_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.
The dreams were sent to you a couple of days ago; now you awaken, refreshed. It is still dark but you have no sense of time. The Shaman also awakens. The other Swamp Men still stand guard. The air is muggy and you think there will soon be fog._
Casdegere Constantine stands up and looks in the direction of the moon.
Swamp Man Shaman says something to one of the other Swamp Men in a tongue that is filled with S’s and soft sliding notes.
Mistress Bianca looks around and flinches when she sees all the swamp men around her.
The Swamp Man who spoke with the Shaman trots into the woods.
Casdegere Constantine struggles to remember…a name, it was a name.
Mistress Bianca (to the shaman): That was an interesting dream.
Swamp Man Shaman: A dream but not a dream.
The other Swamp Men appear relaxed and their bearing contains no threat.
Mistress Bianca: I understand perfectly.
Casdegere Constantine: Sarruk Urzy.
Swamp Man Shaman nods.
Casdegere Constantine: That’s who I was.
Casdegere Constantine: I saw through his eyes.
Swamp Man Shaman nods again.
The Swamp Man who trotted off returns bearing two bulging waterskins. The Shaman says something to him and he hands one skin to Bart and another to Casdegere.
Mistress Bianca (to the shaman): and through whose eyes did you dream?
Casdegere Constantine: yes…and no. It was like I was him, as he was, as he stood, right here.
Casdegere Constantine moves over to the spot he last remembered.
Swamp Man Shaman: Long seasons have passed since the time Sarruk Urzy shared the air with my ancestors.
Mistress Bianca uses her staff to push herself to her feet and stretches.
Mistress Bianca: You have invited me to share this experience with you knowing what I am. I feel much like how Sarruk felt when he was welcomed when expecting death.
Swamp Man Shaman: In my father’s day our people would meet here to trade. I have never witnessed such a meeting myself, until today.
Swamp Man Shaman turns to Mistress Bianca.
Swamp Man Shaman: Your magics are powerful to overcome the stigma.
Casdegere Constantine: But he fought here, fought your enemies.
Swamp Man Shaman turns to Casdegere.
Swamp Man Shaman: Yes. This is the place where Sarruk Urzy brought our enemies to be slaughtered. Many Blood Scar ended the dream.
Casdegere Constantine: But who was he, who was he to you?
Swamp Man Shaman looks puzzled for a moment.
Swamp Man Shaman: I am uncertain of your meaning. Sarruk Urzy was a thin skin who drank our waters and dreamed our dreams. He died before I took my first breath.
Bart drinks from the flask.
Casdegere Constantine takes a moment to think.
The water is cool and refreshing. Bart feels uncommonly alert to the swamp around him.
Swamp Man Shaman stretches while sitting then stands.
Casdegere Constantine: If we dreamed about him, who or what did Sarruk dream about?
Bart stands facing the west.
Swamp Man Shaman: Who can say what a man dreams? I did not know Sarruk Urzy and his visions have not been shared with me.
Bart: Who is coming.
Swamp Man Shaman: There was a time when…......
A Swamp Man suddenly bursts through the trees and runs up to the Shaman.
Swamp Man Scout speaks very quickly to the Shaman in a breathless voice. He is obviously agitated.
Swamp Man Shaman turns to the new arrival in surprise. A small hiss escapes his toothy lips.
Mistress Bianca: That doesn’t sound good.
Bart: who is attacking?
Swamp Man Shaman becomes tense as he listens, hissing out in spats at the new arrived scout.
Swamp Man Scout points at Casdegere, Bianca and the others and hisses.
Swamp Man Shaman suddenly hisses very loud baring his worn teeth.
Casdegere Constantine growls and moves quickly to his pack.
Casdegere Constantine immediately he begins suiting up.
The swamp men suddenly tense and grip their spears.
Bart: Are we the thieves?
Swamp Man Shaman: We are betrayed! The thin skin has broken the bonds.
Mistress Bianca: What do you mean?
Swamp Man Shaman turns towards you.
Casdegere Constantine: They speak of Hoyt.
Casdegere Constantine says as he clasps his last cinch.
Swamp Man Shaman: Our lands have been violated. An ancient relic has been stolen by a thin skin. Tarshaldin’s Shining Spear has been taken!
Casdegere Constantine: NO! HE is NOT one of us!
The guard look at the Shaman with uncertain eyes, perhaps wondering if they must slay the thin skins.
Casdegere Constantine: HE is an enemy to us both.
Swamp Man Shaman: Hold spears!
One of the guards slowly pulls back the spear he had pointed at Casdegere.
Swamp Man Shaman seems to be thinking as his head is lowered. His whole body seems to shift as if touched by unseen gentle winds.
Casdegere Constantine picks up his shield and sets his sword in its sheath.
Many Swamp Man eyes watch Casdegere’s sword as it enters the sheath.
Casdegere Constantine: where!?
Casdegere Constantine he growls, almost beyond furious.
Swamp Man Shaman eyes rolls up into his head and his body arches unnaturally. His clawed hands spread wide and he speaks in a raspy voice.
Bart: They ran to the west.
Mistress Bianca grips her staff in her right hand and waits for all hell to break loose.
Casdegere Constantine lifts his spear and gives a nod to Rikard who looked as if he to were ready.
Swamp Man Shaman: Return Tarshaldin’s Shining Spear to this place by dawn after the Night of the New Moon. If you succeed the bond made between our people will stand. But know this, if Tarshaldin’s Shining Spear is not here before sun has touched the sky every living man, woman and child will be put to the spear. Kith’takharos will burn.
Mistress Bianca: Bart, when will that be?
Casdegere Constantine: Great Shaman, that is exactly what this man wants.
Bart: If the bond still stands then tell us what has occurred.
Bart: In two days.
The Shaman suddenly collapses as if his bone have been removed. The scout kneels at his side and raises his head. The Shaman looks at all of you and tries to speak.
Mistress Bianca kneels down close to hear.
Swamp Man Shaman features return to normal but it is obvious his strength is diminished.
Swamp Man Shaman: An arrogant thin skin whose fingers breath fire desecrated our lands and stole our heritage, Tarshaldin’s Shining Spear. Even now the fires burn in our lands. Spearmen come to gather for the burning of Kith’takaros. You must reach this thief soon if you are to bring the spear here before the dawn after the Night of the New Moon.
Bart: Is there one who can show us the way?
Swamp Man Shaman: My scout tells me he heads towards Kith’takharos based on the tracks though there has been no sighting since he betrayed us.
Swamp Man Shaman hisses to the scout in a short spat of syllables.
Bart: Are we sure it is Hoyt?
Casdegere Constantine: Who else would do such a thing?
Bart: Who else knew we would be here and why would Hoyt head back to the city?
Swamp Man Shaman passes out and is breathing with ragged shallow breaths.
Mistress Bianca quietly Rest easy. We will succeed.
The Scout says something to the guards and one steps aside to open a path out of the circle. All of them look alert and ready to use their spears.
Bart: Time to go.
Swamp Man Scout says in heavily accepted common tongue. “Come.” He walks out of the circle and heads west.
Mistress Bianca: yes…Yes it is.
Swamp man Scout begins trotting, obviously expecting you to follow.
Mistress Bianca stands up and quickly follows.
Casdegere Constantine stops near the shaman.
Casdegere Constantine: You will have the spear returned, I give you my word.
Casdegere Constantine heads forward and follows behind quickly.
Swamp Man Scout covers ground fast, and you seems to return much more quickly than you thought possible. Maybe the scout knows a more direct path. But some time before morning he points out some tracks he is following, tracks from booted feet. Eventually you reach the outskirts of Kith’takharos, the eastern part of town near Cadegere’s house. The tracks fade into the hard packed road. The scout says, “Here find.”
The early morning fog is beginning to drift through the streets.
Swamp Man Scout hisses at you before heading back into the trees.
Bart scans the area looking to pick up the trail.
Mistress Bianca (panting): If the thief is Hoyt, I doubt he would come back to town.
Bart: What about Koran?
Bart kneels and examines the dirt. The tracks head towards the main stone road that bisects town, near to the location of The Last Stop.
Mistress Bianca: I trust no one in this.
Bart: He headed towards the last stop.
When you reach the road, the trail gets cold. However, the last tracks angle south. The fog is noticeably thicker.
Bart: Someone should have seen something. A big spear would be out of place.
Bart: unless the fog hid it.
Mistress Bianca looks at Rikards and Casdegere’s spears.
Now you can’t see more than 15-20 feet through the fog.
Mistress Bianca: Would it be so out of place? However you are right, someone had to have seen something. And there is one other thing. We should warn the Lady because if we fail…
Bart heads off down the street looking for another living being.
Your footfalls echo with a hollow reverberation. The village seems oddly quiet. Then you suddenly hear some whistling through the fog, straight ahead. The buildings to either side are like ghost buildings. Only the stone under foot seems solid. The whistling grows louder. It is a happy tune, accompanied by rapid footfalls. The whistling grows louder. It is a happy toon, accompanied by rapid footfalls.
Mistress Bianca seems deep in thought and mumbling to herself.
Mistress Bianca stops and listens pulled out of her thoughts.
Koran Thelig strides from the fog and almost bulls Bart over.
Koran Thelig appears startled. “You trying to scare me to death? What are you doing out here?”
Casdegere Constantine moves over quickly and lifts him up by the scruff of his neck.
Bart: Check their weapons.
Koran Thelig smiles and lets Casdegere proceed. “This is more like it. I’m heading up the road. Shall you carry me to the keep?”
Casdegere Constantine with one hand lifts Koran off of his feet and level with his own face.
Koran Thelig turns his head to one side. “What did you eat for dinner?”
Casdegere Constantine: The shining spear has been stolen, and right now I’ll believe anyone could of taken it.
Casdegere Constantine growls loudly in his face, an angry, menacing look in his eyes.
Koran Thelig: Does this mean you won’t carry me to the keep?
Casdegere Constantine: DO you know what that means!? if we don’t get it back, everyone here is dead.
Bart for once gladly lets Casdegere rage.
Koran Thelig: Please put me down.
Casdegere Constantine growls and slams Koran down.
Koran Thelig takes the fall gracefully and rolls to his feet. “You done?”
Casdegere Constantine angles his spear toward him in an offensive stance.
Koran Thelig: You don’t want to do this. Stand down.
Casdegere Constantine: Who took the spear Koran? I tire of your indifference.
Koran Thelig brushes away a wisp of fog curling before his face. “How the Hell should I know. I didn’t know any spear had been stolen. What spear? Who’s spear?”
Casdegere Constantine looks to Bart, unable to form the competent words to explain.
Bart: We were set up. The thief used our visit with the swamp man as a distraction to steal one of their relics. If we do not retrieve it the city will burn.
Koran Thelig: You should pick someone else to push around. You just about pushed me too far, son, fair warning.
Koran Thelig stares at Bart. “I must tell Lady Salmissra. Who made this threat to you?”
Bart: The swamp men. Ohh and you have just walked over what was left of our trail. Did you see anyone while whistling up the street?
Mistress Bianca: Koran we distrust everyone, everyone, because the thief returned to town. And I like you, but I still cannot trust anyone. I have an idea though.
Koran Thelig: Swamp Men? Which Swamp Men? Which tribe? I saw no one. People stay home when the fog comes up.
Mistress Bianca: Bright Water and it was their shaman.
Casdegere Constantine: We have until dawn to get it back, or blood will fill these streets.
Bart: We don’t have time to babysit you Koran.
Koran Thelig: Shit! If they turn on us, the Blood Scar won’t be far behind. Let’s get up to the keep. She’s got to know.
Bart starts down the street again.
Casdegere Constantine follows quickly behind.
Mistress Bianca: I will Tell the Lady.
Mistress Bianca: We cannot lose the trail.
Mistress Bianca: Bart and Casdegere I think Koran should stay with you two.
The air suddenly feels thicker, and movement becomes difficult. The thick fog envelops you. You hear the Shaman’s raspy voice echo through the town, “Follow him!” The ground underfoot shifts, and you almost stumble. You struggle to regain your bearings, immediately recognizing that your environment has changed. The smells, humidity, and sounds are different. Then a man charges into the fog, running when you can barely move an arm through the viscous air. He bumps into you as he passes, and you begin a slow motion fall towards the ground. He carries a long spear fashioned of some bluish crystal; the spear sparkles, even though the fog contains no light source. The man disappears into the fog.
Now the fog vanishes without a trace, and you are bathed in shade-dappled sunlight that streams through the trees. You hit the ground hard and the air is forced from your lungs. You breathe in wheezing gasps, struggling to understand your new surroundings. You are in the swamp. It is daylight. Clear tracks from two boots head toward the east. From the spacing of the prints, the feet were running. You know that you must follow, for he has the spear.
Casdegere Constantine chokes back for air and staggers into a run.
Bart struggles to keep up with Cas.
It is hot, very hot, and humid. The sun overhead indicates almost noon.
Bart trots looking for further signs.
Mistress Bianca regains her composure and follows Bart as soon and as quickly as she can falling in close behind when she catches up.
Bart finds footsteps heading northeast, running tracks a few hours old.
Bart: Casdegere, This way.
Casdegere Constantine turns quickly almost losing his footing, pauses panting and runs in the new direction.
The tracks are clear. The runner made no effort to hide the tracks. The widely spaced boot prints and broken branches imply desperation. At least twice the tracks encounter other groups of tracks. The trail shows no signs of conflict, and many more boot prints afterward. With each man gathered, the quarries pace slows and you gain. You estimate that thief has acquired about ten men.
Bart: It appears that you shall be tested today.
Casdegere Constantine panting.
Casdegere Constantine: Then so be it.
Bart: I count at least 8 set of tracks.
Casdegere Constantine: Less poachers for us to find then after this is over and done for I will seek no surrender and give no quarter here.
Bart: Well then at least disarm him so that I can take the spear and run.
Bart says jokingly.
Casdegere Constantine: I will bear the spear back if it were plunged into my chest for my word was given.
Bart: Great – And guess who gets to carry you. Better to stay alive so that you can walk.
Casdegere Constantine chuckles and pants at the same time.
_Noon passes and afternoon wears on. The trail has grown tantalizingly fresh. Your quarry is only a few hours ahead. Then you duck beneath a branch, step from behind a tree, and stop, stunned by an amazing view. A stone monolith rises without taper at least 100 feet above the ever-damp ground. The foliage surrounding the structure has not been cleared, but is less fecund, so that only weeds and clusters of mushrooms grow near the walls.
Splotches of mold and age stain the dark stone. The structure has so many sides that its shape approximates a circle. Each side measures about 30 feet in length. A handful of windows are black openings near the rooftop. The roof shows no crenellation or other obvious defenses. Double doors wide enough to admit three men abreast open on a wide landing. Three stairways of lighter stone ascend to the doors, standing out in contrast to the dark walls. One stairway extends straight from the doors while two others approach them from along the walls. A score of muddy footprints climb the stairs toward the double doors._
Casdegere Constantine pauses and looks on at the tower.
Mistress Bianca (whispers): Well…what the hell.
Casdegere Constantine: What in the nine hells is that?
Mistress Bianca turns her head slowly to face Casdegere.
Mistress Bianca (plainly and bluntly): A tower.
Bart reaches down by his side and pets his faithful companion. “Stay here.”
Bart: Shall we enter?
Mistress Bianca: We have to.
Casdegere Constantine shows his teeth and lurches forward toward the doors.
On closer inspection, the walls are composed of large, closely fitted blocks. The cracks between blocks are so thin that the slimmest blade would have trouble fitting between them. Despite the patina of age, extensive pitting and fine, spider web cracks, the stone has not crumbled and appears structurally sound.
Bart: Spirits of the swamp, help me forestall the needless death.
Mistress Bianca: God, we have not spoken in some long time. But I will forgive you if you let us see this thing through and return the spear.
The doors are composed of the same stone as the stairways, with no visible hinges. Each door has a shallow circular depression at chest height where one would expect a handle. The lip of the depression has a handhold that provides an easy grip.
Casdegere Constantine shifts his spear to his shield hand and grasps one of the handles.
Bart opens the other.
The door feels stuck in place.
Casdegere Constantine pulls on his door.
A gentle tug does not budge the door, but a more determined pull releases some mechanism or magic that keeps the door closed. With an audible “pop” the door silently glides outward. A score of muddy footprints cluster on the entryway stairs.
Casdegere Constantine pulls on the door.
Bart pulls the other.
The second set of doors opens onto a corridor that curves both left and right. The arc of the curve suggests the corridor might loop around the interior in a circle. A faint yellow glow emanates from somewhere past the bend to the left.
Bart looks for more mud.
_Two sets of footprints turn right at the curved corridor, while a large group turns left.
The only light is the sun entering from outside, and the faint yellow light around the bend to the left._
Bart: The group went that way except for two.
Casdegere Constantine: Follow the few.
Bart disappears (?)
The only light is from the outside right now, and that dims the further you go.
Casdegere Constantine sighs and drops his pack.
Casdegere Constantine he rifles through it and pulls out a torch and his flint.
The torch flares to life.
Casdegere Constantine exhales a plethora of muffled foulness exits his lips as he manages to light his torch.
Casdegere Constantine briskly hands it to Bart.
Casdegere Constantine then puts his flint back in his pack and heaves it back onto his back.
The footsteps go right into the side corridor, but also go forward around the bend.
Rikard Castleberry: “Cool.”
Bart looks down both corridors.
Bart: It wouldn’t be the room closest to the door.
The footsteps go to the left door of the short corridor. They also continue around the bend. The door resembles the outer doors.
Casdegere Constantine pulls on the door.
The door opens with a brisk pull, releasing a wall of fetid air that induces momentary nausea. Moldering piles of wood and cloth are scattered about the room. Rusted pieces of metal and metallic objects hang from wall hooks and litter the floor. Nothing retains enough shape or integrity to discern its original purpose.
Casdegere Constantine: Bah.
Mistress Bianca looks to Bart for direction.
_Bart follows the 2 sets of footsteps. They pass the side corridors. The footsteps continue around the bend. Yes. Where the circle is drawn on the wall you see a weak yellow glow;
Weaker than a torch, very feeble. The x shows where the 2 footprints meet up with the larger group, they all head down the side corridor. You see the yellow light is a small glowing gem. And now that you see it, you notice something else. At roughly ten-foot intervals, a fist-sized orange gem has been mounted on the wall at chest level. The gem has the oblong shape of an egg and perfect three-sided facets. No nicks or scratches mar the smooth, opaque planes. The gem fits perfectly within a socket, its surface protruding slightly from the wall._
Bart puts out the torch.
Bart can see slightly ahead as his eyes become accustomed to the faint yellow glow. Past the corner, the corridor slopes upward. The footsteps all go this way but without the torch, it is blackness ahead.
Bart touches one of the gems.
Bart thinks light and tries to move it.
When Bart attempts to turn the gem, it does not move. However, it does glow weakly with the light of a tiny candle.
Bart: We can use these or the torch. The torch will give us away a lot sooner.
Casdegere Constantine: Let them come to us, it will end a lot sooner.