Inside the Cathedral of Rumusque, sunken below Baldur’s Gate, flames consume a decrepit bookshelf. Pages upon pages burn, incinerating to ash.
The Herd catches their breath in the smoky room. Caeus and Tallest find a place to sit down, and Harken serenades them with his bagpipes to help their short rest feel restier than normal.
Sfiros performs the ritual to detect magic. He waves his Holy Symbol of Gond, like echolocation but with magic. And a cow person.
The burning books are as mundane as they are flammable. No one bothers to extinguish the fire.
A bit of magic glows around the altar in the center of the room. From the altar, an open tome radiates with a magical luminescence, meaning there’s some real spooky shit going on in this thing. Torn sheets of paper and parchment litter the ground.
Sfiros examines the book, pulling pages together and reading the crude arcane script. He recognizes it as a lesser Necronomicon, an evil book that can summon demons, and demons are bad! Chaotic bad!
The signature, “Rotund’jere,” is scratched on the corner of several pages, along with phrases like ‘The Bishop of Rumusque,’ ‘I am responsible for writing this Necronomicon,’ ‘I summon demons,’ and so on. It’s almost as incriminating as shouting “We killed the Vanthampur children” to a newspaper reporter.
“You mean ‘Round Gerry?’” Caeus says as his power armor HUD mistranslates the signature for Rotund’jere. “That’s what I see.”
Sfiros scoops up the ripped up Necronomicon and chunks it into the pile of burning books.
Caeus peruses around the room and notices four marble statues of angels nestled in the corners.
“I’m getting some really cool ideas from this room,” he says. “We need to have some busts of our heads.”
“Does your mending fix art?” Tallest asks.
“I don’t know,” Caeus shrugs. Part of the power armor turns into a hammer and chisel. He uses them to cast mending on the angel statue in an attempt to turn it into a bust of Tallest.
The statue is incredibly short, and Tallest is offended.
“You just don’t understand my art!” Caeus protests.
Harken stops playing his bagpipes and finds a door. He pokes his head through and finds a room filled with skeletons, corpses, and body parts. They’re all stacked in a pile like tossed out trash, but the trash is people and the people are dead.
“It’s a shame you guys don’t do corpse magic,” Tallest sighs. “This is so much ammo.”
Sfiros Dimirgosn’t’ve, cleric of Gond, kneels in front of the corpse piles. He clutches his holy symbol to his chest. He bows his head and prays silently in Gondish funerary tradition.
They find two doors on opposing walls. Both doors lead to small rooms littered with open and empty coffins. The ceiling is a crumbling mess of holes and soil, pockmarked with tunnels that lead upward into the ground above.
The minotaurs unanimously and enthusiastically return the corpses to the empty coffins. The corpses are in a varying degree of decomposition, with some body parts falling off or totally unable to be found. After a while, they forgo neatness for efficiency and just throw pieces of dead people into coffins as they see fit. It’s like Lala always says, “Some people are born with no ears, but some people die with extra ears.”
Caeus protects himself with power armor. The helmet filters the smells, and the gauntlets protect his body from pathogens.
Sfiros radiates with holy energy. The glow vaporizes the unpleasantness, and Sfiros solemnly handles the corpses.
Tallest has no technology or magic to shield him from the putrid stench, but he selflessly helps anyway. Each time he lays one down, he mutters, “Go with Gond, or Tyr, or Nurgle, or whoever.”
“Just go,” Caeus says as he tosses three arms into a coffin.
Harken does not help. The corpses prefer that.
The Herd admires their good deed for the campaign, but not for long.
Tallest points out the holes in the ceiling.
“That looks like a job for Harken,” Harken says.
Tallest hoists Harken through the hole in the ceiling and into a tunnel.
When Harken doesn’t die, the Herd follows.
They follow Harken through the tunnels, crawling ever-upward at various angles. The minotaurs’ keen knowledge of mazes keeps them from getting lost in the never-ending tracts dug through the dirt, until Caeus eventually crawls to an empty grave with a shallow ceiling. Now they know how these corpses ended up in the Cathedral of Rumusque: someone dug underneath the graves and dragged them down.
Caeus charges his gauntlets and thunder punches through the layer of soil. Rain falls on his fists, and distant thunder matches his punch. Caeus retracts his fist and sees storm clouds and lightning through the hole.
“I found a way out!” Caeus calls out. He punches his way to the surface, emerging out of a random, empty grave in Cliffside Cemetery. Dark clouds fill the sky, and the rainy fog occludes his vision.
“One’s getting up!” a voice shouts in the distance.
Caeus sees three armed silhouettes charging at him through the rain.
“Vanquish the undead!” one silhouette shouts and raises his mace.
“He went that way,” Caeus points.
The silhouette stops midswing. “Why is a zombie wearing armor?”
Caeus retracts his helm and shows his minotaur face. “Hey, we’re the Herd,” he says. “Nice to meet you.”
The three men are stunned. “You’re not a zombie?”
Tallest shoves his way to the surface. “We’re not zombies yet,” he says.
“How many of you are down there?!” The men cry as the rest of the Herd pushes through.
Three living minotaurs, a tiefling, a dead minotaur, and a dead Kinchasan half-elf gather around the three surprised Gravemakers. Rain drizzles in the wind, and the storm rumbles over them.
“Someone start explaining,” the oldest gravemaker demands, completely shit-scared at what’s going on.
“Have you heard of the Rumusque Faithful?” Tallest asks.
“Yes, the Cathedral of Rumusque sank into the ground during a great storm many decades ago,” the man says.
“It did,” Tallest says. “We’re adventurers. We went down there to investigate, and there were demons down there.”
“WHAT?!” the man cries.
“There were demons down there,” Tallest repeats. “A red one and a blue one. Under the cemetery, they were eating the corpses. You’re basically feeding them.”
“AAH!” the men scream. “We’ve been blessing the ground to keep them from rising, and they’ve been sinking!”
“New rule: burn the dead,” Tallest suggests. “Don’t bury them. Burn them.”
“Leone is not going to like this,” they moan.
“You don’t have to burn them,” Caeus offers. “You could throw them in a vat of acid. Or, do you have any flesh-eating crocodiles? Just dispose of them. We don’t want them to come back or be fed to demons.”
Tallest nods along.
“And vet those crocodiles well,” Caeus continues. “Don’t just buy them from the first person you see offering crocodiles.”
A peacock in the trees caws in fear of the crocodile banter.
The Gravemakers take down notes. “Miss Leone needs to hear this!”
“Please take us to her,” Tallest pleads. “Let us tell her.”
The Gravemakers guide the Herd through the Cliffside Cemetery to a familiar mansion, all decayed and rotten, as though it were made by the same tailor who sewed Sleipnir’s clothes. The manse is in disrepair, and an eerie vibe sets the mooooOOOOoood.
Leone, leader of the Gravemakers and Sleipnir’s old flame, greets the wet and dirty minotaurs.
“Oh dear,” she gasps. “The Herd is here! Does that mean my darling Sleipnir is with you?”
Caeus tosses his brother’s dead and rotten corpse in front of Leone. Sleipnir lands with a THUD. His dead eyes stare at the ceiling. Both of his horns are broken off.
“Sleipnir, what happened?!” Leone collapses on the corpses and sobs. “My dear love. What happened?”
“The Flaming Fists murdered him,” Tallest exaggerates. “Can you bring him back if we had a diamond reagent?”
She looks up at Tallest through a wave of tears. “Yes, anything to bring my dear back!”
“He’s not a deer,” Caeus points out. “He’s a cow. Not a deer. If you’re dating him because you think he’s a deer, I just want to set the record straight. I know he wears a hood, and it’s hard to tell what’s in there, but it’s a cow.”
“100 percent bovine,” Harken says.
“Trust me... I know,” Leone says.
“Gross,” the Herd moos.
“Nice,” Harken nods.
“We’re going to need a double favor,” Tallest says, and he gently sets Ellison’s corpse next to Sleipnir.
“Yes, yes, I can do this,” Leone says. “Gravemakers! You two, dig fresh graves. You, carve two headstones. We must commit to the ritual!” Lightning strikes behind her.
The Gravemakers set to work, hastily digging two fresh graves and carving two new headstones. After an hour of work, the graves are complete. The headstones read ‘ELLISON, HELLRIDER OF KINCHASA,’ and ‘SLEIPNIR ANACOS’ who is a hellrider of nothing.
“Lay them in their graves,” Leone commands. Lightning cracks again.
Tallest gently lays Ellison in her grave, setting her arms and sword crossed over her chest. He pushes her hair to the side so that her young face is staring up at the sky, and he wipes some dirt off her tabard. Caeus rolls Sleipnir into a hole. Tallest finds the nicer diamond and places it in Ellison’s hand. Caeus tosses the other diamond in the hole with Sleipnir.
Leone stands between the two graves and hums to herself. The storm picks up, and a gale of cold rain glides across the ground.
“Fates that guide the world, restore these children of the gods back from whence they came!” Leone shouts. “GET UP!”
The Gravemakers mimic the cry. “GET UP!”
“Oh shit,” Caeus raises his eyebrows.
“This is just like how we do it!” Sfiros cheers.
Two bolts of lightning crackle down from the sky, arching in jagged paths as they collide downwards and strike the diamonds. After several seconds of silence, the Herd leans over the grave, and Ellison’s eyes flutter!
Sleipnir once again finds himself floating in a strange void. Random, non-repeating colors flash, lights blink, and images pulsate in every direction.
Eventually, Sleipnir sees a massive minotaur titan standing before him in the cosmic space. Uh oh, it’s about to get weird—what kind of weird? Internet bullshit, third-party-content weird!
“HMM,” the titan rumbles dreamily. “YOU AGAIN?”
“Last time I was here, I had a guy threaten me,” Sleipnir says. “And I came back to life with bad stuff happening to me. So, I tried to come back to talk to you.”
“AND WHAT DO YOU HOPE I COULD BESTOW UPON YOU THIS TIME AROUND?” the titan rumbles gently.
“Some guidance,” Sleipnir shrugs. “Maybe some preventative measure from these diseases I’ve gotten.”
“HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING A SECRET FROM THE WORLD? YOU AND YOUR CREW?”
“Yes,” Sleipnir admits.
“IT SEEMS THAT SECRET IS HAUNTING YOU IN RETURN,” Brom says. “YOU MUST CONFRONT YOUR SECRET. WOULD YOU CONSIDER IT A WRONG?”
“No,” Sleipnir says. “But some may.”
Brom flickers in and out of existence.
“IT SEEMS BENEATH THAT DIRTY EXTERIOR, YOU HAVE A GOOD HEART,” Brom says.
“That’s what my momma always told me,” Sleipnir says.
“THE FORCES OF CHAOS HAVE REACHED INTO YOUR CITY,” Brom says. “THE GODS KHORNE, TZEENTCH, AND NURGLE HAVE SENT THEIR CHAMPIONS. YOU HAVE DISPATCHED ONE ALREADY; KHORNE’S INFLUENCE WANES. BUT IT SEEM NURGLE HAS ITS SIGHTS SET,” Brom gets very close to Sleipnir’s face and says, "ON YOU…”
“His champion has his sights on me, or Nurgle wants me to be the champion?” Sleipnir asks.
“BEWARE THE GIFTS OF THE CHAOS GODS…” Brom warns. “THEY CAN BE USED TO YOUR BENEFIT… IN PIECEMEAL. BUT NEVER DIVE TOO DEEP…” Broms backs up to his massive height. “BEWARE ROTUND'JERE… HE LURKS WITHIN THE CITY. HE’S BEING STEERED BY SOMEONE…”
Brom is silent for a long time, and then says, “TZEENTCH’S CHAMPION… THAT’S A TRICKY ONE ALTOGETHER… I KNOW NOT WHAT HE’S DEVISING… HE COULD BE ANYWHERE…”
Sleipnir has a glimpse of being in a doctor’s office strapped to a chair.
A doctor stares at him and shouts, “I’ll get you one day, minotaur!”
The doctor lunges for Sleipnir, and suddenly Sleipnir wakes up. Above him is a stormy sky, and around him is a fresh grave and cold night air.
“Not if I get you first!” Sleipnir sits up swinging.
“AGH!” Ellison screams next to him.
Sleipnir sees a group of people clustered around the surface. He reads his name on a headstone.
“SLEIPNIR!” Leone rushes into the grave and comforts the sorcerer.
“What happened?” Sleipnir asks.
Tallest ignores him and says, “Ellison, are you ok?”
She shakes her head and stares at the Herd. “But I saw… I thought I was going to see Tyr…” she starts.
“What did you see?” Caeus asks.
“I saw Hell,” Ellison says. “That’s where I went.”
“What do you mean you saw Hell?” Sfiros asks.
“I died, and I went to Hell… That’s not supposed to happen to me!” Ellison begins to panic. “What’s all of this for? I’m doing good deeds… I fight against evil…”
“Now Ellison… If you were just doing good deeds to not go to hell, then you’re doing good but with selfish motivations. I don’t think that counts. Haven’t you been reading your philosophy?” Caeus chides. “You have to do good deeds for the sake of doing good deeds, not because of some promised reward in the afterlife!”
“I was redeemed by Valour, and ever since I’ve lived a good life. I do good and right wrongs because it is the right thing to do.” Ellison looks left and right to the city all around her. “Is this the fate that awaits us all?”
“Well hang on don’t panic” Caeus interrupts, “What happened to you, Sleipnir?”
“Same old same old… I met the minotaur god again. He was pretty cool,” Sleipnir begins before the group erupts with commentary and questions. “Excuse me, this is my story. You got two episodes of y’all, time for old Sleipnir to get a lead role.”
Everyone quiets down for the hornless minotaur to tell his tale.
“As I was saying… I met the minotaur god, and he said I was doing pretty good and that I can use my Chaos powers here and there as long as I don’t go crazy with it. He also said ‘Bump Gond and Tyr.’ I’m the minotaur champion... whatever that means…” Sleipnir trails off. “Anyway, I’m glad to be back alive. And in such a snuggly position right now being cradled. It’s pretty nice.”
“Yes it is nice!” Leone agrees and hugs Sleipnir tightly.
“He also said everything is going to hell in this city. There are three Chaos gods and they each have a champion. We’ve already killed one of them.”
“Oh nice!” Caeus says. “I’m going to write that down on my check list and mark it off. That gives me a dopamine hit.”
“Ellison, you went to hell because you didn’t heal me at all during that battle,” Tallest says, ignoring Caeus. “Let that be a lesson to you.”
“Yeah, aren’t you some sort of cleric?” Sleipnir asks.
“I am a paladin of Tyr. That one there is a cleric,” Ellison says, passing the blame to Sfiros.
“I didn’t get any heals, and I didn’t get any auras. I don’t know what you were doing out there,” Tallest says. “You’ve got a lot of penance to do, and then I can help you get to minotaur heaven if that’s what you really want.”
“Minotaur heaven is pretty cool!” Sleipnir brags.
Ellison grumbles something about stupid minotaurs under her breath.
Leone looks down to Sleipnir and says, “Don’t you ever die again, again.”
“You know what they say: third time’s the charm,” Sleipnir tries.
“No one says that, mate. 'Specially not about dying,” Harken says accurately.
“Wait, what is up with your outfit?” Sleipnir asks, noticing Harken for the first time. “Are you the leader of the Flaming Fist now?”
“Ya. Someone’s idea of a cruel fuckin’ joke,” Harken says quietly.
“Harken saved everyone,” Caeus says.
“Ya, ya, best not get into the specifics of that right now,” Harken says, downplaying the attention. “It’s a long story. What’s important now is that everyone’s least favorite member of the party is back alive.”
“Everyone’s least favorite member of the Herd is back alive.” Caeus loudly corrects Harken.
“This is why you’re not officially a member of the Herd, Harken,” Tallest says. “It’s not because you’re not a minotaur. It’s because of that.”
“Yeah, well, next time I’ll just leave your corpses on the street to rot…” Harken grumbles quietly.
“Speaking of leaving things on the street to rot, we’re starting a riot tomorrow. Are you in, Sleipnir?” Tallest asks.
“That depends. What is the riot about?” Sleipnir asks.
“The Vanthampurs,” Tallest says matter-of-factly.
“Oh yeah. Let’s do it,” Sleipnir responds. “But that’s not until tomorrow. Where are we going to sleep tonight?” He looks up to Leone who is still cradling him in her arms and winks at her.
Caeus dry heaves a little.
“We can just stay right here if you want to!” Leone says excitedly as lightning crashes in the bleak sky above the graveyard.
“Just like our first date!” Sleipnir says.
“Not exactly like our first date…” Leone winks at Sleipnir.
“GROSS!” the Herd moos.
Caeus throws up.
“Don’t worry, Ellison. It’s all going to be ok. We’re going to the protest tomorrow. Everything is going to be fine,” Caeus says, trying to change the subject.
“If there is a tomorrow for ya, mate,” Harken trolls. “Imagine going back. That would be pretty fuckin’ terrible wouldn’t it?”
“Harken, you look like a devil. This is probably not easy for her,” Caeus says.
Ellison ignores the tiefling. “I’m going to lay down. It’s been a terrible day.” She walks into the ruined manse.
“Are we staying here for the night?” Caeus asks.
“Do we have any other good options? We’re wanted,” Sfiros points out.
“Well, we could probably use the tunnels and go back to stay with the Dandies,” Caeus suggests.
“OR, we could go back to the bathhouse, which is our new hideout!” Tallest quickly presents an alternative to mixing friend groups. Because that’s what they are: JUST friends!
“I’ll meet you guys there,” Sleipnir winks.
“Are you sure you want to be left alone for now?” Sfiros asks innocently.
“Oh, don’t worry. He won’t be alone,” Leone lustily promises.
“Well… have fun Sleipnir,” Tallest calls to the horny yet hornless minotaur.
The rest of the Herd descends back into the grave they crawled out of. Caeus can be heard dry heaving for a few minutes as they make their way back through the tunnels to the bathhouse above The Dog and Bastard.
Early the next morning, Sleipnir feels a poke on the top of his hornless head. He struggles to open his eyes and sees Ellison poking him with the dull end of her sword.
Sleipnir rises, writes a sappy note for Leone, and leaves her a blue velvet bag as a gift.
“Which way do we go?” Ellison asks Sleipnir.
“I just woke up here. I have no idea,” Sleipnir replies.
“No one told us where to go!” Ellison panics, completely forgetting her communicator wristwatch that Caeus created for occasions like this.
“If I had to guess, we jump in this grave and go west,” Sleipnir deduces.
The recently revived party members find themselves in an unfamiliar room completely filled with coffins stuffed with skeletons and body parts. There is a charred bookshelf in one corner, and runes of evil magic are scrawled on the walls.
“Was there a battle here? What in the nine hells is all this?” Ellison asks with Shatterspike drawn.
“This is what happens when we go through places,” Sleipnir nods approvingly. “That means they were here. Let’s go this way!”
The rest of the Herd wakes up to see Sleipnir stepping out of the tunnels calmly. Ellison steps out moments later, looking around frantically as if there could be an ambush at every turn.
“Hey guys. Good morning!” Sleipnir says cheerily.
Needing to retrieve the armor and supplies they commissioned the previous day, the Herd prepares for how to get into Little Calimshan without being caught.
Tallest puts on his East Clintwood disguise.
Ellison, Hellrider of Kinchasa, is welcome in Little Calimshan, so she keeps her regular armor on.
Caeus decides to also be a Hellrider and casts disguise self to look like Ellison.
“Not all Hellriders look exactly like me!” Ellison complains.
“I look slightly different!” Caeus says in self defense. “I have different colored eyes, for example.”
Sleipnir puts on his “fancy robe” which was formerly worn by a devout follower of Tzeentch. It is not flattering. Instead, he removes his robes altogether. The Herd barely recognizes him with his mask not obscuring his face and his horns broken off.
“You don’t look like Sleipnir. That’s what we were going for!” Tallest adds.
Sfiros imbues magic into Tallest’s warhammer with blessing of the forge. Tallest feels the magic of Gond in his weapon.
Sfiros brushes off his hide and gets on all fours. The cleric chomps a delicious patch of grass.
Harken removes his Flaming Fist regalia without saying a word.
Satisfied with their disguises, the Herd travels to Little Calimshan via the tunnels. They find the Oasis Theatre exit easily.
Inside the theatre, Tallest stops the first stagehand he sees. “Hey, is everyone going to the protest later today?”
The stagehand takes one look at Tallest and stammers as if speaking to a real celebrity. “Hello Mr. Clintwood. Oh yes, yes! There is quite a crowd riled up. They have signs and everything.”
“Signs?!” Caeus says with disgust. “We specifically requested banners.”
“Yes, well signs are what we have,” the stagehand continues. “We are going to march our way to the gates of the Upper City, signs held high, so that all those people can finally see the plight that we are in! We will demand they provide us the same protections and treatment that they have. There’s demon people around!”
Harken catches sight of himself in a mirror and chuckles quietly.
“Excellent news,” Tallest responds. “Have they been covering it on the show? Or do I need to crash the stage and remind people?”
“Don’t worry. Jonas Goodnight has definitely been discussing the protests all morning. He’s brought up several Kinchasans on stage to tell their stories. We’ve all had it with Manzibar Krieg and our treatment in Baldur’s Gate.” The stagehand leans in closer and speaks quietly. “We even think that the Guild is going to help make things a little easier for us, too. After all, they are not fans of the current city leadership.”
“Wonderful!” Tallest says excitedly. “Let’s definitely get the Guild involved in this. Good job. We’re going to head out to finish up some business before the protests begin. We’ll meet everyone down at the gates to Upper City.”
The stagehand nods and ducks backstage as sounds of clapping and excitement can be heard from the Jonas Goodnight show. The disguised Herd leaves the theatre and walks to Little Calimshan.
Little Calmishan feels very different from the last time they were here. No longer a quiet refugee community that is down on it’s luck, now the district seems hopeful and eager for the trouble that will surely come later. A revolution is forming all around them. There are signs that say “VANTHAMPURS! WE WANT ANSWERS!'' and “WHERE IS MANZIBAR KRIEG?” and--to Caeus’ delight--a single banner reading, “SIGNS SUCK. BANNERS BETTER.”
Tallest surveys the scene and comments, “We weren’t able to make these people any happier, but at least we’ve raised their spirits with a little righteous indignation.”
“It looks like you guys caused a riot,” Sleipnir says.
“Not yet,” Tallest points out.
The Herd finds their way to the armorer.
“Ah East Clintwood. The order you requested is ready.” Mos Clau presents the group with very large plate armor and two equally impressive sets of splint. “It was a pleasure doing business with you, sir. I hope to see you at the gates soon.”
“Oh, absolutely, we’ll be there,” Tallest lies. “We’re going to go try on this armor and practice with it a bit before the protests get under way. Wouldn’t miss this thing for the world. By the way if you get there before us make sure you spread the rumor that we’re coming. We may be a bit late.”
“I will be happy to sir,” the smith replies decently.
“Don’t forget. Until we show up, you’re in charge!” Caeus tries.
“No sir, I don’t think I am. If anything that would be Madame Botha or some other more important person.”
“Suit yourself. As the person in charge, that is your call to make,” Caeus winks to the shopkeeper.
The kindly armorer gives an uncomfortable Kinchasan smile and is very clearly ready for this conversation to be over with.
“Well, goodbye sir. The youngest candle burns the…fastest?” Tallest tries as the Herd exits the shop.
The Herd backtracks through the tunnels to the Dog and Bastard Inn. They don their new armor, and they follow their map through the northwest tunnel toward Upper City.
Gradually, steam obscures the path, filling the tunnel with hot, wet humidity. Pipes and valves appear on the walls, and judging by their map, they must be beneath the steam-powered forges of the High House of Wonders.
Tallest slows down and asks the spellcasters, “Does anyone know anti-steam spells? A cantrip that blows wind? Makes it cool?”
“I have a can of beans,” Caeus says helpfully.
“I have infestation,” Sleipnir suggests.
Tallest sighs. “Well, see if you can clog up the steam with those bugs.”
“Ok, I cast—” Sleipnir starts.
“Don’t clog the steam!” Sfiros shouts. “Let the steam go! We need the steam”
The cleric forges ahead (hah, wordplay!) through the steam billowing under the High House of Wonders until the Herd can’t see him anymore.
“It’s a bit warm,” Tallest complains, then follows. The rest of the Herd follows suit.
As they pass under the temple, Sleipnir feels Numooru’s keep-Sleipnir-out barrier pushing down from above, trying to keep him away. Realizing that the barrier is spherical, he’s able to push through and barely slip past the tangent, emerging on the other side. He slips under the invisible force and frowns at the Nurgle brand on his arm.
Sfiros leads them through the tunnels, deftly recognizing the Gondish architecture. Eventually, they come to what appears to be a sewer system lit by hanging lanterns. A quick peek at the map proves that they are indeed now under the Vanthampur Villa.
And they’re surrounded by a LOT of Vanthampur doodoo!
They creep down the sewer, seeing several tunnels and paths careening off to various directions. Sleipnir approaches a door and jiggles the first door handle he finds, and he throws the door open without a care in the world!
In the other room is a broad-shouldered figure with purple skin and a beard of writhing snakelike tentacles. He tightens his grip on a glaive as he glares at them through the darkness. A ring of keys hangs from the creature’s belt. Several barred cells line the wall, hinting that the Herd just barged in on some type of sewer brig!
“Intruders!” the creature shouts. He scrapes his glaive along the floor, spraying sparks at the Herd. It looks really badass.
Eager for combat, the Herd rushes the devil. Necrotic and radiant spells fly across the room from the minotaur spellcasters as the bearded devil swings his glaive and whips his beard tentacles, but he’s unable to penetrate the Herd’s new armor.
Harken stabs at the bearded devil with his rapier. The devil shrugs off the mundane weapon. Tallest’s warhammer lightly glows with the blessing of the forge, and the holy glow penetrates the demon’s defenses as he smashes the fiend.
Harken changes strategies and bardically inspires Sfiros with his pipes o’ the bag. Fueled by a loud, droning racket, the cleric charges with his head down and impales the devil with his minotaur horns. The bearded devil shrieks, and his glaive falls from his hand. Before the weapon reaches the ground, the devil and the glaive vanish in a puff of hellish dust!
The ring of keys clatters to the ground.
“Let us out!” a voice calls from one of the cells.
“Wait, who are you?” Caeus demands.
An elderly aristocratic human woman approaches the cell window. “My name is Satiir Thione-Hhune,” the noble woman says, ensuring that she isn’t some kind of Star Wars character from her name looking like someone dropped an apple on the keyboard to come up with it. “I was kidnapped by the Vanthampurs to prevent my family from exposing them for stealing Silence from the family crypt.”
She explains that Silence is an ancient relic with magical properties unknown. Duke Vanthampur stole it to secure Duke Hhune’s vote many years ago.
“Good, we need you to lead an insurrection against her,” Tallest says. “We already have a riot starting outside.”
Caeus shuffles through his bag of holding to find a stale, dirty brownie. He brushes some of the bag lint off the brownie and offers it to the prisoner.
Satiir scarfs down the brownie.
“You owe us a life debt now,” Tallest says. “We’re minotaurs, and that’s how this works.”
They release the noblewoman from the cell and turn to the next prisoner.
“If you were listening, that’s rude,” Caeus warns him the prisoner.
A short, lean Calishite leans forward in his cell and points at Harken. “I know that man,” he says.
“Oy? Eh?” Harken asks. “Do ya?”
“You’re a Beremon,” the man says, then smirks. “I work for your mother.”
Harken doesn’t act surprised at the revelation. “How’s ma doin? She good?”
“A little of this, a little of that,” the man says.
Harken laughs. “‘This and that’ can mean a lot of different things for her.”
“I’ve been gathering information about Thavius Kreeg,” the man says.
“The Manzibar?” Caeus asks.
The man nods and looks at Harken. “Your mother has been monitoring devilish activity coming out of Baldur’s Gate and Kinchasa for months. She believes Kreeg struck a bargain with an archdevil. A copy of the contract he signed is hidden inside a magic puzzle box.”
They let the man out of his cell and gave him Caeus’s mace and crossbow since he looks like he can fuck up way more bad guys than the old bitch going on about her family heirloom.
The Herd leads the prisoners back the way they came. They peruse the sewer even more, until they find their way to a cellar with barrels of wine, whiskey, mead, and ale. In the southern corner is a set of stairs leading upward! To the Vanthampur Villa proper, perhaps?
They investigate two stacks of crates. The crates on the south wall are filled with dry food, cured meats, grains, cheeses, and grains. The crates in the middle are filled with three spined devils that attack oh shit what a surprise!
Sleipnir casts friends. It doesn’t affect the spined devils.
Harken casts burning hands. It also doesn’t affect the spined devils.
The three spined devil screech and attack. One attacks Harken and Sleipnir, another duels Tallest and Caeus, and the third focuses its rage on Sfiros and Ellison.
The first devil flies across the ceiling and swings at Harken. Its spiked tail stops inches from the tiefling’s face as the entire creature vaporizes into non-existence.
Harken turns to see his mother’s hired man reloading his crossbow.
“Great shot, uh, what’s your name?” Harken asks.
“Falaster,” the man replies.
The Herd laughs and makes several dick jokes. Falaster is surprised that they even know what “phallus” means!
Tallest and Caeus pummel their devil, smashing and zapping it to hell. Literally, they beat it so damned hard that it returns to hell.
The last devil howls and finally pierces the new armor, striking a deep cut into Sfiros’ beef. Sfiros howls back a word of radiance. The sound reverberates into a blast of light, irradiating and disintegrating the final devil.
Ellison heals Sfiros with lay on hands.
“Not the worst fight I’ve been in,” Falaster says. He points to stairs. “Those stairs lead to the Vanthampur residence. That’s where you’ll find Thurstwell.”
The Herd stomps upstairs quietly. They find a door that opens into a pantry, and they shove their way through.
Tallest leads into a kitchen with a fussy human woman in an apron. The woman shrieks at the sight of the massive minotaur.
“Who are you?” Tallest demands.
“My name is Gabbarae Devalin, sir,” she manages. “Did… did you just come out of my pantry?”
“No,” Tallest lies. “Where is Thurstwell?”
“He’s upstairs,” she cries. “He doesn’t leave his room.”
A winged cat flies to Gabbarae, meowing with its tongue out.
“That’s Slobberchops,” Gabbarae says.
“You and Slobberchops need to lead the way,” Tallest commands.
They don’t move.
“Now!” he shouts.
Gabbarae jumps up. “Of course, sir, err… I didn’t get your name?”
“No, you did not,” Tallest says.
The rest of the Herd steps out of the pantry.
“Oh!” Gabbarae cries. “Who are all these others?”
“I am the only one you need to worry about right now, and you need to lead me to Thurstwell,” Tallest demands.
Caeus punches his fists together and sparks fly out of the impact, and Sfiros hides his Holy Symbols of Gond to avoid being associated with the shakedown. Surely they will just think he’s some other white and black spotted minotaur instead!
An elder butler walks in and cries out in surprise. Most beef that enters the kitchen tends to not be so well alive or armored.
“We’re not interested in hurting the staff,” Tallest explains. “We’re just making sure the cat isn’t a devil!” He stares at Slobberchops. The cat is hovering in the air and licking its weiner with its leg pointing up.
The Herd is led out of the kitchen and into an elegant foyer, complete with austere family portraits and ornate rugs. They climb a nearby bannister, heading to the second floor. But at the top of the stairs, they run into five guards.
“Quick, there’s a riot outside!” Tallest says. “We need your help!”
The guards raise their weapons. “You’re the Herd!”
The guards bottleneck around Tallest and Caeus, unable to reach the spellcasters and unable to penetrate the armor as they pile in on the stairway. The Herd obliterates the closest guard, and they sneer up at the other four.
“Do you really want to die for the Vanthampurs?” Tallest asks.
The guards continue their futile attacks, and the Herd annihilates the next one.
A door creaks open down the hall of the second floor, and a withered figure steps out and points at Tallest. “Sacred flame,” his raspy voice penetrates the cacophony of battle.
The flare burns through Tallest’s plate, finally damaging the fighter. He leers at the attacker, seeing a sickly young man in a bathrobe: Thurstwell Vanthampur!
Thurstwell casts sanctuary on himself and flees back to the room like a bitch. A raven flies out of the room and caws mockingly at Caeus… and the Herd ain’t all that happy about ravens, due to recent events.
But the raven mutates, its feathers shimmering away to reveal that its bird-like exterior is merely an illusion. An imp materializes in the raven’s stead, its fangs and spiked tail glinting in the candlelight! Sfiros swats it into a wall, and Sleipnir blasts it with magic missile. The imp poofs out of existence before it can even turn the tide of battle.
Tallest pushes his way through the remaining guards and charges into Thurstwell’s room, smashing the door open and rooting around for the coward.
The guards turn to chase down Tallest, but Caeus, Harken, Sfiros, Sleipnir, and Falaster kill every last one where they stand.
“Go away!” Thurstwell cries from under the bed where he’s hiding. “Leave me alone! Mother!”
Harken shouts a bardic inspiration to Tallest.
Tallest bends far down to face Thurstwell hiding under the bed. “Your guards are all dead,” he says. “You’re going to be next if you don’t drop that sanctuary.”
Tallest focuses his will to overcome sanctuary, and Harken inspires him enough to attack! Tallest laughs in triumph and raises the warhammer, smashing it through the bed and crushing Thurstwell
“Mother!” the Vanthampur cries one last time..
His legs and arms sprawl out of the crushed bed. Blood pools around his body, and a strange puzzle box falls out of his pocket.
“Did you mean to kill him?” Sleipnir asks.
“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Tallest is confused.
“I can fix this,” Harken runs forward and grabs Thurstwell’s rolling head.
Slobberchops flies over to Harken and meows. Harken pets the cat and scratches behind his ears. “You have to tell me if you’re an evil cat.”
Tallest pockets the puzzle box. They loot the room and find 75 gold pieces, a potion of healing, a book called Apocalypto , a gold signet ring worth 5 gold pieces engraved with the Vanthampur motto, “STONE HEARTS NEVER BLEED,” and a jewelry box made of bones worth 10 gold pieces.
This Thurstwell motherfucker is weird!
They look the other rooms, which appear to be the bedrooms of the other Vanthampur brothers. Sleipnir steals a stuffed troll doll from Mortlock’s room, and Tallest snags some of Amrich’s super extra large size fine clothes.
Sfiros hears guards outside, and they cut their looting short.
They make sure to take Thurstwell’s head as they run downstairs in search of Duke Vanthampur.