The Royal Order of Silly Hats

Hoxie and Rudy's Totally Legitimate and Legal Adventures
Let's Rob a Beholder

Hoxie woke up bright and early in the afternoon… to the sounds of footsteps in lockstep. She peered out her window and saw a man in a fancy hat visit the merchant across the street (Beatrice, owner of Coral and Morel) to offer her distribution rights over the area as part of Queen Gwen’s reconstruction efforts.

“That bitch,” muttered Hoxie. As the Minister of Foreign Trade and Bribery, she would take the whole city under heel.

She set out to meet with Gwen. Along the way, she encountered a peddler selling eye patches. She convinced him to work for her in exchange for keeping 10% of his earnings and having her ‘protection’ from competition. The Peddler asked if his rival might be able to come to a little accident.

Meanwhile, Rudy’s package of mercury had arrived. He filled a bowl, did a divination ritual, and spied on Shelley Belle Mere.

Shelley Belle Mere was at the helm of a ship. In the distance, a volcano was erupting, spilling lava into the sea.

“I believe we have a guest,” said Zeke. “If only you understood my true aims, my dear Hatters, you would never try to oppose me. You see, only I can—”

Rudy put the divination on mute. He focused on an open map on a nearby table, which showed the ship’s destination: Quailcrest Mountain.

Rudy dismissed the spell, donned his good cloak, and headed out into the city. “I urgently need to tell Gwen that the cultists are on a boat next to a volcano… doing nothing while Zeke monologues.”

He bumped into Hoxie. He convinced her to try selling a box of his Limited Edition Queen Gwen talking dolls.

Together, they wended through crowds, heading towards the palace. In the noble district, they encountered a long line of eyeless people waiting in front of a house.

Rudy cast a minor illusion to make it look like he had a broken arm. He got in line.

“What’s all this?” he asked the lady in front of him.

“A miracle healer!”

“How long is the wait?”

“Six hours.”

Hoxie strode past them to the man in front of the line, rested her dagger against his junk, and said sweetly, “Actually, I was in line first.”

The man nodded. As soon as Hoxie removed the knife, he ran away sobbing. The lady who was next in line took a step back.

“Heeeey, Hoxie,” said a mellow voice.

Hoxie squealed. “Shan!”

“What are guys doing here?”

“We live here.”

“Ohhh, right. You wouldn’t believe the stuff people will just give away in exchange for a little healing.” Shan showed off her pile of treasures: fingernails, shoes, buttons, and a rat’s skull. “One girl just like… gave away a memory of a butterfly like it was nothing.”

“These look like… ingredients for the arts of necromancy,” said Rudy.

“Ohhh, I thought you knew,” said Shan.

“I have something for you.”

Rudy passed Shan the book called Towards an Understanding of Starglass. As Shan read it, her serene smile never changed.

“I’m going to need to call in a couple favours,” said Shan cheerfully.

“Anything for you,” said Hoxie.

“I want to know where my friend is buried.”

“Who?” said Rudy.

Shan tapped the book. “My best friend, Todores Tattersail. She never came home. She went to the city to become an adjunct at the university and she never came home.”

“But who would even know about that?” said Rudy. “The trail is 500 years cold.”

Shan shrugged. “Someone alive from back then, I guess. Maybe like an elf or something. Someone close to that… Hilda.”

Rudy gave it a good think. “Perhaps… Sheila Corrin.”

“Who?” said Hoxie.

“We, uh, met her inside of the lair of the… lord of many eyes. She was turned to stone.”

Hoxie squealed. “TREASURE HUNT.”

They sneaked into Vertirsa’s lair at nightfall, using an invisibility spell to bypass the mirror at the entrance. In the greased trap-pit, Hoxie tried to retrieve a sword from the red sands, and engaged with a rust monster. Her metal dagger rusted beyond repair, so she swapped it out for her obsidian dagger.

She and Rudy dispatched the rust monsters and took a sample of their yellow blood. Rudy retrieved a badly-rusted sword that had impaled a rust monster. Its hit was ornate.

“Please… help,” croaked a voice.

Hoxie found a man tied up in a pit. She freed him and robbed him of his buckler. It was made of a strange, inky substance that shone in the light.

“I can’t walk,” said the man.

“Then start crawling,” said Hoxie.

“No, I really can’t. You’ll have to carry me.”

Hoxie pointed with her dagger. “Exit is that way. Good luck!”

Rudy cast a Locate Item spell and found that the statue of Sheila was still somewhere above them. They slipped past the next mirror with an illusion, and then scaled the vertical hallway.

They emerged in a large, cylindrical room with jewel-encrusted walls. Rudy poked at the wall, looking for a good hand-hold to climb the wall to the next hallway. Hyperventilating, Hoxie suffered a mini personal dilemma on whether to risk prying the jewels loose.

Gravity shifted.

Both Rudy and Hoxie tumbled towards the ceiling, towards stalactites that were now spikes. Rudy cast a spell to create a web net below them. They landed softly and then robbed some corpses that were encrusted upon the spikes.

Gravity shifted once again. Hoxie did a little backflip and landed in the hallway safely. Rudy followed with a little less dignity.

They encountered Socket, who begged for scraps.

“Socket… could you do something for us?” said Rudy. “Could you take us to your friend, Sheila Corrin, but avoid your master? We have a surprise for him. You wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise…”

“He’s so… cute!” said Hoxie. “Hey, Socket. There’s a treat waiting for you in the entrance if you can do this for us.”

They waited for Socket. In the distance, they heard a scream, then sobs, and then nothing. Socket returned and showed off his new pair of eyeballs.

“Good boy!” said Hoxie.

Socket led them into the treasure room.

Hoxie gasped. “I will… not… take everything.”

Socket led them to the statues of Sheila and Brad Corrin. The statues were shoved into the bag of holding. Having found their prize, Hoxie and Rudy took the time to loot some promising treasures: a blue-tinged dagger and a storied staff made of two kinds of intertwining wood, fashioned into the shape of serpants.

Gold coins shifted nearby. Sugarfuss the Bold marched up to Hoxie, tugged at her mind, and demanded pets.

“Feed me,” demanded Sugarfuss.

Rudy shrugged and led them to the kitchen.

The chef wailed. “I don’t need any trouble.”

“It’s okay,” said Rudy. “We left our kitchen smasher at home.”

The chef made several different dishes of fish and set them on the ground. One by one, Sugarfuss snubbed them.

“Why don’t you eat?” said the chef, sobbing.

“This seems contained,” said Rudy.

The two of them backed away.

“Now let’s get out of here,” said Rudy.

Hoxie gasped. Carelessly tossed in the beholder’s treasure was a bottle of wine, centuries old, of a vintage only a true thief could appreciate. A true treasure. She gave it an experimental yank to see if she could pry it loose…

Coins rained down. The entire golden hillside shifted with a clamour that echoed through the lair.

YOU!” shrieked Vertirsa. “WHERE IS MY SHIELD?”

“Time to go!” said Rudy.

He cast hast on Hoxie and they bolted for the previous room. Rudy greased up a nearby mirror… right before it began to glow with the light of a disintegration ray. Without the lens to focus it, the energy rebounded, melting coins into golden sludge. Rudy was struck with a glancing ray.

They emerged into the cylindrical room and found… gravity was reversed again. The hallway heated behind them.

“Jump!” said Rudy. He poly-morphed, grabbed Hoxie from mid-air, and made a mad dash for the exit….

View
Safe as Houses
Trading the Universe for a Nice Cloak

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.”

“Not anymore.”

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.”

“Pretty please?”

“No.”

“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.”

View
The Eyepocalypse
"Just take one eye from each person. Not both. One."

Year 544, 12th of Ches

Shiela Corrin addressed Sugarfuss the Bold, extending her lord’s invitation to enter his lair.

“Only the cat servant may enter. The rest of you must remain here. My lord does not trust adventurers.”

“Don’t worry,” said Hunny. “We’ll take our shoes off.”

“Very well. But you must wear these blindfolds. Do not peek. If you tamper with the blindfolds, he will know.”

“Hey man,” said Blacksad. “We’re not going to kink-shame. You do you.”

Rudy cast fly on Hunny. One by one, she carried party members up the shaft and dropped them off in the hallway above. She bumped a gas spore and showered Blacksad and Mithian with spores. They managed to cough it all up.

Sheila led the party through a round room. At its center was a depression where large insects roamed through piles of rust. The walls were smeared with cooking oil.

“Tread carefully,” said Sheila Corrin.

Rudy peeked through his blindfold. A beam of light shot from a nearby mirror and narrowly missed his head. He lowered the blindfold again.

She led them them through a cylindrical room with stalactites on the ceiling and a mirror danging from a chain. Jewels were encrusted on the walls.

“Touch nothing,” said Sheila.

“Nothing to see here, guys,” said Hunny. “Just some perfectly ordinary walls.”

Rudy peeked again. “Hey. These walls are full of treasure.”

Light flashed from the mirror at the center of the room. Another beam of light singed Rudy’s hair.

“Move along!” said Hunny forcefully.

They climbed into a hallway. There, they met a swarm of floating eyeballs.

Sheila stroked its eyestalks affectionately. “This is Socket.”

Socket floated over to Blacksad and touched the side of his face.

“What is that? I’m blind.”

“Nothing,” said Hunny. “Don’t worry about it.”

They passed a hallway full of prison cells. Emaciated kobolds dressed in rags called out for help.

“Who are those guys?” said Hunny.

Shiela shrugged. “Just some criminals.”

“Hey, are you guys really criminals?” said Rudy.

The prisoners looked at Sheila fearfully and then nodded. “Yes.”

“Okay then.”

The party emerged in an enormous room blanketed with piles of golden coins and gems. Several tunnels branched off into the darkness. There were hundreds of statues of humans and monsters fleeing in terror, including an enormous dragon at the center of the room.

“Have a seat in the waiting room,” said Sheila, gesturing to a depression in the piles of gold. The waiting room chairs were made of twisted statues of bodies.

“Ohhhh,” said Hunny. “The chairs are people.”

“I think I’ll stand,” said Blacksad.

Mithian sighed. “Is there a handsome one?”

Shiela pointed to an elf statue with the physique of a romance novel hero.

“Perfect,” said Mithian. She sat on his lap.

With a sad smile on her face, Shiela stood beside the statue of a man.

“Is that your father?” said Hunny.

“Yes.”

“Aren’t you sad?”

“No. I can see him whenever I want.”

The room lit up in a prism of colors. Light flashed from the mirror that dangled from a chain above. An image of a blue beholder appeared within it.

“I am Vertirsa, Saviour of the World! Thank you for delivering this kitty of noble lineage to me.”

“What exactly makes you the savior of the world?” said Blacksad.

“I am the true guardian of reality itself.”

“Oh. He’s the guardian of the pillar, then,” said Mithian.

“Aha! I can see that you are no mere deliverymen. Now, tell me who you serve. Are you spies? Queen Hilda purged all knowledge of the pillars from this city.”

“No, no,” said Hunny. “We’re not spies. There are these cultists. Bad guys. They are trying to destroy the world.”

“Oh? If you know so much, then who smashed the pillar of the sea?”

“They did! The cultists.”

“Wasn’t that you?” Blacksad muttered.

Hunny frowned. “Oh… yeah!”

“You? I knew it. Spies! Capture them. I must interrogate them all.”

Light flashed from the mirror. In the center of the room, color returned to the stone statue of a dragon. It was brown with darker stripes.

“Okay, that’s it.” Blacksad lifted his blindfold. “Holy shit. A dragon?”

Shiela moved to stand protectively beside her father’s statue.

Hunny gave Sugarfuss the Bold to Mithian to hold. Then she charged in to strike the dragon with her axes.

Rudy stole a gem encrusted shield from the mounds of treasure. He ran down the hallway and smashed open the prison cells. “Who will fight their way to freedom?”

Unfortunately, the prisoners were agents of Vertirsa lying in wait for intruders. They attempted to stab Rudy, so he nuked them with a fireball and casually walked away.

Back in the treasure chamber, Mithian used her wand of lightning bolts to attack the cave dragon. In response, it roared and struck the ceiling of the cave with its tail. Rocks battered MIthian, pinning her under the rubble. Sugarfuss, its paw injured, limped away.

“How dare you!” shouted Vertirsa. “A kitty of pure lineage!”

In a flash of light, the dragon was disintegrated.

“Hey,” said Blacksad. He rushed over to Sugarfuss and healed her. “We are not your enemies. We just want to chat, man.”

“Go on.”

Vertirsa asked Sugarfuss to live in the Chamber of Feline Affections. After inspecting it and finding the room was filled with climbing equipment and cages of mice, Sugarfuss accepted. She curled up on the Heart of Earth and went to sleep.

“Who do you serve?” said Vertisra. “Do you serve Queen Hilda?”

“She’s dead, man,” said Blacksad.

“What? But I only put her into power four hundred years ago.”

“Humans don’t live that long, man.”

“Then who is in power now?”

“That’s, uh, complicated.”

“Gwen and Edwin Elderin are in a civil war,” said Mithian.

“We serve Gwen,” said Rudy cheerfully.

“Okay. If these Elderins are of the lineage of Hilda, that means that you serve the one who serves me. This is how human inheritance works, I am given to understand. Therefore, you will pay me tribute!”

Hunny pulled out two panthers from her bag of tricks. They were brought to the Chamber of Feline Affections. She also pulled a direwolf, which was rejected by the lord. Socket floated over and ate its eyeballs.

Rudy dumped 4000 gold on the ground. He gave the chunk of starglass he had found to the lord. Blacksad begrudgingly gave up his new cloak.

“Bring the Elderins to me,” said Vertirsa. “They will swear fealty.”

“It might have to be one at a time,” said Rudy.

“This is acceptable.”

A door in the rock wall swung open. “Take this passage into the palace. Oh… and bring Socket with you. He gets lonely.”

Hunny went into the kitchen and knocked over all the furniture. The Tusked Skyfish who worked as a chef started crying. Blacksad attempted to comfort him by righting the furniture, but Hunny knocked it over again.

Blacksad sighed. “Sorry. My friend is an asshole.”

Rudy pretended to return the shield he had stolen and left a minor illusion in its place.

The party followed the hallway to a pair of giant golden doors leading into the castle. While within the hallway, reality was warped in such a way that no one inside the castle could see them.

Blacksad applied the Oil of Etherealness and walked through a hazy, dreamlike castle. He passed through walls, observing servants at work. In the library, a owl noticed his presence. He continued on to a courtyard where a small cottage sat on stilts within a pond of koi. Inside, a sobbing Edwin was painting propaganda posters.

Blacksad walked straight back, passing through the throne room. There, he saw Elise seated on the throne.

“Well met, ghost,” said Elise.

“You can see me?”

“I know a lot of ghosts,” said Elise.

“That’s sad,” said Blacksad. “You seem lonely.”

“You have no idea,” said Elise.

“Hey, man. Have you ever thought that if you give up this war, you might make some friends?”

“It’s a means to an ends,” said Elise. “In the end, none of this will matter.”

“You end of the world types are all the same. Just like that asshole Zeke.”

“He grows on you.”

“You could at least let that poor crying dude in the courtyard go.”

Elise chuckled. “I need the prince for a while longer yet.”

“Bummer. Well, I’m in a bit of a hurry,” said Blacksad. “Can you tell me where the servants quarters are?”

Elise pointed.

“Thanks.”

“Give my regards to Glink,” said Elise as Blacksad passed through the wall.

Blacksad snapped awake in a pool of his own blood. “Sorry, guys. I might have kinda alerted Elise that we are here.”

“There’s no choice, then. We need a distraction,” said Rudy. “Let’s send Socket ahead to create a distraction.”

Hunny stomped her foot. “We can’t just release this monster into the castle. The servants are innocent. I mean… Can we? He will eat their eyes.”

Mithian shrugged.

“Well,” said Blacksad. “I don’t want to be in the position to make this decision… but I don’t think we have the luxury not to. We need a distraction to get in.”

“It could just come through ahead and scare people and not take their eyeballs.” Hunny gave Socket a meaningful look. “Right, Socket? You can do that, right?”

Socket bounced up and down excitedly.

“I don’t think he gets it,” said Rudy.

“Okay, Socket. Listen. Don’t take the eyeballs. But if you can’t resist, just take one. Okay? Only one. Don’t take both eyeballs from the same person. Move on to the next one. Okay?”

Socket nodded his eyestalks.

They opened the door. Socket hovered out of sight down the hallway and disappeared into the servant’s quarters. A woman screamed.

“Oh well,” said Hunny. “I tried.”

The party slipped through the servants’ quarters in the chaos. They met the Elderly Division of soldiers and warned them about the Occulus Swarm loose in the castle.

They emerged in a banquet room, where castle guards stood in wait. Mithian seduced a pair of soldiers who were twin brothers. She told them to wait for her in the kitchen. Then she convinced the rest of the soldiers that she was a noble and that they should leave to fight the swarm. Some left. Hunny punched the ones who remained.

The party emerged in the courtyard. Elise was standing on the rooftop of the cottage.

“Fancy meeting you here.”

“I heard you were lonely, so I brought some friends,” said Blacksad.

“I have all the friends I need,” said Elise. She whistled and three gorgons jumped down from the rooftops. “Meet Creaky, Sneaky, and Weepy.”

“She gave them names?” said Mithian. “Sad.”

Blacksad climbed on a rock in the middle of the pond, struck a pose, and fired arrows at Elise. Hunny mounted a Nightmare and charged gloriously into battle. She struck Elise with her axe and forced her to retreat to the edge of the pond using Misty Step.

Blacksad sighed. “Here I am trying to look cool on this rock and you charge in on this metal mount from Hell… Nevermind.”

Elise grinned. She cast Dominate Person and commanded Hunny to kill Blacksad. Then she used Misty Step to escape to the rooftops.

Mithian, Blacksad, and Rudy focused on trying to destroy the Gorgons before anyone was turned to stone. Hunny charged in on her mount and took Blacksad by surprise. He turned and took a direct hit to his face. Then he crawled away across the pond and tried to escape up a tree.

Mithian cast Dominate Person and commanded Hunny to track down Elise instead. Rudy attacked Hunny with Magic Missle to try to snap her out of it. After a great personal battle of will, Hunny resisted Mithian’s mental control and submitted wholeheartedly to her mission to kill Blacksad. She smashed him so hard that her attack destroyed the tree he was hiding in.

Blacksad lay unconscious on the ground. Hunny raised her axe to deliver the final blow.

Mithian made a ‘finger gun’ gesture. “Bang.”

An Eldritch Blast hit Hunny in the back of the head, snapping her out of Elise’s mental control.

Hunny looked at her bloody fingers in horror. “I did this?”

“It’s okay,” said Rudy as he moved in to stabilize Blacksad. “It wasn’t your fault.”

Mithian sent her dragon after Elise. He found her up the hallway, limping away, badly injured. He used a poisonous attack to strike her back, knocking her unconscious. Before the party could find her, Socket found her first and ate her eyeballs. Then Rudy found her, tied her up, healed her, and took her hostage. In the hallway, he encountered several eyeless maids.

Rudy freed Edwin from the cottage, where he had been locked in. The prince showed them the paintings he had made of their battle while he watched from the window. He praised Blacksad as his saviour and agreed to come with the party.

“It was horrible,” said Edwin. “They made me paint mainstream art.”

Hunny stood with her arms crossed. “This whole day is horrible. Eyeless people everywhere. Blacksad almost died.”

The party flew away. Hunny rode her Nightmare. Blacksad rode his fly. The rest of the party rode on Rudy in dinosaur form. General League fired a dragon cannon at them, but they managed to dodge.

They flew to the edge of the island in search of a boat to take them back to Gwen so they could put an end to the civil war at last.

View
When will then be now? (meow, meow, meow, meow, meow)
Makeovers!

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?”

“Five days.”

“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.”

“Er, good.”

“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.

Love Mithian

Peter came back carrying a letter.

Mithian,

It’s terrible! Stupid commoners broke into my house and looted and now I have nothing but a wardrobe of clothes and Jeeves. :( :( Help!

Beth

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 loose 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.”

View
Getting Stoned the Hard Way
The City of Haysport.... is under attack!

Hunny tore down fences and torched the petting zoo of lies. The crowd turned on the petting zoo owner, demanding refunds. Hunny gave out her business card: Hunny’s Turtle Kingdom: For All Your Petting Needs.

“Come to my petting zoo,” she said. “For you, only double price!”

At the Skink Arena, Rudy bet his life savings on a decrepit, elderly skink with 1:200 odds. After an upset, he walked away with 90,000 gold. With it, he bought a carriage (for all his gold) and an aurochs to pull it.

Mithian bought a silken loincloth.

The party reunited. A portrait artist brought them to the edge of the cliff and promised them the best in rock art. The view of the sea was stunning: the sun shone over the ocean… and the seven ships approaching Haysport. Rudy whipped out his skyglass and saw that these ships were flying a flag bearing the emblem of the cult of leviathan.

Mithian sent her pseudodragon ahead with a letter of warning for Glink and Gwen. With some urgency, the party hired the services of taxi skinks. Rudy paid extra for them. They rented two skinks so the party could ride double.

“I want my own skink,” said Hunny.

“That will be 50 extra gold,” said the skink taxi-renter / portrait artist.

Hunny looked imploringly to Rudy.

Rudy sighed. “Okay. Give the lady her own skink.”

As the party descended down the side of the floating island, Rudy fell out of his saddle and cast fly to save himself. (Blacksad helped by shooting an arrow at his back.) Hunny convinced her taxi skink to join her petting zoo for its ‘better working conditions and benefits package.’ The skink, named Peaches, vowed to bring its children Pit and Leaf as well.

After a brief stop at Quartz Peak to rest and rob Odrick’s old cubby, the party rode on the back of dinosaur-Rudy. The pseuodragon returned with candy-smeared lips and Mithian learned that Glink had been spoiling him.

When they reached Haysport, the port and slums were already burning. Barbarians were putting out fires and rescuing civilians. A wall of water was suspended over the merchant district.

The party landed at Tea Hill. Three Gorgons were fighting soldiers, Glink, and the sphinx named Spire Guitar. As soon as they landed, a gorgon breathed green vapours over them. Rudy was immediately turned to stone. Mithian would have been too, but her fey boyfriend intervened and warmed her soul with his touch.

After a fierce battle, in which Spire Guitar and several soldiers were turned to stone, the party managed to destroy the gorgons. While Glink sang songs of inspiration, Blacksad rained arrows upon them. Mithian summoned an air elemental to buffet the gorgons with wind.

“Let’s blow these bitches away,” she said.

Hunny, with the help of her blood-splattered animals (including a giant elk), delivered blow after blow upon the gorgons until their metal plates split apart. Mithian finished it off by sending the last one to the not-nice room.

Hunny found a statue of a horse on the corpse of a gorgon. “How do I find out what this is?”

“You ask a wizard,” said Glink.

The party stared at the stone statue of Rudy. Blacksad sobbed over Spire Guitar. But this was not the time to worry about that. The city was still burning.

Mithian sent her pseudodragon, Peter, to scout ahead. Through Peter’s eyes, she saw three things: Shan was sitting on the corpse of a gorgon, prying off its plates. Jenny was fighting a desperate battle using water magic to drive back gorgons to protect the townspeople. Gwen was being attacked by a golem.

“We have to save Gwen,” said Blacksad.

“Well, we could sent Glink to help Jenny…”

“The princess is in danger?” said Glink. “I must go to her right away.”

Mithian sighed and mentally yanked Peter away from a candy store he had been trying to rob. She sent him to Shan to direct her to help Jenny.

The party charged down to the port. Mithian used her air elemental to blow around smoke, revealing smashed warehouses and a trail of clay. They followed it to the docks, where Gwen stood with two soldiers at her sides, their backs to the ocean. A clay golem approached them, reaching for Gwen.

“We’ve lured this creature away from the people,’ shouted Gwen. “And now we must trust in our allies and fight. I want all of you to live through this day.”

Glink, Blacksad, and Mithian climbed on top of nearby warehouses. Gwen directed her soldiers to fight their best. Spells and arrows rained down from above. Blacksad cast Hail of Thorns around the golem.

A gorgon emerged from an alleyway and charged into the party’s flank.

…And then Croak emerged from the sea, his slimy armour coated in layers of seaweed.

“They took my ships,” said Croak. “I’m here to take them back!”

Croak used misty step to teleport right next to the golem, but his blows were too slippery to land.

“You asshole!” screamed Blacksad. “You didn’t even call.”

Hunny struck the clay golem with an axe. “He never truly cared about us. He’s not even here to see us.

Blacksad was weeping. “We’ve been through so much… and you just show up… in the middle of a battle…”

Hunny struck the golem again and again. It shed clay with every strike. Then Blacksad took it down with an adamantine arrow. The clay melted away, leaving a fist-sized diamond.

Blacksad used the ring of ram’s strength to punch the gorgon into spikes. The air elemental enveloped it, shredding it with wind. Blacksad found a figurine shaped like a fly in the ruins of its body.

“Capture Croak,” Gwen barked. “I will not forgive treason.”

The party had a bad case of the butterfingers. Blacksad fell over and stubbed his knee. Croak slipped right out of Hunny’s fingers.

“Too bad I’m out of spells,” said Mithian.

“I thought you still had one left,” said Hunny.

Mithian examined her manicured nails. “Out of spells.”

Croak disappeared into the sea.

The party checked on Jenny and Shan. Together, they had killed two gorgons on their own.

Mithian patted Jenny on the head. “Good job.”

Blacksad asked Shan if she could heal people who had been turned to stone.

“Sure, I can turn people to stone.”

“From stone. From stone,” said Mithian.

“I would need some diamond dust…”

I will smash the diamond,” Hunny whispered. She put it in a sack and smashed it with her hammer. The satisfying crunch reminded her of cracking crusty bread… or crushing a pillar of glass holding up the soul of the world.

Gwen commanded her guards to collect diamonds from the nobles and bring them to Shan to use.

“I will smash all the diamonds,” said Hunny.

Blacksad gave the journal to Gwen to read. “I think we need to talk about some things.”

Gwen frowned. “I know what they want. There’s a door that leads to a cavern beneath the city. Only the true ruler of Noname can open it… Glink! Come to me. Read this.”

Glink confirmed that the person from the journal was Lady Elise. Wistfully, he told them about the fateful meeting he had had with the whale. “It was the winter solstice at an hour so late that the creature could only have been seen by poets and dreamers. The whale emerged from the stars and hovered above the palace…”

Blacksad scribbled in his journal.

“Then we know what these cultists seek,” said Gwen.

Hunny squirmed. “A pillar!”

“Still. This will be answered,” said Gwen firmly. “I can’t leave my incompetent brother on the throne.”

Blacksad shook his head. “You can’t go there. If you go there, they will have what they want.”

“I’m not that stupid,” Gwen snapped. “I’ll stay here. You are my top agents. I need you to infiltrate the capital and capture my brother. Research whatever you can about the beast that slumbers beneath the city. It walks the dreams of my people, but no one knows what it is. And if you see Croak… arrest him.”

“Oh,” said Blacksad. “Shit.”

View
Meet the (Barbarian) Parents
Wait, are we the bad guys now?

The party landed on a large floating island. In grassland stained by pigments, they found the burned ruins of an old house. Hunny knocked over the remains of the charred walls. Hoxie tripped and found a trapdoor leading to an underground cellar. Mithian cast Detect Magic and found the grounds carried the taint of divination magic.

At the base of the stairs, there was an ancient pool filled with metallic liquid. Hoxie fished into it with a broom and discovered a necklace with a pendant shaped like a cresting wave: the symbol of the cultists who had tried to drown the world.

In a ruined bookcase, Hoxie found a journal. Reading it, the party learned of an elf who conspired alongside Zeke to free the whale… by destroying the pillars of the world.

“Let’s meet him,” said Hunny. “We can tell him he’s lonely and his boardgame tastes suck! …He just needs a friend.”

“Oh, okay. An insane person, a child-beater, and a heroine addict,” said Blacksad. “What a great choice in friends.”

“Should we go see Glink and ask him who gave him the guitar?” said Rudy.

“That’s threeee daaaaays away!” said Hoxie, Hunny, and Mithian at the same time.

Blacksad shook his head. “We went to a genie’s world for six months and the world went to hell and we can’t take three days to travel back to Haysport?”

“Oh, Oh!” said Hunny. “Does the pet detective have a pigeon?”

“I got this,” said Rudy. He walked away from the party for a time.

“I don’t know, man,” said Blacksad. “Are we the bad guys? I don’t even know anymore.”

“Welll,” said Hoxie. “We broke the pillars and we killed the guardian…”

“Not to mention the mass turtle abortion.”

“If we smash the pillars, we free the whale?”

“Well,” said Mithian. “You can’t create or destroy energy. You can only change its form. So… does that not mean we could remake a pillar?”

“Then we could break them and create new ones?”

Blacksad turned to Hoxie. “If all this is true, do you know what this means? Maybe Zeke made you murder the king.”

“Nah, I was drunk.”

“Was just trying to offer you an out, but if you want to own that…”

“I guess we should stay with my parents,” muttered Hunny.

The party fell silent.

“Your parents?” said Mithian.

“Uh, yeah,” said Hunny. “They live here. Did I not mention that?”

Hunny led the party to a cozy cottage in the ruins of a fort. They were greeted by a bear-sized dog with a femur bone in its mouth.

“No sudden movements!” barked Hunny. She casually patted the dog on her way by.

At the door, they met Hunny’s father, Gregg, dressed in a leather apron that said ‘Raid the Kitchen!’

Hunny shared the story of her parents’ true love. Her father had fallen for his barbarian captor after she had carried him away on a raid and kept him as a domestic worker. He had been a human anthropologist studying orc culture, so he adapted readily to his environments, though everyone thought he was a bit lame.

As Gregg cleaned Hunny’s weapons and made the party comfortable, they could hear Hunny’s mother arguing in the other room. Hunny explained that her mother was a raid consultant, so all the other barbarians came to her for advice.

They decided to ask Hunny’s mother, Mollases (Molly for short), to unite the barbarians for a great raid on Noname. Hunny knocked. An axeblade pierced the door.

“I’m working!” shouted Molly.

“Mom, it’s me!”

“Hold on, dear.”

The party heard a smashing sound. The door opened and Molly stepped out. A man lay slumped against the deck.

“What happened?”

“Call waiting.”

Molly greeted her daughter with criticisms of her life choices. After all this time, she visited her mother as the owner of the second greatest petting zoo in the barbarian world? Hunny vowed to find and destroy the other petting zoo to earn her mother’s respect.

“Hey, lady,” said Blacksad. “Do you know anything about that burned house on the plains?”

“The one that belonged to that elf lady? I burned it down.”

“Wow, wow. You are my hero,” said Hoxie. “And the ruins this house is built on?”

“Oh, I killed some robed humans and used the rubble from their homes to build mine.”

“Can you be my new mom?” said Hoxie. “You. are. my. hero.”

“Wait, wait,” said Blacksad. “Elf lady?”

“Do you think it was Lady Elise?” said Mithian. “From the court of Noname. She was an elf and she used divination magic.”

Rudy stepped out for ten minutes and returned pale-faced. “We need to go back to Haysport right now.”

“Why?” said Mithian. “Do you really think that none of us notice this going on? Where do you keep going?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“I am worried about it.”

The party ate like guests, feasting on raw meat that dripped blood. They convinced Hunny’s mother to lead all of the barbarians in an epic raid on Noname. She warned them that the neighboring island was lorded over by a wizard jerk.

Blacksad wandered into Hunny’s room, which was filled by a rock-hard bed, barbells, the skulls of the other barbarian children she had bested in the third grade, someone else’s baby teeth, and her old training weapons, including her bronzed baby axe.

After spending the night and helping to humanely dispose of the man who had been knocked unconscious in Molly’s study, the party set out for the next island. They saw a bridge made of fallen logs that spanned the gap between islands.

Hunny charged ahead… only to lash out in horror with her hammer as the bridge squirmed and wiggled underfoot. Broken in half, the trees tumbled into the abyss. Rudy managed to transform Hunny into a quetzalcoatlus in time for her to rescue the sapient tree from falling into the chasm. Mithian engaged it in a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life.

Flying on Hunny’s dinosaur back, the party traveled towards a paint-stained tower. The wind howled like a child’s imitation of a ghost. The grass sighed underfoot. Even the tower itself wriggled when the landed on it. It had no door and no windows.

“What is wrong with this island?” said Blacksad.

“I’m starting to think that Hunny’s mother was right,” said Rudy. “Wizard jerk.”

Rudy knocked on the tower, causing a door to appear. He and Hoxie entered, finding that the room inside looked like a giant mouth and ribcage. The door disappeared behind them because Blacksad stabbed the wall with an arrow, causing it to scream.

Rudy lit a torch, which also screamed. He followed the stairwell down to a locked door. He knocked, claiming to be a food deliveryman. The door opened, revealing a pimple-faced teenage half-orc named Glendyn, who went by Dyn for short. The boy explained that he had used his magic to make friends of the world outside because his human friends had been brutally murdered by the barbarian across the bridge.

Rudy offered the lonely boy a spell to make a friend. In return, Dyn gave him a scroll bearing a powerful illusion spell, and he allowed the rest of the party to enter the tower.

Mesmerized by Mithian’s beauty, Dyn swore to join the Royal Order of Silly Hats. After a bit of light flirting from Mithian, he gave her his great treasure: a hole that can be used to escape into other dimensions, though he could never predict where it would end up. Mithian promised to dance with him in Haysport.

The party continued on to a barbarian camp on the next island. There, they met the leader of the Hock, Lagenar. The man encouraged them to visit the local petting zoo, which he believed was superior to the one in Quartz Peak.

Hunny punched him and stormed over to the Discount Petting Zoo, where she discovered that all the animals were just woolen skinks in knitted outfits. Blacksad tore the car-ears from the nearest skink…

“Hey!” shouted one of the barbarians. “Those people just ripped off that cat’s ears. That’s not okay.”

An angry mob formed around them.

View
My Little Alicorn Polymorph
Earthquake? More like whalequake, am I right?

The party set out to find the Horn to convince them to join Gwen’s army and to return the woolen skinks to their rightful owners.

The tinkle of bells in Hoxie’s mind told her to use her magic wand. She waved it carelessly into the air, casting slow on Blacksad and Hunny. It wore off after 5 minutes, but Blacksad was a hypochondriac about it for most of the rest of the day.

Mithian turned into a mammoth. Rudy cast flight on her and the party climbed on. Hoxie’s baby turtle (Squirtle) held on with his super-buff turtle muscles and by chomping onto mammoth tail.

Landing on the next floating island, mammoth-Mithian spotted the herd of woolen skinks in the distance. She charged towards them, trumpeting.

The herd stampeded, tossing some of their barbarian riders, and charging for the edge of the floating island. Zurud, leader of the Horn, approached the party and stated that if they were not strangers (therefore guests) he would kill them where they stand.

Rudy rode Horse ahead and used fireworks to turn the herd just before they plunged over the edge.

Rudy, Hunny, and Mithian tried to box in the skinks, but a third of them (still bearing riders) bolted and drove off the cliff into the void. Their bodies were tossed carelessly by warped gravity, endlessly rising and falling, smashing against islands.

One of the skinks bit Rudy and tried to swallow him. Hunny rushed up to charm the skink with a potion of animal friendship.

“But wait. How can I feed a potion to the skink while it’s eating Rudy?”

Lying ‘slowed’ in the mud, Blacksad muttered, “Again. You drink the potion. You.

The skink tried to swallow Rudy, choked, and spat him out.

Zurud recognized Hunny, who had pushed him in the mud once when they were children. He told the party of his grand plan to tie the islands back together with skink rope. Rudy told him of Gwen’s war and asked if he would be interested now that they had saved 3/4s of the herd from danger. Zurud declared that he would exchange no favours with outsiders who had not even engaged in a ritual poetry battle.

Blacksad stepped up.

Hello fellow, you seem so contrarian
For someone who calls himself a barbarian
We have come to take these lizards
Sorry for the trouble with this here wizard

Zurud, moved to tears, shared his own poetry in response:

Softly the axe falls
Red rain
Damp earth
Footprints in rusty clay

The earth drinks
Marks fade
The trails we leave
Are lost
Until only the axe remains

“Sometimes I poem too,” said Hunny.

Now that poetry had been exchanged, Zurud swore eternal brotherhood (and sisterhood) with the party. He agreed to their request to journey to fight with Gwen and squish puny humans.

The next island was high above them, in the shadow of a looming thunderstorm. Rudy cast fly on Hunny and got her to carry a rope and an immovable rod up to the next island. She spoke the command word (cupcakes) to fix it in place, allowing the rest of the party to climb up. Since her arms were already burning from carrying the huge skink rope, she used her feet to help pull them up. It was a great workout.

Everyone sprawled out to recover from the ordeal of climbing.

Hoxie giggled. The bells on her hat tinkled and suddenly she was surrounded by three duplicates.

“Does she always do this?” said Rudy.

“I think that hat needs to go,” said Blacksad. He reached for Hoxie.

“But which one is the real meeee,” said Hoxie.

Blacksad and Rudy each grabbed a Hoxie, but they vanished. Hunny reached for a remaining Hoxie, but a pool of grease formed below her. She tripped and fell. Hoxie giggled.

Tiny party hats appeared on Blacksad and Hunny’s heads. Hunny lost a foot of height and Blacksad gained a foot. Mithian reached out a hand to touch the place where Hunny’s head had been… and poked her in the eye.

A mouth formed on the hat. “Look at that thunderstorm. What a great place to go for an adventure, am I right?”

Rudy used detect magic on the hat and determined its enhancement was related to the school of necromancy. He sensed the touch of a god of death.

“Well,” said Rudy. “I think we can leave this alone. It doesn’t seem like an immediate threat. I mean… it’s not hurting her.”

“It’s not healthy,” snapped Blacksad.

Mithian examined her nails. “This from the guy with the heroine addiction.”

“I can quit heroine any time I want, Mom.

The party spent the night on the dry, wind-swept plains. In the morning, the clouds looming over the island were pink with the rising sun. The thunderstorms had stopped.

An enormous chain dangled from the bottom of the clouds. As they neared it, they saw the chain was actually a double-helix spiral staircase ascending into the sky. Rudy commanded Horse to wait for them.

“Oh, oh,” said Hunny excitedly. “If we run into a genie again, ask for an airship.”

They climbed until they emerged in a reception room filled with silk curtains and silver-gilt chairs. They stole enough drapes that they could see their way more clearly through the room.

They found a stable filled with Pegasus skeletons. In one stall, an emaciated alicorn with golden eyes stood alone. Rudy cleaned some ancient straw and Hunny fed it to the beast, speaking soothingly to it.

Hoxie found a shed and dug through it until she found some slightly moist oats. She found a false bottom on a wardrobe and pried it loose, revealing moldering books. Rudy dug through them and found a book about the castle, describing a gem called “The Heart of the Sky.” The party concluded that this gem must be another one of the pillars of the world.

They opened a door in the room and found it lead to open skies.

“Let’s just close that for safety,” said Blacksad.

They returned to the reception hall and went down a hallway where wind buffeted them back. Through its windows, they saw a courtyard filled with treasure, protected by the winds of an endless twister. Hoxie tried to jump out the window, but Hunny held her back.

Once they had passed through the hallway of winds, the party entered an enormous room filled with carvings of whales. At the center of a pyramid of stairs was a pedestal bearing an enormous gem, held in the embrace of carved wings. Behind the gem, another double-helix stairwell led up into the sky.

Rudy checked the book for information about the treasure in the courtyard.

“These offerings, given by those devoted to the gods of wind, will remain guarded for as long as the Heart of the Sky remains whole.”

Hoxie dashed up the stairs. “I’m gonna break it. I’m gonna break it.”

The Pegasus reared, snorting in distress.

Hunny grabbed Hoxie by the scruff of her neck and then tied a child leash to her.

Hoxie, grumbling, found some sapphire whale statuses that were small enough to carry and shoved them into her bag of holding.

The alicorn, striding fearlessly, walked up the spiral staircase. The party followed.

“Unite the barbarians,” Blacksad muttered. “Go unite the barbarians and now look. Pegasus skeletons and wind.”

They emerged onto a craggy hillside under heavy cloud cover. The air smelled of ammonia and chlorine. The alicorn led and the party followed it into the clouds. Dragonflies alighted on their arms.

“Well, this is nice,” said Hunny.

The alicorn stopped at the top of a hill. It turned to face them. The party gathered close.

And then the alicorn returned to her original shape: a cloud giant. She revealed herself as Azura, a bounty hunter hired by Edwin to capture the murderers of his father. The party tried to negotiate and buy her out, but she declared that her word was her honour.

A harsh wind rose, pushing the party back towards the edge of an overhanging cliff. The conditions turned aside arrows and thrown daggers. Every step towards the giant was against the push of the wind.

Hoxie pointed her magic wand at the giant and shouted, “Pickles!” Lightning struck the giant. She seemed unfazed.

Mithian cast blight. Rudy used magic to turn Hunny into a giant ape. She buffeted the giant with a barrage of punches.

Hoxie climbed onto her leg and stabbed until the giant’s boots overflowed with blood.

The giant staggered. She turned invisible and tried to reposition, but the blood trail she left behind betrayed her location. Rudy hurled a fireball, scorching both her and the earth around her.

The ground shuddered. From beneath them, a low moan rose. The trembling knocked Blacksad onto the edge of the cliff. As he dangled above it, he saw that the cavern mouth below had teeth. They were on the backs of an enormous floating whale. It was rising, leaving the islands behind.

While Blacksad held on for dear life, Rudy scooped the loot that the giant had been carrying: a brilliant helm, a deck of cards, and a bag of sapphires.)

“Let’s give it an animal friendship potion so it calms down,” said Hunny.

“For the last time…”

“Oh, right.”

Hunny drank the potion and climbed down to the creature’s eye. She looked into its gaze and spoke gently.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

HOME.”

“Where is home?”

AWAY. BEYOND.”

“We have to get off this thing,” said Blacksad.

Everyone climbed onto giant ape Hunny and Rudy cast fly.

GOODBYE.”

As the party descended, they saw that the castle they had been exploring was dangling from the whale by thick chains: the stairwells they had ascended. The whale’s side was deeply scarred.

“We’ll help you, friend,” said Blacksad.

PROMISE?”

“I don’t think I can break through chains that large,” said Rudy.

The party landed safely. Horse trotted out, carrying an enormous bone. They watched as the whale rose further and further away, until he vanished into the starry sky.

View
Adrift
"I untie myself and fart in the direction of the bobcat."

The party woke to a letter from Croak.

Dear Companions,

By the time you’re reading this you will likely have heard of the theft.

I simply cannot stand by while the people of Noname starve through the winter. Ultimately my decision to help Grandfather is the reason that their stores have been depleted. With the waters safe again, I had hoped the guild would send aid, but it appears I have misjudged their intentions.

I was honestly shocked when Gwen refused to send aid to those starving people in order to solidify her position in the coming conflict. Does she not realize that in war it is the citizens who suffer most?

Hard choices had to be made. I have stolen seven ships, several tons of grain and rallied some men to my cause. I will feed the people of Noname and dedicate myself to saving the people that so many have dedicated themselves to harming.

Please tell Gwen that I will reimburse her for the stolen goods, and I will do my best to see that this aid goes to the starving people and not to her enemies.

With that said, I bear you no ill will. If ever you are in need, you may count on me as an ally. If you keep your turtles close, I will always be able to find you.

Sincerely,
Croak
P.S.
Hoxie, you should really turn yourself in for Regicide. It’s kind of a big deal..

“After all this time,” said Hunny. “We’ve traveled together all this time and he just writes a letter?”

Their hearts heavy with loss, the party headed towards Quartz Peak. They saw that Owen’s Woods had been partially redeveloped into farmlands and the road was recently paved with cobbles. Despite the ash raining down, locals were feeling hopeful about the future.

The party members felt a strange feeling in the pits of their stomachs.

The ground lifted away beneath them. It was as if someone had turned the forest up-side-down and shaken out the people, animals, and plants. Slowly, they floated above the trees, towards the clouds of ash hanging overheard. Pine needles and struggling squirrels filled the air.

Hunny looked to the skies with glee. “I fart… Does it propel me?”

A bobcat floated by and Hunny grappled it, forcing a potion of animal friendship down its throat. It was then that she realized she had not read the instructions on the potion and that instead of charming the bobcat, it had charmed her. She pulled an animal out of her bag of tricks, intending to feed it to the bobcat, but instead she pulled a panther. The two cats fought in midair, spinning.

They heard screaming. An elderly lady, a child, and a teenager floated by into the clouds of ash. Hunny threw Blacksad into the air. Above the ash, he saw a strange cloudy castle floating in the air. He grabbed onto the child and signaled for Hunny to pull him down. They tied the child to a tree, along with their dragon turtle babies, the cart, and the turtle nanny.

“Well, I enjoyed watching that,” said Mithian. “But I got this.”

She sent her pseudodragon, carrying a length of rope, into the ash cloud. It brought the rope to the lady and the teenager, allowing them to be pulled to safety.

The party felt a strange heaviness. In the distance, floating squirrels fell. Pine needles pelted the earth like rain. The party secured themselves to trees and waited for gravity to return to normal.

…And then Hunny launched herself into the air towards the still-floating bobcat, dragging Blacksad behind her. He prepared his knife to stab the cats, so Hunny cut him loose to save her beloved. She then threw her two axes towards the panther, slicing off its spine. Triumphant, the bobcat ate the panther.

Gravity returned to normal.

Hunny fell 150 feet. The impact rattled her bones, but she walked it off. Unfortunately, the bobcat did not survive.

“Glad that’s over,” said Hunny. “I no longer love this bobcat.”

Blacksad laughed. “If you feel violated, imagine how your pets must feel.”

They continued traveling. In the woods, they found stretches of forest and farmland that had been crushed flat. They asked a local farmer and she told them that superstitious locals believed it had been done by magic, but in reality Queen Titania had blessed the lands by walking among them.

At Quartz Peak, Shan was waiting, carrying news from Gwen. She had assigned a teammate to help them with their diplomatic mission to the plains.

In a show of mist and lights, in walked Rodolfo Rollibard Ruffo (Triple-R ): soothsayer, fortune-teller, and pet detective.

Mithian raised an eyebrow. “Pet detective?”

“What else would you do with magic?”

“Uh, anything?”

“Oh, oh, oh,” said Hunny. “Can you predict my future?”

“Hmm.” Triple-R waved a hand over her. “Something very bad will happen to you today.”

“He’s legit, guys!”

The party set out towards the plains. At the base of the mountains, where Hunny remembered the plains of her childhood, there was a deep fissure in the earth, as if the chasm were spreading. In the distance, an enormous floating island dominated their view.

“But how do we get up?”

“I think I can help with that,” said Triple-R cheerfully.

He polymorphed into a giant owl and carried Hunny. Mithian drank a potion of polymorph and turned into a giant hawk and carried Blacksad. Together, they took flight and sailed on an updraft blasting from the chasm below. Hawk-Mithian was blown off course into a death spiral. She righted herself and landed on a tiny floating rock with a lone palm tree bearing two coconuts. She named it ‘Penis Island.’ In a treasure chest beneath the tree, Blacksad found a ring of the ram.

Once they reached the floating island, the party spotted cotton skinks in the distance. Hunny ran to greet the herd of skinks. On the back of one of the skinks, a barbarian emerged from the enveloping folds of wool and jumped to the ground. She was wearing a reptilian skull, wore floor-length braids, and had a face tattoo of talons under her eyes.

“You have a lot of nerve showing up here,” said Mug.

She and Hunny fist-bumped.

She was of the ‘Hide,’ the tribe that Hunny was from. Though she bore an old grudge because Hunny had stolen her dog, she also owed Hunny her life because she had foiled an assassination plot.

The party learned that when the plains were broken into floating islands, it isolated the cotton skinks. The herd of skinks before them was only a small part of the greater whole that belonged to the Hide.

The party spent the rest of the night carousing with the barbarians, swapping stories of punching over alcohol.

“But where do the barbarians get the leather to make their loincloths, then?” said Blacksad.

Mug explained that they were woven from the wool of the skinks.

“My loincloth was passed down in my family for generations,” said Hunny.

After racking their brains to find a peaceful way to settle generations of feuding, the party settled on a solution: they would convince Mug to conquer the other barbarian tribes by triggering a leadership contest. And then, once she unified them, she could join in Gwen’s war as a reward and punch tiny squishy humans.

Hunny wrote a nasty letter to the tribe of ‘Horn.’ It was carried away by Mug’s much-abused parrot.

You punch like a small human.
PS: And you smell.
-Hide

Diplomacy achieved!

View
The King is Dead: Long Live the King
Drunken Bender Regicide

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:

“Dear Glink,

“I killed the dragon turtle. Please send those grain ships I requested to Noname.

PS: Did you guys kill the king?

Sincerely, Croak"

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…

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Showdown: Croak vs Grandfather
"The babies would've just grown up evil anyway."

The party searched the ships docked in Crescent Cove.

Hunny found a mousefolk girl and asked her where she could buy some mousefolk slaves. The girl lead the party to her ship to meet her captain, a cyclops called Percy the One-eyed: Undisputed Lord of Snakes and Ladders.

A familiar man was hanging off the captain’s arm: the bartender who Hunny had assaulted the night before.

“That’s her,” the man said. “She’s the one who beat me up!”

The cyclops bellowed with rage, swung his club down on Hunny, and his crew of misfits surrounded the party. They were a sahuagin, a sea-salt-rusted suit of living armour, and a mousefolk swashbuckler.

Hunny summoned her terror goat and rode him into battle. Startled by the terror goat’s aura, the bartender jumped into the ocean, where he was immediately devoured by a bloodthirsty shark. Enraged by his lover’s death, the cyclops battered Hunny with blow after blow. Mithian used her Wand of Lightning bolt to come to her aid.

…And then the boat was on fire. A shark leaped on deck. All was chaos.

Back-lit by his burning ship, the cyclops fought the barbarian one-on-one on the back of the giant goat. Blows rained on Hunny’s skull and she fell unconscious. The cyclops raised his greatclub to strike the finishing blow…

With the help of Mithian’s Hunger of Hadar (AKA ‘bad-touch place: the not-nice room’) and Blacksad’s Hail of Thorns, the party managed to separate the pirate’s crew from its captain, allowing Croak to shield Hunny long enough for Blacksad to awaken her with a healing spell.

Hunny steered her terror goat into the dark sphere of Hunger of Hadar. She leaped off its back and then dismissed her goat, leaving the cyclops to his doom.

In the dark embrace of Hadar’s not-nice room, Percy dreamed of his husband. When the darkness lifted, no trace of him remained.

The party finished off the sahuagin and dumped the suit of armour into the ocean. Blacksad captured the mousefolk girl to press for information on Rosalie’s whereabouts. He learned that she had been spotted on a ghostly ship that is said to glide over Crescent Cove without touching its waters.

The party put out the fire and looted the boat for drugs and gold.

A tiny dragon, coal-black with a belly that glowed like a lantern, appeared and dropped a letter into the Croak’s hands. It was a call to action from Glink, inviting the party to join Gwen’s new army, which had conquered Haysport.

The party decided that they would try to patch things up between Edwin and Gwen when they deliver the painting.

They boated out to the ghost ship in the cove. After climbing a rope on board, they found that the ship was crewed by silvery floating goldfish that manipulated the ship without touching anything directly. A fish passed through Blacksad’s chest and sent an icy chill through his soul. He numbed the feeling with heroin.

It was then that Zeke appeared, seated on the cabin roof with a careless air. He negotiated with Croak, offering to give up Rosalee in exchange for a favour: he wished to speak to Grandfather, the dragon turtle. There was information that he wanted that he believed only Croak could convince the dragon to part with.

Croak agreed reluctantly, but only if Zeke would give him a potion of storm giant’s strength. Zeke agreed, but only after Croak gave his word that he would keep his end of the bargain.

Zeke told the party the tragic tale of his unrequited-but-purely-platonic love of princess Gwen and how he had formed the cult as a way to bring her to her rightful throne, only to be driven mad when Gwen refused to accept her calling.

Blacksad told him to get over it.

Mithian flirted with Zeke and learned that he was seeking the pillars of the world. He had sought the party out because he believed that Grandfather knew where to find one.

Using his armour to detect Grandfather’s location, Croak steered the ghost ship out to sea. Three days later, they arrived at Silverfrond, a small island of sandy beaches and the ruins of a seaside resort. Broken sailboats littered the waters.

“Grandfather!” called Croak. “We need to talk.”

The dragon turtle surfaced. “Ah, Croak. I was hoping you would do me a little favour…”

“One thing at a time.”

“You see my grandchildren are hatching and I was hoping you would swear to protect—”

“I am here for two things. First, I need you to answer a question. And then I am going to have to fight you.”

The dragon refused to answer.

Zeke, laughing like a madman, disappeared and left the party to their doom.

A bubble floated down and popped, dropping Rosalee into Clove’s arms. The silver fish blinked out of existence and the ghost-ship fell into the sea, where it immediately began to sink.

Croak used the folding boat.

“Leave me here,” he said. The party protested, but he insisted. “if you stay here, you’ll die. I need to do this alone.”

Grandfather aimed a gout of steam at the fleeing boat, but Blacksad used the folding fan to speed the boat out of range. Mithian shrouded the turtle in Hunger of Hadar.

The dragon offered promises and threats. Croak would not be deterred. Boiling water scalded Croak, but his dragon-scale armour resisted it. He grappled onto the turtle’s back and pried a scale off his back, exposing the soft flesh underneath. Then he unloaded blow after blow into the dragon’s back as it struggled to maneuver around to reach him.

The party reached the shores of the island. From the beach, Mithian pelted Grandfather with long-range magic. Blacksad and Hunny found the clutch of dragon turtle eggs and started smashing them.

An egg cracked open and a baby turtle spilled out, instantly bonding with Hunny. She used her Saddle of the Cavalier to mount it and then rode around as she smashed the eggs of the turtle’s would-be siblings.

Through tear-stung eyes, his hands slick with yolk, Blacksad broke egg after egg… until he too came face-to-face with a newly hatched baby turtle. He raised his dagger to end her life… and found that he could not. Instead, he turned aside to find more eggs to destroy. When the newly-hatched baby trundled after him, imitating him by smashing eggs alongside him, Blacksad sobbed.

“It’s like a physical manifestation of your guilt!” said Hunny cheerfully.

Grandfather surfaced and tried to crawl onto the beach to protect the baby turtles. Mithian stood in his path, an orb of pure darkness balanced on her fingertip.

“Noo, please,” he pleaded. “If you will spare these children, I will never again target human ships. I swear it.”

“Every promise you have ever made has been a lie,” said Croak. “Your reign of terror has gone on long enough.”

“If I survive,” Grandfather spat, “I will wage war on humankind. I will kill every last one of you.”

Mithian put her hands on her hips. “I’m only half-human.”

She unleashed Hunger of Hadar. Minutes passed and Grandfather did not appear. Only the sounds of cracking eggshells broke the silence.

When the darkness receded, grandfather lay on his side, blood leaking from between his scales, his breathing ragged. A turtle egg cracked open in the sands in front of him. A turtle flopped out and looked up at its grandfather with innocent eyes. Mithian killed the newborn with a casual flick of her wrist.

“Wait,” Grandfather rasped. “The pillar… I’ll tell you… if you spare them. It’s on Quailcrest mountain.”

“We don’t care about that.” Croak ended it with a sword through the dragon’s throat.

Zeke appeared on Grandfather’s back. Croak sliced him in half and his cloak fell away in tatters, empty. Only the cultist’s mad laughter remained.

Blacksad, Hunny, and Croak agreed not to smash the remaining eggs. Instead, they would find a way to raise the turtles away from humankind and keep them safe, teaching them proper values. Mithian disagreed, but she let it pass.

All that remained was to divide up Grandfather’s hoard, a mound of coins of every currency, totaling over 12,000 gold. The weight of treasure was almost more than the folding boat could hold.

“We could sell these dragon turtle eggs on the black market. And let’s claim the reward too,” said Hunny, holding out the wanted poster that promised 10,000 gold to the slayer of the scourge of the seas. “We just need his head…”

The party looked at the ship-sized corpse of the dragon turtle… and wished Hoxie hadn’t run off with the Bag of Holding.

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