The rain began to fall heavier again as left the cottage behind, re-crossed the Rubicon River and made their way to the Green Man Gorge. Darkon, who had the map, struggled to keep them on course and they got frequently lost. Arguments about directions, whose turn it was to cook, clean the dishes and feed Stove got worse as the days went on. They were generally soaked with the rain, cold from the wind, tired because they hadn't slept and hungry because they struggled to light fires. Things didn't improve when they discovered some sort of beetle had got into the hardtack and none of them dared to eat it.
Eventually they found a river that might be the Green Man River and following it. According to the map might get them to the Gorge. By the third day of travel, the land on either side of the river began to climb. They had not seen any signs of habitation but were desperate for somewhere to dry off. Rust started to spot their weapons and equipment felt twice as heavy as it was soaked through. Not for the first time they thought 100 silver was too little for all this suffering. Maybe they needed to renegotiate it with the Fatman.
By midday of the fourth day they stood at the entrance to Green Man Gorge. The wind howled in their faces and it looked as if there might be a thunderstorm soon. The hair on their necks stood on end and their nerves jangled.
"Let’s find a campsite that we can defend, I don't like the feeling here, hemmed in by all this rock," said Darkon.
"Is there a Green Man in this gorge?" asked Egil, clutching his spear and nervously.
"How should I know" answered Darken," Never been here before, and the map has no attached tourist information. It might have been useful to pay the extra 2sp for the guide. Hindsight is wonderful. ”
"I heard some merchants talk about a Green Man they met who was four metres tall and demanded a toll for allowing them to pass. If they wouldn't pay the toll or didn't have it he demanded a head," said Graphen is a whisper.
Quietly they picked their way through the gorge trying to keep to the bushes that lined the path. After an hour the rain stopped and the wind died down. A thin mist seemed to rise from the ground getting thicker as they trudged on. After half an hour it had risen to their knees and obscured the ground making walking at any speed tricky.
"We need somewhere to camp for the night. I really don't like this fog" said Egil.
"It’s not a fog, it’s a mist." said Graphen. "A fog comes down. A mist comes from the ground."
"No, it’s definitely a fog" said a voice, "and my advice is find higher ground, and quickly."
All three stopped and looked around. They couldn't see anyone or anything through the fog.
"Fog is thicker than mist," said the voice, "and reduces visibility."
"Who are you? “ asked Darkon," or even where are you?"
All three were back to back with weapons drawn, staring her into the thickening fog. Stove had been left outside the defensive ring and was using his considerable intellect to curse all three, He would have turned and bolted back the way they had travelled if his reins had not been caught by a small wrinkled man who smelt like elderberries.
The wrinkled man coughed politely waited for the three companions to notice him.
"My name is Rooskin and I couldn’t help but correct your mistake about the mist. I also thought I should stop your excellent donkey from bolting. Can I be of service?"
It’s a well-known fact that people who adventure in the Wilds often make mistakes about who to trust. This was indeed the subject of the plenary session of the 12th Symposium of the Adventurer’s Guild, but sadly, it did not draw any conclusions but did set up a committee that is yet to report back.
If there is, for example, a sequence of good creature, bad creature, helpful creature, good, bad, helpful etc. and the adventurers get the sequence wrong then they are always going to make the wrong decisions.
This was the case with Rooskin. He was one of the helpful creatures who spent his life dong good deeds much as making shoes for poor Cobblers, turning water into wine, giving sweet almonds to young children and specifically helping people get through the Green Man Gorge. He was also Chair of the Orphans and Waifs Holiday Fund, but that as they say, is another tale.
Our three companions, however, chose to believe he was a demon sent to waylay them and therefore jumped him, tied + gagged him and threatened bodily harm up to and including chopping appendages off if Rooskin didn't tell them if he had any gold, any food and how to get out of this fog.
Despite the rather rough treatment and the threats to his physical integrity, Rooskin was one of the good folk and had forgiven the three men putting it down to anxiety + possibly the fact he had surprised them. However unable to persuade them he didn't need gold therefore didn't have any and he had no dwelling nearby, he began to grow annoyed.
Egil also lost patience with the small wrinkly person, not believing for an instance he didn’t have a pot of gold hidden under a bush somewhere and tossed him on the packages on Stove's back.
"We can keep him with us as a hostage." said Egil. "If any of his fellows try to attack us we can threaten to harm him. That should keep us safe and what’s more, I’m sure he has gold somewhere. Creatures of his ilk always do.”
The group moved on slowly and after 10 minutes the fog appeared to be getting thinner to the point they could eventually see the ground again. It took them a while to realise they were on a mound and rather than the fog disappearing they were actually on an island in a sea of fog. In the centre of the island was a huge stone that looked as if some ancients had carved a face on it. It was difficult to say what the carving represented as it was so weathered.
"We’ll stay here for the night," said Darkon," Egil, light a fire and let’s get some hot food. In the morning we can take stock of where we are.”
Rooskin struggled in his bonds and make odd nooses. The three men gathered around him.
"What’s he doing?" said Graphen
"I think he's casting some form of hex" said Egil," I've seen this kind of thing before.”
"Maybe he's trying to tell in something" said Darkon.
After some discussion they agreed that the strange wrinkled man was trying to cast a spell on them and they stuffed more rags in his mouth and made sure the ropes were tight. Stove watched the scene unfold. He was certain the wrinkly man had said don't light a fire on the mound at the dark of the moon. Stove turned his head to see Egil's fire spring to life.