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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 33: A Matter of Heart

Updated: Aug 3, 2023


Sometimes we come across something and think 'I have got to have that!' We then spend an agonizing amount of time trying to rationalize getting this thing we don't really need. The Ferengi call it The Five Stages of Acquisition: Infatuation, Justification, Acquisition, Obsession, and Resale.


We've all been there. It was a stupid item. We knew it was. We bought it (or just barely kept ourselves from buying it) anyway. But, look at it this way: at least yours wasn't a massive stone heart from a dead titan.


I mean, that's more than just useless fluff taking up your valuable coffee table space. That's just begging for some karmic retribution, or Godly retaliation. But, cultists tend to have even less impulse control than most of us. They wanted it. And they were willing to go to great lengths to get it.


But I'll get to that.


Remember, last week, the group had finally found some information on the skeletal amalgamation (remember: one man's aberration is another DM's art) and were heading back to the material plane. As they stepped through the portal from the lich's graveyard into a normal graveyard, they were confronted by Grave T. Robber.


{Player's Note: He actually doesn't have a middle name. I just do that to annoy the DM . . .


Yes, I'm going to get smote at some point. I'm at peace with it.


Also, I've threated to build Star Lord if Frank goes the same route as Loki . . .}


Seeing the most capable person they knew when it came to such things, the group handed over the page they'd been given. After that it was on to base camp to report, and hopefully rest.


Of course, that hope was quickly dashed. They reported in, the other's eyeing Frank's salute and stiff nature, and handed over their captive. As they explained the . . . constraints on interrogating said prisoner, they were informed that the leaders had already caught another. They were well aware of the . . . consequences.


Noblesword then informed them of their next task. Apparently the cultists the Cupcakes had just thwarted were an offshoot of the one's responsible for the crater in the center of town. You know, the crater Frank had found filled with skeletal undead during his . . . strategic withdrawal.


And that was their next target. See, the reward for a job well done is always a harder job. Yay!


In this case, some scouting had already been completed. The area had been cleared, and a passageway through the basement of a church had been secured. That, they were told, led to a downward spiraling tunnel that terminated in a flesh door. All but Frank turned quite pale at that, but they were assured that all they had to do was feed the door 5 bodies and it would let them pass.


Kind of like the guard dog that gets easily distracted by a T-Bone.


The group did inquire about rewards, like better gear, for their previous service. Noblesword then wrote a requisition form detailing that each member could have one item under 20k gold.


Before leaving, Hazel asked if they could speak to the scout who had discovered these things. They were pointed in the correct direction and told that the scout's name was LN.


At hearing the name, Hazel brightened and sped off, intent on annoying the Drow as much as possible. Steve followed, to keep her out of trouble.


Frank and Thor proceeded to the factory that had been set up at one end of the camp. They were escorted through by a rather surly Gnome to the finished products section. Looking them over, Frank realized there was nothing on the upper end of that list that was better than what he was already using, so he opted for Boots of Striding and Springing. Thor opted for better armor, in hopes of being less of a meat shield.


Sadly, they were forced to wait for Hazel to stop tormenting LN before they could actually take said items. Fortunately, Steve took all the fun out of it so quickly that she quickly bored. The two of them joined the other two quickly.


Once outfitted, it was off to the next adventure. They set out (Frank forgetting to replenish his dwindling ammo supplies) without hassle. In fact, the trip all the way to the church was free of issue. There they met another scout that gave them the 'no news is good news' routine.


The trip down the spiraling tunnel was equally uneventful, though filled with dead cultists. Dead cultists with nothing of value on them. The Cupcakes shrugged and collected the first five of them as . . . tribute for the door.


Once through, they could hear the sound of people working, along with the straining of chains and pulleys.


Creeping forward brought them to a massive pit leading down several stories. Below them was a stone ring, roughly thirty feet wide, swarming (how many cultists does it take to constitute a swarm?) with cultists. The cultists were organized into 4 groups of four, each lashing the ends of thick chains to four massive statues set on tracks spread evenly about the ring. Those chains were then attached to a block and tackle system leading further down the hole.


Once the cultists had finished, the four groups dispersed. Three disappeared through three doors surrounding the stone ring, with the last taking a spiraling stone ramp further down.


The cupcakes immediately investigated. As it turned out, the three doors led to wooden freight elevators, easily disabled with a switch. The ramp led down to a massive stone heart, the heart of a dead, dismembered god. A heart so big, any of them could have walked, upright into one of the valves.


Oh, and there were also several blood oozes meandering about. They seemed to be oblivious to just about everything going on.


The four chains from above were wrapped around the heart, while chains from below led further down, to some creatures. As they watched, the cultists pulled on their chains, while the creatures further down, pulled back on their chains, forming a strange form of tug of war. As the contest of strength continued, they could see cracks forming in the heart. Cultists nearby would immediately pounce on those cracks, casting mending to seal them back up.


Thor took the all-tool that Frank had purchased, turned it into a crowbar, and bent one of the links in the cultist's chains, causing it to snap free. Three of the other chains also snapped under the added weight. The heart, and the platform it was on, began sinking back down, revealing that the cultists were actually standing on another stone ring.


The cultists, thinking this just an equipment failure, attempted to use the elevators to ascend to the level the Cupcakes were on. When those didn't work, they began streaming up the spiral ramp.


While they figured out the failing lifts the Cupcakes prepared. Steve and Thor took up positions blocking the top of the ramp. Frank poured some of his precious gunpowder down the ramp, and lit a torch.


As the cultists filled the area in front of the two meat shields, Frank set the powder off, creating a brief but blinding flash. The cultists immediately started to retreat.


Thor and Hazel pursued while Frank lashed a rope to one of the statues. He and Steve then rappelled down to the lower level, to cut the path of the cultists off.


Meanwhile, Thor was having the time of his life, using his hurling charge to its utmost capabilities. By the time the cultists reached Steve and Frank, there were only a handful left. That handful was quickly diminished to one cowering cultists.


Because they must take one cultist prisoner after every encounter. It is, apparently, a rule.


Or perhaps they just like collecting unique cultists . . .



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