We left our heroes in the middle of a drug-addled dream, having been confronted by a figure Iron Horse identified as Coyote and the rest of the party recognized as the Trickster. After pulling Lear into the dreaming by temporarily ‘stealing’ her elemental nature, she explained in a manner which could only be described as ‘addled’ that she had recruited each of them to help counteract plans of the Magician which she may possibly have been inadvertently responsible for through frivolous use of her special abilities. These plans, it seems, were to be set in motion by a theoretical discovery by the Silver Lodge. She declared herself to be a ‘hands-off’ type of patron, and in fact offered relatively little specific advice on how to handle this, short of clearing Lear of her indenture and finding a way to thwart the Magician’s plan to possess Zharra or one of her doubles. She also mentioned desiring three hearts of funeral cactus, conveniently available at the oasis our protagonists would have to refill their canteens at due to an unfortunate loss-of-consciousness incident, and then sent them on their merry way.
Our heroes managed to retrieve the hearts of funeral cactus heart with relative ease, even the largeish one from a dragon corpse which had been overgrown. Upon returning to Vegas proper, they delivered three of the hearts (including one which had grown around Iron Horse’s grandfather) to the Trickster’s suite at the Spider and Fly. The Trickster was not currently in residence, so the party deposited the hearts with her secretary, a human named Chance and went to discuss their options.
After fielding several suggestions from the party as to how Lear might be released from her indenture, she realized she would have to explain her true nature. She led them out into the desert and told them that while her body was that of a drow sorceress, she was in fact a water elemental who had been pulled through the Gate during its stabilization ritual and was in some way necessary to its maintenance. She had, for survival, inhabited the nearest available body. This seemed to botch some of the party’s plans on the subject, but as her physical proximity to the Gate did not seem necessary (she had been wandering Las Vegas for a couple days and it had not collapsed), the party decided merely to try to bribe her supervisor to not report her absence for some time.
This was accomplished in relatively short order, as Hardluck impersonated an agent of the Merchant Prince and managed to secure the silence of Crazy-8, a halfling ‘druid’ with the same nature as Lear, in exchange for agreeing to ‘send a message’ to a prostitute at Mother Mercy’s named Sparkle. Hardluck agreed despite having no intention of doing any such thing, and went to see his ‘contact’ at the brothel, who turned out to be his mother. Some money changed hands, Delilah Botherstone agreed to pretend that Sparkle had met with an accident for a few days, and Lear was released on her own recognizance, at least temporarily.
Gable returned to his apartment to see Sorrow, but found that she had skipped town (after somehow burning a hole through his frying pan); in gratitude for (a) alerting her to the fact that many people wanted to kill her and (b) not being some of those people, she had set up the meeting with Quauahtli as requested for the next evening. Gable decided to take some time to investigate the Silver Lodge. As luck would have it, his contact in the Circle, Madame Mysterio (aka Dierdre) had heard that a member of the Silver Lodge, a tiefling named Azaria, was snooping around the Bright Tomorrow. She provided Gable with a sigil the Circle had noted as associated with the Silver Lodge, and he quickly drew it on his arm. She also mentioned in passing that the tunnels to the Golden Vault had were already sealed when the Herald’s demolition crew arrived to do the job, and dropped in passing that the head of the Invoker’s excavation staff was also a Botherstone.
Hardluck decided to pay this new Botherstone a visit, primarily to make sure that nothing had happened to the miners. He was received about as warmly as seemed to be typical for the clan (which is to say, not much), and was bored with the conversation until Hardluck said the phrase ‘clearing the vermin out of the tunnels’, at which point his body language shut down completely and he provided Hardluck with a surprisingly large bribe not to say anything about what had happened. The party filed this under ‘deeply suspicious things we don’t have time for now’ and went to meet the Silver Lodge.
Despite their best efforts to act casual, it seemed that Azaria knew at least Gable Clifton and Zharra by name, and seemed well aware of what had transpired in the tunnels. He offered a deal of knowledge for knowledge: in exchange for allowing him to study Zharra, in full view of anyone they cared to have present, he would share that knowledge with the party and possibly further assistance, and would also put Zharra in contact with her ‘sister’, Sara, who was currently in the northern wastelands. It seemed that Zharra was the best candidate for the Magician’s purposes, and hopefully taking a set of differential readings might explain why Zharra was better suited than Sara, and possibly help neutralize all five duplicates’ uses to the Magician. We left the party prepared for a series of magical engagements, and then a meeting with a dragonborn trader.