COLD OPEN: Thirty years ago, a 14 year old Walkyn and Hybrassil interrogate a courier in Anahearth. They discover that an old rival of Hybrassils – Professor Eamon of the Scionage – is mounting an archaeological expedition into the Deep Woods. Walkyn demonstrates his natural apitude for interogation, but Hybrassil warns him of losing himself behind the mask of gray morality. “We become what we pretend to be.”
The two Chaplain and the Bishop kick in the door of Micklin’s house and Thonius begins to interrogate Micklin while Walkyn looks for silver, finding some hidden in the lid of a chest.
Martin takes Kragyn aside and speaks with a quiet, iron hard resolve: Gram will die through his machinations, and he wants Kragyn to wield the blade. Taken aback by what seems to be the anger of an emotionless man, Kragyn nods before joining the interrogation of Micklin.
Thonius plays good gaff, trying to pry information about Brutus’ death from Micklin. Kragyn stares intimidatingly, his arms crossed in the corner. Walkyn grows impatient and begins to escalate his threats. Thonius brushes his hands off and finds another wealth of silver hidden in the curtain rods. As Kragyn shoves Micklin into a chair and holds him down, Walkyn flicks out his razor and begins asking about the artifact Brutus stole, its antediluvian nature, and on a hunch, any connection to Professor Eamon.
Finally,Micklin breaks. Insisting on telling Walkyn alone, the others leave them in private and Micklin spills his guts about Hybrassil’s journals, hidden in a banker’s vault in Landrend before his death at the Bishop’s hands. After the contract expired when payment stopped, the bank auctioned it back to the High Hearth, being the keeper of Hybrassil’s estate. The journals were passed from owner to owner as an item of curiosity, as they written too deeply in code for anyone to decipher. Finally, a buyer in the High Hales appeared. A cryptographer, or some sort of codebreaker looking for a challenge. Glorium-born. No name, but of good breeding and well-educated too, by his letters. Since High Hales was a haven for Glorium expatriates, it could be that the buy was Eamon. That was all Micklin knew.
They leave Micklin with his business barely intact and his future prospects grim.
Ayla sends a grumpy Rosemary through the streets of northern Anahearth to find Sylvestus Ironhand. With great stealth and guile Ayla manages to sneak past the guards that deterred Thonius and Walkyn earlier that day. She ties a scribbled note to Rosemary and sends her to give it to Sylvestus.
Sylvestus arrives with Rosemary in hand, and they speak in quiet, urgent whispers. Ayla warns him that there are those threatening to harm him, and he must leave the city of Anahearth before they find him. Sylvestus is taken aback, and refuses to be chased out of his home by criminals and their ilk. Ayla becomes flustered that Sylvestus does not understand the gravity of the situation of the missing sword, at the mention of which Sylvestus narrows his eyes.
How does Ayla know? Who is she working for? Who is she traveling with? Sylvestus falls easily into his role as interrogator, forgetting Ayla’s habit of being scared off. Surprisingly, she stands her ground, defending her – she almost said friend, didn’t she? – her client, Martin. At this, Sylvestus’ demeanor breaks and anger fills the air with a crack of a mailed fist. He tells her that after searching the Mad Man’s cottage, he looked into his records in Amninistrivin and found that the man was little more than a Scionist monster, the worst of their ilk, so terrible that not even the Scionage would have him. A list of his crimes from childhood to his fiery escape was laid out before Ayla.
They argued until it became clear they would not agree, and Ayla departed, more confused than ever at who Sylvestus was and why he ever deigned to care.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party left to their beds – Walkyn to his attic hovel in the Beggar’s Quart, and the rest of them to Thonius’ old lodgings in Residence. There upon the steps of 4th and Tailor’s Way sat Helgana the barmaid of the Spiked Eel, waiting for Kragyn.
The others made themselves comfortable in the roomy house while Kragyn and Helgana flirted briefly before she took his hand and led him to an empty room. Fortunately with Petey half-asleep from standing all day, Thonius drunk and getting drunker to avoid the memories of Aelia, and Martin presciently stuffiing himself headfirst into his sleeping bag, none of the others were bothered much by Kragyn and Helgana’s loud yet agreeable conversation.
At some point Ayla returned and took roost in the common room with Martin, and through the muffle of his sleeping bag told her client of her conversation with Sylvestus. Then even she gave way to her fatigue, and slept.
With the window wide open, a cool breeze slips through and cools the sweat on Kragyn’s brow as he speaks quietly with Helgana, who seems curious of why a forest Wilder could come to the city and so immediately acclimate to the company of men like Gram and Walkyn. Kragyn expresses his own doubts of whether he belongs in such a ruthless profession. Helgana quite sternly tells him that he doesn’t. She stands, and her beauty in the moonlight overthrows him. As she pulls her simple wool dress over her body, she tells him that a sancster with a good heart is rare, but a sancster that holds onto his good heart is a myth. “Hold onto your heart,” she says softly, and leaves.
Petey’s screams wake the house.
Immediately obvious is a nauseous, permeating stink that Ayla quickly traces outside the window. Martin seals it quickly, before they find find Petey vomiting streams of bile – coloured pink by blood – in the hallway. They quickly lay him down on the common room floor. As Martin unwraps the bandages that cover Petey’s face, he finds that some toxic substance has struck his organs through his pores. Ayla rushes around the house, closing all the windows, waking Kragyn and Thonius. Thonius offers a bottle of whiskey to Martin. “For Petey,” he suggests.
As Kragyn peers his own window, he sees man dressed in white clothing dragging a body into an alleyway, leaving a cloud of white dust.
They quickly flesh out a plan. Thonius and Kragyn fashion masks from cloth and urine to protect them from exposure. Martin does the same with chemicals from his kit. As they burst through the door, Thonius and Kragyn split off into opposite directions, intending to circle to block hoping to catch the chalky man. Ayla follows his tracks down Tailor’s Way, but Martin is stopped by sickened bleating.
Larry the Goat lies in a pool of his own blood as streamed through his nose. Clots of black mucus dot the puddle. Martin glances in the three directions of his comrades only for a moment before picking Larry up and bringing him inside.
Thonius jogs jauntily through the streets, thoroughly unnerved. Still, he’s unable to resist when he sees the door of a rich looking house wide open, begging to be burglarized, and stops quickly to loot it. A body lies at the door way in a silk bathrobe, and Thonius turns it over -the man is dead. A look of relief is on his face, and on his bare chest is a pale white handprint, raised like a welt but covered in white fungus. In disgust and horror, Thonius drops the body without even checking its pockets. He backs away, then turns, then runs.
Kragyn runs furiously through the streets. He has a notion of who the chalky man might be carrying. Though he notices that every so often, a door is opened wide, he ignores it. When he realizes that every open doorway has a body lying in it, he ignores it still. When he sees a body stir and moan, as if still alive, he hesitates… and continues running.
Martin carefully examines Larry, with his gloves on. He finds a handprint on Larry’s stomach where the hair has been burned away. He scrapes it off carefully, washing it with water from a basin. Martin then notices that the white fungus has begun active on his leather gloves, and quickly scrapes it off into the basin. Larry shows no sign of recovering, and it looks like he is being affected by something different than what disabled Petey. Sighing, he makes to give Larry a drink of water… but remembers the mold he dropped into it. Looking at the bottle of whiskey Thonius left in the common room, he feeds a thimbleful to Larry, who bleats with relief. At this point, Walkyn bursts into the house – sweating with fear over his nightmares.
Ayla finally tracks the man down to a dark alleyway, where upon being discovered he drops the body. He turns around, and she sees his face – albino white, his eyes red with burst veins and yellow with jaundice. He smiles beatifically, proud of her, showing her his perfectly lined teeth.
With the memory of the plague ridden children who died under her care, Ayla sprints towards him, splashing fetid garbage water as she careens down the long, narrow alley. The man in white turns and places his hands on the wall, and then a foot, then the other. He begins to climb it like a spider, without using any handholds or crannies. Ayla slides to stop at the brick wall as he slips out of side but shouts one taunt at him. Did he hear? Will he return? Her heart is pounding.
Kragyn and Thonius meet up with each other and find their way to the moonlit alley, running down when they see Ayla. Before they reach the dead end, a slim feminine figure rises from the ground as graceful as a snake. She turns her back on Ayla, and shows Thonius and Kragyn the blood running running in weak pulses from her neck, running in red rivulets over the pale fungal handprint on her chest. Helgana smiles at Kragyn. Her beauty in the moonlight overthrows him.
MVP: Martin, for his aptitude at dealing with the sudden onset of sickness.
Hardest Time: Walkyn, for being separated from the party and suffering nightmares.
Best Lesson: The Party, for learning to help and depend on each other.