The Happy Muggers

A Lost Friend
In which Leeloo is disappointed in herself

I tried to save him, Mother, but I failed.

I know all too well your feelings on the matter, but the drow, despite all that, and despite the ample evidence of the general depravity of his people, and despite even the specific social and tactical depravities he himself regularly demonstrates, is my friend. As I said before, he has been at my side when others could not, and he and I have seen things that these missives can only faintly shadow.

And his disappearance may be the last we share. We had been following a suspected cultist, and to that end had descended beneath La Mancha by way of a disused warehouse, and found ourselves now under the Lake of Man itself, in a wet little cave whose walls echoed the roar of a massive waterfall. It was in trying to pass the waterfall that we fell afoul of the Kua-toa, who attacked our little boat and took ..d into the depths, although I suspect he went, at first, willingly into their arms, the better to find the softest underbelly to slice his dagger into.

But once they had him, they would not release him again so easily. His efforts felled a good many of them, but his escape always found more to pull him further down. I turned my attention more and more toward him, my oldest friend, and pulled all the arcane energies I could to sweep him back to safety, but the devil-fish always swam around my efforts, netted him again, and pulled him back, down, into the whirlpool.

I remember the despair that washed over me when we lost Tarque, the sudden awareness that, though this band of friends I had found were the ablest I’d ever known, and the strongest I’d ever seen, that they, too, could be taken by surprise and beaten, soundly, by creatures whose lives consisted not of adventure and derringer do, but by an endless progression of mindless danger and death. I have not forgotten that lesson—the hot tears I shed that day still burn on my cheeks—but I aim not to remember it so viscerally as I do right now.

I just hope that when we find D’cafnaet’d, he is in much better shape than was Tarque, rest his soul.

Gone Fishin'

Breathing; I like it. I like the act of breathing… Sometimes I forget that. Seriously, it’s something that you probably almost never think about. I usually don’t either. Usually. Right about now it’s pretty forefront on my mind. Because it’s been a good long while since I’ve taken a nice, pure, refreshing gulp of air into my lungs.

Ok. I might admit to an error in judgment. I mean, who in their right mind actually jumps into the water to fight a giant mutant fish? In retrospect that seems kinda like, oh… I don’t know, jumping into the web to try to kill the spider. Who does that? Oh yeah. I do. I find a lot of success in doing the unexpected. I’m not known for making good battlefield decisions. I’m known for making unexpected battlefield decisions. And you know what? It works for me.

In my defense, when I jumped in there was only one of them. And I had him dead to rights pretty darn quickly. I hit him hard going into the water, and I hobbled him on my way back out. But then as soon as I could blink there were 3. Then there were 6. I don’t get cornered too often; I’m pretty slippery as ruffians go. But these guys had a single focus. I cut one of them, they shove me. I drop a cloud of darkness, they walk in like they can see right through it. And seriously, did I come here alone?! Where is everyone else? Before I jumped out of the boat I left some pretty specific instructions to distract the others.

So I got shoved into a drain hole… or whirlpool, or something… I’m sorry… I’m currently being escorted down a tube full of wetness… clear liquid…. I know it has a name but it’s been quite a while since I’ve taken a breath. It’s getting hard to think. Darkness is starting to flood my vision… huh… that’s what that looks like… my Drow eyes normally cut right through it, so I’ve never really seen the dark before. It’s really black.

As the darkness fills in even more, I try to keep one thought forefront in my mind. I know that if I somehow survive I’m going to desperately need to know this… so I start chanting the three words in my head, over and over until I feel my lungs fill with water and the darkness closes all around me. The thought echoes in my head one last time:



D caf down the drain

Leeloo Returns to the Spiral Tower
In which Leeloo recaps what has happened of late

The ginger smell welcomed her, wafting into her nostrils the instant after she materialized on the bridge’s end, with nothing but the Vastness of Darkness behind her. She turned, shielding her eyes as she looked up at the Spiral Tower’s impossible architecture, stretching up into the bluish mists high above. It was good to be home.

She strode in through the double doors, nodded at the obsidian guards that she knew so well from so many returns over the years. She flicked her wand out, waved the sigil in the air, and the walls shifted, revealing the stair steps up which she went. Once into the tower proper, she caught the notice of one of the Worker Bees, the little automatons that carried knick knacks and messages throughout the Tower, spoke a few words to it, and it buzzed away, sparks and sparkles in its wake. She knew that she’d have about an hour before an appointment could be arranged, even though her coming would have been known for some time— the Matron was always on top of such things— and so she took a Disc up to her chambers, sloughed off her outing clothes, deposited a few keepsakes, took a long-wished-for bath, and then got into her uniform. Seeing people in their uniforms made the Matron happy, and Leeloo liked it when the Matron was happy. She opened the door when the Worker Bee returned, took the message she’d expected, and made a few stops before heading to the Matron’s office.

There were the normal pleasantries before they got down to business, tea poured and shared and sweets and savories offered and taken. Leeloo thought, sometimes, that she went out into the world as much for these debriefings as for any other reason; the Matron knew how to treat her friends, and Leeloo was happy to count herself among that number, not least because the Matron also knew how to treat her enemies.

But the conversation had stumbled, somewhere. “Yes, Matron,” Leeloo said, taking her teacup and swirling it around, "I knew that you’d focus on the statue, and I did indeed say that we found the piece in the possession of a Drow witch. She seemed to believe that Lloth would rise up to control all the other gods, Tiamat amongst them. And with her claiming the backing of not houses, but cities of drow, I can see from where that overconfidence flows.”

“Do you think this witch is related to the previous one in Astazalian?” The Matron asked.

“Certainly, in that both are prongs in the same invasion, but they seem different in tone. As I said in my ”/campaign/happy-muggers/wikis/session-46" class=“wiki-page-link”>last report, we had to fight off a proper drow invasion force, supported by the three dragons I mentioned before. But that invasion was ushered in by Lady Vial, revealed to be a traitor to the city. She was no drow, but in what should have been her last moments she asked for and was transformed into a proper drider. So there is no doubt that Lloth knows what events are unfolding in her name. But Vial was an outside force, which is uncharacteristic of the drow, and doesn’t fit nicely with the horde that Estralizae and her nest seemed to believe in. The goblin uprising to the south of Astrazalian was bought off with promises to deal with the Drow, so their numbers are certainly strong."

The Matron nodded, then she stopped to listen to a Worker Bee that had buzzed in a moment before. She frowned at it, and it retreated. “What of this icy tower? Is it involved, or merely a distraction?”

“The magical snowstorm over Marth Forest was centered on the tower of my father’s demon-dealing acquaintance Draigdurroch, who seems to have unleashed powers larger than his abilities could control. He paid with his life, apparently at the hand of one of the Fey Lords, but I have not heard any take credit for the deed, not that doing so would befit the Lords. The storm was quelled when we were forced to destroy the Frost Giant providing protection to the Winter’s Heart (and yes, of course I have registered the last known location of the Heart with The Department of Dangerous Derelicts; I am not as ill-trained as I once was).” She smiled into her teacup; this was the banter she longed for when she was sleeping on rocky makeshift beds.

But then she recalled something she’d omitted. “Also, there was mention, by one of the Drow, of a King Stoneface, who seemed to be aiding their invasion efforts. I’ve heard the name before, but I neither thought him grand enough to be a threat nor memorable enough to recall most anything about him. Do you know more than I?”

The Matron frowned. “I do, and you shall not like to hear it, for it means that your stay with us shall be brief before I have another task for you to attend to. I had hoped to see a bit more of you without the aid of scrying. But it appears that there is to be no rest for the watchful.”

Leeloo's Friend
In which Leeloo realizes who her oldest friend really is

It hit me sometime while we were in Quixote, after the Overlook council had sent word (and Vernon) to direct our little band to the gnomish village, and after we had arrived and met with the Faceless Lords, and after they had told us of the caravan that had been attacked in LaMancha, tiny Quixote’s trading partner to the north. I think it was while Vernon and Lodbrok were questioning Orzar, the only member of the caravan who escaped, and who seemed quite mad but was quite helpful, what with warning us of the Scaled Mother, who would, he assured us, “devour us all”.

I may spend too much time in odd circumstances that I count the rantings of an imprisoned man about mysterious soul-eating deities as a good sign for his mental faculties.

But it was during this encounter with Orzar that I leaned over and shared some insight or another with D’cafnaet’d, and it hit me that I’d done exactly that a few dozen times since we’d left the Manor. I glanced about at my compatriots and took tally, and realized that, amongst these few, it was the drow whose counsel I sought and most trusted.

As I said, I may spend too much time in interesting circumstances, but in those circumstances one sometimes discovers that long-assumed truths are stripped bare and replaced with a reality at once simpler and more complicated: the world is vast and dangerous, full of things that you will never believe if you do not see them with your own eyes, and if you are lucky enough to find a true friend, do not begrudge them being as surprised about it as you are.

Dear Cousin

Hello Cousin,

I hope that this letter finds you well. What sort of escapades have you been up to as of late? No doubt you are also in the midst of the family culling. I myself have already done my fair share, you remember Sernon and Dernon? That was before my current predicament.

The High Council of Overlook has taken my entire home and my possessions. Sure I may have attended a few balls I was not invited to or liberated some belongings from lonely women; however none could say that they were left wanting. But the High Council has the audacity to claim that I am not a true Nobleman! Just because I did not earn a title or was born to a family name does not make me any less a nobleman.

I digress, I now find myself lacking of a home and protection from my brothers. I have heard that you are doing well for yourself along with setting family records. I wonder cousin would it not be more efficient if we were to pool our resources together to dispatch of any…problems that would arise?

Best Regards,

Vernon Guillermo

Leeloo at Spiral Tower
In which Leeloo tries to concentrate on her book, and fails

She sat in the wing backed chair and shifted her weight, moved the large leather-bound book from one leg to another, and read the passage again. She’d done this ritual before, but now the steps seemed wrong, somehow. But then again everything seemed slightly wrong these days. She glanced about the room, took in the books flickering in the candlelight, and blinked, as if that would make her surroundings make more sense. It did not.

She gazed out the window, into the blue haze that surround the Spiral Tower. She could still smell it, of course, even as it was locked safely beyond the leaded glass window, because the entire Tower smelt of ginger. At least, to her it did. Everyone seemed to smell it differently, but to her it was and would always be ginger. In this she was luckier than most.

And in other ways, too. She had found her way to the Tower quite by accident, quite alone, and in quite a state. She’d wandered for Gods-knows-how-long in the mist after she’d escaped the Catacomb: she’d slept innumerable times, and fought dozens of skirmishes with various monstrosities that leapt, appeared, or congealed out of the haze. When she finally saw the Tower in the distance, it took her what seemed like years of slow approach to find the base. The march around the base to find the Opal Doorway included dozens of sunsets and sunrises. But when she arrived, the Doorman was expecting her, and knew her name. He welcomed her in, fed her and clothed her, and showed her to her chambers. Her classes, he had said, were to begin the following day.

Of course, she began immediately to plan an escape, but as she gathered the supplies in “her” chambers she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror, and the face that looked back, aghast, proved that the many days of walking were not an illusion: she had indeed been out there for years. Later that night, the Matron had found her, sword in hand and mirror shattered on the floor, and helped her to come to terms with this new reality: “Sometimes,” the Matron had said, “we pay greatly to escape that which binds us. And sometimes we pay greatly for the power to rise again. If we are very lucky, we can pay for both at once.”

Leeloo went back to her book. She agreed with the Matron, to a point. The down payment on the Rise had been made at the same time, but learning this ritual was the next payment, and it was due tomorrow morning.

Leeloo and the Door
In which Leeloo sees magic

The door was certainly locked, and she had enough of the sense left that she knew it was no mere mechanics that kept it shut: the faint glow of eldritch power swirled around the edges of the iron slab, thrumming to the beat of this place. She followed one of the tendrils of power out as it slowly dispersed, fading into the darkness just before the cliff face she had spent the last day climbing.

At least, she thought it had taken only a day. The few times before that she’d spent underground she’d had rations to keep her internal clock set, but now she had only a long stretch of hunger, coagulated blood on her calf, and a sword.

None of these could open the door before her, but the tendrils reassured her immensely. The Whisper had taken back the power it had granted her– she had tried many times to summon it back and met with repeated failure– but now, on her own, she could see this. All those books stolen from her father’s library had indeed taught her a few things.

Or perhaps she was just hallucinating from the hunger and blood loss. She tried to put this possibility out of mind and focus instead on the door.

It was a solid block, with no runes or markings on it, and it sat in the rough-hewn wall looking as out of place as she felt. The tiny groove around its edge glowed faintly blue as the power slipped out, and the breeze that accompanied the power almost smelled of… ginger? Yes, certainly ginger.

She smiled as she recalled making gingersnaps with her mother, and trying very hard– and almost certainly failing– to avoid getting crumbs into her father’s first edition of Elemental Rites. On page 247 it described exactly how to channel a flow of energy such as the one before her, and if she had a corpsewax candle it would be a simple matter to do so, but she had no such thing and it was, then, no simple matter.

She made another circuit of the chamber she was in. To one side was the cliff face, a days’ climb down. That cavern stretched up no further than her current position. To the opposite site was the door. In between was a floor perhaps twenty feet across, almost perfectly circular. She went and stood in the center, faced the doorway, and realized that she could see, from here, not only the edges around the door but also a tiny pinprick of that same blue glow directly in its center. She stepped forward to investigate further and it vanished from sight. A step back and it appeared again.

She crouched down, tilted her head, tried to pull the energy to herself, but felt nothing: her fingers couldn’t grasp the ether. She wished she had her wand, but instead she had only…

She pointed her sword at the door, narrowed her eyes to peer down the blade, watched the smoky wisps tumble out… and pulled them to her. The wind shifted, the lazy clouds of ginger-smelling blue moving suddenly toward her, twirling around, focusing on her outstretched blade, amassing into a brilliant glow, and suddenly a blast of light shot out of her arm, down the blade, and directly at the heart of the iron slab.

She blinked a few times to see in the darkness that had retaken the landing, and then strode through the open door.

Flashback Session 7: Awake in Stormcrow Headquarters
In which our heroes finds themselves in less than ideal circumstances

We awoke with a pain in our heads and a chain on our ankles, Valeris and myself attached to a kobold and a half-Orc and a wall full of spikes, arranged such that one of us would be pulled against the wall by our shackle if the others were to run, as one would be want to do if one saw, just out of reach, the key that might unshackle one from such a situation, which indeed we did, and though I sent Byron to fetch the key and bring it to me–and after some persuasion he stopped his reading for long enough to try–when the key burned him and he skipped out of the material plane, I was nominated to fetch the key instead and the half-Orc, whose name I later learned to be Thar (the kobold went by Qui’kli), was nominated to take the undulating spikes from the wall, which I did and he did and the whole charade disappeared in a puff of faintly magical smoke. We wondered briefly what kind of situation we had found ourselves and how we had managed to do so–the last I recalled Valeris and I were on an errand for our Mistress– but no sooner had we wondered than an answer presented itself, when KD appeared on a balcony somewhere above us and explained how he had crawled here, and how Saya– who appeared from the shadows, looking even blanker in expression than she used to– had gone out to retrieve us, and bring us here as some sort of lesson for our misdeeds, which I will admit to quite readily, as self-delusion is unbecoming of anyone who wishes to learn anything of the world or one’s self.

Having explained his intentions, he then lit a torch, which he then used to light a fuse, which in turn lit a channel of fire, which erupted around the room, followed by a buzzing and scurrying the likes of which I will not attempt to reproduce here, lest I fail to do it justice or, in doing it justice, recall it too vividly and force myself to stop writing or you, dear reader, to stop reading, which again would be unbecoming. The sound, though, was but a precursor to the horde that made it: thousands of bugs began to stream out of tiny crevasses around the room, and the four of us ran for one of the doors, choosing the one second-closest to us, having been warned by KD not to use the closer one, which by the looks of it led outside, and might have led to freedom, but for whatever reason we trusted his advice as he tried to kill us with an onslaught of vermin, which crunched and burned and split quite readily as we made our way to the door, albeit with a few bites and bruises on our way, and when we arrived on the other side we closed the door and took a deep breath.

Bugs, though, find cracks in anything, and so we were soon running across an old, once-sturdy stone bridge, the horde following us along the way, and though we were careful not to overstress the structure, the bugs had no such forethought, and Valeris found himself trapped above the seemingly bottomless chasm, bugs streaming toward him and naught but air between he and us, until Thar and your humble narrator scaled a gap between cavern wall and a massive obelisk, reaching in this manner a height of some fifty-five feet, and then pushed with all our might until said obelisk fell, creating a bridge of quite a temporary nature, upon which Valeris might run and make the last few yards before the last remnants of the bridge fell to the darkness below. He failed and fell. Thar and I fell, but not anywhere near as far. We all looked down into the darkness, got our bearings, and proceeded.

You will, I plead, forgive me if it seems that the above was a lie given what came next, but I assure you that this all did happen: bugs, bridge, obelisk, falling, and all, and one slight arcane lock later we found ourselves, heads still aching, in a quaint little reception room, where a man was sitting in a comfortable chair attending to the wounds of one Valeris a’Lindesta, who not ten minutes before had fallen into the endless darkness along with a horde of bugs and the remnants of a stone bridge and giant obelisk. You will think, dear reader, that the above was some kind of story to bring glory to my friend, but if it were that it would serve much better had he made it, I assure you, and not fallen to his certain doom, only to arrive instead into the care of this man, who introduced himself as Seric and wished to know our business with the Stormcrow Company, whose name I had seen emblazoned on the obelisk before he had pushed it down into oblivion, and whose headquarters we were apparently in, and whose service Seric seemed to be in, and whose Alpha Squad seemed to be missing, and whose Alpha Squad Seric seemed to assume we might have murdered, and whose headquarters were strictly off-limits to outsiders, and who considered us outsiders, and whose servant Seric attacked us for all the above reasons but mostly because he did not believe that we all just wanted to go home.

Seric did not so much fall as evaporate, which is not a comforting sight at any time but is even less comforting in situations where spiked walls and bugs seem to appear from nowhere, and I began to wonder what the true nature of this prison might be, but my ponderances were interrupted when Seric reappeared and began once more to attack us, and as we realized the futility of killing him a second time we instead employed a chain, earlier found in the corner of the room, to bind him– a job that the chain seemed to relish, in the same way that a scabbard relishes holding the sword whose size and shape it was perfectly designed for– and, when he began to attempt to take his own life in order to escape the bonds, deposited the poor, misguided fellow into a glass box, also in the corner of the room, and when he smashed his head against the glass wall, he evaporated once again, and then reappeared, still inside the box and still quite bound, and we apologized to be so cruel after he was so nice as to return Valeris to us, but we left him there as we continued forth.

The Next Level
On mastering the weapon of choice

The room was littered with corpses. No sound could be heard except for the heavy breathing of the assailent. No one heard or saw him coming, and now all were in pieces on the floor; their inner parts littering the room, and the floor covered in a thick layer layer of… stuffing.

“Ronstein!” D’cafnaet’d angrily called from the room that he had claimed as his training facility. He also slept and took most of his meals there. He was on a mission. He had always felt comfortable with a dagger in his hand. But he needed more. At this point in a rogue’s career they would be branching out, considering what kind of job opportunities are available. D’caf was quite comfortable where he was. He was nearly flawless at wielding a dagger in a fight. Nearly… that’s the word that nagged at him most. Nearly flawless wasn’t good enough. He wanted mastery over his daggers.

“What do you want?” Lady Ronstein had appeared in the door. “Oh merciful gods, look at your hands!” she said as she took in the site of the dissheveled drow in his room. His hands were beaten and bloody from the constant practice. She walked into the mess, “You need to take better care of yourself.” she said as she took D’caf’s hands in hers, examining them. She took the daggers out of his hands while she whispered a healing word. A faint glow lit up his hands aas he watched his skin knit back together and the bruises start to fade. “You know, some people actually let go of their weapons once in a while” she said, setting them on a nearby table. “You should at least consider putting them down while you sleep.” She advised. “Now, you summoned me?”

D’caf flexed his hands. He appreciated her gesture, and his hands did feel better, but magically healed skin always felt weird; Like the skin was stretched too tightly over the bones. “You said you know of a man in town who sells training equipment. I’m going to need a lot more training dummies. A lot more.” D’caf looked around at the mess that was his bedroom. “… and a broom.”

In which Leeloo attempts not to fall to her doom.

She was breathing hard, her leg hurt from the gash in it, and the blood was dripping down her ankle. She just wanted to lay down for a moment, but the ledge she had scrambled onto had nowhere near enough room for that, and she could not afford to fall.

The shadows slipped and slid below, ready for that fall. Waiting for it.

She turned and gazed above, up the rock face. Deep breath. Eyes closed. She blinked out of existence, reappearing again a dozen yards higher. Immediately she lurched, slipping on the loose gravel as it rolled beneath her. Her arms shot out, she leapt, and she fell, hard, on the wider granite expanse before her. She turned over, groaned, and struggled to sit up without upsetting the ground and falling to her doom. The gravel fell as she brushed it off the edge, tiny impacts echoing off the cave walls into rumbles. Her stomach echoed a rumble of its own, and she looked into her satchel.

Calling it a satchel was a stretch: it was the tattered remnants of a pennant she had found three days ago, tied into a bag shape and holding within it the meager rations she had managed to acquire: a few bits of dry tack and a single remaining strip of snake meat she’d smoked herself. She ate half the jerky and one of the biscuits, then peered below. She was unsure if the motion in the darkness was her imagination or was actually the lion. She was unsure if the lion was just her imagination or actually a lion.

She inspected her father’s sword. The runes she had memorized so long ago were caked in blood– that certainly didn’t seem to be her imagination. She had often wondered why she had kept the sword, having only used it the one time, but in these past few days it had been the only thing that had kept her alive. And for those three days she had instead wondered why it was the only thing that had appeared for her in the darkness. Had she found it and escaped, or had the Whisper provided it to her? Was this the start of a new debt to the Whisper, or the end of the old one?

She did not know. For now, she did not care. Between the lion and her quickly disappearing supplies, she cared only for escape. She looked up the rock face. Deep breath. Eyes closed. She blinked out of existence…


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