“Once or twice in my life I have managed to back off before things got worse.” — Carenza Vega
As the group braces for the push upstairs to strike down Iridios, Ettorio wonders aloud about the bond between Vesper and her bat Chiro. Is he intelligent? Can she understand what he says? And if so, would it not be most prudent to send him above to scout?
Vesper looks irritated, but lets the conversation continue. Ultimately, though, they determine that Chiro knows about only as much at creeping about as Vesper does, and his echolocation might be adversely affected by the echoes in the mirror maze. So they decide to send a resigned Ettorio up instead. Almost immediately, the Iluni blade’s voice is heard from above.
“Well, he’s here.”
The others quickly join him, and look out on the maze of ice mirrors. The room is filled with reflections of Iridios — of three different aspects of Iridios, actually, one wearing more orange and one wearing more red. It takes a keen eye to perceive the path between the mirrors, and there’s no obvious way to Iridios at first.
The illusionist quickly demonstrates an affinity for the ice-mirror maze. He and his refracted duplicates release a volley of chromatic bolts, each one shifting color as it rebounds from mirror to mirror before striking a target. Each bolt delivers a different effect depending on its color as it strikes home — temporary blindness, paralysis, numbing, dazing, all manner of pulsing jolts to the nerves. Ettorio and Carenza start closing in through the maze as best they can. Vesper and Vittorio move more slowly, enduring the assault as best they can.
Iridios gestures, and more images join the fray — phantasmal soldiers, figments of bizarre armor and trailing ephemera, real enough to strike at the illusionist’s enemies. They close in on Vittorio, even as blades and spells tear them apart. The stringed devil plays a chord that propels Vesper into the battle, even as the sole phantasm begins to cut at him, vanishing from all but his most peripheral perception.
Vesper takes a yellow bolt that robs her of her sight for a moment. She retaliates with a banshee wail that smashes apart several mirrors and disrupts one of the simulacra. It’s an opening that Ettorio, Carenza and Vittorioc capitalize on. Vittorio conjures an infernal puppeteer’s strings, and directs one of the multiple illusionists to turn on another. Carenza pushes through the punishment she’s been absorbing, and drops the first of Iridios’ refractions. The second falls under Ettorio’s dagger. Both bodies hit the floor and begin melting away — corpses more of shaved ice than flesh.
With the mirrors near him broken and his duplicates gone, Iridios is suddenly very hard-pressed. Reeling from the assault, he sends out a spray of prismatic ribbons in desperation, and then attempts to bolt for upstairs. Ettorio is too quick for him, though. The Iluni intercepts the illusionist, and with an unnervingly quick motion, slits the other half-elf’s throat.
After a short period of rest, self-congratulation and medical attention, the group explores further up. Carenza finally gets to see what lies above the mirror maze: a floor of apartments, quite nicely appointed and in excellent repair. They pick out the more valuable parts of Iridios’ belongings, then try even further upward.
A tall stair leads to the very top of the tower. There a curious pedestal stands in an otherwise bare room. The pedestal constantly emits air that seems to be keeping cool a peculiar clockwork egg, suspended above the pedestal’s top. Droplets of condensation run along the egg, falling upward as the reach the outer curve. Vittorio and Vesper deduce that the thing is a prison of a sort — possibly the thing containing Shalperax, the elemental fiend of the tower, and drawing his power to maintain the structure’s magic.
Vesper is highly unwilling to leave the egg as is. She dispatches Ettorio to travel back to Ladona and inform Lisayra Dusaam of their findings, and enlist her assistance. Ettorio assures her of the utter ease of sailing back to the shore, and departs. The others settle in to wait in the Tower of the Heron, keeping an eye on the mermaid and the egg until the authority arrives.