Tales of the Brunch Club 011 “To Bog, Or Not To Bog”

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Welcome to Episode 11 of the Rescued by Dragons podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club: A weekly fantasy adventure based on a homebrewed Dungeons and Dragons campaign played by a group of friends in Portland, Maine.

My name is Dominic White and I invite you to picture yourself in a cozy, torch-lit tavern, ale in hand, gathered around a table with other listeners, waiting to hear the next chapter in the tale of… The Brunch Club.

But first, a quick recap of our previous episode…

In episode 10, after accidentally freeing a nightmare from its prison, The Brunch Club raced back to Baughmoor, deciding not to sleep so they could get to Juni’s birthday party in time, and hopefully prevent the bog hag from taking her. They were attacked by a pair of cave bears and managed to fight them off. They made it back to town by morning where they told the druid Ulrich of their run in with the nightmare. They went to warn Cooper of the danger facing his daughter only to discover the party had already started. The brunch club attended the party and kept a close eye on Juni. Well after sunset, when they thought the danger had passed, Juni transformed into a hag herself as the original bog hag burst through the window. The Brunch club, along with the help of adventurers Chad and Thad, managed to kill the bog hag, but this did not cure Juni who turned invisible and escaped through the dark forest toward the bog.

And now Episode 11, “To Bog Or Not To Bog”

Elora and Salys picked up the broken glass off the Laughing Pine Lodge’s dining room floor. Vorjhon and Drusilla boarded up a jagged hole where a window had once been. When they finished cleaning as best they could, poured themselves some drinks, left a gold piece on the bar, and waited for the inn’s owner to join them.

They sat in silence, too tired to speak. The faint sounds of crickets, frogs, and other animals surrounding this wilderness town was the only noise in the room until they heard footsteps descending the stairs.

Cooper entered, looking tired and grave. He sat with them. Vorjhon slid a whiskey across the table. Cooper took it and emptied the glass in three big gulps.

“Is Anne sleeping?” Vorjhon, asked.

“Yes,” Cooper replied. “For now.”

“How are you holding up?” Asked Salys.

“To tell you the truth, I’m feeling angry at myself. I should have listened to you, but I really thought the danger had passed. I thought I had my old Juni back. I’m an idiot.” Cooper held out his glass. Vorjhon refilled it.

“There was nothing you could have done,” Elora stated.

“I am sorry we could not save her,” Vorjhon said softly.

Cooper smiled a sad smile. “I don’t think she was there to save. I think my Juni was killed months ago in the bog. I don’t know what that was living under my roof.” His eyes became glassy with tears and he emptied his glass again.

Vorjhon extended the whiskey bottle toward Cooper but he waved him off. “I should go be with Anne.” He stood up and looked around the room. “Thank you for picking up.” He looked at the black stain in the middle of the floor. “Where’s the witch?”

“Her body’s outside,” Drusilla told him. “We’ll burn it tonight.”

Cooper nodded. He walked toward the door and turned before heading upstairs. “You all saved Anne’s and my life tonight. Others too. Feel free to stay as long as you want, no charge. Though why anyone would want to stay in this Godsforsaken town is beyond me.”

In a clearing outside town they burned the bog hag’s body on a pyre of stacked logs. Raif Brenton, Ulrich the druid, and The Brunch Club were the only ones present. The light from the bright flames danced on their bodies.

“I’m sad to see my idea of killing the hag first didn’t work,” Ulrich said.

“It was a longshot worth taking,” assured Elora.

Ulrich nodded.

They watched in silence, as though mesmerised by the flames.

Vorjhon startled them all by saying, “We should go into the bog and find Juni.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” Drusila demanded, spinning on her heels to face him. “We barely survived the bog as it is, and we never left the road.”

“We could try capture her. Bring her to Elnor. Maybe someone there cure her,” Vorjhon insisted.
“You heard what Cooper said,” Elora offered. “He wasn’t even sure if that was his own daughter. Juni probably died the second she went missing.”

“Dru’s right,” Salys said. “That would be insane. We’d be on her turf, and she can turn invisible! How do we fight that?”

Vorjhon took a deep breath and exhaled with visible exasperation. “What about next little girl? What happens when Juni hag decides it time to make own witch child?”

“That’s a good question,” interjected Ulrich. He asked Brenton, “Has this happened before?”

Brenton crossed his arms and tilted his head as he tried to remember. His eyes widened as a look of recollection appeared on his face. “Yes. It has has. Thirteen years ago, when my father was Raif. I remember it now because I was the same age as the girl who disappeared. We were twelve.”

“Was it the same as Juni?” Asked Elora. “Was she found after a week?”

“Did she brutally murder her parents on her birthday?” Salys asked.

They all looked at her in silence. “What?” She shrugged. “Someone had to ask it. It’s important.”

Ulrich nodded his head and asked the Raif to continue. “What else do you remember?”

Brenton concentrated, “I haven’t thought of it in years, But I do remember something strange. The girl did go missing for a week, but then came back. She was supposed to have a thirteenth birthday party, but I vaguely remember my father telling me it was cancelled because her family moved north to Trademeet. I was young and didn’t question it. Families moved away from Boughmoor all the time.”

“That settles it,” Drusila said. “We have 13 years to come back and kill the Hag.”

“It settles nothing!” Vorjhon countered. “There is still evil witch living near vulnerable town. I refuse to give up on Juni. There must be cure.”

“Your resolve is admirable,” Ulrick said to Vorjhon. “But you won’t find a cure for her here.”

“Look Vorjhon,” Drusila said, tempering her impatience with the headstrong paladin. “We are going to Elnor. We will look for a cure for Juni in the Crystal Spire Library. If there is a cure. We’ll find it there.”

Vorjhon relented, knowing he was outvoted and pursuing the hag on his own would be a fool’s errand. “Promise that after we get to library, we come back and either cure hag, or kill it,”.
“I promise,” Drusilla said, putting an end to the debate.

“Your willingness to help us is appreciated,” Brenton told Vorjhon. “You can still help us if you wish. The direwolf bounty still hasn’t been claimed.”

“Chad and Thad haven’t killed it yet?” Elora asked.

Ulrich chuckled. “Not yet. They seem to be more concerned with drinking than hunting.”

The group fell back into silence as they watched the cremated remains of the bog hag collapse into the crumbling embers of the burned logs.

The Brunch Club agreed they would set out first thing in the morning to hunt the wolf beast and said goodnight to the Raif and Druid.

They walked quietly to their rooms. In the hallway they heard the laughter and joking of two male voices with unmistakable accents. A smile crossed Vorjhon’s dragon like face and he told his companions to wait where they were as he disappeared downstairs. He reappeared with two bottles of the strongest whiskey he could find in the Laughing Pine Lodge’s bar, paid for with tip, he assured them. He knocked on the door.

Chad opened the door and Vorjhon greeted him with a cheerful “Hello!” He handed them the bottles, and said, “We never had a chance to thank you for your help with Bog Hag. We bring you present as thank you for surely saving our lives!”

“Woah! Any time dragon man!” Chad said as he snatched the bottles from Vorjhon’s hands. “Let us know anytime things get too hairy for you all!” Chad tossed one of the bottles to Thad, said good night, and closed the door.

“What?” Drusilla started to protest, but Vorjhon held up a finger for her to be quiet as he listened with his ear to the door. He heard the popping of corks, the clinking of bottles, then a pair of repeated glugs of whiskey pouring down open gullets. He nodded in satisfaction.

“What was that?” Drusila asked when they got back to their rooms.

“‘Saving our lives?’” Salys chided him. “What kind of crap is that? Chad almost killed you!”

Vorjhon answered, “Our friends will stay up drinking whiskey all night. We are going to bed now. We will be up early to hunt wolf. They will be drunk and asleep.” He smiled at them, bid them good night, and entered his room. As soon as the door closed behind him the exhaustion from being up for 2 days straight overwhelmed him. He barely had the energy to strip off his armor before he collapsed onto his bed and fell into a deep, restful sleep.

It was bright and unseasonably warm when they left Boughmoor the next morning and headed north into the hills. They knew where the wolf creature sightings had been most frequent and decided to start searching for tracks there first.

They walked all morning, spotting a variety of animal prints in the light coating of snow that covered the forest floor. The animals’ tracks were what they expected to see in the forest and nothing stood out to them as unusual or monstrous. In the early afternoon some unusual tracks caught Elora’s eye. She pointed out the paw prints of several large wolves that seemed to be circling and walking along side a set of larger prints, that were wolf-like, but not a wolf’s. “It looks like it walks on two legs,” observed the ranger.

The tracks led to a clearing where they seemed to go several different directions. “They come through here a lot,” Elora told them, then suggested, “We should set a trap.”

The wood elf spent a few minutes studying the clearing and the tracks before deciding on a suitable place to place a rope snare trap.

Elora and Salys climbed into trees for cover. Vorjhon and Drusilla, whose armor gave them a disadvantage when trying to climb, chose hiding places behind large rocks instead.

They stayed still and silent while they watched and waited. They could tell by the length of the afternoon shadows that they had been waiting for almost two hours when they heard the first rustling of the underbrush in the distance. The sound of at least four feet approached them, getting louder quickly. The feet stomped heavily in the snow.

They became relaxed, yet annoyed, when two, leather clad fighters walked into the clearing. The Brunch Club did not reveal themselves, hoping they would remain unnoticed while Chad and Thad walked through the clearing.

“I think we should go that way,” Thad said, pointing north past the tree Elora was in.

“I don’t know, what about this way?” Chad asked taking a couple steps to the east. “Whoa, What the hell!!” He screamed as Elora’s snare caught his ankles, bound them together, and hoisted him up in the air until his head was seven feet off the ground.

“Gods damnit!!” Elora shouted, sitting on the tree branch she had been sitting on.

“Way to go, Chad,” Salys mocked as she jumped down from her branch.

Elroa and Vorjhon appeared from their hiding spots.

“Way to blow our cover,” Drusilla said humorlessly.

“Hey man, not our fault,” Thad answered. “You made it real easy to follow you. You should learn to cover your tracks.”

They watched with amusement as Chad swung upside down. He reached behind him for his greatsword but it had fallen out of its scabbard.

“Why don’t you let poor Chad down, Elora?” Vorjhon laughed.

Elora drew back her bow and split the rope cleanly with a razor sharp arrow.

Chad made a noise similar to a dropping sack of potatoes when he hit the ground.

“Hey, easy!” scolded Thad as he rushed over to help Chad to his feet.

“Your friend should learn to watch where he steps,” Vorjhon replied, kidding the embarrassed warrior.

“He’s not my friend,” grumbled Thad. “He’s my brother.” Thad lifted Chad to his feet who seemed fine.

Vorjhon retrieved Elora’s arrow from the dirt and tossed it up to her.

“So what now?” Drusilla asked.

“What do you mean?” asked Chad?

“You guys made so much noise,” Elora pointed out, “no creatures are going to come back here for hours.”

Vorjhon suggested, “We can hunt together, or go in different directions hoping one of us gets lucky.”

As luck would have it though, they did not have to split up to find their quarry. Three large wolves leapt into the clearing. One of them knocked Salys to the ground on its way to attack Thad.

The other two wolves lunged at Chad and Drusilla.

They all moved to defend themselves and barely had time to notice a fourth, large, wolflike form leaping on two legs into the clearing behind the wolves. Even hunched over, it stood almost 8 feet tall. It had pointed ears and a flat nose. It resembled a werewolf, but if the non-wolf half of the beast was something other than human.

It jumped toward Vorjhon, landing in front of him and swiping at the dragonborn with its long sharp claws. The paladin brushed aside the attack with his shield then backed up a few paces and stood in a defensive stance with his warhammer at the ready. Before he could make his own counterattack, the beast screamed as two arrows shot into its back from above. It whirled around and looked up at Elora who was nocking another arrow on her longbow. The beast vanished before the ranger could get in another shot.

“Fuck!” Elora screamed. “What it is it with things disappearing around here? Is it invisible, or is it gone?” She shouted down at Vorjhon.

“I don’t know!” The dragonborn answered back. “Can you see any footprints?”

The ranger scanned the forest floor below her but could see no signs of movement from an invisible creature. “He must be gone! Something that big would leave a trail!”

Vorjhon and Elora turned their attention to the three wolves in time to see Salys fire bolts of magic energy at the wolf attacking Drusilla. The magic missiles slammed into the wolf’s side. It turned away from Drusilla, to look at Salys but did not see Vorjhon and could not evade the heavy warhammer blow that crushed its head into the dirt.

Elora shot the arrow that had been meant for the werebeast into the wolf menacing Chad. It had its jaw clamped onto one of Chad’s arms preventing him from hitting it with his giant sword. When the arrow sunk into its side it released its grip, and Chad was able to get a good swing at it, killing it.

Thad was pinned on the ground as he wrestled with the final surviving wolf. Before the rest of the group could lend assistance, he got one foot underneath the wild canine and pushed it away from him. He and the wolf got to their feet at the same time and the wolf lunged at Thad who swung his great axe with both arms. The wolf’s body hit the ground well before its head, which Thad’s axe had sent sailing into the air several feet away.

“That was killer, Bro!” said Chad, enthusiastically complimenting his brother.

“Quiet,” Drusila ordered, holding up her palm at him. “That other thing could still be here.”

They formed a tight circle with their backs facing inward so they could look into the surrounding woods in all directions, weapons at the ready.

“Do you see anything?” Salys shouted up to Elora, who still stood on the branch.

The wood elf looked around them from above. She saw no signs of any movement in the underbrush around them. She circled the clearing with her eyes again and was about to tell them she couldn’t see anything, when she heard the snap of a branch. She looked toward the sound and saw leaves bend back as if being moved by an invisible hand.

“It’s in the trees!” Elora shouted. She shot an arrow toward the bent leaves and a howl alerted the others to the beast’s location.

They turned toward the noise in time to see the creature’s form materialize in mid air as it leapt toward them, fangs bared and claws extended.

Vorjhon said a quick prayer as he swung his warhammer. He struck the wolf-like form before it landed. When the hammer made contact divine light crackled from the sky and shot into the monster’s body, causing it to howl with even more pain.

Chan swung at it but missed, nearly hitting Vorjhon with his sword.

“Are you hunting dragonborns?” Vorjhon asked with annoyance in his voice.

“Sorry, bout that dude,” Chad apologized.

Thad swung his axe at the were-like creature, hoping to replicate the decapitating blow that had felled the last wolf. The beast crouched away though and Thad’s axe ripped a chunk of flesh out of its shoulder. It wounded him badly, but it was not a killing blow.

The killing blows came in the form of arrows from Elora’s quiver, one in the head, and one in the heart, to be sure.

The beast landed with a thud in the snow and leaves. Elora leapt down from the tree and strode toward it.

“Do you know what it is?” Salys asked the monster hunting ranger.

“I have no idea,” Elora admitted, prodding at it with the toe of her boot. “It’s definitely not a direwolf. But it’s also not quite a werewolf.”

“Maybe Ulrich will know,” suggested Drusilla.

“We should bring whole thing back for identification,” Vorjhon said as he pulled rope from his pack and began tying it around the beast, looping the two ends so they could fit around broad shoulders.

He tossed one rope to Chad. “We drag first, Thad take turns relieving us.”

“Why me?” Chad asked as he put the loop over his shoulder.
“So I can be sure you won’t accidentally hit me with your sword.” Vorjhon answered as he put the other loop over his own shoulder.

They began dragging the large corpse back to Boughmoor. It was well over 8ft long now that it was stretched out on the ground, and progress was slow. They were not too far from the clearing when Elora noticed a grouping of rocks and perhaps a small cave in the distance. “Over there,” she pointed.

“What?” asked Salys.

“Could be a wolf den,” Elora informed them. We don’t want to be ambushed by more wolves.”

“Elora and I will check it out,” Drusila said. “The rest of you stay with tall dark and stinky over here”

“Are you talking about the corpse, or Chad?” asked Salys.

Elora and Drusilla got closer to the possible wolf den. They could see no large wolves around and approached the opening of the small cave slowly. Peering into the cave, they could only see darkness surrounding the reflection of two small dots of light. Elora drew her bow. Drusilla held out her hand and whispered, “stop.” The cleric conjured a single orb of light that floated in front of her. She telepathically moved it into the darkness slowly. It illuminated a small, shivering wolf pup trying to back as far as it could into the furthest nook of the small den. It looked identical to the three wolves that had attacked them earlier, only much smaller.

“I think we just killed its family,” Elora guessed.

Drusila got close to the entrance, muttered a quiet prayer, and then spoke out loud, “Hi little guy. Don’t be scared. We won’t hurt you. Do you have a name”

The wolf squeaked and barked softly, which is what Elora heard. Drusilla however heard a soft frightened voice in her head answer, “I’m called Harir. Have you seen my family?”

Drusilla answered the young pup in a soothing tone. “Yes, we have, Harir. But they won’t be coming back. You should come with us.”

Harir tried to back further against the wall. He put his head down. “No. I think I should wait.”

Drusila muttered another prayer under her breath, and reached her hand out toward the pup. He stopped shivering and walked to Drusilla.

“That’s a good boy, Harir,” the cleric encouraged. Drusilla handed Elora a piece of jerky from her pack. The cleric fed it to the wolf pup who ate it up greedily. “Come, Harir. You’ll be safe with us.”
The cleric and ranger rejoined their friends with Harir following behind them.

“You made a friend!” Thad greeted them when they rejoined them. He bent down and scratched Harir behind the ears. “Hi little dude!”

Thad replaced Vorjhon at one of the ropes that towed the werebeast corpse and they continued on their way.

The late afternoon sun cast long shadows on the forest floor. No one spoke. Drusilla and Elora were in front with Harir walking obediently between them. Vorjhon and Sayls walked behind Thad and Chad and the body they pulled.. The only sounds the group heard during their march was Chad and Thad’s heavy foot falls and the noise of leaves, branches, rocks, and snow being scraped over and pushed aside by the corpse they were dragging.

Harir stopped suddenly, whimpered, and looked into the woods to the side of Drusilla. They all instinctively stopped and listened, looking into the same spot that caught Harir’s attention.

From behind them, a half dozen goblins leapt at them from behind small piles of snow and leaves. They were small in stature, clothed in mismatched leather armor, and carrying mostly handmade swords and daggers. They closed the distance between their cover and the group rapidly taking advantage of their turned backs. Chad and Thad were encumbered by the ropes looped around their shoulders and had trouble drawing their weapons. Vorjhon’s and Drusilla’s heavy armor protected them from the initial damage of the makeshift weapons. Elora and Salys could not turn and evade in time and were both injured, but not badly enough they couldn’t fight back.

The group turned to defend themselves against their attackers. They beat the smaller, lesser armed and armored goblins back quickly, but did not see the seventh goblin emerge from the spot Harir had originally alerted them to. This goblin was dressed differently than the others. It wore a bright green but dirty tunic cinched at the waist with frayed rope. An oversized feathered cap sat on his head, tilted back so it wouldn’t block his eyes. He carried a large gnarled root decorated with torn strips of cloth as a staff. He pointed the staff at Chad and Thad and said something in the goblin language. He jumped and hooted with satisfaction as both Chad and Thad lowered their weapons and stared at each other.

Vorjhon and Drusilla heard the strange voice and wild hoot behind them. They turned to see Chad and Thad holding their weapons by their side in limp arms and relaxed hands that barely held on to the hilts. Their jaws were slack and their eyes looked glassy.

“What are you idiots doing?” Drusila shouted at them.”

“What?” Thad asked, looking around as if trying to figure out where he was.

“What’s going on?” Chad asked with grogginess in his voice. “I feel weird.”

Drusilla and Vorjhon did not see the oddly dressed goblin until he pointed his staff at them, said something else in his strange language, and then waited to see what happened.

“Look at that little fellow!” Vorjhon said with delight.

“He’s adorable!” agreed Drusila. “I love him! We should make sure he doesn’t get hurt!”

They ran to the funny goblins side and got ready to protect him.

“What the fuck is going on?” Elora said when she noticed two of her companions looking around with confused looks on their face, and two others playing bodyguard to a new goblin she hadn’t seen before.

Fortunately four of the initial six goblins had been killed and Elora made it five with a well placed arrow in the eye.

Salys saw the goblin who seemed to have control over Drusilla and Vorjhon and recongized it as a nibog, a magic wielding goblin. She fired four magic missiles at it, all hitting their target at full power, blowing it apart.

The paladin and cleric shook off the effects of the spell used against them, as did Chad and Thad. The four of them looked at the remaining goblin with anger and frustration. The surviving golin’s eyes widened with terror. He turned to flee but Thad’s axe swung down on his head, cleaving him half.

“What in the nine hells just happened?”

“You were charmed by a nilbog,” answered Salys. “Basically a magic goblin.” Sayls gestured over her shoulder at Chad and Thad. “Those two were confused.”

“How could you tell the difference?” smirked Elora.

They did an inventory of their wounds and determined they were superficial at worst. Sunset approached but they were fairly close to town so they decided to keep going. They reached Bouhgmoor just before nightfall.

This tale will continue next week in Episode 12

Episode 11 was written by Dominic White and based upon a Dungeons and Dragons campaign created by Brian Messmer.

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Thank you very much for listening Please join us next week to find out, along with the rest of us, what‘s going to happen next!

Ambiance and effects used with permission by Michael Ghelfi.