The Mad God's Pawns is the twelfth episode of The Chain. It aired on April 17th, 2019.
The Chain of Acheron delve further into The Temple of Antisanity, where their brains are challenged in addition to their brawn.
Death to the Derro
The combat opened with King launching a fireball into the room; two derro (#1 and #4) made their saves, the others failed. King used his Channel Divinity to maximize the damage. Then Judge dropped a silence spell into the room to ensure that a gong in the corner could not ring. One of the derro has a psychotic break and lashes out in all directions, hitting each of the senior officers. Two more of the derro do the same thing, hitting Judge and Slim, and Bigcat. Judge manages to maintain concentration on the silence and places a seal on #3. Slim hits that one and the combination of Judge's seal and his attack kills it. Slim repositions to hit another derro and hits it twice, killing that one as well!
One of the derro priests casts crown of madness on Slim. Leech moves so he can see one of the derro and casts a couple of agonizing blasts, which splash over the derro and corrode away his evil flesh. He also orders Odie to fly around and stay out of danger. King casts a spiritual weapon, which takes the form of the sword of Red, which hits the derro priest in hopes of forcing him to drop the crown of madness, but he maintains his concentration.
One of the derro cast a fire spell, which catches both Judge and Slim. Copper shoots two arrows at the derro priest and hits with one of them, then Bigcat attacks. Slim shakes off the Crown of Madness thanks to the priest losing his concentration. Boots touches King on the shoulder and says, "You'll be all right." (healing word) and then Boots attacks one of the derro and kills it.
Judge casts drain life on the priest and feels the stolen life energizing his body. Slim attacks and attempts to trip his target, but misses. The priest banishes Bigcat. A gray hand reaches up out of the pool and then an insane derro follows. His shape is changing and morphing and he screams as his arm ripples and splits into tentacles. It grapples Boots. Leech attacks the derro mutant, wounding it. King attacks and drops the priest with toll the dead. The mutant also hears the bell but shakes it off. Bigcat returns because the priest died and runs over to frantically greet Copper, causing him to miss all of his shots. Boots worms his way out of the grapple and heals himself quickly. Judge casts a spell at the mutant, but it fails — so Judge places a seal on him. After a couple of not terribly effective attacks, the mutant wraps his tentacles around Judge and grapples him. He is restrained, blinded, and running out of air. Leech steps up into the doorway and orders Odie to attack. Odie gives it a halfhearted attempt and tries to convince Leech to give him more potion. King moves his spiritual weapon to attack the mutant, but misses then casts toll the dead, which hits.
Copper casts hunter's mark on the mutant and shoots him, then Bigcat hits it a couple of times too. Boots uses a defensive flourish and attacks, doing some damage and boosting his AC, then retreats. Judge attempts to free himself, but fails. Slim attacks and kills the mutant. Judge goes to examine the gong to see if it can be removed to keep anyone from ringing it. King takes the time to offer a prayer of healing so everyone who was wounded can heal a bit. Judge removes the gong from its mount, snapping the chain, and throws it out of the temple. King, thinking practically, searches the bodies. Boots attempts to dispel the ward, but is unsuccessful. Boots and King can sense the magic radiating from the middle of the room. King walks up to the pool of water, which is glowing a crystal blue. He can see through it, but can't see the bottom.
Leech orders Odie to fly over the pool and taste the water. He does and there doesn't appear to be any effect. Leech says he thinks this is the entrance. He tells them that there are great warriors who have come back from the inverted tower and have told tales that when you are in the Lord of Madness' tower, you're completely subject to his rules. They decide to take a short rest before entering the tower.
Celestial Conundrums and Giant Questions
Judge jumps in the water and disappears. King orders Leech to jump, then he and Slim follow Judge. As soon as they're submerged, they can't be seen. Leech is reluctant and tries to talk Copper into going back to the ship. When he can't, he hesitantly jumps into the water, and Copper goes last. Judge finds himself in a corridor, damp, but there's no water there. The walls, floor, and ceiling are all made of a mother of pearl type substance, which radiates a dim light. He's alone. He explores a bit and realizes that he appears to be in a maze.
After a short period of wandering, Judge meets up with the rest of the Chain in a central room, with an obelisk in the middle. King wants to know what took Leech so long to jump. Two sides of the obelisk have writing on it and the other side is blank. Boots looks at the obelisk and finds that one side has a riddle. Judge immediately believes the answer to the riddle is a mirror. Boots reads the other side and King says, "Is it also a mirror?"
There is a grinding sound from the obelisk and the blank side opens up to reveal a mirror that reflects the walls, but not the officers. They order Odie to fly into the mirror. He complies and when he touches the mirror, he disappears. Leech looks through Odie's eyes and a celestial being sitting at a table with a game board upon it. Leech doesn't recognize the game. He addresses the being and says, "It is I, Leech. I have returned."
There is no response from the angel and Leech quickly comes to the conclusion that this is an illusion. Leech dismisses his find familiar spell and recasts it, bringing Odie back out of that portal. Boots believes that each of them will see a different illusion when they go through the portal since that illusion seemed tailored to Leech/Odie. Slim decides to brave it and disappears as soon as he touches the mirror. The rest follow.
They find themselves an idyllic scene on top of a hill. There is a deva staring at a blank board with nine models of trees on it. He explains that this is a riddle that he's trying to solve and it's driving him mad. He has to plant nine trees using only ten straight lines and with each line having only three trees on it. Judge offers a solution of ten lines all on top of each other, and it seems to anger the deva. "That's not it! You fool!" He begins pacing and growing increasingly frustrated.
Boots comes up with the solution and the deva shouts, "That's it!" and disappears. They then find themselves in a hellish landscape. It's a large stone room with walls that appear to be made of brimstone. They see a fire giant pacing between two huge iron scales. The first scale has four adult hellhounds on it and three pups on one side and a stack of boulders on the other. The other scale has three adults and four pups, with a stack of boulders on the other side. The first scale is 33 boulders. The second scale has 37 boulders. The giant wants to know, in boulders, how much each hound and pup weighs in boulders. King quickly arrives at the correct answer, the hounds are 7 and the pups are 3.
They find themselves next in the foyer of a palatial mansion as if a noble's house. There are doors, windows, and stairs to an upper level. It's dimly lit by candles. It appears to be night outside. King tries to pick up a candle, but it doesn't budge. He casts light on his dagger and tries to open the front door, but the handle won't budge. Slim tries to blow out one of the candles, but it doesn't flicker. Copper concludes this is all illusion and tries to walk through the wall but simply hits his head against the wall. They go upstairs and find several more doors and halls. There are paintings on the wall.
They inspect them and they're clearly paintings of nobles, but when they look closely, they're just blobs of paint. Judge inspects the rest of the house more closely and determines that none of the furnishings are what they appear to be from a distance. King is able to open the doors upstairs and finds they lead to bedrooms, guest rooms, a master bedroom. There are clothes in the wardrobes, but when examined they're just spun thread with no form or color.
They continue to explore but are unable to find meaning in it. They find another study and there are three figures sitting inside. There is a table in the middle and the three figures appear to be playing a card game. They recognize them as Red, Nails, and Sweet. When they enter the room, they hear whispering. Covering the bookcases is a red slime. The former senior officers stand up and say, "Where have you been? We've been waiting for you." Red says, "You're in great danger. You must leave." Nails says, "Wait, before you go, take this," and pulls out a wand. Sweet says, "Why did you leave us?" The whole time, the whispering continues. Leech order Odie to take the wand that Nails offered - and combat begins. There's a dark figure in the back of the room that appears to be made out of the red slime. There are thin tendrils reaching out from the figure to each of the former commanders.
Boots tries to sever one of the tendrils with no effect, except Sweet swings around and demands, "What are you doing?" Boots then tries to attack the figure in the back (elder oblex). He hits it and as his sword slices through it, it quivers. The three senior officers yell, "Stop! Stop him!" King casts fireball and, through his powers as a cleric, causes it to be maximally damaging. One of the senior officers is revealed to be a gibbering mouther. The fire hits Odie too and incinerates the wand he was holding. Leech casts some agonizing blasts at the oblex. Slim rushes the back of the room to help gang up on the oblex and hits him four times with his sword, with bits of oblex flying in all directions. He uses a menacing attack, but the oblex doesn't appear to be afraid.
The Chain continues to beat up on the ooze and the former senior officers beg them to stop. It attacks Slim and Copper and does a lot of damage to them. Boots get memory drained and is down. Leech leaps over the table to Boots and helps him back up. The gibbering mouthers start to chatter and the ground in front of them begins to boil and shift. Boots attacks the ooze and hacks more bits out of it, causing it to collapse to the floor. The three commanders turn into the same kind of red ooze and dissolve. King uses toll the dead to attack one of the gibbering mouthers and Leech follows him up with two agonizing blasts that kill it. Slim throws javelins at a mouther, then takes his second wind to try to attack again, but misses. Judge attacks with his greatsword and does a little damage. Copper lets go a flight of arrows and kills the last one. After the battle, they spend a little time healing up, then resume trying to find their way out of this house.
There's a solarium on the lower level and, unlike the front and back doors which wouldn't open, there is a blue glow around the door into the solarium. Inside the solarium, there's a natural bath containing a large, irregularly shaped pool of water that reminds them of the pool in the temple. The water appears to be hot; they can see steam rising from it. In short, it looks like a noble's bath. On one side of the pool is a table with a parasol. There are tea and cakes on the table and two people seated next to it. One of them is a rotting female corpse dressed in finery. The other is a man wearing a noble's outfit and a crown. He looks more than half dead and is offering tea and cakes to the female corpse.