Dawn of the Unflankables

Chapter 28: Take Me To The River

The heroes are reunited. Though no hugs are exchanged, there is a strong feeling that all is right once again. They don’t hang around long at the Sinking Forest, as there is a bright flash from where they came from, followed by a loud rushing noise and the telltale sounds of a landslide. The heroes decide there is nothing to worry about and head back to Ravenswood.

With a farewell wave, Erlen heads back to Jack’s Institute. Popo goes back to the guard station. Lucius also departs, with the hopes that he can work with the Unflankables again someday. Barnabus also shows up, to make sure the rescue went according to plan. Ryndir asks if they’ll be receiving any payment for the mission, realizing soon after that he was actually the payment in this particular case. Barnabus gives the heroes a map of the region. This is a valuable gift for the heroes and they dedicate the afternoon to studying it and planning their next course of action.

Finally, they decide that they should follow the trail of the mysterious prison destructor and travel towards Addertown. During the ride, Darksex does some target practice on some trees. He misses a few times with his eldritch blast, but blows the leaves off one of the trees. They travel until the sun sets, at which point they stop at an inn called The Bronze Pony. The inn is owned and run by a friendly dwarf named Moses who offers up ales and dwarven lagers. Ulfgar is hungry and asks what he can gorge himself on. Moses particularly likes the deer steak, but the area is also well populated with badger, which is the dish The Bronze Pony is known for. The badger is boiled, sautéed, baked, grilled, and then fried. Ryndir and Ulfgar order a badger and a deer steak respectively. Pineroot and Darksex one-up them by ordering TWO badgers and TWO deer steaks, respectively.

The heroes look around for anyone interesting and shout a bit about Addertown to get some attention. One patron sidles up to the bar to refill his drink and starts a conversation with the heroes about their destination. He tells them that Addertown is in the forest and is a small little village. He recommends their liquors, all specially made by their alcoholchemists. He also warns them not to disturb the huts on the way to the village, as they are home to Yuan-Ti, the territorial snake people. The man introduces himself as Rusty, and the heroes’ excitement soars. Could this be THE Rusty Kettle? The creator of everyone’s favorite chain tavern himself? Rusty says his last name is Elwood and the heroes settle down.

The next morning’s travels are marked by more target practice, this time on the many badgers seen wandering the fields. Ulfgar kills one with his crossbow and plans to eat it later. Darksex also kills one, but Ryndir runs it over with the wagon. Soon enough, the heroes reach the river. To their dismay, the stone bridge is being dismantled by a clan of Bullywugs. The heroes decide to put a stop to this vandalism and Pineroot casts a magical illusion of a giant Darksex head. The head shouts, “Blaaggh! It’s me, Big Face! Get off my bridge, you Bullywugs!” This works like a charm, as even the more daring frogmen dive into the river and swim away.

The bridge is in bad shape. Huge chunks of stone have been removed from all sides of the bridge. While Darksex pretends to help, Ulfgar walks the length of the structure and determines that the wagon would surely destroy what is left of the bridge. Ulfgar returns to discuss possibilities with the rest of the Unflankables, but Darksex decides to go for a swim. While his companions watch, he is washed quickly downstream and he downs the water-breathing potion they found so long ago. Tying a rope to his old souvenir sconce, he grapples the rocks by the riverside and pulls himself to safety. Drenched and pretending nothing happened, he rejoins his friends.

The Unflankables run through their options. There aren’t enough trees to make a proper raft or to sufficiently patch the bridge. It’s too risky to leave the wagon behind while they walk to Addertown. And Ryndir doesn’t want to go back to Ravenswood because he’s sick of it. Their well of ideas has pretty much dried up when a whirlpool forms in the middle of the river. The heroes groan, mentally trained to expect the worst of all scenarios. The whirlpool inverts and a great creature emerges. A watery vortex flows up from the river, out of which a large, voluptuous torso arises. The creature’s face is fish-like, with puffy, scaled lips and dreadlock tendrils instead of hair. The imposing figure is dressed in magnificent robes and gaudy rings.

In a deep voice and in the third person, the creature announces herself as The Great Nepta. In a tone of over-friendliness, Nepta points out the heroes’ obvious dilemma and suggests that perhaps she could be of assistance. She offers to repair the bridge with her wondrous power in exchange for a reasonable one-hundred years of servitude. The heroes aren’t super into the deal and decline. Nepta oh-so-subtly suggests that perhaps a treasure or favor would be an acceptable exchange.

The heroes tell Nepta to wait for a moment while they converse inside the wagon. Ulfgar wants to trick the so-called immortal into drinking a potion of petrification. Ryndir thinks maybe they could give her one of the three gems he found in Wickhaven’s lab. After all, they have elemental demons trapped inside them! The heroes go back outside and offer Nepta the shining red gem. The self-proclaimed goddess snatches up the gem and inspects. She quickly gives it back, claiming there is no demon inside. The heroes perform a few magic scans and discover that there is indeed no demons inside any of the gems.

While Nepta grows impatient, the heroes climb back inside the wagon to discuss other options. Everyone except Darksex decides that the best idea is to wager that Darksex can survive for ten minutes under the water. If he does, Nepta has to fix the bridge. If he doesn’t, Nepta can have Darksex as a slave. Darksex detests the idea, despite having previously ingested the water-breathing potion. Nepta hesitates before agreeing to the deal and then descends, smiling, into the river.

Before he can protest, the heroes secure Darksex with a rope and toss him into the river. His pockets are filled with stones and he sinks to the bottom. There is no sign of Nepta and the dwarf becomes anxious, though he admits to himself that breathing underwater is a pretty cool feeling. For fun, he pretends he’s drowning in case anyone’s watching. After a couple minutes pass, Darksex spots a school of fish swimming towards him. They get closer and he realizes, to his horror, that each of them have Nepta’s face. The fish begin to bite him with tiny sharp teeth, and the rest of the heroes watch a small cloud of blood appear in the water.

Darksex focuses his arcane energy and projects an illusion of himself swimming away down the river, while simultaneously misty stepping in the opposite direction. The Nepta fish fall for his trick and swim towards the fake Darksex. The rope, no longer tied to Darksex, floats to the surface. Ulfgar peers into the depths, seeing his comrade just chillin’ at the bottom of the river under the bridge. The ten minutes come to a close and Nepta reappears, most displeased.

While Darksex is fished from the water, Nepta expresses her displeasure. She is true to her word, however, and a swarm of stones float into the many holes of the bridge. Nepta descends back into the river and heroes happily cross the newly repaired bridge towards Addertown.

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