When last we left our heroes, they were recovering from a horror ambush, in which gnomish guns almost beat them. However, having prevailed (and left one gnome permanently enveloped in a shroud of high-speed comedy stories, in response to which he could only ever laugh, laugh, laugh…) the characters were soon ready to push on down the valley towards the camp of the Gnomish thieves.
After another hour’s walk the characters emerged from the constantly-enveloping mist, and before them could see the valley stretching down to the green lowlands. They walked for another hour through the greening valley, until they came to a wider river valley. A river flowed before them, and on the far side lay the gnomish camp, a group of caravans arranged in a circle. The only way across the camp lay upriver, in a ford mercifully protected from the view of the camp by a copse of trees. After a little discussion, the characters decided to cross at the ford and wait until nightfall to investigate the camp more closely. They settled down to wait in the copse of trees until dusk.
At dusk Myuta the ranger crept forward to investigate the camp. He was greeted by a scene of anger and confusion. A group of gnomes stood around an empty pot in the middle of the camp, and an older gnome – obviously the leader – was hitting one of the watching gnomes on the head while ranting about his useless followers. Listening carefully, Myuta realised that the open pot was the prison for the Onsen fairy, and it had been delivered empty by the ring-leader’s thieves to his camp. The onsen fairy was missing! Myuta also learnt that this gnomish leader had gambled away the title to the onsen resort 10 years ago and, having finally made his fortune in the cities to the south, had embarked on a quest to regain by foul play the onsen fairy he had lost fairly all those years ago – now, when his health was looking less reliable, and perhaps he might have need of a captured sprite to lengthen his life. But the fairy was not in its cage. The leader’s followers assured him that they had followed his instructions to the secret room to the letter, and that there was no evidence it could be anywhere else. All were mystified, until the leader decided: Simple enough, we shall move to the resort in force and take the entire building, then search it from top to bottom.
Myuta returned to his group, and they hatched a plan. They had noticed that one of the caravans was topped by a very large version of a gnomish steam rifle, the discharge from which would be considerably worse than they had experienced so far. Any attack needed to avoid this weapon. First they tried casting light spells onto pieces of wood and throwing them into the river, to lure a few guards down to the river and kill them ahead. Unfortunately the river was infested with glowfish, which seeing the glowing bark pieces began themselves to glow, and the guard atop the caravan, looking through the scope of his steam gun, concluded the event was simply glowfish breeding. No one responded to the lure. So the characters moved up to the camp, and prepared an attack from multiple angles. They waited until morning, when the wind blows down the valley from the mountains and draws mist from the mountains with it. Yurianusu the sorcerer cast a fog cloud spell, and three of the characters drew close to the camp under cover of the fog, while the remainder drew up near the caravan with the steam gun, and prepared to sneak in.
Unfortunately, Myuta the ranger loosed an arrow early. This arrow flew into a cooking pot, bounced into a metal helmet, and then sailed through the air to strike a gnomish music box, which sprang open and began playing its annoying, inane music. Everyone in the camp woke, and battle was joined. The Barbarian charged straight to the steam gun, and Myuta began cutting down enemies with his bow while the remainder of the group attempt to prevent the gnomes from concentrating their attacks. Yurianusu used grease spells to keep gnomes from charging forward, and Isoda fought to keep the gnomes from overwhelming the barbarian. Once the barbarian had felled the gnome on the steam gun, and Yurianusu’s grease spell had caused a gnome to fall into the fire, then set the flammable grease alight, and Myuta had killed a gnome or two with his arrows, the leader stepped out of the shadows and called a halt to the battle.
So, the gnomes withdrew and the characters spoke to the leader. He explained his situation to them and told them he would withdraw from the battle, leaving them with the pot in which the onsen fairy had been stored. In exchange they would not follow him or fight him further, and would not reveal who he was to the onsen resort owner. Since his efforts had all come to nought so far, further attempts to pursue the fairy now would be a waste of time. He would withdraw peacefully, and in exchange the characters could keep the stupid pot.
The charactes agreed – in truth they had been starting to feel a little pressed in the battle, and unless the barbarian upped her slay-rate, someone was going to die. They took the pot and retired from the scene, lugging it back uphill to the onsen resort.
When they returned they went to find the owner of the onsen, to ask him why he had offered to pay them to recover a missing fairy that was never in the stolen pot. He wasn’t in his office, however, and even a cursory search could reveal that he had fled, taking his basic belongings and a lot of money with him. Further investigation revealed the title deed to the onsen – now easily forged into the names of the characters – and buried in some documents, about 10 years ago, a sale of “sundry goods” to a rich Southern landowner which netted a very significant amount of money, not at all consistent with such a lowly title.
The onsen resort owner had sold the fairy almost as soon as he took possession of the resort, and in the 10 years since the sale had been trading in the healing reputation of his spa without ever, actually, having anything magical or special to offer his customers.
The characters’ employer, obviously clearly vexed at such duplicity, began tearing apart the office in rage. The characters, of course, set their eyes on that property title, and the home of a certain now very-long-lived Southern landowner…