Gertie & The Gang

13. Cursed... again


- Elvis jumps into vamp lair, gertie follows, sylvan gets ready for bed. Elvis sees nunchucks, touches them, CURSE, bats!! Gertie hits it out of his hand, fight the bats. 

- Elvis seems crazy, doesn't remember his friends or how he got here, tries to escape, Helen paralyzes him, they talk

- They convince him that they can help, walk back to soonsea, Rudy recognizes curse and thinks he knows who can help; talk to abit at the inn; rest; elvis has nightmares

- Head to Pike's, see Nezzu on crutches, Pike does ritual, almost helps but not enough; they head to the caravan camp by the mountains; camp out; get there on the 2nd day

- They argue with Soileire, threaten murder, who owes who, etc. Wintle performs the ritual and elvis is cured. Others leave. Elvis goes and talks to wintle and then soileire… he wants to help

- Soileire explains that they are indentured servants, have to pay tithes to a bandit captain named Deozzis, they are at the end of the rope. She doesn't expect anything but elvis wants to help.

- Elvis catches up with the others and convinces them to help. They head to the cavern where the caravaners drop off the "dues" but on the way a storm happens and sinkholes emerge all around them.

- At the mouth of the cave a massive sinkhole erupts and an invisible dragon burrows up to the surface, outlined only by the rain bouncing against its massive form. "I am Deozzis the Blue Storm and your lives are forfeit." 

12. Flaming, floating roofs, and fanged, flying bats

Last time on Gertie and the Good Time Brigade, the heroes buckled down to defend the village of Soonsea from an entire goblin army! The first wave of the attack pushed them to the brink and tested their limits. As they tended to their wounds and prepared for the final fight, a new and powerful ally joined their ranks…

In the brief moment of calm, Elvis and Rudolfo grabbed bottles of booze and doused the roof of a house (that lay atop a goblin in the middle of the road). Abit climbed onto a nearby building and prepared to telekinetically float the roof over to the battlefield so he could drop it on the next wave of goblin forces. Gertie climbed next to him to serve as a shield and protector so Abit could focus his concentration.

Helen ran to dig holes hoping they would slow down the goblin forces. As she did so, a strange cloaked figure emerged nearby—he was examining the charred buildings and the dead goblins from the first wave of the attack. This stranger, who was being followed by a tiny green pseudodragon, introduced himself as Sylvan. He and his familiar had been passing through town on his way to Styford and was drawn by the chaos and commotion. Uninterested in his backstory or motivation, Helen asked if he could fight (he could) and then told him to find a position and get ready (he did).

As the others climbed onto roofs and prepared their weapons, a dust cloud in the distance grew closer and closer signalling the approach of the goblin horde. The odd newcomer sent his pseudodragon familiar into the sky to scout the onrushing goblin ranks. They numbered well over 30 and had a chieftain in the back who was wearing a crown of bones and a human skull and holding a very fine, very magical-looking staff.

As soon as the goblins were in range, the heroes let loose arrows and eldritch blasts. The goblins raced forward firing volleys of arrows in return as they ran to the buildings and began climbing up toward the heroes. Abit raised the roof (hehe) and floated it toward Elvis who had a lit torch and was ready to set the roof ablaze. Sylvan used his magic to hypnotize and paralyze a dozen goblins out in the open—giving Abit a perfect clustered target. 

Gertie defended Abit, Pike cast healing spells, and Rudolfo fired his bow. A volley of arrows struck Nezzu, sending the gnome sliding off the roof of the house she stood atop. Nearly dead, she cursed the group and their foolishness and fled into the town (she had proposed raising an undead skeleton army to fight the goblins). Rudolfo and Gertie also faced a barrage of arrows and the dwarf rogue fell next to Elvis who hurled the torch setting the floating roof ablaze (and then tossed a few goblins into the fire for good measure). 

Then the goblin chief began using the strange and powerful staff to hurl volley after volley of magic missiles at the town's defenders. As he did so, an eerie cloud of mist floated behind him back and forth as if surveying the carnage or waiting for…. something.

Pike raced to save the dying Rudy. Elvis dropped his body off the roof and into the gnome cleric's arms just as magic missiles struck him and Helen and Sylvan. The young warlock and his pseudodragon began heading out into the fray and shouted for others to help him get the staff. 

Abit, always a fan of a hair-raising stunt, hurled the flaming roof at the cluster of stunned goblins killing nearly a dozen in one fell swoop. Immediately after, he hurled himself off the roof, caught up with Sylvan and cast dimension door, lurching the two of them forward a hundred feet right into the face of the goblin chieftain. 

Abit and Sylvan cut into the boss as the others began thinning the goblin ranks and maybe… just maybe… turning the tide. But then shit got crazy! (Yes, even more crazy!)

The cloud of mist apparated into a tall, pale humanoid figure in dark red and black robes standing right behind the goblin leader. With sharp, pointed claws he stabbed into the back of the goblin boss and plunged his entire arm right through the chieftain. Bloody fingers reached out at Sylvan and Abit from the goblin's chest. The figure smiled, revealing long, sharp fangs and with his other hand, he grabbed the staff. He pulled his first hand back and the goblin boss fell into a dead heap leaving a new foe holding the staff and standing before them with a cocky grimace.

The remaining half-dozen goblins, having seen their leader cut down, began scattering and fleeing. The vampire surveyed the stunned heroes and paused, locking eyes with Elvis. They seemed to recognize each other. Elvis' jaw hung slack and his blood went cold—this is who he had been hunting for years. With a wry, smarmy grin, the vampire transformed into a bat and began flying away to the southeast. 

Elvis immediately gave chase. Gertie hurled herself off the roof and followed, running as fast as her dwarven legs could go. Helen and the freshly-revived Rudy also gave chase. Abit, weary and weakened, promised the newcomer Sylvan help and aid and information if he would follow and protect the four heroes in Abit's stead. Sylvan, hungry for knowledge, saw the value in Abit's proposal and followed the four adventurers. 

They ran for miles. And then they kept running. Exhaustion took over and Rudy and Sylvan fell behind, their legs heavy, their lungs out of breath. They mindlessly raced after this new foe for miles and miles and miles. Eventually, they lost sight of the tiny flying bat just as they came to a small, dark forest. As the sun began setting, they split up and began searching. 

An hour or so later, Sylvan and Elvis spotted some moss- and ivy-covered ruins. Tucked away in a corner of an old stone structure was a massive sarcophagus. The carving atop had been altered and set into the middle was a perfect square and nine odd runic symbols. 

As they studied the strange carving, Rudolfo surveyed the ruins and found nine square stones with similar notches and words atop—a puzzle! The group raced to piece together the patterns knowing the vampire was getting further and further from their grasp with each passing minute. Eventually, they solved the strange puzzle and deciphered the pattern in which to activate the runes. 

They did so and the lid of the sarcophagus began to magically levitate. They all poked their heads down and looked into a small dark cavern. Chairs and tables were knocked over, coins spilled on the floor. It looked as if someone had very recently made a hasty escape. The vampire was gone. So was the staff.

There was no way they could remain in denial. Elvis' claims were true. Vampires were real and the group had just stumbled across one of the biggest and baddest and unfortunately let him get away…

But was is actually a vampire? Are they suuuure? And what's the deal with this new guy? Why's he asking so many questions? And how did he get an adorable pint-sized dragon pet? Who will replace the roof to that house? How did the goblin boss get the staff? Where did Nezzu run off to? Why are there so many questions?!??!? There's only one way to know: tune in next time for more hair-raising fun with Gertie and Goblin-Smashing Goon Squad!

11. The first wave...

Last time on Gertie's Gang of Goofballs, the group argued about who to go after first: Rudolfo's old pal Soileire or Helen's long-lost brother Brynn. Just as they decided, the group was faced with another, even more difficult decision! A goblin army was marching to Soonsea and the heroes needed to decide whether to face the monsters alone and be hilariously out-numbered or raise an undead skeleton army to help them fight but be damned by the consequences of such necromancy…

They decided to go down fighting the good fight—that is: without the aid of the undead. With only a scant half hour to prepare, the group rushed into action. 

They evacuated the east side of town and turned a dozen or so broken wagons into makeshift barricades blocking off streets and paths on the edge of Soonsea. A group of townsfolk arrived with shovels and pickaxes but the group, unsure how to put them to use, send them all away to hide. 

With their Gnome friend Pike by their side, as well as Abit and Nezzu Alalur (another council member and the woman who suggested raising the dead to defend the town), the adventurers climbed onto the roof of a large house on the edge of town and prepared for the first wave of goblin invaders. (Except for Gertie who remained on horseback ready to charge into the goblin ranks.) 

As the goblins raced towards town, Rudolfo and Elvis began launching arrows at the horde. Unfortunately, and embarrassingly, most of them missed and the goblin ranks sped closer without having been thinned at all. Gertie spurred her horse—Mariah's Vengeance—into action and began tearing through the goblins. Volleys of arrows were launched at the heroes atop the roof and a few (Rudy and Helen) fell under the heavy barrage but they were quickly revived by Pike.

As the goblins reached the buildings they began to scatter and split up, setting fire to the houses and shops and disappearing into narrow lanes and alleys. Gertie raced after them on horseback and Helen rushed to magically douse the flames. Nezzu was hit by a flurry of arrows and cried out—damning the group for not choosing the skeleton army option—before retaliating with a stream of magic missiles. Confusion and chaos reigned and a goblin captain broke through their barricades and vanished among the buildings. Abit raced along rooftops to deal with him as the others began cutting down the goblin numbers from 30 to 20 and then to 10. 

Gertie jumped off her injured horse and raced on foot after the final handful of goblins. Rudy and Elvis and Gertie required even more healing from Pike in the final moments but were able to hack down the final straggling invaders. When the group went to track down the goblin captain that had eluded them, they found him crushed beneath the roof of a nearby house—torn off and dropped atop the evil creature by Abit's magic. 

The group reconvened and licked their wounds as they surveyed the damage. A half-dozen buildings had been set on fire but were doused quickly enough and were still intact. The group, however, were weakened and nearly tapped out of magic and resolve. Unfortunately, a cloud of dust on the horizon signaled the approach of the second wave of goblin invaders. The heroes took a deep breath, climbed back onto the roof, and got in position.

The second wave appeared at least as big as the first. The group exchanged some weary, worried glances and prepared to face what would be the biggest fight of their lives.

Can the heroes withstand another massive onslaught? Why are there so many goblins? Will an unexpected new ally arrive just in time to save the day? Probably not. But just to be sure, tune in next time for another episode of Gertie's Gang vs the Great Goblin Army.

10. I want to trick them but I don't know if we're smart enough for that

Last time on The Incredible Adventures of Gertie and the Gang, things happened which are, frankly, a little difficult to understand. The whole ordeal can be summarized as "the gang got its ass confusingly kicked." Except Rudolfo, who had the good sense to be off somewhere else. 

As they return, battered, to the town of Soonsea, they have to wonder: what adventures will assault them next? Read on to find out… 

Upon returning to town, the thoroughly busted Gertie, Helen, and Elvis meet up with the fresh-and-rosy Rudolfo. Naturally, it's time to drink beer and trade the tales of what has happened to them over the past couple of days. 

Rudolfo learns that his companions had arrived at the Citadel only to accidentally free an Illithid from captivity — an Illithid that they soon learn is, at least according to Pyax and Brynn, the killer of Helen's parents. But could they be trusted? Naturally, our heroes didn't know (in their time together, they have done a remarkably poor job of deciding who to trust). Confusion reigned, a fight broke out, and the three adventurers just barely managed to escape. 

Rudolfo tells the others about his (much more peaceful) journey to find that double-crossing Soileire and her caravan of dancers. He managed to find it but when he did, he saw that the caravan members had seemed in poor health. The heroes, as usual, still aren't certain of who to trust. Had everyone in the caravan conspired against them? Even Farah? Rudolfo can't abide by such a thought, but Helen can. 

As the adventurers fill one another in on the details, Helen remembers something else: a vision she had of Pyax and Brynn following the escaped Illithid underground. Now that they know the whereabouts of all their former associates, the heroes have a decision to make. Will they continue on in a quest for the truth, trying to discover the history of Helen's family and discover the truth about the Illithid, or will they chase down the caravan and partake in some petty revenge?

Why even ask? It's revenge time!

They decide to go out and spy on the caravan, which will hopefully give them the information they need to come up with a suitable act of vengeance. But first, they need to stop by Torvaldt's for potions. Helen, up for anything, asks Tordvaldt if he has any fun or unusual potions laying around. As it turns out, he has a Potion of Invisibility — quite a useful tool when it comes to spying. Unfortunately, it's ridiculously expensive. Only the wealthy elite can afford to be invisible, apparently. But Torvaldt is willing to let it go to the peasant Helen if she agrees to owe him a favour. As it turns out, "favour" is code for killing someone, or possibly stealing something. But after Torvaldt assures her he never orders hits on good people, Helen agrees. She now has an invisibility potion and a very hefty IOU to Torvaldt. 

The group is about to leave town and head to the caravan when they see two injured guards riding in the streets. "Goblins, hence!" the guards say, or something like that, and point towards the edge of town. The heroes jump on their horses (Helen doubles Rudolfo) and gallop full-speed toward the goblins. 

The gang sets about smashing goblins, in many cases literally. Gertie simply aims her glorious steed at the loathsome goblins and tramples over them, crushing them to putrid goblin-shaped pulps. Helen sneaks up and attacks. Elvis does some heroic things, I can't remember. Rudolfo loses his balance and falls off his horse, providing much-needed comic relief. 

Gertie hoofs all the goblins to death but one, whom they question. The weaselly little goblin isn't forthcoming with information, so Gertie relieves him of his ear. This loosens his lips. He reveals that the three goblin clans have gotten sick of adventurers riding around, killing goblins, claiming their treasure, and have banded together. An army of over 60 goblins is marching on Soonsea right now. They should be there within a day. Crap!

Our heroes knock the goblin out and bring him to the town council. The council has a hasty meeting to decide what to do. The goblin army is large enough to completely raze the town. Nezzu says she does have one magic trick up her sleeve. What is it? Oh, just raising a skeleton army made from the corpses in the town cemetery, no big deal. This sounds great, but it turns out Abit is morally opposed to necromancy. Something about how once you go down this dark path, you can never turn back, blah blah blah. 

A vote is held. The heroes decide to take the high road — the high road of near-certain death. They will not raise a skeleton army, no matter how bad they want to. Instead, they consult with master strategist Pike about how best to fight the army. Pike informs them that they need to direct the fight and draw the enemy into spots where they can strike then retreat. Even so, they will possibly be overwhelmed. 

So, death and a painful drawn-out battle awaits, instead of a fun, dancing skeleton army.

Can our heroes win a battle without the help of an undead army? Will they live to see another day and finally get their petty revenge? Why does everything always go so wrong? Find out next time on Gertrude the Ill-Tempered Dwarf and her Gang of Fools.   

9. Sitting on Pyrax and other stories

"Is that the guy?! That doesn't look like the guy. Where's your brother? Are we even in the right place?!"

After a day of planning and training and resting (and a little bit more Scrying), the group packed their gear and rations and got ready to head out on their next quest.

Rudolfo got direction from Abit and went out on his own to try to sniff out the trail of Soileire and Wintle so the group could get their revenge for a cruel double-cross. The other three hopped on the backs of three majestic horses (provided by Abit) and took off toward Ranhold Citadel where they hoped to find Helen's brother Brynn and her patron Pyax.

On the way, they passed by a destroyed wagon and, noticing the tell-tale signs of a dragon attack, went quickly on their in case the dragon was still in the area. The next day, they arrived at the coast and saw the citadel perched on a rocky island a few hundred yards off the coast. As the tide rolled out, the sinking water revealed a sandy causeway leading to the island and the keep atop it.

The three heroes skirted quietly around the outside and found a place to tie up their horses. A collapsed section of the wall gave them a relative east entry and they scrambled over the rocks and into the courtyard. There they found… no one. The place seemed to be empty. Until that is, they peered past an iron grate down into a dark hole—like a well but much bigger. There, calling for help, was a ragged and weary teenage boy. He begged the heroes to get him out "before they returned" and, though hesitant, Helen dropped a rope after the boy answered a few probing questions (and after Gertie and Elvis removed the massive iron grate).

As soon as he emerged into the courtyard, the boy hurriedly tried to leave. Gertie however, grabbed ahold of him before he could get too far. But then something odd happened. The boys form changed into a 6-foot purplish-grey humanoid. Its hairless head resembled an octopus and it had four writhing tentacles where its mouth should have been. In no time at all, it took over Gertie's mind and had the barbarian release it. Dumbfounded, the group watched as the creature/prisoner strolled away into the darkness. 

After confirming that none of them seemed to know what had just happened, the group began exploring the few intact structures within the walls of Ranhold Citadel. Only one room seemed to have been used by Pyax and Brynn and, in it, Helen found a stack of notes and letters. They mentioned an "item" that the two were looking for, something or someone called "Illithid" and plans to destroy whatever or whoever or wherever "Illithid" was. 

But before too long, Helen suffered another one of her strange episodes—this one warning her that Pyax and Brynn had returned to the citadel and were about to stumble upon the heroes intrusion. With only a few moments to make a plan, the group opted not to fight or hide or flee. Instead, Helen sauntered out to meet Pyax and Brynn face to face. (Elvis and Gertie, meanwhile, took cover nearby.)

Then another odd thing happened. Pyax and Brynn stopped in their tracks, dumbfounded. They both seemed shocked to see Helen standing before them. Pyax took a few steps forward and peppered Helen with questions: How did she find this place? Why did she come? Who is she working with?

When Helen admitted that she had come to find out about the nature of her powers, Pyax seemed even more shocked. He didn't seem to know that Helen had any powers at all. Neither of them gave away much information—each question was answered with another question—until Helen let slip that their prisoner was gone. 

That angered Pyax. His voice grew and his posture shifted and he berated Helen about her foolish missteps and other pieces of the puzzle tumbled down. Pyax claimed that the monster they had unleashed was actually the person who had killed Helen's parents—he and Brynn had been working for half a decade to track it down and learn how to destroy it—and now Helen had let it go ruining all their work. 

Helen wasn't sure what to believe, but that didn't matter. Pyax decided to punish her for her misdeeds and a fight broke out. However, even with Elvis and Gertie rushing in to help, Pyax and Brynn made quick work of them. Brynn put Elvis and Gertie to sleep as Pyax held Helen paralyzed in place. Then everything went black. 

The three heroes woke up bound and blindfolded sometime later that night. They struggled and strained and eventually broke free of their binds and, seemingly unguarded, they quickly grabbed their horses and attempted to escape. Unfortunately, the tide had come in and the causeway was completely submerged. 

Not wanting to face Pyax and Brynn again, they decided to risk it. One by one they coaxed their horses out into the pitch black water trying to follow the submerged causeway. The water rose to their horse's chest. One horse slipped and panicked and threw Gertie off and into the water. The other horses spooked and dashed for the shore and Elvis barely managed to save the drowning Dwarf by hoisting her onto the back of his racing mount. 

Battered and bruised and soaked and terrified and confused, the three adventurers made their way back to Soonsea in a hurry. They rode their horses as hard as possible through the night and stumbled, limping, into town as the sun rose with far more questions than answers…


"How drunk is everyone?" Asks Elvis, after a terrifying encounter with two vampire spawn. Helen replies by barfing everywhere and then admitting: "I'm also crying, but you probably can't tell."

Helen, Gertie, and Rudolfo drink in the Steppewright Inn while Elvis trains in the courtyard out back. Suddenly he hears a commotion and turns to see five people stumbling out the back door of a tavern into a nearby alley. Three of them are commoners but two of them look like Tunnel Snakes… except much… paler. Elvis uses his Primeval Awareness and senses… VAMPIRES. The Tunnel Snakes are vampires, and are about to feast on the three innocent commoners! Elvis knows what he has to do.

Elvis climbs on the roof of a building to attack from across the street. Two commoners flee as the third is killed by one of the vamps. The other Tunnel Snake/vampire races at Elvis, and shockingly runs straight up the side of the building. Elvis tries to run but the vamp sinks his long claws into him, trapping him there.

Elvis is overwhelmed and cries out for help. Luckily, Gertie hears him and runs out of the bar to find him, with Helen and Rudy close behind. Elvis loses consciousness and the others split up. Rudy climbs up to the roof, heals Elvis, then jumps off onto a vampire who is about to attack Helen. A now-conscious Elvis jumps down to help Gertie with the vampire attacking her. Things look bad as the vampires claw, grab, and bite at them. Rudolfo and Gertie are taken out and Helen, in desperation, shouts for Solfi to come help.

Solfi arrives and, upon seeing the scene, freezes in shock. Pike is right behind him and casts protective spells, stabilizing Rudy, and then uses her power to turn undead causing the vampires to flee. Rudy and Gertie are revived, wounds are cared for, and they go back to the inn to talk. Pike asks what happened, and Elvis explains, ending by asking Pike about the nature of her divine Powers, and whether he can get some of his own.  She explains that her powers come from Serenrae, the Goddess she worships. Elvis wants to find out if he can receive the same powers without joining the religion… he can't.

In the morning the 4 adventurers go to Gnome Depot for supplies, armour, arrows and… some stakes, then to Torvalds to ask about trinkets and magic items (he occasionally has some but doesn't use magic himself). They plan to talk to Nezzu, another Magistrate (aka council member) who knows magic; they train until the council is done their meeting.

Helen wants to murder Soileire, Abit is finding out which way the caravan went, and the adventurers still want to go to Ranhold Citadel to find out more about Helen's brother and Pyax. What will they do next??

7. The Beast with no Butt
From the diary of Elvis Stajko

    How could we have been so stupid?! How could I? So much for finely tuned senses. This whole thing was a set up; Rudy’s "posession", the monster we faced, none of it was real. I should have realized when the monster couldn’t even land an attack, but I didn’t figure it out until Soielare and Wintel were already long gone. I swear I will make them pay for this. 

    On top of that, Something strange is going on with Helen. She seems to be losing control of her magic. As if Rudy’s checkered history wasn’t bad enough, now something from Helen’s past seems to be catching up with her. The mysterious death of her parents, a sinister guardian who brainwashed her brother and now has his sights set on her… What the hell have I gotten myself tangled up in!? If not for level-headed Gertie I would be very worried about the fate of our group.

    I need to go let off some steam. A few hours of training might help curb the rage and anxiety I currently feel pulsing through my veins. Sure wish I had something real to fight though…

6. Goblin Shields

Having just survived their first encounter with goblins in this dark and foreboding cave, our heroes regrouped and bravely forged on.  There is no turning back when Rudolf’s very soul might be at stake! (Haha! “Stake”!)

Passing through a store room, Elvis kicked through some crates an barrels in a misguided attempt to appear at ease.  Unaware of the attention he might have just drawn to the group’s location he tried to pass through a door on the far wall. Suddenly, as the door drew back, arrows whizzed through the air, some of them finding their mark! Two goblins, alerted by the loud crashing, had been lying in wait!  Cursing his foolishness, Elvis sank back as the others rushed in to defend him.  Despite the fact that these goblins were then joined by reinforcements, the adventurers made quick work of them and soon moved on. 

The tunnels lead them to an old work room.  Seemingly ordinary, other than a coffin in one corner which seemed at odds with the rest of the “decor”.  Despite strong warnings from Helen, Elvis cautiously made his way toward it and peeked inside. Had he learned nothing from the previous encounter?  Mercifully, the coffin contained nothing more sinister than some fine upholstery, and the group continued onward. 

Shortly, the group happened upon the goblins’ common room. Inside they found the head honcho himself, along with a group of his minions!  Attacking him proved difficult, as he very rudely used his minions as human…er, goblin shields!  Soon he had none left to hide behind and was cut down by the brave heroes. However, the gang had not gotten through unscathed. Several had taken hits from the goblins and Elvis had been knocked unconscious!

Rushing to his side, he was revived by Helen, though she could not let this opportunity pass without trying to mess with him a little.  “You’re a vampire now!' she exclaimed as he opened his eyes, not realizing that she had just inadvertently stumbled across his deepest, darkest fear.  Shakily he got to his feet, unsure of his current reality.

Collecting what treasure they found, the heroes made their way back to the surface and made camp near the river.  Seemingly an uneventful night, they awoke to the information that Gertie had seen one of those pumpkin sized bats!  Could these giant bats be the vampires that Elvis has been warning against? Probably not, thinks everyone!

They made their way back to town to report what had gone down to Abit.  Perturbed by the news of a blue dragon so close to home, he rushed off to report to the council and collect the group’s reward.

In the meanwhile, the others decided to prepare for the upcoming ritual. Helen and Elvis heading to the town square for supplies, and Gertie and Rudolfo to buy a gem from Plenk.  Afterwards, meeting with Soileire, they decided to meet up the following morning and head to the site where Wintle was to perform the ritual. 

Will our heroes be in time to save Rudolfo's soul from the clutches of a bloodthirsty demon?  Will they then be strong enough to face said demon? Is Elvis truly a vampire now?  Stay tuned for these answers and more! xoxoxo


5. Bats and zombies and dragons and goblins

"Maybe we could sell something at the show to make money…?" 
"Let's sell Rudolfo!"

Last time on "Gertie and the Gang"…

As you may recall our adventurers had just learned that the beloved (yes, beloved) Rudolfo was the subject of an evil curse that could only be eliminated with the help of some unfortunately expensive ingredients, when they were attacked by a small horde of goblins. Our heroes, being used to dealing with such unseemly situations, dispatched with the goblins quickly, and are now left standing amongst the corpses. 

Being the selfless heroes that they are, our adventurers quickly help tend to the wounded, and thanks to basic first aid, all of caravaners who were injured are quickly stabilized. The battle over, Elvis decides to take a closer look at their attackers and finds that the goblin ringleader has three streaks of dried blood on his neck, and a pouch with three sharp, animal-looking teeth in it.

What does it mean? Our gang doesn't know. Nor does it care too much, because there's still a more pressing matter at hand — Rudolfo's curse. The adventurers have more questions for Soilere about the ritual for lifting the curse. Primarily: how do they obtain a gemstone worth 1,000 gold? Turns out, by spending 1,000 gold. Soilere says that the entertainers had managed it through doing extra shows to earn some cash. In a universe without health insurance, Gertie's gang will have to find a way to raise the funds.

Soilere also notes that they will need to find an appropriate venue for performing the ritual, as presumably lifting the curse will cause a giant demon monster to materialize and town square probably isn't a great place for that, it being filled with weak, edible townspeople. Elvis recalls that he saw a secluded spot two hours southwest of town, where there was a pond, hills, trees for cover. Sounds like a great spot for a picnic, everyone agrees, or in this case, murdering a hellish monster.

Our heroes walk back to the inn, discussing how exactly to acquire the massive piece of swag that is a 1,000-gold gemstone. Gertie knows about Rudolfo's sticky fingers, and she suggests that he could just steal the cash, and Rudolfo has to admit his kleptomaniac tendencies to the others, who, frankly, don't seem that scandalized. However, they agree it might be good to try non-criminal avenues of getting money before resorting to outright theft, like maybe trying to borrow from the town council members.

As the group returns to the inn, someone shouts Elvis's name, and he sees Pindam, the strange conspiracy theorist he's friends with. Elvis skulks off to have a private conversation with his weirdo friend. Pindam tells Elvis about the troupers, pumpkin-sized bats, and pale zombies wandering town at night, which mostly sounds like mad rambling, but something about these "zombies" captures Elvis's attention, and he soon realizes Pindam is describing the Tunnel Snakes, the rough gang of marauders who had previously taken over the winery and who our group had warned not to be seen 'round these parts again. Clearly, the message didn't sink in.

Back at the inn, Rudolfo — badly injured — retreats directly to bed, while the rest of the gang tells Abit about the goblin attack. Turns out, Abit knows something about these goblins. In fact, he got some guards to track where they came from and has found their lair in a ruined mill next to a stream about 15 miles east of town. As luck would have it, Abit has a business proposal for our adventurers: they go to the lair and slay the remaining goblins, and he will give them 850 gold. Our heroes' eyes light up with dollar signs and they agree. 

Just one problem, the journey will take most of the day, which means Rudolfo will miss his chance to perform at that evening's entertainment extravaganza. Knowing that Rudolfo would literally rather be inhabited by an evil demon forever than miss a chance to perform, Helen suggests they go on the mission and tell Rudolfo that they'll be back in time for the performance, though they certainly won't. The others agree. How Machiavellian of them!

Elvis also tells Abit that he's asked Pindam to keep an eye on the tunnel snakes, and that he may stop by the inn with information.

The gang heads to bed for a peaceful night's sleep. Peaceful, you say? Not for all! Helen's sleep is disturbed by a strange dream of a familiar figure who speaks cryptically to her: "I know what you've been watching." Helen awakens and the candle in her room is lit. She goes outside and finds a "gift" presumably left by the figure, a mysterious book made of hide.

The next morning, our heroes awaken refreshed, and also, by the way, they have ascended to LEVEL 3! 

Abit meets with the council and they all approve sending Gertie's Gang to raid the goblin lair, so the adventurers buy some healing potions for once and set off, all reassuring Rudolfo that they're just going on a quick jaunt to slay a few goblins. (Before they leave, Abit whispers something to Helen about checking in on "you know who." Who? The rest of the gang certainly doesn't know. They also don't hear this exchange in the first place.) Rudolfo, the gullible fool, goes along with his pals. However, their pathfinding skills leave something to be desired and they don't even arrive at the mill until evening, at which point their cover is blown, and they must tell the devastated Rudolfo that there will be no dancing for him that evening.

When they arrive at the mill, there are no goblins in sight. Everything is still and eerily peaceful — that is, until a massive blue dragon emerges from behind a hill, circling over the our heroes like a murderous flying shark before heading off to the northeast. And it turns out this isn't just any dragon. Gertie reveals that this is the very dragon who attacked her home and burned it to the ground.

After Gertie recovers from the shock, the group prepares to descent into the mill where the goblins must be hiding. Elvis sneaks up and sees a goblin enter through a hidden entrance behind a bush. The gang follows, brave Gertie in the lead. Unfortunately, brave Gertie is not a stealthy Gertie, or perhaps she's allergic to wheat or whatever this mill was used to mill, because she sneezes, and two goblins nearby immediately see her.

Only a few of our adventurers can see in the dark, which makes the ensuing battle difficult, but somehow, the group manages to light torches and kill the two goblins before they can alert any others. 

What lies ahead in the dark mill? What is the nature of Helen's mysterious book? Can our adventurers raise enough money to save Rudolfo from the curse? We'll find out next time, on "Gertie and the Gang."

4. Apologies and ambushes

"Well, some secrets are more important than others."

Things didn't go their way at the caravan camp the night before, and so the group spent the morning brooding and stewing over breakfast. Elvis Stajko went out back to train and while the other ate their food in quiet contemplation, Pike came in looking to buy a loaf of bread from Solfi. She asked where Elvis was—having not seen him in a while—and the group explained that he was training. They agreed to visit Pike at the All Faiths Shine later that morning. During the conversation, Abit and Helen snuck into the kitchen to talk privately (for the second time in as many days).

After coffee and breakfast and training were complete, the group headed to the All Faiths Shrine on their way to the market. They had decided to go and apologize to Soileire for the previous night and wanted to buy some sweets as a peace offering. At the shrine, Pike pulled Elvis aside to check-in on how her friend was doing. The two spoke softly and privately and, her mind put at ease, Pike told Elvis not to be a stranger. 

Afterward, the group asked Pike about the curse on Rudolfo. The Cleric explained the many different types and schools of magic in the world and offered to spend some time in meditation with Rudolfo the Rogue to see if she could sense the nature of the curse. Pike took Rudolfo into a private chamber in the back and, after about 20 minutes, told him that whatever was inside him was unfamiliar to her and her divine magical knowledge. Pike asked him about his past—mistakes, crimes, sins—but Rudolfo claimed there was nothing tarnishing his soul and the two rejoined the others.

After reconvening, the group peppered Rudolfo with questions about his past, his choices, and any secrets he might be keeping from them—secrets that might explain the nature of this curse. But he was tight-lipped and deflected attention to Helen (who also had some secrets she was unwilling to divulge). The argument was brief and the group agreed to disagree but left to the market in good spirits, hopeful about patching things over with Soileire. 

Before long, the group found a vendor with some candy, fresh fruit, and sweet bread and began stocking up for their apology-via-food. While the others shopped, Helen's keen eyes spotted young Farah in the market and veered stealthily in her direction. As Helen made herself known, Farah's eyes filled with shock and anxiety and she retreated a few steps but realized she had nowhere to go. Helen knelt down and tried to ask calm, simple questions but Farah remained afraid. The young girl asked where Rudolfo was and Helen led her to the rest of the group. 

Farah pulled Rudolfo aside and revealed that Soileire wanted to speak with him—just him. Farah also admitted that she didn't really like Rudolfo's new friends (especially Helen and Gertie who bullied her into revealing a scary and dire secret).

Once the shopping was done, Farah and Rudolfo led the group back to the caravan's camp on the edge of town. They entered a large tent that had been set up for Soileire who asked her other guest to leave as soon as she recognized the adventurers. Soileire greeted them—some more warmly than others—and zipped out momentarily to finish a small errand. She returned a few minutes later with Wintle and another caravaner the group had yet to meet. 

Soileire apologized for the previous evening and explained that she had lost her cool because she had wanted to speak to Rudolfo about the curse on her own terms. The group had advanced the agenda much more quickly than she had hoped. She had worried that others might have also learned about the curse and was scared for her caravan troupe, their reputation, and their livelihood (no one would let a cursed troupe perform in their town). 

In response, the group offered their sweets and treats and admitted that they understood Soileire's worries. They apologized for lying about how they learned about the curse (having only wanted to protect Farah from punishment). However, they let slip that is was Farah they overheard mentioning the curse putting the young girl back in Soileire's bad books. 

Over sweet bread and wine, Soileire explained the truth about the curse and asked the group for their help. Many years ago, she explained, two members of the caravan—two brothers as it were—went off on their own looking for extra work and extra cash. They had heard about some valuables that were buried with an old woman and went searching for riches in an old haunted crypt. However, the crypt was much more than a simple burial ground and the brothers, in their greed, awoke an ancient and powerful demon that had been trapped a long-dead hero buried in the same place. The demon possessed the brothers who led it back to the caravan.

The demon—conniving and ethereal—spread his cursed touch through all the caravan members and a strange sickness began overtaking them one by one. The brothers were the first to die. While Soileire didn't know what the brothers had done, she recognized the nature of what they had brought back and tasked the oldest and wisest member of the caravan with saving them. Wintle did just that and, over the following weeks, rushed to learn and prepare a ritual that could vanquish the demon spirit. Wintle, at great cost and with much struggle, learned and performed a ritual banishing the demon from the surviving caravan members. Unfortunately, Rudolfo had left the group by this point. 

Soileire and the others had been searching for Rudolfo for weeks, hoping to find him so Wintle could perform the ritual a second time and save him from the wrath of the demon's spirit. Soileire also admitted that is was fortunate Rudolfo's new friends were strong, seasoned warriors. Since Rudolfo was the last members to carry the demon's touch, performing the ritual would cast the demon out into the open and would need to be battled and defeated before it could possess anyone else. She asked the group to attend the ritual and help battle the evil spirit if or once Wintle was successful. 

The group agreed and Soileire proposed waiting until after the performances to perform the ceremony. The group agreed once again and were tasked with finding a secluded, private space in which to perform the magic ritual as well as the components it would require: a half-pound of white sand, 12 candles, 2 bushels of sage, and a gem worth 1000 gold pieces. 

As the group nodded and began thinking about how to acquire the items, a commotion erupted outside the tent. Screams and crashes sent the group racing out to see a goblin ambush party attacking the camp. The group spread out quickly to protect the civilians and challenge the goblins who had encircled the tents and wagons. 

Helen climbed atop a wagon and hurled blasts of eldritch magic providing cover as the caravan members fled into tents. Gertie and Elvis raced toward the goblin's leader who was brooding and shouting orders from the treeline. Meanwhile, Rudolfo and Soileire rushed to the aid of civilians who had been caught by the onrushing goblins. A few caravan members fell under the goblin's blades but the heroes made quick work of the attackers and were able to dispatch the foes and heal the civilians who weren't quick enough to escape. 

As the group surveyed the damage and tended to the wounded, they wondered where these goblin raiding parties were coming from and when and where they might attack next.



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