By Bryant Alexander
Puddings, Jellies and other Delicacies
Through the door we heard the ting! of glasses knocking together. Aeryn continued making exaggerated kissing noises.
“Blueberry pie?” Grundle asked.
“Not now,” Aeryn said.
Through the door, it sounded like Armand said, “…take Aeryn…”
“What?” Aeryn shouted.
If Armand or his little bunny heard her, they didn’t respond. At least not right away. They did eventually open the door and come out.
“Let me guess,” Aeryn said. “You didn’t do this one, either.”
“You surface elves never did know how to do it,” the drow sneered.
“I’m giving her back her weapons,” Armand said.
I’m not sure which of us had a harder time believing him.
“She’s going her own way,” Armand said. “Upwards.”
That did make some sense. She had nothing to go back to down below, and we’d cleared the way out above so she could scamper off to greener pastures. I still didn’t trust her not to follow us just for the sake of backstabbing us. Aeryn trusted her even less than I did.
“You watch her,” Armand told me. “I gotta talk to her.”
He left me in charge of the drow while he did a huddle with Aeryn. I watched her. She watched me. We didn’t kill each other. Armand and Aeryn muttered at each other. They didn’t kill each other either.
“I can’t believe we’re releasing the drow back into the wild,” I said.
“It’s natural,” Grolsch said.
Whatever Armand said must’ve been pretty convincing. Aeryn let him re-arm the bitch and send her on her merry way.
Coraym was still beet red.
“You realize you’ve set that stammer back fifteen years,” Aeryn said.
“I need to get that kid laid,” Armand said.
“Down here?” Aeryn said.
At least Armand had enough experience under his belt to know that he was playing with the perverse. Coraym was far too innocent to have a drow as his first sexual experience.
“She was useful,” Armand said.
“Did that scum have a name?” I asked.
“Larala,” Armand said. “She said we should avoid the mages. Unless I try offering Aeryn to the Archmage…”
“We could give you over,” Aeryn said.
“You might enjoy doing it with a drow male,” Armand said. “We can pretty much go where we will in the Bazaar. It’s almost completely deserted. There’s rumors of a hidden temple.”
“To whom?” Grolsch asked.
“Don’t know,” Armand said.
“Want pie,” Grundle moped.
Since we didn’t give him pie, Grundle lumbered off to the mess hall. The cheese was too rancid for the rest of us to even look at it… but as Nanoc had so frequently demonstrated, what went in was going to eventually come out.
The loud braaap! confirmed our worst fears.
“Now that’s a cloudkill!” Armand said.
“So what else did you get from her?” Aeryn asked.
“Fairy clap,” I murmured.
“…besides chlamydia,” Aeryn said.
“At least I got some info,” Armand said. “I was hoping to learn more about secret passages between levels. And I learned more about those sisters I keep hearing about. Velasta and Velina. And something called Irae that she hopes is still in Maerimydra.”
“And we gave the Rod of Orbakh back to Elminster?” Aeryn said. “We could have left it out and let them kill each other for it.”
“We could throw Armand between them,” I suggested.
“Yes!” Aeryn said. “We can kakk them while they’re fitting him for purple panties!”
“I don’t wear panties!” Armand exploded. “Are all you elves confused? Don’t any of you know whether you’re innies or outies? No wonder there’s so few of you!”
“Maybe the elves you do…,” I said.
“Yeah, really,” Aeryn said.
“Your brother pinched my ass!” Armand complained.
“I told you he’s a pain in the…,” Aeryn said.
“You always want to dress me like a woman,” Armand said.
“Only down here,” Aeryn said.
We finally ran out of steam and decided to turn to worthier topics, such as whether or not to set up camp or to press on to the Bazaar. We had used a lot of spells, especially Fly spells, and we wanted to be able to retreat if necessary…
“Let’s give it a shot,” Armand said.
Of course. Why would he want to rest here, now that he’d broken the best available bed? Aeryn pulled out the disguise kit, painted herself, stuffed her shirt, and put on a white wig. If she really wanted to pass for a drow, she probably should’ve added stretch marks around her mouth. Armand handed me his hat.
“I suppose you know a few drow words,” she remarked to Armand. “‘Yes’, ‘no’, ‘sex’.”
“‘Up’, ‘down’, ‘left’, and ‘right’,” Armand said. “I’ve been making maps.”
“‘Maid’s uniform’,” Aeryn added. “Don’t speak. You’re male and you don’t speak the lingo.”
“I speak Common,” Armand said.
“If only your parents could see you now,” I said as I admired Aeryn’s makeup.
She punched me in the shoulder.
“What should I do with this hat?” I asked.
“Look like a drow,” Aeryn said.
“The things I do for adventuring…,” I muttered.
“What are you complaining about?” Aeryn said. “I have to wear face paint!”
“It’s an improvement,” Armand said.
I put on the hat. My parents wouldn’t be too thrilled to see me now, either. Of course, they already thought I was cursed, so maybe this wouldn’t surprise them. Seeing me traveling with a stud muffin like Armand might surprise them more.
“Maybe he’ll lay us now,” I said.
“You, maybe,” Armand said. “Her, not unless I go deaf.”
“You wish,” Aeryn said.
“I’ve had better,” Armand assured her.
“Sure,” Aeryn said. “From people who want to use your head as a toilet bowl.”
“They’ve never suggested that,” Armand said.
“Yet,” Aeryn said.
Aeryn and Armand cast their usual assortments of spells on themselves, just on the off chance that maybe we’d somehow end up in an unexpected combat situation.
“I’m strong!” Aeryn said. “I could carry you!”
At least she was pointing at Grolsch, not Grundle.
“Try it,” I warned her, “and he’ll turn into a bear.”
“And sniff your butt,” Grolsch said.
Aeryn wisely chose not to carry Grolsch… and to keep her butt covered. We somehow made out way down to the Bazaar. We waved to Cuddles in passing.
The natural cavern of the Bazaar seemed overlarge for the single clump of creatures gathered near the southwest wall. Two lizards loaded down with packs and crates stood at the center of the clump. Three gray dwarves beside them seemed to be selling wares from the lizards’ packs. Their customers were two drow, a trio of fish-headed kuo-toas, and a mindflayer. The mindflayer seemed to be dressed rather flamboyantly, but I’m no expert on mindflayer fashions. The kuo-toas smelled like dead fish. All the more reason to keep our distance.
A ledge, about ten feet off the ground, ran the length of the northeast wall and some half dozen doors were set into the wall beyond the ledge. The wall below the ledge was pitted with a number of hand and footholds, so it would be easy enough to climb.
“What languages do people know?” Aeryn asked.
Drow and Undercommon might not be enough to get everything going on between this mix of Underdark races.
“I can cast Comprehend Languages,” I said.
“Cast it on me,” she suggested.
It was tempting to cast it on myself. I did want to hear everything that was going on. I remembered visiting temples and noble houses with Aeryn. The party would be better served with her doing the talking, not me. I cast Comprehend Languages on her.
“If we wanna maintain our cover,” I remarked, “we better get more lingerie.”
“What size do you take?” she asked Armand.
Armand ignored her.
“If he keeps doing drow,” I whispered, “we better get a mop.”
“Sorry for the indignity,” Aeryn apologized in advance, “but you’re porters, you’re my assistant, and you’re the toy.”
It made sense. As her assistant, all I had to say to anyone was ‘Talk to the boss’. Grundle certainly looked like he was made to carry stuff. And Armand could look offended if he wanted to, but drow did seem to like playing with him. Unfortunately, Grundle seemed to want to prove his ability to be a porter by carrying a tune.
“Grundle, don’t hum,” Aeryn requested.
Grundle pouted a moment, then brightened up and started clicking his tongue.
“I’m in hell,” Aeryn muttered.
We made our way across the cavern and up onto the ledge. It sounded like Armand was whispering something to Coraym. I hoped he wasn’t trying to hook the paladin up. Once on the ledge, we could see the six doors were all barred. They looked like storerooms, but they had heavy wooden beams nailed to the doors and to both sides of the doorframes.
We shuffled along the ledge, but the doors all seemed identical. At the southern end of the cavern, furthest from where we’d entered, was a tunnel with a guard post.
“There’s the secret entrance to the Commoners’ level,” Armand pointed. “We don’t want to go through there yet.”
“Don’t throw away my crowbar this time,” Aeryn said.
She was forgetting. We didn’t have to rely on Armand to do the prying. We had a troll with us, and her crowbar wouldn’t do him much good unless he wanted to pick his teeth. We took another look at the doors. The third door seemed odd, somehow. The bar didn’t look like it was actually nailed to the door.
A guard wandered over.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Inspecting,” Aeryn replied with proper drow haughtiness. “Who are you?”
“A guard,” the guard replied.
“So?” Aeryn said. “What’s your name and rank?”
“What’s yours?” the guard asked.
“Larala, of House Morcane,” Aeryn said. “My business is my own. I’m enroute to Maerimydra. Who are you to question me, male?”
The guard gave up and walked off. Armand lazily filed his claws, probably because he knew how irritating Aeryn found it when he did that.
“Stop that,” Aeryn hissed.
“Blueberry pie?” Grundle asked.
“We may have to kakk this bunch,” Armand said. “We can take ‘em out if need be.”
Maybe it wouldn’t come to that. Grundle easily shoved the door open. Behind it was what looked like a large, bare room. Aeryn entered first and took a position near the ceiling.
“Well, it’s magical,” she said.
“Something’s magical,” Armand said.
“Uh, guys?” Aeryn said. “Either the cavern has a glandular condition, or…”
At the far end of the room, a couple of large lumps stuck out from the wall.
“Some kind of ooze,” Armand guessed.
That sounded like a good guess. If we were right, oozes were vulnerable to fire. We might be able to just cook the lumps with ordinary torches. Armand stepped through the door. Aeryn fired off some magic missiles. Grundle charged and threw his axe. It hit a black pudding and split it in two. Now there were three lumps.
“We could end up with a lot of little puddinglets,” I said.
“Puddinglets?” Armand said.
“What would you call baby puddings?” I asked.
“Baby puddings,” Grolsch said. “Single serving sizes?”
“Put it in cups,” Armand suggested.
He obviously wanted his pudding served chilled, since he launched a snowball at them.
“That was unimpressive,” he said.
“How can you tell if they’re bruised?” I asked.
“Maybe they get lighter,” Grolsch suggested.
He created a flaming sphere and sent it towards the puddings.
“That’s what the salamander threw at us,” I noted.
The puddings started moving. One slithered across the floor, one oozed over the ceiling, and one crawled along the wall. I fired Searing Light at one of them. I hit it, for whatever good it did. Aeryn bombed one with a flask of alchemist’s fire. That produced the smell of singed ooze. It didn’t smell like burnt chocolate, despite its appearance.
Grundle, having charged the puddings, got a whap from a pseudopod. He sizzled and splatted the offending pudding into two.
“Puddinglets,” I muttered.
Armand tossed another snowball. The little puddings shriveled up, but we still had one of the original two puddings relatively intact. Grolsch’s fireball headed for the pudding on the ceiling. Poor Grundle’s shirt began dissolving. The pudding on the wall took a swipe at Aeryn. I blasted it with Searing Light.
Grundle split another pudding. Now we had two medium size, one large size, and a huge. Armand launched another snowball. The smaller puddings shriveled up, leaving the huge pudding on the wall. Grolsch’s fireball went after it and I fired another Searing Light blast at it.
“Try to block the light, please,” Aeryn said.
Maybe we should’ve closed the door after us. Still, our efforts were paying off. The pudding looked rather chewed. Aeryn hit it with her flaming sword. It split in two. Grundle actually started backing up. The entire front of his shirt was gone. He’d liked that shirt. He could serve us better right now by blocking the doorway.
A pudding took a swipe at Aeryn. My next blast of Searing Light burned up a pudding, and Aeryn’s next sword swing cooked the remaining one.
A crowd had gathered outside. The mindflayer, two drow guards, and a mage were staring up at us. I did my best to look offended that they had the audacity to even look at us. If I wanted to convince them I was a drow, it was either look haughty or drop and give Armand a quick suck. Having the high ground helped. It’s easier to seem haughty when you’re looking down at people.
“Tyr, Tyr, Tyr…,” Coraym kept muttering to himself.
Having one of our crew visibly sweating didn’t help.
“Yes?” Aeryn demanded. “Why have you abandoned your post?”
“Our job is to investigate strange occurrences,” a guard said. “This was a strange occurrence.”
That’s what they thought. We could teach them a lot about strange occurrences.
“You’re late,” Aeryn said. “I already dispatched them.”
“What?” the guard said.
“Slime creatures,” Aeryn said. “I thought you patrolled here. Don’t you look?”
“Not behind barred doors,” the guard said.
“You call that barred?” Aeryn said. “You are clearly delinquent in your duties. …stop that immediately!”
“Stop what?” the guard asked.
“You didn’t feel that?” Aeryn asked. “Send them on their way!”
She was glaring in the mindflayer’s direction.
“Since you’re so proficient in dealing with oozes,” the guard suggested, “you deal with him. He’s here on legitimate business. You can investigate here all you want.”
“That was irksome,” Aeryn muttered.
The guards actually went back to their watch post. Aeryn shot the mindflayer another nasty look.
“What?” she demanded.
“Is there a problem here?” the mindflayer asked.
“Perhaps your eyesight needs work,” Aeryn said.
The mindflayer broke the staring contest first.
“I can’t believe that worked,” Aeryn whispered. “I need to cop an attitude more often.”
Armand didn’t say a word.
The assorted remaining creatures started towards the guard post.
“Wait ‘til they hit the outpost,” Aeryn said. “Then hit it with a fireball.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Armand said.
“I tried to do this without violence,” Aeryn said.
She had indeed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t let these folks wander off to spread their suspicions throughout the city. The mindflayer separated from the others.
“Change of plans,” Aeryn said. “Hit them now.”
She started to fire off a lightning blast, but only got a guttering spark from her wand. Grolsch’s flamestrike did much better, half cooking a pack lizard, roasting a dwarf and singing the mindflayer. Mireille’s spell fizzled, too. This did not bode well… Grundle tossed his axe and staggered the mindflayer. But then the mindflayer stepped forward and both Coraym and Mireille collapsed. This really did not bode well…
I jumped off the ledge and shifted into bat-form. Maybe flapping into the mindflayer’s face would startle him. Maybe flying into a position where he could grab me with his facial tentacles was a bad idea… While I was questioning the rather questionable wisdom of what I was flapping into, Aeryn flew over me and gave the mindflayer a rapier to the back. Grolsch, in bear form, charged right under me and plowed into the mindflayer. The mindflayer lay there in a mangled heap, looking rather flayed, but not quite dead yet. That was something I could take care of. He tasted fairly awful, but it was worth tasting him to be certain that he was dead.
Neville went after the drow. The monk hadn’t been any use against acidic puddings, but he could punch out drow with no problem. The gray dwarves disappeared. Grundle lumbered into a drow. Aeryn made a beeline for the spellguard and stabbed him. Armand knocked one of the drow down. The spellguard got off a lightning bolt.
Much closer to me, Grolsch grabbed a pack lizard by the tail. The lizard reared and dumped its packs. I decided I might as well liberate some packs from the other lizard. We could always use more supplies, and the gray dwarves had vanished. Of course, now that their wares were in such jeopardy, they reappeared, swinging pick axes.
The drow must have been finished. Grundle charged the dwarves. I took a bite out of one. Aeryn charged them, too. The dwarves inflated. They looked more like trolls now. Their aim hadn’t improved, though. They still couldn’t hit me, and even if they did, they probably couldn’t hurt me. One did manage to hit Grolsch, right before Grolsch tore him to pieces. Another one managed to hit Grundle… right before Grundle tore him to pieces. I took another bite out of my opponent, and Aeryn stabbed him. Then Neville moved in and knocked him down. Once he was down, he shrank back to dwarven size. Neville stood guard over him so we couldn’t finish him off.
Neville and Coraym (once he woke up) were less than thrilled with our attack on ‘innocent’ merchants. Never mind that mindflayers, drow, and gray dwarves were always evil. The kuo-toas, wherever they were, had less than sterling reputations, too. What was done was done, but Neville and Coraym weren’t going to let us kill the ‘helpless’ dwarven survivor. Armand couldn’t understand why we were so intent on killing the gray dwarf, either.
“If Dreya was here, she could explain it to you,” I said. “The gray dwarves are to her people like the drow are to ours. Her people are our allies. That makes the gray dwarves our enemies.”
The whole racial enemies thing seemed to go over his head. From what he said, his people preferred to conquer and then breed with the conquered. With all the outbreeding his people did, it was a wonder they had any racial identity left. But if we weren’t killing the gray dwarf, and we were reluctant to just let him go…
“You know how I feel about taking prisoners,” Armand said.
“This one isn’t shagable,” Aeryn said.
“You can do interesting things with beards,” Grolsch said.
I was going to pretend that I hadn’t heard that.
“I don’t screw every prisoner!” Armand said. “I didn’t do that first priestess we met. I didn’t do Xora when she was our prisoner. I didn’t sleep with Dessa or with this one, either!”
“The bed just broke by itself,” Aeryn surmised.
And all the moaning was due to the exciting conversation they’d had. I’d seen for myself every day what kind of shape Dessa was in, so I could believe that he’d let her alone, but I couldn’t believe that he’d broken a bed while making maps.
We decided to send the prisoner and his lizard to the surface with a warning that if he came back down, we would kill him. Anything that was too obviously his possession would remain in his keeping, but the mindflayer’s stuff was ours now. The mindflayer had conveniently left us a new bag of holding. That was useful, given the number of jewels and potions we had to gather up. Neville and Coraym insisted we pay the merchant for the food we wanted. We could afford to do that much to soothe their consciences. We ended up with some sausages and mushroom flour.
“The drow said that was tasty,” Armand said.
We went back to the ledge and the warehouses with their barred doors.
“Wanna leave the secret temple for tomorrow?” Armand suggested. “We’re almost out of spells.”
“Far be it from me to point out that we might want a door we can close,” Aeryn said.
Grundle ended any arguments by tossing a bar across the Bazaar.
“Grundle open door,” he said proudly.
Dust swirled into the air and clung to the spider webs that hung everywhere in this large, clearly abandoned room. Sheets of cobwebs hung from the ceiling to the floor, and intricate networks of webbing covered the ceiling. Dozens of spiders were visible in the webs, some as small as peas, and others as large as dogs.
“I don’t think…,” Armand started.
“…we wanna sleep in here?” I said.
“Light the webs on fire,” Aeryn suggested. “And close the door.”
We did that. We knew from experience that spider webs burned nicely. Smoke poured out around the door. We waited for the smaller spiders to try escaping with the smoke, but didn’t see any.
Grundle unbarred door number two, and we stopped him from throwing the bar. Behind the door, dust swirled into the air and clung to the spider webs that hung everywhere. There was something awfully familiar about this… We threw in another torch and slammed the door shut.
“Enough smoke for now,” Armand coughed.
We all agreed. If smoke was drifting out into the chasm, someone might decide to investigate. Luckily, even down here, smoke rose, so it wouldn’t be drifting past the Commoners’ level, but it might blow into the mage’s area. That would be bad. Would Cuddles recognize the scent of barbequed spider?
Doors four, five and six all revealed spiders, spiders, and more spiders. We returned to door number three. There were two doors at the rear of the chamber. Armand detected a glyph on one of them.
“It seems to be evocation,” he said.
“Don’t dispel it just yet,” Aeryn said.
First she checked both doors for traps. The other door opened on a chamber that might’ve once been a residence. In one corner was a bed with a crumbling frame. Armand could probably destroy it during a quickie. Beside it was a dresser with its empty drawers heaped on the floor. Against the opposite wall stood a writing table and a chair. Spider webs covered the ceiling and hung idly from the walls and furniture.
“This place looks safe so far,” Aeryn said.
No exactly homey, but safe. We took another look at the other door.
“I’m guessing it’s a fireball or a lightning bolt trap,” Armand said.
“Looks like a Glyph of Warding,” Aeryn said.
Whatever it was, Armand dispelled it. Boy, were we sorry. An unspeakably vile stench, combining the worst elements of decaying flesh, refuse, and waste filled the small room on the other side. A fetid pool of slime glistened in the center of the chamber, and a number of amorphous shapes were twitching around it. Within the pool of slime, something was glowing with a sickly violet light.
“It stinks!” Aeryn cried. “Throw in fireballs!”
“Blueberry pie?” Grundle asked hopefully.
Ochre jellies. The slime blobs were ochre jellies. After dealing with black puddings, ochre jellies just made our day complete. Even better, there was a roper tucked into a corner, too. It lashed out with its tentacles and snagged Aeryn. As if having to adventure in a push-up bra wasn’t enough, now she was getting groped.
“Send me a wreath!” Aeryn shouted. “Help me!”
She collapsed into something rather like jelly in the shape of an elf. Luckily, she was still as slippery as usual, and was able to squirm out of the roper’s embrace and fly backwards in a boneless heap. Armand caught her.
“Mireille, throw a fireball!” Armand shouted.
Mireille pointed her wand and shot off a series of fireballs.
“Jellies and a roper!” Armand shouted, for those too far back to see what a mess we were facing.
“Feel dizzy…,” Aeryn blurbled. “Feel weak…”
The jellies were burning, but they swarmed towards Mireille, intent on burning her back. I cast Restoration on Aeryn and she perked right up again. Grolsch filled the slime chamber with a flamestrike.
“Jellies again,” Grundle observed.
“Why don’t we just hang out here and let the spell casters deal?” Aeryn suggested to him. “We’re sorry you lost your tabard. Don’t go in there and lose the back.”
“Grundle just pawn in game of life,” the troll said sadly.
“Aren’t we all…,” Aeryn muttered.
Armand fired a lightning bolt over Mireille. Aeryn added some lightning of her own. Mireille backed away while tossing more fireballs. One of the jellies actually slithered out into the hall to sizzle Grolsch. Grolsch got it back by tossing an explosive present through the door that finished them off.
I healed Mireille’s burns and we took a better look at the carnage. There appeared to be a glyph at the bottom of the slime pool.
“This may be the hidden temple,” Armand said.
“Temple of Goo?” Grolsch suggested.
“Clearly,” Aeryn said, “this has to do with an alternative lifestyle.”
Judging from the debris, there were several urns here, before we started getting destructive. Some of the coins the urns had held were still intact, and we gathered whatever gold and platinum we could. The others might’ve gathered some silver pieces, too. There were even some scattered gemstones.
“It’s not bloodstones!” I marveled.
“I’m amazed,” Aeryn said.
We’d done all there was to do in the Bazaar. It was past time we picked a place and caught some sleep.
“Go to the former bedroom,” Grolsch suggested.
“The middle of the courtyard,” Armand said.
“The bedroom’s more defensible,” Grolsch said.
We managed to get a night’s rest without interruptions, something which always amazed me. We were getting ready to return to the chasm when we heard noises from below. It sounded like… whinnying?
The content of Moonshine's Journals is the property and copyright of Bryant Alexander, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
Return to the Moonshine's Journals main page
Return to Campaign Logs