After a 6-month hiatus Gundren Rockseeker asked for the party to come back together for an update and a mission. Halrich spent his time off by trying to create wooden wings for flight, but failed miserably. Daggoth spent his time investigating possible paths for breaking his connection to devil patron. Naivara was on sick leave and Aire took a personal sabbatical to become “more connected to his arts”.
The party arrived at Wave Echo Cave, now the headquarters for Rockseeker incorporated, to meet with Gundren. Gundren gave a brief, but excellent, PowerPoint presentation highlighting the goals and structure of the company as well. While Rockseeker Inc. is a mining company, Gundren explained how investigating the Spellforge and dimensional travel is the true mission for him and the party. He explained how everything else is more of a cover for his goal of vengeance against the Black Spider for his brothers' deaths. To help with this tasks Gundren introduced the Head of the Magical Item and Artifact research division, Luth. The party was of course familiar with Luth after spending time buying goods and selling precious treasure and family heirlooms to him at his store. As the presentation continued, Gundren discussed how there have been several teams created to investigate the current method for dimensional jumping, and how they have more of a handle of things thanks to Luth’s research. Since Aire is on sabbatical, Gundren said he had to find a replacement. At that moment, the warforged cleric Cog, the newest intern and team member, walked in and introduced himself. With a complete team Gundren said they will jump right into the mission.
The teams first mission would come from a scroll simply called The Carnival. Gundren and the team were not sure what to expect. They only knew that in order to return they would need to accomplish a task. As they began teleporting from their world accompanied with the familiar POPs the team began to leave this existence and started passing through that eerie plane of white nothingness, they heard another voice saying…. “help me…help me…..Save me….SAVE ME”. The voiced started to fade as reality started to form around them again. First came the smells of cider and stews followed closely by the sounds of laughter and music. They grey fog around them began to take forms of objects and people, before finally solidifying. It is in the moment the party had once again successful jumped to another place or time.
The party was again in a mid-conversation with someone that was asking for help. They were talking to Aelia an older woman who feared that a roaming carnival was spreading a sickness to Hillpicket and all the other communities surrounding the larger city of Hillsfar. She revealed that she visited the carnival once in another town and believes that she wasn’t affected because of her homemade talisman. She's convinced that the entire town is in on whatever secrets the carnival possesses and is thoroughly convinced that the characters will be able to figure out what is going on with her help saying "This runs too deep! Everyone's got their fingers in this mess!". The party decides to talk to the bartender to get another perspective and more info about the town they are in. The bartender, Hope Kellar, is not only the owner of this inn, but is also the mayor of Hillpicket. She tells the party that she thinks and negative talk about the carnival is rubbish and that Aelia is just an old paranoid woman. Hope states that the carnival will be good for business and good for breaking up the monotony of being a small farming town.
After getting a second opinion about the carnival the party decides to leave for the night and see if they can scout out the carnival before they show up to town. Putting down a deposit the party gets a couple of horses from Hope and head West to wear the carnival was last seen. Travelling for a few hours the party actual ran into the carnival caravan on its way to Hillpicket. Instead of sneaking on the party decided to let them get to the town unbothered.
Arriving in town late at night, Doctor Jubals carnival began setting up and announced their presence with a loud bang of a cannon and dancing acrobats. The carnival were handing out a handful of free tickets to those that were present, including the party. Before the party went into check out the carnival they ran into Aelia who said she would check out some of the newer attractions that she missed her first time visiting. The party declined to accompany her.
Once inside the party went straight to some carnival games. Halrich tried his hand at the archery game failing a couple time, which gave Cog a couple of cheap stuffed animals to place all over his body. A couple of those archery losses seemed to be caused by some tricks done by the carnie running the game, but it mattered for naught. After several compulsive attempts, Halrich eventually got the top prize of a large bear which he gave to Cog. The next game played was a simple ring the bell game against Armstrong the Strong Arm. Cog took it upon himself to try this challenge and soundly beat the strong man. His prize was one yellow potion of luck.
The players then went on to see the Exoticum, a place of several strange sights. Inside the tent is arranged so that visitors must follow a set route from canvas room to canvas room. In each room is an exotic sight. Two-headed calves float in pickle jars, tattooed contortionists perform, a living man-shaped construct of rare beauty stares at onlookers, a chained a woman petting a live cat with two faces, a goblin charms a snake…all sights to amaze and confuse. The final sight in the Exocticum was shown by the two hosts, Vlarune (a human male) and Thia (A woman high elf); the sight was of a gagged mermaid in what appeared to be a locked thick glass and metal container. The party left the Excoticum with a few concerns and suspicions.
Moments after exiting the Exoticum the adventurers started to get accosted by several featureless masked fools. The fools start innocently enough—tumbling and clowning. Soon enough, however, they start to be a genuine nuisance to the party—mirroring their actions and mocking the characters in their high-pitched laughs as the party try to get past them. They never use real words. Eventually, the fools start grabbing at the adventurers; attempting to pull them to the ground and grab their weapons. The fools continued to escalate their actions until finally Cog had enough and punched back one of the fools. As soon as it looked like a fight was in hand a carnival worker who had been passively watching up until that point hurries over and shouts at the fools to go away. The carnie, Elliah Coastar apologized profusely offering food and drink as an act of forgiveness on behalf of the carnival. Based on their conversations with Elliah the party learns that there have been a couple of new attractions Madame Darkness, the mirror maze, dancing rats, and the fools. He mentions how the fools are extremely loyal to Dr. Jubal who as of late, been a little bit more distant.
The party, interested at this point decided to question Doctor Jubal. As they approached his tent the party ran into a small crowd of fools again. Like earlier, the fools began harassing the party until the ruckus grabbed the attention of Doctor Jubal. Jubal deflected all questions about the Carnival potentially driving people crazy and said “If we were to blame for a sickness wouldn’t my people be falling ill as well? This isn't the first time we've been blamed for something not our fault. It is the way of simple folk to blame those they don't understand.” Doctor Jubal denies Cog and Daggoth the opportunity to join his circus saying he has enough freaks in his show already before retiring back to his living quarters.
The adventurers decided to explore the rest of the new attractions and see if those could be the cause of the illness; starting first with Madam Darkness. Inside the Madam’s tent is a haze of smoke with a few candles lighting the tent. Through the mild smoke the adventurers see an older elf with golden skin. She offers to do a tarot card reading for the players. In her readings, she warns the party about the monster in the mirror and the beast, before shooing the party out of her tent.
As the party leaves Madam Darkness tent they see Aelia is sitting on the ground, behind a tent—out of sight of the rest of the carnival goers. She is cackling uncontrollably with a pained look on her face. As the adventurer’s approach Aelia she shudders and falls over. Aelia starts babbling incoherently, her eyes rolling up into her head and becomes feverish. Without warning, she appears to have a bout of lucidity. She says: “Fools……listen…remember…someone…mirrors…they…call…us…the…mirrors…"
As the final words leave her lips, Aelia's head lolls and she appears to lapse further still into feverish babbling. A spider web of cracks begins to spread across her wrinkled skin.
As the adventurers crouch over her body a white-masked fool approaches and throws a rat at the party. Without warning, a slew of rats pour out from under nearby stalls and tents, and attack the party. The four fools attack the party along with two swarms of rats and two giant rats. The party is able to fight them off easily, especially with Cogs cleric spells. After the fighting is complete the party heads straight to the Mirror maze.
Before entering Daggoth ties of a bit of rope outside the maze before entering. The maze is dimly lit with low lanterns, relying on the mirrors to reflect the light throughout. The entire maze is filled with flickering light and dancing shadows with the walls and ceiling covered in mirrors. The sounds of giggling and shouts echo throughout. The maze didn’t seem that difficult for the party to navigate, but the they quickly found themselves becoming increasingly disoriented only with Daggoths rope to keep a path. What looks like a clear passageway lead many of them face-first into a mirror. The interior looked far larger than the exterior might suggest as their reflections seem to move in menacing ways.
The adventurers stumble into a large open space within the maze and find a number of villagers; chained to the floor. The symbol of a black six-finger hand surrounded by arcane runes is crudely painted on the floor between them. Among the villagers are Aelia, Hope Kellar, and surprisingly Doctor Jubal. Doctor Jubal looks disheveled, as though he had been here for some time. In total, there are over a dozen individuals present. Those that have been imprisoned the longest show facial disfigurements as they have been transformed into fools the longest. The party goes about freeing each villager before talking to Doctor Jubal. They found out that Jubal had been replaced by one of his long-time carnies, the shape changer Tak! He says he thinks she has become or is working with some type of demon. Before long the players hear a laughter again and then see somebody walk out of one of the mirrors.
Tak walked around the edge of the area, eyeing the adventurers as though unsure what to do. She bowed mockingly to the party and said, “Is everything you can't understand always a demon amongst you yokels? Nevertheless, you’ve caught me, oh what am I to do?”. She held her hands out as though surrendering and offering to be manacled… then grinned and dropped her hands to her side, changing shape into Aelia, Jubal, and Halrich laughing. Before the final fight begun she said “I admit that the rumors about the sickness were inconvenient, but it is the price you pay for the master's gifts. Soon you to will know his blessing.” With that the fight begun.
The battle consisted of rats, fools, and two Taks (one mirror copy and one in the flesh)! The party were holding their own and doing their best to take down enemies and knock out mirrors (which seemed to be a partial source of her power). Even with the illusion magic of the mirrors and Tak’s shape shifting ability the battle was short-lived between Cog’s spells, Halrich’s sneak attack, and Daggoth’s eldritch blast. At the battles completion, the party expected to be zipped back to their dimension thinking that they had completed the task required of them. The party took a moment to rest from their fight before deciding they must be tasked with saving the trapped mermaid from the Excoticum. Their discussion with the real Jubal made it seem that this was entirely out of character for Vlarune and Thia to do something so evil.
Arriving at the Excoticum the adventurers and Jubal find the container the mermaid was in, hastily covered with large blanket, and the couple. Thia tried to convince the party to leave them alone and that they have done nothing wrong. Before any more arguments could be made Jubal removed the covering, revealing a much uglier creature than what was shown before. The creature revealed itself to be Pisces. As the creature got out of the water it began to transform. Its tail separated into legs. Its jaw grew and unhinged like that of an angler fish. By the time it completed its quick transformation it nearly doubled in size and ready for a fight. The battle ended in victory for the party, and the deaths of Pisces and the corrupted Thia and Valrune. With this success the party is warped back to their world.