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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 54: The Subtle Art of Flagging People Down . . .

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Where do you think Spiderman got the idea?
Really, its less of a flag than a tripwire . . .

Welcome back. When last we left off, the DCs had decided to take a nice ride on a floating airship. A mimic floating airship. That's right; ship and devouring monster all in one. It said it wouldn't eat them . . .


{Player's Note: Eat your heart out Jonah. You too Geppetto.}


Oh, and did I mention they had to feed the damned thing so it could be large enough to make an aerial skiff? (Centuries from now, when this thing has taken on the form of a chicken heart that devours entire cities, people will look back on this adventuresome group of short sighted fucks and curse their very existence.)


But that's a problem for then (and other such platitudes uttered by short sighted fucks). Now they were speeding towards their goal (the rescue of Babba Yagga's granddaughter) inside a mimic that promised it won't eat them. Because at this point nothing fazes them.


They'd only been in the air for half a day when the captain (which was actually just a part of the ship formed into a captain shaped thing at the wheel) yelled for them to duck. A moment later one Fluffy flew by at immense speed. Nothing else happened that day.


On the second day the group suddenly realized they were being shadowed by incredibly large wasp. So transfixed were they by their size that they missed the one that landed behind them on the ship.


They turned towards the thud just as it asked them what their business in this airspace was. Hazel quickly stated that they meant no harm and were just passing through. She then asked if the insect was part of Zha'luski's menagerie. It seemed to perk up, asking if they knew Zha'luski. At which point Hazel perked up.


The bug told them that they were not part of Zha'luski's group, but that the half drow had helped them find a safe place to nest. It and Hazel geeked out over their shared association for a bit, then the insects left.


That night they were called on deck by the 'captain', who seemed quite alarmed. So they came out, weapons ready, only to find the ship being illuminated by massive lightning bugs. Hazel gave said captain a glare and stomped back to bed.


Steve asked what the problem was. The captain explained that the bugs were giving away their presence to some predators that could well eat them. So Steve turned to the bugs and asked them to go away. And they did. Much to the captain's surprise. The Cupcakes then retired back to their shared cabin grumbling about useless captains.


There may have been some return grumblings from the captain about how he couldn't even eat any of them. They weren't sure because they'd already fallen back to sleep.


The next morning, they were cruising along just fine when a massive web erupted from the forest floor, as if a two ton spitting spider had seen the ship cruising overhead and thought it a tasty snack. (Since the ship was, in fact, a living being, it wasn't far off)


The end of the massive web projectile opened, enveloping the ship. As the group (who'd all been on deck at the time; I mean, who really wants to be inside a mimic any more than they have to be?) alternated between alarm and disgust, the tree trunk diameter webbing connecting the net to the forest floor became taut. A moment later they became aware of the fact that they were being pulled down.


Thor immediately broke his sticky bonds (as Thor does) only to become restuck to other webs. Steve and Frank struggled against their bonds, to no avail. Fortunately for them, Hazel recalled something about webs being dissolved in water, so out came another casting of dousing rain.


Which was enough to wash the deck and all its inhabitants free of the webs, but was not enough to actually free the ship. Hazel stomped back inside muttering about how she'd just done her hair or some such, while the other 3 prepared for battle.


But, as they were reeled closer and closer to the ground they spotted a familiar figure; about the only one they could have made out due to its size: Fluffy, Fauna's 'pet'. So, still on guard, they resigned themselves to wait and see how things played out.


By the time they'd landed, Hazel had rejoined them, and was far more enthused once they pointed Fluffy out. Fauna greeted them as they debarked and ushered them (in her typical hyperactive way) over to a massive cocoon. As they approached they heard Zha'luski's voice.


The . . . whatever she was now, skipped pleasantries like apologizing for fishing them out of the sky and moved right on to what she needed. When pressed she did say that the lightning bugs were meant to be their guides, like that made it all okay.


Once she explained, her briskness became a bit easier to understand. Apparently some books of hers had been taken. Specifically books on the making of some metallic scorpion like things that wrapped around the backs of people's heads and down their spine. She'd designed them as sort of a truth seeking aid; they made it impossible for the wearer to lie. But whomever had stolen the books had . . . altered the things a tad.


Now they completely overrode the body of the one they were placed on, making them puppets to the crafter's will. They also replaced the person's spine for . . . reasons. And they'd been placed on everyone in the city the group had been heading to.


Zha'lusky was understandably incensed, and wanted them to find her books and apprehend the one responsible. In exchange she'd help them with their goal. For instance, had they attempted to enter the city without a spiny scorpion they would immediately have been seen as outsiders. In other words, in order to save Babba Yagga's granddaughter they'd have had to kill everyone in the city.


But Zha'lusky could give them a modified version that would allow them to communicate with her, and fool the marionettes in the city. Frank quickly pointed out that it is very hard to infiltrate without the ability to lie, but Zha'lusky assured them that she would disable that particular function.


Hazel jumped at the chance as if being offered a new accessory to show off. The others were less enthused, but did agree. Thor and Steve had had enough dealings with the cocooned woman to trust her word and intention, and Frank trusted theirs . . . to a point.


They rode into the city without receiving so much as a nod from the people there. First they followed Zha'lusky's directions to the library. Once there they were greeted, for the first time in all the people in the city, by the librarian, who turned out to be controlled by Maiphere.


Hazel quickly blurted out their mission. Apparently Maiphere did not want to anger Zha'lusky any more than they did, because he immediately helped them find the books. He also showed them a vision of the princess (that's Babba Yagga's granddaughter to you) in the top tower, where she'd had chains melded into her body. The chains were somehow giving her blood that trickled down the chains from where they disappeared into the ceiling.


He also told her that the one responsible was in the basement, and that there were guards outside the princess's chambers. Sadly, he could not give them any information on what was behind this, just where it was. 'Just follow the stench' was not exactly the directions they were hoping for.


But, they did as they were told, eventually coming upon a large unlit room. Frank went in first, in an attempt to surprise whatever it was.


He was half way across the massive chamber when a cackle erupted from the other end. A blue flame ignited, revealing a cauldron at the other end. And what stood behind the cauldron was a Cyst Trinity Hag. And she was wearing two rings of awesome.


Frank immediately fired at the cauldron, but to no effect. But hey, he had to try right? The rest of the group, upon hearing his standard signal, charged in. The guys dealt with the hag while Hazel made her way to the cauldron, to find some creatures brewing in it. While party A made short work of the hag, Hazel unstoppered vial after vial of holy water and upended them into the cauldron. Each addition was followed by screams and hissing as the mixture frothed and boiled.


Once the Hag was dead, they informed Zha'lusky, who told them how to neutralize the cauldron. But that still left helping all the townspeople. Fortunately, it appeared that their autonomic functions were still intact, which gave the Cupcakes a few days to somehow regrow their spines. A mass regeneration spell seemed ideal.


Fauna perked up at that point, saying she knew a guy. A few minutes later a portal opened, and a skeleton stepped through. Before they could attack, Fauna stepped through and introduced him. Ironically he was a cleric of Pelor, the sun god.


Even more ironically, his plan to help the villagers involved making it rain. (At some point you just stop asking) But first they had to help the princess. Even the skeleton seemed enraged by her treatment once they'd arrived at the room. He immediately sent them upstairs to find the source of the chains.


On the way they found the body Maiphere had been inhabiting lying on the ground next to the stuffed dragon they'd last seen him in. Eventually they managed to get him to go back into it.


They also found a guard who asked them for help. Being the only conscious person they'd seen since the demise of the Cyst Trinity, they investigated. He told them his name, that he couldn't move, and that the last thing he remembered was being in a battle that ended six years prior.


Investigation showed that he had a metal plate over his spine much like the one that Nebula had had. They surmised that he'd been brought back from the other world at some point and that the . . . modifications, made there had stopped the metal scorpion from completely dissolving his spine. Unable to help immediately, they assured him that things were being done for him and the whole town.


They continued up further until they came upon a boarded stair. Being the way they were supposed to go, Thor immediately stepped forward to dismantle said barricade. A moment after he'd removed the first board an emaciated hand lumbered out and tried to grab him. A groaning growl came with it.


Frank motioned for Thor to move and shot the zombie in the head, through the board. But the sound of the shot only awakened more zombies that began shuffling from the upper level down to the stair.


Looking through the hole he'd made, Thor reported on the numbers of zombies falling down the staircase, as well as the fact that they seemed incredibly dried out and slow. He then prepared a shocking hands and waited for an appropriately target rich environment.

That criteria never arrived. Long before the zombies were in his desired kill range Hazel unleashed a Cure Moderate Wounds: Mass spell, obliterating all of them into fine dust. Thor turned from the hole in the barricade sputtering about 'it' being in his mouth.


Once they'd dismantled the barricade, the rest of the trip up was uneventful. In the top room they found the origin of the four chains, all connected to a small obelisk. Suspended above the obelisk were more of the city people, left to bleed onto the stone like pigs in a slaughterhouse.


The first step was to smash the obelisk. This relayed from the skeleton via Zha'lusky's telepathic scorpions. They then unhooked the people who'd been left hanging and tended to them. After that the skeleton summoned them back to the room where they had to remove the chains from the princess's body. Zha'luski provided a small insect that's venom would put the girl into a coma for a week unless neutralized. Once that grisly task was completed, the skeleton was able to cast a regenerate spell, bringing her back to health.


Which still left the entire city of people, a much more complex task. The skeleton then asked them to show it the largest water source they could within the city. So they left the princess to rest and headed out. Zha'lusky was able to find a massive fountain near the center of the town.


With it the skeleton would cast a regenerating rain. Which meant they had to move everyone outside. This work encompassed much of the next three days, with the help of Zha'luski's bugs. But, once it was done, the skeleton priest cast his spell, and departed.


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