Snail's Trail

Road Trip

Standing in Alfred’s room, staring at the weird safe, the adrenaline from the fight started to wear off. As the party realized how exhausted they were Adam leaned against the safe, causing it to shift in its cubby hole. A tiny bit of wiggling freed the safe from the confines of the hole built into the wall. It looked as if the relatively new safe was made to fit into the much older cubby but someone had failed to make the necessary modifications to the cubby to secure it.

Adam, Uffe and Vivienne took the safe back to their room. They tucked it into Vivienne’s closet and returned to their beds, and their rudely interrupted sleep. After two and three hours of sleep respectively Vivienne and Adam fell asleep immediately. Worry about recent events keept Uffe tossing and turning in his bed. Eventually he gives up on sleeping there and went out into the sitting room with some blankets and pillows. With a small amount of effort he shoved one of the couches up against Vivienne’s door, then he lay down to sleep on it.

The ‘THUD’ of a door slamming closed and heavy footsteps woke him the next morning as Hank clomped into the room, chewing on one end of a cigar and beaming around. While he showered and changed into his regular clothes Uffe did the same. The two returned the sitting room furniture to it’s usual arrangement while Uffe struggled to convince Hank to take him on a road trip.

The two went to breakfast together and Uffe kept at it until Hank agreed to drive him to Mississinewa Lake. They went to get Ruth’s vehicle from the valet, who had filled it with gas while he had it, and follow the instructions Vivienne printed out back at Booker’s house. They pulled into the main parking area where they showed their map to one of the park employees. The woman gave them directions to the old cemetery and ‘Frances Slocum Information center’.

While they drove as close to the ‘X’ as they can get the car Uffe reviews the note Booker wrote on this map. “I often find myself wondering about the being who designed these hollows. Who were these dangerous puzzles supposed to keep out? Who were they supposed to let in? It seems like such a lot of effort to go to, A Hollow for each artifact, unique deterrents to random visitors… perhaps I will know soon. This is the last of the State Parks. The Chalice must be here.” This was the last place Booker had gone to look, but the first place that Jeffery Wagner had gone to hunt.

The cemetery had started out it’s existence as an Indian Burial ground. Frances Slocum was the last member of the tribe left to claim this place, and she and her children were the last ones buried there. Most of the tombstones were tipped, battered or broken in some way. Uffe closed his eyes and ‘tasted’ the magic of this place, focusing in on a location that had a familiar ‘flavor’. He opened his eyes to look around the spot that reminded him so much of the Flower, the mound and the thorn hounds and found himself standing in the center of a square with one grave site at each of it’s corners. Three of those sites still had legible tombstones and he studied each of them intently.

John Auten
1810- 1837
I am the first of my fellows
But can also stand alone
Initiate of Alpha
And Omega’s end I be
Herald to the Angels
While leading anarchy

Gerald Knox
1800- 1827
I am first born of God
The end of the beginning
Amidst the angels
But nowhere to be found
In the universe

Schuyler Colfax
1814- 1841
The beginning of eternity
The end of time and space
The beginning of every end
And the end of every place

Hank came over to study the tombstones along side Uffe, pointing out that each of the inhabitants of these graves had died at the age of 27, and each of their inscriptions were both odd and biblical. After some study of three of my all time favorite riddles (which I am nowhere near good enough to have written for myself) Uffe realized that each referenced something on the tombstones, and when those somethings were pressed the fourth gravesite opened up into a hole in the ground. Zelda music played in the heads of all the players, cause we’re nerds like that.

Hank was the first to jump down into the hole. He found himself dropping down the chimney of a one room building. The door had long since rotted away, as had the wooden shelves, and possibly some wooden furniture. Bits of broken pottery littered the dirt floor, but the stone walls were still standing solidly. Hank tried to get Uffe’s attention by throwing bits of pottery up the chimney, but that failed. He climbed back up the shaft to coax the scholar down into the strange world beneath the old burial ground.

Outside the door was a formerly manicured lawn, a space about the width of a football field separated the building they had emerged into from a much larger rather grecco-roman structure. As they walked away from the doorway back into the real world they glanced back at what was probably some sort of ground’s keeper’s cottage… or perhaps a shed.

The Greco-roman building and the smaller structure shared the peaceful square space, a tiny Arcadian realm carved out of the hedge but with no apparent access to it. The larger building sat in the exact center of the space, it’s large double doors carved with images of strange animals and partially ajar. Hank knocked loudly, more than hard enough to open the doors.

Inside the building were torch sconces and an old fashioned candelabra, but nothing was lit. All the light in the place spilled in through the high windows. A sign at the top of the back wall read “Museum of Unnatural History”. On the floor four taxidermied creatures surrounded a roped off depression in the floor with a star shaped deeper depression at the center. One point faced the door. Each of the animals stood at one of the other points facing the star and with a placard in front of them.

Eagle Eyed Lycanthrope
The Eagle Eyed Lycanthrope can be found in the dark forests of the north. Their acute vision allows them to see prey at great distances, even in poor lighting. The are obligate carnivores and will happily eat mammals, fish or foul. As lycanthropes the species does not propagate through normal reproduction, but instead through biting unfortunate victims. The lycanthropic saliva forms an alchemical reaction with the blood of the victim, afflicting the victim with lycanthropy. Eagle Eyed Lycanthropes can only convert victims with exceptional vision.

Rare Aquatic Tiger
This large hunting cat can be found in tropical jungles, swamps and near large lakes. A vicious hunter on land, this cat has an advantage over other hunters during lean times. The Rare Aquatic Tiger has a membrane in its nasal passages that can absorb oxygen from fresh water. When under water, the Tiger takes water in through it’s nose then pushes it out through its mouth. Because of this the Rare Aquatic Tiger can gather food from both land and water.

Balerian Articulated Tarantula
This fierce arachnid is found exclusively in the sands of the deep desert. Its legs have numerous extra joints allowing the creature to burrow through sand and change direction at any angle. The creature typically spend its days under the sand, listening for the passage of creatures above. When something passes by overhead, the Balerian Articulated Tarantula can forcefully eject itself from the sand, landing on the hapless prey and devouring it. The tarantula can eat animals as large as a camel in one serving.

Giant Nocturnal Unthbeast
The Giant Nocturnal Unthbeast can be found in ruins near seacoasts. The Unthbeast prefers cool, moist places to keep its body slimy and supple. During the day and Unthbeast can blend in with a pile of boulders. At night it hunts, using its eyestalks to see in all directions at once. The Giant Nocturnal Unthbeast cannot move quickly, but typically seizes its prey using surprise.

On the back wall a smaller sign hung at about head level for Hank. It read “Please don’t attempt to feed the animals. They are very picky.” Below the sign was a row of bins. Each bin was full of pellets. From right to left they were labeled: Ant, Bat, Cat, Dog, Eel, Fox, Gnu, Hen, Man, Owl, Rat, Yak, Salt and Pepper.

After some thought Hank clambered up on top of the Unthbeast while Uffe shoved pellets into its octopus like beak. They were worried that if they had chosen wrong the animal would come to life and attack them (they were right btw). They needn’t have worried however, the Unthbeast merely lifted it’s tail and shat out a round coin with a triangular hole in the center.

The coin matched a depression in the floor at the tip of the star and the base of the Unthbeast’s placard. Properly feeding the other creatures produced similar coins with different geometric shapes cut out of them that fit into other similar depressions. When Hank placed the final coin in front of the tarantula the floor opened up beneath him. He grab frantically for the Tarantula’s podium, suddenly suspended over what was at least a sixty foot drop. From his angle he could easily see the rope ladder tied up beneath the part of the star that faced the door and a monster that haunted his nightmares.

Despite his precarious position hanging from a pedestal Hank flashed back to an arena battle in Yahuli. He, and all the gladiator’s in his cellblock were lead blinking out into the blazing desert sunlight. They stood there, unsure what they were supposed to fight, then the announcer’s voice echoed around them “AAAAANNNNDDDD NOW THE King’s gladiators will face his FNAGGLE!” Slowly and entire section of the bleachers shifted upwards as the sand poured downwards into a massive and growing tunnel. The orange and black figure of the King’s champion backed slowly into the arena, holding a bag of something above his head and shaking it enticingly. An enormous creature followed behind him, serpentine neck reaching out for the bag, snaggle toothed maw slightly open, piggy bloodshot eyes focused on its prize as six stout legs drug it up the tunnel’s steep incline. Only as it got close enough to smell did the gladiator’s realize how big the thing was. Hank himself was about the size of a toe. It wheezed a happy sigh when it reached flat ground. Then reached out for the bag with a long, slimy, prehensile tongue. At that moment the champion vanished. The thing, Fnaggle, gave a keening wail of disappointment. Suddenly its head snapped around, its tongue lashed out, and it swallowed a gladiator whole. The twenty of them fought hard to survive that day, and three of them succeeded. They didn’t truly defeat the Fnaggle, however. It simply got tired of eating them, laid down, and went to sleep.

Hank shook off the flashback and pulled himself up onto the floor of the museum. The Fnaggle below the museum’s door lifted it’s ugly head thoughtfully, gazing up at the first intruders it had seen in a very long time. Behind the Fnaggle was another set of double doors, much too small for the Fnaggle to fit through. Directly below the door was a series of large lettered tiles arranged thusly:

U F I W H A T
O S N D M E R
Y A R T A I N
L I A E O Y S
L L O H U T I
O L W T N A S
F T D E E H W

After a few moments of study Uffe managed a successful enough roll that I highlighted a section of the puzzle for him, both a starting place and an instruction. From there he and Hank deciphered it the rest of the way, and they realized what they probably needed to get past the Fnaggle.

Uffe threw a handful of the stuff down onto the tiles below, and the Fnaggle licked it up, then looked up, eager for more. After a moment of discussion they decided to use what they had to lure the Fnaggle away from the door. Uffe stripped his shirt off so that they could use it for a bag. They packed it full and tied it up. As they clambered down the rope ladder the Fnaggle reared upon on it’s hind leg’s, head swaying dangerously around them as it tried to grab Uffe’s bundled shirt. They went back up into the museum for a moment of discussion, then Uffe took off his shoes and socks. He put his shoes back on, filled one sock from his shirt and stuffed it into the other sock, packing pepper around it to hide the scent of his treasure. They threw the shirt down into a corner far from the door and started climbing down again.

The Fnaggle grabbed the shirt, tearing it in its eagerness. It licked and slobbered, eyes glazing over. It swayed a little drunkenly, staggered around in a circle, and fell asleep. Uffe and Hank gained the hallway safely. I was going to fill this hallway with traps and monsters, and give the party a picture of the hallway, making them identify the dangers from the clues in the picture, however, my arts skills failed me, so you guys got a nice, clear, safe hallway. I should at least have put a giant tarantula down here or something, but whatever. I’m nice sometimes.

At the end of the hallway was a wall. On the wall was a shield, trimmed in metal and riveted. Inside the shield was a spiral of little squares each with an image and a number on it. Each of the squares wiggled a bit, like buttons. Neither of the characters recognized the nature of the scene on the shield (Their rolls worse than sucked) but after a few moments of staring at it Hank noticed letters on the rivets. The riddle seemed almost too simple, as did the solution they tried, but the wall swung open when they pressed the last button to reveal a very simple, rather old fashioned door.

Beyond the door was the home of Magrathea Donita Morrow. A plaque over the door of the main rooms told you so. The area was a caldera, an almost circular valley surrounded by forested mountain sides. The cottage was carved into the side of the mountain. A stable attached to it, also carved into the stone. The farm and gardens that the animals those stalls had housed was thickly overgrown and wild, but Hank managed to find himself a large, ripe tomato. It took the edge off the saltiness of the rat pellets he’d been nibbling on since the Museum. A large flower garden, as overgrown as the farm area, occupied one side of the caldera. It was once a perfect circle surrounding a large stone one side of which had been planed smooth and inscribed with runes. Doors to smaller dwellings dotted the cliff side and an outhouse was tucked discreetly between some stones. A small stone with the initials MDM inscribed on it was in the overgrowth next to the door of the main dwelling.

After some work they deciphered the runes to receive the following message:

Rolls
Without
Moss
Or Dead as can
Be
A Nearby throw
Or the pits in
Cherries
Place Me Against myself
MDM

They obeyed and this letter shimmered into existence.

My friend, If you find this letter here and myself missing then I have failed. I know the risk I take remaining, but I cannot flee before I ensure the safety of the Chalice. I do not blame it for preferring a beautiful young girl with flowers in her hair to a wrinkled old hag like myself, but the timing of it’s little crush could not have been worse as I know that Tonatiuh has set hunters on my trail.

I have hidden the other artifacts quite thoroughly, so please plant the Chalice here in the place I have prepared for it. I am certain that only something that still remembers its humanity will be able to pierce my defense, and no such creature would want the Hunters of Yahuli to have free access to the human world. I know that my actions will not prevent them from continuing their horrible rituals, but without these artifacts they should be reduced to simply trading with Goblins for slaves rather than bending Arcadia and the hedge in such a way that they have free access to as many humans as they desire. We have already seen what they choose to do with such power.

You will need to be wary of the mirror. It has already comprehended my plan and started to turn the hedge around it and the pacts that I bound it with to its own advantage. We are fortunate in that it does not desire to return to Yahuli, but its depredations could be as bad for humanity as those of its masters. Remember that self sacrifice is the key to dealing with it, never sacrifice another to it or you will make yourself a slave to its machinations.

I fear the Crown is lost to us for ever and I merely hope that it will never fall into hands that know how to use it. I should have made the hallows I created more complicated from the get-go, but I had too much trust in my fellows and now the Crown has been stolen. I have tied the warding I created around its Hallow to the opening of hedge that give access to Yahuli. Hopefully this will keep humans from wandering into their tunnels and deserts on accident.

Hank and Uffe discussed their discoveries in the comfort of the little home and its garden before returning to the SUV. As they were clambering into the vehicle a large, gleaming, brand new truck pulled in beside them. Debbie, Charles’ personal assistant, hopped out of the driver’s side while Adam made his way around the truck from the other side. Debbie had arrived at the suite the party was occupying shortly after Hank and Uffe left, bearing Hank and Adam’s boons. Her knock upon the door woke Adam who gladly took possession of his new identity and discussed Hank’s possible whereabouts with her. The two had spent the morning driving around the state parks in search of the missing giant.

Debbie was eager to hand over the keys to the truck, she planned to have a friend pick her up at the park. The group convinced her to take Ruth’s SUV back to Warsaw for them. They cleared their stuff out of it, and tucked their belongings under the protective cab covering the bed of Hank’s new truck. They left her to refuel the SUV while they took off in their freshly refueled truck heading for Oubache State Park. It was only a bit past noon, and they figured they could get a second mystery cleared up before heading back to Fort Wayne to pick up Vivienne.

They had to walk quite a ways through the park to get to the location of the X. Eventually they found themselves standing in a formerly marshy area. Reeds and cattails usually grew in the mucky soil here, but only their corpsesremained on the now dry plot. Grass was already starting to claim the place for its own. They read the riddle on the map again, then kicked around looking for the stump of a tree, since no actual trees were anywhere near the place where they could sense an opening. They didn’t find one, and Uffe studied the riddle harder, trying to see what he might have missed.

I die in flames of gold and red.
In cold white ash I stand there dead.
‘Till life again flows through my veins,
And youth recloaks my bare remains.
A solemn phoenix I exist,
‘Till different flames I can’t resist,
Consume me to the very core,
And dead I lie forever more.

Hank grew bored with waiting and decide to show off, racing toward the nearest tree, a small ash, and tackling it. He ripped it from the ground roots and all, then trotted back to the group to shove it into the soil beside Uffe. “You want a tree? Well here’s a tree.” He started to pose next to it, one arm wrapped proprietarily around it, but jerked back in surprise when it stated to shudder and twist. In the space of seconds it grew, quadrupling in size and splitting down the middle so that its two trunks formed a doorway.

Hank stepped through the passage into the hedge without a second thought, but Uffe and Adam squabbled in front of it for a while first. Uffe tried to shove Adam through, but Adam grabbed Uffe as he fell and the two passed through the portal together. Because of this Hank had plenty of time to tread water on the other side of the narrow stone hoop and ledge, gazing around at rocky cliffed islands and white sand beaches while waiting for the others to join him.

The argument in the real world made the other two a bit less capable of adjusting to the sudden change in their environment. Neither managed to get any purchase on the stone ledge, despite being small enough to fit upon it. Adam struggled to the surface of the salty water, sputtering and treading water with some difficulty, but Uffe hit his head on the ledge while falling and sank like a stone. Hank dove down after him, finding him easily in the crystal clear water despite the salt burning his eyes. Even dragging the scholar’s limp form he beat Adam to the nearest beach. He paused for a moment, uncertain what to do about the unbreathing archivist, then shoved down on the other man’s stomach to make him spit up the water he had swallowed. When that worked he flipped the other changeling over and patted his back roughly to try and get him breathing.

Uffe woke with a headache and a mouth full of sand. He glanced up the Cliffside, eyes following a trail along the rocks then looked over at the waterfall which carved a divot out of the beach, a thin veil of water trickling down the stone above the entrance to a half submerged cave. They decided to see what was on top of the island before exploring it’s innards and clambered up the cliff trail. At the top of the trail they found a barren plateau and a square concrete building with a single door. Hank opens the door easily despite the protesting squeak of long unoiled hinges. Inside they find food and ship supplies. While Uffe studied the single door Adam took some hatchets and a length of rope and Hank studied the barrels of salted pork.

The door was closed and locked. On the left side of it was a box holding four balls: white, red, blue and green. On right side of the door is a ledge with four concave depressions in it. Above the ledge was a lever. On the door the following message was carved.

If on a plate you are placing white, If green an red together be,
Ne’er can the blue be at its right. Then red and blue to right must be,
Green must never abut the red, If ye place green on a pan,
Unless you’re seeking to be dead. Place the blue at its right hand.
At either end, place no white, When blue in pan ye have placed
If ye would live out the night. On either side white must grace.
Place no blue at the right side, When placing red upon the scene,
Unless the red far left abides. Then to the left must be the green.
When placing blue it must be said, A white ball placed into the pan
To either side you must place red. Requires red on either hand

ONCE ALL IS SET AS I HAVE SAID,
PULL THE LEVER AND WATCH YOUR HEAD.

Uffe read over the instructions multiple times, then decided that there was absolutely no way to follow them. Too many of the carved statements were mutually contradictory. He choose to ignore most of the instructions, but did try to avoid the wire strung across the hallway beyond the door at head height. Hank failed to do the same, impeded by the mass of his bulk, and fells though the floor to slide down into a pit trap. In the pit he found a wooden frame decorated by a spread eagled skeleton in rotting clothes. On the skeleton he found a satchel containing a map. Adam and Uffe lowered him some rope, tying it off on a door for Hank to climb up. The group then proceeded warily down the hallway by the light Hank produced from invoking his mantle.

They came to another room full of supplies, these were the sorts of things one would use to repair a ship. Against one wall was a safe. It was big enough for most of the characters to walk inside of. As tall as Hank, metal outside, wood paneled inside, open and empty, the 5 alphabet dials were set to Gromm. They found the following note torn in half on the floor.

I’m the bet that you can’t lose.
For good join me to fail.
I am the harbor you should choose
When waters rough you sail.
And when the markets turn awry,
And when your holdings start to dry,
And high-risk ventures make you cry;
Hear what the bank espouses.
A simile will save the day
As I’m compared to houses.
No need to look beyond the gate,
For inside the treasure waits.

Gromm

Uffe is certain that the riddle refers to the empty safe and plays with the lock to confirm that Gromm is the combination. Adam takes one of his hatchets and pries the paneling off the inside of the safe finding an eye patch in the door. He wears it and says ‘ARRRR’. Hank stares blankly, more than a little bemused by this place.

Beyond the room was another tunnel like hallway. This one lead to a sheltered cove, a rough stone jetty and a two-masted ship. She was coal black and anchored fore and aft with her stern dug into the sand. She was about a hundred feet long and twenty feet wide. The gangplank was down.

Lying on the deck next to the gunwhale was a skeleton. It spoke to them when they boarded “Do one o ye Be the new captain?” Adam told the skeleton that he was the new captain. “Well, captain I be the first mate. The crew and I be enough to sails this here vessel, the Midnight Runner, just as soon as we have all o the pieces of eight.” the skeleton said. “We be needin the Spyglass, the Parrot, the Eyepatch, the Captain’s Hat, Cutlass, the Jolly Roger, the Bosun’s Whistle and the Treasure Map. Six Pieces be on the Runner, the other two be’s on the island somewheres.,, Oh, wait, it look like ye have the Eyepatch and the map.”

The party could see the Captain’s quarters from where they were standing, and all three of them headed there. Beyond the door they found a room richly adorned with fading opulence. Maritime paintings hung on the walls. Quills, papers, and crumbling bits of maps scattered the desk. Shelves covered in knicknacks framed the bed : empty perfume bottles, coral pieces, and old books being consumed by black mold. A large chest labeled captain’s hat sat against the back wall. It had a small circular hole instead of a keyhole and the inscription:

Twisting, turning, ever boring
As I delve toward the core.
Then at last my arms are squeezed
When I can spin no more.
My single fang holds to its prey
Though I shall never eat.
Instead the path is newly cleared
So you can have a treat.

Uffe was certain he knew what was needed, and he headed for the Galley where he thought he could find it.
Nothing fit for human consumption waited for him there, but he did find, pots, utensils, whisks, spoons, spatulas, corkscrews, potato peelers, brass spoons, forks and knives. He grabbed what he needed and headed back to get the Hat.

On his way into the Captain’s quarters for the second time he encountered Adam coming back from thee foredeck with Hank. There they had met a sad looking skeletal sailor. He explained that he used to be the lookout, but ever since his eyes rotted away he can’t see a thing without the Spyglass. He offered to give them the key to the store room if they brought the Spyglass to him, when they found it.

Hank climbed up into the rigging to head to the Crow’s nest. In the rigging he talked to a skeleton who was chasing and cursing at a parrot. The first mate knew how to catch it, but only told him a riddle:
A net to catch a fisherman
With no need to reel it in.
A net that when on land you see
Lets you swing from tree to tree
A net that’s used up in the air
Many finding solace there.

Hank called down to Uffe and Adam as they emerged from the Captain’s quarter’s, telling them what they needed to catch the parrot, then continued up to the Crow’s nest. There he found a skeletal watchman, some crows and their leavings. He engaged the skeleton in conversation, pointing out that the other skeleton was supposed to be a lookout. The irritated, bird feces covered skeleton responded “He can’t be the lookout now that his eyes have rotted away, now can he?” Hank shrugged in agreement then clambered down to meet the other two coming back from their hunt empty handed.

In their exploration they had come across the storeroom. It was locked and barred but inside they could see: candles, bars of soap, fishing rods with line and hook attached, needles, thread, leather, canvas, rope, buckets, mops… really all the sorts of things you’d expect from a storeroom. They also found the crew quarters, but instead of finding what they were looking for they found a completely cleared space where the crew was engaging in a bowling competition. They said everyone was invited to play, winner gets a big cup of grog, but you have to bring your own ball. They had found what they were looking for later, guarded by a very gloomy skeleton. “ Did you know, I haven’t laughed in fifty years? I used to laugh all the time, now I’m as stern as a stove.” “My name is Roger, but I haven’t been Jolly in forever. We can’t go anywhere till I’m jolly again, but I can’t figure out what it is that I need.” ‘Tell you what, if you can make me laugh I’ll give you my hammock here. I’ll be too Jolly for sleeping anymore.” “The first mate knows, but all I could get from him was this riddle.”
Sightless sends an arrow straight.
Akin to nothing is its weight.
Like fur it grows on hairless head.
Never sleeps yet stays in bed. The one ye need is midnight black,
When vitality is what ye lack.

No one was sure what the riddle meant, but Hank was excited by the thought of bowling. He charged off to the cannons, looking for something he could use as a ball. He found an entire rack with a triangle of holes in them. He grabbed one in each hand and headed for the crew quarters. He won his first round easily and downed his grog with great gusto. It made him tipsy enough to loose his second game, but he won the third time. After that he decided he’d been playing around for long enough and went to find the others. On his way he encountered a skeleton sitting by himself, in one hand he held a glass, in the other a bottle that had likely been empty since before Hank was born. “I’m drinking to forget… to forget what I used to be…I used to be a master spy… There was nothing that I didn’t know…now look at me, a worthless pile of bones trapped on this rotting ship.” “NO you can’t have my glass, I need it…I might trade it for a real cup of grog though.” Hank didn’t want to part with his grog, but decided that the Spy’s glass was more important. (This is when DC started playing the Zelda music for us whenever the group gained possession of a quest item) Hank stopped at the anchor while looking for the others. There a gang of skeletons sat around the anchor capstan. “Sorry sir- we ain’t going anywhere till we can raise the anchor. Over the years we’ve waited here the handspikes have rotted away and without the we can’t turn the capstan” “sure there‘s something that‘ll do it, but none o us can figure out the riddle”
Toothpick fit for giant’s maw,
One end flat and one end dull,
No eyes are found, nor teeth are seen,
In this odd shaped scull.
Pull it if you need a push;
Don’t keep it up if in a rush.

Hank thinks of something he saw in the life boats while he was in the crow’s nest and races off to get it, stopping to get the store room key on his way. While Hank was fooling around Uffe and Adam went to the armory looking for a cutlass. Old cutlasses and broken muskets lay scattered on the floor. The only whole cutlass in the room was the one inside the large crystal bolted to the wall. Carved into the crystal was the following riddle:

A graveyard where no coffins lie
Where thousands live and millions die.
The tombstone made by those no more
A home for many in their core.
A colony of poison threads
Rising up from the death bed.
Uncounted blades to flay your skin
Or sink the ship you’re riding in.

Like a knife to butter it is the key,
To open me up, scratch it on me

Uffe immediately knew what he needed and headed back up towards the captain’s cabin. The entire group met again at the mainmast where something glittering and fast moving was being chased by a skeletal sailor. To catch the Bosun’s whistle they needed:
A wand that casts no spells
Aligns lines, flies flies
Feeds prey then pulls them away
Wet threat, angle dangle

They solved the problem quickly, making use of that storeroom key Hank had gotten from the lookout. Then they stood on the deck trying to figure out how to make Roger Jolly again and catch the parrot. Eventually Hank just started listing everything he could think of that was bed related, eventually stopping when he named something that worked. He’d seen one earlier and remembered where to get it.

Once they had everything needed to make Adam the captain the first mate gave him a pirate coin, telling him that the midnight Runner would be at his service should he need her. No more dips in the drink for HIM. Next time he came through the doorway they’d be waiting with the gunwhale resting on the ledge so he could have a fine dry walk to his ship. The ship set sail after that taking them to another smaller island marked on the treasure map (Jaguar Island). They followed a long spiral trail up the island’s central mountain and came to an old Mayan looking temple. Inside they found a statue of an ancient warrior wearing a jaguar skin. Hank took the skin and put it on, completely vanishing from perception. None of Uffe or Adam’s senses registered Hank while he was wearing the skin.

For Hank the wearing of the cloak was a mind bending, experience… rather like a trip booked with magic mushrooms. Arcadia spread out around him, realms floating like bubbles in a mass of seething chaos. The hedge twisted around them, writhing and shifting like a chain of worms. Eternity was visible to his eyes, perspective a thing of the past. With focus he could have seen past immeasurable distances. He took the skin off slightly shaken, but with no damage to his clarity.

View
Fort Wayne

Today’s session started at the Ball

Adam asked for his boon from the court, a complex identity with dual Russian and American citizenship, then faded into the background to watch his fellows and the changelings of the court. Uffe and Vivienne both asked for their boons to be deferred, held in trust for a later date. Uffe then went to speak with the scholars and Vivienne mingled, tasting the snacks and wines. Hank had a glossy photo, torn from some sort of magazine. A giant truck, with a back seat and a bed large enough for even Hank to lay in glowed from the page. “I want to be the legal owner and operator of this truck” he said, and the Summer King handed the photo to one of his assistant’s, a slender tentacled and tailed woman with odd blue markings on her skin and very sharp teeth.

Uffe talked the scholar’s into showing him their library. While it was not lacking in any respect he was somewhat disappointed. Comparing what the scholars in Fort Wayne were doing to the hints of the goings on in South Bend that he had gotten from Booker’s notes and Library Uffe determined that while the Court at Fort Wayne had more in the way of traditional, real world wealth, it was South Bend where the cutting edge research and thinking were occurring.

Seeing Vivienne’s interest in the wines, a mangy, rabbity man with giant buck teeth under his tattered mustache approached her. His name was Roger, and he supplied the wine for this occasion, and most such occasions. He sent a moth eyed young woman running back to his rooms for some of his more experimental vintages, and showed them off to Vivienne with every sign of delight.

A cowgirl cowgirl wandered up to Hank and walked her finger up his arm to his shoulder. “Hey there big boy, want to dance?” she asked, and he said yes. Hank spent the evening dancing and drinking with Honey. They made quite a pair out on the dance floor. As long as they were alone (and they often were) It was easy to forget how large the pair of them were. His arms looped easily around her waist and her head rested against his shoulder. It was only when something else entered the scene to give perspective that you remembered the fact that most men’s heads don’t reach Honey’s titties.

Vivienne turned her attention to Charles later in the evening. She didn’t find it hard to get him to talk about himself, and with very little prompting he wandered into tales of his glory years, waxing poetic about the exploits of his former motley. For him his adventures as a knight were ‘the good old days’, back when Michael was his trusted second in command rather than a traitor planning nefarious things. He wouldn’t go into great detail about Michael’s current plans, telling Vivienne that she didn’t need to worry about such things. “Michael will never get the last piece of the artifact from me, so it doesn’t matter what he plans to do with it” the king told her.

She redirected the conversation back to his days as a knight, and managed to get more information about the artifact from him. Thomas the runnerswift, his motley’s spy, was the first to come to him with reports of the strange changeling wizard tearing things up at Mississinewa Lake state park. Candice the Manikin was their researcher, and she determined that the Jeffery Wagner was a changeling that had gotten a hold of (perhaps inherited) an artifact that gave him powers that one usually only saw in True Fae or mages. The fighters in their motley: Allen the Soldier, Sara the water dweller, Michael the Fireheart, and Charles captain and Venombite, staged an ambush for their enemy, distracting him long enough for Candice and Thomas to steal the crown from him. Once Jeffery was defeated Candice broke the artifact into six pieces. Each member of the motley took a piece to hide or otherwise protect in order to prevent the artifact from falling into the wrong hands again. Charles believes that all of his former motley member besides Michael are dead now, and holds Michael responsible for their deaths.

After the party, while everyone was sound asleep an Invisible intruder tried to steal the flower. Adam was the only one who perceived the stealthy movements of this midnight visitor, but when he wrapped his hands around the flower it shrieked a claxon like alarm. Vivienne screamed and pulled free, terror lending her abnormal strength. Loosing his grip on the flower caused the intruder to fall to the ground. Still invisible he managed to bolt through the door before anyone could grab him, shoving Uffe out of the door way so that he could escape into the larger sitting area. Adam was hot on his tail, and practically tripped over him, grabbing the intruder on the way down to keep the scrawny, undersized man from getting away. The intruder managed to break free and whistled briefly before everyone lost track of him again. Uffe moved closer to the door leading into the entryway to the suite, and cast a spell to fill any intruder with terror. Adam moved into the entry way and closed the door to the hall, hoping to trap the intruder inside the room so that the party could deal with him. The door did not stay closed for long, a heavy weight struck it from the other side as one of the thorn hounds violently forced the door open. 6 thorn hounds pour into the room to menace Uffe and Vivienne. One remains in the entry to confront Adam. Uffe intimidated and terrified the dogs into backing away from him. The white collared dog went for the flower, knocking it out of Vivienne’s hands and to the ground. Uffe leaped over the sofa to grab the flower before any of the other dogs could get to it.

Adam fought the dog with the yellow day lily collar, while Uffe tried to frighten the rest of the dogs into fleeing. Vivienne stood blankly, staring of into the distance. She too was using her court’s emotion to sway the battle, but her target was the invisible opponent’s desire for the flower. She accessed his mind and discovered that turning his desire for the flower into something else was surprisingly easy. Like a wire that has already been bent once, bending a desire back into its original shape is easier than warping its shape the first time. Vivienne sent the attacker running to the flowering woman who was his true desire… even though that desire was also false- a creation of a type of magic she did not recognize. When their master fled most of the dogs followed. The exception is the dog with the white carnation collar. It who wouldn’t leave without the flower. With a lunge and a leap the dog managed to steal the artifact from Uffe.

Adam chased down the fleet little thorn hound and killed it, listening to the woman cry for a second time. Vivienne leapt upon the fallen flower to prevent any of the other dogs from grabbing it from the floor, but none of them seemed intelligent or perceptive enough to realize that they should not leave without the artifact they came for. Adam, Vivienne and Uffe chased the dogs through the halls of the freehold, following the dogs. Adam caught and killed two as they ran. The dogs seemed different than before, and it occurred to Uffe that whatever magic had been suppressing the flower’s aura at the mound had also interfered with the hound’s ability to manifest themselves there.

Vivienne realized that the halls they were running through were both familiar and strangely deserted a few steps before following the dogs into Alfred’s parlor. A small door at the back of the left wall led to a bed room. An empty mirror frame stood opposite the bed in the back of the room, and it was around this the last three dogs grouped themselves as invisible hands picked up a bowl from a nearby table and traced glowing runes on the empty space within the tarnished silver with its contents. Adam attempted to engage the last three dogs while Uffe used his stab apples to harm their invisible nemesis. Despite the blood that splattered the floor where he was standing before the glowing runes, it seemed that he escaped, vanishing with those runes and leaving his dogs behind to be slaughtered. Uffe reclaimed the two stab apples he threw at the invisible man and the party licked their wounds while looking around.

Investigation of the room revealed nothing that a finicky old man wouldn’t be expected to have. Everything was old and worn, in many cases nearly worn through. Rather than replace anything he‘d simply taken REALLY good care of it. The shelves we full of binders detailing schedules and events. The closet was full of boxes of the same, neatly labeled and chronologically organized. There was a single picture on the walls- a black and white photograph of an early town… it looks as though it was taken with one of the earliest model cameras ever produced. The sort where the operator would have been holding a flash pan. Behind the picture is a safe with piano keys rather than a combination. Taped to the back of the picture frame is a note. There was a letter on the coffee table. Monica compared the font to other letters the party had collected and determined that it was written by Booker’s Queen.

The note on the back of the picture:
The RIGHT way to open the safe is

A silent ring,
A small shade of red,
Insulting,
A point unsaid.
Clumsy at last,
Or you’ll be dead.

There are five white piano keys set into the front of this safe. Each has a picture on it, but I can’t draw, so use your imaginations.

UNICORn BELl HAMMEr FEATHER LIGHTNING BOlT

The note on the table:
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

My servant,

It is of the utmost importance that we retrieve the flower from those who stole it. It will be dangerous for you to confront them directly, others among the Lost may come to their aide believing them to be in the right. This is not so, you well know that the flower belongs to me. Return my property to me and your rewards will be great.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

View
Interlude

For about an hour, as the sun set behind the mound, various ideas for where to go next were brought up and discarded. Eventually Uffe rolled a six sided die, which decided that they would return to Warsaw for the evening.

The entire Warsaw court was in the Great Hall discussing the sudden return of the hedge to normal, save one. Ruth was nowhere to be seen. The character’s told their story to boughts of applause from the gathered changelings before the place returned to its normal demeanor. The character’s mingled to chat and Vivienne focused on Doc. He answered her questions cheerfully enough before he downed his ‘special’ and passed out.

The party learned that the member of the Warsaw court who is best with computers is the Amoeba… its day job involves them somehow. They also learned that Ruth was tied down in one of the back rooms. The power that she uses to see into the future and the past takes a toll on her sanity and turns her into a raving lunatic for a random amount of time after she uses it

Doc told Vivienne that the boughs are a place, a thing, an entity, and nothing they offered her would be worth the price she paid, or her clarity. With a bit more prompting he told her the story of Kealor.

A few hundred years ago Kealor’s people lived in this area. After her escape from Arcadia this is where she returned, only to find that her people had been forcibly moved to Kansas. Following their trail she learned that all of those she loved best had died along the trail or shortly after arriving. She went to the boughs in a fury, wanting only vengeance against those responsible. She emerged from the boughs a monster, and rampaged across the countryside slaughtering those she blamed and anyone else who happened to get to close to her path. Eventually the Summer Court put together an army strong enough to take her down. All of those she had sworn vengeance against were dead, as was Kealor herself, and countless innocents.

Doc assured Vivienne that bargaining with the boughs was always like that. You get what you ask for, but in a twisted way, and for a price you would not have paid had the results of your bargain been explained in advance.

Uffe learned that Danny could produce just about any dish upon request and speculated about the types of magic which would allow such a thing.

Adam learned that as a reward for fixing the hedge Danny would preserve their goblin fruits free off charge.

General questions were asked about the ‘friendliness’ of the various courts. This is not a question they had ever considered before in depth, but they did their best to give a coherent answer.

Because of the transfer of power between the seasons each king and queen has an effect on the tone of their court, but does not really set that tone. The seneschal, as the right hand to whom ever is in power, is really the one who creates the unique culture of each city, regardless of the season.

The seneschal of Fort Wayne is the prime example of this. Alfred has been seneschal there for so long that no one really knows when he took power, he’s just always been there. As a chatelaine he has a fixation on propriety and formality that has permeated the courts there in a way found unpleasant by most of those in Warsaw. (Remember that the court in Warsaw is made up of Changeling misfits who wanted nothing to do with other people’s rules and politics. Everyone here finds Alfred stifling. You can guess that having someone stable who enforces sensible rules that never change would appeal to many Changelings.)

The seneschal of South Bend is a young windwing who goes by Zack. He has only been in charge there for a short while, none of your informants are exactly certain when his predecessor died, but round about a year ago, probably. None of the Changelings from Warsaw have lived in South Bend that recently, but those who have been there to visit agree that he runs things in a fairly laid back, easy going sort of way.

The general consensus is that South Bend is the ‘friendlier’ of the two cities.

The party slept in Warsaw that night. I handed out write-ups of their dreams/ memories from Arcadia and the next morning they chose to go to Fort Wayne.

The hollow which houses the kings and queens of Fort Wayne is both larger than the one in Warsaw and very different from it. The Great Hall has something of a jazz club feel and look to it. Fort Wayne reminds people more of a stately old world hotel. Rich colors and gilded carvings decorate the pristine walls. A lackey lead the group of you down a plushly carpeted hallway to Alfred’s office. There you consumed tea and compliments while making small talk. Alfred told you about the most recent ascension of a King or Queen in Fort Wayne. Charles defeated Michael for the honor in a grand tournament after the last summer King Lost an eye in a battle and decided that he was no longer fit to lead his court of warriors. He was asked about South Bend but only responded that he does not keep track of the goings on in South Bend as Fort Wayne is more than enough to keep him busy. Absolutely no one believed this, and they should have, because he really is a good liar. I should have made them roll, but it would have been pointless 

From Alfred’s room they were lead to a suite. An entry way let in to a single common room attached to four luxurious bedrooms, each with it’s own attached bath. In each bedroom a formal garment was waiting, perfectly sized to fit one of the party members. The primary color tones are black and white, but some had bits of silver and glitter. Each of you can add a set of formal wear to your sheets if you want.

The Ball was grand, you were feasted, applauded and flirted with. You received potions, a set of hedge weave armor, and a boon each, though no one has yet told me what they are going to request. Everyone who came to the session got a medal. Hank had to stand to the side and watch his friends get awards like Chewbacca.

View
The mound

Yours is the only car you see as you drive down back roads in between South Bend and Warsaw. Abandoned house dotted the road side, crouching behind shrubbery long untrimmed. It hadn’t taken much investigation to discover that these homes had been abandoned after an industrial plant tainted the ground water. The families that once owned these properties had lost everything to corporate greed, while those responsible escaped unscathed by the consequences of their actions.

The mound was set aside when development in this area first began. It was possibly an Indian burial ground, but if so the descendants of those buried here had been driven away or exterminated. No archeologists came to investigate this place, and it is as overgrown as anything you’ve driven past.

Hank drives up and parks the SUV, pulls a magazine out of the glove compartment and leans his seat back. He clearly intends to stay with the car once again. The rest of the party starts the long walk around the mound.

As they walked into the clearing that surrounds the mound a shiver passed over them. The hedge was completely open here. There is no boundary to keep THEM away. The mound existed solidly in both the human world and THEIRS and where human eyes saw only grass and dirt, theirs saw a hewn stone archway and a door.

Into the lintel of the door the following words were carved:

“What am I?” The two lines ask.
Finding it becomes your task.
You sign your name, but cannot write.
A secret pirate treasure site.

And the door itself also contained a message:

A stroll under the sky so blue, upon the grass so green
Should relax any warrior bold, and make him quite serene.
But here the warrior draws his club and bashes at his foe
Who tries to flee but cannot hide when his pace starts to slow.
Through ways so fair and places rough the warrior takes his toll
Til he just taps his little foe and drops him in a hole.
Where eagles fly you will see the warrior wear a grin
He’ll help his foe out of the hole and then smack him again.
No lives are lost, no blood is drawn, that’s not this warrior’s way
Instead he’ll take his foe back home so they can fight another day.

Vivienne quickly surmises the meanings of the paired riddles, touching the X in the word ‘relax’ She triggered a grinding noise from behind the door and a howling from behind the party.

Guardian dogs attacked as soon as she touched the door. They reformed after being defeated and re-attacked after a few rounds. The only way to escape them was through the slowly opening door, or out of the clearing. The shape of the entrance kept their attacks down to three at a time. There were seven of them. They seem skeletal at a distance, but as they approached their real make-up became visible. They were woven out branches and thorns with human eyes set into sockets woven from vines. Each had a floral harness wrapped around it, and for each the harness was a different flower. The dog with the white carnation harness was smaller than the other’s, and Uffe thought she looked more human than the rest. As the party fought them and waited for the door to open far enough to escape through several were temporarily destroyed. Each released a wisp of sound as it disintegrated.

White carnation: Why? Why Jenna, Why?
Red rose: a woman’s voice singing in
Purple Clematis: voices laughing while something is struck with a hammer
Blue Lotus: running water, more stream than faucet.
Fox tail astilbe, Golden day lily, and Lily of the valley were not destroyed during the combat.

The party retreated into the mound, climbing down into the darkness before following a dark tunnel to an room where torches lit themselves, To there right an left the following message was engraved and before them was another hallway. This hallway was tiled, eight tiles long. Door leading out of the hallway were located on either side of a plinth in the eighth tile.

Seven tricky traps are here,
Some are deadly, all severe.
Over, under, left and right,
Which come first? Oh what a plight!

Five tiles have traps, three in a row,
No two paired squares are safe you know.
Seventh square doom looms overhead.
Jump ‘ere you swerve or you’ll be dead.

You must go left after swerving right
Or surely you will get a fright.
After you jump over under,
Roll under over else you’ll blunder.

Of three ways in two will abuse,
One is left which you must use.
When treasure’s won if you’re still strong,
You must go right or else go wrong.

They had a hard time with this particular puzzle, but eventually Adam followed the instructions, retrieved a key from the plinth and opened the correct door.

The next room was once a treasure chamber. Empty shelves climbed the walls of this cone shaped room. Plinths were scattered about, but nothing rested upon them. In the center of the room a burning flower sprouted, shedding radiance all about it. Vivienne spoke to it seductively for a time before Uffe reached over to pluck it. In his hand it transformed, petals becoming jewels, stem and leaves becoming a golden filigree that would keep it stable if set on a flat surface.

The bottom seemed to drop out of the world for a moment as the hedge returned to it’s normal configuration. As the intrepid trio emerged blinking from the darkness of the mound they found themselves in a hedge garden, surrounded by eldritch bounties and goblin fruits. They ate their fill, then gathered up as much as they could carry and followed Uffe through a tangle of overgrown pathways to emerge into the human world a few blocks from where they entered. They rejoined Hank to show off their harvest and an artifact powerful enough to radiate magic like a lamp gives off light.

View
The professor's house

It’s early on a Wednesday, and the Great Hall is even more abandoned than usually. Lady Leather and Jackie Jackal are gone, off at their jobs. Danny Brewer is cleaning behind the bar before heading off to cook for the lunch rush at whatever restaurant he cooks at. The Amoeba is off doing whatever it is the Amoeba does during the day.

You sit as a group at the only occupied table, discussing how much the world has changed, and brainstorming ideas for your futures.

Rufus walks in, leading Ruth. They head over to Danny and a low voiced conversation ensues, with Danny firmly and repeatedly shaking his head “no”. After a moment Ruth walks away from him. She pauses for a moment, staring blindly off at nothing, then turns and walks over to your table.

“Are you guys busy today? I’ll lend you my car if you do me a favor, Danny’s too busy to drive me.”

<<hank>>

Ruth amongst the Changelings and Agatha to mortals, she is a tiny thing, bird boned and frail. If she weighs more than one hundred pounds you’d be shocked. Her red curls are frizzy today and look a bit unkempt. She is wearing a soft blue button up dress and a pair of sensible black slip ons. The bandana that covers her eyes is clean, white and starkly bare.

Hank: <<southern>> “Well I dunno there Strawberry Shortcake, been kinda long a week. We sorta favor ya lookin fer?”

Ruth: “I have a friend in South Bend who seems to have gone missing. People are saying that he’s involved in something nefarious, but I know he’s not that sort of person… Also, I have this feeling like he’s in trouble, and it’s getting worse. If I give you his address, his alarm code and tell you where he hides his spare key will you go to his place and look around? See if you can figure out what sort of trouble he’s gotten himself into?”

Hank: “Ya must be pretty good buddies, ya seem to know alotta bout ‘im. Souf Bend, dats dem Irish country aint it? I don’t mean to talk down to ya there cupcake…” <<giggle>> “…But I’m not exactly a set of car keys, its not like people aint gonna notice Big Country slippin into a house.”

Ruth: “He likes his privacy, there is a big fence around his property. If you go in through the garage no one will notice you.”

Hank: “Well, so long as you don’t be thinkin I’m gonna be stickin out like a sore thumb….I dunno, seems kinda sketchy to me. Just sittin here talkin bout it has me more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin chairs….tell ya wuuut. I’m a lil strapped for cash. Get me another one of deez here beers to relax the nerves, and I’ll chew it on over.”

She clucks softly to her dog, then heads back to the bar. She hands Danny some cash and he gives her a six pack from the back. She brings it over to you, walking very carefully, not really lift her feet, just shuffling along slowly. You get the feeling that she falls often, and is used to breaking fragile things when she carries them.

Hank: “Ya’ll right there teacup? Ya look bout as nervous as a fag eatin a hotdog in front of his parents”

Ruth: “I just don’t like carrying glass. I don’t much like fires either.” She hands you the beers.

Hank: “Fair ‘nuff. Well seeins how yall been so hospitable…and fer the beers, I reckon I’d be willin to help ya out. I aint never been too good at the secret squirrel shit, but I an drive a pickup real good. I don’t speak for deez folks though…”

Ruth: “Thank you.” She pulls a memo pad out of her purse, and use the fingers of her free hand to keep her pen in line as she writes down an address, the alarm code, and a manual code for opening the garage door. “He has one of those plastic owls for scaring little animals in his garage. The spare house key is inside it.”

Hank: <<takes>> “whelp…waddaya think?”

Uffe: Ulfbjörn quietly watches the exchange between the massive bulk of a man and the waify redhead. He blinks, the last seconds of the conversation coming to bear on him. He had only been half-listening as he had been lost in thought about whether Rufus understands that Ruth is blind or what conception he might have about her. But when the note is dropped before the group with melodramatic flair, he begins to smile. “Ja, let’s find out what is going on. I just love a good mystery!” he states excitedly.

Hank drives Ruth SUV to the address she indicated. It’s a bit more than an hour drive.

The good professor owned a house. It’s a cozy little two bedroom home painted a faded shade of yellow. The front yard is about the size of a king comforter and the back yard is shaped like an “L” to provide space for the garage. A concrete path runs from the side door to the garage, but the space on either side of the yard is beautifully landscaped with brightly colored flowers blooming. The only thing out of place are the milk pods scattered heavily through the flowers as if they belong. Tall fences run along the sides and back of the yard. You cannot see out and no one could possibly see in. In the garage you find banker’s boxes and copy paper boxes stacked so that only one car will fit. Hank dropped Uffe, Vivienne and Adam off at the house and drove the SUV to a nearby gas station where he parked it and waited for them to call. Sifting through those boxes the party found what seemed to be the entire worldly goods of a woman. They suspected these were the belongings of Booker’s dead wife.

The party entered the house through the side door, which took them into an alcove beside the kitchen. Directly in front of them was the door to the basement.

The other door from the kitchen lead to the living room. The couch is white and the walls are a soft lavender. You can see into the kitchen on your left and the dining room just beyond the living room, only a half wall separates the two. Pictures hang on every wall framed in pure white that matches the rooms trim and decor. Every one of them is of a beautiful blond girl. A few of the older ones show her with a woman, but most are of her alone. In the most recent seeming pictures she looks like she might be eleven. Opening the frame and looking at the back of the pictures showed that they were labeled. The little girl is Jenna. The woman is Charlotte. In the newest pictures the girl looks to be about 11.

The dining room lets you into a hall. Directly in front of you is a girl’s bedroom. The walls are painted in a beautiful mural of lilacs. A white canopy hovers over a queen sized bed, gauzy drapes dripping down like something out of a princess’s castle. Everything in here is white and lacy or purple and flowery. Giant stuffed animals stand guard over the bed while their smaller brethren and dolls line the walls. They watched out of dead glass eyes as you poke about through tiny lacy panties.

To the left is a small bathroom and to the right is another bedroom. Wood paneling hides the walls here and a heavy red comforter rests on the twin sized bed. There isn’t room for much else, this bedroom is less than half the size of the other one.

The basement is a finished study walled in bookcases. A large desk holds pride of place in the center of the room. A small waste basket sits next to it, half full of crumpled papers. An iMac and a desk lamp sit on top of the desk. The drawers are full of what look like student papers. Each is a thick stack, two dozen pages minimum. The first one is titled “A history of pronoun usage from middle English to modern times”. You read through it, struggling to pay close attention, but when you are done you cannot remember a word that you read. You feel muzzy headed and stupid, as if the brain cells you tried to force that information into committed suicide rather than retain it. There are little post it notes full of the professor’s handwriting all over the papers in his drawers. There are also a series of notes stuck to his computer. Mostly simple things. He seems to have not trusted his memory. Tracking back through his papers showed that the notes started Fall of 2010. Anything older than that either never had post it notes stuck to it, or has had them removed.

The three partial letters from below are in the trash can. He was in the process of hand caligraphying them before he wadded then up and threw them away. THE COMPLETED LETTER IS THE MOST RECENT DOCUMENT ANYONE HAS WORKED ON IN THE COMPUTER. The other documents in the computer seem to all be related to the classes he teaches or the students whose thesis and dissertation boards he is on.

A large sectional couch sits across from a complex entertainment system at the far end of the room. Screens are recessed into the ceiling. They can be pulled down in front of the bookshelves and used to close of the part of the room where the couch is. Vivienne found these while poking around the room.

Two doors lead out of this room, one to a more extravagant bathroom than the one upstairs and the other opens into a laundry room beyond which you find the boiler and furnace. The bins near the washer hold patterned furniture covers that can go over the various parts of the sectional to change the way it looks and bits of scenery. A cabinet over the washer holds a variety of adult sized masks. The one over the dryer contains laundry detergent and supplies.

The entertainment system is wired to a computer. Almost any electronic device you can imagine is a part of this set-up. You need a password to log in. There are projectors, cameras and a pair of professional quality movie cameras.

Rolling 7 successes Uffe found a false panel in the desk directly across from the chair. Inside is a picture album. Do you remember Jon Bennett Ramsey and those child beauty pageant pictures of her that were everywhere for a while? Imagine those crossed with a playboy magazine. Also, there was a small piece of paper. With a riddle on it.

A table you won’t sit at,
With nobles on one side.
Gold and silver on it,
That none can steal or hide.
He and I are there to find -
A universal guide.

Uffe immediately solves the riddle, having no problem recognizing that is a reference to the periodic table. Looking around the room he sees a book on that subject in the bookshelf directly behind him. When he picks it up something within the bookshelf clicks and it swivels out revealing the only mirror in the house

Stepping through the mirror took you to an area beyond the hedge. You followed a long narrow hall until it suddenly widened. Before you was a double door. On each of the doors was a sculpted face with its mouth open. Beneath each face was a riddle:

Heads were crushed beneath the wheel,
As they died they formed a meal,
Cast they were as into hell,
A staff was formed with auburn shell.
Best break it into pieces few,
For when its served it does serve you.
Yield this treasure unto my teeth,
Lofty wisdom I’ll then bequeath.

From the heavens and from below
In all who live but does not grow.
It flies, it runs, it falls, it creeps
It runs away from he who weeps.
For some a road, for some it’s home
For many death when it should roam.
Give unto me this substance clean
And mighty powers will be seen.

Vivienne and Uffe correctly deduced that these riddle referenced bread and water. Adam ran upstairs to the kitchen to get some of both and placing the items into the mouths of the statues caused the doors to open.

Beyond the double doors you entered a combination study and work room. Books and papers lay scattered about, almost all of them have notes written in the professors cramped cursive through out their margins. He was clearly a big one for writing down his thoughts so that he would not forget them. There are many gaps in the shelves, but no dust on them, in sharp contrast to the items around them, some of which are quite dusty. It is pretty clear that someone went through this room with some speed, taking several items with them when they left. The desk is completely bare except for a single note (Plan B). Some one else wrote the note, but the professor’s notes run down the side of it.

From the garbage can:

Michael,
I will never aid anyone who had any responsibility for what happened to Jenna

Michael,
I cannot believe that you expect me to continue on with my work for you after

Michael,
How dare you

From the computer:

Michael,
I understand how important my work with the hedge is to you. New Changelings often settle in the town into which they first re-emerge into the world, and making South Bend more accessible to new changeling could significantly swell the ranks of your people. However, my step-daughter’s recent accident sits heavily in my thoughts. Drive by shootings like this one were rare in the past, and I never thought that I would feel the pain of this sort of incident. As you have reminded me so recently, she was only a human girl, but she was all I had. I returned to this world with nothing. My wife gave me everything before dying in that accident, and my Jenna was all I had to cling to after her mother left me. Though she was not my blood she was my heart and soul. Your feud with Charles means nothing to me next to the pain, despite your reminder that I should ‘focus on the bigger picture’. This is the last missive you will receive from me.
Booker

Plan B

1. Alter the Hedge My way, not Michael’s. He forgets that he is not MY king.

2. Hide the Artifact I’ll just return it to the mound. It certainly took me long enough to find it there.

3. Complete the doses The PerP is a difficult potion. I shall have to be careful doing this elsewhere.

4. Meet me beneath the boughs I hope it never comes to this. Any separation from you is terror greater than your anger, My Queen.

AAAAaaaaannnnnnnnddddd IIIIIIeeeeeeIIIII

Map 1: Chain O’Lakes State Park

There are three notes written on this map.

Standing alone,
No place to hide,
Bearer of visions,
Dreams I provide.
Girded in armor,
To touch me is pain
My arms to the heavens
Praying for rain.


I fell here
Through a hole in the sky
Left, right, left, right

Haiku are hard.
Does my Queen like haiku?
Did I never ask, or have I forgotten?

Map 2: Ouabache State Park

There is one note written on this map.

I die in flames of gold and red.
In cold white ash I stand there dead.
‘Till life again flows through my veins,
And youth recloaks my bare remains.
A solemn phoenix I exist,
‘Till different flames I can’t resist,
Consume me to the very core,
And dead I lie forever more.

Map 3: Potato Creek State Park

There are 6 written areas on this map.

At sixteen hands
I’ve carried brands
And helped to drive the cattle.

I’ve danger shared
When, war declared,
I’ve turned the tide of battle.

When Helen’s lips
Launched many ships
With thousands came I thither.

But never Troy
Could Greeks destroy
‘Till I did them deliver

Remember to bring the cleaners!

Crossing is as easy as 1-2-3

Map 4: Mississinewa Lake

There is one note written on this map.

I often find myself wondering about the being who designed these hollows. Who were these dangerous puzzles supposed to keep out? Who were they supposed to let in? It seems like such a lot of effort to go to, A Hollow for each artifact, unique deterrents to random visitors… perhaps I will know soon. This is the last of the State Parks. The Chalice must be here.

Map 5: The Mound

This map is different from the others. Rather than being a part of a pamphlet it is a print up from a computer map service. The only thing written on it is “The Mound” next to an X. Vivienne looks this place up online while Uffe calls Hank and the rest of the party dump things out of boxes in the garage, fill the boxes with the professor’s books and load them into the SUV. Uffe speaks to the professor’s nosey neighbor, Mary Martin and learns about Jenna’s death in a drive by shooting at the nearby park which injured Booker. He also learned that Mary made Jenna’s pageant gowns. Vivienne learned that the area around the mound was deserted years ago when waste from an industrial facility tainted the ground water. The company declared bankruptcy rather than deal with it. No government agency was willing to foot the bill to clean it up and the whole town has been abandoned since then. The mound itself was abandoned years earlier when it was set aside as a possible location for historical artifacts but never investigated.

The party took the books back to the Great Hall and decided to head immediately to the Mound. They stacked the boxes in piles around everyone’s bed but Hanks, since a bed big enough to accommodate Hank pretty much filled the little guest rooms in the Great Hall.

The fonts for the various people’s handwriting don’t show here, but you guys should still have the handouts somewhere to reference.

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Introduction

Every summer for the past few decades The courts of South Bend and Fort Wayne have engaged in outright warfare. What started as friendly competitions escalated into violence. This summer everything was going as normal when suddenly the hedge rippled. The areas between the two cities became insanely dangerous for changelings, and no one in either city could enter the hedge, nor is it possible to exit the hedge into either place.

With this sudden shift in supernatural terrain the city of Warsaw became a hub of activity. Your characters all exited the hedge at the same time, near the Warsaw Dairy Queen, on the same day. The day that travel to both of the major cities in the area became cut off. Your memories of your time in Arcadia quickly faded, like the tattered remnants of a nightmare, leaving you just enough knowledge of where you came from to know that you never want to go back.

The court in Warsaw is tiny, with only a handful of members. They really had no clue what to do with you, as most of them chose to live in this area primarily because the hedge here had been fairly difficult to traverse. They wanted to be left alone, mostly, and hadn’t planned for what to do with a crop of younglings like you. You were brought to their Great Hall, and have been staying there as they struggle to reintroduce you to human society and teach you the ways of the changelings and the hedge.

The Great Hall of Warsaw is the Old Gatke Factory. Closed down years ago, the soil underneath it is tainted by the chemical byproducts of processes that long predate the EPA and OSHA. Of no use or interest to humans the place sits abandoned, tall windows broken and brick crumbling. Inside the place a battered door hangs lopsided, with the worlds “The Great Hall” spray painted onto it. Past that door is a long narrow staircase visible only to changeling eyes. A flickering bulb lights the way down to a dingy club which rests in a hollow within the hedge. Lady Leather performs on the battered wooden stage there, angelic voice bringing new life to sad songs of love lost. The Amoeba tends the bar, pseudo pods shooting out of its immense bulk to mix and pour drinks. The staff never out numbers the patrons on any night you guys aren’t there, but no one seems to care about that. You’ve been living in the rooms upstairs, they aren’t luxurious, but you each have a bed, desk, table, dresser and chair. There are no mirrors here.

There are eight members of the Warsaw court, but only four of them live in Warsaw itself. The other four live in Mentone, Winona Lake, Leesburg and Claypool. You know all of their court names, but only a few of their human identities.

1. Lady Leather: Winter’s queen in Warsaw is one of the Bright Ones. Luminously beautiful blue eyes literally glow as she regards the world around her, she is the ‘talent’ at the Great Hall, though you aren’t certain whether the other Lost come to hear her sing or to eat the delicious food. You’ve never seen her out of her leather pants, boots and corset, and have spoken with her the least of any of the Changelings that call the Great Hall home. She has long brown hair and pointed ears. During the day she works at a battered women’s shelter and as a substance abuse councilor.

2. The Amoeba: Ruler of Warsaw’s Spring court, the Amoeba is a Gargantuan. As a human it is morbidly obese with greasy pale skin and stringy blondish hair. Your eyes can see even greater hideousness as translucent skin stretches tautly over thickly moving dark blobs. Pseudo pods sometimes extend out of the massive rolls of flesh acting as extra hands. No one you’ve spoken to has ever applied a gender pronoun to the Amoeba, but you are almost certain that it is female. The amoeba never wears a shirt. You aren’t sure what it does when it isn’t in the Great Hall.

3. Jackie Jackal: A Hunter heart and the summer queen of Warsaw, Jackie is one of the few members of the court whose human identity you all know. It was she who explained to you how to weave together the truth of being one of the Lost with the fiction of a human identity. She works as a teacher at the high school, and coaches the girls basketball team. She feeds off of the competitions between the students as well as their reactions to her pop quizzes. Jackie is a tall, slender, athletic woman with thick black hair and warm brown eyes. Only other changelings can see the thick fur and sharp toothed muzzle that make her a furry lover’s wet dream. Jackie is the waitress at the Great Hall, and likely the Amoeba’s lover.

4. Danny Brewer: He took his kith name as his last name and is the King of Warsaw’s fall court. Danny is a slender, pretty young man, dainty, precise and graceful. He is soft spoken and informative, but rarely volunteers information. He cooks, cleans and seems to do all of the actual work involved in running the Great Hall as if it were a business. His short brown hair is nearly the same color as his skin. It isn’t until you get close to him that you realize he’s made of wood, and the abstract swirls that look like tattoos from a distance have been carved into his skin leaving ridges you could feel if you ran your hands across him. He cooks for a Mexican restaurant as well as at the Great Hall.

5. Wormy is a Tunnelgrub from the spring court. Long and lanky with dreadlocks from which he drew his name he’s generally some shade of gray and rather slimy looking. You know that he runs a mushroom farm, and he will regale anyone who chooses to listen with the difficulties involved in acquiring the high quality stallion urine he needs to marinate his compost in. He smells like compost and freshly turned dirt lightly sprinkled with the contents of an outhouse.

6. Horace Oak is a Woodblood from the summer court. He is actively involved in hunting and outdoor sports and will complain at length about the local DNR. Horace is a big man with a big beard and wild hair. Leaves and twigs tangle in both. He dresses in flannel and jeans.

7. Agatha is the winter court’s Oracle. The changelings call her Ruth. She is a tiny red head who wears a blindfold over her eyes. Mortals who see underneath it think that she was born without eyes. Changelings can she that some one, or some thing dug her eyes out leaving bloody furrows in the flesh around them that have never healed. Her seeing eye dog is named Rufus, and she goes nowhere without him. He’s a big, friendly golden retriever.

8. Doc is the least talkative member of the courts of Warsaw. You suppose that he is a member of Danny’s court but all you’ve ever heard him say is “Bring me one of Danny’s specials.” Shortly after that Jackie brings him a shot of a rich golden liquid which he tosses back before passing out. He is a tiny, wizened old man with fingers like twigs, gray hair and tired eyes. Jackie told you that he is a Chirgeon.

Currently the Summer Courts rule, and you have heard a bit about the Summer Kings of South Bend and Fort Wayne.

1. Michael of South Bend is a Fireheart
2. Charles of Fort Wayne is a Venombite

You have heard a great deal of gossip about the upheaval, as the sudden alteration of the hedge has come to be called. Most of it focuses around a Professor of Linguistics at IU’s South Bend campus who also happened to be a Fall Court changeling. His stepdaughter was killed in the fighting just days before the upheaval, and he vanished immediately after it. No one has seen him since. He was a specialist in hedge magic, and was the one the South Bend court sent for when the upheaval occurred. He apparently sent the King of Southbend a letter that claimed responsibility for changes in the hedge, but no one is quite sure how he went about it. General opinion is that he either created or used an artifact of some sort. The Courts of South Bend and Fort Wayne are both offering a fantastic array of rewards to anyone who can help fix things.

It is now the beginning of June in the year 2012.

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Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.

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