The Gloom Marshes – Skeletons of the Depths
From the Private Annals of the Church of Pelor.
Transcribed by Beltak, Scribe to His Radiant Servant, Tremak the Plush.
The 12th Day of Ches in the Year of the Sudden Journey.
It is astounding how quickly we are finding out more about the countryside around us now we have the impetus of adventurers in the town. Within a mere few days they have found catacombs under the mausoleum and now they have explored the marshes to the east.
However, in both cases they have encountered monsters and horrors that we seem ill prepared to defend against, and it heightens our resolve to learn more and ensure we are ready for anything. My role is to transcribe anything of interest that is found, and fortunately one of the adventurers, Tradden, is more than willing to recount their exploits so they can be recorded and studied to help us in the future.
Exploring the marshes, surprisingly, seemed to be the idea of one of our own – Caldring the Smith. Gilmorril the Scout had been there before and reported sightings of broken carts and ironmongery trapped within the marsh’s grip, and Caldring wanted to use these as raw materials for her work. Gilmorril had warned that the skeletons that had approached the town – and presumably the ones that the adventurers had faced within the mausoleum – may have come from the marshes, but it didn’t appear to daunt our smith. It seems that some of the adventurers were only too willing to assist her.
The small group set off under moonlight two days ago. Caldring, plus Khalin the dwarf, and the young fighter Tradden. The rest of the adventuring group stayed within the town in the meantime.
The plan was to follow the south-eastern trail to the lake and the boathouse. Then follow the shoreline of the lake around to the east and into the swamps. The boathouse was about half a league, and then it was a further league or so around the lake. Gilmorril had suggested that the marsh was two leagues due east from a huge boulder by the lake’s edge – the group would have to cut across country from there.
The trail from the east gate was lightly worn and slowly rolled downhill to the south-east – here and there polished cobbles sticking up out of the trodden grass and weeds. After half an hour or so, Caldring, Khalin and Tradden received their first view of the lake – albeit shrouded in mist that shined against the moonlight. The mists rolled into the shore from somewhere out towards the middle of the lake and coiled around and over themselves as they broke against the shoreline. Jutting out of the mists at the nearby shore was a small wooden construction, shutters up and barred, obviously the boathouse.
Picking their way around the lake’s edge was slow going, and it took more than an hour before Caldring paused by a large boulder and raised her hand for them to stop for a short rest. Khalin noticed something on the rock here – weathered dwarven runes etched into it’s side indicating some sort of battle marker. He could only surmised that some battle had taken place here years ago that was in need of commemoration.
The next couple of hours passed slowly as the trio edged eastwards over broken land patched with thick, spiny undergrowth. The cold was starting to gnaw at their bones, but they sighed with relief as the thorny undergrowth gave way to more simple grassland.
However, the relief was short lived as Tradden’s boot went straight down into a small hollow filled with icy water. His curse rang out into the night and both Caldring and Khalin hissed their annoyance at the sound.
It didn’t take long for the clean and crisp moonlight night to turn into something more sinister as the group headed deeper into the swamp. The clean air was replaced by a hanging putrid smell, and a fine rolling fog reduced visibility to mere yards. Pockets of water and sludge became more common, and each footstep was greeted by a squelch and a suck. The fog closed in on them and made their calls to each other to watch their step as they each encountered hazards to sound muffled with a strange echo.
Then, there was a whoop from up front, and Caldring set off with a splash into some water. Fearful for her safety both Tradden and Khalin hurried up to where they had last seen her. Even through the fog they could see her beaming back at the others, knee-deep in water, holding onto a huge cartwheel rimmed with iron. She caressed it’s surface and chortled with joy. As Caldring moved to one side of the wheel, to secure some rope to ease it out of the viscous bog, she suddenly disappeared, plunging into the water.
Reacting in an instant, Tradden plunged in after the elf. The water was freezing, and pulled at Tradden’s muscles, tightening and weakening them. He thrashed about near where Caldring had disappeared, hoping to find a limb or hold so that he could pull her up. After what seemed like an eternity he grabbed something and pulled, and the elf bubbled up to the surface spluttering out grimy water, and coughing up bits of slime. Tradden grabbed hold of the rope and Khalin pulled them both to more solid ground.
Caldring spluttered out that she had seen a sword down in the water, and armour too, and was insistent that the team attempt to retrieve it.
Tradden was about to agree when he noticed a bubbling and frothing from the water near the cartwheel. As all three turned to stare they saw a grey sword rise up out of the water. Gripping it tightly was a bony hand, and to the horror of the group the bony skull of a skeleton, years of hate burning white in dark eye-sockets, started to rise up after it. As the trio watched on, frozen with fear, the rest of the skeleton appeared out of the water, followed by others behind it.
The young fighter recalls that there were a dozen or so skeletons, but the melee turned into a bit of blur, the trio fighting for their lives. At some point in the battle Caldring had used some of her elven powers and turned the icy water to steam, obscuring the view. The last remaining skeletons they had picked off within the vapours, but when the cloud disappeared, Caldring was nowhere to be found.
The tale continues, but my ink runs low and my candle is nearly at its end. I will complete the transcription on the morrow.