A man in jeans and a polo shirt was washing his sedan in the driveway. The warm glow of a lazy summer afternoon was just enough to cause Strahd’s skin to hiss from the radiant light before he covered himself with his cloak as they walked up the road.
Of the group Daniel and Vecna where the most likely to turn heads, The former a naked horned man with dark hair and a tail and the other a lean imposing figure cloaked in dark robes from which peeked the skeletal figure of a litch, who’s fresh had long ago wasted into undeath. Yet as the three walked though the suburban streets it almost felt like they where invisible, well not quite – as people would raise their hands to wave at them, and call a pleasant “Hello, lovely day” and other such friendly, but somehow hollow greetings.
Tasha, was quiet leading the others as they walked away from the high school of horrors and up the hill to where the houses started to become larger, cars more expensive and gardens more perfectly maintained.
Each house a perfect little microcosm of suburban bliss. The kind of neighbourhood where evil didn’t happen, because those kind of things happened to other people.
As Vecna tried to make sense of the scene before him – the strange metal box being watered by the human his eye following the water as it ran down the driveway and into the street… the slight decline causing the water to run back towards the way they came and into a drain where something caught his eye.
Just lying there in the street.
But not just any hand.
A Obvious Trap! Vecna thought to himself, only a idiot would—-but he didn’t even get to finish his thought before a blur of a rushing figure moving past him with a emotional cry.
Strahd moving with supernatural speed as just a momentary glimpse of her face looking out at him from the drain was enough for him to jump to her rescue. Literally as the vampire jumped straight into the drain.. the dark gifts of being a vampire helping him slip into the dark, tight, and extremely wet interior – forgetting in his panic that Vampires and running water where very much not a good mix.
But it was about to get worse.. as Strahd felt something move against him in the dark.. reaching out to Grapple it he felt the texture of sandpaper as he grabbed hold and then the strange sensation as the mucus started to leech into his flesh – infecting him with a pathogen that started to spread though his skin – digesting and mutating it from the inside.
In a moment what appeared to be a rescue mission had changed as to the rest of the party outside there was the sound of splashing as a invisible monster and Strahd fought… Strahd crying out the entire time that he would save Titania.
Yet again it was up to Daniel to save the day for Vecna and Tasha simply watched, the former wondering what kind of idiot would jump into such a obvious trap.
Daniel tried to mimic Strahd in running head first into the Drain, his horns sticking at first before with great strength he broke his way in, also falling into the water with the monster that lurked in the murky water. Fighting monsters wasn’t that big a problem for Daniel, for when Death rejects you the worst you have to face is pain, and one moment where he might once again try to explain to Death why he should remain and not be sent back over, and over again.
But in the here and now there was Strahd, trying to escape the monster and Daniel trying to attack something he couldn’t see – for as he looked around there was no sign of the monster, but in the cramped confines of the drain there was only so many places it could be. As he swung his screaming axe wildly he felt it connect.. his hand feeling numb as from the wound the same thick mucus started to mix with the water. Swallowing water Daniel felt the burn in his lungs – not from drowning but from the strange sensation of being transformed.
Strahd too had been transformed.. as a vampire he had rarely needed to fear drowning and yet he had the strange sensation as he felt himself take a breath for the first time in countless years. He was breathing… under water?
Everything about this was wrong, Vampires HATED water more then cats – Holy Water most of all!.. Running sewer water was probably second. Turning to Mist he slipped out of the water and the drain to land in front of his companions, ready to chew them out for leaving him to his death. Transforming back from Mist he opened his mouth ready to give them a mighty good talking to … only to immediately start to choke… unable to breath…
VAMPIRES DO NOT NEED TO BREATH! He thought to himself, furious and confused as he fell to his knees.. looking over his shoulder back at the drain.. the water that he knew would harm him seemed to be also his only relief.
Meanwhile Daniel felt something brush against him.. and instead of fear he felt something tear at his mind.. first pain, and then a peaceful numbness.. where before he could see very little in the murky water far deep below there was the shimmer of light.. Daniel felt himself light, easily able to swim down… away from the others and into the quiet peace of the water below. He felt a thought enter his mind “Yes, everything you wish you can have” as he swam down past upside down streets and to the familiar farm house and happy animals waiting for him… he was home.
Strahd rushed into the water.. the moment his head was submerged the pain cleared and once again he could breath.
VAMPIRES DO NOT NEED TO BREATH! – he raged to himself as he looked around “DANIEL!” he called out – the monster could not be seen but he could see the shape of Daniel floating far below.. what was he doing? Daniel didn’t respond as Strahd tried to attack the monster, his blows glancing and random as while he knew the monster was there it appeared as invisible as The Invisible Man?? Thing?? Person??..
Vecna had been watching as the water rushed out of the drain, starting to flood the street.. a tentacle, made of water starting to reach towards him as Tasha stepped back, casting a arcane ward to protect herself.
Sighing Vecna stepped froward, walking onto the Drain and with the force of his will channeled his magic to Shatter the sewer grate. Chunks of stone falling in around Strahd and the lashing water .. a wet tentacle narrowly missing Vecna as he teetered as the concrete broke apart.. narrowly managing to jump to the side before it fell into the water below.
In the deep Daniel once again felt the pain, then soothing numbness as a thought slithered though his mind “Stay, Daniel, float down here with us forever, no sadness, no pain, everything you want.. you can have”.
Looking up he saw that the ceiling of the drain was not concrete – but the surreal image of the same street he had been walking down, but the houses, the trees.. everything was upside-down, lit in the glow of the light below he saw stretching out in all directions was a town underwater, a town where everything floats
Something commanded he turn away, away from the dark and towards the light, he was inside the farmhouse now, his family all there smiling at him, saw his chickens, the llama cows, all there, just as he always wanted them to be.
But he had seen his family die, and be brought back, and he had made his own perfect place in Ravenloft, and maybe it wasn’t as nice as this but this was too good, too perfect
It wasn’t real!
Daniel was furious, looking up he saw a shape silhouetted, a pale spot amid the darker water which had been tinged pink with blood like a spoonful of Jelly removed from a clear bowl.. Sleek and sinister it was enough.. Daniel didn’t float – he swum at full speed, head down to point his horns directly at the creature as his screaming axe was in his hands and ready. Tieflings rarely used their horns in combat… yet watching as Daniel’s Hones pierced though the soft reflective underside of the creature – even more blood rushing out to mix with the water as he surged to action, able to see his target clear in the bloody water he sliced though it’s soft belly as the water foamed.
The creature turned from trying to attack, to trying to retreat.
From above Vecna and Tasha watched as the water continued to flood out of the drain and into the street – once murky now pink, then darker red as the creatures blood started to mix and run. Examining the shape of the monster Vecna recognised the telltale silhouette of a Aboleth! What it was doing in a drain was a mystery but as it lashed at him he felt it touch him, the ooze having no effect for as a Undead it was rather hard to have your skin turn to jelly when what little remained had hardened into something close to leather long ago. Knowing what they where fighting gave Vecna the edge needed but as the day was won and Daniel climbed out of the water he too.. found that he could not breath.
This. wasn’t the first time Daniel had died from asphyxiation, but it wasn’t his favourite way to go. Looking behind the party he noticed a old women cutting flowers in her garden who waved at him – help! Daniel thought.. dousing his head in water before grabbing a big breath and running into the house.
Strahd was also dealing with the same dilemma, as a Vampire he could not stand water. VAMPIRES DO NOT NEED TO BREATH. No matter how many times he reminded himself of that it seemed to have no effect on his lungs that VERY MUCH WANTED TO BREATH whether he consented or not. Unwilling to ask for help Strahd turned himself into a dark mist, responding to Vecna and Tasha’s insults about how dumb it was to dive head-first into a obvious trap by forming himself into a rude gesture.
Being Mist solved his breathing issue, but it sure was a slow way to get around. Tasha too needed to breath.. and the moment she opened her mouth Strahd rushed forward – his mist form rushing down her windpipe and into her lungs – choking her as she started to cough “GET OUT” a furious rush of magic as Tasha drew her wards about her shoving Strahd from her as a circle formed around her "Never again.. " Tasha said, standing inside a Magic Circle as she wiggled her finger in a ‘no’ “not without consent” Tasha emphasised the word, as Strahd sulked in mist form..trying to invade her space simply caused his mist to flow around the magic circle cast to ward off the undead.
Vecna tired of the drama offered to Strahd to use him instead, Vecna’s lungs hadn’t been used in a very long time – so he gestured to Strahd to come inside it was cramped, but good enough.
“Where are we going?” Vecna asked Tasha as she once again lead the party onwards.
“Home” Tasha said, gesturing as they came to a single story house made of brick in the same early 90s style as the others. It was a little bigger then the ones they passed but seemed utterly ordinary in every way. Tasha however seemed confident as she lead them up the driveway, opening the front door as she called out “Mom, Dad, I’m home!”…..
Vecna blinked, a witch living in some kind of classic all American suburbia? Who would come up with such a ridiculous idea!