The voice in the mist says we must pay the price to pass through her swamp. We must Find Her.
I rush to Marybeth , and pull her body back to our camp. Major Dalish decides we’re going to finish our rest before heading out. I barely rest, lying beside my lifeless friend. Surely this witch, Mistress of the Undead, can do something.
In the morning, I send to the Lt. to tell him we were attacked by an arcanist in the swamp, and we’re going to take care of her on our way to the plantation. He simply replies Okay, but in a way that makes me think he’s confused, or busy. The group sits to confer on where to go next. I simply stare at Marybeth, as they argue about heading to the plantation, as our only landmark in this awful place.
Nat leads us forward, but after a very short time, says that we are lost. Remy looks around at the magic of the swamp and sees all schools. We spend the entire day walking in circles because Major Dalish won’t admit we need a different plan than heading for the plantation. Remy spends most of the day arguing with him. That evening, the guys go to take care of the soldiers, but I can’t leave Marybeth. Klyce has carried her with us all day, and I spend the evening before sleeping praying to the Dawnmother that there is a way to bring her back.
We gather up to plan for the next day. Should we try to use Natty’s divination gifts to set us on the right path? At the very least Augury our plan before setting out the next morning? Do anything but keep heading for the plantation? Mid-discussion, shouting breaks out among the soldiers. Giant toads are attacking and eating our men. We burst into action, and it’s a bit of a mess, but between Klyce, Remy, and Dalish, we manage to organize the terrified soldiers enough to help. Unfortunately, we do lose two in the battle, unable to save them from being eaten before we dissected the toads.
I go through the wounded and gather the most greviously injured together. First I tell them about the Dawnmother, and how her light shines upon us, even in this dark swamp. Then I invite them to pray with me and her light heals their deepest wounds. I tell them where the church is in New Gnosis, should they ever wish to worship once the war is over. Then I return to Marybeth and the discussion of plans. Dalish thinks to mark the direction the toads came from, for tomorrow’s march.
I take second watch with Nat, who says there are zombies all around us in the water. But they aren’t moving. This is super creepy, but not unexpected. Somehow, I manage to sleep through til morning. Nat Auguries our path and gets a yes and no, so seems better than just plain no. We go with it. After I report in to the Lt. about our losses and new plan. Klyce takes Marybeth again, and has the soldiers form litters for their fallen, as well.
We find a banyan tree which seems to have eaten an old plantation mansion at the edge of a pond. There is movement in the water as we go around to reach the door. Once on the stoop, the voice bids us enter, but just us, our troops must stay outside. Remy takes them to a dry patch nearby to set up camp. We note dangling mage corpses near the door as we enter.
Zombie servants greet us silently in a row, and a young woman in fancy dress with wild hair descends the stairs. She stops short when she sees us.
You’re just kids!
She apparently can’t see through her undead and did not realize she was attacking children. She is horrified to have done so, and especially to have killed Marybeth. We all agree that our government is terrible for sending us to war, as children. She is at a loss, clearly, but insists that we must still pay the price to cross her lands. Sure, of course, we’ve made enough deals at this point. What does she want? Power, bodies, spells… Klyce immediately offers up three spellbooks for her to choose from. Everyone has copied down all the spells they wanted out of them, we have no use for them anymore. She chooses one and we discuss how different we are and how most mages wouldn’t be so generous.
What about Marybeth? She takes her, and Nat away into a back room. Remy goes out to check on the troops, figuring we’ll be a while. And we are. It is quite some time before she comes back in and escorts us outside, to a brackish pool behind her home.
She pushes Marybeth’s body out into the water and begins chanting. Storms and mists roll in and build. Her chant rises to a crescendo with a clap of thunder and she collapses. The mists part and Marybeth is standing in the water before us. Next to her corpse. The corpse stands up, a glistening, rubbery, black body with fangs, horns, and glowing red eyes. It looks at us, then at Marybeth and smiles. Nat rushes betwen them, but Marybeth walks right past her, towards it. It walks away from the both, casts a spell, mutters something to Marybeth and then disappears. We can hear it running away through the water, but we stand helpless, too far away to stop it.
Our stunned silence is broken by the witch waking up. She stares at Marybeth, terrified. What’s wrong with you girl?! Get out of my Swamp! Now! All of you!
We hustle away as Remy appears around the corner, drawn by the clap of thunder just moments before. We turn him around after he hugs a very confused Marybeth, to get the troops moving. Nat drops back to talk to the witch woman for a moment, but we hustle out as quickly as we can.
Two hours later, we hit the edge of the swamp and the beginning of fields. Marybeth fills us in on what the thing said to her. She believes it was her grandfather, back from the dead, and that he is going to kill her. Nat tries looking into her head, and gets a vision of a hazy conversation with an old man, but not much detail. It doesn’t seem to be like the others. We camp on dry land and send Heyhey out to scout the path ahead. He finds skeleton and zombie scarecrows in every field.
The night is peaceful, and then next day, as we march. The boys entertain themselves by tying up any zombie or skeleton that takes an interest in our troop. Afraid that killing them will alert their creator. Heyhey is able to scout all the way ahead to the mansion that night. A big old Grecian thing surrounded by woods to mark it off from the fields. There are loads of soldiers with big guns and they are fortified for a fight. We push the men forward to within a quarter mile of the place and dig in for the night.
Dalish casts Invisibility on Remy and Nat, who sneak closer for a better look at their defenses. It is some time before they come back, without Heyhey, and with bad news. They know we’re coming. The mage is looking forward to it. Klyce tries to sign at Nat to make a mind palace, but she can’t see without her Heyhey. So, I tap it out in her hand for her. We have to plan in secret.