41. Hunt for the Devils

         As we begin the session, one of the eight deserters from the Susquehannock expedition staggers into Melnir's stead at dusk, bloody and burned.[1] He gasps "the horror, the horror!" and collapses. When inspected, he is dirty but mostly the wounds seem to be from tramples or kicks, like from a horse.

         Silksif arrives to treat his wounds, and with a bit of time he comes around. He says that the eight of them had come back from the expedition, but had lost their way. Apparently they had strayed south as they entered New Jersey, and they missed the Raritan river. They then passed a Lagakin settlement, but as they prepared to go further, a bunch of the Lagakin tried to stop them. He says that the natives were agitated and jabbered at his group a while, until they drew their weapons and chased them off. After going past there, though, they found themselves in a treacherous swamp. Strange sounds happened outside their camp in the night, and at one point one of them just disappeared in the early evening. They search for him for hours, but found no trace.

         After days in the swamp and despairing, they eventually agreed to split up, his group headed North and the other headed South. That night, darkness fell over the camp and he could hear strange cries and the beating of giant wings. In the darkness, he was struck about the body by some creatures of a sort. He ran from the camp to get a better fighting position, and saw little until morning. At that point, he went back but could find no trace of where his companions had gone to. He wandered for another two days before arriving exhausted at Raudarbank.

         Skallagrim, Melnir, and others discuss this at length. Skallagrim is of the opinion that this is simply fate's hand at work, and that the deserters were punished for their cowardice. He then says that it is none of his business. Melnir doesn't disagree, but says that as being on his lands, he needs to investigate and show to his people that he handles the trouble. Melnir politely asks Skallagrim to help, who agrees to do so as a favor.

         They first go to talk to the Lagakin tribe, the Mingamahone. The sachem, named Segenam, tells them that for the past few weeks they have seen signs of what they calls the "devils" within the swamp. These are strange winged beasts, three feet and half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. They have a long neck, wings about two feet long, back legs were like those of a crane, and horse's hooves. They walk on their back legs and hold up two short front legs with paws on them.

         According to Segenam, the devils presage the great calamity of a generation, such as war or drought. Because they were seen in the swamp, some young men of the village had sought to warn off the soldiers (i.e. the deserters) who were headed that way. But they forced their way through.

         There is some discussion of what they should do. Skallagrim agrees to hunt for the creatures to provide some show of safety, but does not want to search for the missing men -- whom he feels deserve whatever they got. So they head off into the swamp to try to spot these creatures. They find some hoofprints that seem to fit the pattern of these creatures: light on the ground but with large gaps as if there were great leaps or short flights. As they are tracking, Kjartan became somewhat separated from the group as he followed a second set of tracks. Many look for him, but at first it seems that only Silksif can see him. When the others catch up with him, he behaves strangely (...forgot details...).[2]

         Eventually, it appears that several set of tracks lead to a round hill. The hill is in the middle of broad fens with scattered clumps of trees, and it is topped by a ring of boulders. In late afternoon they climb the hill and find over a dozen rounded depressions which might be nests or sleeping areas for the creatures. They found many tracks, as well as human remains (such as fingernails) in the spoor about the place. They decide to await nightfall hidden in a clump of trees near the hill, to watch the devils approach.

         As evening deepens, they begin to see the strange running and hopping of scattered devils as they approach the hill through the fens. They use their short wings in controlled leaps over obstacles and water. They gathered at the top of the hill, where they could hear strange cries somewhere between a bird cry and a human cry. There was a bright moon but it would not come out until late in the night.

         Then Silksift heard a child-like voice which called out from the reeds outside the grove, which seemed to be one of the devils. It claimed that they were indeed harbingers of misfortune, and that they came to this place because they felt the coming of war. Silksif asked what they knew, and they answered "One from the East will bring a great evil here, which will spark a war with the West." Hearing Silksif say of this, Kjartan called out that they were trouble-makers, and if the devils wanted chaos they should let them go. Silksif then asked what happened to the deserters among Hring's men who came here. The devil then asked "Do you want us to show you"?", and Silksif answered "Yes." (??)

         Suddenly, everything went pitch dark among their copse of trees. They could here the beating wings of a beast nearby. Matunaaga fired an arrow, thinking that he was facing out of the grove, but it went astray and struck someone within. Silksif struck flint to start a fire, only to see a pair of hooves within arm's reach of where she crouched. Thorgerd then swung at the creature in the darkness, but hit Arnor instead -- wounding him with the Sword of Neccesity.

         Eventually Bjarni tackled the creature barehanded, and Skallagrim dispatched it with his axe. Silksif and Kjartan by then had gotten a flame going. With makeshift torches, the group were able to keep the other devils at bay. They stayed up through the night, then trekked back to Raudarbank with the one beast's body in the morning.

  1. This includes a reference to the legend of the New Jersey devil.
  2. The result of an "Erratic Behavior" card by Liz.
  3. The result of a "Sudden Reversion" card by Bill.

John H. Kim <jhkim@darkshire.net>
Last modified: Mon Sep 15 21:17:45 2003