Flaming Gnome Attack

Thought for Food. White Plume Mountain, part 9.

Flaming Gnome Attack are:

Robelar, Dragonborn Paladin (Jeff)
Tort, Gnome Warlock (Joe)

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]
Vondella, (female) Dwarf Barbarian [dead]
Cocktoesin, Shifter Druid [dead]
- Automatic Johnny, his wolf [dead]
- Blade, his wolf [petrified, left for dead]
- Rochester, his hawk [fled, presumed dead]

On the banks of a black lake in the depths of the Underdark, the company known as Flaming Gnome Attack sifted through the remains of the slain kua-toas and examined the otherworldly ziggurat looming above the water’s surface.

Aethelred and Garbondor recalled apocryphal stories of the ziggurat, that at its heart spins a mysterious eight-sided orb—some sort of dimensional gateway inadvertently created by the maimed god Torog as he tore through the Underdark eons ago.

Examining the kua-toa’s altar and bodies, they pieced together a theory: Four of the kua-toa were meant to be tethered together with ornamental belts and twine, then they were to enter then ziggurat, in the hopes of descending to an afterlife, or ascending to oblivion, or some other unfathomable end.

After a fitful rest—particularly for the curse-afflicted dwarf, gnome and human—the heroes tethered themselves together using the ceremonial belts and twine (as well as their trademark ropework), trundled themselves across the lake, and entered the ziggurat.

They were sucked into a portal and warped to a distant plane. When their interdimensional journey ended, they found themselves assaulted by heat and smoke. They were standing in a gigantic caravan wagon that was traveling on a road of smoke through an atmosphere of pure elemental chaos. Through huge windows they beheld earth motes floating past crackling lightning waterfalls, and the ground was nowhere to be seen. They were aboard the legendary Brazen Bazaar, but before the strange buzzing creatures stocking the shelves with wondrous items or the huge, multi-armed demon barking orders at them could notice, the Attack darted forward to the portal they spied some thirty feet in front of them.

Again they warped, this time to the floor of a shadowy gladiatorial arena that extended up into infinity. Between them and the portal ahead were at least a dozen warriors—all of whom Garbondor had slain during his days as an underground pit fighter in Fallcrest. The shadowy gladiators immediately beset Garbondor on all sides. Tort struck one down with a curse, but in doing so caused Garbondor to experience severe psychological trauma. Where were they, exactly? What was this place? Garbondor decided he needed answers less urgently than he need to get out, so he bulled his way forward, dragging the party through the portal.

They landed in the middle of a battlefield, surrounded by craters and hordes of dead bodies. Aethelred surmised that they were standing on one of the final battlefields of the flagging Nerath Empire. When the dead bodies began to move, the Attack moved forward into the portal ahead, Tort hoping that it would lead to his favorite plane, one known as “Dairy Queen World”.

Alas, they landed on a muddy earth mote, floating in purple sky crackling with arcane energy, in the midst of a wild thunderstorm with raindrops made of metallic shards. Tort sensed that everything around them was malleable, so the group set about dragging sheets of mud up from around their feet to form shelters—and to their surprise, the matter here stayed exactly where it was placed, defying all known laws of gravity and physics. When the adventurers advanced toward the portal ahead, a floating elemental creature of mud and metal sprang up and attacked. Despite the inclement weather and difficult footing, they dispatched the creature and dove through the portal.

Now the group stood in a long dark passageway. Between them and the next portal stood a familiar looking dwarf child, and two former allies: Lokus the minotaur and Halan the swordmage! Robelar felt a horrible sinking feeling as he looked upon three who died undeserved deaths as a result of his choices. The group opted to bull right through the threesome and into the portal. The three attempted to cut Robelar’s tether as he pushed past, but they could not sever the ties that bound Flaming Gnome Attack together.

Fire and falling! The group were suddenly accidental passengers on a flying ship that was being torn apart by devils as it careened toward the blackened plain of the Seven Hells! The crew of the ship, an unrecognized race of gray-skinned humanoids, were waging a losing battle against two giant spined devils while several smaller burning devils gleefully ripped chunks from the hull. Garbondor dispatched a burning devil, but when one of the spined devils unleashed a horrific attack that sent the entire company crashing to the deck, the group decided that swords were no more use here. Fighting hard to keep the devils at bay and maintain their footing on the doomed ship, FGA just managed to escape with their lives, although poor Douven Stahl, fearless explorer and mentor to Tort, sustained mortal injuries and was nothing more than dead weight hanging on the tether when they warped to…

The Feywild! Tort immediately recognized his ancestral home, with its vivid colors and eerie magic rippling just beneath the surface of everything. They were standing in a ruined tower surrounded by eight doors shielded by strange energy fields. Above the doors, the walls of the circular tower featured protruding stone lips that whistled weird melodies, filling the space with spittle and wind. The mouths took turns singing verses of a cheerful, if unusual ditty with a chorus that went something like “ristlety rastlety heady bomosity knickety knackety retrogal polloby willoby walloby down and out!” Only when Robelar sang his own original verse did the barriers drop and the company was allowed to warp once more.

They landed in the middle of a small town harvest festival, surrounded by friendly, if surprised, villagers. Thinking quickly, the group explained their sudden appearance by passing themselves off as traveling showman with magic tricks galore. The rubes were pleased, and our heroes were granted a brief respite from their harrowing journey through the Black Lake Ziggurat and were even able restock their healing kits. But with Aethelred, Vondal and Tort slipping ever closer toward the nadir of Keraptis’s curse, our heroes could not linger here. And so they stepped through the eighth and final portal, and into the central chamber of the ziggurat.

The horror was immediate and overwhelming. In the chamber before them stood a massive table with lowered portions underneath to better facilitate dining on craniums. More alien apparati covered the ceiling and walls, similar to the scene they stumbled into in the Indoctrination Center in the bowels of White Plume Mountain. But there were other things here, two fearsome drow warriors, a kua-toa priest and a hideous drow-spider abomination—all under the control of some other intelligence.

And in the chamber beyond, standing in front of a bizarre 8-sided floating orb, bent over the body of an unknown creature with scalpel and other dissecting tools in hand, was Keraptis itself. And this was no ordinary mad wizard, no run-of-the-mill demented conjurer, this…thing, this hideous, malevolent, alien being stood seven feet tall with unfathomable milky eyes and long, wriggling tentacles writhing beneath those eyes. Keraptis was an illithid. More commonly known, though seldom spoken of by even the bravest adventurers, as a mind flayer!

Flaming Gnome Attack charged forward, unleashing withering attacks on Keraptis’s minions, but their confidence was short-lived as they came face to face with the mind flayer, whose psychological attacks dominated the will of Vondella repeatedly, forcing her to attack her allies. Aethelred, Garbondor, Tort and Robelar were subjected to mind attacks that threatened to drive them insane or simply turn their addled brains into porridge. The creature’s bond to the fabled weapon Blackrazor remained strong, and it compelled the fell blade to abandon Tort in favor of its former master, in doing so, ripping an otherwordly gash in the gnome’s hand. Keraptis also possessed the ability to teleport seemingly at will—and always just as a particularly devastating hammer blow or sword thrust was about to find its mark.

For all of its deftness and mental strength, the creature was not especially physically powerful, and Robelar, Garbondor and Tort exploited that weakness. Their relentless assault began to take their toll on the creature, but just when it seemed it might fall, it once more gained control of Vondella’s mind, forced her to submit, and as her horrified companions watched, it wrapped its tentacles around the dwarf barbarianess’s head, bored through her skull and devoured her brain.

Vondella fell lifeless to the black stone floor.

Grief and rage coursing through them, Flaming Gnome Attack drew upon their last reserves and finally struck down the terror known as Keraptis, with Tort delivering the killing blow.

Of the six original members of Flaming Gnome Attack, only two now remained. Of the seven adventurers who entered White Plume Mountain intent upon recovering three famed artifacts, only four now remained. Victory was theirs once more, but the cost had been high.

Would Flaming Gnome Attack find a way to resurrect their longtime dwarf companion? What clues as to the fate of Fallcrest and the Nentir Vale as a whole could be gleaned from this unholy laboratory? And what the hell was that device that fell out of Keraptis’s pocket as he fell?

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