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Another step in...
"Sit down and cease your talking if you want me to continue the story." Grannor the Spinner sat before the fire at the inn. His eyes were dull and sightless and his hands shook with a palsy which belied his age. The gathered crowd quieted down and once again all eyes and ears were focused on the small bard.
"Good, now listen. I believe I left off after the eye beast had turned Tatania into stone..."
"The beholder?" piped a child sitting in front.
"Yes dear, a beholder. Now hush. I don't like being interrupted by children with memories better than my own. Hmm... let's see. Ah yes...
"The elf and his friend traveled to the edge of the swamp together with the poor halfling. Her weight would have burdened few when in flesh, but as stone she was a great weight. Somehow they managed to bring her with them though. The druid, for that was what the elf's friend was, called upon the power of the land and took them through a tree to the great city of Brunlaga to see if they could find help for their friend. Thankfully help was quick in coming and the pair became a joyous threesome. Yes, they were quite happy to have their little friend back. As I am sure she was pleased as well.
"Ah, I see I go to slow for some of you. I can hear you squirm when you are impatient. No need to worry, I'll move on.
"Together the threesome traveled back through the trees to the swamp and the elf transported them magically back to where they had left the party. When they got there however, something seemed amis. Their friend Lucita was sitting all alone. Jaerna glanced around and then out of the shadows burst two forms. Wulf and Robyn. They had simply been well hidden and the druids fears were put at ease as they ran to Tatania to embrace her and welcome her back.
"Reunited, the group moved futher into the swamp. They kept pushing onward, ever looking for clues to let them know they were on the right trail. From ahead on the path they heard sounds of battle. There were grunts and screams and the sounds of giantish tongue. Not wanting to rush in, the group wisely approached cautiously to discover what was happening. Before them was an amazing sight. Six hill giants were there, standing in the mud and muck engaged in a battle with creatures twice their size. Their must have been nearly a dozen of the other brutes. Eighteen feet tall were they. Each had three arms, two in the normal places, and one stuck right in the middle of the chest, as if it had burst out from the inside. These creatures were incredibly strong and seemed to be toying with the giants.
"Dispite their caution, the party was attacked without provocation. One of the three armed giants rushed in to attack, it's terrible hands ready to wreak havok upon Tatania. Tahl, the wizard archer, made good use of his magic that day and managed to hold the creature immoble.
"Ever the diplomat, Tatania still tried to parley with the creatures, seeking a peaceful solution. But these were not creatures of reason. They simply wanted destruction and warfare. They fought like demons and their slaver dripped from their teeth as they fought. Thick and viscous it was tainted with poison. Their bite weaked their victims and the group knew it had to finish these creatures quickly before they fell prey as had the hill giants.
"Lucita and Robin appeared the victors in this battle. Their swords bit the most flesh and helped fell the most creatures. Wulf and Jaerna did their parts. Wulf's blade flashed and Jaerna's fire burned. But once, Jaerna's magic failed her. Try as she might, she could not summon the burning fire she called Nature's Redemption. Still, eventually all the enormous beings fell and though bloody, the group was able to continue on.
"As time passed the air seemed to become thicker, darker. It was as if darkness had become tangible and was seeking to keep them from seeing what was there. Through the use of her magic, the druid was the only unaffected by their limited vision.
"Suddenly she began speaking a short mystical phrase and broke a piece of mistletoe off in her hands. From what seemed like far away, a dim column of fire dropped down and a faintly spherical form was illuminated. And then as the party still watched what the druid was doing, a long tentacle whipped out of the darkness and stuck into Jaerna's side. From out of the darkness the eye beast came and from it many more hooked tentacles lashed out. Another creature came floating out of the darkness from the other side of the party. They were surrounded!"
A slight gasp came out of the little child who spoke earlier. The storyteller smiled wryly, knowing he had her in the grasp of his tale.
"Wulf and Robin became a blur of motion. Their bodies seemed almost to become fluid as the two danced around the newest eye beast. This creature was different than the other beholder. It only had only one eye, but dozens of hooked tentacles in place of the missing eye stalks. As these lashed out, the two rogues twisted and turned evading every attempt of the beast to grapple them. And in the end, they managed to subdue and destroy the beast. But even then, as they set in the felling blow, the creature tried to destroy them. It exploded with a burst of lightning that engulfed the area, but again the two emerged unharmed.
"However, the first creature still had Jaerna in it's grasp. Tatania encouraged her fighting allies at this time and her words brought Tahl and Lucita to new heights of abilities. Tahl's bow sang with the rapid shots of arrows, followed by the staccato thudding of the shafts into the beast, and Lucita summoned a swarm of acid arrows to finish the creature off. Like it's companion, it too burst into sparks and lightning, but it was finished. They rested only to tend to their wounds and prepare for what was to come."
Grannor paused momentarily to listen to the room. There was only the sound of the fire and the breathing of his audience. He was pleased. Drawing a breath he continued.
"Still onward this fellowship continued. They set off after a period of time as they could no longer discern morning from midnight. The darkness had completely engulfed them now. Dispite their magics of light and fire, they were unable to see passed their own eyelids. Only Jaerna was once again able to see. The rest simply followed her blindly, trusting in their companion to lead them the right way.
"For Lucita there came a pain which she was unprepared for. Out of the darkness came a disgorging sound as a splash of liquid hit her in the chest. A bubbling hiss and the smell of hair and fabric melting let her know she had been spit upon by the most devastating denizen know to live the darkest swamps. A black dragon.
"The rope holding the party together dissolved in a heartbeat and they were separated from their lifeline. They were on their own in the darkness. The party heard Jaerna casting again and they felt a tingle pass through their bodies.
"Then suddenly they could see. And then they wished they could not. Tahl had remembered something which had been nagging at the back of his mind for the past day, but which had evaded his grasp all this time. The candle! It had power beyond that of any of their magics. Hoping that he was right, he reached into his pack and drew it out. The light which sprung forth was tainted with a deep red hue, but the party could see again. At least for a short distance. And in that distance was the face of a creature which meant to be their death.
"Tahl's bow sang again and his arrows stuck true into the creature. Robyn, undaunted by the size of the creature charged into battle and began to beat at the creatures hide. Tatania sang to encourage her commrades and used her magic to assist them as well. Wulf ran to attack the dragon as well and moved to flank it with his companion. They set to the beast and it lashed out at them taking a chunk out of Wulf. He fell to the ground as his lifeblood pulsed out of him. Robyn paused in concern for his friend, but Jaerna took no notice. She had reverted to a more primitive form. Where she had once stood there was now an enormous ape, far larger and more threatening than she appeared as a human. It charged the dragon and tore at it's flesh. Both hands would find purchase and her strong arms would simply rend the flesh away.
"Lucita's blade danced at the creatures face and scored it's hide. The dragon reared it's head back and took in a breath before releasing another deluge of acid upon it's foes. Again, flesh bubbled and burned. And again, the wounds were ignored. Actually, if one looked closely enough, they might have noticed that they seemed to be closing themselves up rather quickly. New flesh was replacing that which was damaged or burned away. Wulf, having earlier seemed to be finished, stood up and rejoined the fight, eager to give payback to the dragon.
"Realizing that it stood no chance against this party, the dragon attempted to run. The arrows, sword scores and claw marks were more than it had known before. But they were also to be the last it was to know. In a final desparate charge to keep the beast from fleeing, Jaerna managed to sink one last claw into the creature. It was enough. Barely, but it was enough.
"Come the next day they moved on again. Without warning the darkness gave way to light. Rubbing their eyes the group realized they had reached their goal. The building stood before them, not a hundred yards away. And there at the building stood a man, the man. He had not noticed them yet as he was busy talking to an enormous crocodile. It seemed to respond to the man's words as if it was listening. But that did not matter. They were there. And the druid was filled with a burning hatred that she kept to herself for the moment. It was her rage and not to be shared yet. As she stood there, she only said one thing. 'Belaej.'"
He stopped there and sat back. The audience still waited. Silent. That was fine. They could wait.
"Grannor. Is that it? Where is the rest? Don't you know it?" One of the adults had spoken up this time. He looked almost as concerned as the little one from ealier had. He two had been lost in the story.
"Rest easy Oberon. I know the story of my grandmother well, and I will not forget it. Come back tomorrow and you shall hear more if you so desire. Until, I must get my bones to bed. I am a little too weary to continue for now." And so the halfling stood and grabbed his staff. People parted as he moved through the crowd and the fire continued to burn merrily.