Droven could hardly believe the twists and turns the last few days had taken. Month after month, season after season, he’d traveled the continent of Arcadia, searching for passage back to Absalom, an ocean away in the region known as the Inner Sea. He had spent more than a few days in the last weeks carefully examining the soles of his metal-reinforced boots. Long ago, he’d promised one of the first friends he’d made in Arcadia, an old half-orc named Darv, that if he still hadn’t found a way back to Absalom by the time the soles of wore thin, he’d return to Darv’s workshop to begin a new life.
Instead, Droven had inadvertently aided one of his closest friends from the Inner Sea, the goblin alchemist Fumbus, in a daring rescue against a gang of smugglers, the Wreckers. Fumbus’s rescued friends were a powerful old wizard named Ezren, a wise young cleric named Kyra, a cunning elf named Merisiel, and a valiant warrior called Valeros.
Droven had at first been afraid to tell the others they were as stranded as he was, but after some discussion the group realized that they had almost everything they needed to make the journey back to Absalom. Ezren and Kyra’s magic could calm the worst of the storms and turn the currents in their favor, while Valeros’s strength and Merisiel’s cunning, combined with Droven’s and Fumbus’s ingenuity, would allow them to build a sturdy enough sea craft from the salvage of the Wreckers’ victims.
The biggest problem was the lack of any known eastward currents bridging the Arcadian Ocean to the continents of Avistan and Garund. Droven had heard tales of the legendary current carrying Ulfen vikings to Port Valen in northern Arcadia and had even seen the maps of the sea routes between Arcadia and Tian Xia, which shared a northern land bridge with Avistan. Frustratingly, the northern route was only one way and the western route presented unique geographic barriers Droven had never been able to surmount. Making the trek in either direction, even accompanied by a group of stalwart adventurers, was a fraught journey that would take months at least.
Instead, Droven had a plan that this group’s unique talents were particularly suited for. While Valeros and company assembled a ship based on Droven’s blueprints, the half-orc, his construct companion Whirp, and Fumbus would venture into the abandoned lair of a reckless alchemist in the nearby jungles to retrieve the materials necessary to assemble an alchemical engine capable of propelling their craft across the Arcadian Ocean, regardless of winds or currents.
Droven had marked the laboratory the first time he’d passed along this stretch of coast over a year ago, though he’d been unwilling to delve too deep after encountering various alchemical traps. But now, with the possibility of home so close and a trusted companion at his side, Droven felt it worth the risk.
“I’m sorry my friend, I’m afraid I don’t take your meanin–GAAH!”
Droven and Fumbus had bypassed a variety of traps and strange monsters to the facility’s primary laboratory. Things had been going remarkably well, with inventor, construct, and alchemist each uniquely suited to disable the dangers laid by the paranoid alchemist who’d built the place. Droven blamed himself for their current predicament, trapped in a sealed room with an angry ooze climbing out of a broken glass tank.
Shaking the sting of an acidic tendril from his non-mechanical arm, Droven yelled for Whirp. “Defensive formation zero zero three: barricade!”
Responding to his maker’s command, Whirp leapt between his allies and the approaching ooze, deploying thin, folded metal sheets within his chassis to create a temporary barricade. As Droven ducked behind it, Fumbus cleared his throat.
Whirp provides cover for Droven and Fumbus in this illustration by Will O’Brien from Pathfinder Guns & Gears
“Miss you, Droven” Fumbus said, ducking an acidic pseudopod and swirling a blue cannister around in his hand. “Ice?”
Droven’s good eye widened in surprise as he finally realized what the goblin was asking. “Yes, Fumbus! As much as you’ve got!”
Fumbus hurled the cannister at the ooze, freezing a portion of its body but barely slowing its advance. As Droven fired a crossbow bolt into the ooze’s mass only to watch it dissolve, he realized Fumbus’s concoctions might be their only salvation. “More ice, Fumbus, quickly!”
Fumbus’s right hand snatched an empty glass vial from one of his pouches while his left darted from his tiled necklace to his pouches, and up… into his mouth. Furiously chewing each component before spewing the macerated remains into his vial, Fumbus quickly created a second vial of liquid ice and launched it at the encroaching ooze before repeating the process.
Droven took careful aim at a frozen section of ooze before firing his crossbow. As the icy chunk shattered into pieces, Droven was relieved to see that the ooze seemed to shrink, its regeneration stymied by the freezing cold. As Fumbus threw yet another liquid ice bomb, Droven glanced at his friend and suppressed a worried frown. Fumbus smiled at Droven, but the goblin’s saliva was frozen to his chin in icicles of drool, and his green skin had taken on a distinctly bluish hue. Worse, the goblin’s teeth chattered furiously, slowing down the liquid ice process. Seeing Fumbus’s predicament, Droven quickly removed a few mechanical components from his backpack. He’d been working on something the local Arcadians called a “cryomister,” a device intended to release a controlled stream of freezing liquid. Droven had been struggling to complete it due to his lack of familiarity with Arcadian alchemy, but Fumbus possessed exactly what Droven lacked.
“Fumbus! Pour everything you’ve got into this!”
Fumbus snatched up the proffered device and spewed all the components in his mouth directly into its ammunition cartridge. Trying hard not to think about what had just happened, Droven took the device back, activated it, and tossed it at the broken glass tank from which the ooze poured. As the cryomister sank into the acidic flow, chilling fog poured forth, solidifying the ooze until only a blue-green statue remained.
Wiping shards of frozen drool from his chin, Fumbus wasted no time in sacking the lab, quickly identifying a variety of ingredients and reagents capable of fueling the alchemical engine Droven intended to build. Struggling to his feet, Droven leaned on Whirp’s body. His good arm was burned by acid, and he felt the weight of his prosthetic limb keenly as he struggled to stand. The two friends and friendly construct quickly gathered the materials they would need to assemble their engine.
“Yeah, Fumbus. They’re pretty bad.”
About the Author
Michael Sayre is a designer at Paizo who previously worked on the Organized Play team. He’s also a prolific freelancer, having contributed to numerous Paizo books and publications from other publishers, such as Lost Spheres Publishing, Rogue Genius Games, and many other companies in support of the Pathfinder RPG and other table-top game systems.
Fred Van Lente is a New York Times bestselling writer of comics, prose, and gaming, including the Pathfinder: Fumbus one-shot successfully Kickstarted in 2021. His short story “Neversleeps” was shortlisted for Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. In addition to playing Pathfinder 2e, he’s currently running Call of Cthulhu 7e and Fallout 2d20 campaigns in Brooklyn, NY. He’s on Twitter and Instagram as @fredvanlente and you can sign up for updates on his upcoming projects at www.fredvanlente.com.
About Iconic Encounters
Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.