A couple of years ago, Nathaniel Giles had hired
a group of us to investigate the location of a crystal mine. While we were there, we encountered a strange woman with
a spiderweb tattoo on her face that inhabited the cave. This woman had a strong affinity for the giant spiders that
also inhabited the cave, stronger even than some people's way with more normal animals. (It's worth saying here that
we didn't encounter our first skaern until some months after this first visit.) Though the woman seemed strange, she was cordial
and sent a gift of spidersilk back to Nathaniel.
Later, we started having more encounters with giant spiders, sometimes
under the direction of half-man half-spider creatures. We found out later that these creatures are called skaern.
Skaern were also seen to have control over otherwise-normal giant spiders. We decided that the web-tattooed woman--who
had not seemed interested in fighting us, where the skaern certainly were--might have some insight in exactly what these skaern
were and what they wanted.
After speaking with Nathaniel Giles again, we returned to the cave. On the way, we
were warned by two Sidhone about a large group of grim in the area. We found that group of grim (strangely well equiped,
though that's a different matter we should discuss) slain. Tel's tracking and some of the gore from the fight seemed
to show the fight had been with spiders. Wulfgar examined the bodies and found eggs implanted in them.
on to the cave. Upon sighting a spider, we stopped and began calling out for the lady that we'd seen before--we knew
she could control the spider, but otherwise it'd probably just attack us. A woman with a web face tattoo approached
us. She looked physically similar--pale with dark hair--but was not the woman we had seen before. Her name was
Jezerel and she had heard of us from the woman we'd met who was "now gone from them;" we're not sure if she's dead or
if she left their community for some reason. We gave her Nathaniel's gift and began talking to her about possible trade
but we had not really broached talking about the skaern when we were attacked by two skaern and a giant spider.
obviously knew of them from before, and they were just as obviously enemies. She was able to control the spider that
was with the skaern with her voice, though after they were dispatched she also had us kill the spider; she said it couldn't
be trusted after so much time with the skaern. After the fighting was over, we asked her to tell us what she knew of
She said their race is not a new one, for all that we'd not heard of them before recent months. Apparently
they were created by a order of dark sorcerers in the distant past, to be some of their strongest servants. (After this
conversation, I asked Balthasar about such orders. He told me about several tal shar orders, but the most likely for
who this was seems to be a group called the Order of Darkness. They apparently created the gurtal, or grim, in the past.
There are some other possibilities, though, and we don't know for sure who might have made the skaern.)
they don't breed on their own. Instead, they implant eggs in the slain and a hybrid--part spider and part whatever was
implanted--grows up from it. We saw the implanted grim earlier, which we went back and destroyed after hearing this
story. Presumably the skaern could implant in any of the mortal races. Humans are probably just the most common.
they've lived deep in the mountains for a long time. Though they can be killed, her story indicated that at least the
original ones don't die of illnesses or old age. She said that the ones we've seen with very powerful tal shar magic
(the kind that can snuff out your life like a candle) are likely these original hybrids. She also told us that there
are stories of them as monsters in the few settlements that have been too near their strongholds.
As to what they want,
she believes that they're still trying to fulfill whatever directives their creators made for them. She's not sure what
those orders are. Her people and the skaern fight when they meet, but her people try to avoid them as much as possible.
She did seem to resent their use of the giant spiders. She doesn't seem to treat the giant spiders as equals, but she
did seem concerned for their well-being. More like they were a pet dog, maybe.
She says that the skaern are masters
of making hybrids--given what they are themselves and the mention of them in Haitaine's letter, that doesn't seem surprising.
She knew of Elizabeth and told us that the skaern had taught Elizabeth much of what she knew, though she didn't know what
she'd had to give them in return. She didn't recognize the name Haitaine.
She spoke to us briefly about skaern
silk, which is apparently used as part of their blending magics. She said it was corrupt and she would destroy it if
found and she would also worry about any ritual that used it.
Lastly, Jezerel herself was a sorcerer, though I never
saw her hands glow with any black, even when we were attacked. She didn't say what Order she belonged to and we didn't