"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."