So there’s a place called Baragzan, which is a mining town along the northern mountain range of the Qelong River Valley in the Savajedra region. As far as places go, it’s kind of bitchin’. There are humans in the town. There are ogres in the town.
And then there’s Tzarvoya.
Tzarvoya is a cleric of the chaos god, Guga. And damn has she been terrible at priestin’ for chaos lately. She has spending most of her time in the Blackstone Inn, hanging with the ogre miners (but not ogre minors because that would be weird). She is less intimidated by the miners (and minors), than most folks because she’s one of those 6’2 kind of ladies who is built to swing a weapon and ride bears.
Her deity, Guga, has been screaming at her in her dreams to start looking for work—specifically chaos work. She came to Baragzan thinking she would find work immediately, but all she’s found are ogres who mine rocks and humans who do… human shit.
Early this morning, she sits down for some human breakfast with her comrade ogre, Slate. She’s digging into some fish and vinegar rice and talking to Slate about how she’s unemployed but can’t get a 1,200 silver-piece government bailout because this is some feudal ages shit kind of government. Also, she’s whittling soap because… that’s what she’s doing.
While talking about the what-have-you’s and the well-let-ME-tell-YOU-what’s-up’s, she glances out the window and sees a crocodile and some halflings just kind of marching up the road to the town.
"Slate, who is that... thing out there?" Tsarvoya says.
Slate doesn't know.
Slate doesn’t know many things. “It may be your lucky break! You know, an adventure!”
The two halflings and the crocodile continue towards the inn.
"Slim... I would like to sleep in water please," Sr-Gung-Ban, the crocodile of Mr-Kr-Gr, tells her halfling accomplice. She has been going for days without a good wallow in the water.
Beebo, the other halfling, had met up with the duo shortly before, so she’s stressed about the crocodile becoming more and more discomforted at the sight of civilization that may or may not take kindly to a reptile predator prancing down the streets.
"I don't think it's a good idea if I come directly into the village. Why don't you go see what's happening in the town, and I'm going to go hide under these bushes.” Sr-Gung-Ban says, then lumbers over to the bushes to do prowly things.
Slim is upset at leaving Sr-Gung-Ban behind since Sr-Gung-Ban is his emotional support crocodile. The distraught halfling leans on Beebo and annoys the shit out of her as they try to find out what they need to do.
Beebo thinks that since they haven't eaten real food in a while, she'd suggest they go somewhere to get some grub. Slim takes offense to this since he’s a cook, but fermented kimchi can only take an adventuring party so far, and Beebo’s getting tired of hearing the word “pickled.”
They decide to go to the Blackstone Inn, which is fortunately right in front of them hey what a coincidence.
“What do you want us to bring you back?” Beebo says to Sr-Gung-Ban.
Sr-Gung-Ban calls after them, "Bring me back some chicken or humans."
"Which one do you want?" Slim adds.
"Preferably people... but chicken will do."
"Chicken will do," Beebo agrees wholeheartedly.
They approach the Blackstone Inn and enter underneath the ogre-sized batwing doors. They go up to the bar and share a barstool meant for an ogre.
"Listen, it's not that I don't like your cooking, but I think something fresher than ten days old is good for the body!" Beebo mutters to Slim.
"It's fermented! It's kimchi!" he argues back.
The human tavernkeeper approaches and wants to know what the hell the little folks want to eat.
"Just a bowl of soup—whatever you have—and a chicken... to go," Beebo says.
"How would you like the chicken cooked?" the innkeeper says, peering down at the halflings.
Slim speaks up in a hungover state, "I’ll have grog... grog... tofu soup, and grog..."
Back at Tsarvoya’s table, Slate nudges the cleric. "They might be the kind of folks you're looking for!"
Tsarvoya plops down next to a human-hiney’d stool next to the halflings. "Hello my tiny friends! I've noticed that you left your pet outside. I've noticed that he might need water. I have a mule out there with lots of water. Mule water is best water! Also, I made this for you!" She then slams a crocodile-shaped soap bar in front of them.
Beebo looks to Slim because she knows the #1 rule in crocodile culture is not to call a crocodile a pet. "Yeeeah, she’s definitely not a pet, but I would definitely suggest not to keep your mule near her."
Slim adds, "So yeah, don't call her a pet. Also... do you have a long jacket we can borrow!?"
"Absolutely." Tsarvoya goes and gets her jacket, which is sitting on the back of the chair. She leans in to Slate. "It's not a pet, it's more of a... friend!? I don't know. I'm not sure. But apparently they're cold and need jacket."
She returns to the halflings and gives them the jacket.
"Oh thank you! We are very cold in here,” Beebo says.
"MY NAME IS TSARVOYA!" Tsarvoya shouts.
"Oh yeah, I'm Beebo."
"I'm Shortstack Slim."
Tsarvoya takes a whiff of the air. "You smell a little bit like fermented something... I don't know what it is..."
"I can get like TEN servings of kimchi out of ONE cabbage on an adventure!” Slim shouts.
"So tiny friends, what brings you here?" Tsarvoya says.
"We're just looking for something to eat and minding our business!" Beebo grunts.
"He said ‘adventure!’" Tsarvoya says, pointing to Slim. "Do you guys have heals? Band-Aids? First aid kits?"
"No we don't. We barely have a fighter," Slim says.
"Well then you are in luck, because I am probably best healer in this village," Tsarvoya beams and poses all fancy-like.
"Is there another healer in this village?" Beebo asks.
Tsarvoya’s face darkens. "I'll be honest. There is ogre shaman. He lives in that little house down the road. You could take him down the road. I will say that last week, old Mrs. Nguyen-Ston had another flare up of her gout, he tried to heal it with chicken bones... it did not go very well. She's still suffering. As a matter of fact, I have to go over there later today and try to fix it and take a chicken bone out of her foot."
"He stuck it into her foot?" Beebo gasps.
"Well if you're going over there, are you too busy to work with us?" Slim says.
"No. We can leave it in there!"
"Do you have much experience with halflings?" Slim asks, squinting at her.
Tsarvoya takes out a piece of gauze and gently dabs it on Beebo’s knee. "See!? There you go: experience."
"... That was really impressive. We never thought about doing that..." Slim says. "What's your experience with creatures of the swamp? Reptiles?"
"ARE YOU ASKING ME TO KILL YOUR FRIEND!?"
"No! Can you heal her?" Slim says.
"Oh of course..."
"She has indigestion..." Slim adds.
"Indigestion? Probably from fermented foods," Tsarvoya reasons.
"I think it's from the open void to the abyssal otherworld that lies deep within her stomach—” Slim begins, but before he finishes, their food arrives.
Back at the underbrush where the crocodile was stashed, Sr-Gung-Ban is sitting quietly until she sees four strung-out-looking humans shambling up the road to Baragzan. One of them straggles behind and wanders too close to her bushes.
Not one to turn down a free lunch, she lashes forth, snatches the straggler, grabs him at the waist, and drags the body into the brush. She tastes something a little peculiar deep in his blood organ—whatever humans call them—but her hellish void of a stomach digests it fine. She spits his tattered clothes out into the side of the road and continues to wait.
Eventually Tsarvoya, her mule, and the halflings come out to meet her.
Tsarvoya has to remember that this croc is not a pet, even though it has a collar.
"Is this safe for Solnishko to be here?" Tsar asks, pointing at her mule.
"Maaaybe just keep Solnishko near the back. We did bring an entire raw chicken," Beebo says.
Tsarvoya shouts loudly and clearly at Sr-Gung-Ban, "PLEASE. DON'T EAT. MY MULE. SOLNISHKO IS FRIEND. S'OKAY?"
"Slim... I'm good. I don't need to eat, but you brought dessert?" Sr-Gung-Ban mutters, eyeing the chicken.
"Okay so she didn't understand,” Tsarvoya says. “Do I need to speak louder. DO YOU UNDERSTAND!?"
"No, I heard you.” Sr-Gung-Ban says. “Slim, I'm not supposed to eat them right? The person? AND the mule?”
"Does your mule talk?" Slim asks Tsarvoya.
"No. It is mule."
"Well don't eat her mule. Or her. She gave us this jacket," Slim says, showing the fancy jacket that Tsarvoya just gave them.
Sr-Gung-Ban nods. "It's okay. Give me the dessert. I had a snack. Just toss it! Don't get near me. Just toss it."
Tsarvoya sees the tattered clothing remains. "I think this was Ms. Nguyen-Ston’s son's clothes. He went off to war."
"Those were here when I got here!" Sr-Gung-Ban panics.
"Well he's an asshole, it's okay. We can remove her chicken bone later." Tsarvoya says, plottingly. "Oooor... Best bet is to go take chicken bone out of Ms. Nguyen-Ston's leg, and she'll know where we can go. Again, if she mentions her son, we don't say anything!"
The group then decides how they’re going to get Sr-Gung-Ban into town without the people freaking out that there’s a large crocodile in the mountains.
"If you must... you can put your packs on me and make me look like I'm one of these tasty hauling creatures,” Sr-Gung-Ban points to the mule.
Beebo suggests hiding Sr-Gung-Ban in a cart and covering her with straw, so the party goes looking for a cart to use. They find one near the inn, and it belongs to Zhe, who Tsar knows. Tsar knows that Zhe is an nomadic artist, and a week ago, she asked Tsar if she could paint her nude in her little Bohemian hut.
“Tiny friend you are about to meet Zhe,” Tsarvoya begins. “She's quite the character—very nice—an artist. Enjoys the human form. I think maybe we can borrow her cart. How do you think your friend would feel about posing for my friend in exchange for the cart, Slim?"
Tsarvoya goes to the inn and knocks for Zhe, who answers the door and is stoned out of her mind. They barter for the cart.
"I hope you'll let us borrow your beautiful cart in exchange for painting this beautiful halfling model since you drew me and I did not charge you,” Tsarvoya pitches her finest sale.
They agree on the deal after lots of stoner talk. At the end of the conversation, Tsarvoya realizes that Zhe has an ogre in the bedroom with her. Scandalous conversation ensues.
"Is it true what they say about ogres?" Tsarvoya whispers.
"Well, it's not that they have layers... they ARE layers, aha hahahaha!" Zhe starts laughing, then slams the door shut so that she can go back to having hippie sex.
The party gets Zhe’s cart, which is painted up like a six-year-old girl would paint a pony cart for the annual Halloween hay ride that parents still think their kids enjoy. Sr-Gung-Ban crawls into the back and curls up with her eyes and snout poking out of the straw.
"I'm pretty sure that I can convince Mrs. Nguyen-Ston that Sr-Gung-Ban is my magical health crocodile," Tsarvoya mutters.
The party wheels Sr-Gung-Ban through town without much fuss, looking like any other normal cleric of a chaos priest and 3-foot-tall people in a town built for taller-than-normal characters. Nothing strange to see here! Definitely not that hay-filled Kindergarten arts-and-crafts lookin’ cart.
They arrive at Mrs. Nguyen-Ston’s house, which is a typical old-crone house full of knick-knacks and excessive furniture that she has collected over the years. Sr-Gung-Ban decides to stay in the cart and let the cleric do her thing.
"All right Mrs. Nguen-Ston, let's see the foot,” Tsarvoya says, getting her clerical gear ready.
The old woman reveals her foot, showing that it’s a festering pile of pus-lined sepsis and salmonella from a chicken bone being lodged in it.
"All right Mrs. Nguyen-Ston, I want you to count down from 3, 2, 1…”
The old bat starts counting, Tsarvoya grabs the bone and rips it straight out of her leg. Blood and puss and germs and hate and formaldehyde start spraying everywhere from the wound, soaking everything with old woman juice. Tsarvoya hands Mrs. Nguyen-Ston some beef jerky from the Blackstone Inn by shoving it between her teeth, allowing the cleric to stitch up the wound. She then gives the festering chicken bone to Slim.
Slim contemplates the kimchi he can make from such a chicken bone...
"Do NOT visit the shaman anymore!" Tsarvoya says, finished with her stitching.
During her feverish bout of pain, Mrs. Nguyen-Ston mentions that Old Man Shao who lives up the mountain is also close to death, and he's desperate for some help as well.
Well shit that sounds like an adventure hook pulled out of someone's ass!
The party heads up a path north of Baragzan in search of Old Man Shao’s creepy ass hut or cabin or cave or hole in the ground so that they can take advantage of—er—gain a lead on some advice from this old fart.
After an hour’s worth of travel, they find Shao’s place, and it looks like dog ass. The creepy hermit man looks like he’s one sneeze away from a trip to the crematorium, but dying people can be desperate people, and desperate people are easy marks.
Shao introduces himself and drones on about how he has the aakom curse, and that he wants someone to go into an old tomb to retrieve a rumored potion that can cure his ailment. The tomb is a shrine dedicated to Dendar the Night Serpent, who is a total asshole who got into a big fight with Guga the chaos god. As anyone can assume, when chaos deities and snakey-bois get into cosmic fights, terrible things happen.
Shao goes on about how ever since the fight between Dendar the Night Serpent and Guga happened a generation ago, the Qelong River Valley has been a wasteland: aakom poisoning runs rampant, like a nuclear reaction seeping into the soul of the world—
BOOOORING! Tsarvoya hurries the old man along with his pointless backstory since she just wants to get loot and levels. Shao says they can keep anything they find in the tomb/shrine if they bring him the potion to cure his ailment. Once they agree, he’ll tell them where the shrine is.
"Let me talk to my party... and my cart," Slim says. "You guys want to go raid a tomb?"
"FUCK YEAH!" Sr-Gung-Ban says from her cart throne.
Tsarvoya agrees, believing that Guga will be more than okay with her kicking down and raiding a shrine dedicated to Guga’s bitch rival.
The party treks through the mountains fairly easily due to some decent bushcraft rolls since halflings are totally cool with bushin’ it in the woods. Eventually, they come across a stone cave with a busted statue of a serpent lying near the entrance.
"Let me say that if we find fancy loot, it is a lot easier to take it out of my belly than off of a person." Sr-Gung-Ban says. "And if I die, I give you permission to cut me open to get it... I know you'd do it anyway Slim. That's why we're friends."
They peer into the mouth of the cave.
Tsarvoya checks around with her torch to see down the hallway. Sr-Gung-Ban peeks down since she can see in the dark, and she notices that there are two little hallways branching off from the main one.
"I'll follow behind someone and not eat them,” Sr-Gung-Ban declares. “I promise that I will try to not eat a friend."
Tsarvoya draws her spear and smacks the shit out of the entrance with it, searching for traps because she’s level 1 and she ain’t going to let some ol’ bullshit take her ass out.
"I'm not dead, you guys can follow," Tsarvoya concludes.
"I just remembered that I had that 12-o clock appointment at the forum for Zhe!" Slim panics, remembering that he was supposed to get naked in front of a woman exchange of their crocodile-cart.
"It's okay. She'll forget. She's stoned as shit," Tsarvoya says.
"Well I just wanted to feel BEAUTIFUL for once in my life! I can't die in this temple because I've got to get myself painted!" Slim doubles down on his urgency to survive.
Tsarvoya peeks into some of the hallways sprouting off the main one and sees that they lead to individual rooms with little wooden coffins in them.
"I think they are just guardians,” Sr-Gung-Ban deduces. “Best not disturb them… OR we kill them now so that we don't hit them running out of here later."
"Well the god here kind of sucks, so maybe we just keep going?" Tsarvoya says.
They venture further down and find another pair of coffins in their own rooms.
"In crocodile culture, we would find the biggest coffin and destroy it! Maybe the other coffins will go away." Sr-Gung-Ban announces, bearing her teeth. "I HAVE MADE MY DECISION!"
"Maybe we should see what's in the coffins? Maybe it's not dead bodies. Maybe it's treasure." Tsarvoya suggests.
"Well in crocodile culture, we are buried with treasure!" Sr-Gung-Ban says.
"I say we explore, then we loot on the way out," Slim says.
They ignore the coffins and continue down the hallway, which ends at a stone door. The door can’t be opened due to a stone bar blocking it, and the bar is held in place by two iron pegs on either side of the doorway.
"This looks like trap city," Slim mumbles, then steps up to the door to examine it. He realizes that if he raises the bar, the pegs rise as well, and they give off a clinking sound similar to some mechanical voodoo nonsense.
Slim figures out that the rising pegs would trigger some kind of nasty trap, so he and Beebo each sit on the pegs while the crocodile and the human lift the bar away. The bar is removed, and the halflings can clearly see that there is a mechanical track meant for the pegs to travel up.
Now they’re stuck, unable to let go of the pegs without letting the trap go off.
Tsarvoya ain’t about making any clerical errors, so she uses her surgical mallet to slam an iron spike into the mechanical track near Beebo. Beebo then slides off the peg, which doesn’t move due to being blocked by the spike. Slim realizes his peg won't go up as much since it’s somehow linked to Beebo’s, and as he releases his peg, a small square from the ceiling slips open a crack, revealing that something was going to fall out of the ceiling and do terrible things to them.
HOORAY! They’re not dead (yet) and they (may) live to fight another day (in hell).
They open the stone door and find a larger tomb that has three coffins in it, the central one looking muuuuch more ornate and blinged out than the two on its flank.
"In Crocodile culture we call them bannermen. They follow us around." Sr-Gung-Ban says, eyeing the two smaller coffins.
They leave the coffins alone and step into a chamber on the opposite side of the coffin-speckled room. Within the chamber is a large, stone statue of a snakey-voodoo monster that has lots of damp algae growing beneath it.
Tsarvoya examines the snake statue, seeing that the statue is sitting on top a little tunnel. Enough stone has eroded away from dripping water to reveal the secret tunnel.
Sr-Gung-Ban smacks the shit out of the statue until it falls over and breaks because she likes being the largest reptile-shaped thing in the room thank-you-very-much!
Slim starts thinking that he wants to examine the other coffins behind them. “Should we check them out?”
Sr-Gung-Ban states that they need to find the potion, but that "Any other riches we keep for ourselves! In crocodile culture, when we put to rest servants and bannermen... are they really dead? I don't know. I don't go digging around with dead people."
They debate that the big treasure must be down in the deep tunnel since Old Man Shao would have already looted the early coffins. He couldn't have gotten past the big door.
"We have two exits in case it gets nasty,” Slim says.
"Two exits!?" Beebo says. “One exit! The other path is just deeper into this spooky place!”
"If there's nothing down there, we can always come back and open the definitely haunted coffin." Tsarvoya points out.
They can't decide whether or not they want to open a coffin now or go down the secret statue tunnel and save their coffin-opening for tomorrow like it’s Cemetery Christmas and they’re trying to debate whether or not to peak at the presents on Cemetery Christmas Eve.
Tsarvoya and Slim start rock-paper-scissoring to decide what they do. They tie repeatedly, and Sr-Gung-Ban has no idea what’s going on since she doesn’t know what scissors are. It’s probably because in crocodile culture—
Short Stack Slim, leader of Team Coffin, finally beats out Tsarvoya, Leader of Team Hole.
They trudge over to the three coffins and agree to definitely not open the big scary voodoo haunted coffin first, so Tsarvoya nudges back the lid of the smaller coffin—
Oh fuck! A zombie snake person monster boy pops out and starts trying to kill everyone for fucking up its beauty rest!
Slim fires off an arrow with his shortbow, but the shot goes wild and sticks into the wall.
Tsarvoya jabs forth with her spear, but she can’t manage to hit anything as the snake mummy evades the attack.
Beebo runs up with her sword and swats, missing the enemy.
Sr-Gung-Ban roars with the power of her Mr-Kr-Gr kin as she slams her tail at the zombie, but the monster creeps out of the way.
Then the mummy attacks! Oh… apparently nobody can hit anything down here because everyone is terrible at combat.
Let’s go back to the top of the initiative for a new round!
Beebo misses again and backs away.
Tsarvoya misses again and backs away.
Sr-Gung-Ban misses again, but she doesn't back up because she aint no bitch.
Slim fires an arrow and almost hits Sr-Gung-Ban since she’s exchanging hits in combat with the snake mummy, which just pisses off everyone at the moment
The mummy manages to sink its teeth into Sr-Gung-Ban, dealing 3 damage to the crocodile and piercing her scaly hide. Ouchie! What a dick…
Tsarvoya remembers how to hit bad guys and pokes the mummy.
Beebo starts holding her sword by the correct end and manages to hit the mummy as well!
Sr-Gung-Ban realizes that she’s still within Slim’s line of shot. "In my culture, I would tell the firing man to move so that he's not shooting directly over people, short as they may be, but rather have a clear line of sight..."
“Just move out of the way!” Slim shouts at her.
“He’ll risk hitting you if you’re engaged with the bad guys!” Tsarvoya says.
“Yeah it’s not that you’re blocking his line of sight. It’s that your engaged in melee,” the Referee says, clarifying the rules.
Sr-Gung-Ban swipes with her tail and misses, then finally backs up in an angry rage. "Is that ENOUGH ROOM for you to hit the bad guy in the fight now, Slim!? Is that enough!?"
Slim shoots and misses.
Sr-Gung-Ban starts losing her shit. "Look! You still can't hit! Do you know how hard it is for me to back up?” She raises her tail. “This isn’t a backing up tail! It’s going forward tail!"
The mummy attacks Sr-Gung-Ban but it glances off her hide as she ducks down.
Sr-Gung-Ban then brings her tail down and finally smacks this skeleton all the rest of the way dead, smashing its bones to dust on the cave ground below.