At long last we fought off the beasts, mole men, constructs, and apparitions. The gentleman headed back toward town for more ammunition. The bounty hunter was missing after the melee. The soldier wanted to scout the area. Only the homesteader and I were determined to retrieve the blacksmith with all due haste.
We had seen the beasts drag him into the main building, building #56. As soon as they were out of sight, we could no longer hear them, either. The homesteader and I approached the building warily.
Above the door was inscribed “The ailments of the mind shall be overcome.” We entered. There was a room off to the side and tracks going straight ahead. The homesteader suggested we check the room off to the side so nothing could sneak up behind us. The room was in shambles but had once been the security checkpoint. I entered, searched the rubble, and found a security manual with a map of the building.
The map showed stairs across from the security station, but the wall seemed solid to me. We decided the maps must be out-of-date.
I summoned a globe of light to guide our way through the dark asylum, and we followed the tracks through. They seemed to go straight through to the back door, or whatever the map’s room #11 might be. We went through into #11 and found ourselves on an outdoor patio. The blacksmith was curled up asleep on a small patio table, which was surrounded by chairs. The patio overlooked the road thanks to a dangerously steep manmade cliff face, which did not make sense for a mental-health facility.
I saw the homesteader pull out his knife and stopped him before he pricked the blacksmith. I noticed a pitcher of cold water nearby and threw that on the blacksmith. He woke up immediately. He didn’t recall anything between being carried off by the tiger construct and our awakening him. We noticed the blacksmith’s wounds were all neatly stitched up, which was odd considering it was but a mere quarter hour since he’d been kidnapped.
We heard laughter in the building. The homesteader asked, “Is that an inmate or our comrade?” We went to see and spotted our comrade, the soldier, in the soft glow of torchlight. We called for him to join us on the patio and shared with him the map which we had found.
We searched the ground floor. The findings of this expedition I have marked in a separate inventory, which I have placed with the map itself. A few things I must also mention here as they are of interest to our later adventures. In the records room, we found some papers indicating the building to which Albus Grand was at one point reassigned. We also found the tags of two burnt files which read “von Schtook” – Christian name illegible – and “Hagir Hanaa Ajam.” In the property vault, we found a finely crafted dagger with an eight-lade milky-green soulstone in the pommel belonging to Mr. Ajam. The blacksmith found a body in the ice cooler in the staff room. Finally, in the guards’ barracks, the soldier found a diary belonging to a Ms. Chinwendu Ihejirika hidden in the bottom of a locker.
The last room on the ground floor into which we ventured was #10. It was another tossed file room, and I was about to turn to leave when the soldier pointed out there was a small woman crouched in the corner! I approached and introduced myself. She cowered, and so I retreated. I told her, “We’re looking for Albus Grand.”
She said, “You’ll have to check with Hagir.” We inquired where he was. “On the second floor with rest of naturalists,” she replied. We asked who she was, and she told us, “I’m the record keeper.” We expressed confusion at the need for a record keeper since the overthrow of the asylum’s other keepers. She told us, “Haagir is very particular. He insists meticulous records be kept, especially about the dead.”
“Who’s dead?” asked the homesteader, and the little woman gestured to all the files in room #10.
Her eyes darted to the dagger the homesteader had placed in his belt and said, “Hagir’s gonna wanna talk to you. Now.”
“Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” countered the homesteader.
“Oh, he’s gonna possess you,” said the little woman. She shoved me aside and headed into the hallway. We followed since the second floor had been our next stop anyhow. She made a right heading toward rooms #15 and #16, the first stairway we passed. We followed. She turned into the stairwell area in room #16 and took a key off the wall – it had been hidden behind a painting, clever woman! – and unlocked the door to the stairwell. The stairwell was cluttered with tables and chairs perched on top of one another. She told us they were all carefully placed to cause great harm and noise if disturbed and to only go where she went. She was very slender and lithe, quickly climbing over the furnishings. We struggled to match her agility but managed to get to the second floor without a thing crashing down around us.
There was a door at the top of the stairs with a small glass window. When we reached the top, a crazed face slammed into the glass and and shouted, “What’s the damage?” The little woman called him Wilhelm and brusquely told him to step aside. As I reached the top of the stairs, I noticed the little woman was barefoot, which surely gave her an advantage over us boot-clad men in scaling that avalanche of oak. The face licked the glass and opened the door, giggling.
The little woman told us, “Don’t dawdle,” and headed down the hallway to the middle of the building and turned left toward room #18. We could see the door to #18 was open and there was a desk inside. Then she made another left into a room with a placard reading “Administration” on the door. She knocked on this door and told the occupants there was someone to see Hagir.
The door opened and we saw a well-muscled black woman dressed in what had been a guard’s uniform, but with the sleeves cut off and an all the emblems defiled. Behind her were three other people in less well-fitting, more damaged guard uniforms. All the guards had their weapons drawn when we entered. On the wall were slashed oil portraits. (Later the blacksmith told us the man in the paintings was the man in the ice cooler in the staff room.) Other than the paintings, the original opulent decor remained untouched. An Arab, dressed in the worn uniform of a desert general, sat behind a desk writing on parchment. He dusted some sand across the parchment, set it aside, and gestured for the guards to stand down. They obeyed, and he gestured us forward.
“Greetings, my name is Hagir,” he began. The homesteader told him we were looking for someone, but Hagir had noticed the blade in the homesteader’s belt and said, “You have a possession of mine.” The homesteader tried to bargain the blade for the information we needed, but Hagir insisted on the blade first and assured us he would have it one way or another. The homesteader gingerly tossed him the blade, and Hagir deftly caught it.
The homesteader told Hagir we were looking for Albus Grand. Hagir said, “Many people are looking for him. He’s a very wily man. Albus and I bonded together when we overtook the asylum. Unfortunately his unstable mentality caused him to wander off on his own, and he has become lost to us. The grounds are quite spacious, and there are many hidden areas not even the guards know of. Albus managed to make the right friends before the overthrow and has disappeared into there. We are finding these areas and looking for our friend. He has aligned himself with horrible people – Resurrectionists I believe they’re called – and they tend to come out of the sewers and underground places.”
It sounded like that was the only information Hagir could provide. It seemed he had barricaded himself and his people on this floor with no intention of leaving. One of inquired about this, and he said, “Why would we leave? It’s a wonderful bastion. What’s meant to keep people in keeps people out with a little bit of tweaking.”
I remembered Grand’s diary and asked Hagir if he could decipher it. He flipped through it but said it was useless without Grand. He asked us what piqued our interest in Grand, and I explained about Eloise and other contraptions we’d found. Hagir spotted the gauntlet on the blacksmith’s arm and recognized it as one of Grand’s inventions, too. Hagir suggested we bring Eloise to the asylum to draw Albus out. “He values her very much,” he said. I explained there were concerns about Eloise having enough power to make the trip and return. Hagir said, “If it draws Albus out, power shouldn’t be a problem.”
Hagir asked how we found Eloise and the other contraptions. The homesteader simply said, “In our travels.” I chimed in helpfully that the homesteader had been given a deed to a block that included a library with some interesting, cleverly hidden books. Hagir asked whom had given the homesteader the deed, and we explained the Guild was giving out deeds to help repopulate the Quarantine Zones.
“We can’t have that,” Hagir huffed. “If the Guild gets a foothold in the Quarantine Zone, they will try to reestablish hold on the asylum, to use us as an army of sorts. When the reprogramming didn’t take, they tried to destroy us.”
Then Hagir reiterated that our best chance of drawing Albus out was to bring Eloise to the asylum. He said he could not guarantee us safe passage among the Resurrectionists because his group was at odds with them at the present. He said if we could find a Resurrectionist or tinkerer, that person might help to hold Albus’ interest once we drew him out. Hagir explained the Albus tended to flit off once he was bored of a place or thing, and the Guild had countered this by allowing him to venture out to his various holdings. Hagir said the Guild knew the best way to manipulate Grand was to allow him to do what he liked, as long as it didn’t threaten anyone. The Guild gave Grand some measure of freedom, and, in exchange, he gave them devices of genius.
The homesteader asked Hagir if he or his people had stitched up the blacksmith. Hagir could not be certain but said he doubted it was any of his group. He said after all that had happened at the asylum, they had a disregard for surgery and preferred magical healing. He said it might have been Albus or one of the Rezzers.
Hagir invited us to make use of the second floor, and we gladly accepted this offer as we were in need of rest and recuperation. He suggested we would be most comfortable in the second room to the southwest, a padded observation room, and he indicated for the black woman to lead us there.
She showed us to the padded room, #3 on our map. She told us room #2 was a now-empty medical station. She said #1 was a nurses station and to keep out of there as disturbed patients often wandered through that area. She said #6 was a kitchen where we could find food if need be, but that we should go no further. She told us #4 was a vacant room unless someone had wandered in there.
I asked her if her name was Chinwendu, and she said it was. I showed her the diary. She said it was her handwriting, but she didn’t recollect writing any of it. She said she had no use for it and handed it back to me.
She advised us again not to wander because it was a mental-health facility.
We were able to get some fitful rest amid the giggles and screams in the night.
[I end with 5 Fate points.]