I hadn’t dared bring my journal into the swamp. It rains a solid hour every day! I’d be miserable if I slipped up and all my notes were turned to inksmears, lost to time. How much can truly be lost? Would those black stains yield to some magic spell that restores their order? Could anything erase the deputy chief’s face from my memory? Or the magistrate’s? I wonder if I rather remember those days, or forget them. Hard to tell…
We traveled to a swamp adjoining Lake Dark, in search of my dear near-twin Felda, at the urging of House Tharashk, who were hired by the city to bring her to justice. I cannot recommend the swamp, it is a miserable place, full of disease, blood-sucking creatures both natural and un-. And the boggards! It turns out this is the special time of years when the adolescents need to go kill someone to get to be full tribe members. Greeeaaat. Brilliant time to go slogging through the muck looking for a fugitive. At least we know she’s somewhere in the hundred square miles of it… oh wait… we don’t. Thank the gods there are only a few parts of it that are much more likely than the rest.
It’s a long story, and most of it uninteresting, so suffice to say: Some bits worked out very well — I still giggle a little when I remember “So, I’m terribly sorry about this!” and that girlish smile. Some parts, not so much — Felda was not buying the ’I’m a sympathetic relative, here to help you’ angle in the slightest. Ah, well, you win some, you lose some. In the end, we carted her off, and Victor’s Prestidigitation is phenomenal at cleaning clothing after an encounter with swamp.
Back in Atur, our wizard friend Kalzan had found several references to the przywrócenie niszczyciel. A pity they didn’t say all that much, but it was certainly interesting, and gave us a link to the Fulcrum. I hadn’t heard of it before, to talk Kalzan and the party, it’s a magic force of Neutral that gives gifts to groups who go there. Sometimes. Maybe if the group has a alignment that will nicely stack the deck in some way in the age-old struggles of good and evil, law and chaos. Hard to say precisely. I love secrets like that. Looking forward to learning more.
He also had a task for us in exchange for his research time, to visit the Ironroot mountains and harvest some weird mushrooms. Most of the details came via Victor, who understands this sort of thing best. With the optimal season for that job being now or quite soon, and the party not wanting to carry debt, it seemed the best choice for our next adventure.
Of course, Maral had to start getting cold feet again. Apparently he doesn’t realize that being involved in a thousand-year-old prophecy is awesome. Oh, he might have to leave, oh, doesn’t think he’s up to traveling with such interesting magical people, oh, oh. I could tell he was weak-willed about it, though. Gave him a little talking-to, worked like a charm. By the time we were halfway to the mountains, he’d apologized to the party and said he’d stick with them. Each case where he comes around to Gilly’s position makes it easier for the next time.
The caving was a bit of an adventure in its own right. We managed to avoid tangling with a group of elves, who thankfully spoke Common. I really need to learn more languages, but there’s so little time! I can barely keep up with the necessities and these ‘suggestions’ from Fortunado. I can understand needing to learn arcana, and thankfully I could learn that, where I’ve only reaped frustration at attempting to learn spellcraft, but why on earth should it be important to excel at picking locks? Any rate, exploring caves was a bit of a mess. Apparently, only Victor knows much about the critters that live in caves, so we were a little slow off the mark in each fight, getting armor rusted or trying to flank the unflankable. Never in serious danger, though the way Maral swore to pick up basic dungeoneering, you’d think we were.
Found the mushroom in the end. Turns out it spits acid, would have been nice to know that beforehand, oops. But all’s well that ends well. Once we were heading back, Syama starts pushing hard to get us all to travel to the Fulcrum next. Maral is not keen on it, and suspicious of her story about getting an urgent prophetic dream some days earlier, but not mentioning it until now. Trying to mediate and triangulate, when bam. Out of nowhere.
“Accepting gifts from unknowable powerful magic forces often comes with strings, with conditions, and they don’t have to be seen or known to be effective. Right, Gilly?”
What. The. Fuck. What does he know? How the hell does he know it? My heart rate goes into overdrive, but the training kicks in and my face doesn’t show a sign. I make a quick pretense of frustration with the intra-party conflict to buy a moment and size up the situation. He’s really just trying to make a reasonable point and looking for support. Poor naive guy. He has no fucking clue what’s going on around him.
I take a long walk, thinking about that. What happens if I get killed by some lucky shot, and Maral still doesn’t know what granddad is up to? I like the guy, I don’t want him to get fucked over like that. Unless of course I end up killing him myself. But that seems less and less likely. Time to write a ‘in the case of my unrecoverable death’ letter. Fortunately, I was paying attention the day they went over the right protocol for such things. Cryptography is hard, I’d probably mess it up thoroughly if I was trying to design this myself. First step, make a pair of alphabet strips so you can ‘add’ letters without messing up. Second step, generate a fuckton of random characters, and write them down neatly on two copies…