From Natchware following the game, Capital Punishment were forced to return to Odem the same way they had came: on foot. In the castle's mechanic shop was their blimp, being outfitted to host the upcoming finale to the Grinksball season.
In Odem, the group was anxious to inspect the changes made to the vehicle that had essential become the mascot of the party. On top of the blimp sat a large platform, about the standard size of a Grinksball field. Throughout the field were six large circular grates. During the game, powerful gusts of steam would shoot out of the gates at random. Roberto, the man behind the design of this field, was satisfied with the craftsmanship of the final product.
The Super Grink was in ten days, and in the meantime, Capital Punishment intended to cross a few items off of their to-do list. Firstly, the issue of the Sovereign Goat Nation. Aboard their blimp, the journey to the nation of goats, which really wasn't much more than a single village, took only a few hours.
Their objective here was to inspect the Sovereign Goat Nation and see if they had improved on the problems found earlier. Problems like stealing thousands of pounds of meat to magically transform into slave labor. As the party landed the blimp and walked through the village, Gort rushed to greet them. Roberto pulled a clipboard and pen from his back pocket, and began scratching something down.
"You're ready for the inspection?" the half-orc said, pointing the pen at Gort.
The group nodded at that, happy they probably wouldn't have to genocide these goats. Gort walked them through the village, explaining what they had improved on since their last visit, and what they were still working to improve. The party asked questions of their education system, production of goods and services, crime rate, and military prowess. Gort was happy to tell them the education system was quite expansive, and worked to teach not just the young goats, but the meat-people as well. Their production of goods was low, but Gort expected it to pick up exponentially once the crops began to come in. The goats grew carrots, watermelon, and pipeweed, for medicinal purposes exclusively.
To say the group was impressed would be an understatement. In about a month's time, Gort had changed this small tribe into a society with a promising future. Still, the four took issue with the rulership.
"We're not so keen on you ruling this place by yourself," one of them explained, "pick some goats and maybe some meat-guys, get yourself a parliament. And from now on you're under Garlant's rule."
Gort seemed disappointed he would have to give up his absolute authority, but nodded anyway.
Roberto handed Gort his report card, and the four made off to their blimp. At this point, Capital Punishment was ready to start preparations for the Super Grink in earnest. They wanted to revisit some old friends, and invite them to spectate for the game. Most of these old pals lived in Lockseed: Big Al, Valwart, the Special Ops; so they set their sight for there. Thoradin was especially excited to see Valwart again, hoping to set her up with Roberto.
On the journey, Thaxal, not one to be excluded, decided to learn the languages of goatish and elvish. No longer could Thoradin or Rolen carry secret conversations without him. He was able to do this in the two day journey because he was an alien or something.
In Lockseed, the group decided to visit Big Al first. Partly because they missed him, and partly because Thoradin had an addiction to gladiatorial combat. Big Al was happy to see them, and quickly accepted their request to perform in a fight.
The party, down in the pit, waited for their opponent to be introduced. When he finally was, they weren't impressed. The man's name was Stormwater Boilboi, a mage-type character. Instead of any traditional weapons, he carried two buckets at his side. Boilboi was gangly and awkward-looking, yet he regarded Capital Punishment with a sneer. A bell rang, and the fight began.
The group pounded the shit out of him. Boilboi's only response was to throw the contents of his bucket at Roberto, and begin whispering a spell. After this, the gang began to beat the shit out of Boilboi again.
Thaxal tried to burn the mage with a fire spell, but it didn't seem to have any effect. Boilboi smiled, some of his teeth missing and with a black eye, "Ha ha! I'm resistant to fire spells!"
For Boilboi's turn, he threw the contents of his second bucket as he continued murmuring a spell. By this point, Roberto could feel the moisture on him warming up. It felt nice, like a sauna.
For a third time, the group commenced the ass-beating. Roberto, quick to adapt to type advantages, used a lightning spell on the mage. This killed him.
As Boilboi lay dying on the floor, sparks flying from him, he cried, "Alas! My one weakness, electricity…"
The crowd cheered, rejoicing for the return of their champions of the arena. After a few quick autographs, Capital Punishment retreated to Big Al's house, where they could have a private conversation.
"Me, the commentator for the Super Grink? Well, aw geez, of course!" Big Al smiled widely. Before the group left to gather the rest of their old friends, Big Al, speaking quietly, told them of a new Resistance being formed. The gang had apparently forgotten to tell Al they really were with Garlant, not just spies on the inside. Awkwardly thanking Al for the information, they left.
At this point, the group figured they ought to pay old Valwart a visit. Near the center of Lockseed was the city hall, where the party figured they'd find her. After a moderate waiting period in the front room of the building, Valwart came out to meet with them. She seemed lively as ever, though it really hadn't been that long since they'd seen her last. She was happy to accept the group's invitation to the Super Grink. Valwart wasn't much of a sports fan, but she relished competition.
Next, the Special Ops. Capital Punishment thought they'd be perfect as cheer leaders. The dance they had performed at the Garlant's Tour Festival all those months ago remained fresh in their minds. Valwart had pointed them in the direction of the Lockseed Home for the Differently Abled, where she guessed Special Ops was being held.
Knocking at the large oak doors of the building, the group was answered by a short aged woman, wearing what could only be described as nun garb. The group asked if this building was in fact the home of the Special Ops, and she bid them to enter.
In the central room, they found the members of the Special Ops, sitting and playing some sort of board game quietly. This central room was in poor condition, with broken pieces of furniture and exposed wooden panel walling. The group vowed to the nun to talk to Garlant about increased funding for the home.
The Special Ops themselves were ecstatic to meet with Capital Punishment again. At the crew's invitation to the Super Grink, they nearly fainted for excitement. Naturally, they accepted the offer.
With all the group's proverbial ducks in a row, the crew thought to return to Odem, with all their friends in tow. Big Al, Valwart, and Special Ops, what an odd bunch. Nevertheless, the flight from Lockseed to Odem was enjoyable, Valwart and Big Al seemed to hit it off quite well.
In Odem, the crowd for the Super Grin was already starting to gather. Unfortunately for them, however, due to the unique arena for the game, very few seats would be available. Garlant, not wanting a riot to ensue, set up several jumbotron crystal balls around the city for the commoners to enjoy the game.
Atop the blimp, the game began. The opposing team, Greatest's Ghouls, all carried compressed air guns, rather than a conventional weapon. Despite this, the Natchware Dragons, our heroes, won the game without so much as a single casualty. Much to Roberto's disappointment, nobody ended up burned alive either.
The after party inside the blimp turned out to be more fraught with death, interestingly enough. Capital Punishment informed Garlant that a few members of Talan-Luraw's Huit Council were potentially plotting against him. A spectacle was made of their painful deaths, but Garlant himself was the only one who seemed to enjoy it. Grinlow the Goblin, next in line to be on the Huit Council, was an exception.
The party didn't last much longer after that. Before long, Garlant and the "Big Four" were the only people left on the blimp. The conversation turned to the crew's next mission.
"I'm in desperate need of some Gloobian crystals. Unfortunately, they only seem to grow on Isle Ontan. This makes things difficult because that's where I keep my brother Tnalrag. He's a bit of a problem child.
"I've locked him away on Isle Ontan, but within the islands boundaries, his power is quite immense. I'm gonna need you to sneak on the island, get me some crystals, and get out of there. Can you do that for me?"
After a moment of stunned silence, the group shrugged and agreed to the job. Roberto, not wanting to disappoint Garlant ever again, pretended to be more enthused about the mission than he actually was. The party wondered just how powerful this Tnalrag was, if Garlant himself wanted him locked away.
Garlant told the crew that they could use some of the Gloobian crystals for themselves as well. He'd overheard them earlier wishing for a battle simulation room, something easily made possible with a few crystals. Roberto excitement was no longer pretense.
Landing at the base of one of the Isle's mountains, the crew disembarked. Before long they were assailed by a pack of flightless, predatory birds. The birds themselves were quickly taken care of, but that scuffle seemed to attract something else. Something greater. An enormous reptilian creature with a head the size of a blimp attacked.
Surprisingly, Capital Punishment was surviving the encounter. With only a few life-threatening wounds, the beast was downed. As Thoradin skinned it for a new cloak, a young-looking boy stepped out from behind the dead creature.
"Hello." The boy's voice was soft, yet one could feel immense power behind it.
"Hey," Roberto said soothingly, as if he were talking to an angry dog, "we were just looking for some Gloobian crystals. Think you could help us find some?" By the time Roberto finished his sentence however, they were standing in a dark cave, surrounded by glowing crystals. In fact, the group had always been there.
"Great, thanks." The group nervously started to gather crystals, trying to think of an escape plan. After the group had gathered what they assumed was a sufficient amount of crystals, the young boy took them from place to place, offering a full tour of the island.
Oddly, when Tnalrag transported the group from one location to another, it didn't feel like Garlant's method of teleportation. Each locale shifted fluidly from one to the next, as if the group wasn't had been at each of the places all along. Not noticing the group's discomfort, Tnalrag chatted with his newfound friends.
"Garlant always said I was his brother, but I never knew a mom or dad. From the very beginning I knew Garlant, though. He said I was safer here on this island, away from the others. Time doesn't move here like it should."
To that sentiment, the group agreed. How long had they been talking with Tnalrag? Fifteen minutes? Ten years? In that moment, Roberto came up with a plan to keep Tnalrag distracted as they ran away. Have him churn butter!
"That's great, you're doing great!" The group called to him as they slowly crept away. Tnalrag unabashedly bashed the cream; he really was doing great. With some luck the group was able to aboard their ship without being noticed. They all sighed in unison, as did Tnalrag.
He was on the ship too, of course. He always had been.
Thoradin scratched at his beard. "You're right. Why, that must have taken me sixty years." Or a thousand, he thought.
All plans to get Tnalrag off their ship were failing. It was clear that this boy could manipulate not only the present, but the past as well. Rolen, trying a direct route, formed a thought and pushed it to Tnalrag.
"We didn't come here to take you off the island. We came here for the crystals."
Tnalrag winced, looking disappointed. He quickly shrugged it off, and said, "I'm sorry for the trouble. Nice castle, Thoradin." With that, he was gone. He had never gotten on board in the first place.
As the group left the borders of the island, they felt strange. Still, they were unsure of how long they had spent on Ontan. Thoradin had been able to carve a castle from a mountain!
The crew landed in Odem, and Garlant rushed out of the castle to meet them.
"Where have you been?" he said with a worried expression, "you've been gone for two years!"
And in that time, a lot had changed. Garlant had tried to invade the world of the Galacks, and failed. Grinlow the goblin seized complete control of Talan-Luraw's government. Grodea had passed away. Robert had passed away as well, leaving Ratman as the leader of D'lema. And…
"Jesus Christ!" cried Thoradin, "we've missed two years of Grinksball!"