Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chapter 4, Part 6: "Bounty Hunters of the Bottomless Pit..."

Part I Here, Part II Here, Part III Here, Part IV Here, Part V Here, Part VII Here.

The companions are free of their obligation to the intoxicant vendor Mozug and wander the rusty, dusty streets of Pit seeking a physician. Euphorbus is a sap-leaking unconscious burden that they must tend to with some immediate attention. The party is directed to a shabby building. Entering, they see a place lined with jars and racks of gleaming bladed instruments, replete with a bloody, hacked at, slab wooden table bearing a human leg being dissected by a short rotund man wearing goggles. The doctor blinks, rises, and greets the party. A fee is quickly negotiated and the limb is tossed into a bucket to make room for the Cactoid. Although the physician seems hampered by the vegetative anatomy of Euphorbus, the cactus man is soon back on his feet.

Next the party pesters the physician about the probability of accommodations being available in town. They find that at their generous disposal are such places as the Lead Cup, a cheap dive called the Brass Tines, and an expensive, luxurious hotel called the Titanium Vault. Several express enthusiasm for the cheap dive but the physician poo-poos the notion, "It's a haven of murderers, degenerates, intoxicant addicts and nonhumans! ...err, no offense to you good Cactoid. It is not a safe place by any means!"

Upon hearing this information, they decide to see what lay in store at the Titanium Vault.

Soon they are standing before a large cuboidal building, seemingly constructed from a solid piece of blackish metal. Lacking windows, the building possesses a forbidding appearance. As they approach they find the uniformed doorman is pleasant and they decide to try the hotel out. The doorman instructs them to remove their footwear in the foyer and to wear the provided curly-toed slippers (made of a rich velvet and decorated with golden lace. A very comfortable pair of slippers, indeed). This, to the rugged adventurers, seems a strange notion, but they enter and follow his instructions anyhow.

Next they enter the lobby, and cannot help but to marvel at the rich carpets and decor. A uniformed concierge sits at a massive brass desk, with him they briskly discuss terms, get fingerprinted, and sign the necessary documentation. When all is satisfactorily completed, a uniformed butler is summoned to take them to their room. A click of the door and they enter into a luxurious, windowless, octo-suite complete with 8 beds in curtained alcoves and two resplendant bathrooms.

Kalmor, the bigoted Hyperborean, immediately insists that the bathrooms be segregated: one for the Algol natives, one for the Earth Men. Although the others judge it a frivolous and baseless request, the fanatical gleam in Kalmor's eyes and his sudden angry demeanor are compelling enough, and they agree. Kalmor relaxes, and the party removes their filthy garments and places them in brass baskets for the help to launder. Steam from the large bathtubs slowly fills the room. With the splashing sound of running, scented, foamy water, roaring behind him, Buzz Brazzelhach boasts loudly, calling for a rousing bout of wrestling in the bath. Dickie Dee then runs around the tub, clacking his teeth and snapping at the loud Australian with a short towel.

The butler returns to take their supper orders, and offers them a three course meal with three choices of entrees and two choices of desert. Brandy, ghava and cigars were to be served afterwards. Although the butler is proper and reserved, he is also sincere, solicitous and helpful. Buzz inquires about any local bawdy houses but the Butler admits unfamiliarity with such due to his proper nature, but suggests that the maids employed by the hotel may respond favorably if a sufficient gratuity is provided. The personable Euphorbus befriends the butler and asks if he knows of any work for adventuring types, the butler promises to make inquires.

The delicious meals arrive quickly and soon the party are enjoying their snifters of spiced brandy and pungent green cigars in the comfort of their richly-appointed suite; the only lamenting moment being the realization of the fact that they only have enough gold for two days of this luxurious accommodation.

When delivering breakfast the next day, the butler informs Euphorbus that Lhogar, the boss of a gang of miners, is seeking hardened warriors. The butler also informs Euphorbus that he took the liberty of arranging an interview between him and the party at the Titanium Vault.

After their laundered garments and breakfast are delivered to the suite Buzz Brazzelhach prowls the carpeted halls of the hotel and finds an attractive orange skinned maid with curly black hair and an ample posterior. Buzz is in dire financial straits and lacks the usual 5 gold pieces customary for the requested service but the sole gold piece left in his pouch is enough to ensure that his mission has a happy ending.

During lunch, the party, aside from Euphorbus, are surprised to find at their table Lhogar (who is purple, scaled, hairy, and muscular). Lhogar possesses strong facial features and a bristling black thatch of hair that reminds Buzz of the aborigines of his homeland and he takes an immediate liking to the strapping purple mine boss.

Lhogar explains that the mining gang he runs, the Black Pickaxes, have been working a claim deep in the massive, bottomless pit that lies in the center of the town. A gang of miners had been horribly slain recently, and he suspects that sinister inhuman underworld denizens such as the Hluss, Shunned Ones, or Ssu are responsible. He is willing to offer 50 gold pieces for the head of every monster lurking the tunnels that the party slays, and will also pay for their accommodation at the Titanium Vault for the duration of their commission.

Although the monsters that Lhogar describes sound fierce and vile, the luxurious conditions at the Titanium Vault and generous bounty are sufficient incentive for the party to take the commission and Lhogar makes arrangements to meet the party tomorrow at his offices in the bottomless pit. Buzz immediately requests a 5 gold credit advance, which Lhogar provides before offering advances for weapons, armor and petty expenses. The party takes advantage of this and immediately decides to upgrade their offensive and defensive capabilities at the local merchants.

The next morning the well fed and rested party, some wearing gleaming new mail, set out for the bottomless pit. The pit is a massive shaft in the center of town surrounded by winches and cranes that raise and lower cage-like elevators that provide access to the mineral wealth deep in the planet's crust. A ramp spirals down the side of the shaft.

Lhogar takes them to the Black Pickaxe's lift and they sit on the benches within. It seems as they are lowered into the pit for hours before coming to their destination; a dock-like construction attached to the entrance of a tunnel bored into the side of the pit.

Lhogar introduces them to the foreman responsible for this tunnel He briefs them on the situation and leads them to a recently installed barred titanium door deep in the tunnel. He explains that the door leads to two tunnels, one unexplored and one that would lead to chamber full of mineral deposits where a mining gang was slaughtered.

The door is opened, the party enters and the door is quickly barred behind them. The foreman, through the door, promises to wait and unbar the door when the party returns. The adventurers follow the foreman's directions to the chamber full of mineral deposits, the floor is strewn with scattered tools and pools of blood. A sweet acidic odor fills their nostrils. They wait there for a while to see if they are attacked, but nothing materializes.

They then proceed to the tunnel exiting the far wall of the cavern where their sputtering chemical torches reveal reflections of blue-black, iridescent, carapaces lurking in the dark tunnel. The party quickly forms a fighting line as six, horrid, scorpion-like Hluss, charge the party, each of their six limbs waving a deadly jagged sword. Rygarr renders five of them comatose with a somnolent incantation and the remaining Hluss flee into the tunnel. The fleeter members of the party consider giving chase, but cooler heads prevail and they instead collect the heads of the Hluss and retrace their steps back to the door.

As they return the party begins choking on a sudden, foul stench. At the intersection they see two gangling, skinny humanoids dressed in black and brown wrappings. They have robes and heads that resemble mottled rotting fruit, complete with two featureless button like black eyes. The creatures stood motionless, blocking their passage with slender greatswords; they could be none other than the infamous Shunned Ones.

The party attempts parley but the gangly, brown Shunned Ones respond by assuming fighting stances, and a battle ensues. They beings are lightning quick, dodging attacks with unnatural grace. Th is only inspires the party, and they attack with all the more vigor, only to be thwarted by alien swordplay deflecting most of their blows. However the Shunned Ones are quickly slain and their heads are just as quickly collected.

Returning to the titanium door they find the foreman quaking in fear. He smelled the foul odorous spoor of the shunned ones, and only a a display of the severed heads reassures him. He then releases them, barring the door behind he takes them to his office where he pays the party. In celebration and good spirit, they enjoy a drink of gin and pungent green cigars before returning to the lift for the hours long ride back up to the surface, their pockets all the while bulging with the girth of gold credits.

Once back, they rest for a couple of days at the Titanium Vault. The fighting men recover from the wounds inflicted by the wand-like swords of the Shunned Ones. The un-injured duo, Dickie Dee and Maggot Mort, are restless, and go to the Brass Tines to see if there is something about.

The tavern lives up to it's reputation, swarming with degenerate intoxicant addicts, gnolls, mutants, and run-down machine hybrids. Although the crowd seems hostile, the barkeep is friendly and they make a deal for a half cube of Gamma Orichalcum and a room for the night. The room has two filthy pallets and some tools to smoke Gamma Orichalcum. The Bone Man and the unhealthy mutant binge on the isotope and return to the Titanium Vault the next day, their skins waxy and gray from inhalant abuse.

In the morning the party enjoys a gourmet lunch from the hotel kitchens as they count their piles of gold credits and make plans to return to the underworld beneath Pit...

Part I Here, Part II Here, Part III Here, Part IV Here, Part V Here, Part VII Here.


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