I wrote to you last from the town of Haut-Chevre, where we had helped the locals with a little basilisk problem. Not long afterwards, we had word from the nearby town of Haut-Mouton, a little to the northwest, that the mayor was looking for assistance in dealing with some problem in the town water supply.
We were already planning on heading in that direction, and the locals had some messages and suchlike to be delivered, so we readily agreed to head in that direction. We were joined by another dwarf, a big bearded fellow by the name of Borgun with a lot of armour and a sword about two feet taller than himself. With Borgun, we number two dwarves, two half-orcs, and two gnomes, leaving me as the odd one out – although, truth be told, Ilde was rather less delighted than I had expected by the appearance of another dwarf. It seems she finds the dwarvish way of life unpleasant and claustrophobic, and prefers not to be reminded of it.
In any case, we set off along the mountain paths towards Haut-Mouton the next morning. Around midday, we heard a crashing and yelling ahead, and realised somebody was fleeing towards us. We soon saw a panicked-looking fellow running down the path towards us, casting desperate glances over his shoulder; he looked even more alarmed when he saw Osh, but soon realised we were no threat to him.
Almost immediately we saw the cause of his alarm: two ogres chasing him, clearly intending to either eat or rob him. Bimp dazzled one with a spell, and Osh engaged the first ogre as I dodged past it and tried to hit it from behind (but succeeded only in hitting a pig it had slung over its back). The traveller had lost his footing and tried to crawl away, but ended up perilously close to the edge of the path.
Then Norton cast a spell, and I heard something whizzing past me just before a huge burst of flame exploded around me – perhaps he did not realise where I was? It is hard to think he would be so cavalier as to knowingly endanger his own ally in such a manner. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to dodge into the shadow of a rock, and was unhurt. The ogres were not so quick, and the foremost one fell over the edge – by horrible chance, crashing into the traveller and knocking him over too.
Osh and I (mostly Osh) dealt with the second ogre, and then we ventured up the path. We heard groaning ahead, and found a second traveller lying battered on the ground with his packs torn open and goods strewn around. At least we were able to help this fellow; he told us they were pedlars travelling around the mountain, and had been ambushed by the ogres.
We did our best to console him (I regret to say that while Osh is extremely handy with an axe, he should perhaps be discouraged from such tasks – although it is to his credit that he tries) and made arrangements to retrieve the body of his companion. It was about a hundred feet to the bottom of the slope, and with the others holding a rope I had no difficulty in climbing down and bringing back the body (and also the pig, since my companions were hungry). I returned to find Bimp massaging the pedlar better, which certainly seemed to help his spirits, although I was careful not to inquire into the matter.
We then escorted the poor fellow to Haut-Mouton, from whence he had just come, and turned over the body for burial. One of the townswomen, a sister of the guard, was particularly distraught; evidently she had had some sort of romantic liaison with the dead man.
OSH: “What is this, a combination inn and mortuary?”
Even without having been told, we would surely have noticed the unpleasant odour of the town's water – a sort of acrid, rotting smell and a nasty black scum on the surface. The mayor of Haut-
Mouton thanked us for rescuing the merchant, and asked us for our assistance.
OSH: “I am Safety Orc!”
The water came from a lake higher up the mountain; the villagers had encountered the same taint as far up as the lake, growing in severity over the last few months, but the streams feeding into it appeared to be clean. Bimp aided the locals by using her powers to purify some of the water – a rainshower that evening also allowed them to replenish some of their supplies – and in the morning we set off up the hill.
The mayor had mentioned a mining settlement at the lake, and we considered this as a possible source for the taint. When we got there, we found that the outflow from the mine was clear, but started to develop a black scum where it met the water; it seemed to be reacting with something else in the lake. The miners were a little unfriendly at first – evidently they were expecting us to cause trouble for them – but we managed to persuade them of our good intentions, and eventually got them talking about the old mine nearby, running more or less parallel to the new one.
It had been closed down about twenty years ago, and the entrance sealed off – the miners told us tales about a monster that had killed miners before being slain in turn and buried in there. When we found the outlet, it was clear that this was the source of the taint; the rocks had blocked most of the flow from the stream that ran through the mine, but what did emerge was nauseating. It was getting late, so we decided to stay with the miners for the night before having them open up the old mine in the morning.
The new mine also had a small stream running through it, passing through a series of three pools used to wash the ore. As I have said, this water seemed quite clean, but during the night we noticed a faint sulfurous smell from the middle pool, and an occasional slow bubbling. Come morning, I dived into the pool to investigate, and found a few small cracks; I suspected they might communicate with the old mine, and as it turned out this was indeed the case. Thonk had sensed a faint 'glittering' of evil in the tainted water, and sensed it again in the pool.
The miners cleared away the stones that blocked the old mine entrance, and a gush of clear but foul-smelling water poured out, turning black and slimy as it met the lake water. I volunteered to lead the way; Norton made me invisible, but since the floor of the mine was a foot or two deep in water I was not relying on this to conceal my presence to alert watchers, only to make me a little harder to hit.
Followed by the others, I strode into the mine (fairly quickly, since Norton's invisibility spell only lasts for a few minutes). As we progressed, the water got murkier and ever more foul-smelling.
At one point the mine opened up a bit, and I saw a pile of garbage in one corner; looking more closely, I saw it quivering slightly. I whispered to my companions to deal with it, and moved past; it was indeed an 'otyugh', a tentacled scavenger and carnivore that favours such environments, but it gave them no great difficulty.
Further along, I encountered something very odd – like a brain floating in mid-air, festooned with tentacles. I am still not sure what it was, but I felt a strong urge to turn and run; I resisted the urge and warned my companions. Most of them were plucky enough to withstand the creature's aura of terror, but Borgun was overcome and started to flee, until Thonk grabbed him and restrained him.
I moved past the brain-creature and found a second one close behind it. When I yelled a warning to the others it heard me and tried to attack me, but this was a mistake; all it achieved was to waste its time flailing at the air while Norton killed its companion, and when Osh moved up it was all over very quickly.
THONK: “I've got to figure out how to stun him.”
OSH: “Wear your prettiest dress.”
I was eager to keep going before the invisibility spell wore off. The mine twisted around a little – at one point I saw a small fissure off to one side, running towards the new mine – and not long afterwards I found a big and very murky pool, clearly the source of the taint; the water running into it was clean, but the pool itself was repellent. Beyond the pool, I was surprised to see daylight. I learned afterwards that the miners had followed a vein of copper until it came out the other side of a hill, and had not wanted to admit to the townsfolk that they had lost the vein, so had sealed the tunnel and made up tales about a monster before they found another seam.
However, while there may not have been a monster there before, there most certainly was one now. As I looked at the opening, I caught a glimpse of movement in the water and jerked to one side just as a stream of acid, eye-wateringly pungent, squirted past me and splattered against the cavern wall. We were dealing with a black dragon, about the size of a donkey, and these creatures have notoriously good hearing and smell; Norton's invisibility spell would do little against it.
My companions moved up – Thonk magically enlarged by another of Norton's spells – and I jumped behind the creature to keep it occupied as they closed in, realising a little belatedly that I had put myself between it and the exit. It seemed to rate me as a minor threat compared to the half-orcs, and its claws and fangs did Osh considerable injuries.
At this point, Norton cast another fireball past us, bursting closer to me than to the dragon; I am beginning to think he might really be that cavalier. I evaded harm only by dropping face-first into the water, which was extremely unpleasant. The dragon was somewhat singed, and ferocious as it was, its attention was split with so many of us around it, allowing Thonk to deliver a very carefully-placed sword blow into its heart.
We hauled the deceased dragon out of the water and disposed of its body (Borgun, having just regained his nerve and rejoined us, souvenired the head, and Ilde took the hide to make a rather fetching helmet for her dog; Norton took various bits, and we left the rest out for the crows). Then we set off back to Haut-Mouton, where the townsfolk were delighted to hear that we had eradicated the source of the pollution; no doubt the water would recover in time, and meanwhile they had enough saved in barrels to tide them over. They were so grateful, in fact, that we were each awarded a shiny baldric with a sheep on it, symbol of the town – a rather lovely souvenir, in my opinion.
And now the road is calling again... I will write to you soon, brother!
Best wishes from your loving sister, Imbezi!