Seeking answers in the paintings of Smedley, The Dragon Friends grapple with the dangers of bringing the occult close to home. Banknote breaks out a very canonical weapon and Robert Pancakes, Lycanthrope and Jazz extraordinaire takes centre stage
After enjoying lunch at the Ducal Palace, and appointing Crawford the Pelican as the city fire warden, the Friends are informed that Smedly has continued painting while locked in the cellar; the Friends decide to go and see what he has painted in case it contains any clues. They find that he has signed and discarded a painting of two lovers, frozen in place in an open gate with a dark road beyond, leading to a dark landscape which Bobby Pancakes has a dim memory of. He is working on a new painting of a locked stone gate marked with symbols of burning whitewood trees. Bobby asks him if he is painting from a memory of a real place, and Smedly replies that he is painting from something he saw in a dream; he also believes that this could refer to the Ghostlight Wood, a nearby forest of whitewood trees.
As they do, the commander of the town watch, Percival Boggins, arrives at the place with an edict holding a statement from one of the witnesses to the fire in the Money quarter, but when Lionshield reads it, it just says "the bearer of this edict has the Glimmering" in Bobby's handwriting.
Examining Smedley's painting, Bobby detects that the paint has opiates mixed into it, and asks where the paint came from; LeCroix explains that it came from the same guild Wiliam Ascot was from. Lionshield brings the allegedly-Glimmering Boggins down to be held in the cellar with Smedley, and the Friends head off on a carriage to the Ghostlight Wood. Philge considers taking some of the opiate-laced paint, and Bobby decides that he should probably do so instead because he has previously been to Carcosa, so he eats some of the paint. He rapidly slumps to the ground, and his head jorks up begins to speak in an alien voice:
"My friends, children of the Dark Lady, tonight we begin our great work. Last night I entered the Glimmering Dream and She, in her mercy, showed me the way again; I walked down the hill and along that rocky shore, and I saw the Lover's Gate but the lock was broken through and She was so proud of us, my friends. And I was shown the Second Gate; it is our next trial, but we shall not let our lady down; for tonight the Whitewood Copse will burn, and we will provide the means to open her second gate, and when that Burning Gate is open, but five gates will remain locking us away from the moment of convergence when the city returns. But this time, when it returns, we shall bind it to this world and this time Her will will be done. But perhaps, my friends, I speak too freely, for these is a quality here. I sense it. Uncertainty? Fear? A stranger? A soul, perhaps, not of our order who glares in from the outside? Could it be Smedley? How did you find your way back here, friend? Be careful what doors you open; you never know what might come crawling through.." before Bobby begins violently vomiting, ruining his shirt.
As they're attempting to help Bobby, the bile on the ground starts to form into the figure of a terrifying demon, a Bodak. Lionshield shoots it with his Antimatter Rifle, emptying the clip before remembering he did not bring any more ammo. Bobby pulls out his Moontouched sword and swings it, which causes it to radiate moonlight - turning him into Robert. The Bodak hits Baston with a withering utherworldly gaze, and Baston kills it with his sword. Robert announces that he can smell some people coming. The Friends begin to sneak up on the figures, revealing that they are wearing robes marked with the distinctive knot symbol they have seen before, and that they taking out crates and barrels of Alchemist's Fire and placing them near trees.
Meanwhile, Banknote is assembling his robotic familiar, Bushu-D2, which has an inbuilt flamethrower - asking him to set fire to a different part of the forest, hoping to scare the cultists away without lighting the alchemist's fire, while Robert attempts to remove the flasks and Philge teleports behind one of the cultists and kills him, stealing his robe - revealing the cultist to be Eddie Wick. Philge attempts to kill another cultist while in disguise, but only wounds him, attracting the attention of the remaining cultists. The remaining Friends join battle killing the remaining cultists. As the Friends are celebrating, Bushu-D2 appears, revealing that it has started the diversionary fire as requested. Bobby then notices that the portrait he was carrying has changed; the gate, surrounded by fire, is now shown open.
Themes, tropes and running jokes
- Yes, there really is an antimatter rifle in Dungeons & Dragons. It's on page 268 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. It's only supposed to be an example of how you might set up futuristic weapons in the system, though.
- "Send someone like a stableboy, or a stable girl.. someone who's stable."
- Banknote: "Would you call it a Dragon Huddle, can we do one of those?" Philge: "It's just a huddle. But fine."