Episode 19: 9/19/09
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/3-3
Nineve, human knight/6
Xicar, human cleric/6
Haroldur, human wizard 2/cleric 4
Mossad is very concerned about what we have to say. We present him with our evidence – the charred parchment, and hope he believes us. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to. Mossad sifts the letter himself, and after a few moments tells us to get what rest we can here at the Cabal – he’ll take care of this. We’re keyed up from our adventure, but exhausted from our long and frantic journey, and it IS the middle of the night, so we head off to get some sleep (in our REAL rooms!)
A frantic Hezzrak wakes us early in the morning. He insists that we come down to the crypt RIGHT NOW because he has something to show us. He pesters and pushes us into the depths of the crypts, and then shows us… absolutely nothing important. After some antics, we piece together that the town guard is currently at the Cabal searching for us, and Mossad has sent Hezzrak to hide us in the crypt. About an hour passes, and we are summoned from the crypt to Marten’s office.
Mossad is there as well. Marten restores us to our positions as Greycloaks and returns our stuff, and we earn Influence for our deeds. Then he leaves, without saying much to us. Mossad helpfully fills us in. The Cabal is protecting us because Justice Ironbriar has moved against us in the night and has sent half the Ministry of Justice after us. They are currently trying to figure out what to do with us. Since we need more hard evidence to clear our names in the eyes of Istivin’s authorities, Haroldur suggests we go to the lair of the the Undead Lord Ondore, now a mohrg, which we assume must be Lillybrook Manor, to look for clues. This sounds like a pretty good idea to Mossad except for the fact that the city is crawling with guards looking for us. We’ll have to sneak out.
We make preparations (including having Remove Disease cast on a few of us who are feeling rather unwell), and discuss tactics for escaping the city and confronting the morhg, Ondore. Xicar comes up with the idea to cast Searing Light into Captain Lorring’s sword (a spell-storing longsword!), since that spell is particularly effective against undead. Also, a few days ago when Haroldur and Sarek were researching the Nerull human sacrifice runes, I checked out the history of Lillybrook Manor. I share what I learned.
83 years ago – the Lillybrook Manor is built by Vorel Lillybrook. Construction is partially funded by an unknown outside source.
63 years ago – Lillybrooks living in the Manor perish mysteriously over the course of a few years, seemingly from the ravages of disease.
30 years ago – Vorel’s great nephew Traver Lillybrook (Ondore’s father) and his family move into the manor; Ondore Lillybrook is born.
14 years ago – The servants’ quarters at the manor are destroyed in a fire. Ondore’s mother commits suicide by flinging herself from the Conservatory window, and Traver kills himself. Ondore is taken by a fleeing servant to Istivin to be raised by relatives.
1 year ago – Ondore returns to Lillybrook manor and begins restoration work.
8 months ago – Ondore found dead.
5 months ago – Ondore’s body stolen (from second funeral, see Episode 11 )
We finish our preparations and begin our attempt to sneak out of Dura.
We begin our escape in a civic quarter. Civic quarters are home to government buildings, temples, and trade houses. Guard patrols are heavy here, as well as being more alert, making hiding difficult. However, the tall, ornate towers, bridges and sculpture gardens make vaulting from building to building or scrambling up a wall a fairly simple affair. We escape the civic quarter without incident.
From the civic quarter, we find ourselves in a slum. Guards rarely enter the squalid slums. Crumbling old buildings, flop houses, run-down taverns and other seedy establishments dominate this quarter, along with tenements filled to overcrowding. The thugs and criminals of this quarter have little use for social niceties, but respond well to strength and bravado. Streetwise individuals may easily find dives that the guards avoid, side alleys, and other ways to keep out of sight. We round a corner and are face-to-face with an accident: a cart has overturned, and a small contingent of patrolling Ministry of Justice agents has stopped to assess the situation. It’s terrible luck, and of course they recognize us and drop what they’re doing to give chase. We scatter like quail and after several very tense minutes of ducking down alleys and hiding in plain sight, we manage to lose our pursuers. We escape the slums and find ourselves in a poor quarter.
The poor quarter is an impoverished area home to laborers and the downtrodden. Failing businesses, warehouses, and seedy taverns populate this quarter. The poor folk here pay little attention to genteel language, but this quarter provides ample opportunities to blend in with the crowds of laborers, or slip into a rowdy tavern. Our bad luck follows us here as we encounter a group of town guard. Fortunately, these guys will usually seek any excuse to avoid a fight, and we manage to convince them we’re not worth it. We get away from them, but a few blocks later a swarm of rats suddenly pours out of a sewer grate, sending the crowded street into a panic. Xicar doesn’t move in time and gets slightly trampled by the fleeing mob, but I realize that we can use the sewers to escape this quarter – there’s no way we’ll find guards down there! It’s hard to convince Nineve, but we all hop down the sewer and once I get my bearings, we’re home free! We emerge in another civic quarter.
We spot a group of soldiers patrolling a little ways up the street, but we manage to avoid their notice. At last, we find ourselves at the gates of Dura. I bribe an urchin to make a small disturbance and we slip past the distracted soldiers guarding the gate with ease.
We escape Dura and reach the boundaries of Istivin at dusk. A little ways outside of the city, we find a farm family to stay with for the night by passing ourselves off as traveling priests of Pelor. The evening takes an awkward turn when Haroldur suddenly drops the Pelor bluff and starts trying to convert our hosts to Wee Jas, but we leave in the morning after a great breakfast.
After several hours of hiking, a storm rolls in. The clouds hang oppressively low in the heavens as we pass through a singularly dreary tract of country. At length we find ourselves within view of the House of Lillybrook. An unredeemed dreariness seems to hang over this part of the countryside. The manor’s principal feature seems to be that of excessive antiquity. Minute fungi overspreads the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled webwork from the eaves. The manor clings remarkably to a sheer cliff overhanging the dark waters of a small lake far below. The foundation stones of a ruined outbuilding thrust up from the weed-choked earth like rounded and decayed teeth. Several large, ragged black birds perch on the old stones, eyeing us warily.
In front of the house, we find a neglected hedge maze that appears to house a mausoleum at its center. We enter and wander around for a few minutes, eventually finding a weeping marble statue. Just as we’re moving past the statue, we hear a strange rustling in the bushes… a spellstitched ghast, accompanied by ghouls, bursts through the maze and attacks us! It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and we’re all out of gum! The West Side Wee Jas crew (complete with hand signs) cleans up, and we move on towards the crypt.
Two corroded bronze doors carved with the Lillybrook crest bar our entrance to the mausoleum. I begin to pick the lock, but then Haroldur remembers we have a Lillybrook key! We try it and it works! We advance down the stairs and arrive at an octagonal chamber in the depths of the crypt. Three crates full of completely normal dirt are in the center of the room. Shipping manifests are tacked to the outside of the containers. I take samples of the dirt while paranoid Nineve stabs the dirt to ensure nothing is in there. Nothing is. I also collect a shipping manifest. As there is nothing else of interest here, we exit the crypt.
It starts to rain as we pick our way through the ruined hedge maze and approach the house. Politely, we ring the doorbell. No one answers, so we go in. The doors close ominously behind us. The entry hall is large and lofty. The windows are long, narrow and pointed, reaching upward to a vast distance from the black oaken floor. Dark, stained draperies hang upon the walls, and moth-eaten, rotting trophies hang crookedly here and there. Upon entry, Haroldur and I smell the faint scent of burnt fur. Suddenly, Haroldur dodges out of the way and swears the stuffed manticore head on the mantle has lunged to attack him, but he as avoided it, saving the party! We smile and nod and move into the parlor.
The dark paneled parlor seems unaccountably gloomy, as motes of dust drift through the air and settle on the dilapidated remains of a once magnificent piano. Hezzrak bangs on the keys, but mercifully no sound comes out. Suddenly, Xicar inexplicably begins waltzing with an invisible partner, but comes to his senses after a few moments. We shake our heads and move on.
Nineve hears some scratching behind a side door. She opens it and finds a washroom. An ancient metal washtub stands against the far wall, a ring of mold crusting its inner surface. Several eyeless, tumor-covered rats are scrambling frantically within the filthy basin. We leave them and advance to a gloomy lunge.
A sagging couch slumps in one corner of the lounge, opposite a grand fireplace. Motes of dust and ash skitter and swirl along the warped floorboards near the hearth. Xicar is suddenly seized with a sense of impending doom and tries to push us all out of the house. Nineve restrains him, and after a few moments he regains his composure. We move on, through a damp, mildewy drawing room and into the library.
The door to the library creaks loudly as we open it. Feeble light struggles to illuminate rotten books, sagging shelves, and stained rugs and tapestries. Oddly, amongst this gloom is a splash of bright color – a red silk scarf is draped over the side of a fallen and molding chair. I attempt to sift the scarf. When I pick it up, a shriek startles me. Then, I see Lord Ondore’s face as he suddenly wraps the scarf around my neck and chokes me to death! I pass out. Xicar heals me, and Nineve and Haroldur tell me I strangled myself with the scarf – she had to cut it off my neck! We quickly leave the library and move to a stairwell that takes us upstairs.
We pass through a landing and enter a small, unremarkable bedroom. We advance through large double doors to a musician’s gallery. Large dusty windows dominate the curved wall of the gallery. Despite the heavy glass, we can hear the rising wind and the branches of the trees crashing together in the yard outside. Aside from the mold and dust of ages covering the room and several ruined musical instruments, nothing is remarkable. We continue on.
Nineve gets bored first and opens the door to another fungus-covered bedroom. Suddenly, she slams the door shut and starts clawing at her own face! She regains her composure and starts to complain about the fungus attacking her and causing boils on her face. She also mentions a child. Before we can make sense of her ramblings, Hezzrak comes up the stairs, eating cancer rats. I try to dissuade him, as they are CLEARLY diseased, but then I remember that outsiders are usually immune to disease. I shrug and tell him he can eat what he wants.
We wander into a gallery with covered portraits on the walls. We uncover the portraits and the room grows icier and icier…until they explode outward in a shower of freezing dirty water. Afterwards, I feel ill, but I try to shake it off.
We move on into a completely preserved bedroom! However, the lack of dust and mold does nothing to dispel the bewildering influence of the dark and tattered drapes which, tortured into motion by the rising tempest outside, sway fitfully to and fro. Haroldur rushes to a writing desk in the corner and appears to contemplate stabbing himself in the throat with a large splinter of wood, but then decides against. We move on.
Nineve and I force the door to a small bathroom. An iron tub, scaly with rust, squats in the center of the room. The floorboards sag and bow with the tub’s weight. Green scummy water fills the tub to the brim, and dribbles over the side to pool on the floor in several nasty puddles. As I approach, the floorboards crack and give way! I barely manage to jump back in time to avoid falling through the floor. The tub falls into the cancer-rat bathroom below and explodes in a shower of water.
There’s only one more door to investigate. We open it and find ourselves in a large bedroom. Everything in the room, including the bed has been torn to pieces – with one exception. A portrait hangs backward, untouched. Xicar turns the picture around and claims to recognize the beautiful woman depicted therein. As we turn to head back down to the first floor, Xicar inexplicably kicks Nineve down the stairs! Then, he turns on me with his shortspear! He shouts “Traitorous women! You filthy whores! I’ll kill you all!!!” We easily restrain him and Nineve intimidates some sense into him.
We abandon the idea of going back downstairs and head up to the attic, which is full of steamer trunks. Among the random luggage, we find a well-appointed study which has an amazing view of the lake at the bottom of the cliff several hundred feet below. We proceed cautiously. Scorch marks mar the walls. A battered telescope stands in one corner, and a trapdoor leading to the roof is tied closed. I sift the scorch marks and witness a brief scene: A man and his wife are arguing. She is accusing him of something; he denies it. She throws a lantern at him and accidentally catches herself on fire… Just as I snap out of it, Nineve flails about like she’s on fire and throws herself out the window! I toss one end of my troll gut rope to the boys and dive after her. Luckily, her armor had gotten hung up on the ornate roofing, and I barely manage to rescue her before she plummets of the cliff to her death! We climb back into the study, regroup, and head for the assumed safety of the basement.
We find ourselves in a vast kitchen which is damp and completely dark. It’s silent at first, but soon the walls are alive with the sound of hundreds of diseased rats. We brace for impact. Several large cancer rats like the ones we saw in the bathtub emerge and approach us. I cut two of them down, but then 2 large swarms pour out of the walls and over our party. The clerics detonate negative energy bombs and we are soon saved from what would have truly been a fate worse than death! We leave the rat-ridden kitchen and investigate an unremarkable servants’ quarters, complete with rusted, sagging bunk beds.
Moving on, we find the rotting pantry, which is filled with dozens of blind, bloated, diseased rats. The stench is horrible. Despite the smell, I take a moment to closely observe the rats. They appear to be suffering from some kind of bubonic plague variant. We all realize we’re feeling less than stellar, all of a sudden. We’re concerned and quickly move on.
Next we find an ancient wine cellar. Haroldur and I poke around and identify 8 bottles of non-vinegar that are probably worth something. We collect them and move on to a ruined workshop.
Broken glassware, shattered pottery, and rusty tools litter the floor. Suspicious crates of dirt, similar to the ones we found in the mausoleum, stand in the center of the room. As we’re looking around, Xicar suddenly falls through an unseen trapdoor and disappears! Hezzrak spots a darkened doorway behind Haroldur and starts down the stairs he finds. Meanwhile, I locate the release mechanism for the trapdoor that claimed Xicar. After a brief conference with Nineve and some crate-shuffling, I open the trap door and send her down to the cavern below, riding a crate, Dr. Strangelove-style!
Haroldur disappears down the stairs with Hezzrak and calls for a locksmith. Usually that’s my cue, but through the open trapdoor I can see a skeletal figure menacing Xicar and Nineve! It’s the morhg, and I’m not really surprised to see it’s none other than our old friend Lord Ondore. On hearing this, Hezzrak whizzes past me and flies down to the action. I call for Haroldur to quit being such a baby and get his ass down the hole like everyone else, as I line up the morhg in my Line of Lightning Sword sights. Reluctantly, Haroldur flings himself down the hole, clockwork wings flapping.
Xicar accidentally blinds himself with his own spell, and Morhg Ondore and Hezzrak point and laugh (who can blame them?). Flame leaps from Morhg Ondore’s fingertips as Nineve is fricasseed! Things are dire. In a truly unimpressive display of lightning, I zap Ondore and teleport into a flank behind him. Nineve throws herself at Morhg Ondore with the last of her strength, and then I draw Captain Lorring’s longsword (previously prepared by Xicar!). I savagely slice through his undead body and discharge the stored Searing Light. The glory of Wee Jas and Xicar’s plan rips through his husk, destroying him utterly.