L'lanon

Castle and Contracts

Apparently, the winking guard had told Yish, “Good job!” before going back to his post. Yish walked into the back, where two guards are posted and other workers are talking together. Yish realizes at this point that he has stuffed a dagger and thieves’ tools in his harem pants. Yish literally sidles into the room and listens to the conversations.

One table of people are complaining: “I hate when she does this! She always freaks out, and the castle is put on high alert for nothing.” Another table of people is beckoning toward Yish, believing him to be Cobus. One waitress approaches Cobus and asks where he’s been. Yish mentions helping a female distressed by the commotion. The waitress elaborates on the situation with the “young miss” and some ghost noises. The two talk about being paid despite the castle shut down; the waitress also talks about the “hot girl” (referring to the disguised Lilith), and Yish admits to getting salad for her (though they don’t serve salad—-and it was Cobus that gave the salad). Yish then asks whether an exorcist will be brought in to deal with the problem. The waitress responds that that is unlikely, since the young miss is scared even of her own shadow. Likely, the castle will be closed for an hour before it gets opened up again.

Meanwhile, Hiss decides to wander seemingly confusedly through the grounds. In actuality, he is looking for more spirits. Hiss eventually notices a strong but indistinct ectoplasmic presence above him, presumably emanating from the castle. Marda is talking to the guards, trying to get them to join PETA-MOO. Emmanuel the guard is ecstatic to join PETA-MOO. He is disgruntled at having to work for the new government and watching the people be so careless about animals. Marda hands him her PETA-MOO business card, and the two talk at length.

Yish goes out to the arrow slits, sees Hiss, and casts message. They have a whispered conversation, where Yish asks Hiss to cause a distraction that will draw all of the guards out of the castle. Hiss returns to Lilith asks for help in making the distraction. They decide to have her stand out in the yard and hope for her ghosts to make problems. Lilith takes on a different disguise. They both begin to cast ghost sounds, trying to act as if they are actually reacting to the ghost sounds and not being the cause. Some of the guards hear Hiss’ ghost sounds, hear another ghost sounds from the other side, and then go back to find Lilith being suspended in the air, eyes glowing red (all thanks to the help of her ghosts). One of Lilith’s ghosts goes flying through the castle, knocking things down. Hiss jumps into some bushes, and he reports to Yish. Yish congratulates Hiss.

Twelve guards now surround Lilith, standing in awe. She casts doom on one of the guards, who drops his weapon and curls into the fetal position, wetting his pants. The other guards are shaken by this. Clarion finally catches on to the plan (no one talked to her), so she walks under Lilith and casts obscuring fog. The ghosts put Lilith down (since no one can see her), and they make the mist glow red.

Marda, now that Emmanuel is occupied with guard duties, decides to go back to the kitchen and asks for spiced potatoes samples. The cook is happy to do something besides be frightened, so he gives her a plate and tells her that it’s on the house. Yish then casts message on Marda, asking her to put on an act. As Marda walks into the cafeteria, Yish casts message on one of the waiters. Marda’s screaming and writhing on the ground was not convincing by itself, but Yish’s chanting in Abyssal causes the waiter to scream and run out from the cafeteria. Hysteria ensues, and all of the servants run out after the waiter. The commotion causes one of the spiced potatoes to fall to the ground; this causes her to become even more earnest in her writhing.

Lilith and Clarion walk to the wall and escape the guards with one guard getting hold person cast on him. Lilith returns to Cobus in cheerleader guise. Cobus is a little weirded out by the fact that he doesn’t have pants on, but he’s still happy to see Lilith.

Yish goes up the servants stairs and comes up to the locked door. He decides he can’t open it with lockpicks, nor does he want to force open the door and leave evidence of entry. Marda stops her act, picks up a potato, and starts munching on it as she asks Yish what he wants her to do. He asks her to stay on alert for others coming this direction. She sits down in the cafeteria and continues eating her potatoes.

Yish goes up a different set of stairs, goes down a hallway with closed doors, and finds an open door. He enters a room that seems to be the king’s solar. Yish finds documents on a desk: two contracts for new establishments in Bandu, one for a major construction project in the middle of town, and one personal correspondence of the king with some not fully named entity mentioning a trade network that will come to be in the near future.. There is also a doll in the room (the girl’s from earlier). Yish contemplates taking the doll, but then he sees the quills and inks. He decides to take an inkpot with a pale yellow liquid. He then looks through the drawers, eventually finding a small, shoebox-sized lockbox, which he takes. Yish then casts invisibility on himself and runs away as fast as possible; as he passes Marda, he tells her that it’s time to leave. He also asks Hiss to round up the others.

They make it to the Cat’s Paw. The busty barmaid eyes Hiss warily (he’s a little underage), but she lets the party back into the room with Cory. Yish unrolls the pants that he was carrying the scrolls and the lockbox in. Yish hangs onto the lockbox but hands the scrolls to Cory. Cory is upset by the two new attractions, but he is more interested in the construction project and the trade network. He muses that the city is being turned into a tourist destination. He is very confused. How are people going to be transported into the city?

Yish mistakes Cory’s reaction as anger and asks why he would be upset at the tourist attractions. Yish reveals that Cory is the rightful king, which Hiss catches onto.

In the middle of this, Clarion’s hands burst into flames. Hiss recognizes immediately that Clarion has failed to cast a spell. As Clarion tries to pat the flames out, Marda creates water as Hiss instinctively casts ray of frost. Her hands are encased in a block of ice. Somehow, a lot of water gets splashed everywhere, and everyone and everything in the room gets wet. Hiss has a conniption as he walks out of the room. Yish apologizes to Cory, and the rest of the party walks out.

Yish confronts Clarion about the fire incident. She says that she was trying to use fire magic to melt the lock on the lockbox. Everyone is very upset. Yish takes the lockbox and decides to pry it open with his art chisels.

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Visiting the Castle

Marda finds out that Wubbe is dangerously curious and a dirty fighter.

In other news, Sef gave birth to her pups; seven survived

Nen calls the party together into the office (his office door is now open, even propped open). He introduces them to a new figure. It looks like a bipedal black house cat of human size, engulfed in a very wide and full brown cloak. It introduces itself as Hiss, short for Hissis Hississis. It is the new intern (until literally anything better comes up). Hiss is the offspring of a ghost and a female catfolk; hotness level is 9 (out of 20). Hiss is majoring in interplanar communications; Hiss wants to become an interplanar diplomat. Yish doesn’t think Hiss is hip. Hiss notices Lilith’s ghosts, but Lilith refuses to admit that she has them. But as Hiss attempts to converse with her ghosts, Lilith admits that she has ghosts that constantly follow her around, and the two have a conversation which ends with Hiss offering legal help in case of unwanted ghostly advances. Hiss wants to practice advocacy in the field of ghost-living communications.

Marda asks whether she can pet Hiss. Hiss declines, explaining that catfolk can pet other catfolk, but other races typically shouldn’t.

Yish explains that he is the leader of the party, attempts to asks why Hiss is here (especially considering that Hiss has gone to college), and warns Hiss to leave the company as soon as possible. Hiss explains that the internship is only a college job. However, it becomes clear soon that Hiss was looking for only a desk job.

Marda then confronts Ness to see if she can bring Wubbe into the office. She has a bag of carrots and oats.

Meanwhile, Clarion goes down into the basement. She then comes back upstairs, announces that she needs to go out, and leaves.

Immediately after Clarion leaves, the waitress from the Cat’s Paw arrives at the office. Yish swears that he’ll pay the tab; but she instead informs him that Cory wants to talk to him. Yish walks out the door as Hiss asks what to do. Yish asks for a poem and departs. The waitress and Marda follow him.

Cory is sitting at a table in the back. He informs Yish that new intel has arrived. Construction has begun in the middle of town under orders of the Usurper. Yish doesn’t really see the problem with Bandu becoming a pleasure place, but he agrees to gather further information. Apparently, the construction foreman is visiting the Usurper at the castle in the King’s Solar room. Yish agrees to go on the mission. The misunderstanding over Cory’s commandership gets brought up.

Cory also asks when to have the next blue stone session. Yish declares Tuesday to be the day.

On the walk back to the office, Yish and Marda have a conversation about the new intern. Yish expresses concerns about divulging their anti-government activities.

After returning to the office, Yish sits next to Hiss and attempts to understand Hiss’s opinion on the political situation of Bandu. Hiss admits to not knowing much about the political situation. Yish presents Cory’s mission as a white-hat hacker job to evaluate the security of the castle. Hiss realizes that Yish is planning on breaking into the castle and is hesitant if this would cause problems for graduation. Yish assures Hiss that graduation would not be in danger.

Clarion walks back into the office and finds out that Yish is planning a break-in to the castle. After some discussion, Yish and Clarion decide that the best way to fulfill Cory’s mission is to go to the castle gift shop and pick up some information pamphlets. Hiss is interested in looking for ghosts at the castle (the location of an overthrown government sounds like a great place to find spirits).

Yish, Hiss, Lilith, and Clarion put on disguises. Hiss’s disguise is shabby-chic. Marda’s disguise is not very disguising. Lilith’s disguise is to act like a very outgoing, pretty, and loud girl.

At one point, the castle was a stronghold for a well-established government. Now, the castle is a gigantic visitor’s center. The first floor is open to all people, but it seems that upper levels are off-limits. Hiss leaves the party at the gift shop and searches the grounds for ghosts. Yish catches Hiss, asks where Hiss is going, and upon understanding, requests Hiss observe the visitors and people at the location.

Near the well, Hiss hears ethereal chatter. The well has a plaque describing some historical point or other. Hiss understands that the voices are complaining about how cramped the space is. Hiss looks down into the well and sees 18 spirits cramped inside. After ascertaining that none are watching carefully, Hiss jumps into the well and casts levitate. Hiss goes down and begins talking with the spirits. Their story was that they were guards of the old monarchy killed during the overthrow; after the overthrow, their bodies were thrown into the well, and now they are stuck. Hiss offers to help them get better living conditions. In return, Hiss asks for information from the spirits. Hiss doesn’t ask very good questions so leaves without further insight on getting into the castle.

In the gift shop, Yish notices that the advertising strategy attempts to appeal to all people. Yish, in disguise, converses with the store clerk and discovers that the king and his family live on the second floor; the dungeons are also off limits. Yish decides to watch the main gate, where shipping and receiving seems to be occurring. He’s especially interested in learning the patterns of the delivery people. There aren’t any deliveries occurring, but Yish notices Hiss levitating out of the well and goes over to Hiss. Yish sidles up to Hiss and discovers that Hiss has been speaking with ghosts in the well. Yish asks Hiss to go back down and ask about how to get into the Solar. Hiss has a conversation again with the ghosts; this time, Hiss asks about the King’s Solar, and the ghosts explain that while the King’s Solar is heavily guarded, there is a servant’s passage that goes up to the long drops on the second floor.

With Hiss’ new information, the party (except for Hiss) look around at the rooms available to the public. Yish notices servants in the kitchen and dining area (today’s special is spiced potatoes). The servants are wearing deep-green outfits: sandals, harem pants, and practical belly dancer tops for the females. Yish approaches a half-elf bus boy and introduces himself as JayJu. The bus boy’s name is Cobus. Cobus feels out of his element interacting with customers, but Yish claims to be excited to see another half-elf and asks what work hours are like. Cobus explains that schedules are flexible and that there are shifts open while the castle is open.

During the conversation, Lilith’s beauty has caught Cobus’ attention. Lilith asks Cobus for a salad. As Cobus goes back to the kitchens, Yish asks whether Lilith really likes salads. Lilith stops her act and admits that she doesn’t like rabbit food, which causes Marda to react.

Hiss investigates the northeast corner of the castle. There are lots of vines to make the castle look old, but the vines also make the wall easily scalable. There are two large bay windows on the second floor, where the Solar must be. There are no guards watching the area. Hiss casts ghost sound in the middle of the gift shop; guards run towards the shriek while the clerks and customers run out to the stable looking back at the gift shop. Hiss uses the distraction to cast levitate and thereby look into the Solar. Hiss sees the royal office; there is a six-year-old girl playing in the middle of the room, and a babysitter is watching the girl play; the babysitter has her back to the window. Hiss casts spells, causing books to fly out of the bookshelves and another shriek to emit noises which sound as if ghosts are running around the room. One of the books hits the girl in the head, who falls unconscious. The babysitter screams, grabs the girl, and Hiss descends as quickly as possible, but some people notice that a catfolk has just descended from near the Solar. The crowd is now muttering among themselves, and some are pointing at Hiss. Hiss bows, jazz hands, and walks around the wall.

Cobus returns with a small salad plate. Lilith returns to her act, and Cobus is very pulled into her scheme. With the castle on high alert now from the ghost sounds, the guards are now escorting visitors off to the stables. Cobus follows Lilith. This results in him getting a bucket of water dumped on him and then getting kicked by a horse. With Cobus lying unconscious on the ground, Yish asks for his pants, which Lilith gives. Yish disguises himself as Cobus.

Hiss returns to the party, and Yish, while finishing his disguise, questions Hiss’ actions. Hiss replies that he knew Lilith is an exorcist and so was hoping that the reports of ghosts at the castle might give the party a way in through Lilith. Yish disagrees.

Yish walks back into the castle, where he is greeted by a thumbs-up and a wink from one of the show guards, who returns to his serious pose quickly. Yish continues through the halls, and the other workers in the castle don’t think anything of Yish, thinking him to be Cobus.

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The End of Hnng

The party leaves the research lab. Yish wants to go back to Bandu. Olivie is happy to have her books. On the way back, the party decides to take the way back to Bandu the same way they had come. This requires them to go back to the mansion. Clarion is curious about her work there, but she doesn’t pursue that thought any further.

After passing the mansion and while passing by the path where the party had met the merchant group earlier, the party is ambushed by four bandits. Yish jokingly offers Clarion in exchange for passage. The bandits like the offer, but Yish takes back the offer. Instead, he loads his crossbow (which causes the bandits to aim their bows at him), and he points it at Hnng. Hnng and Yish then put on an act to convince the bandits that the party is totally crazy. The act includes Yish threatening Hnng while nudging him with his foot and slapping him. Hnng makes strange screeching noises.

Two of the bandits say something about the party being connected with “the spirits” and then start running as fast as they can away from the party. The other two are not convinced that the party is connected with “the spirits”, but they feel very vulnerable without the other two and so run away as well. Hnng tries to chase down one of them, but that one gets away. Meanwhile, Yish shoots another one. Hnng then tries to grapple the bandit that got hit by Yish’s crossbow bolt. While Hnng does not succeed in his grapple, the bandit does lose his boot to Hnng, who begins gnawing on it. Once Hnng realizes he has failed at grappling, he yells out, “if I can’t have you, no one can”, and he shoots his crossbow at the fleeing bandit (the shot misses). The party eventually outmaneuvers the bandit, which leads to the bandit laying down his weapons, kneeling, and surrendering.

Marda approaches the bandit and asks how he got his armor. The bandit looks back at Marda and tells her that he doesn’t know (he received it from his boss). Yish points his rapier at the bandit, threatens him that Marda will fully explain the ethical armor matter unless he gives him all of his stuff. Hnng suggests that the bandit is a victim of bureaucracy. His name is Lactna Aurelius born under the sign of Libra. Yish attempts to lead the negotiation, demanding that Lactna give up all of his money, but Hnng tries to mediate the situation. Marda asks the bandit where the squirrels are most prevalent in the forest. The bandit makes the terrible mistake of mentioning squirrel traps, at which Marda moves to kill him. Hnng stops Marda from killing the bandit. Yish comes up with a compromise: keep weapons, receive healing, take down squirrel traps, and change careers.

Later during the travel, Yish pulls Marda aside and explains how valuable she is to him, which is why he acted the way he did with the chimera circumstance. He doesn’t want to lose her. The rest of the party is unbearable. Of all the people in the group, only Marda’s actions (in the context of her beliefs) make sense to Yish. Yish also reveals that he cares about finding Vallan because, despite Yish finding Vallan boring, Yish knows Vallan as the only person that seemed to care about him.

As the party approaches the swamp, there is a herd of ponies that ignore the party. Marda approaches them to ask if any of them would like to follow her. One of them has always wanted to be an adventurous pony. His name is Wubbe. Wubbe says goodbye to the other ponies and follows Marda. Yish tells Marda to find a way to permanently enable Wubbe to speak common.

As the party returns to Bandu late at night the third day afterward, Hnng invites Olivie to stay the night with him. Olivie is so flattered that she kisses him, and the two go back to his apartment. Marda asks Wubbe if he would prefer to stay in town or go to the animal sanctuary. Wubbe prefers to stay in town if the animal sanctuary is far.

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As usual, Nen’s office is completely locked up. Hnng knocks. Nen opens his door slit a crack and asks, “What?” Hnng responds that he is quitting. Nen unbolts the door and rushes forward, embracing Hnng. He can’t stop smiling as he says, “I’m sorry to see you leave. I’d be happy to write you a letter of recommendation for your next position.” Hnng informs Nen that he has cleaned out his office.

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Grabbing Research

Olivie leads the party through caves which eventually wind their way into a corridor that seems more man-made than natural. Hnng lights a torch and stands near Olivie, volunteering to be her light. Yish wants to go home. Hnng asks if Yish is high. Yish responds that he is high on windows updates; Hnng, playfully bumping Yish’s thigh, asks if that is a euphemism for a new drug. Yish isn’t happy about Hnng’s touch, but he chooses to ignore it. Hnng attempts to reassure Yish that the touch was not sexual. Yish responds by saying that he can’t be sure with Hnng.

At the end of the corridor is a door. Hnng volunteers to open it, while Yish warns him to look out for booby traps. Hnng throws caution to the wind and pushes the handleless door. It opens a little bit, but there seems to be something on the other side preventing it from opening further. Yish responds to Hnng’s plea for help, and they eventually shove the door open.

Looking into the room, the party sees six human-sized automata total. One was obstructing the door. Hnng asks Olivie whether it is safe to enter as Yish thinks back on his previous experience with the vacuum cleaner automaton. Olivie says there is nothing to worry about and walks into the room fearlessly. Once she reaches the other side of the room, she pulls out the musty book and begins to press buttons on a panel on the wall.

Clarion inspects the automata, but she realizes nothing more than that the automata are made of some metal that she cannot identify. On the backs of the automata are inscriptions. Yish recognizes that writing to be similar to the one in Olivie’s musty book. Yish further notices that each automaton is equipped with a fold-out blade on its arm. He decides to disarm them after Olivie confirms that the automata were originally designed to guard the room. Meanwhile, Hnng nervously tries to use a pet name on Olivie for the first time: “Hey, uh babe, would you like some help?” Olivie smiles at the pet name and informs Hnng that the door doesn’t have power to open. Now that she’s unlocked the door, she needs help to force open the door, and she invites Hnng to help her—-she wants to share an activity with Hnng. The two together manage to pry open the door, which has two sliding segments that meet together in the center. They successfully open the door, with Olivie’s side opening a little faster on account of her greater strength. Hnng is turned on by this.

There are seven thick cloth jumpsuits woven with a grid of silver-colored thread, sized for humans and half-elfs, although there are eight lockers. The automata are too bulky to fit into these suits. One the other side is a large door with a big red lever. Olivie immediately begins putting on one of the suits. Clarion asks why she is putting on the jumpsuit. Olivie responds that she knows that these suits are necessary to enter the next room; when pressed, Olivie points at the inscription above the door and declares that the inscription instructs them to wear the suits before entering the room. Clarion uses rope to help adjust the suit to fit better. Hnng tries to put on the jumpsuit better than Clarion, but Clarion’s fashion is better. Clarion then attempts to convince Marda to put on some gloves of fumbling, claiming that they are part of the suit. Marda doesn’t fall for Clarion’s bluff.

Olivie walks over to the lever and makes sure that everyone is wearing the suits. After she has confirmed that everyone has put on the suit, she pulls the lever. The doors behind close as bars in the ceiling begin to shed light. The sounds of the automata booting up in the previous room scare Hnng, who reaches out to hold Olivie’s hands. Olivie does not reciprocate Hnng’s emotions, but she does not reject his hands. Lilith asks Olivie if they should be concerned. Olivie is not concerned at all; Lillith is inspired by Olivie’s fearlessness.

The next room is a large, dark, open space. On the right is a column of constantly burning blue fire on a raised dais. There seems to be something in the flames, but the flames are concealing. There are two desks in front, with study materials on top. There are bookcases filled with books along the center. Olivie rushes forward to the books and piles up a selection on a desk. Hnng lingers with Olivie as the rest of the party begins looking through the room, careful not to touch anything. Once satisfied with her collection, Olivie opens up her bag of holding and lets Hnng help her stuff the books into the bag.

There are cages with rotting corpses; the animals seem to have been left there. Marda doesn’t like the room. Against the back wall are glass panels hung on the wall, but the entire room is still in darkness. Yish notices that behind the glass panel near the blue flame, there is a gash in the wall, through which a small box with three faintly glowing blue shattered crystals can be seen. The crystals must have been shattered when the gash was made into the wall. Clarion creates water on the blue flame; the water immediately evaporates, but it seemed to have had an effect. Encouraged by the effect, Clarion continues to create water on the flame until she catches a glimpse of some flesh on the other side of the flames. Clarion then continues to investigate the other three raised daises. She notices that the three daises without flames have a small groove in the ground, each one placed nearer to the center of the room than the inactive circles. The dais with the blue flames has a groove occupied by a small, blue crystal. There is a skeleton wearing the eighth suit lying on the dais with the blue flames, with one arm stretched into the blue flames.

Lilith picks up the crystal placed in the groove on the dais with the blue flames. The blue flames suddenly go out, and she looks straight into the eyes of a three-headed chimera. Lilith immediately places the crystal back and the blue flames resume. Clarion takes a swipe at the blue flames with her 30 foot long metal scarf, standing next to the flames. She finds that her scarf has ceased to exist farther than the blue flames, even the portion that should have stretched beyond the flames. Clarion then asks Olivie if she wants a live chimera taken back to Bandu with her. She responds that she doesn’t even care for a dead chimera. She just wanted the research. So Yish suggests that everyone should chill and enjoy some pizza bagels. But he decides to help Olivie search through the bookshelves. They find some scrolls (1x protection from evil, 1x unseen servant), some precious stones, and some potions (1x eagle’s splendor, 1x protection from arrows). There were also 300 gold pieces worth of change lying about.

Meanwhile, Marda approaches the blue flames, where Lilith is guarding the crystal. Marda wants to kill the unnatural chimera. She voices her intentions to kill the chimera by following Yish’s idea of coaxing the chimera out of the circle halfway and then reigniting the flames. Yish threatens Marda with a sleeping-potion filled souper soaker. A battle of words ensues, and Olivie steps out of the room with her library. Despite Marda’s earlier victories, Yish ultimately convinces Marda not to pick up the crystal while others are still in the room. And then Yish pumps Marda full of sleep potion. The party drags Marda out of the room, and the doors into the farther room close as the doors of the room of automata opens up. Everyone takes off suits; Yish chooses to keep his in his pack. The automata do nothing as the party passes through the room.

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Leaving the Mansion

The party stands over the defeated manticore. After searching through the basement, the party finds a number of items and some money. Hnng compiles a list of the loot as Olivie informs everyone that she needs a few hours to decipher the tome. She believes that the tome contains information on where the lab is. She then starts reading the book.

The party begins to be concerned with the smell in the room. Hnng approaches Olivie to see if he can help in any way, even offering to give her a massage. Olivie is so engrossed in reading that she doesn’t respond to Hnng. Hnng is hurt by this; so he apologizes for disturbing her. Hnng mentions something about being grieved and desiring to kill something as he attempts to sneak up the stairs opposite from the manticore’s nest. Clarion follows. The two squeeze through the blockage and find a way up the stairs, which are narrow—-meant for servants’ use and not for the master’s.

Hnng and Clarion find themselves on a landing. Two sides have a closed door each. The third side is a tapestry. From the southeast, Hnng can hear a whispered conversation. He can’t tell what exactly they are saying, but it is clear that the conversers do not want to be heard. From the southwest, snoring can be heard. To the northeast, where the tapestry is, there are sounds of grunting.

Hnng carefully opens the southwest door. There are many bunks with trunks at the bases of the beds. Hnng sneaks up on the sleeping bandit. As Hnng punches his dagger into the bandit’s throat, the bandit’s eyes open up, meeting Hnng’s as life drains away. Hnng feels a little bad, but he also feels slightly aroused. Hnng looks up and meets eyes with Clarion before he walks back down the stairs. Clarion searches the room and finds a number of items, including three masterwork daggers, a masterwork longsword, and some trashy novels. Clarion then takes the blood from the bandit and writes on the wall: “Nowhere is safe.”

The two halflings come back down the stairs. Hnng is wiping the blood off his dagger and looks very satisfied. Hnng stares at Yish expectantly. Yish is sitting on the ground with his eyes closed. Lilith decides the stench is too much to bear and so heads out the door. Hnng informs Olivie that people are leaving; Olivie is so engrossed in her reading that she doesn’t respond until Hnng touches her arm. Olivie then looks up from her tome, smiles at Hnng, and then asks, “What’s up?” Hnng repeats what he says, at which Olivie picks up a piece of wood as a bookmark for her tome and follows everyone out. Clarion stays behind, writing “Nowhere is safe” with the manticore’s blood. She then swaps the manticore’s head with the murdered bandit’s, and she leaves a bear trap set by the door.

Clarion returns in the morning as everyone else is waking up. Although she is excited to tell about her exploits, no one wants to hear her. Olivie informs everyone that she has figured out that the lab is a half day’s journey back toward Bandu. Yish yells at the sky, “I told you it wasn’t there!” Marda thinks that Yish is crazy.

As Clarion begins to tell her story, Yish attempts to stop her. Clarion tries to convince him that it would be a good idea to return to the mansion. She just wants to show off. Yish puts down his foot and declares that the party will not return to the mansion. Clarion tries to argue that it would be glorious to go back to the mansion, but Yish argues that they shouldn’t go back and kill a bunch of losers in the woods. After all, no one knows who they are. And then it dawns on him that those bandits are exactly like them, a bunch of unknown losers wandering in the woods. Yish then goes on an existential tirade about how he just wants to leave the forest and stare at the poster of the band he always wanted to make but never did. Clarion becomes upset at her unappreciated efforts.

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Manticore in the Cellar

Night time is fast approaching. The party convenes to break into the mansion through the cellar. It is agreed that once they’re in, Olivie will make the decisions (the party is the security detail, after all).

The back side of the ruins is built onto the edge of a small cliff face of the hill. Large windows are at the top of the cliff. Besides, the labs are supposed to be downstairs. Clarion summons a greataxe to break down the boards against the door. Yish and Hnng are not sure why Clarion decided to make so much noise. The boards happened to be mostly rotten wood, so Clarion’s swing causes the wood to crumble. Clarion pulls on the door knob, which falls off. So Clarion pushes the door open. The party enters the cellar.

Everyone is overwhelmed by the stench of compost decay, except Marda. Hnng and Clarion hear breathing. There are littered boxes all over the floor: it’s a storage room. One side used to hold wine, but the entire room seems to be filled with gnawed pieces of wood. Olivie begins rummaging around.

Hnng shoots his crossbow against the far side to see how far it might be. Clarion lights a fletch on fire with magic so that they can see how far the bolt goes. Within a second, the bolt hits the far wall, making a loud sound of bolt on stone; the fire goes out. At this point, Hnng regrets his decision, and everyone hears growling from the darkness from somewhere in front and to the left. (Meanwhile, Olivie was looking at the rotting curtains, which caused Yish to ask Hnng whether he wanted to take some soiled curtain; Hnng asks Yish to forget the past and claims that he is turning over a new leaf.)

Olivie immediately reacts, puts her back against a column, and feels slime. Hnng lights a torch; Clarion summons a magical lantern. Lilith moves to protect Olivie. Yish shoots into the darkness; the bolt sticks into something not stone, based on the sound. Olivie also shoots into the darkness; there is sound of breaking glass. Hnng uses his torch to light the torch on a pillar. The party then hears a scuffle come from the direction where growls were first heard.

Marda is the first to see something suspicious. It is behind the far right pillar. Hnng approaches where Marda points out, and a monster jumps to attack him. The creature has a vaguely human face, the body of a lion, the wing of dragons, and a spiky tail. It is a manticore. Lilith asks Olivie to hide behind the pillar and stay out of combat as she strides out to join the combat. Yish prepares his souper soaker. Marda charges forward with her trident, although she misses with her attack. Lilith magically lights some kindling under the monster, which causes it to get spooked for a second. This is enough for Yish to take advantage of the situation to charge the monster and then squirts the sleeping potion into the monster’s. The monster shakes its head, wipes its head with its paws, and then prepares to growl at Yish. But the monster succumbs to sleep. Marda delivers a coup de grace; it dies immediately.

Clarion searches the room. In the far left corner is the monster’s nest, which completely blocks the stairs up. The far right corner also has stairs going up, but all sorts of stuff blocks the way.

There are many books in the boxes. Olivie finds one that has been ciphered; she doesn’t totally understand it, but she does understand that the lab is not at this mansion.

Yish offers to spend the night in the cellar to let Olivie dissect the corpse. Olivie suddenly finds Yish attractive. The party reasons that the bandits are probably still scared of the basement and so agree to spend the night.

There are taxidermied flamingos in the cellar. Most are mutilated (thanks to the manticore). Marda notices on one that there is a precise incision. It must have been killed for science.

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Another Approach

The party wakes up the following morning, glad not to have been caught by the bandits. Hnng wrote a sorry note to Olivie during his watch. Marda plays tic-tac-toe with a squirrel.

The party decides to go back to the mansion. They decide to be careful about this by having just Yish and Clarion and Hnng go scout out the door from yesterday. They attempt to stealthily approach the door, using bushes as cover. A voice from the roof once again calls out, asking why they’ve come back. Clarion attempts to use diplomacy, but the being on the roof doesn’t seem to care. So Clarion decides to go up and open the door. She meets four bowmen and gets hit by one arrow. She ducks behind the door and yells back what she saw.

Hnng runs away in a direction somewhat away from camp so that the bandits won’t know which direction the camp would be. Yish magically closes the door and runs. Clarion follows. They hear laughing from the roof as they run away.

The three meet up and decide to try to find a backdoor into the mansion. Hnng apologizes to Yish for his past behavior. Hnng has nothing to say to Clarion. They find that the mansion is built on a cliff. There is a basement level reachable on the back side, but the doors and windows at that level are all boarded up. There are other windows, although they are high up so that it is hard to see who or what might be in those rooms. They do manage to see a little inside (the bodies of the dead bandits are under tarps in a greenhouse area, which has no doors into the main mansion area) but decide to go back to camp to inform Marda and Lilith and Olivie.

Marda is being trounced by the squirrel in poker. Clarion consults Olivie and asks what she wants to do. Olivie wants the research, so the party decides it would be better not to burn down the mansion. At first, they try to get Marda to have a PETA-MOO rally in front of the mansion to act as distraction. They decide to infiltrate via the basement in the evening.

While waiting, Hnng approaches Olivie. Hnng was concerned that the pollens might have caused Olivie’s breathing problems, he rinses off beforehand. Hnng apologizes for the flower episode. Olivie tells him not to worry and says it wasn’t his fault, since he didn’t know. Hnng leaves by kissing her hand. Olivie pushes her hand to his lips longer than he intended.

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First Contact with Bandits

The party proceeds forward. Just after midday, the party reaches the grounds of the ruins. It smells like a reclaimed garden. The ruins looked like it was built by a nosy brat that was trying to compensate for something. The ruins are made of stone, but they have not collapsed.

Hnng finds a bush of blue and orange flowers. It has become overgrown, but there are a few buds. Hnng takes a few buds and stores them in rags. Yish notices this, but he is too bothered by the thought that the party won’t be alive much longer than tomorrow. Hnng reveals that he does stupid things sometimes because he is afraid that if he truly tries to do something, he might fail. Clarion butts into the conversation, which causes Hnng to storm off and sit on a bench in the gardens. Clarion asks Olivie to go calm him down. Olivie is excited at the opportunity to interact with Hnng.

Olivie comes and sits next to Hnng. She takes hold of his hand and leans her head onto Hnng’s shoulder (which is very strange, since she is much taller than him). Olivie suddenly starts wheezing and falls onto the ground, struggling to breathe. Hnng panics, asks for help, and then casts cure light wounds. Olivie suddenly gets better; Hnng keeps his distance away from her.

Now that Olivie can speak, Yish asks her what her plan is now. She explains that she wants to find the notes in the laboratory and take them for later examination. But she has no idea where the laboratory would be. Yish remembers that the ruins are famous for underground tunnels and surmises that it would be somewhere down there. Marda surmises that Olivie is allergic to the pollen of the flower.

As the party approaches the building, Hnng pulls out the flower buds. This causes her to breathe more heavily. So Hnng throws the buds away.

At this point, the party has made it to the building. As Yish and Hnng open the door, there are hurried voices and a voice from above, which commands them to stop and warns them that they are surrounded. It also commands them to drop all valuables. Yish looks around and notices six figures trying to stay concealed. The voice from above then announces that the party has had the misfortune of encountering the “Nightmare Crew”. Hnng thinks that the name is lame. Hnng then asks the leader, “What’s your beef?” The voice decides to ignore the question and tells the party that they have to the count of ten to drop their valuables before they are taken by force. Hnng suggests that the people reveal themselves so that there can be a discussion. One of the men moons the party, which causes Hnng to attempt to intimidate: “we’re here on academic business!” He then attempts to shoot the one that mooned the party. The shot is off. But this causes combat to begin.

An intense wave of hatred aura pulses out from Lilith; Yish is the only one that notices at first. But soon, one of the attackers huddles into the fetal position by the door and starts to shake with fear. He then falls asleep. Another stands up, shakes his head, and seems very confused, but then gets into the action. One more gets hit by Lilith’s mace and then begins panicking, swinging his sword in front of him.

Yish casts haunted fey aspect, screams wildly, and then moves toward the man next to the door. He wakes up, sees Yish, and runs away terrified. The others are eventually dispatched (although one manages to survive three crossbow bolts and even picks up Marda’s trident—-but he does fall to Hnng’s final crossbow bolt).

At this point, Lilith’s eyes brighten up, as if she woke up from a trance. She immediately reacts by swinging her mace at the man in front of her. Hnng finishes the man by punching him with his punching dagger.

There is commotion inside, suggesting that a new wave of bandits will soon be upon the party. One of the rapiers has bright pink gems, which Yish takes. The party retreats. Olivie quickly grabs a quiver off of one of the bodies and bars the door for a few more seconds of time to run away.

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On the Road to the Ruins

There is a fork in the road next to where the party camped for the night. Based on the map, this fork shouldn’t exist. The path going north seems to be more

Everyone thinks of different ways to figure out which fork to take. Yish climbs a tree; Hnng offers to aid (he is particularly excited to catch Yish if he falls, since he wants to further impress Olivie). Yish sees that there is smoke from on the path that goes more north. The path that leads south seems to lead to a hill.

Marda decides to ask a squirrel questions. Hnng suggests asking for unicorns. Marda chooses not to. The squirrel informs her that humans come by often on these trails, and while the path that goes north seems more traveled, humans take the path south often as well. She also learns that the squirrel’s favorite color is acorn brown.

Clarion and Lilith find north and measure angles to figure out which path seems more likely to be the one on the path.

When the party gets back together and shares information, Hnng takes the opportunity to ask Olivie’s opinion on the matter. This act seems to have caused Olivie to be smitten by Hnng. Olivie chooses to go south. Marda is the only one who would prefer to go north; Yish attempts to convince Marda that the southerly path is more acorn brown and therefore would be the one that the squirrel would have chosen. Marda isn’t totally convinced, by Yish’s argument, but she goes with the party.

Yish begins to flat tire Hnng, who milks the situation to evoke pity. Olivie falls for it.

Two hours down the road, Lilith and Yish notice sounds coming from ahead. It sounds like a lot of people are making noises, as if they are drunk. At first, Yish threatens to send Hnng to check out what the noise is about. Clarion

As Yish and Lilith approach the sounds, Yish notices out of the corner of his eye that something is quickly approaching. Yish warn Lilith and draws his weapon. Two half-orcs come rushing out, but pull out their swords, blocking the way forward. The half-orcs ask what their business is. Yish lowers his weapon and attempts to talk kindly. The half-orcs ignore Yish’s geniality, but realizing that Yish and Lilith seem not to intend harm, the half-orcs invite Yish and his party to visit with the traders who hired them.

Many humans are in the trader camp, along with a halfling and a dwarf. Four empty kegs are lying about. Two people are making out, not bothering to get away from the crowd. The traders notice the party, hail them, and then offers beer. Yish accepts (though Hnng refuses, with intent to keep his faculties so that ). Yish casts Beguiling Gift and hands Hnng the beer. Hnng makes the will save and hands back the beer. Yish still tries convince Hnng to drink via diplomacy. Hnng is not convinced, but he knows that Yish will not give up. So Hnng attempts to bluff his way out of the situation by pretending to take a sip. Yish catches the bluff, but Hnng covers by actually taking a sip and then returns the tankard. Yish dumps the rest of the beer out on the ground, refusing to drink liquid that touched Yish’s lips.

The party realizes the following about how they fit on the hotness scale (out of 20).
Lilith: 22
Marda: 1
Clarion: 14
Yish: 7
Hnng: 6
These are, however, natural beauty at birth. These scores don’t actually correspond to how attracted other people are to them, since other factors can lead to attraction.

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Encounter with the Boggart

Lilith has returned from her ghostly sabbatical. She mentioned something about an eclipse and something about increased ghost activity. In any case, the party gathers together for the journey with Olivie. Yish is so hung over that he is essentially unconscious. So they strap him to the cart and begin the journey.

There is discussion of hot springs. Hnng asks whether there are hot springs along the way to the ruins. Olivie responds affirmatively, but she adds that it is a research site for distilling acids. They decide it would not be relaxing to go into those hot springs.

Marda continues ranting about the importance of saving the animals. Olivie, after spend two nights with Marda, is visibly avoiding being near her.

In passing a marsh, the party begins crossing a bridge to go over a particularly swampy area. Lilith is walking behind the cart. Marda is on the horse which is dragging the cart. The cart is an open flat bed about two feet above the ground. Olivie is in front of the cart, with Hnng close behind her. A loud thud crashes into the cart; what looks like a deer’s head with very large antlers is visible, but the body is gangly, and the eyes are the size of saucers. It is trying to grab Yish. Hnng asks Olivie what the thing is; she screams that it is a boggart and seems not at all prepared for this venture.

In attempting to grab Yish, the boggart’s movement causes the cart, weakened from the initial impact of the boggart dropping into it, to crack; the boggart’s body falls halfway through and is stuck. However, Yish is still within the boggart’s reach. Olivie shoots her already loaded crossbow (Yish mentions his always loaded crossbow). Olivie is scared and inexperienced, so she points the weapon in the general direction of the cart, turns her head away, closes her eyes, and shoots. The bolt gets stuck in the side of cart. Lilith runs up from behind the cart, swinging her morningstar and hits the severely hindered boggart. Clarion dives under the cart and uses an inflict wounds spell as she touches the boggart’s pinky toe. Hnng turns to Olivie, tells her, “watch this”, and then rushes forward with the intent of vaulting over the side of the cart and grappling the boggart. Hnng manages to get himself over the edge, but his foot gets caught, and he falls straight into the cart, with his face planted into Yish’s crotch. Hnng is disappointed that he wasn’t able to impress Olivie, but he stands up. Marda turns around on the horse and shoots an icicle at the boggart, and then crawls into the cart.

The boggart struggles to get out of its compromised position. Although it remains stuck, it does manage to hurt Hnng somewhat. Olivie runs off to the other side of bridge and into the woods. Lilith also casts inflict wounds and touches the boggart from on top of the cart. The boggart begins coughing up blood. Clarion then strikes the boggart’s legs with her steel scarf. Hnng attempts to tackle the boggart, imagining himself a luchador jumping off the ropes; he is slightly aroused from the sensation of touching the boggart. Marda stabs at the boggart with her trident.

The boggart finally manages to master the cart situation. Olivie is still off in the woods somewhere. Lilith misses with her morningstar. Clarion once again strikes with her steel scarf, and the boggart falls unconscious. Hnng is even more aroused by the sensation of the body falling limp.

Hnng begins checking the body for loot. Hnng now sees that the boggart was male. Underneath its fur (all matted into dreadlocks), Hnng feels something hard on its sternum. It smells very bad (12 years of swamp water). Hnng manages to hack away the fur and finds an amulet. Hnng continues working the chain out of the fur. Once the amulet is free, Hnng shouts out for Olivie, but there is no response. So Hnng goes off in search of Olivie, with Marda and Lilith following. As Hnng runs past a tree, Olivie swings her sword out; of course, Hnng is so short that the sword goes over his head. She is very distraught and worried about the boggart, but Hnng assures her that the boggart is dead and that he single-handedly killed it to rip the amulet off of it for her. At first, Olivie totally buys Hnng’s lie, but Marda and Lilith try to get the story correct. After this, Olivie has some doubts about Hnng’s story, but her opinion of Hnng has gone up by six points. In any case, Olivie refuses Hnng’s amulet (it smells terrible), so Hnng walks back to the cart while appraising it, thinking of it as a symbol of the new level of the relationship Hnng now has with Olivie. He realizes that it is worth more than 1000 gold pieces. Hnng puts it in his chest pocket, convinced that it was the reason Olivie sort of believed his story.

In the meantime, Clarion mends the cart. Yish is still asleep. The party continues on and makes camp after the end of the marsh, where a plains area begins.

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