Now armed with silvered weapons, Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter, Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty, Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard, Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter made plans to visit the section of the TEMPLE MINES where River Hopfoot’s map indicated they’d find the mushrooms and still requested by Azrael the Apothecary.
As Acindor surveyed the darkness around them, he noticed several stalagmites as he had before. He grew up in a mining family so he knew there weren’t supposed to be stalagmites in a working mine. Furthermore, he noted that the apparent rock formations weren’t where he spotted them yesterday. They were much closer — and there were more of them! He immediately realized he might be looking at a bunch of ravenous ropers.
Warning the others quickly, the party quickly surveyed their options. The tunnel to the north was blocked by a cave in to keep out the ghouls. The way behind them was blocked by lava flows. The way to the south and east were blocked by ropers. They reasoned that they might be able to escape by making a break for it with the handcar but worried that a roper blocking the track might prove too tough a barrier for their vehicle. Still, it was their best shot if they didn’t want to fight a horde of ropers at an extreme disadvantage!
Hoping to give them an edge, Davroar got the bright idea to cast a light spell on the handcar. As light spilled into the mines, the ostensible stalagmites cried out with cawing noises and each of them transformed back into Cuervos.
To the adventurers surprise, the Cuervos were unabashedly thrilled to see them.
“I told you they weren’t!” one of the Cuervos cried between excited crows. “They’re not zombies. They’re alive! We’re saved!”
On their leader’s cue, the Cuervos ran to the handcar. Davroar drew his mace, just in case it was an ambush.
“You have to get us out of here!” the Cuervos begged. “This place is swarming with the undead. It’s horrible! Why are you here?”
“We’re actually just on our way in,” Acindor said. “Care to join us?”
“No! Gods, no!”
“Suit yourself, Acindor said. ”What can you tell us about where we’re going so that we can be prepared?”
“Oh, that’s really simple. You’ve heard of Shettebrek, yes? You’ve heard of B.O.B.? Yes? Well, fear and death are the only things that remains in these MINES. Now listen here,” the Cuervos said. “We serve Hrafnagud and let me tell you, the Trickster God has nothing to do with whatever’s going on here. We’re getting out!”
“We would really appreciate anything you could tell us that might help us ahead,” Davroar pressed. “We know the safe way out. We’d be willing to tell you the way for some information.”
The Cuervos glanced at his comrades. “We’d be willing to trade for that shiny cart of yours.”
“Absolutely not,” Davroar said, “but we can tell you where to go to avoid the zombies that want to eat your brains for breakfast. That should be more than sufficient to trade for any information you might have that could help us on our quest.”
“Breakfast? That’s oddly specific. Is it morning? We’ve been down here so long… We just came from TYRAN FIRION. Barely got out with our lives. We were investigating the Cult of Nobody. You heard of them? Well, they don’t anything to do with us. Everybody thinks all Cuervos are part of that cult now. That cult is bad and what they’re up to in TYRAN FIRION is bad, but we didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Do you know who is behind it then?” Acindor asked.
“Not yet,” the Cuervos admitted. “The problem is that my species are shapeshifters and we tend to change names and aliases a lot. We can’t unravel who is behind it yet, which is why we’re sure it’s another Cuervos.”
“Is there anything you might tell us about your kind that might tip us off as to whether they are Cuervos ahead of time?” Davroar asked.
“I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you that nobody in the Cult of Nobody has a name. Except their leaders. Everyone else is named Nobody. They take an oath to call themselves Nobodies, so if you run across a Cuervos and they won’t tell you their name, they’re probably Nobodies.”
Davroar nodded and gave them directions to leave the MINES by the path the adventurers had entered, warning them not to stop by the OFFICE lest they encounter more parchment golem.
The Cuervos perked up at the mention of the golem. “Those are the work of a logomancer. We ran into some of these parchment golem back in TYRAN FIRION. I’ve very troubling under the circumstances. You know what they say? Logomancy is one step away from eldermancy.”
“What is eldermancy?” Davroar asked.
“You don’t know about eldermancy? It’s the magic of the gods,” the Cuervos said. “The power to be a god, control a god or even kill a god.”
“I see,” Davroar said. “I have another word for that: wrong. If I meet an eldermancy, he and my god will have something to say to him.”
“And who is your god?” the Cuervos asked.
“All hail Moriarty,” Davroar said.
The Cuervos took a step back. “You serve the new strange gods. We are thankful for your aid, but I am compelled to warn you that if we meet outside these MINES, we are honor bound to kill you.”
”I will enjoy making your deaths painful,” Davroar said. “On your way.”
The Forge Tunnel Line
After the Cuervos departed, the party loaded aboard the handcar and made their way east down the Forge Tunnel Line.
Along the way, they noted a short tunnel on the left with a door. They stopped to investigate and found that a piton had been driven into the ground to prevent the door from being opened, keeping whatever was on the other side contained. They reasoned that it had probably been blocked by the goblin miners, Hedd and Not-Hedd and their cohorts, to keep out the ghouls.
Further down the tunnel, they passed two more short tunnels. The first was empty but the second contained a giant spider looming over a freshly made web cocoon containing a humanoid figure.
After a brief skirmish, the spider fled along the ceiling. Overcome with arachnophobia, Weddumlir refused to give chase. In fact, he was already headed for the handcar, intent on a hasty flight. Meldor on the other hand followed it and found that it had escaped through a large hole in the ceiling above the barricaded door they’d passed. Since they could do nothing else, they turned their attention to the spider’s intended victim, which was thrashing around desperately to free itself.
Acindor cut the webbing from its mouth to allow it to breathe; however, he almost lost his fingers in the process for he’d freed the sharp-toothed mouth of a ghoul! They quickly dispatched the foul undead creature before it could scream a warning to its coven.
Realizing that if one ghoul had made it past the defenses of the goblin miners, others might also be around, they proceeded with caution.
The Blocked Passage
Reaching the round table at End of the tunnel, they found the way north via the LOW NOTE TUNNEL partially blocked by a cave in.
Meldor realized that there might be a path through. Treading carefully, he threaded through the rubble, calling back to the others to watch out for a soft spot in the floor along the first stretch and a loose ceiling on the second.
Thril Wolfsbane followed next, discovering the hard way that the “soft spot” Meldor mentioned was a half-buried ghoul. The ghoul lashed out and raked the elf with its claws before the latter could think to get away. Nevertheless, he ultimately managed to escape the pinned ghoul and joined Meldor on the other side, shouting a warning to the others as he fled.
Davroar Hit the undead creature with sacred flame, cowing it somewhat.
Wedd stepped forward to dispatch the ghoul with his axe but, still shaken from his encounter with the spider, he overreached. His axe bounced off the top of the opening through the rubble. As the weapon rebounded off stone, he was clocked by his axe’s handle, knocking him on his back. The trapped ghoul attempted to grab Wedd’s ankle but Acindor tugged him out of harm’s way; it reacted to the loss of its prey with piercing screams.
The ghoul’s screams were answered by howls from further south along the LOW NOTE TUNNEL.
Nathan Garney cast sacred flame at the trapped ghoul but the answering screams distracted him, diminishing the effectiveness of his spell. Fortunately, Davroar was able to silence it for good. Of course, the damage was already done. Two more ghouls could be heard scampering up the tunnel toward them as fast as they could, their inhuman claws skittering on the stone floor.
Nathan Garney made his way through the partially blocked tunnel while the others guarded his retreat. Unfortunately, he reached out to a steady himself on a part of the passage that was unstable, resulting in a shift in the rubble. He suffered only minor scrapes and was relieved to note that the tunnel remained passable.
Meanwhile, the ghouls leapt over the glowing handcar but the passage over blinded them somewhat, allowing the party the opportunity to get in the first strike as the ghouls got their bearings. Their first attacks were successful in instilling the undead creatures with caution. This resulted in a standoff of quick feints and dodges between Acindor, Wedd and the ghouls until Davroar intervened in this fool’s match, killing one of them. Wedd hit the remaining ghoul hard enough to cause it to stagger back, heavily wounded. The lone ghoul licked its lips, its eyes flicking between the party members before leaping back over the glowing handcar and retreating into the darkness.
After waiting to see if the ghoul would return, perhaps with some of its allies, Davroar, Wedd and Acindor made their way through the passage to the other side. Unfortunately, Acindor managed to try to steady himself on the same spot the other clumsy human had had trouble. While he made it through, the passage shifted and closed off behind him, trapping them on the other side.
It was now pitch black for the humans, except for a soft purplish glow that emanated from the second passage on the left from time to time.
Drawing their torches, they quickly lit them up and surveyed the tunnel ahead. As they passed the first intersection, they noted the eyes of a giant spider, presumably the same one they’d encountered earlier, reflected in the torchlight far, far down the tunnel. It watched them balefully but did not move.
At the second intersection, they peered down a passage to the west identified as the TYRAN FIRION LINE TUNNEL on Nathan Garney’s map. The tunnel was filled with mushrooms. In evidence were wooden buckets and crates that were once used top harvest the mushrooms, but these were lying neglected and the mushrooms had apparently grown unchecked. They could also see a handcar sitting at the round table intersection of the TYRAN FIRION LINE and MID NOTE TUNNELS. Further down the line, they could see the glow of lava.
As they turned their attention to the north, they could make out where the LOW NOTE TUNNEL ended. River Hopfoot’s map indicated that the still Azrael the Alchemist had sent them after was located in a short tunnel near the end of the line. The screams of ghouls could be heard from a longer tunnel near just before the still tunnel; however, Davroar’s elven ears could tell that the ghouls were on a different level.
Nathan and Acindor joined Davroar as he made his way to the still. Peering down the tunnel from which the ghoul screams were heard, they could see a hole near the tunnel’s end lit by an orange glow, perhaps by lava. The shadows of ghouls danced on the tunnel wall.
Proceeding further north, they found the still. Dividing it into three sections, they each picked up a section and turned around to take their prize back to the others.
A lone ghoul stood looking at them, looking just as stunned to see them as they were to see it. each set their section of the still down carefully. The ghoul lashed out at Davroar but he was able to dodge aside with elven grace. The trio finished it off quickly before it could sound the alarm.
Rejoining the group, they made their way along the rail track to the intersection of the MID NOTE TUNNEL and the TYRAN FIRION LINE, where they loaded the still onto the waiting handcar. As they surveyed the mushrooms and considered best how to harvest them, they noted sticky rust-colored places where blood had been spilled. The bodies were missing, having either been eaten by ghouls or raised as ghouls themselves.
They also noted that the tracks headed west stretched out over a lake of lava. In fact, the next round table was resting on a plinth of rock in the middle of the subterranean lake of lava. To the north, they noted that a cave in had blocked off their access to the PULLEY WORKS. The south tunnel of the MID NOTE TUNNEL back to the FORGE was, of course, also blocked.
With few options for escape, the players hoped to complete their shopping list for the SKY BAZAAR merchants of SMUGGLER SPEAK before the ghoul horde in the tunnels below them became aware of their presence.
The relatively short flight aboard the Luckless ended very near the site where the adventurers had exited the TEMPLE PRISON and made their way down to the TIDELANDS.
A set of railway tracks led out of a tunnel sitting twenty feet or so above the beach sand. The tracks ended at the cliff’s edge, the trellis which once bore carts to and from the MINES having now fallen into the marshy waters below. The ruins of the trellis looked like a good place for an ambush, so they were glad they were arriving by airship rather than by land.
Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter, Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty, Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard, Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter exited the Luckless and steeled their resolve as they faced the MINE ENTRANCE. They tried to ignore the sneering look of vengeful delight in the eyes of Puddles the Goblin Cannoneer as the airship departed. After gathering their bearings by the map River Hopfoot the War’tode Rogue had drawn for them from memory, they headed into the tunnel. River had been kind enough to circle the places they’d said they needed to go to in order to gather theRiver had been kind enough to circle the places they’d said they needed to go to on the map.
The MINES were lit with electric lights similar to those they’d encountered in SMUGGLER SPEAK. The light was brighter in the main tunnel, but the light in the north tunnel eventually faded into darkness. They decided to take the brighter path, intending to head to the OFFICE to retrieve the reams of parchment requested by Fizwick’s Fantasticals and then north to retrieve silver bars to seal their bargain with Gunny Saks..
As they made their way forward, they heard voices.
Hedd and Not-Hedd
“Don’t do that. Don’t light that here. What is wrong with you?” someone hissed. “Have you lost your mind? Do you know where we’re at?” The voice immediately then shushed his apparent comrade.
The voices seemed to be coming from behind a door to a room labeled with three Xes on River’s map.
As they approached the door, they heard the voice again. “Shush! I hear something. Don’t light that.” The voice had an unmistakable goblin accent.
After a quick conference, they decided to flank the door while Weddumlir knocked.
The knock resulted in panicked commotion. “Stop it! Put that out! I told you not to light that! Shush! I think They heard us! Would you put that out, Not-Hedd!”
“Let me in,” Weddumlir ventured. “It’s me.”
“Don’t do it, Not-Hedd,” the voice protested. “It could be the wight.” Then to the adventurers, the speaker bellowed, “We’re not coming out there. Ya hear me? We’ll blow yer bits all the way to the Pandemonium!”
“We’re here to help,” Weddumlir said. “Let us in if you want help.”
“Hedd, I don’t think that’s the wight. A wight wouldn’t offer to help,” Not-Hedd said from behind the door.
“Not-Hedd, yer a fool! Them wights would say anything to get us to open that door,” Hedd scolded.
“We can’t stay in here… I’m hungry,” Not-Hedd said.
The door opened slowly, revealing two goblin miners. One held a lit candle threateningly near the fuse of a stick of dynamite. ”Stand back!” Hedd reminded them.
Not-Hedd held another stick of dynamite. He jabbed it toward them, heedless of how close his gestures brought it to the candle’s open flame. “You better listen to him! We’re serious!”
Hedd’s eyes widened. He swatted Not-Hedd back. “Get that boom stick out of here! You’re gonna hurt somebody.” Turning his attention back to the adventurers, he shouted, “Back!”
“Stop that,” Acindor said. “We’re here to help you. We’re here to protect you from the undead.”
Hedd scoffed. “Can’t nobody do that. We done lost three or four good men just in the last day. They ain’t no fighting them. We’re getting outta here and if I was you, I’d do the very same!”
“We are willing to let you go. The way out is clear ahead,” Davroar said, “but first we need some information.”
Hedd’s eyes narrowed. “How much you willing to pay fer this information?”
“Do you want to get out of here?” Davroar growled.
“Oh, I’m getting outta here. And you’re either getting outta here in one piece or several,” the goblin said with a mad grin, inching the boom stick closer to the flame.
“Well, there’s seven of us and two of you,” Davroar pointed out.
“An’ there’s one stick of dynamite and that’s all that matters,” Hedd replied.
“Be reasonable,” Davroar said. “You mentioned the undead. Are there any other creatures we need to be concerned about in these MINES?”
“What about the tunnel we passed back there that leads north?”
“We blocked that off,” Hedd said, “on account of the ghouls.”
“So there are ghouls.”
“Yessir, thar’s ghouls and the wight. And since we lost a few guys, there’s probably zombies by now. Wights like to raise ‘em as zombies.”
“What about the OFFICE?”
“The one just past the BUNKS.”
“You mean the SECTION OFFICE. I don’t know. We ain’t been in there. We wasn’t even of a mind to go anywhere near it. We was getting out and nothing else!”
“What about the FORGE?”
“You can get to the FORGE. Not sure I’d recommend it. We collapsed the tunnels to keep out the ghouls but that’s a pace beyond the FORGE.”
“OK then,” Davroar said. “One last thing and I’ll let you go. I want to know if you’ll give me one of those boom sticks for 9 gold pieces?”
“You wanna trade a stick fer 9 gold?”
“Nine gold for one of your boom sticks and information on any more we might find nearby,” Davroar amended.
The goblin snickered. “I’ll give you the stick and the information you seek just as soon as the coin is in my hand and we’re past you lot.”
“Not-Hedd, give him your boom stick.”
As Not-Hedd and Davroar made the exchange, the former laughed. “Nine gold! He’s an idiot. Shucks, but thar’s a whole room of these behind just free fer the taking.”
“Shuddup!” Hedd snapped. “We’re gonna leave now.”
“It’s your lucky day,” Davroar said. “Be safe and begone.”
“It is our lucky day,” Hedd catcalled as he and his friend made a dash for the exit. “We’re finally getting outta here! The nightmare is over! Yer the fools a-going in!”
After they watched the goblin miners leave, they turned their attention to the room they’d been in. True to Not-Hedd’s boast, the room was full of boom sticks; however, they noted that much of it was slick and greasy.
Nathan Garney sighed deeply. “That is old and unstable.”
Nevertheless, Davroar did manage to spy out two more usable boom sticks.
From the XXX ROOM, they proceeded further down the tunnel to the OFFICE to secure the parchment requested by Fizwick’s Fantasticals.
The edges of the door glowed softly as if a fire were somewhere on the other side, perhaps from a fireplace on the other side of the room. Opening the door, they realized that the glow was coming from a large reservoir of lava. It looked like the back wall had been shorn away during an earthquake or similar disaster, revealing the lake of lava that adjoined the OFFICE.
Nathan, Wedd and Acindor entered the room while the others kept watch outside. Despite the heat, two long tables were filled with loose parchment and log books. It was in the latter that they read the disappointing news that the shipment of parchment for Fizwick’s Fantasticals had been delayed back at the MAIN OFFICE. A large wall map indicated that the MAIN OFFICE was located at the end of a long rail line to the west in FYRAN TYRION.
As Nathan Garney attempted to grab the map for future reference, he leaned over the table, awakening a half dozen Parchment Golem.
After a brief skirmish in which Davroar felt compelled to come to their assistance, they successfully vanquished the Parchment Golem; however, there seemed to be no particular reason for the presence of the menacing constructs. Collecting the map, they proceeded north along the tracks to the Forge via a handcar.
Along the way, they noticed a few stalagmites in an area that had been mined off the main tunnel. Acindor was instantly wary. His family came from a mining tradition and he knew that there shouldn’t be stalagmites in a mine.
They found the FORGE, formerly fired by a lava tube ingeniously designed for such service, had been damaged by whatever cataclysm had torn out the back wall of the OFFICE. Lava flows now blocked the other end of the tunnel the FORGE rested along. To the north, they could plainly see where the miners had collapsed the tunnels to prevent the ghouls.
The silver bars lay in a neat stack, as promised. With their backs to the lava at the west end of the FORGE TUNNEL, they decided that they should take some of the bars and melt them down to silver their weapons to make them more effective against the promised undead. Finding the necessary equipment intact, Meldor Ironforge set himself to the task at hand. The others took turns either aiding him per his instructions or taking their posts at watch.
The sounds of their industry did not go unnoticed.
Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter, Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty, Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard, Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter followed the robed representative of SMUGGLER SPEAK through the gated TOWER KEEP to a long suspension bridge on the other side. To their surprise, it felt as solid as if they were walking on solid ground rather than bending and swaying with the wind. Yet what captured their attention was the SKY BAZAAR it led to. The space before them in the clouds seems filled with platforms, homes and shops suspended from balloons and zeppelins. These were connected to one another via suspension bridges. Balloons, zeppelins and airships of other sorts also made port at this location.
After The representative made good on her promised reward of a king’s ransom as reward for ridding the holy site of B.O.B.’s corruption, dispersed to explore the SKY BAZAAR ‘s eclectic shops.
The main platform they’d been led to, dubbed the FREEMARKET PLATFORM, was dominated by a large statue of Everly in the center. Ridley and Ridley were represented as halves of a whole facing in opposite directions, as was common. Two holy kiosks flanked the statue, one to Everly and the other to Wanjo, lord of all Caeruleum. There were also two suspension bridges leading to shops and homes to the south and east respectively. There were also four shops moored at the FREEMARKET PLATFORM, though the presence of empty sign placards and mooring posts elsewhere around their perimeter of the platform let them know that the platform could afford more such shops. The placards read “Azrael the Apothecary,” “Gunny S aks,” “Fizwick’s Fantasticals,” and “Oola,” the latter’ s first letter formed into a stylized eye.
Azrael the Apothecary
Davroar made a beeline for the apothecary. Azrael was dressed in robes that immediately reminded the Cleric of Moriarty of the Grim Reaper. A mask obscured his face. The shop’s shelves were lined with various potions.
“Sir, I am need of healing potions,” Davroar ventured. “What do you have in stock that I may peruse this fine day?”
“You look like someone who is not in need of healing potions,” Azrael said. “You seem quite healthy.”
“That is my business, sir, but I do wish to keep those I am traveling with as healthy as I now appear.”
Shrugging, Azrael listed off his prices. “We have several strengths of healing potion available. Sadly, the strongest version is not available because I require certain ingredients from the MINES and, as you know, they have been closed. And this is unfortunate because sometimes these potions are the difference between success and death.”
“I will hear of your remaining inventory nevertheless.”
“As you wish. Our standard healing potion costs 50 gold pieces. Our potion of greater healing is 100 gold. And of course alas we do not have the potion of superior ‘ healing but it is normally sold for 400 gold.” Azrael sighed. “I will admit that I would gladly knock 100 gold off that price to someone who was willing to to go to the MINES to fetch my necessary ingredients.”
“I will keep that in mind should my adventures take me to the MINES,” Davroar said.
Azrael shrugged. “One would not want to go out of their way to the MINES these days, I would imagine. Do any of these potions interest you?”
“Then what would you be purchasing today?”
“Good sir, I am in need of several potions. Unfortunately, your prices are a bit… unattainable for a man of the cloth such as myself; however, I do have items we could potentially trade in addition to some coin. Are you open to such an arrangement?”
The apothecary crossed his arms. “That would depend upon the items.”
Davroar drew forth the tapestries he’d taken from the TEMPLE OF WANJO from his pack and unfurled them. “I present to you two fine tapestries, portraits of one of the kings and queens of the War’todes.” Seeing that Azrael did not appear to be quite impressed enough, the cleric also drew forth two gems to sweeten the pot.
Azrael leaned over the tapestries. Several lenses snapped into place via the mechanized mask. “These once belonged to the TEMPLE OF WANJO. Are you a thief?” The question was almost a sharp accusation.
“No, sir. These came into my possession through my adventures.”
“Oh? So they were given to you?”
“That sounds correct.”
Azrael snorted. “You cannot fool someone who wears a Mask of Unusual Insight. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I won’t call the Temple guards because it is obvious that these have been magically altered and so you might not know their proper significance since they bear the visage of War’todes rather than their rightful subject matter. I will take them off your hands for 10 gold apiece in the hopes that returning them to the TEMPLE will get Wanjo’s clerics off my back about that tithe I owe. As for the gems, I will give you 5 gold apiece for them.”
“I will take 15 for both gems, which you may take off the price of a standard healing potion, but I will keep the tapestries,” Davroar countered. “Obviously, I meant no ill will or disrespect for the offering made in ignorance of their true significance.”
“As you wish,” Azrael said. “Can I interest you in any of my other potions?”
Davroar politely asked after a potion of flying but found the price too steep. He bid the apothecary adieu. The apothecary stared after him, his face unreadable beneath the Mask of Unusual Insight.
For his part, Acindor was interested in weapons. Upon entering the establishment called Gunny Saks, he was accosted by a halfling, who greeted him brusquely. “What’s your order?”
“What do you have on special today?” Acindor asked, his eyes scanning the strange shop. The walls of the shop were lined with some sort of metallic sheeting presumably meant to protect the shop and the balloon it sat upon from the heat of the forge that dominated the center of the shop. All manner of handheld weapons lined the walls on racks. Halfling weapon smiths manned the forge bellows, hammered out blades on anvils and polished finished weapons in a constant state of busy-ness.
“Special?? Everything here is special! Are you implying that some of our stuff isn’t special? That some of it is mundane or ordinary? Have you never been to a Gunny Saks before? We even have Saks on Fifth Avenue in Farrago!”
“My apologies,” Acindor said. “I’ve never been to a Gunny Saks before. Can I ask you about this strange metal fabric that lines the walls of this establishment?”
The halfling scoffed. “Not for sale!”
“I was only wondering what it is.”
“Oh,” the halfling said. He smiled for the first time. “It’s made from the stomach lining of a terrasque. It can take a lot. Even the heat of our forge is fully absorbed. Now, that’ll be five gold pieces.”
“Five gold pieces?”
“For the question. Pay up or get out.”
“Ok,” Acindor said. “I’ll pay you five gold pieces. That was pretty good information. Do you have any magical weapons or any weapons which might give me an advantage in battle.”
“Does this look like Fizwick’s Fantasticals? We make good, solid weapons. The most magical thing you’ll find in here is a mace made of iron, useful if you’re going up against a demon for example, or silvered weapons — well, we had those until recently. We’re out of silver and in fact we’re looking for someone willing to go into the TEMPLE MINES and fetch the silver bars we need for that because we’re pretty sure there’s going to be a big demand for silvered weapons in the near future. You know there’s rumors of an undead wave a-coming out of that MINE, don’t you?”
“What? Undead wights?”
“I said wave. An undead wave. Are you saying wights are involved? Huh. That’s good information,” he said, handing Acindor five gold pieces for it.
“So where is this MINE?” Acindor asked.
The halfling held out his hand expectantly.
Acindor tightened his fist around the five gold pieces he’d just received in payment. “If you want that silver, I think it’s a reasonable question.”
The halfling grinned ear to ear. “Oh! I like a body who likes to bargain. The MINES are back towards the TEMPLE, only instead of taking a left, you take a right. Now, it used to be easier to get to, by the way, but then that earthquake happened when that killer comet came down and blasted everything. We lost most of FYRAN TIRION when that happened and now they’re calling that particular city the CITY OF THE DEAD.” He paused. “You know, that might be where those undead are coming from? What do you think?”
“That sounds about right. If the gods favor us, maybe when our paths cross again I’ll have a gift of silver for you,” Acindor ventured. “How beneficial would a silvered weapon be to me If I ventured into this CITY OF THE DEAD?”
“Well, it depends on the type of undead you’re dealing with,” the halfling said. “If it were a ghoul, well, you’d just have to return its soul to Umbra the hard way. However if you were dealing say a wraith or a wight, such a weapon would come in handy. Of course, silvered weapons are also useful against lycanthrope. We could silver your longsword easily if we but had the silver.”
“That is good information. Thank you.”
“Five gold pieces.”
”You can take that off my account when I bring the silver back,” Acindor said.
“Oh, so you’re going into the MINES then? You’re going to commit to it?”
“I have to talk to the rest of my party, but it should not be very difficult to convince them.”
“Well, tell them this: If you and your party can commit to it, Gunny Saks will arrange to provide you with a Tethered Sack of Holding. You can’t just use it like a regular Sack of Holding. Everything you put in it, goes straight into the smelter. I wouldn’t jump in the sack if I were you. I had a guy try to use it to hide from his enemies and, well, he got melted along with the metal. It’s a very painful way to go. I do not recommend it. If you’re trying to go straight to B.O.B., that’s a good way to do it!” he joked grimly. “Now here’s how it works. You go to the mines with the Bag. You put the silver bars in the bag, which will go straight to our smelter. When you return, we’ll not only sell you the silvered weapons, we’ll sell you an untethered Bag of Holding for your troubles. If you’re interested in that sort of thing?”
“You know, I’m pretty sure my party will go for this.”
“We do need the silver sooner rather than later because, well, undead wave. Now I’m in a balloon shop, so I’m gonna be okay for a while but these other buggers around here, the War’todes, the tidal elves and goblins, and all the rest… they’re dead meat. And they might be undead meat by the time it’s all over!”
“Let’s do this,” Acindor said. “I’ll take your Tethered Bag of Holding and you watch for the silver bars to come your way.”
“That sounds fine. can you get it to me within a tenday?”
“That should be fine.”
Taking the Tethered Bag of Holding, Acindor left the shop.
Meldor managed to find a serviceable battle axe to replace the weapon he’d lost in SMUGGLER SPEAK, though he was reluctant to admit to its quality seeing as it wasn’t made by dwarves forgemasters.
Coming into the shop on their heels, Davroar inquired as to whether they had crossbow bolts, but was informed that they only made handheld simple and martial weapons.
After they left Gunny Saks, most of the party made their way to Fizwick’s Fantasticals. A tabaxi stood outside the shop, pawing at the bell over the shop door. Noticing them, she stopped as said, “Oh! Customers? Who needs a spell scroll?”
“What would I need with a spell scroll?” Acindor asked.
“They’re not just for spellcasters,” Fizwick’s said. “Fighters can use them too. Each scroll contains a single spell which may be used once, after which it disintegrates into a shower of glitter! I love glitter!”
”What kind of spells do you have?” Acindor asked.
“I have lots of spells. I may have every spell. At least, I potentially have every spell. I will have to say that right now I don’t have any spells above the second level because I’m missing my special parchments. They were locked in the MINE offices and, of course, you know about the undead infestation they’re experiencing now. Of course, the only real limitation beyond that is the amount of coin you possess. The bigger the spell, the mightier the cost. What kind of spell are you interested in?”
“We happen to be heading into the MINES on other business,” Acindor said. “How many spells will you give us if we fetch some of these special parchments for you?”
The tabaxi considered this. “It would depend on the quality of the parchment. If the parchment is molded, I can’t use it. If you bring me parchment of Utility, I will give you a spell level for every for each sheath. If I were you, I would bring along some sort of cart or other way to carry it.”
“Is there a shop elsewhere in the SKY BAZAAR that you would recommend we buy a cart from?”
“I really have no idea,” Fizwick said with a shrug. “The SKY BAZAAR is totally bizarre. There are different shops moored here every time you visit. There’s usually quite a bit more than this. Until recently, there was no point in coming at all! But now the Corruption has left SMUGGLER SPEAK and I dare say business will be brisk from here on out, especially because they can’t get some of the things they used to get from the TEMPLE and FYRAN TIRION.”
“Do you sell any other magical items here? Magical weapons perhaps?” Davroar asked.
“The only other thing we have here is a Star Sapphire, but you know the value on those. I can’t find a buyer for the market rate of 1000 gold pieces, although I do have more people asking about it nowadays.”
“Can we see it?”
“I’m afraid not. It’s sealed away with powerful anti theft magic. If even I looked at it, I’d be under the curse too. They say there’s another one in SMUGGLER SPEAK but I’ve never seen it personally. All the others I know of are in the TEMPLE OF WANJO, guarded by Ipsimus and other fell monsters.”
Meldor decided to purchase a thunderwave spell scroll to test the tabaxi’ s wares.
Seeing as the party intended to go to the MINES, Davroar decided to return to the apothecary to see which ingredients he needed for his Healing Potions.
Nathan Garney presented himself at the sacred kiosk of Everly and greeted the acolyte stationed there. Momentarily confused by the kiosk, he asked whether this was the Temple of Everly.
“No, I’m glad you asked. This is one of our official temple kiosks. The actual Temple is back on Everly’s world, on Viridi. If only we could re-open the Water Portal and re-establish our link to Farrago, you could make your way to the Green World and see it for yourself. It’s lovely! Made completely from plants. Just wonderful to behold! Of course, you know that already.”
The attendant sighed and leaned in toward Nathan. “Can I level with you? Somebody needs to open that Water Portal and soon! We’re hearing some really bad things are happening back on Viridi and things are getting worse here. Wanjo’s clerics are out of their minds with worry. Their god is missing. They’re even offering a reward to anyone who can re-open the Water Portal and take a message back to Sophia Pallas, the head cleric back in Farrago. Wanjo isn’t the only god who is missing either.” His expression darkened further. “Ridley is missing. We fear he may have suffered the same fate as Wanjo.”
“I may have some information on that actually,” Nathan said. He then briefly told the other cleric of his adventures in SMUGGLER SPEAK, producing the sacred pitcher of Ridley as proof.
“The tale you tell has the ring of truth. I have heard this tale being sang in Hogfeathers. ‘Want those monsters dead? Wedd ‘em dead!’ If you have rid SMUGGLER SPEAK of the curse of corruption as you say, you must be Weddumlir Aleshield!”
“You’re not Wedd? We’ve heard the song. ’Put this whole quest to bed. Send in the Wedd!‘ It’s quite catchy.”
“No, I’m Nathan Garney.”
“The song doesn’t mention you.”
“I think someone took credit for that victory that does not belong to them,” Nathan said.
The other raised an eyebrow. “That song was commissioned by Baldnoggin the dwarf god of Adelstan. Surely, it Is above reproach?”
“I’m positive. If you have access to Ridley, I’d ask her because I rescued her avatar from SMUGGLER SPEAK.”
“Perhaps I have no need. The evidence is all around us. We began seeing plants grow at a rapid rate to let us know Ridley was now free of whatever bound her. But we’re hearing reports back from Viridi. The Green World is no longer green. The rains have dried up. So we fear that Ridley may be missing too.” He glanced at the sacred pitcher. “But I will take that pitcher off your hands.”
“Very good,” Nathan said. “It needs to be returned back where it belongs. I wouldn’t want to see it get accidentally destroyed while in my care.”
“No, I can’t imagine that being a good thing. Ripley is a notoriously spiteful goddess. But take this for your troubles,” the kiosk attendant said, proffering him an oval token. “Take this to the apothecary and he will exchange it for a Potion of Greater Healing.”
As he placed the token in his pack, his hand brushed the doll he’d found in SMUGGLER SPEAK. Tugging it out, he presented it to the attendant, hoping the other cleric might have some information about it.
“Dear gods! What is that doing here?”
“I found this in SMUGGLER SPEAK and I was hoping you could tell me what it was.”
”I’m not sure. I can tell it’s cursed. It’s… really creepy. I can feel… Oh my goodness! Is that a Shettebrek Sally?”
“That’s a Shettebrek Sally. I’d bet money on it. You’ll want to consult with someone to be certain… I’m pretty sure a shop is moored today that deals with magical things, but that is a Shettebrek Sally. Those are really hard to get rid of. Have you developed any weird fears?”
“I’ve developed an aversion to the color red.”
“An aversion or… Look at that red balloon over there.”
”That’s not normal, and it’s not really bleeding. You’ve developed a phobia. And each time this little thing goes off, it’s gonna give you another one. People go insane from… Why did you pick this up? You gave this to you?”
“I found it in SMUGGLER SPEAK.”
“You just picked it up? Nobody made you? Look at it: It’s ugly and creepy. Why did you think that was a good idea?”
“It looked important. I thought it was a totem of some sort.”
“See? This is what happens when the god of wisdom vanishes. May Wanjo and good sense return speedily! get rid of that. You can’t throw it away. It’ll just show up in your things again the next day and give you a new phobia just for spite. From what I hear, you have to take it to a site that is holy to Shettebrek or one of his avatars and leave it there. You need to be rid of this thing speedily. The real problem with a Shettebrek Sally is that it is activated anytime you come into contact with an enemy and, while it will trigger their fight or flight response, it will add a phobia to you each time until you’re driven quite mad. So… enjoy that dark ride.” He scoffed. “Maybe you should visit Oola. They say she can fortell the future. She’s moored here today.”
“I think I will do that.”
Nathan bid the other cleric adieu and hent to the apothecary to make the exchange. Afterward, as he made his way toward Oola’s shop, Davroar returned to the apothecary and inquired further about what Azrael needed from the MINES. Azrael informed him that he needed a sackful of mushrooms that grow amongst the moonstone grass in the MINES. He noted that these mushrooms were easily identifiable because if one touched the cap, the gills would glow beneath in response. He advised Davroar to be careful because the glowing gills tended to attract giant slugs, who favor them as food. He added that if Davroar could manage it, he would also reward him for bringing back the hidden still located near the rail cart turntable to FYRAN TIRION. This still produced the fungal moonshine that was key to his strongest potions of healing. Davroar haggled a deal which allowed him to receive 1 free Potion of Superior Healing and 1 standard healing potion for the distillery and the chance to buy another Potion of Superior Healing at half price (200 gold) if he brought back the sack of mushrooms. Upon striking the bargain, Azrael warned that the mushrooms would only last a tenday once picked.
Nathan opened the tent flap to Oola’s and and was greeted with the smell of incense, which did not quite cover the stench of a bog. The inside was dark and filled with smoke. At the center of the shop sat a bubbling cauldron.
As Nathan approached, a hairy tentacle emerged from the cauldron’s waters. An eye fixed to the end gazed at him and in his mind he heard a pleasant female voice purr, “Who comes to Oola to know the future?”
“Nathan Garney comes to Oola, but he wishes to rid himself of a cursed item.”
“Ah! A path of death follows you. You must tread a path of the mirrored past!”
“So you seek a way to be rid of what?” Oola asked.
Nathan pulled out the Shettebrek Sally.
“This item has brought me much business as of late. Now some people know that Shettebrek had an avatar which took on a life of its own. Thanatar is now known as the Grim, the Harvest Lord, the god of the undead. You know what the Grim is doing to Viridi at this moment, don’t you?”
“I’ve heard that Viridi is no longer green,” Nathan said. “That would probably be the cause then.”
“Yes, the Harvest Lord is come and he is reaping the Green World of Viridi. None stop him. None oppose him. Now to rid yourself of Shettebrek Sally, you will have to leave it at a site sacred to either Shettebrek or the Grim. Either is a path to the dead, but know this: when in a race against the dead, silver will not mean second best. A fool’s quest await you, so seek the wise in a harpy’s circus.”
“Would one find one of these sacred sites in the MINES which are being overrun by the undead?”
“Shettebrek has servants wherever there is fear to sow. I hear that a wave of the dead is coming from those MINES. That is not Shettebrek’s domain, but the undead are the work of his rogue avatar. Thanatar is the Lord of the Undead. For fifty gold pieces, I can tell you exactly whom you must see to find success on your quest.”
The cleric dutifully dropped the coin into the cauldron’s waters.
“Trouble yourself not over the price. You have lost nothing for I see gold and riches in your future, but beware! Greed is a poor man’s compass. You need to seek the Kiss of Death, Braucia Graeme the Necromancer has been spotted near the CITY OF THE DEAD. FYRAN TIRION, once the jewel of the Tidelands, where tidal elves and tidal goblins lives in peace, was split asunder when the first star fell. It tore the city apart and opened the deeps from which the dead speak in FYRAN TIRION. Seek out Braucia Graeme. The doll is probably her work in the first place.”
”Thank you,” Nathan said.
“Do you know what to take with you? For fifty more gold, I can tell you,” she said.
”The weapon you once so briefly held, it is the straw which will break the dragon’s back. You had a prize of great worth in your possession and you left it somewhere.”
“If you’re talking about the Star Sapphire, I didn’t exactly leave it,” Nathan said, remembering that he’d once possessed it as the wizard Cullos Crowbane.
“The Star Sapphire is a mighty key to open the Water Portal, but the weapon I speak of is an artifact that belongs to your order.”
“The pitcher I gave back?” he asked.
“You gave back a pitcher?”
“I had a pitcher that enchanted the water that was poured into it.”
“That sounds lovely. So many souls are weaved into your destiny… but the pattern is scorched. Fire… Dragon fire! I… I can’t make out any more.“ A few coins suddenly ejected from the cauldron. “Take back twenty of your gold. I’m sorry.” With that, Oola’s eyeball submerged back into the waters.
As Nathan ended his session, Davroar headed to Fizwick’s Fantasticals. While he ultimately opted not to purchase a spell scroll, Fizwick did give him a tip that he could secure a reliable guide to the MINES at an establishment called Hogfeathers.
Leaving the FREEMARKET PLATFORM, the party headed south to a massive tavern nestled beneath a zeppelin. They could could hear music playing from within, a rousing version of the popular new ballad, Send in the Wedd! As they slipped into the tent, they took stock of the area. Tables and stools filled most of the main area. A stage existed at the west end, where a orcs playing the tribute to Weddumlir’s exploits was identified as a group called Trouble on a Friday Night. A long bar sat to the east on the opposite end of the establishment.
The lead singer of Trouble on a Friday Night just happened to glance up at the new entrants. Upon recognizing Weddumlir, he cried, “Stop the music! It’s him! Baldnoggin’s Hero, the one who saved SMUGGLER SPEAK!”
The tavern grew deathly silent as the stunned customers took in the news. The only sound that could be heard was the grunting and squealing of the flying pigs that winged about the top of the tent.
”Oh my goodness! The gods be praised!” a voice called from the bar. “I can’t believe we are blessed with a visit from the Hero of SMUGGLER SPEAK. Come to the bar, friends,” he beckoned them. “Drinks are on the house!” As they sat at the bar, he asked, “What brings you to Hogfeathers?”
”We need a guide,” Acindor said.
”A guide? Okay, there a couple of good possibilities. There are also a lot of really bad possibilities, if you know what I mean.” He held out his hand for a bribe out of habit. “What am I doing? Wedd is here! I love his song. You know what? I’m going to give you this one for free. Do not under any circumstances hire that sad-looking cleric over there,” he said, pointing to a drunken human sitting at a table near the entrance. “Laris the Apostate… His information is good. He’s an excellent guide. He can get you anywhere you need to go around here. He is so depressing! All he ever does is say, Woe is us! We can’t hear Wanjo anymore. He’s abandoned us. The Starkiller’s here and he’s probably killing off the gods one by one. He’s probaby offed Everly now. Blah, blah, blah. If I could toss him from the catwalk into a watery grave legally, I swear… All of the Fallen are like that.”
He brightened. “You know what? River Hopfoot. That’s your guide. She’s with your outfit, Wedd. She’s with Hero, Inc. and she knows the Giant’s Footprint like nobody else. Where do you need to go?”
”We need togo to the MINES,” Acindor said.
”Are you insane? Forgive me. What am I thinking? Wedd is here! Wedd’ll Wedd ‘em dead. If anybody should go into those MINES, it’s him! This is brilliant! Baldnoggin be blessed! He has sent us a savior not only to rid us of the corruption of SMUGGLER SPEAK but also to wipe the undead out of the MINES. I can’t wait to hear his next song. This one’s quite catchy.”
Davroar’s voice dripped with insincerity. “Yeah, we’re really happy and excited to have him with us. Where’s this Holly Hotfoot?”
Who? Oh. River Hopfoot. She’s the War’tode sitting at Laris’ table.” He chuckled. “You might want to rescue her. I’m sure she’ll be grateful. Keep your hands on your purses. She’s an excellent thief and a better pickpocket.
”If Weddumlir the Mighty will allow it,” Davroar said, not bothering to hide his sarcasm, “we will take our leave to speak with this Hotfoot. You know, if you’re looking for someone worthy of worship, might I suggest Moriarty the Great and Powerful?”
”What? What strange gods do you serve? Out of my bar. Out!” the bartender said.
”The only god that matters!” Davroar replied. “Moriarty!”
”Aw, hell. Moriarty,” the bartender said slowly and sardonically.
“I’ll conduct my business as I choose, barkeep, and then I will depart, worry not. Also, I will take one of those drinks,” Davroar said.
The barkeep crossed his arms and grinned. “Fluffy!” he called.
A rather foul-smelling, battle-scarred Minotaur rose from his stool at the mention of his nickname. He lumbered over to Davroar, looked him over and snorted derisively. “You gonna go or what?” Fluffy asked.
Davroar looked him up and down and then walked toward River Hopfoot’s table. “Fine. I’ll be on my way.” He scoffed. “Your hospitality is appreciated.”
”Can I have his drink?” Fluffy asked the barkeep, who nodded. The Minotaur tossed back a drink with gusto.
Acindor grabbed a tray of drinks before the barkeep’s previous generosity evaporated completely. Taking the tray to River Hopfoot’s table, he was accosted by Laris the Apostate.
“You ain’t right,” the drunken cleric complained. “Yer in somebody else’s body. You ain’t even in yer body. That’s somebody else’s.”
”Very perceptive,” Acindor said, “but right now we need to talk to Hopfoot.”
”’S right. I am. I used t’ be a cleric of Wanjo the Wise. We’re vurry persheptiff. I could tell youz was a bobber. Follo’er of B.O.B.ber. Fobber bobber.”
”Yeah, I know. Wanjo’s not around anymore. The Starkiller’s come down…”
”You heard!” Laris exclaimed. “It’s true. Dat Starkiller’s walking around right now. Probbly gonna kill ‘nother god.”
”Probably,” Acindor said. “Here, I got you a drink. I need to talk to Hopfoot for a second.”
”Oh? Well then,” Laris said, “I was gonna stagger on home but I’ll take that.” He grabbed an ale eagerly.
The War’tode thief stroked her froggish chin. “I recognize you guys.” She glanced at Nathan. “Except you. I’m not sure I recognize you. I was in the SANCTUARY OF EVERLY for a bit, posted as a lookout in case anybody came from behind, and then I got the signal to pull out. Oh wait,” she said, snapping her fingers. “You’re that guy who showed up at the end, aren’t you?”
”That would be me,” Nathan said.
”I was hiding so near you. I could’ve killed you at any time,” she said. “I had my garrote out at one point just to see if I could do it.”
”I appreciate your consideration.”
“So I guess that turned out okay, according to the song,” she said.
”You could say that,” Nathan said.
”Our hero’s here, Weddumlir. Blah blah blah blah. You know, he’s never had a song written about me. I’m guessing it’s on account I’m not a dwarf. So what do you need, guys? Or are you just at my table for the view?”
“I’m seeking one known as the Kiss of Death,” Nathan said. “Braucia Graeme?”
”The necromancer? Why would you seek that one out?”
“Well, I have this little trinket he may be interested in,” Nathan said, showing her the Shettebrek Sally doll.
”Sally? Wow. That must be eight Sallies I’ve seen in as many days. Who is spreading these vile little things everywhere?” River asked.
”I think it may be the necromancer,” he said.
”Where did you get yours?”
”That makes sense, but who gave it to you?”
”I found it.”
”You picked it up of your own free will?” After a moment, she shrugged. “Well, taking chances is something clerics of Everly are wont to do. So you need to find that shrine in TYRAN FIRION then. You need to go through the MINES. The access from the TEMPLE itself was cut off when the earthquake tore up the place. It’s all blocked off now, so it’s the MINES or nothing. You want a guide, don’t you?”
“Yes. That’s exactly why we’re here.”
”Well, I cannot turn you down since Wedd is a member of my guild, but I will not brave the MINES themselves. It’s too dangerous. I will take you to the MINES and draw you a map of where you need to go. After that, I’m gone. This is a fool’s errand.”
”That’s what Oola told me,” Nathan said.
”You went to Oola? Of course you went to Oola. Everyone goes to Oola. You paid full price though?” River asked.
“She gave men a small refund.”
”Oh dear gods, something is really wrong with you. You’re going to die probably. That clenches it. I will take you to the MINES and will provide you with a map to guide you through, but I want no further part of this.”
River Hopfoot led them further south and east through the SKY BAZAAR until they reached the SKY DOCKS. There, she showed them the vessel that would provide them passage, a flying vessel called The Luckless. From the deck of the airship, Puddles the Goblin grinned at them.
His body quite dead, the spirit of Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter began to rise, beginning his journey to the afterlife. He saw the spirit of the Basilisk rising also while his comrades fought below in the Chamber of Corruption, their struggles strangely muted. Suddenly, he found himself …intercepted.
Wedd found himself standing on a square plot of earth in the midst of a void. At the opposite end of the square stood another dwarf. This stranger stood with his back to Wedd, staring off into the unfathomable depths of the void. Wedd took a step toward the stranger, whereupon the other chuckled to himself.
Wedd ventured a greeting. “Hi. How are you?”
“I am well. You know who I am, of course. How could you not?”
“Baldnoggin,” Wedd said in a hushed whisper.
The dwarf god of Adelstan turned toward him with a grin. “Weddumlir Aleshield. Well met. I have been watching your progress. At the behest of Oxenbane, I have… interceded, in a manner of speaking, with her plucky band of mismanaged adventurers. Can you believe they sent Hero’s lot into the thick of things?” He spat Hero’s name with obvious derision. “He’s not even a real god. Not even a real god! He’s an outsider god. Why in the worlds are we trusting strange gods with anything? Yet they’re shoving their greedy little fingers into every pie.” He sniffed. “But I wouldn’t eat that pie. Gods knows where those fingers have been. But then I saw you, lad, and you reminded me of… well, not me because I’m a god. But I like your pluck and I see your courage and I’d like you to work for me.”
We’d shrugged. “OK.”
‘Good. I need you to be a shield knight, and that means something. That means someone who will charge into battle before anyone else to protect their friends and their comrades and most especially to protect the world from strange gods that don’t need to be meddling about in the first place.” Baldnoggin’s nostrils flared as he spat out those last few words.
Wedd grinned. “Sounds great!”
“Then take this shield,” Baldnoggin said as a square shield appeared in his hands. “It’s not THE acclaimed Sureshield, of course. Only I can wield that. But this is unite a good replica and it will help you protect your friends.” As Wedd took the shield, Baldnoggin continued. “I am sending you back and you are going to vanquish the Corruption that resides in SMUGGLER SPEAK. Nd then you’re going to tell your friends that Hero Inc is much, much better than Adventure Inc. Rub their faces in it. Yes! Absolutely. Make sure they understand who the Real heroes are. And then maybe they’ll go off and do something else.”
“Oh, you’re going to need a Star Sapphire. Hero Inc, and I do run that outfit, should be the ones who open the Water Portal. So I need you to grab me a Star Sapphire please. Thank you.” Without waiting for a response, Baldnoggin vanished.
The Corrupted Chamber Conquered
Meanwhile, Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty, Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard, Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter continued their battle against the Corrupted Jelly in the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION, aided by Hero Inc.
As Meldor took up a defensive position on the stairs, Thril lit a torch as a makeshift weapon.
Suddenly, Weddumlir Aleshield appeared in their midst, standing heroically atop the carcass of the dead Basilisk. Simultaneously, Hero Inc was transported out of the CHAMBER. The booming voice of Baldnoggin lingered on to deliver a message. “Do the name of Baldnoggin proud, son! Behold! You pathetic excuses for heroes from Adventure Inc, I send you forth a true hero to fight in my name! Hero Incorporated rules!”
Overbrimming with confidence, Weddumlir charged up to the Corrupted Jelly and slashed at it with his axe. The Corrupted Jelly responded by slapping him hard with a pseudopod.
His sacred Pitcher empty, Nathan Garney called for aid. Both Acindor and Davroar volunteered water. Nathan filled the Pitcher with Acindor’s flask and held Davroar’s water skin in reserve. Their teamwork turned out to be unnecessary.
Meldor brandished his flaming sword before the Jelly. The monster emitted a squealing hiss as the flames touched slashed through its gelatinous form. The highly flammable Corrupted Jelly immediately ignited. Thril followed this up with a ghostly attack. The Corrupted Jelly felt intense pain as the ghost elf’s chill touch hit its flaming surface. Weddumlir lived up to the hype Baldnoggin had boasted by hitting the Corrupted Jelly so hard that it was knocked back several feet. Acindor moved to cut off the Jelly’s retreat while Meldor hurried to join the others in their frontal assault. With a quick prayer to Moriarty, Davroar cast a chaos bolt at their foe, resulting in yet more fire damage.
The Corrupted Jelly roared with anger and advanced on the party. Meldor hit it again with his flaming weapon again and Thril likewise followed up with his chill touch, setting the creature up for another hit from Weddumlir. Still surging with the blessing of Baldnoggin, Wedd hit hard enough to knock it back again. Now wary of the dwarven menace before it, the Corrupted Jelly retreated out of reach. Nathan Garney stepped back to re-assess the situation. Not to be outdone by Weddumlir, Acindor Sought to stop the monster’s retreat. Racing headlong at the Jelly, he leapt high at the last moment, his sword drawn high. Coming down hard, his weapon cleaved the monster halfway and knocked it back toward the others. Davroar cast sacred flame on their adversary, harming it further.
The Corrupted Jelly began emitting an unmistakable whine. Sensing its weakness, Meldor advanced upon it and delivered the final blow.
At the Jelly’s death, they heard the voice of B.O.B. At the utterance of his name, the CHAMBER began shaking. As they watched in horror, the ceiling began cracking and dust began sifting down through the cracks.
Thril took a moment to repossess his own husk, lying prone nearby in one of the open coffins.
A moment later, the party realized that the CHAMBER was self-destructing and they needed to move quickly to escape certain doom. As they dashed up the stairs to the portal linked to the SANCTUARY OF EVERLY, huge chunks of rock began falling down around them, destroying everything. They took glancing blows from the falling rocks and boulders, but ultimately managed to escape to through the portal, which closed behind them when the mimic familiar it was made from was crushed by the rocks.
In the SANCTUARY, they were met by Baldnoggin, who was irreverently sitting on the stump-shaped basin in the center of the room.
“Yes, my boy!” he called to Weddumlir. “You did it! That’s what real heroes do. Now, tell them,” he said, pointing to Wedd’s comrades. “Adventure Incorporated sucks!“ He snorted and eyed Wedd’s companions smugly. ”In the future,“ he said to them, ”leave this to the professionals, boys and girls. I will leave this proud young man with you to help you out of …. whatever trifling nonsense you’re unable to overcome. Treat him well and my favor will be with you. Treat him poorly and I will come down on you like a bag of hammers.”
And with that final warning, Baldnoggin vanished.
Davroar scoffed, unimpressed. “So long!”
As they were considering what to do next, Nathan Garney heard the voice of Everly say to him, “Tell them to drink the water and all their wounds will be restored.”
Obediently, Nathan related his goddess’ words, took a swig from the sacred pitcher and proffered it to the others. Wedd initially refused to drink of the Rain of Ridley out of the notions that he wouldn’t take gifts from lesser gods; however, Acindor convinced him it was in his best interests and that Everly was one of the Lords of the Seven Worlds and it would not do to insult the god of life, fate and chance in Everly’s sacred domain.
Feeling power coursing through him after he drank the Rain of Ridley, Davroar uttered words of power to remove the accursed thrall collar the War’tode Captain Gurglepuss had fit him with after he brought down the ceiling in the TEMPLE OF WANJO. The artifact split in half with an audible click. Each half shattered when it hit the ground and issued an evil hiss before crumbling into dust.
Leaving the SANCTUARY, they found that the once dry stream beds of the underground grotto beneath SMUGGLER SPEAK were now flowing with water. They navigated to shore via ones jutting out of the water and then proceeded through the CELLAR and up the stairs to the KITCHEN. They paused at the DINING HALL doors, hearing Cuervan voices beyond.
Peering into the DINING HALL, they spotted the Cuervos jumping off the ledge of the PATIO. One by one, they spread their wings and glided down to the beach below. The very last Cuervos glared back at the adventurers defiantly, her red eyes full of hate. She pointed toward the cleric of Everly and Nathan Garney immediately realized this was the same Cuervos he’d encountered in his lone quest to recover the sacred pitcher of Ridley. She pointed two talons toward her eyes and then back at him, making it clear she would be watching him. Before she jumped off the ledge she snarled, “We’ll meet again, Imposter! Be seeing you!”
After watching the Cuervan Cult of Nobody retreat, they retraced their steps to the metal spiral staircase by which they’d first ascended to SMUGGLER SPEAK. Along the way, Nathan noticed a red tapestry in the DINING HALL that filled him with deep fear. For a moment, it looked as if blood were flowing from the tapestry. He hurried from the DINING HALL to escape the color. Noticing his odd behavior, Wedd checked out the tapestry but the only thing objectionable he noticed about it was a fair amount of mildew.
When they reached the spiral staircase, the metal hummed as it did before when they’d armed its electrical defenses. Having no other choice, they exited through the other set of doors to a COURTYARD. Here they noted a two-faced statue of Everly, a gated TOWER KEEP, and a view no longer obscured by the fog. It was from this vantage that they first spotted the floating port of SMUGGLER SPEAK’s SKY BAZAAR. Shops, homes and platforms were suspended from balloons and zeppelins with rope bridges connecting them. They could see a larger suspension bridge led to the BAZAAR from the TOWER KEEP.
As they pondered these things, the TOWER’s portcullis raised and a robed figure stepped forward, greeting them with outstretched arms. “It’s just as I saw in my vision! It’s him, the hero of Baldnoggin. The dwarf god has sent his champion. Is it true? Have you rid SMUGGLER SPEAK of the Corruption? We’ve seen the fogs dissipate and the merchants are returning to the SKY BAZAAR. Have you saved our holy site?”
“Yes, I have,” Weddumlir said. “I did all of that.”
“Welcome! Welcome then to SMUGGLER SPEAK. Come with me. This way,” she said, gesturing into the TOWER KEEP, “and by the will of Everly we will give you a bounty fit for a king. Oh,” she said as if noticing the others for the first time, “who are your friends?”
Wedd shrugged. “They’re nobodies.”
Her brows met sharply and her hand went to her holy symbol hung about her neck on a chain. “Nobodies? They’re with the Cult of Nobody? Are they your prisoners?”
“No,” Wedd said. Then he glanced at Davroar, recalling his allegiance to Moriarty. “Well… Davroar isn’t exactly a friend. More like a friendly enemy.“
“And is he a Nobody?”
Her concern faded. “Then welcome all. Welcome all. Come to the SKY BAZAAR with me and I will arrange for you all to receive a king’s bounty.”
“How much?” Meldor asked.
“How much is a king’s bounty ‘round these parts?”
“A score for each of the Seven Worlds, less a tithe of 10 gold as a tithe to the Ten Lords of the Seven Worlds.”
Meldor counted these sums on his fingers and then grinned. “130 gold. Not bad for a king’s bounty.”
Nodding in agreement, the adventurers followed the visionary through the gated TOWER KEEP to the SKY BAZAAR beyond.
A stranger in a strange land, kidnapped by stranger gods
A hero now approaches. His gaze pierces the fog
Of many would-be heroes not fit to hold his beer
A hero sent to save them: Wedd-um-lir!
Our hero's here!
Want those monsters dead?
Wedd 'em dead!
So stand and cheer!
Put this whole quest to bed
Send in the Wedd!
Chosen by the dwarf god, the best of dwarves, you bet!
He saved a "hero's" "heroes" without breaking a sweat
The cult of the corruption, he sent them running scared.
A basilisk so fearsome, sent packing with a glare!
Our hero's here!
Want those monsters dead?
Wedd 'em dead!
So stand and cheer!
Put this whole quest to bed
Send in the Wedd!
I hear that in a past life (and this right here's no joke)
A dragon tried to face him but got so scared, it choked!
The first one in the battle, the last one that you'll need
His shield and axe will save you like he saved Smuggler Speak!
Our hero's here!
Want those monsters dead?
Wedd 'em dead!
So stand and cheer!
Put this whole quest to bed
Send in the Wedd!
I obviously disagree with the entire premise of his post’s title, but for the sake of courtesy, let’s look at his argument.
A Bag of Holding, in all of its varied forms is simply a sack that … well, Wistedt’s summary of the Bag of Holding’s purpose is mostly spot on (mostly):
In short: the Bag of Holding lets player characters carry much more items than they would normally be able to. This is of course extremely useful for a bunch of semi-medieval adventurers in a fantasy world. Players are happy because their characters can bring more equipment and salavage more treasure. The dungeon master is happy because he doesn’t need to bother with rules for tracking encumbrance.
So why in a realm of magic, would Wistedt object to such a magical item as overpowered?
Well, it’s not bad per se. If you want to run a superhero style D&D campaign, where characters are larger than life then it’s fine to not track mundane mechanics such as encumbrance. But then again – why not just ignore it completely? You don’t need the Bag of Holding as an excuse to remove encumbrance from your game. Just assume the characters somehow manages to carry everything they want.
I freely admit that I ignore the nitpicking rules of encumbrance but I do hold to encumbrance as a general principle. If I didn’t, there would not be any point to a magical item called a Bag of Holding at all! I don’t know any DM who simply ignores the principle of encumbrance altogether. Even DMs who run sessions where the characters are indistinguishable from superheroes in a fantasy setting put limits on how much any given superhero can lift or punch through. Wistedt’s suggestion of zero limits or the implied accommodation of encumbrance is simply a straw man argument built on a subtle non sequitur.
In other words, it does not follow that because we use magical items yo overcome encumbrance in a magical setting that we may as well chuck all the rules or needn’t bother explaining how your halfling bard can carry the equivalent of seven wagonloads of loot in his left pocket! Literally, no DM I’m aware of operates that way. All variants of Bags of Holding and similar items such as Heward’s Handy Haversack, Portable Holes, Matt Mercer’s Bag of Colding, and John Beck’s Boxes of Many Holdings (one of my favorites from Dragon magazine Vol V, No. 7 – January 1981, p. 23) have limits to how much they can carry. For example, here is an illustration of the selection of extradimensional accessories and their respective capacities from the 3rd edition:
So rather than doing away with the rules of encumbrance entirely, Bags of Holding and their ilk allow players and DMs to play for a bit without having to get bogged down with calculations over weights and measures as much as they might normally have to.
Most DMs know it’s supposed to be an uncommon item anyway.
So back to the reality of how games are actually played, why is the Bag of Holding a bad magical item?
Wistedt’s argument is that he plays older editions of the game which he implies are better. No, I’m serious. His article really does boil down to a clichéd and tired street fight between old school and newer editions of the game. He repeatedly (mis)characterizes newer editions of the game, especially 5e, as “superhero” editions while suggesting that older editions were intended to be “a game about heroic burglary and expedition style adventures” rather than “a game of superheroes and epic encounters.”
The problem with his assessment of the Bag of Holding starts with its beginning. Folks, the Bag of Holding has literally been there since the beginning. It is first listed on page 25 of the Original Dungeons & Dragons, Vol 2: Monsters and Magic (Tactical Studies Rules, 1974) by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, where an asterisk notes that the item is available to all classes. Then on page 36, it is described in brief.
Since it has literally been there from the beginning amongst the scant few magical items listed in that first set, it is fair to say it was always intended as a magical means to overcome the burden of overencumbrance.
Just like a mundane wagon or cart… which conveyances weren’t even cited with a weight limit anywhere that I could see (The closest the original sources came to solving that was by noting the range of gold a typical orc wagon might be carrying but this was by no means cited as a maximum capacity). Gygax and Arneson weren’t handing us rules for beancounting wargames. They wanted magic and role-playing! The rules were characterized by Gygax as helpful guidelines to facilitate gameplay but it was always expected that the DM should write his own laws if he so preferred. This was even written into the Introduction.
As far as his criticism of “superhero” editions goes, I mean, if we’re being dead honest here, “superhero” or “superheroes” [as a level of basic category of level above “Man” and “Hero” for Fighting-Man, Cleric and Thief characters (with Wizard being the equivalent for Magic-user characters) or equivalent enemies] is mentioned 30 times in the 1974 Single Volume Edition of that first set.
…which sorely undercuts Wistedt’s suggestion that newer editions are a type of superhero edition that differs greatly from older editions.
So if Wistedt’s preference is that DnD should be reduced to game of heroic burglary, more power to him, so long as he does not also suppose this was the original intent of any of the older editions! If anything, we might characterize newer editions as a return to something closer to the original intent that subsequent editions lost by degrees under the encumbrance of rulemongering according to an ever-increasing volume of RAW!
Now, to be fair, Wistedt might not realize that. In a comment on his post, he admitted that he’s never played the 5th edition.
Begging his pardon, but if his criticism of Bags of Holding don’t apply to the most popular and widely played version of the game to date, they’re largely irrelevant.
Now, having said all of this, I think it’s really, really important NOT to buy into the whole old school versus new trope. I play the 5th edition because it’s more accessible and because it’s wildly popular. I wanted to introduce my kids to the game I loved so much and this is the edition their friends play. It’s simplified for a new generation. And frankly it’s pretty close to the (relatively) rules light approach I’ve always taken as DM.
My guys are trying to become superheroes in an epic fantasy adventure… but they’re also mostly heroic burglars and murder hobos. It’s not old versus new. It’s (always been) a bit of both.
The Bags of Holding just let us play without the encumbrance of pretending magic wouldn’t be utilized in this way in a world where magic is actually a thing.
Poised at the bottom of the attic ladder, Nathan Garney The Human Cleric of Everly realized that the Cuervos guard he’d followed and his boss were wise to the fact that he was an intruder in their midst.
“I’m telling you, I never sent anybody to relieve you,” he heard the boss say. “Who was that? Do you realize that somebody is there right now with the Seed. If they figure out what the Seed is, they can take it and Everything that we’re doing here is gonna fall apart. And B.O.B. is going to eat us.”
The other Cuervos sounded defensive. “Look. I mean, who else would be down there? He knew the passwords.”
“Which passwords? What’s the fiesta password?”
“What’s the second password?”
“What the third?”
“We changed that yesterday!”
This was followed by an ugly electrical sound and the heavy thump of a body hitting the floor. “Idiot,” Nathan heard the Cuervan boss say. “We changed that to lizard king yesterday. OK, I guess I need to hog down there and find out what’s going on.”
At this point, Nathan heard the sound of a bell tolling, or perhaps it was a gong, But it did not seem to come from any particular direction. It is definitely a magical sound. Immediately afterwards, he hears the sound of every Cuervan he heard snoring before getting to their feet.
“The alarm! The alarm!” he heard them say. “Assemble! Assemble in the Dining Hall. Muster in the Dining Hall.”
It became apparent that they were headed for the stairs. It also became apparent that the Boss Cuarvos was nearing the top of the attic ladder.
Seeing no place to hide, Nathan attempted to convince his Cuervan co-conspirator to play along and leave with the others. She became immediately suspicion, asking why he wasn’t coming with her. “I don’t know if that’s the best idea. Shouldn’t we stick together? The boss is coming. We should both just wait for him at the bottom of the ladder and nab him!”
Nathan demurred, suggesting that she could spy out their escape route while he took care of the boss.
Exasperated at his thick-headed stupidity, she shouted, “That is not going to work!”
“What’s not going to work?” The boss Cuervos call from the attic.
A head peered down the ladder at Nathan. Nathan was shocked to realize the Boss Cuervos looked just like him!
The Cuervos doppelgänger was equally stunned to be practically face to face withe cleric. “You! You’re the one I saw in the portal. In the mirror of dreams!” His eyes widened in terror and Nathan suddenly realized the Cuervos Boss was paralyzed with fear. Hoping to take advantage of the situation, Nathan climbed up the ladder and tried to pull him down; however, the terrified Cuervos had a death grip on the ladder and could not be budged.
This proved too much for the Cuervos Boss. “He touched me! He touched me!” Scurrying back into the attic, he ran as far from Nathan as he could manage. “Leave me alone!” He shouted, as he beat his fists against the wallls. “There’s got to be a way out of here.”
Nathan was baffled by the creature’s terror, but he climbed the ladder after him and tried to turn the situation to his advantage. “I’m here for tghe Rain,” he announced. “Give me the Rain and I’ll leave.”
“The Rain?” It’s in one of these chests. I can’t think straight. I don’t know – Wait! The window!” Unexpectedly, he made a mad dash for the attic window, dives through glass, tumbles down the roof and falls to his death a few stories below.
Forcing himself to keep his mind on the task at hand, Nathan searched the chest nearest him, which happily enough contained the holy pitcher relic he was looking for.
“What’s going on up there?” the female Cuervos called up. “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” the said. “I’m coming down the ladder.”
“What happened?” She asked as he rejoined her. “What happened to the boss?”
“I’m the boss now,” he said.
“But… I mean… Where’s the old bass?”
“Don’t you see the similarity?” Nathan asked.
Her eyes narrowed. “What’s the password?”
“What’s the second password?”
“What’s the third password?”
“Lizard king. We just changed it yesterday.”
“Huh,” she said. “I must’ve missed that. I thought it was still butter.”
“Oh no, we changed it. It’s lizard king.”
“Ok, ok. So you have the Pitcher. You gonna hide it somewhere new?”
“Yes. You stay here. I’m going downstairs to inform the troops that the alarm test went well, thank you very much,:” he said with a sly wink.
“Um, ok, ok. So it’s just you and me up here right now.”
Suddenly, she lunged at him with a dagger but he managed to dodge aside. “We have to give it back!” she shouted.
He drew his own dagger but fumbled the attack as well. Realizing he probably didn’t want to get into a close quarters knife fight with a bird woman anayway, Nathan bolted out of the closet and raced for the stairs with a vague notion of convincing the other Cuervos to come to his defense, especially seeing he looked exactly like their old boss.
She made a lung for him near the bottom the stairs, but slipped and fell past him. Nathan continued fleeing. She took another swipe at him, but her dagger got caught in his robes, doing no damage to him. Running through a door, Nathan turned suddenly and cast a hold spell on her, freezing her dead in her tracks.
Taking a deep breath, he concealed the pitcher beneath his robes and proceeded on to the Dining Hall, where he congratulated the Cuervos on an excellent drill and dismissed them to their quarters. As they dispersed, he hurried back to the cell where Ripley’s avatar was held.
She motioned for him to pour water from the pitcher onto the Seed. As the pitcher was empty, he filled it with a water skin and tried it again.
With that act, Nathan Garney was transfigured and found himself in the SANCTUARY OF EVERLY. A voice called to him. “This is the Sanctuary of Everly.” He found his attention drawn to the Seed of Ripley, now resting in the basin of a stone pillars shaped like a a tree trunk. Behind him, the pitcher rested on a similar pillar. “You have healed SMUGGLER SPEAK, but your friends need you,” Everly said. His attention was drawn to a portal in the wall, where he could see his friends battling against the defenders of the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION. “Take the pitcher and pour the Rain of Ridley into the vat and all will be well and the Corruption will be ended.”
Obediently, the cleric of Everly grabbed the pitcher and walked through the portal.
Meanwhile Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty found himself standing before the Mad God Moriarty, who was not pleased with his servant.
“What are you doing?” The god asked through his dragon skull avatar. “I sent you in there to get the Star Sapphire. It was simple. It was easy. And yet you’re messing with B.O.B. And you’re messing with Oxenbane. And you’re messing with Everly. Yeah? Yeah? And you’re messing with Baldnoggin now. Okay? Just how many entanglements did this one little adventure of yours manage to get into? What it’s wrong with you? You have one simple mission. What is it?”
“Well,” Davroar said, “almighty Moriarty, my mission was to bring forth your — ”
“Spare me your pleasantries. What is your mission?”
“The Star Sapphire,” Davroar replied quickly. “The Star Sapphire is in the room. I was just in. It’s with one of the bodies we were attempting to bring back.”
“That’s not the only Star Sapphire in SMUGGLER SPEAK,” Moriarty said. “I don’t even know how you found that one!”
“If you recall, you gave your blessing to come here and —”
“I said there is a Star Sapphire in SMUGGLER SPEAK,” Moriarty said. “I had no idea your dead friend had found his way here.”
Davroar took a new approach. “Lead me. Lead me, O Moriarty, and we’ll find the one you speak of instead.”
“I hope it’s in a lavatory,” Moriarty spat. “I swear! I hope it’s in a privy somewhere. I hope it’s in the spot where everything in the privy drops. If I knew exactly where it was, I would’ve sent someone more competent.”
“Lord Moriarty, I might point out that all the entanglements do just add to the glorious chaos in your name.”
“Ah, but see, there’s been precious little chaos. There’s been action. There’s been drama., There’s been mystique. There’s been… OK, there’s been a little bit of chaos but it just seems like every time there’s a little bit of chaos it just poofs back into order, and that’s not what we’re about. We’re about — ”
“All the chaos,” Davroar supplied.
Morairty was pleased with this suggestion. “All the chaos! That’s right. Maximum chaos.”
“I’m very close to the one Star Sapphire, Lord Moriarty, but I can go for another one and will gladly do so. Guide me. Give me your preference. I will do what you command.”
“We were very close,” Davroar pointed out.
“I’ve got an idea,” Moriarty said.
“I tremble before the glory of it, master. Speak your will.”
“You need… You need… an edge. I want you to cast my Janusian Blessing. Do it for me. Pretty please.”
“Sounds… sounds exciting. Do you want to return me to where I was or shall I cast it somewhere else?”
“Do you want me to see if someone else is standing in that spot first?” Morairty asked a little too sweetly.
“That’s probably not a bad idea. I would appreciate it.”
“Sure, sure. Okay.”
Without further ado, Moriarty returned Davroar to the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION.
The Corrupted Jelly Unleashed
As he tried to take in the chaos of the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION, Nathan Garney was startled to see Davroar Hollysword appear in front of him. Below him, he could see Things had not gone well for his comrades. Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard used his flaming blade to fend off Corrupted Cuervos. The body of Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter lay still, draped over the corpse of a slain Basilisk. Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter were both ghosts. He saw no sign of his other friends, except Zayn Carthin the Elf Arbiter of Hero, whose body floated serenely in a coffin of grey ooze connected to the great vat that dominated the center of the room. Upon further inspection, he noted that two of the other coffins contained the bodies of Thril and Acindor.
There were also people in the CHAMBER who were strangers to him. He had no way to know that these were members of Hero Inc, a rival guild. Xodax the Halfling Cleric, Eobrix Alebane the Halfling Bard, Quelynn Rinn the Tidal Elf Priestess, and Martin Dossen the strangely dressed Human Fighter, Puddles the Tidal GHoblin Cannoneer and Odin Thunderhammer the Dwarf Fighter were led by Geralt Goldenblade the Dwarf Fighter. These members of Hero Inc had come to their aid but it was not yet clear why the happy coincidence had occurred.
As Nathan began making his way down the stairs to reach the adjoining stairs to the catwalk above the vat, Davroar began shouting for his comrades to get clear of the floor, thinking he might cast his promised Janusian Blessing upon the Corrupted there. Nathan recognized Puddles as the goblin who tried to fire a cannon at them for hilling his pet bushwackys on the beach but the haze of battle seemed to prevent the other from recognizing him as well. Thril and Meldor dutifully retreated back up the stairs.
The Corrupted closed in on the heroes, still keeping a careful distance away from Geralt Goldenblade the dwarf.
As Meldor continued his retreat up the stairs, Odin Thunderhammer followed him, recognizing him from their time together in the War’tode Cages. Thril decided to make a stand. Unfortunately, the Corrupted he targeted dodged out of the way. Fortunately, Thril was able to dodge the Corrupted’s opportunistic counter attack.
Quellyn Rinn’ the Tidal Elf Priestess cast faerie fire on the two Corrupted nearest her dwarven leader, causing them to glow faintly. Acindor hovered to the end of the catwalk to peer down into the vat. Geralt Goldenblade attempted to take advantage of the Priestess’ spell, but his over eager attack landed him neck-deep inside the Corrupted nearest him! Seeing their leader’s plight, most of his team threw caution to the wind and leapt down to the floor to his aid.
Thril took a swipe at a Corrupted, but became stuck fast in his foe.
Hoping Acindor’s ghostly state would afford him some protection from what was to come, Davroar cast his Janusian Blessing upon the Corrupted Jelly in the vat!
The Jelly exploded from the vat, expanding a full size larger as it absorbed several of the Corrupted Cuervos on the floor. Fortunately, this freed Thril in the process. The vat was left destroyed and the coffins were burst open in the aftermath as the Corrupted Jelly reared itself up into a 15 foot tall cube. Thril wisely put distance between himself and the monster.
Acindor on the other hand took the opportunity to locate his husk and was able to successfully possess his own body.ted immediately attempted to attack him, but Acindor dodged out of the way. Returning the insult, Acindor drew his sword and vanquished his foe.
Quellyn Rinn threw her trident at one of the Corrupted’s near Gerlalt Goldenblade but her aim was poor. For his part, Geralt was unable to remove his head from the Corrupted he was stuck fast in.
Realizing Acindor was very near Zayn Carthin’s husk and the Star SapphIre in his possession, Davroar leapt down from top of the stairwell landing and lighted on the altar once occupied by the Basilisk, being unwilling to face Moriarty’s further wrath.
Martin recovered his laser pistol, only to discover that the weapon was jammed. Xodak dealt damage to one of the remaining Corrupted with a crossbow bolt, while Eobrix cast phantasmal force, giving the appearance of a ten foot swathe of fire, forcing the Corrupted Jelly to retreat to the back side of the vat, where Nathan Garney was waiting for it with the holy pitcher. Pouring thge rain of Ridley upon the Corrupted Jelly caused it to retreat — and to lose an entire size in mass! Unfortunately, his pitcher was now empty.
Geralt Goldenblade rallied and wrenched himself free of the Corrupted holding him.
Davroar made a beeline for Zayn Carthin’s husk and, after a quick search of his pouches, secured the Star Sapphire.
Martin managed to get his laser pistol operational, taking out the Corrupted who’d attacked Geralt Goldenblade. Xodak conjured Fey spirits to help aid him but unintentionally attracted ill-behaved fey who immediately attacked the caster. The resulting screams broke Eobrix’s concentration, eliminating the phantasmal force illusion.
Forgotten amid the conflict, Weddumlir Aleshield finally breathed his last, still draped across the back of the dead Basilisk.
The question now was whether personal agendas would interfere with the heroes’ ability to work together to rid SMUGGLER SPEAK of its corruption?
Things were impossibly grim for the adventurers. As Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter crept up behind the Basilisk, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard used his flaming blade to fend off Corrupted Cuervos and a Corrupted Jelly. The dwarf-friend hovered protectively over the recently slain body of Acindor the Human Fighter, whose demise had attracted the attention of B.O.B. himself, the Outlander god of Death and Lost Things, through the Chamber’s main portal. As B.O.B. began to draw Thril Wolfsbane the Ghost Elf Fighter and Acindor into the Realm of Lost Things, Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty found himself unexpectedly teleported out of the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION by the Mad God Moriarty.
Undeterred by the impossible odds, Wedd closed in on the Basilisk and prepared to strike.
At that very moment, the adventurers heard a voice shouting, “This way! This way! It’s just as Iwix described it. I’m telling you – Yes! And it’s already open! We can go in there! We can – No! River, no! Don’t touch anything in here! Everly will kill us all. So don’t touch anything. Follow me! This way, me bairns!”
Through the mimic portal from the SANCTUARY of EVERLY appeared Geralt Goldenblade the Dwarf Fighter dressed in a kilt with a stout square shield. The dwarf glanced over the ledge, took a quick estimation of the room and shouted down to Wedd, “Ah, yes! It’s just as Iwix described it. You there! Pull the dagger from the basilisk’s back. We’ll take care of the rest.”
At this point, Xodax the Halfling Cleric, Eobrix Alebane the Halfling Bard, River Hopfoot the War’tode Rogue, Quelynn Rinn the Tidal Elf Priestess, and Martin Dossen, a strangely dressed Human Fighter, appear at the top of the landing beside Geralt Goldenblade.
Encouraged by these reinforcement, Wedd did as he was bid, hopping atop the Basilisk’s back and tugging the dagger free. Meldor moved his flaming sword closer to Thril to afford the ghostly fighter so protection from the Corrupted Cuervos surrounding them. Not willing to be coddled, Thril attacked the Cuervos nearest him with his Withering Touch but the creature twisted itself to avoid the attack and then grappled the earthbound ghost.
Martin Dossen the Human Fighter, wearing strange clothing the adventurers had never seen before (Including blue jeans, an Anthem rock T-shirt and a leather duster), drew forth a futuristic weapon and took aim at the basilisk. Unfortunately, Martin was so intent on looking cool as he came to their rescue that he fumbled the weapon and dropped it from the top landing. As the weapon hit the floor twenty feet below, it misfired. A laser bolt hit Wedd squarely in the back of the neck, killing Him instantly!
Horrified at his mistake, Martin glanced again at the eye of B.O.B. In the portal across the CHAMBER and called over his shoulder, “Puddles! Odin! A little help!”
Two more figures, Puddles the Goblin Cannoneer and Odin Thunderhammer the Dwarf Fighter, appeared at the top of the stair landing. Odin took one look at the basilisk and the dead dwarf fighter still on its back and threw his javelin with vengeful purpose. The javelin struck true, killing the basilisk instantly.
The River Hopfoot the War’tode Rogue attempted to attack a Corrupted Cuervos, but was forced to dodge out of the way of its swiping grasp, lest she end up like Thril.
Puddles The Goblin Cannoneer unloaded his hand cannon on a Cuervos, blasting it apart. Xodak the Halfling Cleric used a crossbow bolt to hurt another.
Their dwarf leader leaped down the full twenty feet from the top ledge to the floor below, unwilling to take the time to use the stairs. The Cuervos moved in to meet him, but found themselves repelled by an invisible shield.
Meldor drove the Cuervos on his side of the CHAMBER back with his flaming sword. One Cuervos who was unable to retreat due to the close press of his fellow was set afire by the flames. Thril used that opportunity to pull himself free of the Corrupted grappling him.
Acindor felt his resolve weaken under B.O.B.’s baleful gaze. He drifted toward the portal against his will.
Seeing his plight, Geralt Goldenblade shouted up to the Portal. “Begone, Outsider!”
B.O.B. Turned his attention to the dwarf. His eye widened. “You,” he noted without emotion.
“Hush now! You’re the intruder here! I’ll take no lip from strange gods. You’ll answer to the Lordfs of the Seven Worlds, usurper. Begone!”
B.O.B. blinked. The portal closed.
Acindor remained spectrally in the CHAMBER. Both mightily relieved and confused, he nonetheless was drawn to the fact that his newly formed husk had appeared in one of the vat coffins.
Geralt Goldenblade threw his square shield at one of the Corrupted. It sliced neatly in half but then reformed as the shield magically returned to the dwarf’s arm. Meanwhile, Xodak the Halfling Cleric used his crossbow to take out one of the other Corrupted as Eobrix the Halfling Bard made his way down the stairs to the ground floor.
Meldor and Thril Readied themselves for the Corrupted’s next assault, hoping the newcomers could help them survive the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION.
At the arrival of Cuervos reinforcements in the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION, Thril Wolfsbane the Ghost Elf Fighter, Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard and Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty, and Acindor the Human Fighter dug in and prepared for the next assault.
To their surprise, it did not immediately come. Instead, the Cuervan Cleric of Corruption spread his arms wide and began chanting. In obedience to his wishes, the Cuervan Nobodies descended to the floor and willingly allowed themselves to be Corrupted by his spell.
”Oh, he has got to go,” Davroar said, appraising the cleric.
Supposing he meant the awakened Basilisk, Wedd descended the stairs, but was met by four Corrupted Cuervos. Even so, he managed to defend himself ably while Davroar concentrated his Sacred weapon attacks on the enemy cleric.
Meanwhile, Thril, Acindor and Meldor rushed to the bottom of their wing of the stairs, having spotted Thril’s husk in one of the coffins. They were able to keep the Corrupted Cuervos at arms length, as they were wary of Meldor’s flame sword. Acindor pounded on the coffin’s glass front with the pommel of his sword. Wide cracks appeared. Grinning, he renewed his efforts, unaware that something else was being stirred to action by his actions.
Davroar’s sacred weapon finally wore down the cultist cleric. The slain Cuervos fell into the vat of gray goo in the centered of the room as he died. This immediately awakened the Corrupted Jelly in the vat, who instantly attacked Acindor, trapping him in its embrace.
Wedd managed to break free from combat and began creeping up on the Basilisk from the rear. For its part, the Basilisk, the cultist’s dagger still in its back, was slowly crawling toward Acindor and his comrades, while the latter tried in vain to fend off the Corrupted while trying to free their friend.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Acindor succumbed to the Corrupted Jelly. As his husk began floating in one of the vat coffins, his spirit looked to the portal on the far side of the room. The baleful eye of B.O.B., god of death and lost things, the deity to whom Acindor and Thril were beholden stared into the Chamber of Corruption. The servants of B.O.B. felt the psychic horror as the deity’s displeasure washed over them in waves. Both Acindor and Thril felt themselves being drawn into the portal into the Realm of Lost Things.
Cleric of Everly
Meanwhile, Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly had been having a solo adventure.
Earlier, as Zayn Carthin the Elf Arbiter of Hero, Davroar Hollysword, Meldor Ironforge, Kerla Chog the Human Fighter, and Jotun Yggdrasil the Dwarf Cleric of Moriarty had raced off to aid Acindor, Wedd and Thril against their Corrupted in the DINING HALL, he’d felt the tugging of his deities. Pausing at the top of the stairs to the entrance of SMUGGLER SPEAK, he turned his attention to the statues of Ridley and Ripley which flanked the stairwell. He noted a faint glow coming from behind the statue of Ripley.
Sensing that he needed to follow it, he inspected the wall behind the statue and found a secret door. The door led to a treasure room, but Nathan ignored whatever riches they might contain, intent upon his pursuit of the divine light. The light led him out of the treasure room and into an underground cave. Past this, he found himself in an underground room. His attention was immediately drawn to a prison cell, in which stood the spectral embodiment of Ripley.
Attempting to open the cells resulted in a nasty shock. Ripley pantomimed that she needed him to find a way to open her cell. Through a series of gestures, she conveyed that she needed a pitcher and a seed. Nathan searched the rest of the underground room and found two doors. One led to a small room with prisoner shackles bolted to the wall. The room ended in a drop off to the waters far below. He noted a bit of graffiti scrawled nearby in rusty red: “Jotun was here.”
The other door led to a MECHANISM ROOM which controlled the drawbridge in front of SMUGGLER SPEAK. It was occupied by a Cuervos who did not appear surprised to see him. Instead, he seemed mightily happy that someone had come to relieve him of his shift at the watch. He found it very boring watching the seed which he indicated was sitting on stool nearby. It became obvious that the shape shifting Cuervan guard simply supposed that Nathan was a Cuervos disguised as a human, an assumption made because there really wasn’t supposed to be anyone else about except the Cult of Nobody.
Growing suddenly suspicious, the Cuervos asked Nathan for the password.
“Password?” he said, stalling.
The Cuervos nodded. “That’s exactly right. Of course, just to be sure, what’s the second password?”
“OK, you seem square. No need to ask you for the third password. You’d just tell me it was butter.” He threw up his hands. “Ok then, I’m going up top to report to the Boss and see how things are going with that pitcher he has hidden up there.”
After the Cuervos left, Nathan gathered up the Seed and delivered it to Ripley. She was overjoyed. Taking the seed, she indicated that she still needed the Pitcher to escape.
Taking his cue, Nathan hurried up to catch up to the Cuervos guard. His path led him back the way he came, through the DINING HALL his friends had fought in and up the stairs to the upper level of the castle. He proceeded carefully but quickly, not daring to lose track of the guard he was following but also wary of waking the other Cuervan he heard snoring in their beds as he passed by several rooms on two separate floors.
At last, he came to a room where he could hear someone plotting treason against the Cuervos who’d usurped SMUGGLER SPEAK. She was more than a little worried about what might happened to her if Everly sought vengeance against her and the Nobodies for desecrating their sacred grounds. She was trying to get up the nerve to steal the Pitcher of Ridley and return it to where It rightly belonged. Surprising her, Nathan offered his assistance if she wanted to right the situation.
Suspicious, she asked him for the password.
“And the second password?”
“And the third password?”
She agreed to help him, leading him to an access ladder that reached up to the attic.
Above him, he could hear the original Cuervan guard arguing with his boss. It became obvious from their conversation that the Boss hadn’t sent anyone to relieve the guard, so they now knew there was an intruder in their midst.
Reacting quickly to the mimic familiar’s attack In the SANCTUARY OF EVERLY, Thril Wolfsbane the Ghost Elf Fighter, Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard and Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty rallied around Acindor the Human Fighter.
Acindor was immediately forced to talk Wedd out of his initial plan to attack the familiar with his axe, reminding his dwarves friend that his hand was likely to be damaged in the attempt. Instead, Wedd began readying his rope into a lasso in the hopes wrangling the mimic familiar. Startled by the sudden attack, Meldor found himself unable to muster the concentration for a spell. Davroar attempted to cast command on the mimic familiar to put it to sleep, but it was able to resist its effects. Thril attempted to use his withering touch but likewise lost control of himself for a moment, becoming incorporeal so that his attack passed through the creature harmlessly. In desperation, Acindor shoved his hand and the mimic familiar into a brazier. Both he and the monster suffered burns, but it refused to let go.
Nobody, the raven-headed owner of the mimic familiar, became enraged at his pet’s mistreatment. Fortunately, Acindor was able to dodge his hastily swung sword. The mimic familiar bit down on Acindor’s hand. He passed out from the pain.
Wedd tossed his lasso at the mimic, but his toss misses. Meldor cast Scorching Ray, hit the mimic familiar thrice. Davroar hastily produced a healing potion and poured the precious liquid down Acindor’s throat, reviving him. Thril was unable to regain his corporeality in order to assist them. Acindor attempted to pull the hat-shaped mimic familiar off his hand, but only managed to move the sticky monster to the other hand.
Concerned for his pet’s help, Nobody shouted, “Stop! Wait! Fluffy, release!” Immediately, the mimic returned to the raven head of its master. Addressing the adventurers, Nobody raised his hands and said, “Hold on. We don’t need to fight. I don’t wanna see you guys die. If you stop right now, I’ll give you the chance to walk away.”
The party seriously considered his offer, but Davroar ventured, “We will stand down, but will you stand aside so we can continue our quest?”
“No,” Nobody said. “Leave. And live.”
“Fine, you won’t stand aside. Will you tell us what’s beyond this wall?”
Is it a portal?” Acindor asked.
“My magic tells me the husks are beyond this wall,” Davroar said. “Will you help us?”
“No. I am helping you. You leave. You live,” Nobody said.
“Then you leave us no choice,” Davroar said, exchanging a glance with Wedd, who was itching for the fight to continue.
Chamber of Corruption
Wedd immediately heaved his axe at Nobody’s head, knocking him out cold. Even before its master fell to the floor, the mimic familiar sprang into action to save him. Transforming into its disturbingly amorphous natural state, the mimic dragged Nobody toward the conspicuous corner that they’d first discovered the raven-headed person in. Spreading itself out on the wall, it formed itself into a brane, an organic portal. Nobody’s body was thrust through the brane.
Thril Wolfsbane ventured through the portal as the party’s designated guinea pig.
The chamber beyond was vast. The brane portal emptied out onto a landing at the top of a flight of stairs. The stairwell wound along the walls of the circular chamber like wings, eventually reaching the floor twenty feet below. Another twin set of stairs wound up the other half of the room, ending at another platform. This one featured a stone portal and a catwalk leading back to the center of the room. At the center of the room was a huge vat with pipes leading out from the top to coffin shaped containers that rested around the perimeter of the vat. This was the SOUL SIEVE of the Corrupters. They could see creatures floating inside the coffins, including the bodies of Thril Wolfsbane and Zayn Carthin the Elf Arbiter of Hero. On an altar directly below Thril’s observation point was a chained basilisk with a dagger in its back. The room was filled with more ravenfolk in plague doctor masks.
Nobody was lying on the edge of the platform, bleeding out. The anxious mimic familiar screamed for aid from the other ravenfolk, which also alerted them to the intruders’ presence.
Wedd quickly surmised that this was one of the places where B.O.B. took the husks of the souls he siphoned from Oxenbane’s grasp. Meldor identified the ravenfolk as Cuervos and noted that they were not from the Water World of Caeruleum.
A Cuervan cleric stepped into view, his eyes narrowing as he considered Thril. The cleric began shouting excitedly in Cuervan. The other Cuervos in the chamber immediately began advancing on the ghost.
Thril used withering touch on the first Cuervos to reach him, killing it instantly.
The Cuervos gave pause and looked to the cleric for reassurance. The cleric began chanting in Cuervan and pointing at the ghost, who suddenly felt the pull of gravity and felt himself becoming more solid.
The adventurers rushed into the CHAMBER OF CORRUPTION to aid their ghostly comrade. Meldor and Acindor joined Thril on the stairs leading down to the left, while Davroar and Wedd positioned themselves to the right at the top of the stairs.
Meldor hastily noted that his detect magic spell was calling out the vat in the middle of the room, the dagger in the back of the chained basilisk and the portal at the other side of the room as magical in nature. The dwarf wizard quickly cast flame blade, igniting a scimitar of fire in his right hand. Chanting “Hail, Moriarty!”, Davroar cast spiritual weapon, evoking a mystical hammer in honor of Moriarty’s Chaoshammer and sending it attack the two Cuervos at the foot of the right hand stairwell. Now fully corporeal, Thril stood by his comrades as they moved down to the mid-stair landing.
In response to their advance, the Cuervos spread their wings and launched skyward to meet the adventurers at their respective heights. The cleric walked the length of the catwalk until he stood atop the vat.
Davroar attacked the two Cuervos he’d previously hit with his spiritual weapon, killing one instantly, while the others held their positions.
The Cuervos attacked as one with short swords, scoring hits on Meldor, Thril, Wedd and Davroar. The cleric is so busy fist pumping their successful assault that he was unable to concentrate on his intended spell.
Wedd Flexed his muscles and repaid the Cuervos that hit him with his axe. Meldor likewise brought his flame blade down on his Cuaervan attacker, roasting it to death. Davroar followed up Wedd’s attack with his spiritual weapon, killing two more Cuervos. Thril’s withering touch weakened another Cuervos. Acindor called upon the favor of Hero and did it further harm, but their foe survived so that only it and the cleric remained to face them.
The Cuervan cleric pointed at the adventurers, drew a threatening finger across his throat and then pointed at the prone basilisk on the altar below them, reviving it and releasing it from its chains.
The last remaining Cuervos glanced at the cleric. At the latter’ a nod, he drew a horn from his cloak and sounded a shrill note. At the Cuervos’ horn blast ravenfolk reinforcements rushed to his aid from a room behind the vat on the ground level. A dozen Cuervos filled the skies and immediately trained their sights on the intruders. Five of the Cuervos were wearing hats that looked very much like Nobody’s mimic familiar.
Almost forgotten in the conflict, Nobody drew his last breath.