With the five of us working, we were done only four hours later, instead of the nearly all night session I had planned. I piled the enchantments into many canvas sacks and workers took them out to my boat that was waiting for me.
“I want to come to.” Vanessa said.
“No, I'm sorry.” I said and took her hands in mine. “Just like I did it the last time, this is going to be quick and dirty. If what Mona said is true and creatures have overrun the canal, then I won't risk taking you with me.”
“You have the enchantments.” Vanessa responded.
“Yes, and if any death spider broods have made web constructs over the canal, the protection enchantment won't stop them from dropping down onto the boat.” I said.
“What? But... I thought...”
“I know. Most people make that mistake.” I said. “Creatures dropping from trees and overhanging branches are still a severe danger when travelling in a boat, which is why I covered my boat in a canvas sail. It'll give me several more seconds to react and for the enchantments to drive them off before they can attack and kill me.”
Vanessa closed her mouth and wasn't sure what to say.
“Believe me, I'm not looking forward to this, since I might have to wade through them to plant the enchantments properly.”
“We can't offer to go, either.” Black said, his face sad. “We don't have the experience in that environment that David does.”
“No one really does.” I said and kissed Vanessa's hands, then filled two cases of vials with the last two pots of the enchantment potion and handed them to the old man. “Thank you for the help.”
The old man, Black, and Heather looked stunned.
“I should be there by daybreak instead of tomorrow night, thanks to you.” I said and turned back to Vanessa. “Tell Helena that I'll see her and you soon.”
“David.” Vanessa whispered and I gave her a kiss. She put her arms around my neck and kissed me back for several moments. “Please, be safe.”
“I'll try.” I said and left the basement.
“The boat's loaded and waiting, Lord Drake.” One of the workers said and motioned to the horse and cart. We climbed on and I was driven through the wildwood grove to the private dock. I hopped into the boat, pushed off from the dock, and the men watched as I took off at a reasonable speed.
Once I was in a safer part of the waterway, I increased my speed and settled back for the long journey back to the marsh. The time seemed to pass quickly and I wasn't sure if it was the urgency or what, because I reached the harbour of Ester's Village just as dawn broke over the horizon.
Then my real work began.
Luckily, I didn't see any sign of creatures or anything close to the canal's entrance, so I quickly deployed the enchantments right by the canal, so that the area of effect just barely crossed the start of the creature lure enchantment and the beginning of the ignore me enchantment. It created a 'dead zone' between the water's edge and the creature lure enchantment where nothing would gather, neither man nor beast.
My luck wasn't so good after working for half an hour. I reached the first relay station where spiders had been creating a nest in the ruined building the last time I had been there. The nest had expanded and had somehow spanned across the canal in a high arch. I wasn't sure how they could have managed to cross the thing, let alone build a web bridge between trees on either side.
I brought my boat to a stop well away from it and observed it for about ten minutes. I tried to look at it objectively, until I saw dark shadows moving inside the damn thing. It wasn't a bridge. It was a tunnel.
Of course, I immediately thought about how to fix things and chuckled as I tossed one of the activated protection enchantments well over to the right side of the web construct. I heard several squeals and waited for a few moments to let them get far enough away from the enchantment, then lit several fires to encourage them to gather into the center. I saw more movement inside the tunnel and I quickly started fires on the left side of the tunnel and trapped a large amount of spiders inside. I couldn't tell how big they were, though.
Once they were trapped on either side. I lit fires all along the entire length from the top down, so the web would stay taught as long as possible and burned as many spiders as possible before the construct gave out and dozens of spiders of various sizes dropped down into the canal.
I saw and heard a lot of noise come from the large nest and concentrated on it as I cast multiple fire starting spells all around it. I wasn't stupid enough to try and set the enchantments around the old relay station until I was sure that I wouldn't be swarmed by death spiders.
It took me nearly an hour with constant fire starting spells to get the nest really burning down to its core. A very large queen spider burst out at that point and roared, almost like a marsh panther, and I saw two of its legs were burned off and part of its carapace was charred as well. I took a trick from what I did to the thugs that tried to hurt Greta and cast several fire starting spells on the giant spider's hair. It was covered in the bristle-like hairs and apparently, they were quite flammable.
It roared and squealed as it was engulfed in flames and it ran around, as if it didn't know what to do, so I threw one of the enchantments behind it to try and get it moving in a certain direction. It took the not so subtle hint and ran right where I wanted it to go. Right into the canal with the other drowned spiders. It did not know how to swim and it wasn't buoyant at all, being as big as it was, so it quickly sank down into the quite deep canal.
I watched as it struggled and tried to crawl along the churned up bottom, only it couldn't move fast enough through water. It would drown eventually; but, I wasn't going to take any chances. I moved my boat over above it and picked up one of the poles with the metal end on it. I used the Hag's spell to give the pole a strong metal end and then shoved it down into the water and into the queen spider's back, over and over.
I did this for about ten minutes, then sighed and pulled the pole back up and into the boat. The end was covered in globs of stuff. I almost threw up at the smell, which was saying something, so I didn't bother trying to clean the pole off. I might need it again for something, so I stuck it to the outside of the boat with number ten potion and let the gory end of the pole stay under the water. I had another pole handy if I needed it, too.
With the main threat dealt with, I made sure that all of the webs and things nearby were all thoroughly burned away and then I extinguished the fires. I went over to the old relay station and set up the protection enchantments near the creature lures and moved on.
I worked hard for the next three hours while fighting various creatures that were caught between the two enchantments, one a lure for them and the other one was protection from them. Luckily, it was late in the season and the snakes hadn't made an appearance. A lot of other creatures did, though. Near-beavers, near-deer, marsh lizards, wild boars and their female counterparts, ducks, rabbits, frogs, and every other creature that I had encountered in the marsh.
It was a bit weird to encounter them all so closely together and all along the canal. It was almost like a shooting gallery, if I had thought to bring along a crossbow or even a bow. I hadn't even brought a kracken tube, which was a bit shortsighted of me, considering the queen spider I had already engaged in battle. A kracken tube would have been a big help, especially if I had bothered to make a few smaller versions of the catapult ammunition that were barrels with enchanted fire and number ten potion.
“There he is!” A man's voice yelled and I turned to look. It was an army skiff with several army soldiers and three mages.
“This is all your fault!” One of the mages said and held his hands towards me to cast a spell as he started to chant. He wasn't within a spell's range yet; but, he would be when he was done chanting. I stopped my boat's forward movement and started backing up at the same speed they were travelling at. That surprised everyone on the boat, especially the casting mage, who cancelled the spell that wasn't going to reach me.
“No! Get back here!” One of the others said. As soon as
“Okay.” I said and switched to forward speed again and went as fast at the boat could go.
“Look out!” One of the soldiers exclaimed and he turned the rudder of his skiff to try and avoid my charge. I pulled my knife out and charged it, then I swiftly turned my boat to put myself along side theirs and then swiped my magically extended blade at the three mages. Two hands and a leg fell into the water and the three mages fell to the bottom of the skiff, screaming in pain.
“Don't attack me.” I said and the soldiers on the skiff just stared at me and my glowing knife. “You seemed to have made it this far, so I'll let you live.” I looked at the soldiers. “I'd suggest tourniquets and healing potions if you have them. If not, an immolation potion would work in a pinch.”
The soldiers didn't say anything, so I disengaged my boat from theirs and continued on my quest to deploy the enchantments. I kept working hard and I also kept an eye out for more boats and skiffs, especially along the relay stations. Most of them were well guarded, so I avoided them and put the protection enchantments in the woods around them instead of on them.
When lunchtime arrived, I was in the Eastern Empire and doing my best to fight off a large herd of near-deer that were stampeding through the new territories. Not surprisingly, none of the soldiers bothered doing anything except protecting those around them and their defensive positions. None of the locals even looked at me as I fought off several of the creatures right in front of them.
I couldn't really blame them, since no one would volunteer to fight when there was someone like me already doing it successfully without being hurt. I definitely received a good work out and gained a lot of both meat and near-deer antlers by the time I slaughtered the last of them. I used some rope and tied them up, then dragged them all back to the docks.
No one commented or even asked me for anything as I piled the carcasses into my boat. I had gutted them already and left it all in a huge pile near the docks with a sign on it that said 'free food / fish bait'. When I left the dock, dozens of locals were swarming over the pile and were grabbing what they thought were the best parts.
I set up the protective enchantments that were necessary in the area and as I passed by the garrison, the commander and several other people stood outside the gate and watched me with squinted eyes. I didn't bother waving or saluting, because I wasn't sure what side they were on, mine or the guild's. At this point, I was sure which would be better in the long run. For their survival, anyway.
I chuckled at that thought and sped back through the route I took to get there, then made occasional stops at certain areas to gather up some very rare ingredients that I had used before. I didn't have any room left in the boat and had to store the canvas bags on top of the canvas sail cover. I used a tarp over them as well, just to keep any potential moisture away from the bags.
I was annoyed that I had to go well past a few of the creature lures to do it, since the Mages Guild had stripped nearly everything within two hundred feet of the canal's edge. I had quite a good harvest despite that, since the marsh was vast and I hoped that it could recover, now that I had pretty much removed any foreign invaders that were wrecking the place.
I stopped for lunch and cut up a bit of near-deer meat, made a little fire right there in my boat on a canvas bag and using a piece of wildwood, and cooked it up for myself. It was delicious, thanks to a light sprinkle of fungus powder and hunger, because I hadn't eaten since the night before.
My impromptu meal done, I drove the boat all the way back to Ester's Village. I thought about stopping in and decided against it. I had lots of cookie bread back at the mansion and wouldn't need any more for a while.
My thoughts flashed back to the last time I had been there and gone home, less than a week ago, and I shook my head. I was not taking the chance to go back into the marsh to that specific area. Not now that I knew what awaited me there. Even if I prepared some of the meat I had in the boat and gave it to them, I sincerely doubted that I would survive a second encounter.
I left Ester's Village behind as I crossed the harbour and sped along the waterway towards the capital.