“Kieran the Magnificent?” inquired Milacent. “Really?”
And indeed it was. The former showman was now standing in a corner, staring blankly into space, and drooling ever so slightly. On a hunch, Scratchy pulled out the shard and waved it in his face. Kieran immediately let out a low moan and reached out for it, but he was slow and clumsy, and Scratchy easily kept it away.
While Scratchy amused himself by taunting Kieran, Milacent and the others went searching around. They found various vials with unknown liquids, a number of herbs and drugs, and down a hallway, three naked, unconscious humans in cages.
A few broken locks later, the prisoners were free. Theodore did what healing he could, but it was obvious that their minds, not their bodies, were what needed fixing. Unlike Kieran however, once awakened they could actually answer questions and utter meaningful words, if not quite full coherent sentences. In between the blubbering and crying, a story emerged. Each one of these people had been a citizen of Magnimar – a fisherman, a dockworker, and a barmaid to be precise. Each had been going about their business when they’d suddenly been abducted by ‘little blue creatures’, and each had vague, painful memories of being experimented on in various assorted horrible ways.
Milacent looked around for her brother, and saw him merrily leading Kieran around the cage room. “Stop that!” she commanded, “We’ve solved the mystery of the abductions! And we have to get these people back!”
“What? There might be more treasure! We haven’t gone down the stairway with the cobwebs yet, or the spiral staircase, or …”
“No. We’re taking these people home, and then we’ll come back here for the treasure.”
Scratchy sighed and agreed.
The four (now eight) of them made their way back to where their boat was, stopping to pick up the mite King Zugga along the way. The short boat journey to the docks was largely uneventful, but it was daylight, and when they pulled up on shore a crowd began to gather around the party, whispering excitedly. Milacent and Theodore started leading the freed prisoners back to the Heidmarch Estate, but out of the crowd an old woman burst, shouting “Eberic! My son!”, and just like that they were down one rescued subject. As they made their way through the throng, more people appeared to claim their lost relatives, and soon the excited whispers had turned to joyous exultation. The party did make it back to the lodge with one rescuee, however. Nobody came for Kieran.