"Eight Days of Winter" – Serpents Fall Session 9 – Writeup
The group are resting, wary of pursuit by the Regent’s forces in a small farmhouse owned by Cenhelm and his wife Aesc, Moroveer plans to sneak into Winchester disguised as a trader whilst Horesh wishes to ally with Celts. The spear Aelfgar, having once belonged to Godric the deceased king of Winchester, has been disguised and given to Kron whilst the body of the soldier who originally carried it has been buried a short distance from the farmstead; before searching the soldier our heroes searched him but found only a broken dagger and a picture of a beautiful blond woman painted on the inside of it, Moroveer also took the man’s chainmail shirt.
Since arriving at the farm Moroveer has been collecting the necessary components for his disguise and, under his instruction, Cenhelm has been collating the information that Moroveer requires in order to carryt out his scheme of buying a share in the farm. It is the 20th and final) day of the first month of summer, called Pallisade in Saxon but the weather has begun top turn unseasonably chilly and, as night falls, there is a frosty chill in the air. Our heroes are maintaining an informal watch, occassionally checking through the windows of the wattle and daub hut, Moroveer wants to keep it informal so they look less suspicious if anyone should happen this way. They are interrupted by a shout from Ozuchi, who has noticed that snowflakes have begun to fall outside, seeing his lack of comprehension concerning the “white rain” Moroveer laughs and tells him it’s called snow, explaining that it is as plentiful in the north and sand is in the south. Thinking to have a joke with his companion Benito tells Ozuchi that it is magical, but the medicine man fails to realise and rushing outside to collect some in one of his stonewear vials.
Moroveer realises that the weather pattern is extremely uncharacteristic for the summer months in Saxony, but the snow outside has begun to fall heavier, seemingly defying his meteorological prediction as Horesh begins to note potential methods of leaving the farmhouse so they don’t get snowed in and suggests that he commune with the spirits incase anything unnatural occurs. Trying to sound casual Benito says that it’s just a freak weather condition and no doubt nothing to worry about. Moroveer suggests that, since they are on the flat that him and Horesh should walk in opposite directions to determine the extent of the snowfall but he is interrupted by Cenhelm comes stumbling out in his long-johns desperate for a piss, Horesh warns him about the snow but, until he opens the door, the farmer doesn’t believe it; as his mouth hangs open in shock Cenhelm tell them that Pallisade is normally one of the warmer months and that they normally only get heavy snowfall like this in the month of Nightdays, the last snowfall was 3 months ago.
Wanting to learn more Horesh sends his familiar into the air and, through it’s eyes, spies a lone shrouded figure trudging through the snow towards the farmstead from the direction of Winchester; exasperated Moroveer asks Horesh why he doesn’t just use the raven to check out the extent of the snow? In response Horesh tells Moroveer about the lone figure but they decide it an unnecessary risk to approach it.
Wanting to ask Kron about norsican shaman and how they deal with snow Ozuchi approaches the sleeping norsican and reaches out a hand to nudge him awake, the instant his skin makes contact with the slumbering norsican a painful cold runs up his fingertips giving him the first signs of frostbite, it is like nothing Ozuchi has experienced before; having experienced cold weather condtions Benito shouts for Ozuchi to warm his hand by the fire, he then asks Moroveer to get a blanket and help him turn Gunnar over, but warns him not to touch Gunnar’s skin. Rolling Gunnar over they can see a thin covering of frost across his entire body, he is breathing but his skin is very pale, he is still holding the spear; Moroveer wraps a blanket around his hands and slides the spear out of Gunnar’s hands, but the weapon doesn’t appear that cold. Moroveer has heard vague rumours and legends of it being an heirloom of the Harcourt family and that it is able to kill the most hardy of beasts, but nothing concerning any powers over weather or the cold.
Horesh, through the eyes of his raven, can see that the snowstorm is a local phenomenon, it appears to be moving southwards from the northlands and the farmstead is on the edge of it, he wonders whether the weather front has made it’s way towards the spear rather than rising around it; his caution about the struggling lone figure overcoming him, he directs the raven to swoop down towards the lone figure. The man wears saxon armour, has a grey beard and is covered with a thick rough cloak, there is a noticable patch of reptilian scales around his eyes. Ordering his raven home and snapping out of his trance Horesh heads back in and tells the others that the weather is localised and that the figure approaching may be Wulfric, he tells them that the weather doesn’t seem to be centrallised on the spear.
Horesh asks Ozuchi to explain what happened with Wulfric before they met Moroveer, but the Stygian shaman is too excited that he may be meeting Wulfric (and his familiar who now resides within the Saxon Lord’s body) and rushes outside to meet him; Horesh explains that they helped the nobleman Lord Wulfric escape a plot to poison him, seemingly on the Regent’s orders and that was how they came to be embroiled in this whole affair, when they travelled to Winchester the Regent seemed affable but he attempted to fell Wulfric with a poisonous enchantment in the form of a snake. Desperate to save Wulfric, Ozuchi fused the komodo dragon spirit of his own familiar into the Lord’s body, making them effectively one entity, it saved his life but had some unexpected side-effects, not least amongst them was Wulfric taking on certain reptilian traits. Benito throws some furs over Ozuchi as he runs out and follows him. Horesh suggests that perhaps Wulfric has a link with Ozuchi and that is why he was heading to the farmhouse, at this point he realises that Cenhelm hasn’t come back in yet; Moroveer goes out and finds him, he’s struggling to have a piss in the cold by the side of the farmhouse.
Benito catches up with Ozuchi and they continue towards the figure, and sure enough the figure is revealed to be Wulfric, there is a sibilant tone to his voice, he has forked tongue, patches of scales on his cheek and solid black eyes, he regards Ozuchi angrily as they approach saying that after they disappeared from Winchester the Regent convinced the people (using Wulfric’s new appearance) that they were evil sorcerors and turned them against him. Wulfric and Asinor the celtic warrior woman split up to give their pursuers the slip but there is a small mob of panicked citizens following him; although capable of defeating the mob Wulfric chose to flee saying that his pursuers are just frightened people, they are not evil. They begin heading back to the farmstead, but Benito has fallen quiet, he is a little taken aback since Wulfric’s appearance hits a little close to home given his own relationship with his curse.
In the farmhouse the ice on Kron has started to thicken, as he enters Benito checks the large norsican, but he is still breathing; trying to help, he stokes the fire up whilst Moroveer has Cenhelm wake Aesc to get her to put water on boil. Meanwhile Ozuchi apologises to Wulfric for the effect of his ritual on him, but said it was done to save his life, offering to do whatever he can to help to get Wulfric back to his old self.
Horesh sends his raven to investigate the centre of the storm, unlike normal storms where the centre is calmest, the opposite appears to be true here, shapes move at the centre of the storm at the speed of a horses gallop and the storm seems to be keeping pace with them. Shocked, Horesh snaps out of his trance as Aesc and Cenhelm start warming towels and broth for Kron.
Wulfric continues his discussion with Ozuchi, in clipped tones saying “I understand that what you did, you did because it was your only choice, but I am now an outast, a demon amongst my own people.” He continues saying that he can’t go home and put his own people at risk, he had a feeling that he had to go west, and was surprised when the feeling took him to Ozuchi, he thought that he’d seen the last of them when they vanished from Winchester. Puzzled, Lord Wulfric asks how they did escape? Ozuchi relates how they escaped thanks to Benito and his knowledge of hidden smugglers passages. Ozuchi offers to attempt to remove the spirit to see if Wulfric returns to normal but Horesh cautions that removing the spirit might not solve the problem and may weaken him; Wulfric agrees with Horesh and says that, if they are going to deal with the Regent, that they will need all the strength they can muster – he cannot afford to be weakened, they can deal with his problem after the Regent is deposed.
Moroveer suggests that they disguise Wulfric as a leper and that they may be able to use that as a cover to get back into Winchester, Wulfric recognises Moroveer as a trader he’s previously seen in Winchester during the summer seasons; Moroveer greets Wulfric and tells him that the Regent double-crossed him and imprisoned him, in return for his freedom he offered two years of service to Benito. Wulric agrees to the plan, but Ozuchi reminds them that they only have five days until the norsican force arrives. At this point Horesh’s eyes focus as he leaves his spiritual trances and tells them about the shapes he has seen in the storm.
The darkness of midnight has fallen outside.
Still thinking about the legend of Aelfgar, Moroveer recalls how it is passed down through male heirs of the family but that it’s powers only become active when possessor proves themselves and that the name Aelfgar comes from the fact that the Great Dragon spirits passed it to the first of the Kings of Saxony. He still can’t think of any connection to the frost though, Benito however, has been thinking about the frost wolves of the north who can freeze themselves into hibernation when food is scarce and asks Horesh to see how close to death Kron is. Horesh holds his hand over Kron’s heart and concentrates.
Suddenly Horesh finds himself standing in a thick snow covered pin forest, snow is falling all around him, he can just make out the silhouette of a mountain or huge peak a few miles in the distance, after a few minutes pass he realises that the mountain seems to be moving towards him and, as it gets closer, he realises that it’s not actually a mountain but the single point of a gargantuan crown. A huge face wearing the crown rises out of the ground and is soon followed by the body of a giant armoured colossus, he can barely see the person beneath the armour but gets an impression of something otherworldly writhing beneath the surface, as though the armour was filled with snakes or worms. The Armour is vaguely reminiscent of that norsicans wear but is covered in all manner of etchings written in an unknown script, it hurts Horesh’s eyes to look at it. Trying to divine the meaning of this vision his concentrates on Kron and a stone sarchophagus with a carving of Kron on it bursts out of the soil, the phrase “Blood of norsica” is carved on the side of the sarcophagus.
Horesh pulls out of his vision, as he sudders into wakefulness he gains an impression of a fading voice saying the words “Iad Oroburos”, as Horesh repeats the word, Ozuchi recalls a similar term on the oldest most ancient writings of his people, a collective term referring to the most ancient of demons of the outer darkness; a worried expression crosses his face as he helps the very shaken Horesh into a sitting position. Horesh explains his vision and theorises that perhaps it means a norse king is approaching and that somehow Kron’s death is involved, Ozuchi says that they must be using dark magics of some kind. Khemrians retained more writings from the time of the Serpent Empire and Horesh (now he has recovered somewhat from the strain of the vision) recalls Iad Uroboros being a collective term for the oldest of the demons, the Great Dragon spirits battled with the Iad to first bring forth the world from the darkness that existed before, he remembers odd references to them either not existing, that they shouldn’t exist or that they existed outside the world.
Worried, Ozuchi says that they need to find a way to snap Kron out of his trance and he begins to set up a ritual with Horesh’s help, calling on the spirits of knowledge to provide him with information. After fifteen minutes of chanting they have gained the knowledge that Kron is under the spell of something called the Winter King, and that to release him they must remove the influence of the Great Mountain from him. The Great Mountain is the tallest peak on Serpents Fall from where, legend says, it is possible to see beyond the northern edge of the world; unfortunately the spirits also tell them that the Iad are moving through the blood of the norsicans sweeping southwards and that their advanced scouts ride within the storm.
* Horesh sends out his raven once more to get an idea of the direction that the storm is going; Benito also attempts to see if he can work out the storm’s behaviour from his knowledge of natural weather patterns, but not being able to see the stars or any known landmarks he is unable to work out anything useful. The raven flies straight up and attempts to gain an aerial view of the storm by flying above it, through it’s eyes to the south Horesh can see eight figures carrying torches making their way towards the farmstead. Moroveer is sat by the window smoking his pipe as Benito hears shouting voices and says that they must be the townspeople coming for Wulfric, Wulfric suggests that he could attempt to lead them away from the farm but Ozuchi says that’s not a good idea, the Saxon Lord re-iterates that these are just frightened people and they are not evil. Aesc offers to hide him in the back under skins and blankets, everyone agrees and she hides him in the back.
A few minutes later there is a bang on the door, Moroveer says that he should answer the door (since they wouldn’t recognise him) and send them on their way, outside is a group of about eight angry saxons holding torches who shout “Send out the demon, we have to burn the evil out!”
Moroveer claims ignorance and says that it is impossible they could have tracked anyone to the farmhouse due to the snow, playing the part of irritated farmer he refuses to let them in, slamming the door in their faces; he quickly grabs a pan of boiling water incase they kick the door open.
From outside there is some confused shouting that quickly turns to screaming, Benito draws his sword as something slams into the door; Ozuchi climbs out of one of the farmhouse back windows and runs around the front of the farmhouse; a huge norsican warrior wielding a hammer, sits astride a giant winter wolf that stands over a dead saxon. A few metres beyond more large silhouettes are moving about within the storm and occasionally there is a scream or snarl, Ozuchi leaps up to attack the wolf rider who swings his hammer, it strikes Ozuchi around the head causing his ears to ring as he falls to the ground. Inside, as Moroveer bends down to pick up his dropped tobacco pouch, a round object hurls through the window just missing him, it is a severed saxon head.
Moroveer runs out with the spear, intent on fending the frost wolf away from the door of the farmstead, he shouts for Ozuchi to make for the door; the norsican warrior on frost wolf slowly pads towards the dazed Ozuchi, testing the weight of his hammer and relishing the oncoming kill. Benito exits the farmhouse through the same window as Ozuchi, attempting to sneak around the side of the farmhouse but one of the wolf riders pounces on him and rakes his chest with it’s claws. Benito staggers back and then darts forward, jumping up level with the wolfs nose, he stabs it through it’s head, running up the neck of the beast as it lowers, he slices the throat of the warrior and lands nimbly as the warrior and wolf both fall dead.
Horesh has been communing with the spirits to aid his companions but feels a dark, strange presence bearing down on him, the presence of something old and incalcuably evil, he feels it trying to influence him but, with the aid of his training, he manages to shrug it off. Drawing his daggers Horesh moves to the nearby window and signals Ozuchi to get inside. As Ozuchi picks himself he sees two more of the winter wolf riders circling around him and he attacks one of them, striking several vicious blows, seeing this Horesh runs to support, willing the spirits to aid Ozuchi; plants and roots burst from the ground restraining the wolf rider, Ozuchi takes advantage of this and finishes it off. One of the wolves dives at Ozuchi but he dodges, another rider hooks Ozuchi’s legs out from under him with his hammer, causing the Stygian to fall prone.
Benito looks up as two more riders gallop towards him, leaping over the body of their fallen companion, he quickly dodges one (it crashes into the wall of the farmstead) and forward rolls under the other as it leaps at him, he rises to his feet, spinning round and attacking the wolf with his sword, his blade seems to glance off the tough hide of the winter wolf though. Moroveer thrusts Aelfgar into the wolf near the farmhouse wall, piercing both rider and wolf, slaying them. Horesh calls on the spirits and leaps at one of the remaining wolves, swinging his daggers in two figures of eight he slices both rider and wolf to shreds, blood fountaining into the air whilst Ozuchi leaps at another wolf, grabbing it’s neck he twists, there is a loud crack as he lashes out with his foot snapping the neck of the rider.
Only one wolf remains, facing Moroveer and Benito, Moroveer spots there are some large objects in the saddle bag of the final wolf rider and shouts “I call dibs on the bag” as he throws the spear; seeing this Horesh calls on the spirits to guide the weapon, a phantasmal dragon forms in the air around Aelfgar as it sails towards it’s target, it hits the side of the norsican, puncturing both rider and mount, they fall to the floor dead. Moroveer runs over and opens bag, inside is a decapitated Saxon head wearing a small gold crown. Looking around they can see that the agitated villagers are either all dead or have run away.
Dawn breaks over the bloody aftermath of their night-time combat, but the storm has begun to fade away and the temperatures have slowly begun to rise to something more typical of summer.
Moroveer throws the Saxon crown to Benito who puts it on whilst Horesh takes some frost wolf teeth and makes them into a necklace (he also makes one for Benito) and Ozuchi takes their fur with the help of Cenhelm & Aesc.
By the time they have finished they are tired almost beyond words and retreat inside the farmhouse, the ice on Kron appears to have melted but he has not woke up; they barricade themselves in the farmhouse and sleep.
Next morning Horesh sends his raven up, the localised storm has disappeared, but far to the north (about 6/7 days away) a far larger storm front is rolling slowly southwards.Tags: Aesc, Captain Benito, Cenhelm, Emma Harcourt, Horningold Blythe, King Godric, Norsica, Regent Eadweard Harcourt, Serpents Fall, Session write-up, Sword Isles, Winter King