I had better not be getting sick. If I am getting sick, I will be so angry with so many people, it won’t even be funny. I would blame the bugs but there are too many of them.
Nothing happened again last night, at Downmarsh Station. I slept the night on the barge. Reece tried the night at the local inn. Xel’Xaran warned that the local whore might also be the local grandmother. Reece looked to need a Fortitude save to get past that thought.
This morning we skipped the marketplace and the same of everything we saw of Downmarsh the last time, and moved into the shade of the forest. I have on a new Endure Elements for the day. This spell is an absolute gem.
Before long, Yissic arrived, with his crocodile companion, and three other lizardmen. They wore the same Guild sash as our Druid contact. I was amused to see Alex’s raven uneasy at the sight of the shaman’s tremendous reptile pet. I think the raven sensed my delight. It glared at me and croaked some kind of annoyance.
With few words of greeting, Yissic led us away from the river and through the woods. This forest thinned and opened up onto marshland. Baked by dry weather for weeks now, much of the path winding into the open stretches of land before us was hard and bare earth. Stained reeds and withered, bent grasses suggested where the water-line would normally be, below our path.
As we progressed further away from the forest, however, the path wound lower and we found ourselves picking our steps carefully, avoiding pots of mud and squishy spots of peat where one might land a foot and lose a boot to the earth.
Yissic’s crocodile chose its own path through the marsh, its nature and its size allowing for as straight-line a direction of travel as the great beast wished. The lizardmen all seemed entirely unaware of the mucky footing, frustrating meandering of the path, and especially the bugs.
The thrice-damn’d bugs ! Between the flies you could see and the flies you couldn’t, and the creepy-crawlers under any log you might trip over or stump you may find to sit on, for sure I have been bitten a dozen times a minute, if but a single time ! If I was suffering from the heat as well I am quite sure I would have died of it all today. I may yet die of bug-bite. Curse them all. I swat one and three take its place.
Six hours or more we hiked though wet, slimy, uneven, squishy, treacherous, buggy terrain. There were times when the path took us right at the edge of an open trench of water, five to twenty feet across, as still as glass but as deeper than imaginable. The water lost all transparency to sheer brown-blackness a couple feet below the surface, marked only by a mysterious trail of bubbles rising to the surface, or the glimpse of some creature swimming in view for a moment.
Over time the land lost all feature, and there was no easy mark on the horizon for guidance. We could see a few hundred yards, maybe half a mile, in any direction, and it was the same lumpy brown-white blandness, like a blanket of muck and water and low, muddy, grassy islands spread out in low rises across the face of the earth. Trees that did grow did not grow tall or healthy, and their wood was frequently parched grey. Their roots spread wide and gripped the earth. Moss adorned the branches.
The few words Yissic spoke on our hike, were in response to BOB’s questions about our assignment. There have been goblinoid creatures spotted within an uncomfortable distance to our destination village. Yissic specifically sent word to Gavin to send us. What went unspoken, was his confidence in us. I was surprised that Yissic implied as much of it as he did.
When we reached the village, it was no accomplishment worth all the insects and mud. Crudely constructed from bone-white wood, and lacking right angles and familiarity with architecture, this village defies easy explanation. It is a grouping of huts and houses and a Guild hall beside a large pond or small lake.
It is mostly lizardfolk, and some humans, who live here. Many but not all are Guild members. All, from what I can see, have thumbs. Which suggests they did not build this village, as whoever built this collection of wormwood hovels on short stilts were either physically disabled, in a hurry, or were children.
At war with biting and stinging insects and not willing to enrage more potential foes, I forced a smile and made as if to agree that the Guild hall was impressive and would be comfortable and that yes, we would certainly enjoy our stay here. The hall is not the worst structure in this soggy lump of mushy ground, and it shines only in comparison to its surroundings.
Everything smells like rotting grass, and here I am sure that the cooked meat on sticks is, in fact, rat. Tomorrow we are heading out to hunt for these reported goblinoids. We have been assigned rooms within the lean-to of a Guild hall. I am not happy with the fact that I can see the ground though the gaps in the floor. Flying and crawling bugs abound.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
25th Day, marsh village, territory of Ælim.