Minds, Faiths, and Loyalties
Immediately following the battle with Markham Ovren, Lawrence leaves the cleanup in the hands of Imogene and rushes to the east wing to help his companions. He passes through the animal chambers, a room filled with rune circles on the floor, and the hall before reaching the library. He manages to slip through the first magical door before it shuts, and rushes to the second, inputting “Loren” as the code. The door slides open.
The entire party is faced with a dire battle: the man who snuffed out the light from the room seems to be able to see clearly in the dark, and is striking them periodically with psionic weapons before fleeing back into the shadows. They begin to light all the torches again, and Sim sets fire to the bed to give them a central light source. In the clear light they see that this man is younger than Markham Ovren, but has similar features; when asked for his identity, he says “They call me Markham.”
As the battle drags on, the party begins to take attrition. The shadow-man focuses many of his blows on Sim and Khaber, Lawrence finds himself unable to strike the man even when he is clearly visible, and Petra, after hearing the voice of Kossuth, flings herself onto the burning mattress and is consumed by the fire. This act, at least, seems to startle the shadow-man long enough to give them a moment’s rest, but no more than that. As Sim glares incredulously into the flames, he is stabbed in the sides by the shadow-man’s mindblades. This gives them both a perfect vantage point to witness Petra’s rebirth: she rises from the crackling fire as a creature made of lava, wielding a massive, flaming spiked chain.
As the shadow-man strikes Sim once more with the mindblades, he is shocked to witness the blade become corporeal while impaled through the half-elf. Despite his best efforts, the shadow-man is unable to recall the blades to his own body before taking a savage blow from Sim. Sim begins to hear the man’s voice resonate inside his own mind: it sounds confused and unsure.
The battle quickly begins to turn in the party’s favor, and they bring the shadow-man to his knees. He clutches his head with one hand and fixes his blade on Sim with the other, before he is knocked unconscious by the final blow. Tired, the party makes a quick recovery and binds the man, beginning his interrogation.
At first, they are all put off by this shadow-man. He is afflicted by the condition echophasia, and repeats anything directed at him before actually responding to it. Despite the cocky tone he adopted in the battle, the man seems quite childlike, and is clearly afflicted with some form of mental deficiency. As a guess, they address him as Loren, and he responds to that name. He is unaware of the current date, but does know that he was trying to kill the party. He is also aware of the fact that there is a second consciousness in his body, that of Markham Ovren, and that that consciousness wants to fight the party; through sheer force of will, he is able to maintain his own personality through the interrogation. The party quickly pockets some of the documents from the desk and heads into the room Loren identifies as his bedroom.
Inside, they find a single cot, a small desk with several children’s fiction books on it, and a poem scrawled in blood on the wall. The poem is written across the entire room, and reads:
For I am this body,
As I am the whole-stitched cloth.
And blood runs through this needle,
As threads across the folds.
As Lawrence begins to explain to the rest of the party his meeting with Markham Ovren in the west wing, Khaber becomes immediately uneasy at the mention of the Al-Rashid. He says that he was not informed of their presence here, and tells the party that there is little time to waste. They hurry back to the animal cages, but find only Ovren lying in a pool of his own blood, and several blood trails leading to the room with the runic circles. The trails end at a single circle in the southwest corner.
With little time to waste before they are found out, the party quickly heads to Ovren’s private chambers. They find no one there, but continuing deeper past his bedroom they discover an alchemy lab with vivisected animals sprawled on the countertops, as well as strange blood-holding needles made of metal. They take some of the tools for closer inspection before setting fire to the lab. Returning to Loren’s rooms once more, they find that all the remaining documents from the desk are missing. Hoping to catch the culprit they rush back to the west wing again, but find no one there. With nothing left to do, they euthanize the animals and set fire to the west wing of the second floor. On their way out, they inform some of the servants that there is a fire and advise them to escape; bringing Loren with them, they return to Luskan, weary from their exhausting heist.
As they ponder their next move, they consider the threat that Loren poses. They suspect that at any time he could snap, reverting to his Markham personality. Should this happen at an inopportune time, it could mean their deaths. Sim, still trying to sort out the events of the battle in his own mind, is unsure of what action to take. Petra, viewing him as a flawed existence and a burden, suggests that he be freed from his suffering. Lawrence, however, adamantly refuses to allow this. With no agreement reached, but Markham’s personality in check for the time being, the party sets up a watch on Loren, and sleeps through the night.