Flaming Gnome Attack are [with New Year’s Resolutions]:
Robelar, Dragonborn Paladin (Jeff) [Perform a dirge in honor of fallen comrades at a performing arts centre]
Tort, Gnome Warlock (Joe) [Be more cautious and stop blowing things up]
Aethelred Aquilonius, Human Ranger (Elliot) [Get to Fallcrest and avenge his family]
Garbondor, Half-Orc Monk (Tim) [Eat less grapefruit]
Podsnik, Deep Gnome Thief (Neil) [Lose weight]
Fis’Ting, Goblin Thief
Mortaqui, Deva Cleric
Radlum, Half-Orc Assassin
Zoltar, Human Wizard
Adamus Aquilonius, Human Bard [dead]
Halan Barnagran, Human Swordmage [dead]
Lokus, Minotaur Avenger [dead]
Vondella, Dwarf Barbarianess [dead]
Cocktoesin, Shifter Druid [dead]
Automatic Johnny, his wolf [dead]
Blade, his wolf [petrified, left for dead]
Rochester, his hawk [fled, presumed dead
In the aftermath of the ambush, our heroes discovered a number of intriguing items on the bodies of their foes. The dead rakshasa yielded up a number of fine arrows, an obsidian-bladed dagger, and an enchanted circlet, all of which Aethelred claimed. The mindflayer’s loot included his dampsuit, a stylus with four nibs, several sheafs of parchment with clusters of four raised lines, a canister filled with an opaque liquid, and and a necklace with a small capsule containing an even smaller globule of unidentifiable matter. Tort laid claim to the necklace and stylus, and he instantly felt the objects making a telepathic connection to his psyche.
But when Robelar opened the party’s Bag of Holding to store their newfound treasures, he learned a horrible truth. The otherworldly artifact Blackrazor, casually tossed into the bag several days prior, had not been idle; it had been slashing rents in the bag’s pocket dimension, opening rifts into oblivion into which all of Flaming Gnome Attack’s accumulated wealth was being sucked! To their relief, the body of Vondella had not yet been pulled into nothingness, but many items, including the powerful Mirror of Reversal, were gone. The party worked quickly to remove all remaining items from the bag, leaving only Blackrazor inside. Next they had to decide what to do with the massive heap of weapons, gems, keys, armor, furniture, tapestries, tools, potions, books, scrolls, trinkets, charms, rope, 10-foot poles, torches, grappling hooks, and the body of one dwarf barbarianess. They decided to store everything in an empty cell in the security center. Aethelred and Tort proposed that they throw the crazed drow prisoner into the Bag of Holding to satiate Blackrazor’s thirst for death, but they were voted down by Robelar, Podsnik, Garbondor and the shapeshifter Barghast, who was accompanying them in the hopes of escaping the mindflayers.
Next they explored the rooms from which their attackers had emerged. Garbondor discovered six interesting potions in an officer’s lounge, while Aethelred found the officer’s quarters that the rakshasas appeared to have claimed. But most interesting of all was the museum. On display were artifacts from their world and places far beyond. Podsnik activated the control panel, which summoned the apparition of a derro—not a mindless ravager, but a sober and dapper fellow that acted as a docent, calmly strolling about the museum pointing out display cases and offering a running narrative in a language none could understand. Robelar claimed a crystal-studded banner that inspired great confidence in those near it, but other items were not so benign. Aethelred found a sealed envelope, inside which was a piece of parchment. The letters arranged themselves in common before his eyes, and they read:
“The Far Realm is not a place.
You do not open a portal and go into the Far Realm.
You open a portal and the Far Realm goes into you.”
The Far Realm…madness, horror, unreality. The party had had few brushes with the spawn and power of the Far Realm, and they were about to have a few more. When they approached a starry orb, Robelar, Tort, Podsnik, and Garbondor found their limbs contorting into spiralling, corkscrew shapes—and the feeling was oddly pleasurable. Eventually they were able to resist the effect before they were completely disabled, although their limbs retained a hint of the affliction, which would affect their mobility and dexterity until they could devise a way to reverse it.
Tort approached a small metal cup and filled it with water. Suddenly the air about him took on the tactile consistency of earth, forcing him to “dig” through the air to move and quickly suffocating him. Robelar ran to his aid, and found himself likewise affected. He dug his way to the cup and poured the water onto the floor, where it melted away the metal, revealing dirt beneath. Garbondor tried to help, and he too found himself choking on air as if it were earth. Podnik fired his portal gun, offering Tort a quick way out of the room, but the three companions continued to suffocate. Aethelred and Barghast could do little but look on in horror. Podsnik sprinted to a nearby room, the decor of which was that of a well-appointed dining room at an inn. He pulled an oil painting from the wall, planning to use to cover the hole in the floor. But when he left the inn room, he found the painting was nothing more than a sheet of metal.
In desperation, Robelar dug his way to the hole in the floor and discovered that when dirt from beneath the metal floor was in his mouth, he could breathe again. The other two followed suit and drew their first breaths in several minutes, albeit breaths of dirt. Garbondor was confused and frightened, Tort was frightened but curious as to how he could bend this strange power to his will, and Robelar thought only of putting an end to this unholy abomination. Tort and Robelar suddenly found themselves able to breathe normally again. Only by remembering who they truly were could they combat this evil from the Far Realm. Armed with this new understanding, they were able to help Garbondor overcome the effect as well.
There were a number of other curious items on display in the museum, but our heroes had decided that they’d had enough education for one day and retired to the security center to rest, using Tort’s masterwork lock to help guard them and their treasure. During first watch, Aethelred heard the sound of a woman screaming in the corridor beyond the door. He attempted to lift Tort’s key, but the action woke the gnome. The resulting argument woke the rest of the party, and they decided that the sound of a scream was not reason enough to open the door.
After a bit of rest, they locked up the security center and ventured into the large, lush garden they’d seen via observations spheres and control panels. There, they’d spied a brain with four clawed legs skulking around a pond. Hoping that this was the mindflayers’ elder brain and breeding ground, they marched across a carpet a blue-green grass and into a forest of giant mushroom-like growths. Although they could see no enemies, something was afoot and attacking their psyches. Suddenly, a female elf appeared on the balcony above them, firing arrows into the mushroom forest and alerting them to the presence of small brains-on-claws hiding amongst them. Garbondor put several to sleep with another of his grenades, while Robelar blasted them with acid breath and holy light, Tort cursed them, Aethelred fired down from atop a mushroom, and Barghast howled and gnashed. Podsnik, now armed with Vondella’s Sunderer, charged toward the pond and encountered the pig-sized brain-on-clawed-legs. The thing briefly merged with the deep gnome’s mind, causing him to attack Garbondor, but eventually Podsnik threw off the domination and our heroes destroyed the abominations.
Now, who was this female elf? What was she doing here? Could she help them? Was she single?