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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.10: The Blue Thief

20th of Monsoon – Dawn was breaking but the sun’s rays were stifled behind cloud-darkened skies and drowned in the heavy, humid air. Stray raindrops randomly pelted the roofs, and cobblestones of the city as well as the heads of retreating rag pickers and soot-brushes. The fitful sleep of two of the cabal members was disturbed by the approaching ringing bell of one of the many city criers.

The Crier: “Hear ye! Hear ye! The city marshal has declared that all those found to commit the crimes of theft, murder, and assault within the city limits that are not citizens of our great city and are found to be the crew of known freebooter and privateer ships will receive the penalty of death! Ships whose crews comprise of more than a handful of such criminals will be banished from harbor come hell or high water!”

Excor (played by Cris) and Szoo (played by Isis) stumbled and slithered from their rooms, slowly due to their bruised and aching bodies roused by the crier’s bell and spiel. Already, Fauna (played by Jenn) was grinding the remainder of her herbs into two doses of healing salve for her wounded companions. As both Szoo’s and Excor’s wounds were still grievous. Fauna, on the other hand, was in perfect health. After finishing the salve and having applied it, Fauna cleaned out the stable and left for the market district. The other two went back to their beds to heal.

Later, in the afternoon, the sun had peaked between the clouds and Fauna was returning from the market with her horse attached to a new wagon loaded with a few months’ supply of oats and hay. As she led the wagon back home she entered the alleyway and only then noticed a tail, someone was stealthily following her. Calmly, she unhitched her horse and put him back into the stall next to her giant frog, tossed that thing a bag of mice. She left the wagon just off the stables. Suddenly, she rushed through the door and shouted.

Fauna: “I’m being followed!”

Immediately, both of her companions leaped from their beds and met her at the door against which she was leaning.  All she could relate about her pursuer was that he was wearing blue with a short, matching cape.

Isis: “*Sigh* Is this the dragon again?”

Cris: “Who else would it be!? Of course it is! Blue cape, sheesh, of course it’s the dragon! Or her slaves.”

Excor rushed to the door and carefully, quietly, cracked it and peeked through. He scanned the scene outside the door from the alley wall to the stable. By a split second, he missed the fleeting glimpse of a blue cape disappearing into the hayloft above the stalls. Because of his spotting nothing, Szoosha cast Heat Vision on himself. In turn, Excor cast See the Invisible on himself.

Excor peeked back out the door and spotted Thorn the beggar ducking behind a rain barrel. He yelled at Thorn to leave while Szoo, head above Excor’s, spotted a heat trail moving from the ground and up into the loft. Thorn waved as he jaunted off after a shrug.

Szoo: “Guys! I got something! I think he’s inside already!”

Excor immediately slammed shut the door and turned. Almost by accident, he caught sight of a cape trailing behind its wearer as it flapped from above down behind a piece of furniture.

Excor (pointing the blue thief out): “Assassin!”

Fauna readied herself to cast Sleep as soon as she could see her target. Szoo moved around to get a better line of sight and was able to spot the blue thief. The short, brawny man was dressed in a powder blue padded/quilted robe with a bright blue silver-trimmed cape and cowl and a broad black belt. He was armed with paired superior quality silver daggers each with a large quartz crystal in the pommel. Excor cast shadow ribbons but the magic went wild. The black ribbons of shadow suddenly expanded into a cone of blazing red light and the thief shrieked in terror, he stood and turned to run through the back door. Fauna let loose her sleep spell but it had no effect.

The druidess let loose a lightning bolt; the thief dodged the bolt easily and tumbled through the back door into the rear courtyard. Szoosha charged towards the back door and made it outside into the small courtyard amongst Fauna’s chickens and goat. Excor moved up to where he could see the thief readying to scale the wall and cast paralyze I. The thief froze in his tracks.

Cris (to the GM): “That was some sort of crazy fear spell huh? Hey! Can I try to remember what I did with that spell with my spellcraft?”

The GM (me): “Yup, um DC uh 20, it was wild magic. Totally randomly rolled spell too.”

Cris: *roll*roll* “Damn, naw, I didn’t get it.”

Szoo had the paralyzed thief tied up with a rope he took from the thief’s belt. Fauna sensed some very strong magic from the silver manacle around his neck and the medallion with dragon-scratch runes that dangled from it. She simply tried to pull it off as it did not appear to be even locked or clasped but it did not budge. It even seemed bonded to the thief’s skin. Fauna then double-checked the ropes making sure they were tight. Szoo then inspected the collar and found the maker’s mark. It was the mark of the Golden Devil Company (The Cabal of Eight Pt.6: Gold Devil).

Szoo (panicking): “Oh no! We made some BIG enemies guys!”

Cris: “Whatever, we’re adventurers, it’s what we DO!”

The three mages stood around while the chickens clucked and gathered around their feet expecting to feed. They did not know what to do with the man. The magic slave collar without a doubt would lead the blue dragon straight to them. They quibbled back and forth for some time before they finally decided on what was to be done with him. They did not want to kill him; after all, he had no choice whether or not to obey the dragon. They also did not want to take him to the guards. The trio did not know how deep the dragon’s connections went. They decided to freeze the thief in amber.

Excor cast Amber Husk, an ancient spell obtained from a scroll they had found in the Lotus Vaults. Excor looked at his handiwork. The thief in blue could be seen at the center bottom of an iceberg of glistening semi-transparent amber.

Excor: “That’ll do it.”

That situation dealt with, for the time being anyway, the trio decided to try to rest until their next cabal meeting on the 24th. However, Fauna had a meeting with the Brotherhood of the Rope on the next full moon, the 22nd.

The next day, Szoo and Excor were sleeping the day away, Fauna, alternately, had hitched her horse up to her wagon and was going shopping around the Old Market District and the Bazaar. Soon her wagon was packed with a 1 lb. bag of healing herbs, another 1 lb. bag of yellow & pink lotus soaked smoking herb (of which she was currently partaking), a wood cage with four chickens in it, a sack of feed enough for a month, an empty 1-gallon ceramic jug, and 5 potion bottles for Szoo’s naphtha. She had watched Thorn while he had followed her the entire time as well.

She signaled the grey-cloaked beggar to jog up next to her she was riding in the saddle.

Fauna: “So…you old beggar… still spying on us?”

Thorn: “Yup! Just business y’know!”

Fauna (flipping Thorn a silver piece): “No info?”

Thorn: “Well, I’d be amiss in my duty if I didn’t ask about certain Pirate friends, ahem, certain friends of certain people maybe?”

He eyeballed Fauna for a reaction, there was none so he continued.

Thorn (pulling out his pipe; Fauna offered to light it): *ffwwwp* *exhaling* “Certain pirate friends of a certain party stealing from certain other people and yet other people, friends of certain people maybe? No. Well, those people hiding the treasure and those people’s friends maybe knowing something about it?”

Thorn glanced over at Fauna with a squint in his eye. Again, she did not react so he shrugged and took another tug from his corncob pipe.

Fauna (exhaling, her eyes sparkling with lotus): “Maybe we can hire you as…..our… houseboy? We could pay you a lot of money.”

Thorn suddenly tore off after shooting Fauna a polite smile. Someone was evidently waiting for him near the corner the pair quickly disappearing into an alley. However, Fauna could not focus enough to see who had been waiting for the old beggar. She lazily trotted her way home through the crowded streets as she toked on her pipe.

The following afternoon, Excor had spotted Thorn hanging out in full view around the house and he decided to see what he wanted. Excor tried to interrogate the beggar but found the old man was far too clever to get any useful information out of him. Even so, they conversed for quite some time. Eventually, Excor gave up and tossed him a silver to move off. As the grey-cloaked beggar walked down the alleyway towards the street he unexpectedly asked, “Hey! You know anything about a Cabal of Eight?” Excor was shocked but hid his surprise well enough that he was sure the old beggar did not read it.

Excor (waving bye): “No, no. Never heard of it! If I find anything out I’ll tell ya!”

Thorn (walking away): “I’m all ears!”

Cris hissed, “Dammit!”

Isis: “Whhat!?”

Cris: “They’re getting close! Too close! Dammit.”

Jenn: “Meh. We can handle it.”

Late that night when the full moon was high, Fauna found herself standing amongst a lineup of certain other characters, all drawn from the anonymous ranks of the cult, the Brotherhood of the Rope. Those in the lineup and her were all stark naked slick with sweat; the caverns under the old Amphitheater were sweltering. Those not participating in the “trial for high priest” were still in their dark blue ropes and hoods with a golden noose around their necks. Anishi, the caretaker of the grove, was presiding.

The cult had gathered in a deep chamber next to a very narrow entryway carved into the rusty, living rock. Vor Jetl “the dragonfly” had told Fauna that the trial would be a lethal one it would be the labyrinth. “Avoid the traps and you will make it to a final test, fail and no one will ever see you again.” Good advice as far as she could gather, after all, he was “on her side”. Apparently, the narrow opening was the entrance to this labyrinth.

Anishi gave the word and one-by-one the candidates walked up to him and he spat lotus powder into their faces, kissed them on the forehead, and pushed them through the aperture, “Tread with care my child and be humble”.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.9: Fungus Force Five

Map of the Fungus Kingdom
Fungus Kingdom full map

Fauna the druid (played by Jenn), Excor (played by Cris), and Szoo the Black-Scael naga (played by Isis), were surveying the post-battle damage. A few shouldering clumps of slime remained not giving a hint to the tiny creatures’ formerly humanoid shapes. The statue of the four-armed goddess with dragonfly wings had fallen into the cellar up to its golden breasts (The Cabal of Eight Pt.41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1). The floorboards around it were shattered, soggy and warped.

Cris: “See! I told you we should’ a killed that thing yesterday!”

Jenn: “But we didn’t fight these down there!”

Cris: “What dya think sent those!”

Fauna continued her brewing of healing potions while Szoo inspected the hole. The gap between the statue and the floorboards was enough for either of the human mages to crawl through but it was too narrow for Szoo to slither into the cellar. As the sunset and sky burned gold and pink, Fauna was finished, the trio decided to go back down into the caves below to provoke a final confrontation with the mushroom boss.

Excor holed the statue up in his Portable Hole revealing that the steps into the cellar were completely flattened. He activated his Ring of Ghost Form to float down to the cellar floor. Alternately, Fauna just jumped down after tying a rope off to the marble scrying pool that they had looted from the Lotus Vaults and installed in their makeshift lab-niche (The Cabal of Eight Pt.41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1). Szoo slithered down into the small root cellar. Fauna took up the lead after finding the secret door wide open, smeared with fishy-smelling moisture and reeking of fungus.

The druid took a few careful cat-steps into the gaping portal into the dark passage. Her nostrils immediately assaulted by the choking stench of wet fungus. She saw about eight tiny sized humanoid creatures identical to those they had already faced above running towards her. The wet sounds of their tiny pseudo-feet slapping on the stone floor alerted the other two mages. As the tiny fiends hit the light of the lantern they appeared composed of black-spotted spongy material with grains throughout and covered in white and greyish hairs.

The battle was brief. Fauna slaughtered them with her dagger and Szoo scorched them with fire. Excor had flung chrono-missiles at them. During the battle, all of the creatures, the mouldmen, had swarmed poor Fauna and dealt some acid damage and drained some of her health (Constitution points). The mages lost no time in rushing into the caverns with Fauna in the lead.

Cris (to Jenn): “See! I told you that thing sent those things to screw with us! Hey, you better let Szoo lead for a little bit!”

Szoo moves into the lead to try to allow Fauna to recover. However, as soon as he took the lead, Szoo immediately spotted the oozing form of a violet blob slithering towards them from further down the main cavern.

Again, the battle was brief but Szoo had been engulfed, as this creature was much bigger than the violet blob that they had faced before (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.6: Facing the Fungus). Likewise, the creature had scored a critical hit on Fauna with a tentacle causing some serious damage to both her and Szoo using its dissolve flesh ability.

Suddenly without warning, a myconid astride a giant centipede charged from the somewhere further down the main cavern followed by two more mushroom-men covered in a thick crust of lichen-like plate armor wielding granite maces followed by an ice imp flying above amongst the dripping stalactites.

Excor whipped out his magic spike and shot a bolt of electricity at the centipede wounding it. Fauna tried to cast Lightning Bolt but the magic got away from her and went wild. A crackling burst of tiny electrical bolts filled the area. Fortunately, Excor was a ghost and unharmed. Szoo was able to avoid the bolts. Unfortunately, their enemies were just outside of the area of effect. The myconid centipede rider held up a small rod carved from red stone and the centipede surged forward heading straight for Fauna, she dodged its venomous fangs. The ice imp soared above the mages and blew a cone of icy breath at Fauna. Her magic shield absorbed the damage. Szoo shot a ray of fire at the centipede dealing some damage to it. The lichen-armored myconids leaped from the wood sled that the centipede was pulling and both attacked Szoo with their bludgeons. Szoo’s shield absorbed both hits.

Excor shot an electrical bolt at the centipede rider wounding it. The rider swung a sling above its head and let fly a stone at Excor but it passed harmlessly through his ghost form. The centipede again struck at Fauna but missed. Szoosha pulled out his fire fang and unleashed a cone of fire at the pair lichen-armored mushroom men barely singing them. The ice imp flew down and tried to kick Fauna in the head with its hooved feet. The druid easily parried the blow. The pair of lichen-armors again attacked Szoo, one missed by a wide margin the other successfully dispersed the shield spell protecting the naga.

Excor cast energy tentacle. Shooting from Excor’s hands a blinding bolt of energy took hold of the centipede rider like a tentacle. Fauna threw a lightning bolt at the imp wounding it. The giant centipede struck at Excor but again his ghost form protected him. Szoo backed up a few steps and cast elemental half-plate armor (fire) on himself. The armored myconids again struck at the naga but parried by his flaming naginata.

Szoo pulled out a bottle of naphtha and tossed it at the armored myconids splashing them both with the pungent substance. Fauna cast a fire ray at the ice imp wounding it badly. The imp again blew a blast of frost at Fauna. The centipede again fruitlessly snapped its jaws at Excor. Excor used the energy tentacle to pull the rider from his saddle and lifted him 20 feet into the damp cavern air. The armored myconids again swung at Szoo who once again easily parried their blows. The rider struggled in the grips of the energy tentacle but was trapped.

Szoo used his fire fang and blasted the pair of armored myconids with fire also igniting the naphtha spattered over them. They took a little damage but were also on fire. Fauna cast another fire ray at the ice imp burning it badly. The imp kicked at and hit Szoo in the head with its hooves but the naga’s fire armor protected him. Again, the centipede struck at Excor’s ghostly form. Excor used his tentacle to toss the unfortunate rider 20 feet down the cavern, a sickly thud sounded from the darkness. The flaming armored myconids both struck at Szoo again, one was easily parried but the other scored a critical hit dealing Szoo a mild wound.

Szoo again unleashed his fire fang on the pair of myconids again causing their armor to start to burn away. Fauna again struck the ice imp with her fire ray this time killing the creature. It disappeared with a blood-curdling scream and a burst of blue energy. The centipede continued to try to attack Excor. Excor tried to cast Force Ram on the giant centipede but failed the chaos of battle overwhelming his senses.  The burning pair of myconids again struck at Szoo but the naga again easily parried the both of them.

Szoo slashed at one of the burning myconids with his naginata but the myconid parried. Excor successfully cast Force Ram and squished the centipede against the cavern wall. Fauna flubbed her spell too anxious to slay her enemies. One of the flaming myconids attacked Fauna and was easily parried. The other attacked the naga and struck home with a massive lucky blow dealing Szoo a mean wound. The battle continued for a few more actions until the last pair of enemies collapsed into flaming smoking heaps.

Isis: “Jeesh! How many more of these guys are down here!”

Cris: “Yeah, he’s trying to wear us down before we get to him!”

Jenn: “Well it’s working! I’m out of shields and low on spells. And I’m kinda hurt.”

Isis: “Same here sis. But I’m still in okay shape!”

Cris: “I’m still pretty good but yeah, I’m out of shields too. … Screw this.”

Excor was going to cast Ghost Form on himself again but thought better of it.

After surveying the carnage and taking time to imbibe in some healing potions, the mages charged deeper into the cavern turning south to where they had previously encountered the boss mushroom. As fortune would have it, they ran straight smack into the monster.

The first round of battle was a blur of lightning bolts, a hurling destructive ball of fungus, a slashing flaming polearm, and a well-placed slow spell. The second was a cacophony of energy rays, chrono-missiles, and repeated thorn blasts that left Excor resembling a porcupine.

The battle raged on and slowed Boss Mushroom went on the attack as the trio of mages went on the defensive casting healing spells on each other, drinking potions, and Szoo casting elemental half-plate armor (fire) on his companions. The monster’s club swept repeatedly catching Szoo once and Excor twice. A well-placed fungus ball spell nailed Fauna wounding her horribly.

The final round found the mages exhausted and all badly wounded unable to take even a mild hit. However, Boss Mushroom was just as wounded. Thorn blasts and energy rays again flew then Excor captured the monster with a shadow ribbons spell. While the horrid thing was trapped, the mages beat and stabbed it to death.

The battle was finished and the trio stood over the large bloated body of the giant mushroom creature. Its flesh was starting to break down and liquefy. Excor observed the still brightly glowing ruby embedded in its chest. He shrugged and reached out to pull the gem from the monster’s melting flesh. To his surprise the gem was set into gold and attached to that was a fine gold chain, it was a necklace. He continued to pull the treasure free though there was some resistance so it took an effort on his part.

He almost had it free of the gross corpse and gave a mighty final yank. The warty skin of the chest split open and a human skeleton, the necklace still about its neck bones, was pulled out with a gush of yellow pus-like liquid matter. The skull clattered to the cavern floor, pulled off in a nervous reflex action by Excor. The necklace was his.

Cris: “Yech!”

Excor identified the gold necklace bearing a large central ruby that sparkled like blood-fire. The gem enraptured Szoo. His eyes sparkled in time with the strange light of it. Excor described the magic abilities of the necklace. It was a necklace of Shield three-times-a-day at level 8. However, something about it was bothering him but he just could not put his finger on it. Szoo grabbed for the gem, Excor let the naga have it. The naga Elementalist immediately donned the magic necklace.

Cris: “I don’t want that stinking thing! It was embedded in a monster-mushroom’s chest!”

Szoo wanted to explore the cavern further but everyone was suffering significant wounds including Szoo who only just realized his condition when prodded by Excor. Disappointed the naga relented. To satisfy the naga at least a little, Excor cast ghost form on himself once more and scouted the cave getting a general sense of where all of the passages and chambers were. The naga seemed even more disappointed afterward.

Exhausted, the trio moved back up into the house for some well-needed rest. Excor grumbled something about having to hire some carpenters to fix the trap door and floor.

To Be Continued…

Corpse World: The Forest Dark

bear in the forest

The entire gang was at the dining room table: Me (the GM), Jenn, Isis, Cris, Gil, Carlos, and Carlitos. For some reason conversation before the game had turned to the events of the end of the original Zombie Horror test-game some years back – the last pair of survivors outrunning a nuclear explosion in a helicopter then crashing in the desert. It had sprung out of Carlos wondering, “Where this will all end” and if everyone will die by the end of the campaign. Carlitos mentioned that the military will probably nuke the city and Cris concurred.

The original test campaign was a single session escape-the-city scenario that turned into a desperate run-away from everything scenario a la cannonball run. Eventually, the last two players, one of which was Cris, stole a helicopter from a deserted airfield and made their final run for it after finding out the military was going to use a tactical nuclear strike to level the city and wipe-out the zombie-plague. In fact, if I remember correctly, the other two players had shot each other over something dumb with the survivor of that fiasco put down by Cris’ biker character.

Anyway, the conversation faded out and the groups’ attention turned to the session at hand. El Guapo (played by Gil), Wesley (played by Jenn), and Lilith (played by Isis) had survived an outbreak while out on the town at the Goth Club and made their way to Lilith’s father’s Wrecking Yard. There they had a shootout with outlaw bikers and met the other three Player Characters: Steve (played by Cris), Kenny (played by Carlitos), and William (played by Carlos) the next day.

The latter three had been stuck when Steve’s car battery died stranding them on the Old Country Highway during their chaotic flight from the city. Eventually, they decided to group together for protection and then faced a small gang of zombies that threatened the chain-link gate. During the attempt to fight them off Kenny was shot in the leg, hobbled by William’s friendly fire. The group decided to flee in three vehicles: Lilith’s armored up Chevy Sedan, Steve’s Old Police Car, and the junkyard tow truck with snowplow scoop. They outran a giant tank-armored zombie probably sent by the military, plowed through a slowly oncoming herd of zombies on the road, and then finally got on their way to William’s survivalist haven.

Fortress

The three-vehicle convoy puttered slowly up to the chain-locked gates of an 8-foot tall chain-link security fence. They had arrived along a steep dirt road completely enclosed by trees. The rusted sheet metal signs to either side of the gate warned of the electric fence and that trespassers should expect lethal force. Behind the high electrical fence topped with barbed wire sat a small squat ranch-style home. It was sometime around noon but the house and indeed the small yard was cast in cool shadow from the thick umbrage of the crowded pine trees. The musk of old pine filled their noses.

While the line of cars waited for William to unlock the gate, Steve got out of his car. He walked around his vehicle and made a careful inspection of its underside and blood-spattered wheel wells. He wanted to make sure that no corpses or animated parts thereof were “hitchin’ a ride”.

Gil: “Guys, we need to find a cure for this thing!”

Isis: “Where!? Where we gonna look! I can’t do anything!”

Carlitos: “Anybody got any skills that could help try to make a cure ourselves?”

Jenn: “What!? We can’t find an antidote if we don’t know what’s causing it! And none of us are scientists! We’re just a bunch a’ @$$#oles!”

After the cars were all pulled into the yard and the gate locked behind them, the gang began to filter into the small house. Lilith took Kenny down to William’s bomb shelter. They accessed it through a door hidden behind a shelf in the basement and spiral stair leading into the small-reinforced shelter. She needed to measure his leg. She was going to use some junk she had brought with her to whip up a brace for his bullet-crippled leg. Steve had followed them down and changed Kenny’s bandages after Lilith was done with him; at least the wound was not infected.

The Old man, Lilith’s father, had settled in the old easy chair in the front room and was using the duct-tape wrapped two-button remote to flip through channels as he tugged from his hip flask. After everything above seemed settled in Wesley, El Guapo, and William went down into the shelter to convene with the others.

Once they were gathered, William pointed out the bank of video monitors on a table in the shelter. There were cameras monitoring the property inside of the fence and all around the perimeter of the electric fence. The shelter had a small main room with a walk-in gun safe, a small bedroom/bathroom off to one side and a decent-sized grow room and small storage closet. He told them that the house and shelter were running on a large diesel generator housed in a small brick and mortar shed behind the house. He also warned them that there were a few traps outside the fence. They were essentially tripwires that set of firecrackers to scare off trespassers and deer.

As evening approached, El Guapo and William decided to make a quick patrol around the outside perimeter. They made it almost completely around the outer rim of the property, El Guapo remarked on how dark it was. After the sun went down it was pitch black, the glare of the city lights could be seen faintly as a halo around a few of the lower hills from a certain vantage point as well as a few columns of smoke. The city was apparently on fire. They were sharing the common sentiment of being fortunate to have gotten out of the city when they heard a metallic tinkling coming rapidly at them then a few happy barks.

El Guapo (pulling his gun): “Zombie Dog! Zombie Dog!”

Cris: “It’s a zombie dog!?”

The GM (me): “No. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a normal stray dog running happily up to you guys.”

William checked the small dog’s collar for its tag. His name was “Tops”. William recognized him as belonging to a nearby neighbor. The dog looked like it had not eaten for several days. After contemplating this new piece of information silently, William led El Guapo and Tops back into his compound.

Meanwhile, Steve pulled out his laptop from his trunk and set it up on William’s badly worn yellow Formica kitchen table. He found that even trying to access the internet via the phone line was near impossible not because there was no connection but because it appeared that, someone had erected a firewall between the outside world and everyone in Amorset. Wesley came in and took a gander and confirmed his assessment, she also figured that most radio signals were probably also jammed. They both looked over at the television, only the public access channel was broadcasting something other than a test pattern or an emergency system message.

The pair outside came in from their patrol with Tops running inside and jumping into the Old Man’s lap. They explained where the dog came from and all decided that it would be best if some of them would go check on the neighbor. However, they could not agree on a timeframe for that. So, they decided to “sleep on it”.

Jenn (turning to me all of a sudden): “Don’t you kill that doggie, you’re going to kill that doggie aren’t you.”

The GM (me): “Ummm, No?”

Steve decided to stay up, try to hack through the internet firewall, and do a little research on Geno-Chem. At this point, the others had convinced him of the shady bioengineering chemical conglomerate’s probable responsibility for this mess. After about an hour, he had successfully accessed the corporate site and found mostly public relations garbage. However, he also found that the company had been operating a specialized laboratory out of the old oilrig on the lake.

Apparently, they had been cited for improper storage of Class I, VII, and VIII chemicals on the old platform. Geno-Chem also announced that the platform would be a part of their new plan of economic rebirth. From the sound of it as he read it, it sounded like they were about to remake the world into the Garden of Eden.

He shut down the laptop hearing only snoring throughout the house. Realizing how tired he was he went to go sleep in the backseat of his car.

A Jenn’s eye perspective in her parents’ dining room.

The Fleeing of the Forest

It was already evening by the time everyone was ready to start planning again. Earlier in the day, Lilith had finished Kenny’s leg brace and he was moving around again albeit slightly slower. Steve had told everyone what he had found out the previous night and that the internet was completely down now. He also cooked dinner, cheese topped spaghetti with spam cubes in it. William was busy setting up a “war room” around the kitchen table.

After dinner, the crew was huddled around the table looking at the maps that William had pinned to the wall. They had already decided to pursue the oilrig lead and still wanted to send a group to the neighbor out of sheer curiosity. A quiet thumping began to cause the kitchen table to vibrate. They all stood up. The will to speak died in their throats. They turned to the windows their eyes like rabbits under headlights of an oncoming diesel. The glass and picture frames began to rattle as the noise increased in volume and intensity. Vague shapes, just pale blurs, shot out of the dark just outside the electric fence and then just as suddenly flew back into darkness.

Lilith: “Oh Gawd! It’s that big thing again isn’t it!?”

Kenny: “Aww man! I shot it’s leg off! How!?”

William (looking out the kitchen window): “It’s deer? It’s deer.”

El Guapo (also looking out the window): “It’s just deer, whoa a lot of deer. A stampede!?”

The group filtered out the back door from the kitchen onto the covered back porch. The ground was rumbling with the amount of deer running panicked around the house. Occasionally a deer touched the fence and a bright burst of sparks would cause them to jump away and correct course. Then, a big buck tried to correct course at the very last minute and another large buck slammed into him thrusting his bulk into the fence tearing the chain-link from the poles and the whole length of the fence exploded in a white-hot flash of sparks.

The sound of the stampede faded into the distance towards the road. The dust left in the wake of the animals still hovered like a cloud of choking pine-scented smog. The house was completely dark; the entire electrical system had shorted out.

Lilith immediately ran to the generator shed and found that the buck hitting the fence had blown a high voltage capacitor. William did not have a spare. He had gone to town to pick up another one but decided to have a beer instead and then the zombie apocalypse happened.

Wesley: “Crap! We got to get that fence back up!”

Lilith (shouting to the others): “I can get the electricity back up after you guys fix the fence BUT I’ll be bypassing the capacitor and if the fence gets hit again it’ll blow everything, permanently!”

William: “Screw it. Do what you guys gotta do.”

El Guapo and Kenny volunteered to disentangle and pull the buck’s corpse from the fence and repair the chain-link. Meanwhile, Steve and William were going to wait on the porch with their weapons ready and keep a lookout.

The operation was moving ahead at a brisk pace as the pair of volunteers easily cleared the roasted buck from the wire and began to work on bending the chain-link back in shape and a few poles back straight as well. Lilith was waiting for the signal to switch the power back on. William and Steve were keeping their ears and eyes open for anything. Wesley was leaning against the brick generator shed watching El Guapo and Kenny fix the fence.

Mad Bear

Steve shouted, “Look out! Something big is coming in fast!” A huge shaggy shadow was bearing down on the pair working on the fence. Wesley dropped to firing position and waited for a clear shot with her Desert Eagle. Steve readied a rifle from William’s shelter gun-safe. William readied his deer rifle.

Cris: “Dude we can’t shoot!”

Carlos: “What, why? I can hit it.”

Cris: “Cause we’ll shoot THEM! They’re in between us and that thing!”

Carlos: “Oh yeah, I guess. Too bad I wanted to use my RPG.”

Cris: “Wait. What.”

Carlitos (pointing a finger at Carlos): “Dude, do not shoot me again.”

El Guapo pulled his Desert Eagle and drilled the massive animal with a lethal shot. As it began to fall, however, it took a sudden swipe at Kenny hitting with a sickening whap! The creature fell dead heavily to the ground joined by the thud of Kenny’s limp body. The bear had torn open his shoulder and slashed his face with a single bear slap.

Carlitos: “Oh man! Am I dead?”

Cris: “Pff! I dunno! What’re your hit-points at?”

A few arithmetical calculations later, it was determined that Kenny was unconscious and very near death but some first aid worked to stabilize the bleeding. Their attentions turned to the grizzly corpse.

Cris (to me): “Really!? A zombie bear!?”

Isis: “It was a zombie? Is that possible?”

To be safe El Guapo “double-tapped” the dead bear. They could see the steam wafting up from the bullet holes in its head and smell the fresh, hot blood against mixed with the cool night air. It had been a living animal but it also had some disturbing puss-yellow cysts or tumors swelling from under its greasy coat in places. El Guapo lit a cigarette.

El Guapo (exhaling): “Well, there’s definitely something wrong with that bear.”

Steve helped El Guapo to complete the fence and after about another hour Lilith was able to hit the power. Meanwhile, Kenny recuperated in a bed in the shelter wrapped in fresh bandages.

Death Squad

The following day, the group killed time by playing cards while waiting for Kenny to heal up enough to move. They continued to toss around ideas as to what to do. They only confirmed their previous plan to gain access to the oilrig on the lake. After dinner, Kenny was awake and surprisingly almost in traveling shape. El Guapo went outside on the back porch to have a smoke in peace. He puffed readily on his cigarette as he wandered aimlessly around the back yard and wound up near the power shed.

He stood for a while staring at the stars. When he finished he flicked the glowing stub against the bricks hard enough to put it out in a flash. He heard a ricochet, then another, and another. The ground around his feet began to jump and spit and he could hear the semi-automatic gunfire. Almost as a reflex, he leaped behind the safety of the brick shed.

The shots came from the large tree branches that overhung the electric fence. Squatting on the branches above were soldiers in green rubber suits bearing M-16s with drum magazines. Their exposed heads and faces revealed the rotting and partially mummified visages of zombies. With a heavy thump, one of them jumped to the ground. El Guapo swung the A-K from his shoulder and pulled the firing bolt, his back against the shed.

Wesley ran up from the shelter and yelled for the rest in the house to wake up if they were still asleep; she had seen El Guapo’s position from the security monitors. A spray of bullets from all three of the zombie soldiers tore at the bricks of the shed pinning El Guapo down. A second thump signaled a second creature was in the yard. Lilith ran out to the back porch and shot the creature squatting in the tree putting a 9mm slug between its eyes. It fell to the ground in the yard. Steve fired William’s hunting rifle from the kitchen door putting a large hole in the second creature’s forehead.

Wesley rushed out of the door knocking Steve to the side. She shot and took off half of the last creature’s face destroying it.

El Guapo: “They have guns now?”

Wesley: “See! I told you! It’s the military; they’re trying to kill us!”

Lilith: “We gotta figure something out.”

Cris: “Huh. That was kinda easy.”

Lilith (digging at one of the zombie’s forehead with a knife): “Huh. Hey guys, these have those little red lights too.”

After about an hour Lilith was inspecting a microchip she had pulled from the skull of one of the soldier zombies. It appeared to be some sort of control chip wired to receive a specific signal. She also found a built-in electronic locator but easily disabled it. She had no idea how to prevent the control signal from being received or even if she could disrupt it.

No Chill

Come sunrise, Lilith began work on building a set of walkie-talkies with signal scrambling and better range using the electronic parts found around William’s lair and a set of new walkies she found down in the shelter. El Guapo, Steve, and William were going to travel to William’s neighbor to check on things there, they suspected the zombie soldiers had come from that direction. The rest of the gang just tried to get as much rest as they could.

After a quick breakfast of pancakes, sausages, and eggs cooked by non-other than El Guapo, the three that had planned to scout the neighbor’s property packed up and left. William guided them through the woods and down the hill towards a deep cleft between the hills. They soon found themselves walking through a rocky creek bed their feet drenched in its cold gently burbling waters. The streak of sky above, a break in the umbrage was blinding and the direct sun was making them pour sweat.

Steve (to William): “Is it always this quiet out here?”

William: “No.”

Steve: “Okay.”

The dull green of the dense foliage of the trees and bushes swelled on both sides of them. Occasionally, a slight breeze would disturb the leaves the sound breaking the unnatural silence for a few seconds. The shadows in the deeps of the foliage appeared in contrast to a bright almost white clear sky pitch black.

Steve: “Are we almost there?”

William: “Yup, up this way.”

They surmounted a steep dirt path that winded its way over the top of a shallow bluff and into the shadowy cover of the trees. It was a little while longer before they found themselves at an old and ill-maintained cottage with a companion barn, everything covered in a thick brown carpet of pine needles. William walked onto the plank-board front porch and pushed the half-opened front door open. The television on white noise filled the room. The place smelled of rotting meat. The source was the fat old woman sitting in the overstuff-chair before the television. She had been shot through the temple her sawed-off shotgun still in her lap and her slippered feet still on the antique ottoman. William mentioned that she did not like trespassers … and salesmen.

A large black dog also shot was lying in a pool of blackened congealed blood near the front door. The walls around where the dog was bore a few stray bullet holes. The tag on the black shepherd mix’s spiked collar read “Laddy”. Zombies did not do this.

El Guapo: “Man, let’s get outta here!”

About an hour later, the three intrepid explorers returned to home base and delivered the news to the rest of the crew.

Lilith: “I say we get outta here tomorrow morning.”

The rest of the group concurred. The rest of the day went on without interruption. After a dinner of chili beans and canned corn, the gang was preparing to try to get a good rest before what was going to be a rough adventure. At the kitchen table, Wesley was making sure her weapons were in working order when she was done she slung her MP4 on her shoulder. The others were watching the emergency messages on the television and taking notes. She glanced through the kitchen window and saw several red pinpoints of laser light dancing on the table and fridge. She shouted and kicked open the backdoor and ran out onto the porch. She immediately had to duck for cover as the back porch was shredded by automatic gunfire.

A squad of ten commandoes was bearing down on the house. Two of them were setting up an M-249 SAW machine gun. Wesley sprayed the area with her MP4 followed by El Guapo charging out onto the back porch (hey they really did this) and sprayed some of the commandoes with fire from his AK-47. Lilith ran to her car, which was parked, adjacent to the backyard but next to the house. Steve got into firing position behind the kitchen window with his rifle. After a few seconds, William joined him with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, an RPG-7, in his arms.

William: “Yeah, I’m gonna take these mother@#%$ers out!”

Kenny also charged through the back door and tossed a grenade, it landed and exploded in a vacant area quite a distance from the machine gun, his intended target. William stood up at the kitchen window, took aim, and pulled the trigger hoping to blast the main group of soldiers away. Click. The rocket failed to function it was a dud. The crack of a single shot from a rifle and William collapsed onto the kitchen floor, blood gushing from his belly. Another wave of gunfire washed over the place. Steve took a shot dropping a soldier in the trees and turned his attentions to stopping William’s bleeding.

The firefight lasted only a few more seconds, the motley group of adventurers was victorious against all odds. The generator shed had been shot to pieces but was still standing. The rear of the house peppered with bullet holes. The soldiers had been living soldiers but they had no markings as to indicate that they were government troops. Kenny found a keycard on what he thought was the team leader. The card had the emblem of the Geno-Chem on it and nothing else.

Carlitos: “Well that seals it I guess.”

Cris: “Damn.”

Carlos: “I’m hurt, dude.”

El Guapo (to Wesley): “What’s wrong with you?”

Wesley: “Well, we can’t stay here anymore!”

Jenn (turning to me, the GM): “Damn, zombie game has No Chill! No chill, man!”

Epilogue of the Damned

The group began packing the vehicles immediately. William disclosed the complete contents of his vault. It was stocked with several boxes of 7.62 and 9mm rounds, 2 more rockets for the RPG, a couple of 12-gauge shotguns, several hunting rifles, dozens of automatic rifles, semi-automatic pistols, and a box of dynamite as well as a 1-kilo brick of cocaine.

Gil: “What? Seriously?”

Carlos: “Yeah man, I gotta make my money, I deal with everybody back here.”

Kenny kept hold of the keycard and the vehicles were pulling out onto the dirt road.

Carlitos: “So where are we getting the boat?”

Gil: “What? What boat?”

Carlitos (turning to me): “It’s an oil rig in the middle of a lake right?”

Cris: “Well, there’s lake houses around there somewhere, there’s gotta be.”

Jen: “Yeah, someone has a boat we can steal.”

The convoy of vehicles kicked up a cloud of dust and pine needles as they roared away from the hilltop compound heading back to the Old Country Highway.

****

Later that night, my wife, Jenn, and I were driving home on the brightly lit freeway through Colton into San Bernardino when out of nowhere she turned to me.

“You know if you kill that dog I’m divorcing you.”

 “Um, wha?”

Cris, who was in the backseat, started laughing.

End of Part Three (Session played 10/19/19)

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Corpse World: Road to Nowhere

The eponymous Little Boy that El Guapo and his friends encounter.

The Zombie Horror campaign continues in Amorset, somewhere in the Northwestern U.S.A. This time around, three new recruits join the fray. It has been a single day since all hell broke loose within the city limits of Amorsetville and those that are able have fled, spreading out into the suburbs and surrounding rural county. The radio and television have been broadcasting a general emergency signal stressing all citizens to remain where they are at as the army deploys from the Amorsetville base in a rescue capacity.­

Street Walkin’

Three figures trudged, loping with exhaustion through a sea of boiling air dancing over the hot pavement of the Old County Highway in the midday sun. All three puzzled by the complete lack of traffic along the road. It was terribly quiet, even the sounds of nature that should be abundant out here were non-existent. They could feel the alien silence pressing on their eardrums save for the soft scraping of their feet over the rough road. A couple of hours previously, the motley trio had leaped into the older guy’s car and fled the city during a chaotic night of blood and fire. Their car, an old surplus police car, stranding them on the old road after parking for a brief respite. When the older fella tried to turn it over, he found the battery dead. Thus, they abandoned it knowing that there was a junkyard “somewhere around here”.

The elder car owner, Steve McCullen (played by Cris) was a Supernaturalist convinced that the outbreak had a supernatural origin focused in the old cemetery that was also located in the rural county. His companions were Kenny Logan (played by Carlitos) an off-duty soldier from the Amorsetville base and William Fodder (played by Carlos) a quiet survivalist that actually lived just off the road in the hills. After what seemed like ages, baking under a hot afternoon sun on the blacktop, Kenny spotted what appeared to be a biker at a distance of a few hundred feet shambling clumsily towards them. He was on foot, dressed in a bloodstained denim vest and equally stained denim bell-bottom pants. He also appeared to have several large bullet holes in his chest and belly.

Steve kissed one of the charms amongst the various religious symbols he wore around his neck, pulled his bow from his back, and knocked an arrow. The three stopped.

Kenny (pulling his M-16 from his shoulder): “Is it one of them?”

In response, William got in a squatting position and scoped the biker out with his deer rifle. He could see that the biker’s belly was bloated and seemed to pulsate and move as if something were crawling inside of him. His eyes were yellow and dead, blood crusted around his nose and mouth stiffening a scabby beard.

William: “Yup, it’s a zombie alright.”

Kenny unleashed a 3-round burst into its head bursting its skull like a hairy rotten maggot-filled watermelon.

Quickly, William and Kenny jogged up to the headless corpse intent on looting it. However, Steve remained about a 20 ft. distance behind them. William saw a .22-semi-automatic pistol in the back of the biker’s jeans and reached for it with the intent of tossing it to Steve. Meanwhile, Kenny saw that the biker had a hunting knife in a hip-sheath. As the two manipulated the corpse to grab the loot, the biker’s stomach at the belly button split and burst open in a gross, gory gush of blackened organs.

The organs moved of their own accord like a disgusting blob and similarly, it tried to engulf William. An arrow flew into it with no effect. Shots rang out. Kenny had shot the Viscera Blob a couple of times but to little effect. William dodged and started to run away farther down the road until his disgust got the better of him and he nearly vomited forcing him to stop mid-flight.

Kenny saw that his bullets and Steve’s arrow had little effect and so pulled out a hand grenade, another bit of equipment he had “borrowed” from the base and shouted “fire in the hole!” One end of the creature lifted up like a tentacle and vomited forth acid, spraying William down, he screamed. Kenny tossed his grenade and ran, Steve ducked where he was and William dove away to the side ditch.

Cris: “You have a GRENADE!?”

Carlitos: “Well, yeah.”

Cris: “Your on leave from the base?”

Carlitos: “Yes.”

Cris: “What were you planning?”

Carlitos: “You know, whatever.”

Their ears ringing after the small but intense explosion, the creature liquefied. Black foul-smelling bile splattered everywhere. Steve ran over to William using the water in his canteen to wash the acid from William’s torso preventing further damage. The crisis over, they continued their trek after it was determined that William could still keep up despite some pretty painful and deep chemical burns.

It was nearing dusk when they arrived at the wrecking yard fence, the dirty old sign proclaimed Fletcher & Sons Wrecking & Repair since 1965. As they neared the gate, they could hear an argument in midstream, “Hey don’t knock out my father!”

Starting Foreground Left going clockwise: Carlitos, Cris (hidden), Carlos, Isis, Jenn, The GM (me), and Gil.

Junk Yard Dogs

Wesley, El Guapo, and Lilith were standing by the front chain-link gate of the junkyard trying to decide where they were going to flee to in Lilith’s armored car. All three were debating their “options” when Lilith’s father emerged from the garage. He mumbled as he strode to the gate, mumbling about “nobody here” at work, “lazy S.O.B.’s”. At the same time, the debate became especially heated between Lilith and El Guapo. Meanwhile, Wesley noticed the old man approaching the locked gate and pulling a cluster of keys on a zip-line. He fumbled to find the right key for a few seconds then went to unlock it.

Wesley: “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! No-no-no!”

She grabbed the old man away from the gate and he spat a nasty sexist insult in her face. Wesley slapped him, hard.

Jenn: “Hey my girl assumes the old guy’s hysterical. So he has to be slapped. Also for what he said.”

The old man stepped back, his face frozen in shock. Lilith and El Guapo were staring caught off-guard by the sudden situation. The old man started to throw a punch at Wesley. She immediately knocked him out with a perfectly timed jab to the jaw.

Lilith: “Hey! Did you just knock out my father!”

Wesley: “Hell yeah! He deserved it!”

Lilith: “Hey don’t knock out my father!”

Wesley: “He threw a punch at me!”

Steve (hanging on the chain-link): “*Ahem* Hey! You open? You guys got any car batteries!”

After a brief bit of talking with the three at the gate and assessing the situation, Lilith decided to let them into the yard. Parked in the yard to the side of the main dirt driveway in a space allotted for a parking lot was two custom choppers and a pickup truck with its windshield shot out. Steve, Kenny, and William noticed there was shattered safety glass all over the driveway outside the gate. El Guapo shared the story of the gunfight the previous night with the outlaw bikers.

Steve was talking to Lilith. Her “goth senses” were tingling and she found the longhaired Supernaturalist very appealing. Kenny talked with El Guapo and Wesley. He wanted to get himself back on base thinking the military probably had a plan. At a minimum, that would be the safest place to be, as close to the army as possible. William remained silent but was extremely distrustful of the government and was not going to go with that plan.

Carlos: “Yeah dude, I’m not gonna go with that plan man. Sorry.”

After all, William believed the military was responsible for this in the first place. He hugged his rifle tighter than usual.

Eventually, Steve and Lilith decided to take the yard “wrecker” and a charged battery to go and get his car. He would then follow her back. At this point, the entire group had decided that there was “strength in numbers”. The round trip would take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. They soon left and Wesley took William to the office to try to treat his acid burns with the first aid kit located there.

Meanwhile, El Guapo was bragging to his eager audience of Kenny about the biker gunfight. They walked around to the rear of the garage where they had dragged the corpses. There were five corpses lying there.

El Guapo: “Um. Wait. Something is weird here.”

Gil (to me): “Wait, how many bikers did we kill?”

The GM (me): “The four that walked up on Lilith and Wesley and three in the driveway, then you dragged two from the driveway and the four corpses in behind the garage.”

Gil: “But. I shot ‘em all in the head. Right?”

The GM (checking notes): “The driver from the pickup was the one you guys shot in the face and the other four… Yes, double-tap situation.”

Gil: “That’s six right? And five in the head?”

The GM: “Yupperooni.”

El Guapo: “Uh-oh.”

EL Guapo and Kenny barged into the office and warned William and Wesley that there was probably a walker loose in the yard. They were to stay put and watch the monitors while El Guapo and Kenny tracked it down. Eventually, after several tense moments, the pair of hunters picked up a trail of blood. As they stalked between rows of the high stacks of crushed cars, pillars of old tires, and mountainous piles of scrap, they had a softly spoken conversation. As a result, they realized the biker that Kenny and his two companions had met on the road was probably a biker killed by El Guapo and the two women during the shootout. They had just forgotten the corpse by the driveway outside of the fence.

El Guapo tracked the blood trail further into the maze of junk. Eventually, he lost it. Kenny tried to keep an eye out but started to try to help El Guapo to find it again. They were out of the view of any cameras. Both were kneeling studying the ground when Kenny, by chance, heard a slight noise behind them. A zombie in leathers was stumbling from behind a mound of rusted engine blocks.

Carlitos: “Well, there’s the stealth zombie.”

Jenn: “Hee hee. Ninja zombie.”

The GM: *cough*cough* “No yet.”

Everybody at the Table: 😐

After a three-round burst to the creature’s head, the pair let out a sigh of relief.

Road Rage

Meanwhile, Lilith and Steve made it to his stalled out police car on the side of the road without complication. However, by the time that they arrived at the vehicle Steve’s non-stop blathering about the supernatural cause of the zombie outbreak had gotten on her nerves. Any attraction that might have squirmed in her breast at the sight of his pagan-symbol inscribed charms was stone cold dead.

Isis (exasperated): “Aw gawd, I hate this guy.”

It was not long before Lilith had the car hood up and replacing the battery in lieu of any conversation. Steve was just standing around awkwardly trying to keep watch for any trouble.  Lilith was almost finished when Steve spotted several zombies filtering out of the woods onto the highway some badly rotted. “Damn, it must be the old cemetery.” Lilith finished, slammed the hood, and they got into their respective vehicles. Getting the lead out and into their gas-pedal, the pair made it back in half the time to the wrecking yard. However, before he had completely left the zombies in the dust Steve had seen through his rearview mirror that the road was filling up with zombies, it was a large horde. “Aw man! They’re gonna follow the f*&#@ing cars!”

It was already dark by the time they had got back and alerted the others. They decided that Lilith would finish her car ASAP and create a portable makeshift flamethrower for Kenny (he could use one after all), and three others would take turns keeping watch from the garage roof. Kenny was already there though it was not yet first watch, he would stay until the watches started. After William relieved him, he went into the office and decided to try to get in touch with the base and let them know his location using the CB.

Kenny was soon able to get in contact with his base. At least they had the proper code words. Through intermittent static, he got orders to stay put and got some information about the checkpoints at the borders of the county and other side of the city having problems. The communique ended abruptly, the signal dropped and Kenny was unable to re-establish communications.

Suddenly, William shouted from the rooftop. Ten Zombies were at the chain-link gate. It looked as if it were going be pushed down at any minute. Fortunately, the rest of the fence had an outer shell of old aluminum siding and was plenty sturdy. The metal gate groaned.

Fight with Fire

The group of zombies at the gate pressed themselves into the chain-link seemingly oblivious to the presence of the living within. That was until El Guapo and Kenny ran into the driveway before the gate shouting. Immediately the zombies surged and the gung-ho pair could hear the metal gate strain.

Gil: “We probably should have stayed out of sight.”

Kenny readied his M-16 and El Guapo his AK-47. Atop the garage, William put a foot on the elevated edge of the roof and got into firing position with his rifle at the ready. Steve ran around and stayed half-hidden around the corner of the garage knocking an arrow to his bow. Lilith and Wesley stayed inside of the garage still rushing to finish building the flamethrower having finished upgrading Lilith’s Chevrolet.

Kenny and El Guapo swept the driveway area at a 45-degree angle at head level taking out only about three zombies in total. A shot rang out, a halo of blood and brains around a blonde head, a single zombie dropped. William’s carefully aimed shot had paid off. El Guapo slung his assault rifle onto his shoulder and pulled his machete from his belt. He did not want to do another spray and “waste bullets”.

El Guapo: “Machetes don’t run out of bullets.”

He then doused the blade in gasoline from a container by the gate and lit it ablaze.

Gil: “I’m going to stab them in the head through the gate.”

The GM: “Um, a machete blade is not going to fit through the hole of a chain-link fence man.”

Gil: “The hell? Yeah, it will.”

The back and forth on the machete debate went on for a few minutes until Gil showed me the picture on his phone. “This is what I was thinking.” The picture was of a very fancy custom blade being sold as “the ultimate machete”. I have to admit, it was nice. Eventually, I relented. His argument: “I’m an awesome bounty hunter, so I need an awesome machete!”

The GM (me): “Yeah, whatever. Go ahead and do your thing.”

The Machete Debate

An arrow thudded into a zombie temple, another zipped into a forehead and came out the back of the skull. However, Steve had failed to drop either zombie with his archery. Another shot cracked from the roof of the garage and yet another halo of blood and brains signaled the demise of yet another zombie. El Guapo rammed his flaming custom blade through the fence flamboyantly slaying another creature. Zombies continued to drop as the gate continued to hold them back. Then a shot cracked out again from William’s hunting rifle. Kenny’s right thigh exploded, he screamed and dropped to the ground.

William’s misfire had hit Kenny in the back of the thigh crippling his leg. El Guapo finished off the last zombie with a flaming stab through the gate. He then turned and offered to cauterize Kenny’s leg wound. El Guapo wisely decided not to do that when Kenny loudly objected, as did the rest of the group.

Carlitos (to Carlos): “Dude! You shot me? You shot me in the leg!?”

Carlos (shrugging): “Um yeah, I guess so. Um. Oops I guess, heh heh.”

Carlitos: “Dude you owe me man! You owe me.”

Jenn: “What!? Why does he owe you!?”

Carlitos: “He shot me in the leg!”

The zombies destroyed, El Guapo helped Kenny into the office. There, Wesley stopped the bleeding from the bullet wound; the bullet had gone straight through but it had still broken the bone. He would need a splint to walk. As a result, Steve, Lilith, and even Kenny himself had tried to splint the leg but it still took several tries before Lilith and Steve in a conjoined effort finally got it right. Fortunately, no one had further injured him.

 Afterward, Steve went outside the gate. He took out a can of silver spray paint from his backpack and spray painted protective magical runes on the aluminum sheeting of the fence.

Steve (admiring his handiwork): “There, that’ll protect us for a while.”

Little Boy

By the next morning, the gang was ready to move out. El Guapo was ready to leave his custom chopper to ride in the wrecker with Kenny and his flamethrower. However, before they left, Lilith was going to mount a few plates of armor on it as well bolt the snowplow on the front. While she did this assisted by Wesley, Kenny and El Guapo decided to make Molotov cocktails. By the time the wrecker was armored, by early afternoon, the pair had produced about 5 Molotovs apiece. They put four cocktails in Lilith’s car.

Steve’s old police car, the wrecker with Kenny and El Guapo, and Lilith in her armored Chevrolet sedan began to move out convoy style. However, during their eagerness to leave, somehow Wesley, Lilith’s father aka the Old Man, and William wound up in Lilith’s car along with a substantial load of supplies. Steve was left riding alone.

All of them noticed that a deep thumping sound began to beat on their eardrums and into their chests. This sound was growing more intense by the second until it began to jostle the junk strewn around the vehicles. The caravan of cars pulled to the front gate slowly and stopped. Lilith’s car was in the lead with the tow truck at the rear. Lilith got out of her car to undo the lock on the gate. The thumping was shaking the cars. Kenny shouted. They could all see a large green helmeted head above the tin-sheet fence. It was moving up and down in time with the thumps. The thing came into full view slowly. Lilith ran back to her car and shut the door. The tow truck tore off in a U-turn and took off in the opposite direction.

A 12-ft tall creature made of solid muscle towered over the gate. Its head encased in a green helmet with a single blinking light at the center of the smooth faceplate. The barrel-like torso was encased in a cuirass of similar material, it looked like tank armor. It was humanoid but it was not in human proportions, its legs were short and thick and its long heavily muscled arms hung down to the ground. Following this thing were dozens probably more, zombies undulating to the pace of the blinking electric eye. Some of the pathetic creatures had small red lights, like LEDs, embedded in their heads and temples, all blinking in unison with the large tank-zombie’s light.

The thing flung the gate a hundred feet behind it without effort. Thinking quick, Kenny fired his M-16 at the oil barrels and gas containers near the front gate. Miraculously they exploded and spread burning oil over the driveway. The giant monster stopped and flung an overlong arm seemingly to protect its non-existent face. However, during this brief respite, Lilith panicking had a hard time trying to three-point turn her way around while the other two vehicles were turning around and going out the rear off-road exit to the yard. Staring at that massive zombie-tank, Kenny had a sudden flash of memory.

Weeks ago while jerking around on base; Kenny had stumbled into a “secure area” run by both the government and some corporation. He wandered down the wrong hallway and through an open bay door where he spotted pieces of armor identical to those on the large zombie he currently faced. From around a corner, he had also heard a conversation about a “probably illegal” bio-weapon program and remembered seeing several corporate types in suits strutting around the on-base labs.

Jenn: “I knew it! The damned military sent that thing!”

Carlitos: “Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves now, there could be a good explanation behind this. Right?”

Lilith just had gotten her car around to face the right direction when the big guy hurdled through the fire grabbing her reinforced bumper. Screaming Lilith tried to maneuver her car to try to free it from the monster’s iron grip. The creature lifted her rear wheels off the ground. Kenny fired another burst at the creature but his bullets did nothing barely even scratching its armor. Wesley tossed a Molotov into its face from the passenger side window. It took a step back and let go. All of the cars began to move in a nerve rackingly slow convoy. As they proceeded, Steve saw the creature pat out the flames on its armored face. Galloping on hands and feet, it began to charge the last car, Lilith’s Chevy.

Lilith: “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”

Carlitos: “Wait! I have an idea!”

This time Kenny took careful aim with his M-16 and emptied his clip on one of its unarmored legs, specifically to the left knee. The sound of roaring engines and shouting drowned out the impact of bullets smashing into the bone of a giant kneecap and tearing through the tendons and flesh. The leg fell free of the beast and it stumbled and fell forward crashing into the ground with a tremendous thump. Lilith had just avoided the monster’s mass as it fell heavily into the dirt and the caravan proceeded to the rear of the yard as zombies flooded in.

Eventually, the lead cars moved aside to let Lilith’s vehicle speed ahead to lead. Soon they were out and away via the rear exit, a dirt road that led to a series of off-road paths that eventually led back to the main highway.

Slow Ride

The three-vehicle convoy wound its way back to the County Highway continuing west. They were looking for William’s home. He had a well-equipped bomb-shelter.

Cris: “Damn. We’re gonna run into those zombies.”

Isis: “Uhg, I forgot about those.”

Gil: “Wait. What? Weren’t those back there at the junkyard, the group you guys saw?”

Jenn: “No, but the ones they saw were 11 hours away.”

She had calculated the time that the zombie horde Steve and Lilith had seen would take to get to the junkyard on foot.

Carlitos: “So those zombies came from the other direction then. From the direction of the checkpoint!?”

Carlos: “Wait. What checkpoint?”

The convoy slowed as a dense mass of about 60 zombies came into view, clogging the road.

Lilith: “Screw it! I’m going through ‘em!”

El Guapo: “Hell yeah! We’ll lead with the wrecker and if anybody gets stuck we’ll hook you out!”

El Guapo stomped on the gas and plowed the tow truck right through the center of the crowd mashing every creature in his way, bodies shattering on the angled steel of the snowplow. In turn, Lilith hit the gas and got a corpse stuck in her wheel well stopping her dead in the middle of the gore trail surrounded by several zombies. Steve hit his gas trying to connect with Lilith’s bumper in an attempt to push her out but he only succeeded in getting himself stuck as well.

Seeing this, the tow truck backed up while Kenny climbed out of the window onto the wench with flamethrower on his back. He lowered the hook then used his flamethrower to keep the horde at bay away from the cars as El Guapo leaped out and hooked up Lilith’s car. A few seconds later and Lilith and her passengers were free of the zombie hoard. However, Steve was still stuck, his wheels spinning uselessly in a slick mass of mangled human flesh. All the others could do to help was to keep the zombies away until he could get himself loose. Fortunately, that did not take long and they all sped away at top speed soon after.

*****

After about an hour’s drive up into the foothills and trees, they pulled up to a high barbed wire-topped chain-link security fence. The warning sign stated DANGER – Electric Fence! All was well. However, Kenny was still thinking about rejoining the military somehow, William would probably not want to leave the safety of his fortress home once ensconced, and Steve believed the tank-zombie was a “true undead” calling all of the zombies to him, the reason that his protection runes failed to work on it. Wesley was utterly distrustful of the government at this point and planning to murder Kenny before he could contact the army again. Lilith glanced at her father in the backseat he was asleep. She resolved to get some sleep finally.

After the third session of the Zombie Horror game (the Corpse World campaign), my wife Jenn and I were driving home on the 10 freeway going into Cherry Valley. We had just entered a stretch where it sank into the rising hills and where lights other than on the freeway were sparse. I was drunk and pleased that I had got through all of my bullet points slouching in my seat ready to sleep staring out at the black silhouettes of hills racing by. As we passed under a brightly lit overpass, she turned to me.

“You know. Maybe you should kill at least one of us next game, to make it more suspenseful!”

End of Part Two (Session played 9/7/19)

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Corpse World: The Zombie Campaign

Jenn was driving us along Sierra Avenue already in downtown Fontana, the sky orange and gold shadowing the old mission-style church and casting the newer library glass in dim blue. We were on our way to the game after picking up Cris in Muscoy. As we passed city hall the conversation about the game turned to the old test sessions just before the release of the first edition of Zombie Horror.

Cris: “…Just be careful what you say in this game.”

Jenn: “What? Why?”

Cris: “HORROR MOVIE RULES! That’s why. Fresh batteries, look first. Y’know, in the test game those idiots wanted to stop for gas on our way out of the city for some stupid reason!”

I started laughing.

Cris: “Look at ‘em! YOU remember! So we stopped at the f&*#$n gas station and here it comes!  A gas truck on fire covered with zombies, and of course a big explosion, and ugh! We didn’t even need the gas!”

Cris (whispered under his breath): “idiots”

Me (turning to Jenn): “Ha ha, I did do that!”

It was several minutes before we arrived at our destination, Jenn’s parents’ house. We were playing at the in-laws’ house because Gil was in town and this was going to be one of the rare times we could all get together. It was not long before we sat gathered around the 6-person dining table.

Preamble or the Info-Dump of the Dead

The incident occurs in the City of Amorsetville and the surrounding county somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. The main feature of the county is a large lake, polluted by an old oilrig at its center, with a dense pine forest surrounding it. The main thoroughfare for the county, connecting it to the city and the freeway, is the Old County Highway that cuts through the forest passes and a shallow pass cut through the hills and runs into the rural areas with old houses and hillbillies, then scattered farms and ranches, then mostly new suburb developments until finally hitting the city.

On the Southside of the lake, Lake Ponchateaux, are narrow rocky beaches crowded with lake-goer trash, mostly beer cans and bottles, and a significant concrete section near the road is the termination point of the city storm drains. On the north and western sides, the lake is bordered and feeds a significant stretch of marshland with hills and thick forest on its east shore. Nearby the lake are a large and old trailer park (Atomic Park) and a wrecking yard/junkyard. There is also an active landfill a few miles west of these. To the south of the Old County Highway which runs east and west, is a maze of back roads, mostly dirt, and patches of old houses and trailers.

Near the far end of the county, at the western extreme, just off the Old County Highway is the Broken Saddle. It is an ugly faded yellow box of a building, an old dive bar. Currently, it is a pit stop for truckers and outlaw bikers who have some shady business to conduct on the county back roads. The old west style mortarboard has a chopper with a black saddle painted on it although the paint is long ago faded and peeling off to reveal a horse underneath the bike. The old horse ties still stand out front, sad leftovers from when it was a popular cow-punch themed nightspot.

The Outlaw Bar

In the Broken Saddle, the place was full, it was not a large space by any means but it did pretty good business considering its comparatively remote location. The jukebox was cranking out classic country and rock hits and a blue smog of cigarette and reefer smoke drifted lazily among the wood rafters and hanging pool table lights. Bikers in dirty denim dominated the few pool tables and various clusters of truckers occupied a few tables and some bar stools, yet there was room for more.

At a low table in the corner by the bar and opposite the rank smelling and ill-maintained restrooms sat our heroes. At the table nursing a pitcher of cheap beer were Wesley dressed in faux country & western finery (played by Jenn), El Guapo in a road-grimed duster (played by Gil), and Lilith, a pink-haired Goth in fishnets and gloss-black PVC moto shorts (played by Isis).

The GM (me): “Wha…frickin’ El Guapo! What like from the Three friggin’ Amigos movie!?”

Gil: “What? No. I haven’t seen that.”

Wesley, despite her plain looks and country-look reminiscent of a 70’s urban cowboy film, was a Bounty Hunter by trade. She was armed with a Desert Eagle in a hidden underarm holster underneath her shirt and another in a hidden holster in the small of her back accessible through a slit in the back of her shirt as well as a little .22 semi-auto hideaway pistol in her boot. She was a cousin of the Goth girl at the table, the same with the “outlaw” that was helping with the pitcher.

El Guapo, as he had dubbed himself, was a Gunslinger from southern Mexico and on the hunt for a bounty that he had pursued to the back roads of Amorset on the back of his chopper. While he was here, he had figured to source the help of his few relatives in the area.  However, he was no closer to his quarry after a week of hunting. He had a wide-brimmed grey ten-gallon hat with a small peacock feather stuck in the band. Also, he was wearing, besides the dirty tan duster, a red lumberjack button-up, a brown leather belt with a large silver buckle, a pair of dark blue denim jeans, and a pair of well-worn cowboy boots.

IN addition, he was also armed with a Desert Eagle pistol in a hidden underarm holster underneath his shirt, a folding buck-knife in a sheath on his belt, and a bowie knife in his boot. He grabbed the half-full pitcher and refilled the Goth’s empty glass.

Lilith was by all appearances a club frequenting Goth-girl in the full drag, pancake makeup, bright red lipstick, and black fingernail polish. However, she was a consummate gear-head, Gizmoteer by trade, and was the only child of the severely alcoholic owner of the local wrecking yard. Her short pink hair was spiked into a faux-hawk, she was not armed to the teeth, however, she did own a gun, but she did have a multi-tool in a holster on her hip and a pocketknife zipped in a pocket.

All were bored and looking for a job, their prime concern to get some money, but here they were more likely to find trouble. Nonetheless, they began circulating amongst the truckers and bikers. Lilith talked with the bulky and somewhat tight-lipped bartender; her flirting got her a free shot. The trio almost happened upon a gunrunning deal but that would have required them to wait a while in the bar, a few hours. Already the bikers were picking fights with unfortunate randos walking into the place.

The motley trio decided to leave and head out to the Goth club after Lilith’s suggestion. Just as they cleared the tab and rose from their seats, they heard the wrack of smashing metal and the hideous bang of a car wreck. The place shook. For a brief second, the place was dead silent as the patrons exchanged wide-eyed glances. Suddenly, a scraggly older biker rushed in and shouted, “The bikes man! He hit our f*@#in’ bikes!”

The place cleared of bikers; most of the bike-riding patrons were of the notorious local outlaw motorcycle club, the Black Skulls.

Lilith: “Aw man! We need to get outta here.”

El Guapo: “Well, I’ll follow you on my chopper.”

Wesley (pointing at Lilith): “C’mon let’s go! I ride with you!”

They rushed out of the nearly empty bar and made it to their vehicles. They could see a small red four-door sedan had smashed into the line of choppers out front of the place. The driver was in bad shape as he was pulled from the wreck. He was drenched in blood, which El Guapo thought odd; the wreck did not look that bad. The trio then heard a biker-chick, a tall bleached blonde in leopard print and tight black leather pants cry out, “oh my god! There’s a kid in here!”

The trio pulled away in their vehicles and rolled to the dirt and gravel driveway to the street. Wesley saw that the biker chick was cradling the apparently unconscious child.

Isis: “Aw c’mon! We gotta get outta here!”

Jenn: “Well, I was just lookin’!”

Gil: “Yeah this is bad, let’s go! I’m already going.”

As El Guapo followed Lilith’s beat-up ’98 Chevy sedan, he saw the biker chick suddenly stand up screaming with the child fixed to her neck by its teeth. Something else was also happening with the passenger and driver but this was out of his sight. The trio drove away.

Gil: “Whew! Just in time!”

They had been on the road for about half an hour before passing a diesel tanker pulled over to the side of the Old County Highway. It was a chemical tanker, the graphics on its side indicated that the truck belonged to Geno-Chem. The tank sides were bulging and the truck emergency lights were blinking. El Guapo spotted the driver walking around the truck with a flashlight. He had a gas mask on. They drove by still about 30 minutes away from their goal in the heart of the city, the Goth club.

Zombie Goth Party

A while later, the trio found themselves in the city’s commercial district. The sodium lit streets appeared deserted and quiet. However, the line out front of the Goth club, known as the Bat Gate, was as long, black-clad, and morose as ever. The club had two large castle-style doors as its entrance and a bat silhouette above the doors limed in blue-white fluorescent lights. The bat suspiciously resembled the Batman symbol, which was a well-worn point of humor for goers and passersby alike.

Lilith pulled her beat-up sedan into the parking structure immediately adjacent to the club. El Guapo decided to cruise around the around block as he “was not parking his hog in there”. He eventually found a parking spot about two blocks north of the club, the curbs lined with cars from the club goers. So, he parked his bike under a street light and proceeded to walk to the club entrance. He passed by a wide alley that ran along the rear of the Bat Gate where some club-goers congregated to smoke cigarettes and “get some air” after drinking too much. The pale electric-cyan of mercury-vapor light illuminated the rear double-doors and limned the tight knot of smoking Goths in impenetrable black. El Guapo spotted the silhouette of what he assumed was a homeless man stumbling through the shadowed part of the alley that spilled into the sidewalk.

El Guapo yelled a command to “stop right there” suddenly at the shadow. The lurching form seemed not to heed his warning. However, it was advancing slowly so he walked away but at a more hastened pace. As he put distance between himself and the shadow he heard a Goth-chick in the alley mutter, “What was that, ha-ha-ha!”

Meanwhile, Lilith was busy flirting with the bouncer at the door. Eventually, the flirting paid off; both women were let in without having to be searched. They waited just inside the doors for El Guapo as the deep bass thumped through the floor and vibrated their bones. When El Guapo showed up, they entered. He did not mention his odd encounter.

The trio bellied up to the acrylic and glass neon-lit bar, the bartender was in full drag and heavily muscled with a multitude of face piercings and tattoos. They ordered a first-round and as they pronounced cheers, they vowed not to split up “no matter what”. Not long after their pledge, Wesley was approached by a Goth-Prince decked out in shiny black PVC, silver chains, and hairy chest exposed by his open-breasted outfit, a mane of pitch-black hair framing his white-painted face though his chiseled good looks still showed through. She immediately went off onto the dance floor with him.

El Guapo (as he took another shot of tequila): “Figures.”

Jenn: “Whaat!? My character doesn’t know what’s about to happen and she needs a little!”

Isis: “Gaawd! I know! I’m so TENSE!”

Lilith (taking her goblet of red wine in hand): “Ya know what? I’m gonna go see if I can get us up into the VIP tables.”

With that, Lilith went to the far side of the club opposite the entrance and began to work her charms with the bouncer minding the velvet rope that held off the commoners from the tables on the mezzanine. After easily getting past that hurdle she then spotted for somebody on the upper roped off mezzanine to charm, preferably a loner, she soon spotted her target, a lone effeminate looking person with only the top of their head shaved and butterfly tattoos between the heavily linered and lashed eyes. She seductively sauntered up to their table. In contrast, El Guapo haunted the bar served tequila shots from the muscly, fully cosmetically tricked out bartender.

El Guapo (stopping just short of a buzz): “This is too much for me man! I got to get out of here.”

He left to smoke a cigarette out front. Then he started walking around the corner as the bouncer told him to “take it around the corner”. He decided to go check on his bike, his cigarette still between his lips. There were a few people on the streets, or more accurately in the street. A woman with a horrified look on her face ran past El Guapo so fast he could feel the draft in her wake. He turned back around and saw that four people were running at him!

All four appeared disheveled and dirty but they were not homeless. They were zombies, fast zombies. El Guapo quick-drew his Desert Eagle and took pumped two shots into the lead creature’s chest. It had little effect.

Isis: “No! Head! Head!”

Gil: “But my character doesn’t know that yet… hey, since my shots should have already killed him, can I take a shot?”

El Guapo took careful aim at the lead zombie it was almost upon him. He pulled the trigger and completely missed. The lead zombie grappled his weapon-arm.

El Guapo: “Sh@#! Sh@#! Sh@#!”

The second zombie was also upon him and grabbed a hold of his other arm biting into his forearm. Fortunately, it only tore the heavy material of his duster sleeve. The other two zombies were close. He strained his wrist to point his weapon at the first zombie. Its head burst like a ripe melon covering El Guapo in a thick and rancid coating blood and brains. He turned his pistol on the second zombie again. Again, he was splattered with soupy gore. The third zombie ran at him and he moved just in time to shove the barrel of his gun in between its bared yellow teeth blowing out the back of its skull. He was able to put a bullet between the eyes of the last from a comfortable distance.

Gil: “Holy crap! I almost died… it only takes ONE bite huh? Crap!”

Meanwhile, in the club, Wesley was behind one of the giant hanging Persian rugs along the wall at the rear of the club near the alley exit. She and her Goth-Beau had their hands under each other’s clothes and going at it all hot and heavy. It was a well-known make-out place called the “tapestries” and to go behind them had become local slang for “let’s go do some heavy petting”. Wesley’s Goth-Prince had just unzipped his tight leather pants at her behest when she heard some screams. The sounds of dozens of trampling feet just on the other side of the carpet overwhelmed even the loud club music. Then she was pinned against her guy by innumerable bodies on the other side of the tapestry. She could barely breathe. A crush of people coming in from the alleyway was suffocating them!

It took her a while to push her way along the wall and into the dense, panicking crowd. She could see people being trampled on the dance floor and see others being attacked or attacking, biting and scratching. The scene was insane and terrifying, the music abruptly cut-off and all that could be heard after through ringing ears were stomping feet and screaming.

Jenn (joyously): “Alright! Now I can pull out my MP4!”

Me (the GM): “What!? You couldn’t carry that thing into the club!”

Jenn: “Why not? It says it’s a machine pistol in the book.”

Me: “YES… it’s an SMG… *sigh*”

A few minutes of explanation later…

Me: “It’s in the trunk of Lilith’s car.”

Immediately, as the chaos began to spread, Lilith raced from her mark down onto the stairs to spot for her friends. She desperately messaged them on her phone. El Guapo was outside but Wesley was still near the back of the club. Fortunately, Lilith was able to spot her just as the fleeing crowd pushed her to the ground. Lilith leaped to action over the brass banister and made it easily to her friend in time to pick her up from the floor. They fled towards the entrance. The crowd pushed them along like a mudslide then suddenly as the flood of people hit the bottleneck to the entrance the riptide of the crowd forced the pair apart.

Lilith was pushed backward, Wesley was knocked to the carpet immediately taking a few kicks to the stomach, and as she struggled to rise using the wall, had the wind knocked out of her when another club-goer was forced into her catching her in the gut with an elbow. She blacked out when a knee smashed into her face while falling to the floor. The next thing she was aware of was hanging on to Lilith’s shoulder for dear life and tasting the blood flowing from her nose as they ran out into the already crowded streets.

The bruised pair of women spotted their friend, El Guapo, inspecting some dead bodies lying on the pavement. He had a smoking gun in his hand. They shouted to him and the trio agreed to meet around the corner in their vehicles and get out of dodge post haste.

Lilith and Wesley ran to the parking structure via the caged-in pedestrian ramp, Lilith had parked her Chevy on the second level. As they beat it up the ramp they stopped when a twitching and badly wounded man blocked their path. He immediately charged them. Wesley immediately drew her Desert Eagle and put a hole in his chest but to no effect. As a result, Lilith quick-drew the twin Desert Eagle from the small of Wesley’s back. Her bullet nailed the zombie in the forehead blowing a fair portion of its head off spattering Wesley with blood.

Wesley: “My gun? You pulled my gun from my back?”

Lilith: “Yeah.”

Wesley: “Don’t do that again.”

 They made it to their car as another zombie charged them from across the structure. As they backed up, they knocked it back with the rear bumper then peeled out of the garage. Wesley called El Guapo. He was already at the agreed-upon nearby intersection, it was quickly becoming “a clusterf@#k”.

Choked

Later, on their way out of the city, they ran into an intersection choked with cars and crowded with zombies rushing over them like a wave of piranha. They immediately turned around by running over the curb and onto the sidewalk avoiding the other cars as they also entered that trap and crashed in desperate attempts to escape. After driving excessively fast through a maze of strangely empty residential streets they finally drove onto the Old County Highway. All let out a sigh of relief. They had agreed to hold up at Lilith’s dad’s place, the Wrecking Yard.

They had been driving for a good while along the completely darkened road well over the county border when their headlights glared back at them off a dense yellow fog flowing over the road. It was gas coming from the stalled tanker on the side of the road. The very same tanker they had passed hours ago on their way to the club. They stopped a fair distance away, should the wind change. The bulging tank had apparently ruptured.

Lilith: “Screw it, I’m gonna ram right through it!”

Wesley: “What about the gas!?”

Lilith (shrugging): “Just roll up the window. I’ll go real fast through it, or hold your breath.”

El Guapo:  “What about me!?  I’m totally exposed!”

Lilith: “Then get in the car!”

El Guapo: “I’m not leaving my bike.”

Because of the gas, they decided to not risk it and go around the long route via the country back roads. These roads were rough, completely unlit, and mostly dirt. There was the occasional old house and group of trailers as they drove. They did slow pace as to avoid getting stuck in a rut, hitting a rock, or running into the deep drainage ditches on the side that were becoming increasingly frequent. They were finally nearing the highway. However, a few hundred feet from the highway just after the sharp turn in the dirt road Lilith skidded to a stop. El Guapo rumbled up alongside. A trailer home hauled by an old pickup sat jackknifed across the road blocking it. The pickup was still idling.

El Guapo: “Aw crap.”

Wesley: “Well I’m not getting out of the car. Isn’t there a way around?”

The trio looked for a way around the vehicle but the drainage ditches on either side were too wide and deep to cross. If they tried, they would inevitably be stuck. El Guapo dismounted his chopper, pulled a machete hidden in a scabbard behind one of the saddlebags on the back of his bike, then slid it into his belt.

El Guapo: “*Sigh* Okay, I’ll go c’mon.”

Wesley (handing Lilith the 9mm from the glove box): *Sigh* “Okay.”

Lilith: “I’ll stay here and keep my headlights on.”

El Guapo slowly and carefully moved around the trailer followed closely by Wesley. Both disappeared from Lilith’s view. EL Guapo walked up to the cab of the idling truck and saw that the keys, to his relief, were still in the ignition.

Isis: “Well, yeah it’s idling.”

Gil: “Oh yeah, hehe.”

El Guapo: “But that trailer. There’s probably something in there.”

So, El Guapo decided to walk, very quietly and carefully, to one of the trailer windows. Indeed, he could see something moving in there.

Meanwhile, back at the car, Lilith was cradling her gun. A pair fists pounded on the driver’s side window. She immediately shot the zombie through the window.

The trailer door burst open and four zombies charged El Guapo. A large bearded zombie with its throat ripped out tried to tackle him but it missed, he took the opportunity to blow out its brains. He tried to shoot another that charged him but he hit its belly instead. Wesley aimed her paired Desert Eagles and dropped two more leaving only the one with a hole in its stomach standing. Two zombies then rose from the bed of the pickup, one armed with a shotgun which it fired mostly by accident. The shot missed entirely. The second leaped from the bed and tried to tackle El Guapo but fell flat on its face in the dirt.

Wesley felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to shoot nearly killing Lilith, who had carelessly prowled around the trailer to her friends. The last trailer zombie grabbed El Guapo’s gun-hand, in response he whipped the machete from his belt and chopped off the creature’s arm. Wesley dropped the one-armed zombie splattering its head all over herself and her friends with a double-shot to its cranium.

Lilith put a bullet in the brain of the zombie on the ground. El Guapo took a shot at the shotgun zombie but missed. Wesley finished it destroying its head with another double-shot from her paired weapons.

El Guapo: “Okay, I guess we better check the trailer?”

Wesley: “Uk! Do we have to?”

Lilith: “You first.”

Wesley went all the way to the rear of the trailer finding a bloody mess but no more creatures. Wesley and El Guapo were in the middle of the trailer standing by the closed bathroom door. They both could hear something moving around in there but were busy arguing about if they should open it. Then they started arguing about who should open it and who should wait to shoot. Of course, the door shattered and a small zombie, an undead child, charged Lilith. El Guapo missed horribly with his machete lodging it in the doorjamb. Lilith blew the back of the kid’s head out all over the toilet.

Wrecked

Finally, the trio arrived at the chain-link gate of the wrecking yard. The old-style billboard sign stood at an angle facing both the dirt and gravel driveway and the highway. The dirty faded white face of the old sign read Fletcher & Sons Wrecking & Repair since 1965. There was an old barely visible picture of a red tow truck next to the name. El Guapo sneered her family name was Flecha Hierro. Lilith got out, opened the lock & chain on the gate, and rolled it open. At this time in the morning, the gate should already have been open, the yard workers should have already opened the place up. However, the reality of last night began to slowly collapse on top of each of the trio’s heads.

They had a brief discussion and decided to “beef up” the car and get on the move as soon as possible, at least by tomorrow morning. Lilith pulled her car into the large corrugated steel garage and started work immediately, too energized with adrenaline to sleep, Wesley assisted. El Guapo asked where the office was finding out that there was not only television but also a CB and Shortwave radio system. The door to the office was at the rear of the garage past the tall warehouse shelving packed with new and old auto-parts. He tried to ask a few more questions but Lilith was not listening completely focused on her task. Wesley shrugged. So, El Guapo started around the shelves into the dark rear of the garage.

He soon saw the office door, ‘office’ painted in plain block letters across the bottom of the frosted glass window of the old grease smeared door. Something groaned and El Guapo froze in his tracks. His hand crept to the grip of his gun. The groaning was coming from the wheelbarrow next to the office door. He saw a body lying there starting to move. It was dressed in old, worn and oil-stained coveralls. He readied to shoot taking careful aim and then the body raised a half-empty whiskey bottle to its mouth. El Guapo sighed realizing he had almost shot Lilith’s alcoholic father. Her father emptied the last drink and tossed the bottle mindlessly away then gurgled and passed back out.

Soon enough he had found and was operating the CB radio. On the emergency channel, an evacuation message was mechanically repeating itself. It said something about a checkpoint at the far end of the county and a few others around the perimeter of the city limits as well. Next to him on another table was an array of security monitors that someone had forgotten to turn off. He glanced over and saw that the front gate and other areas around the vast junkyard had fixed security cameras.

He turned back to the CB trying to find some paper and a pen to jot down the message details. He finally found what he was looking for after a few more minutes and then he glanced over at the monitors. At the front gate were a pickup and several choppers. He saw that a few bikers had already skipped the barbed-wire topped fence and soon disappeared out of view. They appeared armed.

Lilith had a welder’s mask on and was welding some sheet steel to the side of her car, completely focused and obsessing. Wesley had just set down some heavy steel poles. Lilith had requested them. She would build the cowcatcher from them. Wesley stretched her back and took in a deep breath. She heard a slight noise to her left and turned to see a double-barrel sawed-off shotgun shoved into her face.

There were three bikers with guns at the wide entrance to the garage. The guy farthest from them was wielding an A-K. All were wearing the colors of the Black Skulls OMC.

Biker with Shotgun: “We’re gonna take what we want … PUT YER F*#$IN’ HANDS UP!!! Now. Where’s the gas?”

El Guapo stepped out of the shadows like a gunfighter of old and put a single bullet in the shotgun-wielding biker’s forehead. With that, Lilith pulled out a 9mm, her personal firearm, and drilled some holes in the A-K biker’s chest, he dropped his rifle but was still standing, a confused look on his bearded face. Wesley pulled her paired Desert Eagles and dropped both of the remaining bikers. El Guapo ran over and picked up the AK-47 shouting, “they’re at the gate!”

He jumped behind some wrecks near the front of the yard and then peeked around the corner. A second later, he unleashed a full burst on the bikers waiting behind the gate. He knew he had killed a biker sitting on his chopper. Wesley shot into the pickup’s windshield killing the driver and the passenger. The rest of the bikers, under a hail of bullets, retreated swiftly.

Jenn (to Gil): “I am SO glad you didn’t miss this time!”

The horizon began to burn brilliant blinding silver scorching away the beautiful bands of gold and orange of dawn. The trio moved the bodies from the truck then dragged them around the back, behind the garage. They pulled the pickup and the custom chopper into the yard locking the gate behind them.

Epilogue or Dawn of the Doomed

Early morning. Lilith distracting herself with a side project out of nowhere, making leather gauntlets with steel plates for Wesley. It would be around 3 pm, after hours of wrenching madly and non-stop, when she finished armoring the car and adding an improvised cowcatcher in place of the front bumper. The other two passed out utterly exhausted. All three were safe… for now.

End of Part One (Session played 8/10/19)

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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.8: Of Black Eagles & Dragons

Black Eagle Tattoo
The Black Eagle Emblem

The morning of the 19th of Monsoon – our heroes were relaxing inside the main room of the rented house. Fauna (played by Jenn) pulled out her map (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.2: A letter and a Map) while Szoo (played by Isis) ate one of the druid’s smaller itinerant chickens. The naga mostly swallowed it whole with minimal crunching. Excor (played by Cris) was next to the druid hovering over her map. They were trying to decipher it as well as coming up with ideas as to how to pursue their goal. Their goal was obtaining a gold bee queen as well as the mystical honey they can produce with the golden lotus their ultimate goal (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.44: Betrayed at Last!).

They discussed where on the map would be their destination, probably somewhere near the golden bee panted on the map. They assumed it just was not a decorative touch. The map, for the most part, appeared to be accurate and somewhat up to date at least judging by the heraldic marks present on it.

Cris: “Whew. That’s a long distance. And it’s probably mostly desert and scrubland except for these forests here.”

As a group, they contemplated the major undertaking that an expedition would be. They were not sure that they could depend on Bumble’s wealth this time around and they were uncertain about the web of loyalties within the cabal at the moment. Fauna was not willing to try to convince her fellow cultists to fund the adventure either. With some shoulder shrugging and mumbling, they ultimately decided to focus on what was directly ahead of them; namely the blue dragon behind the scenes and the mushroom creatures below them.

Fauna: “Wait. Where’s the blood magus?”

After a brief investigation, they found a note written on the back of the bedroom door. Of course, it was written in blood. The note said that Umwin had left in pursuit of the little girl that he had in his words “adopted”. In fact, the last time that anyone had seen him was when he asked Excor about sewer access outside of the house. Excor had directed him to the Eastern District and the plaza at the end of the old wall (The Cabal of Eight Pt.10: Tunnel Rats). In other words, Natalie (Umwin’s player) bowed out of the game.

Fauna: “Good. He was gross!”

Excor spent the next one and a half hours copying the Amber Husk spell into his spellbook. He handled the brittle scroll as delicately as he could. The parchment was very old and only kid-gloves would do. He had found it in an ancient rotting scroll case found deep within the Lotus Vaults (The Cabal of Eight Pt.42: The Lotus Vaults Pt.2).

Szoo and Fauna wanted to go find the blue dragon on their own but thought better of it when they realized they had few leads. Several skilled slaves dressed in blue had attacked them and they had caught a beggar of the beggar’s guild trailing them presumably in the employ of the said dragon. After giving up on that idea, Fauna brewed some healing potions for Szoo.

Later, after finishing copying the spell into his book Excor left for the Bardic College with Szoo in tow. He was going there to “hook up with Jirek”. Soon after finding Jirek in the library office, the young scribe offered to treat them to lunch at the White Prong.

Excor (to Szoo): “White Prong. Why does that sound familiar? Have we been there before?”

 The players suddenly remembered the other words of the stealthy beggar named Thorn, words that they had previously completely ignored. They did not even seem to make a note of it so I excluded those very words from that blog entry (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.1: The Checkered Eye). They recalled that he had mentioned that his coin i.e. services were for sale each dawn at a place called the White Prong and to look out for a dark-skinned woman, a sea-farer, the other bidder and presumably current employer of said beggar.

As the three rode in a rickshaw, Excor struck up a conversation with Jirek.

Excor: “So, uh, what’s been going on man?”

Jirek: “Well, I rented my warehouse, it’s full up. Some sea traders er… probably pirates. It helps to pay the seasonal taxes on the place tho. Making a pretty penny also, those guys are loaded but kinda serious y’know. Real tough guys.”

They arrived shortly at the eatery. Upon entering, Excor was distracted by the delicious smells of spiced meat and rich broth.  Szoo, however, spotted a young swashbuckler, a dark-skinned woman with long black hair, a very expensive looking saber at her side, her sleeveless leather arming doublet was open and on her bare chest was a tattoo of a black eagle its wings spread. On her waist, she wore a wide blue silk sash. She was carrying a tray full of drinks to the private booths in the back. After a failed paranoia roll, Szoo was certain that she was the blue dragon in human guise.

Cris (referring to the tattoo): “Well I guess a dragon can appear as any human form they want right?”

Isis: “It’s gotta be her!”

Cris (shooting me a narrow-eyed glance): “I dunno… maybe.”

The pair of mages tried to spy where the young swashbuckler had gone. They only found that she was not alone but in the company of what appeared as the top command of a ship. The crew, each sporting a black eagle either as tattoos or on their clothes, shuffled into several of the curtained booths at the rear of the place. Eventually, the mages found a table, sat and Excor ordered an expensive, but not too expensive, bottle of wine dropping 10 silver pieces. Jirek ordered the house roast seasoned with sour-grass and roasted onions.

Meanwhile back at the house, Fauna was busy brewing the potions she had promised to the Black Scael naga. Suddenly the druidess heard a subtle creaking then the sound grew louder into a painful arthritic wooden shriek.  She looked over towards the source of the sound to the statue atop the trapdoor. The large white marble statue was starting to sink into the mushy wood of the floorboards.

Jenn: “Aww man! It’s those mushroom guys again!?”

Fauna immediately sent a whisper to her two companions currently at the White Prong via her cabal medallion. Her message was, “Fungus guys are back, statue sinking into the floor!”

Back at the White Prong, after receiving the message Excor tossed down a single silver piece and tells Jirek, “Sorry but we gotta go!” With that, he and Szoo walked outside and around a corner to an area with some cover. When the coast was clear, Excor used his blue cape of teleportation (The Cabal of Eight Pt.31: The Welfare of Rats) to get himself and Szoo back to the house in a magic flash.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.7: Enter Boss Mushroom

Crop of the boss

The heavy thudding of the large mushroom-man began to shake the cavern in pulses as it neared causing the four mages to sweat. Those enemies currently surrounding them prevented their flight. Fauna (played by Jenn) was low on magic and Excor (played by Cris) was in danger of passing out. Umwin (played by Natalie) and Szoosha (played by Isis) still hopelessly glued to the ground by sticky spore; the grease spell had fortunately worn off however. Surrounding them was a zombie with a fungal growth exploding from its skull and three leathery soldier myconids, each wielding a granite mace.

Szoosha suddenly broke free of the glue and slithered around to get a better angle on his enemies. The zombie swung its arms like clubs heavily at Szoo the naga dodged the hit. Fauna drew her dagger and slashed at the zombie dealing little damage to its shriveled, pale, leathery flesh. Excor aimed his magic spike at the first soldier and zapped it with an electrical bolt wounding it pretty badly. The first soldier moved in and made a power attack at Excor with its mace shattering his Mage Armor. The second and third soldiers swung at Szoo who parried the blows one after the other with his fire naginata. Umwin found that the sticky spore had finally melted away and stood up on shaky legs.

The giant mushroom and its smaller violet companion thumped closer. A few pebbles fell from above to the floor.

The zombie turned its attentions towards Fauna and tried to slam her. The druidess tried to dodge but took the full brunt of the blow. Fortunately, her shield item absorbed the damage. Excor activated his Ring of Ghost Form. The first soldier took a swing at him but the weapon simply passed through his insubstantial form. The second followed suit. Szoo parried the blow from the third. Umwin cast Life Blast at the zombie damaging it severely.

Excor: “Look guys! I’ll back you up while I can but all I got is my spike! When my ghost form expires I’m outta here!”

All of the mages knew that they would soon be within the reach of the giant mushroom’s great club.

Szoo cast Cone of Fire catching the first and second soldier in the blast of flames. The first soldier burnt to a blackened crisp fell dead to the cavern floor. The second was badly roasted but still alive. Fauna cast lightning bolt at the zombie finally blasting it to bits. Excor zapped the second soldier hurting it badly.

Jenn: “Mmm, I bet the cave smells like roasted mushrooms now!”

Isis: “Yeah! Mushroom PEOPLE sis! Jeesh!”

The giant mushroom, “the boss” as the Players called it, and its violet fungus companion moved into attack range. The giant mushroom “boss” was a much larger version of a soldier. Its skin was leathery and brown with patches of pale white and green glowing blotches of slime all over it. At the center of its broad featureless chest was embedded a large ruby which glowed like a red star in the cavernous gloom. The violet companion appeared as a man-size capped mushroom, which was semi-translucent and glowing with a strong violet light. From under its cap were four writhing flat ribbon-like tentacles.

Umwin shot a blood bolt at the third mushroom soldier barely scratching it. The violet fungus struck at Szoo with a tentacle but missed by a mile. Szoo cast another cone of fire catching only the violet fungus in the area of effect singeing it. Note it smelled wretched. Excor aimed his spike and shot it at the second soldier scratching it. The boss heaved its massive club in both hands making a sweep over the battlefield catching the four mages without hitting its allies. The club passed harmlessly through Excor, in contrast Fauna and Szoo ducked. Umwin tried to dodge but caught the tree-like club full in the ribs. The blood magus coughed up a little blood, that blow badly injured him. The second and third soldier continued to swing dumbly on Excor.

The violet fungus tilted its cap exposing its gills and sprayed a noxious spray at Szoo whom quickly dodged. Excor shot a bolt at the third soldier but the electricity did no damage. The boss wound up to bat Szoo but nearly fumbled his weapon in the swing missing the naga entirely. Fauna cast lightning bolt on the third soldier blasting a part of its body away but it was still standing. The second soldier let loose a power attack with its granite mace against Umwin but missed. The third soldier likewise made a power attack against Fauna but also missed.

The violet fungus whipped a tentacle at Fauna whom parried the blow with her dagger. Excor sacrificed some K.O. points to cast Lightning Bolt at the second soldier, dealing a little damage. The boss swung his weapon again at Szoo whose shield item spared him the damage. Fauna stabbed the third soldier killing it.

The violet fungus struck again at Fauna who parried again. It then sprayed poison again at Szoo whom dodged again.

Isis: “Crap guys I think my shield’s dead!”

Jenn: “Same here I think!”

The Boss swung again at Szoo who parried (Isis realized she was also a large creature and could parry the monster as technically they were the same size). Fauna cast lightning bolt at the boss but found that her spell only served to cancel out a shield spell that seemed to emanate from its gem. Umwin tried to touch the last remaining soldier but missed. The violet fungus struck at Fauna but missed. The last soldier clumsily swung at Umwin but missed and threw its weapon in the process. Excor shot his copper spike at the last soldier adding to its numerous wounds.

Szoo cast cone of fire catching all three enemies in the flames. The fire badly burned the soldier and the violet fungus; the boss simply lost another shield for the day. The boss swung again at Szoo but the black scael naga parried the blow away. Fauna stabbed the violet fungus causing it drop and curl up dead on the ground. Umwin grabbed the last soldier and using the Vampiric Touch spell caused the poor creature to shrivel into a dried husk on the cavern floor. The spell also healed some of Umwin’s wounds. Excor readied a spell.

Jenn: “Ha ha! Stabstab!”

Szoo shot a fire ray at the boss that dispersed its last shield spell. Taking advantage Excor cast shadow ribbons on the boss catching the monster in the strips of shadow energy. However, the mushroom boss almost broke free of Excor’s ribbons. Fauna shouted that she was “outta there” and the others quickly followed. Thus, they retreated leaving the boss mushroom. The mages retreated the way they had come. When they emerged into the cellar of their rental, Szoo set up some shoddy dart traps at the secret door to protect from any other mushroom folk seeking revenge while the mages slept.

When they finally got topside, they realized that it was the evening of the 18th. They assumed this judging by the time of day and the time when they had first departed. Excor pulled out his portable hole that had been rolled up in his robes. He turned it over and out dropped the large four-armed statue with dragonfly wings on top of the trap door [The Cabal of Eight Pt.41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1].

The mages utterly exhausted and completely tapped out decided to go to their respective rooms and catch some shuteye. Consequently, Umwin claimed the empty bedroom that once used by the currently absent Gornix the salt-lotus wizard. Just as the blood magus closed the door, Excor knocked. When he opened it, Umwin found Excor standing there with his hand out.

Excor: “Ahem! Hey! Rent! First month at least if you’re gonna stay here!”

Umwin: “What. Um,… don’t have any.”

Excor: “Well then you gotta sleep in the main room or on the streets somewhere.”

Fauna, too tired for this business paid Excor the blood magus’ first months’ rent. Afterwards they all slept like the dead.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.6: Facing the Fungus

Fungus Kingdom Map
The Map so far

The blood magus used his Close Wounds spell four times on Szoo (played by Isis), the naga had taken the brunt of the damage in the previous battle. After Umwin (played by Natalie) finished nursing Szoo the small group of adventurers continued with Fauna (played by Jenn) in the lead. Excor slipped but fortunately was able to save his lantern. The wet gravel-strewn cavern floor continued steeply down.

Fauna noticed even in the half-light that ahead a 5 ft. high ridge rose to the left and the low path directly in front of them led to a pit. Therefore, she led the troop up and along the ridge. This cavern (R5) was much the same as the previous, sweaty rock walls and the heavy air polluted with the smell of mushrooms. When they got to the top of the ridge, they could see random clumps of mushrooms in the corners along the walls and the flows of slime molds on the walls themselves.

The mages looked around and found that there were three openings into other adjacent chambers. There was a large one to the north, another to the east, which dropped sharply in elevation. They decided they definitely did not want to go further down. There was another peculiar opening about 10 ft. up the northern wall, which appeared to be rectangular and cut into the stone. Upon investigation, it was determined that it was a drain originating from the sewers above.

Natalie: “Hm? …oh yeah…”

Umwin (pointing to the drain opening): “I guess that’s how I got down here.”

In the south, there was a very large opening and the ground sloped down there as well but more gently than the eastern passage.

The mages were at a loss as to which way to go until Fauna discovered some faintly glowing tracks. She was able to track them to the southern passage. They began to move down carefully when Fauna spotted the wounded myconid that had fled from the previous battle apparently nursing its glowing wounds. It did not take long for them to slaughter it.

For safety’s sake, Umwin performed yet another Close Wounds on Szoo. After a brief consultation as to continue deeper into the unknown cavern or retreat, the gang decided to carry on. So, fauna worked her way slowly into the next, deeper chamber of the cavern system (R11). This chamber was much larger than any before with a much higher ceiling rich with stalactites.

They could smell the scent freshwater and could see a body of water to their northeast beyond a pebble-beach. Large clumps of mushrooms were everywhere, especially near the water with several larger mushrooms that were purple and slimy glowed with enough light to allow them normal although limited sight. Fauna soon realized that the hand that she was using to guide herself in the dark was upon the cliff face of another ridge that rose 5 ft.

Suddenly, Fauna shouted a warning to the others. “On the ridge and near the water!”

Atop the ridge was what appeared to be a shriveled corpse with a large growth, some sort of swelling fungus, erupting from its skull poised with a large rock above its head, ready to hurl. In addition, oozing slowly across the pebble beach towards the mages was a glowing violet blob covered in a thick layer of clear slime spotted with light blue spots resembling eyes. Then a viciously noxious stench that shot from the violet blob filled the cavern. Fortunately, none of the four mages was sickened; Umwin did not even seem to notice it.

The blob suddenly launched itself rolling at Fauna but missed her entirely stopping just short of touching her. In response, Fauna blasted the thing with a lightning bolt blowing a crater in the gel-like creature. Szoo following Fauna’s lead roasted the thing into a crystalline ash with a ray of fire. The mages could hear a large group of things heading from the south towards them. Then Excor entangled the zombie with the Shadow Ribbons spell. It struggled and strained but found itself trapped nonetheless. Umwin finished it off with a Disrupt Undead spell. This brief scuffle was over but the mages hardly had any time to recover when several other creatures were already upon them. On top of that, they could also hear something large moving in the distance somewhere in the dark.

The oncoming group consisted of two more zombie-type creatures, their heads completely over taken and skulls bursting with fungal growth, three leathery looking mushroom men armed with granite headed maces, and two pale softer looking myconids flanking a sickly yellow squat egg-shaped creature with stubby arms and legs and a pair of droopy crimson eyes. It was something called a Lumpus, it bore a wooden stave in one of its small hands. Fauna recognized the creature and knew that this small intelligent fungus-creature had some spell-casting ability.

Fauna unleashed a lightning bolt at the first zombie. The lumpus twirled its stave and cast grease at Szoo’s feet; the naga promptly slipped and fell onto his back. The pair of zombies continued to move slowly towards the mages. Excor cast Mage Armor on himself. The first two leathery myconids moved towards the rear ranks of the mages while the first lurched forward and struck at Fauna. The creature’s mace struck the druid dispelling the shield spell protecting her. Umwin damaged the second zombie with another Disrupt Undead spell. The two pale myconids that flanked the lumpus moved forward their fists clenched.

The thumping of heavy footsteps moved closer to the ongoing battle.

Fauna blasted away the second zombie with a lightning bolt. The lumpus spun its stave again and grease pooled at Umwin’s feet causing him to slip and fall onto his butt. The first zombie stumbled up to Fauna and tried to slam a balled fist into her. Fortunately, she parried the attack easily. Szoosha stood and threw a fire ray at the third leathery soldier mushroom singeing it. Excor tried to cast a spell but it got away from him and went wild! However, nothing happened the spell just fizzled out. The second soldier mushroom struck Umwin but dealt no damage due to the blood magus’ supernal toughness. The third soldier swung its granite mace at Fauna but she parried the blow with her dagger. The first soldier moved towards Excor. Umwin desperately tried to stand but found the magic grease too slick and slipped onto his back. The pale myconids moved into more advantageous positions.

The lumpus shuffled onto the ridge above the mages and spores burst from its body in a sticky spray then in a yellow cloud settling over the battlefield. The sticky stuff failed to adhere to Excor or Fauna but it glued Szoo and Umwin to the cave floor. Fortunately, the toxic effects failed to affect the mages as all of them save Umwin had breathe without air items. Umwin however found it even more difficult to move due to numbness. The fungus creatures were unaffected by the spore. Szoo was unable to free himself from the lumpus’ sticky spore. Excor pulled his Copper Spike and shot the first mushroom soldier with an electrical bolt. The first mushroom soldier struck Excor’s mage armor. The second hit Umwin for no damage again. The third missed fauna with a clumsy swing.

The two pale myconids jostled for position again.  Fauna cast wind rush but only caught the first zombie and the third mushroom soldier. They flew back slamming into the ridge and fell down. Szoo was unable to find footing due to the magic grease to try to break loose from the sticky spore. The lumpus moved north along the ridge. Excor cast Force Ram but the magic almost got away from him however, the spell went in the wrong direction striking a cave wall. The zombie stood back up. The first soldier hit Excor’s Mage Armor. The second power-attacked Umwin but again was unable to even scratch the blood magus. The third soldier stood back up. Umwin found it impossible to stand up or even move.

The first pale myconid moved around to mount the ridge. The second picked up and tossed a small stone at Fauna, she dodged. Szoo struggled valiantly but between the greased floor and the net of glue, he was immobilized. At the bottom of the north end of the ridge, the lumpus readied itself. Excor realizing he was out of spells for the day shot the first mushroom soldier with his Copper Spike. The zombie started shambling towards Fauna. The first soldier again struck Excor’s Mage Armor. The third soldier moved towards the mages. Umwin was utterly stuck and hopeless.

Fauna cast Sleep on the second soldier but to no effect. Szoo was hopelessly stuck. The lumpus cast Harden as Iron on its stave. Excor took a 5 ft. step back, sacrificing some of his vitality cast Mass Shadow Ribbons but the magic went wild, and a cone of negative energy shot forth at the lumpus and caught the pale myconids in its area of effect causing all three to melt and wither into blackened piles of rot.

The mages were in bad straights, Umwin and Szoo were stuck, Excor had to sacrifice K.O. points to cast spells, and Fauna was out of ideas. Still there was the zombie and three soldiers before them. They could just make out a giant sized myconid with a great club moving into the half-light, a glowing violet mushroom shaped creature with four tentacles at its side.

Cris was letting loose a stream of expletives.

Isis: “We are SO screwed!”

Jenn: “Awww, we’re gonna die aren’t we?”

Natalie just shrugged.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.5: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.2

mushroom map
The Map

The blood magus Umwin (played by Natalie) gazed through the open doorway into the ruined chamber from the hallway (R1). It was an old storeroom, the plaster and some of the stone of the walls had crumbled and laid in moist piles and clumps. He replied to the other mages behind him that the room was full of trash but appeared empty otherwise. With Umwin’s signal, the party of adventurer mages continued further down the very long narrow stone & plaster corridor (H1).

The cobweb-draped passageway was dark and the air increasingly stunk of polluted moisture as they shuffled carefully along the smooth but dirt caked floor. They could also tell that the hallway was angling down going deeper under the city as they continued to follow it. Behind Umwin followed Fauna (played by Jenn), Excor (played by Cris) holding his oil lamp aloft, and Szoosha (played by Isis) taking up the rear with flaming naginata.

As they carefully inched their way down, Fauna spotted and picked up a black haired sewer rat asking it if there was anything to worry about in the passage. The rat replied, “No”. Of course, Fauna acted as interpreter.

Umwin stopped at an alcove in the wall on his left. It was a badly rusted iron door (D1 on the map). Its lock so badly corroded that even if they had the key it would still be impossible to open. Each mage insisted in inspecting the door personally and thus the group spent some time rotating position. Each tried sensing magic on the old door, they finally determined there was no magic to speak of and thus Fauna and Szoo wanted to try to open it. Excor voiced his concern that it may lead to someone else’s basement. Umwin had no opinion on the subject.

Consequently, Fauna consulted the sewer rat she was still holding. According to the rat, no one had opened that door in forever. After a brief discussion, they decided to leave the door for later and started south again. Suddenly, with a sharp yelp Umwin fell from sight. Fortunately, he was able to catch the edge of the ragged pit in the floor with his red stained fingertips. The blood magus struggled to pull himself up but lost his grip and fell. Fauna caught him by the wrists and pulled him back up and out of the pit.

The pit was a large hole in the floor from where the flagstones had long ago fallen in. Excor leaned over the edge with his lantern and found that still the bottom lay hidden in darkness. In addition, they could all smell the stink of sewage mixing with the fresh briny scent of seawater.

Excor: “Phew, it’s gotta be deeper than 20 feet. And with water at the bottom, who knows how deep that is!”

In turn, each leapt easily over the pit; Szoo just slithered over it with no problem and no risk of falling. Umwin continued to lead them down the passageway but insisted none of this was familiar to him. The group stopped at another recessed door this time on their right (D2). It was another rusted iron door but it was in much better condition than the last. It too was locked and they could all see the faded red emblem emblazoned on the ancient door. Though only Fauna was able to make out the faded mark, it was a red eagle carrying scales contained in an octagon. For this reason alone, Szoo and Excor voted that she take lead.

With Fauna leading they finally reached the end of the passageway. The group of four mages found themselves at the threshold of yet another rusted locked iron door (D3). It had been lacquered black at one time but only traces now remained. Plainly emblazoned in faded shades of green, blue, and brown at the center of its face was an inverted city seal. Below the inverted seal of Ezmer lay a wavy water line and a rat at helm. All of the cabal mages thought that they should try, for some reason, to get through this door.

Excor: “No problem, I got just the spell. Everybody stand back!” Cris actually stood up and motioned with his arms at the table.

Excor cast Force Ram, which slammed into the door making a frightful racket that temporarily deafened all of them. The slightly dented door still held fast.

Excor: “DAMN! It’s still UP!?

Jenn: “Oh you learned that one from Guillermo’s guy huh?”

Cris: “Gornix, yeah. It’s one of my most powerful spells!”

Isis: “Well, use your magic key! C’mon guy!”

Cris: “Nah, that’s limited per day I’m not gonna waste it here. Let’s go back.”

Natalie: “Well… everybody knows we’re here now.”

The group proceeded back to the first iron door that they encountered and decided, for some reason that they should not stop until they had opened it. Consequently, they had not yet decided on how to do that.

Isis: “Aw man! C’mon! I wanna see what’s behind that door! C’mawwwwwn!”

Fauna: “Man, what I wouldn’t give for a good crowbar.”

Cris: “Naw. I don’t think any of us are strong enough to get through that door like that.”

Umwin: “Well. I could, um, give the one who wants to knock it down the Greater Strength I spell… just let me slit my arm and drip some blood into a vial. Like a… potion?”

Fauna: “Wait. You mean like drink it!? ”

Umwin: “Um. Uh-huh.”

Utterly disgusted by that suggestion, Excor used his magic key’s Knock ability to open the door. The room revealed by the opened door was a large 5 ft. by 5 ft. closet (R2). The walls were white plaster with a few cracks. Above, the ceiling was plank wood, possibly the floor of someone else’s basement where long ago an old trap door was removed and sealed. Immediately, the strong smell of petroleum scorched their nostrils.

Inside the closet was an old saturated 50 gallon barrel labeled Naphtha (Excor translated the old oil-translucent label). There was also an old rotten sack of grain and a single small box of old corroded cosmetics. Fascinated by some very flammable liquid to play with, Szoo whipped out an empty glass bottle and filled it with naphtha from the barrel. After this investigation concluded, they unanimously decided to approach the gap to where the glowing footprints had led from their cellar.

The gap appeared to be a large and ancient crack in the bedrock, which had reopened shortly after multiple attempts through the centuries to patch it with plaster. Through the gap, a cavern and from this wafted the strong swampy scent of sewer water mixed with the sea. Fauna communed with nature to make sure that the rain above had ceased after Excor’s insistence: “I’m not going down there into sewers during a rainstorm! C’mon! There’s storm drains! Especially in this city!”

Surefooted Fauna carefully guided the group into the crack (H2 on the map). The floor was savagely uneven and angled, even more sharply than the hallway, downwards this time to the southeast. They proceeded down into the cavern and found the rocky walls sweaty and the air permeated by the strong scent of mushrooms. To her right Fauna noticed a ridge rising to a full five feet high as they continued to move. Then as she looked up by chance, her eagle eyes spotted three mushroom men on the ridge their bodies were fleshier looking and very pale mostly white unlike the first creature they had met back in the cellar (see The Cabal of Eight II Pt.4: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.1). Their stubby arms were high over their faceless mushroom-cap-heads each ready to hurl a large rock.

The first myconid, Excor had recognized them as such, hurled its large rock at the gambler-mage but missed by an inch. The large rock smashed into the rocky ground with a heavy thud its fragments stinging the mages. Fauna threw a lightning bolt at the third mushroom roasting its tender flesh but still it lifted its rock. Umwin threw a blood bolt at the same creature blasting it apart. The stone it was holding tumbled down the ridge but managed to miss the mages below rolling to rest at the bottom of the ridge. Szoo cast a fire ray at the first creature hurting it some. Excor pulled his Copper Spike and shot an electrical bolt from it at the first creature wounding it badly. The second myconid heaved its rock at Umwin striking the blood magus. However, the rather large stone hit and bounced off the skinny but broad man not hurting him at all!

So, it turned out that Natalie had rolled high for his Constitution and selected the Raw Hide feat and gained the Armor of Scars feat as a class ability resulting in a Damage Reduction of 12! Hence, the other characters were a bit suspicious after this display of unnatural toughness on the part of this subterranean stranger.

The first creature grabbed up another rock and tossed it at Excor who attempted to dodge but took a nasty blow to the head. Fortunately, his shield-item activated in time to prevent any damage from the small boulder.

Cris: “Man! That could’ve KILLED me!”

Fauna threw another lightning bolt at the first monster wounding it badly. Umwin in turn, threw another blood bolt at the same creature killing it. Szoo stiffened his body, rose above the height of the ridge, and faced off with number two. The naga swung his flaming naginata wounding the creature. The second and now last remaining myconid grabbed up a stone and smashed it into Szoo who in an attempt to dodge the blow opened himself directly up to the attack taking the rock full in the chest. Again, a shield item protected the mage from potential lethal levels of damage. Excor shot a bolt at the creature adding to its wounds.

Fauna cast another lightning bolt hurting the pale myconid but it fled behind and down the other side of the ridge out of the sight of all.

Cris: “Aww man! We need to take that guy out before he alerts the others!”

Jenn: “What? How do you know that?”

Cris: “They’re myconids, they live in colonies so there’s always more!”

Jenn: “oh.”

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.4: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.1

mushroom man aka a myconid

It was the wee hours of the 12th of High Summer, about 11 weeks ago, and Gornix (played by Gil) found it difficult to sleep amongst the crash after crash of thunder in his new digs, a still dirty with dust bedroom in Fauna’s new rental (The Cabal of Eight Pt.31: The Welfare of Rats). He had abandoned his apartment for a room there in an effort to stay hidden from the wrath of the Black Knight.

He had already set up a laboratory in the small basement/cellar of the house and was contemplating starting formulation of a new spell when he heard something. It sounded like breaking glass coming from – the lab! Consequently, he jumped up from his bed and ran to the cellar door. Putting his ear to the floor, he could hear something moving around down there as well as the sound of breaking wood; the fate of the new table he had placed down there.

Gil: “Dammit!”

Hence, Gornix, without thinking, carefully opened the trapdoor and lighting the crystal at the tip of his staff slowly stepped down into the cellar. He found his new lab destroyed and some strange footprints all over the dirty flagstones of the floor. The tracks were of some kind of slime and smelled strongly of fungus, mushroom maybe? There was nothing there but the results of vandalism.

The salt-lotus wizard sighed and inspected the walls for some sort of secret door but was confident that the walls of the cellar were solid. As he ascended the stair back up into the house, he halted for a second after putting out the magic light of his staff. When he gazed back down, he noticed that the footprints were emitting a sickly bluish green glow.

Later that day Gornix talked with Excor (played by Cris) of his pre-dawn experience.

Gornix: “I think that this house might be haunted.”

Excor laughed and then shrugged it off, no one thought any more of the incident since.

The pre-dawn hours of the 19th of Monsoon – Excor was suddenly awakened from sleep by the sound of breaking glass afraid of another assassination attempt in the house (The Cabal of Eight Pt.33: Night of the Moon Rat) he jumped out of bed and geared up. Before long he, Fauna (played by Jenn), and Szoosha (played by Isis) were up, dressed, and creeping towards the trapdoor that led to the cellar.

Szoo slowly opened the trapdoor. Excor extended his lit oil lamp to spot down the hole, once cleared Fauna proceeded down to investigate followed by Szoo wielding his flaming polearm and Excor taking up the rear. Fauna spotted several glowing footprints and handprints along the floor and walls. Likewise, all noticed the strong, wet fungal scent that choked the small 10 ft. by 10 ft. cellar. The stench had a very strong essence of mushroom.

Fauna (pointing with her dagger): “Hey! WHO THE HELL are YOU!?”

She was addressing a strange, scrawny but finely muscled, dirty looking man leaning in the far corner against some shelves. He had various sharp implements hanging from his thick black leather belt and was shirtless. His heaving concave yet insanely broad chest covered in strange black tattoos and crisscrossed by innumerable scars as well smeared with blood and sweat. His skin was dark, a Creschan, and his dreadlocked hair, light-brown, his eyes a piercing emerald green.

Umwin: “Uhm..Umwin and they’re coming?”

The three mages could hear several things, soft and squishy, slopping against the flagstones as they moved into view through a previously unnoticed aperture in the stonewall at the bottom of the stairs on which Excor was still standing. A small spear shot from the darkness and struck but bounced off Umwin’s scar-hardened skin. A squat ugly, creature shuffled into view. It had a head like a mushroom cap and fat cylindrical body like a stem with two short, thick legs. Its warty skin resembled rotting leather. Umwin gouged himself with a sharp implement from his belt and instead of blood, a crimson bolt of energy shot from the open wound blasting the ugly mushroom creature to wet bits.

As a result, four more of the mushroom creatures shuffled from the dark to attack all four mages. However, the battle was brief, after a storm of lightning bolts, fiery energy rays, and blood bolts the four mushroom-capped creatures were ash. None of the mages was so much as scratched.

While Excor inspected the opening in the wall Fauna questioned Umwin (played by Natalie). Umwin had sailed via a Creschan war-trader to the Serpent Coast where he had taken a young girl, a street urchin, under his wing. They had become close during their travels to Ezmer where Umwin was talked into accompanying the girl and some new “friends” on some sort of job where they had to travel through the sewers. The crew had run into a large group of these mushroom men and the girl was taken the rest of Umwin’s companions were either slain or lost. Consequently, Umwin had become lost in underground caverns in pursuit of the girl and soon stumbled his way into this cellar. Umwin also mentioned that he was a Blood Magus, for some reason.

Fauna figured that though blood magic seemed utterly gross that Umwin should prove valuable as they were about go exploring through that secret door anyway.

Excor: “Looks clear to me. There’s a very long hallway slanting down though, can’t see much else until we go down there!”

Not long after the group was proceeding down a long dark hallway. The ground and even walls were caked in layers of gray dust save for where there were slimy footprints. Umwin lead the way followed by Fauna, Excor and Szoo took up the rear.

Excor: “Wait! What direction are we traveling in?”

The others sort of looked around in confusion and then shrugged. Hence, after a deep sigh, Excor cast Magic Navigation on himself to know instinctively the compass directions.

Cris: “Guess I’ll keep track of our position on the map.”

To Be Continued…