Having escaped the Elderwyld through a wylderportal in an explosion of cycluck feathers, Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter, 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 found themselves face down in a pig sty.
The owner of the pig sty, a gnome, informed them that they had been deposited in Farrago.
“My name is Neutrino Blastomere. You can call me Neut. You’ve come to the city at a particularly bad time. It’s usually the best time,” he mused. “Gotternacht , the Night of the Gods, is in full swing. It’s usually cause for celebration but things have gone awry. As you likely know, Wanjo the Wise has gone missing and it is his turn to enter the Black Tower this year. So folks are pretty uncertain as to what’s going to happen if he doesn’t show up at the appointed hour.”
As they exchanged glances, Neut added, “On top of that, you’ve got this new cult. The Cult of the Fools. They’re everywhere. So if you happen to see anything strange going on, let’s just say that’s become rather normal as of late. You might also take note of the abodes marked for quarantine. Don’t cross the barriers!” he warned them, eyebrows coming together sharply.
Noting that they were taking him seriously, Neut said, ”Normally, I would take you to the town guards for trespassing in my pig pen. But you know, uh, there are ways, um, that might make a body forget,” he said, his palm open expectantly. “If you know what I mean.”
Big Mike’s Mercantile
Out of gratitude for the inevitable bribe, Neut said, “If you’re looking for more information, if you’re looking for a job, or whatever, I recommend that you stop by the WOLF AND PIG. There’s frankly not a lot of shops left open in PIG CITY.” He explained that PIG CITY was the popular nickname for the SAINT ALBANS DISTRICT of FARRAGO.” A lot of the shops in this district have been closed because of the infestation. The WOLF AND PIG is one of the few establishments that hasn’t been hit yet. I’d have left a long time ago if it weren’t for my livestock. We’re doing our best to keep the livestock alive. We’re gonna want them especially if the Games go on. You’re gonna want bushwackys in the arena and, you know, whatever they’ve got rounded up in the EXOTIC SECTION over there. Gotta be some great monsters at the ROSE COLISEUM from the sounds of it at night.”
They can smell salt on the breeze from a nearby ocean. A garrison blocked the bridge at the end of the street, despite the protests of an angry crowd. They could see that most of the shops are closed.
A mercantile was open. The dwarves shop owner trained a crossbow at them as they entered and demanded to see whether their eyes glowed before he allowed them to shop.
As they began shopping, Big Mike told them a bit more about the Fools. He warned then that the Fools like to challenge people because all they live for are games. He also noted that they serve some new god.
He’d also sworn off magic items because of the ”infestation.” Once he realized Meldor was a wizard, he made everyone leave.
Outside, a human fellow named Shady Sam offered to sell them good luck charms. Davroar attempted to cast fear on him but the spell misfired, seeming to prove the worth of his good luck. He also defied them to swing a weapon at him to prove the worth of his charms. Wedd was so impressed by the fellow’s deft somersault away from his axe that he bought one charm for each member of the party. Davroar alone refused the charm.
The Wolf and Pig
Entering the WOLF AND PIG, the adventurers were greeted by the sounds of someone singing Send in the Wedd! As they listened with mixed responses, a voice thundered for the song to end and a threat of violence if the guitar player took up the song again.
The figure was an enormous, foul-smelling, unwashed, bedraggled drunk. It took them a moment to realize that this embittered figure was in one other than the bardic god Hero.
Intrigued by his fallen state, they listened to him complain about the lot of them had abandoned him for other gods. He’s particularly upset that Weddumlir became a famous hero for Baldnoggin, who had stolen the name Hero Inc from him at some point in the past. He warned them that Hatman wanted to speak to all of them about their spent Hero points. “If you see tentacles sprouting from the walls, you’d better find Hatman and settle with him pretty quickly.” Hero glanced at Davroar. “Or hope Moriarty saves you. Hatman’s not very forgiving.”
Noting their good luck charms, he warned them that Shady Sam’s thieves ring used those items to track unsuspecting victims so that they could rob them in their sleep.
After convincing them to buy him another round of drink, consisting of a keg with the top lopped off and a handle attached to accommodate the bard god’s size, he convinced Wedd to be his Champion in the forthcoming Games at the ROSE COLISEUM if Wanjo didn’t show on Gotternacht, noting that the prize for the Champions was a gold chariot. Promising also to negotiate a deal with Hatman for them, they came to an agreement, whereupon Hero transformed from a bedraggled drunk into his usual clean and colorful self, making them worry why he’d gone through the trouble of an apparent ruse.
The barkeep was an Ipsimus called Ikzea. Hero vouched for him as an excellent bartender but noted, of course, that he’d likely betray them all for the sake of his Queen if the Ipsimus Empire ever tried to take over Farrago.
After granting them each a Hero point, Hero vanished in a cascade of water, leaving a pool of water on the floor which rapidly evaporated.
They noted in his absence that apart from the musician Hero had threatened the PIG AND WOLF was empty. Noticing their discomfort, Ikzea explained that he was seeing fewer customers under the quarantine. He offered them ale on tap, an elvish wine he had cooling in the basement, dwarves stout and tap water for the humans, the latter of whom he openly doubted would be able to handle the ale he served at his establishment. Upon inquiry, he advised them that a dwarves stout was 1 gold piece, unless you were human, in which case it was thrice that price.
Ikzea confirmed that Shady Sam worked for a thieve’s ring but he generally didn’t rob anyone where he lived; however, they could expect trouble on the road.
Oxenbane’ s Test
Exiting the bar, they noted that Azrael the Apothecary had a shop on the street. His shop was bound with quarantine ribbons. They also noted a War’tode and a goblin couple on the street. The War’tode eyed them strangely.
Hoping to find a way to get rid of the accursed doll in his possession, Nathan Garney asked the War’tode if he knew where one might find a shrine or temple to Shettebrek in town. The War’tode was instantly offended, supposing the cleric was inferring he was a “servant of Shettebrek” or a coward. He puffed out his chest and bragged of his bravery, protesting that if a big War’tode civil war broke out, he’d be the first one in the fray. After Nathan gave the flustered fellow a coin for his trouble, the War’tode warmed up to him and told him one of Oxenbane’s Fields of Honor was just up the next street, just past the rioters at the bridge.
He also warned them to avoid the infected, noting that their eyes had a light glow, and not to pick up any forks. “If you come to a fork in the road, leave it,” the War’tode said.
As they passed the rioters they heard them complain that they dared not comply with the quarantine orders because the infected liked to catch their victims in their homes.
Arriving at the FIELD OF HONOR, the holy site of Oxenbane, they noted that it was a fenced field ringed with colorful banners. Two giant priestesses stood at the entrance with an alms box. Davroar, Nathan and Thril sought to enter the FIELD OF HONOR. They were granted entrance when they paid an offering, but only on the condition that they leave their weapons and armor at the entrance. “Those who seek an audience with Khutulun Khan must enter only with what they need.”
Noting a rope on the ground leading to the water’s edge, they inferred that they needed to draw it landward. A brief tug of war with the unseen force at the other end of the rope resulted in them landing an enormous golden fish the size of an ogre’s head, though the effort ended up costing Nathan a Hero point.
At first, they wondered if this might be a form Oxenbane had taken, but Nathan realized that a creature gasping for breath could not be an avatar of the goddess of strength and the afterlife. Thinking perhaps, a demonstration of strength was called for, Thril hefted the fish. As he did so, its scales fell to the ground leaving behind a ghostly skeleton that seemed like it was made of smoke.
Davroar attempted a new tactic, but the fish did not respond when he spoke to it. Instead, it was looking at Thril as it levitated in the air. Wondering if this was significant, Thril addressed the ghostly fish skeleton. “Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” it responded. “What do you need?”
“We would like an audience with Oxenbane.”
“That is not the answer,” the avatar said. “What do you need?”
“We need a way off this island, out of this quarantine.”
“That is not the answer. What do you need?”
“We néed strength,” Thril ventured, recalling that he was speaking to the goddess of strength and the afterlife.
“That is not the answer. What do you need?”
Recalling that Oxenbane valued self-reliance, they realized the answer must be “Nothing. We need nothing.”
“That is the answer,” the voice of Khutulun Khan replied. Suddenly, a column of light fifteen feet wide and 30 feet high appeared before them. Within they can see a gargantuan female form and the writhing necks and heads of three dragons, all appearing in shadow. The FIELD OF HONOR itself was transformed as if a second image of it made of shadow were overlapping it.
As they bowed before her, the goddess spoke. “I will owe no man anything and I owe you a boon. What is it you require?”
“Almighty Oxenbane,” Davroar said, “We made not have need of anything today but we seek another opportunity to serve you. Perhaps you can help us get where we need to go.”
“And where is that?”
”I believe you already know.”
“You need to return to the Water Portal,” she said. “Unfortunately, you can’t just return through the portal that exists on this side. You have to go back through the Elderwyld. The portal must be opened from the other side so you must return to Caeruleum.”
“How do we get back?”
“I can help you with that, but first I require something of you.” She looked directly upon Thril Wolfsbane. “Since you have passed my test, I will require your services as my Champion at the ROSE ARENA should the need arise, so I will need you to remain in Farrago for at least the next two days. And you will need my aid,” she said, noting their hesitation. “There are many paths through the Elderwyld and many dangers you might potentially face.”
”Might we request as our boon that you lead us through the Everwyld?” Davroar asked.
“Do I look to you to be some low and common guide?” Oxenbane asked, her eyes flashing. “Would you treat the guides as some rogue for hire?”
“Can you provide us with a guide?” Acindor asked.
”Seek out an elf named Fizzle in the Market sector of the city,” she said. “He can introduce you to the one who can lead you through the Everwyld.”
“I will gladly lend my strength to your cause, but I need a way to relieve myself of the curse of this doll,” Nathan said, holding forth the SHettebrek Sally doll he’d acquired in SMUGGLER SPEAK.
“Do not bother me with trifles,” Oxenbane said. “There are shrines to both Thanatar and Shettebrek at the ROSE COLISEUM. Leave it there and you will be free.”
“Might you provide us with a means to get past the quarantine so that we may make our preparations?” Davroar asked.
“The pestilence of the wyrd that has infected this island is no light matter and must m]not be allowed to leave this sector of the city. Nevertheless, seek out the shadow bridges if you wish to leave the SAINT ALBANS DISTRICT. Seek out the CATACOMBS. Only be careful who you ask.”
They also arranged for their “good luck” charms to be left with Oxenbane’s priestesses before retrieving their weapons and leaving.
Davroar could not help but think, “All hail, Moriarty!” as he was leaving the FIELD OF HONOR. Oxenbane gave him a supernatural kick in the pants for the offense, depositing him on the streets outside.
A brief exploration of the area revealed that the ROSE COLISEUM was located on another island to the east and that another bridge to the south led to a graveyard. The latter bridge was guarded by a tower that rested halfway up the span. It’s garrison and iron portcullises were evident.
Recalling that he’d heard thieves toss around the term “shadow bridges,” Davroar cast a location spell on Shady Sam’s lucky charms, hoping to locate the thief. He immediately sensed a bunch of charms running away from their location with all haste past Neutrino’s pig pens toward the EXOTIC CAGES.
Setting off through the buildings and alleys on a course to intercept them, they arrived on MARKET STREET. The charms went to several whips quick directional changes, but Davroar stayed on his quarry. He sensed that the lucky charms had entered a building with quarantine ribbons on it. The goblin pair they’d seen earlier were banging on the doors, crying for Shady Sam to come out and “face the music.”
Davroar felt the lucky charms approach him but he couldn’t see his quarry. At the moment where it felt like Davroar and the charms should be in contact, Davroar realized his quarry was beneath them under the streets somewhere. Following still, they reached OXENBANE LANE and took a left. At the island’s edge, Davroar sensed that the charms crossed the waters beneath the surface, still very much out of sight. After a while, Shady Sam himself emerged from a mausoleum on the other island.
Realizing that the quarantined house must access subterranean tunnels, perhaps the sewers, and the shadow bridges Oxenbane had mentioned, they headed back to MARKET STREET.