Some of you may remember, back at the dawn of time when I first started writing this journal of our adventures, I made an effort to infuse each entry with all the suspense, adventure and magic of a real fantasy novel. A worthy aim, but frankly not one that I either a) ever really came close to achieving or b) can be arsed striving for when I am have so many other important calls on my time. For god’s sake, in the time it takes me to try and think of a yet another term for a group of adventurers (at the moment I’m using party, band and ‘the companions’ on fairly even rotation) I could have watched 5 youtube funny cat videos. Or broken my own spider solitare record for the third time.
I say enough. From now on these entries will be much more closely modeled on my own mental processes, they will be poorly thought out pseudo summaries lacking in narrative coherence and laced with pun based attempts at humour. Able to be knocked off over a lunch break and proof read while watching Bondi Vet. I mention this decline in authorial integrity because the first part of this next entry, The Haunted House was written back when I had worthy goals and literary standards, (which is not to say that it is particularly well written, just because I had standards doesn’t mean I have to live up to them) and so I felt I should offer some explanation for the subtle shift in tone that may strike the eagle eyed reader as the piece goes on.
25/04/10 – The Haunted House
The companions stand, tightly bunched together, staring at a large and derelict manor house. There are no lights in the windows, the shutters are flapping and swinging wildly in the wind. The house is surrounded by an overgrown and decaying garden, the trees have no leaves and the grass is a sickly grayish green. A chill settles over the minds of the companions, a chill which has nothing to do with the wind. As one, they struggle to remember why they agreed to come here.
Four days earlier they had been standing in a hot and dusty arena, having killed gladiators, bloodied a dragon, and won the right to live from a figure whose face was hidden in shadow. Clerics appeared through doors on the side of the arena and lead the party to some well appointed rooms. Fuoca, the elf they had rescued, was lead away separately. They have not seen her since. The clerics healed the companions, then offered them food and a chance to rest. The party accepted both distrustfully, and stationed sentries throughout the night.
In the morning they were taken to an audience chamber, and before them on an ornate throne sat Queen Elas, a mysterious and reclusive royal, who has not been seen in public since the end of the last war. She admits that they were kidnapped on her orders, and that the trials they have suffered were at her instigation. She needed to test them, and they have passed with flying colours. The companions began to mutter amongst themselves, but the Queen continued as if she could not hear them. “You have proved a strong band, brave and powerful. I have a mission which I would wish you to undertake. A series of tasks which will test your bravery and power.”
The mutterings continued during this speech, grew louder, until finally Azura could no longer contain her anger. “You drugged and kidnapped us, tried to ensnare us in deadly traps, then watched as we battled against gladiators and dragons for your amusement. Why should we help you, or believe anything you have to say?” While many of the companions shared her sentiments, most were shocked that she would speak to such a powerful person with such a lack of circumspection.
Queen Elas remained outwardly calm in the face of Azura’s displeasure. When she spoke her voice was steady, but stern. “Since the end of the last battle, I have been directing all of my considerable power and wealth towards one aim, discovering the demons ultimate agenda. Why did they retreat so suddenly after their devastating attack on Thay? What did they hope to achieve? And who in the alliance was working with them, as certain events during the last war have left me in no doubt that there are spies among us, bent on our destruction. Recently I have come across a piece of draconic prophesy that seems to explain it all. The prophesy makes clear that there are dark days ahead, dark matters to be decided. Matters in which I cannot be seen to operate openly, and matters which will decide the fate of our world. And so I turn to you, with your skills, bravery and cunning, and seek to draft you in my service, the service of Sevarr. I have a mission for you. Will you undertake it?”
There is some discussion among the companions, many our still distrustful of the Queen and concern that she may be concealing her true agenda. But the chance to thwart the demons and their dastardly plans proved too tempting, and the party agreed to take on the mission.
“Very well,” said the Queen, “Your first task is to travel to the house of Dranor, a wizard formerly in my employ, now a thief and a traitor. He stole a book from my library and fled. The book was filled with dark magic, it described spells for raising the dead, and for entering undeath. Greatly do I fear the damage that may be done with the book in Dranor’s hands. I will give you maps that will lead you to his house, I will give you horses and supplies. Go quickly, find the book, and return it to me.
The party left the next morning, and after two days travel found themselves here approaching the manor house’s large and imposing front door. Pan, always the least effected by atmosphere, knocks. The door swings open. It was unlocked. The party moves inside, finds itself in a cold, dark and dusty hallway, with doors extending off it, three on each side. They try each door in turn, they all lead to rooms that seem to have been uninhabited for some time, everything is thickly coated in dust, and the kitchen (the third door on the right) is filled with rotting food. Only two doors lead to anything of interest. The first is the door nearest to the front door, on the right hand side. It leads to a room filled with wizarding accoutrements, with arcane symbols painted on the floor. But like the other rooms no-one seems to have been here for days, even weeks. The second door of interest is at the other end of the hallway, it opens onto a flight of stairs, leading upwards.
The party moves to the second floor, here they find another hallway, with only three doors leading off it, all on the left hand side. They try the middle door first, inside is a small bedroom, meanly furnished, with a narrow bed in the corner of the room. The bed appears to be occupied. Pan approaches it and pulls back the covers. Beneath them lies the corpse of a servant, his rigid features locked in a terrified expression. Disgusted at the sight, the party leaves this room as soon as possible. But before exiting, mindful of the nature of the book they have been charged to retrieve, Texh takes one of his long-swords and separates the corpse’s head from its body.
The room closest to the stairs seems to be the library, its walls on three sides are covered with rows and rows of books. The room is also shorter than the previous one, and the thought occurs to the party that perhaps the wall at the far end of the room is concealing a secret passage. Stout and Bethrana begin pulling books from the shelves, hoping either to locate the book that was stolen from the Queen, or that the removal of one of the other books will trigger the doorway to the secret passage. They are unsuccessful on both counts, although they do come across a number of interesting scrolls, each containing the incantations for a powerful spell. Three scrolls in particular were of interest, one called Speak with the Dead, another called Cure Disease, and most interesting of all Summon Dranor’s Chest. They also manage to open the secret passage, but unfortunately I cannot exactly remember how. Aaanyway, probably not that important, secret passage is discovered, the rear wall opens to reveal a set of wooden stairs, leading downwards.
Before descending down the secret passage, the companions have two more tasks to perform on the top floor. First, they search the final room, which turns out to be Dranor’s bedroom. There is nothing of interest to be seen, anything that could be removed is gone, and it is as dusty and cobwebb-ridden as the rest of the house. While in his room, the party decides to use the Summon Dranor’s Chest spell, out of nowhere appears a locked wooden chest. Prising it open, the companions find a bunch of treasure (Armour, Parchment with Design, Gloves of Venom, Crossbow, Retribution weapon, Horn of Summons, 1900 Gold pieces). The companions move all this, and the chest as well, into the bed of holding.
Second, they return to the servant’s bedroom and Dugery, in a trembling voice, recite the incarnation to Speak with the Dead. Lying on the bed, the servants head shudders into life, his eyes open but the irises are rolled deeply back into his skull. The spell is strong, but the link that binds the servants spirit to this plain is faint, Dugery only has time for one question. He asks, “What killed you?” the head answers, “Fear”. Then the face contorts, the eyes close, and he is gone.
By now the atmosphere in this house is starting to get to the companions, and a few of the members are frankly shitting themselves. Azura is becoming disproportionately distressed by even the mildest of horrific happenings and Bethrana so skittish that she is firing off fireballs at the slightest provocation. Dugery is so scared that he is beginning to rationalized everything that he sees, striving to deny that there are any supernatural forces at work in their surroundings, which in a land like Sevarr is right up there with putting a blanket over your head and assuming that therefore the monsters won’t see you. Dugery in particular is in trouble in the next encounter as the party goes back to the library, opens the secret passage, walks down two flights of rickety stairs to the basement and is immediately attacked by a flying dagger and a possessed wardrobe. The companions manage to subdue these in-inanimate objects, but Dugery spends the whole fight muttering under his breath about mass hallucination and hypnotic suggestion, even as he is reloading his crossbow.
Once the dagger and wardrobe have been sorted out, the party finds that they seem to have reached a dead end, there are no door leading on from this basement room. However one of the basement walls (the one opposite the stairs for those keeping track in their heads) is made up of a series of rotten and insubstantial looking wooden planks. In an attempt to see what’s behind the wall Bethrana (skittish, remember) lobs a fireball at it. The planks go up like a mattress soaked in metho (that’s an expression, right?) and out of the flames surge two enormous nests of rats. The rats are a bugger to kill cos they keep slithering out of the way of the party’s blows and running up people’s trouser legs to gnaw on their kneecaps, but eventually they are all dead.
Behind all the rat corpses is another wall, as flimsy as the first. The companions decide not to have Bethrana burn this one down (possibly because they are beginning to suffocate from smoke inhalation) but instead the party chooses to burst through the wall dramatically, behind it they find Dranor surrounded by a group of undead buddies. (What is the collective noun for the undead? A pride of undead? Or a parliament maybe? No that’s owls. A lurch of zombies has a nice ring to it.)
Big fight, with the zombies being gross and terrify and dealing out lots of necrotic damage. I’m sure many feats of derring do were performed (and I’m equally sure that Stout probably failed to hit a fucking thing) but frankly this is all speculation since it was all so long ago and I’ve lost my notes. Eventually the companions manage to massacre every last zombie, kill Dranor and pry the Queen’s book from his cold dead fingers. Scoreboard reads Party 1 Lurch 0. Go team.