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!!!"