Having surmised that Shady Sam the human thief had utilized the shadow bridges to escape the quarantine zone, 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 headed back to the QUARANTINED HOUSE to follow his escape.
The goblin couple were long gone by the time they returned.
The Quarantine House
There seemed to be no obvious way in until they decided to go around the back of the building. There, they discovered a partly open second-story window was unimpeded by quarantine ribbons.
Acindor opted to go first. After seeing no obvious signs of traps or Ambush, he entered. He immediately noted the scorch marks on the left side of the room. Across from this evidence of an apparent fireball blast, a terrified gnome was pinned to the top corner of the room, cocooned in the ice that flash froze his heart. His eyes still faintly glowed from the magical infection the adventurers had been warned about.
It was all but evident that whomever had killed the gnome was still at large, a fact confirmed when the others joined Acindor and Davroar Hollysword discovered magical footprints leading away from the scene of the crime. They further noted a relatively well-worn path through the dust from the window to the door leading downstairs.
Proceeding cautiously down the stairs, they found an abandoned gambling den in a state of disarray. A dwarf was frozen in place, encased in ice as the gnome upstairs had been. Tables were overturned, evidencing an obvious scuffle. The magical footprints ignored this preserved scene of conflict and headed out another door.
They were about to follow when they heard a moan.
Behind the bar, they found a pixie half-hidden in an ale stein. The could see that one of her wings was broken. When Acindor introduced himself and offered to assist her, she looked up to him with wide terror-filled, glowing eyes and asked, “You’re not one of them, are you?”
After assuring her that they intended her no harm, she told them that one of the Infected had come Into the establishment a few days ago and, after accusing some of the other patrons of cheating at cards, began freezing people in retaliation. Everyone fled the chaos, but she was injured, having broken her wing and leg in the fracas. She’d lain there for three days, hoping help would arrive. She introduced herself as Florin.
After a brief conversation, she noted that the access to the SEWERS from the establishment’s basement was known to her, as were the SHADOW BRIDGES. She told them that the sewers and tunnels were used to smuggle in ale and other goods during FARRAGO’s Prohibition days and that there was a secret bar in the basement that used those subterranean passages. She balked at joining them as a guide but offered up the advice that if the MARKET BRIDGE was barred by the city garrison at the first substation that a tunnel behind a manhole ladder on the way would offer them a way to access the rest of the SEWER.
After they healed her wounds, she warned that the Infected’s eyes glowed, which was why she’d cast an illusion to make her eyes appear to do so, too. The Infected were generally loyal to one another. She lamented that her dwarf friend Reuben would need a healer to cure him of his magically frozen state if she hoped to get the money he owed her.
“Well, he is frozen,” Davroar suggested. “You could just…”
“So is his wallet,” Florin huffed.
Bidding them adieu ado, she took her leave. They watched her fly up the stairs and out the window they’d entered.
Continuing on their track of the magical footprints, the adventurers, descended another flight of stair. The tracks led to a storage room and then vanished behind a wall. A revolving section of wall led them to a dusty, abandoned speakeasy. Judging from the dust and cobwebs, it hadn’t been used for more than occasional storage for many years. The footprints led to the other end of the room, where a hole had been dug into the sewer walls and a door set in place. One of the walls featured newer graffiti, the dwarven runes for G and R bound together. It’s meaning was unknown to either of the dwarves in the party.
Acindor noted a painting that was obviously hung askew, judging from the dust pattern on the wall behind it. After a brief investigation, he found a nondescript candleholder. It was inscribed with instructions to whistle once for light and twice for dark. Whistling to test the item, he was surprised to find the speakeasy transformed! Darkness was replaced by cheery light from candles and torches, The dust and cobwebs vanished, as well as the storage crates, trash and other debris. A pleasant smell replaced the pervading sewage smell that lingered near the doorway they’d spotted. They could even hear music coming from a strange magical device nearby which seemed to be of at least partially Erythaean origin. A ghostly bartender appeared, wiping a glass mug more out of habit than necessity.
The bartender raised an eyebrow as he accosted them. “You know Prohibition’s over, right?”
Acindor nodded. “I know, but it’s been a long trip. We were hopping for a sip of ale.”
After assuring the barkeep that they weren’t members of the town guard, he agreed to sell them ale, noting that they needed a ferryman to get through the CATACOMBS. At the bottom of their glasses, they each found a badge with an alligator-shaped maze inscribed on it. Detaching the badges, they thanked the bartender, who told them that the badges also acted as limited compasses and would indicate the direction they needed to go, but only once per day. He assured them that the Ferryman would find them once they reached the CATACOMBS.
In gratitude for a further tip from Davroar, he provided them with a schematic of the SEWERS.
Having been warned by the ghostly bartender of the magical speakeasy not to take the door the magical footsteps they’d been following had taken, lest they annoy the giant zombie alligator the speakeasy kept to get rid of unwanted visitors, the adventurers entered the SEWERS of Farrago by a door that appeared at the sound of a large mechanism grinding into brief action.
The stench of the river of refuse beneath the city was indescribable. Stone walkways on either side of the brackish waters allowed them to avoid touching a ten foot wide sewage channel. Halfway down the length of the passage, a narrow stone bridge stood to allow access to a manhole ladder on the other side.
They intended to head toward the bridge where’d they’d seen the protesters and pass under it to the Market sector of the city; however, as the pixie had warned they might, the bridge garrison had the intelligence to block that passage with an iron portcullis.
Proceeding back to a bridge to the manhole she’d directed the north to utilize, they crossed one by one. As Weddumlir attempted to cross, a strange cross between a cat and a spider scurried out from beneath and crossed his path.
The startled cat-spider coughed up webbing at him, but the dwarf fell flat on his chest to avoid the sticky substance. As it scurried back under the bridge, Nathan Garney utilized Wedd as a stepping stone to get across. Wedd too got to his feet and hastened to join his friends, but the creature did nothing further.
They found a tunnel behind the ladder that accessed the manhole. The tunnel was dug by thieves and was a dirty, less sturdy affair than the sewer tunnels. They crawled through until they found an opening in a smaller stone sewer tunnel. This tunnel didn’t have convenient walkways, being, more or less, a large pipe. Davroar cast a water walk spell to prevent them from having to wade through the swill.
In due course, they made their way to a larger tunnel with walkways. They found the adjoining tunnel which aligned with OXEBNANE LANE above but not before their presence was detected by a sewer shark. The maddened shark gave chase, forcing them to hurry along to stay ahead of it.
They were not happy to discover that the sewer channels descended into a full-blown slide. Sure-footed elves and dwarves made their way down the incline without incident, but Acindor lost his footing and tumbled down the sewer slide like a somersaulting circus bear. Worse still, he landed at the bottom prone, just as the sewer shark leaped over the top of the slide.
Even with the aid of the water walk spell to keep him above the surface, Acindor was unable to roll out of the way in time to avoid being – bitten by the shark. Fortunately, he was able to prevent being dragged beneath the waters in its unforgiving jaws.
The others yanked him to his feet and cast about for options. Realizing that the shark was probably unable to turn around until it reached the next junction, they scaled a ladder and attempted to flee through a nearby manhole, only to find it welded shut. Davroar was considering opening it with his boom stick when the others suggested a side tunnel they’d spotted at the bottom of the slide.
The tunnel led to the city’s CATACOMBS. They hid out of reach of the sewer shark and tended Acindor’s wounds, which ended up including the removal of several leeches that had attached themselves during his tumble down the slide.
After a brief exploration, they came to a chamber lined with skulls and bones, lit by flames from brass oil pans. A monument in the center of the room, inscribed with three stylized dragon heads (a symbol of Oxenbane), identified this chamber as the OSSUARY OF THE MIDDLEBOROUGH INNOCENTS. The monument noted how a flood had caused the MIDDLEBOROUGH INNOCENTS, a pauper’s graveyard above them, to overflow its walls, spilling rotting corpses and fetid earth into the streets surrounding it. Shortly after the MIDDLEBOROUGH DISASTER, the CATACOMBS were dug out and the bones of the departed were moved there as a more permanent solution.
There was also a smaller shrine in the corner of the room, covered with old blood and bits of rotting flesh. It was inscribed with a sheaf of wheat, symbolizing the dread Harvest of Thanatar, god of the undead. Realizing he could finally off-load his accursed doll, Nathan Garney placed the Sally Shettebrek at the shrine.
To his surprise, he received a vision of a female face, her face painted into the pattern of a skull. She wore a headdress which sported antlers, as if she were disguised as a wendigo. Her garb was accented with other symbols of the dead, including a necklace of fingers. The necromancer looked directly at him, giving him the undeniable impression that she was very much aware of his presence there. “Who are you?” she demanded, her voice only audible to him.
“I am Nathan Garney, priest of Ridley,” he thought in reply.
Her eyes widened, more in anger than surprise. “You’re the one who meddled in our operations at the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION in SMUGGLER SPEAK.”
“I was among them, yes,” he thought humbly.
“You were among them? Well, perhaps you’ve heard of me. I am Braucia Graeme, called the Kiss of Death, the Left Hand of Thanatar, god of the undead… And I know who all of you are. Weddumlir Aleshield, celebrated in ballads for more than his share of the blame. Davroar Hollysword, cleric of the mad god Moriarty, whose Janusian Blessing destroyed the blessed womb where the Corrupted Jelly made its home in SMUGGLER SPEAK. Meldor Ironforge, the dwarves wizard whose infernal blade profaned the CHAMBER. Acindor, marked for death by B.O.B. himself for his betrayal in the CHAMBER at SMUGGLER SPEAK. Thril Wolfsbane, who stole back his husk when the CHAMBER was desecrated. And you, dear Nathan, who tricked dear Magda Tod and made an eternal enemy of her Cult of Nobody. I know you all and I have seen into your souls,” Braucia Graeme said.
“You are weak and you will not stop us,” the necromancer continued. ”And do you want to know why you will not stop us? Because Chaos is on our side. Because Death is on our side. Because Fear is on our side. And Cthulhu will awaken.”
“But time is on our side,” Nathan replied.
“If you say so.” She laughed telepathically. “We are coming for you.”
As the unexpected interview ended, and before Nathan could fill his comrades in on the exchange, they were accosted by a familiar figure, whom they had first encountered in the TEMPLE OF WANJO’s ROOM OF EIGHT and later as a house mimic in the EVERWYLDS.
“Do you have your badges?” Killian Thanatar asked.
When they warily presented the badges they received from the speakeasy’s ghostly barkeep, he smiled. “I am the Ferryman.”
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.
As 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 surveyed the area where the mushrooms grew unchecked in the TYRAN FIRION LINE TUNNEL, they noticed that there was a ring of red mushrooms growing amid the ones they’d been sent to fetch. At the center of this ring, a chicken scratched and pecked at the mine tunnel floor.
As Davroar moved closer to get a better look at the chicken, he noticed that it only had one eye, set in the middle of its head like a cyclops. The cycluck seemed unconcerned by their presence.
Before he could consider the strange creature further, he felt himself compelled to step into the ring of mushrooms, whereupon he immediately vanished from sight. Thril and Acindor approached the ring to see if the ycould determine what had happened to Davroar, but they too felt compelled to enter the ring. Weddumlir decided to kill the chicken but fared no better, vanishing into the ring along with the rest. Meldor and Nathan decided to enter the ring of their own volition, not wanting to be separated from their friends.
The adventurers awoke along the side of a perfectly round void at the center of a sunlit meadow; however, the edges of their view were obscured with purple mists infused with electrical energy. Two paths through the mists led away from the clearing.
“Moriarty’s luck, we’re in the Elderwyld,” Davroar breathed, realizing where they were.
Thanks in part to his fey ancestry, the elven cleric of Moriarty knew that the Elderwyld connected the Seven Worlds. The Seven Gates of Farrago and other established portals through the ELderwyld were relatively safe and could be likened to highways through the fey regions. The Elderwyld was a wilderness of fey creatures and deities, many of whom used their various pockets within the purple mists as traps. Their victims were used to stock their larders, provide subjects for their experiments and amusements, and slaves for their private kingdoms. His suspicions were confirmed by the presence of seven suns in the sky, one from each world.
He grimaced and stared at the round void they’d come through. If he was in the Elderwyld, this portal was a one way affair. They’d need to find another exit.
His companions were frozen in various postures around the void. Wedd’ s axe was raised high to strike a cycluck that was no longer before them. Nathan Garney’s face was frozen with an expression of grim resignation as he stepped forward. It was Acindor who unfroze first after Davroar. The latter quickly informed his friend that they were in the Elderwyld and that they needed to find another way out of it.
The others animated in due course, according to the time they crossed into the Elderwyld.
After a quick discussion, the adventurers decided to head north. Hoping to give them an advantage, Davroar cast a spell to detect magic and then immediately after remembered why that spell was considered near useless in the Elderwyld. Everything but the black void they’d entered through became blindingly bright, as everything in the Elderwyld was technically made of magic. Attempts to reach out to their deities for guidance resulted in interference from the purple mists around them.
Nathan Garney alone had moderate success. He flipped his sacred coin. It landed on tails, which he interpreted to mean “fate.” The path to the north seemed to widen, though none of the others witnessed this phenomenon. They decided on the fated path.
In the next clearing, they surveyed a sunny meadow filled with strange glowing trees which seemed upon closer inspection to be made of hives of glowing, near-translucent insects. They moved slowly across the meadow, crawling with their roots as if they were merely living trees. Cyclucks pecked and scratched in the meadow; however, they noticed that the one-eyed hens northeast, they noticed a conspicuous gate. To the north, they spotted a house made of candy.
As they considered their options, they heard an unearthly shriek. The shriek was immediately answered by several wolfish howls.
Acindor decided to lead Davroar through the meadow, after they decided to head for the candy house. As they approached the psychotrees, Meldor and Wedd felt themselves strangely attracted to them. The leaves of the trees seemed to be filled with gold coins and overflowing stones of ale hung from their branches. To their companions’ horror, the dwarves began walking toward the psychotrees. Thinking quickly, they tackled the dwarves. The impact triggered the protection of Baldnoggin, activating Wedd’s sureshield. A wall of force swept out from the blessed shield, plowing into the psychotrees. The trees fragmented into insects along the way.
The activity attracted the attention of a pair of large wolves, whereupon the adventurers double timed to the candy house.
Despite the presence of a sign on the door which read, “Shove Off!”, they felt they had no choice but to go inside. Hopefully within, they could fortify themselves against the wolves.
The interior of the candy house was pleasant and warm. A banquet table in the middle of a large room was filled with all manner of candy and chocolate. A roaring fire blazed in the fireplace. Sticks for rafting marshmallows lay conspicuously nearby. A familiar figure rested on a throne at the other end of the room.
“You!” Davroar accused, recognizing Balin Thanatar from his many unwilling stops in the Room of Eight in the Temple of Wanjo.
“Welcome! Welcome, my name is Castor Thanatar,” the figure said.
“I believe we have met before,” Davroar said.
“You have not. I have never left this place. You must have met my …brother, Balin.”
“Ah,” Davroar said. The minute he’d stepped into the room, the world had lost its magical brilliance but it was if the light Freon his spell to detect magic were hidden beneath a basket. Occasional spots of light shone through and patches of the room seemed to glitch as if reality were uncertain. Davroar turned to his comrades and discreetly hissed, “Don’t touch anything.”
“For what it’s worth,” Castor said, “I wouldn’t trust my other further than I could throw him. He serves B.O.B.”
“And who do you serve?” Nathan asked.
“I serve no man nor any god.”
”Forgive the intrusion,” Davroar said. “We are being chased by wolves.”
Castor chuckled. “You’ve met my puppies. They’re blink wolves. You’ve heard of blink dogs, right? These are the creatures they were domesticated from. I like them better. They’re bigger and, for my purposes, well, I have a lot of chickens to take care of. They’re very useful in keeping the chicken population… manageable.” He brightened. ”By the way, would you like some chicken? I’m personally sick of chicken. That’s all I ever eat around here is chicken. I would love to have something other than chicken.”
They offered him some of their spare rations but Castor demurred. “I can’t accept something for nothing. Why don’t you all sit down and have something to eat?”
Davroar begged off that they’d just eaten.
“Oh, please do change your mind,” Castor said. “I don’t often get visitors these days. I used to get goblins, a wonderful elf engineer or two or a handful of humans, but now all I seem to get are ghouls. I don’t know what’s going on. Is the portal no longer in the Temple Mines? Did they move it to a graveyard? Ghouls are such foul things. They leave such a bad taste in your mouth.”
They offered to help rid his domain of ghouls if Castor were willing to show them the way out.
Castor considered the idea but suggested that they get a good night’s rest before they set out. They were reluctant to accept hospitality from anything in a fey realm and, besides which, they were already well rested. Upon hearing their decision, Castor said that he would be happy to accept their offer, but first they must share a cup together to seal their bargain.
Thril Wolfsbane took the first drink. He sat down with a satisfied grin.
“How is it?” the others asked.
“It’s great! Try it!”
Wedd took the next drink. He felt a lightness in his step and an aura of invincibility.
Davroar whispered a prayer of protection to Moriarty. His drink turned to gelatin. He pretended to drink anyway, watching Castor suspiciously. “Ah, wonderful!” he said, saluting their host with his chocolate cup.
“If you say so,” Castor said.
Meldor tasted black licorice when he drank. He didn’t care for the taste but he was more concerned with the fact that he seemed to have six fingers suddenly. When he blinked, he had the normal number of digits. Nathan tasted iron as he drank. He peeked into his cup and watched an eyeball float to the top of a pool of blood. Acindor started seeing cyclucks all over the room, each staring into his soul with their single baleful eye.
Castor smiled. “In addition to the sharing of cups, I must insist that one of you remain behind to help me with dinner. It will not be three of you, but you three” – He looked at Meldor, Nathan and Acindor in turn – “have failed my test. The cup disagreed with you.”
“Are we to help you with dinner, or are we the dinner?” Acindor asked, not bothering to hide his suspicions any longer.
“Strange question,” Castor said. “Is this customary where you’re from? In most civilized cultures, the civilized creatures eat only brute animals.”
After discussing the mnatter amongst themselves, they decided that Acindor should stay behind. Davroar assured his comrade that they would return for him, no matter what.
Castor grinned at their decision. “Wonderful! This whole affair is so delicious! Such a spice to my usual humdrum fare these days. It really is opportune that you fine folk came along when you did. I was simply starving for the delight of a passing guest.”
It was at this moment that Davroar heard the voice of Moriarty in his head. “Get out now! The house is a mimic!”
Davroar’s eyes widened.
Though he didn’t hear the voice of Davroar’s god, Castor seemed to pick up on the cleric’s demeanor. He licked his lips. “You know what? I’m being a bad host. I’m really going to have insist that you all stay for dinner. I’ve thought about it and it’s been such a long time since I’ve had guests. I’m out of practice, I’m afraid. Anyway, it would really be rude of me to let you leave and go on this adventure without a hearty meal to fatten you up . And of course, you’ll want a good rest after such a hearty meal.” He smiled but the warmth didn’t quite reach his eyes. “And I know you won’t refuse my hospitality. Do you know how I know that?”
Davroar could contain his dread no loner. “Look over there!” he shouted, pointing behind Castor. As their host, turned to investigate, the cleric grabbed Wedd and shouted to his friends. “Run! Run!”
When Wedd resisted his tug, the cleric made his urgency more clear. “The house is a mimic! Run!”
Castor gave up all pretenses. Hastily, the house mimic’s front door slammed shut and tentacled sprouted from the door frame to bar their escape. Wedd Thought to rise and attack the doorway but discovered that he was stuck to his seat, held by the mimic’s adhesive nature. Davroar shouted a magical word, commanding the door to open. The doorframe tentacles writhed in agitation as the door blasted open. Davroar thought to dash out the door, but found his shoes were stuck to the floor. Meldor too made for the exit, , but likewise found his sturdy dwarves boots stuck to the floor. Acindor, Thril and Nathan were able to escape the house mimic’s sticky hold and managed to run out the door to safety through the flailing tentacles.
Am enormous maw opened up at the feet of their host as he laughed at his trapped guests. Tentacles began stretching out of the teethsome mouth, reaching for the victims of Castor’s over-sized roach motel. The interior stopped looking like candy and took on a more organic look. Eyeballs, teeth and tentacles began appearing on various surfaces. The more the house mimic’s true form emerged, the more it’s became evident that this monster was composed of several mimic’s working together like a jellyfish. As two were fighting over Davroar, he wrenched free of the floor and made a mad dash for the exit. The tentacles around the doorway tripped him on his way out. He landed on his face but he landed outside.
Meldor growled with fury and wrenched himself free of the house mimic’s grip. The house mimic was so intent on preventing him from leaving that it released its grip on Weddumlir. The dwarves danced and somersaulted toward the door, dodging teeth and tentacles on their way outside.
The house mimic roared as they escaped pits interior. The outside of the candy house transformed quickly into a disgusting mass of writhing teeth, tentacles and eyeballs.
The roar was answered by howls. Turning their attention to the gate to the east that they’d spotted earlier, the adventurers saw the gate open. Out of the gate, something that looked something like a giant reptilian one-eyed chicken emerged. The cycluck rooster was the size of an adult tyrannosaur. Two blink wolves flanked the rooster, who began herding it toward them until it was running at full speed.
Flight from the Everwyld
The eldritch horror behind them shrieked again. The horror of the house mimic was so unfathomable that Wedd and Thrill had to fight not to pass out from terror. Their fight-or-flight responses kicked in and they reacted in exact opposition to one another. Wedd turned to fight the house mimic abomination, determined to vanquish it from the earth. Wedd’s ineffectual attack resulted in his being entangled in one of the house mimic’s tentacles. Thril fled as fast and as far as he could, running toward the cycluck rooster. Thril was barely able to dodge out of the way of the cycluck rooster’s way to avoid being trampled; however, the creature’s leg did deliver a glancing blow that sent him tumbling.
Wedd savagely tore himself free of the tentacles grip and shook off his fear. Though he noted that the blink wolves ignored Thril as they passed, Davroar tugged a boom stick out of his pack as he ran south, out of the path of the thundering rooster. Those still near the house mimic quickly followed his example. Nathan Garney cast guiding bolt on the house mimic, hoping to make it more vulnerable to attack.
When the cycluck rooster reached the house mimic, it bit down hard on one of the larger tentacles, wrangling it like an earthworm in the soil. One of blink wolves beside it also attacked the horror with its teeth and claws. In rage and pain, the house mimic scooped up a blink wolf in its tentacles but the fay canine teleported out of its grasp.
While the monsters fought one another, the adventurers made a mad dash for the gate.
The gate led to a wide open field filled with cycluck hens. At the other end of the field was a portal, their way out of the Elderwyld. Wedd prayed a quick prayer to Baldnoggin, thinking to use his sureshield to plow through the chickens with a wall of force; however, Davroar and Acindor realized that the rooster would probably come calling if the cycluck hens were harmed. Instead, they tossed their rations into the cyclucks, causing a path to clear in front of them. Making their way through the field and their rations, they reached the portal.
Unwilling to waste his boom stick, Davroar lit the fuse and tossed it into the cyclucks. He witnessed the glorious chaos of an explosion of chicken feathers, blood, and other parts as he and the others passed through the portal.
When they came to their senses, they were face down in a pig pen. As the stench of pig mud, slops and unmentionable wastes filled their nostrils, they became aware of the unmistakable sounds of a large city above the squeals and grunts of protesting porkers.
As they got to their feet, a gnome accosted them. “Get out of my pig pen! What are you doing in there? Guards! They’re stealing my pigs!”
“Wait!, Wait, we’re not here to steal your pigs,” Acindor said, hands raised in surrender. “Can you tell us where we are? Please, we need your help.”
“What’s that? You don’t know where you’re at?” The gnome scoffed. “Great. More travelers.” He sized them up and sighed. “Alright, come with me then and, um, welcome to Farrago.”
Now armed with silvered weapons, 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 made plans to visit the section of the TEMPLE MINES where River Hopfoot’s map indicated they’d find the mushrooms and still requested by Azrael the Apothecary.
As Acindor surveyed the darkness around them, he noticed several stalagmites as he had before. He grew up in a mining family so he knew there weren’t supposed to be stalagmites in a working mine. Furthermore, he noted that the apparent rock formations weren’t where he spotted them yesterday. They were much closer — and there were more of them! He immediately realized he might be looking at a bunch of ravenous ropers.
Warning the others quickly, the party quickly surveyed their options. The tunnel to the north was blocked by a cave in to keep out the ghouls. The way behind them was blocked by lava flows. The way to the south and east were blocked by ropers. They reasoned that they might be able to escape by making a break for it with the handcar but worried that a roper blocking the track might prove too tough a barrier for their vehicle. Still, it was their best shot if they didn’t want to fight a horde of ropers at an extreme disadvantage!
Hoping to give them an edge, Davroar got the bright idea to cast a light spell on the handcar. As light spilled into the mines, the ostensible stalagmites cried out with cawing noises and each of them transformed back into Cuervos.
To the adventurers surprise, the Cuervos were unabashedly thrilled to see them.
“I told you they weren’t!” one of the Cuervos cried between excited crows. “They’re not zombies. They’re alive! We’re saved!”
On their leader’s cue, the Cuervos ran to the handcar. Davroar drew his mace, just in case it was an ambush.
“You have to get us out of here!” the Cuervos begged. “This place is swarming with the undead. It’s horrible! Why are you here?”
“We’re actually just on our way in,” Acindor said. “Care to join us?”
“No! Gods, no!”
“Suit yourself, Acindor said. ”What can you tell us about where we’re going so that we can be prepared?”
“Oh, that’s really simple. You’ve heard of Shettebrek, yes? You’ve heard of B.O.B.? Yes? Well, fear and death are the only things that remains in these MINES. Now listen here,” the Cuervos said. “We serve Hrafnagud and let me tell you, the Trickster God has nothing to do with whatever’s going on here. We’re getting out!”
“We would really appreciate anything you could tell us that might help us ahead,” Davroar pressed. “We know the safe way out. We’d be willing to tell you the way for some information.”
The Cuervos glanced at his comrades. “We’d be willing to trade for that shiny cart of yours.”
“Absolutely not,” Davroar said, “but we can tell you where to go to avoid the zombies that want to eat your brains for breakfast. That should be more than sufficient to trade for any information you might have that could help us on our quest.”
“Breakfast? That’s oddly specific. Is it morning? We’ve been down here so long… We just came from TYRAN FIRION. Barely got out with our lives. We were investigating the Cult of Nobody. You heard of them? Well, they don’t anything to do with us. Everybody thinks all Cuervos are part of that cult now. That cult is bad and what they’re up to in TYRAN FIRION is bad, but we didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Do you know who is behind it then?” Acindor asked.
“Not yet,” the Cuervos admitted. “The problem is that my species are shapeshifters and we tend to change names and aliases a lot. We can’t unravel who is behind it yet, which is why we’re sure it’s another Cuervos.”
“Is there anything you might tell us about your kind that might tip us off as to whether they are Cuervos ahead of time?” Davroar asked.
“I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you that nobody in the Cult of Nobody has a name. Except their leaders. Everyone else is named Nobody. They take an oath to call themselves Nobodies, so if you run across a Cuervos and they won’t tell you their name, they’re probably Nobodies.”
Davroar nodded and gave them directions to leave the MINES by the path the adventurers had entered, warning them not to stop by the OFFICE lest they encounter more parchment golem.
The Cuervos perked up at the mention of the golem. “Those are the work of a logomancer. We ran into some of these parchment golem back in TYRAN FIRION. I’ve very troubling under the circumstances. You know what they say? Logomancy is one step away from eldermancy.”
“What is eldermancy?” Davroar asked.
“You don’t know about eldermancy? It’s the magic of the gods,” the Cuervos said. “The power to be a god, control a god or even kill a god.”
“I see,” Davroar said. “I have another word for that: wrong. If I meet an eldermancy, he and my god will have something to say to him.”
“And who is your god?” the Cuervos asked.
“All hail Moriarty,” Davroar said.
The Cuervos took a step back. “You serve the new strange gods. We are thankful for your aid, but I am compelled to warn you that if we meet outside these MINES, we are honor bound to kill you.”
”I will enjoy making your deaths painful,” Davroar said. “On your way.”
The Forge Tunnel Line
After the Cuervos departed, the party loaded aboard the handcar and made their way east down the Forge Tunnel Line.
Along the way, they noted a short tunnel on the left with a door. They stopped to investigate and found that a piton had been driven into the ground to prevent the door from being opened, keeping whatever was on the other side contained. They reasoned that it had probably been blocked by the goblin miners, Hedd and Not-Hedd and their cohorts, to keep out the ghouls.
Further down the tunnel, they passed two more short tunnels. The first was empty but the second contained a giant spider looming over a freshly made web cocoon containing a humanoid figure.
After a brief skirmish, the spider fled along the ceiling. Overcome with arachnophobia, Weddumlir refused to give chase. In fact, he was already headed for the handcar, intent on a hasty flight. Meldor on the other hand followed it and found that it had escaped through a large hole in the ceiling above the barricaded door they’d passed. Since they could do nothing else, they turned their attention to the spider’s intended victim, which was thrashing around desperately to free itself.
Acindor cut the webbing from its mouth to allow it to breathe; however, he almost lost his fingers in the process for he’d freed the sharp-toothed mouth of a ghoul! They quickly dispatched the foul undead creature before it could scream a warning to its coven.
Realizing that if one ghoul had made it past the defenses of the goblin miners, others might also be around, they proceeded with caution.
The Blocked Passage
Reaching the round table at End of the tunnel, they found the way north via the LOW NOTE TUNNEL partially blocked by a cave in.
Meldor realized that there might be a path through. Treading carefully, he threaded through the rubble, calling back to the others to watch out for a soft spot in the floor along the first stretch and a loose ceiling on the second.
Thril Wolfsbane followed next, discovering the hard way that the “soft spot” Meldor mentioned was a half-buried ghoul. The ghoul lashed out and raked the elf with its claws before the latter could think to get away. Nevertheless, he ultimately managed to escape the pinned ghoul and joined Meldor on the other side, shouting a warning to the others as he fled.
Davroar Hit the undead creature with sacred flame, cowing it somewhat.
Wedd stepped forward to dispatch the ghoul with his axe but, still shaken from his encounter with the spider, he overreached. His axe bounced off the top of the opening through the rubble. As the weapon rebounded off stone, he was clocked by his axe’s handle, knocking him on his back. The trapped ghoul attempted to grab Wedd’s ankle but Acindor tugged him out of harm’s way; it reacted to the loss of its prey with piercing screams.
The ghoul’s screams were answered by howls from further south along the LOW NOTE TUNNEL.
Nathan Garney cast sacred flame at the trapped ghoul but the answering screams distracted him, diminishing the effectiveness of his spell. Fortunately, Davroar was able to silence it for good. Of course, the damage was already done. Two more ghouls could be heard scampering up the tunnel toward them as fast as they could, their inhuman claws skittering on the stone floor.
Nathan Garney made his way through the partially blocked tunnel while the others guarded his retreat. Unfortunately, he reached out to a steady himself on a part of the passage that was unstable, resulting in a shift in the rubble. He suffered only minor scrapes and was relieved to note that the tunnel remained passable.
Meanwhile, the ghouls leapt over the glowing handcar but the passage over blinded them somewhat, allowing the party the opportunity to get in the first strike as the ghouls got their bearings. Their first attacks were successful in instilling the undead creatures with caution. This resulted in a standoff of quick feints and dodges between Acindor, Wedd and the ghouls until Davroar intervened in this fool’s match, killing one of them. Wedd hit the remaining ghoul hard enough to cause it to stagger back, heavily wounded. The lone ghoul licked its lips, its eyes flicking between the party members before leaping back over the glowing handcar and retreating into the darkness.
After waiting to see if the ghoul would return, perhaps with some of its allies, Davroar, Wedd and Acindor made their way through the passage to the other side. Unfortunately, Acindor managed to try to steady himself on the same spot the other clumsy human had had trouble. While he made it through, the passage shifted and closed off behind him, trapping them on the other side.
It was now pitch black for the humans, except for a soft purplish glow that emanated from the second passage on the left from time to time.
Drawing their torches, they quickly lit them up and surveyed the tunnel ahead. As they passed the first intersection, they noted the eyes of a giant spider, presumably the same one they’d encountered earlier, reflected in the torchlight far, far down the tunnel. It watched them balefully but did not move.
At the second intersection, they peered down a passage to the west identified as the TYRAN FIRION LINE TUNNEL on Nathan Garney’s map. The tunnel was filled with mushrooms. In evidence were wooden buckets and crates that were once used top harvest the mushrooms, but these were lying neglected and the mushrooms had apparently grown unchecked. They could also see a handcar sitting at the round table intersection of the TYRAN FIRION LINE and MID NOTE TUNNELS. Further down the line, they could see the glow of lava.
As they turned their attention to the north, they could make out where the LOW NOTE TUNNEL ended. River Hopfoot’s map indicated that the still Azrael the Alchemist had sent them after was located in a short tunnel near the end of the line. The screams of ghouls could be heard from a longer tunnel near just before the still tunnel; however, Davroar’s elven ears could tell that the ghouls were on a different level.
Nathan and Acindor joined Davroar as he made his way to the still. Peering down the tunnel from which the ghoul screams were heard, they could see a hole near the tunnel’s end lit by an orange glow, perhaps by lava. The shadows of ghouls danced on the tunnel wall.
Proceeding further north, they found the still. Dividing it into three sections, they each picked up a section and turned around to take their prize back to the others.
A lone ghoul stood looking at them, looking just as stunned to see them as they were to see it. each set their section of the still down carefully. The ghoul lashed out at Davroar but he was able to dodge aside with elven grace. The trio finished it off quickly before it could sound the alarm.
Rejoining the group, they made their way along the rail track to the intersection of the MID NOTE TUNNEL and the TYRAN FIRION LINE, where they loaded the still onto the waiting handcar. As they surveyed the mushrooms and considered best how to harvest them, they noted sticky rust-colored places where blood had been spilled. The bodies were missing, having either been eaten by ghouls or raised as ghouls themselves.
They also noted that the tracks headed west stretched out over a lake of lava. In fact, the next round table was resting on a plinth of rock in the middle of the subterranean lake of lava. To the north, they noted that a cave in had blocked off their access to the PULLEY WORKS. The south tunnel of the MID NOTE TUNNEL back to the FORGE was, of course, also blocked.
With few options for escape, the players hoped to complete their shopping list for the SKY BAZAAR merchants of SMUGGLER SPEAK before the ghoul horde in the tunnels below them became aware of their presence.
The relatively short flight aboard the Luckless ended very near the site where the adventurers had exited the TEMPLE PRISON and made their way down to the TIDELANDS.
A set of railway tracks led out of a tunnel sitting twenty feet or so above the beach sand. The tracks ended at the cliff’s edge, the trellis which once bore carts to and from the MINES having now fallen into the marshy waters below. The ruins of the trellis looked like a good place for an ambush, so they were glad they were arriving by airship rather than by land.
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 exited the Luckless and steeled their resolve as they faced the MINE ENTRANCE. They tried to ignore the sneering look of vengeful delight in the eyes of Puddles the Goblin Cannoneer as the airship departed. After gathering their bearings by the map River Hopfoot the War’tode Rogue had drawn for them from memory, they headed into the tunnel. River had been kind enough to circle the places they’d said they needed to go to in order to gather theRiver had been kind enough to circle the places they’d said they needed to go to on the map.
The MINES were lit with electric lights similar to those they’d encountered in SMUGGLER SPEAK. The light was brighter in the main tunnel, but the light in the north tunnel eventually faded into darkness. They decided to take the brighter path, intending to head to the OFFICE to retrieve the reams of parchment requested by Fizwick’s Fantasticals and then north to retrieve silver bars to seal their bargain with Gunny Saks..
As they made their way forward, they heard voices.
Hedd and Not-Hedd
“Don’t do that. Don’t light that here. What is wrong with you?” someone hissed. “Have you lost your mind? Do you know where we’re at?” The voice immediately then shushed his apparent comrade.
The voices seemed to be coming from behind a door to a room labeled with three Xes on River’s map.
As they approached the door, they heard the voice again. “Shush! I hear something. Don’t light that.” The voice had an unmistakable goblin accent.
After a quick conference, they decided to flank the door while Weddumlir knocked.
The knock resulted in panicked commotion. “Stop it! Put that out! I told you not to light that! Shush! I think They heard us! Would you put that out, Not-Hedd!”
“Let me in,” Weddumlir ventured. “It’s me.”
“Don’t do it, Not-Hedd,” the voice protested. “It could be the wight.” Then to the adventurers, the speaker bellowed, “We’re not coming out there. Ya hear me? We’ll blow yer bits all the way to the Pandemonium!”
“We’re here to help,” Weddumlir said. “Let us in if you want help.”
“Hedd, I don’t think that’s the wight. A wight wouldn’t offer to help,” Not-Hedd said from behind the door.
“Not-Hedd, yer a fool! Them wights would say anything to get us to open that door,” Hedd scolded.
“We can’t stay in here… I’m hungry,” Not-Hedd said.
The door opened slowly, revealing two goblin miners. One held a lit candle threateningly near the fuse of a stick of dynamite. ”Stand back!” Hedd reminded them.
Not-Hedd held another stick of dynamite. He jabbed it toward them, heedless of how close his gestures brought it to the candle’s open flame. “You better listen to him! We’re serious!”
Hedd’s eyes widened. He swatted Not-Hedd back. “Get that boom stick out of here! You’re gonna hurt somebody.” Turning his attention back to the adventurers, he shouted, “Back!”
“Stop that,” Acindor said. “We’re here to help you. We’re here to protect you from the undead.”
Hedd scoffed. “Can’t nobody do that. We done lost three or four good men just in the last day. They ain’t no fighting them. We’re getting outta here and if I was you, I’d do the very same!”
“We are willing to let you go. The way out is clear ahead,” Davroar said, “but first we need some information.”
Hedd’s eyes narrowed. “How much you willing to pay fer this information?”
“Do you want to get out of here?” Davroar growled.
“Oh, I’m getting outta here. And you’re either getting outta here in one piece or several,” the goblin said with a mad grin, inching the boom stick closer to the flame.
“Well, there’s seven of us and two of you,” Davroar pointed out.
“An’ there’s one stick of dynamite and that’s all that matters,” Hedd replied.
“Be reasonable,” Davroar said. “You mentioned the undead. Are there any other creatures we need to be concerned about in these MINES?”
“What about the tunnel we passed back there that leads north?”
“We blocked that off,” Hedd said, “on account of the ghouls.”
“So there are ghouls.”
“Yessir, thar’s ghouls and the wight. And since we lost a few guys, there’s probably zombies by now. Wights like to raise ‘em as zombies.”
“What about the OFFICE?”
“The one just past the BUNKS.”
“You mean the SECTION OFFICE. I don’t know. We ain’t been in there. We wasn’t even of a mind to go anywhere near it. We was getting out and nothing else!”
“What about the FORGE?”
“You can get to the FORGE. Not sure I’d recommend it. We collapsed the tunnels to keep out the ghouls but that’s a pace beyond the FORGE.”
“OK then,” Davroar said. “One last thing and I’ll let you go. I want to know if you’ll give me one of those boom sticks for 9 gold pieces?”
“You wanna trade a stick fer 9 gold?”
“Nine gold for one of your boom sticks and information on any more we might find nearby,” Davroar amended.
The goblin snickered. “I’ll give you the stick and the information you seek just as soon as the coin is in my hand and we’re past you lot.”
“Not-Hedd, give him your boom stick.”
As Not-Hedd and Davroar made the exchange, the former laughed. “Nine gold! He’s an idiot. Shucks, but thar’s a whole room of these behind just free fer the taking.”
“Shuddup!” Hedd snapped. “We’re gonna leave now.”
“It’s your lucky day,” Davroar said. “Be safe and begone.”
“It is our lucky day,” Hedd catcalled as he and his friend made a dash for the exit. “We’re finally getting outta here! The nightmare is over! Yer the fools a-going in!”
After they watched the goblin miners leave, they turned their attention to the room they’d been in. True to Not-Hedd’s boast, the room was full of boom sticks; however, they noted that much of it was slick and greasy.
Nathan Garney sighed deeply. “That is old and unstable.”
Nevertheless, Davroar did manage to spy out two more usable boom sticks.
From the XXX ROOM, they proceeded further down the tunnel to the OFFICE to secure the parchment requested by Fizwick’s Fantasticals.
The edges of the door glowed softly as if a fire were somewhere on the other side, perhaps from a fireplace on the other side of the room. Opening the door, they realized that the glow was coming from a large reservoir of lava. It looked like the back wall had been shorn away during an earthquake or similar disaster, revealing the lake of lava that adjoined the OFFICE.
Nathan, Wedd and Acindor entered the room while the others kept watch outside. Despite the heat, two long tables were filled with loose parchment and log books. It was in the latter that they read the disappointing news that the shipment of parchment for Fizwick’s Fantasticals had been delayed back at the MAIN OFFICE. A large wall map indicated that the MAIN OFFICE was located at the end of a long rail line to the west in FYRAN TYRION.
As Nathan Garney attempted to grab the map for future reference, he leaned over the table, awakening a half dozen Parchment Golem.
After a brief skirmish in which Davroar felt compelled to come to their assistance, they successfully vanquished the Parchment Golem; however, there seemed to be no particular reason for the presence of the menacing constructs. Collecting the map, they proceeded north along the tracks to the Forge via a handcar.
Along the way, they noticed a few stalagmites in an area that had been mined off the main tunnel. Acindor was instantly wary. His family came from a mining tradition and he knew that there shouldn’t be stalagmites in a mine.
They found the FORGE, formerly fired by a lava tube ingeniously designed for such service, had been damaged by whatever cataclysm had torn out the back wall of the OFFICE. Lava flows now blocked the other end of the tunnel the FORGE rested along. To the north, they could plainly see where the miners had collapsed the tunnels to prevent the ghouls.
The silver bars lay in a neat stack, as promised. With their backs to the lava at the west end of the FORGE TUNNEL, they decided that they should take some of the bars and melt them down to silver their weapons to make them more effective against the promised undead. Finding the necessary equipment intact, Meldor Ironforge set himself to the task at hand. The others took turns either aiding him per his instructions or taking their posts at watch.
The sounds of their industry did not go unnoticed.
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 followed the robed representative of SMUGGLER SPEAK through the gated TOWER KEEP to a long suspension bridge on the other side. To their surprise, it felt as solid as if they were walking on solid ground rather than bending and swaying with the wind. Yet what captured their attention was the SKY BAZAAR it led to. The space before them in the clouds seems filled with platforms, homes and shops suspended from balloons and zeppelins. These were connected to one another via suspension bridges. Balloons, zeppelins and airships of other sorts also made port at this location.
After The representative made good on her promised reward of a king’s ransom as reward for ridding the holy site of B.O.B.’s corruption, dispersed to explore the SKY BAZAAR ‘s eclectic shops.
The main platform they’d been led to, dubbed the FREEMARKET PLATFORM, was dominated by a large statue of Everly in the center. Ridley and Ridley were represented as halves of a whole facing in opposite directions, as was common. Two holy kiosks flanked the statue, one to Everly and the other to Wanjo, lord of all Caeruleum. There were also two suspension bridges leading to shops and homes to the south and east respectively. There were also four shops moored at the FREEMARKET PLATFORM, though the presence of empty sign placards and mooring posts elsewhere around their perimeter of the platform let them know that the platform could afford more such shops. The placards read “Azrael the Apothecary,” “Gunny S aks,” “Fizwick’s Fantasticals,” and “Oola,” the latter’ s first letter formed into a stylized eye.
Azrael the Apothecary
Davroar made a beeline for the apothecary. Azrael was dressed in robes that immediately reminded the Cleric of Moriarty of the Grim Reaper. A mask obscured his face. The shop’s shelves were lined with various potions.
“Sir, I am need of healing potions,” Davroar ventured. “What do you have in stock that I may peruse this fine day?”
“You look like someone who is not in need of healing potions,” Azrael said. “You seem quite healthy.”
“That is my business, sir, but I do wish to keep those I am traveling with as healthy as I now appear.”
Shrugging, Azrael listed off his prices. “We have several strengths of healing potion available. Sadly, the strongest version is not available because I require certain ingredients from the MINES and, as you know, they have been closed. And this is unfortunate because sometimes these potions are the difference between success and death.”
“I will hear of your remaining inventory nevertheless.”
“As you wish. Our standard healing potion costs 50 gold pieces. Our potion of greater healing is 100 gold. And of course alas we do not have the potion of superior ‘ healing but it is normally sold for 400 gold.” Azrael sighed. “I will admit that I would gladly knock 100 gold off that price to someone who was willing to to go to the MINES to fetch my necessary ingredients.”
“I will keep that in mind should my adventures take me to the MINES,” Davroar said.
Azrael shrugged. “One would not want to go out of their way to the MINES these days, I would imagine. Do any of these potions interest you?”
“Then what would you be purchasing today?”
“Good sir, I am in need of several potions. Unfortunately, your prices are a bit… unattainable for a man of the cloth such as myself; however, I do have items we could potentially trade in addition to some coin. Are you open to such an arrangement?”
The apothecary crossed his arms. “That would depend upon the items.”
Davroar drew forth the tapestries he’d taken from the TEMPLE OF WANJO from his pack and unfurled them. “I present to you two fine tapestries, portraits of one of the kings and queens of the War’todes.” Seeing that Azrael did not appear to be quite impressed enough, the cleric also drew forth two gems to sweeten the pot.
Azrael leaned over the tapestries. Several lenses snapped into place via the mechanized mask. “These once belonged to the TEMPLE OF WANJO. Are you a thief?” The question was almost a sharp accusation.
“No, sir. These came into my possession through my adventures.”
“Oh? So they were given to you?”
“That sounds correct.”
Azrael snorted. “You cannot fool someone who wears a Mask of Unusual Insight. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I won’t call the Temple guards because it is obvious that these have been magically altered and so you might not know their proper significance since they bear the visage of War’todes rather than their rightful subject matter. I will take them off your hands for 10 gold apiece in the hopes that returning them to the TEMPLE will get Wanjo’s clerics off my back about that tithe I owe. As for the gems, I will give you 5 gold apiece for them.”
“I will take 15 for both gems, which you may take off the price of a standard healing potion, but I will keep the tapestries,” Davroar countered. “Obviously, I meant no ill will or disrespect for the offering made in ignorance of their true significance.”
“As you wish,” Azrael said. “Can I interest you in any of my other potions?”
Davroar politely asked after a potion of flying but found the price too steep. He bid the apothecary adieu. The apothecary stared after him, his face unreadable beneath the Mask of Unusual Insight.
For his part, Acindor was interested in weapons. Upon entering the establishment called Gunny Saks, he was accosted by a halfling, who greeted him brusquely. “What’s your order?”
“What do you have on special today?” Acindor asked, his eyes scanning the strange shop. The walls of the shop were lined with some sort of metallic sheeting presumably meant to protect the shop and the balloon it sat upon from the heat of the forge that dominated the center of the shop. All manner of handheld weapons lined the walls on racks. Halfling weapon smiths manned the forge bellows, hammered out blades on anvils and polished finished weapons in a constant state of busy-ness.
“Special?? Everything here is special! Are you implying that some of our stuff isn’t special? That some of it is mundane or ordinary? Have you never been to a Gunny Saks before? We even have Saks on Fifth Avenue in Farrago!”
“My apologies,” Acindor said. “I’ve never been to a Gunny Saks before. Can I ask you about this strange metal fabric that lines the walls of this establishment?”
The halfling scoffed. “Not for sale!”
“I was only wondering what it is.”
“Oh,” the halfling said. He smiled for the first time. “It’s made from the stomach lining of a terrasque. It can take a lot. Even the heat of our forge is fully absorbed. Now, that’ll be five gold pieces.”
“Five gold pieces?”
“For the question. Pay up or get out.”
“Ok,” Acindor said. “I’ll pay you five gold pieces. That was pretty good information. Do you have any magical weapons or any weapons which might give me an advantage in battle.”
“Does this look like Fizwick’s Fantasticals? We make good, solid weapons. The most magical thing you’ll find in here is a mace made of iron, useful if you’re going up against a demon for example, or silvered weapons — well, we had those until recently. We’re out of silver and in fact we’re looking for someone willing to go into the TEMPLE MINES and fetch the silver bars we need for that because we’re pretty sure there’s going to be a big demand for silvered weapons in the near future. You know there’s rumors of an undead wave a-coming out of that MINE, don’t you?”
“What? Undead wights?”
“I said wave. An undead wave. Are you saying wights are involved? Huh. That’s good information,” he said, handing Acindor five gold pieces for it.
“So where is this MINE?” Acindor asked.
The halfling held out his hand expectantly.
Acindor tightened his fist around the five gold pieces he’d just received in payment. “If you want that silver, I think it’s a reasonable question.”
The halfling grinned ear to ear. “Oh! I like a body who likes to bargain. The MINES are back towards the TEMPLE, only instead of taking a left, you take a right. Now, it used to be easier to get to, by the way, but then that earthquake happened when that killer comet came down and blasted everything. We lost most of FYRAN TIRION when that happened and now they’re calling that particular city the CITY OF THE DEAD.” He paused. “You know, that might be where those undead are coming from? What do you think?”
“That sounds about right. If the gods favor us, maybe when our paths cross again I’ll have a gift of silver for you,” Acindor ventured. “How beneficial would a silvered weapon be to me If I ventured into this CITY OF THE DEAD?”
“Well, it depends on the type of undead you’re dealing with,” the halfling said. “If it were a ghoul, well, you’d just have to return its soul to Umbra the hard way. However if you were dealing say a wraith or a wight, such a weapon would come in handy. Of course, silvered weapons are also useful against lycanthrope. We could silver your longsword easily if we but had the silver.”
“That is good information. Thank you.”
“Five gold pieces.”
”You can take that off my account when I bring the silver back,” Acindor said.
“Oh, so you’re going into the MINES then? You’re going to commit to it?”
“I have to talk to the rest of my party, but it should not be very difficult to convince them.”
“Well, tell them this: If you and your party can commit to it, Gunny Saks will arrange to provide you with a Tethered Sack of Holding. You can’t just use it like a regular Sack of Holding. Everything you put in it, goes straight into the smelter. I wouldn’t jump in the sack if I were you. I had a guy try to use it to hide from his enemies and, well, he got melted along with the metal. It’s a very painful way to go. I do not recommend it. If you’re trying to go straight to B.O.B., that’s a good way to do it!” he joked grimly. “Now here’s how it works. You go to the mines with the Bag. You put the silver bars in the bag, which will go straight to our smelter. When you return, we’ll not only sell you the silvered weapons, we’ll sell you an untethered Bag of Holding for your troubles. If you’re interested in that sort of thing?”
“You know, I’m pretty sure my party will go for this.”
“We do need the silver sooner rather than later because, well, undead wave. Now I’m in a balloon shop, so I’m gonna be okay for a while but these other buggers around here, the War’todes, the tidal elves and goblins, and all the rest… they’re dead meat. And they might be undead meat by the time it’s all over!”
“Let’s do this,” Acindor said. “I’ll take your Tethered Bag of Holding and you watch for the silver bars to come your way.”
“That sounds fine. can you get it to me within a tenday?”
“That should be fine.”
Taking the Tethered Bag of Holding, Acindor left the shop.
Meldor managed to find a serviceable battle axe to replace the weapon he’d lost in SMUGGLER SPEAK, though he was reluctant to admit to its quality seeing as it wasn’t made by dwarves forgemasters.
Coming into the shop on their heels, Davroar inquired as to whether they had crossbow bolts, but was informed that they only made handheld simple and martial weapons.
After they left Gunny Saks, most of the party made their way to Fizwick’s Fantasticals. A tabaxi stood outside the shop, pawing at the bell over the shop door. Noticing them, she stopped as said, “Oh! Customers? Who needs a spell scroll?”
“What would I need with a spell scroll?” Acindor asked.
“They’re not just for spellcasters,” Fizwick’s said. “Fighters can use them too. Each scroll contains a single spell which may be used once, after which it disintegrates into a shower of glitter! I love glitter!”
”What kind of spells do you have?” Acindor asked.
“I have lots of spells. I may have every spell. At least, I potentially have every spell. I will have to say that right now I don’t have any spells above the second level because I’m missing my special parchments. They were locked in the MINE offices and, of course, you know about the undead infestation they’re experiencing now. Of course, the only real limitation beyond that is the amount of coin you possess. The bigger the spell, the mightier the cost. What kind of spell are you interested in?”
“We happen to be heading into the MINES on other business,” Acindor said. “How many spells will you give us if we fetch some of these special parchments for you?”
The tabaxi considered this. “It would depend on the quality of the parchment. If the parchment is molded, I can’t use it. If you bring me parchment of Utility, I will give you a spell level for every for each sheath. If I were you, I would bring along some sort of cart or other way to carry it.”
“Is there a shop elsewhere in the SKY BAZAAR that you would recommend we buy a cart from?”
“I really have no idea,” Fizwick said with a shrug. “The SKY BAZAAR is totally bizarre. There are different shops moored here every time you visit. There’s usually quite a bit more than this. Until recently, there was no point in coming at all! But now the Corruption has left SMUGGLER SPEAK and I dare say business will be brisk from here on out, especially because they can’t get some of the things they used to get from the TEMPLE and FYRAN TIRION.”
“Do you sell any other magical items here? Magical weapons perhaps?” Davroar asked.
“The only other thing we have here is a Star Sapphire, but you know the value on those. I can’t find a buyer for the market rate of 1000 gold pieces, although I do have more people asking about it nowadays.”
“Can we see it?”
“I’m afraid not. It’s sealed away with powerful anti theft magic. If even I looked at it, I’d be under the curse too. They say there’s another one in SMUGGLER SPEAK but I’ve never seen it personally. All the others I know of are in the TEMPLE OF WANJO, guarded by Ipsimus and other fell monsters.”
Meldor decided to purchase a thunderwave spell scroll to test the tabaxi’ s wares.
Seeing as the party intended to go to the MINES, Davroar decided to return to the apothecary to see which ingredients he needed for his Healing Potions.
Nathan Garney presented himself at the sacred kiosk of Everly and greeted the acolyte stationed there. Momentarily confused by the kiosk, he asked whether this was the Temple of Everly.
“No, I’m glad you asked. This is one of our official temple kiosks. The actual Temple is back on Everly’s world, on Viridi. If only we could re-open the Water Portal and re-establish our link to Farrago, you could make your way to the Green World and see it for yourself. It’s lovely! Made completely from plants. Just wonderful to behold! Of course, you know that already.”
The attendant sighed and leaned in toward Nathan. “Can I level with you? Somebody needs to open that Water Portal and soon! We’re hearing some really bad things are happening back on Viridi and things are getting worse here. Wanjo’s clerics are out of their minds with worry. Their god is missing. They’re even offering a reward to anyone who can re-open the Water Portal and take a message back to Sophia Pallas, the head cleric back in Farrago. Wanjo isn’t the only god who is missing either.” His expression darkened further. “Ridley is missing. We fear he may have suffered the same fate as Wanjo.”
“I may have some information on that actually,” Nathan said. He then briefly told the other cleric of his adventures in SMUGGLER SPEAK, producing the sacred pitcher of Ridley as proof.
“The tale you tell has the ring of truth. I have heard this tale being sang in Hogfeathers. ‘Want those monsters dead? Wedd ‘em dead!’ If you have rid SMUGGLER SPEAK of the curse of corruption as you say, you must be Weddumlir Aleshield!”
“You’re not Wedd? We’ve heard the song. ’Put this whole quest to bed. Send in the Wedd!‘ It’s quite catchy.”
“No, I’m Nathan Garney.”
“The song doesn’t mention you.”
“I think someone took credit for that victory that does not belong to them,” Nathan said.
The other raised an eyebrow. “That song was commissioned by Baldnoggin the dwarf god of Adelstan. Surely, it Is above reproach?”
“I’m positive. If you have access to Ridley, I’d ask her because I rescued her avatar from SMUGGLER SPEAK.”
“Perhaps I have no need. The evidence is all around us. We began seeing plants grow at a rapid rate to let us know Ridley was now free of whatever bound her. But we’re hearing reports back from Viridi. The Green World is no longer green. The rains have dried up. So we fear that Ridley may be missing too.” He glanced at the sacred pitcher. “But I will take that pitcher off your hands.”
“Very good,” Nathan said. “It needs to be returned back where it belongs. I wouldn’t want to see it get accidentally destroyed while in my care.”
“No, I can’t imagine that being a good thing. Ripley is a notoriously spiteful goddess. But take this for your troubles,” the kiosk attendant said, proffering him an oval token. “Take this to the apothecary and he will exchange it for a Potion of Greater Healing.”
As he placed the token in his pack, his hand brushed the doll he’d found in SMUGGLER SPEAK. Tugging it out, he presented it to the attendant, hoping the other cleric might have some information about it.
“Dear gods! What is that doing here?”
“I found this in SMUGGLER SPEAK and I was hoping you could tell me what it was.”
”I’m not sure. I can tell it’s cursed. It’s… really creepy. I can feel… Oh my goodness! Is that a Shettebrek Sally?”
“That’s a Shettebrek Sally. I’d bet money on it. You’ll want to consult with someone to be certain… I’m pretty sure a shop is moored today that deals with magical things, but that is a Shettebrek Sally. Those are really hard to get rid of. Have you developed any weird fears?”
“I’ve developed an aversion to the color red.”
“An aversion or… Look at that red balloon over there.”
”That’s not normal, and it’s not really bleeding. You’ve developed a phobia. And each time this little thing goes off, it’s gonna give you another one. People go insane from… Why did you pick this up? You gave this to you?”
“I found it in SMUGGLER SPEAK.”
“You just picked it up? Nobody made you? Look at it: It’s ugly and creepy. Why did you think that was a good idea?”
“It looked important. I thought it was a totem of some sort.”
“See? This is what happens when the god of wisdom vanishes. May Wanjo and good sense return speedily! get rid of that. You can’t throw it away. It’ll just show up in your things again the next day and give you a new phobia just for spite. From what I hear, you have to take it to a site that is holy to Shettebrek or one of his avatars and leave it there. You need to be rid of this thing speedily. The real problem with a Shettebrek Sally is that it is activated anytime you come into contact with an enemy and, while it will trigger their fight or flight response, it will add a phobia to you each time until you’re driven quite mad. So… enjoy that dark ride.” He scoffed. “Maybe you should visit Oola. They say she can fortell the future. She’s moored here today.”
“I think I will do that.”
Nathan bid the other cleric adieu and hent to the apothecary to make the exchange. Afterward, as he made his way toward Oola’s shop, Davroar returned to the apothecary and inquired further about what Azrael needed from the MINES. Azrael informed him that he needed a sackful of mushrooms that grow amongst the moonstone grass in the MINES. He noted that these mushrooms were easily identifiable because if one touched the cap, the gills would glow beneath in response. He advised Davroar to be careful because the glowing gills tended to attract giant slugs, who favor them as food. He added that if Davroar could manage it, he would also reward him for bringing back the hidden still located near the rail cart turntable to FYRAN TIRION. This still produced the fungal moonshine that was key to his strongest potions of healing. Davroar haggled a deal which allowed him to receive 1 free Potion of Superior Healing and 1 standard healing potion for the distillery and the chance to buy another Potion of Superior Healing at half price (200 gold) if he brought back the sack of mushrooms. Upon striking the bargain, Azrael warned that the mushrooms would only last a tenday once picked.
Nathan opened the tent flap to Oola’s and and was greeted with the smell of incense, which did not quite cover the stench of a bog. The inside was dark and filled with smoke. At the center of the shop sat a bubbling cauldron.
As Nathan approached, a hairy tentacle emerged from the cauldron’s waters. An eye fixed to the end gazed at him and in his mind he heard a pleasant female voice purr, “Who comes to Oola to know the future?”
“Nathan Garney comes to Oola, but he wishes to rid himself of a cursed item.”
“Ah! A path of death follows you. You must tread a path of the mirrored past!”
“So you seek a way to be rid of what?” Oola asked.
Nathan pulled out the Shettebrek Sally.
“This item has brought me much business as of late. Now some people know that Shettebrek had an avatar which took on a life of its own. Thanatar is now known as the Grim, the Harvest Lord, the god of the undead. You know what the Grim is doing to Viridi at this moment, don’t you?”
“I’ve heard that Viridi is no longer green,” Nathan said. “That would probably be the cause then.”
“Yes, the Harvest Lord is come and he is reaping the Green World of Viridi. None stop him. None oppose him. Now to rid yourself of Shettebrek Sally, you will have to leave it at a site sacred to either Shettebrek or the Grim. Either is a path to the dead, but know this: when in a race against the dead, silver will not mean second best. A fool’s quest await you, so seek the wise in a harpy’s circus.”
“Would one find one of these sacred sites in the MINES which are being overrun by the undead?”
“Shettebrek has servants wherever there is fear to sow. I hear that a wave of the dead is coming from those MINES. That is not Shettebrek’s domain, but the undead are the work of his rogue avatar. Thanatar is the Lord of the Undead. For fifty gold pieces, I can tell you exactly whom you must see to find success on your quest.”
The cleric dutifully dropped the coin into the cauldron’s waters.
“Trouble yourself not over the price. You have lost nothing for I see gold and riches in your future, but beware! Greed is a poor man’s compass. You need to seek the Kiss of Death, Braucia Graeme the Necromancer has been spotted near the CITY OF THE DEAD. FYRAN TIRION, once the jewel of the Tidelands, where tidal elves and tidal goblins lives in peace, was split asunder when the first star fell. It tore the city apart and opened the deeps from which the dead speak in FYRAN TIRION. Seek out Braucia Graeme. The doll is probably her work in the first place.”
”Thank you,” Nathan said.
“Do you know what to take with you? For fifty more gold, I can tell you,” she said.
”The weapon you once so briefly held, it is the straw which will break the dragon’s back. You had a prize of great worth in your possession and you left it somewhere.”
“If you’re talking about the Star Sapphire, I didn’t exactly leave it,” Nathan said, remembering that he’d once possessed it as the wizard Cullos Crowbane.
“The Star Sapphire is a mighty key to open the Water Portal, but the weapon I speak of is an artifact that belongs to your order.”
“The pitcher I gave back?” he asked.
“You gave back a pitcher?”
“I had a pitcher that enchanted the water that was poured into it.”
“That sounds lovely. So many souls are weaved into your destiny… but the pattern is scorched. Fire… Dragon fire! I… I can’t make out any more.“ A few coins suddenly ejected from the cauldron. “Take back twenty of your gold. I’m sorry.” With that, Oola’s eyeball submerged back into the waters.
As Nathan ended his session, Davroar headed to Fizwick’s Fantasticals. While he ultimately opted not to purchase a spell scroll, Fizwick did give him a tip that he could secure a reliable guide to the MINES at an establishment called Hogfeathers.
Leaving the FREEMARKET PLATFORM, the party headed south to a massive tavern nestled beneath a zeppelin. They could could hear music playing from within, a rousing version of the popular new ballad, Send in the Wedd! As they slipped into the tent, they took stock of the area. Tables and stools filled most of the main area. A stage existed at the west end, where a orcs playing the tribute to Weddumlir’s exploits was identified as a group called Trouble on a Friday Night. A long bar sat to the east on the opposite end of the establishment.
The lead singer of Trouble on a Friday Night just happened to glance up at the new entrants. Upon recognizing Weddumlir, he cried, “Stop the music! It’s him! Baldnoggin’s Hero, the one who saved SMUGGLER SPEAK!”
The tavern grew deathly silent as the stunned customers took in the news. The only sound that could be heard was the grunting and squealing of the flying pigs that winged about the top of the tent.
”Oh my goodness! The gods be praised!” a voice called from the bar. “I can’t believe we are blessed with a visit from the Hero of SMUGGLER SPEAK. Come to the bar, friends,” he beckoned them. “Drinks are on the house!” As they sat at the bar, he asked, “What brings you to Hogfeathers?”
”We need a guide,” Acindor said.
”A guide? Okay, there a couple of good possibilities. There are also a lot of really bad possibilities, if you know what I mean.” He held out his hand for a bribe out of habit. “What am I doing? Wedd is here! I love his song. You know what? I’m going to give you this one for free. Do not under any circumstances hire that sad-looking cleric over there,” he said, pointing to a drunken human sitting at a table near the entrance. “Laris the Apostate… His information is good. He’s an excellent guide. He can get you anywhere you need to go around here. He is so depressing! All he ever does is say, Woe is us! We can’t hear Wanjo anymore. He’s abandoned us. The Starkiller’s here and he’s probably killing off the gods one by one. He’s probaby offed Everly now. Blah, blah, blah. If I could toss him from the catwalk into a watery grave legally, I swear… All of the Fallen are like that.”
He brightened. “You know what? River Hopfoot. That’s your guide. She’s with your outfit, Wedd. She’s with Hero, Inc. and she knows the Giant’s Footprint like nobody else. Where do you need to go?”
”We need togo to the MINES,” Acindor said.
”Are you insane? Forgive me. What am I thinking? Wedd is here! Wedd’ll Wedd ‘em dead. If anybody should go into those MINES, it’s him! This is brilliant! Baldnoggin be blessed! He has sent us a savior not only to rid us of the corruption of SMUGGLER SPEAK but also to wipe the undead out of the MINES. I can’t wait to hear his next song. This one’s quite catchy.”
Davroar’s voice dripped with insincerity. “Yeah, we’re really happy and excited to have him with us. Where’s this Holly Hotfoot?”
Who? Oh. River Hopfoot. She’s the War’tode sitting at Laris’ table.” He chuckled. “You might want to rescue her. I’m sure she’ll be grateful. Keep your hands on your purses. She’s an excellent thief and a better pickpocket.
”If Weddumlir the Mighty will allow it,” Davroar said, not bothering to hide his sarcasm, “we will take our leave to speak with this Hotfoot. You know, if you’re looking for someone worthy of worship, might I suggest Moriarty the Great and Powerful?”
”What? What strange gods do you serve? Out of my bar. Out!” the bartender said.
”The only god that matters!” Davroar replied. “Moriarty!”
”Aw, hell. Moriarty,” the bartender said slowly and sardonically.
“I’ll conduct my business as I choose, barkeep, and then I will depart, worry not. Also, I will take one of those drinks,” Davroar said.
The barkeep crossed his arms and grinned. “Fluffy!” he called.
A rather foul-smelling, battle-scarred Minotaur rose from his stool at the mention of his nickname. He lumbered over to Davroar, looked him over and snorted derisively. “You gonna go or what?” Fluffy asked.
Davroar looked him up and down and then walked toward River Hopfoot’s table. “Fine. I’ll be on my way.” He scoffed. “Your hospitality is appreciated.”
”Can I have his drink?” Fluffy asked the barkeep, who nodded. The Minotaur tossed back a drink with gusto.
Acindor grabbed a tray of drinks before the barkeep’s previous generosity evaporated completely. Taking the tray to River Hopfoot’s table, he was accosted by Laris the Apostate.
“You ain’t right,” the drunken cleric complained. “Yer in somebody else’s body. You ain’t even in yer body. That’s somebody else’s.”
”Very perceptive,” Acindor said, “but right now we need to talk to Hopfoot.”
”’S right. I am. I used t’ be a cleric of Wanjo the Wise. We’re vurry persheptiff. I could tell youz was a bobber. Follo’er of B.O.B.ber. Fobber bobber.”
”Yeah, I know. Wanjo’s not around anymore. The Starkiller’s come down…”
”You heard!” Laris exclaimed. “It’s true. Dat Starkiller’s walking around right now. Probbly gonna kill ‘nother god.”
”Probably,” Acindor said. “Here, I got you a drink. I need to talk to Hopfoot for a second.”
”Oh? Well then,” Laris said, “I was gonna stagger on home but I’ll take that.” He grabbed an ale eagerly.
The War’tode thief stroked her froggish chin. “I recognize you guys.” She glanced at Nathan. “Except you. I’m not sure I recognize you. I was in the SANCTUARY OF EVERLY for a bit, posted as a lookout in case anybody came from behind, and then I got the signal to pull out. Oh wait,” she said, snapping her fingers. “You’re that guy who showed up at the end, aren’t you?”
”That would be me,” Nathan said.
”I was hiding so near you. I could’ve killed you at any time,” she said. “I had my garrote out at one point just to see if I could do it.”
”I appreciate your consideration.”
“So I guess that turned out okay, according to the song,” she said.
”You could say that,” Nathan said.
”Our hero’s here, Weddumlir. Blah blah blah blah. You know, he’s never had a song written about me. I’m guessing it’s on account I’m not a dwarf. So what do you need, guys? Or are you just at my table for the view?”
“I’m seeking one known as the Kiss of Death,” Nathan said. “Braucia Graeme?”
”The necromancer? Why would you seek that one out?”
“Well, I have this little trinket he may be interested in,” Nathan said, showing her the Shettebrek Sally doll.
”Sally? Wow. That must be eight Sallies I’ve seen in as many days. Who is spreading these vile little things everywhere?” River asked.
”I think it may be the necromancer,” he said.
”Where did you get yours?”
”That makes sense, but who gave it to you?”
”I found it.”
”You picked it up of your own free will?” After a moment, she shrugged. “Well, taking chances is something clerics of Everly are wont to do. So you need to find that shrine in TYRAN FIRION then. You need to go through the MINES. The access from the TEMPLE itself was cut off when the earthquake tore up the place. It’s all blocked off now, so it’s the MINES or nothing. You want a guide, don’t you?”
“Yes. That’s exactly why we’re here.”
”Well, I cannot turn you down since Wedd is a member of my guild, but I will not brave the MINES themselves. It’s too dangerous. I will take you to the MINES and draw you a map of where you need to go. After that, I’m gone. This is a fool’s errand.”
”That’s what Oola told me,” Nathan said.
”You went to Oola? Of course you went to Oola. Everyone goes to Oola. You paid full price though?” River asked.
“She gave men a small refund.”
”Oh dear gods, something is really wrong with you. You’re going to die probably. That clenches it. I will take you to the MINES and will provide you with a map to guide you through, but I want no further part of this.”
River Hopfoot led them further south and east through the SKY BAZAAR until they reached the SKY DOCKS. There, she showed them the vessel that would provide them passage, a flying vessel called The Luckless. From the deck of the airship, Puddles the Goblin grinned at them.
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.
This ballad commissioned and approved by the incomparable dwarf god, Baldnoggin of Adelstan Dwarfhome.
From stranger sin a strange land, kidnapped by stranger gods
A hero now emerges whose gaze pierces the fog
So many would-be legends not fit to hold his beer
A hero fit to save them: Wedd-um-lir!
Our hero's here!
Want those monsters dead?
Wedd 'em dead!
So stand and cheer!
Put this whole quest to bed
Send in the Wedd!
Chosen by the dwarf god, the best of dwarves, you bet!
He saved a "hero's" "heroes" without breakinga sweat
The cult of the corruption, he sent them running scared.
A basilisk so fearsome, sent packing with a glare!
Our hero's here!
Want those monsters dead?
Wedd 'em dead!
So stand and cheer!
Put this whole quest to bed
Send in the Wedd!
I hear that in a past life (and this right here's no joke)
A dragon tried to face him but got so scared, it choked!
The first one in the battle, the last one that you'll need
His axe and shield will save you like he saved Smuggler Speak!
Our hero's here!
Want those monsters dead?
Wedd 'em dead!
So stand and cheer!
Put this whole quest to bed
Send in the Wedd!
I obviously disagree with the entire premise of his post’s title, but for the sake of courtesy, let’s look at his argument.
A Bag of Holding, in all of its varied forms is simply a sack that … well, Wistedt’s summary of the Bag of Holding’s purpose is mostly spot on (mostly):
In short: the Bag of Holding lets player characters carry much more items than they would normally be able to. This is of course extremely useful for a bunch of semi-medieval adventurers in a fantasy world. Players are happy because their characters can bring more equipment and salavage more treasure. The dungeon master is happy because he doesn’t need to bother with rules for tracking encumbrance.
So why in a realm of magic, would Wistedt object to such a magical item as overpowered?
Well, it’s not bad per se. If you want to run a superhero style D&D campaign, where characters are larger than life then it’s fine to not track mundane mechanics such as encumbrance. But then again – why not just ignore it completely? You don’t need the Bag of Holding as an excuse to remove encumbrance from your game. Just assume the characters somehow manages to carry everything they want.
I freely admit that I ignore the nitpicking rules of encumbrance but I do hold to encumbrance as a general principle. If I didn’t, there would not be any point to a magical item called a Bag of Holding at all! I don’t know any DM who simply ignores the principle of encumbrance altogether. Even DMs who run sessions where the characters are indistinguishable from superheroes in a fantasy setting put limits on how much any given superhero can lift or punch through. Wistedt’s suggestion of zero limits or the implied accommodation of encumbrance is simply a straw man argument built on a subtle non sequitur.
In other words, it does not follow that because we use magical items yo overcome encumbrance in a magical setting that we may as well chuck all the rules or needn’t bother explaining how your halfling bard can carry the equivalent of seven wagonloads of loot in his left pocket! Literally, no DM I’m aware of operates that way. All variants of Bags of Holding and similar items such as Heward’s Handy Haversack, Portable Holes, Matt Mercer’s Bag of Colding, and John Beck’s Boxes of Many Holdings (one of my favorites from Dragon magazine Vol V, No. 7 – January 1981, p. 23) have limits to how much they can carry. For example, here is an illustration of the selection of extradimensional accessories and their respective capacities from the 3rd edition:
So rather than doing away with the rules of encumbrance entirely, Bags of Holding and their ilk allow players and DMs to play for a bit without having to get bogged down with calculations over weights and measures as much as they might normally have to.
Most DMs know it’s supposed to be an uncommon item anyway.
So back to the reality of how games are actually played, why is the Bag of Holding a bad magical item?
Wistedt’s argument is that he plays older editions of the game which he implies are better. No, I’m serious. His article really does boil down to a clichéd and tired street fight between old school and newer editions of the game. He repeatedly (mis)characterizes newer editions of the game, especially 5e, as “superhero” editions while suggesting that older editions were intended to be “a game about heroic burglary and expedition style adventures” rather than “a game of superheroes and epic encounters.”
The problem with his assessment of the Bag of Holding starts with its beginning. Folks, the Bag of Holding has literally been there since the beginning. It is first listed on page 25 of the Original Dungeons & Dragons, Vol 2: Monsters and Magic (Tactical Studies Rules, 1974) by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, where an asterisk notes that the item is available to all classes. Then on page 36, it is described in brief.
Since it has literally been there from the beginning amongst the scant few magical items listed in that first set, it is fair to say it was always intended as a magical means to overcome the burden of overencumbrance.
Just like a mundane wagon or cart… which conveyances weren’t even cited with a weight limit anywhere that I could see (The closest the original sources came to solving that was by noting the range of gold a typical orc wagon might be carrying but this was by no means cited as a maximum capacity). Gygax and Arneson weren’t handing us rules for beancounting wargames. They wanted magic and role-playing! The rules were characterized by Gygax as helpful guidelines to facilitate gameplay but it was always expected that the DM should write his own laws if he so preferred. This was even written into the Introduction.
As far as his criticism of “superhero” editions goes, I mean, if we’re being dead honest here, “superhero” or “superheroes” [as a level of basic category of level above “Man” and “Hero” for Fighting-Man, Cleric and Thief characters (with Wizard being the equivalent for Magic-user characters) or equivalent enemies] is mentioned 30 times in the 1974 Single Volume Edition of that first set.
…which sorely undercuts Wistedt’s suggestion that newer editions are a type of superhero edition that differs greatly from older editions.
So if Wistedt’s preference is that DnD should be reduced to game of heroic burglary, more power to him, so long as he does not also suppose this was the original intent of any of the older editions! If anything, we might characterize newer editions as a return to something closer to the original intent that subsequent editions lost by degrees under the encumbrance of rulemongering according to an ever-increasing volume of RAW!
Now, to be fair, Wistedt might not realize that. In a comment on his post, he admitted that he’s never played the 5th edition.
Begging his pardon, but if his criticism of Bags of Holding don’t apply to the most popular and widely played version of the game to date, they’re largely irrelevant.
Now, having said all of this, I think it’s really, really important NOT to buy into the whole old school versus new trope. I play the 5th edition because it’s more accessible and because it’s wildly popular. I wanted to introduce my kids to the game I loved so much and this is the edition their friends play. It’s simplified for a new generation. And frankly it’s pretty close to the (relatively) rules light approach I’ve always taken as DM.
My guys are trying to become superheroes in an epic fantasy adventure… but they’re also mostly heroic burglars and murder hobos. It’s not old versus new. It’s (always been) a bit of both.
The Bags of Holding just let us play without the encumbrance of pretending magic wouldn’t be utilized in this way in a world where magic is actually a thing.
Poised at the bottom of the attic ladder, Nathan Garney The Human Cleric of Everly realized that the Cuervos guard he’d followed and his boss were wise to the fact that he was an intruder in their midst.
“I’m telling you, I never sent anybody to relieve you,” he heard the boss say. “Who was that? Do you realize that somebody is there right now with the Seed. If they figure out what the Seed is, they can take it and Everything that we’re doing here is gonna fall apart. And B.O.B. is going to eat us.”
The other Cuervos sounded defensive. “Look. I mean, who else would be down there? He knew the passwords.”
“Which passwords? What’s the fiesta password?”
“What’s the second password?”
“What the third?”
“We changed that yesterday!”
This was followed by an ugly electrical sound and the heavy thump of a body hitting the floor. “Idiot,” Nathan heard the Cuervan boss say. “We changed that to lizard king yesterday. OK, I guess I need to hog down there and find out what’s going on.”
At this point, Nathan heard the sound of a bell tolling, or perhaps it was a gong, But it did not seem to come from any particular direction. It is definitely a magical sound. Immediately afterwards, he hears the sound of every Cuervan he heard snoring before getting to their feet.
“The alarm! The alarm!” he heard them say. “Assemble! Assemble in the Dining Hall. Muster in the Dining Hall.”
It became apparent that they were headed for the stairs. It also became apparent that the Boss Cuarvos was nearing the top of the attic ladder.
Seeing no place to hide, Nathan attempted to convince his Cuervan co-conspirator to play along and leave with the others. She became immediately suspicion, asking why he wasn’t coming with her. “I don’t know if that’s the best idea. Shouldn’t we stick together? The boss is coming. We should both just wait for him at the bottom of the ladder and nab him!”
Nathan demurred, suggesting that she could spy out their escape route while he took care of the boss.
Exasperated at his thick-headed stupidity, she shouted, “That is not going to work!”
“What’s not going to work?” The boss Cuervos call from the attic.
A head peered down the ladder at Nathan. Nathan was shocked to realize the Boss Cuervos looked just like him!
The Cuervos doppelgänger was equally stunned to be practically face to face withe cleric. “You! You’re the one I saw in the portal. In the mirror of dreams!” His eyes widened in terror and Nathan suddenly realized the Cuervos Boss was paralyzed with fear. Hoping to take advantage of the situation, Nathan climbed up the ladder and tried to pull him down; however, the terrified Cuervos had a death grip on the ladder and could not be budged.
This proved too much for the Cuervos Boss. “He touched me! He touched me!” Scurrying back into the attic, he ran as far from Nathan as he could manage. “Leave me alone!” He shouted, as he beat his fists against the wallls. “There’s got to be a way out of here.”
Nathan was baffled by the creature’s terror, but he climbed the ladder after him and tried to turn the situation to his advantage. “I’m here for tghe Rain,” he announced. “Give me the Rain and I’ll leave.”
“The Rain?” It’s in one of these chests. I can’t think straight. I don’t know – Wait! The window!” Unexpectedly, he made a mad dash for the attic window, dives through glass, tumbles down the roof and falls to his death a few stories below.
Forcing himself to keep his mind on the task at hand, Nathan searched the chest nearest him, which happily enough contained the holy pitcher relic he was looking for.
“What’s going on up there?” the female Cuervos called up. “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” the said. “I’m coming down the ladder.”
“What happened?” She asked as he rejoined her. “What happened to the boss?”
“I’m the boss now,” he said.
“But… I mean… Where’s the old bass?”
“Don’t you see the similarity?” Nathan asked.
Her eyes narrowed. “What’s the password?”
“What’s the second password?”
“What’s the third password?”
“Lizard king. We just changed it yesterday.”
“Huh,” she said. “I must’ve missed that. I thought it was still butter.”
“Oh no, we changed it. It’s lizard king.”
“Ok, ok. So you have the Pitcher. You gonna hide it somewhere new?”
“Yes. You stay here. I’m going downstairs to inform the troops that the alarm test went well, thank you very much,:” he said with a sly wink.
“Um, ok, ok. So it’s just you and me up here right now.”
Suddenly, she lunged at him with a dagger but he managed to dodge aside. “We have to give it back!” she shouted.
He drew his own dagger but fumbled the attack as well. Realizing he probably didn’t want to get into a close quarters knife fight with a bird woman anayway, Nathan bolted out of the closet and raced for the stairs with a vague notion of convincing the other Cuervos to come to his defense, especially seeing he looked exactly like their old boss.
She made a lung for him near the bottom the stairs, but slipped and fell past him. Nathan continued fleeing. She took another swipe at him, but her dagger got caught in his robes, doing no damage to him. Running through a door, Nathan turned suddenly and cast a hold spell on her, freezing her dead in her tracks.
Taking a deep breath, he concealed the pitcher beneath his robes and proceeded on to the Dining Hall, where he congratulated the Cuervos on an excellent drill and dismissed them to their quarters. As they dispersed, he hurried back to the cell where Ripley’s avatar was held.
She motioned for him to pour water from the pitcher onto the Seed. As the pitcher was empty, he filled it with a water skin and tried it again.
With that act, Nathan Garney was transfigured and found himself in the SANCTUARY OF EVERLY. A voice called to him. “This is the Sanctuary of Everly.” He found his attention drawn to the Seed of Ripley, now resting in the basin of a stone pillars shaped like a a tree trunk. Behind him, the pitcher rested on a similar pillar. “You have healed SMUGGLER SPEAK, but your friends need you,” Everly said. His attention was drawn to a portal in the wall, where he could see his friends battling against the defenders of the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION. “Take the pitcher and pour the Rain of Ridley into the vat and all will be well and the Corruption will be ended.”
Obediently, the cleric of Everly grabbed the pitcher and walked through the portal.
Meanwhile Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty found himself standing before the Mad God Moriarty, who was not pleased with his servant.
“What are you doing?” The god asked through his dragon skull avatar. “I sent you in there to get the Star Sapphire. It was simple. It was easy. And yet you’re messing with B.O.B. And you’re messing with Oxenbane. And you’re messing with Everly. Yeah? Yeah? And you’re messing with Baldnoggin now. Okay? Just how many entanglements did this one little adventure of yours manage to get into? What it’s wrong with you? You have one simple mission. What is it?”
“Well,” Davroar said, “almighty Moriarty, my mission was to bring forth your — ”
“Spare me your pleasantries. What is your mission?”
“The Star Sapphire,” Davroar replied quickly. “The Star Sapphire is in the room. I was just in. It’s with one of the bodies we were attempting to bring back.”
“That’s not the only Star Sapphire in SMUGGLER SPEAK,” Moriarty said. “I don’t even know how you found that one!”
“If you recall, you gave your blessing to come here and —”
“I said there is a Star Sapphire in SMUGGLER SPEAK,” Moriarty said. “I had no idea your dead friend had found his way here.”
Davroar took a new approach. “Lead me. Lead me, O Moriarty, and we’ll find the one you speak of instead.”
“I hope it’s in a lavatory,” Moriarty spat. “I swear! I hope it’s in a privy somewhere. I hope it’s in the spot where everything in the privy drops. If I knew exactly where it was, I would’ve sent someone more competent.”
“Lord Moriarty, I might point out that all the entanglements do just add to the glorious chaos in your name.”
“Ah, but see, there’s been precious little chaos. There’s been action. There’s been drama., There’s been mystique. There’s been… OK, there’s been a little bit of chaos but it just seems like every time there’s a little bit of chaos it just poofs back into order, and that’s not what we’re about. We’re about — ”
“All the chaos,” Davroar supplied.
Morairty was pleased with this suggestion. “All the chaos! That’s right. Maximum chaos.”
“I’m very close to the one Star Sapphire, Lord Moriarty, but I can go for another one and will gladly do so. Guide me. Give me your preference. I will do what you command.”
“We were very close,” Davroar pointed out.
“I’ve got an idea,” Moriarty said.
“I tremble before the glory of it, master. Speak your will.”
“You need… You need… an edge. I want you to cast my Janusian Blessing. Do it for me. Pretty please.”
“Sounds… sounds exciting. Do you want to return me to where I was or shall I cast it somewhere else?”
“Do you want me to see if someone else is standing in that spot first?” Morairty asked a little too sweetly.
“That’s probably not a bad idea. I would appreciate it.”
“Sure, sure. Okay.”
Without further ado, Moriarty returned Davroar to the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION.
The Corrupted Jelly Unleashed
As he tried to take in the chaos of the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION, Nathan Garney was startled to see Davroar Hollysword appear in front of him. Below him, he could see Things had not gone well for his comrades. Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard used his flaming blade to fend off Corrupted Cuervos. The body of Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter lay still, draped over the corpse of a slain Basilisk. Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter were both ghosts. He saw no sign of his other friends, except Zayn Carthin the Elf Arbiter of Hero, whose body floated serenely in a coffin of grey ooze connected to the great vat that dominated the center of the room. Upon further inspection, he noted that two of the other coffins contained the bodies of Thril and Acindor.
There were also people in the CHAMBER who were strangers to him. He had no way to know that these were members of Hero Inc, a rival guild. Xodax the Halfling Cleric, Eobrix Alebane the Halfling Bard, Quelynn Rinn the Tidal Elf Priestess, and Martin Dossen the strangely dressed Human Fighter, Puddles the Tidal GHoblin Cannoneer and Odin Thunderhammer the Dwarf Fighter were led by Geralt Goldenblade the Dwarf Fighter. These members of Hero Inc had come to their aid but it was not yet clear why the happy coincidence had occurred.
As Nathan began making his way down the stairs to reach the adjoining stairs to the catwalk above the vat, Davroar began shouting for his comrades to get clear of the floor, thinking he might cast his promised Janusian Blessing upon the Corrupted there. Nathan recognized Puddles as the goblin who tried to fire a cannon at them for hilling his pet bushwackys on the beach but the haze of battle seemed to prevent the other from recognizing him as well. Thril and Meldor dutifully retreated back up the stairs.
The Corrupted closed in on the heroes, still keeping a careful distance away from Geralt Goldenblade the dwarf.
As Meldor continued his retreat up the stairs, Odin Thunderhammer followed him, recognizing him from their time together in the War’tode Cages. Thril decided to make a stand. Unfortunately, the Corrupted he targeted dodged out of the way. Fortunately, Thril was able to dodge the Corrupted’s opportunistic counter attack.
Quellyn Rinn’ the Tidal Elf Priestess cast faerie fire on the two Corrupted nearest her dwarven leader, causing them to glow faintly. Acindor hovered to the end of the catwalk to peer down into the vat. Geralt Goldenblade attempted to take advantage of the Priestess’ spell, but his over eager attack landed him neck-deep inside the Corrupted nearest him! Seeing their leader’s plight, most of his team threw caution to the wind and leapt down to the floor to his aid.
Thril took a swipe at a Corrupted, but became stuck fast in his foe.
Hoping Acindor’s ghostly state would afford him some protection from what was to come, Davroar cast his Janusian Blessing upon the Corrupted Jelly in the vat!
The Jelly exploded from the vat, expanding a full size larger as it absorbed several of the Corrupted Cuervos on the floor. Fortunately, this freed Thril in the process. The vat was left destroyed and the coffins were burst open in the aftermath as the Corrupted Jelly reared itself up into a 15 foot tall cube. Thril wisely put distance between himself and the monster.
Acindor on the other hand took the opportunity to locate his husk and was able to successfully possess his own body.ted immediately attempted to attack him, but Acindor dodged out of the way. Returning the insult, Acindor drew his sword and vanquished his foe.
Quellyn Rinn threw her trident at one of the Corrupted’s near Gerlalt Goldenblade but her aim was poor. For his part, Geralt was unable to remove his head from the Corrupted he was stuck fast in.
Realizing Acindor was very near Zayn Carthin’s husk and the Star SapphIre in his possession, Davroar leapt down from top of the stairwell landing and lighted on the altar once occupied by the Basilisk, being unwilling to face Moriarty’s further wrath.
Martin recovered his laser pistol, only to discover that the weapon was jammed. Xodak dealt damage to one of the remaining Corrupted with a crossbow bolt, while Eobrix cast phantasmal force, giving the appearance of a ten foot swathe of fire, forcing the Corrupted Jelly to retreat to the back side of the vat, where Nathan Garney was waiting for it with the holy pitcher. Pouring thge rain of Ridley upon the Corrupted Jelly caused it to retreat — and to lose an entire size in mass! Unfortunately, his pitcher was now empty.
Geralt Goldenblade rallied and wrenched himself free of the Corrupted holding him.
Davroar made a beeline for Zayn Carthin’s husk and, after a quick search of his pouches, secured the Star Sapphire.
Martin managed to get his laser pistol operational, taking out the Corrupted who’d attacked Geralt Goldenblade. Xodak conjured Fey spirits to help aid him but unintentionally attracted ill-behaved fey who immediately attacked the caster. The resulting screams broke Eobrix’s concentration, eliminating the phantasmal force illusion.
Forgotten amid the conflict, Weddumlir Aleshield finally breathed his last, still draped across the back of the dead Basilisk.
The question now was whether personal agendas would interfere with the heroes’ ability to work together to rid SMUGGLER SPEAK of its corruption?