The party awoke as one, jutting up from something akin to slumber/trance. It had all been a vision, a terrible dream. They were still in the meeting area where the elder had been, but now they were all gone. It was just Wagner, Fancyman, and Popoion – along with Loki and Karel.
“They left, after putting you in the trance. They figured it would be better that than have you awaken and say words that would obligate them to kill you.”
“How did they do that?” The Fancyman asked, “I am immune to enchantment and slumber!”
“They are The Eldar, and can do much to their lower kin that others cannot. In this case, they allowed the three of you to tap into the collective memory of our people. That was an encounter of the dragon as it was five hundred years ago, and it has fed off of the collective memory while it has been at rest: it has more than likely gotten stronger because of it.”
“So what you’re saying is we don’t have a chance in hell of killing this thing.” Wagner spat out.
“As you are: no.”
“Then what’s the game changer?”
Popoion jumped up and down at this: “Dol’ron the noble savage! Hugor the brave… the chaste? Those two could be a big help to us! Unfortunately Dol’ron is on a walk-about looking for his vampire lover, and Hugor is in some church doing whatever it is clerics do when not out killing undead. It could take forever to find the two of them!”
“Stay, I shall return with your companions.” Karel then slid back, almost as if the grass was moving her itself, and she disappeared into a tree. She came back a few minutes later with Dol’ron and Hugor.
“What a convenient plot device!” Malark exclaimed. He then walked between Wagner and the two other party members. “Wagner, Dolron; Dol’ron, Wagner. Hugor, Wagner, Wagner, Dol’ron. Dol’ron, Hugor, Hugor, Fancyman. Fancyman, Wagner…”
“Enough.” Dol’ron and Wagner stated flatly to the jester. They looked at each other with a bit of surprise and nodded to each other. Popoion aptly shut up.
Karel gathered the group’s attention, and explained the new quest. “You all must got to the South East to the Blackmere. Under the light of the full moon, you need to find the witch that presides over that area. She will tell you what you must do next.
The group headed back to the keep and bought their supplies, and then headed out down the main road to the south. They then got to a side trading road and continued down it until the hit the River Galeen. It was here, at its shallowest and narrowest that the group found a raft that was dedicated to allowing travellers to pass from one side to the other.
“It’s migration season for most of the heard animals.” Wagner said.
“And?” Responded the Fancyman.
“And so this is probably the most visited spot for them to traverse this river. It also means predators are more likely to be in the area.”
With this, Malark placed all his items in his bag of holding and withdrew his crossbow, his case of bolts, and his rope. Delightfully, the rope and crossbow came out better than when it had gone it: the silk rope was now of elven design, and was far stronger yet also far lighter than his original rope of silk scarves. The Cross bow was now made of a fine and coated wood, and the drawing mechanism was of a shiny silver metal as opposed to a dull iron.
They had not made it 10 feet from shore when a large creature bumped the rafter, spilling the Fancyman overboard. Working fast, Malark took a bolt from his hip canister and cut open his palm, sloshing it in the water a ways from the Fancyman. “Gods damn it! This is very reminiscent of another aquatic fight we recently had!” And indeed it was, for as soon as the jester taunted the creature to distract it from the floundering wizard, the thing went straight for Popoion and thrashed about with the Halfling in its maw.
Dol’ron jumped in and wrestled the creature while Wagner attacked it from onboard with his enchanted sword. Along with Hugor’s magics, they weakened it. The final act that killed the creature was a concussive blast by the Fancyman, who had managed to get to shore and cast a thuderwave spell. The creature sank. When it resurfaced it was belly up. The group dragged it and the raft to shore and they prepared a large portion of the fish-reptile creature for food rations.
While they were resting, Wagner told them of his track findings that he had scouted: lizard men were in the area, and from the range and multitude of the signs it could be assumed that this was more their territory than mans’.
“That’s great!” Cheered Malark. “We can probably get one of them to guide us to the witch then!”
“Why would we want to do that?” Asked the Fancyman.
“Besides us needing to find a reclusive and almost ‘legendary’ witch in a large, unfamiliar swamp, which requires us to avoid back tracking and a plethora of hazards, all while doing it at night and in the time constraint of three nights? I have no idea why I figured we would need a local guide.”
“Point taken.” Said Wagner.
“Well I still don’t have to like it.” Said the Fancyman. “Who knows what those savages will want for their services.”
“Who knows,” Popoion stated, giving an elbow to the Fancyman’s rib (who was presently sitting down), “perhaps they will want your services for theirs!” This point partially eased the aggression of the Fancyman.
Navigating the swamp, the group came to a large mound that was a tell-tale sign of the Lizardman culture. It was a meeting area as far as the group could tell, where diplomacy of one sort or another took place. As they got near the foot of the mound, they found themselves surrounded by a several tribes of the lizard folk. Some were serpentine, some were frog like, some were akin to iguanas, and still others were of an amalgamation of the three others.
Four tribe leaders came to the forefront, asking what the warm-blooded ones wanted.
“We search for the witch of these woods.” Proclaimed Popoion atop Dol’ron’s shoulders – for the muck of the swamp and the silt traps were far more deadly for one of his stature. “And we hope to trade for a guide to the witch.”
Showing his new elven silk rope, Popoion offered it for the proposed guide service. The leaders looked to each other than back to the jester. “No. You request service, you give service.” The Fancyman gave a grin at this and raised his eye brows in delight.
“Spiders are large in size now: they attack us now and drag us to forest. We all here because of spiders. Go to Spider Wood with a guide we give, find large spider, bring back so that we find out why they do this. Then guide show you witch.”
“We are in haste.” Said the Fancyman. “Can you send people down to bring the body for us so that we can get right to the witch?”
“We send when you have. We will know.”
With the aid of a lizard man guide, the group managed to navigate through the swamp with relative ease. That evening, as the rested Popoion and Wagner took first watch. Popoion felt awkward in the silence of the swamp, so decided to quietly retell a story he knew to Wagner. It seemed to relax both of them, as was Popoion’s intent.
Next up was the Fancyman and the guide. As the two looked out into the veil of the darkness, a skittering sound started to form. It was all around them, and though it grew loud, it was without direction. Then the ground that was in the fire’s light started to turn black. It was only as the darkness got to the bodies of the adventurers’ that what it was became evident: swarms of spiders.
Popoion shot straight up screaming, and as soon and as soon as he saw what was covering him he drew from his sac a vial of acid. Wagner’s eyes shot open, but he remained frozen where he lay, and Fancyman crumpled to the ground as stiff as a statue. Hugor and Dol’ron awoke; the latter rolling around before standing up.
Popoion then succumbed to the poisonous bites of the swarm, and dropped down on top of his acid flask, corroding himself, a patch of the spiders, and his costume. Dol’ron, irked that he could not fight this foe with a bash to his hammer, so he hit his hammer into the ground send out a wave of thunder which instantly popped all the insects in the area.
The following morning they made further south in haste. The guide decided he would stay with them since it was obvious these spiders are not being naturally compelled, but are being manipulated in some way. It was in the quietest part of the Spider Forest that they found trees with canopies of spider webs. Not a sound was heard, and as the got near a wall of web, they found that it opened up. From the shadows an awkward purple humanoid creature stalked into their sight. It clacked and clicked while fidgeting in an unsettling manner.
Words were passed: it asked why they were here, they responded to see why spiders were killing lizard men. It said go away, it was none of their business, and Popoion asked if it knew of the witch of the bog.
“Witch? Witch? Witch? Witch? Witch? What is witch?”
There was a moment of silence, followed by a squeal of pain as the creature found it now had a crossbow bolt in its gut. Everyone looked down to see that Popoion had shot his crossbow at the creature.
“The conversation was getting boring. Started stagnating like this whole gods damn place.”
Dol’ron didn’t hear this, he was too busy slamming his hammer into the things gut, driving the bolt through the other side, and caving in the torso.
“That ended, well. Now let’s get the hell outta’ here and show the lizard folk this cadaver.”
“No.” Said Dol’ron. “We go in.”
“The hell we do! There is absolutely no reason to go in there! We got our body, we know this thing controls spiders, and whatever is in there will be on its home territory and have the advantage! Why would you even think about going in there!?”
Wagner looked to his sword for guidance, and it told him two fates on the two sides of his hand guard and hilt. He looked up after considering the divination of the heirloom and said in a cold voice: “We go in. Its dangerous – like the jester says, but to turn back now would be far worse.”
All but the Fancy man and Popoion walked in. The two were left behind to shake their heads and sigh.
“Ruffians and bone heads all of them.” Muttered the Fancyman. “It’s like they forget not all of us are strong of body…”
“And here people call me crazy.” Replied Popoion. Finding that they were not being considered, but rather ignored the two decided to catch up to the advancing warriors and cleric. Better to be with the group at the center of the web instead of alone on the outer rim of it.