Year 544, 5th of Ches
Gwen instructed the party to infiltrate Noname discretely, research the creature lurking beneath the city, and then kidnap her brother. She provided them with funds and a ship to do so.
“I know it’s your MO to cause trouble and I don’t doubt your… efficacy. But if you are caught in what I’ve tasked you to do, I will disavow all knowledge of you. You will wait until my signal before you get near Edwin: a man wearing a hat made of bat wings and wax fruit will approach you.”
Glink helped the party put on disguises:
- Rudy put on stilts and a comically large mustache and became Ruben Rubnick, a wealthy businessman looking to open a sandwich shop in Noname.
- Horse, Rudy’s corgi mount, also put on a pair of stilts and a mustache and became Top Dog.
- Hunny put on an undersized button-up shirt, a tie, and a businessman hat. With a clipboard and a briefcase full of rocks in hand, she became Mr Business the auditor.
- Mithian put on a mythical push-up (the legendary Bra of Holding), wore plaid elven garb, glasses without lenses, and an accent scarf. She became Wanikta Lequisha, a young woman in search of adventure and craft brews.
- Blacksad threw on a tattered grey cloak over his usual clothes, shaved a bald spot onto his head, put on a bad mustache, and started carrying a staff and cup. He became Whiteglad, an elderly blind beggar.
A merchant ship called The Salty Mistress was waiting for them at port. Its captain was Gio Deadshard and its crew were kobolds in poor disguises.
Blacksad stepped on a kobold’s toe. “Oh, excuse me. I’m blind!”
“So,” said Rudy. “What kind of cargo do you carry?”
Gio rubbed his beard. “Ceramic unicorns.”
Hunny tensed. “Don’t smash. You’re… Mr Business now.”
“How many er… how many crew do you have?” said Blacksad.
“30 perfectly normal humans. Who I pay.”
“And how long is this journey?”
“Oh,” said Blacksad and Hunny.
There was a long silence and then Gio turned to Hunny. “So what sort of auditing do you do?”
Hunny fixed him with an intense stare. “Do you want to know?”
“Oh. Uh, I don’t think so.” He glanced at her clipboard and then passed her a few gold coins. “I hope that this adequately conveys my respect for your, uh, profession.”
“Oh, yes. So far everything looks to be… up to standards.”
Mithian seduced the captain, convincing him to part with his alcohol and the mirror from his cabin.
In the night, Blacksad sneaked out of his cabin and shoved two kobolds overboard. The captain hardly noticed. The next night, he stabbed a kobold in its sleep and then covered another kobold in its blood to make it look like a murder among the crew. In the morning, the captain imprisoned the hapless kobold in a makeshift brig for its crime.
“Hey!” Hunny held a ceramic unicorn in Gio’s face. “I’ve been doing some auditing and this ceramic unicorn is not in your manifest. And it’s defective.”
“Oh dear. I can’t have that.”
Hunny smashed it on the ground. “Everything appears to be in order now.”
“Yes, procedure… auditing!” said Hunny gleefully.
In the night, Blacksad disguised himself as a kobold (somehow?) and slipped among the crew, whispering cries of mutiny. He convinced them to attack the captain and then escape into the world to ‘find the dragons out there.’ On his way back to his room, Blacksad encountered Hunny smashing crates of unicorns. Their eyes met.
“Blame it on the kobolds,” said Blacksad.
Hunny nodded solemnly.
In the morning, the party was awoken by a scream. They ran out onto the deck and found the captain pinned against the wheel. Multiple kobolds stabbed him again and again.
Blacksad gleefully mowed down kobolds to rescue the captain. Hunny smashed as many as she could reach. Rudy used magic to create the image of a beckoning dragon hovering over the waves. Seven kobolds, entranced by the image, jumped into the waves to their deaths.
Leaning against the railing, Mithian watched and sipped her beer. She coughed, spat it out, and then sipped again.
Only four kobolds remained, cowering on the deck. Blacksad looked them in the eye, grinned, and then walked past to heal the captain’s injuries.
The captain was coughing up blood. “We don’t have enough crew left to make it to port!”
“Don’t worry,” said Blacksad. “I’ve done boat stuff before.”
“But you’re blind!”
“I wasn’t born blind,” he said. “Gibble the starboard bow!”
After some impressive displays of boat stuff, they docked in the ancient ruins of Port Chryonis.
It was night and fog had blown in over the island. The air echoed with footfalls and the sounds of clanking swords. Strange motes floated in the air, bringing colour to random spots in the darkness, as if they were backlit by some unknown light source. They flickered in and out of being, leaving nothing for the eye to linger on.
Rudy cast Leoman’s Tiny Hut and the party camped out… until they heard a knock on the side of it.
“Excuse me,” said an elderly woman. “You can’t camp here! This is a historical site. You haven’t even purchased a tour.”
Hunny punched her.
“Hooligans! You can’t do that! It’s not safe here.”
Hunny punched her again. She crumpled onto the ground, bleeding from her mouth.
“I guess we shouldn’t spend the night here,” said Rudy.
Blacksad sighed. “I’ll carry her.”
They left the woman in the tour office on the outskirts of the ruined port. Hunny stole a tour pamphlet and a local book called Noname on Two Coppers Per Day.
They walked to Noname. The streets were deserted, except for stone statues of fleeing people, and guards on patrol. They approached the Jets Tram to take a shark-drawn carriage, but a guard demanded to see their identifying papers. Rudy cast minor illusion on a piece of paper, showed it to him, and convinced the guard that they were traveling performers.
They rode a shark-drawn carriage to Cryonis University. There, they found that a number of people were camped out on the grounds. Mithian spotted her friend Beth ReyAnne, but could not approach her because the party was supposed to be undercover. So she had her pseudodragon, Peter, carry a letter instead.
To the Lovely Beth Rey-Anne,
Hey Gurl, how you doing! Just checking up and seeing how it’s going. Miss you lots. Hope you have met only the cutest and nicest of boys. Hope to hear from you soon.
Peter came back carrying a letter.
It’s terrible! Stupid commoners broke into my house and looted and now I have nothing but a wardrobe of clothes and Jeeves. :( :( Help!
Rudy chatted up some guards and learned that the city was under martial law. There was a 6pm curfew. Any who traveled at night were pursued and turned to stone by gorgons that roamed the streets.
“How badly do you want to help your friend?” said Blacksad to Mithian.
“Ugh,” said Mithian.
The party moved on to the library, where they met an assistant named Lynndis. She handed over a set of index cards and offered assistance in finding any books in the library. She also warned Mithian about a book-eating ghost that haunted the library.
The party found 9 books that appeared to be of interest.
The Elderin Legacy by Sherry Bird-Eye Seifer
Minions of Use by Oaken Flan
Ways of Fey by Spotted Ham
Chronicles of the Hangman Lars Payne
The Untold Romances of the Elderins by Elain Merderand
Raid the Kitchen by Gregg the Adopted Barbarian
Campaign Notes from Port Chryonis by Brad Corrin
Towards an Understanding of Starglass by Todores Tattersail
Vertirsas Den of Thieves by Clag Hammersmith
Unfortunately, some of the books were in the restricted area and Minions of Use was missing. Rudy scouted out the library with a floating eye and discovered a locked door on a balcony that was roped off from the public.
The party curled up in the library’s plush seating and passed books around. They read and compared notes.
“You shouldn’t kiss your fey boyfriend.” Blacksad pointed to The Ways of Fey. “It says here that he’s a really bad kisser. If you kiss him, you’ll die.”
Mithian put her hands on her hips. “Uh, that’s a lie. Because I’ve kissed him a lot of times.”
Blacksad sighed. “Oh. Whatever.”
Hunny discovered that her father had written Raid the Kitchen.
“What is it about?” asked Blacksad.
Hunny shrugged. “This book is basically a workout except you are also cooking.”
Blacksad investigated some strange rustling sounds and captured a paper drake that was leaping from shelf to shelf and folding itself into the pages of books. He brought it to Rudy to examine. He recognized it as a creature prized as a scribe by wizards, but that shamelessly devoured books. In the writings scrawled on its folded wings, he discerned a spell.
Mithian noticed a hidden key in the Chronicles of the Hangman and set to work decoding text.
A shelf fell over, spilling books all over the floor. Lynndis rushed over to pick them back up. The noise brought out Librarian Dhidra who stood behind her assistant and shouted instructions.
Rudy took advantage of the distraction to climb up the rope ladder to the restricted area of the library. He disarmed a trap on the door, broke into a safe, and took a shard of crystal from a terrarium filled with tiny plants and birds. On the desk, he noticed a large green gem. He took it with him, but hid it in his pockets. Then he fled to the common area before his luck ran out.
“Guys, I have the books,” Rudy whispered. “Let’s get out of here.”
They returned to the streets and argued over where to spend the night. They noticed some boarded up shops were painted with a frog-shaped scull and crossbones wearing a red scarf.
“Oh look,” said Blacksad. “Croak is in a gang now.”
Rudy knocked on the window of one of these buildings. A woman yanked them inside and gave them some free eggs and potatoes and told them that if they were in need, they should seek out the mousefolk who owned C&R Distributions.
They spent the night in a bed of straw. Blacksad stayed up, peering through the window. He saw dozens of gorgons patrolling the streets. Around two AM, they heard a woman scream and go silent.
“Well, we made the right decision not to go out after curfew,” said Rudy cheerfully.
Blacksad found Rosalee in her office, tallying sums. She gave him a bag of coins to give to Hoxie: proceeds from selling coral. Blacksad asked for news of the capital.
Rosalee and and Clove led an underground organization helping people survive. Her people were distributing food that Croak was smuggling in on his pirate ship, The Righteous Indignation.
“There’s something I think you should know.” Rosalee handed Blacksad a propaganda poster, a painting of mountains, a sunset, and images of prosperity. “The guards have been distributing these posters and they all have the prince’s signature… but it’s not his art style.”
“My god,” said Rudy. “Those bastards have taught him how to paint.”
Rosalee explained that prince Edwin had refused to be crowned for reasons unknown. Someone had attempted to assassinate him during his last public speech, and he had not been seen since. Rumours swirled that Edwin was unaware of the people’s plight, that his father still lived, or that he wished to give up the throne to Gwen.
Blacksad put a few gold coins on the table. “Forget you ever saw us.”
Rosalee pushed them back. “I won’t accept your money. You saved my life… and I don’t know what you did for Clove, but I haven’t seen her so happy since her wife died.”
“Please accept a donation, then. For the people.”
They returned to their bed of straw and researched through the night.
Rudy transcribed the spell written on the paper drake into his spellbook and learned Tiny Servant.
In the morning, Mithian stood and stretched. “Okay, so here is what we know. There’s a giant meteor full of starglass under Noname. Snuffles the Cat needs to be presented to Vertirsa. Vertirsa is the lord of many eyes who has Queen Hilda’s daughter. We need to go to the corn maze to see if we can find where the world pillar is hidden in the crater. The golden hallway (in the palace) is where we can find the lord.”
“What next?” said Blacksad.
“Kitties!” shrieked Hunny.
They traveled to the monastery. It was a lighthouse built on a cliff, but instead of a fire at the top to light the way, it was capped by a balcony where people meditated. They met a monk named Vazith Mankhaft tending the fields. He told them about the sorry state of the order’s inbred cats.
“The only cat here worth seeing is Sugarfuss the Bold. She is a sight to behold.”
“But… why cats?” said Blacksad. “I thought you guys were into seagulls.”
“Have you heard a flock of hundreds of seagulls shrieking while you’re trying to meditate?” Vazith sighed. “It’s more of a figurative appreciation of seagulls. The order’s branch in Esterway sees them as beautiful, free birds of the sea. We who live by the ocean consider them… uh… garbage birds.”
Inside, they saw monks in meditation and cats frolicking beside an enormous pile of gold and gems. Hunny drank a potion of animal friendship. She was approached by a sleek black cat with a white diamond on her forehead. It had one eye golden, one green. It wore a ruby studded collar.
Hunny felt the tug of compulsion on her mind, a desire to pet. She shrugged it off and pet the cat of her own free will. She cast speak with animals and knelt down before her.
“Why hello, worshiper,” said Sugarfuss. “I will allow you to pet and feed me.”
“Oh, yes. We would love to,” said Hunny.
Hunny and Mithian spent an hour petting the cat. Sugarfuss convinced them to place a breakable glass necklace on the Altar of Rational Inquiry, where she ignored it for a time and then shoved it onto the ground to break.
“Ah, yes,” said Sugarfuss. “Gravity continues to work.”
“You are so wise,” said Hunny.
“Have you come to take me away to my destiny?” said Sugarfuss. “I am quite certain I am very important.”
“We are going to take you to defeat a giant mouse with many eyes.”
Sugarfuss groomed herself. “This is acceptable. I will permit you to carry me.”
Hunny and Mithian felt a strange feeling wash over them. Their bodies felt more agile, almost cat-like in grace.
Hunny carried Sugarfuss as the party traveled to the corn maze. Rudy donated 100 gold for them to enter. Hunny, Rudy, and Blacksad navigated the maze. Mithian walked around the maze and waited for them at the crater’s edge.
Crows dive-bombed Sugarfuss and Hunny shielded the cat with her body. Blacksad killed 20 crows, causing the rest to scatter and fly away.
A booming laugh came from the center of the maze. “Quite a show!”
Rudy, guided by luck, reached the center of the maze first. There, he met a man named Orlan Pineblood who carried a cikavak on his oversized paldrons. After chatting with the man, they both realized that they were friends with Glink. Rudy told him that Glink was his boss. The stranger cheerfully told Rudy that he was best buddies with Zeke, who was keeping him ‘quite busy’ in odd jobs like capturing and killing.
Orlan asked the party if they could guide him out of the corn maze. He was tall enough to see the exit, but he was ‘unwilling to cheat’ by looking. The party reluctantly agreed.
In the crater, they found an enormous stone plug blocking them from reaching the true bottom. It was smooth, precision-cut. Around the rim of the crater, there were shards of glass and stone.
Mithian suggested they should try to get below the plug of stone by finding a cave underneath it. They parted ways with Orlan and camped on the crater rim.
Once night fell, Rudy noticed stones glowing in the darkness. He and Hunny ventured into the crater alone. Speckles of colour crowded their vision. The deeper they want into the crater, the more the darkness receded and was replaced by forest. The air smelled loamy and moist. They stood in the treetops, above the plug of stone.
“I don’t like this, Rudy!” said Hunny. “Let’s turn back.”
“In a minute.” Rudy pried lose a first-sized chunk of black glass that sparkled like starlight. He climbed onto Hunny’s back. “Okay, now run.”
Hunny scrambled up the slope, jumping between patches of night. Her feet clung to the ground as if she had claws to dig in. When she reached the top, she turned back and saw that the world had returned to normal.
They returned and told their tale. The party decided that what they had seen was a portal to the past. They decided that it would be a good idea to travel there, so they could slip underneath the plug and get to the bottom of the crater.
Leaving Sugarfuss in the safety of Leoman’s Tiny Hut, they went back into the crater. This time, their vision clouded with patches of grey, barren soil. The stars in the sky were brighter than they had ever seen them. Their breath steamed in the air.
Rudy tied a rope to himself. “I’m going in!”
He jumped into one of the patches of strangeness. There, he floated into the air and felt a harsh pressure in his lungs. He saw that the seas were gone and the few remaining trees were skeletal. The ground below was cracked, revealing tunnels filled with bodies. He cast Fly and returned to the normal world.
“We need to get out of here,” Rudy said between coughs. “This isn’t the past. …I think it’s the future.”
They returned to the hut and treated Rudy for frostbite.
“What I saw…” Rudy shook his head. “Something bad has happened here. Or will happen. It’s rippling through time. I’ve heard of such things in my studies… a Chronalmental. A being that shows up on sites of tragedy like battlefields.”
In the morning, they reached the edge of the cliff and found an inlet filled with jagged rocks. There was a small cave in the cliffside. They flew past all the jagged rocks and went within.
At first, the cavern was rough like natural rock. But as they traveled deeper, they reached a hallway with carved reliefs lit by luminescent moss. At the end of it, there was a mirror and a stone statue of a woman.
“What is with this mirror?” whispered Blacksad.
“Well hello,” said Mithian, admiring her reflection.
“The statue looks like the pictures of Hilda Elderin from the books,” said Hunny. “Is she the daughter the queen gave to the lord?”
A ray of light appeared, bouncing off the mirror onto the statue. Stone turned to flesh.
“I am Shiela Corrin,” said the woman, bowing to Sugarfuss. “My lord would like to speak to you.”