Blacksad, traumatized by his brush with near-death at Hunny’s hands, steered his obsidian fly towards a distant forest. “Forget this. I’m going home.”
The party touched down in Blacksad’s hometown, a village of hanging gardens and thatched-roofed houses hidden in a grove of trees with branches and leaves so large that people can stroll across them. The wind carried the sounds of harp music and gentle whistling.
“Oh, this is nice,” said Hunny.
Blacksad rolled his eyes. “Uggggh. I hate this place.”
“How could you hate this place?”
“Everyone here is a huge phony.”
“Hello!” said a raccoon farmer, tending his hanging gardens nearby. “Lovely weather, eh?”
“Oh my god,” said Hoxie. “I want to steal them.”
“When did you get here?” snapped Blacksad.
Hoxie giggled. “I was here all along.”
“Whatever,” said Blacksad. He took off on his own, went home, and locked himself up in his childhood bedroom. The walls were plastered with posters of famous bards like the elf Maria Angel and Green Green Day.
Hoxie, Hunny, and Mithian went to the gift shop, where they learned the fey villagers had no concept of money. They convinced a red panda named Clarence to part with belongings in exchange for future favours. Then Mithian kidnapped a child red panda named Kimiko.
Hunny slipped a leash onto Clarence.
He chuckled. “You certainly are an interesting lady.”
“Shh, no talking,” said Hunny. “Animals don’t talk.”
The party found Blacksad’s house and met his parents, Sweet Pea the dryad and Herman the dire hedgehog farmer with a corncob pipe.
“I’m glad to see that Arthur has made some nice friends,” said Sweet Pea.
“My name is Blacksad, Moooooom! Arthur is my slave name.”
Sweet Pea served the party goodberry lemonaid in the yard.
“Mooom, stop talking to my friends!”
“Oh my god,” said Hunny. “He called us his friends. That’s the nicest thing he has ever said to us.”
Hoxie giggled. “Yeah. Blacksad does sooo much heroin.”
Herman beamed. “We’re just so glad our boy has an interest. He has a good heart.”
Blacksad groaned. “I hate this place.”
While Hunny, Hoxie, and Mithian tortured their captive, Elise, Blacksad’s parents told him that they had decided to give up the farm and retire.
“What?” said Blacksad, his lip quivering. “But who will tend it now?”
“Chad!” said Sweet Pea. “He’s been such a huge help around here since you left.”
Blacksad turned white. He looked out the window at his nemesis, a full-blooded elf he grew up with, and the person he has despised most in all the world. Chad noticed him and gave him a friendly wave.
Blacksad ground his teeth. “Chad…”
Hunny broke some bones in Elise’s legs. Elise screamed . Woodland critters gathered round, watching with gaping mouths.
Hoxie giggled. “I think we are supposed to ask questions before we break things.”
“Oh, right,” said Hunny. “Okay. Tell us what your plans are.”
“You will regret leaving me alive,” spat Elise. “When Zeke learns of this…”
Mithian yawned. “Yeah, yeah. Zeke. You banged. We get it.”
“We have a relationship of mutual respect,” said Elise coldly.
“Girl,” said Mithian. “If he was treating you right, it wouldn’t be respectful.”
“Yeah!” said Hoxie gleefully. She poked Elise with her knife.
“Hey guys,” said Rudy. “Far be it from me to comment on our tactics, but maybe we should wait to torture her until after we bring her to Gwen.”
“I guess so,” said Mithian. She wandered off and convinced Chad to show her his muscles.
The party spent the night camping in the yard. Prince Edwin stayed over at Chad’s house, where they had a sleepover party and talked about Blacksad through the night.
During the night, a ghostly shirtless Blacksad visited every living thing around the house. It gathered them in its healing embrace. Edwin was moved to create a painting called The Visitation of God.
Before the party left, Blacksad gave 1000GP to his parents and convinced them to travel as far away from Noname as possible. “The Grand Leak is nice this time of year. I guess.”
Herman chewed on a coin. “What are these little pieces of metal for?”
Hoxie took it upon herself to teach Blacksad’s parents the value of money.
“I see,” said Sweet Pea. “So, so you exchange these coins to other people to get goods and services without owing a favour. So you don’t have to care about anyone.”
“Exactly!” said Hoxie. “And that will be $200 gold for teaching you how to use money.”
Sweet Pea cheerfully counted out coins. “Commerce is so interesting.”
“You are the worst,” said Blacksad.
Hoxie giggled. “I’m helping.”
As Blacksad left his home behind, and believed himself out of earshot, he whispered, “Thanks for everything. Be safe. I love you.”
Hoxie giggled. “ARTHUR LOVES HIS PARENTS!”
“My name. is. Blacksad.”
Clarence the red panda showed up to call in a favour to get the party to help fix his roof.
“Chad will do it,” said Mithian.
Rudy nodded. “Chad is so helpful.”
Chad took home Kimiko and fixed the roof. As he was leaving, he looked back over his shoulder to see if his childhood idol, Blacksad, was watching. But Blacksad never looked back.
A bright light flared over Noname harbour.
“The signal from Gwen,” said Rudy. “Let’s go.”
“I wonder what Gwen will think when she sees all the castle workers have no eyes…” said Hunny.
“They didn’t see it coming!” said Rudy.
They landed on Gwen’s ship. She greeted them with a firm nod. “You’ve done well, this time.”
“Good job, Hatters,” said Glink sulkily. “I mean, you didn’t wait for the man in batwing hat, but I guess that’s fine. You know. I put a lot of work into that plan, but it’s cool.”
Gwen slapped Edwin and then hugged him. “Don’t you ever do that again.”
Hoxie and Hunny held out their hands. “Money please.”
“I anticipated this request. I have arranged for title and land for each of you.” Gwen gazed out over the ruins of Noname. Sections of the slums still burned from the night’s rioting. “This kingdom is not what it was. We need to rebuild it together. And, as part of that effort, I would like you all to own stakes in this place. Take your estates. Fix them. Make them prosper. Together, we can bring order and peace to our kingdom.”
Mithian snatched the paper. “Wait, is that a bathhouse on that list? Daaamn. I’m going to get Chad to work for me.”
Each party member accepted a deed. They went their separate ways to manage their properties.
Mithian’s Bathhouse: The Salacious Spa
The bathhouse and cottages were nestled in a walled garden, but had a severe russet mold problem. Mithian tracked down Beth ReyAnne and convinced her to come work the front reception desk. Her butler, Jeeves, cleaned up the russet mold with professional efficiency.
Only attractive people are allowed to visit the spa.
Blacksad’s Bachelor Pad: The Painted Arrow (literally an arrow)
Blacksad accepted a pair of keys from Edwin and started living in his art studio above the Speakeasy. There, he descended into a life of drugs and pretentious art. The prince’s paintings made him a hero among the populace, which immediately went to his head. His new title Warden of the Spoken Word granted him the authority to ruthlessly critique spoken poetry.
He also began systematically harassing an elderly man protesting in favour of kobold rights across the street.
Hoxie’s Shop: Trips & Trinkets
Hoxie set up a store in the merchant district. She sent for her parents to come work for her (for free) and sent for her child slaves to dig a tunnel into the dwarven graveyard rumoured to exist beneath her basement.
She found Clove and Rosalee and forged a new business relationship. She would act as a front for their organization for their legal and illegal enterprises. She also offered her dragon turtle’s services to help ‘protect’ the mousefolk’s boat, if needed.
Hunny’s Inn: The Punching Pug
Hunny opened an inn for barbarians. It featured a smash room for patrons to break things, as well as a bar where everyone was expected to punch the bartender. The kitchens only served food from her father’s book… like imported slabs of raw skink meat. There was also a room with a rotating puppy stock. The beds in the rooms were live skinks.
Rudolfo Rollibard Ruffo’s Perfect Prediction Parlour & Gift Shop
Rudy moved into the clinic formerly known as Queen Anne’s Mercy. There, he convinced the imp infestation to work for him and set them to cleaning up the premises.
He hired Jenny the mage and Glendyn (AKA Dyn) the half-orc wizard that Mithian had seduced back in the Plains of Grappelar. He set them both to work on performing illusion magic and enchanting dolls.
Dyn asked for tips on how to get Mithian to like him, so Rudy introduced him to Chad, who gave him some friendly relationship and fitness advice. Dyn used illusion magic to disguise himself as Chad and then approached the spa, attempting to convince Mithian to dance with him. But she recognized him immediately when he used the name ‘Molly.’ Mithian convinced Beth to hang out with him. After a couple minutes alone with Beth, Dyn stormed out, crying.
Rudy ground up the unicorn horns he had taken when they were in the castle of the star whale. He used a Contact Other Plain ritual to contact the Void Dragon to convince it to sleep on his cloak for the night. It snatched him from reality, bringing him to glassy moon in a bubble of air. All around, there was only the void and stars, blotted out by the shape of a dragon so large it wrapped around the moon.
“Uh,” said Rudy. “Would you mind sleeping on this cloak?”
An aura of madness assaulted him, but he shrugged it off. Things always just seemed to have a way of working out.
“What do you offer?”
Rudy offered a star sapphire, which the dragon snatched way, leaving frostbite on Rudy’s fingers. He raked through Rudy’s mind, searching for scraps of knowledge.
“Tell me all you know of this… starglass,” said the Void Dragon.
Rudy told him everything, including his visits through time.
“That realm of death you describe. I have been there. I will be there. I am there.”
“Oh.” said Rudy. “Well, can you help me?”
The dragon perched atop the cloak. A night passed by, slow as the shifting of an eon. Rudy told him his life story.
“Well, then,” said Rudy. “I’ll need to get back…”
“We did not bargain for safe passage.”
“I can tell you more stories.”
“I don’t want your stories. I know you well. Knew you. Have known you. Before you were born, I was there. After your death, I knew your name.”
There was a long, awkward silence. “Well, what do you want?”
“I want your eyes. Your ears. I will go where you go and see what you see and learn all there is to know about starglass. In a thousand year’s time, I will come to your realm and it will know the void.”
“Okay,” said Rudy. “I’m sure it will all work out.”
Chains wrapped around his mind. A heavy presence pressed down all that he was. In a dark corner of his soul, the void whispered.
Rudy awoke in the basement of his shop, covered in vomit. His imps were fussing over him, and had draped the cloak over him. He cleaned himself up with the snap of a spell.
Seeing just how bad Blacksad had gotten, the party decided that they needed to stage an intervention. They kidnapped Blacksad and tied him up the same room he had been kept prisoner when the assassins had taken him previously.
“What is this?” demanded Blacksad.
“This is for your own good,” said Mithian.
“When you drink,” said Rudy, reading off a paper, “it hurts you and me.”
Hoxie offered Blacksad a sample of the tea lady’s drugs. He took it and disassociated from his body. He started wiggling around, moving his mannequin arms. Hunny punched him out.
For a week, Blacksad drifted through his own soul. He found a forest of neon lights. Deer made of pulsing colors ran beside him. He ran with the deer. He was a deer. He wandered until he found a cave. There, in the dark, he heard a deep rumbling purr. He followed the sound and found… a cat perched on the beating heart of the world. The world darkened until only its golden eyes remained.
“The catlord,” whispered Blacksad. He woke, shaking, weak.
“How are you feeling?” said Hunny.
Blacksad paused. “Good. For the first time in a long time… I feel good.”