Join Alex, Helen, Bryn, Lydia, and Ben as they talk about their feelings.
We start the episode with Azu checking in on Zolf in his room. Azu asks if Zolf’s going to come downstairs and if he wants to talk, and he says he doesn’t know — he’s tried and talking hasn’t done him any good. He says he’s only known her for a few weeks, two of which were in quarantine; Azu agrees that they don’t know each other well.
Zolf says that he thought he was better than he was when he left, since he’s made some changes since then, but that seeing Hamid again has brought a lot of his old feelings back, and it’s no different than the last time. He mentions that Sasha’s gone, then trails off.
Zolf explains that he’s now so devoted to hope (or optimism, or “what comes next”) that he’s “literally magic” — but that Hamid’s right about Zolf struggling to hope. He says he’s not okay, and doesn’t know if he can be okay. Azu says that no one’s okay, there’s no normal way to be, and we can’t always be in control of our emotions, only our actions. She says that it feels like Zolf’s blaming himself for everything. Zolf responds that he’s the “common denominator” for his own life, and Azu says that lots of other things are, too, and he didn’t cause any of this. Zolf says he knows, he just questions whether he’s cut out for this. He’s “not helpful to other people when [he’s] like this,” so he leaves; he can’t be any different.
Azu counters that despite that, Zolf still became a cleric of hope, and that’s a concrete thing that’s changed — but Zolf says that this is the exact same scenario that happened in Paris after they defeated Mr. Ceiling.
Azu’s been standing in the doorway, but at this point she comes closer and sits on the floor. She asks what he’s scared of, and Zolf responds “failing.” Azu says she doesn’t think he failed, and losing one’s temper is very normal. She adds that Hamid’s been through a lot, as have all of them.
Zolf is frustrated by Hamid’s “driving naïvety about everything,” and how he’s now the “dragon lord” of the kobolds. Azu still thinks Hamid’s embarrassment is funny, but Zolf says that because of Hamid’s privileged background, it’s going to be bad for Hamid. Azu says Hamid has different influences around him now.
Azu repeats what Grizzop told her, that what’s important is that you try your best; she adds that he’s done some pretty amazing things, like getting hit by lightning. Zolf counters that while he “can take a beating,” so could Bertie — and Zolf’s not sad he’s dead.
Zolf says he’ll come downstairs, but take a backseat, because he can’t deal with the pressure. Azu says she just wanted to check that he was alright, and that he can talk to her about anything. She offers to talk about Sasha to which Zolf says he doesn’t know if he can.
The two of them head downstairs, Zolf going first; as Azu’s leaving the room, Azu’s heart of Aphrodite miniature necklace grows pleasantly warm for a second. When they head back into the gathering room, Wilde and Cel pointedly don’t make a big thing of it, Azu gives a warning look, and Hamid gives Zolf a friendly smile but doesn’t get a response in return. The group then discusses building the mechanisms to interrogate the brorb.
The party spends the rest of the week in quarantine in the inn, which is fully stocked for this eventuality.
During that time, Azu doesn’t press anything with Zolf; she simply regularly catches his eye a few times a day, to which Zolf responds with half-hearted thumbs up. Cel tries to learn more about the kobolds, who are enthusiastically teaching them Draconic. The kobolds are also all prodigies at engineering. Cel gently tries to ask about the experiments that the kobolds did at Shoin’s; Shoin didn’t explain things to the kobolds, but they were churning out steroids for the mooks and doing maintenance (particularly near the end). In the early days, they were building the place, helping source rare ingredients, and attacking adventurers. None of the kobolds here built the krakens, but they know other kobolds did.
Hamid tries to assist Cel and encourages the kobolds to do the same, because it’ll show the kobolds that he’s not smart when it comes to technology, and he hopes it will help them relax. The kobolds (except for Skraak) are still very wary and afraid of Hamid; they’re hypersensitive to all his negative emotional responses. Hamid tries to overcompensate and becomes unrelentingly positive, which puts the kobolds even more on edge, because they recognize Hamid is faking it.
Eventually, Skraak intervenes and tells Hamid to unsuspiciously be absent. Hamid thanks Skraak profusely for the advice and stops trying to help Cel, but tells the kobolds to continue and does other things in proximity to the kobolds. Skraak turns Hamid’s suggestions into hard orders, and tells the others that he’s Hamid’s guard.
Cel, who has dealt with many nervous and/or traumatized assistants before, is very gentle with the kobolds, though they’re very confident (almost over-confident) whenever Hamid’s not there.
Azu asks to talk to Hamid; she asks how he is, and he says he’s okay, though it’s a lot to get used to. He’s hopeful about the kobolds enjoying working with Cel, and wants them to be less scared around him. Azu says she thinks Hamid’s doing a really good job, and Hamid thanks her. Hamid asks Azu how she’s doing, and Azu says she hasn’t thought about that. Hamid reminds Azu that she can’t be too busy looking after others but not looking after herself, especially with all she’s been through.
Azu says that she thinks Zolf will have a breakdown soon, because he’s anxious that he’ll fail them. Hamid tells her that before Zolf left, he was struggling and undervalued himself but Hamid didn’t know how to help. Hamid’s worried that Zolf will leave again, and Azu says she doesn’t think he will. Azu says that Zolf’s concerned about his argumentative relationship with Hamid, and Hamid says he knows that when you meet someone again after a long time, you can revert to old modes of communication. Hamid says he doesn’t hold anything against Zolf, and Azu replies that Zolf doesn’t know that and advises Hamid to talk to Zolf. Hamid is worried, given their history, but says he’ll take Azu’s advice.
On the last night of the quarantine, after dinner, Wilde knocks on Azu, Hamid, and Zolf’s doors and invites them down to his office for a drink and a chat. With Zolf, Wilde specifies that it’s not to clear the air, but for business. In his office, Wilde’s laid out a whiskey tumbler for each of them and himself. Wilde says he has big (but not bad) news about something that happened while the party was in the Institute. Hamid clutches his whiskey like a liferaft. Wilde says it’s extremely unusual, and has been delayed. Hamid and Azu holds hands, and Zolf is impatient.
According to Wilde, the temple of Aphrodite provided a letter to the Harlequins which has taken a while to filter through to Wilde’s group. The letter’s been opened, and Wilde’s read it. It was written in Ancient Rome and held the seal of their founder, Ava Huskangus (sp?). Wilde starts reading aloud.
Alright, mates. Sorry about the erroribus. It’s been so long that you all speak Latin in my dreams. But you know I wasn’t all that good in English to start.
Zolf leaves. Azu grabs Hamid. Wilde continues [Editor's note: Wilde's voice fades out and is replaced by Sasha's, reading her letter]:
I got no proof you made it back, but I believe you did. I believe that you’re okay, somewhere. I am. We landed back in Rome right when it was falling apart. There was fights. Grizzop took a spear that was meant for me, and then he took more. I light candles for him at the temple every year. They tell me that he’s happy somewhere on a Celestial Hunt and I believe that, too.
After everything was destroyed by the dragons, I found a home and a friend. So much was ruined and a lot of people was also lost, and so we took them in, too. Some of them was so small that they didn’t have names or they couldn’t remember them. But they’ve grown up now.
Azu is my best locksmith. Grizzop turned out all calm and quiet. He loves plants and growing living things. Cleric of Opis. I hope other Grizzop would be ok with that. Amidus used to help me out with the business side of our security work but he’s busy with his own twins now. They’re exactly your height now Hamid and they call me Ava. No one here could pronounce ‘Zolf’. We ended up calling him Sagax. Has excellens knife work when he’s not busy arguing. I think they’d get on. Little Wilde has caused me so many headaches you would not believe. Bertus teaches the kids acrobatics now that I’m getting too stiff. I wish so much that you could meet them.
Sometimes you can’t save the world but you can save a person. I believe I’ll see you again and get to tell you that. Light a candle for Grizzop for me.
Whosaskinus “Sasha” Lolomg
Wilde concludes the letter.
Hamid has dropped the whiskey tumbler and is weeping and clutching Azu; Azu holds him. Wilde says “she’ll be missed”, puts the letter on the table, and leaves the room calmly. Azu thanks Wilde as he leaves; she is shell-shocked. Azu and Hamid are both relieved that Sasha had a long life, and Azu says that it seems Grizzop went as he’d have liked to, saving Sasha. Hamid wishes they could have gotten them back, but finds the knowledge comforting. Azu says that it could have been so much worse. Azu asks Hamid what he wants to do, and he starts drinking whiskey.
Zolf has been hanging around outside Wilde’s office, and when Azu and Hamid leave, Zolf goes into the office and reads the letter. Hamid gives Wilde a hug, and Wilde doesn’t fight it. Wilde comments that technically, this makes Sasha his boss, which confuses Hamid, but Wilde doesn’t elaborate. Azu lights two candles and incense at the shrine; she meditates and prays. Hamid grabs another bottle of whiskey from one of Carter’s stashes and two glasses and knocks on Zolf’s door. Zolf answers the door and Hamid walks in wordlessly, sets the two glasses down, and pours two large glasses of whiskey. Sasha’s letter is on the bedside table. Hamid says Zolf is a “big idiot” and toasts to Sasha. They drain their glasses and Zolf pours another.
Hamid says, drunkenly, that Zolf has to remember that he’s Hamid’s friend and role model. He says that Zolf shouldn’t worry so much, and that when Hamid makes criticisms, they don’t make Zolf bad; both of them just have things to work on. Zolf says this isn’t about him getting Hamid upset, so Hamid shouldn’t worry about that and admits that had he not read Sasha’s letter, he wouldn’t be talking to Hamid. Hamid starts talking about how they need to figure out how to work together, but Zolf interrupts, saying that they can’t just fix it by talking. However, Zolf thanks Hamid for coming with the drink, and that they’ll work on it.
Hamid says he was angry at Zolf for leaving, especially with what then happened in Prague, but Hamid still understands it. Hamid says that Zolf’s changed and is doing well, but hates that they can’t get along; Zolf reiterates that they’ll work on it. Hamid says, almost crying, that he doesn’t want Zolf to leave again. Zolf comments that Hamid’s a lightweight and tells him to sleep. Hamid begs Zolf to tell him it’ll be okay, and Zolf says he hopes it will.
They drink to that and Hamid falls unconscious. Zolf puts Hamid to bed.
In the morning, Cel is energetic and excited about finally interrogating the brorb. Cel warns them that things they say to Shoin may be passed on to the blue veins at large, especially because Shoin seems to have been talking to lots of people in the past. Hamid suggests interrogating him in the anti-magic cell, and Cel agrees and suggests that only the party (who had already spoken with Shoin) actually speak when they interrogate him, so he thinks that he’s still back at the Institute. Barnes agrees that this is a good plan, and Cel and Azu bring the brorb to the anti-magic cell.
Cel has become aware while working on the brorb that it houses a nutrient-rich substance that gradually depletes; Cel has not renewed it, and plans to use it as a lever against him. Additionally, they’ve installed a vibration device, which isn’t painful but scary. Hamid suggests that if they want the brorb to think that no time has passed, they should probably renew the nutrients, and Cel agrees and renews it (supervised by Zolf in the kitchen.)
Back down in the anti-magic cell, Barnes is afraid that Shoin’s words might infect them, but Zolf reassures him that the party spoke to Shoin and were fine, and Hamid says that magical words wouldn’t work in an anti-magic cell anyways. Wilde is also there, smirking for the first time in a while.
Cel plugs in the brorb and nothing happens at first, but eventually Shoin starts talking with clearly faked confidence, claiming that he’s victorious over the party and in full control, though still telling other voices to “shut up.” The party pretends to be still inside Shoin’s base, just having defeated Shoin’s mechanical monster. They ask him who he’s telling to shut up, and he doesn’t seem to understand. Shoin asks who they are, and Cel tries to get him to remember them specifically, but he can’t.
Hamid reveals that they read Shoin’s diary, and he unsuccessfully tries to bluff that it’s in secret code, but the party talks about its contents; Shoin remembers the “cleric who won’t shut up” but not that that cleric infected him. The party demands Shoin tell them about the infection, but he seems to get confused for a while before asking why he should tell them. Cel wobbles the brain, and Shoin tells them to stop. He asks how long he’s been out and what they did to the network; Cel says it hasn’t been long, but they’ve dismantled the system, killed his mechanism and all his henchmen, and freed the kobolds. Zolf threatens to smash the broth and Shoin asks him not to, while claiming that even if it’s destroyed, “there will always be a Shoin” because he “spread [himself] out.” The party returns that even if Shoin has backups, they still cut him off from the network, so he can’t communicate with his other selves.
At this point, Shoin tells everyone to shut up and asks what the party did to make it so quiet. Cel responds that they’ve gotten Shoin in an anti-magic field. Cel asks Shoin again who he’d been telling to shut up and Shoin mentions the cleric. He asks why he should answer their questions; the party threatens him in various ways, and he acquiesces. Shoin says the things “that won’t shut up” aren’t talking, exactly. The party asks about the other people Shoin’s talking to, and what they’ve been telling him, but the more they ask him, the more Shoin gets confused and nonverbal. Finally, he asks if he can paint it.
Cel makes a comedically tiny robot arm for Shoin and gives him a soft calligraphy brush; the arm immediately starts drawing. Shoin, however, doesn’t seem to have noticed this, telling the party to “ask a better question.” Cel asks about the krakens and the weather. As Shoin talks, the picture on the other side is highly abstract. It seems reminiscent of the circulatory diagrams they’d seen earlier. When he runs out of paper, he flips it and starts painting, top to bottom like a printer, a scene: many faces yelling. Zolf starts feeding paper so Shoin can keep drawing.
Shoin is still talking about the krakens, and the difficulty of getting a signal underwater, which Shoin overcame by distributing the signal from a high place and using a “modified power source.”
The picture gradually becomes clearer, recognizable as an image of London. [Editor’s note: Alex refers to the image as a charcoal sketch, despite Lydia saying Cel gave Shoin a calligraphy brush.] It’s a sketch of Parliament, on a busy, crowded street where everyone is staring at the person drawing, and their mouths are open.
Dice rolls & mechanics
- Cel takes 10 on Knowledge (engineering) to build Shoin a tiny and harmless robot arm.