Date: 44/5/687 – 45/5/687
After their ordeal, the Goomba Corps unwound in the Gridlock Bar. There, they found a member of the Organization, and set up a meeting for Ylva. Then, they got to wondering about the workings of time and causality. Eventually they decided it would be best to let Drahomir sort these things out.
Once night fell, the Corps went to visit the Goblins inhabiting the old abbey in the woods. Upon their arrival, the Goblins not slain during the adventurers' last visit flooded out into the courtyard and prostrated themselves. Jay began to cook something, and drink something else.
"I like this," remarked Bootlip. He clicked his teeth and smiled winningly at the nervous little beings before him. "So, guys, we want to see your most valuable treasures. Bring'em out here." A few of the Goblins ran back into the abbey. Minutes later, they emerged from a different door, straining on ropes. A red glow leaked out of the hall behind them. After much effort, the Goblins managed to pull a crowd of red beetles out into the open. Each had a rope tied around its carapace, and they were all scuttling in different directions. The luminescence came from the embers dripping from the mouths of the beetles. The aura lit up the night quite beautifully.
Draxx quirked an eyebrow. "Fireflies?"
The Goblins explained they used the insects as mounts. Both Lowen and Jay claimed beetles for themselves.
After inspecting his new acquisition, Jay looked around with a surprised expression on his face. "Woah," he said. "Look, guys. There are Goblins everywhere."
The beetles failed to draw much enthusiasm from Bootlip. "How about you bring us all of your valuables." More Goblins scurried inside, and they returned with several shiny but worthless stones, and a few kegs of "Goblin Oil." "What exactly is 'Goblin Oil?'" inquired Bootlip. The Goblins began to look a little more nervous.
"Goblins make it. Burns," ventured one of them.
This idea piqued Bootlip's interest. Oil is valuable. "How do you make it?" he asked.
The Goblin who spoke before made a strange noise in the back of his throat. He didn't want to answer this question. After recieving a deadly stare from Bootlip, he spoke again. "Treadmills and buckets." He shrank away into the crowd.
Lowen grinned. "Huh. Oil's oil. We'll take a keg."
The group tried to determine what to do with the rest of their night, but the discussion quickly deteriorated into quantum physics. The night was spent in the abbey, with the Goblins trying their best to keep their distance. In the morning, the Corpsmen heard Drahomir's voice ringing in their ears. His assignment for the day was to deliver a package from his home to a drop point inside the Spire of Gerelli's High Hill. He revealed that there used to be a mining operation inside High Hill, but it ended many years ago. Drahomir and his colleagues had since established a workplace in the mines, which continued all the way up into the Spire. Bandits and monsters often inhabited the mines, so traps had been put in place inside. As such, he would really rather the Corps delivered this package for him.
Thinking their day couldn't get any worse, the party arrived at Drahomir's home. Outside his front door was a large mass, several feet across and wrapped in canvas and bound by rope. After trying to move it, the group found that the thing was incredibly heavy. A note was pinned to it, written by a sloppy hand. Kryss pulled it off and read it. "Here's the package. Have a nice day!" Kryss stared at the paper, and tried to think of words to express his rage.
It was an unhappy Goomba Corps that arrived at the opening of the mine later that day. They had discovered that the package they collectively strained to transport was, in fact, the single largest wad of ground meat any of them had ever met. An enchantment on the canvas prevented the blood from leaking out.
The frustrated crew was pleasantly surprised when they found a mine cart on tracks just inside the mine. They heaved the meat into the cart, and used a little of the Goblin oil they carried to counteract the rust on the wheels. As they pushed the cart farther in, the tunnel grew dimmer. The group came to a stop where the tunnel split off in multiple directions. Kryss quickly volunteered to fire flaming arrows down the tunnels to light the way a little farther in. The first arrow he fired hit a giant bat, one of many. The light of the fire also revealed a huge bear, which was woken by the screeches of the bats.
The bats flew to attack the party, and the party readied themselves for combat. Bootlip began to push on the cart to build up speed. The bats and adventurers met and fought. Bootlip and the cart were still some distance away. Bootlip leapt upon the cart, standing in the package of meat. He readied his longsword in hopes of striking down one of the bats. The bats dodged around him, and he and the cart disappeared around a corner. The bats were soon slain anyway. The bear had gone back to sleep. Lowen took a few careful steps toward it. "Just one more to take care of," he said. Kryss stepped in front of him.
"No, I've always wanted a bear," he whispered. He approached the bear slowly. "Hey buddy…" The bear's eyes flicked open. They glared at Kryss. Kryss was eager to salvage the situation; this was a frighteningly large bear. He unwrapped some bacon left over from his breakfast and offered it to the bear, who quickly accepted the offering, and considered not mauling the intruders. After recieving more scraps, it decided it was onto a good thing.
"That's a good bear," said Kryss.
Bootlip sped around the tracks of the mine tunnel. He wasn't sure how far the tracks would go, so he made sure to leave a clear trail. He had always made a point of stealing garments off the corpses of his fallen enemies, and he dropped these behind him so his path could be followed. It was exhilarting, careening around corners, having no idea where he was going in these dark caves, but after a few minutes, the novelty wore off. He wondered how the cart continued to build momentum, and if it would ever stop. Just as this thought crossed his mind, the cart came to a sudden halt. Bootlip quickly identified the probable reason for this; next to the tracks was a little blue man, who was holding a torch, a lever, and was grinning from ear to ear. "Hello," said the little blue man. "Welcome to my kingdom."
Sheila at first seemed a good name, but lacked the charm they were looking for. Yolonda sounded nice, but Lowen's wagon was named Yolonda. In the end, Beverly was the only acceptable name for the bear. She followed the group as they searched the tunnels for Bootlip. They knew they were on the right track when they found kobold loincloths litterring the rails. Soon after this discovery, they found the mine cart they were looking for, but the Dragonborn and giant chunk of meat were both missing. The group was glad to see the trail of crotch rags continued past the cart. The crew continued down the mine, until it reached a stairway spiraling downward out of sight.
"It's trapped," announced Draxx. "There are wires. They probably trigger something." He flicked a stone at one of the wires, and it bounced off without effect. "I still think we should be careful in case-"
"Le's pig this kick!" called Jay as he trundled forward. He tried to step over the first wire, but lost his balance and fell. He bounced down the stairs, snapping every wire on the way down. For each wire he snapped, a boulder fell from the ceiling and rolled down the stairs after him. When he landed on the bottom, he looked up and saw the rocks tumbling toward him. He rolled out of the way in time to avoid some of them, but more fell and he was nearly crushed. Still, he managed to hang onto conciousness.
When the rest of the party arrived at the bottom of the stairs, they saw Jay stirring a steaming pot of pasta. The pot was set on the underside of Jay's fire beetle, which he had flipped on its back. He divided the pasta into bowls and passed them around. Lowen looked at him with concern. "Jay, why are you making pasta? You're still gushing blood, for Moradin's sake!"
"Eh," replied Jay.
Kryss looked around the room. The only thing there was a door. This he opened slowly, and peered through. Inside he saw a very comfortable looking room. It was furnished with a chimney, a bookcase, tapestries on the wall and a crimson rug covering most of the floor. In the middle of the room was a dining table, and sitting by it were a little blue man and a big, black Dragonborn. The Dragonborn was clearly Bootlip, but Kryss had never seen the other occupant of the room before. All the same, he had a gut feeling that he wasn't to be trusted. The little blue man was talking animatedly, and Bootlip was gritting his teeth loud enough to be heard across the room. Kryss was relieved to see that the package of meat sat by the table next to Bootlip.
The blue man looked toward the door and made a beckoning gesture. "Come in, come in. I am King Derro, and I am always willing to meet with ambassadors."
Derro had quite a lot to say, and almost none of it made sense. However, when Bootlip asked for directions into the Spire, a hint of cognizance rolled into the creature's eyes. "I can take you there. Is one of my favorite wings of the castle. Come along." With this he rose and left the room.
On his way out the door, Lowen paused. "He's a little out of touch. Think he'd notice if we jacked his rug?"
"Oh, yeah," returned Jay. "It really ties the room together."
"That it does," said Lowen, with a frown.
Derro strode purposefully through the mines, but seemed oblivious to his surroundings. Even as the party fought Ettercaps, dart traps and Homunculi, he just kept walking, taking no notice. Still, our stalwart heroes succeeded in following their guide until he stopped, all the while rolling the giant ball of meat. Derro stopped in the center of a circular room. The cieling of this room was near a half-mile high. A sliding ladder hung down, but it's lower segments were bound by rope quarter of a mile from the floor. There were windows on all sides of the room.
"I'm sure this guy knows exactly what to do here," Lowen stated with confidence.
"I'm not exactly sure I know what to do here," said Derro, thoughtfully.
Draxx leapt from window to window, and reached the ladder, high above. He cut the rope and the lower section came sliding down. Everyone below dodged to the sides of the room. The feet of the ladder cracked wholes in the rock floor where they landed.
About an hour later, the group had finished carrying the meat up the ladder, bit by bit, and had rewrapped it. Beverly had to stay below, and went back to sleep. "All set?" Derro asked a vine that hung from the cieling. The group all affirmed that they were ready, but Derro was only interested in the vine. He stared at it for another minute, then nodded and walked away down a hall. The walls here got progressively more overgrown as they continued. Derro stopped in a dead end room and said, "Here. The destination."
The walls of this room were completely covered in vines, with the exception of the opening of a spacious dumb-waiter. Bootlip lifted the package into the opening, and Draxx scrambled in after it. "I want to see where this goes," he explained. "Take us up." Bootlip quirked an eyebrow, but complied. He pulled the rope, and the dumb-waiter slid upward out of sight. After a few moments, the rope refused to give anymore, so Bootlip let the dumb-waiter come back down. When it arrived, Draxx and the meat were both missing.
In a quick team-huddle, all decided they would have to go up, too. Neitue would stay behind to operate the rope. Everyone piled in, and Neitue sent them up.
Within the darkness of the dumb-waiter there was tense silence, until Derro spoke up. "Well, I'm glad to have been a help to you all. I'll see you next time you come by." Suddenly there was a little more empty space.
"How'd he do that?" asked Kryss. Bootlip was opening his mouth to say didn't know, but was dumped, along with everyone else, into empty, white space.
Back below, Neitue fretted about what might have happened to his companions. He reasoned that there must be some other way to reach the place the dumb-waiter went to. Looking through the vines, he found a door. On the other side was a spiral staircase, which he climbed. At the top was some kind of observatory. There was a desk and chair, and one wall was dominated by a large window with a small iron door next to it. Through the window he saw a huge room with crystalline walls. On one side were his travelling companions and the package of meat, which had finally torn open. On the other side of the room was the largest creature he had ever seen. It was vaguely lupine, and fully fifty feet long. It was chained to the floor, and it convulsed horribly. "Oh my," he remarked, intelligently. He spent a moment considering the best plan of action at this point. This was pivotal. What would any good Eladrin soldier do here?, he wondered. He sat down to watch.
Time went by, and, outside, the sun flicked off. Bootlip, Draxx, Jay, Kryss and Lowen found that, once again, they could see. They took stock of their surroundings and didn't like what they saw. The only way out of the room was a small window, and that was thirty feet from the floor. The rest of the room, the cieling, floor and walls, where solid sheets of mirrored crystal. There was that giant monster too, but they probably had a few moments of safety while it finished vomiting on the floor. It was just as they began to puzzle over this situation that a section of the wall swung open and Neitue stepped out. "Hey guys. I, uh, just found you." He could feel the distrust from the others, and wondered if they were seeing through his bluff. Time to change the topic. He jerked his thumb at the beast. "So I found some notes about this thing. Apparently it's a Gwyll, and this room is for study. The crystal reflects sunlight, and, believe it or not, moonlight. At night, this room goes completely black. Even a torch won't cast any light in here. Anyway, the sun and moon both make this thing sick, but it gets better while neither are in the sky."
"I like it," said Jay, looking fondly at the beast. "We should let it go."
Kryss nodded. "I have to admit, this is a pretty sick thing to do to an animal." Draxx set about unlocking the chains. After the creature was unbound, everyone present could feel the goodwill radiating from it, and felt a little more free themselves. Kryss and Jay, who were standing closest, felt something rising inside them, and stepped away.
The beast ate the meat the Corps had so struggled to bring to it, and then set about tearing it's way outside. Chunks of the cieling began to rain down. Draxx, Kryss and Lowen fled through the door, while Bootlip, Neitue and Jay took hold in the beast's fur. The wall gave way, and the Gwyll leapt out into the sky with an eery howl, with the three still hanging onto it. After falling half a mile, the beast landed in the High Hill plaza. Jay was knocked loose. A moment later, the beast bounded out of town. Neitue fell off as it jumped over the wall.
Bootlip's fear kept him from letting go, and he was carried away. He had some surprisingly lucid thoughts on his way. He was curious about where he was going. He noticed his scales lengthening and melding. He was curious about this, too. Within moments his whole body was covered in thick plates. He felt his inhibitions dropping away, too. Maybe he didn't have to go back. The beast crashed into the forest, and immediately Bootlip no longer felt alone, or afraid. He looked through the trees and could see myriad shapes arrayed in the trees. These things defied description; they were so like things Bootlip already knew, but they seemed hideous and unreal. They were a welcome party. They were bizarre in ways Bootlip could never have imagined, and they were rejoicing. These terrible beings were greeting him. Bootlip returned their greeting, and flew into the dusky sky.DONE.