Mistress Bianca returned a couple of hours ago. It is nearly an hour before midnight and your plans for tomorrow are in full bloom.
Mistress Bianca idly pages through a book called, “The World Around You”.
Mistress Bianca sighs breaking the silence.
Mistress Bianca: So, what do we know about this job again?
Rikard Castleberry: We are to meet Jorian sooner or later for more details, the utilities to take what he wants, and presumably a good direction to head.
Darren: Why have these spiders suddenly become so important?
Rikard Castleberry: Also Darren, as to what all is going on, well, this is a very complicated place, as you know. To your question, that I do not know. That is what bothers me. Why them now? why all of a sudden? And why us? Surely they have teams that normally go out to fetch things.
Darren: And why is it so important that we go unseen?
Mistress Bianca: It seems that there are more unknowns than there are knowns.
Rikard Castleberry: Also, I’m sure that this is wanted to be kept quite quiet.
Mistress Bianca: What did he say we are to fetch?
Rikard Castleberry: He wasn’t exact with it, he seemed nervous talking about it in the open as it is. I assume that he will tell us completely when we meet up later. That also bothers me a bit, sneaky work isn’t exactly my strong suit.
Darren: Doesn’t Mr. Odessa work for the Mistress?
Mistress Bianca: The Lady you mean? Everyone in the Order serves the Lady in some form or another.
Darren: Then we would be serving under an official capacity, the need for secrecy indicates something…more. I am altogether surprised Mr. Bart would agree to this endeavor at all to be honest.
Darren gives Bart a sidelong glance.
Mistress Bianca: I wouldn’t read too much into that yet. Political intrigue around here seems limited to the Order verses the Guild. With me included in this foray that bumps that would be just silly. Anyway, as soon as my package arrives from my uncle I think we should head over there.
Bart: What is surprising about it? They have asked for a piece of web. The swamp provides all manor of materials.
As the night draws on while making plans Mistress Bianca occasionally turns her masked visage towards the heavy door of her chamber. As if on cue footsteps can be heard coming near. No one is surprised at the firm knock upon the firm timbers that follows.
Darren: Perhaps but I have seen what they do to some of the animals that the Order needs supplies from. I would be inclined to debate further but I will trust your judgment Mistress in the here and now.
Bart: Giving them a piece of web shall not tame the animals. The swamp has a way of protecting its own.
Mistress Bianca rises and moves to the door. “What is it?”
Darren quiets so as to hear the exchange.
Federico: It is I, Federico.
Mistress Bianca opens the door. “Come in Mr. Federico.”
Federico enters carrying a triangular object. “I bring something that should aid you in your task.”
Mistress Bianca looks closely but does not take the object.
Federico places the object upon a table. “I spent some time convincing Meryl that we should use this. It is very valuable. Priceless.”
Rikard Castleberry: What’s this?
Federico: A Harlass Orn storage device. We have placed the wooden frame around it so that it is less likely to be accidentally triggered.
Mistress Bianca: What does it do?
The Aetherogenic Staging Device is formed as a triangular 1” plate of black metal. The metal has a matte finish which makes it somewhat uncomfortable to the touch. On the center of each side is a thumb-sized dot. The flowing script of the Ancient Harlass Orn may be found above each dot. Each dot represents a separate access to the Aether.
Bart: We must get to Harlass Orn.
Darren: In English if you please?
Mistress Bianca: I am not familiar with its use. Could you elaborate?
Rikard Castleberry: Maybe this isn’t something I should touch.
Federico: There are three holding areas. Put an object atop the device. Press a button. The object will vanish. Puss the button again. The object returns, unchanged as if time had not passed. Each button corresponds to a different holding area. As far as I can tell, they do not mix. I’m sure Huygens Tierney would kill us all without a thought to gain this device.
Mistress Bianca: Intriguing. Is there anything in it being stored right now?
Federico: No. You may test it.
Darren: Wait, am I to assume if we take this with us, we are responsible for its return?
Federico: A spider would probably fit within and be unharmed upon your return.
Darren: A spider? A live spider?
Mistress Bianca picks it up and brings it over to her night stand and picks up the light gem that has been sitting there.
The light green gem vanishes when Mistress Bianca presses the button on the device.
Darren gives Bart another quick glance before he returns his gaze.
Federico: You will have to discuss responsibility with Meryl. I was tasked to merely deliver it and explain how to use it. But it is priceless, so you should be able to reason out the consequences of its loss.
Bart: Why would we need it?
Federico: To carry back live spiders.
Darren decides that now that the door is opened, he will slink back into a corner and listen.
Bart: Why would we be collecting spiders?
Federico turns to Bianca. “Have you not explained this to them?”
Mistress Bianca: It actually completely slipped my mind. I am actually a bit embarrassed and I apologize.
Bart looks at Bianca.
Federico: Well, then allow me to apologize for snapping at you. I’m sure you will explain the situation to your colleagues.
Mistress Bianca: I believe Uncle wants a specimen of one of these spiders. As a supplement to swamp plant trade I suspect that there are other things of interest out here. There are obviously monetary as well as many other imaginable gains to be made here.
Federico: Ah…Meryl would like two. That would provide a higher likelihood of species propagation.
Mistress Bianca: I was honestly thinking more of the potion requests I made of uncle and forgot about him saying that.
Rikard Castleberry: I’m not checking to see if we have a male and female spider, thank you very much!
Mistress Bianca: About those potions, Mister Federico, did he send them as well? Bart: I do not think that bringing the spiders back would be wise. Not if there are children in the town.
Bart: Or wooden buildings.
Federico reaches out into the hallway for a burlap sack. The clinking of metal can be heard. “I have them here.”
Darren: Come now Bart, many species of animals are harvested from the swamps. I assumed that is why you spent so little time here in the city or, village as it were. Potions, salves, you name it, many plants and animals are…processed for profit.
Mistress Bianca: Leave them Mister Federico. It seems we have some things to discuss.
Federico hesitates for a moment. “All is well? You will continue with the, ah…mission?”
Bart: I understand your desire for money. I just do not believe that it is wise to sleep with a swamp dragon just because I can make some coin.
Mistress Bianca: If our discussion proves otherwise I will let you and Uncle know.
Mistress Bianca moves to the door and holds it open until Federico leaves.
Darren: For profit I am willing to do just that, however, for friendship, will you…Mr. Bart?
Rikard Castleberry wonders to himself what would happen if he put someone’s hand on top and hit the button.
Federico: Your uncle would like to bid you farewell before you leave. Shall I tell him when you will visit?
Mistress Bianca: Soon.
Federico: Then I will ask him to stay awake until then.
Mistress Bianca: Thank you.
Federico bows and steps backward out the door. He then turns and walks down the hall.
Bart: The swamp has been my friend for a long time. I shall not stop you from foolishness, just tell you how you look.
Mistress Bianca shuts the door and waits a few moments before turning.
Mistress Bianca: I know nothing of these spiders and I will not do anything that will destroy the town.
Darren: Well I am not leading this expedition; I am only making sure of your intentions considering the task at hand.
Mistress Bianca: With that said I would still like to go and see what we are dealing with. If the danger is too great I will not take that danger back here. If I have to take heat from uncle for that, I will.
Rikard Castleberry: Does anyone else have the feeling that working for 2 different groups of folks at the same time may be a bad idea?
Darren: No one has forbid us to do so Mr. Castleberry. I am sure there are lots of webs and lots of spiders to go around.
Mistress Bianca: No Rikard, Not at all, Not one friggen bit.
Bart just shakes his head.
Bart: The spiders were just a short stop on the way to the ruins.
Rikard Castleberry: Well, I suppose all we can do at this point is trudge forward. Go meet up with Jorian, head out, kill anything that attacks me, and collect stuff.
Darren: Are you saying Bart, that…the powers that be, expect us to check out these ruins?
Mistress Bianca: I am interested in the money. I am more interested in knowing what is out there. If I were to guess these spiders may be a danger to Kith’ regardless of what we do out there. Other people who may use them against us.
Mistress Bianca: I am even more interested in solving your mystery Bart.
Bart: I am saying that the Spirits are leading us to the ruins.
Darren now shakes his head.
Mistress Bianca: And on top of all my interest is this aching feeling I have that it will rain fire on us if we do nothing.
Bart: Then shall we go?
Mistress Bianca: Anyway. I will tell uncle that we will use our discretion in bringing back the spiders. I have no qualms about bringing him some silks if that is all we can bring. If the cost of these potions is the spiders I will return them to him.
Rikard Castleberry: Indeed we should.
Mistress Bianca picks up the triangle and the sacks of potions. as well as the rest of her gear.
Mistress Bianca: Join me in audience with Uncle if you wish, otherwise I will meet you outside.
Mistress Bianca heads to Meryl’s rooms.
Darren: I have to collect my gear as well.
Mistress Bianca heads to speak with Meryl Dunestal while the others prepare for their journey. It is perhaps half an hour past midnight.
Bart: Are we meeting with Jorian?
Rikard Castleberry: Yes, it may be a tad early still, however.
Meryl Dunestal sits in the small private study you met him at earlier this evening.
Mistress Bianca: Good evening Uncle.
Meryl Dunestal stands.
Meryl Dunestal: Yes, good evening or morning perhaps. Federico mentioned his concerns to me. Are you all aligned with the parameters I’ve set?
Mistress Bianca: We have agreed. Here is what we intend. Since we know nothing of these spiders, we will only bring them back if they do not pose significant danger to the town. I would hate to have saved the town only to burn it down weeks later.
Meryl Dunestal looks at you for a moment and then gestures for you to sit.
Mistress Bianca sits.
Meryl Dunestal steps over to a black wicker chair and sits as well.
Meryl Dunestal: Did you know that I must pay whatever the seasonal price is for processed swamp plant products? Not that it bears much on this conversation but it is galling.
Mistress Bianca listens politely.
Meryl Dunestal: Let me assure you that it is not in my best interest, or the Transit Guild’s to endanger Kith’takharos. It would not go well for me should anything devastating occur.
Mistress Bianca nods in agreement.
Meryl Dunestal: Bring me the spiders if you can. That is all I ask. The device I am loaning to you should prove more than safe for transporting them here. After that, responsibility would fall squarely upon my shoulders.
Mistress Bianca: I understand Uncle. I just had an idea.
Meryl Dunestal bows slightly while spreading his hands palms up.
Mistress Bianca: I of course will have to discuss this with the group first but If I may bring back eggs instead of adults it would be safer. They would hatch and be weaker and more manageable.
Mistress Bianca: Would that be better?
Meryl Dunestal: I will leave you to decide what would work out best. You understand my goals, what more could I ask for?
Mistress Bianca: ...A hug?
Meryl Dunestal: But of course.
Meryl Dunestal stands and hugs Mistress Bianca.
Mistress Bianca stands and hugs Meryl.
Meryl Dunestal: Be safe out there.
Mistress Bianca: I will endeavor to do so accordingly.
Meryl Dunestal: Now I am off to an important duty.
Mistress Bianca: Sleep?
Meryl Dunestal opens the door for Mistress Bianca and laughs lightly.
Meryl Dunestal: But of course.
Mistress Bianca picks up her things and heads out to her group mates.
Meryl’s footsteps fade leaving Mistress Bianca to her own thoughts. After almost an hour Darren comes waltzing up, geared for adventure. You are all just inside the Transit Guild compound.
Mistress Bianca: It went well.
Rikard Castleberry: Nice coat there Darren, it’s probably going to get dirty though.
Darren: Well I hope you will refrain from getting blood stains on it.
Rikard Castleberry: I will do my best to slay anything away from your coat, if I can.
Rikard Castleberry giggles to himself.
Bart: You are going to the swamp…
Rikard Castleberry: Yes Bart, and while I would prefer to not kill things, I don’t like it when stuff jumps out at me with big fangy teeth that drool.
Mistress Bianca: Shall we then?
Bart: Well, It will be mostly pincers and little drool.
Darren: I am following you.
It is dark and the fog is heavy upon the town of Kith’takharos. You are waved in and told to meet Jorian at the docks here at the Jade Leaf Compound.
Jorian Odessa: Good morning friends. I see you’ve all gathered and you look ready to go. Excellent.
Jorian Odessa turns to Rikard.
Jorian Odessa: You’ve explained everything to your friends?
Rikard Castleberry: To the best of what you told me earlier, yes.
Jorian Odessa: Then I’ll just go over a summary. Oh and I almost forgot. I think you’ll like this part.
Jorian Odessa turns towards the water where there is a skiff prepared to go out. There is a military heavy crossbow mounted in the center of the skiff.
Darren nods appreciatively.
Jorian Odessa: This is now your skiff. Feel free to work out a deal with Vladimir for docking it upon your return. Dorian thought that you shouldn’t have to ask for something as necessary as a skiff to get around in. You’ll find her decked out with a case full of bolts for the crossbow, extra line, anchor, water casks…well you know, the stuff you’ll need.
Rikard Castleberry: Does it have a name?
Jorian Odessa: Anyhow, under that tarp there in the back you’ll find 12 pots to put the webbing into. Obviously we’d like them all filled, but we need at least four.
Rikard Castleberry: This looks like a very nice skiff.
Jorian Odessa: Yes, as a matter of fact the skiff has a name. You may call it the “Bucksome Lass.”
Mistress Bianca: What do you know about these spiders? So they poison? Spit fire?
Darren chuckles at the name.
Bart: I was thinking something like Casdegere’s Wake.
Jorian Odessa: What I know from debriefing our team is that the webs are particularly flammable and the spiders are small, red and produce gouts of flame. “Oh, and before I forget, I urge you not to kill all the spiders. If the web proves as useful as I hope, we will need to return for more.
Mistress Bianca: We have a few questions.
Jorian Odessa: As it turns out we’ve a few minutes. Feel free to pry me like I’ve drunk a bottle of Kith’takharos’ finest.
Mistress Bianca: 1, Why us? 2, Why the sneaking? and 3, What do you want the silks for?
Jorian Odessa Looks quite surprised.
Jorian Odessa: Well, let me answer these questions in order. You are talented and more importantly successful. Success counts for much. Sneaking might not be the right term but I expect you to keep this mission confidential. You are working in an official government capacity. The silks are extremely flammable. We want them to experiment with. Does this address your questions well?
Mistress Bianca: Yes.
Darren decides to stay quiet for now.
Rikard Castleberry: Well Jorian, it will probably take us a couple days at least, if we’re to be careful.
Jorian Odessa: Frankly, I’m not concerned how long it takes. It’s your boat and getting the web silk intact is important. I trust you to get back when you can.
Mistress Bianca: ok I have one last question. Where exactly was the last place these spiders were found?
Jorian Odessa: Ah, do you have the map you showed me earlier Rikard?
Rikard Castleberry: Let me look in my bags.
Rikard Castleberry fumbles around in his bag, finally showing everyone the map from before.
Rikard Castleberry: Well then, Darren do you know how to operate that crossbow?
Darren rubs his hands and steps forward.
Darren: Hell yeah.
Bart glances at the map to get an idea of where we are going.
Rikard Castleberry: Well, shall we head out before it gets too busy around here to make good time?
Mistress Bianca: Yes. I think that is a good idea.
The first rays of the sun brighten the morning fog as Jorian hustles you down to the Order’s docks. He wants to get you away before the fog burns away and Transit Guild eyes watch the waterways. You pole west and Kith’takharos quickly falls behind. You soon round the southwestern corner of the island and head north through a wide channel. Trees overhang the shores in an impenetrable tangle. You hear animal calls and buzzing insects, and watch birds glide overhead. Sweat seems to condense from the humid air. Near midmorning you turn west again and follow the northern shore of the large island. By early afternoon you are traveling south and begin scanning the shore for the foraging team’s landing site. You pole for a long time, and wonder whether you have passed the spot. But in the early evening, as the heat of the day wanes, you spot a rectangular area where the bushes have been cut and flattened. Next to the clearing, amidst the tangle of brush and twisted tree trunks, you see a dark opening about 12 feet wide and 8 feet high. Hanging vines obscure, but do not block, the interior.
Rikard Castleberry: This seems a good enough spot to stop at.
Bart hops out of the boat to lead it in.
Darren wipes his brow, not quite remembering how hot it gets.
Rikard Castleberry: Well, we should either hide or secure our skiff, so we can make sure it is here when we get back.
Mistress Bianca waits for the guys to land the boat before getting out.
Bart: Of course. Hand me the anchor.
Bart scans the terrain.
Bart: What is our plan?
The entrance must be a section of hallway or corridor. The floor emerges from the water in a crumbled, irregular edge. Beyond the first few feet, the corridor is dark. About 10 feet into the corridor, dense webs extend from floor to ceiling. Anything beyond a few feet becomes indistinct. Then you hear scores of skittering feet clicking against the stone. The sounds quickly grow louder, strangely amplified by the thick webs.
Mistress Bianca: Well think that these are the webs?
Rikard Castleberry: I think we should start collecting the webs here while we have the opportunity.
The skittering is growing closer and is coming from the corridor in front of you.
Darren holds his action.
Rikard Castleberry undoes the cap on the far end of his weapon and takes a semi defensive stance, holding it as a regular spear.
Bart gets down upon his knees at the edge of the webs and starts to sing to the oncoming skittering.
After long moments of attempting to connect and control one of what you feel must be a spider, you remain empty. Without control.
Mistress Bianca pulls out the triangular device.
A red spider zips along the ceiling upside down and stops over Mistress Bianca near Darren. What happens next is not wholly unexpected.
Darren lifts his crossbow and fires his crossbow without thinking.
Darren tries to stop from screaming out loud in fear.
The bolt is very accurate and pierces the spider and sticks. The spider wiggles and gets lucky as all hell.
Radiant Spider: The spider shakes a few moments and the bolt falls out and hits Mistress Bianca at about the same time as a small fireball erupts from the spider.
The flame envelops Mistress Bianca causing great pain. She receives 1 wound and is Shaken!
Radiant Spider#2: Another red 8 legged fire breathing demon spider arrives and shoots forth another fireball at Bart. The hallway lights up like a harvest festival.
Bart too is enveloped in flames. He is burned for 1 wound and is Shaken!
Radiant Spider#3: A third red spider skitters along the ceiling and spouts flame at Rikard.
Rikard feels the heat and is wounded and Shaken!
Radiant Spider: The spider over Mistress Bianca belches forth another fireball.
Luckily it whiffs on past and sizzles upon touching the water.
Radiant Spider#4: A fourth spider now arrives and spouts fire at Rikard.
What luck. This fireball is too weak to do more than look scary.
Radiant Spider#2: The spider on Bart belches forth toward him.
Bart slips to the side avoiding the most unpleasant attack. He tries to shake off the surprise at being attacked. He is successful and is no longer Shaken.
Bart then heads to the water in retreat.
Darren steps over, grabs Bianca and tugs her backward into the water as hard as he can.
Darren: Get into the water! Bart, get Rikard!
Bianca is surprised but does not resist as she is thrown back into the water out of harms way by Darren!
Rikard Castleberry attempts to shake off the cobwebs.
Rikard comes to his senses and is no longer shaken. He quickly realizes his danger as the only one still on the stones.
Rikard Castleberry takes a step back into the water with everyone else.
Everyone is prone using the water for cover from the flaming spiders nearby in the cave.