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Welcome to Episode 38 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 37, The Brunch Club started their day witnessing Kalavar execute disgraced Mage College President, Kormir outside the gates of Wheaton. They then proceeded on their hunt for gnolls, tracking down a patrol in the forest to the north. Using combined tactics, Drusilla was able to capture the lead gnoll while the party fought off the remaining beasts.
The next day, the party interrogated the captured gnoll, gathering information regarding their encampment – its location, and more importantly that the gnolls were being led by a druid named Rajat, who had promised the gnolls riches and favor in the eyes of their God.
The party agreed to allow the Gnoll to return to the city with them, but he lashed out, attacking Diesa from his restraints. They killed the gnoll and used its severed head to try to convince Mayor Gladstone to provide the party with militia for their journey, which he politely declined.
Episode 38: HONK
Rife with conversation about their next move, dinner that evening passed quickly. It became apparent that a visit to Saberhagen was in order; the party did not want to jump too quickly into battle without proper munitions and insight from their feline accomplice.
It was late when the party arrived at the SunSpot, finding Saberhagen pouring over his books, his tail twitching back and forth as he read. He purred, looking up to acknowledge them as they stepped into his study.
“We’re sorry to bother you so late,” Salys started. Jory reached into his pack to pull out a recently caught fish.
“Ah. You’ve brought me a fish! Splendid. Please just leave it over there on the counter.” Jory plated the fish, pausing to meticulously position it on the plate.
“Here you go!” Jory exclaimed.
Jumping from his perch onto the countertop, Saberhagan leaned over the plate, tepidly inhaling its scent. With a flick of his paw, he knocked the plate from the countertop to the floor, bits of fish scattering.
“So thoughtful of you.” The plate teetered briefly before settling onto the ground “To what do I owe the pleasure?” He continued casually.
Drusilla began to explain the party’s recent decision to find the gnoll encampment, and their determination to protect the city from a potential onslaught.
“We can’t let what happened last time happen again.” She explained, looking to the party for support.
“I think you’re leaving something out,” Elora observed, raising her eyebrows at Drusilla.
“What?’ Drusilla asked, genuinely confused.
“Maybe… Rajat?” Jory responded with a hiccup.
“Right!” Drusilla exclaimed. “So, it appears the gnolls are being led by Rajat, and what’s more interesting is that he comes from the Bloodwood. We think his activities may be in some way connected to Elora.”
“An interesting theory,” Saberhagan responded, weaving between Elora’s legs and brushing the side of his face against her calves. “But just that, a theory.”
Thoughtful for a moment, the group considered the possibility that they could be reading too much into mere happenstance.
Diesa huffed and crossed her arms. “Well, what about Sudoku?” She asked.
“Yeenoghu,” Drusilla corrected.
“Ah, what about Yeenoghu?” Saberhagen purred, jumping into a chair and sitting down.
“What… is it? The gnoll we captured mentioned fortune and favor in the eyes of their God, Yeenoghu.”
“Ah, yes. Yeenoghu is… a tasteless God, to say the least. Intent on destruction, murderous, and foul. Only a wretched beast like a gnoll would worship such a deity.”
Elora had been contemplative throughout the conversation, and cleared her throat to speak. “Do you think you would be able to scry on Rajat one more time? We need to know more about his plans.”
Saberhagan nodded. “Do you have anything of his this time? Something he has touched, an image of him… anything that could help me to picture him more fully?”
“We still have the gnoll head,” Jory offered, pointing to the large, bloodstained sack he dragged behind him. “He may have talked to Rajat or have some connection with him.”
Saberhagan told Jory to deposit the head next to the scrying bowl. Saberhagen uttered an incantation and waved his paw over the bowl, which began to shimmer with a bright green aura. They stood in silence, allowing the wizard to complete his work in peace.
After several minutes, the feline wizard sighed and the light faded from the bowl. “I couldn’t get anything,” he said, without apology. “He may know we tried to scry on him before and is taking precautions, or his connection with this gnoll was not close enough.”
Dismayed, the party and Saberhagen discussed the logistics of mounting an attack against a small army of gnolls. All but one of them agreed they needed to get a closer look at the gnoll encampment before they made a decision. “You guys are fucking crazy,” Jory said. “Why don’t we just burn the thing down from a distance?” This plan was prepared as a backup option.
The candles lighting the SunSpot burned low by the time the party left, ready to make way to the gnoll encampment the following morning. Before they departed, Jory had gotten bored of planning and began to peruse the magical knick-knacks and curios before finding a pair of enchanted brass goggles. He quickly looked around to make sure no one had watched him wander off, before snatching them off the shelf and putting them on his eyes. He took a look through the candle lit store and squeaked in surprise. With the goggles on, he could suddenly see clearly through the dark store as if it were bright as day, though in grayscale only. Like the world was simultaneously lit up and drained of color. Jory fished through his purse to pull out the hundreds of coins the cat-wizard was asking for in exchange for the magic goggles before purchasing his new night-time eyewear.
The morning was brisk, and The Brunch Club began making headway toward the camp. When they reached the spot where they had previously ambushed the Gnoll Patrol, they found faded paw prints marked in the snow. It had been some time since the last patrol had passed through.
The group made hasty work, checking their surroundings for traps or threats, concluding that the area was clear.
“Alright, you know the plan,” Drusilla said, looking to Salys. She nodded.
“Pip, you ready?” Salys asked her owl familiar, who squawked and ruffled his feathers.
“He’s so brave!” Jory whispered to Diesa, gazing at the owl with admiration.
Meanwhile, Salys sighed at pip as he showered her with insults and objections.
“Really? Again?! Are we forgetting how I died? I swear if I get back here alive I’ll fu-”
“GOOD HEAVENS JUST GO.” Slays barked at her familiar. The owl huffed, taking off from her shoulder.
By the time Pip returned, several hours had passed. Salys breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her companion flying back to their forested camp. He landed on her shoulder and promptly pecked her on the cheek.
“Ouch!” Salys exclaimed, glaring at her familiar. “I don’t know why you have to be so rude. What did you see?”
The owl scoffed. “I don’t know… there was a big wooden wall around a giant cave, some fuckin’ hyena men walking around everywhere.” The owl began to describe the wooden walls, which formed a semi-circle around the entrance of the cave. He also noted two “shitty little” wooden watch-towers on either side of the camp.
“How many gnolls?” Salys asked.
“Look lady, I can’t count that high. I don’t know. A lot, okay?”
The group digested this information, and discussed their next move.
“Well, I could warg into an animal to get another look.” Elora suggested, “I know how to speak gnoll, so if I can get close enough I might be able to gather more information about their plans.”
The party agreed, and Elora began to look for a small, willing creature to transfer her consciousness into. She saw several deer, squirrels, and birds, only to notice one creature that made her blood run cold.
“Guys. There’s an elk nearby,” she whispered, drawing her longbow. Before anyone could react, Elora loosed her arrow, which sped off into the distance and connected with the elk.
“What the…” Diesa gasped as Elora knocked another arrow.
Jory gasped, “It could be Rajat!”
The second arrow sunk into the chest of the Elk, and it fell with an unceremonious thud to the ground. Copper, Elora’s wolf companion, ran ahead to stalk her kill.
On closer inspection, the elk appeared both unassuming and non-magical. Relieved and intent on covering up any evidence of their time in the forest, Elora encouraged Copper to enjoy a fresh meal.
Back at the camp, Salys decided to warg into Pip to gain a closer look at the gnolls. As Pip, Salys flew to the gnoll encampment, perched on one of the il-lconstructed wooden boundaries surrounding the cave, and observed.
Two gnolls walked past underneath her. They seemed to be having a serious conversation. When Salys heard nothing but yips and growls she slapped herself on the forehead with a feathered wing. She did not speak gnoll.
Despite this, she concentrated on the pitch, cadence and length of the yips and growls that made up the creatures’ speech.
Salys flew quickly back to camp after committing a few of the phrases to memory.
When her consciousness returned to her own body, Pip started his usual protest of his treatment, but she ignored him. She rushed to Elora to recite phonetically what she heard to the gnoll-speaking ranger.
The Brunch Club watched with amusement as Salys yipped, growled, snorted and grunted at Elora.
“Is she okay?” Jory whispered to Drusilla with concern.
Drusilla waved him off, conveying he should not worry about it. She didn’t want to speak for fear of letting loose the laughter she was attempting to stifle.
“What in the Underdark was that?” Elora asked when Salys finished.
Salys lowered her head in embarrassment. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Not being able to coax any small woodland creatures close enough to warg into, Elora decided to inhabit Copper. She hoped she could get close enough to the encampment and at least hear what the gnolls were saying.
With a wolf’s eye view of the forest, and keener eyesight and sense of smell, Elora padded silently through the snow. She stayed hidden and got just close enough to the wooden fortress wall to hear the telltale yips and growls of the gnolls inside. The encampment’s stench made her regret having Copper’s keen sense of smell.
At first, the dialogue was unhelpful. Copper breathed an Elora-like sigh as all the gnolls talked about was being “fucking starving” or “needing to take a shit”. She had almost decided to head back to camp when she suddenly heard, “When do you think the ritual will be over?” Her ears perked up, her interest piqued.
“Hopefully soon,” a second gnoll growled, “what’s the Fang doing?”
“He’s helping Rajat with the ritual.” There was a short silence, and then, “Do you think Blitz Tooth is going to pull through?”
“If he does, nothing will stop us,” the other gnoll answered.
The voices began to fade as the gnolls walked away from Elora’s hiding spot, but she had heard enough. She rushed back to camp and returned to her own body. She relayed the message to the group.
“It sounds like they’re creating some kind of super gnoll,” guessed Salys.
“We need to get back to Saberhagen,” said Drusilla, with urgency.
The group hastily packed up camp, and headed back to Wheaton.
During their march, they quietly and heatedly discussed the potential implications of Rajat’s ritual. Elora nearly missed the sound of a twig snapping in the woods in the distance.
“Wait,” she whispered, gesturing for the party to stop walking. Her hand went to her quiver. Now standing in silence, the group could hear the snapping of several more twigs. Something was approaching.
While it’s not uncommon to see a goose in the woods, it is uncommon in the forested areas surrounding Wheaton to see a large, snow-white goose wandering throughout the forest alone. This is precisely what was waddling directly toward the party.
Drusilla smiled and eagerly cast Speak with Animals on the enormous bird that marched toward them.
“Hello, little goose,” she cooed. The Goose stopped in its tracks, now about 20 feet away from the party. It cocked its head, staring at the elvish druid.
“HONK,” it… honked.
“Um, I didn’t catch that?” Drusilla responded, and the goose honked at her once more. Despite her spell, she could not understand what the goose was saying.
“That’s… odd.” She said to the group while keeping her eyes locked on the goose, “I can’t understand it.”
Drusilla realized this wasn’t a normal goose, and wondered if it might be something taking another creature’s form. A feeling of dread came over her as she realized it could be Rajat. She quickly cast Sacred Flame on the goose. The goose emerged from the bright light seemingly unharmed, and a loud HONK reverberated throughout the forest as it turned and began to waddle sadly away.
Drusilla felt an instant feeling of regret..
“I’m sorry Goose!” she exclaimed. “I thought you were someone else!”
The THWISH of an arrow soaring past her cut through the air, and Drusilla turned to see that Diesa had just loosed an arrow upon the bird. The arrow looked as though it was about to hit the goose, but the bird made a sudden turn in the last instant.
“What?” Diesa asked Drusilla, who stared at her incredulously. “You’re the one who just set fire to the thing. I wanted to put it out of its misery…. And I’m hungry.”
Elora was next to steady her bow. “I’ll get it,” she said cooly, knocking an arrow and firing. It sailed through the air with unwavering precision toward the goose’s head. The goose ducked in the last instant and ran behind a tree.
Elora stood, stunned. “That… should have hit.”
Jory took a swig from his bota bag and wiped his lip. “I’ll go chat with it!”
He slowly approached the tree behind which the goose hid, “Hey, goooose?” he sung. “What are you?” He asked. The question was above the caliber of most woodland geese, and the creature simply honked in reply. It slowly came out from behind the tree, examining Jory.
“What are you doing?” Jory giggled drunkenly. The goose Honked, and lunged at Jory. Snagging something from the halfling’s pack with its beak. It hurriedly wandered into the woods.
“HEY! YOU TOOK MY SPATULA!” Jory shouted. Surprisingly quickly, the goose had put several yards distance between itself and Jory “Guys… you should shoot the goose. NOW.”
The party, confused but convinced, began to launch a full blown attack against the goose, firing arrows rapidly. One after another, shots that seemed sure to hit the goose seemed to suddenly change course just before hitting the creature. Exasperated, Elora and Diesa stopped shooting and Jory began to chase the goose.
Catching up, and with some luck, Jory was able to wrestle the spatula from the goose’s beak, just before it waddled behind the trunk of an old spruce and disappeared entirely.
Panting, Jory returned to the party. “I thought.. It might be…. Rajat…. Scry spatula,” he heaved, and a wave of understanding swept over the group. Had the goose really been a wildshaped druid or a wizard’s familiar, the spatula would have been the perfect tool with which to scry on the party’s whereabouts and activities. Could it be that Rajat and the Brunch Club were both trying to accomplish the same objective?
With no other option but to continue on their path to Wheaton, the gnoll ritual quickly became old news, and the party spent their remaining travels speculating about the goose they had just encountered, and what in the Seven Hells they had just seen.
Back at the sunspot, the group found Saberhagan in the study, this time with his human familiar, Jenkins, by his side. Jenkins held a stick with a string attached to it, bobbing it up and down as Saberhagan swiped at the bouncing rope.
“Ahem,” Drusilla coughed, Saberhagan turned to their direction.
“Ah, hello,” Saberhagan responded, “Jenkins, please go tend to something.” Jenkins ]clapped twice and exited the room, presumably to go tend to something.
Drusilla set to explaining their most recent encounter with the mysterious and elusive Goose in the forest. “I don’t know Saberhagan, it was… really, really strange.” she finished.
Diesa sighed, “She’s also leaving out the part about a gnoll ritual at the encampment, a gnoll named Blitztooth, and someone called the Fang who seems to be working with Rajat.”
“Interesting.” Saberhagan began, “And you chose to lead with the goose?”
After a moment, the group mumbled and agreed in unison. “Well, yeah,” said Salys. “That goose was freaking weird.”
Saberhagan stretched, considering the new intel from the Brunch Club. “A Fang is something I’m familiar with. It’s basically a gnoll shaman, a Fang of Yeenoghu. The ritual… is likely one to turn a gnoll into a Flind, which is, as you say, a kind of ‘super gnoll’.”
The group considered this, both satisfied and horrified that they were correct in their theory. Gnolls in high numbers were dangerous enough, but a gnoll army led by a super gnoll with a potentially psychotic druid leading the pack? Facing them would be risky and outright dangerous.
“We can’t do it alone.” Elora said, decisively.
“We need help,” Salys agreed, “And soon.”
Our tale will continue in Episode 39
Episode 38 was written by Dominic White, Bethany Powers, and myself, Brian Messmer.
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
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More information about Rescued by Dragons and ways to support and follow us can be found at RescuedByDragons.com.
Thank you for listening, and please join me next week to see what my players’ choices, and the roll of the dice, have in store.