An Unlikely Ally
The party spends most of the day eagerly preparing for the events of the evening. Leaving before the infiltrators, Lawrence dresses in his best attire and approaches the Ovren estate. He is greeted at the door by a young halfling woman by the name of Imogene, who has served for some time as one of Markham’s clerks. She welcomes him to the party and promises to inform Ovren of his presence as soon as she is able. In the grand foyer, immediately after entering, there is a very prominent statue displayed between the entrance and the door to the ballroom. It is a sculpture of a very stringy hand holding a chisel, carving away at a shapeless mass of stone. The pedestal on which it stands has a poem which reads:
This is a sculpture of a hammer and chisel chipping broken marble.
The marble has grayed in between the monochrome splatter,
And holds the hammer chiseling itself sickly, as if loath to be chipped.
Absurd. That the canvas should resist.
Some time after Lawrence arrives, Imogene notices several strange musicians entering; their skin seems to be somewhat more tan than most people in the area, and she catches a quick glimpse of what might be steel flashing under one of their robes.
As their companion waits, the remaining party members sneak to the west side of the mansion and enter the second floor through an open window. The room they enter is dimly lit and no light seems to penetrate the windows from the outside. Carved into the wooden floor are several runic circles, and close to the southwestern corner of the room, where there is an exit, is a significantly darker patch of wood that seems to at first glance be cherry wood. However upon closer inspection the party realizes that this wood is identical to the rest of the floor, but has been stained with blood and cleaned many times over, leaving a reddish hue to the grains.
The dancing continues, and soon Imogene brings Markham Ovren himself to meet with Lawrence. They exchange pleasantries and make a few jokes at the expense of “Marcus.” Ovren seems to be slightly on guard regarding Lawrence’s presence at the party as well as his somewhat patchy knowledge of the organization, but they part on good terms. As he leaves, Markham commands Imogene to keep a close watch on Lawrence. With his business concluded, Lawrence begins to make his way to the second floor’s west wing to rendezvous with the rest of the party. As he exits the grand ballroom, Imogene corners him and demands to know his business, admitting that she too is not really who she appears to be. Putting off further explanation, they both head up the stairs to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, they are faced with a massive and intricately locked door.
In the room with the rest of the party, Woolf catches the scent of his master and draws the party’s attention to the north end of the room, where there is a massive locked door. With quick and skillful lockpicking on both the parts of Imogene and Sim, the door clicks open and the party is reunited. Together, they travel along the second floor hallway towards the grand library and Ovren’s private chambers, both of which are areas that Imogene identified as off-limits to all guests, residents, and servants. At the threshold of the library, the party splinters off once more: Sim, Petra, Khaber, and the animals will explore the library and private chambers, while Lawrence and Imogene, who are supposed to be at the party anyway, will more closely examine the first floor.
Traveling back downstairs, the halflings begin to wander through the southern portion of the west wing, towards the rooms that Markham had set out as a public Arcane Research Chamber. In the central room, Lawrence discovers and quickly pockets several crystals and wands, and together they uncover a secret passage leading underground behind a bookcase. They push it aside and descend.
Sim unlocks the door to the library for the remainder of the party, and goes into the dark room to scout. Seated at a table in the north end of the room, barely visible in the darkness, is a man seated reading a book. Sim notes that this is quite odd since there is no light in the room, but quickly and quietly makes his way back to the hallway to inform the party. They wait for the man who they assume to be Markham to finish reading, and once they see him enter the private chambers, they sneak into the library, sending a message to Lawrence that they have found Ovren and require his aid.
Lawrence and Imogene travel through the short underground passageway and return to ground level in a room that Imogene has never seen before, at the southeastern corner of the west wing of the house. The passageway ends in a trap door and the only thing in the small, square room is a spiral staircase, which they ascend. Another trap door greets them at the top of the stairs, and the small room beyond it has only one door leading north. Imogene picks the lock and they open the door; inside the room they see a multitude of caged animals similar to the ones that the party had found in the southern ruins in the forest, as well as the man named Markham Ovren who Lawrence had met downstairs. Despite their efforts to be quiet, Markham hears the door open, and they quickly slam it shut. Receiving the message from the rest of the party, Lawrence responds back that he has found Ovren in the west wing in an animal experimentation room.
Confused, the remainder of the party decides to continue their infiltration without engaging the man they believe is Ovren in any way. They head north to the far end of the library from Ovren’s chambers. There they find that the book that the man was reading was a tedious, dry history of the noble families of Luskan. In the northwest corner of the library, they find a locked door, which Sim picks, but they are presented with another lock of a magical nature. A grid of letters is presented to them, from which they can spell out 5-letter words. Puzzling over it for a while, they first try “Ovren,” which makes a rune that says “error” appear. Their next attempt is “Demon,” which opens the door.
Faced with Markham Ovren soon discovering their plot, Imogene signals to Lawrence to hide himself. When Markham opens the door, Imogene tells him that “the halfling” has escaped the party and infiltrated the mansion, and that he has eluded her. Ovren commands Imogene to track him down and bring him back for questioning; Imogene assures him that she will return soon and regroups with Lawrence in the underground tunnel. Intending to investigate the eastern wing of the first floor, where Markham keeps some of his ledgers, they begin to make their way back out from the Arcane Research Chambers. However they come face-to-face with the musicians, who introduce themselves as agents of Al-Rashid when Imogene demands to know why they are armed. Identifying herself as a member of the Shadow Thieves of Amn, she diffuses the tense situation. Using the Al-Tashid agents as makeshift guards and Lawrence as her prisoner, Imogene begins to head back towards the animal experimentation room.
Beyond the magically locked door, the party finds a small passageway which follows the curve of the roof; this passageway was impossible to see from the ballroom level, but is directly above that part of the house. They bypass a pressure plate trap with little trouble, and the passageway takes one turn north and one turn east. At the end of the passage they find a similarly locked magical door, with the same input options as before. However, the input “Demon” does not open the door, but rather causes the same blue rune to appear.
Face to face with Ovren, Lawrence demands to know what his connection to Arturus’s organization is. He is able to determine that Ovren knows about Cassandra’s death and Arturus’s takeover, but he does not seem to care one way or the other about the shift of power. Markham commands Imogene to kill Lawrence, but Imogene signals to the Al-Rashid to capture Markham. After a grueling battle which almost claims the lives of both Al-Rashid operatives and Lawrence, the four of them together are able to subdue Ovren.
As they attempt to puzzle out the new password, Petra slips and hits Sim’s hand, causing him to input the code “Dance.” Miraculously, this opens the door, and they step into a room that looks somewhat like a bedroom and somewhat like an office: there is a single bed, an armoire, and a desk with papers on it. The room is very dimly lit, and as soon as the door closes behind them, they see a shadow at the far end of the room shift. The lights go out, and the party is stranded in total darkness.