Blood stains the walls of the broken crypt.
A sickening blend of blood and water and viscera spills out into the hall.
Corpses, pulpy and fresh, litter the ground.
Sleipnir has no one to talk to.
Caeus, Sfiros, and Tallest are sprawled out on the ground, unconscious and heavy.
Harken is frightened into a stupor.
The skeleton will not speak.
Sleipnir has a decision to make, all on his own: What to do? Leave his friends and run for safety? Or put his own precious life at risk and stay here until they wake up?
“Gosh!” Sleipnir whines.
The smallest horned adventurers drag their larger friends into the gore-soaked crypt of carnage where they stood off against the cultists of Khorne.
Sleipnir “tries” to put them in bedrolls he finds in the corner, but wastes little time before looting the Khorne corpses instead. He finds nothing of use.
Harken is too shell shocked to do anything, so Sleipnir barricades the door shut and spends the time alone to draw a letter to his favorite penpal.
Then, Caeus wakes up!
“Sleipnir did it!” Caeus shouts awake from his nightmare. “What happened? I feel like shit.”
“Oy, you got in a fight with a bunch of cultists, mate,” Harken says.
Caeus rubs his swollen head. “How much HP do I have?”
“You’ve got one HP, mate,” Harken says.
“Ooh, that’s not a lot,” Caeus moans.
“It’ll have to be enough,” Sleipnir says and puts down his crayons. “Can you carry the Tallest?”
“What about ‘Go with Gond’ over here?” Caeus points at the skeleton holding the unconscious tiefling woman from the torture room..
“He doesn’t have any muscles!” Sleipnir goshes.
The last instructions Sfiros gave were to carry the tiefling woman around, and the skeleton won’t listen to anyone else.
While securing the rest of this hallway, Sleipnir peeks around the corner and sees a little old woman staring at him.
“We’ve been found! We have to move,” Sleipnir says.
“Who found us?” Caeus asks.
“A little old lady. So we need to move or kill this old lady. And I don’t want to kill an old lady because the last one threw a fireball at me,” Sleipnir says.
“Oh no,” Caeus says. “Make Harken do it.”
“There’s an old lady that said something bad about your mother,” Sleipnir lies.
“Right mate, I’ll go look. Oy,” Harken says. The tiefling creeps forward and pokes around. “Good lord! That’s a lot of blood!”
Another partially collapsed crypt holds another sarcophagus filled with another pool of blood. A little old woman is shivering in the corner.
“Hey lady!” Sleipnir says. “Are you ok?”
“Who are you?” the old woman cries.
“We’re with the police. Do you want to come out and go to the surface?” Sleipnir asks.
The lady runs up and hugs Sleipnir. “Oh thank you thank you thank you! I thought they were going to kill me. Am I free?”
“Do you have any healing abilities?” Caeus asks.
“I sell flowers,” the woman says.
“Do you sell healing flowers?” Sleipnir asks.
“I sell aloe vera. Do you want some aloe vera?” the lady offers.
“Yeah, we have some burns,” Caeus replies.
“It’s in my shop…” the lady starts.
“Oh cut us a break!” Caeus says.
“Ask her name,” Tallest snores, dreaming about not knowing someone’s name.
“What’s your name?” Caeus asks.
“My name is Nebra,” the lady says.
“How did you get down here, Nebra?” Sleipnir asks.
“They captured me and put me down here. I thought they were going to put me in the sarcophagus next!” the old lady wails.
“We need to get out of here, now or Nebra,” Sleipnir says.
“Why don’t we wait another hour for Sfiros to wake up?” Caeus says.
“You want to wait another hour with the sarcophagus overfilling with blood?” Sleipnir asks.
“Not in the room with the blood…” Caeus agrees.
They drag their fallen comrades to another empty room, further from the unexplored area. On the way, Tallest’s tall horns scrape against the wall and push a hidden brick, revealing a secret passage!
“Oh my gosh, it’s a whole new room,” Sleipnir peeks in eagerly.
The secret passage leads to a dark tunnel, perfectly easy to find shadows! Further down, echoes of violence echo violently farther up.
“Let’s wait for Sfiros to wake up,” Caeus says, not wanting to get involved with the fight.
“Fights don’t last an hour!” Sleipnir yells sneakily, knowing what kind of d4 Sfiros rolled to determine how long he’ll be unconscious. “I don’t know what kind of fights you’re in, but ours don’t last an hour!”
“Sometimes they feel like they do...” Caeus grumbles to himself.
Sleipnir sneaks in through the flooded chamber to get a better look at the fight. He sees two men battling.
One is a Khorne brutalist wearing red armor with gold-trimmed shoulder pads. He’s striking with a large wrathhammer covered in chaos god iconography. His helm is a Khornate skull that has been fused with his regular man skull. His face is flayed open and his eyes are flames.
The other man is bulky and ostentatious. He blocks with a great club. His face is scarred, suggesting that it has skin. After exchanging blows, the brutalist knocks the scarred man to the ground.
“Traitor! How dare you!?” the scarred man yells.
The brutalist raises a ceremonial dagger and says, “Your family does not want you anymore.” The scarred man’s protests end when the dagger opens his throat. Blood for the Blood God.
Sleipnir backs up quietly and retreats to the Herd.
“Rumor has it: there’s a guy in there without a face that just killed a big guy,” Sleipnir relays back to Caeus and the rest. “It’s something we want to avoid.”
“Let’s get our friends up and get the hell out of here,” Caeus says.
Instead of leaving, they backtrack further away from the freshest carnage, taking cover in the tomb where they fought the zombies, piling into the cramped tomb and waiting for anything scary to go away so that they have time to wake up.
The Herd is being as quiet as possible. Nebra is whimpering softly. They cover Tallest’s face to keep him from snoring about asking people their names.
After a little while, they hear a mutter in the distance as someone approaches the murder scene they just helped create. “Hoofprints?” the voice says, befuddled. Then footsteps!
Then more mutterings, the speaker thinking out loud, “Mortlock, who do you have working for you?”
The footsteps get closer to their door.
Sleipnir prepares to cast friends.
At the crack where the door meets the ground, the brutalist’s shadow passes by as he examines the chaotic brawl from the hallway. Curious about the fresh carnage, he walks closer to The Herd’s hiding spot.
“Was there a coup here?” the brutalist says. “Did he kill everyone on the way in?”
He laughs, then splashes in the water and blood for fun.
“Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows,” he smiles.
Then the footsteps trail away.
Sleipnir drops his prep. “We won’t be friends,” he frowns.
After a while, Sfiros wakes up. He looks around and sees he’s in the room with dead zombies, his friends beaten up, and an old lady in the corner.
“Hello grandmother,” Sfiros bows his respect to his elder.
“Oh, Sfiros, you’re awake!” Caeus rushes to the cleric. “We’ve got to get the fuck out of here.”
“What’s wrong?” Sfiros asks in earnest.
“Everything!” Sleipnir says.
“But we’re alive.” Sfiros looks around. “We beat the bad guys. Did they have any cool inventions in their pockets?”
“There’s a guy who invented how to live without a face,” Sleipnir says.
“There’s like a Hell,” Caeus tries, “like a Hell…. Like a bad thing!”
“What?” Sfiros asks reasonably. “I don’t follow.”
“You know Skeletor from He-Man?” Sleipnir offers. “Like you didn’t watch He-Man growing up? Every minotaur did.”
“You’re right,” Sfiros says. “I did watch He-Man.”
“It’s like Skeletor and He-Man fused together,” Caeus says.
“Is he on our side?” Sfiros asks unreasonably.
“No,” Sleipnir sighs, remembering the friends spell that never was.
“Where’s the Tallest? Oh, he’s over there. He’s lying down. Is he alive?” Sfiros asks.
“He’s got a few more hours,” Caeus says. They suggest putting the sleeping invisibility ring on him, but never do.
They discuss whether to leave now and carry Tallest out, or short rest and wait for Tallest to wake up. But that would leave them where the brutalist could find them.
But how far can they make it while carrying an eight foot tall minotaur?
And should they loot the room where the brutalist killed that guy?
They also have the black ichor, and they might be in the worst case scenario.
But not yet.
What to do? If only Tallest was awake, they could just make him decide.
That’s it! They’ll wait for Tallest to wake up, then make him decide whether they should have waited or dragged him out.
After a while, they hear faint footsteps coming from the hallway.
The Anacos brothers notice Nebra trying to hold back a sneeze. Caeus shoves her head into the bag of holding to stifle the noise. He then shoves the invisibility sleep ring on her finger and prepares to throw her at whatever comes through that door.
“I swear to Gond, Harken, I will throw you in the bag next!” Caeus whisper shouts at Harken. “Shut the fuck up!”
Harken lowers his bagpipes dejectedly.
They hear from the hallway, a familiar voice calling, “Nebra? Nebra?”
The brutalist gets closer.
“Who’s Nebra?” Sfiros asks.
“This bitch over here,” Caeus says, forgetting Nebra is invisible.
“The tiefling?” Sfiros asks.
“No, that’s Harken,” Caeus says. Then he remembers what the skeleton is holding. “Oh yeah, this one. No, the old lady.” He holds up the invisible, sleeping body.
Sfiros remains confused.
“I don’t want to peek,” Sleipnir says.
“That’s the whole point of you! Is to peek!” Caeus booms quietly.
“It’s a squeaky door,” Sleipnir protests.
“Here.” Caeus passes him some oil for the hinges.
“I don’t know how to do this!” Sleipnir says.
Caeus tries to quietly cast mending to fix the door, but his tinkering is too loud!
“Nebra?” the brutalist turns.
Caeus prepares to throw Nebra at whoever opens the door.
“We’re casting friends first!” Sleipnir appeals to the Herd’s sense of nonviolent diplomatic solutions.
There is nothing of the sort to be found.
A shadow stops at the door, and the nob turns. The brutalist opens the door, standing face-to-faces with a stable full of minotaurs. Caeus leaps up, removes the magic ring from Nebra, and yeets the old lady at him!
“Nebraaaa?!” the brutalist cries as Nebra slams into him.. The old lady’s glamour flickers, revealing that she was a decrepit, Tzeentch-tattooed witch, but not before cracking her head on the brutalist’s head and falling unconscious while knocking the aspiring deathbringer of Khorne prone.
The Herd has a chance!
The spellcasters resort to cantrips against the toughest enemy they’ve ever seen, and the spells fizzle out uselessly on his magic resistant armor.
“Why don’t you hit it with a hammer?” Tallest snores, dreaming of hitting things with his Warhammer™ but not in a way to invoke trademark infringement.
Caeus and Harken take his advice and attack with melee weapons.
The aspiring deathbringer stands up, ornery and belligerent. His eyes glow red with fire. He focuses his rage on Sleipnir. They lock eyes, and Sleipnir sees raging fire that threatens to stun the sorcerer.
The brutalist hits Harken instead and sends him to the ground as a bonus. Then the brutalist targets Sleipnir, but the sorcerer hits him with a shocking grasp.
Caeus and Sfiros try new tactics. Caeus pulls out a crossbow, and Sfiros sends necromantic power to control the skeleton.
Sleipnir tries the same tactics. He sneaks around and casts chill touch from a safe distance, but he misses.
The brutalist turns to the new tactics.
The skeleton is obliterated!
Caeus falls to the ground.
Sfiros keeps trying new tactics and pierces the brutalist with his horns. The Khornate cultist looks down at the cleric sticking in his side and laughs and laughs and laughs. The bleeding reinvigorates the brutalist and negates the damage.
“Traitor!” the brutalist points at Sfiros.
“Why is he calling me a traitor?” Sfiros asks.
“You’re wearing the armor,” The Herd responds, pointing at the Khorne full plate.
“I’m not a traitor, we stole this!” Sfiros declares. “I’m loyal to Gond, not Khorne! If you're attacking us because you think we’re traitors, you’re totally mistaken. We can just stop right here.”
The words fall on deaf ears, and the brutalist sends the cleric to the ground with his friends.
Sleipnir has a decision to make, all on his own: What to do? Leave his friends and run for safety? Or put his own precious life at risk and stay here to fight?
Run and live to spread the rumors of this day? Tell the tall tales of Caeus and Tallest and Sfiros and the rest of the Herd?
Sensing his brother in danger, Caeus bravely stands up from unconsciousness with a natural 20 on his death save!
But it is not his time to go just yet! An image flashes before his eyes, one of his mother making a deal; just like a deal she made for his brother; just like a deal she made for his father. An exchange occurs: a cackling mouth, a black coin, a rainbow feather…
Caeus aims his crossbow, but the brutalist swings his wrathhammer and sends him back to the ground.
You’re alone again, Sleipnir. Leave? Leave? Time to leave? Save yourself or stay and save everyone?
What would his brother do?
Sleipnir stays! The shadow sorcerer heroically jolts a shocking grasp, zapping the brutalist and letting him know that some people truly believe in the power of gosh!
Sfiros hears the grace of Gond and stands up! “I was… just… stealing it!” he moos rebelliously, and he raises his hammer against his foe.
The brutalist bats Sfiros back to the ground mercilessly and smacks Sleipnir harder than he’s ever been hit in his entire life.
Sleipnir finally joins his friends, on the ground, where he closes his eyes, cracks his horn, and slips into the afterlife.
Sleipnir is dead.
Three minotaurs and a Harken wake up chained to a wall, and Sleipnir is nowhere to be seen.
Caeus tries to “reach out” to his brother mentally but feels nothing. Either minotaurs don’t have that power, or Sleipnir is dead. Or both.
“Hey Caeus, where’s that guy that’s always following you around?” Sfiros asks.
“I don’t know,” the brother-orphan replies. “Where are we?”
They recognize this place as the flooded room where the brutalist murdered the scarred man. That very same brutalist is also here, standing on a patch of dry ground in front of them, thinking while staring them down.
“What did Harken get us into?!” Caeus demands.
The brutalist hears the minotaurs rumbling and tries to monologue. “What to do? What to do? What to do?”
“Ask the Tallest!” Caeus suggests. “That’s how we decide.”
“Let us go,” Tallest decides.
“Why would I do that?” the aspiring deathbringer chuckles. “Why would I release a group of minotaurs who came in with Morty over here?” He kicks a corpse that is conveniently nearby.
“Who?” Tallest moos.
“Listen, we’re the Herd,” Caeus says. “The Herd’s not going to get Cred walking around with a guy named Morty.”
“He’s not even a minotaur!” Sfiros adds. They all pity the dead human. “Why would he be with us?”
“We don’t hang out with halflings!” Caeus says.
“Do you see us hanging out with other cows?” Tallest asks.
“Mortlock Vanthampur was to be slain!” the brutalist commences monologuing. “He intercepted these orders and turned them on me! Are you saying he came here to kill me by himself?!”
“Did you say a name?” Caeus asks.
“Mort-Lock Van-Tham-Pur,” the brutalist shouts, a hint of the Dungeon Master’s hatred of rereading and re-stating this silly name shining through. “You don’t even know who he is, do you?”
“Is he a local celebrity?” Tallest asks.
“Are you trying to say we killed him?” Caeus’ eyes widen. “We need to see an attorney!”
“I KILLED HIM!” the brutalist booms.
“You killed him?” Tallest says. “We’re going to need to talk to your attorney, now.”
“Murder?” Sfiros says. “Did you kill Mortlock Alabama? My Gond, man!”
“Yes,” the brutalist smiles. “Under orders. From his mother!”
The Herd is astonished.
“Why would you obey those orders?!” Tallest asks in disbelief. “That is insane!”
“She brought him into this world, she can take him out,” Caeus recites from his morning prayers back home.
“No, she cannot,” Tallest argues.
“It’s the law,” Caeus recites the next passage in his morning prayers.
“That’s not the law, that’s just a common saying!” Tallest says.
“Well, I’ve heard it!” Caeus says.
“Just because you’ve heard it, does not make it the law,” Tallest says.
“I have the worst fucking attorney,” Caeus pouts under his breath.
“Sir,” says Tallest, remembering his dream, “what’s Morty’s mother’s name?”
“Mrs. Alabama?” Sfiros guesses.
“Duke Thalamra Vanthampur,” the brutalist says proudly, an even greater hint of annoyance seeping in from the Dungeon Master having to pronounce this dumbass name without stumbling. “Do you even know who she is?!”
“The Duchess?” Tallest tries.
“Of House Alabama?” Sfiros adds. “You killed her son?! Oh, you’re under arrest!” He struggles with his chains enthusiastically but ineffectively.
The brutalist suddenly moves his head and freezes with his hand to his weapon. He’s clearly listening for something in the distance.
“Who else came with you?” the brutalist asks the three chained minotaurs.
“My brother,” Caeus sighs.
They all hear mooing in the distance.
“Aren’t we all the minotaurs?” says Caeus, wondering who else could be making that noise.
The noise is getting louder!
The Herd sees before they hear a booming unfamiliar voice close in, “Moo…. ve over! Here comes Dur-Dur-Dur!”
A massive, green orc decked out in a red smoking jacket, blue underoos, cowboy boots, monocle, pipe, tiger-skin cape, and mullet-ponytail charges up the tunnel, a blood-red Vorpal Greataxe clenched in both hands. His face is contorted in battle-lust!
"Oh this is the best day ever!" Caeus says with glee on the day his little brother died.
The legendary barbarian focuses his rage at the brutalist. "Who is in here trying to hurt my favorite moo-cow??" Dur-Dur-Dur swings his legendary Vorpal Greataxe and annihilates the aspiring deathbringer with one swipe, rolling a natural 20 and slicing the skull-face right off the armored body.
Despite being degloved and discorporated, the brutalist's skull-face is forever scarred with an expression of befuddlement and disbelief as it plunges into the water and sinks into a murky, crimson pool. Blood for the Blood God indeed!
"Orc, sir," Tallest pleads, "could you help us out over here? Get us out of these chains?"
"Well what do we have here?!" Dur-Dur-Dur gets excited to find people who have to listen to his stories.
"Are you Dur-Dur-Dur?" Caeus asks. He would recognize this hero anywhere!
"We've heard about you," Tallest says. "Aren't you the King of Omu?"
"I'm so glad you recognize me!" Dur-Dur-Dur shouts! "Everywhere I go, I keep telling everyone I'm the king. And they're like, 'There's no way you could be the king. You're too awesome.' And I'm like, 'I know it. Most kings around here suck.'"
"We've heard the most rumors about you!" Tallest remembers. "From… our friend."
"You mean my penpal!" Dur-Dur-Dur says. "We had the best letters! I had to get Teddy to write them for me. He's my bear, Teddy."
Dur-Dur-Dur ignores everything else and spends the next ten minutes casting commune with nature. A spectral jungle bear appears to act as the barbarian's scribe.
"Hello, Dur-Dur-Dur," the spectral bear says in a bumbling voice.
"Hey Teddy! I think I arrived at the scene Sleepy needed me to go to!" Dur-Dur-Dur really hams it up for his captive audience.
"It looks like you're exactly where you need to be, for exactly the right purpose," the bear says unhelpfully.
"But they killed Sleepy! What am I supposed to do, Teddy?" Dur-Dur-Dur cries. His emotions bring tears to the minotaurs' eyes. They will remember this dramatic ensemble for the rest of their days.
"You have to do what your heart tells you to do, Dur-Dur-Dur!" the bear wises.
The minotaurs are near speechless. Only Sfiros can manage a weak yet sincere, "What the fuck is going on?"
"But Teddy, I'm worried!" Dur-Dur-Dur exasperates. "If I give them enough money to resurrect him, he might come back as a dwarf!"
"What is happening?" Caeus's ear perk up. "Who are we resurrecting?"
"We're not doing it if they come back as a dwarf though, right?" Tallest gasps. "We're not into dwarfs, right?"
"I guess I could just try it again if he does," Dur-Dur-Dur shrugs and Tallest nods along.
"It's whatever you think should be the right choice, Dur-Dur-Dur," the bear doles out the mystic wisdom of nature.
"Oh, he's an enabling spirit!" Caeus says.
"You're right, Teddy!" Dur-Dur-Dur agrees with nature.
"If you want to bring your dead friend back, by golly, just bring him on back!" Teddy leans forward menacingly. Spectral glasses appear on his face, and the bear pushes them forward dramatically. "But he might be a little different when you do it!"
"Hm…" Dur-Dur-Dur considers for a moment. "I think he should come back, then he can tell me if he wants to live or die!"
"Didn't you end the Death Curse? This was made possible by you, Dur-Dur-Dur!" Caeus remarks. "Wait, who are we reviving?"
"Sleepy!" Dur-Dur-Dur shouts. "You don't know who Sleepy is?!"
"Sleepy?" Caeus thinks, but nothing comes to mind. "Sleepy?"
"All I know is his penmanship looks like this," Dur-Dur-Dur says and pulls out letters Sleipnir had drawn as fanmail. Included is a sketch of what Dur-Dur-Dur thinks is a minotaur: a regular cow that walks on two legs.
"Mr. Dur-Dur-Dur, you have a—" Caeus tries.
"King Dur-Dur-Dur," Dur-Dur-Dur corrects him.
"Sorry, King Dur-Dur-Dur, for being a raging barbarian, you have a very happy, cutesy art style."
Dur-Dur-Dur makes up a sincere explanation. "After I saved Omu, and became king, and had a successful entre—entre—business, I was able to take some art classes!"
He did no such thing, and it shows.
"I got to drawing on everything. You see this axe right here? I drew on my handle. See how it's got my name down there?"
It does not say Dur-Dur-Dur.
"Yes!" Caeus fibs. "Sfiros, you see his name, right? Looks good, right?"
"What's his name?" Sfiros finally asks.
"Anyway, you guys tired of hanging around here?" Dur-Dur-Dur laughs at the hanging minotaurs. "I say we should probably go."
"Yeah, could you unchain us, maybe?" Sfiros asks.
"And help us find my brother," Caeus finally remembers.
Dur-Dur-Dur breaks the chains with his axe.
"Thank you for rescuing us, Mr. Ex Machina," Sfiros says. "How did you get here? This is fine, can we go loot those corpses over there?"
"EXCUSE ME!" Dur-Dur-Dur rumbles. "You asked a question! It is Omuan custom that I answer any question before proceeding any further."
There is no such custom.
"My name is King Dur-Dur-Dur. A long time ago, my father left me!"
"Wait, you know Zanzibar!" Sfiros radiates with starstruck.
"Yeah, yeah, he's my friend," Dur-Dur-Dur exaggerates. "He's a scaredy-cat guy. He casts a lot of spells. He stays in the back. He doesn't like sorcerers!"
"Who does!?" Sfiros says this out loud on the same day that the Herd’s sorcerer died.
"ANYWAY!" Dur-Dur-Dur interrupts. "My daddy got lost in time. He got lost in the wilderness. I learned to take care of myself. I also learned how to SCREAM at enemies so they run away scared."
Dur-Dur-Dur regales them with tales of his adventures for hours, starting with episode 11 and continuing all the way to episode 56. Eventually he gets around to his point.
"I have a biggest fan, I call him Sleepy because his name sounds really strange," Dur-Dur-Dur explains. "He kept saying 'Rumor has' something! 'Rumor has' something! And I was like, 'Whoever this Rumor is, I need to find out because he's got a lot of stuff!'"
"Let me see that letter," Caeus asks. He sniffs the letter and recoils. "Yeah, this thing is covered in Doritos and Mountain Dew. It's Sleipnir, all right."
"So anyway, back to Dur-Dur-Dur. He's not to be outdone by anyone, so he came here to find this Rumor person and set him straight! And help his friend Sleepy out," Dur-Dur-Dur says in the third person for some reason. "I need you to tell me everything you know about Rumor!"
They discuss possible leads to find Rumor, and decide it's best to revive Sleipnir and ask him directly.
Dur-Dur-Dur finally notices Tallest. "You're a pretty tall feller! I like you!"
"Thanks! I like you, too, Dur-Dur-Dur," Tallest smiles. "I hope we become great friends. Do you have any spare axes?"
Dur-Dur-Dur looks around and grabs the brutalist's wrathhammer and hands it to Tallest. "Here you go!"
Tallests passes the weapon to Sfiros. As the cleric casts identify on various objects, Dur-Dur-Dur fills them in on all the secrets the bards missed about his adventures!
"Zanzibar said, 'Oh no I don't want to go in there! I'm a little scaredy boy! I'm a little scaredy boy!' and I said 'What's the worst thing down there? A giant acid-breathing dragon?' He's like, 'No! That definitely can't be down there!' and I said, 'Of course not! Because dragons aren't real!' And what comes out? A giant, acid-breathing Dur-Dur-Saur. If you've never heard of Dur-Dur-Saur, I have a book for you."
Dur-Dur-Dur opens Volo's Guide to Monsters to the page with 'Dragon,' and the word is scratched out and replaced with a picture that says Dur-Dur-Saur.'
"And look! We made a cape out of his skin!" Dur-Dur-Dur shows off his black dragon scale cape. "It's my official Dur-Dur-cape."
"These are the finest dragon scales I've ever seen!" Sfiros admires the craftsmanship.
"Dur-Dur-Saur!" Dur-Dur-Dur corrects for the last time.
"Where is Sleepy's body?" Tallest asks.
"It's right here!" Dur-Dur-Dur produces Sleipnir’s dead and dessicated and defecated corpse from out of nowhere. "I brought it with me!"
"No one knows any reviving spells, though," Tallest grumbles. "Did you bring the druid or paladin you know?"
"No, they went off into the woods," Dur-Dur-Dur says. "Another one came back, and he… me and him haven't gotten along since he came back too much."
"Came back too much?" Tallest repeats.
"Yeah, he came back as," Dur-Dur-Dur leans in and whispers, "a dwarf!"
Tallest bursts out laughing. "That can't possibly be true! No one dies and comes back as a dwarf! That was just a rumor."
Tallest is wrong.
"That's what I thought!" Dur-Dur-Dur says. "It was the craziest thing ever! My daddy came back as a snake! These things happen over there in Omu."
"Where's your daddy now?" Tallest asks.
"He's being charmed…" Dur-Dur-Dur admits.
"You sent him to a snake charmer?!" Tallest says.
"He keeps trying to bite me!" Dur-Dur-Dur shouts. "I'm here to buy a wish spell. That's a dual purpose of my visit. Sleepy was just trying to reach me at a good time, and I decided to come help y'all."
"We definitely would have been doomed without your assistance, Dur-Dur-Dur," Caeus agrees.
"I'm glad I could be of assistance," Dur-Dur-Dur smiles. "That's what kings do."
That is absolutely not what kings do.
They loot the area a bit and find a note on Mortlock's body:
"My family is paying the Chaos cultists to murder people in the city. Their goal is to prove the Flaming Fists can't do its job. Once the city stops paying them, they'll leave Baldur's Gate. With them gone, no one can stand in the way of my mother becoming the next Grand Duke. If she gets her way, Baldur's Gate will share Kinchasa's fate and get dragged—" the rest of the note is stained and unreadable.
"Uh…. Fuck!" Sfiros says helpfully.
"Evidence!" Tallest says. "We should take this note to the police."
Detect magic reveals treasure in a nearby room, and they promptly loot it clean.
"Speaking of potions and stuff," Caeus says, "Dur-Dur-Dur is a well-travelled adventurer. Show him those vials and see if he knows what they are," Caeus commands Sfiros to give Dur-Dur-Dur the purple lotus flower.
"Hey, Dur-Dur-Dur," Sfiros says. "You have a really good Constitution, right?"
"Yeah!" Dur-Dur-Dur is always happy to try new magical potions. "I sure do!"
"Try drinking this potion," Sfiros hands him a purple lotus vial.
"Ok!" Dur-Dur-Dur downs it without hesitation. As soon as he swallows, Dur-Dur-Dur realizes he can comprehend all languages.
"There's no way this dumbass just did that," Tallest says in minotaur.
"Who you talking to?!" Dur-Dur-Dur demands back in minotaur. "It's pronounced King Dur-Dur-Dur."
"Sorry, sir, I didn't know you spoke minotaur." Tallest looks away in shame.
"Me neither! This is awesome!" Dur-Dur-Dur doesn't notice a difference.
"That is a pretty good thing," says Sfiros, ever the devout minotaur. "Now I want to take one."
"Yeah, do it," Caeus encourages.
Sfiros looks at the purple lotus and looks to Gond. "No," he says.
"I'll do it! Give me one!" Caeus decides. "I'll drink one for my brother."
Caeus chugs the purple lotus flower and winces. When he opens his eyes, he can no longer see any other living thing!
Caeus looks around in a panic. He can't see anyone, but he can hear their laughter. Teddy waves at him.
"Where are you guys? Can you see me?" Caeus asks.
"You never moved," Dur-Dur-Dur laughs.
"You just became even more mediocre!" Sfiros says.
"Can you see our clothes? Our armor?" Tallest asks.
"Yeah," Caeus realizes.
"Hey Gondy!" Dur-Dur-Dur calls over Sfiros. "What's your name?"
"Sfiros!" Sfiros beams. "Sfiros!"
"Sephiroth, I need to talk to whoever is in charge of the temple," Dur-Dur-Dur says, "I need a wish spell, and we got to bring Sleepy back."
"Doesn't your friend Zanzibar know wish?" Sfiros says, highlighting the wizard.
"No, he does not," Dur-Dur-Dur says. "He had a big old spellbook. I gave him a giant library. He refuses to know the wish spell. I was like, 'I wish you could do this.' He was like, 'I wish I could, too.'"
"What's he been up to these days?" Sfiros brightens with each mention of his hero.
"Mostly reading," Dur-Dur-Dur thinks.
"So wise!" Sfiros is now giving off a faint glow with excitement.
"We're in a secret society together!" Dur-Dur-Dur leaks.
"Can I join?" Sfiros asks, unreasonably.
"Sfiros, what the fuck is wrong with you?" Caeus yells. "You can't ask celebrities if you can join their secret societies!
"He hasn't said no yet!" Sfiros points out. "I think he's thinking about it!"
"He's offended! He's the King of Omu!" Caeus booms.
"I can't!" Dur-Dur-Dur finally admits. "I have been banned from adding members cause I kept adding members. I do know we call Zanzibar One-Hand Jack because one of his hands is missing."
The light vanishes from Sfiros's aura and is replaced with cold anxiety.
"HIS HAND?" Sfiros gasps.
"Just one of them!" Dur-Dur-Dur reassures him. "He was pretty upset about it. 'Oh, I'm too young for this! The youngest candle burns the brightest' or something, and I was like, 'You look pretty old now, Mr. One-Hand Man!' I call him Lefty! Leftybar."
"Can you take the severed hand and reincarnate it to get a whole Zanzibar? A dwarf Zanzibar?" Tallest asks.
"No, it's missing!" Dur-Dur-Dur clarifies.
"I suppose neither locate object nor locate person would work on a hand," Tallest says.
"Anyway, let's go to the temple," Dur-Dur-Dur runs off.
"Wait, our movement speeds are halved!" Tallest yells after him.
At the exit, Dur-Dur-Dur sees the giant mask Sleipnir left behind. "I have to have this!" Dur-Dur-Dur realizes. He steals the mask.
"Do we want Sleipnir back right away?" Tallest points out.
"I could use a breather," Caeus agrees.
"I need to sleep at least three times before I see him again and go on another adventure," Tallest calculates.
"If we're doing raise dead, we need to do it now," Sfiros recommends. "It takes four days to recover from that, so we need to do it as soon as possible."
They make their way through Seatower and to Upper City. The guards have heard of the Herd and let them through without pause as Ezekiel flashes his deputy badge.
Sfiros guides everyone to the High House of Wonders for what must be the annual Take Your Party to Work Day, and they meet his boss, the elder minotaur named Numuru.
"Numuru, this is Dur-Dur-Dur, hero of Omu. He would like to be a customer of the Temple!" Sfiros beams.
"I've heard of this Dur-Dur-Dur," Numuru says. "You stopped the Death Curse?"
"Yes, I did!" Dur-Dur-Dur says. "I had help from my friend, Valour, before he got sick with dwarfism."
"Ah yes, Valour Stevenson. Local hero, native to Baldur's Gate!" Numuru nods. "What can I do for—is that a dead body?!"
"This is my friend Sleepy," Dur-Dur-Dur drops Sleipnir's body. "He's extra Sleepy right now."
The Herd pools their loot, mostly from Sleipnir's pockets, and find 500 gp to purchase a diamond to cast raise dead.
"Numuru, something's wrong with my eyes!" Caeus says. "I can't see any living thing! Have you seen anything like this?"
Numuru looks at him closely. "Have you been dabbling in purple lotus flower?"
"Uh, I don't know," Caeus lies. "Your apprentice gave it to me. I took it from him and snorted it!"
"Sfiros!" Numuru turns to the cleric.
"I didn't take any!" Sfiros says.
"Show me the vials," the priest demands.
Sfiros hands over the remaining purple lotus flower vials, and the priest throws them into the nearby smelter! The Temple of Gond always has a smelter or two running—company policy!
"The Guild is a criminal organization. You do not need to be peddling in their wares," Numuru chastises.
“We weren’t peddling them!" Sfiros protests. "We were experimenting! Gond teaches us to experiment, doesn't he?"
Numuru glares at the insubordinate cleric.
"You will report here first thing in the morning for the next week to go over your seminary studies!" Numuru says.
"Good idea!" Sfiros brightens. "Can I spend some of that time retooling this armor? It's covered in symbols of Khorne."
Numuru, ever a stoic minotaur, explodes in rage. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH ARMOR COVERED IN SYMBOLS OF KHORNE?!"
"Oh you have to hear about this armor!" Sfiros shines. "The hands attacked us! These hands were alive!"
"Don't forget about the corpse magic!" Tallest offers.
"THE WHAT?!" Numuru screams.
"The corpse magic!" Tallest repeats. "You know, bone shields? Skeletons doing our every command. It was really just Sfiros. None of us were able to do any of it."
"I accidentally became a necromancer for like an hour," Sfiros confesses.
"He did!" Caeus says, facing the wrong direction.
"It was an accident. There was writing on the wall. I was reading out loud. It just happened to raise an undead army." Sfiros should have gotten an attorney.
Numuru huffs up to the cleric, snatches goblin Behnie's hat off his head, and throws it into a different smelter! The Temple of Gond always has a different smelter in use whenever there’s a primary smelter—company policy. It’s environmentally friendly to separate your smeltings!
"You will garb yourself in proper attire for your order!" Numuru shoves a tattered, plain, burlap robe over Sfiros. "The penance robe."
"Yes, Master Numuru," Sfiros accepts his fate.
"Now what's this about someone needing to be resurrected?" Numuru asks. "What happened?"
"Oh we have some stories!" Sfiros gleams through his penance robe. "Do you know Mortlock Alabama?"
Numuru thinks for a bit before realizing that Sfiros is talking about the Vanthampurs. "Yes, he's the son of the Duchess.”
"He's dead," Sfiros says cheerily.
"His mother put a hit out on him," Tallest explains. "The Duchess Vanthampur is hiring chaos cultists to murder people to make the Flaming Fists look bad. Once they're out of the way, there will be no one to stop Baldur's Gate from descending into something. Probably nothing bad. It's probably not important."
"Let's save that information for later," Numuru says. "One thing at a time. Sleipnir?"
"Does anyone here know raise dead?" Sfiros asks.
"I do," Numuru says. "I can pray for it."
"Can I take part in it?" Sfiros asks eagerly. "As part of my penance?"
"Can I watch?" Caeus adds. "I can see the body, but when he comes alive again, at some point I will not be able to see that. That might be interesting."
"I will have to pray to have this spell prepared in the morning," Numuru says. He turns to Dur-Dur-Dur. "Now you, big great one? You are looking for a wish spell?"
"That would be cool, if you had one," Dur-Dur-Dur chimes in.
"I do not. But I can point you in the right direction," Numuru humbly replies.
"Ok. Where are we going?" the orc asks.
"You want to head north to the Library of Candlekeep," Numuru reveals a new mission quest. "You will not be able to enter until they have a book that is not in their library. Do you own such a thing?"
"I absolutely do!" Dur-Dur-Dur says. "It's called, ‘The Journal of Dur-Dur-Dur.’"
Numuru bows. "Surely some of those arcane wizards could help you."
"Can we come with you?!" asks Sfiros, ignoring his penance.
"I'll meet you guys there," Dur-Dur-Dur vows. "You guys seem to go at a pace slower than I want to go."
"Ok, we'll meet you there," Tallest foreshadows.
Dur-Dur-Dur, the King of Omu and Hero of Chult, inexplicably leaves behind a crayon drawing of his dad and departs Baldur's Gate heading north.
"Aw, I didn't get his autograph!" Tallest recites another catchphrase.
"I don't think he knows how to write," Sfiros says.
"I'll just forge it, then," Tallest scribbles in his autograph book.
"He showed me his weapon, and he signed the handle," Caeus laughs nervously. "It did not say his name."
His laughter is contagious, and soon they are all laughing.
Having spent the whole day in a sewer, fighting magical nonsense, knowing they were doomed, watching Sleipnir die, and finally being saved by one of their greatest heroes…
It is all so overwhelming. They have no energy left to resist the urge to laugh, and laugh, and laugh long into the night.