Tuesday, October 28, 2014

[unpUbIi$Hed n0tE$ #3}

Among Buddhists there is a school of thought that we go through time with the same loose group of souls, people who in one life might be our lover; then our mother in the next; then maybe a beloved pet; or your murderer. You might not reunite with a particular soul for hundreds of years, but the kinship and closeness will always be there. These are, in the most literal sense, your soul-mates.

This is of course absolute garbage.

Near the front end of the ass end of nowhere, something is happening. Far from the cultural centers in the south, a little-known people of the distant northern seacoasts were busily building a civilization that would influence, and often terrify, the rest of the world for centuries to come.

When you're poor, you use everything. Nothing can be spared, nothing goes to waste and everything is accounted for. As your society grows, that changes. One hundred twenty-five years ago, Skakkr was a fishing village of 89 people, and even Rjupa the Intolerable had a place, albeit in a pigsty 700 yards from town. But as Skakkr grew, there started to be enough many that their needs outweighed the needs of the few, of whom there were also more.

With 750 people, Skakkr was now pushing the limits of how large a town could get. Between the sewage problem, the pasturage problem and the downtown sheep problem, tempers among these already-temperamental people were high.

Unlike the early days, there was now little room for undesirables. And you don't get more undesirable than a guy who may or may not have sunk his dad's boat.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Episode 107: Saurian Days

When we last met, David, DTA, Karl, Kate, Josh and Alex had emerged from a culvert that began in the moist and damp thermal tunnels underneath Aquae Sulis and ended somewhere underneath a section of 279 East in Bennington, Vermont.

A plan was drawn up to make the short hike through the woods to North Bennington via the Silk Road Bridge. It was a very hot & muggy evening, and the woods provided some relief from the heat (and thankfully little malaria). Cutting down Austin Hill Road to Murphy Road, the area seemed devoid of people and traffic...

But when the group reached the Silk Road Bridge, they soon discovered where everyone was. The bridge, as well as the embankment on the far side of the river, was crawling with lizard people. It was as if the whole neighborhood had turned out and was sunning themselves in the late afternoon heat. Everyone froze, and a hasty upstream river crossing was planned (and executed) without incident.

The group made their way stealthily to to where North Bennington turns the corner to Water Street, only to find another surprise: the old brick factories were gone. Shining, new uber-chic apartment buildings were there instead, and none of the third-tier "made in America" blue-collar squalor remained. No trailers. No dog shit. No broken-down trampolines clutters anyone's front yard.  

Clearly, something big had gone wrong.

The group scurried up Hillside Street as they heard a vehicle approaching. They managed to duck into some bushes just as a pickup truck turned off Water Street and headed up the road towards them. An old-timey lizardman in a double-bed pickup truck rambled past them, but not before hitting a bump in the road which (quite improbably) dislodged the Saurian Disruptor 300 from his gun rack and deposited it rattling in the middle of the road. As Josh and DTA looked over the weird, futuristic weapon, Alex picked up on the sound of someone taking bow and arrow practice in their side yard.  

Stepping lightly from one universe to the next, Alex returned with a compound bow of his own, and soon was involved in a shootout with a 9-year-old lizardgirl who had taken up a defensive position behind a maple tree of some considerable girth. Alex clattered an untrained warning shot off the maple tree, some 4 feet above her head. She plunked him dead in the sternum with a pink camo arrow, sending him toppling over and down in a wheezing red mist with a punctured lung.

Karl tried to ameliorate the situation with kind words and deeds, and took an arrow to his shoulder for his troubles. And while Josh leaped to the rescue with some emergency triage, DTA unleashed the Saurian Disruptor 3000 on the poor girl and erased her from this (and many other) universes.

It was then that a cloaked craft of some sort appeared above DTA and netted him from the sky. Five lizardpolice emerged from the vessel and repelled down to the ground - but thanks to Josh and his curiously emergent handgun, four of them hit the ground dead. The fourth, however, reached the ground in a trained attack crouch, drew some sort of futuristic pistol of his own, and everything went blue...


When everyone next awoke, they were in a worn, gray laboratory. Everyone was strapped to lab tables that were tilted to almost vertical. A door opened, and a lizardnurse walked in, pushing a small cart. Without acknowledging the party, she smacked her forehead as if forgetting something, turned and left the room. The cart she was pushing continued forward a few feet until it came to rest near DTA.

After discovering that the cart contained a number of "Class III Anal Probes", DTA used one to pry himself free from his table. He quickly freed the others and they armed themselves with the probes and awaited the nurse's return. When she came through the door carrying a Class IV Anal Probe, she was promptly bludgeoned to death and divested of her probe. Her body was hidden and the party escaped out into the hallway.

Once there, they found a stairwell leading up to the right, five doors to their left, and at the top of the hallway wall, a small window open to the outside. What they saw there stopped them in their tracks: the Bennington Monument - covered in green scales...

By the looks of it, they were under what was once the gift shop. To their left were a couple restrooms, an office with a touchscreen desk, and what looked to be a records room. After a brief scuffle with a lizardman janitor (who had surprised and mildly concussed young Alex), the party entered the records room only to make a startling discovery.

There, out on a work table, lay extensive and detailed charts and diagrams detailing all the tests, probes and physical characteristics of every member of the party. It appeared that the lizard people were very concerned with verifying the identities of everyone involved.

That was all the motivation the party needed to destroy every bit of data on themselves.

They had no sooner finished destroying all the records when the trooping of boots could be heard - security was on its way. Everyone quickly fled out a door at the rear of the records room and found themselves in a beautiful memorial park filled with flowering bushes, ornamental trees, historical placards and...

The burned-out hulk of Der Chelonian Mobile.

It was cordoned off behind a tastefully-draped chain fence. Cast iron placards referenced the "Lizardman Liberation" and the "Turtle Battle of Bennington". These glimpses were all that the party could catch, however, as they skirted the chains and took refuge in the battered relic.

A quick inventory showed that much of Der Mobile's armaments were gone - and what was left behind had been placed under glass and labeled. The ship's spelljamming helm had also been removed - but in its place, a tarnished metal plaque displayed the following message:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Episode 106: The Bridge Over Time

When last we met, the following things happened:

I. Too many coffee tables were brought
II. It resulted in two rolling domains: Heaven & Hell
III. This Quite Obviously Favored The Players
IV. Although at first, the rolls were a little dicey.
V. Eric answered Bob's Big Question.
VI. "Where am I supposed to go next?"
VIII. Earthquake!
IX. Stalactites falling everywhere.
X. Takemiya flees successfully.
XI. Saladin does not.
XII. Kobayashi sees a bifurcation of Time, chooses wisely.
XIII. XENO and that godsforsaken, much-loved, probably best hat in D&D history.
XIV. XOE keeps her shit together, no matter what's going on around her.
XV. The V stands for Vagina.
XVI. Eric tripping balls, unable to move.
XVII. X&X move E to the rosy pink light emanating from the giant stone vagina.
XVIII. Ragnar strolls through 'a light rockshaker with minimal precipitation'.
XIX. Everyone (even Saladin) gathers in the big pink nook and Heads the Fuck In.
XX. Away we go.
XXI. "Down Seems Right," says the dwarf. Water.
XXII. An underground river with a stone island.
XXIII. A river of stone with an island of water.
XXX. Because Xeno.
XXXI. (no one else jumps in)
XXXII. (Xoe kind of tries to throw him a lifeline)
XXXIV. Things get dar and murky
XXXV. Oh, look. It's Loca’Luongo, the Lizardman Lich of Lungfish Isle!
XXXVI. He sees all. And Knows.
XXXVII. Xeno tries to bugger him, kind of succeeds.
XXXVIII.  "Oh, look. A tunnel!"
XXXIX. Rolls a XXX.
XL. Everyone is themselves. In Bennington.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Episode 105: Break On Through

It all started back on Yggdrasil - what with Thor raising the hue and cry again - "We're heading into that bloody star! All hands on deck!" In the scramble out in the hallway, Alex has a Valkyrie stumble and fall at his feet. he tries to help her out, but in a lightning-fast twisting of blonde hair, plate mail and the smell of honey and blood, he finds himself pinned to the wall, two feet off the ground.

"What... do... you .... want?" she hisses, deep blue eyes threatening rain. Alex lets out a weak gurgle before collapsing to the floor, threatening to fall unconscious. But something in his limp, piteous frame strikes a chord on the warrior-maiden's heart. Something that compels women of all backgrounds to cuddle and nurture wounded animals everywhere...

He rolled a pity 30.

Somewhere in the universe, a crack appeared. The stresses and strains of years of DCM's collective mayhem had been building and building, and at this time, in this when, the load was just too much - the blow was just too pointed.

The crack widened, and the Other started to seep in...

His head was pounding, throbbing from the blow he took when his head hit the wall - man was this chick fit... He was starting to feel a little lightheaded, a little stoned even (shit, I hope I don't have a concussion) when Porthos hands him a joint.

"What do I want? I want you to tell me about that hill - Eldritch Mountain." He's sitting on a couch. Athos is to his left, eye on the joint. "Yeah, man" he rasps, waiting his turn at the roach. "I heard you guys got into some crazy stuff before we joined on."

Alex looked from Athos to the joint, then up to Porthos, who was standing above him expectantly. A quick glance around told him he was back at DCM headquarters. The Guidos? Hell, they hadn't been heard from in days? Weeks? Yet here they were, talking to him and passing around a joint. what the hell was in this stuff, anyway?

Right about then, the front door opened, and Xeno walked in. seeing the gathering ar the couch, he skidded to a halt and looked around in thinly veiled exasperation. Alex stood up and began talking in the loud, slow monotone of someone trying to explain something to a deaf, idiot child. "HEY XENO. IT'S ME, ALEX. I WAS JUST TALKING TO THE GUIDOS HERE. THEY SAY WE'VE BEEN HERE AT DCM HQ FOR ABOUT 6 HOURS. ISN'T THAT INTERESTING?"

Something in Alex's tone got through the fear and surprise. Xeno snapped to.

"What night is it?" he blurted out, spittle spittling. "Why," Aramis' eyebrows furrowed. "It'sa Wednesday." "Good. Xoe's night at Mysty's. Let's go."

Xeno turned on his heel and shot out the door. He was surprised to find not only Alex and the Guidos, but Takemiya and Holth had joined him as well. Takemiya was looking confused. He said as much while trying to keep up with Xeno.

"Something's wrong. And it's probably Alex's fault. Last thing we all knew, he was getting fawned over by that valkyrie and WHAM! we're all here - months in the past. Eldritch Mountain? The Chaos Star? Shit's getting real - or unreal - and we have to find a way to to outsmart it. 

Xeno pulled up short at an intersection. He looked at the street signs. It was kind of nice seeing Port Harbor not on fire and being attacked by illithid dreadnoughts again. Somewhere one of his vertebrae tingled...

"Change of plans. We're off to the Iron Stoat."

The group took the left-hand path and didn't quite notice the faint, radiant shimmer like a nighttime mirage as they passed under a natural tree archway in the road. A brief, faint hiss precedes the burst of pain that erupts from Xeno's shoulder just before Holth yells "Get down!" Xeno whirls to see the candycorn Ninja poised in the branches above, ready to strike again. A small knife, the twin of the one now sticking out of Xeno's numb shoulder, sits in her hand like a deadly pigeon. The others fade into the background, silent. There's just the two of them in all the world...  

Xeno rips into his bodice and whips out a pair of knives - far pointier and far poisonier than the frail thing the Ninja has troubled him with. He unleashed the pair of them at her, spewing epithets and vile curses. The knives clatter harmlessly into the treetops, each one missing their mark by a hippo's width. The Ninja looks at the holes they chopped through the canopy with bemusement. Then, nimble as a cat who's spent a lifetime taking nimble lessons, she flips, cartwheels and flips again, and is soon crushing Holth's larynx between her powerful thighs. Holth's knees buckle and as he gasps for air and his vision starts to fade, Aramis steps in with a sock full of nickles and pops the ninja full on the mouth. She goes down in a spray of teeth and mascara, and the sound the molars make as they clatter off the cobbles sound just like the tik tik tik  of the cymbals of "The Doors" drummer as "Break On through" starts to play. Xeno looks up, experiences the now familiar mix of bewilderment and resigned exhaustion, and noticed one costumed partygoer dressed like Ray Charles. He's in the middle of the gym, but soon heads over towards the locker room, deftly stepping over a couple who are making out at the top of the key. 

"Here goes my vertebra again," thinks Xeno as he heads in the opposite direction and out through the front of the gym. He ducks into a classroom only to be assaulted by the man in the Leonard Nimoy mask. Xeno hurls desk after desk at the assailant, and on the 3rd try hits him full in the face, knocking him onto the teacher's desk. 

Xeno leaps and lets the fight take him over. He pins the madman down on the desk, rips off his mask and discovers... "FUNDUS!" The man's eyes are in a rage as he produces spittle of his own. "I really am beginning to hate you...." before flipping Xeno into the wall and knocking him out cold.

Meanwhile in the gym, Alex sees Ray Nitschke and "Boom Boom" Mancini come from the locker room. He discovers a dead Korean in the coaches' office...

Gigamesh follows Ray charles into the locker room as he bears right and passes through a handful of teens, smoking, chatting, making out.

the Philosopher carries his bone of glass into the locker room and, taking the second row, finds Cindy Brady sitting, smoking a joint in her pigtails. "What do YOU want," she lisps petulantly. This just presses more than one of the philosopher's buttons, and he sits down next to her and simply says, "You."

Xoe, however, is suffering from a burden of clarity. Maybe it's being almost naked amongst all these teenager, but her senses are a little on edge and she's thinking almost too clearly. "Walk though the door..." she whispers. Hmm. well, Robbie looks about the right height. She walks up behind him, duck ever so slightly, and just as he busts into the solo from 'Light my Fire", she walks between his legs and smells the musk of universal manliness and feels the heat of his fire oh my his fire is LIT and there's a great green wall of burning fire and is fire supposed to be green, I mean wait, it's purple and oh my god we're falling into the star...

The ship felt light under their feet - as if it was made of light. All around them, the star was like a great, cosmic bead curtain - flickering and tickling them with orangepurplegreen light.

Then nothing. Nothing but space and a fleet of Elven ships.

"Five hundred, to be exact." Ben again. They were all standing on an observation deck. David, Kate, Alex, Karl, The Other David and Eric. Eric had a noticeable hickey. "This was supposed to be an invasion force. The Ice Elves. They're from the eight planet in this system and their world is dying. they were going to knock this planet senseless, had they seen sign of any spelljamming this far in. You were supposed to trigger an attack by your exploration of your local space. You were supposed to do a lot of things in space." Ben looked at David with a look of disappointed exhaustion. But then he smiled. "But you were never good at taking a hint." 

"The past that never was. An aborted universe. We're seeing just a few of the possibilities - a few of the things you set in motion when you and your group started meddling with this." He held up a d30 between his thumb and forefinger. "And it would appear that the only way out, is through..."

They sat back down at the gaming table. there were muffins all over the floor. "Everybody roll a 30" said Ben, and as they all took turns rolling and attempting telekinesis, Alex picke up the original green 30, the one with the overprinted 1 and rolled a 30 and everything fell out of the bottom and the ship was falling out of the sky...

"Brace yourselves!" called Takemiya from the helm as everyone grabbed onto the rigging atop Der Chelonian as it plummeted to the icy continent below. Ragnar looked grim as is his wont (being a dwarf) and Saladin was already starting to shiver. But as the ship headed towards what looked like a cricket oval etched onto the surface of a glacier, Takemiya managed to pull up just enough to avert total disaster.

The turtle skidded across the ice and settled amidst a number of angry men in togas. After pointing out that interrupting a Test was the height of boorishness, their leader, Maximinus, led them into an underground temple and sat them on any number of chaises lounge. He offered them tea and biscuits; ad while Xeno and Xoe were a bit apprehensive about meeting Trevor again, Eric was more than willing to taste of the large tray of psychedelic mushrooms the boy Clavdivs proffered. 

Soon after shoveling about half an ounce into his mouth, the world began to change for poor Eric. everything went all reggae,and he was soon confronted by Bob Marley himself. 

"What DO you want, mon?" he asked as a cloud of gray-green smoke issued forth from his mouth.

And then, and there, Eric saw everything at once. He'd broken through the great barrier - he'd stuck his head through one of those cracks in one of those universes. He was now talking to a HIGHer being. 

This was it. He had one shot - one question - one chance to get some clarification, some help from the Great Bob himself. One chance to find out something, anything that would help them end this madness, this chaos.

"Damn," he thought to himself as he felt the eyes of all the seasoned and weary campaigners boring into his back from the other where. "I better not fuck this up."


Monday, June 9, 2014

Episode 104: The Doors

Ben gathered everyone around the table to resume their "Dungeons & Dragons" session, but not before Thor himself barged into the room in a state of upset. The Starship Yggrasil had mysteriously changed course, and was now headed for the Chaos Star. Thor mistook Karl for one of the ship's crew and tried to rouse him to his duties. It didn't take long for Karl to convince him otherwise, however, and the Thunder God quickly moved on, leaving the group to resume their game...

Back on Skull Island, Xeno and Kobayashi returned to the island amid the distant rumblings of thunder. After an embarrassing attempt to scamper up the telescope, Xeno found himself being carried out of the observatory altogether, following Richard Simmons to parley with the chief of the pygmies. Inside a small, underground cavern, sitting next to THE PHILOSOPHER and staring into a smoky fire of coconut husks, sits KUNTA KENNEDY, chief of the pygmy tribe.

He warns the party that the impending storm will destroy the island, and that it is up to them to return to their ships and 'ride on the storm' to their next destination. He points out that the four visions that the group saw through the telescope were in fact four windows into their next reality - and that they must now move there and pass through four doors. Only then will they find the way to the end of the universe that they seek...

As the winds pick up and the crew scrambles back to the ship, a black wall of cloud and rain hurtles towards them, and it takes deft maneuvering and skillful deck surfing to get the ships pointed in the right direction in time.

Only imagine it's The Pinta...
Only it's not in time, and the ship is overcome by a gigantic wave and swamped by an enormous wall of water and everything goes black and wet and cold and raining and crashing and yelling and screaming at Spencer to get the damn window up already, didn't he see the giant black rain cloud and now everyone's soaked and Xoe is super pissed and the Philosopher is yelling and waving a waterlogged cigarette at him as...


sees a green sign on the side of the road that says "Village of Camden" in white letters. The trees are all maples and oaks, and they're all golden orange and vermillion in the clearing light of autumn, somewhere. They are entering a small, quaint town in what would appear to be a brand new Ford Pinto. Takemiya notes that the inspection sticker is from New York State. The year is 1970.

Taken before the festival set up, obviously.
They approach the town's center, where a gazebo lurks amidst a Halloween festival on the town square. Costumed figures emerge from underneath awnings as the rain clears and the sun emerges. The party parks the car and is approached by a pair of school kids handing out flyers. They are for a Halloween concert at the high school...

Takemiya spots a figure that seems out of place amongst the costumed kids. A man in a Leonard Nimoy mask makes eye contact with him before ducking behind the gazebo. Takemiya attempts to spy him out by raising his detached head above the crowd, but only manages to raise an alarm as his head floats away. Only Xeno's quick balloon quip diverts and assuages.

That is, until the girl is found murdered on top of the mailbox. All hell breaks loose. The door flies open and Thor yells at Ben, 'ALL HANDS ON DECK! WE'RE ON A COLLISION COURSE WITH THAT DAMNED STAR!" People can be seen running up and down the hallway outside the break room. Klaxons are bonging, orders shouted. Ben takes a look out the porthole and turns back to the group. He assures them that they must get back to the game, but be pretty damned quick about it. The Philosopher freaks out and pulls away, leaving the others to sidle past the crime scene to catch up before making their way to the high school for the dance.

'Break on through' indeed...
There, the find that "THE DOORS" are indeed playing, and after a brief encounter with a chaperone and his family, make their way to the gym to face the music.

Once inside, Gigamesh and Spencer set about to 'amplify' the crowd's experience by enhancing both the sound and light systems. Kobayashi hears whispers of a 'secret message' contained in a Ray Stevens impersonator's second song - which turns out to be "She Came Through The Bathroom Window". It is then that Takemiya reflects on the synchronistic homophones "gym" and "john"...

Those wacky Dutch...
A small fracas develops when the Philosopher decides to hit on a shapely redhead and she turns out to be not only married, but carrying a newborn infant in her arms. Undeterred, the Philosopher presses forward with his advances, only to be met with a jealous husband and chaperone. Words are exchanged and the scene grows heated. the chap calls for the policeman on duty, but Kobayashi takes care of it by redirecting the cop into a crowd of hippie bystanders. The cop mistakes one of the bystanders for the original culprit and he draws his truncheon.

As a rather significant diversion has been created, the party quickly makes its way toward the boy's locker room in search of whatever nefarious activities that are soon to take place in the lavatory. A theft is contemplated...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Episode 103: Skull Island

While KOBAYASHI and XENO returned to the ship for "supplies", the rest of the crew explored SKULL ISLAND, and found that a long palisade, 10 feet in height, cut the island in two. On the far side, a large stone skull that resembled the QUANTUM LODESTONE held a drunken and teetering MECHALANCE. On the near side, a tribe of bongo-beating PYGMIES had gathered in front of the one gate in wall. On a scaffold in front of the gate, XOE stood, lashed to the beams and wearing the #2 maille from BILLY'S arena.

While GIGAMESH helped SPENCER over the fence, TAKEMIYA detached his head and flew over the fence, causing Mechalance to lose his footing and fall from the skull. After making sure he hadn't hurt himself too badly, Takemiya then circled back to where the pygmies were congregating, and delighted to see Xoe again. He buzzed the pygmies, and drove them back into the surf with cries of "WHEEEEEEE!!!!"

Gigamesh and Spencer ceased their attempt at wallclimbing, and joined the others at the gate in the palisade, where Mechalance soon arrived to open the gate that was, in fact, barred from his side.

Lance proceeded to show the group the skull, which was in fact an ancient OBSERVATORY, complete with a stationary telescope. He put on some barbecue, served drinks, and the group passed the hours before nightfall making merry and dining on pulled pygmy.

When night arrived, Lance made some guarded comments about what he had already seen in the telescope. The group, expressing certain reservations, decided to take a look for themselves.

Spencer peered into the eyepiece and saw a KALEIDOSCOPE which revealed twisting, turning colors; and as he pulled away he found himself in an orange AMC Gremlin with three others, apparently lost on their way back to Woodstock '99 at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York. The group stops to ask directions from a man who bears a striking resemblance to portraits of the anglicized Jesus. The man is walking his dog and offers the group amiable assistance. Art, from the back seat, offers half an eight of mushrooms as a thanks. As the car pulls away, Spencer's eye returns to the kaleidoscope for a few moments - but when he next pulls himself away, he has returned to the observatory, much to his dismay and wonder.

Gigamesh found himself looking through a RIFLE SCOPE at a window casement, where he could catch the occasional glimpse of LEE HARVEY OSWALD. Hearing the motorcade approaching, he prepares to take out Oswald, discovers he's wearing the traditional garb of a 33RD DEGREE FREEMASON and misses. Other shots are fired, screams are heard, and he flees down the staircase of the DALLAS COUNTY RECORDS BUILDING and back into the observatory, much to his dismay and wonder.

Takemiya took a look and found himself peering at cells under a MICROSCOPE. The cells turned out to belong to his wife, Marie, who had contracted cancer from an unsafe attempt at replicating COSMIC BACKGROUND RADIATION. The test had relied heavily on CHAOS THEORY to emulate the first moments after the Big Bang, but a 'bleeding redshift' during the experiment caused a cascading overload in the Dyson matrix and Marie was inundated with protocosmic rays. Takemiya took one last look at the cancerous cells, and as Marie asked if anything could be done, he sat up and found himself sitting at the telescope with a heavy heart.

Xoe was the last to look, and as she stood on tiptoes to peer through the viewer, she saw what looked like tiny insects chewing tunnels through a gray, spongy material. As she dialed back the viewfinder, the words "HELP ME" written in a flowing script resolved themselves out of the insect's tunnel. Other creatures appeared, each chewing the same message. As Xoe pulled away from the eyepiece, she found herself holding an OTOSCOPE, and saw that the messages she had seen were in fact being written on the brain of the elderly man in what appeared to be her doctor's office. The old man then complained about fatigue, listlessness, and an overall desire to end his own life. He, in his own words, "can't take much more of this" and asks Xoe for help. She takes one more look inside the ailing man’s mind before finding herself back at the observatory.

As the party sits and quietly finishes the rest of the pulled pygmy and vodka, Mechalance reveals that his look into the telescope revealed a horrible, lurid star in the night sky - one that seemed to be three colors at once. It appeared to be crawling with hideous, tentacular forms and gave him "the heebie jeebies", the only cure for which seemed to be vodka gimlet after vodka gimlet.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Episode 102: Starship Yggdrasil

DAVID awoke in a barnyard, where he found himself under the mad, watchful eye of THE GOAT OF CHAOS, who was standing on the roof of a 1959 Buick Electra. David fled to the barn, and after hiding himself in a hayloft, he gathered up a pitchfork and awaited some sort of an assault by the goat. When it never materialized, David emerged from his hiding place to find BEN FIRENZE trapped inside of the Buick, and David hid once more.

Ben, however, had some difficulty extracting himself from the vehicle, and David ignored his pleas for help. In fact, David attempted to flee to the roof of the barn, only to find that the Goat had beaten him there...

It was then that the Goat's mad eyes held David in their grip, and but for a voice urging him to 'let go', David surely would have been lost to all that was Madness and Chaos.

But David finally relaxed, let himself go, and found himself released from the Goat's mortal grip. He was now on the ground, sharing a glass of spiked lemonade with Ben, who began to tell him of how he had tracked XENO THE GNOME to this place, and how he thought that Xeno had broken the Universe...

When Xeno and the NAUTILOIDS had disappeared from the skies over PORT HARBOR, Ben immediately began looking for answers as to what had just occurred. Almost immediately, he discovered a strange blurring, or doubling, in the TEMPORAL PRIME. Curious as to what was causing this, Ben continued searching for Xeno, Xoe, Madmartigan and the monks - only to find their timeline no longer continuing from the point of the disappearance.

The Temporal Prime - Before Xeno
As the days of searching passed, the  blurring on the Temporal Prime worsened, until it became apparent that fully developed, separate universes were being replicated. Ben later learned that these universes were coming into being at regular intervals, not unlike shock waves traveling out from a common source - in this case, Port Harbor itself.

Ben's hard work eventually paid off, and he located Xeno's timeline - inexplicably multiplied in n dimensions. He eventually found the terminus of the main timeline, only instead of finding the arrogant gnome he knew so well, Ben found a gibbering, paranoid, middle-aged human holding a broom handle. David, still clinging fiercely to what little sanity he had left, agreed to Ben's suggestion of rejoining the rest of the party, and soon found himself in what looked like a HoJo's continental breakfast lounge. Sitting at a table were Karl, David, Alex and Josh.

The Temporal Prime - After Xeno
After much debate, explanation and gibbering, it was determined that the party had to seek out the end of the Universe so that the true, unbroken one could be restored to primacy. "Tying the knot" - or resolving all the multiple timelines - was the first solution suggested. But David also learned of the prophecy of St. Quentin - whereas the world will end when God is slain by a weapon made of sapient pearwood. Bells went off, and this fact, coupled with the standing wager on deicide for DCM, led everyone to sit up and come up with a plan.

Everyone filed into the Gift Shop.

After filling up on sapient pearwood letter openers and a box of D&D dice (no one had enough cash for the "I Really Diggdrasil Yggdrasil" t-shirts), everyone returned to the breakfast lounge to play D&D. Ben, after some coaching from Alex, agreed to DM the group, and they all sat down to resume the hunt. Luckily for them, Josh's Quantum Lodestone confirmed for everyone that they were on the right track when it started humming and thrumming at Ben...

The next thing they knew, the party was on the deck of a sailing ship - one of three, in fact. It would seem that Agatha, Dashiell and Arthur had made the journey as well, and Rodant too. Agatha informed the group that they were on their way to Skull Island, following the thrumming lodestone towards the next step on their path to the Chaos Star and the end of the Universe as they know it...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Episode 101: Funeral in Hel

When the floor fell out from beneath the party as they were talking to the prospector, everyone fell in accordance with their own path in life. Kobayashi fell into the Underworld in order to face his adverse approach to healing and, not surprisingly gave himself a fatal dose of gangrene as he tried to reattach (read: heal) the severed finger he lost in the belly of a snow leopard back in Aqua Sulis.

Xeno fell in order to come to terms with his dealings with Chaos and, well, messed up a very large solar constuctor array and effectively 'broke' a star, launching a "chaos star" somewhere into the multiverse - just before meeting his demise at the hand of a race he had at once learned to hate with the hatiest of hates.

Gigamesh fell in order to come to terms with his own endearing benevolence as applied to trust issues, i.e., what happens when you hang out altruistically with the wrong sort of people, i.e., Xeno. For in just a few short months weeks days daze Gigamesh has been transported, transmogrified, deified and pulled into an entirely new universe - all as a punishment for helping a few people out of a dungeon all those many whatevers ago.

When Spencer fell, it was into a quiet, peaceful chapel. He was all alone, save for a few rows of chairs and a radiant column of soft blue light. The column gave of a pulsating, thrumming sound. It was comforting. relaxing. For the first time in - in a while, anyway - he was not under duress.

Spencer then discovered a set of doors leading out of the chapel - and into a long hallway. Three doors on each side of the hall, a barred set of double doors opposite. Each of the side doors led to a reception room, containing couches, chairs and... a casket. As Spencer walked up to the first casket he completely failed to notice that his hands had become flesh - even as he reached towards the first casket to open it.

As he slowly raised the lid, he was more than a little surprised to find it contained... Karl.

"Hey, man."
"What you doing in this casket?"
"I'm in a casket?"

It was then that Karl asked Josh where they were.

"Wait, I'm Josh?" Josh asked no one in particular. "Yes," no one in particular replied.

Josh and Karl then proceeded to the next room, where the opened the third casket and found Alex. Then Alex's brother Eric. Then David.

By now everyone was getting a bit confused and more than a little creeped out. The last two caskets proved to be empty.

Displayed next to each casket was a painting, and all six paintings were different. One contained a tree, another, a scarecrow. The Kabbalah was represented, as was a crucifixion by Grunewald...

As the five humans debated what was in fact happening, something smashed through one of the windows hidden behind the casket in one of the rooms. A large, footlong 100-legged slugbeetle was lying on its back, squirming helplessly. Karl immediately picked up a chair and went to dispatch the beast, as Davis sidled over to the window to see what was outside.

And there, in a dark alley some 15 feet below the window, stood Count Fundus. But in the pale, ashen light of some hidden moon, David could tell all was not well with with their nemesis. As David called to the others to come see, the count spoke in an eerily rasping voice.

"I've got a message for you, and you're not going to like it. Pray for death."

As the group watched, Fundus' body split open, allowing hundreds of crawling vermin to cascade onto the alley floor, revealing the body of a smaller, darker figure - that of Chang Kai Eel.

"Aw, shit."

David called down to Eel (rather bravely, in my estimation) and asked: "Are you the message?"

"No," hissed Chang. "I am the weapon. And my Black Orcs are the ammunition. KILL THEM!"

SUDDENLY, from behind Eel in the darkness of the alley, charged dozens of black-clad orcs, firing arrows at the window. David ducked behind the casket as a stream of evil-looking arrows flew over and around him, some being barely blocked by the casket.

At the same time, a giant red rooster charged into the hallway outside the room and, barking and clucking, grabbed Eric and dragged him by his hoodie towards the chapel. Alex, Josh and a chair-wielding Karl gave chase and eventually scared the rooster of at the door of the chapel itself. Eric was unharmed, but now that David had crawled out of the arrow-riddled room, everyone agreed that a hasty retreat was in order.

The chapel itself proved a dead end, as a handful of chicken feathers at the base of the column of blue light was the only new bit of evidence to turn up. tree roots could be seen at the top of the column, but they were too high to access by anything other than magical means. Like, perhaps stepping into the light while holding a feather in one's hand, for example...

The group then fled to the other end of the hall and through the barred double doors. They discovered a shallow lobby, with another set of barred doors ahead, and two set of stairs leading up and behind them to either side. David and Karl were debating the wisdom of just heading out the front doors when the issue was answered for them by a barrage of black arrows piercing both doors and nearly pricking the both of them.

So upstairs they fled, only to find themselves in a seemingly endless hallway flanked by row upon row of caskets. the roof of this hallway consisted entirely of tree roots and damp earth. Eric stopped to explore a casket, with grim results, but the sounds of the front doors being broken in caused make haste and start to climb.

David was the first to the top, but as soon as he touched a root, it slithered around his wrist and pulled him up and into the ceiling. Josh scurried up to follow, but Alex told him to wait. Alex found that he had his cellphone in his pocket, and he dialed David's number...

"David? It's Alex. Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine - just a little squeezed for space.... I seem to be still moving upwards through the ground..."
"Cool. We're right behind you."

The others followed and allowed themselves to be sucked up into the ceiling just in time. Well, almost just in time. Karl took an arrow up through his foot. :/

The party ended up surfacing at the bottom of a wide, earthen bowl-like depression. Clambering up the sides, they found the bowl was ringed around with a sort of open hallway, with windows facing out in all directions. The windows opened up into what looked like the night sky - except there was no ground, buildings or anything - just the infinitely jeweled curtain of space. And off in the distance, flaring into existence like a cosmic opal was a twinkling, flittering, multi-hued star...

The Chaos Star.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Episode 100: Welcome to Muspelheim

After the Battle of the Gates in Front of the Bifrost Bridge, Thor invited the members of DCM, Inc. back to Asgard for a fête. He led them down the great stone halls of Asgard, turning left at giant battle axes and right at suits of armor. The group was awed at the vast, ancient feel of the place, and were drinking it all in as they were led into a great feast hall adorned with giant helmed elk heads mounted on every wall.

"Have a seat, my friends," boomed Thor, as he gestured to the great table in the middle of the long room. "All the food and drink you could want is yours for the asking. There is wine, there is champagne, there is a great Ring of Shrimp. And here is my maple sriracha. I've brought three varieties, each more virulent than the last." The company beamed with wonder at these delights and more, and immediately tucked in and made merry.

As the revelers were getting comfortable, one of the elk heads suddenly spoke up with one of their typically bawdy drinking-hall jokes:
What did the the elephant say to the naked man?
"It's cute, but can you breathe through that thing?"

Polite laughter echoed through the hall. Pewter tankards were refilled. Thor turned to the group and said "We here in Asgard, as well as those in the world at large owe you a boon. For saving the world, I will give you a gift beyond measure: I will let you each ask me one question. And I, with all my powers, will attempt to answer it truthfully."

Kobayashi was called on first, and he blushed with the enormity of the task. "What has happened to Chastity?" Thor looked him in the eye, and was temporarily at a loss for words. The words "Chastity has not been seen here for a long, long time" before he heard the capital C in Kobayashi's voice, saw the rouge in his cheeks and realized he was talking about a girl. A specific girl. "Ah. Well," he looked within that spot a god has for this sort of thing. "You... you will be happy to know that not only is she gainfully employed," the Thunder God broke eye contact, a was looking a little uncomfortable. "but she is also rather well off. Doing quite well for herself, in fact." "Really?" beamed the young monk. "Where?" "Misty's." "Oh, I see," said the monk, looking a bit crestfallen.

At that moment, the elks chose to pipe in again with another one of their moldy jokes:
In a tiny village lived an old maid. In spite of her old age, she was still a virgin. She was very proud of it. She knew her last days were getting closer, so she told the local undertaker that she wanted the following inscription on her tombstone: "Born as a virgin, lived as a virgin, died as a virgin."

Not long after, the old maid died peacefully, and the undertaker told his men what the lady had said. The men went to carve it in, but as the lazy no-goods they were, they thought the inscription to be unnecessarily long. They simply wrote: "Returned unopened."

The guffaws were louder this time. The mead of Asgard was taking full effect. "Who exactly am I?" said the robust Gigamesh. He leaned forward over his mead, his jaw set with grim purpose. Thor grunted. "You are who you think you are - a demigod. A friend of Thor. One of the saviors of Asgard and-" There was a commotion as the door to the hall flew open and six and a half feet of leggy valkyrie strode purposefully in and towards Thor.

"Father! I just heard the news. What has happened to Heimda- Oh, I'm sorry," the redhead froze in her tracks. "I didn't know you were... entertaining." The party turned to behold Thor's daughter. When Gigamesh met her gaze, however, the valkyrie froze and locked eyes with him. She let a sliver of a smile break her countenance. There was most definitely a moment.

Thor admonished her for interrupting, and he turned on Gigamesh.  "And I see there is something about you I don't know. Something I do not like one bit." He rose to his full height, turned from his seat and stalked to the head of the table in a most dramatic fashion. "Thrud, go now. We will speak when I am done here." His daughter turned, obediently but dejectedly. She glanced furtively at Gigamesh. "Come see me." she mouthed.

"Now my friends," Thor said in what sounded a little too much like a hiss. "As I said, we are in your debt. But from what I know of you and your activities," he looked Xeno straight in the eye, "Your actions of late offend the Gods, whose job it is to protect the known universe from the likes of you. I should destroy you all right here an now. But that would be ungrateful. You deserve a chance to redeem yourselves. It will not be easy, and your success is by no means assured. But then again, you never have been afraid of incredibly long odds. Goodbye."

Before anyone could speak up or scream, the floor fell out of the feasting hall and everything went dark....
                                                    ....and down.

With a thud.

The group was in a dark space that smelled of dampness and dirt. A dim light revealed a tunnel, and what looked like an old prospector kneeling in the mud. He looked up from his task. "Hello folks. Welcome to Hel!" He returned to his work, scanning the tunnel floor for something - spotting it - and stooping low to pick up what looked like a glowing, pulsating rainbow marble.

The God Particle
"What's that?" asked Xeno, manically casting about for something to hold/bludgeon/hide behind.

"It's a Higgs Boson. What you might call a 'God Particle'. we dig around all the major abodes of deities, looking for bits they drop."

"What can you make out of them?" asked a curious Gigamesh.

"Just about anything at all," replied the old prospector.

And that's when the floor fell away again.

As the group continued their fall down the rabbit hole, temperatures increased. So did the smell of  ozone, brimstone and sweat. The blackness swirled in a nauseating fondue of dread. When everyone landed again, they were not all together...

Kobayashi landed in a cavern dotted with stalacs of both the tite and mite variety. There was also a snow leopard. The same snow leopard that had, some months ago, bitten off his finger. Kobayashi approached the cat with not a little malice and eventually grappled it to the ground. He managed to bear-hug the beast, and got it to regurgitate his finger. But rather than asking how a human finger went undigested in a cat's stomach for months, let alone how this specific cat got to the purgatory beneath Asgard, he simply tried to reattach the finger. It worked, only to immediately spawn a black infection that spread quickly up his arm and into his torso, causing him to drop dead.

Gigamesh and Xeno landed in a rough-hewn tunnel of dark basalt. The heat was stifling as the two followed sounds of industrial machinery down the vast, dark hallway. They passed a large door that had a smoked glass window, through which they could see, in an undetermined middle distance, a number of sparks or embers rising up, drifting up through thermal currents, up and into the darkness beyond the door. A little further on, they found what looked like a fire giant manning a large control console inside a large, oval-shaped room. The giant had smoked goggles, and was manipulating knobs and levers in front of a large set of smoked glass windows. The pair moved in and tried to skirmish with him, but the giant was swift and ferocious, falling upon Gigamesh and killing him swiftly with his warhammer. Xeno evaded the giant's initial attack and sidled in behind him to take a look at the control panel.

What he saw was a star. It seemed to be contained somehow in the blackness of the chamber beyond, but with nothing to compare it to, he could not tell the scale. A readout on the panel in front of him said "STAR NH201101". Another said "READY TO LAUNCH". Xeno saw the giant turn from the inert body of Gigamesh and turn to him, bloodied hammer in hand. Throwing a lot more to the wind than just caution, Xeno pulled a lever and hit a button, and as the fire giant cried "NOOOOOO!!!!!" and made to stop him, a rush of blue, crackling energy shot out from Xeno's hands and into the console. Warning klaxons sounded, and the readout flashed "WARNING: CHAOS OVERLOAD. RESEQUENCE FORMATION. CHAOS STAR ACTIVATED." A crack in the black appeared somewhere over the star, and as Xeno and the giant watched, the ground shook and the entire laboratory rumbled as a door of enormous proportions opened up and the star, now starting to swirl with an unpredictable array of different hues, rose slowly up and out of the containment room. The giant screamed "YOU FOOL! KNOW YOU NOT WHAT YOU'VE WROUGHT?" before bringing the hammer down on Xeno's head and everything went black.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Episode 99: Ragnarok

MechaLance had just attempted to purloin Lord Leikbul's giant warhammer when one of his compatriots drew the final card to his Bifrost Bridge hand. It was, oddly enough, the Ace of Hammers, the last card needed to complete 'Ragnarok' and open the mystical gate to Asgard. The giant threw his cards down on the table, stood up abruptly and bellowed "RAGNAROK!!!!" into the sky.

His two companions looked at the table and the cards. They too started to scream in unison: "RAGNAROK!!" Lord Leikbul, hearing the ruckus, released his grip on his hammer and dropped to the ground. The other three giants leaped off the bazaar's gaming car and drew their warhammers, and immediately set to beating the ground in unison with their chants.

*boom* *boom*
RAGNAROK! *boom* *boom* RAGNAROK! *boom* *boom* RAGNAROK! *boom* *boom*

Lord Leikbul, casting about for a warhammer that wasn't there, turned to the forest behind the the three ships and hollered "FLOEFI!" A large, blue, very familiar-looking dragon rose up and out of the woods 50 yards behind Xeno on the bridge of Agatha. As it beat its wings to gain altitude, Spencer took note, and performed a slow striptease, preparing himself to fire a crotchlaser if needed. Gigamesh, looking out over the forest, could see a faint rainbow wake forming behind the beast, spreading out behind it like a pair of unicorn wings.

Xoe and Takemiya, having just placed 10k on themselves to end the world, looked from the frost giants to the dragon to one another and had the same thought: to return to the Rutvegas gaming table and put 5K down on Hrung Leikbul, just in case.

Floefi rises into the night...
Xeno, seeing the dragon rise out of the woods very near to him, made a move to take the ships out of harm's way, only to notice a whorl of clouds forming and closing in on the area. Asking Agatha for guidance, he determines it too risky to take the ships into the coming storm, and instead opts to attack the dragon single-handedly by trying to fly into his heart.

But as he closes in, Xeno sees and feels a distortion, a ripple in the time-space continuum, and the dragon warps and waves right in front of his eyes. On the ground, the others can see the bluish silhouette ripple, waver, then wink out of sight.

The dragon gets closer. The rippling gets bigger. And then, with an awful tearing, ripping and rending sound, the sky opens up and swallows everyone whole.

The floor drops out of your mind and you fall down the elevator shaft of consciousness
and land in the bowling alley of the id.

Kobayashi was the first to notice something different. Pain. Pain like he hadn't felt in a while. The pain was coming from his right buttock. His decidedly corporeal buttock. He was sitting on a rock, somewhere on a flat, rocky plain. Here, he saw Takemiya, there, Xoe. Gigamesh. Spencer. Everyone but Xeno, it would appear. It was night. And over yonder, about 100 yards away, there it was...

Not quite as expected...

At this end, a gate. Looming large, made of wrought iron...

And storming towards it, from the gloom off to the left, were the four frost giants. They were making their way purposefully towards the bridge. Lord Leikbul was reaching into a pouch at his waist and spreading what appeared to be bony peas behind him. As they walked, the peas hit the ground, sprouted, and grew into an army of frost giants.

Shown smaller than actual size.
Takemiya headed to the gate. Fleet of foot, he arrived well ahead of the frost giants and made a grisly discovery. He found another giant lying on the ground. His throat had been cut, and black blood spilled out on the sand in front of the gate. He clutched a large horn (made of horn) in his cold, dead hand. Takemiya quickly pried it loose and made away with it, back to the rest of the group.

Xoe, on an unceasing quest for strange and bizarre magical items, tried to circle around behind the giants in order to procure a few specimens for herself. But a strange glittering light from behind her caused her to pause for what turned out to be a crucial moment. For behind her, Gigamesh was aiming a handheld lighting device up under Spencer's robes. The scintillating light raced through Spencer's skeleton and was focused into a deadly beam of energy, emanating from his pelvis. The beam caught the frost giants unaware, and cut them all down from behind. Xoe hops up, and immediately heads for the giants. She procures Leikbul's bag.

It's actually good for him...
Gigamesh turned off the beam. Spencer was no longer in his robes. Instead, he was wearing black pants, and a black t-shirt for the band "Götterdämmerung". He was smoking a cigarette, French inhaling so the smoke trailed from his mouth into his crystalline nosehole and out the sides of his skull.

Suddenly, a large figure appeared on the bridge. He appeared to be carrying a small child. As the large, muscular man drew nearer, it could be seen that it was Xeno in his arms. The man put Xeno down gently just inside the wrought iron gate. Xeno stretched, looked around sleepily and exchanged words with the man. As the others watched in wonder, they could see the exchange get heated. In an instant, the man threw Xeno though the gate and out onto the plain. Xeno's crumpled body lay still for a few moments, twitched, then slowly picked itself up and dusted itself off.

Seeing Xeno rise up from the ground, the man immediately went to the gates and tore them open. He was stopped in his tracks by the body of the dead giant at his feet. Takemiya clutched his newly-acquired horn nervously as the man seemed to be looking about the corpse for something, turning him over as if he was searching for an object that he knew was in the giant's possession. the man finally looked up and noticed the group of onlookers and immediately stormed forth to confront them.

Xeno made an attempt to distract the man's charge by hurling pebbles and trying to fong, but he only succeeded in becoming a victim of his wrath as he turned and bore down on him instead. Takemiya, seeing what could yet again be the end of Xeno's life, tried to distract the giant by blowing his stolen horn. But alas, he had neither the skill nor the giant mouth to coax a note from the magical instrument.

"WHAT, BY ALL THE GODS IN ASGARD, IS YOUR NAME, PUNY MORTAL???" the big man bellowed, spittle and bile foaming down on Xeno in intermittent gobs. Xeno, caught up in a genuine wave of mortal panic cowered, trembled, and knees knocking, could only squeak "Pamela?"

The big man threw his head back and roared laughter. He stooped down and put a beefy arm around Xeno's shoulders. "I LIKE THIS GUY! PAMELA INDEED! HAHA!" The mood was lifted and the others joined the two new friends. Takemiya guiltily handed over the horn to the man who introduced himself as the god of thunder, Thor.

Thor looked over the pile of frost giant halves as well as the puddles of liquefying proto-giants and clucked his godly tongue. "Wow. We are indebted to you indeed. Who knows how this plot would have played out. You just may have spared us the end of known reality."

Thor turned to Xoe and winked. Xoe had many thoughts. Very few of them were nice ones.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Episode 98: The Transverse Bazaar

Having settled on what exactly did and did not happen after the hallucinations brought on by the mushroom tea, Xoe was informed by Dashiell that a unidentified object was entering the area. In the fields on the other side of town, a large mechanical caterpillar was approaching. It sported numerous banners, and appeared to host a number of humanoids on each of its five open-air segments. Large, clockwork legs pumped up and down, but they appeared to be merely ornamental, as Xoe surmised that each segment was likely propelled on its own set of wheels.

Some of the crew had gathered on the outer decks to watch the strange vehicle's approach - and it was Aramis that first detected the smell of top-notch barbecue wafting on the breeze. An exploration party was soon formed, and a small group headed out to investigate the strange vehicle.

Things Get Bazaar
As the group approached from the meadow, the sights, smells and sounds of a traveling bazaar greeted them warmly. The caterpillar had sidled up to the road as it exited the town, and the numerous stragglers left over from the concluded Modron March now filed into the separate compartments and were being greeted by the hawkers, salesmen and various bartenders of the lepidopteral vehicle.

While the THREE GUIDOS, SPENCER, GIGAMESH and KOBAYASHI (with attendant pink parasol-wielding tiger-zombie) headed for the aft dining car, THE ENIGMA entered the open car just behind the enclosed 'head' car of the caterpillar. After browsing the car full of 'soft goods' (and stopping to haggle a fake beard) he proceeded on to what appeared to be a moneychanging car. But it was the contents of the third car, the 'gaming car' that truly caught his eye. For there were booths of games, from YOU BET YOUR SOUL! to BIFROST BRIDGE; TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES was set up next to $25,000 TESSERACT; And a PHARAOH TAROT booth partially obscured the great shifting chalkboards displaying RUTVEGAS' LATEST BETTING LINES.

Meanwhile, in the aft compartment, the group was greeted warmly by HARRIET MUDD, the dreadlocked and mustachioed woman who apparently ran what she called THE TRANSVERSE BAZAAR. She welcomed everyone aboard, guided the Guidos to JIMMY JOE'S SAUSAGE STALL, and quite conspiratorially directed Spencer towards THE CRYSTAL PALACE, a crystalline bar set up on the opposite side of the car...

A skeleton walks into a bar...
Once there, Gigamesh and Spencer meet LAHORE HAUS, a shapelier, more feminine version of Spencer, who informs them that she's a GOLEM LIBERATIONIST and inquires into whether Spencer is a free or bonded golem. She informs him that he has a CHEM, an object containing his instructions and possibly his owner, lodged in the base of his skull. She refers him to MARIMBO MAMBO, a collector of mineral antiquities, who may have a QUANTUM LODESTONE - a device that may help Spencer remove his chem and become free.

In the dining car, the Guidos are introduced to Jimmy John, an effeminate sausage peddler who invites the three below decks for salacious purposes. It is at this time that Koresh's zombie starts to fall apart, exposing Kobayashi to the sun's killing rays. Retreating to the darkness below decks, he soon discovers the guidos trying on a number of latex hoods for Jimmy Joe, who seems to be entering a state of increased agitation. Kobayashi, sensing inappropriate motives on the sausage king's part, moves in to investigate and accidentally causes the meat hawker's demise.

The Enigma, in the gaming car, has settled on a tarot reading with the Pharaoh, who turns out to be a stereotypical gypsy fortuneteller as played by Samuel L. Jackson. Pharaoh suspects the Enigma has two timelines, and when Enigma lifts his own head off his shoulders, offers a double reading for free.  The reading reveals that his life is unfolding as a large-scale game of strategy and chance, played against an unseen opponent who may or may not be a very powerful undead wizard, and that "things are fucked up, as usual". As a reward for not committing any further weirdness, the gypsy hands him a Deck of Many Things, which Enigma (rather bravely, I thought) immediately used to draw one card. The card did not slay him outright, steal his soul or cause him to fight a minor Death. Instead he was left holding a single blue poker chip...

Back on Dashiell, Xoe starts to feel an irritation building in the small of her back. Absentmindedly scratching away at it, she is noticed by Ragnar who, after some awkward small talk, offers to take a look. She reluctantly agrees, and when Ragnar looks, he sees that Xoe's tattoo seems to be somewhat infectede. "What tattoo?" she cries, and Ragnar describes it to her: 
A little annoyed, she decides to leave the ship and head on over to the bazaar, but not before Dashiell asks if she would like to hear the poem of the day. She nods, then the three ships' voices combine into one again and incant:

Born a King on Astaroth's plain, Lode I bring to stone him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.

Xoe leaves the ship and heads off alone, struggling to scratch her back whilst trying to keep her head above the billowing stalks of knee-high grass.

Look into my eyes...
Back at the Bazaar, Gigamesh and Spencer find Marimbo Mambo, a three-eyed, blue-skinned creature offering a large amount of exotic wares. When Spencer mentions the Lodestone, Mambo grows wary, but nonetheless shows him the one he has on hand. The heavy, almost life-sized bronze skull fritters and whibbles with traceries of acid-green light. Mambo asks for a trade - what does Spencer have to offer? "Two souls and a Vorpal Dagger." "Two souls? Who do they belong to?" "Right now, me." Mambo accepts the dagger in trade, and, returning to their barstools at the Crystal Palace, Spencer places the Lodestone on the bar and stares into its deep, dark, eye sockets...

Takemiya has now taken his coin to the next booth, and decides to play $25,000 Tesseract. He no sooner sits down before the weird, shifting shape then he is standing again, seemingly instantly, holding a handful of red poker chips. Seeing this as the boon foretold by the card he drew from the Deck, he immediately looks to place it on a wager and heads to the next stall to see what Rutvegas is offering odds on... and his heart stops in his throat.

Xoe has by now reached the Bazaar, and finds the Enigma, who is hurrying to share the news of the betting board. Xoe is anxious to tell of her tattoo, and a cursory check of the Enigma's back shows the same sort of marks on the small of his back, only reading:

Twin beams of green light hit Spencer in his eye sockets as he temporarily goes blind. Scintillating colors effuse from his hood for a second, then go out s quickly as they came. Spencer then hears a *click* in the back of his skull and, reaching back, pulls a curious Device from the back of his skull...
The hell is this thing?
While Gigamesh sets to work creating the piece of advanced technology that would enable the group to decipher Spencer's chem, Xoe and the Enigma return to the ship to gather up 10,000 gold pieces and place a bet on "Xeno, et al".

While at the betting booth, Gigamesh spots a group of frost giants playing Bifrost Bridge, and spots a large, two-headed hammer leaning on the back of the chair of one of the larger, furrier and beskulled giants. Recognizing the hammer (from Xoe's description) as a Hammer +5 vs Gnomes, he asks MechaLance to procure it for him. Reaching over the caterpillar, 'Lance plucks the hammer from behind the giant - but not deftly enough. The giants stands, snarling, and leaps up to grab the head of the mighty weapon. As 'Lance lifts the giant high into the air, his fellows, leaping up and spilling cards every which way, cry out "WE WILL AID YOU, LORD LEIKBUL!!!"