Tanglestone

31 - Studious Endeavors
In which a turtle is righted, Scholars delight in academic conversation, and a machine built for the city's defense fulfills its purpose with some prodding.

With the Remnants dead, the group decides to avoid the golem’s moving parts as best as they can, checking through the belongings of their enemies and discovering some items of note.

With Hinge’s assistance, Peluma works at clearing away one of the many blocked sewer entrances, and then slips down into the Armorback Ward under-tunnels in search of whatever it is the Remnants feared. The entrance itself turns out to have been rigged with chimes if it were to be opened. The opening of the grate seems also to have disturbed several of the two-foot salamanders down below, which pulse with variegated bioluminescence.

Investigating one of the larger channels, Peluma discovers a body strung up between a pair of gargoyle spouts. It appears to be the remains of an orcish Remnant, now much-gnawed and those parts that remain soft enough that the salamanders can feed on them. The Night Sweeper then notices a ripple moving against the stream, and attempts to conceal herself among the spouts. However, the ripple adjusts to follow her movements, and a thick humanoid covered in a bizarre, slick hide garment clambers out of the water. The figure wears a glass-lensed breathing mask, and unhooks an odd weapon something like the tip of a Sewerjack dredge-staff attached to a long chain.

From hiding, Peluma asks “Are you a Sewerjack?”

The figure, seemingly confused, begins to cast about for the speaker. The cat-sized salamander sitting on his shoulder begins to glow with a radiance like torchlight, though the light doesn’t seem to reveal Peluma to the stranger. After a pause, he states “Our enemies don’t need to know that.”

“If you’re a Sewerjack, we aren’t enemies.”

“What should I say, Reeks?”

“Dolt!” comes a voice from behind Peluma — a second of these figures, with an odd hand crossbow that looks Crafter-altered as well as the same dredge-chain. Though clearly vexed, this newcomer proves willing to parley with the Night Sweeper (on the condition that she show herself). When Peluma drops the name of Memorabilia Jest and names her guild-clan, the taller and clearly quicker-witted of the two seems to recognize both. The two admit to being Sewerjacks (by name, Valdery Reeks and Dunk). They are somewhat skeptical of Peluma’s claim of having eliminated the Remnants from the ward, and seem faintly dismissive of “skyback” concerns, but are willing to let the Night Sweeper know that Jest did come through of late. The Sewerjack northerner headed southwest from Armorback Ward to assist the local Scourer, Quaver Marrowphage. The two Scourers have apparently been gone for some time, and there are rumors of troubles that apparently have brewed from under the Arena, a trouble spot more to the southwest of that, or perhaps some combination of both. Peluma politely takes her leave of the two Sewerjacks, who plan to inform their fellows of the carnage above, and returns to the surface.

While Peluma is below, the other three debate returning the stargems to the dragon turtle golem. Hinge and Dewlian are clearly for it, but Sym insists on performing a ritual of communion with the city first, just in case. The schizophrenic city’s omen manifests as a number of immense crows, 15 of which snatch up burning brands from Sym’s fire and begin to circle overhead. They disperse, some feigning injury before they fly away, and four form a second circle to the southwest. One drops its brand atop the golem’s head before it flies off.

Although Sym is not very reassured by the vagueness of this omen, the other two are equally unswayed. Hinge’s view is clearly stated: “Put the gems in the turtle.” When they do so, it finishes the job of freeing itself. Dewlian attempts to negotiate it, but the golem is lacking in communication skills. They follow it to the Moat, where it drinks deeply for a moment. Then it begins to head southwest, and most of the group clambers onto its back for the trip without provoking attack (though Dewlian comes close after nearly tumbling under one of its feet).

The ride takes them past the block of civilian Tradeless near the Hospital; around the barricaded ward where the Remnants are strongest; between the Arena’s parkland and the Colonnade, where a few Gutterherd dare to attack them and receive a lethal blast of steam in response; past the Nobles’ Apartments near the Palace; and near the Seraglio Ward, where a pair of manticores with curled manes and golden chains snarl at them. As the dragon turtle golem moves into the central plaza outside the Scholarium, they note that a number of Tradeless are watching excitedly from across the way. More pressingly, they see two more zodiac golems: the Bear stands watch outside the main entrance, and the Owl circles overhead.

The dragon turtle golem advances on a mosaic circle set into the plaza stones, and presses down on the portion marked with the sigil of Archelos. The front doors open, and many Scholars emerge from the structure. They are an excited lot, delighted to see the golem, very inquisitive about Hinge, and full of other questions. Dewlian speaks with one of the higher-ranking, a man called Indisept. A few Battlemen also emerge from the Scholarium; Hinge speaks with one, Ardicy Voulge, and learns that they’ve been cut off from the Gate and Armory for about 20 years.

The Trade Union is invited to a late (if not exactly lavish) dinner, where they continue the conversation. Although the High Professors are deep in study and not attending, the group gets particular information from Voulge and Professor Thucitas, a very tall Scholar who is initially disinterested in Sym’s inevitable flirtations. The topics of conversation include:

  • The disposition and probable locations of many of the Zodiac Golems
  • The strange and sinister permutations of the Seraglio
  • The disappearance and potential corruption of “the Guardian,” apparently some form of sphinx that looks over Central Tanglestone
  • The role of the nobility and royalty of the city (which Dewlian finds unfortunately similar to the role of the Trade Union)
  • The possible threats to the south

The Trade Union spends an additional two days in the Scholarium; Dewlian does quite a bit of research, while Sym alternates between inscribing new information in his tome and attempting to further his way into Professor Thucitas’ skirts. They formulate a plan to head up the western Wall, investigating if the waterfall is passable. During that time, Hinge patrols and finds that the tower built into the Wall closest to the Seraglio is somewhat… sticky on the inside.

When the Trade Union departs, they choose that tower for their ascent. Their suspicions of denizens are validated by the presence of immense, bizarre spiders and, more gruesomely, people that seem to have been altered to become more spiderlike themselves. The creatures ambush them in a watch-floor near a clockwork ballista. Dewlian suffers from a silken garrote, and the giant spiders’ venom causes dancelike convulsions. Strength and the power of the city win out at the end (as well as Peluma’s clever manipulations of the ballista and a bit of luck), and the sole surviving spider-person leaps from the balcony, using its silk to balloon safely down toward the roof of the Seraglio.

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30 - Heart of Armorback Ward
In which an elven Remnant is but the first to die in fire, a portico is collapsed prematurely, and a would-be surgeon defends the discovery of a peculiar chelonian.

The Trade Union rests in the Hospital, though declining the various elective injections, poultices and leechings that the Doctors offer to speed their recovery. The following morning, they return to the northeast ward to continue their campaign against the Remnants. This time, they approach from the east. Peluma scouts ahead again, noting several instances of damage caused perhaps by giantish invaders, as well as the usual stoppered and blocked sewer entrances. The Remnants in the east portion of the ward seem to travel by rooftop as well as by the streets.

The group decides to take advantage of some of the weakened buildings by setting one to tumble down on a Remnant party. However, the initial choice stands over a particularly weakened floor, and Hinge warns them before Sym can engineer a particularly unfortunate collapse. Their luck remains poor: while Peluma is away slaying a few Remnant outriders, Dewlian prematurely collapses a weakened portico with a resounding crash. The group then moves to a defensible alley to face the certain investigation. The Remnant band that investigates is not particularly strong, but the maddened troll-eating dwarves deal some damage before being put down, and while one of the rooftop-running elven archers burns to death while fleeing, the other invokes the better part of valor and escapes.

As they press back into the ward, their approach is unmistakably lacking in stealth, but no further Remnants appear; it seems that the rag-tag former invaders suspect another ambush. Only one scout tracks the group, and Peluma dispatches him handily.

Shifting their approach, the Trade Union circles around to the northeast portion of the ward, where they find signs that the local camps have moved farther south, perhaps to investigate the caches or corpses of the fallen brethren there. The four decide that this would be a perfect opportunity to strike at the heart of the ward, perhaps catching the strongest of the Remnants. They’re able to approach without being noticed, where they note that a collapsed building has altered the skyline and a strange, loud metallic sound regularly echoes through the streets.

The source of the noise proves to be an immense golem, modeled in the shape of a dragon-headed turtle, pinned under the collapsed building and scraping repeatedly at the ground. Huge furrows mark the street — it may have been here for decades. Several of the group recognize that it’s marked with the astrological sigil for Archelos, the zodiac sign of the Dragon Turtle. Dewlian further recalls that the Scholarium of Central Tanglestone was said to have crafted fifteen zodiac golems to protect themselves and the city at large. The entire Trade Union resolves to free the golem: the only difficulty is the core band of troll-eater Remnants camped around the square. A particularly immense half-orc, seemingly altered by his diet of troll and perhaps by several surgeries, has claimed a camp atop the rubble pinning the Archelos golem in place.

The attack claims a few Remnant lives quickly, and then the skirmish moves from building to building. Peluma runs afoul of an orcish raider and an ogre brute, and is saved by her gifts of shadow. Hinge and Dewlian move quickly toward a second-story bridge that leads to the rubble heap, and are caught between a massive Remnant orc with an axe almost too heavy to lift and two lesser skirmishers. Sym, between dodging pellets from slingers atop the rubble pile, calls on the Forge Beast to assist him and Peluma with finishing the ogre.

As the battle moves from one building to the next, Hinge is knocked from a connecting bridge but clambers back up into the battle. All the while, the half-orc waits atop the turtle and the slingers take opportunity shots. As Dewlian, Sym and Hinge finally best the orcs, Peluma waits and bides her time. Then, once the slingers are struck down by Dewlian and Sym’s magic, Hinge makes the leap from crumbled bridge to rubble pile and engages the Remnant leader, the Forge-beast quick behind.

But the last Remnant is also the strongest. He matches Hinge blow for blow, enduring Dewlian’s invocations and Peluma’s strikes, and shrugging off or evading several of Sym’s conjurations. He even manages to knock Hinge into the path of the dragon turtle’s claw with a hooking strike, then nearly catches Sym with a leaping charge that puts him atop the crumbled bridge. Dewlian boldly engages him, but is nearly cut down; when the Librarian tries to grapple the Remnant into submission, he’s slashed away and hurled to the ground, where he nearly suffers a mortal wound. Fortunately, Hinge smashes the troll-eater into the jaws of the Forge Beast immediately afterwards, and swift medical attention rescues Dewlian. The group agrees to rest before attempting to free the golem: from behind, of course.

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29 - Hospital Visit
In which a gesture of bloody goodwill becomes bloodier, harsh opinions of medical skill are exchanged, and a Resurrectionist accepts a proposal.

After a rest at the Armory, the Trade Union discusses potential Hospital contact with the local Battlemen. They learn the name of Carniclave, and of the Armory’s ally Doctor Aspirus Fetch. Learning that the undead “Shrouder” troops are active only at night, the group decides to approach via the front entrance, by way of the northeast district where the Remnants are still a danger. Hinge reasons that if they are able to lay a few Remnants low along the way, it will be good progress — and fighting the enemy of a potential friend has continually proved to be a good introduction.

The group cases the edge of the district; a turtle motif is common in the sculpture of the area, and they note signs of occupation (such as a number of blocked sewer entrances). The plan is to set an ambush in a likely spot, and have Peluma sneak ahead and draw a small band of Remnants back to it. It’s a partial success — the crossroads they choose for the ambush give a nice tactical edge, with Dewlian and Sym able to snipe from above, but more Remnants than they’d bargained for come calling. The fastest of Peluma’s pursuers are a band of Gutterherd goat-men, and most of them fall quickly, but the largest hold on long enough for reinforcements to arrive: a pair of orc javelineers who impale Hinge, a massive and clearly deranged orc with an immense axe, and a somewhat more lucid-seeming human. Sym holds the high ground; Peluma is badly injured by one of the larger Gutterherd but takes her revenge; and Dewlian pours the power of the city into its clockwork guardian, keeping Hinge in the fight long enough to finish several of their opponents. One of the javelin-throwing Remnants is able to escape, but the rest are finished, and Hinge takes the body of the human along to the Hospital.

The hulking Orderlies standing guard at the main entrance summon the first Doctor contact, a white-clad fellow named Fintleroy. Fintleroy agrees to introduce them to Doctor Carniclave, and takes them up to the head Doctor’s office. The crotchety Carniclave and Sym take an immediate (and understandable) dislike to one another, but Dewlian is able to expertly defuse the situation and keep the conversation on track. Carniclave provides some of his perspective on the current state of Central Tanglestone, but clarifies that if the Trade Union wants the help of the Shrouders, they’ll have to negotiate with Morovius down in the Morgue. The group leaves the Doctors, Dewlian and Peluma leaving blood samples with Doctor Stethetta at Carniclave’s request, and descend into the Hospital’s underlevels.

They’re met by the Resurrectionist Sandgrief, who escorts them to Morovius’ operating theater, participating in some chat along the way. Morovius engages them with rather frank discussion as he dissects an ogre corpse, one that he admits was recovered from the Candelabrum district after the Trade Union’s visit. He talks about the practicality of the loan of Shrouder troops, mentioning that the recent Remnant corpses provided may generate a sufficient surplus to hold the area between the Hospital and the wall, even if it does drain their supplies somewhat. He also hints at further tasks of “procurement,” and with the Trade Union offering their support in such matters, the conversation ends on a promising note of tenuous alliance.

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28 - The Troll-Eaters
In which the Spinepuller family entertains guests, a delivery crosses the Moat, and the source of peculiar dental practices is revealed.

With the blood quartz safely delivered to the Clock Tower’s new master, and the Forges filling the order for the Armory and Grand Gate, the Trade Union has a little downtime to spare. Hinge recommends to his commander that patrols along the Wall be increased, and passes on a curious dagger to Peluma discovered by the archivist Tallyblack. Sym crafts a few more of his peculiar avian skeletal constructs. Dewlian invites his colleagues, as well as Lowkeeper Quire and the two Battlemen scroungers Glaive and Bolt, to a dinner in the Library with his family. Peluma and Sym bring gifts (a bottle of absinthe for Dewlian’s wife and one of Sym’s watch-constructs, respectively), and the children do their best to make Hinge feel welcome at the table.

It’s a cool, slick winter day when the shipment of arms and armor (mostly shields, pikes and flails) makes its way down the Wall, delivered by a pair of Forge apprentices and escorted by the Trade Union. Commander Plackart of the Armory receives it gratefully, and discusses much of the news from the North. As the Trade Union considers a strike against the Gutterherd that have moved into the Colonnade, some talk with Bolt and Glaive suggests a separate plan of attack. The neighborhoods east of the Hospital are apparently home to isolated packs of Remnants and Bestia, and if they could be secured (preferably with Shrouder troops), the travel along the Wall would be much safer.

This plan of action agreed upon, Peluma spends time scouting the Candelabrum, a small neighborhood southeast of the Hospital. She finds that the Remnant force occupying it is rather small: a little over two dozen warriors, with only half a dozen or so that approach her or Hinge’s level of skill, and at least three ogres. They seem to have taken a six-story tower, the tallest structure in the neighborhood, as their base of operations. With a general layout of the neighborhood described, the Trade Union puts their plan of attack into motion.

The first Remnant they find is a single warrior, moving about in undue confidence. He’s dispatched easily. The next group is not so soft. Discovering an ogre and his small band, the Trade Union strikes quickly and has to draw on their full strength to defeat the group. After the battle, Sym goes rooting in the guts of the fallen ogre — he finds no gems, but discovers that the blackening that Remnants display on their teeth apparently spreads to the digestive tract. Investigating the dried meat they carry, Dewlian realizes that it’s likely troll meat: something that taints the digestive system, perhaps granting them some measure of longevity but at the expense of their sanity.

The group moves quickly from there, ambushing a group of three stray Remnants and then moving to the central tower. Peluma draws the attention of the warriors lounging about the tower’s base, drawing them into an ambush. The first few Remnants drop quickly, but a pair of dangerous warriors (one a human swordsman, the other a goat-headed Gutterherd axeman) and a brute of an ogre batter Hinge sorely in the initial rush, and a javelin-wielding orc harpoons Dewlian. As they cut down more of the Remnants, reinforcements come from the tower, including the third ogre. Ultimately, though, the element of surprise and superior tactics give the Trade Union the edge, and the Remnants are defeated with no casualties.

Securing the tower, the Trade Union dispatch the Remnants’ unfortunate lookout and discover their even more unfortunate food source: a troll, kept chained and fed on filth to serve as a self-renewing source of meat for the rag-tag marauders. The group puts the troll out of its misery, gathers what spoils they can, and returns to the Armory with intentions of contacting the Hospital after their recuperation.

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27 - Blood and Blood Quartz
In which the secrets of guild-clans are evaluated (and some preserved), tapping echoes off hooks, and jests about devouring earth are perhaps not so fanciful as initially believed.

The new Caretaker doesn’t contact the Trade Union again for a week’s time. In the meantime, they turn their attention to the sealed vaults in Tattergloom Hall. Peluma unfortunately discovers the hard way just how clever Savatine Fell was at trapsmithing before she masters the art of evading his work. Once opened, the vaults reveal the hoarded secrets of many guild-clans: things that would surely infuriate the guild-clans if they learned other people had them. Peluma immediately runs off with the Night Sweepers’ belongings, and most of the rest are given back to the guild-clans in question (though not after some browsing). The exceptions are a book of secret rituals of the Gate cult and sacred incense of the Sun cult (which Sym keeps for himself), a Sewerjack map (kept by Dewlian), and some paraphernalia of the Four Gates. Peluma spends some time researching the Hermitage, and learns a little from the ranking Disciple Widderwatch, but some of her questions remain unanswered.

At the end of that week, the bells of the Clock Tower ring in an odd four-toned pattern, once every five minutes, well away from the hour. The Trade Union takes that as a summons and heads to the Clock Tower. There, the new Caretaker informs them that there are no pulse-stones stored in the building, but that he has determined how to create a new one. They are apparently crafted from blood quartz, and he tells them that it is usually obtained from the mines below the Forges.

The Trade Union heads for the mines, already prepared for trouble; given that the dwarves called by the Locksmith apparently came up through there, they certainly expect more danger below. It doesn’t take long for Fireboss Bellowsmelt to confirm their suspicions. She mentions there’s been trouble below, and tells them Oreboss Chrysovar will explain further.

Once they’ve taken the elevator down to the mines, the Oreboss elucidates. There have been ambushes, both from native beasts and from outland dwarves. He assigns two orcish miners, Chalked and Sidian, to go with the Trade Union and help them retrieve the blood quartz. Before leaving, Dewlian and Sym study a pair of very old gate-markings that lead to what Chrysovar calls “gate tunnels.” The two also joke about the tunnels being a gullet of some sort of great devourer… perhaps due to a half-remembered scrap of lore?

The orcs prove to be willing conversationalists, even if they favor hushed tones. Hinge is particularly careful during the journey, and his vigilance pays off: when listening down branching tunnels, he hears the sound of tapping. The miners warn him that it’s tappers, weird fey that will try to lure people into cave-ins, or lure beasts of the tunnels to the miners. The group proceeds forward with greater haste, but the tappers have clearly noticed them. The sounds come from many directions.

The ambush comes when the tunnel crosses another, lower way: an iron-shod tapper comes bounding down each side passage, while massive, armored, bipedal beasts with curved beaks and long hooks for forearms thunder down from fore and rear. The group moves back-to-back on the bridge to fight them. Hinge tries to hold off the two tappers and one of the hook horrors, which is a tall order; even when he knocks one tapper over the edge with Flattener, the other foes are still enough to nearly dismantle him. The fey level particularly wicked blows with their sharpened picks, and when they manage to bring someone down, deliver a nasty kick with an iron boot. At the other end of the bridge, Dewlian is hooked and nearly devoured, barely holding on before the beast flings him into the chasm. Sym’s magic helps to turn the tide, and Dewlian is able to clamber back up after a short skirmish with the other head-punting tapper on the lower level. Hinge falls in action, but both horrors follow suit, and Peluma pulls the head off one of the fey before the other flees.

The Night Sweeper brings Hinge back to functionality as the group rests. During the lull, Chalked curses and raises his pick against something on the wall; every member of the Trade Union sees some sort of glyph before the orc eradicates it. Though the two minors are unwilling to speak further, Dewlian eventually convinces them to tell him about the Great Devourer, an elemental prince of terror that the miners dread. The mark is one used by his cult, in an attempt to awaken the tunnels so he might feed.

With added urgency, the group moves to the area where the blood quartz was last seen. They find a particularly large and promising protrusion, but it’s surrounded by the same glyph: the quartz seems to be playing the role of the eye within the earthen maw. As Peluma works to carefully extract it, they realize that the quartz seems to be at the center of a body devised for an elemental, still part of the wall. It’s tense going that requires the efforts of the whole group, but they manage to free that piece, and find another promising chunk, before hastening back.

Oreboss Chrysovar explains a bit more about the enemy, and offers to purify the blood quartz before it’s taken to the Clock Tower. They accept, and Hinge agrees to dispatch more Battlemen to assist the miners in coming days. On the surface again, they bring the two blood quartz stones to the Caretaker, and spend a bit of time relaxing afterward.

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26 - The Gate and the Tower
In which the commander of the Great Gate voices his concerns, two scroungers conflate diplomancy and dentistry, and the next Caretaker is inducted.

The Trade Union is taken through the Grand Gate, a structure that seems as fortified as the Gaol; the Gatekeepers are fairly strong in number (by Tanglestone standards), and use a system of passwords to secure the area. Slicer Kout brings the group into a war council room to meet Jinra Targe and his dwarven adjutant Rattlescree.

Targe is receptive to the news they bring, and shares some of his knowledge of the situation of Central Tanglestone. He names the Baths, Gardens, Hospital, Scholarium, Museum and Hermitage as primary guild-clan points of strength; similarly, he describes the Remnants, Talons, Gutterherd and Stonemongers as standing threats. The Pyrologers seem to fit somewhere in between. Targe proves quite interested in the story of the Locksmith, and admits that he’s very interested in locating the Gatemaker’s current Apprentice, who might know something about the various gates that threats such as the Gutterherd have passed through. Though he can’t answer all of the curious Greystack’s questions, Targe allows the Librarian to go to the roof of the Grand Gate, where Dewlian sets a smoke flare to indicate to the northern Battlemen that things have gone well, and gazes on the colossus that guards the gate to the south.

Dewlian proposes that a Battleman delegate be sent back north with the Trade Union. Targe can see the wisdom of it, but states plainly that Rattlescree will not be “open-minded” enough to suit the Trade Union’s purpose, and that Kout, while…adventurous, would be potentially problematic if not given enough excitement. The group returns to the Armory shortly afterward and offers the same question to Taciter Plackart. Plackart is willing to dispatch her adjutant Picket, and mentions that the scroungers Cassitus Glaive and Corvery Bolt are volunteering as well. After some discussion, the group agrees to take Glaive and Bolt along. The two are quite excited, and after answering a few of Peluma’s questions about the Hermits, inquire about whether or not a gift would be politic. Peluma tells them that it’s not necessary, but the lesson doesn’t seem to take. The next morning, Bolt and Glaive have slipped out in search of some sort of offering. The group goes to pursue them, and encounters them fleeing, large gold tusk in hand, from an angered ogre with a bleeding jaw and his Remnant warband.

Once things are settled and the scrounged loot dropped off at the Armory, the six head north up the Wall. Bolt and Glaive are agreeably talkative, answering various questions about their experiences in the central city. At times, though, they seem almost hesitant to talk about the Gatekeepers, though they do their best to cover up any tension there.

Back in Northern Tanglestone, the Trade Union lets the Battlemen of the Fortress speak with Glaive and Bolt while they address the question of the Clock Tower’s next custodian. Over the next few days, they take Brackenflange, Vigardine Fell and Finecrafter Ratbait to the tower and assess which one might make the best Caretaker. All three seem to have the skills and the ability to set themselves apart from others, which leaves the question of empathy and ethics. After some debate, the group agrees to induct Finecrafter Ratbait. The halfling agrees to the position, and to the charge of helping them find a new “heart” for the inactive soulworked Hilt. After investigating Hinge’s innards to be certain of what he’s looking for, Ratbait vanishes into the Tower to do his research.

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25 - Armigers and Gatekeepers
In which sentinels at the Gate prove quite vigilant, a pair of scavengers are in need, and the defender of the Armory is discovered to rest in state.

Two days pass. Peluma is absent on some mysterious errand, Dewlian rests and recuperates, and Hinge investigates the possibility of an approach down the Eastern Wall. The Battleman responsible for patrolling the wall as far as the Moat, Tyver Grommet, tells Hinge that nobody’s crossed the water since the order to fall back and entrench some 3 centuries ago.

The Trade Union meets, and agrees to explore down the Eastern Wall. Peluma is sent ahead to scout while the others wait in a different safehouse in Detritus. She notes signs of skirmishes along the wall, the smell of decay in one tower, and lights scattered around the central city. The wall entrance to the Armory is huge and solid, with no visible locks. She approaches an arrow slit to spy into the watch post in the Grand Gate, but is noticed, and slips away after the organized defense gives up (overhearing one say “Probably another fly-by”). She also moves down to street level, where she spies one of the albino cannibals stalking around, accompanied by a nine-foot brute (an ogre, the first Peluma has ever seen).

Once the Night Sweeper reunites with the others, they move down the next day and hail the Gate. The guards on duty do not let them nearer, stating that “the North is lost” and asking to see navels. The Trade Union seems to convince them that they aren’t abject liars or summonings, but must go around to the front portion of the Grand Gate to enter and speak to the commander, Jinra Targe.

The group retreats to the northernmost tower by the Moat and descends, discovering the corpses of two albino cannibals and a slate-skinned dwarf, all stripped of arms and armor and with black teeth. The three seem to have fallen side-by-side rather than fighting one another. A shout from outside draws their attention, and they witness a pursuit of sorts: a pair of mad-looking dwarves, another ogre, and a pale man-eater wielding javelins attempting to force their way into a building after an unseen crossbowman. When the cannibal spots them and attacks, they retaliate, winning a decisive (if bloodied) victory over the band (including a second ogre that was drawn to the fight).

With their opponents dead, the group meets Cassitus Glaive and Corvery Bolt, a pair of Central Battlemen from the Armigers division. The two were on a scavenging mission when they were cut off by the Remnants in question. The pair agrees to take the group back to the Armory, going so far as to note that Hinge is “like Hilt,” comparing him to the guardian of the Armory. Along the way, the two explain some of the situation, such as the presence of the Remnants, the Bestia of the Arena, and the Talons (harpies from the Artists’ Quarter).

Inside the Armory, the group meets with Taciter Plackart, commander of the Armigers. Plackart seems interested in the Trade Union’s story, and agrees to let them examine Hilt. The clockwork in question is built in the likeness of a sword-winged angel, and has been “asleep” for decades. Peluma discovers that she seems to have been powered by a large jewel of some sort that is now dull, smoky and flawed; the group determines that the Clock Tower likely holds the secret of crafting another.

Finally, the group agrees to meet their obligation to go speak to Jinra Targe, and heads for the Gate with an Armiger escort. They are met by a shaven-headed, proud-seeming woman (the Gatekeeper Slicer Kout), and taken inside.

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24 - Dewlian's Nightmare
In which a Librarian has difficulty waking, a Night Sweeper becomes territorial, and nightmares find many things appetizing.

The Trade Union’s rest is uninterrupted, or so it seems at first. But Dewlian doesn’t wake up, and can’t be forcibly awakened. Sym and Peluma recognize that he’s trapped in a perpetual nightmare, likely a oneiromantic curse. (For her part, Peluma is actively jealous of the Librarian, and resents his “encroachment on her territory”.) Hinge finds the signs of some sort of frog-thing having perched on a windowsill in the night, but it seems to have flown there. Sym recollects a bestiary of the Outside that described flying frog-things called water leapers; if they are connected to the trolls, it’s likely by way of goblins or hags.

They contemplate seeking help from the Doctors (though not for long) and the cult of the Cowl, but ultimately they take Dewlian to the Mysteria and the cult of the Moon. Heirologian Selensia agrees to assist them, and uses a ritual to send the three into Dewlian’s nightmare to lead him out.

The three land in what seems like a warped version of a Library room, the empty bookshelves forming a labyrinth of sorts. Hinge follows the sound of gnawing to a more familiar room — a reflection of the section of the stacks where the Trade Union fought cannibals in the waking world. There, two immense rats are gnawing on an effigy of Dewlian made from piles of books. The dream-divers fight against the rats, and against an ambushing rat-man (marked with patches of scales reminiscent of the snake-people) that grows more heads as the fight goes on. When the rat-dreams are at last vanquished with fire and steel, the book-Dewlian animates briefly. The book that serves as the effigy’s “head” opens, revealing an illustration of Dewlian’s face. Pages flip by quickly, giving the illusion of his face moving and bubbles emerging from his mouth, as if he’s drowning.

Determining that the lift in the corner seems to move down to a watery depth, Hinge rides it down. He passes several “levels” of the Library along the way, where books are being devoured by fire, flooded by rising waters, or even consumed by immense disembodied teeth. At the bottom, he steps into a bizarre reflection of the reservoir where the Trade Union fought the immense frog-things some time ago. On the central platform squats some bizarre hybrid of a frog and the Filth King, devouring another effigy of Dewlian made of cuts of meat and sculpted fat, a small eyeball resting in the gelatin that is the effigy’s throat. The frog-filth thing gets to its feet, rummages around in its own throat, and pulls out a long bone with a colossal tooth strapped to it like an axe-head. A pair of what Sym described as water leapers spring from the water (which seems as much digestive acid as water), and four of the frog-people emerge as well. Hinge sends the lift up and braces himself.

One of the leapers pulls Hinge into the acidic much with a tongue lash, and Sym and Peluma arrive to find themselves wide open. The battle is much more dangerous than the clash with the rats, and the Trade Union find themselves depleted in strength by the time the last nightmare spawn is defeated. The effigy gestures downward with a sausage-finger, and the clearing water drains down, far down. The rope bridges give way and become ladders, descending into complete blackness.

Peluma leads the way for the blind climb, until she finally feels a roof under her feet. Hanging in the void is a replica of the Detritus house where they had rested, and something is within. Rather than risk the climb down through the windows, Sym focuses all his oneiric knowledge and a draining portion of his willpower to create a hatch inside. The three quietly slink down into the building, arriving in the loft area. There they see Dewlian thrashing in nightmare, his eye sockets open and empty. A green-skinned hag in a dress reminiscent of a fish’s skin holds his eyeballs; she is clearly more solid, more distinct than the troll accompanying her.

Peluma snatches Dewlian’s eyes from the hag with a rope of shadow, and the hag responds by summoning a wall of water to flood the loft, and attacking Peluma with phantom jaws that invoke a sense of drowning in the Night Sweeper. While Peluma and Hinge attempt to drop the hag, Sym takes Dewlian’s eyes from Peluma and places them back in the sockets, bringing the Librarian closer to lucidity with a remarkable bit of improvised medicine. The effort seems to weaken the troll, and the dream-vestige of the hag makes a few errors that Hinge punishes. As she totters, Peluma calls on her own powers of nightmare, and the hag succumbs to the Dewlian’s dream of being devoured, vanishing entirely as chunk after chunk is bitten from her body by invisible jaws. With Dewlian lucid and the hag’s dream-sending gone, the nightmare troll doesn’t last long, and the Trade Union is able to lead Dewlian back out of his nightmare.

Once in the waking world, Dewlian coughs up some sort of lacquered eyeball, the vehicle used to place the curse, and then falls into a restful sleep at last. Peluma retreats to her own bed to rest, and Sym invites the Heirologian of the Moon to go discuss the events in Dewlian’s Dreamscape over a meal. The four of them do remember one bit of knowledge, however, fast in their heads like the most lucid part of any dream — that the hag they confronted was called the Fishwife, and that she is very solid in the waking world.

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23 - First Steps South
In which a peaceful phase is set to one side, a Petty Court discusses nittering, and a bridge exacts a gruesome toll.

Two months pass since the defeat of the Locksmith, and the Trade Union keeps busy in their own separate ways.

Dewlian makes copies of the map located in the Clock Tower, researches the history of the city heavily, and visits Market Days regularly to keep up contact with the other guild-clans.

Hinge continues to patrol, expanding his route to include the Clock Tower and to observe the most promising paths south — the central (and only intact) bridge over the Moat, which shows troll-sign, and the eastern Grand Wall, which is marked with signs of recent skirmishes. From the Wall, Hinge also spots a patrol of walking dead moving about the region of the Hospital.

Sym uses necromantic rituals to convert the skeletal caged birds in Tattergloom Hall into animated sentries that can warn of intruders. He also researches the possibility of some sort of enchanted warning item, a horn or chime that could alert the rest of the guild-clan of danger.

Peluma “takes a vacation”, though it’s a busman’s holiday at best. She learns that the shadow creepers are still in the city, though they’ve avoided contact with the Night Sweepers who occasionally spot them. She also completes her plan of making an initial courtship contact with the Battleman archivist Tallyblack.

The Trade Union finally reconvenes in full at a Market Day, in which the Tragedians are putting on the phantasmagorical play “House of a Thousand Mirrors”. The show frightens Dewlian’s children, unnerves Sym to an equal degree, and convinces Peluma that she should go shopping for a mirror.

After the performance, a Petty Court convenes — for the first time in a long period, one that boasts representatives from every known guild-clan, indeed every citizen population of Northern Tanglestone save the noble Houses and Detritus. There, Dewlian speaks at length of the Trade Union’s recent activities and the need to find someone to serve as the new master of the Clock Tower. The assembled representatives take the request fairly seriously as a whole, and three potential candidates are mentioned: Vigardine Fell and Brackenflange of the Crafters, and Finecrafter Ratbait of the Forges. Following the formalities, Hinge informs the rest of the Trade Union of his observations, and the group muses over the possibility of exploring south of the Moat.

At length, it’s decided to try for the central bridge, and test the strength of the trolls there. Hinge leads the way, stopping first at the Kitchens to have some fish attached to his armor (to draw the trolls out via scent) and then adding some blazing torches to his pauldrons. Dewlian also acquires some alchemist’s fire for good measure.

As expected, their passage draws trolls — two adult males and one adolescent, who are exactly as dangerous as Dewlian’s research had determined. Hinge is nearly pulled apart in the melee, and the adolescent troll proves to be a deft hand (or talon) at hurling his foes into their allies. It takes every scrap of willpower, trickery and arcane might for the Trade Union to win the battle, but win they do. Rather than press on and draw the attention of more trolls, however, the group retreats to Detritus, where they find a safe-seeming stone hovel to bind their wounds and rest.

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22 - The Bell Tolls
In which a secret salon is discovered, several long falls are almost embarked upon, and a final confrontation is at last attained.

In dire need of recuperation but knowing that Fell is still on the loose, the Trade Union quickly checks the bodies of the fallen undead and moves on. Dewlian appropriates Barhook’s hatchet-grapnel, and Peluma takes the personal effects of the Dagger-cultist she recognizes as Galgajack (specifically his dagger, garrote-necklace and victim-rosary). The group then begins to search out a potential resting place, Peluma covering their tracks as they go to prevent Fell discovering them. Hinge discovers a hidden salon among similar structures, a beautiful room with luxuries fit for the Architects themselves. A few delicious drinks and a short nap later, the group is ready to press on to find the Locksmith’s moving room.

Noting a dock for a likely structure, the Trade Union heads up into the gears of the great clock itself. There they spy a similar dock with a control panel attached, but must fight their way past Savatine Fell, a pair of copper automatons, some sort of machine made of whirling cables and knives (powered, Sym theorizes, by an elemental of some sort) and a handful of spindlespikers. Hinge forces one automaton over the rail, but Peluma is also bullied off a gear by the slicing clockwork. Before she can plummet to her death, she uses a noose of shadow to pull the elemental device after her, and uses it as a grapnel to break her fall. She and Dewlian finish it off, as Hinge, Somber and Sym engage Fell and finally send him to his rest. Peluma claims his belongings, and takes charge of a sealed letter to Fell’s daughter Vigardine before Sym can break the seal and read it.

Examining the control panel, Dewlian recognizes the significance of the numbers he’d found in another portion of the Locksmith’s notes. He sets the clocks to the appropriate hours, and the room descends. However, it passes further than expected, its roof drawing level with the dock. A pair of automatons guard the roof (a brass minotaur and a clockwork bell-ringer, the latter showing signs of modification), and through a hatch on the roof appears, at last, the Locksmith, accompanied by even more spindlespikers. Only a few initial (un)pleasantries are exchanged before the mad Caretaker attacks.

The ensuing fight is high in emotion. Sym and Dewlian place themselves in uncharacteristic amounts of danger, and both pay a price — Sym is nearly sent tumbling over the edge, and Dewlian receives vicious wounds from the Locksmith. The city-speakers and the renegade Caretaker exchange heated accusations, and every spirit of Tanglestone that Sym can muster appears to join in the climactic struggle. For his part, the Locksmith electrifies the floor more than once, badly hurts Dewlian and uses an ampule of some dangerous alchemical concoction to keep himself standing — but ultimately the strength of the Battlemen and Night Sweepers, the word of the City and the fires of the Forges are too much. Brought low at last, the Locksmith clings to life long enough to return to a temporary lucidity, and apologizes before he breathes his last.

Examining the inner workings of the moving room, the Trade Union discovers the Caretaker’s workshop and living quarters. Dewlian sifts through old encrypted journals of Caretakers past and notes several copied volumes of Library books regarding the Outside, works that seem to have informed the Locksmith’s plots. With the threat of the Locksmith ended, the group prepares for a well-deserved long rest, though not too long. A new Caretaker must be found if the Clock Tower, like the rest of the City, is to return to health.

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