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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 55: The One Rings

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

I mean, what kind of fool has anything to do with a cured ring?
A ring and its fool.

It takes a specific kind of fool to mess about with cursed objects. (See above) Particularly when warned they were cursed. But it takes an entire other level of fool to double down with it. Or, as was in this case, quintuple down. Which is exactly what Frank did last session.

As you'll recall, they found four more of those rings spread amongst the fingers of the tri hag. Reasoning that, if one hadn't caused any negative effects, four more won't be a problem, Frank quickly added them to his own ring. Then the group went about freeing the princess and restoring the towns people. Then Frank decided to take a nap so he could keep watch that night.

And that afternoon Frank had terrible nightmares. It was as if an incredibly deep voice (lower than Barry White's) were working in earnest to convince him that the group he was traveling with was evil. It showed him all of their deeds, out of context. Many of which could easily be misinterpreted as evil. (As well as a few mistakes that may just have resulted in evil a tad of evil).

He managed to wake up and shake the charm off, but the feeling that this was no ordinary dream clung to him. Out of concern that whatever dark force had intruded on his nap may come after the others, Frank immediately warned the group.

They all agreed to meet up to try and figure out exactly what was going on. Everybody but Frank met at the building they'd appropriated for their own use immediately. As the group discussed the implications of this, Frank reappeared with a pair of liberated manacles. It was quickly decided that each sleeper would be confined and observed until they figured out what was going on.

The flaw in this plan was revealed shortly thereafter when they realized that Thor, God of Strength Checks, was to be the next one to go to sleep. A pair of rusty manacles from a dungeon just weren't going to cut it.

As they discussed the implications of this, Zha'lusky whispered to Hazel (the only one still wearing a metal scorpion) that she could help. Hazel relayed this to Thor, who quickly agreed, more out of a curiosity at what the Cheronite woman could do to restrain him than out of a sense of trust.

As he lay in bed, all manner of silk weaving insects began crawling over his cot, cocooning him to it. In over an inch thick layer of silk. Which seemed a pretty good restraint, all things considered. Swaddled like a newborn, Thor quickly fell asleep and slept the sleep of the dead. Which was far different from the bed gymnastics Frank's tangled bed accoutrements had testified to.

Thor awoke, seeing Hazel standing nearby with a scalpel and immediately told her not to cut him free. You see, he wanted to see if he could break free of his restraints. It's a hobby of his. Considering that his first impulse was to attempt a strength check as opposed to get free and kill them, the group all agreed that Thor was fine.

After a few minutes of struggle Thor finally conceded defeat and allowed Hazel to free him. Next up was Steve who also agreed to the cocooning approach, and with the same end result as Thor. Namely, nothing.

Hazel and Frank agreed to go to sleep at the same time, to accelerate the experiment. And while Frank agreed to the cocooning, Hazel simply asked that she be given a silken blanket. Hazel slept fine, but Frank . . .

Frank tossed and turned as much as he possibly could in the confines of the cocoon. Again he heard that deep, hypnotic voice telling him that his companions were all evil. Again he awoke in a sweat, barely managing to shrug the feeling away.

It was a mere hour after having gone to sleep, when he opened his eyes to see Thor standing over him, raised hammer in hand. The Bloodrager immediately inquired as to his alignment. At which point Frank berated him as to the ridiculousness of that question.

Seeing this as a positive sign, Thor released Frank. As Thor was working the Siege Gunner free, Frank worked through the possibilities. Whatever was happening was only happening to him, and it had started today. What had happened today?

Could it be that he'd increased the power of his cursed ring five fold? He cursed as that sudden realization dawned on him. The ring was the problem. The ring he couldn't take off.

No sooner was he free than he was up and crossing the room. He knew what he had to do. But he'd need help. He asked Thor to accompany him. Thor agreed more out of curiosity than anything else, leaving Steve on Hazel duty yet again.

Frank explained his conclusions and plan to Thor as they went. It was a simple plan really, requiring only one component: the heaviest set of shears they could find. Then Frank made a will save to allow Thor to sever the finger behind the ring, followed by a fort save to keep from passing out. There was a great gout of blood before the blood vessels contracted. Frank aided this by further pinching said vessels between the thumb and forefinger of his other hand.

Upon completion of those grisly tasks he walked out into the regeneration rain, hand held high. Thor immediately suggested he put his hand into the fountain in the middle of the town. He quickly followed that advice, and had a new finger in no time at all.

Meanwhile Thor tackled the odd problem of what to do with the old finger. That was currently squirming around on the floor. Being Thor he immediately took the ring laden finger to the biggest blacksmith shop he could find.

He started off by placing the duo on an anvil and hitting it as hard as he could. But the hammer rebounded with equal force, nearly hitting the Bloodrager. Next came the forge. Steve walked in just as he was beginning to work the bellows and agreed to help.

They got the forge as hot as they could and thrust the finger and ring inside. The finger immediately crawled back out. Frank walked in to see them trying to keep the finger in the forge and suggested removing said finger from said ring.

Using tongs, they did just that. The moment the finger was free of the ring, it drifted into ash. But that still left the problem of the ring. Even fingerless, it still laughed at the roar of the furnace. Eventually they gave up, dumping the ring into Thor's BOH, to deal with another day.

A moment later a sleepy eyed Hazel appeared in the doorway (it wasn't hard to figure out where they'd gone; she just followed the smoke from the chimney) holding out her metal scorpion. Apparently Zha'lusky wanted a word with Frank.

The gunner accepted the contraption and placed it on his back. A moment later he heard Zha'lusky's voice saying "Meet me at once!" It was neither invitation, nor suggestion. It was an order. Considering that they still needed the monochromatic woman's help, Frank acceded to it.

Of course the others came with. I mean, what's more fun than watching your siblings get chastised?

But when they got there, Zha'lusky merely asked where he'd gotten the ring. After Frank told her he'd received it from Grave T. Robber she muttered something about not wanting to talk to Grandma in a way that suggested she knew she'd have to. She then explained the origins of the ring. There were nine of them, created by a powerful lich. In fact it was a lich who's tomb had been covered over by the city of Vigil; an entire city of clerics devoted solely to keeping him contained.

And they could only be destroyed by merging them all together and killing the person wearing them. What joy.

Before they left, Zha'lusky informed them that she would be leaving soon. Something about retaking a kingdom. But her bugs would stay until the townsfolk could look after themselves.

The following three days were uneventful. Zha'lusky's bugs took care of the housekeeping for the entire city, up to and including the cleaning of its residents. Anyone who witnessed those events would never overlook the talents of the dung beetle again, I'll tell you that.

Hazel and Steve made the rounds, letting everyone they met know what happened, and that they were safe. Thor and Frank stood watch.

By the end of the third the people were starting to get back to their feet. It was time to wake the princess. As they entered the throne room on their way to the princess's chambers they came upon the body of the guard with the metal spine, blown apart. It was as if he was walking towards the throne when hit with a grenade in the chest.

Strangely enough, they'd left him at the fountain. But they figured he'd probably been well enough to walk and had gone to check on the princess when this happened. And it couldn't have happened more than a moment ago; the taste of blood was still in the air.

They took all of this in in a fraction of a second before Frank yelled 'The Princess!' and charged across the throne room towards the arcing stairs behind. He'd made it to the second floor where he could see a purple sigil slowly disappearing when Thor, Hazel and Steve (Steve being carried by Thor) flew to the top of the stairs, catching him.

Frank hopped onto Hazel's broom without her so much as slowing down and the flying foursome raced to the princess's bedroom. They arrived just as a flash of purple light was being emitted from the cracks in the door.

Thor burst through the door to see an empty bedroom with a rift to another place in its center. And the rift was closing. Without thought or word the foursome charged through, barely making it before the rift closed. On the other side they could make out enough detail to realize they were in the city of Vigil, the city of clerics.

Only now it was the city of undead. For as far as they could see, undead choked the roads. The sky was a bloody red color. And they could see no sign of their quarry.

But the undead were beginning to see them. So they flew to the roof of a nearby manor. Safe for the moment, Hazel tried Zha'lusky. Sadly the Cheronite woman appeared to be in the midst of battle. They wished her luck and tried Maiphere.

When they told him where they were he suggested they seek out his older self, that was currently residing in the city somewhere. That was all he knew. Apparently they weren't exactly on speaking terms.

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