|Earl J V Caromarc|
"Hmmmm Interesting. Back in the day, when I was a student of the arcane, my disipline was transmutation."
Quinn casts Detect Magic only to verify Caromarc's findings.
"Ok Sandy-man, lead us in."
Quinn casts Message again on Sandru.
The intensity of the two small auras grows stronger, then weaker, then stronger again, then weaker again...like a signal tuning in and out.
Your party ascends the steps to 37 Clank Street and raps on the door. You hear a patter of footsteps inside the house. The door opens. Standing before you is a diminutive humanoid with skin a dusky gray-purple hue. It has what appears at first to be henna tattoos, but a second look reveals them to be white dots in ornate spirals and wavy lines; they are raised bumps where the skin was bleached or subject to ritual scarification.
The creature has sleepy-looking eyes and a pencil-thin mustache, ending in fanciful, waxed curls at the tips. It appears to be male. He is wearing a little Tian house kimono and curly-toed slippers. He is smoking a cigarette. The aroma of the tobacco is rich and heavy with Eastern spices.
He doesn't say a word. He simply looks at everyone with a placid expression, politely steps to the side, and motions for you to enter. There is a long hallway, unlit, bare and undecorated, that leads to a room at the end of the corridor, from which you can see light. The light from the room provides dim illumination to the corridor, at least enough for you to see.
The dark hallway, the bare walls...it all adds up to make the house feel vacant.
The small humanoid waits patiently for you. He takes a drag from his cigarette and exhales. uuushhhh...mpewwwww
The creature leads you to the room at the end of the hall. It is a modestly-sized room with a low ceiling, and a large rectangular pine table in the center. There are six high-backed chairs around the table, and several other pieces of furniture along the wall to accommodate guests: an armchair and two three-legged stools.
This room has wood floors with no rug, and the walls are bare. The lighting is harsh, from a lamp without a shade. This throws stark shadows against the walls. The room has the same empty feel as the hall. Your host slides out a chair from the table, hops up in it, and takes a seat. He motions, inviting you to sit down too.
He takes a drag from his cigarette and exhales. uuushhhh...mpewwwww
Ten minutes pass like this in complete silence. Your host puffs away at his cigarette, shifts his weight, and adjusts his sleeves. But still, he does not speak. Then, you hear a young girl's voice. The tone is innocent and sweet. It comes from no discernible source.
"Thank you, Touagg. That will be all, I think. These are the ones I expected."
I draw my blade. The sound us unmistakable. I stand up, shoving my seat back.
Perception, evidence of previous fire, new flooring: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (5) + 15 = 20
I begin to walk the room's perimeter. This is not alarmed. You don't want to see alarmed.
Perception, secret/hidden: 1d20 + 21 ⇒ (15) + 21 = 36
Perception, traps: 1d20 + 23 ⇒ (3) + 23 = 26
Not sure how many you need as Sandru walks the perimeter, for as long as he has time.
The figure of the gray-skinned creature flickers. Where he sits across from you, an image of twin girls blips in your field of vision...for a fraction of a second...almost impossible to see. Then, it's the creature again. These images blip in rapid succession. Your subjective perception of reality has become like watching someone shuffling a harrow deck.
The flickers stabilize. Your host is gone. Where he formerly sat are now young, identical, twin girls. They wear light-blue dresses in a simple cut, and their hair is neatly-combed and plain. They sit side-by-side with their hands folded neatly, their elbows resting on the table. The one on the left has an wary expression on her face. The one on the right is in a high-back, wicker, wheeled chair. She has a kind, open face. She looks at you sweetly. When she talks, her voice is like the tinkling of chimes.
"Welcome. That creature was a wayang. He is our friend, Touagg. He screens those who come to visit, and makes sure it is safe for us to reveal ourselves." She purses her lips like a doll, smiling. "He looks unassuming, but he can snap a tiger's neck like a twig."
"Allow me to make introductions. I am Agnes Strange. And this is my sister, Phoebe."
|Earl J V Caromarc|
There isn't anything else I need to look for at the sorcerer's mansion, right? Assuming that there is nothing else to do here...
Blackacre makes his way to Clank Street, remaining invisible and keeping to the shadows.
As he makes his way, he peeks out at what monsters or traps may lie in the streets beyond.
perception: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (18) + 12 = 30
In case he sees anything:
Knowledge(arcana): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (18) + 6 = 24
Knowledge (planes): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
Knowledge (religion): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (5) + 10 = 15
|Earl J V Caromarc|
I think the detect magic spell expired partway into the 10 minute silence.
You see the upper-half of a torso, ragged, with its spine trailing after it, dragging itself slowly down the end of the road. You see a green, glowing witchfire floating gracefully in-and-out between lampposts. You spy a humongous ettin as it lumbers past Clank Street. It continues on to streets just beyond this, smashing and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
However, nothing turns down Clank Street. At least for now, it knows a tentative peace.
|Earl J V Caromarc|
"This house exists on two planes. It manifests on this plane every other Oathday, which is today. If you had come at any other time, you'd have found a similar looking dwelling, but completely abandoned.
"It's a clever trick. Mr. Ludovic kidnapped and brought us here, to keep us in what amounts to some sort of pocket dimension. The sorcerers didn't know about Touagg though. He exists on the plane of shadow...I mean, well, he used to exist on the plane of shadow... He is dead now, but not in the past. He and I use a temporal anomaly to travel back and forth through time, which is on one axis, and to planeshift back and forth, which is on another. This is advanced physics...well, quantum physics...but that hasn't been discovered yet...oh wait, maybe I shouldn't have told you that... Well, anyway, no matter."
She shrugs. "It's really complicated."
"Everyone, close your eyes."
Agnes takes you back in time, and you all see the following in your mind's eye.
The girl was exhausted. She could not sleep. Each night, when she retired to bed and closed her eyes, the nightmares came. Sounds...outside her window. Scratching. Clawing. Sloshing mastication, the gnashing of teeth. She slept lightly. When the sounds came, she awoke with a start.
Nights stretched longer until they chased away the days. Every waking hour was inexplicable smothering darkness. Like everyone else in the city, her nerves were on edge. Once more, as was her routine, she kissed her sister on the cheek goodnight, ascended the stairs to her bedchamber, and prepared for sleep. Interiors felt airless and claustrophobic. The oil lamp at her bedside flickered as if also afraid. She sipped the dregs of her tea and climbed into bed. She pulled her quilt over her and blew out the light.
She lay in bed and looked up at the corners of the ceiling, searching for evil. Fatigue buried her in a blank unconsciousness. Until she heard the first scratch. A grunt. A sniffle. She shot straight up in bed. The room was dark, except for a pale line of moon peeking in from the drapes. Her eyes blindly groped the gloom. Her heart beat fast.
"It was only a dream," she said. Her voice sounded quiet, and tiny, and lost.
But then she heard it. Grunting and scratching. Two red pinpoints appeared outside, in the night, just above the windowsill. Then, two more, and these were joined by two more and then more others. She got out of bed and crept towards the window. She pulled back the drapes. They were all outside, staring at her. She tried to scream.
The next moment, they started slamming themselves against the window. The frame splintered. The glass broke with a crystalline shatter, flying into the room. Slimy rotten forearms shot forth. Hands reached in.
She screamed. Had she glanced down, she would have noticed the flames that licked the bottom of the drapes.
|Earl J V Caromarc|
Knowledge: planes 1d20 + 16 - 1 ⇒ (18) + 16 - 1 = 33
"Oh. I see. I suppose that makes sense. Mr Ludovik took a friend of ours, and we want to stop him. But we need to know what's happening outside, first, and how to stop that. People are dying."
Caromarc's voice is calm, clear, quiet and insistent.
Quinn remains quiet, listening to the conversation. Then he speaks up.
"My name is Officer Kwanjan Quinn. Master Caromarc is correct. THe people that I serve in this city are dying. I....We....need to find out why. Also...we have been lead here to obtain a "key". Do you know what that is?"
|Earl J V Caromarc|
As the party follows the creature with the cigarette into the house, La Siréene discreetly picks out her Pearl of Power from her belt pouch and holds it briefly for a moment, returning Aqueous Orb to her mind. Then, she carefully returns the Pearl of Power into her pack.
Since Network didn’t comment on it, I’ll treat La Siréene as not yet attuned to her headband until the next time she regains spells, for simplicity.
As the twins show the past, La Siréene quietly watches in fascination. She observes Caromarc now, how he agitates himself.
Quinn stares at Agnes with eyes wide open, completely in awe. The then looks to Hergelund and says to the dwarf "Did you know about this?"
Without waiting for an answer the monk says to Agnes and/or Phoebe "What can you tell me about the monstrosities roaming about, where and how they got here and how to get things back to normal? Why did Ludo have the location of this place hidden? What's your connection with the Salon?" Questions flow out of the monk consecutively, one after the other, again not waiting for a proper response until he is done.
"The dwarf, Hergelund, read the signs and warnings of the coming apocalypse. His paranoia made him sensitively attuned to these things. He heard it in the faraway thunder. He tasted it in the air, like an approaching storm."
"I did too. He found me and made me part of his network of agents. Another double-blind, along with "S" and Quinn. Because of my abilities I knew about them, although they did not know about me."
"Unfortunately, Ludo and his sorcerers also learned about me and my abilities, and wanted to use me for their own purposes. Which was to subjugate the undead invading our world and wield them as their own personal army. I wouldn't cooperate, so Ludo brought me here. He hid the house to make it difficult for Hergelund or anyone else to find me. Also to safeguard against undead and monsters."
"But as you discovered, while Ludo's magic is powerful, it isn't particularly effective against undead. Like everywhere else, this house too is beleaguered by zombies. No place is safe anymore. Technically, Phoebe wasn't kidnapped. She came here of her own choice, to protect and support me. She was the girl from the scene in the past that I showed you."
"But you asked about the key and how to stop the darkness. I will show you."
Agnes raises her hand. "You have many questions. I will provide you the answers you seek." She places a deck of cards upon the table.
"This is a Harrow deck. It is invested with innate power. We will perform a reading, or as it is called, a harrowing. We will be able to receive small bits of information about what has occured, what is happening, and what will come to pass in the future. I am even able to draw additional power from the Harrow to enhance your combat abilities and spellcasting, and the harrowing spell may permit us some influence on future events."
"You have been through a lot. First, let's do this..." Agnes closes her eyes, and raises her fingers to her temples. You jump forward through time. She open her eyes. "There...all better. Now you are rested and healed."
Agnes looks calmly and evenly at Sandru. "Do we toy with reality, or does it toy with us? I could defend myself, but on some level, you are right. We are all sides of the same coin." She reaches into a pocket of her dress and retrieves a gold piece, engraved with the image of a king on one side, and a crest on the other. She lays it crest-side up on the table. "Up until this point, you've been flipping tails." She turns the coin over. "If you are curious, I suggest you try heads."
"Only if you are curious."
She folds her hands and waits.
I am Sandru. If you want my help, you can ask... Or you can manipulate me into helping.One of those ways gets you more. I am not trained like a pet and I am not random or mindless.
I walk the night. I am sorry I was not there the night of the fire, the night of those creatures. I am sad, more people I could not help.
Ianez nods at the story. "'World enough, and time...', as the ancient poet had it." He sits back. "Sandru, we each of us affect everyone we touch, and none of us know, in the end, what effect we had. Our motives matter only to us; I have spent my life studying the past, and I could tell you tale after tale of kindnesses that led to evil, and of malice that nourished good. All we can do is strive to do the right thing." He looks to the unlikely duo at the head of the table. "So what is to be done?"
"It is okay, Phoebe," Agnes says. "He is right. I have no problem with his request."
"Sandru, Lord Caromarc, Quinn, Ianez, you and your companions face a powerful force that is manipulating the current situation, both in the present time and beyond. This force is steadily growing in both power and malevolence. It has the potential to destroy all of Ustalav and indeed the whole world. Yet, you are ultimately destined to have a hand in determining its fate."
"I can only influence the course of these events. I can provide you information that you may not be able to obtain...or maybe you can. You may succeed on your quest...or you might fail. The final outcomes are yet undecided."
"I ask, 'Will work with me?' For my part, I would like to work with you."
"In order to complete your quest and set things aright, a little time travel is required. You will need to acclimate yourself to the phenomena of temporal anomalies, which can have ill-effects on the body, ranging from severe headaches and nausea to decompression sickness, a condition that sailors call 'the bends'. If insufficiently prepared, it can even result in death."
"I would like to take you on a test run." The time oracle sets on the table an ornate gold-plated oval with blinders on it that block peripheral vision. It has a thin handle, and two holes punched out in the middle for viewing. There is a little arm perpendicular to the handle that can hold a stereographic card. "Would you like to know one of the ways that I time travel? Here...this is a stereoscope. I suggest you take a short trip into the past. Then afterwards, when you return we can perform the harrowing."
She looks at Sandru. "But this is only a suggestion."