Chapter 4, Part III: Mushroom Mayhem

The morning sun cast bitter shadows over the shell of Boymin as the Platinum Talons awoke from a well-deserved long rest. However, their sense of respite quickly turned to confusion and concern as they realized that Bart, along with the Bag of Holding, had vanished without a trace during the night. It was as if she had been plucked from their midst by some unseen force, leaving nothing behind but an empty space and a bag-less feeling of loss.

With furrowed brows and troubled expressions, they exited the Thistle House, only to be met by a small group of the town's less fortunate, their fingers accusingly pointing toward Xerxes. In their midst stood Deputy Junior Officer, a tall, mustachioed figure dressed in the Boymin Guard uniform, every bit the official and professional representative of the town's law.

The deputy inquired about what had transpired, prompting Xerxes to recount the strange events of the previous evening. However, his tale of the stranger's demise and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it left the deputy with an incredulous look. Xerxes, drawing upon his soldierly expertise, made a valiant attempt to convince the skeptical officer that the man they had encountered the previous night had taken his own life.

As the deputy mulled over Xerxes' account, Vance chimed in, shedding light on the odd behavior of the townsfolk. It seemed that the villagers had been acting peculiarly, repeatedly asking the question, "Did you say Bart?"

The deputy, now intrigued yet still suspicious, inquired further, "Did you say Bart?" He asked them. He pressed Xerxes on why he hadn't come forward immediately after the man's death. Xerxes, his voice tinged with the trauma of the night before, explained that he had been deeply affected by the experience and sought refuge in a place he considered safe.

Vance, not wishing to draw more attention to themselves as adventurers, emphasized that they were in Boymin primarily to sell his wine. However, the deputy's response was unexpected as he offered a permit for the not-so-modest fee of 75 gold pieces. Vance, cautious and unsure about their prospects of selling wine in a town gripped by darkness, hesitated to commit to the permit.

As they left Boymin, the Platinum Talons ventured into the nearby forest, en route to the legendary Wiltspar tree. To their surprise, the forest seemed to have undergone a miraculous transformation overnight. What was once a place of desolation, with withered trees and wilted plants, now teemed with life and vibrant greenery.

Upon reaching Wiltspar, Nohki, always the provider, shared a slice of his delectable carrot cake with his companions, bestowing upon them the gift of enhanced perception. In a town so beset by darkness as Boymin, any bit of brightness was a welcome reprieve.

While visiting Wiltspar, Vance, Nohki, and Xerxes extended their condolences to Cedric's closest friends, who had recently lost their compatriot. Following their exchanges, they couldn't resist the urge to investigate the Wiltspar Chest. Among its contents, they found a book titled "Songs of the Worked and Weary Vol. 1," but Vance noticed that some pages were missing. Curiously, he felt an inexplicable connection to the book, as if it held secrets meant just for him.

Intrigued, Vance delved deeper, comparing the book's contents to songs performed by his old troupe. While the tune felt familiar, it bore subtle differences, leading him to suspect that it might be the work of Vanros Vane, a renowned musician in his own right, and previous maestro of Vance's old troupe.

Their business in Wiltspar concluded, the Platinum Talons made use of the Orb of Last Location, transporting themselves back to the forest outside of Boymin. Here, Nohki's druidic abilities harmonized with the Wiltspar sapling outside the town, forging a connection between the two places.

The party sought out Deputy Junior Officer once more, hoping to glean more information about the strange darkness that plagued Boymin. The deputy revealed that since the darkness had settled over the town, things had taken an eerie turn, with fear gripping the hearts of the townsfolk and tourism plummeting in Boymin, once known as the Tabaxi capital of the world.

Thinking on their feet, Vance employed his minor illusion spell to conjure an image of Bart just around the corner. Music filled the air as he began to play, a soulful melody that seemed to breathe life into the very streets. Slowly but surely, a crowd gathered, drawn by the enchanting notes. Even children, a rarity in these unsettling times, emerged from their homes, running through Vance's illusory image as if it were merely a mirage.

People clapped and cheered as Vance's performance came to an end, hungry for more. With an eye and ear for business, Vance promised to grace the Thistle House with his musical talents later that night.

While Vance entertained the masses, Xerxes returned to the ever-watchful Deputy Junior Officer. Negotiations ensued, and through some shrewd haggling, he managed to secure a merchant permit for a more reasonable 50 gold pieces. Vance and Xerxes decided to split the cost of the permit, sharing the burden of doing business in Boymin.

Their business obligations met, the Platinum Talons set their sights on a new quest from the Adventurer's Guild International (AGI). Drez, having finally stirred from his slumber and joining back up with the crew, was brought up to speed on the recent events.

Their quest involved retrieving the elusive Midisake mushroom, a task bestowed upon them by none other than Baron vonRatsworth, a rat of distinguished tastes and attire. The Baron explained that the mushroom was a crucial component in a potion that could potentially reverse his unfortunate transformation into a rat. Unfortunately, he couldn't recall what he had been before his rodent days.

With directions in hand, the party made their way to the designated clearing in the forest, a place where the Midisake mushrooms were said to grow. However, their quest took an unexpected turn when they encountered river and cliff cutting the terrain in twain.

Nohki, ever the agile druid, gracefully misty-stepped across to secure the knot on the other side. Xerxes, however, faced a more treacherous challenge. As he attempted to cross, the knot he tied proved less than secure, and disaster struck as he plummeted into the wall with a less-than-graceful thud and broke his ankle.

Suddenly, tendrils emerged from the nearby bushes, and Nohki's keen eyes spotted a group of towering mushroom creatures advancing toward them. The party faced an unexpected showdown.

Xerxes, refusing to be outdone by gravity, clambered up the rope and retaliated with a fiery assault, launching flames from within at one of the mushrooms. But his fiery spell was met with a surprising twist as one of the mushrooms, sporting an orb in its chest, absorbed the flames without flinching.

Unfazed, Drez, ever the sharpshooter, unleashed a masterful arrow, marking one of the mushrooms as his prey with a bardic inspiration from Vance. As his arrow found purchase, the creature was left reeling, afflicted by a hunter's mark.

Nohki, with a druidic flourish, summoned a sphere of fire that struck two of the mushrooms, enveloping them in searing heat. However, the mushroom with the orb retaliated, shooting the energy stored within it at Nohki, inflicting damage almost equal to Xerxes' earlier fire spell.

Two of the remaining mushrooms, perhaps realizing the odds were stacked against them, fled into the forest, leaving their companions to face the intruders.

Vance and Drez remained on the other side of the river so Xerxes tossed a rope over to him, who skillfully caught it. Drez, with his bow still in hand, expertly tied the rope to a nearby tree and began making his way across.

Xerxes, undeterred by his earlier fall, cast more scorching rays into the fray. One by one, the mushrooms succumbed to the fiery onslaught, their fungal forms wilting and burning away.

With the battle won, the Platinum Talons scoured the clearing for the elusive Midisake mushrooms. Drez collected three differently described mushrooms, while Vance gathered six green berries. Nohki discovered the Midisake and contributed four mushrooms to their haul.

As the party surveyed their spoils, Xerxes, attempting to help Nohki, accidentally trampled one of the mushrooms. Still, they had enough, and so turned to head back to the town of Boymin to collect their reward, which they had forgotten to negotiate prior to completing the quest.

As Xerxes swung gallantly across the gaping chasm on the rope, the exhilaration of the moment was quickly overshadowed by a loud, ominous crack echoing from his knee. He winced in pain as his feet made contact with the stone wall on the other side. It appeared that his daredevil antics had taken a toll, and he now found himself with a noticeable limp, his movement speed diminished by an unfortunate 10 feet.

Meanwhile, Nohki couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt as he glanced at the Spider Climb mushroom tucked away in the bottom of his bag. A sheepish grimace crept across his face as he discreetly concealed it even further. If only he had remembered its presence earlier, perhaps Xerxes' acrobatics wouldn't have taken such a painful turn.

The Platinum Talons returned to Baron vonRatsworth, proudly presenting the mushrooms they had procured. However, their triumph quickly soured as the Baron examined the fungi and shook his head in disappointment. "These aren't the right mushrooms," he declared, leaving the party bewildered.

Protestations erupted as the Platinum Talons vehemently insisted that Baron had specifically requested a mushroom with a red stripe and a green square. But Baron was unyielding, claiming he had asked for the reverse, a green stripe with a red square.

Undaunted by this sudden wrinkle, Vance decided to employ his magic, casting the Distort Value spell on the mushrooms Drez had found in the bag to alter their appearance to match Baron's "correct" description. Baron, seemingly satisfied, rewarded them generously with a choice of precious gems - emerald, ruby, or sapphire, each worth a whopping 250 gold pieces. He also bestowed upon them a mysterious magic ring.

With their treasure in tow, the party set out to turn in their quest to the AGI. Xerxes, beseeching Jodi, the helpful concierge who he often copped an attitude with, inquired about the possibility of receiving a Lesser Restoration spell to heal his aching knee. Jodi told him that was, unfortunately, beyond her abilities.

Their next destination was the temple, but what they encountered there was far from expected. The once-glorious temple of Lumi, goddess of light, now lay in disrepair, plagued by structural issues and an unsettling absence of light. The clerics within, tasked with maintaining the divine essence of the place, appeared disheartened. The man at the front, a father named Felarge, lamented the disappearance of his adventurous son, Felipe, who had ventured into the temple's catacombs and gone missing.

Xerxes, hopeful for healing, tried to persuade the clerics to perform a Lesser Restoration on his knee. However, they explained that Lumi's presence had waned in this place, and they could offer no assistance. Determined to help, Nohki hurried back to the AGI, retrieving a second quest specifically detailing the search for a lost child in the temple catacombs. Their intention was to claim the quest and earn credit for the task the party seemed likely to complete.

Upon their return, the Platinum Talons faced the clerics once more, attempting to convince them to grant access to the catacombs after signing a liability waiver.

As they explored the catacombs, the group stumbled upon a section obstructed by rubble. Nohki, Drez, and Vance began the arduous task of clearing it. However, the effort took its toll, leaving Nohki exhausted.

Meanwhile, Xerxes explored the surroundings and discovered an offering bowl at the temple's altar, filled with coins and an amulet of Lumi. Once the rubble was cleared, the group pressed forward, discovering the catacombs' secrets, including a door that only opened when Xerxes used the Lumi amulet to manipulate light and illuminate a hidden symbol.

As they continued to explore, they came upon cells containing six human/elves/tabaxis, each pleading for assistance. Nohki, with a keen insight, examined the captives, concluding that they appeared genuinely scared and in need of help. The captives informed the party that the key to their freedom was the light emanating from the Lumi amulet that the clerics wore, as that is how the dastardly men locked them up.

Nohki, in his cat form, investigated a small hole in the wall, but his timidity got the better of him, and he found nothing of significance.

Back in the main area of the catacombs, Xerxes identified the light source as a Daylight spell, shedding both figurative and literal light on the puzzle ahead of them.

Completed: September 2023