The Black Antlers seek to free their friend, Grekas, as well as the Prince of Tindomeel, from the legendary artist Nolzur, but must first survive a battle with the Company of Seven, who hunt them even now…
The Company step out into a sunlit glade, the warmth of midday on their faces. It is a brief moment of respite amid the exacting trials devised by their prey. All is peaceful until…!
Bugbears leap from the brush and grab Murlynd, throwing the cowboy over a shoulder as they disappear back into the trees. Keoghtom and Quaal fire shots to try and stop the kidnapers, but to no avail! Heward plays a tune on his pan flute to 'Conjure Woodland Beings', and four pixies answer the call. With the faeries' help, the party easily track the bugbears back to a rickety cabin.
They bust their way inside, and find a trapdoor leading down into a series of tight tunnels. Nolzur, aged by a ghost's horrifying visage, needs to ask for Quaal and Heward's help descending the ladder.
Tapping the ground ahead with a painted cane, Nolzur finds a tripwire, and convinces Keoghtom to disarm it (despite Keoghtom being fed-up with the disrespect). Turning a corner, the party find themselves staring down the mouth of a cannon fifty feet down a corridor. The three goblins manning the weapon start threatening the party, but Nolzur steps forward before the cretins can act, swirls his paintbrush, and, with a 'Prismatic Spray', slays all three—the first struck by lightning, the second dissolved by acid, and the third frozen solid by cold.
Slipping around the cannon into a sprawling central chamber filled with cooking fires, dirty bunks, and piles of trash, the Company of Seven catch the eleven goblins within by surprise. Two of them sprint towards a lever on the wall, while five move to the middle of the room and stand straight as possible on a red X. As the lever is pulled, a box cut with murder holes drops onto the goblins on the X (crushing the fifth one, who was out of position). Heward is impressed by the choreography, but orders his pixie minions to cast 'Confusion' on the goblin box.
The sound of goblins attacking one another emanates from the box ("Confusion now hath made his masterpiece."), and Keoghtom further adds to the chaos by casting 'Fog Cloud' around it too, blinding the little buggers. The rogue tumbles into the cloud and disappears as goblins begin firing crossbow bolts at him.
Quaal and Nolzur take half of the goblins outside, while Heward takes the others. Heward's pixies turn invisible and start looking around the room for Murlynd. Ape-like ululations pierce the air as two bugbears suddenly strike at the party from hiding, swinging their morning stars with deadly force. Quaal and Heward both get clonked.
Keoghtom eats some ointment for the stress, and then stabs through a murder hole with his sword, catching a box-goblin in the eye and killing it. Quaal tosses one of his Feather Tokens into the air, and it extends out into a glowing whip, which lashes out at one of the bugbears, but the creature is much quicker than one would expect for its size and dodges. Heward charges in and starts throwing punches at the bugbear bugging him.
With a masterful stroke from his 'Chromatic Blade', Nolzur stabs one goblin and spins on his heel, slashing right through a second goblin's neck. Quaal feints, but as the bugbear dodges, the druid's feather-whip wraps around the back of its neck from behind and yanks upwards, strangling the beast (NAT 20!). As Heward continues brawling the other bugbear, Nolzur runs forward and thrust his blade right up through the brute's stomach, disemboweling it.
All the goblins are slain, except one, who flees into a side tunnel. The Company give chase, and enter a throne room. Three goblins stand within, one wearing a hat and holding up a fuse, which is attached to a large pile of dynamite! Tied to a chair with his own Rope of Entanglement is Murlynd! The goblin leader lights a match and threatens to blow this whole place sky high if they don't surrender!
Keoghtom offers ointment for the goblin leader's skin problems, but the leader points out that he's tried all sorts of lotions and ointments, to no avail. Heward offers the goblin "these three fairies" (not his companions, but the actual pixies) in return for Murlynd's release instead, and this catches his attention! As the goblin counts out on his fingers to confirm that it's a good deal, Keoghtom shrugs and starts to leave, turning invisible and sneaking back around into the room.
Heward begins handing over the pixies, but Keoghtom sneaks up behind the goblin leader and slashes his throat. He grabs the goblin's hat and puts it on, claiming that he is now the Goblin King! Everyone is stunned. Murlynd leaps out of the chair as if the magical rope "holding" him wasn't even tied, shouting that the fuse was lit!
The dynamite goes off, and as the explosion hits them…
The Company of Seven and the Black Antlers are both thrust back into Nolzur's art studio! The hunt is over, but now the REAL battle begins!
Jimothy and Cora are the first to move, heaving one of the cluttered tables, and sending it crashing into their foes on the far side of the room (NAT 20—29!!!). Keoghtom dodges, rolling for cover and firing crossbow bolts into Mye-kuhl Jancer, who he recognizes from the dance club.
"Ooh, you liked my club, baby~? Well have another taste!"
Jancer casts 'Otto's Irresistible Dance' on the rogue, who starts grooving uncontrollably. Rorik runs forward and uses a 'Lightning Lure' to yank Nolzur towards him, the old man skidding onto another table and sending paint cans flying! From his cage, Grekas shouts, "Well done, Rorik, well done!" Rorik blushes. Faced with this armored knight, Nolzur draws a screaming visage that fills Rorik with a supernatural fear that psychically assails his mind!
Cora produces her katars and charges, leaping over the table Keoghtom is hiding behind as black dragon scales appear out of her arms. She stabs the rogue in the leg as he attempts to dodge out of the way. Her eyes flash with frustration as she tries to kill him. Murlynd fires two rounds at Cora, burying one in her shoulder, while the other is deflected by her scales. He puts his 'Hunter's Mark' on the barbarian, telling her that she "ain't nothin' but a wild animal."
Quaal casts 'Stoneskin' on Keoghtom, and Cora's katars scrape ineffectively against his rocky epidermis. She grits her teeth as she gets angrier. Heward rights the table thrown at the Company, and he leaps up onto it, beginning a rousing song for his comrades on this eve of battle!
"Cheer up my lads, 'tis to glory we steer, to add something more to this wonderful year~!"
He is abruptly bucked off as Brublind casts 'Animate Object' on it, the table rearing back like an angry stallion.
Keoghtom tries to use a 'Fog Cloud' to slip away, but he cannot escape Cora's grip. Jimothy kicks over the table onto Keoghtom, and swings Corpsebane, dispersing the fog in a blaze of radiant power as he brings the mace down onto the rogue's head. Red paint splatters everywhere. The paladin notices a frog wriggling in what remains of Keoghtom. Cora growls at Jim as he kills the rogue. Her eyes sunken and as green as the acid on her claws, which sizzle against the goliath's armor…
"HE WAS MINE!"
Murlynd fires a pair of 'Branding Smite'-enhanced bullets through Cora's chest, causing the enraged barbarian to turn on the cowboy, who grows to twice his height in front of her (Quaal casting 'Enlarge' on him). Cora leaps towards him, blood and acid mingling in her mouth. Nolzur, free from the now screaming Rorik, rushes to a painting of a flying saucer in a starlit sky over the silhouette of some mountains.
Quaal sends a 'Guiding Bolt' swirling into Rorik, knocking him unconscious. Jancer moonwalks over to the cage where Grekas and the Prince of Tindomeel are locked up. He asks if they are alright ("I know I hate being confined") and tells them to stand back as he lets loose a blast from his Wand of Wonder. The cage begins glowing with pink 'Faerie Fire'. "I hope that makes it a little nicer in there for you guys."
Jimothy hears a croak behind him as the paint-coated frog grows into a green slaad! Seeing this, Nolzur grabs a gem from his belt and thrusts it forward, the slaad hissing at the sight of the gem. Brublind understands as it says, "No…! I will not be controlled…!" Nolzur sees Jancer and tries to bind him with a painted rope, but the necrodancer leaps out of the way.
"I refuse to let you hurt them!"
Murlynd peppers Cora with bullets as she slashes at him. Jimothy heals Rorik, getting him back onto his feet, before moving towards Cora. Rorik comes back to his senses and slashes at Quaal. The blades strike the druid, but no blood comes out. Identical wounds open up on Murlynd. Quaal thanks the cowboy—his noble protector, who tips his hat, exhausted. Jancer fires a 'Lightning Bolt' into Nolzur from his Staff of Power, knocking the old man onto his back as he grasps at his chest. Heward shouts, "NO!"
Jancer hears Grekas say behind him, "Good… kill him!" Jancer is taken aback, turning around, and spotting a new, but familiar ring on the wizard's finger. It is dark, shaped like gargoyle wings, with a glowing amethyst inset into it, with the name 'Fraz-Urb'luu' glowing on the band. Quagmiran's signet ring!
Brublind, realizing that Nolzur has enslaved one of his brethren, casts 'Shillelagh' on his quarterstaff, and marches over to the painter, ready to bash him over the head like a caveman. Heward interposes himself between Nolzur, Brublind, and Jancer with a 'Thunder Step', throwing the necrodancer backwards, into the glowing bars of the cage.
Jimothy turns and watches as Cora rips Quaal apart, red paint spraying everywhere. A draconic shadow looms behind her as the black scales spread further across her body and her eyes glow with green rage. Jim realizes that his girlfriend has not only lost control, but been possessed! He rushes over to help her, getting slashed with acid-drenched claws in the process, but fills her with a divine energy, forcing the evil spirit of the black dragon Bochaladaxx out of the barbarian's body.
As Cora and Jim high-five, Murlynd faces off with Jim for a little PVP (Paladin VS. Paladin) combat, ensnaring him with his Rope of Entanglement. Nolzur creates a 'Chromatic Blade' with his paintbrush and thrusts up at Jancer, but is entranced by his Jacket of Scintillating Colors, pointing out that he's wanted flail snail dye forever. Jancer notes that the jacket's worth a fortune, as it's from the Embergut collection, made right before the dragon mysteriously vanished. He then cracks Nolzur over the back with his Staff of Power. Heward immediately begins tending to his downed companion. Jancer stops. Grekas shouts,
"What are you doing?! You won't be able to free us, or more importantly, GET THE ROD, unless they're dead!"
Jancer looks, and notices something. The Prince of Tindomeel's body is a zombie… animated by Grekas. Or rather, whatever spirit is TRULY inside the Ring of Mind Shielding is controlling Grekas.
"Ooh, you ain't got ME fooled, baby~ You think you're some kinda smooth criminal, don't'cha?"
Brublind tries to strike Nolzur, but Heward attempts to fend him off. The transmuter smacks him full force! Jancer tells him to stop as paint-blood goes splattering across the ground from Heward's mouth.
Cora frees Jim from Murlynd's rope, and the paladin murders the cowboy down as another green slaad appears from where Quaal's body fell. "See ya' later, giant cowboy."
Rorik runs to where Grekas is, and the eladrin pleads with the eldritch knight to free him, as Jancer's "gone mad". Jancer tries to persuade Rorik that they've been played for fools, jumping in front of the fighter as he draws his Macuahuitl of Sharpness to slice through the bars of the cage. Jancer suddenly falls as he feels his muscles tighten up, and he is completely unable to dance! He blames Grekas, but the elf points to Nolzur,
"I would NEVER, Rorik, you know that, HE'S the bad guy here!"
"You're right, Grekas would never do that… but you're not Grekas."
Rorik blasts the wizard with three 'Eldritch Blasts' square to the chest, blowing him backwards onto his ass. A wave of 'Confusion' washes over him for a moment—should he have just hit Grekas—his personal hero? He looks again. No, it may wear his skin, but this person doesn't carry himself like the Grekas he knows. He slices through the bars of the cage, Cora tears the bars free, and Jim jumps inside, overpowering Grekas and yanking Quagmiran's ring off of his finger!
The Prince of Tindomeel's body collapses immediately. Grekas goes limp as Jim hefts the elf over his shoulder.
Brublind gets frank with Nolzur, and points out that the battle is ended. He tells him to release the slaad. The painter considers for a moment, then asks Heward to help him up… one last time. He undoes his belt, with all the gems on it, and hands it to the bard, who hands it to Brublind. He tosses the gems into the air.
"MY PEOPLE…! YOU ARE FREE!!!"
The six green slaads who had taken the forms of the Company of Seven let out a victorious croak as they grab the gems and thrust them back into their foreheads. They take off in different directions, happily ripping into the fabric of the demiplane, leaving terrible, colorful gashes as the paint realm begins to melt away around them.
Cora slaps Grekas back to consciousness, and he whispers something to Rorik, "Grab ahold of me…" Everyone does. Jancer extends a hand to Nolzur, who takes one last look at the paradise he created for himself as it collapses all around the party. He grabs Jancer's hand, and Grekas teleports them all away… reappearing safe and sound inside the Broken Tower of Vesh.