Chronicles of Kratz: The Bazaar Dungeon, Part I

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What? “That looks nothing like you, Kratz”? Well, just keep on reading.

When Adair mentioned there was a bizarre dungeon at the Faire, I must’ve had a big ol’ glob of gunk in my ears because I surely hadn’t imagined this. Oh, it was bizarre, all right. Bizarre in that there were too many traders and Fairelanders running about loose and not enough cages.

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WHAT IS THIS, A DUNGEON FOR DINKIES?!

I mean, what kind of dungeon features a full-service bar at its center? And a table topped with otter figurines where people come to pretend they’re knights and clerics on some grand quest whose outcome depends on the roll of the dice? It’s almost insulting to real clerics like me.

After taking in all the happy, frolicking people, I wanted to leave, but as my Mistress would have it, I used up my last Scroll of Teleportation getting here. Figures.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t resent my Mistress. No, perish the thought. It’s just that She—how do I put this—works in rather mysterious ways. I do as I’m told. I don’t question her orders. I am but a humble servant. But sometimes, I wish She’d, you know, notice me.

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I tried explaining that to the barkeep, but after pouring me a seventh cup of absinthe, all he said was, “That’s enough, buddy. I’m not getting paid enough to do this. Actually, I’m not even getting paid.” And then he kicked me out, despite me being a paying customer. Paying with what? Oh, nothing crude like Lindens or gold. Paying him with my presence, of course! Strange he didn’t notice, because my Aura of Seduction usually works on schleps like him. Perhaps Mistress had removed it to test me.

Bored and not nearly drunk enough, I stared up at the impressive statue of the Sentinel erected about the bar. I guess he must’ve been the one who founded this place before it got turned into a goddess-forsaken amusement park.

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Hmm…goddess-forsaken.

I had a sudden stroke of inspiration. All I needed was a ladder. A really tall ladder. Or, as I noticed the ramshackle staircase leading to a balcony above the bazaar square, a staircase would work, too.

So I climbed the staircase, ignoring the creaks and groans of protest as I stepped on loose floorboards and the occasional rusty nail. In my head danced visions of anguished Fairelanders as I rained down on them a torrent of spiders in the name of my Mistress. Yes, yes, death from above! Dance, little Fairelanders, dance! She would be most pleased. And then, maybe She’d finally notice me!

But all that fled my mind like poor shadows before the cursed midday sun when I reached the top. At the top, I found a roost. Around a bonfire sat piles of cushions and a wooden throne. On the wall behind the roost was a mural of a magpie with its arms spread. The whole affair looked awfully cozy, so I popped a squat, first on some scratchy burlap cushions and then on a proper chair. Must be the hideout of some secret society, I thought. Up here, where you can see the whole square and stare the Sentinel straight in his ugly, diamond-encrusted eye. Perfect for plotting schemes. After all, no one ever thinks to look up. Silly sheeple.

Yes, this was just the spot for my scheme. I got up off the chair and was just about to drop my shorts to unleash my grand army of brown recluses when a burning torch at the edge of the roost caught my eye.

Ah, fire. So we meet again, stranger.

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“You’re looking a little thin, darling,” I whispered lovingly, caressing her crackling face with the back of my hand. She reprimanded me with a scorch.

Feisty, just the way I like them.

“Forgive me. How could I forget the love of my life, fourth only to my Mistress, spiders, and the elegant art of torture?”

She glowered. Fair enough. I had always been the talkative one in this relationship, and it had been ages since I last paid her due respect. I bowed with a grand flourish.

“I was hoping, my dear, that I could feed you a bit. Fatten you up, you see. Perhaps you’d like a Fairelander or two for lunch?”

No reply. Hmm, I wonder if she could detect my ulterior motives. They say to never use people as a means to an end, but if everything went as planned, she would be not only the means but also the end. The end to dozens of innocent lives! Besides, who was I to follow what “they” say, anyway?

Suddenly, she flung her red-hot mane toward something behind me. She was pointing at something. I turned around to find a small board decorated with a piece of paper titled “Magpie Schedule” and a purple altar of sorts.

Upon the purple altar stood a portrait of a kid wearing baggy pants, a hat shaped like a magpie head, a cloak, gloves, and a ring of keys. Must be the garb of the secret society whose roost this was. But what kind of secret society posted their schedule out in public like that?

Wait a minute… Did I see keys?!

Yes, indeed, depicted in the portrait was a waistpouch and a ring full of keys. I cackled. Where there are keys, there are locks. Where there are locks, there are things to be locked up. So this place might still be a functioning dungeon after all. Excellent!

I reached my hand into the altar and tried to pull out one of the kits advertised on the portrait, but no luck. Must be delivered through some spell or something. Begrudgingly, I pulled the requisite Lindens out of my briefs and put them on the altar. The altar shone bright purple, and in a flash, a little box appeared. Inside was everything shown in the portrait: a magpie hat, perfect for espionage, which I put on immediately; a cloak in two sizes, which was unfortunately too small for my musculature; a pair of black gloves, which would only fit a kid or maybe a human teenager; a pair of pants, which I didn’t even try to put on because I knew I would burst through the seams (and wearing pants is against my religion, anyway); and finally the key bag, which I delightfully clipped onto my shorts.

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After tossing the excess clothing into my Bag of Holding, I turned to the torch and bowed again, so deeply this time that the beak of my hat kissed the ground. She hadn’t forsaken me after all!

“Thank you, great Fire, for showing me the way; you as wise as you are beautiful! Now please let me demonstrate my gratitude…”

I moved to kiss her cheek, but she leaned sideways and disappeared in a puff of smoke. O Fire, how you torture and tease!

Not 20 meters away, however, I saw her kindle in another torch. This torch stood on a platform beneath me. Ah, so it’s a game of cat and mouse she wants, eh?

I swung down the zip line that hung between the roost and the platform.

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Alley-oop!

The minute I landed on the platform, she disappeared yet again, only to reappear on another torch on the platform below. So down another zip line I swung, chasing my fair madame.

Eventually, she stopped at a giant signboard, poised next to a bunch of wanted signs and a glowing stone. Terribly disappointing that my face wasn’t on any of the signs. Well, that’d change soon.

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As I studied the signs, I recognized the symbol of the Magpies. Apparently they’re a bunch of “pick-pocketing children”? Good for them! Always a delight to see corrupted youth taking the initiative. If I happened to cross paths with one of these Magpies, I’d have to be sure to take them under my wing. (Because magpies have wings; get it? Oh, I slay myself!) I am my Mistress’s eye when it comes to seeking out new recruits, and the younger, the better insomuch as their minds are more easily molded.

Now, I had forced my madame to wait long enough. I picked up the torch from off the signpost. This time, she didn’t disappear on me like before. Instead, she pointed toward the glowing stone and hissed.

I knew an order when I heard one. So I touched the stone, and glowing words appeared before my eyes, disappearing one by one as I read them:

Many years ago this place was a prison labyrinth where no one could escape. After many decades and generations, a kindly spirit gave one of the trapped people magic dust that when cast to the ground grew into a glowing path leading to freedom. If you follow the glow, you will never be lost.

Aha! So there was more to this Bazaar Dungeon than met the eye. And just as surely as the glowing path would lead to freedom, so would it lead to captivity! The hairs on my back bristled with excitement.

“Thank you, Fire,” I whispered to the torch. “Oh, you were never going to let me down, were you, you coy minx? You’re too good to me.”

In the periphery, several pairs of eyes flitted nervously between the torch and me. I caught a whisper here and there: something about “pyromaniac” and “NSFW,” whatever that was. Gossip away, Fairelanders! You’re all just jealous because Fire and I have a special bond!

With that, I whipped my torch around, brandishing it at the Fairelanders and laughing maniacally. A Dinkie gasped in utter dismay and took off running. The other four or so assorted Elves and Humans parted before me. Yes, someday my Drow brethren and sisteren will part before me in the same way as I ascend into priesthood in a grand procession for our Mistress!

Skating through the cramped alleyway lined with merchants of all sorts (including one odd creature who smoked from a water pipe), I made a beeline for the mouth of what appeared to be a tunnel, lit only by the occasional torch and a phosphorescent purple light. As I waved away the stench of fish, freshly baked bread, and exotic spices that sifted through the air like sand in a gale, my nose caught a scent much more pleasant. It was a dank, musty smell, like the inside of an Orc’s ear, or a swamp after the rains.

The source quickly became apparent. Purple mushrooms, thousands of them, winding down the halls of the dungeon tunnels like a basilisk! It was their purple light that illuminated the glistening stone walls and the puddles among the dislodged floor tiles. These mushrooms must be the “glowing path to freedom” that the stone mentioned.

I choked back a sob. It almost reminded me of home. But no time to be getting sentimental. I had prisons to unearth and Earthlanders to imprison!

The mushroom path snaked around a corner where many Fairelander sheeple, I imagine, would be inclined to follow. But not Kratz! Kratz saw a hole in the tunnel wall, a gaping maw in the stonework that beckoned him forth like a siren. And Kratz—er, I—was going in!

Fire in the hole!

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After walking down a series of blind corners, I found myself at the entrance to a secret chamber. The walls were lined with pillars inscribed with illegible runes. At the back of the chamber was a staircase that led up to a mural of a phoenix.

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I sighed.

“Now why’d you lead me here?” I asked Fire. “This isn’t a prison. It’s obviously some sort of temple to a deity of rebirth. And you know how much I hate rebirth, unless, you know, I’m the one doing it.”

She flickered toward the mounds of mud that constituted the chamber floor. I squinted. And then I saw them.

I spied with my Darkvision eyes a crown. I picked up the crown and placed it on my head. It was surprisingly light for something made out of metal. What kind of puny king would wear this? It seemed more suited for one of those Magpie kids.

Maybe one of them got caught in the mud and sunk into the floor, I thought gleefully. I reached a hand into the mud and groped around the site of the crown, but nothing was to be found except more mud. My spiders didn’t like that. They scurried up onto my shoulders and hissed vehemently until I withdrew my arm.

Hmph. How disappointing.

As I inspected the mud further for signs of rotting carcasses, I saw a flute with an Elven design engraved on its body. It was surprisingly clean for something lying in the mud.

The crown was surprisingly light; the flute was surprisingly clean. 

Were they connected? I put my torch down for a moment and held the flute to my lips.

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When I blew into it, a high, tinny voice sang, “I am the Djinn of the flute and I know what you wish most…”

Oh boy! Was the Djinn going to make me a priest? Would he force Mistress to finally notice me?

The Djinn continued: “There was once a great treasure more precious than any gold or jewels, hidden behind a great door hundreds of years ago by the power of three elemental gems. To find the door, all one needs to do is speak these words to the Harpy: ‘Tsaphan Pathatch’.

And then the voice was no more.

I tried rubbing the flute and sticking my finger into the blowhole, or whatever musicians call it, but the Djinn remained silent. Another toot at the flute produced the exact same message with not a hint of a difference in the Djinn’s tenor. Was he actually even in there?

So I blew again.

I am the Djinn of the flute and I know what you wish most…

And again.

I am the Djinn of the flute and I know—

And again.

I am the Djinn of the—

And again.

I am the—

And again.

I—

And one last time, for good measure.

I SWEAR,” suddenly erupted the Djinn, “IF YOU BLOW INTO THIS FLUTE ONE MORE TIME, I’LL—

“You’ll what? Kill me?”

WELLNO, BUT…

“You’re trapped in there, aren’t you, you little fella?”

DO NOT CONDESCEND TO ME!

“Say, Djinn, do you like…fire? Because I have a torch with me, see, and my dear flame is a little hungry.”

D-DON’T BRING THAT THING NEAR ME!

“Tell you what; let’s make a deal. You get Mistress to notice me, make me Her priest, and I won’t burn your little home to ash.”

I DON’T NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS.”

“Burning your home it is, then!”

NO, WAIT—”

“Fire in the hole! …Wait, didn’t I already say that today?”

I’LL DO IT! JUST STOP!

“What do you have for me, big guy?”

UM… I’LL OPEN THE GREAT DOOR FOR YOU! NO NEED TO GO THROUGH ALL THE TROUBLE OF FINDING THE THREE ELEMENTAL GEMS. YOU GET THE TREASURE, NO PROBLEM. I’LL EVEN TELL YOU WHERE THE HARPY IS: ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MAIN SQUARE.”

“What’s the treasure? Will it make Mistress notice me?”

UHPROBABLY? I MEAN, THAT DEPENDS; WHO IS YOUR MISTRESS?

I whispered Her name into the blowhole.

OH, SO YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.”

“Do I detect racism?” I smiled benevolently, bringing the torch so close to the flute that a flame licked against the woodcarving.

NO! NO! JUST SAYIN’. YOUR MISTRESS WILL DEFINITELY LIKE THAT, YEP.

“Good. Because you know, if she doesn’t, I’d only be too happy to toss you into the bonfire over at the Magpies’ roost.”

UGHHHHNOT THOSE KIDS.

“The one and the same. Now, I’ll just take you with me…”

Amid muffled protests, I shoved the flute deep into my briefs. I suppose I could have put it in the Bag of Holding, but what’s the fun in that?

And with that, I left the chamber and followed my steps out of the tunnels and back into the main square. Just as the Djinn had said, there was another street on the opposite side of square, and at its end—just before the street turned a corner and led into another series of tunnels—was a tunnel with a sign hanging over it. And over that sign was a stone harpy, a statue.

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Really? I mean, really?

Whatever. I just wanted to see the treasure, already. Never mind that hundreds of Fairelanders had probably rifled through it by now.

I proceeded into the tunnel. Several twists and turns later, another chamber opened up before me, this one considerably more alive. Wisps of grass grew between the disheveled tiles, and lush ivy clung to the walls. It reminded me of my body before I waxed it.

At the end of the room stood three pillars, above which rotated a jug, a sword, and a book, each with a sigil suggesting an element. These artifacts must be the three gems the Djinni mentioned. It looked like he had spared me the trouble of gathering them after all; the door behind them was already open.

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On my way into the next room, I tried grabbing each of the three items. Strangely, only the Sword of Water budged. When I tried to snatch the Jug of Wind, my fingers slipped right through it as though it were air (oh, the irony); and when I tried to take the Book of Earth, a magnetic pull held it fast.

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No matter; I didn’t particularly care for these things anyway. I tossed the Sword of Water into my Bag of Holding without much thought. What I really wanted to see was in the next room: something, the Djinni had alleged, that my Mistress would like. Without further ado, I stepped through the threshold and beheld a most magnificent sight…

To be continued…


This post features Fantasy Faire exclusives from Attitude is an Artform, Ghoul, Loki Eliot, Poseidon, Raven Bell, Sinful Needs, and [][]Trap[][] and Plastik. For detailed credits and more pictures, please refer to Nadjanator’s blog.

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