Wild Abandon

Off the Chain
Chapter 59

Having made a pact with the drow outcast, Maxiref Torixaxos, the Black Antlers explore the surrounding fungus forests, and stumble upon a slave plantation on the outskirts of Urvae Ch'lloth

The party convene to put together a plan for freeing the slaves, not content to let them rot under the boot of the drow. Plus, a mass revolt will provide a lot of needed chaos to allow the party to slip under the radar practically unnoticed.

They split, surrounding the mushroom farms around the Kron'tis Estate, with Rorik, Pleedleploplina, and Sporp taking one side, and Jancer, Jimothy, and Elspeth taking the other. Rorik tells Quagmiran that he has the most important job of all—to stay in the forest to "oversee the whole operation". Rorik, Jancer, and Sporp all use 'Disguise Self' to appear as drow, with Rorik looking like a discount Jorlan Despana he calls "my original character, Borelan Despana" and Sporp appearing as a short dark elf with a sombrero.

The Black Antlers charge in on either side, past a line of mushrooms that start shrieking through pores in their caps, drawing all eyes to these attackers as they begin cutting down quaggoth ch'zat-tong and breaking the chains off of slaves. It is easy for Rorik with his macuahuitl of sharpness, and Sporp commands the newly liberated folk to rise up and fight for their right to party. The slaves seem inspired by the words, but cower as drow on riding lizards begin moving towards them.

Suddenly, a sky blue tyrannosaurus rex with flowing red hair bursts from the forest and picks up one of the overseers in its jaws, and the slaves cheer and begin fighting back!

Jancer is inspired by Sporp's words too, and fires off a 'Vitriolic Sphere' at a charging squad of quaggoth led by a drow. The acid orb crashes into them, leaving half-melted casualties that are beaten as Jimothy and Elspeth break the chains off of slaves and get them to join in on the uprising. The gates of the Kron'tis Estate fly open and more guards begin surging forward!

Jimothy and Rorik begin moving to meet them, while Jancer pulls out a flask and tosses it onto the ground in front of the charging troops. It smashes and the oil of slipperiness within splashes everywhere, sending the quaggoth and both drow commanders falling onto their backs. An armored troll makes it through however, and the Armor Bros join it in battle. Rorik has horrible flashbacks of their last encounter with one of these beasts as he reaches for a blade, and instead chooses to use his 'Shadow Blade', which slashes at the enemy's psyche rather than its body.

As they beat into the troll and the guards begin standing back up, Jancer lobs a 'Fireball' on top of them, igniting the oil beneath their feet into an inferno! Jimothy throws up his shield and is blasted back, while Rorik casts 'Absorb Elements' to infuse his blade with flame, finishing the troll. With sixty-nine slaves freed, the party lead them forward to the neighboring plantation, where hundreds more labor in bondage.

Rorik takes the western fields, riding in atop Pleedleplopasaurus and holding off the guards as the liberated begin freeing their comrades from their chains. Jancer uses his Wand of Polymorph on his lead skeleton and it becomes a skeletal viking T-Rex that he and Sporp teleport on top of as they move into the central fields, firing off magic attacks left and right at their foes, the most dramatic being a 'Finger of Death' that turns a troll into a zombie. Jimothy and Elspeth share a fist bump before calling forth their paladin steeds (September the Elephant for Jim, and Blinky, now a celestial spirit, for Elspeth) and running down the drow in the eastern fields with gusto!

Dozens of slaves die fighting for their freedom, but the drow forces are scattered, giving the Black Antlers the time to rally the liberated forces and lead them into the cover of the fungal forests. The party pick off the few enemies that choose to pursue and eventually take their army back to the ruined Torixaxos Estate.

Jimothy and Elspeth cast 'Create Food and Water' to create food to try and feed this new 240-odd man army. Maxiref fumes at the party bringing such a noticeable and easily-tracked thing as an army to his secret hideout, but is placated when Jancer points out all of the fresh corpses in the wake of the uprising and all of the corpses to come as the fight continues.

Three leaders come forward from the slave army to thank the party and offer the service of they and their fellows:

  • Josephus Jones, a humble goliath hunter who hails from the same clan as Jimothy, having been brought down here over twenty years ago after the attack that left the young Jim orphaned (and eventually led to his adoption by the Knights of the Bloody Hand). Josephus offers to help gather food for the army and track the movements of the drow in the surrounding area.
  • Artor Anvilrage, a well-bred dwarf illusionist who claims that he was kidnaped from his home and forced into servitude in the Underdark. Artor says he will help the party however he can, as well as cover up the existence of the army as best he can with his illusions.
  • Tobin Shanks, a grizzled human veteran who Rorik recognizes from Brentil Keep, as he was the man who hated drow and tried to kill Shaela Vae. Tobin says he led an expedition to try and help free slaves himself, but now that he's free, he'll be happy to continue a guerilla campaign against the dark elves.

Jimothy and Elspeth help take care of the sick and wounded. Jimothy comes upon a very bad-off half-drow, half-orc woman among them, who everyone else seems to be avoiding. The woman tells the paladin to stay back, as she contracted the terrible pox carried by the beggars in the city, but Jimothy is not dissuaded, as he is immune to disease.

"Do not worry, I carry light of god."

"There is no light down here."

"But is light in here."

Jimothy touches her heart and takes her disease with 'Martyrdom of Ilmater' (which he learned from Cripple Talth). The woman looks at her hands and tears stream down her face as she watches the lesions on them begin to close. She thanks Jimothy and hugs him.

Rorik and Tobin bond over their shared upbringing as simple farmboys. Tobin says he was trained in the bow by the eladrin after being freed from the drow the first time by Grekas and the Sixteen Rapiers, and helped defend Brentil Keep from the Kibbelese army afterwards, though he was sad to hear his hometown of Kelver's Crossing had been destroyed in the process. Rorik says he left his hometown of Riverslee himself, to pursue things that the village could never have provided, and wonders what has become of his town, which, when last he saw it, had been sucked into the Abyss, just as the whole Material Plane now threatens to be…

Artor and Jancer exchange spells, and Jancer learns that the illusionist could mask them in a mass illusion that could make it very easy for them to sail across the treacherous lake at the heart of the Vault of the Drow, circumventing the gates of Urvae Ch'lloth as they try and reach Kabal Koribesh on their mission to reacquire the Mother of Flesh for Maxiref.

Getting into their folding boat, the party pass under the notice of the demons and yugoloths swarming around the sacred island where Lolth's temple sits with the help of Artor's 'Seeming' spell (enhanced by the illusion segment of the Rod of Seven Parts). As they pass the island, Jancer feels the incomplete Rod in his pocket pointing to the temple at its heart like a magnet, almost drawing the half-elf towards the place where the drow are holding their pieces of the Rod.

Their journey over the dark waters ends, and the neon glow of Urvae Ch'lloth, stinking den of depavity that it is, welcomes them into its disingenuous embrace.

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Drow Your Sorrows
Chapter 58

The Black Antlers enter the Vault of the Drow, where they plan on stopping the dark elves from enacting their vile ritual to draw the Material Plane into the Abyss.

Driders, Brublind gets on mushroom while Jim and friends climb down cliff

Hop on bridge, breaks, drider and 2 giant spiders sneak out and attack Elspeth + Sporp while Jancer + Pleedle leap into river to save Jim

Drider runs back up cliff and escapes

Jimothy follows after cadaver collector headed through fungus forest, follows it to the ruined Torixaxos estate

"This looks like a haunted house—maybe if I kill the ghosts here, Ilmater will love me again."

Jancer: This is my new place, baby, we gotta go collect some rent!

Rorik: "Ghosts aren't even real."

"Rorik, we have literally MET ghosts."

"Nope, was clearly just Old Man McCarthy trying to scare folks away so he could build his new amusement park."

While Brublind stays outside and disarms trip wires, and spots dark shape watching him before darting away, party enter house. Jimothy punches through wall and hits something hairy, grabs clump of reddish hair. "The walls are full of Elspeths!"

"Wot?"

Rorik and Jancer go down hall while Jim and Elspeth walk into that room with their lights out. Rorik is mauled by a chwidencha, but knocks it off, and Jancer blasts it with magic missiles. It scurries away. Jim sets fire to the ruined furniture. Jancer watches a ghost come down the stairs, "Where's my money?" ghost goes through him (he takes necrotic damage, but resists some as a necromancer), the ghost goes into room where smoke billows from doorway. "BEGONE FROM THIS PLACE" in Elvish. Jimothy strikes ghost and destroys it with Corpsebane. Jancer runs in,

"Jimmy, you can't just kill my tenants! I didn't even get her money yet!"

"Ghosts do not have money."

"Actually…!"

"Rorik, you do not believe in ghost."

"That's right, but I believe in ghost money."

Pleedle puts out fire for Jancer, and they learn from Brublind that there's a big hole in the ground. They go down and find a secret laboratory in the basement! The cadaver collector is depositing bodies in front of a drow necromancer!

The necromancer introduces himself as Maxiref Torixaxos. He wants revenge against those who saw to the devastation of his house and loss of his power as favored consort of the house's matron. He believes that Lolth had manipulated his house using a shapeshifting demon to see to their destruction. Maxiref wants the party to fetch a creature that was stolen from House Torixaxos when their compound was attacked—THE MOTHER OF FLESH—which he has heard has been taken to the mage academy of Kabal Koribesh.

Party head out, see slaves in the fields below. Jimothy notices a lot of them are goliaths. Jimothy is outraged, but Rorik holds him back. They can't just go running in there. They notice one of the slaves is looking up at the party, Jimothy raises his finger in front of his helmet.

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Losing My Reli-Jim
Chapter 57

Within the lair of Cacotoph the beholder crime boss, the Black Antlers find themselves locked in battle with the Underdark mafia while attempting to kidnap the former ruler of Zakkencrag.

An intellect devourer attempts to intellect devour Mye-kuhl Jancer, but the necrodancer is too smart to be overcome by a brain, and sucks the life from the creature's gray matter. Jancer spins on his heel and uses his Wand of Wonder down the hallway, where Rorik is locked in combat with a beholder zombie. A 'Gust of Wind' blasts from the end of the wand, and Rorik is launched into the air through a volley of eyebeams, stabbing the creature in its empty central eye socket.

Pleedleploplina leaps into the wind after him and fires off towards the zombie with her trident outstretched, but shoots past it and crashes into the hard stone wall behind it (NAT 1). Jancer drops the gust and lobs a 'Fire Bolt' at the weakened zombie, which EXPLODES upon impact, blanketing the hallway in stinking black ichor. Rorik wipes off his glasses and gives the necrodancer a thumbs up.

Meanwhile, Brublind chases after the fleeing Cacotoph atop his carpet of animated gold coins. He reaches the bottom of the shaft to discover a hemispherical chamber centered around an enormous fish bowl and illuminated by flecks of purple energy that seem to drift about like snow flurries. A dwarf with a beholder-shaped skullcap is standing on a ladder leaning against the bowl, while the crime boss uses his telekinetic ray to lift a bubble of water from the bowl—a bubble which contains a goldfish.

"Oh, Sylgar, I was so worried they had gotten to you. We have to get out of here, you and I!"

Brublind notices that Jimothy, who he last saw hooked into the beholder's head, is nowhere in sight. The transmuter floats in for a closer look as the crime boss and his dwarf minion leave. Exposed to the purple energy however, the slaad suddenly finds himself unable to move—he is paralyzed as he is caught up in his own mind, and plummets into the fishbowl! "Croak!"

In the darkness of his unconscious mind, Jimothy Jones sees Pazuzu. The demon lord shakes his head and points out that the paladin had said that he could defend his friends, and now here he is again, just like he had been against Fafnir.

"You really do need my help. How sad. Guess I'm here to stay."

"I do not need help from you. I will throw you out myself."

Jimothy begins to psychically wrestle with Pazuzu, lifting the demon lord off of his mental couch (where he had been crashing for the past few months), and carrying him towards the door. But the demon lord refuses to go without a fight, digging his claws into Jimothy like a cat refusing to take a bath or a child who doesn't want to go to bed. The longer the struggle goes on, the weaker Jimothy feels his body getting…

Back up top, the other three decide that it's time to loot the place, trusting that Jimothy can handle himself like he always does, especially Rorik, who is convinced after everything he's seen that the paladin is a tactical genius. While Rorik checks out some adjoining chambers, Pleedle releases "King Grunthor Rockcrusher" from the Bag of Holding.

The dwarf ruler asks if they've gotten to safety, and Jancer (still disguised as a dwarf) tells her that they have a moment of respite, but he has come to extract her and get her off of this plane of existence. The "king" nods, and says, "Yes, to our last ditch hideout, the bolt-hole that my ancestors wrung from that wretch, Raxivort." Jancer nods, not having any idea where she means, and uses his Cubic Gate to open a portal to Limbo.

Before she leaps through the portal, the king hands Jancer a key, and tells him that she has one final mission for him. There is a secret cache beneath her bedchamber, she wants him to take what is within, and bring Zakkencrag crashing down onto the heads of the Chorus of Minds.

Down below, Brublind breaks out of his paralysis by using up his transmuter's stone (lodged in his forehead to replace the stolen shard of the Spawning Stone that was there), and throws himself out of the bowl. Only afterwards does he look in and realize that, amid a shipwreck inside the bowl, is Jimothy! Using 'Telekinesis', he lifts the goliath out, and deposits him on an enormous pillow positioned so as to have a commanding view of the bowl. Only when he leaps up to check on the paladin does he realize that he is… dead.

As Jimothy fades from this life and is unable to continue his psychic battle with Pazuzu, he hears the demon lord cackle in his mind. Everything goes black.

Brublind casts 'Animate Object' on the pillow and begins floating back up the shaft at full speed.

Back up top, Rorik enters a chamber with a "minotaur" inside, but quickly realizes that it is stuffed. As he steps into the room however, a stone slab slams behind him and the minotaur comes to life. Spikes pop out of holes in the walls, and the minotaur tries charging Rorik and slamming him into them, but the eldritch knight grabs the creature by its horns and reverses, throwing IT into the spikes instead! He slashes into it, and it is revealed that the minotaur appears to be a hollow suit, inside of which is a minotaur skeleton! The minotaur yanks itself from the spikes as the walls begin to close in on them, and slashes Rorik with its halberd, but the fighter retorts by cutting off its head.

He looks around to make sure no one is watching, grabs the stuffed minotaur head, and puts it over his own, running around like a charging bull. Just as the spiked walls are about to crush him, Rorik takes his Macuahuitl of Sharpness and slashes through the stone slab back into the hallway. Poison gas has filled the hallway, which is blocked off from the main corridor by another slab! Rorik runs through and busts through the other slab as well, reuniting with Brublind as he emerges from the shaft.

Pleedle points Jancer to a trapdoor that she saw beneath the "king"'s bed, which might lead to the hidden cache she mentioned. Indeed it does! In a small chamber down below, there is a stack of four kegs, marked with a sign in Dwarven which reads, "DANGER-SMOKEPOWDER! DO NOT OPEN!" These are magical explosives, only recently cooked up by the Order of the Broken Tower in Vesh within the past year!
Jancer comes up and does a 'Raise Dead' dance around the fallen Jimothy on top of the giant pillow, bringing the paladin back. While the party move the kegs of smokepowder up and onto the pillow, Jimothy is quiet and simply sits and stares off into the void.

They slip out of the crime boss's lair and return to the ship, leaving Mastrol (which is in a riot), and stashing their vessel in a hidden cove. The Chorus contacts Jancer and verifies that "Grunthor Rockcrusher has left this plane of existence" (which they seem to believe is a euphemism for death), and provide the directions to the secret entrance to the lands of the drow.

Elspeth notices that Jimothy is being incredibly distant since what happened in the beholder's lair, and comes to his bedroom that night, asking what is bothering him. He stares at the ceiling and says,

"I did not go to Heaven."

Indeed, from what flashes Jimothy can remember of the afterlife, there was only suffering. He felt himself weak, held up by chains, the rake of avian talons across his gut, and Pazuzu's incessant laughter mocking him upon the wind. Even now, having been brought back, he feels none of Ilmater's love. There is no comfort for what he saw in death, no justification that such suffering would do him good…

Elspeth has no idea what to say. She's only been a paladin for so long. She tries to tell Jim that he's always been a beacon of hope and strength and that he can overcome this, but Jimothy barely replies. He feels empty. His faith was all that he was, ever since he was a child. And now… what is there?

Meanwhile, Rorik stores some new bits (including the mind flayer's head) in the freezer of the ship, and discovers a fleshy blob in a sarcophagus in the vague shape of a humanoid. Jancer pops in and Rorik asks what in the world this thing is.

"It's my back-up, Rorik… my Back-Up Jancer."

The necrodancer points out that he can make one of Rorik too—a clone that can pick up where he leaves off if he ever dies again. It might be a good idea, especially with this strange death curse afflicting him, though Rorik will need a couple thousand gold to cover the reagents necessary for the spell.

Quagmiran awakens from unconscious during this time, and Brublind welcomes him back. The quaggoth is confused, still not quite remembering the party clearly due to the psychic surgery performed on him by the Chorus to bring him back to sanity after he was parted from Fraz-Urb'luu. Still, they are able to convince him that they are his entourage on a diplomatic mission to Urvae Ch'lloth, and that there is no time to waste!

Cloaking the Back-Up Dancer with the illusion segment of the Rod of Seven Parts (and feeding some soul gems to the necromancy segment to power it up), the party head into the Underdark on foot, passing a few familiar sights from their escape nearly a year ago. Finally, they reach the tunnel that the Chorus points them too, and, with the help of Brublind's 'Move Earth' spell, make it large enough for more than just rats to fit through.

They pass through a strange gallery of petrified angels and emerge on a cobweb-strewn ledge overlooking a vast cyst in the depths of the world. Crystals in the dome overhead sparkle like stars, and the soft glow of fungus and the roofs of a sprawling city which seem to shimmer to the eyes of those with darkvision down below fill this vault with a wine-colored light that makes the rock walls all around appear hazy and insubstantial, more like mist than solid stone. Truly, this place is a dark fairyland. The Black Antlers have arrived…

in Urvae Ch'lloth.

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Spectator Sports
Chapter 56

The Black Antlers land at the Underdark port of Mastrol, with plans of getting rid of the former King of Zakkencrag, who has found sanctuary within the lair of a beholder.

Disembarking, the party decide to go shopping, lightening their loads of a few items and doing their best to learn about the situation in the port. After some recon and with a little intel from the Chorus of Minds, they learn that there is a "secret entrance" to the lair of the town's beholder crime lord, Cacotoph.

Trudging their way through the muck of the sewers, they discover the "secret entrance". Jimothy climbs the walls of the shaft and climbs up out of a toilet, tossing a rope down for his companions to pull themselves up. Jancer casts 'Invisibility' on Jimothy and Pleedleploplina, while he and Brublind disguise themselves as dwarven guards (after Brublind uses 'Fabricate' to make it so the bathroom door opens outwards into the hallway, not just inwards).

In the hallway, they spot a number of spectral eyestalks that seem to scan areas of the lair at regular intervals, back and forth. Jancer and Brublind make sure that they are seen leaving the bathroom together ("What the fuck were those two doing in there?") before using their bodies to cover Rorik (down on his hands and knees), with the invisible Jim and Pleedle following behind.

They unlock a door and discover the prison. Within one is a sleeping drow, and within the other is Quagmiran!! Jimothy quietly yanks the bars of the slumbering quaggoth's cell apart, and then Rorik slices the ball-and-chain in half with his Macuahuitl of Sharpness. Jancer uses 'Locate Object' to track the nearest "dwarven-made ring" and is pointed to a chamber to the right. They open the door to this chamber and are greeted by the roar of an arena!

Past the bloodthirsty crowd, a minotaur battles a hopelessly outmatched halfling down in the ring. A shirtless dwarf wearing a fur cloak and a helmet with massive curved horns stands on a dais at the top of the stands. Jancer approaches with a now-visible Jimothy and Rorik in tow (Jimothy gives Rorik, who isn't in his armor, his helmet), and says that he has brought new fighting-slaves for the arena. The dwarf, Ahmaergo, is pleased to see that at least one of them appears up to snuff (Rorik is acting like a wimp who's never used a sword in his life). Jimothy says he wants to battle the minotaur, because "he looks strong". At this, Ahmaergo's eyes go wild and he punches the goliath in the belly (NAT 20!).

"Don't you DARE misgender most beautiful fighter in all arena, or Ahmaergo gore you himself! She is GIRL. MY girl!"

So, it is decided that Jimothy and Rorik will be battling Ahmaergo and his minotaur lover! Jancer slips out of the arena with the still-invisible Pleedle, while Brublind starts betting on the fight as the minotaur finished the halfling by bashing their head against the wall. The transmuter makes one bet as a dwarf, and a second as a slaad (80 gp payout).

From a hole in the north wall, emerges the big man himself—Cacotoph the beholder. The battle begins as he fires a ray up at a bell hanging over the arena to ring it.

The minotaur charges Jimothy with her horns and throws the goliath up into the air, while Ahmaergo throws off his fur cloak and charges Rorik, who dodges out of the way and tries to summon his 'Shadow Blade' to fight back, but he can't! He is in the beholder's antimagic cone! Jimothy trips the minotaur with a leg sweep from the ground, and grabs her halberd for himself, smiting her across the udder with it. Ahmaergo runs in and slashes Rorik twice with his greataxe, letting out a laugh. Rorik grits his teeth, draws his Githyanki Silver Sword, and laughs right back.

Jancer heads down the hall to the barracks while the battle is going on, and finds the dwarf guards drinking ale. Jancer slips some dancing juice into the keg before going next door, and breaking it down with Pleedle. Within is a dwarf woman reading a book. She stands and demands to know what Jancer (who is acting incredibly drunk) wants. He's looking for the king. The woman pinches the bridge of her nose. "Well, you've found her, so speak."

Rorik charges in and cuts Ahmaergo. The dwarf lets out a roar, giving as well as he takes. The minotaur kicks Jimothy with her hooves as she leaps back up, and tries to toss him to the ground again, but Jim stands his ground and slashes her as she jumps to her feet. Rorik kicks Ahmaergo to the ground and puts his knee to the dwarf's chest as he stabs him through the chest. The dwarf's eyes go wide as blood gurgles into his throat, mouthing the words, "Mercy…" Rorik feels a twinge of guilt, reminded horribly of his time with Snakebite. He's broken out of this reverie by his minotaur lover's rage. Jim and Rorik team up on her and are able to win the match!

Jancer magically charms the "king" and tells her that there are assassins coming for her, and that she should get into his Bag of Holding so that they can escape. She does! Time to loot the room—Jancer goes over to a chest and pops it open. Inside is a crown, but as he tries to reach down and pick it up, he finds that his hands are stuck to the lid. Giant muscly arms and legs pop out of the chest and punch the half-elf across the room into a bookshelf. Pleedle casts 'Ice Knife' and hurts the mimic, allowing Jancer to cast 'Hold Monster' and paralyze the creature. They start curb-stomping the creature, with Jancer using 'Blight' to finish it off. They hear tapping feet coming down the hall as the dwarf guards shout, "What's going on down there?!"

Pleedle dives under the bed as Jancer goes out and says, "The queen's been kidnapped!" A mind flayer exits the prison and gives the necrodancer an inquisitive look, and Jancer feels the creature probing his thoughts, but is able to keep him out by thinking of dance moves. This seems to intrigue the mind flayer, but he turns and enters the arena.

As Brublind collects his winnings, he notices the mind flayer talk to the beholder, who's eyes widen as he takes off back through the tunnel he came from. Two pirates emerge from the crowd and go back into the hallway with the mind flayer. The whole crowd freaks out when a dwarf guard comes in and passes along the news that the queen's been kidnapped!

Jancer tells the invisible Pleedleploplina to run for the toilet with the Bag of Holding, while he goes to get Jim and Rorik. He heads into the arena and tries to take the party out the opposite door from the mind flayer, but when they see a zombie beholder with three smaller beholders (?) floating in the room beyond, they turn around. This is just in time to hear Quagmiran shouting from the prison, and to see the mind flayer grab the invisible Pleedle as she's running past, having detected her presence with its telepathy.

Pleedle snips some of the mind flayers tentacles off with her crab claw, and the creature reels back with a howl. Brublind casually strolls out of the arena door, takes out a full Dust of Dryness pellet, and gives the mind flayer a pat on the back that explodes in a burst of bebilith venom before turning and walking into the prison room, where Quagmiran is tussling with the mind flayer's pirate servants.

Dwarves who were coming out of arena are confused as a battle begins between the party and the mind flayer. The mind flayer turns and uses its mind blast, stunning Jimothy and Jancer, wrapping its remaining tentacles around Jimothy's head and trying to eat his brain. Pleedle stabs the mind flayer in the back, while Rorik uses 'Lightning Lure' to yank it off of Jim, holding out his Githyanki Silver Sword as it is drawn towards him. The mind flayer's eyes go wide as the blade slices through its neck and its head is left sitting on the flat of the blade, the body falling limp to the floor as it spasms with electricity.

Rorik looks at the head and says, "I'm keeping this."

In the prison, Brublind tosses a bag of gold coins into the air, but, to his surprise, the pirates aren't distracted by it. One DOES slip on the coins however. Brublind casts 'Animate Objects', and twelve coins, as well as two ball-and-chains animate. The coins swarm the pirate who slipped, killing them, while the ball-and-chains hit the pirate who's stabbing Quagmiran, wrapping around their neck and throwing them against the wall. Quagmiran slumps over, bleeding. Brublind comes over to the quaggoth, who looks up at him and says, "D-don't I—know you?" before collapsing. The animated coins slip under his unconscious form to catch him.

Jancer comes to and summons his skeleton back-up dancers to engage the dwarven guards as they run in to join the battle, clogging up the hallway in front of the bathroom. Jimothy tries leaping over the crowd and ends up body slamming half way down into some dwarves. Brublind sees something crawling out of the back of the dead pirate's head, walks out of the prison, and closes the door behind him as he hears the drow in the cell shouting, "Don't just LEAVE me in here!"

Pleedle casts 'Jump' on Brublind, and tells him that he can leap over the battle with the spell's power. The transmuter jumps straight up and accordions against the ceiling, then falls back down and hurts his legs. "No, my friend, a long jump!" Brublind vaults over, with the coins flying like a carpet behind him, with Quagmiran on top, into the bathroom after Jimothy. Rorik says "Oh, excuse me, sorry, excuse me" as he winds his way through the battle on his own.

Jimothy sees green light from toilet, looks in to see Cacotoph fly into view below. He shouts out to his friends that there's a beholder in the toilet, and the beholder looks up with a "What?". Suddenly, a disintegration ray fires out of the hole and across the hallway, disintegrating a few of the skeletons and a dwarf. Dwarves start running to escape, and two of them are mauled as beasts that look like human brains with four legs bust out of the mind flayer's room, attracted by the battle!

Rays start shooting up out of the hole left by the disintegration beam to hit the party. Rorik begins turning to stone before shaking it off; Jancer is hit by an enervation ray, but is resistant to necrotic damage; Brublind is hit by fear ray, but resists. Jimothy leaps down the toilet and lands on top of the beholder, clicking his heels to activate his S.H.O.E.S., which hook into the crime lord's head. Jancer uses 'Danse Macabre' and raises dwarf zombies, who join his undead army, which he orders to jump down and help Jim while they deal with the intellect devourers.

Cacotoph flails around and fires rays up at Jimothy as the paladin tries to blind him with smites, the antimagic cone from the beholder's central eye causing half of Jancer's undead to collapse lifeless to the ground. An errant charm ray hits Rorik, who turns to Pleedle as they are fighting the intellect devour'd dwarves.

"Oh? Yes, my friend?"

Rorik stabs the kuo-toa in the belly with his sword, and says in a voice not dissimilar to the beholder's, "Nothin' personal—orders from the boss."

Brublind's animated coins swoop down the toilet to swarm the beholders alongside the undead (Beetus: "Make a wish.") Suddenly, the zombie beholder and three small "beholders" they saw from the room on the other side of the arena come around the corner, coming towards Rorik, Jancer, and Pleedle. Rorik comes back to his senses, apologizes to Pleedle profusely, and uses 'Fireball' on the new arrivals. The three small "beholders" turn out to be gas spores, which explode! Rorik and Jancer resist the cloud of spores that fills the hallway, but Pleedle fails to and starts to hack and cough.

Jancer uses 'Finger of Death' on one of the intellect devour'd dwarves, and gets another zombie out of it as the brain creature is forced to evacuate the body. The necrodancer then uses 'Life Transference' to heal Rorik, who charges towards the beholder zombie.

Down below, Jimothy is knocked unconscious after tanking a shit ton of eye rays. Cacotoph begins floating away upside down, Jim's form still hanging from his head, back towards the shaft it came from. Brublind leaps down the toilet and lands on his flying coins, riding them like a wave after the fleeing beholder.

Rorik hears the beholder shouting something about "Sylgar" as it descends.

"What the hell is a Sylgar?!"

View
School of Hard Nox (and Harder Cox)
Chapter 55

The Chorus of Minds, the cranium rat hive that the Black Antlers helped take over the city of Zakkencrag, contacts the party as they sail the sunless seas of the Underdark, wanting to strike a bargain…

Given how fruitful their alliance proved in the past, the Chorus offers information pertaining to a secret means of entering the drow realm of Urvae Ch'lloth in exchange for the party helping them tie up a few loose ends. Namely: ending the life of Zakkencrag's displaced ruler, "Grunthor Rockcrusher". This is the same ruler that sent assassins against the party for aiding in the usurpation of their city.

Mye-kuhl Jancer is ready and willing to carry out the deed, while everyone else needs a bit more convincing, not wholly trusting the rats after the way they tried to capture Brublind and Jermlaine Jancer and hand them over to the drow. Elspeth and Rorik especially are very wary. In the end, however, they agree to try carrying out the task after Jancer points out that the Chorus are, in fact, the legitimate rulers of Zakkencrag now, even if by right of conquest.

The Chorus informs them that the displaced dwarven royals have found refuge in the Underdark port of Mastrol, which is ruled by a beholder crime lord. The cranium rats sent their new ambassador, Quagmiran, to try and negotiate with the creature after several assassination attempts against the Rockcrusher scion ended in failure, but the quaggoth did not return. Having heard about the party's accomplishments since last they met, the hive hopes that they will be able to deal with this situation more handily.

"Our reign will never be secure so long as one bearing the name "Grunthor Rockcrusher" draws breath."

Continuing forward, Pleedleploplina warns the party that they are about to enter a treacherous region of currents and eddies that surround Slooblidoop to the south. They had best be on guard!

ENTER: SKILL CHALLENGE

Round 1: The Back-Up Dancer must navigate the powerful currents while avoiding stalagmites rising, half-hidden, in the water. Rorik uses Perception to point out the safest route they can take through this area. Jimothy uses Athletics to yank ropes and quickly turn the ship, but the ropes snap, sending the ship scraping into the stones (NAT 1). Luckily, Jancer is an adept pilot, and is able to compensate with his Arcana as he steers the spelljammer forward.

Round 2: Rorik spots a pair of ropers dangling from the ceiling ahead! He tries to Intimidate them, but the creatures ignore the eldritch knight and grab Elspeth and Sporp off of the deck. Jimothy lets out a roar and thrusts Corpsebane forward to give these subterranean beasts a taste of Religion. An unsettling light shines from the holy symbol on the mace, and a loud screech like that of a falcon echoes through the tunnels. The ropers drop their prey, obviously frightened. Jancer uses his Insight to figure out how to twist around their writhing tentacles to safety.

Round 3: Unfortunately, the ceiling up above them begins to give way, and molten lava falls all around them! Rorik attempts to use his Acrobatics to dodge out of the way of falling lava, but fails. The ship catches fire! Elspeth and Pleedle both start having horrible flashbacks. Jimothy rushes in with his Athletics and starts putting out fires with the crew's help. Jancer attempts to use his knowledge of Nature to discern where the cavern ceiling is most stable, and while he's able to avoid a catastrophic collapse, the ceiling up above still gives way, and parts of the ship are devastated.

Round 4: As they exit the tunnel, the party spot two skiffs manned by a motley assortment of Underdark pirates coming up alongside them. Rorik uses his Arcana to throw a 'Fireball' at one ship, causing it to explode! Jimothy uses his Perception to direct the ballistas where to fire, and they take out some of the pirates. Jancer steers the Back-Up Dancer directly at the remaining pirate ship, using his Intimidation to play chicken with them. The pirates blink at the last second, swerve to avoid the party, and crash into a rock wall!

The Black Antlers make it through the current with eight successes and four failures! Up ahead, they spot the ruins of Slooblidoop.

Pleedleploplina goes below deck to get Brublind, who has been secluded down in his room since they left Kalfsgate. The transmuter isn't sure if he can rebuild the kuo-toa city. He remembers how strongly Demogorgon's presence had warped the place, and doesn't know if his magic is up to the task. Pleedle puts her hand on the slaad's shoulder and reassures him that he is much stronger and much wiser than the last time that they were here. She has confidence that he can do this. Brublind sighs and follows her up to the deck.

Kuo-toa refugees, led by Dribblesplip (the kuo-toa that Pleedle rescued so long ago), eek out a living on the edges of the demon-haunted ruins. But they tell the party that a pair of fiery beings arrived a few days ago, demanding that the kuo-toa hand "it" over, refusing to elaborate in anger because the kuo-toa supposedly "know what they stole!" Jancer recognizes from the description that these beings are efreet—genies of elemental fire.

They follow a trail of fried kuo-toa bodies into Slooblidoop, and find the efreet, who are surprised to see mortals that aren't fish people. One of them says that perhaps these new arrivals are the reason the kuo-toa haven't handed over the trident—perhaps they stole Wave for themselves! Jancer tries to convince them that they actually don't have Wave, but one of the efreets say,

"You cannot lie to a servant of the great wizard, Keraptis, fool! You know where Wave is, and even if you do not, we shall claim the rest of your magic items and offer them to our master. Isn't that right, Nox?"

"But of course, Cox!"

Jancer pulls out his Alchemy Jug and his Bowl of Commanding Water Elementals and pours some mayonnaise out of one into the other, summoning forth… A MAYOMENTAL! It slithers up to Nox and wraps itself around the efreet with crushing force. Cox attempts to create a 'Wall of Fire' on top of their foes, but the necrodancer 'Counterspell's it. Jimothy and Rorik charge in and begin pounding Cox. Brublind looks over at a statue of Blibdoolpoolp nearby, asks Pleedleploplina if he can do something with it ("Of course, my friend") and casts 'Animate Objects' on it!

The large, lobster-headed statue joins Jimothy and Rorik in attacking Cox! Nox discorporates and escapes the grip of the elemental, appearing behind Jancer and setting the necrodancer on fire before slashing him with his scimitar. Elspeth runs over and hits the efreet with her warhammer, saying that she's not afraid of fire anymore.

"You should be, little mortal. You should be."

Jim blasts Cox backwards with a 'Thunderous Smite', pushing him into the water. Pleedle runs in to join the fun, casting 'Tidal Wave' and knocking over not only the efreet, but half the party as well, including herself (she rolled a NAT 1 on her saving throw!). Rorik wades into the water and slashes the prone efreet, while Brublind's animated Blibdoolpoolp statue tries to hit him as well, but misses. Sporp fires off two 'Eldritch Blasts' at Nox, but misses with both and accidentally summons a fungal unicorn that materializes underneath him and begins running frantically away from the battle.

Cox disappears in a poof of smoke, while Nox continues his assault against Jancer, who he's clearly deemed the true threat here. Jancer blasts his Horn of Valhalla in desperation, and thirteen Ysgardian berserkers ride in to join the fray! The efreet is completely caught off-guard and starts getting hacked by these extraplanar warriors. The Blibdoolpoolp statue comes over and socks Nox, sending him crashing into an abandoned building nearby. Jimothy and Rorik start making their way over there.

Just then, there is a flash of flame as Cox reappears and grabs Sporp off his mount however, flying the myconid up onto one of the aqueducts that used to crisscross the city like boulevards. Jancer uses his Wand of Wonder as Nox slices his way through the Ysgardian warband, and inadvertently casts 'Fly' on Jimothy. The paladin grabs Rorik under the arms, flies up, and flings him at Cox like a missile. The efreet throws Sporp off of the aqueduct and takes the blow, but laughs, saying that they've made their choice, and now their fungus friend DIES.

Brublind is exactly sixty feet away and casts 'Feather Fall' on Sporp, who begins to slowly drift to the ground. Cox gulps.

Jimothy supplexes Cox off the aqueduct. Rorik leaps after the falling efreet and stabs him mid-air with his Githyanki Silver Sword. Cox slams into the ground as the Armor Bros land nearby. Rorik hands Jimothy the silver sword, which takes on the form of a silver chair in the paladin's hands as he slams it over the efreet's head, causing him to explode in a burst of flame!

Nox finishes up with the berserkers, but Jancer has healed up a bit thanks to some 'Goodberries' (courtesy of Brublind) and healing hands from Elspeth, and the necrodancer casts 'Danse Macabre' on the fried kuo-toa bodies laying all around. They begin making their way over as Jancer uses 'Misty Step' to retreat to the water. Nox gives chase and raises his blade with a grin. Jancer casts 'Finger of Death' and wipes the smile off the efreet's face as the elemental slithers over and grapples him. The kuo-toa zombies merge on the efreet and drag him screaming under the water as they claw hungrily into his bronze flesh.

The kuo-toa that were watching from the ruins converge on the party, cheering and celebrating their victory. Jancer proposes a feast, and they serve up the aboleth they defeated (Rorik having already dissected the creature and removed its most valuable body parts). Jimothy supplements this bounty with his 'Create Food and Water' spell, flavoring the seafood he creates with shiftspice to feed the hungry fishfolk.

Brublind announces his intention to help rebuild the city, while Pleedleploplina declares that she has been chosen by Blibdoolpoolp as the guardian of her people, and that she will lead them back to the sunlit world that they were driven from so long ago by the giants. She hopes that Brublind will be able to help transplant Slooblidoop from the Underdark to the seas above in due time.

"So what you're saying is, you want to take the city, and push it somewhere else?"

Following the feast and on through the next day, Brublind and the Black Antlers help the kuo-toa rebuild. Brublind finds that his transmutation magic has evolved so much after becoming a slaad and learning the basics of githzerai chaos-shaping that he is able to overcome the lingering taint left in Demogorgon's wake, using 'Fabricate' to help raise buildings and 'Move Earth' to create walls and shore up supports. The slaad also has time to cast permanent 'Animate Objects' spells on several statues of Blibdoolpoolp, creating guardians to come to Slooblidoop's defense should it ever be faced with another giant monster attack.

The Black Antlers leave Slooblidoop in better shape than it has been in centuries as they set out for the port of Mastrol. Brublind gives a croak as he watches the city fade into the distance, thinking about how he might one day like to retire there. Perhaps he has finally redeemed Clan Kofirand himself.

View
You Shall Not Gas
Chapter 54

The Black Antlers descend into the Underdark aboard the Back-Up Dancer in search of the drow city of Urvae Ch'lloth, where the dark elves are working to draw the mortal world into the Abyssal web of their goddess, Lolth.

Using information that Mye-kuhl Jancer was able to glean from Henrietta Fairwind and various smugglers, the party's vessel is able to navigate the underground labyrinth of waterways that branch off from the sea cave in Kalfsgate with relative ease. Jancer's expert piloting of the spelljammer keeps them from getting caught up in any rapids or accidentally plummeting down a waterfall.

Eventually, they reach a huge gate set into one of the tunnels, blocking their way forward. Elspeth points out a rough-hewn set of stairs leading up the cavern wall beside the gate, and Jimothy leads the way up, with Piper, the goliath's flying monkey, using her new hard hat's lamp to illuminate the path. At the top is a seemingly empty platform, but Jimothy uses his mace to bash his way through a hidden doorway. The party stand their ground as this commotion disturbs a swarm of bats, that threatened to push them from the platform. With the way clear, Jimothy passes through with Piper on his shoulder. As he does however, a dwarven rune flashes red over the doorway, and both the goliath and his pet are instantly turned to stone!

Elspeth and Rorik both realize that the rune reads 'Exclusive'. As the eldritch knight nears the doorway, he feels his muscles beginning to stiffen and pulls back. Jancer uses 'Misty Step' to teleport to the other side (and isn't petrified), and reconstitutes Jimothy into a being of flesh and blood. Jim catches the Piper statue before it falls and tosses through the doorway, hoping it will restore her as well, but it doesn't! Luckily, one of Jancer's skeletons steps into the petrified monkey's path. Its skull is knocked off into the water below as the stone-Piper becomes lodged in its ribcage. Rorik uses 'Eldritch Blast' to destroy the dwarven glyph warding the doorway from afar, and the rest of the party enter.

They find themselves standing on a balcony overlooking a canal lock abutted by a gate on either side, one clearly the same gate that is blocking the Back-Up Dancer's forward progress. Rorik notices that the water is higher in the lock than in the tunnel where the ship is at. From a tunnel between two buildings on the balcony, Jancer hears the sounds of howls and barks getting closer. He recognizes what kind of creatures are making the ululations as well: Quaggoths.

Jancer casts 'Wall of Force' across the entrance to the tunnel as dozens of raving quaggoths come charging towards the party. The creatures slam headlong into the invisible barrier. Jimothy, Rorik, and Elspeth approach calmly, and the goliath pulls out Ash the dryad's arm "backscratcher", shaking it at the quaggoths,

"Who wants to play fetch?"

The angry quaggoths look up from the dogpile and begin wagging their tails. Jancer drops the 'Wall of Force' as Jim tosses the stick into the mass of bestial humanoids, who begin fighting among themselves for ownership of this mystical object they have been presented. The necrodancer then presses a random button on his Cubic Gate, and opens a portal beneath all of the quaggoths. In a flash of light, their howls are cut short, and they are whisked away to some other plane.

Rorik turns, "Where did that portal go to, Jancer?"

"Doesn't matter, baby, point is they ain't our problem anymore~"

Figuring out how the canal works (there are a series of four buttons in the north building reading 'Open'/'Close'/'Drain'/'Lock', and a crank in the south building, which must be used simultaneously in order to operate the machinery) and then getting the ship through safely take the better part of the day, but the Black Antlers eventually reach the far side and set out across the shadowy waters of the Blackdeep.

Phosphorescent fungus grow on the ceiling and glowing jellyfish drift beneath the surface of the sea. Jimothy says that they glow with the light of Ilmater, even down in this place, but both Rorik and Sporp say at the same exact time, "Well actually…!"

They look at each other, laugh, and explain bioluminescence to the goliath. Sporp says that if Jim likes what he sees here, just wait until he sees the Grove—the myconid remembers that place having all kinds of light coming from the mushrooms there. Jancer and Rorik are both very excited to see Sporp's home themselves. Pleedleploplina is also quite enthused to be headed back home, as it will be the first time she's seen Slooblidoop since the nightmare brought about by Demogorgon seven months ago. Elspeth is just happy to finally be bringing the fight to the drow, though she hopes they can also find out more about the ghouls that threatened to overtake her hometown. Jancer remembers the truth about "Henrietta" at these words, and grimaces.

As they make their way towards the old kuo-toa city, Pleedle spots an eerie blue light pulsating in the murky depths. Jimothy pulls out his patent-pending rope-javelin and tosses it as hard as he can (NAT 20!). He feels it impact something and pulls the rope taut. Whatever is down there is incredibly strong though, even for the goliath, and Rorik, Elspeth, and Jancer's skeleton crew help heave and ho, until finally… an aboleth bursts from the water and plops onto the deck of the Back-Up Dancer!

The creature lashes out with its tentacles, and attempts to swat Jancer overboard with its tail. Jimothy runs in to grapple it, but loses his grip because of a mucous that coats the aboleth's skin. As the goop gets into his armor, the goliath suddenly feels a tightness in his chest. He can't breath! Rorik blasts the creature in its three eyes with magic, while Pleedle charges in with her trident, shouting to the aboleth that it should "give up, my friend," because she "already tore one of you creeps apart!"

It is not dissuaded though, and telepathically assaults the party as it tries to slither back into the water. Though Jimothy is suffocating, he continues his assault on the creature alongside the rest of the party. Jancer uses the mithril glove that Elspeth got him for Ilmatermas to boost up 'Gaseous Form' on Jimothy so that he doesn't need to breath and can will bits of his cloud-like form into a solid mass so that he can grapple the aboleth. Gas Jimmy latches onto the aboleth, that has no idea how this sentient cloud has stopped it.

"You can't pass THIS gas!"

Enraged, it lashes out with its tail and slaps Jancer off the deck and into the water! Rorik charges up, action surges, and turns the aboleth into sashimi with the inky black edge of his 'Shadow Blade', remembering that the tattoo it emanates from is a pair with one Breezy got, and letting the pain of her loss channel through each blow. He turns to Jim, who gives him a gaseous fist bump.

Pleedleploplina is impressed, and says that Rorik's way of killing an aboleth probably leaves less of a slimy aftertaste. Elspeth looks over the side to make sure Jancer is alright, and he is! The necrodancer has a Cloak of the Manta Ray from way back when they were first in the Underdark! Jancer, Jimothy (who's gaseous form makes him look like a bubble buddy underwater), and Pleedle dive in to investigate the blue light that first drew them to this place.

They find the ruins of a temple in the muck, with the blue glow coming from a brass bowl set atop a pedestal. Jancer takes it and identifies it as a Bowl of Controlling Water Elementals—each dawn, any fluid can be placed into the bowl and be used as the vessel for a water elemental. He remembers his Alchemy Jug and wonders if he could make a mayonnaise elemental. Jimothy also finds an untarnished ring on the bottom, which has markings in Elvish around the band. It is a prayer, one that is very old, if Jancer's translation is correct:


Corellon, a fin baneth e farmenel na, hanamein an mana cadul
Lolth lilthan, so golos nathgwil amartha o gar gilgalad sui mid nathan
Sehanine Solonor o Fenmarel tiras golthar eneth Seldarine sul
Edhel corosthil, galu bain, Edhel ersol bane sui dolos Corellon

(O Corellon, fluid beauty of the midnight sky, we thank you for art in all its forms
Dance with Lolth, who weaves the fates and holds the stars like dew upon her web
May Sehanine and Solonor and Fenmarel guide us in your names as the Seldarine
We are your children, may you bless us, that we might one day be as beautiful as you)

Jimothy reverts to his fleshy form, but when he tries to come back out of the water, he finds that he cannot breath above the surface. He can while underwater however. Pleedleploplina decides to join him in swimming alongside the boat as they continue, leaping out of the water and doing flips like dolphins as they go.

Rorik takes the aboleth body down below for dissection, and asks Sporp if he wants to help. The myconid is more than happy to join in the scientific fun!

One evening (? it's hard to tell in the Underdark), while piloting the ship, Jancer hears skittering. He stands and goes outside, not knowing what to expect, and finds the rat the he summoned months ago with his Wand of Wonder. It's exposed brain pulsates with blue light as the necrodancer hears a hundred voices speaking in his head,

"We did not expect you to return to this place. But we are most pleased to see you again. Welcome back, Black Antlers."

Jancer starts tapping his feet, and the rat's eyes go wide as it begins to tap along.

View
Reunion
Chapter 53

Returning to the Material Plane to recuperate, the Black Antlers are welcomed home by the sound of thumping bass coming from Sporp's mansion in Kalfsgate harbor after sailing past a rope-like braid of astral conduits.

They set down and disembark, the bouncer letting them into the courtyard of the compound. Hundreds of people are packed into this rave—an undulating throng bound by a tune that reverberates through the black obelisk atop which dances Sporp. The myconid leaps down and crowd-surfs inside. The Black Antlers yell over the crowd to tell him they're back, and are swept up into the manor.

The next morning, a hungover Sporp is able to get away from his adoring fans and says that he has something to show the party, especially Jancer and Rorik. The myconid takes them down to the basement, which is overgrown with fungus. Jimothy notices three bodies laying on the floor. Sporp sprinkles his spores over the corpses and says some arcane incantations, and all three suddenly sit up, as if raised by an 'Animate Dead' spell! Jancer and Rorik are both very proud, while Jim is a little uncomfortable about the whole thing. Sporp says that he thought only a myconid king could create spore servants like they had in the Grove, but he studied real hard while the party were away and is now able to do it himself!

They head back to the Archlight and Jimothy makes breakfast using 'Create Food and Water', but adds in some shiftspice he bought in Sigil to flavor it up for everybody. Henrietta Fairwind comes in and welcomes the party home. She tells them that her boys have been keeping their eyes open across Corpsepickers' Lagoon, as the Veshans have been bringing in more and more mercenaries, evidently building an army. Luckily, Orogamos has kept to the agreement he made with Brublind and been sinking their ships if they dare intrude on the realm of the Hurricane Kings. That said, about a month has passed and they should start thinking of ways to raise money for the dragon turtle's future payments. The Master of Gales is still secluded in Drenchport, and there are reports of violent storms that have sprung up around the island. She also gives Jimothy an invitation from Cripple Talth to the opening ceremony of the new Ilmatari monastery on Procellas!

Jimothy and Rorik set out a few days later to attend, while Jancer stays behind and does a tour of Kalfsgate with Henrietta to get a sense for the current state of the party's holdings.

The Armor Bros arrive on Procellas to find that the monastery there has been restored. Talth introduces the new acolytes to the heroes, especially the martyr who saved this place from Pazuzu's foul influence. They also see a familiar face there—Elspeth! She explains that she visited her family back home and helped them out with some troubles down in the mines—evidently, they had dug into a nest of ghouls in the Underdark. Her paladin powers helped a lot, but the cunning the undead showed surprised even her. Jimothy reminisces that the first time they encountered ghouls was in this very place. Talth assures him that there are no more ghouls are here, and even the harpies have fled the immediate area as Pazuzu's influence has waned. Rorik gives Jimothy back his macuahuitl of sharpness so that the paladin can cut the ribbon and inaugurate this new temple to Ilmater. Talth unveils Jimothy's old armor—now a sacred relic that shall be displayed here forevermore.

Jancer and Henrietta explore Kalfsgate. Jancer posts a help wanted notice for adventurers on the town board before continuing through the market on Shatterkeel Street. Most of the merchants are happy with the way things are, since Orogamos is protecting smuggling and piracy in the region from interference by forces like Vesh in much the same way that Euroclydon did, and the improved relations with Brentil Keep have opened up the trade roads in a way that the port has never experienced before. A temple to Diancastra is flourishing here, and a preacher is trying to rile up the citizens against Jimothy Jones due to visions sent by their goddess.

The necrodancer learns that the district around the cleft in the cliff (which leads into the Underdark) has been abandoned since he made the drow pull out of town. Even the old club he danced at to raise funds is shut down. Henrietta points out that between Jancer and Sporp, they've done a good job filling the entertainment void. She takes Jancer back to her ship and toasts him. Almost as soon as Jancer drinks, he feels himself pass out and ropes tighten around his arms.

While Rorik and Elspeth talk next to the punchbowl at the reception after the ceremony, Jimothy takes Talth aside and tells him about the connection he has with Pazuzu. Talth is taken aback by this revelation, and tells Jim that, no matter what he does, he should not accept a favor from the demon prince, for feeding on the goodness of the innocent and pure is what Pazuzu does best. Jimothy starts sweating, remembering that he already has accepted the demon's help.

Jancer awakens to find himself tied to a bed in the cabin of a ship. The smell of rot fills his nostrils, reminding him of the crypt where he lived for years, honing his necromantic craft. He turns his head to find Henrietta Fairwind's body beside him, already partially eaten by a ghoul! Jancer asks the ghoul what it has done to Henrietta, and it smiles at him,

"I am Henrietta."

The ghoul tells Jancer that it is an agent of Doresain, the King of the Ghouls, and that she was sent to kill the necrodancer, who her master learned had been communing with Orcus about bringing the Prince of Undeath back from the dead. Becoming someone close to him, but not too close, was the best way of going about things. Luckily, she has been blessed with the ability to not only assume the forms of those she eats, but to take on their memories as well. What better disguise than to actually become the person you're trying to imitate?

Jancer is surprised that he hasn't already been killed, but the ghoul, it's rotten features slowly filling out and becoming Henrietta's once again as it takes one final bite from the pirate's body, assures him that she has come up with a better use for his talents. The nude Henrietta sits at a make-up table and speaks to Jancer's reflection in the mirror as she powders her face, pointing out that she has learned of his use of the Rod of Seven Parts to destroy a horde of demonic gnolls. She asks him to help free her master, Doresain, and his White Kingdom from under the boot of the very same demon lord who's army he destroyed—Yeenoghu.

Jancer 'Misty Steps' out of his bonds to stand beside Henrietta and says, "You have yourself a deal, baby~"

Several days later, the party set out for Brentil Keep. Jimothy immediately goes to visit Cora, who is relaxing in a loft, wrapped in blankets and surrounded by maps and empty jars. She gets up and hugs the paladin, and he instantly notices that her belly is showing now. She is incredibly happy to see him, as she's been pretty stressed lately with everything that's been happening. Jimothy tells her about their adventures through the Astral Plane and the Abyss, and shares some of his shiftspice with her. Cora thanks him, as it will be helpful in taking care of all her weird pregnancy cravings, like chocolate-covered pickles.

Cora says she wishes she could go off with him on his adventures, but she has responsibilities here. The lizardfolk in Boiling Bog have been getting riled up, and there have been reports of all kinds of brutal attacks on the roads—the victims left half-eaten by whatever foul creatures attacked them. What's worse, she's learned that her people, the lycanthropes, have gone to war with the eladrin of Selindehel in the Feywild. She's already sent Maltravakis out to see what he can do about all of this, but the dragonborn can only do so much. Jimothy comes over and cuddles up beside her, and asks if subduing and riding a dragon makes him as cool as she is. Cora laughs and hugs him,

"You were already cool, you dork; if nothing else, just by association."

They kiss.

Meanwhile, Rorik goes up to see Grekas. He tells the wizard about the ship that took Breezy, and is concerned for her safety. Grekas says that he's sure the girl can handle herself relatively well, as he heard some glowing comments about her time at the Broken Tower from Rori Shatur. The revelation that the Black Antlers declared war on Graz'zt is a little more concerning to the mage, as he knows how crafty the Dark Prince can be. Grekas tells Rorik that his time possessed by Fraz-Urb'luu left him with some of the demon lord's memories, including the location of one of Iggwilv's secret hideouts, a place known as 'The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth'. It's possible that this place might help them learn a lot about their foes.

Grekas also informs Rorik of another unfortunate matter. He and Pleedleplop traveled to the planar rift near Orogamos's lair, to seal it shut. The ritual was difficult, likely a sign of the growing instability in the planes, which concerns the wizard greatly. With Pleedleplop there to protect him from whatever might emerge from the portal however, Grekas finished the ritual and stitched the wound shut. Unfortunately, Pleedleplop was sucked into the rift… whether or not the kuo-toa still lives and to where it may have taken him? The eladrin cannot say.

The party head down to Jaraltanth's workshop the next day, and shower the inventor with presents: information on githyanki ship building; field test notes on Rorik's mechanical arm; and the Manual of the Iron Golem they stole. The gnome is absolutely thrilled, and says that he doesn't even know where to begin with all of this!

That's when a human man with sandy blonde hair and a gnome woman with brown pigtails and a sash covered in badges come in. Jaraltanth introduces the Black Antlers to his daughter, Kimparia Kalparanius, and her boyfriend, Anders. Kimmy is very happy to meet everyone and bakes them cookies as a thank you for helping her dear old dad out. She makes each of them a "Certified Cookie Eater" badge, which the three Hurricane Kings wear with pride.

When they get back to Kalfsgate, the party organize a Black Antlers swimsuit calendar to raise money to continue paying Orogamos (since Henrietta points out that "taxes" isn't exactly a word pirates like to hear). They convince all of their companions to take part and Nolzur to paint the pictures for them.

Rorik pays a visit to his treant son, Gerald, in the coral garden between sessions of researching the gith and the Planes more thoroughly. Jancer works on "healing" and retaining control over the damaged Shoalhydris, and officially names his remaining skeleton from Ysgard as his second. Jimothy helps out Cora and Talth, while continuing to train with Elspeth in the ways of a paladin of Ilmater.

Several weeks pass, until one day, something very strange occurs. The clouds in the sky overhead shift into great lines that crisscross as if they were part of some kind of giant net. Grekas arrives and tells them that he believes he's located a focal point of planar instability that is the cause of this! It eluded him, as the location is below the place that he sealed his first rift, and he thought it was simply left over magical energy leaking from there. But no… he knows now that something is yanking the material world from its place in the planar firmament from deep within the Underdark.

Jancer, Jimothy, and Rorik all look up at the sky, then at each other, and say, "Drow."

Over the next few days, they prepare the Back-Up Dancer for a voyage into the hollows of the world. One night, during a storm, another vessel enters Kalfsgate harbor, a ship bearing the name, Byre's Remorse, along its prow. A cloaked figure heads up to the Archlight from the vessel and is welcomed inside. She draws back her hood with a crab claw where one of her hands should be to reveal a beautiful, blue-skinned fish woman with a veritable waterfall of red hair. She smiles and says, "Hello, my friends."

It's Pleedleplop. Or rather, Pleedleploplina.

After being sucked into the rift, the party's kuo-toa friend had many strange adventures, and ended up looking the way she does now. She actually met the Sea Mother, Blibdoolpoolp, and has returned to help the party, as well as finally return to the home she left behind in the Underdark.

"Well, let's get to it!"

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Psychic in the Pants
Chapter 52

Mye-kuhl Jancer arrives at the Astral sanctuary where the other Black Antlers have found refuge, plotting the daring heist of a githyanki touchstone to help track down Breezy.

Quasar and Comet are dumbstruck when another githyanki ship comes out of the sky, thinking that the village's "protectors" have returned. They're even more dumbstruck when they learn it is the party's vessel, and that it is one of TWO such vessels that they've claimed as their own. While Rorik despairs at their current situation (Enrico the raven trying to cheer his friend up), the rest of the party come up with a plan to infiltrate the githyanki outpost.

They sail into an astraloid field and approach the draconic god-corpse into the head of which the gith have built their stronghold (using its horns as watch towers, and the "bay" created between its neck and body as a harbor for their ship). Keeping the Wave Dancer at a safe distance, they are able to avoid detection. Jancer turns Brublind and Jimothy invisible and uses his Hat of Disguise to take on the appearance of a githyanki captain (with Jim using his military knowledge to make sure he has the right uniform and markings of rank). The trio take off towards the outpost.

A guard from one of the watch towers approaches the disguised Jancer and demands his business, and Jancer identifies himself as Mimhanok, a kith'rak (captain) who was separated from his patrol and has been floating through the Astral for an indeterminate amount of time. The guard, seeing the medals and markings on this visitor, decides to take him to the commander.

As they approach the entrance however, there is a commotion from inside one of the towers, and the guard motions for Jancer to come with him as he investigates. Within, two githyanki mages are in the midst of a duel! The apprentice feels scorned by their master and demands to be given respect, but the master calls them a reckless fool not worthy of the Lich-Queen's deeper mysteries.

Jancer steps forward into the middle of this duel and orders them both to stop immediately. Thoroughly intimidated when this new arrival interrupts their spells, the mages listen, eyeing each other from within their magic circles. The guard warns the two mages that inquisitors from the Ch'r'ai, the Lich-Queen's secret police, are here, and if they witnessed foolishness like this, it'd all be over, and the necrodancer bullshits some githyanki law to convince them to submit themselves to the commander of this outpost immediately.

While they leave the mage tower, Jimothy and Brublind remain behind and invisibly case the joint. Brublind takes various books on astral travel from a shelf, while Jimothy opens a chest, tanks the magical trap on it, and finds spell scrolls and a book on the workings of githyanki spelljamming ships within. Brublind discovers that if there is one of these "astral touchstones" in this outpost, it's probably stored in some kind of war room.

Learn devil inquisitors are looking for member of the Shas'al Khou in the outpost

Convince gith there's an attack and get commander and necromancer into war room

Jimothy persuades janitor to attack commander ("How do you know she's not the traitor?")

Fight—Jancer tosses necklace of fireballs into middle of room, janitor finger of death'd by Jancer, web and cloudkill as invisible Jim tries to take gem

Rorik attacks Sinistrix the bone devil

Jancer blows Horn of Valhalla and the riders explode into the room as Jancer knocked unconscious, exploding out of window behind Jimothy as he casts Banishment on the commander

"Do you have any idea who you're dealing with? I am Jimothy Jones. I left Demogorgon with three eyes where once he had four. I—"

Battle ensues, valkyrie heals Jancer and they ride out

Rorik fireballs commander and necromancer as they come out of shattered window

Jimothy chases down bone devil and smites his ass before he can escape

Brublind bursts out of office as berserker cone of cold'd by warlock, animates ice shards to attack the commander, who teleports out of middle so warlock can fireball the shards

Shoalhydris and githyanki knight on red dragon battle each other. Shoalhydris is getting wrecked, but Jancer maintains control as she tries to escape his control.

Necromancer hits Rorik, who is pissed, "I was willing to walk away", runs in and kills her, then runs out; Jancer uses Blight to allow Shoalhydris to escape red dragon and kill the rider

Warlock gets aboard spelljammer and begins chasing party as they disappear into Astraloid belt, but Jancer is too crafty and outmanuevers them

Rorik taps into the touchstone and learns that Breezy was found by the githyanki, and shipped out to somewhere else on an even bigger vessel

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Dream a Little Dream
Chapter 51

In the Astral Plane, the Black Antlers emerge from the dream of their dwarf companion, Elspeth Varkestone, into the middle of a herd of strange, elephantine creatures.

Rorik Law recognizes them as bakus, creatures that feed off of dreams, leaving nothing but empty bliss behind. Jimothy tried to approach and ride one, like he would September, but their eyes go wide as he approaches, trumpet, and stampede away from the paladin as quickly as possible, leaving motes of dreamstuff floating in their wake. Brublind floats over and slurps up some of the dreamstuff, and suddenly has a craving for paint. Rorik shakes his head, "Not again…"

Just then, the snaking form of an astral conduit comes into view from out of an astral cloudbank. Jimothy prays, asking why the baku ran from him, but as he does, there is suddenly a loud SNAP, and the conduit breaks! Souls on their way to the afterlife pour out of the tunnel, now lost. Before the party can react with anything other than shock, they spy several luminescent humanoid shapes around the broken conduit summon forth white cords that grab the broken end of the tube, wrap around it, and seemingly fix it.

Brublind, not really caring about all of this, leaps into another dream bubble, curious what he'll find within. He lands in a pile of trash, where a familiar face is lounging: Dirty Willy. Brublind casts 'Fabricate' on the garbage and turns it into piles of delicious-looking food. He and Dirty Willy start chowing down.

Rorik arrives in the dream and instantly goes into murder mode when he sees Dirty Willy. He looms over the filthy dwarf, who cowers before him, actually physically shrinking in fear. Rorik pops open his visor to reveal the scowling faces of Demogorgon, but it has the opposite effect from what he expected. Dirty Willy lets out a sigh of relief, "Oh thank god, I thought you were that other guy!"

Brublind, now free to take all the food for himself, scurries away with it, but is suddenly yanked under trash by a tentacle! He hears a telepathic voice in his head say, "The most delicious thing here is you~" Rorik slices Dirty Willy in half (NAT 20!). The piles of trash begin to collapse, and both Rorik and Brublind are fired out of the dream like shooting stars, soaring past Jimothy into the Astral! The paladin sighs and uses 'Locate Creature' to follow.

Brublind and Rorik crash into a building. Rorik slams into the wall, but Brublind goes through and lands on the floor. The people within scream, running out the front door. Rorik gets up and sees that they appear to be in a seaside village (though the sky is still cast with rainbow lights and the bodies of dead gods). He comes inside through the slaad-shaped hole in the wall, sits down, and reads some books about poison and disease off a nearby shelf while Brublind lays on the floor and has a moment. He's kind of freaking out right now.

Suddenly, two silhouettes appear in the hole—one a beefy woman, the other a lanky man.

"By the light of the moon, we're evil's doom!"

"By the glow of the stars, that duty is ours!"

"Quasar."

"Comet."

"Things might get a little visious…"

"Unless you tell us: what's  your business?"

The half-orc and fire genasi do a pose. Brublind begins to talk without standing up,

"We are the dreamers."

The slaad begins going on and on about how each world has a dreamer who maintains the dream, and that he and Rorik are such dream people. Comet the genasi seems incredibly interested, and Brublind offers him a vegemite sandwich made out of shiftspice, which he gladly accepts.

"Wow, this is awful. Quasar, you want some?"

"Wha—you just said it was awful, why would I want some?! Ugh, enough of this!"

Quasar tosses her crescent moon-shaped shield and knocks Rorik through the opposite wall, pinning him down by the neck in between the shield's two points. She walks out to question him. Seeing things are getting hostile, Brublind gives a sign of good will by fabricating the holes in the building closed again. The wall closes in front of Comet (who was still standing in front of the original Brublind-shaped hole), "Oh… okay." Rorik assuages Quasar's fears and tells her that they are looking for someone that he cares about very much who was lost in the Astral Plane. The half-orc picks up her shield and helps Rorik up, apologizing for the misunderstanding. As a servant of Celestian, the wanderer between stars, she understands his quest.

Jimothy follows the trail of his friends to a huge sphere of water floating in the emptiness of space. As he approaches, gravity seems to kick in, and he crashes into the water beside the floating island where the village is located. Brublind comes out and points to where the goliath landed, "That is the dreaded Jimothius, beware him." Rorik gives Brublind a look like "What the fuck, dude." Quasar and Comet are posing in front of Jimothy as he wades his way out onto the beach. The two paladins have a pose off. Quasar beats Jimothy. There is a suddenly a bell and shouts, and everyone's eyes go up to a githyanki ship approaching the village from above!

The party duck behind some crates and barrels near the shore while Quasar and Comet go out onto the docks to meet with the githyanki. There is an exchange of goods, and the party mask their presence with magic to prevent the githyanki's resident hr'a'cknir from sensing them with her psionics. The githyanki depart a few minutes later. As it turns out, the githyanki defend the town from bigger threats, but only in exchange for goods and medicine that the village produces. Comet grinds his teeth and calls it out for what it is: glorified extortion.

With the githyanki gone and the party confirmed as not being threats, Quasar tells the villagers to come out and say hello to their visitors. The party learns that this place a sanctuary for people with terminal illnesses and those who have been poisoned, where they can live free of their afflictions, since there are no biological processes on the Astral Plane.

That evening, Quasar and Comet notice something about the party, especially Rorik. All of them are suffering from some kind of "death curse", but Rorik especially. Everyone else seems to be protected in some manner, but Rorik… Rorik is dying. His soul has been splintered, and his body will slowly decay the longer he spends on the Prime Material Plane— that's why his "dead" arm seemed to fall off so easily. The eldritch knight whispers the name "Orcus" under his breath, and Enrico repeats it.

Rorik shakes his head and asks Brublind if they can use his Crystal Ball to try and scry on Breezy. They see her inside an "egg", which is inside a room somewhere on the Astral Plane.

Comet points out that gith hr'a'cknir's collect psychic energy readings from throughout the Astral Plane within touchstones, and that one of these stones might be able to point them more specifically to where Breezy is at. These stones tend to be kept in the scattered githyanki outposts before being sent to their capital city of Tu'narath, where they are added to a central database that is used by the personal fleet of their Lich-Queen.

Quasar warns the party that if they intend to go to the nearby githyanki citadel to find such a stone, they will say nothing of this village if they are caught. She respects their quest, but refuses to allow her charges to be dragged into open conflict with the gith. This is a sanctuary, and she intends to keep it that way.

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Fafnir, Far, Wherever You Are
Chapter 50

Brublind arrives at the foot of the mountain where Fafnir resides as his companions plunge into the icy cavern far overhead. He summons a brown bear from his Bag of Tricks, casts 'Longstrider' on it, and begins the climb.

The name 'Fafnir' rings a bell to the transmuter. He recalls a tale told in his old clan of an unparalleled architect named Farrin Kofir. It's said that Farrin and his brothers helped build The Archlight that the Black Antlers now call home, among many other architectural wonders, and that they grew so rich off their trade that they lived in a house made of solid gold and glittering gems. Farrin came to love gold so much that when he felt a client had cheated him, he did everything in his power to destroy them. Eventually, one such client offered Farrin a great treasure to "make amends"—the Ring of Andvari, an artifact created by a legendary magician with the ability to transmute any metal into gold! Farrin killed the man and happily took his prize. Little did the dwarf realize the terrible curse the Ring carried with it, and it is said that his greed consumed him so wholly that his body transformed to reflect his inner nature—Farrin Kofir became the dragon, Fafnir.

Brublind's reverie is broken by an explosion from somewhere overhead, followed by a roar. Surrounded as he is by thick clouds, the slaad doesn't see the enormous chunks of falling ice until they're almost upon him!

"Look out, Blaine!"

Brublind's brown bear is able to zip out of the way and scurry up the cliffside to a ledge, where he finds Jimothy Jones lying unconscious among the remains of an icy pillar, and Mye-kuhl Jancer huddled in a corner, staring at his foot with frustration as he tap, tap, taps it like a metronome.

Meanwhile, the unconscious Jimothy hears the sibilant voice he heard before whispering in his ear.

"I told you it would happen again. While you're here, unable to move, unable to do anything—they…" Jimothy sees the faces of his comrades, "… are going to die. Unless of course, you want my help?" A hand reaches down to the prone Jimothy. The paladin looks up to the figure it belongs to, shadowed by a bright light behind it, nods, and takes the hand. The figure leans forward to reveal its face—Pazuzu!

The demon lord gives a mock bow. "Your wish is my command, 'martyr'."

At that exact moment, Rorik slams into the ground at the foot of the mountain. But a moment later, his eyes pop back open. His entire body is in excruciating pain—the type of pain he hasn't felt since taking Kostchtchie's hammer to the face, but somehow, he survived the fall—and stranger still, he is conscious. He looks around to see the bodies of dead birds all around him in the snow, and finds feathers stuck in the cracks of his armor, as if the avians had broken his fall. He wonders aloud to Enrico (his raven familiar) what that's about, but suddenly remembers Breezy and rushes to make sure she is safe.

What he finds isn't comforting. His Bag of Holding, or rather, its tattered remains hang from an iron spike jutting from the earth, and there is no sign of Breezy whatsoever. Rorik feels his limbs go numb and all the blood leave his face. He falls to his knees in shock.

She's gone.

Up above, Brublind stands his ground as a tempest wind parts the pervasive clouds and batters the ledge, Fafnir beating his mighty wings to try and blow the rest of his foes off of the mountainside. Brublind is able to keep everyone anchored however with some creative use of 'Control Water' to manipulate the ice and snow. Fafnir lets out a growl and swoops in, clutching onto the cliff above the mouth of his cave. Suddenly, from off-camera, Jimothy leaps from the ground and onto the ancient dragon's head! (just to be clear—with 1 hit point)

Not expecting this, Fafnir loses his grip and slams into the ledge, nearly knocking Jancer, Brublind, and Billy the Brown Bear off! Brublind shouts over to the necrodancer, who's rhythmic tapping is broken by the sudden noise, and tells him to do something. Jancer smiles and hops up, pulling out his Wand of Wonder in one sweeping motion and letting out a happy "OO~" as a stream of hundreds upon thousands of butterflies burst from the tip of the rod, covering Fafnir and Jimothy in equal measures!

The supine dragon whips his tail across the ledge and claws at the butterflies as Jimothy unleashes another smite on the bastard. Fafnir roars in pain and rolls back onto his feet, having removed the bugs on his eyes. He stares with hatred at Brublind and swallows the dwarf whole before diving off the side of the mountain to try and throw the goliath off his back. But Jimothy activates his S.H.O.E.S. and digs his hooks in between the beast's scales, holding on for dear life as Fafnir rolls and flips in mid-air, trying to shake his attacker. Jimothy dodges the fiend's attacks and continues to batter into him.

Meanwhile, Brublind casts 'Etherealness' on himself and phases through Fafnir's throat, floating alongside the now plummeting dragon like a ghost. He got out of there just in time too, as the white dragon unleashes one final, desperate gout of frosty breath onto Jimothy. The goliath falls unconscious again, but Fafnir isn't able to stop himself as he crashes to the foot of the mountain, almost crushing Rorik beneath him!

Brublind floats over and feeds Jimothy a 'Goodberry', reawakening him just as Jancer and Benjamin the Brown Bear clamber down the cliffside. The bloody Fafnir rises weakly onto his legs and says,

"I… submit…"

Fafnir collapses into unconsciousness as the giants begin to gather around, chanting the name of their new king, Jimothy Jones! Jimothy holds a fist out to Rorik. The eldritch knight stares for a moment silently, and then bumps his Armor Bro back. He tells the party what happened to Breezy. But before there can be any discussion, Jimothy is crowd-surfed onto Fafnir's back, and the healers patch them all up—their job is not yet finished: Now they must destroy Graz'zt's army!

Taking off into the skies with the four heroes on his back, Fafnir swoops down towards the demonic host and sprays them with his frigid breath. The weaker demons are killed instantly. With the whipping winds preventing their vrock air support from taking flight, a pack of armanites group up instead, and fire off a static shock at the dragon that hits square and knocks the exhausted Jimothy back into unconsciousness. Brublind pops him another 'Goodberry' as they order Fafnir to dive, beating his wings and blowing shards of cold iron out of the snow and into the fiends, scattering them as the metal pierces and burns.

Just then, coming out of the blizzard, they spot one of Graz'zt's Ships of Chaos, struggling to stay aloft. They power-up their entropic cannon and fire it, but Fafnir's superior maneuverability in these conditions allows him to swoop out of the way. Reminded of their battle with Demogorgon, the Black Antlers command Fafnir to dig his claws into the enemy vessel.

"With pleasure!"

The ancient white dragon tears the Ship in half, snapping bone and tendons, and spilling hundreds of dretches out of the cargo hold to the ground far below, where their bloated bodies EXPLODE into clouds of poisonous gas! The remaining demons scatter at the sight of their weapon being destroyed, only to find themselves trapped in an encircling net of giants—all the disparate tribes of Kostchtchie's old army, come to hail their new lord and master!

They rest for the night amid celebrations led by Jancer, but Rorik insists that the party set out immediately to try and find Breezy the following dawn, injuries be damned. They are taken to the root of Yggdrasil so that they can begin the climb to the town of Crux, which has a portal to Sigil, where the party might be able to figure out what happened to Breezy. Jimothy tells his followers to hold the Iron Wastes for the day that he returns to lead them in full-out war against Graz'zt, and promises that, on that day, all the treasures of Azzagrat shall be theirs!

Reaching Crux that evening, Jimothy has to convince Rorik to rest there instead of heading through the portal to a place the locals call a "funeral world" immediately, which they learn is the path from here to Sigil. Meanwhile, Brublind admires the local woodworkers, who create incredibly impressive pieces, running into the party's old attache from Ysgard, Ash. Ash tells the slaad about how to listen to the great mother tree, as she will call out the art that he seeks to make, and DAMN DOES IT WORK, because Brublind makes a masterpiece that blows the dryad priestess and her colleagues away! He arranges to have it shipped to Kalfsgate.

The next morning, they pass through the so-called "funeral world", which their guide tells them is all that remains of the lost city of Moil, which worshipped many gods of death, before eventually falling prey to Orcus. When they tried to turn away from the Prince of Undeath, their entire city was torn from the face of the Prime Material and cast into some pocket dimension for all time, so Orcus could play with them forever more. With Orcus dead, none know where Moil now lies, though it is said that it still holds all the treasures it did in its heyday.

As the story winds down, they reach the portal to Sigil.

Heading across town through the Hive, the party encounter a gang of thugs called the Razor Angels who try to extort them out of some jink by pinning them into an alleyway with razorvine. When the party refuse, crossbowmen on the roofs fire down at them, but their bolts bounce right off Jimothy's armor. Before they can recover from their shock, Rorik draws his Macuahuitl of Sharpness and slices through the razorvine with no problem. They continue out through the hole, leaving the Razor Angels absolutely gobsmacked.

Next, they find two troll Bleakniks, Morvun and Phineas, performing for a pair of troll bouncers outside the Bottle & Jug tavern. Morvun reads terrible poetry while Phineas plays a drum behind his twin brother. Jimothy uses 'Command' to get them to stop and Brublind transmutes Morvun's poetry book. Instead of being upset, Morvun is inspired to write an even more depressing piece because of how it makes him feel!

Finally, they pass over the fetid waters of the Ditch and reach the Parted Veil. Rorik asks Kesto Brighteyes about ways to reach the Astral Plane, and the gnome happily tells him that his faction, the Athar, actually lead regular tours to explore the god-isles of the Astral, to show people that they do not need to rely on the so-called "gods" to reach their full potential! Before Jimothy can cause any trouble, the party ushers him out and they head to the Shattered Temple, where they join up on the next tour group headed out.

Of course, being who they are, the party break away from their fellow tourists immediately upon arriving in the Astral, wandering off into the silvery void on their own. They come across the god-isle representing some kind of mother deity and experience strange visions of being parents as they approach the jungle-covered body. Rorik digs out a piece of the goddess's rocky flesh and shows it to Jimothy, who believes it'll work as a component for his new weapon. Before they can take off however, a herd of giant hamsters come crashing through the trees and trample Rorik! A gnome cowboy comes riding along after them on a clockwork stallion, leaving the party in the dust.

As the fact that they rushed off into the Astral without a plan for how to find Breezy begins to set in, they spot a strange black disk floating to one side, and an approaching cloud that seems to glow from within with strangely distorted scenes that Brublind recognizes as dreams!

They leap into the cloud and find that they have all inexplicably been turned into dwarves! They are led into a great hall beneath the mountains, where they find a familiar face—Elspeth Varkestone!!! Jimothy's protege is having a tea party with a few enormous stuffed animals that move of their own accord. They stop for a drink with her, and ask her if she knows the way out of her dreamscape. Elspeth points to a hallway filled with fire that she says is her "greatest nightmare", and watches in horror as her three friends leap in and are consumed by the flames!

Back on the Material Plane, Elspeth awakens in a cold sweat. Meanwhile, Brublind, Jimothy, and Rorik pop out on the other side of the dream cloud!

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