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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 13: The Cervitaur

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

It's like someone crushed a mad scientist down to boot size . . .
Small but hyper . . .

Ah, another day, another dirty glare from the DM. It's a living. Unless I go too far. Then I have to roll up a new character.

As we left off, the team had bedded down one way or another. And in their sleep the level fairy came to bestow upon them new knowledge in exchange for their XP. A lot more XP than last level, I might add. Damned inflation . . .

One of the most important bits of knowledge being Loki awakening with an understanding of the Gnoll language. He also found himself deposited on the floor just outside the library. Remember, he talks in his sleep. Probably inadvertently violated some noise ordinance.

But never mind that; he had scrolls to read. There were five in total, all taken from the Gnoll Chieftain's chest. They are:

  1. A scroll of Mass Hunger for Flesh: Sounds like a party favor eh?

  2. A scroll of Death Clutch: For when you prefer to do your kali ma bit from across the room.

  3. A scroll of Cursed Earth: For when saying 'Fuck you and everything you stand for' just doesn't cut it.

  4. A Scroll of Permanent False Resurrection: For when you want to trap a demon in the body of a slug . . . forever.

  5. And a scroll of Word of Chaos: For when Loki's had enough of these do-gooder twerps.

Granted, most of these sound pretty awful, but remember: a tool is only as good as the use its put to. And Loki was already coming up with ways to use these. For instance, that first scroll had the Gnoll encampment blocking their escape's names written all over it. And if that failed, there was always the Cursed Earth scroll. He wasn't exactly sure how well the word of chaos would work against them.

While the possibilities careened through Loki's head, Thor found himself pressed into service. He awoke with Maiphere standing over him. And the first thing he noted was that the Dragonkin seemed far more . . . substantial than before. Instead of the shadowy silhouette we've all come to know and love, there were little details of texture and scales evident. When Thor asked him about that Maiphere deflected the question by stating that he felt more at home now that he was back in charge of the library. On prodding he stated that he made the previous librarian (who had just happened to be his replacement many years before) 'an offer she couldn't refuse'.

So we're pretty sure he killed her. That said, it's worth noting that, when pressed for details by Hazel a short time later, he said he returned her to the sea. Which doesn't necessarily negate that initial impression. But, either way the deed was done now.

The most impressive part of this is that whatever happened between the two was so quiet that it failed to awaken any of the party. But, they are both librarians, so they probably made quite the effort to keep the sound down.

But that's for the future. In the present, Maiphere announced to Thor that it was time to fulfill his promise to smash the block holding the skeleton. Thor hopped to his feet and followed Maiphere to the other side of the room. Not only was the metal ring gone, but the slab of stone now had a look of having weathered many ages. It was brittle to the touch, taking only a couple solid whacks to cause it to crumble into inoffensive dust.

Okay, okay, one bad whack, and one good one. The first was actually pretty awful. But hey, he just woke up. He hadn't had breakfast yet, let alone a pee. Jeez, sometimes I think you people are impossible to please . . .

Once freed, Maipher then aligned the two halves of his big friend and cast a spell. Thor didn't bother to spellcraft this spell but I'm betting it was a simple Repair Undead. Once made whole again, the skeleton immediately left. Maiphere suggested leaving him alone for a bit. Something about having some frustrations to work out. The group all agreed that he could work out as much aggressions on Gnolls as he liked.

Afterwards they all met up in the library, commiserated over Maiphere's improved coloring as if talking to someone that had recently been deathly ill, and wondered what to do next. Upon seeing Loki's scrolls, Maiphere immediately suggested that Loki destroy them. Loki declined; a tool is only as evil as its purpose, after all.

Hazel then pestered him about the ball she'd found, but all he'd say was that she'd figure it out. But, on the topic of what they should do now, he did suggest that, since the group had already helped Flora (the once statue that Jhalu'skie was afraid of), they might as well as help . . . that's right, you guessed it: Fauna.

They were informed that Fauna resided in the western garden, and after a few terse directions the taxi was off. To a point.

You see, the directions Maiphere gave neglected to mention an endless hallway. Well, they did mention the hallway, but failed to mention that it might in any way be endless. This fact was quickly picked up on though. Loki solved the problem by whisking out a wand of Detect Secret Doors, finding three. There were no catches though; the walls there were simply illusions.

There were two doors on their right, and one on their left. The first on their right made a ninety degree turn to the right, heading back the way they'd come. The door on their left led to an incredibly nice ballroom lacking any other sign of exit. Thor and Hazel checked these, respectively.

Loki checked the second door on their right, finding a passage that came to a ninety degree turn to the left. And there he saw a menagerie of strange animals, all formed from the pieces of separate animals. Not wanting to risk it, he went back to report, only to find that this was the only way forward.

So Steve scouted ahead, as Loki was too cowardly to walk into the den containing bits of lions, tigers, and bears . . . oh my. Strangely, all of the animals seemed quite peaceful. In fact, prey animals stood with predators without any sign of concern. And nothing so much as looked like it was thinking of attacking them.

As they wandered through, a large blue bird alighted on a branch and watched them. Hazel approached and asked it where they could find Fauna. The bird immediately lifted off and flew to their right, down to the lower level of this terraced garden. It looked back at them mid flight (a neat trick, that) as if wanting the group to follow. Now, whether that was to follow it into a trap or to their goal was not certain. Eventually it landed near a den of some sort.

Still, with no other direction to take, the group began looking for a way down. It wasn't long before they found a spiral staircase leading in that direction. Loki did his best Tony Hawk impression, riding the banister down on his feet. Everyone else decided to walk it.

Which gave Loki a few precious moments with the largest Tortoise he'd ever seen. In an attempt to keep it amused, he cast dancing lights. The tortoise's head slowly tracked towards one of the illusory balls of light before snapping out lightning fast to grab it in its mouth and swallow it.

Loki immediately exclaimed 'I didn't know you could do that!' and tried to eat one of the other figments. Fortunately, the rest of the group moseyed down the stair at that point and drug him away from his new -not to mention quite large- friend.

About half way to where the bird had alighted the group came upon a massive white stag that peered down upon most of them. Some more than others. Again, Hazel asked on the whereabouts of this Fauna character. The stag seemed to examine her briefly, before walking off in a direction opposite the bird.

Hazel started to follow him, but turned back around when she realized the entire group was set upon completing the original plan. Loki arrived on the scene first. The bird seemed very nonplussed by his presence, something he decided not to take offense at; all of the creatures here seemed to have lost all survival instincts, after all.

When Loki questioned the bird it began preening its wings. Deciding it had given all the information it was going to, he passed it by, heading for the den it had stopped before. When he opened it he found a cot containing the smallest Cervitaur he'd ever seen. It may have stood a couple feet tall. All he could think was 'finally, someone shorter than me!'.

While he reveled in that small moment, Thor entered the den and asked for Fauna. To which the tiny Cervitaur piped up, saying that was her. She was it. And what do you want? At which point Thor remarked on her small stature. She replied that size wasn't important, which was where the nearly large sized barbarian disagreed. She then said she'd prove it.

And somehow, that turned into offering to sew a Bowl's head onto Loki's body, an idea that he resisted immediately and completely. Yet, for some reason, this seemed a very good idea to Steve, who insisted it was the cure to all their problem. (Personally, I'm thinking he left more than an eye behind in that mad scientist's chamber.)

She also offered to give Loki an extra two legs. Not going to lie, he considered that one, but in the end declined stating that he much preferred the use of a Polymorph spell. At that point, Flora asked what they were doing there.

They explained that Maiphere had sent them to make sure she was all right. Once again, certain members of the group gave away far too much information.

When far too many beans had been spilled, Fauna said she was fine, but needed more space for her growing menagerie. She then suggested knocking a giant tortoise sized hole in one of the walls of her garden. Thor perked right up at that, of course.

She then led/raced towards the target wall with a speed that would have left the Roadrunner's head spinning. The group eventually caught up to the Ritalin ridden deer-a-taur only to see her running in circles on the wall. After full inspection she made the tiniest X on the wall, telling Thor to 'hit it there'.

Now, despite smashing things being Thor's bread and butter, that kind of precision was completely beyond the Bloodrager; he missed that mark three times. Eventually, Fauna ran back up the wall and widened the X. One hit later and the entire wall crumbled down. So, maybe Thor just needs glasses?

As the wall came crumbling down, it revealed a ten foot drop to a murky river with a bog on the other side. One populated by spirits and a horrible smell. Fauna immediately declared that this just wouldn't work, and began trying to devise a way to make some sort of bridge. Then suddenly she raced off, claiming she had a 'brilliant plan'.

A moment later, the bird flew through the hole in the wall. Fauna informed them that it was going to get her sister, Flora, who would then make a nice bridge for her band of besties.

Meanwhile, Hazel realized that this was the bog that was supposed to contain Maiphere's legs. Not wishing to wait for a plant bridge to grow for them, they took turns leaping over the murky river running along the wall into the bog. And, stuck hip deep in the mud on the other side seemed the perfect place to leave our characters for a week . . .

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