Urtusk smelled something savory. Rank mingled with savory. After he climbed past the dead spriggan into the kitchen, he smelled all savory. Behold! A cold iron pot simmered on the stove top. “It’s stew time!” he shouted. But then he spied a plate of cookies. Sweet! An especially tempting cookie shaped like a white dragon with icy frosting. He pounced on the tray, gobbling it down. At first, it was totally worth it, but then he began scraping his tongue between his teeth as the crumbs of ash filled his mouth, choked his throat. He felt sick, so sick he had no appetite, and yet he was very hungry.
Meanwhile, the others searched the captain and found some useful items: a nice greatsword, a magic cloak of resistance, an opal necklace, healing potions, and an elixir of fire breath.
Kazimir looked at the shrunken Njaldur who was halfling size and said he should be back to normal in a few minutes, which was also true of the enlarged Captain Hestrig Orlov but not the spriggan cook. Shanka stabilized the dying captain. Once she transformed to normal size, Tacey bound her up tightly, Holt administered a potion of interrogation down her throat, and Kazimir healed her. The captain awoke, her eyes snapped.
Holt asked her where Nadya’s daughter Thora was. The captain grimaced, frowning. She said the girl taken from Waldsby had been killed by Nazhena Vasilliovna — her soul imprisoned in a doll. Nadya Petska shouted, “No, no!” Urtusk held her back, her hand axe flashing, as she lunged at the prisoner. She spat, hacking at air.
Shanka and Tacey comforted Nadya as best they could. Soft, healing words. The hand axe slipped, ringing on the stone floor. Shanka later told of their encounter with the doll and how they believed it was Thora’s soul they had freed by smashing the gem.
Holt continued. He asked where Nazhena Vasilliovna was. The captain said she was away at Whitethrone. He asked who else remained in the tower. Radosek Pavril was in his chamber, which they could not reach. She said the ravenmaster, a female cleric, would kill them all. There were no other defenders here, she grimaced.
Holt said, “Nadya Petska, I leave it to you. Decide her fate.”
Nadya said to the captain. “It was you, who murdered Tjorvar Leikovich and his family. It was you who murdered my baby girl—-”
The captain said, “Nazhena Vasilliovna gave the order.”
Ignoring Shanka’s pleas, Nadya raised up her hand axe and buried it in the prisoner’s forehead.
An adjacent room was an expansive library. Njaldur and Kazimir were curious to explore the shelves. Most volumes concerned Irrisen lore and history. Curiously, two books were open on the table. One concerned the founding of the Pale Tower. It told a romantic tale of how the witch defeated the white dragon with her cunning. The other book was about Taldor, its customs and history. Kazimir was disappointed he could not find anything about siege engines.
Urtusk accepted the task of smashing any and all mirrors with his warhammer. It was likely they were instruments of scrying.
The next room, moving counterclockwise, around the tower. A wide hallway with an elegant red carpet leading to an alcove, flanked by icy statues of nymphs. Urtusk smashed mirrors; the statues suddenly moved, attacking Kazimir and the Kellid. Kazimir took a couple hits and was knocked out; but the party chipped away and eventually prevailed.
Another set of double doors opposite the library. Holt and Tacey heard nothing, Urtusk opened the door. A plant creature was chained to a wall. Holt recognized it as a Mandragora, a filthy creature like a cherub strangled with a thorns and vines. The creature broke free of its chains and shrieked. Holt and Njaldur managed to cover their ears in time. The others were nauseated, retching, could not act.
Surprisingly fast, the creature whipped vine-like arms, striking Holt. Thorns pricked his skin, but he shook off the mind poison. Holt stepped up and thrust his spear, and Njaldur struck it with cold iron. Tacey came next, leaping over tentacles and stabbing it in the back. Holt heroically finished it off. Kazimir knew the poison of the Mandragora can be used as a component for scrying spells.
In the adjacent hallway, they found another alcove with a portal. A door to Captain Hestrig’s bedroom. In a locked chest, they found three potions of feather fall and another potion to help with interrogation. They also found fancy jewelry and coins.
Continuing around the corner, past the nymph statue, they stopped at another door. Holt listened and was surprised to hear a woman humming softly, and the scent of perfume. Njaldur knocked. A woman, human, said, “Yes?” He said her presence was requested in the dining room. When the door opened, they were surprised to see the Lady Argentea. Even more surprising, she didn’t recognize them.
Urtusk pushed past her into the room, smashing a mirror, but he decided to put the vanity mirror in a drawer. Everyone else crowded in as well. Lady Argentea explained she was a prisoner here, having been abducted by fey. Her story mirrored the one the party knew. She said they planned to replace her with a double, but she didn’t know the reason. Njaldur spoke to her in private, while the others searched the last bedroom which belonged to the Mierul Ardelain. Inside they found a chest containing a fancy cloak and more potions: 2 to cloak your alignment and a mystery potion.
Lady Argentea wanted to leave the tower immediately. She asked to be escorted home. The story of her abduction by Rokhar seemed credible. Outside the party talked. Kazimir was a bit skeptical. Had they rescued the double or the real Lady? He wondered how her captors could count on her being rescued. (Equally distressed he may have given the tea set to an impostor.) Holt wondered why they treated a prisoner so well, with perfume and dresses. To dispel some doubts, Kazimir entered her room, detecting for magic to determine if she was under some disguise. He scanned her room and her person but found nothing. They told her to stay inside for the time being.
Nadya brought her boys and Hatch inside. Hatch confirmed that one portal led to the aerie while the second one went to Radosek Pavril’s chamber. To keep them safe, they stayed in the bedroom down the hall from Lady Argentea. The party lined up at the portal (rehearsing the password) as they prepared to enter the aerie.