Shaman Argumu relaxed in the swamp.
Above him the sun was drifting lazily to the horizon, a cool breeze cutting through the heat of the murky depths. A cliff racer dived from its perch on a nearby hill, the unsuspecting shroombeetle suffering an unexpected end to its day. Submerged around Argumu were three crocodiles, only their nostrils venturing above the water. It didn’t bother him in the slightest. Dominance had been won. He had the hollowed head of the old king of the reptiles as a trophy by his side. It was as comforting as coming inside to a warm fire on a winter’s night.
Resting his arms out across the log he was using like a chair back, the sounds of bugs buzzing and gentle sploshing of the swamp critters were a gentle lullaby to his soul. He closed his tired eyes. Things couldn’t be more perfect.
“I swear to Akatosh, if you lead us into another snapjaw invested pond…”
“Those were simply preliminaries. I assure you my orienteering skills have us in the right direction. Look how the trees form more of a grove here.”
Shaman Argumu groaned.
He picked up the crocodile head mask from the water’s edge, put it on and slipped further into the water. To all but the most observant onlooker he was now just another crocodile.
“Remind me why I agreed to this…”
“I don’t know why you’re so upset, it’s a glorious day and…That’s it! There!”
The pair of interlopers emerged from the treeline. A man dressed in flowing robes stepped forward, book in one hand. He carried half a forest worth of leaves, twigs and mud caught upon his outfit. Beside him was a small wood elf woman. Her outfit was far more practical for exploring the wilderness, tough leathers and an array of knives, all of which were almost spotless.
She spun around to her companion, a dagger materialising in her hand and by his throat.
“I told you if this was another-“
She glanced over her shoulder at the water before shrugging, the blade’s edge shaving a little of the hairs on the man’s throat.
“Look at the crocodiles. Four of them. Unusual to begin with, being territorial creatures. Yet curiouser still, one is not like the others. Didn’t you mention your contact saw the Great Shaman of the Swamp wearing a crocodile mask in town?”
The dagger moved half an inch.
Oh no. Bookman notices things.
The man, now with just enough space to gulp without dying, brushed her knife aside and strode confidently to the water. Two steps in he bowed to the exposed reptilian nostrils.
“My dearest Shaman, I shan’t mean to”
He got no further as the crocodile he had approached lunged forward.
Not so observant after all…
From his distance Argumu watched as the man fell backwards, his book snapped into the powerful jaws instead of his head. Shaman squinted.
That’s Roberta. She’ll get the others stirred up…so much for peace.
Shaman Argumu rose from the water and weaved his hands through the air. Blue shimmers swirled around him before he leapt forward, grabbing the crocodile and freezing her in place. He then spun her tail around and flung her to the far side of the swamp. There was a satisfying splosh as she speared into the water.
Then he turned to his ‘guests’, swamp water still cascading down his form, the snout of his mask homing in on Bookman and Knifelady.
“Oh great Shaman-”
“Fury of the forest-”
“Defender of the-”
Bookman found himself suddenly winded as his companion elbowed him in the side – hard.
“He wants us to leave. Frankly, I agree. This place stinks. No offence Shaman.”
Shaman Argumu shrugged. It did smell. He liked it. Kept people off his muddy bank. Usually.
Bookman was trying to gasp enough air into his lungs to speak again. Shaman raised an eyebrow at Knifelady.
“He ever listen?”
The orc chuckled. With a word that sounded more like the flexing of a flower bud opening, he cast his hand back towards where he had been soaking. Vibrant green vines snaked from his fingertips and clasped his mug, before rapidly withdrawing. He scooped up some swamp water and offered it to Bookman.
“Drink. It’ll get your breath back.”
The man, still doubled over from catching his breath, took the proffered mug and had a sip without looking closely. He spat it out instantly, coughing up and, true to Shaman’s word, getting his lungs working again.
“What on nirn was that! Oh, very funny. Let’s have some fun at the academic’s expense. Really. I thought you were above that Shaman. Is it a race thing? You feel inferior to my magic bloodline? I came here for your help! Not to be ridiculed!”
“You get enough of that back home.”
“Exactly! Wait, what? No! Ugh. Honestly Silandra, now is not the time for your barbs.”
Shaman Argumu shook his head. Against his better judgement he decided to ask why Bookman and Knifelady Silandra were on his doorstep. After all, it seemed quite clear the Breton wasn’t leaving any time soon and Shaman did not feel like freeze throwing yet another living creature today. Roberta had pulled his shoulder, not that he would ever admit it.
“In five words, why are you here?”
Silandra smirked. Clearly word count was an issue for the Breton. To everyone’s surprise he fell quiet, considered carefully and spoke with utter simplicity. The question fell like an exhausted traveler seeking refuge at an inn.
“Can you find my friend?”