Lack Of Initiative

Act 1: Rats in the Cellar

It’s early summer in Underwillow and there are several travelers in town. A gnome bard, Aribi, has been performing to enthusiastic crowds in the Underwillow Inn. A half-orc ranger, Unruhk, sells some furs and skins from the game he’s caught in nearby Neverwinter Wood. A halfling cleric, Topiary, found the village’s temple to Oghma abandoned and has set about cleaning it up. And a halfling rogue, Pamplemousse, has been wandering around town, eating a lot of free samples of red currant jam.

Aribi performs to a large crowd in the Underwillow Inn. A dwarven merchant tips her generously, as does Pamplemousse (after she pickpockets some gold from that same merchant), and Topiary’s tip is a scroll containing some of Oghma’s wisdom. Aribi’s final performance of the night is a riddle which Pamplemousse solves. Aribi buys Pamplemousse a round of drinks as a reward. While at the inn’s bar, the party meets the innkeeper, Amhatan (a serious-looking elf), and Glowkindle (a gnome who is trying to build a brewery in the inn’s basement).

Glowkindle hires the four travelers to clean out the basement. Giant rats recently chased his workers out of the cellar. Glowkindle wants them to get rid of the rats, find out where they came from, and make sure that no surprises like this happen again. He wants this done as soon as possible because his brewing equipment will arrive from Neverwinter in the next few days.

The party descends the stairs into the basement. When they light a torch, four giant rats charge at them from the darkness. Unruhk is severely bitten by two of the rats, but Topiary heals him before the situation can get any worse. The party quickly dispatches three of the rats, with Aribi using Dissonant Whispers to make one of rats’ head explode. It’s gross but impressive, and it makes the fourth rat run away through a hole in the back wall.

Unruhk follows the final rat, and looks through the hole in the wall to see where it has gone. He finds a narrow hallway and a trail of blood leading to the right. He hears a quick squeak and then silence. The party climbs through the hole and makes its way down the hallway. They find the rat sliced in half, with its front end on some sort of mosaic panel on the floor. Using a riddle engraved in the stone wall of the hallway, the party progresses forward carefully, realizing they must step on the mosaic tiles in a specific order to be able to cross safely.

On the other side of the mosaic, the party finds two doors. They choose to enter the door to their left first. Inside they find a Giant Inferno Spider, which attempts to hide from them in the webs it has spun on the ceiling. Unruhk manages to hit the spider through the web with his spear. With the spear stuck in its belly, the spider drags the spear through the webs as it runs, ripping the webs behind it. Eventually, the spider falls to the ground and Aribi is able to attack it. The spider spits Burning Webs at Aribi, but Topiary quickly slashes through the webs to free her. Though she seems very uncomfortable with the sights and smells of the smouldering room, Pamplemousse takes a moment to find a place in the shadows and unleashes a perfect shot that hits the spider in the mouth and kills it.

Upon searching the rest of this area, the party determines that the room was a laboratory of some kind. There is a small storeroom in the back where they find a rat lapping up a bit of liquid from a broken vial. They quickly realize that the rats and spider were altered by drinking from these broken vials. The party finds a few intact potions before heading back to the hallway to check out the other door.

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Act 1: Centipedes in the Well

Inside the other door, the party finds a small room with a well in the center. A portion of the ceiling has caved in, exposing some moonlight above. Pamplemousse peers into the well and sees two pairs of eyes staring back at her. A giant centipede emerges and Unruhk quickly dispatches it. When a second centipede climbs over the side of the well, Aribi decides to attempt to talk to it.

The centipede explains that it is very hungry and would like to eat the party, please. The rats the centipede and its associates used to hunt here have suddenly grown too strong for them to kill. When Aribi suggests that the centipede should eat its fallen compatriot, it becomes offended and tries to attack her. Unruhk kills this second centipede, but the party can hear more noise coming from inside the well. Unruhk drops a torch down the well and reveals three centipedes climbing up. The torch extinguishes when it hits the water at the bottom of the well, but there are sounds coming from below that indicate there are probably more of the bugs.

After a long debate about what to do, Aribi steps to the edge of the well and yells down to the other centipedes. One of the centipedes asks to speak to “Spike” and, with Unruhk’s help, Aribi holds up the body of one of the slain centipedes. Using the corpse as a crude puppet, Aribi attempts to imitate Spike’s voice as she speaks to the other centipedes. The centipedes believe they are speaking to Spike, and Spike (Aribi) tells them it is time to leave this place because there is no food left. They agree, and decide to come up out of the well so they can leave.

Realizing there will shortly be a swarm of centipedes in the room, the party scrambles to decide what to do. Aribi, Pamplemousse, and Topiary quickly leave the room, with Pamplemousse staying near the door so she can close it. Unruhk hesitates, concerned that the centipedes may run out through the hole in the ceiling and into the town itself. After considering the orientation of the rooms below the inn, Unruhk realizes that the centipedes will climb out of the hole facing the forest. He decides to run out of the room and Pamplemousse quickly closes the door behind him. Unruhk takes off running back up the cellar steps and through the inn, past a very confused Glowkindle, on his way to ensure that the centipedes are heading for the forest and not the town’s center.

The rest of the party emerges from the cellar and explains what happened to Glowkindle and Amhatan. The innkeeper suspects that the rooms they found may have once belonged to an old wizard’s tower that used to stand where the inn does now. Glowkindle pays the party 200g (50g each) for their services and Amhatan tells them they are welcome to stay at his inn for free for as long as they want. Glowkindle notices the gnomish lantern that hangs from Aribi’s lute and offers her a power gem. Once the power gem has been placed in the lantern, the mechanical canary inside lights up and it able to fly a short distance.

Pamplemousse asks Topiary’s permission to set up a small shrine to Tymora in Underwillow’s temple and the cleric happily agrees. Unruhk decides to move into a room in the inn, now that he doesn’t have to pay for his lodgings.

Players receive 200g (50g per character). Players are now level 2. Aribi’s trinket is now a useable object.

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Act 1: Wolves in the Woods

Two days after clearing out the basement, everyone in the village attends a grand opening celebration for Glowkindle’s brewery. The party is held at the Underwillow Inn, with free food and a free first pint of Wizard Tower Ale for all attendees. Aribi performs again and Unruhk solves her night’s riddle (on a bit of a technicality). Amhatan gives a brief speech thanking everyone for coming and expressing his hope that Underwillow will soon become a major destination for people traveling to and from Neverwinter.

Suddenly, a loud crack of lightning interrupts the speech and the inn door bangs open. A young elven woman named Byx bursts into the inn, sobbing and yelling that her baby has been stolen from her. Upon questioning Byx, the party learn that her child is a little over a year old and that it was stolen from her backyard by several wolves (which walk on four feet and not two). Unruhk hurries off toward Byx’s cottage as the rest of the party ask a few more questions and gather their armor.

At Byx’s cottage, Unruhk rushes to the backyard and finds an overturned basket. There are tracks that belong to 10 wolves leading from the backyard into the nearby forest, and it appears that they were dragging something wrapped in a blanket. Unruhk follows the tracks into the forest, leaving arrows on the ground to indicate to the rest of the party which direction they should go. When the others reach the cottage a few minutes behind Unruhk, they see the arrows and Topiary picks them up as they follow the path.

Arriving in a clearing, Unruhk is confronted by two wolves, who are eventually joined by a third. He quickly kills one and is bitten by the second just as the rest of the party arrives. Topiary and Pamplemousse are able to quickly dispatch the third wolf. Then Aribi decides to speak to the wolf that has attacked Unruhk. This wolf identifies itself as ‘Barry,’ though it repeatedly tells Aribi that it doesn’t care what her name is. Barry tells Aribi that the wolves have not eaten the child and are not planning to eat the child.

As Aribi is speaking to Barry, a fourth wolf sneaks up behind her and attacks her, knocking her face-first to the ground. Pamplemousse leaps on top of the wolf’s back and quickly kills it. The party makes short work of Barry, with Topiary and Aribi taunting Barry before he dies.

Continuing to follow the tracks, the party arrives at a very large willow tree on the far side of a river. The tracks lead to a dark hole in the tree’s trunk, which is covered by braided roots. When Pamplemousse and Unruhk approach, even though they are stealthed, the roots part for them and show a tunnel leading down below the tree. Aribi believes she has heard tales of portals to strange places which are often found deep in forests like this one, and she specifically recalls a story about a path beneath the roots of an old tree. Pamplemousse hangs a length of string with a bell attached across the width of the tunnel so that the party will be alerted if anything tries to follow them down. Once everyone has entered the tunnel, the roots close behind them.

At the bottom of the tunnel, they find a 30×30 foot empty room. The ceiling is made of the braided roots of the tree, and the walls are covered with bioluminescent ivy that glows a soft gold. The ivy begins to part in three places – on the wall directly in front of them and on the walls to their left and right – revealing three wooden doors. The door immediately in front of them has a golden keyhole and is locked. Listening at the door, Unruhk can hear a woman singing a lullaby. Unruhk is about to attempt to break the door down when Pamplemousse stops him.

Topiary and Aribi investigate the door to the right, which is unlocked. Inside, Topiary sees two suits of armor standing in the middle of the room, facing each other, and also a pedestal close to the far wall. Aribi casts Detect Magic and finds that this entire room is filled with magic, but that the statutes themselves have an especially high concentration of arcane magic.

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Act 1: A Witch in the Willow

The party examines the door to the left, finding that a large pit takes up most of the room. Upon further inspection, they discover the pit is filled with bones and a root spans the entire pit, from the close ledge where they stand to a smaller ledge on the far side. They can see a golden key hanging on the wall at the far side of the room.

In an attempt to explain their options to her friends, Aribi becomes overexcited and falls into the room with the two suits of armor. There, she notices that each suit of armor wears a golden key around its neck and stands upon a pedestal that says “FALSE.” She also sees that there is an inscription on the pedestal at the back of this room, which reads: “Only one question may you say / And we shall answer yay or nay.”

After much whispered discussion, the party decides to attempt to retrieve the key from the left room. Unruhk shoots an arrow into the pit, and a skeleton animates as soon as the arrow touches the ground. The party quickly kills the skeleton. Pamplemousse attempts what might have been a very impressive trick shot with her fishing pole, hoping to hook the key and reel it back across the pit. Unfortunately, her aim is not on point and she simply casts into the pit itself, hooking a skull. A new skeleton animates and attempts to pull Pamplemousse into the pit, but she is able to stand her ground. The party kills the second skeleton.

Unruhk successfully makes a vaulting leap across the pit and retrieves the key. When he removes the key from the wall, the bottom half of the key disintegrates in his hand. Unruhk’s return vault is less successful, as he lands with his legs dangling into the pit below and clutching at the ledge. With an unbelievable show of strength, Topiary is able to pull Unruhk back up to solid ground. After giving Topiary the half-key, Unruhk decides to finish off a third skeleton that has animated, while the rest of the party return to the room with the suits of armor.

Topiary makes a very thorough investigation of the room and finds a recessed hole on the back of the pedestal that has the riddle engraved on it. In the hole is another golden key, the top half of which dissolves in Topiary’s hands as she grabs it. Intrigued by the remaining golden keys that hang from the two statutes’ necks, Pamplemousse and Aribi decide to climb the statutes and remove the keys. Unruhk arrives at the doorway in time to stop them from doing so.

In the fray, Topiary decides to slam the two pieces of the key together, and they merge to form a single key. Much more debate ensues about how to proceed and whether a question should be asked of the suits of armor. Finally, Aribi blurts out, “Is the key that Unruhk has the key that opens the door?” to which the statutes answer, “Yes.” Unruhk, however, is not in possession of a key at the time this question is asked. The party decides to put the key Topiary holds in the lock on the double doors.

Topiary unlocks the double doors and peers inside. She sees a large room with ivy walls, several bookcases, and tables piled high with potion bottles, ingredients, and notes. At the center of the room is a desk, and an elderly woman sits behind it with a worg at her feet. To one side of where she sits is a small basket, covered with a blanket. A crow perches upon the basket’s edge.

The woman tells Topiary that she is so proud of all of them, and quickly demonstrates that she knows each of their names and has been watching the party for some time. When Unruhk questions her about the baby, the woman explains that Byx has never had a child and eventually pulls back the blanket to reveal a doll underneath. The crow on the basket opens its beak and makes a noise that sounds like a baby’s cry.

The woman tells them her name is Dia, and that she has lived here for a long time but has only recently decided to protect and help the people of the village now known as Underwillow. She explains that she does favors for people in town and they occasionally bring her things that she needs.

Dia further explains that she is worried the village will be attacked by her sister, Sporks. Due to some sort of “twin magic,” Dia is awake only during the summer and autumn, and Sporks awakens at the first snowfall. Dia says she fears Sporks will take vengeance on the village because Dia has given them her favor. She says she has already seen evidence of Sporks’ retribution, and claims that the strange storms as well as the influx of rats and centipedes are Sporks’ doing.

Saying that she is too elderly to travel, Dia explains that she has been testing the party and believes that she needs their help. While Sporks sleeps, her home is guarded by a strong magical barrier. Dia wants to cast a spell that will take that barrier down so that she can deal with Sporks before her sister awakens and attacks the town. Dia needs three ingredients for the spell: 3 scales from a mermaid’s tale, a hag’s finger bone, and a handful of moondust.

The party has many questions for Dia, all of which she answers. She explains that Byx and the rest of the village were in on her plans and, using her scrying orb, shows them Byx and Amhatan happily celebrating back at the inn. Unruhk in particular is distrustful of the witch, and especially her use of necromancy (in raising the skeletons they found in the pit). Seeing that the adventurers will not be persuaded to help her simply out of concern for Underwillow itself, Dia promises greater rewards. She mentions gold and spells, but specifically says that she can help them interpret the meanings of their dreams, become famous, relive a single day in their lives, and communicate with their gods.

Though they are still quite skeptical of Dia’s proposal, the party agrees to return to town and confirm her story with the villagers there. Dia tells them to take her scrying orb and that she will be in touch. She says she will advance them gold to buy the ingredients she needs, and that they should start their search in Neverwinter. If the ingredients are not available in the city, Dia says, the party may at least get an idea of where to go next.

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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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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: 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: 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 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 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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