As the rain beats down upon the roof of the Transit Guild House, you sit around the meeting table with Meryl and Federico. The staff lay upon the table, the gold veneer missing from the skull.
Mistress Bianca: We could destroy it Bart. I think we should at least see what it does first. especially if there are more out there.
Casdegere Constantine rubs his chin in thought, a half filled goblet in his hand.
Rikard Castleberry: Destroying it should probably be along the lines of a last resort, but we should keep it in mind, better gone, than used against us.
Mistress Bianca: Personnally I think this was too easy to get.
Casdegere Constantine: Are there anyone in the order that could shed light upon it?
Mistress Bianca: As far as I know there are only small handfuls who know anything about magic here.
Casdegere Constantine: Well what if we changed its shape, disguised it somehow?
Bart: Is the entire staff magical or only the head?
Federico: I never said the staff was magical, only that it possibly could be used in conjunction with magic to enhance the magic.
Mistress Bianca: Gah.
Federico: It is a fine distinction, but it is a distinction.
Mistress Bianca: I suppose there is only one way to learn how this thing works.
Rikard Castleberry takes a step back.
Casdegere Constantine raises a brow.
Rikard Castleberry looks at Casdegere.
Rikard Castleberry: Hey you weren’t the one that got blown up on a roof, I don’t like that magic stuff .
Federico: There are many old things in the swamp that remain to be found. I am sure many were designed for tasks we no longer comprehend.
Mistress Bianca looks deep in thought.
Casdegere Constantine sets his cup down and stands up.
Casdegere Constantine: Mistress use your magic on me, holding that thing.
Bianca caresses the staff like a lover, gently running her fingers over the ridged surface of the staff to the dark object at its head.
Meryl Dunestal smiles at Casdegere’s suggestion.
Mistress Bianca begins to grin at Casdegere’s suggestion though he does not see any change in her appearance.
Casdegere Constantine stands up in the center of the room.
Mistress Bianca: Are you sure Casdegere?
Casdegere Constantine: The best way to find out, is just to do it, I have no fear.
Casdegere Constantine bends his neck and lets it crack.
Mistress Bianca: everyone step away from him… and I will try to be gentle.
Casdegere Constantine readies himself.
Mistress Bianca: You have no fear? The mighty Casdegere has no fear? I think that you SHOULD fear what you do not know! Fear keeps people ALIVE!
Casdegere Constantine: …C’mon, is that the best ya got!?
Casdegere Constantine holds his arms half way up and nods.
Casdegere does not appear affected.
Mistress Bianca: I am satisfied.
Casdegere Constantine: Satisfied how?
Mistress Bianca: Casting a spell with this in hand does nothing if you are blind to how to use it.
Casdegere Constantine nods “Then we must seek its origin.”
Mistress Bianca: So… you wish to go to the swamp men?
Casdegere Constantine: I do.
Meryl Dunestal: Which tribe would you seek?
Mistress Bianca: Heh that is a trip I fear more than a dozen Hoyts.
Casdegere Constantine: I can only remember The Bright Star and I don’t know if they were the unfriendly sort or not.
Meryl Dunestal: You must mean the Bright Water Tribe.
Mistress Bianca: Bright Water.
Casdegere Constantine: Yes, that’s them, what is the name of the other tribe?
Mistress Bianca: I wonder if our relations are as good with them still as they were when Sarruk Urzy first negotiated with them.
Meryl Dunestal: I can offer a small bit of advice if you are going to meet with the Tribesmen. Bring things of value to trade; Knives, spear heads, fish hooks, oil, etc; Things that they will appreciate to make living easier in the swamp. You do understand that meeting with these Swamp Men, could get you killed? Mistrust and more importantly, misunderstandings go deep between us and them.
Federico: I would not show them the staff. Who knows how they would react with so many dead where it was found.
Rikard Castleberry: I don’t intend on letting anyone more than needed see this item.
Mistress Bianca (obviously concerned): I…don’t think I should go with.
Casdegere Constantine: We all must go.
Mistress Bianca: I would endanger you more by going than by any insult you could fathom.
Casdegere Constantine: And why is that?
Mistress Bianca removes her mask completely showing her pale face, red eyes, and white hair.
Mistress Bianca: Because of this.
Casdegere Constantine: So…you are different, what of it?
Meryl Dunestal: I will leave you to discuss whatever it is you plan to do. Please feel free to make use of my private conference room until you are done. I will send refreshments.
Rikard Castleberry: Hey your face kind of matches your stomach, that figures.
Meryl Dunestal Stands and walks towards the door stopping only long enough to kiss Mistress Bianca’s hand.
Mistress Bianca: They toss their young into the swamp to be eaten by the wild animals if there are born like me. To them I should be done the same.
Federico also stands. He stares at the staff for a moment, perhaps wishing it was his, and then follows Meryl out of the room.
Bart: The spirits do not look upon you with favor.
Casdegere Constantine: Well we are a team now, what will be, will be.
Mistress Bianca: My existence insults their beliefs, they will not help us if they see me, and will kill us if I try to hide it and fail.
Casdegere Constantine: Why, what have you done to them?
Mistress Bianca: I was born?
Casdegere Constantine: You’ve never spoken about them hating you for anything…what? It sounds more like your afraid.
Mistress Bianca: They have a superstition that people like me are bad luck at best, bad omens more commonly, and bringer of death on occasion. It is that superstition that found root here in town; that is why I am hated.
Rikard Castleberry: Would they recognize you?
Mistress Bianca: I do not know. I would be surprised if in my many years of life word has never traveled to them of the girl with the mask.
Casdegere Constantine: Pfft, all that would be is curiosity. We show up with a few baubles and things they need and they will not think upon you any more then what they have to gain by speaking with us.
Mistress Bianca: And YES I said I was afraid. I fear the swamp men more then any creature alive, and I am counting the swamp dragon the rent my throat.
Casdegere Constantine steps closer to her.
Casdegere Constantine: Well we can’t do this without you.
Mistress Bianca: I am sorry, but you cannot do it with me either.
Casdegere Constantine: Koran is a very capable man, he will lead us true and they will know our intentions are honorable. Nothing will happen to you.
Mistress Bianca puts her mask back on.
Rikard Castleberry: Well, we appear to be at a small impasse, one which I’m not entirely sure how to handle, unless Bianca comes with, but stays back a ways, or takes another disguise.
Mistress Bianca: There are things to be feared in life Mister Constantine. Do the rest of you agree with him?
The door opens and Koran Thelig saunters in. His cloak is wet from the rain. “What’s up, folks?” He plops down in a chair and reaches for some dried fish.
Bart: I agree with him as to the Lady’s importance but worry about ignoring the beliefs of the lizard people.
Casdegere Constantine: Hello Koran, it is good to see you sir.
Koran Thelig: I’m sure it is!
Koran Thelig laughs.
Casdegere Constantine smiles.
Mistress Bianca: Koran. I was just telling the others why the swamp men would rather see me being digested by a f’lunin.
Casdegere Constantine: Mistress Bianca believes that she will endanger our mission by going along.
Koran Thelig: Well now, in general that would be true…damn fine fish here.
Rikard Castleberry: Yes, Meryl has fine food.
Casdegere Constantine: Could you tell me why?
Koran Thelig: Same reason some men are afraid of black cats or black birds, superstition. There must have been a reason sometime, but I don’t know how it started.
Mistress Bianca mimes riding a horse and then beating it to death and then beating it some more.
Koran Thelig: But, hey, I wouldn’t worry about that now.
Casdegere Constantine: Well is it something that you can transcend when you speak to them?
Koran Thelig: I don’t think the shaman would let them kill her.
Casdegere Constantine: Well this meeting is important.
Rikard Castleberry: I would think as a semi formal envoy they would not ambush us.
Mistress Bianca: Well that makes me feel a whole lot better.
Rikard Castleberry grins.
Koran Thelig: The Swamp Men think a lot about dreams. The shaman’s dreams are important. I can’t be sure, but I think they expect something out of you four. They expected a meeting, i know, it’s crazy.
Casdegere Constantine rubs his chin in thought at his words.
Casdegere Constantine: What do you think would happen if we showed them the staff? Could they tell us where it comes from?
Koran Thelig: I have no idea.
Mistress Bianca: Good, sounds like a plan.
Rikard Castleberry: We should not show them the staff unless it absolutely has to happen.
Casdegere Constantine: Then we’ll bring it with us but keep it hidden until that time.
Mistress Bianca: Can’t we leave it here and just bring a picture?
Koran Thelig: You will head north to those ruins where we captured the poachers. Meet them when the moon is halfway up the sky.
Casdegere Constantine: Very well.
Koran Thelig: Good luck, Meryl’s got a nice place here. I should come by more often, tell him a story.
Casdegere Constantine: Well I’d be interested in that as well Koran.
Mistress Bianca: How do you know this Koran? Just out of curiosity.
Koran Thelig: Just look around. This furniture didn’t come from the swamp.
Rikard Castleberry: It is quite nice.
Mistress Bianca: No I meant about the meeting with the swamp men.
Koran Thelig: I think he brought his chef in from way downriver. I was told this by a Bright Water Scout. Specifically, the Spirit Walker and the Pale Lady must come.
Rikard Castleberry: Well, it’s a good a plan as any.
Casdegere Constantine: Well, I guess I’ll have to head to the shop and pick up a few things. I’ll meet you all back here in a little while.
Casdegere Constantine heads out of the room.
Koran Thelig abruptly stands up. “OK, then. Good luck. Tell me about it tomorrow.” Then he leaves.
Casdegere Constantine heads toward the last shop.
Rikard Castleberry sits back down and enjoys more of Meryl’s food.
Rikard Castleberry: Well Bart, it seems that we’re about to walk into something kind of big.
Mistress Bianca uneasily picks at her food.
Rikard Castleberry: So Bianca, you’re known as the “Pale Lady” now, eh?
Mistress Bianca: Yes so it seems now.
Rikard Castleberry: Well, with a special title, it makes me even more confident that they will not harm you.
Bart looks introspective.
Mistress Bianca: Maybe the Masked Lady would be better.
Casdegere Constantine heads into the Last Stop.
Rikard Castleberry: Still though, we should go into this meeting wary, I’m still a bit nervous about fighting in the dark with who knows how many around us.
Mistress Bianca: It makes me seem less infirm.
Bart: I do not think that fighting will be an option.
Mistress Bianca: I have no intention of fighting them. Hope Casdegere knows this.
Casdegere Constantine heads up to the shopkeeper “So, what do ya got on sale today?”
Mistress Bianca: I am just waiting for the moment where I say…Bwah? I’m not with him!
Mistress Bianca bursts out laughing.
Alma: Well, Mr. Grumpy what you lookin’ for?
Bart: He will have a name after the meeting – the target.
Bart joins in the laughter.
Casdegere Constantine: Heh, that was the old Casdegere…I am looking for a few things a swamp man might like!
Alma: I hope you’re in a better mood than last time. I might find another pair of red gloves.
Casdegere Constantine chuckles.
Casdegere Constantine: That won’t be necessary.
Alma: Filet knife?
Casdegere Constantine: That’s a start.
Alma: How many? One for each hand?
Casdegere Constantine: Two should be plenty. Do you have any spear heads?
Mistress Bianca: So we are planning on heading there in the dark of night to meet some folks that cause me fright, who are of the tribe of Water bright. And all the while fearing a Casdegere slight?
Casdegere Constantine: Or flasks of oil?
Alma: Word is, you’re a hero. Helped bag that poacher the F’lunin et up.
Casdegere Constantine shakes his head.
Bart: We have to prioritize.
Casdegere Constantine: I am no such thing.
Alma: Good. A man shouldn’t be too full of himself.
Casdegere Constantine: Indeed, just bringing a man to proper justice was the important thing.
Alma: Oil, I got oil. Nice small pots of oil.
Rikard Castleberry: Priority 1- don’t die. Can we agree on that?
Casdegere Constantine: I’ll take 1.
Mistress Bianca: Maybe I should just stick to intimidation ‘stead of poetry.
Alma: Just give me a list.
Casdegere Constantine: 4 spear heads, 1 pot of oil, 2 filet knives, and 50 feet of rope, just incase they decide to hang me.
Casdegere Constantine smiles.
Rikard Castleberry: Well, when Cas gets back from the grocery store, we should probably head out, scope out the lay of the land and such.
Alma: Helluva party you could have with all that. Give me a minute and I’ll set you up.
Casdegere Constantine: Very good.
Alma: Goin’ to catch more poachers, eh?
Casdegere Constantine: Not exactly.
Bart: I need my feather.
Alma winks. “I understand. No need to say any more.”
Rikard Castleberry: Where did it go?
Casdegere Constantine nods back to him.
Alma: For you, I have a heroic rate. 2 gold.
Bart: Did Fiddy bring it with the staff?
Casdegere Constantine: There you go.
Alma bows. “Thank you sir.”
Rikard Castleberry: Hmmm, now that you mention it, I didn’t see it.
Casdegere Constantine waves goodbye and heads back to the guild.
Bart finds a servant to ask Fiddy about the feather.
Federico enters the meeting room. “You have a question?”
Bart: Yes, The feather that was with the staff. I did not see it.
Federico: That was not original to the staff and had no value to my research.
Rikard Castleberry: What did you do with it?
Bart looks stunned.
Federico: I set it aside.
Bart: May I have it back?
Federico thinks for a moment. “I will see if it is still around, if the staff did not put it with the trash.”
Federico: Please wait and I will check.
Bart: The trash? You do not know what you have risked.
Bart looks sad.
Federico looks puzzled. He exits the room.
Casdegere Constantine enters.
Mistress Bianca puts a reassuring hand on Bart’s shoulder.
Long minutes pass while Bart waits for Federico.
Casdegere Constantine notices Bart’s sad demeanor.
Casdegere Constantine: What happened to him?
Mistress Bianca: Don’t worry, he will find it I am sure.
Casdegere Constantine he says to Rikard.
Federico returns holding a feather. “Here it is. I’m sorry it’s a little bent” He hands the feather to Bart.
Bart: Thank you.
Bart examines the feather carefully fixing it.
Federico nods and leaves to pursue his own affairs.
Mistress Bianca: I see no reason to dawdle here we may as well head out.
Casdegere Constantine nods.
Bart: Shall we walk or take a boat?
Mistress Bianca: Boat is fine.
Mistress Bianca leaves and heads towards Vladimir Batu’s dock.
Casdegere Constantine follows.
Bart: I think I shall need to build a bigger boat.
Casdegere Constantine: You know how to build boats Bart?
Bart: I built the one I use.
Mistress Bianca (if he is there) Approaches Vladimar.
Rikard Castleberry: Let’s go rent a boat!
Mistress Bianca: I showed him my staff…he showed me his.
Casdegere Constantine gets in and picks up a pole.
Bart jumps in also.
Casdegere Constantine waits for the others to jump in.
Rikard Castleberry gets into the boat.
The moon rises in the sky as you get underway.
Casdegere Constantine: Bart, now where are we headed again?
Bart points “That way.”
Casdegere Constantine shrugs and begins to pole in the direction he pointed.
You pole west, then round the corner of land and head north. In about an hour, you reach the ruins where you caught the poachers. You don’t see anyone yet.
Bart: Shall we check that we are alone?
Rikard Castleberry: Yes.
Rikard Castleberry: Let’s look around.
Casdegere Constantine: Bart, you mind doing a little scout about to check out who has been, is here?
Bart: Sure, Just one sec. Let me finish here and I’ll swim back.
Rikard Castleberry wonders if he should look around, or if that would be a bad idea.
Bart finds a number of recent tracks, especially where you hung the poachers. Not boot tracks, but bare, clawed feet.
Bart: There were swamp men here. Not to long ago.
Rikard Castleberry: Perhaps they are out-early showing our own early showing.
Across the water, near the trees, Bart sees a humanoid shape standing still.
Bart: They are here now.
Rikard Castleberry: Oh? Where at?
Casdegere Constantine: Don’t just walk up to them, let them come to us.
Bart just resists the urge to point at a stump and points to the actual being, waiving.
The shape raises it arms and beckons you to come.
Casdegere Constantine: ...Or not.
Bart heads off.
Casdegere Constantine follows.
Rikard Castleberry walks behind Bianca, taking up the back of the line.
Swamp Man Scout waits for you to approach, then motions you to follow, heading south.
Bart continues to follow.
You walk for a few minutes; the other Swamp Man emerges from the trees to walk near Rikard.
Mistress Bianca tries to stay away from the front.
Rikard Castleberry: Hi there!
They do not speak but guide you with gestures.
Casdegere Constantine follows silently.
_More minutes pass. Then a third Swamp Man joins you. You enter a clearing and see two more Swamp Men. One is different, wearing various feathers and bones around its neck.
The Swamp Men halt._
Rikard Castleberry stops walking.
Casdegere Constantine halts as well.
One of them grins at Rikard, showing quite a few teeth.
Bart walks forward and holds out his feather for the shaman.
Swamp Man Shaman seems to sway slightly as you stand before him.
A tail swishes near Bianca’s legs.
Rikard Castleberry grins back at the swamp man.
Swamp Man Shaman accepts the proffered feather and examines it.
Mistress Bianca grips her staff tightly such that her knuckles ache.
The Swamp Man standing beside the Shaman watches you all very carefully.
Casdegere Constantine slowly takes off his backpack.
Swamp Man Shaman: Spirit-Walker be thanked for sky-gift.
You realize that at least two more Swamp Men have entered the clearing.
Bart: It was a gift for me to pass on from those who gave it to me.
Swamp Man Shaman places the feather in a large leather pouch.
Mistress Bianca stares straight ahead eyes never leaving the shaman.
Casdegere Constantine steps forward slowly with his backpack held out in front of him.
Rikard Castleberry shrugs at the swamp man near him.
Bart: It is out custom to bestow gifts upon our hosts. May Casdegere do so?
Casdegere Constantine stopping several feet in front of the Shaman he goes to a knee and begins removing items from the backpack and sets them upon the ground.
The Swamp Man next to the Shaman bends down and picks up a knife.
Swamp Man Shaman flicks his tongue out many times as the items are displayed.
Casdegere Constantine when the last item is set down, he closes the backpack and slowly steps back.
Swamp Man Scout: Tests the knife on his arm and appears pleased with the sharpness.
Swamp Man Shaman: You honor this meeting with gifts like that in the times of my mother’s mother.
Casdegere Constantine: Yhe honor is ours.
Casdegere Constantine: I am Called Cas-de-gere.
Casdegere Constantine gestures to his chest.
Swamp Man Shaman: We accept your gifts. We welcome your presence. As we have always welcomed your presence since the time of Sarruk.
Rikard Castleberry has no idea what or who Sarruk is, but he keeps a straight face.
Swamp Man Shaman: “Do not tremble. You may speak easy,” says Shaman to Casdegere.
Bart: We are honored by your invitation, if not a little surprised.
Swamp Man Shaman: I have known I would be here under this moon since I was young.
Mistress Bianca doesn’t move a muscle.
Swamp Man Scout carefully cuts his forearm with the knife. The blood slowly rolls down his skin, black in the moonlight. He extends his forearm and offers the knife to Casdegere.
Bart: I am still young in the ways of the spirits and can not hear them as clearly.
Rikard Castleberry glances out of the corner of his eye at Bianca, noting how still she is.
Casdegere Constantine steps forward and accepts the knife.
Casdegere Constantine slowly pulls back his sleeve to his upper arm. He then takes the knife and cuts his forearm about as long as the swamp man cut his own.
Swamp Man Shaman: Some of you are exactly what I was told. My shsihisssii made it clear that there would be a Pale-Lady and a thin skin Spirit-Walker here. There would also be someone known as Thunder-in-the-Clouds and a thin skin that refused his past.
Casdegere Constantine squeezes his fist and lets the blood roll down his arm and then extends his forearm forward toward the swamp man.
Mistress Bianca relaxes a little.
Bart wonders who is who.
Swamp Man Scout places his forearm against Casdegere’s so that the blood mingles. He grips Casdegere’s arm to hold them together, and is very strong. Then he releases Casdegere and says something guttural that Casdegere does not understand.
Rikard Castleberry is pretty sure he is not the Pale-Lady.
Casdegere Constantine nods back to the Swamp man and hands him back the knife.
Swamp Man Scout takes the knife.
Bart whispers “Cas – I think you are now married.”
Mistress Bianca dares to look around at all the swamp men.
There are at least ten Swamp Men here.
Swamp Man Shaman: We will walk until dawn and then drink together. Then I will answer your questions. This is what must be. This is what shall be done.
Casdegere Constantine: Great Shaman, I no longer refuse my past, I have chosen to look forward.
Swamp Man Shaman Turns and begins walking out of the silver lit clearing under the dark fronds of the trees.
Casdegere Constantine follows Bart.
Rikard Castleberry wonders if we should all be going, or just the new couple.
All the other Swamp Men follow.
Casdegere Constantine presses his wound to stop the bleeding as they walk.
Rikard Castleberry shrugs and walks along.
Mistress Bianca follows towards the back.
Bart: Wise One, How can we aid you and the swamp?
Casdegere Constantine doubts the swamp needs any helping.
You walk deeper into the swamp. Direction no longer seems to matter. The swamp men move like ghosts through the trees. Your feet barely seem to touch the ground. Soon, tendrils of fog swirl around your limbs in a sort of odd embrace. You can only see a few feet ahead, yet the Shaman walks unerringly.
Rikard Castleberry doesn’t have a prayer of noticing anything in this.
Bart continues to follow the silent shaman.
Then you step into fetid water that rises to your knees. Soon, you emerge onto a small island. Fog surrounds the island but the island itself is clear. About ten paces across, a black metal pole rises from the center, topped by a golden ball the size of your head. The pole is at least two times your height. A carefully tended border of stones surrounds the post.
Casdegere Constantine realizes now that if something goes wrong, he is way over his head.
Rikard Castleberry: What the…
Rikard Castleberry: What is this place?
Swamp Man Scout grips Casdegere’s hand and places a hard object in his palm.
Casdegere Constantine takes the item surprised and holds it up to look at it.
The other swamp men watch Casdegere and the Swamp Man Scout closely, as if they are not sure what will happen. The item is a silver belt buckle with a raised wolf’s head design. This was Samsolon’s.
Casdegere Constantine is taken aback by the buckle.
Casdegere Constantine: Where did you find this?
Casdegere Constantine he asks the scout and feels his heartbeat just increase.
Swamp Man Scout shakes his head and says something unintelligible.
Casdegere Constantine: This belonged to my uncle, have you seen him?
Swamp Man Shaman: He says that he doesn’t know why he gave it to you. He just knew it was what he had to do.
Casdegere Constantine tries in vain to speak to the scout.
Casdegere Constantine holds up the buckle.
Swamp Man Scout speaks more unintelligible words.
Bart gently places his hand on Casdegere’s shoulder. He does not understand you.
Casdegere Constantine: This belonged to my uncle, have you seen him Great Shaman?
Swamp Man Shaman: He took this from a defeated Blood Scar warrior, he says.
Casdegere Constantine: Then perhaps my uncle was captured.
Casdegere Constantine: It must of been the blood scar that attacked us at the temple.
Swamp Man Shaman: I have not but this is another omen. How can it be one of our warriors is spirit touched enough to know to give this to you. This meeting is blessed.
Swamp Man Shaman: Come we must drink and dream. Then we talk.
Casdegere Constantine removes his own belt buckle and places this one in its place.
Swamp Man Shaman walks into the center of the stones and sits with the black pole at his back. He fished out a leather skin and a cup seemingly made from plant fronds; like a basket.
Bart joins him, pulling out his water skin.
Swamp Man Shaman pours a viscous liquid into the plant cup. He then drinks a fifth of the liquid and passes it to Bart.
Rikard Castleberry feels still strangely unnerved by this, something about being in the middle of nowhere…
Casdegere Constantine sighs and does the same.
Casdegere Constantine he stops half way, turns and motions Bianca to join them.
Bart drinks 1/5 and hands it purposely to Bianca.
Mistress Bianca sits next to Bart cross legged with her staff resting across her lap.
The other swamp men stand on the shore of the island, forming a ring around the Shaman and the rest of you.
Mistress Bianca removes the lower half of her mask revealing her pale lower half of her face and drinks.
Mistress Bianca hands off the cup to Rikard.
Rikard Castleberry drinks half of the remaining liquid and passes it off to Cas.
Casdegere Constantine finishes it off ofcourse.
Casdegere Constantine then passes it back to the shaman.
Swamp Man Shaman wraps his tail up into his lap and his head nods back and forth. His eyes are glassy.
You all feel a great fatigue settle over you and you drop to the ground to relieve yourselves of the effort of standing. Soon you lay your heads upon the ground, for that is the easiest thing to do and seems to make great sense. You sleep, and then you dream.