Time is beginning to lose meaning as gray, sunless days merge into black, moonless nights. Each night, the sky blackens and boils, but still no rain falls.
Doubt begins to creep among the group as they board the swamp skiff and head West.
On the way, Fog sees a light through the reeds and treelimbs. It seems to grow darker around them as they get closer to the light.
A little island of dry land rises out of the stagnant water. The light comes from a fire that forms the center of a small camp. In the flickering light, they see a colorful gypsy wagon, two old mares, three gaily-clad children, and an old woman. A moment later, two men step into view. One is old and thin, the other young and strong. They settle themselves beside the fire. Then the old man looks up, directing the gaze of his good eye upon you. The other eye is milky and blank. The man smiles and motions with his withered hand, inviting you to join his group.
Because of the group’s hesitation, the old man remain standing and beckons again. Near him is a younger man who hasn’t really spoken. There is a plump woman tending to a roasting hog at the fire. Three young children are playing quietly off to the side of the wagon.
Fog introduces himself and asks about their being on the island.
Old Man smiles and winks to Fogaban. “We know paths. I am Scarengi…the man there, that is my son Carloni. The children are his. And the woman…my woman, that is Ryana. Valana, my daughter…yet awaits in the wagon…come and join us for food…and the safety of our camp.”
Fog says, “We are in need of … paths ……. we seek a direction to the mainland”
Scarengi taps his chin a moment, then motions to the fire. “Marais d’Tarascon is the nearest village…it is not far, but it is not a place to visit on a night such as this.”
Carloni says, “Better to stay in the swamp….”
Fogaban smiles, “We appreciate your hospitality …… but we just had a big meal earlier today”
Ryana shakes her head. “To speak of such evil is to invite it to dinner. Speaking of…it is done.”
Kor hops over the dwarf and moves to the hog, “I’m starving. Thank you!”
The woman begins carving up the hog, placing chunks of meat into many bowls. Carloni brings out a cask of ale.
Fog tries to stop Kor but Kor is beyond his grasp and eagerly aleady to eat the offered meat and ale.
The old man looks over each, then smiles at their hesitation. He takes a bowl of pork and a pint of ale and sits down at the fire to start eating.
The warmth of the fire takes the chill out of the otherwise damp air. Above, the stormclouds continue to hang heavily, yet have still to let loose the rain. Other than a gypsy wagon and family in the middle of the swamp, there is nothing anything else unusual.
Mailee and Hecate wearily remain near the skiff. Kor eagerly joined the gypsy camp for a meal. Kit stops between the two groups. Fog cautiously draws closer to the camp.
The door at the back of the wagon opens to reveal a shapely young woman with dark, expressive eyes. She smiles shyly, then settles nearby, beside the fire. “This,” Scarengi proclaims proudly, “is my beautiful daughter Valana. She will tell your fortune.”
Valana gazes at each of you in turn, with the firelight shining in her large, black eyes. “The trouble began when I cast the runes for that quiet and lost young man,” she explains sadly. “Perhaps it will end with another casting.” She holds a flat pan in her lap and stone tiles in her hands. Then, after gazing once again into your eyes, she drops the tiles into the pan.
“The lost one has called you!” Valana gasps. Each member of her family hastily makes a protective gesture. “The dead will walk with the coming storm, and you must find a way to put them to rest. If you cannot, the rain will turn to blood! It will drown you-you and all of Marais dTarascon.”
Scarengi quickly ushers his wife and daughter into the wagon. “No charge for your fortune,” the old man adds hastily. “It is time to rest after the adventures of the day. Be our guests and sleep beside the fire.”
Fogaban and Hecate are suspecious of meeting the family and the fortune.
Mialee believes it is a message.
Kor feels they should stay at the fire to sleep.
Kit is just glad they are all together; her time has been spent on being watchful of the group than what is around them. Troubled about her senses sences being off. Mialee had commented about not feeling in contact with her god. Kor made a similar comment about his spirit.
In the end, the group decides to move on to another dry area along the path.
As they prepare to leave, Valan’as shapely form can be seen outlined by the wagon doorway’s light. She speaks just above a whisper, “Beware the madman…Beware his blood.” She then disappears back into the wagon.
This only further cements how each felt about leaving the gypsy camp – yet they remain together and move down the path with the skiff in tow.
The road is not very wide, just wide enough for a wagon….trees close in on either side, but the smell of the swamp water is still prominent.
The group takes turns on watch… Time passes, they cannot be sure how much time has passed but they feel somewhat refreshed.
They cannot see much better now than before, but path continues on through the swamp for a short distance before it reaches the end of the island…and water meets them once again. When looking back, there is no sign of the wagon and there are no tracks on the path from where they said they had traveled.
On the way to Marais dTarascon
Once on the water, they review what they have set out to do and message from the gypsy.
The trees in this part of the swamp close in around the raft, forming a thick tangle of branches and exposed roots, making progress slow and difficult. Sharp, broken limbs scratch your arms and legs as you push the raft forward, and the wind whistles an odd, lifeless tune as it rushes through the leaves overhead. As you break through a clump of foliage, a light appears in the distance. It is brighter than a single lantern, warm and inviting in the cold, damp air. The light is not at eye level. It hovers in the dark so that you must look up to see it. Like moths to a flame, you and your raft slide easily toward the source of the light. It is a small wooden house, hardly larger than a shack. Light spills from its two front windows and a wide open door. The house appears to be suspended in the air above the surface of the swamp, its reflection shimmering in the dank pool before it.
Hecate looks around before spotting the structure, squinking to see if she can find the stilts.
As you get closer, you do manage to make out some stilts holding the house out of the water. There’s a front door that stands open and two windows at the front of the shack, but no apparent way to get up into it.
Mialee gazes up at the house, somewhat waiting for something to leap out at us.
Suddenly a rope ladder drops from the doorway. No figure steps into the light to greet you, and not even a shadow passes the open door. The ladder, constructed of wooden steps and thick rope, simply rolls out with a brief clatter of knocking wood. The last step hangs just above the surface of the fetid water, inviting you to climb up into the warm light.
Mialee looks to each of them and then moves to the ladder. The spear held, she begins to climb.
Fogaban follows next after securing the raft and pole
Kor looks at theo thers, then nods and holds the ladder still while they climb.
Hecate sighs. “Sure, why not…” She climbs the raft after Kith.
Kor watches them ascend, then climbs up as well.
The little house has only one room. All told, more than two dozen lanterns hang from pegs on the wall and sit on the warped wooden floor, flooding the shack with light. To the right of the door, unopened boxes have been neatly stacked against the wall. An open-topped barrel sits beside the boxes.
In the center of the room, facing the door, is a young man. He sits within a circle of five burning lanterns, with his large, blank eyes fixed in place. The young man is unusually thin and pale, and his long, blond hair hangs limply to his shoulders. His features are tortured. The simple shirt and pants that he wears are clean and fresh. He clutches a small book in his lap, but makes no move to get up or greet you-except to slowly struggle out an incomprehensible phrase: “The on descend shall evil of night the land, at near is signs of hexad this when hand.” Then he returns to his quiet state, neither speaking nor responding in any way.
Mialee attempts to unscramble the blond young man’s words, “The descend of evil upon the land, the signs of hexad when the night is at hand. Perhaps?”
Mialee says another idea, “The signs of hexad is at hand, when night is near and evil descends up on the land.”
By the way the man sits so still, they decide to look into one of the stacked boxes. But after feeling it is somewhat light, they set it down, unopened. They decide to try to make it to the village before the darkness of night is upon them.
As Mialee makes her way to the ladder, to go back to the raft, the man rises and follows. When Fogaban goes down, the young man follows him and Mialee.
The man climbs aboard with Mialee’s help, then quietly utters the words, “The mother stern of child lifeless found, heralds evil of night a time unbound.”
Hecate looks to Mialee. “Translation?”
Mialee replied, “Lifeless child of mother found, time of night heards evil abound. … Oh holy Maera”
Kor says, “He’s pretty insistant. Still, he hasn’t proven to be dangerous.”
The man would not answer any questions asked during the trip.
In the village of Marais dTarascon
As you begin to leave the swamp behind and approach the village of Marais d’Tarascon, the sky fills with roiling black clouds. For the first time, lightning plays across the heavens. Still, no rain falls. The storm simply hangs over the swamp and village, occasionally sending a bolt of lightning toward the ground or letting loose a clap of ominous thunder.
The first building you come to (#1) has a sign over the door that denotes it as the Full Moon Inn. A hastily scrawled message has been left on the door “Closed for Funeral”.
Down the road you can see a gathering of people near what must be the church (#9). The funeral appears to be held outdoors. All of the homes and businesses you see all seem to be closed. It looks like perhaps the whole village is attending.
The group wanders the village.