Dunstan the nameless goblin finally did convince the villagers to extinguish their torches to avoid attracting the notice of Baba Naga, a fearsome snake witch. They did think it was better to continue their pursuit of the runaways in complete darkness because there were a handful of halflings in the party and could squint out a way forward in the dark. That plan ended when Stokely Buckwalter, the rutabega farmer nearly tripped and broke his neck, but burned off some luck to save his skin. They camped in darkness.
The next morning they got a bright and early start and continued onward until they came to a moat or canal. Rodolfo the Astrologer consulted his charts and spyglass and determined the moat to be safe and began to wade his way across. His calculations were somewhat flawed and did not consider the three Little Crocodiles that lay waiting in the moat. He was quickly devoured.
This loss of a companion did not sit well with the rest of the group. "Nameless goblin," they clamored. "Why did you not tell us about the alligators?"
"Little crocodiles, I did not know they were there," Dunstan told them.
"Well haven't you been this way before?" the mob demanded.
Dunstan hesitated before he replied that he had not. Upon hearing this, Buford Gordo, the halfling Chicken Butcher, He Who Stinks of Gizzards, put his short sword through the goblin.
With the matter settled, the ten remaining Centervillains looked at the land before them.
|Area map, courtesy of Jill.|
First they went up to the crumbling tower. Inside they found the remnants of a camp fire and realized this was likely where the runaway children had slept. The party was heartened. Sweetfell Tannhauser, the elven Artisan climbed the tower to get a view of their surroundings. There was no sign of children, but there was a weird looking tree.
Quickly the band headed for the tree. The tree had strange stairs that not only went up, but also in, some sort of strange M.C Escher / D.J. Dali spatial distortion. As each villager ascended the stairs, they appeared to shrink in size, but not in the manner in which some would inside the wood.
The interior of the tree was quite unusual. Instead of of a squirrel's house or a hickory hideout, it was a fancy hall, with lacquered wood panels bearing ornate, though tasteful carvings. Hanging on the wall were three sets of tapestries, each bearing the mirror image of the one across the hall. The first set showed a crowned man and woman, each wearing red, strolling merrily through a garden. The second showed the same couple, merrily drinking and spilling a deep red wine out of bejeweled golden goblets. The last set of tapestries shewed the merry couple feasting upon babes.
At the end of the hall was a mirror, and before the mirror stood a table. Upon the table was a book titled Read Me, a vial labeled Drink Me, a vial labeled ИOƧIOꟼ, and a spread of food with a place card reading Eat Me. There were currants, a quince, a plum, a bowl of curds and a bowl of porridge.
Dennell the Halfling Dyer downed the Read Me vial and became a quarterling. The villagers then figured out who among them knew how to read and delved into the book. The book offered the exact steps to finding the children! "Climb through the looking glass, drink each of the vials, run through the tiny door into the wondrous garden." Being a surprisingly academic and trusting lot, they decided to follow the books instructions. They all climbed through the mirror.
The silence that greeted them on the Quiet Side of the mirror was unnerving, but they had instructions to follow. Mirra, the Halfling Fortune Teller drank the vial which had writing that looked to be gibberish, 'ɘM ʞniɿᗡ'. Se then shrunk to four inches tall. Danny the Cooper, who was illiterate, drank the vial clearly labeled 'POISON' and dropped dead. Besto the Soldier ate a quince and had his Strength and Intelligence switched, becoming much smarter, but quite a bit weaker.
The silence was becoming quite maddening, so Mirra and Dennell knew it was time to act. They ran through a little door into a wondrous garden. Feeling on the brink of madness, they both willed themselves to sleep. The rest of the band went back through the looking glass and pulled themselves together. Besto is not one to leave compatriots behind so he went back through the mirror on a rescue mission.
Though Mirra and Dennell were both on the other side of the small hatch way, a hatchway much too small for Besto to fit through, they were within arm's reach. This bit of good fortune was countered by Besto's decision to wake the pair up. Mirra began screaming, as did Dennell. Besto through the tiny Mirra through the looking glass, but Dennell did not make it through. She ran off through the garden gate, screaming and cackling with utter insanity.
After eating the rest of the food, and having ability scores all switched around, the group hurriedly left this mad tree. While travelling toward the another crumbling tower that they could make out in the distance, the band discussed which of their organs was most tasty. Trene the Cutpurse had an ever so tasty spleen, while Mirra was graced with a scrumptious gall bladder. Just then, two wicked Toves, determined to let no creature that would enjoy such tasty organs ever have the chance to eat them, sprung forth from the ground and attacked the pair. Nearly immediately, the pair found themselves murdered.
This sadness was mediated by there being valuable jewels in the crumbling tower!
They then crossed paths with the Great Grub while crossing the mushroom path. He found the Centervillains to be mostly disagreeable, but did tell them the runaways had been taken in by the Heart Queen. Finally they came to an Orb Loc, a small human village. The Village is small, the humans are regular. They were told the best way to get the kids back from the Red Queen was to give her something she wanted more than the children. Then they all went to sleep.