September 9, 2011

I Feel Funny

The party had defeated a strange assortment of monsters, robots, and ray-gun wielding baddies, and used the Gatestone to transport themselves to the next unvisited universe. They found themselves standing on a floor of chipped and weathered marble. Crumbled walls, columns, and arches surrounded them, and if there was ever a roof to this place it was long since gone. Behind them stood a half-domed grotto holding a statue of a winged woman, almost like an angel, but the face of the statue was weathered to the point that it was impossible to tell whether she was benevolent or cruel. Despite the long-abandoned and ruined nature of the rest of the building, water bubbled merrily in a fountain before them.

They heard the sound of surf, and looking behind they saw that the ruin stood at the top of a low cliff overlooking a vast sea. In the other direction, the land was rolling and quite beautiful. Low grass covered the hills with small groves of trees scattered here and there. It almost appeared landscaped. The hills rose to an outcropping of rock several miles away, and they could see a large building built into the rock face. Its style was fairly modern, almost Japanese looking.

Despite the beauty of the landscape, something about it seemed off, troubling. Everything seemed too … flat, almost two-dimensional. The colors were pretty, but there were just too few of them. Each leaf, each stone, each bird was of a single color – no variation in hue from edge to center, front to back. They weren't sure why that bothers them – isn’t this how things have always looked?

As they looked at their friends, the unsettled feeling grew. They recognized each other, but it had a dreamlike feeling, where you know that that the person in your dream is your brother, even though they look like Richard Nixon. They stood staring at each other, trying to shake the feeling that somehow, somewhere, they didn’t always look like this.

Chuck had his ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth, dropping ashes on his Roman collar. Why do you keep thinking he used to be black?

Phil had a perpetual scowl below his bowl-shaped haircut. You know you don’t want to get on his bad side.

Mary has eyes that fill most of the area of her face. She wore her usual short schoolgirl skirt that barely seemed adequate for its job, topped by a white blouse and big bow. Because her clothes barely cover her essentials, you aren’t sure where she keeps all those weapons.

James has spiky hair, large eyes (though not as large as Mary’s), and seems to have daggers hidden in every part of his clothing.

Jerry also has large eyes, and a mouth so tiny you don’t know how he could eat. His demeanor is solemn.

Joe wears his usual leather and bronze armor, and has his sword, Hito-Kaze, slung casually over his shoulder. The sword is taller than he is, and a good 2 ½ feet wide. It looks as if it would be far too heavy to lift, but he wields it with ease.

Ice has his derby hat perched jauntily atop his massive head. He adjusts his bow tie with one huge hand while the knuckles of the other rest on the ground at his feet.

Somehow, they also felt they were missing some of their possessions - that they used to have other weapons, other clothing, other armor. But no, that would be silly, wouldn't it?

As the party stood trying to shake this unsettling feeling that things weren't what they always had been, a group of people-ish things emerged from the edge of the ruin's clearing and fanned out in front of them, stopping 30-50' away. Some of them appeared to be human, but others clearly weren’t. One looked human, but was only 4 ½ feet tall, despite his thick beard and thicker muscles. Another looked like some sort of demon, with thick horns and a barbed tail. Two others were some sort of lizard creatures with rough scaly skin and blunt snouts.

One of these seemed to be their leader. He was armed with an enormous spear, and strode to the front, grinning at the party. “Well, what do you know? Just like the Master said – guests have arrived. I’m going to have to ask you nice folks to surrender any weapons and magic you might be carrying, and then you can go peacefully on your way. We don’t want any trouble, and there’s no reason to be frightened – we don’t intend to do you any harm as long as you obey the law. And the law here is that no one is allowed to have any weapons or magic except the duly appointed authorities … which would be us.”

The party was naturally reluctant to comply with this request, and tried to find another solution. Chuck asked, "Who is your master? Can we meet him?" The leader nodded amicably. "He's the Spellweaver. He's always happy to meet new people and learn new things. Just hand over your weapons and magic, and we'll take you to him." Mary tried twirling her hair around her finger and batting her enormous eyes flirtatiously, but even this sweet little girl couldn't sway them.

Finally Joe twirled Hito-kaze menacingly before him, producing an audible whistling sound. "You can have my sword when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." Unoriginal, but it got the point across. The leader sighed and his shoulders slumped. "I'm so sorry to hear that. Like I said, we don't want any trouble, so I guess we'll have to leave you folks alone. Come on guys." His group turned as if to leave, took two steps, then spun around and attack. The party was not taken in by their pathetic attempt at subterfuge.

The leader charged in, using his extra-long spear to attack from outside the party's grappling range. He then breathed a cloud of poisonous gas that damaged several of the clustered party members. One of the humans charged into engage Ice, while another went after Joe. He held a rapier in one hand and a hand crossbow in the other, attacking with both each round and using his flashing rapier to avoid opportunity attacks. That lasted only as long as it took Joe to roll a critical hit with Hito-kaze, lopping off the attacker's right hand at the wrist. He picked up the rapier with his left hand and tried to continue, but a couple of rounds later Joe rolled another critical and almost disemboweled him - he was down and out.

Most of the others held back and attacked with ranged weapons or spells. One of the lizard-like things was clearly a magic user, and two others were clerics. The party learned just how frustrating it can be to have clerics in the opposition; every time it seemed like the big guy was getting weak, one of the clerics would jump in with a Healing Word and he'd be back up again.

But the party was hardly overmatched. Once again, they found that they had new powers they'd never explored before. Chuck created a Wall of Light that protected anyone standing in it and gave them temporary HP at the beginning of each round. Jerry was able to Ignite foes when he hit them with other spells, doing ongoing fire damage and outlining them in flames to make them easier to hit. Phil took great pleasure in poking his opponents in the eyes, temporarily blinding them. At one point, Ice pulled several large barrels out of his back pocket and rolled them at the opponents, knocking them prone.

But innocent little Mary seemed to be the most full of surprises. When the battle commenced she somehow produced a heavy machine gun out of nowhere and sprayed the opposition. The next time anyone looked, she had a submachine gun, and was doing the same. She filled the leader with buckshot from a shotgun (where did that come from?), then lobbed a hand grenade. When she got tired of the enemies who were flinging ranged spells, she pulled out some sci-fi looking thing she referred to as a "Big F*(#&$ Gun" and blasted them with an enormous plasma blast, bloodying most of them. Finally, she pulled out her sniper rifle (Oh come on! She doesn't even have POCKETS!) and took out the enemy MU.

Finally the last of the attackers fell, and the only sound was the bubbling fountain. The Gatestone pointed towards the house in the hills.

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