Wolves ep.3 – The Beast of Langmere

This was a sad farewell to the “Wolves of God” limited series. We had a LOT of fun, and if we’d been in close proximity and not crazy busy, we might have been able to turn this into a full campaign. Alas, the realities of being scattered around the world and having other responsibilities meant that this was, from the start, a limited series where we tried to exploit the game to its limit!

“Smaugust day 3 – by Taran Fiddler

In Game

PCs present: Feorrehad(Warrior 2), Oswyn(Warrior 2), Reginleif(Adventurer 2), Wulfred(Saint 2)
NPCS: Cunach(Galdorman 2), Beowine (Warrior 1)

The companions arose and marched into the Forest-Weald. Beowine led them towards Irenhirst hamlet in the high hills visible from Langmere. The sun barely shone through the thick canopy, and the Weald felt silent and still. The companions felt uneasy in the unnatural quiet. Bird and beast had fled. Beowine quailed from their quest, he sobbed at the memory of his lost arm and the deaths of the sworn brothers of Edling Wulfric. Wulfric consoled their fearful companion, reminding him that the Lord never placed the impossible before the faithful. They prayed for courage before continuing into the Weald.

As the sun touched the hills, the companions reached Irenhirst hamlet. From the outskirts the smell of rot filled the air. Among the broken buildings lay a number of bodies surrounded by discoloured soil and broken weapons. Beowine fell to his knees and sobbed. He pointed out the six sworn companions. He recalled their valiant battle against the Beast, and how the local ceorls managed to flee. Oswyn studied strange marks, heavy clawing and scraping of large scales. He followed to the edge of the hamlet and considered the trail leading into the Weald. The Beast was enormous.

A plan emerged. A number of swine still wandered close to the hamlet, feeding on their former owners and foodstuffs left behind. The hogs proved wily, leading many of the companions on a wild chase before disappearing into the wood. As the sun hid it’s face only Reginlief stood triumphant with a large swine tied and ready to be brought to the Beast.

The Companions followed the Beast’s trail through the Weald and up into the hills. In the darkness they came to an abandoned mine, the source of Irenhirst’s prosperity and the reason Edling Wulfric had come here in the first place. Even in the dim light the ground and stone bore the marks of the Beast’s passage. Heavily gouged stone and bloody trails were all around, and the scent of sulphur wafted in the breeze. The Companions collected wood for a great bonfire. The pig was leashed nearby. Once everyone has hidden themselves within sight of the entrance, Oswyn lit the fire.

In the light of the bonfire, Oswyn could see tendrils of smoke leaking from the mine entrance. Through the stone he felt the Beast scraping against the mine walls beneath him. A horse-sized head extended, tongue flickering out to taste the air. The Beast’s heavily scaled hide scraped away rock as it emerged from the mine entrance. One eye was darkened by a broken spear head, while the other squinted against the light. Oswyn knew his moment when it came, and he cast the squealing pig past the Beast’s head. It turned to follow the morsel, lashing out to grab the succulent meat in its jaws. In that moment the Beast’s good eye turned away from the companion, and Reginlief took the chance to come forward and leap upon the head of the Beast – driving the Tyr’s Fang deep into the remaining eye of the Beast. It roared and threw back it’s head. Reginlief let herself be thrown clear, snarling in victory and sword dripping blood.

“Worms! Faithless Curs! You have stolen my sight, but I swear by my forefathers you will not live to take my treasure!” The Beast inhaled, scales rattling as it reared back and spread it’s jaws wide – an evil red glow rising from it’s throat.

Feorrehad gasped in surprise – that voice, those curses, could it be that the Beast was the Edling Wulfric? Quickly he shouted out “Brother Wulfric! We have not come for your treasure, but we come at the behest of your Father! Do you not know us? It is I, Feorrehad, who has eaten at your table and shared bread with you! Wulfred and Cunach are here, they who prayed for you and fed you herbs when you were ill! Oswyn and Reginlief stand beside you, who have hunted and feasted with you! We shall battle this curse that has so claimed you!”

The Beast paused, blindly turning towards Feorrehad. “I know your voice and your oaths to me father. But you will not take me from my treasure” He growled and smelt the air, searching for the others standing around. “In memory of our past, I will let you leave. But do not try my patience”.

Reginlief had been pacing forward silently while the Beast spoke. Now she drove Tyr’s Fang through the scales at the Beast’s breast. It pierced deeply, but before Reginlief could strike at the heart, the Beast struck. It swatted the warrior woman through the air and clawed hopelessly at the iron spike in it’s chest. It’s roar deafened the companions. Reginlief could only stare in horror as the Beast reared back and began to inhale.

As it’s jaws gaped wide, Reginlief heard a scream of defiance at her side. Beowine ran past and cast his spear straight into the Beast’s gullet. The flame died away as the Beast coughed up the spear and turned in anger towards the still screaming Beowine. In a flash the Beast lashed forward, enclosing Beowine in its jaws. Cunach, unable to see even a new companion die, leapt onto the rising head and jammed his staff into the back of the jaws. The confused Beast shook off Cunach, but then regurgitated Beowine in an effort to clear its throat. Cunach dragged Beowine away and called on his own magics to rescue the one-armed hero.

Feorrehad watched the battle with growing sorrow. The young Edling had been a friend and a youth full of potential. But with his own companions in true danger there was only one way to lift this curse. He saw Tyr’s Fang still jammed in the chest of the Beast. He made his decision and ran forward. He grabbed the hilt with both hands and pushed it forward with all his might and sorrow. Edling Wulfric, The Beast, wailed as the sword sliced through his heart.

The scales began to smoke, then bubble and dissolve into a foul smoke. The Beast writhed as scales, muscle and bone hissed and melted away. In moments all that remained was a young man clutching a sword to his breast, naked and burnt. He lay there, rattling breath in his chest, and coughing blood. Feorrehad gently cupped the Edling’s head and whispered “Shall I help you stand to meet your Lord?” Feorrehad helped the young man regain his feet and placed his hand over the Edling’s grip. Together they twisted the sword. Wulfic sighed “I am sorry…”

The companions returned the body to Langmere. Eorl Gildmund welcomed them and sent messengers to King Aethalstan. A Christian funeral was held for Edling Wulfric and his sworn brothers. The Ceorls of Langmere celebrated the end of the Beast, but the companions waited for the King’s decision, as they had killed his son. Aethalstan did not thank them, but mourned the death of his son and heir. With many words of sorrow the King laid forth his wergild – that no man of Sussex should give aid or shelter to the Companions for this killing. But each of the companions was given a horse and harness to aid them on their departure from the kingdom of Sussex.

At The Table

Ho boy!

There was a lot going on here, and its all a bit jumbled in my notes – everyone was getting swept up in the game here. Wolves of God, as a system, does some things fantastically well while leaving some old habits untouched. Once again the players made some great use of “Wyrds” to have a number of perfect moments, but the bones of D&D that are inherent in the game were uncovered and there was a feel of “attrition of HP” that sadly came up.

I mean, on the whole this was an awesome D&D-ish session. It flowed well, with a number of choices that had repercussions at the end. The pig hunt in the early session was hilarious – the “mighty warriors” stumbling in mud and being shown up by a bunch of swine. All the players were using their wyrds to show their character’s personalities, and the final fight was actually pretty sweet (and epic?). While i didn’t write it above, the other characters were flailing about with spears and knives (and FISTS!) but not doing much against the scales of the dragon (which were immune to non-magic weapons)

A lot of the events were the players cleverly invoking their character abilities – like Feorrehad’s foci of “knowing a friendly person” each session – and declaring that he had been a friend of the Edling… It changed the tone of the combat against the cursed NPC and even allowed for some renewed reaction rolls. But of course the players decided they couldn’t leave the Beast in it’s reign of terror. One interesting side effect of limited resources (wyrds, spells, etc) was how there was some regret that no character had the ability to save the Edling at the end – they had cast their spells to give each other extra actions, and even to save Beowine – but there was no “power” left in the end. Actually felt suitably tragic during the session.

One thing I loved which is more about the players than anything in the system – they all tried to put spotlight onto each other – there were numerous times when a player would turn down an opportunity to act and put their own character into desperate situations and prompt another player to come to their rescue. I was rather impressed at this and need to give a LOT of credit to the players for making this such a great series of sessions.

I know I am sad this ended, and some players have expressed similar feelings, but the required timing of a session that people literally from around the globe was too difficult to be held for a long series. But this short glimpse into the dark ages was enjoyable, and we’re left with the memory of these companions riding off into the sunset, ready to face their next contest with fate.

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