Rasennan Summer

75 - The Wolf-Grim

“Dammit, now I’m going to have a bite scar on my tit.” — Brosetta

The group catches their breath after the battle with the ogres. Vittorio examines the corpses to see if there’s some sort of pattern indicating a culture or organization. The monstrous corpses show some form of wing-like warpaint and tattooing, that indicates a common crow or vulture tribal identity.

Once their wounds are tended, the group leaves the stable to scout the grounds for more ogres. The nearby smithy holds a forge that must have been worthy of a master craftsman in its day, but apart from some of the ancient, corroded tools being scattered on the ground by long-ago looters, there’s no sign of disturbance. They then move through the long-overgrown fields along the south. A few strains of grape have managed to survive the years, but Vesper cautions that the curse in the land may not have been good for the vintage.

They stop next to investigate the granary, which smells of long-moldered grain, and holds the bones of rats that appeared to have died fighting one another. They’re calling it secure and moving on when a lean ogre bolts out of the barracks, running uphill to the graveyard. Despite their misgivings about the focus on the cemetery, the four move on to make sure the barracks is clear. Once confident that there aren’t any threats — mostly corpses in various states of decay, the remains of previous looter bands — they move up to follow the ogre.

The ogre they’d sighted has joined another one, and the two of them are digging furiously in the earth. The group moves to engage them. The ogres abandon the task and fight wildly, like crazed beasts. As their blood marks the ground, mist starts arising from the earth where they were burrowing. The mist billows into the form of a two-headed wolf the size of a warhorse, one muzzle dark and the other pale. The suggestion of faces flows through what would be its muscle groups

Brosetta squares off against the grim, but her inexperience in dealing with the monstrous undead doesn’t get her very far. Even with the support of Carenza and Vittorio, it’s all she can do to keep standing as it savages her and drags her from one end of the burial plot to the other. The other three move quickly to put down the crazed ogres, and then converge on the grim to help Brosetta.

The spectral wolf is as dangerous as its reputation states — it’s soon clear just why not even a band of ogres could deal with it. Brosetta takes the worst of the damage, as it bites down on her shoulders again and again. A series of blows and bolts draws its attention enough that it howls, and the sound is like a chorus of the dying. Rattled but not defeated, the blades press on.

Vesper begins to unknit the grim’s ghostly sinews with a spell of corpse-light. That provides an opportunity for the others to strike harder and more viciously. Its spectral “flesh” unwinds more readily under their blows, until the swirling spirit-mist thins at the wolf-grim’s breast. Within the twisting contours of its form hovers a gauntlet, old steel worked with the wolf’s brand. Brosetta forces her free hand into the grim’s spectral form and takes hold of the gauntlet. “Now would be good!” she growls.

Carenza leads the attack. She thrusts with her Uromni blade, cutting a way for Brosetta’s mace and Vesper’s tarnished ghost-sword. The blows strike home, smashing the integrity of the old artifact. The grim howls one last time, and its form begins to break apart. Many of the spirit fragments twist away and vanish in the daylight, but two streams gather around Vesper. The young necromancer throws her head back and inhales, and a portion of the grim’s form passes into her.

As Vesper concentrates on mastering the new vestige within her, the others decide to dig where the ogres were focusing their efforts. They uncover an old wolf skull, inscribed with arcane runes and its teeth painted red — the focus object of the Vargari curse. Vesper carefully bundles it up. Brosetta examines her wounds, and finds her skin largely unbroken — the teeth of the grim have left pale almost-scars, however, and she considers having them picked out with ink if they don’t fade.

At last the four begin the process of surveying the villa. There are many corpses to account for, a wine cellar to investigate, and a few tokens to collect as proof of their deed.

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