Part 41: The Swamp
The next morning I went to the throne room to report to Oric and see whether he had anything else that needed doing.
"Can I help?"
"There is something. Something very important which you could do for us outside of these walls. We are planning to cut off the serpent's head."
"What do you mean by that?"
"We know one of their leaders. His name is Hosh-Pak. He is one of the most influential shamans among the orcs."
"What is my role?"
"That's a joke."
"You are the only one that we can spare. All the other knights are needed here. Hosh-Pak's tent is situated outside of the siege castle on a cliff to the south of here. You can almost see it from one of the windows there."
It seemed a bit cowardly to send an assassin, but I agreed. Humanity wasn't exactly in a place to refuse."All right. I shall kill Hosh-Pak."
"I'm glad to hear that. It's not far from the path to our mine. Directly in the shadow of the big mountain."
While on my way out of the castle I stopped by the forge for a moment. As I leaned against one of the work benches I noticed a purse sitting on the ground a short distance away. I scooped it up and realized that it probably belonged to Keroloth.
"I think I found your purse."
"What? Where? What bastard did that?
I shrugged. "How would I know?" In reality I suspected that the mercenaries were responsible, I just didn't want to cause any more trouble between them.
"I'll find that out yet." he said.
It was time for me to venture down into the
I hopped down onto the Orcish battering ram and began my search for Sengrath. According to Udar, he'd run toward the large Orcish palisade to the east. I approached the river and scanned.
In the distance I could see an Orc elite standing over an armored body. I was willing to bet that it was Sengrath.
There was a heated battle with the Elite. We both were intent on not allowing the other any openings. Despite the orc's great skill, eventually he slipped up and I pressed my advantage.
It was too far away and too dangerous to bring the body back to the castle. I took hold of Sengrath's crossbow and strapped it to my back. It would have to be proof for Udar.
"I've found Sengrath." I informed the sentinel.
"Really? Where is he?"
"He's dead. Here's his crossbow. He had it with him."
"He must have gotten his crossbow back, but then the orcs seem to have slain him after all. Damn fool, I knew it. We're all going to die." Udar said before turning his full attention back to the Orcish siege line.
I crept out of the besieged castle once again, this time heading toward Hosh-pak's hill. I took care of the warriors that surrounded him first.
Now that the odds were even, I found Hosh-Pak and attacked him. Like most Shaman, he was almost entirely useless in melee. His light axe barely made a dent in my armor.
When I was finished with Hosh-Pak, I noticed Feros' sword nearby and continued on the way.
I heard shouting from Fareth's mining camp as I passed by. Orcs were attacking!
I rushed to their defense, taking out an elite and shaman. We managed to repel the invasion with only two losses.
After leaving the mining camp I returned to the road. The area near Diego's old camp was teeming with Orcs. Since my last trip through here they had reinforced their numbers.
I fought my way through the orcs and Wargs. Now on the western side of the castle, I cautiously made my way over to Cavalorn's old hut.
Some Dragon Hunters had made camp nearby. I approached.
Cipher and Rod, both mercenaries from Onar's farm, sat nearby.
"Nice camp." I said to no one in particular.
"You said it." Cipher replied. "It stinks like a slaughterhouse here. Dead animals and rotten trees everywhere."
"What are you doing here?"
"I've been sitting here for some time just waiting for the right moment.
"Right moment? For what?"
"There's supposed to be a dragon holed up over there. A pretty vile swamp has built up there since he camp. I can well remember a time when you wouldn't get your feet wet around here. But now? I'd never go in there alone. Well. Rod is still here. But he'd run at the first sight of meatbugs. What about you? You didn't just come here for the pleasure of it, did you? Let's go in there together."
I rubbed my chin. It certainly couldn't hurt. "Why not? I could use some help."
The two mercenaries stood up. "That's good! Then I can finally get out of here. This stink is unbearable. Just give the word!"
The path just to the right of Rod and Cipher's camp led straight into the swamp. I lead the way, with the two mercenaries trailing behind.
Not wanting to waste any time, we pressed onward. A strange, bipedal lizard creature emerged from behind the trees. It attacked but its scales were not nearly thick enough to stave off our attacks.
Further within the swamp we encountered more of these lizardmen creatures. Unfortunately, Rod perished in these attacks and his body drifted into the murky waters.
Finally, we could see what we came for. The large green dragon stood imposingly in the distance.
I put the Eye of Innos around my neck and approached the ancient creature. Cipher trailed behind me.
"Woe unto you, if you come one step closer!" the dragon warned, his voice deep and threatening.
"Ah. The Eye of Innos seems to work."
"Many of your sort have come. I have swept them all away."
"Save your breathe. Your big words don't scare me, you stinking spawn of hell. Tell me what I want to know or I shall make you drown in your own blood."
"Ha! You dare to threaten me, little worm? Name just one reason why I should not tear you into a thousand pieces right now."
"I'm an Envoy of Innos and I carry the sacred Eye on me. You have no choice. You must surrender to my will, or be destroyed."
The dragon bellowed angrily. "Arrh. Say what you want of me."
"Where can I find the rest of you repulsive creatures?"
"The elements, from which everything is made, hold this world together. Each one stands for the ability to control a part of the world. Search for the elements and you will find the others."
"Who are you?"
"My name is Pandrodor. And you would be well advised if you crawled back under the rock from whence you came."
"Servant of Evil, what made you appear here? Have you only come to spread terror and panic?"
"The higher meaning of our congress in this world, little human, will remain hidden to you."
"What in the name of Innos must I do to ban you once again from the realms of humankind?"
It laughed. "Before you can act, you must first understand the nature of our congress. However, no one will disclose that to you of his own free will. The Eye alone couldn't loosen our tongues and reveal to you our true goals. In any case, it will be of no use to you when you are dead!" I could feel that that power that once ebbed through the enchanted amulet had been exhausted. "The Eye granted you access. However, single combat alone will decide whether you are worthy of me. The power of the Eye is depleted. Your life ends here, Human."
I charged at the dragon, the Claw of Beliar in my hands. I managed to get a good, deep cut on the dragon before it flew up into the air and moved further away. It turned to me, shooting fire from its mouth. Cipher frantically began firing his crossbow at the overgrown lizard.
I could tell that my hit had hurt it badly. We repeated this pattern two or three more times until it collapsed onto the ground.
I approached the body and cut open the chest. It reeked, but I needed its heart. I also took time to pilfer its hoard of gold and took as much as I could carry.
Cipher stood back, amazed at what had been done. "Boy, what a humdinger!" He said it.
I teleported back into the Castle Chapel and immediately went to the alchemist bench. Using the magic from the dragon's heart, I successfully recharged the magic of the Eye.
Once the Eye's magic was refilled I went immediately to the throne room to give the good news.
"I've got news about the dragons. I killed the dragon in the swamp to the east of here."
"That's good news! Here. I'll give you some money towards your equipment."
He had an aide retrieve a pouch of coin for me. I gratefully accept it.
Oric was Garond's strategist, so I went to see him about my next target and to also give the news about Hosh-pak.
"Hosh-pak is dead." I reported.
"Great. This is bound to unsettle the orcs. Maybe we stand a chance after all. I think this is going to win us a reprieve of at least a week." I was glad to hear it. Innos knew they needed it.
"I need more information about the dragons. I've already killed one of them. Can you tell me where to look for the others?"
"There is a rock fortress to the south, far behind the Volcano." I knew it. I'd been there before. "Our spied have reported that the fortress is heavily guarded. Maybe one of them is hiding out there."
It was getting too late to head out once again so I intended to go to bed. First, however, I returned Feros' sword to him, and in exchange he offered to train my strength and dexterity. Then, I took out my map, recalling what the swamp dragon had said: Search for the elements and you shall find the others.
To the west was an icy wasteland where the New Camp once stood. A fiery volcano was to the south. Could the other dragons be there? I decided to check it out after I'd dealt with the stone fortress tomorrow.
I went to sleep.