A warm spring morning saw the Members and Associates of the Learnéd Order of the Rune in the Guildhall meeting room. There, the Wisdom, Balder Greenhammer, immaculate in plaited and brushed beard, and freshly laundered raiment, announced that the Leader of the Fraternal Order of Wizardry, Naes Srond, would be sending for the entire Order to answer to him for the wherefore of their existence least they be exterminated as a threat to the sanctity of the Arcane in Cygnar. Although, the Learnéd Mistress Hellith asked many a pointed question, she acquiesced, guessing this was some strange Mannish custom beyond the fathom of Iosan understanding.
Next came the orders of business for the day. Balder thought that the first should be to seek out the origin of the attack upon the Learnéd Mistress Hellith, since some leads had been furnished by her audience with Lady Jane. Namely, they should seek out the Witch Methabetha and the Khadorian Gippus, to determine whether either had been behind the attack upon their most famous Member.
The Wisdom accepted that they should try to learn more about the green liquid that had been smuggled into their baggage. Therefore, he decided they would visit Erasmus Spindle, who owns a shop near the docks and is known to be knowledgeable about certain arcane elements. They would then interrogate the captain of the barge they traveled on, should he still be found at the docks.
Erasmus Spindle’s shop was a small dive with a sign larger than the frontage of shop itself. Balder and a few other Associates entered and encountered the proprietor. Giving over a sample of the mysterious green fluid, Erasmus announced he would need half an hour to make his analysis. Begrudging him this time, Balder sat uncomfortably in the filthy environs of the shop as his lower classed associates searched in vain for something to steal. Eventually, Master Spindle emerged from his inner shop and announced that the substance was not magical, but that its ingredients included exotic spices from the deserts of the East. He warned that the hint of almond might suggest a poisonous effect upon those that imbibe the substance. In all, his analysis was that it was a substance that could provide an energy boost to a large animal or creature over a short period, measured in hours, but might result in the death of the recipient.
Gleaning what they could from the Goodman Erasmus, the Learnéd Order turned its attention towards the docks. There they found the barge they had arrived upon the day before taking on new cargo. The Wisdom, Balder, called the Captain over for an audience. After a brief questioning, they learned that the only suspicious activity was at the last refueling stop a day’s travel upriver from Corvis, where the stevedores were unfamiliar to the Captain. However, there had been several stops due to Sir Milo’s demand to overnight at accommodations he deemed appropriate, and at each stop the barge had to be unloaded upon landing and reloaded in the morning to continue the journey.
The Learnéd Order of the Rune continued on their investigation of the abomination sent to assassinate the Learnéd Mistress Hellith. Crossing the North Bridge on the way to the Northern Graveyard, Balder was accosted by a strange, pock-marked hunchback, who bid they follow him. Guessing this was the awaited summons by the Fraternal Order of Wizardry, Balder ordered the Members and Associates to leave behind their mounts and vehicles and follow the Hunchback down the narrow alley he led them. It ended in an unremarkable door but before he would open it, the Hunchback bid all the Learnéd Order of the Rune wear blindfolds before opening the door. He warned them not to remove their blindfolds least they end up hideously scarred as he was. The Order entered, all following his orders, for none fell to any misadventures.
Through another door the party passed. Though still blindfolded, they could hear the difference between this place and that beyond the portal. Here there was mostly silence and still air, nothing probed or licked their faces as they stood. Suddenly, a tortured scream ripped the air, followed by a human voice weakly stating, “You may remove your blindfolds.”
Removing their blindfolds, they found themselves in a dimly lit chamber covered in shadows. A hooded and robed figure sat in a shadowy alcove and beckoned them closer. “I am Naes Srond, Leader of the Local Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Wizardry. It is our job to determine whether upstart arcane orders are worthy of inclusion as Associate Members to the Order or need to be eradicated. I will start by asking you questions,” but held up a hand, looking directly at Balder, “But not one that has been well rehearsed and planned.”
He began by asking the Learnéd Brother Brent Longbridge what the ultimate purpose of the Learnéd Order of the Rune was and he answered expansively concerning the Unified Rune Theory that had brought most of them together. The other Members of the Order answered in turn, Learnéd Lady Hellith Wyldiss said she came to Corvis to learn more concerning Arcane Mechanika to add to her knowledge of Arcanika, but her purpose had been thwarted by the recent death of all the Arcane Mechaniks in Corvis. The Associates gave their various replies and all seemed to satisfy Naes Srond, who announced the audience at an end for he sensed “a Change” coming. He granted the Members of the Learnéd Order Associate Membership to the Fraternal Order of Wizardry, including access to their Associate’s Library and Meeting Rooms. To Balder, he gave a Command Word that would summon his Portal Master to lead Balder to the nearest portal to Naes Srond’s chambers.
Then, shambling across the chamber to the bed, Naes Srond began to transform. The flesh beneath his robe shifted and warped, his limbs cracking and shifting in grotesque fashion, prompting the party to retreat through the portal. However, this was not the last horror some of the party were to witness. Suddenly, Goodgobber Peewee and the Learnéd Lady Hellith found themselves stranded in the portalspace, their companions before and behind them having disappeared. With many curses, the Hunchback gathered what was left of the party and led them to safety. Many minutes later, he emerged with Mastergobber Jordie, Goodman Cobb and the Learnéd Brother Brent, who all appeared to have had their soul harrowed, Brent having seen the worst of it.
The Order sent Cobb Ironside and Sir Vendrom ahead to announce their intentions for an audience with Methabetha. There they were greeted by a Flashboy who agreed to announce them to her for a price, which Sir Vendrom readily paid. After disappearing into the Shadow Witch, the Flashboy returned to extending a welcome to meet with Methabetha. Before entering the Shadow Witch, Vallence appeared to Hellith telling her there’s no way he was going in there and that she was on her own. But the Order proceeded through the veil into a strange ruin of washed out shadows, where clockwork abomination rats ran through the streets. Approaching the site where the Witchblade was Broken, the Order saw a group of Flashboys lounging around the entrance. Judging this to be the place where Methabetha lived, they entered.
In all, it was a pleasant audience. She invited the Order to sit and they conversed pleasantly. This place was invested with similar looking cat abominations to the one which attacked Hellith. This being the purpose behind the audience, the Order asked about such things. Methabetha said this could only have been done by a specialist. After several distracted minutes, which included Sir Vendrom chasing cats around trying to claim one for his own, she revealed the specialist by name, Gippus, the Khadorian, and gave them his address. The audience at its end, someone broached the subject of Arcane Mechanika in the city and that all the Arcane Mechaniks had suffered accidents, fatal mishaps, or had been disappearing recently. To this, she replied that there were 47 Arcane Mechaniks registered with the Steamer’s Union and it was curious to know they had all been killed. She then demanded a price for her audience and the information she had given them. Balder agreed he would send her the corpse of the abomination that attacked Hellith. This seemed to satisfy Methabetha and she gave Sir Vendrom a gift of the cat-abomination she had allowed him to catch.
Leaving the Shadow Witch and returning to their carriages, wagons, and mounts, they found a constable of the watch waiting for them, one Constable Skint. Giving a perfunctory greeting to his betters, he harassed Cobb some and had to be prompted to state his business. Skint stated that he was stationed at the Watch House nearest to Sir Milo’s manor and had been dispatched to inform him of the latest developments. The murderer of Sir Milo’s servants had been caught! The culprit was none other than his own Stable Master who was caught in the act of attempting to murder two of his victims by the Butler and held there until the constables arrived. So informed, Sir Milo thanked the constable and the party took their leave of the lawgiver.
On the Order pressed to their meet with Gippus, whose shop was found in the Quad. The Learnéd Brother Brent, Learnéd Sir Vendrom, Learnéd Gunmage Yannov, and Jordie entered bare and unassuming shop. A plane and unassuming Khadorian appeared from the back moments later. Yannov greeted him as a brother, but despite all enquiries, Gippus refused to all knowledge of clockwork. Upon mention of Methabetha’s name, however, the Khadorian immediately attacked with Arcane Bolts. He quickly fell beneath the onslaught of Brent’s Arcane Bolts, Yannov’s magelock rifle, and Sir Vendrom’s sword.
Simultaneously, a rifle cracked in the afternoon sun, the bullet striking Lady Hellith as she stood in the street! A second shot was intercepted by Vallence, throwing himself before it, unable to catch the first. But he did point out where the sniper perched and Peewee began making his way to the building 40 yards distant. Balder called the Gunmage to deal with the sniper, Yannov having the only weapon with range enough. Meanwhile, the sniper shot twice more with the same result, one bullet striking Hellith, the other intercepted by Valence. Then, the Gunmage brought his magelock to bear, empowering his Rune Shot, and striking true. The Order saw the sniper’s weapon falling to the street, several stories beneath his rooftop perch. Peewee reached the site only moments afterward, finding little of interest on the body except ammunition and money. The weapon, once retrieved, was damaged beyond use, but was clearly a Widow Maker – a rifle designed to target Warcasters in battle. Thus, it was the second time in two days the Lady Hellith had been a target of assassination.
Inside the shop, Jordie found a locked door, which Brent blasted open. Using his True Sight, the Learnéd Brother found jars of foetuses fused with clockwork, the mechanika still clicking against the inside surface of the jar. Around the room were arrayed many tables festooned with surgical implements, their apparent purpose to aid in the extraction of foetuses from living wombs, or performing abortions. Gippus was strapped into one of the abortion contraptions and brought to consciousness. Under Jordie’s interrogation, Gippus admitted that he made the abomination that attacked Hellith for Lewis Lewell, nearly 3 or 4 weeks ago. He said Lewell is killing Arcane Mechaniks because he wants their brains for some insane purpose, but has been locked up in the Asylum. After Jordie leaves the room, Gippus regained full consciousness and attacked Brent with his arcane powers. The Learnéd Brother beheaded the Khadorian with his halberd.
All that was left was to pick up the pieces, deal with the constables and return to the Guildhall.