We made camp on some dry land. During the first watch, Gupps started watching us, getting closer and closer. Bayou Bill grabbed one by the ankle and held it up in the air. It started hollering, and we heard a large creature rising out of the water and moving toward us. It was a Swamp Mother. I stood by Bayou Bill. He released the Gupp, and the Swamp Mother slowly turned and went back into the swamp. We watched the large bubbles of the Swamp Mother and the little bubbles of the Gupps move away from our camp. I went back to sleep.
When I got up for the fourth watch, Dr. Fitzhugh Smith informed me he heard swamp spirits calling him. He said to ignore them, and they’d go away at dawn. I thanked him and took up watch. I saw more small bubbles and Gupp eyes out in the swamp, watching us, but they didn’t get very close to camp. As the others roused, the Gupps went away entirely.
Bayou Bill had left camp an hour or two before dawn, and when he came back he had those odd eggs and some mushrooms. He made omelets. When asked, he said the eggs came from alligators. He said no one’s sure how alligators got to be in Malifaux, but it’s believed that some sportsmen brought them over for sport, and they bred and spread and grew larger in Malifaux than they do earthside.
We got into the boats. Our group was anxious to find Zerida, and we discussed following a path we saw on the shore. Bayou Bill was adamant that Zerida knew we were there, and that it wasn’t about us findin’ her, but about how long she would play with us before – if – she agreed to grant us an audience.
As he was saying this, we went past a tree with a hut in it. We all turned around to look, to be sure we really saw it. The gremlins even turned to look. We got the boats turned around and up to the shore. We got out our offerings – the black buttons, thread and gunny sacks. Bayou Bill stuck the buttons and thread into the gunny sacks, gave a sack to each gremlin, and told them to “fetch” up the tree. The gremlins scrambled up, and the tree began to lower its branches so that the hut was lowered to where we could go in.
We went in and the Chinaman asked Zerida how to open some particular book. Zerida began weaving the gunny sacks into one large piece of fabric, and I glanced around and saw lots of little gunny-sack dolls in the hut. They were crude, but each seamed to have its own distinct look. In fact, one looked like Miss Collette, and another one looked like Miss Angelica.
I was a little stunned to actually be in Zerida’s shack, and I just kept lookin’ around. I don’t know if I was expectin’ to be attacked or expectin’ to see Excalibur in that hut. She was tellin’ the Chinaman not to open the book, because it was the way to unlock some god-like creatures that the King of the Nephilim – the Neverborn – did not want unlocked, nor should anyone else. She said that the Miners and Steamfitters Union had already released one of these creatures – the one that knocked me unconscious back at the mine.
Zerida said that everyone plays their part in the Tapestry, and she gestured to a tapestry on the wall, which I had not seen before, that resembled Malifaux. The wagon driver made a fuss about the Chinaman being the one talking to Zerida, but he didn’t have much to ask himself. The Chinaman asked for some clarification on his Fate. Zerida said that his Fate can be changed – anyone’s can, but so few know that they have a Fate.
Finally, Zerida said that it was time for dinner, and unless we were stayin’, we were free to go. We left. We did not see the gremlins again, and Dan Godwyn, the man whose skills I still had not quite figured out, speculated that the gremlins were Zerida’s dinner. I had been a bit too starstruck to noticed, but evidently Zerida had included all of us in her agreement with the Chinaman, and she had made voodoo dolls of each of us while we were there.
We got back in the skiffs. The miner and I took the first shift at the paddles, and Bayou Bill pointed us in the right direction. After a while, my mind drifted and I paddled off in a direction away from the other skiff. The Chinaman tried to take the paddle from me. He tore it out of my hands and said it was his watch. I pulled myself out of the transfixion. I seemed to have been in a trance. I thought I heard a girl calling to me. The wagon driver complained about the Chinaman taking the paddle, so I asked the Chinaman if he had a problem with the wagon drive taking it. He had no problem letting the wagon driver do the work, so we went on.
We came across another group with an old man playing with a live stick of dynamite, and just when I thought we’d have to jump on him, a beautiful woman from the group, Perdita, ushered him away and invited us to stay in her family’s camp. She was insistent that this part of the wilderness was not safe to stay in overnight, due to Neverborn attacks, and so we assented to stay in her family’s camp.