Returning to Aureigne from their visit to the creepy arm witch, the party met up with Kolya, who was in something of a panic about major action going down at the much-discussed mansion. Observing from a rooftop blind across the street, the party witnessed the house being emptied, while a second stream of heavies were carrying massive amounts of gunpowder inside the house. All the action was being directed by the same old Aromasta lady who the party had attempted to interrogate two nights prior.
Infiltrating the house stealthily, Lolth discovered that the barrels were not being carried into the house at all, but through it – and into an old wellhouse in the back gardens. From there, a heavy but somewhat ramshackle lift was lowering them down into some unknown space below.
Meanwhile, Lusus tailed one of the loaded wagons as it left the mansion – each seemed destined for a different city gate – and accosted the drivers. Initimidation accidentally bled into dismemberment, and both drivers proved too fragile to survive what experts call the Boradovan Hot Lights. From the rooftops, Fo managed to recover the wagon, which was filled with fine housewares which would ultimately fetch a very nice price at a local fence.
Back at the mansion, Lolth made her way into the wellhouse and down the widened well shaft to discover a vast cave beneath the grounds. Powderkegs were being received by additional heavies on the cave floor, and carted from there into a side tunnel that lead further underground.
All outbound carts had been loaded; the last barrels of powder were being unloaded for transport to the wellhouse. Suddenly, an unkempt little girl, around six or seven years of age, appeared in the street in front of the house. The old Aromasta woman approached her to apparently ask her what was wrong, and met an untimely demise; from the shadows behind the girl, a familiar figure drew up, though this time dressed in black instead of red; a sinister caricature of the local Sisters of Saint Agata, iconic nuns whose mission sees them running orphanages and halfway houses for wayward youths. Making her way effortless through the porters in front of the mansion, the figure walked purposefully but calmly through the mansion and into the back gardens. The party followed at a distance.
Her nonchalant slaughter continued down the wellshaft, until no Aromasta were left alive on the premises. Following her into the caves, the party encountered a long, winding boardwalk that allowed passage through a neverending natural limestone cave formation. Bridges formed a switchback over a deep, wide chasm as the tunnel wound further and further downward – every thirty yards or so, a powderkeg was set and fused. Fo cut these fuses at every keg.
Reaching the bottom of the chasm, the party discovered an ancient construction – a giant well atop a dais, filled with churning, glowing blue water. Constructed around this well was a more modern laboratory built from worktables, bookshelves, and equipment racks. Hanging in one of these racks were rows of intricate wooden mannequins in various states of completion – the most complete were skinned in leather covered in silk, and looked uncannily human from even a short distance. Each resembled the man recognized as Victus Auguste, most recently spotted preserved but apparently dead inside the sealed iron coffin once located in the mansion above.
The Red Queen – now known as Mother Superior – was rifling through the contents of the laboratory with frustrated fury.
“Where is it?!?”
Upon detecting the party (apparently by smell), she became enraged and prepared to do battle – but before she could cover the ground between her and the group, something happened; she looked upward and cursed before dissipating and fading away.
Alsahiir studied the work journal of the laboratory, and learned things. Firstly, that while he could never have built this experiment on his own, he did recognize a critical error that seemed to be causing its failure; armed with this journal and the reagents it described, he was confident that he might be able to successfully carry out the procedure – a procedure meant to install a disembodied soul into an artificial body.
Secondly, Barabal’s name was recognized among a record of test subjects, with a unique comment: “extreme aberrant result”.
The party filled several canteens with water from the well – confirmed by Alsahiir’s genie to be a link to the Elemental Plane of Water – and made their way back up the caverns to the surface. Had the powderkegs detonated, the resulting collapse might have destroyed a quarter of Aureigne; to assist in making sure this didn’t happen, each powderkeg was smashed open on the way up, exposing the explosive within to cave damp and neutralizing the threat.
Topside, the party retired with full brains and empty stomachs to their inn, which was packed with evening revelers. A full round of very expensive booze arrived just as they sat down – apparently purchased by the well-dressed man who raised a glass to them just before disappearing behind the milling crowd.