The harsh, unforgiving Great Salt Marsh had already taken its toll on the party, but their spirits were surprisingly high. They had handily bested any beasties or obstacles in their path, and all the way up to the great Nagagien Spires, there had been few surprises. The arcane monoliths were impressive sure, but according to Fenyrn, they were expected.
It wasn’t until a couple miles or so past the Spires that things started to take a turn. The once standard fare marsh had begun to twist into an abject reflection of itself. Trees took the form of mangled tapestries of necrotic limbs reaching into the now darkening, fog covered landscape. Thick, green water burbled with malicious intent. A concerned look fell over the barbarian guide’s face as they trudged deeper into the alien landscape.
“This… this is not normal. There is something terribly wrong about this.” Fenyrn’s own trepidation turned into outright horror as it seeped into the guts of the other three travelers. Visibility was down to no more than a couple arms’ reach away, and through the sticky brown fog, they could hear the crawling and creeping of the swamp’s uninviting inhabitants.
Along the way, Guy’s foot brushed against something in the sludge. It wasn’t much, but it gave him pause to stop and investigate. He looked around for movement, ready to strike at whatever foul beast would emerge from the marsh floor. But nothing came. Just the eerie aliveness of the now deathly swamp. Cautiously, he reached a hand down into the muck, feeling for anything other than mud and vines and filth. What he found was a lone piece of parchment, soaked and barely legible. The group read it in collective confusion, coming to all sorts of grave conclusions, as they continued through the marsh.
Spires, dripping with arcane goo began spotting the landscape. Not as grand as those that came before, but equally as menacing, they began forming small canyons where the fog condensed and settled. Eventually there was no choice but for the group to proceed into one of the basins. Confident that they were close to their destination, Fenyrn assured the weary travelers that beyond the canyon was a place of respite.
Felix, ever the spontaneous fool, ran ahead, adeptly springing from rock to rock until he stood just above the blanket of fog on the wall of the canyon. More concerned with keeping his footing on the slick surface, he failed to hear the clicking and clattering of pointy, armored legs clambering down the walls toward him. Before he knew it, he felt a sharp biting sensation down at his ankle.
He looked down in abject horror as a spider, as large as a well fed dog, had sunk its gnarled fangs deep into his flesh. Coming to, he swiftly stabbed at his attacker with his spear, knocking its vice-like grip loose, just as another monstrosity emerged from the fog into his field of vision. With a brief glance over his shoulder, Felix could barely make out the figures of Vera, Guy, and Fenyrn grouping together as the shadows of three or four more eight legged creatures converged on their position.
Felix continued to fend off the arachnid aggressors on the canyon wall. Smashing through one of the beasts sent an unnatural green ooze flying through the air. In the next moment he spun around and skewed another. With the sound of battle still raging at the mouth of the gorge, Felix pressed forward.
From seemingly out of nowhere the heft and ferocity of a raging bull came crashing into him from the side. He flew through the air like a rag doll with little more than a glimpse of what had struck him. As he soared off the cliff’s edge a monstrous shadow of an eight legged behemoth crept forward into his vision. Quickly gathering his wits, Felix tried to right himself mid-air, grasping for anything that may have slowed his fall. He twisted and contorted his body as he dropped, 15, 20, 25 feet. until finally finding the ground. He landed with an uncanny grace, but still he grimaced as his bones and joints absorbed the impact.
To be continued…