Blind Geoffrey's Barberie & Cauterie, by S. John Ross (Copyright 1997 Flying Buffalo, Inc.)

The keepers of the City's dungeons
could learn a thing or two about
torture from the resident physician
of King's River Bridge.

The damp river breeze is rich with sounds of life: the shouts of the boatmen and the clang of their bells, the cries of vendors, the rattle of cart wheels, the songs of street performers, the barking of hungry strays. Beneath it all is a music that seems to seep into the foundations of the bridge and into the muddy river bottom - a chorus of shrieks, wails of misery, and sighs of relief - an orchestra provided by Blind Geoffrey the Phisick. Barber, Dentist, Surgeon, Cauterer, and Bleeder, Blind Geoff is eager to make any traveler feel fresh and healthy before he makes his crossing into the City.

The sign tacked above the door to Blind Geoff's establishment bears the carved image of a tooth superimposed on a pair of iron shears. Beneath it, for the reading public, the following inscription is painted in thin, gold-on-black paint:

Geoffrey Theobald and honoured company, phisick. Rasator, minutor, medicus, apothecarius, cirugicus, charm-seller, cauterer, leech-rancher, eel-magister, barber, and adubedent. Services Highly Speciale for the Fyne and Wealthie available, pursuant to the Bedroome. Walke-Ins Welcome. Enjoy our Citye.

The building behind the placard is curious, consisting of three narrow, leaning stories of indifferently-painted wood, covered in astrological symbols and the sigils of a hundred different deities of healing. The shop front is sunken back several feet between two larger establishments, and the alcove before the door contains a smoking iron brazier, spitting and stinking day and night. Within the coals lie several long iron tools and (in the evenings) Geoff's dinner, a tin plate of river-shellfish and eye-watering spices. The screams and wails are less muffled here than amid the crowds, and the door hangs open to let the breezes through. The locals have a nickname for Blind Geoff's place. They call it "The House of Pain"

History

On a foggy morning uncounted years ago in the City's youth, the wizard known as Magister Theobald stood by the banks of the King's River and conjured up an undine, a simple-minded elemental, an obedient gallon of ancient water and silt. The motives for the Magister's summoning are no longer known, but when whatever task for which the elemental had been called was completed, Magister Theobald found that he could not dismiss it. The undine refused to rejoin the river's flow.

Theobald was a reasonable man, for a wizard. He attempted many humane spells for dispersing the beast before moving to more drastic measures. Boiling seemed only to stimulate it. Sponges were consumed as food. Splashed across hot cobblestones, the undine simply steamed and coalesced, returning to the feet of its master. And it was growing. The gallon soon became a tun, and Magister Theobald became a laughingstock, known as a one-man flash flood. He was forbidden from entering his favorite drinking house, lest his pet soak the feet of the customers and cause the baseboards to rot.

The Undine was affectionate to the wizard, but Magister Theobald, at his wit's end, saw the creature as nothing less than a spiteful demon out to make him suffer and drive him toward the grave. Determined to return his life to normal or lose it in the attempt, Magister Theobald struck off into the wilderness in search of greater knowledge of nature magic.

Magister Theobald consulted hermits, monks, tree-spirits, wild elves, ghosts, and more. He learned much. He learned about spirits of stone, flame, wind and water, and about the natures of beasts and plants, besides. As he climbed mountains in search of rare herbs, from a distance the progress of the wizard and the undine looked like a waterfall in reverse slow-motion. He crossed deserts, selling his services as a one-man oasis. Seventeen years passed before he returned to the lands just outside the City, shocks of damp hair arcing from his head in all directions. His eyes were the eyes of a lunatic. Strangers found it odd that no matter where he stood, he seemed to be standing at the edge of a small swamp.

Magister Theobald was now a skilled elementalist. By the wayside, he had become a master herbalist, a master naturalist, and an accomplished natural healer. But what he truly wanted to become was dry.

The ritual took days to prepare, and when the magic began to flow, the river glowed for two miles of its length. The night sky turned black and roiled with purple clouds, punctured by arcs of red lightning. The City's wizards were mobilized to investigate, but by the time they reached the river's edge, a breeze had kicked up and everything seemed normal. They didn't notice the wild old beggar kneeling in the mud, broad smile on his lunatic features.

The Undine had loved and admired Magister Theobald, wanting only to serve him. When powerful magic pulled it into the river and bound it, the Undine looked up past the rippling waters, saw Theobald's smile, and knew it had been betrayed. The Undine, for the first time in its existence, hated, and it lashed out at the Magister with a spray of rocks and mud. Theobald was struck full in the face, and the Undine felt his pain, and relaxed, soaking it in.

Theobald had studied long and hard the lore of the undines, and had seen this coming. When the pain subsided from the muddy attack, the Magister bit his own arm to make more. Sure enough, the Undine relaxed, rippling deeper into the muddy bottom. Undines, even servile ones, love nothing more than pain.

In the following days, Magister Theobald built a small shack at the river's edge, becoming a low-priced barber-surgeon. Using his accumulated knowledge of herbs, he was a competent physician. Using his iron tools, he provided the Undine with a daily diet of agony.

When the shops of King's River Bridge were constructed, Geoffrey became a part of them. Today, he is an old-fashioned surgeon. He rejects specialized medicine, combining the services of barber, dentist, sawbones and mystic healer into a single profession - the phisick. Geoff and his assistants, Hildegarde, Rutherford, and Dan, serve the noble traveler and muddy, injured adventurer alike, with an enthusiasm that many find disturbing. His practice of sorcery has suffered somewhat over the years, becoming focused on the rituals that keep the Undine at bay. He is now, and for as long as he can stay alive, a doctor, and a keeper of a terrible secret.

Due to a past conflict with the Undine, Geoffrey has no physical eyesight. At first, he feared this would ruin him as a phisick, but his magic became the key to his success. By developing the Second Sight latent in any with magical gifts, Geoffrey overcame his blindness, and earned a reputation as something of a marvel. The locals gather and applaud as he spears the chunks of food in his tin plate with a flourish, and then roar with pleasure as he flings them six feet into the air, catching them in his mouth only after he's downed a swallow of beer. He smiles and bows, usually in the right general direction.

Today, many of his wealthier customers come just for the novelty. If they are especially rich and vain, Geoffrey finds that he can cause them "healing agony" with much less guilt.

Services

Blind Geoffrey's two primary services are the use of his shears and dental tools.

Dentistry: Using a variety of pliers, tongs, blades, awls, hammers, clamps, and long "spoons," Geoffrey or the halfling twins can strike terror into the hearts of ordinary teeth. Hildegarde uses her bare hands to achieve similar effects. Geoff has developed a unique method of "pain-relief adubedentment" whereby the tooth is first crushed or otherwise brought to new heights of unbearable pain, and then removed. The halflings and Hildy are fully trained in the technique. By providing a cushion of preliminary agony, decay-oriented harmful spirits are subdued, ensuring long-term health. Furthermore, the actual removal feels pleasant by comparison. 15 gold pieces is the standard rate for Dentistry, less for obviously poor patients, more if tools are broken, which happens only occasionally.

Barberie: While Hildegarde fancies herself a hair stylist, the shears at Blind Geoffrey's rarely produce anything other than a tasteful, ordinary haircut or beard-trim. Despite his blindness, Geoffrey is the best barber of the bunch (Hildy tries too hard, and the twins are hampered by their need to stand on stools). Two silvers, five coppers is the going rate. For an additional silver, hair and beard can be washed, as well.

As Geoffrey Theobald, sorceror, the blind doctor provides a third, secret service to the City. He keeps the Undine pacified by afflicting painful treatments on his patients. The following are some of his favorite techniques.

Cautery and Special Prescription: Any patient that needs more than a haircut or attention for his aching tooth will get "special treatment" from the good doctor. Geoff's spidery smile will crack from ear to ear, and he will bid the patient to step into his office. Crooking a single finger, he will summon either Hildegarde or one of the twins to join them.

Geoff's office contains many valuable books, and Hildegarde or a halfling will pull a few down as they enter the room, placing them on the small desk that squats between Geoff's chair and the cushioned stools set out for guests.

An interview will begin, with the blind Doctor smiling and nodding as he asks probing questions about the patient's person, symptoms, medical history, diet, and personal habits. All the while, his chosen assistant flips quickly through yellowed pages and whispers into the doctor's good ear. Occasionally, a huge astrological wall-chart will be consulted.

What the doctor will diagnose for any ill depends less on symptom than what the phisick's whimsical notions of physiology, herbery, and astrology tell him, and on the mood of the Undine. If the characters have been rude to the assistant in any way, he or she will smugly steer the doctor toward the more painful remedies. If the Undine hasn't been "fed" enough agony yet that day, again, pain is the answer.

The game master may either select a healing method that strikes him as entertaining, or roll dice to pick one at random. Half of the time, a combination of two methods will be prescribed.

There is a fifty-fifty chance that any of the good doctor's bizarre methods really work, although it might take a day or two for the cure to fully develop. Any incidental scars, burns, and emotional trauma must heal separately! Descriptions of the following cures are described in Geoff's own words (from his journals), and in the words of his textbooks.

Abstinence. "If ever a man complains of aches in his head, and has been eating too much of pork, he should from this abstain, and also from wine, apples, bitter herbs, or gall. If his ache is in his side, walks in sunlight should he shun, wearing a hat except to worship, and eating only tubers and feet of duck. If a woman cannot sleep, she must not drink water except it has honeycomb in it." Blind Geoff might suggest that any conceivable habit or food be avoided to cure an ill; the GM should strive for strangeness and inconvenience. Such consultation costs from 2-8 silver pieces.

Amputation. "On the next morning, a captain of the watch came in, tended by Dan, who confided in me that he had been stabbed in the foot, but that the wound had taken to laudable pus. The captain did, however, suffer from a deep sadness, which I found was caused by an evil spirit residing in his good foot. We gave him beer and powdered sleepwort, and while he rested removed the spirit with Rutherford's good timber axe and my shears. The captain awoke much relieved from his depression, raving and yelling with new energy, so much so that he did not want to pay." 10 gold pieces, plus the price of the beer.

Apothecary's Charm. "When the first cure fails, due to poor influence of stars or the malice of demonic worm, give instead to the patient a charm made of the skeleton of a mouse, dipped in silver, and rested under the new moon. Tie to the skeleton a smooth stone and brush it with dust from a crossroads. This should be worn about the neck, hung there by a carpenter or cooper on a favorable eve when the patient's planets are not ill-aligned. Thus will the patient be free from wind." Prices vary depending on materials used, but are fair to cheap.

The Beer Cure. "He was clearly a potent wizard, for his robes bore sigils of true import, but the wound from the ogre's axe was dire, with gangrene causing madness, and we feared for his life. It was then that Hildegarde suggested that his only salvation was the Beer Cure. It took until sunset to force him to imbibe the entire cask while the twins sang songs as instructed by Hildegarde. When other casks were purchased, my own health, too, felt much improved, and the efficacy of the cure was not in question, despite the loss of the good wizard. Rutherford and Dan learned interesting songs. Hildegarde is clearly a woman of strange passion." Since that fateful day, Blind Geoff has been very fond of the Beer Cure, and uses it for nearly anything. Price is 1 gold piece, plus the price of a cask of beer.

Belching and Sneezing. "When the spirits dwell within the stomach, only a sound Belching is effective. We feed the patient beer, goosefat and my spices, and instruct him to relax and watch the river through the window. Hildegarde then, without warning, strikes him on the back, while the twins slap him in the stomach. When the spirits dwell in the head, a quick sniff of spice can induce sneezes, which will violently expel the spirits behind the eyes. If the belch or sneeze is satisfactory, the cure has been given. If not, cautery is often necessary." 2 gold pieces.

Cautery. "The Lords and Lawyers of the City occasionally are unhealthy in their appetites, expressing great hunger and growing slow and fat, unable to do their duties. Hunger of this sort is a terrible affliction of spirits, of the kind that cause most serious disease. Cautery is the best cure for this, as for most any ill. The irons must be very hot, where Rutherford tells me that they glow red, and I can feel the heat on my nose from a good distance. For hunger, burns must be applied behind each knee, one on each side, and one to each shoulder. This will destroy any appetite. Only on some occasion has my blindness misled my hand, but on those occasions I have often cured other ills by happy mistake." Cautery is similar to acupuncture, using burning irons instead of small needles. Blind Geoff loves it above all else. His skills are so fine that patients almost never black out from pain, staying alert and lively to scream. He often prepares the patient with spices and beer to both relax and alert them, and he uses strong leather belts to bind them to their chairs. The overall injury is roughly equivalent to a good strong smack with a mace, but when you have the flu, isn't it worth it? 15 gold pieces.

Cupping. "When blood and bile are in imbalance, favoring blood, the blood must be drained until there is no excess. Careful selection of blade and cup must be made, dependent on the placement of the stars and whether the sun is still low. The smaller cups, for instance, will not cure the Sitting Itch until past noon. Patients bled to great exhaustion can be restimulated with cautery." 10 gold pieces.

Other Cures. "Many methods may be used, but must be carefully matched to the ailment. A diet of seven live squirrels nightly can cure back pain, while a diet of three live squirrels and an apple is deadly poison. The distresses of married men are cured on a bed of shocking eels, while similar distresses can be cured by inducing dreams with herbs and fitful sleep. Bathing in herbal baths, or the administering of herbal elixirs, is proof against both pasty skin and watery eyes. Leeches are excellent for cupping where cups cannot go, and work best if followed by a plaster of pitch and bat dung. For some sickness, a course of travel must be prescribed. The good air to the north can cure much, as can the dust of the desert. Other illness requires ritual in accordance with astrological omens."

For any of these cures (or others the GM cares to devise or extrapolate), Blind Geoff's prices are fair at worst, quite reasonable at best. He and his assistants make the bulk of their money from routine barbery and dental extraction, and can afford to charge only what is necessary for other work.

[Establishment map by Steven S. Crompton, Copyright 1997 by Flying Buffalo, Inc.]

Layout

1. Operating Theatre. (10' x 24') Five wooden chairs, equipped with leather straps, are here. On the walls are two sets of porcelain cups, ranging from the tiny to about a half-quart. These are used for bleeding. A tool rack is on the opposite wall, next to leather aprons hanging on nails.

In one corner of the room, there is a hole in the floor, square, wide enough for a slim human to fall into (probably getting stuck). It is one of the old drain-holes for the bridge, and is kept covered with a flimsy wooden lid that will break if stepped on. Blind Geoff throws his trash down this chute.

A stairway in another corner of the Operating Theatre leads up to the second floor. A door opens to Geoffrey's office.

2. Office. (8' x 22') Blind Geoff's office is a small room crammed to the gills with books, scrolls, handwritten notes, and wall-charts. His desk is small, and equally overflowing with the detritus of his poor clerical habits (he is blind).

There is a three-foot tall wax model of a human hanging near the desk, with deep cuts all over it, painted red. Beside each "wound" are notes in a scholarly script on appropriate treatment.

Geoff's books are valuable, and heavy. The larger ones weigh upwards of 20 pounds! Their subject matter includes astrology, physiognomy (the science examining how physical appearance relates to personality), phrenology (the same, for bumps on the head), receptaria (antidotes for poisons and illnesses), demonology, and physiology. A copyist would charge up to 450 gold pieces for the big ones; a well-connected fence would pay about a fifth of that. Titles and text alike are written in the languages of scholars; many of the diagrams and illustrations are quite gruesome.

3. Storage. (16' x 18') The second floor is given over to a single dusty room, used to store everything from mildewing stuffed ocelots to several decades' worth of medical and magical notes. Shelves, jars, chests, and crates pile on top of one another here, some in apparent violation of the laws of gravity and basic neatness. The stairway continues upward to Geoffrey's apartment.

Any robbers or investigators spending ten minutes or so searching this room will come across something weird. The GM should either improvise something, or roll a six-sided die:

1: The Diarye of Theobald.
This tiny book is buried inside a crate of moldy paperwork from decades past. Blind Geoffrey believes it to be long lost. It describes the original summoning of the Undine, and the earlier versions of the spells used to keep it pacified with its hunger for pain. It might, if the GM decides so, reveal many important secrets that a contemporary wizard could use to either rid the river of the spirit, or even to steal it! The latter might be unwise.

2: Blue Leeches.
Several tall jars of these can be found on a shelf behind a collection of stuffed rodents in amusing (and rude) poses. They are not only blue, they are deep, luminescent blue. Drawn from the mud where the Undine itself dwells, the leeches are magical and live for a very long time without maintenance. In addition to their normal function of draining small quantities of blood, these leeches administer a super-powerful anaesthetic. A single leech can render an arm insensate. A handful could paralyze a man-sized creature with numbness (and without any dangerous side-effects once they become sated and fall off). They could even be used by clever fighters to resist the pain of combat. Geoffrey keeps the leeches secret, and (because of the Undine, and his long-standing views on the healthy value of pain) rarely uses them on patients.

3: The Magic Tool.
A thin bar of iron with a spoon on one end and a broad pair of blades on the other, this enchanted dental/surgical tool is buried in a pile of assorted metalwork. It is enchanted with the ability to, on simple verbal command, perform any simple dental or surgical job, from safely removing a barbed arrowhead to extracting a difficult molar. Geoffrey thinks it was stolen years ago.

4: Elixir of Mystick Health.
The dusty bottle bearing this label was once a magical healing tonic. Covered in aging silt and sitting innocently on top of a crate of old clothing and pickled sheeps' eyes, it is now a deadly poison. It eliminates the body's ability to absorb oxygen, killing within minutes without any physical injury. An alchemist could identify the fouled potion for what it is.

5: A Wooden Puzzle.
This simple, polished wooden toy is well-made from rare dark woods. There is nothing special about it except an inscription in silver paint: "Property of the Child Emperor, a gift on his third birthday." Quite out of place, and dated fifty years ago, the puzzle could lead to a lucrative adventure, or simply be a red herring, at the whim of the game master.

6: A Human Hand.
The remains of one of the twins' patients. They killed her accidentally while attempting to remove a stubborn tooth, and (since Geoff and Hildy were in town shopping for supplies) they took the opportunity to chop the poor patient up and make notes about her. They took the notes home, but stashed a few parts for later study in the storage room.

4. Geoff's Quarters. (Not shown. 16' x 18') Geoffrey keeps simple quarters, consisting of a small washbasin, a creaky iron bed, a wardrobe, and a small table loaded with odds and ends. Clothing is strewn about carelessly. Outside the riverside window, a rope and a pulley are attached to a bucket that can be lowered into the river to refresh the washbasin.

Personalities

[Blind Geoffrey illustration by Elizabeth Danforth, Copyright 1997 by Flying Buffalo, Inc.]Blind Geoffrey Theobald, Phisick. -[ ]-Human male. Ht: 5'11", Wt:130#, Age indeterminate and very old, but he appears to be in his mid-fifties. -[ ]-Fighting Prowess: Less than Poor. -[ ]-Magic Ability: Average with C2 and C8. Poor with all others. Many of his previous skills have atrophied from lack of use.

Resembling a preying mantis with smoked spectacles and white hair, Geoffrey Theobald seems to stare straight through anything at which his blind eyes are pointed. He is typically dressed in a loose white blouse, brown breeches, and heavy leather apron, indifferently stained with blood. He smiles warmly, and hums while he works, strange, reedy tunes from the depths of the mud.

Geoffrey is a caring healer. His scholarly tradition holds that illness is most often the result of angry spirits, demonic worms, or elf-shot. Treatments that are painful or disgusting can drive away evil spirits more effectively. Pain, in short, is healthy. It drives away illness. But Geoffrey knows that there are limits, and he crosses that line every day. He rationalizes his excesses when he can, but some days find him depressed, and on those days Hildy and the twins know enough to leave him alone. Geoffrey is deeply tortured, suffering for the suffering he causes in others. He is trapped, and has sought an escape for years and years, with little success.

When Blind Geoff isn't causing horrific shrieks of good health in his patients, or stewing with his conscience, he is sitting in his office with Hildy or the twins, listening to them read new books of medical and magical technique to him.

Geoff's principle pleasure is spicy food, especially shellfish and sausages. He is a firm believer that hot spices are healthful and cleansing to both body and spirit, and would single-handedly invent Medieval Cajun Cooking if he weren't so busy with his other work.

Hildegarde. -[ ]-Human female. Ht:6', Wt:175#, Age 31. -[ ]-Fighting Prowess: Good with bare-handed grappling and brawling, Poor with anything else. -[ ]-Magic Ability: None.

Seventeen years ago, the Undine got loose. Geoffrey had been depressed, and drinking. His assistants were on errands, and the operating theatre stood empty for an entire day. Hatred boiling in its magical heart, the Undine, slowly, arose from its slumber.

King's River then was much like King's River today. There were travelers, merchants, adventurers and boats. A small river-trader, its hold heavy with spices from the tropics, was the property of Hildegarde's parents. By the time Geoff was awakened by the sound of cracking timbers and the scream of innocent death, all he could see through his window was a young girl, holding desperately to a chunk of broken hull and kicking at something in the water. The Undine, temporarily sated, was forming a menacing ripple around her, marking her for its next meal. A small band of heroes appeared on the scene (the City tends to be chock full, even on slow days), and Geoff watched as they were systematically slaughtered. Again, the Undine rested, and the crowds at river's edge stood terrified, not knowing what to do. Hildegarde, held in the currents by the Undine, simply wept and awaited her doom.

Geoffrey, spry and energized by guilt and anger, had raced out to the bridge and around to the bank while the heroes were slain. He pushed his way violently through the crowds and screamed out across the water, "Killer! I am who you want!" The Undine shuddered with delight, and its roar emerged from the water.

Still clinging to the girl with one of its tendrils, the Undine inched toward the shore where Geoffrey stood. As if in playful defiance, it began to pull the girl into its mass while Geoffrey stood, helpless. The girl screamed in fear, kicking angrily at her would-be destroyer.

Geoffrey knew the only thing that would pacify the creature, and he refused to let the girl die. Grabbing a knife from a guardsman standing next to him in the crowd, he slashed his own shoulder, and cried out as the pain tore into him.

The Undine stopped moving, but only for an instant. With a force of hateful will, it continued to drown the girl.

Geoffrey knew that without his arms, he could not finish the fight, or even cast the necessary spells. He stabbed himself a second time, in his thigh, again screamed, and again the Undine stopped, this time for many seconds. The girl, Geoffrey saw, was struggling. She was strong, and was nearly free before the beast awoke again. Geoffrey was exhausted and bleeding, screaming to the people pressed around him to let him be, to mind their own business.

He ripped out his own right eye with the knife. Even Geoffrey was surprised at how loudly he screamed. Through a haze of agony, he saw the Undine relaxing further, slipping into the river bottom, while the girl began to swim.

The Undine, in the throes of ecstasy, knew that it could not succumb if it was to have its revenge. It fought. It did its best to ignore the delicious agony that it was feeling from the blood of its tormentor. Gathering all its will, it lashed out one final time, plucking the young girl from the river's surface, and dragging her to the bottom in one total motion. It had overcome the delight of Geoffrey's eye being ripped out.

It could not, however, overcome the second eye.

For the second time in the City's history, the river glowed for two miles of its length. The sky turned black and roiled with purple clouds, punctured by arcs of red lightning. The girl made her way free of the river while the spell was completed. The next day, Geoffrey had to make a lot of very clever excuses to the City officials. He convinced them that his spell had destroyed the creature, not daring to admit that it still slept beneath the river.

These days, Hildegarde is a handsome woman, no longer young, with short, fair hair and a grin that seems as broad as her powerful shoulders. She still remembers her parents, and cares just as much as Geoffrey about ridding the river of the Undine forever. She also protects the shop; her presence is intimidating, and she has demonstrated her ability to bend an armored dwarf in half when the occasion demands it.

Rutherford and Dan. -[ ]-Halfling male twins. Ht: 2'11", Wt:105# each, Age 43. -[ ]-Fighting Prowess: Average with surgical tools, otherwise Poor. -[ ]-Magic Ability: None.

The twins - grinning, happy little monsters. Rutherford and Dan are genuine sadists. While Blind Geoff uses pain "for medicinal purposes," and even then with guilty reluctance, Rutherford and Dan use it for fun. Geoff and Hildegarde prevent them from performing cautery themselves, but they do most of the dentistry these days, and take a kind of savage glee in their work.

[Rutherford and Dan illustration by Elizabeth Danforth, Copyright 1997 by Flying Buffalo, Inc.]Geoffrey and Hildy have never found out exactly where the twins live, though the halflings have worked for Geoff over five years. They show up every day, work with enthusiasm, and take their pay home with them. Beyond that, their lives are a mystery.

The twins enjoy an exciting (if depraved) double life. They don't live anywhere permanently. Using their pay from Blind Geoff to take up rooms, they spend their free hours as thieves, using all the booty to gamble, drink, and hire women (they prefer humans) to submit to their less medical (but no less painful) ministrations. The less said the better. Suffice it to say that if one of the PCs recognizes the halflings from a social situation, they deserve any embarassment that might result.

The Undine. -[ ]-Malevolent water-spirit. Ht: Variable (up to 35 feet or so), Wt: 24 Tons, Age: Millenia. -[ ]-Fighting Prowess: Very Good with brute force water-attacks; doesn't use anything else. -[ ]- Magic Ability: None.

The Undine isn't much of a conversationalist; its intellect is on par with an especially cruel five-year-old. Physically, it is simply a mass of water held together by an evil, magical soul. The Undine can take human form (a gigantic shape towering above most of the buildings of the City), or simply extend pseudopods from its central mass in order to deal with the world. On most days, it just rolls around invisibly at the bottom of the river, soaking up the pain, its sensitivity magnified a hundredfold by Blind Geoffrey's spell.

If it ever gets loose again, it'll be a bugger to beat. Weapons tend to slosh right through it, with the exception of some rare enchanted ones. It is highly resistant to most hostile magic, and it doesn't have enough of a mind to hypnotize or charm. Its one real weakness is pain. Even when the spell is broken, sufficient agony will pacify it for very short periods. If it manages (for instance) to break the leg of a warrior fighting it, it will swoon under the pleasure of it all for a little while - occasionally long enough for something serious to be done to it.

It is motivated by one thing: the destruction of Geoffrey Theobald. After Geoffrey is dead, it will simply start killing and consuming anyone it sees.

Scenario Suggestions

Scenario 1: Theft of the Undine. It is for good reason that Geoffrey keeps the Undine a secret. True, the wizards of the City might be able to help him get rid of it if they knew. Equally true, the less scrupulous wizards of the City would just try to steal and tame the beast in order to gain a powerful servant. Worse still - what if somebody succeeded in stealing the Undine? Geoffrey just might have to fight to get it back, and for that, he might need the help (or perhaps the pain) of some delvers.

Scenario 2: Bug Hunt. Geoffrey uses a lot of rare herbs, crushed insects, bile of demons, and any number of other strange substances and alchemical nightmares in his work. Such things are important to Geoffrey, but they aren't always available within the City. A small group of well-armed heroes might just be necessary to track down a particularly hard-to-get insect. Geoffrey, being absentminded, will provide the PCs with a picture of the insect, but neglect to mention that the creature in the picture is over nine feet long!

Scenario 3: Hildegarde's Romance. While Hildy is very dedicated to her work with Blind Geoffrey, she isn't without a social existence. One way to gradually work Geoff and the Undine into the campaign is via Hildegarde. If a delver were to become romantically involved with her, and it turned serious, Hildy might have a moral quandary. After all, her work for Geoff does take a lot of her life. Of course, romantic interludes can be interrupted by dire emergencies, if Hildegarde's absence causes a repeat of the events which brought her to the good doctor in the first place.

Scenario 4: Doomsday. Keelat Angelo [see Bridge Encounter, page 93] has been insistently foretelling an impending disaster for several days. As if to confirm his prophecy, a bizarre accident claims Blind Geoffrey's life. With the death of their employer, the twins skip town to seek other work in the torture industry. Hildy alone is unable to sustain enough agony in the bridge's patients to pacify the Undine. It escapes its binding spell, and begins to wreak revenge for its years of imprisonment in the King's River.

When the water spirit attacks the bridge, Red [see The Cornerstone Ghost, page 106] appears to protect it. He calls upon his goblin worshippers [see The Halfling Rat Catchers' Guild, page 16] to help him fight the Undine. With a water spirit, a malevolent ghost, and a horde of goblins battling for the bridge, it certainly appears that Keelat's vision has come true!

The Bridge Guard and guardsmen from the City proper will certainly join in the defense of the town, as should any player characters. Will their psyches be able to deal with fighting in the trenches on the side of goblins, trolls and ghosts? What other NPCs will be placed in harm's way? Who, or what, will win?


The text of the article above, along with the accompanying illustrations (artwork by the incomparable Elizabeth Danforth,
with map by Steven S. Crompton) are Copyright ©1997 Flying Buffalo Incorporated, and appear with FBI's permission.

"Blind Geoffrey" is an excerpt from CityBook VII: King's River Bridge, the most recent volume in the most admired series of "generic" FRP supplements in the history of gaming. It was my privilege to be a part of the CityBooks, and I thank Liz for hooking me up with the gig, Debora Kerr for being such a superb editor to work with (and for providing a copy of the edited version of the text, from her archives), and Rick Loomis, for letting the Blue Room feature Geoff and his "honoured company."

Want more stuff like this? Geoff's barbershop is just one of three establishments that I wrote for CityBook VII. Pick up a copy of the book to read about Mother Footcandle the lamplighter, selling lamps and precious oils to passing adventurers while she makes friends among the City's young thieves. Or meet Clanghollow Teeble, a dwarf under a punishing curse, maintaining a warehouse of mysterious lost things and a quest to purge his soul of the stain of greed and murder. CityBook VII contains 25 establishments in all, giving readers yet another look the fabulous City we've been exploring for years. Here's hoping CityBook VIII happens someday soon.

Check out the CityBookTM line and other CatalystTM titles right away. And tell 'em S. John sent you!


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