Day 5, Wednesday (continued)
Tired and sweaty from their trek through the sewers, the party travels back the way they came to return the two creatures they captured to Professor Blendy. The hallways are mostly empty, they pass a few groups of people heading for a bit to eat. There are some food booths still open from the celebration.
Molander says, “Lufus might be expecting us.” The party recalls that they told Lufus they would see him that night at the bar.
They arrive back at the large metal door to the lab, which is now closed. They knock a few times and out steps a small young man in a set of dark robes. His bluish-dark hair shines in the light of the hallway torches and he smiles at them, nodding. “I believe you are the group I am waiting for.”
“Where’s Blendy?” Mildred says.
“I have a message for you from him. As I see you have brought the creatures he has asked for -” He clears his throat. “Thank you very much for the safe return of my creatures. Please leave them with my messenger who will set them inside of my office for me. I have had an urgent call that demands my full attention and I apologize that I wasn’t able to be here in person to thank you. I hope some gold will communicate my thanks.” The messenger pulls out a large bag that clinks happily. “There should be enough to split between the four of you.”
The party pauses, confused and wary. “Are you sure he said that? Where is he?”
The messenger smiles again. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know! He only told me the message exactly and said that you might tip a good messenger like me…” He holds out his hand and winks. They look down at it and spot a small, glowing scroll – a thought strand.
Alfios grunts and pulls out a gold coin to give the man and sets it in his palm, picking up the scroll at the same time. Immediately a voice enters the heads of Alf, Milly, Molander, and Ralf. It’s Blendy; “I will be in touch. If you find anything else, please send me a message by thought strand if possible. If at all within your moral grounds, please withhold this information from anyone else, including the Selesnya. Say nothing out loud.”
The party looks at each other, startled. They follow the messenger, who picks up the two creatures and carries them in through the door.
The room is empty as before, except missing Blendy. The tables are mostly untouched, except for the Professor’s which is now much more tidy. The party searches his desk (after a few coins to the messenger), and find only some paper clips, aspirin, normal pens and pencils. They search the underneath and find a key that opens the bottom, locked drawer.
They open it to find that it is recently clean – hair and dust, a stray pen, but no false bottom.
They try the door behind the desk again, but to no avail, it does not unlock.
The party sighs, and heads for the door. The messenger locks the door behind them and runs off into the dark. They head for the stairs at the entrance of the Zonot – the long slope taking them up. As they get higher, they realize it has begun to rain and the stairs are quite slippery. Alfios and Molander catch themselves with little trouble, but both Ralf and Mildred slip and fall a few steps, hurting themselves.
Along the way they discuss how tired they are and find that Ralf and Mildred seem to be disproportionately tired. They wonder if it has to do with the mermaids they encountered in the sewers. As they approach town a small store with a flickering light in the window comes into view. A gnomish woman in purple robes and a beaded headpiece exits quickly and latches onto Milly. “You, girl! I sense much turmoil in your life. Allow me to read your fortune. The Worldsoul may have much yet to tell you.”
She pulls them into the front room of the shop which is lined in rugs and delicate tapestries, covered in knick-knacks and beads. It smells strongly of incense. She takes Alf’s hand in hers. “You, my dear, I will start with you. You seem like one to trust fate. I will read yours at only the cost of a kiss.” She pulls Alfios into the back room, which is decorated much like the first but with what looks like stations around the room.
She leads him to two plush arm chairs. She perches on one and gestures for Alf to sit on the other. “Payment first, dear. Those who don’t hear what they want to hear tend to blame the messenger.” Alfios shyly kisses her and she takes his hands in hers to read his lifelines.
“You’re a musician, a master of your craft. You rely on your tool of choice to express yourself.” She pauses, tracing another line. “Trusting yourself may not come easy. Give yourself the space to learn without pressure.” A long pause. “Your soul may never find rest. Your life line branches in unexpected ways. Your only chance is the one you’ve yet to reject. Lean to your instincts.” She sighs. “I see nothing more – clearly, any way.”
She leads Alfios from the room, calling to Milly to join her. When Milly enters, she leads her over to the crystal ball. “Yes, here, dear. The ball will have something for us.” She sits in front of the ball and instructs Milly, “Now, don’t touch – but focus your energies into the ball. Think of you, your life, your desires, anything at all, but think it towards the ball.”
She places her hands on the crystal and breathes in deeply, closing her eyes. When she opens them, she fixates into the inside of the ball, which begins to swirl with smoke. “I must wait for the smoke to clear, to show me…. I see…. I see a puppet pulled on my silver strings. It acts foolish, dancing, when suddenly – oh! – it attacks the puppet-master! And now… ah… the strings are cut.” She sighs. “The mist swirls back in. Now I see a wooded area, an overturned cart, arrows in trees, a dagger in a chest.”
She adjusts in her seat as the smoke swirls over again. After a long pause, “One more for you, in blue, so it’s a parable. A single wolf, surrounded by enemies – howling far off in the distance. Spears descend on the helpless lone wolf…. and that’s all my dear.” She nods to a confused Mildred and leads her back out the door.
She crooks one finger at Ralf and brings him over to the carpet in the middle of the room. “You and I, I think, we will toss the bones.” She empties a small pouch into the goblin’s hands and tells him, “Acquaint yourself with them. Let them get to know you.” She stands and fetches a small black-furred skin and lays it felt-side up with markings drawn all over. Ralf perceives that they are bird bones.
The fortune-teller returns and asks him to toss the bones on the skin. The bones land in odd ways and the teller stares at them for a moment before speaking.
“This piece here,” she gestures. “These lay end to end to end, meaning your fate has been set and you can do little to stop it. Here, where one piece is set far away; your friends will isolate you. Be wary of their decisions.” She pauses again. “These two, stacked almost on top of each other, one you know shares your fate. Possibly more than one.” She sighs, “You are a depressing bunch. This one here,” she points at a piece that broke when he dropped it, “You will experience loss in a short time. Keep your head.”
She then leads him out of the room and gives them all a small biscuit, each containing a slip of paper with a cheesy fortune on it. She gets her payment, and the group walks out the door.
The party finally arrives at the bar and see that they are not the only ones to feel very tired after a day of activity. Lufus is clearly exhausted, covered in a sheen of sweat, and so is Billius. Rice and beans is the dinner meal and the whole bar is fragrant with rosemary and beer. The place is not quite crowded, and Lufus comes over to their table to sit.
Ralf descends on him. “Your girlfriend tried to kill me.”
Lufus stops short and then a small smile appears on his face. “Ah, that doesn’t surprise me one bit. She’s fiesty.” He laughs. “What did you say?”
“All we said was her name and your name!” Mildred says. “What did you do to her?”
“I did nothing! Nothing -” He holds up his hands a second, defensively, and then puts them down. “That was the problem. I courted her and I left. I knew she’d want for everything I wouldn’t be able to give it to her. I would have done anything to feel differently.”
The party stops, suddenly understanding. “I’m sorry, Lufus,” Alf says.
“Ah, it’s alright -” Lufus says, waving a tentacle. “God, I’m tired. I’m going to hand out some flyers and get everyone out of here. Close down early. Even Billy looks tired.” He goes to the back and pulls out a stack of papers, all with a crudely drawn elf with overly-pointy ears, holding a mandolin. It says “SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY” in big letters. Lufus hands these out to the remaining patrons. “Return these and it’ll get you a free drink Sunday.”
The patrons are understanding, giving Lufus a slap on the back as they leave. “Argh, take care of yerself, old man!” They say.
Ralf is especially tired, ready to fall asleep in his chair. The group leaves and heads to the healer’s hut, where Milly finds a note addressed to Ralf in crude handwriting. She quickly opens it and reads, “Gotta see ya. Something’s happened. Stop by the Izzet as soon as you can. Ask the minotaur to ring for me. -Ron”
She closes the note back up and hands it to Ralf. Alf follows Molander into the sleeping room, where he finds him digging through his pack for sleeping pills again. “If I may…” Alf begins, “Why do you take sleeping pills? Us elves, we don’t have to sleep, so I’m curious.”
Molander stops with his hands in his bag, tense. He eases after a second and says softly, “I just… I don’t like being alone. It’s easier to be asleep.”
Alf nods and returns to the other two, who are discussing why they’ve been especially tired and they begin to wonder if they are going to sprout metal limbs like Isaachi did. Alf promises that he’ll keep an eye on Mildred that night, because she’s particularly worried about it.
Day 6, Thursday
Ralf and Milly wake up suddenly, looking over their bodies for changes. Ralf finds a metal left forearm and a metal right hand. Ralf decides to forgo wearing gloves, but Alfios goes to purchase some for him.
When he goes in to see the merchant, she looks rather tired as well. He purchases a pair of white gloves and asks for them to be dyed pink. She agrees and says they will be ready by the following day.
They head to the Lonely Goblin and see an uncomfortable Billy. They see no metal on him but hear a faint clank on every other step as he leads them to their table.
Kwela is back and working, though she looks pale and worried. Mildred asks her if she’s woken up with anything metal and Kwela turns bright red and leaves. Lufus hears them talking to her and sticks his head out through the kitchen door. “Hey! Get in here!”
They get up from their table and walk into the kitchen where Lufus shows them his right tentacle. It is now metal-plated with fleshy suckers sticking out of it. “What. Is. Going. ON.”
The group begins to wonder aloud if this has to do with the creatures, the mermaids, or Isaachi. They ask Lufus if Isaachi is coming into the bar soon and Lufus tells them that he usually comes in every Thursday at lunch.
They get Lufus to promise to keep Isaachi until they return and decide to go see Ron and respond to his letter. The minotaur at the front desk points them to a nearby conference room and they wait. When Ron enters, he’s wearing a neck brace.
“What the hell did you do to me?” he rounds on Mildred. “Remember my neck? Two days ago, the day after I saw you, I woke up with… this!” He rips off the neck brace to show how his head now swivels on a metal neck.
Mildred quickly cuts him off, “This isn’t my fault, look -” she points out Ralf’s arm, and her own hand which is now pale. “Do you know Isaachi?”
“Isaachi? That construction fellow? Sure, I saw him last Thursday at the Goblin. Stayed late that day… why? What happened to him?”
The party glances at Ralf, who grimaces, and they explain how his pinky and now hand turned metal and they are beginning to wonder if Isaachi is spreading a disease that turns people metal.
Ron visibly pales, “But what else happens? Does it spread? Several guys in my department have gotten rashes like mine! What am I supposed to do?”
The party pauses, unsure. “We…. don’t 100% know what you should do. Stay away from other people, I guess. Stay away from Isaachi!”
“Stay away from people? You want me to go hungry? Are you barking mad, telling me about this when you don’t even have a proper solution!”
The party collectively sighs and tells Ron they’ll keep him in the loop but they’re working on the investigation.
Now around lunchtime, the party heads back to see Lufus and hopefully Isaachi. They sit down with him and see both him and Sarah. Sarah has a metal finger now, she twirls on Isaachi’s arm at the bar. Lufus and Isaachi are chatting at the bar, gesturing to their various metal appendages.
The party approaches and begins to quiz Isaachi, accusingly. “Lots of people are turning metal and you’re the start of all of it!”
After some explaining and defensive statements, Isaachi becomes scared. “You mean… you mean I’ve infected a bunch of people with some unknown disease? People are turning metal because of me?” His fear now turns to hopeless panic. “This is all my fault. Can we do anything? I’d do anything.”
Mildred shrugs. “We… we don’t know what you can do.”
Isaachi pulls away from Sarah and races to the front door, careful not to touch anyone, and leaves.
The party begins to talk, discussing the sewers and realizing that it’s likely that while Isaachi is “Patient Zero,” that the creatures are also infecting people. They debate returning to the sewers, returning to Selesnya, quarantining people – when Molander steps in.
“We are not quarantining anyone. Solitude will do nothing but drive everyone mad.” His tone is low and threatening. “Besides, we have no clues that this is life-threatening in any way yet.”
After an hour or so of debating, Mildred sees a tall, dark-furred and skinned centaur step out of the shadows and beckon to her. Mildred follows him to a corner. Though he wears the clothes of the Azorious, he shows her his Dimir insignia, the sign of a spy. Mildred reveals her own and he responds in thieves cant1, in a low voice, “I heard you need a message shared.”
Mildred nods. “It must be a thought strand.”
The centaur pulls out a shining tiny scroll and holds it out to her. Mildred puts her hand on the scroll and thinks, “It’s spreading like wildfire and we’re trying our best to contain it. It has been moving faster than we can handle it. We need to meet up to tackle this pandemic immediately.”
The words appear on the scroll only a moment before disappearing.
“A secret shared is a secret kept,” the centaur says, holding a finger to his lips and disappearing into mist as he steps back into the shadows.
Kwela takes off of her shift after a strict warning from Mildred not to continue working at the parlor next door. Billy’s clomping metal foot is getting quieter as he gets used to the sensation and the party discusses how cutting off an appendage before the metal takes place might be helpful. They turn to Mildred and look at her hand.
“Are you joking? I’m not cutting off my hand.”
The party retires to bed after a long day of debate. As Molander pulls out his sleeping pills again, Alfios approaches him.
“How come you don’t like to be alone? Why don’t you meditate at night anymore?”
Molander pauses. “I used to.”
Alfios presses, “Then why not now?”
Molander sighs, holding the pills in his hand. “I was quarantined once. When I was very small, 200 years ago, I was believed to have a plague that they were in the process of ridding from Ravnica. My symptoms persisted for six years before anyone decided to see if it could be anything else. Turns out, I was allergic to the foliage that surrounded my abode at the time.
“I spent nine years in solitude, pushed food through a hole. It messes with you. I can’t be alone like that anymore. Meditating is too close to being alone.” Molander brings the pills to his lips and swallows them. “Good night, Alfios,”
“Good night, Molander.”
Day 7, Friday
Mildred awakes with a metal hand as expected. Alfios described the transformation as glimmering, shimmering skin that morphed slowly like legs moving under a blanket.
A message is sitting outside of Mildred’s door when they wake – a small, shiny scroll. When she picks it up, she hears “The Rakdos perform outside the 6th precinct.”
Isaachi meets them early at the Lonely Goblin. He sits at their table, looking tired as if he had hardly slept. “You ok?” They ask him.
Isaachi shakes his head and reveals his forearm past his hand. The metal has now spread to cover the entire area of his arm below his elbow. “I don’t know what to do. I feel like I have to decide whether to live normally or to hide and beat myself up over this.”
They talk to him for a bit, encouraging him to just do his best to not touch anyone.
Isaachi’s head straightens as they talk. “I’m going to work now, I’m running late.”
“What made you decide so quickly?” They ask him.
“Because,” his head faces them robotically for a second, “It is the logical thing to do.” He marches out the door.
1Thieves cant is a language spoken by rogues and spies to keep information hidden.