You gear up and take the time necessary to heal your bodies. A quiet and reflective fortnight passes under the attention of Dr. Cornelius Troost. During this time it becomes evident that you are not the only ones with disturbing dreams. The people of Kith’takharos speak openly of dreams without end, nightmares that refuse to be forgotten, and the now familiar mantra, “Will the dreamers ever awaken?”
Almost a full day has passed as you make the best use of the waterways to return to the Bright Water held tower. Here you still sense the invisible pull that leads you onward towards Tarass Shar Orn.
Reess Whitesmith: “Well that was easy.”
Rikard Castleberry: “That was nice to relax for a few days before dashing into the maw of dooom again.”
Sarrag: “Are you well enough to travel?”
Reess Whitesmith: “Absolutely. Fit as a fiddle.”
Ian Aedan adjusts his gear, patting every spot possible to assure himself he has everything.
Rikard Castleberry: “I think we should dock here, it seems the right place.”
Reess Whitesmith shifts his new pack on his back, not very silently either.
Sarrag: “Aye, It is time to go inland.”
Reess Whitesmith lands the skiff and starts to drag it out of the water.
Sarrag gets out so that Reese has an easier time.
Rikard Castleberry hops off, adjusts his hat, checks his backpack, and starts gazing about.
Reess Whitesmith: “Ok, daylight is burning. Lead on Sarrag.”
Sarrag heads off without the grace of the parties former scout.
Ian Aedan shuffles along in the rear of the group, humming a quiet tune as the group goes.
It is likely that the sun will set in about 2 hours. It has been a long haul to pole out here.
There is no path leading you, only an invisible tug that keeps you moving eastward at this point.
Sarrag: “We shall make camp when light fails us.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Agreed.”
The sun slips low to the horizon and you consider setting up camp. Suddenly, ahead of you there is a large clearing. You are still well covered but it is clear that the jungle gives way to a grassy area ahead.
Reess Whitesmith: “Not tonight guys, we can explore it in the morning.”
Rikard Castleberry: “That seems rather odd; shouldn’t this be still rather thick and not clear?”
Sarrag: “It is odd that the swamp stops.”
Reess Whitesmith: “I expect the odd from here on.”
Ian Aedan pauses and looks ahead, “You’d think in most cases we’d be happy not to trudge through a swamp…but yes, that is odd.”
Sarrag: “Do you want to sleep in the swamp or this flatland?”
Reess Whitesmith: “We are on a task that we do not understand. To an outcome we cannot guess.”
Reess Whitesmith: “I prefer the swamp tonight.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Is anyone against staying under the cover of the swamp tonight?”
Rikard Castleberry: “I would prefer an inn, but barring that, I suppose a swamp will do.”
Ahead you hear the rasping and choking of what must be laughter…from a swamp man!
Sarrag pulls out a piece of smoked jerky and finds a nice piece of muddy ground to sleep in.
Rikard Castleberry: “Laughter? Out here?”
Reess Whitesmith sighs.
Reess Whitesmith: “Guess it will not be uneventful.”
Sarrag: “Shall we issue greetings?”
Ian Aedan: “A copper says they’re laughing at us.”
Another swamp man voice cuts the laughter off, though it is hard to say what was said as it was quite a distance from your hidden location.
Reess Whitesmith: “I suppose.”
Sarrag heads towards the sounds.
Reess Whitesmith sets his pack down then follows hand on rapier and guarding with his shield.
Ian Aedan raises a hand to object, then sighs and starts after the others, unslinging his bow.
Reess Whitesmith: “If they are unfriendly I would rather know before we go to sleep.”
A half dozen Swamp Men are clustered around a stone lined fire pit. A haunch of meat hangs above a low fire on a spit. One of the Swamp Men slowly turns the spit. These are the largest Swamp Men you have ever seen. All are over seven feet tall and very muscular. They wear greenish leather armor and carry spears.
Reess Whitesmith: “Do they look familiar Sarrag?”
Sarrag: “It is hard to see the Clan Markings.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Let me try and describe them. What should I look for?”
Sarrag: “They are experienced Claws.”
Sarrag “It is better not to cower in the shadows.”
Ian Aedan whispers, “What’s that mean?”
Sarrag: “They are fighters.”
As you all get a good look you learn the following:
These Swamp Men hold themselves in the relaxed yet aware stances of veteran warriors. Each also has unusual spots of color on his face: a red circle upon the left cheek, a violet circle upon the right cheek, and a yellow circle upon the forehead. You cannot tell whether the circles are painted or tattooed.
They don’t seem to have noticed you yet as they are talking low, while one of them cooks a haunch of meat that gives off a greasy black smoke.
Sarrag: “Shall I greet them?”
Rikard Castleberry: “We may as well, it will happen sooner or later.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Then let us not catch them by surprise.”
Sarrag: “Greetings Brothers.”
A moment hangs in silence as Sarrag’s words carry across the clearing. As a unit their heads turn towards Sarrag. Then they draw spears and begin walking towards Sarrag with murder in their eyes.
Reess Whitesmith: “Not friendly?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Oh, here we go.”
Ian Aedan gulps, “I told you we should have brought a casserole.”
Sarrag meets their gaze with a glare of equal intensity and does not back down.
The one who was tending the meat picks up his pace and stabs at Sarrag with a curse in swamp man, “Your spear will break and you will bleed at my feet tonight.”
It stabs Sarrag in the shoulder, knocking him off balance, shaking him!
Another covers the distance and stabs at Sarrag without the curse.
The sharp spear is easily deflected into the soft grass and earth beneath it.
Ian Aedan pulls back his bow and lets fly with an arrow, “If they don’t want to share their dinner, they really should just say so.”
The shot slams into a buckler that is raised at the last moment.
Another moves up and throws the spear in its hand towards Reess.
The spear seemed destined to kill and Reess reacted strongly, but stumbled over a stone. The spear whizzed by where his head shoulder should have been.
One of the swamp men run into the forest at the southern end of the clearing.
Rikard Castleberry: “Crap. One ran away. We need to finish this quick.”
Rikard Castleberry steps up to the middle swamp man for a couple attacks.
The first slash opens up the swamp man, producing a terrible wound.
The second shot hammers it full on in the buckler and knocks him over, dead.
Another swamp man runs up hurling a spear at Rikard.
The spear goes wide by over a foot.
Reess Whitesmith steps next to Rikard and lets out a bolt of lightning at 3 of the swamp men.
The lightning bolt coruscates wild heat and energy into the three swamp men, drawing their attention. However, the lightning bolt misses any vital body parts, if they had hair it would be standing on end though.
Sarrag clears his head.
Sarrag: “You dishonor yourselves with this attack against one sent by the forefathers. Your Punishment is foretold.”
Swamp Man: “We are the Guardians of the Forebears, blasphemer!”
Sarrag: “Then you would know of our coming.”
The last of them moves up and enjoins Sarrag. He swings as it approaches, but meets only wind.
A swamp man leaps around another to reach the spell caster.
The swamp man’s attack bites deep into Reess, scoring a wound!
Ian Aedan lines up a shot on the swamp man that just approached Sarrag. The arrow flies true, but bounces off a piece of armor.
Ian Aedan coolly imagines the casserole he could have brought to this occasion.
Rikard Castleberry dashes up to intercept the space between the swamp men and Reess.
As Rikard steps forward he learns to his chagrin that these swamp men are veterans. Both respond to his movement with an attack!
Rikard easily parries one off against the other.
Rikard Castleberry swings twice against the one in front of him, and with a returning strike on the back side against the one to his left.
The pair of them defend themselves against the onslaught, and the front retaliates against Rikard. However, neither blow manages to land.
The one in front strikes out with his spear against Rikard.
Sarrag: “You shall not keep me from my charge, misguided one. The Dreamer’s will awaken.”
Sarrag growls his frustration at his target, trying to make it back down. It resists the intimidation.
Swamp Man: “Eshosh warned of Bright Water lies. Nothing you say or do this day will matter in the end. Your fate is sealed.”
The swamp man on Reess and Rikard stays the course on Reess. It swings twice at the stunned smith, but fails to connect.
The one speaking with Sarrag goes all out. It brutally swings twice. The first stab misses badly. The second connects, but glances off an armored spot.
Reess Whitesmith takes a moment to catch his breath. He recovers, and finds the strength to attack back, wildly! His rapier strike, while strong, fails to find the intended target.
Sarrag sees that talk is useless with these swamplizards and attacks.
Sarrag catches the swamp man slightly off guard and slams his spear into his left lung. He drops as the spear is pulled free and a stream of blood spurts out onto the grasses.
Reess Whitesmith spins the crest on his cloak.
Ian Aedan pulls back another arrow, aiming carefully, and lets fly. The shot slams firmly into the tree.
The swamp man in front of Sarrag is enraged; he hurls the spear at Sarrag and throws himself at him as well.
The attacks do not penetrate Sarrag’s firm defense.
Rikard Castleberry continues upon his path of violence, 2 attacks in front, and 1 to the left. He misses the one to the left. However, he manages to cleave open the femoral artery of the one on his right. It drops like a sack of potatoes. He then glances at the one to his left, blade still covered with blood.
Rikard Castleberry “You’re next, not so thick-skin.”
The untouched swamp man grins wildly and goes at Rikard with reckless abandon.
Rikard, though pressed, manages to hold him off.
The swamp man in front of Sarrag attacks again. The attacks, while violent, miss as Sarrag dodges.
The swamp man in front of Rikard goes wild again, enraged by the words of this thin-skin.
Rikard takes a solid hit from the swamp man to the abdomen, staggering him.
Reess Whitesmith notices the swamp man overexerting himself against Rikard. He takes the opportunity to attack. He stabs it from behind, through the left lung. It coughs up some blood, and then falls over dead.
Rikard Castleberry shakes off the cobwebs, but is unable to act.
Sarrag: “You are finished here. May the Forebears forgive your ignorance.” He stabs out with his spear, but fails to connect.
Ian Aedan fires again. The arrow hits resoundingly strong, and punches through the armor, but not the swamp mans skin.
Swamp Man screams out as he lashes his tail at Sarrag. “Then I will die if it pleases the mother!” The swipes fail to connect.
Sarrag: “Dying will please your Mother and erase her shame.”
Sarrag stabs at the last swamp man, but misses.
Ian Aedan fires another shot at the swamp man. He scores a hit, but not damaging his foe.
Ian Aedan eyes his bow and shakes it, as if that’ll fix the problem.
Reess Whitesmith moves up to the swamp man, drawing an attack!
Sarrag: “Watch out they are quick.”
The attack hits Reess, startling him for a moment, preventing him from acting.
Rikard Castleberry darts around to the side of the last foe and strikes!
Rikard Castleberry hits strongly, shaking his foe.
Ian Aedan lines up and fires another shot at the last swamp man. His shot takes him through the right eye, enucleating him.
Ian Aedan holds up his bow as the swamp man gets hit, “No wonder I kept missing, I had it upside down!”
Rikard Castleberry felt the arrow pass right by his hat.
Just as suddenly as fighting broke out, it is over.
Sarrag goes and makes sure the meat isn’t burnt.
Ian Aedan slings his bow and moves forward, “Is it normal for these fellows to defend their dinner in such a way?”
Rikard Castleberry: “I haven’t encountered any of this type before.”
Sarrag: “They were told that we were coming.”
An old tree sprouts from a small clearing. Mighty in its prime, with a trunk almost ten feet in diameter and a hundred feet high, the tree has been weathered gray. Broken and bare branches jut from a smooth trunk, providing negligible shade from the burning sun. Although the tree has obviously been dead a very long time, the upright trunk hints at ancient glory.
Reess Whitesmith: “They thought we were doing wrong by coming here. My guess is a rival tribe to the Brightwater. That right Sarrag?”
Rikard Castleberry starts dragging the corpses into a pile slightly off to the side after rummaging around for things that were carrying.
Sarrag: “Don’t know. They did not talk.”
Each swamp man has peculiar green leather armor, three spears balanced for throwing and fighting, a buckler, and spear holder strapped to back.
Rikard Castleberry: “Ian, I would suggest wiping off that arrowhead in the swamp man’s eye before using it again.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Who is Ehosh?”
Sarrag: “Some fool.”
Ian Aedan retrieves what arrows he cans and wipes them off, “Eye goo does throw off the balance.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Anyone need a spear or a spear holder before I toss these in the fire?”
Reess Whitesmith: “Hmmm vitreus humour.”
Reess Whitesmith grabs a jar and scoops some in.
Sarrag: “Anyone want some dinner?”
Rikard Castleberry: “What were they cooking?”
They were cooking a fatty chunk of carnivorous lizard. The viscera lies near the edge of the jungle to the north.
Reess Whitesmith: “There is still one out there.”
Sarrag says something in swampmanese.
Sarrag: “I think it translates to chicken.”
Ian Aedan checks out the dinner and sniffs, “No offense meant Sarrag…but isn’t a swamp man eating a lizard creature sort of…cannibalistic?”
Sarrag: “No more then you eating a goat.”
Sarrag: “Besides it tastes good.”
Reess Whitesmith stands by the tree and closes his eyes, shutting out the sights of the swamp, He concentrates to shut out the noises and smells. He tries to feel the tugging on his soul he felt minutes before.
Ian Aedan: “Well, can’t argue with taste.”
Rikard Castleberry thinks about be compared to a goat for a minute, and then forgets it.
Ian Aedan whispers to Rikard, “It’s cause at one point or another, we were all kids.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Do you think they were here guarding this tree? “
Rikard Castleberry: “It’s a rather nice tree.”
Reess Whitesmith: “We are here.”
Sarrag: “It’s dead.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Feel it?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Um.”
Sarrag: “Excuse me?”
Rikard Castleberry concentrates.
Reess Whitesmith: “The pull on your soul.”
Sarrag: “Is that something you thinskins do after a battle?”
Reess Whitesmith: “Come here.”
Sarrag: “Turn the meat, please.”
Rikard Castleberry turns the meat.
Sarrag walks towards the tree
Reess Whitesmith: “Now do you feel it?”
Ian Aedan makes his way over to the tree. “I’m not sure I feel anything.”
Sarrag: “You are correct, the tree is our goal.”
Reess Whitesmith: “They were here guarding it from us.”
Reess Whitesmith looks off into the distance.
Rikard Castleberry: “Is there an entrance?”
Sarrag: “Let us sleep next to the tree for guidance.”
Reess Whitesmith: “There is still one out there who wants to stop us.”
It is about this time that you realize the light of the fire has overtaken as your primary light source.
Rikard Castleberry: “Just 1?”
Reess Whitesmith: “The one who ran to warn others.”
Sarrag: “Then we should eat.”
Rikard Castleberry: “That’s fine; we can do shorter sleeping shifts then tonight.”
Ian Aedan: “Well, at least someone else made the fire for a change.”
Rikard Castleberry: “That was rather nice of them, wasn’t it?”
Reess Whitesmith sits down by the fire looking out to the wooded areas. his eyes more adapted to this light then the others.
Reess Whitesmith: “Is the meat ready to eat?”
Rikard Castleberry: “I think so.”
Rikard Castleberry: “I don’t see any plates, so you probably should just tear off a chunk.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Rikard, can you help me with this wound?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Yes. Ian, would you be so kind as to watch this for me?”
Ian Aedan sits by the fire and watches it, “Sure thing. I’m pretty sure the fire won’t be going anywhere.”
Rikard Castleberry starts wrapping the wound, cleaning it. He manages to repair Reess’s wound.
Sarrag uses his tail to turn the spit.
Rikard Castleberry: “I knew those hours spent sawing off limbs would come into play sooner or later.”
Rikard Castleberry: “I mean.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Um.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Never mind.”
The meat is delicious, even without plates, knives and forks.
Rikard Castleberry: “Who wants first watch?”
Reess Whitesmith: “Thanks. I will.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Let’s rest under the tree.”
Rikard Castleberry sits against the tree, getting into a comfortable position.
Rikard Castleberry soon falls asleep with the speed of someone who has done it several times before.
Morning arrives and you realize the night has passed without incident.
Sarrag: “Now what?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Let’s fully look around now that there is good light.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Ok, ummm…”
There is plenty of leftover meat to eat.
Sarrag: “My sleep was restful without interruptions.”
Rikard Castleberry tentatively pushes on the tree to see how solid it is.
Reess Whitesmith studies the tree in detail. Feeling around it and even making a sketch of it.
A good look around the clearing reveals a pit north of the campfire where animal carcasses and bones are heaped.
Sarrag looks to the branches to see if any would make a good spear.
There is only the one large tree in the clearing, which now has visible branches that start about thirty feet up, though it looks like it used to have branches lower in the past, but they have fallen off.
Sarrag: “Did you find a passage into the tree?”
Rikard Castleberry taps the tree with his spear to see what kind of sound it makes.
Rikard Castleberry: “I have not.”
It sounds like you tapped an old dead tree.
Sarrag places his hand upon the tree and envisions his destination like he did with the globe. Nothing happens.
Reess Whitesmith scratches the tree with a rock. There is no result to be seen on the bark.
Rikard Castleberry: “I’m not really sure what to make of this. I am befuddled.”
Ian Aedan: “Maybe…we need to wait for the tree to be in bloom?”
Sarrag sits his back to the tree and starts to meditate until someone thinks of what to do.
Rikard Castleberry “I’m not sure that dead trees bloom.”
Ian Aedan pulls an arrow and puts it in his bow, “Maybe I should shoot it. I’m pretty good at hitting trees lately.”
Reess Whitesmith takes out his greatsword and hacks at the tree once.
The blow hits with a convincing thwack and bounces off resoundingly. There is no mark to be seen on the tree.
Reess Whitesmith: “Hmmmm…”
Reess Whitesmith: “The branches fall off but my sword does nothing.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Bart! If you are listening or watching, help us out here!”
Sarrag thinks about what a great person this Bart must have been.
Ian Aedan picks up one of the branches lying around and smacks the tree with it. “Open up you.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Does the tugging bring you to any particular side?”
Reess Whitesmith: “There is no more tugging.”
The tree is unmoved by Ian’s efforts.
Rikard Castleberry: “Wait, nobody has tried the obvious yet.”
Ian Aedan: “Setting the tree on fire?”
Rikard Castleberry squares himself up in front of the tree and adopts a dramatic stance.
Rikard Castleberry: “We want to awaken the dreamers. Let us inside of Tarass Shar Orn.”
Hope rises as Rikard utters those words…about as fast as it came.
Rikard Castleberry: “Eh. It was worth a try.”
Sarrag: “Maybe this tree is what is keeping the sleepers asleep.”
Reess Whitesmith pulls out a vial of Bart’s blood that he recovered.
Rikard Castleberry stabs at the tree with the pointy end of his spear. “Silly tree!”
It fails to stick into the surface, instead sliding off the surface as if you struck the hardest, smoothest material you could conceive of.
Ian Aedan sits down and stares at the tree, “And thus, the legends go, the great heroes of Kith’takharos spent their remaining days, embarrassed to death that they couldn’t get past a solitary tree.”
Rikard Castleberry frowns at the result.
Reess Whitesmith pours the contents on the tree while praying, “Help us if you are able. Help us Bart by the power of your blood. Let not your purpose end at the repository.”
Rikard Castleberry “Is anyone good at climbing? Maybe there’s something at the top?”
Reess Whitesmith says the prayer out loud as he pours the contents onto the tree.
Moments pass without incident.
Reess Whitesmith: “Burn it.”
Rikard Castleberry: “The tree?”
Reess Whitesmith: “I don’t know.”
Reess Whitesmith: “I was cursing.”
Rikard Castleberry: “I see.”
Ian Aedan: “Someone could threaten to turn it into kindling.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Sarrag do you think this tree is sacred?”
Sarrag: “I doubt the fire would work anyway.”
Rikard Castleberry decides to use the brute force method. He stretches out a bit, then pushes hard with both hands on the tree.
After a thorough exertion, Rikard realizes something shocking…it didn’t move. How odd for a tree that has been dead for as long as it looks. It should have given up its grasp upon the soil before now.
Rikard Castleberry: “Maybe if we toss the dead swamp man bodies at it?”
Reess Whitesmith: “The roots?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Do we have a shovel?”
Reess Whitesmith: “I have a frying pan…”
Rikard Castleberry: “…”
Ian Aedan: “I have an axe.”
Rikard Castleberry looks to see if there are any roots not completely in ground.
There are the normal roots extending above the ground as it smoothes into the trunk.
Reess Whitesmith takes out his grappling hook and rope and tosses it up to the branches.
Rikard Castleberry walks over to a root and pulls at it, testing the durability.
After some tries, you manage to get a hold of a branch.
Reess Whitesmith climbs the rope to that branch.
Rikard Castleberry: “I don’t know what’s with this tree. It’s basically unmovable.”
Rikard Castleberry: “How’s that branch Reess? Solid?”
Reess Whitesmith: “Yes. Anyone try watering it?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Uh, no, actually. I will.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Ok, lemme know. I am gonna go further up.”
Rikard Castleberry takes out a flask and pours out some water into the soil.
The liquid runs down the trunk leaving beads of moisture upon the smooth trunk’s surface.