Wild Abandon

The Friends We Made Along the Way

Chapter 8

Coming face-to-face with the cranium rat collective known as the Chorus of Minds, Nylah and Roland ask if the rest of their party can be brought here before they continue.

Mye-kuhl Jancer, Jimothy Jones, Elspeth Varkestone, Sporp, and Krog are escorted downstairs into the lair of the Chorus. Elspeth is instantly on-edge, as is Jimothy, who uses his 'Divine Sense', and is surprised when he doesn't detect evil radiating off these cranium rats. Meanwhile, Jancer recognizes the hand-shaped altar, stained black with smoke and still dancing with blue flame—it looks exactly like the statuette he returned to Bingle during their escape from the drow two weeks ago.

The Chorus explains that it intends upon claiming Zakkencrag as its own, usurping the place in the "biped hierarchy" that is currently filled by the Seat of the Ancestors—a throne powered by a magical matrix (not dissimilar to that of an illithid elder brain) formed by the huge deposit of soul gems in the area, allowing the spirits within the crystals to use whomsoever sits upon the seat as a vessel. When Nylah asks how the barber is involved in all of this, the Chorus points out that he has a vested interest in seeing this goal realized, as his daughter is one of the souls bound within the crystalline lattice.

To hear the cranium rats tell it—the dwarves have shackled themselves to tradition through over-reliance on the Seat, adhering to archaic ways of doing things because that is what the ancestors advise. For this reason, the Chorus believes that they would make for more efficient rulers, able to shift and adapt as situations change, and just as capable (if not more so) of propagating and enduring as the spirits that speak through the Seat.

The party agree to help "service" the Chorus' cause, and are given their first task: removing a group of githyanki warriors who have been capturing and torturing rats belonging to the Chorus.

Jancer realizes that these must be the same hunters that he encountered at 'The Dirt Nap' two days ago, and the Chorus confirm this. Nylah asks what the party will get in return for helping them out, and the rats note that her thoughts are more concerned with her own aggrandizement than anything else—"a trait common among bipeds"—and say that getting rid of the githyanki will get her closer to the missing dragon egg that she so desperately desires. They also promise that, once things are squared away, they will show the entire party a way to escape the Underdark!

Roland almost cries at the thought of seeing the sun again.

The necrodancer steps in again, this time asking after his brother, Jermlaine Jancer. The rats say that they never thought that they would speak with another Jancer, and reveal that, yes, Jermlaine is here and helping their cause via his own brand of foot-stomping liberation. Mye-kuhl Jancer says that he knows ALL about that, and does the rat dance he learned, causing the "serious hive mind" facade of the Chorus to fall apart as the cranium rats hop onto their hind-legs and begin to dance right along with him!

Laughing, the party head into a larger chamber, where they find a machine of some sort connected with two pedestals (each with four arrows pointing in the cardinal directions) in front of it, as well as a mirrored disco ball hanging from a stalactite overhead. Before they can investigate further though, Sporp taps Jimothy's helmet and draws the goliath's attention to a new arrival. The paladin asks, "What the heck is that creature?", and everyone turns to see the mangy korred, Jermlaine Jancer, boogieing on into the room.

Mye-kuhl boogies right back, approaching his brother with furious snaps and feet tapping like lightning against the stone floor. Jermlaine's hooves beat against the floor like drums, summoning little pillars of stone that pop up and down as he goes. Mye-kuhl compliments his brother on his earth-shaking dance moves, and Jermlaine reciprocates, sure that Mye-kuhl could even teach him a thing or two, given how much he seems to have changed. The necrodancer admits that, it's true, a lot has happened since the last time that he saw Jermlaine,

"Back then, I wasn't as in tune with the Beat as I am now; I was just some no-good hooligan dedicated to the dark arts of necromancy… AND I STILL AM! OOH~!"

First things first though, and Mye-kuhl asks,

"Why the rats? And why did they go and nibble all over your dear old brother? Seemed kind of directed, if you ask me."

"Weeeeeeell… I may have choreographed a thing or two. You know I've always had to be a little flashy to get the attention I crave. Thought I should live up to my name-sake, you know? Besides, was interested in knowing what was eating you… oh right, it was the rats! HAH!"

Mye-kuhl asks Jermlaine how he fell in with the Chorus of Minds, and the korred notes that he's always had a soft-spot for sticking it to the man and helping others embrace what makes them unique, and the Chorus lets him do both! Plus, they kind of took him in after a "certain incident" in Urvae Ch'lloth a few months back. The necrodancer asks next about the nearby machine, and learns that it is the Primsatic Percolator—a device powered by the same planar forces as the Wand of Wonder, and operated through the magic of DANCE. Mye-kuhl asks if he can try it out, and Jermlaine says that of course he can, although the korred points out that, "Like they say—it takes two to tango!"

Both Jancer boys step up onto one of the platforms, causing the arrows engraved upon them to light up. Electricity begins to pulse through the Prismatic Percolator as they move their feet in time with the arrows, filling the cavern with a sick beat as a beam of rainbow light suddenly radiates out of the machine, impacting the disco ball and basking the entire room in its technicolor glow.

Jimothy is the first to feel the Percolator's effects, as his body doubles in size from eight feet to a whopping SIXTEEN FEET. Up on his shoulder, Sporp is absolutely delighted at being as tall as the mountains that Roland told him about—but a violent 'Gust of Wind' blows the myconid off of the paladin's shoulder and into the rock wall. A similar gale strikes Nylah, also picking up Elspeth (who was watching the dancing Jancers very intently) in its wake. The tiefling grabs ahold of the dwarf's breasts as they go careening into a wall, where they are both suddenly engulfed in a 'Fireball'!

Meanwhile, Jancer's vision goes black, as if he were standing in some kind of magical 'Darkness', but even this isn't enough to stop the necrodancer, and he continues to groove. Krog, torn between laughing at Elspeth's misfortune and worrying over Nylah's, begins to sprout grass from his skin. The orc roars and starts ripping the stuff out, but the springy turf grows back almost instantaneously. Roland Leopold, having watched all this, is horrified when he feels something cold and hard caught in his throat. He tears up as he chokes on this object, and four crystalline tears of citrine (50gp each) fall from his eyes to the floor. The objects lodged in his throat finally work their way out, and the monk finds himself holding two 200gp emeralds!

Jimothy crawls over and checks on Sporp, worried the little guy was injured by his fall, but after regaining his bearings, the myconid simply shouts,

"THAT WAS AWESOME!"

Jancer rushes over to Elspeth and Nylah after the darkness fades, and uses 'Chill Touch' to cool down the dwarf's armor from the heat of the flames. Jimothy comes over as his body begins to revert to its normal size and uses 'Lay on Hands' on Elspeth as well. And Nylah, still holding onto the dwarf's breasts, casts 'Cure Wounds'. The dwarf is visibly uncomfortable at all of these people touching and leveling attention upon her.

Krog loudly and unconvincingly complains that he's hurt too, and smiles as Nylah comes towards him. The bard plucks a flower growing out of Krog's head and goes back over to Elspeth, putting it in the scout's hair (even as the dwarf shrinks back as if trying to escape). Krog deflates and lies on his back as he once again questions his life. Sporp hops onto his chest and COMMANDS the orc to feel better! He doesn't.

Roland tries hiding his newly-acquired gems, but Nylah sniffs them out like the greedy bloodhound she is. The monk uses 'Stunning Palm' to try and stop her, but nothing can stand between Nylah and jewels. She resists and takes the gems for herself.

Mye-kuhl and Jermlaine bid each other farewell for the time being. Before they go, Jancer decides to get a haircut from Wilson Tendersnip—walking out of the barber shop with a five-foot tall flat-top. Roland is the last to leave, but before he closes the door behind him, he turns to the barber and says, "We'll get her back."

With that, the party head over to 'The Dirt Nap' to deal with the githyanki. Jancer tells everyone else that these warriors can't be all bad, as they're hunting mind flayers, and it is decided that him and Jimothy should work together to try and persuade the gith to leave of their own accord.

When they actually arrive and put this plan into action however, it just causes the pair of githyanki drinking at a table inside the bar to get up and go to their room. The party are surprised to see Pleedleplop up on stage alongside the other kuo-toa he saved. Jancer begins dancing in front of the stage, finally drawing the patrons' attention to the performance. Many of them toss a few coins into the seashell set out for donations.

Pleedleplop vigorously shakes Jancer's hand afterwards. Roland asks how his fellow monk has been since all that happened back in Slooblidoop, and the fishman admits that it has been as distressful as one might expect, but the Sea Mother has kept him strong through it all. He figures collecting funds to help rebuild Slooblidoop will be his way of atoning for not being able to protect Slooblidoop from the Prince of Demons. Jancer asks if he will continue adventuring with them once they leave the Underdark, and Pleedleplop admits that he is not sure—part of him wants to, but another part feels that it would not be proper for him to go to the surface world before the day that his entire race can return there.

Over at the bar, Nylah tries haggling with the xvart bartender ("xvartender") for a free drink. The xvart absolutely refuses though. When Jancer comes over after the performance and requests the same however, the necrodancer gets one. He hands it to Nylah, then smacks it out of her hand, saying, "No time for that—we've got business to take care of!"

Roland gets some dwarven bread, and Nylah eventually just gives up and buys a drink. The beverage has a cube of Stygian black ice floating in it. Nylah gets the ice cube in her mouth, turns to Elspeth, smiles, and then plants a kiss right on the dwarf's lips. Elspeth's newly-grown-in facial hair tickles the tiefling's face as she pushes the ice cube from her mouth into Elspeth's. The dwarf stands stock-still during all of this, her face turning redder than her hair.

Wave begins chatting to Nylah about sea gods again, and convinces the tiefling to take part in a little deity dating (or deiting) show he's put together to help her pick the right god for her! The bar seems to fade away around not only her, but her party members as well, as the trident's voice fills their ears. A spotlight shines down on Nylah, who finds herself standing in the center of six statues.

Wave introduces "our lucky contestants":

  1. Poseidon, Greek God of Earthquakes and Vengeance. Depicted as a wild-eyed old man wearing a breechcloth and brandishing a trident.
  2. Ahti & Vellamo, Finnish Deities of the Ocean's Plenty. Depicted as a melancholy warrior with a handlebar moustache and a beard made of kelp; a mermaid wraps around the warrior's body, kissing him on his bald head.
  3. Njord, Norse God of Calm Seas, Family Legacy, and Seabirds. Depicted as a well-fed older gentleman with a rainhat, feeding a seagull perched up on his shoulder.
  4. Ebisu, Japanese God of Fishing, Humor, and Perserverance. Depicted as a jolly fat man with no arms or legs, letting out a huge laugh as he sits atop a jellyfish.
  5. Blibdoolpoolp, Kuo-toan Goddess of Forgotten Things. Depicted as a nude human woman with the head and claws of a crayfish.
  6. Diancastra, Giant Goddess of Passions, Guile, and Lore. Depicted as a towering woman dressed in finery with a blue-green streak in her hair and a wine glass raised over her head.

Nylah's first question to her prospective gods:

What can you offer me if I choose to worship you?

  • Poseidon promises that "storm and fury shall fall upon all those who have wronged" her.
  • Ahti says that there are many things that the sea can offer—"nets heavy with fish, the sunken spoils of a hundred-hundred battles at sea".
  • Njord smiles and says that "the same simple joy that comes from a long walk on the beach" is what Nylah will get from him.
  • Ebisu chuckles and tells the tiefling that nothing will ever be too much for her to handle again once he teaches her to "laugh all her troubles away".
  • Blibdoolpoolp burbles, and Nylah is sure that the Sea Mother is making a good case for herself.
  • And Diancastra? Diancastra promises the fulfillment of even the wildest of the bard's dreams.

Nylah immediately takes a shine to the giant goddess's attitude. Her next question:

I am really into debauchery. Your thoughts on that?

  • Poseidon says that he would never deny her a rampage or a romp, as he himself has been known to get a little raunchy at times, like that one time he and his sister turned into horses and…
  • Cutting in, Ahti points out once again that the ocean has plenty to spare, and thus, plenty for Nylah to debauch herself upon.
  • Njord says that he doesn't know much about debauchery, you'd have to ask his children about that—but they don't really come to see him much these days…
  • Ebisu believes that so long as her activities are "in good spirits", no action can ever truly debauched.
  • Blibdoolpoolp gurgles this time, jiggling her humanoid breasts between her crab claws.
  • Diancastra leans in closer to Nylah and says, "The uncontrollable tides of passion are what I do. I freely encourage you to indulge all of them!" The goddess winks at the bard, "Yes. Even that one."

Nylah asks if she can fuck a goddess, and Diancastra tells her that anything is possible… if they ever happen to run into each other in their travels.

If you were to make me immortal, how would you go about it?

  • Poseidon lets out a laugh that rolls over the area like a tidal wave. "Your wrath shall be so great, no mortal shall ever forget the one who brought such power to bare!"
  • Ahti points out that he was once a mortal man himself, but when the sea filled his lungs in his final moments, he found Vellamo, and now they rule together beneath the waves.
  • Njord says that immortality comes from one's legacy—the sons and daughters one brings into the world, the good works and stories they leave behind for future generations. He wishes only that his children would understand this, but only the seagulls and albatrosses seem to listen.
  • Ebisu is confused as to why anyone would want to be immortal, but admits that overcoming death itself would certainly fall under his role as 'God of Overcoming Adversity', just as he overcame his own handicap, nodding at his abscent limbs.
  • Blibdoolpoolp does a belly dance, clacking her claws and clicking her mandibles.
  • Diancastra says that, like anything, a quick wit and a silver-tongue can get the right person anything, even immortality. The giant goddess motions to Blibdoolpoolp and then the necklace that she is wearing (a sea shell embedded with a large black pearl), which she claims to have taken after disguising herself as a kuo-toa, strolling right into the Sea Mother's palace, and walking right back out with "her most well-guarded artifact." Blibdoolpoolp shakes a claw in Diancastra's direction.

Wave tells Nylah that she can ask one more question of the lovely contestants. The bard tells Ebisu and Blibdoolpoolp to leave, disparaging the Sea Mother as she burbles angrily off-stage. Pleedleplop is offended by this, "How r-r-r-r-r-ruuuuude!" Poseidon, Ahti and Vellamo, and Diancastra remain at hand, as does Njord, but only because everyone feels bad for him (Jancer calls him "The ultimate Sad Dad"). With that, Nylah asks her final question:

What powers can you grant that will protect me from Beshaba?

  • Poseidon tells Nylah that earthquakes, horses, even "hippocampi" shall bend to her will—the sea will swallow the land wherever she treads, that the source of her power is never far. Roland wonders what the heck a "hippocampi" is, and Jancer points at him and laughs.
  • Ahti tells Nylah that treasure shall wash up on the shores of the bard's life, and the spirits of those who fell in glorious battle at sea shall rise to meet her call. Nylah admits that she loves treasure. Roland and Pleedleplop give each other knowing stares.
  • Njord says that birds shall come to the tiefling on the ocean breeze, and the weather will always be favorable wherever she treads, even if the Maid of Misfortune wishes that it were not so.
  • Diancastra promises that Nylah will be able to become others as easily as if she were changing her clothes, and lore that even some of the world's greatest scholars do not know shall be hers for the taking.

Nylah is sold from almost the very start. She tells Wave her answer, and the trident announces,

"AND DIANCASTRA, THE WANTON WANDERER HERSELF, IS OUR WINNER~!"

All of the other gods crumble before the party's eyes. Diancastra lets out a sultry laugh, and lowers her wine glass to Nylah's lips. Both of them take a sip to seal their new pact. The giant leans over and gives the tiefling a kiss on the forehead before dissolving into sea foam.

The bar rematerializes around them, leaving everyone confused as Wave's voice fades and they are left seeing Nylah talking to her silent trident once again. Jancer and Roland spy a pair of githyanki warriors heading towards the front door and saunter over to block their way. This time, they recognize Jancer as the one who helped their squad catch a cranium rat. Roland introduces himself to the gith, and makes a point of the fact that his brother, Reginald, is a hunter, much like they are—though he generally prefers larger game. After a little more sweet-talking, the hunters take Mye-kuhl Jancer to meet with their captain.

Three more githyanki await inside the room. A githyanki with a skull tattoo on his forehead sits beside a large, egg-shaped object with a blanket tossed over it; another warrior, armed with an electrically-enchanted rod, is torturing a score of caged cranium rats; while the captain himself is busy polishing his luminescent silver sword. After some convincing, the captain hands the rats over to Jancer, so that the half-elf can use "less crude" methods to coax the location of the illithid nest from them. Jancer takes the vermin outside and dumps them into the massive grate in the center of the tavern common room.

"Be sure not to release those creatures now!"

"Oh no, of course not."

Nylah sticks half her body into the room as she spots what is undoubtedly the dragon egg inside. She asks about, and learns that the githyanki took it from "those who would dare collaborate with the Enemy", and the captain plans to raise it as his personal mount. Krog comes up and asks Nylah if it's "time to start breaking limbs", and she says, "Yes, I think it is." Even Roland admits that, "For once, I agree with Krog."

Jancer moonwalks back into the room and intimidates Krog to forget that nonsense, as he's just about solved this matter without a drop of blood spilled. Krog glares angrily at the half-elf as he slowly hides behind Nylah, pulling a flower off his knuckles and cracking them angrily. Jimothy sees this and barges in, challenging the githyanki captain for the egg in single combat!

The captain agrees, but if he wins, he will take both the egg AND Jimothy as prizes when he returns to Tu'narath. The goliath agrees to these terms, and sets only one rule—"no magic", which the gith is happy to agree to. They take positions on the grate in the middle of the bar…

AND BEGIN.

The githyanki is the first to act, slicing at Jimothy with stunning speed, but the goliath is able to dodge one of the attacks. The second attack looks like it is going to hit Jimothy's shield, but his foe's silver sword suddenly warps its shape, curving around the bulwark and stabbing into the paladin's gorget. Though the goliath's stone-like skin resists the blade's physical attack, he is powerless against the psychic assault that comes along with it.

He swings his mace down in response and smashes the githyanki's knee. The captain slides away from his opponent and tries to make another strike, but is too hobbled and exposes his back instead. Jimothy takes this chance to give him a good bonk on the back of the head, knocking the gith onto his belly.

Jimothy brings his mace down, but the captain suddenly disappears from where he was lying, reappearing behind the goliath and stabbing at his arm in an attempt to make the paladin drop his Mace of Disruption. Jimothy grits his teeth and holds firm, enraged that his foe appears to have broken his "No magic" rule. He makes a silent prayer to Ilmater and disregards any thought of using his own powers and becoming a bad sportsman himself. He spins around, grabs the githyanki's sword arm, and brings his mace down, turning the captain's hand into a clump of purple and yellow mush. The gith psychically attacks Jimothy again however, and it is just enough to knock the goliath unconscious.

The other githyanki let out a cheer, while Sporp boos loudly from the sidelines. Jancer and Roland rush forward to help Jimothy, while the githyanki necromancer steps forward to help their leader.

Meanwhile, Nylah casts 'Invisibility' on herself and slips into the room to try and steal the egg while everyone is distracted. There are still two githyanki guards inside however. Krog charges in with his axe and attacks, while Nylah flanks them, stabbing one in the jugular with Wave. She pulls the trident free, her target's throat now spurting purple blood, and Krog finishes the poor bastard off by cleaving his head from his shoulders. The other githyanki wounds both Nylah and Krog pretty badly while they take on his fellow however.

Hearing this commotion, the githyanki leader orders the warrior who was watching the fight to check what the heck is going on. Elspeth and Sporp step into his path, blocking the door. Meanwhile, the captain tells his necromancer to prepare Jimothy for transport—they'll be leaving for Tu'narath sooner than expected.

Seeing that the time for talk is over, Roland charges the captain and unleashes a 'Flurry of Blows' into the wounded githyanki's stomach. The assault cause the gith to cough up dark blood onto his attacker's head, but the captain is able to raise his sword with his off-hand, and drives it clean through the monk's back.

Jancer finishes stabilizing Jimothy and rushes to help Roland, trying to use his tap-shoes combined with the rat dance to bring the cranium rats he freed back, but the gith necromancer turns and casts 'Blight' on him. The half-elf resists the brunt of the spell's effects, but is still buffeted by waves of necrotic energy that sap away his vigor.

Jimothy comes to, rolls forward, grabs Roland's unconscious body, and tosses him off of the grate. The paladin recites a prayer of 'Find Steed' and brings forth a celestial war elephant from the Upper Planes. As the beast materializes, the steel beneath them lets out a terrible groan and breaks under the weight, sending Jimothy, Jancer, the elephant, and the githyanki captain hurtling down the well below.

The githyanki necromancer grabs the lip of the well and pulls himself up, while the githyanki warrior headed towards their room dodges Elspeth's attacks and pushes past her. Nylah turns invisible again as the surviving warrior and his newly-arrived companion both attack Krog. The orc leaves them with some nasty wounds, but is eventually brought down.

Nylah prays to her new "diety", Diancastra, for luck. She suddenly hears a noise beside her as cracks begin to appear in the shell of the dragon egg.

Reinvigorated by this, the bard casts 'Fear', sending the gith who just entered the room scurrying back outside. The other warrior is not so easily scared however, and resists her magic. She tries to slip past using her Piwafwi and whisper a 'Suggestion' in his ear to compel him to leave, but he just turns around, smiles, and stabs her with his sword. The tiefling hears Elspeth bellow with rage as she blacks out.

Down in the wellshaft beneath 'The Dirt Nap', Jimothy, Jancer, and the captain are struggling to catch themselves before they impact on the floor quickly rising to meet them. The captain uses 'Telekinesis' to pull Jimothy Jones towards him, kicking off the goliath and grabbing a hold of a brick in the wall. The stone is too slick however, and the gith loses his grip and continues falling. Jancer casts 'Heroism' on Jimothy to help boost him out of the haze still hanging over his mind from being knocked unconscious. The paladin suddenly hears a voice in his head say, "GET ON MY BACK." He grabs Mye-kuhl Jancer's hand, and the necrodancer pulls himself close as they mount the elephant in mid-air.

Then… CRACK!

As they hit bottom, the celestial war elephant's legs give out beneath it, and the githyanki captain smacks into the ground like a yard dart. Jimothy is thrown off the elephant by the impact and is launched back into the air, only narrowly surviving the fall the rest of the way down. The elephant looks at the paladin and lets out a mournful trumpeting as its body evaporates into scintillating light. Jancer helps the goliath back to his feet, "Not exactly the best way to go, but he saved us. You saved us."

Back up top, Pleedleplop rushes over to the unconscious Roland Leopold to try and help his friend. It is too late though. The life fades from the monk's body, his last thoughts of the sun under which he was born—the sun he'll never get the chance to see again. Pleedleplop falls to his knees.

Roland Leopold is dead.

Nylah regains consciousness as Elspeth smashes her githyanki opponent's face in with her warhammer. She looks up towards the cracked egg… and watches as a draconic snout pushes its way out of the shell.

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