This is the story of the first game of old school D&D I ever ran/played.
I took Down And Out In Gothmagog by Jeff Rients from Secret Santicore 2011, tweaked it a little and jammed A Stranger Storm from the LotFP Referee Book in the middle of it all, infused a bottle of Earl Grey gin, made a giant pile of sandwiches, and settled in on our balcony for the best RPG session I’d ever had.
Rose: Francois le Brun (Specialist Lvl 1) – Runaway son of a one-armed gypsy sex worker, self-made 19yo Ladykiller and Thief.
Michael: Kraken Bush (Fighter Lvl 1) – Travelling cheese connoisseur, grave robber, and incompetent great-sword wielder.
Roy: Three Beard McGuigen (Magic-User Lvl 1) – Elderly magical hobo who constantly smells of sulphur and rat faeces. The pages of his spellbook are tucked within his quasi-sentient tri-tufted beard, blatantly disregarding the way it crackles and singes every time he casts a spell.
Ellen: Lumpy Space Princess, Cleric of All Gods (Cleric Lvl 1) – Overweight drunkard whose fat rolls morphed into more and more sets of breasts as the game progressed. Her weapon/holy symbol is a two-handed iron mace that has had multiple daggers beaten into its head.
CHAPTER I: CELEBRATION AND FAILURE
We begin at the Mondaviak estate, celebrating the opening of a new vineyard.
Lumpy Space Princess fails to convert a house cat.
Francois greets Markos Mondaviak as they once schooled together, gives him a big hug, and attempts to pickpocket him. Francois fails his Sleight of Hand roll but covers the blunder by gripping Markos’ belt and pulling his hips close. Markos blushes and excuses himself to the other side of the party.
Kraken Bush fails to seduce Karistina Mondaviak by offering her a fistful of cheese.
Francois slicks his hair back and prepares for a wooing but trips on his way towards her and walks on, shedding a silent tear.
Karistos Mondaviak suddenly spills a near-full goblet of wine down the dress of one of the pretty young things he’d been talking to and falls to the ground coughing and clasping his chest.
While servants take him inside his lawyer Bennudius asks the guests to carry on and enjoy the party.
When he goes inside several guests leave and Lumpy Space Princess shoves a cask of wine under her robes.
Three Beard sends an Unseen Servant to spy on what is happening inside and report back.
The Unseen Servant returns and writes on the guest ledger that Karistos is in bed and everyone seems scared, saying that he had been perfectly healthy but now appears as if he’d been ill for months.
After it finishes writing Bennudius appears again and advises the guests that Karistos has taken ill, and it would be appreciated if everyone could leave. However, he asks the party to accompany him to see Karistos.
Karistos beseeches the party to find his eldest son Rudolfo in Gothmagog and bring him home, promising ownership of the newly opened vineyard to the party. He shows them a portrait of Rudolfo and gives them a necklace bearing a golden bunch of grapes, the family seal, as proof for their inquiries.
Bennudius provides the party with a coach and four horses, stocked with rations for the journey as well as lanterns and oil (and soap for Three Beard), and they set off immediately.
As they leave Markos halts the coach and requests to speak with Francois, who has had a bad night and responds with “WHAT the fuck do you want?”
Markos narrows his eyes at Francois and bids them good journey.
The time is about midnight.
CHAPTER II: STORYTIME AT THE INCONTINENT VICAR
After about an hour a thunderstorm breaks. Everyone is inside the coach except Lumpy Space Princess, who is driving the coach and drinking from her pilfered cask. She takes another swig and drives the coach into a ditch but manages to correct it back onto the road without turning over.
She spies dim lantern light ahead and pulls up at a roadside inn called the Incontinent Vicar, noting the swing sign engraved with a holy man doubled over holding his belly.
The party agrees they should seek shelter from the rainstorm and the coach is driven behind the inn. They find the stable closed but unlocked and drive their coach in next to the two coaches that are already there. One is black with eight chestnut pulling horses branded with serial numbers and a crossed spoon symbol, the other is painted yellow and orange, with four white pulling horses with braided and ribboned hair and four white riding horses that are similarly prettied-up.
Three Beard McGuigen announces that he’s going to sleep right here in the hay, and the rest of the party tells him that’s the best place for him until he uses the soap Bennudius gave him.
The door inside the stable is locked so the rest of the party runs back around the inn and through the front door.
The amiable man behind the bar introduces himself as Cameron “Doodles” Fiddlesticks and pours Lumpy Space Princess a gratis pint of Vicar’s Bladder, the house special.
He tells them that all the rooms are full up (and advises Lumpy Space Princess that though her charms are many, he doesn’t think any of the guests he has would be interested in sharing their room with her), but offers them lodging in the bar area for the price of conversation.
Francois relates the tale of his one-armed gypsy mother, running away, and being buggered at the Black Friar’s Boarding House. Doodles pours him a pint of Vicar’s Bladder.
Doodles turns his attention to Kraken Bush, who tells Doodles that his affairs are his own.
Doodles politely informs him that there’s plenty of room out in the rain for strangers without a story to tell.
Kraken Bush relents and tells Doodles that he’s a travelling cheese connoisseur, to which Doodles exclaims, “Why I’ve got some cheese! D’ya want some?!”
Kraken accepts and waits while Doodles runs to the kitchen and rummages amongst boxes and pans looking for his cheese.
He returns with a proud smile and a wooden plate holding half a small wheel of furry white cheese. “Made by me mother that was, I’d love to hear what your connoisseur taste buds have to say about it.”
Kraken gulps hard and shoves a slice of cheese on a stale cracker into his mouth, and thanks to a successful Constitution roll, after the rough scrape of swallowing it the aftertaste is shockingly pleasant.
Lumpy Space Princess is on to her third pint of Vicar’s Bladder since arriving and soils her robes.
Meanwhile back in the stable Three Beard has nodded off for ten minutes before feeling a soft brush and huffing on his cheek. He wakes to find one of the white horses staring down at him for a moment before its flesh melts back into a mirror image of Three Beard himself.
“Hello lovely”, the new Three Beard (Three Beard² from now on) says and grabs Three Beard by the throat.
Three Beard tries to knee Three Beard² in the testicles but only manages to twist his own, which just makes Three Beard² cackle and grab Three Beard’s genitals while continuing to choke him.
Three Beard panics, makes a successful Risky Spellcasting roll, and casts Sleep on the stable.
Four Chestnut horses and four White horses collapse, but Three Beard² just leans closer and laughs into his face, tightening his grip on Three Beard’s groin and throat.
The sound of the falling horses and laughter causes Doodles to curse and run back through the bar, through the kitchen, and into the stable. Francois and Kraken Bush follow but Lumpy Space Princess curls up under the bar for a nap.
Doodles curses and splutters and demands to know who the dirty men rolling around in his hay are, and both Three Beards call out to Francois and Kraken that they are the real Three Beard. They decide the best way to figure out who is evil is to throw water on them, and attempt to turn the horse trough over. Both fail their Strength check and strain their backs.
Kraken Bush then declares he’s going to knock at least one of them out with the baby-faced hilt of his great-sword, but slips in a pile of horse shit and hits himself on his way to the floor, leaving half a baby face impression in his forehead.
While Francois mulls the situation over and the Three Beards continue to choke each other Lumpy Space Princess staggers into the stable doorway, stripped naked and covered in filth, and announces that she wields divine might.
Five hastily dressed dancing men and four rotund spoon salesmen blunder past Lumpy Space Princess and into the stable to see what’s going on.
Francois decides he’s had enough and slinks back through the bar and goes upstairs, where he steals 14 silver spoons from a merchant’s room.
The dancing men panic at the sight of the horses and scream, “Our horses have doubled! What devilry?!” and run back upstairs, while the merchants view their new horses with a twinkle in their eye.
Lumpy Space Princess raises her arms and casts Detect Evil, seeing Three Beard², the standing horses, and even Doodles as shifting blobs in the shape of men and horses with a glowing red stone in their centre. She screams, “Hear me! There is evil here!”, and runs at the Three Beards. She grabs Three Beard² under his arms but fails her strength check, falling on top of him and rolling so that he is held between her and the real Three Beard.
They call out to Kraken Bush to stab the meat of their sandwich, who picks himself up and drives his great-sword through the neck of Three Beard², showering the three of them in spurts of blood.
The four standing chestnut horses charge into the merchants, causing merchant and horse alike to tumble to the ground. When the merchants stand up each of their friends has an exact double, and they immediately start brawling.
Three Beard drags himself out of the hay, grabs his staff, and rolls a successful Called Shot to shatter the knee of a white horse (WH1), causing it to collapse on the leg of the horse next to it (WH2).
The remaining standing white horse (WH3) rears up and kicks Three Beard in the head, who falls to the floor with a crushed face, dead to the world.
Upstairs Francois has come out into the hall as the dancing men run back out of their rooms brandishing rapiers. They look him up and down and tell him to follow them back to the stable.
On his way Francois grabs Lumpy Space Princess’s mace from beneath the bar.
Kraken Bush stalks over to the grinning Doodles and announces that he is going to cleave him head to groin, fails his Called Shot (11-20), Doodles steps out of the way, and Kraken cuts off his own big toe.
WH3 trots past the fallen Three Beard and tries to stomp Lumpy Space Princess into the hay, but she drunkenly rolls out of the way and runs into the next stall.
The dancing men run into the stable, charge the horse, and turn it into a pincushion. They’re really upset that they have more horses than they should.
Francois successfully stealths behind Doodles, who is cackling at Kraken’s wounded foot, and raises Lumpy Space Princess’s mace, which with Francois’ point in Sneak Attack could deal up to 20 damage. However, he fails his attack roll as the mace proves too heavy for him and he falls backwards to the floor.
Lumpy Space Princess takes a look out of the stall and decides it may be safer to hide for now.
Kraken Bush decides to try a different tact and announces that he’s going to cut Doodles’ torso from his hips, fails his Called Shot (11-20), Doodles steps out of the way again, and his sword flies out of his grip and across the room, lodging itself in a beam near Lumpy Space Princess’s hiding spot.
Doodles croaks something filthy about the origin of the cheese and starts punching him in the belly.
Francois decides to stick with what he knows, makes a successful Stealth check to remain unnoticed by Doodles, who is cackling and punching Kraken Bush, and gently loops his garrotte around Doodles’ head before jerking both handles tight. The wire slices straight through Doodles’ neck and sends his head spinning up in a slow-motion fountain of blood, while his body drops to its knees, falls against Kraken, and gushes blood all over his crotch.
Lumpy Space Princess leaves her hiding spot and tries to pull Kraken’s sword out of the beam, but heaves once and loses her breath.
Kraken pushes Doodles’ body away and tries to retrieve the sword himself, but it is really stuck in there.
As WH2 drags itself from under WH1 the dancing men walk over to finish it, driving two rapiers through its throat so that they cross over inside its neck and burst from behind its skull.
Lumpy Space Princess abandons Kraken to his great-sword, picks up her mace, and caves in the skull of WH1 after it gives a final whinny of defiance.
Meanwhile most of the merchants have been knocked out in the brawling, with only three left standing, two of them identical.
Francois successfully sneaks behind one of the twins for a repeat garrotte performance, and as the merchant takes a swing at his double the looped wire closes around his neck, sending his body tumbling forward as his head hits the floor.
This merchant was not a mimic.
The remaining two merchants, who are mimics, charge Francois. One of them slips in innocent blood and the other clocks Francois in the jaw.
Lumpy Space Princess, covered in horse brains and bits of jaw, declares that she’s going for a drunken charge in which she plans to knock down the merchant who punched Francois with her bulk, and bury her mace in the head of the other. She fails her Called Shot but has enough locomotion to knock down the first merchant, falling flat on top of him as her mace slides into the corner of the stable.
The merchant manages to get out from beneath Lumpy Space Princess, squelching out and sliding across the floor, while the other remaining merchant runs at Francois and knocks him out.
After getting up the other merchant runs at Kraken, laughing gleefully and punching him in the back.
Kraken ignores him and tries once again to pull his sword out of the beam. He plants his foot against it but the horse shit on his hands causes him to lose his grip and he falls back into the merchant, sending him flying back onto the rapiers of the dancing men.
Lumpy Space Princess gets up, sees that her mace is too far away, and Ellen gets an automatic hit against the merchant for screaming “HAND OF GOD!” on the balcony. There is a wet crack as Lumpy Space Princess’s flabby palm dislocates the merchant’s jaw and sends him sprawling to the floor.
The real Doodles stands in the doorway in his bedclothes, shaking and asking what is going on.
Lumpy Space Princess, naked and covered in gore, explains the situation.
Miraculously, her Charisma roll is good enough for him to accept the story.
He has the dancing men carry Francois and Three Beard inside, and wakes Francois by holding the cheese under his nose.
Three Beard’s beard seems to have wrapped itself around his neck and face, stemming the bleeding from his horse-hoof wounds. Doodles pulls it back and applies some basic bindings to his face, warning that for him to properly heal he is going to need a surgeon or a cleric.
Lumpy Space Princess has already cast today and declares that she isn’t willing to risk herself for somebody that smells as bas as Three Beard.
The dancing men are interrogated and reveal that before they came to the Incontinent Vicar they picked up a wandering minstrel who changed into one of them and started fighting in the coach before being stabbed and dumped by the side of the road.
Doodles and the dancing men want somebody to fetch the priest from nearby Argyle to investigate what has happened, but the party is undecided if they want to make this their problem. Francois is all for riding off in the rain, whereas Three Beard, slurring around his bandages, thinks they should go get the priest.
While they are arguing the dancing men tie up the unconscious merchants.
Doodles tells the party that he understands that this isn’t their problem, but he needs help, and if they can bring the priest back to the inn he will give them 50sp for their trouble. Kraken Bush tries to talk him into handing over half the silver now but Doodles stares at him with tired eyes and says, “Do I look like I’m going anywhere son? You’ll have your money when you return.”
Three Beard crawls upstairs and locks himself into one of the merchants rooms to sleep, Lumpy Space Princess crawls back under the bar, and Francois and Kraken Bush take the coach to Argyle.
Half an hour later they arrive in Argyle, spy the church, and knock on the heavy wooden doors.
Soon they are opened by a pleasant young priest who comments on the awful weather.
Francois immediately punches him in the face, breaking his nose and sending him sprawling back into the church. After some surprised cries from the priest a conversation ensues.
“Are you human?!”
“Excuse me? Of course I’m human.”
“I just had to be sure.”
“Sure? Of what?”
“You’re coming with me.”
“You just punched a priest in a church at 3 in the morning, I may need a little more of an explanation.”
At this point Francois is on the point of knocking the priest out to drag him back to the inn as a prisoner when Kraken Bush, cheese connoisseur, takes the reins.
He apologises for Francois and explains the situation, to which the priest, Father Quincy Naylor, immediately replies, “Oh, well best to take a look then”, and grabs his things.
On the way he tells them it sounds like a case of mimics, and that every mimic is said to hold a jewel in its heart, though it would be blasphemy to desecrate a corpse to discover such a thing.
They stop the coach out the front of the Incontinent Vicar and run inside, only to find it deserted. Francois runs through to the stable and discovers that everything has disappeared, including the corpses. Coming back into the inn he realises that what he mistook for a pile of kitchen refuse under the bar is actually Lumpy Space Princess sleeping beneath her soiled robes, and upstairs one of the rooms is still locked, but rather than checking it Francois stomps around the inn yelling, “DOODLES! DOOOODLLLEEESS!”.
Father Naylor arches an eyebrow and asks to hear the story again, so Kraken shows him around the stable and explains what happened. Three Beard is woken up by Francois’ yelling and comes downstairs partway through Kraken’s explanation to discover that everyone else is missing.
After hearing the story once again and wandering around for a bit Father Naylor announces that the trouble seems to have passed and they should get back to their separate labours.
Francois doesn’t trust the priest and tries to get him to partake in a drink or some man-to-man relations in order to have more time to interrogate him, but Father Naylor’s devotion to his god Bolor, God of Quiet Toil prevents him from indulging. He politely declines and says he will stroll home through the rain.
The party decides that they’d rather ride through the rain than stay any longer at this inn, and offer the priest a ride, saying that with all the murder and mayhem that has just occurred walking alone in the dark may not be a good idea.
Father Naylor smiles pleasantly and concedes their point.
Lumpy Space Princess, Cleric of All Gods inquires about the gilded box of dirt that the priest brought with him, theorising that it is of holy significance. The priest smiles and acknowledges Lumpy Space Princess’s wisdom, telling her the dirt has been consecrated in the name of the god Bolor and may have had an effect if thrown upon a being of evil. He doesn’t flinch when Lumpy Space Princess comments that Bolor is the most boring of gods, he just smiles politely and notes her right to an opinion.
Francois offers the priest a freshly rolled cigarette, and when he declines pushes him out of the moving coach.
Kraken Bush circles the coach back towards the main road, as behind them Father Naylor wipes the mud from his robes and continues to walk back to Argyle.
Lumpy Space Princess lies down in the coach for a nap along with the already passed-out Three Beard, and Francois and Kraken drive the coach onwards to Gothmagog.
CHAPTER III: ORPHANS & DEFILED CORPSES
After two hours they come upon the overturned black coach of the merchants, silver spoons and luggage are scattered everywhere and four horses lie dead up the road riddled with sword wounds.
Kraken Bush jumps down to investigate, and after seeing that nobody is inside the overturned coach begins collecting spoons from the mud. He makes his way amongst the horse corpses and collects 20 silver spoons before hearing what sounds to his cheese connoisseur ears like two men fighting around the bend.
He runs back to the coach and wakes Three Beard and Lumpy Space Princess, explaining what he heard.
They decide they want none of it and should ride past as fast as they can.
Kraken Bush climbs back onto the carriage and urges the horses on, but pulls them to a halt when they round the bend to find a pair of dead men in shiny chainmail and another overturned coach blocking most of the road. Past the coach are another two pairs of dead men in the same armour, and two identical knights facing off in the middle of the road.
Francois and Kraken Bush climb down, wondering how to deal with the knights, and Lumpy Space Princess goes back to sleep.
While the knights clash unharmed against each other, seemingly perfectly matched, Francois and Kraken extend a length of rope between them and charge down either side of the road, hoping to trip and tangle both knights.
The rope catches against their legs but Francois and Kraken both fail their Strength checks and fall face-first into the mud.
The knights ignore them, and while Francois and Kraken are trying to pull themselves out of the mud one knight breaks the defence of the other, slashing him across the face and throwing him to the ground. Kraken works up the courage to yell out, “WHO ARE YOU?”, at the same moment as the knight drives his sword down into the spine of the other and twists.
He turns to them and breathlessly introduces himself as Sir Boris, Instrument of the Order Medical. He begs their aid and explains that he and his fellow Instruments had delivered 20 orphans to the Saint Petra Home for Unwanted Children and continued on their journey before finding the overturned cart. As they were trying to get it back onto the road the horses broke free, some blundered into the Instrument’s own coach and freed their horses, while others charged into them and rose to face them as mirror images. They slaughtered the crazed horses that were running around them and gave battle to their mocking duplicates, the last of which he has just slain. All he asks is aid in burying the dead Instruments, so that if they are true Instruments rather than fiends, they may pass beyond unhindered.
The party agrees to help as long as he also helps them clear the road. Three Beard asks if it would be appropriate to take some of their equipment, to which he is told it would not.
After burying the bodies and pushing the overturned coach to the side of the road, a burly nun in a drab brown/olive habit with a battle axe hanging beside her rides up to Sir Boris and asks what has happened. He simply tells her it is a tale and asks why she has come.
After the nun tells him she has come looking for the papers regarding the 21st child he brought that morning he flies into a rage and explains what happened to the other Instruments. The nun’s face fills with fear and she insists they ride back to the Orphanage at once.
The party is hesitant to go, Francois mutters some advice about burning them all, and Sir Boris tells them he understands it is not their affair, but that if they are not going to aid him further he must leave. The party practically waves him off as he swings onto the nun’s horse and they gallop back the way she came.
Kraken Bush remains standing in the middles of the road with his shovel watching them go, then walks off the side of the road to dig the bodies back up. He begins piling armour into the coach, disgusting Three Beard until he spies a shiny sword he likes and sits back in the coach with a putrid grin.
In all Kraken retrieves 7 suits of surgically shiny chainmail (one of which he immediately puts on), 7 swords (one of which Three Beard is caressing, calling it his little rape whistle), and 7 shields.
He then remembers the priest’s tale about jewels and begins cutting open one of the Instrument’s chests “in the least desecrating way possible”.
He finds nothing but a normal human heart, but not being one to be disheartened, moves on to the next man. From this one he pulls a fist-sized red jewel of unexpected angles and bulbous mounds that glistens as he holds it aloft. Kraken keeps cutting men open until he has stashed 4 of the jewels into his backpack and climbs into the coach with a satisfied smile.
The storm breaks and after another hour’s riding the party see a narrow road diverge to the left, at the end of which is a huge building engulfed in flames. In front of it they can see the silhouette of a man with arms outstretched to the sky screaming, “BUUURRRN YOU FIENDS!”.
The party rides on.
Two hours later, at about 9 in the morning, they arrive at the gates of Gothmagog.
A friendly guard wearing armour with wavy fins at every joint halts them and asks what business they have in the city.
They tell him of their mission from Karistos Mondaviak and request directions to the Halls of Learning, where they have been told Rudolfo will likely be. Somewhere in there they also throw him a silver spoon which he is mightily impressed by and tucks into the back of his pants.
The Mondaviak name is well known even here and the guard sympathises, giving them detailed directions to the Halls of Learning, despite seeming a little uneasy when they’re mentioned. He also directs them to a stable that can look after their coach.
Harry Munton, stablehand, assures them this stable is the finest in all Gothmagog, and when asked if their belongings will be here when they return he smiles and holds out his palm, “Of course guv’, but greasing me morality wouldn’t hurt!”.
Harry is threatened with physical harm if their belongings should be missing when they return, to which he winks and says, “Shouldn’t think I’d be here either if that were the case then. Come on guv’, a bit of morality greasing’s all I ask, I’m just a poor stableboy.”
Francois makes a successful Charisma roll to take Harry by the hand and lead him out the back of the stable.
The roll didn’t succeed by much though, and the party hears protesting sounds and cries of “ouch teeth!” from Harry before he stumbles back in tying up his trousers.
He tells them their belongings will be safe if they promise that never happens again.
CHAPTER IV: GOING TO COLLEGE
The directions given by the guard are easy to follow and the party soon finds themselves in front of the Halls of Learning, a huge square multi-storied structure atop a rise in the centre of Gothmagog.
The heavy wooden iron-banded doors of the Halls are open and nobody bars the party’s way. Inside, the party discovers that the building quite literally consists of halls, circling a grassy courtyard visible through inner windows. In the centre of the courtyard is a two storey tall statue of a buxom woman stretching out after emerging from the belly of a corpse made of sewn-together parts. The courtyard is well maintained but there is no discernible entrance.
They also notice reliquaries set into the walls and roof of the halls, containing preserved body parts and organs.
They soon come upon a young woman standing up on a soapbox, preaching to a crowd of gathered students about the wastefulness of routine and the unpredictability of life, that the knowledge they gain here is nothing compared with the vastness beyond stars, and so on.
Francois lays the charm on thick and feigns interest with a wildly successful Charisma roll. She leans down to him and speaks more intimately of the coming of the Chaos Messiah and his blessings, and although she declines to follow him to a nearby empty room, tells him that if he truly becomes interested, there will be a place for him by the Chaos Messiah’s side. The preaching then continues.
The party gets directions to the administrator’s office and goes upstairs.
The administrator is gruff and distracted but remembers Rudolfo fondly as a much more promising student than most. He informs them that he hasn’t been seen in the Halls for six months and although he would like to help, doesn’t know anything further as he has more important things to deal with. He gives them free reign to ask around with the students.
Francois fails to charm him by asking what the things he has to deal with are like and is told, “Like get the fuck out of my office.”
Lumpy Space Princess declares her intuition says the preaching girl knows more than she’s letting on.
Francois prepares for another wooing but trips on the way and walks on, this time weeping openly.
Three Beard spins a tale about how he and Rudolfo are old friends and he’d really like to catch up with him, but she simply says “You don’t know Rudolfo.” and preaches even louder at the gathered students.
Lumpy Space Princess decides she hates this girl and drags her down from the box by her hair.
At that moment the glass of multiple reliquaries shatters, and the body parts and organs they contained fall into the hall and shift together, building up into the form of a huge flesh golem. The surrounding students back up against the wall making gestures of submission. With a composite baby-arm arm it grabs Lumpy Space Princess’s hair in its baby arm fingers, and squelches and gurgles form the words “no violence in the Halls”.
Kraken figures the students have the right idea and backs away.
Francois, who had lit a cigarette to calm his embarrassment, wanders back and jams it against the golem’s back, causing an arm composed of internal organs to whip out at him, snaking an intestine fist around his face and lifting him from the ground. Before the intestines crawl into his mouth Francois screams out, “It feels pain!”
Lumpy Space Princess struggles against the baby arms and demands that Three Beard attack the golem so that she can question the preacher, while Three Beard demands that she drop the girl since that’s what caused the golem to appear.
Neither concedes and they argue the same point back and forth while Francois kicks the air with intestines in his mouth.
The administrator walks down the hall, sighs, and tells them there are easier ways to get information. He looks at the preacher girl and says, “Termantha, you know you’re no longer welcome here. Get out.”, then gazes at Lumpy Space Princess and asks her to release Termantha.
Lumpy Space Princess resists but finally lets go, and after Termantha has run out of the Halls the administrator makes a guttural sound that causes the golem to collapse back into its separate parts.
He gives the party an exhausted look, tells them that will take days to clean up, and grabs the nearest student. “Terry, tell them about Rudolfo.” he shoves Terry at the party and walks away.
Terry is fidgety and startled and Francois quickly declares that Terry is mentally challenged.
Three Beard, the disfigured hobo, takes over and eases Terry into talking about Rudolfo. Terry says that Rudolfo often looked after the poorer students, like himself, and that he is greatly missed. He says he doesn’t know where he’s gone but that he lodged on the second floor of a port-side tavern called the Drowned Rat, and that people there would have been Rudolfo’s friends.
When pressed he also whispers that he heard Rudolfo had become involved with the Chaos Messiah, like Termantha. Three Beard gives him a handful of silver pieces and Terry scuttles away down the hall.
After realising that Terry didn’t actually tell them where the Drowned Rat is, the party goes back to their gatekeeper friend. He’s happy to see them and announces the Drowned Rat to be the finest tavern in Gothmagog, and even draws them a map.
The way to the Drowned Rat leads them through winding back alleys, and in the corner of one amongst the rubbish they discover a cleanly skinned human body. Francois announces he wants to check its heart and the others stand in front of him trying to look casual. Francois cuts open the corpse’s chest and discovers that there is no jewel, its just a skinned human corpse.
They continue on.
CHAPTER V: YOUR FINEST
The alley opens up into the port district, green fog rolls in from the river and curls around the slimy walls of the Drowned Rat, with a swing sign bearing a satisfied rat upside down in a mug of ale swaying in the breeze.
The party pushes through the door and into a cacophonous den of blue smoke and the stench of urine and stale beer. Filthy reeking people pack the place to the walls. Kraken and Lumpy Space Princess decide they’re going to the bar, Kraken to question the barkeep, and Lumpy Space Princess to get a pint.
Francois and Three Beard decide they’re going straight upstairs to find Rudolfo’s room.
Everybody rolls for a random tavern encounter.
Kraken and Lumpy Space Princess roll well and walk straight to the bar. It’s like the crowd and even the smoke itself parts to allow their passage.
On his way through the crowd Three Beard is pulled into a chair by an enormous one-eyed sailor who yells, “YOU EVER BEEN FUCKED BY A FISH, BOY?”. Three Beard tells him no but he was assaulted by himself the night before. The enormous one-eyed sailor becomes gradually confused then nervous then scared as Three Beard tries to explain himself, and bids him good night.
Francois makes it to the stairs, then a rat the size of a Scottish Terrier bites a chunk out of his ankle and runs away to perch next to the barkeep. Francois shrugs and limps upstairs.
Lumpy Space Princess reaches the bar and immediately asks Switzer, the barkeep, for a pint of his finest.
“Me finest! Coming up!” grins Switzer as he pours a pint of (random roll) bright yellow ale with a thick bubbly white head.
Lumpy Space Princess gulps it down then realises she just drank a pint of urine.
Switzer howls and slaps the bar, “Me finest!”
Kraken Bush politely asks for a beer.
“Beer it is for the big fella!”
Kraken and Lumpy Space Princess begin to ask about Rudolfo when Three Beard staggers over to the bar and starts shooting off questions at Switzer.
“Don’t rightly reckon I know you yet son.” says Switzer and stares at him.
“Oh, sorry” says Three Beard, “I’ll have your finest.”
“Me finest! Coming up!” cackles Switzer as he pours a pint of (random roll) Miasimosa.
Noxious fumes waft over Three Beard while he asks what it is, however he makes his Poison save, remains conscious, downs the whole pint and suffers 1 point of damage. This brings him back down to a total of 1hp, but the intense good vibes he’s feeling gives him +3 Charisma for the next 40 minutes. Bringing his Charisma up from 7 to 10, making him incredibly socially average.
Feeling more confident than he has in his entire life Three Beard explains the Rudolfo situation to Switzer.
Switzer tells them that Rudolfo was a right good bloke who always covered his rent on time and bought rounds for the whole tavern on more than one occasion, but hasn’t been back in six months. He tells them Rudolfo had a barge gypsy girlfriend name Sezarina, and that towards the end Rudolfo had become withdrawn and weird, muttering “some numbers shit” every time Switzer spoke to him. He says if they’re trying to find him they have his blessing because again, he was a damn right good bloke.
When questioned about Rudolfo’s room Switzer regrets to inform them that after the first couple of months, when it became apparent Rudolfo wasn’t coming back, he had to sell off what was left in the room to cover his losses. “All except for this”, says Switzer, and pulls a bottle of Black Wine from beneath the counter.
Switzer says he was going to sell it off but he’ll give it to them for 50sp, asking when they last saw a bottle of black wine when the price is questioned.
In a stunning display of newfound bravado, Three Beard stirs Switzer up into thinking about all those rounds that Rudolfo bought for the bar, and that maybe they should all drink the wine now in his honour. One last round for the bar. One last round for Rudolfo.
Switzer is incredibly moved and starts yelling around the tavern, cheers go up at the mention of Rudolfo’s name and he herds his sorry sacks of clientele around the bar. Everybody grabs the nearest glass and holds it out as Switzer splashes out a portion of Black Wine for everybody there.
“For fuckin’ Rudolfo.” he says as the surrounding menagerie salutes and swallows.
A moment later they all collapse into nightmare visions from beyond the stars, dark voids and forms unimaginable and equations incomprehensible flash through their minds for what seems like a year, but lasts five minutes.
Upstairs Francois tries to pick all seven doors, and fails most. His first successful attempt leads to him finding 47sp bundled up in a dirty pair of undergarments beneath the mattress, but as he turns to leave, an elderly drunken sex worker leans into the door and asks if he’s ready for her. Francois plays along and manages to sneak out while she stumbles and gyrates towards the bed.
Francois decides he has a good feeling about the last door, picks the lock, and opens it to two sailors and a one-legged sex worker. He slow claps and walks back downstairs.
The pile around the bar begins to moan and untangle, Switzer pulls himself up behind the bar again with fresh vomit plastering his shirt against his chest and stomach. He stares at the bottle and then Three Beard, and says, “Whatever Rudolfo has gotten himself into, it’s some bad business. If anyone has an idea where he is, it’ll be the barge gypsies, you’ll find them easy enough, just go down the docks.”
Francois stands at the foot of the stairs and attempts to whip up a mob, giving a rising speech about the evils of gypsies and the fears of honest people, a call to arms for everyone in the tavern. And spectacularly fails his Charisma roll. Francois marches out of the tavern with tears streaming down his cheeks as the patrons spit and drag themselves back to their stools.
CHAPTER VI: GYPSY DIPLOMACY AND THE DEATH OF MATHEMATICS
Down towards the docks the green river mist grows thicker and the gypsy barges can be seen with their bells and coloured lanterns.
A couple of young gypsy men sit atop a pile of crates and ask what business the party has down at the docks, poking fun at Francois who is still softly weeping.
At the mention of Sezarina they stop joking and jump down from the crates, demanding what the party knows of her.
Kraken Bush, who has not slept in over 24 hours at this point, steps forward and yells, “WE NEED TO FIND THAT GIRL! TELL US WHERE SHE IS! I’m KRAKEN BUSH”
The gypsies look confused and move to draw their daggers.
At that moment an old gypsy woman, who the men defer to as Mama Sitrakis, appears and asks gently what news the party has of her daughter.
After being told about their search for Rudolfo, Mama Sitrakis sadly tells them that Sezarina has been missing for just as long, and that she greatly desires her return, offering the aid of the gypsies as soon as the party has an idea of where they’re headed.
Mama Sitrakis’ other daughter Melastaya reveals to her mother that she knows Sezarina and Rudolfo went to the leper colony in the middle of Grootsmouth River, to be with what they were calling the Chaos Messiah. She had hoped her mother would appreciate her more with Sezarina gone, who has never been a grateful child, but realises now that that will never happen.
Mama Sitrakis strikes her across the face and solemnly tells her to bring her sister home, sending the party out on a river barge with Melastaya and ten others.
The gypsies are well used to the nigh-impenetrable river fog and safely navigate to the leper colony, where the noise of disembarking from the barge draws a huge crowd of lepers from their ramshackle coastal huts.
Most beg and debase themselves asking for food, fighting amongst themselves when Francois and Three Beard throw all 8 of their ration packs onto the soil.
One leper reaches beseechingly at Kraken’s great-sword and begs for death, weeping and cursing when he is kicked away.
When asked about the Chaos Messiah the lepers say they don’t know what that is, but some people came to the colony and entered the missionary house on the hill, and the Sisters of Ultha, Mother of Mercy who had been their protectors haven’t been seen since. They have not had proper food in months.
The house on the hill is a simple wooden building with a single front door and a window on the left and right side of the house. Francois sneaks to a window and sees twenty people dressed similarly to the students of the Halls of Learning, milling about and engaging in carnal lust. Termantha and a haggish woman wielding a filth-encrusted flail stand next to a hairless naked man seated in a simple iron throne. Numbers, symbols, and equations are carved into his flesh, and his eyes glow a luminescent green/aqua with starry points of white light. Lying around his feet are six near-naked cultists, three of which seem to be wearing the torn-down remnants of nun habits.
Upon hearing this Melastaya runs to the window to see for herself, and returns to tell the gypsies that Sezarina is chained to a ring around the genitals of the throned man.
Francois sneaks backs to the window while Three Beard and Melastaya make their way to the other. Kraken Bush and five gypsies wait at the front door, and Lumpy Space Princess and the other five gypsies hold back as a defensive line.
Three Beard casts sleep over the mission house and six people immediately drop into a deep slumber, including Sezarina, the cultist Rudolfo, Termantha, and the Hag.
As the cultists rush to Termantha and the Choas Messiah stares at them impassively, Kraken Bush kicks in the door and the battle begins.
Highlights from the fight:
- From the open window Francois lashes his whip around a cultist’s neck and pulls himself inside in one motion, crushing the cultist’s windpipe in the process.
- After his gypsies have rushed in Kraken Bush announces he is going to spin into the crowd of cultists with his great-sword, fails his Called Shot (11-20), and impales both a cultist then a gypsy through their backs on his blade. Before losing consciousness the gypsy lashes out at a nearby cultist and cuts his arm off. Kraken continues to charge forward and impales another cultist, who dies facing him, mouthing “whyyy?” and vomiting blood over the dead gypsy. The one-armed cultist retrieves his angle-shifting dagger from his severed arm and rolls a critical hit, driving it through Kraken’s thigh. Kraken throws his great-sword shishkebab to the floor, announces he’s going to jump up and clasp his legs around the cultist’s neck, stabbing him with the dagger, then do a backflip to throw him into another cultist. Kraken again fails his Called Shot (11-20), and falls to the floor clasping his thigh in agony. The cultist has lost a lot of blood and collapses on top of him.
- Three Beard attempts to send more cultists to Sleep, but instead of the spell manifesting all sound stops as he feels pressure expand from the centre of his brain. When sound rushes back to his ears Three Beard’s Wisdom has been halved, his Intelligence decreased by 2, and he has become dangerously insane. He draws his corpse-robbed sword, drags himself through the window, and launches into the cultists. Three Beard’s new deranged murderlust allows him to make a Called Shot to drive his sword through the chest of one cultist, tear the throat from another with his teeth, and drive his fingers through the eyes of a third in one action. He rolls so high that an older cultist who witnesses the spectacle has a heart attack and dies on the spot.
- Lumpy Space Princess bitch slaps one cultist to the floor and turns the head of another to red mist with her mace before wandering off and finding another six bottles of Black Wine. She vomits down the front of her robes as the memory of the Drowned Rat flashes behind her eyes and picks up the bottles, wondering at its seeming absence of light.
- Francois tries to garrotte the Chaos Messiah but trips and falls onto the throne with his arms dangling over the Chaos Messiah’s scarred body and the garrotte wire looped around his genitals. After being woken by her sister (who is then knocked out by a cultist) Sezarina lunges at the Chaos Messiah, her dagger punching through his skin and causing the rest to slough to the floor, revealing the amorphous blob of cosmic goo beneath which begins to scald Francois’ arms.
- Francois momentarily considers head-butting the acidic goo before thinking the better of it and yanking back on his garrotte. The wire slips back through the Chaos Messiah and snaps when it hits the back of the throne, sending Francois rolling backwards holding two sizzling wires.
- A shockwave of Confusion bursts from the Chaos Messiah, causing several cultists and gypsies to start fighting amongst each other while screaming equations, and leading Kraken Bush and Lumpy Space Princess to alternately wander away and become enraged, attacking the nearest thing. Three Beard simply looks up with a sizzling blood-soaked beard and screams “YEEEEESS! I UNDERSTAAAAND!”
- The Chaos Messiah lurches off of the throne and onto Melastaya’s legs, who screams herself awake as parts of her flesh form bubbles and disappear into the starry light of the Messiah’s flesh. Sezarina is dragged off by two of the remaining gypsies while another three struggle to pull Melastaya out of the Messiah’s sucking grasp.
The last cultists have been put down by the gypsies, and Francois runs to Lumpy Space Princess pulling out his tinderbox and tearing strips from his shirt, he corks a bottle with his teeth, stuffs flaming fabric down its neck, and prays to All Gods that it is flammable. Francois throws the bottle.
Which sails over the Messiah and shatters on the iron throne.
For a moment it simply smoulders, but then the oily pitch black wine seems to be drawn up into the flame, turning the throne into a pillar of fire.
Three Beard pulls a length of rope from his backpack, drenches it in lantern oil, and whips it cleanly through the air so that it passes over the throne, ignites, and wraps around the amorphous form of the Messiah. The rope sinks into its flesh leaving a fiery spiral in its wake.
Kraken Bush kicks the three corpses off of his great-sword and limps as fast as he can at the Chaos Messiah, pouring lantern oil down his blade. He pours too much and slips onto his back at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the throne.
Lumpy Space Princess and Francois each lob another bottle of Black Wine towards the Messiah. Which shatter on the backs of two of the gypsies who are still trying to save Melastaya.
Three Beard pulls out another flask of lantern oil and charges, staring dead-eyed at Kraken Bush as he passes, pouring the oil down his sword. With a successful Called Shot Three Beard launches himself from the bottom of the stairs with his left foot, kicks the nearest Black Wine drenched gypsy out of the way with his right, and slashes down at the Chaos Messiah.
The sword ignites on the remaining fiery spiral, slicing and cauterising down through the Messiah’s oozing flesh. When Three Beard lands on his feet again the top half of the Messiah slides off into the throne and ignites, while the rest collapses in a shapeless mess onto Melastaya, choking her final scream as it rushes over her face.
The two Black Wine drenched gypsies succumb to the final moments of the Chaos Messiah’s Confusion. One falls to his knees screaming equations at Melastaya’s dissolving face, while the other wanders into the throne and whumps into flame.
Sezarina weeps over Melastaya, which make Francois weep, then shakes Rudolfo awake. Rudolfo is utterly shaven with numbers tattooed onto his face, and golden wires thread through his nipples and lead to a golden ring pierced through the skin above and below his adam’s apple. He is confused but recovered from the spell Termantha had cast over him, which makes Sezarina weep with joy, which makes Francois weep even more.
The party leaves with Sezarina, Rudolfo, and the five surviving gypsies. Rather than dealing with Termantha and the Hag, they tell the lepers that the flesh of those who took their food away lies inside the house, and board the barge to the sound of screams echoing down the hill.
Mama Sitrakis embraces Sezarina and takes the death of Melastaya in her stride, pushing the still-weeping Francois away when he tries to hug them, who then rolls around the docks crying and gripping himself.
Rudolfo agrees to go with them and Mama Sitrakis gives them a golden hound statuette and the friendship of the river gypsies, telling the two gypsy guards they first met to accompany them back to their coach.
Halfway back through the city the cobbled street is blocked by two men dressed in the same clothing as the entertainers that were present at the Mondaviak party, one wields a glaive and the other announces that Markos does not want Rudolfo back. He tells the party they may leave and live, as another glaive-wielder steps behind them and two shortbowmen appear on the roof of an overlooking building.
Three Beard grunts and bids them all to Sleep, and as the shortbowmen fall to the street he feels a deep craving and hears the blood pulsing through the veins of his comrades.
While the others stab and stomp the remaining sleeping men Three Beard runs to the fallen shortbowmen and holds one of their shattered heads over his open mouth, shrieking and gurgling as the blood runs down his throat and clots into his beard.
With the blood in his stomach the craving stops clouding his mind and Three Beard looks down at his blood-soaked hands, gagging and screaming into the night sky, “THREE BEARD! WHYYYYYYY?”
The gypsies look at each other nervously and ask if the party can find their way from here.
Back at the stable Harry Munton looks them up and down with wide eyes, backs against the wall and tells them he’s fed and groomed their horses free of charge.
The gatekeeper smiles and waves them off as they ride out, with Francois weeping out of the window and Three Beard sitting atop the coach still wailing at the sky.
Kraken Bush curls up for a sleep and Lumpy Space Princess drives them back to the estate, resisting the urge to drink the remaining three bottles of Black Wine.
Bennudius meets them out the front of the manor and begs them to come straight in. Three Beard stops to put on one of the suits of chainmail Kraken Bush dug up. His grizzled blood-clotted beard and crushed face sticks out of the cleanest, shiniest armour you’ve ever seen.
Karistos Mondaviak’s daughter, son, and wife still crowd around his bed. When Rudolfo enters in his current state with only a shawl wrapped around him Karistos’ eyes go wide and he clutches his chest, passing away as the shock proves too much for his weakened heart.
Rudolfo throws himself at Markos and they struggle on the floor as Bennudius asks what is going on and Karistina weeps over her father’s corpse.
While Kraken Bush declines to answer and demands he immediately be given the deed to the new vineyard Lumpy Space Princess casts Detect Evil, still suspicious of the whole lot.
Nothing is out of place in the room except for Three Beard who is glowing a blue so bright that it nearly blinds her, his eyes two empty black pits within the light as he turns to her and growls,