My brother Michael joined us for this one and rolled up a character while we wrapped up the giant spider murder situation.
Well actually first Sophie showed everyone her first set of dice and the adorable little suede bag she sewed for them, and we talked about Emma’s potential upcoming date but maybe not with a friend of a friend who legitimately “left his card” for her at the store (says Emma, “What’s dating? I don’t know how to date. I normally just get them drunk.”), and we ate some satay, and THEN we wrapped up the giant spider murder situation.
Rose: Damonallit Aspurta, enormous jangling Moorish Devotee of the Corpulent One and his recent convert, Obediah Duncaster the angry overweight drunkard.
Emma: Malatesta du Caddis, autistic murdermachine extraordinaire, and the fabulously feathered maleficar Thoth’mora Gnostos.
Sophie: Florian Voldaris, recently crippled Francish dandy still searching for his purpose in life while hobbling around on a silver candlestick peg-leg, and Sangr’all Humgha, Thoth’mora’s unidentical plump and “booby” twin sister.
Consumables: Rose got this “experience” gift card for being the tits at work, but all the “experiences” kind of sucked so instead we spent it on $200 of red wine, so we drank like two bottles of that and I’m obsessed with sarsaparilla right now and also there was a jam donut tower.
Cameraphone photos throughout taken by Rose.
So last game they found themselves in mountainside ruins fighting mutant spider people and their giant spider god and getting betrayed and scrapping around until Florian launched himself from a wooden throne, candlestick peg-leg and all, and stabbed the giant spider through the fucking face and killed it dead.
In the aftermath of that, Aspurta sits himself down to nurse his knife wound and drinks about 9 bottles of moonshine while the others poke around all the dead things.
Florian yanks the bronze axe out of the throne’s backrest and pops the skull that was still sitting on the blade into his backpack, while Malatesta rifles through the rest of the skeletal body’s robes until he finds a golden ring on its bony hand bearing a Pegasus seal and slips it straight onto his finger.
Magnus Quartermaine, the elderly Dunnsmouth soldier, bids them farewell so that he can return to his post in the fort, and Ung-Moroth Ubral, priest of the Crawling Chaos, similarly takes his leave and returns to Dunnsmouth with the spider baby in a sack over his shoulder that nobody remembers he had until much later.
When they leave the room Florian pulls out a knife and carves out four of the giant spider’s eyes and wraps them up in torn skeleton robes, and Aspurta sends Obediah to try to cut out its venom sac, who manages to slice straight into it and spill venom everywhere but doesn’t get any in his mouth.
At this point the general feeling in the room is “fuck Dunnsmouth”, and they gather their scrounged supplies to trek over the mountains in what they think is the direction of Cörpathium.
A good eight hours of walking through mountains later and they can see stars in a black night sky instead of the twilight they lived under for who knows how long in Dunnsmouth, and then they hear what sounds like the voice of a little girl which is met with a chorus of “NOPE. Nup. No.” and Aspurta and Obediah start hugging each other.
The voice continues to carry up from somewhere below pleading “hheeeeelp! h..heeelp”, and Malatesta lights a torch and shoves it into Thoth’mora’s hands and sends him down the slope with a chair leg and Obediah.
Florian and Sangr’all crouch down behind a boulder to hide while Malatesta and Aspurta follow a short way down the slope, then stop to wait in the dark.
There was a 2 in 6 chance of Florian and Sangr’all getting surprised, and they got fucking surprised.
Florian feels hot breath on his neck a moment before the teeth sink in while another two wolves jump on top of Sangr’all and roll 10 damn damage, tearing her open and spreading bits around, gorging themselves on her insides.
Florian throws the wolf off his back and spins around with his bronze axe… and Sophie rolls 1 damage and stares at her dice in shame. The wolf bares its teeth and the axe slices through the corners of its mouth instead of its head.
Malatesta and Aspurta turn back towards Florian’s wailing and instead see two wolves stalking in from their sides, their hackled fur standing up in the moonlight as one stops and stares at Aspurta, awkwardly moving its mouth, “hh-heeeeeelllp”.
Aspurta dives at the beast with a knife and crits the shit out of it, driving his dagger straight down through its skull and out the bottom, pinning its jaw together and spilling broken teeth onto the soil, while Malatesta swings his zweihänder at the wolf leaping at his throat, causing enough damage to bisect it and watch the two halves land either side of him.
Back behind the boulder Florian takes another swing at the wolf with his axe… and Sophie rolls a natural 1. Florian steps forward on some unidentified part of Sangr’all and falls face-first into her pooling blood and viscera, losing his axe in the process.
Further down the mountain, Obediah and a wolf are leaping around each other like some kind of dance and Thoth’mora is watching another slink from behind a stone, pushing the words “hhh-heeeellp, hhuuuuuungry” out of its furry maw. Toth’mora runs at it, screaming like a shrill madman, and smashes it in the face with his chair leg, embedding the nails in the top of its skull, then flips it a short way down the slope.
Malatesta and Aspurta hear Thoth’mora’s screaming but decide he’s a capable sort of fella and charge up the hill. Aspurta jumps between Florian and the wolf, blood and foam spitting from its slit mouth, jabbing threateningly in the air with his knife. Malatesta attempts a Gambit to cleave through both of the wolves still feeding on Sangr’all, fumbles, stands on Sangr’all’s spleen, and falls into her desecrated corpse.
Florian grabs for his short sword to stab at one of the wolves near Malatesta… and Sophie rolls another natural 1 and wails that her new dice are freaking broken. Florian’s hands are so slick with blood that he pulls out the sword and throws it hilt-first at Aspurta’s back, which distracts him just long enough for the slit-mouthed wolf to leap forward and sink its teeth into his thigh. Aspurta tries to stab it, fails, and falls onto his back with a writhing wolf clamped to his leg.
Without missing a beat Malatesta grabs his flail and starts hurling it around as he kneels in Sangr’all’s bloody open torso, missing one of the wolves but completely shattering the head of the other.
Florian scrambles to his feet/foot&candlestick, bits of wolf brain splattering against him as he grabs hold of Sangr’aal’s terrible fishing spear and drives it up through the chest of the other wolf, holding it up in the moonlight while Malatesta runs to Aspurta, flail still swinging around his head until he sweeps it down into the wolf’s ribcage and sends it crashing against a tree.
Down the slope Obediah gets sick of dancing with the wolf and breaks its back with his club, paralysing it at 1 hp while it continues to plead “hhheeeelllp” in the voice of a little girl and Thoth’mora runs screaming at the wolf with a chair leg still attached to its head and stabs it in the neck, also paralysing it at 1hp only it sounds even more miserable and he runs away back up the hill.
After being thrown through the air by a flail the last wolf runs off into the night wailing “hh-heeeeelllllllllp! h-huuuunnnngrrrry!” and Malatesta yells “EAT YOUR PARALYSED FRIENDS” before Thoth’mora finds what is left of his twin sister and begins to scream in despair.
Malatesta and Obediah help Thoth’mora gather wood to build a pyre for Sangr’all while Aspurta heals Florian’s neck wounds, who then runs off to butcher the wolves for extra food rations.
Aspurta tries to heal himself as well by making a Hand of God roll, fails, and feels utter rebuke from the Corpulent One, falling to his knees and vomiting out every ounce of fluid and intoxication from his body in a torrent of filth that flows down the mountain.
He then does something super clever and necks a bottle of moonshine to regain some temporary Faith in order to perform a ritual on one of the other remaining bottles to increase its potency tenfold, getting himself rrrrrrrickety-wrecked again.
The fire blazes into the night sky and they make camp, only slightly disturbed through the night by the far-off voices of little girls.
[Edit: At the time I just plumb forgot that MALEFICARS HAVE SPELLS INSIDE THEIR SKULLS, so I sent Emma an email to let her know and said that if she thought Thoth’mora would have taken his sister’s head, he’d have it now, but if she thinks he’d find it distasteful we’d leave it on the pyre, and her response was “HELL NO that is not distasteful, I’m taking her head along with the spells. Thoth’mora may have impeccable taste in feathers, silver and lace doily’s… However he is lacking taste when it comes to protecting the magic within.”
So that’ll be fun.]
In the morning light Malatesta strips off his clothing to bask in the first sunlight they have seen since embarking on their doomed sea voyage, soaking in its warmth before balancing his zweihänder over his shoulder and pushing everyone on through the mountains.
A few hours later is when they come across Michael’s wizard (who he named Felix Longworm) cowering near some stones and a dying tree and he hams things up like a champion.
“Strangers! THANK THE GODS. I require aid! And you look quite capable.”
See, I wrote a mini adventure to go with the map I donated to Matt Jackson:
[Edit: Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine now exists as a fairly sexy pdf which you can obtain here.]
The premise of which revolves around Felix Longworm and a band of six other mercenaries being hired by Un-Raga Praag, an alchemist in Cörpathium, to find a sleeping Feathered Swine in the Dunnhills.
Before hibernating, the Feathered Swine pulls most of the feathers from its pale pink skin to make a nest, which decays over the coming weeks and attracts strange mites. The mites don’t live long, but where their bites infest the Feathered Swine’s skin with their own parasites, cysts begin to form full of a vibrant green fluid.
Each cyst forms a digestive sac full of ever-repopulating microscopic worms, copulating in the green liquid even as it dissolves them, feeding the Feathered Swine while it sleeps.
The alchemist gave them three ampoules of a particularly strong sedative, and a brass syringe to deliver it, which was being carried by Aspeth Montesquieu.
The proper method for extraction is to slice through the subcutaneous fat under the cyst, and tie off the feeding tubes connected to it before severing them.
The alchemist also advised not to take more than half the cysts, or the Feathered Swine might die of starvation.
And everything was going fine until they got halfway through the caverns and started to be torn limb from limb by men resembling little more than shambling masses of cancerous growth, pale bubbles of flesh piled one in the other in yellow-and-pink-tinged mounds of agony. You see they found the Feathered Swine first, but burst a cyst upon themselves, and after breeding within the cyst of a Feathered Swine the worms react very differently to the flesh of a new host. The men are now quite mad. The worms are in their brain. They only hear the voice of the worm.
The story then is that Felix ran after the first arm was torn off, and I gave Michael the option of having normal spells, or really sweet spells that are in a spellbook which he left inside the cave.
He made the right choice so I made him a badarse little spellbook which he’d have to find in the backpack of a mercenary named Wilhelm Esmond-Womald, and clipped it to the lightbulb that dangles over our table.
Oh and then I also printed out the map and cut it into little pieces so that they could build it as they explored:
But before Felix even explains any of that, Florian says “well we just lost a wizard so that’s convenient, welcome aboard.”
Aspurta drunkenly demands to know more though so Felix tells them all about what happened and Aspurta says “so would you say running is one of your skills then? What else are you bringing to the table?”, and Felix says “FABULOUS MAAAAAGIIIC! …though I lost my spellbook inside the cave when I ran.”
He says he can get them to Cörpathium and mentions all the sweet cash they can make if they actually complete the job he was sent on, “if you are up to the task… and I believe you are”, eyes resting on Malatesta’s still-naked groin.
And so Malatesta puts his clothes back on, they light some torches, and plunge into the mountainside cave.
They decide not to immediately go the same way as Felix’s mercenaries and send Obediah into a side pocket [Area II] to investigate the old ashy smell coming from it, where he finds a burnt-out campfire full of small animal bones and a cramped tunnel. Florian looks into a small nook near the tunnel and finds a pile of literal shit and something else behind it, makes his Dexterity check (come on he has a candlestick leg), and manages to pick up the pouch without falling in shit. He empties 17cp and a yellowed, well-read love note in a childish scrawl into his hand, says “awwwwwww” and pockets it.
Obediah then gets sent down the cramped tunnel all on his own until he comes to a more open dead-end [Area III] with sparkling rocks ringed around the far end of a pile of wet green mess covering the cave floor and creeping up the sides of the rocks. Obediah walks back down the tunnel, says “nope” as he passes, and continues back into the entry cavern.
Still not wanting to follow the mercenary trail, they walk single-file into a thin crevice in the far end of the cavern with Obediah again in the lead, where the ceiling slopes downwards until it scrapes their heads as they press on to where the tunnel closes in, blocked by crowded rubble and joined rock growth. Obediah looks through the gaps with the light of his lantern, seeing that the tunnel only extends a little further beyond before it intersects a wider tunnel. He also notices a pale, bloated, bubbled mass lying on the cave floor, the end of it ragged like something torn.
He sizes up the rubble blocking the way, and smacks it with his club. A few small stones rattle loose and Rose marks down some Notches on Obediah’s character sheet.
Thoth’mora pipes up from back down the line that he could use Passwall to get them through, so everyone kneels down so that he can crawl across their backs to get to the front.
I explain to Emma that since Thoth’mora currently only has 2 Cataclysm and Passwall is a level 5 spell, she will need to make a Cast the Bones roll with a -3 penalty, giving her a 2 in 18 chance of casting it without any mishaps.
Thoth’mora looks around the stone for a bit then dusts off his hands like “hahaha no sorry you guys I don’t actually want to do that after all” and they squeeze back out the way they came with Thoth’mora skipping at the rear.
Not seeing any other option, they head the way the mercenaries went [Area IV], where fragile stalactites hang from the ceiling near their heads and treacherous looking ridges of rock surround a large rupture in the centre of the cavern. They tie themselves together with Malatesta’s lovely silk rope and edge their way around, pulling each other back as they slip towards the rift in the floor, and Malatesta himself, anchoring the whole line, is pulled to safety at the last moment by Felix, his little muscles straining and a grin of maddened glee plastered across his face.
They walk down the tunnel beyond until it levels out [Area V] at a wider, curving junction, where beyond the tunnel seems to rise again, crowded with stone, and a trail of splashed, dragging blood leads into a crevice in the wall on their left. It all smells of copper and the lingering scent of burnt flesh.
Aspurta whispers that they should sneak past the crevice, then trips and jangles his jewellery everywhere, and they hear a female voice scream from somewhere in the crevice “NO! You won’t! YOU WON’T!” and the sound of metal striking stone. Aspurta runs blindly away up the crowded tunnel with Obediah chasing after him, leaving everyone else at the crevice.
The yelling stops and Florian and Thoth’mora edge into the crevice [Area VI] with a torch in hand, stopping to look at the pale, bubbled lump of flesh they had seen from the cramped tunnel. From this side it looks like the lower part of a human leg only because of the pink-gilded sabaton still covering the foot, but the whole thing looks set to burst.
Moving closer to where the tunnel is blocked the scent of burnt meat grows even stronger and they can hear soft, shivering half-suppressed breaths from somewhere up to the right, and the glow of the torch seems to show some kind of nook in the cave wall.
Eventually they call out, and the sound of actual human voices brings a female face out into the torchlight. After a bit of explanation and an awkward reunion with Felix where she accuses him of leaving them then cries and admits that she had to do the same thing, Aspeth Montesquieu asks him to climb up and help her.
Next to a dead fire in a split in the cave wall, she tells Felix that her leg was half torn off in the fight, but she escaped while the others were still being torn apart and eaten alive, tumbling down the tunnel and dragging herself up to this hiding place, where she cut away the rest of the leg and burned the stump in the fire.
Felix nods along and then she looks him in the eyes and says, “I burnt off my leg and I can still feel something growing inside my fucking flesh, help me down and let’s see if I can take something with me when I go.”
Felix fails to convince her to try cutting off more leg “just in case” and helps her down from the nook, giving her Sangr’all’s fishing spear to help her walk. In return she hands Felix the hypodermic roll containing the brass syringe and all three ampoules of sedative, which she didn’t use for fear of being caught asleep.
Climbing up the cold, damp rock and mineral crowded tunnel, vaguely acidic air on their tongues, they find Aspurta and Obediah halfway, who stopped and thought about their life decisions when they started to hear the wet, slopping sounds of consumption from somewhere up above.
Further up they see a cavern [Area VII] open beyond the tunnel mouth, where the cave floor dips and undulates into a wide pit immediately before them surrounded by stalagmites and boulders, and somewhere beyond a blue glow clings to the stone of the cavern ceiling. The slopping chewing sound seems to be coming from somewhere to the right of the cavern, so they decide to make a molotov cocktail using lamp oil and an empty moonshine bottle “to see if it will distract them”, then Florian starts loading his crossbow and Obediah starts making another molotov as the first one is thrown into the centre of the pit.
The small fiery explosion brings two shambling masses of cancerous flesh running from the right into the pit, stopping short as they feel the heat. In the light of the fire the party can see that their eyes and ears have closed over with swollen flesh (but their skin has become photosensitive and they can feel the vibrations around them). The tumourous things turn towards the torchlight in the tunnel and gape their mouths into the air, big hideous intakes of shuddering breath that flood their mouths with the flavour of the party, and then one of them loses half its shoulder to an arrow from Aspurta’s drunken bow.
Florian fires his crossbow and the bolt clatters away in some far part of the cavern and Sophie thrice curses her new dice, and Obediah hurls his moonshine molotov at the other and rolls a natural 20, engulfing it in flames, parts of its body bursting awfully, it tries to run at them but the flesh falls from one of its legs and the bone breaks, it whines and sizzles in a blackening pile dragging itself towards them.
Unfazed by the oozing wound in its shoulder, the other charges towards the tunnel mouth bristling with Aspeth’s fishing spear, Felix’s 10′ pole with a spike strapped to it, and Malatesta’s stolen zweihänder. Aspeth loses her balance and Felix is just a bit shit, but Malatesta drives his sword through the abomination’s chest and hurls it away in one fluid motion so that it lands impaled in the pit, backlit by the fire as it slowly slides down the blade to the cave floor.
Malatesta gets his sword back and holds it over the fire with a mildly irritated look on his face while the others explore over the ridged mounds of stone on the other side of the pit. What they find is a phosphorescent blue pool of water bathing the walls and ceiling in its glow, its edges littered with the torn shells of pale cave crabs. Aspurta sees something shimmering in the centre of the pool by a couple of stalagmites, and dips his finger into the water, staring at the phosphorescence that clings to his skin.
Then Malatesta pretty much dive-bombs over his head into the water and splashes around, standing there with a stupid grin, glowing blue head-to-toe.
When he wades over to the stalagmites he finds a cave pearl the size of a small child’s skull and holds it up to his eye, peering through the small holes perforating its surface that seem to criss-cross inside it. Absurdly tiny baby crabs are crawling out of the holes when he picks it up so he gives it a really good shaking until he’s sure they’re all out and drops it into his backpack.
Having had a bit of a swim, they walk back to the pit to take a look at the side of the cavern where the things had run from, and find a blood-slick floor where mercenary body parts have been collected into little piles, amongst which they count three faces including the torn-off, partly-chewed head of Kasia Riksch lying at their feet, face frozen in complete surprise.
Aspeth notes that two mercenaries are missing, Wilhelm Esmond-Womald and Abernathy Voss Bachen, so they do a quick rummage for any equipment not completely ruined, which includes half a longsword, and a pike impaled through somebody’s chest in one of the piles with Felix delightedly swaps for his 10′ pole with a spike strapped to it.
At the far right of the cavern they find a far damper tunnel, and creep down its descent.
It smells like a wet bed slept in for a week, and when they move out into the moist, wet-walled cavern below [Area VIII] each step feels like they’re falling but only for a moment.
They ignore the small tunnel leading down to their left, but Felix takes a lantern to investigate one of the holes in the cave wall, which would look like it had been dug out if it wasn’t for the absence of discarded soil. The lamplight illuminates the hole about six feet or so, curving back up into the cave wall, and some kind of debris at the far edge of the light.
Felix says “nah” and walks away from the hole, keeping his distance from the two holes on the other side of the wall.
In the light they can see that the far end of the cavern narrows before opening up again and leading on to a further tunnel, and decide that that is the way for them.
So they try to do some more sneaking, and get into marching order and make their rolls. Aspurta and Obediah, being drunks, roll as badly as possible.
Malatesta and Florian lead the way past the encroaching cave wall like a sphincter, stalking like cats, but as Aspurta follows something slinks out from a hole in the wall on the other side and snakes its arms around him.
He fails his Strength check horribly and it starts dragging him back up into the hole before anyone realises what’s happening, turning around to see his flailing feet disappear into the soft wall. Parts of its hands burst and ooze a warm, wet fluid over Aspurta’s skin but he saves vs. Poison, and then fails another Strength check, and Initiative, and is pulled up into the furthest reaches of the hole where the thing (roll on Body Horror table…) tears his fucking nose off and something oozes into his sinus. And then he fails his save vs. Poison, parasitic worms colonising the flesh beneath his face.
Panicking, Aspurta manages to twist around inside the moist hole and uses Delirium Tremens on the cancer-fleshed worm infested man, who fails his save and flops around against the soil then stops moving, super, super dead.
Halfway into the hole himself with a dagger between his teeth, Malatesta catches hold of Aspurta’s sliding body and pulls him back out into the cavern, where Aspurta coughs and splutters medical advice at them through the blood and filth spilling down his face, “okay, so what you want to do is tear off a rag, and then soak it in oil, and then what you’re going to want to do is put that on my face and set it on fire to burn off the infected flesh, but okay you’d better have a pile of dirt ready to dump on my head when the smell of burning meat gets really strong, okay? Okay go.”
So they do that, and I roll damage for the fire sitting on Aspurta’s face and open sinuses because come on it’s his face… and he drops well below 0hp and everyone around him goes “hhhssssshhh” and thinks about what they’ve done.
I’ve introduced a Surgery skill for emergency medical stuff and for reviving characters below 0hp, so I told them they could have 3 attempts to revive Aspurta before they killed him. None of them had more than a 1 in 6 chance but they were feeling lucky.
Felix rolled a 3, fumbling around and announcing that he thought everyone should have a go to spread out the blame when they failed.
Malatesta also rolled a 3, pretty much just poking the wound.
Two attempts down and it was all up to Florian, Sophie begged her dice, and rolled a 2.
Fountains of blood somehow start spraying from holes in Aspurta’s throat, showering Florian’s face and the cavern around him as he shudders and hemorrhages to death.
Obediah sheds a tear and wonders if he made the right choice following a Devotee of the Corpulent One away from his home, and they ransack the late Cleric’s body and carry on the way they were going, leaving Aspurta lying in the muck.
The tunnel descends into a cavern larger than any of the others [Area X] that reeks of rotting hair with a cold, stale aftertaste, they scan their eyes over the hourglass-shaped column of stone stretching from floor to ceiling and the walls seem to expand, their heads spin.
Staggering in with their torches held high they can see a gap in the stone wall to the right, and to the left, the sleeping Feathered Swine on its bed of decaying feathers. All they can see of its head is the beak, the rest retracted within the fatty folds of its flesh, a tell-tale burst cyst on its side with dried splashes of green fluid trailing down its skin and over a smashed glass vessel.
“How big is it?” asks Sophie, “Is it as big as the giant spider I stabbed in the face?”
“No not as big as the spider but it’s still pretty big, bigger than a man.”
“Oh whatever then, we killed a spider not worried.”
Florian and Obediah creep over to the gap in the wall, beyond which is a small pocket [Area XI] full of sloping, stacked rock, and stand guard, while Thoth’mora skips around the hourglass-shaped column and inspects a tower of slime hanging from the ceiling, anchored to a loose pile of stones on the floor. He glances over at a tunnel leading away behind it, then back at the slime tower, then skips back over to the Feathered Swine where Felix is preparing a sedative.
The alchemist had warned them that even though the sedative is strong, it may require more than one dose, and that even if it does work the effect would not be immediate (basically a 3 in 6 chance per dose that it would lose consciousness the next Round).
Felix flicks the air bubbles out of the syringe, nods at Malatesta who is waiting a few steps back with his sword in hand, and plunges the needle into the fatty folds of the Feathered Swine’s neck.
The Swine’s head shoots out from the folds of its body, pale pink pupil-less eyes rolling about its surroundings, its beak opens in a sickly squealing squawk and the knuckles and joints holding its flabby parts together crack and spring as it whips around and bites Felix’s right arm clean off from the elbow down then falls back into its nest facing the other way in one fluid motion, dead to the world.
Felix falls back, eyes rolling into the back of his head and an arc of blood spraying from his stump as he falls.
Florian, torch still in hand from trying to save Aspurta, runs over and jams it against the severed limb to seal it, and Malatesta binds the wound to staunch any further bleeding. They fail to wake him up, but they also don’t kill him so that’s an improvement.
With the Feathered Swine out cold, Florian pulls out a blade and starts slicing around cysts, managing to remove twelve in all and stuff them into a sack and they all feel preeeetty accomplished.
Malatesta ties a rope around Felix and straps him to his back, then leads everyone on into the tunnel beyond the tower of slime, where they’re met with the sweet, vaguely pleasant smell of decay and the soft, steady far-off sound of running water, they almost imagine they can feel it washing over them.
A short way inside, the tunnel opens into a small pocket [Area XII] filled with mounds of stone and mushrooms, covering the floor and hanging from the sides of the stones.
Obediah dives straight in and starts picking them, identifying two different kinds, one of which is known as Ruby Tears of Mercy, mushrooms covered in drops of the rich red fluid that precedes the fruiting bodies. The fluid itself staunches bleeding, removes physical pain, and offers a much calmed state of mind, so he shoves one of the mushrooms into his mouth and hands another back to Malatesta to see if it will revive Felix, which it does, and they also both make their Constitution saves to avoid being colonised by the fungus so happy days.
Before carrying on past the mushroom patch, Malatesta ducks into a small tunnel leading back on the left, following a short trail of fungus and soon stopping at a cold, damp dead end, where a hideously shriveled but otherwise preserved human corpse slumps against the wall in a magnificently grotesque suit of sleek plate armour. Wide, intact eyeballs stare out above a shrunken nose and lips drawn back from teeth and gums.
The armour is matte black, covered in endlessly etched lines and symbology. The upper chest is covered in short nodules, protruding like a field of smooth, overly long nipples, the rest of the torso below sculpted with rows of healthy porcine teats. The plates covering the limbs are dimpled like an expanse of cellulite, the joint guards bear unequal numbers of fat spirals tapering into spikes. Each finger of the gauntlets forms a leaping armoured insect. The sabatons resemble the heads of infants opening their mouths wide to release thick, segmented, pointed tongues. The pauldrons are covered in a melding mass of murky figures crawling one on top of the other, reaching out in worship around the wearer’s head.
Rose says “I hope it isn’t cursed armour”, and in my mind I silently scream “shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhut the fuck uuuuuup”, and Emma says “HAHAHA yeah… I take the armour.”
Malatesta starts removing the armour, pulling it away from the body’s long-dead, but still soft flesh. Liquefying skin and fat strings from the corpse, clinging to the inside of the armour as he pulls it away, mainly around the chest and groin. “Gonna have to clean that”, he says, and goes back to Florian to borrow his waterskin to clean off this neat new armour he found.
So he scrubs off the clinging liquefied flesh, strips off right there in the tunnel, and starts putting on his new armour.
Soon after donning the complete set of armour and feeling pretty chuffed at how it feels as light as porcelain, but as hard as iron, Malatesta feels a pinching sensation around his nipples, genitals, and anus, short and sharp at first, and then excruciating. He rolls around on the ground in front of everyone for a good 10-15 minutes screaming in agony while the armour fuses with his body, it’s pretty excited to have a new friend.
“Well I’m never taking that off”, says Emma. “Hahaha, Florian, I was getting inside the armour, and now the armour is inside me, everything is inside something else.”
They carry on past the mushrooms down a tight tunnel until it ends where an underground stream has worn away the stone [Area XII].
Malatesta very nearly convinces everyone that jumping in would be a really good quick way out of here until Aspeth reminds Felix that two of their friends are still unaccounted for, and that with or without him she’s going back to find them.
So they go back past the mushrooms, past the sleeping Feathered Swine, past Aspurta’s still unburied body lying in a cave, and down a steep, tightly curling tunnel that turns from wet earth into loose stone, where it smells like stomach acid and salt, their hands shaking from the cold, with the soft, slipping sound of releasing bile reverberating around the stone and into their skulls.
The bulbous cavern ahead of them is cramped with platforms of stacked stone and calcified mineral, and smooth, misshapen stalagmites grow from the cave floor on an unseemly slant.
Felix suddenly realises that without his right arm he probably can’t actually use his new pike, and struggles to explain how he possibly could until Obediah says “look, come here”, and straps the broken half a longsword he found to Felix’s stump like some kind of shitty Bruce Campbell.
The source of the sound itself seems to be coming from a thick patch of stalagmite growth ahead of them and they pretty much send Aspeth on a suicide mission with her blessing while Florian loads his crossbow and Obediah pulls out Aspurta’s bow. Aspeth hobbles out, lantern in one hand, fishing spear crutch in the other, and staggers around the stalagmites to find two of the cancerous creatures vomiting bile down the throat of Abernathy Voss Bachen, his skin puffy, stomach swollen beyond belief, his legs torn off, his arms starting to atrophy, hands clawed, fingers all swollen knuckles and bone.
The moment the light of the lantern washes over them the creatures turn to face her, bile still spilling from their mouths, one tries to projectile vomit all over her but it splashes harmlessly against the stalagmites while the other leaps and claws at her face, knocking her to the ground. A second later Obediah looses an arrow and removes a sizable chunk of its head, then Florian takes aim with his crossbow… and Sophie rolls a natural 20.
The remainder of its head is torn away with the crossbow bolt, leaving a gaping, gurgling mouth and tongue flailing about before it falls to the ground.
Malatesta runs in swinging at the vomiter but slips and rolls around in the spilt blood and ooze of the other, but makes his save vs. Poison and his new armour jealously prevents any of the parasites from getting to his skin.
Felix tries to hook his sword-arm under the pike to charge in with it but similarly fucks up, then Obediah charges in, longsword in hand, and cleaves it in two.
Aspeth holds Abernathy by the hair and looks into his eyes for a moment, then pulls his head back to expose his throat and slips her misericorde behind his collarbone and into his heart.
As she lets go of his hair, leaving him to roll onto the floor, mercifully dead, they hear the slopping shuffle of another worm-ridden tumourous horror shamble out from around the corner of the far end of the cavern, it shambles as fast as it can up the side of a stony platform and launches itself upon Obediah, spewing and clawing as it falls.
Obediah fails his save vs. Poison and (roll on Body Horror table…) it tears open the flesh of his left hand and vomits parasitic infection into the wound.
Now we’ve been using contested melee combat, which means the attacker rolls d20 +AB vs. the defender’s d20 +DB (Defence Bonus being their AC -12). If the defender rolls a natural 20, they get to do something.
So when Malatesta charges in with his zweihänder, misses, and the worm tumour thing rolls a 20, it clings to Obediah and rolls over so that he’s between them and Malatesta’s sword spears straight through Obediah’s thigh.
Aspeth very nearly spears Obediah as well which makes Felix reconsider still trying to use his pike, so he throws it to the cave floor, staunches over, raises his shitty strapped sword-arm, and slices its head clean off, watching it roll away spilling pus and blood with satisfaction.
Aspeth looks at Obediah’s hand, sets her lips, and shakes her head.
So Malatesta stands on his arm with some Ruby Tears of Mercy at the ready while Florian raises his bronze axe and lops off Obediah’s hand mid-forearm.
The mushroom juice staunches the bleeding and Obediah feels pretty damn calm and good about things, not even fazed, and they burn the stump for good measure.
Around the corner they find Wilhelm Esmond-Womald, even more bloated than Abernathy, hands and feet shrivelled and black, chest pushed out in an arch by the pack still strapped to his shoulders.
Obediah cuts the straps and begins rifling through the contents, while Wilhelm struggles to speak through bubbles of bile which spill down his chin, little more than hideous gurgles.
Aspeth takes him by the head, bids him goodbye, and slides the misericorde behind his collarbone, only removing it when his gurgling stops.
She turns to Malatesta and hands the knife to him, exposing her throat. “I’m done,” she says, “finish it.”
Malatesta takes her in one arm as he pushes the knife through her skin, down into her chest, looking into her face the whole time, and in that final moment, before the flicker of life leaves her eyes, they both realise that were things different, they could have truly loved each other.
He drops her lifeless body to the ground and hands the misericorde to Florian who has been eying it off.
Then Felix joins Obediah in rifling through the pack and clutches at his spellbook with his one hand and pretty much dances around the cave in joy.