Believe it if you will, but this is not my first visit to the Dreadlands, even if I did not know it at the time. It was years ago when I first saw these shores, although my manner of travel remains a mystery even to this day.
You see, I had the unpleasant task, a few years back, to oversee the expansion of the crypt of House Hasingstoke. An unfortunate necessity as a particularly ghastly pestilence swept the family. The workers, for all their good intent, unwittingly opened a new passage into an ancient vault. The tombs we found there dated back centuries. Some of the cover stones were cracked and crumbling, and an eerie light shone forth from one of the sepulchers. One curious digger leaned in for a clearer look when, with an unnatural suddenness, he began to be pulled into the very stone itself. Instinctively, I grabbed his leg, trying as I might to still his tumble when I, too, felt myself falling.
In the next moment, the laborer and myself were in another place. A circle of ancient stones surrounded us, and the air was damp and chill with night. Scarcely had we come to realize that we were, impossibly, out of doors when we became aware of the beastly eyes around us. Low breaths, akin to growls, issued forth a visible mist outside the circle. My companion, awash with terror, tried to flee and I shouted to stop him, but too late came my warning. The beasts were upon him, tearing at his flesh and consuming him even as he yet lived to see it.
My escape was as improbable as the rest of my story, I assure you. Before my eyes, one of the standing stones around me began to smolder and glow with the same light I had aforeseen in the family crypt. Unthinking, I moved toward it, drawn I suppose by the very unnaturalness of it. I felt compelled, I know not by what force or will, to touch the thing. Almost at the same instant did I feel pulled in two directions. Forward, falling as before into the cold stone and at once rearward, pulled by the jaws of the monstrous creature that had ensnared my leg. My eyes clamped shut with the pain of it all and, when again they were opened I was back where I began, though dazed and bloodied for my part. I ordered the archaic vault sealed with stone and plaster so that no other soul might suffer the fate that I did.
It was weeks before the full implications of my adventure were known. At the full moon next was I, all the gods curse it, transformed in some way, becoming a beast as hideous as the ones that tore my companion to pieces before my eyes. Dimly, I remember wandering the hunting grounds of the Hasingstoke estate, sating my thirst for blood on a great number of stag, which I myself killed with a force of rage.
I confessed my situation to one of the Queen’s wisest advisors, a certain Sir Norville Smedley, during Her Majesty’s next progress through the seven houses. He heard my tale and returned one of his own. From him I learned the meaning of the word “werewolf”, and all the horror that beast brings with it. The stones I had described to him he recognized from lore to be a “Druidic Circle”, and he knew at once that such shrines were common amongst the ancient and superstitious folk of the Dreadlands. Sir Norville pledged to me what aid he could offer, along with his silence.
After consulting many ancient tomes, and locking himself away for many days, Sir Norville presented me with the brooch you see me wear now. Through some combination of magicks, far beyond my ability to comprehend, it stays the horrific transformations. Have no doubt I am quite safe to my company. If you will recall, it was by the light of a full moon that you first made my acquaintance on the docks in Southport. You need have no fear of me.
When I learned that Sir Norville intended to send you to the Dreadlands, the source of the cause my vile state, I asked to serve as escort. It was my hope that I might discover some way to rid myself of this foul curse forevermore.