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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 29: Decidedly not Meh

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Welcome back. At the end of the last session the group had just finished spanking an overgrown Gibbering Mouther like it was a human three year old. But that, as it turned out, was just the beginning of their . . . challenges.

First up, the Head of Tar Spewing was not in the location they'd expected to find it. Secondly, when they decided to trace their steps back to the fountain they ran into a short term fate changer.

This particular diversion came with omens. First the lights in the area all dimmed, starting from further south on their path and getting closer. The distortion continued to close on them, until reaching the misbegotten sunrod Frank had activated at the beginning of the Gibbering Mouther fight. Then another wave of distortion closed on them, this time with the now dimmed lights shifting to radiate a blue light.

This effect was quickly followed by the sounds of a horse galloping towards them. As it came into view they could see that it was mostly bone, with flaps of skin and muscle hanging on it. It's internal area was occluded by a dark mist of some sort. (Which was probably for the best, all things considered) In short, it looked as if it had been borrowed from one of the horseman of the apocalypse.

It's rider was headless, wearing heavy plate armor, and wielding a longsword. And it was charging straight at them. They quickly identified it as a Dullahan.

The group's friend-or-foe-identification system kicked in, indicating that this was a foe. They dropped into their normal position, with Steve up front, followed by Thor. Frank stood behind those two, with Hazel just behind him, hovering on her broom.

The horseman took the bait, charging directly at Steve. But, something interesting happened as it struck the Brawler. Everyone was forced to make a will save against fear. And everyone but the guy that just got bloodied failed that save and fled as fast as they could away from the thing.

Frank had already turned around and booked it North at his sedate 20ft movement speed while Hazel and Thor had both flown upwards as fast as they could. Steve was just shouting out a plan when he became suddenly aware that his stalwart companions had in fact abandoned him, and that he was talking to himself.

Well, perhaps it confused the Dullahan? Possibly even unnerved him? I mean, I generally avoid people that talk to themselves. Then again, it was undead.

Fortunately for Steve, at the beginning of the each of the horseman's turns, they got a fresh save. Thor was the first to remember himself. Given his faster move speed, he'd been ahead of Hazel. He turned to intercept the fleeing witch, grappling her with little effort despite her frenzied attempts to Run Away!

The next turn, Hazel came to her senses. Thor flew back downwards, landing in a flanking position with a very relieved Steve. Hazel took her standard position overhead to heal. And Frank?

Frank continued running as fast as he could northward. Which was not very fast, really. But hey, he'd been raised by Dwarves after all. He passed the empty spot the head should have been and just kept right on going. He didn't stop until he'd come to a massive pit in the center of the city, the location of the brilliant pillar of light they'd seen on the day their initial approach to the city.

That in itself would not have been enough to deter his wanton flight. The horde of skeletons milling about the pit, however, was. As he stood there, pondering an updated escape route, he finally overcame the effects of the Dullahan's fear ability. He turned and ran back towards his allies as fast as his slow feet could carry him.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team was dealing with the horseman. As they fought, they noted a name on it's armor: Nell, the Caring. A name that meant nothing to them; the only person in the party from the area was currently fleeing madly into the darkness.

All they knew was that a) it was an anti-paladin and b) it was currently monologuing about how they could never defeat it, while attacking them. A real time saver compared to defeating an enemy and then monologuing.

Despite it's confidence in its undefeatability, the constant hammering of Thor and Steve eventually sent the specter galloping away, disappearing into the night. About then Frank returned from his sight seeing trip. He regaled them with said sights. They told him about the specter.

When they came to the name emblazoned on their foe's armor, Frank paled, explaining who the man had been in life. Apparently he'd been a Paladin that had spent as much time helping the poor as combating the wicked in life. A man that had willed that his few items be auctioned off after his death to help those poor.

In other words, it was imperative that they put him to rest. Of course, as yet they had no idea where to begin. Also, the thing had made it clear that they could not defeat it, because it would always run away. So they headed back towards the fountain.

To yet another odd meeting. The smallest Gnoll they'd ever seen was there, waiting for them. When they asked it about the specter, it stated excitedly that it knew a guy. Then it took off, presumably to find said guy.

Before they could do anything else, a large section of wall exploded, admitting the rest of the army. Once the vanguard had cleared the area the leaders of the PUG stepped through the hole. The Cupcakes explained about the heads, about how one was missing, and about the specter they'd fought. The general agreed that putting the specter to rest should be the group's priority, and told them where to find the last resting place of the named paladin. The PUG would track down the last head.

By then the small Gnoll had returned, dragging behind it a much older, more normal sized Gnoll, like a child dragging a barely willing parent along to show them their latest discovery. The small Gnoll then departed with a jaunty salute.

The older Gnoll informed them that it was a follower of the Raven Queen, and that it was it's solemn duty to put souls to rest. A bit of a long winded way of saying it would help, really. It told them that they had to bury a holy weapon beneath the Dullahan's body.

Which meant that the group had to find the body. Fortunately, one of the Dwarves was able to point them in the right direction, and off they went. But, as they entered the cemetery, the old Gnoll stopped it's shuffling gate to kneel at the first headstone.

When asked what he was doing, the Gnoll explained that this grave had been disturbed, and that if he didn't quiet the soul, the body would leave. Sort of an undead walk out. They waited patiently for him to finish. But when he stopped at the next grave to perform the same rituals, they rolled their eyes and headed on without him.

He didn't need their help, and they would probably do well to secure the location before the tottering Gnoll got there anyways.

But, when they reached the mausoleum, it was quickly apparent that there was no body there. Because nothing is that easy, is it? Hazel, now convinced that all problems could be solved with her blue orb, pulled it out.

Immediately several apparitions appeared within a radius of a few meters of the orb. They seemed to take no notice of the group, simply going about whatever it was that souls do when they're disturbed. As they entered the radius of the orb's glow, the apparitions would appear and continue on obliviously, disappearing as they left it. Seeing no usefulness to this, Hazel put the orb away.

The group then began combing the tomb for clues. In their search, Frank turned up a spyglass. Using it on the tomb itself did nothing, but as he trained it around the room, he noted a hole in one wall. He passed through it, much to the concern of the rest of the group; they'd simply seen him walk directly into a stone wall, disappearing through it.

They were quick to figure out that the spyglass was a true sight glass, and that the wall was an illusion. They followed Frank, only to find themselves back in the cemetery of that crazy castle they'd spent so much effort escaping.

Hazel immediately got the willies. Thor started talking about visiting his brother, gaining an incredulous look from the witch, who clearly wanted to immediately exit: stage back. Steve seemed indifferent. Frank seemed confused.

Before they could decide on a course of action, or explain where they were to Frank, the Grave Keeper appeared. He immediately questioned them as to the reasons and methods of their return. They explained their quarry and means of entry, after which it stated quite confidently that there were no Dullahan here. It also seemed a bit surprised at the doorway they'd just used.

About that point, Thor got curious. He snagged the spyglass out of Frank's hand and aimed it at the Grave Keeper. What he saw was so hideous that he immediately started cowering behind Hazel. The rest of the group decided that they would not be copying that action.

While Thor hid, the Grave Keeper explained that something from the graveyard had escaped onto their plane. Something that was raising far more than one talkative headless rider. Frank immediately flashed back to that pit filled with undead, yet another task to undertake.

As Frank worked his way through that particular bit of shame the Grave Keeper handed a small bag to Hazel. He explained it was to collect the necromancer once he'd been severely wounded. Hazel, upon feeling the weight of responsibility, handed the bag to Thor.

By that point Thor had overcome his second fear affect of the day and asked about visitation rights. The Grave Keeper gave them permission to see Loki in the elven quarter.

When they got there, they saw that the Grave Keeper had utilized the bag full of topaz Loki had had on him when he'd been juice-boxed to make one massive tomb, out of what looked to be one single piece of Topaz. Thor said his hellos, trying not to gloat too hard about his being alive, and attempted to remove some of the magic items.

The Grave Keeper appeared, giving him the look one might give a small child caught trying to steal a cookie. The dead, and their belongings were not to be messed with here. Thor, for once, took the hint.

{Player's Note: Personally, I think the DM just didn't want us to have any more stuff.}

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