Wandering towards the market square, Julian and Ravenus stopped for a moment at the sight of a fence with a small hole drilled into it and a grappling hook at the top of it. The sounds of trickling water and female laughter wafted over enticingly, making Julian's long elven ears twitch. Closing his eyes for a minute, Julian smiled and blushed simultaneously as he imagined the debauchery that must be going on just a few dozen feet from the street. His reverie was broken by Cooper tossing pebbles at his face.
“Step aside, buddy,” Cooper said while clambering out of the cart. “I need to check on Shangri-la. Don't wait up, Tony, we'll meet you back at the bar.” With a mocking salute to Cooper, Tony went on.
Turning to face Julian, Cooper's grin expanded, showing brown and rotting tusks. “Dude, this place is like the Playboy mansion! When Mordred did his world-building, it's where he put the spank bank. That creepy little virgin wasn't completely wasting his time. Last week they had a naked badminton tournament. Here, check it out.”
“That's cool and all,” opined Julian. “But why isn't every perv in the city lined up against this wall? And if this is the Playboy mansion, where's Hugh Hefner?”
“Not to worry, dude, I did my homework. It's Lord Hefnus”-here Julian groaned and did a face palm- “and the guy is like 117 or so and totally out of it. Used to be some kind of heavy duty wizard, and still holds an honorary seat on the city council. But nowadays, pretty much all he does is sleep, drool, and throw naked picnics.”
“Ok, leaving aside the fact that you somehow made a Gather Information check despite the fact that you aren't even housebroken, don't wizards usually have all kinds of weird magical protection? He could have fifty-year-old spells laying around just waiting to turn somebody into a frog or summon demons to rip off our heads and shit down our necks.”
“I'm telling you, he's just a geezer who likes to party. As long as you're quiet, it's safe as-”
“Shit! Getitoffgetitoffgetitoff me!” What was unmistakably Dave's voice came from over the fence, followed by Tim's startled whoop. Cooper and Julian looked at each other, perplexed, then looked at the top of the wall. A flash of red beard could be briefly seen above it, covered in vines and foliage, then dipped back down.
Always the first to act, Cooper hauled his axe from the strap on his back. “I'm really angry!” No sooner had he said the words than his pupils shrank to tiny black dots, his arms bulged, and his beer gut relocated itself vaguely upwards on his torso. With one swing and another backhand, he laid open the flimsy wooden fence, revealing a scene of panic, mayhem, and titties in all shades, shapes, and sizes. Some sort of giant vine had a hold of Dave, who was ineffectually flailing at it with his mace. Tim had dropped his crossbow and was poking at it with a dagger. Some sap was oozing from the vines, but Tim didn't seem to be making much headway. A dozen yards off, Lord Hefnus dozed in his lounger while nude women stood around him, seemingly oblivious to the intruders.
“Don't worry, Dave! I won't leaf you hanging!,” roared Cooper, charging forward. As he moved in, the long grasses and rose vines of the hedge reached in towards him and tangled up his feet, sending him sprawling and his axe flying out of his hands.
Julian stood at the new gate Cooper had just bashed open. His friends were in trouble, maybe way out of their depth. He didn't think a Magic Missile would do much to a giant plant, much less a Ray of Frost. There was an old standby that had served him well many times in the past though...
“Horse,” said Julian, pointing at the area near Dave. A roan stallion popped into existence and immediately reared as the vegetation holding Cooper down started to reach for it. “Start eating the vines around Dave,” Julian told the horse, while reaching into his pockets for a pinch of horse hair to cast another Mount spell.
While the carnivorous plant had three new targets to deal with, Tim was able to jump up onto the vine holding Dave up in the air and drag it down. His tiny halfling hands were able to pull away the vines constricting Dave's throat, revealing ugly purple welts. Then he started sawing away with his dagger as carefully as possible.
Still in the throes of his Rage ability, a few scraggly branches weren't about to keep Cooper down. Struggling up to his feet, he snatched his axe away from the vines' clutch, and started hacking away at the main vine leading into the ground. This sent the entire vine structure into spasms of pain. Some of the smaller vines started twitching randomly, and the larger vine around Dave uncoiled, leaving him gasping and choking.
The horse Julian had summoned made its way towards Dave and bent its neck down. Seeing that Dave was already free, it noticed a large bunch of succulent smelling fruit. Leaning in, it took a bite. With a toss of its mane, it pulled the fruit free and started chewing. Green fluid spurted from the base of the plant where the sac had been torn, quickly turning to almost black.
Cooper's attacks on the taproot had angered the plant before, but suddenly it was beyond pissed. Uprooting a few yards of itself, it wrapped around Cooper in a deathgrip. Even raging, it was all he could do to not have it squeeze his internal organs out like shit-flavored toothpaste. Grapevines and rosebush branches all converged on the horse, and once more it reared up and screamed as the flesh was stripped from its bones. The vines that had recoiled from Dave were joined by others, and they wrapped him and Tim together in a chlorophyll burrito.
Julian watched in dismay as his friends' struggles with the murderous vegetation weakened. The horse he had summoned gave a final terrified scream as vines crushed the life out of it, then the cocoon of thorns and branches collapsed as it went back to wherever it had come from. Racking his brain for anything that could buy a little more time, he raised his hands and started chanting the nonsense words that would bring forth a Magic Missile.
Julian felt a searing heat from behind him as a yellow ray streaked past his left shoulder and struck the plant in the fruit cluster that had been the horse's first and last meal. No sooner had it struck than the grapevines and the animated hedge of roses and grass shuddered, then went still. Tim and Dave started to unravel themselves from what they had thought was going to be their final embrace. Cooper managed to shrug off the vines, then start chopping them at random. “Fuck you, plant! Have a drink of this!” Lifting up the front of his loincloth, Cooper started to spray the hacked up vine with putrid urine.
Julian turned around to see Rhonda standing just outside the hole in the fence, trying to strike a dramatic pose. “You boys looked like you needed some help,” she said with a smirk. “Lucky for you I came along.”
“Thanks for the assist, Hogwarts,” said Cooper, shaking off. “What brought you out here? Shopping for a new broomstick? Or did you need to replace the one stuck up your butt?”
“None of your damn business,” snapped Rhonda. “And speaking of sticks in butts, I bet Dave would be glad if you tried using a cork sometime.”
“Get a... room, you two,” gasped Tim, rubbing his throat. He turned to the weakly struggling Dave and helped him get the last few vines untangled. “Time to put those magic hands of yours to work, buddy.”
Dave looked beyond Tim and pointed. A rough semicircle of women in the altogether had formed near the scene of the fracas. Propped against two Amazonian human women, Lord Hefnus blearily grinned at the group.
“Mmm, very naughty of you, breaking my fence and killing my hedge, very naughty indeed,” he said, his head lolling to the right. “Ought to string you up good and proper, mmm, except I'm all out of rope. Won't you all come in for a drink?”
Glances were exchanged. Julian looked at Rhonda, who had nothing but a disgusted sneer for him. Then he looked at Tim, who was sharing a look with Dave. Tim was pointing an index finger at his temple and spinning it in a circle and looking at Dave questioningly, while Dave just shrugged. Cooper, confronted with breasts at several different heights, was doing his best to give himself whiplash.
“Whistlethorn, mmm, Brandy, anyone?,” asked Lord Hefnus, lifting a deep purple bottle from a dais covered with them. “Only the, mmm, '47, I'm afraid, nasty war with the minotaurs that year, or was it centaurs? Dracotaurs? Definitely, mmm, one of those taur people. Mmm, at any rate, it was amazing anything got harvested...Cinnamon, mmm, fetch us some glasses, won't you?” A platinum blonde with a deep tan separated herself from the gaggle of playmates and arrayed five clean glasses for the group.
“No need, this one suits me just fine,” said Cooper, snatching another bottle from the dais and upending it. “Pig,” Rhonda muttered. Draining a third of the bottle in one gulp, Cooper emitted a belch that started in his toes and gained volume as it worked its way up and out.
“Now there's a man, er half-man, anyway that enjoys his drink!,” said Lord Hefnus, the fog of senility seeming to lift a little. “Drink up now, mmm, all of you.” Dave, Tim, and Julian all grabbed their glasses eagerly, Rhonda gingerly. “To our gracious host,” said Julian, raising his glass. “And the lovely ladies he surrounds himself with!”