Flaming Gnome Attack

Meat the Neighbors. White Plume Mountain, part 6.

Flaming Gnome Attack are:

Robelar, Dragonborn Paladin (Jeff)
Tort, Gnome Warlock (Joe)
Vondalisa, (female) Dwarf Barbarian (Dave)

Accompanied by:
Aethelred Aquilonius, Human Ranger (Elliot)
Garbondor, Half-Orc Monk (Tim)

Whereabouts Unknown:
Fis’Ting, Goblin Thief
Mortaqui, Deva Cleric
Radlum, Half-Orc Assassin
Zoltar, Human Wizard

RIP:
Adamus Aquilonius, Human Bard [dead]
Halan Barnagran, Human Swordmage [dead]
Lokus, Minotaur Avenger [dead]
Cocktoesin, Shifter Druid [dead]
Automatic Johnny, his wolf [dead]
Blade, his wolf [petrified, left for dead]
Rochester, his hawk [fled, presumed dead]

After stabilizing and securely restraining their captive Sir Bluto, the company made camp. Aethelred perfected several new bowshots he’d been developing, while Robelar reflected on the ill fortune that had befallen him since the battle with the orc warchief Hyrkzag Wyrmskull. He felt that he’d fallen out of favor with his god Bahamut, and in an attempt to get right with the Platinum Dragon once more, he withdrew the warchief’s enchanted skull helmet from his bag of holding and destroyed it with his longsword. Would it be enough to regain Bahamut’s blessing?

Meanwhile, a vile blue poison had begun dripping from Vondal’s beard. The ranger Aethelred identified it as a mildly toxic mushroom extraction, and Vondal wondered if perhaps giving a clipping of his beard to the bog witch Thingizzard might not have been in his best interests.

Robelar interrogated Sir Bluto, who wasn’t particularly impressed with or intimidated by any members of the group, until the raging dwarf berserker started throwing things around. As it turned out, Bluto and his band had been hired by the Fallcrest crime syndicate Clan Chi to recover the three artifacts being held beneath White Plume Mountain. Interestingly, Clan Chi was the very same organization that Garbondor had been affiliated with, before discovering a connection between that group and the rulers of the Nentir Vale and subsequently being run out of town. Bluto also admitted that he and his band had given in to the temptation offered by Keraptis’s scrolls, which had driven them all a bit mad.

With that, the group made camp. During his watch, Robelar rigged up some tripwires and noticed disturbances in the stream indicating someone or something was interacting with it in the kayak room. The efreets, he assumed. The rest of the night passed uneventfully, although Tort, Vondal and Aethelred experienced more disquieting dreams and awoke the next morning feeling the weight of Keraptis’s curse bearing down on them.

So what to do with Bluto? Tort and Aethelred wanted to take him along, hoping to use him as a meat shield. Robelar objected on moral grounds. Vondal suggested that the problem was not an ethical one, as much as a terminological one, and proposed the group adopt the term “meat companion” instead. Robelar was unmoved, until Tort made an impassioned speech about bringing the once-noble knight along so that he might redeem himself.

With Garbondor staying behind to guard the party’s rear, our heroes proceeded down a long, curving passageway to the south, with Bluto in tow. They discovered a strange, wheeled panel that seemed to run along grooves in the floor and ceiling. Peering into the opaque glass, they found themselves looking into the kayak room. As they rolled the panel to the south, it continued to grant them visibility into rooms directly to the west. They noted that the kayak room had been reset, presumably by the efreets. Vondal proposed that perhaps the ancient diabolical fire-demons from an eldritch plane of dimensional chaos were friendly, while Aethelred surmised that whatever lay further down the passage likely knew about Flaming Gnome Attack’s approach.

The panel’s wheels bumped to a stop directly across from a large double door, and the passageway continued to the south. While the heroes considered dislodging the panel and taking it with them, the double doors behind them swung open. The smell of rotting flesh mixed with sawdust preceded the emergence of a large, wooden animate. The party stood aside as the automaton rolled the panel back up the corridor, before stepping through the opaque glass and directly into the frictionless room, where it used telescopic arms to gather dead remains from the pits therein. The wood golem stepped back through the panel, returned to its storage room, which was filled with similar dead remains and several more hideous husks, gathered a shovel and net, and shuffled off to the south. The party followed, but not before Vondal discovered a keg of beer and narrowly avoided contracting a severe gastrointestinal disease when he poured some of the foul liquid onto his beard.

The golem led them to a vast domed chamber with four glass-walled tiers descending to floor some 50 feet below. Surely this was the inverted ziggurat that the verses of Keraptis spoke of. The first tier was filled with water and contained two giant crayfish. The second tier contained two giant scorpions scuttling about on a thin layer of sand. The third tier was also filled with water, this one containing two large sea lions. The bottom of the ziggurat contained two clipped-wing manticores, as well as a door. The golem set about mucking the tiers with his shovel and net, and feeding the creatures with hunks of meat it had gathered.

The creatures crowded close to the automaton as it circled the topmost layer, and the heroes realized that arriving during feeding time might give them a chance to sneak to the bottom. Robelar lept to the scorpions’ level, and Vondal noticed Sir Bluto backing toward the door, clearly terrified. So the dwarf encouraged the sellsword to take heart by shoving him into the topmost tier, where he promptly drowned as was torn apart by the giant crayfish. Vondal then joined Robelar as he battled the scorpions. Aethelred and Tort launched attacks at the manticores, but the wooden golem shuffled over, took hold of Tort with a telescopic arm and flung him all the way to the bottom of the ziggurat, where he lay at the feet of two hungry manticores.

When all was said and done, the scorpions were mush, the glass wall of their tier shattered, the crayfish slain, Bluto in pieces, the manticores hacked to pieces, the wooden automaton a pile of ash, and ropes were tied to things. Flaming Gnome Attack were never known for their subtlety.

In the heat of the battle, Aethelred and Vondal had both unleashed fireballs, using the power of Keraptis’s scrolls for the first time. The spells were predictably effective, although the two heroes felt themselves slipping ever closer to some unthinkable fate.

At the bottom of the ziggurat, Tort discovered a wall safe, and somehow managed to bypass magical traps that would have brought all the water above crashing down on them. Robelar declared him the luckiest goddamn gnome in history.

Our heroes proceeded through the doorway and emerged into a warm, cozily appointed sitting room. Pleasant music from an enchanted wooden calliope mingled with the smells of incense and herbal smoke. A doughty halfling bid them a warm welcome and offered them tokes on his hookah. Vondal and Tort indulged, while Robelar and Aethelred remained on their guard. The halfling identified himself as Quillen McBootfoot, yet another victim of Keraptis’s machinations. Like so many others, Quillen had been bound to service by the evil wizard, and he was able to supply the party with some useful intel as to the whereabouts of Keraptis’s “indoctination chambers” within the mountain and the nature of the curses affecting three of them. He motioned toward a shrouded mirror in one corner of the room, indicating that it had the power to reverse curses, among other things. Fed up with the multitude of curses hanging over his head, caked between his fingers and dripping from his beard, Vondal pulled aside the shroud and stared into the mirror. The mirror’s power of reversal did indeed reverse the effects of his bloody-handed curse, but that’s not all. By the time Vondal turned away from the mirror, his elbows and knees were completely double-jointed, all of his body hair was purple, and he was a she.

Already suspicious of the hobbit, Robelar picked up Quillen and smacked him across the face, demanding some goddamn answers to unspecified questions, and suddenly found himself face-to-belly with a large, blue-skinned ogre-like creature wielding crackling energy in one hand and a black-bladed sword in the other. This was a dreaded Oni, one of the legendarily fierce ogre-mages from ancient times, wielding a legendary blade from ancient times, and Flaming Gnome Attack cut him down with a ferocity that made the very mountain shake. Crippled by well-placed bowshots from the ranger, weakened by withering curses from the warlock, blasted by divine radiance from the paladin, and finally brought down by a rampaging barbarianess, the cruel monster would have no slaves on this day or any other.

And when it fell, so fell the mythic weapon Blackrazor, the last of three artifacts housed beneath White Plume Mountain. Peering into the blade chilled the bones of the adventurers, as they watched what appeared to be ancient, alien stars slowly being pulled inward. Tort claimed the weapon, and it transformed into a short sword on his request. And he wanted very badly to kill, starting with Keraptis.

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