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Welcome to Episode 37 of the Rescued by Dragons fantasy podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club:
My name is Brian Messmer and I am not only your story teller, but the dungeon master behind the homebrew Dungeons and Dragons campaign this story is based on. Please join me as I tell the tale of how my players, and the dice, ruined and improved my perfectly laid plans.
But first, a quick recap…
In episode 36, The Brunch Club enjoyed their time off in their own unique ways. Drusilla built her alchemy lab and brewed a batch of greater healing potions for the group. Jory went to Elnor where he made some extra money challenging passersby to “Punch the Drunk.” Diesa also went to Elnor and made some extra money by picking the pockets of those who stopped to watch their fellow citizens attempt to punch a drunk halfling disguised as an elderly gnome. Elora found an exotic animal seller and bought a red-furred wolf, who she named Copper. She spent the weeks training Copper, and together they scouted the gnolls who were still active in the forest to the north of Wheaton. Salys took solace in whittling individual Bahamut pendants for the group to wear in honor of Vorjhon. She also went to Saberhagen’s where they spent time in a warm sun spot, and discussed the meaning of magic. Back at their lighthouse, they decided their next step should be to ambush the gnolls, capture one, and question him.
Episode 37: Beyonce Gnolls
Since Drusilla introduced the group to the concept all those weeks ago, they fell into the habit of calling every meal before noon, “brunch.” It was after an early morning brunch when they set out on their mission to capture one of the gnolls Elora had seen in the forest to the north. Mere steps into their journey, they saw Kalavar flying in circles above Wheaton. He landed with a thud outside the town, but still towered over its walls.
“Woah, what’s Kalavar doing out here?” Salys asked.
“I don’t know, but we should go say ‘Hi’,” Jory said excitedly.
Nearly the entire population of Wheaton had come out to see the ancient bronze dragon in person. They joined the crowd of people that had taken the two day walk from Elnor to witness whatever event was about to take place. The crowd split in half, moving to either side of the road as a wagon pulled by four guards advanced toward Kalavar. Six wizards in ceremonial robes walked behind. Their hoods were pulled up to hide their faces.
An older man with a wild beard and wilder eyebrows stood lashed to a pole in the middle of the wagon.
The Brunch Club spotted Mayor Gladstone in the crowd and approached him to ask what was going on.
“They’re executing a wizard,” he said dourly.
“Why here? Why not in Elnor?” asked Drusilla.
“They don’t want to sully their precious Crystal District with the blood of a traitor. They consider it more degrading to execute him here, outside the gates of an ‘uncivilized town’,” the mayor said, bitterness obvious in his voice. As if suddenly remembering his official position, he shifted to a more cheerful, pragmatic tone. “On the other hand, these people have walked for two days and will need our taverns and inns. And we’re not so uncivilized that we won’t take their gold.”
The Brunch Club waded through the crowd of people from Elnor to get a better look at the condemned wizard in the wagon. They instantly recognized him as Kormir from the wanted poster, though the former ferocity had been replaced by a look of exhausted resignation.
They listened to the comments from the people in the crowd around them.
“I can’t believe they caught a wizard as powerful as Kormir,” one said.
“Serve’s him right, hiring an assassin and all,” answered another.
“What if he’s innocent?” another suggested. “He didn’t actually do the killing. Maybe Varjo acted on her own?”
The second man pointed at Kalavar. “The giant dragon thinks he’s guilty. You want to go tell him he’s wrong?”
The crowd fell silent as the guards pushed people on either side further away from the wagon.
Kalavar spoke to the bound wizard in a deep menacing voice that echoed off Wheaton’s wooden walls. “Kormir,” the dragon began. “You have been accused and found guilty of the murder of a fellow wizard for personal gain. You are hereby sentenced to death. There will be no appeal. There will be no last words.” Kalavar then cautioned the crowd to shield their eyes.
Lightning jumped from the dragon’s mouth and a magnesium-bright, blue and white flash surrounded the wagon. Everyone in the crowd felt the hair on their arms and necks stand up from the sudden electricity in the air.
When the light faded, all that was left of Kormir and the wagon was a small pile of ash. One of the wizards unceremoniously animated a small broom and swept Kormir into a coarse sack.
Elora led her companions deep into the snow covered forest. It wasn’t until they stopped for lunch that they spoke for the first time since the scene outside Wheaton.
“Man,” said Salys. “That was intense.”
“Yeah,” breathed Jory. “I mean, you hear the stories about how powerful dragons are, but to actually see one in action, up close.” The halfling shuddered involuntarily as he recalled the scene.
“He made a decent roommate for a couple days though,” said Diesa, seemingly unphased.
After some rations and a short rest, Elora told them they were getting closer.
“Salys, can you warg into pip to see if you can spot them as we get closer?” Drusilla asked.
“I can,” Salys said, “But I won’t be able to do anything else, like walk.”
“You can ride Copper,” offered Elora.
Salys excitedly accepted the offer, remembering how much she enjoyed riding Duke between Wyhill and Sturgeon all those weeks ago.
They marched toward one of the paths Elora had seen the gnolls routinely patrol. Salys summoned Pip and shifted her consciousness into her familiar. Drusila and Diesa walked on either side of Salys to protect her helpless form and make sure she didn’t slip off Copper.
The white pygmy owl which held Salys’s consciousness soared above the trees. Her keen owl sight scanned the snow-covered ground beneath her. She saw a small dark shape in the distance. It moved slowly but deliberately toward The Brunch Club. Salys directed Pip back to the group and shifted her consciousness back into her own body.
Pip shuddered and shook his head. “I fucking hate it when you do that,” he muttered, before flying off into the forest.
“They’re coming this way, about forty-five minutes out,” Salys told them.
She couldn’t see how many of them there were, or how spaced out they were, but Elora’s numerous scouting reports had revealed the patrols usually comprised five gnolls walking ten feet apart.
“So what’s the plan?” Jory asked.
“We should hide and set an ambush,” Elora said, as she quickly climbed one of the nearby trees.
Drusilla watched the ranger disappear silently into the snow covered branches. The cleric found her own tree and tried to leap up to the first branch. Her heavy armor weighed her down, but after several minutes, managed to reach it. After another few minutes, she managed to pull herself up to the next branch, which was as high as she got.
“Wow!” exclaimed Jory. “You’re really high up!”
“She’s like six feet off the ground,” Diesa said, “so now she’s mmmm I don’t know, mid chest height to a gnoll?”
“You’re hiding like shit, Drusilla!” Elora called out from her hidden perch.
“Fine!” Drusilla pouted, and jumped back down into the snow.
“Sooooo? What’s the plan? They’re gonna be here soon,” Panic began to creep into Jory’s voice.
“We hide,” Drusilla began. “When the first one’s in range, I’ll use a grasping vines spell to pull it away from the rest of the group.”
“I have a spell that might hold it in place,” Salys said.
“If that doesn’t work I can try and stun him,” said Jory.
“The rest of us can pick them off from a distance while you and Salys are taking care of the leader,” Diesa said as she withdrew her shortbow and nocked an arrow onto the string.
“Did you get all that, Elora?” Drusila shouted up into the tree.
“Yes!” Elora replied quickly, then added in a frustrated voice, “Now will you all please shut the fuck up and hide?”
They shut the fuck up and hid, waiting silently for the sound of footfalls in the snow.
After a few minutes the gnoll patrol came into view. When the lead gnoll was within range, Drusilla stood and said, “Now!” She muttered a prayer, made a gesture with her hands, and a tangle of green vines exploded from the snow. They reached forward and wrapped around the legs and torso of the front gnoll and yanked him forward 30 feet.
Diesa and Elora opened fire with their arrows and pierced the 2nd and third gnolls.
The lead gnoll fought to free himself of the tangle of vines. Salys cast her holding spell on him. He ceased to move, paralyzed and rooted in place.
Jory turned his attention to the rest of the gnolls. He threw two darts into the one closest to him. The darts joined the arrows already embedded in its bloodied hide.
The gnolls sprinted toward the closest targets, which happened to be Jory and Diesa. The deep snow slowed their movement and they were hit by another volley of arrows before they could reach their targets. Salys fired five magic missiles into the one closest to Diesa, killing it. She then hurled a fire bolt at the one engaging Jory. It didn’t kill it, but it was so badly hurt that Jory finished it off with two more quickly thrown darts.
Drusilla had finished binding the lead gnolls hands and feet and joined in on the assault, adding her sacred flame to the piercing arrows which wiped out the rest of the gnolls.
Elora jumped down from the tree, landing quietly in the snow. After eighteen seconds of heart pounding action, the forest around them seemed somehow quieter than it had been before.
“That was a good plan,” said Jory.
“Elora, can you check my knots? I tied them in a hurry.” Drusilla asked her.
The ranger examined the knots, tightening them where necessary. A moment after tightening the last knot, the Gnoll began to move under his own power as his constitution and persistence pushed through the paralyzing hold spell.
He snarled with rage and struggled to pull his hands free. It wasn’t until he attempted to lunge at them that he realized his legs were also tied. He fell face first into the snow.
Diesa rolled him over with her boot.
The gnoll spat and yelled at her in a guttural, snarling language.
“Anyone know what he’s saying?” asked Salys.
“Oh, the usual,” replied Elora. She didn’t remember learning to speak Gnoll, and wondered what made her want to.
“Tell him we’re keeping him safe for the night and that we have some questions for him in the morning. If he cooperates, we might let him live,” Drusilla said to Elora.
Elora relayed the message. The gnoll tongue sounded like a different language when spoken by the elf, but their captive seemed to understand.
“Why wait? Why can’t we question him now?” asked Jory.
“I need time to prepare a zone of truth spell,” answered Drusilla. “It will be easier and more reliable than beating the answers out of him.”
“But not as much fun,” muttered Diesa.
Jory couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw the gnoll shrink back from Diesa.
As the cold night settled in around them, Elora let Jory sleep with Copper for warmth. Drusilla, Diesa and Elora had their winter wolf cloaks to keep them warm. The enchanted dragonscale boots gifted to Salys upon Vorjhon’s death shielded her from the cold as well. A couple unused blankets kept the gnoll from freezing to death before they could question him in the morning.
It was early and the air was crisp. The group felt well rested after a good night’s sleep. They were well fed thanks to a hearty breakfast provided by Jory.
The gnoll could not say the same. He looked tired, and couldn’t stop himself from eyeing the food the others had been eating.
“All right,” Drusilla announced to the Brunch Club as they stood in a wide circle around the gnoll. “Whoever doesn’t want to be compelled to tell the truth, shouldn’t get any closer. The cleric grasped the pendant of her Raven Queen necklace in her hand and said a prayer. When she was done, she looked at Elora. “He’s ready. We only have fifteen minutes, so make the questions quick. He can’t lie, but he can dance around the truth if he’s smart enough.”
Elora looked at the bound gnoll. In his own language she told him if he answered her questions, he’d be allowed to have some food. If he didn’t cooperate, he’d have to answer to the rogue. She pointed to Deisa who stood with her hands folded across her chest, staring at the gnoll without blinking.
“Where did your patrol come from?” Elora asked him.
He hesitated at first, but a low growl from Diesa, inspired him to speak.
“We have a camp to the north,” he said gruffly, but said no more.
“How many gnolls in the camp?” asked Elroa.
“I don’t know. I can’t count that high.” the gnoll replied.
“There were five in your patrol. How many patrols could the camp have?” asked Elora, trying to simplify things for him.
The gnoll seemed to count slowly in his head. “Four or five,” he answered finally.
Elora relayed the information to the group.
“Ask him who their leader is,” Drusilla said.
“He calls himself Rajat,” said the gnoll.
“Describe him,” commanded Elroa.
The gnoll’s description matched that of the druid they had seen transform into an elk through a scrying vision at Saberhagen’s.
The ranger tried to recall all she could about gnolls, then asked. “Gnolls are tribal, nomadic. Why would twenty five of you camp together and take orders from an elf?”
The gnoll growled, then continued, “He has promised us power and riches, and glory in the eyes of Yeenoghu.”
Elora recognized Yeenoghu as the god most gnolls worshiped. He was not a benevolent and friendly god.
Elora relayed all the information to her companions and asked if they had any other questions.
“Ask them if they have plans to attack Wheaton again,” said Salys.
“And what Rajat’s other plans are,” Drusilla added.
“I don’t know,” the gnoll answered. “We do what Rajat tells us when he tells us.”
The spell then ran out and the gnoll stopped talking.
“So what do we do with him now?” asked Diesa.
“We can take him back to Wheaton,” suggested Salys. “Maybe the town guard and Saberhagen can question him more.”
“It might help the mayor take the gnoll threat more seriously,” Drusilla added.
Diesa walked up to the gnoll and pointed her axe at him. “Or we could just kill him and Drusilla can cast Speak with the Dead later.”
The gnoll didn’t understand Diesa, but seemed worried by her tone. His eyes locked on her and burned with rage.
“It would be easier and faster to have him walk on his own instead of us carrying his corpse all the way back to Wheaton,” Jory added, not eager to watch Diesa cleave a bound gnoll in two.
“Elora,” Drusilla said, “Please tell our guest he can walk back to town with us, or he can die here in the snow.”
Elora told this to the gnoll. His answer was to lunge forward and sink his long fangs into Diesa’s neck.
“No!” screamed Jory as he leapt for the gnoll. Four, lightning-quick punches to the muzzle caught the beast off guard and stunned him. With each punch the halfling shouted at the beast, “You! Won’t! Harm! Diesa!” Jory finished his flurry of punches with two quick and painful jabs to the gnoll’s snout.
The blood that poured from the beast’s mouth and nose stained Jory’s hands.
Before the gnoll could recover from the halfling’s surprising ferocity, Elora shot it through the throat. It died in the snow, just as Drusilla promised.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Diesa said to Jory as Drusilla cast a healing spell on her. “I think I can teach you to be tough after all.”
Diesa chopped the head from the creature’s corpse, and they headed back to town.
The Brunch Club was in poor spirits when they walked out of the town hall later that day. The decapitated gnoll head was not enough to convince the Mayor to provide them with a militia to march upon the gnoll encampment to the north. They begrudgingly had to admit he had a point. He could not leave the city defenseless. His observation that the five of them were more powerful than any ragtag militia he could cobble together did boost their egos a little, but that still left them with a problem. There was a camp full of Gnolls led by a powerful Druid who held a grudge against Elora.
“We should go talk to Saberhagen, he might have some ideas,” suggested Salys as they stood outside town hall pondering their next move.
“We should get some dinner first,” suggested Diesa.
“We should get rid of this,” said Jory, holding up the gnoll’s, grotesque head.
Our tale will continue in Episode 38
Episode 37 was written by Dominic White, Bethany Powers, and myself, Brian Messmer. The story is based upon my own homebrew Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
The audio recording of our DnD game session that inspired this episode will be available on our podcast channel this Thursday under the name, Brunch Club LIVE!
Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:
- Bethany Powers, who plays Diessa
- JP Black, who plays Drusilla
- Liz Raychard, who plays Elora
- Anna Flemke, who plays Salys
- Dominic White, who plays Vorjhon
- And Brian Messmer, who plays everyone else
Thank you very much for listening Please join us next week to find out, along with the rest of us, what‘s going to happen next!