The Great Mischief from the Swamp
A Day in the Life of Jay, Shadow in the Grove
March, 2nd week, 2nd year in Osterra
After our encounters with the Gray Mercenaries we took a break at Aspen’s Rest. My time with my plants were cut short as we were heading out almost immediately soon after for another expedition.
We embarked in the same general direction as when we first found the Gray Mercenaries but headed more westward. Just within the swamps. Again. I loved getting the grime and slime all over the leather and boots. Really, why wouldn’t we want to build a town out here to commemorate it.
Ja’Nuk, the formerly possessed Warrior of the Demon Wrath, rode as a secondary scout with me ahead of the others. Gwion was still hit or miss with her horse, and Oonagh and Ariel, Ari for short, kept her on track. Arion took up the rear keeping us safe.
Four days out from Aspen’s Rest we scouted a seemingly abandoned Mill in the marsh. It had vines and ivy and overgrown plants all around it. One section of the thatch roof was dilapidated and caving in. If not for the fact the wheel in the waters was slowly turning I would have pegged it to be abandoned. Ja’Nuk and I dismounted and began making our way towards the building. We were quiet and approached the doorway from opposite sides. I took a cursory glance but saw no signs of movement or traps. I looked at the dark warrior and he nodded, signaling me he was ready. One step in-
-And I was hanging upside down with rope tying me like a deer being drained of blood. Cursed Donkeys, how did I miss that trap?
Ja’Nuk was right behind me and readied his sword to cut me down when we both saw a couple of lights burst out from behind some debris. Butterflies? I don’t know for sure, but they quickly approached the hardened warrior and he quickly turned tail hollering “Not Natural! They not natural! Lady Gwion!”
Holy snow peas, that man could stare down a bull and our pack of Hyenas no problem but as soon as something produced an ounce of magic he was as helpful as a wooden sword in a barn fire. Be nice Jay, the man was brainwashed by demonic magic- focus on the real problem.
Yes. One of the glowing butterflies had approached me and my not right side up composure. I blinked at it. And again.
Bright blue eyes stared back at me on an impish face or pink and gold, honey brown curls just barely ghosting her shoulders- and I was assuming it was ‘her’ by the golden leaflet dress and flower pendant covering her chest. A mischievous smirk graced her small face as the five inch being spoke, “You aren’t very smart are you? Getting caught in our little trap.”
“That does seem to be a true statement,” I calmly replied. Pixies were notorious in the Reverse for leading travelers astray in their ‘mischief makings.’ They would make you dance for days, rearrange your memories of the last few days, have you partake in strange and sometimes poisonous foods and drinks. People who went missing in forests because of Pixies would be considered lucky if their bodies were ever found again.
“Tee hee hee! You’re funny, not at all like the last people we had over. What are you doing looking around our mill?”
How tight was the rope on my ankle? I still had all of my knives sheathed.
“Oh you know- just HANGING out. Interesting place you got here!” She laughed more maniacally this time. In her brief moment of distraction I made a quick glance back to see if the other pixies that had approached Ja’Nuk were coming back. I felt bad for my initial reaction, the man had every right to run away at the sight of them, Pixies were incorrigible.
“You’re REALLY funny. I like you, you should come to our party tonight. You can be my guest- call me Annabelle.”
Oh for the love of FIREBALLS NO!
“That sounds like a lovely offer, but I would need to discuss it with my friends first. If you’ll excuse me,” and in a fluid movement I unsheathed a knife and cut the rope holding me up. Part of it was still around my ankle but it didn’t deter my landing or my sprint back to the cover of woods. Still no sign of the other pixies or worse Ja’Nuk.
I headed for where I had left my horse and leaped onto it’s back, albeit ungracefully. I couldn’t see my scouting partner’s mount anywhere. Not willing to see if the little vicious butterflies were following, I kicked my mount to go back the way we had come, towards the main party. After a few minutes they came into view, Ja’Nuk nervously talking to Gwion and the others. My arrival was met with concern and gratitude.
“Jay! Ja’Nuk said you were captured by magical beasts. Are you alright?” I dismounted, and waved for the others to do the same.
“We stumbled upon pixies. I would say the mill we found is home to a couple or worse, a Court of them,” I announced. “The trap I was caught in was mundane, but you were right to head back here Ja’Nuk- Pixies are notoriously devils and lack no remorse for the amount of mischief they inflict on people.” The warrior seemed less ashamed of leaving me behind at my comment. He may not have been aware of what they were and only reacting to the sight of magic, but I knew that if we had stumbled upon a bandit camp he would have raged mercilessly at them. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, we just happened upon his weakness. Not so much mine though. My birth world was riddled with these pests and while I may not have had the tools to get rid of them I had an idea or two to keep them out of our business.
“What are these Pixies? Ja’Nuk was describing them as small butterfly-like creatures that stung him on his escape,” Gwion asked. She seemed incredibly puzzled. Ari spoke in response to her question.
“About this big, really cute looking and got sparkly or glowing wings but will make you dance your life away because they think it’s funny to make people do that sort of stuff. They can steal your name if you carelessly give it to them without thinking, and my god they will screw you over in any deals you make so for the love of god don’t make any deals. If there is a court nearby throwing a party we do not accept any food or drink from them or else you may never be seen from again.” I nodded in agreement with her statements. Her world must have had pixies as well and it seems no inter-dimensional distance could not change the fact they were mischievous piles of fox dung.
Gwion and Oonagh seemed confused by our description of them. “How much trouble could such tiny creatures-”
“Don’t! Don’t finish that sentence, just trust us- they are dangerous in their lack of morals. While not outright evil they certainly aren’t good,” I interrupted. Arion was shaking her head in agreement, seeming to be aware of the little miscreants nature as well.
“Think of them as little trickster’s. They have only their own nest interest in mind and no one else,” Ari concluded. With that conclusion of their nature done and away with we decided to approach the mill again, much more prepared than before. I led the party while Ja’Nuk stayed behind with the horse. Better to make sure someone was with them in case the little buggers tried to strand us with them. With the mill in view I call out the name that was given to me by the little pixie girl.
“Annabelle? It’s me again, the one who made you laugh while hanging out.” We didn't have to wait long, little glowing butterfly wings and mischief promising grins approached us. Annabelle and two other sparkling and glittering pixies swooped, swirled and flew around us. Oonagh and Gwion were mesmerized, Ari tried swatting at one, and Arion gracefully ignored them like they were beneath her- what a majestic aura.
“Oh you came back! We are so happy, it’s been a while since we had guests! And just in time too, we are having a big party tonight,” Annabelle stated.
Dancing donkeys, no.
“A party?” Oonagh perked up at this. All three pixies grinned toward her, like they were hunting cats stalking prey.
“What’s the party for?” Ari stepped in, tactfully turning their attention to her.
“Oh we’re celebrating under the full moon for travelers lead astray and frightening young maidens! It’s a delightfully fun celebration, you all should join us,” Annabelle zipped in a circle around Ari and then landed on Gwion’s shoulder. She was rightfully wary of the little miscreant and that little sparkle of promised chaos in her eyes.
“Well I think we unfortunately have plans already, but maybe we could come another night?”
“Oh no, no, NO! The celebration is only for tonight to mark our arrival so many moons ago, you should really reconsider,” the little razzle-dazzle insisted. Guess it’s time to negotiate and investigate.
“ We all won’t be able to attend the party, but some of us would be able to show up to help you commemorate your arrival. How long have you been celebrating here?’ I chimed in. I felt the odd sensation of magical energy bubbling around me as the pixies honed in on my words. I saw Ari out of my peripheral give me a look I interpreted to be ‘what in the hells, are you serious?!’
“Excellent! You will be our guests of honor tonight, and it will be wonderful! We have been here for so long and have only seen a few travelers but tonight will be a special night indeed,” Annabelle tactfully replied to my question. I glanced at the mill that was still turning slowly in the water. Gwion and Ari caught my stare and their demeanor's changed ever so slightly.
“We will send representatives to this spot later this evening, we need to set up camp still and get ready for the party now,” Ari cut in.
“Oh yes, I have some lovely fabrics we could use,” Oonagh added.
“Until this evening, Annabelle, friends,” Gwion stated, nodding her head slightly to the other two pixies who had been wandering and flitting about us the entire conversation. They all waved excitedly and zipped around the abandoned mill before vanishing from our line of sight.
“So we’re going to a party tonight?”
“We’re going to send some of us to distract them while the rest of us investigate the mill,” Gwion answered.
“I can go since I have dealt with pixies before. Jay you should as well since they seemed to have taken a liking to you,” Ari responded. I nodded, as much as I disliked the idea of partying with pixies I disliked the idea of sending in someone else who hasn’t dealt with them before even less.
“Wait, why are we investigating the mill?” Oonagh asked.
“Because they said it has been a while since they have had travelers,” I started.
“And that mill is in no condition to be running. Given the previous description of these beings, it’s possible they could be milling people or worse out here. We need to make sure,” Gwion finished. Oonagh lost her sparkle at that thought and began checking her gear. Time for business.
“We’ve got a couple hours to prep before then, let’s set up camp and make sure we have everything we need in case this goes bad,” Arion said. We worked out signals to communicate with the two teams in case one was in need of emergency assistance, code words for Ari and I if we get trapped in Pixie magic accidentally, and finally we convinced Ja’Nuk we knew what we were doing and to stay at camp for when we returned.
“How is this normal? Glittery, deadly-butterfly people who are milling people,” Ja’Nuk mumbled to himself.
“And that’s why we should attend this party. We don’t know what damage they have already done or how many pixies there actually are but we can’t leave them alone so close to our territory,” I finished. At sunset Ari and I set out towards the mill, our hair done to look decent for a party (ugh, I hate dressing up) our weapons limited to hidden knives. Gwion and company followed from a distance and waited for us to be escorted by the pixies when we arrived.
“Welcome, Welcome! We are so happy you could make it, but where is the other one, the one who looked like they were ready to party?” Annabelle looked behind Ari and I.
“Swamp took her clothes,” Ari hurriedly answered before she went off to look for the others. I chimed in with
“And something terrible happened to our Leaders hair- they were both un-presentable so here we are!” I genuinely smiled, knowing the others could hear everything and would probably laugh at our comments if they weren’t hiding.
“Well that’s too bad, but come along, please! Please! We have many foods and drinks and celebrating to do!” Annabelle swirled around Ari and I- we locked eyes and internally sighed as we began the precarious dance of ‘Don’t Get Tricked By Pixie Hospitality.’
We are led around back behind the mill opposite the wheel and front entrance and confronted with a beautiful pavilion and sunset. Ivy, flowers and natural plant life encircled the structure to add to the decadent view of finger foods, goblets, and crystal bowls on the wooden table. Colors streak across the sky and filter through the white lace and gauze of the magical pavilion the pixies have set up to celebrate under. Crickets and frogs have begun their dusk chorus and across the water fireflies begin to glitter within the swamp woods. Osterra itself can be breathtaking at times, but Ari elbows me back to the present. Nine pixies have approached us and Annabelle.
“Welcome, Travelers! We here at the Exiled Court are most delighted to have you here with us for our celebration! I am Lord Delegoth, and should you need anything, Please! Ask away, but now- let the celebration BEGIN!” The Lord was plump, rosy faced and well spoken. I felt some sort of charming magic in the voice but couldn’t focus on it as I was immediately swamped in shiny dust. Glitter. FAIRY GLITTER. Fox dung on pork chops, this stuff does NOT come out of clothes or skin easily-
“No more please! I’m allergic!” Ari called out hands raised to three of the pixies coating her. They looked apologetically to her but I saw their mischievous smiles as they fluttered off. We looked like a rainbow had been dumped on us. I hope the others were having a better time investigating the mill.
Ari and I gathered vague information over the next hour; it was very apparent these little miscreants were used to queries about themselves. They all hailed from the fairy lands, they happened upon a portal here to Osterra in the middle of the swamp and have been unable to find it since. They have been here at the mill for moons and seen few travelers compared to their homelands but alas, there was no competition here compared to their homelands and they did not wish to return to them at all. Lovely.
I had managed to get by without drinking from my goblet, pretending every once in while to ‘sip’ from it, but Annabelle and Delegoth were becoming more and more persistent about our names and partaking in the merry making. We were going to have to bail soon or risk being trapped with them for the night when the music took a turn from rambling and background noise to….alluring and irresistible. Charming magic. Too little too late to have noticed it- Ari and I both started shambling to the floor and swaying to the tunes. Giddy laughter escalated as the fairies joined us and great fireballs and griffins we messed up. We messed up big time.
I don’t know how much time passed from when the magic took hold us to dance and sing, time was warped while being charmed- but eventually a terrible screech resounded from instruments. The magic faded from my head and almost dropped from sheer exhaustion, holy horses I was not used to that sort of physical labor. The pixies were a mixed lot of angry and concerned at the sudden intrusion of our investigative friends crashing the party. Arion has begun to play her Harp to counteract the pixies magic and they are not happy about it- Delegoth even hisses at her in outrage. If he wasn’t half a foot tall it might have been menacing but instead he looked like a hairless kitten hacking a fuzzball.
Gwion and Oonagh had their weapons drawn and were on either side of Arion as she played, ready to defend her while she kept the charm magic at bay. “Jay, Ari- time to go. And you all,” Gwion pointed to the pixies, “I know not what you mill here in the swamp but if you do not swear to me now it is not humans I will have this place razed to the ground and enveloped by our Lady the Green Goddess and her earthly magic, for any such black magic and atrocious deeds” her sword pointed to each of the pixies momentarily as she spoke to them icily. I noticed both she and Oonagh had some glitter of their own mixed with an unusually bright green slime giving off an odor- oh. I guess investigating the Mill was an unfortunate miss.
“No! You can’t leave, you HAVE to stay,” Lord Delegoth flew above Gwion and reached into his pocket. I lunged to push her out of the way and was given a face full of some acrid dust and UGH MORE GLITTER?! I couldn't voice my disdain though I was frozen still- Paralyzing Dust, fox dung.
As I fell over in a clearly paralyzed state, the grove members began to fluidly counter attack. Arion attempted to smack a pixie with her harp while still playing, because Bards are incredible at multi-tasking, and Oonagh swung at two by the table. She upturned a plate of biscuits and caught one in her hand on reflex. She eyed it, put it in her pocket and swatted another pixie away from her face with a backhand. Priorities are always debatable with our group and I wouldn’t change a thing...except maybe being able to move that would be very much preferred at the moment.
Gwion swung to keep another two pixies at bay and leaped over the table to deftly pin the Exiled Lord Delegoth with her sword point. The commotion in the tent froze as the pixies held their breath and the Grove members regrouped at the center around my toppled and frozen body.
“I will ask only once more you glittering abomination- What do you mill here?” Gwion’s voice was ice cold and her sword caught the fading sun and loomed threateningly over the Pixie Lord. He audibly swallowed and replied, “We mill food of course. But we need to power it with magic and so we use travelers and mischief to do so.” Oh, oh this was making sense.
Too bad I still couldn’t talk.
“What do you mean you need travelers to power it? You have slaves behind that trapped door we found?”
“No! No! Good heavens that wouldn’t be fun at all! We make people dance and act like fools and that sort of celebration powers us which in turns powers the mill. We aren’t monsters, we just want to spread mischief and fun, that’s all!” Delegoth held his arms straight up to show he was wholesomely terrified of the Grove Leader as he sputtered out his response. Which gave me an idea. I tried to cough and it came out as a decrypted sounding garble. Gwion looked back and motioned for the pixie Lord to do something about it. With a flick of his wrist, what looked like straight up glitter descended upon my face AGAIN. But I was able to move now. I stretched and tried to shake some of the hateful stuff off of me before turning towards my Leader and hopefully Miscreant Lord Ally. I let a cat-like grin grace my face.
“So how would you and your fellow pixie friends like to have some demons dance to power your mill?”
The Grove members mirrored my grin of unholy plans formulating, the pixies lit up like the afternoon sun and we spent the night on forming an alliance.
The pixies and Arion played after it was decided they would travel to the plains of sorrows to wreck havoc on the supply trains and caravans led by demons. We assisted the pixies with some supplies and even agreed to celebrate with them for the night to help keep their mill running while they were away. I had to throw in a promise of three more parties for me personally to attend in order for them to fully commit to the mischievous endeavors we asked of them but it was worth it. These weren’t like the pixies of my birth-world seeking your demise for their fun and games. These fellows were obnoxious, for sure, and not the type of allies to expect grand and morally driven decisions from, but chaos and problem causing were very useful to wear down enemies who couldn’t be harmed by most of our weapons.
We danced, we ate, we sang and come the morning we returned to camp and rested until noon time. Ja’Nuk kept a great distance from all of us and our ‘dreadful disease’ of glitter falling everywhere but Oonagh and I managed to trifle through his things on the way home and get plenty of glitter on his stuff for laughs. Mischief was contagious, and very abundant in the Grove.