I wrote a short story about a horrible creature cloaked in gray robes that speaks only in whispers, mimics your form, makes you cry tears of blood, and then turns turns you into a horrible mind-slave under its command!
Then I ran it as a D&D monster! It was super fun. I set up a weird environment in the Shadowfell that was similar to the beautiful and creepy garden Paul described in a previous article. The Creature in Gray used Unearthly Whispers to charm the wizard, who got to throw out his bag of horrible controller tricks against the party for a change. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought of adding a bunch of temporary HP to the wizard to make him tougher, so he went down pretty quickly (I thought of it mid combat and gave him the temp HP and a small heal to bring him back into the fight).
I took some liberties with its abilities, but it’s a pretty good and creepy reflection of the creature I created for my story. The revised version is below:
Read the short story below!
The figure stood there unmoving. It looked up at her, but she still couldn’t tell if it was male or female. Or young or old, for that matter. Coming or going. Friend or foe. Its face was partly obscured by a heavy hood; what features she could see almost seemed to shift back into the gray fabric it cloaked itself in. She called out again.
“Who goes there?”
Its lips moved, but if it said anything, Mariz couldn’t make it out. She spat out the inkroot she had been chewing and smiled, showing her ink black teeth. She was not afraid.
“Friend or Foe?” Better to get things out in the open. Mariz preferred it that way. Keep it simple. Talk or fight. Kill or die if it came to that. Subtlety was not her strong suit.
“Neither.” It smiled, showing its crooked teeth. They were ink black like hers.
That gave her pause. Seeing those teeth. Just like hers… Why was it wearing those heavy cloaks anyway? She looked up . The sun hung above, bright and hot. Not a cloud in the sky. It must be sweltering. “Don’t play games. Is that your house?”
“Do you work there? Is that the Carver estate?” The manor lay right ahead. At first she assumed the figure was some servant sent to greet her. She had been sent for after all. Or so he had claimed. But this person, whatever it was, was no servant. No reputable one anyway.
“No.” Its voice was soft and ethereal. Barely audible.
“Who are you?”
A whisper. She was too far away to hear. It stood only ten feet away, yet she could not hear it.
“Come closer.” It smiled, showing those ink black teeth again. They even had the same missing incisor, just like her own… Something wasn’t right here. Something was very wrong. She reached for her sword.
“Who are you?”
Another whisper. She unsheathed her sword from it scabbard and held it in front of her cautiously. She immediately felt like a fool, drawing a weapon against a defenseless wretch of a creature who by the looks of it posed no threat to her whatsoever. It wasn’t even armed. It was probably just some backwards local farmer playing games with her, or some beggar too stupid to realize she was the closest thing to a trained killer ever to walk into these parts.
Never draw your weapon without cause. The first rule. Or was it the second? She could never remember. Her mother had gotten them mixed up too. Sometimes there were twenty rules, sometimes ten. Sometimes every piece of advice was a rule, every insult, every begrudging compliment. But one rule or five hundred, she knew this one was important; draw your weapon when you are ready to fight, ready to kill. She was neither.
Yet she couldn’t bring herself to sheath her sword. She eyed the creature, forcing herself to inspect every detail of its bedraggled form. It was about her height, covered in voluminous gray robes. Probably wool. It slouched with its head slumped down, like it was too tired to invest more than the most trivial of efforts to keep itself standing. It looked like it had been standing here all day, but that couldn’t be right because she would have seen it earlier as she was traveling down the path. But then she didn’t see it walk into view… Its face was even less visible than it had been before, now that it wasn’t looking at her.
It was just standing there. Perhaps she should just ignore it. Perhaps she should just climb up the hill and march up to the manor and find out why someone had already paid her more gold in advance for a job than she had ever received before, and she hadn’t even done anything yet.
Never turn your back on an enemy, and especially never a friend. Another rule. If it was an enemy, then it was better to approach it head on. If it was a friend, then she owed it whatever assistance she could give. Best not to abandon one’s principles in the face of uncertainty.
Her sword remained unsheathed. She stepped cautiously forward, daring herself to come in closer. Closer still. Willing herself to override those instincts that had kept her alive so long, that would soon be serving her if things became violent. Why did she push herself, she wondered? Because she had to figure out what it wanted. Because she had to prove that even if she was afraid, she could own her fear.
She stopped only a few steps away from it, her sword which she still held out in front of her almost touching its gray ragged robes. From this close, she could detect a feint smell of rot emanating from the figure. It clearly hadn’t bathed for some time. Its head remained down, the hood almost completing cloaking its face, which was hidden in shadows.
She waited. It did not stir. She tensed the muscles in her sword arm and then willed herself to speak those words, “Who are you?”
It brought its head slowly up to meet her gaze. She let out a gasp, but was surprised at how much she had been expecting to see what stood before her. It was her own face staring back at her. Or some amalgamation of it anyway. A good attempt. There were the same full lips, missing tooth, gently sloping nose, cold piercing eyes, but somehow they all seemed to fit together wrong. Like a good first attempt by an amateur artist. The pieces were there, but it lacked her passion, her fury; it failed to capture her spirited determination in all things. Or maybe it just seemed that way. She was frozen, not with fear, but with wonder. What was this thing? What did it want with her?
Then it spoke. Its breath smelled rancid and yet felt noticeably cool, a strange combination. “I am whispering sorrow,” it whispered.
“That’s not a name,” she shot back. She was regaining her composure, as her memory of the world she lived in returned to her. There were those who could do what this person was doing. It was rare, but not unheard of. She had never met one personally, of course, but there were rumors of those who could tame snakes with a gaze, control fires with a flick of their fingers, even bend time to their whims with only a thought. Surely something like this was an afterthought to someone with those powers. Then again, she wasn’t in a rush to test her sword against anyone with those kinds of abilities.
“I am Whispering Sorrow,” it repeated. And she realized that was its name. And perhaps something more.
“I am Mariz. I do not fear you.” And she did not fear it. But her heart felt heavy to see it. To see its eyes staring back into hers. Her eyes staring back into hers. Two sets of eyes locked together in sorrow. And she felt alone. With only herself for company. A broken version of herself that felt nothing and cared for no one. And tears ran down her face.
She touched her hand to her face to wipe away her tears. But when she withdrew her hand, she saw only blood. She was crying tears of blood. And it was smiling. With her black teeth.
She raised her arm to bring her sword slashing down upon it, but found herself suddenly too weak to lift it. With a gasp of surprise she found her own weight pulling her to the ground. She was exhausted, unable to stand. With growing terror, she forced herself to her feet and tried to raise the blade once more, but it came tumbling out of her hand as she tried to heft it, wrenched forcefully from her grasp. Her vision blurred and it was all she could do to stay upright. She tripped on something, stumbled, and tried to get her bearing.
And she never stopped crying.