WORMSKIN

7/22/2014

Dolmenwood | Horris' Folly

A bit of Dolmenwood folklore, overheard at the tavern in Prigwort.

Horris' Folly

It was all very long ago. So long ago that certain names and details have been lost in the uncoiling of Time. We know that Lord Horris and his entourage of retainers sallied forth one fine morning in the midst of a long Autumn like men knew in days of yore. They essayed to bring back the accursed Nag-Lord's horn in the belief that this would break the beast's power forever and send him trotting back to the fiery cyst reserved for enemies of the One True God. Horris, it will be noted, was a self-annointed champion of the One True God who considered himself under divine guidance and protection. He freely and accurately quoted from the Seventy-Seven-and-Seven Psalms in his sleep and was known far and wide as a Healer of some talent. He carried a wicked sword called Weeper that sobbed aloud when it was used to take the life of an Evil being. Weeper choked and sobbed often in the hands of Lord Horris, who considered the sword's tortured cries to be penance for its past crimes.

Despite all their carefully drawn maps and pressing of locals for directions, it became clear to Horris and his men that -- regardless of the vivid descriptions of the place in tale and song -- no one seemed to know exactly where the Nag-Lord's Court might be found. The very stretch of haunted woodland where all evidence stated the nightmare estate should be was a vacant, howling valley strewn with nothing more than a few collapsed cottages. Horris, in accordance with his nature, held on to his convictions. For several weeks they camped in the lonely valley, and all that time Horris prayed to the One True God for an omen to guide them.

As it happened, an omen of sorts did appear. While collecting water from the stream that ran just north of their encampment, one of Horris' men spied a goat-headed man reclining in the upper bowers of an ancient tree. On the lord's orders his archers brought this sleeping creature down with their arrows, whereupon it was roughly collected and brought to the encampment for purposes of interrogation. The wounded beast-man provided them with little in the way of information before he died, though he was able to give them directions to a nearby grotto where a number of unwed maidens were said to dwell.

Few of Horris' men were interested in his views on chastity and pronouncements of caution. Having spent over a fortnight living like animals in the wild, they longed for the laughter and company of womenfolk, regardless of what cave they chose to dwell in. Rather than wait out his retainers' ill-advised investigation, Horris in the end chose to accompany them, he announced, to better protect their souls from the wiles and traps of temptation.

The maidens' grotto was hidden in an unexpectedly deep cleaving of the forest floor -- a cavernous maw dappled with moonlight and night-blooming fronds. Several identical women possessed of apple-red cheeks and seemly proportions were seated on chairs carved from tree stumps as the men arrived, talking in lilting tones amongst each other in the glow of a dying fire. It was obvious to Horris that they feigned fright and embarrassment in this initial meeting. For only a moment later the men were invited within their strange home, past a rustic door reinforced with bands of an unfamiliar alloy. Within they found that the nubiles' dwelling was arranged quite homely with all the comforts and things of beauty one might expect to find in any noble lady's house. It was strange, but no stranger than the mirrored features of their hostesses. There was no set of high-perched breasts or dainty toes that did not resemble their sister-counterparts. Yet this seemed to only satisfy the lord's men the more -- there being no need to draw straws to determine who would bed the prettiest, the second prettiest, and so forth. For some time Horris attempted to determine the exact number of maidens who occupied the grotto, but to his consternation he found the task impossible. Even their flimsy shifts and tantalizing bodices were of one kind, seemingly made by the same hand. Conservative knots bound back their dark, shining hair -- though these were quickly undone by the retainers' incautious caresses. Indeed their rough hands wandered all over the maidens' supple forms, squeezing here and tickling there. It was all too much for Lord Horris, who announced his displeasure several times though none appeared to hear him. He left in a huff, finding the trail back to the encampment by the light of stars showing dimly through the treetops.

Accounts differ as to what happened next.

One version of the tale says that Horris' men were bewitched by the women. Their misguided love for the maidens was used evilly to foment mistrust in Lord Horris. By the following night the men's hearts were raw with murder-lust and like wolves they descended on the lord's encampment to find him reciting psalms in his sleep. There he died, cut to bits as he pronounced his God's secret name.

In another version the maidens are goat-headed women who have taken on the appearance of a captive girl kept behind a hidden door in their grotto. When one of the retainer's accidentally discovers the girl and learns of her plight, he informs his brothers-in-arms and they quickly bind the bleating goat-women with ropes and set fire to them and their grotto-mansion.

In still another version, a forlorn Lord Horris meets the Nag-Lord on the road home and thereafter disappears from all record.

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