Gertie & The Gang

16. Exploring the Underdark.

- intro

- fight with two rocktopus! rocktopi! gertie shield stabs one, sylvan gets grappled twice, rudy shouts "i will deal the killing blow" then misses, helen runs up and slashes them, long rest

- travel for a day, "the best adventurers always go left" so they go left, another long rest

- on day 3 rudy finds some water mushrooms while foraging, get to a big intersection with tracks going both ways, get ready to camp but find a drow warning sign on a stalagmite, no one knows what it means though, long rest

- they explore and forage and look for more drow (sylvan wants to find them or their civilization), instead they find an old, abandoned duregar (dark dwarf) village, giant monsters (chuul) surround them and attack

- sylvan and elvis flip a table on one and elvis stands on it to hold it down, sylvan starts flying around, frees helen from getting grappled, Rudy prays to give helen an opening, helen blasts it with magic and then football tackes it to death, they jump up and down on the table to crush the other one

- then they tear them apart for food and start exploring the village

funny quotes:
"I want to grab its pincer" – gertie
"put on an oven mitt first!" – sylvan

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15. Into darkness

Last time, the gang came face to face with an Ancient Blue Dragon and learned they had been offered up as pawns. They did the wyrm a favour—killing some giants that had wandered into its territory—only to learn that their servitude wasn't over. They arrived back in Soonsea weary and worried about when their new monstrous overlord would come calling… 

As the others went to get some much-needed sleep, Helen snuck into Elvis' room to talk about the notes she had received from her brother Brynn. A few doors down, Sylvan threw a fit—upset by the crazy developments over the past three days.

In the morning, the gang met for breakfast and discussed ways of defeating a massive dragon. At Gertie's request, Solfi shared some childhood stories of heroes vanquishing such beasts. And Abit shared what little knowledge he had about the chromatic dragons—the demeanour and characteristics generally shared by dragons of the same colour. Ultimately, they realize that as long as they keep the vain and possessive blue dragon happy, it will have no desire to kill and eat them.

After a day of training and shopping (and investigating the magical ring that Soileire had given Rudy as a parting gift), the group reconvened at the tavern to discuss their next move. Sylvan showed interest in heading to a larger city—perhaps Styford—in order to visit a library. And Helen talked with Abit about what to make of her brother's latest note. Ultimately, the normally-quiet Warlock decided to share her story with her friends in the hopes that they could help her decide what action to take.

The group decided to head to the Underdark to search for the second ring mentioned in Brynn's latest note. Before leaving, however, Sylvan pulled Abit aside and confided in the tavern owner about the strange visions he had been having. To Abit, Sylvan's situation—a strange connection to some mysterious powerful being—seemed similar to Helen's circumstance more than to his (wizardry) or Pike's (divine magic). Abit suggested talking to Helen and, at the risk of facing her scorn, talking to Nezzu as well.

After another night's rest, the group headed out to the Barrow's Break mountain range to search for the entrance to the Underdark mentioned by Brynn. On the third day, they reached the foothills and eventually found a narrow crevasse at the back of a dark, bat-filled cavern. They headed into the black, down beneath the mountains until they grew tired and decided to rest in a small naturally-forming cave. They were 5 hours into their underground excursion and already feeling on edge. 

And just as they were starting to fall asleep, a strange noise echoed through the tunnels…

What was the noise? Just how dark was it beneath the mountains? Had they walked into a trap? Would Helen regret sharing personal details of her life? Would Sylvan regret joining this group of yahoos? So many questions and so few answers…

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14. Deozzis the Blue Storm
From the diary of Elvis Stajko

[date: 20, Marlew]

   There are no words for the shame that I am feeling. Once again, my actions have nearly lead to the deaths of myself and my companions. All I wanted was to help Soieleire's people, but she deceived me yet again, offering us up to the great blue dragon, Deozzis. Poor Gertie, having to come face to face with the monster that destroyed her home!  Were I in her shoes, I too would probably have soiled my undergarments. Thanks to some quick thinking by our new friend, Sylvan, we escaped with our lives by making a promise to exterminate a few giants; a task I hope we prove equal to.  

   We hurried back to Soieleire's camp in the hopes of catching them before they fled once more, only to find her completely alone and drunk on some foul smelling liquor. I'm so furious with her part of me wanted to utterly destroy her, but she seemed so sad I couldn't bring myself to do it. She just wanted to protect her people. I think deep down, even Helen understands this. 

   We left her to her misery and set off towards the giants. I don't want to see what happens if we keep Deozzis waiting.

[date: 21, Marlew]

   Finally, back in the comfort of our inn! That giant fight was no joke! If not for Sylvan's ability to magically charm the monsters, we may not have made it. Even so, myself and Gertie were knocked unconscious. I vow here and now never to make another deal with a dragon, EVER

   I noticed when we got back that Helen and Abit were whispering together. I think he may have slipped her something… Those two are so secretive…

   Whatever. I'm through prying into other peoples' business. I'm through making decisions for this group. Everyone will be much better off if I stop trying to help them. 

[end diary entry]

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13. Cursed... again

The one where Elvis doesn't get to make any more decisions.

"There's nothing down there, let's go" thinks Helen, as the group peer down into the underground cave under the sarcophagus.  But Elvis is driven – he knows something the other adventurers don't.  He jumps down into the recently abandoned vampire lair, Gertie on his heals.  Sylvan… gets ready for bed. The two examine the room, and Elvis' eyes land on a familiar set of nunchucks.  As if in a trance, he rushes over and grabs them. In true Elvis fashion, the situation gets seriously out of hand. The nunchucks turn out to be cursed and dozens of frenzied bats rush out of them, attacking Gertie and Elvis! The others jump down into the vampire den to help fight the bats. Unfortunately, Rudolfo dies when he falls trying to descend the rope using only his legs, so that he can use his arms to shoot at the bats with his bow. Gertie finally manages to hit the nunchucks out of Elvis' hand. But bats weren't the only thing the nunchucks had in store for these crazy adventurers…

It immediately becomes clear that something is wrong with Elvis.  He doesn't recognize his friends or know where he is or how he got there… the nunchucks - cursed – placed there for Elvis to find?  Everyone is freaked out. Elvis looks nervous and, surrounded by strangers, starts to bolt, but Helen paralyzes him so that he can't run away to do anything crazy. She then proceeds to talk at him for what SEEMS LIKE EVER MYGOD.  She tells him about himself and the groups adventures, hoping that she can provide enough evidence to convince Elvis to stay with them… maybe she cares more than she has let on?

Although shockingly uncharacteristic, Helen's monologue proved convincing. Elvis agrees to let the others help him, and they begin their walk back to Soonsea. On the way, Rudy recognizes the curse and thinks Wintle might be able to help.  By the time the group get back to the Stepwright Inn, Elvis' nunchuck-cursed hand and arm are black and veiny… and he's looking suspiciously pale.  They talk to Abit who isn't able to shed any light on the situation. They decide to rest for the night… but rest is not in the books for Elvis, who's sleep is plagued by nightmares.

In the morning the group decide to head to Pike's to see if there is anything she can do to help Elvis. On the way they see an angry-looking Nezzu on crutches. Pike performs a ritual but, although the curse seems to ebb momentarily, her work isn't quite strong enough to remove it completely.  The adventurers seem to be left with only one option – find Soileire's caravan and ask Wintle to remove the curse.

 It takes them two days to reach the caravan. Helen in particular is still salty about what Soileire did to Rudolfo, and threatens to murder her. Soileire explains that she was only doing what she felt she had to given the position her and her caravan are in. Ultimately, Wintle performs the ritual and Elvis is cured. The others are keen to leave, but Elvis goes back to talk to Soileire, curious about what exactly their "situation" is.

Soileire explains that they are indentured servants, and have to pay tithes to a bandit captain named Deozzis. They have been handing over half of their earnings for a while now, and they are at the end of their rope. Elvis wants to help – what could possibly go wrong? Elvis usually makes great judgment calls… oh wait. Elvis catches up with the others and is, surprisingly, able to convince them to help.

They plan to leave an empty box at the drop-off site, then hide out and attack whosoever comes to pick it up. They head out to the cavern where the caravaners drop off the "dues", but on the way a nasty storm brings darkness and rain. Large Sinkholes emerge all around them. Despite the elements, the group make it to to cavern. 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." 

"Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, I'LL FREAKING MURDER YOUUUUU" – Helen

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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!

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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.

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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.   

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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…

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8. THEY'RE REAL!!!!

"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??

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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…

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