Return to Mire Port
Back at Mire Port, Ashook looked after all those sick with the Red Flies problem, and Skritt, who was so despondant that he chewed off his own buds so he would not bring little goblins into the world cursed, and eating mostly sorrow stew, a goblin concoction of basement clay and rat blood.
Wayland and Tuleo recovered their wits, to find that Hector was hiring town criers to go to the roughest parts of Mire Port with crude drawings of Tulip and the tidbit that Tulip was wanted by the Pembriss Scholars, with a bounty for 10,000 gold pieces. A tent city of the ugliest thugs in Mire Port sprang up on the city side of the Cleansing Gate, waiting for the gladiator to return so he could be cashed in.
Meanwhile, Ellinda Silverkin came to Mire Port. She had a vision, or dream, about a dragon; she followed her instincts to Mire Port to hear about Tulip’s exploits from the town criers. From there, she checked who was new in town, and as she investigated, she found herself on Ashook’s property facing Geshinara. She asked to be in on the action, and she was told to wait in the basement of the mansion (staying clear of the nutter goblin) until Tulip could decide what to do with her.
That all changed when Tulip and Vayu got back from the Black Mire. They were held extra-long in decontamination in the Cleansing Gate, as a runner spread the news he was back. Wayland, watching the Gate, saw the commotion and went to the mansion to collect more firepower. They gathered at the Gate, along with over a hundred ruffians and cutthroats. With a grim screech, the gate was hauled open. Vayu and Tulip stood cornered, facing a massive mob of ne’er-do-wells.
Rumble at the Cleansing Gate
Combat was joined. As the tide of filthy humanity gushed at them, the adventurers snapped into action. Tulip tore them down with ferocious speed and savagery as Vayu’s constructs protected him; he intimidated the crowd, then tore the life from one of them with dark magics, resorting to his staff to batter them down. Yet more came, and more.
From the rear, Ell and Tuleo attacked, trying to thin the herd as Wayland fired into the mass. The battle churned, those fleeing and those rushing in a tangle of stinking thugs, blood spraying and bodies flying through the air as shouts and screams and the crunch of bone were lost in the roar of battle-mad fury.
Wayland spotted Hector maneuvering into position near Tulip and Vayu—atop the wall, safely out of the fray. He fired an arrow, pegging the seedy wizard (after Hector’s spell failed to disable the two brave adventurers fighting for their lives below.) Realizing their peril, Tulip and Vayu also attacked before Hector could stagger away. Tulip flung his massy sword, and it whistled past the wizard. Vayu’s mystic bolt and Wayland’s second arrow knocked the wizard out of sight, lucky to be alive.
The tide of battle well and truly shifted as ten griffon riders descended to preserve the peace. By the time the ring of griffons settled in the mostly abandoned area around Vayu and Tulip, the heroic adventurers as a group had defeated over forty thugs!
The rest of the adventurers sloped off, not wanting to be caught for questioning by the town officials and the Griffon Guard converging on the “disturbance.” Tulip and Vayu surrendered to the Griffon Riders, who pulled them up on the griffon mounts and flew them to the Skyview Tower.
Leaving Mire Port
There, they had a chance to clean up and bind their wounds, then they were shown in to meet with the Griffon Magus Cholran, an old man with long white hair. Cholran didn’t care much about the bounty, but didn’t want further disruption. He banished Vayu and Tulip from Mire Port. They were given supplies, and a chance to send a message about the success of the holy water to the temple in town, then they were flown out by the Gate Camp.
Word of their banishment spread fast, and the rest of the adventurers met them in the Gate Camp to strategize. Geshinara went back into Mire Port to run errands for them. (She was now pretending to be married to Ashook so she was a citizen, and not charged tax to go through the Cleansing Gate.)
Tuleo had a vision earlier, that if he was going to continue to call upon Thogro for mystic favors, he had to become her servant. He agreed, pledging his service and gaining her holy energies as a cleric. As he recovered from his strange conversion experience, a woman from the camp threw herself at Tuleo’s feet; called Castaway, she had amnesia from a shipwreck, but she felt she belonged to Thogro (and now to Tuleo as Thogro’s representative.) Tuleo didn’t care for her name; he said he would call her when he needed her, and she eagerly adopted the name “Whenynedja” or “Winny” for short.
A short time later, Geshinara brought them the amber they had previously liberated, and a wagon full of sand and rocks from the beach, that Vayu raised up into minions and guards. Geshinara refused to enter the Black Mire again, but she sent her folding boat with them for good fortune. Ell was accepted into the group, and they set out on the boardwalks of the Black Mire yet again.
Again With the Frog God
With the mass of sand and rock minions to stand guard, they slept securely on the boardwalk, and they were not troubled by monsters as they traveled back to the Frog God again. The shokoro were agitated and waiting for them, sensing the approach of the amber. They presented the amber to the Frog God, who emanated a dark glee; one artifact to go!
Following Vayu’s reliable map, they trudged endlessly on the boardwalks, finding the road to Courvon but turning back to the swamps, their task unfinished.
They found a massive tree, unnaturally huge, looking like it could have been a source of wood for the enchanted boardwalk. Wayland hopped off the boardwalk to get a closer look, finding the vast bark etched with symbols of the ghim. As he was returning, he was attacked by a swarm of stirge that had been hanging under the boardwalk; he was on the edge of being overwhelmed when Tuleo swooped down and pulled him back to the boardwalk, where Vayu’s sand minions scoured the stirge off. They traveled a short way, then rested until Wayland recovered his strength. The journey continued.
One night, they encountered a scout with a gator skull helm, one of the Graveguard. Tuleo pulled away from the group a space and had a long, productive chat with the Graveguard scout, learning that there were graves that belonged to the Graveguard that were sacred, and that they might have a bit of cannibalism going on, and that there was a fey lake where people disappeared for a year and a day, or sometimes forever. He got directions to the graves, and instruction not to go there. The curious scout left with the definite impression that these weirdos had a thing for baskets, that’s all they really wanted to know about.
The next day, they traveled to the edge of the boardwalk by the wetlands, and decided to retrace their steps and try to cut through the graves to get close to the lake instead of continuing by boat. Tuleo collected reeds, because his new follower knew how to make baskets, and they should have a cover story/peace offering.
They met with the arrogant and uppity Graveguard, and asked about baskets. Someone important from the camp (a magnificent spined fish skull helm) told them that the fey did have a basket. To justify all the questions, Tuleo (now the spokesman of the adventurers) explained they were basket connoisseurs, looking for exciting baskets in the Black Mire. The adventurers learned that the cannibals used the skulls of family to make braided-hair-handled skull “baskets” full of magic ju-ju.
Tuleo offered the now-unladen donkey and the modest reed basket Winny made in exchange for safe passage, and the Graveguard countered that they could not see the graves. All agreed, they were escorted around the Graveguard lands. They slogged through the marsh on the far side to where the boardwalk picked up again, and hiked along it to where Vayu’s mystic sigils from his last adventure in the marsh appeared on the intersection.
Confident they knew where they were, they discussed the prospect of striking out across the marsh in a boat and hoping to find the lake. Disliking their odds, they decided to return to the Graveguard and negotiate passage to a clear line of travel to the lake, in exchange for a bigger basket. Winny obediently wove a bigger basket, and again they found themselves talking to the prickly Graveguard. The curious scout returned, and agreed to help them. He turned his alligator helm sideways, hanging the basket off the snout and holding the other side for balance, and he struck out into the swamp with the adventurers at his heels.
Into the Black Marsh—On Foot
They passed the skeleton of a thirty foot gator festooned with skulls; a warning for the fey not to approach, and the Graveguard not to pursue into the swamp. After a six hour slog, they camped in the skull of a massive creature, risking a small fire. The curious scout pointed them south, and returned to camp the next day as they continued on. They used Geshinara’s boat, so they did not have to slog through the waist-deep murk. Sadly, Vayu had to leave his minions behind. Vayu used his navigational skills to keep them oriented south, and they continued.
The Fey Lake
Finally the marsh resolved into sawgrass on water, then lilies, then a mass of mangrove trees. Navigating between them, the adventurers found themselves on the fey lake once more; a thousand yards across, ringed in mangrove trees, decorated with lilies. They closed in on the “party cove” and saw a nixie, told her they wanted to speak with the king.
Meanwhile the little fellow on the big fish again accosted them, asking if they wanted to sell their boat; they declined. Soon enough the king made an appearance, parting the lilies, his stone basket boat gliding forward pulled by giant bass as nixies fawned around his waterplant throne.
King Fauchwizzle looked like a blueberry with long limbs. Nixies touched the group, and they could breathe water; they hopped in the water so Vayu could demonstrate the boat’s magic properties. The king agreed to trade with them, his boat for their magic boat (he was really excited to learn how it folded and unfolded) if they joined him at a feast. Reluctantly, they agreed, trading entertainment for the feast. They figured they’d show off what they were good at; katas, magic tricks, stories, and so on.
The party was wild, and half remembered. A vast turtle surfaced enough for them to have a party island in the middle of the lake. The fey braided Ell’s hair, then stole it all by morning so she woke spear bald. They seemed fascinated by Wayland’s fingernails and toenails, painlessly removing them and nibbling them then putting them back on before he realized what was going on. Tuleo wasn’t sure what they did, but he felt sullied and weird in the morning. For Vayu, they touched at and massaged his bones where they were closest to the surface of his skin, fascinated by how he was put together. For Tulip, they coated pretty rocks in their spit and piled them on him, making little stacks all over him over the course of the party. He woke naked and hairless on the basket boat.
Groggy, the party tried to recover from the fey feast. They noticed a statue that was eerie in its likeness to Tulip, made of the little stones that had been on him. It had some of his skin inside it (but he was uninjured.) It had claws that resembled goblin/human hybrid, and it had Ell’s hair. When Tulip looked in the eye socket, he saw the statue was empty.
Sufficiently creeped out by the weird little fairies, the party readied themselves to move as Tuleo verified that the fey mostly left Winny alone. He then poked his face into the water, still able to breathe air, and called out to the fey. A nixie popped up, and Tuleo invited her to adventure with him. He really troweled on the charm, and she agreed. He promised to protect her, and she gleefully left the lake (if they could go right away.) She said her name was Pippin. Tuleo asked her what they did to him, she matter-of-factly explained everybody had some of his blood to drink; the cosmic buzz was awesome!
Away from the fairies, the stone boat no longer floated. They trudged through the marsh, Wayland and Tulip balancing the massive statue of a basket, with the nixie frolicking in the waters of the marsh nearby. Then, a massive earthquake seemed to tremble the marsh; trees tilted in the mud, water danced. The nixie shrieked in pain and leaped up on Tuleo’s head.
A deep sound resonated, like “fruuuum.” A tentacle, 20-30 feet long and all black and unreflective, whipped up and assaulted them as they scrambled for a muddy hillock. More tentacles burst from the mud, tangling Ell; Wayland pulled her clear, and Vayu shouted for them to run as a vague memory of the shokoro servants of the Frog God stirred in his mind.
They sloshed as fast as they could through the waist deep water, and knee deep mud beneath, feeling the whole marsh alive and slithering below them. Winny was picked off, and as the nixie leaped to the boat for safety, Wayland and Tuleo fired on the tentacle. Severed, it withdrew, and Tuleo flew over to rescue Winnie as they struggled on through the marsh as fast as they could.
Eventually, on the edge of collapse, they had to stop their killing pace. Panting, they speculated on what that was, and what to do next…