When last we left our heroes, Dukmana the Gnome Illusionist/Thief--
--and Ruthless, the human barbarian--
--they had consumed red lotus petals at the monastery of Mandul Xiem in the land Cam Shak. Doing so had transported them to another plane of existence, to a planet known as “Carcosa”.
They journeyed to Carcosa for two reasons. The first was that long ago, they had been hired by the noblewoman by day, exotic dancer at night in the city of Tal Skallar. She tasked them with opening an opium trading route to the East. In particular, they were to bring her back opium made exotic black lotus. Upon arriving at Mandul Xiem, they learned that it only grew on Carcosa. Unlike the red lotus, which was a one way trip to Carcosa, black lotus opium could allow someone to travel back and forth.
They also were in Carcosa because on their way to the monastery of Mandul Xiem, they had met a dying Archmage. He asked them to rescue his nephew Himana, who the mage believed had been brainwashed by the monks. He promised magical artifacts in return.
When they found Himana, they saw that he’d become a monk himself, was morbidly obese, and stoned out of his mind on red lotus. While they were able to rouse him from his catatonic state, he refused to leave the monastery before achieving his goal – bringing back black lotus opium himself so that he too could travel back and forth.
And so, the party had made their journey to Carcosa, hoping to find Black Lotus opium and keep Fat Himana alive long enough to safely return him to his Archmage uncle.
Their only clue as to how to find the black lotus opium was to seek a being known only as the Bone Sorcerer. He could transform the usually poisonous black lotus petals and powder into the opium they sought.
When they arrived in Carcosa, they were in a blasted purple landscape under twin suns. They made their way through a desert of swirling black sands, where they were quickly met by a tribe of purple skinned barbarians. Except for their skin, they were apparently human, although they rode great dinosaurs and their leader carried a mysterious device that looked like a cross between a crossbow and a lance.
Through the illusions of Dukmana the gnome illusionist/thief, they convinced the Purple Barbarian Leader that they too served “The Law”, and were opposed to the forces of Chaos. He did so by making it seem as if the statue they prayed to, a giant glass warrior of a color that didn’t exist on their plane called “Ulfire”, had bowed to them.
Although this prevented a battle, it created a dilemma. In addition to the Incomparable Crown and The Consumed God, the barbarian tribe’s most deadly enemy was The Bone Sorcerer himself.
Dukmana, Ruthless, the human barbarian and Fat Himana now found themselves camped outside a fissure of the earth which led to the so-called Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer. Ruthless had not made the initial journey to Carcosa with Dukmana. In Cam Shak, he’d been tempted into a night of debauchery with lizard people. He didn’t quite feel like himself, but did manage to pilfer a Potion of Giant’s strength from them before following Dukmana and the dwarven cleric Bludgeon Stonemace to Carcosa. Bludgeon had disappeared during the night when the party made camp with the purple barbarians.
Ruthless, Dukmana and Himana had been escorted their by their new purple-skinned, dino-riding barbarian allies, who now insisted that they accompany the party into the Bone Sorcerer’s lair so they could help them annihilate him. They had no intention of doing so, and tried to talk the barbarian leader out of delving into the cave with them.
“We must go alone,” Dukamana insisted. He tried to explain that they were on a mission from a higher plane of existence. The Barbarian Leader did not understand the concept of planes. “I thought we were allies?” he said, seemingly insulted, although not yet distrustful of the party’s motives.
Ruthless asked his fellow barbarian whether the purple warriors would kill the Bone Sorcerer. He emphatically answered yes, and added they would torture him for good measure. Ruthless would be allowed to question him, which set his mind somewhat at ease that they might learn how to return home before they were forced to kill him.
Dukmana kept pressing, however. He explained that they needed something from the Bone Sorcerer to return home. The Barbarian Leader said that Carcosa would be their new home, if they helped cleanse it of Chaos. Deterring the barbarians from accompanying them into the caves below seemed impossible.
Ruthless inquired about the strange device the Barbarian Leader held. He told Ruthless that it was alien in nature, and by pressing the trigger he could strike enemies at range with a beam of immense power. It was particularly effective on Yellow Men, who often (though not exclusively) worshipped the Gods of Chaos. It reminded Ruthless of a sonic mining tool he’d long ago wielded in a Dwarven obsidian mine, but the Barbarian Leader boasted that his was one of a kind.
Ruthless, resigned to the fact they would be entering the Fungoid Gardens en masse, then asked about the Bone Sorcerer himself. The Purple Barbarian Leader had never seen the Bone Sorcerer himself. But he was rumored to have transparent skin, wear strange armor, and wield a device similar to the “one-of-a-kind” weapon that he carried. And of most troubling at all, that he made human sacrifices to dark elder gods in order to control creatures from beyond.
Ruthless was satisfied that was all the knowledge they could glean. Dukmana had managed to talk the Purple Barbarians into sending a small retinue with them, only their leader and some bowmen, leaving their lancers to guard their Allosaurus mounts. The dinosaurs were too big for the narrow passages of the caves. Not so the Shoggoth that Dukmana commanded, which could alter its protoplasmic mass to squeeze through almost any opening, nor the Tiger Worm which Ruthless rode in place of its usual master, the dandy warrior named Jacques.
So, along with Fat Himana and the Purple Barbarians, they descended into the ground.
Soon, they learned why it had been called The Fungoid Gardens. The walls were lined with bioluminescent fungi of many colors, including many that didn’t exist on their plane. They carefully avoided making contact with any – thankfully whatever fungi had grown on the floor had been stamped into fine powder by what appeared to be barefoot humanoids.
Before long, they came upon a large caved filled with lotus. Unfortunately, the lotus was not black, but white. And cultivating the white lotus were Yellow Men. Although not undead, The Barbarian referred to them as zombies. They had been kidnapped, dosed with the white lotus power and made slaves by the Bone Sorcerer.
There were twelve of these White Lotus Zombies, and they were clearly disturbed by the uninvited visitors. The zombies soon set upon the party and their purple barbarian allies. They wielded clubs and knives.
The first struck at the Barbarian Leader, missing. The next zombie’s knife found purchase into one of the purple bowmen.
Dukmana whispered to Ruthless that they should turn on the Purple Barbarians. He did not wish to anger the Bone Sorcerer, whose help they needed, by destroying his zombies. The barbarians might eventually discover that they served neither “Law” nor “Chaos”, just themselves. The Leader was already wary of magic and the unearthly Shoggoth he controlled. And wouldn’t Ruthless like to have the leader’s strange weapon?
Ruthless disagreed as strongly as he could without being overheard. They were outnumbered by the White Lotus Zombies even with their purple allies. They’d likely need their help to survive. There were more Purple Barbarians outside. If just one purple warrior escaped, they’d find themselves facing two enemies.
But there was more to it than that. Ruthless was certainly no man of “Law”. But he felt a kinship with these wild folk that so-called civilized beings like Dukmana called Barbarians. They were not of his skin tone, let alone tribe, but they possessed a code of honor not dissimilar than his own. One he could not bring himself to break by betraying them.
Their argument was settled when a third zombie stabbed Dukmana. A fourth and fifth zombie struck at Himana, with the latter puncturing the fat monk’s skin. A sixth successfully bashed Ruthless with his club, although his plate mail and hardy constitution meant he was not as badly injured as Dukmana or the monk.
The other half of their zombie assailants continued the attack. One clubbed the wounded Purple Barbarian Bowman to death. That left just one more bowman and the Barbarian Leader remained of their purple allies. They struck at the leader and Fat Himana but missed. One struck Dukmana’s Shoggoth, but was unable to damage the eldritch monstrosity.
Ruthless struck back at the White Lotus Zombies first, killing one with his two-handed sword. Dukmana had hoped that this would weaken their morale, but while they seemed shaken, they would not retreat.
Dukmana decided to encourage the surviving purple warriors to fight, hoping the two sides would wipe each other out. “For Law!” he cried, and the leader struck and killed another zombie, reducing their number to ten. The surviving purple bowman not only missed the next zombie, however, he dropped his bow, and had to drop to the ground to retrieve it, leaving him vulnerable to attack.
Dukmana then unleashed his Shoggoth. The Shoggoth’s tentacles struck and wounded two more zombies, but it was unable to consume a third. Dukmana followed up his attack by firing his wand of fireballs. He did so reluctantly, unaware of how many charges remained in it. It successfully immolated more zombies.
Despite his girth and wounds, Himana proved himself to be proficient in the martial arts the monks had trained him in, wounding a White Lotus Zombie with his bare hands.
The surviving zombies, although wounded and reduced to half their number, were not deterred, and resumed their assault. Two tried to club Himana but missed. Another successfully stabbed the Shoggoth. A fourth missed the giant tiger worm that Ruthless had slithered into the caves on. Another missed the Shoggoth, and the final zombie stabbed Fat Himana. Bleeding like a stuck pick, the monk so intent on his black lotus opium starting crying that he wanted to go home to his uncle.
Ruthless led the counterattack by hacking the most-powerful looking zombie to death. His giant tiger worm tore another to shreds.
Dukmana pulled out a meteorite dagger that he’d retrieved from a Deep One City days before. He’d seen it set foes ablaze, and unlike his wand it had unlimited charges. But the gnome was better at magic than fighting, and was unable to stab his zombie attacker.
His Shoggoth did not seem any more agile at first. It lashed out with one of its tentacles, but the appendage missed and wrapped around a stalactite, its suction grip holding it in place. Its other tentacle managed to wound, but not kill a zombie. And it was finally able to get it’s orifice around another, swallowing the enslaved Yellow Man whole.
The Purple Barbarian leader fired his mysterious weapon. As the beam struck the White Lotus Zombie, its yellow flesh dissolved. He seemed distressed that the weapon only had two charges remaining.
His last surviving purple warrior missed another zombie with his bow. Fat Himana, despite his whining, was able to hit it with his fist, crushing its skull with a single blow.
There was a single zombie left. It bashed the purple archer to death. Dukmana was unable to avenge him, but Ruthless finished him off.
The White Lotus Zombie was dead, but the party was wounded, Himana badly so. The Purple Leader had lost two of his men. He bent over them, and shouted that the Great Ulfire Warrior would carry their souls to heaven to continue its war on Chaos. As the party had not ventured too far into the Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer, The Purple Barbarian Leader announced he would get the rest of his men and marched outside to gather them.