So, no shit there we were, knee deep in some no named swamp. And the swamp stank, there was no run off so everything that died in the swamp just stayed there and festered. We could’ve went around but going through would’ve saved us two days of travel. Little did we know that we’d be spending one of those days just washing the stink off of us. We didn’t hear any complaints from Whisper, either to the credit of the trooper that she is, her lack of any sense of smell, or the whining of everyone else droned her out. It was probably a combination of the three.
We were on our way to Merchantville to capture a thief. The bounty was substantial despite the highest crime on the list being petty theft. I think it was more the victims feelings in being offended in such a manner what drove up the reward. Which was fine by all of us. We were motivated, we were hungry, but most of all we were bored. So we left with no delay.
The main road wove around to a mountain pass in the north. Just south of that a mountain, and at the base of the mountain a swamp. As the map showed us the mountain pass would’ve taken us three days, but cutting through would take only one. Even without a trail.
By mid day, we had guessed that were were in the “dead” center of the swamp and making great time. That’s when it happened…
“Wolves, Wolves!!!” Hobnail shrieked as she was running from the trail of the line breaking formation in an attempt for us to circle.
Either we had walked into an ambush or we weren’t the only ones on a hunt. Marko and Reaper caught up, sludging it through the foetid bog. We circled up, weapons drawn and waited for the enemy to make its move. we knew we wouldn’t be waiting long. Out of the underbrush six large wolves appeared.
They weren’t ordinary wolves though. The swamp had changed them, more feral, more gangly, and a lot more dangerous than normal wolves.
“Dire wolves” Marko said, as they began circling us.
Marko, being a bit of an intellectual immediately began trying to make sense of the swampy situation.
“I could understand it if we were trudging through this bog fifteen thousand year ago, but these big babies are supposed to be extinct!”
Was it a time warp? Were these large mammals actually looking for companions on their venture as we motley soldiers were?
With weapons in hand, we clung together, back to back, facing the wolves.
We certainly were still hungry, but not bored.
Would we be ale to keep moving slightly forward, even as one? The animals seemed to stare at us, deeply and knowingly. It was clearly a shortcut which they also used.
Was there something they needed to tell us? Teach us? They slowly crept to the area which seemed to be our pathway, and we followed. Did this swamp hold more secrets than any of us imagined?
Hobnail suddenly had an idea. If she could just use a potion, maybe there would be some answers.
Hobnail took out one of the vials dangling on the side of her hip. She pulled out the stopper and dabbed a little bit of the liquid onto her finger and touched it to her lips. She murmured a spell under her breath. Now having the power of speech with animals, she addressed the wolves in a loud voice “We mean no harm, we just want to get to Merchantville. May we pass peacefully?” All the wolves stopped, surprised, and turned their heads towards Hobnail with their ears perked. The largest wolf, the leader of the pack, took a few steps towards Hobnail, and spoke back to her. The rest of us looked at Hobnail and the wolves’ leader, knowing that they were speaking, but not understanding what was said. Hobnail then spoke to the group, “He said to watch out for the monsters that inhabit this swamp, and that this path has a trap. He said to follow him.”
Reaper spoke up, “I’m not sure if it can be trusted; what if it’s lying?”
Whisper looked at Reaper sternly and asked, “What if it’s not??”
Reaper, “Well, I don’t think we should take that chance.”
Slab weighed in, “We should follow them. But get your weapons out and at the ready.”
We followed the wolves along narrow and winding path through the stinking swamp. At times, it was hard to see that there was any trail at all. At other times, we could catch glimpses of the distant mountains through the trees. As the wolves loped on ahead of us, leaping across small pools and rivulets, we had a hard time keeping up.
“Where are the wolves?” asked Marko. The path opened up into a small clearing surrounded by thick under growth, with no apparent path leading out.
Whisper moaned “We should have known they’d lead us deeper into the swamp just to abandon us!” Then there was a snarl and the crash of brush as one of the wolves leapt into the clearing, knocking her over and latching it’s jaws onto her arm. Only her steel gauntlet saved her from a deep bite and broken bones. Slab swung his axe, connecting with the wolf’s back, and slicing its spine clean through, as another jumped onto his back. Reaper loosed an arrow at one of the wolves as it ran at her, then collapsed wounded at her feet.
The wolf on Slab’s back slipped off, unable to grip any part of his armor with its jaws. He turned, and with a single blow, split its skull in two. Marko, his flail at the ready, and another wolf were circling each other, each looking for a chance to attack. One wolf had leapt at Hobnail and knocked her down; as her left arm tried to push it back, to keep its powerful jaws away from her throat, the dagger in her right tried to find a vital organ. It was another arrow from Reaper’s bow that pierced its heart and ended its attack.
The two wolves saw the others were down, they took off as fast as they could, and disappeared into the thick under growth….
We looked at each other, panting. Slab asked, “Is anyone wounded?” Fortunately, none of us were. We looked at the four wolves lying in the clearing; only one was still breathing, the first one to feel the sting of Reaper’s arrows. Hobnail went to that wolf, lifted his head in one hand to look him in the eyes, and spoke to him. The wolf answered as best he could through his pain. Hobnail laid its head down gently, then stood to explain the wolf’s answer. “I asked him why they did this — he told me that he and the other wolves are under the spell of Shelob. Shelob knew when we entered the swamp, and will do everything in her power to be sure we never leave. If we’re not out of this swamp by dark, its unlikely we’ll ever get out.”
“Well, then what are we waiting for? We’d better get moving.” Said Reaper. “Merchantville shouldn’t be fare from here.”