Sunday, March 19, 2017

JAMS ep03 : Inspectres

8/18/2016
Javier's Armed Men Squad

Episode Three
"Faerie"

Inspectres
As the last episode of our Inspectres game, the format of this session was to be slightly different than the usual sessions.  But it felt necessary to give the game an appropriate ending to the story.

Opening Scene
All four are standing in a room.  Javier is wearing an armored suit and asks the others to double check if the suit is working well.  Pylons have been set up on the ground, and within the metal rods, an open doorway of light beckons.  The Spirit of Sherlock Holmes hovers nearby, watching as the group prepares. Stepping through, they see the almost perpetual night encompasses the area.   Holmes mutters about how this place is also known as, "The Upside Down."

Getting the Call, A Flashback #1

An old phone rings.   A ghostly hand reaches for it and answers.  The Ghost of Sherlock Holmes receives a call from Javier, who reminds the great detective that his parents once rescued the ghost from an inescapable trap.  Javier is now calling to "collect" on the favor.  Holmes admits he is a man of his word.

Javier tells the others that Holmes is willing to help them but admits he isn't sure if Holmes is lying as, "He is a ghost. Not a man. So he could be lying since he is no longer a man of his word." Gary shakes his head and reminds Javier, "He can hear you. He is still on the other side."  Javier corrects Gary, though, explaining Holmes is still on, "This side. Not the other side."  Gary rolls his eyes.  Holmes turns to the volleyball with a face painted on it and tells him, "Watson.  Finally I have something to do."

Research/Investigation
Gary preps Jessie, his Bazooka, as Javier wheels nearby in his wheelchair. Javier apologizes to Gary for the news of his friend having been abducted and for the weapon as it had never been perfected.  Gary admits he is aware of the leak, which erupts as a mooing sound.  The leak, however, is from the coolant system, so it has been expelling radiated gas which means Gary will never have children.  Gary stares at the weapon and sighs realizing its probably too late to stop using it.  Gary looks for Jalfredo and finds him prepping sandwiches for the long trip.  He asks Jalfredo to include some donuts. Jalfredo slaps Gary's hand when he realizes for it, reminding him that the food is only for the journey as they should never accept any food or drink from the other side.  Their discussion digresses towards movies and television shows, with Jalfredo claiming he was in Bad Boys and not realizing there was more than one black person in the movie.  Gary ignores his ignorant racism and presses about the rules of not accepting things from the faerie world or you will give them ownership over oneself.  He explains that Javier's parents, which the group has always only seen the lower half of their body, remains partly trapped in the other side. "The less obvious is the more important thing in the other side."

Jalfredo has prepared also dried tobacco leaves, and a stick of wax used for surfboards. Not having time to prepare more things, Gary realizes the team will have to rely on what he's prepared. Jalfredo even informs him that of everything, one of them is a poisoned one - a contingency in case the faerie folk attempted to trick them. When asked how to know which one is which, however, Jalfredo is unable to answer as he rushes off to answer a call from Javier. He begins to notice the differences in the items, like how one donut has a square hole instead of a round one.

Aiden visits Jato at the garage, who seems frustrated with the fact there are no new vehicles to use. Instead there are the pylons that Javier has instructed him to prep for the Mission. Jato harshly tells Aiden off, reminding him they are not friends as they didn't speak up against Javier when he got first fired.  Aiden asks about the Faerie folk and Jato shares how some mythologies think the Fair folk were the fallen angels.. the angels who did not support heaven nor hell. Aiden wonders if the crucifix will work against them, but Jato doesn't think the fair folk go to Church.  He does share that the Europeans believe in a different kind of fair folk (who are beautiful and artful and musical) while other countries believe in black dwarfs that curse people and live in mounds of earth and curse people who piss on them.  Jato however is a religious man and does not believe in such a thing.  Aiden wonders if there's a way to distract them.  Jato suggests beauty or riddles for European fae.  Non-European ones like food.  Milk, for instance.  Jato doesn't understand though why the milk is given in a saucer instead of a glass or a cup, "Who drinks from a saucer? And why not just drink from the cows?"  Aiden muses maybe its cause the cows never gave it willingly?  They wonder now if that's the root of it: It has to be willingly given.

Sherlock taps old friends long dead and from Mister William Shakespeare and asks him about the time he wrote Midsummer Night's Dream and encountered the fair folk. Shakespeare visits Sherlock and shows him his new fascination, a game where one dances and moves to match the images on the screen.   Sherlock and Shakespeare play Let's Dance as they talk about the faerie world of dreams and deception. He asks about how to find their way around the lands and William admits he thought he was visiting the lands but later he learned it was just a dream.  Visiting is a matter of invitation, calling for them because one has a present for them.  He talks of the beautiful guests who shined like the stars as they performed before them.  The trick of visiting through key places is to be there at the right time.  Another way is to create a new work of beauty so inspiring that the work itself draws them.  "A once in a generation work of masterful artwork.  The last one to invoke it was this young man... his name was two syllables. A man of color who went on stage to upset some blonde woman who was accepting an award."  Sherlock admits he does not know who that is either.  The last was to invoke the Lord of the Lesser Beings who can be invoked if one offers him a child. William waves to stop the game, and admits he is astonished at how despite not having physical bodies, their devices can detect them.  He offers to send Sherlock an e-mail, which he explains is the modern way people send each other letters now.  William sends the incantation to make to summon the Lord of the Lesser Beings and then offers Sherlock to join him for one more dance before he leaves.  They dance off to These Boots Are Made For Walking.

Suiting UpJavier explains the pylons are to hold the gate open as long as they can.  They will go inside to find their missing friend, Lucius. Javier admits they are going in for a second mission - the very reason Javier's Armed Men Squad was first created in the first place.  His parents were the original founders of the Inspectres, and they used to deal with all these supernatural things while he was left at home. Gary passes some popcorn to the others as they listen.  Javier shares how his parents eventually faced against creatures craftier than them and now remain imprisoned there.  Javier explains to rescue them is the only way to get them... completely. Javier shows them a small piece of string with a metal thing spinning on its end, "They told me if I was near them, this would begin to point in their direction." Aiden asks how they gave it to him if they were imprisoned. Javier admits it was on his 13th birthday that they made a deal to be allowed to be half here and half there. In exchanged, they would never actively find a way to escape. Javier introduces them to Sherlock, and is aghast none of them has seen the movie yet.   Aiden preps a milk-charged rifle for the mission, thinking it may be useful. Sherlock, of course, has his magnifying glass. Sherlock shares with them his conversation with Shakespeare and the group is decided they will not try offering a baby.  Gary wonders if Sherlock can write something smart and cool.  But he watches as Aiden starts scribbling on the walls with a pen, wondering if he can create a work of art.  Aiden calls out, "Guys, what about this?"


They all turn, then gasp, as they see something they have never seen before.  Even Jato, who just arrives, freezes upon seeing the wall.  They all gasp in unison, "Keep drawing."   Aiden grabs colors and continues to keep drawing.  Javier begins to weep profusely.  Jalferdo, who just arrives, gets weak-kneed as he calls it a modern Mona Lisa.  Sherlock claims to have seen better, but cannot look away. A glow erupts from one of the walls, erupting into a cross-like shape that opens into a door.  A woman emerges. Her skin is golden and white. Her body moves as if underwater. Her hair is like a forest, with things leering and gasping from within.  The whole room smells of freshly cut grass and wildflowers.  She moves past them soundlessly and stops behind Aiden.   When she speaks, that is only the time they realize she had arrived.  She calls Aiden a master of this era, and Javier motions at the others to hold the door open with the pylons! Aiden claims to be adding finishing touches now that her muse is here.  They all feel the whole room go warm when she blushes.  One figure emerges from her hair and informs them they are before the Queen Tatianna.  Somethings in her hair grow at Javier who has not bowed (being on a wheelchair). Aiden explains he cannot bow because... Gary slips in and explains, "of your beauty."  They explain he has "Cancer of the Back," and cannot move properly. A figure in the Queen's hair whispers to him and he asks them to show her this "knight," this "Sir Oftabak of the land of Can." Aiden successfully defuses the situation, however, explaining he has an ailment.  The Queen mutters about not having any ailment disrupt her honor and she waves at Javier, who leaps to his feet as the wheelchair shoves him off.  Javier is cured!  Aiden is offered a gift for his masterpiece, and the Queen asks what he wants.  Gary whispers to Aiden to ask for their missing friend. But Aiden doesn't get their whispers and asks for her friendship and for one of their companions who is in their world.  The Queen misunderstands and asks which one of his friends to send to her world.  When Aiden tries to explain that the Queen misunderstood, she flares up claiming to never misunderstand things!  Aiden explains he mispoke and explains that a friend of theirs accidentally slipped into her world.  She agrees that friend must be punished.  But Aiden explains the best punishment is to send him back into this world.  

Gary steps in, asking if they should be given access to her world instead. The Queen asks who the speaker is, and when he gives his name, she smiles and tells him, "Therefore, you are mine."  Gary disappears.  Aiden looks at Javier and Sherlock, shocked to see him just vanish. Sherlock however realizes his ghost nature might help in the situation and he attempts to walk to the door without the others noticing.  Sherlock slips inside and vanishes.

Aiden asks if he can present to the Queen a gift, but only in her realm for inspiration. She agrees and pulls out a flower from her hair. She offers it to him, but he remembers Jato's warnings and does not take it claiming his hands would soil it. She offers instead her hand to walk with him into her realm.  Javier, at the background, opens his hands to show a guy and a girl drawn in his palms to remind him to find his parents.  Aiden and the Queen walk through the door.  Javier and Jato then ignite the pylons to keep it open - hopefully long enough for the others to return.

Fieldwork
Gary realizes he is in a long corridor.  Both directions seem endless. Gary trains the bazooka at the wall, hearing the mooing rise as it charges.  But before he can fire it, he sees a face staring at him.  He pulls away from the targeting scope and sees the purple and yellow worm on the wall talking to him. The worm asks what he wants given he is standing in front of their door. Gary is told he is at the entrance of the Labyrinth.  Mister Worm however admits he doesn't know the way out, although there are always ways into the labyrinth. There are lots of dangers and scary things in the Labyrinth although he does not know if it would be wrong to go atop the wall. He offers him to step inside to have a cup of tea.  "Usually a woman does. A Sarah. It is always a different sort. Always a Sarah looking for a Toby." Gary claims he probably won't fit inside, but the worm instructs him to walk straight forward with his hands stretched forward.  Gary shuts down the mooing bazooka and tries stepping forward.  To his amazement, he steps forward and now he sees the previously invisible passageways to the left and right.  Mister Worm invites him for some tea, but when asked, denies he is one of the fae folk. Gary claims to be a regular of the Labyrinth and he follows the Worm. To his surprise he reaches a room with a chair and table and now he's the same size as the worm.  Or are they now all big.  Another worm arrives and offers them tea.  Gary sits down, pulls out a thermos filled with coffee, and sits down to join them.  The worms admit it is so nice to see a whole new face, since they're so tired of all the Sarahs they keep receiving.  They have never seen the Tobys though.

Sherlock  sees the snow all around, the trees, pathways, and a sole standing lamp post. Footfalls nearby alert Sherlock to a figure who has arrived: half-human, half... something. Bare-chested with cloven feet. The thing addresses Sherlock, claiming he does not look like the children. Sherlock asks if the goatman has seen an older man, and asks if a Lucius has been here.  He suggests asking the Lion for information.  The goatman, however, cannot take him to the Lion as he is at odds with the former ruler of this place.  Sherlock realizes the goatman is speaking through his thoughts and not through actual words.  He is given the route to the Lion, however is warned to stick to the northern path to avoid the strange wheel like things that move about there. The goatman is shocked that Sherlock leaves no marks as he moves across the snow.  Sherlock admits he has been long dead.  

The room Aiden finds himself is a great white chamber - a domed greenhouse with statues of dancers who are all dressed in finery and masks - who come to life the moment Queen Tatianna comes to the base of the tree at the center of the room.  Aiden realizes the statues were not statues and most likely were people from different eras that had been abducted before. Wisely, Aiden turns down any gifts she offers time and time again, claiming to have strange diets and the need to maintain his low body fat average.  He asks her to dance, but she claims she cannot for the King cannot approve.  When asked where the King is, she explains he is busy "With another Sarah."  When asked who Sarah is, Tatianna merely mutters, "There is always a Sarah."

Back with Mister Worm, Gary hears the music playing in the background and asks where it is coming from.  The Worms explain it is the Queen with guests and that they are never invited to the dance.  They do share whoever dances gets entranced and never wishes to leave again. Gary offers to take the worms with him to visit the Queen.  They worms warn him the lands are dangerous, especially to those who don't know where they are going. Gary admits he is looking for a friend but the worms admit here in the King's domain it is mostly just the Sarahs.  Gary wonders why the Queen sent him here to the land of Sarahs. The Worms claims that means the Queen sent him here to be punished. Had it been one of the Dwarfs he would have been sent to the Oubliette. "You'll never find your way out." Gary insists he would like to visit the Queen, but they explains there's no way to leave this place without the Lord Jareth's position.  They offer to show him the path straight to the castle, despite the Goblin King preferring people take the path through the Labyrinth.  In the distance, Gary can hear a frustrated woman complaining and kicking the walls about them going on and on and how they are not fair.  "Oh, that would be a Sarah. Best you do not get involved," Mister Worm mutters. Gary realizes he needs to leave and he takes the path that leads straight to the castle.  He does not see the Worm head to the wall to say hello to the woman.

Sherlock has been walking for quite sometime, that the landscape seems to have begun changing. What was once a frozen river, is now a bubbling stream with the remains of a melting ice castle.  A melting carriage can be found as well, but a man still partly frozen in the ice is visible.  Taking his magnifying glass, Sherlock holds it against the ice and the sun thankfully does magnify and begin to heat the ice up.  One of the bushes shakes nearby, and Sherlock turns to call out, "Who is there!"  But no one answers.  He focuses on melting the ice near the man's face.  The animal that emerges however from the bushes is a great moose, with antlers that spread far and wide.  With enough ice melted, the man's face is now visible and he thanks Sherlock for his help. Sherlock just asks for how to get to the Lion, but the man doesn't know anything of the Lion.  "That's not until the other ridge." Sherlock claims to just be a passerby. The man asks how long he has been frozen and wonders where his friends are.  Sherlock immediately deduces that the man has been frozen a few years, and suggests his friends probably had left long since then.  He suggests this magical place could be why he's still alive. Unable to grab the branches, Sherlock realizes he cannot rig the branches to hold the magnifying glass up.  Sherlock turns and sees the moose nearby, and tries to have it come closer.  The man asks if it is "his moose" which turns out it is.   With the man's help, Sherlock gets Sven - the moose - to start helping break the man free.  "I have an idea, but it might hurt," Sherlock grins.  "Just trust me... maybe." Sherlock leads Sven far away and directs him to charge towards the man to break him free.  Sven charges, and shatters his companion, Kristoff, free from the ice prison. Sherlock admits he couldn't have broken the ice himself, but asks for a ride to the Lion.  Kristoff admits its all the way at the other country, but Sherlock reminds him he saved his life.  They let Sherlock hop on and ride to the next country - talking about the sisters whom Kristoff is friends with, and of the friend Sherlock had lost in this land as well - covering a lot of ground very quickly thanks to Sven. "It's always magic that makes things weird... like those trolls in the mountain.  Encased in ice right?  Guess she was mad at me."  Sherlock sighs, "Good thing the cold never bothered you anyway." When he asks for Kristoff's name, however, they cross the border before Kristoff can ask and Sherlock finds himself in another land with a castle.

Aiden asks for more information about the King. Tatianna explains how once there was a young woman who caught his eye - a woman named Sarah. They danced and fell in love.  He invited her to stay forever and she agreed.  The King and Queen were married, but as the years and years passed, she missed her son.  So he spread to all his Goblins the words that would be said to call him, and had them whisper it to all the women in the world with her name.  In hopes of finding Sarah again.  Aiden asks why she'd never confront him about it, but she reminds him she is Tatianna and such matters are beneath her. As they talk, Aiden realizes he can see Lucius as part of the tree behind her.  As he studies the tree, he can see more people entombed within it.  Hoping to distract her, Aiden asks more questions about Sarah and why she didn't do anything given she is being treated as an afterthought by the King.  Tatianna claims she does not believe she is on the side. Aiden however implies she shouldn't be okay with him having someone on the side.  Tatianna claims they all have someone that entertains them.  The servants come in, bringing in paints for him to use, as Tatianna asks Aiden to paint her image on the tree.  Aiden asks her to get comfortable, while he takes some time to visualize how to portray her beauty upon the tree. Tatianna nods, stands, and drops her clothing, "As you wish to see my beauty..." Aiden feels his Cool fading upon seeing her naked body.  He tries to stay calm but is failing.   Asking if he needs conditions different to work, she causes the dancers to disappear into woodland animals that run away and even dismisses the cold winter to let sunlight shine down. Aidan moves up to the tree.

Gary emerges and finds himself in a small town, with every house far smaller than expected. He looks back and finds he had emerged from a jar on its side.  Chickens occasionally hurry past him as he walks towards the castle up ahead. He catches sigh of what looks like a dwarf on a fountain.  The dwarf has a bunch of things hanging on his belt and holds a fruit between his fingers.  The dwarf mutters to himself about having to stop doing "this", whatever this means, but catches sight of Gary and asks who he is. Gary introduces himself and the dwarf says he looks lost, especially since he does not look like a Sarah. The dwarf wonders if "she" changed the rules this time and brought a friend. Gary admits he finds the dwarf rude and shows off his bazooka, "Jessie."  The dwarf admits he doesn't think Jareth will like seeing someone like him here.  The dwarf grabs the fish, and the trap door hidden on the ground swivels open beneath Gary! Gary leaps, landing away from the trap, and he smells a whiff of some horrible stench coming from down below.  "We're you trying to throw me into the Yubeleeh?" The dwarf reaches for the other fish, but Gary takes aim and shoots the dwarf on the shoulder.  The dwarf hits the floor, clutching his shoulder, admitting he tried to send Gary into the Bog. Gary demands to know the fastest way to King Jareth, but Gary warns him he's using modern man's technology.  The sound of a coin rattling nearby catches their attention.  A flamboyantly dressed figure emerges with a long beaklike nose.  A massive hat covers his head.  The figure walks with a wooden box held in one hand.  "Now you're going to get it," the dwarf hisses.

Gary calls out to the figure, demanding the hat wearing man bring him to King Jareth. "You look like a guard.. can you bring me to the castle?" The long nosed man shakes the box in front of Gary, as if asking for a gift. Gary drops one of the bullets inside and the nose man tells him he can ask. Gary asks to head for the castle, and the long nose man admits, "Well, if that's what really what you want.."

Sherlock realizes he's walking through a massive field now with all these tall standing flowers.  He finds so many other people sleeping in the fields.   Sherlock bends down and shouts to try to wake the closest one.  But stops when he realizes the figure looks like some kind of scarecrow on the floor.  The next figure is a metal statue on the floor.  Sherlock raises an eyebrow, and again calls out to try to wake anyone who will.  The metal figure looks up at Sherlock and asks what he is.  Sherlock dismisses the question as unimportant and realizes the metal man is very sleepy. Fluttering sounds fill the sky. Sherlock looks up and sees the dark flying shapes.  He rushes forward to head for the castle before the fliers get to him.  He ends up running past the massive lion sleeping beside the girl with the red slippers.  As he reaches the castle, however, the border shifts once more the terrain and now he's in a place with green pools of water.  The castle is barely standing, with statues surrounding it. All the statues are broken in some way.  Sherlock makes his way into the castle, hearing the voice of Aiden as he talks to a woman about her beauty. Peering through the glass window, Sherlock sees Tatianna drop her clothes and hold a pose.  She moves to beside the window.  Aiden tries to draw her, but as he tries to touch the tree, Tatianna warns him NOT to touch the tree. The Queen offers the palette of colors and Aiden, unthinkingly reaches for it.  Sherlock realizes Aiden is about to receive a gift from the Queen and forces himself through the Castle's glass walls.  He feels his ghostly form tear slightly from the effort, and he calls out, "No!" before Aiden grabs hold of it. Terror tears through them all as the Queen shows her displeasure.  Sherlock loses his cool and he begins to turn into a statue despite being a ghost! Aiden drops to his knees, as he tries to distract Tatianna with flattery, calling the intruder's interruption an unfortunate event.  He tries to have her turn around to paint her back, and thankfully, she agrees to.

The Goblin King reveals himself before Gary, as he pulls away his hat and massive nose. The Goblin King throws the disguise, which has now become a goblin, at Gary. He demands Gary explain his presence here given he's not a "Sarah."  With his horse crop, he whips Gary, and demands an answer. Gary explains he is here because of "some woman."

Confessional #1
It was around this moment that Jareth realized why Gary looked familiar.  Gary, for some odd coincidence, looked like the Queen Tatianna's former lover!

"Auberon," Jareth mutters, surprised to see him still around despite having been dealt with in the past.  He stalks around Gary like a shark, demanding an explanation how he survived the murder. Gary decides to ride along and claims he is the all powerful Auberon.  Jareth admits he does not know how Auberon broke free from the tree, but his being here proves he is sly and capable.  A crash alerts them both to the new arrivals, a woman, a thing riding a dog, and a hulking horned figure.  Jareth realizes he has no time and so with his magics, he sends Gary into a glass bubble and into some tiered chamber filled with goblins.  The goblins mutter and gasp as Jareth confronts Gary in here.  "Explain yourself! How did you escape the White Tree? How did you get a virgin to touch you?"  When Gary struggles to keep a straight face, Jareth sees through the lie and begins whipping him with the crop, "You are not Auberon!"

Back by the tree, Sherlock realizes the curse fails and he remains solid but of flesh instead of stone!  Aiden motions to the tree, pointing at the face of Lucius.  Sherlock approaches the tree, and studies it - hoping to discern something useful. He realizes that if someone who is a virgin touches the tree, it will collapse and free all the people trapped within. Sherlock turns to Aiden, wondering if he's "ever been touched down there." Aiden grumbles that he has already been touched down there... by himself... every night!  When Tatianna wonders if Aiden is asking to someone, Aiden claims he is merely thinking the thought process of the artistic pursuit.  Aiden then reaches to touch the tree.

Confessional #2
Sherlock remembers that day well.  He remembers how when Aiden touched the White Tree, despite claiming to have been touched "down there" many time before, the tree did collapse and the bodies all emerged from within, falling on top of them!

With the bodies scattered all around the area, with many atop Aiden and Sherlock, the only person who remains standing is a single man who.. looks like an Ivory-Skinned Gary?

Because Gary looks like Auberon.

Javier's parents are nearby, as well, their upper body torsos the only visible part on their body.  Lucius rises from the pile as well.  Auberon mutters that somehow, "That man.. his Purity has some how freed me..."  Sherlock explains that self-pleasure does not cause the loss of virginity, especially in the world of symbols that the faerie folk thrive in.

Jareth commands his goblins to delay Tatianna and anything she is up to.  He snarls at Gary that only babies are allowed in his castle, and that on the thirteenth hour the babies become his forever. He tells Gary, however, to offer him a gift and he will send Jareth off his way.  Gary digs into his pocket and pulls out a flashlight, claiming it to be a "Weird magical torch."  But Jareth rolls his eyes, claiming to know what it is, but anxious to be rid of him, sends him to his companions.  "Turn to the right and stick your lips out," he mutters, telling Gary he reminds him of a certain international male model, "Fine, turn to the left if you can't turn that way either." Gary does so, and he vanishes.  Jareth shakes his head, "About time.  I was afraid I was going to tell him to have a walk off.."

Gary appears in the other room and sees the commotion inside, as well as his lookalike who speaks to Tatianna about the bet being over.  Freed from the tree, Auberon can take Tatianna back with her to be the queen of the elves once again.  Gary calls out to them, and admits he looks like the man. Auberon and Tatianna look at Gary realizing there is truth in that statement. "Why is it your face resembles mine," Auberon wonders. Gary claims he cannot tell him. He explains to them however that the Goblin King hates him. Auberon asks for who freed him and Aiden admits it was him. Auberon explains it is common among their kind to make bets to amuse themselves, and asks about his presence in the area. Aiden tries throwing them a bet that he cannot be beaten in a dance off. Tatianna smiles at the idea and admits he has the Artist's Soul.  Auberon offers them a parting gift. "Name it."

Sherlock asks if everyone is free to leave with them. Auberon admits he sees no reason not to let them go. Tatianna admits she took them only because she missed him.   Aiden asks that they all leave safely, and Tatianna grants it.  The whole group then walks the path they are shown, which leads to a doorway, and through the doorway, they find the pylons and Javier in his power armor.  They all finally step through and return home.

Javier sees his parents.  He exclaims they've all done it... and brought so many other people back. Javier embraces Lucius, and after asking if he is well, admits he's docking two weeks of pay from his salary for being absent.  Lucius finally utters his first word, "Whaaat!?!?"   The doorway begins to pulse and close.  Jalfredo and Jato screams at everyone to run for it before it collapses.  Aiden and Gary leap forward, trusting in their gym training to get out.  They leap. The pylons explode.  Sherlock alone fails to get across in time.

Javier asks if they're all complete. Hearing an all clear, Javier then tells Jalfredo to approach each one who has been rescued and tells them to hand them the bill for "A Rescue".  Javier thanks Gary and Aiden and Lucius for the rescue of his parents.  Javier admits he is now closing J.A.M.S. as there is no reason now for the group to exist given his family is now complete. Gary, however, claims it has to remain open since there are still so many monsters out there.  Gary is bequeathed the remnants of Javier's workshop to take and use as he will see fit.  This includes the vehicles and armory.  To Aiden, he bequeaths the rights to the Inspectres license as the sole owner of the company. He is even to claim all the money from today's rescue.  Finally, Lucius is handed a bill.  For being rescued.

"WHAAAT?!" Lucius screams again.

Javier joins his parents and asks what happens now.  Javier's parents recommend they go watch The Mask of Zorro this time.  Javier even recommends his mother wear the pearl necklace he got her before.   The three leave.

Gary watches them leave, suspecting something may happen to them.  But decides all is right in the world for now.

Watch the whole episode here:
https://www.facebook.com/tobieabad/videos/10153821648697514/

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sickening Queens is now available!



Sickening Queens is now available on DriveThruRpg.
Hope you enjoy my love letter to drag!
Grab it today!


Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 Update: 12 New Games

For this year, I've played the following:
Twelve New Games for 2017
1) Pugmire
2) Monster of the Week

Given it is currently March, this is definitely a much slower development than previous years. But hey, at least we're still moving forward in many ways despite the current political and gaming climate in the Philippines. 

At the international level, things are picking up. I've received a few offers for a variety of projects which is quite exciting for someone who just really started writing in a professional capacity last year.  I'm also mapping out a trip to Los Angeles this year to meet some of my really supportive friends in the game industry and who knows maybe even show up at some event as a guest if the geek gods are kind.  

At the local level, Rocky and I have been reaching out to people and helping them get into gaming. We've probably introduced around five people to board games and two people to role-playing games within the last month, which seems small, but given we aren't a big organization or anything, I'd like to think it helps.  Was able to run Pugmire for some officemates, and it was nice being able to introduce the game to people who had never heard of it.  A few officemates (who don't play rpgs) were even excited to find a copy of the book since it had dogs.  We've hit two sessions so far and might have the finale soon.  I've thrown the pugs into the ruins of an amusement park which seems to have been taken over by the Cult of La Bor Tor and some massive reptilian monstrosity.  Hopefully, the three dogs and their companion can find a way to get out and safely return home.  For the interested souls who wanted to play more, I told them to keep their eyes and ears open for upcoming gaming events as I can't run games for them all being just a single person.  They're always free to try the other events happening in the city if they want to.  Monster of the Week became the go-to-game for two new gamers, one of which had tried Dungeons and Dragons from way back while the other only had board games in his history.  It turned into a Dresden Files inspired romp which was pretty cool. Both were fascinated how quick it was to learn the system and were already anxious to try more games.
Sickening Queens should be released very soon.  So far, going through a third batch of proofreading and editing and even sent a proofing copy to Steve Segedy of Billy Pulpit Games to check it out.  I'm anxious to know if he likes what I've created. Who knows, maybe he'll like it enough to include it or Bad Timing in a compilation someday.  One can hope.  But as a love letter to drag queens, most especially to our dear friends at O Bar and to RuPaul and the queens of her drag race show, I only hope the game helps introduce people to the magic and wonder of drag.

Dreamscrapers continues to move slowly forward.  The game is still going through system debates in my head, as I find myself uncertain on whether I want to use an Apocalypse World inspired engine, or whether I want something different.  A part of my brain is thinking of even cycling A Single Moment's Hatred system into something new.  Something that allows people to just say they succeed or not, and build on the story without going overboard.  Overworking the game is my problem now as I keep having all these ideas on what direction I want the experience to be.  I've already been having artwork made for the game, which is insane as that costs money, but I really want this game to happen.

TAG Sessions, Volume 1 is going through a rewrite.  Originally I wrote it as a guide on approaching role-playing playing games in a "dramatic" manner.  But now I realize I wanted to avoid sounding preachy and all-knowing as there are people out there who will be quick to tear you down if you try to sound in any way knowledgeable in a subject.  Locally, we call it anti-intellectualism.  But unsurprisingly those who engage it do so to impose the idea that they are the smarter ones.  So yeah, to avoid that, I'm rewriting the portions of the book as more autobiographical sharing of my twenty plus years of experiences playing, and running games.  I'm even partly tempted to invite some people to write an essay about their experiences in relation to TAG Sessions - maybe talk about how different games can feel, or why certain approaches I've done struck a chord for them - but in the end I'll have to see how much I'm willing to risk opening myself again to people.

Ongoing game-wise, the big winner so far is our 7th Sea Twin Chronicle which we call, The Guissola.  Composed of two gaming groups, the two heroic parties scour the world of Terra and have uncovered a massive plot by the Novus Ordo Mundi to use the artifacts and research of the late Nisab Guissola to accomplish a devilish scheme.  The game has reached epic narrative proportions as the Planetary and Fringe influences have been uncovered in the game.  The groups are nearing the point of having crossover sessions with characters from one group joining members of the other.  We're even anticipating a major crossover with both groups present in one session sometime around April or May.  The big enemy has been revealed to be the delectable Adeliadis Petronilla Fassequelle whose ambitions to become the most prominent woman in Terra has lead to her Corrupting the Queen Elaine enough to lose the favor of the Grail and seduce the leaders of various Nations and Organizations. But her ambitions seem to not be limited to just Terra as the heroes unearth the possible roots of the Syrne Artifacts all over the lands and discover there maybe be more than just the world they know held in this Grand Strategema.

There's the V20 Vampire game, Sleeper, which has been facing delays and hiccups due to schedule issues and bleak bouts of health complications from certain players. I love the story we have crafted, as we explore Kindred unlife in the shadows of Washington, D.C.  The players have been playing a meticulous game of prestation and performance, with each one attempting to gain more influence in the city, avoid responsibilities, and escape the intrigue. I worry though this game might have to make major adjustments soon to be fair to all who have been making time to keep the game going.

The Wield game, S.O.M.A., has not been played in quite some time.   With its last session, which was the second session, having been played September of 2016, I have doubts this game will be continuing anytime soon, which is a sad  reality to face given the generational story we had crafted for it. But in the end, real world responsibilities snare players away when least expected.  

And despite the terrible cancellation of the young heroes game, Rocky and Urim have asked me to consider finding a way to bring back a chance to play their characters.  And so, inspired by the reimagined successful approaches of Battlestar Galactica and Thunderbirds, I'm looking at starting a whole new teenage superhero chronicle using the DC Heroes system (or maybe even using the Masks RPG) with El Teniente and Buzz coming back for a whole new set of stories.  I'm hoping this time, the game will feel more teen hero than... not.  And to round the group up, I've decided to invite Flip to join the two and come up with his own superhero.  I'm definitely ditching the prison-sounding title and giving this game a fresh new coat of creativity.   More on this when we finally meet to flesh it out.

Beyond the personal gaming and goals, there have been a host of new projects and a bunch of older ones finally being completed.   And there's the offer.  Man, that offer is amazing. I'm so ready to dive in, but I'm still trying to be a responsible adult and looking at it with legalese eyes rather than go all fanboy and just say yes! But if there's any affirmation I've been doing something right, I do believe this is it.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bookhounds of London : Fiasco

03/25/2016
Bookhounds of London

Fiasco

Tobie plays Silas, the manservant of Monty Pendragon.
Flip plays the catalog agent and master of Silas, Montgomery Pendragon,
Josh plays Marcus Duboir the IV, an old collector from France and took his protege with him to London to scout for books.
Carlo plays William Peroux, the man in training who is hoping to learn more of the craft.

The story begins with Silas and William Peroux, as the two realize they have actually found a copy of the Necronomicon from Master Pendragon's library.  Silas is curious to learn more about it. Peroux recognizes it from the first glance and listens worriedly as Silas admits he feels as if the book called to him.  Silas admits Pendragon has been hiding the book from everyone, including Marcus Duboir.

Monty bursts into the house, looking for Silas. He walks into the grand hall of the Duboir residence searching for his manservant. Peroux tells Silas to hide and goes down to meet with Pendragon. But as he tries to misdirect Pendragon, something shatters upstairs.  Peroux explains it away as strong wind and... after opening the door to the second clatter... an opened window.  There is no sign of Silas Pendragon takes his leave.  Peroux peeks out and sees Silas running away.

A flashback. Pendragon recalls meeting Marcus Duboir IV earlier that evening. They talked about finding an ancient book from a tomb. Silas served them tea and is manhandled by Pendragon for interrupting their talk. He sent Silas away to get the book and spent the time talking to Duboir about his adoptive son, William Peroux, while they wait.   Duboir however complained he has no time to wait and asked Pendragon instead to come visit him with the book, as well as any other book he might want to sell him.  Peroux and Duboir left without further discussion.

Back at the present, Silas runs into a neglected Church, ignoring the pouring rain.  Pendragon chases after Silas towards the Church, and he sees Silas at the altar, reading the book.  He hits Silas, demanding the book be returned, but Silas warns him not to come any closer. Silas confesses he needs to read it.  And when Pendragon demands Silas return his book, Silas screams back, "It is not your book!" Pendragon slaps Silas.  Silas runs, climbing the broken tower. Pendragon warns him if he does not stop, he will see what he is capable of. When Pendragon shoves Silas to take the book, the manservant falls off the broken steps, and hangs for his dear life at the edge. Lightning flashes.  Silas feels something awaken... and he knows deep down it has to do with the words he had spoken aloud.   Fear grips him. He lets go and he falls.

At the ground, Silas is broken and dying.  Pendragon comes up to him and takes the book from Silas' bloody body.  "They're watching you now...I can see them staring at you from the darkness...." Silas mutters as he dies.  Pendragon begins to kick Silas' head over and over, wanting him to shut up.

Back at the mansion, Peroux hastily runs to Duboir's room and pounds on the door. Peroux tells him he senses something is amiss and asks him about the Necronomicon, a book rumored to have mystical powers. Peroux confesses Silas had the book and that he could read it.  The two turn and Peroux sees Silas standing in the room, with his head bashed open and bleeding.  Duboir cannot see him. Peroux insists Silas is in the room, and insists he is not lying. Duboir however accuses Peroux of lying and of having stolen things from his collection.  Peroux is thrown out of the house and the door is slammed shut.

A day later.  Marcus Duboir IV is at a conference of esteemed book collectors.  As the gathered watch him, he comes onto the stage and raises into view a book he had purchased from Pendragon.  Duboir claims it is the great Necromicon and while the crowd whispers in awe, Peroux, who is also in the room, sees and knows it is not the true book. Duboir shows the book off, but when Peroux motions for Duboir to have a moment to talk, Duboir brushes him off at first.  Pendragon, also in the room, watches from afar.  Peroux imposes himself on Duboir and tells him the book is not the actual book which Silas showed him. Silas, a ghost in the room, watches as Pendragon hurries to leave.  Silas turns to Peroux, who turns out to be a capable medium, and whispers to his ear that Pendragon is leaving.  Duboir hates the fact he paid ten thousand francs for a false book.  Peroux hurries through the crowd to catch up with Pendragon, but when Pendragon sees Duboir and Peroux, following him, he begins to run.  Duboir calls out for the man, declaring him to be a fraud.   They chase Pendragon down into an alleyway, which leads to a dead end.  Pendragon growls at Duboir warning him he cannot have the book.  Pendragon growls, almost like a beast, and Duboir attempts to grab the book from Pendragon's hands.  Silas whispers to Peroux that they have to take the book. Pendragon screams.

Weeks later.  At the asylum, William Peroux opts to visit Monty Pendragon.  Silas stays with Peroux, whipering things to him about what he knows. Pendragon can sense there's something different about Peroux too. Peroux asks what was in the book, but Pendragon insists he did not read it. "The book talked to me." Peroux turns to Silas, wondering if what Pendragon is true.  Silas admits the Master Duboir is now the one the book has caught. He is the one the book wants. Peroux asks where the book was found and Pendragon admits it was in a chamber under his land.  Silas admits they never found the chamber before. Peroux sneaks Pendragon out of the Asylum and Pendragon offers to lead Peroux through the tunnels.

The Tilt: Someone's Life is Changed Forever In a Bad Way

Peroux and Silas sneaks into the manor, entering from the back, choosing to be smart about things as they follow Pendragon's lead.  They go to the study first and Pendragon bumps into things in the dark.  They hear sounds in the corner of the room. Silas whispers, "It is here." Lights flicker on and they see Marcus Duboir the IV sitting at the corner, hugging the tome as he mutters to them that it is his. Peroux tries to take the book, but Pendragon blocks him, telling him not to do that or it will get ot him too. Peroux wonders how to stop the book, but Silas warns them they are not alone.  Duboir starts yelling, "There he is!  There he is!"  He begins to bask in the glory of something in the vicinity, but Duboir is angered by the fact he cannot see it clearly.  Peroux grabs the book anyway.  Pendragon battles against himself, trying to keep himself from clawing at Peroux to stop him.  Silas mutters something about everything can burn. Peroux lights a fire in the nearby fireplace and tosses the book into the flames!  Pendragon and Duboir scream, "No!" and the flames grow larger.  But to their horror, the book does not burn!  The flames begin to spread, however, and burn the very house, as if the book was protecting itself from those in the house.  Silas mutters, "Everything burns... everything..." And Peroux realizes Silas may have been talking about the house and not the tome. Pendragon and Peroux begin to grapple at each other, with Duboir joining the fray, as the urge to take the book from the fire strikes them. Silas reaches for the book, wondering if he can still hold it despite being a ghost.  Pendragon, however, sneaks through Silas, and takes it from the flames.  He calls out, "It is mine again!" and opens the book to start reading aloud the incantation within! Duboir snaps out of the weird state he was in, and realizes the place is burning.  He sees what Pendragon is doing, and he tackles Pendragon to the floor to force the book out of his hands.  As it topples to the floor, Peroux reaches to grab it.  Silas stands in front of Peroux, warning him if he touches it he will be just as mad as the others.  Peroux, however, is determined to find a way to destroy it.  "If not fire... perhaps Water?" Silas wonders aloud. "Perhaps the Sea?"

Duboir and Pendragon stares at Peroux who seems to be arguing with the very air about not wanting to take the book.  Duboir uses a cloth to reach for the book, then they lift it out of the flames without touching it.  He places it in a satchel and they consider a way out. They try leaping out of the window of the burning house, but  Duboir lands badly and injures his leg.  Peroux assumes any body of water might work, and so he quickly tries to think of the nearest body of water they can use. Silas warns them they are not alone in the room.  He tells them not to move.  The walls begin to show black tendrils that move as if searching. Peroux admits if they do not move, they will most likely die from the flames. Silas realizes he can draw the things to notice him instead.  Silas waves his hands as he walks and the tendrils begin to follow him.  "It has eyes... a hundred eyes in the darkness... Go! Go now!"  Peroux hurries out of the window, as the manor continues to burn.   He runs as fast as he can towards the overlooking cliffside.  Pendragon and Duboir try to follow, stumbling after Peroux, and pause only for a moment when they hear the death knell of Silas somewhere within the flames. The waves crash against the cliff below.  Peroux is ready to throw it over the edge when Pendragon sees him and is once more overcome by the darker personality. He hisses and snarls, asking if Peroux has any idea what will happen if the book is thrown into the water?  But then, Silas' voice begins to emerge from the water.  "Now William!  Give me the book!  It will be safe here in the waters!  Throw it to me!" But Pendragon warns the spirit in the water is a lie!  Silas tells William to trust him.  Pendragon snarls, "Let me have the curse!  Let it stop with me!" But Silas' voice suddenly screams from inside the burning manor, "Don't! It is a trick!" The ghost strains against the black tendrils as the book falls from Peroux' hand. Silas breaks free from the tendrils, then leaps at the last second to posses Pendragon.  Using his body, Silas leaps to grab the book mid air.  And in that last second, as Pendragon falls off the edge, Peroux grabs hold of Pendragon's collar and the daisy chain hangs over the cliff's edge.  Pendragon begins to regain control of his senses, and he can hear Silas in his mind, asking if it was him.  Silas begs him to allow Peroux to destroy the book... but warns him the water is a trick. The thing waits in the depths.  Silas begs them to trust him, and begs Pendragon to allow him absolute control. Pendragon, tries to resist, but Silas admits there are far more important things than
what he wants.  Silas takes full control. Pendragon-Silas flings the book back up the cliff, over Peroux and Duboir's heads and lands on the floor.  Duboir stares at the tome.

Duboir crawls over to the book.  He grabs it from the ground and they agree they need to take the book to the tunnels.  The place where it was first found.  Duboir holds the book in his hands, hysterical in fear, and tells them to bring it now. He insists he will carry the book and asks the others to carry him. The four make their way to the tunnels beneath the manor, ignoring as they burn.  The catacombs and winding tunnels continue to slop downwards.  The upper levels are wet, but the lower levels are drier.  Strange writings and marking on the walls glow as they pass with the tome in their possession.   In the main chamber, shells and calcified remnants decorate the walls, as well as other artifacts untouched by time.  An empty pedestal stands at the center of the room. Duboir points to it and tells them that is where the book should be.  He tries to get close to place the book upon it.  But suddenly the walls have shadows dancing.  The shadows move like tentacles, snaring Duboir in place to keep him from moving.

With the book on the pedestal, and Duboir snared by the shadows, Silas yells that the shadows won't let any of them leave.  Pendragon laughs that the master is awake now.  Peroux tries to free Duboir, but he struggles in vain.  Silas wonders if they should leave, or at least destroy the knowledge of its existence by staying here. Pendragon laughs it is too late! Duboir falls screaming as the shadows snap his bones in all directions.  He falls down like a broken doll.  Silas begs Peroux to keep the book trapped here.  Looking around, Peroux tries to find something to use.  Peroux wishes he had the courage to move.  Silas apologizes and tries to possess Peroux' body once more.  Peroux asks him where to find something explosive they can use, and Silas admits he knows where. With the younger man's body, the two are able to evade the shadows and escape the tomb, but knowing the truth about the book must remain with them, they hurry back out of the tunnels and find the dynamite that was originally used when the tunnels were first uncovered.  Carrying it back, they return to the room.  They set the dynamite and they trigger the explosives.  Pendragon howls no.  Silas howls yes.

The Aftermath

The dynamite buries them in the chamber.  Montgomery Pendragon feels control return to him as the rocks fall and crush his body.  But despite all this, he has this feeling that it is not all over. He feels black tendrils crawling into his brain and trapping him in another prison.  There is no escape.

As all of Marcus Duboir the IV's bones are broken and the black tendrils grip starts to loosen, he feels his son's body pressed warm against him.  Marcus smiles, feeling happy despite their doomed end, that they were somehow reunited despite all the events.

William Peroux  finds himself wishing they had never gone into this journey, but all in all he feels happy that they were able to stop this greater evil from breaking free and threatening the world.  It was the only choice.  William closes his eyes and knows it was the right one.

And with the darkness crushing them, ending their lives, Silas realizes as the darkness laughs that he was actually the first one who called it.  The thing is still there, with him.  Trapped with him.  Waiting for him to leave.  To guide him back outside.   Silas is to live a living hell for the rest of his unlife in the depths.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Alas, Such Fates ep05 : 7th Sea

11/19/2016
Alas, Such Fates


"Mirrors and Shut Mouths"
Episode Five - 7th Sea

Astrid Ivardatter has left the group to visit on the Scarlet Stockings at Penitence.  Having heard reports of the events there regarding the arrival of a bishop who supposedly tried to take the land from her people, Astrid hopes to settle the matters now that she can claim support from the Queen of Avalon, Queen Elaine, herself.

The rest of the group find themselves reuniting at a celebratory gathering which the Imperatice herself, Morella Alouse Giacinni, a Vodacce Fate Witch and l’Empereur’s third wife has set up at Montaigne. In attendance are a Hans Leopold Glick, Lady Cassandra, Duke Maurice le Blanc of Pontefract, as well as a host of luminary guests which include Adam Vide, Adeliadis Petronilla Fassequele, Sir Leo Aurele Gilbert, and Quinn Leroy. 

A few days have passed since the party began and Hans Glick stands at the balcony overseeing the hedge maze at the garden.  He always felt out of place in these grand parties but he understands it comes when one is close to the friend of the king.  Not too far away, Hans stares at the man who has been annoying him the whole night:  Sir Gilbert. The man is in charge of one of the towns and carries himself like a proud dirty politician, boasting about having connections, lascivious expenses, and he has been quite direct in talking about how some people - Hans included - seems out of place given they don't look wealthy enough.  To his surprise, neither Cassandra nor Maurice have left the table.  To his side, he catches sight of the two entertainers worrying over something.  The younger man looks to be in his late teens seems to be panicking over the boxes they have brought with them since the guards insisted they had to be checked.  He seems to be worried that the contents, which seem to be mostly glass and mirrors, may have been broken.  The father too is worried, but carries himself with much more dignitas and calm.  They two are confused on where they are to set up as well. Hans slides closer, hoping to peek at what they are concerned with and sees the lavish and ornate picture frames in their boxes.  He opts to approach them, offering to help, and the two quickly cover their things and explain it is too soon to look at things as they are not set up yet. The father identifies himself as Damien Eglentier and his son is Perrote and they explain they are presenting a performance based on their mastery of Porte. They stress they are performing this art with the explicit permission of the Imperatrice. As the two hurry off, Hans feels someone touch his shoulder.  The woman in a large dress offers a cheerful smile as she introduces herself as Miss Leroy.

Quinn Leroy and Hans converse, about how he is not one for parties, and about how they both share a distaste for Gilbert and his viewpoint towards things. They talk about the "recent" marriage of the Duke Pontefract and Leroy mistakes Cassandra as the Duchess Pontefract.  Hans however does correct Cassandra... was a Knight of Elaine. Leroy is shocked at the thought that once can cease being a Knight. It becomes apparent quickly that Leroy has issues with Gilbert that are more than skin deep, even to the point of expressing that "Wisdom makes one trust the wrong people. Horrible people who get you where you end up some times." Leroy suggests they return to the table, and Hans agrees.

There, the woman with the tallest wig in the room and turns towards Leroy and congratulates her for succeeding in her challenge: to bring Hans back to the table. All note how the woman, Adeliades Fassequelle, never speaks in any other language but Montaigne. She tells Maurice how her friends bring a smile to their faces and that the Imperatrice would be glad to know tonight would not be a boring night indeed. The conversation then shifts to how Cassandra is still a Lady but no longer a Knight, given the recent events in Avalon.  They meet Adam Vide, another one of the guests, who tells Cassandra that women tend to insult those that make them feel inferior, insecure or uncomfortable. Cassandra admits she feels uneasy here at the luncheon table. The conversation shifts in focus as Gilbert shares how the town under his eye continues to prosper despite all the rumors of a drought afflicting the area.  He shares how the raised taxes ensures the town will have the funds it will need to survive the adversity of drought.  The starving people will learn to be stronger.  "We do not coddle our children. Money cannot be eaten. Better they be given as taxes so the government can continue to function."  Cassandra warns him that using the money from the drought for his laving lifestyle is certain to cause trouble with the people. Maurice and Adeliadis break into laughter as Gilbert claims to take insult from Cassandra's words.  Maurice immediately speaks up, excusing Cassandra's words and both she and Gilbert nearly come to a due had it not been for Maurice's penchant for noticing An Honest Misunderstanding. Leroy is staring at Hans, and then glances at Gilbert, then back at him.  Hans chooses to stay silent.

The gallery is set up and the group has dinner as they talk various topics that often brush close into moments of insult.  Hans speaks with Leroy, who confesses to have personal motivations driving her presence in the evening's affairs.  The Imperatrice remains absent, sadly, despite being the person who invited them all.  The entertainers begin to hang framed glass onto the gallery walls which have been curtained closed.  Gilbert begins to flirt with some of Adeliadis' ladies in waiting, who clearly find his attentions undesired.  Adeliadis catches Maurice watching her and the two talk, admitting they've been observing each other.   She identifies Maurice as the Hero she has heard about who helped the Crisostomo family in Buche. She reveals a small book where she keeps her notes of things she has learned, confessing her memory is not what it used to be.  They discuss Nisab Guissola and how her works are scattered through-out Theah. Maurice claims not to know her and asks if she's a musician. Adeliadis is frustrated, wondering now if they've ended up meeting at the wrong order and she suspects the night shall end with her kissing him.  In the hedge maze, Cassandra finds Adam Vide and the two share the challenge to find the center.  Cassandra uses her strength to leap to the top of the hedges and keep making her way to the center. Adam sticks to his wits. In the end, they reach the center and find the Dragon, the Serpent, the Kraken and another beast cut from the bushes.  Defeated, Adam admits the appearances of things are important in getting what one wants.  Adam confesses his secret to Cassandra - he is actually a woman.
Adam Vide
(Janet Mcteer)

Adam Vide shares his story of his relationship with his brother, how his existence hurt his brother, and in the end, he created the identity Adam, that of a traveling storyteller, and embraced his new identity as a chance to begin anew.  His parents vanished from a secret diplomatic mission of which he was to never see them again, and his new identity allowed him the chance to try to discover what happened to his parents and move about in court unnoticed.  Adam shares how he needs Cassandra's help as he suspects Adeliadis is aware of something.  He wants Cassandra to see if she can get Adeliadis to reveal what she knows, if anything. In exchange, Adam feels he can help Cassandra in her... lie about no longer being a Knight of Elaine. He fells she doesn't show her "hatred" of her role in the past in a convincing way enough to convince others. Cassandra does express her distaste for people who impose a distinction between the masses and those who call themselves Noble, especially when they act the least what they claim to be.  The Nobility should treat their subjects better. "Perhaps only the deserving Nobility would remain."  Adam however asks who makes that choice. They agree though, that a single person can begin a revolution.   Adam asks Cassandra what drives her to do what she does, as he does things to find his parents.  Cassandra admits the word investigate appeals to her. She's all for the pursuit of knowledge.  There is nothing to lose by learning more. When Adam admits he's curious more of the bigger picture, Cassandra starts to find it suspicious that Adam is so concerned about her.  Adam shares its cause he believes true performance works with emotional truth, by drawing from the root of a true emotion inside oneself to make the lie more convincing. "Unless you draw from something true, your attempts to pass off your rebellion will be seen as false."

The Imperatrice Morella Alouse Giancinni
(Mallory Jansen)
Night stretches on and they soon find themselves to be entertained by the father and son from Montaigne.  The Imperatrice's arrival is quite low-key without any pomp and circumstance of her arrival.  She walks up straight to Maurice and addresses him as the Duke of Pontefract, and apologizes that the Emperor cannot make it tonight.

Hans and Quinn Leroy were playing a challenge of catch, with a glass bowl filled with fruit.  But when she sees Imperatrice, she puts the basket down and tries to say hello. However, the Imperatrice focuses instead on Maurice who admits, "It is not a party unless you are surrounded by people you want to avoid."  The Imperatrice gives Gilbert a scowl as well.   Leroy returns to Hans and the two begin their game.  With each fruit tossed, they throw questions at each other then take a step back.  Hans learns how Leroy hates Gilbert and how he runs things in the town.  Leroy learns Hans is traveling with the others due to common interests. Hans throws Leroy a pineapple as he asks her of her plans.  She admits she might want some kind of prank to make him lose face before the Imperatrice. Leroy then asks if Lady Cassandra is truly an Elaine Knight.  The fruit splatters on the floor as Hans flusters and admits he does not think one can stop being an Elaine Knight.  Leroy hurries close and thinks she can ask Cassandra to help her. "Lady Cassandra seems to find way to help people regardless of whether or not they ask."  Leroy admits she fears Gilbert might call for a duel. They agree the man needs to be punished for increasing the taxes four times since the drought.  The people have tried to take matters in their own hands, but they can't do more than complain. Hans wonders why Leroy can't come forward on behalf of them.  Leroy finally admits she is not supposed to be here. She had just snuck inside using the invitation for Quinn Leroy.  Quinn Leroy is her sister, and she has been siding with Gilbert - so the woman drugged the real Leroy and attended in her stead. She was hoping the Imperatrice would hear her out, but clearly she is being ignored.

The Imperatrice talks to Maurice about the many plots of land that she has gained in various nations, including Avalon and Vestenmenavejar, and her plans to raze them all down then have them build a new manor in each one. Maybe even have a swimming pool to relax in and the like. "But it must have fish. The kind you can crush when you're bored." Then she retracts that statement, claiming it is just a joke. They talk about the title shift, and she admits she's not too keen about it. As she calls for everyone's attention, people turn to them and listen. She thanks them for their arrival and claims to have an announcement to make.  Like her husband having her own circle of friends, she is formally declaring that they are all here to spread the word that the Imperatrice will be announcing her list of friends, "L'ami de la Reine."

With that, the gallery is opened.  The man, Damien Eglentier, shows an empty frame in his hand and explains in the gallery, the frames shall have a curtain covering the glass of each one. He reminds them of the following rules: a) Never give your names, b) You cannot be harmed, c) So do not touch the frames or glass, and d) You do not look away before you close the curtain.   The others wonder if it is a puppet show or some kind of magic trick.  Gilbert reprimands the man for talking to the Imperatrice directly and reminds him to know his place.  Damien is rebuked.  Hans comes forward, offering to be the one to handle the talking. Damien asks Hans to invite the Imperatrice to begin.  Not certain if they trust the man, and knowing the gallery supposedly uses Porte, the Imperatrice asks Hans to go first.   The Imperatice looks at Maurice, admitting she finds the man ruggedly exciting.  "Tighten my corset, Maurice.."

As they slowly step inside one by one, they are given white gloves to wear and are reminded not to give their names.  Inside, they find the frames of glass and upon lifting the curtain, they find faces looking back at them.  Hans asks the son, Perrote whom he finds inside, what happened to the frame the broke.  Perrote runs away in fear.  Each of them find interesting interactions with the Deceased, people who did not survive horrible circumstances in their lives.  "People who did not move on. Souls."  Hans hopes to speak with a historical figure.  Cassandra asks if there is any former Knight of Avalon.  Maurice wonders if they are trapped souls and Damien confesses they are willing volunteers. He examines the closest one and finds the frame not connected to the rear.  He can, however, sense Porte magic at work!    As they speak to the face in the glass, Damien wears a veil over his face - claiming it is a necessary part of the ritual that only one face can be seen.

Hans speaks with the historical figure, and the face with red vibrant hair, cracked dry skin, claims to be the soul of the Captain Reis.  He claims to be lost in the depths and that it was not the sea that took him but the great beast, a Maw unlike any other. He claims Hans is the ghost in the frame and that he is alive and well, although he misses the sea and his freedom. He claims to have seen strange white mountains rising from the sea then the waters churning and endless darkness until a voice lured him away, and promised him peace in exchange for a few questions. He was told he would be allowed to leave when there have been enough.  He claims to recognize Hans, finding him familiar as someone who has been to the sea.  He asks if he is known among the people.  Hans admits it is remembered by those whom have been victimized by him.  This Captain, however, does not seem to understand what that means.  He tries speaking to a new face and asks for a woman who is from Eisen.  The woman in the frame speaks to him in Eisen, and looks around worriedly.  She claims to have been a victim of the Ebon Doctor one late evening. Something was forced into her throat, making her numb and the Ebon Doctor took her away. The woman suddenly proclaims she made a mistake and now claims it was the Schattenmann who hunts for her.  Hans wonders if the woman just ended up reading the wrong script. Hans asks her, in Eisen, to blink twice if she's being held captive.  The woman does not do so however.  She does tell Hans the time is up and that he must go.

Cassandra speaks with a bald man with an eye patch and a full growth of a beard. He wears a high collar and gives a sinister feel. He claims to be Eadric Croft, former Knight of Wilfrith, and asks how he can be of service. He claims to not know how he died as he was Blessed with the Endless Vigil and has always - each time he dies - been reborn. He does not know why he is here, but senses it may be because she has questions that only he can answer.  The face claims to be comfortable, but he feels slightly distressed to be uncertain where he is. He talks about Cold Water Bay and his desire to be there again.  Cassandra asks if he knows how to get out, and if he knows who has entrapped him, but he seems calm despite the confusion.  He does not believe himself to be trapped. He recognizes her to be one of their rivals, as she is not of Inismore nor the Highlands. He does not believe the King of Inishmore, Jack O' Bannon would be amused to see him speaking to her. He claims to be loyal to King Elilodd and Cassandra realizes that is the King that ruled before Elaine. He shares his life story and how he embraced his duty as a Knight of the Grail despite the trials he was made to face in his years. For years, Eadric protected Cold Water Bay from raiders, as a "ghost" in the water that fought any that came. He does not recall the final blow that ended his life, but he can remember the feeling of the Grail withdrawing its Blessings upon them. All twenty of them knights sensed the Grail's power deserting them.  Cassandra asks who taught him to fight. Eadric tells him Death was what taught him to fight. "Each failure allowed me to learn from my mistakes and rise up again ready to fight." These stories seem to connect with the stories Flynn has told her, that the Knights are of the Grail, not of Elaine.  And that one must stay true to the tenets of the knighthood.

Maurice realizes all the frames are possibly Blooded.  He wonders if they are all open portals.  He asks for a Sorcier trained in the Arts of Porte. Damien leads him to one and he sees a man looking around.  The man gasps and calls out, claiming to be lost and hoping someone can see him.  He states he is not sure if he can trust them, and begs Maurice to find a vault where he left a Blooded pen.  He asks Maurice to help, believing if he answers enough questions, he will find his way out.  He claims his last Mark is the pen, locked in the vault.   Maurice rips the veil off Damien's face and demands he explain what is going on here. Damien closes the curtain at the frame and the voice goes silent with the curtain returned.  Maurice rushes out to head to the Imperatrice, but Damien runs alongside him trying to explain it is merely a show... an illusion... an entertainment meant to frighten, then amuse.  Maurice feels it is a twisting of the Noble Art of Porte.

Cassandra asks Eadric what one does if one slips into Corruption and he reminds her there is always Confession.  To draw strength from fellow Knights.  To do penance.  And as he leaves, fading, to her surprise, a face stares at her from inside the frame and proclaims, "Hello? You were looking for a knight? I am a knight of the Queen Elaine, Sir... Annenor."  The man claims to be the greatest knight among them and that only the knights know the truth.  Cassandra wonders however who was the one he was talking to earlier.

Damien confesses to Maurice that the faces are all well-trained actors.  That even his son does not know the truth yet.  Damien explains there is a place where the sixteen actors play their roles and when Maurice insists he be shown this room, Damien decides to allow him a glimpse. "Please never reveal our secret to anyone."   Damien pulls out a book, and on its cover, "The Magician's Tome" is embossed. He opens it to a bloody mark and they are Porte'd away.   True enough, the room exists.  Damien does not lie.  Sixteen actors prep and stand ready to hear what the next person asks for.    Maurice hears one actor frustrated with herself that she read the Sarmatian script rather than the Eisen one.  He overhears another who seems spooked that his "client" seemed to already be talking to someone even before he began. He searches for the Sorcier who spoke with him and finds the man drinking tea and looking at him guilty.  The man apologizes profusely for the ruse, claiming he always wanted to be Porte but never learned it.  Damien tells him they all have scripts they follow for the most dramatic effect - especially those based on authentic tragedies that have happened for more realism.    They all go silent as they realize another client has arrived and await to hear what role they must quickly perform once the curtain rises.

Back at the party, the people excitedly share their stories. The Imperatrice quietly waits for Hans to return, and after finding it too long, she announces her desire to go in.  Hans checks on Leroy and Gilbert and finds them preoccupied with their stories.  Adeliadis gets more wine, unwilling to step inside. The Imperatrice insists to go inside, claiming she will be safe as her "dear friend" Maurice is inside.  But before she can step inside, Perrote yells at her to wait and explains only one person can go in at a time. The Imperatrice complains, stating she knows this is all just for fun.  Cassandra warns it might be more than that. Seeing Cassandra's reaction, she asks her if it is really that good. She asks for Hans' axe, and Hans hands it over without hesitation.  But she realizes how heavy it is and hands it back to him.  As she steps inside, she asks the boy for the rules.  Adeliadis hisses out that the boy should let her scare herself silly!  Cassandra offers to go inside to get her companion out, and ducks inside after the Imperatrice.

The raised curtain has an actor quickly sit before the portal to pose as the ghost. They see the Imperatrice at the other side, asking if anyone is there. Maurice is disturbed at how they have accomplished this mockery of Porte, and the dangers of having so many portals open at the same time.  They remind him there is only two portals open at a time, creating a window to look through.  They claim to have never accidentally created Blessures.  The Imperatrice declares she's the Imperatrice and without her gloved hand, she touches the glass and tells Cassandra not to worry as she didn't say her name is Morella.  Cassandra shuts the curtain and tells Imperatrice that she needs to knows the rules before they proceed.  Gilbert joins inside and tells Cassandra to know her place, but Cassandra reminds the Imperatrice that Gilbert doesn't know the rules.  Gilbert is forced to step back outside.  Cassandra is tasked for find a pair of gloves the Imperatrice can use, then Hans is asked to bow and kiss the Imperatrice's hand before allowing him to leave her side.

At the room, they panic as they were all planning to pose as the spirit of the Emperor's ex-wife, and none of them prepared for it. Maurice doesn't feel right at the thought of maintaining this ruse.  And when a different curtain is raised, the same actress is revealed.  The actress claims she recognizes the Imperatrice as the woman who has stolen her husband.  The Imperatrice asks who the woman standing beside her is.  The actress claims she does not know who she is.  Then the Imperatrice begins asking more personal questions as if to test her veracity.  Hans, however, has walked the length of the gallery and realized Maurice is missing.  Neither is Adeliadis.  Quinn is peering into a door nervously, and shoves against it as a muffled scream suddenly erupts from within!  Hans rushes to Quinn's side and Quinn explains she saw the young boy, Perrote, enter the room, and the sound of shattering glass came from here. Adeliadis ran inside to check.   Hans tells Quinn to move aside and steps inside to see glass shards on the floor, Adeliadis not too far, pinning down Perrote with her own weight.  The boy's body, however, is impossibly arched that his head and his ankles are the only things touching the ground under Adeliadis!  Adeliadis sees Hans and yells at him in Old Thean to help her! She claims the boy was convulsing on the ground and she's been trying to hold him steady to use her medicine skills, but she does not know how the boy is doing what he is doing that moment.

Hans rushes forward to try to hold the boy down, but the boy's strength seems unnaturally strong. Adeliadis shoves the boy's mouth open to try to find if there is anything in his mouth, but it seems all clear. The boy, whose eyes are open the whole time, begins to yell out, "Hell..." as his wrists swing at Hans. Hans plants his entire weight to try and keep the boy down, despite the battery. But Hans begins to realize at that point the boy's screams are actually saying, "HELP ME!"  The boy whips Hans back and starts to stagger and stand.  The boy cries out beginning for them to find his father, to help him, but then the boy's own hand clamps down to shut him up.  It is as if the boy was being possessed by something that cannot control his mouth.  Hans tears off the curtain nearby and whips it around the boy to restrain him.  Adeliadis draws a pistol out from under her skirt, but Hans waves her down from firing it. But suddenly, the cloth drops to the ground, empty.

And a scream erupts from outside the room.

The Imperatrice, unawares of the events, continues to ask the mirror about her fortunes.  The woman in the mirror continues to panic, wondering how to answer her questions.  Cassandra tries to distract the Imperatrice as the noblewoman wonders if the face is truly the ex-wife. Maurice whispers to the actress to tell the Imperatrice that, "It will be fabulous.  It will be something they have not tired."  The Imperatrice wonders if it will be more unique than the time with the peacock feathers, or the time with the squid, or the time with the piranha in the barrel.   That moment, Cassandra and Maurice both hear a scream erupting not too far away.  The second scream erupts from the very room just outside  the gallery! Cassandra and Gilbert both draw their swords.  Maurice demands to the father that he take him back.  Damien insists his son can bring him back.. but then he realizes his son is missing!  Maurice now worries how he can get back.

Gilbert points his blade at Cassandra, demanding she sheath her weapon before the Imperatrice.  Cassandra admits he does not trust her.  Gilbert declares her unworthy to stand in her presence.  The Imperatrice sends Gilbert out, and admits she feels safer alongside this Knight of Elaine. The Imperatrice touches Cassandra's arm gingerly, whispering she is good with keeping things secret. Maurice creates a portal to head back, dragging Damien with him.  He emerges before Cassandra and the Imperatrice, using the Blood mark he has upon Cassandra.   Then a gunshot rings outside!

They rush outside to see one of the larger tables shattered in pieces, with the debris all upon the door, pinning it closed.  Inside, Hans hurries to find another way out of the room.  Perrote spins, arms flailing like a unthethered puppet, as he strikes down Gilbert with his dead weight fists.  The whole time, Perrote keeps screaming, "Please! I cannot see anything! I cannot feel where I am!  Help! Father!!!" The heroes feel the supernatural Fear emanating from the boy. Leroy Quinn is nowhere to be seen. Hans emerges from another corridor, having found a way out, and he charges forward to tackle the boy from behind.  Cassandra, hearing the boy's voice, yells at Hans to help her hold the boy down.  Cassandra is unable to hold him down, however, as the boy plants a wild elbow against her face. Hans tackles the boy mid-air, but the boy suddenly spins and strikes across the monster hunter's chest with the shard of glass in his hand, raking open his skin.  Maurice sees Hand drop to the ground, bleeding from the slash.  He tells the Imperatrice to stay in the gallery, to stay safe, and they back away from the room. Damien hurries out and sees Perrote and as he calls out, Perrote turns to face him with the bloody shard still in his hand.  Perrote starts screaming, calling for his father to help him as Hans tries to lock the boy in a chokehold.  Cassandra asks the father what is happening, and Damien admits he himself has no idea what has happened. Hans runs Perrote against the wall, to try and prevent him from escaping. The head turns to face Hans, with the bones under the skin straining against the flesh as it stares at him, and the body clambers up the wall to jump over Hans and land on the ground. Cassandra fights against the fear and using the bowl of fruit, she begins hurling the fruits at the boy to try to distract it. But even with the fruit assault, the boy cartwheels to land where the father it, and in a single stroke, a red line emerges across his throat.  Cassandra screams, and she yanks off her sash to try to stem the bleeding. Perrote continues to scream, "Dad! Where are you? Father!!!" completely unawares his body has just murdered his father.  Cassandra calls out, "LeBlanc!"

The cries reach Maurice, who has been bringing Imperatrice towards the nearest exit to get out safely.  As he returns, he sees Cassandra on the ground, holding the weakening father even as Perrote closes in from behind.  She activates the Endless Vigil to better defend the man. Hans grabs the metal bowl and he rushes up and swats down with the bowl at the boy's hand to disarm the glass shard. Maurice rushes back in with his sword drawn. The glass shard shatters upon impact as Hans times the strike perfectly.  Perrote turns his head to face him, rising back up to a standing position despite the impossibility of his motions.  "Find me.. father... where are you all? Why can't  I hear any of you? See any of you?" the boy continues to scream in panic.  A hand reaches up to claw at the face to shut the mouth again.  The figure faces Maurice, then gives an almost royal bow, but suddenly a rip strikes the sky and blood tears upon into a Blessure!  Maurice gasps, "No no no no!" but the boy then cartwheels backwards into the Blessure.  Maurice runs after him!  Hans tries running after him too, and shuts his eyes knowing he shouldn't keep them open.  Adeliadis knees beside Cassandra, asking her to make a Pinky swear for her. "This never happened," she tells Cassandra and she runs her hand across the father's neck.  The wound suddenly just closes.  Adeliadis then mutters back in Montaigne, "Well, this was a very interesting party."  She steps back as if she had done nothing.  Cassandra sees Maurice and Hans leaping into the Blessure and vanish. Leroy appears from under a table, and she worriedly asks Cassandra if more will come.  The door then slams open as the armored guards march in and demand all drop their weapons.  Cassandra realizes they are the Imperatrice's guards.  She closes her eyes and leaps into the portal after the two.

The three land in the other place. Like before, Maurice risks opening his eyes and sees the world as a dance of heat and light.  He searches for the source of the Blessure and finds Perrote cartwheeling away.  Hans suddenly emerges through the Blessure and Maurice grabs hold of him and pulls him to him.  "You fool!"  Holding him close, he sees Cassandra closing in as well so he tries to shut it closed before she gets through.  But she stumbles inside before he closes it completely.  "Why are you both here..."  At the distance, all three can hear voices of other things moving closer.  Maurice berates them for jumping inside and tells them the boy has vanished somewhere in the Walkway.  They instead have to get out.  The silhouettes and shadow figures begin to close in.  Perrote tears open another Blessure and exits.  "What is the point of all this if we don't go after the kid?" Cassandra cries out.  Estimating the distance, Maurice yells at them to stay in place and he starts running with his eyes closed.  Cassandra and Hans stay close to each other, hearing the voices get closer and closer. They begin to feel other hands tugging at them. Holding them. Whispering to them that it is safe. That it is alright to open their eyes. Hans wishes there was a secret word they shared to truly inform the others it is really safe.   Maurice reaches the Blessure, feeling its presence near him, and he tears open another vein to seal the Blessure upon the world.  A silhouette close to Maurice whispers, "We've met before. We know your face. We know your name."  Maurice turns around and runs back, hearing the voices attempting to convince him stay with them. "We will find her, bearer of the Cross, we will find her and remind you how you did not help us. Wear already among your society."

Another voice reaches Cassandra's ear. "You have been chosen to embody me.  Will you accept this honor and role? Will you live up to this Gesa?"  Cassandra keeps silent, not wanting to trust the voices.  "It is all right Cassandra, your fear is understandable. Elaine's fear is understandable." She realizes the voice was of the man in the mirror, "The Grail has been abused and things shall be righted. It is time for Glamour to change. "

Maurice gets back to the two, and the shadows are all around them.  Without any time to waste, Maurice tears open a portal to head home.  He grabs hold of the two to guide them as they Walk through.  The shadows yell and cry for them to wait.  To stay.  And others beg for help.  Not to be left behind.  Hans and Cassandra emerge at the Blood Mark at Avalon, being the only Blood Mark Maurice remembers to use that moment: The blood mark on his "wife,"  the Duchess Sybil.  Maurice passes out as the others realize they're in the waiting chamber of the Duchess.  She recoils upon seeing Maurice's bloody body and calls for her servants to care for him.  Maurice mumbles a reminder to his friends to never walk into a Blessure.  "Especially you... because you are my Mark."  Cassandra tells him to just rest. Hans hurriedly writes a report for Die Kreuzritter.

*

In the nights that follow, a letter soon arrives from the Imperatrice.  She narrates how the events of the previous month were disturbing to say the least. She has raised an alarm about Perrote.  The boy's father has no explanation for what happened, and admits this has never happened before in any previous experience.  The father does raise there is a picture frame that was among the props used, but did not match with any of those they usually use. They return to Avalon, and learn Maurice needs to recover.

There are no signs of the entertainer returning.  The father, Damien, continues to recover.  However the Imperatrice now has second thoughts of holding such events in the near future. Gilbert was once again attacked by the same creature, however, and has a scar now across his face.  This has traumatized him enough that he's gone... kinder... in managing the town.

*

Cassandra meets a fisherman along the road, who then tells him of things changing very soon. Some Elaine Knights have  reported the fading of their powers.  The fisherman was more surprised however to see her, given the rumors of her acts against the Queen.  He thought she had fled Avalon.  But suddenly, bandits attack, and Cassandra gets injured in the fight.  But then she finds herself able to tap into her Glamour and causes the Wounds to fade away.

"So I see you are still with us, Wilfrith," the Fisherman grins.  He asks her if she found the people behind the attack, and she admits she hasn't.  Cassandra realizes the man is Flynn he teases her that she should realize she could always just call him when she needs him.  But he simply leaves without explaining how and when she chases after him into the woods to ask, he is gone.    On her way back, she finds a fisherman walking around in a barrel.  He claims he had fallen asleep by the lake and that he suspects the wee folk had stolen all his things to have fun with him.  Cassandra, however, wonders if the items were stolen instead by Flynn.

She remembers Adam Vide's words, "The best lies are set in a truth.  That way they aren't really lies."

*


Maurice eventually pens a letter for the Imperatrice, a Blood Marked letter for her to be able to visit her in the future.  At night, however, he hears the laughter of children and the shadows dance in the doorways.

*


Hans tries to rest, but often hears the same weird sounds at night.  He tries sneaking out to find what they are and spends the night hiding behind a curtain.  Soon enough, he catches the sound of laughter and peers.  He sees a young boy in a heavy coat, followed by another.  The two peek at the door checking if Hans is still awake, then hurry off.  Hans quietly follows them, watching as they avoid servants and secret themselves to the library.  One opens his coat, pulls out a book, and slides it back onto the shelf.  He gets the next one, slides it back inside his coat, then they move to another shelf where they collect specific books.  "We have to worry.  That Eisen guy wakes up at weird hours."  They wonder if the group, the heroes, are back to burn the manor, like they had burned the tower.

The children hurry off.  Hans mentally notes which shelves the kids were interested in, and follows them to the wall where a hidden panel opens for them to head inside.  Hans rushes and snags the last one before he ducks inside the hatch as well.  He realizes they're too heavy to be kids as he tumbles into the chamber.   They turn out to be little people. One uses a device to knock Hans unconscious as it launches something that zaps him with a bolt of electricity.

When he comes to, the figures talk to Hans - whom has been strapped down - and they claim the chamber to be soundproof.  "Guissola made sure of that."  Hans claims he's trying to find out who killed her, and the three are shocked to hear that she is dead.  They only though she was busy at another research station.  Hans informs them that Maurice is now the Duke, and they admit they don't know anything about the household's activities as they been focused on other tasks. They wonder if they should continue the experiments, and they think the ties with Avalon are still standing.  Hans claims the burning of the tower was an accident.  The dwarfs decide they need to keep the secrets of their Society never spread, so they're going to kill him.  One pulls out a syringe which contains a potent poison which should kill him without any pain.  Hans recognizes it and recognizes it but also notes that as one holds it, the symbol of his secret society is exposed: The Invisible College.  Hans identifies it, claiming it to be very popular among members of the Invisible College. Hans reveals his own membership to it, and they confirm it when they see his own collegiate mark. They admit Nisab was working on a lot of things and they were only allowed to know parts of each puzzle to avoid information spreading.  She had a lot of journals written in code, a code called Guisollialia.  And she even created this light that allows one to see the hidden meaning in the code.

The stun gun works only because it is in the house and not quite portable yet.  Hans is fascinated by it, however, and wished he could own his own version of it. The dwarfs turn out not to even know about the place at the Mill (which the heroes had destroyed). Hans forms a connection with the dwarfs, seeing them as direct contacts to reach the Invisible College in the future.

*

Another letter.
Damien Eglentier is dead.
The witnesses claim a young child descended from a hiding place, and with a swift spin, sliced Damien's throat from the front and behind.  Witnesses noticed even more the terrible sight: the boy's mouth had been sewed shut.

*

A massive vault has been set up in Montaigne.  The Emperor and Imperatrice then use one of their vaults to securely keeps things locked up - in particular, the mirrors that were used by Damien Eglentier and his son at the gallery.  The only surviving member of the family, it seems, was the bedridden mother.

But news will soon enough reach them that Perrote pays her a visit.  Biding his time.


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