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 took a moment to determine best how to deal with the squad of orcs who had suddenly made an encampment at the base of the tower they needed to reach. There were three orcs at street level. One stood at the rear with a female figure who was shrouded in a cloak and cowl. That orc was more heavily muscled than the others. His face was painted in a crimson skull with three vertical stripes running through it. The others had only one or two such stripes. There were three more orc archers posted on the rooftops of nearby buildings.
Recalling that the tower sentry had told them about orcs who’d came and damaged the original power crystal, they easily realized that the orcs were here to stop them from undoing their handiwork.
“We are the Fearless!” the orc leader shouted. “You will surrender!”
Davroar raised his chin. “If they want a fight, let’s give them one,” he said.
The others agreed, but also decided that they should engage the orcs’ attention while Meldor took advantage of his still-active flight spell to circle around the buildings to reach the tower by a less direct route, hopefully without them noticing.
The Fearless took full advantage of the bottleneck they controlled, letting the adventurers get as close as they dated while archers got into position to rain down damage from.the second story rooftops.
Davroar cast confusion on the first orc he met, who immediately wandered off.. Acindor engaged the other but found him a tough opponent. Even with Thril moving in to back him up, the orcs seemed unfazed by their wounds. Even bloodied, the orc came at them without the slightest bit of caution, apparently unconcerned with its own persomal safety.
In closer quarters, they got a better look at the female accompanying the Fearless. They were taken aback to realize she was a half goblin wearing the uniform of the Sisterhood of Shettebrek. They had no time to ponder why an assassin sworn to serve both the Nylbolgia and Shettebrek would choose to fight with orcs who were undermining Shettebrek’s operation here,, for she unleashed three arrows.. to their surprise and dismay, she aimed high into the air. Her arrows landed on the rooftops, where three more orc archers sprung into existence in each missile’s place.
The adventurers were forced to take whatever slim cover they could under the edges of the rooftops and behind their shields as the archers rained down arrows upon them. Once the assault ended, the clerics concentrated their efforts on the assassin. While they managed to wound her, the bloodied orc managed to prevent her death at the cost of his own.
Their leader finally stepped in to intervene with a blood-curdling war cry. He hurtled into the adventurers like a berserker of old, forcing them to take a defensive posture. The assassin took advantage of the orc barbarian’s rage-fueled chaos to draw another arrow. When this one landed, she was teleported to the rooftops with it.
Fortunately, the archers could not rain another volley down.upon them just yet. The answered too close to their leader for an effective shot. Unfortunately, Meldor had been spotted and he made a pretty tempting target.
The confused orc shook off the spell’s effects in time to be sent back to whatever gods he served by the party, who found a new wind of determination, partly because they knew Meldor needed them to be the Fearless’ primary focus right now. Their efforts caused the orc leader, severely wounded during the conflict, to step back and with sudden, unnatural calm cast a thunderwave down the street in their direction, driving a few of them back. The archers tried to take advantage of this surprise move, but when the clerics took out the half-goblin assassin, the three archers she conjured vanished. The remaining archers were momentarily taken aback by this sudden reduction of their numbers.
This allowed Meldor the window he needed to drop the replacement power crystal into the waiting hands of the tower sentry. As the sentry quickly went to work exchanging the crystals, Meldor landed on a nearby rooftop and blasted away an enemy archer.
Seeing the beginnings of their defeat, the orc leader placed a hunting horn to his lips and blew a call for reinforcements. The leader succumbed to the adventurers’ skill and might a few moments later. As he fell, Nathan, Thril and Wedd headed for the metal tower to guard it against whatever the Fearless were sending next while Acindor and Davroar took to buildings on opposite sides of the street, trying to find a way to the rooftops to help Meldor take out the last two archers. Meldor dispatched his foe before Acindir reached him but Davroar was able to take out the archer on the opposite side.
To their dismay, the orc leader’s horn had summoned an ettin champion. The two-headed giant bounded down the mountain side from the sentry ledge they’d spotted when the fog lifted. Once he’d reached the street level of the DOCKYARD, the brute quickly covered the distance to the tower.
Realizing they were too far out of position to be of use, Meldor and Acindor made their way back down through the building they were on, hoping to reach their friends in time to be of assistance. Wedd and Thril took positions in front of Nathan as they sized up their newest foe, while Davroar got into position to utilize his spiritual weapon at the giant from above.
As the ettin closed in, they felt the winds of an unnatural storm whipping through the streets. As the rain began to fall, the ettin rushed to meet them, weapons swinging.
ight the orcs known as The Fearless and manage to replace the Dockyard power crystal.
As their ferry to PEACOCK ISLAND sailed away, 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 watched as a thick fog rolled in from the sea. In moments, the PEACOCK ISLAND DOCKYARDS were mostly obscured. They could see the illumination of the same sort of blue electric lights they’d seen in the TEMPLE OF WANJO. The lights flickered off and on but they lent the fog a their faint color. They were also aware of a larger patch of blue light which seemed to be coming from above them somewhere, but the fog prevented them from determining how far away the larger light source might be.
Listening carefully, they heard a clicking noise. Suspecting the lights might be magical, Davroar cast a spell to confirm the presence of magic in the area. He noted that the street lights glowed also with magic, confirming that they were powered by some sort of magic, perhaps technomancy. At an intersection ahead, Davroar saw a fist-sized orb of light in the intersection ahead. Weddumlir approached and saw a figure kneeling in the intersection was the source of the clicking noise. Creeped out, Wedd retreated to his friends. Davroar confirmed that the figure was the likely associated with the blue orb of magic he was seeing.
“We didn’t come all this way to be stopped by a clicking noise,” Davroar complained. Acindor agreed. Approaching the figure, the human fighter noticed that the figure twitched and spasmed but did not move. The move was repetitive. As he drew closer, it become apparent that the figure wasn’t human. The metal man did not respond in any way to their greeting.
Looking around, they noted other metal men. All of them twitched, whether they were standing, kneeling or lying down. They moved ever so briefly in time with the flickering lights, making it apparent that the faulty lights were their power source. Obviously, there was something wrong with them. Davroar noted the same orb glowing within the chests of the metal men.
“These metal golems appear to have a power source within their breast,” Davroar said. “I believe they’re inactive but beware.”
A nearby shop showed signs of heavy damage. Its windows were shattered and its doors ripped off its hinges. Interior looked like it had been ransacked. There were obvious signs of a fight of some sort. Davroar noticed one metal figure that lacked a blue orb. He could also detect a faint trace of magic on the counter in the back. Everything there was wet. They also found traces of organic blood and a broken rapier with writing on it.
Meldor recognized the script as a form of Orcish.
Davroar sneered, not bothering to hide his hatred.
Acindor peered behind the counter but instantly recoiled when he saw a couple Sally Shettebrek dolls lying back there. Davroar noticed a pair of orcish boots elsewhere beneath a pile of cursed dolls. Given that the boots appeared to be all that was left of the orc, they decided to leave the shop and the accursed dolls behind.
As they continued to explore, Davroar noted that the source of the robots’ magic seemed to be coming from the north. A few blocks in that direction brought them to a metal tower. Atop the tower an intermittent blue glow was coming from a massive crystal hovering atop the tower. The crystal was obviously cracked and damaged.
A ladder to the northeast provided access to a series of metal catwalks and stairs leading to the top of the tower. The path upwards was lit with the same sort of electric lights as the street lights. Wedd and Davroar opted to scale the tower to investigate.
Halfway up the TRANSMITTER TOWER, they were accosted by an unseen sentry, who was alerted to their presence by Wedd’s heavy dwarven boots on the metal walkways.
“Who is that?”
They looked at each other uncertainly, stunned to hear another living voice for the first time on PEACOCK ISLAND.
“We’re here to help,” Davroar said.
“I’ve heard that before. Are you with them?”
“No, we’re with us.”
They could hear the scowl in the stranger’s voice. “Are you with the orcs?”
Davroar spat. “Gods, no!”
Below on the ground, Acindor sighed deeply and wiped Davroar’s spittle off his face with exaggerated longsuffering.
“Well, that’s what the last group said. Imagine my surprise when they started helping the orcs trash everything and even managed to damage the power crystal before they left!”
“Just point us in the direction of these ruffians, sir,” Davroar said, “and we’ll make quick work of them.”
“What I really need is a replacement for this crystal,” the tower sentry said. “They cracked it pretty hard.”
“Will everything come back to life once it’s restored?” Nathan asked.
“Good as new,” the sentry said. “Now, just on the off that you’re serious about helping me, I’ll do you the courtesy of giving you a few seconds to get back off this tower before I electrify it again.”
“Fair enough, sir, but give us your name so that we might know who it is we are aiding.”
“My name isn’t important. I’m just a servant of Obscurus. I’m Nobody. You need to go and warn Obscurus.”
Once the inquiring pair reached the ground, the sentry gave them directions toward the WAREHOUSE containing a replacement power crystal. The WAREHOUSE once stood on the beach, but something had occurred to damage much of the structure. It was now standing in water. Gaping holes in the sides of the WAREHOUSE showed them that much of the interior was also submerged. They realized they could gain entrance through the holes in the WAREHOUSE walls; however, before they attempted this Davroar detected a magical residue on the top of the water. Tracing their origin, he spied some overturned barrels coming from the other side of the WARERHOUSE. He immediately warned his friends of a possible danger, especially after he noticed shark fins patrolling the waters and that their back ends were a trail of tentacles.
Wary of the water, Davroar used a bowl to scoop up some of it. As Davroar touched his bowl to the water, he noted that three sharks immediately darted in his direction. They lost interest as soon as he was no longer touching the water. Davroar lit the top of the bowl with a torch experimentally. A fireball roared up into the sky accompanied by a loud, bloodcurdling scream like a wailing peacock. Within the flame, they saw a face with many eyes and several mouths screaming. The fog was mostly dissipated by this magical flare.
Unfortunately, they were spotted by two orcs manning a campfire on a ledge to the northeast overlooking the DOCKYARDS. Davroar was unconcerned, even when the orcs blew a hunting horn to alert others to their presence. If anything, the Cleric of Moriarty seemed eager for a potential fight with the orcs.
He was more concerned with the fact that the bowl was trying to crawl away. It had sprouted a set of crab legs and was making its way back to the water’s edge.
Davroar suggested that the water was a mutagen of some sort. Determined to get to the bottom of the matter, Thril tried to fill a water flask so they could take it to someone for identification. Unfortunately, when he attempted to stopper the flask, teeth sprouted from the mouth and bit down on the cork. The flask began growing hair at a rapid pace.
“Is this thing returning to life?” Nathan asked.
Thril’s flask took a quick bite of him because he was determined to keep hold of it. Instead of releasing it, Thril emptied its contents. Emptied of the mutagenic water, the creature’s struggles became all the more frantic. Newly formed claws raked at him. Thril finally decided to let the flask go. It dutifully tried to crawl back to the water’s edge when he dropped it, but deprived of the fluid that gave it unnatural life, it shriveled up and dried up into something Thril decided he did not want to keep.
They decided not to wade into the waters.
The Peacock Shipping Company
Tracing the length of the building and an adjoining structure, they came to a door marked with a peacock. Nathan realized this was one of the better known symbols of the god of fear, SHETTEBREK. As the door was unlocked, they entered and found themselves in the lobby of the PEACOCK SHIPPING COMPANY OFFICE. Posters along the wall featured “Sweet Dream Sally” dolls. A register on a long desk . A broken robot sat on one side of the desk. The other side of the desk sported a seat for an actual living employee, but no one was present. A shipping register on the desk identified several destinations throughout FARRAGO their Sally dolls were being shipped to.
Behind the desk was a long hallway. There were also two office doors on either side of the hallway. At the end of the hallway, they could see another set of doors which they figured might lead to the WAREHOUSE.
Checking out the office to the right, Acindor found sets of black gloves, most of which were in parcel boxes. The words on the sides of the parcel boxes were unreadable. The languages and letters of the words shifted around as they tried to read them. Reasoning that the gloves allowed employees or purchasers to safely handle Sally dolls without being cursed, Acindor grabbed some for each member of the party.
They were not prepared for the other “office.” Entering the door, they found a room with an altar. Sally dolls were resting in boxes on either side. Behind the altar was a mural with many eyes staring at him. The more Acindor stared at it the more he felt a sense of dread and fear. The eyes became peacock eyes, then a spider’s eyes. The fighter felt frozen with fear. Sewers waters began bubbling up between the cracks in the floor. Unable to move, he wondered how long it would take for the sewer waters to fill the room. To fill his mouth. Suddenly the altar transformed into a ravenous wolf. As it began snapping and snarling at him, Acindor backpedaled out of the room, but he could not shake his new-found fear of dogs and wolves.
Telling the others what happened, they realized the room must be some sort of curse activation station for the Sally dolls. They decided never to enter the room again.
Proceeding down the hallway, they came to the door at the end. Opening it, they beheld the interior of the mostly flooded WAREHOUSE. Sharktopuses patrolled the waters, which Davroar confirmed was still magically charged. They were on a metal walkway that led to a flight of stairs. Many of the WAREHOUSE shelves were still standing. They spotted the replacement power crystal, but it took them a moment to figure out how to reach it. Tracing the pattern of walkways and stairs, they spotted a platform with levers and controls that likely controlled a claw and crane assembly above them.
Wary of the water and the dangers it might spit out at them, Meldor and Acindor stayed by the door to guard their exit while the others made their way up to the control platform. A section of the second story walkway was damaged, requiring them to leap across to the other side. Everyone but Weddumlir cleared the jump. Wedd missed the far edge and slipped down onto a set of shelves below. It caught his fall, but the crash threatened to tip the shelves and the commotion caught the attention of the sharktopi. Thril pulled Wedd up while Acindor tossed an unlit torch in the other direction to distract the monsters.
While his friends were bumbling around, Meldor realized he could simply cast a spell to fly up to the replacement crystal. Putting thought to action, he flew up to the crystal, retrieved it , and returned back to his post. Yelling up at the others, they dutifully made the trip back down, clapping him on the back for his effort-saving idea.
Davroar made up a song for Wedd as they made their way back through the PEACOCK SHIPPING COMPANY OFFICE and spilled out onto the street:
“When Wedd did jump, he needed help.
If it weren’t for Thril, he’d be stuck on a shelf!”
They noticed that the robots began coming back to life as they passed by, already being influenced by the power crystal.
Unfortunately, when they began making their way back to the tower, they were spotted by a troop of orcs who had made their encampment at its base.
While enroute to the forthcoming Gotternacht Games at the ROSE COLISEUM, Oberyx the Half-Elf Warlock oathbound to Fulgar, Del Erenaeth the Elf Monk, Zook Bafflestone the Gnome Artficer, Kaid the Goliath Barbarian, David the Half-Elf Wizard, Fil the Drow Cleric of Zephyr, and Kudac the Half-Orc Cleric of Baldnoggin, found their voyage by sea taking a less than comfortable turn. Things change pretty quickly. The winds begin to blow. The waters become choppy. The rain begins to fall. Soon it’s a full-fledged storm and they could feel the waves begin to toss the ship about. Abobe the howl of the wind and the deafening roar of thunder, they could hear the sailors shouting, screaming, praying to their gods. Then those below decks heard the dreaded call to arms.
“All hands on deck!”
Dutifully, they headed upstairs to the deck. It was worse than they imagined. Most of the sailors were gone, including the captain. The steering wheel spun wildly. Oberyx took one look at this state of affairs and headed back below decks. The others raced to save the ship.
Zook took control of the ship’s wheel. Kudac began praying to Baldnoggin for protection over himself and the others. Kaid, David and Del and began working on getting the sails back up. Fil searched about for the captain but he was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, when the sails billowed in the wind, the pressure was too great and the masts snapped. One snapped cleanly and was snatched away by the winds. The other fell like a tree, knocking David overboard. It hung in the water, causing them to drag off-course until Del, Zook and Grogu (Zook’s small dragonish steel defender) managed to regain control of the ship’s wheel and through a mighty effort managed to steer the vessel toward an island they could see every so often as the waves rose and fell. Caught in the tumbling waves, David attempted to grab hold of the mast lying in the water, but instead it slammed into him. Despite the damage he sustained, he managed to cling to both consciousness and the mast. Blood trailed in the water from his wounds.
The goliath took his axe and cut the mast free, either unaware or unconcerned that David was clinging to it. The mast was temporarily tied to the ship by the rigging it was entangled in. Realizing his plight, David dug into the last of his reserves and made a mad dash up the fallen mast. He made it to the deck before the mast pulled free of the lines and slipped into the billowing waves. Fil rushed to his side and prayed to Zephyr, healing his wounds.
Below decks, Oberyx managed to find a place safe from rolling barrels and other items; however, he noticed that the ship was now taking on water. After slipping on the stairs once, he managed to emerge on the deck just in time to watch the ship crack apart. Realizing that this was the end and that the ship would not make it to shore, everyone jumped overboard.
David aggravated his injuries when he landed. His blood attracted the attention of a trio of sharks. Despite his injuries, he and his comrades managed to make to shore, although Oberyx did manage to lose a boot in the mud and Fil was forced to kill a shark on the way in.
The Revenge of the Fearless
Meanwhile, Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter, and WeddumlirAleshield the Dwarf Fighter continued their fight against the Fearless’ ettin champion. Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty assisted them from a nearby rooftop, but Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard, andAcindor the Human Fighter were too far away to be of immediate assistance. Without warning, Wedd vanished. Nathan noticed a square sigil on the ground in the place where the dwarf had been standing, which he intuitively realized meant that Baldnoggin had inconveniently called him away for some reason.
Nathan wisely placed himself behind the remaining fighter. As the clerics rained down divine power on the ettin, Thril rushed in and used his sword to hamstring the ettin, bringing it down to one knee. The ettin attempted to retaliate, but he was hampered by his sudden lack of mobility. In a moment of overconfidence, Thril rushed at the ettin and leapt up to decaptitate the left head, but missed by inches. Enfraged, the ettin swung his axe hard, knocking Thril unconscious. He followed up the attack quickly, bringing his morning star down, crushing Thril’s head and killing him instantly.
Enraged at the death of his friend, Davroar cried, “Moriarty!” and formed his spiritual weapon into a sword. Throwing the weapon toward the ettin from the top of the building, he caused the ettin to flinch. In the next breath, Davroar leapt from the building, caught the weapon in midair and caught the ettin between its heads. Meldor and Acindor reached Nathan in time to witness the killing blow as Davroar’s weapon cleaved the ettin in twain on his way down, avenging their comrade.
An awful stillness fell upon the battlefield. Looking around for new foes, they became aware of the sounds of a shipwreck in progress back at the docks. Meldor, Acindor and Nathan went to investigate while Davroar looted the bodies of the Fearless.
Noticing the trio on the docks, Oberyx trudged out of the waters, looking quite disheveled. Sighing deeply, he looked at Acindor and said, “I have a very quick question for you, sir. Do you have a spare pair of boots?”
Acindor looked down at the warlock’s feet, taking in the fact that one boot was indeed missing. He grimly recalled that Thril’s feet were about the same size. Knowing the elf had no further use for them, he offered to show him where Thril’s body lay.
As the parties made their introductions, Acindor noted how Fil tended to the wounds of the others. The half-elf cleric immediately earned his respect due to his dedication to his calling.
Making their way back to the tower, they compared notes. After noting that the replacement of the power crystal atop the tower had made the lift up the mountain operational, Davroar, Acindor, Meldor and Nathan explained their quest. While David, Kaid and Kudac opted to remain behind in the DOCKYARDS, the others took the tram up the mountain to OBSCURUS’ MANSION. On the way up, they noticed a forest off to their right in the direction the Fearless had come from. To the west, the saw the remains of a large AVIARY complex. It was now mostly overgrown and their were large holes in the roofs, making it apparent that whatever winged creatures the AVIARY contained were likely free now.
Coming at last to the top of the mountain, they surveyed the MANSION. After a quick conference, they decided to rest for the night while they took turns at the watch. They would enter the MANSION at first light.
Similarly, the party in the DOCKYARDS rested in the TRAM STATION, intending to explore the area in the morning.
Upon awakening at the EXCELSIOR, Odin Thunderhammer the Dwarf Fighter, Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Shield Knight , 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 make their way back down to the bar to speak to Otuk the Innkeeper again. Otuk is making eggs. The eggs are yellow with purple spots and about the size of a gnome’s head. The tavern was mostly empty except for the two minotaur bouncers they’d noticed the night before. Davroar noticed that they weren’t really playing checkers, but were simply pretending to do so while they kept a wary eye on things.
In light of the deadline given by Joe Stufts the Necromancer Taxidermist to Nathan and Odin, they asked Otuk if he had ever heard of Obscurus.
Otuk scoffed. “Have I heard of Obscurus? Who hasn’t? He’s not nearly as obscure as his name suggests. In fact, he’s kind of rich. Owns a big mansion out of Peacock Island with one of them big telescopes. An observatory, I think it’s called. He calls it his STAR TOWER. Obscurus is an odd one. Likes gadgets and gizmos. Tries to pass himself off as an ordinary merchant but everybody knows he’s a high level wizard of some sort.”
“Do you know where we can find him?” Acindor asked.
“Probably on that island he owns. It’s just off the NORTH PINCER of CLAW ISLAND. The EXCELSIOR is on the SOUTH PINCER of the CLAW. You need to head toward the ROSE COLISEUM to reach it.”
As they made plans to leave, they noticed that Odin was missing. After a brief search, they asked Otuk if he’s seen Odin. The innkeep shrugged. “This sort of thing happens all the time. People vanish. Sometimes they’re trying to vanish. Sometimes that’s somebody else who wants it. Did he owe anybody money? Did he owe someone a debt of some sort?”
Recalling that Odin was a follower of Baldnoggin, Wedd sought guidance from the dwarf god and found that Baldnoggin was annoyed that Wedd had chosen to fight for Hero in the probable forthcoming Gotternacht Games. He was only assuaged when Wedd agreed to be Baldnoggin’s Champion instead. Wedd was also assured that Baldnoggin had sent Odin on a different mission in case Wedd failed.
This minor mystery solved, they made their way toward the ROSE COLISEUM. They were immediately recognized by the Coliseum guards, who recognized Thril and Weddumlir as chosen Champions in the forthcoming Gotternacht Games. This fact was made undeniable, as the Champions’ faces and names were emblazoned upon banners as Champions of their Gods. Fortunately, the guards only wanted their autographs. They also introduced them to Gnome Shanorock the Dwarf Rogue, the Champion of the Nylbogia. After a brief introduction, the guards convinced the adventurers to enter the COLISEUM to take advantage of combat practice and complimentary healing potions.
The Master of the Games
They were taken through a side door, partially hidden in the shadows. They noted that the guard knocked four times before entering. After threading a passage in single file long enough to suspect ambush, they emerged in the bright sun of main floor the COLISEUM.
As promised, there were cabinets filled with healing potions and racks of weapons around the sides of the arena floor. At the center of the COLISEUM, an elderly, muscular figure in golden gladiator attire was beating the living snot out of another combatant who looked to be at least half-ogre. The old man wielded a weapon that looked much like an over-sized hook, which he used to drive the other combatant’s skull into the ground with one last blow. Yelling for a medic, he turned his attention to the newcomers.
“Ah! These must be the new Champions in need of training,” he called.
Acindor pushed Wedd forward.
Unflinching, Wedd drew his war hammer and rushed forward to meet him. The old man somersaulted aside, taking a glancing blow before sweeping Wedd’s leg with his hook. Lying prone on his back, Wedd wheezed, “That was fun.” Seeing that the old man’s hook was already driving down towards his belly, Wedd sprang to his feet and dodged. The hook weapon dug into the dirt floor. “Muttering “Loser” under his breath, the dwarf stepped in to finish the old man, but then quickly backpedaled when he realized the other was already hurling a weighted net at him. The net wrapped around Wedd’s torso, cocooning him in its embraced. he dropped to the ground like a stone.
The old man retrieved his hook and leisurely walked over to Weddumlir. Bopping him lightly on the head with the hook, he asked, “Who’s next?”
As Gnome Shanarock approached, the net magically unfurled itself from Wedd’s form and flew back to the old man’s hand. “I’ll give you the first shot,” he said.
Wasting no time, Shanarock thrust with his rapier. The blade struck true.
The old man gasped and clutched the wound. Shanarock was already back in position, his rapier ready to parry whatever the old man threw at him. Grinning, he said, “You have potential.”
Thril was next. He too managed to score a hit on the old man, but the old man’s hook caught him by the throat in the very next breath, nearly separating his head from his shoulders. Yelling for a medic, the old man turned to appriase the adventurers. “The ring is an unforgiving place. You must not allow any opportunity. You have potential, either to succeed or die. This was just a bout between fighters. You need to be prepared to face wizards, warlocks, barbarians, and… well, the rogue managed to bloody me before any of the rest of you! Do not underestimate anyone. Be ready for anything! If it comes to the Contest, and Wanjo has yet to give us any indication that this will not end up being the case, you won’t just be fighting on the arena floor. The arena changes with each match. For example,” he said, clapping twice.
The flat sand-covered arena floor vanished and became a series of multi-leveled hexagonal platforms. He clapped twice again and those platforms began to move up and down as lava slowly began to rise.
As they considered these things, a bolt of lightning struck the center of the COLISEUM. A very large, very angry Hero stood glowering at Weddumlir. He jabbed his finger at the dwarf.
“What is the meaning of this? I hear that you have betrayed me for Baldnoggin!”
Weddumlir licked his lips. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry? Then you’re going to be fighting for me then?”
Acindor began backing away from Weddumlir.
“You would say no to a god?” Hero asked, not bothering to cover the menace in his words. “I had dibs!”
“I will talk to my god about it then,” Weddumlir offered.
Acindor backed away futher.
Hero shook his head. “Oh, no. Dibs may mean nothing where you’re from, but the dibs of a god are dibs indeed!”
Weddumlir apologized again, but refused to change his allegiance.
“Still no? Then I will make your life a misery.”
Weddumlir rubbed his head and began softly praying for divine intervention.
Hero scoffed. “I can feel you praying to the miserable little backstabbing cretin. You will stop praying this instant.”
Hero’s patience was at an end. A twenty foot square beneath Wedd’s feet erupted in black tentacles. Wedd desperately squirmed to get free while Hero taunted him.
“Are yous till praying? Are you still determined to be a Champion for that backstabbing dwarf-god?”
Wedd fought on, but the tentacles knocked him down and wrapped around him, squeezing him like a constrictor.
“You’re willing to die for Baldnoggin then?”
Wedd managed to break free from the tentacles but he was starting to take Hero seriously.
“This is your last warning,” Hero said. “Forswear, Weddumlir Aleshield: ‘I will fight for Hero and will not change sides again. May B.O.B. take my soul if I do.'”
Wedd thought quickly. “But Acindor changed sides.”
Hero considered this. “So he did.” Black tentacles erupted beneath Acindor’s feet. “I will give you the same opportunity I gave this coward. Will you fight for me as my Champion in the Gotternacht Games?”
“I will!” Acindor agreed quickly.
The tentacles vanished and posters appeared all over the arena boasting Acindor as Hero’s Champion. “Spectacular! As a sign of goodwill, I shall allow your treacherous friend to live. I hope you two do meet in the Games so that they may sing songs of how you defeated Baldnoggin’s unworthy backstabbing Champion.”
The Master of Games sighed deeply. “There has been entirely too much drama here today. I will see all of you at the appointed time.” He gestured toward the exit.
Hero offered him a nod of respect and then vanished in a bolt of lightning.
Taken aback by the god’s treatment of the Master Gladiator as an equal, Davroar walked over to him and asked, “Sir, might I ask your name? I am interested to know who Hero would bow to?”
“I’ve gone by many names. I am the master of all martial forms and, as such, I am the one god who is disqualified from this Contest.”
Davroar thanked him for the information and beat a hasty retreat, realizing he was just speaking to Gilgamesh, the deposed god of Erythaean.
Gilgamesh was deposed by Valiant Thor, the Lord of the Burning World before Noah, gnomish god of craft and industry. He was known as a mighty conqueror and had indeed gone by many names, inspiring legends of great military heroes or else inspiring such heroes to victory with his blessing. Valiant Thor was able to best him by treachery and with the aid of the Lords of the other six worlds, who feared his growing power and lust for conquest. Aided especially by Zephyr of Nubis, Valiant Thor was able to trap him in an illusion where Gilgamesh constantly found himself fighting endless foes and monsters standing in the way between himself and Valiant Thor the Dreamweaver. When he finally defeated the dreamscape, he was released from the illusion, only to find that he had been deposed as the god of Erythaean for the past 40 years. Valiant Thor allowed him to depart Erythaean to the Farrago, where he apparently took on the role of Master Gladiator at the Rose Coliseum.
Davroar quickly and quietly told the others what he’d discovered. Grabbing a couple healing potions apiece on their way out, they left the ROSE COLISEUM and continued their quest.
As they left, the guards accosted Acindor for his autograph and advised them that they were on wanted posters everywhere. As a COLISEUM guard, he could care less but he advised them to avoid the streets and stick to the beaches. Gnome Shanarock decided to join their quest.
At the northernmost point of CLAW ISLAND, they sent Gnome Shanarock to scout out information on Obscurus’ location, mostly because his face wasn’t on any wanted posters. After negotiating his fee, Shanarock questioning the locals and was able to determine that Obscurus lived on one of two islands: PEACOCK ISLAND and the ISLAND OF ABOMINATIONS. He was able to locate a boat that would take him to PEACOCK ISLAND, but no one would go near the other island.
After locating the boat, they paid the captain for passage to PEACOCK ISLAND.
There, they spotted a cloaked figure with glowing green eyes who was marked with the essence of the Nylbolgia. The figure retreated when they spotted it. Gnome Shanarock decided to track the figure down.
They also spotted a crate filled with a lot of all-too-familiar cursed dolls.
Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, woke to find himself in strange surroundings. He vaguely recalled a blow to the back of the head as he was grabbed by suddenly animate skeletons through the walls of the OSSUARY OF THE MIDDLEBOROUGH INNOCENTS. Around the stone walled chamber stood a menagerie of strange creatures. A giraffe with ostrich legs. A cat with wings, horns and antlers. A goat attached to a fish. It was if a mad taxidermist had put these poor creatures together. Nathan was relieved to note that they did not appear to be animate.
Eventually, he became aware of a hooded and black-robed figure sitting on a throne made of bones. The figure cackled and pointed at him.
“Nathan Garney, you are known to us,” the figure intoned.
“Then you have the advantage of me, sir,” Nathan said.
“But I suspect you can guess.”
“No. I really have no idea.”
“None at all? You haven’t put the clues together?” he asked as he waved a gloved hand toward the examples of rogue taxidermy Nathan had earlier noted.
“Well, maybe this will help!” he cried as he tossed back his hood dramatically to reveal a face covered in a mask made of a deer skull. The right half of the skull was painted red while the left side was blue. The center of the skull’s forehead bore an image of a sheaf of wheat, symbolizing the dread Harvest of Thanatar, god of the undead. The general outfit reminded Nathan a little of Braucia Graeme, whom he’d had a vision of shortly before the skeletons had attacked.’Whomever his captor was, he was certainly a necromancer. “Now do you recognize me?” the necromancer asked.
“Thanatar?” Nathan ventured.
The necromancer scoffed. “I look like a god to you? Not that I don’t like where you’re going with your thinking…”
“I don’t know. I’ve seen so few gods.”
“No. I’m not a god. But I am… Joe Stufts!”
Nathan was unimpressed.
“You’ve seriously never heard of me? Joe Stufts, necromancer taxidermist? Are you new to town or something?”
“Yes,” Nathan said. “Yes, I am.”
“Fine. You want to play funny with me. That’s OK. Braucia Graeme. You know that name thou, don’t you? The Kiss of Death. The necromancer who wants you dead.”
“Dead?” Nathan said. “What did I do?”
“Well, you recall going to this little town called SMUGGLER SPEAK, right? The place where you ruined the plans of the Cult of Nobody and destroyed their CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION? Well, that little science project was a joint venture by B.O.B. and Thanatar. Did you know that?”
“I did not know that?”
“How did you beat the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION not knowing what you don’t know?
“Ignorance is bliss!” the cleric quipped. “I’m a happy man.”
“That’s really too bad,” Joe Stufts said, clucking his tongue. “See, I thought you were this big hero who could possibly help me, not this bumbling incompetent who can barely remember how to walk.”
Nathan Garney sniffed. “I remember how to walk.”
“Well, do you remember this creature?” He pointed toward the rib cage of some nameless creature, which served as a cage for a dwarf who had remained silent during their exchange.
“He looks familiar,” Nathan said. In truth, he recognized Odin Thunderhammer instantly.
“He should,” Joe said. “He was there with you in the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION when some of the members of Heroes Inc decided to be, you know, heroes. Of course, none of them ever made it into the song. Do you know what I’m talking about? Have you heard the song?”
Nathan sighed. “I’ve heard the song. The song about Weddumlir, right?”
“Want those monsters dead? Send in the Wedd… Really inspiring stuff. OK, here’s the haggle. The Kiss of Death wants me to give you the kiss of death. She wants you very… very dead and I… I am kind of obligated to let that happen. “
“That’s because yer evil!” Odin thundered from his bone cage.
“I take it you need me for something?” Nathan said, ignoring the dwarf.
“Yes, I do. Do you want to know why I became a necromancer? I hate people. I don’t like any kind of people. I don’t like orcs, elves, or dwarves… humans. I don’t like people.People suck. I like animals. It’s no secret that I like to mix and match the bodies a little bit, but I like animals And I have a gift! People come from all over the Seven to see my everchanging menagerie.” He sighed. “This brings me to my problem. I don’t suppose you’ve at least heard of Obscurus, my happy friend? My brother? The animancer?”
“OK, it’s like this. Everybody used to come to my shop, JOE STUFTS MAGICAL TAXIDERMY & PET SHOPPE to see my wonderful creations. But then… Then my brother goes and designs a spell that creates lesser abominations. No need to jigsaw creatures and bring them to life with necromancy. You can have the whole deal without the artistry or the work or the… the… what the’s word?”
“The ick!” Odin shouted.
“He’s going to drive me out of business!” He took a moment to calm himself. “But I made a deal with Thanatar. And Shettebrek. And I made a deal with Moriarty. And that’s coming along just fine, but then I got to thinking: They say with all this power I’ll have, no one will ever remember the name Obscurus. But I was thinking that if that spell never saw the light of day, I’d never have to compete with his fame. So what I need you to do,” he said, raising his hand and snapping his fingers, ” is to break into his tower and steal that spell before he has a chance to publish it and get famous off it.”
At this point two ogre sized skeletons stepped forward. Joe took a blowgun and a dart from them. “Now, here’s the deal. Hold very still.”
“I don’t want to hold very still.”
“It’s a part of the deal,” Joe said. Putting the blowgun to his lips, Joe sent a dart sailing across the room. It hit Nathan in the chest. “You’re now marked for assassination,” Joe said. “that’s what Braucia Graeme hired me to do. She wants you and your buddies all marked for assassination. We’ve hired the Red Circle to kill all of you. They’re really good at what they do. You won’t survive it. You’ve heard of the Red Circle at least, right?”
“Have you been living under a rock? Do I even have the right guy? Where have you been all this time?”
“Is the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION under a rock?” Nathan asked, hiding a smirk.
“It’s inside a dagger actually. What’s that got to do with anything? Listen up. I’m going to delay the dart’s magic for 24 hours, enough time for you and your band of heroes to fetch me that spell. You bring it back to me, I’ll reverse it. Since you’re probably going to need help, I’m going to send this creature with you,” he said, thumbing towards Odin.
“I am not a creature!” Odin shouted. “I am a dwarf!”
“In fact, I would love it if you’d take him off my hands,” Joe said. “He’s been similarly marked with the Red Circle‘s blessing and should have adequate motivation to assist you. One last thing: Tell anyone about this deal and I’ll kill you myself. Do we have an accord?”
Nathan Garney and Odin Thunderhammer reluctantly agreed, upon which point the dwarf was released from his cage.
“Excellent. The first thing you two will need to do is get back to the surface, a trek which shall be much easier to accomplish with my help. He snapped his fingers. The two ogre skeletons stepped forward. Each caused its own rib cage to burst open and beckoned for the human and dwarf to climb inside these respective cages. Seeing Nathan’s reluctance to take the proffered ride, the dwarf shrugged and said, “It’s not as bad as you think.”
Meanwhile, Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter, Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard, Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter continued their exploration of MIDDLEBOROUGH. Leaving CLERICAL ROW, they came to a small square where a gallows had recently been built. An angry mob dominated the scene. Several visible armbands and patches identified this crowd as being predominantly made up of Redforges, the group dedicated to eradicating magic and magic users from the Seven Worlds.
Skirting the edges of the crowd, they spotted a notice board papered with wanted papers. To his horror, Davroar spied his own face on the warrants; however, the name belonged to someone else. Apparently Davroar’s doppleganger, one Dudley Razorcape III, was wanted for seeding the magical plague amongst the populace, horse theft and for the “general defilement of dwarvenkind,” whatever that meant. The reward was posted at 200 gold. Another wanted poster showed the uncanny visage of Meldor Ironforge under another person’s name, charging him with the theft of “various turnips” in addition to the very charges “Dudley” was charged with. Acindor, Wedd and Thril all found their faces as well, all rendered with impossible accuracy under someone else’s name.
As they attempted to maintain a low profile and make their way along the outer edges of the mob, a guard posted in front of JOE STUFTS MAGICAL TAXIDERMY & PET SHOPPE took particular note of Davroar. “Hey there! Papers! Do you have your papers! You there! I need to see your papers.”
“You don’t need to see our papers.” Davroar said, waving his hand dramatically.
The guard frowned, waving another guard over to assist him. “Of course you do. Everybody is required to have their papers on them at all times. It’s the law. How did you even get into Farrago without papers? You can either produce your papers or you can spend the night in jail while we sort it out, funny guy.”
Davroar said a silent prayer to Moriarty and gazed upon the guards, willing them to fear him. One of the guards saw an image of his mother-in-law. The apparition scared him so badly that he ran into JOE STUFTS MAGICAL TAXIDERMY & PET SHOPPE to get away from it, in the process nearly bowling over Nathan Garney and Odin Thunderhammer who were exiting the shop. The other guard began screaming a warning as he ran, “Infected! They’re Infected! Run for your lives!”
The Redforge mob focused all of their hate and frenzied fear on the party, whom they presumed were now infected with the very magical plague which had sparked their entire movement. The adventurers began running as fast as they could, correctly reading their intent in the dread promise of the gallows behind them. The Redforges focused in particular upon the dwarves, whom they almost managed to grab. Weddumlir managed to keep out of their clutches but Odin and Meldor were forced to fight their way free for a moment.
As they approached the bridge to the next island, they spotted a red-robed wizard, who beckoned them to cross quickly. “Hurry, friends! Across the bridge!” There did not appear to be guards at the bridge and the buildings were larger and more luxurious.
For one dark moment, Davroar considered whether the bridge might not be a mimic, a reasonable concern in light of recent adventures.. The wizard urged them to duck into the first house on the left after they crossed. “You need to get out sight while you can!”
Nathan cast detect magic and noted that the door appeared to be magical, but the adventurers didn’t see where they had any choice but to follow the wizard’s advice. When they emerged on the other side, they were in a back alley, which was odd since they’d entered the front door of the building and never once saw the interior. The wizard immediately locked and warded the door.
“OK,” he said. “We should be safe for now, but you have to be more careful in the future. The Redforges do not care whether your power comes from the gods or the arcane. They want nothing less than the glory returned, by which they mean the end of all magic and its practitioners.”
“Tell us your name that we may thank you properly,” Davroar said.
“I have taken the name Fizzle,” he said. Seeing their expressions, he said, “I see the name is familiar to you. I took the upon the mantle of Fizzle upon meeting your friend. Fizzle the First spoke highly of you and of your deeds in the Temple of Wanjo. Twas the Fizzle Prime who saved me from a lynch mob when this Redforge nonsense first began. Were it not for him, I’d be feeding crows from the gallows. I am technically Fizzle the Fifth.”
“Is Fizzle still in town?” Acindor asked.
“Last I heard, he’d departed for the Green World of VIRIDI. That’s where he is now, provided he survived the passage through the ELDERWYLD.”
“Well, we appreciate your help,” Davroar said. “Where are we now?”
“You passed through a doorway from PENVENSIE ISLAND to CLAW ISLAND. This distresses you?” Fizzle the Fifth asked, noting their looks of aggravation and despair.
“We’re trying to reach the Market,” Acindor said.
“Oh. Well, you might try the ROSE COLISEUM. There is passage beneath which teleports vendors and their goods back and forth between the MARKET. You could also go back through the door here,” he said, “but I wouldn’t do that immediately. The guards will be looking for you.” He wrinkled up his nose. “one more thing: I would recommend that you check into a nearby inn and take a bath. You reek of the sewers. Any guard worth his salt knows about the shadow bridges and knows that anyone using those roads is probably up to no good. You need to keep a low profile.”
As they bid him adieu, he recommended a nearby establishment, the EXCELSIOR, but warned them against staring at the innkeep for too long.
Arriving at the EXCELSIOR, they were immediately struck by the fact that the establishment appeared to have been built from the shell of an old galleon. Entering the establishment, by the amber light of oil lanterns they saw that most of the clientele consisted of sailors and pirates. This includes a centaur pirate captain and a goblin cannoneer. The goblin was not Puddles. Two large minotaur played a game of checkers. One bore a wide grin while the other accused his comrade of cheating, loudly and often. A trio of highborn elves sat by themselves at a table, looking uncomfortable at their surroundings. A pair of feet stuck out from under a table. The other end snored loudly. Most of the others appeared to be locals, the sort who were there more out of habit than anything else.
They sat down at a table in the center of the room at the invitation of one of the barmaids. They could smell the smoke of pipe tobacco, the fire place and whatever tantalizing dishes were being prepared in the kitchen. Overall, it was lively but cozy nonetheless.
The centaur pirate captain was already arguing with the innkeep, who was hidden from view by his equine posterior. After ordering a round of drinks, they inquired about a room and a bath. As she left to get their tankards, Nathan spotted a coin on the floor. When he attempted to pick it up, but the coin sprouted teeth and attempted to bite his finger.
At this point, the snoring fellow beneath the table nearby woke up and said, “Sparky? Anybody seen my pet coin?” the Cuervos asked. Nathan grumpily pointed the avian toward his offensive pet.
As the barmaid brought the tankards back, they noticed that she had a bundle of tentacles in lieu of hands. They glanced at their drinks warily while she kept up a light banter, plying them for food and news from their journeys.
At last, the centaur left with an angry outburst. The two checker players leaped to their feet at his shouting. The pirates had the sense to calm down and leave without incident but the party heard the centaur grumble about the need to teach the innkeep a lesson in keeping his promises.
Otuk the Innkeep was a strange creature! Otuk seemed to be a toss between man-shaped coral and a bunch of tentacles. The reason for Fizzle the Fifth’s warning not to stare became immediately evident! He stroked his tentacle beard as he considered them. After a bit of haggling, they secured a room at a discount… with a catch that they must rid the room of a troll a previous tenant had brought into the establishment without telling him. The troll had murdered its master at some point in the middle of the night and Otuk was unable to rent it out until they could be rid of both the troll and its stench. Unfortunately, the troll was confidently entrenched and, as a result, Otuk had been forced to cancel the centaur pirate captain’s reservation, amongst others.
The party made quick work of the troll and settled down for the night.
A short trek through the CATACOMBS from the SEWER entrance led our adventurers to the OSSUARY OF THE MIDDLEBOROUGH INNOCENTS, where they found Killian Thanatar.
After Killian identified himself as the Ferryman, he asked 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 where they sought passage to.
After some discussion, they replied that they were looking for passage to the surface. When pressed for a more specific location, he was informed that they were trying to gain access to the MARKET, but were certainly trying to emerge anywhere outside of the SAINT ALBANS island quarantine zone. Killian warned them that several of the closest exits to the surface from the CATACOMBS and SEWERS were currently well guarded; however, he recommended an exit beneath the MIDDLEBOROUGH CHAPEL, unmarked on their sewer map, as their best bet.
They agreed and made their preparations to go.
“Before we go any further,” Killian asked, “I need to know if any of you carry silvered weapons? We are about to walk the paths of the dead and there is a necromancer who has been operating nearby. He may not be alone. A lot of the city’s magic users have been driven underground as of late. There’s a new movement at work in Farrago. You may have seen their sigil, a Dwarven bindrune combining the letters G and R. They do not like magic users, divine or arcane, largely due to the magical plague you’re trying to escape. shrugged. “This new plague is causing people to gain powers who should not have them and the Infected are creating havoc throughout Farrago. The disease only laster five days, but the power the Infected possess grows more dangerous as it runs its course. The movement whose graffiti you’ve seen was started around a rather persuasive dwarf named Tinker Redforge. The Redforges’ mantra is “The Glory Returned!” They suppose they are returning the Worlds to their former glory when, they say, magic did not yet exist. They are very dangerous.”
The Flight of the Dead
Just then they heard Nathan Garney cry out. “Guys, look out!”
They turned just in time to see the cleric being pulled into the OSSUARY wall by skeletal hands. The wall reformed itself a moment later. Before they could even register their shock, the bones lining the OSSUARY walls began to stir. In short order, the five skeletons had assembled themselves from the bones and skulls of the wall.
As the skeletons stepped toward them, Killian’s eyes narrowed. “”Which of you disturbed the shrine of Thanatar?” he accused.
“The very one they took,” Acindor replied grimly.
Killian nodded. “Follow me quickly and we may yet get out of this alive.”
As the left the OSSUARY, they came upon more traditional CATACOMB passages lined with alcoves where skeletal remains were laid in repose. As they passed by, the skeletons began rising from their resting places and reached out for them. In the next moments, they found themselves being hounded by ever-growing numbers of undead creatures.
Meldor began lagging behind, weighed down by the inconvenience of his wizardly robes. Truth be told he’d never been the most impressive physical specimen by dwarven standards and had chosen magic as a profession to compensate. Davroar stopped to say a prayer to Moriarty, then boldly raised his hand to command the undead to stop. He successfully caused several skeletons to leave off pursuit, but he was only able to buy them some more time.
Killian urged them to hurry. Meldor stumbled in his haste, allowing the skeletons to gain ground on him again. Davroar again turned the undead to buy them some more time. While they lost sight of Killian, they were able to figure out where he was by listening for his footsteps. Encouraged, Meldor dug in hard and caught up with the others.
At this point, the tunnels began descending. Unfortunately, this meant they were increasingly being submerged beneath water. Davroar cast a spell to allow the party to walk on water to prevent themselves from being slowed down by wading through it. Skeletons beneath the surface attacked them as they passed over, but only Wedd sustained any injuries. Davroar again prayed to Moriarty to turn their undead pursuers. The skeletons lead crumbled apart, their bones blocking the underwater passage and preventing further pursuit.
Their water walk enchantment made the rest of the trip through the CATACOMBS an easy stroll.
At last, they came to an ornate door, the MIDDLEBOROUGH CHAPEL’s basement access CATACOMBS. Killian met them at the door. Placing a finger to his lips, he handed them a note warning them not to make a the CHAPEL. He then vanished into mist, his job as Ferryman at an end.
They found the basement was bobbytrapped with an electrical trap, but they correctly figured out the trick to passing through safely. Making their way to the surface, they exited the CHAPEL and found themselves on the streets of Island of MIDDLEBOROUGH.
The cemetery they’d seen Shady Sam emerge from earlier sprawled out before them to the north.
A number of shops along the street catered to adherents of various deities. An armory dedicated to Baldnoggin and a thrift shop dedicated to B.O.B., god of death and lost items caught their eye. Meldor purchased a longsword at the armory. Wedd found a berserker hammer which struck his fancy.
Among these was a shop that stood apart from the rest: MORIARTY’S CHAOSIUM. The building appeared bloated, its walls bulging as if it were about to explode. One side of the shop had indeed been obliterated. Tentacles grew from the roof. A rather wild-haired, green-eyed hag-like creature stood in front of the shop, waving to passersby and shouting, “All hail, Moriarty! He cured my ugliness.” A priest of Moriarty sat at a table within, occasionally using a stick to beat the table whenever it tried to crawl away.
Davroar entered the CHAOSIUM, only to find that the interior of the shop seemed to be upside down compared to the rest of the world.
”Are you one of us?” the priest asked.
When Davroar replied in the affirmative, the priest ripped open his shirt and declared, “Then cast your Janusian Blessing upon me and I will cast mine upon you!”
Noting Davroar’s hesitation, he challenged, “Do you fear the chaos?”
”I serve the chaos; however, I am on a quest for Moriarty.”
”Ah, you seek the Chaos Hammer. The Chaos Hammer has not been found for many years. They say it will only be granted by Moriarty to the most chaotic of his servants. By the way, do you like the shop?”
“It’s… impressive,” Davroar said politely.
“Don’t use the lavatory. The receptacle has sprouted teeth.”
“I see.” Davroar sighed. “It’s not as impressive as some of the things I have done in Moriarty’s name. Perhaps you have heard of the deeds which were recently done at Smuggler Speak?”
“A champion of Moriarty! I have heard of these deeds. You must be the one they call Weddumlir Aleshield! Well met! It is an honor to have such a hero here in this shop!”
“Cease your prattling!”
“There is no need for false humility, Weddumlir. Such chaos you rendered in our good lord’s name! Moriarty is honored by your great deeds and renown.”
“There are many falsehoods in those tales.”
“Nonsense! The unbelievers must know! Our hero’s here! Weddumlir!”
“That’s it! Ready your Janusian Blessing, blasphemer!”
Curiously, when they cast their Janusian Blessing at each other, nothing happened for the spells cancelled one another out.
“I have been blessed by Weddumlir, the mighty hero of Moriarty!” the priest crowed.
“My name is Davroar Hollysword, servant of Moriarty.” He pulled back his sleeve to show off a tattoo which read, “All hail, Moriarty!”
“Of course,” the priest said. “How silly of me. Let it be known to all who hear that Weddumlir, hero of Moriarty, now goes by the name of Davroar, for confusion’s sake!”
Though vexed, Davroar nevertheless inquired of his wares and was offered a Potion of Chaos. The liquid in the bottle never quite settled on a color, viscosity or temperature for more than a few seconds. He was assured that when someone drank the potion, the results were completely unpredictable. The results could be extremely good or bad. After some haggling, Davroar purchased the potion.
As Davroar bid adieu, the priest cried, “Drinks are on the house!” and took a swig of a Potion of Chaos and polymorphed into a houseplant. Moments later, the CHAOSIUM imploded.
Next they came to a shop dedicated to Hero.
”Welcome to HERO’S EMPORIUM OF AWESOMENESS!” a golden bust of Hero announced.
Acindor asked the establishment sold any magical items, to which the golden bust informed him that they sold many wondrous items discovered amid the adventures of the members of Adventure Inc. “For example, would you be interested in a magical key of opening?”
But when Acindor said he was interested, the bust of Hero asked Davroar to produce his magical key of opening so that Acindor might inspect it for sale. He demurred.
The golden bust then offered them various other items in the possession of Adventure Inc (which is to say, items they already possessed), before admitting that the shop chiefly sold information. He did let slip that the Sword of Heroes was in the god’s possession but not yet available to his followers.
After a suitable bribe, the bust informed Acindor that B.O.B. had marked him along with Thril and Davroar for death for his betrayal in the Chamber of Corruption, informed Meldor that he’d been marked for death by the Redforges for the audacity of being both a dwarf and a wizard, and informed Wedd that no one liked his song. He also sold Acindor and Meldor daggers of return (also known as boomerang dagger). He also warned them that chosen Champions of the probable forthcoming contest at the Rose Coliseum should be on their guard for zealots looking to take competitors out of play.
They bid the surrogate proprietor good day and exited the EMPORIUM, a feeling of unease settling into their bones.
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.”