Chapter Eight

February 19, 2011


            As we come downstairs for breakfast the next morning, there are guards waiting who ask Ulric and Briggette to come with them to the castle.  The baron reprimands them for not involving the town guard in their dispensing of justice, but congratulates them on a job well done.  Briggette receives a letter from the church elders also commenting on the success of the mission.  It also tells her that there is a river of blood to the south and asks her to investigate.  They return to the inn and tell us about this visit.

The new billet arrives the next day and holds a major consecration celebration.  He holds a great feast.  Ulric asks the billet to turn me back into a gnome since I was transmogrified in the process of ridding the town of the scourge of evil.  Although the billet is not advanced enough to complete the ritual himself, he says that he may be able to draw upon the power of the townspeople if enough of them show up to the feast.

The celebration begins.  There is prayer and singing and a procession around the town.  The billet stands and addresses the crowd, asking for their sincere prayers and fervent worship to overcome the victims and evils of Grazzt.  He prays over me, and I begin to turn back into a gnome, but then I collapse, half a rat and half a gnome.  He prays over me again, and then tells Ulric that I appear to have been tainted permanently.  “I don’t know whether she will recover or not, but she will never be the same.”  They take me back to the tavern and lay me down on a fluffy bed.  The billet said that I might not wake up, so the best they could do was to make me comfortable.

After three days, I begin to stir.  Ulric notices that my features have changed a bit—my nose is sharper and I’ve sprouted small black horns from my forehead.  He sends in Brianna to help me dress, and we find that I have a long fleshy tail, culminating in a tapering point.  She helps me tuck the tail into my pants.  I am quite distraught by these changes, and I go immediately cover the horns with a scarf and go to see the billet.

“What’s wrong with me?” I cry to him.  I tell him about the tail and show him the horns.  “And my nose!  It’s all pointy, like a human’s!”

“My best guess would be that somewhere in your family, there is an infernal ancestor.  Perhaps a demon, a devil or a daemon.  Being exposed to the energy of that sacrifice and the blood and power of the celebrant—who was perhaps even touched by Grazzt—brought out that blood in you.  The others were not affected in the same way since they did not have this blood in their ancestry.”

“So, what does this mean?  Does this make me evil?  I was chosen by Cuthbert!”

“Are you evil?”

“No, I don’t think so…” I touch the horns.

“I don’t think your choices have anything to do with your ancestry.  If so, many people would be in trouble,” he pauses in thought.  “Your physical attributes will likely never change—you may be able to find some high level magician to alter you, but this is you.  It has always been you; it just hasn’t been evident in this way.  Just like the man who has never before had the opportunity to be noble, but then gets that chance—the nobility has always been in him.  Just like the man who steals for the first time when given the opportunity—he has always been a thief.  This is who you are; I suggest you embrace it.”

I go to the front of the church, make my devotions, and leave without recovering the horns.  I spend the rest of the evening in prayer and contemplation, and finally decide that I should be proud of who I am.  I no longer take extraordinary measures to hide my appearance, but I don’t stand to announce it either.  I modify all of my clothing to allow for the tail.

The next morning, I don’t hide my new changes.  Briggette looks at me in that special way which tells me she is trying to ensure I’m not evil.  Finn asks if I can do anything with the tail, and Korvinean points out that there are interesting possibilities with having a tail.  The novelty wears off quickly, and after we enjoy our breakfast, we head southwest out of town.

We reach a moderately wooded area about time to make camp for the evening.  I take first watch with Korvinean.  After a few moments, Korvinean spots two glowing red dots and takes a shot right between them.  The vaguely canine shape runs off back into the woods.  I take a shot, but miss.  Briggette and Brianna wake up from the commotion, but promptly go back to sleep once they realize it was only an animal.  Neither the creature or any of its companions bother us through the rest of the night.

During our ride the next morning, we start to ride through a small Thorpe of about 250 people.  We see a hastily built corral in the middle of town with a plethora of sheep inside.  Despite it being the middle of the day, we don’t see any people on the street.

About that time, I notice a man running toward us with a spear.  He is not wielding it in a threatening manner, but I level my crossbow and tell the group, “Incoming!”

As the man approaches, we notice that it is, in fact, a girl.  She runs directly to Ulric, drops her spear and grabs feverishly onto his leg.  “Si… Mi… Lord Zurwald!”  She looks up at him.  She is quite beautiful.

“Yes, young lady?”

“Have you come to save us?”

“Yes!” Ulric replies.  “From what?”

“You don’t know?  Did the runner not reach you?”

“Where did you send him?” he pauses.  “What kind of peril are you in, m’lady?”

“The wolves,” she says as she falls to the ground.  “Most of our men are dead . . . .”

Ulric asks her questions about the wolves.  He wants to be certain that she is speaking of real wolves rather than a group of bandits that call themselves The Wolves.  He dismounts and walks with her into the tavern.  We all follow.

Inside, the first girl directs another to take care of our horses.  A very old Halfling man, who appears to be around 150 years old, is sitting in the corner.  The girl goes behind the bar and pours an ale for each of us.  She looks over at Briggette, “I’m sorry, Protector, can I get you anything?”

Briggette removes her helm, and the girl looks amazed.  She recovers quickly, and gets Brianna a glass of milk, as she asked for something without alcohol.
“What is your name, girl?”  Briggette asks.


“Well, what’s happened?”

“About six weeks ago, the first wolves attacked.  The shepherds tried to interfere, and they were attacked.  They were killed and eaten.  Many of the sheep were killed and eaten as well, but not as much so as the shepherds.  Another group of shepherds were attacked the following night, but they lived.  They came back to town and asked the watch for help.  The watch captain took his two best men and laid in wait for the wolves.  They were all killed.  That was about five weeks ago.  They were armored and armed men, well versed in fighting.  The men of the town got together, and about fifteen of them went out searching the woods.  Most were killed.  Some of them made it home, but most of those were seriously injured.  A few are still here but haven’t awoken.  Many of them are maimed and can no longer work or fight.”

“How many people are in this town?” Ulric asks.

“There’s about 200 people—or there were.  Most of the women and children are still alive.  Last night the wolves came into town and pulled someone out from their home.”

Korvinean asks, “Is there anything else we need to know?”

“Well, they,” she indicates the two other young girls and one young boy, “went and raided the tomb of the heroes, and their brilliant idea is to patrol the streets tonight and kill the wolves when they come into town.”

Ulric and Korvinean decide to investigate the house where the woman was pulled out, and the rest of us follow.  Ulric tells Ocae to tell the remaining townspeople to hide.  He gives her his standard and tells her that it is non-negotiable.  When we arrive at the house, there is wolfsbane hanging all over the room, and the window—previously shuttered—is  pushed in from the outside.  The woman who was taken was the only woman in town who could make poison, which, incidentally, is how they dealt with the wolves ten years earlier when they last had a wolf problem.  These wolves apparently used tactics to select targets; they completely tossed this house when they broke in.

Korvinean begins to track the wolf back out of town.  He finds at least ten distinct separate tracks.  We decide we must see if we can follow the pack out of town.  Ulric leaves Finn to stay with the townsfolk.  We track out to the common pasture, where the crops are rotting in the field without the proper amount of people to tend them.  The tracks seem to be coming from the southwest at first, but as we get far along the path, the tracks split into two.  Each trail leads off into the woods in different directions.  One set looks normal, while the other appears to be off somehow.

We decide to track the set of tracks that appear unnatural.  As we track into the woods, the pack appears to have done significant damage by dragging something or someone.  About 300 yards in, the tracks lead into a clearing.  The clearing is about 300 feet across, and there appears to be something lying in the center in a lump.  Korvinean looks around the lump for evidence of any small animals which might indicate it is a body.  He realizes that we haven’t seen or heard any animals since entering the wood.

Ulric decides to enter the clearing outright.  The lump is the body of an old lady which has been eaten and splayed open.  She was left posed in the clearing.  The wolves appear to have left out of the clearing the same way they went in.  Ulric and Korvinean discuss burning the area, but decide instead to check out the other path. 

A giant weasel jumps out of the bush and attacks Briggette.  Korvinean fires twice and hits him, while Brianna strikes it with her fists.  The weasel goes down and then disappears.  This is not a good sign.

We follow the other trail about 25 to 30 yards into the woods, and it opens up into a game trail.  We find tracks from a dire monitor, but no other animals.  There are no deer or wolves or any other types of tracks there.  We continue into the woods for about thirty minutes until we come to a ravine.  The tracks continue through the ravine, so we follow.  Both sisters lose their footing and stumble down into the ravine, but no one is seriously injured.
Korvinean begins to track again, and finds a very large dire wolf track.  All of the tracks lead into the water, and since it is already 4:30 in the afternoon, Ulric decides we should head back to town before it gets dark.


When we get back to town, everyone is preparing for another long night.