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Story - Prelude to "The Wolf-Spider Clan's Hideout"

This is a short story narrative that prefaces my next Patreon adventure. I hope you all enjoy it!

"The Wolf-Spider Clan's Hideout" will be a 5-minute adventure made for the Next Edition of the World's first fantasy rpg and will feature a new background called "Chosen".

The chill autumn winds washed down out of the mountains, pushing the early fogs away from the heavy Forests of Apegia. All was silent, no birds sang, no insects chirped. A chill ran up Rorak's spine. The old woodsman had lived in these woods for near forty years and never had the dark woods fallen this silent. He crouched lower, his soft booted feet gliding silently over the underbrush and leaf carpet. The breeze blew downwind of him, rustling the mosaic of leaves in the trees. He tightened his gripe on his bow, ignoring the soft cracking sound of old bones plagued with arthritis.

The tree line broke suddenly into an oblong clearing with a single ancient oak in its center. Rorak had planned to take his breakfast here before beginning his daily hunt, now however, it took all his will to keep the previous night's dinner down. Bodies, animal, goblin, bugbear and countless others littered the clearing so tightly that the lush grass could not be seen. The wind changed and the smell of death and rot, of blood and offal washed over the old woodsman dissolving his will. As Rorak retched the sky became dark, the sun lost in a sea of black feathers as crows fell on the corpses in the clearing.

The noise of the crows, the sounds of dead bodies be ripped apart still filled the woodsman's ears as he reached his small cabin. Smoke puffed from a chimney, the smell of hickory strong in the small patch of civilization. His wife, stood staring at him questioningly, a bucket of water in her hand. “Rory?” She asked questioningly. Rorak gasped for breath enough to speak and waved his wife toward the cabin. “In … side,” he choked out.

His wife began to move but stopped and looked to the skies behind her husband. “What is that?” Rorak didn't look, didn't need to, the sound of black wings beating against the cold wind, the bones chilling dirge that escaped bloody beaks was enough for him; the crows had come.

He rushed forward, dropping his bow, knocking over his tanning line and grabbed his wife. “Inside!” he bellowed to the woman as he pushed her forcible to the door. “Inside!” The crows were on him before he finished. He beat at them with all his strength, but soon he fell from the sheer weight and could do no more than crawl to his home. Moments passed, seconds, minutes. The old woodsman could no long see, his eyes blinded by the fall of blood from his ruined scalp. He fell, the strength of forty years leaving him. He let out a soft prayer to gods he never trusted in and closed his eyes. A moment passed and the cawing stopped, the smell of brunt meat filled the air and soft familiar hands caressed his jaws.

“Oh Rory,” his wife sobbed. “Rory, Rory, Rory.” He felt her head on his shoulder, buried in the crook of his neck. “Frigga, mother of light and love,” he heard his wife whisper. “Long have I been from your service, but once more today I beg you, please, please do not let this man into your husband's halls just yet.” Hot tears fell on his neck, burning with pain as they soaked into his rent flesh. “Please! Mother, help he whom I love.”

Heat and light and fire and ice. The cold of winter, of the deepest waters of the fjords washed over him and the pain vanished leaving him feeling raw and weak and hungry. Rorak let out a soft moan before the light ebbed away and left him in darkness.

~*~

Trifra eased her husband onto his bed as gently as her small frame could. She looked at his pink, raw skin. Frigga had answered her and had saved her Rory's life. However, she thought, these things always came with a price and the knock that came from her door told her that her's was due.

The woman that stood on the small rough wood porch was matronly and strong. Ice-colored hair ran over her shoulder and don her thick blue furs in a loose warrior's braid. Trifra fell to a knee. “My – my lady, be welcome in my home.”

The woman nodded and stepped into the small cabin. Trifra looked up for a moment and bowed her head further. “I thank you, my lady and ask of you what help I may be.”

Frigga, goddess of light, love and mothers smiled gently at Trifra. “Stand my Chosen, stand and make yourself ready.” She held out her hand and Trifra took it staring at it like a child. “Long have you been from me and my service … but what can I say to matters of love.”

The Goddess moved toward the fire and removed a wayward tea kettle. For a time, Frigga moved about the cabin, busying herself in the Trifra's kitchen. Soon though she sat at the small kitchen table and poured tea for herself and Trifra. Trifra sniffed and arched an eyebrow, she was quite certain that chamomile did not grow in these northern woods now did she have any in her home. Frigga waved to the chair across from herself and waited, when Trifra sat she poured tea for the woodsman's wife and waited until she had taken a sip.

“This is ...” Trifra frowned, searching for a word. “Remarkable, my Lady.”

Frigga nodded silently and put her own mug gently on the table. “It is not my typical custom to aid those that have abandoned my services as … distinctly as you did my Chosen.”

Trifra nearly choked on her tea and gave a solemn nod. “My apologizes, my Lady I was ...”

“young and rather stupid,” Frigga finished for her. “It is not often my Chosen tells me to go have a nice weekend with my niece and then proceeds to to bury her axe in a statue of my head.”

Trifra's mind replayed the scene for her. The smell of wood-smoke and sage washed through her and her body felt the gentle heat of the worship hall's fires. Frigga had come among the mortal races to intercede in Trifra's marriage to Rory; had forbidden it actually. “My apologizes my Lady but I recall it was for a good reason.”

Frigga let out a laugh that filled the small cabin. “As I said, what can I say to matters of love?” The goddess folded her hands around the mug. “Evil times are coming. Old things that lay dormant for so long are coming back to this world.”

Trifra took another sip of her tea, savoring the taste and placed her own mug on the table. “I cannot leave him, my Lady.” She looked toward the bed were her husband now slept. “your power healed him yes, but burned him through as well. Everything he's known was washed away, every childhood pain, every small ache, all of it gone.” She smiled slightly. “It may drive him mad, he likes to complain about his knees.”

Frigga nodded a fond look in her inhuman eyes. “My husband is the same about his eye. However, a price must be paid …”


Trifra listened, her frown deepening as he goddess spoke to her of world's coming to an end.


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