Lady Gwendolyn Joy quickly inspects the assassin’s body via her detachable shadow, touching nothing herself. (However, in the spirit of her newfound candor, she shows everything on him to the rest of the group.) No equipment to speak of, but he carried a holy symbol of Dalarya – marking him one as among many apparent servants of the NE goddess of assassins – but he could easily just be a pretender, of which there are many. Someone, however, likely paid the thug to do Lord Joy in. Dalarya herself is politically aloof.
Lady Joy is quiet for a time, and defers authority to the remainder of the party as Arnauld summarily vanishes. Dracaena pointedly asks Lady Joy how exactly she knows the devils, Lady Joy looks queasy but reiterates that she serves the Impernium as an Alienist – a sort of profiler for all manner of extraplanar criminality. Any number of beings, Joy softly boasts, would like to put out her “eye” – as she is one of very few people in the city who can rumble them.
Once Joy begins disclosing, it is something of a flood – she makes it known that she is both Lord and Lady of her house, having somehow been able to, in fact, marry herself – through a bureaucratic farce involving proxies. Only a few – the Party Greyhawk now among them – know the truth, that husband and wife are the same person.
Lady Joy has a much better reputation than her cad of a “husband”; it is a final diplomatic shield which he / she protects carefully – and the reason why it is the Lady who can get the party close to the Governess. Eager to return to the point and generally unimpressed by arcane chicanery, Cora asks how Lady Joy’s Old Infernal is. Joy replies that she does not speak it. Even the mention of that fell tongue appears to make Lady Joy wary of Cora.
As a group, Greyhawk theorizes at length about the possible return of Asmodeus as one explanation for the massive soul-net, especially because Aal and co. were former generals of his. But the point was also made that a power-play could take place against Alexandria among those who had reason to hate her – without the need for her dead father to be actively orchestrating it.
The party concludes that the reason to seek an audience with the Governess is, again, to have martial law repealed – because although nominally about safety, this draconian policy makes revolt – if not open revolution at some point – far more likely. And the death toll in such a scenario would easily eclipse any minor increases in safety the city currently enjoys.
At this point, the group parts ways, briefly.
For his part, Argal talks to the dock workers, seeking more information about the strange shipment that comes into the Caliph. Ship comes under the darkened moon. The flags are fake. The ship itself is telling, as the wood is dark and patterned like fingerprints. Large, smooth curves, elegant – strange sails angled into the wind. More like a junk. Was built for shallow draft, moving from island to island. A rift storm can prevent it arriving on schedule – but always, it returns. Nobody ever sees any goods come off the boats.
When consulted, Cora determines that the ship comes from the far Iron Islands or beyond. It is believed that there’s an empire of Yuan-ti, a race of serpents (beyond the Iron Islands). The ship matches the description of Yuan-Ti ships before the rift. Something like them is rumored to have survived. They are believed to trade with the degenerate slavers of the Iron Islands.
Cora throws herself into research on the subject of gods dying and – especially – returning to “Life” via the primordial energy of Soul magic. Before the rift, there were some few mages who traveled to the far realms. There, floating in the firmament, they found “dead stars”, a.k.a. celestial bodies that float through the void of space. Far beyond the reach of mortal man, that seemed to be the husks of vast immortal creatures, now dormant. Their mortality is questionable, for their magic was still potent even as husks. The few that were found and cataloged – had bodies that dwarf the mountains, and would spill organic humours – a drop of which would spawn abominations. Setting foot upon them could turn you into something else.
The lore suggests to Cora that There Were Other Greater Gods, And They’re Dead Now. That’s not supposed to happen. Moreover, there are no records of anyone ever having seen a Greater God in the flesh, always just aspects. Which turns the whole conversation into a kind of quantum hand-wave that threatens to give the party a nosebleed. Asmodeus is still the favored theory.
The quiet Arbonal looks into the dwarven Governess herself, talking to guards, etc – “Governess Vigdis Logsosen”. Related, of course, to the Emperor. Dracaena learns that she is a strong supporter of his – especially his war efforts. She is a major reason for the economic prosperity thereof – and by extension, that of the Impernium. “It is impossible to over-estimate her intelligence.” Interested in economics. Not a zealot, though – she’s into business. However, when she presides over a trial, she is as merciless & machine-like as Gaol herself.
She attends social gatherings under an “open secret” alias – it’s a courtesy not to address her directly. Cirace adds that people Vigdis would be surrounded by would be much, much more hawkish – which (really no one needs reminding) means: Inquisition.
Lady Joy procures an invitation to a party being held by Clan Dorta, and it is confirmed that the Governess will be there. Kael the senior – a grand old dwarf that refuses to die – is unveiling his new manor on the outskirts of town; it has been under construction since Vectis was founded. Some new up & coming inventor who will be showing off his latest inventions therein. Hroahld Raskorg is the one who is peddling the new inventions, and being introduced to society. However, he is not the inventor.
Everyone dresses up except Cora. Lady Joy – despite her own fabulous raiment – notes this and actually seems to like her better for it.
NO MORE PARTIES
We ride a glorious and terrifying Dwarven Wonka-vator down into a huge underground chamber. The soiree is down there, but the building is a semi-miraculous open plan affair where newfangled cable-car things do a lot of walking for you. People who were there: Kael the younger, Irondride, Haughland, The Caliph’s Mistress (escorted by Irondride), she is an Ironblood Dwarf. Socially speaking, this is high drama, borderline scandalous. We roll our eyes.
At the party, we exchange brief pleasantries with Hroahld, but quickly catch sight of Sasha — the actual inventor, not of noble birth — talking to a Quicksilver Golem. These marvelous constructs were made by the emperor’s family before he was the emperor. Exclusively, in fact. The Golem is here as a line of communication (to the Emperor, probably) – the unnatural speed of its movements are but a fraction of what it can do. Adorably, it is wearing makeup and holding a drink. Its name is Servant which apparently grosses Sasha out. (She is an elf.) We overhear it conveying that Sasha’s services are about to be in extraordinary demand, there’s about to be some kind of construction boom for Vectis. For scale, The Glass Warren is brought up. This alone would be jaw-dropping if we weren’t concerned about Vectis basically eating itself.
Lady Joy, seemingly very much in her element, rubs elbows and discovers that Lady Justine is the Governess’s alias. Amusing. And that she’s on the uppermost mezzanine.
Joy’s shadow, interjects to subtly point out the second daughter of one of the Dorta Cousins – at first glance, no one of consequence. In turn, Lady Joy points this spy out to Cora, telepathically – after concluding that it is infernal. With some further investigation, the two determine that the young lass bears a tattoo in Old Infernal which reads “Entry”.
Ominously, it turns out there are multiple of these infernal “sleepers” around the place, at least a dozen. However, they are dormant – they are not currently possessed, but someone may be watching through them. A plan is hatched to draw a magic circle in a CLOSET, in case the party need to trap something. Cora splits off to do that, while Argal ascends – having chatted up Sasha – to the same mezzanine where the Governess supposedly is.
Cora locks the door to the CLOSET in question and begins work on the circle. More on that later.
Arbonal, Dwarves, and a bit of errant geometry which turns out to be a Modron – accompany the governess when Argal arrives in her area. – The Modron is a gold trapezoidal prism “with, occasionally, arms.” – and, crucially, a festive hat. It expresses to Argal how quickly “his species” has mastered – thus far – the workings of machines. It states Gaol’s preference for machines over their “inventors”. The Modron was at least three tiers up in the Modron hierarchy.
Lady Joy, temporarily delayed by some Modron hijinks with the Elevator – also discovers that one of the dwarves escorting the Governess is an infernal spy. She does not disclose this to Argal, or anyone else in the party – at least, not yet. Male dwarf, heavily built bodyguard, has a warhammer. Underneath his finery, glimpses of armor. His name, they say, is “Kail”.
Argal notes that when the Modron misbehaves, the Governess feels compelled to intervene. When Lady Joy asks him, mentally — which he already doesn’t love — if he can handle the conversation with the governess if Joy provides an opportunity, he grudgingly comes through:
Lady Joy engages the infernal sleeper bodyguard with a story about her husband is being hunted by something unnatural, multiple shadowy devils, “who can tell?”, etc – which can be corroborated by anyone who saw the aftermath of the fight. She pretends she is desperate, drunk, and trying to retain his services as a bodyguard.
Argal just straight-up asks the Modron to get the governess’s attention. Naively helpful, It teleports him over to her. Confronted with her sudden scrutiny and feeling very out of place, Argal reveals Cora and Esther’s names. The Governess expressed concern that she was out of the loop, and had heard of both names before. Argal recovers quickly and lures her downstairs to talk to Cora. The Modron, and two servants come along. As Argal passes a mural of Art Deco looking dwarven women, one of the images does a facepalm as The City observes Argal escorting the governess back to the CLOSET before Cora can even complete the circle. Around this time, to extricate herself, Lady Joy begins to seed her story with details that make it clear that the Dark Forces she suspects murdered her “husband” were just Dalaria, and of course everyone knows that means it could be anyone with a grudge.
Now in the CLOSET, the governess is extremely skeptical, once Cora – also deeply uncomfortable with deception – swiftly and candidly updates her on the going theory about the Rift Storm and the Soul Net, including the infernal spies. One of the servants strongly objects, stating that Alexandria is an ally of Gaol, harumph and how-dare-you. They also identify that Cora is touched by chaos. The Governess is not super impressed by this naysaying, and snubs her obvious-inquisitor escort with a curtness that Lady Joy would find delicious, if she had been there to hear it.
Cora makes the point that the devils may not be servants of Alexandria, they were banished before she took reign. Inquisitor counters that she took over the nine hells. Governess finally shuts him up. Servant appears, rendering the word “suddenly” obsolete. Vigdis tells it to go to Gelborg, rouse one of the researchers – a rift expert, but an assistant, nobody connected to “Him.” An academic, not a politician. The golem nods and vanishes.
The group determines that they need to let beleaguered Cora complete her Magic Freaking Circle already and trap one of these spies.
Voxus the Modron stops time, having invoked the Word of Gaol. This “taps” it for the day. It’s a Zone of Truth. Nobody can lie or deceive in this here CLOSET. One of the Gubernatorial aides looks no different. The other looks like living armor, super duper inquisitorial. Vigdis herself is made sterner, she seems larger, her aspect swells. Argal looks like a City Elemental. It’s creepy. He is instructed to leave the CLOSET and bring one of the infernal agents. Lady Joy helps him find one of them.
His name is Loafie. Argal tells the hapless dwarf about his magical flail, taps him weirdly on the shoulder, creeping him out – but thank the Gods, Loafie recognizes that Argal’s the champion. So… despite Argal’s best efforts, Loafie accompanies him. Lady Joy would blow her cover if she came anywhere near the group – so again, she remains outside, actually fairly impressed with Argal the Uncomfortable.
“Don’t worry – it’s not what you think, it’s much worse, and I’m sorry,” Argal says as he shoves the young dwarf inside the room. Lady Joy, listening via her shadow, has to suppress a laugh. In response to Dracaena’s look about his relative lack of subtlety upon entry, Argal says, with a city’s gravity: “No. More. Parties.”
The dwarf lad reveals that the infernal mark is one of Alexandria’s favor. It’s supposed to bring fortune & dominion. They ask where he got it. At first, he says “not a cult”, but his tooth cracks in Gaol’s vise of light – and he says “I believe it to be a cult.”
Now defeated, he says “The high priest told me that (the mark) would (bring favor.) The High Priest’s voice would change almost every time I went there, though – he was always in robes, man height, man build. There was an imp. There was the correct iconography. Symbols of hell.”
“I have been more confident. And free of doubt. I have (probably) been fooled.”
“The group moved around.” He lists a bunch of addresses, all temporary and likely meaningless. He gives names of people who were there. Nobody important. He does not list Kail the bodyguard’s name, not that anyone in the CLOSET would know it.
Loafie was approached at a service to Alexandria. That’s why he thought the Cult were related. He shows the tattoo. It’d Old Infernal, and it is the Rune of Entry. Worked through with the ritual for the glyph ofHolding. The Inquisitor says, truthfully: “That sigil is of a language that I do not comprehend but I recognize. Mixture of runic language and old infernal. I do not know what it says.”
Cora – who wants to reduce the death toll anyway – blurts out, “Entry.”
Inquisitor shoots back, “Their claims could be true. Or any other entity in the multiverse could have put the tattoo on him.”
Cora just gives the Governess the book. The inquisitor literally grabs it from her. “There is absolutely no telling what is in that thing.” He throws it to the ground. Vigdis asks if it can hurt her. Cora responds that the book could harm her, and explains how. The governess says they’ll investigate it, and that Cora will be contacted shortly. Cora. She asks if Cora is in touch with those who are protesting / rioting. What are their demands? Cora explains their demands, which are mostly Gol Men rights.
Vigdis warns that she will fact-check everything Cora has told her. Cora had better hope that the facts match. Cora: “Oh, I do.”
Vigdis also sort of offhandedly mentions that although she respects Argal, their interests don’t fully overlap, she is loyal to more than just Vectis.
“I will contact you very soon” she says, and departs to go confer with Wizards Aplenty. She asks the party to wait here for 10 minutes, then leave directly. She wants people not to know why we were here. They leave via the elevator. Lady Joy, now alone, makes a loudly maudlin, apparently drunken spectacle of herself – until she is gently ejected from the premises.