The citizens of New Detroit were horrified to discover that one of their downtown neighborhoods has been host to a Hag for nearly a century. The revelation came over the weekend when a team of adventurers slew the creature in her urban home.
The team was hired by a Janice Henttle, a prominent business woman, who was attempting to locate her son. According to Mrs. Henttle’s attorney, her son went missing two months ago. A freshman in college, Ryan Henttle was last seen walking home from the library. He never returned to his dorm room and the worst was expected when his cell phone was found in a garbage can two days later. When the police could find no leads Mrs. Henttle turned to the Adventurer’s Guild and assembled a crew that she hoped could locate her son.
Though it took over a month of investigation, the search finally bore fruit. “We noticed a pattern of disappearances in the area,” explains Derik Rathbone, a member of the crew that is now being hailed as heroes. “We took the rough data of missing persons reports from throughout the city from fifty years back and ran it through an algorithm. What we found was that a five block area just south of the college was six times more likely to have a missing person than anywhere else in the city. Strangely enough, the older the disappearance, the more likely it was to have happened in this area.”
With this in mind another crew member, Ajaku Qotor, an Elvish Necromancer, began to expand their search, looking for potential non-human factors. Though originally suspecting a vampire, her research quickly turned up what she immediately suspected to be a Hag. “It is not common to find Hags outside of low tech areas,” Ajaku says in an interview with the Valhalla Crier. “It is not common to find Hags at all, for that matter. Everyone assumes that they live only in remote places where they can conceal themselves and their identities, but it was just that type of thinking that allowed her to stay hidden for so long. Nobody expected her, and that made concealing herself easier.”
In essence, the Hag is a nature spirit. It is strictly tied to the changing of the seasons, its true form apparently aging through the passing of the year rather than over the course of many years. While they appear as young children in early spring, they gradually age, becoming young women in summer, matrons in autumn and old crones in winter. With the coming of spring the cycle begins again. Throughout the year, however, they are able to create illusions that enable them to project anything they want, not only allowing them to appear in any form, but also subtly changing their environment. The stench of a rotting corpse could be made to smell like freshly baked bread. The run-down shack could be made to look warm and inviting. These deceptions are used to attract prey to add to her cooking pot.
While they are not particularly strong creatures when confronted directly, their powers of trickery, deceit and obfuscation make them extremely dangerous. They are often master trappers and deal with all manner of poisons. Some have been known to keep spiders, snakes, and other venomous animals as pets, extracting their poisons to use for their own vicious ends. Toxic herbs are used in similar manners. It seems, however, that their most deadly characteristic is the ability to get their prey to trust them. A Hag’s victim is almost always willingly lured into her lair where they are quickly captured, killed, and consumed. Children brought home as a playmate by a young-looking hag, or a young man brought into her lair on the pretext of sex are but two of this creature’s tricks.
Evidence of the ghastly success of this creature can readily be seen in its lair. The hovel located near the corner of Wilson and Elm appears now like a house from a horror story. Its weather-beaten façade and sagging roof combined with the overgrown lawn and garden of mushrooms and mandrake is only upstaged by the heavy stench of rot emanating from the house. Neighbors, however, tell of how just two days ago the house was one of the bright spots in the neighborhood, well-maintained, and often smelling of baked goods. They tell of a lively young girl digging in the back garden, and the nice old lady who always smiled and waved as she sat on her rocking chair. These illusions are gone now, leaving only the vile truth of the creature’s heinous nature.
Nightmare tales of the inside of the house make even the stoutest warriors cringe. Human meat hung by hooks drying in the kitchen, piles of cracked bones sucked clean of marrow, grinning skulls lining the hallway, flayed skin used as curtains and bedding, and necklaces made of desiccated eye balls are only the tip of the horrors held within the home. It has been said that the discarded bones in the root cellar were knee-deep in places.
It is believed that the Hag has taken hundreds, if not thousands, of victims over the long years of her life. The creature’s true age may never be known. As nature spirits, Hags can live for centuries. The number of lives she has taken could outnumber those lost during some of the bloodiest battles in history.
The Medical Examiner spent three days cataloging and removing remains from the home. It is projected that it will take months to identify the victims, if they can be identified at all. Tragically the body of Ryan Henttle has already been identified. Though the crew failed to find him alive, they were at least able to recover his body for a proper burial. They were also able to stop the long and terrible reign of a dangerous predator.
Questions about how such a thing could happen in such a modern city have the entire Republic of Nations in an uproar. The INSL has been called in to look for possible collusion from foreign nations. The citizens of the once-quiet neighborhood are pressed with questions about how they could not know about it, how they could miss the signs, or how a mythical creature could dwell so easily inside a high-tech area without detection.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Ajaku Qotor answers. “Hags are nature spirits, after all. There are four seasons here. You can’t stop the change of seasons any easier than you can stop a Hag’s magic. Tech Zones are tied to Elemental magic and Alchemy, not to the changing seasons. You can’t stop nature with concrete and air conditioning. Humans have this illusion that they can control the world, but humans can’t even control themselves. How can they stop nature?”