While Wolfram was working his way back to the house after the barge attack, Joben showed up in time to meet with Adelaide Phroaig. The aristocrat explained that there was an internal matter that led him to withdraw his support from the Unrecommendables and give it to the Garfish Four, a new crew. He was forced to speak in tiresome riddles about what he was NOT telling them, and what they WOULD NOT DO, and it was all most annoying.
The short version was, Adelaide fell for a young woman who turned out to be an agent of the Garfish Four. Over the course of their torrid romance, she provoked him to write her letters, and she steered the subject matter to inspire him to write that he would act against his older brother, Edormondd, so he would inherit the Phroaig estate upon his father’s death.
The Garfish Four had as one of their members a mastermind named Divers, who kept that blackmail material on his person. He threatened to release it to Edormondd, who would have no choice but to neutralize Adeliade for self-defense were he to read those letters with their empty words of passion and promise. Exhausted, Adelaide flounced off, confident that the Unrecommendables would act on his behalf.
Back of the Mirror
Meanwhile Aldo was behind the mirror. He found himself in a big round chamber with pillars and larger-than-life stone statues with their faces covered, using weapons to ring a chamber, with a center piece that Aldo inhabited but could not see. The room surged with starving ghosts.
A warm spot appeared, and a disheveled cultist contacted Aldo; he was trying for the Outsider, but got Aldo instead. He determined to rescue Aldo, and managed it by making a hole in the mirror with Second Death hogs feeding a pool of blood with a carved leviathan bone talisman at the bottom. He pulled Aldo back to the proper side of the mirror, let him get cleaned up, and told him to come back when he was ready to pay off the favor.
Strangely rested, but with less resilience than ever, Aldo returned home. Child was passionately pleased to see him; something about him was irresistible to her.
The Garfish Four took over the Phrenological Emporium that was the home base of the Unrecommendables (because it belonged to Phroaig, and the Garfish Four had power over him.) They quickly exerted control over the Emporium, and announced they would host a grand opening for stuffy academics that were their target audience. They didn’t know that Adelaide had arranged for workmen to pull a book case over the entry to the basement lair the Unrecommendables used–an underground lair with independent access to the sewers.
The crew arranged for Harmony’s rook gang to be hired as caterers for the grand opening the Garfish Four threw for what was to be renamed the Tillivar, after the name of the assassin that led the gang. Aldo, in disguise, worked with the rooks to serve food to the stuffy scholars that attended the event, lured in part by Tillivar’s plan to turn the upstairs space into a high-class ultra-discreet brothel for academics.
The Garfish Four had their mastermind, Divers, in charge of all arrangements (including catering.) Their sneakthief was playing the harpsichord, and the assassin leader Tillivar was making contacts and hosting. Outside, their gang of Deathlands scavengers guarded the proceedings, keeping a sharp eye out for the Unrecommendables (the bluecoats were already paid off.)
The Unrecommendables had purchased an arcane drug, where most of the creature was ground up to a mild-tasting difficult to detect poison, all but the heart. When the heart was ritualistically crushed, then the poison affected all who partook of it, knocking them swooning for at least 30 seconds if all went well.
After Tillivar’s speech, the adepts crushed the heart, and everyone swooned. Aldo swiftly relieved Divers of his obvious pouches and such (he was rumored to always keep all blackmail material on his person) and stepped back while Harmony and her people went to strip him and check his body cavities before he woke.
The window crashed in and two of the Deathlanders leaped in. Aldo managed to knock Harmony out of the way of their shot, and Wolfram and Joben knocked down the bookcase hiding the entry to their lair, racing in. Joben fought the pair that came in through the window, and Wolfram intercepted the ones who came in through the door.
After a pitched and uneven fight where Joben stepped on a neck of a swooning guest, killing him, and slew a ganger with his naginata, and where Wolfram blew one of the attackers away and took the harpoon of the other on his armor, they were reinforced by their own gang of toughs. The battle was really one sided then, the gangers slain and the Unrecommendables fleeing the scene leaving dead, wounded, and a naked mastermind whose cavities had been roughly and swiftly searched.
Taking Care of Business
Baz dropped by on behalf of the Lampblacks to see if Aldo would pay off an old favor and help out with some new bluecoats that were hassling him near his territory. He didn’t want to kill them and escalate things, or have his own people get involved. But, he couldn’t seem weak as the anti-corruption law enforcers clamped down on his people for carrying weapons against the law. Aldo agreed to back them off for his good friend Baz, gritting his teeth as he mentally classified Baz as a frenemy.
Aldo’s repeated attempts to quell the heat on the Unrecommendables met with limited success. Meanwhile Wolfram relaxed some, then took Jakes the assassin and had a “talk” with the bluecoat crusaders. At the end of it, the bluecoats were backed off for now–but realized that the Unrecommendables were a real threat, and they would have to be dealt with.
Joben took the coded blackmail materials to Lysander. First of all, he made sure that Adelaide was in the clear. Then he asked Lysander to figure out the blackmail code so they could sell the materials back to those they threatened; the Unrecommendables were not above turning a profit, but didn’t want to be in the blackmailing business long-term.
Saithernon the Fence
Aldo, Wolfram, and Joben went to talk to Saithernon. The eccentric fence heard Aldo’s story of where he had been. Saithernon explained he had been begging the Outsider to help him find the Sonurian Ghost Key. It was hidden somewhere on the Back of the Mirror (in the Ghost Field) but defended so astral searchers would not survive finding it.
The Outsider answered his supplications by showing him Aldo. Aldo explained where he was trapped, and Saithernon recognized the place; given a sufficiently archaic map he could mark its location, in the canal catacombs, a mourning garden.
Saithernon moved the conversation to a room with only wood and water, and told them of Pebbler, an earth demon spy. Pebbler had a place where he stored treasures, and this ghost key was stored there, based on Aldo’s description.They would not want to leave evidence or connect themselves to this job, or Pebbler could take it hard–and he was a dangerous enemy indeed.
After the meeting, Aldo and Vincen’s coven tried to find a map, and ended up with a low quality sorry version. Joben tried, through Lysander, and ended up with a much nicer version from an aristocrat’s private collection. They got the location marked.
Wolfram visited the Dimmer Sisters again. After Marcy had her way with him, he was taken to meet with them. What could be of value in the Sonurian vault? The sisters explained that for generations the Sonuria family funneled their wealth and the spirits of their honored dead into a vault Behind the Mirror. There would be priceless paintings and sculptures and other art, as well as currency, and all manner of treasure.
Most importantly to some (including them) would be the chronicle of research from the first wealthy Sonurian. The matriarch of the family was supposedly one of the Chosen of the Outsider. She was unusually long-lived, and she spent three lifetimes studying the Outsider as a primary source herself. All that research, locked away; the Dimmer Sisters acknowledged that they, like so many, would have killed for it without a second thought.
The Unrecommendables hired Eduardo and his gondola for a princely sum, to take them out and be discreet about it. They took Vincen’s coven, and Jakes.
Once Vincen heard what they were after, he demanded either danger pay, OR enough resources to upgrade their training and equipment. The Unrecommendables agreed to upgrade them, so the coven went along.
The Mourning Garden
After hours of drifting through the haunted dark of the canal catacomb, they disembarked in a mourning garden lit by still-deteriorating radiant plant life. The ground was coated in moss. The adepts traced the energy radiated by the object of their search, and found a thorn-choked passage leading deeper. The adepts tuned to the thorns using a crystal that was close to the pass condition energy, and the Outsider’s mark that Aldo bore. The thorns turned inward. Even without scratching them, the thorns somehow drew blood to flow from their skin just by being nearby.
While Vincen and Kyra managed the thorns and Jakes guarded them, Tor and Vetta accompanied the others deeper in. Once past the massive thorn roots, they passed under a drizzle of spores; they endured the hallucinations, keeping themselves under tight control.
Tor, the ghost expert, was freaked out as they reached the edge of the cold chamber. The saturation of the Ghost Field was sufficient that Vetta could talk; under their advice, Aldo (the only one likely to survive without being hollowed and draped in charms) was given all the protective crystals. Protective magic was painted on his naked back with electroplasm.
Looking into the chamber, they saw that the statue in the middle was a disturbingly accurate likeness of Child. In her hand was a book–that was the ghost key.
Aldo raced in and snatched the book, his protections burning through quickly. As he raced out, he was at risk of falling, and Vetta’s additional protection saved him but burned her. Before she passed out, she muttered out a strangled cry of “It is coming!”
They carried her back through the shroom drizzle, and called for the adepts to reverse the thorns over a couple minutes. Then they made their getaway, prize in hand.