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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 2: Prisoners

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Am I at least fashionable?
Am I fashionably late?

Welcome back to round two of Alex's campaign of madnes. When we left off the group had just noped their way right out of a lava tube back into the tunnel the DM euphemistically calls 'The Gardener's Path'. Well, it's not like we weren't already aware he had a twisted sense of humor.

They'd checked the first door they came to on their way back only to find stables, a jousting arena and a city of ghosts, in that order. Oh, and Loki got his brain jostled for annoying the spectral gatekeeper of said city. This was something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand it felt like he'd just drank his way to the bottom of a keg of dwarven ale. But on the other hand, for a short moment he was able to understand the ghostly muttering from beyond. Not that he could remember anything specific about it once his head cleared.

Again they managed an unanimous decision; this time to stop bothering that guy. They headed back to the gardener's path and continued to the next door. This led to what appeared to be a long unused servant's dining room. A dining room with some form of magical darkness placed on it.

Which was discovered toot sweet when Loki attempted to add some illumination to the situation by casting Dancing Lights. The globes were far less effective than usual, only illuminating a 5 foot radius. He shrugged and began working them through the room.

The slow scan of the room revealed rows of benches with a crude chandelier hanging over the center of the room. The candles of the chandelier were lit, but did not seem to shed any light. To the left was a door leading to a cellar, and along the back wall was a raised stair against the wall leading to the kitchen, which was completely dark.

First they tried the cellar door. Upon opening it they were greeted by a host of small red eyes at the bottom of the staircase. There was a collective 'Nope!' and the door was closed. This was immediately followed by the owners of said red eyes scratching at the other side of the door. The party may have checked to ensure it was secured a couple of times.

That left the kitchen, but Loki's dancing lights had absolutely no effect as they passed the threshold. Hazel decided to test whether nonmagical light might just be excluded from the effect. She pulled a torch Thor had pried from a wall earlier (what? He's a Bloodrager and it wasn't nailed down enough) and lit it. Immediately the darkness in the dining area lifted. On top of that, the sconces on the walls began lighting themselves as she passed by them. Damn fine random looting from the Bloodrager, that.

As she crossed the threshold into the kitchen the darkness lifted. They found little there. Loki was able to trade in his plus sized machete for a plus sized knife that could be wielded as a short sword.

Oh, and a secret passage.

{Player's Note: Again the DM grumbled about our high rolls. He said something about a curse or something like that. Who actually listens to the DM, am I right?}

The hidden door led down a narrow passage. Again, Hazel's torch did its thing, lighting the various torches as she passed by them.

The hallway opened out into a large elegant dining area. Or, it probably would have been elegant if not for the inch or so of dust covering everything. To the left was a massive door they had no hope of opening, not that they didn't try anyways. To the right was an open balcony overlooking the garden. As they approached it they realized they were several hundred feet above the ground, in the bottom level of a multi-tiered canopy. And it was infested with Wolpertingers. Lots and lots of Wolpertingers.

Or, as I like to call them, the swarm that will no doubt haunt my nightmares.

They appeared to be sleeping, but when Loki shushed the group (which was already silent) they rustled, as if turning over in their sleep. Certainly, it was not a deep sleep. The group turned to glare at Loki, only to find him gone. At the first sign of movement he'd rolled a 28 stealth and hightailed it back to the passage that led them to this kill zone. The group quickly followed suit, most likely vowing revenge on the little shit at the first possible moment.

That revenge never materialized. By the time they caught up with him, back in the gardener's passage, they'd worked most of their ire out. Instead they simply ignored him as the group headed down to the next door.

They quickly regretted opening it, for what they found was a pile of rotting bodies. The pile was leaning against one wall of the room. There were no exits on the ground floor, but it appeared the second floor was ringed with a walkway. It appeared that bodies (and parts thereof) were drug into the room from there and unceremoniously dumped into the room below.

While it was certainly possible that the group could have scaled the mound of the dead to reach that second floor they simply couldn't bring themselves to do it. I mean, Thor probably wouldn't have minded; a large part of his modus operandi involved being covered in blood and guts. Hence the word 'Bloodrager'.

But the rest were not interested, and as such, the room was again closed. They then took a few moments to get full control of their gorge before heading to the last door in the passage.

This one turned out to lead into a long, large hallway with columns spaced down its center. Flanking the top of each column were statues that had had every defining feature chiseled off. Clearly the new management had some issues with the old management. Then again, as the ancientness of the place began to set in, they began to feel like the place had probably changed hands many many times.

That corridor made a right turn before dead ending. On either side of that end was a door. The right hand door was massive, with a chain and lock to match. They knew they had nothing even close to big enough to try and pick it. They certainly weren't carrying around a key that could fit.

The other side held a more normal door. This, again led out to the mid level canopy of the garden. But, unlike the balcony, this led to a glass walkway that seemed to go on forever. It also held a stairway up and down. They chose to go up. This led above the canopy before ending at what appeared to be a grid of walkways. Behind them the castle blocked their view, seeming to extend forever. On the other three sides was open space, again seeming to extend forever.

As they began to get lost . . . er, explore, they noted a black cloaked figure watching them from behind a window in the castle. Thor waved at it, earning incredulous 'what the hell are you doing?' looks from both players and characters alike.

Yet the cloaked figure waved back, creating a very smug player/character combo. Willing to accept, however tentatively, that the figure was not hostile, the group navigated their way to a door in the wall leading to that room.

It greeted them warmly enough; it would not tell them what it was, though it did answer many questions. For instance: 1) It was some sort of remnant of its original form. It's body had been divvied up by something called a 'constructor' into multiple monstrosities. Indeed, to make its point it lifted its hood, revealing only a darkness filling the clothing.

2) There were many weapons vaults on the premises; it even recommended one particular vault, and even gave directions to it.

3) It could still feel its various AWOL body parts. It could even see through its eyes.

4) That its suffering could be ended if they found all of its various body parts and returned them to it. It could even lead them out of the castle then. When they agreed to do so, it informed them that its body parts were all orange. They suddenly realized they'd seen two orange eyes in the group they'd bypassed earlier. It gave them what hints it could. For instance:

a) Its chest felt as though it were near brimstone. It burned, and burned worse when it inhaled.

b) It's eyes were in the room Thor had vacated; their owners were currently engrossed in a rather messy meal.

c) It's arms - MIA

d) It's legs - MIA

e) It's head - MIA

f) It's wings - (Should be a bit of a concern really) were flying, yet tethered somewhere.

5) The bifurcated Giant skeleton had once been his friend, presumably before its dimidiation. The only way to restore him would be with the help of a 'constructor'. Based on the description he gave Steve became convinced that the creature he'd escaped was one such specialist. As it turned out, there were four of them, each specializing in a different material construction type: flesh, blood, bone, and metal.

6) The statue they'd found in the garden was actually a sleeping goddess. He strongly warned them against waking her.

7) The gardener was apparently an asshole. He didn't like him.

8) The town of Rhyleh hadn't existed for centuries.

9) The large chained door they passed led to an unnamed 'her' who would give a great single night followed by an eternity of pain. They all agreed this was not a great bargain.

10) The book Hazel had recovered was in an ancient tongue the thing could read, yet refused to recite. It wouldn't even sum the book's contents up.

11) The holy symbol found with the book was of an ancient dead god Amoth that had fallen gloriously in battle.

12) There were more of the strange keys they'd found hidden about the castle.

As you can see, it was a font of information. At the mention of strange keys the group all compared the keys they'd recovered. Steve recognized Hazel's as one that should fit in a door he'd passed in his escape. They all agreed to hit that first, then recover the eyes. Afterwards they'd hit the armory.

{Player's Note: This is what happens when you don't BATMAN}

The moment the group was out of earshot Loki remarked that he didn't trust that cloaked figure. The others all paid him of no mind. Then again, he was the guy that almost got them killed by Wolpertingers. (You don't get to go to heaven if you get killed by Wolpertingers.)

They quickly backtracked to the corridor they'd met Steve at and the door he'd found. Opening it revealed a room filled with cages. Many seemed to be filled with the refuse of failed experiments. One had some sort of lion/lizard/metal armored thing. Each cage had a book detailing the experiment in a script they could not read. Fortunately they were all illustrated.

They also found a blue skinned Undine woman locked in some sort of suspended upright vat that was filled with some sort of gel. Her left arm had been replaced with a metal prosthesis the likes of which they'd never seen, and there were some metal bits attached to her head. She seemed alive, but unconscious. Loki grabbed the accompanying book and began leafing through it.

The beginning seemed to have been written by multiple different creatures. Four of them, based upon the different writing styles. Each of these was crossed out, as if there'd been an argument about how to best use this raw material.

After a couple of pages three of the handwriting styles disappeared, leaving only the triumphant one. There were pages and pages of planned alterations to the woman; apparently, the constructor in charge had only managed to complete page one so far. Even Loki shuddered to think of it.

That didn't stop him from objecting when the others suggested removing her from the vat though. When he was ignored he slunk away, cast a silent image of himself, and hid in the room. No one else noticed, except the strange amalgamated quadruped they'd found, which stared directly at him no matter how hard he tried to shoo it with arm waving.

The group quickly figured out how to lower the vat and drain it. As it drained the woman inside awoke and immediately began to panic. Steve and Thor decided to step back, allowing Hazel to try and calm her down.

She eventually found out that the woman's name was Nebula and that the last thing she recalled was practicing in a field near her home. She was learning to be a Monk. Oh, and she was still OEM then. She did mention that the implants ached, but they seemed fully functional.

Meanwhile Thor and Steve were trying to get Loki's attention. Not the real Loki though, the illusionary bait he'd set up. They eventually realized it as such and followed the strange creature's eyes to where the gnome actually was.

Before leaving Hazel decided to get a sample of the goo that had held Nebula suspended in a glass vial.

The group quickly brought the Undine up to speed (BATMAN!) and headed to kill them some gremlin things. Thor led the way back to his origin point where Loki had the bright idea of using another auditory hallucination spell to call their targets into an ambush. The melee characters (that's Thor, Loki, Steve, and Nebula) all lined up on either side of the door. Loki cast his spell and immediately scurried behind Thor.

The plan worked perfectly. Four of the creatures fell at their feet. That had less to do with their might than the fact that these things had about four hit points. And when they fell, they seemed to collapse into a pile of component organs. The other two escaped by T One Thousanding through a grate covering a one foot diameter pipe. Squishy little squishies weren't they?

The group held its gorge down as it located the two orange eyes it needed within the piles of . . . humanoid components. Hazel noted that the eyes seemed to be drying out and plunked them into the vial of goo she'd taken from Nebula's room. From there they headed back to their (possible) benefactor.

They found him wandering around as if blind, cloaked arms groping around. The group used a burlap sack to strain the goo off of the eyes before handing them over. Once free of it the figure straightened up and told them not to do that again. He then accepted the eyes, slotting them where they would go if he still had a face. Then he started complaining about a headache.

They showed him the book that came with Nebula, asking if he could read it. He said he could and asked if he could keep it. Loki politely declined.

From there they headed to the armory he'd mentioned, only getting lost once. They found it at the North East corner of the outer wall. But they could not find any way in. The massive gate was shut. There were no levers, mechanisms or keyholes to indicate a method of operation. There were several murder slits that allowed them to verify that this was in fact an armory.

Eventually Loki got tired of staring at the door and started working his way west down the north wall. He eventually found a door leading to a vestibule of sorts. Before exploring he retrieved the rest of the group. (Always better to have someone else go first, right?)

Once inside they found a staircase heading up the east side of the room. And beneath that was what appeared to be a closet door. As Loki inspected it Thor jammed him into the broom closet and shut the door.

He heard a sound almost immediately, one sounding much like stone sliding against stone. When he opened the door, Loki was gone. Wary of a trick (this was Loki after all) he slowly entered and shut the door. Immediately, one wall began sliding down in sections, creating a stairway leading downwards.

He found Loki at the bottom, surveying a tunnel that appeared to head directly under the Armory.

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