My Mother the Night Hag

Garstynnia the Night Hag puttered around her cottage as the snow continued to fall outside. She hummed a mournful little tune to herself as she went about moving things around and tidied up. She enjoyed this sort of activity as it gave her a chance to refresh her memory about what projects she still had unresolved. A half-empty bottle of a viscous orange substance reminded her that she still had to brew up a suitable potion to enhance her scrying ability. An open book reminded her that she still had to help one of the local Lotharingian officials interrogate an especially noisome prisoner. Every bit of clutter was a clue to the many loose threads a Night Hag might have dangling in the plotline of her existence.

Unlike the mortal natives of this world Garstynnia had no particular loathing of the cold. Her own place of origin was the infamous Grey Wastes, a place which was always teetering on too cold or too hot but never what one might define as comfortable. To that end Garstynnia often left one or more of her windows open year round. This often led to small animals finding their way into the cottage and if Garstynnia caught them they were certain to end up in a cauldron or eaten raw. Hearing a sound at one of her open windows Garstynnia looked and saw a small snowy owl sitting on the sill staring back at her.

Garstynnia cackled softly and said “I didn’t think I would see you again. Come in if you like, and assume a more comfortable form.”

The snowy owl hopped into the room and midair it transformed into another Night Hag. “Hello, mother.” The new arrival looked quite a lot like Garstynnia and it wasn’t uncommon for one Night Hag to be easily mistaken for another except within their own kind.

Garstynnia motioned for her guest to have a seat in one of the low wooden chairs at the table. “You never responded to Malindra’s call to return home. We had assumed the worst.” Garstynnia sat opposite the table from the newcomer. “You should have let her know what you intended to do, Tragallia.”

Tragallia sat down, and sighed as she said “To what end, mother? Colldrenia had never listened to my council, and Malindra only listened to ideas that would see her returned to the Grey Wastes. I didn’t have any more desire to go back than you did.”

Cackling again Garstynnia said “I have my reasons to remain here. If my daughters had listened to me they would have found their lives here to be immensely profitable in both treasure and knowledge.”

Tragallia looked at her mother with wide eyes and exclaimed with a hiss “You never asked me why I stayed! None of you asked me anything! I was sent on a fool’s errand to round up hobgoblins and that was all Colldrenia ever cared about! So I found myself a purpose and set about carving a niche in this world.” Tragallia tapped the table with one of her long black iron-like claws as she said almost in a whisper “You did the same thing centuries ago. I’d think you would be pleased I followed your lead.”

Garstynnia frowned and shook her head. “You haven’t learned anything from me! I have insinuated myself into a vipers nest of malevolent, wicked people. Turning them into larvae is easier than turning dead leaves into mulch! Their own sinful debauchery has done most of the work for me, all I have to do is take their wretched souls when they expire from their own excess. Colldrenia relished the corruption of mortals, but that is the most inefficient way to craft the larva we need. Malindra just wanted to get the larvae home. And what have you accomplished? How many larvae have you managed to squeeze out in the last hundred and fifty years?”

Waving her hand impatiently Tragallia replied testily “There is more to us that just churning out larvae from the spoiled souls of rotten people, mother. There is information to be gained and alliances to form. You have signed on alongside one of the most callous and untrustworthy liches anyone has ever encountered. You can’t trust the Viceroy! He’ll turn on you without a moments hesitation.”

Garstynnia growled and said “I haven’t allied with the Viceroy and you should know better than to think I would. The Diosian Lodge is finally being put to work by an ever greater power. They no longer represent the ultimate in magical prowess. The ascending god is who I am working alongside, and whatever risk there is to that is well worth it. A new age is going to descend on this world and I will be right there to harvest the limitless lost souls as they hit up against their final judgement.”

Tragallia leaned forward across the table and stared at her mother. “Your gamble isn’t as secure as you might think. You’ve looked into the future and have seen the possibilities, mother. You have seen that the ascending god can be destroyed and the liches of the Diosian Lodge trampled into dust. Instead of the dark age you are working so hard to help create you are instead going to be subjected to a new era of light and hope and courage!”

Sitting back in her seat, Garstynnia was clearly shocked by her daughter’s outburst. “The odds of that are remarkably slim, and I know it better than you or anyone else!” The elder crone waggled her bony finger at her daughter. “Just because you haven’t got as much malevolence in your blood as you ought to doesn’t mean you have settled on the right side of this historical conflict. These so-called troublemakers don’t have any easy road ahead of them and you know as well as I do that they can’t maintain their focus on anything for more than a minute. They haven’t even found the larvae that the Viceroy stole from his cohorts in the lodge. Hell, I’m not even sure they know to start looking for them! But if the Viceroy succeeds he’ll be using those larvae to jump into a new identity altogether, the same as the ascending god has done. And if he fails then I am going to root those larvae out myself and reclaim them. Either way I am not going to let this chance slip by. You would be well-advised to drop this ridiculous camaraderie with these mortals and come back to help me.”

“Help you what?” asked Tragallia with a hint of playful humor. “Help you find the Viceroy’s phylactery in case you decide that he isn’t needed anymore, or has just gotten on your nerves once too often? Or help you try and find wherever he has stashed away the mountains of looted treasure that he has made off with from a dozen different sources since Malindra first approached the Diosian Lodge for help?”

Garstynnia was clearly losing her patience. “These things will be found out if I am just left alone and allowed to scry! Everyone has their weakness. Everyone!” With her agitation rising Garstynnia snapped “Why did you even come here tonight? What abysmal curse have you sought upon me?”

Tragallia cackled again, and with obvious delight she said “To thank you, mother! This is the anniversary of you bringing us literally into this world to harvest larvae right off of the vine, as I like to say. Thank you! And while I might not agree with the stand you have taken in favor of the ascending god I do see the reason for it clearly. Do try to understand that I might be rooting for another outcome.”

The two Night Hags sat at the table and both were soon cackling. It was the sort of unsettling sound that would bring nightmares to sleeping children and cause livestock to feel the sudden desire to flee. It was the sound of Night Hags agreeing to disagree. It was the sound of a mother and her daughter accepting their differences and each one silently hoping the other would fail. It was a sort of Mother’s Day in an isolated cottage covered in snow late at night and with nary a sound to be heard above the cackling of evil glee.