The party built a raft that could float the dragon turtle’s enormous severed head to Noname, where they could turn it in for the bounty. In the wreckage of sailboats, Croak found Hoxie lying under a smashed boat. He healed her. She immediately claimed a turtle egg, which hatched.
The party named their turtles:
- Megan Myrtle
- Notortus BIG (Biggy for short)
- Squirtle (the runt of the litter, with a malformed flipper and a lolling tongue)
Hoxie told the party (minus Croak) about what she had done while she was not in the party:
She got drunk and tried to rob the manor, only to be stopped by the butler with dimension door. She tried to rob the palace and failed. Solxax followed her to a gambling den, where she lost at so many games of chance that she had to sell Solxax into slavery to cover her debts. Then she stole a boat and departed to sea to search for them. A storm blew her onto the dragon turtle’s island, where she lay unconscious until the party found her.
With baby turtles in tow alongside the severed head of their grandfather, the party sailed to Noname. Once there, they learned from the locals that the king had been murdered by agents of the would-be usurper, Gwen. A sigil had been left at the scene belonging to the Royal Order of Silly Hats.
“Oh, but we’re part of that order,” said Croak.
Hunny knocked all three guards unconscious and hid them in convenient barrels.
Mithian had her pseudodragon carry a letter to King Edwin:
“Hey Edwin Bro,
Sorry about your father. That sucks. We’ve bravely taken care of the dragon turtle and like have his head and stuff. If you can come down to the harbor, we can do a tradesies for his head for the reward. Oh, and then we can take your painting to your sister. Also, Blacksad says hi and he misses you and wants to see your face.
From Mithian & Co"
The party spent the night in Clove and Rosalee’s warehouse. A cloaked figure knocked on the door at midnight: King Edwin.
He reassured the party that he did not believe they had known about Gwen’s treacherous plot to murder the king. He agreed to pay them the 10,000 gold bounty for slaying the dragon turtle.
He still hoped that he could reach his sister’s heart and convince her to embrace peace. He handed off the wrapped painting to Blacksad and told him that only he should view it before Gwen. He offered the party the chance to take their gold and flee. They could live in the countryside as petty nobles. But they were not convinced. They wanted to speak to Gwen and learn the truth.
Concerned that the famine had still not been lifted in Noname, Croak sent a letter to the guild-master:
“I killed the dragon turtle. Please send those grain ships I requested to Noname.
PS: Did you guys kill the king?
The party set sail. On the way, the whispers in Hoxie’s mind made a pact with her: so long as she shouted a cool attack name, she could use the power of a ‘cool toy.’ Hoxie chose her attack name wisely: Pickles! Into her hands fell a mysterious pink wand with wings cradling its weighted tip.
The journey continued uneventfully until a strange mist rolled in. Mithian cast Detect Magic with a dismissive wave. The mist stunk of magic, so she sent her pseudodragon in to scout. Beyond the mist was a strange land of slowly-flowing water. There were transparent trees filled with schools of tiny fish. A coral castle in the distance.
Against the protests of Blacksad and Mithian, the party set a course for the mysterious island. There they were greeted by a water elemental shaped like a frog with transparent organs. Its body was like blown-glass, but ever-shifting.
“My Lord saw you slay the Dragon Turtle. He was very impressed and would like to meet you.”
The servant led them through a twisted coral castle with porous walls through which elemental servants passed freely. In the throne room, lined by dozens of water elementals, sat an enormous frog in a genie’s robes. His name was Lord Bloat (a title he believed meant ‘grand’ and ‘imposing’ in human speech.) In a pool of water suspended on the wall, he watched all that transpired on the seas.
“Thank you for teaching that old turtle a lesson. Centuries ago, he called me a mud-slinging tadpole. Sorry to say such filthy words around your little ones…” Lord Bloat laughed. “I brought you here to the Plane of Water. I will grant you the honour of being my servants.”
“Uhhh…. Can we sleep on it?” said Mithian.
“Of course. I will prepare rooms for you.”
The party refused to spend the night. Mithian swore that they would return in two weeks after thinking it over. Lord Bloat insisted that they enjoy his hospitality.
“You’re pretty pushy for a fat frog,” said Blacksad.
“Never have I been so generous to base creatures that walk the land,” said Lord Bloat. “If you will not be my servants, I will make you my slaves.”
Hunny smashed one of the water elementals with her hammer. It dissolved into water and reformed, apparently unharmed.
Hoxie giggled. “Oh no. We’re going to die!”
Blacksad shot an arrow into Lord Bloat’s neck. “Oh well.”
Lord Bloat flooded the room. Blacksad climbed onto Megan Myrtle’s back and used her as a platform from which he could shoot. Hoxie used her mysterious wand to read the frog’s mind. Water elementals mobbed the party, trying to drown them. Mithian used her Wand of Lightning Bolts on the crowded elementals. Croak aimed an attack at the lord himself.
As Lord Bloat was electrocuted, the water elementals surrounding him flickered in and out of existence. The party realized that they would need to defeat him before they were drowned.
The party pelted him with attacks of magic and electricity. He turned into a cloud of gas and attempted to slip into the porous wall. Croak pulled out his fan, used Gust of Wind, and forced him to transform back into his physical state.
“Wait!” Lord Bloat raised a hand. “If you spare my life, I will grant you one wish.”
Mithian sighed. “Can I just kill him?”
The party argued over whether to wish for an airship, for power and riches, or for the truth about who murdered the king. They turned to Blacksad to write a wish that could not be twisted.
“We wish for the knowledge of how and who murdered King Haggard of Noname, the most recently deceased king, and the whereabouts of evidence of his murder.”
Lord Bloat grinned. The world went black. The party found themselves in an opulent bedroom, all lace and lacquered furniture. Standing on the bed, pressing a pillow into the king’s face, was Hoxie.
When the vision faded, Blacksad was holding a silk pillow with a monogram H.
“I didn’t do it,” shrieked Hoxie. In her mind, bells tinkled like laughter. “I don’t remember doing that.”
No one believed her.
“Shit,” said Blacksad. “I should have asked him to fix the pillars of the world.”
The party checked the crumbling coral castle for treasure. In dungeons deep underground, they found a girl and a pegasus…. Jenny the Mage. But she was three years older than she should have been.
“How long have you been down here?” said Blacksad.
“Three days,” said Jenny. “I searched for you, but I was trapped here…”
The party realized that the flow of time was wonky on this plane. They fled the castle. Twin moons were setting on the horizon, but when they slipped through the mist, they saw only their own moon.
But the phase was wrong.
“We are so good at this,” said Blacksad. “We should stop at every mystical island we come across.”
“At least we rescued Jenny?”
Mithian sighed. “We could have lived our whole lives without rescuing Jenny.”
They sailed to Haysport. Even from the distance, they could see that time had passed: it was Fall when they had left Noname and now cherry blossoms were in bloom. New walls had been built around the town and the haphazard orchards razed and replaced with tended fields of wheat and vegetables.
Glink, dressed in armor and cape and bearing a dagger shaped like a flute, greeted them at the harbour. He told him that in the six months that had passed, Gwen had built up Haysport, taken Esterway and Lamure, and convinced the hill giants to support her cause. Through it all, Glink had been essential as a PR person, a public speaker who gave super-inspiring speeches.
“In two months,” he said. “We’re going to take Noname and put an end to this war.”
The party met with Gwen and showed her the painting, a stirring portrait of childhood siblings embracing before a sunset. It was stylized like graffiti. The children both had hairy chests.
Gwen was not impressed. “In the face of famine and war, this is what my brother does? Paint?”
“Hey, man,” said Blacksad. “He’s getting a lot better at painting.”
Gwen told the party that she was not responsible for the king’s death.
“That’s true,” said Croak. “Hoxie did it.”
“My father…” Gwen was shaken. “But I suppose it does give me a stronger claim. Is it true?”
Blacksad nodded sagely. “There was a cosmic frog genie who gave us this knowledge. It was some pretty heavy shit.”
Croak demanded to know why Gwen had not sent the grain ships he asked for. Gwen tried to explain basic tactics (like the importance of not sending food to the enemy before a probable siege), but then settled on promising to let Croak lead a relief expedition if he would work with Hoxie’s contacts Clove and Rosalee to convince the populace to support her as rightful Queen. But it would taken a few months to get the grain ships together.
In the meantime, she asked the party to go to the barbarian plains and seek out the support of the half-orcs there. The Plains of Grappalar had been riven by an earthquake and was now broken into seven floating islands. The Royal Order, led by the locally born barbarian Hunny, could go and aid them in their time of need. On the way, they could see Shan in Esterway and break the curse on Croak’s headband-of-no-inner-monologue.
After a stop at the tea shop for potions, drugs, and gossip (including a warning about a bounty hunter targeting Gwen and the Royal Order), the party mounted their turtles and crawled towards Esterway.
But, in the forests outside Haysport, black clouds billowed above them. Ash rained from the sky. The wind that carried the ash was blowing from the direction of the plains…