Marissa, Trajan, and Etjar – Spore Spitter

This was another of my brother’s monsters from our first campaigns. I re-created it from memory and updated it according to my current prejudices.

The Spore Spitter was published in & Magazine, Issue 8, and this short fiction was included in the article. The Spore Spitter description is here.



The woman found her elderly husband where she expected to find him, sitting in front of the tavern with a wine mug in hand, surrounded by listeners as he told stories. Foremost among the listeners sat their grandson Jake, his best friend David, and their tutor Bisonbit. At 16 the older boy tried to project an air of aloofness but was failing miserably. Leaning forward with a rapt expression on his face, he was as intent on the tale as the others.

She could hear Hal snoring inside the tavern. Appearing a bit older, less lucky, and less wise than Trajan, that ex-adventurer was missing a few body parts and told stories in exchange for ale, at least until he passed out on a table. Then Trajan took over. He accepted a single mug of wine and regaled listeners with a tale or two. Maybe she was partial, but she thought her husband’s tales were better, told less emphatically and at a lower volume. Also, without ale sprayed on people who sat too close.

Today there were a few strange faces, but many familiar ones, including a short, stout Sathean caravan guard. They saw him on a regular basis. Of Sathean heritage herself, this man was shorter than most and stouter than most, but not one for anyone with sense to tangle with. That described a lot of Satheans.

The Sathean asked the old man, “What is the strangest beast you’ve ever fought?”

Taking a sip of wine Trajan ruminated for a minute. “The strangest ‘beast’ I’ve ever fought wasn’t a beast.” Looking at his audience’s confusion he repeated, “The strangest beast I ever fought wasn’t a beast ” He took another slow sip of wine. “It was a plant.”

Trajan and Etjar tramped down an old animal trail. From the look it hadn’t been used in a year or two, not long enough for the forest to reclaim it. Like most animal trails it meandered, following the terrain. Both men were young, tall, and fit. The route rambled up and down the rolling ridges but was not difficult walking. Behind them they could hear a woman swearing, then a yelled, “Wait!”

Trajan continued walking but Etjar stopped. Realizing his friend had stopped Trajan turned and walked back to his friend. Etjar shook his head. “You really like irritating her, don’t you?”

Laughing Trajan replied, “It’s something to do.”

“Someday you’re going to wish you got along with her better.”

“You getting sweet on her?”

Etjar looked back to where the woman and a shorter companion were just coming into sight over the last rise. “She’s ok looking and good in a fight, but I can’t see myself kissing her.” Slyly looking back at Trajan, he said, “I would never get in your way.”

“ME? You have GOT to be joking!”

“There’s a fine line between hate and love, my friend. The way you treat each other it must be love!”

Trajan looked darkly at his friend, spit, and they waited in silence while the two companions stumbled the final distance. As they reached them the Kerrean turned to continue walking.

“Wait, you long legged oaf” The woman was easily a foot shorter than the tall, spare Kerrean. Typical for a Sathean she was barely above 5 feet tall and her stride shorter than his. Having bronze skin and broad features, she wasn’t exactly attractive by Kerrean standards. Both men had lighter skin and hair, a marked difference from the short, dark Satheans.

“Yes, please wait!” the fourth companion begged. A gnome just over 4 feet tall, he had a shorter stride than the woman. He was strong for his size, not like a dwarf but he also didn’t have a dwarf’s impossible build with extra wide shoulders and oddly narrow waist. Gnomes sort of resembled a cross between dwarves and humans, although shorter than either.

His panting may have been exaggerated, but Trajan stopped anyway. The gnome was a good companion and Trajan had already gotten a rise out of Marissa. For this minute at least. “How much farther to the temple?”

Etjar looked at the mid-day sun. “Another 3 hours.”

Trajan looked archly at Marissa and added, “If we keep walking.”

The dark woman’s face grew darker and if looks could kill Trajan would be a puddle. Etjar cut in quickly, not wishing to listen to more of their wrangling. “There’s no rush. We’ll have a couple of hours of daylight to look the temple over, and we will start your search at first light.”

The gnome was a scholar who paid the trio to escort him to a long-abandoned temple of Hate, a demi-god of abuse and suffering. Like most such gods Hate had few followers and its temples, once discovered, got sacked.

Another hour saw the group topping yet another ridge. Below ran a small river that fed an equally small lake. Or maybe it was a large pond. “We’ll have to find a place to ford the river.” After the slower members of the band caught up they started down into the valley.

They were almost at the river when Etjar stopped, holding his right hand up with the fist clenched, signaling a stop. Trajan and Marissa immediately scanned around them – when something triggered Etjar’s phenomenal senses and instincts it meant danger. Etjar peered around, listening intently. His eyes and mouth opened wide in shock and he like dropped a rock. A brown/black ball huffed through the space his head had just occupied and slammed into a nearby tree with a dull thump. It hit hard enough to partially crush itself and then slowly peeled off the bark and fell limply to the ground, oozing thick, white juices.

“WHAT IS THAT?” Petteri shrieked!

Yanking his sword from its sheath on his back Trajan tore his eyes from the crushed shape and made a good imitation of someone trying to look in every direction at once. A slight fluttering sound warned him and he lashed out with his hand-and-a-half bastard sword. Trajan’s slash bisected one of the flying things just before it hit Petteri, spraying him with white juices and causing the pieces to flash past him on either side. But the gnome never saw the thing, just the flashing sword which seemed aimed at his head. He shrieked again and threw himself away from the blade. Babbling, he scrambled frantically away from the big human.

Marissa hissed out words that Trajan heard, couldn’t understand, and immediately forgot – magic words. Bright green spikes of energy flew from her right hand. Two punctured another of the flying blobs and the third punctured another, causing both to slam into the ground explosively with a spray of white juice.

Trajan realized that Etjar was standing near him, long sword in hand and shield at the ready. Etjar was like that, moving so quickly that no one saw him move. Trajan felt confident now that his friend was ready to fight.

Petteri was hiding under a bush, still unaware of how close he had been to being brained by the flying blob. Ignoring him, Marissa moved quickly to the big men, forming a triangle with each facing out, scanning their part of forest.

“What is that thing?” Etjar whispered, his voice low.

Marissa glanced down at the pieces of the one Trajan has slashed him half. “It looks like an apple inside, although it looks softer, more like a peach.” Sounding more curious than afraid she continued, ” I have no idea what it is.”

With whooshing all around them, wave after wave of the things attacked. They had no self-preservation, blindly flying into the blades. Each dropped from minor wounds. After a couple more spells Marissa was panting – spell casting took a lot of the wizard’s energy and rapid casting depleted her quickly. She pulled daggers from her belt to slash and stab at her attackers. This worked for another minute until one flew between Etjar and Trajan to slam across the top of her shoulder, pitching her onto her face.

Trajan had eyes on the back of his head. Yelling incoherently, he slashed his latest attacker in half, spun and straddled her prone body, hacking several things from the air in succession.

The attack grew more intense and ended suddenly, with no warning. Abruptly no more things few through the air, they just lay splattered all over the leaves on the ground. Trajan looked everywhere for more.

“Get off me you big oaf!” Marissa swore. Moving carefully Trajan stepped to one side, then reached down with a juice smeared hand to help her up. Marissa got to her knees and grudgingly accepted the proffered hand. Wiping ineffectually at her smeared clothing she peered around. Silence filled the air. Meeting his gaze she saw a different look there, totally different from the amused, condescending air he normally directed at her. For the life of her she had no idea what it meant. They stared into each other’s eyes for a pregnant minute.

Etjar looked at Trajan with amusement, as the big man stood in unusual silence – few were the times that pair didn’t belittle or curse at each other. Then the moment broke, and the pair looked quickly away from each other. All three started scanning for more threats.

Petteri scrambled out from beneath his bush, peering around fearfully. Dozens of the things lay around, all unmoving. Mastering his fear he poked one with a stick. When it didn’t move he prodded it again, and finally examined it more closely. “This isn’t an animal”, he commented in amazement. “It seems to be a plant.”

His fear washed away in a wave of scholarly interest. He acted more like a small child, totally absorbed by his interest in the thing, a typical thing with gnomes. Trajan wondered how their race managed to survive. “Yes, this resembles a seed pod although it has some characteristics of the spores of a giant fungi as well.” He turned it over and pointed to a series of small regularly spaced holes all over the bottom and sides of the thing. “This must be how it flies! It jets air out through these holes! But how does it do that?” he trailed off in wonderment.

“Bag a couple of them,” Etjar commanded. “We should leave here in case there are more.” Choosing the two least damaged ones Petteri pulled an empty sack from his pack, put them in it, and tied it to the back of his pack.

Instead of their former pairs, they now moved in single file, weapons ready. Trajan led with the gnome behind him, the woman next (still picking at her smeared clothes), and finally Etjar. Moving cautiously, they reached the bank of the small river. It was about 40 feet across but they couldn’t tell the depth. “Let’s move upstream to look for a ford.”

The gnome started to follow Trajan but piled into him as the big man suddenly stopped. Starting to berate the man’s clumsiness he stopped when he saw what had stopped the human.

Less than 40 feet away stood what looked, at first glance, like a green tree stump standing 10 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. It was surrounded by a cloud of the flying black/brown things, all hovering in place with an air of menace. Marissa gasped. Swords raised in defense. The tense atmosphere could be cut with a knife.

Trajan felt Marissa invoking a gentle spell, one that whispered out gently. Although he had no idea what the spell was, he could feel a sense of communion as it flowed past him. Trajan shivered. Magic spooked him.

Glancing at the small woman he saw her intense concentration, her head moving in small nods. She scowled a bit and then relaxed, a small smile forming. Another tense minute passed and another. Finally the thing moved slowly away from the river on what appeared to be thick roots, its cloud of protectors moving with it. After it moved 50 feet Marissa said, “Let’s go, it’s letting us pass without a fight. Best we move quickly.”

As they edged past it Etjar asked, “Where are we going?”

“If I understood correctly there is a narrows up a ways with a tree fallen across it. We can cross there.”

“You talked to it?” Trajan wondered.

“I tried a spell normally used to talk to animals. There’s a different spell for talking to plants, but I don’t know it. That thing is more plant than animal, but the spell worked.” She frowned. “Not well, but well enough.”

The gnome butted in, “It may because of the creature’s intelligence. In that it may be closer to animal than plant.”

“Maybe so.” She considered it for a minute. “Probably so. But it agreed to let us pass as we are not contesting its territory and just passing through.” She paused again. “Killing a lot of its spores probably helped. I think it kills animals and lets them rot, and roots on the spot. We proved strong enough that it felt it better to let us go.”

“Doesn’t matter why, let’s not come back this way.”

“We skirted that part of the valley on the way back. A year later Petteri hired us again to escort him back to the temple. That time there was a band of goblins in the valley. Apparently, they thought the spore spitter was a god and made sacrifices to it.”

“Really?” the bulky Sathean asked. He scowled, “Are you sure? Even goblins aren’t that stupid.”

The old man shrugged his shoulders. “Well, that’s what they said. It defended the valley and they composted their leftovers for it. Maybe even kill travelers for their compost pile.” He sipped his wine. “Funny that it remembered us, told the goblins to let us pass.” Trajan laughed. “I guess we were memorable.”

Another sip of wine and he continued. “A couple of years later year Marissa and I passed through and the goblins and ‘spitter were gone, no idea if they just left or what. That was months after Etjar was killed.”

The old man sighed and his eyes watered. The loss of his dear friend hurt deeply even after so many years. He swallowed the last of his wine.

The Sathean asked, “Seems like a lot of people who traveled with you died. What happened to the wizard woman?”

Trajan started to answer but his wife cut him off. “She suffered worst of all!” The look she gave the guard was dark indeed. “Far, far worse!” she stated emphatically. Leaning over she kissed her husband hard on the mouth. “He married her, settled down, and raised a family.”

She turned to the boys. “David.” The boy looked at the woman, resentment on his face – he clearly wanted to listen to more stories. “Time for your lessons.”

The scowl instantly changed to glee as he hopped up and raced to his favorite teacher.

1 Response

  1. May 8, 2021

    […] This monster was originally published in & Magazine, Issue 8, and the short fiction that was published along with this description is here. […]

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