Upon passing the sleeping vapor plants, we entered a great chamber filled with brambles and rot, almost immediately set upon by two more giant plant creatures. Though each of us was bloodied in the fight, we managed to slay them, thanks to a spell from Fijit that allowed us to move freely amidst the tangling muck and limbs. Almost before our eyes, the rot began to recede once the primary creature was felled. Though I found this curious, Fijit seemed to think this was normal.
A vault in this chamber revealed many weapons and treasures, however, as we entered it, Ewiga, who had accompanied us since her throne room, suddenly turned on poor Elynnar, revealing her true self as a horrible hag. A pitched battle ensued, during which our casters were drained of magic, and the rest of us were battered nearly to death by Ewiga’s clawed arms.
At last, however, she lay unconscious at our feet, and so we bound her and retreated to the treasure room to rest, hoping that we might question the hag once we had all recovered.
That night, I was assailed in my dreams by a vision of a hellish dark, landscape and a child far out of reach across a sea of swarming darkness, retreating up a jutting rock as the darkness climbed toward it. I tried to call out to the child, preparing myself to plunge into the demon sea, but then, my lord, Apsu, appeared as a great dragon of purest light, banishing all the darkness he touched in as he settled to perch behind me.
“Save the child!” I pleaded, looking up into the dragon’s fearsome, beautiful face. “Or, if you will do nothing, grant me the strength to do it!”
Apsu, however, only looked to the child, then back to me with a tear in his eye, and, before I could pursue my plan of leaping into the darkness, I awoke, shaken into consciousness by a concerned-looking Torsten.
Ewiga was awake as well, and, as we began to question her, revealing the baby boots and rattle we’d found on her as we did so, her story began to unfold, one of a barren wife, desperate enough to mother a child that she struck a deal with the hags of a nearby swamp to bring life to her womb. A daughter was born, one that the hags had demanded as part of the deal, but Ewiga had refused, leading to her husband’s flight from her with their daughter when he learned the truth, and leaving Ewiga to be taken by the hags to complete the contract. Bound to the hags, and to the swamp, she had become a hag herself, and, as I looked into her tearful eyes, I believed I saw some trace of her humanity resurface.
So I assured her that, if we all returned to the swamp peacefully, she would be left alone, though I would return to see the swamp cleansed should I hear of her corrupting it. I needn’t have worried, for, no sooner had we exited the treasure room than she attacked Leetsa and myself, slamming the door shut behind her to keep the rest of the group from assisting. I, however, managed to striker her with my newfound spear, and the owl, Whisper, slashed the hag’s throat before she could transport away.
Holding the once human woman’s body as she bled out, I then understood that her very nature rendered her incapable of being trusted, and so I delivered the killing blow, carrying her body back to the main atrium to return to the nature of this place. The weight of this act seemed to drag me back to the stone itself. Sworn as I am to shepherd new life into this world, and being forced to slay someone whose fall to corruption began with the pure intentions of wishing to become a mother…it continues to be a great burden on my heart, heightened by the darkness of my dream.
Not soon enough for my liking, we left the Vault of Thorns behind, reemerging into the stone circle to find Ingrahild waiting, urging us to make haste for a band of orcs and giants that had taken her brother.
So we set off to the tune of Torsten’s marching song, only to be set upon by a swarm of awful bugs as we neared our destination. Though we tried to subdue them with stealth and a lack of bombastic spells, we heard the sound of approaching foes as the last of bugs flew into the night, the new enemies obviously the band we sought, and just as obviously searching for us.
We all rushed to hide, but, seconds later, a large boulder struck the ground where we’d just stood, and booming, giant-ish voice called out for us to emerge. I clung to the shadow of my cover, hoping the others would do the same as dusk and the heightening raindrops began to fall in earnest…