Valiants of Varnhaven

Mar Kus and the Frogs

Your ears ring, your head throbs, and you spit out blood as you slowly pick yourself up out of the thick mud. Gew Pum Lo laughs as he tosses his fish away.

“You fight like KOBOLD, pinky.”    You grope about in the mud for the shaft of your halberd, but Gew Pum Lo kicks it out of reach. “Enough, human!  You… beaten!  Again.  HAHA!”  He croaks loudly, and the frogmen gathered around to watch your duel croak in laughter with him.

A smaller frogman, shades of blue and grey where Gew Pum Lo is red and black, steps forward in the faint drizzle, raising his hand to end the match.  “Gew Pum Lo, you have made your point.  The human will honor his agreement… won’t you,  Mar Kus?”

The wizened old frog waves at you to rise and scrape the mud out of your eyes and ears.

“Mar Kus, you wagered three months.  We will hold you to that.  Come, gather your bag.”

Lud Ump So, the stooped shamanic leader of the Shade Knife tribe of frogmen, leads you up along a rain slick path, away from the beach, deeper into the center of their island.  Eventually you come to a clearing with thatched huts, smoldering cook fires, and bright woven hammocks strung from black willow and swamp cypress.  Frogmen (and frog-women, and even frog-kids) watch as you trudge along behind the old shaman, and you are sure you hear them snickering in their burbly, croaky language.

“Here, Mar Kus,” Lud Ump So says finally, in front of a tiny one-room hut.  “You will sleep here.”

You bend over double to enter the tiny hut.  Inside is a pallet of damp canvas stuffed with moss, and a small rickety, three legged stool.  Nothing more.

“I will come for you when the sun rises.”

For the next two months, the frogmen put you to work chopping down trees, hauling away brush,  and moving stones too heavy for the frogmen alone, and for every boulder you roll away to clear a patch of dry land, Gew Pum Lo and his crew unearth three more.  Gew Pum’s cronies hurl insults at you as you struggle to roll wet mossy boulders through the thick mud, pelting you with small rocks that sting like flies.  Eventually your rage gets the better of you, and with a roar you pick up a boulder the size of a tree stump, hurling it into the brush beyond the clearing.

The frogmen give you a wide, respectful berth after that.

On your last month with the Shade Knife tribe, with a mere thirty days of hard labor left in your debt, Gew Pum and Lud Ump approach your small cooking fire while you prepare your breakfast of eggs and fried fish.

“Enough of the labor, Mar Kus.  We have another task for you.  You will range with Gew Pum, clearing the last of the beasts that stalk our swamp.  Sharpen your spear-axe, Mar Kus.  Prepare for battle.”

Gew Pum Lo, you notice, has traded his usual long, dead fish that he uses for discipline for a great ivory sword, serrated with alligator teeth.

And for the next four weeks you tromp through the muck with Gew Pum Lo and his hand-picked crew of frogmen warriors, tracking down shambling mounds, swamp trolls, owlbears, and other critters that threaten the growing Frogman tribe and the swamp waters they fish and farm in.  Between the Frogmen’s swamp lore and cunning, Gew Pum’s skill as a close quarter fighter, and your reach and rage, you make quick work of most of the megafauna that lurk in the Anura Swamp

At last, you and Gew Pum stalk a flight of green dragon wyrmlings that have claimed a massive black willow on the far edge of the swamp..  Three of them, languishing among the branches after a meal of giant crawfish, doze in the afternoon sun, tails twitching slowly as they nap.

One of the wyrmlings went down fast under the initial onslaught, but the other two fought with all the ferocity and savagery dragonkin are known for.  You and Gew Pum focused on one together, while the rest of the hunting party harried the third with bows and spears. You don’t remember much after you raged… just a blur of blood, claws, and teeth.

You slowly come to consciousness, staring up at Gew Pum Lo as he laughs and croaks.  You find yourself back in a thatched hut with Gew Pum peering down at you and Lud Ump So muttering over your bandaged leg, peeling away a bloody swatch of cloth.  

“Ya!  Good fight, Mar Kus!”  Gew Pum croaks.  He claps you shoulder, shaking you and earning a glare from the old shaman as he finishes up with his mutterings and magics, cleansing your leg of the infection the wrymling’s bite had set upon you.

“You’ll be fine, Mar Kus… another day or two of rest now.  Lucky that Gew Pum got you back here in time for me to clean these wounds.  I’m surprised he didn’t just leave you to rot.”

You continue to recover over the next few days.  Gew Pum orders a feast in honor of the ranging party’s successful return, declaring  the swamp clear of any significant dangers to the Shade Knife tribe, and thanks in no small part to the pink human who fights like a kobold, Mar Kus.  Heaps of fish, bowls of rich gumbo, butter soaked crawfish, all spread out before you.

Mid feast, Gew Pum Lo approaches you with two monstrously large dead fish in his hands.  He tosses one to you….

Moments later you pick yourself up off the ground, ears ringing and spitting blood.  The frogmen croak and laugh, but you know now they are no longer laughing at you.  Gew Pum clasps your arm to help you up, clapping you on the back.

“Ha! Pinky, you now fight like a frog.  A grippli! HAHAHA!”

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