Hot today. So much so, I was wishing for a bit of that weather we had when the wall between here and the plane of ice had been opened. I had my nifty white dragon hide cloak, so I was not worried about the cold, but the heat and humidity were unbearable. I explored around my general area, hoping to find signs of Blargle or Liz, but had no luck. I had to be smarter. Why hadn’t they taken the packs? Had they truly gone down the well? I hated not knowing.
Okay, facts. Two dead gnolls in the tunnel and several more made it up through to the keep. But why? If they were hunting us, why go into the tunnel? Well, gnolls seem to be creatures of chaos, so perhaps they cannot control their baser urges when it comes to murder and destruction.
Neither Liz nor Blargle had not come back to the island, so if they had gone down the well, they had not come out to see where I was. What if Blargle was ambushed opening the door, been over run, killing two gnolls and giving chase to the other three. What about Liz? Had she gone into the tunnel at all? Analise certainly saw no evidence of her being there. So, they split up. Liz, instead of drawing the gnolls back to me and Kithri had led them away. Did that mean she lay somewhere, wounded?
Of course, what a king size fool I have been. I reached inside my belt pouch and took out the broken braid that I had once given her, the cord where we had bound ourselves to one another, before I broke covenant. We had twined our spirits in this braid and it connected us even though I had failed her then. Oh, I wove her a new braid, that error I rectified. I did not bring this out to dwell on past failings. Instead I held it in my right hand with my holy symbol to Semaunzilla (may she hear my plea) in my left and quested out with my mind, pulling the green divine in and sending it outward in a great arc, out into the swamp, searching for my love.
I’ll not boor you with the hours I searched, standing on the bank of that great bog. The day slipped from heat to shadow before I got my first spark. And barely a spark it was. Oh what a fool I had been. I just hoped I was not too late.
Kithri nearly did me in, once again. Perhaps this was the fates teaching me that I had depended on her for far too long, and now I literally carried her as a burden. I left the wagon stashed in the wild far off the road and left the horse where he could drink from the flowing river (not the swamp water) and have access to grass and shade. I spoke with him, this tamed beast, and thanked him for his service. I asked that he remain here for when I returned, but told him I understood if he felt his obligation had been fulfilled and he desired to roam wild once more. He whickered at me, pushing me with his great nose as if telling me to get on with my duty.
I pulled Kithri onto my right shoulder once more, keeping my left free for my mace. I had my pack with my personal affects, and added two skins of wine, and all the food I could carry. The cord I had knotted in the loop that held my holy symbol to Semaunzilla (may she guide my search) as it was too small to tie around my wrist.
Then I pointed my nose eastward and trudged into the bog. Nothing like crotch deep stagnant water to make a guy feel comfortable and secure. Using the green sight helped assuage some of my trepidation, but you know, bitey things live in swamps. I think the mosquitoes are perhaps the worst thing after leeches, and gorge-wings. Okay, they are not even in the top five, but they are an annoyance that I need to figure out. I can’t seem to make them leave me alone like I was able to with the others. Maybe they are just too evil.
I didn’t stop to rest, just used the green sight to avoid very large predators and try and stay where I was only waist deep in the muck. Any deeper and I’d be drowning Kithri. We rested after full dark, just a few minutes to drink a bit of water and eat a nibble. Then we were off again. I knew where the spark that represented Liz was, but somehow it wasn’t getting any closer. Okay, so I was tired. What I realized was that she had been captured by someone or something and I was on their trail. I did spend a bit of time fantasizing how I could’ve turned that wagon into a raft. There was enough water in this portion of the swamp that I would need one soon enough. After midnight with the humidity high and the sky overcast, I had to rest again. This time I found a larger spot of land where I could lay Kithri down and see to my growing bites and abrasions. I had this salve that Liz had given me a while back that when applied to bites took out the itching and the sting. It was a lovely unguent, but unfortunately I was running out.
I had also not taken fatigue into play. I was startled awake by the sound of chittering and rose to find myself facing a spider the size of the horse. Gods, I hated spiders. I cast around quickly, saw that Kithri was at my feet and that there were no other spiders, then I raised my mace to do battle with this monstrosity.
It was old and hoary, its hide thick and leathery, its bulbous eyes glowing with a light that was not a reflection of the moon as it was hidden in the clouds. She hissed and spat just beyond the range of my swing so I thought to lunge forward but was hesitant as it hung from a thread that it could use to scamper away from me.
“Blight and bother,” I said aloud. “You are a vile beasty.”
“So’s your mother,” the spider said in a hissing voice. “This may be my only chance to talk to you, so shut up and listen.”
I clapped my mouth shut, what in the nine and sixty was this?
“Liz is wounded badly, and I am in no great shakes. We were captured by blighted men who mean to take us to their lair where they will use us as bait to lure you to be sacrificed to their god.”
I looked at the spider. “Blargle?”
The spider nodded, which was strange since it had no neck. Instead it bowed at the middle, a little bob that made it look even more menacing.
“I can’t hold this creature much longer,” she continued. “It was hunting the blighted men, taking three that I counted before I was able to beguile it.”
“Great. What should I do?”
“Come rescue us, idiot,” the spider rasped, its voice strained beyond the normal capacity. Of course, I’d never met a talking spider before, so the fact this one had that capability was a bit unnerving.
“That’s my plan,” I said, perhaps a bit petulantly. Of course, I was facing one of the largest spiders I’d ever seen, and I didn’t have my awesome spear like the last time I faced one of the larger ones.
“Okay, I have to let go of this one’s mind,” it rasped. “It’s too taxing and I think the guards are getting nervous. It had two companions that continue to stalk us.”
“Wait, what?” I stepped back, away from the thing. “What do I do with this one?”
“Seriously? Kill it.”
Then it spasmed like it had been shaken. I took a breath and really wished I had the armor I left in the wagon. The spider dropped to the ground, reared up and hissed at me. I understood the word “dinner” before I swung my mace at it.