A Common Ground (Apocrypha)
The Snarling Gnome is the only tavern in Il’ Mendrash. Its proprietor, Ms. Snarls, is a gnome covered in hideous scars and wearing ornate plate mail.
Kisa boasts about her vastly important role in defending the city from ne’er-do-wells. Maldora and Rataxes Ko order some drinks and debate the merits of empowering the people. Ishtara, whose world is currently green and sparkly, sits back and takes in the scene.
After a few minutes, a Zanthian man in a black jacket mozies into the tavern. Six well-dressed Zanthians strut in behind him. Everyone takes note.
The Zanthians sit down at the bar and order drinks. The guy in charge looks around the place and his eyes stop on Kisa. He snaps his fingers, points, and says “Shadow Cat, I’ve been looking for you…”
Kisa’s eyes narrow, “Jax?”
The man says “Yeah, sit down.”
Kisa responds, “I already have a seat.”
The man points to his side “I mean this seat next to me.”
Kisa sits down. Jax teaches Kisa Secret of the Beat Poet, which inspires apathy in its listeners. Rataxes Ko falls victim to apathy. Ishtara didn’t even care to begin with and thought the tunes were pretty groovy.
Blood Rose snarls, “I have been sent to ensure that you never teach your idiot song to anyone ever again…” She attempts to strike Jax, but he jumps out of the way and slashes her.
A fight ensues. Maldora enthralls four of the goons. Blood Rose and Jax exchange blows. Blood Rose groans ecstatically every time Jax’s knife pierces her flesh. Jax and Blood Rose become locked in a stalemate until Ishtara comes over to help tip the scales in Blood Rose’s favor.
Eventually, Jax yields, begging for mercy. Blood Rose tells him to get out and never to teach his bum’s song to anyone or he’ll be smiling from ear to ear. Jax and the two cronies who are faithful to him scurry out the door.
Maldora and Blood Rose take the thralls upstairs and have some fun… Blood Rose gets her groove on while Maldora forces the thralls to emasculate themselves. When their “fun” concludes, they return downstairs to talk with Rataxes and Ishtara.
A great debate ensues… Where do they go? What do they do? Why bother? These questions and more are asked, answered, asked again, answered again, etc. for several hours.
The sun sinks. The moon rises. The debate rages on.
When everything has been examined, the party decides to go straight to Queensport. Rataxes Ko figures it’s the most meaningful place to start the revolution. Maldora figures it’s the best way to destroy West Zanthia, although she does not want to meet Queen Isolde face-to-face. Ishtara actually wants to save The Old Gods and Queensport has the only Altars of the Old Gods that they know about. Blood Rose does a few calculations and figures that the potential for wealth in Queensport is nearly infinite.
The next morning, Rataxes Ko opens a gate to the underworld and the party descends.
In the Underworld, they arrive near a work camp. They are greeted by Belfagor the Eater of Hearts, who greets Rataxes Ko and welcomes everyone to his camp in which those who resist the uprising are made to work off their evil thoughts.
The party talks to Belfagor the Eater of Hearts for a while and he walks them through the camp.
Then, hanging from trees of bone, Ishtara finds a dozen Melons of Anguish, which induce despair and doubt in those who consume them. Belfagor the Eater of Hearts apparently feeds the stuff to the rebels to make them doubt themselves and submit to the will of the underpeople. She can’t help herself and picks them.
Belfagor the Eater of Hearts laments that the most direct route , The Causeway of Tears, has been compromised by the Lord of Slugs who has, with his army of Under Slugs, created a river of caustic slime that prevents safe passage.
The only other route is through the Labyrinth of Sorrows, many miles out of the way. As if the Labyrinth of Sorrows wasn’t a bad enough route, the Lord of Slugs passed through it on his way north and many of the markings that had been drawn upon the Undulating Walls of Flesh have been dissolved. Becoming lost is almost a certainty.
As Rataxes Ko was getting directions, Blood Rose imbibes a vial of some wicked drug Ishtara made out of the Melons of Anguish. Blood Rose is overcome with doubt and despair, unable to think or reason at all.
They prepare to head east and brave the Labyrinth of Sorrows.