The Path to Osekowa
Only the occasional cries of a waking bird broke the heavy silence of the forest in the grey light of pre-dawn. In the distance Tullweim saw the group’s destination, a Pict village called Osekowa, home to Sagoyaga, the Paramount Chief of the Wolf clan. Sagayoga had managed to do what no previous savage had done, getting the disparate tribes of Pictland to set aside their differences and join together into an unstoppable, belligerent army of raging cutthroats and bloody-handed savages. It was he whose life needed to be brutally ended. Osekowa had a palisade around its perimeter like previously encountered Pict dwellings, but instead of completely surrounding the village, the palisade ended at the border of a swamp. Xacksmith spotted a lone sentry in the watch–hut guarding the gate of the palisade. Dhak suggested killing the sentry silently by bow-shot, but after a brief exchange with his companions it was decided the distance and number of shots required to kill the Pict watcher would give time to alert the savages in the village. The adventurers decided their best path to Osekowa would be through the nearby swamp, which the watcher’s hut was blind to. Cuana led the party as they crept toward the swamp, slid down into the murky water one by one, and waded toward the village, with only their heads showing from the surface of the murky depths.
The adventurers slowly made their way, tense in anticipation of the bloodshed to come, when the Aesir was grabbed by a hideous creature which burst from underneath the stagnant water. Tullweim fought with the creature, which looked as if it had once been human but now had an unusually long neck, webbed hands which ended in claws, scales, and pointed teeth. The foul abomination struggled to plunge the northman’s head under the water’s surface but the mighty Aesir’s strength was too much for it. Tullweim gritted his teeth, overcame the revulsion which threatened him and threw the horrid mockery of human life back. The other adventurers noticed 7 more of the horrid creatures emerge from the dark pools of water around them. Cuana drew and plunged his greatsword through the chest of one, then cried out in alarm as an alligator clamped down upon the Cimmerian’s arm. Dhak and Xacksmith pushed away the brutes which surrounded them and swam to a nearby protrusion of land. The Cimmerian pulled the alligator’s jaws open enough to free his bloodied arm then finished off the abomination which was still impaled on his sword. In a rush of movement Cuana slew a second servant in the swamp and plunged his greatsword through a third. Meanwhile 2 of the creatures wrapped their scaly arms around the Aesir, pulling him down into the hazy water below.
Xacksmith quickly fired several arrows at the anathema accosting the party, landing several hits which caused a black ichor to pour forth from the wounds. Cuana narrowly dodged the alligator’s maw and saw 2 more of the beasts closing. The alligators both savagely bit into the barbarian but Cuana’s armor deflected the brunt of the sharp teeth which sought his blood. Then the abomination the Aesir had previously hurled away wrapped it’s arms around Cuana and sunk it’s teeth into the Cimmerian. Tullweim struggled mightily with the 2 creatures which beset him. The Aesir would push one away only to have the other grapple him and between the 2 slavering assailants his head was again plunged into the water. An alligator moved to the edge of the land the Hyrkanian and Stygian stood upon and viciously snapped its jaws at Dhak. The sorcerer responded with a hypnotic invocation which mesmerized most of the parties foes. Cuana and Tullweim wasted no time in using the opportunity to swim to the nearest mass of land. For the Aesir it was with the Hyrkanian and Stygian he stood, for the Cimmerian it was another island within shouting distance. As Cuana raised himself from the water another alligator surfaced and ravaged the barbarian’s leg. The beast tried to pull the Cimmerian back into the water but Cuana’s thews proved too strong and he was able to wrench himself free.
Once the Stygian’s sorcery ended the servants in the swamp rushed at Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith. Both the borderer and sorcerer rapidly fired their bows and Tullweim swung his bardiche shearing the head of one of the creatures off it’s neck. Two alligators closed on Cuana but the Cimmerian was able to dodge both and respond by slashing murderously, killing one of the beasts, and with a reverse swing ending the other’s miserable life. The barbarian then leapt to another nearby island and jumped again to the same land his companions occupied. One last alligator menaced the party but stood no chance of defeating the arrows, bardiche, and greatsword which pierced and slashed its scaled hide. After a moment was taken to catch their collective breath, the Stygian suggested time be taken for the tending of wounds but the idea was quickly thrown out as the adventurers couldn’t take the chance the sounds of splashing and battle had not roused the Picts. The party neared the village, avoiding the swamp water as much as possible and kept a keen eye open for any other attackers.
Bloodshed Before the Grim Altar-Hut
The village of Osekowa consisted of 4 score long-houses, each at least 80 feet long. A council longhouse was also seen but it was the daub-and-wattle altar-hut decorated with grotesque spirit masks, skulls of captives, and other macabre religious icons which drew the adventurers attention. They neared the savage village and were immediately startled to hear the cries of women. 4 Pict women were seen and the adventurers rushed forward with their weapons drawn. The gaggle of women scattered further into the village. Knowing there was no chance of stealth left to them the adventurers slowed their pace as they neared the altar-hut. As they arrived, the party saw their way barred by 13 Picts and one large, menacingly growling, wolf. A pained groan was heard from inside the altar-hut but before any words could be made out, one of the savages, be-feathered in the manner of a shaman stepped forward. The Pict said he knew of the adventurers and promised them they would be strapped to the ceremonial posts in the center of the village, tortured and changed into servants and play things. Cuana replied in Pictish that they sought only Sagoyaga and would spare the rest if taken to him. The shaman laughed harshly and responded that he was Machk, loyal servant to the Paramount Chief, and the adventurers were too late as Sagoyaga was likely already arrived at Velitrium with 4,000 strong Picts who aimed to raze the fort that very morning. Cuana replied that the shaman’s name may as well be worm-food as Tullweim rushed the shaman and struck a vicious blow with his bardiche. The Cimmerian followed, cutting a wide arc as he pressed forward into the savages. One Pict fell in a bloody heap to Cuana’s blade and another twisted just enough to prevent the barbarian’s greatsword from mortally wounding him.
Arrows were set loose by the Picts, aimed at the Cimmerian. Dhak and Xacksmith let loose arrows of their own, dropping a Pict between them, as one of the savages struck at Tullweim with a greatsword, likely captured from a fallen Hyborian, cutting deep into the barbarian’s flesh. The large wolf lunged at the Aesir, biting deep into Tullweim’s thigh. The beast then pulled the Aesir’s leg out from under him and several more Picts crowded around to hammer their hatchets and clubs down. Another greatsword wielding Pict circled Cuana and brought his blade to bear upon the Cimmerian. 2 more Picts closed on Cuana but the barbarian’s blade split one savages head like a ripe melon then cleaved into the second. Tullweim managed to kick the wolf off of him and though he took several blows from the surrounding Picts, including those which wielded greatswords, he was able to bloodily get to his feet. The Aesir swung his weapon again at Machk, but the shaman quickly wove a curse which caused the brutal result of the barbarian’s strike to be evident on Tullweim’s own flesh. Machk quickly withdrew behind the protection of the other Picts and shouted for his wolf to kill the barbarian. Once again the wolf bite deep between the chinks in Tullweim’s armor and once again the beast yanked the Aesir’s feet out from under him. Cuana was beset by another volley of arrows as both of the greatsword wielding Picts caught the barbarian in the arc of their devastating blades. The Cimmerian responded with a powerful attack of his own which dropped the first greatsword wielding Pict and the back swing spilled the guts of second onto the trampled grass. Several more of the savages fell, pin-cushioned from the Hyrkanian and Stygian’s rapidly fired arrows.
Many of the Pictish dogs laid bloodied and dead. Five still fired arrows at Cuana and Machk remained, shouting curses and commands from behind his wolf. The beast circled the bloodied Aesir, striking wherever it found a sufficient gap in Tullweim’s armor. Cuana quickly moved to the Pict shaman catching Machk by surprise with another powerful blow of his greatsword, causing massive damage which resulted in the shaman’s cloven carcass thudding to the ground in a spray of blood and gore. The wolf, however, proved difficult to strike as it continuously dodged the Aesir and Cimmerian’s swings. The beast rushed inside the sweep of the Cimmerian’s sword and clamped its jaws down upon Cuana’s legs. Though the wolf drew blood it could not force the Cimmerian to his back as it had done with Tullweim. Dhak and Xacksmith exchanged fire with the remaining Pict archers as Tullweim flanked the wolf and attempted to strike the beast, but once again the bruised Aesir missed. The wolf then lunged forward at Cuana and again sunk its sharp teeth into the Cimmerian’s leg. Again Cuana twisted free and brought his sword down, dealing a tremendous blow. The wolf yelped, then growled pure hatred as it fixed its gaze upon the Cimmerian. Tullweim landed a blow upon the beasts back but still the creature did not fall. The wolf spun with great alacrity, clamped its teeth upon the Aesir’s leg and once again pulled Tullweim to the ground. Seeing the plight the barbarian’s were in, Dhak and Xacksmith shifted their attention to the troublesome wolf, both sending arrows flying at the beast. One of Xacksmith’s arrows missed its mark and sunk deep into Cuana’s arm. Still on his back, hearing the dark whispers of death ringing enticingly in his ear, Tullweim desperately swung his bardiche, opening a jagged gash into the wolf’s side and with a final whine the beast fell still.
Several more arrows were fired by the remaining Picts, two of which sunk deep into Cuana’s shoulder. The Aesir and Cimmerian both chose one of the remaining archers and advanced. The savage Cuana faced off with hopped back and fired 2 more arrows into the barbarian. With a roar the Cimmerian plunged his sword through the Pict’s gut, spilling his life blood down the length of the great blade. Tullweim similarly dispatched the last Pict warrior with his bardiche cleaving a gully straight down the center of the savages chest. The Cimmerian yanked out the arrow Xacksmith had shot into him and gave the Hyrkanian a menacing stage which quickly turned to laughter as Cuana took in the piled bodies of their Pict enemies. The laughter was quickly ended by the sounds of groans from within the altar hut, rekindling the adventurers curiosity to who was inside.