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!!!"

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Episode 97: The Eventuality Prism

Xeno looked down at his wavering, transparent body. It was not at all what he expected to see. Ghost, he could handle. Tall, he had rather grown accustomed to of late. But githzerai, well - that was not at all what he was prepared for or willing to deal with.

"Why aren't you a gnome?" asked Kobayashi - who was looking a whole lot more solid - in fact, was the solidist, realest person in the group right now. Xeno felt a supreme peeve building up. Not only did he hate not having an answer for the dead monk, but even more than that he hated not having an answer for himself.

"I don't know, CHAOS??" He hoped that would mollify him. For the time being, it did.

Having reclaimed Rodant, the crew returns to the trio of ships, only to find an agitated Xoe on the deck of Dashiell. She tells of a captive mind flayer who, for reasons known only to him, asks for Xeno by name.

When the crew investigates, they find the old illithid BERGENHEIS, who is at first surprised to find Xeno isn't gnome. But as both Xeno and Kobayashi bristle and call for the immediate execution of the prisoner, Bergenheis attempts to stay the execution by asserting his claim that he is merely trying to keep the entire universe from ending. Temporarily intrigued, they let him live, and Bergenheis tells of his people coming into possession of a device known as the EVENTUALITY PRISM - an object that refracts time into its component elements and reveals the future that is most likely to happen.

In the future that was revealed by the mind flayers, however, it appears that Xeno is responsible for the destruction of the entire universe.

"LIES!" cries Xeno, who immediately attempts the keening wail of a banshee in order to slay Bergenheis. Fortunately for the rest of the crew present in the small room, Xeno does not appear to have that power. Instead, it is Bergenheis that throws Xeno's mind into a tumult with a psionic blast that sends Xeno back to the playground of his youth, where Xeno succumbs to visions  of loneliness, isolation and mushroom dodgeball. Bob the Mushroom (from Aquae Sulis) makes an appearance,  as does Clavdivs, who informs him that he he is now communicating to him through the mushroom tea...

At this point, Spencer, fearing losing Xeno to the illithid, tries to intervene with his scythe, but fails. He refers to Spencer as a 'refraction golem' and freezes him on the spot.

Bergenheis then releases Xeno from his grip, and again attempts to assure him that he is an ally. Bergenheis recalls the course of events after using the Prism, and how it was revealed that the universe would end with Xeno slaying the Creator - the being responsible for the very existence of the universe - with a weapon carved from a single piece of sapient pearwood.

The mind flayers then mobilized - gathering a fleet of over 200 ships to scour the crystal sphere for Xeno and every last scrap of pearwood. They had nearly exterminated every last pearwood tree known to exist - only to find the last one had been taken off Athas by two humans and a Mul. They traced Xeno to the Rock of Braal, only to find that he had skipped out in a ship won from Abdullah Faloon. They eventually traced both to the planet Ata'ri, and had sent a strikeship down to get one or the other, only to lose the ship off of Port Harbor and never hear from it again. #deathcommandos

Xeno again becomes agitated, not wanting to hear Bergenheis out. The mind flayer pleads with him to listen - calling upon the 'discertainty principle' - the belief that by revealing the primary eventuality to certain involved parties, one can change the certainty of the eventuality.

Xeno and Kobayashi, having had enough of Bergenheis' talk, attack and kill him on the spot.

As his body melts away, the only thing left behind is an amulet which bears a curious symbol...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Episode 96 - Tiny Pink Parasols

The crew of the ship now known as 'Agatha' stood in a confused, awkward circle on the bridge of the ship. It had been a hectic few minutes, what with Kobayashi being ejected from the Spelljamming helm, Gigamesh fending off the town constabulary with a forged/created ex nihilo parking permit, and Koresh swan-diving off the ship not to his death - but to his ultimately fatal stupidity. For as he stood next to the newest arrival (a black-cloaked figure of rather gaunt proportions) he decided it would be a Good Idea to try and wrest Kobayashi's soul from Spencer's thigh.

And that's when Spencer killed him.

It was a mere back-of-the-hand swat - the dismissive sort of cuff that would normally incense the raging mountain of chaos that is Koresh into outrageous acts of senseless violence. Instead, it killed him stone dead. And as his addled yet muscular tiger-body crumpled into a soft, furry heap, a wavering, blue spectre - a ghost - remained standing upright and looking petulantly down at the corpse at his feet.

*And there was much amazement.

The confused, contentious chatter that followed was interrupted by the face of Xoe, displayed at several times its usual size, on the large display window at the front of the bridge.

"Hey, you guys got any food that's fit for people over there?"

Gigamesh turned from the screen, looked at his assembled cohorts one by one, then turned back to the window and quipped "Well, we don't really have much in the way of dietary requirements here, but we certainly haven't found anything you'd really want to eat."
"Neither have we. Rodant wants to head over to the town to try and buy some supplies. He's taking Object as an escort. You know, in case the inevitable happens. And hey - have you noticed how these talkwindows have just sort of grown out of the existing ship architecture? They're not illithid tech. They've happened since my brother's... thing. By the way, where is the lumbering oaf?"
"He's dead."
"Oh. Well, he's been in worse spots. Rodant and Object are heading out now. We'll keep an eye on them. Xoe out."

Xoe's face winked out and was replaced by a view of the meadow and the town beyond it. The figures of Object and Rodant could be seen cutting a path through the tall grasses, heading towards the town. The smoldering ruin created by Spencer's pelvis was still smoldering, but a bucket brigade had formed, and the situation seemed under control.

Agatha's voice suddenly resonated throughout the ship. "Would anyone like to hear the poem of the day?" The crew looked from one to another in a slightly puzzled fashion. The Enigma spoke up: "Yes, Agatha. We'd love to hear it."

A voice that sounded like three voices speaking in unison, each an octave off one another, resounded (it would be confirmed later) throughout all three ships. They intoned, chanted, incanted:

We three things of occident are
seeking gifts in transverse bazaar,
quark and gluon, tau and muon,
basking in Chaos Star.

Again, puzzled looks were passed around the crew like a damp roach at a rainy bus stop.

"Thank you, Agatha," said Enigma. "What is the poem about?"
"What poem?"
"The one you just..." Uncertainty. "...recited to us?"
"I recited no poem."

The roach was passed around once more. Its effects were definitely starting to kick in. Gigamesh scratched his head, while Koresh's ghost attempted desperately to work its way back inside his body. The spectre of Kobayashi sidled up to his master and whispered into his helmet:

"Agatha has kicked me out of the Spelljamming helm. We have no idea how this ship now operates. Perhaps we should take this time and ask for a tour?"

The Enigma looked at Gigamesh. Gigamesh looked at Spencer. Spencer turned his darkened hood in the general direction of the Enigma.

"We are interested in how you move the ship. Since you don't seem to require the services of a Spelljammer, can you show us how the ship now moves?"
"You wish to see the Chaosphere?" Chills ran down all but one spine.
"Yes, that would be excellent, thank you."
"This way."

The Enigma and Gigamesh exited the bridge through a small doorway opposite the viewwindow. Without knowing why, The Enigma instinctively knew which path to take, which hallways led to the dead-end passage that terminated in a small, nondescript door that bore a neat, handpainted sign that simply read 'SUPPLIES'. The Enigma turned back and looked up at Gigamesh, who gave him a look that said 'you go right ahead, man'. The Enigma turned back around, gripped the cheap brass doorknob, and turned....

The space beyond was as black as space and almost as big. And spinning slowly off in the distance - was if 15 feet or 15 miles? - was a tetrahedron that emitted an acid-green light. Across the surface of the tetrahedron, copper-colored flat shapes silently slid, bumping into and off of each other in a continual dance of randomness. From in between the shapes - squares, circles - shot the flickering beams of verdant light that tried in vain to illuminate the void in which the tetrahedron was suspended. The slowly tumbling, flickering pyramid entranced The Enigma momentarily, enough to cause him to take a step within the black room where the bottom immediately dropped out of his mind.

Suddenly, the green tetrahedron shot away and into the distance, growing infinitely small in just under an instant. But before the tiny pinprick of greenish light went out altogether, a flash of purple light flew from behind the Enigma, past his right ear, and out in front of his eyes. A dodecahedron, glowing similarly from within with a shimmering violet light and fluid, golden triangles and circles swimming across its surface, stopped momentarily before the Enigma's eyes before zooming off again into infinity. An orange cube followed suit, with mercurial squares and circles sliding randomly across the cubes rotating surface.

The cube, after a brief pause, disappeared as quickly as it came, only to be followed not by a shape, but by a vaguely humanoid face. One... two... three human faces zipped past the Enigma, two males and a female. And as the last streaked past with the sound of tremulous glass she opened her eyes, stared into the very depths of the Enigma's helmet, and with a high-pitched *pwinggg* pushed him gently back out of the room.

Temporarily stunned, the Enigma looked around and found Gigamesh still peering over his shoulder.

"So are you going to go in or what?"

Not quite yet feeling himself, the Enigma turned back to see the room was just as he'd found it - a single, rotating, glittering tetrahedron floating in the darkness. He noticed a dull, throbbing ache radiating up his left arm from his hand. He looked down, and saw the white knuckles on his left hand as he squeezed the doorknob. He quickly let go, as if it had been hot. The brass knob was warped and imprinted with his fingerprints, as if it had been made of clay...

By the time the Enigma and Gigamesh returned to the bridge, Kobayashi were having an animated discussion. Kobayashi turned to his master.

"The rodent Kapoor has been detained. Something about not having the right permit. He's being held in a detention center near the middle of town. I think we should go find him, but the sun gives me... trouble."
"If only we had an umbrella," volunteered the cook. "You could carry it with you to block out the sun." 
"I can't carry an umbrella," whined the undead acolyte. "I'm noncorporeal!"
"No problem," said Spencer. "I'll have my zombie carry it for you."
"THAT'S MY BODY YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!" wailed the quavering shade of Koresh. "I WILL PROBABLY DO NO SUCH THING!!!"
"Don't worry, man," said Spencer. "I'll make sure he doesn't get harmed."

There was a moment of silence as everyone looked from face to face in that expectant manner of an elevator full of people who consider pushing buttons someone else's job.

"Oh!" Gigamesh started from a miniature reverie. "I got this." He left the bridge and headed out to the open deck. He gazed out over the meadow that lay between the three ships and the town. The burning house had finally been extinguished. He turned over various economic models in his mind.

He closed his eyes and focused. He extended his arms out over the railing and tried to congeal atoms and light and energy out of the void. Someone behind him whispered something about pink parasols.

Suddenly, in the meadow below, appeared a Chinese phonebooth. Attached to one side was a rickety bicycle made of bamboo. On the bike, an old Chinese man sat pedaling. Opposite the man, out the door of the booth, popped pink parasols, one after another. They piled up in the grass. Gigamesh giggled.

That's when the Goat of Chaos visited our oft unhappy chonicler, forcing him to finish the tale at a later date. Be sure to tune in later to hear tales of brazen boulevards, chaotic crosswalks, and daring detentions.

Also, the Crimson Tsar!