Top of the Round
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Pistachio? is the second episode of Book 1 of Top of the Round.

Pursued by unknown horrors, Se'ku, Talice, and Chaz race towards Heaven's Gate.... but will they make it in time? And who the hell is this old guy?

The Brad Report[]

Brad
Last week The Reaping tore through Heaven's Gate and the surrounding area. In the aftermath, I try to pick up the pieces and figure out what exactly transpired. I'm standing here with a halfing named Polly who survived the incident and would like to remain anonymous. Polly, can you tell us what you saw?
Polly
Yeah, so, uh, I was peeking from my basement and I saw these three people jump out of a boat from the lake and they ran into town. and this Shadestrider, he came up an' he hit that female elf really hard. An' then, this big fight started, you know? An' then this guy comes up, uh I think he's halfing. And he start kicking 'im and punchin' 'im. And then, the shadestrider hit him too. And then this pretty elf, man, uh, he came up and he started makin' holes with magic. And, uh. That's pretty much what I saw.
Brad
Thank you, sir, for your statement. I know that took a lot of courage.
Polly
uh, yeah, I'm pretty courageous.
Brad
Further reports from a more reliable source indicate that an old man fled the scene and proceeded to hide inside an abandoned house. He was then pursued by the half-elf, who politely knocked on the door.

Detailed Synopsis[]

At the end of the fight with the Shadestrider, Talice and Chaz both saw a terrified old man flee down the street until he found a house with an unlocked door, which he then hid inside. Chaz follows and knocks at the door, trying to talk to the old man and ask what’s going on.  However, the old man is too scared to answer or let him in.  Annoyed at how long it’s taking, Talice kicks the door in. She threatens the old man with her crossbow and demands to know what’s going on.

At that point, Se’ku follows to see what’s happening, and interposes himself between the old man and Talice. Se’ku starts politely questioning the old man, learning that his name is Zeek and he has a deceased wife, Emma. Zeek knows the creature the trio just fought and killed was a Shadestrider.

Talice and Chaz step back outside and see three more Shadestriders.  At the other end of town they see paladins loading townsfolk into caravans to flee to Heaven’s Gate.  Talice runs toward the caravans, while Chaz calls a warning back to Se’ku and Zeek, then follows Talice.

Se’ku tries to help the Zeek to the caravans but is slowed by the old man’s pace.  Seeing this, Chaz runs back to them and wildshapes into a horse. Se’ku and Horse!Chaz carrying Zeek make it to the caravan which then takes off ahead of the three Shadestriders.

Unable to keep up with the fleeing caravan, the Shadestriders each summon two shadow hounds to chase after the wagons.

On the rear caravan, Se’ku asks Talice her name. She sarcastically answers “Pistachio.” and he fails his insight roll so he believes her.  

The caravans reach a four-way intersection in the road. The lead wagon swings to the right, but the second wagon--carrying Talice and Se’ku--keeps going straight. Chaz yells to get their attention, and Se’ku climbs up to find the driver unconscious. He kicks the driver out of the way and tries to take control of the horses, but fails.

Talice tries to climb up and help Se’ku, but falls off. Horse!Chaz (still carrying Zeek) breaks off following the first wagon and retrieves Talice. Talice climbs on in front of Zeek.

Se’ku is still unable to get control of the horses, who come to a stop and refuse to move. Horse!Chaz catches up to the wagon.

The Shadestriders are catching up, only 50 feet behind. Zeek gets off Horse!Chaz and starts hobbling toward the Shadestriders.  Chaz and Talice encourage Se’ku to get on Chaz and leave, but Se’ku is refusing to leave the wagon full of commoners.  Zeek encourages the horses to cooperate for Se’ku.  It works.

Horse!Chaz, carrying Talice, runs for Heaven’s gate.  Se’ku is finally able to drive the wagon after them.

Behind them, where Zeek was approaching the Shadestriders, there is a shockwave and the sky lights up behind them.  There is a white, radiant mushroom cloud rising from where Zeek was standing. The shockwave nearly knocks Talice off Horse!Chaz’s back.

They make it to the open gate, which is shut behind them by guards. The other caravan is stopped with people getting out.  Ahead of them is a large statue of a halfling women (Euphemia), with paladins standing around nearby. Talice gets off Horse!Chaz and approaches them. Chaz follows. Se’ku stops his caravan and lets the people out, then follows Horse!Chaz.

The paladins are directing people to the Sanctuary: a large stone building with a glowing radiant bubble around it. The paladins try to stop Horse!Chaz and are stunned and alarmed when the horse starts talking.  Chaz resumes his normal shape and Se’ku catches up.  Se’ku tells Chaz that Talice’s name is Pistachio.  All three go inside the Sanctuary.

It’s filled with crying townsfolks, and paladins trying to regulate everything.  The trio’s injuries all heal when they enter the bubble.  

More Paladins and clerics are ushering people into the Sanctuary.  

Inside is a makeshift refugee camp with cots, clerics helping people, and many crying confused townsfolk.

Once in sanctuary, Talice asks a male halfling Paladin to speak with Euphemia. She's pointed to a wooden door, but told not to interrupt.  Talice posts herself up next to the door and stares at it. Chaz and Se'ku follow and try to engage her in friendly conversation (while still thinking her name is Pistachio) but Talice remains cold. She pointedly tells them she is not with them. Eventually they bed down and sleep while Talice meditates.

After a while Talice hears heated voices arguing from behind the door.  She creeps closer to the door, but is stopped by a hand on her shoulder.  It's an invisible person who claims to be a guard for Euphemia.  The invisible guard says the person Euphemia is arguing with is harmless.

Talice retreats back to her position and pretends to meditate.  The door opens and she sees one of her mentors, the Ivory Celestial, walk out. He nods to Talice and walks off.

The invisible guard returns and starts questioning Talice about what/how she knows the Ivory Celestial.  Eventually he introduces himself as Hob, and drops his invisibility to reveal he is a blond middle aged halfling.  Hob says that Euphemia seems to take directions from the Ivory Celestial.  Hob doesn't trust the Ivory Celestial, and is trying to decide if he can trust Talice or not. Talice promises she won’t hurt Euphemia, she only wants information.  Hob leaves.

Morning comes. Se'ku wakes up and gets breakfast from the clerics. Euphemia opens the door and invites Talice in.  

Talice tells Euphemia that she has been tasked with finding the Ocean’s Keeper, and asks what Euphemia knows.

Euphemia says the Ocean’s Keepers are druids. They live in the Evergrove. Euphemia then points out that Chaz appears to be a druid.

Euphemia asks to speak to Chaz alone. Talice sends Chaz in.  

Euphemia asks Chaz if Talice is trustworthy.  Chaz claims ignorance, but tells about their fight with the shadestrider. Euphemia tells Chaz Talice's real name, then gives Chaz five sealed envelopes and asks him to deliver them to the other gods:

Delmond, the dwarf god of earth

Windslow, the gnome god of wind

Christela, a trifling goddess

Zepher Rothchild, the human god of death.  He has abandoned his kingdom and vanished. Euphemia doesn’t know where to find him.

She then warns him to stay away from Zek'kar, the god of water.  He is the one controlling the shadestriders and causing the Reapings. Chaz will have to go through his kingdom to get to the others.  

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