Rise of the Runelords
The Legend of Black Magga
The travelling bard, The Great Astari tells this story at the inn in Wartle.
“Let me tell you the story of Black Magga, the scourge of Storval Deep! Cast out from the very womb of Lamashtu herself, she rises from the deep during the month of Lamashan every year to hunt down anyone foolish enough to enter her territory.
One year, such a foolish person succumbed to her evil. Let me introduce you to Joffrey, a simple man from Turtleback Ferry.” At this point his son stands looking hunched and subdued.
“Joffrey was a fisherman by trade but being a lazy sort he was always getting up late and never managed to get to the Claybottom Lake early enough to get the best fishing spots.” The son acts out getting up, yawning, strolling and then looking disappointed before miming walking away.
“Joffrey’s wife would scold him terribly for his laziness and his inability to put food on the table. This carried on for some years, with his wife’s words becoming ever more hurtful and piercing.” At this several patrons nod appreciatively and chuckle.
“Then, one spring, Joffrey decided he had had enough. He swore to his wife that he was going away and would return with the fattest fish. She laughed as he walked out the door” The son mimes Joffrey angrily wagging his finger and walking away.
“4 days Joffrey was gone and his wife started to worry that she had driven him away. But he returned late the next day with two sacks full of fat glistening fish. She asked where he had got them from, had he stolen them. Joffrey smiled and told her not to fret, just be quiet and cook them a fine meal. She did as she was told and they ate the finest meal they had had for many a year. The next day Joffrey took his fish to market and earned enough coin to provision his home comfortably for the week. Around the town, the other fishermen wondered where Joffrey had got his fish from. They had not seen him on the lake, so where was he fishing?”
His son is now acting out the words with great gusto, and a few of the audience have started to pay attention.
“A week later Joffrey again left in the morning this time returning the next day with two sacks full of fish. His family ate well, he earned plenty of coin in the market and the other fishermen speculated on where he was fishing.
Two more weeks this continued for, and Joffrey’s fish were becoming the talk of the town. The other fishermen became jealous of his new fortunes and resolved to find out where he was fishing.
The next week, two of the fisherman waited outside his home early in the morning and followed him discretely as he left. They followed him for half a day up the trail towards the Skull’s Crossing dam and the Storval Deep. Surely that’s not where he was fishing? They knew of the legend of Black Magga, and that no-one had fished in the Storval Deep for decades.
But, as they suspected, they reached the Skull’s Crossing and Joffrey continued up the side of the great lake to a secluded spot amongst a copse of trees. He then dragged out a crudely constructed raft, with a seat and a large net. Joffrey paddled it out into the lake and proceeded to fish. Very quickly he had a sack full of catfish, carp and bass. He paddled back to shore and set up camp for the night. The next morning, he paddled back out and filled his second sack. He then returned to shore, hid the raft in the trees and started back to the village. The watching fishermen ran ahead of him and told their compatriots what they had seen.
They discussed at great length what they should do. Eventually they decided to talk to Joffrey, to warn him of the legend of Black Magga. He was a decent enough sort and despite their years of ribbing him they wished him no harm. So the fishermen gathered and went to his home. His wife let them in and they told Joffrey and his wife of the legend and how dangerous it was to fish in the Deep. At the end of their story, Joffrey leapt to his feet, he told them they were wrong and that there was nothing to fear. But if he was the only man brave enough to venture onto the waters of Storval Deep, then only he deserved the fish that could be caught so easily.
The fishermen left the home, and Joffrey’s wife berated him for taking so much chance on the dangers of the Deep. But Joffrey patted his wife for comfort and this time he scolded her, asking was she not enjoying their new fortunes, did she not want this to continue? At this she was chastened and fell quiet.
Over the next few months, Joffrey continued to bring sacks full of fish to market, and eventually a few others began to join him fishing the Storval Deep. This continued and the whole town was enjoying the bounty that would be brought to market each week. Summer turned to Autumn and late in the month of Lamashan, Joffrey and 3 others set off for their weekly trip to Storval Deep. They set upon the lake as usual and started to gather fish in their nets.
One of the fishermen, a young lad named Gregori paused as he threw out a net – had he just seen something? He looked carefully – yes, yes, there it was again! A tentacle of something large had broken the surface a mile away from where they were fishing. He called to the others, but they saw nothing and chided him for his imaginings.
He turned back to cast out his net, but his nerves were on edge – every ripple was a sign of something lurking below the surface, every sound was a sign of danger. He could not stay there and started to paddle back to the shore. Joffrey and the other two fishermen called over to Gregori, belittling his nervousness.”
The inn has fallen silent, everyone is now paying attention to the story.
“As Gregori neared the shore, he turned to plead with the others to follow him. Then he saw it, a large ripple in the water a few hundred feet behind the others moving nearer. He pointed and shouted at them to look. They turned and fell silent, the colour draining from their faces. There it was, and it was approaching very quickly then suddenly it was upon them.
It burst from through the surface of the lake tossing the rafts upwards like matchwood and the men flew high into the air and fell back to the lake. A scream like the trumpet of a demon pierced the autumn sky, causing Gregori freeze in fear. The creature did not look possible – a long thick neck reached 50’ into the sky, an enormous head with powerful jaws full of teeth at the end. Emerging from the water in a ring 40’ around its neck were a mass of tentacles, some tipped with wicked barbs, some with sickly yellow eyes on the ends casting around and others with rubbery suckers writhing and probing for their prey.
Gregori’s raft crashes into the shore and he collapses backward as he is pitched to the ground. He rises to see the creature breathe a noxious sickly looking vapour over the water in front of it, and Gregori hears the others screaming maddening sounds of fear and confusion. Then a tentacle emerged out of the cloud of fumes wrapped around Joffrey. The head of the creature bending down to him, and Gregori hears a voice in his head ‘Who dares disturb me! Your soul will burn in the glorious fire of The Mother’s hate for your kind’. The voice seems to reach into the depths of Gregori’s soul and he feels himself turning dark and cold inside as he loses control of his body, his clothes becoming soiled in his terror.
Then the jaws of the creature open wide and close around Joffrey’s waist, tearing him in half, his viscera spraying across the water.
At this Gregori flees, the screams of his companions ringing in his ears until the sickening noise of their death brings silence. Then the terrible voice returns “Run, child, run. Warn your people to never return to this place. It belongs to me and The Mother”. Tears stream down his face, his hands tearing at his ears to stop him from hear that voice. He claws at his eyes to stop himself from see that sight anymore, but it is burned into his soul. He cannot stop the vision from returning to him.
Two days later, Gregori stumbles into Turtleback Ferry, he has torn off his ears, his eyes have been scratched out and he rants about Black Magga. The townsfolk question him but cannot make sense of his ravings. Joffrey’s widow is stricken with grief, while the rest of the town mutter under their breath about the foolishness of risking disturbing Black Magga.”
Astari pauses and looks around the audience. The inn is completely silent.
“The town gradually returns back to its normal pattern of existence. 10 years had passed since the waking of the beast and he was living in the care of Joffrey’s widow when I met him in Turtleback Ferry some 2 years ago. Not another word had passed his lips in that entire time. In fact he hardly any sound at all apart from during the last week of Lamashan when he would sob quietly to himself.
When I met him he was nearing the end of his days. The events of that day had destroyed his spirit and his life since had been miserable and empty.” His son is now lying as if on his deathbed, with Astari kneeling beside him.
“We became friends of a sort in the 6 months I spent with him, and as the end came near he suddenly spoke to me in a quiet almost childlike voice. He told me the events of that fateful day, almost as a warning for future generations, before quietly slipping away in peace.
So I now travel the land telling his story and warning against venturing onto the Storval Deep, lest you waken the evil of Black Magga!”