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A New Generation Rises...

Act Three: Mountain of the Beast Men

October 13, 764

The search for Curtullen Rank and the dark-haired woman has led to Fal Galen in Martira, and news that Duncan Anders has been abducted by beast-men in league with Bane, the Lawgiver. Now the heroes must brave the ridge bordering Rivalis and seek out a house devoured by the earth at the command of doomed lovers torn between their gods and their devotion...


October 13, 764: The Other Dream on the Ridge

Everyone who slept during First Watch shared the dream of the underground house, which spurred Garlock to share the tale his father taught him of the star-crossed priest lovers. But while Dechan listened, he could not shake the memory of a secondary dream, one less vivid than the one everyone shared, but still unforgettable in the way no natural dream ever is.

When he focuses on it, he remembers it the way he does any recent memory:

You were in a house--possibly the house that Garlock described. You moved from room to room in near darkness, stumbling about as something deadly closed in on you.

You recall three things with great clarity:

  • Something was stalking you. It moved in the shriek of metal, with unsubtle clicks and whirs and the occasional spark of electricity. It did not stomp; you could hear wheels carrying its bulk through the house to find you.
  • Errant moonbeams illuminated two things. The first was a shelf covered in hideous trophies--a cup full of teeth, a collection of battered holy symbols, a rope knotted around severed hands. The light pooled around a dagger on that same shelf. It was a steel-bladed dagger with a pommel device in the shape of a warforged's head. Its eyes were deep recesses that sparkled in the moonbeam as if they held some tiny, deeply set gems.
  • The other item illuminated was in a room far from the shelf with its gruesome trophies. This item was an oaken sheaf arrow with a lodestone head. Runes had been engraved along the shaft, promising potent magic.

Each time you drew near to the dagger or the arrow, the sound of those wheels grew more rapid, even frantic. The sparking electricity began to occur in erratic pulses, as if the creature stalking you had heightened its search. Before you could grab either item in your dream, it always swooped past you, forcing you to tumble away or be crushed beneath its metal wheels.

Dechan awoke from the combined dreams of the house and the chase inside of it in a flop sweat. He explained his dream to his companions before they set out along the ridge, and he considered how the two dreams might coincide as the journey progressed to a fork, and the heroes chose to take the high road over the low road.



October 13, 764: The High Road

This path is steeper than the other option, but it is far more direct. The heroes pursue half of the "beast-men" up the ridge that separates Martira and Rivalis, hoping that it is not too late to rescue their hostages, and all the hostages they took in recent months.



October 13, 764: Lost Supplies

About thirty minutes after leaving the battle site, Alliama, Gwendolyn, and Bea spot a burlap sack lying on one side of the trail.

An investigation of the sack reveals that it contains three wheels of aged cheese and a slab of salted pork. Alliama sees that the cheese came from a merchant carvan; based on the tracks and some splashes of dried blood, one of the beast-men's prisoners stumbled and dropped the sack in exhaustion, then earned a brutal blow for their clumsiness.

Big devours the pork, while the heroes keep the wheels of cheese.



Dante and Beatricci

Dante was a great Richemulan philosopher and theologian. Beatricci was his great love. His muse. Dante was standing near the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge that crosses the Musarde River in Richemulot. It was just before 351, the date of the murders at Castle Ravenloft that darkened the whole of the Core.

Dante saw Beatricci standing on the bridge. He was a young man, she even younger, and that vision contained the whole of eternity for him.

Dante did not speak to her. He saw her very little. And then Beatricci died, carried off by plague as some many in Richemulot were. Dante was stricken with the loss of his vision. She was the intermediary between his soul and the Heavens themselves.

Four hundred years later, during the War of the Shadow, the armies of Southern Kingdom were chasing the Northern Alliance troops north through Richemulot. The southerners were destroying everything of aid to the progression of the northern army, including the bridges across the Musarde River. But no one wanted to blow up the Ponte Vecchio, because Beatricci had stood on it and Dante had written about her. So the Southern army made magical contact with the Northerners and, in plain language, said they would leave the Ponte Vecchio intact if the Northerners would promise not to use it. The promise was held. The bridge was not blown up, and not one northern soldier or piece of equipment went across it.

We're such hard bitten people that we need hard bitten proof of things. The bridge was spared, in a modern, ruthless war, because Beatricci had stood upon it.

October 13, 764: The Older Miner

About an hour after passing the burlap sack, the heroes hear slurred singing from up ahead.

Kyler summons a crow and sends it flying ahead. He easily finds the wiry, bearded man in overalls and worn boots, sitting on a rock with a clay jar.

At first, the heroes are wary of a trap, or some other manner of deception and trap. Sebastian suggests just walking forward to meet the man, and after a few minutes' more delay Dechan agrees. He leads the walk to the stranger.

This quirky human miner, Tucker, is drinking mead from his weathered jar. When the heroes approach, he offers to share the last few swigs of his brew with anyone that can sing or tell him a tale that makes him cry.

Beatrice immediately recalls the tale of Beatrici. She steps forward and shares the story that Harriet Armeikos once told her. Tucker is astonished by the tale, and the fact that Dante's words could have such resonance four hundred years after the fact.

"He must have written some real pretty words."

-Tucker to Beatrice Valorn


When Dechan had originally asked about the beast-men, Tucker had claimed to know nothing about them. Now, he returns to the subject. He hands his orange clay jug to Beatrice, waiting for her to take a swig of the potent, bitter, earthy brew, before continuing on.

Then Tucker admits that he hid from a group of them "beast men" when they came through a few days back. They were dragging some prisoners with them. Of course, this troubled Tucker, but what was he to do? It's not like there's help to be had on this ridge, and he a miner, not a fighter.

On the subject of where the beast men took their prey, Tucker can say little other than, "Up the hill, there." He certainly did not follow after. In fact, he's been pounding the drink extra hard since the occasion, trying to put it out of his memory.

Further discussion brings his mind to the great gorge up ahead. When Dechan offers him a wheel of cheese and Alliama throws in a skin of wine for more details, Tucker gets excited. He tells of a hundred-foot-deep gorge some forty-five minutes up the trail. The heroes should get there right around lunch time if they follow the course they're taking.

But the bridge is in the territory of some giant goat-like creatures. These things are ten-foot long and six-feet at the shoulder with curving horns and the ability to fall great distances and just "bounce," taking no damage. The creatures are horribly territorial, and Tucker was surprised when, not long ago, he spied two of them sharing a "nest" near the old bridge.

Tucker can share little else about the old bridge and what lies beyond. He knows that region as haunted, and he never goes there. The old mine doesn't stretch far in that direction.

Upon further reflection, he concedes that the orcs could very well be going up past the old bridge with their prisoners. That would explain why he hasn't seen much of them except when they're coming and going.

Tucker refuses to take the heroes across the bridge. When they mention goat meat, he sounds interested, but when the heroes balk at this approach, he says that the other alternative to reaching the bridge is round-about and would get them there close to nightfall. They would have to make their way around some large rock formations that dominate the higher reaches of the ridge.

The heroes wait while Kyler uses a crow to scout the bridge. It takes only a few minutes, and he confirms the nest, full of hay, branches, and the remains of eaten meals. There are two massive goat-like creatures, a mated pair.

Beatrice watches for Tucker's reaction, but the old miner seems drunk enough to be unbothered by Kyler's use of scrying.

The heroes are uncomfortable with the prospect of killing two creatures that bear no malice for anyone, just to get to the bridge, but they quickly agree with Ivy when she says that her dad cannot wait till nightfall just so two big goats don't die (and Tucker reiterates his interest in a thousand pounds of fresh meat, even goat meat). Alliama is also sure that she could not calm one of these beasts as it attempted to defend its territory.

In the end, the heroes decide to take the direct route towards the gorge, but they still have no intention of killing the goats.



October 13, 764: The Gorge

The land continues to rise sharply towards the summit of the ridge, and the trees have thinned out, replaced more and more often by upthrust rock formations and boulders, covered by scrub and hardy mountain grass.

The heroes come upon the gorge surprisingly fast. The trail of the beast men leads directly to its edge, and judging by the debris strewn about they stopped here for a time before heading on.

The far side of the ridge is some sixty feet away, and at least another twenty feet higher than where they stand right now.

The heroes move into the camp, mostly focused on the gorge ahead. Alliama takes a moment to poke through the debris, though, and is rewarded for her efforts. The orcs left little of value, but her search turns up a small beltpouch, torn from a belt, which holds some 40 platinum crowns. The pouch is monogramed "C.R." She and David quickly surmise that it was the coin purse of Curtullen Rank.

It takes little effort to see that the beast men dragged their prisoners south along the ridge, but the heroes are no longer interested in following the trail on this side of the gorge.

Dechan presents the ladder amulet and creates a ladder that easily stretches from the near side of the gorge to the far. He places it neatly between two upthrust rocks, giving it the best possible footing on the far side.

Beatrice and Kyler tie together to fifty-foot lengths of rope. It takes a couple tries to get a knot that they believe is sturdy enough to keep one of their friends from falling off the ladder if they lose their balance.

David crosses first, easily traversing the ladder and securing the rope on the far side.

One by one, the heroes follow. One has difficulty. One other falls.

It is Sebastian, in his plate armor, who must rely heavily on the rope and stops several times before finally getting within arm's reach of those who await on the far side of the gorge. When he gets to the opposite side, he is veritably trembling from the strain.

The fall, though, comes when Garlock reaches the middle of the ladder. He loses his balance when the ladder shifts, and he trusts to the rope--when the knot gives way. Garlock falls skillfully, using his lifetime of monk training to mitigate the worst of the drop, but when he hits the water over a hundred feet below, he splashes into a cloud of red that follows him swiftly downstream.

The heroes are grief-stricken, unable to believe that one of the men who saved the soul of Darius Androlov could have died in such a way. Most look away.

It is Sebastian who is still staring after the monk when he sluggishly begins to swim for shore. There, Garlock meditates, using the self-healing technique that David has used on several occasions. By the time Dechan navigates the ladder and makes his way to the shore near where Garlock fell, the monk is half way up the hundred-twenty-foot cliffside.

One-by-one the other heroes make their way to the far side of the gorge. No others fall. The newly secured rope serves all others who lose their balance well. The massive goat beasts are spared.

What remains, after Garlock is given a bit more healing, is a walk through the uneven rocks and boulders, crumbling stones and deep crevasses, between where the heroes stand, and where the bridge connects the two sides of the gorge. That is where the trail of the beast men awaits them.



October 13, 764: The Opposite Side of the Gorge

Gwendolyn leads the walk along the opposite side of the gorge. The going is rough, but everyone is able to lend support. From Alliama's sense of direction to Beatrice using her skill at hiding to determine where threats might lie unexposed; from David's ability at picking his footing with care to Sebastian's keen eye for the right path--everyone aid's Gwendolyn in the journey west until, at the end, Alliama spots beast-man tracks and takes the heroes the rest of the way to the trail at the end of the old bridge.

The sight of the old bridge makes them glad for not taking it. While they know that the beast men have crossed it many times, the appearance of the rickety wooden thing makes them unsure that they would trust it with their weight.



October 13, 764: A Late Lunch

It is hours after lunch time when the heroes break from their arduous journey. It is an unseasonably chilly afternoon, made colder still by their steady rise in elevation. They eat and rest their weary limbs, but it is evident that even this delay is becoming too much for Ivy.

Hoping to keep the young woman occupied, David takes Ivy with Alliama and Big; they go scouting along the beast-man path.

While they are gone, Dechan speaks to the others. He says that Ivy may have father's "compulsion." When driven to achieve a goal, Duncan Anders could not stop, and he would put his companions at risk in order to reach that goal.

"Ivy may have her father's compulsion."

-Dechan Mackenzie


The others consider Ivy's actions, and agree that Dechan's concern is particularly valid. They will need to be on guard around Ivy, and also watch out for her.



October 13, 764: The Trails Converge; The Monks' Purpose

The trails of the two groups of beast men come together where a narrow path leads into the side of the ridge. Not far away, shadowed by juniper and fir, is the mouth of a cave.

Garlock recognizes this cave mouth immediately and utters a prayer. He speaks of this cursed place. He recalls that when he said that he had heard of this place originally, Kyler made a remark about his fortuitous knowledge. There is a reason for that knowledge.

This cave, it is believed, is the opening that leads to the cavern where the priests' sunken, haunted home lies. He knows this because, long ago, his father brought him here, just once time, and ensured that he and Kaolus would never forget it's location. What lies within that carvern--that house--is the reason that monks tend the sheep pasture along the King's Way. They guard against what lies within ever stirring.

"This cave is the reason that my father, and his father before him, were stationed at the sheep pasture. It is the reason Kaolus and I were here the day Owen Androlov needed our help."

-Garlock


Further, Garlock reminds the heroes that the beast-man shaman invoked power while grasping a holy symbol of Bane. Considering that connection, he fears that something has indeed disturbed what lies within.

Beatrice steps forward and checks the cave mouth for tripwires, falling rocks, dart-filled hollows, and the like. Convinced that there is no trap here, the heroes light a lantern, make some torches, and begin their journey into the earth.



October 13, 764: An Escaped Prisoner

At the last moment, they hear a weak cry from the brush at the side of the trail. It is revealed to be the sound of a wounded, exhausted, whimpering human. Kyler and Anson take the man back a short distance along the trail, promising to double back and rejoin the heroes as soon as they are able without jeopardizing the lone escapee.



October 13, 764: Mountain Lair of the Beast-Men

The passage leads some sixty feet into the side of the ridge. When the passage turns mid-way along, the heroes spot faint light from ahead. They smell smoke and hear guttural voices.

David sneaks ahead, spying on the creatures that lie ahead.

The passage opens into a large, roughly circular chamber that has an uneven floor littered with stalagmites. It is lit by campfires that vent their smoke into a broad passage some twenty feet up the far wall.

There is no sign of the prisoners the heroes have been pursuing, but David does see over a dozen of the beast men. These barbaric humanoids bear ragged equipment and armor in sullen colors. They have coarse body hair and a stooped posture like some primitive man but with grayish-green skin tones and bestial facial features. Burning red eyes peer below a low, sloping brow, just above a flattened nose, and prominent tusk-like teeth.

The air stinks of alcohol and burned meat. The creatures seem to have made a combination camp and guard station out of this chamber.

The only exit appears to be the broad passage twenty feet up the far wall. Gnarled, green-brown vines seems to be the only way to reach it.

When David returns to the others, he describes what lies ahead. Dechan's eyes widen at what he hears. If there are no prisoners, this large, roughly circular chamber with a high ceiling is almost ideal for Carrie's fireball dweomer.

Dechan scouts the chamber further to ensure that there are no prisoners. Using his Bartholomew Medallion, he uses a small mouse to scurry about the chamber--picking the most efficient route possible and spotting not only the lack of human prisoners but also the beast-man shaman lairing in an isolated corner of the chamber.

Carrie enters the chamber invisibly before she knows that the fireball is an option. Her original plan--to be sure that no innocents are killed by her spell--is to use a much more contained fiery cube spell that would kill several of the beast men. When she sees David at the cave entrance, though, signalling that there are no humans, she immediately changes course.

The fireball sweeps across the room, annihilating all but a handful of beast men on the perimeter of the chamber. The shaman, a couple spearmen, one sergeant...the heroes rush in to finish off the creatures only to find them fearless and warlike--ready for any assault and expecting no quarter.

To complicate matters, a pair of archers appear in the opening twenty feet up the far wall. Alliama and Gwendolyn respond with arrows of their own, while the others battle the few remaining beast men on the ground.

David and Garlock face the shaman and lieutenant until help arrives. When Gwendolyn attempts to aid from afar, her arrow finds its way into David's body instead of her target's.

Sebastian and Beatrice defeat one spearman after seeing Big rip the other to pieces.



October 13, 764: Beast Man Treasure

In the wake of the battle, the heroes take a few minutes to gather the treasures that the beast men have accumulated. The orcs have accumulated a fair amount of wealth during their raids along the King's Way. Each has a pouch of gold crowns, and the shaman leader also has some additional items of value.Dechan collects it all into a single sack:





Act Four: House of Broken Love

October 13, 764



October 13, 764: The Underground River

The tunnel winds perhaps two hundred feet beyond the guard station before opening into an underground chamber.

The heroes emerge from a cavern tunnel into a chamber with walls stretching at least two hundred feet towards the sky. There is no ceiling here, but the sunlight that filters to the cavern floor is weak, gutted.

An underground stream flows swiftly across the chamber. It is broad and seems to radiate cold.

An old, creaking bridge spans the stream, leading to the front porch of an old, two-story home that spans the divide between two stone platforms. The home, and the bottom hundred feet of the cliff wall behind it, lies under a thick growth of black, thorny vines.

The bridge is lit by oil lamps hanging from tall, rusted iron hooks nailed into the sides of the bridge. Thick stalked weeds grow along the bridge supports and spread along the edges of the bridge.

No lights burn in the windows. Skeletal shapes, emaciated corpses, have been strung along the porch supports. Each has been driven into the wood by a spear through the chest. Even from this distance the heroes can tell by the mangled flesh and twisted limbs that each man was tortured until the final spear thrust came as a mercy.

The heroes hear the croaking of large frogs. The air is thick with the odor of rot, mostly vegetable but also animal.

As Alliama steps onto the creaking wooden planks of the bridge, she hesitates at a bucket half full of mineral salts. Trying to think of possible uses for the salts, she throws a handful onto the wooden planks; nothing strange seems to happen.

The threats implied by the nightmare the heroes shared on the ridge go unheeded as the heroes start across the bridge. Thick stalks rise up on either side, all along the lengths of the bridge, each ending in what appears to be an eyeball. When they lunge forward, though, the pupils widen and snap shut, revealing themselves to be mouths!

Alliama reacts quickly, grabbing the salt and hurling it on the plants. The creatures recoil, but return swiftly, striking again. The heroes start to cross, some attacking the plants while others focus on hurling salt. Plants struck by more salt take longer to return to the fray, but progress is slow.

Moments later, the battle is joined by a pair of skeletal bat, creatures that are similar to the ones spotted on the ridge, but with additional limbs, sharp fangs, and spear-like tails. Dechan blasts the first with fiery missiles, and then turns both away.

Not long after, Alliama embraces her power as a druid of the plant domain to drive away the stalks of the nearest plant creature. In doing so, she senses that the individual stalks are appendages of a formidable plant dwelling beneath the water of the undergroud river. She also realizes that there are two such creatures, and the second awaits those who dare trespass on the second half of the bridge leading to the house.

David takes matters into his own hands around this time. He taps into his ability as a psi-touched monk to bound over Alliama, and then he races through the snapping stalks to reach the porch itself.

When David crosses a perimeter some thirty feet from the porch, though, even more imposing threats reveal themselves. The eight dead men reveal themselves to be undead guards. They unleash a wave of fear while they wrench the spears from their chests and clamber about on their twisted and broken limbs. David has the will to resist the fear attack. He stands his ground as the horrors converge on him.



The heroes rush after David. Alliama holds the second plant creature at bay. The battle at the porch of the haunted house is a difficult one. David falls to the ground with a deep gut injury, but Garlock is there to patch him up while Ivy battles the creature that felled him.

When one of the undead things injures Ivy, she curses at it in a language that none of the heroes has heard before. She redoubles her efforts, striking with longsword and main-gauche until the things falls.

More and more heroes arrive as more and more undead make their way across the porch on twisted and mangled limbs. Finally, only one remains, which Dechan blasts to ash in a bolt of the Morninglord's glory.



October 13, 764: The Porch

The porch has been spared the majority of the growth of the black, thorny vines that creep along walls and the rear cavern wall. Still, the vines cling the outer wall of the house, obscuring the already darkened and filthy glass of the windows and hang like thorny curtains before the front door.

Sebastian warns that the direct route has caused them nothing but grief so far. This is the heroes' chance to take an alternate route. At the very least, he wants to enter the house through the window and not the front door.

cuts the vines and gets cut.

The others are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and wait for him to clear a path through the vines. Ivy requires some assuaging, though, when he goes for a torch hung on the bridge.

When Sebastian's first hack at the vines led to him sustaining some injuries, he realized that he needed to reassess. He did some signifigant damage to the vines with that blow. With a little fire, he may be able to burn away enough of what remains to get inside the house.

When the fire first touches the vines, they burn oddly, giving off a black, oily cloud before igniting and sending up thick, smoke that smells of burning vegetation. Before long, the vines drop off where Sebastian cut them, and he quickly dowses the flame with water from his enchanted, everfull mug.

Bea picks the lock that is newly exposed. Then she checks for traps and finds none. The heroes open the window and climb through into the great room.



October 13, 764: The Great Room

This shadowy great room measures nearly forty-by-fifty at its widest points, with many exits. The ceiling rises to the second-story rafters in most places because of the open balcony that rings the chamber overhead.

A short hall leads west, while the open southeast corner leads into a sort of tower room. The main door stands in the center of the south wall, and a flight of venerable wooden steps rises to the balcony. Fireplace is choked with arm-thick vines covered in barbed thorns. They erupt from the chimney.

Two long couches and two overstuffed armchairs occupy the floor, arranged to pay homage to the long-dead hearth. A curio cabinet stands along the wall opposite the steps. All the furnishings show signs of rot and a thick accumulation of dust.

The thick vines that the heroes saw from outside the house are present here, as well. They hang from the rafters and creep along the steps. The lull from the edge of the balcony overhead and choke the mouth of the hearth.


* * *

Beatrice and Carrie investigate the curio.

The curio cabinet is locked, which Bea easily overcomes. The lock is a good, albeit old, device. Inside are a number of fragile stone and blown glass knickknacks depicting inquisitors and knights of the Church of Bane (their iconography goes unrecognized by the two who are looking).

In the center of the shelf that stands at eye level for the average human is a golden statue of the Lawgiver, fist clenched before his breastplate. Indentations on the face show where gemstones once completed the visage as eyes.

The idol seems to be solid gold, weighing a full ten pounds. If melted down, it would be worth hundreds of gold pieces from metal alone. As an art object, it could fetch much more from a buyer with an affinity for the Lawgiver.


* * *

Garlock and David spend much of the original investigation in the center of the great room. While there, they investigate the furniture.

Investigating the couches and chairs reveals that they have at times been used as homes for small to middling vermin who have made nests within the cushions and inside the frames. Nothing of value or interest remains.


* * *

Dechan checks the base of the steps, wondering whether a secret panel or trapdoor might turn up. He finds nothing of interest.



October 13, 764: Tower Ground Room

During this investigation, Sebastian steps into the adjoining tower room.

Two windows once allowed light to fill the foot of this tower room. Now vines cling to the outside of the glass just as they have grown along the rafters and walls of the interior. A flight of old steps rises to the second floor; thorny vines lie across several of the steps, spilling over the edge to sway slightly as t entry disturbs the old wood.

Sebastian searches thoroughly for a secret door or trapdoor, expecting some route beneath the house. He finds nothing.



October 13, 764: Illusions in the Great Room

Alliama checks for tracks, trying to find a location where her friends have not obliterated them. She finds none, though she also finds something amiss.

The tracks of her own friends--of her own feet--are misplaced. The dust does not settle correctly.

When she points out the oddity, some of her friends can see it, while others see nothing unusual. One looks down and can see that their footprint already exists, to the side of where they just put down their foot.

When Big puts his paw down on a certain spot, testing what is happening at Alliama's request, a plume of dust rises up, making him sneeze and redistributing dust across the entire great room.



October 13, 764: No Illusions on the Lawgiver

When Alliama announces that illusions are at play, Beatrice focuses her attention on the weighty gold statue she holds, looking for another illusion. She finds nothing amiss with the statue.



October 13, 764: Under the House

Dechan asks Alliama to investigate the tunnel that the house straddles. If there are no signs of the beast men inside the house, then maybe they used some mechanism to lower themselves to the water below. Maybe the beast men never enter the haunted house after all.

Alliama agrees and returns to the porch. As she lowers herself over the edge, however, the remaining skeletal bat swoops down--extra appendages and spear-like tail slashing and thrusting even as its hollow fangs inject venom.

Alliama defends herself with her quarterstaff, and the heroes rush to the porch to aid her; she escapes with minor injuries before the bat is destroyed.

There are none of the signs she sought to imply that the beast men lowered themselves and their prisoners towards the water, either from the porch or this end of the bridge.



October 13, 764: Dining Room

Back inside, Dechan moves to investigate the dining room, which lies next to the great room, opposite the tower room.

Though no door is hung in the entry to this old dining room, stepping inside reveals a lingering odor of rotten food. The moldered heaps of food scattered across the dining table have accumulated dust and cobwebs, but nothing can fully conceal the fact that meat and vebetables once were left here to rot.

Chairs lie where they fell, apparently scattered as the would-be diners fled.

A weak moan comes from the behind the closed door opposite the entry.

Dechan shouts for his friends.

"Come here, I've got something!"

-Dechan Mackenzie


The heroes come to back him up. Alliama, Gwendolyn, Garlock, and Ivy are present when he tugs the door open.



October 13, 764: The Larder

The door bursts outward as Dechan turns the knob! Vines tumble down from above. At the same time sacks of rotted potatoes and carrots spill out, ripping open with wet sounds and depositing a wet mass onto his feet and the dining room floor.

The offending vines have grown thick along the roof and congest the entry way. After their initial strike, they swing back into place, swaying in the doorway and the middle ten feet of the larder.

Cuts are left all over Dechan's body, but that is only the first malady that besets him. In addition, he staggers, unsure of where he is. He has forgotten the last three minutes that have transpired, leading up to the door being opened. He does not remember entering the dining room, or the sound that made him shout for his friends to come running.

Dechan steps back, binding his wounds, and Alliama takes his place in the larder.

The vines sway in the center of a larder that has gone to ruin. Along the back wall, shelves bow under the weight of glass jars with thick metal lids. To the left and ride are sacks, likely filled with the same moldering vegetable paste that erupted at Dechan's feet when the door opened.

A few large sacks make a slightly higher heap on the floor near the corner to her right. These sacks put the edge of the room into shadow, and bringing a lantern into the narrow room just amplifies the shadows.

As Alliama peers into those shadows, she hears a faint whimpering sound from that corner, like the stifled cry of a small child.

Cautiously, wary that this sound likely comes from something that is no child, Alliama makes her way past the vines. As she steps near the sacks, though, the rotted floor gives out beneath her. Below is a twenty-foot drop into the frigid waters of the underground stream.

Alliama is too fast, though. She leaps back from the shearing boards, finding purchase on more solid wood. Her eyes, widen, though, at what she glimpsed below. The sacks that obscured her view never splashed into the water; they vanished before touching the water. More illusions!

There is also no child.

Bravely, Alliama returns to the crumbling larder. She inches back to the edge of the hole. She drops a piece of wood and watches it splash into the stream. Then she does the same with one of the heavy glass jars from the shelf at her side. It, too, splashes into the water and swiftly vanishes.

When Alliama is satisfied, Gwendolyn tests the hole with her bow while Alliama holds back the vines with her quarterstaff. She confirms that the hole itself is real; the illusions were just placed around the weak floorboards.

Gwendolyn briefly considers the untested corner of the larger then thinks better of it. The boards there look no more sturdy.



October 13, 764: Second-Floor Landing

The heroes briefly discuss what they have found. Before they can say much, though, they hear a door close upstairs, from the top of the tower room steps.

Sebastian lead the heroes upstairs, but he chooses to take the great room stairs, rather than the tower room.

The steps from the Great Room below lead to this balcony. Doors exit to the east and west. The ever-present black, thorny vines hand from the ceiling here, and cling along the walls. In places along the balcony the vines have fallen to the floor, lulling over to swing over the Great Room floor. These create unsteady footing for anyone who cannot pick their steps deliberately.

Sebastian then leads the way away from the sounds the heroes' heard, towards what he expects to be the master bedroom. Again, he has seen enough misdirection to charge in the direction the house wants the heroes to go.



October 13, 764: Sitting Room

The heroes enter a sizeable sitting room. Shelves hold a small collection of books, and once-comfortable chairs have collapsed into their sturdy frames around a weathered table. On the table are a small sack and a pair of leather tubes, each sealed with a cork. All three containers rest under a thick layer of dust.

Overhead and along the walls, the thick, thorny vines add to the gloom, seeming to bring the ceiling that much closer to the floor and the walls that much closer to the heroes' flanks. If the rest of the house feels oppressive, the sense of dread in this room is amplified three fold. All is gloom and shadow here.

David follows Sebastian into this room, and he focuses his attention, attempting to see through any illusions that might cloak what he sees. While nothing is revealed, there is a strange effect of being able to see...more clearly. It is as if a murky veil is thinned. There is nothing more to be seen, but he realizes that he can see what is here a little better.

The books on the shelves are in Darkonese. These books are surprisingly common fare, including romance novels and murder mysteries. The images and titles are garish but also ominous.

David takes the sack from the table. It weighs some eleven pounds, mostly weight from coin.


David places the two cork-sealed leather tubes into the sack, as well. When Beatrice tested them, she found that they were indeed filled with liquid; David assumes they are potions.





October 13, 764: The Master Bedroom

Eager to find the bedroom, Sebastian leads the way through the only remaining exit from the sitting room. It does indeed lead to the master bedroom.

This room is full of shadows. Thorny vines, thick as thighs, hang along the walls and creep across the ceiling. None hang from the ceiling, though. It is almost as if they do this out of deference to the man, hanged by the neck, in the center of the room. He wore a black robe the day he died. A bloodstained sheet of paper has been stuck to his chest by the dagger driven through it. The man's flesh is pale, with violet veins standing out on the neck and face.

This was once a bedroom. On the bed lies the body of a woman, her chest ripped open to reveal an empty cavity where the heart once lay. She is also clad in the vestments of a priest, though clearly of a different faith than the hanged man. The woman's flesh is pallid, taut over the bones. Her eyes stare upward, her face a rictus of agony.

On the headboard of the bed are hung two holy symbols. One is the fist of Bane. The other bears the nine-tailed barbed scourge of Loviatar.

Aside from the bed, this room is occupied by a nightstand, a reading table, and two wardrobes. A suit of masterfully crafted bandedmail stands next to the windows; it is dark navy with black straps.


***


It is late. It is cold. The heroes have been climbing a mountain all day. Before them lies proof of the tale Garlock learned as a child--of the horrible rite that led to his grandfather becoming a shepher along the King's Way in Martira. If all of this is true, then what horrors await? What ancient evil could the beast men have disturbed?