him. The cartwheels creaked in the snow. Though the uncertainty of Farron’s fate hung over them like a shadow in the backs of their minds, the group nevertheless felt a sense of relief as they put cabin behind them. At least they were safe. Little did they know that the worst was yet to come and that by dusk, none of them would be left standing.

A Brief Intermission

In D&D fifth edition (as well as fourth) your character becomes unconscious when running out of hit points. Every round of combat, they need to make something called a death saving throw. You roll a regular twenty-sided die and if your result is ten or more, you succeed. Three successes and your character becomes stabilized, waking up in a couple of hours. Three failures means death. Rolling a one counts as two failures, and rolling a twenty wakes you right up with a single hit point, putting you back in the action.

The reason I mention this is because of the particular situation our characters found themselves in. Our Dungeon Master made it very clear that this was a dangerous adventure, and the risk of death was very real. To make matters worse, our characters were also battling the freezing cold. If they were to fall unconscious, they would freeze to death before they could wake up, even if succeeding on all their death saving throws. Sure, if only one character dropped, they could be healed or at least kept warm until they’d wake. But if everyone got knocked out at once, even if our enemies were to just leave our characters there, it wouldn’t really matter if we succeeded or failed on our death saving throws. We would not be getting back up in that bitter cold.

And with that knowledge, on we go with the story.

Knee-Deep in the Red Snow, Continued

There was an inn by the side of the road a few miles down the road. Getting there had been anything but easy. The party had left Haarlan early morning and it was already late in the afternoon. A wave of relief swept across the group as they saw the inn appearing up ahead through the overbearing downfall. No light was coming from the windows and there was no smoke from the chimney. The situation felt frighteningly familiar. Built from wood, the inn had two floors and an attached stable, which is where the group headed first. Opening the stable doors, Jeran’s heart sank. There it was—that smell. They had no choice this time; they had to stop here for the night. The only alternative was freezing to death. Weapons drawn once again, the party entered the stable and began checking the stalls for anything suspicious. No horses were found in the stalls, or rather, no living ones. Upon opening the stall near the wall shared between the stable and the inn, Maven discovered the half-eaten body of a horse, covered in that same viscous red ichor they had found in Farron’s cabin.

This wasn’t good.

Then, a sound. Beyond a closet door, right next to Gudbrand, came a faint sobbing. Slowly pulling the door open, he raised Farron’s axe with his other hand. Inside the closet sat a woman, knees up, head in her hands. She was young, and wearing a white apron—probably worked here. Her hair was disheveled and—although black—had splotches of the red, putrid substance, as did her clothes. The woman seemed almost catatonic as she sat there, shivering and muttering incoherently. Maven approached and attempted to speak to the woman “Are you alright? What’s your name?” Her head twitched up from her hands.

Weakly; “The shadows, they’re… they’re everywhere. Close the door, close the door!”

“No,” Gudbrand said, “I don’t think she is alright. Here,” he took out the glowing seed given to him by the High Priestess and offered it to her. “Here, eat this. You’ll feel better.” Eating the seed, her shivering stopped immediately. Within a few minutes, she seemed to have just about calmed down. Unfortunately she had little information to share; she and a few other workers at the inn had decided to stay here when the snow first came. Hearing a noise from the stable, she had gone to investigate and found her poor horse dead. The shadows she spoke of, dark shapes crawling all over the walls, started appearing shortly after she came in contact with the red ichor. Locking herself in the closet to escape, she heard screams and a loud crash coming from the main hall. She hadn’t dared investigate.

Jeran was shaking, and not because of the cold this time. He had faced plenty of beasts and monstrosities in his days, but this was different. This was wrong. He knew they had to enter the main hall and secure it. They had to get the drop on whatever was causing this, not the other way around. They brought the horses, protesting, into the stable, along with Rand and the cart. She would stay behind to look after their new acquaintance and the horses while the trio investigated the rest of the building. They’d have to put up with the smell for now.

Out into the snow once again, and around to the far side of the building. There was the door. They braced themselves and entered. The main hall functioned as a tavern. There was a bar disk with wooden casks behind it, and a staircase near the wall that led up to a second-floor balcony overlooking the area. Tables and chairs were scattered all across the room in disarray. Part of the roof had collapsed from the weight of the snow, making it just as cold inside as outside. The floor was covered in snow, and several tables in the center of the room had been crushed by the fallen roofing. Jeran—very much on edge—upon hearing a strange gurgling sound to his left, swung around and fired two crossbow bolts at the source of the noise. They both struck true, piercing a strange human figure at the far wall. It was the body of a human man, dead for at least several hours. He was covered in writhing, undulating red roots coming out of the wall, holding him upright. His head was slouched forward, complexion gray, thick sanguine liquid oozing from his eyes and dripping from his mouth. His gaunt, wrinkled skin clung to his face. But there was little time to process his unholy visage. A crash, and then a scream. The stable. Rushing back into the cold once more, the party arrived just as the stable doors were smashed open with great force. Out flew a white, fifteen-foot-long reptilian creature with bat-like wings brandishing sharp thumb-claws, two scaly legs, and a sinewy tail ending in a pointed stinger.

A wyvern.

Its eyes were red, darting all over the place. The creature, seemingly rabid, was constantly shrieking; a high-pitched unnatural wheeze. There was no hesitation. No time to panic. They were all trained for situations like this. Gudbrand raised his axe and spoke a strange incantation. Before him appeared a translucent gray duplicate—an echo—of himself. The illusory man charged towards the wyvern, swinging his ethereal axe in a way that mimicked Gudbrand’s own motions. Deflecting the blow with ease and knocking the echo aside, the reptile set his eyes on the real Gudbrand. Maven nocked an arrow on his bow and fired, tearing a hole in the beast’s wing. Jeran stood back, firing a rapid salvo of bolts, reloading one crossbow while firing the other. It wasn’t enough. The beast threw himself at Gudbrand with a ferocious, rabid shriek. It swiped its horrible claw right at the spot where Gudbrand had stood only a moment ago, now instead occupied by the illusory echo, who faded into a fine gray mist as the claw tore right through his chest. Gudbrand, in an instant having swapped places with his ghostly echo to avoid the attack, sprung into the air from behind the beast. He raised his axe overhead and brought it down with a mighty thud, burying it firmly in the beast’s back. Blood spattered all over him and the white snow, the wyvern collapsing with a final whimper.

After catching their breath, the group returned to the stable through the broken, splintered doors. Rand was alright, as was the woman whose name they’d never caught. The horses less so. One had a large chunk taken out of its side and the other had collapsed entirely, poisoned by the wyvern’s stinger. Gudbrand was chosen to do the only merciful thing while the dark-haired woman led the group to the kitchen,2 which had a fireplace, she claimed. The kitchen had its own entrance western side of the house—the same as the stable. Jeran put one large rabbit ear to the kitchen door, listening for danger, but could hear nothing inside. Nevertheless entering with utmost caution, Maven and Jeran found themselves pointing their weapons at nothing but a table, lots of kitchenware, some root vegetables and, much to their delight, a fireplace. No one wanted to secure the other rooms at this point. Whatever carnage had gone down in the main hall was clearly over. Whatever monstrosity that might have spread the sickening rot must have left long ago. Or maybe it was the wyvern. The very dead wyvern. They were surely safe. And tired, so tired.

The weary travelers, including Rand and the dark-haired woman–name still a mystery—huddled before the fireplace, listening to the crackling sounds of the burning wood, watching the dancing of the flames. Warm at last.

Jeran had nearly nodded off when he first heard it; a series of thuds, heavy, almost like stomps. It was coming from the main hall. He froze, heart pounding, as he realized what was happening. Something heavy was walking up the stairs. His hands trembled as he tapped the shoulders of Maven and Gudbrand, gesturing towards the door leading to the main hall. They rose as silently as they could manage and carefully picked up their weapons from the kitchen table. Then, on the count of three, they barged through the door. Clad in gray robes, far too cold for the weather, stood a woman at the center of the room, right beneath the hole in the ceiling. Gaunt and ungainly, her pallid skin had the icy blue color of a frozen corpse, and her hair was white as the very snow she stood on. She gripped a crooked wooden staff with her long, claw-like fingers, holding it aloft as if welcoming the falling snow.

She was smiling.

She was looking right at the group and she was smiling. Before her stood two gnomish little men, red eyes full of hate and sharp, pointed teeth bared. They wore red pointy hats, ill-fitting leather clothes and heavy iron boots. Both brandished long, curved sickles. Wasting no time, Gudbrand rushed between the diminutive creatures and swung his axe at the witch. Cackling, she deflected the blow with her staff and slashed at his arm with her claws, now dripping with blood. Maven fired his bow at one of the little creatures, missing as it charged him with its sickle held high. The other ran for Jeran. Though only slightly taller than the creature, Jeran was still faster. He rushed forward, attempting to use a nearby table as a springboard to jump on the balcony. Stepping onto the table, he slipped. A puddle of frozen beer? Meanwhile, Maven dropped his bow and pulled out his rapier as the tiny creature lunged at him. The thing was ferocious. Attacking relentlessly, it drove Maven back towards the wall. He struggled to find an opening to attack. The same could not be said for Gudbrand, who was swinging his axe with all his might. He had had enough. This was it. This was the one behind it all—the rot, the snow, Farron, everything. If he could just hit her with the axe, this would all be over. But the icy witch was more nimble than she looked and gracefully dodged, parried and deflected his attacks, laughing maniacally all the while.

Jeran rolled backwards off the table just as the creature before him swung its sickle at him. It seemed to slice through Jeran as if he was nothing but air. Fortunately it didn’t hit him. It was the illusion projected by his displacer cloak—Jeran was actually a little to the left. Stepping onto the table once again, Jeran leapt toward the balcony, swinging over the banister. He leaned over it and began unloading a barrage of crossbow bolts at the creature below, now unable to retaliate. As the battle progressed, the group barely noticed the sound of metal boots banging against stone coming from one of the rooms on the upper floor. But they all heard as a third iron-booted creature jumped down the hole he had made in the chimney, landing in the fireplace, boots becoming burning hot from the fire. Maven, preoccupied with his skirmish, paid little attention to the third creature until it came through the door, and dropkicked him in the back, knocking the wind out of him, his sword out of his hand, and his whole being down on the floor. Gudbrand, growing desperate in his struggle against the wicked hag and bleeding from multiple claw wounds, finally managed to connect his axe with her shoulder, burying it several inches deep.

The cackling stopped.

She swung her staff at Gudbrand, sending him flying across the room with tremendous force. She pulled the axe out of her shoulder without flinching. Her expression had changed to one of burning anger as she threw the axe onto the snow-covered floor. As she raised her staff, a circle of icy shards appeared in the snow around her. The shards slowly grew taller and taller, curving inward towards the top of the hag’s staff. She was soon covered in a protective dome of ice. Jeran placed a crossbow bolt through the skull of the creature below him. Maven, back aching and burning, rolled over to dodge a wild sickle strike from the impish gnome he had been fighting. He grabbed his rapier, seeing an opening after the missed attack, and stabbed the creature through the heart. But the third creature, the one who came through the chimney, stood over him, smiling as he readied his sickle. He staggered back as a crossbow bolt hit him in the chest. To make the shot, Jearn was leaning so far over the banister as to almost fall down. Now Maven had his chance. He pulled his rapier from the dead creature and plunged it straight into the neck of the still living one. Breathing out, Jeran realized they had made it. Except…

Clumsy sketch of Jeran, both crossbows aimed at you.
The last thing Santa Claus sees before he dies.

The globe of ice covering the witch suddenly shattered into thousands of shards, landing in the snow beneath her. Moving her staff in a circular motion, she began stirring up a blizzard around her, the wind pulling the ice into the air.

At this point, our kind Dungeon Master realized that our odds of surviving were a bit on the slim side, and offered us a bargain: one of our characters would be allowed to make a single attack against the hag—likely killing her—on the condition that said character would then immediately die. After a short discussion out of game, Gudbrand’s player bravely volunteered. Probably not the best choice since he had been missing most of his attacks. Godspeed, Gudbrand.

Lying in the snow and coloring it crimson, Gudbrand strained to get back on his feet. He grabbed the axe next to him and shambled towards the witch. very She looked him in the eyes and smiled. He raised the axe for what would be the last time. He swung it. He missed. The hag ripped his throat out. So it goes. Then she unleashed the blizzard, covering the entire hall in snow and ice. Maven was hit by an onslaught of icicles. He dropped to the ground, unconscious. Jeran tried to dodge out of the way by dropping down to the balcony floor. To succeed, I needed to pass a dexterity saving throw of fourteen,3 something that should’ve been easy considering how good Jeran was at jumping. My result was twelve. Jeran took the full damage of the attack; exactly enough to bring him down to zero hit points. Everyone was either dead or unconscious, and the latter would soon join the former; either bleeding out, getting eaten alive by the nasty hag, or succumbing to the cold.

It would seem that we had lost.

A defeated silence spread across the table. But wait! Jeran was a Harengon, after all. He had an ability that would let him roll a four-sided die and add the result to his dexterity saving throws. The group, out of game, breathed a sigh of relief. All I had to do to get a fourteen was to roll a two or more. A seventy-five percent chance; as long as I didn’t roll a one—

I rolled a one. The only outcome of the roll that would spell disaster. I could hardly believe it.

“Well… Good game,” said the Dungeon Master. “That was my first total party kill.”

Before he could begin packing away his things, I interjected.

“Wait, aren’t we gonna roll death saving throws? What if someone gets a twenty and wakes up?”

“Well, it’s unlikely, but sure, if you want to.”

I did want to. Over the course of the session I’d grown rather attached to my new character and wasn’t ready to let him go just yet. Of course, I knew the odds were wildly against us, and I didn’t expect us to make it, but I wanted to spend at least a few more moments with my character. To say goodbye, if nothing else. Maven’s player and I began rolling our dice.

Maven, success.

Jeran, failure.

Maven, second success.

Jeran, success.

Maven, failure.

Jeran, second failure.

Maven, third success. He was stabilized, not that it mattered.

Jeran, second success. He now had two failed and two successful death saving throws. The next roll would be the last one no matter the result. “Goodbye Jeran,” I thought as I rolled the final die, the one that would seal his fate. “It was nice knowing you.”

Natural twenty. The table erupted with cheer. Jeran was awake with a single hit point and one last chance to pull through. To avenge Gudbrand and save Maven. It was the hare versus the hag, and it was going to be close. Back into the narration we went.

Jeran inhaled a cold, sharp breath as his eyes opened once more. Catching his second wind, he rose from the balcony floor, supporting himself on the banister. Looking down into the hall he saw the witch, mouth covered in blood as she feasted upon what remained of Gudbrand. He had to act quickly. In mere moments she would notice him and attack. He knew he wouldn’t survive that; a gentle breeze could knock him over at this point.

Hands trembling, he aimed his right crossbow and fired, just as she was about to bite down on Gudbrand’s severed arm. The arrow passed her head just a few inches to the left, hitting the far wall with a loud thud. Mouth still agape, she turned to look at the arrow, then at him. There was rage in her eyes now. He took aim once more with his second crossbow. This time he had to hit.

He fired.

The bolt hit the witch straight through the back of the mouth, sending her flying backwards and pinning her against the wall. She was dead. Jeran allowed himself to collapse on the balcony floor. He was capable of using healing magic, but Maven needed it more, although Jeran wasn’t even sure that he was still alive. Slowly but surely Jeran crawled his way down the stairs and over to the unconscious body of Maven. He placed a hand on Maven’s shoulder and spoke a word of healing. Maven woke up. Neither of them spoke. They didn’t have to. It was going to be okay. Things had been horrible, but would soon be okay again. The two survivors made their way back to the kitchen where they found Rand and the dark-haired lady, both unharmed. They closed the door to the grisly scene of the battle, leaving it behind them, trying to forget, as they gathered before the fireplace once more. The winter witch was dead and her magic would slowly subside. Dozing off before the fire seemed like the perfect way to wait for the snow to melt.

Closing Words

In hindsight, I think I’m content with the dull, snowless winter we had in real life.

Thanks to the Dungeon Master for providing me with the notes from the session, and the players for sending me their character sheets. I wouldn’t have remembered a single thing without them.

I enjoyed the way the tension slowly built up, giving us an idea of how horrible the monster would be long before we got to lay our mind’s eyes upon it. I would later take inspiration from this session in a campaign of my own, letting the tension ramp up as the party explored an abandoned town with a beholder’s lair beneath it. It turned out to be very effective; the party ran away as soon as they saw the darn thing.

Anyway, I’m glad to finally have this story immortalized in writing. Sorry if it sucks; I haven’t written a fictional narrative since middle school. The end.

  1. Not technically allowed by the rules, but with the crossbow expert feat it’s no more powerful than having only one, and it simply looks cooler. ↩︎

  2. I faintly remember us actually resting outdoors using rope trick, but now, almost two years later, I realize that rangers don’t even get that spell. In my defense it was a one-shot and character sheets were drafted up in a hurry. I likely made up for it by constantly forgetting extra attack, as usual. I now realize rope trick comes from the gloom stalker ranger subclass. Yay. Anyway I moved their rest to the kitchen as it seems more thematically appropriate. ↩︎

  3. This means I’d roll a twenty-sided die, add some numbers to the result depending on the dexterity of my character, and try to get fourteen or more. ↩︎