If it were lighter, I would be running through the woods now. I know my sister is close, but I can’t help her if I get lost. So we slow down to make sure we are following the freshly made path and drops of blood. Soon I hear cries of battle ahead of us. We must be close!
We burst through the woods coming to (Roll Location: Lake, Descriptor: Big) a big lake. I had no idea this was here, but my sister had found because there she is! The beast is standing with its back towards Katania and I while it growls and approaches Lona who is near the shore of the lake. The beast is a huge, white wolf…with a limp.
I stop in my tracks, shaken at the sight. It can’t be the same wolf!
“Iron and blood! That’s a monster!” exclaims Katania.
My sister looks hurt, bad. She is on her back, edging towards the water with only her shield in hand. She keeps looking behind her towards the lake, as if for a refuge. Her sword is near the feet of the beast and bloodied. Does the wolf attack Lona? (Pick two: Likely, wolf attacks something else, Unlikely, wolf attacks Lona, 74, likely result)
The wolf appears to lunge at Lona with a fierce leap. I cry out, “No! Lona!” She puts up her shield in a meager defense, but the beast sails over her into the shallows landing on something I hadn’t seen earlier. Is that a person?
“By the Old Gods,” Katania whispers beside me. “It’s a sodden.”
I have never seen anything so terrifying. I knew these things were out here, we all avoid lonely places at night because we know the truth, but to see it before my own eyes. (Endure Stress: 6 vs 8,3, weak, -3 spirit) I shiver looking at this horror up close. It’s very essence seems to waver in the eerie moonlight almost like it’s made of water itself. My spirits sink. What can I do against such a thing? I think.
The bloated, floating corpse is obviously not fully substantial, but I come back to a sense of what I must do as I clearly see the wolf’s teeth are striking something of substance against the sodden it is fighting. As I try to decide how best to act, another sodden floats ethereally towards my sister who has crumpled to the ground. Protect the flock, I think. How do you protect an injured lamb?
“Katania! Hit the one going after Lona! We must make it more interested in us!” No chance to hang back with my bow. I need to be up guarding Lona. It’s time to Enter the Fray! (Formidable foe down to Dangerous with Katania helping, Enter the Fray: 8 vs. 5,5, strong with twist [A secret alliance is revealed], +2 momentum)
That wolf is helping us! I think as I charge towards the sodden on Lona. I twirl my staff in my hand and swing it two-handed into the sodden as I move past it hoping to turn its attention towards me. (Strike: 7 vs. 8,4, weak, 2 harm = 4 progress versus sodden)
Katania hits it in the back with arrows right after my strike, but it ignores her. After all, I’m closer to the water now. It sees an opportunity to push me in. (Clash: 4 vs. 2,7, weak, 2 harm = 4 progress but I take 2 harm as well. Endure Harm: 4 vs. 5,8, miss, -1 momentum)
The thing comes at me quicker than I thought possible. I bring my staff around in a wide arc trying to slow it down, but the spectral arm stretches out and merely grazes the skin of my hand during my strike. The cold and despair that hits my body is a real physical jolt, and I stumble back in pain. I’m in the water now. Lead it, lead it away, I think. Just like with a predator, keep it away from the flock and let it wear itself out. (Face Danger: 4 vs. 6,7, miss, 2 harm, Endure Harm: 4 vs. 6,7, miss, -1 momentum)
This is no beast! It’s too fast! I must end this now. For my sister! For Redheather! I begin to growl deep in my throat like the wolf finishing off its prey, and I leap directly at the sodden. (Turn the Tide, Strike: 4 vs. 2,7, weak, 2 harm = 4 progress, sodden dies, Milestone: Stop a sodden, 2 progress on my vow)
With a large overhead swing, I jump out of the water and bring my staff down on the head of the sodden. There is a firm impact and then the whole sodden just dissipates allowing the remaining weight of my staff to fall through nothing but air. It is gone. I feel faint and start to fall down but remember my sister. She is still on the small patch of earth before the edge of the lake, and I go to her while looking towards the wolf.
Did the wolf win the fight? (50/50 roll: 66, yes)
Is it injured further? (Likely: 14, no)
Does it look aggressive towards us? (50/50: 63, yes)
Katania is shaking but has her bow drawn on the wolf.
“Easy now, easy now, boy,” I say to wolf. “I know you. I remember you. I know you were trying to help just now. Let’s just calm down.” I reach into my pouch, take out a piece of jerky, slowly put it on the end of my staff, and extend it towards the wolf. (Compel: 7 vs. 8,1, weak)
The wolf sniffs the meat and then looks at me. It’s almost like it is remembering as well. The hackles on the wolf go down a bit while it eats the meat. “That’s right,” I say. “That’s right. Katania, come pull back my sister please.” I keep my eyes and body language focused on the wolf.
Katania lowers her shaking bow and grabs ahold of Lona’s arm. As she touches Lona, the wolf turns and growls. “Easy now, easy now,” I say making myself look smaller and submissive. “Don’t move, Katania. Let it eat its fill of my jerky.” But the wolf isn’t interested in my meat anymore. It continues to look at Lona and growl at Katania who slowly lets go of Lona’s arm. When she does, the wolf stops growling and gives out a couple of large sniffs and huffs into the night arm before walking closer to Lona.
I think about going for my staff, but my instincts tell me not to. The wolf continues sniffing more and more as it moves closer to Lona. It finally sniffs at her belly and below before whimpering and turning to me. I raise my eyebrows in question. What is it saying? It looks back to me and nudges Lona in the belly again before turning its body and scratching the ground with its hind legs like it’s marking its territory.
“She’s pregnant,” I say in a hushed voice. “It was protecting her from the horrors because she’s pregnant.”
The wolf looks right at me again with those piercing blue eyes and lets out a howl to the moon that makes me cringe and close my eyes. When I open them again, the wolf is trotting (with its limp) away into the woods.
“I think you’re going to have to explain something to me,” Katania says.
“It’s a long story, but if that’s the beast that others have been talking about, it may be here to help. There could be worse things out here than that.”
“And what if your sister really is pregnant?” Katania asks defensively. “Are you going to let her come her and keeping fighting and risking her life when it’s really another life that she’d be risking? You know Owen would send her back out here in a heartbeat if it got him what he wanted even if it cost him a child. What of the child?”
That last question came out vehemently, and she was getting very emotional. “I don’t have the answers you seek, Katania. Lona and Owen must decide together what to do from here. It’s her life and her career, but if she is with child, I couldn’t live with myself sending her out here alone. I think the wolf wanted me to protect her. I think I have to give up the sheep for now.”
I loved my flock, but I loved my family more. If Lona is pregnant, all the more crucial to get her home and to the healer quickly. If Lona is pregnant, I would gladly take her spot out on the roads and dangerous places to give her a brief pause in her life to bring new life into the world. If Lona is pregnant and I have to go out there to do all that she was going to do, I’m going to need to get better with my staff. (Milestone: Prevent further violence to bring Lona home safely, 2 progress on my vow)