Lack Of Initiative

Act 3: Books in the Basement

The party discover a building upon one of the larger outcroppings in the subterranean water. They enter the front door and find a lounge with expensive but somewhat tasteless-looking furniture.

They continue to explore, venturing into a hallway that is crowded from floor to ceiling with a variety of wall hangings. Aribi notices that one painting in particular appears to be a focal point. The painting depicts a family of gnomes – a mother, father, one taller boy with black hair, and a shorter boy with red hair. The family stands in front of a modest cottage and a large dog is on the ground beside them.

Unruhk and Topiary speculate that this may be a portrait of the Sparkneedle family. They previously met Gazimoff Sparkneedle in Neverwinter, and they know that a gnome named Baxter Sparkneedle used to run the Smiling Jester in Stradesberry.

The hallway is lined with six doors, each of which lead to a small room with a single bed. These bedrooms are also decorated in a busy and claustrophobic style. After checking each of the bedrooms, Topiary and Aribi search a room that appears to be an office. Inside a locked door in the office’s desk, they find a large ledger book that seems to be keeping track of accounts. The ledger entries are written in Gnomish, which Aribi is able to translate.

Aribi finds more debits than credits. The ledger’s owner made many payments to individuals and groups. She notices one familiar name in the ledger – Fortin Harra, the leader of The Watch. Fortin is paid 500 gold each month until the ledger’s entries end approximately seven years prior. Aribi also finds credit entries for items such as “ticket sales,” “admissions,” and “room.” She takes the ledger with her as she and Topiary leave the office.

The party then explores the outside of the structure, finding another doorway on the northeastern wall. This door leads to a larger bedroom with a fireplace and other furnishings. Topiary searches under the bed and finds a strange, small book with an unusual green cover. Unruhk is able to identify the cover as being made of dragon leather. The front of the book is decorated with elaborate gold embroidery.

The book is written in Elvish script, but Topiary is unable to read it. She determines that this means the book is either written in a cipher using Elvish script, written in Sylvan (a language used by fey creatures), or written in Undercommon (a language used by some inhabitants of the Underdark). Aribi interjects here to say she knows it is not Undercommon – though she has no idea why she knows that since she has never learned the language. Topiary is able to determine that there are numbers at the top of each page of the book. They are always in ascending order, though numbers are frequently skipped. The first page is numbered 1 and the final page is numbered 24,813. Topiary takes the book with her as they leave the building.

Meanwhile, Pamplemousse and Unruhk have scouted ahead, finding a long wooden bridge that connects to an elevated area of the cave to the north. Pamplemousse sends her chicken, Jam-Jam, across the bridge and discovers that the cave walls narrow on the far side and a large brick wall spans the entire width of the cave there. There is a substantial-looking wooden door in the middle of the brick wall. Gristlemonger is able to hear something beyond the wall that sounds like multiple pairs of footsteps, or perhaps shuffling feet.

Unruhk, Gristlemonger, and Pamplemousse all cross the bridge without incident, but the bridge is beginning to show some strain from use. Aribi crosses next and crashes through a rotten plank, but Gristlemonger quickly comes to her aid. Topiary crosses last, jumping across the gap Aribi left, then loses her footing and nearly falls as well. Gristlemonger also helps Topiary across, and the party regroups near the brick wall.

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Act 3: Adorations and Aberrations

Unruhk helps the Correlio house servants carry an unconscious Edgar Halfwhistle to a nearby guest room where he can recover. The gala begins to disperse not long after Edgar’s tumble, and the adventurers return to the Temple of Tymora for the night.

In the morning, Aribi wakes to find that her window is open slightly and a tray of live crayfish has been placed on her nightstand. When she looks in the mirror and touches her face, she also finds that her skin feels harder and dryer than usual.

Celkit has prepared breakfast for the party, and tells them that they are the talk of the town this morning. At the market, several people were gossiping about Aribi’s performance and Edgar’s dance with Pamplemousse. Apparently, the general consensus is that the town is impressed with the party, but thinks that Edgar made an ass of himself at the gala. Rumor is that Constable Fortin is none too pleased that Edgar, a member of the Watch, appeared so foolish in front of some of the town’s most influential residents.

Celkit also tells them that there was a letter, with a long golden feather wrapped up in it, left on the stoop of the Temple that morning. She isn’t certain who the letter is for, though she hands it to Aribi. Aribi reads over the letter and then passes it to Pamplemousse, who reads it for the rest of the group. Edgar has written a love letter, which Aribi and Pamplemousse decide to pretend like they never received.

The party decide to visit Sonfer and Malova, the halflings who run Stradeberry’s school, to get more information about the Smiling Jester. Malova explains that a gnome named Baxter Sparkneedle owned the Smiling Jester, which was something like an indoor carnival. Baxter hired entertainers and sideshow acts to travel to the town. He also had a deal with the hag who killed the McSand sisters. The hag brought aberrations to the Smiling Jester, including mutated animals from the swamp and a gibbering mouther. Though there were never any accidents or escapes from the Smiling Jester, not everyone in the town was pleased with what Baxter was doing. After the McSand girls died and the hag was killed, the Watch was established. Its first act was to put the Smiling Jester out of business. The Watch was supposed to catch Baxter and bring him to trial, but he was never found.

Armed with this information, the party heads to the abandoned Smiling Jester, which the town’s kids want to use as a roller derby rink. The structure is located on a small island in an inlet. Gristlemonger smells some tracks leading over the wooden bridge that connects the urban district to the island, and Unruhk realizes that the tracks belong to very small, human feet. The party crosses the bridge and are able to find a passable entrance to the Smiling Jester.

Inside, the place is all but empty. It is a single large room with some stalls and a door leading to another room at the far right side. The party investigates the large room and then proceeds through the door. Gristlemonger alerts Unruhk that he can hear running water, though it is not coming from the direction of the river.

Inside the smaller room, the party find a desk and a few bookshelves – all empty. Unruhk notices that there is a bit of a draft behind one of the bookcases and tries every way he can think of to dislodge it from the wall, eventually tearing off the sides of the bookcase. Topiary and Pamplemousse thoroughly search the desk, pulling out all the drawers (with some assistance from Unruhk). They find a switch hidden in the desk, which triggers a latch somewhere behind the bookcase.

Unruhk is now able to swing the bookcase away from the wall, revealing a rope ladder that leads down below the Smiling Jester. Aribi decides to lead the way, quickly descending the ladder into a large cavern below. The cavern itself seems to be partially naturally-occurring and partially a result of older structures having sunk into the swampland. Aribi crosses some dilapidated bridges that lead from one outcropping to the next, finally finding a wooden structure. The rest of the party climbs down the ladder and follows her.

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Act 3: Grandstanding at the Gala

Pod “Hex Files” Cinderbloom is the leader of the Magic Misfits derby team, whose clubhouse is located in the penthouse of Cinderbloom Tower. Aribi introduces herself as “A Cute Trauma,” and quickly convinces Pod that she, Topiary, and Pamplemousse are all members of a professional derby team and that Unruhk is their roadie.

After ingratiating herself with Pod, Aribi gets him to open up about the night he experienced Gravedigger Fever. Pod explains that he thought he was dreaming, and remembers hearing a beautiful voice singing. He wanted to find the voice, but woke up in his pajamas near the statue in the middle of town. Constable Fortin found Pod and brought him back home. Pod says he is afraid to sleep because the fever may come upon him again.

Before leaving Cinderbloom Tower, Topiary promises to draw up a special play for the Magic Misfits. Aribi, Pamplemousse, and Topiary all agree to join the Misfits at practice, and perhaps in a match, and Unruhk is volunteered to become the roadie for the Misfits.

The party retrieve their altered gowns from the tailor, Shappi, stopping briefly to inspect the statue they’ve heard about from Pod and some of the other Stradesberry residents. The statue is in the middle of the main trade road and depicts three young women. A plaque at the girls’ feet contains several names, but the first three listed are: Justine McSand, Tracy McSand, and Griffina McSand. There are flowers, candles, and other offerings on the dais below the statue of the girls.

The party reconvenes at the Temple of Tymora to pick up the tickets Celkit promised them, and to drop off their things. They then meet up with Edgar Halfwhistle, who explains that Stradesberry is built atop the ruins of old Fort Strade, which sank beneath the swampland. Edgar says that it is only because the fort sank, thereby providing a foundation for the town proper, that Stradeberry is able to exist today.

With Edgar, they make their way into the Correlio Estate, the venue for the gala. Pamplemousse introduces herself as “Mimosa Greenbottle,” though the others use their real names. As they enter the room, Topiary feels something grab at her ankle, though she is able to maintain her balance. When she looks around the room, she notices that Constable Fortin is staring intently at her. Edgar leaves his dates, and they are quickly scooped up by Sonfer and Malova, the halfling couple who run the preparatory school.

Sonfer and Malova provide the party with plenty of gossip about the town, explaining some of the ins and outs of the political setup in Stradesberry, as well as giving some insight into the character of the McSand daughters. They also point out Clint McSand, the girls’ father, who sits alone at one of the tables in the banquet hall. Unruhk decides to join Clint and bring him a drink. The two have a short conversation, but mostly sit together in silence.

Aribi introduces herself to Hayden Correlio III and his wife, who are hosting the party. She appeals to them to allow her to perform, and eventually they do. Aribi recites her newest poem, The Bard’s Tail, to an enraptured crowd.

While sitting with Sonfer and Malova, Topiary overhears Constable Fortin speaking with Dart Slipfoot. The Constable worries that The Watch is being undermined by the party’s efforts. Topiary also overhears a conversation between the Cinderblooms about someone called “Widow Tandy” who is about to go on trial. Sonfer and Malova explain that all three of the men the Widow Tandy has married have died under mysterious circumstances, though they doubt The Watch has enough evidence to convict her.

After her performance, Edgar asks Aribi for a dance. Once they’ve finished, Pamplemousse decides to dance with Edgar with the intention of running him into the ground. Though Edgar is a more skilled dancer than Pamplemousse, he is unable to match her stamina. Pamplemousse whips Edgar around the ballroom until he is exhausted, and then forces him into an elaborate move which should culminate with Edgar catching Pamplemousse in a dramatic jump. Completely exhausted, Edgar flubs the move. Both he and Pamplemousse come crashing to the ground, Edgar now unconscious. Hayden Correlio apologizes profusely to Pamplemousse, who is actually unhurt.

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Act 3: The Rugrats in the Rink

The party head for the tailor’s shop that Edgar Halfwhistle recommended. The show owner, a dwarf named Shappi, has a few ready-made gowns but only one suit anywhere near large enough to fit Unruhk. Unruhk tries on the suit, which Shappi had made as a backup for Constable Fortin, and finds that it is still far too small for him. Regardless, Unruhk buys the suit jacket and shirt. After a trip back to the wagon for tools, he sits at a table in the shop and begins making some alterations of his own.

Topiary, Pamplemousse, and Aribi each try on gowns. They are able to find garments that work, more or less successfully. Topiary’s gown is a little too long. Aribi’s gown is far too long, so she asks Shappi to make some alterations and also uses her Orb of Ornithological Charms to summon birds that will help hold up her skirt as she walks. Pamplemousse asks for some alterations as well, including incorporating the material she bought from Dorian, and also asks for a small vest to fit Jam-Jam. Shappi asks to be paid up front and tells the party to return at 7 o’clock to pick up their altered garments.

With their gala attire secured, the party head for Cinderbloom Tower to speak to some of the town’s children. Along the way, they notice posters for the Beefy Brawlerz and the Magic Misfits. The Magic Misfits’ posters say their clubhouse is at the top of Cinderbloom Tower, but the Beefy Brawlerz’ posters do not identify the location of their clubhouse. When the party arrive at Cinderbloom Tower, they speak to an elf who identifies herself as Maggie Cinderbloom’s mother. They manage to convince her that Maggie has won a prize and they need to deliver it directly to her. Mrs. Cinderbloom tells them that Maggie is at her ‘clubhouse’ – a clearing nearby that is hidden from the road by dense bushes.

Maggie and the other Brawlerz are practicing skating in the clearing. The party introduce themselves, and Maggie insists that they call her “Mad Maggs.” Unruhk questions her and another child about the Gravedigger Fever. The children say that school has been cancelled because it’s no longer safe for them to go there, so now they have nothing to do but play roller derby all day. The other child is a young human boy who says he has been afflicted by the fever. He remembers hearing music, but can’t recall much else about what happened to him.

After more questions, and the promise that Unruhk will provide the Brawlerz with the skates he has crafted, Maggie finally tells the party that her brother, Pod, was also afflicted with Gravedigger Fever. Pod made it out of the house but was found and returned by the Constable. Maggie asks Unruhk to join her roller derby team, and tells them that she wants to hold a match in an abandoned building called the “Smiling Jester.”

Maggie and the party return to Cinderbloom Tower. Maggie must go inside to prepare to attend the gala, but she first shows the party how to get up to the tower’s penthouse to speak to Pod. They use a basket rigged to a pulley to bring themselves up to the penthouse level, and Pod opens a window to let them in. Pod insists upon being called “Hex Files,” and has a few friends who are practicing skating at the top of the tower. Each of the Magic Misfits carries a wand with a star tip. The party all come inside the tower so they can speak to Pod and his team.

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Act 3: Suspicion in Stradesberry

In the afternoon, the party arrive at Stradesberry, a thriving fishing town in the middle of the Evermoors. The town is completely surrounded by a 10-foot high cobblestone wall, and the party must go through a rigorous customs check before they are allowed to enter. A half-elf named Dart Slipfoot examines all their belongings and even tries to take the package of rosewhitle from them before he is stopped by an elderly woman named Rita Gary. Mrs. Gary says she is the wife of the Chairman of the Casters, a group that rules the town. She chastises Dart for being so rough with the visitors, and instead introduces them to a human named Fortin, who is the town’s Constable and the head of The Watch.

Fortin takes the party on a tour of the town, beginning in the Genteel District. He shows them the houses The Watch owns, a house with a gravestone in the yard, and the preparatory school, which is owned by a very friendly halfling couple. Topiary quickly notices that the Constable’s tone is not altogether sincere, and that he is subtly threatening them. The Constable repeatedly says that the safety of the town’s residents and, in particular, the children, is paramount. Fortin also introduces the party to a beefy-looking goblin named Lank, who is another member of The Watch. Fortin instructs Lank, in the goblin language, to keep an eye on the party. Gristlemonger hears this and translates for Unruhk.

As they walk, Fortin also describes the nature of the illness afflicting Stradesberry’s children. The town’s residents have been calling the illness “Gravedigger Fever,” because it makes the children sleepwalk out of their homes and then dig anywhere they can find. Four children have been lost so far – one fell down a well and others have wandered off into the swamp that surrounds the town. Supposedly for the town’s safety, classes at the preparatory school have been cancelled and other extra security measures are in place.

The Constable leaves the party at the Temple of Tymora, where they finally meet Cleric Celkit. She quickly ushers the party into the basement of the temple, not wanting to be overheard by the townspeople in the temple’s main level. Celkit tells the party that she has no idea what is causing the Gravedigger Fever, but she suspects it is not a naturally-occurring illness. She says she will try to create a potion that will temporarily prevent the symptoms of the fever using the rosewhistle, but she appeals to the party that they must find the real root of the problem to ensure the children are safe.

From Fortin and Celkit, the party also learn that there is a fancy gala being held at a large estate in the Genteel District tonight by a family called the Correlios. The wealthy residents of Stradesberry attend this gala every year to raise money for the less fortunate people of the town. Celkit has two tickets to the gala which she offers to the party, saying the gala may be a good place to meet people and hear gossip.

When the party asks Celkit why the town is so obsessed with the safety of its children, and whether it had any problems in the past, the cleric mentions the “hag incident.” She explains that, six or seven years ago, a hag who had taken up residence outside of the town kidnapped three young women. When the women’s father and other town residents went to get them back, there was a violent battle with the hag. In the end, the three daughters died as did the hag and several other townspeople. Celkit did not yet live in Stradesberry at the time, so she is fuzzy on some of the details. She tells the party there is a statue of the three women in the center of the town and it is dedicated to their memories and the memories of the townspeople who died in the battle with the hag.

Celkit also explains that the children of the town believe that the hag is still alive. When the party ask her how they can earn the trust of the children to speak with them about the hag, Celkit laughs and explains that all the children of Stradesberry are obsessed with playing roller derby. They’ve divided themselves into two teams – the Beefy Brawlerz and the Magic Misfits – and have plastered handmade signs for their teams all over town.

Finally, Celkit cautions the party against speaking openly against The Watch. She says that Fortin and the other members are vain and want to be seen as the town’s heroes. The cleric suspects that The Watch might even go so far as to manufacture dangers for the town so that they can solve these problems and solidify the town’s dependence on them. Celkit thinks that if the party can solve some problems that The Watch have been unable to solve, they may ingratiate themselves with the people of Stradesberry in a way outsiders usually can’t.

Now in the late afternoon, the party heads for the Cypress Creek Pub, where they hope to find another member of The Watch. Celkit told them that Edgar Halfwhistle is often found at the pub and that they might be able to get some more information out of him if he’s in the right mood. Pamplemousse enters the pub first, asking the barkeep for Wizard Tower Ale. When the barkeep explains that they don’t carry this ale, Unruhk carries two kegs into the pub and the entire party attempts to sway the barkeep and the pub’s patrons to try Glowkindle’s brew. While Pamplemousse’s initial attempt is unconvincing, Aribi manages to talk the barkeep into buying two kegs.

Meanwhile, the halfling Edgar Halfwhistle has been sitting on a barstool, playing his lute, and flirting with Pamplemousse. When Edgar mentions that he is going to the gala tonight and has managed to secure a “plus two” so that he can bring two dates, Aribi and Pamplemousse both express interest. Edgar looks over Aribi and Pamplemousse and declares that he wants to keep his options open in case some prettier ladies come along. Unruhk steps up to Edgar, towering over him, and assures Edgar that he wants to take Aribi and Pamplemousse to the gala. Edgar quickly agrees.

The gala’s dress code is black tie and ballgowns, according to Edgar. He tells Aribi and Pamplemousse to freshen up and meet him outside of the Correlio Estate at 8 o’clock, and also tells them where they can find a tailor.

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Act 3: Facing the Flopdoogle

In the Fallen Tower Inn the next morning, the party overhear a few pieces of gossip. First, the Clockwork Carnival has been temporarily closed, although no one seems to know why. Second, three fishermen have been violently murdered. Initially, the city guards believed they might have simply gotten tangled in their net and drowned, but later they found wounds on the bodies that looked like they were caused by an ax.

While the party is eating breakfast, a gnome and elf burst into the inn, yelling at one another. The elf says the gnome is lazy and a coward, while the gnome yells about bug bites. Finally, the elf rips a package from the gnome’s hands and appeals to the crowd in the inn to make a delivery. He offers 500 gold, which gets a lot of enthusiasm from the crowd, until he explains that the package needs to be delivered to the down of Stradesberry in the Evermoors.

The party beckon the elf over and he introduces himself as Stubborn, an apothecary who has a shop in Neverwinter. Stubborn says he has received an order from Cleric Celkit, who runs a temple to Tymora in Stradesberry. Celkit ordered a crate of rosewhistle to create a medicine for the children of her town, who are gravely ill. The party agrees to make the delivery, deciding not to try to negotiate for a higher price in light of the dire circumstances.

Worried that the trip to Stradesberry and back will take too much time, the party asks Glowkindle if they can borrow his horse (Steven) and wagon for the trip. Glowkindle agrees, but only if they will also take a few kegs of Wizard Tower Ale to introduce to Stradesberry’s residents while they are there. He gives Aribi a copy of his 72-point business plan so she will know how to deal with any potential marketing issues.

Upon leaving the walls of Neverwinter, Unruhk notices that Gristlemonger is no longer able to speak to the other members of the party in a way that they can understand. Gristlemonger, however, has not realized this. The party stops briefly in Underwillow after their first night on the road and Pamplemousse retrieves her pet chicken, Jam-Jam.

The rest of the journey is more difficult, with the forest giving way to swampland. Unruhk makes a salve to repel mosquitoes and Pamplemousse conjures a magehand to smack the bugs out of the air. The dirt road becomes a narrow wooden boardwalk that leads over the bog. Aribi carefully guides Steven over the dangerous path. Eventually the party is confronted by a pack of stirges which they quickly dispatch, though Aribi is wounded in the process.

As they enter the final few hours of their journey, the party hears an inhuman screeching in the high grass that surrounds them on either side. Pamplemousse sends Jam-Jam to fly over the grass and take a look, and finds that it is a kua-toa (who the party quickly rename “Fish Boys”) making the noise. The kuo-toa runs up on to the boardwalk and hides behind the wagon, speaking a language they cannot understand and clearly terrified.

Moments later, a hideous creature bursts through the grass. It appears to be an alligator, standing upright on its hind legs, with two lobster claws for front legs and a crown made of twigs and mud on its head. The creature sizes up the party, eventually charging at Gristlemonger. The party fight back, with Aribi finally striking the killing blow.

With the creature defeated, the kuo-toa immediately bows before Aribi, calling her the “Terrible Flopdoogle.” Aribi can now understand the language the kuo-toa speaks, though no one else in the party can. Several other kuo-toa emerge from the grasses around them, bowing before Aribi and bringing plates filled with shellfish and bugs to present to her. One kuo-toa who carries a staff walks up to the defeated alligator-creature, removes the crown from its head, and presents it to Aribi. Though Aribi tries to speak to the kuo-toa and ask them questions about what is happening, they either do not understand her or ignore her questions. She is hesitant to put on the crown but finally does so, and the kuo-toa again bow to her before they fade away into the marsh grasses again.

Topiary explains to the party that the kuo-toa have a unique religion. Creatures that the kuo-toa worship begin to take on qualities of their deities, eventually achieving god-like powers. Concerned, Aribi removes the crown, but Topiary can detect no magic in it. Aribi places the crown on her head once more as the party finally arrives in Stradesberry.

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Act 2: Misappropriating a Mermaid

The next morning, the party head back to the Clockwork Carnival in order to see some of the other attractions and, particularly, to investigate the mermaid act at the slideshow. Given the dubious nature of the other two sideshow acts they’ve seen so far, the party is not especially hopeful they will find a real mermaid, but they want to check nonetheless.

A goblin barker ushers them into the sideshow tent and cautions them against trying to touch the mermaid as “she bites.” The tent contains a grimy-looking tank full of water, and the party can see something sitting against the far wall of the tank. Topiary takes a closer look and realizes that what they’re seeing is, in fact, a real mermaid.

The party strike up a conversation with the mermaid, who says her name is Ivia. She was caught in a fisherman’s net a few years ago and subsequently sold to Gazimoff, the owner of the carnival. When the party ask whether they can have a few of Ivia’s scales, she says she will give them whatever they want if they help her escape from the carnival. The river is not far from the carnival’s rear exit, if they can get her that far without being stopped.

Deciding first to appeal to Gazimoff (or perhaps threaten him again), the party leave the carnival and return to the gnome’s cottage in the River District. Gazimoff is not home, however, having left his housekeeper to clean up the rat gore left over from the party’s fight two days ago. The housekeeper explains that Gazimoff will be out of town for a few days while she completes the cleanup.

Realizing they are going to have to break out Ivia rather than negotiate her release, the party head to Fantasy Costco to stock up on supplies. While there, Aribi convinces Garfield the Deals Warlock to contact her if he gets in any of the ingredients they are looking for. Pamplemousse is also, again, successfully dissuaded from applying for a Fantasy Costco credit card.

The party return to Ivia’s tent. The goblin barker is beginning to seem suspicious of the time they are spending there, and so Aribi invents a distraction, pretending to pull Topiary behind the tent for a make-out session. When the goblin realizes he’s being creepy and turns away, the party sneak into the back of Ivia’s tent.

After a very long discussion of how exactly to get Ivia from the tent down to the river, the party finally decide on a plan. Pamplemousse casts a spell that creates an illusory copy of Ivia which will swim around somewhat convincingly in the tank. They wrap up Ivia’s fins in some fancy cloth that Pamplemousse bought from Dorian, and put Pamplemousse’s hat on Ivia’s head to cover the rest of her fins. Unruhk picks up Ivia by wrapping an arm under hers to give the appearance that she could be walking – albeit kind of strangely – on her own. When Ivia expresses her desire for vengeance, Unruhk also arms her with one of his axes.

Topiary, Pamplemousse, and Aribi lead the way toward the rear exit of the carnival. Fortunately, they do not encounter anyone else except for two half-ogre guards who are stationed at the exit. Aribi gives a particularly compelling performance and manages to distract both guards as Unruhk slips past them and gets Ivia safely to the river. Though the party only need 3 scales from Ivia’s tail, Aribi asks for 6 and Ivia happily obliges.

After parting ways with the mermaid, the party travel to Caeion’s Curiosities, a shop near the House of Knowledge. Topiary knows that Caeion can be hired to track down very rare magical items and ingredients – for a lofty price. Though Caeion is away on such a mission when they stop by the shop, the party speak to his assistant and make an appointment to see Caeion in two weeks.

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Act 2: Confrontation in the Cottage

The party continued on to the next sideshow tent, which housed the “World’s Ugliest Boy.” The boy introduced himself as Burt Sompson and told them his sad life story. Pamplemousse in particular was moved by his tale, though the others suspected it might not be entirely truthful. When Aribi confronted Burt, he revealed that he was actually an adult goblin who enjoyed his life as an entertainer. Burt also revealed that Gazimoff Sparkneedle was likely not at the carnival at all, but at his cottage in the affluent Bluelake District.

Outside of Gazimoff’s cottage, Aribi dons her shrubbery costume to be discrete, a plan which fails spectacularly when she is spotted by a servant while scoping out the house. Pamplemousse attempts to make a quick excuse about carrying a Candlenights tree (in early summer), which the servant does not buy. Regardless, the servant invites them into the cottage, saying that Gazimoff is waiting for them and hopes to resolve this misunderstanding.

Once inside, the party finds Orvillius sitting atop Gazimoff’s desk, wearing a collar and leash. The Rat Boss, in her human form, is also there. Orvillus calls Gus a traitor and Gus quickly explains to Gazimoff that he had to hire some mercenaries to make it look as if he was searching for the King because the other cats were growing suspicious. Gus then turns to the party and offers to double their fee if they will simply leave the cottage.

After a long discussion, the party decide they will attempt to free Orvillius. The Rat Boss screams, summoning swarms of rats to the cottage, while Gus quickly jumps out a window and into the night. Though Unruhk, Pamplemousse, and Aribi all attempt to follow or otherwise incapacitate Gus, they are unable to do so. When the rats attack, the Worg Lord and some of his allies show up at the cottage to defend Orvillius. A battle ensues, with the party dispatching the Rat Boss as the worgs and rats fight amongst each other.

Once the battle finishes, the party threatens Gazimoff for his role in the catnapping. Gazimoff explains that Gus had promised to allow him to use the cats as spies once Orvillius was deposed. Aribi insists that Gazimoff pay them double the doubled fee that Gus offered, and Gazimoff quickly agrees – saying he will give the party 2000 gold now (because it is all he has on hand), and will send them the additional 2000 gold he owes them at some point in the future. The party also negotiates for lifetime passes to the Clockwork Carnival.

Topiary carries King Orvillius back to the Congress of Cats’ warehouse, where they are greeted by Fox, who is thrilled to have the King returned. The cats’ treasurer pays the party the 1000 gold Gus promised them, and everyone returns to the Fallen Tower Inn for the night.

The next morning, Topiary is summoned to the House of Knowledge, where she is given an assignment by Elder Namer Miguel to catalog the stories she hears on her journey in a special book. {This book gives Topiary advantage on Religion & History checks.}

Unruhk returns to Jasyla to ask her more about the visions he has been having. She gives him the recipe for a blend of herbs that he can burn before sleeping in order to bring on dreams. {Unruhk may now request a vision from the DM.}

Aribi counsels the bard, Mallarick, who she’d gotten thrown offstage the night before, eventually agreeing to sing a duet with him at the Fallen Tower Inn that night. The two perform “The Boy Is Mine” to a standing ovation. {Aribi now earns 40 gold per night when she performs.}

Pamplemousse spends the day at the carnival, riding the most dangerous-looking rides with a young elf named Desgardes. {Pamplemousse earns a permanent +1 to her Constitution score.}

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Act 2: Alibis in Alleyways

After asking a few more questions of Gus and Fox, the party decides to first check in with the Wayside Oracle. Gus leads them to where she usually does business, which is a small table beneath an archway. The so-called “Oracle” is a gnome named Jasyla who insists upon reading their palms before discussing anything else.

Jasyla’s prophecies coincided with tarot cards as follows:
Pamplemousse – Death
Unruhk – The Priestess
Topiary – The World
Aribi – The Lovers

Unruhk also asked Jasyla about the mysterious dreams he’s been having that seem to predict the future. Jasyla told him that this is the first step of realizing that he has the “Sight,” and that he must embrace this power and pay close attention to the meanings behind his dreams.

The Oracle then tells them that the Kind of Cats came to visit her three nights ago and she hasn’t seen him since. Orvillius asked for her advice on his treaty with the Worg Lord, and she cautioned him that he would be in great danger over the coming days. Since his disappearance, she has tried unsuccessfully to use her gift to find him. Jasyla told the party she believes the Rat Boss must be involved in Orvillius’ disappearance, though she’s also heard rumors that Gazimoff Sparkneedle, who runs the Clockwork Circus, may know something.

The party decides to seek out the Worg Lord first. With both Gus and Gristlemonger‘s help, they are finally confronted by the Worg Lord, Non, and some of his underlings in an alley. Non refuses to tell them much of anything, insisting that he doesn’t approve of their kind meddling in the affairs of beasts and that they should stay away. Non eventually retreats, with Unruhk noting that it is very strange for a worg to walk away from a fight, and especially for one to seem nervous. Gus, who disappeared while the party was speaking to Non, tells them that he doesn’t trust the Worg Lord.

On their way to investigate the Rat Boss’ hideout, the party is stopped by two city guards – Watchmen Merric and Greg. They claim that Unruhk matches the description of a wanted murderer and insist that he must come to the nearest barracks for questioning. Though Unruhk is willing to go, the rest of the party argue with the two guards. Topiary claims that Unruhk is under her care, as she is a cleric of the House of Knowledge, but Unruhk exposes her lie.

Finally, Aribi realizes that their receipts from Fantasy Costco have timestamps as well as their names on them, which will provide an alibi for the time of the murders. She presents all of this evidence to the two watchmen and Unruhk is allowed to go free.

{{OOC Note: While this confrontation was taking place, Turbles tweeted Clint, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy asking for confirmation as to whether Fantasy Costco has receipts with a timestamp and buyer information. Clint responded:

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And later further clarified:

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While Clint was apparently pulling a Dad-joke with his first tweet, Tzufit decided to let the decision stand, given that Clint McElroy responded to Turbles’ tweet in the first place, and Turbles rolled a natural 20 on her Persuasion check against the guards.}}

When the party finally arrived at the Rat Boss’ home, they found a dirty apartment with few furnishings. The Rat Boss herself was in a room on the upper floor. She appeared to them first as a human woman, but eventually revealed herself to be a wererat. When the party, with Gus, entered the room she asked Gus what he was doing there. Gus told her they were looking for the King. The Rat Boss claimed that Orvillius was taken by a gang of half-orcs called the Stinkrot Crew and was being held in an old warehouse down by the docks. The Rat Boss told Gus that he owed her a big favor before she transformed into a rat and jumped from the window. The party was unable to follow her.

Upon reaching the old warehouse, Pamplemousse climbed to an upper window and found that the entire building was vacant, with a layer of undisturbed dust on the floor. The party then questioned Gus, who confirmed that he hadn’t heard of the Stinkrot Crew operating in quite some time. Though they were reasonably certain Gus was either hiding something from them or generally nervous, they weren’t able to figure out which of these was the case.

With all their other leads exhausted, the party moved on to the Clockwork Carnival to speak to Gazimoff Sparkneedle. They were refused entrance to the carnival without tickets, which Unruhk agreed to buy for all of them. The goblin in the ticket booth at the entrance told them Gazimoff was “in the back.” The carnival grounds themselves were a large circle, but upon reaching the area that seemed to be “the back,” they found another exit guarded by two half-ogres. Unruhk spoke to them in Giant and they told him that Gazimoff had likely gone to the sideshow tents to check in on the barkers there.

Sideshow Alley hosted five attractions:

  • The Giant Gorilla
  • The World’s Ugliest Boy
  • The Mermaid
  • The Will-o’-Wisp
  • The Chain Devil

The party decided to first check the Giant Gorilla’s tent. Inside they found a hole in the ground with a giant gorilla head emerging from it. The eyes were shut, but the muscles twitched occasionally and the nostrils flared in and out. The tent barker warned the party not to do anything that might wake up the gorilla, and Pamplemousse in particular seemed very concerned.

However, Aribi was able to discern that this was simply an elaborate clockwork mechanism being controlled from somewhere below them. Realizing the deception, Aribi cast Light on the goblin barker’s shirt, causing a bright white light to illuminate the tent. Pamplemousse panicked, shoving the barker out of the tent as quickly as possible. Once outside, the barker took his shirt off and threw it on the ground, telling Pamplemousse to leave him alone.

Back inside the tent, Aribi yelled to the people she knew must be somewhere below them, working the mechanism, to ask where Gaizmoff was. After a moment, one of them yelled back that he had just been there and had likely moved on to another tent.

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Act 2: Cats in the City

Dia gives the party the doll to return to Byx and a basket of red currant jam pastries. When they leave her home, they find Barry – one of the wolves they believed they had killed earlier – waiting for them in the forest. Barry escorts the party back to the village, but they are ambushed by a giant bat. The party fights the bat and Barry leaps from the underbrush to deal the killing blow. Once the bat is no longer a threat, Dia rings Aribi on the scrying orb and explains that her sister, Sporks, has an affinity for bats and likely sent the creature to slow them.

Back at Underwillow Inn, the party confronts Amhatan and Byx. Byx sheepishly apologizes for deceiving them and Amhatan explains that they consider Dia a neighbor and want to help protect her as she has protected them. Unruhk exchanges some tense words with Amhatan, both due to the village’s deception and their apparent unwillingness to deal with the threat of Dia’s sister themselves. In a conversation with the dwarven merchant, Dorian, Pamplemousse learns that Underwillow used to be a relatively dangerous place. Bandits often raided the town and merchants passing through. Dorian says that the village is a happier and safer place now than he has ever seen it.

Topiary and Pamplemousse strike a bargain with Byx, who agrees to supply some tarps to place over the open holes in the temple while they are away from Underwillow. Aribi gives one final performance – an epic poem detailing the party’s adventure in the inn’s cellars. Aribi receives a standing ovation for her poem. Amhatan gives the group 1000 gold (250 gold per person) as an advance to help them buy the items Dia requested.

Per Glowkindle’s offer, the party agree to meet him in the morning, help him load several kegs of ale onto his cart, and then travel with him through Neverwinter Wood to the city. The journey through the forest is uneventful, though wolves can be seen following along with the cart. After traveling for most of the day, they arrive on the outskirts of Neverwinter in the early evening.

The party makes a brief stop at Fantasy Costco to buy supplies and haggle with Garfield the Deals Warlock. Pamplemousse very nearly agrees to sign up for an in-store credit card with exorbitant interest rates, but Aribi talks her out of it. After they’re done shopping, they return to Glowkindle and pass through the city gates, stopping briefly as they are questioned by the city guards regarding their names and reasons for visiting Neverwinter.

Glowkindle drives his cart through the city, eventually stopping at the Fallen Tower Inn. The party helps Glowkindle unload his kegs and take a pint each inside the inn, which is packed with travelers and a half-elf bard performing with a fiddle. Suddenly, a tabby cat jumps up on their table. The cat has a note that reads “Follow me” tied to its tail.

The party follows the cat, who leads them into a poorer and dirtier section of the city. They turn down several narrow alleyways and are eventually ambushed by a half-ogre mugger who addresses the cat as “Gus.” The cat runs off as the mugger confronts them. Attempts to intimidate the half-ogre fail, but eventually Aribi manages to convince him that they are friends. She tells the half-ogre that he should rethink his life and his career, and maybe get a cat. He ponders this as the party sneaks past him and follows the cat again.

When they catch up to him, the cat speaks and introduces himself as Asparagus, or “Gus” for short. He darts off across a street and into a seedy-looking warehouse. The party follows and finds a large open room filled with tiered benches and hundreds of cats sitting upon the benches. This is the Congress of Cats. All of these cats are able to speak and, the party quickly learns, Gristlemonger is now able to speak to them as well.

Gus explains that King Orvillius the Great, the cats’ king, has been missing for three days. According to their laws, Orvillius will be stripped of his title and exiled if he’s not found by morning. Gus offers the party 200 gold now and another 1000 gold if they can find Orvillius. Unruhk asks Gus if he knows anything about any of the three items they need to find for Dia, but Gus has no knowledge of this.

Gus does tell the party that the King of Cats had some enemies, most notably the Rat Boss. The Worg Lord was also an enemy until recently, when Orvillius was able to negotiate a peace treaty with him. Gus informs them that the Worg Lord has no specific residence, but can usually be found in a nearby alley.

A friendly and helpful black cat called Fox also introduces herself. She explains that there would be a time of political unrest among the cats if Orvillius would be deposed and exiled. She also suggests that the party should speak to the “Wayside Oracle,” who is a friend of the King’s. Gus rolls his eyes at this, calling the Oracle a two-bit fortune teller.

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