Lissa d’Jorasco sat oblivious to the carnage around her, eagerly still trying to win the eating competition until her companion Sidney set down some flower with liquid in it next to her. Shooting him a glare that questioned why he was interfering didn’t have the same effect as it usually did, and with her arms tied behind her back she couldn’t tell him to leave in her preferred fashion.
Sidney offered the liquid. “It’s not against the rules to drink water. This’ll help you win.” Convinced for the moment, Lissa drank and her world fell apart. Sidney quickly cut her hands loose as Lissa realized what was going on around her. The other contestants had been burnt to death, her ‘pie filling’ was unmentionable and the chef had been splattered here and there.
Facing Sidney, Lizza’s stomach emptied itself all across his chest. A good five minutes later, when Lissa’s stomach was completely empty and a good round of dry heaving became manageable Lissa finally spoke. “I knew it was a mistake to go outside…”
“Lissa, have you seen Deedee? We haven’t found any children so far…”
“Of course, I told her to sit right over there for the competit—” Lissa pointed over to a nearby chair where a single kewpie doll sat flopped over. Thankfully, Lissa did still have her equipment with her, including a scroll of Remove Blindness which they used on Grigori – Sidney being okay with observing things through his homunculus for now.
There were three locations left that our group had not explored yet. The Ice Sculpting competition, the Ice Maze, and the Tent of Modern Wonders (sponsered by House Cannith). The sculpting event and and maze were closest – so time to start there first.
Traveling as a group to the surface of the frozen lake the Ice Sculpting competition was in full swing. Small, frozen blue gnome-like creatures with bushy beards made of sharp bristling ice shards were handing out hammer and chisel to the excited competitors who were smashing and stabbing helpless citizens frozen inside the ice with horrified expressions on their faces. Among the victims here, our heroes immediately recognized Auchs whose right arm and left leg were dangling from their sockets.
Thankfully, the Ice Chiselers were far too busy enjoying the carnage to realize their merriment was about to be rudely interrupted. Moving across the ice was an added challenge but not enough to deter our heroes. The Ice Chiselers and their stabby ice beards were quickly dispatched, and the competitors (the living ones anyway) freed from their prisons. Those that were frozen in the ice were suffering from hypothermia, and many were suffering from shock at the torture they had undergone. After managing to heal the wounded – though many had injuries (such as Auchs) that standard healing magic could not mend, Grigori, Bastion, and Lissa led the survivors back to the Ale Tent to hold up and stay safe while the rest explored the carnival.
Heading towards the Ice Maze, a terrible wolf howl was heard in the distance…
The walls of the maze were a good eight feet tall and about 8 inches thick but with no ceiling. The more disturbing nature of the maze however, was that there were corpses embedded in the walls every so often. Wandering through a maze that may or may not reconfigure itself once they enter would not be an ideal solution, so Valerie was buffed with some Invisibility and Fly to scout out the area. With her impressive perception and trapfinding skills there were multiple that were discovered from a safe distance. A giant Jack-In-The-Box, a field of sharp Ice Flowers, a section of ice that would flip to trap people underneath, and finally a great pile of corpses in the center of the maze accompanied by a familiar nine foot tall killing machine.
Valerie’s heart sank. The clothes and mannerisms only pointed to one person…this was Kundal, the half-orc hunter that had been an afflicted Big Bad Wolf responsible for the deaths of three citizens shortly after their kingdom was founded. They had managed a cure, but it would only last if he was a vegetarian the rest of his life. With the strange enchantment caused by the Eye of Rapture…
The afflicted BBW sniffed the wind realizing that prey was nearby…turning down a corner and out of sight. Valerie decided that now was a good time to return to the others. Filling them in, it was an easy task to lead the others through the maze while avoiding the traps – breaking down walls where necessary to reach the center. Kundal burst forth from the center of the pile of corpses, scattering them everywhere as he waded into our heroes with his greataxe! With a heavy heart the wolf was struck down, reverting to his half-orc form staring off into the distance with empty eyes…
Two problems solved, one area left to stop. There were still traps here to deal with, and people still wandering the maze but it would take a lot of time to disable them all…
Our heroes stopped off at the Ale Tent to pick up Lissa and Bastion, with Grigori staying behind to protect the people as his position of Mayor demanded.
Heading over to the Modern Wonders tent back near the entrance of the carnival, they passed by a series of wagons that were home to the carnies. One of them clearly labeled “Master of Ceremonies – Namdrin Quinn. Do not disturb.”
Not one to honor most signs and/or warnings, Korin kicked the door off its hinges and stomped inside. Sitting in a large recliner in the corner, nursing a bottle of strong liquor was the Namdrin himself the elf and master of the Carnival of Shadows. Namdrin was not alone however, Mr. Raconteur the manager of Basilia Baxton was also pacing back and forth impatiently.
“You’ve got a lot of balls! Why didn’t you warn anyone about what was going to happen!?” shouted the dwarf.
A voice slurred with drink and dipped in anger replied from the elf “I. Couldn’t. Warn. Anyone. Part of my ‘contract’…”
“You mean for this?” Valerie pulled out the Ice Shard they had obtained from the Red Jester. Mr. Raconteur was at her side in an instant, holding his hand out for it. Placing it in his grasp, Mr. Raconteur snapped the shard in half, the frozen form inside growing into the full fledged sleeping form of Basilia Baxton.
“Sorry for your luck mate.” muttered the manager to Namdrin “But my contract is now broken. I am at your service, rulers of Valdrik.”
“Alright, but we have some questions first. We’ve been putting out fires as we can but…there’s still been no sign of this Cold Rider. How do we put an end to this?”
“Disrupt his fun…the attractions that he’s perverted, you keep burning those down and he’ll have no choice but to show himself.”
“And the children? We haven’t seen any of those since all this carnage started.”
“Well, you have me there. I would have expected the children to be in the carnage along with everyone else. I think the fae would have preferred it that way. I’m sorry, but I don’t know where they are.”
With Mr. Raconteur added to their retinue and Namdrin left to drown in his drink they finally arrived at the Modern Wonders tent. Outside a large skeletal figure running on clockword gears paced back and forth, occasionally picking up random passersby and throwing them inside the tent. A line was slowly making its way forward into the tent.
Mr. Raconteur took one look at the clockwork skeleton and nodded. “That’ll do.” With a snap of his fingers the figure stiffened and locked into place, now under the manager’s control as an Animated Object.
Using their official powers of cutsies followed by backsies several times the heroes made their way past the disturbing signs advertising the different machines provided by House Cannith – The Stacker! The Debarker! The Ten Splitter!
At the front of the line was Septim Garess, the warden of their council waiting patiently for his turn to go through the attraction. A flower was quickly shoved into his hands as another cheerful voice called out to Valerie.
“Hey! It’s so good to see you!” Waving from her place strapped to a conveyor belt, heading towards a large buzzsaw was the uncharacteristically smiling face of Roberta Catherine Evered d’Lyrandar. Valerie was…conflicted.
“Ah welcome welcome to the Modern Wonders ladies and gents.” A crooked looking man in threadbare clothes stepped forth from the shadows. A creature of nightmares, one who feeds on fear, a bogeyman!
Coming soon, the final chapter in the Carnival of Tears!