The Grotto Awakens

 

Scene One: At the Art Institute

California
Smythe

Our little adventure began quietly enough amidst the masters hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. The ever virtuous California Smythe along with his compatriots, Markus Denholm and Gil Hooley, were summoned to a soiree at the galleries by wealthy industrialist, Minton Flatlandler. His lovely fiancé, the equally moneyed Zelda Kushmonger, had been abducted by some vile cultist and whisked away to parts unknown. All Flatlandler knew was that she had been last seen strolling these very galleries and exhibits. His aim was to hire Smythe and his merry band to seek her out and return her to him unharmed.

Unfortunately for California (and Flatlandler), word of the abduction had leaked to the Windy City’s underground and had sparked the interest of none other than that well-known dealer in things unseemly, Gidney Screenstreet. He and his faithful cronies, the oily Pierre Camion and the gruesomely over-muscled Chopper Schnozzola, were also strolling the exhibits in search of clues to a possible lucrative payday.
The proceedings progressed somewhat smoothly – once everyone had finally paid their honoraria – and both groups wandered the many galleries in search of the tiniest bits of evidence that Zelda may have left behind. As luck would have it, both parties managed to find small trinkets indicating that Miss K had been taken by a group, led by the heretofore un-named Lavender Shade, and whisked away to the depths of darkest Baluchistan.

This would have made for a nice tidy beginning to our adventure had it not been for one unfortunate (and rather shocking) incident that took place while the two disparate groups were trodding the halls. The ever-meticulous Markus Denholm – wanting to be certain of his admission ticket – had raised the ire of Schnozzola by accidentally scuffing one of his brogans. In the ensuing brouhaha, Markus – fearing for his safety – grabbed one of the traveling exhibit posters off the wall and used it as a shield. Needless to say this caught the attention of the security detail but before they could intervene, Chopper had put a fist through the make-shift defense and plastered poor Markus in the kisser! With the local rent-a-fuzz screaming for blood and the little blue-haired ladies just screaming at the sacrilege of a lacerated Lautrec, both our groups made a rapid exit, melting into the crowds of Michigan Ave. and our first scene faded to black.

Gidney
Screenstreet

Scene Two: Floyd R. Turbot Aerodrome

Markus
Denholm

As the scene opened, our two groups had just arrived – unbelieveably within mere minutes of each other – at the terminal building of Turbot Airfield. As this was the only point of international departure, it seemed a likely place to look for further clues to the whereabouts of our heroine and possibly to the true identity of her captor.

California and friends began combing the tarmac for possible clues while Screenstreet and his cronies headed for the terminal. Although both sides had refrained from using firearms within the confines of the art gallery no such restraint was shown by either party now. In short, a glorious firefight broke out between the underlings as the two leading actors proceeded with their searches.

As can be imagined, there was much more lead flying into the ether than into our muscled minions. Having finally decided to take matters “in hand”, Chopper, Pierre, and their two flunkies weighed into Markus and Gil and their seconds. This time there were no security boys to interfere and so we were witness to much tussling and tossing of fists. Republic Studios would have been proud as the melee lasted for well into the afternoon with both sides landing punches but little damage being done.

Once again, poor Markus had forgotten to bring his ticket and so – breaking off from the mayhem – he headed for the ticket counter to see if he could reason with the airline (fat chance of that). With the numbers now on their side, Pierre, Chopper, Lefty, Squint, and Shifty put the hammer down on Gil, Happ, and Lucky. As was to be their fate throughout the adventure, the extras dropped like flies only to bounce back for more punishment. Amongst our featured players, however, only Gil managed to take one for the team and came close to seeing stars. (Which would happen soon enough once we entered the borders of mysterious Baluchistan.)

With the fisticuffs boiling over in the parking lot, Gidney and California remained true to their quests and left no rocks unturned in the search for clues to the whereabouts of the ravishing Zelda. Once more, fate played a balanced hand and gave fairly equal portions to both sides with perhaps a slight edge to the forces of evil in the usefulness of their findings.

The only truly perilous event to take place in this locale was the misguided effort by Chopper to explode one of the parked aircraft in an attempt to stop it from taking off with our heroes aboard. Try as he might, he did manage to perforate the airframe in several places but the only liquid to be seen dripping from the fuselage was a lovely translucent blue and not the least bit flammable! With the camera zooming in on the pouring stream, we again faded to black.

Pierre
Camion

Scene Three: Kiltumani Gorge in darkest Baluchistan

Gil
Hooley

As the scene opens, we see the vast range of the Hindu Kush in all its’ perilous beauty. Vast canyons with rushing waters at their foot are the locale chosen for our heroes and villains to make their way forth. This time though they will not be alone as local tribesmen are ever vigilant for intruders to their lands. Will truth and justice prevail, will treachery and deceit overcome, will honor win out, or will the hand of the unknown direct the fates?

We begin with our underworld marauders approaching a rickety rope bridge crossing Kiltumani Gorge. Hardly inviting, it is the only means of crossing to the other side and the trail that leads to our beleaguered heroine. But first they must deal with the local Baluch militia that has suddenly appeared to block their passage.

Screenstreet motions to Pierre to pull out a jewel encrusted ceremonial dagger that he “found” while perusing the galleries in Chicago. Who knows, it might just be from this tribal area and cause a joining of forces! Oops! Looks like that was a mistake – seems that instead of being a source of common interest it is more of an irritant. Taking aim with their matchlocks, the Baluchis open fire on our anti-heroes. But being as how these relics of a bygone era are better used as clubs than firearms, no hits are scored by the tribemen.

The same cannot be said of the return fire by our portly protagonist and his followers. Opening up with a withering fusillade, two of the tribals drop immediately and the last takes but a few more rounds before meeting his ancestors.

Now our troops could proceed with their approach to the canyon walls and that scary rope crossing. Still on the lookout for possible clues to Zelda’s captors, Gidney approached something sparkling at the cliffs’ edge. Yeehah - that was one huge mistake on the part of our rotund romantic! As he reached over to pick up the bauble, he slipped on a bit of moss that gave way under his weight and the last we saw of him, for the time being, was as he plummeted over the cliff and into the raging waters below! Sure hope he knows how to float!
As Gidney was seen dog-paddling for all he was worth, our heroic band emerged from a hidden cave along the waters edge (no cliff-crossing for them thanks to the bit of map that they found behind a statue in the Art Institute). Leading the way as befits a hero, California made the first tentative steps out onto the slippery, rocky crossing that they found before them. And just as our friends up above had found, here too there were unhappy natives to be dealt with.

With California somewhat busy trying to steady himself on the unsure footing of the rocky ford, Markus, Salah, Gil and Happ took on the job of quieting the native intrusion. Once again their ancient flintlocks failed them and the natives had to put their trust in their massive tulwars. Markus, knowing that he was no match for a well-muscled Baluch, headed for the ford while the others entered the fray.

The sight wasn’t a pretty one, but the heroes were victorious and managed to defeat the natives and find a useful clue in the bargain. And to top off the day, Salah managed to drop the last of the tribesmen with a shot from the hip thereby protecting California from a nasty sword cut. That should have been the last of our hero’s troubles, but for those pesky poltroons atop the gorge.

Crossing overhead, the forces of evil noticed their adversaries down below. Waiting to see the outcome of the native assault, the baddies checked their weapons and took aim at the good guys. Once the natives had been dispatched, Pierre, Lefty, and Squint began peppering the heroes with lead while Chopper crossed and checked for any possible clues.

The ensuing firefight was the cause of our hero Gil’s first encounter with the wonders of unconsciousness (which he would visit twice again in our final scene). Along the way Lucky managed to grab hold of some poisonous plants and was beginning to notice the effects as his arms started going numb. Luckily, Markus managed to come to his aid just before he too dropped into the bonds of endless sleep.

With the sounds of gunfire raging in the canyons, both the good and the bad managed to finish their crossing of the Kush and we once more iris down and fade to black.

Chopper
Schnozzola

Scene Four: The Gotto of Evil (Realm of the Lavender Shade and his crazed Cultists)

California
Smythe

For the final time our camera pans in from a wide shot of a cave entrance to a close-up of one of our parties as they begin their quest for our enslaved heiress. We see California, torch in hand, as he leads his heroic band from the front (as all good heroes do). Cautiously going forth, he keeps an eye out for clues and an ear out for any hidden traps. Unfortunately, Markus was more curious than cautious and managed to spring one of the nastier occurrences. Slipping on a rock, he grabbed for a handhold and proceeded to unleash a hail of poisonous darts upon several of his mates. Thankfully most were able to dodge their effects, but the poorly named Lucky and the ever-cursed Gil took nasty wounds as a result of this happenstance.

Meanwhile in a not-too-distant portion of tunnels, our bad guys – including a thoroughly soaked Gidney, dampened but not deterred – were stumbling forth equally blindly. Luckily, this crew had met up with a friendly native along the way who was familiar with the ancient legends of this area and was able to alert them to a dangerous trap before they could fall prey to its’ noxious gases. Score one for the bad guys!

As both crews got closer to their final destination, Squint thought he heard something and went off to investigate. From a side tunnel, he snuck up on our heroes from the rear and opened up with his carbine. While he missed them with his first shots, he forgot that bullets don’t just stop when they miss their target and can sometimes ricochet in random directions! So some of those shots that missed the good guys wound up heading for Squint’s buddies and they were not too happy to say the least. At least everyone was able to dodge the flying lead – this time.
As they wound deeper into the cavern, both parties encountered attacks by the odd cultist yet no serious damage was incurred by any of our major players. But now events began to speed up as the end of our drama came into sight.

First to find the entrance to the grotto was the inimitable California. Turning a final corner, what should he see before him but the lovely Zelda in chains and the vile Lavender Shade and his minions about to perform some foul ritual before a dank and evil smelling well. Not waiting for his friends, California leaped into the crowd and began pummeling the nearest cultist. Not far behind, the rest of the heroic band sped to his aid.

The forces of the underworld were not about to let things get too far in favor of their competitors and so, as soon as they had line of sight, they opened up on Gil, Markus, and the rest. With lead flying every which way, both sides found themselves dodging ricocheting missiles and getting the worst of the bargain! Showing a bit more restraint than in previous encounters, Chopper, Pierre, and their cronies holstered their weapons and dived in with fists flying.

Having dispatched the first of the gathered cultists, California advanced on the next minion unawares that he had wandered too close to the well and awakened the evil that lurked within. Before he could come to grips with the cultist or his master, California was shaken by an unearthly roar emanating from deep within the bowels of the earth. Whatever it was that was down there, it didn’t sound friendly!

Gidney
Screenstreet

The
Lavender
Shade

As the grotto began to shake, something evil began to emerge from deep below. First one sinuous tentacle broke forth followed quickly by a multitude more grasping and searching for prey. California dived for the nearest rock but the nearby cultist was not so quick or lucky! With an ear-splitting scream the tentacle, cultist firmly in its’ grip, slithered back into the well. The remaining questing tentacles continued their search for something soft and tasty. Now California was definitely aware that he had to grab Zelda and get out of there fast.

At the entrance to the grotto, with the melee in full swing, Gidney looked at the horror within and – being the true rat that he is – decided maybe he could dispose of his nemesis at the same time as winning the battle for the millions in ransom. Along the way of their wanderings, Gidney’s band had come upon an artifact that didn’t make much sense at the time but now was abundantly clear as to its’ use. It was a book of incantations in a long-forgotten language (which amazingly enough Gidney had studied while at University) dealing with methods of consigning an ancient evil back to its’ lair.

Waiting for just the right moment – when one of the tentacles had grabbed California by the ankle – Gidney tossed the artifact to Chopper and motioned for him to ease his way close to the well and toss the book into the depths below. Schnozzola, anxious to please his leader, made the toss as best he could. His aim was perfect – the book sank beneath the waters – but his timing was a tad slow. Just as the tentacles made their final goodbye, California wrenched his ankle loose from their grip and breathed a sigh of relief. Now he could release the poor Zelda from her chains – he was certain to be able to handle Screenstreet – and return her to her fiancé, the pining Flatlandler.

But lo, Zelda was no longer chained and the Lavender Shade had disappeared as well! In the chaos of the moment, the cult leader had managed to abscond with the lovely miss K and foil the attempts at rescue by both parties. Will she ever be found? Will the heart-broken Minton P. Flatlandler ever see his love again? Will California manage to save face? Will Gidney ever dry out? Stay tuned for the sequel:

“California Smythe and the Temple of Mystery”!

The
Lavender
Shade

You can check out some shots from the game in progress by clicking here
Since some folks have requested it, I have added a page detailing some of the thoughts behind the game here

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