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|Evidently some of the stew ingredients were mislabeled at the market. That's his excuse, and he's sticking to it. But really, that's only the start of the adventure, isn't it?||
I'm traveling in the western high marshes due west of Terrim, with Laughing Bear Mountain plainly in sight. There's plenty of game here and I found a good-sized marsh-grouse hen for dinner. It's not the best poultry, but it'll get you by. The trick is to tame down the 'wild' taste if you can. I have some herbs in my backpack that I use when I'm cooking. Sometimes they help, and sometimes it's worse. At least I try.
I found some sweetgrass and was on my way back to my boiling little stewpot when I spotted some mushrooms. They were as tall as a man's finger is long, dark with a slight reddish tinge along the bottom edge of the cap. So I figured they were 'Widow's Tears'. They should help the taste of the grouse, right? I had collected some like these for Elanada, a wizard and alchemist. She was hoping that adding them to some project she was trying to enchant would fix a problem. I'm not a wizard, so don't ask me what it was all about.
So I tossed all into my pot - grouse, herbs, sweetgrass and a fistful of mushrooms. It proved an edible meal, but I honestly don't remember the taste much. It turned a bit gluey though, and that wasn't very appetizing.
What I do recall started later. It was a slow tingling sensation almost like I could feel individual pin pricks in my skin. Sort of like a healer slowly testing each nerve.
Then the fire started singing. Actually it was a low hum at first. I thought it might be moisture escaping from the wood so I added more to the fire. As the flames grew, so did the volume of the voice though. Soon it was singing a lullabye. Then, it sang a warrior's ballad, and on to a rendition of "Lusi Loves", a well-known rather bawdy bard's song from the taverns.
I rolled onto my back and looked up at the stars. I had not wanted or expected these effects. Looking at the stars proved nauseating though because the stars began forming pictures in the sky. They danced around to make moving puzzle boxes, and then as flocks of birds in flight. One group of stars even blew across the sky as if clouds were driven before a storm at dawn. Then they began to dance with the fire's full-voiced rendition of "Lilly Hearted Pirate". I closed my eyes and hung onto the earth itself, praying that it wouldn't move. I never liked that song anyway.
That's when I died. Or, I thought I was dead. I could not feel my heartbeat or sense my lungs moving air. I could move but it seemed as though I were completely dead with heart and lungs as still as stone.
I vomited. My body convulsed to get rid of this stew - as much as it could. It didn't help.
I remember being visited by a number of marsh creatures. I lost track of them, and I'm no longer sure of the order, number or even what some of them were. I remember a snake that brought her kin with her and they spent time making bracelets and necklaces of themselves around my arms and neck. They wrapped themselves around me in fancy little knots and judged each other on how quickly they could do it.
There were a couple of faeries. Or maybe they were pixies or brownies. They all kind of look the same to me. Maybe they were soggy marsh-sprites. They didn't talk to me though. They sat on my stomach and argued between themselves for what seemed like an hour. I don't even know what they were arguing about. I might as well have been invisible. Perhaps I was.
I remember a shrew laughing hysterically at me. I tried to talk to it, but it insulted me and darted off into the thickets, still laughing. And then there was a fruit bat that somehow hung in the air motionlessly - not beating its wings at all. It told me that it knew secrets. I could hear her voice in my head. She didn't tell me any secrets though (or I don't remember) so I don't know if she really knew any or not.
The fire grew hoarse and coughed into silence when the embers were dimmed by the coming dawn. When the sun came up, it reeled drunkenly from one side of the sky to the other. It reminded me of watching the top of a ship's mast keel from side to side in a storm. I grew nauseous again from all the shifting shadows and light. This time my shadow got ill. My shadow vomited and I did not. Then got sick and my shadow did not. I fell back weakly and tried to sleep.
A bear came along dragging a string of several fish tied on a line by the gills. He told me he had caught them himself. The bear tried to tell me how he caught the fish, but I wasn't really listening. I guess bears can be boring like that. At least it was quieter now that the fire was no longer singing.
It went like that all day yesterday and last night as well. I've not eaten since the stew. I grew thirsty and found some drinkable water. I'm still not sure that I'm actually writing or just dreaming.
So, if you find yourself in the high marshes on the eastern slopes of Laughing Bear Mountain... don't eat the Widow's Tears. Or eat them. Hell, eat all of them. Eat yourself to oblivion. I don't care what you do.
I will hunt again soon. If I find a grouse, it's going to be roasted on a stick this time. That is, if I can find a stick that I can trust....
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