AD&D - New World

69: From Urth to the Moon
our heroes travel to the land of the elves

After the fight with Darcie Bill, Svendar … remembers!

“We are seven-and-one,” he says, "forged two-thousand years ago from the ashes of old Gith, by our Count Who Still Lives. He is quite old, quite powerful, older now and stronger too. We were a secret order. Gathered from different places, from different points of view — this way, we would not be blinded by dogma or tradition.

“But something has changed while I was gone. I can sense it. I can hear it, if I listen. The rods are being gathered. They were never intended to be! We were supposed to be loyal to the balance — when it swings too much in one direction, all will be lost. Law will break apart and become Chaos. Chaos strangles all others and leaves only Law. Twisted, mirror-images of the other.

“The pieces should not be gathered. But The Count orders their assemblage. The Enemy grows stronger. My brothers, by their very actions, turn against their ideals. The rods corrupt — you see it with your own! (points to Golgaraz) — but can be corrupted in turn. Look at that one! — (points to Valeria). Just imagine what has become of REX, so long in the possession of The Count. Twisted and evil, like he has become. If the others are assembled, one by one, affixed to REX — the joined rod will be an artifact of chaos. THE WOLF will return."

Svendar blinks and returns to himself. He is able to answer a few questions, but he is obviously addled.

The Knights of Mypp are an old order, and each has a title. The titles are passed down after one of them dies. He can sense that one of them has died. The Illrigger — lawful, but selfish. He also remember the Myrikkhan — a good man, but disant; and the Fantra, the one he just faced — Darcie Bill — unpredictable and impossible to trust. He, Svendar, is the Paramander, the ultimate balancer.

Svendar wants to leave the Revengers, to go off and right what has become wrong with the Knights of Mypp. Ervendio believes Svendar might suffer whatever corruption has befallen the others if he does so; Svendar is convinced to stay with them.

Bea — now able to see once again — points out that, however Darcie Bill teleported away, it wasn’t with magic.

The Revengers go upstairs and find they are still in Ocean’s Deep — they’ve just in a different part of Ocean’s Deep. They go to the New Revengers recruitment office and meet Marq Urd, a newly-minted warrior and a desk-jockey for the New Revengers. Marq tries to recruit them into the fold, and the real Revengers are disappointed to learn there is a six week, paperwork-laden wait to receive help from the New Revengers themselves. They leave the offices, taking with them Marq and 2 bunches of bananas.

Before leaving the city, Bea says goodbye to her parents. They are surprised, having assumed she had put the adventuring life behind her, but they bid her farewell. Valeria pays one more visit to the Janglemancer statue and, on Bertram’s insistence, she pushes, pulls, and prods the statue for secret compartments. She finds one! It contains a note, quite old, assuring her that there are no further secrets in the statue.

Bertram writes a letter to Queen Facistasia and leaves it with CHUCK, who says he will definitely read it before passing it on. Bertram gives him an IOU for his 5k bar tab, and promises it’s good at the 1st Bank of Grudgewood. It is not.

They book passage on a spelljammer — the _ SSPounder_, captained by Boris Dewhammer, a giff who loves the freedom of the spaceways. For a cost of 750 gold, he agrees to take them to visit Grudgewood, and then off to the elven Moon.

In Grudgewood, the party meets with Red Al. Grudgewood has grown — in fact, now it is the capital province of a kingdom called Barrow Wood. Red Al has forged alliance with other power players in the region, and his forces have fought further battles with the Duke of Bark to the north. He wishes the Revengers well — he is genuinely glad to see them — but he is very busy ruling the domain.

They compare notes — Al knew Jad from his adventuring days, but did not realize his old friend was one of the Knights of Mypp. Al had sought the rod — what he knew as the First Key — as a bargaining chip in his quest to forge a human kingdom here in the Westlands. Red Al bestows knighthoods over the party that wasn’t here for the Battle for Grudgewood, because why not? Also he tells Bertram that he’s an earl now — Earl Culinarius — and that he is also broke. Jongle was made earl as well — Earl of the Clutch — and this title is inherited by Valeria.

There is another statue of Jongle in Grudgewood — the locals say it has always been there — and it says, Look To The Mountain That Moves. There is another secret message inside that reads, “seriously there is no secret message here.”

The party boards the Pounder and they fly to the Moon. A beautiful yet alien world, there are three phases of day/night/urthlight, which sometimes overlap. There are seas and forests and golden mountains — and byzantine rules of etiquette and courtly behavior. Ervendio leads the way, and they are allowed past the guards of House Koroset on the Kuraphai name.

Arriving on the Moon, the arcane spellcasters present — Bea, Mildred, Golgaraz — recognize that the curse of the chaos storm does not reach the Moon. There are no chances for wild surges here, but neither can Bea access her wild magic spells. But at the same time, they sense instinctively that their magic may be more powerful here, if they will it. This has yet to be tested.

At the Kuraphai estate, the party is met by Bebel, a cousin and minor noble of Ervendio’s house. Is job is plainly to determine whether Ervendio’s return is cause for concern. He shares that the Knights of Mypp are on the Moon as guests of House Silverwind. Bebel arranges for Ervendio to meet with his mother, Matron Artenia, the next day, and for the other Revengers to travel to a meadow on the Kuraphai estate where another Janglemancer statue is to be found.

Ervendio meets privately with his mother. She spares little time for sentimentality. She chides him gently for returning from his mission too soon, but is intrigued at the possibility that the elves could claim the Rod of 7 Parts for their own. She reveals the knights are here seeking Glimmer Greyhaven, who they believe to still be alive. She knows where Glimmer is, but Ervendio recognizes it is improper to seek this information himself.

The Matron proposes a dinner to be held on the Kuraphai estate, inviting the Knights. Ervendio will pretend his geas is still in place, preventing him from seeking Jad’s rod through violence or treachery. Then they will spring the trap — destroying the two knights and taking their pieces of the rod for the Kuraphai.

Meanwhile, the other Revengers enjoy a ride across the elven estate. In a peaceful meadow, they find the Janglemancer statue surrounded by trees. It is less weathered than those found on Urth. From the statue’s secret crotch compartment, 777 gold pieces spill out; from one armpit, 77 copper pieces spill out. From the other armpit, comes another scroll — this time in the form of a letter:

My Husband Jongle,

Hello. I miss you. I’m sure it has been some time since we were separated — longer for me than for you, if that makes sense. The years have given me a lot of time to think about us, and a lot of time to not think about us. I love you and have remained true to you, in my way. Also I remarried. It’s complicated!

Our daughter is a brave warrior. She is somehow not like us at all, but also like us very much. She took all of the good parts of us and none of the bad. She made this strange adventure worth all of the pain. I am grateful for her and for you.

I hope that you found peace in my absence. I hope that you lived a long, long life, and that when you think of me it is with kindness and forgiveness and love. I hope that you find the 7 parts of this stupid rod and put them together or throw them away or … whatever it is you need to do. I have done what I can to help you. You will find my research attached.

Say hello to Valeria and also to Teks. I miss them both terribly.

I am alone now. The Moon is nice. I have one more journey to take. I believe you will see me again, but I don’t think I will see you.

Love,
Minja

Included with the letter is the following information:

“Knights of Mypp are the Seven-and-One:

“Myrikkhan: Spiro, good, can be trusted.

“Garath: Tank, good, funny & can sing; I like him very much.

“Lyan: Harbourr, stiff and strange, too tall, can be talked into impossible situations; use him, but do not rely on him.

“Paramander: Svendar, missing, the others speak well of him, but say he ‘goes his own way’; something familiar here, but cannot place it.

“Fantra: Kieronymous, unstable, charming but deceptive; never never never believe in him.

“Illrigger: Rang, cruel and unusual; not a liar, but evil to the core. An enemy.

“Arrikkhan: I never discovered this one’s name; others unwilling to discuss; most dangerous of all?

“The Count Who Lives: their leader, one of them but separate; never met, but he lives on Urth; ruler of Gith; a bad feeling, but nothing I can prove.”

On a separate scroll is the following:

“The Rod of 7 Parts.

“1, Ruat: a friend. Teks.

“2, Coelum: somewhere in goblin kingdoms. held by men. The piece taken by Jad?

“3, Fiat: in hernia, this was stolen and sought by Teks. Jad know holds it.

“4, Justitia: gust of wind. This is the piece I now seek. Held by Glimmer, in the Hollow of the Moon.

“5, Ecce: hidden in the mountain that moves. impossible to track like the others. find the mountain, find the rod.

“6, Lex: in the storm. out of my reach. I am too scared to go back there.

“7, Rex: held by the Count. Twisted now. A big problem.”

Invitations to Jad and Darcie Bill must be sent. Preparations must be made.

XP
Group Awards
Svendar Info Dump, 3000
The New Revengers Information Station, 6000
Return to Grudgewood, 6000
Welcome to the Moon, 3000

Group Total: 18,000 Individual Award: 3000

Individual Totals
Bea 4500 (Dreaming of Wizard School 1500, Group 3000)
Bertram 4500 (Earl Culinarius 1500, Group 3000)
Ervendio 4500 (Big Mucky Muck 1500, Group )
Golgaraz 4500 (Half an Elf 1500, Group 3000)
Mildred 4500 (Another Druid Situation 1500, Group 3000)
Valeria 4500 (Wrestling Coach 1500, Group 3000)

LOOT
2 bunches of bananas
777 gold pieces
77 copper pieces
like 3 or 4 separate infodumps

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68.1: Meanwhile, in Grudgewood...
grudgewood expands its influence...

After the Revengers left Grudgewood, Red Al, Mayor Mammarie, Hennelly, and Aloysius Bouchard work to expand the influence of Grudgewood in the region. They levy moderate taxes and establish a trade route with Oakenburgh, a town in Prinzfeld (Grudgewood sends silver north; Oakenburgh sends lumber south). Hennelly mobilizes the priests of Martiff, growing the church’s influence and increasing the loyalty and happiness of Grudgewood’s citizenry.

In the Eddistone province, whispers of strange cultist activity has grown. Sigils of one-eyed skulls have been seen, but when asked if outsiders have been seen the answer is always “I have seen no-one.”

On Fort Hangtooth’s turn, they establish a holding in the Eddistone province of Grudgewood; the Cult of Nemo now has a Temple (1) holding there.

this domain turn constitutes the first four months of activity around Grudgewood after the Revengers have left. There are 6 more domain turns before catching up to the present day…

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68: The Gnome Queen's Court
our heroes hold a royal meeting ...

After a full day exploring the grand city of Ocean’s Deep, the Revengers meet over breakfast at the Misty Beard. Svendar is already there, first thing in the morning, and he seems confused — he doesn’t remember how he got there. He barely remembers anything from the Chaos Storm until the present moment. With a little prodding from Ervendio, he recalls their adventures together — Aggie’s death, the Underdark — and he settles into eating some breakfast.

Valeria arrives in full plate mail armor, bearing the sigil of the Archduke of Rook, a goblin duke who rebelled against a long-dead goblin pope. Bertram arrives hungover from a night at the Happy Shamrock.

At the suggestion of Grumpus Purplebottom, Sr, Bea’s father, they go to see Doctor Easterly off Gut Alley, in the Dock Ward. He is a dirty, strange, and mysterious surgeon who offers to graft a beholder-eye into Bea’s socket — for the price of the two opals in her head. The delicate surgery fails — until a staggered Bea casts alternate reality — and suddenly the surgery succeeds. Bea winds up with a slightly larger-than-normal green-eyed eyeball that can cast a beholder ray of disintegration three times a day.

The doctor accepts his opals, and the Revengers go to the gnomish court.

It’s a carnival, in the midst of the city of the dead! Rides, music, games of chance — the gnomes fail to guess MIldred’s age (“one-hundred and twenty?”) and she wins a plush crab. Ervendio buys funnel cakes for himself and for Carol/Ann — curious to learn more of her lunar elvish heritage — but for Bertram, it costs 2 coppers instead of 1.

Svendar wins a game of strength, but Valeria is drawn to one of dexterity promising “eternal life” as a prize. Bertram pays for 3 balls, and throws true, but wild — one of his balls knocks down the bottles, a second misses entirely, and the third beans Bea on the head. It triggers a
dormant wild surge, causing a velvet, feathered hat to appear on Bea’s head. The knocked-down bottles win a strange tiara that radiates strong alteration magic. Bea refuses to wear it.

Bertram leads them to the funhouse. Triggering a strange mirror, a trapdoor opens beneath them — and they find themselves in the gnomish court.

Surrounded by trays of wine and hor d’oeuvres, Ervendio teaches Carol/Ann the ways of the court. Valeria’s instincts serve her well, and she proves a quick study in etiquette and impresses the gathered gnomes. The queen’s personal assistant, Madrigal, arrives and attempts to keep Bertram from meeting the queen.

But Bertram is insistent. Despite Madrigal’s warnings that he might not like what happens, Bertram will not deliver his letter to anyone but Queen Facistasia Claudia Wonderfrock IX herself.

Madrigal consents. He leads them toward the queen’s court, but suddenly stops. Glassy-eyed, Madrigal states that “I must go to brunch,” and disappears down a side corridor.

The shadows coalesce. Someone steps from them. It is Darcie Bill, Bertram’s old ally in the service of her majesty. He breathes hot in Bertram’s ear, wanting to know why he is here. He asks if Bertram has it — the rod — and says if he wants to know more, to follow him down the hall.

Bertram won’t follow.

The party goes to court. This time, the party doesn’t quite know what etiquette requires of them — they bow stiffly, and too slow. The Queen wants to know where Bertram has been, what he has been up to, but he speaks in grand but vague terms. He delivers the deep gnome queen’s letter, and Facistasia reads it aloud:

Your Royal Highness, Facistasia Claudia Wonderfrock IX

It is with excitement and joy that I write to you, queen of the top-top gnomes. I am Haverdash, and am also a liege of the gnomish folk. I and my people live far underground. We do not see light at all. Perhaps you have heard of us, or perhaps we are only a myth to you. I must confess, until I met your agent Bertram Figg, I was not certain that you and yours were any more than stories.

Now I know otherwise. Please know that I found your agent to be kind and trustworthy. I was pleased to help him on his journey. I do not know what brought him to the underdark, but I do believe he was eager return to the top-top. I hope he has done so.

I must warn you: the plight of our people, down here below, is little improved from when we came to this urth so long ago. We are surrounded by enemies. Drow, the hated illithid, vampires — even some of our own.

I propose that you and I meet. Royal ambassadors, a meeting of people who have been too long apart. I believe that only by combining our interests (and, frankly, assets) can our people ever pull ourselves out of misery.

I believe there is much opportunity to be found in the chaos and war that overwhelms the urth, but above and below the surface. I hope that we can find a way to traverse these challenges together.

Your agent Figg has my trust, completely.

Yours sincerely,

Her Royal Highness, Haverdash XVIII

Queen Facistasia asks Bertram if she has his loyalty; he states that “there is another in my heart.” The Queen clearly believes Bertram acts against her interests, or at the very least for the benefit of another. He is directed to leave — plainly told this will be his last visit to the court.

Flabbergasted by what has occurred, the Revengers go through Darcie Bill’s doorway — a dimension door to a far-away place — and are confronted by Darcie Bill and a gang of lizardfolk. After some smalltalk and jesting — Bertram has made out with the gnome queen! — Darcie Bill and the lizardfolk attack. Darcie Bill reveals himself as one of the The Knights of Mypp, wielding a flaming whip.

Combat! Golgaraz’s enlarge spell goes awry and a surge strikes Valeria, turning her into a pillar of clay. But then, thanks to Bea’s alternate reality — it never happened at all.

The Revengers make short work of the lizardfolks and MIldred’s black tentacles entangle Darcie Bill — but not before a whip-crack costs Golgaraz an eye. But then — the dimension door opens again and Svendar comes through. He rushes forward, wielding flaming gauntlets and declaring that “I remember it all! This isn’t right!”

Svendar attacks Darcie Bill, who clearly recognizes him. Darcie Bill states that he’ll see the Revengers on the Moon, and teleports away — in spit of Bertram’s casting an irritation spell that should have interrupted any spellcasting.

Valeria loots the bodies of the fallen lizardfolk. Svendar stands with flaming fists. “I remember,” he says, “I remember everything!”

XP
Group Awards
Beholder Graft, 6000
The Carnival, 6000
Finding the Court, 3000
Meeting the Queen, 6000
lizardfolk x4, 260
lizardfolk shaman x2, 1300
lizardfolk king x1, 975

Group Total: 23,535 Individual Award: 3,923

Individual Total:
Bea 5423 (Eye of the Beaholder 1500, Group 3923)
Bertram 5423 (It Was All A Code 1500, Group 3923)
Ervendio 5423 (Silk Underthings 1500, Group 3923)
Golgaraz 5423 (Eye for an Eye 1500, Group 3923)
Mildred 5423 (There’s No Fixing This 1500, Group 3923)
Valeria 5423 (I Want to Stay Huge 1500, Group 3923)

LOOT
- a plush crab (Mildred)
- a strange tiara (Bea)
- a red velvet hat with a feather (Bea, then Bertram)

- 6,000 copper pieces
- 18,000 silver pieces
- 8,000 gold pieces
- 600 platinum pieces

- 1 scroll of leomund’s tiny hut
- pouch of dust
- suit of field plate armor
- short sword

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67.3: Ervendio and Carol/Ann
ervendio introduces carol/ann to the tel-quessir

Once Ervendio secured himself a room at The Misty Beard with the others he was determined to find an adequate bathhouse to take a hot bath and scrub away the filth that he had been unable to cleanse by magic.

“Carol Anne, would you accompany me to find a bath? I will show you elven luxury as best I can in this city. I would like you to stay in my room as well. You may decline if you like, but I would tell you of the Tel-quessir.”

“What is the Tel-quessir?”

“We are the Tel-quessir Carol Anne. We are Elves. You are not just a drow and a wererat. You are an Elf and the Tel-quessir. Now we must teach you how to live like the Tel-quessir and gain your own identity that is not under the rule of the mind flayers. The mind flayers are the sworn enemy of the Tel-quessir. It pains me to see any elf under the rule of them. Yet, it brightens my heart that you are not like the other drow of Erelhei-Cinlu. You are special Carol Anne. Remember that. I’d like to help Golgaraz see it too, if he hasn’t already.”

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67.2: Bertram in the Alley
bertram rests for a moment

Bertram staggers out of the Happy Shamrock. Chuck always had a strong pour, maybe that’s why he kept coming back: Chuck’s warning was still gnawing at him. Bertram had a lot of history here, there were people that would have ideas about him and Bea. It wouldn’t take long before word got out. He had to be careful.

Getting face time when the Queen was going to be difficult. Even more difficult would be getting her to believe him. He didn’t have a lot of time. He took two steps, stopped short, and listened. (Detect Noise Roll: 18, pass!) Two steps, and a sudden stop.

Bertram resumed walking, he began chewing on his knuckle, looking around to get his bearing. He was being followed, but he wanted to know by who.

There was an alley that would take him to Front Street. As soon as he rounded the corner he ducked into it. (Hide in Shadows Roll: 46) He thinks he made it, but waits in a stairwell to make sure.

Haverdash’s letter had been burning a hole in his pocket for weeks. It’s contents; he was honor bound to deliver unmolested. Still, it had huge implications for both societies. How could he not take a peek? The seal looked difficult to replicate, he would have to relay it. He would need space and privacy. That was hard to come by at the Misty Beard.

He supposed the others would want to meet the Queen, and privately Bertram had been dreading the notion. They had no sense of decorum. They were unkempt, and smelly. He was deeply embarrassed to be in their company, himself now bald, covered in scars. A disguise perhaps? It would be impossible to fool Queen Wonderfrock…she had a keen eye for illusions. No, he would be honest. He would lay himself bare before her and ask forgiveness. But would she give it? His letters; her assistant Madrigal had probably kept them from her. Bertram sighed and leaned against a railing to stand. He needed to have a piss. Bertram lifted his robes and relieved himself. It smelled like fish and hot cabbage.

As Bertram is relieving himself a tall figure approaches — not lizardfolk — nearly six feet tall, dressed in a flowing coat and a tall hat.

“’S’cuse me,” the figure says, shoulder-checking Bertram.

Something falls at Bertram’s feet as the figure disappears down the alley. It is a coin! It rolls for a few inches, then lands in the seeping puddle of Bertram’s piss.

Bertram kicks the coin out of the puddle and pours some wine on it. “The nerve!” He picks it up with his sleeve and examines it.

The coin is old — very old — and gnomish.

On one side is the profile of an old gnome queen — this one is Queen Dilletante Wonderfrock III.

On the opposite side is a spelljammer ship.

The image of the queen has an X etched across it.

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67.1: Valeria and the Archduke's Armor
valeria finds a new suit of armor...

Valeria led Chow Chow by his bridle and tried to follow the very idiosyncratic directions that Bea had given her. Between all of the introductions at the Purplebottom house, and the miscommunications about the particularities of Bea and Valeria’s relationship, and then the statue, her head already felt like it was spinning, and these directions didn’t help.

Turn right at the inn with the picture of of a grinning imp on the sign. Not the Grinning imp pub, though. That’s different. I think its called the Merry Mark. Unless it’s not there any more.

There was a page and a half like that.

But Bea had insisted that she needed new armor, and that this was the shop for it.
Valeria had argued that she could get another few months out of her banded armor, but Bea had said that the mail shirt smelled terrifying from their time in the jungle. Valeria supposed she was probably right, although she did see what was so bad about a bit of reek in her armor. The rotting leather made the backing nice and flexible.

“Focus,” she whispered to herself, looking around for what the directions described as a statue of a man that looks sort of like a bear, if you squint.

She found it, she thought, and took a left.


Half an hour later she was either thoroughly lost or in the right spot. She couldn’t tell. There was a store in front of her, but the sign on the front was missing.

“Stay, Chow Chow,” she said, petting his big muzzle. She stepped inside.

The building was tall, stone, and without windows — unless you craned your neck and peered up 4 stories or so. The ground floor had no sign and a featureless door. It looked plain, a little imposing, and, all told, kind of boring.

Inside, however…

As soon as Valeria entered she saw rows and rows of tall shelves, candelabras and strange globes hanging from the (two-story-tall) ceiling, and heard the floating sounds of music.

Directly in front of her was the floating orb of a strange & terrifying creature: round, purple, with a carved-out, empty cavity in the center and a dozen stalks extending from the sides and top of the orb. A beholder!

But … an unmoving and silent beholder. After a moment, Valeria realized it was stuffed and mounted on a stout pole.

“Who is it?” calls a voice from the stacks. A heavily built and bearded human steps out from the crowded shelves of the shop. “Who visits the Old Xoblob Shop? Are ye friend, or foe?”

“A friend of a friend, actually,” Valeria says. “I am Valeria Janglemancer, Knight of Edrick and first of her order. I was sent here by Bea Purplebottom to find a new set of armor. She insisted this was the place for it. Are you…Xoblob?”

The burly man blinks, then bursts out laughing.

HAHAHAAA—! Me, Xoblob? Nono, but many new friends make that mistake! This is Xoblob!” he says, poking the stuffed and mounted beholder with a wand.

Xoblob — what used to be Xoblob? — spins around on its pole.

“I be Dandalus,” he says, gingerly putting a meaty hand on one of Valeria’s shoulders, “and any friend of Miss Purplebottom’s is a friend of mine. She used to come here for mushroom caps and rare skin flakes! A most curious gal. I hear she’s out there wandering the wide urth these days, a real magician’s magician.”

Dandalus and Valeria move through the shop of curios, past gems that sparkle and whisper, gloves and glowing daggers, and mounted skulls — their eyesockets are empty, but Valeria gets the sense they are following her around all the same.

“Armor! Armor,” mutters Dandalus. “I’m more of a relics & curiosities man, but … I might have something that will fit you. Old, old stuff, from the goblin frontier, mind ye. The time of the Arch-Dukedom Wars, which I’m sure ye know all about.”

Dandalus leads Valeria past shelves of books and into a cramped corridor. They pass half a dozen mounted suits of armor — all much too large for a goblin like Valeria — and wind up in yet another cramped and crowded room. Dandalus starts to go through a chest, pulling out gauntlets and codpieces and various pieces of various armors.

“Ah!” he says at last. “Here we go. Ehhh, tell me, little knight … ye do have the gold to buy a proper suit of knight’s armor, yea?”

“Oh, yes,” Valeria says. “My friend, Ervendio, he says I have one thousand, two hundred and ninety three gold pieces. He’s an Elf, so he’s quite good at that sort of thing. You can have all of it, if you’d like. I’ve never seen much point to the stuff. Although I suppose I should keep a few gold pieces to give to Bertram. He’s a gnome, you see, and he does all the cooking. So whatever you think is fair, I guess.”

Valeria looks around, making eye contact for one uncomfortable moment with a jeweled skull. “Speaking of Bertram, I might send him here,” she says. “He’s a wizard, when he isn’t being a spy, and I think he would like this place.”

“Bertram,” mutters Dandalus. “Spy. Yes, yes, he should certainly see my shop. Send him in!”

But even though he sounds cheerful, Dandalus is putting armor pieces back into the chest.

“I wouldn’t want to sell such a suit piecemeal, ye know. And 1200 gold, well … I could recommend you a nice blacksmith. Some standard armor, to get you started.”

Dandalus squints at Valeria, at her trident. “Although interesting trades are always considered.”

“Oh! I had thought that was quite a lot! Hmm, well, I have some gemstones. And there’s always my inheritance. My father said it was for my education, but I’m twenty years old and my education ended years ago. That would bring it to about forty-six hundred gold pieces. And as for the rest…a trade?”

Valeria notices him eying her trident and takes a step back. “The trident was given to me by someone…important. I couldn’t trade it away,” she says. “Maybe, though..”

Valeria walks back to the front of the store and out to the street. “Sit, Chow Chow,” she says, and then slides her hand under his saddle. She pulls out a single platinum piece.

Back in the shop, Valeria holds the platinum piece out to Dandelus. “This is Herbert,” she says. “He used to be part of set, but others all picked on him because he sings. My uncle Teks gave him to me when I was young, to separate them. He’s been with me a very long time, and I would miss him, but he always asks me to spend him. He says its his purpose. I always said no, of course, because I was worried whoever took him wouldn’t appreciate how special he is.”

“Say hello, Herbert.”

Dandalus smiles, but sadly.

“It’s just a single platinum piece, darlin. Even one that ‘sings’ is only worth—”

Herbert sparkles in the candlelight of the strange emporium. And then a voice rings out, confident & true:

Hello my dearie
Hello my lovely
Hello my wayward knight

Swinging your sword with might
Filling your foes with fright!

Hello my dearie
Hello my lovely
Hello you big strong girl

Setting your trident a-whirl
Letting your flag unfurl!

Hello my dearie
Hello my lovely
Hello my one true friend

Setting those ghoulies a-rend
Our adventures will never ennnnd!

Dandalus clamps his hand down on Valeria’s, silencing Herbert.

“It’s a deal,” he says.

Dandalus trades a set of plate mail. It is marked with the sigils of a long-ago and forgotten goblin house, of which Valeria is unfamiliar.

rook.jpg

Valeria steps into a cramped alcove and tries the armor on. She emerges a few moments later encased in shining metal.

“It’s amazing,” she says. “This crest? Is there a story behind it?”

“The crest!” says Dandalus. “Ahhh, well that’s a piece of history, isn’t it?”

- Dandalus tells Valeria about the Arch-Dukedom Wars…

- a goblin named Duke Rook, almost two centuries ago, had risen to power in the area of the goblin kingdoms called Trident’s Lake.

- through a series of treaties, agreements, and alliances, he gained power & strength. His rise started to make the powers-that-be in Cano City nervous.

- Duke Rook declared himself ARCHDUKE ROOK — saying that he would not be king, but he would be “first among equals” to any who would declare themselves for him.

- Rook doesn’t denounce the Church of the West, but he starts to praise an order of nuns — the Daughters of Edrick — as the “rightful heirs of the Half-Ogre.” It is a passive-aggressive jab at the expense of the goblin pope and the church-proper.

- the pope at the time is Fredo IV. He is careful not to involve the papacy directly with the growing conflict — traditionally, the church does not take an active role in such inter-goblin wars. But privately, he makes it known that the Archduke is an enemy of the Church of the West.

- Conflict escalates. Archduke Rook grows bolder after early victories — he claims that the Church has lost its way, and, on the verge of declaring himself as a new, true pope — the Archduke suffers his first major defeat on the field of battle. The Archduke survives, but is forced to withdraw from battle.

- Waiting to declare himself as pope until he wins a major victory, the Archduke calls on the Daughters to support him openly. Generally healers, the Daughters are an order of battle-monks much loved by the people — if they joined with the Archduke it would be a schism in the Church of the West like had never been seen.

- Everyone expects the Daughters to do so — but at the last minute, they withhold their support. They do not declare against the Archduke, but they make a vague statement calling for peace and a return to the “true values” of the Half-Ogre.

- Disappointed, the Archduke continues his campaign. But the war turns against him. He is ultimately captured and executed as a traitor and heretic — he never openly declares himself as a “counter-pope”, but it is widely known that he wished to.

- Rook is executed. His armor is initially kept on display by Pope Fredo IV as a symbol of his victory, but over the years it disappears.

- Somehow, Rook’s plate mail winds up in a shop of curios and adventurers’ souvenirs in Ocean’s Deep.

View
67: Ocean's Deep
our heroes enter the big city...

Mildred leads the party to shelter: a familiar, burned out wreck of a hut that she remembers from another life. The hut of Mildred the Frowzywig! Being in this place awakens memories in MIldred — of being driven off by the lizardfolk of the jungle, and of being “punished” by a divine force she knows only as her dark lord.

Jeff asks Bertram to become his apprentice, ready to take his first steps into a larger world. Bertram agrees. Jeff becomes Bertram’s henchman, a level 1-1 Illusionist-Thief.

The druids of the Chaos Storm part ways with the Revengers. They tell the druids of Grudgewood and send them that direction. The druids wish their friends well, and give Mildred the cold shoulder one last time, as they part. Svendar, Roger, and Carol/Ann remain with the party.

The party decides to detour to Ocean’s Deep, the largest city of the Middlemarsh, to resupply and research their next moves. As they travel, they encounter some of the dangers of the jungle: man-eating sawtooth plants (that they avoid entirely) and a bhaergala that is trying to teach its cubs how to hunt. They distract the cubs with ribbons and Ervendio’s created food and water. Mildred communicates with the mother, who is put out that her cubs won’t be feasting on the Revengers that night.

Next, they encounter a small lizardfolk caravan whose pack dinos have been caught in quicksand. Ervendio makes one ethereal and leads it out of the muck; Valeria pitches in to help push out the other. Though grateful and friendly at first, one of the lizardfolk asks Mildred “what she is”, which offends the Revengers. They come to her defense and the lizardfolk move on, kind of crabby that they were called out for being insensitive.

Seeking clues as to their greater quest, Bertram peers into their crystal ball for Sǐwáng, the wyvern. He gets a vision of it in a stone stable, backed by banners featuring elvish script — indicating the wyvern is at rest on the Moon.

Golgaraz communes with LEX, which indicates the 7th piece of the rod is due east; Valeria communes with RUAT, indicating the 2nd piece is on the Moon as well.

After traveling hard through the jungle, the party reaches Ocean’s Deep, the grandest city of the Middlemarsh. Bea, having grown up there, is a source of general information. She leads them to the Misty Beard, a tavern & inn in the Castle Ward, the same neighborhood as her family’s home.

Bea prepares to visit her family — she hasn’t seen them in two years, since she left to pursue her magical studies, since she wished her brother, Grumpus Wesley Purplebottom, Jr, back from his pie-related death, since her age-acceleration at the hands of a ghost in the Chaos Storm. Her father, Grumpus Purplebottom, Sr, is happy to have her back — he immediately realizes her accelerated age, her blindness, her water-resistant eagle’s talon, are all side effects of her dabbling in wild magic, something introduced to her by that no-good cook Bertram Figg. He welcomes her home.

Her brother — who prefers to be called Ray, thank you very much — is standoffish. He doesn’t remember becoming a pie, but he knows that something .. not right .. has happened to him. Her mother is slightly put off by Bea’s introduction of Valeria, who the family misunderstands to be Bea’s romantic partner. But they are interested that her last name is Janglemancer and show them both a very old and weathered statue positioned in the middle of the High Road, one of the city’s main thoroughfares — it is a statue of a goblin holding a kazoo, and it is inscribed with the words,

a jester’s place is on the moon
bq). Minja Janglemancer

Bea has no memory of this statue, even though the other Purplebottoms indicate it has been here as long as anyone can remember.

Meanwhile! Ervendio and Golgaraz, happy to be in a civilized and not-evil city, go shopping. While seeking magical shield, goggles for Carol/Ann, and other supplies, Golgaraz and Ervendio are handed a pamphlet advertising The New Revengers, an international adventuring guild seeking new recruits. It promises competitive pay rates, medical benefits, and the opportunity to see the world & fight monsters. There is an Ocean’s Deep office in the Dock Ward, and a sales discount at Cid’s Magic Shoppe for members.

Bertram, wanting to avoid the Purplebottoms, heads to the Happy Shamrock, one of his old haunts. CHUCK, the barkeep, greets him as if no time has passed. He tells Bertram there was a lot of whispers & suspicion regarding Bertram when Bea disappeared, and that he should keep a low profile in town. He also says the Gnome Court is in the city — currently set up in the City of the Dead, the pocket-dimension cemetery on the east side of the city. He also learns there is a spelljammer captain in town, a giff captain named Boris Dewhammer.

With all of Ocean’s Deep before them, the Revengers are finally back on familiar ground….

XP
Group Awards
Memory Hut, 2000
A Meal Fit for Bhaergala, 2600
A Jester’s Place, 3000
The New Revengers? 600

Group Total: 8200 Individual Award: 1367

Individual Totals
Bea 2867 (Purplebottom Manor 1500, Group 1367)
Bertram 2867 (A New Apprentice 1500, Group 1367)
Ervendio 2867 (Feed the Beasts 1500, Group 1367)
Golgaraz 2867 (Ribbon Dangler 1500, Group 1367)
Mildred 2867 (Divested of Druids 1500, Group 1367)
Valeria 2867 (Statue of Dad 1500, Group 1367)

LOOT
???

View
66: Out of the Underdark
our heroes see sunlight

Mildred, having infiltrated a Temple of Lolth in pursuit of divine drow secrets, hastily exits when the priestesses there turn on her. Likewise, Bea and Valeria leave the home of Orlo the vampire when they find the cost of restoring Bea’s sight to be too great. There are many opportunities for adventure and reward in Erelhei-Cinlu, but the pervasive evil of the drow makes it hard for the Revengers to take advantage.

Back at the Inn of the Spider’s Nest, Ervendio has set up overlooking the druids in the stables. Golgaraz communes with LEX, who tells him the seventh piece of the rod is upward, and to the northeast.

Meanwhile, Bertram has set a trap for Klakko, after recruiting a band of gamblers who run a long con on Klakko. They track the deep gnome to a gambling den called the Grub, and then lure him to an inn called Hideaways where they take him for every piece of gold he has — which is only about 1/3rd of what he took from Bertram. Bertram ensures Klakko’s loyalty through fear — using the same tactics he once tried on Paqi. This time it works and Klakko promises to gather information for Bertram — “numbers, movements, everything.” Klakko isn’t entirely sure what that means, but he promises to do it.

Back at the inn, Ervendio and Golgaraz hear a commotion downstairs. Maeve has been killed by a drow patrol after stepping out into the street without her traveling cloak, which has been stolen from her. The other druids are distraught and want to battle the drow. Valeria and Bea come upon the scene, and though they do not agree with the drow’s reasoning for killing Maeve, they realize they must respect the dark elves’ laws.

Ervendio prays to the Kuraphai, asking who stole Maeve’s cloak. The rat is their answer.

Initially Carol/Ann is questioned about the cloak, but she denies it; also she is very drunk from serving as Bertram’s bait. Also, she keeps staring at Golgaraz’s butt.

That’s about the time Mildred returns to the inn. Mildred doesn’t deny “borrowing” Maeve’s cloak, but believes it’s Maeve’s own fault for venturing out without it. The druids are ready to strike out on their own, and Ervendio, Valeria, and Golgaraz are all of the same mind: this city is evil, the drow is evil, it’s time to leave.

Bea wants to stay and investigate Trill Tormtor, the drow Orlo asked her to murder; Mildred doesn’t see what the big deal is about at all; Bertram wants to stay and meet with the deep gnome queen again. Reluctantly, he tells the party of his meeting with Queen Haverdash XVIII.

The druids, though angry and feeling betrayed, agree to see things through for the chance to escape to the world above.

Bea goes off to get more info on Trill — she determines he’s a bad guy, but maybe not a he must die kind of bad guy? But she also learns that Trill’s family, the Tormtors, as well as another noble house, the Eilservs, have turned away from Lolth and are worshipping an “old god” referred to as no one.

Ervendio knows that, in certain dialects, “nemo” is an elvis term for “no one” — and Nemo was the name given to the Wolf of Arcworth by the goblins in the prison under Cano City, goblins who had also turned away from their chosen god — in the goblins’ case, Edrick Half-Ogre.

After getting some rest, the Revengers go to Gnomeland to meet Queen Haverdash XVIII.She is kind-hearted and happy to see Bertram. Haverdash has arranged for passage to the surface using deep gnome tunnels — it will take a week, and be hard-traveling, but with deep gnome guides it should be relatively free from monsters or drow. At Bertram’s request, she provides travel cloaks for the other druids, and she personally gifts several scrolls and magic items from the deep gnome archives — including an instant fortress that once belonged to her father. In return, she asks that Bertram deliver a letter to the top-world gnome, Facistasia Claudia Wonderfrock IX. With a buttshake and well-wishes, the Revengers part ways with the deep gnome queen.

The Revengers embark on the final leg of their journey out of the underdark. They lose two more druids on their way to the top-top, but they finally reach the sun-lit above-world. Carol/Ann has accompanied them (Ervendio gives her a blindfold to protect her sight), as has Roger. They are accompanied by 9 surviving druids, and Svendar. They are somewhere in the jungles of the Middlemarsh. Home is still leagues away…

XP
Group Awards
An Inter-Gnomish Covenant, 6000
The Cult of No-One, 6000

Group Total: 12,000 Individual Award: 2000

Individual Totals
Bea 3200 (I Left My Eyes in the Underdark 1200, Group 2000)
Bertram 3200 (Gimblott Shark 1200, Group 2000)
Ervendio 3200 (Gift of a Blindfold 1200, Group 2000)
Golgaraz 3200 (Slow Convo 1200, Group 2000)
Mildred 3200 (Green Cloak 1200, Group 2000)
Valeria 3200 (We’re Leaving 1200, Group 2000)

LOOT
5 level-1 scrolls (Bertram’s choice)
potion of giant strength (randomly determined, DMGp142
cloak of protection 1
dust of illusion (15 pinches, each lasts 1d6
6 hours)
Daern’s Instant Fortress

View
65.3: Mildred the Rat
mildred searches for forbidden knowledge...

In the dead of night, Mildred skulks off as a rat into the druid’s quarters at the inn. She peers into the room turning back into her mongrel self, scanning the sleeping imbeciles. How her new companions had managed to drag along this dead weight halfway across the Underdark in one piece, she’ll never know. In the darkness she spots Maeve, and she removes the druid’s cloak as she sleeps. (Mongrelmen have 70% pickpocketing for some reason, rolled a 37!)

She quickly wraps the cloak around her and turns back into a rat, scurrying out of the room and out of the inn into the streets of the city.

After roaming the gutters for an hour two, skittering and twittering at her fellow rats, she is pointed in the direction of a rat named Mimbo, who the other rats say runs the streets. Who the other rats say knows magics.

Before long, she winds her way through allies until she sees him: a large, girthy, grey rat with a gold tooth, sitting on a pile of wet trash. His posse sniff at the air in all directions, and they notice Mildred before she can enter fully into view. The big grey rat looks at Mildred incredulously.

“Be you, Mimbo?” Mildred says in ratspeak.

“I be Mimbo,” says Mimbo, and he belches loudly. “I run the streets. I know magics! I am mighty, smart, and I smell bad! I am — MIMBO!”

Mimbo’s possee cackles gleefully and crowds around Mildred.

“Show yourself! You smell — different.”

Mildred shuffles forward, with a reserved confidence. “I am different. As you are, so I’m told. This is why I seek your knowledge.”

“Tell me, where do the drow priests dwell? Or better yet, the ones they call druids. Have you heard of such folk?”

“Dru-ids?” says Mimbo, leaning forward taking the measure of this new creature. “I have heard of them, from the other-rats. The ones who serve the squid-heads. They dwell far away from this place, in the fields and forests of mushrooms. The drow priests are everywhere. Follow the spiders — but not too closely.”

Mimbo sniffs at Mildred more intently.

“You have heard of Mimbo, but Mimbo has never heard of you. What are you called? Where do you come from? What do you bring me, as tribute?”

“Mildred thanks you, Mimbo. But Mildred bears no tribute. I have traveled long and far, you see…I have no mound of trash to call my own. And so I venture on, should you and your rats allow it.”

The rats around you gasp and mutter — No tribute! No tribute? No tribute!?

Mimbo goes apoplectic. “N-N-NOOO TRIBburrrrpUTE!? Bring it’s fore-teeth — to Mimbo!

The rats descend upon Mildred. She is bitten, clawed, and kicked with hind legs.

In the chaos, a white tail is thrust out to you and you hear a chittering voice say, “If you want to live — grab my tail!”

Just as Mildred is ready to turn into a menacing bobcat, and gobble up these nasty rats, she hears the voice and sees the tail. She juts out her little rat paws and flails, kicking back at a frenzied rat face for leverage. She is free! But who is she holding on to?

The white rat leads Mildred out of the fracas — they do not seem to notice she’s gone. They continue to fight, bite, and tear, with Mimbo egging them on.

“Those idiots,” says the white rat, leading Mildred down icky, stinky tunnels. “And Mimbo is the worst. They say he was a drow once, but was transformed into a rat by some old vampire. Been an animal so long he’s gone mad!”

A slimy tentacle reaches out for them from out of the goop.

“Whoops — look out for the otyugh!” says the white rat, bouncing and leaping out of the monster’s reach.

After several minutes, the white rat stops in a cozy, dry cubby.

“I know you’re not one of them,” it says. "But I also know you’re not one of me. I’m a were-rat in service to the illithid. But you — what, you’re a wizard, maybe? Someone powerful and beautiful? Asking about drow priests — so you must know that this city is about to erupt in violence and blood as the nobles turn on each other.

“So tell me: which priests are you looking for? The spider’s, or the wolf’s?”

“Oh, I do love spiders,” Mildred says, surprised that she said it. For a moment she remembers a beloved friend from a far away life.

“I would not say that I am beautiful, no. Hee hee. And not as powerful as I need to be.” Mildred struggles to keep up both physically and in conversation. Nobles turning on each other? What does old Mildred care?

“Yes, yes. The city is in chaos. So I must speak to the priests of the spider. Can you take me to them? Are the others like you in service of these priests?”

“Me? Work for the drow? Nonono,” says the white rat. “My masters lie in wait, building their power. The elves who live above are so very proud of this mud ball — won’t they be surprised when we take it from below!”

There is a gurgle from a nearby stream.

“Ah! Our lucky break.”

The white rat hops onto a lumpy, floating body that is floating past.

“This way! I can take you to the spider-priests. I’m assuming you have some kind of information to trade, of course. Anything really — something that will interest my masters.”

“Thank you! You are too kind!” Mildred hops onto the body and hesitates before jumping across.

“I do have some information, that might be interesting to you, specifically. You see, there is way out of your predicament, working for those illithids. All you have to do is join me and companions. And we will take you out of the Underdark forever. No more slavery, no more mind games and manipulation. You could lead a new life, away from this rat race. Hee hee.”

Mildred does not wait for a yes or no. “Think about it! Now what was your name, deary?”

“Why would I want to leave the Underdark? Or the service of my masters? It is my sole purpose in life! I am Ingressio, shadow-captain of the third guard!

“Though your … companions sound most powerful, indeed. Who are you, and where are you from?”

“I am called Mildred. I come from the Chaos Storm in the land above. My companions, who knows where they come from originally? I’ve only just met them, really. But I think perhaps I knew them in another life? That is what seems to be the case, anyhow! Hee hee. It’s all very confusing.”

“Well, if you are happy, Ingressio, then forget I said a thing. I would say that I owe you my life, but that would be untrue. Mimbo’s rats owe you their lives. I was just about to turn into a cat when you showed up! How serendipitous! Thank you for offering my your tail in a time of need.”

“Can I find my way to the priests from here? Are there any rats that work for the priests? Or will I be dealing with spiders?”

“Spiders and snakes,” says Ingressio, “but yes, you can probably find your way from here. Be careful — Mildred, of the Chaos Storm.”

Ingressio leaves you near a pipe that leads upward into a temple. You emerge in what seems to be a funerary room — there is a body on a stone slab, fresh from the smell of it, of a female drow. She is being attended to in what appears to be a ritualistic fashion by three other females. They are dressed in black robes and they work silently — anointing the body with oils and cleaning the corpse’s hair.

On the walls there is visible spider icongraphy carved into stone. Some of the spiders have the face of a female drow.

There are no other rats you can see or sense.

Mildred turns into a snake. She then watches the ritual to see what happens. She really has no idea how she’ll communicate with the priests from this point on. But if a moment presents itself, she will attempt to speak to one of the priests in the language of snakes.

“Holy one. I come from lands afar ssssseeking the lore and power of the sssspider priests. Thisss of courssse is not my true form, but I cannot sssspeak the Drow tongue. Can you teach me your waysssss?”

One of the priestesses moves to cut Mildred’s snake-form in half — but one of the others stops her.

“Hold your blade, sister. This could be a boon.”

“It could be a trick,” says the violent one.

“Even so! We can learn more through patience.”

She kneels down and speaks the language of snakes back to Mildred: “If you would learn our ways, sssslithery one, you musst first earn our trussst. The Ssssisters of Lolth have many enemiesssss. Would one of your power prove your worth to ussss?”

“Yesss, of courssse. What would you have me do?”

The priestess regards Mildred for a moment — starts to speak, catches herself, then resumes.

“The mistresss of House Tormtor would move against usss. She profanes our city by worshipping a falsssse god. Desssstroy her.”

View
65.2: The Vampire's Den
valeria & bea meet a very old gnome...

Valeria wakes up late. In her dream, she had been back in Arcadia, walking through deep forest, and the sky peeking through treetops had felt impossibly far away.

She spent some time brushing out Chow Chow. His fur always seemed to be damp down here, and she worried that he was growing fungus in there.

When she finished she tried to check on Carol. Valeria had questions about the city, and the Drow could be helpful to her, but she wasn’t in her room, or the common room, either. When she asked the innkeep, he told her that Carol had gone out with Bertram early that morning, to a place called the gnomeland.

Valeria hurried to catch up.

Just walking the streets here gave her a headache. Ever since Edrick had blessed her, she could feel the presence of evil as a low buzzing ache in her skull, and this place made her head hurt constantly. It was a low sort of evil, mostly, but it was constant and steady and she hated it.

Twenty minutes later, she was lost. The pain in her head was so distracting that she could;t keep her sense of direction, and the streets seemed to twist constantly.

She stopped and cleared her head, feeling for a place where the evil wasn’t. A safe place to ask for directions.

“Madam,” says Chow Chow, as the pair stops in front of an undecorated door. There is a smoky fog billowing out of it that smells like a mixture of fruit, sweet trash, and armpits. “I do not think this is the best idea.”

But Valeria’s headache retreats to a dull throb as she pokes her head into the doorway.

The scene resembles a kind of peaceful squalor. There are drow laying around the room on lounges, on blankets, or on the ground.

A drow steps out from a bank of pipes and glass bowls connected to mouth pieces. “Dosst l’thi h’ros doer wun ghil,” she says, pointing to Chow Chow. “Whol natha penis, dos shlu’ta chu’tgera l’tresk’ri tarthe.”

“Do you speak common? Or is there someone here who does? I’m looking to get directions. And my dog is not for sale, if that’s what you’re asking.”

The drow frowns, seems to think things over, and says, “You only say human? How disgusting. This is a hash den. I accomplish no desire to buy your beast, but it cannot come in here. It will frighten my customers. Where are you trying to go?”

Valeria looks deeper into the hash den and realizes that the absence of evil isn’t the result of anyone particularly good inside, but because no one in there seems to have much will to do anything at all.

“The Gnomeland,” she stammers. “The bar. A friend of mine went there, and I’m trying to find him.”

The drow sneers, but gives Valeria directions to Gnomeland. They sound straightforward when she tells Valeria where to go (go straight, turn after this many blocks, if you see the sign with the gaping orifice you’ve gone too far), but the narrow, winding streets prove disorienting once the paladin is out in them.

Valeria sees the gaping orifice painted on the sign above a small inn and groans. “So if I turn and go back one block, then I go right instead of left, because I’m going the other way…unless the sign is more than a block past…Chow Chow, I hate this place.”

She backtracks, turning right, and walking a short way, she finds it. The Gnomeland. The sign above the door is a sort of deeper dark pastoral; small mushroom houses set into the bank of an underground river, painted in purples and pinks.

And standing under the doorway, looking almost as lost as Valeria feels, is Bea Purplebottom.

Valeria calls out to Bea, but before she gets an answer the door opens, and she sees sees Carol being tugged out onto the street by a rough looking deep gnome.

“C’mon then, yer Baroness-ness!” says Roger, shouldering past Bea.

Volcano growls and nips at Roger’s back — Roger starts and yanks on Carol/Ann’s arm.

“Oh — Bea!” says Carol/Ann.

“Ann!” says Chow Chow.

“Chow Chow!” says Carol/Ann. “Valeria!”

“Eh?” says Roger.

Valeria’s eyes narrow. “Carol, is this gnome bothering you?”

Roger looks from Valeria to Carol and back — he drops her hand.

“Oh, ahh, we’re all on the level, eh?” He taps a finger to his nose. “Naw, just escorting — Carol — back to the Nest.”

Carol looks flustered. “I — think I like him,” she says. “He is calling me a Baroness.”

Valeria’s eyes un-narrow. “Oh! Right! Baroness. Yes, we avoid her titles on the street. We never know who might be listening.”

Valeria looks up at Bea and thinks about their conversation last night while they were laying in their bunks.

“Actually, if you are willing to escort us, we are in need of a wizard. A powerful one.”

Valeria’s head throbs particularly hard for a moment and she winces. “There is a catch though. This wizard. He can’t be…you know…evil.”

“That was almost a very easy request,” Roger says. “Wizard, very powerful — check. But then — not evil? That is harder.”

He frowns, rubs his nose and tugs his beard, tapping his foot.

“I don’t know if we have that combination in Erelhei-Cinlu. I know of a — well, he’s kind of a loner? Stays out of errrr, noble affairs, if the lady don’t mind my saying so. Name of Orlo. Very powerful. Very old. Plays by the rules, if that makes sense? But definitely evil tho.”

“I don’t mean to imply we’re all evil down here,” Roger says. “I’m not. No offense, m’lady,” he says to Carol. “It’s just that, y’know. Anyone of consequence is. Evil, I mean.”

“Hmm, if he plays by the rules, then he can’t be all evil. We will try him. Can you show us where to find Orlo?”

Valeria turns to Bea and whispers, “We might be able to make you young again, if you want it. But keep an eye out…or, er, I mean watch out for…, or…oh, just pay attention. If you see anything evil happening, tell me right away. We don’t want to be involved in any of that.”

“Oh, to be young again,” says Bea. “I would like that of all things. Maybe this Orlo has a way, though it’s hard to imagine how. If it were easy, you’d assume everyone would be after such a thing.”

How strange it was to talk to this young woman, the child of Jongle fully grown! The age would be as her own daughter, if only… If only what?Bea had yet to fully understand what had happened to her in those ensuing years with… him. Tristan. And she his wife, and her dear phantom children, and 40 long years of life. And then to wake among her companions, friends she hadn’t thought about for years, for them as if no time had passed. Time was wild and amoral and it conspired to rob us of sanity. Is youth so precious, was she so greedy for more life, that she could look to evil to place her old soul back in a shell familiar to her friends, strong and lovely and new? Perhaps only those lonely mad liches in their eternal myopic arcane hells knew the answer.

“Anyway, I’ll keep my eyes peeled,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve had a chance to say so yet, Valeria, but it’s really nice to have another lady romping around here.”

Roger leads Bea, Valeria, and Carol/Ann through the windy city streets. He explains that Orlo is a deep gnome wizard, very very old, and set in his ways.

Orlo’s home is in a spooky and run-down — even for the drow city — part of town. It is a one-story stone building surrounded by taller, darkened, and seemingly abandoned buildings.

“The ritual for meeting Orlo,” Roger explains, “is that you knock on the door, perhaps stepping aside in case he attacks you through it without asking who you are first. But then if he invites you in — you are safe! Oh, and he might ask to drink your blood, but he is honor-bound to respect your wishes in this regard. He is a vampire, you see.”

Valeria leans back in towards Bea. “A vampire!” she whispers. “Of course that’s the least evil wizard down here. Tou know, the last time I dealt with an evil wizard things went south pretty fast. Of course, he was a Rakshasa, not a Vampire. I needed his whiskers for a paintbrush.”

“Be on the look ou—I mean keep your eyes peele— oh you know what I mean.”

Valeria raps her knuckles on the door and then steps to the side quickly.

After a moment of quiet, the door bursts open with a bolt of electricity. The hair stands up on the arms & neck of anyone within a few feet of the building.

After another moment of quiet, a low and dusty voice calls out: “If you are alive, and if you are meaning me no harm — come in. Enter my home.”

“Nice lighting bolt, sir! No, we don’t mean any harm!” Whispers: “Why don’t you lead us on in, V?”

“That voice seems awfully gentle for a homicidal lightning vampire,” Valeria whispers back, and then she steps in through the front door.

“Hello, we’re looking for Orlo the Wizard. We’ve heard he is quite fearsome and powerful, but also fair, and maybe kind?”

“Bah!” spits the voice. “I am he, I am Orlo. You are in — my realm.”

The room around Valeria is very much like a hole in the ground — a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell. It is also filled with a small table and some stools, piles of papers and books, and bookcases proper. Everything smells damp and moldy and near unto death.

In the middle of it all is Orlo: a deep gnome, clearly long dead and also long un-dead. His head is bald and pale, his ears are long and pointed. He has teeth like a rabbit — long, extended past his lips almost like they are too big for his mouth. They are pointed. His eyes are dark and bloodshot. His fingernails are long and they clack together.

“If you mean no harm to me, ehhhh — you are safe here. You velcome.”

Orlo pushes some books off of some stools and offers seats to Valeria and Bea.

You two are velcome. That one —” and he points at Carol/Ann — “that one is a spy for the others. She is not velcome. Vhat do you — ehhh — vant?”

Orlo appears to be gathering small, dust-covered cups, blowing the dust out of them (mostly) and filling them with the dark, red liquid from a bottle.

Carol/Ann hesitates at the doorway to the dank hole — as does Volcano, as does Chow Chow.

“Carol, you don’t need to hide just because Mr. Orlo is being rude.”

“We know just who she is, thank you, and she has proven to be quite trustworthy. We will vouch for her.”

Orlo sneers — “Then you are agents of the illithid — or you are fools! Either vay, Orlo cannot help you.”

With a shaky hand, he tries to pour the red liquid in the cups back into the dusty bottle.

“Oh, now that’s just silly! I am Valeria Janglemancer, Paladin of Edrick Half-Ogre, first of that order. This is Bea Purplebottom of the something or other Purplebottoms—Bea, where is your family from again?—and this is Carol-Anne, who used to be an agent of the illithid, but who is making her own descions these days. Isn’t that right Carol?”

“Um, except for when you tell me what to do, yes,” says Carol/Ann.

Orlo’s bushy eyebrows knit together as he regards the group with deep suspicion.

“Vhat … do you vant,” he says.

“Anyway I’m sure by now you have sensed that we’re no fools” says Bea," nor are we weak. We’ve killed illithids and other fouler things than, though perhaps not so powerful as you to bring us to your audience. There may be or maybe not things we can learn from one another, in time, I suppose. But what a shame if such an interesting opportunity for a bargain were to end before it began, don’t you agree?"

Orlo sniffs and licks from his hand the sticky red liquid that has spilled on his hand. He offers none to his guests.

“I do not vant a student,” he says. “I killed the last one. That was … ehhh, I don’t remember. A long time ago. She was fool. I sense only vanting from you — no power. But you vill not say vhat it is.”

There is a scuttling from deeper within the hole — there is a tumbling of loose soil. A wrapped and rotting creature shambles from the dirt — has it emerged from a deeper warren? From the wall itself? — carrying a tray. On the tray is a rotting mound of something that may have been … cheese (???) and a pile of small bones.

“There is refreshment,” says Orlo, gesturing to the creature and the tray. “You are not scared of Orlo. Perhaps you need to be.”

“Hmm, well I’m sorry if we got all this off on the wrong foot. We didn’t mean any disrespect. You see, we’re looking to purchase something. Bea was aged prematurely, and we are looking for an elixir of youth. To restore her. Roger here told us that of all the wizards here in town, you were the most…fair.”

His dark eyes sparkle. He rubs his hands together and his long nails clack against themselves.

“Elixir of youth? Oh, haha — hahaha — moo-hoo-hahahaaaaa, why yes, Orlo has elixir of youth! A limitless supply!”

He seems to glide over the dirt floor to Bea with alarming speed, stopping just short of physical contact.

“Is this your desire … Beatrice Purplebottom?”

“Frankly, I’m not really sure, to tell you the truth.”

Bea, increasingly distressed by the seeming presence of a rotting animated corpse in the same room, and the odd vile lascivious eagerness of this Orlo, raises her clawed hand to tap once at her opaline eye in blackness, a new gesture she’d adopted, a reminder of all that she had allowed to spiral out of control in her life. There was a time when she reveled in that.

“I’m just so tired. I’m sorry… Thank you for seeing us. I think I’d better leave.”

Volcano, growling low, edges her toward the door.

“Oh!” Orlo seems momentarily transfixed by Bea’s plink on her opal eyeball. “You are blind. I had not noticed this — so strange. That is something Orlo could legitimately fix, should you desire to … make deal.”

The rotting, bandaged corpse holds the door open for Bea and Valeria’s exit.

“If not,” says Orlo, “I bid you … farewell.”

“You can fix my eyes? What would you ask in return?”

“You … could see as Orlo sees. Invisible creatures made visible. Hidden doors made plain. Illusions? Bah! As nothing to you. Ahh, but…”

Orlo steps away from Bea and strides around his muddy room.

“Orlo is kept here by a promise, and a curse. Orlo has much business in the vorld. Much enemies. You would destroy one of them. Bring his head to Orlo, as proof. And then, could your opals see. They vould see true, for as long as you have them in your head.”

“We have gold to pay you, or gems,” says Valeria. “We are not assassins, sent out to murder for coin.”

“That doesn’t sound unreasonable,” says Bea. “I appreciate the bargain, thanks. Tell me, who would you have destroyed?”

“Bea!” Valeria whispers, “we are not just going to kill someone because he does;t like them. That’s just…evil!”

“Yeah, but… what if it’s someone who we’d want to remove from this plane anyway?” whispers Bea. “Some people just got to go.”

“That is for the law and the gods to decide, not some shaky old vampire!” Valeria says, much too loud.

“He is old, fat drow, kept as incubus in the House Tormtor. They are a veak house. His name is Trill. He is old, he is fat, he is close to dying comfortably in his bed. I vish him to die in blood. By the point of a blade. I vould vish him to know it vas Orlo who villed this to be.”

Orlo looks to Valeria. “Shaky old vampire? Valeria Janglemancer, Paladin of Edrick Half-Ogre, First of Her Order. Father is dead. Mother is — ahh, long, long dead.”

Orlo closes his eyes, he seems to be looking somewhere else, somewhere far, far away.

“She is dead longer than Orlo has lived. Her bones are dust, and far away. Yet she leaves messages for those who vill listen. Who is god? Who is law? Maybe it is Orlo. Hm?”

“Obviously we won’t do it unless it’s some jerk,” says Bea. “But hey, if it won’t sit right with your gods or whatever, that cool, we just won’t do it. How about it, Orliolio? Will you be content to simply enrich yourself further? You can always pay somebody else to do the deed.”

//Or just let me know on the downlow//, she thinks, hoping he can somehow hear her thoughts, //and I will consider it once I learn more about this person.//

“Your riches mean nothing to one such as Orlo,” he says, “one who has had centuries to acquire vealth. One who has lost interest in such things. You be gone from here — you are no longer velcome here.”

While Bea and Valeria are not forced to leave, you both feel very certainly that you would like to leave. It is a strange feeling indeed.

Orlo says, in a voice that resonates deeply with Bea, “You are not velcome here, except bearing the head of Trill Tormtor.”

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” says Bea.

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