Session/Game: Axeburg 3e #9 Date:11/03/02
Episode 9: "Coal-Chewers No More"
It was these wishes that caused the White Witch to appear to him. She promised Rathgar that he would be the father of one of the mightiest heroes the world of Caedes had ever known, if he would only do a favor for her in the future. After some consideration, he agreed. She offered her "daughter" to him as his bride, saying that with their marriage he would seal his fate as the father of a great hero.
Some time past, and Rathgar learned to enjoy his new bride. She was quiet, attractive, demure, and a hard worker at home. She gave Rathgar no reason to think ill of her. Several other men in Axeburg were openly envy of his fortune. Soon Rathgar's wife Irmengarde was with child, and in the dead of winter she went into labor.
Sensing that his boon was coming true, Rathgar left Irmengarde with her midwife and ran for the vola Tovi. He had the woman cast runes to judge the importance of the upcoming birth. Tovi's rune cast was like none other. Rathgar was to have a son, and he was to be a very important to the world of Caedes, indeed.
Rathgar returned to his wife's side full of pride. He would be remembered by a world as the shaper of the future. His place in Borkhafen would be secure knowing that he would think of his son more than himself. He entered his home, eager to see his beautiful wife and his newborn child. However instead of his young bride, he found a monster instead. The being that was Irmengarde had gone through some sort of transformation brought on by the birth. Iron tusks jutted from her mouth, and straggly hair grew in patches on her body. The woman was wizened, emaciated, and scabby. Her limbs once soft and supple were thin as twigs and covered in bark-like rough and cracked skin. She was covered in blood, both her own from the birth and the blood of the recently slain midwife who lay disemboweled on the floor.
After gulping in terror and roaring in anger, Rathgar slew the monster on the spot and dragged her body out away from Axeburg to become carrion for wild dogs. He returned for the child, looking to slay him too. However, for all this gore and witchcraft, the child was a perfectly formed man-child who carried the blood of destiny in his veins. Rathgar named the boy Wulf and raised him on his own. Rathgar was intent on helping Wulf fulfill his bright future. Rathgar remarried, had other children, and all but forgot about the White Witch's pact.
On Wulf's 30th birthday, the White Witch finally contacted the Chief of Axeburg. She told Rathgar that she required the lifeless body of his firstborn son, Wulf. She alluded to the fact that dark portents prevented her from taking direct action against Wulf himself, but that should Rathgar not deliver on his end of the pact that she would make Axeburg suffer. Rathgar was filled with rage that the Witch would try to steal away the very gift she had bargained to give him. Covertly, he sent waves of warriors Westward trying to find the Witch and destroy her. Every band that he sent either returned empty-handed after wandering the wilderness, or was never heard from again.
Vay 23rd, Axeburg
Uni 1st, The Outer Ocean
Uni 10th, Axeburg
The heroes arrive at the great hall and meet Dagmar and Borkum O'Smarmy, the naked gnome. The heroes question the gnome who insists that only by remaining completely naked has he been able to be invincible throughout his lifetime. The heroes shake their heads at the gnome and enter the hall.
Rathgar is in poor shape. He is unwashed and drunk after several weeks sitting in his throne drinking beer. After identifying them as his kin, Rathgar passes control of Axeburg to them after explaining that Wulf has been disowned for his own salvation. Rathgar is a tragic figure, his dreams of being the son of a great hero of Caedes ended by his own hands.
After emerging from the Hall and kicking the naked gnome (two kicks from Einar), the heroes see a strange heavenly body turn and make for Axeburg. A high elven rider in evil-looking platemail riding a black, flaming steed bear down on Dagmar's house. The elf unleashes the fires of witchcraft on the hovel over and over. Dagmar survives, but runs in shock and weeping after realising that her love Roland was caught in the conflagration. The elf turns toward the great hall next. The heroes array themselves to ward off the witch-elf's attacks. After taking many blasts of elven fire magic, Hildrun is able to turn him from the field by hitting him with a single magic missile ("By the mother, I am hurt! Flee!")
The heroes stop by Othere's home, hoping that the brewmaster might be able to scry into his cauldron and find out some more information on the mysterious witch-elf. However, Othere is drunk again and the scrying yields no useful information. The heroes return to their barracks for the night.
Later that evening, after dealing with where Borkum O'Smarmy the naked gnome will sleep, the heroes are attacked in the dead of night by the man they knew as Harrvald -- the viking ship's captain that Grimbold ran out of town two years earlier. The man fights the heroes with his bare fists, trained as a monk of St. Mirabel. The Swerding monk knocks Hildrun down, breaks into the barracks and calls Einar "an abomination" before perishing beneath a hail of blows from the Axeburgers.
Uni 11th, Axeburg
As the group tries to make sense of the assassin's words from beyond the grave, an attractive Tor-Manashian woman appears in front of the heroes' porch. Dressed in the best exotic finery, this foreign woman speaks in fluent Harran. She travels with a poor, wretched servant goblin who carries with him all of his mistress' things. The woman calls herself Majorum.
The woman comes to the Axeburgers with a deal. She has the ability to locate Wulf, but she insists that they give her some time alone with his dead body in exchange for her help. Hildrun smells the strong reek of treacherous witchcraft about her. Naturally, Grimbold offers to give Einar a crystal mug if he will ask to sleep with the exotic beauty. Naturally, Einar agrees and Majorum's deal is sealed with a fifteen-minute carnal embrace in the Axeburgers' barracks that ended with some most interesting exclamations from both participants.
After emerging from the barracks, Majorum explains that the White Witch has cursed Axeburg, setting all the enemies of the town against it at once. They must make haste if they expect their home to survive intact.
The heroes venture north. Majorum's goblin puts his head down and sniffs. The poor beast eventually finds the trail that leads the heroes toward Bjarni's and the Zeevood. The group stops in Bjarni's for the night and accepts Thane Olisgrum's hospitality. The elf-witch attacks again in the night, but he is finally knocked to earth by Hildrun's magic missiles and Grimbold's harpoons.
Uni 12th, Bjarni's
The heroes split up a bit in their haste, and consequently not all of them experience the strange music that issues forth from the dark depths of the cave. Einar, Gudwig, and Grimbold are struck motionless by the flute music. Hildrun and Borkum O'Smarmy both manage to rouse Grimbold from his reverie, and they press the attack. Wulf's true fiendish nature is revealed. His legs have transformed into that of a goat. He has small ram's horns and fangs that drip blood. His flute playing is unworldly captivating, able to change the loyalties of those who hear it. Finally, his hands have transformed into gigantic talons, capable of rending flesh. Wulf's sword looks puny in his grasp and he swings it most inexpertly until Wulf throws the weapon down in favor of his new talons. Wulf brags about how he tested his newfound power by watching townsfolk slay one another over the winter. He chides the group that they are nothing more than coal chewers and they will share the same fate. Things look like that might be the case as well as Gudwig strikes down Borkum O'Smarmy. Grimbold mistakes an illusion cast by one of Wulf's invisible companions for a gigantic dragon, and considers fleeing. However, in the end Grimbold taunts the first son of Rathgar, calling him a coward and gloating over taking control of Axeburg. Wulf finally falls. The heroes bring Wulf's body out of the cave. Majorum expertly flays the body of Wulf the half-fiend. The bloodied and torn flesh clearly shows a map of the Shefings' land. A prominent 'X' marks a spot to the North in the mountains. She exclaims "just as I thought!", and changes into her true form -- that of a serpent-woman. She manages to escape from the heroes easily by flying away invisibly. Her goblin cowers away from the heroes, and perishes in fright leaving some of his mistress' notes.
The being known as Majorum was apparently a serpent actually known as Tsylvik. Tsylvik's notes include some tomes of recent and ancient history, several books on human physiology, some divination scrolls, and several detailed and ancient maps of the Shefings' homeland. Most of her research points to the mountain chain that runs the length of the land as well as two Northernmost ruins that she feels holds the key to finding an ancient source of power. Tsylvik makes no reference to this power other than it is some sort of being that is "sleeping". Her research indicates that it has existed since the earliest of days when the Serpent people birthed it from "the depths of the greatest of pits of the master of wyrms ". She remarks often to some sort of Record of the Wyrm encoded long ago with some humans known as the Veneficus. The Veneficus sorceress in charge of keeping this record was known as the Lamia Niveus.
The heroes leave the flayed flesh of Wulf at the Witch's doorstep and return with the body of their fiendish half-brother. They call a Thing and Grimbold is made interm chief at least until the next major Thing is held in the spring.