Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ladybugs, the Witch's Son, and the Goat-Herd

As my son was rather sugared-up this evening and rattled off quite a few stories, I present some fresh 'Hamburger Soup' tales - a potion, a weapon, and a new spell, from the mind of The Boy (as interpreted by Daddy).

The Ladybugs and the Wolf

"One day a ladybug was in the forest and she saw a hungry wolf.  She tried to fly away but the wolf ate her.  Two other ladybugs watched it happen and they were really angry.  The ladybugs flew up the wolf's nose and made him sneeze and he couldn't smell.  And he died.  The End."  -The Boy

Many in Wampus Country have heard the tale of the Ladybugs' Revenge, which ends with the indignant insects clogging up a wolf's nose during a harsh winter, preventing it from tracking prey and eventually starving the predator to death.  But precious few are aware of the underlying magical connection.  Some witches and alchemists know the secret of using the oils of a ladybug to create a potent concoction which disrupts the tracking ability of many wild mammals.

Ladybugs' Revenge (potion)
This tiny vial contains an oily, gritty liquid primarily composed of the juices of a hundred ladybugs mixed with the processed sap of a certain mountain pine.  Mixing the potion takes a ridiculous amount of work, even with a specially-made ladybug-juicer, but the effects are worth the toil.  Each vial contains 1d3 doses of Ladybugs' Revenge; a dose is daubed on a tree, rock, or person.  When the potent oil is smelled by a pursuing canine (wolf, bloodhound, coyote, etc), the enzymes within the scent immediately scramble the dog's ability to tell direction.  Any scent-trail the dog was following will be quickly forgotten, as the dog begins pursuing some olfactory phantom; in fact, if the hound had a target-scent in mind at the time of dosing, it will actually subconsciously avoid that scent and head off in a completely different direction.  The effects on the bloodhound last 20-40 minutes - potent indeed - and the Ladybugs' Revenge oil does not easily evaporate, fade, or wash away in the rain and one application can linger for days, hence its value.  Supernatural or unusual canines should receive some kind of save (vs poison perhaps) to avoid the affects of the oil, or may realize they have been 'scrambled' not long after being dosed.  There is no guarantee that the oil will affect multiple dogs the same way, of course - a pack of bloodhounds might end up scattered in all directions after being dosed.

"Let us wreak our furious vengeance upon this mangy cur," said the first ladybug.

Zom, The Witch's Son

"There was a wizard called Zom.  He used to go all around the town.  But one time he shot a man.  Zom ran out of town and his mother was chasing him.  She was a witch.  They ran into the woods and he used magic to make bubbles.  The bubbles cleaned a hole in the trees and he jumped in and escaped."  -The Boy

Zom was nobody's friend; he spent money like water and drank like a fish, and he was a mean, puppy-kicking son of a gun.  Or rather, son of a witch - everybody in town knew Zom's momma was a hag from out in the pine barrens; nobody knew who his pappy were.   Everyone knew about his mean-streak, and just about everyone had a Zom story - the time he threw horse-apples at the vicar, that kind of thing.  Nothing particularly violent, just mean-spirited and anti-social.  Well, one day, things went too far, and Zom pulled his pistol and shot a man dead; some say it was over a game of cards, others tell that Zom was three sheets to the wind and snapped when the bartender gave him grape soda instead of orange, something like that.  They say he put a bullet right between the man's eyes without even thinking about it.  Even before a crowd could gather to subdue (and probably hang) him, Zom went white as a sheet, like he realized he'd done something horribly wrong.  He up and skedaddled right out of town that instant, running for the woods.

Now, what you need to understand is that being the son of a witch has a price to it.  Zom was both blessed with his own kind of magic, but also cursed - had been since birth.  If Zom ever killed a man in cold blood, his soul would belong to his Momma, who would come and claim it and deliver it to whatever dark twisted thing she served out there in the barrens.  And now, Zom had murdered a man, over nothing.  His soul was forfeit.

He tore straight out of town and into the woods, hearing his Momma's screeching always one step behind him; he could hear her yowling and whooping, hear the hoofbeats of the skeletal stag she rode - and he dare not look over his shoulder, as he knew full well if he locked eyes with that old hag he'd be turned into a man-shaped hunk of coal before he could blink.  Zom started whispering secret words under his breath - magic words his Momma didn't know he knew - and he pulled a half-used bar of lye soap out of his pocket, and threw it at a tree.  Well, that bar-soap smacked the tree and exploded into about a million soap-bubbles, far as the eye could see.  The hag couldn't see Zom for all the dang bubbles in the air, and Zom slipped between the bubbles and the trees and disappeared, his soul intact -- well, that's what they say.  I don't know if the old witch ever caught up with him, or whether Zom's halfway 'round the world by now.

Clean Getaway (magic-user spell)
Level: 3
Duration: instant
Range: 10 feet
Material Component: a piece of soap made with tallow from a magical beast of some sort, which has had certain runes carved into it

The caster hurls the piece of soap at a nearby solid object; upon striking, a 20x20 foot mass of glistening soap bubbles appears instantly, blocking vision for all creatures within the area of effect (and those outside trying to peer within that square).  The bubbles linger for 2d4 rounds; less if exposed to fire or diligently popped by multiple creatures.  Further, the point at which the soap struck the wall or tree opens briefly as a gateway to somewhere else - the caster (and potentially another creature, if they are aware of what is happening) may leap through the portal before it rapidly shuts the following round.  Upon stepping through the bubble-gate, the caster materializes at a random location (with no guarantee of safety) which is at least five miles distant, but no more than thirty miles distant from the original location of casting.  In addition, upon arrival, the caster will soon be approached by a supernatural being or spirit - he who answered the spell's call and fueled the effect - who will demand payment (in cash, quest, or whatever is appropriate).  The caster is not compelled to make payment...but it is strongly recommended.

The Goat-Herd and the Glove

"There was a princess who lost her glove and a boy found it.  He went to the castle to return the glove because he thought she would be in love with him.  He snuck into the castle and gave her the glove, but she yelled 'I don't love you' and the guards beat him up and threw him out a window."  -The Boy

Some tales - a cynic would say all tales - seem designed to reinforce social mores.  One such is 'The Goat-Herd and the Glove'.  A princess, out for a ride in the heathered hills, has her exquisite riding-gloves tucked under her belt or saddle, and loses a glove.  Days later, the glove is found by a young goat-herd out with his flock.  The goat-herd looks over the finely-made glove and begins to fantasize that the glove surely must belong to a woman of quality, a noble-born lady.  He concludes after some time that if he were to return the glove, the lady would fall in love with him, and his life of goat-dung and toil would be over.

The goat-herd drives his shepherd's crook into the ground, flippantly stating that he won't be needing it once he marries a noblewoman.  Abandoning his goats in the heather, the goat-herd treks over hill and dale to reach the city, where he enquires about the glove's owner, to no avail.  Each night he dreams of a sumptuous wedding-feast, and the beauty of his noble-born bride.  Finally he decides he must inquire at the castle, but he is turned away.  The goat-herd sneaks into the kitchens and, after several near misses with the captain of the guard or a stern vizier - the details vary depending on the story-teller - he comes upon the princess in her chamber, reading a book or playing chess with a handmaiden.

With great flourish and all the eloquence he can muster, the young goat-herd presents the princess with her missing riding glove, and professes his deep and abiding love for her.  But she rebukes him harshly - in some tellings she says "that is but a glove, and you are but a goat-herd" or words to that effect - and calls the guards, who thrash him within an inch of his life and toss him out a window.  Broken and battered, and penniless from several days' stay in the big city, the goat-herd stumbles and crawls back home to find that his goats, unattended in his folly, have all wandered off.  He has nothing to his name, and naught but his own foolishness to blame; the goat-herd dies there in the heather, right where he planted his crook in the ground.  And such is the lesson: dream not above your station, lest you lose what you already have.

The Dreamer's Crook
This weathered shepherd's crook serves as a club +1 and constantly bears the faint scent of heather.  If used to strike at a woman of noble birth (any humanoid species will do), the first attack which strikes true may inflict blindness on the victim (save vs spell applies).

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