Joule sat beside the small grave.  “I’m sorry I haven’t visited since I came to the island.  I only missed seeing you by a few days and I didn’t want to face it.  I imagined you out there, raising hell somewhere in the wilderness.  But since I came to visit the markers of others, I couldn’t avoid you any longer… Agatha.”  Joule brought out the giant alligator tooth from her bag and using a borrowed dagger began carving into it.

“This started out just like the other jobs.  We all met up and set out.  Hrafna, my friend Hugh, you would have liked him. He was the leader and decided we would go to a cavern he’d heard about from other adventurers.   We traveled out of town with no issues, Emily overslept but caught up with us at the crossroads.  We ventured north on the road and it was very peaceful day.  Cold, but peaceful.  We made camp outside the cavern entrance.  Araurianprovided us with a magical hut for the night and we almost killed ourselves with a campfire.”  Joule smiled at the memory of her bard companion running out of the hut for snow, it fading and him casting it again.  “A snowstorm rolled in overnight, and when we dug ourselves out the next morning… our group was immediately assailed by spore creatures.  We dispatched them easily enough and entered the sinkhole entrance of the cavern.  Emily helped me immensely in that fight.  She made me nigh impossible to hit.”  Joule inspected the name Araurian engraved on the tooth.

“Our party entered the cavern and made its way past a lake, across a bridge, and entered a section of the cave where there lay a woman.  A dead woman to be sure.  She was overgrown with fungus except her face.  It held a look of pure terror.  It was lovely but creepy at the same time.  Hrafna, my quick friend, looked up and spotted a beast that seemed to be made entirely of an eye.  Just one eye.  He yelled at everyone to back away and attacked the creature.  We were not quick enough to heed his yell and when he hit the beast it exploded into spores that covered the entire party.  It appeared to have no immediate effect, so we continued on.” Joule paused as she finished engraving the name Dunmere.  

“Hrafna tied a rope to himself and swam his way to an opposite shore, acting as an anchor on that side.  I took the other end of the rope and tried to be the anchor on our side.  Wolfgang, poor Wolfgang, set out first.  He attempted to crawl along the rope, lost his grip, and was immediately swept down a tunnel.  Emily ran back to the bridge in an attempt to catch him but just missed him.  Hearing this occur, Hrafna yelled to drop the rope and everyone go after Wolfgang. I dropped the rope and dived in.  I could hear Wolfgang sputtering and cursing in front of me but always out of sight.  I attempted to swim underwater, with the current, and almost lost consciousness.  I could hear the party yelling behind me about rope.  I never caught sight of Wolfgang until I rounded a corner and saw a huge alligator in between him and I.  I could barely see Wolfgang, unmoving and deep underwater.”  Joule finished the name Emily and continued to the next.

“I knew I had to get to him quickly, and though I tried… I was unable to make it before the alligator became violent.  When I looked back Hrafna had swollen to his giant dwarf form and was plugging the entrance with his body.  My huge friend grappled the alligator while I attempted to get Wolfgang to the surface in order to feed him a potion.  The alligator had different ideas though and bit me.  I tried to keep our fallen friend out of harm’s way but he just sank a little closer to the bottom.  I broke free and swam for the surfaced as best I could before the gator got me again.  This time I was unable to flee before I went unconscious.  The next thing I knew I was conscious again and still in the creature’s mouth.  I was only up for a moment before the gator’s bite made the lights go out.  I came to a second time to see Hrafna right in front of me.  I held my arms out to him like a child to its mother, but he was unable to pull me away.  I eventually struggled loose and attempted to flee, confident in the party members’ ability to get away.  I reached shore using the rope tied around the giant dwarf’s waist.  Emily and Dunmere were there attempting to pull Hrafna up.  After I rested for a few seconds I jumped up to help.  Only Hrafna came back.  He relayed that he couldn’t recover anything of Wolfgang but that he’d saved our bard’s heart.  We were in shock and readily agreed when our leader rallied the party to escape the cavern.  We had no issues getting out and soon attempted to take a short rest.  We all needed it.  We were tired and low on health.  Not long into our rest we began hearing the laughing cackles of what sounded like jackals.  It was gnolls.  We were outnumbered 2 to 1.  Hrafna yelled out for the party to run and Emily, Dunmere, and I fled east while Hrafna jumped into the thick of it.  Three gnolls immediately set upon him.”  Joule wiped away a tear as she finished Hrafna’s name.

Fishing with Hrafna. Graphic credit to Neal.

“The three of us retreated… with Hrafna’s shouts and half the gnolls following behind.  One of the enemies netted me but I escaped.  For a moment it looked as if we were going to make it.  Then two gnolls caught up with Emily.  My brave paladin friend shouted for the final two of us to go as she turned to face them.  More of them caught up with her and she was assaulted her from all sides.  She shouted to tell Naal that she was sorry.  When I looked back, I saw her fall with a smile on her face.  Dunmere was slightly ahead of me so I was witness to an arrow sprouting out of his back, felling him.  I was determined not to be the only survivor, so I picked him up and yelled for him to hold on.  I felt the thud of another arrow hitting him.  Then another. Then another. Then another.  Finally, we were out of range.  I kept going, and going, and going before I eventually collapsed, barely holding onto consciousness.  I performed a futile check on my fallen half-elf companion, knowing already that no one could take that damage and live.  I hid him in the snow, climbed a tree, and rested.  After a time, I recovered Dunmere’s body and continued onto the road to town.  I eventually made it back, exhausted, to tell the town and the party’s loved ones of what transpired.  My brave sorcerer friend had no will and I did not have enough to bring him back, so I saw him properly interred.”  Joule finished with Wolfgang’s name the last on the tooth and sighed. 

“I have more markers to visit but I’ll be back my friend.”  Joule placed with tooth in her bag, left a small stone on the grave of Agatha and left to place small stones on the markers of her former party members.

Cave Map. Alligator in Northern pool. Map credit to Stan.