Sunday Feb 4
[Posted on Time: +0.1 HP]
- Aythe von Dusthafen, Bard 2
- Hadley, Fighter (Battlemaster) 3
- Lucens Princeps, Warlock (Fiend/Fae Chain) 4 [Deceased, replaced by:]
- Jean-Pierre du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion, Cleric (Forge) 6
- McDonald, Warlock (Fae Blade) 3
- Nico di Pietra, Ranger 1
- Sovan Dareshin, Bard (Lore) 6
GP / XP
- 839 XP for JP, 885 for all others (if sheet updated on time)
- 498 GP with Donation to LMF,
- 581 GP without Donation to LMF
- Aythe levelled to 3 and joined the College of Glamour; she also read from the Oracular Saga and has the College of Valour’s Combat Inspiration feature. She is slightly closer to escaping the mental echoes of the Puppeteer.
- Hadley procured a Riding Spider, misread the Oracular Manual (lost Battlemaster Parry), and won the Duelist’s Epee (+1 Rapier, +Battlemaster Dice Size).
- Jeepers is a Phoenixheart (+ d6 to any Radiant attack, permanent Protection from Evil vs. Fiends and Undead), read from the Oracular Orisons (+ Ceremony Domain Spell, + Level 3 Dawn Domain Spell), and collected the Group Souvenir of a Heaven’s Ray for his prior visit to the Oracle on Expedition 78 (one-use, no-proficiency DEX or CHA attack to fire Radiant Lightning). He is currently spending a week with the Well of Transformation to try to understand our current woes regarding the Source and the Stalkers.
- Lucens has died to Stalker ambush and turned into the Ring of Bertie (sigh…see below).
- McDonald read from the Oracular Grimoire and can turn their Spear of Smiting pact weapon into any form at will as a Bonus Action – maintaining the Thrown 20’/60’ feature. They also got a small and lovely child’s colouring book, The Oracle and You! (Crayons Not Included).
- Nico levelled to 2 and read from the Oracular Omens (Ranger casting becomes DEX-based).
- Sovan is an Eagleheart (has a Miracle – 1-time Cleric spell of SL 6 or under – and can use Veillantif twice per combat) and read from the Oracular Curio (tiny book lets Sovan adopt a Tiny (sub-ant-sized) form 1 minute per Expedition.)
- Fala Climbing Harnesses (26*30 GP profit = 780 GP)
- Bag of Silver Ogre Coins (100 GP)
- Plot XP – The Nature of the Source (1000 XP, no GP)
- Duelist’s Epee (+1, +Battlemaster Dice Size) (2100 GP – Magical) (Claimed by Hadley)
- Book – The Oracle and YOU! (Crayons Not Included) (10 GP)
- Fela Riding Spider (500 GP)
Hello lads and lassies – ‘tis I! Bertholdt Rohrbach, writing through the hands of Wee Babby Jeepers, who is wearing me – or, my golly gosh, my mistake, he’s a big fella now, JEAN-PIERRE ‘PHOENIXHEART’ –
SCRIBE’S NOTE: This is not a nickname that I wish to catch on. I am aware that saying this is tantamount to asking for it to be immortalized by some among you (yes, Darling, I am looking at you) but I must still hope to appeal to your better natures. Call me foolish.]
DEAD AUTHOR’S NOTE: What a beautifully foolish thing to say! Aw, dash it all, Jeepers, you’re so sweet you’re probably writing all this down even if I can’t see it. You rascally little flirt you-]
SCRIBE’S NOTE:All future interjections by ‘Lucens Princeps’ / Bertholdt Rohrbach concerning other peoples’ business will be limited to those relevant to the Log.]
- in any event, I died. And I was another fella, whole time, big long story, very dull, face melted after the ol’ “Turn into a tiefling after Infernal Pact goes specTACularly wrong” scam, came back, acted like a big soggy bore, dead without even a break to have some chocolates. But here’s the important bits that Jeepers will agree to write down despite his “being verr’, verr’ beezay”. (I wish he still had the silly little accent! I missed it so second he got smart and pretty and stopped gabbing so much.)
BUT – here’s to him sleeping four hours a night! And thus having pots and pots of time to write out my INCREDIBLE INSIGHTS (did he do the capitals? I hope he did the capitals. And then wrote this aside. STOP COPYING ME JEEPERS. Rutabaga rutabaga.)
SCRIBE’S NOTE: A promise, praise the Tree, is a promise. A regret is also a regret.]
Day 1 – The Felar Wood, Trial of the Century
Here we are again, Felar Woods, still not the Perfect Fela Utopia Lesh used to sketch out, possibly in Ks’Shan blood, all over her notebooks. Not for my want of trying, I’ll admit – GAD but agreeing to support those drearily authoritarian little Chosen was trying, but DOUBLE GAD if I was going to let her spirit one-up me.
(NB: I’m now haunting our honking little Bird Friend’s left hand, same way as Lesh is haunting her dreadful little sprog, which I gather is Deeply Ironic since they nakedly despise each other; even if Ciggy von Mommy Issues seems to play it off as ‘disinterested concern’ she seems about as happy to be told ‘No’ as a golden retriever stuck with a plate of piping hot sausages.)
Sovan and Jeepers are there, in the Leg of Lavishness and the Armor of Extravagance;
There’s also Hadley, a rather hairy little fella with a new-found Fela Chosen kick.
We turn to McDonald – they have on flashy old robes and are Beholden of Oberon. We’d have had a lot to bond over had I not been exsanguinated on this Very Day – OooeoeeeeEEEEEooo – Fooooooreshadowinngggggg~~~~
…then we have Nico, a vain little creature bearing Amara’s Gauntlet, the Mace of Terror, the Gourd of Healing, the Chip of Shoulder…apparently she ranges. Bully for her.
Aythe rounds us out – she is staring and dull-eyed, and speaks as if form does not exist, identity is a lie perpetuated on reality by thinking <snooooooore> <never> Nice little lassie, I sort of want to offer her a drink and then corrupt her insofar as her enthusiasm allows, but I’m not doing that sort of thing anymore, having a) at that point turned over a new leaf and b) now being a doornail, a dodo, a duck doused in toxic hoisin sauce and left to stew in a Soul Ring. So I content myself with pretending to find a conversation about “What is real, who is a person, if an egg falls in a market and nobody sees do you have to pay for it” rather more fascinating than it in fact is, e.g., at all, ever, for even one second interesting.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Many personal remarks excised for brevity. Just brevity, Bertholdt.]
Walking – as one does – if one is alive, and not a ring – we meet Sub-Ranger Bo, a First-Draught Fela Chosen. Little blighter is trying to do that ripping thing Valerian does where they bank an arrow off another arrow and then drink some tea while the thing dies behind them, very Dramatically. Bo’s imitation goes about as well as you’d expect, it’s like watching a cabbage try to recite blank verse. Arms too stubby, not enough scarves, whatever the Primrose Method requires, this mandibular little milequetoast, ‘il n’a aucune idée.
We stop and talk to Bo, who’s attempting (badly, as above) to catch rabbits. He asks if we’re here for the Execution of 7 Rising Sun diehards. Two days ago they were tried, refused to recant, and were sentenced to death. By the Burning Bowels of Baalzebul, WE TALKED ABOUT THIS, YOU RASCALLY LITTLE LIGHT-LOVERS. “LAY LOW, WAIT FOR THE GLOWING DWARF MESSIAH.” (I did not say.) But with Sovan and Jeepers along, surprise surprise! we decided to intervene and Save Everyone with Talking Problems To Death.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Talking often works. And even if it does not, Good withers in the absence of hope that things need not be as they are.]
(Before we left, Sovan Inspired the little blighter to catch up on his rabbit-nabbing quota. What a big soft stack of pancake of a man he is. You’re so dreadfully lucky to have him, Alive And Well People. Maybe throw him a parade now and again? You know he’d love it and buy everyone drinks for a week.)
SCRIBE’S NOTE: A month, more like.]
Running along, Jeepers and myself were quite slow – my being a Frail Lad, Jeepers wearing about thirty strapping soldiers’ worth of expensive magical armor and having the legs of a prepubescent rugby player to bear them along with even in his Boots of Hot Trotting. Luckily the others were kind enough to push our firm and shapely bottoms into gear.
Nico took this opportunity to opine that this was useless and we’d never change their mind – she’s one of those awful little shits who thinks that pissing in nicer people’s coffee makes her seem intelligent and self-reliant in a very impressive and libertarian way that would ring more true if she wasn’t, at time of piping up, loaded to the gills with free magic items and healing potions that her principles seemed perfectly content to make use of with about as many thanks as a Tharizduun Cultist whose tooth you just took out with a handy doorknob.
Jeepers rather beautifully SARCASM-ED at her (“Your well-informed and thoughtful opinion is very much welcome” and I practically plotzed. All that man, all that beard, and a sense of HUMOUR? Put a ring on it, Sovan.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: …Bertholdt is, apparently, despite dying and returning from the Grave as a different species, impervious to change.]
When we arrive, escorted by Chosen Hadley (ooh, fancy, what’s THAT when it’s at home young sirrah?) we find the ever-welcome sight of a rather fetching Fela Firing Squad filing forth to the quad to fill a fella full of fletching. They are led, wot ho, by the Esteeemed* Sub-Commander Zzzzt, who apparently doesn’t at ALL realize that their name is bally ludicrous. Like a suppressed sneeze, or a ripped piece of thick paper.
They – Zzzzt – ask if we’re here for popcorn and state-sponsored murder, like the proper little jackbooted fascist he is. (Bahamut’s blessed baby pictures, Lesh, what you saw in this rubbishy little Officegarchy I shall never know.) The Old Boys (Sovan and Jeepers, In A Tree, H-E-L-P-I-N-G) chime in that we of the Guild are in FACT here to help TURN the Rising Sun – how much more impressive, to wit, would it be to have these brave outspoken sorts repent and return to the Fold? How many secret sympathizers will be dismayed? How much…bloody…silk…piling…labour? (or whatever it is peasants do) can we keep in the job market?
Zzzzt shakes their head and waffles a bit about “Already done”, but Hadley uses their nascent Bureaucracy to think up ‘filing a proper form’ and sells it quite well (CHA 22). They grab me and Aythe (still scuttling around asking people if they’re wave forms on God’s Arse or whatnot) to help and dash off, with Dorkins staying behind as a bit of comms. Aythe chooses now to dreamily chime in that she can ‘take [the Felas’] clothes to memorialize them should they Pass On’, ahem, ODD, so full marks on ‘Bertie is Perturbed by a mysterious remark’, Aythe, good job, creep crept all down THIS spine, v. v. well done.
Meanwhile, as the retrial in an hour, Sovan Jeepers and Nico take Dorkins down to the Stockade. We’re accepted as Counsellors for the Prisoners, and Jeepers leads with a stirring speech about faith being hard and self-denial being wonderful and the kind of sappy rot that Sovan probably goes all ga-ga for and finds infuriating ALL AT THE SAME TIME (Persuade 30).
Jeepers, newly studly Tree-Fancier that he is, gets our many-eyed malcontents to agree to stick to our play, do what it takes to survive, and then – I can’t resist the theatricality – Dorkins BOOOOOMS forth my voice saying something Dashed Impressive about “Hoooooold faaaaaiiithh – the Shining Man, Jean-Lee, shall return, and walking the Mountain of Conflict shall leeeeead thee to the Valley of Peace~~~~”…demme but I do miss having a mouth, and being able to lie to people, and for a good CAUSE even so I don’t have to pretend to apologize.
Meanwhile, in an incredibly boring library, Hadley files the paperwork for an appeal and (INT 24) correctly identifies and fills out a form for change of date – the trial is now! In an hour! Hadley also uses their noggin and recalls that one of their sponsors for becoming Chosen, Spider Expert Ma’rrr, is a renowned Spider Lawyer. (And you think OUR lot get their hands in a lot of pockets…) Ma’rrr takes Mc’s light crossbow for help, and the assisted Hadley (INT 28) goes to a dusty corner of the Felar Archive holding records of a since-defunct Severed Hand alliance – the Foreign Powers Exception Clause.
“Why, WE’RE a foreign power,” you likely say, dear reader – well if so, then stop it, nobody likes a smartypants.
Regardless, the doc dictates that when the Magnificent Fela are in alliance with some foreign power or other, Felar citizens normally sentenced to death can instead be conscripted by said power for ‘purposes needed’. The problem – and rather a thorny thicket it was with which to tackle a particularly sticky wicket of a geopolitical tangle – was that Fela are not allowed behind the Wall, so most of our uses for them would be curtailed.
We decide, long story short, to Play it Vague and say “We’re taking them elsewhere, where we need them”, and resolve to take them with us to Undertree and reunite them with their Rising Sun Inner Circle. (Those lovable dogmatic over-zealous highly magical scamps!)
This goes suprisingly well, as it transpires. We file all this paperwork, by which I mean Hadley files it and I stand around looking Wise and Beautiful. We all have our little part to play. This filing gets kicked up ALLLL the way to our Judge, Webtown Commander ‘Oolong’ (her name was hard for me to remember through the pain of my (at this point imminent) cruel demise.
A tired and bored looking Oolong flips through it – mystified at the efforts we’re going to for these unwashed masses – and asks the obvious question “What purpose do you need these rebel farmer scum for?” Sovan chimes in (KISS being his motto, that “We’re taking them elsewhere. We promise they won’t be your problem.”
Oolong takes this at face value, or at least doesn’t care enough to get stroppy about it. She ‘reminds us’ that the necessary Allied Treaty compensation payment for the prisoners is due in 3 weeks – about 2 light crossbows’ worth of crafting per prisoner, 14 altogether, should suffice. Hadley, rough-housing little rapscallion that they are, buried that lead somewhat (not the best!) or missed it entirely (worse!) but all is well in the end – Sovan promises Many a Plant Growth instead and off we pop, proud shepherds of 7 Fela:
- Mi (7 HP)
- Tio (2 HP)
- Ta (7 HP)
- Mobak (11 HP)
- Kira (6 HP)
- Sannn (9 HP)
- Blath (10 HP).
Day 1 – The Dark Forest, Lucens No More
On our way to the Dark Forest, we top all them little Felas up with Level 2 Aid, before Jeepers meets his Well of Transformation Fancywoman (Mirranonath? Mirononanoneth? Mirnana-nana-nannynonoth?) and heads off.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertie…grow up. Mirrinonath.]
We cluster them around me so I can Silent Image and put them behind a bit of cover should things get Squiffy. Hadley chats the little nippers up – Kira’s standoffish, but they get quite tight with Tio. We all set out for Undertree…
…and that’s the last I remember.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: From here on out, I, Jean-Pierre…‘Jeepers’…will take over based on that told to me by those on the expedition who were present when I was absent until the rather traumatic subject of Bertholdt’s death is past.]
Lucens was struck by multiple hand crossbow bolts fired by 2 Stalkers of the Well of Prophecy – perhaps outraged by the Prophecy we apparently unwittingly fulfilled of Conflict with the Source – and 1 Stalker of the Well of Inspiration – the latter not so openly hostile as to cold-bloodedly murder Guild members before this time. The poison would have killed him if the repeated traumas did not. No-one had a chance to save him.
The culprits jumped away. Sovan used Plant Growth, and the others held shots until they could see any movement, while our Fela charges scattered wildly.
McDonald missed their first spotted target, but tried to describe their location; Sovan and Aythe (who snapped to focus in combat emergencies) inspired McDonald and Hadley respectively, before Sovan cast Fly, revealed his Continually Flaming Pipes -
BERTIE INSERT: Continually Flaming, EHHHH?]
and ascended 60’, illuminating a Prophecy Stalker dangling out of the Plant Growth by one arm. Hadley and Nico shot and hit them, but could not make the Stalker’s arm release the branches.
That Stalker leapt outside of Sovan’s Pipes radius and attacked him, but Shield kept my beloved safe. Below, Hadley and Nico readied another round of shots, while Aythe’s Puppeteer-addled chatter failed to calm the Fela (Disadvantaged Persuasion 6.)
Sovan lit up this Prophecy Stalker for the archers, and Nico critically hit (17 piercing) before Hadley hit a ‘called shot’ Trip for another 16 damage, causing this Stalker to fall to their death.
The other two escaped, and as the party regrouped and recovered the Fela a flare-illuminated crossbow bolt landed not far away – McDonald and Sovan went over to find a note in Elvish – “Your Depredations in our home have not gone unnoticed, and are now not unpunished. We slew the worst among you to send you a message – stay out of our home.”
I joined the Well of Transformation. I thought Quincy, Silverleaf and myself brokered at the very least a ceasefire with Excellence, with the other Elders, even with Competence. I am confused and dismayed and do not know which ‘Depredations’ they speak of. Perhaps my new Well can tell me more.
For this expedition, I heard a dirge played on Sovan’s shawm, and my guide turned to me – “It is your lover. Go to him.” I went.
While I ran, Bertholdt’s Ring was donned and all was revealed; at this point Bertholdt / Lucens can resume narration.
Well, you can’t shrink ‘Bertholdt Rohrbach’ without getting ‘BRB’. (Rather, you can, but correcting the minor and poetical flaws of others is never a good look, darling ducks.)
Sovan finds me ring, puts it on, and we have a little tete-a-tete before he flatly flakes out on the sheer apocalyptic weirdness of a notorious scapegrace and Guild Nemesis popping back in as a pale pillock with the street smarts of a tank-bred goldfish and the humour of a Church newsletter after a run through the Bishop’s Censoring Committee.
Soon after, they all get cracking with the burning of my body – Ironically PREMATURE, as it turns out, due to Mr. Miracle getting his “Death has a Do-Over” power later in the trip. During the kindling-finding, Jeepers returns. He hears me tale, puts on me ring himself – “HELLOOOO JEEPERS~~~~~” I croon – and the little bugger pulls me off his finger!
Then he hears about the Vampire Debacle with Captured Camille up north on the Sending train – and THEN Jeepers SEARING SMITES me! The cheek! The unmitigated gall! Why I ought to write to the Times! To the POST, even! (Gosh but he looked dashing doing it.)
They walk away while I yell things but as a Ring I am easy to ignore, I shall find to my chagrin. Pretty, I remain; shiny, I certainly remain, priceless – when am I ever not? But vocal? Such is not for we, the Costume-Jewellery-Silanyans of the world. Our embattled community, all the poorer for it.
(NB: It’s rather a rippingly Good Thing they don’t hang about to watch me be toasted medium well – there’s a “WAAAAIIIILLLL”, from behind, as if a Whale and a Giant Sasquatch had a bouncing baby monstrosity and it howled itself to sleep; but much, much worse than that. A bally great Roc flew down aussi – more Whale-Wailing, Roc FUCKS right off, we thank our lucky lampshades and press on sprightly-like.)
We move on to the 06.14 Hidden Door, and despite some mild efforts (CON saves) needed to sleep there all squashed in with 6 fellows and 7 Fela…we all make it.
I sit in the Ring and start to think about what Eternity might feel like and begin rather strongly to suspect that I may not like it at all.
Day 2 – Undertree and the Source-Dweller
We get to Undertree in good order. Sovan does that funny Burping Grunting VIbrating Jazz-Scatting business that wonks out the Webrealm arachnids by telling them about the last time he peed in a public bath or what-have-you. It seems to go well, as at least one giant spider monster doesn’t come and turn us into gobbets of Spider-Chow.
As we arrive, a little Fala rascal named ‘Glib’ (are they joking?) tries to volunteer to be our guide. Luckily Soma, whom we know rather better – elbows him out of the way. He and Sovan chatter back and forth like day-labourers high on Sket-weed for a few minutes, to Jeepers’…amusement? Golly but he’s learned to be cool, and let buzzes be unharshed. Will Wonders Never Cease? THIS one certainly did!
SCRIBE’S NOTE: I wish I could say that this was the last of Bertholdt’s rather self-pitying ‘jokes’ reminding the reader of his death. Only the best will be preserved for posterity.]
Seeing the Fela, our Fala chum queries us – he ‘thought these dudes were not cool’ – Sovan reassures him that these Fela are ‘chill’, and then of COURSE like the rabbit-y little roused rabble they are they are about as chill as a Aganazzar’s FUCKING Scorcher to hear they’re being taken to meet the Inner Circle of the Rising Sun, also living here in exile.
Good riddance, you ungrateful little swots. Thanks for all the help during my assassination! HE SAID SARCASTICALLY.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertholdt is being rather unfair here, but I can hardly blame him considering he was walking slowly surrounded by Fela he meant to protect and they ran the second he was felled.]
We start in on the Source, to which Soma says – in a curiously flat and non-Fala tone -
that “Questions about the Source are not to be answered by this person.” (real BOOP – BEEP – I AM A CONSTRUCT FALA – LIKE, TOOOO-TALLY GIVE ME MACHINE OIL, DUUUUUDE stuff, did not like it ONE little bit.) We are, it seems, to be briefed on the Source by Sevalli.
Asking about Vliblin, we find he’s been away for some weeks and that Soma the Perpetually Helpful can’t recall why. Ah! Glad to know that the ‘most ruddy ominous non-explanation possibly imaginable’ award is well and truly locked down this year, takes the pressure off rather. In ‘thanks’ for his ‘help’, Sovan tosses Soma a cider. "Excelleeeent,” he witters. I do so enjoy these lovable doofuses. Deplore them at the same time, sometimes, I’ll admit that, but they’re cute as big bags of burnished buttons.
We get to Servalli, who stands with a clearly du Vayrir bespoke false leg propping her up. She sends Soma out to clear the area, buying us some privacy, and squat atop the stairs to keep rubber-neckers at bay. Good strong leadership! Does a body (politic) good.
After her brief thank you to ‘Smith Dude!’ Jeepers regarding the leg, and an accompanying technical inspection, she advises us:
“We got shit to talk about, but, sorry my excellent peeps, let’s deal with this up front – I got my reasons – you wanna trade? Potions for harnesses? Eh? Ehhh?”
“What are these potions for?” Sovan asks.
Servalli is breezy and evasive – “We got dudes who really use them.”
“Dudes like you?’ we ask. “Kiiiind of. Out of curiousity –” and here her voice changes to a businesslike and rather chilly, clipped tone, spooky as anything “– how many potionshave you brought today?”
We confer, confirm, and give her 26 (counting mine and Jeepers’) and receive 26 harnesses at 780 GP of profit. Proper ‘trade with the Natives stuff’, like my ancestors probably did, unless they didn’t at all! Servalli is very chuffed and drops our healing draughts down a nearby chute to be picked up by spidery little hands unknown.
Servalli then, FINALLY, comes to the point: “So bros, let’s talk about the Floating House. What exactly is your interest in that place? We try to keep our connection with it on the DL.”
Sovan breaks into Fala dialect, sounding rather a lot like a suburban art teacher deciding to have a ‘rap session’ about drugs, ‘yo’. “That Floatin’ house be messin’ with our Juju – we totally just wanna talk – be rad together, smooth this shit out.” (Isn’t it just like a drunken and rather elderly uncle trying to speak to the Help in their own language at Michaelmas? Isn’t it?)
Servalli ‘thinks we’re in luck’, as a denizen of the Floating House (the Source, for our slower home readers) is here – and apparently, a fully-grown adult, possessed of reason, sensitivity, and a fully developed franchise as a member of society, they WILLINGLY and COLD-BLOODEDLY go by the name of ‘Zippedeedoodah.’ I have no words. Truly this continent is some kind of socially awkward, HOPELESSLY provincial hell maze. From now on – you know what? He’s ZIPP. Which is ALSO the amount of interest I have in ever writing out his full name again and hurting poor Jeepers’ wee little hand any -
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Why, thank you, Bertholdt. Your extended lecture about why you want me to write less is very much a reasonable use of both our times.]
In any event, ZIPP is ‘doing a concert’ – “Let’s go to a concert!” we cry. (I mean, I twinkle in a pocket, but cry I would could I only.) Jeepers acts as designated purse-holder and takes Hadley’s breastplate so the others can dance about.
We arrive to a throng, a stage with a silk curtain, just as a long-haired, quite sharply dressed Fala takes the stage – you know, that louchely expensive ‘hobo chic’ thing I used to pull off JUST a little more beautifully. Better legs for it, y’know. The chap has a rather curious lute covered in metal strips.
Sovan yells out to this minstrel “YOU GOT THIS!”, Inspiring them, just as this – obviously a WIZARD – begins to use Shocking Grasp to electrify this lute into some kind of…electric instrument? The Fala go berserk (in a dance-y way, no one is torn limb from limb, at least not that I’ve heard of. Hadley’s moshing about (4) is terrible, but enthusiastic.
Sovan’s Inspiration, and his impromptu harmonies, lead to a 30+ Performance – this chap throws up his guitar to finish his set, which turns into a lightning bolt and reappears on his back. He pushes through the crowd to Sovan, yelling over the crowd – “Sick harmony – I felt the extra juice, normally I’d need a posse for that much music.” Sovan just grins and shoots back "Stick with me dude, I got yer back”.
(All the while, this Falar Don Juan of the Dark Forest – is pushing off groupies, including Hadley, with whom he shares a rather anatomically complex mandibular makeout.)
Zipp (ugh ugh UGH) agrees to meet us after he…freshens up. With Hadley. (Dear me! Hope they’ve had their shots, YOU know musicians.)
(NB: Banging It Out Scorecard: Hadley CON Athletics 13, Zipp’s 25. Zipp carries them, but Hadley likely doesn’t realize how outclassed they were.)
We go upstairs and wait for our lustbirds to return, suspiciously disheveled and with bed hair, and everyone quite graciously pretends to be mystified by what might have transpired in the interim, except for Sovan, who keeps winking at everyone salaciously, like a leering old priest at a mass Solstice wedding.
Zipp sits and wants to confirm that we have "questions about the Crib – where all the rock stars hang out.” (‘Rock Star’ apparently means ‘vain musician who is trying too hard.’) Sovan visibly struggles not to kill himself right away so as to immediately reawaken in this Jangly Electric Lute Valhalla.
We mention that the Source – his ‘Crib’ – is messing with our Wall. Zipp turns, deeply perturbed, to Servalli – "I thought you said they were cool!” Jeepers, about 100 times more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him, reassures Zipp that we are cool, and that we want to understand and fix this situation.
Mollified temporarily, Zipp calls our Wall out as “nasty juju. It’s harshing our vibe – ya gotta be in tune with the flowwww, ya know? Your Wall, man, it’s just – man, knocking things out. There’s a Rhythm of magic – but you’re just sitting right there on serious currents – messing with the flow. Y’get it?”
Jeepers, who is also reportedly about as smart now as Lesh ever was (UTTER TOSH) does in fact get it to some extent (Arcana 24) – the objection of the Source to the Wall is partially a ley line concern, blocking flows of power, and partially a purely aesthetic one. Which, of course, please please PLEASE let us have our children corrupted or murdered so as not to disturb your artistic sense of balance. Let’s ever so much do that.
Zipp continues, smugly: “That’s our biz – taking down stuff that ain’t supposed to be here. We got lots goin’ on, yours is just the biggest one to fix on our to-do list. Like, a while back, we fixed up the Fire Bros in the swamp so it’s not so damaging.” Apparently a boiling hot unnatural swamp full of fire monsters and a set of defences so thin a half-insane peasant could crack them and release a pair of magical evil Genies is better than any kind of Ward? This pimply little git is obviously glitched as a cucumber tossed in a sausage-grinder and yanked back the wrong way, and I’m not entirely sure he isn’t inbred.
Sovan and Jeepers – whom he seems to respect as interesting folk at least – ask him to consider letting us make a replacement for the Wall before smashing it and leaving us defenseless. “Imagine a sweet coat,” Sovan says, “but it’s harshing someone’s vibe – you could make a better coat – but not if the other guy keeps punching you to take the coat off.”
Zipp isn’t an aficionado of the analogy – “this ‘coat’ ain’t a coat, S-cat – it’s a Web-disturbance. An Abom.” He clearly hasn’t the mental energy to get through the whole word ‘Abomination’, poor lamb. If our innocent civilians and kids are behind it and at risk? Maybe they’re actually bad and wrong themselves. The pompous git is utterly immovable on ‘Walls All = Bad’.
Jeepers, probably the most neurotically moral person I’ve ever met, suggests that this is, in fact, illogical, and that we’re proof the Wall-people aren’t all bad. “Your people set this up?” Zipp says sharply. Jeepers figures lying is ultimately pointless, and says that others from our land did set it up – not us personally, but among our people.
Oh Jeepers. Sweet summer child. You never, EVER tell them the truth unless it’s actually going to be helpful.
“You guys…” Zipp starts slowly “…ok. For SOME reason, you’re tight with Servalli, who told me you were cool, so you get ONE pass. Walk away. Get out of here.”
We make various efforts to have him listen to us – that we will HELP him bring down the flipping Wall if he can let us patch in an alternate solution – but Zipp just sets about ‘playing us out’ like we’re a set of rodeo clowns who’ve outstayed their welcome, strumming ominously on his lute like the nasty little showboater he is.
Sovan and Jeepers, being strong as the dickens, look about ready to throw down, and Jeepers’ fancy ‘eats lightning’ armour seems poised to get its first big workout in a while…when they look around at the rest of the little Guildies along, pale-faced and terrified of starting a brawl in a city full of surprisingly hardy little spiderfolk, where best case we kill half the town fighting our way out.
Both let discretion be the better part of valour. We leave, heads high, as Zipp’s playing fades into the distance behind us.
The shit-heel then has Soma throw us out of Undertree itself, and we leave, increasingly sure we may just have to give these bullies a cauliflower ear right up in their dreadful little sky-shack.
We leave the Webrealm unmolested and decide to ask the Oracle what more can we do to deal with this dispiriting dilemma, now that Zappeedapdumdum has rejected overtures.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertie’s original revision of the name was rather more scatological; I have censored it to be more family-friendly. I was still raised in a holy monastery. Put Bertholdt on if you wish to know what he said first.]
Day 2 – The Oracle’s Antechamber, Tiny Sovan
On the way to Oracle Central, we encounter 7 Ogres fighting a flock of Stirges. Jeepers charges his Guardians, while Sovan fires 2 Fireballs – we murder the whole Ogre group and perhaps 30 Stirges, claiming 100 GP in silver coins from the Ogres but lacking carry capacity for a big stack of plated copper. One senses that our Sixth Circle Initiate Power Couple had rather a lot of Post-Zipp, post-Camille, post-Me anger to work out and these poor lumbering blighters crossed their path at a fatally unfortunate juncture.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertholdt is, I must sadly say, correct that Sovan and I were not entirely ungrateful to have an opportunity to make the Wood a bit more hospitable by removing some marauders. The loss of life was unfortunate, but we’ve yet to see any ogres offer quarter or accept parlay, so for now we must think of the new adventurers, any of whom a single ogre’s lucky blow could crush, and steel ourselves to valuing the younglings’ safety as our highest priority.]
We make it to the spiffy little Tree Fort Miss Oracle has prepped for her guests, and find our ticket ready – 21721! Now being served! Now THAT is what I call service. Pay attention to this kind of efficiency, Guild Canteen staff! …we go upstairs. Some Mummies take our ticket and usher us inward.
A rather lissome young-looking shifted Couatl secretary greets us, and asks us to please fill out the log book – with Disadvantage, JP’s roll to comprehend the local Bureaucracy (with Sovan patting him Inspiringly on the bottom) is a 24, and all seems to be in ordnung. We’re asked next to drop off our coats in the waiting room, before entering through the Hall of Geometry.
Said waiting room turns out to be lined with a variety of comfy chairs and plush accoutrements, little magazines, whole works, like this doctor I used to go to back Home whenever my boils were acting up, real classy place, tiny fountains. As Jeepers helpfully hangs up our coats, he sees (Perception 16) that the closet is a lot deeper than it ought to be – and surely it can’t be Coats All The Way Down!
The Secretary, asked about this, tells us it’s the "Way to the Village” – reassured that we can visit without voiding our Oracle appointment unless we spend a great deal of time inside, we decide to go in and take a look, like the turista imbeciles we, despite our best efforts, turn into the second any kind of novelty rears its sprightly head.
Through the magic cloakroom passage is a forest in what looks to be a pocket dimension – a demiplane of a few hundred feet in diameter. Sitting in front of us, outside a small house, an elderly gent on a rocking chair sits, rocks, with his right arm withered like a dead thing’s clear to his right elbow. He quavers as soon as he sees us in a quaint rural accent: “Best not speak until I explain some things."
“My name is Old Man Willis – gatekeeper and guardian of this here place. There’s some Rules to follow:
- The First, and most important Rule – any question asked of the villagers forfeits y’all’s question to the Oracle. You can do it, but hope yeh don’t mind waiting another week to ask HER anything.
- The Second Rule – there’s a set edge to this world. It’s not considered polite to ask about it, and don’t fall off. Please, if you’re wondering why we’d say somethin’ so obvious…believe me, you’d be surprised at how many people have come here and done one or both – we made this rule explicit for a reason.
- The Third Rule – there’s no passage of time in here for us – your body is indestructible and won’t change – but time passes just fine outside. So don’t miss yet window."
We talk to him, studiously avoiding questions, and find out the Village has been here, untouched, since Corruption – its space-time (this is a clever person way of saying “Strange Bits”) folded up by the Oracle somehow and cordoned off. Willis advises us “Don’t be too fancy, and don’t convince the Villagers to leave. That would kill ’em.” He gestures to his withered half-arm. “Forgot that Rule once – I used to be YOUNG Man Willis.”
Regarding ’Don’t be too fancy’, he clarifies that he has a rod that goes out if we ask a question, and dims ominously if we try to be clever – Jeepers stating “We surely would love to hear about <topic> if you happened to want to talk about it.” That sort of thing.
We decide that Aythe and McDonald will go out to the cloakroom to make sure we don’t waste all our time.
The rest of us proceed into a lovely little village – least squalid I’ve seen, almost a proper place to live! Minus the culture, the running water, the nightlife, the proper clothes, but, y’know, trying its bally best to be civilized. The roofs are (Jeepers excitedly yelps out as if this is interesting) tiled as they were in the Old Empire. With some significant time here, he might rediscover methods whereby magic was woven into their buildings, and even their day to day life – there are wards and spells in every building, and most of the peasants are a) not even a BIT smelly and b) know a cantrip or ritual or two.
The burg looks set to hold ~50 people; one one side, there’s an empty plot where a church once stood (Mr. Stonecunning again with the apparently unwarranted enthusiasm for Knowledge!), a corn maze, an apple-bobbing competition, a petting zoo (hosting rabbits, cats, dogs, and a single, doubtless desperately lonely pig).
Across the village square is a sparring ground and a vegetable garden – many of which look eerie and unfamiliar. We meet Tommie, the head gardener, who – hearing that we’d like to buy some produce, offers a caveat emptor: “From our experience, it’s hard to track which won’t turn to dust. According to Old Willis, it’s somethin’ in their makeup."
We offer to buy some regardless. He laughs at our offer of gold coins (in this little backwater I suppose currency is of limited value to subsistence farmers, says Someone Clever). He will, however, give us his best 3 ‘cukes’ and pair of apple tomatoes if we get Little Cynthia to laugh. We set to it – surely Silanya’s Greatest Bard can make a small child giggle, we confidently assert.
We find our 6-year-old target, sitting forlorn and grumpy as a little goose girl by a crooked willow tree near the Church ruins. Sovan, being half a genius and half an idiot ten year old boy, combines both beautifully to _Major Image a skit of a drunken duck, stumbling about, pooping on everything, but especially Jeepers. It is OBJECTIVELY the single funniest thing that has ever existed (Perform 25). (From what hearsay tells Your Author, who was Only Sort of There)
Alas! This superlative performance only makes Sylvia wanly smile – “Clever – very magical. Can you take me out of here?” The deafening silence that follows. The realization that she’s probably 300, and that she’s been 6 that whole time.
Nico steps in: “You are not going to get what you need from others – you should TAKE what you want-” and then Jeepers, angrier than I’ve seen him in a while, Commands Nico to ‘Desist’, apparently on the theory that cavalierly advising a desperate child to a course of action that could involve her trying to leave this nightmare time bubble and thereby killing herself – all in the interest of some dreadful half-baked self-indulgent Libertarian puffery about how ‘strength should be defined by self-reliance as soon as I’m pretty sure that I’m strong enough to do well out of that system’ – is a rather rotten thing to do.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Correct.]
Nico subsides into a sulk.
Jeepers gently asks if Sylvia might like to laugh, just to feel it, if he helped her to do it – clearly thinking of Command. She says no, but asks if such magics as we clearly possess might deliver her from stasis. We apologize to Sylvia and say that they cannot, but promise that, when we are able, we will ask the Oracle about the Time Bubble. She is sad that our rag-tag little collective are not the magical paragons to deliver her, but accepts our helplessness as part of her deeply tragic little lot. (Poor wee nipper).
We leave, out of cheer, suddenly desperate to clear this bucolic little prison for lost souls, feeling like a great collection of useless flophouse ninnies in the face of that pretty, despairing, ageless little girl.
Tommie runs after us as we leave. He apologizes for sending us to the grimmest corner of the Village to have a little ‘fun’ with us – he says, and golly gosh goodness do we believe him, that it warps one’s sense of humor living here. There are, apparently, fun tricks to try in future in a land where one cannot die from physical trauma. Well splash me with scent and call me a dockside doxy, m’luds, who WOULDN"T want to try ‘drowning forever and not dying’? I cannot even EVEN begin.
Jeepers, ever the bigger man – but for true, not for show – says ‘no hard feelings’ and uses Channel Divinity to make Tommie’s scythe better. We leave on good terms.
All Tommie’s food turns to dust as we leave.
It’s days like this what cause unrest.
This whole time, outside, McDonald has been making friends with a pack of flying sharks that float around outside their tanks as if the air was water. Like guard dogs, but the size of wagon-carts and made of teeth and pure hate! Charming!
Seeing this, and seeing the rest of us return, the Secretary Pounces Opportunistically on our clearly animal-loving cadre – advising us that we can help her if we like, as “the Winged Ones want help with the Growing Darkness.” ‘What is that dangerous-sounding new thing we can risk our lives against for dubious reward(s), and who are these probably ungrateful Winged patrons of our heroism?’ we cry (in more polite language than that).
We are told (please, please stop me if any of you seasoned adventurers have heard this before) that we “need to see it to believe it.” The Secretary is right – she ISN’T good with bloody words. Our Anti-Sovan leads us onwards like a fretting little ferret to our Call to Adventure.
Along the way, we ask our guide “Are we in danger? from this Darkness?” Apparently we are not, unless we ‘eat the mushroom’ (read on to learn of that sack of terrible idea), and maybe not even if we do imbibe – we ‘seem tough.’ (I always love it when they say “You brave warriors can take it” – that’s around when we start getting shot at from cover.)
The Snakeretary (tra~~~~ just thought of it~~~) opens a door to ‘defenses’ – one of those irritatingly peculiar mechanical ‘only step on the Red Tiles’ jobbies. We go through into the Secretary’s Chambers – a long hallway connects the cloakroom, with a back passage to the Oracle. Also adjoining, a Souvenir Workshop for the Gift Shop and our destination – a little Pocket Dimension Garden. Less isolated than the Village, it sits in the Forest Canopy, with Abjuration wards in place to stop Stalkers coming in and stealing all the peaches and leaving threatening notes attached to flares in all the birdbaths.
McDonald has the nous to get answers without asking questions on How This All Works -
we are told that, while it is dangerous to pass through THESE wards, they do not punish Questions as does the Village with losing one’s Oracle Appointment.
The Secretary explains her ‘Winged Ones’: “I’ve been tending this Garden since the Corruption. These ants – much like Giant ants – form complex societies. They have wings… they can talk.” Right – JUST as we start looking around for her straitjacket, a swarm of hundreds of winged ants fly up and land on her arm. “Ok,”, she mutters, “engage Agreed Communication Protocol. Confirm.” A mob of squirming little wigglies arrange themselves to spell out, in good legible Common, “CONFIRM”.
(NB: THAT IS DISGUSTING. EUGH. CREEPY CRAWLIES. Literally the ONLY reason I’m glad to be shut of my body is to never ever EVER have to touch an insect again.)
We stand around slack-jawed, as the Secretary continues: “Okay – these people here might be able to help you fight the Growing Darkness. Do you think they could help?” Ants Spelling: YES. “Can you explain to us what the Darkness IS?” Spelling: NOT EASILY."
McDonald tries to speak with one using their odd Warlocking – can’t hear a bally thing. Sovan steps in and uses Enlarge to make one an inch long. It starts jabbering: “This is fascinating! You can really understand me?” etc., etc. The 60 seconds it’s Enlarged are all wasted as it asks what seem like, but in fact aren’t, rhetorical questions, lost in marvelling at the wonder of its own wondrous bloody marvellous excitement, boil my bollocks in molten hoisin sauce but the only thing worst than an ant is one that can TALK and WON’T SHUT UP.
We tensely ask the Winged Ones to get their next little speech down to one condensed expository monologue. The buggers confer, and produce a distinguished little ant in a tiny crown. It is enlarged, and speaks:
“Greetings – I am Duly Elected Prime Minister <ant> of the Winged Ones. I am so, so honoured that you would all take the time to speak to us in this way. Our Colony, as the Secretary has said, consists of Intelligent Winged Ants. We are currently assailed by the Growing Darkness – our holdings stretch across several trees, but inside our original home, this Dark force is gnawing into the tree and eating our egg clusters. If you wish to aid us, heroes, eat of the Shrinking Mushrooms and join us in our fight within this tree.”
McDonald gets that Light in his eyes that I’ve come to recognize as an obsessive being handed their wildest dreams on a silver platter – apparently he doesn’t just Talk to the Animals, he wants to snuggle them and give them treats and bind their little wounds. Show me a Cause and I’ll show you someone who thinks we should all give up hot breakfasts and go liberate something before sun-up, brisk calisthenics to follow. In short: McDonald likely to make this a thing.
Still, for now our existing agenda still prevails – we say that we think we’ll go for the Darkness Tour after talking to the Oracle. We do decide to test the Shrinking, as Hadley noshes on the white half of a little mushroom to shrink (naked) into a great cavern formed by their discarded breastplate – only attuned magical items (including weapons and armor) shrink.
Hadley is Tiny: as such, the Square / Cube Law applies, so they can jump 30’ relative to their scale and take no falling damage. Still, they can’t communicate with us, the Ants are suddenly like flying mounts, which they decide to ride around…it all sounds v. v. dreadful.
At least some good news – Just one bite of the black half gets Hadley back up to scale – no ‘3 days of slowly eating a giant mushroom top to tail’ here. it MUST be the same mushroom as shrunk one, however. The trick is being able to chew down on the black half and return – Sovan shrinks too small (8 on CON save when shrinking). “This can happen!” chirps the Secretary; what gloriously shite timing she has!
We’re told that we can take the rest of the black mushroom half with us as we proceed and just…wait until Sovan can be not a tiny little Sovan-man. We do so, glaring balefully at the Secretary, especially Sovan (who, with cutting and JP Mending, finds a little nook to nestle in around JP’s armoured shoulder).
Still, The preliminarily thankful Secretary tells us our Trials to meet the Oracle will start in the Hall of Geometry; we’re told “don’t mess with the Platonic solids.”
We sleep – or rather, the others sleep, and Jeepers tells me what’s happened and lets me give it flair.
Day 3 – The Oracle’s Trials
We’re off to see the Oracle.
There is a Door of Brass we must reach by navigating across a maze of mysterious patterns of floating solids. The Platonic ones, the Secretary reminded us all, are Not To Be Trifled with. We work out that one could either use Acrobatics to parkour across to the door, or an easier Intelligence check to find a pattern and solve it like a puzzle.
Jeepers cheats and has Sovan cast Fly on him. He flits across like a great clanking pixie.
Everyone else makes it – Hadley Nico and McDonald use their Dexterity to bound across like beautiful young gazelles honking their way up a slippery staircase (McDonald seems to steel their Resolve to not make a muffin of the whole affair), while Aythe clocks her Intelligence to ride a rhombus into easy jumping distance of our destination.
Reuineted, we enter the Door of Brass.
Along this 100’ * 10’ square corridor, the ‘flames of purity’ shoot in sheets of flame down and between the walls, a new one starting at the opposite end whenever one gets 80’ down the corridor towards us. Halfway down, 50’ away, is a lovely Fire Giant warrior maiden sitting on the floor, hair a mass of literal flame tumbling in scorching curls about her ear, and NOW I’m reminded once again that I no longer have genitals, thank you Silanya, thank you SO much.
Jeepers, it turns out speaks Giant – rather like someone not especially musical confessing that they’re curiously enough a savant on the bloody Zither. He “Halloo”-es to the Fire Giant and she rumbles back: “Yes, little one?”
“What is thine purpose?”
“Originally, to measure the contents of one’s heart! In these sad fallen times, it has become less so. Those who will not brave the test of Heart can try their strength and cunning ’gainst the Flames.”
“What is this test, good Lady?”
“I speak literally, Little Brother – I will weigh your living heart against a feather on the scale.”
At this, Jeepers wants to go be Tested, and Sovan waggles his tiny little arms about and insists on being tested too, because my sainted AUNT but that relationship has its odd spots of competition.
The Great Big Lady says “Sure ’nuff!” to our heroic cohabiting comrades, and the three go up into the Shrine of Testing – a door built off the corridor to one side. Said corridor fills with flame behind her as she leaves her post, all but screaming “Oh PLEASE, you little rascals, just TRY to sneak past me while she’s gone.” Handsome and youthful as we look, we weren’t born yesterday, so we sit still and act like good little childrens.
Meanwhile, Jeepers spends five minutes removing his armor – Blessed and Inspired, he stands as directed in a magic circle. He (luckily) just ACES a Constitution Save (25+) as she literally rips his heart out of his chest – Jeepers loses a vast quantity of health which she restores by Laying on Hands. Sovan turns a mite green from his nearby vantage point.
Giant Fire Paladin Lady takes the Heart of Jeepers and places it on a golden scale. Weighed vs. an eagle’s feather, the feather CRASHES down; against a giant eagle feather, CRASH goes the feather to the floor. Looking quite FUCKING impressed I must imagine, she pulls out a phoenix feather, and – I suppose all those Moral Sit-Ups did the trick! – they equally balance.
She turns to Jeepers and inclines her head with respect. “Little Brother – I am honoured that this grim world still produces those such as yourself.” She goes to a nearby cabinet, pulls out a tincture from the VEEEERY far end of a row, and pours it on his heart, which begins to glow. When reinserted, Jeepers is permanently under a Protection from Evil spell against Fiends and Undead, and does +1d6 Radiant damage whenever he would otherwise make a radiant attack.
And ALL HE HAD TO DO was be ridiculously morally upright every day for the entirety of his life!
Not quite done, our Miss Flaming Paladin Big’n’Tall advises Jeepers – Jeepers the PHOENIXHEART – that, after going through the Storm Front ahead, the bottom exit is the much easier of the two paths forward.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Again. Please. Please do not call me that. I have Aided you all so often. Please. It is so embarrassing. Please.]
Rather cowed after all the PHOENIXHEARTing, Sovan goes through the test, beats the Giant Eagle, isn’t a PHOENIXHEART but does get one ‘Miracle’ –a 6th Level or lower Cleric Spell, one time – and another usage per short rest of his Veillantif leg’s acceleration effect.
Nobody else feels quite up to having their heart scooped out of their chest. We move on, the PHOENIXHEART’s example meaning we need not brave the flames ourself. For FLAME cannot hurt the PHOENIX-
SCRIBE’S NOTE: At this point in my writing, I advise Lucens that I can take him off and give him to [Bugle] for a few days. He stops antagonizing me for a few minutes.]
Now – this NEXT room is terrifically unpleasant. Big 40’ spherical room jobby – nasty thunder and lightning effects, howling buffeting winds. Ahead of us, one door at the bottom (20’ down), another door at the top (20’ up) relative to our door in the middle of one side. As Hetty Heart-Weigher, Flame Guardian, told us, we want to take the Low Road (don’t we all?)
McDonald’s turn to cheat flagrantly – they Misty Step to the bottom door, where their Athletics 23 wrenches the door open so they can get to a wooden ladder leading down into a well-lit and extensive library (see below). One down.
Tying a rope to the ladder, and the other end to their Spear of Smiting, McDonald flings said spear back at the entrance – it takes them a long, long time (hours, it feels like) to make the attack stick, but gradually they get the hang of aiming through a persistent hurricane and nail it.
Jeepers makes it across no problem, his PHOE- his perfectly normal and not at all noteworthy heart doing well by him. Sovan rides his boyfriend.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertholdt. You are making the joke by conspicuously not making the joke. Just say it if you’re going to.]
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Apologies, readers, if I seemed to intimate any sort of silly little jape at the noble art of tender lovemaking. I certainly did not explicitly intend any imagined homoerotic vistas of tensed flesh seizing as-]
SCRIBE’S NOTE: You know, on further reflection the silent implication works for me..]
Anyway, Sovan ACCOMPANIES Jeepers across. The other three cock it all up and take a bloody ton of thunder and lightning damage flopping around in the air, as one by one we get them to catch the rope (as McDonald resummons their Spear and releases the line from the other side) and soon after that reel them all in.
We proceed down into the great library.
While the party takes a Short Rest, Jeepers investigates (25), finding a glowing book of runic script labelled, in a language he can read, The Oracular Orisons. He reads it and overcomes a certain resistance (WIS save 24) to master it, after which Ceremony is always always a prepared spell for him, as is a 3rd-Level version of Dawn (damage reduced from 4d10 to 2d10, no longer Sunlight, scales back up with SL).
On reading it, furthermore, something CLICKS and Jeepers realizes we can’t leave until we all read a book.
- Aythe (31): Read the Oracular Saga. She can use the College of Valour’s Combat Inspiration to inspire +AC against hits or +damage on successful hit.
- Nico (32): Read the Oracular Omens – her Ranger spellcasting is DEX-based.
- Sovan (25): The tiny Oracular Curio flew up to him, let him return to normal size instantly (he instantly did so, his bottom suddenly atop and crushing Jeepers’ shoulder (which he’d been riding) into the ground). Sovan can also adopt his Tiny form 1 minute/Expedition.
- McDonald (31): Read the Oracular Grimoire, saved INT 21: they can reshape the Spear of Smiting into any weapon they wish as a bonus action, retaining the ’Thrown 20’/60’ ’ property regardless of the weapon. (Thrown Greatsword? And how!)
- Hadley (22): Read the Oracular Manual, saved INT 11: they forgot their Battlemaster Parry ability.
With that, a door creaked open and we could proceed, great big brainy boffin heads scraping the ceiling as we walked and discussed trigonometry, and derivatives, and such. Wot wot.
Emerging from the library, we found a large, mostly featureless room. In its centre stood a suit of what our Dwarven Smith Stereotype advised was Duelist’s armor, wielding an epee in a frozen en garde position; the sword’s basket hilt was surmounted with a small key. One side of the room held our entrance door, another a second door, locked, a third held a rack of fencing sabres.
Sovan failed to pick the lock to continue (15), and Jeepers approached the Duelist – it straightened, saluted, and went back to en garde, now visibly tensed to attack. Jeepers accepted that, while a living battering ram of a man, he’s not really much cop at the flashing blades thing and doesn’t know the rules of fencing any more than he knows what a brothel is for. (Bet you he won’t even add a corrective note here, too busy blushing-)
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Maybe when you left, and I was younger, and more Wise but also more foolish. I truly believe I know why you used them, Bertie, and why i do not, and with that I am content.]
But ANYWHAT, Hadley takes the case! Jeepers makes Hadley’s rapier +1 with Forge God’s Blessing (and the Duelist’s began to glow); Sovan Enlarged Hadley (and the Duelist grew.)
Seeing the writing on the wall, we stop making BOTH sides stronger and left them to it.
The Duelist wins Initiative (19 vs. Hadley’s 17) – and leaps forward, doing 15 damage, before returning to en garde stance. Hadley ripostes, dealing 16 damage, and trying for a Trip maneuver, but the rotten old revenant is strong enough to stay upright.
Second pass, the Duelist misses dreadfully, at which point our Hadley pounces – using their Prismatic Fruit power, Sovan’s Inspiration and a Battlemaster’s Precision to hit a called Disarm stab on the creature’s wrist, a total of 32 to hit(!) and sends the Duelist’s epee flying.
(NB: This wasn’t as sure a hit as it ought to have been – quick hands on this big metal menace gave this a +10 to effective AC, as Hadley explains at excruciating, enthusiastic length to Jeepers and Sovan, who both seem to stay interested past all reasonable bounds of courtesy. It’s like the new fellow at a party who’s recently taken up weightlifting and will…not…let…it…go.)
Defeated, the Duelist shrinks, walks over to unlock the door with its retrieved sword, and bows. A sword suddenly flies past Hadley back to the rack – they makes a surprise DEX Save 22 and gain a +1 rapier that increases Battlemaster dice size by 1.
We leave and finally, finally get to the Oracle’s chamber. (Next time, I advise you all to cheat flagrantly somehow, this was a loooong night at the theatre.)
We enter the room of the Oracle to find a beautiful she-sphinx regally gazing down at us like a lion mixed with a sexy lady mixed with a powerful magical being, because that is exactly what she is. She smiles beatifically – “I am glad you finally made it, without cheating this time.”
Jeepers asks, as we agreed, “What should we do to move towards the best possible outcome from my perspective?” We figured incorporating the values of a squeaky-clean little fella like himself oughtta keep the Monkey’s Paw out of the wording.
The Oracle sighs: “Phoenixheart-” IT IS CANONICAL SHE SAID IT – “there is no good outcome possible, as you would see it. I know this is not a good answer; I will do you the courtesy of letting your party ask again.”
Jeepers sits, waves to us vaguely to continue, disgusted at the notion of a no-win scenario.
Finally the rest of us muster a question: “How do we stop the Source from destroying our Wall?” We are told quite bluntly that if we kill the Corrupt manning the Source and aiming its barrier-breaking at our Wall, a kernel of power will remain within. (Perhaps for us to use for some restorative Forest purpose, perhaps to fly us the fuck out of this terrible little Plane, who knows? I leave the thinking to people with brains, and hearts, and pulses these days.)
We give the Oracle our earnest, if slightly saddened thanks, and she summons a great whirlwind which mystically takes us right back out to the front. The Secretary is there to greet us: “Oh, you made it back! Good. Might you come back some other time to deal with the ants?”
Nico and McDonald look at each other and asked why we even need to get involved – surely this Angel Food Snake can Couatl her way into solving an ant-scale pest problem? She looks a bit abashed, and affirms that she doesn’t want to cut the tree down to fix a parasite if she can help it.
Sovan cuts in and asks, quite fairly, if this young lady might reward us for dealing with the Winged Ones’ concerns to raise the priority of this adventure, as our docket is exceedingly full at present and we’d need some kind of incentives to induce adventurers to shrink down and fight for a set of Ants living in a tree within any kind of reasonable timeframe.
The Secretary seems to understand this and says she’ll see what she can scrounge up as weregilt for future Attacking the Darkness. She asks Jeepers to Send her in six weeks to see what the upshot is. We suggest that we check in every week to see if anything has transpired, which she all-but-curtseys to and accepts. Rather a courtly little dame when you get her in a good mood.
We leave the Oracle’s, heads held high, slightly drained.
Day 3 – The Road Home.
The decision is made to stop at the Gift Shop on our way home. Why not? It’s not like I’M NEVER COMING BACK TO LIFE BECAUSE I COMMITTED TO A DRAMATIC CREMATION GESTURE.
SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertholdt has learned a valuable, if terminal, lesson regarding the perils of letting theatricality trump good sense.]
Reaching the Oracle’s Gift Shop as safely as a Sunday Youth Group climbing a church steeple, we follow a series of arrows (diverting away from the Vampire Shadow Manor of Doom) to find a small homey structure labelelled ‘YE OLDE GIFT SHOPPE’ in rather pedestrian ‘antique’ lettering, about as authentic as an Elven apology. Above the door is a secondary sign – “We Respect the Diversity Act of [Year] – It’s not a Tusk Thing, it’s a Fairness Thing.”
(The brainy team members recall this from their schooldays History exams – an Act passed to raise the too-low status of Old Empire half-orcs by being ‘slightly more fair’ to them. I support this sort of thing! Lots of great half-orcs I know. Best tailor I damn well ever met was a half-orc, and I’ll be jiggered if he didn’t make me look like the Prince of Solstheim on a terribly meagre allowance. Never once tried to eat my liver or form a horde or anything! Right gent.)
Entering the ‘Shoppe’, its Couatl proprietor wings down, Elf-forms , and speaks – “Hello! Welcome to the gift shop. You have been to the Oracle twice!” (Apparently Jeepers riding Silverleaf as a necklace counted.) "You are entitled, for both visits, to a Spectacular Collective prize, or individual prizes!”
Like any sane set of individuals whose souls have shared a tiffin together, we claim “Two Spectacular Collective Prizes, please!”
First Jeepers, regarding Expedition 78 – he gets quite lucky it seems (d100: 91) and gets a “Ray of Heavenly Power” – a one-off ranged attack (150’/600’, Dexterity- or Charisma-based as he pleases, no proficiency bonus.) On hit, it does 12d6 radiant damage, 24d6 to undead or evil outsiders. It hangs around on his shoulder as a teeny little divine lightning bolt. Anyone on that expedition who is not a pile of ashes, to wit Martin, Sil, Quincy and Garibaldi, can also hold and make use of it.
After this princely gift, we stare intently as McDonald steps forward. Sweat drips! Imagined music swells! Thunder cracks! And the Couatl pulls out a 10 GP children’s colouring book – “THE ORACLE AND YOU! (CRAYONS NOT INCLUDED)”.
At least it’s exquisitely well made.
Jeepers leaves us after that to meet his Stalker Sponsor, and the rest of us pop back home with no further fighting.
We DO stop on the way with the Fela, for Sovan to Plant some Growths and Hadley wrangle a riding spider.
We get behind the Wall, and I prepare to answer a great many questions and then live on [Bugle] for the rest of his natural life. (Chin up, Bertie old boy – you’ll be able to carry on telepathic chats with Silanya’s Most Eligible Bird Bachelor.)
(Oh dearie me.)
(The only thing – the ONE thing that makes this bearable?)
(Whatever’s happening to Dorkins right now is doubtless even worse.)