Crossing the Pallid River
Learning about the Protectorate, having tea, choosing battles wisely
Characters: Mud, Obsidia, Genesa
Notable NPCs: The Drow Cosplayers Colin, Clovis Jr., Velma, Marty, Latissimus Dorsi, Stonehead
Notable monsters and beasts: Tsoggu, Jackal-mules, gorgon horses
Enkirash disappeared off on some wizardly errand, but Genesa at least is used to that from her.
After passing through the Minotaur Gate into the Protectorate, the players faced two choices. A wide passage lit with the strange blue-fire torches runs straight ahead. Slightly to the left is a worn stairway going down in the same direction. No torches are on the long stairwell, but there is a whitish light visible at the bottom.
Mud’s “compass” suggests they go down, so they players decide to take the passage instead. Obsidia tests the strange blue flame of the torches by holding one of her pamphlets extolling “The Good News of Fire.” The paper takes a while to catch, but eventually it blackens and burns. It seems like normal burning paper, but the flame of the torches seems less hot than a normal torch.
Down the corridor they encounter a group of young Drow, dressed up as their favourite human and dwarven heroes from history. They are all wearing colourful wigs, and have homemade costumes and props. They are excited to meet real heroes and offer them tea, scones, and tiny sandwiches. Colin has blue hair and is dressed as a human hero they’ve never heard of. He makes the best masks and has a book on masks he borrowed from the Minotaur library, which is now defunct. Velma is also dressed as a human hero they don’t know, has mousy brown hair under her wig (unlike the sleek black or white hair of the other drow) and wears glasses. She has heard of the Mask of Pain and can tell them the legend of it. Clovis Jr. (they didn’t get her real name) is overwhelmed by meeting Genesa who actually knew the real Clovis. Marty’s costume isn’t actually a real hero, more of a hodge-podge he put together to be suggestive of one or more heroes. He’s the most reserved and mainly drinks tea and eats sandwiches while the others talk.
The legend of the Mask of Pain, as related by Velma
The Mask of Pain was created by the Mad Wizard Nazir Kirsad, who loved a sorceress who spurned him and went on to become a powerful lich. Not only did she reject his advances, but she threw him into a lake of fire. He survived and put all of his power and pain into the mask, intending to give it to her, but he never reached her with it. The mask was in the possession of one powerful mage after another, but nothing has been heard of it for generations.
Genesa told them stories of Clovis and the battle with the dracolich. Obsidia told them stories of salamanders and fire. Mud gave Colin a book on artificing. In addition to the cardboard weapons of their costumes, the cosplayers had many real weapons and gave Genesa a fine drowish sword and Obsidia a telescoping poleaxe. They whisper that if they players want to learn more about the Mask of Pain, people who might know would be the Sorceress Queen who rules much of the land beyond the Pallid River, and the Shadowwalker, who is much harder to find.
To cross the Pallid River they have to go back the way they came and down the stairs. These open into a huge cavern divided by a chalk-white river flowing languidly through. A lone figure sits near the river’s edge playing haunting notes on a long iron flute, then pausing, then picking up a different tune. He plays haltingly like this as the players approach him, then without turning says quietly, “greetings and well-met.” He is very large, with sharpened teeth, introduces himself as Latissimus and they talk for a bit. He tells them that the way across the Pallid River is via the invisible Bridge, which they will be able to see somewhat as it rises from the milky water of the river, which it does three times a day for 20-30 minutes. He cautions them to avoid the river itself, and that the bridge is safe as long as they take their time and are careful to avoid places where there are missing or loose planks.
He says that he is also and adventurer of sorts, looking for his half-brother. His parents were ashamed of him and gave him to monks to raise. Only after the Mad Queen destroyed the monastery and killed his master did he learn that he had a half-brother, his only living relative, and he has been seeking him ever since. He and the players agree to help each other whenever they can.
With a rumble the bridge begins to rise from the curiously thick water. As slimy white water oozes from the invisible planks, they also see a bloated humanoid corpse twist and move, falling back into the water. They walk to the bridge, but Latissimus cautions them that it is tradition to let travellers from the other side of the river cross first. A merchant is coming towards them across the bridge. He helps his pack-mules, and the horses that pull his wagon over missing planks, and it is clear he has made this journey many times before. As he gets closer they can see that the “mules” look more like jackals or mule-jackal hybrids, and the horses are covered with brass scales. When the merchant is nearly at their side, a huge humanoid figure with a boulder floating above his shoulders where his head should be strides up to the bridge and begins to climb. The merchant begins backing his wagon up as fast as he can, and in his panic, one of the jackal-mules laden with goods falls from the bridge to the river below. It splashes, but does not sink into the thick water right away, but instead rotting, swolllen arms come out of the water to pull it down as it struggles and howls.
The merchant continues to back up as Stonehead approaches, but it does not look as though he will make it in time. Although Latissimus has warned them not to get involved with Stonehead, as he is one of the most powerful beings in this part of the underworld, Genesa is incensed at his behaviour and throws a rock at him. Her first rock falls short of the bridge but her second smacks straight into the boulder floating above Stonehead’s shoulders. He stops and turns towards her. The merchant uses this distraction to get clear of the bridge and flee. Stonehead reaches up to grab the boulder with both hands and throws it at Genesa and her party. They all manage to dodge out of the way, except Mud who was already out of the way but manages to run into the boulder after it lands. Stonehead reaches out and the boulder rises up and begins to float back to him. Genesa leaps onto the boulder and grabs onto its rough surface tightly, hanging on even as it rotates above the Pallid River. She kicks Stonehead as the boulder reaches him, only managing to hurt her foot. When Latissimus saw what she was doing he sprinted for the bridge, coming up behind her. Obsidia followed, but was moving too quickly on the unfamiliar (and invisible) surface, and lost her footing, with one leg getting stuck between boards and twisted painfully. Stonehead smacked Genesa casually out of the air and off the bridge, but Latissimus held out his iron flute/staff and she just managed to catch it and swing back to the bridge. Stonehead continued walking across the bridge, ignoring Genesa completely. She and Latissimus decided to hit him low and high. He put the staff between Stonehead’s legs to trip him, while Genesa parkoured off Latissimus into Stonehead’s back. At the same time Mud triggered his steam contraption to fly across the river and into the boulder above Stonehead, setting it wobbling. The combination worked, knocking Stonehead from the bridge into the river and the Tsoggu waiting below, although Mud was knocked unconscious in the process.
Obsidia caught up with them, but they felt the bridge rumbling as it began to sink back into the river. Genesa picked up Mud and carried him to shore, running alongside Latissimus, but Obsidia was still having trouble navigating the slick, uneven boards and ran into a broken railing, getting long splinters in her abdomen. Already the stairs were underwater, so she leaped for shore, falling badly at the river’s edge with her legs in the water. Two Tsoggu rose up from the milky water, but Genesa had given Mud over to Latissimus to tend to and pulled Obsidia away from the creatures. Genesa threw a rock, staving in one of the Tsoggu’s heads, but this failed to drop the creature, so she unsheathed her sword and beheaded it. Obsidia drew her personal flame out to strike the other Tsoggu, driving it back a little, and Genesa gutted it. Both creatures dispatched they turned back to find that Latissimus had helped Mud regain consciousness, though still weak and groggy. Latissimus pointed out a large disturbance in the water, moving towards them and they all fled for the far tunnels. As they reached them, Latissimus took his leave to go upriver and they ventured on into the dark tunnel on the far side of the river.
Obsidia and Genesa levelled up. Mud is only one XP away.