Dawn of the Unflankables

Chapter 14: Sad Statue

Things look bleak for our dear heroes. Their numbers quickly drop as Smugs, Ryndir, and Azaghal succumb to their curse and turn completely to stone. His nearby friends now statues, Darksex fries the remaining cockatrice with a quick blast. Darksex, Ulfgar, and Pineroot turn warily to the center of the quarry where Kelburn and the fire elemental remain locked in combat. Pineroot hurls the carcass of a cockatrice into the elemental and oddly pleasant sizzling sounds are heard. The gnome then calls out to Kelburn drawing his attention, and the stone dwarf begins to lumber in his direction angrily. Darksex hits the elemental with an eldritch blast, but quickly discovers that the fiery being is much, much faster than Kelburn. The fire peering at him from the tier below, Darksex casts a phantasmal force that takes the form of himself furiously firing spells. The elemental’s focus now on the illusory Darksex, the real dwarven spellcaster runs to the wall surrounding the quarry. He then casts a spell of spider-climbing on himself and begins to scurry up the stone barrier.

Pineroot, meanwhile, tries to reason with Kelburn. Perhaps the Unflankables could team up with the indignant boulder-man. Pineroot’s words seem to have penetrated Kelburn’s hard exterior as the stone dwarf tells him that he will destroy the elemental. However he vows to destroy the Unflankables as well once he is finished. Pineroot shrugs and shouts uplifting and inspiring statements after the departing dwarf. Ulfgar positions himself tactically behind a large boulder and fires bolt after bolt from his crossbow at the elemental. Many miss their mark, one even knocking over the teetering statue of Smugs. Not one to be shut out, however, Ulfgar manages to land a few hits on the burning figure. The elemental, in fact, is deep in combat with the false Darksex, a battle that threatens to last an eternity. Luckily, Darksex has magically climbed to the top of the wall. He fires several volleys of his eldritch blast that knock the elemental to the tier below. The elemental continues to reform itself, and set on its target, returns to attack faux-Darksex.

If it were possible for a being of pure flame to become confused, the next events surely would do the deed. Kelburn finally stops, positioned on the tier below the elemental. He concentrates deeply and a pair of heavy boulders burst from the ground and move to either side of the elemental. One of the boulders has taken the same position as the fake Darksex, but the illusion continues to pretend to shoot spells. The two boulders begin to smash the elemental between each other again and again, both irritating the elemental and continuously interrupting the holo-Darksex. The real Darksex falters in his concentration and his imaginary clone vanishes. Pineroot has his back though, and conjures exactly the same illusion in exactly the same spot.

The ridiculous battle lasts only a few more minutes as Darksex blasts the elemental off the tier and directly onto Kelburn. Kelburn now looks like a hot coal, an oddly beautiful sight despite the perilous situation. The stone dwarf has lost his mind link with the boulders and is back to fist-fighting the elemental. Home-field advantage turns out not to be enough, though, as bright cracks begin to form all over Kelburn’s body. With a final guttural yell, the solidified spirit of the dwarf swears to bury them all, as he was buried in life. Then, true to his word, Kelburn explodes and sends tremors throughout the quarry. Moments later, the very ground beneath the heroes’ feet collapses and they find themselves plummeting into the darkness below.

Hours later, the heroes awaken, partially buried in dirt and rock. There is no sight of the elemental, or of the night sky for that matter. Despite the turn of events, Ulfgar seems far happier underground, and the petrification plaguing his companions has begun to wear off. Smugs and Ryndir find that they’re still alive, but that not all of their limbs have reverted to their fleshy forms. The adventurers unbury themselves and Ulfgar lashes Azaghal to his back, the poor tiefling still completely made of stone. They grab two cockatrice corpses and turn to the tunnel before them.

The heroes are met with a bizarre scene. Throughout the tunnel are statues of adventurers: men, elves, dwarves, it seems no race has been left unsculpted. The heroes are unsurprised to see that most of the faces of the statues are horrified, expressions of impending doom forever etched on their features. Being turned to stone is not a pleasant experience, after all. They get a chuckle from a statue whose final moments seem to have been spent deep in a drug-induced haze. Further down the tunnel, around a bend, they see a blue glow and hear heavy footfalls. They creep towards the glow and stop before rounding the bend. They use the stone form of Azaghal and poke his head around the bend, in an arguably clever, but definitely comical maneuver. Nothing happens, and in quick succession, the heroes poke their heads around the bend, Scooby-Doo style.

What they see is a man standing with his back turned, hands clasped nonchalantly behind him. His hair is long and silvery, tied near his shoulders and he is dressed very well. He is watching a pair of towering shield guardians move about the tunnel. The two armored constructs are gathering the statues of former adventurers and carrying them into a glowing blue portal on the far wall, returning moments later. Perplexed, the heroes are hesitant to approach. Darksex opens his mind and speaks to the mysterious man via psychic link. The man senses the source of the internal words and turns to see the adventurers. He calmly bids them greeting and inquires what brings them to this place. The heroes talk over each other, mentioning landslides and statues and burning men.

The man assures them he means them no harm and introduces himself as Archibald Mandalus. Pineroot shakes his hand, expecting a much more firm grip than the one he received. The heroes question Mandalus on his current activity and he explains that he’s a bit of a collector, acquiring strange and apparently twisted prizes. The heroes gaze hungrily at the portal, sensing an easy exit. Mandalus asks if the heroes would like some assistance in getting out of the cave, but are taken aback when he requests something valuable in return. He seems interested in the stone tiefling on Ulfgar’s back, but the staunch cleric declines to trade away his compatriot. A quick hero huddle later, the adventurers tempt Mandalus with the prospect of a potion used to turn people to stone. They happen to know a gifted potionsmaster who could easily craft such a thing.

Mandalus accepts and begins to talk of the cavern ahead. This catches the heroes a bit off guard, but they allow the mysterious fellow to describe the myconid colony that resides in the cavern and the stone staircase that leads to the surface. As a gesture of his good will, he hands the Unflankables’ resident magic-man one of his cuff-links. The cuff-link is apparently the heart of one of the shield guardians, now bound to follow the commands of the holder. Mandalus tells Darksex that the guardian is imbued with a sunlight spell that may be handy in maneuvering the fungus-covered cavern. He tells the heroes to watch out for the spores and that he’ll see them at the top. He bids them a friendly adieu and walks through the portal with his remaining shield guardian.

The heroes are equal parts apprehension, adrenaline, and confusion as they turn from the vanishing portal to face the long tunnel ahead of them.

Chapter 13: Gettin' Blazed, Gettin' Stoned

Smugs is not a werewolf. He is not a were-anything, in fact. He was bitten by one of the farm hounds when he drunkenly trespassed on their property. This fact is met with part relief, part disappointment from the heroes. But with the night’s harrowing events behind them, the Unflankables head to the wagon garage to talk to the halfling contractor they hired. He has blueprinted the second floor of the wagon and suggests larger wheels to keep the mobile anomaly from tipping over. For him and his crew to complete the modifications, he will need a few days and 300 gold pieces.

The heroes decide to go on a three day bender, but quickly realize that there are still occupants of their wagon. Dramatically face-palming in front of the construction crew, they remove Bernard and the Drow assassin from the wagon. Darksex tosses Bernard 30 gold pieces and sends him on his way as the heroes feign a warm farewell. The assassin is taken to the Ravenswood Penitentiary where he is turned over to Fyvo Puleesman, the guard on duty. The heroes hint at a reward and Puleesman shrugs, scribbling an IOU to give to the treasurer. At the town hall, the heroes meet up with Barnabus, who tells them that the other assassins were hired by Wickhaven. He offers the heroes 500 gold pieces for services rendered. The heroes exude some more greed from their pores and Barnabus offers to double their payment. On one condition. The heroes must take the mysterious gem away from the city and destroy it. Barnabus warns them that destroying the gem will release the elemental inside. He suggests that they take it to Kelburn’s Canyon, an abandoned quarry.

The heroes question the state of the quarry and Barnabus tells them the tragedy of the landslide that killed a dwarven miner named Kelburn. The quarry has been abandoned for years and should be the perfect place to release the elemental. The heroes leave the town hall and decide to ride their oxen to the quarry. They spend a few minutes whistling to call the animals, but they receive only looks from passersby. They head back to the wagon garage and retrieve their mounts, face-palming dramatically throughout the process. They send Gale off to have dinner with Jack Carver with instructions to make note of how a man with a pumpkin-head eats his food. Off into the sunset they ride…slightly to the left of the sunset to be precise, but it still looks pretty neat.

The ride continues for several miles, but eventually they come upon the quarry. The quarry could perhaps have made a good colosseum, as it is circular in nature and descends in tiers every ten feet or so. The heroes debate simply throwing the gem in and leaving, but decide that destroying it in a huge explosion would be far cooler. Ryndir ties two of his explosive bars to the gem and hands it to Ulfgar. The dwarf winds up and hurls the gem down into the stony gulch. It lands near the bottom and moments later explodes in a ball of flame. The flames quickly expand momentarily before dwindling down to a humanoid form made entirely of fire. The elemental has been released.

There is no time for high fives, however, as the entire quarry begins to shake. A bellowing voice echoes through the air demanding to know who has dared enter his quarry. The voice then vows to destroy them all and the heroes are thrown forward into the rocky valley by the massive stone wall that has risen around the entire quarry. Now trapped in the canyon, the heroes see that at the very bottom tier, a dwarf made completely out of stone has appeared. They fan out, taking cover behind some of the larger rocks. Luckily for them, the elemental attacks the first thing it sees…Kelburn, the stone dwarf.

Ryndir takes a quick poll. Should the heroes all light up a quick blunt before battle? Or perhaps firing a bag of Dink’s dank kush into the elemental would give Kelburn and the fiery being a crippling high allowing the heroes to defeat them. He decides on the latter plan and fires, first the Hydra-Kush, then the Trogdo-delight. Both land near the elemental, but not close enough to ignite.

Kelburn gives another echoing roar. Up from the stones rise a flock of cockatrices that begin to spread out towards each of the adventurers. Azaghal immediately lashes out at the nearest creature and quickly discovers why the cockatrice is so dangerous. Receiving a few pecks, he feels his feet and legs begin to turn to stone. Ryndir and Smugs soon find themselves in a similar pickle as the cockatrices peck away at them. Ulfgar runs to help Azaghal and uses his hammer to destroy a few toes of the foul creatures. Pineroot moves unnoticed around the canyon and seizes an opportunity to dive onto an unsuspecting cockatrice. He forfeits his style points, unfortunately, when he trips on the ledge of the outcropping. Luckily, he still manages to strike his target.

Darksex warms up his blastin’ hands and begins firing off bursts of eldritch magic in the direction of various cockatrices. While Smugs smites one of his avian attackers, Darksex heads towards Ryndir, who is more stone than elf at this point. Instead of helping, the warlock dwarf blindly scores a direct hit on his elven companion. Meanwhile, Azaghal has pummeled one of the cockatrices into the dirt. His legs still immobile, he attempts to throw his scimitar at the other nearby creature. The sword falls harmlessly to the ground, but Ulfgar delivers a bone-jarring blow knocking the leathery beast back into the tiefling’s reach. Together the two dispatch the scaly bastard. Pineroot lets the adrenaline flow through his veins, dodging, parrying, retaliating against the two cockatrices before him. It isn’t long before they fall beneath the gnome’s sword.

Darksex tells the immobilized Ryndir to watch out, then laughs and proves he can be just as deadly to his enemies, turning the cockatrice in front of him into a scorch-mark on the ground. Ryndir fights off his petrification just enough to fire an arrow point blank into the head of the other horrible creature at his feet. The only remaining cockatrice hops around Smugs who seems to be at the creature’s mercy. During this entire debacle, Kelburn and the elemental have been locked in combat – stone and fire clashing in a tense, bright scene.

What will happen to our favorite adventurers? Can they survive the raging battle between rock and flame? Can they fight off the curse of the cockatrice or will they be forced to open a statue garden? Only time will tell.

Chapter 12: C.S.I. Ravenswood

A mystery is afoot. Jibly is a trembling mess, so the heroes take charge. All the patients seem to be alright, but Jibly removes one of his clown shoes to show them a puncture wound on his foot. He says that despite his snooze-free track record, he had fallen asleep and noticed the injury when he awoke. That was when he went to check on the doctor and discovered her body. They all head to Hedgewater’s office to investigate.

The office is trashed. Books and papers litter the room. The bones that were on display are scattered over the floor. One of the two displayed skulls lies in the corner, while the other is shattered completely. The glass case of vials has been destroyed, though the shelves inside are still intact. Only a few of the vials remain. In the center of the room, Hedgewater’s body lies in a massive pool of blood. Scratches cover her skin and a large chunk has been taken out of her neck. Darksex determines that there is nothing magic in the room, though the glowing bubble outside is quite a sight. Suddenly, Pineroot discovers the already-discovered body of the doctor. He exclaims, “Nobody move! This is a crime scene!”. Heads are shaken and the heroes begin to take a closer look. Ulfgar and Darksex examine the doctor’s wounds. The neck wound looks like a bite, but doesn’t seem right somehow. The scratches are also odd, as if only a single claw made every one of them.

Ulfgar examines the remaining vials, using his knowledge of Fey-Latin to translate the labels. There are a couple of venoms and poisons, as well as a liquid spore and the no longer half-full sleeping draught. Azaghal dips his finger in the doctor’s blood and gives it a taste. It tastes very much like blood. There are also smears of blood leaving the room where footprints should have been. The heroes share a huddle and then turn to ask Jibly a number of questions. They learn that no one else is in the building, staff OR patients. They decide that someone used Hedgewater’s missing pen to deliver the missing sleeping draught into Jibly’s foot. Therefore, Jibly is removed from the list of suspects.

The heroes decide to split up. Ryndir, Ulfgar, and Darksex borrow the basement key from Jibly, while Jibly himself accompanies the patients back to the mess hall with Pineroot and Azaghal. The basement gang snoops around the dusty floor, but there is little of note. There is a lot of old furniture that catches their interest, and Ryndir tosses a log into the wood furnace. Meanwhile, Pineroot and Azaghal have decided to play good cop/bad cop. Burrich continues his incessant grumbling which earns him the first interrogation. In one of the therapy rooms, the two new detectives question Burrich. Pineroot and Azaghal alternate enraging the tusked dwarf and calming him back down. Though he seems a likely suspect, Burrich insists that he enjoys passing on his curse too much to kill. He gives his offensive opinion on the other patients and Pineroot eventually brings him back to the mess hall.

Ryndir and the two dwarves have moved on to the patient wing to check out their rooms. They gain a modicum of insight into the patients’ mental state with the condition of each of the rooms. Burrich has rage damage throughout his room, Elsy’s looks like a nest, and Erlen’s is decorated with a painted likeness of himself. Rafe’s room is all but destroyed, Cobb owns a stuffed gnoll, and Timocles’ room looks immaculate.

Up next to be questioned is Timocles. Pineroot is immediately put on edge by the goat man’s complicated name, but he gets even angrier when he finds out that Timocles only has a theory, no real facts. However, the two ad-hoc officers are surprised to learn that Timocles isn’t a were-goat at all. He is a Satir. Their confidence in the institute sufficiently diminished, Timocles is dismissed to the mess hall.

Elsewhere, the investigation crew has discovered Jack Carver’s office. Ryndir picks the lock and the three enter the small office. The room smells of pumpkin spice and Carver’s desk chair is immensely comfortable. Inside a filing chest are each of the patients’ files. The three heroes find no information on file for Smugs, but they learn a little about the other patients. Things like where Cobb was discovered, Elsy’s personality disorders, and Timocles’ supposed denial and attack on his partner.

Back in the mess hall, Pineroot’s mood has not improved. Jibly has reported that Ravenswood’s finest and Carver are outside, but they do not want to disable the bubble for fear of the killer escaping. Pineroot and Azaghal usher Erlen into the therapy room for questioning, which the tiger-man is rather excited about. Erlen proves to be fairly observant, listing objects lying around Hedgewater’s office, but he also proves to be a tad dimwitted, as well as vanity incarnate. All the two loose cannons learn from the were-tiger are that Hedgewater was a good doctor and that the instituted bedtime is nine PM – just as the other patients mentioned.

Things then take a turn for the worse. Pineroot and Azaghal accompany Erlen back to the mess hall, and discover that all but Rafe and Elsy have disappeared. Apparently, Burrich took off down a hallway and Jibly chased after him. Shortly afterwards, Timocles coerced Cobb into joining him in the chase. Inside Carver’s office, the other three heroes learn of these events as the sound of running footsteps approach. The three line up across the hall as Burrich rounds the corner. Finding his route blocked, Burrich curses dejectedly. Knowing that the magic bubble is still active, the heroes step aside and allow the grumpy-gus to pass. However, Darksex runs after him just in case. Moments later, Jibly runs up to Ulfgar and Ryndir. They point him in the direction of the fugitive were-boar and he runs off as well, this time followed by Ryndir.

Ulfgar hears a third set of approaching footsteps…as well as hoof steps! But they fade as they move down a different corridor. Ulfgar creeps after them and reaches an exit door. Peering through the tiny window, he sees Timocles and Cobb heading towards the glowing barrier. Cobb is in his towering were-bear form, and Timocles carries a set of panpipes. Suspecting the two are up to no good, Ulfgar continues his sneaking spree. Meanwhile, the circus parade of Burrich, Darksex, Jibly, and Ryndir seems to cover the entirety of the institute. Doors open and close as hero, patient, and security guard dash left and right. The gods play Yakkety Sax on their Spotify station and smile upon the ridiculous scene. Eventually, they all end up back in the mess hall with Azaghal, Pineroot, Rafe, and Elsy.

Outside, Timocles and Cobb have moved to the front of the institute, followed by Ulfgar. Watched by all the guards, bystanders, and Carver, Timocles begins to play an eerie tune on his panpipes. The guards slump and seem to relax. Carver also slumps, but approaches the bubble. The situation dawns on Ulfgar as Carver raises his hands and begins to chant. Ulfgar runs towards Timocles waving his arms and yelling incoherently. This distracts Timocles from his musical spell, and he gets one final jarring note off before Ulfgar swats the panpipes from his hands. The final note seems to have an effect on Cobb, who until now had been standing motionless. The were-bear approaches Ulfgar, but the dwarf lunges for the panpipes. Timocles dives for the panpipes as well, but Ulfgar gets there first. Unfortunately, Cobb is upon him. As the towering monster swipes at Ulfgar, he raises the panpipes in front of him. Cobb’s paw deals Ulfgar a heavy blow, completely obliterating the panpipes in the process.

The panpipes now destroyed, the spell is lifted. The guards straighten up again and Cobb becomes motionless once more. Timocles is out of options and he charges towards Ulfgar. The cleric easily dodges the attack and wraps the satir in a dwarven headlock. By this time, Ryndir and Azaghal have made it to the lawn. Azaghal seizes his chance for violence and sucker punches the restrained Timocles. Carver lifts the magical barrier and Ravenswood guards swarm the grounds. Cobb is ushered off to a secure cell and Timocles is taken away by the proper authorities. Carver is ever grateful to the heroes as they all head back inside. Jibly has locked the other patients back in their rooms. Despite the many questions still hanging over them, the heroes hint that they accept old furniture as payment. Carver is delighted by this and offers to reward them with some of the institute’s wares.

Chapter 11: Oh, Brother WERE Art Thou?

Fresh off their tense romp in the Ravenswood Panic Hall, our heroes learn that the master of the treasury was one of the victims injured in the attack. Barnabus asks the crew if they’ll be in town for awhile, and they dejectedly say they will. After all, they have yet to be paid for the gem. So the heroes decide to do some long overdue shopping. Pineroot, interested in procuring some free-range oxen, leads the group to one of the farms on the outskirts of town. Friendly farmer Richmond only has one ox, but he’d be willing to sell some of his cows. The price is too much for the heroes and they head back to town.

A trip to the marketplace is in order, and each of the adventurers scan the booths for an ox merchant. They spot a mustachioed man selling livestock and they approach. Ulfgar gets his game face on and scoffs at the quality of the oxen. Meanwhile, Pineroot hides amongst the animals, giddily naming each of them. After some haggling, the heroes purchase three new oxen to add to their now-five ox fleet. Led by brutish ox, Tom Bruise, the herd also includes hunchbacked ox, Bumpy, as well as Boxen, Brudolph, and Blitzen. Azaghal gets super into the ox-buying spirit and buys one of his own. The party turns from the livestock booth and finds that Darksex has purchased 50 gold’s worth of vegetables.

Ryndir buys a custom-made branding iron bearing the emblem of the Unflankables. Pineroot soothes each of the oxen before branding them as part of the Unflankable crew. Azaghal brands his own ox, taking maybe a little too much pleasure in it. The next order of business is to find an architectural contractor. After all, someone has to make an estimate for the new second floor of the wagon. After the halfling contractor gets to work, Gale delivers some heart-stopping news. Smugs hasn’t been seen since the previous evening. The party is frantic. With a sense of urgency never before seen amongst the Unflankables, the adventurers scour the taverns for their smug companion. A bartender remembers seeing an extremely drunk fellow who seemed very smug and left an alright tip.

The heroes leave the bar and are approached by a tall thin man with a large pumpkin for a head. In a smooth voice, the man introduces himself as Jack Carver and tells the group that Smugs was found unconscious in a field with a nasty bite on his leg. Darksex asks about Carver’s head, and Carver explains that he had a curse placed upon it. Carver turns out to be the owner of the Ravenswood Institute for Lycanthropic Studies. Smugs has been taken there to make sure he hasn’t been given the lycan curse. Carver explains that they not only do studies at the institute, but they work with lycans to help them reintegrate with society. He offers the heroes a stay in the guest wing of the institute while they finish analyzing their friend’s condition.

Slightly creeped out, the adventurers follow Carver to the institute. It is a fairly nice establishment, complete with bedrooms for both patients and guests, a mess hall, and therapy rooms for group and solo sessions. Carver leads the group to the guest wing and departs. Immediately, Darksex and Ryndir run through their list of horror tropes and check for each of them. There is nothing suspicious about the shelves, or the candlesticks, or under the bed. There are bars on the windows, but this is as practical as it is unnerving. The heroes begin to search for Smugs and run into a towering behemoth of a man. The man jovially asks if the heroes are new patients. The heroes can’t pass up the opportunity to lie up a storm, and tell the man that they are indeed patients. Were-ducks and were-slugs and such. The big man’s name is Cobb and he is a were-bear. Talking about his condition seems to make him depressed and he leads them to the group therapy session.

The room is set up with a circle of chairs, occupied by a number of other patients. Along with Smugs and Cobb, the afflicted include:

Burrich, the surly, foul-mouthed dwarf and were-boar. A pair of tusks sprout from his beard and he sits indignantly with his arms crossed.
Elsy, the twitchy were-rat girl. Her long black hair obscures most of her face, but her overbite is still noticable.
Erlen, the were-tiger. He sits proudly in humanoid-tiger form, rivaling even the namesake of dear Smugs.
Rafe, the elven were-wolf. Gaunt and despondent, his graying hair and sideburns set him apart from any elf the heroes have ever seen.
Timocles, the little man, who despite his horns and hooves, swears he’s not a were-goat.

The heroes move their chairs to circle their dear friend, Smugs, as Dr. Auz Hedgewater enters the room. The doctor is a half-elf woman with her hair tied on top of her head and a pair of tiny spectacles. She greets the adventurers and begins the session with asking Smugs to talk about his feelings. Smugs sighs and mumbles about how his life was pretty good until his bite. There’s not a dry eye amongst the heroes as Smugs finishes his relatively short speech. One by one, the other patients talk about their feelings towards their condition. Rafe and Cobb are unhappy with their situations, Burrich seems to have a sick pleasure in being cursed, and Erlen embraces it completely, if not a little na├»vely.

Following the session, the heroes accompany Smugs to Dr. Hedgewater’s office to fill out some paperwork. On the way, they pass the security desk, manned by oafish half-orc, Jibly. Pineroot gives him a tickle. The office is filled with books on lycanthropy and other books on creatures and mythology. Her desk is decorated with a couple of skulls, one cat-like, the other reptilian. The Doctor pauses a moment at the glass case behind her desk. She seems perplexed with one of the vials, half-empty among the other filled vials. Before sitting down, she looks around her desk, mumbling about a missing pen. She grabs a quill instead and Smugs begins to fill out the paperwork.

The heroes have a quick meal with the patients, where Azaghal questions Rafe on werewolves. Rafe seems more morose than ever with this topic of conversation. Eventually, the adventurers head to the guest wing to turn in. A full night’s rest is not to be had, however, as everyone is startled awake by a tinny alarm. Outside the window, they building has been surrounded by a magical bubble, glowing red. Peeking their heads into the hallway, the heroes are given a cartoonish scare by each other’s presence. They make their way to the security desk, but Jibly is nowhere in site. Pineroot spots droplets of blood on the floor behind the desk, and with some further investigation, discovers a dented, bloodied pen. Noticing the pen leaking some fluid, Azaghal gives it a lick and blacks out for the next minute. Pineroot swipes the pen back as voices are heard coming from the mess hall. As the heroes enter the mess hall, they discover Jibly has rounded up each of the patients. Completely frantic, Jibly turns to the heroes trembling. What he says is shocking. Dr. Hedgewater has been murdered.

Chapter 10: Bunker Busters

Our heroes have arrived at Ravenswood, a sprawling town of mist and stone, surrounded by farmland. The heroes discuss their priorities and decide to head to the local Rusty Kettle to have some brews. Darksex immediately sits down with a random group of people and insists they’ve met before. When they dispute this, his eyes turn to fire and he leaves. Moments later, he returns, scaring the table, and asks where Barnabus is. They tell Darksex that Barnabus works at the Town Center, and that the Town Center is, in fact, in the center of town. Satisfied, Darksex ominously places his glowing potion on the table and walks away. Before the group of bewildered patrons can process the situation, a pair of gnomish hands reach up and snatch the potion from the table as Pineroot follows Darksex from the establishment.

After purchasing several chintzy souvenir kettles filled with ale, the adventurers instruct Smugs to designated-drive them to the town center. They spend the night drinking and having a jolly good time, and before they know it, they are awakened by the morning sun. As people begin entering the town hall, the heroes take turns asking about Barnabus. Eventually, Barnabus is found. Darksex requests an urgent meeting with Barnabus, who escorts them into the building. The lobby is bustling with quill-pushers and other folks making appointments and such. Darksex sends his shadow butler to swipe a quill and knock over an inkwell. The heroes follow Barnabus down some stairs into a foreboding stone room, decorated only with a stone table and chairs. Barnabus explains that this room is the Danger Zone, used for matters of life and death, and that the staircase is affectionately known as the Highway to said Danger Zone.

The heroes reveal the mystery gem and Barnabus takes a look. He explains gravely that the gem contains an elemental, and that such a creation is often used as a weapon. When asked where they got the gem, the heroes can’t seem to remember. They ask Barnabus for payment and he begins to lead them back upstairs. As they reach the top, there is a commotion in the lobby. The building is under attack and Barnabus ushers the heroes back downstairs. Before the situation can be discussed, they hear the door above burst open, followed by descending footsteps. Barnabus turns to the wall and inserts his ring into a notch in the stone. The wall opens up and the heroes enter the revealed mystery room.

The mystery room is in fact a series of stone corridors interspersed with the occasional iron wall. The heroes feel a little cramped in the narrow hallways as they follow Barnabus, who explains that they’re traversing a complex combination of a panic-room and an elaborate trap. The heroes begin to see what he means when he pushes one of the iron walls. The wall swings to reveal another corridor. A symphony of shifting metal echoes through the labyrinth, as every other visible wall swings simultaneously. Barnabus pushes another wall, this one covered in nasty-looking spikes. This wall rockets away from his touch, hurtling down the corridor to stop thirty feet away. The heroes’ irritated bewilderment grows as Barnabus turns down a corridor ending in a glowing portal.

Barnabus insists that stepping through the portal will throw off their pursuers, but the catch is that he doesn’t know where they’ll end up. Unconvinced, the adventurers throw a number of objects through the portal. Some are hurled back onto the floor in front of them, but others do not return. One by one, the heroes sigh and run through the portal. Ulfgar and Barnabus are transported to another portal somewhere else in the maze, while Pineroot and Darksex emerge from a third location. Ryndir finds himself alone in yet another part of the stone nightmare. Barnabus leads Ulfgar to an alcove with a large crank set into the wall. He twists the crank, telling Ulfgar that the only way in and out of the labyrinth has now moved, so that the attackers will be unable to leave. He assures the skeptical dwarf that he can locate the exit.

Ryndir gets a scare when the wall in front of him swings to reveal one of the intruders. She carries a poison tipped blade and her tight braid ends in a long fang woven into the hair. However, her face is obscured by an expressionless white mask. As the wall swings closed again, Ryndir decides it’s time to go back through the portal behind him. This reunites him with Pineroot and Darksex who have been slowly making their way down a corridor, walls swinging open and closed every few seconds. Something about the stale air seems to affect Darksex and his breathing becomes loud and heavy.

Ulfgar hears his companions through one of the walls and navigates his way through the constantly shifting passages to find them, followed by Barnabus. Reunited, Barnabus leads the heroes forward to try and find the exit. Without warning, however, one of the swinging walls suddenly divides the party: Ryndir and Darksex on one side – Ulfgar, Pineroot, and Barnabus on the other. Standing before the latter group is a short creature, covered in dark feathers – a bird-person from a race of humanoid ravens called Kenku. The hooded Kenku dashes forward and sinks his blade deep into Barnabus’ chest. Ulfgar wastes no time in attacking the murderous creature, dealing a heavy blow with his hammer. Before the injured birdman can make another move, the walls swing again and reveal the bloody scene to Darksex and Ryndir.

Ryndir uses Darksex’s head to steady his bow and fires an arrow into the Kenku’s back. Darksex follows up with an eldritch blast and Pineroot delivers the fatal blow, bringing his sword down in a burst of blood and feathers. Before Barnabus can bleed out, Ulfgar masterfully heals his wounds. Ryndir and Darksex make to join their comrades, but the masked woman rounds a nearby corner and casts a spray of poison towards them. Ryndir darts behind his dwarven companion and readies another arrow. This time, however, Darksex gets spooked and throws off his aim, and the arrow skitters across the floor. The woman rushes forward and slashes at Darksex with her poisoned blade. Shrugging off the poison, Darksex turns his pain upon his foe, casting a Hellish Rebuke.

As the magical flames dissipate, Ryndir and Darksex hear a mechanical clunk behind them. They watch in horror as another spiked wall hurtles towards them. Pineroot pokes his head into the corridor realizing that the passing wall just plowed through both friend and foe. The wall was pushed by another assassin, this one a man with long greasy hair and a wicked smile. From their prone position, Ryndir and Darksex spot yet another killer: a towering orc sporting a shitty haircut and wielding a massive cleaver. Ryndir hops up and gives the spiked wall a shove, sending it back towards the grinning man…though the grin doesn’t last for long.

Darksex and Ryndir run in opposite directions. Ryndir bolts into another hallway to avoid the spiked wall. Darksex fires up an eldritch blast mid-stride and hurls it at the fallen masked woman. The spell hits its mark, but Darksex doesn’t stop there. He runs right over the woman and delivers a sliding kick to the iron wall in front of him.

Unbeknownst to Darksex, Ulfgar had carried the body of the Kenku to a nearby iron wall and wedged its beak at its base. And so, as Darksex makes contact with his iron wall, he is brought to a stop. The makeshift wedge has jammed the entire system of walls. Ulfgar removes the Kenku’s body and rewedges it, this time at the base of the spiked wall. None too soon, as the man on the other side tries and fails, to push the spiked wall again. Both Darksex and the masked woman retreat. The woman switches places with the orc, and Darksex runs through the nearest portal.

During the commotion, Barnabus has located the new exit. Ryndir, Pineroot, and Ulfgar head towards escape, but not before once again removing the Kenku corpse. The spiked wall rides again, this time clobbering the orc. In a stroke of good luck, Darksex is transported to the portal nearest the rest of the crew and the adventurers make their way out of the maddening web of moving metal, sealing the killers inside.

Chapter 9: Foul-Weather Friends

Having recovered the mysterious gem for Bernard, the heroes decide to head back to Stonehelm. When they arrive, Ulfgar holds up the head of the slain ogre. The guards stand aghast, but impressed, and one suggests they visit Sir Reddy Toosevelt, a collector of hunting trophies. The heroes park their wagon, the dwarves heading off to Toosevelt’s mansion. The bespectacled Toosevelt invites the two into his home and offers them a brandy. His stateroom is decorated with the heads of many a creature, the jewel of the collection being the three heads of a chimaera. Toosevelt is quite impressed with the head of the ogre and offers to pay 1000 gold for it. Ulfgar and Darksex try and haggle for more. Toosevelt thinks for a moment and agrees to pay 1000 gold. The exchange is made and the old fellow announces that the ogre-head will make a fine lamp.

The dwarves meet back up with the rest of the party. Azaghal has gone off to find Ryndir, and soon after he departs, Ryndir comes back of his own accord. He is accompanied by Pykall, who eagerly looks around for Bernard. Pineroot releases Bernard from his cell in the wagon and the brothers reunite. The heroes insist that Bernard come with them to complete his delivery, but Pykall disagrees. The two brothers argue for a bit and the heroes decide to visit Magic Johnson. Magic has finished the enchantment on Darksex’s flask and charges a reasonable 50 gold. Pineroot tries to sell him the ogre testes, but Magic doesn’t swing that way. Pineroot tries again with the alpaca farmer, proposing he make a sack out of the “material”. The farmer is amazed by the leathery texture and agrees to create a sack out of the…sac…

The party heads back to Bernard’s hovel where Pykall agrees to let Bernard go on the mission, having already given all of Bernard’s valuables to the heroes before. The adventurers pile back into the wagon, locking Bernard in his cell for his own safety. The day passes, and as night begins to fall, it begins to rain. The heroes decide to make camp for the night, rather than travel through the downpour. During Pineroot’s watch, he spots two shadowy figures on the path ahead. He wakes Darksex, and the two watch as the shorter of the two shadows digs around in the mud. The rest of the adventurers wake up and debate whether the figures are friend or foe. While they’re whispering to each other, Ryndir creeps towards the two shadows. The shorter shadow looks around and begins digging more quickly. As Ryndir, moves even closer, the taller figure spots him and draws a bow.

Pulling out his pipe, Ryndir asks the two if they’ve got a light. The taller figure backs into the woods, while the shorter one draws a blade. Quick as a venomous rabbit, Ryndir draws his bow and fires an arrow into the chest of the small creature. Pineroot conjurs his signature illusion: a pair of voluptious breasts – and they hover before the blade-wielding shadow. Darksex sees the commotion from the wagon and aims an expertly placed eldritch blast at the same figure. The figure takes off in the same direction as the other figure as the adventurers advance on its position. Darksex sends his shadow butler into the woods to mess with the unseen archer, while Ulfgar searches where the two figures were digging. There is nothing but mud, and the savvy dwarf’s dirt-sense alerts him that the two mystery shadows weren’t burying anything – they were setting a trap for the wagon!

Angry and wet, the heroes advance on the trees, ready to take down the mysterious ne’er-do-wells. Pineroot spots the archer up in one of the trees. Ulfgar tries to unbalance the attacker by ramming the tree, but it is far too sturdy. Darksex fires off a quick eldritch blast, but doesn’t take the time to aim. The spell, instead, hits Pineroot square in the back.

Ryndir nocks an arrow into his bow. He takes a deep breath and the raindrops seem to slow down around him. The arrow flies true and strikes the archer directly in the chest. The archer attempts to leap to another tree, but his injury and the rain throw him off and he instead plummets to the ground. Ulfgar approaches the fallen archer, revealed to be a Drow. The heroes gather and threaten the injured darkelf with a metaphor about arrows that are actually dicks fired from the depths of hell. The Drow solemnly surrenders and he is taken back to the wagon.

Bound hand-to-foot, the Drow is locked in the remaining cell for questioning. Upon interrogation, he reveals that he was hired by the Wickhaven government to assassinate Bernard and regain possession of the mystery gem. The Drow was one of three assassins hired, but he mentioned that Wickhaven would stop at nothing to get the gem back. The heroes each take turns kicking their prisoner and decide to continue to Ravenswood to meet with Barnabus. A day’s ride away from the city, Pineroot notices a lone rider following at a distance. As the sun begins to set, the heroes finally arrive at their destination, the city of Ravenswood.

Chapter 8: Idiots Abound

Having hung out with the law and won, our heroes roam freely around Stonehelm. They realize that someone needs to post bail for Azaghal. They draw straws, Ryndir drawing the shortest. With that, he sets off glumly to the precinct. Mere minutes later, Azaghal shows up, sans Ryndir and with no knowledge of any bail.

While waiting for Ryndir to return, they are approached by the nervous guard from the interrogation room with the missing brother. He is more insistent this time about getting the heroes to find his brother. The heroes learn that his brother Bernard isn’t the most financially stable individual. He enjoys gambling and often resorts to shady jobs to earn gold. He left two weeks earlier to pick up a parcel and deliver it to the town of Ravenswood, a three day ride from Stonehelm. Unsure how to pay the heroes for their help, the guard takes them to Bernard’s house to check his safe. Bernard’s abode is filthy, extremely dusty with papers and other useless trash lying about. The guard, who introduces himself as Pykall, finds the poorly hidden combination to Bernard’s safe and removes the contents: 500gp and two silver rings. Pykall offers everything in the safe to them as payment for their assistance. The heroes look over a few of the loose papers and discover a letter stamped with an insignia featuring a candle. The letter instructs Bernard to pick up a parcel and deliver it to Ravenswood to a man named Barnabus. The letter stresses the parcel’s importance and ends, without signature.

Before taking his leave, Pykall hands Pineroot a small blood red stone. He explains that he drew some blood, which Magic Johnson used to create the stone. To activate it, you must speak the name of the person you seek. It will lead you in the direction of this person, but it will only work if they are a member of the bloodline used to create the stone. Pykall heads back to the precinct, with a message for Ryndir to meet his companions at Ravenswood. The heroes decide to visit Magic Johnson before they leave. Darksex decides to leave his flask of memory loss potion so that Magic can enchant it to never run out. After a brief chat about soul-binding, Pineroot activates the bloodstone. Blood begins to drip from the stone, between Pineroot’s fingers, and onto the ground. Magic Johnson suggests that the stone be placed on a flat surface as it will work better, so Darksex buys a large bowl.

The drops of blood that leak from the stone form a line that extends to the edge of the bowl, indicating the direction of the missing Bernard. A guard at the front gate confirms that Ravenswood lies in the same direction. When questioned about the bowl of blood, Pineroot mumbles something about it being wine and the heroes head to the wagon. Hours pass as the adventurers follow the direction of the bloodbowl. As afternoon changes to evening, Pineroot spots a group of fallen trees among the woods. After stopping the wagon, our heroes discover that there is a path of broken trees that leads further into the forest. A look at the bloodbowl confirms that Bernard lies in the direction of the broken trees. Smugs and Gale keep watch at the wagon, while the rest of the party head into the woods to investigate further.

The path of destruction continues, and the heroes notice that the ground is dotted with large footprints. Azaghal recognizes the footprints as ogre tracks. They warily continue through the woods eventually reaching the mouth of a cave. The heroes quickly move to the side of the cave where they see a great deal of blood. Lying among the rocks at the cave entrance is none other than Bernard, mortally wounded. Ulfgar wastes no time and heals Bernard’s wounds, saving his life. When the heroes try to take Bernard back to the wagon, he stops them, saying that the ogre attacked him and stole his parcel – a gem to be used as evidence. After some questioning, the heroes determine that Bernard is an idiot and that they need to find the missing gem. They take Bernard back to the wagon, where they lock him in one of the cages. Ulfgar hatches a plan to lure the ogre out of the cave and drop a heavy boulder on it from the top of the cave. One by one, the heroes climb to the top of the cave, the exception being Darksex who is lifted via rope by the others. Together they move a couple large boulders to the edge, above the entrance.

Darksex summons his shadow butler and sends him in to find the ogre…to no avail. Rope around his waist, Darksex is lowered to the ground where he hurls silverware into the cave to try and lure the ogre out. But nothing happens. Azaghal and Pineroot move into the cave to see if they can spot the horrible creature, discovering that the tunnel extends deep into the cave. The adventurers decide to explore the cave in order to find the ogre. A short ways into the tunnel, they hear an approaching squeaking.

Out from a crevice in the wall, a spinning device shoots forward on a track. As it leaves the crevice, a group of broken, rusty swords fan out from the top of the device and spin wildly. The heroes watch as the device reaches the other end of the passage, the blades fold back up, and it disappears through another crevice. The party moves into the cave before the trap makes its way back around and they reach a fork in the tunnel. They follow the footprints to the left, turn another corner, and find a massive boulder embedded in the ground. A huge hole in the wall makes the heroes suspect it was another trap.

Up ahead, the heroes spot another passage to the right, and several broken spears on the ground straight ahead. Azaghal’s obsession with sharp objects gets the better of him and he dashes ahead to grab one of the spears. The rest of the group catches up and through a massive hole in the wall, they see a hulking shape. The ogre’s back is turned, fists flying on what seems like just the wall. Using the element of surprise, the heroes charge in. Ulfgar sinks an arrow into the ogre’s back, while Pineroot slashes at it’s legs and Azaghal lashes out with blade and fist. The ogre spins around, enraged, and aims a fist at Pineroot. Taking advantage of the vast size difference, Pineroot easily dodges and counters with a quick castration. Darksex, ever the showman, finishes off the great creature with an eldritch blast. Searching through the ogre’s ruined manbits, Pineroot finds Bernard’s parcel – a pouch containing a red gem.

The heroes don’t have time to relish their victory, however, as they hear voices approaching from the passage they had passed. Rounding the corner are three goblins, one a great deal larger than the others. However, the goblin scouts are unprepared for what they encounter. Pineroot casts an illusion of a great, angry head, while Darksex magically increases the volume of his voice and shouts, “None shall pass! Or all shall perish!”. This is enough to convince the smaller goblins to turn tail and run back down the passage they came from. Cries of pain and surprise follow their departure as they set off one of their own traps. The large goblin is too terrified to move. His nightmare intensifies as Ulfgar swaggers out from the mouth of the illusory face and delivers a blow with his hammer. Pineroot attempts to hurtle over Ulfgar, but only manages to stub his crotch on the back of Ulgar’s head. The goblin has no time to register this, however, as Azaghal quickly beheads him. With the parcel in hand and their bloodlust satiated, our heroes leave the goblin cave to return to the wagon.

Interlude: Usual Suspects

Following the brutal massacre of last episode, our heroes stand ready to question one of the only remaining members of the criminal organization they just decimated. While the man is unconscious, they search the remains of the camp. Pineroot finds a potion determined to be a potion of water-breathing. Ryndir picks up a hooded lantern, the opening designed to look like the eye of Stonehelm. The adventurers snag a few weapons, a few fish, and all the gold they can find before they’re ready to question their prisoner. Castor takes his leave to try and hunt down the escaped brigands.

Ulfgar takes the lead in the questioning, dragging the panicked captive to a particularly thick pile of organs and viscera and slamming him face-down into it. With a boot held to the man’s face, Ulfgar learns that the man’s name is Gorman Whitehands, the now dead collective was only a branch of the full organization, and that the organization itself is called the Gold Vein. The heroes then batter the man with a series of dick jokes before Gale shows up. He tells the heroes that he was picking some berries when suddenly Azaghal was arrested. With more guards on the way, the adventurers make their way to the city, their captive bound and carried.

The guards at the gate insist that the heroes come “down to the station to answer some questions”. The heroes reluctantly agree, but refuse to speak to anyone but the old man with the glowing eyes. They’re taken to an interrogation room where they’re questioned by a flustered detective. They give him enough information to show that they were involved, but also innocent of any crimes. The questioning is broken up as the detective leaves the room several times. The monotony is broken by the appearance of a guard claiming that he needed the heroes help to find his missing brother.

Finally, the detective seems to receive a message, and the heroes are set free. They head to The Hen’s Tragedy, a seedy diner recommended by the detective. Still covered in ash and gore, the heroes enjoy a delicious meal – with the exception of Darksex, who sips at his memory loss potion. With nothing better to do, they head to the marketplace where they meet a slew of odd merchants. Pineroot gives one of the bereedo salesmen a fish, triggering another flurry of insults from the other salesman. Darksex buys (and promptly forgets) a spider-engraved flask from Spencer, a knick-knack collector. Ryndir buys an obsidian dragon pipe from him and seeks out some herb to break it in. They find Dink Dankerson, dealer of the finest gange in the city. Ryndir buys some Hydra-Kush (a strain that’s twice as potent each time you smoke it) and some Troglo-delight (particularly pungent, but particularly fun-gent). Dink throws in a ball cap embroidered with “Dink’s” on the front, and “The Dankest” on the back.

The heroes decide to try out the mysterious lantern and head into an alleyway. When lit, the eye-shaped opening begins to glow, much like the eyes engraved on the helmets of the city guards. They point the lantern at a homeless man, and moments later two guards come to escort the belligerent fellow off to a cell for the night. Coincidence? I think not!

Chapter 7: Night Hunting

Following the eventful night beneath Stonehelm, our heroes spend the morning snoozing in their caravan. At the stroke of noon, the heroes park outside the city and enter by foot, leaving Smugs, Gale, and Azaghal to mind the wagon. The guards recognize them and let them pass.

The party heads for The Backburner, one of the most seedy taverns in the city. They buy some brews and brown water and choose a table in the corner. One table in particular catches their attention as a few excited goons prattle on about a multiple murder that occurred the previous evening. The city guard is apparently on lookout for a dwarf and a tiefling that were spotted near the site of the massacre. The murder sounds mighty familiar to Pineroot and Rindyr. The dwarf sounds familiar to Darksex, apparently now a wanted man.

The group heads to the marketplace to try and get some more information. A pair of salesmen catch their attention. They each appear to be selling some kind of food; they call them “bereedos”. They yell obscenities at each other, trying to steal customers. Darksex buys a bereedo from one man, while Pineroot buys one from the other. They both taste like shitgarbage. Ulfgar listens in on a conversation between a guard and man selling elpaca sweaters. The guard describes Darksex and Ulfgar takes that as a sign for the group to get out of the city. Pineroot buys another bereedo for Smugs and the group leaves the city (Darksex heavily hooded and freshly shaved).

A quick stop to see Castor reveals that guards have been searching the catacombs. He was able to grab a few of the explosives for Ryndir before the guards found the rest. The heroes decide that the best plan of action is to take down the mysterious syndicate that started the whole mess. They wait until evening and Ulfgar spots a pillar of smoke among the trees.

The heroes creep through the woods to the edge of a small clearing. A group of twenty men are encamped there, a fire blazing among them. Three of the men shout angrily at one another. The topic of their conversation is clearly their botched bombing and the “idiots” they hired to do the job. Easily outnumbered the heroes hatch a plan.

The heroes take their positions behind their trees and Darksex conjures his shadow butler. Ryndir gives it one of the explosives and it’s whisked high above the fire. Without warning, the butler drops the explosive and it plummets directly into the fire. A massive blast ignites everything in the vicinity and throws everything else back. Three of the men die immediately while the rest are engulfed in flames. Pineroot increases the chaos by conjuring the illusion of a goddess of flames, very well endowed, and strutting’ her stuff in the center of the fire. The heroes attempt a follow-up surprise attack, but it ends in a clumsy dogpile. Things quickly improve for our adventurers however as several more of the men succumb to their wounds.

Ulfgar is dropped with a sucker shot from the largest of the men. Pineroot looks a man in the eyes and watches him turn to ash. The shadow butler delivers a health potion, upending it into the mouth of the unconscious Ulfgar. With a surge of revitalized vengeance, he crushes the skull of his would-be killer with his warhammer. Darksex fries some crime with eldritch energy. Castor tears apart some of the men who managed to make it to their feet, while Ryndir peppers them with arrows. Smugs skewers a man entranced by the fire-boobs and hurls him into his voluptuous fate. Three of the men manage to escape into the forest, finally leaving one man prone amongst the horrifying scene. The heroes turn to question their new captive as the closing curtain drops.

Chapter 5: Sex and Drugs & Chapter 6: Dead Ends

Our heroes eventually find their way back to the path, where they meet Ulfgar Ironbeard, a stout dwarven cleric on his way to Stonehelm. They give him a ride and soon reach Stonehelm, a city made entirely from smooth stone and surrounded by a 30 Ft wall. They are stopped at the entrance as part of a routine procedure and the guards ask each of them to come outside the wagon and state their names. As each of them do this, they notice an old man gazing at each of them in turn from a small alcove in the wall. He sits crosslegged and his eyes are cloudy and glowing.

The heroes are gained entry, after telling the guards that they’re in town to sell potions (i.e. the mysterious pink gas). Darksex follows Azaghal to a brothel while the others head to the pub. Darksex pays every last coin for a back room with the largest woman in the establishment. His attempts to find out about the city are fruitless so he makes the most of his situation and shows the woman the relevance of his namesake. Azaghal decides the place is too expensive and jerks it in the alley.

Pineroot and Ryndir eventually leave the pub and visit an apothecary to see if he’s interested in buying the gas. Ulfgar heads to a temple to pray. Eventually the heroes, minus Ulfgar, meet back at the wagon where they are approached by a shady fellow asking if they’d like to make some coin. For smuggling a couple crates into the catacombs of the city, they can be paid 200gp each – 100 now, 100 when the job is done. The heroes accompany him to a temporary base of operations where Darksex demands 200gp now, 200 later. They agree and split the heroes into two groups, Pineroot and Ryndir, Darksex and Azaghal. The two groups are escorted to two secret entrances, each on a different side of the city. Both groups are given a crate, instructed not to look inside, and sent with specific directions into the catacombs.

After making a shady deal with some shady dealers, our heroes find themselves deep under the city of Stonehelm. Darksex and Azaghal have taken one mysterious crate to one secret entrance, while Ryndir and Pineroot have taken the other crate to the entrance across the city.

Darksex and Azaghal quickly forget the instructions they were given and set down a random path of the spiraling labrynth. They come across a fellow messin’ with some rope, but they are not greeted with a smile. The man is none too pleased that they brought the crate to him and he sets off in the other direction. Dwarf and tiefling change their mind and retrace their steps and come across a set of stairs leading back above ground. They park their crate at the bottom of the stairs and cautiously investigate the corridor at the top. Moments later, they are discovered by two nightwatchmen, dressed identically, complete with helms emblazoned with a glowing eye, Stonehelm’s insignia.

Meanwhile, at the temple, the new dwarf acquaintance strikes up a conversation with a wizened priest. The priest speaks highly of the city’s low crime rate, attributing this to the city’s guards and their suspected link to the mysterious glowing-eyed wizard perched above the city’s entrance.

Darksex and Azaghal quickly tell the guards that they’re lost and looking for a tavern. The guards politely insist that the two follow them to the nearest pub. Both parties become more suspicious of one another, the two heroes unsure if the guards know their motives, the guards taken aback by our heroes’ mistrust. Finally, Darksex and Azaghal agree to accompany the guards to the tavern, leaving behind the mysterious crate.

Across the city, Ryndir and Pineroot make their way through the corridors. Ryndir sneaks a look inside the crate while Pineroot averts his eyes. No questions are truly answered however, as the crate is loaded with what appear to be gold bars, but jet black. There is no time to dwell on this as the two hear approaching footsteps.

A quick peek shows the heroes a decaying cadaver strolling down the hall. Pineroot gets the dead man’s attention with a bird call, quickly followed by the two ramming him with their mysterious cargo. Trapped under the crate, the corpse introduces himself as Castor, a former member of the organization that hired our heroes. He tells the two that the black bars are explosives and that the plan was to level the city from below. Castor explains that he was killed for opposing this plan, and remains reanimated solely by his need for revenge.

Ryndir and Pineroot quickly decide to support Castor in his endeavor, Ryndir lining his pockets with explosives. The three hide the crate close to the original entrance, where Castor insists that they find the other crate before it is delivered to it’s destination. Castor poorly navigates the corridors, followed by Ryndir and Pineroot. Unbeknownst to them, Darksex and Azaghal walk above them, crateless, on their way to the guards’ choice of tavern.

After discovering that the explosives never made it to the center of the labrynth, Castor, Ryndir, and Pineroot continue through the tunnels until they hear voices. Castor immediately heads for the source. Ryndir and Pineroot take a conspicuous peek into the room discovering three men and a pile of fuse rope. Having lost the element of surprise, Pineroot tosses a torch onto the rope, which immediately ignites. Chaos ensues as two of the men try and save the rope and the third attacks Pineroot. Ryndir fires a couple arrows hitting both friend and foe, while Pineroot retaliates with a miscalculated swing into Ryndir’s haunch.

Having killed one of the men, Ryndir pulls an explosive from his pocket and threatens to blow them all to hell. The two remaining scumbags tell them the whole plan, insisting they were just following orders. Pineroot smells the obvious lie in this and bathes in the blood pouring from the first man’s new neck wound. Castor wastes no time in dispatching the third man, moving one more step towards ultimate vengeance.

The three continue searching for the crate, but hear a set of guards approaching. Knowing that a walking corpse and a blood-soaked gnome would probably make for a quick arrest, the three backtrack to the site of their recent massacre. Rather than leave a trail of bloody footprints, Ryndir leads Pineroot back into the burning, bloody room. He then puts the gnome on his shoulders and sets off down the corridor in the other direction, Castor close behind.

The three discover the crate, placed neatly at the bottom of a set of stairs, while a far-off cry of horror alerts them to the guards’ discovery of the three bodies of the criminals. The crate is hidden in a room by the entrance. Ryndir and Pineroot leave the tunnels, promising to return to help Castor with his revenge, as well as pick up the crate of contraband. Pineroot heads into the brush, too bloody to inconspicuously regain access to the city. Ryndir heads back into the city, alleviating the entrance guards’ suspicions with a story of unsuccessful night-hunting.

The next morning, Ryndir relays the situation to his companions. They pick up Pineroot and gather around their war table to plot their next move.


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