The Fade Giveth, The Fade Taketh: Interlude, Mere of Dead Men

(I don’t own some of what you’re about to read, and my players have created other parts, but if you’d like to read the saga from the party’s first adventure, click here.)

The party traversed the Mere of Dead Men until dusk, on their own in the swamp for the first time. They camped, ate their rations, and each resolved the remains of the day at their measure, with Kir’thiri taking the first watch.

As the party bedded down for the night, Ben pulled out the three sheaves of paper that Sildar had given him. Early on in their talks, Sildar had mentioned that he kept a journal, especially whenever he was traveling. After their adventure in Kelembar, Ben felt he had a lot to cover.

Ben flipped to the first beat-up page, upon which a list sat languidly.

Goblin – 23 (probably, there were too many to count), Bandit – 5, Nothic – 1

Ben glanced over the paper and began writing at the bottom of the list. “Let’s see, Ogre,” Ben thought. “Damn, half a kill, maybe? Alligator? Son of a bitch, Kir-thiri! That tall wolf — did I kill that thing? Ugh. I don’t want to lie in my journal. I think I’ll just put 1/3 of a kill for the alligator. What was that knight guy we fought in that place with no windows? Shit, I didn’t kill that either! This journal might be too embarrassing to let anyone ever read.”

Vigo laid his head down across the campfire from Ben. Just as he began to doze, his eyes bolted wide open “Oh, shit! Breena’s rings! Why don’t we ever loot! Boots I grab, but rings I overlook!!!! WIZARD RINGS!!!!” Vigo smashed his face into his bedroll and groaned.

Later, having fallen asleep over his journal, Ben awoke with a start about an hour after falling asleep, “I didn’t even get to fight the wizard girl! Come on!”

Kir’thiri smiled to herself as she watched her compatriots, almost laughing out loud at the dual lamenting of Vigo and Ben. She glanced at Erky, who was sleeping peacefully and remembered the solitude of camping alone.

Seeing that everyone but Erky was awake too, Vigo thought it was time to bring up a subject that had been on his mind.

“Hey, what does everyone think of The Wayward Champions as a name for our group?”

Ben propped himself up on his elbows. “How are we wayward?”

“I think we are a pretty odd bunch from the normal hero stock,” Vigo answered, laying back down as though talking to the stars.

“All we’ve done so far was very predictable. When have we ever been unpredictable?” Ben said. “And how are we champions?”

“It’s a name, Ben,” Vigo sat upright and crossed his legs. “It doesn’t have to be what we are, but what we want to be or uphold as a reputation. Do we want to be unpredictable heroes? Also, the people of Phandalin would certainly call us champions! Plus,” a flicker of mischievousness shot across Vigo’s eyes in the firelight. “There are already songs about you,” he smiled. “Benjamin.”

Ben blushed, wanting desperately to change the subject. “Honestly? Really good points, Vigs. I tell ya’ what; how about you and Kir’thiri decide, and I’ll just go with what you two want.”

“Thank you, Mr. Dragonsbane,” Vigo’s grin widened. “Kir’thiri?”

And the night went on. Name after name brought up and dismissed. Some too vague, others, while funny, not fitting for any party wanting to be taken seriously in the realms.

“We could also just be called ‘Them.'” Kir’thiri added, growing tired. It was meant almost as a joke, but then she got into the name. “It’s got weight to it as both positive and negative, it’s easy to remember, and carries a bit of mystery.”

“If you can make THEM into an acronym, I’m totally into it!” Vigo almost bounced from excitement. “Like Those Hunting Evil & Monsters? T.H.E.M.!”

Thus it was decided, and T.H.E.M. was born.

In the early morning, the Mere of Dead Men teemed with life. Sounds of wildlife echoed in the distance from the camp, hailing from a shadowy forest cloaked in dense gray shrubs and black water.

Erky, on the last watch of the night, knelt near the edge of the swamp, digging a small hole. The gnome cleric had just finished the first restful sleep in as long as he could remember. Obsidian Vale’s reading had been the catalyst, Erky knew, but this new group of heroes had been the balm that got him there.

“T.H.E.M.,” Erky thought to himself. He smiled as he finished his task. “What a peculiar family. I like them very much.”

He stood and wiped his hands on his cloak, leaving wet dirt as the only evidence to tell the tale of what he’d done, and returned to the sound of pleasant discussion.

He smiled again.

Out of nowhere, Vigo popped up wearing a big smile, staring Erky in the eyes, “Heeey, Errrkeeey! WHATCHA DOIN’?!”

Erky subconsciously wiped his hands on his cloak again. “I was,” his voice caught a little, but then he stood straighter, returning Vigo’s stare and said, “I was saying goodbye to an old friend. Good morning, Master Blackstar.” He nodded his head once curtly and walked toward the rest of the party.

“Ha!” Vigo laughed. “I too need to stack some logs, if you will.” The young warlock cast minor illusion of a parasol standing upright in the dirt with his likeness illustrated on its top. He then squatted behind the illusion. “You may want to stand upwind,” he shouted toward Erky. “Prestidigitation can only mask so much!”

The party finished up breakfast, but before they prepared to make their way further south, Kir’thiri wanted to talk to Vigo.

“Vigo, can I ask you a question about your magic?”

“Absolutely!” Vigo smiled.

“Well, you said that Hyrsam grants you his magic because you made a pact with him, right?” Kir’thiri put out the cooking fire while Vigo cleaned the dishes.

“Yeeesss,” Vigo raised an eyebrow at the ranger. “What do you want to know exactly?”

“So I guess I have two questions really; firstly, are these spells he uses too, and when you use them, it lessens his ability to use them? To clarify, did he literally give you his magic because you had none, or did he give you the ability to use magic?”

Vigo began blinking uncontrollably as his mind collected all of Kir’thiri’s questions. “Well, all I know is that he offered me a deal and I took it for the magic he granted me. I give him good stories, and he gives me the power to make greater ones. How it affects him? I have no idea. I point, say things loudly, and eldritch energy leaps out of my hand. All my other abilities are gifts that he bestows upon me. Does that answer your question?”

“Yeah, I suppose that does kind of answer the first question, and I guess he didn’t give you any real instructions on how to do it either? Like a lesson or a scroll or anything?”

Vigo pulled out his book of shadows. “This was another gift from my pact with Hyrsam. It has some spells in it and room for more should I choose to widen my ritual casting repertoire. But like you said, I got no real instruction. After I made the pact, it was like I was born knowing magic.”

“Just knowing it,” Kir’thiri squint slightly in thought. She walked toward a stone outcropping near the campsite, stopped, and looked back at Vigo. “Can you show me the eldritch blast?”

Vigo stood as heroically as he was able and pointed his hand at a small boulder. “HYRSAM!” Eldritch energy lashed out of his hand, but for the first time, Vigo unleashed two blasts at the same time, leaving the small boulder scorched and split in two. “Sorry,” he puffed, catching his breath proudly. “The second blast is new! Anyhow, find a word that you feel embodies power and point! It’ll either happen or it won’t.”

“A word that embodies power . . .” Kir’thiri muttered. She raised her arm, pointing a tiny finger at the remaining pieces of the boulder. “Bang.” Eldritch energy swirled up through Kir’thiri, and then a blast ripped from her fingertip, split in twain, and subsequently shattered the remaining two large pieces of the well-abused boulder.

Vigo’s jaw dropped. His eyes began blinking again, disbelievingly. W-WELL DONE!” He started clapping and looked for Ben. “BEN! POINT AT SOMETHING AND YELL BACON!”

Ben looked up from closing his pack and called over. “No, I don’t want any of your pocket bacon, Vigo!” He looked over and thought to himself, “Well, that took long enough.” And then Ben smiled, happy that his new friends were coming together.

Vigo grinned at his shield bro, but waved him off and turned back to Kir’thiri. “How long did you feel like that was possible?”

“I think it’s been at the back of my mind since we left Wave Echo Cave, but honestly, the decision to try came after watching you attempt to blast the hells out of Breena.”

“I’m happy to be of help,” Vigo said. “But I have a feeling this is more about you getting in touch with your fey roots. I have to be honest; I’m sort of jealous!”

“I think you’re probably right,” Kir’thiri agreed. “I wonder now if Ry’ven was trying to teach me how to tap into this all those years ago, but couldn’t tell me what I was feeling. Either way, I’m glad I have someone to ask for help!” With that, she smiled warmly and returned to her part in breaking down their camp before they returned to the road.

Vigo’s mischievous grin began to return, as though he thought of a crude joke to aim at Kir’thiri just then, but his smile faded rather quickly after a moment’s thought.

“It’s good to be of service,” he said, offering a bow to Kir’thiri. He then finished up gathering his gear.

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