Strange winds blow down from Droskar’s Crag, bringing on an early winter. The ground crunches underfoot with thick frost, and autumn surrenders without a fight. Days grow shorter and stars hold court in the darkness reigning above. An unnatural cold permeates the town, and the Foam River’s jubilant voice is frozen under the
ice. Birds abandon their nests for warmer climes, their songs silenced by winter’s grim embrace. But the frozen riverbank now hosts a shimmering respite from the gloomy cold in the form of garish tents, joyful shouts, and sumptuous smells. Quinn’s Carnival has come to town.
Gaiety and laughter cut through the cold wind, and even the sky-shy sun peeks its face from around the gathering winter clouds. Children squeal with delight and gasp in awe of the sights, sounds, and smells of Quinn’s Carnival. The Titan’s Wheel creaks and groans as a burly lumberjack tests his might with a hefty spin, a
family rushes giggling into the sprawling ice maze to the north, and dozens of happy skaters flit about the rinks atop the frozen river. Carnival dolls are handed to wide-eyed townsfolk as prizes and a menagerie of freakish creatures and glowing lanterns beckons the curious. Garish skirts and scanty veils call others to a different breed of voyeurism altogether. Treats and wonders abound for young and old to enjoy, and for a time the early winter is forgotten in joyful revelry.
Adjacent pairs of rickety podiums tacked together from pieces of apple crates form raggedy ticket booths that mark various entrances to the carnival. Eager-faced fairgoers cram about them, gleaning wonderment from
faded posters promising stilt-walkers, terrifying rides, and all manner of freaks. Tirelessly working the booths, baggy-eyed carnies busily hawk tickets to various events and do their est to direct the stream of excited townsfolk.
A crowd of unwashed beggars shielded from the winter’s harsh kiss by nothing more than tattered rags huddles by the entrance to the carnival, pleading with passersby for a few meager coppers or a bit of food to see them through. Many are children or old men and women fallen on hard times. A good number are maimed from lumbering accidents or crippled by a horrible bout with plague or pneumonia. Rich merchants turn a blind eye to the haggard indigents, pretending not to see or hear them at all, and lumberjacks snarl, guffaw, or even kick at the dirty beggars as they stroll into the carnival to spend their coin on games, shows, and other frivolities.
Beneath a tall signboard reading “Mr. Sathelbry’s Wild Sleigh Rides” stand four massive chargers hitched to three wooden passenger sleds coupled together with chains. Hunched in the first sled is the driver, an aged, one-armed man dressed in a long threadbare wool coat, his snarling face wrapped with a dull red scarf. PCs notice a group of ragtag orphans loitering near Mr. Sathelbry’s Wild Sleigh Ride begging for a free ride. The crusty old sleigh master snarls at them, even kicking one into the snow with a cold-hearted laugh and a “no copper, no ride!”
A small cove of wagons and tents curls around a rickety three-foot-high stage cobbled from a wooden platform precariously balanced on stacks of unmortared bricks. The stage planks creak and moan in time to the prancing and posturing of a dozen or so freakish humanoids as they perform their comically grotesque displays. A dough-faced huckster preaches to the crowd and flails about a cane to pontificate the show’s details. He sees their golden tickets and ushers them into the Menagerie of Freaks.
The Dog-faced Girl
Chained to a stool, a dog-faced little girl in a charming yellow and white flowered dress mournfully howls at passers-by. This disturbed the group and made them feel a little sad for her.
The Baby in a Jar
Propped on a small stool sits a two-gallon glass jar filled with a murky yellow liquid. Suspended in the liquid, a deformed, infant-shaped creature bobs slowly. Its tiny, hairless form is dwarfed by its oversized head, from which two sickly colored amber eyes stare hauntingly. Belinda recognized it as a homunculus.
The Man of 1,000 Stitches
This bulky, bald-headed man proudly displays hundreds of wounds running across his torso, arms, legs, head, and face—all stitched shut with thick black thread.
A young man with flaky, scaly skin steps on to the stage as the barker shouts, “Behold the terrifying human fish!” To the crowd’s dismay, the man unfolds a straight razor and proceeds to bloodily slice gills into his neck. Next, two muscular men seize him and thrust his head in a large tub of water. At first, he thrashes about as if drowning and the crowd screams in terror. The ringmaster removes his hat and lowers his head, asking the stunned crowd for a moment of silence. Moments later, with his head still submerged, the fish man’s feet and hands begin to tap a lively rhythm on the stage and barrel. Soon both the stage freaks and the crowd are stomping and clapping in time to the music. Once this happens, the fish man jerks his head from the barrel and dances off stage.
The Sword Swallower
wide-eyed, middle-aged woman staggers across the stage, gasping at the crowd and holding her throat as if she is choking. She hacks loudly and, to the roaring delight of the crowd, belches a billowing puff of black smoke. Then, spasming uncontrollably, she draws forth a longsword from a nearby basket. When she holds it aloft, the sword bursts into bright orange flames. The crazed woman then proceeds to insert the flaming blade into her throat until only the handle remains visible. Finally, with a flick of her wrist, she pulls the blade from her gullet in a single smooth motion and tops off her act with a final belch of smoke.
Jebro and Nedders are unfortunate beings possessing burly frames but tiny craniums, their eye sockets sealed with their graying flesh. They drool and loll about the stage dressed in worn pink tutus, much to the evil delight of the audience. The huckster invites the audience to throw coins to hear the brothers sing. and the crowd obliges, the pinheads squeak out a spittle-spraying version of the following song.
Welcome people one and all,
Welcome to our Carnival.
Over vale and wood we roam,
You won’t find a better home.
Welcome people great and small,
Welcome to our Carnival.
Join our land of make-believe,
You won’t ever want to leave.
Welcome people one and all,
Welcome to our Carnival.
Sweep away the winter weather,
Come inside and stay forever.
The Fat Woman
This disgusting obscenity of lard and folded flesh sits atop a tiny groaning stool as her greasy sausage-like fingers dive nimbly into the huge basket of dumplings upon which she gorges. Many of the townsfolk openly ridicule or show disgust at the sight of the woman.
Udmor the One-headed, Two-headed Ettin
Standing upon the stage, a brutish hunchbacked giant dares audience members to take a peek into the large sack it gleefully swings about. When a small child offers the brute a copper, it kneels down before him, opening the sack just wide enough for the eager lad to garner a peek at the grisly contents. The poor child begins retching violently as the creature breaks into roaring laughter. Then it turns slowly and with a knowing glance whispers to the now still crowd, “Its me other ’ead.”
This freakish performer had two heads until he met the wrong end of a giant-slayer’s vorpal sword. Although he
survived the brutal attack, he soon became lonely and sorely missed the companionship of his other head. He took his head to a hag and, with the help of her foul necromancy, had the head instilled with unlife. Udmor carries his second head around with him, happily chatting with his old self, although now when they have disagreements he simply places the undead head in a sack and bounces it around until it shuts up.
In the field before you stands a towering windmill disguised beneath mountains of papier-mâché to resemble a great titan. A large plastered head with bulging eyes and a long tattered beard covers the roof, while two muscular arms jut from the side of the building and clasp posts raising a banner that reads “The Titan’s Wheel.” The windmill’s blades have been replaced by a massive fifteen-foot-diameter metal wheel painted in nauseating spirals of lime green and orange and threaded with flapping rainbow streamers. Before the wheel, a gap-toothed carny woman with a wispy shadow of facial hair barks loudly through a sawed-off yak horn. “Step right up, folks, and spin the Titan’s Wheel! Prove your strength to the ladies! Wow all the jacks in the cutyard! Come on, folks! Show ’em what yer made of!”
Barrel-chested axe men take turns grabbing rungs on the wheel and throwing all their muscle into giving it a whirl. Once
spun, the wheel churns wildly while terrifying howls of laughter echo from the titan’s great plaster head. After a few rotations, the wheel clicks slowly to a stop, at which point the gap-toothed emcee pulls a stream of tickets from the base of the wheel, interprets the data, and informs the spinner that he has yhe combined strength of two, three, or even more men. The tickets are worth free beers in the beer tent in the adjacent cutyard.
A few plain-colored tents stand before a row of cargo wagons. A wooden sign staked into the ground before them reads “CARNIES ONLY! NO ADMITTANCE!”
The clack of tankards and roars of laughter swell from this bustling tent filled with sweaty lumberjacks. Casks of ale are stacked nearly fifteen feet high behind the tent. The thirsty patrons here down pint after pint as they carouse, tussle, guffaw, and stagger about.
Just beyond the pavilion where jacks swill ale like gasping fish sits a pair of nondescript tents. The closest one emanates the soft rhythmic music of shakers, clay drums, and tingling bells. In front, a cross-armed orc stands at the tent’s entrance with a look of firm determination.
The frozen lake has been transformed into a wonderland of winter fun. Several ice skaters twirl and dance across one half of the shimmering surface, while on the opposite half two teams of men struggle as they attempt to tug each other back and forth across the slippery ice.
These XP totals include everything, activities and contests, kewpie dolls won, people helped, the minotaur.