The ruined pirate ship in the swamp left me with many questions. But equally perplexing was the encampment constructed on a makeshift dock.

“When was a port established in this swamp?” I asked. “More importantly, why was a port established in this swamp?”

Then an idea struck me. The witch was attempting to set up a fishing outpost, using this swamp as her base of operations.

“I don’t believe there is much of a market for swamp trout, but perhaps there is coin to be made in this sort of business,” I said to the wind.

To gain a better assessment, I forged ahead. From my concealed spot amongst the trees and scrub, I noted the thugs and reconsidered the situation.

“Thugs know nothing of fishing. They have an innate fear of the water as it might wash away the stench of their ill dealings. Further, they have neither the garb nor equipment to be fishermen,” I whispered to the rabbit who had come to investigate the situation with me.

I then formulated a new opinion. The underhanded dealings of this swamp witch knew no bounds. She was clearly the mastermind of a Novian smuggling empire! She was very likely a highwayman, absconding with goods from Aerie, smuggling them into the swamp, then whisking them away with the help of these miserable henchmen.

Then I noticed something woefully out of place. I spied several Elves, locked up in cages, ready to be loaded onto the next ship, where they would sold to the highest bidder and forced to work in camps or mines, suffering the misfortune of the lash and subsisting on gruel and tears for their meager sustenance.

Or, they might be renegade crewman who disobeyed orders and were forced to spend time in the box to think about what they’d done. Either way, the situation looked dire, and being the adventurer I am, I felt I needed to intervene.

Using my master skills at stealth, I crept to the cage containing one of the Elves.

“Now, before you raise the alarm and create a terrible spectacle, simply answer me true. Are you the victim of an injustice and grievous bodily harm or are you some sort of Eleven pirate that is paying penance for misdeeds upon that wrecked ship over yonder? I’m prepared to release you either way, I simply prefer to know who and what I’m dealing with.”

“Oh Outlander!” came the reply. “Please help us! We’ve been taken prisoner and no creature deserves to be treated this way!”

“We?” I asked.

“Yes. We. We have been rounded up and taken prisoner. Who knows what terrible fate lies ahead?”

“I see your plight,” I agreed.

To prove the point, a thug appeared and raised the alarm that a prison escape was in the making. I silenced him quickly, but his call for aid had been answered by several of his confederates. I was surrounded and in jeopardy. The situation called for quick thinking, lightning reflexes and the pummeling power of Sir Mud Pie.

Not only did the conjuring of Sir Mud Pie provide me with a fighting companion, his materialization sent shock and confusion into my foes, giving me a much needed diversion to strike a series of blows and turn the tide.

With his sternum crushing blows and my random, wild swings, we were soon the victors, sending scores of bandits face down into the sludge. This proved to be problematic as we had to retrieve their bodies from the marsh in order to locate the key that opened the cage.

But we took great satisfaction in throwing them back into the bog, once the needed keys were found.

In short order, the Elven captives were freed, the thugs vanquished and our escape seemed guaranteed. That is until the Elves scattered and hid in the trunk of a desiccated tree.

“I say chaps,” I said. “I think it would be best if we continue along and make a slightly more permanent escape. It’s a fine tree you’ve discovered here, but perhaps we should leave the swamp altogether and put this unpleasant business behind us.”

“While you have saved our lives and proven you aren’t like other humans, we simply can’t trust you and will take our chances in the hollow of this tree,” came the stern reply.

I was somewhat taken aback. “No doubt you have been mistreated and your distrust is well earned, but this wetland is a den of vipers and I think it best to flee to the safety of Aerie where you can at least seek shelter and then make arrangements back to Vertas.”

“A fine plan to be sure,” said the female elf. “But, if it’s all the same to you, we’d rather hide in the tree, take our chances with the vapor of the toxic mushrooms and then perchance slip away quietly when you aren’t looking so you can’t follow us on whatever path we take, rob us and drown us in a bog.”

“I would never do such a thing!” I complained. “I’m an adventurer on the path of the Virtues. It would be frowned upon by the Oracle to go around robbing people and drowning them in a bog,” I further explained.

“You drowned the thugs in this bog,” she retorted. “And then looted their pockets for gold.”

“Yes. Well. You have me there,” I admitted. “But, they were bad. Bad men with a bad decision making paradigm, who had done bad deeds. That’s why we refer to them as thugs.”

“But, you drowned them none the less. Not to mention that rather savage stabbing in the back you gave one of them. Who knows what level of malice you are capable of,” she said giving me a stern and somewhat alarming look.

“It was done in the name of a good cause!” I protested. “I’ve had many dealings with thugs. You can’t just go up and demand the keys to the prison cells and expect they will pass them along like a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich. There will be outrage and that’s when the stabbing commences. It’s best to forgo that first part, stick with the element of surprise and leap straight into the stabbing. I assure you, it’s a strategy. You’re free because of my underhanded and treacherous ways!”

My words fell on deaf Elven ears.

“Thank you for getting us out of those terrible cages and more importantly, not drowning us in the bog. But, we think it would be best if we parted ways from here,” she said. “I’m sure there are more thugs you can bash about or crates you can smash and loot.”

“Yes. There is always another thug in need of a sobering slap to the face. Or a crate that needs a solid kicking. So very well. I will leave you here to your own fortune. I dare say I can amuse myself by investigating that craggy ruin over there.”

I exited the tree and prepared to leave. “I can see when I’m not wanted. So a good evening to you all and good luck on your travels. I will over there in that ruin not paying a bit of attention to anything you do. Feel free to leave at your leisure, as I will be too busy bashing thugs or spiders or picking myself up out of the mire to see where you go.”

Not giving them a chance to reply, I made my way over to the ruin that caught my attention.

SotA_12-11-17_21-14_1

Now see here, what manner of treachery is this?

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If you had just given me the key that opens the cages, none of this would have happened. I don’t know why you thugs always insist on ignoring my warnings.

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Well, now I’m quite sure one of you have the key on your stinky personage. And when I find it, into the soup with you. Bunch of stinky blighters.

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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