The next morning we continued to debate our situation.
“We probably should land in the village,” said Lev. “Or should we?”
“It’s not like we know they’re hostile,” Trask responded.
“They are boggards. They were born hostile,” Lev replied.
“We let them pull out their bows and arrows and then we kill them,” Trask insisted. “Or they could pull out a bunch of garlands and flowers and say, ‘Thank you for visiting.’”
“G’day to ya, boggard,” Cane called to them.
They waved their tridents at us while emitting loud horrifying croaks that did little to intimidate us but it did alert the village across the water.
Cane whipped out his wiener and wagged it at them. “Get a load of this,” he called while reaching for his bow and putting an arrow through one of them. Lev gave a quick speech while casting a spell that hit the other. I felt a dart wing me and missed my first shot, although I hit with the follow-up. Cane stepped off the boat to shoot one warden dead while Sizzles ripped the throat out of the other.
Each one had:
• +1 hide armorWe quickly walked to the island's south side while watching boggards run to their waterfront nearly 150 feet away screaming, “Grgh-hoopgrhghgrhaghaghaghagh urmurraaughghrughrughr ahghahagh!” As war darts spackled around us we found a pit with a ladder leading into it.
• masterwork hand axe
• masterwork trident
• potion of cure serious wounds
But before we descended I sent the boggards a message wrapped in a spell of holy smite killing nearly half of them outright. The survivors fled in terror.
“You’re a monster!” Trask cried happily.
“They shot at us first,” Lev said in my defense. But, really, I need no defense. Boggards are born evil, raised evil, and practice evil—what sort of Inquisitor would I be if I didn’t destroy these misbegotten spawn of the demon lord Gogunta?
We turned our attention back to the pit, Cane descending first. There were thick ropes of dripping roots hanging from the ceiling and a large rippling pool of water. Cane immediately dived into the water, finding a tunnel extending to the south and swimming 60 feet before coming to a dry room. From there, two passageways sloped upward. He also saw a pile of gourds by the east wall with several covered baskets and three boggards. He returned without alerting them.
“I think that’s the way to the city up there,” said Lev.
“Leave no boggard behind!” Trask growled with anticipation.
And we didn’t, following Cane to the room and killing them all. The baskets contained several frogs with a violet-yellow streak down their backs, which we carefully packed away.
There was another pool and another tunnel leading to an empty hallway. One way was dark, forking after about 60 feet. The other way led to a dimly lit chamber were we found a dozen boggards leaping excitedly after dragonflies that one of them had released from a cage.
Suddenly one of them stopped, complaining loudly as he held his belly while the others laughed at him. They weren’t laughing long. “I’m starting to feel sorry for them,” Trask grimaced at the slaughter we’d made.
There was a passage to the south where we saw another light. In this room the vaulted ceiling rose nearly fifteen feet toward a leather flap leading outside. A skull decorated throne of leather and lashed wood rested against the eastern wall faced by two braziers emitting cold white light. On the throne was a priest-king boggard attended by two wardens and their giant frog companions.
We fell upon them, Vlad blinding the wardens with holy smite. The king thumped Vlad pretty good in return while one of the blind wardens slashed Sizzles. Lev cast sonic thrust while giving a short speech, although it was hard to tell which was which:
“We shall fight in Hooktongue, we shall fight on the lakes and rivers, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength, we shall defend our land, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!”*Then it was over. “Yeahhgh!” Trask screamed in triumph after killing the priest-king.
One warden got down on his knees, “Gnurrihurarhr!” it moaned as we killed it.
As we looked around at the carnage I wondered aloud if we should enslave the boggards.
“Boggards are people,” Lev protested. “We don’t enslave sentient beings.”
“We kill them,” Cane said without irony.
“Or we make them our allies.”
“Ah, moral relativism,” Trask laughed, then turned serious. “They are chaotic/evil so clearly this isn’t a crime!”
“Slavery is definitely illegal,” Lev added. “Therefore, only genocide . . .”
“That’s okay,” Trask insisted, “we’ll create corporations and call it ‘trickle-down economics,’ create a bunch of jobs that will concentrate all the wealth, and then slowly disperse some of that wealth to other people and make them dependent on it.”
The only sound in the room was the drip of blood as Vlad healed Cane’s injury but that didn’t lessen Trask’s discontent, complaining bitterly about Vlad’s “wasting” a spell of lesser restoration on Cane’s wound. “A card laid is a card played!” he moaned.
On the king we found:
• 3 potions of cure moderate woundsOn each of his minions:
• potion of sanctuary
• wand of heal moderate wounds 24 charges
• wand of poison 9 charges
• +2 hide armor
• +2 icy morningstar
• masterwork light wooden shield
• spell component pouch
• an unholy symbol of Gogunta
• +1 hide armorThe frogs: “We could make good boots out of them,” Cane remarked.
• masterwork hand axe
• masterwork trident
Tunnels went off to each side, Cane choosing the closest to the throne. This narrow passageway led to a long shallow cave with a low ceiling. The earthen walls glistened with moisture and small pools of excess water gathered along the southern wall.
There we discovered wooden crates and burlap sacks containing:
• 56 platinumThere were sleeping pallets in the room made of dried reeds and grasses, a leather flap in the ceiling opening above and a passage to the north. Next to it was a larder where the excited buzz of insects filled the round cavern. Sacks of blue-wing dragonflies, scorched bulbs, guava root, and fangberries hung on sharp hooks hammered into the wall. We freed the dragonflies.
• 1287 gold
• 2019 silver
• 872 copper
• 5 black opals worth 200 gold pieces each
• 10 gold bracelets each decorated with a different forest animal motif worth 25 gp each
• box of 12 Taldon stamped gold ingots worth 250 gp each
• cask containing 3 doses of elixir of swimming
• a harp of charming bearing the likeness of Cayden Cailean
We followed the southwest tunnel to a large dining room where two long lines of matted rushes extended down the center of the floor, between them were large round baskets and a stack of serving platters.
From there we emerged into the village, now deserted. We saw Fort Drelev glittering across the lake. I was surprised they would allow the boggards to live in such close proximity to their town. We then decided to continue our exploration before going to the city and it nearly got us killed—well, for one of us it did.
Later that day we approached a low, finger-shaped marsh cosseted between two forested hills. Water eddied around bubbling plumes of swamp gas where an unearthly chill covered all. We realized that even the constant refrain of insects and frogs had stopped.
Lev remembered that Garrum, the lone, atypical boggard we’d befriended in the early days of our association, once told him about how he had been exiled from his tribe—the very tribe we just attacked. He’d offered Lev a gift, a magic bug, if he brought back the head of his hated enemy, the priest-king.
“Hey, I tossed that into the bag of holding,” Trask said unexpectedly. “Didn’t I tell you? It’s right next to the gouda cheese!”
Before we could answer we realized there were figures rising from the swamp cold fetid waters, green with slime—bog mummies. I used a spell of searing light on one, causing it to falter momentarily. Vlad killed another with holy light.
“Woohoo!” Lev yelled after he’d lightly nicked one, but Vlad fumbled, drawing blood from himself instead. It mattered little, we quickly put the mummies back in there watery tomb.
We continued our explorations as daylight faded, not bothering to disguise our passage or watch for signs of the enemy, after all, who would dare to oppose us? Let this be a lesson to you, dear Pino: Pride invites a fall.
We came to where an immense foul mound of trees and loam formed a jagged line known locally as the Swamp Scar, the vegetation riddled with burrows and nooks. Suddenly, we were blasted by a destructive cone of cold. I fell to my knees helplessly. That’s when I saw the monster rising slowly from the depths like a serpent rises from a conjurer’s basket—a spirit naga, foul evil beast, fangs dripping venom.
Like me, Vlad was pale and shaken while Sizzles, the smart one, whimpered and ran off. Cane bravely charged it but missed his mark as it writhed backwards while blasted us with cold again. Briefly, I was unconscious. Dear Pino, you very nearly lost your uncle forever, and I returned to my search for Ileosa. As I struggled back to consciousness I heard my compatriots arguing.
“I think we got too big for our britches,” Trask lamented.
“We didn’t have a chance to be too big for our britches,” Lev sulked in reply.
“We were exploring like we were dicks,” Trask admitted, although I might have been hallucinating his words. “Hey, if this thing teaches us a little respect. . . .”
“If it doesn’t kill us first,” Lev replied grimly, before teleporting me outside the creature’s range. I began recovering.
“O Hubris!” Trask moaned. “We should have run,”
“I can’t just leave you guys,” Cane muttered while trying to entangle the monster in his net. He then ran towards Vlad to carry him out of harm's way, but discovered Vlad already dead.
“Should we fight off the assumption that we’re going to win or that we are doomed?” Trask puzzled, then suddenly laughed out loud, “Let’s fight this out!” He pulled out an arrow of aberration-slaying. “It’s called being prepared,” he smirked happily, taking aim and releasing it along with a flurry of others. Most of them missed but important one flew true as a wave of Lev’s sonic spell washed after it. It fell twitching and coiling in the fetid waters. I heard shouts of joy.
“That was a good death,” Trask and Cane agreed, while gazing on Vlad’s waxen features.
Later, Bert Askew would dismissively schoolboy us. “I would have loved to hear that one of you guys caught mummy rot,” Bert Askew grimaced unsympathetically later, adding, "You could have learned all about the spirit naga at the boggard lair!”
• Headband of mental prowessThen we limped back to Tazlford where Lev had Latricia Evanore use our scroll of raise dead to bring Vlad back to our plane of existence. I could see that, like me, he was disappointed to find that he had returned but Lev, ecstatic at having his friend back, beamed down upon him like a proud papa at the marriage of his son.
Say your prayers,
*apologies to Winston Churchill