“I just…I haven’t seen her in so long,” bawled Vakt the Rosy into his cups.

“There, there. Tinuviel’s just not feeling well after getting scratched up by a jackalwere in the middle of a cavern infested with gibberlings,” said Iffy the elf. “She’ll be down soon enough.

“She’s just so short…so sweet…so tiny…so…so…” Vakt began bawling again.

“I think you’ve had enough,” deadpanned Chanel the elven cleric. “How much have you had to drink already?”

“It’s just root beer,” Vakt sniffed. “House blend. Iazgu’s still making my first tequila slammer.”

“Maybe you should go a bit easy on the tequila slammers,” said Adenan the halfling.

“HEY!” barked Iazgu the Flayer, demon of the Abyss and chambermaid/bartender for the Demon Arms Inn. “I’ll not hear a word said against my tequila slammers! It’s a recipe of the abyssal realms, strong enough to stun a quasit, and it’s the only thing close to a real drink that’s been served here in 10,000 years!”


Creeping up on the clearing, they saw Mercury the bulldog in the midst of a crowd of howling gibberlings, not unlike the ones they had fought in Ransack Cavern earlier. He was being ridden bareback by a gibberling while the others hooted and cheered at the spectacle. For his part, Mercury seemed rather resigned to this, accepting it as just a fact of life: the sky was blue, the trees were green, and he was ridden by tiny hyperactive monsters.

Adenan grabbed one of the scruffy horrors by his hair and yanked him backwards. “What do you think you’re doing?” she growled.

“Riding! Fun!” squeaked the thrashing gibberling. “I know you! You killed Gus! And Gus Two! I’m Gus Four!”

“Let the bulldog go,” Adenan continued, as menacingly as any halfling could, “or I’ll squash you into jelly before I throw you in the river.”

“No! Not jelly! Jellied gibbs can’t get into gibberheaven!” The gibberling seemed to steel himself a bit. “But dog is ours. Has been forever.”

“No he isn’t.”

“Is too! Used to guard cave! Hatched him ourselves!”

“No you didn’t.”

“Don’t know where dogs come from!” the gibberling wailed.


The library golem was impassive. “You must return the stolen book and pay the fine, or your life is forfeit. The fine is 50 gold. Pay or die.”

Iffy raised her hands. “But my library has an interlibrary loan program with the Elderbrary,” she said in her most convincingly scholarly tone. “We don’t have to pay any fine if we return it!”

Clicking and whirring as it processed this, the golem demurred. “Very well. Surrender the Monster Manual and we will consider your hold lifted.”

Longingly, reluctantly, Iffy gave up the tome. The library golem inserted the volume into its book drop slot, whirred some more, and departed.

A moment later, Iffy the elf turned on Mr. Funderberger IV, who throughout the conversation had been trying to back into the tick copse of woods surrounding the meeting spot. “YOU!” she roared. “THAT BOOK WAS STOLEN!”

“I gave you a good deal,” he whined.

“NO YOU DIDN’T!” Iffy shrieked. “I HAD TO DO THINGS FOR THAT BOOK!”

“What exactly did you have to do?” said Chanel the elven cleric. “You still haven’t told us how much sugar you had to give.”

“I will neither confirm nor deny a specific amount of sugar given!” Iffy roared. “But he’s gonna pay!”

Mr. Funderberger IV had quite enough; he made to bolt. Iffy, in an uncharacteristic show of physical prowess, tripped him with her staff.

Then, she proceeded to pummel him senseless.

“Let’s see how you like THIS sugar!” she screamed, drawing her dagger. Casting Phineas’s Phun Phoam on Funderberger’s head, she used her dagger to shave off his carefully coiffed locks. Then she took everything of value in his pockets, even down to his phony tin sword.

“I think you’ve gotten your revenge, Iffy,” said Adenan.

“Hardly!” Iffy continued. “Mercury! Bulldog! Get over here and piss on Mr. Funderberger IV! We’ll see how much sugar you get after that!”

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Claymen weren’t really clay and they weren’t really men.

They “clay” in question was any old material that could be worked and shaped–clay in the poetic, the Biblical sense. In practice, just about anything could be modified to serve as a Clayman: battered old refrigerators, rocks, thatch. Attending Claymen would usually modify the raw materials, adding arms or legs or eyeholes for the animated chi within. But sometimes they would animate a single rock or a handful of pebbles or even a tree; those “ambusher Claymen” tended to be created rather sparingly, as it required much more chi to fashion them.

No one could say for sure how the Claymen had come to be, as they did not deign to speak to mankind or its allies–their communication seemed to be on a much more primal, perhaps telepathic, level. But they were certainly driven, as any other being would be, to reproduce themselves. People had observed Claymen, singly or in small groups, loving crafting “children” from the same materials as themselves and passing a portion of their own chi onto them; there were others that slapped together “offspring” out of whatever parts that could be found and gave no gift of their own chi.

In that respect, one must admit, they were not so different from humans.

One major difference, though, was chi. Humans are born with some innate chi and the ability to generate more from their environment, but Claymen completely lacked that. Chi was imbued in them at “birth” and lost at “death” but did not otherwise change. They were immune to the energy-sapping of negative chi that could come about through poor decisions or inauspicious events, but a rather large pool of chi had to be gathered before one could be imbued with the spark that turned it from a pile of refuse into a genuine Clayman.

Some Claymen carefully gathered chi from the natural world, cultivating zen gardens and practicing careful feng shui to direct positive chi into a soul jar. Since they had no need to eat or drink, chi farming was the key use of Clayman lands.

Others, though, were impatient and wary of what could happen were a chi farm disrupted. It was these Claymen reavers that were terrors unto mankind and its allies, leading groups of raiders to slay all they encountered and steal their chi. In areas where Claymen had been sighted, travelers tended to be vastly paranoid, for the very rocks and trees about them might be ambusher Claymen with a mind to steal their life energy from the source.