Six or eight hours before Hardluck paid a visit to Isidora Rose, Gable Clifton awakened from a long night of illness covered in unpleasant bodily fluids for what would be the first time that day. He dressed and decided to find Zharra to see how she had managed the show in his absence, only to find the Hellfire Club suffering from smoke damage and undergoing minor structural repairs. After noting a broken-out window on the third floor he could use to sneak past security to Rebekah’s tower, he went inside and learned from Prosper about the events of the night prior. After learning his partner was both a hero of the working class and a prime suspect in an arson, he went to search for her and eventually learned she had gone to the Spider and Fly. Along the way, he was stopped by an old acquaintance from the Circle named Juniper, who informed him, as a favor to a friend, that Zharra had been seen in the company of Gluurug, the orc who runs the Broken Skulls and who is generally assumed to be bad news.
Meanwhile, at the Spider and Fly, Hardluck had gone upstairs for his interview with Isidora Rose, tailed surreptitiously by Lear, Harley, and Zharra, Iron Horse having opted to remain in the bar. Not having decided on a signal ahead of time, they decided to just wait until Hardluck screamed, which was not long in coming. Harley broke down the door to find Hardluck on the ground, ashy gray and not visibly breathing, while Isidora stood over him with a wand pointed at his head and several formless monstrosities emerged from gates to unknown dimensions. Fortunately, Gable arrived at the Spider and Fly nearly simultaneously, and was able to both urge Iron Horse into action and charm the weapons-check into returning his hammer. Our heroes responded to the crisis as would be expected (with swords, fire, and a fair bit of nervous shouting) until Harley struck the acolyte of the Magician down with a mighty blow. The earth began to rumble, and another portal opened, huge tentacles emerging to pull a screaming Isidora through, leaving only her wand behind. This was promptly claimed by Zharra.
Iron Horse searched the cabinets of the room and located the Eyes of the Deva Bette had reported stolen; Gable and Harley relieved the room of its more mundane goods (175 gold worth of fancy women’s clothing and jewelry, as well as a bundle of ciphered messages). Gable also had the good sense to pat Hardluck down for any stolen goods and retrieved the jade bracelet off of him just before the constables arrived. They initially wanted to take everyone present in for questioning, as they were armed in the middle of a hotel room none of them had rented, the customer was nowhere to be seen, and the room was more or less carpeted with still-twitching tentacles and ichor. Lear headed this off at the pass by requesting the presence of Saerzra, the general manager of the Spider and Fly who was shocked—shocked! to find that there was summoning going on in there. However, she insisted that she was responsible for the Spider and Fly and did not request assistance from the constables, and they were forced to leave without inquiring further. They did take the unconscious Hardluck with them, promising to deliver him to the Temple of the Triune for examination.
The group retreated to the Lucky 13 to shower and debrief. Zharra showed a heretofore undemonstrated talent with ciphers and decoded the messages; they showed that Isidora Rose’s true name was Ulrica Starcaller and that she was sent to get access to either the Gate itself or the ley lines near it. Also in the packet was a map of tunnels the dwarves of the Golden Vault had apparently dug before being driven out of the city; one point on them in particular was marked with the sign of the Magician.
Concerned about this, and hoping for more insight, Iron Horse and his companions returned the Eyes of the Deva to Bette, who gratefully agreed to perform such scrying magics as the party needed. She was quick to explain that she was not a true diviner, and that seeing the future was a very rare talent. Her skill was best described as object reading; she could see the past of a physical thing or person she was touching. The bag of gravel retrieved from the stage at the Hellfire Club was indeed once a set of ritual stones designed to perform elemental summoning. These objects require talent to create but not to use. Troublingly, the Hellfire Club’s magical security checkpoints should have detected these, but apparently did not. When asked who had set the stones, Bette initially said that Zharra did, but after having her step out of the room, she admitted that she felt two presences in the city who were both the person who set it, and possibly others much further away.
The jade bracelet made Bette rather uncomfortable to hold, as Asher Macavoy was a rather unpleasant person. She was, however, able to determine that the bracelet, while now completely inert, had once had been enchanted to provide a scrying connection (ordinarily, to scry on someone, you must have physically touched them in the last year), and that Hardluck in some way had been the first person to touch it who met the requirements of the ritual and discharged it, meaning that someone was now capable of scrying on Hardluck, though the party agreed that it was unlikely he was the intended target.
Bette was able to locate the source of the second person who set the ritual stones in the direction of the slums, and Gable suggested they go visit Gluurug, having Zharra impersonate her ‘evil twin’. Zharra’s familiar was able to scout the way to Gluurug’s center of power, but Gable and Lear were unable to move stealthily enough to avoid attention, and the group was swarmed from above by Broken Skulls, included a mysteriously robed figure. The orcs of the gang immediately laid into Zharra, knocking her about grievously. Iron Horse was able to cause the archers on one of the rooftops to lose their balance by bashing his tools-of-man-destroying hammer into the wall of the building. Gable quickly mounted the rooftop and struck at the woman on the roof, whose hood fell back to reveal…a woman identical to Zharra. This woman pointed at Zharra and indignantly demanded to know why she was being impersonated.
Gable was able to negotiate a truce long enough for this woman, identifying herself as Sorrow Kildare, and them to agree to retreat to more neutral territory for discussion. Sorrow admitted to having set the traps but claimed to have had no knowledge of Zharra’s existence before the job. She was unhappy and fearful, assuming that she had been in some way set up. Sorrow shared some of her history, growing up poor in Alki and now ‘unwelcome’ there for reasons she preferred not to describe fully. Both she and Zharra agreed that, barring some sort of memory-altering magic, they did not in fact grow up together. Sorrow shared Zharra’s facility with (and love for) fire, but instead of manipulating it sorcerously, she preferred alchemical concoctions. Gable managed to convince her that he (and his friends) would be her best hope of protection, since they all shared the goal of discovering what had happened. Sorrow told the party that she was hired to do the job by a dragonborn caravan master named Quauahtli, who travelled from Tenochtitlan to Vegas, delivering goods to the settlements in between. She agreed to try to set up a meeting with him in a few days’ time, at a cave near the Gate Lear remembered. Gable took Sorrow back to his apartment and asked her to stay put for the time being.
The party split for the night. Iron Horse reported the threat posed by the Magician to Duna Sparksteel, who agreed to pass the information on to the Herald. Lear went back to the Water and Power Company and asked her night-shift security counterpart, Iannos, to steer clear of the cave for a couple days, for private reasons. She also showed him the tunnel plans, and he too agreed that this was a serious matter.
Harley took himself out for dinner, and had a pitcher of water dumped on him by a socially (and physically) awkward half-elven paladin of the Triune named Ausviir; she expressed excitement at meeting the famed ‘Paladin of the Trickster’. This fame came as somewhat of a surprise to Harley, but Ausviir told him that all of the paladins at the Temple knew who he was. While she just thought he was interesting, at least one of the others, named Crag, felt he was a mockery of the years of preparation and restrictive vows he and his fellow paladins ordinarily have to make. Harley expressed that he had never really taken the paladin thing very seriously, which seemed to satisfy Ausviir. He and the rest of the party then retired to their respective apartments for a sound night’s sleep.