Aldo, Wolfram, and Duster continued the story.
Aldo spent some time consorting with his bluecoat friends, drawing down the heat on the crew. He also incidentally found out Maude was under house arrest pending investigation of her connection to leviathan blood smuggling.
Then he spent some quality time (and coin) buying clothing for himself and his crew to wear for opening night of the Worldsedge Theater, blowing off his stress.
Wolfram was summoned by a note from the Dimmer Sisters, to cash in his owed favor of a night in their house. That night, they did something to him, extracting the Tsthogguan protothought; he woke with painful seperation anxiety, but he kicked it with his typical antisocial brutality.
Then he spent time in prayer and meditation to the Forgotten Gods, refocusing himself and draining his stress.
Duster got rid of his stress dealing with family responsibilities in Carrow, then gave orders to keep Harmony and her gang overseeing continuing work on the theater, overspending to keep the project on schedule.
Harmony mentioned offhand that a quiet artist was a dangerous artist, so they decided to go see how Lysander was doing with his operetta. His best assistant, Chayliss, led them to Lysander.
They found him holed up in an attic with a “do not disturb” sign in three languages; kicking in the door, they found his workspace piled with crumpled paper and empty bottles and chamber pots. Lysander was a wreck, his wig rumpled, his demeanor unhinged. He was struggling with his art. He had a vision, but his work could not live up to it, and he was desperate and blocked.
The work was “Toils of the Hunting Hawk,” an operetta about Captain Torvalini, the first captain of a metal leviathan hunting ship. In the operetta, he pursues a leviathan that seduces him with its song, and there is question about what is more undying, humanity or a lone leviathan. The ambitious work of art sets to music a meditation on the mind-boggling possibilities of re-framing the existence of demons and human relations with them, touching on exploitation and interconnection. Very deep.
And very stuck! All the crew sought to help him in their way. First Aldo took him out for some fresh clothes and carousing and perspective. Then Wolfram took over and set up dioramas with things that reminded him of the sea, insisting Lysander keep writing when he hit a dry patch, offering boundless inspiration.
One of the objects Wolfram got was a bone charm that Aldo felt singing in his blood; one that would help him unlock further power.
Lysander was feeling much better, then Duster offered to help, telling him stories of demons and the Back of the Mirror and intertwined life energy, thoroughly spooking him.
Between all their efforts, they helped him get the operetta nearly done! (3/4)
They also pursued other interests. Wolfram tried to find out more about Inspector Kiva’s obsession with ending the leviathan blood trade; he could have gone to a high profile dissatisfied inspector, but decided to keep a low profile, and kept working fringe sources.
Aldo took some time to relax and purge himself of the haunting memories of being pressed up against and groping the perfumed greasy mounds of the high priest’s underdressed body.
Duster continued working with Harmony on the theater, so it was almost finished (9/10).
Assassins in the Night
As they relaxed in the Emporium after a hard day’s work, they heard knocking at the front door. Duster went to check, but fortunately glanced out the side window and saw cloaked strangers. Rather than opening the door, he called Aldo over, who imitated a woman, calling out sweetly and helpfully. The cloaked men demanded to come in to buy books (and they agreed to buy coffee.)
Meanwhile Wolfram slipped out the back and circled around. He saw the three cloaked men, and a carriage parked down the street. He snuck up behind the carriage and took out the driver with an overhand swing of his rifle to the back of the head, and leaped up on the buckboard, driving off with the carriage!
Battling in the Emporium
Realizing they were made, the assassins kicked in the door to the Emporium and ruthlessly attacked, guns and knives coming out. Duster used a pot of hot coffee to burn one, and fought with his fists, but was stabbed several times as he tumbled down the stairs with one of the killers, down to the Unrecommendable lair.
Aldo continued to mock the assassins in a girl’s voice as he pummeled and stabbed them, eventually ending up down the stairs in the lair with several assassins.
The scoundrels tried to shield Isaac from the killers. Aldo kept them distracted as Duster managed to get to a pistol, blaring plasm shot at them and finishing the assassins off as one plunged a huge knife in his shoulder. The fight was over, but Duster was in bad shape.
The Runaway Carriage
As Wolfram rattled off with the carriage, two assassins climbed out. He shot one down as the carriage bolted down an alley that was sure to be too small for it at some points; the other assassin was scraped off the side after shooting Wolfram (and his armor took the hit.)
The walls were too close for the carriage doors, but the roof hatch opened. Wolfram shot the assassin climbing up, then clambered over to the hole and fired repeatedly down into the carriage.
An overhang knocked him off the carriage, but he rolled with the damage. Then the carriage slammed into an obstruction and broke the horses, who screamed as Wolfram staggered away from the wreck and ran back to the Emporium.
The Hidden Garden
Isaac approached Duster and offered him a chance to forget his wounds. Duster attuned to him, pulled through as though through a thin point, moving Behind the Mirror physically and not astrally. In this unnatural garden, he met Isaac, who had not met him before.
Isaac said he was part of a conflict that started twenty years in the future, and had a major battle five years in the future. He made it this far, bringing this garden, and projecting fragments of himself as far back into the past as he needed to be.
Isaac was trying to be born, and there was something trying to stop him. Isaac’s mother came out, veiled; moving her veil, she was revealed as an older version of the Carrow agent Child. She explained she and Isaac were looking for Isaac’s father. The boy asked Duster if he knew who it would be; it had to be someone touched by the Outsider, a breather of the Void.
Then Isaac’s mother pulled the wounds out of Duster, and they sent him back, rippling in the Mirror and not entirely chronologically settled.
By that point Wolfram was back and concerned. Duster said little about his experience.
Wolfram took one of the surviving (but injured) assassins and put him on the table in the lair, bolting the doors shut so there was nowhere to go. It was a simple enough matter to interrogate him.
The assassin’s name was Jakes. He and his crew were hired for six Coin, to kill the Unrecommendables. He didn’t know who hired him exactly, but that kind of money for this kind of target was personal, not tactical; he figured it was Maude Selvericus, who was under house arrest but easily capable of setting up this job. That made sense to the Unrecommendables, who offered Jakes a job with them. He agreed–after Maude was dealt with.
They entered from the roof, having taken a rope trick from a nearby building. Moving down into the attic, they charged Duster with spying out Maude’s location.
He attuned to the house, and found himself sliding into a painting in her bedroom over the fireplace, of a massive bestiality and necrophilia orgy. He slid out of the painting and was trapped in a cherub face on the fireplace grate, and he knocked it over as he tore loose to return to his panting and sore body.
As they prowled towards her bedroom two floors down, Wolfram found a secret door. Behind the walls they found an illegal Iruvian spirifer station for extracting and inserting and storing souls, and a ladder down.
Following the ladder, they found an intersection guarded by a stone statue filled with a guardian spirit. Duster drew it into himself, trapping its energy in his life force. He took a beating from the inside as they continued on to find a trapdoor looking through a lens into a bathroom to observe bathers. Cracking it open, they climbed down to the bathroom next to Maude’s bedroom.
She was talking to a ghost hound, who detected intruders. As it swiveled to stare at them, they snapped into action.
Wolfram snatched Maude’s hair and dragged her towards the fireplace, intending to stuff her in; he was intercepted by the ghost hound, who savagely bit him, but he pulled back before its teeth closed so he was chilled and not torn by its ghost teeth.
Meanwhile Aldo sprang in with a demonbane charm wrapped around a dagger, disrupting the spirit hound’s energy. Duster followed, badly shaken, and tried to compel the hound to stand down; instead, it leaped at his throat and Aldo barely managed to put it down.
Impatient, Wolfram snapped Maude’s neck and stuffed her body in the fireplace, making sure her hair caught fire as guards banged on the door demanding to know if everything was alright.
They ghosted out of the house, making it all the way back to the roof undetected.
Waiting for them on the roof was a silhouette. To Aldo and Wolfram it was weird, but to Duster it was impossible; it was a hole in the Mirror, empty both in front in the material world and behind in the Ghost Field.
Duster vomited his captive spirit at it, and the spirit fell through the hole, then the hole tore its roots from the whisper, dropping Duster gasping on the roof.
It demanded to know where the child was.
Aldo ran to secure climbing gear to get down off the roof as guards popped up to search the roof, a block away still. Wolfram fired plasm shot into the hole, and it drained his gun and all its ammunition.
Desperate, Duster ordered the Mirror to close, rebuking the existence of the hole. He did push the hole out of reality, but his spirit mask and all his implements were shattered.
Wolfram and Aldo both had climbing gear, and lowered the whisper to the ground. Together, they melted away into the night.
So what was that all about? Aldo suggested maybe Isaac was him, from another timeline or dimension. Wolfram suggested maybe it was his child from an illicit relationship in the past or future.
Like pulling teeth, they extracted further information from Duster; that he talked with Isaac, who was projecting his existance into the material plane from a pocket dimension from the future. And his mother was Child, from Carrow, and they were searching for his father so he could be born. And there was something trying to keep that from happening.
After that, the sensible reaction seemed to be a round of stiff drinks.