They find themselves cast into an art studio, cluttered with half-finished projects. Brublind picks up a set of paints from a nearby table, giving them a big whiff and croaking happily at the telltale scent of magic on them. Rorik tells him to be careful, he might get high, but the transmuter just turns to him with a smile. He evidently had an uncle who liked to take in the fumes before getting to work. "That is… concerning."
Continuing cautiously, the party stumble across a line-up of seven people, identical to the adventurers in the painting! One of them steps forward as the others drop into fighting stances. The old, dark-skinned man—Nolzur—is covered in splatters of paint, and his eyes narrow as he takes these intruders in,
"He told me you would come after him! I know why you're here, and I won't allow you to succeed!"
Jimothy tries to speak with him, but the painter reaches into his robe and produces a paintbrush. Rorik draws his sword and Cora flashes her claws in response, while Jancer feels a familiar sensation in his pants, a new one to Brublind, both of whom notice as their Rods grow hot and erect, pointing toward the paintbrush's lusterless black handle. IT IS THE ROD SEGMENT THEY SEEK!
Nolzur pulls back a curtain to reveal a cage with not only Grekas inside it, but the long-lost Prince of Tindomeel as well! The painter says it will be the last that the party sees of these two before they die. Rorik charges, intent on saving his hero, but Nolzur brandishes his brush, and the room around them melts, the Black Antlers flung away to some distant corner of the demiplane.
With only a goal in their hearts and a set of paints for huffing, they had best prepare themselves, for they are now hunted by the Company of Seven…!
Seven adventurers make their way down a dark corridor, 'Light' spells illuminating their faces:
- Nolzur, the painter, still looking like an elderly Morgan Freeman.
- Zagyg, a wild-haired, wild-eyed, portly old mage.
- Tasha, or, as the Black Antlers know her, Iggwilv, a dark beauty.
- Murlynd, a lawman with two firebrand pistols at his hip.
- Quaal, a young druid outfitted in feathers upon feathers.
- Keoghtom, an agile rogue with a jar of ointment.
- Heward, an old-timey bard with a flute and frilled collar.
They enter a domed chamber, its walls decorated in a variety of sea motifs. Across the way is another door. As Murlynd steps forward, into one of the pools of water that dot the room, there is a sound that fills the chamber, echoing all around—an ominous clack-clack-clack… as, suddenly, from holes in the ground emerge…
two ordinary crabs!
Murlynd reaches for a pistol, but Quaal holds out a hand to stop him. The crab on the left snips menacingly at the party. Zagyg tells his comrades that he had a pet crab named "Lefty" when he was a child, and they may yet be friends, crouching down and extending a finger to the left crab. It pinches him for ONE DAMAGE! Zagyg lets out a little squeal and giggles, joking with Tasha that the little guy is almost as prickly as she is. The woman gives a slight smile.
Nolzur considers the walls, pointing out that surely the art is what they should be looking at, not the wildlife. Quaal says that Mother Nature is the greatest artist, and Nolzur rolls his eyes. Heward steps forward with a jingle, and picks up the crab on the right. It doesn't snip him!
Taking this as a clear sign that the left crab is indeed as evil as he sensed, Murlynd spins a gun out of the holster, and with one shot—BANG!—kills the beast. Such is the brutal reality of crab-on-cowboy combat. "Just like the pilgrims." Murlynd blows the smoking barrel of his gun and tips his hat as they audibly hear the door on the far side of the chamber unlock. The party begin to approach, but Nolzur holds out a hand, telling them that that was TOO simple, there is likely a trap or worse if they simply continue!
Everyone looks at the crab that Heward is holding. Quaal casts 'Speak with Animals' on himself, and goes over to talk to the creature. It says "Thanks, that guy was a dick", but then Tasha steps up, slaps the crab out of Heward's hands, and stomps on it with her stiletto. It dies. Nothing else happens. Murlynd says, "I reckon that's what they call 'equality under the law', pardner".
Quaal prays for the souls of the crabs, while Heward points out that "A coward dies many times, but the valiant taste of death but once. These crabs lived with bravery, unflinching!"
Zagyg leans in, "I think you mean, unpinching! Oh-ho!"
The party head through the door…
They appear in an alleyway, lit by harsh lights that buzz with energy. A line of undead waits in front of a set of double doors, blocked off by a golden rope, and flanked by a pair of bouncers. Both wear suits—one is a ghoul in sunglasses, the other a minotaur skeleton. He snorts and points to the back of the line as Nolzur tries to get in.
Keoghtom says, "This place is pretty weird~"
Murlynd does a double-take, "Oh my g—SHUT UP, KEOGHTOM," and slaps him on the back of the head.
Nolzur nods, "He's been eating too much of that ointment."
"I don't have a problem… you do~"
"YOU HAD A PROBLEM WHEN YOU STOLE MY RECIPE!"
"Now it's everyone's recipe~"
Iggwilv saunters over and realizes that the undead waiting to get inside are wights—"Guys… I think this place is wights only." Keoghtom intimidates his way to the front of the line with his effeminate presence. The bouncers nod to each other, letting the party into the club. A dizzying beat thrums from the doorway, and everyone (except for Zagyg and Tasha) finds themselves uncontrollably drawn to dance.
Heward's eyes go wide, "O music, we are but slaves to thy brutish beats, and men have lost their minds!"
Keoghtom, Zagyg, and Iggwilv head over to the bar inside. The bartender is Bonesley, a skeleton in a maid outfit! He serves the drinks with Stygian black ice, and holds his hand out as if expecting some sort of payment. Keoghtom gives him a handshake, downs his drink (Nat 20 to resist ice—"IT'S ALL THAT OINTMENT!"), and casts 'Invisibility' on himself as he gets the fuck out of there. Tasha gets white girl wasted (wight girl wasted?), while Zagyg stays behind as the others are swept up in a skeletal conga line. Nolzur recognizes it from stories his prisoners told him.
They wind their way through the writhing mass of bone and flesh, passing a stage where a group of undead are dancing, led by Mye-kuhl Jancer. Nolzur points out that the half-elf is one of their targets, and Keoghtom tries to climb onto stage to kill him. No cigar however. He drunkenly pulls out his crossbow and fires it off into the crowd, "Oh yeah, it's a party now!" The music skips a beat as the Company is funneled into an open area of the club, where the crowd clatters and cheers for a bandaged breakdancer.
It's Saladesh, all decked out in bling! Murlynd moseys forth and enters a 'Compelled Duel' with the mummy. DANCE-OFF! Saladesh spins on his head like a dervish. Heward inspires the cowboy, who twirls and flourishes his guns to the beat. The invisible Keoghtom gets kicked in the jaw as he tries to sneak around, but steps on the mummy's bandages and COMPLETELY throws him off (NAT 20!) as Murlynd does the Happy Prospector Dance. The skeletons "Ooh" and "Aah". Saladesh grimaces as Murlynd switches into an old reliable square dance. The mummy spins, spins, and spins! The air kicks up into a cyclone as he begins to levitate, his gold-speckled wrappings whipping around in the wind like beautiful ribbons (NAT 20!). Murlynd is good, but Saladesh is better, apologizing to his master for having to go all-out… just this once. Not prepared to be served so badly, the cowboy tips his hat. Tasha, incredibly drunk, flashes the mummy lord of the dance.
Everyone is exhausted as they step out onto the edge of a clearing of flickering, colorful panels arrayed in front of a tall DJ stand, atop which is MC Sporp! Keoghtom pushes Murlynd onto the dance floor with him, telling the cowboy that he has to make up for his sins. It is so sudden that Keoghtom steps out onto a panel that 'Viciously Mocks' him! Though used to such insults from his companions, Keoghtom is nearly slain by the psychic assault. Murlynd steps onto a blue panel that seems safe. Nolzur observes, and recognizes the pattern of the panels. The Company cross and barely make it to the far side.
Murlynd backhands Keoghtom. Nolzur whispers that they should draw dicks on his face when he's asleep with his own ointment. Keoghtom is so hurt that he suggests they sleep. "SHUT UP, KEOGHTOM!" Nolzur slaps him with a 'Mage Hand'. Keoghtom eats ointment to make himself feel better. Tasha and Nolzur are both hit by double exhaustion (TWO NAT 1s!!!). Tasha vomits as she regain her senses, "You won't… mention this… to anyone…!"
Pushing open the exit door, bright light fills their vision as the beat fades…
They step into the belly of a sphere. Up one side of the sphere is a jungle, while a rocky wasteland stretches up and over their heads on the other. Above them, on the far side of the sphere from where the party arrived, appears to be a pedestal with a bow on it. Floating in the center of the spherical chamber is a bronze orb.
Quaal tries speaking to the jungle plants, but there is no reply. The place is silent. Artificial. Keoghtom investigates the bow and arrow pedestal. He asks "Murtle" what he thinks of it (Nolzur slaps him in the back of the head), but the cowboy can't make head nor tails of it. Nolzur checks out a strange pole in the middle of the jungle, climbing it with Keoghtom's help (NAT 20!). He says under his breath, "Thank you… friend," and blushes when he realizes that Keoghtom actually heard him. He isn't able to reach the bronze orb from there though.
Murlynd draws his revolver and shoots the orb, but it has no effect. The bullet pings back and almost hits him. Tasha grins, "Nice shooting, Tex." Keoghtom goes over to use the bow on it instead, and there's a metallic hum as fog fills the room. Nolzur begins to berate Keoghtom, and suddenly, lightning shoots from his mouth and strikes the orb. Rain rises from the earth, as does a blue ghost.
Quaal points and Keoghtom says, "You can see that too? Oh jeez…" as he shoves more ointment into his mouth. Lightning bursts from his lips and strikes the orb, another ghost materializing alongside the booming thunder.
One ghost hits Nolzur with a withering touch. Keoghtom hits the undead with a crossbow bolt, and the painter creates a 'Chromatic Blade' with his brush, slicing through the monster and destroying it. Tasha casts 'Magic Missiles' at the other ghost and blasts holes through its form. As she speaks the verbal component of the spell however, lightning blasts out of her mouth and another ghost materializes.
The wounded ghost rushes the exhausted Tasha and possesses her, turning her magics on the rest of the Company. Heward is attacked by the other ghost, but the bard rolls out of the way. Quaal uses 'Protection from Energy' to try and protect from the lightning, while Murlynd moves towards Tasha to exorcise the spirit from her body. Keoghtom fires a crossbow bolt that scatters the ghost attacking Heward immediately. The clouds turn more blue with each fallen ghost.
As Murlynd slips in the mud as the possessed Tasha charges Keoghtom and attempts to get him away from the bow on the pedestal. She is too exhausted however, and Quaal is able to run up, grab the bow, and strike the orb again. Its surface seems to pulsate. Murlynd exorcises the ghost from Tasha.
The ghost bursts out of her and bares its horrifying visage at the Company. Tasha, Nolzur, and Keoghtom age by forty years in the face of this supernatural fear!
Slaying the final ghost a moment later, three of them are now old as hell, especially Nolzur, who was old to begin with. They continue firing arrows at the orb, which reverberates with every strike. Lightning bursts from the orb and strikes the now muddy wasteland. Quaal notices something white begin to slither in the grime.
Keoghtom leaps towards the white shape, which suddenly bursts from the mud underneath him, revealing a massive bone naga!
Murlynd uses his Rope of Entanglement to pull himself up onto the bone naga alongside Keoghtom, and rides its head through the mud as he draws a pistol and fires off a 'Branding Smite' into its skull. The serpent rears back with a roar and unleashes a bolt of lightning from its maw, which hits Tasha square in the chest. Tasha the crone's form boils and pops in an explosion of paint. Nolzur rushes over and grabs a large frog that plops down in the paint, shoving it into one of several gems attached to his belt. Keoghtom is able to finish the bone naga, which collapses into the mud. The fog turns red!
Murlynd slaps Keoghtom again. The rogue says, "Hit me one more time, motherfucker, I fucking dare you~" Nolzur shakes his head and laments that this is exactly what tore their party apart.
Grabbing the bow, the party let loose one last volley. The bronze falls from the orb as the room around them dissipates. The Company see a scene play out before them—a fellow playing an instrument beside a bedridden man.
The images fade into the fog…