Hags - Part the Second - [Willow, Angler, Brume Hags, with a re-showing of Eritheze]

Willow Hags
Will Hags are the fear of the thing that go bump in the night, the fear that you are being followed in the dark, that maybe the shadow being cast by that willow tree might be some beast come to take you away...

In actuality, there is something following you; and it is the Willow Hag. They stalk and shadow, and strike at night, when only a few walk the cobblestone streets, the long, thin fronds of the Willow tree reaching in through the windows to snatch you away. The main power of a Willow hag is that she can stretch out her arms, her fingers, her legs, her toes, her hair. She can grow to be stories tall, and resemble almost perfectly a willow tree without even an ounce of magic. And she is quiet, oh so quiet, but for the rustling of her frond-limbs, and the shuffling as she reaches through the window to carry you away.

If you are ever found, it will be only as bones bound up in bundles of greasy and knotted hair.

The other main identifying feature of the Willow Hags, is that when forming a coven, all the Hags will tie their hair together at the ends, forming a horrid, tangled knot of greasy stick-hair. Their hair can stretch infinitely, pulling out from their pallid heads like canes through soft clay, so it is not that much of a burden to them. It does, however, (or so they themselves say) allow them to share their magics between them. What affects one, affects all that are tied together at the end of their hair. Their spells each affect the others, their wards each protect the others, their charms will benefit the others. Thus their teamwork is among the strongest in hag-kind.

This is not without its drawbacks. Just because their team-work is the strongest in Hag-Kind, does not mean much of anything. Further, if such a hag's hair is cut, the hag will wail and screech, she simply must, must, be re-attached to her sisters. If not, her magics will fail her! She will be alone! And defenceless! Whether or not this is actually true is up for debate, but the Hags certainly believe it, and that's nearly the same. Additionally, it is all magics that affect one affect the others. Harmful effects directed at one will be amplified by the hair, and affect all connected hags.

The most powerful Willow Hags, can apply their power to creating brand new limbs as well, stretching out new limbs until they are nightmare spiders of long, thin, knobbly limbs and fingers.

Willow Hag houses are also among the most unusual of Hag-hovels, in that they will actively avoid being out in the open, or indeed obvious to the eye in any way. Often they are suspended up in the trees, appearing as mighty bird-nests, strung up in a web of hair. The largest of Willow Hag-hovels will span several trees, with connected nest-bundles linked with hair-spun-walk-ways.

Many Willow Hags will also collect up their discarded hair, and spin it all about a small and dying or dead tree, as if the tree were the poor food of a spider, stored up in silk for later. The Hags will weave charms and dream-catchers and totems into the hair, forming it into cocoons for what she creates, and forming the hair itself into sigils and signs. Since it is her hair, it will protect her wherever she goes.

Angler Hags
They are some of the more playful of Hag-kind. They hunt often, and with great joy, though this joy is never shared with their prey.

They have wide, wide mouths with long thin needle-teeth, a wide pushed out jaw, and a strange, lure-feeler that sprouts from their forehead, spreading a baleful light from the sac that hangs from its end. It shines softly, slowly phasing through different colours and shades, never quite settling. The effect, is horribly hypnotic on most any creature. The Hags' favourite pastime is to wait for the new moon to hunt, on a dark cloudy night, and lure their chosen prey up to their home with their head-lanters, devour one in front of their comrades, then hunt the others as they run, using their lures to prevent them ever getting too far from the house. One or two more may be eaten during the hunt, and the rest are taken down to the 'larder' and kept for days or even weeks at a time. All of their prey that they catch go in the larder but for the ones they can't help but gobble up in the heat of the hunt.

Some of their preferred stalking spots are; up trees, submerged in bog-water, buried in the earth, crouched amidst thorns and nettles, covered in rusted blades and tools, and inside the rotting carcasses of other prey they have already caught.

They love it even more when prey try to escape within their house. Their hag-magics allow them to create darkness, and then solidify it. Never enough to restrain anyone, but enough to trip, to seal doors, to hide sets of keys, or pick locks. The chase is the most enjoyable part for the Angler Hag, they will never use their magics to kill, only herd and guide for the maximum fun. For the Hag at least.

Grandmother Angler Hags have found a way to wring even more enjoyment out of their unfortunate prey. They can make those they bite luminescent, softly glowing like their own head-lanterns. Their prey can never hide, never feel safe, never escape. The Hag's say that the fear makes the meat so much more flavourful after softened in the cellar for a few days.

Said meat is of course, eaten raw and bleeding.

A common warning in villages near to Angler Hag lairs; "never take a lamp left out in the street, no matter how dark it is". Its light is enough to pierce any darkness, even that left by the Angler Hags, but it is also steeped in a curse, its light will always lead the lantern's bearer to the home of the Angler Hags. Many are the stories of children lost at night who pick up the stray lantern to find their way home, and are lead only to the house of the Hags.

Brume Hags
It is foggy out today, but you must go out anyway, there is work to be done. You walk the roads you always walk, and you think you see a person, out in the mist, but it is nothing. You begin to work, and again, you see the silhouette out in the fog. You think that it is odd that the sun still has not burned away the fog, but shrug your shoulders, hope it brightens up later, and get back to work. The figure is still there, out in the fog. You call out, but there is no answer. You go to investigate. You are not seen again.

Brume Hags despise being seen; they are ugly, and they know it, they would prefer that others didn't ( of course, everyone knows that they are anyway). Paradoxically though, they also love people to know that they are there; they enjoy being objects of fear, seen from far away. So they wrap the air about them, a cloak of vapour and silence. They take it with them wherever they go, so that they are always hidden, almost.

Every now and again, a wind-ravaged village will live in fear of a hill whose top is always humped in fog and obscured from sight, even on the rare days where the sun beats down with fury. The warnings are all the same, "when the fog descends from the hill, stay inside." Crossing paths with another traveller on the road is a nerve-wracking event for these people, in all weathers. For these villages will also suffer through the worst excesses of climate; driving rains, harrowing winters, merciless sun. There will be little explanation for such weather, but every year the crops manage to struggle through just enough to keep the people hungry but not starving. Why give up what little they have? Besides, the roads were obliterated by mudslides from the rains last year. There's nowhere to go.

And always, the stories of dim shapes in the mist that eat people, or that whisper secrets that no-one could possibly know.

All this is obviously the work of the Brume Hag. Their power is in the manifestation of mists, and illusions of vapour and fog. They never go anywhere without their obscuring aura, and more-over, they also know everything about everything that is smothered in their fogs. They use this knowledge for their own purposes when they aren't hungry for the meat of men, and whisper the dark deeds and unkind thoughts of others through windows and under doors. Villages near a Brume Hag's home are never happy.

The Brume Hags can even turn the very weather against their host-village as well. The rune-carved weather-vanes perched atop their cottages have some power over the sky itself, and can direct the weather the Hag wishes, where they wish. So the village must suffer the worst weather the Hag can conjure. Luckily for them, the vanes have only some small influence over the mists and fogs of morning, so they do not come often. This vexes the Hags greatly, for they believe also, that if they are not shrouded in fog, their powers will abandon them.

The Brume Hag can only maintain their mists for a short time, enough perhaps to wander a few streets before being forced home again. The older the Hag, the longer she can hold up her blanket of whiteness. The most powerful of the Brume Hags can even fully become the mists they wander, incorporeal ghosts in the fog, swirling shapes that herald death.

And of course, those few times that the Hag's Weather Vane can manifest the mists, are the worst days of all...

Eritheze Hags [An addendum]
It should be noted by the dedicated Hag connoisseur, that the talismans and fetishes crafted by the Eritheze hags have on study, been found to serve a grim purpose. They siphon some sort of vital essence from the person from whom the key material was taken to craft the idol, which seems to manifest itself in subtle, but no less awful ways. Most of the effects of such a charm seem to the cursed being to be merely, 'bad luck', but it will slowly grow and become more and more severe. What might start as a seemingly unending cough will develop over the months into tuberculosis. What seems like clumsiness will eventually lead to tragic consequences.

That being said, the more charms and totems that adorn the Witch's hovel, the more skilled the Hags seems to become. There are reports (though as of yet unsubstantiated) that there is an Eritheze Witch with over a thousand such idols, and that her skill is great enough even to wake the dead.

Others in the Series

Part 1 - Introduction & Eritheze Hags
Part 3 - Luner, Murine, Briar Hags
Part 4 - Marrow, Byenic, Red Hags
Part 5 - Skitter, Matron, Scypho Hags
Part 6 - Crose, and Whisper Hags, and Retuning 5e's Hags

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