Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 24: The Long Walk
Updated: Aug 3
Welcome back. Now, tabletop D20 games are often touted as games where a five hour trek lasts 5 seconds, but a 5 minute fight can last five hours, but as we've learned in this campaign, there are no rules.
When we left off, the army of the Cupcake had finished bivouacking in a not so conquered fort. Which meant it was once again off to the next objective.
They began their march to its final destination, the Dwarven capitol of Highhelm in early morning. The first quarter mile of the march was above ground until they reached an entrance to the ancient Dwarven tunnel system. Most of the march was below ground. Of course, march is something of a misnomer, as some people rode various contrivances. All the dwarves had to be ferried in wagons or the occasional rickshaw. Given the movement penalty from his armor, Frank was forced to ride with Hazel on her broom. But, he adapted a shooting position by wrapping one leg under the broom and resting on his thigh.
They exited the tunnel with the city in sight, off in the distance. It was massive, carved into the side of a mountain. When they were still three hours away the city began emitting a column of smoke. Something was on fire. Which suggested that it too was not empty.
Two hours later the smoke turned white, suggesting that someone was fighting it. And when the army was 15 minutes away the city emitted a loud rolling rumble that lasted half a minute. This was followed by a pale white pillar of light shooting skyward from what appeared to be the center of the city. As the light reached into the sky it began pulling clouds into it.
Frank, on seeing this, immediately yelled for the army to brace themselves. Hazel dropped the two of them back down to hover just over the ground. The order was still carrying through the ranks when all of the air that had been pulled into the column was suddenly released in a massive concussive wave.
That wave knocked over nearly the entire army. Of the Cupcakes, Steve was able to keep his feet by blocking the burst with his shield and leaning against the blast, and Hazel was barely able to maintain control of her broom. Frank found himself rather unceremoniously dumped on his ass. It turns out that a drive by shooting position is not the best when riding a bucking broom. Thor and Nebula met similar, if less dramatic effects.
Once the blast was past the army began to get back to its feet, just as the buildings of the city began collapsing in on themselves. The collapse started in the center, before spreading out to the outskirts. Including the entrance their part of the army had been aiming for.
They immediately began to march counterclockwise around the city, towards the next area. Hazel and a remounted Frank were sent ahead to inform the other columns of this change. As they went they passed a large crack in the city wall. Through it they could see that the floor was glowing with an eerie blue light. Despite the easy access this offered, no one suggested braving that unknown. The Gnolls did detail a party to guard it though.
Hazel and Frank had no trouble picking out the leader of the next column, as he was an Orc named Big Toe that literally stood head and shoulders over the others around him. One thing that had changed since Hazel had last seen him (before their misadventure into the mansion of madnes) was that the Orc was missing one arm. He seemed to be doing fine with the other though. They spoke briefly before he sent them on ahead to report to Kimihilde Noblesword, the general of the Army of the Cupcake.
They flew on to find the command tent set up. Apparently the name Big Toe moves a lot of doors in this place, as the simple announcement that he'd sent them was enough to grant them entrance to Noblesword's tent.
Inside they found the female Dwarf looking quite demoralized. But, she brightened slightly upon seeing Hazel. Before the witch could get a word out Noblesword sent a barrage of questions about the whereabouts and status of the company that had been lost on that first day. Her joy was quickly eclipsed with the fact that only four had made it out of the Castle De La Madnes, and one of those had fallen (quite heroically mind you) in the first fort the army had liberated.
Only after these questions had been answered were they allowed to report the status of their current company. Then came the orders. And, on seeing that they were alive, she was so excited that she immediately sent them off on the most dangerous mission to present itself . . .
Noblesword asked if they would recon through the crack in the wall, warning them that the blue stuff 'didn't come off'. Apparently a Gnoll in the guard detail had decided to brave the stuff and was now blue.
Shortly thereafter, said company made it to the command tent, having been diverted there after it had become clear that The Plan needed some adjustment. As they'd passed, they'd seen several Dwarven craftsmen attempting to open the east gate.
Meanwhile, Nebula found herself under observation, a condition she did not approve of. She tracked the feeling of being watched to a Gnome, standing on her left, admiring her mechanical arm. As soon as she noted his presence he burst out in the high pitched, short sentenced, speak of Gnomes, asking everything about the arm. He told her he was hoping to glean information he could use to craft Big Toe's replacement.
Nebula regarded these questions in silence, eventually stating that the arm was not for sale. Steve hopped in, explaining where they'd found her, and the practices found therein, seeming to spark the Gnome's curiosity even more. He was profoundly dismayed when they explained that they had no idea how to get back there, or that they'd traded the book on such priceless knowledge for something so mundane as escape.
He did however, offer to pay Nebula for the opportunity to examine it. Of course, examine could mean many different things. More elaboration was in order. And thus, it was her turn to ask a series of questions. Once she'd satisfied herself that this 'examination' did not include the removal, or damaging of her prosthesis, she agreed.
Upon her acceptance the Gnome led her, excitedly, through the milling crowd that always forms when plans come to a halt, to a small tent. Watching the two interact, Frank wagered with Thor that Nebula would kill the Gnome before marching off to keep watch on the progress on the gate. Thor followed, actually going a few steps further by actually trying to help with advice the Dwarves were all to happy to ignore.
Steve followed Nebula and the Gnome, though out of humor or concern for a party member, no one is quite sure. After a series of seemingly pointless examinations of the arm, including creating a mold thereof, the Gnome handed her a platinum piece that he seemed to think was a tarnished silver. Overall, she handled the entire examination with stony silence, and Thor had won 5 gold from the newest member of the group.
As all of this was going on, Hazel was attempting to learn more about the blue stuff. She began by examining (there's that word again) the blue Gnoll. She then tried various methods of removal, including:
1) A failed alchemy check,
2) Dispel Magic,
3) And, rubbing her orb of darkness on the Gnoll. This had the effect of causing the fur all over his body to poof out in a full body Einstein hair style. The Gnoll was less than pleased.
Finally she tried soap and water, which was all it actually took. To say that the Gnolls seemed split as to whether it was better to be blue or temporarily wet would be an understatement.
Once that was complete she rounded up the Cupcakes and gave them their latest marching orders.