Trish, Simon, and Susi stepped through the mirror into a room full of broken furniture and litter. Three men were looking out a crack in the door to the room. “I can’t wait to change and become more powerful,” said one, a skinny, dirty looking man.
“Ye’ll probly be one o’ them rats, by the look of ye,” the big man beside him laughed, slapping him hard on the back, “I does wonder if it’ll hurt, though,” he added quietly.
The big man never found out whether being turned to a malamorph would hurt or not, as Trish’s blade slid between his ribs and up into his heart. Simon’s katana took out the second and third man before they registered what had happened to their friend. Simon stepped towards the door and listened for a moment. He heard a voice say, “Mr. Tussman, we must away, we wouldn’t want to miss the feast of Dagaral, now, would we?” followed by raucous laughter.
Simon opened the door, and slipped out onto the landing, casting an invisibility spell on himself as he went through. He was on the second floor of a large home, and could see that the furnishings throughout the place had been carefully and systematically destroyed. Paintings hung on the wall askew, with slashes through them, furniture was smashed and piled in heaps, and the walls had been gashed, whether by weapons or inhuman claws could not be determined. Once at the edge of the landing, he could see a group of people, some who appeared to be city guards, standing on the first floor. A butler came in carrying cloaks for the man and woman who stood in the center of the guards. “Good Morning,” called Simon, letting his invisibility drop.
The man spun to face him, “What are you doing in my house?”
Simon replied, “I’m afraid you are in league with malamorphs, and I’ll have to kill you, unless you can convince me otherwise”.
At that moment, Simon realized that he had seen the man, his wife and the butler before. They had been among the townsfolk that had been released from the mirror. Simon jumped from the landing, and struck the man with his katana, wounding him. As soon as the weapon touched the man, the Malam’s bane the priests had put on his weapon while they released the prisoners of the mirror took effect, and in his place stood one of the hideous thought eaters, tentacles waving from his chin. Simon pushed the woman to the side, knocking her off balance, and killing her with a single strike of his blade. The body that hit the floor was not a woman at all, but another of the thought eaters.
Having heard the sounds of battle, Trish exited the room and ran down the staircase, and was met by one of the guards. She struck out with Oblivion, and the man transformed into a man wolf before her eyes. Susi shot at another guard, who turned into a man rat, clutching the arrow that had lanced through his throat.
With a roar, the butler dropped the cloaks and transformed into a man bear, and with their disguises now worthless, the rest of the guards transformed into their respective forms, as man rats and man wolves. A crossbow bolt slashed across Susi’s arm, and he could feel the poison from the bolt begin to weaken him. As Trish’s blade cut the lower jaw from the man wolf she faced, killing him, Simon dodged the clumsy attack of the former butler, slashing down and killing the thought eater. “Noooo,” roared the man bear, as he went berserk and landed a flurry of blows on Simon, wounding him badly.
“Bandar, heal me, and allow me to carry on the battle against the agents of Chaos!” cried Simon, staggering backwards. A golden glow enveloped Simon, who briefly took on the aspect of Bandar, and his wounds were gone!
Two man rats scrambled at Trish as she came to aid Simon, and she slashed as she stepped sideways, cutting one of the creatures completely in half, and spun around hitting the man bear with her second blade. Simon rolled under the arms of the man bear, and carved a crude ‘s’ on his leg. Trish spun low, and cut the man bear’s feet out from under him, killing it, and stood up, killing a man rat with a back swipe from her sword.
The remaining man wolf came charging up the stairs at Susi, who fired an arrow at the creature. The man wolf yelped as the arrow bit deep into the flesh of his shoulder, but continued to bound up the stairs. Susi dropped his bow, drawing his axe, and sank the blade deep into the creature’s side. As the creature dropped at his feet, the first of the priests came through the door having made it through the mirror on the other side. Father Lucan pointed at the green band on his arm, “Sorry we’re late, we decided we needed a way to distinguish us from our mirrored forms!”
The party left the house, and found themselves on the coreward side of the town, but the town was deserted. “Everybody has gone to the temple for the feast,” said Simon, “We need to get to the temple, but some of you need to go to the Menagerie to make sure they don’t release any more of the animals!”
Simon, Trish, Susi, and a group of the priests and townsfolk headed toward the temple. They could hear the activity before they saw it, with music coming from inside the temple. The palisade outside contained the majority of the town, and temple initiates stood at the doors to both the temple and the palisade, greeting the townsfolk. Susi fired an arrow at a guard nearest the gate to the palisade, and as soon as the Malam’s Bane touched him, he transformed into a man rat. People nearby began to scream and run towards the temple in a panic, and a second guard dropped his disguise, revealing that he was also a man rat. As Susi and Trish engaged the man rats, Simon used his training to go over the palisade wall, and ran across the top of the sea of people in the courtyard until he arrived on the temple steps. Simon ran into the temple proper and saw Father Vargas standing with a number of the temple priests, including Father Lucan. “Father Vargas, they’re malamorphs,” shouted Simon.
Simon teleported behind Father Lucan and cut him down with his katana, and the body turned into that of a thought eater. “You were right, Simon!” called Father Vargas.
Simon began to cut down the false priests, who began changing into their malamorph forms. As they moved to surround him, a shout from behind caused them to pause. Simon could see the form of the Jade King, spinning and leaping while he chanted a dwarven war song, as he cut down a man bear with his great axe, and the townspeople were close behind him.
Susi killed the man rat he was fighting, and as Trish worked to finish off hers, he sprang into the air, flew to the top of the gate and perched where he could better see the crowd within the palisade. Within the confines of the great wooden fence, he could see that the malamorphs had given up their charade, transforming and beginning to cut down as many people as they could. He could see man wolves and man rats consuming their still living victims, and took aim at one man rat about to kill a child, putting an arrow through the creature’s eye and killing him instantly. Another arrow took down one of the thought eaters, and he could see Trish wading into the fray, having finally dispatched the man rat guard.
Simon and the Jade King were killing machines, dropping one after another of the malamorphs. Simon could feel the stab of a mind spear hitting him, and he shouted, “I can feel the power of the Jade King flowing through me! I don’t fear your puny mind attacks,” as his katana slashed across the throat of one of the thought eaters, severing its head from its neck.
The Jade King called out to Simon with a laugh, “Well done, boy! They go down just as easy as they used to!”
Suddenly, a confused look came to the face of the Jade King, and he looked down at the sword blade that had burst through his chest. He fell to the floor lifeless, and Father Vargas looked Simon in the eye as he pulled the sword from the dwarf’s body, then turned and ran. Simon threw his sashi in the air, rolled past the claws of a man wolf and grabbed the Jade King’s axe, which he then lodged in the creature’s spine. He dropped the haft of the axe and caught the sashi in his off hand , walking towards the temple entrance without looking back as the body hit the ground behind him.
Priests rushed to the side of the Jade King, but he was beyond their help, the assassin had done his job well. Father Vargas couldn’t be found and all of his mercenaries were gone as well. Prospero and Ellisandra came back to the temple some hours later, and that was when the party found that there had been some trouble at the menagerie. Some creatures had been set free, but they were quickly contained, and the ones responsible dealt with swiftly and harshly. The Jade King was given another burial, this time in a prominent place within the temple. Simon took his axe to bring to the dwarves as proof of his death, so they could recover his body.
Over the next tenday, the freed priests and the townspeople began to restore the temple to its former glory. The party helped with the cleanup, and largely due to their efforts, the townsfolk also helped Father Ray to restore the Temple of All Faiths in town. Simon gave Father Ray a sizeable amount of jade from the tomb of the Jade King. “Thank you so much, Simon,” said Father Ray draping an arm around Simon’s shoulders, “Now, let’s talk about gilding for the sun dome”.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do,” said Father Lucan. “We’ve tried everything that we know, but we can’t cure the disease in Susi and Trish. We will supply you with as many of the leaves as we can, but eventually, the curse is going to take you. I am truly sorry”.
“We also don’t have more time to stay,” said Prospero, “Captain Ward won’t wait forever, we need to get to Horn Cove and deal with the pirates and the necromancer. If there’s nothing more we can do here, then we must be away”.
The party gathered their things and went to the homing platform. There were a number of people there, either waiting to go, or wanting to see them off. Two Feathers met Simon as they walked up the path to the platform. “Old friend, glad to see you again,” said Simon, “Perhaps you and your men could come and train recruits in the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders to be scouts.”
“Only if they are better students than you, Simon,” agreed Two Feather, “We will come as soon as the way is clear.”
Gnorl and Urzul walked by on their way to the platform, “And should you ever have need of us, we will bring Calamity with us, along with as many warriors as will come!”
As the party waited for their turn at the platform, a voice called out from behind them, “Come here, I would have a word with you”.
Simon and the others turned and saw the old man, Ian leaning on his staff. They followed him into the room he was standing in front of. “So, it appears that Dagaral does dwell in the temple?” he said with a chuckle.
The air rippled in front of him with raw power, and suddenly Dagaral himself stood before them! “You have saved my temple, and restored the faith of my people. This is a gift not easily given. First, I will cleanse you of the curse”.
Dagaral waved his hand and Trish and Susi could feel the curse lift from their souls. “Additionally, you will each gain aid from the beasts of the forest, and I grant you each a companion”.
An eagle flew from the rafters and perched on Susi’s shoulder, a ferret poked its head out of Simon’s pouch, and a wolf walked from behind Dagaral to Trish, licked her hand, and sat down beside her. “I thank you again for your service…”
“I request a boon, Dagaral,” interrupted Simon.
Dagaral looked at Simon, “Really? What would you ask for, follower of Bandar?”
“One thing,” replied Simon, “Give me the ability to track Father Vargas, I would pay him back for his treachery”.
Dagaral chuckled, “Well asked, Simon. Father Vargas is due to pay for his transgressions”.
Dagaral held out his hand and gave Simon the compass he had given the dragon earlier on. “Now, it will track both the Sword Which Should Not Be Drawn, as well as Father Vargas. You can decide which. Bless you all.”
Dagaral vanished in a flash of light, leaving the party and their new companions alone in the room. They went to the homing platform, and when it was their turn, they stood on the platform and Prospero and Ellisandra began their spells. As they began to fade out, Ellisandra cried out, “No, Wait!”