CH 1: Giant Crickets of Doom
Drawing from Zephy’s field notebook: Ruta Gigas or Great Rue Flower. Parts labeled.
Uses: Bane potion. Just add a piece of whatever you want to keep away!
Notes: smells like old boots. DO NOT GET ON SKIN! Raises blisters.
Normally, I liked the rain. But today it might be death of me.
It wasn’t that I was bothered by the wet or the cold. My military uniform, complete with tight gloves and tall black boots, was water-resistant. The hood of my sage-green Potioneer’s cloak was pulled up over my mass of dark curls. And I actually liked the clean smell of dirt and prairie grasses after a storm.
It was that Grandmaster Amestra and I had spent the entire morning encircling the town of Esk in a protective ring of Bugsbane, and now the storm had washed all the potion away. …So it was the giant Armored King Crickets that would probably do the actual killing.
“The pump sprayer!” Amestra called over the patter of rain and the creepy chittering of the bugs. My mentor didn’t dare take her eyes off the two spiky, horse-sized insects she was fending off with her sword. A bad sign, since Potioneers fight with potions.
I dashed for the sprayer. We had no idea what had driven the pair of crickets into town. There’d been concern when chickens and sheep had started disappearing, but when they tried to carry away the farrier’s daughter, we had to get involved. We were stationed in Esk on other business, but part of a military Potioneer’s job is to protect the people of Iostria. We couldn’t just sit there and let giant crickets snack on townspeople.
I grabbed the handles of the pump sprayer and my heart sank. Almost empty. It bumped awkwardly on its front wheel as I pushed it through the endless rain-slick grasslands where we’d rushed to head off the bugs before they got too close to town.
And they were still too close for my liking. I hadn’t signed up to fight giant crickets, though my personal mission didn’t matter to the military. Or to the people of Esk, especially if we failed them here in this wet, boggy field.
I splashed to a stop as close as I dared. Amestra was dodging and stabbing, patting down her pockets with her free hand, probably trying to take stock of what she had left. But there isn’t a lot in the Potioneer’s inventory that works well during a rainstorm...