Killing Joke

Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
- Emily Dickinson

Dates: 2nd Lady to 2nd Hive, Narciss

Arluth Travyth, approached by certain contacts in the Xaositect faction, learns of a wild mage named Zadderghast who needs planewalkers to find an item for him. Arluth alerts the party, who could certainly use more money. They are told to meet Zadderghast at a dwarven tavern called The Frothing Tankard.

The party, clearly out of place in the dwarven establishment, waits anxiously for their contact, and when he comes in, there's no mistaking him. He's tall yet stooped, his hair is tousled carelessly, and he is covered in dust, grime, and dandruff. He approaches the party, and quickly starts speaking, chaotically and without cadence or pause. "Well, hello there... um, sorry not terribly good at all this- too many books, too many books by far, you know. Um well, anyway, um onto business, I suppose. Yes business! Jalzannel- you haven't heard of him, I suppose, but anyway, he's um... he's de- I mean missing, gone sort of, and here's the map- you know, usual sort of thing. Oh, but bring back anything- scrolls and such, I mean- with his rune- that's really important. There, that wasn't so bad after all, was it! Oh, almost forgot the money. 250 gold suit everyone? See you here in 5 days, now don't be late. Bye for now!"

With that, the wizard vanishes in a puff of smoke. The map, which purports to be "a map of the Forest," is left behind. Unfortunately, it is utterly incomprehensible to the party. Cianna glances at it and laughs cynically. The party really begins to get the feeling they've been had.

That's when Knell notices a small humanoid entering the tavern. About the height of a halfling, but with pointed ears and long auburn hair in a topknot, his entry into the tavern causes all the dwarves to grumble and clutch their belt pouches. Knell notices him smiling at her, and Knell breaks off from the party and begins speaking with him, not noticing his "handling" her pouches in turn...

The party, on the verge of insanity from trying to figure out the cryptic map, is introduced to Kinderhook Tarrywell, a kender planewalker and, evidentally, a Xaositect, because he immediately is able to read the code of the map before him. He says "I know where this is! Come on, let's go! Oh, I just have one request. I'd like to have right of first refusal on any cool stuff you might find!"

All the while, "Box"'s powerful eyesight notices the small kender's hand in Cianna's pouches. Trouble is, so does Cianna. She's outraged, and the kender immediately looks downcast, mumbling things like "My hand just kinda slipped." "Box," however, is not laughing. He demands that the kender come along free of charge or he'll be turned into the Harmonium. At the sound of the Hardheads, the kender shivers, and agrees to guide them.

On their way to the Hive Ward, the party finds Mirx, and tells him they're headed out of town. Mirx decides to come along, on a whim, being paid in a set of magical plate mail. The party follows Kinderhook through a portal, and finds themselves in a forest, just like the kender promised. Of course, exactly what plane they are on is unknown...

The kender whoops, and begins running through the underbrush, and the party tries their best to follow him. After a few hours of this racing through the forest, the party is pretty tired, and decides to take a load off for a bit. Knell and Kinderhook decide to scout around the campsite, but are soon met by giant wolves, who utterly ravage the party.

During the melee, strange things happen to the party. "Box," who was attempting a light spell, finds the spell has left his memory. Arluth, missing a swipe at one of the wolves, buries about a foot of his rapier into the soft soil. When he pulls it out, the tip of his sword has turned into a living snake's head!

The party takes two days to rest and recuperate after the wolf attack. In this time, "Box," after regaining consciousness, experiments with his spells. He tries out chill touch, and discovers that it's a "keeper" out on this plane. Also during this downtime, the party discovers that some of its items are randomly changing forms: Arluth's marbles have changed into maggots, and Selgar's rope has turned to a solid iron chain.

Kinderhook leads the party to the marked goal on the map. At that point, they reach a clearing. In the clearing, they spy a strange being, about a foot tall, made of fluffy yellow fur. It seems to want to engage "Box," and says "I'll send you home if you don't do something funny." Box, annoyed with the creature, hopes to dismiss it with a color spray. The spell instead sprays the little creature with thick, gooey chocolate. Satisfied with this exemplification of chaos, the phileen leaves the party, popping out of existence.

In their reconaissance of the clearing, the party finds an armored being, inspecting some flowers by a large metal plate in the ground. The being converses with them, and they find he is from the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Lightning, and he is traveling the multiverse, inspecting the flowers of Limbo.

The party then lifts the panel and discovered a shaft leading down almost 500 feet, with rungs down all the way. "Box," however, sees through it as an illusion, and observes the shaft is only 30 feet deep. After concentration, the whole party disbelieves.

Selgar, the first to descend, trips a trap that lets loose a blast of steam from the walls. Arluth descends the rough-hewn walls along the other side, and disturbs a nest of flying snakes. The party battles these creatures, and eventually gets everyone down to the bottom.

At the bottom, there is a large iron door with a bas-relief of an ugly face looking at a key near its ear. Cianna picks the lock, and beyond the door is a somewhat narrow hallway. At the end is a red brick wall with runes and indecipherable writing on it. Cianna walks down the hallway and is instantly teleported halfway down the hallway. An illusionary jester's face floats in the hallway, and challenges Cianna to tell a joke, or she will be given the "gong." Cianna tells a joke, does a bad job, and is spun around and flung through the brick wall on the other side. The party follows, with varying levels of success...

In the next room, there is a glowing table, on top of which is a box with a question mark on it. Also on the table is a pile of platinum. Finally, near a glowing portal is a wheel with multicolored wedges. A voice says, "It's your choice! Take the money, the box, or the Wheel of Different Things!"

Selgar is the first to play, and he opens the box and takes out a two-handed axe. He is allowed to pass through the portal. Cianna spins the wheel, and it lands on an orange wedge, and the voice says, "You have won the hatred of a creature you don't know who will stalk you and hunt you down! You may pass through the door." Jesdin spins the wheel, and gets a black wedge with a red circle. "You have won a one-way trip to Carceri where you will be imprisoned for the rest of your natural life!" Jesdin disappears.

"Box," Mirx, and Kinderhook decide to play it safe, and take the coins. Arluth opens the box and gets bracers. Knell, the last to decide, is left behind...

When the whole party assembles in the next room, Knell is the last to come through. When she does, the party sees her eyes empty of intent. Her spin on the wheel has sucked her soul out, and she is essentially brain-dead.

Inside the new room, the party observes a floor littered with debris, and sees a small golden globe near the ceiling, slowly growing brighter. As the party examines and searches the debris, a voice bellows: "Welcome to the realm of chaos... you may know yourselves, but how well do you know your friends?" The globe explodes in light, and when the party opens their eyes, there has been a mindswap. At this moment, an armor-plated insectoid creature burrows up through the soft earthen floor.

"Box," in Selgar's body, boxes the creature with a chill touch spell, and eventually knocks the creature out. The party is teleported out of the room, and in the next room, the party finds themselves in their own bodies, near a shining sphere of light. A voice states, "Let he who has passed the test take the prize." "Box" walks forward, but is not allowed. Selgar tries, and takes the sphere.

Transported again, this time outside, with a sign that says "The way home," the party meets a blue imp, who claims she is Knell. The party follows the sign and finds a portal back to Sigil. Kinderhook and Mirx both do not take their share of the treasure, and instead hide themselves, never to be seen again.

But with Knell trapped in another body, and Jesdin trapped on Carceri, the party has greater problems to face...