Geeks Distributed

Book II, Chapter 12: Upstairs

Portrait Of A Family In Death

At just that moment the party had no way of knowing that the ravens had almost completely covered the manor exterior, and that the horses were dead.

Gloriana offered a silent prayer for Aldern, and then the others gathered to look at the painting leaning against the table. It was a portrait of an attractive, dark-haired Varisian woman against a background of the skyline of Magnimar, though the canvas had been smeared with blood and rotten flesh.

“I recognize her,” Lem said. “She was reflected behind me in the ground floor window.”

Rahab detected no magic on the portrait. Then his glance fell on the expanse of fungus covering the west wall. Something was different about the vague shape at the center. It had somehow taken on the aspect of the wizard’s own shadow, and a sudden urge compelled him closer. He knew what he must do. The only way to take his shadow back was to eat a portion of the bilious, spongy growth.

And then Rahab’s prodigious mind crashed through the compulsion like a stone shattering glass.1 He shook his head and stepped back.

“Beware,” he said, and the others looked at him. “A pernicious sorcery inhabits that growth. Guard your minds against it.”

Kara glanced warily at the green-black mass. “I was afraid of that.”

They turned to the central table and began sifting through the junk for anything of note. Soon Gloriana lifted a lace-edged silk handkerchief in pale lavender from beneath the section of rusted chain. Eyes wide, she held the cloth at arm’s length, as though it might suddenly become a viper.

“Ghosts of the Road,” the oracle murmured.

“Judging by your reaction, I guess that is yours?” Rahab arched an eyebrow.

Gloriana nodded, her gaze fixed. “I lost it before Thistletop. I thought . . . I thought I had misplaced it.”

Abby looked at the corpse of Aldern slumped in the chair, and a shudder ran through her.

It got progressively worse. Kara plucked something else from the table. It was a tiny length of string that had been tightly tied around a small tuft of gently curling hair the rich color of sunlit gold, a lock that could only belong to one person. The alchemist meekly passed it to the oracle who wrapped it quickly in the handkerchief and secreted it in her sleeve.

Then there were papers. Rahab began to sift through the numerous pages scattered in disarray about the table. Many were nonsense, confused scribblings that he cast quickly aside, but there were also a number of erotic drawings, explicit and expertly rendered, depicting a woman clearly meant to represent Gloriana engaged in various sexual acts with a figure equally certain to be the Skinsaw Man. The oracle looked pale and her fingers clenched violently as she scooped up the illustrations, crumpled them together, and threw them to the floor. She snapped her fingers, the sound sharp and steely in the cave, and a spark lit amongst the pages. Soon they caught flame and slowly burned away.

Rahab swept a section of detritus off the tabletop. Lem climbed up onto the space, and the wizard set down the last paper he had found. They leaned close.

Aldern,

You served us quite well. The delivery you harvested from the caverns far exceeds what I had hoped for. You may consider your debt to the Brothers paid in full. Yet I still have need of you, and when you awaken from your death, you should find your mind clear and able to understand this task more than ithe state you line as I write this. You shall remember the workings of the Sihedron ritual, I trust. You seemed quite lucid at the time, but if you find after your rebirth that you have forgotten, return to your townhouse in Magnimar. My agents shall contact you there soon—no need for you to bother the Brothers further.

I will provide the list of proper victims for the Sihedron ritual in two days’ time. Commit that list to memory and then destroy it before you begin your work. The ones I have selected must be marked before they die; otherwise they do my master no good and the greed in their souls will go to waste. If others get in your way, though, you may do with them as you please. Eat them, savage them, or turn them into pawns—it matters not to me.

-Xanesha, Mistress of the Seven

They stood in silence for a while, looking from the letter to one another. Rahab quietly took up the page and folded it away in his backpack. “Time enough to ponder this new mystery away from here.”

••••

They turned next to the ruined puzzle box at the base of the fungal growth, regarding it from a distance. Its intricate manufacture had been expensive, but it had long since lapsed into decrepitude. Not only were a number of sections decayed with time, but also some had suffered some kind of crushing impact.

Rahab was deep in thought, absently stroking his goatee. “Recall the stained glass windows we saw on the ground floor,” the wizard began slowly. “Each depicted a monstrosity emerging from a seven-sided box: That very box, there, or as near to it as is possible to represent in glass art.”

“It summons monsters?” asked Kara.

“Not in its present state. However, I think the windows show a symbol rather than illustrate actual events . . . .” His voice trailed off, and then his eyes lit with a spark not entirely pleasant to see.

“No, that puzzle box did not summon monsters. It was meant to be sanctuary to a monster.”

“What do you mean?” Gloriana asked.

Rahab seemed lost in thought once more, the unsettling gleam bright in his unfocused gaze. “Indeed. A phylactery.” Kara’s her eyes widened. Gloriana glanced back and forth anxiously between alchemist and wizard. Abby reached out and clapped her fist against the conjurer’s shoulder blade. He started and looked around.

“Welcome back,” the warrior said, her face stolid. “What is a ‘phylactery?’”

“A kind of magical container required for a very specific process. During the necromantic translation from living being into lich, the soul of the creature transfers into a phylactery. This is a tremendously potent process that bestows great resilience: Destory the lich as many times as you like, but unless you destroy the phylactery it is only a matter of time until the soul inhabits a new corpse and the lich rises again, undiminished.”

“But that one is destroyed, right?” Gloriana nodded toward the puzzle box.

“In a sense. Judging by its condition that is a failed phylactery. It never chambered a soul. Perhaps it was finished incorrectly, or was incomplete at the time of the ritual of translation. The phylactery must be precisely constructed to achieve the desired result. An error in process or construction, even a small one, would cause the translation to fail.”

Lem sucked his teeth. “What happens when the process fails?”

“The wizard dies.”

Oracle and warrior seemed relieved. “So there was never a lich here,” Gloriana said.

“You do not understand,” cautioned the conjurer. “The necromancies involved in lichdom are not binary conditions. Even the failure to create a lich can still result in something powerful happening. No lich may have been born, but the process that went awry here may have something—or everything—to do with why this place is haunted.”

“I suppose that means Aldern,” Abby gestured at the corpse, “was not the end of this.”

Rahab looked uncertain. “There are several threads of influence here. This Xanesha may be independent of the doom on this place. The Misgivings were abandoned for decades before Aldern returned, remember? Something bid the Foxglove family flee those years ago. Gloriana’s admirer may have been nothing more than the link between his ancestral misfortune and whomever directs or demands this ‘Sihedron ritual.’”

The oracle sounded sad. “Don’t refer to him that way please.”

The wizard paused, reflected, then gave a slight bow from the neck. “Regardless, if the haunting of this place is a result of a failed attempt at a lich transformation, then it will require significant power indeed to purge.”

“Father Zantus?” asked Gloriana.

“His recent help and inclination aside, I estimate his strength insufficient to the task.”

“We can’t fix this?” Abby voice was a mixture of concern and disappointment.

“’Fix’ this?” Rahab shook his head in wonder. “Abby, your disregard of the complexity at work here does you no credit.”

Now the warrior looked unreservedly annoyed.

“Rahab is right,” Gloriana said, surprising herself as much as anyone. “There is much here we do not yet understand, and much that exceeds our present ability. The pain tormenting this place is deep, old, and intricate. But fear not,” and she clapped one reassuring hand on Abby’s shoulder, the other on Rahab’s. “We can finish our present work and take future steps when we are better able.”

Rahab made to object on the grounds that he needed no reassurance, but Lem had already started to loot Aldern’s corpse and was calling attention to what he found.

The former lord of the manor had three keys, one of tarnished iron with a small opal stone at the head, a smaller one in bronze with three notched blades and a head stylized in the manner of a roaring lion, and a third of plainer aspect that the gardener assessed as being the key to the stone door Abby had dismantled.

Gloriana detected for magic and confirmed what Lem already suspected: Aldern’s war razor was enchanted. They would have to identify the properties later, but the gardener already had his eye on the cruel blade, and anticipated that it would look better in his hands once he had cleaned it up. Two rings on Aldern’s hands also bore sign of magic, as did a suit of human-sized leather armor piled to one side of the nauseating sideboard. The finery Aldern had worn in life might have fetched fair price once, but the clothing was marked by burns, weapon cuts, and gore. On a fine chain dangled a cameo depicting Gloriana in profile, and this, too, the oracle seized.

She registered another aura on the leather chair. Perched on the end of one arm was a mask of gruesome aspect. At first it appeared made of animal leather, but just before he picked it up, Lem realized the skin was that of several different humans stitched together in morbid patchwork.

“Awful,” Gloriana muttered.

The gardener picked it up and turned it over as he inspected it. “What is it?”

“You’re not taking that with us?” The oracle looked aghast.

“It may be important,” Lem reposted.

“Later,” insisted Abby. The gardener shrugged and tucked the mask in his backpack.

They prepared to leave. Gloriana felt regret that some provision for Aldern could not be made, but Kara asked what could they do? It was going to be challenge enough for the five of them to clamber back up to the tunnels without trying to transport the former noble’s corpse. There was nothing for it but to leave the body.

As Rahab turned he made a final scan for magic and saw a tone of resonance at the base of the fungal wall. Something glinted in the torchlight. Rahab took one of the crossbow bolts that Gloriana had gifted to him and bent down, careful not to disturb the fungus, until he could delicately lift the object clear. As he stood the others gathered around: The device was a slender, hollow tube of shining metal. A silver ring pierced the diameter of the tube at one end.

“It looks like a chime,” observed Gloriana. Rahab stowed the instrument for later scrutiny.

Their last act in the cave was Kara’s. From a cautious distance the alchemist hurled a grenado of fire at the expansive fungus. The spray of burning liquid expanded in a gout that hissed and sputtered, producing noxious, oily smoke. The flames soon guttered, and Kara expended three more firebombs in order to finally banish the grim growth.

••••

On their way to the spiral staircase accessing the basement they passed the cave where Abby had killed the giant bat. As they did, Lem realized he recognized one of the bodies they had dislodged as that of a notorious outlaw wanted in the region for a number of crimes. The gardener beheaded the corpse to take proof of death for financial reward, and responded to some party-member protests by pointing out that exsanguination had already occurred, which meant the head could be transported in a sack with minimal liquid mess. Rahab—undisturbed by the sight and supportive of the financial initiative—commended Lem’s logic. Abby and Kara were pragmatic. Gloriana was disgusted.

The conjurer also made certain to carefully collect the books on necromancy as they made their way to the ground floor.

••••

Once again they stood in the entry hallway, the stuffed manticore at one end, the bay of stained-glass windows at the other. Lem began to sneak up the stairs to the first floor2 after Gloriana cast blessing magic upon him. At the top the gardener looked down a corridor with several doors. He paused, bent slightly at the knees, ready. He was sure he had heard a faint echo, a small sound that seemed muffled, like a distant cry, but now it was gone. Thirty seconds passed; then a full minute. He took another tentative step forward, his feet silent, and the sound came again, no closer but seemingly connected to his movement.

Suddenly Gloriana’s voice called up from below: “Lem? All is well?”

The gardener sagged and rolled his eyes. So much for stealth. “Come,” he replied in irritation. The others filed up the stairs and assembled behind him.

••••

Where the hallway turned a corner they opened a door on a small room, dusty and cobwebbed. A child-sized bed lay against one corner at the foot of which was a toy box that had once been painted in bright colors long since flaked and faded. Now Lem was sure he heard a sound: The sobbing of a child. He was just about to say something when his vision shifted and he felt in the pit of his belly a sensation like falling.

The gardener stood at a window, his six-year-old hands pressed against the glass. On the ground outside stood his mother and father locked in combat. In his mother’s hand was a burning torch, in his father’s clutches a long, wicked knife. Father was covered in boils and festering tumors, and Lem knew that whichever one of his parents survived would come inside and up the stairs to kill him next.

A moment later the gardener blinked. He was not standing at a window at all, but near the fireplace, just to the left of Abby, and he was no child. As he reached up to run his hands through his hair his fingers came away drenched in sweat.

“Did anyone else feel that?” The question had become commonplace.

••••

“The mother was the woman we saw in the painting,” Lem insisted. “They were trying to kill each other.”

Gloriana was kneeling to check the gardener’s health, looking at his eyes, putting hand to temple. Lem pushed her arm away. “I’m fine.” The oracle smiled compassionately.

Abby had searched the room. “Nothing,” the warrior said with a helpless shrug.

“I weary of these ‘nothings,’” Kara exhaled. Had she known, the alchemist would have saved her lament for later.

••••

The east wall of the next chamber was a curved expanse that held still more stained glass windows. Five of them this time: A large pale scorpion, a man draped in a dozen hanging bats, the five-lobed belladonna blossom, a moth with markings in the pattern of a human skull, and a pale maiden standing underneath a spindly spider. Lem made a quick search of the room but found nothing else remarkable.

Kara and Rahab stood side-by-side contemplating the windows. Neither spoke, thinking the same thing. The images represented five classic components necessary for certain necromantic spells as well as important reagents in several formulae for the apotheosis of a human to lich.

Across the hall was a gallery. Cobwebs and the dust of years coated six portraits hung on the walls. Gloriana began to walk down one wall, sweeping the canvases with one of her silks to brush them clear. Rahab did similar along the other wall. As they progressed they revealed the paintings and the nameplates at the base of the worn wooden frames.

Here were the Foxglove family: The scion, Vorel Foxglove depicted with his wife Kasanda; their daughter Lorey Foxglove; Traver Foxglove, great-nephew of Vorel, painted with his wife, Cyralie; and three individual portraits of their children, daughters Sendeli and Zeeva, and son Aldern.

It was quiet as the last of the dust drifted down. The vibrancy of the pigment had somehow survived neglect and time. The eyes had all been painted with a technique that made them seem bright and alive, even more so amidst the gloomy atmosphere of decay and nightmare permeating the manor.

Kara saw her breath billow in vaporous cloud, and realized the room had grown as cold as a winter night. As the images in the portraits began to move and change the companions were beset by shivers only partially attributed to the sudden chill.

Vorel and Kasanda slumped dead in the frame, their skin a wretched field of cankers, tumors, and pustulent eruptions. The same happened to the portrait of Lorey. Cyralie contracted and blackened as though badly burned, then her arms, legs, and back twisted into frightful, broken angles. Next to her in the same frame, Traver grew pale and raised a dagger to his neck, dragging the blade across his own throat and shedding blood down his chest. The portraits of Sendeli and Zeeva frosted over in pallid, glistening rime, and Aldern’s flesh darkened with rot as his hair fell out and his features twisted ghoulishly, eyes milking over. Finally a sudden explosion of clotted, fungal spores poured out of the figure of Vorel-as-corpse, coating the room in malignant ejecta.

Then as quickly as it happened, the room returned to its previous state, dark and dusty, but otherwise unremarkable. The images in the paintings appeared as the portraits they had first seemed. There was a long, tense silence.

Abby exhaled in relief and her shoulders slumped. “Just another haunt.”

Gloriana and Rahab looked down at their arms and saw the splotches of red, inflamed bumbs and swollen welts that had begun to permeate the skin.3 Oracle and wizard looked up and directly into one another’s eyes.

“Problem,” they said as one.

••••

Gloriana sighed and shook her head. She looked worried. “I do not know what it is.”

She and Rahab stood next to one another, sleeves pulled up, arms out, comparing weals. The others were gathered around, looking on with a mix of curiosity, concern, revulsion, and perhaps secret relief they were not suffering the same effect.

“Do you feel hot?” the oracle asked.

“No,” answered Rahab.

“Cold?”

“For a moment, just before . . . ”

“And now?”

The wizard shook his head.

“Sweating?”

“No.”

“Vision?”

“Clear.”

“Breathing?”

Rahab started to answer, then hesitated. “A little rough.”

The oracle nodded agreement, and looked downcast.

Abby was worried. “What do we do?”

“There is nothing we can do right now,” Gloriana answered glumly. “This is presently beyond my arts, I fear. We will need Father Zantus’ help.”

Rahab sniffed. “We are becoming regular patients.”

“How fortunate for our finances that we are the Heroes of Sandpoint,” remarked Kara, dry as bleached bone.

There was a pause, and then Rahab began to laugh, shoulders shaking silently at first, and then bursting out loud, hearty, genuine. A moment later they all joined in, unable to resist, glad for some small moment of relief in that wicked, lurking place.

••••

The next room was a master bedroom, and though dirty, had avoided water damage. An oak desk under the northern window had a broad, dark stain deeply ingrained in the wood, and a dagger lay thereupon, an ornate blade of the kind called stiletto. There seemed little else of interest.

Lem stepped toward the desk and was suddenly overwhelmed by a conviction that he had just murdered the one he loved most. The sensation rose in him like a spout of water churned under great pressure, and guilt flooded through him, mighty and despairing. He had no choice but to sacrifice his own life, to take up the stiletto on the desk and cut his own throat. Only then might he rejoin his love in death, free from the doom that plagued his thought, his waking, his dreams, his blood.

“Lem?” Abby asked, voice uncertain. The warrior’s hand settled on his shoulder.

The gardener’s consciousness returned, his fingers poised above the haft of the stiletto.4 The hazy blur of the vision sloughed away as seawater draining from coastal rock, and as it did so an anger coiled inside him, slow-burning, insistent, crystal-clear contrast to the cloudy haunting that had draped itself thickly across his mind.

Damned house! Give me back myself! What am I doing here? Why have I taken up with such as these? Walk out. The hallway returns to the stair. I can be outside in one minute. Any one of the horses will carry me far from this place, far from these tall folk and their allegiance to the village. Walk out!

Lem pulled his fingers back from the blade on the desk, back from what was obviously the decades-old bloodstain marking the place where Traver Foxglove had cut his own throat. The anger receded somewhat, becoming a perfect, smoldering coal in his center. At every turn his desire to escape only led him back to grievance. Very well. He was done trying to flee. He now wanted to find; to find and drive a dagger deep into the heart of all that vexed him. Left for undead in a field, chained to the damnation of this manor, his focus suddenly found clarity like the first sighting of a lighthouse from nighttime seas. Harry him? His enemies would regret their attention as he became the unquiet thought disturbing the dark dreams of those not content to remain dead. Enough escaping.

Now let the undead try to escape me, and so find themselves once more under my knife.

“Lem?” Abby repeated.

“There is nothing here,” the gardener said stonily, and turned to stride resolutely from the room.5

••••

A few minutes later Abby tried to kill Gloriana.

They had continued their upstairs exploration, finding little else but more rooms in decay. Coming upon a ruined bedchamber, the party filed cautiously inside and noted the furniture had been hacked and smashed. The only object untouched was another painting, except this one had been turned to face the wall.

The next thing Gloriana knew Abby had charged across the floor and heaved her longsword in a vicious arc that crashed into the oracle’s side.6 The golden-haired woman slammed against the wall and stumbled on a fallen chunk of bed frame.

Lem’s superior dexterity enabled him to react first. He darted across the room and grabbed at the warrior’s sword arm. “Abby! Stop! Stop this!”

Abby ignored the gardener and raised her sword overhead once more. She towered over Gloriana now, her face twisted in a rictus of hate. The sword descended and clipped the wall, tearing a great gash across the plaster in a spray of powder, missing the oracle’s head by inches.

Gloriana panicked and tried to cast a spell, but the warrior’s training capitalized on the opportunity and she thrust the sword point-first just above the breastplate, along the clavicle. A gout of blood spilled forth as the oracle cried in pain. Her spell was lost. The oracle kicked at the floor and pushed away along the wall, retreating clumsily from the enraged Abby.

Rahab urgently formed a complex figure with his hands and uttered a four-syllable word of power that briefly surrounded Abby in a gyring geometry of lines and symbols. The spell seemed to have no effect.7

Kara drank an elixir and blinked out of sight.8

Once again the gardener danced around Abby on the defensive, trying to distract or dissuade the warrior from her madness. “Do you have anything left?” the gardener shouted at Rahab. “Flip the portrait!”

Then, before the wizard could respond or act further, Abby suddenly blinked and the compulsion passed. The next sound was the enchanted longsword ringing as it clattered on the floorboards. “Gods forgive me, Glo, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry . . .” over and over, trying to reach the oracle and offer help.

••••

Gloriana used the curative wand to bind and abate her wounds and felt renewed moments later. Abby apologized profusely, offering the oracle one of her healing potions. Gloriana gently, compassionately refused the offer.

“I could see what I was doing, but I could not stop it.” The doughty fighter explained that when they entered the room she felt overcome by another mind with an intense hatred that directed her to attack Gloriana.

“Where is Kara?” Lem suddenly asked, glancing around.

“Here,” came the alchemist’s disembodied voice from close by the door. She remained invisible.

“The longer we linger—” began Rahab.

“The worse it will get,” Gloriana finished, nodding. “We should make haste. Really, I am fine, Abby. The magic of the wand made me hale.”

Reasoning that he already had the haunted disease, Rahab strode to the wall and flipped the painting around to see what it showed. The party looked on a portrait more recently painted than those in the gallery. It depicted a lovely, black-haired Varisian woman in a thoughtful pose. The frame held no nameplate, but neither wizard nor oracle needed one.

“May I have this dance?” Rahab murmured softly under his breath.

Gloriana’s voice was almost a whisper, her hand absently rubbing her throat. “Iesha.”

Minutes later they set her free.

••••

The attic was up a short flight of narrow stairs, and most of the space was occupied by small rooms used for storage, except for the last door on the right from whence a piercing shriek of pain suddenly sounded.

Abby hustled down the hallway, with the invisible Kara close on her heels. Rahab cast a spell of resistance upon himself and followed alongside Gloriana, while Lem brought up the rear. When the warrior threw open the door they saw a figure inside the small chamber. Though gaunt and wearing the sickly blanched pallor of the dead it was obviously the woman from the portrait Rahab had most recently uncovered. She was clad in a funerary dress of black crepe in the Magnimarian style, and in her eyes burned a muted, angry red the color of a volcanic vent on the ocean floor. The flesh around her neck was mottled and striated, and a grim, faint green light seemed to spill from her like an aura of sadness and rage. She slowly raised an accusatory arm at the party.

“Aldern!” Iesha shrieked, her voice a hollow echo from lungs that no longer breathed. “Where is he?”

“Downstairs!” Abby shouted back.9

The dead woman suddenly lunged forward, unnaturally quick, intent on racing past. The movement gave Abby an opportunity to act, and not knowing what else to do, the warrior struck with her sword, landing a solid blow. Iesha lashed out in response and the hand that brushed Abby’s arm was as cold as an anchor drawn up from deep water.

“Aldern!” Iesha howled again. The word was a demand, a curse, a lament.

In the hallway Rahab carefully set the delicate necromancy books down and cast a spell on himself. The wizard’s mind unfolded and expanded.10 The sensation was exhilarating.

Gloriana stepped into the room and found herself almost on top of the revenant. Iesha wheeled to look upon this new presence, her lustrous black hair whipping past the oracle’s own curling blonde locks. For a moment the two Varisians locked gazes, bright living vision face to face with the sensory hunger of the restless grave. Motion seemed suspended, and there was silence the size of a mountain in the ocean. Gloriana who was Iesha, Iesha who was Gloriana, regarding one another, separate and inseparable, two people of the Road, bound to spirits, linked to powerful memory, the steps of their own experience entwined in the silken skein that was the larger Varisian dance of history.

“Aldern is at peace by our hands.” The oracle’s voice was barely a whisper. “Be you now also at peace.”

Motion returned. A shudder rippled through the revenant and something like a single sob echoed in the air. Iesha’s head fell softly back and her eyes closed for the last time. The green light faded and the funerary dress sloughed to the floor in a gentle whisper as the gaunt form shriveled into dust scattered on some sourceless, unfelt breeze.11

••••

Outside, hundreds of ravens burst into flight, abandoning the manor, fleeing into the gathering dusk.12


1 Rahab made a successful Will save.

2 I tend to employ the British story (or storey) denotation that goes: ground floor, first floor, second floor, etc. instead of the U.S. denotation that goes first floor, second floor, third floor, etc. For my fellow U.S. readers, when I write “first floor,” just think “second floor.” Clear as mud? Good. Here we go.

3 Fortitude saves across the party went well . . . right up to Gloriana and Rahab. Rahab even spent a Hero Point and still failed the follow-up roll. Sense a theme?

4 Lem successfully made his Will save. It felt like the haunts in the house were becoming more dangerous the longer we explored.

5 Lem’s ranger favored enemy is undead.

6 Yeah, so, about those saving throws . . . . Dgroo asked for a Will save from Abby and it failed. Abby spent a Hero Point which also failed. Stop me if this is starting to sound familiar. Abby fell under some kind of compulsion or possession and began attacking her best friend.

7 Dispel magic did nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

8 Extract of invisibility.

9 I love this response. It is so . . . Abby.

10 Fox’s cunning. Rahab’s intelligence gained four (temporary) points. Best. Drug. Ever.

11 One of the things I really loved about the Foxglove Manor section of the adventure series was that—while there were a few combats (and I certainly enjoyed playing those)—much of the meaningful interaction with the haunted house wasn’t about things like initiative order, positions on the map, grapple checks and attack rolls, spell durations, or figuring out which set of exact rules applied to which set of circumstances. We were in a place where it often seemed like the rules did not apply, and we did not always know how to proceed or what to do. A haunted house, in other words. At the end, the revenant Iesha was vanquished by making her spirit realize that the thing tying her to un-life was no longer a burden to bear. Dgroo ran one of the best haunted-house settings I have ever been privileged to play, and his attention to detail, atmosphere, sensation, mystery, and story eclipsed whatever might have been accounted for in game mechanics. Outstanding effort, and another reminder that I have the best friends in all of explored space.

12 Optional soundtrack suggestion: Cue up “Atmosphere” by Joy Division from the 1988 compilation album Substance. Go back to the first paragraph in the section that starts with “The attic . . . ” and press play. Then read the section again to the end of the chapter and let the song play out.

Comments

dgroo Desert_Son

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.