The Reluctant Hag

Peace could not be maintained in the forest forever. Mavka’s rage had caused dark creatures from around Namland to rethink the Neblina Forest as a potential place to hide and grow. Three hags, tall and bony women with matted hair and long claw-like fingers and toes, had been traveling through the countryside. They preyed on lonely travelers while they moved, but a pack of adventurers had caught them. One of the hags was killed, and the other two fled into the forest. They were wroth but sore afraid. The hags, too, had heard the rumors and stories of the forest and its strangeness. Using their innate magic, the hags disguised themselves to escape the master druid’s watchful gaze.

They came to Burrow Wood, a halfling and human village that had recently sprung up at the north end of the forest by Prattle Creek. There, they hatched a plan to propagate and fill the void left by their slain sister. Their plan was successful to a degree. They burned much of the village and, in the chaos, devoured a small child named Grieca. They fled the scene of their crime but met with Deng and Riuying. The master druid and his wife fought against the hags, slaying one. The other escaped and disappeared into the mountains.

A day later, the child Grieca was returned to her family. Deng and Riuying, knowing how hags breed, understood this situation. The real Grieca was dead. This new one was magically enhanced to look and sound exactly like Grieca. In fact, Grieca would grow up believing she was herself. Once Grieca turned thirteen years old, she would magically transform into her hag form and would remain that way forever, becoming twisted, violent, and ruthlessly wicked. Deng and Riuying knew that leaving this Grieca in Burrow Wood would be devastating to her family, but the mother hag was still missing.

Deng thought to kill Grieca, but Riuying took pity on the child. She cried like a human. She laughed like a human. She had a crush on a boy in town like a human. It seemed cruel to Riuying to destroy her, so she convinced Deng to allow Grieca to live in case a cure for her hag disease could be found. Deng agreed so long as they were vigilant in watching the child grow. Arpistis helped Riuying, and the two of them came to care for Grieca, though they kept themselves secret from her.

Grieca struggled as she grew up. Voices were in her head constantly, telling her to do rotten things to her friends and family. The voices told her to steal, to harm, and to kill, but Grieca always fought the temptations. She dedicated herself to the small church in Burrow Wood, a church of The Host, to help aid her. But through the years, the voices persisted. And try as she might from the shadows, Riuying never found a cure. On the night of her thirteenth birthday, Grieca transformed. Her skin stretched and her features sharpened. Nails grew into claws and teeth to fangs. As this happened and Grieca cried out, the hag from thirteen years earlier returned. She burned the church and killed everyone in her way until she came to her newly born child. Despite the struggles and the pull to evil, Grieca resisted. She fled from the hag into the woods and ran directly into Riuying and Deng.

Before they could react, the hag was upon them all. It clawed at Grieca and cast powerful spells at the master druid and his wife. Riuying was injured by a spell that turned her hair stark white, surprising both the hag and young Grieca. In the tumult, Deng got the upper hand and slew the wicked hag. He turned his wrath to Grieca next, but Riuying blocked him. Over the years, she watched Grieca and took pity on her. The girl had never done anything wrong, and killing her just because she was born of a hag was completely and absolutely cruel.

Grieca could never return to Burrow Wood like this, so Riuying announced that she would care for Grieca from then on. She would train her in potion-making and medicine and keep her safe, both from people who would mean to hurt her and to keep her safe from herself. Deng was upset with the decision. After all, hags are evil.

With her altered form, Grieca had great difficulties for the first few years of her new life as a hag. Claws made delicate work difficult, but she grew accustomed to using them to dig while helping Riuying (whom she called ‘The White Raven’ due to her new hair color) in the gardens of her glade. Her taller form caused her to bump her head frequently but she eventually grew taller than Riuying and could help her reach items at the top of shelves. And her teeth made speech very difficult for a long time, such that she would introduce herself as Griba from then on.