|Cast of Characters|
|Skyler, Sir Solun||human paladin||James|
with Felix his pseudodragon familiar
|dwarf wizard||Emily M.|
|Zera||human psion/wizard||Eric L.|
|Lady Vivian Monaghan||human cleric/rogue||Rachael H.|
|Saigo (Sai)||ashlan swashbuckler||Sarah|
Background: The heroes begin in the city of Tertria, a white city of fountains that, while old and beautiful, is slowly falling into disrepair, although the inner city remains vibrant. It is ruled by Marduk, called the hand of Doven (Doven is the creator god), and run by a council of guilds and nobles. Lord Marduk resides in the center of the city, near the Temple of the Sun. The Temple of the Moon and the Lake of the Moon are to the upper right part of the city, while there is a mages’ academy called Silwhy in the upper left. The forest is intruding into the city at the lower right part, which is also called the Lower End, where there is a druid grove. The Tertria River surrounds the city in a loosely triangular shape. Eateries and inns are divided between those run by elves (the higher end) and those run by halflings and others (the lower end). The military of the city is mostly dwarves, and they are disciplined and prestigious. There is a schism between the military and craftsman dwarves. Certain parties within the mage school have embraced the idea that magic is failing, although that has been hushed up. Sir Solun and Zera are staying in the elven-run Inn of Terminstral; Emilio is a librarian at Silwhy. Zera wears a dire weasel mask to hide a disfigured face.
Lady Monaghan, Skyler, Zera, and Emilio are called to dinner at the home of Jarend, the head of the City Watch. After providing an ample spread, he stands and relates that the city as it is ruled by the council of guilds constrains justice and law and order. There is a new rash of slavery in the city. Marduk wants it stopped, so Jarend has called them there to ask them to act as a silent arm of the City Watch to deal with it subtly. Emilio has no choice in the matter, as the academy heads have given orders, but the others decide to help, although Lady Monaghan is unhappy to work with a commoner. She insults the others and suggests that they send out servants instead. None of the others have servants, however.
They meet at the Inn of Terminstral the next day to walk through the city. Dwarven military members look disdainfully at dwarf wizard Emilio as they go by. As they get closer to the lower end, sewage becomes more prominent, and everything is dirty and smelly. Lady Monaghan and Emilio are rather unhappy about the uncleanliness. The Lady goes into a cloudy and smoky “tea” store and asks questions from Chin, the proprietor. Skyler asks if he’s seen anyone with strange tattoos and learns that the tattooed ones have recently entered in – or the city has entered into them. Some unusual activity has been occurring: the tattooed ones are taken off the streets at night. Chin’s own brother had been taken off, and the next day he had tattoos and didn’t recognize anyone. Skyler asks about a bag of tea; Zera buys one for the heck of it. When Skyler objects to him buying an illegal substance, Zera claims it is for evidence.
As they walk out, a strange tattooed man in a cloak brushes past them. Zera sees him and tells Skyler; Skyler grabs the tattooed man and asks him about his tattoos. Saigo steps back: “They’re part of my skin.” Lady Monaghan tells Skyler to apologize. Skyler is just suspicious of people with tattoos. Their new companion’s name is Saigo Kokoro (the last heart). They adjourn to some place less public to talk – the forest, at Sai’s suggestion. He explains his people’s past to them: the tattooed ones (ashlan) are found in a dark place, as they went into hiding after the creation of the world. They are declining but still powerful, and they are born with their tattoos, although the tattoos can be duplicated. He tries to tattoos Zera as an example, but it doesn’t work, so he hides in a corner. Sai explains that he’s only 253 years old. Zera now has another scar. Sai is the Lady’s escort back to the city.
They find the cleanest tavern in the lower end available: The Half-Dragon, a run-down place with a table full of drunken soldier dwarves and a stout halfling innkeeper. Sai insults the inn, and the innkeeper wants one of the dwarves to hit him. She attacks the dwarf when he doesn’t do as she wants; Sai meanwhile gets a drink. Lady Monaghan gets her own room. They rest: Emilio cleans his hands, Lady braids her hair, the psion meditates, the paladin polishes his sword, and Sai dozes in a corner. Later that night, Lady Monaghan hears heavy footsteps and odd breathing coming up the stairs, as well as a snatch of a phrase: “Pretty jewelry…we’ll knock her over the head and take the jewelry.” She goes to the side of her door and blows her signal whistle as a hooded head sticks in the room. Zera casts mage armor on himself and moves to the door, where he sees a hulking figure. The hooded figure punches the Lady. Emilio magic missiles the hulking figure, and Lady Monaghan drops soap on the ground and creates water on it, making ten gallons of soapy water. Zera steps behind the man in their way and attacks him with fire powered by his brain. Skyler’s sword bursts into flame as he sounds his battle cry and attacks. Sai tries to tumble past everyone to get into the fight. The hooded attacker slips on the bar of soap and falls prone. The hulking ogre hits the paladin. Lady Monaghan notices that the man attacking her is covered with tattoos. She bluffs that the soap is really acid but gets no reaction from the man; he seems to have no will. She decides that commoners are useless. The psion makes the ogre’s head explode. Skyler puts his sword to the man’s throat, and Sai jumps over the ogre’s body to examine him. As he tries to control the tattooed man, the guy jumps up at Sai, impaling himself on Skyler’s flaming sword. Emilio, Sai, and Zera go out the window as Skyler talks to the innkeeper. Lady Monaghan regally walks out. Skyler tries to clean up the mess, but holy soapy bloody water does not clean easily. After bickering, they notice that Sai has disappeared. He eventually returns to lead them.
Lady Monaghan hears a deep guttural voice similar to the one she heard in the inn. Creepy guys with cockney accents are speaking about how two or three are needed, they need to grab another person. The paladin detects lots of evil. He ignites his sword and charges at them: the first gets pretty darned smote. Skyler grabs a bundled unconscious person and carries him to safety. Another ogre gets swashbuckled by Sai. Emilio shoots with a crossbow, and an ogre falls to the ground. The Lady attends to the standard workman in the bundle; she cures him of his wounds, albeit with much flinching. His name is Martin, and he claims that monsters attacked him. Skyler escorts the remaining ogre back to the group. The ogre twitches as he is tied up while Sai holds his sword near his throat. The ogre claims that he doesn’t know about the tattoos. Sai tries to tattoo him, and he starts screaming: “Not that! I’ll tell you!” He reports that “she” puts tattoos on them and wipes their minds clean. They were out picking up people to take to the base, which is underground; he can take them there.
They follow the ogre into a decrepit building with a large open room thirty feet long and forty feet wide with a door at the opposite end. The ogre refuses to take another step: “She’s in a cage, the one who does the tattooing.” Sai tries to open the door, but it is locked, so he gives it a kick. The Lady has to pick the lock, mumbling all the time that she has to do everything. Sai opens the door, and they follow the stairway down. The ogre Elwood was left tied up in the room, but he breaks loose and runs away. At a T-junction, Sai goes left around a corner. At the end of the hallway is a door with bars in the window: through it they can see a flickering light, and a faint moaning is coming through the bars. Lady Monaghan unlocks the door to a long hallway lined with six large cells containing four or five people each. The people seem drugged. Sai notes that their tattoos seem askew. Lady Monaghan looks at some papers she found: a ledger of people with numbers, sales, losses, expenses for guards (named Bert, Ray, Elwood, Jake, and Steve)…she takes the paper for evidence. They go left along another hallway, as to the right there is only a closet filled with stale bread, water, and tools for torture. The left recedes into darkness. It sounds unsafe to Lady Monaghan and Emilio. Sai hears muffled footsteps, so he hides. Emilio casts spider climb on himself and goes up on the ceiling. Two heavily tattooed people come along dragging a third partially tattooed unconscious person; all have blank faces, and they go around the party onto the shaky path moving first their outer feet and then their inner feet. Emilio proceeds across on the ceiling, and the others follow the stone pattern with their feet.
At the end is a large double door; the tattooed ones knock in unison, and they go through, the door closing behind them. Sai and Skyler knock together a little messily, and the door swings open to a well lit chamber. On the opposite wall is a cage: in it is a table, the two tattooed people, the unconscious person on the table, and a woman who is tattooing. Outside the cage are a large ogre and a man wearing robes. Sai asks loudly, “What is going on here?” They look aggressive, so Emilio puts a fireball by the ogre while Sai attacks the man. The ogre hits Sai, and the man climbs up the cage. Skyler rushes the ogre and hits it, dodging its attack. Zera and Lady Monaghan hang around the wall while Emilio sends a scorching ray at the man, who is climbing towards the ceiling, and moves back toward the door. Skyler smites evil, and Zera makes the man climbing on the ceiling fall unconscious to the ground. Lady Monaghan heals the paladin. Emilio emits a lightning bolt at the ogre, which Sai then kills. The woman in the cage shrinks into herself: she is Sai’s big sister. Lady Monaghan picks the cage lock and ties and gags the unconscious man – the wizard was covered in tattoos that weren’t the same as the others (not those of Sai’s people). The tattoos are appallingly warped and twisted. The woman recognizes Sai and clings to him, screaming his name over and over again. When Sai asks her what they did to her, she doesn’t respond. Two zombie-like things are corrupted in her mind, so he can only get half-way in. The tattoos they see on the others are a mixing of the wizard’s and Sai’s sister’s. Sai relates that his father and sister left home five years ago to find the remainder of their race; Sai was the only one born to their race for five hundred years. He tried to find them and has now found his sister, but she’s corrupted, or out of it, or something. Papers they find detail an evil plot, and they find a satchel with the figure of a clenched white hand. Sai’s family was ambushed, and only his sister survived. She was found wounded and unconscious; the wizard sensed something and nursed her back to health. He studied the magic of tattoos and made his own to corrupt and control Sai’s sister. He forced her to complete slaves to sell on the market, and her own tattoos were magically twisted and her mind messed up. Horrified, they take the unconscious wizard back to the captain of the City Watch at two in the morning, explaining all that had happened and handing over all evidence.
The captain has the wizard taken out of the room and hands out gifts to the party (armor, potions, scrolls, spellbooks, etc.). Sai’s sister Korome is still a mess, however. The captain suggests that she be taken to a church called the Brotherhood of the Song, a place known to heal magical and mental ailments. They split up to return to their sleeping place. Sai and his sister accompany Lady Monaghan to her manor, a smaller but well furnished place with a guest room overlooking the river. Those in the manor are awoken by construction. Someone is renting out the manor next door, and the workmen mention special alterations that they can’t talk about. Many things are going out of the house. Emilio in the Silwhy academy is awoken by the chaos of midterms week: “I hate midterms week.” Emilio skips work and avoids the library like the plague. The Inn of Terminstral, where Zera and Skyler are at, is busy with dwarven soldiers.
All meet at the Brotherhood, where they feel vibrations coming from the music, a combination of Gregorian chant and the Carmina Burana and the Firebird Suite sung within the building. As they enter, they are hit by a wall of sound, calm, and well-being. The music is healing. The building is shaped like a cross. People stand and sing on the two side areas. While the walls and pillars are stone, the music causes everything to vibrate. Although Sai’s sister had woken up in the middle of the night screaming, was groggy and out of it in the morning and intimidated by the people in town, and kept mumbling about looking over the edge of the world, when she hears the song the lines on her face smooth and she seems at peace. A large heavy-set man comes out of the singers and walks up with his arms raised in greeting. Lady Monaghan speaks up: “Our guest here has business – his sister is not well.” The man, Basso Profundo, says that she can stay and that Sai can check on her whenever he wishes. They all decide to try to join the singing. Their untrained voices make others wince at first, but then they fell guided in the music and at one with the universe.
Sai hugs his sister goodbye and leaves. Armored dwarves walk by, and Skyler hears Muldoon mentioned. At that name he becomes very serious and withdrawn. Muldoon was the head knight of the order his family used to belong to, but he had his family cut out from knighthood many years ago for supposed dishonor. They withdraw to a place called Pelor’s Watchplace to talk about it. Skyler’s family followed the Oath of the Measure, but because they still followed the old way, they were cast out. Skyler wants to regain his family’s honor. Muldoon is a dwarf who usually is carried about in a litter, and he’s also a politician. Sai hears about a group from a foreign city that has requested a special guard escort. Lady Monaghan learns that it is Muldoon’s entourage coming back from a successful campaign against vampires. Skyler deliberates what to do. Emilio damns Skyler’s idealism and exasperates Sai, who drinks wine. Skyler composes his plea while the others sleep. He was misinformed by his parents that Muldoon likes to live among commoners.
The renovated house next door looks even busier and gruffer. Emilio sneaks back into the academy and is caught by a frantic student; he chucks a book at him and hurries off, and ironically the book was what the student needed. Zera meanwhile gives Skyler a long grammar lecture. Sai stays at the Monaghan estate, and in the middle of the night, he hears a loud shout. Four servants follow Lady Monaghan to the scullery, where they found a maid drowned in her own scullery tub. A window had been forced opened. She sends a servant to get guards and sound the alarm. Sai runs towards the commotion and jumps out the window. Lady Monaghan: “Do you see anything?” Sai: “It’s pretty dark.” Sai explores the garden: “One of the shrubs has been accosted.” A figure dives at Lady Monaghan, knife bared. She shrieks, and Sai runs back and jumps into the window. The assailant is garbed in black with a strange tattoo on a bare shoulder. Sai cuts him in half. When half flies at the Lady, she retorts, “You could have killed him a bit more gently.” She has a servant copy down the tattoo, a dagger with the top turning into a snake that curves down and around the blade. The City Watch comes to the door and collects statements from the witnesses.
They all meet in the morning at Pelor’s Watchplace. Emilio sneaks out through the library shelves to get there on time. On their way, Lady Monaghan notes that no work is being done on the house next door. They hear distant trumpeting and go in search of it. The main gate to the inner city is crowded, but they manage to push past people to get to a decent vantage point. Coming through are the returning conquerors of a vampire hoard. The City Watch is holding back the crowd as knights on horses with pikes ride along the streets, accompanying their leader, a short dwarf holding a severed head, which he shows to the crowds from his litter. They proceed to a dais, where a tall, otherworldly figure with vast wings is sitting on a gilded throne: Marduk. The dwarf Muldoon struts up towards the dais. Marduk is not impressed and looks at him suspiciously but graciously nods. Muldoon makes a speech with lots of boring pleasantries. Marduk leads them all to the inner city, and the crowds dissipate. Skyler tries to follow, but he is dispersed by the guards. Lady Monaghan and the rest argue about culture. Skyler asks her advice about how to get in to talk to Muldoon. She suggests that he either find out where he’s staying or arrange a meeting with the guild masters. There are nine major guilds: the City Watch, the thieves, the mages, the Union of Souls, the Merchants’ League, the Popular Party, the Nobles’ Congregation, the entertainers, and the druids. They go speak with their old friend the captain of the watch. Skyler gives him his request, and Jarend says that all of them can tag along with him to the party.
They go within the inner city to Marduk’s palace, where three long tables, lots of food, and people are crammed in the large feasting room. At the head table are Marduk, the heads of the guilds, Muldoon, and a couple of guards. Two men clad in Skyler-type armor come up and address Skyler as brother knight. They tell him to come sit at their table. Felix the finicky pseudodragon accompanies him, as he grumbles that the food is probably better up there. As Skyler is interrogated, he carefully bluffs his father’s last name. He and his new friends drink toasts. Emilio wants his pseudodragon familiar to go under the head table to listen to what is going on…Felix replies, “Not bloody likely.” Drunk people around them tell the story of Muldoon fighting the head vampire in hand to hand combat, although no one seems to have seen him do it. Skyler tells his new companions that he was sorry that he missed slaying the vampires because of another mission he was on; a couple of them blink at him. Sai sneaks up by the head table and leans against a column. He sees that Marduk doesn’t eat or talk. Sai waves at him, and Marduk is startled to see him. Marduk is wearing a half-crystal amulet, and when he sees Sai, it pulses once. The object is something from a long time ago.
Muldoon gets up and tells the knights that they are heading back to the manor now. Skyler follows along in the crowd. Lady Monaghan, Zera, Emilio, Felix, and Sai follow from a distance. Skyler takes the place of a knight in the ranks who was left drunk under a table. The knights enter the newly renovated manor near Lady Monaghan’s residence, where some party and some sleep. The house is pretty bare of furnishings. One door is heavily padlocked, and Muldoon is nowhere to be seen. Skyler mingles with the partiers and learns stuff as his fellow knights laugh about how easily everyone was fooled. They tell him that the short one is crafty. Skyler detects evil and is knocked down to the floor by the overwhelming evil, although the strongest evil is coming from below. Sai sneaks into the building and follows Skyler down. Then Sai trips on the stairs and falls on Skyler. Skyler: “I detect evil.” Sai hides again. Skyler suddenly runs into Muldoon as he emerges from a locked door. Muldoon snaps his fingers, and two guards grab him. Skyler tries to bluff, but Muldoon recognizes him as Darius’s son. Skyler: “Um…yes, I’m sorry, but I’ve come to redeem my family honor.” Muldoon chuckles to himself and sends him to be locked up. Sai sneaks everywhere successfully. The new scullery maid was left to watch the front of the manor, but as Sai leaves, he sees two animated corpses guarding the gate, and the maid is at the foot of one of them.
Sai goes back to the Lady’s manor and arouses all of his sleeping companions. They give instructions to the servants and head over. Lady Monaghan also feels the overwhelming sense of evil. They are standing on what use to be a graveyard. There is a commotion within the house, and they see the zombies going in. Skyler in his locked room hears battle. The party edges up to the front gate…as a random man runs out, a dead hand pulls him back in. The sounds of heated battle suddenly fall silent. Lady Monaghan’s jewelry jingles as they sneak closer. Emilio casts invisibility on himself at the sight of blood everywhere. There is no one to be seen. Sai listens at locked doors until he hears Skyler calling out to them. Lady Monaghan picks the lock. After cutting the ropes binding him, they make their way to the evil door. Footprints in the copious amounts of blood all lead to that door.
Lady Monaghan is unable to pick the lock, so Skyler goes to bash it in before he notices that the hinges are on the outside. Emilio crowbars the hinges off. Within are stairs leading down into darkness. Emilio objects to the general dirtiness of the place. Sai calls him a “useless ricebucket” and threatens to cut his fez in half. Down the stairs are rubble and dead bodies. Suddenly they hear a laugh, and Muldoon speaks out in the darkness. He talks to his dead comrades about how they are allied with the vampires, and he orders his zombies to overthrow Marduk. Lady Monaghan sneezes, and Muldoon yells out. Zombies are everywhere. The Lady casts protection from evil on herself. Emilio sets some zombies on fire as Lady Monaghan attempts to turn undead. Muldoon charges Skyler, shouting that he killed his father. Between the fourteen zombies and Muldoon, the party has a rough time of it. Zera energy stuns some, and Sai kicks up a coffin lid and jumps onto it awesomely. Emilio disrupts undead and kills a zombie while Lady Monaghan heals Skyler. Muldoon cleaves through his own zombies to get to Skyler. He cleaves a zombie, misses Skyler and…cleaves another zombie? Not exactly a bright one. Zera kills another zombie. Skyler smites evil but misses. Sai kills a zombie from the coffin-top. Lightning bolts and fireballs rain from the ceiling. Lady Monaghan keeps healing Skyler. Muldoon heals himself. Zera casts enlarge person on Skyler, and the huge Skyler continues to battle his arch-enemy. Sai kills another; Emilio fries three more zombies. Muldoon smashes Skyler with his sneak attack; Skyler smashes a zombie; Lady Monaghan helps Skyler as he falls unconscious. Zera stuns Muldoon with an energy stun. Sai kills another zombie as the Lady stabilizes Skyler, who revives and kills Muldoon before falling unconscious again. Zera smashes Muldoon’s head in with his quarterstaff to make the dwarf’s face look uglier than his. Sai jumps into the remaining zombie and accidentally kills it by kicking it with his foot. Lady Monaghan is exhausted from all of her efforts to keep Skyler in the living world. They loot the bodies. Skyler picks up a potion of undetectable alignment, a fullplate shield, and a potion of heroism, Sai gets an amulet of natural armor +2, Lady Monaghan holds onto a rod of wonder, and Zera takes a necklace of fireballs +3. They burn Muldoon’s body. It’s a very evil underground cavern. The zombie bodies twitch. They rest in Lady Monaghan’s manor and set a servant to watch over them. Papers on Muldoon’s body incriminate him in the slave/tattoo business with the wizard Vandigo.
Lady Monaghan has yet another new scullery maid. The City Watch comes to the door, reporting an accident at the manor house down the road and asking if she knows anything about it. She feigns ignorance. After the Watch leaves, they debate on whether to turn the papers they found into the City Watch or Marduk. All except for Lady Monaghan eventually go to the head of the City Watch. They take Muldoon’s battle ax with them: it has “Muldoon the Great, Super Awesome Cool Dude” written on it in infernal. A servant takes them back into the manor house as the head of the Watch is eating a late breakfast. Guards swarm the party instantly the moment Skyler mentions that they know what happened at the manor and were involved. They show them the papers and the battle axe and soon find themselves in Marduk’s squeaky clean palace. Sai explains when Marduk asks them for an explanation. He blinks and says that he is loath to believe their story, but it has a ring of truth. He thanks them for their service and makes them city champions. Sai and Emilio aren’t all that impressed with their new title. Skyler thinks it is awesome. Zera accepts outright. Sai wants a fancy new cloak to go with the title, but his request is turned down. Zera mentions Lady Monaghan, and two guards leave. The next assignment for the group is to take care of a pair of giants attacking travelers in the woods. Marduk speaks with Sai in private. When an irate Lady Monaghan arrives, Skyler kindly tells her that it was Zera who dropped her name.
After doing some selling and buying, they go off to kill the giants. They run into a girl singing and dancing in the forest…it’s Lady Monaghan’s newest scullery maid. A really big rock flies out of the forest and kills her (third) scullery maid. Two larges shapes move toward the city, so they fight the giants Steve and James. Their giant friend Chris joins them. Chris throws a rock. Skyler cleaves Steve and makes him dead. He also kills James, but James falls on him and pins him to the ground. Chris hits a tree, and Sai kills Chris. They hear the howling of wolves in the distance.
As they leave the forest, they get the sense of something trailing them, but it stops as they reach inhabited areas. They make their report to the captain of the guard as they eat chocolate mousse. Lady Monaghan comments on the wolves, and they learn that the druids are restless. They are rewarded for their giant slaying with gold and a rod of cancellation. They sleep at the Lady’s manor, and she finally admits the previous assassination attempt to the rest of the party. She looks for another scullery maid. The one that shows up has something on her arm. As Sai notices that it’s a tattoo, the scullery maid attacks. She kicks Sai as he grapples her. Lady Monaghan interrogates her: “Who set the bounty?” Scullery maid: “We never tell our marks. The Lord Monaghan will see you dead.” Then she bites down, and a cloud of powder comes out of her mouth as she dies. Skyler wants to look for more assassins. Lady Monaghan is very closed mouthed. They wrap the body up, and another servant goes out to get the City Watch. Two beefy men take the body as the Lady contemplates getting a scullery boy instead.
Skyler polishes his sword as Lady Monaghan journals in her parlor and discusses the recent events with a trusted servant. Emilio dozes by the fire, his fez over his eyes and Felix purring on his lap. Sai searches for dancing lessons and finds a poster advertising pianist Viktor Mundsund at the Three Plum Blossoms tavern, performing in a day’s time. Zera goes to town to turn the bag of “tea” into the City Watch. They note that it is Chin’s stock; Chin has powerful friends. Skyler wanders around detecting evil: he detects it everywhere. Zera and Skyler help Sai look for dance lessons and finds an obscure ballet studio. Sai wants to learn the waltz and mambo, so he and Skyler attend the lessons. Lady Monaghan sends her servant out to drink and listen: the rumors about town are of giants, slavers (though those have mostly died down), the coming pianist, and Muldoon. Sai and Skyler at their lessons get odd looks…someone jokes that Skyler’s sword is not the only thing that’s flaming. They all come back, and Lady Monaghan changes for dinner. They decide to go to the piano performance.
In the morning a scullery boy answers the ad. They check his arm (thankfully tattooless), and Zera warns him that his job is cursed. The boy says that “bad things just happen to girls.” Skyler goes out to detect evil and sees a horribly fiendish beautiful woman, swinging a basket of flowers. Skyler kills her and gets arrested. He has to pay a stipend of fifty gold to her father. Her father is one of the kindest, most gentle people in the city. An evil sorcerer cursed his daughter with an aura of evil, but she fought it, and she often picked flowers to give to poor people. Skyler weeps and puts flowers on her grave. Zera to Skyler: “You are stupid.” Skyler: “I don’t have any newts.” Lady Monaghan drags Emilio out shopping. When she finds a large lace store, Emilio flees.
When night falls, they head to the tavern; there is a beautiful piano but no Mundsund. They learn that he disappeared last night: he was sighted walking back to the inn, but suddenly he was gone. A drunken woman snorts: “Gone, more like kidnapped off the Street of the Leaning Badger and Tireffel’s Way.” To make up for the lack of music, Zera tries to play piano, and then Emilio plays. Emilio had seen Viktor Mundsund play as a young dwarf and had wanted to be a pianist himself, although everyone he met always discouraged it. Zera passes a hat and collects three silver and five copper. The woman snorts and goes back to drinking. Sai stands in Lady Monaghan’s shadow, and Skyler (still crying) stands in a corner. The innkeeper brings him a tankard. Lady Monaghan comments to the drunk woman that she has an ear for the piano. The drunk elf replies: “Poor Vicky loved playing piano. It’s his life’s work. He came to town for me. We go way back. The guards won’t listen to me, but I’m dead sure he was kidnapped and taken into the under city – it’s an old city, older than any except Marduk. I was down there once with Vicky – he loves history, all that stuff about Marduk and the beginning of the world, the end of the last age and the beginning of this one…Doven the creator sure made Marduk a pretty world…pretty brandy and vodka and beer…” The woman (Mariel by name) looks to be about twenty five in elf years. She tells them to meet her back here in three hours to help her search for “Vicky.”
Skyler polishes his armor, and Sai bats his eyes at him. Zera pushes Emilio in a mead puddle; Emilio attempts to shoot an orb of acid at him. The return to find Mariel swaying slightly but otherwise more sober. They go through a trapdoor in the basement of an abandoned building. Mariel taps at a stone wall: “Where was that latch?” The wall moves out and over, revealing a hole into darkness. Skyler lights his holy sword. Mariel drinks from a flask as they descend, deeper and deeper, until they reach a much larger stone chamber. They hear chittering sounds above their heads, and the sharp-eyed of the party spot thick webs. Spiders come down and entangle Skyler in a web. Flaming spheres set the web on fire, and the spiders fall to the ground. Skyler moves in front of Mariel as Lady Monaghan tries to cut the web. Zera emits an energy bolt, and Mariel charges the other spider but misses. Emilio kills the last spider with magic missiles. Sai tries to take Mariel’s flask from her, but she catches him and resists. Mariel claims that she knows where she is going. Zera finds a bundle of old bones and fourteen gold pieces. They go down another hundred feet or so, and Mariel shushes them: the former spiders’ friends and mother live down here. She also advises them not to look up. They enter a chamber held up by stout stone pillars. The walls were once carved, but those carvings have been reclaimed by the earth. Sai looks up and sees the ceiling writhing in spiders. Mariel’s hand shakes a bit. Emilio and Skyler make more noise than they should in their situation, try as they can to be quiet. Mariel inspects the carvings as the activity on the ceiling becomes more agitated. A bone hits the ground near Lady Monaghan, and a skull falls near Emilio. Mariel finds what she is looking for, and they hurry on. All hear skittering and see a very big fat bloated spider. The spiders descend, and Mariel shouts, throws her torch, and shoves everyone towards the door. Emilio gets caught in a web, but Mariel cuts through it. Skyler cuts through the webbed door; Zera replaces it with a door pulled from his robe of many things and secures it with an immovable rod. There is a sudden silence on the other side of the door.
They run down the hallway to another chamber, one large enough to be a small palace on the surface. It’s at least over a hundred years old, possible closer to five hundred, perhaps two hundred feet below the surface because of an earthquake. The great sense of age makes all in the party feel very young. They proceed through different rooms, and the scenery ages as they continue. Mariel says that they are getting close to the ones who stole Vicky. She tells them that the Spider God – Spider Queen Loth – gives others tasks to perform, and if they don’t perform them, they are twisted close to her. Sai hears haunting piano playing in the distance. Lady Monaghan tries to pick the locked door in front of them, but Mariel has to do it. She shushes them and tells them to run on through on the count of three.
They enter the inside of a cocoon – the walls are silk and webbing, and four torch stands provide light. There is also a piano in the room, and at the piano sits Viktor. His eyes widen at the sight of them, and he shakes his head and keeps playing even more rapidly. He appears to be gagged. There is an unnatural darkness in the room. Emilio casts light on his sling and throws it on the ground, and the sudden brightness reveals a drider. She screams, and Skyler smites. Mariel meanwhile appears to have vanished. Emilio casts invisibility on Lady Monaghan, and she moves over to Viktor. The drider casts web all over the party, and Emilio is unable to move. Lady Monaghan escapes the web and cuts the bonds on Viktor’s mouth, but in the meantime the drider has disappeared. Skyler smites the webs instead. The drider attacks Sai, and Skyler climbs up to smite the drider; Lady Monaghan drags Viktor over to the party. Emilio lightning bolts the drider, and she falls to the ground dead. Sai cuts off her head. Viktor seems to be unconscious, and Mariel is also found unconscious in the hallway with a large knot on her head. They find three hundred gold pieces and a black pearl, a normal pearl, and an emerald. Underneath a rug is a trap door. Viktor starts to come around, and Lady Monaghan heals Mariel. They see sheet music on the table transcribed from the walls. Mariel sees them studying the trapdoor and tells them that they’ll never be the same after going down there. After they argue with her, she opens it. Cold air blasts out: beneath their feet are clouds and a green, forested land five hundred feet down, topped by a flat grey stone ceiling.
They close the shocking trap door, set an immovable rod against the door, and sleep for the night. Zera and Lady Monaghan are haunted by bad dreams. Mariel and the revived Viktor consult with each other and lead them out a different way. The chambers they pass through are less dusty and have footprints leading through them. There are small spiders in the shadows. They feel slight tremors not related to an earthquake as they pass through a cavern like a city with architecture similar to Sai’s home. At a large palatial building built into the stone, an umberhulk claw comes up. Emilio fries it with a lightning bolt. Zera sends an energy bolt at it and then gets confused and babbles incoherently. It burrows downward, so Emilio sends a flaming sphere down the hole. It comes back up and bites him. The confused Zera attacks Lady Monaghan with an ego whip. Then Emilio also gets confused. Lady Monaghan creates water on Emilio. Sai slaps the now babbling Zera, and Emilio attacks Mariel, who is nearest to him. Zera casts ectoplasmic form on himself as Sai slaps him. Sai tries to slap Emilio’s fez off, but it stays on. Zera and Emilio finally snap out of it, and they collect the gems from the body. Sai gets Emilio’s fez dirty. They go in to the palace: very ornate, with faint etchings on the pillars. Half depict sun and light and the other half moon and dark, representing two different women. Sai and Lady Monaghan know that they are the two high goddesses of legend: the sun Lia, and the moon Arabi. They are the mothers of all the minor gods and lesser magical creatures. On the other side are pictures of the same man, Doven, the creator of the world, who consulted with both women. Viktor smokes his pipe and looks on.
They go up two hundred feet and exit out a dusty cellar, where they spend the night as Mariel tells them that Vicky needs his rest. Emilio and Sai have nightmares that night. When Emilio reports his, Lady Monaghan and Sai insult nightmares as weakness of character. Mariel also had troubled dreams. Emilio talks to Viktor and learns that he and the drider go way back – she wanted a concert, so she kidnapped him. Lady pulls out a ladder in the morning so that they can ascend to the surface. She returns to her manor, but Sai goes to the Temple of Song, and Zera and Emilio go to sell their recently acquired items. Lady Monaghan finds that her scullery boy tried to lift some of her possessions, but he was caught by the servants and hit over the head. There are neither people nor song at the temple, and it is exuding a strange smell: musty and dark, like a tomb. A bundle against a wall reveals a dead child acolyte, tattooed grotesquely but with an oddly serene calm on his face. Sai sneaks into the dorms and sees reflected in a mirror on the wall a message in Ashlan script: “Brother, you were right – they helped me find my purpose – I’ve gone to complete it – see you again soon.” There is a buzzing in his pocket as his amulet is activated again, giving off a strong reading of his sister: he is almost right on top of her. In the main cathedral, there are stairs leading down. Meanwhile, Skyler finds out that Zera’s brother is in town, and the wolf problem is getting worse.
Zera’s brother Darek reports werewolves in the city. Zera was bitten by a werewolf as a child and was horribly scarred (hence the mask)…however, he is not a werewolf. Lady Monaghan to Zera: “Are you sure?” Skyler vouches for his friend. After his deformity was acquired, his parents’ high social status got him drafted into the mage guild. While this is going on, Sai is searching for his missing sister down in the catacombs of the temple. He comes back up and sighs frustratedly as he sees that the body of the child acolyte is gone. Sai returns to Lady Monaghan’s house and broods in an angsty manner. He finds the others in the midst of insulting each other with innuendos: Lady Monaghan implies that there is more than friendship between Zera and Skyler, Skyler retorts that something is going on between her and her scullery maids…Emilio repeatedly tries to purge his brain.
The party decides to tackle the werewolves first. Zera and Emilio go to the City Watch to report the werewolves and Darek and his band of rangers. A clerk gives them a contract (which Zera commits to memory). Sai angsts while Lady Monaghan and Skyler bicker. Lady Monaghan takes tea after winning. The three of them go off to the catacombs to track the undead boy. Zera and Emilio meanwhile find Darek and his rangers. Darek is the captain, and his men are in good spirits but covered in bandages. The humans exchanges dirty jokes while Emilio continues to attempt to purge his brain of unwanted thoughts. Darek and Zera loudly hug and reunite. Darek reports sightings of Grenfir, the werewolf that bit Zera, and he tells his brother that his position as city champion is almost enough to make father proud. Zera and Emilio present the rangers to the captain of the guard.
Down in the catacombs, Skyler shouts “For Great Justice!” and lights the area with his flaming sword. There are strange marks on the ceilings. The graves get older as they move further in; each grave contains an instrument. They argue about grave-robbing vs. stealing and follow the ceiling tracks to a four way intersection. As it is about four in the afternoon, they return back. Zera’s brother has sent his fellow rangers to a tavern; Zera hides his dismay and follows his brother and Emilio inside to the captain’s dining room, where they eat and discuss the werewolves. The druid grove wants them to do something about it, but as it’s not in the city, it is not in the jurisdiction of the City Watch. The champions are free to do something about it, however. Zera puts his brother and the other rangers in an inn he doesn’t like. One of the rangers has a large wooden cask on his back, and the whole group of them taps into it. Darek makes bawdy jokes about Lady Monaghan.
The five of them eventually return to the manor and share their respective tales. The scullery boy answers a knock at the door and brings in a letter from Marduk giving them permission to pursue the werewolves. It is three days until the moon is full. They sleep, and Skyler reads a book during his watch about another country. After breakfast, they buy camouflage-gear. Lady Monaghan and Emilio go to get permission from the druids to enter their grove, and Zera and Skyler meet Darek. The inn now has broken and shattered windows, there are unconscious bodies in the common room, and the innkeeper woman is dazed and cleaning the same glass over and over. Tables have been upturned, chairs are broken, and one drunk is balancing ale on his stomach as he sleeps. They pass loops from the keg on their way up the stairs. Zera hears his brother snoring from a room and sends Skyler in first. Men’s and women’s clothing is lying everywhere, and both sorts are asleep in bed. Skyler walks towards the sleeping Darek with manacles, and Zera yells for him to wake up. Darek waves his crossbow and dagger and yells as he jerks awake, and Skyler quietly puts his manacles away. Zera’s brother tosses gold on the bed and shouts obscenities to wake the others up. He puts a purse on the barmaid and breaks her glass, and he and his ten rangers follow Zera and Skyler out of the inn.
Emilio and Lady Monaghan meanwhile walk into the forest to approach the druid embassy. Emilio swats at bugs while Lady Monaghan sees a man in a green cloak holding his hand up to keep the gnats away from his face. He says that Freila has been expecting them. Inside the triangle of three great trees are three druids, the eldest of which has long flowing hair and is a wrinkled and old elf (Freila). Lady Monaghan asks if she and her companions can help with the werewolf problem. Freila says that some of the younger druids might be assisting Grenfir’s war against humanity, and she advices Lady Monaghan to look to her own personal connections. “These are times that try men’s souls; there are signs that the Great Dream is ending. The world is a dream dreamt by Doven, and we are but fleeting figments of his imagination. Heed the dreamer’s words.”
Zera’s brother Darek and the rest all meet up at Lady Monaghan’s manor. Darek greets her very formally and thanks her for her hospitality. He seems smitten with her, and his men are much more polite. All of them proceed back to the druid grove. The rangers move like large animals of prey; Skyler tromps along. Lady Monaghan talks to Freila again, and they acquire the human druid Tallan to guide them through the woods. Darek’s men disappear as they fan out to search; they pop back up at the signal of a bird call. They camp in the ruins of a fortress’ towers. After they strike camp the next day, Tallan leads them through the forest. He stops at a large grove of pine trees, where he urges them to be cautious, as the werewolves are strangely vicious due to some malign influence. “Pray you don’t wake from the Dream anytime soon.” He goes off, and the others continue onward. The woods are strangely quiet as the men scout. One of the scouts is Uno, a man wearing an eye patch with an eye drawn on it. He says there is a filthy sight in the clearing up ahead and asks the Lady not to look. In the clearing are animal carcasses piled up, half rotten and wasted. They pick off the ravens and crows covering the bodies in case they were scouts and burn the bodies. Skyler summons his mount, and they continue onward.
They come to a small clear lake, and the scouts report to Darek that there are signs of two packs heading in opposite directions. They split up to go after each one. Lady Monaghan gives Darek a handkerchief before they part. The terrain becomes deciduous with a sea of ferns growing to about chest height. The trail leads into the ferns. There is a rustling on all sides, and they are attacked. Zera gets knocked down, and a wolf takes Skyler’s mount down. Grappling tentacles are cast, and Zera in ectoplasmic form floats twenty feet in the air. Steve the celestial dire badger is summoned to fight. Sai falls prone but kills a wolf as he gets back up and returns to dancing death. Scorching rays and magic missiles kill more wolves until they are all dead.
They walk back to the lake, but the rangers have not returned. Lady Monaghan tacks a note onto a tree, and they follow the other trail. Eventually they have to stop for the night, and Sai finds a nice big tree to sleep in. A light mist forms above the lake and then covers all. Sai hears muffled thuds as Zera falls out of the tree. It is still foggy in the morning. They hear wolves in the distance, and Felix finds odd footprints around the campsite. They follow the tracks down a stony slope, and they find splashes of blood and four hastily built cairns. Uno’s helmet is on one of them, but they can’t find Zera’s brother. There are both ranger and wolf tracks leading off, and they follow the ranger tracks. They see campsite remains and hear howling and the clash of metal on metal. At the edge of a cliff is a party of armed men, surrounded by about twenty wolves trying to drive them off the rim and a huge wolf in the middle (Grenfir). Zera blasts Grenfir and the surrounding wolves with an energy stun, and he kills some wolves. Sai dances in and hits two wolves. They also hear howling back in the fog. Sai kills a wolf, Zera flies, and Emilio goes invisible. Lady Monaghan sanctifies herself and goes in amongst the rangers to heal them. Wolves try to trip and bite Sai. Grenfir shifts his shape to half human, half wolf as Zera drains his strength. Emilio scorches Grenfir with rays, and Sai keeps attacking the wolves as Lady Monaghan heals the rangers. Darek enters into combat with Grenfir, and Emilio magic missiles a wolf to death. Zera summons a bat swarm around Grenfir. More wolves come into the clearing and attack the rangers. Then a massive giant, a grey Render, runs into the wolves and attacks them. Darek is very badly hurt by Grenfir, and Emilio scorches Grenfir to make him release Darek. A thunderbolt drops down, revealing a creature that draws darkness to it. It has two batlike wings and red eyes. It grabs Grenfir and flies down off the cliff. They continue to battle with the remaining wolves. After Lady Monaghan heals Darek, he wades back into battle as the rest of his rangers form a protective ring around the Lady. Many of the dead wolves revert to human form. A magic missile finally kills the last wolf.
Darek and Zera engage in a bragging contest. The grey render puts a hunk of meat in front of Darek and then walks back into the forest. Over the cliff are a river, a forest, a ruins area, and a pit. Only two of Darek’s rangers are left. Zera finds an amulet of health and a bag of holding, and he and Sai bicker over them. They find their way down the cliff by either spells or climbing (or being carried by rangers, in the case of Lady Monaghan) and explore the ruins, which reveal a smooth, spiraling hole. The air smells strangely spicy, like it did at the bottom of the city when they viewed the cloudscape. They learn that this place was the last remaining fortress of Lan’ar Kalazaar, where he suffered his final “fatal” defeat at the hands of the Ruthius legion. It was constructed by his friend Aliban, who betrayed him from within. His evil ex half brother led the attacks that resulted in the breaking of his power and his descent into another world.
They wake up, and all kinds of zany things are going on. There are Smurfs – Zera energy-stuns them, and an orange cat chases them. Skyler is now a girl (played by Rachel J.). Girl Skyler (henceforth known as Skyla) meditates with flowers on her armor. The rangers have to return to their town; Lady Monaghan offers them hospitality. They climb up the cliff, sleep by the lake, and the full moon passes. They reencounter the ancient druid Freila, who has disturbing news about the creature who carried off Grenfir: “He is the Breaker of Dreams. Before Doven secluded himself, he created Marduk and another. Marduk serves Lia the sun and awaits for Doven’s return; Arabi the moon accepted her gift, and it’s supposed to find Doven. They want to shatter the dream in order to awaken Doven. The siblings are opposites.” She thanks them and sends them off.
They inform the captain of the City Watch about everything save for the dark figure, whom Marduk cannot stand to be mentioned. Darek says that he will get more rangers and return to scour the woods. Lady Monaghan gets a letter. Zera and Skyla have sex, or so the story goes. Not aware of this, Lady Monaghan records the letter in code in her journal and throws the paper into the fire. Sai wants to dominate the scullery boy with tattoos. Lady Monaghan says no.
They go to the Temple of the Song, where all is now dust, silence, and cobwebs; no one notices it anymore, as everyone either avoids it or ignores it. They light torches and prepare to descend into the catacombs. They see corpses in slots in the wall on their way down. Sai scouts ahead and comes upon a darkness that no light can penetrate. Sai walks into it and falls down into a watery pit. Lady Monaghan and Emilio walk up to investigate the thud the Lady heard. Emilio detects magic and notes that there is something down. As Sai sinks, Lady Monaghan sees the stone trap door. Zera gets sick of waiting and energy blasts the floor. The stone shatters and collapses in. Skyla also falls in. Sai dodges the falling stones but gets nailed by Skyla as he falls on top of her. Skyla sadly can’t swim at all. Those on top get a rope and ladder. Sai ties himself to the rope and goes down to get Skyla, who is twenty five feet under with the rocks and tattooed bloated corpses. He ties the rope to Skyla, who is pulled up with lots of problems. Emilio gets pulled in at one point and has to cast flying on himself to get out. Zera transforms into a dire wolf to pull them back up. Lady Monaghan marks the entrance they came through with colored wax. Zera is nice to Skyla, as he was worried about her. They cross the pit on the ladder, holding ropes on either side. It breaks just as Skyla gets across. They go right and left down a myriad of corridors, some of which are dead ends, some of which end in darkness.
Emilio’s dwarf senses find a trapdoor into a passage down. They keep hitting dead ends and eventually find a door with intricate metal designs, which Sai opens. The design explodes outward with acid. Inside is a large creature called a destrachan, a nasty reptilian taloned thing. There are vibrations, and glass shatters, breaking Lady Monaghan’s ten vials of acid. Emilio casts cone of cold as Skyla charges in yelling “For great justice!” Zera zaps it, and Lady Monaghan casts silence on it. Unfortunately spell casting doesn’t seem to affect it. Sai dances for damage, and Skyla kills it. They are in a more elaborate tomb with sarcophagus against the wall and a statue on top with a real sword and armor. The blade is slightly curved. They decipher that the tomb of that person was unrelated to the Cathedral above them. He must have been a great heroic warrior: his armor is chain shirt mithral with silent move, and his sword is a katana of the heavens (with shocking burst and thundering). He must have been the servant of some lord. They reverently remove his stuff and claim the armor and weapons for their own.
The party retraces their steps and keeps running into dead ends. Sai sees something on the ceiling, and a lightning bolt hits them. Zera’s intellect fortress deflects some of it. Emilio and Skyla fall on the other side. Lady Monaghan disables it after awhile and some coaching, and she subsequently goes first to search for traps. Sai opens a secret door. They need to rest, so Zera casts rope trick on Emilio’s rope to give them a safe place for the night – an extradimensional space of happiness. After some rest they continue onward, and Sai opens another door. A vrock, half human and half vulture, is on the other side. They fireball and energy bolt it, but it doesn’t seem to be affected by electric or fire. Sai’s scimitar also doesn’t seem to do as much damage. Skyla smites it, and she and Sai become covered in spores that root into their skin. All but Sai are stunned by its cry. It tries to summon friends, but none come. Sai shoots it, and the spores keep working in. It claws Sai, who hits it back, and Zera energy stuns it. Lady Monaghan removes disease on Sai to get rid of the spores, but more spores develop on Sai and the Lady. Mirror image makes thirteen of it. Zera energy stuns all of the vrocks, and half of them wink out. They finally destroy all of the mirror images and reveal the true vrock. Sai and Zera kill it. Skyla cures Lady Monaghan of her spores, and she cures Sai, but Skyla is covered in vine-y growths. This was a guard room with iron bars and manacles on the wall (vrocks enjoy torture). The find copper pieces on the shelving on the walls as well as some other magic items. Lady Monaghan now has a fine-tooth comb of trap-finding plus one.
They reach a plain room and then a corridor with epic murals painted on the walls. The designs are similar to that of the undercity. It’s question and answer history: some of the images of the dream, Marduk, and his brother are true, and some are not. There are two brothers, Marduk and the shadow-haze with wings. They were the last creation of Doven before he sealed himself away. One was to serve the sun goddess Lia, and the other to serve the moon Arabi. Marduk arrived at the sun and found Lia in a distraught state; neither of them knew each other, as each thought themselves the last. She didn’t embrace him and instead sent him down to keep watch for Doven’s return. Arabi, on the other hand, welcomed her gift more openly. She was distraught that Doven went away, but she sent the shadow-haze brother down to bring Doven back. Marduk established the city, light, good, and order; meanwhile the Breaker went deeper, searching for Doven and part of the creator’s dream. Marduk kept the dream stable, hoping that if good and law prospered Doven would return. The Breaker of Dreams wants to wake Doven up to either bring about the end of the world or Doven’s return (or both). To do so, he needs to find an avatar of Doven in dream or else create a nightmare to force him to wake up. Both of the brothers are almost as old as time itself. Many ages ago, the gods still walked the earth in mortal form. Doven loved Lia, and light shone as they traveled for a hundred and a half years. The people of Septerra cared for them. Then Lia received a summons, and Doven stayed until the feast ended. The next part of the mural is garbled. She promised to return as soon as the sun had set. A contest began one-sidedly as Lia was overmatched by Arabi, who glimpsed the outcome should she triumph. Doven watched from afar and saw them pass the point of no return. He sculpted two figures: wing, strength, duty, feathers, taunt skin, and finally breathed light. He told his creations to go to their mistress and to protect and serve her. Then he threw earth into the sky six times, as he would rather live in darkness than choose only one. Doven has since dreamed creation; he used to walk the dream himself. Some people think the dream will be forced to end; others think it will end naturally and a new one will begin. Some places where no new children have come for a time and civilization begins to dwindle signal that the dream is coming to an end. Arabi favored the Breaker of Dreams over the ashlan (Sai’s people), who used to serve the moon. Then they left.
After studying the mural and learning much about the myth and history, they continue on for quite some time. There’s a web and more darkness and then a set of double doors with smoke flowing through a crack. Inside the room are a staircase leading down and multiple spiders. Spiders throw webs and entangle the companions, who battle back gallantly. They all kill spiders, endure poison, and get out of the webs. They find the body of a mage in the room and relieve it of some of its possessions.
Then they continue on down the spiral staircase and hear intermittent rumblings. They reach a large room with cracking columns and squares made out of pulsing crystals. There are three men on either side flanking Sai’s sister, Basso Profundo and other singers, all tattooed in a twisted fashion: they are reanimated corpses. The Breaker of Dreams speaks: “What would be the amount of horror should half of it collapse in on itself because of song – great enough to appall city, nation, god? This pretty little songbird has made it possible. Join me, not Marduk. I came here to speak with her, and she realized her purpose.” The pitch rises to an unbearable sound, and the six crystals shake and vibrate. Sonic energy exudes out of the foundation. Sai attacks a reanimated umberhulk and keeps moving towards his sister. Zera zaps the same creature with a fiery energy ray. Emilio and Lady Monaghan dodge zombies as the Lady turns undead. The pillars gain in intensity. There are magic missiles, smiting, and turning all around. Sai attacks the invisible fine threads he sees between the columns. Zera sends an energy bolt at the crystal pillars, but most of it is intercepted by the threads. The pitch reaches an intense fervor, and another blast is sent down the hallway. Sai’s sister disappears from view, and the zombies look stronger. Sai goes up to find his sister with darkness gathered around him. Zera morphs into a red dragon. One of the zombies bites off its own limb. Sai attacks the singers, and killing them makes the crystal pillars crack and shatter. A real pillar falls with more sonic damage. Sai’s sister inflicts wounds on him; her tattoo magic is trying to jump over to his. Lady Monaghan holy smites the area, blinding all evil. They lightning bolt the line of singers, and only poor old Basso Profundo is still alive. Skyla kills him with a crossbow bolt. Sai’s sister expresses hope and joy at seeing him, which turns to despair and anger when he moves away from her strange tattooing. Something brushes Sai, and his sister-finding amulet is snapped off. The Breaker appears next to Sai and disappears with his sister. The remaining undead are ripped into little pieces, and they teleport back up to the Lady’s manor to regroup.
Skyler is a guy again. And he’s not pregnant. They learn that there were earthquakes in the city the previous day, creating an uproar. Most go to the City Watch to report, but the captain is in a meeting with Marduk. They take care of shopping and then return, only to find the bodies of the guards, one cut in two, and an old servant lying in a pool of blood though not dead. His mind has been mentally gashed, however. The door to the dining room is ajar. The body of the head of the watch is slumped over his chair, missing its head. There is a huge cut in the chair opposite with a silverish liquid splashed about and several feathers, most likely Marduk’s. This was probably the work of multiple people. Sai draws pictures in the blood. Lady Monaghan hears footsteps, and Emilio teleports them to the library as a hoard of guard members run in. They teleport into the middle of a lecture on the dangers of teleporting. Emilio sneaks off, and Lady Monaghan bows to the applause. Emilio is sent back to the manor in disgrace, and he sulks. Sai, Lady Monaghan, and Zera go back to the deceased captain’s house and pretend they haven’t been there before. The blood and feathers are gone. They are told to talk to Marduk himself about the earthquakes.
Back at the house, Sai tries to wake Mariel up but fails. He throws her in the bathtub and has the scullery boy bring up water. She wakes up sputtering – “Rum!” The others go to the inner city to talk to Marduk. Lady Monaghan, Zera, and Skyler are led in by a young boy and girl. Lady Monaghan sees an old scar on his wings. They bow and give the news about the “earthquakes.” They leave out the Breaker bits, however. He gives them another journey to complete: the assassins originated in the lower world and were sent out to deal disgusting justice, to disrupt the city, and to remove its champions and leaders. Lady Monaghan reports the attempts on her own life and says that all had a tattoo of a dagger and a serpent. Marduk traces an outline with fire in the air to depict the world. They have to go into the encased world to get to the assassins.
Back at the manor, Mariel picks the lock on the liquor cabinet and grapples with Sai over alcohol. Sai asks about Vicky, who is out on tour. Sai and Emilio bicker. Mariel says that she hears they are taking a little trip; then she refuses to say more until Sai threatens her by breaking a bottle. She then says they are going down there on the city’s authority. She tries to leave, but Emilio casts hold person on her. Mariel says that she will stay for the Lady’s sake (and she wants more liquor). Sai only gives her a small one. The others return. Mariel tells Lady Monaghan that’s she’s also had problems with assassins. She tries to flirt with Zera, but Lady Monaghan tells her that Zera’s already been taken by Skyler. After some discussion, Mariel leaves, and the rest buy flying potions in their preparation to descend to the next world.
They travel from the city to the ruins, where the tunnel spirals into darkness. They reach a chamber, and Lady Monaghan picks the lock on the door, which opens to reveal clouds. They drink the flying potions and jump down, descending through the clouds to a slightly overgrown road in a vast pine forest shrouded in gray mists. They travel along, and Sai hears faint music that is light, airy, and pentatonic. Their trail takes them to a dock on a lake, where a man in a large conical hat is playing a flute. He feared that the travelers were from Marlinshire, but only Lady Monaghan has heard that name. He tells them of the Eiganjo castle that used to be inhabited by ghosts until the Okiba brothers moved in; then four or five months ago, an army from Marlinshire took up residence there.
They continue along the road until they come to an inn with windows of paper stretched over wooden frames, where a small woman greets them and gives them the biggest room in the establishment. She especially treats Lady Monaghan with respect and honor, which Lady Monaghan much appreciates. The adventurers note that there is neither moon nor stars in the night sky. Sai informs them that snow is always best for an attack. Skyler has nightmares that he fights.
The people in this place are depressed and fearful. They attempt to eat their breakfast with chopsticks, some more successfully than others. They see groups of armed men about town that have the same tattoos as the assassins, the dagger and serpent. Sai makes an imitation of that tattoo on Skyler, who is almost too tired to notice. Emilio the dwarf is rather conspicuous in this human environment. Everyone seems amazed by Lady Monaghan, but Emilio sees a man fire off an arrow at her head. He attempts to knock her out of the way, but she is hit and falls down, woozy. Emilio attempts to carry her away, but a man runs up, grabs her, and tells Emilio to tell his “masters” that they have the Lady now as he runs off into the woods. Emilio hastes himself and flies after but loses sight of the man with a shock of white hair. He then goes and informs the others, and they go as a posse to seek her out. Skyler in the meantime has made his armor look like a kimono.
They track her into the woods, but she then steps out into view to explain the situation. The assassins seem to be from her old city state, and they are oppressing the people here. She wants to end their oppression; it was the resistance who kidnapped her. The others still suspect her of withholding information, but they’ll help for now. Two of the resistance members are Wu Shin, the man with the flute, and Hattori Itachi, Lady Monaghan’s kidnapper. They try to figure out how to get into the castle as snow begins to fall. Then they are attacked by three oni. Sai dervish dances and cuts, and Skyler hacks at them while Zera and Emilio sling spells at them. They finally kill the oni and then proceed with their plan. The Lady looks like her sister (the others are surprised by this piece of information), Zera’s mask seems to remind them of the Okiba brothers, Skyler has their tattoo, and Sai can sneak…and Emilio can act like a prisoner. They process to the gates, which open onto a courtyard filled with two long lines of blue clad figures (either an honor guard or an escort). Lady Monaghan says that she wishes to speak with the Lord of this place. She gets no answer, so she walks forward and goes inside. People also line the insides of the castle’s vast labyrinth.
Within the main building of the castle, they enter the large audience chamber, which has highly polished wood floors, columns, and an upraised dais, upon which is a figure in white. Lady Monaghan walks forward, and two men in masks walk out. They each bow and pull back doors, revealing the Lady’s sister, who is kneeling upon the dais, her long intricate hair spread about her. She looks up at her sister in surprise. They converse, and Lady Monaghan asks where their uncle is. She says that he is dead. She has long desired her sister to come. She had to kill their uncle, as well as a great many other people. Her “friend” told her that if she kept up, her sister would come, and he was right. She says that once he awakens, everything will change, and they can help people for a greater good. Lady Monaghan says that change is not always a good thing. Her sister wants her to leave the “thrall” of Marduk. Lady Monaghan diplomatically says that she will think about it, and the masked brothers show them to rooms. Her sister’s legs no longer work, but the brothers won’t let Lady Monaghan examine her. They are told that they will be executed if they wander around the castle.
Throughout the night, balls of light float along, orbiting the castle. They all eventually take note of the lights and study them. When they are touched, the balls of light turn into shadowy ghosts: one a middle-aged woman who thinks she is walking around town, another a little girl skipping in place who says that she chased her ball into the street, but the street just keeps getting longer. They are wearing odd styles of clothing. There is also a doctor and a strange creature (a sliver).
The next morning, they master ninja chopstick skills and attempt to get another audience while exploring the castle. They finally get an audience by talking with an Okiba brother. Lady Monaghan gets permission to examine her sister. The floor of the dais is a stone slab with metal tracing in a circle. Even her sister’s gown is exactly arranged. Lady Monaghan notices that her sister ought to be able to walk, as her legs are physically sound. It must be something in her head. There is also some kind of odd magic going on that her sister is constantly interacting with. Lady Monaghan is disappointed that she can do nothing to help her sister’s condition. She wants to do all she can to help her sister, but she is a little leery about this “friend” that her sister keeps mentioning. She gets another night to think about it.
Eiganjo is either the castle of the dead or the castle of dreamers. It will be haunted until the end of the dream.
They eat dinner, and Skyler has the blacksmiths make a fork. He attempts to de-bone his fish with a disarm; when that fails, he smites the fish with his fork.
That night, they study the lights more and learn that they are different colors: either reddish, goldish, or grayish. They poke some and meet an old man hoeing (gray), a man crosslegged in contemplation (gold), a man who was double-crossed (red); Lady Monaghan pokes a gold one and sees the old head of the City Watch, which makes her sad. Skyler encounters Muldoon again and has fun smiting the red glowy thing with his fork. They also meet the guardian of the first of the barriers (lived longest, buried deepest): a huge bulky man with a sword.
Lady Monaghan asks Sai to get the revolutionaries ready. They receive a note for another audience. Before they go, Lady Monaghan tells them that her father was the ruler of Marlinshire for thirty years or so, a record in that place of political backstabbing and assassinations. She’s had many attempts on her own life. Her father was possibly killed by her uncle, and when he assumed power, she was exiled. She thought that she could find a way to fix things and get her sister back. Lady Monaghan refuses to join the Breaker, her sister’s “friend,” because his cause is wrong, so she needs to convince her sister of this. They need to get rid of the assassins, who are planning to attack the city, and they need to destroy the Okiba brothers, but she doesn’t want to hurt her sister. She is worried that her sister will be snatched up like Sai’s sister and Grenfir. When they are finally shown into the audience chamber, they notice two differences. The entire room is filled with troops, and where the dais stood, there is an opening with stairs winding downward.
They go down the stairs and through a door into a vast room, part audience chamber and part cavern. It is fortunately not filled with ninjas. Lady Monaghan’s sister sits at the far end with the two Okiba brothers on either side. Lady Monaghan walks out onto the landing and calls to her sister; her sister seems to be meditating, but she comes back to herself when Lady Monaghan calls her name (Muriel). She is still sitting on the circular glyph, and she says that they have come just in time to break the dream. Lady Monaghan tells her sister that her friend is wrong, and that she believes her cause is wrong as well. Zera ego-whips and Emilio casts chain lightning as the Okiba brothers disappear. A huge wall of light shoots up around Muriel. Zera puts a wall of ectoplasm around the group, and they prepare for the attack that bursts through it half a minute later with Skyler the only one visible. Skyler gets hit around a bit before Emilio turns him invisible as well, so it is an epic battle where no one is visible! They fight the brothers (who are ghost-faced killers) as best they can, whenever they reveal themselves to attack someone. In between fighting the brothers, they examine the strange barrier of light, which seems to be half arcane magic and half divine magic. It ripples, and there’s a pounding noise. They finally kill both of the Okiba brothers.
When the pillar of light disappears, there is a circular hole going downward. The renegade samurai and monk (Hattori and Wu) burst into the room, saying they have defeated an entire school of ninjas. The control of the castle has been restored, thankfully, but the other part of their plan seems to have a hole in it. Lady Monaghan flies down the hole to take a look and reports that there are clouds, and below them, strange buildings and large metallic creatures flying through the air. The Breaker used Lady Monaghan’s sister to get down to the next level. The ninjas were going to invade that level, but…
Lady Monaghan wants to stay and sort things out politically. Sai sticks the brother’s heads on pikes in front of the castle, which is once again abandoned because of the ghosts. Zera and Emilio vamp up to talk to Marduk about what they have found. They tell him all except for the part about the Breaker, although he himself mentions his brother. Marduk is no longer gleaming; he is molting and appears weakened. He tells them that the Dreamer is sleeping at the center of it all: rather than face the consequences of his actions, he threw up seven layers between himself and the sun and moon. His brother is already gathering his champions; their party shall be Marduk’s champions. If they can, they are to defeat the Breaker’s champions, but more importantly, they are to reach the center as everything aligns and prevent the light from waking Doven, the Dreamer, for then the dream would end and all that is now should change. Zera and Emilio return to tell the others of their mission.