In which the party continues their search of the unusual house.
We’re all up and awake in minutes, with the exception of Kurwin, who remains asleep, and Fillegan who says he’s up, but appears somnambulant for now. No one is reporting strange dreams, which is good I suppose. There not being any real breakfast, the attic seems a logical place to go next.
We climb the stairs behind the mirror with some level of anticipation, only to find a padlocked door. After some convincing, Fillegan wakes up enough to pick the lock. The door swings open and… well… it’s not what we expected. Who padlocks a children’s bedroom? And then who would lock those wee ones in there to die? Someone did. I pull some blankets from the beds and wrap their brittle remains up with a promise to take care of them as soon as we can. In the mean time, Chand concerns himself with a wonderfully well-crafted doll house, and Grismar dives into the toy chest. It’s nice to see adults willing to indulge a little whimsy in the face of such a grim situation.
Apparently, the children don’t share my view, for Rose and Thorn appear in ethereal forms as soon as Grismar picks up a toy, and they seem quite appalled. Not used to sharing, I guess. They complain, again, of parents long since gone, and of being afraid and not wanting to be left alone. Thorn even panics to the point of trying to occupy Grismar’s body, which isn’t very well received. Some of my companions almost lose their temper. Luckily, a few calming words do what anger couldn’t, and the little boy is convinced to stay with his sister in their room for the duration. We’re all spooked, but give them promises of our aid.
Next up, a small bedroom that seems to belong to no one in particular, but is occupied by a doll that, if seen from the corner of one’s eye, scowls and jeers. It’s probably just nerves, but I give it a good whack with my staff just to feel better.
The next opened door reveals a large room full of stored and covered furniture. Most seems innocuous, but a blanket chest contains a long-dead body. Fitzworth looks it up and down and declares the cause of death to be violent – likely multiple stab wounds. Perhaps a ritual?
Chand, in the mean time, seems more interested in a blank piece of wall. He prods and pokes, then stands back and looks like a cat that got the cream as a wall panel slowly turns and reveals a staircase going down. Before descending, we open the last door that stands off of the landing. Another spare bedroom and another doll, but nothing that requires immediate action on our part.
Once down the several levels of stairs, it seems we have finally reached the basement that the children kept mentioning. It contains the family crypt, and has labeled coffins for both Rose and Thorn. Their remains are quickly retrieved and we inter them with a short prayer: “Lliira, Lady of Joy, please share your peace with those whose fear made them cling to things that should have been let go. Please give comfort and companionship to those who were lonely and abandoned and afraid. Please extend sweet warmth and joyous light where until now there was cold that chills abandoned bones and fog that blocks sight of that which truly matters.”
I feel a rush of draft and a breath of ‘thank you’ in my ear. Looking at my companions, I deduce I may have been the only one to hear that, so silence probably serves best. I don’t think hearing voices no one else hears is necessarily a good thing, even if they are polite.
We move our attention to the other side of the crypt, where two more coffins stand, labeled for Gustav and Elizabeth, (this refers to the Master and Mistress of the house). Remembering the remains in the store room in the attic, we decide to see if Elizabeth’s coffin is yet empty. It isn’t. It is with some regret that we determine the absence of a body and note an infestation of centipedes. With great personal horror I must add that while swift action traps part of the swarm by replacing the lid on the coffin, the other half seems intent on relocating to my robes, perhaps for food, warmth or some other unknown benefit.
Luckily, my companions do not stand idly by as I lose my composure. They quickly help me divest myself of the horrid little creatures. I can but hope my (undoubtedly quite lively) capers were amusing to them. This last maneuver leaves us all feeling like we’re slowly getting a grip on this place, and we all feel somewhat fortified. Well, all of us, perhaps excepting Chand, who reaches for an unusual-looking necklace and speaks a few words in a harsh-sounding language. I am not sure what to make of this.
We decide to leave the other coffin be, and continue on until we enter a room with a rough wooden table, where the floor is strewn with humanoid bones. We examine them, but other than that they appear to have been chewed on, we learn little. Next, we enter a room that seems to form a central courtyard; bedrooms lie off of it in all directions. While none appears recently slept in, there are personal belongings in several rooms, or so we discover after Fillegan and his lock picks and Grismar and his axe make short work of several locked chests. We even find a most curious purse, which appears to have a most horrifying effect on Grismar (he gobbles down on a number of cobwebs out of shock). It is distressing to see the cheerful fellow so shaken – luckily he regains himself swiftly, although not before Fitzworth has volunteered to pack him a few more cobwebs for the road.
We retrace our steps until we turn an unexplored corner, following the sound of chanting. Here, Grismar discovers a fault within the floor – a large hole, covered over with flimsy boards and canvas, and with a set of horrific spikes at the bottom. None of us react swiftly enough to prevent his fall, and he seems somewhat bruised after his rendez-vous with the ground. Luckily, he is swiftly returned to solid ground, and I manage to restore him somewhat.
This hallway takes us to an even lower level, where we find a room with numerous niches, each containing an unusual and unsettling object. Sometimes they are body parts such as skulls, other times they seem much like the tools of a priests’ trade, except vile and corrupted. The chanting is now much louder. A hallway leads off of the room into a number of alcoves equipped with shackles. Here, we notice even more remains, with one wearing a gold ring (a wedding ring?), but our examination is brief, for then we notice a draft that points us towards a hidden door.
We enter a most gloomy room, containing an altar in the middle of a ceremonial pond, of sorts, as well as a pile of sticks and twigs and other organic matters in an alcove off to the side. There is a wheel that operates a portcullis opening up onto the room with the objects mentioned before, but activating it seems to have no effect. That is, until brave Grismar wades into the pool and climbs the central dais.
Strange apparitions soon surround us, but seem disinclined to do harm, sticking instead with a most monotonous and dreary song praising some Lordoth the Decayer. After some time, it becomes self-evident that something needs to happen, but none of us have any real idea what. On a hunch, I try to operate the wheel that controls the portcullis. This changes the dreadful chanting to an even worse text – the apparitions now insist ‘One must die’ in equally repetitive fashion. Chand feels that this was idiotic of me, and tells me so in no uncertain terms. I attempt a quip at him, but determine to take the matter into consideration at a later time, because at that very moment, the trash heap in the alcove seems to heave and shudder with sudden animation and then it appears before us as a most alien and hostile agglomeration of vegetation.
Fitzworth now springs into action, changing into a most ferocious direwolf shape that growls and snarls and snaps and bites. Filligan pulls his bowstring taut and lets off repeatedly, Grismar whips out his axe and Chand finds a safe corner from which to sling some spells. The battle takes a while, and Grismar, not quite recovered from his tumble into the pit begins to look pale. I fortify him with a quick spell and eventually convince myself to enter the fight up close. Just as I ready my first blow, the noxious weed sinks back into the inanimate pile of trash whence it came.
We breathe a sigh of relief.