The Gloom Marshes – The Marsh Ghouls
From the Private Annals of the Church of Pelor.
Transcribed by Beltak, Scribe to His Radiant Servant, Tremak the Plush.
The 13th Day of Ches in the Year of the Sudden Journey.
With morning light granted by Pelor I am able to continue my transcription of events within the Gloom Marshes, as they have been called. Tradden’s story is still fresh in my mind, even after a sleep, and I must set it down in text lest I begin to forget.
The trio of Caldring the Smith, Tradden the young fighter, and Khalin the dwarf had set off for the marshes to find raw materials for Caldring’s smithy. However, they had encountered skeletons rising from the depths. Although they had defeated the monstrosities, they had lost Caldring in the mists.
As the steam cloud dissipated, Khalin looked over towards the cartwheel and moved cautiously into the water, prodding and poking the ground before him with his warhammer. When he was thigh deep he started swirling his arms around in the cloudy water trying to find any sign or clue for where Caldring had gone.
As if on cue, to further dampen their mood, thunder pealed across the heavens, and great globs of rain began to fall.
Through the thunderous cacophony came another sound – a loud scream from nearby, behind where the party stood. A female scream.
Tradden whirled round trying to peer through the murk, but couldn’t see anything. Khalin’s dwarven eyes were sharper, though, and he pointed off to the north-east – two hunched figures standing over a prone body. A lightning bolt struck a nearby tree, sending flames shooting up into the air, and Tradden could see more clearly.
The figures were a ghastly pale colour with long, lank hair and long, extended fingers ending in vicious claws.
The young fighter charged off towards them, weapons drawn, striking one with his longsword with a flourish. The creature struck by Tradden steadied itself, looking down at the prostrate Caldring and then back at Tradden with a hiss. At close quarters Tradden could see it’s pale green flesh, almost translucent, glistening with a mixture of bog water and the driving rain. It was not human, that was for sure, it’s extended maw and claw-like, stretched fingers. Whatever horror this was, it stared balefully at Tradden and struck.
For the second time in only moments the group joined battle, splashing in the icy water and sodden with the downpour. The rending cuts and bites from the creatures stung in the rain.
Tradden and Khalin fared well, using their martial prowess to keep the creatures at bay for a while and lunging in for cuts and thrusts as best they could. Caldring had been calling on some clearly potent powers, but had taken a number of cuts from the rending claws of the monsters – ghouls as Tradden had been informed later.
Tradden could see that they were up against it, even with the numerical advantage. The Elven smith now looked like she would struggle to even raise her blade again, and if these monstrous things kept on clawing and biting as they had, they could be in real trouble.
Both of the ghouls had turned on Caldring, seeing her as the greater threat, and set against her with a thrashing of their claws. As Caldring defended herself as best she could one of the creatures managed to get around her and strike from the side. Khalin reacted as quickly, trying to block the blow, but it wasn’t enough and the claws knocked Caldring to the floor.
“By Moradin’s Hammer, you shall burn!” the dwarf had yelled, furious that the elf had fallen. Flames raced down Khalin’s arms from his bracers and surrounded his warhammer as he struck the ghoul that had felled the elf. The flames engulfed it and with a scream it ran off further into the swamp like a torch, and fell to the ground some distance away, still burning.
The dwarf then kept on the offensive, swiftly moving around the remaining creature, trying to distract it to allow Tradden to attack. As the young fighter kept the monster busy with swift cuts and feints it allowed Khalin to bring the full force of his weapon to bear, and the creature folded under another of Khalin’s immense blows, joined with fire, sinking to the floor writhed in eldritch flame.
The rain continued as Khalin and Tradden surveyed the scene, splashing in the pools in the swamp. Both were exhausted – three or four hours marching at night, followed by two chaotic encounters were enough for anyone – but they were not in as bad shape as Caldring.
Tradden rushed over to the elf’s side, barely acknowledging Khalin’s awesome dual flurry of pyrotechnics. She was hurt, badly, and the youth wasn’t sure if she was going to make it or not. Emotions flooded through him and he shook his fist at the night.
Thoughts of shelter, out of the rain and cold, flooded through their minds. The pair looked around. As far as they could see – which wasn’t very far – was bog and weeds and pools of murky water.
Carrying the smith back to Blackengorge would take too long, she needed to be warm and tended to immediately. Khalin suggested that the creatures they had just fought might have a lair nearby. Tradden looked at him despondently.
The pair looked around, trying to guess where the creatures had their lair. Khalin seemed fresh out of ideas, but Tradden indicated that the fleeing creature might have been trying to get somewhere until the flames finally snuffed out its life. Tradden pointed in the direction the creature had run with his shortsword, before sheathing it. He then carefully picked up Caldring over his shoulder, grimacing slightly at the unexpected weight and plodded on, with Khalin taking the lead.
Again I must pause the tale, as midday prayers draw near. I shall continue this evening.