Death's Embrace

The day began with another surprise visit from Zecht. He ordered copious amounts of food to our room, and we ate a full breakfast. It was clear now that our objective was to steal Varsuviux's Phylactery. It was being held in the main Gootham arcane tower, one of the most secure locations in Ashan. This wouldn't be an easy heist.

Each of us went shopping for supplies, and met up in the late afternoon to speak with Reginald, who was still recovering. He told us that an informant, a girl in a gray cowl, had given one of his agents a listing off all guard shifts in the upper levels of the arcane tower, as well as files on three wizards who worked there: Jim Darkmagic, Hank Robertson, and Sandra Dee. The plan was to deal with these three, and gain entrance by impersonating them. Once inside, we would find a place to hide, and wait until nightfall to begin searching for the entrance to the high-security upper levels. There, we would look for the phylactery.

But first, we would need to make some preparations. First of all, our Caravan had been towed from its parking spot, and was now being held in the DHDV. (The Department of Horse-drawn Vehicles). We would need to reclaim it.

At closing time, we moved in. Clare broke the padlock on the fence, and we found our caravan chained up in the middle of the lot. Alister picked the lock while Clare and I looked for our horses, Warp Drive and Fuu Dog. We broke them out rather covertly, chained up our caravan, and made our escape. Piece of cake.

We then found a suitable parking spot in a seemingly deserted backstreet. It was to be our rendezvous point. At dawn, we would intercept these wizards on their way to work, but for now it was time to get some shuteye. We would sleep in the caravan, for security reasons.

More awful dreams hit us that night. I dreamed that we had secured the phylactery and were rushing towards where Gambit and Winfrey were imprisoned, in the manor north of Artorshade. We were all there. Me, Alistair, Gilder, Zecht, Clare, even Reginald, rushing to the room where Winfrey was tied up.

As we opened the door, everything went black. And then two lights flicked on. There was nobody but Winfrey and myself, with her tied to a chair, eyes pleading. I heard her whimper my name helplessly, before the light turned off another time. The time, when the light came on, I saw a woman in a gray cowl walking sharply towards me, knife drawn.

I drew my sword, and watched in horror as it disintegrated in my hand. My wand, my shield, my sickle, all did the same. I was left helpless as the figure approached me, and buried a cold knife into the left side of my chest. The pain was real. I gasped for breath, but none came. Before I awoke, I heard the woman whisper in my ear: "You know sweetie, it's not a bad thing you have a blade in your heart." I sat bolt upright in bed, and touched the place where she had stabbed me. There was a scar.

Alistair and Clare took some time to recover from their nightmares as well. We gulped down some breakfast and then went to our positions. Alistair was going to intercept Hank at the restaurant where he normally ate breakfast (from what I gather, Hank is rather gluttonous) while Clare and I were headed to a backstreet that Jim and Sandra detour through. I posed as a busker while Clare sat, seemingly transfixed by my performance. When the two unwitting wizards came by, she convinced them to stay and listen. Jim didn't seem to want to stop, but Sandra was keen. She clung to his arm and listened intently.

I played them a potent lullaby while Clare edged up behind them for a knockout. She hits hard; they won't be waking up for a good while to come. We looted and hid the bodies, stole locks of their hair, and met up back by the caravan. There, I set to work shape shifting us into our respective victims.

We arrived at the arcane tower right as work started, and were greeted by several wizards, most of whom didn't seem to carry a cheerful disposition with me. Apparently Jim Darkmagic was an insufferable prat who worked in the charms department. And apparently he and Sandra were expected to do a presentation of some sort today at 9:45 AM, sharp. This could be a problem; the disguises would only last an hour.

We quickly split up and began snooping around. I stole several books from the libraries, on subjects like fooling scrying magic, poisoning phylacteries, and several historical tomes. Clare searched for places to hide after our disguises wore off, while Alistair talked to several of the wizards. While on the archives on the uppermost floor that I had access to, I searched for a way into the upper levels. It didn't take long to find a magical archway with inscriptions written in Draconic that said "speak friend and enter." It was a simple passcode door.

I went to the charms receptionist and canceled my meeting, to the amusement of everyone in earshot. Jim wasn't well liked here, I could tell. Oh well. Not my problem. We all met back in Hank's office just as our disguises wore off. To be safe, I wrote a sticky note on the door that said "Gone to lunch, be back tomorrow." Knowing Hank's appetite, that wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

We passed the time in his office by playing cards, and when we heard the magical intercom deliver the message that the arcane tower was going to be magically sealed for the night, Clare ran to Jim's office to hid in a magical chest, while Alistair and I hid in a magical wardrobe. The sensors didn't pick us up, and we were sealed in for the night.

It was time to get down to business. We went to the upper level and I opened the secret door. It took us up a flight of stairs and into a hallway with guards stationed within. I thought we would have to make a loud entrance, when Alistair pulled out a scroll that he had borrowed from one of the apprentices. It had a moderate invisibility spell inscribed on it.

I read off the scroll, and we vanished from sight. We all kept our hands locked to avoid getting separated, and crossed the hall right in front of the guards, as silently as possible. At the other end, we began ascending a spiral staircase.

We met a guard walking down, so we all pressed ourselves against the wall, and I stuck my leg out to trip him. It worked, and he was sent tumbling down the stairs in his full suit of plate armor. We heard shouting as the other guards helped him up.

At the top of the staircase, we entered a large chamber with two stationed guards and four doors branching off. One of the door's inscriptions caught my eye. It read "Einschler's Echoing Songblade of Madness".

I used a spell to imitate one of the guards calling for help in the middle of the staircase that we just ascended. The two guards in our room looked confused, and then ran to see the source of the disturbance. I used a nail of sealing to barricade the door behind them.

We took this opportunity to break the locks on the room housing the songblade. What we saw inside was a bent and brazen khopesh, which began to hum with mysterious notes as I approached. I grabbed the blade by the handle and it emitted a deafening series of wubs. I quickly sheathed it. Everyone in the tower must have heard that.

Nevertheless, we pressed on, into a room with an ornate stone carving of a sphinx. It dispelled our invisibility like nothing, and then challenged us to test our mettle by answering a riddle. We accepted, and Alistair solved it within seconds. The ceiling of the room opened up, and we found ourselves being elevated up a narrow shaft, towards the top of the tower presumably.

We found ourselves in a room laden with trap runes of all sorts, and saw a ring on a pedestal in the center. It was definitely the phylactery.

Using Alistair's belt we were able to trigger many of the traps and buy ourselves enough time to take the ring and abscond through a one-way portal that led back to the main floor. We did take some significant damage from the traps, and we wasted a LOT of oranges, but we made it out alive and that's what counts.

As we entered the main foyer, we were met with a gristly sight. The guards who had chased us lay in pools of blood on the floor. We looked around and were surprised to find the perpetrator sitting at the head receptionist's desk. It was the girl in the gray cowl. Still, something seemed extremely familiar about her. I still can't quite put my finger on it.

She congratulated us on a job well done, and offered us a way out of the tower if we asked nicely. She was asking too much. When we gave her lip, she apologized, and sealed all the exits shut. She then released some sort of sleeping gas into the room, and we didn't last long before blacking out.

I awoke stripped of my belongings, tied with chains, in the brig of a ship. As my eyes adjusted, I saw Clare and Alistair in cells next to me. Outside, sitting on a wooden crate, with a revolver held loosely in his right hand and a bottle of rum in the other, was Gilder. He had been working for Varsuviux all along it seemed. I noticed that he was still wearing his ring, while ours were missing.

Apparently Varsuviux had ordered that we be killed as soon as we obtain his Phylactery. Gilder was to be the one to execute us. We chatted for a while, and I realized that this might truly be where I meet my end. How humiliating.

We were interrupted by a couple of hobgoblins entering the brig. One of them commanded Gilder to get on with it, and, unexpectedly, Gilder drew his revolver and put a bullet in his skull. "I'm captain, and if anyone's giving the orders around here, it's ME. You got that? Now take your friends and get the hell off my ship."

I caught a glimpse of something in Gilder's eyes. He noticed and turned to me. Something was telling me that he wasn't entirely on Varsuviux's side here.

"Now then. I've prepared some special bullets for the three of you. I urge you all to take one last drink, you'll be parched when you get to Hell." He handed us each a silver chalice filled with water. I addressed the room.

"I'll see you all in hell, my fickle companions."
Clare and Alistair nodded.
"Come Wilward, let's take a drink."
I raised my Chalice.
"To the Black Dragon Company." I spoke
"To freedom." Gilder murmured.
"To blood." Clare said flatly.
"To oranges." Alistair grinned wryly.

We downed our glasses, wiped our mouths, and sat waiting for the inevitable. Gilder shot Clare first as Alistair and I forced ourselves not to avert our gaze. He walked past my cell and then took aim at Alistair. Another shot rang out, leaving only myself alive. He pointed his revolver through the bars.

"Any last words, Wilward?"
"Aim for the left side of my chest."
He fired. I crumpled.
"MY left, you idiot…"

And again, all went black.

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