1. The Stumplings Lend a Hand…
The oasis-town outside the Lost City of Vatos has been galvanized by news of a crusade against the deadly Gunge. The wizards Merlin and Nadari have put out a call to warriors and mages alike to join together to destroy the Gunge.
After the initial excitement of their call to arms, things seemed to die down. People went back to making the best of their meagre lives in this desert town, perhaps not truly believing that the Gunge could be killed.
The PCs strongest support came in the form of the “stumplings” – a motley crue of beggars, amputees, and victims of the Gunge. With nothing to live for, these scarred and broken men threw themselves behind the two magic-users, body and soul.
Concerned that the stumplings alone might not be enough to threaten the Gunge, the PCs made a wants list of men and resources – including two clerics, more warriors, and… warhounds.
2. Bargaining with Mustapha
The PCs went to Mustapha’s general store to get extra equipment. They also enquired about his warhounds – strange dogs that look like a cross between a shitzu and a great dane, but reputed to fight like demons. They were very expensive. Mustapha wouldn’t budge on the price of 20 gp until Dobby badgered the fat merchant with his 20 questions and a few well-timed farts. The poor merchant, gasping for air, and tired of the House Elf’s pedantry, dropped the price, and the PCs had their warhound, which they named “Cerberus”.
3. Recruiting Clerics
Two clerics with healing powers could come in very handy when dealing with an acid spraying Gunge. With this in mind the PCs headed to the Temple of Isis to meet again with the High Priestess. Cheerful and bubbly as ever, the High Priestess regretfully informed them that she was the only ranking member of the cult, and not one for adventuring; the others were mere acolytes without any healing powers. The PCs returned to the Happy Beggar to think things over.
4. A Tip from Mose the Barkeep
Mulling over what to do about hiring clerics, the half-orc barkeep Mose mentioned that if they were looking for divine aid, they could try the graveyard at midnight – priests of Set were known to sometimes lurk there. The PCs didn’t like the sound of that, but accepted the advice nevertheless.
5. The Cap’n
With the cleric question put aside, the PCs turned their attention to hiring men-at-arms. They knew that a fighting man could be bought for about 2 gp, and they had plenty of money. How about getting a captain, an experienced battlefield commander who could coordinate the chaotic stumplings with trained fighters against the Gunge? 75 gp was the going rate for a captain, and the PCs sent a courier boy to proposition the only man in town meeting that description.
A different courier boy returned with a message from the Cap’n – Bardolph! It turned out the Cap’n and Bardolph were one and the same. If you wanted an experienced leader of men, the shifty tomb robber was the only game in town. The PCs learnt to their dismay that Bardolph had organized a “union” of the town’s fighting men, who would now only sell their services for 10 gp each, much more than the usual going rate. The PCs could afford a few men, but not a big cohort, and they were worried about any hireling’s loyalty – would they betray them for Bardolph while in the Lost City?
6. Two Warriors Hired
The PCs went out to look for some warriors themselves, hoping to find men independent of Bardolph who would settle for a cheaper rate. At a dingy, hole-in-the wall pub they found Lachelmar, a mighty northener in plate mail, but with a very poor command of the local language – everything he said seemed the grossest insult – “this ale tastes like your mother’s piss, it’s great. Please let me have a bowl of your sister’s tits, you pig-faced turd”. All said with the biggest grin and warmest bon homie.
Their second find was Aelmange, an Easterner. They found him at Madam Dalia’s brothel, where Merlin tried to charm person the warrior to get around the whole tiresome business of negotiation. The charm failed, riling the warrior, who was only mollified by the intervention of a smooth-talking Dobby. Aelmange hired on, and the PCs reconvened at the Happy Beggar. They decided to visit the graveyard on the edge of town to see if a priest of Set might be willing to join them.
7. The Graveyard, at Midnight
The graveyard seemed to be a combination refuse pit and cemetery, formed by a rising, ring-like bluff with the tombs in a central depression.
The PCs could not have picked a more ominous time to visit the place of the dead. A storm was brewing, skies scudding with thick black clouds, illuminated by jagged streaks of lightning, and thunder rolling overhead.
The first thing they saw was a be-turbanned, goateed man with a cobra-headed staff atop a crypt and surrounded by sword-wielding skeletons. The skeletons were doing their damndest to climb on top of the crypt and hack the man apart.
The man was desperately blasting skeletons with magic missiles from his staff, and smashing at those who got too close, but it was clear that the tide was turning against him. The PCs and their hirelings raced to the rescue.
Five skeletons broke off from the main assault and turned their attentions on the PCs. With higher ground, the PCs had a fair advantage, but the skeletons turned out to be deadly opponents indeed. Within a short space of time, Alonzo, Yana’s paramour, lay dead, Cerberus the hound was killed, and even poor Dobby did not escape the slaughter, run through by a skeleton’s sword.
With three of their crew killed outright, the PCs chose the wiser course and retreated to the Happy Beggar.
8. Waldo and Knobby; the Banner of the Stumplings
There was no point in bemoaning their losses; the PCs got straight back to planning their assault on the Gunge. They hired a friend of Aelmagne, a fellow Easterner named Waldo. They made a banner depicting an upturned Gunge, dead and defeated, and with this the stumplings gave a mighty cheer – the crusade against the Gunge was about to begin in earnest.
The PCs retired for what remained of the night; in the morning, they would be setting out with a group of mostly limbless beggars, two stout warriors, another warhound to replace the slain one, and a plan to defeat the Gunge involving… embalming salts.
That night, Merlin the wizard heard a knock at his door. Opening it, he found a House Elf at the threshold, a cousin of Dobby’s named… Knobby. Knobby was very different to his weedy, stomach-distressed relation. Heavily muscled, with strange, pearl-colored skin, and a bizarre “inspection hatch” (a translucent film of skin over his intestines, his digestion visible to all who cared to look), Knobby was Merlin’s replacement House Elf. He revealed he had a special talent – his skin was strangely malleable, retaining the impression of anything pressed against it, be it writing, carvings, etc. It also became clear that Knobby like Dobby, also had a problem – he was covered head to toe in warts.
9. Back to the Lost City of Vatos
In the morning, the PCs began preparations to head to the Lost City. Surprisingly, the man they had tried to save at the graveyard turned up to meet them. He introduced himself as Mar-Hotep, a priest of Set, who would serve them in return for their efforts to save him at the graveyard. The PCs had their cleric, it seemed.
Kadas the camel-driver guided the much larger party back to the Lost City, and accompanied the group into the dungeon. The PCs accessed the tomb via the New Entry, entering a fountain chamber. This room contained four fountains. One contained a mercury-like substance, another was scummed over with green algae. Goldfish swam happily in the third fountain. The last fountain contained clear water that if touched caused the skin to tingle.
The PCs and stumplings experimented with the various fountains. A stumpling bathed in the tingly-water fountain, and found his skin complaint completely healed. The PCs took pots of liquid from the fountains to use in their battle against the Gunge, which waited in the chamber next door.
10. Versus the Gunge
Opening a barred, wooden door, the PCs and their band beheld the Gunge – it looked like a mass of red, raw, angry flesh, veined and moist, issuing vile sucking noises. It rolled slowly forward to meet the stumplings, PCs, and armed men, bubbling hungrily.
Merlin and Nadari hung back at the rear, directing the battle and commanding their hound. Mar-Hotep stayed at range, too, blasting the Gunge with ‘tongue’ missiles from his cobra-staff. The stumplings, emboldened by numbers and hate for the Gunge, headed straight for the blob, throwing embalming salt, spoons, crutches and more at it.
Kadas, the old ex-adventurer, found himself on the other side of the Gunge’s chamber, where a deep but narrow channel filled with a bubbling orange goo seemed to stop the Gunge leaving.
The combat teetered back and forth. A lucky dagger shot by Merlin hit deep, and the Gunge was wounded. Another throw went wild, hitting a stumpling who lost his footing and pitched into the throbbing, acid mass of the Gunge. Four stumplings, once brave adventurers like the PCs were consumed by the Gunge, adding to its bulk – every life it took fattened the creature!
Kadas used his trusty crowbar to scoop up some of the orange goo in the channel. With his goo-coated weapon, he caused some minor wounds to the Gunge. The other warriors threw sand on the ground, which seemed to irritate the Gunge on contact. Mercury-tipped arrows had a strange effect on the protoplasmic horror, causing it to grow a huge, blinking eye. Salt-coated weapons fared better, inflicting burning wounds. The PCs and their friends were slowly getting the upper hand…
Mar-Hotep chose to exit the room at this point, leaving as the battle turned against the Gunge. Through clever use of salt, sand, and positioning, the PCs and their allies finally bested the Gunge. Their joy at victory turned to panic as they watched the dying Gunge begin to heave and expand. As one, all turned and ran for the exit. The Gunge exploded in a deadly spray of acidic flesh, killing Kadas. In the aftermath of the explosion, they heard a slow clapping behind them.
11. Bardolph, the Cap’n, Again
Bardolph, with ten men-at-arms, and an inscrutable Mar-Hotep at his side, applauded the PCs. “Thank you for killing the Gunge. Robbing the tombs will be much easier now. Especially since I now have a map – is this yours?” One of Bardolph’s goons threw Dobby’s dead body at the PCs – his corpse had been left at the graveyard, with the map on his body, ripe for the taking.
Faced by overwhelming numbers, the PCs let the Cap’n and his allies go. Their victory over the Gunge was somewhat marred by Bardolph’s scheme – if only they had recovered Dobby’s body at the graveyard, they’d still have their map!
Knobby, the replacement House Elf, excused himself and lifted his tunic up to display his heavily muscled, warty back – there was a perfect copy of the map imprinted on his weird, impressionable skin. Things didn’t look so bad after all.
Cheered by Knobby’s revelation, the PCs took pause – the Gunge was dead. Areas of the tomb once unreachable were now wide open.
They knew that Bardolph and others would seek to raid the untouched areas before the PCs. The Cap’n thinks he has the only copy of their map – he is wrong. He has many men in his pay, including the weird wizard and priest of Set, Mar-Hotep.
But, the PCs have the surviving stumplings (Bahz and Jheph), brave Aelmagne, Waldo, and foul-mouthed Lachelmar, ‘Mono’ a shitzu-great dane warhound, and the Mr. Universe of House Elves, Knobby. They recovered wondrous treasures from the exploded body of the Gunge – a necklace of “firebaubles” and a ring of protection. If they can identify the magic of the necklace, they might have a powerful weapon against their enemies in town, and in the unknown depths of the Lost City of Vatos, resting place of the Pharaoh Sutekh…