H. Anders Worthington IV

H. Anders Worthington IV, wealthy dilettante and big game hunter, written and played by Joel Cardella in the Shadows Play campaign

My hands shook in stunned silence after I had opened the envelope, making the scrawled address dance. It was almost a year ago, but that face had remained with me, in every waking thought and always in my dreams.

Farnsley and I had split off. The old boy had given us a good chase, but we were closing in. The wager was standard, going to whomever got the first shot in. I was closing in, I could smell his wet fur in the slight breeze. I thought it odd that he would expose himself downwind, but I had never taken this large a bear before, so hubris could have made his instincts evolve past the need to hide his scent.

I saw him lumbering about, as though he were rooting. I knew the danger of a male seeking a mate, but this chance was larger than any I’d had up to now. I took aim, the powerful scope zooming in on the rump as the old boy snuffled about in the sand.

Then, without warning, it stood. Not reared. Stood on two legs. And turned toward me.

I shall never forget that face, as I stood in frozen disbelief, as the animal features melted away to the hideous visage held beneath it. The absence of eyes, soulless, dark cavities of absolute blackness. A slit where the mouth should be. Feathered, leathery skin stretched tight across face but stopping halfway, when the skin peeled away to show the pulsing brain beneath.

Suddenly, my scope went dark. I looked up, and saw Farnsley had come between me and the creature. I screamed for him to move, but he brought his rifle up. He glanced back at me, his face pale, but with a champion grin.

I shall never forget how it took Farnsley’s shots, one, two, three, four. It crossed the distance to him in a blur, and drove its long spindley skeleton fingers directly into his heart. Farnsley twitched on the end of that claw, and croaked out for me to run. Then the thing bent him in half. I heard the segments of his spine snapping and yelled out in pure terror, rapping off bullets of my own.

I turned and fled, knowing it would catch me and I would be its next meal. I escaped, but only by the grace of God, forever shamed by my fear and cowardice. I lived to remember that thing, the thing who killed Farnsley, the thing whose photo I held in my shaking hand now.

The thing I was ever since hunting, and would destroy, to avenge my good friend’s courageous act and hopefully buy myself peace.