Chapter 1, Part V: Booger and the Rat

The boys woke up with the morning sun on the wonderfully cozy, brand new sectional couch of the three (late) witch sisters. After some discussion about what to do next-- should they drain the bodies of blood and attempt to open the door? Should they dig a hole in the yard to get under the house? Should they just break down the door? It was wood after all.-- they realized that the growling and clattering sounds that had been coming from behind the hatch had disappeared. Without the orbs on the door, they found that it simply opened right up. A set of stone stairs led down into the basement of the home, ending in a small room with moss-coated walls and a single lantern sitting on a table. There was a bookshelf against the wall beside the table, the bottom two rows lined with books while the remainder of the shelves above were filled with jars, vials, and various other containers. At the far end of the room, there was a single metal door.

Chief Paws inspected the bookshelf and found: A wooden box, jars with various items inside including leaves, pickled frogs legs, a few spiders, sliced mushrooms, whole mushrooms, flower petals, and a ring of keys. It also had a few weapons, including a crossbow and a dagger, with a broadsword propped against the side of the bookcase.

With closer inspection of the table, Corky saw there was an open book, a travel-sized cauldron for the witch-on-the-go, a small rock, and a cage with a frantically squeaking rat inside of it.

Chief Paws used their ability to speak to the rat, and heard that it was yelling at them frantically to leave. When she realized that they could understand her, the rat tried to very quickly fill them in about the witches that would surely kill all of the boys as soon as they realized there were strangers in their home. Chief Paws informed the well-meaning rat that they had killed all three of the witches, which brightened the rat's mood considerably.

She explained that she wasn't really a rat, but was in fact a Gnome named Louise Marsh who had been turned into a rat by the witches. They intermittently posted on the Adventurers' Guild board to lure unsuspecting adventurers into their home to drain them of their youth and vitality in order to lengthen their own lives. As far as Louise was able to gather while the witches were working on turning her into a rat, the witches thought it would be beneficial to make their victims smaller and easier to transport without suspicion, but they were experimenting because they also wanted to ensure it wouldn't mess up their abilities to siphon off youth. Louise also said that there were twin halflings behind the metal door, locked in cells. A third victim, a man, had been in the room with them, but had been removed the day before and had not returned. When asked about the Bone Devil, Louise explained that she did not know what a Bone Devil was, but she did know of a creature that was kept in some kind of black hole or rift near the back of the hatch door that the witches' could open and close with a ritual. Chief Paws , Gyome, and Corky surmised that the Bone Devil was likely being kept in a separate dimensional portal.

While Chief Paws was chatting with Louise, Gyome took stock of the mushrooms on the shelf. He picked out 3 whole Dwarven Fart mushrooms, and 6 slices of a Fishfin Mushroom. Artem pulled some flower petals from the shelf and identified them as Cherub Rose petals.

Corky recognized that there was something odd about the rock on the table, and with a solid Arcana check, and a little help from Leozumin (who was watching the trap door to make sure they weren't ambushed), the two determined that the rock had held a concentrated form of magic, and it was used to bolster the transmutation spell used to change Louise into a rat. Due to the strength of the magic in the stone, they calculated that it would last for over 100 days.

Moved by Louise's predicament, Chief Paws promised her that they would help her find a way to change her back.

Artem used the keys that Chief Paws found on the bookshelf to open up the heavy metal door, seeing two halflings in the cell directly across from him. The middle cell was empty and the third cell held a long dead resident who had since turned to bones. After speaking with the twins, and corroborating the story that Louise had told the crew, the party released the twins. With a very quick thank you, the halflings left in a hurry, only stopping to collect their weapons on the bookshelf before disappearing through the hatch in the ceiling.

The inspection of the skeleton and the rest of the cells turned up nothing more of note, and the party-- with Louise catching a ride on Chief Paws-- left the basement. They did one last check on Goddard, Artem making sure he was okay before reluctantly agreeing to let him stay in the witches' home.

On the long walk back from the witches' hut to the Adventurers' Guild, Louise asked Chief Paws to tell Corky that she loved his puppet and to ask him if he knew Bugsy and Baker, since they were her absolute favorite ventriloquist duo. This angered Corky and Stefano, as Bugsy and Baker were their arch rivals-- a ventriloquist act that was booking all of the best gigs right from under them.

Once at the Guild, the party asked Judy, the overly cheerful concierge, for assistance in finding a wizard who might be able to help them remove a transmogrification curse/spell, and they were pointed in the direction of two senior members of the guild: a half-elf wizard who looked rather severe and went by the nickname 'Booger' and an older human woman who ordered and ate only eggs. After a quick check in with the Egg Lady, the party decided Booger was likely the better option.

Without even a request for financial compensation, Booger removed the spell on Louise Marsh, turning her back into a curly-haired gnome woman with a bright, gap-toothed smile. She was exceedingly grateful for the party's help, and told them that she owed them one. Upon seeing the twin halflings regrouping at one of the tables in the guild, her mood grew a bit sour, as they hadn't even tried to see if she was okay, and had left her in the basement, as a rat, without so much as a glance. With another thank you to the party, she left to get a room for the night and some much needed rest.

Although it was getting late into the day, nearing the closing time of the shops in Gilding, the boys took one more quest off the board, the quest they had noted the day before involving Inkling's Bookshop and a very likely ambush that waited for the cargo and the crew unloading it. Having the upper hand, they decided to be that crew. The registered for the quest with Judy at the concierge desk, and then headed out to talk to the poster of the quest.

They caught Evard Scribbit just as he was turning the sign in his front door from 'open' to 'closed. He reluctantly allowed them in, and after an intimidatingly detailed speech from Gyome about the upcoming attack, Evard agreed to up their payment to 80 GP per person for the job that next morning.

The thought of a looming bandit attack seemed rather dangerous, and so Corky returned to the Guild and convinced Booger to have their backs during the unloading mission for 55 GPs, which still allowed them to net an additional 95 GP from the original asking price of the job, and ensured they had strong magical back-up if things went south.

The party decided that, instead of spending their hard-earned money and staying at an inn, they would camp in the woods outside of Gilding for the night. During this long rest, they all read some books or trained, increasing their Potential Points counter.

While sitting around the campfire, Stefano Romano, still miffed about the conversation earlier regarding Bugsy and Baker, continued to rant to his pal Chief Paws about the duo, saying an untoward thing or two about Louise in the process. Chief Paws mentioned that maybe Stefano was a little insecure, which upset him deeply and sent him off to his tent to turn in for the night. Though, the pair did make up again by breakfast time.

Gyome, Artem, and Leozumin, all men of academia, had a rousing conversation surrounding the nature of magic in their world, spurred on by the events of the day and the rock that had intensified the spell on Louise. Although they had always been taught that the planet itself was magical, it still came as a bit of a surprise to the two Strixhaven affiliates that the most potent and concentrated form of magic could be pulled directly from the ground of Roost. Most teachings at Strixhaven focused on ambient magic--the magic that could be drawn from the air and used in all spellcasting. Leozumin imparted this knowledge to his friends, explaining that it was this more concentrated form of magic that The Order of the Faded Chapters used to give him life. However, use of this magic is highly regulated across every continent due to its dangerous nature and the belief that this magic was tied to the Guardians themselves and disrupting it could cause irreparable damage to Roost.

Completed: April 2022