I can’t believe it. That damnable spider-creature with a man’s voice returned from the dead. I don’t know how. I haven’t a clue who is responsible. All I know is after amassing a respectable number, my comrades and I headed back to Slag Heap to continue our journey to save the gnomes, and then things got unbelievable.
From nowhere, shortly after sunrise, spiders appeared along our path in the blink of an eye. We had little time to question their sudden appearance. Four of them were the size of men and ahead of us was their leader: Seronius. Dead, yet scittering about on his multiple legs. The stench was nearly enough to make us lose our breakfast.
The fight seemed like it would be much easier than before. After all, this time there were more than twice as many of us. No, it was not an easy match, nor was it even just “moderate.” The creature cast a web nearly upon sight. Fortunately, I was able to dodge the sticky trap. Others weren’t so lucky.
I lost track in the battle exactly what happened. One of the brothers went down. The unrelated fighter did, too. Those who have been traveling with me fared better, but only just. In his new form, the devil spawn spewed a noxious gas, poisoning my companions. Insane with the need for revenge, he overcame nearly all of my spells. Benjamin engaged him directly, but was having his own difficulties with success.
I was beside myself with disbelief that I was again in the position of engaging in close combat. That is not what I trained so hard all those days for. That is not why I lost summers to books. That was the only choice I had left. Risking severe injury, or life itself, I tried my dagger first. His skin was too tough for it to do much good, and the proximity was limiting. I dropped my blade in favor of my staff. That was more comfortable. Just after I landed again what was clearly a injurious blow, Randolph managed the killing strike.
Not content to trust that it was dead, I pummeled it over and over, finally setting the cursed thing’s carcass on fire. Mirandir and Dr. Deet had been otherwise occupied with related dealings and joined the gathering.
Worse things were yet to come. Having made it to Slag Heap, the pixies were missing and the tree was quiet even after offering water in the tradition Dr. Deet started. Sprinkling a couple dozen silver pieces did not attract our fae friends. We ventured forth on the trail of orc tracks.
I cannot describe the horror I felt when I saw the impaled bodies of more of the fair folk than I could keep my eyes on. Hypnotizing two guards, we infiltrated the orc camp. We slaughtered more than two dozen before it was over. Frothmot and his minions were not part of that count.
In the end, we saved a single, torture-crazed gnome, and I found myself on the opposing side of those who I have come to think of as “friends.” It seems now that the slave found a way to hoard many valuables the orcs had stolen. He now thinks of them as his. Ordinarily, it would likely not be much of a concern. But this unlikely fellow managed to confiscate a Philosopher’s Stone, or so it seems. I’m no paladin, but I can’t convince myself taking it is our reward for the deed we’ve just done. Nor can I expect the others to put aside their nature even for the sake of friendship.
Even if I somehow convinced the others to let the gnome loose with the prize, all would not be well. Aside of the rift between us, the fool would likely get himself killed. His insanity keeps his tongue wagging when it should be still. I tried convincing the small one to consider it payment for having been freed with the assurance he’d get to keep his share and what would have been mine. That did not work. Someone then realized we could use it to resurrect the newly dead brother. I heard them talking about it as I walked away. It did not seem to sway the man. I do not know if it is greed, a sense of justice for what he endured, or the madness that keeps him from seeing the danger of possessing the stone.
So I wait, hoping for a better outcome than the ones I fear. And yet there is more work to do. Frothmot must die and his allies, too. I suspect we will be on this journey a long while. For even if we are successful in freeing all of the gnomes and destroying their slaver, his queen still lives and is much more powerful than those of us in our fracturing company.