The ring glowed brightly with Arcane power which leaped out toward the sigil etched on the floor and the portal yawned into existence. My companions and I shared a brief exchange of glances and stepped inside. The feeling was indescribable, strange, and yet somewhat relaxing. I don’t know when it happened but at some point I fell into a deep sleep and felt my consciousness pulled from my body. I was suddenly in a desiccated swamp, all around was rot and decay and the air was thick with the scent of putrefaction and death. I looked around and saw that Silence and Willow were near me but they were different. They appeared to be composed of pure shadow and darkness, I looked down at myself and saw that I was like them. I was about to voice some concern of this strange turn of events when Silence began moving through the bog with purpose and so I waved for Willow’s attention and we followed.
Walking through the swamp proved no easy task as unlike the previous marshlands this one was coated by a thick gray viscous substance. This substance caused me grave concern but I didn’t know why, only that I did not wish to remain there long. The path we travelled led out to what appeared to have once been a pond, but instead of water it was just a large pit of the gray…Goo. As we neared this ‘clearing’ I saw Silence tense and stopped in my tracks. From out of the fogged over ‘pond’ came a soft chanting which, at first, I couldn’t make out. I wish that inability to comprehend had persisted. Unfortunately the chanting intensified, moved and thrummed and seemed to fill the gloomy air as it reached its frenzied crescendo. That is when they emerged. They appeared to be roughly the same size of the lizardfolk we’d just previously worked with, but instead a reptilian appearance they looked more fish like. With swords, javelins, and spears out on display and a menacing gleam in their eyes we readed for combat.
They moved through the muck with uncanny ease and it didn’t take long for us to see that they also had numbers on their side as well. But that didn’t deter us as Silence and Willow moved in on the nearest of them as I remained back to provide support in the form of a rain of Eldritch Blasts. Confidence seemed to turn into carelessness as these opponents proved much tougher than expected, the battle was wild and chaotic. At several points I could almost swear a storm had appeared nearby as a number of lightning strikes fell quite near to where we fought. Eventually we managed to regain the upper hand and as the last of the creatures fell I began to feel a pull and all at once I was no long in that fetid swamp and my eyes fluttered open.
I was back in the portal as well as my own body once again, I had just begun to acclimate when I felt another pull this time on my actual physical being. Some force seemed to be attempting to divert me from the portal’s true destination, as the pull intensified the Arcane writings and symbols stained into my skin started to heat and flare with incredible pain. It was as though my so called ‘masters’ did not wish to let this intruding presence alter their plans for where they willed me to be. This struggle continued for what felt like hours when suddenly the pain from my markings began to subside, as if the ones who pull my strings figured out what the presence intended and thought the result to be…..amusing. This is all I was able to perceive as my body and essence were still recovering the effects of the metaphysical tug-of-war, and as I began to black out I felt a lingering and chilling sense of childlike delight emanating from the far off vistas my ‘masters’ call home.
With a flash I was deposited out of the portal onto a dawn soaked patch of dirt road.
“That’s becoming quite tiring.” I groaned out loud, as much to myself as to the rest of creation. I dusted the tattered remains of my robes and cloak. I saw that I was not alone and that Silence was standing off to the side of the road staring at the northern horizon. Following his gaze I saw that we were standing on the crest of decent sized hill and that the road led down through a forest which opened into a wide meadow and in its middle sat a good sized town or village. However the most dominating feature of this view was that of a massive black tree that seemed to be a bit further north of the village. Silence and I stood for a moment transfixed.
“That’s probably not good.” I said dryly, Silence evenly nodded in agreement.
“We have to go there don’t we?” I asked already knowing the answer, Silence repeated the nod.
“Well, lets get going.” I sighed as we began our walk through the forest.
We moved for some time rather cautiously but after a while picked up our pace. After following the road till midday we could see that our destination was near, that wass when we passed another traveller. He was an oddly dressed little man approaching from the north, as he drew near we could hear him muttering to himself.
“Heh, tiMe tO LEAve. Yes. YES. yes time….TIME..to leaVE.”
Silence moved toward the old man, as he did I saw a shimmer slide over his face causing his horns to disappear and his skin color change to that of a pale human.
“Excuse me sir” Silence said in his usual hushed and even tone, “but could you tell me why it’s time to leave?” The man stopped and turned his head slowly to face Silence his expression shifted that of great exuberance.
“Why IS it time to GO?” He began to stutter and cackle, “I..it’s t.t.TIME to go oh because..heh..its time TO GO” He started to continue along the road as Silence just stood there watching him go. I just had open my mouth.
“Sir, could you tell me the name of that town?” He stopped again and turned his head back at a clearly uncomfortable angle with a wide manic grin stretching across his face.
“HAHAHA!”, His laugh was loud and shrill and cold, “NAME? HAHAHAHA No More Need for NAMES now.” And with that he once again continued on his way, bellowing insane laughter until just as he was a few yards away he simply vanished into shadow.
Silence and I stood there in the road for a moment dumbfounded (at least I was).
“Well he seemed all right.” I said to Silence, my words dripping with sarcasm, and with that we made our way to town.
Upon our arrival we saw a farmer working his field, as he was also close to the road we approached him.
“Hail travellers as I can tell by the looks of ya, and that the sun be settin’ as we speak, ya probably lookin’ fer a place ta stay the night.” He shouted out brightly, I could tell that Silence had something else on his mind to ask but before he could the farmer continued “Will the Inn is just up the road there a bit, maybe just another good five minutes a walkin’ or so. They got good food, good drink, and as I can attest to when the missus gets inta a bit of a mood, good soft beds.” And with that he returned to his work.
“Thank you for the information sir, but do you mind if I ask you about that tree?” asked Silence. The farmer shuttered a bit and his face went pale.
“Uh..uh..oh well would you look at that, heh, I..I..I guess its later than I figured. Ti…time to knock off then, good evenin’ gentlemen.” Silence tried to interject over the farmer’s rambling, but still he left. I could see a cold glit appear in Silence’s eyes for a moment, but before I said anything it seemed he realized there was little point following up with the farmer in..that..manner.
I let out a long breath as finally found the Inn and after Silence spoke with the Barman, and I had a bite to eat and a bit to drink, I headed for our rented room, collapsed on one of the beds and fell swiftly into the first good sleep in months. Though as I slipped into the comforting darkness I knew that any rest and ease gained from it would likely be short lived.