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Shroudfall Chronicles: A Hunter’s Tale

A Hunter's Tale

The fire crackled and popped in the hearth of the Ironwood Inn, casting flickering shadows on the faces of the gathered patrons. The night was cold, and the wind howled outside, but inside, a hushed anticipation hung in the air. At the center of attention was a man, his clothes tattered, his face mostly hidden inside a cloak. He took a deep breath, his hands trembling slightly as he began his tale.

"I come from a small town on the edge of the Blackwood," he started, his voice low and raspy. "A small village, quiet and peaceful, until recently. We noticed the changes first in the forest. The trees grew twisted, their branches gnarled like claws. At night, we heard whispers, voices in the wind that none of us could understand."

A shudder ran through the man, and he lost his voice. The innkeeper, a burly man with a thick beard, poured another round of ale for the crowd. "Go on, traveler. Tell us what happened."

The man nodded, his gaze distant as if recalling a nightmare. "It was about a fortnight ago. I was out hunting. The day was clear, but with every step I took deeper into the forest, it grew darker and darker. At first, I thought a heavy fog rolled in, but then I realized that there was something else in the air, something that made it hard to breathe. And the smell, like at the end of the season, when it has rained for days and everything just rots."

He paused, taking a long drink from his mug, and continued. "The forest felt... alive. Not in the way we're used to, but as if it had a mind of its own. The trees themselves seemed to shift, closing in on me. I could feel their hatred, their desire to consume."

The patrons exchanged skeptical glances, and a man near the back scoffed. "Come on, traveler. You're telling us the trees are out to get you? Sounds like too much ale and not enough sleep."

The man’s eyes flashed with a desperate intensity. "I swear on my life, it's true! The trees and plants, they moved with purpose, like they had a will of their own. It was as if nature itself had become the hunter, and I was its prey."

A murmur of disbelief ran through the audience. The innkeeper raised an eyebrow, but let the man continue. "And then, as if a silent signal had been given, they truly came for me. I ran. I ran like I've never run before. The vines lashed at me, thorns tore my clothes and skin, but I kept going. The ground beneath me shifted, trying to trip me up, but I didn't stop. It was pure madness. The whispers grew louder, filling my head with a cacophony of voices. I stumbled and fell, and when I looked back, I saw the trees closing in, their branches reaching out like skeletal hands."

The inn was silent, every face etched with a mix of skepticism and curiosity. The man’s voice broke as he finished his tale. "I don't know how I escaped… but I still hear its whispers, getting louder and louder."

The man threw his hands over his ears and slumped forward, and a long pained scream escaped his throat: "IT ONLY FEELS HUNGER!"

The innkeeper stepped out from his bar and started moving toward the man. "You've had a rough time, lad. Maybe a good night's rest will set you right."

As the innkeeper reached out to steady the trembling man, his hood fell back, revealing his face. Gasps filled the room. His skin was pallid and mottled with dark, spore-like growths, his eyes wild and unfocused. His body convulsed, and he managed to utter one last, desperate warning. "It's too late... it's already here."


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