As is traditional, October’s event is hosted by Scot Newbury at Of Dice and Dragons.
The topic for October is summed up in the very evocative title: by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Scot describes the topic as follows:
This year there’s no escape as it will be coming to seek you out as the wicked come to you!
Instead of a house on the haunted hill, or that unexplained sound in the dark, it’s something that just may come to your door.
So share the tale of that wandering witch, the peddler that always seems to know just a bit too much, or the carnival with the many strange performers that’s come to town (sound familiar?).
Origin of the Quotation
Second Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Macbeth How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
~ Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1, William Shakespeare
In keeping with the source of the title to this month’s Carnival, I shall explore the Midnight Hag, something wicked tormenting the good folk of Summerland.
Darkness falls on Summerland
Yet again, I shall combine Scot’s theme with the Carnival I hosted in June.
Fearful tales are circulating in Summerland of the Midnight Hag, a menacing creature who stalks the edges of the Greenwood. Descriptions of the Hag are often garbled, but a few common features emerge.
The Midnight Hag is tall and gaunt, with long arms and oversized hands of gnarled twigs. One family of charcoal burners tell of her fingers scratching at the window, or reaching under the barred door to scrabble for their toes. One farmer woke to find all her geese dead, their long necks crushed and twisted.
A patrol of the Queen’s Guard spotted the Midnight Hag in a moonlit glade, then set off in pursuit. The Guards claim that beneath her flowing black robes was a tangle of slim legs, each as lithe as a willow switch. The Hag leaped away through the trees, her creaking laughter echoing in the darkness.
Another tale relates how one of the Queen’s maids fought a duel with the Midnight Hag, on a bramble-strewn path at the edge of the Greenwood. The Hag fought with a succession of switches, plucked from beneath her robes. Only the flickering blade of the brave maid saved her from becoming another victim of the Hag’s grasping claws.
Secret and Black
Most folk believe the Midnight Hag was drawn to Summerland by the presence of the cursed Ever-flaming Orb. It is only since this artefact cast its dark shadow over the kingdom of eternal summer that the Hag has appeared. The Midnight Hag is typically found around the margins of the Greenwood. Therefore, she is commonly believed to be one of the Flickering Fey, twisted beyond recognition by the flames of the Orb.
However, the more scholarly fey have another suggestion. One section of The Hunting Song of the Queen describes the long pursuit of a figure “secret and black”, who bounced and ran on “legs of willow”. If this is the same creature, then the Midnight Hag is an ancient foe of Summerland, who has returned to stalk the Greenwood. The patrols of the Queen’s Guard are sorely stretched in these difficult times, so it is entirely possible that an old enemy could pass the borders unseen.
Regardless of the origins of the Midnight Hag, ancient foe or new enemy, she brings fresh misery to the darkening Greenwood. Several isolated farms have been found where the interior of the low cottage is naught but a mass of twisted branches and thorny bramble. Nothing remained of the residents save a few scraps of ragged clothing.
Once night falls, fear walks the shadowed paths of the Greenwood. All song is silenced, and many refuse to open their doors after dark.Even the elite warriors of the Queen’s guard are wary of braving the forest road at night.
Day by day, the shadows lengthen in Summerland.
The situation in the kingdom of eternal summer is worsening. It is always darkest before the dawn, but how dark will Summerland grow? Here is yet another threat facing Princess Mab.
Should the Heroes hunt the Midnight Hag, defend the borders against further incursions, or plunge into the Greenwood to destroy the Orb? What other dark creatures will be drawn to the Greenwood? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.
Do you need more Tales?