Baerstun

Through the Looking Glass

[Market day, mid-afternoon]

By early afternoon they had cleaned themselves up and eaten, and so the seven adventurers wandered around Baerstun together soaking up the sights of Market Day.  Wossname's messenger had found some of them alone and soon enough found the others in a large pack, but he eventually succeeded in delivering all of their invitations to the dinner:

The Honor of Your Presence Is Requested
at a fine dinner to be given at two hours past sunset in the
SMALL HALL of BAERSTUN KEEP
ROYAL QUARTER, BAERSTUN

Where Lord Wossname will celebrate the Most Excellent Achievements of his newest warrant officers in the august company of like-minded friends.

So among the many other things they needed were clothes that weren't smeared in sewage!  The party decided to convert some of Kral's gems to cash and scour the city for a few odds & ends before dinner.  Their first business foray was a bit lackluster, but they got a good feel for the ebb and flow of commerce in the city.  Their second attempt to sell the gems met with marginally more success – Rache shed crocodile tears and spun an incredibly convincing yarn about her debt and the dead veteran who had fallen nobly in combat, angling for another five or ten percent.  The tale was airtight except for the dwarf in Moradinnic robes claiming to be her creditor, and they escaped with a few exasperated looks from the proprietor and what they assumed was the fair market value for the gems.

They went back to the inn for a quick bite, changed into their armor, and headed out to look over 23 Temple Street before dinner.  The adventurers found a group of merry merchants sitting out on the downstairs patio enjoying strong drinks.  A brief discussion revealed that the upstairs tenants were quiet, kept to themselves, and had negotiated nearly double the usual rental price in order to retain all copies of the landlord's key.  One of the tipsy folks was the caretaker, and when the party threatened to break down the door on their authority as duly-sworn warrant officers, he hemmed, hawed, and invited them in to climb a ladder through the furniture hatch.  While they fiddled with the hatch and discovered it nailed shut, the adventurers began to immediately make loud noises about using Darg's door-opener, and the caretaker headed back to the kitchens to find something to pick the lock with.  Inebriated and entirely unfamiliar with jimmying locks – or eager to appear unwise in lawbreaking – he returned with useless bits of metallic junk.

A voice from the porch above hollered out "Guys!  It's already open." It sounded like Shard, but he had been right… ah.  Yes, it was him. When the caretaker looked up agog, Shard shrugged; when Bree cocked her head and gave Shard a quizzical look, he flashed a mischievous grin and gestured through the door, as though welcoming her.  His artfully-palmed lockpicks were nearly invisible.

On entering they found a fireplace, a beat-up rug that covered the furniture lift, and three bedrooms toward the rear of the apartment. The first room had black cloth over the windows and a thick black wolf’s pelt over a black leather curtain separating it from the common area.  The clothes on the hempen line in this room were ostentatious and out of date: sewer-stained leathern traveling pants, men's traveling clothes, and enough other items of similar cut and size that it was simple enough to deduce that Kral had lived here.  If that weren't evidence enough, the tenant's small map satchel contained traveling maps from all over Galena and other places – also very old and out of date – along with a freehand sketch that is unmistakably a rendering of Garon with notes like “amplify binding magic on joints with Farrigan’s Pinch” and “protect from fire using Brightbane’s Poultice – what about divine magic?”  Last but not least, a note was pinned to the straw pallet, written in a familiar hand:

Aladar can get you more money if you need it, so stop pestering me.  I expect progress, not excuses.  Don’t touch the expenses chest; everything in it is reserved for forging the Blade.  -DARJA

The second room was also blacked out with cloth over the windows and a heavy double-layered tapestry.  The only two sets of clothes in this room were both cut for a woman of middling height, and hung from the hempen rope clothesline as in Kral's room.  An up-to-date set of robes denoting a moderately high ranking Erathene priestess and a set of blacksmith's leathers with no scorching or wear-and-tear of any kind visible.  Not even the smell of a forge!  Curiouser and curiouser. The last feature of the room was a full-length mirror, which reflected the dark room and even appeared to cast its own dim flickering light. As Rache and Lenora checked it for signs of occult tampering, the others moved to the last room, where they found yet another abandoned and disheveled dormitory.

The clothes in the last room were cut for someone Bree's size: a female of extraordinarily short stature.  Her room appeared to be the most recently occupied: actual dirty dishes, clothes that appeared to be well worn, and yet another set of Erathene robes (these for an acolyte) and a set of blacksmith's leathers, unused.  Off to one side, her efforts at studying showed: a wooden alchemist's rack with several delicate glass spheres nestled inside, with no apparent opening or contents.  Her books contained recipes for all manner of strange potions, including eyesting, smokestick, and a blinding bomb, but reading through the recipes yielded no mention of the glass spheres; her book also contained a few names and addresses in the Stone Quarter, a sketch of an archway like the one from Kral's trunk, and a thin ribbon with a cheap silver ring on it.  Whomever she was, she kept horrid company, and they didn't feel at all bad about taking the books.  Darg grabbed the ring and headed back to the living room to see if he could puzzle out the diagram.

With everyone giving perhaps too many helpful suggestions, Darg eventually tapped the ring against the brick called out in the diagrams, and – voila! – the wood in the fireplace burned to ash and a chest appeared in its place.  The chest was unlocked, untrapped, and cool to the touch.  Inside Darg found 75 pounds of loose coin, totaling well over 500 gold [n.b. the exact total was 530gp, 800sp, 507cp].  Shard, Rache, and Darg immediately began talking eagerly amongst themselves, and when Bree heard the plan she eagerly counted herself in.  The four of them gathered up Kral's notes and began to piece together a missive in his handwriting to leave Darja speechless:

"Hey, I needed some money, so I cleaned out the expense account.  -KRAL"

Bree headed back to tell Lenora about the strategically useful mischief they had wrought, and found Lenora staring into the mirror where Rache had seen her reflection turn to smoke and slither out of sight.  When Rache had reached out to touch the surface of the mirror her hand met no resistance.  When Lenora asked Rache to describe again what she had seen, Rache obliged, and when she had the group's attention they all agreed that it bore a closer look.  Bree crept towards the mirror, poked briefly at it, and then walked back over to Lenora and had a short hushed conversation just below a whisper.  Darg tossed a fish through on a string.  A fish… on a string.  The rope was singed in pieces, but they did see that the fish had entered the reflected room through a wall that they could see.  Debates broke out, broad hand gestures of N-dimensionality and twisting pathways.  Lenora tried to pull the mirror off the wall with no luck, and turned back to talk to Bree about the possibility of exploration, when with a crackling fizzle, Rache stepped right through.

Chaos in the apartments now, as shadows swarmed in the mirror and Rache was visible off to the far side of the reflected room.  Inside, she was being attacked by shadowy figures dressed in black burlap. They were faceless, ageless, and tormented, and yet Rache could see in their motions the memories of Tarin the Stoat and an orcish witch doctor.  Once dead, twice dead, dead forever – they still stalked toward her and began casting powerful spells.  Tarin, never a spellcaster, surprised her by reaching out and pulling a long skein of silvery smoke from her ears.  She blinked, trying to remember any of the spells she had taught herself recently; all were blank to her. The two closed in on her, but a series of sharp popping noises echoed through the nearly featureless stone chamber, and her companions strode through the weird shimmering flames along the walls, split up by some trick of the light or the portal.

The four robed figures were living memories: servants charged with a vow of secrecy so powerful that upon their death their souls were stranded here in this mirror world to prevent them from falling into the hands of devils or demons.  It was an old trick, but its age did not make it any easier to pull off; whoever had condemned these four to this prison was a powerful spellcaster and likely a worshiper of Vecna, Orcus, or Gruumsh.  The four souls that were trapped here were manifestations of Tarin, Kral, Mariposa, and the orcish witch doctor, and they were understandably upset about being trapped.  They relished trying to pull the memories from their victims, but were not above resorting to the mundane and pedestrian solution of death by excruciating pain.  What other entertainment for a creature doomed to an eternity of keeping someone else's secrets?  Rache crumpled beneath the torrent of spellfire and mind-searing psychic intrusion.

Lenora was having none of it.  Stomping through the wall of flames she found herself closest to Rache and immediately set about pummeling Tarin's living memory.  Her third or fourth blow struck a weak spot and his featureless face began to slough off.  His robe burned, and his scream of pain carried like a blast wave.  Lenora and Rache both staggered back, but Lenora shook it off and strode back up to him. His fingernails were stretching out into elongated claws now, and the transformation to something hideous was almost complete when Lenora shattered his skull with her flail.  The corpse dropped to the floor and began to dissolve into the floor tiles like chalk drawings in a heavy rain.

Thea held the center of the room while Terciel and Shard lit into the others.  Darg attended to Rache, and Bree discovered herself alone up on the second floor of the chamber with no friends in sight.  "Rats," she whispered, "everyone else must be lost!"  Kral's memory came for her, but she dodged around it and soon found Thea and the others making their stand in the midst of the chamber.  Lenora stepped from one to the next, dispatching each one moments after it shrieked and began to melt into the hideous clawed abomination that Tarin had become.  The others concentrated on protecting each other, unsure what a claw wound from one might portend.  In moments the fight was over, and Darg managed to patch up Rache easily.  Together they were able to find their way back through the mirror, and they started a second search of the documents to see what might have been revealed now that the secret-keepers had been banished.

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