Trials & Trails

Episode 18: "Swamp Things" (part 1)

Cold stone killers

Telvas has a perilous brush with strange entities. Meanwhile, things get rocky (and snaky) in the Ghoul Garns.

Telvas eventually returns to Felston, shaken by an encounter with a gang of…well, what were they, exactly? They appeared as deer…sort of. Of course, the shadowy forms, the red eyes, the malleable, smoky way they moved, not to mention the weird, slithery thing one of they did with its antlers when they were about to kill someone. Only the Foeblade (now with even more Redemption!) could harm them. Well, that and Swiftsteel’s swift steel (nyark, nyark). Seems the ertswhile assassin-palace-guard-well-dressed noble was disguised as a talkative rogue named Yesem, all along (or was he?).

In the end, though, a hireling, Mij, died. Swiftsteel was mortally wounded, and all around the Elven Kalinyas were piles of strange ooze and ash. Which is what Swiftsteel turned into as he perished, uttering the warning, “They’re everywhere…” By the time Telvas and Nats, the overwhelmed mercenary, got back to Felston, traveling overnight at the double time, he had a tale to tell. But to whom? Because, well,_ they’re everywhere._

Where they apparently aren’t, at the moment, anyway, is Grantham and the Ghoul Garns. The party’s investigations lead them into the swamp toward the last known location of one Tresh, a treasure hunter overdue. An overnighter with family leaves Telvas with a glimmer of hope, when he establishes (perhaps, perhaps) a contact with the Hodei, his people who live deep within the swamp. With the future of Gratham up in the air, there is also an opportunity here. Or so he believes. But then, no one is sure what Drunkseeker is up to. They only know it’s no good.

For now, though, the swamp.

Excellent pathfinding and scouting lead the group to a set of ruins, where one Tresh has been hiding out, paranoid that “she” is following him. She had already killed his group when they got off course and ended up in her territory, a particularly watery, oozy, foggy section of Garn, where Tresh spotted a strange, square, leaning tower. He’s so paranoid about it, he hasn’t bothered to check into the ruins where he is holed up.

And what a weird place it is. A great fountain, with a glowing orb atop it, spews water down its sides into glittering, unspoiled pools. The fountain’s base is augmented with cantered, stone blocks, mounted on struts of the same material. Of course, the thing is magical, but what else might up with dat?

The group soon finds out. After several of them are stunned by flashing fishes living in the four, square pools below the flowing plinth, Vicic, unharmed, spots a niche indicating an opening beneath the water. He wades right in and attempts to lift it. Naturally, this summons guardians. The four cubes around the fountain begin to tremble, then explode, releasing 4 huge, stone birds.

Of course, normal weapons do not work, as Shadow finds out when he his arrow bounces right off one of them. Not to worry, though. Because Tiskus has MAAAAGIC. Old world magic. He weaves a powerful spell…and it backfires.

Reality is altered, as vast, old world energies rippled through the area. The land beneath the fountain splits, as the water from it rises into the air, then drops. Worse, the great weapon summoned by TIskus hurtles right into Telvas’ back, leaving a permanent wound. Meanwhile the four stone creatures become ONE BIG STONE BIRD, thanks to the reality bending. And now, the encounter just got tougher.

So, the answer to this is to cast another spell, right? Of course, it is. This time something safer. Summon monster.

Whoops. A monster is summoned all right. But it’s “her,” the Naga Tresh was so terrified of. And it is NOT cooperating.

The rest of the fight plays out as follows:

The stone bird does some of their work for them, as it swoops down on the whole group, knocking Nats out, knocking others down down, and fortuitously lopping off the head of the Naga (this after it had taken control of Shadow, forcing him to fire arrows at Vicic—thankfully, Shadow’s aim was off, as, some, he must’ve been subconsciously resisting the spell). With the Naga down, and the bird too big to follow, most of the party follows Vicic’s advice and dives down beneath the ground, following a staircase he found behind the stone panel (which itself flew right up and out of the area, thanks to alter reality/reverse gravity, etc.).

As the party takes cover (save Tresh, who has run off, and a faithful retainer, who is down) Telvas and Tiskus stand fast, using magic and magical blade to whittle the bird down. Eventualy, they are joined by Pritt Lill. Between the three of them, the creature eventually drops into a pile of rubble. It’s a close one, but, once again, the Felston Fellows emerge triumphant.

Afterward, amidst the rock and stone, and secret panels, below, Shadow finds a nice cache of coin and gemstones, including a transparent, glass pyramid with mud sorcerer symbols etched on each facet. Tiskus’s examinations reveal that it is stone of seeing. But what us there to be seen here, one wonders?

As the party rests and heals, they still have some things on their agenda:

A nearby amphitheatre, overgrown and crumbling.

An acropolis up a path to a hill, overgrown with dense vnes.

Somewhere, a day and half away, a leaning tower.

And of course, crocs and ghouls abound, they say, in this place.

But at least there are no dark, deer things….yet…

NOTES:
Telvas took note of two utterances delivered by Swiftsteel and one of the Dark Deer. Evidently they were both curses: Swiftsteel called the Deer a “Cursed Flesh Eater,” while the Deer-thing called Steel a “Swill Drinker.” Conveniently, Isolt of the Salamander order happens to study this language, the tongue of the Elders, who disappeared long ago (or so she says).

Outside the game: Tiskus came up with snake eyes on two consecutive rolls, prompting the player to say, “That’s so unlikely,” which I personally feel might someday be this group’s epitaph, either way.

Pritt LIll came in handy. Not so much with the Bitzafi and the other hireling, whose name currently escapes me.

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