The party: Buckle the Beast, Stella the Halfling
Finally, the city of Templeton is in sight: a cinder cone volcano rising high above the low hills of the surrounding countryside. Returning the Mayor to her city will make her someone else’s problem. The Mayor is delighted to return to her city and get the respect and treatment she deserves after the indignity of captivity in Lady Evelynn’s dungeon, and the sass Stella has been giving her.
As they approach the entrance of the city, the Mayor runs up to the two guards, expecting a hero’s welcome. Instead, they look surprised, even scared, and demand the password. The Mayor doesn’t know what they are talking about. She’s the mayor who has been missing for so long. Everyone should be thrilled by her return. The guards exchange worried glances. This is exactly what they worried would happen. One runs to get help while the other keeps an eye on the Mayor. Buckle wonders at this strange behavior.
Buckle: We’re trying to be rid of her.
The Mayor realizes what’s happening. Shortly before she was kidnapped, an unstoppable shape-shifting creature was released from a secure faciilty. No doubt it has impersonated her in her absence! The Mayor and the remaining guard accuse each other of being the creature. Buckle asks how to tell if someone is really the shape-shifter, but the guard won’t reveal state secrets. As Buckle argues with the guard, an Orc woman who was definitely not there a moment ago suddenly has the Mayor in her clutches! Stella leaps towards Buckle and shrinks to the size of an apple. Buckle catches her and hurls her at the mysterious assailant. Stella enlarges in mid-air and tackles the Orc off of the Mayor. The Orc is knocked to the ground, but flings a throwing knife at the Mayor. The knife only grazes her, but the Mayor howls and cries as blood flows from the wound. Seeing this, both the guard and Beth (the Orc commando) rush to assist her. They’re sure this is the real mayor. Buckle tail-slaps Beth as she rushes past him, knocking her out. The guard helps the Mayor up, but if the Mayor is here, just returned from a long absence, who has been in the mayor’s office all this time?
Buckle, Stella, their companions, Pomplamoose (the giant albino Platyperson), the Mayor, the guard (his name is Alebringer), and the unconscious Beth all seek medical attention. Since official channels seem to be compromised, Alebringer leads them to the medical school at Fortinbras Collage Of Mines. He brings them to Doctor Regina Strongarm and tells her to keep their visit hush-hush. Dr. Strongarm will see to the Mayor personally and won’t tell her students.
Stella and Buckle ask Alebringer what’s gong on. There have been strange murders in town, and the Mayor (apparently an impostor) blamed it on the shape-shifter and has all the town officials paranoid and suspicious. Alebringer recommends they leave town. It’s dangerous. No one can be trusted. As far as Alebringer knows, stabbing people isn’t official policy, but Beth is pretty high-up in the org chart. Maybe she has access to policies that Alebringer does not. Stella and Buckle want to stay and figure this out. Buckle appeals to Alebringer.
Buckle: We took a lot of effort getting the Mayor here. Let us help you. Trust us, because we didn’t know about the impostor. We can hold our own.
Stella snickers at that last part. Alebringer is convinced. Stoutarm reports that the Mayor will be fine with just a bandage, but Beth needs to stay overnight. They really did a number on her!
Buckle: Are there more commandos like her?
Alebringer: Yes. They will be on high alert since Beth didn’t report back.
Alebringer wants to bring the Mayor to City Hall, but Buckle recommends tact. They don’t know who they would be delivering the Mayor to. Alebringer, Stella, and Rose head for City Hall with the news, while Buckle and the others will stay at the hospital with the Mayor. Alebringer & Stella can also find the rest of the comandos. Stella and Buckle arrange a secret password to confirm their identities.
GM note: The players kept the password a secret from me.
As Alebringer and Stella walk through the spiraling city streets, Gimel, a Human woman in the same black armor as Beth, appears from a shadow and demands to know what’s happened to Beth. Alebringer reports that Beth is in the hospital, and the real Mayor has returned! Gimel thanks them and rushes off.
Back at the hospital, a med student enters with a tray of snacks for the Mayor, but she drops the tray, jams her hands into her own chest, and pulls out knives! She’s attacking the Mayor! Buckle tries to interpose, but the assailant slips past him and stabs the Mayor. Buckle tells Ugg to grab the assailant. Buckle giant metal exo-skeletal hands close around the assailant’s body, squeeze, and go right through! The assailant’s body squishes through his fingers like clay! Clearly this is the shape-shifter, and it can’t be grabbed or held. Buckle looks around the room for specimen jars.
Buckle: We need to can this thing!
Pomplamoose and Buckle each grab a specimen jar and charge at the shape-shifting assassin. Buckle scoops a chunk out of the assassin and slams the lid on the jar.
Assassin: I’m not going back in a box!
The assassin tries to smash Buckle’s specimen jar. Buckle throws the jar to Ugg, who isn’t expecting it. Slow-motion reaction shot of Ugg as the jar flies past and he dives to catch it. The assassin gives up on imitating humanoid form and pours towards the Mayor, all knives and pulsing flesh. Silk zooms in and Buckle leaps aboard as they race the assassin. They arrive at the same time! Buckle scoops up the Mayor and takes the Assassin’s blow in her place. Silk runs away with Buckle and the Mayor on its back and the Assassin pursues. Silk passes Pomplamoose & Buckle swaps the Mayor for Pomplamoose’s specimen jar. he turns around on Silk’s back and leaps off, straight at the Assassin, forcing it into the specimen jar! The Assassin is now contained in two separate jars, and the fight is over.
As Alebringer and Stella walk through the spiraling city streets, Gimel, a Human woman in the same black armor as Beth, appears from a shadow and demands to know what’s happened to Beth.
Stella: She’s with the Mayor. How many of you are there?
Alebringer: We already talked to you.
Gimel realizes that the Shapeshifter impersonated her and got information from these credulous chumps.
Gimel: Which way did I go?
Gimel, Alebringer, and Stella all rush towards the hospital. Stella outruns Gimel and reunites with Buckle.
Stella: Isn’t Lady Evelynn so nice?
Buckle: She casts a long shadow.
Stella explains that they met the same person twice, and that Alebringer told one of them where the Mayor was, so the shapeshifter may try to attack. Buckle points to the specimen jars full of shape-shifting assassin. Gimel arrives to take control of the situation. Ugg tries to grab her to make sure she’s not squishy and she judo throws him across the room. She wants to take the assassin back to its secure facility. The party says that facility is clearly not secure enough. They want to inspect and evaluate the facility. Dr Strongarm arrives to make sure everyone is OK, and the Mayor recovers from her panic. Despite the facility being top secret, the party convinces the Mayor and her commandos to let them inspect it and maybe suggest some improvements, so this shape-shifter doesn’t get out again. They are taken to a sub-basement in a science lab in the Fortinbras School of Mines,
The door to the room has an impressive lock. One half of the room looks like a normal lab, with a table and chairs, but there’s a metal band separating the two halves of the room, and the other half is smooth, bare, and seamless. the metal band is the border of a Wall of Force, and the specimen jars are placed in the seamless section, behind the Wall of Force. The controls for the door lock and the Wall of Force are inaccessible from inside the Wall of Force, so the Dwarves don’t know how the shape-shifter managed to disable both of them. Buckle and Stella examine the room and find a big air vent under the table. People could use this vent to enter or exit the room. They recommend putting another Wall of Force across this vent, with a password that allows air to pass through. The scientists will get on that right away.