Is This Your Fateful Hour?

Posted in Savor The Flavor on March 7, 2012

By Doug Beyer

Senior creative designer on Magic's creative team and lover of writing and worldbuilding. Doug blogs about Magic flavor and story at

Your life total is 20, you are on the plane of Innistrad, and the sun has just gone down. Can you survive the night?

The game starts now.


This forested road toward the holy city of Thraben is choked with rain-filled potholes, making your horse stumble and snort. Her hooves splash in the mud, disturbing reflections of the cloud-draped moon. Since all the roadside shrines went dormant, the werewolves have made this part of the woods their hunting ground, and no humans have ventured out here.

Travel Preparations | Art by Vincent Proce

Except you. So you said the traditional prayers at the last shrine anyway. Not much else you can do. You just want to do everything possible to make sure you reach Thraben.

Strapped to your forearm is your silver holy symbol, the symbol of Avacyn that your father gave you, curving like two herons' beaks. It changes the balance of your sword arm and even bites into your skin, through your sleeve, when you bend at the elbow. But you don't mind that a bit—it reminds you of the feeling of protection. Who knows? They say Avacyn has abandoned the world, but someone might still be out there, watching over you.

The road finally gives way to utter sludge. A chilly mist is rolling in, and as you steer your horse through the shadows, you see that you've entered a cemetery of slumped headstones: a diregraf.

Woodland Cemetery | Art by Lars Grant-West

Decision time. Do you:


Good idea. You and your horse find your way to more solid ground on the other side of the diregraf. You lose 0 life.

Your horse agrees with this plan. You hurdle hastily over the graves of the surely restless dead. Your horse lands awkwardly once, causing you to bash your shoulder against a stone mausoleum on the way out of the diregraf. You lose 2 life.

Brave—possibly too brave. A hungry trio of ghouls bursts out of the ground midway through the diregraf, lunging at you with bone-exposed fingers. You manage to hack them back into the Blessed Sleep, but not before one of them lands a savage blow on your thighbone. You think you've escaped grave rot, but the wound costs you 4 life.

You and your horse make your way through the mucky graveyard and into a sloping, wooded valley.

  • Bridge of the Recluse

It's not long before the land drops off into a dark, foliage-strangled ravine. It could take hours to navigate down into the ravine and back up the other side, so the wooden footbridge nearby looks like a solution. The bridge has its own problems, however.

Kessig Recluse | Art by Vincent Proce

The huge spider lurks below the bridge, silent as death, and you almost would have missed it if it weren't for the hovering birds. You thought at first the birds you were seeing were somehow frozen in midair, but they're actually the feathery carcasses of dead birds plastered on a mat of almost-invisible spidersilk. This old bridge is as trappy a trap as any trap that ever trapped.

Do you:


You kick your spurs and say your prayers, bolting over the bridge. The spider is instantly attracted to the vibrations and snatches at you with multiple legs. It pierces through your leg with a deadly strong limb, but you manage to struggle free. Your horse isn't so lucky. You stagger on, trying not to look back as the spider devours your trusty steed. You lose 5 life.

A very wise plan. The spider ignores you as it happily snatches and consumes your horse. You get by physically unharmed, but still, it's hard to bear the crunching. You lose 2 life from the stress on your mind.

You wait quietly, hoping for some bat, bird, or even vampire to slip into the spider's grasp. Instead, the spider eventually comes to sense your nearness, and clambers out of the ravine to attack you. You slash at it with your sword and fend off its hairy legs, only sustaining minor damage. Your horse valiantly rears back to kick at it, grabbing the spider's attention. You watch dumfounded as your horse becomes a spider snack, and finally manage to tear yourself away to escape. You lose 4 life from your wounds.

  • The Captive

You head on, now sadly without your faithful steed. You knew when you headed out that your home wasn't safe anymore, but now you doubt you could even make it back there alive. The only option is to press on into the night, toward the protective walls of Thraben.

Mournful cries find their way through the trees to your ears. You creep forward cautiously, holy symbol and sword at the ready, but as you approach you realize the plaintive voice is human. As you emerge into a small clearing, you see a series of hanging cages: draincages, where vampires store victims for future feeding. One of them holds a man, who yells out to you once he sees you.

Wolfbitten Captive | Art by Zoltan Boros

"Help me!" the man cries. "Let me out of here! They'll come back for me!"

"Hold it," you say. "What were they? Falkenrath? Stromkirk?" In the light of the rising moon, you see the bite marks perforating the man's skin. The bites have a strange look to them. Indelicate. Wild.

"I don't know. They were horrible—teeth, hunger, snarling—just let me out before they return!"

Snarling? Vampires don't usually snarl. What has this man endured? You decide to try the test of blessed silver, pressing your symbol of Avacyn onto the man's skin. He recoils with an inhuman roar, and slashes at your arm, tearing your beloved holy symbol from your sleeve and sending it into the weeds somewhere. The draincage swings, and changes begin to overcome the man, starting with his rage-rumbling voice.

"You're next, lost one. Your tender spirit will drown in fury. You will be part of the pack."

Krallenhorde Killer | Art by Zoltan Boros

With that, he tears open the cage from the inside—and by the light of the moon, it almost looks like a wolf-monster tears out of the man from the inside. The transformation was shockingly fast, and the sounds of ripping and knuckle-popping are horrifying. The werewolf bares its fangs and launches toward you.

The silver holy symbol is lost somewhere, and you face a newly-freed, hulking werewolf. Do you:


You dodge a wolf-claw and roll through the weeds. The predator is on your heels every second, but you manage to kick it in the face, slowing it down. Just as it recovers and bounds toward you, you catch the glint of something silvery. You grab the holy symbol and turn to face the werewolf—and it's upon you. Just as the creature clamps its jaws onto your arm, you bury the symbol deep into the chest of the werewolf, destroying both utterly. You are alive, but you lose 3 life.

You lunge forward with the sword and land a solid blow, but the beast is too strong. Its claws rake your chest and face, pressing you back toward the cages. You manage to use one of the swinging draincages to knock the werewolf to the ground and run it through. It's not dead, but you're able to speed away into the night. You don't slow down until you can't hear its howls anymore. You survived, but you lose 6 life.

You turn and flee: never a bad plan in Innistrad. Except now. The werewolf easily catches up with you and flays your back with its claws. You fall, and the two of you fight, rolling and tumbling on the ground. You manage to slice open the werewolf's guts with a lucky slash of your sword, and it collapses with a death-howl. You stagger away, badly wounded. You lose 8 life.

  • Uncle Kaspar

Now bereft of your holy symbol and wobbly from your wounds, you press on, anxious to get to the safety of Thraben. But the despondency seems to be creeping in. Has the forest turned particularly gloomy and decrepit around you, or is that just the effect of your dwindling hope? Is that crowd of people shuffling up the hill toward you and moaning? Or are you just hearing the moaning despair of your own mind?

Nnnno... no, they're the unhallowed all right, a horde of flesh-hungry undead. But, miraculously, you see a familiar face among them: Your Uncle Kaspar! You recognize him instantly by his favorite hat! Is he being pursued by the ghouls? Maybe you can save him!

"Uncle Kaspar!" you shout, waving your arms frantically. "This way!"

Gravepurge | Art by Zoltan Boros

Nnnno... no, Uncle Kaspar is one of them. He's become a ghoul. Oh Uncle Kaspar, what happened to you?

You're going to have to deal with these rotting ghouls, or you'll be joining them. And you already have sustained several wounds. No doubt the scent of your blood has already piqued their unhallowed hunger. All you have with you is your sword and your tattered clothes.

Do you:


No one can blame you for that, even though the archangel's protective power has all but disappeared. Surprisingly, the spell grants your sword a holy glow, your own desperate faith powering the spell even when the angel can't. You are able to slash your way through the zombie horde. The zombies do manage to wound you, though.

Fateful Hour! You only lose 2 life.

You lose 7 life.

The sword makes a pretty arc, and then it punctures right through Uncle Kaspar's forehead, and he goes down. But now you're unarmed.

Fateful Hour! You perform a desperate, adrenaline-fueled leap off of Uncle Kaspar's body, vaulting over the ghouls and manage to evade death, losing no additional life.

The ghouls slash at you with their rot-claws, and you lose 6 life.

You are surrounded within moments, but you fight valiantly, turning your despair into strength. Zombies topple all around you, including poor Uncle Kaspar.

Fateful Hour! Your fear of death has turned to a kind of wretched fearlessness, and you slay a path through the ghouls and escape, losing only 1 life in the process.

The deadly teeth of the ghouls find you, and you lose 4 life.

Then, you die of your wounds.

Your fateful hour is here, but you have life left in you.

You have enough life left to press on, but your fateful hour approaches.

  • The Night's Call

The moon is high and full behind its mask of clouds. Your clothes are tattered and stained with blood—yours and others'. You're not sure where your sword is anymore, or how far off the gates of Thraben might be. All you can think about are the seemingly infinite foothills of Gavony stretching out before you, and the penny-like taste in your mouth.

Plains | Art by Jung Park

The worst part about it is that you're pretty sure you sustained a wound from a werewolf, and you seem to remember that being something you were supposed to avoid. You're not sure if it was enough to afflict you with lycanthropy, but the thought of it is a shadow over your soul.

All you can do is trudge on. All you can think about are the massive doors of the High City opening to you, and the arms welcoming you inside. Those warm, supportive arms. Those nice, warm, fleshy, veiny, tasty arms.

Wait. What?

You shake your head free of thoughts. These thoughts are getting you nowhere. You wish you could just purge all thoughts from your head, and focus on moving your body. Yes. Just let your conscious mind slip away, and become one with the road. One with the rolling fields. One with the earth under your paws.

Wait. Wait. What? Wait!

Oh, no.

Afflicted Deserter | Art by David Palumbo

Do you:


It's painful, but you rush on despite your wounds.

Fateful Hour! The pain helps focus your mind, keeping at bay the rising sense of wildness inside of you. You lose 2 life.

You lose 5 life as you thrash around and stumble and make your wounds even worse.

You hold in your mind those pleasant thoughts of family and friends.

Fateful Hour! These memories strengthen you, carrying you on. You lose 3 life.

Your memories only bring you greater despair. You lose the rest of your (human) life and you become a werewolf. You begin a new life, ravaging the countryside and killing humans.

You figure a moment of repose might help you regain some of your strength.

Fateful Hour! A sense of determination overcomes you, and the rest serves you well. You continue on without losing any more life.

You bleed profusely and lose 7 life.

Then, you die of your wounds.

Your fateful hour is here, but you have life left in you.

You have enough life left to press on, but your fateful hour approaches.

  • Verdict at the Gates

By some miracle you arrive at the gates of Thraben. The human guards allow you in, but they point silver-tipped spears at you and demand to know what happened to you.

Skillful Lunge | Art by Jason Felix

You're actually feeling pretty confident. Things do not seem that dire now that you've made it here, and you figure it's best to tell them you were just attacked by bears or by some other mundane beast rather than risk being instantly slain by cathars. They let you in and treat your wounds. But the next night, you wake from your healer's bed transformed into a savage werewolf. You rampage across Thraben, thrashing innocents with your claws and tearing out throats in your massive canine teeth. Your frenzy only ends when a squad of wolfhunters finally slays you. They impale your body on the Walls of Thraben as an example to other monsters like you.


Gather the Townsfolk | Art by Dan Scott

Fateful Hour! You remember your honor, and you admit you might have the curse of the werewolf upon you. They take you away and treat your wounds, but bar you in a cell of thick, silver-inlaid wood for your own protection. The priests and cathars have no power to cure you, but their prayers and well-wishes are reassuring. You have command of your human mind most of the time, and at least you're alive and aren't causing harm to anyone. Maybe something can redeem you one day.


Bar the Door | Art by Ryan Panacoast

Were you able to survive? Yeah, I know—the endings were pretty grim. But hey, it's Dark Ascension, and it's always darkest before the dawn. Thanks for playing, and see you next week!


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