The Last Hunt

Observations by Sir Hunter Stryker

In some lands, the social calendar is filled with horse races, regattas, banquets and costume parties. In Albion, we hunt and feast. At the turning of the year, before Winter wakes and the land begins its long sleep, the symbolic Last Hunt is held to fill the larders and to ask for the blessing of the Mother.

The Last Hunt
Proclamation by Lord Ranulf Farendon
To My Guests of the Last Hunt
My apologies again for the problems found in Marchwood. Although I have left to escort the Lady Maeve to her waiting ship in the company of Apollo, the Beastmen and the Hunters I have ordered the Sheriff of Marchwood to investigate the area more thoroughly and destroy that crypt. He will report to Lord Benedict, on his return from the Trell Marshes, on the problems we found in his estate.
I wish to thank you all for your help in destroying the foul unliving, and I promise to hunt down any and all that escaped to other parts of Albion. To that end I hope Taliesin and Rootvine can track them down to their new lair.
I mourn the loss of the Wolf who died, and the two estate workers. I wish also to commend the peasant Bob, who faced the undead with us on Sunday, unskilled in combat and repeatedly injured. He nevertheless showed the spirit of a true man of Albion. To Her Majesty the Queen I formally nominate Bob as a Chosen of Albion for his actions that day.
Signed this Third day of November 1098 at Brighthelm Stane
Lord Ranulf Farendon

Duke of Gloucester, Lord High Chamberlain of the Harts

“I and four of my group transported to the Ritual Circle near to Marchwood Lodge. There we were met by the servants who maintained the lodge and the local area. They were to lead us to the lodge but we were barely out of the circle when a number of wolf-like creatures appeared out of the surrounding woods and attacked us. It quickly became apparent that our weapons were having no effect on these creatures and one by one we were pulled down, clawed and mauled and left to die.
It is fortuitous that aid arrived quickly, for I do not recall anyone escaping the circle to fetch help. Nevertheless, my companions and I were revived in time and we reached the lodge in relative safety. I reported the incident to Lord Ranulf, our host, and returned to the Circle to warn other travellers.
As it happened, the only people who came through while I watched was a gentleman by the name of Apollo and a group of rude, rough humans who attacked a servant and one of my men. They managed to elude capture in the dark, but their actions served to divert several warriors to the Ritual Circle while miscreants managed to force entry into the lodge and cause great mischief there.
Another band of ruffians made use of the circle and was intercepted. They were rude to Lord Tarn who was so greatly offended he ordered an attack on them. This brief skirmish left only two prisoners who were questioned. It would appear that the group were mercenaries travelling from Cornwall where they had been involved with the bandit raids under Royjen and co, and were heading towards Poznan to join Royjen under the banner of Vlad. No further groups were permitted to pass.
During the night, it was determined that there was a group of werewolves active in the area and at least one vampire.
The morning revealed the villagers herding cows past our camp. The weather had worsened and rain fell continuously. An effort was made to start the Hunt and I went with other Archers to shoot at ducks. The ducks proved disinterested in giving us sport, taking to the wing for only a few yards before returning to rest. One did fly into a fellow archer, and another avoided a bolt, which subsequently struck a beater. An attack by bandits put an end to the duck shoot, though there were no serious injuries. Indeed, the bandits appeared somewhat surprised buy the number of archers awaiting them.
Reports came in of Lord Tarn’s skilled hunting of a sheep. A particularly vicious and brutal beast, as it turned out. Other hunters encountered more mercenaries hiding in the woods, and a door covered with unusual glyphs embedded in the ground. Attempts to open the door resulted in a number of people being struck down by a magical discharge. Further investigation suggested that it was an entrance way into underground passages. Some of the Beastmen and Apollo managed to open the door and enter, only to turn up at the Ritual Circle an hour later, devoid of memory of what happened and missing their weapons and personal effects.
I was sent to observe the door and spent some hours watching as others attempted to break through the door and into the passages in order to track down the Vampire. I left long enough to gain permission to trap the door, then returned to lay snares, traps and other obstructions around the door. I then left as night closed in once more. I was somewhat upset to learn that I had missed the joust, but I had no lady’s favour to champion so there was no great loss. However, on the journey back to the Lodge, I and my companions were attacked by the same Wolf creatures that had wreaked havoc amongst us as we had arrived at the Ritual Circle the previous night.
Back at the Lodge, the four people who had been through the door were lying unconscious on the floor. It appeared that they had started to act strangely and it was believed that they were in danger. It was quickly agreed to return them to Winchester and hold them safe until the danger was dealt with. Unfortunately, things became somewhat confused. Lord Ranulf felt the need to render Wildstrike and myself unconscious, but fell prey to some creature that appeared from the ground. When I awoke, I was assaulted again and returned to a state of oblivion. I awoke a second time to move by the fire and had to strike down one of the Host as he tried to render me unconscious once more.
Realising that I had not completed my task of escorting Apollo to the Ritual Circle, I went to ensure that the others had made it safely, but was, again, rendered unconscious, this time by Jac. What I learned in the aftermath of these assaults was that numerous people were acting in a most odd way, wandering into the woods on their own or simply wandering off to the Ritual Circle alone. As a result, a large number of guests were rendered insensible, were bound and paralysed, all for their safety. I, unfortunately was one of them.
Between brief periods of insensibility, I learned that there were Four Vampire clans living in the woods. The Thanatos, flesh moulding abominations; the Solificati, led by a Vampire called Shadow; the Hermetica, a bunch of vampire Magi; and the Intellegus, vampiric werewolves and the ones that had twice attacked and bested myself. These Vampires could exert an influence over those they had bitten, calling them to one place or another at will. Taliesin managed to make contact with them and discuss a treaty. Shortly after dusk the Hermetica had sealed the borrders of the area and blocked the Ritual Circle, but it was our hope to be able to break free and gain help. That Maeve Gunnarsdottir of the Wolves had been diverted from her travel home to our lodge gave us additional hope, for Lord Wolf was to collect her on the following day.
The arrangement with the Vampires did not go well. Two clans were prepared to negotiate, but the other two wished to feast. Infighting started amongst them and attacks against the guests increased. Those guests who had been restrained were freed at last, in the hope that they were free of the influences, as had been promised by two of the clans. While negotiations continued with the more polite of the clans, plans were discussed as to how we could break free.
It was decided, ultimately, that I was to attempt to rush into the Ritual Circle, and try to grab the stone placed therein that was keeping others away from that avenue of escape. Factors dictated that I was the most likely to succeed, though a contingency was made should I be unable to reach the stone. Fortunately, I was not required to make this attempt as Yanthanko, the leader of the Hermetica, offered to clear the circle for us. At that point, noxious fumes filled the lodge and we had to abandon its shelter in order to breathe.
Outside, Shadow and his minions were formed up to fight us. We quickly organised and started pressing towards the Ritual Circle, engaging the unliving only when it was necessary. Our progress was hampered by assaults on our rearguard and flanks, attacks intended to draw our people from the protection of the group. Time and again the healers were called upon to people with mortal and fatal wounds, and clear poisons and paralysis, to save lives. The skirmishes lasted a long time as Shadow teased us and called out for us to chase him. We resisted.
Taliesin was seen rushing around the field, striking down unliving with his sword. Jac downed great swathes of the unliving with Excalibur. Even the boy, Delwyn I believe he was named, fought with the Harts warrior spirit, even though armed only with a knife. Many were the unliving that were felled. Ghoul, Zombie and Skeleton, among the Vampires. And the Vampires fought amongst themselves, until only Shadow, a Ghoul and two Zombies remained.
Shadow was a tricky foe. When cornered, he vanished, only to reappear nearby. Taliesin, Tarn and Jac I saw trick and tease him back, though there were numerous others who wished to display their distaste for this abomination. Eventually, Shadow extended himself too far and was slain. The three remaining unliving were quick to follow and we returned to the Lodge.
At the Lodge we found Ghouls feasting on one of the Guests from Norsca. I do not know his name, only that he had been blinded by Rowan, the leader of the Thanatos. The Ghouls were dispatched and the body of their victim was laid to rest, awaiting transport to Norsca.
The remaining Hermetica announced their intention to leave Albion, and gave a warning that Rowan was still at large. She intended harm, still, and Thanatos was the only clan remaining. A quick discussion followed and it was decided to make the attempt to destroy Rowan the next day, when her powers would be weaker.
We assembled in the morning to find that two locals had disappeared in the night. It was agreed to search for them first and the party set out. We encountered a herd of sheep being driven to pasture. These sheep, however, had been turned into Ghouls (or at least their appearance) and were quick to paralyse our more effective fighters in the form of the Beastmen. I was sent to secure the area around the door, mindful of the traps that had been laid. Unfortunately, Loraq found some of the preliminary traps before I could advise him fully of the predicament. It was then that I noticed the remains of Zombies littering the trees and surrounds where they had fallen afoul of the traps I had left.
The search party eventually caught up, though the efforts we were making to open the door seemed to fail until a cloud of noxious vapours emitted from the crypt and drove us away. Though the mists we could see unliving carrying a coffin, so we awaited their emerging from the mists and attacked.
Wave after wave of the lesser unliving were destroyed, I teaming up with Daryl to trick them and defeat Zombie, Skeleton and Ghoul, one after the other. When eventually the unliving were cleared from the coffin, we were able to deal with the vampire within.
I returned to check on the door, only to find another group of unliving appear, carrying a second coffin. These, too, were destroyed and the creature witin the coffin eventually put to rest. We had thought that this was Rowan, the leader of clan Thanatos, but it turned out to be a decoy that she had sent out to distract attention, whilst attempting to escape on her own. We quickly went to the Ritual Circle as I had remembered that it was possible the Vampires could transport themselves there and then away to safety. A ritualist entered and sealed the circle while the rest of us faced of several waves of unliving attacks.
Eventually it was necessary to drop the seal on the circle at which point several Vampires appeared within – Rowan of the Thanatos being among them. They sealed the circle themselves and vanished.
This brought to a close the events of the Last Hunt. I understand that Lord Benedict is to be advised of what happened and troops are to sweep the area clear of bandits, mercenaries and unliving. I wish him luck, but for the moment, I have need of new armour and a lot of rest.”
Sir Hunter Stryker, Hawkeshead