Gertie & The Gang

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.


3. A blast from the past

"What part was an accident? The stealing or the getting caught?"

As the adventurers return to town, they spot a new caravan camped to the east.  Rudolfo runs into Farah, young half-elf girl who is overyly happy to see him.  Rudolfo is obvioulsy very uncomfortable.  The caravan is the one he used to travel with when he was a performer and professional scarf dancer.  Rudolfo seems eager to leave the conversation and head back to the Inn.

The travellers make their way back to the Steppewright in, where they tell Abit about what happened at the winery.  They ask him about hiring a guard or two for the frightened family they left behind and Abit suggestes they present the matter to the council at the next meeting.

While Elvis trains, Helen, Gertie, and Rudolfo spend a bit of time in the pub at the inn.  Abit askes Helen to help him with something in the kitchen, during which time Gertie questions Rudolfo about his past.  Gertie learns a bit more about Rudolfo and the Caravan they happened upon earlier that morning.  Gertie agrees to help Rudolfo find a disguise in order to "subtly" approach/spy on the young half-elf Farah.

When Helen Returns, the three of them set out on the town.  Helen, noticing the two dwarves are up to something, decides to let them do their thing, and heads off to Torvald's alone, where she buys some potions and chats about magic.

Meanwhile, Gertie and Rudolfo head to The Gnome Depot for disguises.  Their plan is interrupted when they run into Soileire and Wintle, two others from Rudolfo's former caravan.  Soileire, the caravan leader, asks Rudolfo to help the troupe get permission to perform in town over the next few days.

The gang agree that Rudolfo will ask about the performances at the council meeting.  Later that evening, Abit and others convince Rudolfo to perform a scarf routine at the inn.  Rudolfo has a few drunken stumbles, but overal everyone is very impressed.  They all agree his performance was ragmificent!

The next morning, the four adventurers join Abit at the council meeting. After some convincing, Nenankhe gives permission to hire out two guards for the family at the vinyard, and the troupe gets permission to perform the following night and the night after that.  The four head back to the inn where Gertie and the others (but mostly Gerie) help Rudolfo practice and train for his big return to the stage.

Abit returns to the inn and helps Rudolfo realize that he should probably have told the troupe about the good news.  On the way, the group run into Soileire and Farah.  Elvis hears Farah whispering about "something to tell Rudolfo", and becomes suspicious.

The four arrive at the caravan camp outside town, where they are greeted warmly and given plenty to eat and drink.  Farah helps Wintle eat and then is called over by Gertie and Helen, who intend to find out more about this "something to tell Rudolfo".  The dwarf and the human question the half-elf, and ultimately intimidate her into telling them what she knows.  she mentions something about a curse and then, realizing she's admitted too much, runs off scared.

Meanwhile, Elvis and Rudolfo talk to Soileire about life, skirting around the real issue at hand; Rudolfo's well being.  Rudolfo doesn't know what to ask, nor how to broach the subject at all.  Helen and Gertie decide to confront Soileire about the curse in an effort to keep their friend safe.  When they join the group and ask the caravan leader about what they heard, she gets very upset, and ushers them into her wagon.

Things get heated.  Soileire wants to know from whom they heard this rumour of a curse.  Taken aback by Soileire's anger, the two aren't keen to tell her.  Then Gertie lies… a very obvious lie… which understandably intensifies Soileire's anger… but it's too late to back down now, amarite!  Soileire agrees to tell the truth if the party does, but the travellers will still not say who blabbed (even though everyone knows it was Farah and everyone knows everyone knows it was Farah).  Soileire, scary and enraged, admits nothing, and asks the travellers to leave the camp. 

Shaken, worried, and with more questions than answers, they leave and head back to the Inn.

2. Of casks and condolences

"He can leave when his broke ass wakes up."

The group had just dispatched some goblins on the way to a winery outside the town of Soonsea. With an apocalypse looming, more and more common folk had taken to fighting, looting, and pillaging and the winery had been taken over by a group of such thugs who had invited themselves to stay and enjoy the free food and drink and accommodations.

When Gertie and the gang arrived, they spotted two of the ruffians lounging outside a door leading to the kitchen area. They walked up, feigning an interest in a tour of the winery and asked to see the tasting room. The ruffians were having none of it and told them to shove off (in a less polite manner). Before too long, Gertie lost her cool and bottled one of the men and the group quickly knocked out the other. 

Elvis quickly snuck inside and scouted the kitchen and the massive cask room beyond. Four huge vats and stairs leading to a catwalk gave him cover as he tiptoed around and spotted another group of thugs lounging on an open-air patio on the far side of the cask room. He maneuvered back to the group and gave them the lay of the land and they decided to take them by surprise. 

Elvis took a position just inside the sliding barn doors leading to the patio and Helen made her way up onto the catwalk above the room. Unfortunately, Rudolfo the Rogue tripped over a barrel that Gertie had bumped into and Rudolfo shouted out as he tripped. The ruffians rushed in from the patio to see what the commotion was about and a fight erupted in the middle of the winery's cask room. 

Helen hurled blasts of eldritch magic as the thugs rushed through the doors. The ones that avoided her attacks were met by Elvis as his massive scythe. The layout of the room complicated things but Gertie used the odd setting to her advantage and trapped a foe between two vats. The leader, however, ducked past Elvis and managed to grapple poor Rudolfo. Putting a knife to the Dwarf's throat he ordered the other heroes to drop their weapons. 

The carnage came to a halt and a long heavy pause hung in the air. That is until Helen leaped off the catwalk onto the thug Gertie had trapped creating an opening for the Barbarian to pivot around another huge vat and grapple the thug captain that had grappled Rudolfo. Elvis and Helen drove the other back out onto the patio before they fled and Gertie managed to allow Rudolfo to wrestle free. Outnumbered four-to-one the leader was quickly incapacitated and questioned. 

He laughed at the group's attempts to intimidate him and only revealed the name of the bandit's leader, Dell Perdett, saying: "Dell's gonna kill you all." Gertie rendered him unconscious and the group decided to retreat to the wilderness and rest before trying to take on Dell and the rest of the bandits. 

However, when they returned to the winery a few hours later, they saw it and the yard around it engulfed in flames. As the four adventurers rushed forward through the smoke they saw a large group of bandits emerge from the far side of the winery. They had a wagon of stolen goods and their injured comrades in tow and were led by a stern, slender woman with a snake tattoo on her neck. 

Dell Perdett led her gang past the heroes and away from the burning winery and muttered: "It's all yours, enjoy" as she glared at them, passing within an arm's reach. As the gang disappeared through the haze of smoke, Gertie and the gang rushed in to search for the family that ran the winery. They freed the family from an upstairs bedroom and formed a bucket line from the well trying to put out the flames. Gertie demolished the roof of the stable, destroying the structure but preventing the fire from spreading any further. 

Two long, hard hours later the danger was averted and the winery remained more or less intact. The family thanked the group and offered them food and drink and a place to sleep for the night. The four tired heroes happily took them up on the offer. In the morning, the family asked the group if they might hire some guards in Soonsea to help protect the winery and Helen promised to do so as soon as they got back to town. 

Gertie and the gang packed up and took off back toward Soonsea to check in with their patron Abit Ashdannan, hire some guards for the winery, and lick their various wounds. 

1. Pants and potions and pretty new robes
"I ordered chamomile tea, not camel tea."

The gods are at war with one another. What legends have dubbed The Fall is looming once again. As the celestial forces collide, magic surges across the world, strange weather sweeps across regions, beasts and monsters that haven’t been seen in centuries are re-emerging.

With the Apocalypse looming and chaos growing, people are growing desperate and reckless and adventuring has become a fad! Confusing legends and lore with reality, folks have reverted to grave robbing, inn plundering, and attacking endangered species and monsters that would normally leave the mortal races alone.

Gertie, Elvis, Rudolfo, and Helen have been kept on retainer as a militia unit in the town of Soonsea. They are paid by a magistrate in the town and tasked with stopping the "murder hobos" that are traveling the countryside killing and looting and fighting with one another and thus causing damage to the town and nearby farms. 

The group met for breakfast at the Steppewright Inn where they have been staying for a number of weeks. The inn is run by a charming bronze-skinned half-elf named Abit Ashdannan who also happens to be the town magistrate that has them on retainer. 

Abit spent the morning at a council meeting and the group decided to split up. Elvis went to the yard out back to train and the other three went shopping. They bought some potions and Rudolfo found himself a rather lovely robe (that might have been a bit too long). Eventually, Elvis caught up with the group and managed to snag himself a stylish pair of pants and some new boots. 

Once the council meeting was done, the group met Abit on the steps of the town hall and was told about some work that needed doing. Apparently, Abit had caught wind of a group of ruffians who had "invited" themselves to stay at a nearby winery. The family that runs the winery can’t get any work done and the “adventurers” are eating all their food and drinking all their wine. Even worse, after the ruffians head out killing and pillaging, angry monsters seeking revenge have been following them back to the winery and damaging the property quite badly. 

The gang headed to Gnome Depot to stock up on supplies and then took off towards the winery to fulfill their promise to Mr. Ashdannan.


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