Monday, June 30, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 47 [RPG]

[24 Kythorn 1372 continued]

In a mysterious underground complex on the far side of Terrigo Multivar's mirror-portal, the adventurers continue their explorations. Dolcetto enlists Daisy's help in manipulating one of the panels in the secret room, and hooks descend from the ceiling to draw up the razor wire trap. Dolcetto says she has done as much as she can to render the area safe, and that the party should proceed onward. She says that if the party finds any treasure, it should be split evenly. Gelkar looks somewhat suspicious at Dolcetto taking the lead.

The adventurers move to the door that caused Dolcetto's summoned monkey to fall to its death. With the pit trap disabled, some trial and error is all it takes to figure out that the four handles of the door have to be rotated in a specific way to open it. From the doorway, the adventurers see a room willed with numerous display cases along the back wall. Intricate shelves and padded pillows hold a variety of equipment that gleam with polish. Daisy notices a quartet of wooden animal carvings and dashes forward, only to realize she's rushed into yet another trap!

The display cases somehow merge into a single monstrous creature, whose flesh seems to be made out of the wood, glass, and fabric of the cases! A long tendril uncoils from the creature and wraps itself around Daisy, and she finds herself completely unable to free herself. Fargrim charges into help Daisy, and finds himself stuck as well, as the creature's flesh is covered with some type of gluey adhesive. Gelkar tries to help out, but his shovel sticks to the creature. As Fargrim and Daisy are slowly crushed by the creature's tendrils, Dolcetto summons a monstrous centipede to aid in the fight and covers the area with a shadowy gloom. Working together, Daisy and Fargrim smash the creature into the back wall repeatedly to weaken it. Gelkar suddenly grows enraged as every muscle in his body seems to bulge, and he frees his shovel with a powerful pull and then slams it into the creature twice until it stops moving! Fargrim finishes it off with his greataxe. Afterwards, Myst says she thinks the creature was some type of aberration known as a mimic. The adventurers quickly divide the numerous items that were thrown off the fake display cases, including several high-quality sets of tools, musical instruments, jewellery, and more.

The party then proceeds to the other side corridor and attempts to open the door at the far end. The means to unlock it are quickly discovered. Inside, the adventurers see a room lined with luxurious dark wood and filled with elaborate displays of gleaming metal weapons. Many are quite exquisite and some are strange and exotic, but all look impeccably maintained. Gelkar attempts to step into the room, but is suddenly attacked by a bastard sword which levitates into the air and swings at him! The half-orc retreats and slams the door shut. While the other adventurers discuss what to do next, Daisy slips one of her chalk drawings under the door in a bid to communicate with whatever is on the other side. Much to everyone's surprise, she hears whispers in a foreign tongue in response. Seconds later, the drawing is slid back with a strange runic symbol carved into it. With the aid of a spell, Gelkar is able to read the symbol and says that it means "Danger--Must Protect." Myst casts another powerful spell so that he can converse with the creature directly and relate what it says to the others. Whatever is on the other side of the door says it was trapped there by the "master" and that it cannot leave. Instead, it is compelled to defend the room from all intruders. It says it has never heard of the amulet the adventurers are seeking.

Daisy continues trying to befriend the being from the other side of the door, talking and drawing pictures for the being she calls "I". Dolcetto says the group should enter and break whatever enchantment compels the creature to stay by defeating it in combat, but Daisy is far from convinced. The decision is made to leave it where it is, at least for now.

The adventurers turn their attention to the last remaining closed doorway. Here, a large set of metal doors is divided with a diagonal slash. On a panel nearby are a grid of strange symbols that can obviously be pressed inwards. The adventurers examine the panel closely and, reasoning that almost everything else in this complex has involved a pattern of four, decide to press the only type of symbol that appears four times. The door slides open without incident, only to reveal, a little further on, another door and panel. The new panel has different symbols. Dolcetto, acting on a hunch, presses a combination of symbols only to be weakened by a ray of mystical energy that lances out from the wall. Myst, however, studying the panel carefully, realizes that if the two matched pair of symbols are pressed at the same time, the door will open. A third door and panel beckons. The adventurers notice that four of the symbols do not follow the pattern of the others, and press them to open the door. A fourth, and final door remains. Dolcetto tries a combination that fails, and suddenly the area in front of the doorway is filled with dozens of writhing black tentacles! The scholar barely escapes with her life. After the tentacles have faded from existence, Gelkar decides to try another combination--but this fails as well, and Gelkar finds himself being crushed by the tentacles! In desperation, he activates a magical spool of rope from his belt which flies out and wraps itself around a nearby handle in the wall. Pulling with all their strength, the other adventurers manage to tug Gelkar out of harm's way--alive, but badly hurt.

The adventurers seem to have met their match in the fourth and final door. Meanwhile, Myst carefully watches as a purple cloud of smoke seems to grow in a particular area of the hub chamber. The wizard knows that this represents an area where the walls between dimensions are thin, and that something is watching them from the other side . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dakota North (Marvel 1986) [COMICS]

Dakota North was an interesting attempt by Marvel Comics, in its 25th anniversary year (1986), to move beyond spandex-heavy superhero stories.  The bimonthly title only lasted 5 issues, which is evidence itself of how well that approach worked.  Anyway, the character who lent the title her name is a tough but fashionable head of a private security company with offices all over the world.  Supporting characters who occasionally assist her, but more often get in her way, include her little brother Ricky (a too cool to care type), a cop named Amos (who has a big crush on Dakota but won't tell her), an assistant named Mad Dog, and her father (a former secret agent who still has connections).  Dakota's main antagonist throughout the series is Cleo Vanderslip, a big-wig at a corporation named Rycom.

In Issue # 1, Dakota is hired to provide personal security for Luke Jacobson, a fashion designer whose showroom was recently vandalised.  Dakota arrives at Jacobson's showroom and is mistaken for a model, put in a (hideous!) dress, and given a make-up case to take to Jacobson--only, the make-up case is actually a bomb!  The crisis gets averted, but soon after Jacobson gets kidnapped.  Dakota gives chase to the kidnappers on her motorcycle, which leads to both pursued and pursuer crashing into a department store for a shootout.  After another encounter at the docks, it turns out that the kidnapper is one Otto Shanks, an old enemy of Dakota's father who was hired by Cleo Vanderslip.  Otto is killed and Jacobson rescued.  The plot's a bit murky, but overall it's a charming debut with some wit and interesting characters.  The interior art is not particularly good, but it does provide a style different than most of Marvel's superhero comics at the time.

In Issue # 2, Dakota's little brother has up and decided to move in with his big sister.  He tags along with Dakota on a meeting arranged by Dakota's dad with his old spy friend, George Cooper.  Cooper, realizing that gunmen are closing in, arranges to lose his "gold pen" to Ricky gambling.  The pen is actually filled with an experimental nerve gas, but only Cooper's aware of the fact.  Lots of assassination attempts on Cooper's life are foiled by Dakota, but, unbeknownst to her, Cleo Vanderslip wants the pen and arranges for a model (Daisy) to try to seduce Ricky.  The episode ends on a cliffhanger, as Ricky and the model arrive in Paris.  The plot of the nerve-gas pen and Ricky's peril actually continues through the rest of the series, even if it seems rather slight in essence.

Issue # 3 features Dakota realizing that Ricky is gone and, after yelling a lot, heading off to Paris to find him (leaving Amos behind to secretly pine for her).  Cleo Vanderslip sends a goon to intercept Dakota, and he attacks her in an airplane bathroom!  But she stabs the poor bastard with a plastic boot knife she managed to smuggle through security, proof that you don't need adamantium claws to be bad-ass.  Dakota eventually tracks Ricky and Daisy down at an art museum, but before she can explain another assassin attacks.  She deals with the problem, but by the time she's finished, Ricky and Daisy have set off on the Orient Express . . .
Things get a bit weird in Issue # 4.  Daisy takes Ricky to a private car at the very end of the Orient Express, and it turns out that this train car is also an automobile: once decoupled near Venice, the pair (and Daisy's "butler") drive off the track and head towards Switzerland!  Dakota flies ahead to Venice and waits for the train to arrive, and Amos meets her there as well; but of course, no Ricky.  Then, an evil Sheik Ibn Bheik (Cleo Vanderslip's boyfriend), who has a very mean bird and a chateau in Switzerland, lures Dakota and Amos there, and everyone, including Ricky, is captured and tied up--but after a thorough search, the golden pen with nerve gas is nowhere to be found.  This issue reminded me most of Jonny Quest in spirit.  The letters' page, the first one published in  the series, contains several quite enthusiastic missives about the debut issue.

There's a fun sequence in Issue # 5 where Dakota escapes the bird of prey while tied to a chair.  As she, Ricky, and Amos flee the chateau, Ricky reveals that he slipped the pen into one of the thugs just before he was searched.  The trio make it to the motor pool, but Sheik Ibn Bheik's goons arrive and a fight ensues.  In the melee, the pen gets broken and the escaping nerve gas kills all of the bad guys (and none of the good guys)--convenient!  The trio return to New York.  The series ends on a bit of an unresolved note, with Dakota's father confronting Cleo.  I never really figured out what Cleo's motivation behind everything was, or what was so special about the experimental nerve gas.  At the bottom of the final page, there's a funny note: "This is where we usually put the blurb for the next issue, if there was a next issue, but there isn't." Ironically, the editor's comments in the letters page are clearly unaware of the cancellation, as they talk about future issues.

I think it's fair to say that Dakota North was published at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Fast forward several years, hand the title to an independent publisher, clarify the tone, and I could imagine the title being a minor success.  As it was, though, it's hard to imagine the title ever having much hope of success for a publisher like Marvel during the 1980s.  Still, don't feel about about Dakota.  Although her debut series failed, she ended up making dozens of appearances in mainstream Marvel titles such as Black Panther and Daredevil.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Long Time Dead [TORCHWOOD]

SOMEWHAT SPOILERY

Long Time Dead is one of the three Torchwood novels released prior to Miracle Day, and, like the others, has to rely on characters and events that wouldn't create continuity conflicts with the show.  In this one, one of my favourite Torchwood antagonists, twice-dead former member Suzie Costello, awakens in the bowels of the Hub's wreckage due to an alien device that implants itself in her stomach.  But with the new stab at life comes a new thirst to kill, and Suzie's not exactly the type to resist that evil impulse.  Her killing spree is investigated by fan-favourite PC Andy (with some nice allusions to his knowing where Gwen is hiding but knowing he can only contact her in the utmost of emergencies) and DCI Tom Cutler, making a follow-up appearance from the novel Into the Silence.  Cutler was a memorable character in that novel, and I'm glad to see him reappear.  He has the classic persona of the hard-bitten detective with a modern spin, and his unknowing involvement with Suzie adds a nice element of suspense to the novel.  We're in a darker type of SF than Doctor Who, and this novel encapsulates the distinction well.

The book is set entirely in Cardiff and I can't say it has the most original of plots, but it is nice to revisit some of the show's classic concepts.  If you're in a Torchwood mood, you could do worse than picking up this book.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lure of the Temptress [GAMES]

Normally I'm very appreciative of Good Old Games for making some of their stock free, but I feel they owe me money for playing Lure of the Temptress.  I can safely say it's probably the most annoying, frustrating game I've ever played.  I won't say it's the worst game ever--The Wife makes fun of me for reading Retro Gamer, and there's talk in there about games so buggy they can't even be completed--but Lure of the Temptress has to rank up there somewhere.

At its core, LotT is a standard point-and-click "adventure" game with a generic medieval theme.  You control a character who has taken it upon himself to free a small village from the domination of an evil witch.  Not winning prizes for originality, even if the game writers think they're clever by treating their own plot with contempt.  Anyway, the reason LofT is both innovative and infuriating is because it contains the first incarnation of Revolution Software's "Virtual Theatre."  Virtual Theatre is a concept that would be used quite well in a later game, Beneath a Steel Sky; the idea is that everyone in the game has their own lives to attend to, so instead of standing in a fixed position waiting for the player's character to stop by, they go to work, go shopping, have conversations with other computer-controlled characters, etc.  The idea of trying to make the game world "realistic" is a good one, but in LofT it's a disaster.  The main problem is that whenever two characters physically bump into each other, something that happens with annoying frequency, they stop, say "excuse me", and then wander all over the screen.  The screen is thus likely to be filled with annoying chatter, and any attempt to get your character to go somewhere is a long and frustrating process.  It's bad if there's two characters on the screen, but just wait if there happens to be four or five!  Even worse, for some reason the movement routines are off, and just telling your character to talk to another character on an otherwise empty screen could involve long, circuitous, senseless walking that ends up not working.  Something simple, like opening a door, could take four or five tries.  It's like a terrible comedy sketch, and it's the first game I've played where I thought Rifftrax should have a go.

I'm a completist at heart, and found I could only stand the game for a few minutes at a time.  Because the movement system is so annoying, the normal sort of exploration and trial-and-error of adventure games is definitely not fun.  With my patience at a minimum, I happily resorted to walkthroughs more readily than normal.*  But in any event, I have now finished the game and never have to play it again.  I have learned a valuable lesson: just because it's free, doesn't mean you have to take it.

SPOILERS

* Places I got stuck:  (1)  Finding the forge: It's obvious when you know what to look for, but I kept walking past it and had to rely on a YouTube walkthrough!; (2) The alchemist equipment: I examined the diary loads of times, but never whilst in the laboratory--and that's the only way the burner becomes visible; (3) Getting Luthern to drink what's in the flask to empty it out; (4) Talking to Ultar twice to get the gargoyles' names; (5) Looking through the window just when the Skorl is revealing his plan.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Diary of Jizana M'rell: Entry # 1 [RPG]

RECORDING ROD ACTIVATED

RUN TIME: 17384571

BEGIN VOICE RECORDING

Okay, this is plain stupid.  I'm sitting here talking to an inanimate object.  But then again, it's not like I have anyone else to talk to.  So . . .

Well I guess what I want to talk about is--it all started I mean, just a few days ago.  We were aboard the Triberry, on our way to link up with a transport to take me to the Jedi Academy on Ossus.  I can't say I was terribly excited about going there--but then again, almost anything seemed better than staring at the same four walls I'd been staring at for seventeen years.  I was even more bored because Sian and her family were off-ship visiting relatives.

Anyway, one evening I woke up in the middle of the night in a state of sheer panic!  I had this paranoid fear that something bad was going to happen, and I had this gruesome image in my mind of Mom and Dad, screaming in terror, their faces all extended and bodies bursting open.  So I leapt out of bed and stepped out into the corridor and ran toward the bridge.

I turned a corner, and ran right into some thug with a rifle!  I don't know what came over me, I guess I just freaked out with everything that was going on because I used The Way to knock him down and out.  For some reason I decided to pick up the rifle--I don't know what I was thinking though--I'd never even seen one, except on a datapad, and I sure as hell didn't know how to use one.

The electrolift doors open and I see my parents and the Lativshas' standing with their backs to the control console, while another one of the hijackers, in some kind of battle-armor, is holding them at gunpoint, and it looked like he was about to pull the trigger on them.

Now I never thought all of this talk about Peace and Harmony had gotten to me--it just didn't seem to matter much, when all I ever did was take lessons from a computer.  But I realized in this moment just how much the Ta'Tathrian philosophy had embedded itself in me.  It hesitated there, not knowing whether I should fire the rifle to save my parents, or just drop it and give myself up.  Of course, I knew which they would have wanted me to do.

Suddenly that same image filled my mind again--Mom and Dad, screaming in agony.  I just couldn't let it happen!  So I raised the rifle and fired it at the hijacker.

I'm not exactly sure what happened next.  It's all kind of a blur.  I know that the shot I fired went wide of the hijacker and hit the viewscreen instead.  There was a loud explosion, and suddenly a huge hole in the front of the transport and a sucking sound as all the air rushed out.

Of course, the emergency forcefields kicked in and sealed the breach, or I wouldn't be here talking to you, you stupid piece of data-refuse.  But the fields didn't come up fast enough, and the last thing I see before I black out is my parents being sucked out into space, screaming in agony and terror.

So what does it all mean?  Does it mean, as my parents would say, that violence is always the wrong choice?  Or does it mean that I should have learned how to master and control the violence so that I could have used it better?  And why the hell am I cursed with these visions, if I can't do anything to change them?

I need a droid instead of a recording rod . . . at least they can make sympathetic-sounding beeping.

END VOICE RECORDING

RUN TIME 18847382

RECORDING ROD DEACTIVATED

Next Entry

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Jizana M'rell, Jedi Historian [RPG]

There are times The Wife gets so into one of the RPG campaigns I'm running that it becomes her favourite topic of conversation and something she spends way too much time thinking about.  At times, for me, its exasperating; but I can't blame her, because I've been exactly the same way about some past characters in past campaigns.  The first time it happened was with my first ever D&D character, Jhaeman, something I'll have to talk about someday.  The second time was with Jizana M'rell, a character I played in a Stars Wars game set during the days of the Old Republic.

The premise of that campaign, and an idea which I will surely steal someday, is that every PC was a new initiate into the Jedi Order.  The campaign started with the initiates arriving at the Jedi Academy on Ossus and early sessions featured everything from attending classes to finding a mentor to learning how to build a lightsaber.  In a story drawn from the books (that I wasn't aware of at the time), the students were tempted by a dark Sith entity that offered great power but at a price.  Thus, there was a good dose of mystery and suspense even though there was no real combat (which really whetted everyone's appetite and made it exciting when the characters graduated and were sent out into the galaxy).

My character, Jizana, was played as an incredibly smart but extremely stubborn young woman.  Always sure that her way was the best way, she predictably clashed with the instructors at the Academy.  It was great fun and rather exciting to role-play these encounters, though now that I have more experience I can see I probably made life difficult for the director!

Playing a character who was a pacifist was quite doable during the Academy sessions, but became more awkward when the PCs were Jedi Knights sent to stop a Sith insurgency from undermining the Republic.  To give Jizana a little more plausible reason for going on these missions, I wrote up the Jedi Historian Prestige Class and made gathering information on the Sith one of Jizana's major goals.  I wrote diary entries for Jizana which I'll post soon, and had my boyfriend at the time draw the picture that accompanies this post.

Jizana was the first GLBT character I ever played, as I gradually developed the idea that she was in love with her friend Sian Suan.  I don't remember exactly how events transpired near the end of the campaign, but for some reason I started playing Sian Suan after having Jizana commit suicide.  I think maybe it was a spur of a moment decision that seemed to make sense during the session but that I regretted afterwards.  Anyway, here's one of my first great gaming loves, Jizana M'rell:

Jizana M'rell
Jedi4/Hist2 (XP: 13325)

Age: 17, Height: 1.7 m, Weight: 55 kg, Eyes: Blue, Hair: Long black, Skin: Dark

Ability Scores:  Str 10, Dex 12, Con 15, Int 18, Wis 14, Cha 14

Vitality: 40, Wounds: 15, Speed: 10', Defense: 19, Initiative +1, Reputation +13, FP: 1 (2d6/3d6)

Saves: Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +11

Melee +3, Ranged +4

Skills:  Appraise +4, Astrogate +5, Bluff +2, Computer Use +9, Craft (Painting) +6, Diplomacy +6, Entertain (Martial Arts Kata) +3, Escape Artist +2, Forgery +4, Gather Info +8, Handle Animal +4, Hide +2, Intimidate +8, Jump +1, Knowledge (Philosophy) +9, Knowledge (Spacer Lore) +5, Knowledge (Jedi Lore) +10, Knowledge (Aliens) +5, Knowledge (History) +9, Knowledge (Physical Sciences) +5, Knowledge (Sith Lore) +7, Listen +3, Move Silently +2, Pilot +2, Repair +5, Search +4, Sense Motive +3, Spot +2, Survival +2, Swim +0, Treat Injury +6

Gear:  Recording rod, Traveling clothes, hygiene kit, utility belt, soro roots, datapad, 2 medpacs, flashlight, comlink, datacards base, ID badge, lightsaber parts, training baton, plaque w/ code, 500 credits

Languages:  Basic, Ithorese, Cerean, Sulustese, Ryl

Force Feats: Alter, Control, Defense, Sense

Feats: Force-Sensitive, Iron Will, Martial Artist, Skill Emphasis (Force Defense), Trustworthy

Force Skills Empathy +2, Enhance Ability +9, Enhance Senses +3, Farseeing +10, Fear +2, Force Defence +12, Force Grip +4, Force Push +5, Force Stealth +2, Heal Another +2, Heal Self +2, Move Object +7, See Force +5, Telepathy +3

Special Abilities: Ancient Languages (Jedi Hist. Prestige Class)

Character Background

Physical Description:

Jizana is a dark-skinned human female about 1.7 m high and weighing 55 kg.  She appears lean, muscular, and healthy.  Preferring comfort and mobility, she normally dresses in wide-legged, drawstring-style pants, a loose tunic with wide sleeves, and soft boots.  Although her long, black hair makes her look strikingly beautiful at times, she usually wears a haughty, disdainful expression.

Culture:

Jizana is the daughter of two members of the Ta'Tathrian, a small, close-knit, quasi-religious sect.  The Ta'Tathrian are true wanderers: they call no planet home, and instead travel from sector to sector in a motley fleet of ships.  The guiding philosophy of the Ta'Tathrian is that the ultimate embodiment of the Force is Peace and Harmony.  Accordingly, no orthodox Ta'Tathrian will ever raise his or her fist in violence, not even for self-defense--to them, violence can cause only pain and misery, results clearly inconsistent with the highest purpose of the Force.  Indeed, to give into one's anger and retaliate is akin to falling prey to the Dark Side.

Instead of war, Ta'Tathrian turn their minds to other pursuits.  Many are skilled artists, musicians, or craftworkers.  Some focus on more scholarly disciplines such as astrophysics or xenobiology.  The Ta'Tathrian also practice an esoteric "martial" art called "The Way of the Flower," which they feel brings them closer to the Force.  The Way is a graceful combination of techniques which take place in a specific pattern (the more skilled practitioners learn the most complex patterns).  Although it has obvious applications in combat, no orthdox Ta'Tathrian would think of using it for such.

History

Jizana grew up aboard the Triberry, a small transport ship which quartered six Ta'Tathrian families.  A precocious child, she quickly exceeded her peers when it came to both academics and master of The Way.  Learning was easy for Jizana: sometimes, before she sat down to take a test, it was if she could already see the questions that would be asked and the correct answers!

Jizana became a voracious reader of anything the ship's computers could come up with; however, this passion for knowledge distanced Jizana from the other children aboard the ship.  Jizana was friendless most of her life, until at the age of 14 a new family came to live on the Triberry.  Jizana quickly bonded with the Sullustan family's daughter, Sian Suan, and the pair often confused the other families by rapidly conversing back and forth between Basic and Sullustese or by playing elaborate pranks on each other.

As Jizana grew older, her parents (although they loved her deeply) began to realize that the Triberry was simply not the place for her.  Jizana had learned everything the scholars on board could teach her, she was getting bored silly with computer lessons, and, worst of all, she was getting a rebellious attitude about her.

The solution came while the Triberry was orbiting Coruscant for fuel and supplies.  Stories and tales about Jizana's ability to "see" the future were already rampant throughout the Ta'Tathrian, but the rumors had started to circulate beyond as well.  When a young Jedi stationed on Coruscant heard the news, he was intrigued and decided to check out the source of the rumors.  A few minutes with Jizana and her family convinced this Jedi that the stories were true, and he knew that the Force must be involved.  He suggested the Academy on Ossus, and after long deliberation, Jizana's parents agreed.  What happened next is detailed in her first Journal Entry.

Personality:

Jizana is a genius, and she knows it.  She tends to look down upon just about everyone, especially those she considers her intellectual inferiors.  Unfortunately, when she does meet someone she'd like to befriend, she goes about it the wrong way and ruins the whole thing.  Similarly, people rarely approach her with friendly overtures because they know (or think they know) that they would be rejected out of hand.

Jizana is also tremendously stubborn and resistant to authority.  She almost always thinks she knows the best way to do something (unfortunately, she's too often right for her to change).  She was raised with the pacifist beliefs of the Ta'Tathrian, but was never an ardent devotee.  She considered the whole question of War vs. Peace, Violence vs. Harmony as irrelevant, abstract questions.  Recent events, however, have thrown her whole worldview into doubt.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 46 [RPG]

[24 Kythorn 1372]

In the common room of Wayward House, the adventurers assemble and decide to head to Terrigo Multivar's residence to journey through the mirror-portal. Mellia is still quite reluctant, and grumbles during most of the walk. On the way, Markus decides to find an elven weaponsmith, and receives directions to a massive tree a few blocks away that has a long curving ramp wrapped around it. The others wait, somewhat impatiently, while Markus ascends and speaks to the weaponsmith, Du'ael Tra'kin, about obtaining an elven courtblade. Instead of selling the blade, however, Du'ael asks Markus why the adventurer is worthy of using such a beautiful weapon. Markus explains his quest to rescue Cain and almost persuades Du'ael to let him use the weapon, but the weaponsmith changes his mind after Markus says he plans to keep it after his quest is successful. Dejected again, Markus rejoins the others.

At Multivar's ramshackle residence, the adventurers find the aged wizard serving tea to a fair-haired young lady and soon realize it's Daisy, one of the members of the Carnivale Intrepid encountered in the Evermoors. Daisy explains that Temeris had said he wished he knew what happened to the adventurers who didn't return to the campsite at the time promised, and that she took that to mean she should go looking for them. After Bettina told her the group was headed to Wayward House in Silverymoon, Daisy flew there on the back of her griffon (skimming just over treetops) and learned from one of the chamberlains that the adventurers were headed to Multivar's. While the others were waiting on Markus' failed attempt to purchase a new weapon, Daisy sought out Multivar and he offered her a cup of tea.

When Daisy hears that "the egg man" (Cain) has been kidnapped, she immediately offers to join in the rescue attempt —even if it means taking the somewhat unusual route of first going on a mission for Multivar to gain transport to Thay. She introduces herself to Myst and Gelkar, but both are rather terse. Mellia, seeing that the group has gained help, takes the opportunity to recuse herself from the mission. Instead, she plans to help Multivar organize his house (and thus see what sorts of tomes he has), feed Daisy's griffon, and try to gather information on Thay.

The adventuring party, which is now composed of Fargrim, Markus, Dolcetto, Myst, Gelkar, and Daisy, follow Multivar to the room with the magickal mirror-portal. Scenes of distant places flash by every thirty seconds, and Multivar consults a small, densely-scrawled notebook as they do. After the elemental plane of fire, a demon realm, and Aglarond pass by, Multivar shouts at them that now is the time, and the group jump through one by one.

On the other side of the mirror, the adventurers find themselves standing on a bleak, blasted landscape of reddish rock. No stars are visible in the hazy sky, but a moon hangs low and looms large on the horizon. Directly in front, a rocky outcropping has been defaced with a large, square steel door that is oddly segmented into four saw-toothed segments. Turning around, the group see, several hundred feet away, a gigantic two-legged creature with small arms, a tail, and sharp teeth devouring another massive creature. The adventurers have not yet been noticed, and proceed to peel back three of the four slats of the door. Dolcetto walks through the opening without incident, but when Fargrim tries to follow, the slats suddenly animate and attack! Daisy draws her greataxe and slams it into one of the writhing slats, but the harsh metallic sound of her attack draws the attention of the nearby monstrous creature! It lets loose a teeth-rattling roar and starts charging forward! The others decide to take their chances with the door and jump through, with several taking serious stab wounds. Fortunately, once everyone is far enough inside, the door returns to normal and closes, and the group is safe from the beast outside. Gelkar reveals the ability to cast some light healing spells and proceeds to help the badly-wounded Fargrim recover.

Inside, the adventurers see they are in a large octagonal room with a single corridor cut into the wall opposite the door. The stone walls are polished to a bright sheen, and every five foot square block holds a small, circular recess containing a metal handle. Soft yellow light illuminates the room from a series of small crystals placed into the ceiling.

The adventurers follow the short corridor and emerge into another octagonal room. This room has corridors heading off in three more directions, but each is blocked by a metal door. Strange purplish tendrils of haze float in certain parts of the room. Dolcetto decides to try opening the door on the corridor to the right of where they entered, but, suspicious it may be trapped, magickally summons a celestial monkey to do it. The spellcaster was wise, as the monkey's attempt to open the door opens up a deep pit and the creature falls to its death. Seconds later, the floating tendrils of haze begin to coalesce, and four-foot tall deep violet monsters suddenly appear, each sporting a massive triangular-shaped mouth with rows of sharp teeth! Myst shouts "ethereal marauders!" and the battle is joined. The marauders constantly disappear in order to attack from new directions, and it is only with some difficulty that four are killed and the remaining one is driven away.

During the battle, Fargrim's dwarven instincts led him to believe that one of the walls forming a corner of the room might contain a secret door. Dolcetto examines the wall and instructs Daisy to try to open it by pulling on one of the metal rings. When she does so, a razor-wire net falls from the ceiling! Daisy manages to leap out of harm's way, but Dolcetto is knocked to the ground and covered by the net's hundreds of sharp blades. Fargrim and Daisy work together to cut Dolcetto free, but the mage is badly hurt. Myst decides the safest way to open the door is through magick of his own, and he mouths an incantation that allows him to discover that if both handles on the wall are turned clockwise simultaneously, the door will open. Once this is done, a small chamber is revealed with five panels of odd mechanical levers and devices. Above each one, a small placard carries a sigil in a language only Dolcetto and Myst are able to read. Dolcetto explains that the placards say, respectively "Entrance Door", "Martial Trophy Room", "Control Room", "Museum", and "Spoils of Conquest." She suspects the strange panels can be manipulated to disable traps or open doors to these areas. However, testing out her theory leads to a bolt of electrical energy coursing through the room and lancing outward! Dolcetto throws herself against the wall to escape injury, but Fargrim and Myst are caught by the blast.

After this, the adventurers are far more careful in their attempts to manipulate the panels. Dolcetto and Gelkar work together to magically trigger them from a safe distance, and after some trial and error believe they have succeeded in deactivating the animated doorway and perhaps some other mechanical and mystical wards. Dolcetto carefully searches the corridors and three closed doors and says that, as far as she can tell, no traps remain. However, the doors remain locked and a means to open them will have to be discovered if the adventurers hope to progress further in their quest to find Multivar's stolen amulet and earn passage to Thay.