With the Lady’s Light finally in view, it was time to find the witch Maroux. Jasper’s directions weren’t the greatest, but they did guide the party to an island on one side of a lagoon, directly across from the statue. In the center of the island they could see a small hut from which smoke coiled steadily upward. Unfortunately, the only apparent path to the hut was the ricketiest-looking bridge Milacent had ever seen. “I am not walking across that thing,” she said.
“Don’t worry,” Theodore told her, “it’s safer than it looks.” He did have some knowledge of engineering, and upon inspection he could see that the bridge was structurally sound, if a little sloppy.
“And what about the skulls?”
The other problem was the bridge was that at periodic intervals it was decorated with bleached skulls of a non-humanoid variety, all marked with sigils painted in reddish-brown dried blood. “They’re not magical,” said Theodore, “they’re probably just their to scare people away.”
Milacent was unimpressed with the assurances, but eventually they did get across the bridge, albeit one at a time, and with ropes tied to their waists lest they fall. No sooner had everybody made it to the other side than they heard a voice screech at them, “Get offa my island! Turn around now or I’ll burn ya where ya stand!”
“Maroux?” Scratchy began, “Is that you? Jasper Kandamerous sent us!”
“What!? Jasper? He’s callin’ in his favors now is he?” A scraggly female half-orc with a raven on her shoulder emerged from behind a hill. “Alright, come along then,” she said, ” but no funny stuff! I’m watching you!”
She led the party to the hut they had seen earlier. Once inside she poured herself a bowl of some foul-smelling stew, then sat down at her table to eat. She did not offer them any, and with the notable exception of Scratchy, they didn’t really mind. “Now, whaddya want?” she demanded.
Theodore explained their quest in general terms: they were trying to get into the Lady’s Light, and Jasper had told them she was the one who knew the area best. Of course, they didn’t expect this information for free; they were willing to perform whatever services she needed done. Theodore did not include Jasper’s comment about the tasks being things she was too lazy to do herself.
“Wanna get under the Lady’s skirts?” she said as rancid soup dribbled out the side of her mouth. “Well, Jasper told you right. I do know how to get in, and there is something I need done.”
What she wanted done seemed simple enough: just collect a few handfuls of the rare seaweed known as kelpie’s hair and bring them back to her so she could make some kelpie’s hair soup. Of course, the four of them had been around long enough to know that nothing was ever that simple. And of course, the only nearby place the kelpie’s hair grew was around a shipwreck. And of course it was guarded by the spirits of the dead (the living skeletons of the dead, to be exact). But Scratchy, Theodore, Milacent and Zelcor were pros: they could handle a few walking dead things. And so they returned late in the afternoon, clothes all wet but kelpie’s hair in hand.
The witch became slightly less hostile as she took the seaweed and began to make another, different-smelling but still rancid stew. When she was done, she plopped five bowls of it on the table and, without saying a word, she began to eat. Milacent, Zelcor, and Theodore regarded their dinner, and then thanked the gods that they still had iron rations left. Scratchy, on the other hand, dug right in. It was one of the best meals he’d ever had – even better than the leeches.
After they’d stared at Maroux eat for several minutes, Theodore spoke up. “So, we brought you your kelpie’s hair. Can you tell us how to get into the Lady’s Light?”
“There’s no way in above ground,” the witch said between mouthfuls. “You have ta go through the tunnels.”
It turned out there was a set of tunnels that passed underneath the lagoon which would lead to the interior of the Lady’s Light. There were three entrances to these tunnels: One at the camp of “the xulgaths (who you city folk know better as troglodytes)”; another at the cave of a creature the troglodytes called “Gegganallag”, and which they revered as a representative of the demon gods they worshipped; and a third at the camp of a tribe of boggards, strange frog-like creatures that warred constantly with the the troglodytes.
“There’s something else,” Maroux continued, “a few months ago a troop of women knights shows up here, all clad in plate and wearing red-plumed helms. I tell them the same thing I told you, and somehow they end up making friends with the boggards, giving them weapons and help against the trogs. Then they disappear into the tunnels, and I figure they’re all dead.”
“But then ten days ago their leader, Oriana, shows up here again. She says she’s found none other than Sorshen, the Runelord of Lust, inside the statue, and now they’re going to return to their queen together! She asks me to come with them, but I tell her no; only a liar or a madwoman tells a story like that, and I want nothing to do with either one.”
Theodore listened to the story with interest. After they had finished their meal and were preparing for the next day’s travel he told the others, “That group of knights she was talking about, it sounds like Gray Maidens.”
“Gray what?” asked Zelcor.
“Gray Maidens – the queen of Korvosa’s elite personal troops. If they’re here, we’ll have to hurry. We have more competition for the shards than we thought.”
Korvosa was a city-state that competed with Magnimar for influence in Varisia. If the Gray Maidens succeeded in bringing the next shard back to Korvosa, it would be a long hard journey to get it from whatever royal vault they would no doubt keep it in. Milacent, hearing this information, picked up her sword and began to sharpen it.
“I look forward to meeting them,” she said.