A bead of sweat rolled down the side of Carric’s face. “…really stepped in it this time…” he thought to himself. He squinted, trying to see. The fog was dissipating, but still thick enough that he had no way of knowing just what they faced. He could make out the two champions that Starch was holding at bay but he knew there were more. “…more shaman, more champions, more… whatever… doesn’t matter…” He just didn’t know how many.
Another bead of sweat as indecision brought him closer to his fate. “… a fireball could work… maybe… might not get them all, but it might be enough…” The memory of his companion’s disdain for hard measures came unbidden to his mind. The contempt, even disgust. Out of the corner of his eye he could make out Xiang quickly applying a bandage. “…he’ll have something to say no doubt…” He could accept it from Xiang though. But somewhere back there in the fog… she was probably already frowning at him. “…ah hell… better to be alive and risk the abuse…” Carric calmed his mind, preparing the incantation for a fireball.
He blinked, and the world seemed to stop. Before him stood… well, him. Carric’s double in every way, save for the slightly finer clothing and the neatly trimmed beard. Around them, the kitchen scene seemed frozen in time. The other Carric flashed a familiar grin. “You might want to save that fireball. Could be useful later.”
Carric blinked again and the apparition was gone, replaced by the image of Beau brandishing his weapons and preparing for a final defense, and the rest of the party moving to follow suit. Carric was stunned for a moment, processing what had just happened. “…what the bloody hell? …” His mind raced. He was either going insane or something profound had just happened. “… no time for that now… act. now.”
His mind shifted. In his thoughts, arcane patterns of fire that came so naturally to him because of his heritage changed reluctantly to those of illusion, trickery. Whereas controlling fire magic was akin to controlling a wild beast with bare hands, illusion was like holding smoke. The patterns formed vaguely in his mind and he set them free.
The sound of many loud foot steps resonated through the room along with voices – his companion’s voices – calling out. “Run! This way… follow me!”. The noise moved away from Carric and he paused, listening to see if it had worked. The hissing sound of a shaman’s voice could be heard through the fog. “They’re escaping!” Then another voice, louder though. “Stay where you are! It’s trickery. Don’t move.”
“Shit. Should’ve known better than to listen to me.” As Carric prepared to meet his fate, a hush fell over the enemy, then an anxious reptilian voice came out of the fog in draconic. “Is he coming? He’s coming… He is here!” The champions Starch had been grappling with suddenly moved back, away from him. A hulking form emerged from the fog. A lizardman, unlike any they had ever seen, stood before them. Eight feet tall, with black scales all over his body, and wearing an ornate breastplate, his booming voice spoke to them in draconic. At the same time, his voice echoed in their minds in the common tongue.
“So these are the ones, who come as but gnats in the swamp, seeking to disrupt my search. Poor, pitiful fools; you know not the power that I command, the power that commands me. You know not, but you will see. Come with me. I have something to show you.” Realizing at this point the futility of resisting, the party followed him into another room, which appeared to be a temple. As they were ushered in by the lizardfolk, they saw that even more of the creatures stood in the room. There were other creatures as well – pacing back and forth around the lizard king were three creatures that reminded Carric of panthers, but with six legs and each with a pair of strange tentacles at the shoulder. The cats shifted and shimmered in his vision, like mirages, never quite appearing clearly. Looking about the room, the party could see that the walls were covered in depictions of a cup or chalice, all done in charcoals and black inks. Some were very crude scrawls and smears barely conveying the image, and others were far more elaborate and detailed, showing a black goblet or chalice.
The lizard king turned to face them, his subjects arrayed around him. “Around you is the object I seek for my master. An object of power, it lies somewhere buried in the swamps. I shall find it, however long it takes. I shall find it, and my master will reward me. The lizardfolk will take their rightful place in this world!” There was the unmistakable aura of madness about him. “But you… you aim to deny me, deny my master of what we seek. You try to twist my people, turn them against me, poison their minds and send them back to an existence of scrabbling in the mud. This I will not allow. We will fight, you for your freedom, and me for my vision. I pledge to you if you slay me, you will go free. But if not… If not, then all will see that I am their rightful ruler; that I am the Lizard KING, AND I CAN DO ANYTHING!!!”
The lizard king pointed to two of his subjects. “You two stay to bear witness. The rest must leave. NOW!” The remaining lizardfolk quickly left the room, not wanting to risk their king’s wrath. Once the room was cleared, the catlike creatures charged at the party, shifting back and forth as they did so. The party circled together defensively and the battle was joined.
The battle didn’t start so well when Xiang went down in the first few seconds, but the party recovered quickly. Delwyn revived Xiang while Starch brought down holy vengeance upon the lizard king. At one point the creature raised it’s trident and revived himself with the life force of his cats, which died in the process. Ultimately though the party prevailed and they killed the lizard king. Upon his death, the companions could feel a sense of relief from the surrounding Lizardfolk, who let them leave in peace.
The adventurers returned to druid Goldleaf to inform him of their victory. Goldleaf congratulated them and said he would pass on word to Lord Berl.