I awoke delightfully refreshed. I lay there for a while, enjoying the feel of real sheets and a real pillow in a real bed. The city was awake outside my window. Ah, how nice to be able to use that phrase, "my window". A phrase which even by itself explained that one was not lying on the ground in the woods like some flea-bitten ruminant. The scent of a proper breakfast wafted up from below, whetting my appetite. I would not be breaking my fast for the day with some savage assemblage of trail victuals this morning!
I took care with my wardrobing and coiffure before descending to table. We were back in civilization now and one might meet a prospective patron at any time. Unlike the mud-spattered denizens typical of the rural wastelands, the fine citizens of Adan counted among their number persons of quality and refinement--and wealth. And my ploy of presenting myself at the court in the guise of a distant member of the Natal family was a card I still hoped to play. With a mansion in town and an as-yet-unvisited summer house potentially open for inheritance for just such a "relative" like myself the game was still quite definitely afoot!
The taproom was sparsely inhabited but the gnome Boomtock, our massive odd-fellow Kull. and the retired druid Uhmri had arrived from the mansion and were quite happy to join me in a civilized repast. However my companions soured the morning's fare with some unwelcome news. Last night upon their arrival they had found the mansion quite dark and uninhabited, with no trace of the young heir Broderick and family servant Kevin to be found. In addition, someone had removed all the foodstuffs and the furnishings of the lady's bedroom. Upstairs in the witch's chamber that someone had also replaced the cloth coverings on all the enchanted portal mirrors. This was disturbing news indeed. Most likely whomever had taken the enchanted mirror from the bedroom and covered the ones upstairs knew exactly what they were doing
Later Brute arrived from spending the night with his new paramour Veronica. He seemed quite pleased with himself, and in that case I was quite pleased with him as well. The Big V would have someone else to inflict herself on--at least for a while. But we then noted that Katherine had not arrived and I became anxious, which is not a common characteristic for me. Brute quite literally dragged me away from my last bit of sausage and egg and we rushed to the Temple of Light. There we were directed to the Temple of Law across the street where she was waiting. She had suffered an unpleasant run-in with her mother superior at the Temple of Light the previous evening. But then she went over to the Temple of Law, chatted up one of the typically humorless fellows there, and got them to let her have some lovely goldeny scale armor with a matching helmet like an eagle's head from their dusty old cellar. While in the cellar I happened upon a box of lovely but somewhat odd darts which they allowed me to take.
On our way back to the inn K related various bits of news she'd overheard that morning. There was some sort of Autumn Festival coming up which had the town all a-twitter. But that news paled in comparison with much bigger news: the Grand Council of the city had stepped in to replace the Inner Council, which was defunct now that all of its members were deceased. In addition, a new member recently joined the Grand Council, one Lady Caldwell. Little was known about her but she claimed to be a relative of Remi Natal, and she had therefore taken Remi's son Broderick into her care. The fate of the rest of the Natal family still remained obscure. This, then, was the explanation for the absence of young Broderick and the man-servant Kevin from the mansion. However, it was also most likely the reason the covers were put back over the mirrors in the secret room of witchery upstairs--which led inexorably to the conclusion that Lady Caldwell was well aware of the secret room and understood its contents quite well. The stakes in our little game had just been raised.
We discussed the news over more delicious breakfast, Katherine joining us only after much persuasion and Kull joining for a second round without needing any persuasion whatsoever. Eventually we finished and made plans for the day. Uhmri, apparently still pining for his former calling as a druid, set out to do a bit of fishing. I was rather beginning to look forward to these little piscatorial excursions of his, given that he was most often successful in enriching our table with the results.
As we were about to leave the innkeeper presented us with an outrageous bill of two gold marks for the repast. Normally I would have no truck with this sort of nonsense. Tradesmen like this fellow needed to know their place, after all. However I was in a rather expansive mood this particular morning, having slept and broken my fast in refreshingly civilized style, and paid it with aplomb. Alas, Kull picked that particular moment to awaken from a postprandial nap in rather dynamic fashion and demolish his chair. We paid up for a new chair and I was amused to find that the inn had stock of replacement chairs in a side room for just such occasions.
Kull then related that his nap had included a disturbing dream wherein he was a king on a throne, with a ruby ring on his hand. Katherine then admitted suffering a nightmare recently. She told us that she had seen the black stone statue from the secret room of sorcery in the crypt of the mansion. It came up behind me, and grabbed me with one pair of arms, then another pair, and finally a third. I hoped it was a dream only and not a premonition.
Uhmri returned with several fine fish and sold them to the delighted innkeeper. Thus reunited we decided to return to the mansion and look it over properly in daylight. We found the place devoid of inhabitants and with various supplies and furniture removed. There was also a receipt from a Lady Caldwell for the remains of the wine cellar. Then Brute noticed a foul odor from the cellar and found the corpse of the mute servant Kevin. Someone had tortured the poor chap to death in brutal fashion. In a sombre mood we carried him up to the garden and gave him as decent a burial as we could manage, laying him next to the other nameless servant we'd found in the small secret dungeon just a few days earlier. On the way up from the cellar Kull noticed a painting with a rather peculiar subject. In it a woman was standing with young Broderick. She was unsmiling, but her face appeared in a mirror in the back ground with a rather disturbing smile upon it. Then we realized that the woman looked exactly like the black statue in the crypts which had tried to kill all of us.
We went back up to the secret mirror room in the hidden attic to examine it further. Impulsive as ever, Brute pulled off one of the coverings. It was the one showing a distant desert somewhere. Katherine was sure she saw someone duck into hiding behind some rocks but the rest of us saw it not. We discussed things further and Uhmri wandered off to look around a bit more. He discovered a door to stairs up to the attic and went up to investigate. The attic was mostly bare but had toys in it as though it had once been the playroom of a child. I later surmised that this was the scene of Broderick's unhappy upbringing which he had told us about.
There was also a mirror. And there was a light coming from it. Uhmri walked over and noted his reflection in it. The reflection appeared as expected, no distant deserts or forests, but his own image seemed about three feet farther away than one would expect. As Uhmri made to leave he heard a faint sound issue from it. He quickly descended the staircase and informed us of his find.
We quickly ascended and acquainted ourselves with the new room. As we looked about in various parts of the attic, Uhmri approached the mirror once more and felt the urge to touch it. Coming back to him, Katherine had the odd feeling that a mole on his face was on the wrong side now. And Brute was pleased to notice that our former druid had somehow found time to clean up from fishing and no longer smelled like a fishwife. Think no more of it we departed, locking the door behind us.
With the afternoon still before us we decided to make another visit to the law courts to see if our earlier plan to have me pose as a distant relative of the Natal family was viable. The place was mobbed with hoi polloi of every description. A decidedly unhelpful minor functionary explained that we had little chance of seeing anyone that day. So instead we availed ourselves of the public gallery overlooking the main legislative chamber. Little did we know the chamber was in fact the public place of business for the Grand Council. Below us, seated around a table, were the six members of the chamber. All were well-dressed and there were both men and women. But all wore tastefully ornate ceramic masks which prevented us from attempting to identify the mysterious Lady Caldwell or any of the others! This was rather unexpected. As we observed from the crowd in the gallery we noticed that two of the members were watching us. With the two odd-fellows, my lovely K in her striking new armor, and my own sartorial splendor it was no wonder they were drawn to notice us. But did they recognize us in any way? Brute was most tempted to jump down and sort them out on the spot, armed guards or no, but we decided to depart and consider our options.