Over Hill

A "Night" at the Circus, and other Madness, Night 14
Exeunt Vigil

The trouble at the disco was now only a memory as noon dawned in Vigil. A had Harumph saddled and fed before Proferia emerged from her smelly hair cocoon. Gerecht sharpened his finest blades and Sehk’met said prayers to darkness and to light. And then they kicked down Varius’ door. Jacobi Meek’s sexy sorceri were pushed past and trampled over. The forces of chaos met and bested a pair of devils, Ms. Cedarwick and Mr. Gob. They guarded Varius, who turned out to be the mushroom pope, and the fifth dwarven emissary. He attacked the team with his greasy magical mustache, but was also disposed of. After sifting through his valuables, the crew solved a few puzzles and freed some enslaved gardener mites. They discovered a magical gate to the secret hideout of Veena Heilu’s baby daddy, who turned out to be a scheming blue dragon who referred to himself as The Sapphire. Also, a creeper. Sehk’met delivered Veena’s baby and disowned the archmage of Vigil for her poor life decisions. Our heroes fought hallucinatory shadows of their fallen foes and then befriended a elder earth elemental who they named Fred. At last, the freedom fighters discovered Yulie’s brain, preserved in a strange metallic canister, fully awake and alive, but undeniably insane. He had been driven past reason by the unknowable minds of the fungus from Yuggoth, the Mi-go. As Yulie yammered on about the excruciating ecstasy he experienced as his mind was shown other dimensions, the fleshy horrors scuttled and fluttered into position in the darkened hall, striking with putrescent rayguns and surgeon’s claws. Their fungal flesh was torn apart by the triumphant liberators, but Yulie remained in a prison of sorts. Other prisoners were found as well, elves intercepted by the mushroom cult on their way to Vigil, elves traveling with a valuable cargo. As the last elf died, he passed on his artifact, sending the forces of chaos on a quest across the mountains to the eastern sea, where elves waited for this white cube to mount a fight against the Axiomites and the forces of Law.

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (13)
Thirteen Halloween

The unstoppable heroes dashed into the nightclub where the unseelie fey make their court and saved the day! In an exhausting gauntlet, the forces of chaos defeated a masked duergar riding a skeletal dinosaur, a scarecrow stuffed with a murder of crows, a coven of goblin witches, the all-powerful Genie of the Disco Ball, a massive flesh golem, and Madame Scree, the bat druid who’d been plotting the destruction of the city with the cult all along! Along the way, they gathered the good will of many onlookers, including a restaurant critic and Maurice the bouncer. The merry heroes were all tuckered out by the end and did not reach the final battle with the shadowy king of the fey nor did they meet their final ally— an elusive blue bard. But perhaps next Halloween the Great Pumpkin will smile upon them again!

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (12)

Sehk’met researched Yulie’s fate and decided that there was hope yet: Yulie’s brain might still be untainted by undeath. She also found a connection between the leader of the Mycolites and Varius, Vigil’s criminal overlord. With that, the team quickly set out for the headquarters of Toni the Dragon. Nothing could stop them now. The party bypassed the growing gang war between the cultists and the mob and entered the familiar antique store. They were slowed by John and Bruno, but pushed into Toni’s office. Proferia cursed the crimelord, Gerecht held her down, and the duo of Sehk’met and A reached into her trap door paintings and throttled her secret pseudodragons. The lock which barred the way into Varius’ inner sanctum was quickly opened, the rings of his lieutenants forming a zigzag pattern which revealed a hidden staircase. Beneath the store was the first surprise: cultist forces had beaten them into Varius’ lair and were led by a reanimated Mycolite Camille. Before being cut in two, she spouted the cult’s next move: to attack the heart of the unseelie fey, Studio 57! The forces of chaos run to save the creepy little fairies, but the day is coming soon for Varius and the mushroom pope!

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (11)

After a night of recuperation, Teyuti arrived to lead the ardent rescuers down beneath the Grove into the abandoned dwarven undercity. He came with four debtors in tow— toga wearing gangsters interested in killing some cultists. It seemed that the removal of “Dyonisia” Krei had sparked a war between the users and their former suppliers.

The under-city proved educational in the religious practices of dwarves: the adventurers looted the temple to the evil god Droskar, and solved a puzzle in the temple to the “lesser gods” (Droskar Uber Alles). Their path snaked back and forth over bridges spanning a subterranean river and next lead to the campsite of adventurers who had perished in their quest— their bodies lay in a patch of brown mold, which leeched the heat from their bones as they slept. After helping themselves to the few surviving treasures of the dead heroes, our opportunistic adventurers rescued a gnome in distress. A Mycolite named Farah had escaped the cult only to be surrounded by deadly brown mold! The forces of chaos trimmed back the sinister plant life and learned that, like many others, she had been brainwashed by the leaders of this mysterious society, forced into a life of evil. In thanks, she provided them with a trickster’s fruit basket and was lead to the surface by one of the toga-toting companions.

Ominous chanting and flickering torches signaled the team’s arrival at the sacrificial grounds. They stormed in, cutting down armored oreads and robed supplicants and saw— beyond a broken bridge and a gaping chasm— a dwarf with a draping mustache standing over a wriggling body in a burlap sack. Yulie at last! After dodging half a dozen spells hurled at him by Propheria and A, he proceeded to slice open his victim’s skull and remove the brain. With a wink and a nod— and Rogenbogen’s arrow in his shoulder— the “mushroom pope” disappeared. The heroes fought on, bursting with their need for vengeance when a hooded figure previously at the back of the fight revealed itself. Under the hood was Yulie’s face, but life had long since left the dwarf. Even unlife had given way; the corpse before them was mockingly puppeted by fungal parasites seeded into his vacant brainpan. The creature ran at them with a massive jeweled hammer and the powers of undeath in its claws. The abomination was met with claws and horns, arrows and glitter, force of arms and force of magic. Our heroes left the battlefield victorious, but empty. The mushroom pope must die.

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (10)

Our resilient heroes made their way back to town through the ancient tunnels. An hour of dark walking passed before they came upon an ambush in waiting! Their tributary tunnel intersected with wider tunnel, and at this juncture hid a bizarre, horrifying creature, lying in wait with a shiny, other-worldly weapon. The party attacked the horror from behind as its prey— a group of dwarven travelers— came into sight in the main tunnel below. Using surprise to their advantage, they made short work of the armored extra-terrestial and were greeted warmly by the dwarves. As emissaries of from the Five King Mountains, these dwarves had come with many gifts and it seemed appropriate to bestow some of that wealth on their saviors. One dwarf, Princess Freyja Thunderkeel of Jägare, accompanies her heroes to the Vigil Grove, where they hoped to find more information about Yulie’s kidnappers.

When they arrived, they were enveloped in a dinner party which turned sour once the dead body of Terran Brax—the Shadow Compadre— was found. In Baron William’s home were six suspicious characters: the previously mentioned Moose Princess; William’s house guest Teyuti, an accomplished Bunny Speaker; the butler Abram Stacionodel; Sgt. Emil Kuhair, an old army friend of William’s and recently a Lychenthrope Soldier; the flighty Kylie Whisperslip, a so-called Fairy of Facepalms; and the enigmatic Sascha Starly, the Thief of Time. The city guards quickly caught wind of the murder and their mages erected a Wall of Fire outside the premises. Their ally on the outside— Veena Heilu— bargained for time, but when hours passed and no murderer was discovered, the guards stormed the house. This was a disaster! There were surely things hidden in this sacred (but not good-aligned) grove which were best undiscovered by the paladin-state!

And that’s when things got wibbley. Sascha Starly offered to turn back time a few hours for the forces of chaos and, after a few loops, they worked out the cuprit, who was none other than the Shadow Compadre himself! The villain faked his own death (three times, in fact) in order to create the police raid which never even happened in the finalized timeline!

Other things which DIDN’T happen include: A duck was NOT served for dinner. William was NOT murdered by his butler, who turned out to be a Scout of the Frail. Sehk’met did NOT befriend William’s maid.

Here are some things that DID happen: The crew did learn about temporal dynamics when they received a watch from Starly, which they planted earlier that evening, was pocketed by Starly, then given to Sehk’met. A did guide Rogenbogen on a spirit journey using creep in Willaim’s sweat lodge. She awoke with a baby dinosaur! Teyuti did promise to stop running his illegal (but consensual) bunny-fighting ring. Freyja and Emil did get more friendly.

A used reagents distilled from the eldritch terror killed earlier in the evening to end Terran Brax’s death-like trance. His proven guilt in this matter will dirty his name in Vigil, completing Piquelle’s request. The side-effects of the treatment are unknown, but suffering and madness will be involved. And Teyuti will happily share some of his reconnaissance of the mushroom cult with the team, so after a rest (several party members have received unsolicited surgery), a-dungeon-delving they will go!

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (8 & 9)
61*

Plans Gerecht put into place when the crew arrived in Vigil finally started to spin into action. The word on the street was that the Terran Brax- Shadow Compadre- was back in town! Our heroes decided to spring a trap on the mobsters. They organised a meeting for the ransomed dwarf ambassador, talking John Frontius into an exchange location outside the city. Sehk’met entered the Shadow Tower disguised as one of Vigil’s poorer citizens and informed him that a meeting would take place which he’d have a keen interest in. While the Shadow Compadre spat dramatic phrases and racial epithets at Sehk’met, A sought out Lord William in Hightown sweat lodge and asked him to bear witness to the whole event.

When the meeting took place in a small isolated gulch in the surrounding countryside, much had obviously been tampered with. Tony appeared from a hiding spot in a stone wall and tried to conduct the trade, but everything quickly went south when the party realized that the section of wall- as well as Tony herself- was an illusion. Just as battle between the mafia flunkies and the seasoned adventurers began, everything was disrupted by an eruption of zombies. Hundreds of buried corpses lurched out from the ground and turned menacingly towards the living. In the distance, several yellow-clad cultists chanted, controlling their creations. The zombies quickly brought down the fleeing wise guys and turned their full attention to the small, squishy protagonists.

Perhaps not that small- an enlarged Gerecht and emboldened Fenris cut the undead to shreds. On Harumph’s sturdy back, A dodged through the grasping hordes towards the twelve foot half-orc and summoned up the friendly roots and cacti, ensnaring half the battlefield. Sehk’met channeled peace and rainbows from the beyond, burning crowds of corpses from the inside. Proferia identified and destroyed the high-priority targets, the cultists with her glittering missiles.

With the enemy spell-casters removed, relief arrived. Down the length of the gulch flew a pack of dire bats, each with a wingspan of over twelve feet. They snatched up the heroes one by one, the last magically enlarging to accommodate Gerecht. Madame Scree and the Vigil Grove proved to be worthy allies. After minutes of flight, the bats descended though a hole in the surface into a cavern system. Sehk’met, instinctively opposed to being carried (also blind), squirmed and knocked her bat into a stalactite. Her deadly plummet was averted when she was caught… by a monstrous tentacle!

Her allies flew, fell, and feather-fell to her rescue, discovering an ancient stone room with a crumbled ceiling. Within the room was a tentacled horror menacing their feline priestess, a gigantic Violet Fungus! Gerecht’s sword and A’s icy sorcery slew the malicious plant. A thorough search of the room revealed runes which pointed the way back towards Vigil— through a section of dwarven undercity. The forces of chaos blundered into and then cleverly escaped a hallucinogenic room and discovered a treasure chest! Unfortunately the chest was trapped with powerful summoning magic and unleashed a Chain Devil. After disposing of the kinky Kyton, the brave companions unlocked the chest to find an ornate warhammer. In a moment all the threats of the devil and cultists fell into place— Yulie had been kidnapped! Proferia swore that she’d rescue her comrade in learning and lead the way back to town.

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (7)

The team suspected the lead act in the circus, Madame Azata, had mob ties and confronted her! Their suspicions proved true and a fight ensued. Azata’s magical abilities, her summoned minions, and her fierce black dragon bloodied the party, but she surrendered before long, throwing down the ring bearing Varius’ seal. As a dhampir, she doesn’t mind getting a little bloody, but has to clean up for her show. It’s opening night!

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (6)

The forces of chaos stood toe to toe with a huge earth elemental. A charged in, freezing the monster in its tracks, but the giant brought its stony fists down on the gnome, breaking her tiny bones. Spurred on by the death of their friend, our intrepid heroes descended on their mountainous opponent and slew it. The crowd cheered and the illusory jumbo-trons panned the crowd, revealing secret mafia communications. Fortunately, Sehk’met succeeded (critically) talking to the stadium guards and A was resurrected, gratis. She rejoined them while they sat waiting for the captain of Vigil’s underguard, Livia Pisonis, who owes them a prize of three thousand gold for defeating the elemental. They eventually meet her, notice her gang ring, and concoct an elaborate scheme involving a swarm of mad monkeys, the nearby circus, Sehk’met screaming, Gerecht riding elephants, the attempted jailbreak of imprisoned mites, wild mimes escaping, and general chaos. They got the drop on Livia, her lieutenant, and their guards, killing the lot of them. They grabbed the ring, some loot, and skedaddled.

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (5)
CIRCUS DEATHICUS

After a day of shopping, healing, and relaxation, out intrepid adventurers had a few drinks at a friendly neighborhood bar called the Double Stuff. Yulie told them the ancient dwarven creation myth— the Beardening— and how it tied in to their adventure en route to Vigil. Rogenbogen even added her own, strange knowledge of the tale to the mix. However, some humans picked a fight and it ended poorly for them. It turns out they were mob-affiliated, though, so let’s hope that doesn’t get anyone into trouble.

A note came for the team in the morning, in blue crayon and horrific handwriting. “The Sapphire” had gotten word from his assassin that the party had requested a cessation of hostilities, and was ready to discuss the idea. The note lead them down into the sewers to a puzzle box and a group of waiting agents from Lodge of the Twin Sapphires. When the team prepared to confront them, though, the whole sewer wall moves rapidly towards them. Instead of crushing them into paste, it pushes them out into a screaming arena. Thousands of faces look down on to the sand where the mites and the party join a brave knight battling a enormous earth elemental. The surprise distracts the heroic warrior, however, and he is crushed into paste. The elemental roars triumphantly and looks towards the newcomers.

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A Night At the Circus, And Other Madness (4)

The team interrogated the captured cultist, using his limited knowledge and A’s keen gnose to figure out the subterranean source of the psychotropic drug known as “creep”. However, they decided to rest for the night before charging in. The same bizarre dream awoke all five of our heroes in the small hours of the morning, moments before assassins could drive their knives into their sleeping bodies. Several broken assassins and broken walls later, the party learned the truth: these mite killers were sent by the mysterious Lodge of the Twin Sapphires— the parent organisation of the mites in the first dungeon the party cleared together. They bought the surviving Sapphire Stabber breakfast and sent him off with a message: they want to be removed from the hit list (or at least know why they’re on it!). At full strength the surly squad made their way into the sewers of Vigil and kicked in the door of the drug lab. Here bulk fungus was being refined into the hypnotic powder which the Church Mycolite uses in their rituals, all under the supervision of an evil gnomish alchemist who A had crossed paths with before! Krei, the chief “dionysia” of the local crime syndicate, had once seduced A’s boyfriend, a sheeplover named Baaaab. A raucous battle erupted, chemicals thrown everywhere, and in the end Krei was shot through the chest and went plummeting off a ledge, destroying her exotic pink bush.

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