by Rik Kershaw-Moore
Art by Paul Kidby
This is a simple adventure intended for four to six Discworld Heroes. Although written as a one-shot, it can be easliy incorporated into an existing campaign.
Death, the seven-foot tall anthropomorphic representation, has a problem. Last night whilst attending to the duty in Ankh-Morpork, petty thief Osbert Snood (acting on the orders of Nosmo Vermilion) stole Death's sword from his horse Binky. Evil genius and children's entertainer Vermilion intends to use the supernatural sharpness of the sword to cut his way into a small pocket universe located in the catacombs below Ankh-Morpork. Vermilion is aiming high because this pocket universe contains the fabled Swazzle of the Gods, one of the most powerful magical items on the disc. With the Swazzle in his possession, Vermilion intends to declare himself ruler of the entire disc and no one will ever laugh at him again. Ha ha ha ha!!!!!!
Of course it isn't as simple as that because, well, Death wants his sword back, preferably in time for the next royal -- er -- abdication, and he has decided on professional help: namely a bunch of Heroes.
The Swazzle of the Gods
Many moons ago when Blind Io wasn't quiet so blind, Hoki had yet to pull that old gag with the exploding mistletoe, and Reg was the God of all round family entertainers, life on the disc was a lot simpler. Mostly this was because of the strange and mystical device called the Swazzle of the Gods. Where it came from no one knew; possibly the creator left it lying around on a beach somewhere next to a half-eaten egg and cress sandwich.
Physically, the Swazzle is nothing more than two small strips of slightly bowed silver held together by linen tape. Attached to the front of Swazzle is a length of string that makes retrieval easier if swallowed.
The power of the Swazzle is the effect it has on people when someone places it in their mouth and talks. The sound produced instantly robs the will from all those in earshot. . . which is why it wasn't a good idea to leave it lying around where a curious God could find it.
In the aftermath, Blind Io demoted Reg to the God of Club Musicians and had Hoki assigned to the Mistletoe section. As for the Swazzle, Blind Io sealed it up in a pocket universe and made sure that the plans were lost. Much later Abraxas the Agnostic learned of the Swazzle and included its hidden location in his book How to be a God. This is where Vermilion learned of the Swazzle's existence.
The Adventure Begins
For the Heroes, the adventure begins in the Curry Gardens with a mammoth helping of Klatchian Hot with extra Squishi sauce. The thing about Squishi sauce is that, unless it has been properly prepared, it turns into the highly deadly poison Bloat. Unfortunately, tonight the Squishi chef did not pay attention when he prepared the Heroes' order, and so after the first mouthfuls of the curry things start to go wrong internally-speaking. From this point on, nothing -- not even a stellar HT roll -- can save them. . . except, that is, for the antidote.
As the Heroes start to expand, time seems to slow and from the shadows steps a tall dark cowled figure. The more observant of Heroes might notice that the figure is carrying a huge scythe, and seems to be in need of a decent meal. Give them a moment to contemplate their fate before Death starts speaking in a heavy embarrassed voice.
AH YES, WELL ER THANK YOU FOR BEING AVAILABLE AT ER SHORT NOTICE. I HAVE IF YOU LIKE, WELL NOT TO PUT TOO FINE A POINT ON IT. NO MAYBE NOT. THE THING IS, YOU SEE, WELL IT'S ERM LIKE THIS. SOMETHING TERRIBLY EMBARRASSING HAS HAPPENED. SOMEONE HAS STOLEN MY SWORD.
I WAS ATTENDING TO THE DUTY IN SWEETHEART LANE. THEN SOMEONE TAPS ME ON THE SHOULDER. I TURNED AROUND BUT NO ONE WAS THERE. THEN I NOTICED MY SWORD WAS GONE. I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD HELP ME TO RETRIEVE IT.
As an incentive, Death produces the lifetimers of each of your adventurers and plonks them meaningfully on the table in front of them. The fact that there isn't a lot of sand left in the top bulbs ought to make up the Heroes' minds for them. Therefore, once the adventurers have agreed, Death continues.
THANK YOU, I KNEW I COULD COUNT ON YOUR COOPERATION.
Then, reaching into the folds of his robe, Death produces a pair of mirrored spectacles and places them on the table.
I FOUND THESE AT THE CRIME SCENE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE WHAT IS KNOWN IN THE TRADE AS A CLUE. NOW IF YOU WILL EXCUSE ME I HAVE BUSINESS TO ATTEND TO ELSEWHERE. BUT FEAR NOT; I WILL MEET YOU BACK HERE ONCE YOU HAVE THE SWORD IN YOUR HANDS, OR SOONER SHOULD YOU FAIL.
With that, Death glides back into the scenery, the world resumes snaps back into light, and the manager comes rushing over with antidote and apologies.
The Mirrored Glasses
The sunglasses are a pair of spectacles that have been fitted with special mirrored lenses, which allows the wearer to see Octarine, the color of magic. This mean that the wearer can see things others can't -- namely Death -- and from there it should not take a genius to realize that this was how the crook lay in wait for Death. Hanging from one earpiece is a small tag with the words "Another Quality Product from Dibbler Enterprises." This is yet another clue.
Talking With C.M.O.T. Dibbler
C.M.O.T. Dibbler (p. DI87) can be found standing in his office in Sator Square with a tray of sausages around his neck. If questioned he will deny any knowledge of the glasses existence, whilst all the time trying to persuade the Heroes they want a "Sausage-Inna-Bun" using his formidable Fast-Talk and Merchant skills.
If they try physical violence, Dibbler will simply twist out of their grip and vanish into the crowd, leaving the Heroes holding the tray of sausages. Not only will the Watch take a very dim view of this action but Dibbler will send around a Splatter to retrieve his tray.
The fastest way of getting the information they want is bribery, and the level of the bribe (and how persistent the Heroes are) will determine how much information they get.
AM$1 -- The glasses can allow the wearer to see things that do not exist. "To you my friends, AM$10 a pair."
AM$2 -- The glasses are made by his nephew Solstice. They use a special polarized octarian filter to allow people to see things that are not there. "On sale to my most discerning customers for only AM$5 a pair."
AM$3 -- Business has been slow and he has only sold three pairs. The Library up at the University owns one pair, a dwarf assassin called Grimholdt Widebearth has the second whilst the last pair belongs to Osbert Snood of the thieves guild. "Look, and I'm cutting my own throat here, for you only AM$2.5 a pair."
Interviewing the Suspects
For a small fee, say AM$5, Dibbler will let the Heroes have addresses of his three customers, and as an added bonus a copy of the Orang-utan / English dictionary.
The Librarian (p. DI110) is in his study in the University Library in the middle of an extremely delicate operation. He is attempting to reattach the spine back onto a copy of Mobhurst Tulley's Book of Impractical Magic which got too close to a copy of Bullfrog's The Lore of Sortilege.
Interrupting the Librarian is guaranteed to annoy him, but should anyone offer to help then the atmosphere will soon thaw. If the Heroes manage to engage the Librarian in conversation and explain the purpose of their visit, he will look sadly at them for a moment and mutter a quiet "Ook." Then he brings out the mangled remains of a pair of glasses. What the Librarian actually said was, "I squashed them three days ago." How you communicate that to the Heroes is up to you.
Sir Grimholdt Widebearth XI
Sir Grimholdt Widebearth XI has his offices in Mollygog Street. From these exclusive apartments Widebearth offers his clientele the finest in undead and Troll inhumations at extremely competitive rates. Widebearth will receive the Heroes with all the equanimity of an alumnus of the most famous school for assassins in the whole of the disc. The Dwarf will offer the Heroes drinks and exchange pleasantries while telling them absolutely nothing, since he considers the matter of the purchase of the glasses to be none of their business.
Again, violence in not the answer, since, despite the gentlemanly veneer, Sir Grimholdt is still a dwarf. At the first sign of trouble he will produce an exquisitely sculpted battle-axe from beneath his desk and charge the Heroes. The key to cracking this particular nut is flattery. Sir Grimholdt is vain and if Heroes start seriously to flatter him, the dwarf will reveal that he did, indeed, buy the glasses. He bought them as a business investment as he has been thinking of branching out into the supernatural. If asked about his movements on the night in question, Sir Grimholdt will reply that he was in his chambers all night. Of course, no one would ever doubt his word, and neither should your Heroes.
Sir Grimholdt Widebearth XIST 13, DX 14, IQ 10, HT 13
Advantages: Disease Resistant, Damage Resistance, Longevity
Disadvantages: Assassin Code of Honour, Greed, Intolerance Trolls, Reduced Move
Quirks: Always Exceedingly Polite, Punctuates all his sentences with "Eh What?" or similar
Skills: Acrobatics 11, Assassin Lore 14, Axe Throwing 15, Climbing 14, Distilling 9, Knife Throwing 14, Lockpicking 11, Pharmacy 9, Poetry 10, Politics 10, Riding 14, Savoir-Faire 11
Osbert Snood (Deceased)
Snood rents a room at Mrs. Spent's lodging house in Market Street. The Lodging house is a ramshackle .three-story building that has clearly seen better days. The owner, Mrs. Spent is a charming old woman who can squeeze a dollar until it squeaks. She has a face like a wet razor and a mind to match. She will freely talk about Snood, saying that he keeps to himself most of the time and is no trouble to anyone. If they want to go in and search his room, however, it will take a very heavy bribe.
Osbert Snood's room is fastidiously neat. . . except, that is, for the massive pool of blood that has congealed under the single chair. Sitting or, rather, slumped on the chair is body of Osbert Snood. His sad-looking face is wearing a startled expression almost as if he can't believe the fact that he's been stabbed through the chest with a large and extremely sharp wooden sausage of the type used by children's entertainers. Balanced on his left hand is a balloon animal, while in his right is a small crushed piece of parchment which reads, "That's the way to do it!!!!!!!!!"
It should be apparent that the Heroes are dealing with a madman. . . a madman who is clearly not in possession of all his faculties, since how many would-be murderers scratch "If found return to Nosmo Vermilion, Children's Entertainer, 23a Cable Street, Ankh-Morpork" on their murder weapons?
Cable Street is one of the oldest Streets in Ankh-Morpork. Once home to the Cable Street Particulars, it stands above the main underground thoroughfare of the Ankh-Morpork catacombs. Here, below this street, lies the gateway to the pocket universe that contains the Swazzle of the Gods. The main entranceway to the catacombs is via a trapdoor in Shinkicker's Quality Dwarfish Delicatessen.
Arriving in Cable Street, the Heroes are just in time to see Nosmo Vermilion exiting 23a. Vermilion is wearing the standard issue costume for Children's entertainers: a purple stovepipe hat, a red-and-yellow jacket, blue trousers, and bright pink clown boots. Tucked into his belt is a long sword whose naked blade shines with an unearthly blue glow. He is also carrying a handful of his Sausages of Death. If he spots the Heroes, Vermilion will pause long enough to throw a couple of his Sausages before diving into the Delicatessen.
By the time the Heroes get to the shop, Vermilion has opened the trapdoor and descended into the catacombs. His whirlwind passage through the shop has left sun-dried rats and dwarf drop-scones scattered everywhere and the owner cowering behind the counter. The dwarf will scream at the Heroes and demand they do something, all the while pointing at the open trapdoor.
ST 11, DX 16, IQ 10, HT 11
Advantages: Absolute Timing, Cool
Disadvantages: Bad Temper, Intolerance - Children, Megalomania, Odious Personal Habit - Makes Balloon Animals
Quirks: Always laughs at his own jokes, Constantly talks in Mr. Punch like phrases such as "That's the way to do it!"
Skills: Juggling 15, Knife / Sausage Throwing 16, Mime 12, Needlecraft 15, Pie Throwing 13, Punch & Judy 10, Running 10, Shortsword 14, Singing 10, Sleight of Hand 13, Stage Magic 15, Stealth 14, Ventriloquism 14
The Sausages of Death -- The Sausages of Death are Vermilion's secret weapons. While they look exactly like the wooden sausages so beloved of children's performers, they are in fact perfectly balanced daggers.
From the open trapdoor wafts the foulest smell imaginable. In the dim light of the shop, a set of moss-covered steps lead down into the darkness. Climbing down the steps, the Heroes will find themselves in a huge subterranean cavern. The catacombs that run beneath the city range from street wide chambers to the tiniest of crawl spaces and all points between.
The goal here is to find Vermilion, but it is going to take some time. Settle back, grab any old dungeon map you may have, and let the Heroes get good and lost in the surreal world of the catacombs. Just so things do not get boring, liberally pepper this section with any old encounters you may have. Perhaps the Heroes encounter the Thieves Guild Amateur Speleological Society out on a ramble, or maybe a lost and terrified wizard running from something large, wet and dribbly. Whatever the encounters, they should be surreal and non-lethal.
Eventually, the Heroes will stumble across a cavern from which a strange blue light is shining. The light is long and sword-shaped. Moving in the light from the sword is a human figure, desperately hacking at the cavern wall. It might be possible at this point to sneak up on Vermilion, but anyone who fluffs the roll will find themselves on the wrong end of Death's sword. Remember this is a weapon so sharp that it can carve words into vowels and consonants. If not interrupted, Vermilion will reveal the soap bubble-like wall of the pocket universe that contains the Swazzle of the Gods.
Unfortunately, what no one knows is that the pocket universe is now home to a horde of Things from the Dungeon Dimension (p. DI157). Therefore, the situation can go one of two ways. Either Vermilion is stopped before he open the portal or he opens the way and all Thingness breaks loose. If the later happens, then it is a running battle to shore up the defenses of reality.
With the portal closed, humanity saved, and the sword in their hot sticky hands, the Heroes can safely return to the Curry Gardens where Death is waiting for them. In exchange for the sword, Death will treat them to a slap-up meal before vanishing once more into the background.
Article publication date: March 31, 2000
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