One of my large armored feet sunk into the bog. A slew of curses left me as I struggled to pull my foot from its grasp; despite my strength the it held tight. "Having some trouble there big guy?" A taunting voice from behind me said. I could just feel his stupid grin glaring at me from his baby face. Besides it's his fault we're here anyway, if he hadn't gotten involved with that damn sorceress we would have never come here. "Catch", I said as a tossed by shield at him. I couldn't help but smile as I heard him struggle to handle the force of the catch; getting my mind on the business at hand I gripped my leg with my two hands, and pulled it from the bog. "Damn this place" I shouted as I sunk my armored fist into a tree's trunk.
"Nice one, I’m sure the swamp won’t mess with you now", I turned and faced my smiling friend with a scowl, and tore my shield from his hands. I then stabbed at his leather wrapped chest with one of my fingers and narrowed my eyes.
"Okay tough guy" he said, holding up his hands in the air. Normally he'd press the issue, making jokes as he pleased, but he needed to keep his facade up for the sorceress, who was impatiently standing nearby, her once long flowing robes tattered and worn from the journey.
"You boys done?"
"Of course, I was just waiting for the brave Jax's temper tantrum to subside"
"Let us press on then", with that, we wordlessly pressed on. During the journey Marlow attempted to make small talk with the sorceress, and though he was as sneaky socially as he was physically, she proved impenetrable. Of all the women he could get into it had to be a damn sorc.
During our trek Marlow soon took the lead, and as he reached the crest of a hill, he quickly crouched behind a tree, and turned around to face me and the sorceress. He signaled for us to be quiet, which is something of a feat in full plate, regardless I made my way to the top of the hill and spied quite a bloody scene. There were perhaps half a dozen bodies, from a cursory look they appeared to be hunters, their wounds and positions showed that at least two of them had killed themselves with their own skinning knives, and the others appeared to have turned on each other; curiously one man appeared to have no wounds at all, but simply lay face down.
“Looks like they had quite the hunt” remarked Marlow before we carefully made our way down to the bodies. I quickly went to the man who had no wounds upon him and pushed him onto his back, what I saw caused me to jump back in disgust, as he had gouged his own eyes out with his very hands. “Yeesh, I wonder if he saw anything?”, Marlow said upon seeing the man; I sighed and shook my head.
“What could have caused this?” I wondered aloud
“Perhaps they turned upon one another?” suggested Marlow
“That doesn’t explain him”, I said as I pointed to the man with no eyes
“Nevermind this, we must press on”, the Sorceress interrupted, “Just, keep your eyes peeled”, with those few words, we gathered ourselves, and continued on our way.
The rest of the day was long and hard, the swamp seemed to look the same in each direction, it was hard to tell how much progress we made, before too long the sun was setting, and it was time to make camp for the night. As I was helping gather materials for a fire, I noticed a tree had a rather large, fist sized indent in it. "Ah, what the hell, we've been heading in circles all day!"
"You heard me lady, we're almost back where we started"
"No, that's impossible, we've been following the sun all day"
"Well why don't you take a look if you're so smart?"
"How is this posi..."
"Look, I'm tired, we can figure this out after we make camp okay?"
"Fine", and with that we finished making camp, and tore off the armor, and collapsed onto my bedroll.
I was woken by a light shaking in the dead of the night, I slowly opened my eyes to see the face of Marlow, which was partially lit by the campfire. Marlow is skilled at masking his emotions, yet I saw a very clear uneasiness present in his eyes.
“No, I’m fine”
“You don’t look fine”
“It’s just… I…”
“This Swamp, it’s quiet. It shouldn’t be quiet”
“What the hell do you know about swamps?”
“I don’t know, I just. I feel like there should be more noise”
“You and your feelings”
“They’ve proven right before, you know that”
“What I know, is that you should get some sleep, It’s my shift for the watch anyway”
“Keep an eye out okay?”
I just stared at him. Uneasy, Marlow resigned to sleep. As promised I kept an eye out, after distancing myself from the fire and allowing my eyes to adjust to the darkness I scanned around me. He was right about the quiet, somehow it took me a while to notice. Soon a feeling of unease began to settle in my skin, I rolled my shoulders, and tapped my feet in a desperate attempt to shake the feeling off. For Marlow was not so strong willed, I should not let his unease get to me, yet despite myself the feeling of unease only increased.
I scanned around when something in the distance caught my eye, an oddity in the darkness. It was a silhouette perching from the root of a large tree, It appeared to be human shape, with a number of jagged sticks poking out from its head. It stood completely still, and as I kept my eyes upon it, I began to feel a chill in my bones, my chest almost felt compressed, my breaths shallow, yet I was frozen in place. I continued to stare at the figure, and it remained motionless. Time continued to pass, and slowly I felt colder, my chest felt tighter, I was become exhausted just from staring at the creature. My body had the desire to flee, yet I knew I could not let this strange creature leave my eyesight. Very gradually I began to move towards Marlow, and shook him awake. “Wake up”
“You, get up now”
“What, what is it?”
“Look”. I saw his head turn towards the shape, and he froze, as soon as I knew he was staring at it I looked away. Immediately the cold, and the raw fear left my body, and I felt my muscles relax a bit.
“What, what the hell is it”
“I have no idea, keep an eye on it, I’ll get Melina up”, I quickly shook the sorceress awake.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“Look”, she stared at it for some time and soon the fear in her eyes was replaced by, cold analyzation.
“Whatever this phantasm is, it may have been what caused us to go in a circle”
“it’s just a hunch”
“Well what the hell are we going do about it?”
“We shouldn’t do anything hasty, for now we should wait”, I grumbled and returned my gaze to the creature, it stood there as motionless as before. I could see in the corner of my eye Marlow shaking, so I directed his vision away from the creature. The night passed on, and we took turns watching the figure. During this time I donned armor.
Time seemed to stretch on, in the dark of the swamp there was no way to measure it; so I couldn’t be sure. The silence was beginning to become unbearable, “I’m going to go crazy if I have to sit here any longer”.
“You must wait,” said Melina “we don’t know what is out there, it could be a trap set up by this creature”
“Screw this, I ain’t waiting around anymore”, with that I left the two cowards and stormed off towards the creature.
“Get back here”, Melina yelled. I let the crunch of my armor, and the sound of my sword leaving its sheath answer her.
“Well, I can’t let him go off by himself”, Marlow said as he followed me.
“Damn you both, you’re just doing what it wants”. She stood there fuming as we marched towards the creature, weapons at the ready. Around me the swamp seemed to become twisted, nightmarish, knots in trees formed to make grotesque faces, branches began to grow violently, and shake as if they were in heavy wind. A rather large branch rushed towards me, I put my shield up was jarred by the force of the impact, which pushed me back a few feet. I saw Marlow rush past me, jumping and rolling; I slashed the branch in front of me in two, and pushed onwards, hacking the foliage as I went. As I pushed on my surroundings grew more violent, I heard terrible screams ahead, the screams of Marlow. I hurried my pace, bashing branches, kicking through the twisting and slashing roots.
Ahead I saw Marlow on his back, clutching at his legs and screaming in pain at the base of a tree, though he appeared to be untouched. As I considered his apparent madness, I felt a great pain at my leg and turned to see a gigantic centipede with its jaws buried in my leg. It appeared extend endlessly into the nightmarish swamp. My heart rate rose looking the creature, and I slammed my shield through its head and slashed madly at the centipede, it writhed under my blows, and soon it’s strange screeches were louder than those of Marlow. Its grip upon my leg relaxed, I Iooked up to see hundreds of eyes in the darkness around me, I could hear the tittering of claws getting louder. I left my shield in the ground, and used my free arm to scoop up Marlow, he screamed in pain as I pulled him from the tree. I threw him over my shoulder, and ran through the bog, hacking at branches in my way, and wading through the swamp. I kept my eyes on the creature in the distance, it remained motionless as before, and I saw I was making progress towards it.
Behind me I heard Melina yelling loudly in a strange language, I turned to see her emitting great bouts of fire from her hands, burning the swamp around her. I turned back to face the creature, and to my dismay it had increased the distance between us, I did my best to keep my eyes on it, and move as fast as I could. As I pushed through the swamp I felt a pain in my left shoulder, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Marlow’s face was grotesque, his eyes black pits, his teeth were long fangs. Fangs that were sinking through my armor and into my shoulder. I fought the instinct to drop him where I stood, and continued on, ignoring the pain. I kept my eyes upon the creature and and entered a clearing, it was a straight shot. I sprinted towards the figure raising my sword above my head.
The roots of the trees around me tore open the ground, revealing a bottomless pit; I kept on sprinting, ignoring the pain, refusing to believe the pit was there, it was an illusion it couldn’t be real. As these thoughts raced through my head, I ran across the open pit, and walked upon the air as if it was solid ground. As I did this the swamp around me seemed to become greatly angered, trees sprouted arms, bats with glowing red eyes swarmed me, my surroundings were somehow getting even more twisted and strange.
I continued to charge the figure, the pain in my sword arm increased, Marlow was biting through my arm, weakening my grip on my sword. I gritted my teeth and as my vision began to blur from the pain, I reached the figure and struck him with all of my remaining strength. As soon as my sword struck my target, the frightening vista that surrounded me suddenly collapsed and I found my sword half-way down the skull of of an ancient skeleton, covered in swamp water, moss, and sticks. I examined myself and saw no injuries, Marlow’s features had returned to normal. I took a deep breath, and placed Marlow behind me, I quickly examined him, and found he was breathing. I stood up and saw Melina in the distance, shaken, and walking slowly towards me. I turned to the skeleton, pulled my sword from its skull, and began to stomp madly upon the foul thing. I made sure to smash every single bone. I felt Marlow’s hand on my shoulder, I stopped and faced him. He said “I think it’s over buddy, you did it.” For the first time in a while, I gave him smile.
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The Swamp Wraith is a powerful illusionist, the dangers it creates exist only the minds of its victims. These illusions are created using the victim's own mind, the Swamp Wraith is psychic and can read the deepest thoughts and fears of its subjects, and uses this against them. As a result, more wounded, or more intelligent individuals, whose minds are capable of imagining greater and greater fears are typically hit harder by this creature's illusions, the Wraith possesses a tendency to gravitate towards these minds.
The drawback of this advantage, is that weak minded creatures, especially those with intellects similar to dogs or cats, who possess mostly their instincts are affected not at all by the Wraith. So while their owners are terrified by the illusions, their pet may simply be confused as to why their owners are acting so strangely.
It’s attack begins at night, and only at night. At first, they will only feel uneasiness, and see a strange shape watching them from the distance (the details of its appearance are described below); if one continues to stare at the shape they will begin to feel a painful icy chill throughout their body, and become sick to their stomach. If starting continues further, they will throw up, and start to have internal bleeding. The the illusions will become more dramatic and frightening if they choose to press towards it’s form in the darkness. The wilderness will be come strange and frightening, they might see faces in trees, or believe branches to be trying to kill them. Slowly the environment, and the illusions will ramp up in how extreme they are, and tailor themselves to the fears and thoughts of its victim.
If the victims simply stay in the camp, not moving and wait till dawn, the wraith will appear to have been dissipated by the sunlight come morning. Yet still it;s illusions will persist,
The Wraith's ultimate goal is to drive its victims to madness, suicide, or if they are in a group, cause them to kill one another (as they might see their allies as frightening foes). Its illusions are powerful enough to make the brain of its victims believe they are taking physical damage, and can even cause brain death this way. It is important to note that one will see damage as it appears on their own body, if a leg is broken they will not be able to use it, but others who look upon them will so no injuries of any type, nor will they see the illusions causing their allies pain.
Even though it can kill its victims via brain death, it prefers to drive them to suicide, or cause death by via friendly fire. Only those strong of mind, who can fight through the terrible illusions and sink their weapon into this creature, despite the illusions that surround them, will be able to defeat it.
It appears as a vaguely humanoid creature with tattered clothes and various branches sticking out of what appears to be its head. Hanging on these branches are vines, moss, and various swamp elements. The creature will always appear still to those who see it, it only moves when their victims break line of sight. Its features are always disguised in shadow, and those who are subject to its illusions will find that light magical or otherwise, becomes weaker and weaker, as it approaches the Swamp Wraith, until finally disappearing before ever making contact.
When and if a player is able to make close physical contact with the creature, the illusions will shatter and the creature will unleash a terrible ear piercing scream and collapse into a skeleton covered in sticks, mud, moss, and rocks. As a final note, the creature only appears and begins its hunt during the night, though it may use minor illusions to cause its victims to go in circles, or make little progress moving through the swamp.
Using this in your campaign
Though swamps are its intended location (as swamps have more natural hazards, and are stranger than a typical forest), it can be used for forests, or really any location that allows the Wraith to hide and create frightening illusions. This is good for as a single horror encounter, whether they just run into it, or it is tied into a greater plot, is your choice.
When approaching a place where this wraith wanders, there will likely be seen the victims of the creature. Wanders, or intelligent creatures of the swamp, driven to suicide, killed by their allies, killed by an environmental hazard, or simply driven to brain death or madness.
On top of this, the locals may speak of a frightening creature, giving vague, inaccurate, and highly variable accounts -- never will a first hand account be given.
- A powerful illusionist of some description was betrayed, and passed away in the swamp; his rage at his betrayal manifested into this frightening creature.
- This creature is a powerful swamp spirit that feeds upon the fear of its victims.
- The creature is an arcane experiment gone wrong, it killed or drove insane its creator(s) long ago, and seeks intelligent prey to hunt
- The creature is a terrifying defense system, and it guards a sacred item or location; and casts its illusions upon those that seek it.