His body quite dead, the spirit of Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter began to rise, beginning his journey to the afterlife. He saw the spirit of the Basilisk rising also while his comrades fought below in the Chamber of Corruption, their struggles strangely muted. Suddenly, he found himself …intercepted.
Wedd found himself standing on a square plot of earth in the midst of a void. At the opposite end of the square stood another dwarf. This stranger stood with his back to Wedd, staring off into the unfathomable depths of the void. Wedd took a step toward the stranger, whereupon the other chuckled to himself.
Wedd ventured a greeting. “Hi. How are you?”
“I am well. You know who I am, of course. How could you not?”
“Baldnoggin,” Wedd said in a hushed whisper.
The dwarf god of Adelstan turned toward him with a grin. “Weddumlir Aleshield. Well met. I have been watching your progress. At the behest of Oxenbane, I have… interceded, in a manner of speaking, with her plucky band of mismanaged adventurers. Can you believe they sent Hero’s lot into the thick of things?” He spat Hero’s name with obvious derision. “He’s not even a real god. Not even a real god! He’s an outsider god. Why in the worlds are we trusting strange gods with anything? Yet they’re shoving their greedy little fingers into every pie.” He sniffed. “But I wouldn’t eat that pie. Gods knows where those fingers have been. But then I saw you, lad, and you reminded me of… well, not me because I’m a god. But I like your pluck and I see your courage and I’d like you to work for me.”
We’d shrugged. “OK.”
‘Good. I need you to be a shield knight, and that means something. That means someone who will charge into battle before anyone else to protect their friends and their comrades and most especially to protect the world from strange gods that don’t need to be meddling about in the first place.” Baldnoggin’s nostrils flared as he spat out those last few words.
Wedd grinned. “Sounds great!”
“Then take this shield,” Baldnoggin said as a square shield appeared in his hands. “It’s not THE acclaimed Sureshield, of course. Only I can wield that. But this is unite a good replica and it will help you protect your friends.” As Wedd took the shield, Baldnoggin continued. “I am sending you back and you are going to vanquish the Corruption that resides in SMUGGLER SPEAK. Nd then you’re going to tell your friends that Hero Inc is much, much better than Adventure Inc. Rub their faces in it. Yes! Absolutely. Make sure they understand who the Real heroes are. And then maybe they’ll go off and do something else.”
“Oh, you’re going to need a Star Sapphire. Hero Inc, and I do run that outfit, should be the ones who open the Water Portal. So I need you to grab me a Star Sapphire please. Thank you.” Without waiting for a response, Baldnoggin vanished.
The Corrupted Chamber Conquered
Meanwhile, Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty, Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard, Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter continued their battle against the Corrupted Jelly in the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION, aided by Hero Inc.
As Meldor took up a defensive position on the stairs, Thril lit a torch as a makeshift weapon.
Suddenly, Weddumlir Aleshield appeared in their midst, standing heroically atop the carcass of the dead Basilisk. Simultaneously, Hero Inc was transported out of the CHAMBER. The booming voice of Baldnoggin lingered on to deliver a message. “Do the name of Baldnoggin proud, son! Behold! You pathetic excuses for heroes from Adventure Inc, I send you forth a true hero to fight in my name! Hero Incorporated rules!”
Overbrimming with confidence, Weddumlir charged up to the Corrupted Jelly and slashed at it with his axe. The Corrupted Jelly responded by slapping him hard with a pseudopod.
His sacred Pitcher empty, Nathan Garney called for aid. Both Acindor and Davroar volunteered water. Nathan filled the Pitcher with Acindor’s flask and held Davroar’s water skin in reserve. Their teamwork turned out to be unnecessary.
Meldor brandished his flaming sword before the Jelly. The monster emitted a squealing hiss as the flames touched slashed through its gelatinous form. The highly flammable Corrupted Jelly immediately ignited. Thril followed this up with a ghostly attack. The Corrupted Jelly felt intense pain as the ghost elf’s chill touch hit its flaming surface. Weddumlir lived up to the hype Baldnoggin had boasted by hitting the Corrupted Jelly so hard that it was knocked back several feet. Acindor moved to cut off the Jelly’s retreat while Meldor hurried to join the others in their frontal assault. With a quick prayer to Moriarty, Davroar cast a chaos bolt at their foe, resulting in yet more fire damage.
The Corrupted Jelly roared with anger and advanced on the party. Meldor hit it again with his flaming weapon again and Thril likewise followed up with his chill touch, setting the creature up for another hit from Weddumlir. Still surging with the blessing of Baldnoggin, Wedd hit hard enough to knock it back again. Now wary of the dwarven menace before it, the Corrupted Jelly retreated out of reach. Nathan Garney stepped back to re-assess the situation. Not to be outdone by Weddumlir, Acindor Sought to stop the monster’s retreat. Racing headlong at the Jelly, he leapt high at the last moment, his sword drawn high. Coming down hard, his weapon cleaved the monster halfway and knocked it back toward the others. Davroar cast sacred flame on their adversary, harming it further.
The Corrupted Jelly began emitting an unmistakable whine. Sensing its weakness, Meldor advanced upon it and delivered the final blow.
At the Jelly’s death, they heard the voice of B.O.B. At the utterance of his name, the CHAMBER began shaking. As they watched in horror, the ceiling began cracking and dust began sifting down through the cracks.
Thril took a moment to repossess his own husk, lying prone nearby in one of the open coffins.
A moment later, the party realized that the CHAMBER was self-destructing and they needed to move quickly to escape certain doom. As they dashed up the stairs to the portal linked to the SANCTUARY OF EVERLY, huge chunks of rock began falling down around them, destroying everything. They took glancing blows from the falling rocks and boulders, but ultimately managed to escape to through the portal, which closed behind them when the mimic familiar it was made from was crushed by the rocks.
In the SANCTUARY, they were met by Baldnoggin, who was irreverently sitting on the stump-shaped basin in the center of the room.
“Yes, my boy!” he called to Weddumlir. “You did it! That’s what real heroes do. Now, tell them,” he said, pointing to Wedd’s comrades. “Adventure Incorporated sucks!“ He snorted and eyed Wedd’s companions smugly. ”In the future,“ he said to them, ”leave this to the professionals, boys and girls. I will leave this proud young man with you to help you out of …. whatever trifling nonsense you’re unable to overcome. Treat him well and my favor will be with you. Treat him poorly and I will come down on you like a bag of hammers.”
And with that final warning, Baldnoggin vanished.
Davroar scoffed, unimpressed. “So long!”
As they were considering what to do next, Nathan Garney heard the voice of Everly say to him, “Tell them to drink the water and all their wounds will be restored.”
Obediently, Nathan related his goddess’ words, took a swig from the sacred pitcher and proffered it to the others. Wedd initially refused to drink of the Rain of Ridley out of the notions that he wouldn’t take gifts from lesser gods; however, Acindor convinced him it was in his best interests and that Everly was one of the Lords of the Seven Worlds and it would not do to insult the god of life, fate and chance in Everly’s sacred domain.
Feeling power coursing through him after he drank the Rain of Ridley, Davroar uttered words of power to remove the accursed thrall collar the War’tode Captain Gurglepuss had fit him with after he brought down the ceiling in the TEMPLE OF WANJO. The artifact split in half with an audible click. Each half shattered when it hit the ground and issued an evil hiss before crumbling into dust.
Leaving the SANCTUARY, they found that the once dry stream beds of the underground grotto beneath SMUGGLER SPEAK were now flowing with water. They navigated to shore via ones jutting out of the water and then proceeded through the CELLAR and up the stairs to the KITCHEN. They paused at the DINING HALL doors, hearing Cuervan voices beyond.
Peering into the DINING HALL, they spotted the Cuervos jumping off the ledge of the PATIO. One by one, they spread their wings and glided down to the beach below. The very last Cuervos glared back at the adventurers defiantly, her red eyes full of hate. She pointed toward the cleric of Everly and Nathan Garney immediately realized this was the same Cuervos he’d encountered in his lone quest to recover the sacred pitcher of Ridley. She pointed two talons toward her eyes and then back at him, making it clear she would be watching him. Before she jumped off the ledge she snarled, “We’ll meet again, Imposter! Be seeing you!”
After watching the Cuervan Cult of Nobody retreat, they retraced their steps to the metal spiral staircase by which they’d first ascended to SMUGGLER SPEAK. Along the way, Nathan noticed a red tapestry in the DINING HALL that filled him with deep fear. For a moment, it looked as if blood were flowing from the tapestry. He hurried from the DINING HALL to escape the color. Noticing his odd behavior, Wedd checked out the tapestry but the only thing objectionable he noticed about it was a fair amount of mildew.
When they reached the spiral staircase, the metal hummed as it did before when they’d armed its electrical defenses. Having no other choice, they exited through the other set of doors to a COURTYARD. Here they noted a two-faced statue of Everly, a gated TOWER KEEP, and a view no longer obscured by the fog. It was from this vantage that they first spotted the floating port of SMUGGLER SPEAK’s SKY BAZAAR. Shops, homes and platforms were suspended from balloons and zeppelins with rope bridges connecting them. They could see a larger suspension bridge led to the BAZAAR from the TOWER KEEP.
As they pondered these things, the TOWER’s portcullis raised and a robed figure stepped forward, greeting them with outstretched arms. “It’s just as I saw in my vision! It’s him, the hero of Baldnoggin. The dwarf god has sent his champion. Is it true? Have you rid SMUGGLER SPEAK of the Corruption? We’ve seen the fogs dissipate and the merchants are returning to the SKY BAZAAR. Have you saved our holy site?”
“Yes, I have,” Weddumlir said. “I did all of that.”
“Welcome! Welcome then to SMUGGLER SPEAK. Come with me. This way,” she said, gesturing into the TOWER KEEP, “and by the will of Everly we will give you a bounty fit for a king. Oh,” she said as if noticing the others for the first time, “who are your friends?”
Wedd shrugged. “They’re nobodies.”
Her brows met sharply and her hand went to her holy symbol hung about her neck on a chain. “Nobodies? They’re with the Cult of Nobody? Are they your prisoners?”
“No,” Wedd said. Then he glanced at Davroar, recalling his allegiance to Moriarty. “Well… Davroar isn’t exactly a friend. More like a friendly enemy.“
“And is he a Nobody?”
Her concern faded. “Then welcome all. Welcome all. Come to the SKY BAZAAR with me and I will arrange for you all to receive a king’s bounty.”
“How much?” Meldor asked.
“How much is a king’s bounty ‘round these parts?”
“A score for each of the Seven Worlds, less a tithe of 10 gold as a tithe to the Ten Lords of the Seven Worlds.”
Meldor counted these sums on his fingers and then grinned. “130 gold. Not bad for a king’s bounty.”
Nodding in agreement, the adventurers followed the visionary through the gated TOWER KEEP to the SKY BAZAAR beyond.