(old) Bog Death (Cherzra's Title Story)

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byzanthia
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(old) Bog Death (Cherzra's Title Story)

Postby byzanthia » Wed Feb 14, 2024 4:09 pm

Author: Cherzra

Slowly Tezlin trudged on through the thick muck. The drow was by now weary of this hard going, the mud and ever-present swarms of insects having worn him down. This was no place for a drow to be, he thought to himself. On the damned surface, and what a place on the surface! A foul, smelling swamp that made going so hard that he almost wished it were a grass plain instead. But at least here, he could see because of the heavy air and thick canopy above blocking out all direct light.
He had set out from Dobluth Kyor a day earlier, on orders from the weapons master of his House directly. It seemed a high-ranking emissary returning from the Pasha of Calimport and his small company were not heard from for two days, while they should have been long back. Their loyalty was not in doubt and their business had been important, something of a magical nature in the ruins halfway between Waterdeep and Baldur's Gate. Perhaps they had been caught near Baldur's Gate - Tezlin's orders were to find out where they were and get them back, before it was too late. So he was sent out that night.

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The drow mage Arseleth penned the final symbol on the dark stone wall, completing his work in the depths of the ancient ruins as planned. The runes were now imbued with power and a gate could be opened as soon as he brought the small stone chips back home. His House would be pleased. Very pleased. Being able to open a gate here at will was very valuable, as it would allow their House to expand its reach further. As he and his companions, Zulduth the emissary to the Calimport pasha and t'Ehlak the bodyguard gathered their gear, they made their way slowly up through the pitch black chambers to the surface, a trek of several hours passing through huge old chambers long forgotten to most. Upon leaving the depths of the ground, the drows cursed the surface, even though it was dusk and the light was fading. The drow mage cast his spell, carefully placing the heavy slab of rock back in it's position over the stairway, then replacing the broken pillar over it. After this he uttered a second incantation that made the area seem as though it had not been touched in a century. Their tracks were covered, all that remained now was the trek back to Dobluth Kyor. They had taken care of the business with the Pasha on their way to the ruins, swirling by the coastal town of Calimport the evening of the day after they set out and leaving it the following night,
so they could return to Dobluth Kyor now without further ado.

They walked swiftly and quietly, departing from the ruins as soon as darkness fell over the land. The plan was to reach the troll hills at midnight, make their way through them and reach the southern end of them at the next midday. There they would rest under the cover of the swamp's dark edge and make their way past Baldur's Gate at nightfall again. After that night they would be on the southern bank of the river, near the safety of Tethir Forest, leaving the way to Mir Forest open. Their biggest concern was the second night out, passing the large human town of Baldur's Gate without being spotted.

Or so they thought.

The short trek across the plains to the Troll Hills' northern edge was uneventful. They spotted two human wagons on the road, but stayed well clear of them. Their hatred for the surface dwellers was great, but the secrecy of their mission was greater. Besides, they would have to spend a day at the southern edge of the swamps waiting for the next dark, and word might get out of their attack during that day, making the trek through the thin strip of woods east of Baldur's Gate a lot harder. So they moved on without engaging.

After some hours the surroundings started changing. The dry ground became more wet, and the shrubs and trees they had made their way through since leaving the ruins became thicker and thicker. They now entered the Troll Hills, the infamous marshes north of Baldur's Gate.

Although there was a road through it, they did not take this, choosing instead to go directly south. The road swirled through the hills, having to go around the swamps and dense trees in order to make wagon travel possible. This would cost them valuable time and there were always caravans on the road, with many mercenaries and mages on full alert. Better to go through the swamp. Besides, they thought, nothing lived in those bogs except stupid creatures who couldn't possibly notice them. They had passed through thrice without anything
happening - were they not the infamous drow, masters of stealth?

Two hours into the swamps t'Ehlak noted several prints in the mud. Large tracks, troll tracks. He saw them first, it was his task to ensure his companions made it back safely and his trained eyes were on constant alert. However, he had not seen anything out of the ordinary, and on the way through the swamps two days ago they spotted several as well. They could be days old. It was impossible to tell with this damned mud. Without stopping he glanced around, but he noted nothing that indicated any cause for concern. There was no need to inform his companions, he thought - it would be worse to alarm them without cause. As he turned his head forward again, the patch of moss few feet in front of him suddenly became
alive. In the time it had taken him to swivel his head back to its normal position, a huge dark shape had risen out of the bog - it took the drow completely by surprise, his heart skipped a beat and everything seemed to go in slow motion. He was stunned, where did this thing come from! As he reached for his main gauche, he started to open his mouth to yell to his companions - but before he could say a word or draw his weapon, it was all over. He realized this was indeed a troll, and remembered trolls could not be surprised in their troll hole - it had been his job to spot them or any other danger in advance, and he had failed. He gulped as he wanted to scream. A flash of green was the last thing he ever saw. Thee claws as sharp as his weapon tore into his neck straight to his spine, snapping it like a twig. Blood spurted out of his mouth as his grasp on the main gauche was lost, a stunned expression in his eyes and a gargling the only warning he could give the others. The last thing he saw as his head fell to the mud, was a horrible tall beast with his bloody torso in its claws. As his head landed in the swamp it rolled backwards, and he looked straight into the shocked eyes of Zulduth before sinking into a pool. Then all went black. The troll let loose a horrible scream as it ripped its claws back out of the neck and hurled the body away, raising its lips revealing a disgusting jaw of razor sharp teeth, contorting its face in the fiercest way it could while raising its claws to the drow party as a show of power. Arseleth quickly recovered from his initial shock and analyzed the situation - their supposedly experienced guard had been dispatched without being able to put up any defense,
without even realizing what happened before it was too late. That left them in the middle of these swamps without any escape or protection! The troll took a step forward and this abruptly stopped the drow's thought pattern. If he wanted to live, he had to do something, now! Arseleth turned around and ran as fast as he could in northerly direction, his hands reaching into the pouches at his belt for the components to the invisibility spell as he glanced over his shoulder and noticed Zulduth still standing before the beast.

The troll had seen the drow swivel around and instinctively knew it was to run, but it was all fine with her. It would not get far and there was always this one here first! The troll hissed and tilted its head, narrowing its eyes as it looked at Zulduth and snarled again, hissing its name as it slowly balled its claw: Cccchheerzzzraaah. Cccherzzrrra!!!!! This was its domain, it was hungry, it was in fact always hungry, here was food! Zulduth stuttered and then quickly spoke 'Vhaerun protect me!' He reached for the dagger at his side and drew
it. The troll rose to its full height then hunched over again, taking a fast step forward. Zulduth slowly inched backwards - he had intended to run but his feet refused. He stood frozen. Again the troll took a step forward, hunching even more so its head was almost on level with the drow. Zulduth desperately swung his arm in a wide arc, aiming for the thin green head, which was now within reach. But Zulduth was no warrior, and for all his natural drow speed this foe was much faster. Before his weapon had traveled half the distance it would need to hit, the troll had risen to its full height, and Zulduth's swing was doomed to miss. As his arm completed the arc under its momentum, the troll bared its teeth and savagely dove forward, the maw tearing into the flesh, wildly trashing its head and tearing the limb off with a sickening ripping sound. Zulduth screamed as he fell to his knees in the mud, grabbing what remained of his right arm with the left, dark blood spurting out at the elbow where the arm abruptly ended. As he looked at his arm the green beast jumped on him like a spider on its prey, and as his eyes lifted from his arm towards this movement all he saw was the maw of filthy teeth a few inches away from his head. The troll bit him squarely in the head. Blood spurted around his eyes and he heard a sickening crack as his skull was crushed by the force of the bite - then all went black for him too.

Arseleth heard Zulduth's death scream and realized he would have to be fast or he would be next. Slender hands trembling he reached for the right spell components, each kept in a small leather pouch on his embroidered belt. He quickly looked up from his pouches toward where he had ran from, and saw that the troll was gone. Curses! He swiftly glanced left and right, but saw nothing. He would have to act now! As he reached the last component pouch, he threw the dusts into the thick misty air and uttered the arcane phrase - then he vanished. After crushing the fat drow's skull, Cherzra picked up the severed arm and took a rip out of it, chewing the succulent flesh. Then she sniffed out the direction the other food ran off in, and she dashed off into the thick vegetation to arc around him and surprise it. As she had the last drow in sight a few long dashes later, it disappeared right as she was considering where to bite it first! Graah, what was this?! Then as she stood non-understanding, she noticed tracks from where the food had been standing forming in the mud right as she watched! This was something she had never seen before. Interesting! The food was obviously gone, but here was something new. She prowled toward the strange footprints being formed, unaware that this was the same drow who had gone invisible, a concept far beyond her reach. No longer bothering to conceal herself, she emerged from the vines and slowly came forward, Zulduth's arm dangling in her maw. Arseleth now saw the
beast, but it didn't seem to realize he was still right there but only invisible. He walked backward and the troll followed, staring at the ground with a stupid look on its face. Of course! His tracks! He concentrated and a microsecond later he slowly lifted off the ground, using his innate levitation. He moved a few feet, and the troll didn't follow, still staring at his last prints with a blank expression on its face. This might be his chance! He reached for his pouches and grabbed the components for a fireball spell. Cursed be the bitch Lloth, he had used the last of a critical component in the spells empowering the runes back at the ruins, he would have to cast something else! Arseleth put back the components he had already taken and retrieved the ones for a lightning bolt instead. Uttering the accompanying words, a huge flash of white came out of his fingers, striking the troll square in the side, ripping off its arm and a large portion of its shoulder. Cherzra screamed and growled, not understanding, but feeling the immense pain as its left arm fell in the muck with a splash. Then she ran off, and Arseleth was alone.

Only now did the drow realize what had really happened. He moved back toward where they had been attacked, and looked at the scene with disgust. Zulduth's body lay in the muck with his head crushed, his brains seeping out into the swamp. A few feet in front of him lay t'Ehlak's head and before that his body. He grimaced in disgust and moved forward. In front of t'Ehlak's body was the moss the troll had come out of, a dark and dank pit under a few roots. Obviously its troll hole. Then he remembered he was short on components and had better be going before it was too late. With the aid of his invisibility spell and the levitation the going was much easier, and he reached the southern edge of the swamps by late midday the next day. As he warded the area around him, he sat down and waited for the night.

------------------

Arseleth awoke with a snap. Curses, was it still day? He had certainly not planned to sleep, but they had worked all day and night in the ruins to finish the runes and then moved directly on towards the Troll Hills. But it was still day, so his nap could only have been a few hours. His invisibility spell had worn off though, this was strange as it should have lasted much longer. As he rose, he looked at the sky. Curses again, that blasted sun was on its way up to its apex, which meant he had slept through the night and would have to wait till the next sunset before he could move again! He clenched his teeth and fumed with anger. How could he have been so careless? How did he fall asleep? He sat down and realized it would do no good to curse, he had better conceal himself.

A few hours later one of the wards he had placed was broken. The telepathic message he received as warning shocked him - could it be that accursed troll had found his scent and followed him again? Had he been spotted by a human, who oft farmed the lands south of the troll hills? Or was it simply a boar or something else? He moved down deeper under the thick shrubs he had been hiding in, looking at the direction of the ward that had been broken, but saw nothing. Then he felt cold steel in his neck. Thinking his end had come, he whispered a prayer to Vhaerun. But alas it was not to be so, for a strong hand grabbed his shoulder and turned him over, then he stared into another drow's cowled face. He recognized the other as Tezlin, the House tracker and sometimes assassin, and he shivered as the tension eased out of his body. He told Tezlin of the attack on their way back from the ruins, and Tezlin explained that he had been sent out to search for them. Arseleth spoke: 'Let us be on our way, I have finished the task we were sent out to do and have no wish to remain here'. Tezlin nodded his head, as he had found what remained of the small group and his task had thus been completed. As they were discussing the best way to get past Baldur's Gate, Arseleth's dark face suddenly went flush as he realized that the stone chips that were needed to open the gate to the ruins were still in t'Ehlak's pack. 'Curses!', he growled in a soft whisper, 'we have to go back...'. Returning without the chips was worse than not returning at all, as the Lord of his House would most certainly not be pleased, probably viewing his returning alive but without the chips as treason or cowardice. There was no way new chips could be made, it was no longer possible now the runes had been empowered. And if they wanted to have any chance of recovering the ones from t'Ehlak's backpack, they would have to do it now - before it was gone.

So he sighed and explained. Tezlin sighed too, for he realized he had no choice but to accompany the mage into the swamps. Tezlin leading, they headed into the thickness of the swamp.

Five hours later they had lost their bearings. It was now past midday, close to dusk even, but because Arseleth had left the place they were attacked with levitation and invisibility, they could not immediately find it again. They had run across several other creatures of the swamp - huge snakes, boars and even a lizardman, which they mistook for a troll at first. Another two hours later Tezlin finally noticed some odd marks, his experienced eyes gliding over the bog in front of them and seeing the broken twigs and vines. This was not the trail of a boar or a similar creature, and he signed to his companion to remain behind him and be totally quiet. Slowly, they followed this trail. Arseleth now had sense life up, not wishing to be surprised again, and Tezlin was on full guard with his sword drawn and his muscled tensed. Arseleth had enough components left for one invisibility spell, but had told Tezlin that he was all out. He'd rather be safe in case something unexpected happened. The trail lead north-south and they soon discovered the tracks were from three pairs of boots, so it was obvious they had found the tracks of the original party of three. Half an hour later they came across the scene Arseleth had fled from, thick swarms of insects welcoming them to the bodies. t'Ehlak's body was still there, but where Zulduth's had been there was nothing but a dark red dent in the moss with a bloody trail leading towards the gloomy hole a few meters onward. It was obvious the corpse had been dragged there. Speaking in the drow sign language, Arseleth told Tezlin he noticed no lifeforms around, nothing which indicated the troll anyway. Just the thick swarms of insects, which made breathing without getting any in difficult. Tezlin replied that he would go toward the hole to see if the troll was still there anyway, so that it would not surprise him as he was searching t'Ehlak's pack. He inched towards the hole where a steady supply of blowflies and other insects was hovering. Slowly he raised himself, glancing into the hole, his ultravision allowing him to see the insides clearly. Gnarled roots formed the side of the small wet hole, with gnawed bones littering the soggy bottom. A patch of moss and small shrubs lay at the back - all in all the hole was about 8 feet in diameter. Before the makeshift bed lay what remained of the drow, his ribs sticking out of his torso, chewed on and broken, a huge gaping wound in his chest. Most of the flesh was gone, as were the intestines, and the insects were feasting on what remained. There was no troll to be seen. Quickly he glanced at Arseleth and nodded, upon which the mage strode forward, rolled over the other body and opened the pack. Arseleth found the small pouch fast enough, and nodded. They both walked quickly towards the south, thinking they should get out of the swamps as fast as they could. It was almost night, if they traveled fast they could pass east of Baldur's Gate that very night still. Thirty feet south of the hole, Arseleth stepped on one of the many patches of moss - and screamed as he crashed through the twigs and branches covering what was another hole. A second later he fell on the troll, which was obviously the same one he had encountered before as it was missing an arm and its maw and torso were covered with bloody gore from its meal. The troll had spotted them coming, but it was regenerating and it recognized the creatures as the same kind that had hurt it before, so it stayed quiet and didn't move. Then the stupid creature walked right into its hole. Cherzra struck Arseleth with its right arm, knocking him to the back of the hole. The troll arose and Arseleth could see that its shoulder was already healed, with the first inches of the arm in place even. As it lunged toward the stricken drow, suddenly Tezlin fell out of the opening, planting his sword in the troll's back and screaming 'Vhaerun have your soul you foul creature!'. The troll roared as the mithril pierced its back, the tip of the blade coming out of the other side. It hissed and jumped up with such force that the drow lost the grip on his blade and fell hard to the ground. The troll rose to its full lanky height, wildly flailing its arm. It took a few seconds to maneuver its long limb behind its back and grab the hilt of the sword, tearing it out with reckless abandon and creating a gaping hole in its torso. During these few seconds, Arseleth had recovered and dived out of the hole. Tezlin made use of the beast's momentary preoccupation to reach for his daggers and he lunged forward with both hands, ramming the blades into the troll's chest. The flesh was surprisingly easy to penetrate, almost as if it were a thick slime. As Cherzra roared and foamed wildly at the maw the drow tried to pull out his blades, but he only managed to grab a single one. The troll furiously swung its claw, raking across Tezlin's chainmail and tearing three half inch deep wounds in his chest. The drow grimaced, parrying the second blow and preparing to deliver a hard upward thrust to the troll's neck, but he failed to appreciate the troll's agility as its arm instantly lunged forward again, claws outstretched. The sharp curved nails struck him square in the face, cutting through his nose before entering his right eye socket and driving deep in. The drow dropped his dagger, made some spastic moves and then became very still. Cherzra threw the drow to the wall as though it were a rag doll, and as it thudded off the mud she rammed her claws into its belly again in rage, grabbing the drow's insides and tearing them out as the body fell into the sludge. Stupid food, she had given it the chance to walk away but they were stupid, weak too, think they stronger than Cherzra? She roared in victory as she hurled the bloody chunk of organs against the wall.

Arseleth witnessed the battle from outside the hole. At first he thought Tezlin was winning - the troll had only one arm, an incredible wound in its torso and was subsequently stabbed twice again- and he contemplated jumping back in to help him finish the creature off. As he considered this, Arseleth was shocked when without warning it was all over in one swift jab. Tezlin, master tracker and feared assassin, was taken down by this green creature in a single swipe, what was he to do now? He had no weapon and no reagents left for offensive spells, so quickly he uttered the words and tossed the other components, becoming invisible once again. As his form faded, the troll easily jumped out of the hole even while carrying the limp body of Tezlin in its remaining arm, hissing and peering around, obviously looking to take down the last drow too. It seemed unaffected by its injuries and infuriated, viciously hissing and contorting its face. He squinted, and when the levitation took affect he made his way south as quickly as possible. The troll sniffed the air and came in his general direction, so he moved south quickly. The troll did not follow.

Two days later Arseleth arrived in Dobluth Kyor. Once he returned to his House, he told his story, and all were amazed at what had taken place. Some doubted his words thinking he had made something up, but a glare from the drow was enough to make them realized he told the truth. But a single troll had taken down three drow? Of which one was an accomplished fighter and another was a famed assassin? This was amazing, this was practically impossible - the drow, infamous for their stealth and tracking, had been surprised not once, but twice, and one of their best fighters had been taken down by an already wounded troll. Despite the loss of their companions, Arseleth was honored. This achievement would certainly be noted by his elders, as he had escaped not once, but twice - and he had brought back the stone chips as well! The gate to the ruins could now be opened, and they could bypass the bogs. The swamps where this troll
roamed, bog death.

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