The bogatyrs cross out of the Cathedral District’s wards and into Brassbutton Square, a formerly prosperous neighborhood in the Watermills district. A number of shops and some few homes have fittings of finely worked brass here and there to match their neighbors, though most of it has gone to tarnish. Strange black-and-white cats with spiraling two-color whorls marking their coats avoid the bogatyrs, especially when they spot Gullet.
As the party moves through the area, Kazimeer and Mika both sense something unusual nearby: Kazimeer detects a strange anomaly in the flow of the magic around him, while Mika feels the peculiar sensation reminding her of Queen Norevna and the Fates card. They lead the party into the actual Brassbutton Square that lends its name to the district. There, they see a peculiar phenomenon arrayed around a glazier’s shop. A number of shards of… nothing, possibly, or broken absences of reality, radiate out from the glazier’s as though the air itself had broken like a window. The shards show glimpses of something else on the other side, a dimly lit view of Valgrad that doesn’t match up with the cloudless summer morning.
Gullet investigates one of the smaller window-shards, pushing his paw through it before Anfisa can stop him. “Weird,” says the wolverine. Gennadiy checks the other side, and not only is Gullet’s paw not visible, but the window shows a different scene. From one side, the shards show a dim green light — from the other, sunlight on cobblestones that are in better repair. As he watches, Gennadiy sees a booted foot move past the shard.
An intrigued Gullet tries to run all the way through the shard; Anfisa grabs him by the hindquarters to hold him before he can vanish, yelling at him that he doesn’t know if he can get back. She drags him back out, and he tells her that she should really see what’s on the other side.
The bogatyrs examine the largest shard, about the size of an actual door. Kazimeer leans halfway through and looks around. What he sees is the city in the same abandoned state of disrepair, the dark sky overhead tinged with green light. When he cranes around to the west, he sees the source of the light: the Mad Star, fully visible and giving off as much light at the moon, hanging over the Grand Palace.
The other side of the windows, however, seems to reflect Valgrad as it was. Brassbutton Square is filled with people going about their business. Gennadiy throws a pebble through the window to the past, landing it near a pair of old men playing chess at a sidewalk tea-shop. Neither of the old men seem to notice.
As the bogatyrs watch on both sides of the windows, the scenes from both past and future advance. In the future Valgrad, a torrent of magic explodes out of the Grand Palace toward the Mad Star, wreathed in a coil of smoky darkness that takes the form of a roaring dragon’s head. In the past, they see the Disastrous Draw take place, the imprints raining down on the city. Both past and present images then reset. The images seem to replay a loop of about twenty minutes’ worth of time before their respective disasters.
The group discusses the possibility of entering the past and racing to the Grand Palace, attempting to stop the Draw, but ultimately they decide their chances of success would be microscopic. They move to the edge of the Brewers neighborhood. Anfisa goes in ahead of the others to scout, mindful of the warning of great coppery constructs. Soon she hears the sound of stone and wood splintering, accompanied by laughter and a chorus of erratic high-pitched voices raised in song.
She quickly finds the source of the noise. The copper giant is made of actual copper: an assembly of distillery kettles and vats walking in roughly humanoid shape, animated by a fragment of a Key imprint. Half a dozen tiny people covered in hair ride on its back, singing and laughing and hurling empty bottles — domovoi or bannik, perhaps, likely displaced from their homes during the Disastrous Draw. The faeries seem to be guiding it to destroy a portion of a building at a time for their amusement.
Anfisa returns to the others and brings them partially into the Brewers block. The group is working on a plan to distract the copper walker over in the east when they hear another crash from the west — and more singing. A quick bit of reconnaissance, and Anfisa confirms that there’s a second walking heap of brewery machinery, this one with a crown-like series of pipes set about its head, and another half-dozen household faeries atop it.
They settle on the plan of having Anfisa going ahead to give them the signal when it’s safe to make a break for the doctor’s office. She keeps an eye on the eastern animate, but as the bogatyrs are making the crossing, the animate from the west suddenly arrives. Gena steps up to distract the copper hulk and its crowd of tiny rowdies while the others make a break for it.
Gena races down an alternate street and the animate takes off after him, the domovoi throwing bottles as it goes. One of the bottles impacts him with the impact of elfshot. The fumes of alcohol are intensified by the fey magic, clouding Gennadiy’s judgment. He pauses mid-flight to wonder at what he was doing, and the animate catches up to him and punches him through the front of a tavern. The fey cheer riotously.
Gennadiy picks himself up in the wreckage of the tavern, bruised but still intact. “Usually I get thrown out of bars,” he says, and dashes out the back door. Once he’s in the back alley, he throws his shadow cloak over himself and remains still, letting the cloak’s magic occlude him from sight. He hears the construct pull itself into the tavern and thrash about, but before long the drunken faeries give up.
The others discreetly reach the area of the doctor’s office without drawing the other Brewer-golem’s attention. They find a number of open vials strung up on a lamppost outside, with the pungent aroma of smelling salts coming from them. Anfisa hazards a guess that they’re meant to repel or possibly cure any drunken house-faeries that come this way. Gennadiy catches up with them shortly there after, and they knock on the doctor’s door.
An older man with bristly white whiskers opens the door. He waves the bogatyrs in, asking them which of them is in need of treatment. Doctor Moskorvy, as he introduces himself, seems especially concerned with the state of Kazimeer’s flesh, and isn’t entirely convinced when Kazimeer explains that it is his natural state and not an imprint-drawn curse.
Once asked why and how he’s still here, the doctor admits he never left. He made a promise to look after anyone who came to his door, and he couldn’t fill it by leaving. When the bogatyrs ask what he eats, Doctor Moskorvy looks puzzled for a minute, then says he doesn’t actually remember eating anything in a long time. He does say that he patched up some adventurers last summer, people who were scavenging the city for loot or magic. They were a tight-lipped group, though, and didn’t tell him much about their purpose or what was going on with the world; he really isn’t familiar with Lokva after the Draw. He does say he spotted an elf wearing a helm styled like a bear’s head about a week ago, but the elf avoided his door.
Anfisa goes upstairs to the doctor’s garret and slips outside, sitting on the roof and watching. The group spends about 45 minutes sharing some food with the doctor and telling him of the goings-on through the city and beyond, both of which he approves. When they mention that they’ll probably be back, Doctor Moskorvy agrees to help mend them however he can.
Kazimeer goes up to the garret and takes Anfisa’s place while the hunter and her wolverine go scouting. Thanks to Gullet’s nose, the two of them find that the outer perimeter of the Foundry Mills is infrequently patrolled by the elves. Gullet doesn’t pick up any snake-like smell, though; just elves. The two return to their party, and the bogatyrs decide to set a trap for the Ruin’s scouts.
The group decide to use Mika’s “familiar” Slatejaw for the bait. They place him in the broken storefront of a Foundry Mills general store along the elves’ patrol route and tell him to just keep talking. Without the need for lungs, the animated ghoul skull is more than equal to the task. Gennadiy and Kazimeer settle down in the same storefront, using their shadow cloaks to be hidden from sight. Mika and Anfisa camp out on the second story of a building across the street with a good view of the location, while Gullet curls up in the first story of the same building.
They wait for hours. Slatejaw goes from pontificating on the nature of his twice-undead state to reciting both religious and secular works. Finally, though, an elf in a mottled gray-and-brown cloak appears in the alley between the buildings. The scout listens for a bit to the chattering ghoul without drawing nearer, then puts its hand to its mouth. The elf waits without moving, and the bogatyrs wait, for another fifteen minutes. Then another elf, similarly dressed, moves up to join the scout. A third — this one wearing a leather and metal helm worked like the head of a snarling bear — moves across the roof of the general store.
The elves move forward a few steps, and then they are joined by a larger form — a hooded woman, from the waist down a great snake as large around as a tree trunk. The two elves in the alley start moving forward in earnest, flanking the snake-woman, when she suddenly pauses… and the tongues of several tiny snakes flicker out from her hood, tasting the air. She gives a signal, and the elves nock arrows.