Reynald worked at the padlock on Woln’s chains, and the man collapsed to the floor. Ragnar bandaged him as best he could,while Rasha hunted round the cave and managed to scrounge up some canvas and a few poles, with which he improvised a travois.
The hunter was in a sorry state, with a strange blue liquid dribbling from his mouth; he had obviously been bitten, and had strange runes runes cut into his flesh. A flask of the blue liquid was nearby, and Ailukka took this to show to Koya.
Arranged on a table nearby was a selection of alchemical equipment, as well as what appeared to be four small fetish dolls. Looking closely they could see that two of these bore some resemblance to the human forms of the two werewolves they had fought, and one of the others looked a little like Woln.
“I think I get it” said Reynald, “This wizard or whatever he was was somehow controlling the werewolves- that is why the first one was trying to warn us away. These dolls must have had something to do with it. Witch dolls.” Ailukka nodded.
“Ja. But this means that he too has become infected”. She nodded towards the insensible Woln.
“Let’s get him to Koya” suggested Rasha. “She’s Scarzani- they know about these things.” Ungo harrumphed but the others agreed.
Ragnar said nothing. When he had tended Dinald’s wounds earlier he had noticed that he too had been bitten. He had taken care at the time to see that none of the others had noticed.
Ailukka had picked up a large tome emblazoned with some sort of grinning skull, with some distaste. She pulled out the wand she had obtained in Brinestump Marsh, and muttered a few words and then examined the book closely.
“Neither the script nor language I can read, but this book is very ancient, and very evil” she said. “It has some association with Devils, and its function is to control werewolves. There are many diagrams in here and see- cutting runes into human flesh as has been done to Woln.”
“Thaet feller what ran” growled Ungo, “He had horns.”
“He might have had Devil or Demon blood” suggested Ailukka, “What they call a Tiefling. I see a few in Kalsgaard.”
Ungo walked over carrying a chest full of assorted coins. “Look what I foond.”
“There’s more books over here” said Rasha, “Over at this desk. This is really strange- look.”
The books seemed to be several volumes labelled ’Wolf’s Ear Immigration Records’ for particular years. The years in question were 4695, 4696 and 4697. These appeared to have been studied in some detail, and the book for 4696 was open and an entry had been ringed.
“Thorin Faringdale, age 12 years- DECEASED” read Reynald. . Around this were scrawled a variety of excaimations including ‘Noooo! He has escaped!’, ‘All this time- Wasted!’ and many other indications of extreme frustration.
“Maybe these were stolen from the Sage also?” suggested Reynald.
“We should take all of this stuff back” agreed Ragnar, “but we should take Woln to our camp first to see Koya. Maybe she can suggest something for the poor man.” And so it was agreed.
Back at the Caravan Koya shook her head. “The werewolf’s bite it is not simply an illness, it is also a curse. It is beyond my poor powers to cure.”
“So what will happen to him then?” asked Dinald. “Do we need to buy a nice lead HaHa!”
Koya looked at him directly; nobody else appeared to be laughing.
“Even a man who is pure of heart
And says his prayers by Night.
Can become a wolf while the wolfbane blooms
And the moon shines Full and Bright.”
Dinald looked with incomprehension. Koya went on to explain patiently.
“The next full moon is about three weeks off on 12th October. Unless cured, he will transform into a rampaging bloodthirsty beast, which kills for sheer bloodlust and feasts on human flesh. Although possibly a good man, he will have no control over this. It will be his Nature.”
“But you say he cannot be cured?” asked Ragnar.
“Not by my magicks or any we are likely to find hereabouts. Also there is some complication-this blue potion and the runes: some other magicks have also been wound into his condition. But there may may be an old Scarzani way.” responded Koya. “Unfortunately it can only work within three nights of being bitten, and the remedy can be fatal. You are fortunate indeed that none of you were bitten in your fights with these creatures.” Ragnar said nothing, but shot a quick glance at Dinald, who was examining his nails: they seemed a little longer than he remembered.
“Perhaps we’d better try it then” said Rasha. “After all we don’t know how long ago he was bitten. What do we need to do?”
“Wolfsbane” said Koya. “You need to gather me Wolfsbane. As much of it as possible.”
“Eh but thats lethal stuff isn’t it?” asked Rasha.
“As I said” replied Koya. “The remedy is Kill or Cure.”
As Koya spoke Reynald observed Dinald closely, and saw that he went to the back of the group and sat down against the wheel of one of the wagons. Quietly he edged his way over. Dinald stood up sharply.
“Everything alright Brother mine?” asked Reynald quietly. Dinald stared down at the floor.
“Oh…I feel all right you know. Just got mauled by some idiot gent I was trying to save.” Dinald said, a hint of bitterness in his voice.He looked at his brother and started to say something, and then paused, biting his tongue.
“I’m sorry Reynald. I feel fine. Koya’s news is…disturbing however.” He looked over at the group with a strange look in his eyes. The others had not noticed their conversation yet, and were debating the whereabouts of Wolfsbane. It occured to Reynald that his brother looked… for once- well, Humble.
“Look Reynald, if it would be alright with you, I’d like to try the cure, no matter what the results. I was bitten." said Dinald quickly. "Death would be better then turning around and hurting some innocent who’s only fault was his inability to defend against my onslaught.”
“Whit yoose twa dein’ fairyboys?” asked Ungo, sauntering over and swigging from a rancid bottle. Before he could react Dinald whipped him off his feet and gave him a close hug .
“Arrg ye’ galuutin’ fee nancyboy puit me doon oor ah’ll bite ye nuts.” screamed Ungo. “Arrgh No, I didna’ mean that-ye’ll have me on the turrn too at this rate!”
Hearing the fuss the others paused and looked over; knowing both the twins well Koya was quick to discern the root of the problem. As she held her hand for silence she noted that Ragnar whispered something quietly in Dinald’s ear. As even Ungo quietened down Dinald looked straight at Koya, and with her angular face she nodded silently, and then turned to Rasha.
“I will need at least two potions.” she paused to let the effect of her words sink in. Everyone looked at Dinald. “However the more you can find the better. If you are back before nightfall I can brew the poison this evening, and then I will have to rest to prepare the magicks I will need to maximise their chances of success.”
“It might be best if one of you brings the Alchemist here to retrieve his things-maybe the Sheriff too. If this fails we don’t want to be accused of poisoning Woln. No need to otherwise spread word of what has happened though.”
An hour or so later Sheriff Starling and Yuri the Alchemist , arrived in the camp. Walking slightly behind was Brooks, the shepherd. The Sheriff frowned as he heard their story, and enquired as to the location of the cave. Yuri listened with interest to the tale of the blue potion and examined the Tome they had found, and the runes cut into Woln.
“Hmm I’d like to examine these I think. If I may….?” He and the Sheriff walked back into town-the latter to gather some men to search for the cave before nightfall. Holding his hat in his hands Brooks spoke up.
“I believe you anyway, it all fits. I’ll go and have a word with the Mayor about your reward.” he shook his head. “Poor Woln.”
Some hours later Yuri returned excitedly into the camp. “I cast a few spells and was able to make sense of some parts of the book” he said. “The potion and runes somehow alter the lycanthropy, making it easier for the victim to control the curse. The downside is it makes him very vulnerable to control by the manipulator of this”, here he held up one of the dolls. “So essentially whoever was doing this was manipulating people with lycanthropy to do his will- and seemingly to infect others. And he escaped you say?”
“Aye” said Ungo, “Jist vanished”
“Which means he is still at large”said Yuri. At this point the Sheriff returned and Yuri explained his theory.
“The cave is as you described”, he said nodding. “One of the older men knew the place as Devil’s Cave interestingly.”
“I suggest the best thing for these dolls is that you take them with you, and then dispose of them in some faraway place” said Yuri. “The magicks will have a range as regards the controller, and if he is far enough away I don’t think anything you do to them-destruction preferably – will have any effect”. Koya nodded and took the dolls.
A few hours later Rasha returned with Koyas herbs, and by the camp firelight she worked well into the night preparing the Wolfsbane.