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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 40: The Age Old Tactic of Advancing to the Rear

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

When the forebrain knows if it computes what its seeing the lizard brain will shit itself
Generic nondescript image of abstract terror.

Interrupting people is rude. It's something we have hammered into us at a tender age when we feel every new discovery must be shared RIGHT NOW! (If you've had kids, or have family that has kids, or know people with kids then you know.)

But the interruption to the conversation the Cupcakes were having with the Gnolls was far worse than the discovery of the color puce. Terrifying might be a better term. (Hence the above image: a look soon to be plastered upon the the faces of all allies of the Cupcake)

Remember, at the end of the last episode they'd sought the bipedal hyaenas out to identify the heart they'd found. The Gnolls had identified it as the heart of a sphynx and then asked the group to find the rest of it. Sort of a demented (well, actually pretty normal for this campaign) jigsaw puzzle.

The Gnolls and the Cupcakes had moved on to a new problem when the interruption hit. Apparently Snaggletooth had been granted a vision. Deranged Michelle had contacted him (apparently wearing some woman's skin) and asked if he knew where she might find a cockatrice feather. He was understandably concerned by such a question.

He was fairly certain they wanted it to make a whip of petrification. Frank was insistent that they do everything they could to keep the key ingredient out of the sisters' hands, going so far as to start out to find the cockatrices himself.

Fortunately he was stopped by Hazel who had a better idea. They knew someone who could probably point them in the correct direction. Unfortunately, that someone was as . . . hyperactive, as she was tiny. Finding her would be a bit of an issue.

But Hazel had that figured out too. She asked Snaggletooth where Runt was, telling him they had an errand they needed run. Snaggletooth then pulled a dog whistle out, shaped from bone, and blew into it. A moment later Run sped through the tent, yelling "STOOOPPPP!" as loud as he could.

Hazel quickly filled Runt in on his task, making the mistake of saying that Fauna was faster than him. In response he replaced his sandals with a pair of leather boots. On Hazel's 'go' he was suddenly gone, carving furrows into the ground wherever he went.

While they waited, Frank decided to go into the secured part of town to check on the progress of the Gnomes he'd contracted for a Pistol of the Infinite Sky. The journey was uneventful, as most of the city had been reclaimed by this point.

As it turned out, they'd made quite a bit of progress. None of it on the commission he was there to check on of course. One had made a flame thrower. One had made a superior tac light (Patent Pending). One was working on some sort of pneumatic bayonet, which was of interest to the Siege gunner. One had invented a pew gun. (As in church pew).

Before he could strangle one of them, a Gnome child tugged on his sleeve. He turned towards it and was presented him with a pistol. It turned out to be a shoddy +3 pistol of the Infinite Sky that sometimes jammed.

{Player's Note: I suspect whenever the battle is going against the DM . . .}

The kid explained that it was his first try, and he needed it tested out. Frank worked out a discount for the final product and accepted the weapon. He was just about to head to the range when another column of light began rising out of the center of the city.

Recalling the damage presumably caused by the last occurrence of such phenomena, Frank quickly mounted his horse and sounded retreat. He grabbed the Gnome child as well as any other Gnomes and Dwarves he came across as he galloped for the exit. Behind him, the column continued to rise, eventually turning into a massive white sphere of light. One that continued to rise higher and higher.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Cupcakes had come to the same conclusion as Frank, and begun evacuating the base camp. They made it to a ridge several hundred meters from the camp and took cover. Frank and his group were not so lucky. They made it out of the city and just beyond the base camp as the blazing white disco ball reached the same height as the previously observed column.

Unwilling to press his luck any further, Frank dismounted telling everyone to lie flat against the ground. They had barely complied when the ball dropped back to the earth like a wrecking ball. It hit the ground creating a massive earthquake. There was a massive slamming sound followed by a great rumbling, as if the Earth itself were hungry. After that different patches of ground seemed to be having disagreements about which way to go.

The main group was fine, but Frank's group was tossed about. Broken bones and lacerations were had by all.

As soon as the earthquake subsided Frank was back on his feet. Several healers in his group began tending to the wounded, including him. As soon as he was good he got his horse back on its feet and mounted it. He gazed back to the city to see a shimmering tower of white light rising from its center like a spike being driven through the ground and into the air.

Without a second thought he began galloping back to the city, to reconnoiter this new structure. He'd barely made it past the gates when dozens of white bat winged bipeds began flying out of the city. As he watched they snatched those who had not been lucky enough to get out of the city up in their clawed feet and helped them to safety.

Just kidding. I'm sure you know from the tone of the rest of this story that such actions would be highly unlikely. They actually snagged the unlucky souls and carried them back to the tower, right through its walls.

Frank was just making to attack the nearest of the things when Big Toe (the one armed Samoa sized Orc) called for a retreat. For a moment Frank's instinct to follow orders warred with his desire to save the people being carried away. In the end, the former won out. He turned and galloped away.

Similar orders were rising out throughout the army still outside the city. Attempts to rescue anyone from the various camps that had been collapsed were suspended as the creatures ranged further and further from their tower.

The image of Grimm appeared to anyone leading groups away, guiding them deeper into the surrounding forest. Eventually the groups converged on the hut of an elderly female Gnoll, bent double with age. (She was barely taller than Hazel)

The Gnoll acted as though she knew they were coming, perhaps tipped off by Grimm. Then she drew aside the air, as if pulling drapes apart. As the air moved aside, a massive Gnoll community was revealed. A community that immediately rushed to help the newcomers. The sick were healed. Food was prepared. (Just don't ask what it was) And room was made for the army.

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