The magnificent white horse, who Rit-Chan-Diddle calls Peg, the Mount of Heroes, ran like the wind; indeed faster than the wind. A journey that would have taken a normal horse a week or more is made in a couple of hours. Ferasar rides low with Blaise huddled safe in a pocket.
Peg slows down gently to a stop just within sight of a low, unassuming building. It appears abandoned, and there is no sign of activity. Ferasar dismounts and the horse disappears again, to be replaced by the pixie.
“I don’t think anyone’s home, Blaise,” observed Ferasar doubtfully.
Blaise looks solemnly at the building, “Oh no, he’s still here. It’s always looked like that.”
Rit stares at the building as well, “Besides, the place is glowing with arcane magic. I think it’s an illusion.” Blaise simply nods agreement.
“Alright, then,” Rit exclaims, eager to get going, “Let’s go get that bloodstone and get back quickly.” Ferasar gently interposes his hand in front of Rit to keep her from charging in immediately and addresses Blaise, “Any defenses other than the illusion that you know of?”
Blaise shakes her head, “No, it’s a pretty thorough illusion, though. If you don’t already know the true entrance you could wander around in the illusory building forever and never know anything was not as it seems.”
“But you know where the entrance is, right?” Rit asks. Blaise grins, “Oh yes. Ready to go in?”
“One more moment, Blaise,” Ferasar cautioned realizing that he is just barely managing to forestall the pixies’ natural impulsiveness, “What about the bloodstone itself. Where does he keep it? And what can we expect once we’re inside?”
Blaise’s grin vanishes and she looks grim, “He kept it with him, and as for what you’ll find, we just called it the Factory. He keeps lots of pixie… employees… at least that’s what he called us. He kept us in anti-magic collars so that we couldn’t get away, and forced us to work whenever we weren’t eating or sleeping, and he made sure that we had the absolute minimum of either. He even made us wear… um… special pants… so that we wouldn’t even stop working to, um, take care of other necessities,” she blushes slightly at the memory before continuing, “He had his office on one end, high above the main factory, so that he could always be looking down on us. He was always in there when he wasn’t out in the factory itself meting out ‘punishment’ to whoever happened to catch his eye.”
“Sounds like a wonderful guy,” Rit growls, “Can we go meet him now?” She glares at Ferasar, who lowers his hand, draws his sword and grins demonically, “Yes, Rit, I believe we shall.”
The trio closes in on the abandoned-looking building, and Blaise points to a blank wall, “It’s there. The entrance is hidden there.” She flies up to it and pulls on something invisible, and then appears to swing out, following an arc as if she were opening an invisible door. “In here. Don’t worry about being too quiet; the inside is very noisy all the time.”
Ferasar and Rit look at each other and shrug. No sound comes out of the place where the door supposedly is. The two pixies perch on Ferasar’s shoulders, one on either side, and he walks cautiously into the wall and walks through into the loudest din he’s ever heard. They can now see the open door behind them, and the small room into which they’ve stepped. Steps can be seen through another door in front of them, and the noise comes from up ahead. They step through the new door and down the metal stairs to another door, this one closed. They realize that as loud as the noise is, it’s actually being muffled by the heavy door.
After glancing quickly at the other two to make sure they’re ready, Ferasar carefully opens the door a crack to peer inside. The noise becomes deafening once the door opens, and it is also at this point that the smell hits them as well. Normally, a pixie’s body odor is considered quite pleasing, however this many pixies in one place, living in a state of constant fear and despair as well as being forced to work in their own filth has produced a smell not unlike that of a department store’s perfume section just after all of the salespeople have sprayed their product in your face at once, if the same department store had a sewage sales section right next to the perfume section, and those salespeople had their own samples to spray. Rit noisily gags and flies to a corner in the stairwell to throw up. Ferasar also gags, but manages to keep his breakfast down. Blaise ignores the smell and glares angrily inside. She yells in Ferasar’s ear, “THERE HE IS!” Such is the noise, that Ferasar still barely hears her, and the chances of anyone inside hearing is nonexistent. He peers inside and sees a gnome, dressed all in red with furry white trim. He is walking behind a line of pixies, who are assembling several unidentifiable things as the things are carried along some sort of moving band. Looking down at the end of the line, Ferasar can see that the end products appear to be small, brightly colored figurines which look to him like some sort of children’s toys. He looks back at the gnome, who appears to be just about the most harmless and, dare he think, jolly being he’d ever seen. He has a big red nose, a bushy white beard and eyebrows, and is so overweight as to be rotund, and he appears to be laughing to himself.
This image, however, is suddenly ruined as the gnome scowls for no apparent reason, shouts something incoherent in the noise, and kicks one of the pixies in the line hard, causing it to go flying across the room to land in a bloody heap not far from where the trio hid behind the door. The stricken pixie doesn’t move. The gnome scowls at it again, makes a harumphing motion, and motions to a pair of slightly larger pixies who go toward the fallen one. The gnome shrugs and walks off to the other side of the room where he disappears behind his door. At this point, Ferasar steps out of the door to confront the pair of pixies moving toward the fallen one. Their resigned looks become looks of surprise and then fear as they suddenly fall over themselves trying to run away. Ferasar notes that they do not fly, and upon observing this, he also realizes that none of the other pixies are flying either. Only then does he notice the small collars that each one wears, presumably the anti-magic collars that Blaise mentioned. He looks back down at the stricken pixie and at Blaise who is looking him over. After feeling for a pulse, Blaise looks back up at Ferasar hopefully and makes motions as if casting a spell and laying his hands on the other pixie. Ferasar nods in understanding, kneels down and casts a healing spell. Bones visibly snap back into place, and a healthier color returns to the little person. He weakly opens his eyes and looks around him. Upon seeing the elf looming above him, his eyes widen and he crouches on all fours with his face to the floor, pleading for mercy. Ferasar, Rit and Blaise watch him for a moment, then with a glance between them, decide that the best thing they can do for the poor, frightened being is to complete their mission.
By now, the other pixies have noticed them, but they dare not stop working due to the fear that has been ingrained into them by their cruel master. The trio ignore them for now, and walk briskly toward the little door that the gnome entered. Looking up along the way, they look up to see the gnome looking back at them from a large window high up on the wall. He suddenly ducks back out of sight when he realizes that they’ve seen him. Ferasar then breaks into a run and his pixie companions fly alongside, easily keeping up, but being careful not to fly too far ahead.
Ferasar wrenches open the door to the office and runs up the stairs. In here the noise and smell of the factory floor are utterly negated. The sudden lack of noise is nearly as shocking as the sudden influx of noise when they entered the factory. At this point, Blaise shoots ahead to the top of the stairs with a grim look on her face. The other two hear her shout as she reaches the top of the stairs, “HI, BOSS!!! REMEMBER ME?!” This is followed briefly thereafter by chanting and the WHOOSH of a powerful fireball spell going off above them. The heat of it actually singes them both slightly.
Ferasar and Rit reach the top of the stairs just in time to see a severely scorched gnome snarl in rage and cast a spell, sending forth a beam of darkness which Blaise easily dodges. “Ho ho ho yes, I remember you, my little deserter. I thought you might be back, so I prepared.” He starts to reach for a lever, but Blaise quickly casts an Ice Arrow spell, which knocks the gnome away from the lever and causes another severe wound. Rit casts a spell which creates the illusion of giant clockwork soldier, which advances on the gnome, but after giving it the slightest glance he ignores it, knowing it for what it is. Ferasar advances with his sword, trying to get into position to strike. The gnome then casts another spell, causing his skin to turn dark and reflective, like obsidian, and then he lunges again for the lever, this time he manages to pull it. With the sound of grinding gears, a metallic-looking man detaches from the wall to advance on the party, hefting a heavy-looking axe.
Blaise shouts, “Your toys won’t help you now!” as she looses another Ice Arrow spell, which shatters against the gnome’s obsidian skin, causing little harm. Rit then casts a spell and transforms into Reixelia, the warrior maiden, who grins and takes a mighty swipe at the advancing mechanical man. It is visibly damaged, but keeps moving as if nothing had happened. Ferasar wavers only briefly when the metal man appears, but seems to decide that if the gnome is gone, then the golem, or whatever it is, would either stop or not be as big a threat with no new orders. He swings his sword at the gnome, causing a large chip of obsidian skin to fly off, “Rit, er, Reixelia! Ignore the golem… thing, and help us concentrate on the gnome!”
The gnome snarls at this, but seems confident in his obsidian skin to keep him safe long enough for his mechanical man to take care of the interlopers. He casts a spell again, and the same dark beam that missed Blaise lashes out to hit Ferasar squarely in the chest, who looks weakened while several of the gnome’s wounds heal instantly. The mechanical man swings its mighty axe at Blaise, but misses the tiny pixie, only to hit a panel covered in buttons along the wall, demolishing it. Far below, in the factory, the moving bands stop dead and the captive pixies look around in confusion. Laughing, Blaise taunts the mechanical man while diving and weaving to avoid the swinging axe. The gnome’s face twists into an expression of rage as he realizes what his mechanical man has done to his factory, but the expression turns suddenly to shocked surprise as his head flies through the air, leaving his body behind as Reixelia, heeding Ferasar’s words, slices easily through the gnome’s obsidian-coated neck.
The body slowly topples over with a definite finality, the obsidian coloring fading as the life force powering the spell flees. The mechanical man, bereft of any new orders or direction, continues to swing blindly and move forward until it smashes its way through the glazed window and plummets to the factory floor far below, smashing to pieces in the process.
Ferasar searches the body briefly and pulls a pendant out and holds it up for the others to see. The large, blood-red gemstone dangles from its golden chain. “Alright,” Ferasar says wearily, “This is what we’ve come for, right? Let’s finish setting these pixies free and get out of here.”