Niyohontehsha of the Wildcats
Cuana and Tullweim both swore as they witnessed the awful change of one of the captive settlers into another panther-like abomination. Though the rite turned their stomachs to watch it did not quell Tullweim’s fury as he roared out a challenge. The were-panther snarled menacingly, snapped its bonds and leapt at the Aesir. The foul beasts teeth and claws ripped through Tullweim’s armor and lacerated the flesh beneath. The indomitable Nordheimer responded with 2 mighty swings of his greatsword, deeply wounding the creature which but moments ago was a man. Cuana followed the Aesir’s attack with a powerful assault of his own, splitting the top of the creatures head from its jaw in a swath of bright crimson. Amidst the scene of carnage, the Pict women and children continued to dance as the shaman intoned in an ominous cadence.
Meanwhile, Dhak and Xacksmith made their way along the inside of the wooden wall which defended the Pict village of Niyohontehsha. The two adventurers heard the fierce pitch of the battle as it raged at the center of the village and the Stygian had grown impatient. Dhak did not like not having a precise plan for rescuing a phantom woman from the Hyrkanian’s dreams. Xacksmith had his doubts as well but as they turned a corner the Hyrkanian was struck with familiarity at the daub-and-wattle huts which surrounded him. Xacksmith rushed towards a particular hut of grim aspect. The feathers, animal skulls, and scalps did not give the Hyrkanian pause as he flung open the hide-door covering. Inside the hut a beautiful women with lustrous hair, which fell in waves past a warm face, sat reposed on a mattress of animal pelts, surrounded by skulls and other grisly relics of former prisoners. The woman’s bright hazel eyes and full, soft lips showed alarm as from within the hut another were-panther pounced at the Hyrkanian. It was but chance which caused the creatures claw to snare the door covering instead of Xacksmith’s face.
The Hyrkanian lunged desperately at the were-panther with the curious staff he carried, driving the point into the beasts gut. The maddened creature raked its claws against Xacksmith, ripped through his leather armor and sent him unconscious to the ground. Dhak spoke arcane words of entrancement on the were-panther, who charged the Stygian, moving from hind legs to all four with great alacrity. The sorcerer’s words took hold of the creature just as it reached the Stygian, it’s clawed hand raised in an attack stopped unnaturally by Dhak’s will. The Stygian concentrated deeply to maintain his hypnotism of the creature as the young woman braved to move out of her prison. She looked down sorrowfully at Xacksmith and noticed the staff which lay beside him. Dhak called out to her to take the staff and deliver a coup de grace to the beast. At first frightened by the prospect, the woman watched as the creature stood menacingly not 5 feet from the Stygian and collected the staff. She moved near Dhak who urged the woman to strike quickly. The women held the shaft of the staff and struck the point into the creatures throat. Dhak’s sorcery was broken and the aberrant beast thrashed about as the young woman drove the staff deeper into the creatures gullet.
At the center of the village, the 3 Wolf Picts who had fled the combat at the village gate fired their bows at the 2 northern barbarians. Though Cuana’s armor prevented the arrows from doing any lasting harm he almost blacked out from the collection of bruises he’d acquired. The Cimmerian fought past the pain and dizziness, brought his greatsword down on one of his attackers and with a backswing wounded another who fled the combat, holding his torn side. Baraccus rushed at Tullweim, using his axe to attempt to trip the Aesir. But the mountain of a man proved immovable and the renegade ranger dropped his axe rather than be tripped in return. Tullweim then brought his greatsword down on the renegade, splintering bone and sinew. As Baraccus fell the Aesir plunged his sword through the renegade’s gut. A heavily adorned male Wildcat Pict led the 3 Picts who had been drumming for the ceremony into battle. The savages swarmed around Tullweim, delivering blow after blow from their hatchets and clubs. The masked shaman plunged a dagger through the only remaining prisoner tied to a ceremonial post as the battle raged. The feathered devil then shouted a great curse at the Aesir which caused Tullweim’s strikes to miss his target. Cuana rushed to the Aesir’s side and the savage Picts were witness to the unbridled wrath of the Cimmerian barbarian. Cuana’s greatsword tore the Wildcat chief asunder as brains, bones, and blood littered the field. The Picts who had been at the chief’s side quickly fled as the 2 barbarians heard their Stygian ally call for fleetness of foot. Tullweim moved towards the village gate but he could no longer sustain his crimson rage. Without the fury driving him the Aesir succumbed to his wounds and fell, motionless, to the ground. The Cimmerian saw this, sheathed his greatsword, and lifted his companion over his shoulder with hope that fate would see the Aesir rise to fight another day.
But the masked shaman was not yet done. The guttural chanting of the Pict shaman reached a crescendo as he angrily sent his mystical call of command to the surrounding forest. As the adventurers met up near Niyohontehsha’s front gate they were chilled to see a huge pale shape slither out of the black woods. Cuana cried out for everyone to run and the party had a slight advantage due to the creature coming from the forest behind the village’s palisade. The noblewoman almost lost her nerve but Dhak was able to keep her focused with helping him carry Xacksmith. The adventurers were almost to the edge of the forest and the Cimmerian braved a look behind to see the form of a monstrous Ghost Snake, glowing palely in the moonlight. Cuana called out to the 3 settler women the party had left hidden, ordered them to run and not look behind. Though they’d managed to keep some distance from the creature, it was a mile trek back to Thunder River. The Ghost Snake had caught up to Cuana and lunged at the Cimmerian, who even carrying the Aesir was able to narrowly dodge the beast. The barbarian was able to gain some ground after the attack as Dhak, carrying Xacksmith with the aid of the noblewoman, came to the bank of Thunder River. Fortune was with them as 3 canoes were beached nearby. But the adventurers passage did not go unnoticed. Several Picts fired arrows at the party as they moved towards the canoes. The Cimmerian then barreled through the savages and behind him struck the massive serpent. Not aware that a shaman had summoned the creature the Picts panicked and some attacked the Ghost Snake as the adventurers rowed out into the river. The creature immediately fell upon the hapless savages and their screams rang out across the wide, open river as they fell prey to the demonic thing sent after the party by their own chieftain.
The adventurers stopped briefly on the opposite shore. Cuana used a length of rope to tie the 3 canoes together as Dhak tended to Xacksmith’s wounds. Within moments the Hyrkanian was roused and the canoes were launched back into the river. The Cimmerian and Hyrkanian rowed the 2 canoes flanking the one Dhak was in. Both the Stygian and Hyrkanian’s cat-like eyes were able to use the moonlight to direct their passage. Though physically exhausted the adventurers rowed until the morning light shown. Then, in early dawn, they made towards the shore and moved the canoes out of the water and behind the cover of trees. The adventurers attempted to conceal their camp as much as possible and set up a watch to rest. It was then the noblewomen was questioned. She introduced herself as Lady Coelia, the very noble written of in the waylaid missives the adventurers had discovered several days earlier. The noblewoman told her tale of involvement with the staff. She had long been interested in the Picts and was told of some great destiny concerning them. She knew little of the strange staff Gault had entrusted with the adventures other than that it was called the Staff of Dekanawidah and Sagoyaga desperately sought it. The noblewomen helped as she could with the 3 settler women who finally seemed to have enough sense amongst them to relate who they were. It seemed they were the 3 settler women which Baraccus had kidnapped. The renegade ranger and his henchmen had traveled to Schondara with the intent of crossing the Thunder River and giving the women to the Wildcat tribe. But the Wolf Picts attack on the frontier town changed all that. The adventurers then rested for many hours. When early evening arrived the Aesir roused from unconsciousness. The party packed up and once again traveled on the Thunder River by moonlight.
Several nights passed with the adventurers similarly stopping at dawn and continuing their trek to the Oriskonie province at dusk. Several fires in the distance on the settlers side of the great river showed the Westermarck was still besieged but the party was able to avoid any Picts crossing the river. Though they rowed against the current, the Aesir and Cimmerian’s legendary strength and endurance were able to keep a steady pace. After a week and a half of such activity they finally arrived at the Oriskonie province. Though Pict attacks occurred in the settler province they had not yet become as brash and wanton as the attack on Schondara. The adventurers were able to locate Fuldonus and bring the 3 settler women to him. The Bossonian thanked the party and ensured the governor gave the reward promised. In addition, Lady Coelia was taken in by the governor and the party enjoyed no small amount of coin for the noblewoman’s rescue as well. Given the continued attacks on the Westermarck, Lady Coelia was successful in convincing the adventurers to stay and aid the settlers in pushing back the savages onslaught.