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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 7: The Great Escape

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Not up his nose.  Good God man, what is wrong with you!?
Are you sure this is the best way to lube up a Delorian?

As I'm sure you can imagine the group was in a bad way after last session. Two party members (including the healer) were MIA. One was a hairs breadth from being KIA. And the last two were quite traumatized. About the only good thing was that they were able to retrieve the shaman's staff when they ran. It had strange symbols on it. Wooh!

Maipherre wasn't exactly what one would call helpful either. After hearing their story his one remark was that he was surprised their group had made it this far along. Not that they could blame him really. It just wasn't really the right time for that sentiment.

Nor was he helpful in determining where the Gnolls may have taken their captive comrades, or why they'd chosen not to kill them where they lay. It was very . . . un-Gnollish.

He couldn't even help with Loki's wounds. The best he could do was suggest they go speak with 'her'. Her being the creature locked behind the massive door. Fun.

Having no better options, they agreed. Getting back to the door was no issue. Knocking on it had the effect of what sounded like metal points tapping their way up to the door. Eight metal points, by the sound of it.

Then the image of a shapely elfin woman appeared, from the waist up. Not that any of them were fooled; anyone whose ever heard of Driders could have quickly put eight and one half together.

She seemed pleasant enough, asking them their business. When they explained their predicament she told them she had something that might just do the trick. A potion . . . of sorts. A bit of an experiment. That she was willing to grant them.

Of course, nothing's free in this world. She wanted to trade.

Cap was quick to offer up Loki in trade, which kind of defeated the purpose of getting medicine for him, if you ask me. Also, I'm starting to see more and more divergence from the Captain America we've all heard about and this character. It's almost like, we were being lied to . . .

At some point in the bargaining it was mentioned that Maipherre had sent them to her, because they blather their entire life's story to everyone they meet in this twisted place. (Strangely, the blatherer changes depending on who they're talking to) The Apparition hissed at that. When they pressed her on that particularly strong reaction, she informed them that she didn't like doing business with Maipherre, as most die before he can settle his end of any agreement.

That information was free. But they still had to find something to trade for that mystery goo. Fortunately Nebula had hung onto the music box. In fact, it was about the only thing that hadn't fallen into the hands of the rather grabby white witch. She opened it, and started the music.

The apparition listened for a moment, examined the box, and agreed to the trade. A pedestal rose up in the center of the room, with a bottle of Drider's Special Brew No. 5. She instructed them to take it and place the music box on the pedestal. Once they'd done so the apparition grasped a ghostly image of the music box from it and walked back into the door

Steve and Nebula donned confused looks, shrugged, and headed back.

{Player's Note: I would like to point out that what proceeds is essentially clinical trials of a brand new, completely untested, pharmaceutical on a patient who never gave their ascent. That's just a whole slew of laws being broken there.

Also, I'd like to point out that, had Loki been there, he'd have gotten that jump juice for free by pointing out that they were going to be test subjects. Just sayin . . .}

They made it back to the room and proceeded to pour their newly acquired trusty tonic down the Gnome's throat without so much as a second thought. After which Loki immediately reacted in a way that combined Wake Up Juice Doc with Sugar Rush Stewie. By the end of that reaction he was standing on the ceiling demanding WTF?! Apparently spider climb was one of the ingredients of the stuff.

As they explained he dropped down and attempted to take the bottle from Nebula. He failed. The first time. But, if at first you don't succeed, right?

Once he had it in his grubby mitts he examined the strange green goo. Not at all like the stuff the fleshbags they've been merrily chopping their way through had turned into, I'm sure. And wouldn't you know it, there were still four and a half servings left. Nine for a half pint like him. Yay!

Once they settled him down enough he agreed to go try and track down his brother. Nebula volunteered to come along, though whether as helper or nanny no one was really sure. Steve stayed behind due to incredibly low stealth scores.

The dynamic duo made there way back to the invisible bridge, this time making sure to stealth as they crossed it. First they tried the entrance they had so recently fled from. Not that they wanted to go in there. They really didn't. Bad memories and all that. But that was the way their compadres had been drug, so that was the way to go.

They stepped cautiously into the room while wondering what they had done to piss their various gods off enough that they'd decided to collaborate on their demise, no doubt. They really didn't want to go in there.

But, apparently, Gnolls are quite the skittish lot. Despite having KO'ed three members of the group, and sent the other two fleeing into the night, they were so nervous about a repeat that they'd blockaded the stairs to the point that removing the semi-permanent wall would have made so much noise they might as well have warned the Gnolls in advance that they were coming. It would be far less effort to send a letter of intent complete with planned route.

After a moment's muffled cursing (by the Gnome) they headed back outside and continued down the invisible bridge. This wasn't the problem it had been last time because they (somehow) avoided acting like a mid air trapeze act, instead skulking on the side furthest from the ramparts they were crossing in front of.

They made it to the other side where the path ended in a ninety degree turn in the same direction as the now blocked room they'd just exited. Again, that turn led directly into the wall, this time above and to the right of the battlements. Unlike last time, it did not lead to a door. Instead it led to a dark foreboding tunnel, just wide enough for one normally sized individual. Or two Gnomes, if one stands on the other's shoulders.

Being completely dark, Nebula was elected to go in, She made it half way before encountering some kind of knight in armor. He was crouched, with his shield between them, and a sword at the ready. Cleary this guy believed in being prepared. And, judging from how he didn't even flinch a muscle, was probably pretty disciplined. Which was not a good thing.

Nebula quickly backtracked out of the cave to tell Loki. Loki began pondering just how he'd get that particular blockage loose.

We'll leave those two right there for a moment. Don't worry, they'll be fine, as long as Loki's ears don't spout smoke.

Pictured: Not the recommended way to deal with hypothermia.
Right up main street!

Because by that time Thor was working on his own avenue of emancipation. I mean, it makes sense. Thor's not the sit around and wait to be rescued type. He's not your traditional damsel in distress, though he does have the hair, if I do say so myself. Which became quite an important part of that escape really.

You see, they weren't alone in that room. Turned out there had been a third cage stuck in its own alcove. (whether the DM forgot this tidbit or he poofed into existence at need is unknown) Not that he spoke right away. They were all playing the waiting game.

Even Thor knew not to try and burst out of his cage directly in front of the elf that had captured him. I mean, that elemental was scary big. That's like having your escape route pass through an active firing squad. Or stopping to ask the Warden which of the cars in the parking lot is his. Or . . . look, its just not a good thing. Take my word for it. Even Thor could figure that out.

So they waited and fretted, wondering how long it would be before she had to use the bathroom, or some such. Long before that happened, that third figure whispered to Hazel. It also warned that they should wait until the elf was gone, saying he'd tell them when. He also informed her that he had a plan. A good plan. Hazel relayed this to Thor.

Eventually there was a whooshing sound followed by a sound not unlike the hum of an electric motor. The voice informed them that it was now safe to talk. It then asked how long their hair was. An odd question that garnered odd looks, not that the questioner could see them.

Uneasily, they answered. That uneasiness increased as the third said 'good, I need a few more meters'. Said prisoner then tossed a home made hook comprised of rotting humanoid fingers attached to an equally homemade rope of hair. At her.

At the thought of ripping his own hair out, Thor immediately raged, and simply opened the door of his cage. No, it wasn't unlocked. Christian just rolled a twenty on his strength check. Because that's apparently his thing for this campaign.

{Player's Note: Yes, we've checked his dice. They roll ones just fine for me. Contrary bastards . . .}

As Thor was working his way out of the cage he noted a statue (Image above) sitting in the middle of the room. The voice called it a 'guardian' whatever the hell that meant. It then informed him that it needed the quills on the desk to try and pick the lock. Hence the not quite long enough man made (literally) grappling hook.

Whatever 'guardian' meant, Thor figured he probably didn't need its eye (a piece of crystal in this case) seeing him. So he waited until it passed and then sauntered over to the desk. He grabbed the quills the voice had created its demented grappling hook to get and sauntered back to it.

Which really makes one think of just how horrible this particular elf was that this captive would go to such lengths to escape her clutches. Then again, probably best not to think too much on it, really.

Thor then parted the curtain covering the voice's cage to find a seven fingered, mostly bald Drow. Said prisoner then proceeded to break every single quill Thor had brought over in his 7 fingered attempt to pick the lock. Thor then showed him how it was done and ripped the door off of this cage. Not quite as impressive a feat, as the prisoner had clearly tried to force his own way out before gnawing his fingers off. I mean, wouldn't you?

{Player's Note: Seriously, WTF Alex!?}

They then freed Hazel and were on their way.

Well, after looting of course. And when nothing seemed of particular interest, they took the book, papers of notes, ink well, and pens on the desk. Because fuck you bitch, that's why. As they were collecting their vengeful booty the Drow took his leave of the group.

On their escape they also happened by a large chest containing dresses and jewelry. Hazel quickly put one dress on, gave Thor two to cover himself with, and used the last to bundle the jewelry up in.

Meanwhile, back at the cave, Loki had finally worked up enough courage to confront the mysterious knight that was blocking their path. He started with the silver tongued approach. When that yielded no reaction he summoned some dancing lights and put one directly in front of him. And when that failed to provoke any response he investigated closely.

And found that the occupant had been fried to a crisp some time ago. The armor just happened to lock in that position. Or perhaps it was welded like that by the same fires that had cooked him. Based on the scoring he was pretty sure it was a dragon's breath weapon that had done the deed.

Feeling rather foolish about the fact that their brave rescue attempt had nearly been thwarted by a dead man, they continued on. Nebula snagged his sword though, figuring Thor would probably need a new weapon. Again.

After the roasted knight the tunnel sloped downwards and curled around until it connected with the second floor of the Gnoll barracks. They entered through a hole in the wall hidden by a pillar and began exploring.

Scouting around the pillar revealed a large hallway, with several roving patrols. They explored up and down without being seen. Loki was even able to slip through a door at one end that led to a tunnel. He followed it downward for some time until increasing heat forced him to stop.

The other end of the hall sported three doors, the two smaller of the three flanking the larger. Both led to upward facing stairs, in turn leading to the second level where a pair of halls flanked a larger hall leading to the door to the ramparts. Clearly it was designed to rain fire on any unwanted visitors that managed to force their way past that major door.

The small hallway had one Gnoll guard whose attention was fortunately focused on the main hall below. The two of them managed to skulk around without alerting him or his compatriot on the other side, even finding a room with some passable weapons. They found several from the troop all but Nebula had been apart of, but none of their own.

They were interrupted only once as a Gnoll came to dump more refuse into the room. They dove into the piles of gear to hide, but could not mask their scent. (No, we won't go into exactly what an Undine woman smells like. There are children reading the blog). Loki used Auditory Hallucination yet again (much to the DM's loathing) to get it on its way.

They found several other rooms, all clearly not sized for overlarge Gnolls. There was a kitchen, mess, barracks (small b),and what appeared to be a meeting room all down the second that hall.

As they were exploring that side they overheard a conversation between Gnolls in which it was announced that the prisoners had escaped. Which prisoners was a question; given what they'd seen here, there could be loads of captives.

The Gnolls quickly organized search parties and mustered out their overly tough gate. I mean, who really wants to go into a filthy Gnoll barracks? Probably has fleas.

But, this did make their explorations of the confines much easier. Not that they found much more on that side of the murder corridor. On the other side they found more of the same, and one room with piles of crappy wonderous items. And one Bag of Holding Type 1.

{Player's Note: Personally I'm pretty damned sure this thing will become a bag of devouring at some point, assuming its not already.}

They even found the passage up to the room-that-must-not-be-named (mainly because room-where-we-got-our-asses-kicked just doesn't have a nice ring to it) off of the eastern corridor.

While they were exploring the top of the opposing side, they looked up to see the goal of this mighty quest prancing along on another invisible bridge above the one they'd used, like they were trapeze artists.

Loki summoned dancing lights in their path to let them know he'd seen them. Thor caught the hint, and after some gesticulations the two groups continued upon their various paths.

They made it back to Maipherre's easily enough, with the intended rescuees arriving before said the rescuers. Steve found that odd. When the second group arrived Nebula handed over the bastard sword she'd found to Thor, as the only person in the party that could use it. Turns out it was a +1 Holy Bastard Sword. One would have assumed it was a flaming bastard sword, considering its origins . . .

Once they'd assembled, they told the semi-assembled dragon about this latest adventure. He paled. Personally, I didn't know a shadow could pale, but I swear that's what he did. No poetic license here. Nuh-uh.

He asked to see the book they'd stolen, and paled further upon seeing it. He then informed them of just what foul witch they'd been captive of. Kind of lent some credibility to the lengths the Drow (who refused to give up his name) went to in order to escape.

Maipherre then informed them that, as stuck for reading material as he was, he wanted nothing to do with that book. Hazel responded to this by trotting out the other things that had been taken from that particular desk, and asking if he would like any of those. Maipherre replied by walking over to a corner and ripping the various body parts they'd already delivered to him off. Something that certainly didn't sound painless. He then hid the books he'd acquired under tiles in the floor, and set said dismembered body parts on pedestals around the room before opening a secret passage for the group.

He told them he couldn't have them there when the Gnolls came to ransack his place and bade them destroy that book.

So they went to see if the spider lady might not be interested in it. Because LOOOT! Hazel did suggest hiding where they'd found the last tome, but Thor pointed out that he didn't want to be locked in a cull de sac protected only by an incredibly simple puzzle. Everyone else went with him on that.

Turns out the Spider Lady was very interested, offering Hazel a Bracers of Armor +3 for it. She also gave her an amulet of natural armor for the pens and inkwell. Thor traded his dresses for a +1 chainmail. Loki upended his new bag of holding (while standing on the ceiling) gaining a dirty look from the lady. She quickly expressed a pronounced lack of interest in any of that flotsam. He then offered up some gems he'd found for a pair of +1 daggers (one Cunning, one Menacing). Steve got a +1 mithril spell dodging light shield.

Which left Nebula. All eyes turned to Hazel, the only one who still had anything to trade. She demurred stating she wanted to appraise the jewelry before handing it over. Thus ensued a bit of an argument with Steve, and Thor pushing to give the Monk something. Nebula seemed indifferent, and Loki seemed more concerned about the fact that, while they were dallying about, search parties of massive Gnolls that had already kicked the crap out of them once were no doubt drawing closer.

Will Nebula be forced into involuntary poverty? Is Loki's Bag of Holding going to eat him at some point? And will Maipherre ever find true love? Tune in next week.

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