Day 25, Month 8, 2 After the Night of Fire (ANoF)
Phedrin Mor wakes from his unconscious state, and asks if the creature is dead. He is reassured of this by Krenai. The characters debate the possible routes for dealing with the swamp - they can go around it, go through it, or go back the way they came. After some heated discussion, Phedrin, Krenai, and Sandor decide to travel through the swamp. It will be a good learning experience in terms of hunting and survival for the children, and it will allow the characters to teach them somewhat about hardship. Krenai and Sandor note that Ana, Sar, Derun, and Sava pay close attention to the discussion. Phedrin tells Sandor that the latter will lead the way through the swamp. Sandor tells Phedrin to make poles out of wood branches for the three of them, as well as to make some for the children. They'll use them to poke the ground, and make sure that it's not too boggy. They are interrupted as Regat asks, "What's that?" Krenai sees a skoron move off into the brush near them.
Once the player characters are ready, Sandor leads the way into the swamp proper. Krenai brings up the rear, and they make sure the children are no more than twenty feet distant from Sandor and Phedrin, with the exception of Sava, who stays very close to Sandor, much to Ana's chagrin. The characters slog their way into the boggy area, and find there is lots of obscurement due to fog (the swamp gas). At one point Sandor urges the group to stop, and be very quiet, and they see a large, lizard-like creature's shadow in the fog and swamp flora. Sava asks what it is, but none of them have any idea. After resting for a spell on a patch of hilly ground, Krenai and the others set off once more. She takes a fall in the boggy ground, as her forward foot goes pretty deep, and lands face first in the muck. With great effort, she pulls herself out of the muck; she discovers that she's itchy, and has several bite marks from swamp bugs. She squeezes out her clothes, trying to dry them as best she can, and removes clods of repulsive marsh mud from her hair and clothes and several body orifices. She races quickly, and catches up with the others, who have stopped, although Ana and Vacul had been good enough to wait up for her.
The party of characters travels on for another 1/2 hour or so. Sandor stops, and points out that there is quicksand and wet marsh bogs in front of them, with lots of fog to impede them, and he points out the ripples in the water ahead of them that are signs of movement and life within. He says they are likely due to swamp snakes. Krenai gets a case of the scritches once more, and removes several more swamp lice, and she notices that there are several other bite marks as well. Sandor informs Krenai that he and Phedrin have decided that it is too dangerous; they will return to the village of Keveli.
The group sets off, and some three hours later they emerge from the swamp. Sandor says that while he was scouting earlier, he found the river that flows into the swampy region. With the tacit agreement of Krenai and Phedrin, Sandor leads the party in that direction. About an hour later, they come upon the banks of a swollen, muddy river, but their attention is diverted. Standing some 150 feet from the river is a golden apple tree.
Without telling the others, Anan races ahead to the apple tree. Krenai warns him not to touch the apples. Wisely, he picks up a stone and hits one of the apples with it, knocking it off the tree. Phedrin comes over and pokes the apple with a stick. Nothing happens, other than the apple moves slightly. Phedrin cuts a sliver of apple from the fruit, eats it, and feels fine. He takes a proper bite from the apple (and is healed of 3L wounds), and then hands the apple off to Anan. The boy takes a bite, and looks and feels invigorated. He moves off, heading towards the stream near the river. Phedrin takes a second apple from the tree, and takes a bite, and this time is wounded as he feels fire down his gullet (and takes 2L wounds). Meanwhile, Sandor picks some apples for himself, Krenai, and the rest of the children. Krenai follows Anan after Phedrin's seeming poisoning, and finds the boy writhing on the ground. After making sure the boy is all right, she turns back to the others and sees Sandor picking apples; she tells him to stop. She induces vomiting in Anan, and then is able to stabilise his wounds.
She works for over an hour on Anan, with a bit of help from the others, including several of the children, who are somewhat shocked by the events, and is able to heal the boy. She tells Sandor and the others that he is merely unconscious for now, but has no idea when he will wake; it depends on his constitution. During this time, Sandor and Phedrin set up the camp, and Sandor blames himself for the condition of Anan, since he feels that he should have stopped the boy since Phedrin didn't.
In the meantime, Krenai takes the children down to the edge of the river proper, and after checking for any predators or nasty surprises in the water, proceeds to help them clean up and wash off the swamp muck. She does this also for herself. While doing so, she notices that Derun and Sava have bite marks from the swamp lice on their feet, similar to those she has herself. Sandor sees the bite marks and talks to her, warning her about the possibility of swamp rot and that she and the children need to keep an eye on the bite marks. He also says that he now feels guilty about the bite marks on Sava, since he's been keeping an eye out for her during the trip, but Krenai says that he can't be responsible for every little thing that she does.
As the party rests in the small camp near the river that they have made, Krenai warns the children about the leeches she saw in the water. She has a quiet discussion with Sar, and asks him how he feels. He tells her that this has been the greatest experience of his life. Krenai and Phedrin notice how quiet Sandor is sitting by the fire, and when they ask him what's going on, he tells Krenai that he's feeling guilty about the children and all the injuries they've suffered, and that they really should go back to Keveli. Krenai agrees, and the others say that they need to recover the cache of food they left in the other river, and do some hunting on the way back to Keveli, but they need to choose the right time to return to the village.
While Krenai and Sandor talk about his guilt, Phedrin keeps an eye on the children, and realises that Regat and Vacul are missing. He panics slightly, and frantically searches for them, finally finding them at the edge of the river fishing. He notices that Vacul has a leech on his hand, and Phedrin decides to take Vacul nack to the campsite in order to remove the leech. He tells Regat that he can remain and continue fishing, but that he's to be careful.
As Phedrin and Vacul return to the campsite, the entire group hears a high-pitched wail and scream from Regat, and then a loud splash. Phedrin quickly races back to the river's edge where he left the boy, and finds the loose fishing rope. Looking out into the river, he sees Regat's head bob up to the surface in the water. The boy screams for help, and Phedrin dives into the water after the boy. Krenai reaches the edge of the river, having left Sandor in charge of the rest of the children, and spots what appear to be constrictor water snakes in the river. Before she can warn him, as she races along the river trying to catch up with the helpless Regat, she watches as a huge water snake wraps around Phedrin Mor, and drags him under. Krenai sees Regat bobbing along on the twists and turns the river takes. He seems to be barely holding on, and she can also see other, smaller water snakes as well.
Meanwhile, Phedrin manages to break free of the water snake, but he is swirled around and around in the fast-flowing water, and cracks his head on some floating debris. His last vision is the large water snake's shadow as it approaches him once more. Krenai manages to find a shallow series of pools that have small fish and leeches in them, and is able to get right up to one of the river edges as Regat is washed close by. She manages to grab him out of the river, with the use of a branch, and is able to drag him out. She clings to the sobbing boy, and the two collapse to the ground. Looking out on river, she sees the crushed and bloody body of Phedrin float by, and shields Regat from the sight. Several of the smaller water snakes move in on the body and start to feast on it. Returning to the campsite, one look at Krenai's face is all it takes for Sandor to realise what has happened.
It is a somber, gloomy morning in the camp the next day, although the weather is crisp and clear. Over the next few days, Krenai and Sandor travel with the suddenly more grown-up children back to the village of Keveli. They stop at the main river, and gather up the cache of meat that they have left there, Sandor and Krenai shoulder the largest load, but the children deciding to carry their fair share of the meat. They talk aabout what happened to Phedrin, and Krenai and Sandor do their best to explain to them, but both Regat and Vacul feel guilty, as it was their actions that led to Phedrin's death, though he tried in vain to save Vacul.
Once Krenai and Sandor return to the village with the children, the annoyance of Huuvek Krecz, the Mongrel Master of the Hunt, and Verek of Keveli, the leader of the village, about the failure of the hunt to reap tthe benefits of the hunters' experience is tempered by the loss of Phedrin Mor and what he brought to the village. However, the villagers are pleased at the return of the children hunters safe and sound to the their families, and rejoice in the bittersweet lessons that the youngsters have learned at the cost of one of their lives.
In many ways the death of one of spross's player character this session came as a surprise to both him and to me, but to some extent, it was all for the better given spross having problems with the character the last few weeks. For me, the sad part of it all was the waste of time and effort made the last few weeks to sort out the player character and his personality. Both Tammy and spross told me that they had a pretty good time this session, and like the twists that the scenario had to offer, but are now somewhat at a loss how to continue the campaign. I have some ideas on this, to be honest, but we're going to switch from Desolation to Shadow, Sword & Spell for a bit now. That should be interesting, given that I'm going to be the Line Editor for that game shortly. :)