"The Lady Canrig Bwt"
A tale of evil and terror from a time before blackpowder by Tony Harwood.
In the time before Mordred annulled the laws of Magicke a young Orc called Freddy stumbles into a
sinister plot on the streets of a small taffsea town. Who is the mysterious Lady Canrig Bwt...
Back before Mordred stole his mother’s power ring and annulled Wylde Magicke Valon was a diverse fantasy realm rich with monsters, magic and treasure. Whilst there were no flintloques, blackpowder or uniforms, the heroes of Valon we've come to know and love still existed. This year’s Saint’s Day adventures tell tales from that era, shedding new light on old faces. Craig Andrews, OITW Editor
Valon before the advent of Black Powder was a very different place to what we are now use to in this time of war between Wheeling Turn and Mordred, nowhere was this truer than the dark valleys of Taffsea. This short story tells the tale of a young urchin who was unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Freddy was just eight years old when he was first placed in the local borstal. Over the next four years he learn how to survive in this most inhospitable of institutions, first twisting truths and then twisting arms until he had leant all that this evil place had to teach him.
On his twelfth birthday he was ushered onto the streets of the local metropolis (such as it was, this was Taffsea before the advent of black powder and technology after all) to fend for himself. As many young Orclings with no place to go did, he joined a gang, a life of crime beckoned our Freddy.
In those early heady days Freddy was often caught getting into trouble and, on more than one occasion, Freddy found himself in front of what passed for law in these lawless times, the local magistrate known throughout Taffsea as the Beak. His most recent bending of the laws of the land (Freddy disliked the word break, it could be applied to other things, like legs...) had been seen by many as the last straw for the young Orcling. The corpulent Albion Orc Lord, The Beak himself, gave Freddy a very stark choice, two options lay before him. One was gaol where he would most likely get beaten day after day, the other a chance to redeem himself by being taken into care. The truth is a little more complicated. The ‘care’ would see him passed over into the responsible hands of a local philanthropist, Lady Canrig Bwt. The ‘lady’ however was nothing of the sort, some said she was a witch.
It is in this dire situation that Freddy found himself, literally, between a rock and a hard place – life in a cell or life as the plaything of a magicke user!
Freddy was canny though, he thought he could outwit any old bag, magicke or no, so he chose a life with the ‘Lady’ Canrig Bwt.
At first Freddy was in little danger. He was treated well and felt that he had landed on his feet. He found that he was able to con most of the other lads Bwt looked after with his two headed silver sixpence. He taught them how to play cards – Happy Families being a particular favourite suggested to them by Bwt herself.
As time rolled on, Freddy’s senses were tweaked and he became suspicious of the tales told by the other young Orcs - tales of missing Orclings and weird nocturnal goings on. As any true Orcling would, Freddy sneaked out one dark evening and was able to prowl the gardens of Llanberis House. What he saw in the pale light of a crescent moon was to stay with him for the rest of his life.
Ghoul-like creatures were pawing over the earth - earth that had been recently disturbed. As Freddy watched, these Undead scraped the soil with their bare hands. Suddenly one of them shrieked with what seemed like delight. He raised his arm into the air, holding something, and licked his lips. Freddy thought he saw what the ghoul was holding, it looked like a young Orcling. Others tried to wrench the object from the ghoul but the noise they created had an unwelcome result.
From across the well-manicured lawn Canrig Bwt herself appeared. She was sitting side-saddle on a flying broom and by her appearance was not happy with the actions of these vile creatures. Her well-spoken and lady-like appearance was gone, replaced with the face of a Screaming Banshee, her red glowing eyes seared the half-life creatures and made them both cower and plead for mercy.
Freddy, found himself full of fear was unable to move, literally frozen to the spot watching this macabre spectacle from the safety of a small coppice of evergreen trees unable to take his eyes off the actions of his guardian.
From this safe distance, well hidden, Freddy saw Canrig Bwt cast spells of flaming fire against the ghouls, the fire causing the creatures to explode and literally turn to dust – all that remained was a dark patch of soot that discoloured the green lawn. Within minutes all were banished and Bwt dismounted her broom to walk towards what Freddy now knew were graves, the graves of the ‘lost young Orclings’ that Freddy has heard so many tales of.
Freddy listened to the sub-Orclike mutterings and noises coming from Bwt – then saw her lunge into the soil to pull out the still rotting and mainly intact forms of two dead Orclings. What happened next was quite horrific and Freddy allowed a little whimper to pass his lips. Canrig Bwt placed her hand inside the open skulls of the Orclings, rubbing her fingers around the rim of the skulls, then licked her fingers in an orgy of pleasure.
Freddy could take no more, he turned and ran back to his dormitory. Canrig Bwt looked up from her gory meal and with eyes that could pierce the darkest night, saw the young Orcling run back toward the house, back to the house dormitory. That night, it’s fair to say, Freddy did not sleep well.
The next few days caused even our sturdy Freddy some restless moments. On the third night Freddy had regained some of his usual bluster and cautiously sneaked from the dormitory to the great hall. With each step he waited and listened for any hint of pursuit. There was none.
As he moved further from his bed his bluster increased and his fear subsided.
Then there was a noise. The sound of voices could be gleaned – coming from the private quarters. Freddy moved without thinking towards the mutterings and placing his ear against the door listened to Bwt cackling to a silent partner.
“On the night of the full moon, I shall have each of those pesky Orclings and enjoy devouring their still warm and fresh brains. I am unsure which of them saw the goings on of the other night, but no worries within two days they will no longer be a problem.”
Freddy’s blood ran cold and he was about the retreat back to his room when the second voice broke in.
“What if one of them is the fabled Urchin, the young innocent that will defeat you and foil our plans?”
The voice sounded familiar and Freddy stooped to pear into the keyhole.
It was none other than The Beak, the Justice who had placed Freddy in the protection of Bwt. So this was how it was done. The Lawmasters placing young Orclings, those who would not be so obviously missed, in this vile creature’s house and then…
The second voice continued.
“Take care of your neck. Make sure that you do not underestimate these street rats. There are others, our great leader has a vested interest in seeing that we succeed.”
What could this mean? Thought Freddy.
Freddy quietly returned to his dorm and that night he hatched a plan (call it his first cunning plan) to defeat Canrig Bwt and save his hide and the lives of his fellow inmates.
On the night of the full moon everyone was invited to the great hall where a vast feast awaited them. The young Orclings devoured the food, the drink and the sweets. All but one was fully satisfied. Freddy was on his guard and ate and drank very little. Maybe it was nerves, maybe a touch of second sight granting him the ability to detect something in the food. But before the full moon was fully awake, all the Orclings had collapsed. Freddy, recognising the danger realised he must feint being drugged and appear to be exactly the same as the other Orcs.
From behind him came the sound of shuffling forms. Ghouls appeared from hidden doors and, one by one, each of the Orclings were dragged to the dungeons.
Through half open eyes Freddy could see Bwt, now dressed in a white veil, armed with a huge sword, standing on a raised dais. In front of her a single Orcling lay stretched out and unconscious. Bwt raised the sword and with a swift movement brought the sword down and cut off the top of the Orclings head. Then, dropping the sword, placed her hands into the open skull to claw at the still warm brain within. Freddy watched as she ate the contents like a starving waif at a kyng’s banquet.
Following her first meal, Bwt was a little slow and obviously overcome with the pleasure of the feast, Freddy knew that he had to act now or others would soon be food for this beast.
Freddy rolled to the ground and crawled around behind Canrig Bwt, taking the sword she had dropped in his hands.
He stood and called out to Bwt, who shakily raised her hand towards Freddy and replied.
“Wait till I have eaten the brains of this sweet young skull.”
Freddy, with trembling hands, brought the sword down on the neck of the Witch and severed the head in one. As the still conscious head rolled across the floor her eyes opened wide in horror, Freddy saw her blazing eyes first burn and then diminish in brightness, finally going dark in death.
Canrig Bwt was dead.
Freddy went back to the unconscious bodies of the drugged Orclings and taking the first by the wrist, dragged him up into the fresh air. He then returned for the second and in turn the third before he heard noises coming from the other side of the garden. The Ghouls were wailing with grief.
Freddy slapped the first sleeping Orc and shouting in his ear screamed.
“Dickie, wake up. I need you to wake up and help me with Kenny and Mick here. We need to get out of here NOW.”
Freddy and his new found friends fled Llanberis House and made camp just outside town. His three friends soon fell asleep, the lingering effects of the drugged food, Freddy supposed. As he sat there, staring at the stars, he knew he couldn’t go back with them. The Beak was the law in town and he’d recognise Freddy if he saw him. Gods know what he'd do to him if he was caught. And what of this Great Leader, the Beak had mentioned. There was only one thing for it, Freddy decided that it was time to move on from this small Taffsea town, there was a world out there for him to explore. He soon packed his few belongings into a small square handkerchief and decided thatt was time for him to slip away. He silently left the camp, feeling more than a little guilty and sad that he was leaving his gang of Orcling Brothers behind after what they’d been through. He hoped that the note he had left would be enough.
As Freddy looked back on the sleeping forms of his friends he touched where he thought his forelock was and turned to head off into the darkness.
“***k me!” he screamed, standing right in front of him was none other than Dickie.
“You Tricky Ba***rd.” shouted Freddy.
“And you’ve got a Foul Mouth.” replied Dickie. “Now, just let me grab my stash and I’ll wake up Kenny and Mick. Then WE can all be off on our next adventure together.”
This story was inspired by the Welsh Folk Tale Canrig Bwt.
"Canrig Bwt - A famous Welsh witch, who used to sleep under stone at Llanberis, in North Wales, was called Canrig Bwt, and her favourite dish at dinner- was children's brains. A certain criminal who had received a death-sentence was given the alternative of attacking this frightful creature, his life to be spared should he succeed in destroying her. Arming himself with a sharp sword, the doomed man got upon the stone and called on Canrig to come out. "Wait till I have finished eating the brains in this sweet little skull", was her horrible answer. However, forth she came presently, when the valiant man cut off her head at a blow. To this day they scare children thereabout with the name of Canrig Bwt."
[Excerpt from "British Goblins" by Wirt Sykes (1881)]
Foul Mouth Freddy Will Return !
I was at home in Wales visiting my Mum when I was trying to come up with a theme for this years Saints Day scenarios. I thought it would be good to see where various characters came from and that in turn led me to think about what they were doing in the time before Blackpowder. I loved the original Flintloque 'prequel', Dresda, and was also a great fan of it's successor, Darkestorme. Both look at what Valon was like as a fantasy realm. Whilst each is at it's core a high fantasy ruleset, there's anough of Valon in there to make them feel different to other fantasy games. I hope you enjoy reading this years Saints Day tales as much as I have.
Regular readers are probably very aware of Tony Harwood's excellent creation, Foul Mouth Freddy, based on his uncle. To see the complete adventures of Foul Mouth Freddy simply click on the maroon tag just below and to the left.