Still in Vilday, we’ve been asked to leave Nadia’s house so that Mellifluere can talk to the domovoy.
The rest of the town are gathering in the inn. Games are played (cards, and even knifing), drinks are drunk and a happy time is had by all.
The old women and men of the village share their tales with Braga.
Before the witches, the village was watched over by (willingly) the wolves. On the night of midsummer’s eve, there were flowers that grew at the foot of the statue. The ladies knew a way to braid the flowers the way the wolves liked and they would ride a pooka to find them. But of course, this is just a story.
At midnight, Bragga goes out and searches around the foot of the statue. Digging the snow clear of the statue’s base, she sees something red. After carefully dusting off the snow, its a series of seven long green stems bearing red daisy-like flowers.
She goes to get Lidiya, who cuts and weaves the flowers into a crown.
Together, they go find Faufine (who was guarding Nadia’s house). He tells us a pooka is a short man who can turn into a pony or a wolf. They trick people to ride them until they fall unconscious. Then they leave you to sleep it off in the town.
We head back to town, away from Nadia’s strangely light-throbbing house. We find Caska back at the Inn. She tells us they still warn people not to go to pony pond. She gives us directions. She says the wolves were known as the Pack of the High Tooth. They would congregate around a high toor. They are very dangerous and now serve the witches.
We go find Rustan. We gear up and head out together.
We go into the forest. The gibous growing moon and her tears lights the night. As we trudge towards Pony pond, Rustan notices that there’s movement in the trees following us. It’s crows – half a dozen smallish crows.
One of the crows lands in the path ahead of us. It calls Lidiya moon maiden and asks about the crown. Lydiya makes him a little crown of string.
As it leads us toward the pond. The crows swarm us trying to get to the crown. They just appear.
They steal the crown (two fight for it), one snags a talisman from Bragga, but none get a button from Rustan.
Lidiya and the others get the crown back and Lidiya mends it.
Having kept hold of the crown, the maid, the witch and the huntmsan continue on.
We hear in the distance the baying of crows. Sore loosers.
The ice is cracked and broken. We see tracks of elk who came and drunk at the pond. Rustan takes a drink from the pond, it’s very refreshing.
Lidiya sings the song Faufine taught her. By the second round, she hears a pony making noises behind her. After a bit of discussion, all three of us climb on the pony.
Bragga ties us on, and the pony shoots off.
Lydia praises him. He’s faster than Selune’s tears, greater than the north wind over the snow. (Bragga plays Pride!) It’s been so long since he’s gotten to exhaust a human and now he has 3!
We ride for over 2 hours, and we’ve circled almost back when he slows down to a trot. And we’re back to Pony Pond. We see our tracks into the pond, but he left no tracks.
He gives us gnarly branch to fend off the wolves. We need to fend them off until they remember the promise. Lidiya offers to sing of summer to them to help them remember. We learn the pooka’s name is Isak.
He agrees to help us. He summons two ice ponies. Maybe they’re magic? No? “Oh god my bits.”
Lydia rids Isak, while the other two ride the ponies makde of ice.
Lidiya casts endure elements on Rustan.
Once we are all three mounted and Isak does a little snort and we are off!
We hear the wolves howling.
Before we can do more than sing of summer, the pack is around us. Shadowing and running with us. In the distance the narrow tall tor of stone comes into sight. And at its base, the whole pack is waiting.
The wolves try and bit us as we run. They miss but keep trying.
Bragga ties herself on with her hair and Rustan bats mightily at the wolves to keep them at bay.
Lidiya changes her song:
Long ago in days of summer
When ice was no more
There was a pact between man and wolf
When flowers bloomed before
Midsommer eve when red flowers bloomed
A maiden maid with a crown
The forest would test her and
A pooka carry her
To the mighty tooth toor
There wolves would listen
And they would remember
The pact that came before
The promise of protection for Vilday
When ice was no more.
The lead wolf howls, changing the timber.
The wolves back off, a few try to bite but no one gets bit.
The howls rise to a fever pitch, then stop. We race ahead and the wolves fade back.
The ice ponies fade and Isak shifts back into a man.
Lidya curtsies. The whole pack is watching with yellow eyes. The alpha male gets up and approaches us. He lowers his head and Bragga has to move Lidya’s arms to place the crown atop the alpha wolf’s head.
The howling begins again. Little pups come out of the cave and try to howl along. The howls resonate around and through us. And we feel that they have accepted the pact. And then it slips into “now get off our land”.
Isak turns and we all climb on and race back to the outskirts of Vilday.
He asks us to wait for him, so we do.
We learn earlier this year that a powerful woman (grandmotherly) honored him by visiting his pond, and she said that three of her riders would follow and they would need a key to follow her. It’s a statuette of Grumsha’s wife (a fertility symbol) – Luthic the cave mother. It’s wrapped in a bright red cloth with embroidered arcane symbols all over it.
Bragga takes it. He says thrice we will need 2 keys; these are the first 2.
Lidiya finds the village priest and re-interates the tale, making him write it down for future generations.
Bragga finds Kashka at Nadia’s house. She starts to tell the tale, and Kashka rushes to the base of the tower where she finds a single bloom that did not quite open. She tells the tale.
As she finishes, Nathander crests the horizon, and the new day begins.
And the door to Nadia’s house opens, and a bleary-eyed Mellifluere steps out.