The Witch's Song

Introduction to session three

Our gang awoke in the early hours of the morning, stirring to wakefulness in the damp interior of the Three Hogs Inn. Outside, a stubborn and miasmic fog lingered over Faulgimere and cast the village in a smog-like pall. The ever-present foul stench of the river waters and the sounds of Tam’s morning vomiting only added to the depressing nature of the place.

Not waiting for breakfast, Tam wiped his vomit stained face and staggered out into the muddy streets in search of the apothecary, keen to obtain a cure for the vapours that have him constantly ill since arriving in the village. After waiting for the innkeeper to complete an eccentric task of tidying the minstrel’s stand, the rest of the party settle into a breakfast of sour ale, black bread with the consistency of wood, and bog octopus broth. Over breakfast, the gang discusses their plan to hunt down Old Ned the swamp troll, which breaks down to: leave the village, plunge into the eastern swamp until they find the monster, then kill Ned. Grom buys a keg of ale from the innkeeper, instructing him to share it with the village upon his death.

Meanwhile, Tam eventually finds the leaning hovel of Saskia the apothecary and obtains an herbal cure for the vapours. He makes some small talk with the herbalist and haggles over a healing elixir, which he eventually declines. Seeking some assistance with the perils of the swamp and its residents, Saskia warns Tam of the illness that befall those who experience the “kiss” of the swamp flies, or the painless (yet deadly) touch of the blood leech. Purchasing more herbs from the apothecary to prevent leech-bite, Tam wanders down to the jetties to speak with a cadre of bog octopus hunters for further assistance. The hunters sell him a rotting Elan fruit, telling Tam that it will drive away the flies if he smears its juices over his skin.

Tam returns to the Three Hogs, bumping into the gang as they are leaving. Tam attempts to get the group to wait so that he can get some breakfast, but they taunt him and head off anyway. Leaving the village and making his way to the edge of the eastern swamp bank, Grom soon realises that he can’t easily take his wheelbarrow into the bog and decides to return it to the Three Hogs. As the gang make their way back to Faulgimere, Tam complains that he could have head breakfast anyway, while Richard becomes despondent that the morning is fritting away.

After leaving his wheelbarrow at the inn, Grom leads the gang back to the swamp and they plunge randomly into its fetid depths. Tam and Klaus spread fermented fruit juice over their skin, much to the amazement of Grom and Richard, who taunt them by default. Splashing into the bog, the hunt only really begins just before noonday, and Richard begins to fall into a sullen depression as he worries about becoming lost – at night – in the Cursed Swamp. Aulric tells him that will never happen.

Fortunately for the gang, Klaus is a highly-experienced hunter, and after casting for a trail, eventually finds traces of the troll. Aided by the magical portents casted by Tam, Richard follows the trail deep into the bog and avoids the many perils of the swamp. However, his deliberative and considered approach consumes many hours, and it is soon well-dark by the time the gang finds Old Ned’s lair. It is at this point the gang realises they don’t have a light source.

As anticipated, the swamp troll’s lair is a wretched place, a wet mould-strewn cave set in the base of a bone-covered hill surrounded by skeletal black-barked trees. Grom and Alric immediately run for the cave entrance, covered by Richard, Klaus and Tam. However, Old Ned is a crafty troll, and the hunchbacked beast rises from the swamp water behind the latter trio undetected.
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The trio are immediately covered in a spray of acid, and they flail in the swamp water, screaming and disoriented as Old Ned moves towards them, clutching a massive club. There is now lots of yelling: Old Ned’s blood is up at the invasion, three of the party are injured and acid steams off their backs, Alric is confused, and Grom roars in frustration as he realises he is the furthest from the troll. However, our gang of thugs has faced many dangers, and they instinctively spring into coordinated action and turn against Old Ned in a desperate night fight.

The troll is hammered by a fullisade of blows of a kind that it has never faced before in its evil life. It lashes out with its club, but this slips from its grasp after a massive swing against Alric. Arrows and bolts soon pepper its frame, whilst Alric stabs it repeatedly with this spear until Grom reaches the combat, who drops the wounded and immobilised Old Ned with a single blow – not quite the glorious scenario Grom was hoping for.

It is a significant victory, but all the party are injured to some degree, with some broken bones. The gang rests on the wet, diseased, hillside while Richard scours the surrounding bog for dry wood to set the troll corpse aflame. Despite the incredible odds, Richard does find an armful and returns to the lair, whereupon the gang drags Old Ned’s corpse up to the top of the hill and set it alight. As black, greasy smoke falls over them, they wait until Old Ned’s flesh is incinerated then decide to find a place to camp for the night. While the gang snipe at one another, Grom falls into a bleak anger at his missed opportunity to slay a troll single handed.

Klaus leads the gang through the swamp to a potential campsite, moving through the sinister blackness in the bog for a time before erroneously leading the party into a quickmire field. What follows is pure trauma, as Tam and Richard slowly sink into the mire, with the remainder of the gang deciding round-by-round prioritisation as to who receives assistance. There is lots of yelling again, and eventually Grom belly-flops into the mire next to Tam to better help the wizard. There is lots of swearing and some near-drowning over the course of an hour, but eventually the exhausted gang drags itself out of the quickmire patch.

Correcting his path, Klaus leads the filth-covered gang to a small islet set amidst the bog, whereupon the party collapses in exhaustion and stress. The depressed Richard attempts a rousing speech to raise the spirits of the group, but this goes terribly wrong and the party turns on one another in a burst of punching, kicking and verbal abuse. However, with the release of the pent-up tension the gang feels much more comfortable with one another and all is forgiven. They then settle in to catch some rest in the last few hours before dawn breaks.

And it is at this point that tonight’s session begins…

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Wilbry

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