Meeting with Rex down at the dock, the group was ready for their watch to begin. Thoradin began discussing the issue of money with Rex, who admitted he didn't have much cash on him. In his pockets however, was some raw beef. Rex seemed like he was quite the individual. Rex waved the group goodbye, assuring them if the mystery was solved that someone would pay them.
Watching meat at night was not something that Capital Punishment felt at home doing. They'd ended monarchies, surely there was something more important for them to do! Nonetheless, the group watched.
After a few hours of nothing happening, Rex Chillerson, the man who'd put them up to this task initially, appeared around the corner. He gestured urgently for the group to come to him. Roberto and Rolen casually strolled to the now nervous-looking man. The rest of the group stayed where they were.
"You've gotta go. They're coming," he waved frantically to Roberto, "they're coming!"
"Who are coming?" Roberto asked, and Rex seemed as though he was starting to become annoyed. He sighed one last time, before breaking off into a sprint, away the direction he came.
Rolen closely followed. Thanks to Rex's below average running ability, and Rolen's well above average dexterity, the elf was able to keep up easily. After a bit, Rolen was tired of running and threw a punch to the back of the man's head. Where his fist made contact, Rex's skin came off smoothly. Behind his skin, it seemed like Rex was made of raw hamburger.
Rolen, shocked, horrified, a bit aroused, continued to punch the meat man, whatever he was. After a solid dozen well-thrown fists, what used to be Rex was just a pile of beef and clothes.
Puzzled, but content that he had done what he could, Rolen returned to the group. Behind a barrel of trash in an alley Rolen passed was the roughly-strangled corpse of Rex Chillerson. Bruises shaped like hooves marked his entire body.
The group discussed this strange turn of events as the night progressed. Why would Rex Chillerson, the person who had hired them to stand guard, want to lure them away from the goods? Something surely didn't add up. The group continued to talk quietly among themselves before they heard a soft noise becoming louder. The sound of hooves on stone, and a casual goatish chat.
"All I'm saying is," one of the goats said to the other, "trebuchets are vastly superior to catapults!" The goat nodded his head enthusiastically as he said this. In a matter of seconds, the group had hidden themselves.
"Yeah, yeah," the other goat said, rolling his peanut-shaped eyes, "isn't this the place?" The goats rounded the corner and looked at the impressive collection of what seemed to be unguarded meat.
After some more bleats and murmurs, the goats began to pack what meat they could take upon their backs, and into a small cart they had brought along with them. Thoradin, who had hidden himself inside a bag of meat, was taken. Luckily, as the group had found out earlier, their Garlant Junior Ranger Badges were capable of communication between themselves. With this, Thoradin kept in touch.
Following behind the two goats was the rest of the group. Thaxal, who had cast invisibility on himself to hide from the goats, kept the closest trail. Before long the goats approached a building the group recognized: the Sovereign Goat Nation Embassy.
The goats with their haul of meat went through the back entrance and into the basement of the embassy. Thoradin managed to sneak out of his bag unseen, and told the others of the room's situation. There were three goats huddled around a table, discussing plans as they clumsily played cards. Standing guard at the door opposite the one they had come through, stood two human guards.
Not feeling particularly stealthy, Roberto burst through the door, ready for combat. One of the goats playing cards, this one wearing a ten-gallon hat, slowly turned to face Roberto. "Boy, this is a private domicile. What do you think you're doing?"
Uninterested in conversation, Roberto drew his weapon. Rolen, skilled in the art of shadow, crept his way into the room unnoticed. Thaxal carelessly strode into the room undetected as well, shrouded by magic.
And like that, the battle had begun. After the guards had been damaged, their skin scraped away, as Faux-Rex's had. Before long, Thaxal and Rolen had released their shrouds to strike at the enemies. Thoradin gleefully joined in as well. Stricken by a few well-placed shots by the guards, Roberto found himself low on health. Happy to find the floor beneath him was stone, he cast a spell to sink into the ground. From there he waited out the rest of the battle. Rolen, having learned from his otherworldly counterpart, turned one of the goats to stone.
The goats were soon taken care of, and seeing the hopelessness of the situation, one of the meat-men bit something off from a tooth and fell to the ground, foaming at the mouth. The other meat-man was incapacitated before he was able to commit suicide. Roberto fished the cyanide-capsule from his mouth before curb-stomping the shit out of the now-lifeless man of beef.
On the table where the goats had been playing, amidst the cluttered cards was a handwritten note. On it, in clumsy writing was written:
Gota ramp up yer steeleng. Sovern gote nashun nede more laber. Steel meet, we need meet. Magic turn meet into peeple. Meety meet peeple.
Yer luving presedant, Gort. PS: transcribed by meety martin. Hoofes dont rite gud.
As it turned out, Gort was apparently the reigning president of the Sovereign Goat Nation. And those meat people were because of… Increased labor demands? The group thought they would pay this nation of goats a visit. They also thought Meaty Martin was in dire need of spelling help.
Quite the thrifty band of adventurers, Capital Punishment gathered up the meat they could hold. Roberto struck a match and threw it onto a pile of meat they were unable to fit. Going out the door the two guards had been overseeing, the four found the front room of the embassy. A goat sat at the secretary desk, snoring softly. Not wanting to walk it up, the group crept to the front door. As they left the embassy, one could see smoke slowly rising from the back of the cheaply-constructed wooden building.
A couple of hours later, and the blimp was floating silently miles above the ground. Thoradin practiced his art of salt carving, while the others, inspired by the goats they had slaughtered, played cards.
Despite the fact Garlant had made it clear to the group that he didn't much care what the group got up to, they found it imperative to update him on the situation.
"So, goats are constructing meat people for the purposes of," Garlant paused, mulling over the situation, "labor?" He scoffed. "Needlessly convoluted."
With that, the conversation was over. Having not stuffed anything into the generator recently, it was decided to stuff the haul of beef into it to keep the blimp running. Content with this, the four went to bed.
The next day, Rolen, as he went to check on his mushroom farm, saw something that surprised him. A cow, standing by the blimp's generator. As Rolen stared into the eyes of the cow, deeply confused, the cow's half-lidded gaze met his.
The group was soon alerted to the presence of the bovine visitor. Roberto postulated that the generator, having been overstuffed, had spat this animal back out. He did seem to vaguely recall Chento warning them not to put too much stuff into the generator.
As Thaxal, Thoradin, and Rolen began considering what they should name the gentle beast, Roberto began plotting to kill it. Somehow, the half-orc was able to lead the cow to the glass-floored base of the blimp without arousing suspicion from the other. He waited until the blimp flew over some sort of building, before opening the trapdoor and pushing the cow to its death. The other three adventurers were aghast, at first. Roberto's defense? It was funny. The three conceded the argument: it was pretty funny. They hoped the cow smashing into a building would make it onto the nightly news. They planned to tune in.
Finally, the group had found the Sovereign Goat Nation. For being an illegal sovereignty, they went to little pains to hide it. As they had before with the Burhed elves, the group parked the blimp in the center of the town, ready to whoop some ass if need be.
Capital Punishment, sans Thaxal, was not pleased to see him. Long ago, Gort of Phatax Beta had been abusing his partner Hutch, and when confronted, ran away. Murder, the group could forgive. Spousal abuse, that was unacceptable. In Gort's talking to the four, he had a humble tone, and looked to the ground as if ashamed.
"I am a changed goat," said he, "we do good here. I-"
"Not much of a changed goat, are you?" said Thoradin, "stealing all this beef."
Gort winced and smiled half-heartedly, a silent concession of that point. "Times are tough."
The group, now proficient in the art of foreign affairs, struck a deal with them. The four would check up on the Goat Nation a week from then, to see if they had got their shit together. No more meat people. No more stealing. Gort was quite thankful when the group allowed him to keep the meat people he already had. If, in a week, the nation was operating properly, well, Garlant may just let them stay sovereign. On their way out, Gort asked if they could check up on Hutch, see how he was doing. The group said something noncommittal, and left.
The Mystery of the Missing Meat: solved. Content to return home, the blimp was set on a course for Odem. Once there, they were reminded of the cow they had sent careening into a building. The group sat with Garlant in his deluxe home-theater setup, complete with a 4k crystal ball projector. There, they watched the six 'o'clock news, hoping their story made it in. Garlant seemed excited as well, though he wouldn't share why.
After a few stories of little note, the group found why. That day, a reporter had visited Odem for an exclusive interview with the king. Garlant, a vain ruler, was happy to be made the subject of a story.
"I'm Chubbo Wumpkins, Crystal Ball News, here with the great ruler Garlant," said a portly gnomish gentleman, clad in suit and tie, "so tell me, o clever and benevolent one, do you like hats?"
The group saw that this Chubbo fellow was throwing some softball questions. No one begrudged his mediocre reporting much, however, they understood the danger of potentially making Garlant seem a fool.
Wumpkins smiled genially to the king, before turning to the camera. "Next: an alchemist caught in a meth operation worth millions. Stick around."
A few news segments later the report of the flying cow crash came on. As it turned out, the building destroyed was an orphanage.
He turned to Rolen, confused. "Where?"
Garlant was mad. He felt betrayed that no one had told him earlier. In addition, he didn't like snitches, and he felt like Rolen turning on Thaxal was cold-blooded. Wanting to think about what he should do with them, he sent the group away.
The gang figured they might as well take this opportunity to go to Phatax Alpha and check up on Hutch, as they were asked. Best they could remember it, they left both Alpha and Beta Hutch living with Alpha Gort. Stepping outside the castle, just in case, the group "jumped."
Back on Alpha, not much seemed different. Yet still, the group, sans Thaxal, felt a bit of nostalgia in their return. When they stepped back inside the castle, they found it still to be empty. They went down the stairs, past the also-empty dungeons, and went into the Castle Odem Cave System. The caves now had paintings and tapestries hung upon the wall, as well as rugs upon the floor. They turned a few corners to find three thrones at the rear of an opening, occupied by three people. Two orcs, whom the group recognized to be the Hutches, and a goat: Gort. The three seemed excited to meet their old friends and trade stories of their lives since they'd last seen each other.
As it turned out, following the death of Tyralle, and the disappearance of the highest-ranking noble Harwell Hallot, no one much wanted to succeed the queen on the throne. The three tenants of the caves bravely took the mantle upon themselves. Feeling more comfortable in a subterranean setting, the thrones were moved. Since they'd taken over, prosperity in Odem Alpha had soared, setting records even. The group, wanting to expand Garlant's empire to another dimension, set up the kings to meet with Garlant next Turan's Day. The group stayed in the caves for a while after, eventually irritating the kings, and they were asked to leave.
Capital Punishment returned to Garlant, and the king's iconic easy-going charm had returned. "You guys are a team, you'd better start acting like it." Garlant had another mission for them. The AGL, Arengard Grinksball League, was having some trouble with, as Garlant called it, peaceful protest. "Naturally," Garlant stated, "we'll have to put a stop to that." Some of the athletes on the Natchware Dragons were kneeling during Garlant's National Anthem.
The twist, however, was this. The game must go on. It seemed like Capital Punishment was finally going to have their opportunity to play Grinksball. One of the adventurers suggested the next game, the Super Grink be hosted atop their blimp. Garlant seemed entirely up for it, so they bid Chento to work on the modifications it would need.
Because their blimp was in the shop, the group opted to ride horseback to Natchware. On the road, they met with other enthusiasts of Grinksball, and, thinking it best to practice at least once before they played a semi-final game in a professional league, joined in a pickup game on the side of the road.
The game was a terrible failure, but by the end they felt as though they had at least a tenuous grasp on the rules and strategies.
A few days later, the group made it to the shining city of Natchware, the northernmost point of civilization on Arengard. There, they met with Bertio Jams, the Natchware Dragons coach. He asked the group if they'd ever before played grinksball. Thinking back to their practice days before, they could honestly say yes.
Jams lead them to the huge mansion he owned, where the majority of the team stayed during the grinksball season. It was called, the Dragon's Den. Capital Punishment, trying their best to seem official, informed the team they would not be playing for the rest of the season. The men were clearly disappointed, but took the news better than anyone expected.
The next day, the group was caught up on their sleep and ready to play some grinksball. Before the game began, they turned to Bertio for some advice on strategy.
He pulled at his collar and said, "maybe you could, uh, dig a hole?" When no one responded, he continued, "so you could hide in it? Trip people up?" The idea seemed stupid, but Jams reminded the four that the Dragons won the cup last year with this strategy.
The game began. In a rousing match, the Dragons, played by Capital Punishment, won. They were going to the Super Grink!