Things That Go Bump In The Night

by Jake Reichert

For the most part, inhabitants of Dural consider the land to be a safe place. As one goes about the day-to-day business of farming, running a shop, or relaxing in the woods near town, problems rarely arise that pose a severe threat to anyone's safety. Even when travelling the well-worn paths between cities, the greatest danger one usually faces is the threat of brigands or the occasional hungry wolf. In most cases, even a well-armed group of three or four should not expect to experience too much trouble when travelling the land.

There are even those who choose to make their living by exploring places far away from the towns and farms, roaming further afield into the mountains, forests, caves, and even occasional dungeon that dot the landscape. Even these hardy souls rarely report uncommon dangers. The greatest threats usually come from large animals, or possibly the occasional magically-charmed beast. These dangers, though, can be easily countered by a cautious group of adventurers with a good deal of experience and combination of talents.

On rare occasion, however, a traveller may enter a city, usually half-mad and delerious with fright, telling tales of creatures that seem human but, upon further inspection, turn out to be a twisted parody of true humanity. Most people dismiss these stories as mere superstition, the ravings of madmen, or tales drummed up to fool the listener.

Nonetheless, it is tempting to believe that there is some truth hiding in these mad words. There does seem to be one common thread that runs through all these tales: while these encounters with dark creatures occur at various times, the majority of them seem to take place in the dead of night. Furthermore, the descriptions all seem to fit the role of the classic demon of children's tales: the vampire.

As one would expect from the ramblings of madmen, there is little that these stories agree upon. Some tell of how these insidious creatures drain their victims of blood, leaving them dead on the spot. In other versions, the victim becomes a type of walking dead, slaves to the whims of the vampire. Still others make the claim that the victims actually become vampires themselves.

Sometimes people speak of the vampire as having superhuman strength, able to overcome their opponents as if by magic. Others tell tales of the vampire outwitting them, or using magic to lull their victims into submission. Occasionally, one even hears of vampires changing themselves into wolves, ogres, or other creatures before attacking their prey. There are even those who have claimed that a vampire vanished right before their eyes, but these ridiculous claims are rejected almost unilaterally.

Even more dubious than the adventurers who tell of these things are individuals who call themselves "vampire hunters". These pathetic souls are usually considered to be charlatans of the worst kind, preying off the fears of others for their own monetary gain. Every once in a while they will take money from those bringing back the horrible tales or from the occasional superstitious farmer in exchange for killing the supposed vampire. They will then venture out into the wilderness with a laughable assortment of mirrors, garlic, nets, silver chains, and other items, returning with some trinket or other which they claim belonged to the vampire. These individuals are outcasts of society, lumped together in the same category as miracle-workers and pickpockets.

Overall, these tales are viewed as urban legends. They may possibly contain a grain of truth, but believing in them wholeheartedly would be quite foolish. While most people laugh in public at these tales of "creatures of the night", many will privately make at least a few token gestures towards warding off these beasts when travelling alone after dark. Everyone knows that vampires aren't real, but on the off-chance that there is a bit of truth to these outlandish tales, it can't hurt to be prepared.

And we won't even begin to discuss the topic of werewolves...