Her efforts drove the beasts back, and other armed warriors were able to pour out behind her, armed but none in armor. Seeing she was no longer alone, she pressed forward, a wedge of sharp steel falling in behind her. For a moment, it looked as though they would drive the creatures out altogether.

Two things happened at once. The first, a worg leapt atop a cart some ten yards distant. It wore arm rings on its forelimbs like the bangles on some Kariv dancer, each one taken from the corpse of a Northlander. It barked out a word, and a sickly green ray of light shot from its mouth, impacting the woman like a physical blow, and she staggered. Encouraged by this, the wolves surged forward.

Just then, the newly returned jarl and his huskarls, standing at the back of the crowd in the doorway, raised their blades and shields and began hacking into the unsuspecting people in front of them.

 The melee descended into mere butchery. The warrior who’d made such a valiant show lost her shield to the snarling, snapping jaws pressing in, and a moment later I saw her drop to her knees, leaning against the longhouse wall, bleeding from many wounds. As the last warrior fell, the jarl drew the attention of the wolves with a word, and pointed toward the open longhouse door. A pair of worgs tarried, preferring to menace the fallen shield maiden. They froze in their tracks, however, when that coughing voice spoke again, this time from just around the corner of the longhouse.

“I’ll have that one,” it said, and the worgs snarled but turned toward the open longhouse and loped away.

She lurched out from the shadows, all ink-black fur and muscle, walking on all fours, much like a wolf in form but big as a horse. Her forelimbs ended not in paws, but hands like a human, with long black talons.  

She loomed over the fallen warrior. Her jaws snapped open, but then the lower jaw stretched wider and wider, and the sound of grinding bone filled the air. Her gaping maw descended over the woman’s entire frame.

The warrior didn’t move or make any sound, but she seemed to shrink somehow as the jaws took her in completely and the creature snapped its head back, swallowing the woman whole. I remember its throat working the mass of her down in gulps, and the woman’s feet kicking as they slid down its gullet.

His voice shrank to a whisper and trailed off as he stared down at the table. Then he started forward, picked up his mug and drained it in one go before rapping it loudly on the table for more. We sat in silence until the tavern keeper refilled his mug. A few of the patrons glanced over in concern at the noise but quickly looked away. With his noseless face, he wasn’t all that easy to look at in the first place.

I watched all of this from atop the wooden wall. I’d been there in case Ox-Bjorn ran into trouble at the main gate. Right then, I should’ve felt compelled to join my brothers in the longhouse, seeing to the remaining survivors, but when she looked up at me on the wall, I realized she had no hold over me. I knew she was speaking to me without words, but I couldn’t hear it in my head. She must’ve known it, too, but she made no move in response. In that moment, fear took over. I didn’t know what to think, of myself or what I should do, but without a thought I slipped over the wall and ran into the woods, and I kept running. I ran until I could not breathe. After a while, I realized I wasn’t being hunted, at least not yet. The nearest farmstead was a day away on foot in summer, but I did what I could to misdirect any pursuit and made for a larger settlement. It was a good plan if it weren’t for the weather blowing in by morning. That’s how I lost my nose and the rest.

He fidgeted with his bandage for a moment, noticed his mug was empty, but simply sat it back down this time.

For a time, I would hear of settlements disappearing, and a few of them were places I’d traveled through. Whether or not she was playing some sort of game with me, I don’t know, but I made for the sea in a bid to put a stop to it, just in case, eventually settling here. Huldramose has its ways of protecting itself, and that’s why I’ve stayed. I don’t know how long I’ll live. I’ve learned that the sort of magic which can regrow limbs and such doesn’t work on me, leaving me with this pretty face, but I don’t know in what other ways I differ from a true man. The fey creatures in the forests here tolerate me well enough, and I’ve grown to prefer their company to that of the city dwellers.

If you’re looking for advice on how to head off an attack by one such as my mother, the best thing I can tell you is to start by looking at those closest to you. If they change in some way, take note of it, and don’t turn your back to them. That’s not much comfort, but neither are fangs at your throat.

 DETECT INFLUENCE

1st-level divination
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

For the duration, you know if there is a beast under unnatural, magical influence within 30 feet of you as well as where the creature is located.

The spell can penetrate most barriers, but it is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt.

<<PREVIOUSLY

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This