Though he is still in the care of the priests for the day of the town meeting, about three days later you see Nolaria helping a limping figure slowly, slowly, up the hill. It takes some time before they are close enough for you to recognize the lanky form of Talon.
He offers a wan smile on sight of you, sweat beaded on his pallored face.
Nolaria says hurriedly, "He insisted-- we told him he was still ill, but--"
"But I wanted to come," Talon finishes, his voice a hoarse rasp. "Don't worry. Stupid bravery has limits. I'll take a... I dunno... donkey back down or something.....
Nolaria is mostly supporting the half-elf, having rebounded much quicker from her encounter with demonsbile, it seems. Ah to be young. Talon catches his breath before continuing.
"I had to thank you. All of you. You saved me. Not just my life, though I'm grateful for that... but, I think, my very soul. I think... I think I wouldn't have gone somewhere good.... if I'd died under the... the... influence of that ... the foul...."
Talon trails off, his attempted smile fading into a haggard look as he deals with the recollections. "Emma. I'm-- beyond sorry. I... I'm glad you live. How inadequate words are, no?"
Talon takes a deep breath and tilts his face back to absorb the spring sunshine, the cleansing light. His eyes are closed for a long moment, then they open to regard the manor, and he finds a crooked smile again.
"So why don't you give me a... a tour of the place? Since I missed the first exploration. Who knows-- perhaps I can house-sit for you if you're needed elsewhere. I think... it'll be a while til I'm up to making the journey back out to my cabin again."
Healing proceeds..... in different ways for everyone, at different paces.
In Majara Pricknettle's apothecary, the gnome rereads a parchment missive several times, then heaves a deep breath. The letter is rolled up tightly for the umpteenth time, tied with a bit of cord, and Majara pads into the tiny room-- originally a closet for the original human-sized building owners-- that serves her as a sleeping chamber, the only part of the building not devoted to her craft. Shoving a pile of blankets to one side, she opens the hinged shelf beneath and squints down at links of chain armor.
"You'll need oiling, I suppose. This is very inconvenient. I'll have to leave Gellion in charge of the shop," Majara says with a scowl seen by nobody else.
"Hrmn, then again, it might do him good. Something to focus on. Take his mind off the nonsense. I'll need to put the books in order first. ...But for now, oil."
Feel free to continue to stick in posts that are set the day of the town meeting if you want, but I'm just gonna putter on forward here.
The days immediately following your recognition in the town hall are busy ones. There's a property to have assessed-- and bolder gawkers to dissuade, as more than a few souls from Saringallow are eager to traipse up the hill and see the old estate now that it's generally considered safe... or at least safer. Conscious of the broken glass, the poison garden, and other possible dangers, you have your hands full keeping them out.
There are surveyors you do allow in-- to provide you with quotes for a proper cleaning, replacement of the windows, and so forth. Several companies offer you an assessment free of charge, at any rate.
The gleaming, glorious bathtub fared through the explosion surprisingly well. A dwarven tradeswoman strokes her braids as she looks over the object and nods-- aye, her crew can get it out, intact, and will pay you a decent sum for it-- minus the cost of their removal fee, of course.... Gold coins change hands, and the ungainly majesty of the tub is wheeled off down the hill, to be loaded onto a barge bound for some larger city, no doubt.
Bravoni's warehouse and business affairs prove more lucrative. Almost a week after the town hall, the mayor and a smiling, somewhat weasel-featured man from the merchant's consortium offer over a writ to be drawn at the local Abadarian changehouse to the tune of fifteen-hundred gold-- a tidy profit indeed!
Majara Pricknettle takes a number of potions and other objects off your hands, paying you more than you expected from them. The reason becomes more obvious when she clears her throat and asks if it's true there was an alchemy lab found upstairs...? Might she look at it.......?
Surprisingly, the bottles and beakers survived the explosion-- though Pricknettle nods sagely. "Good, he tempered them for heat and pressure changes! I'll buy the lot it from you if you're willing, hard to get glass like that these days from anyone save the dwarves..." More coins are passed into your hands.
Promised herbs are delivered to Quill, who pays well for them. Gear that you no longer need is traded in for coin, at the Sundries, and new gear is in turn purchased, at least by some of you.
The eternal question of a curative wand is once again posed to Father Ruvarra as well as the Sundries merchants....
High is good:1d100 ⇒ 80
...and this time, the merchants have something for you! A carved stick, simple enough in appearance, but it truly can save a life.
A wand of CLW is normally 750; with your 5% discount, that would be 712.5 GP, and split 6 ways, that's 118.75. Six is counting Majara-- it's hardly fair if I don't contribute to the wand that I'm about to benefit from in our next adventure. We can say she contributes that gold after she joins the party, etc etc, no need to get too hung up on the details. So if you all do want a CLW wand, now's your chance.
As a reminder, any item under 4K, including magic ones, you have a 75% chance of it being available in town, so now's a good time to shop if you want to. Any mundane items under 4K are always available here.
Not all your time is spent at the old manor, of course. In town you have your share of eyes on you, as well as those who don't stop at eyes and come up to greet you, shake your hands, ask endless questions about the goblins, the manor, ghosts, so forth and so forth. People hesitate only briefly before greeting Constantine-- either the mayor's words did their work, or those who have less favorable views are simply choosing not to approach him at this point.
If anything, Constantine gets less slight hesitation than Sirio. He has hardly kept his faith a secret, though he has had the sense to be discreet about it; but there are still eyes that regard him with wariness. No-one is anyone but polite to his face, but behind backs there are still uncertain mutters about devil worshipper and Chelish provacateur...
Sirio sees Scrent only once during the week that follows-- the day of the meeting itself, before the Escoros return to their farm. The gangly youth gives him a measured nod, a mixture of admiration and wariness, and comes over to mumble that his family is curing some prize mutton just now that they will send along as a gratitude and housewarming gift to the manor when it's ready.
Hannelia finds that more people knew her name than she ever guessed-- or at least they claim to, now. One of the neighbors on her father's street gushes about how they always knew she was destined for great things, even from a little girl.... Whether this is truth is, perhaps, a question for the philosophers. But her father is proud of her, and Zuke gives her a wink and a grin and asks that shouldn't he have a mentorship cut of your treasure, then...?
Roger enjoys a singular benefit... his tab at Witch's End completely paid off by the number of townsfolk suddenly willing and eager to buy him a drink! After years of being something of a sea-salt-encrusted punchline at Alcide's tavern, he abruptly has become something like a guest of honor. Alcide looks somewhat resigned to it all, but does not turn away the coin of those who come to ask the old salt for a tale of either his pirating days or more recent adventures. His cup is never left empty and he has a comfortable seat by the roaring fireplace.
And Emma Blackford...? The townsfolk greet her with no hesitation at all, the symbol of Iomedae hung around her neck the only token most need of her goodwill. The guards at the bunk house are getting to know her well, and perhaps there, in the ordered lifestyle of drill and practice, weapons maintenance and rising before the sun does, Emma feels something of the home she's left. The temple of Erastil welcomes her with goodwill anytime she chooses to go there, and Nolaria asks shy questions about the goddess of honor.
What can be tidied of the manor by your backs and hands alone, you do; though full repairs will require skilled laborers. But the glass can be swept up, the stains scrubbed. Life goes on, busy with cleaning, with gossip, with haggling, with practice and training to keep your skills sharp...
Nighttime, midnight, the darkest hour. A small banked fire in his room at the Witch's End to keep off the chill of the night. It flares to reddish light.
You have done well.... my faithful servant.
Now. A seed planted is given time to grow. Return to your superiors; they have other, immediate tasks for you. You will return to this town and these companions when the hour is right.
Take your reward for your service, my warrior: skill and power alike.
The sword, the sword, it always comes back to the sword. Muscles aching and there is the sword to be polished, the scabbard's straps to be checked that they need no oiling, the armor to be looked over, the blade to be sharpened....... there is always something to do, for a champion of Iomedae, even when evil is not at immediate hand.
The whetstone glides down the blade over and over under Emma's callused hands and she finds herself sliding into almost a meditative trance, seeing shapes and images reflected in the sword's gleaming metal. Fire. Battles. Past, present, or future? Hard to say. Iomedae's pennant flying ragged and singed, but triumphant... and her mother's face, eyes, smile.
You're doing so well. You're being tempered for all the battles yet to come. Emma: I am proud of you. Walk tall. Find your place here. My gifts travel with you.
It's strange, how much younger you feel today than you did, say, a month ago. It's good to get the open air in your face, and good to see coin, win it fair and square (or maybe not so fair), and be able to get your hands on it, have a clinking purse for a few days' time, and good to be able to spend it too-- to freely toss a coin to children on the street, to order what drink and meat you like, without fear that it'll run low. Work hard and play hard-- maybe someday, get that little boat you've dreamt about, sail down the Conerica and all the way back to the great blue Sea.... but little voyages first, aye?
But more and more comes back to you. You remember old maneuvers and twists of a boarding pike, and you think of how you might be able to use them now...
The manor is... quieter than you expected. Oh, there are spirits, to be sure, but after the priest conducts a ceremony to put their remains at rest, nearly all of them fade to nothing. To true and peaceful rest. Almost to be envied, perhaps.
But the past never entirely stops whispering to you. Secrets, magic, war and more. Yet on the subject of your parents.... they still tell you maddeningly little.
One night, you are roused by the flick of pebbles against the small window of your upstairs loft bedroom. Groggy, you crack it open to see Zuke grinning up at you.
"Come on then, Hanny-- what are you doing in bed at this hour! It's barely two in the morning. Slither out down here with your kit-- I don't have that many more tricks left to teach you, soon you'll be passing me up, but until then you're wasting a perfectly good night of sneaking around and seeing what locks we can crack! So let's get at it!"
"I'm an orphan of the Goblinblood Wars. Sirio and I grew up together, actually. I found out when I was older that my parents had fought in the war and died protecting Isger. I also found out--" one more deep breath, "--that they were Sarinis."
Mayor Sandra Trinelli blinks. And blinks again. "Oh," she says after a moment. "Oh dear."
Hannelia is quick to speak up, and point out all that Constantine has done and proven himself. The mayor listens in silence, staring into her wine glass, her brows lightly knit. When Hannelia finishes her impassioned defense, she looks up to Father Ruvarra, a gaze passing between them that speaks to a long partnership in the civic matters of the town.
"Hrmn. You aren't shocked by this, I see."
The Erastilian spreads his hands with a little shrug, which earns a snort from the mayor. She places both elbows on the table then presses fingertips to her forehead in thought for a few long moments.
When she lifts her head again it's with a set jaw. "Thank you for the confidence. I will admit I wish that this secret was... something else, but not because I mistrust you, Mr. Fioritura, but simply because... it is a complication. This town-- our history-- well. You know. You all know very well. I do not know how people will react to this. I would ask that you not pass this around to the populace tonight, at any rate. Let me do a bit of getting ahead of the storm, as it were."
Sirio seizes the moment to bring up the matter of the property, which earns another brooding silence from the mayor. "That... is an interesting suggestion, Mr. Regilianus. It might help matters. Or it might not. I can add it to the questions to keep me up tonight.
"But regardless, you have all earned your rest and then some. I will see you on the morrow.... 'Friends' of Saringallow.'
The next day, at the ceremony to recognize your deeds, the mayor says her bit about a boon-- and the Friends* demur, taking their cue from a tiny headshake no that Trinelli favors you with.
*at least for now
"You will all note these brave souls refuse any further reward, despite their service," Mayor Trinelli says to the gathered crowd. "And yet, I think they are owed more, though they may be too modest to claim it.
"The property of Marcius and Sadira Sarini has stood absent since their execution at the hands of Saringallow's citizens, a hundred years ago. We all know the rumors: dark spirits and cruel murders, unspeakable deeds. Even our own town guard, ready to raise steel against any other sort of invader, have given the manor a wide berth-- and justifiably so.
"That we no longer have to fear what may lurk within an hour's walk of our walls is only part of what our friends have done for us, but to me it speaks with the loudest voice. I propose that the manor and its grounds be bequeathed to our local heroes, as a residence if they so choose, or in whatever manner seems best to them to continue to aid Saringallow."
A wave of murmurs spring up from the crowd, but it doesn't seem displeased or unhappy-- mostly just the noises of merchants and guild leaders considering that renovation of the old manor will no doubt require goods and labor, and, well, you all just were given a good sum of gold by the mayor. Trinelli pauses a moment to allow the crowd to perform this math, then continues in a clear voice that quiets the murmurs.
"Besides-- even if it were not theirs by claim of eradicating its troubles-- our friends have another claim. Mr. Fioritura-- will you stand forward, please?"
Constantine might or might not hesitate, but the mayor doesn't. She says, simply, "This man has a claim by blood to the estate and its grounds."
The hall is silent only a moment before erupting again in noise-- this time less quiet, and certainly less happy. The mayor lets the noise build for only a half a dozen seconds before she lifts her hand and speaks sharply:
"Yes, you do take my meaning. But let us discuss this in an orderly fashion. I would hear from-- Steader Jarn Escoro."
Some of the muttering subsides as heads crane to look for who that might be-- and there is Pa Escoro, standing, clearing his throat, wringing his hat in his hands.
"Er-- good day, goodfolk. I am a simple man. I farm the earth and keep my animals. I don't know much about names and history. What I do know is-- those fellows and lasses on the stage there, they saved us. My farm. My wife. My children, my boy. They bled on the earth I work to keep it safe. They ran forward when goblins would have killed my boy. That is all I need to know."
"Thank you, Steader Escoro. I would hear from the Vazarros."
And Gellion's parents stand, still looking shaken from their experiences but better than you last saw them. "We would surely all be dead now if not for these people," Betrana whispers. "They slew the spiders that poisoned us. They rescued my boy from the... the madness that took him. The ladies there-- they came and cleaned our house, though no coin or reward waited. If those two vouch for him, then you'll hear no question from us."
The mayor gives a brief nod and quickly points to a big young man and a red-headed girl standing at the back of the hall. You realize that this was all at least somewhat planned by her-- the people you have helped are scattered through the crowd just dispersed enough that everywhere she points, one of your staunchest supporters is already there. This time it's Morvinnar and Nolaria.
"I bit off more than I could chew and they saved us. They cut us from terrible cocoons," Nolara announces, Morvinnar nodding earnestly ins support. "We'd be dead if not for them, including Mr. Constantine."
Mayor Trinelli coaxes a few more statements from people, but her ploy seems to be working: the grumbling is quieting down. If there is still resentment for Constantine's identity, then those who hold it are choosing to keep their peace in light of the changing mood in the room.
The mayor nods slowly. She looks around the room steadily, meeting eyes of guild leaders and rich merchants before she continues:
"Saringallow has lived the last century in two shadows, not one. The shadow of the manor has stretched long over our town, yes. But no less dark is the shadow of what our grandparents and great-grandparents did in the heat of revenge. Innocent people died then in the name of mob justice. Evil compounded upon evil.[/b]
"As we throw off the one shadow, let us also be rid of the other. We are known throughout Isger for our high walls, our fair merchants, and that we walk with our heads held high-- subjects, but not serfs, of Elidir. Saringallow is a town for those who would be free, in body and soul.[/b
[b]"So then, let us not be slaves to old fears. Let us extend the fairness of our trade practices to the judging of a man's soul as well, and judge him how each us of would wish to be judged: by our deeds."
There is no applause, but there is slow nodding around the room. Father Ruvarra, silent until now, takes the chance to stand and clasp Constantine's forearm roughly. "Erastil welcomes you to his temple, Constantine-- whatsoever your surname may be."
When the crowd disperses, the mayor sits down in a chair with a bit of a whuff, gesturing a servant over for wine.
"A fine speech, Mayor," says the priest.
"Ought to be, I was up half the night writing it. I apologize for putting you on the spot there, Mr. Fioritura-- or Sarini... --but it seemed best to get ahead of the rumors before they could fester. It's hardly true that truth is the best policy in politics-- but lies are dangerous, at any rate. I think that the gamble paid off.
"Don't be surprised if the same people who were just muttering darkly about your Sarini name five minutes ago are some of the first to come to you and offer lumber or manpower. The true faith of Saringallow is a gilt one," she finishes drily.
"I suggest you rest while you can, as well-- after this presentation of you, it won't be long before people up and down the Conerica know that your group may be able to solve their problems. You may soon have much to keep you busy."
Majara Pricknettle was one of the assembled crowd, though not called upon to speak by the mayor. Leaving the assembly, she heads home with her head down in deep thought, one hand resting inside a pocket of her clothing, where her restless fingers drum against a recently received missive....
Constantine is suffering wounds to his spirit-- you think that with rest he might throw it off, or that curative divine magics that target the soul could be of help. Sure, you know he's level drained and that restoration can help!
Constantine doesn't speak, but through gesture, he indicates his feelings on the matter-- on the house, and all the rest of it. He is helped to his feet by the others, Emma providing a strong shoulder to lean upon.
Roger proposes the universal cure-all for a pre-therapy society, and with fresh bruises, scrapes, and something resembling sunburn, you start the long, limping process back down the hill towards town...
You see no sign of Anilda, or her 'child', as you leave.... perhaps she made it out, but if she did, she isn't currently showing her face.
Town is only like an hour away, maybe less downhill, no trouble at all getting there.
As you make your way down the last switchbacks, you hear voices ahead-- and you round the curve to see a small knot of the town guard coming warily uphill behind a grizzled guard captain and Father Ruvarra. They let up a bit of a cry on seeing you-- half relief, half a ragged cheer-- and the priest hurries forward to meet you.
He explains that all the town could see flashing fire rising from above the manor, and that he and Mayor Trinelli agreed that he should lead some guardsmen to try and determine what was going on.
"I admit, I was a bit afraid we might reach the top of the hill and find your corpses! I'm relieved to see you all alive, my young friends. But heavens-- Mr. Fioritura looks badly off! Here, let's help you the rest of the way-- whatever happened, up there? Actually, perhaps you had better wait til we reach the mayor, so you don't have to tell the story twice..."
When you enter town, it is to many a curious stare. The spectre of fire that rose above the old manor is the gossip of town, and you see people clutching old or makeshift weapons-- everyone worried that some great menace might be coming down the hill. The townsfolk are relieved to see you instead, and Father Ruvarra's assurances that all is well and that 'our brave heroes' have returned alive.
Heroes. That's apparently what you are, now, if only to the townsfolk of Saringallow.
The mayor intercepts you before you reach the town hall, grim tension easing from her brow as she catches sight of your group in the streets, a gaggle of clerks behind her.
"It looks as though you've quite the tale to tell, my friends! Let's see that you can do it in comfort."
A half hour later you are ensconced in a private room of the Witch's End, dark ale and golden-colored mead, tea and wine, brought to your table by the eager Morvinarr and the proprietress herself. The mayor and the priest listen to the complicated story of what was found in the house with increasing concern and shared glances. When it's finally done, Sandra Trinelli shakes her head and takes a long draught of the Kyonin wine she's drinking.
"To think, Sapiro was at the root of so much of this! However can ordinary folk ever make a go of it in this world, I wonder, when the death of an evil man doesn't necessarily put a stop to his sins-- when he can come back as a monster to steal our children, murder our merchants, and plot our destruction... And a hundred years wasn't enough to rid us of the lingering foulness of the old Sarinis... how can regular people ever survive, in a world with so much evil?"
"Through the kind protection of the gods, Mayor," Father Ruvarra answers. "Through the bonds of community and helping one's fellow man or woman... as these brave souls have done for us today. And while there have been losses-- poor Bravoni not least among them-- may I say that perhaps, in the long run, the evil has been lessened by bringing a light to shine on that house, and its legacy? Nothing can truly be cleansed until it is known, after all. A wound is disinfected before it heals."
"I suppose you're right," the mayor says with a sigh. She rummages up a smile for your group. "Yet again, I must tender my thanks to you. I will try to make that thanks material in nature, to the best of the town's abilities to repay. Please-- if you mean to move on, do not leave until I've gotten a chance to present Saringallow's appreciation to you. For tonight, our supper, at least, is on me."
Leaving it up to you if you guys a) tell the mayor/anyone else about Constantine's heritage (though Constantine thinks that Father Ruvarra has guessed), or indicate your claim to have the house/property? You get the vibe that could potentially be done even without telling Connie's secret, if you evinced an interest in the property to the mayor.
Also, Connie, make me some Will saves, so we can see how long it takes you to throw off your negative level.
Father Ruvarra takes the human remains you recovered from the old estate and promises that they will be properly interred as soon as possible, in order that these poor souls may finally know rest. The mayor and her clerks are interested in all the records you managed to recover.
True to her word, the next day, clerks find you and ask for your presence at the town hall. This time, instead of being ushered into her office, you find yourselves directed to the general hall, where you see dozens of citizens gathered that you don't know-- finely dressed merchants and commoners alike-- as well as people more personally familiar to you-- Gellion's parents, for instance, and each of the apprentices you'd rescued, and the Escoro family, wearing what must pass as their best finery.
"Saringallow would like to formally recognize you all for your great services in the region," Mayor Trinelli says, her voice ringing clearly through the hall. "You have rescued our youths-- discovered a festering threat in our town that might have claimed lives-- defended the farms and lands of our humblest citizens -- sabotaged a planned goblin attack before it ever came to our gates -- and last, but certainly not least -- investigated the old Sarini estate, that has lurked above our town as a vulture lurks above a dying animal for a century's worth of time. It has long been a site of whispered fears and dark unknowns, a symbol of our unhappy past. By boldly challenging those fears and revealing its mysteries, you have helped us to finally close a dark chapter in our history. We thank you all.
"I would like to present to your group these tokens of recognition for your deeds." Clerks present each of you with a small brooch of gold, which could be used as a cloak-clasp or pinned to a garment as you like. It depicts a stylized model of a rampart above a river that features a leaping fish, with a tiny emerald serving as the eye of the fish.
Saringallow Token: All Saringallow citizens usually start out one step friendlier to you if the token is displayed (exceptions exist at GM necessity for villains or whatever), and all purchases in town are at a 5% discount if not already discounted higher.
"Furthermore, Saringallow would like to present you with a gift of coin for your services...." The pouch that the mayor hands over clinks very satisfyingly indeed.
...and the merchants' consortium wishes to also thank you for discovering the fate of the unfortunate Marcuccio Bravoni, who will be much missed in our town. Our clerks are still ascertaining the state of his business concerns-- the warehouse where you defeated the bile threat contained many trade goods. Signor Bravoni had no kin known to us, and-- once any outstanding debts his business had are settled, of course-- the merchant consortium has agreed that it is fitting that your group is entitled to any profit that might ensue from the settling of his affairs.
"Finally, the records you have brought forth from the Sarini manor have put to rest questions of disappearances from generations ago. Some of their descendants wish to thank you for providing closure on the fates of their grandparents or great-grandparents, and have gathered together some measure of coin to recognize your efforts."
"If there is any service or boon that Saringallow can provide for you all, please, speak, and if it is in my power to give it while doing no injustice to our other citizens, I will try to fulfill it, as thanks for the heroism displayed by you...."
Mayor Trinelli pauses, then smiles crookedly. "--I suppose I should have asked-- does your band have a name?"
Constantine is wracked with the misery of every soul that has passed in this accursed house.... every servant that cowered in fear hiding in a closet or under a bed while mistress and master sought them out for dark fates. Every life bled out in the cellar below. Every nervous father or mother that came calling, hat in their hand, awkward in the face of the Sarini wealth and power, to haltingly mutter how they hadn't heard from their daughter in weeks, now, and just came to check...
And Marcius Sarini: his bone-deep, raw grief over his child. Long nights in a house made emptier and colder by the boy's absence, the only consolation the murmurs of a wife that said there might be a way to bring the child back, you know.... wouldn't you give anything, Marcius? Anything?
Even Sadira's own griefs are felt in an instant by Constantine-- flashes and images of a woman hunched in bed, arm wrapped around her belly, all her wealth and power no safeguard against the wracking pains of a new life gone wrong. As cruel as her actions showed her to be, she, too, suffered at one point.
He clutches at his head and doubles over, weak and near-insensate from the clamor of all the dead. (Constantine, you have been energy drained! 1 negative level (temporary.)
The house might claim him too, greedy for every drop of Sarini blood it can take in vengeance-- if not for Hannelia, and Emma. Each woman takes one of his arms, and they move, following Sirio's assured directives to leave...
Sirio hurls the front door forward, letting blessedly cool air in. Roger sees the other four emerge, Emma and Hannelia half-carrying Constantine... and he also sees unholy flames flickering through every window left in the building.
The five adventurers have only just reunited in the overgrown grass of the property when every last window of the Sarini manor explodes outward with the noise of a dozen souls screaming in agony and fury. Sprawled on your backs from the blast, you stare up to see a fireball rising into the sky, still roiling as if it contained two conflicting forces.
"Then to the Hells with us both."
The fireball arcs higher-- then plummets, screaming down towards the earth. You unconsciously brace for impact...
...but the fire slams into the earth and passes into it, gone, gone, as if never there at all.
And all is silent, save for the faint noises of little pieces of smoking and molten glass hitting the ground and sizzling to silence.
Roger takes the most direct route out of the room: he plunges headlong through the smoldering curtains and through the glass of the windows. He is scratched and scraped by the glass but he lands on the ground outside, free, in blessedly cooler air!
Hannelia makes her way to the door, only to realize this one isn't open. The surprise of it throws her a moment- her hands fumble with the picks as she tries to ascertain if this is a lock, damage, or a combination of the two...
Constantine's at her side a moment later, putting his shoulder into the door to push against the hinges as he tries to yank the jam free as well! It gives with a sudden snapping of wood and metal, and Constantine tumbles back into the foyer, the place of his and everyone else's realization of earlier. Emma, Sirio, and Hannelia are able to quickly follow after, as the locked-together Sarini ghosts ravage the dining room!
Outside, Roger gets to his feet, patting himself to make sure he's not on fire and that all important bits are attached, like his parrot. Looking back towards the house to see the state of things, he sees that the entire house seems to be shuddering with strange energies, and a low keening moan is building from.... somewhere.
The iron gate by which you entered the property is swinging wildly in sudden wind that surely wasn't there when you entered the building earlier, the rusted hinges making a shrill scream. Roger has just gotten his bearings and seen that the others made it out of the dining room when the earth at his feet erupts!
Skeletal hands with faint remnants of dessicated flesh burst from the earth to try and grasp the old salt by the ankles!
Roger, you can use your CMB to resist being grabbed by the victims of the Sarinis, or you can use an attack roll to bash their hands away. Or Religion to keep them at bay, but I'm kinda guessing you're gonna go with one of the first two options. ;)
Meanwhile, inside the house... The others cannot see Roger's current woes, but they have their own trouble to manage. The Sarini portrait that had caused a revelation of earlier, that Hannelia had proposed taking with you on your exit, is not lying as you left it-- it floats in mid-air, the three figures staring at all of you seeming almost alive, malevolence radiating outward in a sheer psychic assault. The front door is so close! But overwhelming surges of emotion and claw at you-- fear, guilt, hatred, self-loathing, grief...
For Emma, Sirio, Hannelia, and Constantine: you can power through the hostile energy here using either a Will save or Spellcraft or Religion. Constantine, -1 to this check. Almost there!
Glass damage:2d6 ⇒ (3, 2) = 5You all made the save, so you only take 2 damage
Quickly, our heroes take shelter using the table, chair, shields, or even just their natural grace and speed to dodge the rain of shattered crystal-- acquiring only superficial cuts due to the speed of their reactions and the might of their arms!
But the shelter is only temporary-- the heat radiating off of the Sarini ghosts is becoming intolerable. The tattered shreds of the curtains that hang on the windows are bursting into flame! You need to get out of this chamber, and fast...!
Time to make a break for the exits, of which there are three: the windows, the door back to the dining area, or the door out to the foyer.
Windows: Breaking the shattered glass and jumping through the smoldering curtains is dangerous-- but the quickest way out of the house, surely. But it will require skill to do so without becoming too injured. Escape Artist or Survival to make egress through the windows flames. Roger, you're all wet, and you get a +2 to this check if you want to try the windows.
Door to foyer: You came in through the other door, and realize this one is jammed shut due to damage, perhaps from the mob! To get the door open you'll need to either break it down or find a way to clear the jam... Disable Device or a Str check. If one person succeeds on this the door is open for everyone.
Door back to kitchen area: When in doubt, retrace your steps, right? But the chimera overhead has begin to blaze, clumps of flaming fur and stuffing dropping like a hostile rain from above. Twist your way past the flames with either Acrobatics or Reflex or Perception to judge the right moment to run.
Everyone can choose an option individually, you don't have to do the same one.
The air throbs with heat shimmer and tension alike as Constantine begins to speak in an even, measured tone. The ashen shade of Marcius is deathly still as Constantine speaks of Luca, Sargava, the crypt; the shade of Sadira shifts as if every tiny particle of ash was being lightly stirred by a restless wind.
After his final words there is a dead and utter silence in the chamber.
It's broken by Sadira's rasping voice. "What madnessss! Liess by another bassstard, who--"
"Silence," Marcius intones in sepulchral tones. His eyes burn all the brighter as he stares at Constantine, at Roger, at Sirio, at Emma, at Hannelia.
"Mortallss. Living ssoulss. Some of you... burn bright. Othersss... I ssee Hell's claim upon you. Otherss call the town that killed uss... home. And you. Ssarini. What... proof... have you of thiss... this..."
"They have no proof! Our enemiess lie, husband--!" Sadira's wisp cries, her voice rising. Ashes start to drift off her outline, leaving the fire of her burning brighter. But Marcius seems to take her shed ashes to himself, solidifying into a shape even more man-like but dark as a thundercloud. He turns from you to her.
"Wife. I hear fear in your voice."
Another heartbeat of strained silence ticks by, the heat of the room oppressive as a furnace, the two figures from this place's bloodied past locked gaze to gaze.
It breaks without a noise. Marcius lunges, and the ash-darkness of him hits Sadira's red-tinged fire, becoming a whirling maelstrom that crackles like an inferno.
The figures on the far side of the table can no longer be distinguished as individuals. They roil and roll, and a wordless, agonized scream of fury and rage tears forth as fire starts to erupt from them. There is no possibility of aiding either side-- you understand that all that you might do now is hope to flee before the wrath of Marcius Sarini destroys you as well.
Overhead, the chandelier shatters into a thousand fragments of glass, raining down upon you all.
We are in rounds, though this is more like a modified chase than anything else. Don't worry too much about the map, this is more theater of the mind. In this room, your obstacle is the chandelier's explosion of glass. You may use Reflex or Acrobatics to dodge the shards, or a Str check to use things like the table to shield you from the glass. If you have another bright idea for how to protect yourself from a glass explosion, using a skill check or the like, feel free to pitch it to me.
Constantine is normally one highly keyed to the spirits, but he is distracted by his many personal musings and the sheer startled amusement of realizing the chimera is a fake. Emma, however, finds her senses on high alert, and the tingle along her spine hints to her that some form of undead may be manifesting...
The cold ashes whip out from the fireplace and hang a moment in mid-air, forming barely-there outlines of figures, seated at the dining table. They are mere sketched outlines of shifting dust and long-dead cinders. For a moment there is silence, and then the figure that might be slightly larger moves as if getting to its feet. The 'head' is looking your way, and then two cinders burst into life where eyes might be, staring at you all.
"What.... isss... the nature... of thiss... intrusion? This... desecration of... my home....? You dare...?"
The eyes burn as two spectral points of flame, raking over you all, then focus on Constantine in particular. An ash-formed arm raises and points accusingly towards him.
"You... thief. You took ... from his grave... my words to him...."
The second figure also 'rises', a swirl of ash suggesting a long flowing dress. "They mock your grief, hussbannd... these desscendaants... of the pitiful rabble... who.... killed uss.... let us drag them down... to the pitsss..."
The taller figure does not yet move, however, though its eyes burn with fury. "Anssswer why you should not be immolated, tresspassseers!"
Stifling heat radiates off the ashen forms before you-- Emma thinks they at least superficially match creatures called cinderghosts, who are strong undead. If these truly are the spirits that their dialogue seems to indicate, they might be powerful shades indeed-- if their devilish masters saw fit to make them such. They don't seem to be wholly solid, and Emma knows that incorporeal undead like ghosts are notoriously hard to defeat with without enchanted weaponry.
We are not in combat at this point in time. Obviously, if you initiate a hostile act, that can change. ;) But if you do want to try to speak to either of these spirits, you have that chance. Actions?
Hannelia's arrow finishes the combat decisively. You take a moment to look at the barrels and crates-- there are some mundane supplies of things like nails and lumber that are in good enough condition, if not particularly valuable-- but nothing that immediately jumps out. At least there are no pickled smurfs.
Returning to the pianovator rather than risk the water, a tired and thoughtful group head back upstairs... the eastern door from the ballroom leads to a short hallway and a room that probably served for informal dining, like breakfast meals. Some tarnished silverware and dusty china can fetch a bit of coin, no doubt. Doors from here lead into a small pantry, and a much larger kitchen. You salvage things like an ornate salt cellar and a few bottles of wine, as well as entire barrel of salt for curing meat. You also find a trapdoor in the kitchen that you suspect leads downstairs to the basement you just vacated; a short investigate reveals that is the case.
To the south, you regroup in the last room that you have yet to explore: the grand dining room, for guests or formal occasions. This is another room the mob managed to reach-- the once-grand table has been hacked, chipped, and shows signs someone tried to light it on fire once but didn't have much luck with the dense oak. Broken glass and dishes litter the floor along with busted chairs. The only thing of significant interest that remains intact is a magnificent hunting trophy hanging above the fireplace, high enough that it escaped easy access and thus destruction. The head of a dragon, goat, and a lion all join their necks together at the base, making a creature that several of you can recognize as a legendary chimera. (Trained in Arcana)
Nature, Craft, or Arcana DC 18:
...interesting, though. The head of the goat and the lion both look very mundane to you, and the dragon's head, while certainly seeming fearsome, has something a little.... off... squinting up, you think you can detect stitches that hold the 'chimera' together. Ho ho, a fake.
As Roger, or similarly profit-inclined souls, are examining the beautiful-cut-crystal chandelier that hangs above the table, and was similarly high enough to escape the mob's wrath....
...a tickle of cold starts to dance along the base of your necks, and you see wisps of ash stirring in the very-long-dormant fireplace...
You have a round of actions to take as Something appears to be happening. You can make Kn Religion checks if you want
Drummady's boots seem to be keeping the water from soaking Constantine's toes, anyway!
Just to complicate my life and yours: Gonna say that on the stairs you're only boot shin deep in the water, and therefore still 'out of the water' for the sake of determining the beastie's cover benefit. I'd also say that your boots kept the liquid from your skin enough that the Fort save wasn't needed there. In that case, your 10 on the Fort save could have served as your attack roll, and with higher ground and Freebooter's Bane, that will juuuuust hit. ;)
Constantine's blade is blunted in its effect-- but it does connect, as does Hannelia's cold iron arrow. Roger is having a great time splashing, though not hitting, yet.
14 total damage to beastie, mostly noting it for my own ease of recall, and Sirio still up
Emma.... ick, the water itself looks evil. Is that possible? Well-- yes, of course it is, unholy water would probably detect as such, Emma thinks after a moment. This would be an immense quantity of such if it were. But perhaps it's just tainted with the bile, which surely is evil if anything is...
Poking with Roger's glaive determines the opaque water is no more than 3 feet deep, at least next to the stairs. If the floor remains level, then you could wade rather than swim back to the stairs over there.
oh let's leave it to random chance:1d2 ⇒ 2 ?:1d20 + 9 ⇒ (7) + 9 = 16
As Roger pokes a few times into the water to make sure the depth is uniform-- there's a sudden thrashing in the stagnant flood, and something strikes into his glaive, tugging it briefly-- but it releases it almost instantly...
Roger Reflex save:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15
...and Roger doesn't lose his grasp on the glaive, so that's good. You see ripples where something-- something decently large-- must be moving, in the water!
Round 1 -
Kn Nature DC 12:
Though it's difficult to get a good view through the water, when it struck at Roger's glaive you briefly saw a glistening, eel-like hide and a maw with a lot of tiny teeth-- this is probably a giant leech. It has the distinctive hue that indicates demonsbile to you now. Giant leeches like to suck blood from things, but will recoil from the presence of salt. (Perhaps this one also didn't like the taste of the cold iron of Roger's glaive.)
Emma and Connie can't make the Per check even on a 20, but I will roll one for Roger to keep things moving:
Roger, what do your pirate eyes see:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (3) + 6 = 9Yeah no
Trap time:2d4 ⇒ (1, 2) = 3
It takes Hannelia less than twenty seconds to sever wires and disable the false floor's collapse mechanism-- with that settled, she can remove one of the panels and observe a nasty serrated-edge beartrap device beneath the painted papier-maiche of the fake flagstone. She feels a sense of professional satisfaction that her skills have yet again saved the ankles and toes of her colleagues.
Judging by the map you found in the study, the stairs on the far side of the room likely lead up to the kitchen-- sensible enough, with the cellar holding food stores, and wine, and so forth. Though all those things must surely be ruined by now, unless some of the barrels on the walkway with you, that have stayed out of the foul, stinking water, might still hold drinkable vintages.
Poking around in the cellar to any further degree/crossing to the far stairs, or pianovatoring up?
After some discussion, you all decide that as tired as you are, better to be thorough searching the house and be sure there's no more patches of bile or other demonic servants here that could endanger the town.
Hannelia opens the door cautiously, wary for the trap that is supposed to exist nearby. The room beyond is large and dark, with moist air wafting onto your faces that smells of a mix of mildew and a sharp vinegar tang. The daylight from above, as well as any lights you have lit, reflect off standing liquid-- the cellar has a raised walkway on your side that is dry yet, but the bulk of the room is partially flooded, with old barrels floating in the dark, stagnant liquid. The room is dark beyond your own light or what spills in from the pianovator shaft. To the far northwest, you see a set of stairs that must connect the first floor more conventionally to this chamber.
More closely at hand, Hannelia can make out segmentations in the stonework that her practiced eyes recognize as false flagstones; she is confident she knows the trap's location and can work to disable it if she chooses.
?:1d20 + 9 ⇒ (17) + 9 = 26
Perception DC 26 (no taking 10 or 20 here):
The liquid is not entirely still... something is moving in the water, sending barely detectable ripples...
I'm going to assume you all let Hannelia attempt to disable the trap; if anyone else is doing anything other than that, let me know
The bile is thicker here than anywhere else you have been, even in the goblin fort. It is unlovely and foul work, but after catching your breath you each take a corner and set to work, with no shortage now of cold iron. As you work, you come across body after body-- mostly the child-sized forms with overlarge heads of the smorfs, twisted into postures of agony and struggle. Apparently they were not strong enough to survive the bile's effects on body and soul. There are also insects-- many, many insects-- and the floor crunches under your foot with a mixture of insect carapaces and the snot-like ooze. But the more you work, the more the ooze withers, dries, and cracks into a mere brittle film that cannot entangle or impede anyone.
It's the better part of an hour before you are sure the bile here is no longer capable of growing and threatening anyone. The room's diabolist past is all the more evident with the demonic cleansed: shackles set into pillars and floor-- symbols of binding, summons, and sacrifice.
The room beyond, the one Wormgnash emerged from, is not exactly pristine, but compared to the larger chamber it is almost a relief. The room seems to be a combination of a shrine to Asmodeus, a boudoir, and a storage space-- a bed in one corner is appointed in the same luxury as upstairs, and a cabinet holds decanters, some well-sealed with liquids yet sloshing inside.
Heal or Nature DC 12:
Some of the stoppered bottles are wines, and probably fancy ones. Others are... probably blood. Yum?
Other cabinets hold ritual knives and kneedles, candles and incense. A burlap sack at the bottom of another cabinet clatters when moved-- a glance inside reveals the forlorn sight of human remains-- teeth and small bones. Seeing these properly buried might help to purge the misery of this place.
There are papers as well-- both old and brittle ones, covered with angular, precise Infernal script; and newer ones, the writing a demented scrawl in the chickenscratch of the Abyss.
Infernal or comprehend languages:
These documents clearly date from Marcius and Sadira's day; there is a precise tracking of souls and offerings they have made to various devils, sometimes even names of what you assume must have been victims.
Abyssal or comprehend languages:
Much newer, these must have been penned by Wormgnash. It's a little difficult to follow even if you speak the language-- the words are a rambling litany, but you can pick out the gist after some time spent with the papers. Wormgnash makes references to 'my old pale life, digging dirt for the fools' and 'a pathetic existence, nothing more than preparing food for the worms and taking what was my due where I could.' His hatred for Saringallow and desire to see it destroyed is plain on the page-- he speaks of wanting to light its streets on fire, then drive the fleeing citizens into the river to drown them all like rats-- except for those who would be saved for 'tastier fates' -- that stuck-up b#%*! who calls herself mayor-- the old idiot hypocrite sneering from the temple, thinking he's better than me-- the merchants who think they're so rich and worldly when they're as much thieves as I ever was--...
Disjointed further ramblings suggest some sort of transformation, and great misery, before Wormgnash talks of a triumphant 'return' and of 'ripping a hole in the world big enough for my brethren to come squirming through, with the bones of Saringallow the edge that shall tear wide the door.'
Those of you with a rudimentary understanding of what happens to damned souls (Trained in Kn Religion or Planes) know that many damned mortal souls actually become demons. Some become nothing more than the near-mindless dretches, but the sheer malice and evil of others sometimes results in a more powerful demonic transformation, with the sense of self intact.
When you have gathered all that seems useful or meaningful here, you pick your way back across the foul central chamber to the incongruity of the handsome piano sitting there. With a bit of hunting, Hannelia is able to find the lever that will cause the piano to rise again; she can also see, from this side of the wall, the outline of a door that probably connects to a further basement section.
If you want to heal, mark resources accordingly. Lemme know if you guys are using the pianovator to go back to floor one, or exploring the rest of the basement. Can be hashed out in Discord.
A hundred hours drilling in the practice yard-- sweat, blood, tears-- her mother's endless admonishments-- getting knocked down-- get up again. Get up again. Get up again.... keep trying...
Her sword is an extension of her arm, her arm an extension of her will, and her will is pure.
This time, when the blade connects with the worm form, it flares with white-hot fire and the worm shrieks... and two pieces of worm fall to the ground, twitching and spasming, spreading purple ichor in the magical grease of Hannelia's creation.
A few seconds later, the demonling behind it pops from existence like a soap bubble!
Constantine channels power into a blow that nearly severs the wormish monstrosity in twain! And yet it still is clinging to existence, even as Constantine's blade is now liberally coated with foul bile....!
Wormgnash ducks his head in irritation, easily dodging the arrow, then his smile returns, albeit somewhat strained, at Sirio's chanted prayer-spell.
"The lORd oF lAWWw coMPELlsss youUuu," he mocks, his smile indicating he doesn't seem to feel that's much of a threat. "He is dangerous. But you? You're just a man."
Despite his taunt words, Wormstache is clearly hurt, hunching bodily over the wounds that Emma and Roger inflicted. He takes a ragged breath, then straighten to his full, imposing height.
"Enough of thisss charraade--"
The skin of the mustached man seems to swell... his cheeks puffing up and his chest, as if he were taking a deep breath... then splits start to appear...
With a speed that leaves you momentarily able to do nothing but stare at the horrifying scene before you, something distinctly not like a man at all starts to wrench free of the formerly-human flesh. It oozes and glistens with purple-blackness, a twisting mass that brings to mind maggots on a corpse, a skinned snake, raw meat. Accompanied by a dreadful sort of sucking noise, the human skin of the once-man seems to collapse even as it falls part, vital humors absorbed by the thing inside, until it finally writhes free of any resemblance to a person, the skin shreds falling to the side like tattered rags...
Shlorp shlorp shlorp:2d6 + 3 ⇒ (3, 2) + 3 = 8
The worm-thing's injuries close, somewhat.
"ȶɦǟȶ'ֆ ɮɛȶȶɛʀ..." hisses the worm. Worm food, Talon had gasped at you in the goblin fortress. And Gellion in his madness had said, The worms go out— the worms go in— the worms make all the world their skin...
It lunges towards its nearest opponent-- Constantine...
...attempting to fake him out with a false approach before twisting around at the last instant to bite low rather than high. But Constantine is not fooled, and easily dodges!
Kn Arcana DC 13:
This is a vermlek, also known as a worm demon. Like most demons, it will resist or be outright immune to most elements, and like most demons, cold iron or good-aligned weapons are best. Oh, yeah, they like to burrow into humans and wear their bodies like clothes.
Emma's words ring with conviction as she steps forward and tries to drive her point home with steel as well as words.... but her blade's angle is just enough to catch the tip of the metal in the doorframe, and she loses a precious second wrenching it back free again.
Wormgnash laughs, a bit of spittle flecking Emma's face.
"What a speech! Yes! Very good! I'm sure they applaud in the town square when you hold forth about honor and so forth! Yes, I'm sure they like you in town. You'll do. When I come back being you, why, they'll love me, won't they? Now then-- hold still for this-- I can't go putting too many scars on your face--"
He lunges forth, first with his blade; Emma turns the rapier aside with her own sword deftly. For a moment their blades lock with his strength against hers-- and then he snaps forward and tries to bite Emma's face. But fortunately, she reels back catching nothing worth than the putrid smell of his exhalation, which stinks of rot.
Sirio banishes a demon the old-fashioned way: cold iron and muscle. Hannelia quickly tends to Constantine's ragged breathing and pains... and Roger draws first blood on the leader of your enemies! He's shown his teammates the way-- can his guidance give Emma a solid hit against this accursed foe?!
"Ohhh where'd you go, darlings! Running out of my view so soon? Tsk!" booms the man, no longer able to see Sirio or Roger through the open doorway. He shakes his head a bit, eyeing Emma, then starts to try and pick his way forward through the grease...
Acrobatics DC 10:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14
He appears to be more adroit than his servitors. He makes his way forward through the grease, drawing the rapier at his side until he stands in the doorway behind the little demon. "There, now I can see you all again..."
A third time his eyes glitter with inhuman malevolance.
The dretches do not seem terribly smart-- but maybe possessed of a basic, if simple, cunning. The one still standing on the grease seems to hesitate, as if recalling dimly that it fell last time, and it groans wordlessly while pointing at Emma.
Emma's will is strong:1d20 + 7 + 1 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 7 + 1 + 1 = 12
For a brief moment, Emma envisions failure-- her friends dead, her helpless to save them, all her mother's lessons letting her achieve nothing more than death in the end-- but she casts off the mental vision with a shudder.
(You are shaken for one round, Emma; -2 on anything you roll for one round, basically. Hey, next level you become immune to fear!)
The other dretch tries to claw at both Emma and Sirio.
(I'm slightly unsure on if you have to take into account the double on the confirmation roll as well; the rules for confirming says 'all the same modifiers as the attack roll you just made', which to me could be argued that the miss chance is also a modifier. When in doubt I prefer to err on the side that favors the players. However, moot point here, since regardless, it hit and crit on Sirio. Sorry, Sirio. :(
Crit damage Sirio:2d4 + 2 ⇒ (2, 3) + 2 = 7
Despite her charge, Emma's guard holds... but for all Sirio's attempts to channel Hell's trickery to protect him, a claw finds its way past his guard and rakes along his belly-- deeply. Red blood pours forth to stain red robes...
Emma up for her round 3 action, Roger, Sirio, Hannelia up for round 4!
Hannelia's arrow is a dead shot and catches the foremost dretch in its misshapen chest-- it staggers half a step, its physical essence seeming on the verge of collapse but not... quite...
The grinning man on the other side of the dretches positions a little to better see you all, shaking his head. "Oh don't you know, darlings! However many you kill, the Abyss always has more-- that's what mortals are for, haha!"
Again his eyes flicker with unnatural malevolence-- and this time, it's Emma, Sirio, and Roger who feel targeted.
Will Emma:1d20 + 7 + 1 ⇒ (17) + 7 + 1 = 25 Will Roger:1d20 + 4 ⇒ (18) + 4 = 22 Will Sirio:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (20) + 6 = 26Yall lucky this was saves for you guys and not attacks! Damage:1d8 + 3 ⇒ (4) + 3 = 7
Roger and Sirio are perhaps braced, this time, for the malevolent energy-- as for Emma, her immediate sense of clarity and purpose seem to bolster her as well. only 3 Damage to Sirio, Emma, Roger
Round 3 Roger
Regariel digs deep! Sparrow's right, they're bound with unfinished business, and cannot be permanently destroyed until that is set right-- but even dispelling them temporarily can be difficult. Aside from Sparrow's observation that non-enchanted weapons deal less damage to them, Regariel knows they similarly resist fire, ice, and all the typical elemental compounds. Even more worryingly, they cannot be targeted with those attacks that aim for special nerves or weak spots (immune to precision damage, like Reg's strategic strike).
The one silver lining Reg can think to point out is that ghosts are almost always bound to a specific location and cannot pursue those souls who are wise enough to flee....
The ghost howls at Reg's approach-- and the howl cuts deep into your ears, your skin, down into your hearts.
Dammit, I missed my edit window-- Constantine would get some information from his roll, I forgot to put it in:
Constantine is able to quickly relay to the others that dretches have a host of minor abilities, like causing fear and creating noxious clouds... and numerous defenses, like all true demons. Immune or resistant to nearly all the elements, and their hides repel mundane blades-- only those forged of cold iron, or aligned with the forces of good, have their full effect.
Damage (neg energy):1d8 + 3 ⇒ (8) + 3 = 11....ouch. Sorry gang. Constantine and Roger take 11, Sirio takes half (5). Roger, if you want to use your reroll, feel free to roll that.
Pain lances through each of them, as some part of their life force itself seems to be under attack!
The little dretches struggle to their feet, heedless of the danger of Roger's glaive.... he makes the point quite eloquently, finishing the job he started with the yellow-hued one. Rather than leaving a corpse, the thing pops like a burst bubble, leaving a brief whiff of the smell of rotten eggs. (Roger's prerolled AOO kills yellow)
The two dretches stagger out through the grease towards you, or try to.
Blue Acrobatics dc 10:1d20 ⇒ 13 Red Acrobatics dc 10:1d20 ⇒ 9
The blue-tinged demon wobbles out to engage Roger, moaning incoherently and with dim hatred, but since it had to stand up as well it isn't able to attack him. The more red-colored one seems to be having trouble keeping its footing in the goop...
Reflex save for red:1d20 ⇒ 8
...and promptly falls on its face as well. Laboriously, it gets up again, clawing the doorframe for support in this.
Grease MVP spell right there, stopped any attacks on you guys from the dretches. Emma is up for her round 1 action, and Roger, Sirio, and Hannelia for their Round 2 actions!
A mighty blow from Roger skewers the yellow-hued demon-thing, though doesn't kill it outright... the cold iron of his glaive's head sizzles into the warped flesh, making the creature squeal in pain. It's badly hurt, though still alive.
Your mustachio'd dance partner chuckles disconcertingly. "Ha, ha, yes! A good hit! A strong body, I see. You'll do, you'll do...." He backs out of the grease-- but otherwise just stands there, as if eager to see what you'll do next.
Acrobatics dc 10:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (12) + 6 = 18success out of the grease
The clumsy little demon things seem ungainly and awkward, and their misshapen limbs scrabble in the grease before they slide down. One of them manages to stay upright, as does Mustachio. He laughs heartily at the grease's appearance, slapping his hands on his belly in a forced satire of mirth.
Sirio seems none-the-worse for his bile bath, except for the state of his robes. He regathers his buckler, and another debate seems like it might be in the making-- but the door to the southwest abruptly flies open, revealing a tall, husky man with dark hair and an impressive mustache. Didn't Mayor Trinelli say something about the missing merchant having a mustache? Hmn. Clothing that might once have marked him as prosperous is now disheveled and bears countless stains and soiling, and the expression on his face is a fixed, unholy glee. Three smaller shapes grunt and shuffle around him at waist-height.
"Well! Well! Look at you! What fine upstanding souls! Come all this way to make the past give up its sins, ha! Look at you, dear me-- now, try not to make this too difficult, I don't want to damage you too much, I'd prefer you all intact--!"
Kn Planes on the Minions, DC 12:
Those look to be dretch demons-- some of the Abyss's lowest servitors, but of course, anything from the Pit should still be taken as a threat. These particular dretches look to be oozing more of the bile. 17+ will get you more info on dretches
Perception DC 26 (you can do this for free rather than as a move action):
Though the person before you looks to be human at first, there is something-- off. His skin... moves, in uncomfortable ways, as if something other than muscles twisted beneath the surface... (If someone makes this DC you can also make another Kn Arcana check)
Hannelia lands dramatically atop the piano and immediately looses an arrow from her crouch, dispatching one of the warped mites! Roger uses his glaive to decisively repel a boarder that never gets the chance to board, or anything else!
Constantine and Sirio, opposed as they are in so many things, manage to find a certain common ground, and that common ground is: burn it with fire. First Constantine then Sirio launch bottles of fire at the patch of writhing insects, and who is to say whether it's Heaven or Hell that guide their hurled vials? Either way, they are accurate-- and a good thing it is, too. The fire is juuust sufficient to immolate the bulk of the twitching host, and what manages to survive scurries into dark corners.
The two surviving mites tear themselves free of the goop with high-pitched screams that seem to be a mixture of pain and fury both.
Rather than drawing forth weapons like the smarfs you've fought so far, these two stagger nearer, convulse, and then retch purple-tinged bile over you from twenty feet away!
Instinct and self-preservation guide Hannelia to leap clear-- but everyone else seems content to see where this ride is going... Hannelia safely leaps up to a stable section of the floor, but everyone else, you see the floor above you, and Hannelia's worried face, receding as you sink down...
After a descent of a dozen feet the floor grinds to a stop. The chamber around you is nightmarish!
A web of thick, pulsating goo covers the walls and part of the floor of this room. Dozens of misshapen, puffy heads and arms stick out from throbbing sacs attached to the vile substance, their mouths wailing and moaning, and their twitching claws reaching out blindly. Spiraling stairs lead down to a central two-foot deep recess decorated with diabolical symbols...
The writhing figures react with even further agitation to your presence, starting to rip free of their twisted chrysalises! Some of the figures are larger-- well, relatively-- more of the smarfus, or whatever they are called-- and others are small in a way that takes you unpleasantly back to the fight at the entrance to the corrupted warehouse....
Iomedae is not known for a particularly strong musical tradition-- oh, certainly there is marching music, and hymns-- but it's not as though she is Shelyn.... yet all the same, it seems the goddess approves of Emma's immediate efforts.
After a bit of tinkering with the keys to ascertain notes-- the piano sounds rather out of tune but at least it still plays-- Emma takes a deep breath and tries to mimic the simple la-di-da melody of the music box. Hannelia nods along at this or that note, murmurs 'go a bit higher,' and after a few tries, Emma is able to pick out the basic notes well enough!
Something clicks inside the piano's strings-- something ticks and whirs inside the piano legs-- and the section of floor covered by the rug starts to move. Specifically, to sink! With a grinding of stone, the floor beneath you starts to move down, piano and all!
If you want to try and get off (staying in the ballroom, the 1st floor) make me a Reflex save. If you are fine staying on rapidly-dropping piano-vator, no Reflex save needed. The drop is not a drop of "the floor is collapsing into a pit" sort, it's a controlled descent, but it's still fast enough that you can't really debate it, in character, as to what you're each trying to do. Stay on, or try to get off!
One music box swiftly acquired from your bestie Anilda....
You wind up the music box to give it another listen. It's a soft, simple lullaby, nothing too complex. None of you are, perhaps, incredibly musically trained, but maybe with a bit of dithering you can replicate the notes you hear from the box?
Perform keyboard, which I know nobody has trained, but you can do it untrained. A straight Charisma check, basically. Aids allowed, as y'all work to piece together the tune against the piano. But one person must be our primary-- probably Hannelia, as the highest Cha
No take 20 on this one, sorry. There's a risk of failure here.
Hannelia crouches by the bolts and starts to work on them. The bolts themselves are old but nothing that a bit of grease (both the elbow variety and normal sort) can't fix. However, with the first leg unbolted and the thinnest gap between the bottom of the piano leg and the carpet and floor beneath, Hannelia realizes there's more going on here than meets the eye-- an internal metal pipe, perhaps 3/4ths an inch thick, extends from inside the piano leg and down into the floor itself, with wires and springs forming some sort of mechanism.
When Hannelia deftly pops out the first pearl and hands it off to Constantine, he feels a little tingle from the pearl that suggests there might be more to it than just shiny. He examines the milky-white surface a moment, opening his senses to the object's history, and is able to grasp that magical energies can be channeled through this pearl.
(Pearl of Power, 1st level, useful for any prepared casters in the group)
The piano, meanwhile, looks like a piano. It sits on a large and beautiful rug of black, crimson, and gold weave-- the colors dulled by time and dust, but with a recent attempt to clean both the rug and the instrument itself. Glossy ebon wood and ivory keys look intact enough, and well-made-- another item that might be worth a considerable bit of coin, but would be an enormous hassle to try and get back down to town.
Perception DC 20 on the piano:
Walking around the piano, you feel/hear a subtle change in the quality of your footsteps, a reverberation that isn't present elsewhere in the room. A hollow floor, or space beneath the floorboards, most likely?
"That seems sensible, Regariel," Sparrow says with a nod. "Why don't you keep your eyes out for traditional hazards as we approach, and I'll keep an eye out for magic?"
"I'm just keepin' my shield up," Markon mutters, but does just that, and unslings his blade as he stalks forward towards the house, with only a light pause to let Lilita fall into place next to him.
Krent mumbles to himself behind you all...
Lilita can declare one of the exploration activities mentioned in the Discord if she wishes!
The door of this house barely closes, let alone locks. Markon uses his boot to nudge the creaking door open, shield raised warily, but after peering inside a second he shrugs. "Don't see nothing ready to eat me."
Moving inside, you see a shabby room with an old, sagging bedframe and table, as well as holes in the thatch roof that let in sunlight from above. The only thing that seems newer is a pack rested against one corner, along with a sword, a breastplate, and a helm-- they are marked with the insignia of Iomedae, as Lilita can certainly identify. Inside the pack, Regariel's keen eyes see something metallic glinting...
... but no sooner has he noticed this then the temperature inside the hut begins to plummet sharply, and cold fingers race along the napes of your necks...
...the figure of a man begins to appear next to the knapsack and gear. Translucent, wavery, armored, with pits of glowing fire where his eyes should be... holding a sword that he aims accusingly towards you...
"That-- certainly does look like a ghost!" Sparrow says with a bit of a -gleep- noise.
Sparrow tries to know things about ghosts:1d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 18
"Ah-- um-- dammit, let me think-- restless spirits usually are bothered by, by, unfinished business, and may return indefinitely until the matter of their--"
"F+!!'S SAKE, can I HIT IT?" Markon shouts from the front.
"--yes but it will resist damage unless your weapon is enchanted-- magic is more efficacious--"
"Then maybe you should magic it, genius!"
Sparrow doesn't respond with banter, but rather, the words of a spell. Electricity arcs from his fingers towards the spectral form.
With a certain soberness, the group returns downstairs, descending the curved marble stairs that they ran pell-mell up, earlier...
The floor, walls, pillars, and fireplaces of this majestic ballroom are all made of polished marble. On the north side of the room, a grand staircase with divided flights leads up to a balcony overlooking the ballroom floor. An angel carved of black marble looms on a platform behind the middle landing of the staircase. Her eyes are milky-white pearls set into the stone-- while the statue itself no doubt is too heavy to easily transport, the pearls could possibly be prised free. Crafting, Kn Engineering, or Disable Device to get them out without damaging them
Kn Planes DC 18:
Though the statue appears to be an angel at first, standing in a benevolent guardian posture, you notice subtle details that hint at a darker origin-- runic symbols in Infernal disguised into the folds of her robe, a twist in the carving of her hair that could, in the right light, be taken for horns, etc.-- that indicate this is actually a depiction of an erinyes, a devil formed from a corrupted and fallen angel.
As per the map, a piano exists in the southeastern corner of the room, the dust cleared to reveal dark gleaming wood-- perhaps Anilda was through here recently. The rest of the room also shows signs of dusting-- while there are works of value here, like marble busts and velvet-upholstered furniture that Anilda must have tried to clean-- most of it is too bulky to stick into a pack or the like. Maybe if you return for that bathtub upstairs you could try and haul some of it out.
Sturdy double doors lead south-- no doubt back to the entry foyer you have already been to. Another door leads east.
Anilda's words turn out to be correct: the next room, when you go to explore it, seems to be free of any obvious danger or troubles. A guest bedroom to judge by the nice furnishings, and the windows have the view Anilda mentioned-- not of the town, but of the hills rising to mountains in the other direction. The beautiful view contrasts with all the recent horrors you've discovered.
Perception DC 16, if you look around a bit:
Thorough adventurers that you are, you take the chance to search the room just a bit, just in case. The dressers are empty of anything but dust and long-since rotted clothing, but looking under the bed you find words scratched into the floorboards: O kindly gods, help me!
Beyond that short, desperate message, you see nothing else of interest here.
Hannelia makes quick work indeed of the pillar's concealed danger, disabling a mechanism that would have sent keen scythe-like blades whipping out at waist height to anyone who got too close.
The floor turns out to be trickier. She finds herself breathing hard, too conscious that she has tension on a spring but that her tools are starting to slide.... fortunately, Constantine's quick assistance prising up the floorboard gives her the moment she needs to adjust the position of her tool-- barely. The wire is taut with tension and Hannelia has a glimpse of the poisoned spikes that are waiting to stab upwards into everyone's feet ... but then she cuts the wire, and the spikes chunk back into their spots beneath the floorboards. Well done!
Traps sorted, divide loot amongst yourselves, I should probably update the loot tracker cuz it's been a while.
A few moments to process the discovered documents, and then the intrepid explorers steel themselves for the room beyond...
With the door open it appears to be a combination of a workshop and a study. The furniture in this irregularly shaped room are cluttered with scientific equipment, tools, and half-built contraptions. The glassy eyes of taxidermy animal heads stare down from the walls. At the north end of the room, the stuffed body of a large, winged beast is mounted on a low platform.
Primed and wary, Hannelia scans the room beyond from the door. Her sharp eyes instantly detect some problems-- shortly within the door, the floor itself looks dangerous (T marked square; thanks for noticing it so I didn't have to figure out a way to edit it out ;) ) and the column in the center of the room seems to have ominous little grooves that might release something as well.
Having detected both of those traps, you can actually avoid them if you want-- as long as you don't step on the marked floor square or move adjacent to the pillar, you won't trigger either. But if Hannelia wants to disable them, two DD checks are in order.
Moving carefully through the room and stepping only where Hannelia indicates is safe to step, the party is able to inspect and collect various objects from this chamber that might be useful.
One of the work tables is covered with alchemical equipment-- distillers and infusers, pestle and mortar-- and a number of small vials sealed with cork stoppers and wax have weathered the centuries with no more than dust as damage. 5 potions of cure light wounds, 2 potions of endure elements, 1 potion of enlarge person, 1 potion of reduce person, 4 vials of alchemist's fire, 2 sunrods
A table in a corner features accoutrements of war: a masterwork chain shirt, masterwork cold iron long sword, and masterwork cold iron dagger.
Another table is piled high with books and papers. A single lens made of silver, with a silver chain, and fine runes etched around its edge, rests atop some of the documents. Most of the books pertain to plants or wildlife and the acquisition or uses thereof-- guides on how to construct traps for animals, or how to harvest certain berries, and the alchemical uses of the products of such work. (Having the books in your possession results in a +2 on Craft Traps or a +2 to Herbalism or similar rolls; as with the library books they can also be sold for 50gp each (for a total of 100gp).)
The papers on this table are more personal documents-- letters of correspondence to people no-doubt long dead, the business accounts of the manor, debts and acquisitions, design sketches of traps or mechanisms. Among the papers you find a map of the manor house itself, with a few notes that might draw your interest: In the ballroom, by the piano you paid no real attention to (because you were fighting a mite at the time), a musical note is inscribed; the same note is inscribed on the map of a third floor, a cellar, that you have yet to discover. The map also has little skull symbols indicating traps-- traps you've discovered in your own right, but it's nice to see that you have found nearly all of them-- the only one you can see on the map that you haven't accounted for yet is down in the cellar.
I've updated the map Google slide with a rudimentary map of the cellar showing the features discussed above.
Constantine is able to look the lens over more closely. It's a pleasant weight in his hands. The little voices that whisper to Constantine murmur about understanding...
(click on the link for the full description of the item)
Finally, among the documents, a single note that looks as if it were ripped from a journal. The writing is that which can now be recognized as Marcius's hand, though wilder than his usual careful script. The message on it is short.
Marcius's wild note wrote:
So be it. She thinks she leads me into this game of bargains but I walk forward with my eyes open. Let me be damned, then; what is my soul compared to the return of my boy's life?
As Sirio listens at the door Hannelia curiously investigates what Constantine has found, and lends her tools to the effort...
Constantine retrieves a handful of pages that have probably gone through multiple cycles of exposure to moisture, drying again, wetting... etc., etc. They are discolored with mold, brittle and warped, and much of the text is unreadable. The writing is in a different hand than the books in Constantine's possession.
The surviving legible bits you can make out are only sentences there and there.
Hidden papers wrote:
...dotes on his half-Mwangi bastard... absurd that the boy should be raised under our roof. I have suggested any number of schools the child might be sent off to, but...
...who does he think he is fooling with the story of the boy being the son of a dead fellow officer? Luca looks more like him every day-- and he named him after his...
...again I have miscarried. I have taken every herb the midwives suggest but it doesn't...
...enough that I cannot bear the heir I must, but every day I must watch him playing with the brat... can Marcius truly be so oblivious to the disrespect he visits upon me? Maddening...
...more dire measures may be...
...so be it. The bargain has been struck. I only must acquire the herbs to cause the appearance...
...as intended. Marcius grieves the little half-breed in a most unseemly way. But even this, I think, can be used...
...bring him into the service of my lord, we will truly be a force among...
Sirio hears nothing. Whatever clicking sounds Hannelia heard have now stopped. The room beyond is totally silent, as near as his excellent ears can perceive.
Constantine steps out onto the balcony. The springtime sun is bright and the air is clean, a pleasant break from the interior gloom and dusty air of the house. A small table and chairs sat out here once, but with their construction being wood and leather, and the balcony exposed to the elements, time has not been kind. They sag and tilt, discolored and stained. An enterprising bird has ripped shreds of batting from one of the chairs to pad its nest, and stray white wisps still stick out from the tatters of the fabric. There's a nice view of the town from up here, and the glittering Conerica River stretching away beyond it.
He is nearly about to go back inside, having determined the balcony has little except for the view, but something tugs on his subconscious a moment longer. Constantine hesitates, then drops down to his hands and knees, observing the underside of the table and chairs.
Here. This chair. The wood of the seat has warped with time and what was once the narrowest gap has widened to reveal... something pale and brittle, paper? tucked between the composite parts of the seat.
Disable Device, Sleight of Hand, or Kn Engineering to retrieve the document without damaging it
Hannelia starts to work-- then hesitates, considering everything they know so far about the owners of the house. She takes a deep breath and looks the lock mechanism over closely... it definitely seems like a complex and intricate lock, more so than any others she has seen in the house so far. But she doesn't see any signs of poison needles, little glittering runes, tripwires, or other traps.
With a little shrug, Hannelia resumes the delicate art of lockwork.
After a number of tense seconds using her delicate picks and listening for any sound of danger, Hannelia feels the tumblers click and yield under her hands.
She hears what seem like ... an awful lot of extra clicks and ticks, it seems.
The eastern door is unlocked. The balcony doors await if anyone wants to try Hannelia's suggestion. If you search the balcony, give me a Per check
The snake snaps at Hannelia but comes no closer than before to hitting her. She pulls back safely from the immediate fray... Constantine and Roger struggle to land blows with all the jumping and running around on furniture they are doing-- but Emma strides forward confidently past the snake and slashes down with her sword with a strong blow that sends little springs pinging out from the snake's mechanical innards! Sirio sees a moment and dashes a few feet forward, taking advantage of the snake's focus on Emma to bring his morningstar down-- hard. And accurately. With grim satisfaction, Sirio lands a devastating blow that bashes the last of the fight from the guardian construct.
And nary a scratch on you all! Well done, heroes.
The room is quiet other than doomed clickings and sproings from the battered construct. After a moment of carefully watching it to be sure it really is down for the count, you are free to search the room... and claim what the snake had guarded.
The snake itself has precious metals, and two small but well-cut emeralds for eyes-- it's worth harvesting the shiny, no doubt. +100 GP
On the table, a woman's rings and bracelets are covered with dust, but brushing off the evidence of the years reveals gems that glitter brightly beneath it all. +150 gp
Though the room contains other bits of things that were once of fine make, little of it has survived intact the way the jewelry has-- once-fine leather boots crumble into brittle flakes when touched, and so forth.
Double doors lead south to the balcony you saw from your approach, and a single door leads to the east-- the one Anilda informed you was locked.