Never one to give in to setbacks, Hardluck strode into the chamber where the gnolls waited with a bright smile on his face and spun an extremely effective line of ’I’m an idiot’ bullshit, which the gnolls bought thoroughly. Gable followed and shortly thereafter, Harley and Iron Horse, though Lear remained hidden. Hardluck and Gable continued past them while Harley engaged the gnolls in light conversation, distracting them from the magical shenanigans going on down the hall. Hardluck and Gable found a piece of paper sitting on an altar within a magic circle, with a basin of water nearby acting as a damper. Gable performed an elaborate ritual in an attempt to convince Hardluck (as well as the ritual circle) that he WAS Asher Macavoy. This absolutely should not have worked, but by some favor of the Trickster, it did, to an extent. The shopping list Hardluck replaced the scoll with glowed brightly and vanished as a loud alarm echoed through the chambers. The party and the gnolls were in the process of sheepishly agreeing that they had all fucked up and were negotiating the amount of bribe the gnolls would require to stay quiet when one of the walls suddenly caved in, revealing what could best be described as a mobile rose bush trailed by their old friend, Arna the lich, whose eyes gleamed with a dark…well, with a different SORT of dark malevolence than usual.
‘Arna’, who appeared to be possessed by the Lich Queen herself, threatened the party with destruction for having the temerity to attempt to free her servants from her grasp, and our heroes opted to beat a hasty retreat, the pack of gnolls close behind them. This might not have been effective had the lich not unthinkingly triggered an ice rune on the ground and temporarily gotten herself and the plant stuck. This did not prevent her from shrieking imprecations at the rapidly receding party’s backs.
After getting well clear of the tunnels, the party and the gnolls went their separate ways, the gnolls deciding that skipping town was probably their best bet. After looking at the scroll and not making much real sense of it (it put Gable in the mind of a lich’s phylactery ritual, but that wasn’t quite right), they decided to first rendezvous with Mother Mercy and share what they’d learned. Mother Mercy, still dressed in her hoop skirts in the middle of the night, received them and led them to her office, only to have a brilliant flash of light greet them as Sparkle’s shopping list wafted down to her desk. This bemused everyone in the room for a moment as nobody could explain why the intended effect of Macavoy’s ritual would be to send a message to Mother Mercy of all people. They decided to play it cool and send Mother Mercy off to do what she would have done anyway had she not been involved, which was to seek guidance from the Shadowskins on the nature of the shopping list.
Gable and company instead went to the house of his contact in the Circle, Madame Mysterio (nee Deirdre), who was not well pleased to be rousted out of bed but accepted Gable’s statement that it was urgent. She revealed that she too had received a copy of Sparkle’s shopping list, which led the party to extrapolate that so had every prominent individual in the information trade. Madame Mysterio opined that it was a record of a ritual used to transfer a part of a person’s soul into another body. She couldn’t fathom why anyone would choose to do this as that other person would technically count as possessing their soul and could, say, transact it away. She then performed a spell to see on whom the spell had been cast only to find that somehow, Hardluck had obtained a piece of the Merchant Prince’s soul. At this point, the party decided to confront the Merchant Prince.
The Prince was waiting for them (perhaps not THEM, but someone) and told Hardluck the story: His mother had at some point during their romance attempted to steal a part of his soul for reasons unknown to him, but it had ended up in the son she was apparently pregnant with at the time. He also admitted that he had no further need to protect Macavoy and immediately attempted to bargain with Lear for her assistance in maintaining the portal. Lear made some initial demands but kept her options open, as it appeared that the instability of the portal was a danger to both the prime material plane and the elemental plane of water where Lear’s people lived. This conversation was interrupted by the frantic knocking on the door of the mansion by a guard reporting that zombies were swarming out of the tunnels and attacking the city. The party woke the Priestess, who led them to the temple to hold off the undead hordes and protect the civilians while she ‘blessed the city’. Our heroes were able to do so with relative ease, killing Arna and sending her to reform around her phylactery and otherwise holding off the undead until the Priestess completed the ritual which obliterated all undead in the city.
With that matter resolved, it became clear to Lear that Macavoy no longer had any hold over anyone, and there was only one course of action. She went to his office, knocked him unconscious, and carried him out of the building to general acclaim. Gable once again concocted a ritual, this one to destroy his soul utterly, and with the help of the more magically inclined of his ‘druids’, they enabled Lear’s friend Rana to enter his body, to Rana’s relief but utter disgust. Silver tattoos like the ones on the other druids appeared on what was Macavoy’s body. Lear left some simple instructions with Miss McGillicuddy, mostly consisting of ‘lock up the assholes’ and ‘just keep doing Macavoy’s job like you have been’, and the party took Rana to the Coyote Clan, where the risk of being assassinated by one of Macavoy’s former enemies unaware of his body’s new use was much lower.
The Coyote Clan agreed to shelter Rana and to investigate the Gate, something they had not previously had opportunity or permission to do. Songbird, who while not a true member of the Coyote Clan was the most knowledgeable present, agreed to summon other local experts to see what the combined investigation of the native peoples could turn up. It would take a few days, but that would give time for the heat to die down and for them to teach Rana to be a ‘meat person’.
After returning to the city, there was a lull of at least twenty-four hours where the city was not imperilled, and the party went about various pieces of personal business:
- Hardluck and Gable interviewed Hardluck’s mother Delilah and learned that she had filched the spell from a master necromancer she had apprenticed herself to (this is much less weird in the lands of the South than it sounds) and hoped to leech a piece of the Merchant Prince’s soul as a way to feed off his uncanny luck, but had unfortunately been pregnant and the soul-piece had gone to Hardluck instead.
- Iron Horse made the request of both the Herald of Progress and of Spider Grandmother that they work together to find a way to allow him to sire a child and continue his line for the clan. He also asked Twisted Rattle to be the mother of this child.
- Hardluck’s new PR agent Abdiel hatched a plan to ‘win a date with (some of) the Heroes of Vegas!’, putting Hardluck, Zharra, and Harley (possibly without his permission or knowledge) up for a raffle.
- Rebekah once more reiterated her fears that Astarte would use her high-profile position to somehow destroy Gable’s career, though he assured her he considered the matter taken care of.
- Lear asked the Merchant Prince to put Madeleine McGilicuddy in charge of the day-to-day operations of Water and Power, and informed him that her first choice would be to close the portal, but that before anything else could be determined the current instability needed to be investigated, and presumably addressed.