Episode: The Gateway of Mystery
From The Hub
|Episode: The Gateway of Mystery|
|Episode:||The Gateway of Mystery|
|In-Game Dates||Tithing 635 HR|
|OOG Dates||Gen Con 2006|
|PCs||Atticus, Descartes, Darius, Gaibe|
|Previous Episode||Episode: Investigation of the Automatic Scribe|
|Following Episode||Episode: The 10th and 11th Lawshredder Murders|
Into the Gateway
Most of the Azrai convened at the Zactar Cathedral to determine a plan of action regarding the debilitated Atticus at Noshteroth's Manor. The meeting was interrupted with news that Garmundi had been spotted preaching at the Shattered Temple nearby.
Unfortunately, by the time the Azrai arrived, Garmundi had already been arrested by Harmonium and Athar officials and was being carted away. Back at the Harmoniun Foundry District Barracks, the LIT, with the help of some magical disguise trickery (i.e. impersonating Valiant), managed to take Garmundi back to the Zactar (with instructions with Ren to contact Ambar) before proceeding to Noshteroth's manor.
At the manor, Eschaton SHARD technicians repeatedly failed to operate and open what they believed was some sort of gateway linked to Grundelthum's Prototype Automatic Scribe, even after hooking the machine up to several massively charged Soul Cages.
Once the Eschaton vacated, the Azrai arrived, followed mysteriously by Balthazar, who claimed that the Oldest Barmy was "in the neighborhood". In fact, it was not long before alarms began sounding in the manor and Eschaton technicians began to swarm the area, all in pursuit of the former Rowan Darkwood. Once he arrived, the Barmy ran directly for the prototype scribe. Upon reaching the inside, a blinding, white light began to expand outward eventually engulfing every one of the Azrai present, causing a sharp pain and a feeling of vertigo.
When the Azrai awoke, they were elsewhere, inhabiting other bodies - on the 24th of Tithing, 30 HR - 605 years in the past to the day.
Through the Gateway
It took quite some time for the Azrai to realize what had happened to everyone back at the Noshteroth's. After a very cautious period, the Azrai determined who everyone was:
- Phe = Derioch
- Atticus = Grundelthum
- Otto = Ambar Vergrove
- Jason = Ren/Vartus Timlin
- Raine Van Osslynd = Fel
- Greylord = Lhar
Gaibe was, of course present in the past, as was Darius, and thus was on to the fact that they were acting "strangely" to say the least. While Descartes actually came back as himself and not actually in anyone else's body. Some hilarity ensued...and eventually information was exchanged to a degree at Grundelthum's workshop.
The Hive Strangler
It was learned quite early that Darius was in the middle of the Hive strangler investigations, murders that Atticus thought to be connected to the "Lawshredder practice murders". However, though strangled with a chain, the MO was definitely a bit off since most of the victims had their faces burned by acid and the bodies were dragged...Atticus was beginning to wonder if these were the practice murders after all?
It wasn't long before the Azrai also learned that in this time Garmundi had again flipped his lid and begun preaching at the Shattered Temple. By the time they arrived, he was being taken to the Foundry District Barracks again. Luckily, the Azrai used the power of their current forms to convince the Harmonium in charge to release Garmundi to the Asylum after a 24 hr processing period. His words, thoughts, and demeanor led a few of the Azrai to believe that the Oldest Barmy had leapt into Garmundi.
Back at Grundelthum's workshop, Master Inquisitor Valiant and Junior Inquisitor Blander Mul had stopped by to ask Darius for help. It seems that earlier that evening 6 of Sigil's most deadly criminals had escaped during a transfer from the Prison to the Asylum. According to Valiant, this was something he needed Darius's help for - and it was to be kept extremely quiet because the knowledge of such a thing could set off city-wide panic. Darius agreed to begin helping Valiant track down these criminals and transfer over the Hive strangler case to Blander Mul.
The investigation for the escaped convicts began at the scene of the escape in the Lower ward. Though no trail was immediately apparent, Grundelthum (Atticus) was able to pick one up in a nearby shop that had been destroyed (Silvershard's Wepons Shop). They followed the trail noting that one individual (who they guessed was Gasper) went one direction while five others went another. After their trails mysteriously disappeared, a single trail continued, one which left white stone flakes - presumably skin flakes from Scrimshaw. However, Grundelthum was nearly positive that they were not following a gargoyle, thus leading them to the conclusion that they were walking into a trap.
Doubling back, they followed the other, much more difficult trail to an alchemist's lab in the Hive. There they found evidence of a murder that took place and the brewing of Silverweed. Having a look around the neighborhood, they determined the setup likley belonged to Master Theldan, of Theldan's Potions next door. It was not long before they also learned they were being watched - Grundelthum was attacked by a crossbow bolt from the shadows, while Derioch/Phe forced a watcher from the ethereal. After chasing the mysterious watcher down, the Masher burst onto the scene further complicating matters. A fight ensued. After taking the Masher down, the other mysterious figure, later thought to be Dr. Vrinn, dropped two explosive cannisters on the ground destroying himself and the Masher.
Here is the Speak with dead with what was thought to be Dr. Vrinn:
1. Where are those who escaped with you from the Mercykiller Caravan?
- I'm not sure, I believe in the Tower District?
2. Who directed your escape [from the Mercykiller Caravan]?
- Someone who might be The Mad Doctor.
3. Who set up the alchemy set-up [in the warehouse in the Hive]?
4. Who charged you to steal from The Asylum?
- Someone who might be The Mad Doctor.
5. What do you know about The Mad Doctor?
- I don't know. I was told to look like The Mad Doctor. He escaped from the Asylum 2 years ago.
6. How do you contact the others you escaped with?
- I don't contact them directly. I only contact The Mad Doctor through speaking stones.
7. Where and to who did you deliver the Astral/Ethereal converter?
- I don't know what device you're talking about.
Retracing the Trail
Grundelthum and Ren/Jason followed the Masher's trail back to a small boat on a canal connecting to the ditch. There they found a message printed on a speaking stone telling the Masher to make haste to the tower where the Azrai just were. Seconds later, the boat exploded and Grundelthum and Jason found themselves underwater.
Meanwhile, the others took the bodies of Masher and Dr. Vrinn back to the Grundelthum's lab where a speak with dead was cast. There it was learned that this Dr. Vrinn was likely not the "actual" Dr. Vrinn (since he kept referring to himself in the 3rd person) and that he did not know about a missing astral/ethereal converter that he had supposedly stolen.
So the Azrai had tracked down 2 of the fugitives, but were at a dead end with how to get to any of the others.
The Plot Uncovered
Early that morning the Azrai learned that Garmundi had been kidnapped by Society of the Locked Door and Signer extremists from the Harmonium Barracks. They also learned that he was being used as a bargaining chip to lure Fel/Raine to the Old Water Tower in the Hive later that evening since supposedly the two were friends. The message sent was similar to that uncovered earlier by the Azrai at the Masher's residence so it seemed the Azrai had a lead. Fel had already determined earlier that some unknown individual was using these mechanical sending devices as a means to scry on people and thus it was likely that this was how they were communicating so quickly.
Before proceeding to the Water Tower, Derioch conducted a series of interviews with Eliath and the Oldest Barmy. Eliath seemed quite excited, writing his equations, which he called equations for a better "chess partner". He was very dissapointed when Grundelthum arrived and he realized that he was not leaving the Asylum as he felt he was promised via the message in the pen. While at the Asylum Lhar/Greylord commanded the janitor old Donner to take helios (pictures) of all of Eliath's writings and sketches and bury them in the Asylum graveyard.
The Oldest Barmy was somewhat lucid with an undertone of promised violence. He did however seem to hate Factol Darkwood claiming the man "screwed up" and that he would "pay for putting me here".
Later, Ambar/Otto and Derioch met with the Factol Darkwood and his assistant/advisor Otto Tallfellow (in the past). During this meeting Ambar signed the documents authorizing the production of automatic scribes, information kiosks, ethereal energy conversion, and sending stones.
Ramander, The Factol of the Incantifiers, a faction that no longer exists in the present day Sigil, stopped by Grundelthum's workshop asking questions about the prototype scribe and Grundelthum's dead assistant Esther (aka Nester Hollingsworth). Ramander hinted that Esther made some grandiose claims about the auto scribe being a gateway - one of the gateways mentioned in the prophecy of the Four Doors.
Shortly thereafter, Balthazar Thames, the psychic investigator from Sigil present day made an appearance claiming to be very confused. Remarkably, every time he touched an Azrai he seemed able to tell what their "real" identity was. Uncertain of their cover, Descartes kept him on a very short leash ready to alter his memory if necessary.
To the Water Tower
After resting, the Azrai proceeded to the old water tower with Ren disguised as Fel. At the top of the tower, one of the escaped 6, Mange, demanded that Fel enter the tower and come to the top without showing Garmundi. Eventually "Fel" entered, and was attacked from behind by Gasper. Though he failed to subdue "Fel", Gasper did spot the real Fel invisible inside the tower and teleported him to the top where Mange, Grimgraj, Scrimshaw, and several Vrocks were waiting. A chaotic fight ensued, in which most of the Azrai either scaled the tower or flew upwards and engaged the fugitives.
Inside the tower however, Gaibriel had stumbled upon a nefarious trap - through a sending device a message was printing out congratulating Grundelthum on finding "the secret lair" - meanwhile gas was filling the inside of the cistern. Gaibe grabbed several notes nailed to the wall and warned everyone to evacuate the tower immediately. Sure enough - the tower exploded in a fiery ball seconds later.
The notes revealed the names of victim after victim of what was likely the Hive strangler and another short description underneath their name - perhaps a further detail into the conduct or goal of the murder (e.g. cockle shells or use shop carvan heist)? Every name on the list with a few exceptions, was identified by Atticus as a murder he associated with Lawshredder practice murders. Garmundi, Fel and Dian St. Dumas were victims 29-31 all listed with "Mad God's Key?" underneath their names. Ramander was victim 32 and had "soul fragment" under his name. Since Dian St. Dumas may not have been killed, the Dumas manor was the next place the Azrai went.
Derioch took the surviving fugitives, Mange and Scrimshaw, back to the Asylum for questioning. A note on Mange's body from the same unknown mastermind ordered Mange to dispose of the former criminals working the Hive strangler case and hinted at a nearly completed assembly.
The Tower District
Upon reaching the tower district the Azrai found that Dian St. Dumas, recent relative of Edward, had recently been slain, perhaps thrown from their manor onto Fel's studio rooftop. Though Inquisitor Valiant was on the scene, the Azrai insisted on investigating.
Meanwhile Grundelthum contacted Ramander warning him that his life was in danger. Lhar arrived a bit late and attempted to reach Ramander at the Incantifier HQ, the Tower Sorcerous, but was turned away at the door.
Back at the Asylum, Derioch had learned from Mange that someone that he believed was Dr. Vrinn was "running the show" though his only real contact was Gasper. After their escape from prison, arranged through Gasper by Dr. Vrinn (he believed), he was ordered to help with the murders and was deathly afraid of both Vrinn and Gasper. Gasper because he could kill very easily and painfully (by poison) and Vrinn because he knew things before anyone else could. It also seemed that Vrinn was able to get his victims to come to him by manipulating them either by use of blackmail or twisting their desires in some way further enhancing this myth that he knew things about people. However, he apparently began to also pick his victims not just because he needed things from them, but sometimes JUST because he wanted to punish them for some reason...and if Mange did not make them pay, it seemed that Vrinn would know.
At this point Descartes alerted the Azrai that Balthazar was "freaking out" in front of the Bluebird Inn because of some bad vibes he was getting. The Azrai made haste, hoping to catch somebody...anybody there.
In the upstairs rooms they found several guests who had strangely hung themselves, all facing the windows.
Downstairs they found another man who had hung himself by the rafters, also facing a window looking at the Tower Sorcerous, HQ of the Incantifiers. It is the recently released Sougad. He had scrawled a few words on the wall in blood in handwriting eerily similar to that of Aram Oakwright's. As soon as the Azrai entered the room, the Memory stone activated initiating a tell-tale flash:
Tell-tale Flash: Sougad's Past
A very skinny young man, harmless and nervous, bites his fingernails often, walks into the Bluebird common room. He is shown the storeroom downstairs where his body is eventually found, and he stares out the window at the Tower Sorcerous, very nervous, before paying the innkeeper rent.
He rides the train, the Angel line every day. And every day he stares out the window at the Tower nervously - every day he rides the train, back and forth staring never taking his eyes off...that is until the train goes underground, then he screams and grabs his head between his arms ducking as if something is going to happen. Every day he does the same thing - back and forth.
One day he walks to the edge of a bridge and throws his rail pass off the edge, but still cannot take his eyes of the Tower.
Later he tries to get on the train without a pass - the guards harrass him, try to arrest him, but Fel stops them and makes them let him pass, escorting him on the train. And again, he watches the tower, riding the train, back and forth, but this time, Fel watches, curious...from afar.
The Collapse of Tower Sorcerous
The vision ends...and as it did the Tower Sorcerous came crashing down, an explosion rocking it at its foundation.
That is when the Azrai noticed that many people could not get on the Angel line train and that Derioch saw with true sight a bizarre ethereal buildup taking place. Making haste towards Tower station 6, it became apparent that somehow the train maintenance schedules had been altered and Angel Line had suddenly and mysteriously been shut down. Suspicious, the Azrai attempted to board the train.
To the HUB
While the Azrai were forced to board the train while it moved along the track, Derioch/Pheodora had stayed behind at the Bluebird Inn to cast a speak with dead on Sougad.
1. Who is Dr. Vrinn?
- He is but a man, but he has come too close to the other side, the side. I see, the side I dream. He touches it every day.
2. Where is your soul?
- Traveling the cords of the ethereal hoping for escape.
3. What do you want?
- None of this. I want for the dreams to end.
4. What do you see in your dreams?
- The end, the cities - the tower collapses and the city is destroyed and he comes.
5. What was your treatment like at Harbinger?
- Injections and regression therapy to prevent dreams. The injections worked.
6. How can we help you?
- Make the dreams stop so that I not see, so that I not hear the voices. I hear too much.
7. Can you ever forgive us? no answer.
Aboard the Angel Line
Cut off from the cabin, the Azrai had no luck opening the cabin door to the front of the train. Once Lhar climbed out of the cabin onto the front, he noticed the Astral/Ethereal converter connected by small, concealed wires hidded inside the train. After he attempted to disengage the device, the front door finally opened, releasing a large metal construct likely on its way out to stop Lhar from his task.
After a brief battle, Grundelthum disabled the construct allowing the others to slip into the control room. Inside were several panels, buttons and levers, a key, a large coffin-like box filled with...hateful energy, and a well dressed, but unfamiliar man completely focused on driving the train.
After Ren attempted to grab the box, his entire body twisted with rage, and he grabbed the well-dressed man by the throat and brutally slammed him into the train control panel. In seconds, the man was dead. With nobody driving the train, it slowly came to a halt.
At the HUB
It stopped at the HUB - the central train station buried deep within Sigil. Not sure what to do next, the Azrai carefully dragged the "box of hate" out of the train and began to explore. They noticed they were at the abandoned station, as pictured in Fel's sketchbook - a large sculpture of a face of an old man with long hair out to the side and a gaping mouth with a metal vault door (the face of Aoskar). And off to one side on a maintenance track was a black train with gold trim in very good condition - Train 88. Eventually Lhar realized the key from the Angel line train would work on the Train 88 door, however, the Memory stone had no effect on the bizarre control panel of this train, nor was there a Train 88 plaque.
Next Grundelthum examined the vault door and when he approached his train pass opened the vault door. The inside of the vault was expansive - a stone walkway with columns surrounded in mist and distant blue lights gave the feeling that one was inside the Memory Stone. After interacting with the control panels present Grundelthum was able to activate and deactivate trains only and was able to detect that someone, likely the well-dressed man (the real Dr. Vrinn perhaps), overrode the controls from Tower Station 6.
After reactivating a single train, the Azrai left the HUB and headed back to Grundelthum's lab, and hopefully back to the present.
Everyone returned to Grundelthum's lab except Gaibe (who had the box of hate) and Darius. They hoped that by activating the prototype scribe, the Oldest Barmy in Garmundi's body would respond in kind and arrive activating the gateway that brought them here. Balthazar Thames seemed to confirm this by saying the Oldest Barmy was "looking for gateways".
Once the Scribe was activated, Garmundi came running through the front door heading straight for the machine. Sure enough a simlar white light appeared, engulfing the Azrai and giving the familiar sense of vertigo.
When they awoke, they were on the floor of Noshteroth's (or just outside) exactly where they remembered being last. They seemed to have not been harrassed by the Eschaton technicians who were completely focused on attempting to restrain a comatose Oldest Barmy. In fact, as soon as he awoke, he sprang to his feet, and blinked through a gateway.
Both outside and in, the fact that chaos was surrounding the manor was apparent - slight tremors were rocking the foundation of the area, the ground looked as if it had been rocked apart, and electricity was occasionally sparking through the air. Before the Azrai had a chance to get to their feet, the memory stone activated, triggering another tell-tale flash.
Tell-tale Flash: Esther and Grundlethumb Murders
You see everyone in the past (Derioch, Lhar, Grundelthum, etc.) awake exactly where they had started, where you began in their bodies - they look confused and then attempt to go about their business - flash -
Derioch walks into Grundelthum's workshop late at night and seems to catch Esther, Grundelthum's assistant off guard examining the prototype scribe. They get into an arguement of some sort. Derioch's rage increases to the point when she snaps and chokes Esther, leaving her body at the foot of the auto scribe. - flash -
Derioch with tears streaming down her face confesses her crime to Grundelthum, who later drags the body into the auto scribe and locks it shut. -flash-
Grundelthum looking confused, he has just arrived back in his shop after the Azrai have left for the present. He notices the back door to his laboratory open, notices the auto scribe open, he may even notice the addition (astral/ ethereal converter) that was made, and looks very...perplexed. He walks back into his workshop and begins to dictate to his scribe:
"I have had the strangest dream...my old friend who went mad, Dr. Vrinn was trying to destroy Sigil for revenge...I think...I feel as if I have lost time..."
That is when the autoscribe famously goes slightly crazy and writes: "I know your secret old man. It dies with you."
Grundelthum backs up, frightened and turns towards his laboratory with the prototype.
In the Manor
As the Azrai slowly get to their feet, Noshteroth calls out to them from the balcony:
"Friends, I am glad you are alright. I was worried for a bit. It appears that something drastic did indeed occur here (referencing his somewhat broken ground). Regardless it is most excellent to see that you are all ok, particularly you Mr. Atticus."
At this point, most of the technicians are packing up and leaving, their quarry, the Oldest Barmy, now long since gone.
"However, Atticus, while you and your friends were unconscious a message arrived for you over my sending stone. I hope it makes more sense to you than it does to me."
In the Cage
Afterwards, Noshteroth bids the Azrai farewell. As they begin to leave Manor Row, the distant rumble they hear is only too reminiscent and serves as a shock to the system - from this height in the Lady's ward they can clearly see trains throughout the city.
The Azrai are not sure how, but something is clearly different. In their pockets are railpasses, and everyone else says that trains have existed for as long as they can remember.
What's more, sending stones and autoscribes are much more frequent. Though not widespread, the rich seem to have their own of each - and always have. It at least still seems to be an old technology and not something that is still being produced.
Garmundi is in Azrai custody and has confirmed to the Zactar that they have indeed gone through the Gateway to Mystery.
Finally, when Otto gets back to his/Darkwood's manor, obviously not far from Noshteroth's, he notices 2 things: 1) Not surprisingly his manor has its own sending stone 2) In a stack of old Sigis articles he had previously not looked through he sees this article