Some of my favorite videos to watch on YouTube are the ones from Outside XBox and Outside Xtra when the teams from the two channels get together to play Dungeons & Dragons. I think the stories they tell while playing are really interesting so I’ve decided to try to turn some of their adventures into short stories, mostly just as a little writing exercise for myself. This is the first chapter of the unofficial Oxventure Chronicles, it’s based on this video and it’s called The Spicy Rat Caper.

It was mid morning when Dob entered Caster Falls. Following the noises of people and animals he made his way to the main market square. Once there he surveyed the vendors and people milling about, not a single one with green skin, so he unslung his lute, stepped into the middle of the square and started playing his sister’s lullaby.

At the same time, Corazón was just making his way up from the docks towards the market square, making sure to put just the right amount of swagger in his step as he walked. After a few minutes he entered the square and the first thing he saw was a large half-orc standing in the middle of the square playing a lute. He listened for a moment then shook his head at the people dropping copper coins at the orcish bard’s feet. He turned and started looking around the stalls in search for suitable provisions.

Dob finished playing, nothing more to show for it than a few coppers at his feet. Just as he was about to pick up the coins he saw the crowds part and a very officious looking man in a resplendent doublet come marching up to the town’s notice board. The man unraveled a scroll, nailed it to the notice board with measured hammer blows, then turned on his heel and marched away. Curious to read what it said, Dob left the coins on the ground and sauntered off towards the notice board.

Merilwen had come to the market to try to sell some healing herbs but had spotted a cute dog running around the stalls and was busy petting it when she was brusquely pushed aside. She looked up only to see the back of a man in fancy livery disappearing into the crowd. She followed him and was just about to tap him on the shoulder when he unraveled the scroll and started nailing it to the notice board. Wanting to be the better person she waited while he worked, but the moment he finished he turned around, pushed her out of the way without a second look then marched off; she was so stunned she didn’t follow. After collecting herself she instead turned to the notice the rude man had just put up, it read:

Adventurers needed at Mayweather residence regarding missing person. REWARD OFFERED

As she was reading, Merilwen took notice of the man next to her. He was dressed in a kind of exaggerated sailor’s outfit, almost as if he was purposefully trying to look like a pirate from the tales. She shook her head at his slightly ridiculous get-up and turned to go find the Mayweather residence; even if she didn’t end up searching for the missing person, she could at least have a word with that man who put up the notice about his rude behavior. To her surprise she spotted the man in the pirate get-up heading in the same direction.

Having read the notice, Dob was also making his way towards the Mayweather residence. It only took him a few minutes to reach a big mansion which he guessed must be it. A small crowd of ragtag adventurers, some in rusting chain mail with wooden clubs at their hips, had gathered in front of it. A few steps to the side of the group stood a tall woman with jet black hair, curved horns and long tail. Dob had never seen a tiefling but he guessed she must be one. A man dressed in the same kind of livery as the one who posted the notice was standing at the top of the stairs, inspecting the people gathering in front of the house. Dob joined the back of the crowd and waited. After a few minutes an elf dressed in greens and browns positioned herself slightly to the left of him. Soon there after a human dressed like he had listened to too many bardic songs about piracy passed by Dob and found a place near the front. The group waited some minutes more, but when no one else showed up the man at the top of the stairs pointed, seemingly arbitrarily, first at the pirate, then at the elf, quickly followed by the tiefling, and finally at Dob. “You, you, you and you, in!” he declared, and gestured towards the door. Dob followed the other three up the steps to the mansion.

Corazón pumped his fist (discretely) when he was the first to be chosen, then quickly turned to see who else had been selected. At first he was surprised to see the bard get selected but a second later he realized he must be there to better record his exploits. When the man pointed them towards the house he lead the way, gallantly leaping up the porch steps.

Prudence felt a faint tingling of eldritch energy in the end of her tail when she was selected, and when the man pointed towards the door she strode forward with purpose. She quickly caught up with the elf who had been selected and tried her best to put on a friendly smile, “Hi, I’m Prudence, what’s your name?” “M-M-Merilwen,” the girl stammered, clearly Prudence’s smile wasn’t as friendly as she hoped so she closed her mouth. “Sorry,” Merilwen caught herself, “it’s just that I’ve never met a tiefling before.” “That’s OK,” Prudence replied. “Neither have I,” Dob broke in, “hullo I’m Dob, wandering bard.” The two women only just had time to give their names before they entered the house behind the human sailor.

They entered the house and were greeted by a finely dressed man – clearly the man of the house – who, despite his noble bearing, looked very distraught. “Good day, I am Arlo Mayweather,” he introduced himself with a slight nod, “thank you for coming, it, it’s my son, he’s gone missing.” Before any of them could say anything he continued “I think it’s best if I show you,” then turned and strode off down the corridor. He stopped in front of a door and said “This is my son’s room,” he opened it to reveal a very finely furnished bedroom and to the group’s big surprise a rat came running out and scurried down the corridor. Arlo didn’t seem to take notice of the rat but simply gesticulated towards the empty bed, “last night, I suppose around eleven, I heard my son scream. I rushed in, the window was open and he was gone,” he paused for a second, “I can only assume someone has stolen him away.”

Merilwen instinctively felt there was something wrong with a single rat hiding in a room like this. She nudged the pirate in the side, “did you notice that rat?” she asked. “I did, that was kind of strange,” he replied. “I think it could be a clue,” she said. Corazón turned to Arlo:
“Arlo, I can call you Arlo right.”
“Of course”
“You don’t need to worry, we believe the rat that was in the room was involved somehow. Anyway, don’t worry we’re on the case”
Dob broke in with “And we’re going to need half the reward up front”
Arlo looked confused for a second then composed himself.
“We’ll talk about your reward shortly, but what do you mean? My son has been taken, I don’t care about vermin.”
“We believe the rat might know something, let us catch it and we can show you.”

With that Corazón flipped up his eye patch, crouched down and started sneaking down the corridor. Arlo Mayweather looked at him leave with a look of utter disbelief on his face. Merilwen turned to Dob and Prudence and said “If he can find that rat, I can use a druidic ritual to talk to it, find out what it knows.” “OK, and if it doesn’t work I can try to charm the man into just giving us the reward,” Prudence whispered, Dob nodded in agreement.

A minute later Corazón returned, holding a rat by the scruff of its neck. He held it out towards Merilwen, “got the rat, now to figure out how to find out what it knows.” “Leave that to me,” she replied, “Dob take the rat and hold it still” He did as instructed and Merilwen produced a strange looking leaf from a small pouch on her belt. She held the leaf in front of the rat waving it back and forth in a figure of eight kind of motion, looking deep into the rat’s eyes. “What are you…” Arlo started to say but Corazón quickly shushed him. After about ten minutes of silently gazing into the rat’s eyes, Merilwen could feel the connection open while the leaf in her hand withered and turned brown in seconds.

“Hello friend, I need you to answer some questions for me. There was someone in this room, a young boy, who disappeared. Can you tell me what you saw, was there anything that came through the window, did anything leave through the window?” She said, projecting the voice of her mind to the rat. Then as an afterthought she added “are you the boy that was in this room?”
The answered “I am indeed the boy who lives in this room, please help me turn back into a boy. And about the window, I opened it because it was really stuffy in here.”

Merilwen turned to Arlo: “Mr. Mayweather, it was as I suspected. Someone has cast a spell on your son and he has been turned into this rat.” As she was speaking, Arlo’s face had been turning an ever deeper shade of crimson, “I should have know better,” he said, his voice almost cracking with rage, “than to let a bunch of roustabouts from the streets into my home. You insult me, you insult my boy who’s gone missing.” At this point he couldn’t contain his anger any longer and roared “GET OUT!” “Alright, we’ll leave,” Dob said, ‘but we’re taking the rat with us.” “Whatever,” Arlo replied, pointing to the door, “just get out.” Dob quickly gestured towards the rat, casting prestidigitation to clean it and turn it spicy, then stuffed it into the mostly empty coin pouch at his belt.

The group left the house, Corazón introducing himself to the others on the way out. Outside the street was empty save for a disheveled looking peasant woman who approached them cautiously. “Are you them ones gonna go look for the Mayweather boy?” She asked, a hint of desperation in her voice. “It’s a long story, but yes,” Corazón answered.
“Did he just disappear?”
“Also sort of a long story, but yes”
“I don’t mean to impose on you none, but my ‘usband’s gone as well.”
“Can you tell me what happened with your husband?”
“I dunno, I was working late and I got home and the room was trashed, the kitchen looked like there had been a struggle, there was stuff strewn everywhere and my ‘usbands work clothes were just…there”
“Were there any animals in the house?”
“Well we’ve got a few chickens in the ‘ouse.”
“Were they there before,” Dob broke in
“Like I said we feed him the eggs. I ain’t got much to pay you, not like him has, but if ye work out where me ‘usband’s gone I’ll…”
“We can certainly investigate the scene,” Corazón said, “where did this happen?”
“At me ‘ouse,” she answered, pointing her thumb over her shoulder.
“Well then, lead the way,”

The woman lead them away from the Mayweather residence and the fancy houses around it, down some smaller streets to small, simple house. “This is it,” she declared then opened the door and lead the group into the kitchen. Just like the woman had said, the place looked like there had been a struggle, the kitchen table had been tipped over, some work clothes were lying strewn about the room and a bottle, some liquid still in it, was lying on the floor in a small puddle. In this mess there were three chickens walking around, and soon after entering the room, one of them up to Corazón clucked a few times then started pecking him on the ankle. He turned to the elf, “Merilwen, could you talk to this chicken like you did the rat, tell it to stop pecking me?” “I can’t,” she answered, “I need some more time to rest before I can commune with another animal.” “Alright,” Corazón said, looked down then gave the chicken a swift kick which sent it flying in a puff of feathers; it landed on the other side of the room with a squawk. Merilwen glared at him but said nothing.

With Merilwen still glaring angrily at Corazón, the other three started looking around the room to see if they could find any cues. Corazón went to the pile of clothes and started looking through them; it wasn’t just a few things but an entire set. “This almost looks like the person wearing these just disappeared,” he said half aloud while picking up one item after another. Dob meanwhile had noticed the chicken pecking at the bottle on the floor and picked it up and started studying it. He checked the label and read out loud:

M. Channail’s Miracle Cure-All! The “M” Stands For “Miracle” Cures All Ailments Form Gut-Rot to Butt-Rot, Baldness to Koboldness. It’ll Transform Your Life!

“I might as well try,” Dob said and raised the bottle to his lip. “Wait, don’t drink it!” Merilwen shouted, reaching out her hand for the bottle. “Oh, but it smells pretty foul,” Dob continued, “You’re right, I better not.” “Pob was it?” The pirate asked. “Dob!” Dob replied, a low “typical human” coming from Prudence. “Sorry, Dob,” Corazón went on, “I believe the man who was here before drank this, and something happened to him to make his body go away and leave his clothes behind.” “We could try giving that to someone to see what happens,” Prudence said, pointing to the bottle, “maybe the man’s wife,” she continued, a strange smile playing across her lips.”

While they were talking Corazón casually took a few steps over towards a small pile of gold coins on the floor and now he tried to pick them up as discretely as possible. Unfortunately for him he fumbled a bit and one dropped to the floor with loud clinking sound. Everyone’s eyes turned to him as he was picking it up again. “Oh, I was just investigating these,” he said hurriedly, “of course I’ll leave them here.” The peasant woman quickly crossed the room and snatched the coins from his hand with a short “Much obliged.”

Dob turned to the woman, “Mrs. have you seen this bottle before, did you know this was in your house?” She took the bottle fromm his hand and looked at it “no…but I ‘ave seen this being flogged in the market I think.” “Who’s selling this, who is M Channail?” Corazón wanted to know. “I don’t know,” the woman replied, “it’s just a stall in the market.” “Thank you mam, that’s very helpful,” Corazón said then turned back to the group, “let’s head to the market, shall we?” “Wait,” Merilwen broke in, “I want to try something first, Prudence get that chicken.” Prudence fingered the dagger at her belt, “sure,” she said with a sly smile. “I just want to talk to it,” Merilwen admonished. Prudence sighed but picked up the chicken anyway and held it out to her. Merilwen produced another strange leaf from her little pouch, held it in front of the chicken and once more performed the ritual for talking to it.

As soon as the connection opened the chicken said “Keep that bastard pirate away from me.” “Oh I will,” she said, glaring at Corazón.
“Tell me, are you this woman’s husband?”
“What happened?”
“It was that damn bottle of thing. I bought it from the market, I drank it, and now I’m a bloody chicken. I’m getting kicked and I don’t know what this tiefling is doing but it’s holding me very tightly.”
Merilwen turned to Prudence, “could you loosen your grip a little bit.” Prudence shrugged then dropped the chicken which landed on the floor with a thud. “Mam,” Merilwen said turning to the woman, “your husband has been turned into this chicken, keep him safe, we will find a way to turn him back”. With that the group passed by the woman, who looked as if she was frozen with shock, and left the house. On their way out Corazón deftly picked the gold coins out of the woman’s pocket without anyone noticing.

They made their way back to market which by now was in full swing. They didn’t have to look around for long before they heard a voice shouting “Miracle elixir, come on and buy miracle elixir.” As they moved closer they spotted a very ornate sign with the words M Channail’s Miracle Elixir! The “M” Stands For “Miracle”, and in the stall below it a long row of bottles similar to the one they found in the peasant woman’s kitchen. They moved off a short distance so they wouldn’t be seen then huddled together to form a plan.

Having made their plan they lined up in front of M Channail’s stall, Merilwen at the front followed by Prudence, and then the other two. “What’s wrong wit you then?” The seller asked. “I’ve got a horrible feeling in my chest,” Merilwen coughed, “the doctor hasn’t been able cure it and I feel really worried.” “Not to worry little miss,” the man said with a friendly smile, “I’ve got a miracle cure here that’ll fix you right up.” Merilwen coughed again, “I’ll take a bottle.” “That’ll be three gold pieces mate,” the man replied. Merilwen dug out three coins from her purse and gave them to the man who handed her a bottle. “Most people like to take that at home,” he said. Merilwen coughed some more, “I’m not sure I can hold on for that long.” “I really do think it would be best,” the man started to say, but Merilwen put the unopened bottle to her lips, her hand covering the top, then faked taking a couple of swigs. She then dropped the bottle to the ground where it smashed, and started to fold in on herself, the seller gaping in awe as her body morphed into that of a cute little cat.

“What the Hell store holder,” Corazón shouted, “Your potion turned that lady into a cat!” With the seller focusing on the pirate, Dob moved discretely around to the back of the stall to block the man’s exit. “Now now,” the seller stammered, “she is, or perhaps was, a woodelf, who knows what ailments they have,” he paused for a second, “there is no way you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that was the fault of this miracle elixir.” “Well then,” Corazón said coldly, “I guess you’ll have no problem with drinking some yourself, stall keeper.” “I’m afraid the terms of my employment forbid me from sampling the wares.” the man replied, wiping some sweat off his brow. At this point Prudence took a few steps towards the stall keeper, drew herself up to her full height and let her tail whip out to the side. Drawing from her thaumaturgical energies, she made her eyes glow red then spoke in a deep booming voice “What gives with this potion of yours, man? You’ve turned our friend into this creature” Just as she finished her sentence there was a clap of thunder overhead and Dob, thinking fast, gave the vendor’s cart a swift kick which made it tremble.

Corazón leaned closer to stall keeper, whose face had gone ashen, and whispered “she’s crazy, there’s no telling what she will do if you don’t admit what’s going on here.” “Please don’t hurt me,” the man whimpered, “this isn’t mine, I’m just working here. I have been made aware of the…transformative properties of this elixir. If I tell you where it comes from, will you let me go?” The last part was said with a hint of pleading in his voice. With the man looking on nervously. Prudence, Dob and Corazón discussed quietly among themselves for a few moments, then the pirate turned to the stall keeper. “Just tell us where it is,” he said with a stern voice. “There’s a place called Pollo’s Bluff about half a day’s ride from here,” the man stuttered, “There’s an old crypt that looks abandoned but isn’t, that’s where the stuff is made.”
“Alright, now get out of here, I never want to see you selling any remedies, or potions or elixirs ever again.”
“Alright, I’m sorry I turned your friend into a cat”
At this point Merilwen turned back into her elf self with a triumphant “Haha!”
“Now get out!” Corazón shouted, pointing down the street. Then man, who didn’t need to be told twice, turned and fled as fast as he could. Dob went over to the vendor’s cart and gave it a push, trying to tip it over, but it was more stable than expected and he fell backwards and landed in small puddle. Corazón cast Dob a disapproving glance, then swept all the bottles of elixir off the cart with sweep of his hand, sending them crashing to the ground.

The group wasted no time in hiring a horse, hitching it to the vendor’s cart, then setting off towards Pollo’s Bluff. They wound their way through the streets of Caster Falls and left the town through the east gate, rolling past fenced in fields and pastures. A few miles down the road the fields ended and they entered the forest, the trees giving some welcome shade from the noontime sun. As they trundled along they talked to pass the time, Dob telling them about his sister and playing her lullaby; Corazón telling them tales about his adventures on the high seas; and Prudence introduced them to her patron god, Cthulhu.

As they got closer to the Bluff, the talk turned from pleasantries to planning. They pulled over to the side of the road to prepare. A short while later they set off again, with Dob disguised as the stall keeper on the driver’s box and the other three hidden in the back of the cart. It didn’t take long before the old dilapidated walls of the crypt at Pollo’s Bluff came into view. A single man armed with a poleax was standing guard at the gate and Dob reined in the horse, coming to a stop in front of him. “Back already are ye,” the guard asked, casually leaning the poleaxe against the gate post. “They can’t get enough of the stuff,” Dob replied.
“That’s quite impressive, we gave you rather a lot.”
“If I’m being honest I may have had a bit of an accident with some of it but I’ve been meaning to talk to Channail about that. I can explain and I’ve got his money, so if you could just let us in…”
“Who’s us?” The guard raised an eyebrow
“Uumm, me and me horse” At this, the guard raised his eyebrow again.
“Look, when you’re out here on the road all the time, just you and the horse, you really get to know it and you know..”
The guard gave him a look full of suspicion, “are you quite sure that’s all you got in the back of that cart, just you and your horse is it?”
“Alright I’ll be honest, something went wrong with this child and his parents are stinkin’ rich. He’s been turned into a rat, I’ve got it with me right here; I need to talk to Channail about gettin’ him transformed back because his parents are minted and we could be in a lot of trouble if they get a whiff of this. It could blow the whole operation if this gets out.”
“You can’t bring a rat boy,” the guard said through gritted teeth.
“I know but what was I supposed to do?”
“Listen, if this is a ransom job, you’d better cut me in on it.”
Dob raised his hands defensively
“If you’re gonna go back to that boy’s parents and ask for a big wad…”
“Look, it’s not a ransom job, but how ’bout a little something as assurance that I’m not pulling your leg, what about 10 gold”
The guard gave Dob a cold look
“Ok, 15”
“Done, but if I hear your ransoming this boy, your gonna answer to me, alright”
“Mate, I’m just trying to get my job done, you’re just trying to get your job done”
“Alright, now get your horse and your rat and your cart in there.” Dob handed over 15 gold pieces which the guard quickly pocketed then opened the gates. As he was driving through, the guard shouted after Dob, “Don’t forget to check in with the guard at the entrance hall.” To which Dob yelled back “I know, I know, it’s not my first time.”

Shortly after rolling through the gates the group came to the crypt. It had a low entrance hall with a massive stone door hewn from a single block. The place look old and worn down, a patchwork of lichen growing over the walls, and one of the corners had started to crumble. However, there were clear traces of activity, some cart tracks that must have been a few days old, and plenty of boot prints scattered over the ground. Dob reined in the horse, jumped down from the box then whispered a quick “stay there,” to the side of the cart before entering the crypt. Inside was a man dressed in the black robes and white cravat of a scribe, sitting behind a simple wooden desk with a large ledger on top of it, slowly munching on an apple. He looked up at Dob, “wha’ are you doing back here so quick?”
“They can’t get enough of it back in town, I just need to top up my supply.”
“Good work, must be a tidy sum. Drop the money with me and as soon as I’ve secured it we’ll resupply your cart.”
“Sure, I’ve got a huge pile in the back of the cart. Before I go grab it I just want to tell you a joke I heard in the tavern the other night”
“Ah, go on then”
Dob started pantomiming a funny story while casting his spell, and before he had finished telling the joke the man started laughing hysterically, doubling over and holding his stomach.

With the clerk rolling on the floor with uncontrollable laughter, Dob rushed out of the crypt heading towards the gate. On the way he unhooked the scabbard of his rapier from his belt and grabbed the sword by the blade like a makeshift club. The guard heard the bard’s steps and was just turning to look when Dob reached him and whacked him in the head with the pommel. The man dropped to the ground with an ‘omph’ and his poleaxe clattered to the side. Hearing the commotion, Merilwen, Corazón and Prudence all started climbing out from the vendor’s cart. Corazón got out first and quickly went to investigate where the hysterical laughter was coming from. He found the scribe rolling on the floor clutching his sides and got out a length of rope from his pack and set about bindings the man’s hands. To his surprise the man didn’t stop laughing but instead guffawed “they sent a pirate to tie me up!” Corazón gave a quizzical look, then shrugged and continued binding his feet.

Merilwen meanwhile had spotted the guard on the ground and noticed that he was still conscious. She drew her bow, aimed at for his leg and let the arrow go, it thudded into the ground an inch from his knee. Moments later Prudence stood up in the cart, the blanket covering her falling from her shoulders as she straightened herself, her eyes glowing yellow with Thaumaturgical energy. She made a couple of hand gestures, purple lighting crackling between her fingers as the spell charged up, then made a pushing gesture in the direction of the guard, sending a blast of eldritch energy over the heads of her compatriots, right at his face. The man was instantly enveloped in purple fire, burning him to a crisp, his blackened body disintegrating in front of their eyes. Prudence calmly stepped down from the cart, both Merilwen and Dob staring at her, eyes wide with shock. “Shall we,” she said, dusting off her hands.

Corazón, who had heard the blast, stepped out from the crypt. “What is going on here,” he asked, “what happened to the other guard?” “Let me explain,” Dob said, “I charmed my way past the first guard, incapacitated the second one with my laughter spell and was thinking I could knock out the first one to really have him out of the way, but things went a bit sideways and in the confusion these two,” he gave Merilwen and Prudence an accusatory look, “turned the poor guy into that…” he gestured towards the man shaped patch of dust and ashes on the ground. “Hey, I was aiming to incapacitate,” Merilwen broke in but was silenced by Corazón who said “I’m a pirate, and that’s a bit too much, even by my standards.” “I saw these two failing to incapacitate him so I had to step in,” Prudence huffed then turned on her heal. “She’s right,” Dob said, “anyway, what’s done is done, let’s continue.”

The scribe looked up when they entered the crypt. Corazón made a gesture towards the others then squatted down next to him. “Alright friend,” he flashed the man a smile devoid of warmth, ”things didn’t go too well for your friend out there,” he gestured over his shoulder. “I could guess,” the man whimpered, blinking away a tear. “Good,” Corazón continued, “then you know I’m serious when I say, you will tell us everything we want to know, or I will hand you over to her,” he pointed to Prudence who held out her hand, purple sparks dancing between her fingers. The scribe swallowed hard and nodded.
“Where is Channail?”
“He’s down in the basement, two levels down.”
“Is there anyone else there with him?”
“A couple of other guys, they’re not guards or anything, they just work in the factory.”
“How many?”
“Just two of them”
“Any other useful information you can give us?”
“I don’t think so…”
“If you’re keeping anything from us you will answer to her,” Corazón pointed to Prudence again.
“I swear it.”
“Good.” Corazón patted the man down, fished out a couple of gold coins from his pockets which he quickly stuffed in his own, then stood up and turned to the other three, “we have all the information we need, let’s go get Channail,” he pointed towards the stairs.

Leaving the bound man behind, the group descended the stairs and came down to a rectangular room with a wooden door at the other end. The walls of the room were lined with stone coffins and above them, in little carved niches, were little piles of bones, each topped off with a grinning skull. In the center of the room was a row of wooden crates full of elixir bottles. Corazón made to continue down the next set of stairs but Dob put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. “Don’t you think we should check that door,” he asked, pointing towards the end of the room. “The guy said Channail is down another level, I say we continue,” the pirate replied. “I just think we should check, to avoid any surprises on the way back.” Dob said, to which Corazón nodded his assent. Dob walked quietly up to the door, set his shoulder against it and nudged it open. Peering in through the crack he could barely make out a large chest. He threw the door open then lifted the lid of the chest to reveal that it was full of gold coins, sparkling faintly despite the dim light. The group conferred for a moment, then each of them grabbed a fistful of gold from the chest and filled their coin pouches before heading down the second set of stairs. Corazón stayed behind just long enough to stuff a second fistful of coins in his coat pocket then caught up with the others.

When they were almost all the way down Dob held up a hand to signal for the others to stop. “Corazón,” he whispered, “considering your somewhat…shady persuasion, I think you should go first and get the lay of the land.” The pirate nodded assent, flipped up his eye patch then crouched down and started sneaking down the last few steps. As he came around the last bend of the staircase he found himself at one end of a large hall where most of the space was taken up by stacks of boxes. He noticed two men, ordinary workers in plain clothing, who were busy loading bottles of elixir into the crates and stacking them. Close to the end of the room he could see an enormous cauldron on a stand over a fire and gnome in some odd looking green robes was busy vigorously stirring its contents with a large wooden spoon. He let his eyes sweep over the room a few times to make sure he didn’t miss any detail then snuck back to his companions. He told them what he had seen in a hurried whisper and together they formed a plan.

Heading back into the room Corazón snuck past the two workers by ducking behind the stacks of crates and moved as stealthily as he could towards the far end of the hall. The gnome was too busy concentrating on the cauldron and he manged to position himself behind him. When he was in a good position he signaled to the others. With the two women ready in case something went wrong, Dob snuck out into the hall and when he was close enough to the two workers he brought out his lute and started playing his sister’s lullaby, infusing the melody with magic; as he sang the last words both workers sank down, dropping to the floor sound asleep. At this moment Corazón sprang into action, grabbing the gnome from behind and holding him down, the gnome yelling obscenities at him. This was the signal Merilwen and Prudence had been waiting for and rushed in. Seeing the gnome held firmly by Corazón, Merilwen moved over to the two sleeping men and proceeded to tie them up while Prudence stood guard, ready to blast them with another bolt of eldritch magic. Having wrestled the gnome to the ground, Corazón then brought out his rope and used it to bind the hands and feet of the little man.

The group gathered around the gnome as he struggled against his bonds for a little while then gave up with a sigh. “The jig is up, druid,” Corazón said, “we know about your elixir turning people into animals.”
“It turns people into animals?” The gnome looked incredulous
“Oh as if you didn’t know,” Merilwen broke in.
“I really didn’t know…” the gnome began but Corazón cut him off saying “Then let me introduce you to our friend rat boy.” Dob took the rather scared looking rat out from his belt pouch and held it up in front of the gnome’s face.
“This,” Corazon continued, “used to be a boy but he drank your elixir and now he’s a rat. You are in serious trouble my gnomish friend.”
“Look what you’ve done,” Dob added, holding the rat closers to the gnome’s face.
“Alright, I can explain,” Channail said, “I’m obviously not running a reputable business here. I genuinely didn’t know that my cure-all elixir was turning people into animals but just because I’m a bad druid doesn’t mean I have to stop doing druidry. I’m just trying to make a quick buck off gullible idiots. It’s not my fault if…OK it is my fault but still”
“You are taking something very special for us druids, something that is our strength, and using it for evil,” Merilwen lectured.
“Right, you’ve gone against the code of the druids” Corazon continued, “anyway, the important thing is we need to know how to turn people back.”
“I literally didn’t know I was turning people into animals a minute ago.”
“Doesn’t matter, if you can turn people into animals, you have to be able to turn them back.”
“I guess I could give it a go.”
“Hang on,” Dob interrupted, “why are you doing this, who put you up to it?”
“Like I said, I’m just trying to make a bit of money, truth is people are idiots, you can sell them anything.”
“So why not sell them something harmless, say dirty water?”
“You might not believe it, but I take pride in my work.”
“What did you think it was doing? What was the plan?”
“I didn’t test it, I just started selling it.”
“I’ve heard enough,” Corazón interrupted, “You’re going to make an antidote and and you’d best do a good job because we’ll test it on you. If you don’t do a good job you’ll spend the rest of your life as a..lizard or something.”
The gnome gave Corazón a defiant look but said nothing.
“Let me guess,” the pirate went on, “you’re thinking that you could refuse and eventually we’d just leave you here. Well, let me tell you, on our way down here we sort of stumbled on a chest with quite a lot of gold in it, was that yours? Were you planning to keep that?”
“I was.”
“Well, seeing as there’s no one guarding this place, I think we might just take all of it, simply cart it away and leave you down here”
“Hold on…fine, I’ll try and make an antidote”
“See, wasn’t that easy,” Corazón finished.

Corazón drew his rapier then set about undoing the Channail’s bonds with one hand, the other hand holding the sword pointed at his chest. The gnome however didn’t pay much attention to the pirate, he was busy staring at Prudence who was smiling at him menacingly, lightning arcing back and forth between her hands. Channail poured out the elixir from the cauldron then set about making the antidote. As he worked he kept casting nervous glances at Prudence and occasionally at Corazón. After about an hour he declared that the antidote was ready. Dob dragged one of the bound and sleeping workers into a sitting position then shook him awake. As soon as the man woke up Dob set a bottle of elixir to his lips and forced him to drink a few sips then took a step back. The man gagged a couple of times then curled up into a ball, slowly transforming into a pygmy goat. Before the goat could run away Dob quickly wrestled it to the floor. Corazón hand him a ladle of antidote and with one hand holding the goat’s head he fed the antidote to it then let it go. The goat let out a long, loud burp but nothing more happened.

Corazón grabbed the gnome by the lapels and said “listen you dog, I need you to try again, but this time do it right, because if it doesn’t work we’re testing the next one on you.” “Alright, alright, I know the stakes,” Channail grumbled then started dragging the cauldron over to drain in the corner. Having tipped the contents down the drain he set the cauldron over the fire once more and started cooking up a second batch of antidote. While the gnome worked Dob entertained the others by singing a few of his more amusing songs.

When Channail announced that the antidote was ready, Dob put away his lute and went over to the second tied up worker tried to get away, scooting backwards until he came to a stop with his back against a stack of crates. The man struggled in vain as Dob grabbed his head, forced his mouth open then poured some elixir down his throat. Just like the first worker he gagged a couple of times then curled up into a ball, disappearing into his clothes, and when Dob lifted away the mans tunic he found a lemur struggling out of the trousers. Before the animal could run away Dob quickly grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and used the wooden ladle to feed it a small amount of antidote, then set it down on the ground. The lemur hiccuped, then started to grow, it’s body elongating, the torso growing wider and it’s fur shrinking back into its skin until a naked and scared looking man was lying on the floor in front of Dobs feet. The man took a look at his hands, said “Oh, thank god,” then looked down at his body and promptly went cherry red in the face. He looked around furtively, then scurried off towards the pile of clothes on the floor, scooped them up and disappeared behind some crates.

“You’re lucky that worked, gnome” Corazón said, pointing a finger at Channail who gave a quick nod. Having taken care of the lemur, Dob went over to the pygmy goat that was standing nearby looking on with an expression on its face that looked more expectant than what should have been possible for a goat. He fed the goat a ladle full of antidote, and just like the lemur it turned back into a naked human who scurried off in search of his clothes. The four adventurers conferred quickly about how to handle things. Prudence and Corazón found a couple of empty bottles and started filling them with antidote. While they were busy with that, Dob took out the rat from his belt pouch and held it up in front of Merilwen who performed the ritual to talk to it. As soon as she felt the connection open she said “Hello friend, we have found a way to turn you back.”
“Oh thank god.”
“We’re going to give it to you but we want to do it in front of your father because he wont believe us otherwise”
“I see, father probably wouldn’t believe me either”
“Besides, even though we got this place there could be other sellers out there, seeing as your father is pretty influential, he could likely deal with them.”
“Indeed he could.”
“We’ll put you back in the bag for now and turn you back to a boy once we’ve got you home.”
“Fine by me, I don’t want to walk anyway.” Merilwen broke he concentration and motioned to Dob to put the rat back int the pouch.

Having finished bottling the antidote Corazón turned to the gnome, ready to give him a final telling off but the little man wasn’t there. “Channail’s gone,” he shouted, “after him.” and bounded up the stairs, the other three stopped what they were doing and followed. When he got to the next level Corazón only had to cast a glance at the door at the other end of the corridor to know that the chest of gold was empty. “Bastard’s taken the gold,” he shouted then continued upwards. He rushed through the entrance hall, past the tied up clerk and out into the open. The space in front of the crypt was empty save for some wheel track in the mud and a still smouldering pile of ash. He was still staring at the spot where the cart should have been when the others joined him. At that moment a light breeze started blowing, rustling the leaves of the trees, and it carried with it a distant voice that said “You haven’t heard the last of M. Channail.”

“Damn that gnome,” Corazón fumed. “So what do we do now,” Merilwen wanted to know. “I guess we’re walking back,” Corazón muttered. “Before that,” Dob interjected, “I think we should do something about this place, Channail is gone for now but we can’t just leave all this dangerous elixir. Prudence, could you use some of your magic to burn this stuff?” “I don’t know” she answered, “only if the elixir burns.” Ok then, let’s find out,” Dob said. He went back into the crypt, collected a bottle of elixir and came back out. He lit a small stick on fire then poured a single drop of elixir on the flame. There was a loud whomph as the liquid ignited then immediately burned itself out. “It burns,” Dob exclaimed. “Then let’s blow this place up,” Prudence said, rubbing her hands together.

The four of them set about preparing, bringing out a crate full of antidote, getting the workers and the clerk out of the crypt, and finally pouring a trail of elixir along the floor all the way from the door down to the lowest level. When they were ready Prudence told the others to stand back then warmed up her spell, energy crackling between her fingers. She aimed for the puddle of liquid at the door and sent a bolt of purple lightning at it. They could see a trail of flame disappearing in through the door, there was a moment’s pause immediately followed by an explosion, the heavy doors of the crypt flying off and a massive fireball erupting from the opening. Prudence smiled and dusted off her hands.

By now it was late afternoon, golden rays of sun filtering in through the leaves and casting long shadows on the ground. Realizing that they couldn’t make it back to Caster Falls before dark, the group decided to make camp in the entrance hall of the crypt. The next morning they set off towards the town. Without the horse and cart it took them most of the day and it was mid afternoon when they walked into the market square where it had all started. They made their way through town to the Mayweather residence. Corazón knocked on the door and the manservant opened. “We wish to see Arlo,” Corazón said, “it’s about his son.” “I seem to remember that Mr. Mayweather held you in pretty poor regard when you left yesterday,” he replied, “but I shall pass your message on,” and he closed the door. A minute later Arlo Mayweather opened the door, “what is the meaning of this?” he asked, frowning at the group. “Just look at this,” Corazón said and gestured to Dob who set the bottle of antidote to the rat’s mouth. The rat grabbed on to the bottle with its paws and started drinking. After just a few gulps its body started expanding, growing longer and wider, the fur shrinking back, and it transformed into a naked teenage boy. “My son!” Arlo exclaimed, “Father!” the boy yelled, rushing forward to give the man a hug. “Here’s the deal Mayweather, there was a crazy gnome selling bad potions that turned people into animals,” Corazon explained, “we sorted him out and brought your son back to you, so if we could just get our reward we’ll be on our way.” “Keep in mind,” Dob added, “that we told you from the beginning that your son had been turned into a rat.” “In my defense, she was waving a leaf in front of a rat,” Arlo said, pointing to Merilwen. “Alright,” he continued, “I guess you have made yourself worthy of the reward. If we could just end this rather public scene, I’d be happy to pay you inside the house.” With that he lead the group inside then had the manservant bring a bag coins which he handed to Dob. “Here, divide that among yourself however you wish,” he said, “now please leave in peace or I’ll have to throw you out again.”

The group left the Mayweather residence and walked through the town down to the poor woman’s little house. There they fed some antidote to the chicken who turned back into a man. While the man went to find some clothes the woman thanked them profusely, handing over a couple of gold coins as a reward. Leaving the little house they headed towards one of the taverns in town to relax after a job well done. Thus ends The Spicy Rat Caper, the first of many oxventures.