In our previous session of our Zweihander game, we had decided to take the two women out to the village of Pigsville and find them a safe place there, away from the city and the slavers who had been abusing them. Eva continues her recording of the events which followed.
It was a damp and slightly cold morning when we left with Alice and Elsa on our walk to Pigsville. I tried to keep them distracted from their prior predicament, but Calthar seemed keen to ask them for details about what had happened to them. She got got aggressive in the way she started to ask the questions, and I had to step in to get her to stop, and then explain to her that further questions would distress them.
They may have useful details, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk to their mental health. We know that the owners of the White Orchid are bad, and that is good enough for me. I spent most of the rest of the walk describing the various types of trees out in the wild, for neither Alice nor Elsa had been much outside of the city before.
We got to Pigsville around noon, and it seemed happy and cheerful enough. There was a new palisade, which seemed to meet with Calthar’s approval, and there was a naked man crawling on hands and knees through the mud, chasing after the pigs and making ‘oinking’ noises.
A woman came out with a stick and collar, and managed to catch him, putting the collar on him and leading him back to the pigsty where there seemed to be half a dozen naked men and women rolling around in the mud and pretending to be pigs.
Apparently this had started four days ago, but the woman suggested we go talk to Matilda the head of the village.
Matilda was pleased to see us, and invited us in for tea. I started by explaining to her about Alice and Elsa, and asking if they could stay here for a while. After finding out what they could do, it was decided that they would have the house of the family that had been taken as slaves previously. After the two had been taken away, I explained the details of what had happened, and Matilda was more than happy to help them.
It was then we turned to the matter of the people pretending to be pigs. It seems though that our assumption had been wrong – they were actually pigs pretending to be people. Four days ago, the villagers had woken to find that six of their pigs had taken the form of people. The pigs had been out in the forest the night before, but there had been no unusual visitors or known reasons for this change to have come about.
Matilda suggested that Garm, a young and somewhat slow boy, could take us out to where the pigs were foraging that night since he had brought them in.
It had been just a short walk out to the foraging spot. Garm wandered off to do some foraging of his own as we took a look around the area. There were signs of foot prints in the mud, as well as markings on the trees as if creatures had rubbed themselves up against them. The foor prints were human – hands, feet and knees, and Djarin quickly found tracks for them coming in from elsewhere.
We followed them back, and reached a spot where the temperature seemed to get colder and the air sharper. Expecting magic of some sort to be present, I started to cast a spell when something knocked my focus out of my hands. Popping out from behind a bush was a small grey skinned, pointy eared creature with a small bow.
“No magic around here! The queen doesn’t allow it!”
He called himself Splatchit, and claimed to have turned the pigs into humans himself, though I didn’t quite believe it at the time and it turned out not to be the case. He wanted us to go and see the Most Gracious and Beloved Queen Elisabell. We decided that whoever she was, she was probably responsible for what had happened, so agreed to go with him. As it turned out, it hadn’t been here either.
Splatchit led us through the trees to a mound which had a tree at the top. Taking us clockwise around the mound, the appearance of the tree seemed to change, becoming brighter and more … beautiful I guess. There were other ‘gnomes’ – Bruno, Flarkin and Poog – and under the oak tree once we got up to the top a beautiful elf-like woman shining with radiance and with a diaphanous gown.
We introduced ourselves and asked her about the pigs. She was willing to trade a question for a favour, so we agreed and she claimed that it had been her sister who was responsible – the Evil Wicked Queen Elisabell. She wanted us to do something about her, and in doing so we would probably solve our own problem. She asked Flarkin and Poog to lead us to her evil sister.
So we went back down the hill, and round it counter-clockwise, until the tree at the top became darker and more gnarly. At the top, in a pool of darkness was someone who looked a lot like Queen Elisabell except she was dressed in black and holding a smoking stick.
The four gnomes turned up, all dressed slightly differently and showing deference to the ‘Evil’ queen. She claimed to be Evil for the sake of it, because that was what she was meant to do. She admitted to turning the pigs into people, in retribution for the theft of her precious.
In return for answering a question, she wanted us to answer three questions. Would harm could there be in answering questions? (Yes, I know).
So I agreed and asked her what her precious was and she said that it was a silver acorn, which she wanted returned. In exchange, she asked us three questions…
Of Calthar – what is your name? – Calthar
Of Djarin – what is your quest? – To find the acorn
Of myself – what is your favourite colour? – White.
She didn’t seem to be very good at this, so I asked her who had taken her precious? I was expecting that it was probably Garm, and she said it was probably someone from the village.
Of Calthar – who do you serve? The God Empereor
Of Djarin – what do you seek? The person who stole the acorn
Of myself – who do you wish to be? A better person.
She threatened that if we did not return with the acorn within a year and a day, that she would reign down fire on… a squirrel. I’m not sure that she was entirely sane.
So we headed back to the forest, and found Garm. I asked him whether he had any acorns, and after showing some standard ones, admitted that he did have something shinier. It was important to him though, but for a hug and a kiss he would take me to his secret place where he had hidden it.
It was hidden by a tree stump under a rock, where he had a collection of shiny things. I also gave him a gold coin in return for the acorn. It turned out that he had “got skin” and smelt it. After some moments of confusion, we realised that maybe he was a skin walker.
He Calthar through a hole in the village palisade, to a house where there was a pig skin hanging on the wall. He said that he took it and became a pig. Apparently on their holy day once a year, the largest man in the village puts it on and makes pig babies. Okay.
Having had enough with quaint rural customs we headed back to the Queens, deciding to return the acorn to the ‘evil’ Queen as requested. We were met on the path around the mound by the four gnomes, who were dressed ready for war. They tried to read out a proclamation, which I think was meant to insist that we took the acorn to the ‘good’ Queen. They had difficulty reading it though, so Djarin helpfully took it off their hands and read it out for them – and it clearly stated that we were to take the acorn back to the ‘evil’ Queen. At least that’s what Djarin read.
The confused gnomes had to let us pass. As we approach the Queen she was pleased to see us returning with her precious, and Splatchit ran ahead to serve her. The other three were coming up the hill with intent to stop us, so the Queen ordered Splatchit to ‘deal with’ the other three.
I put a hand on Splatchit, preventing him from heading down whilst Calthar ordered the others to stop. Fortunately everyone was reasonably pliable, having spent probably most of their lives being ordered around by the two Queens.
I tried to reason with her, to get her to talk to her sister and work things out, but at some point Splatchit must have taken the acorn from my pocket and had started eating it.
At this point the Queen despaired of it all and grabbed Djarin’s flask of drink and took a swig herself. As the world began to crumble around us, we hastily retreated back down the hill and back to the ‘real’ world. Behind us we saw the realm collapse in upon itself. Though the others claimed to have seen nothing, I’m sure that I saw an image of the city, enveloped in shadow and flame, with dragons above it. I feel that this was a portent of some kind.
We have made it back to the village though, where the pigs are back to their normal form and the villagers are happy. By now it is middle of the afternoon, and we will need to hurry if we are to make it back to the city. Djarin and Calthar want to try and break into the warehouse on the way in, so we need to make our excuses and leave the villagers to their celebrations. Hopefully none of them involve donning pig skin.