Flaming Gnome Attack

Brain Dead

Face of the Moon, Part 5

Flaming Gnome Attack are:

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

Accompanied by:
Aethelred Aquilonius, Human Ranger (Elliot)
Garbondor, Half-Orc Monk (Tim)
Heat, Githzerai Seeker (Craig)
Podsnik, Deep Gnome Thief (Neil)

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]

The citadel was calling. Hewn from the living rock in a glittering cavern of fathomless depth, it sang to him and its craggy doors began to swing open before him. “Leave your troubles, your nightmares, your curses behind,” the voices said to him. “Be whole once more in my vaulted halls.” And the long-suffering dwarf staggered forward.

But then there was another voice, a voice that belonged to one he once knew. “Barbarian!” it called. “Your task is unfinished. Your comrades have need of you. The Platinum Dragon himself compels you to return to your quest.” The dwarf paused, unconvinced. The familiar voice added: “Also, we have like shit-tons of whisky.”

Vondal awoke.

His hair had returned to its original fiery ginger. His joints no longer bent at unnatural angles. His beard no longer dripped poison. His penis was no longer a vagina. Vondal was indeed back…but back where? As Robelar, his resurrector, led him through the lunar base to the cloning center where the rest of Flaming Gnome Attack was encamped, he tried to process the information he’d been given. Keraptis was a mind flayer…they were on the moon…a plot involving clones… Vondal was thoroughly confused. Vondal was indeed back.

In camp, Tort, Garbondor, and Aethelred welcomed their companion back from the dead, and he was introduced to Podsnik, the impetuous deep gnome who didn’t speak common, and d’Heat, the Githzerai monk cop from another plane of existence. Never a dull moment in Flaming Gnome Attack. Tort helped convince Podsnik to return the warpick known as The Sunderer to Vondal, but the deep gnome was more interested in the master control panel that the ulitharid had been operating. Using it, Podsnik could access observation spheres throughout the compound, and he even knew how to reactivate the portal system, which would allow them to return to their world, thanks to the transit beacon they’d recovered from the ulitharid. But our heroes sensed their task was not yet complete, so Podsnik scried into the unexplored chamber to the east.

The size and shape mirrored that of the pod-filled warehouse they’d recently discovered, but this room’s walls were covered with pulsing, organic matter, the grated floor traversed a pool of roiling dark liquid, and a huge slug-like monstrosity—part mind flayer, part machine—was busy giving birth to a thoon hulk by vomiting it out from its gaping, oozing maw. FGA considered bypassing the birthing chamber and attacking the unlit building from the north, but in the midst of the discussion, Podsnik simply opened the door and plunged them into battle.

The pulsing, sinuous walls of the chamber entrapped hundreds of bodies—the lucky ones appeared to be dead. Brain moss grew on the walls and ceiling as well, and whether it was the horror of the birthing chamber or the psychic resonance of the moss, several of our heroes were unable to even proceed into the room initially. Robelar, in particular, was incapacitated for much of the battle to come. But good old Vondal charged in headlong and attacked one of the two thoon hulks in the room. He dealt a typically devastating blow to the beast, and was himself dealt a typically devastating counter-blow. When his companions called out their concerns about his gushing wounds, the stout dwarf merely grumbled “I’m not hurt unless I’m dead.” Garbondor flew in behind him, all fists, knees, elbows, and heels, while Aethelred, Heat, and Tort launched withering ranged attacks.

As FGA maneuvered about the room to gain advantageous positions, some were set upon by hideous insectoid creatures that sprang up from the dark liquid beneath the grated floor. It was an intense, bloody, if brief, encounter that ended with the remains of Flaming Gnome Attack’s foes strewn about the floor, walls, and ceiling. In the aftermath, Aethelred tapped into his wealth of Far Realm knowledge to learn more about this chamber and its former inhabitants. It was clear that many of the unfortunate creatures suspended in this chamber had had mind flayer tadpoles inserted into their ears, and it was only a matter of time before they became full-fledged illithids. Knowing the victims to be beyond help, they burned it all.

Eager to put the horrors of the birthing chamber behind them, FGA ventured into the long corridor beyond. At the far end lay the final building of the compound, and as they neared it, they entered what felt like a field of powerful psychic static. Something was generating an enormous amount of psychic energy, and our heroes could feel another consciousness plucking at their psyches. Though the building appeared to be completely dark, the party could see fitful bursts of light emanating from a window in the door on the far side of the access corridor. Podsnik and Tort crept forward to investigate.

In this room, two mind flayers were experimenting with a flickering, bluish portal. They appeared to be attempting to communicate with a tentacled abomination on the other side, while two heavily muscled grimlock thralls stood guard and a cluster of malformed human clones drooled in a corner. While the gnomes watched, a mind flayer grabbed a nearby clone and flung him into the portal to a fate unknown.

FGA quickly drew up a plan, opened the door, and launched their attack. Unfortunately, Robelar and Garbondor charged too close to the portal and were sucked into it. As with the cursed cup in the artifact museum, these two heroes were once again transported to the dreaded Far Realm, or perhaps the Far Realm was transported inside them. Either way, they left this realm for a moment, and when they returned, they rarely spoke of the madness and horror they beheld on the other side.

Meanwhile, their companions were locked in a ferocious battle with the mind flayer experimenters, their bodyguards, and the malformed clones. The Heat’s attempt to teleport one of the mind flayers away from the control panel was unsuccessful, but he managed to cripple a grimlock with a second arrow. When Robelar freed himself from the madness of the portal, he found himself standing on the ceiling, the victim of what appeared to be a malicious gravitational entity, but that didn’t stop him from reducing all of the malformed clones to puddles in a geyser of acid and dealing a devastating sword blow to one of the mind flayers. At last their enemies were defeated and Podsnik used the control panel to disable the portal. But Garbondor and Robelar were still victims of the Far Realm madness they’d come into contact with. They were sluggish, confused, sickened, and gravitationally crippled. They fell to arguing about possible remedies as their condition worsened.

Suddenly, Tort began recounting FGA’s past victories—the smiting of Stonefang, the slaying of Lord Kalarel, their victory over the vampire Ctenmiir. Though not known for sentimentality, the warlock inspired sprit d’corps amongst his companions, and in doing so he negated the Far Realm curse.

The party regrouped and patched their wounds before moving into the silent corridor beyond. A door to the east led to a chemical laboratory. Here the mind flayers’ experiments had gone awry, and a noxious, glowing green substance illuminated the destroyed room and had eaten through the floor, where it dropped into darkness below. They were able to recover a few useful liquids, but not liking the look of the caustic substance, they returned to the corridor.

To the west, they discovered yet another laboratory, this one with two alien machines descending from the ceiling, with strange apparatuses pointing toward one another. Podsnik examined the control panel and realized they were in a psychic programming facility. If someone stood between the machines, he could attempt to instill specific traits in their personalities. In addition, he could probe a subject’s mind for latent psionic ability, although doing so would likely carry significant risk.

Garbondor and Aethelred discussed how this equipment might have been used by the dero and, more recently, the illithids to program their newly created clones, but Tort was only interested in the potential to unlock psionic power. Knowing that nothing would keep Tort from utilizing the machine, Robelar volunteered to be the first to subject himself to the cerebral probe. He stepped between the machines and nodded to Podsnik, who activated them. The procedure was a disaster. Robelar staggered out, blood dripping from his nose and eyes, his health and hardiness permanently damaged.

Tort was undeterred. Posdnik recalibrated the machine and activated it. Once again, the gnome proved full of surprises. He did indeed possess untapped psionic potential, and the machine had unlocked it. When Tort stepped out of the machine, he now knew how to focus his intellectual energy in order to summon a fire elemental from the Plane of Elemental Chaos!

Vondal belched and stepped into the machine. Twelve seconds later, he staggered out, bleeding from every orifice, his health drastically and permanently reduced, though he didn’t seem to care very much, declaring that all he needed was “a stimulant injector right in the ass”.

The party discovered two illithid staterooms to the north, as well as a bunkroom for grimlock thralls. In the latter, Aethelred found a headband of Githzerai make that dampened his brain against the constant psychic assault, which now appeared to be emanating from somewhere below them.

Moving into the northeast quandrant of the building, they discovered a large, out-of-service grav tube and a smaller one, both leading down. They also stumbled into a security center with windows that looked out onto a docking platform. In the docking area was a band of Githyanki pirates, bound and gagged. Attached to the docking coupling was their ship—a spelljammer! Powered by psychic energy and incredibly rare gems, these legendary ships had been used to navigate the far reaches of the cosmos and even other planes of existence by githyanki, githzerai, and other alien species for centuries, though none other that Heat had ever actually seen one. While the transit beacon recovered from the ulitharid would allow them to travel back to the Black Lake Ziggurat in the Underdark, this ship now offered countless other opportunities—escape from the lunar base, return to their home world, interstellar exploration…

But for Flaming Gnome Attack, escape was no longer the goal. Ending the mind flayer threat was, and it appeared that to accomplish that, they would have to venture to the level below.

Using the functioning grav tube, they descended to a level that might once have been used as a warehouse or way station for goods that arrived via the docking area above. Despite their stealthy movements, they sensed that the creature generating the psychic field knew exactly where they were. They quickly looted a small storage room, as well as the large chamber that the ulitharid had claimed as its personal quarters. In the latter, they discovered some familiar alien weaponry, including grenades and a replacement portal gun for Podsnik, and some they did not recognize. Aethelred claimed what appeared to be a light-beam launcher. He also discovered a necklace of strangulation and an orb that displayed illithid erotica, the contents of which he would never be able to un-see.

Armed to the teeth and ready to see their quest through to its conclusion, they stormed into the massive warehouse area, where they encountered a monstrosity that most scholars pray don’t even exist. Half-submerged in a pool of foul liquid was an immense, quivering brain draped in tentacles. The malignant blast of its psychic assault was crippling, the horror of its very existence, staggering. So it was that Flaming Gnome Attack threw themselves into combat against a legendary illithid Elder Brain.

But the Elder Brain was not alone. Looking down on them from a mobile command platform was a mind flayer that was using a control panel to direct a freight claw. And on one side of the room, from a terrarium area guarded by a railing, a gigantic carrion crawler emerged, all aglow from the foul chemicals that had dripped onto it from the chem lab above.

Robelar charged in, leapt atop the brain and hacked away with Aecris. Vondal crashed in as well but was psychically assaulted and teleported into the terrarium, where he was set upon by the gigantic centipede-like creature. Garbondor buried a fist deep into the brain’s frontal lobe, and was struck blind and deaf by the brain and attacked by the thousands of illithid tadpoles teeming in the stagnant waters of its brain pool. Tort dodged the freight claw and unleashed his usual torrent of curses on the brain, while Heat, Aethelred, and Podsnik concentrated their ranged attacks on the mind flayer on the mobile control platform. Vondal fought his way out of the terrarium and launched a barbaric charge on the brain. The Sunderer found its mark, but Vondal was flung into the brain pool by the thing’s tentacles.

Suddenly, the Elder Brain changed tactics. It sunk beneath the slimy surface of the pool and, using its tentacles to manipulate a control panel at the bottom of the pool, it activated a pair of heavy blast doors over the pool. Robelar managed to leap free before the doors closed on his feet, but Vondal was trapped beneath the closed doors, completely submerged in the brain pool with an angry Elder Brain!

But the hideous monstrosity ignored the dwarf for the moment and continued working the control panel. In the room above, our heroes found themselves floating and gasping for air in a room now completely devoid of both gravity and atmosphere—and floating with them was the carrion crawler and mind flayer.

Struggling to maintain consciousness and combat effectiveness, the heroes finally dispatched the mind flayer, and Podsnik took control of the freight claw. They then turned their attention to the carrion crawler and its devastating, paralytic poison. Meanwhile, in the brain pool, the Elder Brain was undergoing some kind of hideous transformation, while Vondal hacked his way through its slashing tentacles and toward the control panel. Somehow, he stayed conscious, fought off the tentacles, and reached the panel just as his comrades above were dealing death blows to the crawler.

Podsnik above and Vondal below punched desperately at the control panels until they managed to reintroduce gravity and atmosphere to the room and open the blast doors. Flaming Gnome Attack crashed back to the floor, sucking in fresh oxygen, and watching as the Elder Brain emerged from the brain pool using tentacles as legs. It appeared somewhat smaller than it had when it submerged, the reason for which became horribly apparent when a huge golem, made entirely of brain matter emerged from the pool and attacked the battered heroes.

Vondal had succumbed to his long submersion and was floating unconscious in the brain pool, but Robelar was able to call upon Bahamut to get him back in the fight. While the brain golem hammered away at Garbondor, the Elder Brain was making its way to the large, non-functioning grav tube that led to the docking platform above. Was it seeking escape aboard the spelljammer? Perhaps, but Heat’s arrows, Tort’s curses, Aethered’s arrows, and Podsnik’s freight claw assaulted the abomination relentlessly until final it fell to the floor, shuddering, glistening, and leaking—but before it died, it activated a dozen malformed clones that were in storage in a corner of the room. But Tort called upon his newfound psionic abilities to summon a fire elemental, which devoured the unnatural creatures in flame. Perhaps that was the last thing the Elder Brain sensed: its clones, its schemes going up in flames at the hands of this terrible gnome warlock and his companions. For seconds later, the Elder Brain died.

But its spawn remained, and the brain golem’s anvil-sized fists and psychic attacks were pushing Flaming Gnome Attack to the brink of annihilation. Finally, with several of his comrades unconscious on the floor around him, with his own resources and health nearly depleted, the half-orc pugilist leapt into the air and buried his elbow into the head of the brain golem, and the thing fell dead.

So it was that Flaming Gnome Attack entered White Plume Mountain in search of three stolen artifacts, were driven into the Underdark by demon thralls of the mind flayer known as Keraptis, fought their way through an inter-dimensional gauntlet to reach the inner sanctum of Keraptis’s lair in the Black Lake Ziggurat, teleported to an ancient alien compound on the moon, stumbled upon a nefarious illithid scheme that threatened not only their home world, but perhaps many others, and decimated an entire colony of mind flayers, including its ulitharid and Elder Brain, thus foiling the elaborate plot and saving millions—if not billions—from enslavement and death.

But what were they to do now? If the envoy of the illithids told the truth, the actions of Flaming Gnome Attack were likely to have tipped the scales in a war between the illithids and Orcus’s undead armies—in favor of the latter. If they returned to their planet, would they find it overrun with the Demon Prince’s horde? How would they bring to light the plans of the illithids and expose the clones who held positions of power throughout the Nentir Vale, and likely beyond? And what were they to do with the scores of people in pods in the cloning center? Were they clones or originals? How to decide their fates? Should they use the transit beacon to reenter the Underdark, make their way beneath Fallcrest, and sneak into the city from the sewers, using Garbodor’s knowledge of them? Or should they lay claim to the spelljammer and command the githyanki crew to fly them home—or elsewhere?

Of course, you already know what they did, for you have no doubt heard the tales of their later exploits. What child has not heard the legends? Eh? You’d like to hear them again? Well, well. I suppose I could spin another yarn about the most famousest marauders in history. So where was I? Right…so Flaming Gnome Attack, having achieved a victory almost beyond comprehension, made camp, tended their wounds, lit a camp fire, and settled in for a much deserved rest. They woke up on the moon…

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