'ALLOOO! It is much, much too late to be doing this. Curse my backseat writer. Cast a counter-curse for he has actually done a lot to help me with this Dungeons and Dragons short story. Please give a warm welcome an a virtual round of applause for my guest writer, Dale!
It might also be interesting to note that Dale was the one who created this adventure for my intrepid DnD crew and I, and that he plays the delirious and adorable Wizard Wolfenight. He also dresses like his character on occasion, which is definitely a sight to see...
Mange pounded a fist on Wolfenight’s door one last time and finally got a response.“Brains!” shouted Wolfenight. He was clearly not coming out. So, Mange left the brothel and returned to the party.“Not coming, huh?” Dragonheart grinned.“I think he’s put a muffling spell on the entire room” replied Mange.“Let’s go then,” grunted Jet’Ulfgar and he led the party out of Asylum’s Neutral Zone with no small amount of trepidation. No one had forgotten the riot and were all desperately hoping the dwarf wasn’t thick enough to start another. Jet seemed to be aware of this and had exchanged his usual war-axe for a barrel of ale. Presumably to help him stay calm.The party was in good spirits. After their initial scouting of the Madhouse and the ensuing hasty retreat, they’d spent a week or so gathering information on the city and its inhabitants. They’d actually planned a route to the Madhouse this time, avoiding the worst neighbourhoods and the most notorious streets. Upon leaving the Neutral Zone, the party was almost immediately accosted by seven thugs. The middle stepped forwad.“What’s yeh’ business ‘ere?”.Jet simply kept walking. The seven thugs decided that they would ignore him, on the basis of the fact that they were allowed to do what they wanted and what they wanted to do at that particular moment was to ignore the surly, drunk dwarf who barely glanced down his nose at them.“We’re on business from boss Garotto,” raged Mange.The seven men stopped and stared, astounded that such a personality could exist in such a small body. Such compressed rage is best left in its container, they thought, especially when it declared it was on a job from the boss.“On yeh’ way, then,” said the man at the fore. He lowered his club and jerked his head at them to get moving.They were passing through the first of the bad neighbourhoods they had unfortunately been unable to avoid. People scurried, skulked and generally avoided trying to draw attention to themselves everywhere the companions looked. Except for one big, half-orc who glared at the comrades and began to stalk towards them. The enormous creature was clearly spoiling for a battle.“Come at me, bitches,” it snarled. The group looked taken aback. There was the slight sound of bowstrings tightening as the rangers prepared for a fight, but then Jet stepped forwards.“You. Me. Right now!” shouted Jet’Ulfgar at the half-breed. It could have been the ale addling the dwarf’s brains, but as dwarfs have been known to resist the affects of inebriation to quite an impressive extent, Jet’s companions could only assume that he was bored. Jet moved towards the hulking beast, challenging his dominance of this street. The half breed roared its acceptance – kind of a stupid thing to do really.The two squared off, Jet taking slow draughts from his keg, but not taking his eyes off his enemy for one second. Suddenly the keg was on the ground, rocking slightly as the dwarf sprang forward. He grabbed the orc by the lapels and sunk his shield into the criminal’s head - once to the sound of a snapping jaw and then twice to the sickening crunch of a crushed skull. Jet gave a roar of victory and smirked at the group of people now surrounding him. Apparently they were the rest of the gang to which the half-orc thug belonged – well, had belonged. They applauded and gave him their contact details, clearly impressed with the way he’d dealt with the situation. The street was now apparently the property of Jet’Ulfgar, who casually picked up his keg. With it he pointed towards the end of the street, indicating to his friends that they should keep moving.The next street was cobbled and seemed almost civilised. But, upon entering it, the party was immediately surrounded by spearmen. They were serious looking fellows with similar, if rather grimy uniforms.“We see you’ve weapons, travellers,” said one of them.“To pass through the streets ahead, we must ask you to bind them in their sheaths. We don’t want any trouble in our neighbourhood,” said another.“And what if we dont’t?” asked Rathalohse, preparing to fight.“Then you shall die. However, if you bind your weapon peacefully, then you shall be allowed to pass through our streets unharmed.”“We should just do it,” said Lereahl, with a shrug. “I mean, we haven’t had to do much fighting so far,” he added with a sly glance at the others. Dragonheart and Mulch shrugged and nodded too, already handing over their arms in a flamboyant, overly eager manner with much ado over suspiciously few weapons being bound.Rathalohse caught on and with twitch, hid his bow inside his cloak and allowed his remaining weapons to be bound into their sheaths. Jet ignored everyone and sipped his drink. Technically speaking, he had no weapons on him.“We’re planeswalkers here to deal with the Madhouse,” stated Dragonheart to the apparent leader of the watch.“Well we don’t let anyone walk our street with unbound weapons. It’s why we have nice things,” said their leader. “We’ll just have two of our boys escort you to where you want to go. We’ll be having no more trouble from you, I hope?”The party agreed to these amiable terms and followed Jet who had already walked off - again.An uneventful walk followed. The end of the street drew nearer and their two escorts were just indicating that the party could remove the bindings on their weapons when a bolt embedded itself in a nearby building.“Next-street gang! Unbind your weapons quickly! We’ll hold them back!” shouted one of the escorts as he took up a defensive position near the stocky dwarf. Five men attacked suddenly as Mulch and Mange pried at their weapon’s bindings. The two guards looked both shocked and relieved to find a powerful longbow shaft fly past them into the arm of one of their attackers. The fighting was short and sweet with Jet beating down those that did not fall to the surprise arrows.“Well,” said one of the guards, “I’m not glad that you disobeyed our request to bind all of your weapons but I’m glad you had them here. I’m Uri. I’m a cousin of the Verzilli family. Let me write you a note, my Uncle will ensure you all get a bonus for saving my life.”Taking a note from the young Uri, the party moved on into the last street. Mange looked curiously at the signature on the scrap of parchment. The halfling’s brain was overheating a bit. He’d always found that killing things had resulted in rewards. Never had he received gold for saving someone’s life.Rathalohse had stopped to inspect a curious-looking temple. Its surroundings were decrepit but it somehow looked bright and well kept. Naturally, Rathalohse went in.“Hello, my friends!” exclaimed a portly man with a strong Mediterranean accent. “You need healing? This is place of healing. I am Cleric and I am cleric.”“Excuse me?” asked an obviously amused Rathalohse.“Yes!” said the man with a grin. “Parents have divination and no imagination! Healing? Healing?”“No, thanks,” said Lereahl with a chorus of head shakes from everyone else.“Normally we would greatly appreciate this kind of help, but at the moment, we all seem to be in very good health.”“Who’s that?” asked Rathalohse, pointing to a corner.“Is hobo,” said Cleric, “I wake him up and you take. You do this instead of donate to collection plate. Is fate.”“Sure thing!” said Dragonheart, clearly not wanting to part with any money.“ ’ALLOOO!” said the hobo with a magnificent wave. Rathalohse grinned and helped him up, clearly finding a kindred soul.“You take hobo. Now, piss off!” said Cleric as he ushered them outside.The rest of the journey to the Madhouse was uneventful as it loomed ever closer with every step. The hobo was in good spirits, enthusiastically greeting everyone and shaking hands but never putting forward a name. Rathalohse was very much enjoying his company as they began enthusing about cheese.There was a new guard to the entrance of the Madhouse and a simple release pot of boiling oil over the eaves to discourage rushing the door. This new guard was much larger than the first and from the looks of his brow-ridge, maybe not even capable of language. He just stared straight ahead, looking like a giant, stoic Cro-Magnon man.“Do we go straight in again or sneak around to one of the holes in the wall we made last time?” asked Mulch in hushed tones.“Straight in,” grunted Jet as he walked towards the bushes to do what people who’ve spent the last hour drinking do best. “You deal with it!” He shouted over his shoulder.The happy hobo seemed to take this advice to heart and before he could be stopped, bounded up the guard and waved.“ ’ALLOOO!”The guard looked at this strange little man, lined up all three of his brain cells, picked him up bodily and pulled his head off.“NOOOOO!” shouted a distraught Rathalohse. The full effect dramatic scene was a little diminished by the satisfied sigh and shake from the bushes Jet was occupying.Overcome with guilt and anger a murderous change came about Rathalohse“You will die!” he shouted and fired a swift arrow into the strange guard’s shoulder. Jet, done with the bushes, charged forwards, bashing in one of the man’s patellas with his shield and bruising his ribs. Jet twisted the man's arms behind his back and held him on his knees for Rathalohse to finish. Rathalohse, red clouding his vision, was quick to think up a fitting punishment for this brute. He emptied the cauldron of hot oil suspended above the door and filled it with cheese from his hat. The man gurgled pathetically as he saw the enraged Rathalohse pick up the cauldron of fondue.“For my hobo!” said Rathalohse as he poured boiling cheese into the man’s eye sockets, boiling out the flesh. Mulch and Lereahl were frozen.“That was... graphic,” said the half-elf.The Mange and Jet walked boldly in the front door. Lereahl, Mulch, Rathalohse and Dragonheart were just behind them, slinking in like thieves in the night. They were good at this because sometimes, they were actually thieves in the night. And in the day. And sometimes at breakfast time, when no one should be up.The immediate room they found themselves in a barracks of some sort. Three zealots were playing knucklebones at a table in the middle while half a dozen of their comrades slept.“Who are you?” asked one of them with her attention still focused on the bones.“Maintenance,” piped up Mange with an insane grin. This seemed to be satisfactory answer to the zealots who were quite oblivious to the other four ranged planeswalkers drawing a bead on them.The archers opened fire. One zealot died immediately to the hail of arrows, one took mortal wounds from an arrow from Lereahl and was swiftly dispatched by Mange. The last took a crossbow bolt to the back of the head from Mulch but the small halfling’s weapon did not have enough power to puncture the skull. The zealot began to rise from his seat to shout an alarm but the ever-reliable dwarf clamped his powerful hand over the zealot’s mouth and with the other, pushed the shaft of the bolt further into the back of the zealot’s head.“Careful,” whispered Dragonheart, “we need those brains for the mad wizard.”“Whatever,” grunted Jet as the rest of the party began to cut the throats of the rest of the sleeping zealots.“No, you don’t understand. He’s promised a bonus to whoever brings him back the most brains,” said Rathalohse, grinning as he fished in his pack for the strange brain extraction tool. It looked a bit like a can-opener crossed with a saw.“My mistake,” apologized Jet. He understood bonuses. Even so, only Rathalohse and Dragonheart seemed to want to try for this reward. There was something about the smell, the sound and, if they made the mistake of looking, the sight of flabby pink brains being plucked from limp zealot heads that made some of the party want to vomit. These companions took a brief trip outside until the sounds of sawing went away.The party continued on in a manner as silent as possible, quickly dispatching a zealot in a small hall with a crunch. A swinging blade trap briefly surprised them but some quick reflexes saved them from any real harm.They snuck into the zealot’s kitchen and hoped that none of the meats were human. Unfortunately they didn’t notice the cook in time to prevent him from raising the alarm.“Argh! Help!”Three of his assistants sprang out of cupboards and two from adjoining rooms. There was a flurry of activity involving arrows and bolts and metal-on-metal as Mange and Jet sliced down the zealots that survived the archers’ onslaught but nobody noticed the one in the corner chanting, until it was too late. A demonic, spectral, purple pony appeared just before Mange dismembered the zealot. The archers in the party except for Rathalohse, who seemed strangely reluctant to hurt it, fired arrows that passed right through it. The pony whinnied in rage and charged the closest offender - Mange.Mange grinned and brought his magical sword squarely into the pony’s ghostly skull. Mange had spend every day of his life about finding and killing the biggest things he could and he wasn’t going to let this undead, seemingly un-hittable pony stop him. Pretty soon, his magical sword had littered the kitchen with strange ghostly scraps of purple. Rathalohse could only stare at Mange in dismay.“You killed the pony...” he whined.The party continued on, finding a study of some sort. While inspecting it, one of them carelessly set off a tripwire and what was mistaken for a chandelier fell from the ceiling.“Acid!” shouted Rathalohse recognising the danger in time and attempted to catch the great glass sphere. Somehow, he managed it. The green globe shivered in his arms, but it’s weight was simply too much and it crashed to the floor acid splashing and burning almost everyoneProceeding quite a bit more carefully, Jet and Mange entered a dining hall, but were immediately spotted by eight zealots. As the planeswalkers charged towards them, they joined hands and began chanting in a dark and sinister tone. A bolt from Mulch whizzed right past one of the bowed lunatics and caused him to jump. This tiny jump made him pronounce a word differently from the rest of his comrades who immediately looked at him in horror.“I’m sorry!” he squeaked as the twisted magic took hold. The skins of the zealots crawled and they screamed briefly as large hornets begin crawling out of their noses, eyes and mouths until their robes were full of nothing but the angrily buzzing insects and crumpled to the ground, empty.The swarm of hornets converged on the planeswalkers, crawling over Jet and Mange. Jet swung his shield hopelessly against them, taking many stings while Mange, taking just as many stings, spun his flaming sword in a complicated pattern, burning a significant amount of hornets and swatting them out of the air. Jet became increasingly frustrated with his inability to crush any of the creatures. He noticed that Mange was able to take some down with flames and had a sudden idea.“Give me a light over here!” Jet ordered, desperately swatting hornets away. Aided by Lereahl, Rathalohse and Mulch who were throwing table cloths and tapestries into the swarm to hold them back.Mange uncovered and held out an ever-burning torch as Jet took a long draught from his ale. He turned to the torch, paused for a moment with a look of intense concentration and then let out a massive belch. The belch caught and became a small fireball blowing insects away and singeing quite a few.“Get back!” shouted Dragonheart as she smashed two bottles of rubbing alcohol beneath the swarm. Mange caught on immediately and brought his flaming sword crashing into the edge of the aromatic puddle. The dwarf immediately scooped some burning alcohol onto his shield and held it against the swarm as it gave a last ditch effort to sting him. The last few insects caught fire and dropped to the ground, twitching and sizzling.When they had finally stamped out al the flames and dead, burning insects, they could examine their surroundings. They were in a great dining hall, filled with all sorts of good foods. Rathalohse made a point of nicking all the cheese. Tired, wet from their previous encounter with acid and more than a little sore the party ate much of what they found and found themselves quickly invigorated.Lereahl was off in a dark corner, rooting around like rogues were generally found to do. He giggled, holding up something large.“What you go there?” asked Mange, peering over his shoulder.“Oh – just something you might like,” said Lereahl, hiding his prize behind his back.Mange looked shrewdly at the half-elf’s cheeky expression.“What is it?”Lereahl grinned and held out the biggest hunk of roast pork Mange had ever seen. The thing was bigger than his head – although that was not saying much. There were many, many things bigger than his head. But this pork roast, it looked absolutely delicious. The crackling looked perfect, the meat superb and the roasting juices were just dripping out of it. Mange’s eyes were wide as he lunched forwards to take it, but Lereahl lifted it out of his reach quickly.“You can have it – on one condition,” Lereahl said sternly. Mange met his curious, silvery eyes.“And what might that be?”“You have to go on a date with me.” Lereahl looked incredibly smug.Mange looked open-mouthed from the roast to Lereahl and back several times. Then, with a snap decision, he decided.“Okay,” he said quickly, and snatched the roast from the rogue’s hands. The halfling turned and raced off to the dining table to devour his delicious roast, leaving Lereahl to look a bit open-mouthed himself.The party continued with renewed vigour into the next room. It was dark and very gloomy. Pillars lined the hall what had once been a large reception room of some kind, but now looked like a cross between a throne room and a lair. There were many people in the room. The most eerie looking one was a man with blue-grey skin. He was seated on a dais at the opposite end of the room, staring straight at the group out of dead eye-sockets that only held pin-pricks of light. His minions were arrayed in front of him defensively.“Too late,” rasped the Lich.“Lies,” grinned Mange and in a surprising display of agility, leapt over all of the zealots, landing right next to the Lich. Rathalohse wasted no time and activated his magical haste equipment loosing a hailstorm of arrows at the Lich, hurling him back and pinning him to his own throne. The creature struggled weakly, but then stopped moving, black blood seeping from all the arrow entry points. Jet walked towards the throne slapping aside any zealot who stood in his way.“There’s more coming!” shouted Lereahl as he shot into a small group of zealots running into the room from hidden passages.“I got it! You guys take out that Lich!” replied Mulch, hurling a glass of alchemist’s fire into the advancing arrivals.“But I already got the L...” said Rathalohse his voice trailing away as an unnoticed crystal globe behind the throne started glowing with an eerie light and the Lich began moving again.Mange switched to his magical hammer which was specifically enchanted to crush things and took a solid swing at the glowing sphere – the Lich’s phylactery – causing a large crack down the middle. The Lich threw it head back with a bloodcurdling scream and began pulling out the arrows pinning him to the wall.Zealots were rushing in from side passages, summoning ghostly apparitions. Mulch and Dragonheart were doing well holding them back but it was clear that the party was soon to be overwhelmed. Their best hope was to take down the Lich and defend against the oncoming horde from the dais. Jet knew as much and so after beating down the last of the Lich’s entourage he shouted “Everyone get up there and destroy that crystal!”Mange was already on it, taking another huge swing and deepening the crack to the point that the crystal looked like it was only being held together by magic. The Lich screamed and stood up, picking up the dwarf and the halfling by the shoulders.“Mine...” muttered Rathalohse as he took careful aim down his longbow while everyone in slow motion due to his magically quickened state. He loosed an arrow at the phylactery and it shattered into glittering dust. The Lich gave a strangled cry before being quickly cut off. He seemed to freeze, the blue leeching from his skin. He reached out towards Mange, whose magical hammer was still raised, but seemed to crystallize and then he and the rest of his followers crumbled into nothing but dust.“That was close,” said Lereahl flatly.Mange grinned.“More!” he declared and bound up the stairs behind the Lich’s throne.The second floor looked burned out. The hallway to the right was partially collapsed and the floor was burned through in places. Blood splattered the walls and weapon marks gouged every surface.“I think there was a turf war here,” said Dragonheart. “I think that last week we must have killed so many followers of this floor that one of the other floors decided to raid here and killed them all off.”Jet pushed the next door open cautiously, which was unusual for him.“This is new”.“Yes...” replied Dragonheart warily as he and the rest of the party tip-toed into the room.This room showed less signs of fighting than the rest of this floor, although a 10-foot skeleton with rusted plate armour and greatsword did gaze at them without moving from its seat across the room. It looked utterly dead, but gave them the strangest feeling that it was watching and waiting. Scattered on the floor around it were over a dozen zealots. They were either in a magic induced sleep, comatose from too much mead, or just dead.“He’s sleeping at me funny...” muttered Rathalohse eyeing the skeleton and fingering an arrow.“And this is creepy,” hissed Lereahl snatching the arrow away as the ranger put it to his bow. “Look around with that weird mirror of yours and tell us what sort of magic is going on.”Rathalohse had acquired the mirror in the wastelands of a very strange plane the companions had found themselves upon after fighting two armies as dragons. It could reveal anything magical in a room, but also made him incredibly partial to slimes.“Well,” said Rathalos, “all I can tell is that the big honcho and these pesky things on the ground are connected. I’m not Wolfenight, I can’t tell which way the magic is flowing. I can only guess that attacking one group will wake the other up.”Mulch looked thoughtful. “Well, then I guess the question is whether we want to kill as many zealots as we can first or try to take down the big guy first and then deal with a horde of frothing fanatics.”Mange didn’t hesitate.“The big one!” he growled.The dwarf agreed adding, “We’ve dealt with hordes before. It’s the big ones that give us trouble.”That appeared to be all the encouragement Mange needed and he immediately sprang into action leaping high into the air and bringing his sword crashing at an angle through the giant skeleton hard enough to split the throne it sat on as well as its torso. There was a burst of magic and the zealots seemed to move slightly but did not wake up. Nothing else moved.“Well. That was uneventful,” said Lereahl, looking around at the comatose zealots.“Magic must have gone from zealot to skeleton creature,” Rathalohse said with a grin as he began cutting throats.Exiting the stairs, the party stopped and stared. The walls had gone. Enough supports had been left to keep the roof from collapsing and turning the Madhouse into only a two-storied building, but that was all. Just wide open blackness. There was a skittering sound which suggested small creautres in the distance. The companions looked tis way and that, cautiously searching for any other dangers. Lereahl was feeling a bit fidgety though and stepped away from the others into the darkness.“Treasure?” he asked of the darkness. He hadn’t gone five feet into the large room when he was charged by three enormous Minotaur. Fortunately one knocked him out of the way of the massive axe-swings of the other two.The room lit up as an elven wizard with dark skin appeared opposite the party.“KILL THEM ALL!” he shoted.The party, with zealots closing in on the flanks, Minotaur and zealots in front did the only thing that they could think of and watched in amazement as Mange took a flying leap over Minotaur and zealot alike to land in a somersault that with a single motion, ended in a vicious swipe of his flaming sword deep in the elf’s hip.“But... but you can’t hit me. I can teleport!” The elf said in disbelief and, as a last act, attempted to teleport with a magical sword embedded in him. The magic backfired and the surprised elf exploded violently and wetly. If the term ‘red mist’ was ever appropriate, it would be for this particular, abrupt and epic death.One of the Minotaur, just having been charged and knocked over by a bungle of red beard and dwarf fury, was hit by a volley of arrows as it rose slowly, sending it pirouetting out of the building and to its crunchy death in the courtyard below.Jet roared, swinging his shield into another Minotaur’s mouth. He proceeded to take it by the lower jaw with his other hand and rip downwards, killing the bewildered beast who only a second ago, had thought it was attacking a solitary half-elf. With another ferocious bellow, Jet propelled the creature into its brother, spearing the latter with the former’s horns and killing him too.
The Planeswalkers stood, panting over the still twitching corpses of a multitude of zealots and two mutilated Minotaur.“Wasn’t there another one of those?” asked Lereahl, wiping red specks from his face with a look of horror. He was sure he had blood in his hair too. Rathalohse just sniggered, remembering the way the Minotaur so gracefully left the building. Suddenly there was a flurry of movement in the room. The companions gripped their weapons tighter. A dozen men in fine black clothing had streamed into the room, looking very cool and in control.“Yes, yes, very well done!” boomed the biggest of them. He stepped forwards, smiling broadly. The smile did not reach the man’s dark eyes. The group recognised him as the boss with whom they had spoken to about this imbecilic quest when they had arrived in Asylum.“Yes! Yes, you have done quite well friends. We will take from here, don’t you worry,” he said. The other men began examining the room and a few of them started dragging a large chest out from where it had been hidden in a dark corner.“Hey!” called Mange. “That should be ours! Aren’t we getting a reward for doing this for you?”The boss stepped towards him and put a frying pan sized hand on the tiny halfling’s shoulder.“Of course small one! Rewards sent in mail! We thank you for all help. We must investigate what happened here now. Hope you enjoyed stay on Asylum. You take reward. Now, piss off!”The smell of sizzling brains was a pleasant one. Well, to Wolfenight anyways. He hummed happily to himself as he pulled the next one out of its travelling container with a sqlulch. He was pleased that his comrades had managed to procure him such fine specimens and not die all over them. That would have been bad for the spell. He dropped the brain into a dish to weigh and then tried to remember where he’d put his callipers while tapping his head with them.