So lets dig in to these Hawkwoods for a moment. In every sense, they are Medieval liege-lords akin to our own Aldameri lords. Up to and including being completely unprepared for the types of situations they might have to resolve amongst the peasantry. Having been exposed to democracy, even fractured, half-assed, misguided notions thereof, feudalism appalls. Combine ridiculously small gene pools (to be fair, we don’t know that this is true of the Hawkwoods, maybe they fuck everyone, just like their vassals? But then how do they determine that one is or isn’t a Hawkwood? These people seem to have no concept of marriage. Interesting, we’ll have to ask Athelstan) with inadequate training in topics necessary for legal disputes and conflict resolution and you arrive at the situation we found ourselves in upon our arrival at Swingford village.
To be fair to Athelstan, he was happy to take advice. Which is good when you’re greeted by flayed, hanged, dead men before ever entering town. So the first mostly flayed man we found was called Edward. He did a fair bit of screaming. Once he stopped he kept going on about how “she” cut of his “ghoulies” and popped them in his mouth. So flayed, hung up, gelded, killed, by a young woman called “the Forest Witch.” Always a witch, innit? So as we make our way to the village we keep seeing more of these poor souls. The last was an old woman.
Questioning them a picture starts to form: Emerald, daughter of Delia, is filled up with wrath about the death of her mum. Turns out mum was exceptionally fertile. The most fertile of the village ladies. So she’s turned into a baby factory from the day she’s eligible for mating (what age is that anyway? Another question for Athelstan). Loads of babies happen, 8 we believe, although probably many more – 8 is the number that survived. After that, she’s poorly. Her health isn’t what it once was because she’s been fucked like a bitch in heat her whole life. We feel awful for ever making light of the “mating” program here. Thank goodness for this fucking bracelet. Also we are very masculine, so goddamn manly. Anyway, clearly she’s made enough people.
So as it happens, it falls to a person’s mother to determine whether or not they are healthy enough to continue to breed. Delia’s mother probably should have taken her out of rotation, at least temporarily, but she didn’t. Emerald is aware of all of this. So Delia gets fucked again, gets pregnant again, and the pregnancy killed her. Emerald is very cross. She decided it’s all those who mated with Delia’s fault, also Delia’s mum, her grandmother. So she goes to live in the woods and starts murdering those who she blames for Delia’s death. Flaying them and hanging them up as a warning to the rest of the townfolk. We can’t say for certain what her message was, but if it were us, we’d be saying “Hey, here’s what happens when you ignore life threatening baby-making related illness and fuck a woman literally to death.” Maybe?
So, of course, Athelstan has got to deal with all of this. But as we said, he’s got no idea how. Thankfully he’s more than happy to listen to good advice. So we questioned the townfolk and figure out that there’s only one of Delia’s “lovers” left alive. A salty old fuck of a woodsman, Heinrich. We advise him to stay out of the woods for the time being, but he’s not about to shy away from his vocation just because some girly is out murdering people of his description. He’s much fucking manlier than all of those cunts. Asshole. We were about to try and convince him to stay in town when Arden brought up using him as bait, which was as good a plan as any. Arden put a tracking device on him and sent him on his way.
So we follow the brave and manly woodsman into a damned impressive trap. A springy branch fitted with sharpened stakes flew out and pierced him through his guts. We caught up quick with the clever application of a wormhole right behind Emerald. Turns out she’s got no magic to speak of, she’s just a hell of a ranger, with woodcraft to rival Gabriel’s. Olis started off by cracking her a good one and we were able to mostly keep her from attacking, apart from a failed attempt at throwing a knife into Heinrich. She changed her mind though, and fought like a demon until we subdued her.
As we went to turn our attention to the wounded Heinrich, a curious thing happened. Carter stepped in with some weirdness about probabilities and “making it so the wound never happened.” We lost our temper a bit, because he seemed uncertain of what he was about, but in the end we stepped aside to let him practice his “art.” To our surprise, we was as good as his word, and somehow wished the wound out of existence. There was a strange, disquieting sensation right before it happened – almost as if the wounded Heinrich was replaced with another, unwounded one. If he deals in dimensional probabilities, could that not be what actually happened? Just swapping one outcome for another and making the wounded man some other group’s problem? Hopefully not.
Oh, and despite our suggestion that she be gainfully employed as the best scout he’d ever want to hire. Lord Athelstan beheaded Emerald. Yeah, she’s dead. And yes, we know she’s a murderer. Yes, she shouldn’t have tortured and killed those villagers. But she was also a hurt and confused young woman with real talent who could have gone on to be something amazing, with the right help. Also, what was done to her mother was wrong and deserving of some form of justice. Not what she meted out, surely, but something. Reducing a person to a baby factory, even in the aftermath of catastrophe, is a terrible evil. It doesn’t seem like that’s how it was done in <name>. Maybe things are a bit more dire in the country, or maybe this town just takes things too far? We can’t help but feel we should have somehow prevented her death.
We attempted to assuage our guilt by freeing the spirits of the flayed. We were successful as they were all very relieved that the forest witch had been dealt with. In the spirit realm, at least, we did our best.