Tanglestone

17 - Opening Act

In which the clockwork Battleman argues unsuccessfully for diplomacy, a troupe is revealed to be under siege by someone other than critics, and a Night Sweeper agonizes about whether she is on the proper side.

With the threat in the Gaol vanquished, the Trade Union wraps up some of the outstanding business. Hinge, concerned about the origin of the smaller clockwork guards, collects several parts to take to Fireboss Bellowsmelt for appraisal. Dewlian spends some time talking with Tarrus, and considers recruiting the young Gaoler for the Trade Union. The leader of the “wolf goblins” is discovered missing from the Oublia, and no sign can be found of their tracks. (Hinge investigates the principal waste sluice as a possible exit, to little good.)

Refusing to let much time pass, the group spends the bare minimum time necessary to recuperate, and then begins to stake out the Theatre. Peluma’s initial reconnaissance indicates that the west section, presumably devoted to comedy, has been recently reinforced against potential entry. Inside she discovers the traces of a skirmish, and that the western wings have been barricaded even on the inside. The news energizes her compatriots, who after a brief argument about how to proceed, enter the vast, echoing lobby-building and begin to investigate.

Peluma takes them to the site of the skirmish, where Hinge is able to determine from scraps of silk and the lack of blood that apparently one side was fighting to subdue — and not doing any bleeding. He then hears the approach of footsteps. Two masked comediennes — one an adolescent girl in a “shepherd” persona, another a young woman in an “ingenue” persona — are observing them from afar. When noticed, they warn the group that they are in danger from the Tragedians.

An initial attempt at diplomacy is going fairly well (with Dewlian reciting lines from the “The Ivy of Reduction” script found in Tattergloom Hall as an ice-breaker), when soft footfalls announce the approach of Tragedians. The dark-cloaked raiders move silently into battle, fighting with muffled maces, murderous juggling implements and — in the case of a skull-masked jester — eldritch laughter that stirs supernatural fear. The fear is sufficiently compelling that Peluma is deeply conflicted, unwilling at first to fight against such apparent kindred spirits. But midway through the fight, the assassin knocks the soldier mask of a Tragedian away, revealing naked bone beneath. The Trade Union finishes the battle with the unliving actors, and notes that the comediennes are safe nearby. Hinge argues for diplomacy with the Comedians, but is voted down, and the group prepares to venture into the east wings.

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Barastrondo

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