MAGICIANS AND DRAGONS
‘Dragon fire is nothing but a cool breeze in the heat of betrayal.’
- Galliard the Iron Wall, his last words
Protector of the Alliance, Paladin of Lore
Marshes and swamps, for most people, are the unhealthiest, most inhabitable, and the last place in the world to visit or even to pass through, next to lava pits.
But for monster hunters, these places can be a paradise. They often go to marshlands and swamps and even camp there at night. Of course they are fully aware of the dangers that lurk in those places: Marsh folks (half-man, half-frog creatures), gavials (half-man, half-crocodile creatures), common crocodiles, and variants of poisonous and lethal monsters.
The Jigdha’uthul swamp in Bresconnor is no exception. The monsters’ population is immense here. The Uthul frogs are the rarest and the most sought-after monster here. The frog has fangs, thorns on its body and a lizard-like tail. Its saliva alone is corrosive venom that can dissolve its victim’s skin, flesh and bones in an instant, let alone its fangs and claws. Uthul frog’s gall is one of the most valuable ingredients in alchemy – it can serve as a very powerful poison, and can also be the antidote of that poison.
Because of that reason and that reason alone, hushed-up noises and whispering voices can be heard in Jigdha’uthul swamp right now.
‘Gotcha! I got one!’
‘Use your spit, Chris! Its saliva is poison! It will kill you!’
‘YEOWCH! Why didn’t you tell me before?’
‘Ah, nay, it’s getting away!’
‘Oh? You were busy cuddling with Iris when I was telling you guys about the frog! No wonder you don’t know!’
‘You should’ve talked louder! How can I know what you were talking about?’
‘I can’t! The frogs will run away if I did! And now you’ve done it! We won’t find any more of them until morning!’
‘How many frogs must we catch, anyway? We’ve got three already!’
‘Three – in a week! Our order is for fifteen! I was planning to get some extra stock, but now…’
‘Enough arguing, you two! Don’t waste your breath and let’s search again before our provisions run out! Or must my kiliji explain it to you?’
As the talkers walk into the brighter and drier part of the swamp, we can now see who they are more clearly. They are well-known as one of the best monster-hunting parties in Aurelia continent, at least in this one and a half year running.
The leader of this party is Robert Chandler, a white-haired hunter from Lore, nicknamed ‘Orcbane’. He is also known as a renowned swordsman, an accomplished crossbowman, and one of the champions in Mission Deathblade in Enia’s Sanctum more than a year and a half ago.
Among them are the cousins, Christopher the red-haired swordsman and Carolyn the pink-haired sorceress from Arcadia; also Andreas Marvellini a.k.a. Rollo Bigstumble, the dwarf priest from Grad and Lavennia Iris, the green-haired elf archer-enchantress from Thyrine.
Christopher’s sword skill has improved greatly all this time and now matches Robert’s level, but he is still a troublemaker in his party. On the other hand, Carolyn has always been prone to troubles and dangers, but she bailed herself out from them all the time, thanks to Vadis’ blessings plus her lucky necklace.
Well, enough of the re-introduction and we come back to the problem at hand. Robert’s party is now twelve Uthul frog galls short and they are beginning to run out of provisions. They are now busy searching all night, as they rarely failed in their previous missions.
Robert stares at something in the darkness, and suddenly he draws his crossbow, quickly loads a bolt on it, and shoots into the darkness. An eerie croaking voice comes from there. The rest of the party become alert, and they immediately inspect the source of that voice.
‘It’s an Uthul frog!’ says Chris.
The crossbow bolt went through the frog’s head, right between its eyes. A shot this accurate in the dark is one of Robert’s special skills.
‘Three cheers for Rob! Your Eagle’s Eye has made it again!’ says Andreas.
‘A combination of Eagle’s Eye and Bull’s Eye,’ says Iris admiringly. ‘Maybe I can shoot faster than you, but I must put more work on shooting in the darkness so I can do it like that.’
‘I’m sure you can do it better than me, Iris, and anybody too, if you practice. Now let’s put that frog into the cold container* and search for more.’
‘Aye, aye, leader!’ says Carolyn, followed by cheers from the rest.
(* Cold container: A magical bag that preserves anything put into it with ever-generating ice, another fine invention from the Melchior Warehouse wizards.
Robert and his friends search for more frogs for the rest of the night, and it’s almost dawn when they reach a dry and safer place to rest their weary legs. It’s a rather lucky night, they caught two more frogs in addition to the one Robert has shot. It’s still not enough to finish their job but they need rest now.
‘Ah, dry land at last, now I can sleep,’ says Chris.
‘Ah-ah-ah! Don’t sleep just yet, Chris! You DO have a debt to pay,’ says Carol. ‘You lost your frog because you forgot to use your spit, right? You are just volunteered to stay on the lookout for us. Ah-ah! Don’t protest! That’s what happens if you don’t pay attention! Now be a man, okay! Show your girlfriend here that you’re really something!’
‘But…’ Chris tries to protest, but he whimpers under the stares of his comrades. ‘Well, awwright… I’ll be on the lookout. Just fix me something hot to keep me awake, okay, Carol?’
‘These fire woods will do,’ says Carolyn as Iris and Andre arrange some fire woods they brought on the ground. Then as all are ready Carolyn shouts, ‘Infer Agnios!’ and a small Fireball ignites the fire woods, making a campfire.
‘Well, nighty nite, fellas! And when you wake up, eat sparingly and mind the rations! We still have nine galls to go!’
With those words Carolyn goes to sleep in her traveling blanket, followed by the rest except Chris who sits there, staying up with a sour face.